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THE HOME OF THE CZAREVNA.
A PEEP AT COURT AND CITY LIFE IN
BY GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.
T should properly, perhaps, be “Tsarevna;"* but in view of the
extraordinary confusion of orthography in which Western typographers have recently indulged with reference to the Im
perial Family of Russia, a little variation in the way of consonants may not only be permissible, but agreeable, by way of a change. Russia is, indeed, so far off from us, morally as well as physically speaking, that we cannot be expected to spell Russian names with strict accuracy. Who -- save Sir Henry Rawlinson, perchance knows whether the Prophet of Islam should be properly styled Mahomet, Mohammed, Muhamet, or Mahmoud ? And what a terrible galimatias of orthography did there not take place last season in the case of the Shah of Persia? IVas his name really Nasr-ed-Din ? I am no Persian scholar, and am unable to pronounce with certainty in the matter.
Still, we might strive, I think, to be slightly consistent. For example, when the Heir Apparent to the Russian throne visited us, in the summer of 1873, the Court Newsman called him “the Czarowitch.” Now the Court Newsman ought to know ; .but in this instance he was grotesquely at fault. By some of the journals in their leading articles the Grand Duke was called the “Tsarevitch;“ others (probably with the traditions of a certain horserace in their minds) dubbed him the “Cesarewitch;" while one organ of public opinion coined for the Grand Duke Héritier the title of “ Czarowitz," a name, I take it, only surpassed in unmitigated barbarism by the world-renowned "Baralipton.” But there is always "something about an Englishman,” as Mr. Podsnap would say, which leads him to spell the names
The Earl of Carlisle, who, in 1664, went on an embassy to the Emperor Alexis Michailovich at Moscow, speaks of the Sovereign of Russia as “his Tzarskoy Majesty:" a designation, to say the least, eccentric. It is almost need. less to remark that “Tsar," "Czar,” and “Tzar," are all corruptions of “Cæsar.” Herbelot, the Orientalist, indeed maintains that the Asiatic suffixes, “ Shah,” “Cha,” and “ Pacha,” have likewise all as clearly a Cæsarean derivation as the German “Kaiser.” Why not, if Zaragoza can be traced to Cæsarea Augusta, and Jersey to Cæsarea ? The great Julius left his mark everywhere.
of persons and things foreign, not in obedience to any rational rule but according to his own sweet will. Our grandmammas used to call the famous Suvorov “Field-Marshal Suwarrow," and I am not at all certain but that Byron has very nearly approached the last-men tioned appellation in “Don Juan.” Why not Suwarrow? We have invented the preposterous name of "Leghorn” as an English equivalent for the exquisitely musical Italian “Livorno ;” while on the other hand there are purists who deny the right claimed by the first Napoleon to give a French pronunciation to his surname, and insist on styling him "Boneypartey. Yet the same purists forget that if “Bonaparte” is to have its final vowel sounded the Conqueror's Christian name should be subjected to a similar burden, and should become, not " Napoleon,” but “Napoleone."
I only ask for a little consistency, and it is obvious that if we adhere to the “ in the Heir-Apparent's titie the same rule should apply to his sister, who would thus be “the Czarewna.” How would you like it, madam-to hear that sweet little princess called “Czaroona”? The plain truth is that “w” is a bad, base, barbarous letter, which has crept into alphabets no one knows how, and which should be altogether eliminated from civilised speech. As for the Grand Duke Héritier, he is, in truth, the “ Czarevich," or, better, the Tsarevich, that is to say, “the Son of the Cesar;" just as his father is Alexander Nicholaivich, or "Alexander, the son of Nicholas ;” and his grandfather, Nicholas Alexandrovich, or “Nicholas, the son of Alexander," who was the son of Paul, who was the son of Peter. “Vich ” means “son,” as Sir Walter Scott knew full well when he invented the character of Fergus MacIvor, or “Vich-ian-Vohr," and the Czarevna (I don't say that it should not be Tsarevna) is, the Daughter of the Czar.
There are at least fifty good reasons why we should all rejoice at the marriage of the second son of the Queen of England with a princess of the house of Romanoff ; but there is one of a nature specially calculated to gratify the gentlest of all the readers of the Gentleman's Magazine-I mean the ladies. Mesdames, should not this grand wedding, which is about to take place at St. Petersburg, do something towards popularising Muscovile modles in this country? I have long been, for artistic purposes, a sedulous student of the fashion plates, and I regularly take in the Queen and the Englishwoman's Domestic Magacine; but I own that I am growing desperately tired of the eternal “ Polonaise” (a garment not worn, I am sure, in Poland) with its monstrous lumbar protuberances, which seems, at present, to form the staple of feminine costume. Since the siege of Paris, and the
retirement into private life of the Empress Eugénie, the French appear to have been unable to invent anything really tasteful and elegant in the way of dress (the Leonardo da Vinci head gear, which some call a bonnet, and some a hat, and some a cap, but which is in reality a beretta, excepted); and although there will be assuredly a plenitude of the most sumptuous Parisian toilettes displayed at the marriage of the Czarevra with Prince Alfred, and although St. Petersburg may be qualified as the paradise of French modistes, it should not be forgotten that Russia has costumes of her own, both male and female, of the prettiest and most picturesque description. The touloupes, or sheepskin coats of the peasantry, the caftans of the merchants, and the low-crowned hats of the Isvostchiks, or droschky drivers, are familiar to us all in the charming lithographic sketches of M. Timm; but English ladies have yet to become acquainted with the sarafan, and especially with the kakoschnik, worn by the Russian women. The last-named article of attire—a glorified arrangement of satin and lace, tinsel and seed pearls—is not precisely a turban, and not exactly a crown, but something between the two, and may, perhaps, be akin to those “round tires like the moon” against which the Hebrew prophet, criticising the feminine pomps and vanities of his time, testifies so strongly. The kakoschnik in all its glory is now very rarely seen in St. Petersburg save on the heads of the comely peasant women who come up from the provinces to nurse the babies of the aristocracy; but, in my time at least (I speak of 1856-7), there were certain gala days in the year when the old Russian costume was worn at Court by the Empress and all her ladies. One of the most notable of these occasions was that of the fète, or Saint's Day, of the Czarina at the Palace of Peterhoff, when the evening's entertainment always wound up with the stately and solemn dance called a Polonaise. A genuine and not a capriciously sham thing is the Russian Polonaise (excuse the paradox); of that be assured. Imagine an amalgamation of the "Menuet de la Cour” and “Sir Roger de Coverley," danced by five hundred couples; the gentlemen attired in the most splendid military uniforms, or in Court dress, the ladies radiant in diamondstudded kakoschniks and rich trains of brocade and lace. The Polonaise, albeit slow and statuesque in its figures, is an ambulatory dance, and on grand festival days—especially on occasions matrimonial—the lengthy train of couples perambulates the entire mansion, going upstairs, and downstairs, and into my lady's chamber; sweeping and sailing, and, perhaps, flirting a little, through bower, and hall, and dining-room, and grand saloon, and “through the house,” giving
“glimmering light,” like the fairies in Theseus' palace in the last scene of the “Midsummer's Night's Dream.” When the Polonaise was danced at Peterhoff it was the pleasant and kindly custom of the Imperial Family to allow the very meanest of the common people to line the magnificent halls, and see the glittering procession of dancers go by. The sight was thrice as good as a play to these honest folks, who-men, women, and children—not unfrequently threw themselves at the feet of the Emperor and Empress as they passed, and burst into tears of mere joy and gratitude. And then they would go home to eat rye bread and salted cucumber; to drink sour goas, or brick-tea (half sheep's blood); to sleep on the top of the stove, and to be kicked and thrashed by the police, quite contentedly. Loyalty to the Throne is in Russia much more than a sentiment, much more than a convenient expedient, and is divested of even the slightest admixture of snobbishness. It is a Religion. The Czar is Pater atque Princeps—Pontifex Maximus as well as Emperor. When the Russian peasant is ill-treated he sighs piteously, “Heaven is so high and the Czar is so far off.” But he never loses his faith in his earthly Providence. On this side idolatry, the Emperor is all in all to his subjects. One day, shortly after the dreadful fire which nearly forty years since consumed the greatest portion of the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg, the Emperor Nicholas was driving through the streets of the capital in his droschky, when a middle-aged, long-bearded man, in the ordinary costume of the shopkeeping class, broke through the ranks of the crowd ; rushed up to the Imperial vehicle ; threw a sealed packet into it; and then, taking to his heels, was speedily lost to sight. But, ere he disappeared, the Czar heard him say, “ Little Father, you must build up your house again.” When the packet was opened it was found to contain banknotes to the amount of twenty-five thousand roubles (£3,750). Advertisements were' put forth inviting the mysterious donor to come forth and avow himself; but the long-bearded man never made any sign. I do not think that this was either a case of insanity or of “conscience” (in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's sense of the term). The rather do I incline to the belief that the name of the munificent unknown was Mr. Voluntary Contributions ; that he was of close kindred to the anonymous philanthropists who send thousand-pound notes to hospitals in this country; and that he was quite satisfied with the knowledge that he had helped his “ Little Father " to build a new house for himself.
Without some brief notice of this same Winter Palace a sketch of the Home of the Czarevna would be incomplete. It is an enormous
pile constructed of that kind of stone which the Americans term “ brown,” but which is in reality reddish in hue, which, when fresh hewn from the quarry, can be carved almost as though it were wood, but which hardens considerably by exposure to the atmosphere. The Winter Palace communicates, by a bridge somewhat resembling the Ponte de' Sospiri at Venice, with an older palace-the Hermitage, so much afiected by the Empress Catherine, and of which I shall have something to say anon. The old Winter Palace, burnt down, as I have mentioned, in 1837, was built by an Italian architect named Rastrelli, in the Empress Elizabeth's reign, and so vast were its dimensions that it was said to be inhabited by more than six thousand persons. The Imperial High Chamberlain used frankly to confess that he had not the least idea of how many apartments there were, or who lived in them; and I often heard the well-nigh incredible, but, I am assured, authentic story that when, while the conflagration was at its height, the firemen ascended to the roof, they found the leads inhabited by whole families of squatters, who had built log cabins, and kept poultry and pigs and even cows among the chimney pots. The origin of this strange colony was ascribed to the circumstance that it was customary to detail for service on the roof of the palace a certain number of labourers whose duty it was to keep the water-tanks from freezing in winter time by dropping red-hot cannon balls into them. Perhaps the oversetting of one of the stoves used for heating the bullets was the primary cause of the fire of '37. Naturally these poor fellows tried to make themselves as comfortable as they could in their eyries. A chimney pot does not afford a very complete shelter from the asperity of a Russian January; and logs for fuel being plentiful, what was more reasonable than that the cisternthawers should utilise a few billets to build themselves huts withal ? And a calf, discreetly smuggled up to a house-top in its tenderest youth, will grow into a cow in time, will it not? Who does not know Charles Lamb's story of the young donkey kept by a foolish urchin on the roof of the dormitory of the Bluecoat School, and which would never have been discovered had not the feeble-minded animal, waxing fat with fodder, and kicking, chosen to bray loud enough to have blown down the walls of Jericho; when it was of course confiscated by the authorities, and dismissed, " with certain attentions,” to Smithfield ?
Eighty thousand workmen had been employed at the erection of the Old Palace, which was most splendidly decorated, and the loss of valuable furniture and works of art at the fire was, of course, immense. The catastrophe took place in the night, and it was with