Time for another Marwitz instalment, this time a couple of small, superstitious observations from 1806.
In the lead up to the war with Napoleon (der Pferdedieb), Berlin and the surrounding area were apparently shook up by the bad omen of the head of the statue of Bellona (Minerva) being blown off the top of the Zeughaus in a storm and crashing to the ground. It wasn’t restored until 1817. It’s the group on the left in the photo below.
Later in 1806 when Marwitz returned to his estate at Friedersdorf, badly neglected in his absence, there was a big fire, allegedly set by Gypsies. Almost all the stables were destroyed, apart from one, apparently saved by magic (Füßnote, Seite 160/161):
Ein kleiner Stall blieb mitten in der Brandstelle stehen. An selbigem stand ein Stock. Wie ich mich wunderte, das dieses kleine Ding von Holz und Stroh mitten in den Flammen unversehrt geblieben, sagte man mir:
“Ja, das macht der Stock!”
“Es kam ein alter Mann, sah das Feuer an, murmelte einige Worte setzte den Stock gegen den Stall, sprach: laßt den Stock da stehen! — und ging fort.”
— So viel war Wahr, der Stock stand da und der Stall war wunderbarer Weise nicht mitverbrannt.
Hauptmann von Blumenstein, billeted with Marwitz in Dresden in 1805 seems like quite the character. Although stereotypically French (lively, quick-witted and educated, angeblich), he maintained nonetheless that Blumenstein was his real name.
After leaving France (where he served in the Royal Musketeers) because of the revolution he becomes a dedicated Prussian officer, complete with, if Marwitz’s transcription is anything to go by, a rather curious accent.
When the French garrison he was besieging at Glogau in 1813 wanted to negotiate, he refused to speak in French and made them use an interpreter:
Ick bin ein Deutscher! Ick verstehe der verfluchten Kerlen ihre Sprake nick. Wollen sie mit einem Deutschen Offizieren reden, können Deutsch lernen! Müssen wir wohl Französisch lernen, wenn nach Frankreich kommen!
Later he retired to a small estate near Breslau where he apparently speculated unsuccessfully with a new type of brick(?), and ended up on his uppers.
Aus dem Nachlasse Friedrich August Ludwig’s von der Marwitz, Volume 1, Pages 138-139.
2nd edition, 1852, a little tatty but solid. I’m confident that it will provide the opportunity for a few more blogposts yet…
*Edit: Now sandwiched in my bookcase between Bismarck’s Gedanken und Erinnerungen and a book of his speeches. You can feel the spinning in the Bismark Mausoleum.
A new purchase, once again inspired by a reference in Marwitz’s memoirs (Seite 77), apparently he read this whilst stuck in Nieszawa in Poland without German books or newspapers. A present for his brother that fortunately he had been unable to deliver.
A lovely little book, full of poems, prayers and short stories, all you need to correctly bring up a Prussian. More of an insight into the way people thought in that time and place than any historian could tell me, I like to imagine.
I found a not particularly flattering reference to “Der Tag ist angebrochen!” by Rudolph Dulon in “Briefwechsel des Generals Leopold von Gerlach mit dem Bundestags-Gesandten Otto von Bismarck” (20th May 1852).
Upon reading it, not only can I see why they were unimpressed, but also that Mencius Moldbug may have a point…
From Chapter 3, “Der Tag der Erkenntnis”:
Ihr seid Diener des Volks, unterworfen seinem Willen. Wollt ihr mehr sein, so ist das gegen Gottes Willen und gegen sein heilige Ordnung.
See, you can’t argue with Democracy, it’s the will of God.
Another incident, this time at the Huldigung for Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1798, sounds like a good day out. Somewhat of an anti-democracy theme so stay away if you’re a true believer, as most are today.
Marwitz, not a particular fan of democracy, probably understandable given the recent (and continuing) events during the French Revolution, was not overly impressed by the presence of Abbé Sieyès as the French representative: “ein Kerl mit einem wahren Canaillen-Gesicht, mit seinem schwarzen Kopf (damals ging noch Alles gepudert) und mit seiner enormen dreifarbigen Schärpe.” (A wretch with a proper dog’s face, black hair — powdered wigs were still the current fashion — and a gigantic tri-coloured sash).
To make his day even better, a guest at a nearby table began spouting the latest fashionable socialist views (hardly the right time and place one would have thought), the first time that Marwitz had heard such views spoken aloud. Another nearby guest (Major von Bredow, perhaps related to him of the trousers fame) was even more incensed, rising red-faced from his chair he states: “Jetzt ist es genug! Infamer Hallunke, wenn er nun nicht den Augenblick das Maul hält, so wahr ich lebe, ich packe ihn, und werfe ihn hier zu dem Fenster hinaus!” (That’s enough, you scoundrel, if you don’t shut up this moment I’ll pick you up and throw you out the window!). The socialist, understandably, shuts up.
To the denigration of my bank balance Marwitz mentions that a commemorative Medallion was under each napkin on the table, so of course I had to buy one.
I found the entry in Marwitz’s Nachlasse about his education interesting, interesting enough to obtain a 1781 copy of one of his textbooks. The idea of seeing part of that which informed the mind of someone of his time and class was just too tempting. Undoubtedly it will be the source of several more barely readable posts. 236 years old!
Diesen Auszug aus Marwitz’s Nachlasse (S. 55) hat mich zum Lachen gebracht:
Ich wurde unterwegs durch und durch naß und ernstlich unwohl. Wie ich ihm dies schrieb, und mich etwas zu viel über den ausgestandenen Regen ausließ, antwortete er: “es thut mir leid, daß Du so naß geworden, unterdessen da Du nicht von Zucker bist, brauchst Du auch nicht so vielen Lärm darum zu machen.” Von meinen Schwestern erfuhr ich aber nachher, daß er viele Besorgniß um mich geäußert habe, auch schickte er den General Goltz an mich ab, der sehen mußte, wie es mir gehe. Ich war schon wieder besser.
This time from Friedrich von der Marwitz’s Lebensbeschreibung.
Von der Marwitz tells us that whilst travelling Frederick the Great liked to stay with local preachers, mainly because there was a bit less fuss than staying in the towns themselves. For this he always paid 50 Thalers for a midday stop and 100 Thalers for an overnight stay, plus expenses. A reasonable sum.
Apparently his long-time trusty coachman Pfund (you can still see him driving the chariot on top of the Kutschpferdestall in Potsdam) used this as an excuse to extort 10 Thalers from the relevant preachers beforehand, as a guarantee that the King would indeed stop with them.
Unfortunately in 1782 or 1783, as the young von der Marwitz met the king, the recently installed preacher in Dolgelin was unaware of this practice and failed to cough up, so Pfund thrashed the horses so as to get to the nearby town of Müncheberg where he could collect.
I wonder if Fritz knew…
Interestingly this story doesn’t tie in with the dates of Pfund’s service given in Wikipedia, which state that he retired in 1776. A mistake in von der Marwitz’s recollection or with Wikipedia’s sources?