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1763-1769. and been obliged to vanish in shrieks and curses. 20 As to August the Physically Strong, such treatment had he met with,-poor August, if readers remember, had made
his mind to partition Poland; to give away large sections of it in purchase of the consent of neighbours, and plant himself hereditarily in the central part;--and would have done so, had not Grumkow and he drunk so deep, and death by inflammation of the foot suddenly come upon the poor man.
Some Partition of Poland has been more than once thought of by practical people concerned. Poland, as a house chroni- . cally smoking through the slates,' which usually brings a new European War every time it changes King, does require to be taken charge of by its neighbours.
Latterly, as we observed, there has been little of confederating; indeed, for the last thirty years, as Rulhière copiously informs us, there has been no Government, consequently no mutiny needed; little or no National business of any kind,—the Forty Diets having all gone
the road we saw. Electing of the Judges,—that, says Rulhière, and wearisomely teaches by example again and ever again, has always been an interesting act, in the various Provinces of Poland; not with the hope of getting fair or upright Judges, but Judges that will lean in the desirable direction. In a Country overrun with endless lawsuits, debts, credits, feudal intricacies, claims, liabilities, how important to get Judges with the proper bias! And these once got, or lost till next term,—what is there to hope or to fear? Russia does our Politics, fights her Seven - Years War across us; and we, happy we, have no fighting ;-never till this of Courland was there the least ill-nature from Russia! We are become latterly 1763-1769. the peaceable stepping-stone of Russia into Europe and out of it;—what may be called the door-mat of Russia, useful to her feet, when she is about paying visits or receiving them! That is not a glorious fact, if it be a safe and “lucky' one; nor do the Polish Nobilities at all phrase it in that manner. But a fact it is; which has shown itself complete in the late Czarina's and late August's time, and which had been on the growing hand ever since Peter the Great gained his Battle of Pultawa, and rose to the ascendancy, instead of Karl and Sweden.
20 Buchholz (Preussisch-Brandenburgische Geschichte, ii. 133, 154, &c. &c.) gives various samples, and this enumeration.
The Poles put fine colours on all this; and are much contented with themselves. The Russians they regard as intrinsically an inferior barbarous people; and to this day you will hear indignant Polack Gentlemen bursting out in the same strain: “Still barbarian, sir; no culture, no literature,”—inferior because they do not make verses equal to ours! How it may be with the verses, I will not decide: but the Russians are inconceivably superior in respect that they have, to a singular degree among Nations, the gift of obeying, of being commanded. Polack Chivalry sniffs at the mention of such a gift. Polack Chivalry got sore stripes for wanting this gift. And in the end, got striped to death, and flung out of the world, for continuing blind to the want of it, and never acquiring it. Beyond all the verses in Nature, it is essential to every Chivalry and Nation and Man. “Polite Polish
Society for the last thirty years has felt itself to be in a most halcyon condition,' says Rulhière:21 given up ' to the agreeable, and to that only;' charming eveningparties, and a great deal of flirting; full of the benevolences, the philanthropies, the new ideas, -given up especially to the pleasing idea of “ Laissez-faire, and everything will come right of itself.” 6 What a dis1763-1769. covery!" said every liberal Polish mind: “for thousands of years; how people did torment themselves trying to steer the ship; never knowing that the plan was, To let
21 Rulhière, i. 216 (a noteworthy passage).
go the helm, and honestly sit down to your mutual amusements and powers of pleasing !"
To this condition of beautifully phosphorescent rotheap has Poland ripened, in the helpless reigns of those poor Augusts;—the fulness of time not now far off, one would say? It would complete the picture, could I go into the state of what is called "Religion” in Poland. Dissenterism, of various poor types, is extensive; and, over against it, is such a type of Jesuit Fanaticism as has no fellow in that time. Of which there have been truly savage and sanguinary outbreaks, from time to time; especially one at Thorn, forty years ago, which shocked Friedrich Wilhelm and the whole Protestant world.22 Polish Orthodoxy, in that time, and perhaps still in ours, is a thing worth noting. A late Tourist informs me, he saw on the streets of Stettin, not long since, a drunk human creature staggering about, who seemed to be a Baltic Sailor, just arrived; the dirtiest, or among the dirtiest, of mankind; who, as he reeled along, kept slapping his hands upon his breast, and shouting, in exultant soliloquy, “Polack, Catholik!" I am a Pole and Orthodox, ye inferior two-legged entities !—In regard to the Jesuit. Fanaticisms, at Thorn and elsewhere, no blame can attach to the poor Augusts, who always leant the other way, what they durst or could. Nor is speciality of blame due to them on any score; it was “ like People, like King,” all along ;-and they, such their luck, have lived to bring in the fulness of time.
The Saxon Electors are again aspirants for this en1763-1769. viable Throne. We have seen the beautiful Electress zealously soliciting Friedrich for help in that project; Friedrich, in a dexterously graceful manner, altogether declining. Hereditary Saxons are not to be the expedient this time, it would seem; a grandiose Czarina has decided otherwise. Why should not she? She and all the world are well aware, Russia has been virtual lord of Poland this long time. Credible enough that Russia intends to continue so; and also that it will be able, without very much expenditure of new contrivance for that object.
22 See suprà, ü. 15, 16 (and many old Pamphlets on it).
So far as can be guessed and assiduously deduced from Rulhière, with your best attention, Russian Catharine's interference seems first of all to have been grounded on the grandiose philanthropic principle. Astonishing to the liberal mind; yet to appearance true. Rulhière nowhere says so; but that is gradually one's own perception of the matter; no other refuge for
you out of flat inconceivability. Philanthropic principle, we say, which the Voltaires and Sages of that Epoch are prescribing as one's duty and one's glory: “Oh ye Kings, why won't you do good to mankind, then?” Catharine, a kind of She-Louis Quatorze, was equal to such a thing. To put one's cast Lover into a throne,-poor soul, console him in that manner ;and reduce the long-dissentient Country to blessed composure under him: what a thing! Foolish Poniatowski, an empty, windy creature, redolent of macassar and the finer sensibilities of the heart: him she did make King of Poland; but to reduce the long-dissentient Country to composure,—that was what she could not do. Countries in that predicament are sometimes very difficult to compose. The Czarina took, for above five years, a great deal of trouble, without losing patience. The Czarina, 1763-1769. after every new effort, perceived with astonishment that she was further from success than ever. With astonishment; and gradually with irritation, thickening and mounting towards indignation.
There is no reason to believe that the grandiose Woman handled, or designed to handle, a doomed Poland in the merciless feline-diabolic way set forth with wearisome loud reiteration in those distracted Books; playing with the poor Country as cat does with mouse; now lifting her fell paw, letting the poor mouse go loose in floods of celestial joy and hope without limit; and always clutching the hapless creature back into the blackness of death, before eating and ending it. Reason first is, that the Czarina, as we see her elsewhere, never was in the least a Cat or a Devil, but a mere Woman; already virtual proprietress of Poland, and needing little contrivance to keep it virtually hers. Reason second is, that she had not the gift of prophecy, and could not foreknow the Polish events of the next ten years, much less shape them out beforehand, and preside over them, like a Devil or otherwise, in the way supposed.
My own private conjecture, I confess, has rather grown to be, on much reading of those Rulhières and distracted Books, that the Czarina,—who was a grandiose creature, with considerable magnanimities, natural and acquired; with many ostentations, some really great qualities and talents; in effect, a kind of She-Louis Quatorze (if the reader will reflect on that Royal Gentleman, and put him into petticoats in Russia, and change his improper females for improper males),—that the Czarina, very clearly resolute to keep Poland hers, had determined with herself to do something very handsome in regard to Poland; and to gain glory, both with the enlightened Philosophe classes and with her own proud