Page images

cess of them. He is gifted by nature with a spontaneous eloquence, and the talent of expressing at pleasure the sentiment which he would excite in others :-powers which are the more formidable, as their effect is certain in the possession of a sovereign; and he has never employed them among the multitude without success. He has great personal courage, of which his campaigns in Finland cannot leave any doubt: indeed, he has deserved censure for having too much exposed himself. His conduct towards the officers condemned by a court martial, in 1790, is one of the most signal proofs of clemency that a sovereign could afford. Among a very considerable number of persons sentenced to die, five, who were more guilty than the rest, could not seemingly escape the rigour of the laws; yet one, only, paid with his head the forfeit of all; and even he would not have suffered, if he had not too long delayed to solicit the king's mercy. The least plausible pretexts were eagerly seized by the monarch to save the guilty

To the gift of eloquence, courage, and clemency, the king unites great ambition, an indefatigable activity, a strong love of fame, and what alone would prompt to encounter any thing, an extreme confidence in his FORTUNE. We perhaps err, but we think that the man who, to a crown, adds all these qualities, must attract the regard of the age in which he lives, and command the admiration of posterity.'

The author speaks highly of the Swedish national character. He thinks that, of all European nations, the Swedish is that which, on account of its manners, merits to be regarded as the first. The people are naturally good, virtuous, and attached to their religion, and to their sovereign. As a proof of this remark, our travellers mention that, in 1790, they met carriages laden with the knapsacks of soldiers who had been killed in Finland, and which were escorted by a certain number of peasants, changing at every stage. Thus the knapsacks were carried as far as Scansa, (that is to say, to the extremity of the kingdom,) in order to return to their relatives the effects of those who had fallen in battle.-Often, on the high road, our travellers left their carriage open for several hours, by day and night, without missing any thing. If the Swede is ever to be tempted by the property of another, that property must be brandy, of which he is passionately fond. The habit of drink

* One of them, assuming the air of a lunatic, was confined as such at Dannviken. Some persons have really imagined that the king was the dupe of that artifice: but the following anecdote must undeceive them. His majesty having, one evening, questioned us respecting our excursions in Stockholm, we told him that we had that day visited the house of lunatics." Have you seen K.?". We were not so indiscreet as to inquire for him; we were satisfied with seeing that part of the building which he inhabits.'-" Oh, you may well think that I do not believe in such a lunacy."-The king wanted only a plea for saving the man's life.'

ing to excess is not limited to the lower classes, but extends to the highest ranks of society. Noblemen in Sweden, if we are to credit the narrator, are generally incapacitated, on quitting their table, from attending to any serious concerns. Even the Swedish ladies have been charged, by some travellers, with drinking drams: but the present author very gallantly repels the imputation.

We now proceed to the Third Volume, which treats of Russia. Though, in general, we have been pleased with the liberality and candour of the two travellers who collected the materials contained in the present publication, yet it is not impossible that, as Frenchmen, they painted with too glaring colours some defects of a monarchy, which, comparatively speaking, is still in its infancy with respect to civilization. On this subject, however, English readers are in no danger of being misled, having been lately presented with a correct and comprehensive View of the Russian Empire, by a writer* who, from his long residence in that country, and the very great variety of books consulted by him, is entitled to the highest


The police of Petersburgh, it should seem, from the account before us, is not on the most respectable footing. There happen, indeed, but few accidents in the night; yet sometimes murders are committed, and especially thefts: for which, according to our author, it is exceedingly rare to obtain justice. When a person has been assassinated in some place of bad repute, the police-officer is engaged to secrecy by means of a few rubles, so that the affair is soon hushed up; unless the deceased belonged to some powerful family, whose interest makes it necessary that inquiries should be instituted. When two persons quarrel either in the street or in a public-house, he who pays the inquirer is always in the right; the inferior policeofficers are never proof against money; and the poor individual, whether he be in the right or wrong, is almost sure of a beating.

• Moscow is unlike any other town in Europe. The construction of the houses, and the mode of life of the inhabitants,. (in particular the great lords,) prevent the formation of any correct idea concerning it, at a distance. It is, in the true sense of the word, a Russian town; whereas Petersburgh can only be considered as an European colony, where it is impossible to acquire any knowlege of the Russian nation, except after a long residence. Moscow is uncleanly in the extreme, and at night very ill lighted. From the number of carriages of every kind, which are seen on all roads leading to that city, we might expect to find there excellent accommodations:-but the very reverse is the case.'-

*The Rev. Mr. Tooke, to whose performance we shall shortly attend.

A contrast

A contrast singularly striking is presented in several streets, by forty or fifty cottages of wood, exhibiting the greatest distress; in the midst of which rises an immense palace of brick, built with great architectural skill, and bespeaking the highest opulence. Often a very fine carriage is drawn by four miserable animals, with ropes for harness, and, instead of a coachman or postillion, a wretched Mocgick (peasant) all in tatters. It is not rare to behold, at the door of a magnificent nobleman's house, some exceedingly well drest domestics in company with others, serving the same master, whose appearance might induce a belief that they were begging charity; and the same contrast of luxury and misery, of abundance and want, prevails throughout.--The bulk of the Russian nobility reside at Moscow; and those few, who, on account of their situations under government, are obliged to live at Petersburgh, no sooner obtain their liberty, than they retire to Moscow; where there is no court to controul their whims; and no sovereign to prevent them from launching out into that magnificence which is suited to their fortune. It is at Moscow that the traveller is to look for those Colossusses of luxury, which will afford him a complete idea of oriental satraps.

A sort of luxury, which we have seen only in this place, and which cannot be found but in a country where the nobility dispose at their pleasure of a great number of individuals, is that of companies of players. Eight or ten noblemen had each their theatre; some had an Italian opera and a ballet. The comedians of Count Scheremetow were the most remarkable; the rest attained but to mediocrity." All the effects of these companies are the sole property of the noblemen; who have no other trouble with them, than that of allotting to every one the part which he is to perform, whether it be that of actor, singer, dancer, or musician. The same may be observed with regard to the bands of musicians kept by noblemen; they are always slaves; but their master determined that they should hold a, violin or a flute, rather than a rake or a bill-hook. Thus a set of peasants is soon transformed into a complete orchestra. From the faci lity of such establishments, there is nothing so common at Moscow as musical parties, which are often very numerous, in the houses of private gentlemen; who have only to maintain, either ill or well, and, on assembly-days, to dress cleanly, these new made artists. We heard several of these bands, which really were not contemptible: indeed we were not told how many hundred lashes their apprenticeship had cost them but the means lay concealed, and we were to enjoy the effect.'

The Fourth Volume likewise treats of Russia, and presents several curious particulars relating to that vast empire; which now, more than ever, attracts the attention of the world.

*Storch, in his Picture of Petersburgh, calls this nobleman (whose name he spells Scheremetjew) the richest individual of the Russian empire. Rev.

It might be imagined that, in a country of which the very climate is supposed to be unfavourable to the votaries and professors of arts and sciences, instruction could only be procured at a considerable expence, and with much trouble. Few parts of the world, however, are so plentifully provided with masters and tutors of every description; all of whom come from abroad. Their great number, especially in the larger cities, ought to excite some suspicion of their qualifications, and should render parents cautious in choosing from among those who pre'sent themselves: but, on the contrary, a master is approved as soon as he offers. He generally assumes the character of a French language master, which is sufficient; and the father entrusts to him the education of a youth who perhaps possesses seeds of the greatest natural talents, which a want of proper care will keep concealed for ever. To throw some light on this subject, we extract the following anecdotes:

When Count Anhalt was at Moscow, a person requested an audience of him in private: the count, unwilling to send away his cousin, who happened to be with him, desired that the stranger would explain himself in the presence of that gentleman. - Ders your excellency not know me ?-No.-Your excellency may, perhaps, recollect one Lajeunesse, who was drummer in your regiment in Prussia, and whom you forced torun the gauntlet ?—What, is it you, rogue? and what is your business here?-I am preceptor in the family where your excellency dines to-day; I was afraid lest you should recognise me, and expose me in such a manner as might take away the means of my subsistence; and I am come to aequoint your excellency with these circumstances. Since there are people weak enough to fix on you for a tutor, I will do no injury to you :" but, if you have the assurance to place yourself at the same table with me, I shall have you thrown out at the window.-Your excellency needs be under no uneasiness. The heretofore drummer then made a low bow, and dined that day abroad.

When M. de fuigné resided in Russia, in the capacity of French minister, he met one day at a house in Moscow, where he paid a visit, a man who formerly had been one of his postillions, and now filled the post of private tutor.'

It is not, indeed, surprising that these ingenious persons, who are for the most part Frenchmen, should on their arrival in Russia be willing to relinquish the offices of drummer, postillion, or valet-de-chambre, in favour of situations which are generally worth from four to five hundred rubies a-year, with the addition of comfortable board and lodging. Address and confidence, in which that nation is seldom deficient, compensate for their want of merit; though sometimes sudden emergencies will strip them of all their borrowed plumes. One of these French preceptors, being interrogated by a person who entertained doubts respecting his learning, as to what was meant by nominative, genitive, dative, and the modes of the

verb, replied that he had left France fifteen years ago; and that, as many novelties sprang up in that country, especially in the department of Modes, those which the gentleman had just mentioned must certainly have been created since his departure !

The people of fashion in Russia, as the author has already observed in another volume, display uncommon magnificence in their houses, which principally consists in keeping an open table, and a multitude of male and female servants. The latter species of luxury is often carried to such lengths, that in wealthy families the number of domestics amounts to eighty, a hundred, or upwards. The Russians value themselves greatly on this ostentatious shew of grandeur, which, they say, is no where else to be found:-but it is not difficult for a Russian nobleman, possessing several thousands of slaves, to assemble about him as many as he pleases. What other European nation is in a situation to imitate this barbaric parade ?-The author assures us that only the principal domestics are paid as in other countries, the rest receiving a pittance of forty, and some only thirty rubles a-year; the consequence of which is that they steal wherever they can; and, though richly clad on extraordinary occasions, occurring not above once or twice annually, they have scarcely shoes to their feet during the remainder of the year.-This custom, prevailing in a country so thinly inhabited, will draw forth the censure of those who are of opinion that, in a nascent state, as many hands as possible ought to be employed in agriculture. The same remark holds. with respect to horses; of which, many Russian grandees keep eighty, when twenty or thirty would fully answer their purpose, if that number implied equal wealth.

The luxury of the table is commensurate with the other expences of Russian magnificence. In families of distinction, almost every article necessary for the table is supplied from abroad. The Russians, in general, are immoderate eaters; and all ranks are excessively fond of pickled vegetables, horseradish, spiced ragouts, and other unwholesome food. Before dinner, as in Sweden, it is customary to hand about brandy, or other spirits, together with some cheese, or any thing else that they deem provoking to the appetite. The fruit of the milder climates is also in great request; hence, hot-houses are no where more frequent than in Russia; and multitudes of grapes and water-melons are imported from Astracan, though distant from Petersburgh more than seven hundred leagues. The Russian taste in dress may be guessed, after what has been said of their predilection for shew. Whatever dazzles, or is rich, they think most becoming. That lady is best


« PreviousContinue »