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While Louis XIV. was frivolously smirking to his own image in France, making everywhere a looking.glass for his vanity, and laying the fearful train of future revolutions—while this man, a prince, not without a will or power, was showering his rockets and his fireworks in delectable pleasantry over a gunpowder mine, Peter was blowing a trumpet, to sound through future ages, calling a nation from a wilderness.
He had burst away from the bonds whereunto his peers had sought to enslave him; and he determined now to make this savage desert a sea-port and harbour for proud ships; he determined to conquer the cut-throat janizaries, knavish priests, and unlettered Voyards.
The impression of his life upon a youth is like that of a gymnotic eel. With this prince to think is to will, to will is to do. We bear of but little of his designs upon the Crimea, until the key of the Palus Mæotis was in his possession. How the Dutchmen of the yard of Mynheer Calf must have stared at this indefatigable learner, who seemed determined to know every thing, and if possible, something besides. Those quiet Dutchmen, he roused them from their sleeping and their smoking for a time with his everlasting “ Wat is dat? Dat wil ill zein." Who was this ? for they did not know him. Harlequin, in the disguise of a carpenter, could not have astonished them more.
Hints, indeed, might fly about, that this boisterous personage was a foreign prince; but certainly there was little that could strike their imaginations (if Dutchmen have imaginations) that resembled the tales heard of princes. This carpenter, with his load of timber on his back, knocking down those indisposed to stand out of his way; with strange contortions of body and of face, flying from place to place, from occupation to occupation, any one might suppose, forgetful of previous lessons, but by and bye giving evidence enough that every lesson was carefully treasured up, to be brought forth to interest in his own country, for the civilization of his own people upon his return. His intellectual appetite, it has been well said, was most voracious; it was ostrich-like, but his diges tion was like that of the ostrich. In a very short time he perfectly mastered the Dutch language, in order that the medium for the transmission of knowledge to him from his teachers might be complete : and then he leaped with avidity from study to study, yet colouring and giving substance to his mind by the peculiarities of each pursuit-engineering, mathematics, and the science of fortification ; surgery, with all its accompaniments of bleeding, cupping, and tooth-drawing, and tapping for dropsy. He was indefatigable in enquiring into the structure of every variety of factory and
machinery. corn-mills, oil-mills, tar-mills, papermills. He took all these various methods to his own country, and spread the light they contained over the benighted people of his own dominions. Before his departure from the yard, he laid down, and built, from his own draught and model, a sixty gun ship, at much of the carpentry of which he wrought with his own hands—declared by competent judges to be an admirable specimen of naval architecture.
Of course a man like this, upon the throne, was not likely to be any more a dullard, than when in the shipwright's yard. The Princess Sophia headed a revolt; he hung up three or four of them in front of her window, had another half dozen hung and quartered, and another half dozen broken on the wheel; he determined to civilize the dress of his subjects—the men should not wear petticoats and whiskers half a yard long ; so he established a body of military tailors and barbers at each gate of Moscow, heedless of the curses of the priests, who denounced him, of course, as Antichrist. He crushed Charles the XII. at Paltowa ; he annihilated the ecclesiastical power; he raised himself to a most independent autocracy; and became, not only Emperor, but Pontiff. Wonderful indeed was the might of this man; strong beyond all parallel on the throne, the exercise of his willing and his doing halo such a man as this with mythic mists; rearer of cities, builder of ships, blacksmith, carpenter, legislator, warrior, inventor, civilizer-and we instantly comprehend how possible it is to worship the human in dark ages.
CLASSIFICATIONS OF BIOGRAPHY, III.—PICTORIAL.
SOME lives are pictorial : their interest consists alone in the minute painting of the costume and the manners of the writer's time. This is usually more graphic than in the narrations of more general history; the incidents are trifling, and in the main all-unimportant to any general end; but they are true in the tone of the colour, and they inform us more accurately of the physique of the times than far better books. Such books, perhaps, are neither truly history or biography, but the description of the folds of the drapery of history. The diary of that twaddling old gossipper, Pepys, is thus most valuable; for this man we can have no kind of respect; but he sets down the circumstances of the events as they transpire, with such clear and accurate detail; he keeps no diary of thought, but