Abbildungen der Seite

The character of the Russian women is thus delineated: “ The women of the lower sort still retain all that primæval barbarism of submission to their husbands, which has been so particularly remarked by all the ancient observers and travellers. The wives of the burghers' or merchants are said, in general, to possess most of those virtues or qualities which constitute la bonne femme du vulgaire.

Among many in high life, the most profligate manners and unbounded libertinism prevail. Female chastity indeed seldom long flourishes in a gay court, nor is it any where much respected, unless accompanied with other virtues. Female manners in every country must receive a strong tincture from those of the men, and where the one is faulty the other cannot remain unimpeached. In Russia, as the instruction of the latter is usually committed to French arlventurers, so the education of the former is assigned to French governesses, whose incapacity is the least of their defects, and whose former situations render them but ill-qualified for so important a trust. Hence it is that in taste, elegance, and accomplishment, the Russian ladies are inferior to the fair ses of the neighbouring nations. Neglected or corrupted in education, and destitute of resources in themselves, they naturally fly to every object that can dissipate or entertain thein. Uninspired by sertiment, inconstant in engagement, they are often capricious, nay illiberal in their choice: late examples of such indelicacy are not wanting, where the tenderest attachments have given way to the

They are vain, light, and many of them interested, eagerly following every shadow of new and untried amusement, bold and adrenturous in the pursuits of pleasure, equally regardless of danger and dishonour, unabashed by detection, and callous to reproach!!!” P. 41.

According to the quackery of modern philosophists, it would be easy to account for such characters as those depicted by his lordship; yet we perceive that this statesman, who certainly knew much more of the true science of government than any of the politicians of the new school, or than Jean Jaques himself, expresses his opinion with

great caution on this head. " Despotism can never long flourish, except in a barbarouş nation; but to despotism Russia owes her greatness and dominion; so that if ever the monarchy becomes more limited, she will lose her power and strength, in proportion as she advances in moral virtue and civil improvement.

" It will therefore always be the interest, as it has ever been the practice, of the sovereign, to hold the scale of civilisation in his own hand, to check every improvement where it might clash with his authority, -and encourage it only when subservient to his grandeur and glory. No. 128, Vol. 32. Jan. 1809,


lowest amours.


P, 46.

u I am sensible that the various projects of the present empress may seem to contradict what I have said above; but the fact is, that most of her projects are impracticable; and therefore my assertion loses nothing of its weight. Besides, should the least inconvenience arise from the execution of them, the empress, than whom no sovereign was ever more jealous or tenacious of her authority, can suppress them with a nod, or overthrow them with a breath.

Though the form of government certainly is, and will always be, the principle cause of the want of virtue and genius in this country, as niaking the motives of one, and the rewards of both, depend upon accident and caprice; yet there are many others, the examination of which might prove a source of very ingenious investigation to the curious enquirer. I must, however, confese, that my own consideration of these points has never been attended with any great degree of demonstration, or conviction to myself. In moral and political as well as in metaphysical and theological researches, there is nearly the same incertitude; and though we may amuse ourselves with the speculation of second causes, we must still remain ignorant of the first: we are bewildered in our pursạit, at the moment we think the chase within our reach, it mocks our eagerness and vanishes from our view.”

We hope this example of diffidence will not be lost, and that it will teach pert boys and half-informed novelwriters to be more cautious in pronouncing on the nature and causes of the particular genius and vices of nations. His lordship, unable to satisfy himself as to the effects of despotism, has recourse to the history of Russia, of which he gives a short but interesting and luminous view; remarking all“ the great events and revolutions which, either in themselves or in their consequences, have produced even the small degree of civilisation to which Russia is arrived at the present period.” The history of Russia is dated from 987, when Volodimer King of Muscovy became a member of the Greek church, and compelled all his subjects to adopt the same religion. It was not, however, till the end of the 15th century that the sovereigns of Russia were able to extricate themselves from the yoke of the Tartars. The victories of John Basilowich in 1500 and the discovery of Archangel by the English in 1559, were the chief aids to the civilisation of this savage empire. During the reign of Alexis Michaelowich, which commenced in 1646, “the establishment of the principal manufactures was begun, and the first idea of regular military discipline was given to the Russians by the generals Gordon, Leslie, and Dalziel.”

To Britons, indeed, Russia owes almost entirely her civilisation, her arts, and

[ocr errors]

manufactures. In 1696 Peter (called the Great) became
sole czar and monarch of the Muscovite empire. His
lordship's opinion of this man is very different from that
generally entertained.

" This reign forms the grand æra of that reformation which,
though much more extensive than the preceding, is falsely
believed to have totally changed and civilised the whole Russian
pation. Peter, though endowed with strong natural abilities, and
with wonderful talents, yet, like most Russians I have met with,
he possessed not the discriminating faculty, that divine sagacity
which explores the diamond in the mine, seizes its value, and at
once decides amidst various degrees of excellence which is most

" To the want of this power are to be attributed all the imper-
fections which his plans were attended with: for, in the ardour
of alteration and improvement, he indiscriminately adopted a
thousand foreign customs and institutions, without regarding time,
place, propriety, or circumstance: instead of forming his people
upon originality, he moulded them into imitators, and injudiciously
deprived them of their ancient character, without ascertaining the
practicability of giving them a better."

P. 53.
The following trait unfolds the genuine features of the
Russian character.

" On the 6th December, 1741, Elizabeth Petrowna mounted
the throne of her father. This princess reigned upwards of twenty
years, and enjoyed during her lifetime a much higher reputation
than she merited. Equally ignorant of the principles of government,
and of the character of her subjects, capricious and unjust, she abo-
lished capital punishment, and yet retained the use of the torturé.
Her tender mercies were cruel.

Though she affected the praise of humanity, and was even 80 vain as to order Elizabeth The Clement to be inscribed on her medals; she by no means merited that illustrious title; för under her reign, and by her order, the most barbarous and wanton scene. of cruelly was acted that ever disgraced the annals of any nation, and which sufficiently disproves the pretended civilisation of this. Two ladies of the highest rank, eminent for their wit and extraordinary beauty, guilty of no real crime (whatever was pretended), were exposed almost naked to the public view on a scaffold, suffered the most inhuman infliction of the knout, and had their tongues cut out with every circumstance of the most outrageous brutality. This horrid tragedy- was performed at St. Petersbourg,

1743, by the cominand of Elizabeth The

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

on the

day of

[ocr errors]


" The princess bad all the extremes of female pride and weakness; she was vain of her own charms beyond all credibility, and 30 jealous of those of others, that at her court beauty was an unpardonable crime. Abandoning herself to every excess of intemperance and lubricity, she was inflexibly severe to those who,

imitating her example, permitted themselves the same indulgences ; prodigal, pusillanimous, vindictive, and inconstant. Such is the real character of Elizabeth, which has been so much mistaken, and misrepresented by many, who have not had opportunities of beings truly informed. It is not to gratify malignity, or from an affectation of singularity, but merely from a love of justice, that I have painted this princess in these colours; I would not wantonly téar the chaplet from her brows; but the incitements to virtue are destroyed, when we adorn vice and folly with the wreaths of honour.” P. 57.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The religion of the Russians is that of the Greek church, and is not very dissimilar to that of Rome, although it is unquestionably more ancient. At the time our author composed this work, the whole of the ecclesiastics in Russia, including friars, nuns, and the families of the clergy, amounted to 335,782 souls. They hold the doctrine of the Trinity, but that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father only; and they pay a secondary adoration to the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and a vast multitude of saints. They use only painted figures of their gods, whereas the papists use graven images.

The doctrines of predestination and transubstantiation are common to both. The Russians cross themselves with the thumb, first, and second finger (as emblematical of the Trinity), on the forehead, breast, and each shoulder, thus making the figure of the cross. They keep four great fasts or lents in the year, during which neither Aesh, milk, eggs, nor butter are eaten; but only vegetables, bread, and fish fried in oil. The ceremony of baptism is not a little curious.

" As soon as a child is born, unless it be too weak, it is carried to church by the god-fathers and god-mothers, where being met at the door by the priest, he signs the child with the sign of the cross on the forehead, and gives it the benediction, saying, “The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in.' They then walk up together to the font, which is placed in the middle of the church; round the edge of which the priest fastens four lighted wax-candles delivered to him by the sponsors, whom he incenses

, and consecrates the water by dipping the cross into it with a great deal of ceremony: then begins a procession round the font, the clerk goes before with the image of St. John the Baptist, being followed by the sponsors with wax-candles in their hands; thus they go about it three times, while the priest reads the service. The procession being over, the sponsors give the name of the child to the priest in writing, which, among the common people, is

. usually that of the saint of the day, or within eight days nearest it, either preceding or following; but this is not much observed among the gentry, who choose to keep family names; the priest

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

puts the name upon an image, which he holds upon the child's breast, and asks the sponsors, - Whether the child believes in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?' Having answered Yes' three times, they all turn their backs to the font, as a sign of their aversion to the three next questions to be asked by the priest; viz. Whether the child renounces the devil? whether he renounces his angels? whether he renounces his works?

The sponsors answer "I renounce,' distinctly to each question, and spit three times*

upon the ground, as a mark of detestation. Then they turn their faces to the font again, and being asked by the priest, * Whether they promise to bring up the child in the true Greek

religion' the exorcism begins; the priest puts his hand upon the child, and blows three times, saying these words:

Get out of this child thou unclean spirit, and make way for the Holy Ghost." He then cuts off a lock of the child's hair, and wraps it up in a piece of wax, and throws it into the font; after which the child is stripped quite naked, and the priest takes it in his arms, and plunges it in the water three times, pronouncing the words of the sacrament,

I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'

Immediately after the immersion, he signs it with the sign of the cross, with an oil consecrated by a superior bishop, on the forehead, on the breast, on the shoulders, on the palms of the hands, and on the back. This is another sacrament called the chrism, or baptismal unction, and by virtue of this it is supposed the child receives the Holy Ghost. The priest having put a corn of salt in its mouth, puts a clean shirt upon it, and says, " Thou art as clean and clear from original sin as thy shirt." He then hangs about its neck a little cross of gold, silver, or lead, which is strictly preserved by the Russians, who deny Christian burial to such as have not one about them when they die: in cases of necessity, the midwife or any other person, except the parents, can administer baptism. Those who are sponsors for the same child are looked upon as so nearly related, they are not permitted to intermarry." P. 70.

From the ignorance, vulgarity, and immorality of the clergy, as well as the people, his lordship concludes;

Upon the whole, it may with justice be said, there is amongst them the greatest degree of superstition, and bigotry, the lowest notions of the duties of morality, and the most idolatrous ideas of the adoration of the Deity imaginabie: for it is thought, that building a church, performing a pilgrimage, giving alms, or abstaining from meat, is a compensation for any breach of the moral law; and it is as certain as natural, that the pictures and saints of the priests are the gods of the vulgar; who cannot salve their idolatry with art and distinction, but worship with their heart what they behold with their eyes.

And to those of superior rank and better education, especially such as have travelled, if they have discovered the absurdity of their earlier principles, and surmounted those prejudices, they have generally stopped at

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ZurückWeiter »