페이지 이미지

but it is absurd to suppose, that she entertained seriously, the intention of concealing from the rest of the world, the true state of the interior of Russia. Without breaking off all communication with other countries, and erecting on her frontiers a wall like that of China, the accomplishment of such a purpose would have been impossible.—It is moreover contradicted, by the constant efforts of the empress, to allure foreigners into her-dominions. She took into her service engineers from Holland, for the purpose of improving the internal navigation of Russia. By the labours of these officers, the courses of the navigable rivers throughout the empire were accurately traced.*—The numerous individuals belonging to the British navy, who have at various times been in the service of Russia, must necessarily have made themselves acquainted with its coasts and sea-ports.

Lastly, the men of learning, who by order of the empress Catherine, travelled into the remote provinces of her empire, (the fruits of whose researches, were given to the world at her expense,) have thrown much light on the natural history of those very countries, through which Dr. Clarke galloped in such wonderful haste, though accompanied by a powerful escort. To the mass of information produced by the legitimate means above stated, ought to be added the,accounts, whether true or false, which have been given to the world by strangers of all descriptions, who traversed Russia in every direction, and who insinuated themselves, under the disguise of men of letters, into the most distant corners of the country, for the purpose of pilfering a few pretended state secrets, with which they might pay their court at home.

The reign of the empress Catherine II. is so far from being enveloped in mystery, that the most minute details of the many remarkable events with which it is crouded, have long been generally known. Her journey to the Crimea was made in the company of such men as lord St. Helens, the Counts de Segur, and Cobentzel, and can have led into error none but the dullest of observers, although there may have been found

• Persons wishing to obtain the most exact information relative to the internal navigation of Russia, may without any difficulty, procure it by applying to the Department which superintends that branch of civil economy. Besides the necessary charts, they may be furnished with a printed explanation, which details all the existing communications,—those begun and yet unfinished—and those which are only projected. Mr. Oddy has made use of the above work in his book entitled " European Commerce,"—published in 4w., London, 1805.

[ocr errors]

persons who affected to be deceived.* Indeed Dr. Clarke's book furnishes nothing new on the subject of this princess. There seems in the present day, to remain but little difference of opinion respecting her great qualities, as well as her defects,—and if the former have met with over-zealous admirers, it must be admitted, that the latter have not escaped the animadversions of censors abundantly severe. To us it appears, that Russia cannot but place her in the rank of her most distinguished monarchs, as well as of the most able sovereigns that ever reigned over any country.

Dr. Clarke, in his short residence at St. Petersburg, gathers no information, which might not be picked up at the corner of every street in that capital. Without denying the existence of some of the abuses which he mentions in his first chapter, and without undertaking to justify them, we will content ourselves with noticing some errors, which appear to us to bear the stamp of misrepresentation. He takes great pains to inspire a belief, that his countrymen are peculiarly exposed to the vexations which he describes, and about which he is so querulous. *—This assertion is. incorrect.—The regulations of the police relative to dress, were extended to all the inhabitants, without a single exception;—neither is it true, that the English suffered every where the same severe treatment. Dr. Clarke himself and his companion will more than once, furnish proof of the contrary. .

With regard to the punishment which he states to have been inflicted on the author of the epigram, mentioned in page 6, (cutting- out his tongue), we will simply observe, that for more than a century, there has not been one solitary instance of such an execution. Moreover, having ourselves resided in St. Petersburg during the whole of the late Emperor's reign, we assert without fear of contradiction, that, to this day, the author of that epigram remains unknown.

* The Empress's journey to the Crimea furnishes some anecdotes wor; thy of being recorded, but which are not all to be met with in the memoirs of that time. We will present our readers with one of these, to show how little she was the dupe, ofthe exhibitions offered to her view by Prince Potemkin, during her progress. Descending the river Dnieper in a galley, the Empress and her attendants arrived at Kief, a town of which the interior appearance, does not correspond with the beauty of its perspective. She desired to know the opinions, of the three foreign ambassadors who accompanied her, respecting the scene before them. Count Cobentzel was in raptures with the prospect.—M. de Segur contented himself with saying, that much might be made of it in the course of time.—Lord St. Helens declared that the country was detestable, and the prospect nothing extraordinary.— The Empress said with a smile " Count Cobentzel is n courtier—M. de St. jrur a polite man—and Mr. Fitzherbert a man of truth."—" Le Comte Cobentzel est un courtisan,—M. de Segur un homme voli.—M. de Fitzherbert on homme vrai."

Before he has arrived at Sarskoesilo, which is only twentytwo versts from St. Petersburg, Dr. Clarke has had time to discover that on leaving the capital, a traveller " bids adieu to all thoughts of inns or even houses, with the common necessaries of bread and water."* The road between this last city and Moscow, is constantly covered with travellers and wagoners.— Of these the first have not always, like the Doctor, comfortable travelling carriages, and the latter, proceeding uniformly with the same horses, must necessarily stop somewhere at night, and refresh their cattle. Their wagons are loaded with merchandise, which they have engaged to transport from distant places, and they cannot consequently have room for many provisions. How then do they escape being starved?—Some idea may be formed of the prodigious number of these unhappy wagoners by what is said, page 475—" Nothing can be more striking than the spectacle afforded by those immense caravans, slowly advancing each in one direct line, by hundreds at a time, and presenting a picture of the internal commerce carried on by Russia throughout all parts of the empire." We think therefore that Dr. Clarke would have spoken more properly, had he said that good inns were rare on the high roads of Russia,—but this would have been too much in the usual language of discontented travellers.—He chose to say more.—Like those Russian noblemen who, according to his account, ask of the picture-mongers, quelque chose d'eclatant, he was determined to have, in his picture, only " splendid colouring."—We find him accordingly, gravely assuring his readers, that in the midst of fields abounding with corn and pasturage, the Russian starves, and has not a drop of milk to distribute!

At Sarskoeselo the author manifests his disposition to misrepresent all he sees, and all that he hears of in Russia. The act of vandalism by which several pictures (as he says), were cut" in order to adapt them to the accidental spaces left vacant," (page 13,) never was committed but in his imagination. Those who know with what care the numerous collections of pictures, belonging to private individuals, are kept at St. Petersburg, and who have visited the galleries of the Hermitage, and other imperial palaces, will see the improbability of this story, and will agree with us, that in the fine arts at least, the progress of Russia has been great. Since the death of the empress Catherine, Sarskoeselo has never been inhabited.— Some of the pictures and statues have been removed from thence. We suspect that Dr. Clarke talks of this palace, with

* Page 9.

out having been admitted into it, for it is usually shut, at the season he pretends to have been there.

The inspection of the cathedral at Novgorod affords him an occasion, for descanting on some of the religious practices of the Russians. After an historical summary of the introduction of images* into Russia, he observes that " the different representations of the Virgin—will show to what a pitch of absurdity superstition has been carried." It is not a new discovery that the appearance of images is coeval with that of the Christian religion in our country—nor that those images were derived from Greece. We willingly acknowledge that they arc wretchedly executed.—We will not deny that there prevails much superstition among the lower classes of society; but if we comprehend the meaning of the term superstition, it signifies implicit belief granted to ideas or facts, which are repugnant to human reason,—which we are unable either to conceive or to explain, because those ideas or facts, admit of no demonstration, and are entirely out of the ordinary laws of nature. Now on this subject we would ask Dr. Clarke, in what country the mass of the population is not superstitious? England is no exception; for he himself informs us (page 440) when speaking of the Tartars who hail as a good omen the appearance of martins in their dwellings, that the same idle opinion prevails in his own island. We know that the belief in ghosts is not uncommon there, and that very recently a poor woman was tried for witchcraft before a British court of justice.

If we mistake not, James I. king of England, supported in writing his belief, that it was possible to ride on a broomstick through the air, a distance of two or three hundred miles; and so lately as the middle of the seventeenth century Sir Thomas Browne seriously combated the idea, that it was possible to sail as far as the East Indies in an egg-shell. Did not the superior minds of Dr. Johnson and Dr. Robertson give credit to stories of witches and apparitions?—And without recurring to such illustrious examples, may we not presume to affirm, at the risk of scandalizing our pious author, that there was a glimmering of superstition about himself, when on the shores of the sea of Azoph, at Taganzog, he could discern "a very forcible proof of the veracity of the sacred Scriptures''

* The image is expressed in the Russian language by the word Obraze, and not by that of Bogh, which signifies God. We shall have further occasion to illustrate the ignorance of Dr. Clarke in the explanation of Russian words. in the diminution of waters consequent on the prevalence of violent easterly winds? Can he, after this, be so much astonished at seeing the barbarians of Russia attach miraculous virtues to their Obrazi, and addict themselves to other absurd superstitious practices?

But to proceed. Having informed us that it had snowed heavily before his arrival at Novgorod on the 4th April, and that the snow increased rapidly during his progress to Tver, Dr. Clarke tells us in the next page, that "the soil is for the most part sandy, and Apparently ofa nature to set agriculture at defiance."—He alone can explain how he saw this, as the ground was covered with snow. We notice the observation, trivial as it is, merely as an instance of the want of reflection, with which this writer commits his remarks to paper.

The village of Yadrova attracted our traveller's attention. After informing us that it consists of a single street as wide as Piccadilly, and describing the exterior appearance of the buildings, he adds, "a window in such places is a mark of distinction, and seldom noticed." The sarcasm is meant to be insulting, and is only contemptible.

At Posckol, another village on the high road, the sledge which supported his carriage breaks down. Being obliged to wait a few hours until the necessary repairs are made, he loses no time, and hastens to take " a very interesting peep into the manners of the peasantry." He sees the woman of the house prepare dinner during her husband's absence—he sees the husband return from church with his children, holding in their hands some pieces of consecrated bread, not larger than a pigeon's egg;—the family goes to dinner, and all eat out of the same bowl—much crossing and bowing before and after their frugal meal.*—Dinner ended, they all go to bed— afterwards they drink vinegar or quass.—And that this first sketch of the manners of the country may be wanting in no particular, Dr. Clarke does not forget to communicate to us the effects of their digestion, in terms too indelicate for us to repeat. Possessed of these very interesting discoveries, he seizes his pencil, and gives the following finished portrait of the Russians.

"The picture of Russian manners varies little with reference to the prince or the peasant. The first nobleman in the empire, when dismissed by his sovereign from attendance upon

• Dr. Clarke was travelling to Moscow during Lent, at which season the Russian peasantry live exclusively on bread and vegetables; milk, butter and eggs are among the articles from which they abstain at that time.

« 이전계속 »