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their houses though they live with little order or cleanliness, yet they are rather epicures in their table, neat in their persons, and decent in their dress.
• Their habit is equally adapted to health and convenience, and extremely well suited to their usual occupations; the upper garment is a short wide coat without plaits, which wraps over, and is fastened round the waist with a sash; in winter they wear underneath it a sort of waistcoat lined with sheepskin, which. defends them from the rigor of the cold; their necks and upper part of the breast are usually bare, but their feet and legs are constantly well covered with warm boots: on their heads they wear a cap either of cloth or fur, according to the season. All the lower sort, except livery servants, and those who belong to the military, wear their beards, and cherish them with religious attachment.
“ The common Russian, though not actively brave, is unaccountably indifferent to the love of life, or the terrors of death, and bears punishment and tortures with incredible fortitude: thus ignorance and insensibility often produce among them such examples of resignation and contempt of pain, as shame the legends of martyrs and the boast of heroes. They are not malicious or vindictive, their active passions being neither violent nor dangerous; as their resentnients are not gloomy nor lasting, so their friendship is not permanent or warm. Indeed, all the affections of the soul seem weaker in them than in most other nations; they are, therefore, formed to be commanded, and perhaps the sovereign despotism which reigns here owed it rise, in the beginning, to an attentive observation of this part of their character. They possess most of the military qualities, enterprise excepted; and in point of obedience, discipline, and passive valor, make incom. parable soldiers.”
Having said thus much of the common people or peasants, I come now to speak of the second class, the burghers and traders, commonly called merchants; though, according to our acceptation of the word, there are very few, if any, who deserve the appellation. The eminent manufacturers, the rich wholesale dealers, neither of which are very numerous, the country chapmen, shopkeepers, and pedlars, composė this class. They are, in general, a very orderly sort of people, equally decent in their houses, and in their appearance; but comparatively much more awkward and embarrassed in their carriage than the peasants; whether that, by oftener conversing with the great, they grow affected from imitation, or, by dealing with foreigners, they grow modest from conscious inferiority, I will not pretend to determine. It is said that, anciently as they were more simple in their manners, they were also more just in their dealings; but now, though they avoid every open and flagrant act of knavery, yet they are by no means averse to the more secret and secure arts of dishonesty.
“ In the inner parts of the country, they are supposed to be more virtuous; indeed, it is but fair to observe, that the most
knavish, among the merchants, are those who have the most frequent transactions with foreigners: whether they are corrupted by ill example, excited by a spirit of rivalship and vanity which induces them to prove their talents at the expence
of their integrity, or that a lust of lucre prevails over every other consideration. They are, notwithstanding, supposed to be the most devout and religious class of people in the empire.
" Their piety, however, as well as that of the peasants, is reducible to a very few rules of duty; the principal of which are, abstinence in Lent, intoxication on holidays, and confession and sacrament at Easter. But there are two points of natural religion to which they adhere, and which seem very extraordinary in a people who appear so negligent of most others: the one is an extreme veneration, obedience, and respect for their parents; few instances of undutifulness or ingratitude to them being to be found here; the other regards their scrupulosity in taking an oath; in general they have a great aversion to submit to such an obligation, and, in civil causes, it is common to see each party refer bis adversary to be sworn rather than to be sworn himself. 'I minst observe, however, that this horror of perjury extends only to those cases, where a man swears against his better knowledge, and not at all to oaths of office, which are hourly taken and violated without fear or hesitation.
“ Before I conclude this article I must remark one thing which is equally true and extraordinary; though the Russians are in general extremely eager in pursuit of gain, and uncommonly sharp in their dealings, yet they are either entirely inattentive to the true principles of commerce, or incapable of attaining them: for notwithstanding their constant intercourse with the chief trading nations of Europe during two hundred years past; notwithstanding they must see the able manner in which other merchants carry on their business, and the advantages resulting from it; yet amon's the Russian burghers few of them can write, and not one in a thousand has learned our common arithmetic. To this day there is not a Russian compting-house established in any foreign country: they continue to sell their commodities to the factor, and not to the principal, few of them choosing to freight a ship upon their own account, having no idea of tliat extensive credit which is the soul of commerce; being impatient of returns, and unwilling to trust to the faith of distant correspondents, whom they cannot believe more honest or more punctual than themselves.
“ As to the clergy, their order has been brought very low, and their authority entirely annihilated. The common priests are usually of the meanest extraction and lowest education, and are treated accordingly: the monks alone, and the dignifie« clergy who are usually monks, possess the little theological literature that remains here: this extends only to a slight notion of ecciesiastical history, of ancient controversy, and of the lives and writings of the Greek fathers,
Though it is no uncommon thing to see persons, even ladies, of the first rank kiss the hand of a priest, it merely proceeds from superstitious custom, and not from any real deference or devotion ;
for of all clergy in the world, the clergy of Russia is the least feared, respected, esteemed, or beloved.
“ The common people, the merchants, and the clergy, having now passed in review, the nobility demand our next attention : we should naturally suppose this order to be superior to the others in sentiment, in knowledge, and in behaviouy; and yet, either so depraved are their dispositions, or so perverted their judgments, that, we may safely say, the nobility derive few advantages from birth or education, which claim the respect of others, or are of use to theinselves: in their hearts, mean profligacy and vulgar weakness too often triumph over genius and honor, without which birth loses its dignity, and fortune has no value.
“ Conscious and jealous of the superior civilisation of foreign nations, sensible of, yet unwilling or unable to correct, the errors of their own, they endeavour to conceal their disadvantages under the affectation of despising the stranger, and under the practice of mortifying him. But these are principally exerted against those whom they are jealous of, or those whoin they envy for their eminence of talents and superiority of genius; for the humbler foreigner, who has pliancy or baseness enough to submit to their pride, to flatter their vanity, or minister to their pleasures, is certain of securing their favour, of acquiring a confidence, and enjoying an influence, which wisdom or virtue could never have obtained. Of this we see innunierable instances in those crowds of French adventurers, who daily resort here, and are received into most families with open armis, as secretaries, librarians, readers, preceptors, and parasites; though the greatest part of these gentry are equally impudent and illiterate, vagabonds from indigence, or fugitives for crimes.
- The Russian gentlemen are certainly the least informed of all: others in Europe; the chief point of their instruction is a knowledge of modern languages, particularly the French and German; both which they usually speak with very great facility, though incapable of writing either with precision or propriety. Those who can afford the expence, and indeed many who cannot afford it, complete their education by a tour to France; where ignorant and unprincipled as they are, they catch at every thing that feeds the fancy or inflames the passions: there they find ample fuel for both; they greedily devour all that is set before them without selection, and lose their delicacy of taste in enormity of appetite: to Frenchmen they become despicable Russians, to Russians despicable Frenchmen, to others equal objects of pity and contempt. So seldom do they derive advantage from those circumstances which form and accomplish the gentleman of other countries, that, instead of instruction or real improvement, they rarely acquire more than personal affectation and mental distortion, and, after all their travels, return home far inferior, in the virtues of a good citizen, to those who have never travelled at all.
" Their natural parts are tolerably good, but they universally want the discriminating faculty; whence they fall into the most absurd imitations of foreign life and manners, and, abandoning the common
sense of nature, adopt fashions and customs totally contrary to their climate, and troublesome to themselves. Though freezing under the buth degree of northern latitude, they build their houses like the airy palaces of Florence and Sienna. In France it is the etiquette of fashion to begin the spring season at Easter, and to mark it by dress: the imitative Russian does the same, and flings off bis winter garments whilst the earth is covered with snow, and himself sbivering with cold. It is the peculiar privilege of the noblesse at Paris to have Swiss porters at the gates of their hotels: at Petersburgh a Russ gentleman of any fashion must have a Swiss also, or some tall fellow with a laced belt and hanger, which it seems are the indispensable accoutrements of a Parisian janitor. It would be an endless task to recite the follies and absurdities of this kind, which they every day fall into, but these few examples will, I presume, appear sufficient.
This ridiculous imitation of foreign and particularly of French manners, is attended with the most serious consequences and with innumerable. ill effects: it not only divests them-of national character, but prevents them from aspiring to the praise of all national virtue: it represses their native energy of mind, and extinguishes 'every spark of original genius. Nothing was ever more just than Rousseau's censure of Peter the First's conduct:
that monarch, instead of improving his subjects as Russians, endeavoured totally to change and convert them into Germans and Frenchmen: but his attempts were unsuccessful; he could not make them what he wished to make them, he spoiled them in the experiment, and left them worse than they were before. His successsors bave continued the same process, but their projects have been equally ineffectual to the people and unprofitable to the
" The Russian nobility from this error of their late princes have contracted that unfortunate bias which will not suffer their nature to shoot upright. Warped by imitation of alien manners without selection, they too often appear vain, petulant, light, inconsequent, indiscreet, envious, and suspicious, faithless in their engagements, traitors to one another, incapable of true friend, ship, and insensible to all the nobler, movements of the soul; luxurious and effeminate, listless and indisposed. Though in a northern climate, they have an Asiatic aversion to all corporal activity and manly exercise, and scarce form an idea of either, beyond the smooth velocity of a sledge, or the measured paces of a managed horse: they have no passion for the sports of the field: hunting, shooting, and fishing, as practiscd with us, they are utterly strangers to. Avoiding every recreation attended with exertion and fatigue, they prefer the more indolent amusements of chess, cards, or billiards, in all wbich they are usually extraordinary proficients : few of them employ their leisure in polishing their minds: iaşensible to the charms of conversation and the refinements of literature, they loiter and sleep away life, and wake but to the calls of sensuality and the grosser pleasures." P. 31. ;
Of their military skill and domestic. hebits, we bave
here a sketch, the truth of which; even at the present day, must be evident to Europe, since the late campaign in Poland.
" Those who serve in the army or in the navy seldom arrive at any extraordinary excellence in either profession, and seem in general as unambitious as undeserving of military fame. They are looked upon as very moderate proficients by all foreign officers; and it sometimes they seem to perform their duty with the spirit of a soldier, they are rather actuated by the principle of mere obedience and the dread of punishmerit, than inspired by the nobler motives and generous impulse of magnanimity and true valour.
* The nobility, in common with the inferior classes, are remarkable for filial piety; but this their so much boasted duty to parents seems to proceed more from principles of dependence and slavery, than from unmixed affection or well-founded gratitude; for every father, in the little sphere of his family, is as despotic as the sovereign in his larger dominion. But this virtue, whether real or pretended, is the principle one which they practise: they have not, nor do they affect to have, that abhorrence of vice and dishonesty, which prevails among other nations; in so much, that many persons retain their employments, nay judicial employments, though notorious for the most infamous frauds and cruel extortions; for, excepting a few and those in the highest offices, the rest of the nation, though in the morn of greatness, have all the corruptions incident to a declining state, instead of the sterner virtues which raise an empire to meridian glory.
6 T abject court and adulation, which they pay to minions, ministers, and men in power, are intolerably offensive to every mind that feels for freedom and independence: to an Englishman they are particularly disgusting. Chiefly attentive to their own fortunes, and in the immediate gratification of personal vanity, the Russian nobility are regardless of public virtue, and in provident of posterity; preferring the smile of a courtier, or the hollow patronage of a favourite, to the rational pleasures of equal society, and to the happiness of conscious virtue. Their fondress for external honors makes a striking part of their character; there are few of them who would not sacrifice the most solid advantage to: the superficial decorations of a ribbon or a title; so much attached and accustomed are they to these ornaments, that a foreigner, however great his merit, is but little respected who does not wear such marks of distinction.
“ From hence a rigid observer might be led to pronounce them a nation of inconsistence, contradiction, and paradox, uniting in themselves the most opposite extremes: hating the stranger, they copy him; affecting originality, they are the slaves of imitation; magnificent, and slovenly; irreligious, yet superstiticus; at once proud and abject, rapacious and prodigal, equally incapable of being reformed by lenity, or corrected by puuishient.” R. 380