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of the artist employed; and there are now residing in Petersburgh and Moscow, fo. reign artists of the highest respectability and talents, who attest its truth. One of them, signior Camporesi, assured me, that walking in the suburbs of Moscow, he entered a miserable hut, belonging to a cobler; where, at the further end, in a place contrived to hold pans and kettles, and to dress victuals, he observed a ragged peasant at work. It was a painter in enamel, copying very beautiful pictures which were placed before him. The same. person, he added, might have been found the next day drunk in a cellar, or howling beneath the cudgel of his task-master.” P. 67.70.
The nature of a journey to Siberia is exceedingly misunderstood in this country, and by the world in general. Such a decree of banishment presents to our minds the picture of every thing that is deplorable in the lot of humanity; separation from home, and friends, and beloved pursuits; transportation to a bleak, dismal, and savage region; the exchange of comforts and luxuries, for all that is most comfortless and wretched. When viewed a little nearer, this picture has no such frightful aspect; and a man must both see what the Russian leaves, and have a detailed account of what he is doomed to in his new residence, to estimate fairly the extent of the sacrifice which the caprice of his tyrant may, at any moment, and without any reason, compel him to undergo. Now, our author represents the Russians as by no means strongly attached to their native soil, and as knit to their families and friends by ties not much stronger. The life which they love to lead, is so brutal, and sensual, in every respect, that its gratifications may be obtained in one part of the world as easily as another, and in all situations with equal facility, and in equal perfection. But, so numerous are the emigrants to Siberia, that the capital of the country has assumed a very superiour appearance; and, in reading the description of it, which our author presents us with, we are cer
tainly disposed to mistake it for the representation of one of the most flourishing and civilized Russian cities. From the number and rank of the exiles, Tobolski has become a large and *.*.*. enriched with shops; full of what, in Russia, must be deemed good society; adorned with theatres, with private assemblies, and with places of publick resort. We there meet with booksellers, maquerades, French hotels. The wines of France, and the malt liquors of England, may be had there, as at Petersburgh or Moscow. The gayety of the place is extolled by all who have, either as soidiers or exiles, been forced to visit it. Provisions are so cheap, that about fifty years ago, Dr. Gmelin found it possible for a person to live on ten roubles [about two pounds] a year. He describes it as the “very temple of Bacchus and Indolence.” “Les gens les plus considerables,” says he “se rendoient visite et se donnoient des divertissemens. Quant au peuple il etoit comme fou; ce n’etoit jour et nuit que promenades, cris, tumultes, batteries. Il etoit difficile d’aller dans les rues, tant il’y avoit d’hommes, de femmes, de bètes, et de traineaux.” It is no wonder, that an officer of considerable rank in the Russian service should have told our author, that he would rather have half his pay, and live at Tobolski, than the whole of it, and reside at St. Petersburgh; and that many of the exiles, after being ordered home, have anxiously sought to return thither. These particulars may correct our notions of the horrours attending a sentence of expulsion to Siberia; but, let it at the same time be rerienbered, that the desert has only been cultivated, and made to smile, by the wanton excess to which the Russian despots have carried their power; and that the phenomenon of a city tolerably populous and civilized, in the heart of Siberia, 1500 miles from Petersburgh, is as monstrous and unnatirrad a fling,. as the parent from whence it sprang. The tyranny which reigns at Petersburgh itself; the boundless tyranny which outraged nature, by planting that city in the marshes of the Neva, and which profanes it still more, by stunting the shoots of huiman happiness there, and in every other quarter of that enslaved emplve. As we are led to the general subject of Russia and its inhabitants, we may as well take this opportunity of noticing the very interesting, and even original view, which Dr. Clarke gives of their character and manners. No traveller, certainly, who had seen that people, could describe them as refined, or, in any light, entitled to our esteem or respect; and, accordingly, no one has ever praised them for the virtues or the graces of national character. But, at the same time, we think Dr. Clarke is the first who has given us a full view of their barbarism, and placed in its real light the debased and groveling character of the whole people. As the subject is interesting, and, indeed, of great importance in a political view, we shall collect in one statement, the different facts and observations which his work contains respecting it. We have already extracted his account of the imitative talents of the Russians. To this may be added, the feats performed by them in learning languages, and in musick. Without the smallest talent for either poetry, cloquence, or any other species of original composition, they learn, with astonishing and enviable facility, all manner of tongues, and speak them with the ease and the purity of natives. So, without any genius for musick, and with scarcely such a thing as an original composer to be found in the whole empire, they are perfect mocking birds; and the Russian slaves can play the most complicated and difficult pieces, and pften after a fashion quite peculiar to themselves. For it is well
known, that there are bands in Russia, in which each slave performs but one note. These particulars (which our author has omitted) as well as the anecdotes of their dexterity in painting, apply chiefly to the lower classes of the community. We are now to take a view of the nobles. The character under which they may be best described, is that of overgrown children. Thus, a nobleman delights in filling his palace with every costly article of furniture, and, above all, with pictures which look gaudy and glittering; but he is never satisfied without a perpetual change of them; he must be always having something new to look at.—“As the nobles,” says our author, “ have rarely any money at command, their traffick in the fine arts, as in other things, is carried on by exchange. This sort of barter is, of all things, that in which they take the greatest delight. They purchase a picture for a carriage, or an embroidered suit of clothes, just as they pay their physician with a snuff box. In every thing, the same infantine disposition is displayed; and, like children, they are tired of their toys almost in the moment they have acquired them. In their choice of pictures, they are pleased only with gay and splendid colouring, highly finished, in gaudy frames: • quelque chose d’éclatant " to use an expression constantly in their mouths. The works of Vander Werf, Watteau, Jordaens, Berchem, and Gerhard Douw, bear the highest prices; but if productions by any of the Bolognese masters, are shown to them, they are rejected. Nothing of the sombre cast, however sublime, has any value in their estimation. The works of the Caracci, Zampieri, or even Michael Angelo, would not meet admirers.” p. 87-In illustration of this, Dr. Clarke relates an anecdote of a fine head, by Correggio, which fell some time ago into the hands of a Russian. He kept it for some time, and then exchanged it with a miniature painter for some wretched daubs. “It had too much shade,” he said, “the lights were too pale; it had altogether the air of a head from the guillotine.” But it is not with their taste merely, that we have to do. The following picture is more general. It is a whole length of the Russian nobleman’s character and habits (if we may so speak) and, however disgusting, must be contemplated by those English readers who would know what sort of a nation it was, that, about three little years since, we all looked to as the deliverers of Europe, and the grand barrier against French oppression, against the inroads of the “modern Vandals,” as we were wont *. to term the enemies of the
uscovites, because they were also Out OWIA.
“Some of the nobles are much richer than the richest of our English peers; and a vast number, as may be supposed, are very poor. To this poverty, and to these riches, are equally joined the most abject meanness, and the most detestable profiigacy. In sensuality, they are without limits of law, conscience, or honour. In their amusement, always children; in their resentment, women. The toys of infants, the baubles of French fops, constitute the highest object of their wishes. Novelty idelights the human race; but no part of it seek for novelty so eagerly as the Russian nobles. Novelty in their debaucheries; novelty in gluttony; novelty in cruelty; novelty in whatever they pursue. This is not the case with the lower class, who preserve their habits unaltered, from one ‘generation to another. But there are characteristicks in which the Russian prince and the Russian peasant are the same. They are all equally barbarous. Visit a Russian, of whatever rank, at his country seat, and you will find him lounging about, uncombed, unwashed, unshaven, half naked, eating raw turnips, and drinking Quass. The raw turnip is handed about in slices, in the first houses, upon a silver salver, with brandy, as a whet before dimner. Their hair is, universatly, in a state not to be described; and their bodies are only devested of vermin when they frequent the bath. Upon those occasions, their shirts and pelisses are held over a hot
stove, and the heat occasions the vermin to fall off. It is a fact too notorious to admit dispute, that from the emperour to the meanest slave, throughout the vast empire of all the Russias, including all its princes, nobles, priests, and peasants, there exists not a single individual in a thousand, whose body is destitute of vermin. An English gentleman of Moscow, residing as a banker in the city, assured me, that, passing on horseback through the streets, he has often seen women of
the highest quality, sitting in the windows
of their palaces, devesting each other of vermin. Another trait, in addition to what I have said before, of their resemblance to the Neapolitans. . o -
* “The true manners of the people are
"not seen in Petersburgh, nor even in Mos
cow, by entering the houses of nobility only. Some of them, and generally those to whom letters of recommendation are obtained, have travelled, and introduce refinements, which their friends and companions readily imitate. The real Russian rises at an early hour, and breakfasts on a dram, with black bread. His dinner, at noon, consists of the coarsest and most greasy viands, the scorbutick effects of which are counteracted by salted cucumbers, sour cabbage, the juice of his vaccinium, and his nectar, quass. Sleep, which renders him unmindful of his abject servitude and barbarous life, he particularly indulges; sleeping always after eating, and going early to his bed. The principal articles of diet are the same every where; grease and brandy. A stranger, dining with their most refined and most accom. plished princes, may in vain expect to see his knife and fork changed. If he sends them away, they are returned without even being wiped. If he looks behind him, he will See a servant spit in the plate he is to receive, and wipe it with a dirty napkin, to remove the dust. If he ventures (which he should avoid, if he is hungry) to inspect the soup in his plate, with too inquisitive an eye, he will, doubtless, discover living victims in distress, which a Russian, if he saw, would swallow with indifference. It is not known to all, that Potemkin used to take vermin from his head, and kill them on the bottom of his plate at table ! and beauteous princesses of Moscow do not scruple to follow his example. But vermin, unknown to an Englishiman, and which it is not permitted
even to name, attack the stranger who
incautiously approaches too near the persons of their nobility, and visit him from their sophas and chairs. If at table he re
gards his heighbour, he sees him picking his teeth with his fork, and then plunging it into a plate of meat which is brought round to all. The horrours of a Russian kitchen are inconceivable; and there is not a bed in the whole empire, which an English traveller, aware of its condition, would venture to approach.”—“There is, in fact, no degree of meanness to which a Russian nobleman will not condescend. To enumerate the things of which we were eyewitnesses, would only weary and disgust the reader. I will end with one. “A hat had been stolen from our apartments. The servants positively asserted, that some young noblemen, who had been more lavish of their friendship and company than we desired, had gained access to the chambers in our absence, and had carried off the hat, with some other movables, even of less value. The fact was inconceivable, and we gave no credit to it. A few days after, being upon an excursion to the convent of the New Jerusalem, forty five versts north of Moscow, a party of the nobles, to whom our intention was made known the preceding evening at the Club de JVoblesse, overtook us on horseback. One of them, mounted on an ionglish racer, and habited like a Newmarket jockey, rode up to the side of the carriage; but his horse being somewhat unruly, he lost his seat, and a gust of wind carried off his cap. My companion immediately descended, and ran to recover it for its owner; but what was his astonishment, to perceive his own name, and the name of his hatter, on the lining ! It was no other than the identical hat which one of the party had stolen from our lodgings, now become a cap, and which, under its altered shape, might not have been recognised, but for the accident here mentioned.”—p. 90–96. The account given by our author, of the barbarous hospitality practised by the Russian grandees, agrees with the relations of other travellers; but furnishes additional particulars to explain those of which we were already in possession, and to show us how justly the appellation of barbarous has been applied to it. The Russian noble considers his dignity
and honour as altogether implicated
in the number of his guests, satel
lites and retainers. Should any one
of those who are accustomed to fre
quent his table, leave it for another,
or, as Dr. Clarke properly terms it, should he “forsake his post at
dinner, and swell the train of any other person,” the offence is neither forgotten nor forgiven. He is persecuted, for a length of time, by every means which cunning and cruelty can devise, exactly as if he had done a serious injury to his former patron; and, in the end, he is sure to repent of his change. When a traveller arrives at Moscow, the nobles contend eagerly and bitterly for him; and, as he cannot belong to each table, his preference gives rise to endless jealousies and heartburnings. Even during the reign of Paul, when it was dangerous to associate with an Englishman, the nobles of Moscow would receive him gladly, at any risk, and sometimes close their outer gates upon his equipage, to conceal from the police the kind of hospitality which was going on within." The principle of all this being state and show, and the exhibition of the master's superiority and vanity, it is needless to add, that no kind of refinement and delicacy is shown in the manner of entertaining the guests. They are to receive so much meat and drink from the bounty of the host; that is the view of the thing, and the whole entertainment corresponds with it. The guests of various ranks sit down, according to their degree, to an immense banquet, surrounded by numberless servants; but the dishes and wines have their places as well as the company, and correspond with the quality of those who are to devour them. They who sit near the master of the house have no kind of concern with either the guests or the dishes at the other parts of the table; and you could not more seriously discompose him, than by sending for a portion of the more distant fare. Thus, the unfortunate persons at the bottom of the table, are compelled to rest satisfied either with the coarsest food set before them, or the leavings of the others, or often with an empty dish; and, in like manner, the wine diminishes in quality as you recede from
the top of the table, until it at last degenerates into simple quass. Our author sometimes attempted to break through this barbarous custom (so descriptive of the nature of the hospitality in question, and of the state of society) by filling the glasses of those below him with the wine allotted to himself; but the offer was generally refused, through fear of offending the higher powers; and he soon discovered, that it was an encroachment which the most liberal host could not endure. A pleasant story, related by him, in order to illustrate the regard paid to rank, paints, at the same time, the singularity which we have been describing. “A droll accident befel two English gentlemen of considerable property, who were travelling for amusement in Russia. They were at Nicholaef, and, being invited by the chief admiral to dinner, were placed as usual, at the head of the table; where they were addressed by the well-known title of JMilords Anglois. Tired of this illplaced distinction, they assured the admiral they were not lords. “Then pray,” said their host, “what rank do you possess? The lowest Russian, admitted to an admiral's table, possesses a certain degree of rank; all who are in the service of the crown are noble by their profession; and they cannot comprehend the title of a mere gentleman, without some specifick title annexed. The Englishmen replied, however, that they had no other rank than that of English gentlemen. “ But your titles 2 You must have some title " No, said they, we have no title but that of English gentlemen. A general silence, and many sagacious looks followed this last declaration. On the following day they presented themselves again at the hour of dinner, and were taking their station as before. To their surprise, they found that each person present, one after the other, placed himself above them. One was a general; another a lieutenant; a third an ensign; a fourth a police officer; a fifth, an army surgeon; a sixth a secretary; and so on. All this was very well; they consoled themselves with a prospect of a snug party at the bottom of the table, where they would be the further removed from ceremony; but lo! when the dishes came round, a first was empty; a sceond contained the sauce without the meat; a third, the rejected
offals of the whole company; and, at length, they were compelled to make a scanty meal upon the slice of black bread before them, and a little dirty broth from the humble tureen, behind whose compassionate veil they were happy to hide their confusion; at the same time being more amused than mortified at an adventure into which they now saw they brought themselves by their unassuming frankness. Had either of them said, as was really the case, that they were in the service of his Britannick majesty’s militia, or members of the Associated Volunteers of London, they would never have encountered so unfavourable a reception.” p. 635, 636.
We have now contemplated the nobles, or we may say, in general, the upper classes of society. The rest of the community (with the trifling exception of a few merchants in the seaports, who are for the most part foreigners) consist of the peasantry, who continue in the state of bondsmen, in which the lower orders in all the rest of Europe once were. To paint the situation and habits of those persons, it is almost sufficient to say, that they are slaves in the possession of the barbarous nobles, whom we have already described. They are attached to the soil, and transferred with it, like cattle; and although many laws are passed for their protection, and severe examples are not unfrequently made of masters, who treat them cruelly, it is in vain to expect any thing but abuše, where a man's power is absolute over his fellow; or any thing but debasement in the character, and wretchedness in the condition, of one who is dependent upon the will of a master. A copious extract from Mr. Heber's journal (who travelled over much of the same ground with our author a few years after him, and has allowed him to enrich his notes with much valuable matter) contains a variety of interesting facts respecting the state of the Russian bondsmen. We shall only extract the following account of their payments to the mesne lords.
“We observed a striking difference