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Classical and Romantic Cultural Styles: Exchange of Letters between Clemens Prince von Metternich and King Frederick William IV of Prussia (1840)

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II. King Frederick William IV of Prussia to Metternich, Sanssouci, 21 June 1840

Your letter, dearest Prince, in its ancient brevity of expression and gravity of content, is a lovely monument to the most beloved and revered man we mourn! Oh, whoever joined your warm heart with your cool head! That is the surest way always to be right and to govern correctly. I feel only too clearly that I lack this union, for I am not able to recover from the blow that has crushed us, and my situation seems to me like a dream from which I dearly long to awaken.

To take the place of a prince such as this king is a task whose enormous difficulty those outside the country are barely able to fathom.

How profoundly moving and exalted is the way in which the hand of God guided the dearly departed through life, his love of working inconspicuously for the good – and, on the other side, the sad or glorious fortunes through which God led him, his humble striving to give honor to Him alone, in times good or bad, and, by contrast, the glorification of his years in power through divine guidance: all this is known at home and abroad, and perhaps it will be handed down to posterity here and there on marble tablets. But the impression of these fortunes of his forty-three years on the throne, with the most terrible upheavals at the beginning and the longest and most blessed peace in history at the end – the impression that this natural government, devoid of the clatter of the craft, made on the people, on all estates, on good and evil, no one knows it who has not grown up under this regime and drawn his life force from it! Pity me, then, dear good Prince, I deserve it.

Not that I do not recognize that some things still need to be done, accomplished, completed; not that I lack the drive, especially the drive to work, in partnership with Austria's imperial power, at elevating and glorifying our worthy German Fatherland, and thus to achieve, in the heart of Europe, a vigorous union and unity, against which ill wind and foul weather (from wherever it may come) will rage powerlessly – but what I will always lack is what he was assured of in advance: the jubilant cheers from his peoples, who trusted that the monarch rich in experience and years would not undertake anything that was not thought through coolly and maturely. Admit it, my dear Prince, I am right!

Well then, I place everything in God's hands. You, my esteemed Prince, do not belong to Austria alone. The son of the king of Prussia believes that he has a claim on you, and so I will happily look upon and treat you as my counselor and friend until you indicate to me that this is not what you intended.

Farewell, my dearest Prince, and thank you for your lovely letter to me, for your friendship to my unforgettable father – for the friendship of which you have already given me no small number of proofs; I am very much counting on it. Perhaps God will bless you as he blessed him: for the salvation of Germany and Europe.

With true friendship and the most respectful trust, dear Prince, your devoted Frederick William .

Source: Clemens Wentzel Lothar von Metternich, Aus Metternich's nachgelassenen Papieren, ed. Richard von Metternich-Winneburg. Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1880-84, vol. 6, pp. 441-42, 445-46.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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