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similar reproach, by drawing the conclusions which seeming facts would appear to warrant respecting the Czar and his people. Perhaps, after all, the fault lies more in the national characteristics of Russia herself than in the travellers who have successively attempted to delineate them. It is not easy for the most impartially disposed critic to arrive at satisfactory conclusions concerning men and manners in a society which he is taught by experience to regard as a vast masquerade, where the only clue to identification is the negative certainty that no one will appear in his real character. The spell which thus hangs over the scene, and defies inquisitive speculation, might well have been drawn from the famous repertory of the wizard Michael Scott:
“ It had much of glamour might,
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
All was delusion, nought was truth.” You leave your western home with honest intentions of ascertaining the actual good and evil of this great empire, which exercises so increasing an influence on the destinies of Europe. You approach the object of your curiosity by the common highway of nations; and the imposing monotony of the world of waters leaves your senses open to the impressions of immediate contrast between country and country. You pass through the ordeal of the island fortress which has lately proved itself the trustworthy sentinel over the safety of Peter the Great's “European window," and you find yourself before a stately city, with magnificent quays and wide-spreading streets, lined by palaces glittering with paint and gilding. Having once escaped from the talons of the custom-house officials, whom it would be a libel to regard any where as the representatives of the national character, you meet with nothing but obliging and even officious hospitality. Every one whom you encounter seems to inscribe himself at once as cicerone and host to the stranger ; and his attentions are marked by a delicacy and tact which, while pleading for a favourable verdict for his country, appear proudly conscious that this is its natural due. The politeness and generosity of the East seem to be blended with the intelligence and civilisation of the West, and the Russian to act as the gifted interpreter of the best virtues of each into the language of the other. As you walk down the street, your attention is drawn to an unostentatious carriage, the occupant of which does not require the profound deference of your companion and the other passers-by to distinguish him in your eyes as the autocrat from whose will every thing around you is said to derive its impulse. You become conscious that you yourself are the subject of observation and scrutiny; and probably, unaccustomed to the fixed gaze of princes and potentates, feel not a little embarrassed under the dissection which your character and disposition are so quietly undergoing. As your own look is sinking cowed before the particular attention with which you are being honoured, you feel not a little relieved at discovering that the expression of the imperial countenance, at first rigidly severe, has passed without any intermediate stage into one of gentle and graceful politeness. Fully prepared to recognise the appreciation of your own merits as only matter of time, you are ready to set down to the eagle-eyed penetration of a master mind this rapidly altered bearing towards you; and the very iciness of the first glance is a guarantee to you of the trustworthiness of the ultimate judgment. You have no suspicion that so great a prince can be really guilty of the idle vanity of outstaring a bewildered foreigner, and that had your own demeanour been more composed under the imperial eye, you would have inflicted on the Czar of Muscovy a pang of angry disappointment. This, with other facts, comes gradually to your knowledge; and so much is the first favourable impression altered by subsequent observation, that you run the risk of falling into the opposite extreme, and solving every ambiguous characteristic in the sense of unmixed evil. You discover that real friendship is as remote as possible from the pleasing civility of ordinary Russian intercourse; that it is commonly only a hasty demonstration of good-will, put forth without the slightest reference to actual feeling, merely to anticipate and prevent the closer approach and introspection of a more gradual intimacy. It is the nervous movement of suspicion, which apes the simplicity of open-heartedness. You learn other things in times even less pleasing. Your urbane and conversational elbow-companion at the restaurateur's has led the confidential chat to the subject of Russian political institutions, and has supplied you with an easy opening to the expression of your own conviction of the superiority of Western freedom. You may be so unguarded as to follow up the hint, feeling safe in the solitude of that corner of the room and in the reciprocal frankness of your auditor; or it may be that through a constitutional reserve, or the self-restraint dictated by worldly experience, you may waive the discussion, and confine yourself to the unobjectionable remark, that your object is to gather information, and that you leave to Russians themselves, as the best judges, the task of appreciating the value of their own usages. In the latter case, you may be startled a few days afterwards, in talking with a superior official, whose acquaintance you have casually acquired, and whom you know to be connected with the Imperial Police, to be congratulated as a prudent man, and to learn that your tavern conversation has duly passed from bureau to bureau, through all the stages of official docketing, and has perhaps gratified the curiosity even of the imperial personage himself on whose sudden prepossession in your favour you had been pluming yourself. Should indiscretion have been your failing, you may find a monitor besides that in your own breast in the persevering attendance of some gentleman of morbid politeness and strange discontinuity of occupation, until you are fairly watched and bowed out of the dominions of the Czar. You are then made painfully aware that in Russia the old Saxon system of neighbourly and “tithing” responsibility, man for man, to the State, has been developed in a peculiar manner; that the members of the same family are virtually government spies on each other's movements and words; and that the best way of satisfying the police of your own innocence is to act as the secret denouncer of the guilt of your bosom friend. Such a state of things may appear at first sight entirely destructive of all social enjoyment; but being applicable to all, it receives its natural modification in the common interest, and its evil effect, beyond the limits which it imposes on the objects of life and the subjects of discourse, is chiefly experienced by those who are bunglers at the orthodox lying and mystification which are its accompaniments. Skilful conspirators have a language of their own, to which no police office has yet succeeded in discovering a perpetual glossary. The ordinary effect, however, of this social system is, that the Czar is tacitly understood to be present at, and a party to, the minutest details of the private life of all his subjects. It is, in short, an attempt to engraft the patriarchal idea, which lies at the root of Sclavonic nationality, upon the borrowed civilisation of Western Europe. Russian life thus divides itself into two outwardly antagonistic, but intrinsically similar, phases—the life of the Sclavonic peasant in his cherished organisation of “communes," and that of the noble of the capital, with his European tastes and aspirations paralysed by his national and traditional characteristics. At the head of each system stands the patriarchal authority of the Czar—the natural complement of the one, and the uneasily accepted necessity of the other. Is it wonderful that, with this double aspect of Russia, and this conflict of ideas in the minds of intelligent Russians themselves, there should be some lack of appreciation and understanding in Western Europe of the national character, and of the extraordinary man who for so long a time was identified by Western politicians with the distinctive genius of Russia ?
Of the Czar Nicholas it would have seemed almost hypocrisy in an English writer, a year or two ago, to affect to speak with impartiality. The polemic clamour of manifestoes and parliamentary harangues, the eloquent mutual incrimination of princes and statesmen, and the popular and patriotic enthusiasm of the respective countries, had not then subsided into the calmness essential to any just discrimination of conduct and motives. Crops of Crimean heroes still sprouted forth with undiminished vigour at agricultural gatherings; and metropolitan lion-shows kept alive the remembrance of national animosities, though the belligerent cabinets had smoothed their brows again into the habitual courtesies of diplomatic intercourse. To affect to say any good of the Czar might then be not unreasonably looked upon as a symptom of lukewarm loyalty to our national cause; and to speak ill of him, was merely to follow in the wake of the countless scribes whom the din of actual war had suddenly aroused to a perception of his sins. Now, however, a new crisis of more absorbing interest has arisen to divert the overflow of our feelings from this channel; and the Russian war seems already to have passed into the domain of history as much as the prince himself by whose genius it was provoked and supported. With animosities softened and subdued by the deeper shadows of our Indian disasters, and with the advantage of a complete retrospect of the policy of the late Czar defined in its limits by the dissimilar character of his successor, we may perhaps approach the subject with better chances of arriving at truth.
The policy of the house of Romanoff' would seem to have been dictated far more by natural causes of race and geographical position than by the peculiar character of its princes. To Peter the Great the glory may be given of having clearly perceived the exact position in which Russia stood relatively to the East and the West, her past and her prospective history, and of having carried out with unwavering decision and striking success the policy which he conceived to be the best solution of the problem. To his successors the praise is also to be allotted that, while never losing sight of the general direction in which his sagacious mind had predetermined that the national life of Russia should move, they showed themselves fully alive to the necessity of accommodating this march to the shifting contingencies of each particular epoch, and superadded their own contributions of experience and reflection to the management and development of the movement. All more or less sensual, they were none of them the mere slaves of their sensuality, but used it as an instrument of personal ambition and national aggrandisement. The favourites of Catherine II. were not mere parasites of the palace, but generals, statesmen, and even wise legislators, whose benefits to the nation are still gratefully remembered, while their allegiance to the sovereign was of a nature which necessarily identified them with her interests. The very madness of some of the Romanoffs had its political and social meaning, and was something very different from the purposeless frenzy of Asiatic despots. Thus, although the crimes and excesses which political refugees have laid at the door of this great house can few of them be denied or excused, we experience a very different feeling in reading the records of their strange and eventful reigns from that inspired by the monotonous chronicles of murder and lust which are all that some nations can give us as a substitute for national history. Of the successors of Peter the Great, including his own wife, four have been women, and a royal tragedy has ushered in and closed the reign of a large proportion; yet the helm of state has never any where been held consecutively by firmer or more masculine hands, nor has the course of the vessel ever deviated less materially from the points observed at the commencement of the voyage. We have something to consider, therefore, not only in the nature of the problem which the founder of the greatness of the empire had originally to solve, and the manner in which he set about its solution, but also in the peculiar genius of the family which enabled them to deal so successfully with the task bequeathed to them. In doing this, we shall not experience any great difficulty in arriving at the elements of the distinctive character of the Czar Nicholas, or in estimating his share in the results attained.
A glance at the map of Europe will explain in a moment the geographical difficulties with which the Czar Peter and his successors had to contend. On all sides Russia was landlocked; and at the close of the seventeenth century she was literally imprisoned within closely guarded barriers. On the north, the keys were held by Sweden; a nation flushed with the remembrance of a European reputation, gained under the auspices of the sovereigns of the House of Vasa, and guided and urged onward by one of the most gifted of that royal race, little likely to relax its hold in any quarter without a determined contest. On the south, the outlet of the Black Sea, and the road to Constantinople, were held by the powerful Khans of the Crimea,-princes yielding a nominal superiority of only one horse-tail to the Sultan of Turkey himself, and treating with the Sublime Porte on a virtual footing of equality. On the west, all access to the cultivated plains of Central Europe was barred by the still unbroken and hostile power of Poland; while the remaining frontier, spreading away into the boundless wastes of Asia, seemed to invite a return to the nomad habits of the first stage of national life. Within the boundaries thus circumscribed, Sclaves, Mongols, and Tahtars had long struggled for supremacy; and the eventual supe