LITERATURE OF THE ANNUALS.
THE volumes of this motley class of literature now before us are seven :
1. TIIE PICTURESQUE ANNUAL; CONTAINING LEITCH RITCHIE'S JOUR- FEY TO ST. PETERSBURG AND Moscow.
2. FORGET ME NOT.
3. TI1E PEARL, OR AFFECTION'S GIFT.
4. THE NEW-YEAR'S GIFT AND JUVE:NILE SOUVENIR.
5. THE AGRICULTURAL AND HORTICULTURAL ANNUAL.
6. THE GEOGRAPHICAL ANNUAL AND UNIVERSAL GAZF:TEER.
7. THE HISTORICAL KEEPSAKE.
1. Of this list, the Picturesque is without doubt the best ; and, if we except the Oriental, it may be held the best Annual of the season. In some respects it may be allowed even to excel the Oriental; for if Mr. CAUNTER'S book has more freshness, variety, and matter, Mr. RITCHIE'S displays more skill ; and the richness of Indian subjects is well compensated by the more immediate curiosity felt as regards Russia. There are many ponderous tra- vels which give a far less striking picture of St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the intervening country, than Mr. RITCHIE'S journey in search of the picturesque. There are few books which are more readable. The writer's tour, indeed, was a rapid one; and he deals only with superficial objects,—the appearance of the country, the dresses and customs of the people, the size and look of streets and squares, the condition of the roads, the accommo- dation of the inns, and such incidents and anecdotes as miglit be encountered and picked up in a journey through a country by post and by diligence, and a temporary sojourn at inns. But this kind of matter is collected by a sharp observer, and told by a pleasant raconteur ; lied many persons who read the Picturesque Annual for 1836, will perhaps have acquired more ideas than if they had put themselves to the trouble and charges of travelling to Moscow and back.
The tourist starts from Memel, famous for its deals, and for being the last town in Prussia; and proceeds thence through Mittau and Riga to the Russian capital. The first view of this City he represents as imposing ; but on a closer inspection it dis- appoints the observer,—appearing (what might have been inferred) made-up, and illustrating the phrase " I would if I could." It was designed rather to represent the wishes than the means of its founders ; and, like all incongruous things, will not bear a search- ing scrutiny. The immense quays are fitted for the commerce of a world, yet vessels drawing more than nine feet water cannot approach them. In the show dockyards ships are constructed that cannot be launched, and are only got out to sea by a clumsy contrivance. The public offices are imposing externally, and in- ternally wastes : they would be large enough, says Mr. Racine, " if the hundred millions were added to the country which its soil is supposed to be capable of supporting." In addition to these faults, the buildings have not an indigenous air : they are classical upstarts—the erections of power, not the creations of genius or of national feeling ; and look in their best state like a collection of gin-palaces. Then, there is no moral grandeur connected with the population, as in London; nor historical asseciations, as in Venice. The fact appears to be, that time is wanted to mature a city ; forcing only yields a tasteless sort of product, the form without the flavour.
Mr. RITCHIE gives a more favourable account of Moscow. The greater part of the city is indeed new, but it has an older air. The Government, in a measure, let things alone; the people were genuine Russians, and they restored it in a Russian fashion—half Teutonic, half Oriental, and wholly barbarian—but national nevertheless, and so far satisfying. This city, too, has some remi- niscences, which carry us back from the vulgar present. In the mixture of many nations, Moscow is the Venice of the North ; and her own inhabitants are uncorrupted by a hotbed civilization, which, however useful it may be in its ultimate effects, seems not Ivry beneficial in the transition state, at least as regards externals. The following picture of the Moscow merchant and his wife is more in keeping than a senseless hankering after " good society."
The pietons are in general far more interestiog than these of st. Petersherg.
We see hoe the Itussian merchant in all his glory. Ile belongs, haleed, to a caste separate from that of the nobility, but lie is no longer a:liamed of it. He does not live in a city of the nobles, where Ile must find himself the slsve of their watts and wishes; for the oumber at .Alosesut is comparatively small, and they are in general invested with so much historieal dignity that the reve- rence they ilemaull involves oo degradation. This idea assumes no form in the merchant's brain, but he is conscious of it note ithstauding. Ile begins to talk of " his order." on great occasious he walks mejestieally through the streets in a uniform covens, with gold lace; for the Emperor, with a far sighted policy worthy of Peter the Great himself, has offered a preinimn upon pride.
The merchant's wife is rarely seen in the streets; but when she is, you make room for her with involuntary respect. She is dressed in a robe of silk or satin, so rich in the mate' ials, and so exquisitely delicate, or so gorgeously bright in the colour, that it might serve for a queen. Iler face is beautiful, for she is painted with such art that one requires to approach very close indeed to discover the counterfeit ; and her dark, bright eyes wander about or rest upon yours with all the curiosity which is satural in a recluse. In order that you should not mistake her for a noble womau, she wears upon her head a little sad-coloured silk handkerchief, put on with such artful simplicity that the very ties are con- cealed.
There is not very much of what may be called informing matter in the book ; the author having perhaps reserved this part of his materials for the other volume he hints at as forthcoming. There are, however, a good many facts relating to the personal working of the Government, and to the Imperial Family. According to Mr. RITCHIE, NICHOLAS is not so black as he is painted. The following passage represents him as a man of business. The re- ference made in the opening is to the " Private Chancery ;" which, so far as we understand it, seems to be a tribunal not greatly dis- similar in effect to the State Inquisition at Venice, though Mr. RITCHIE glosses it over by a reference to liaroun Alraschid. Something of this kind may be necessary in Russia, and the present ruler may not misuse it; but depending upon "a lucky accident," is fearful work.
The Chancery is divided into four branches ; one watching over the great offices of the state, such as the Senate, another over the courts of law, a third over the police, and the fourth over the charitable institutions. Through these different channels, complaints and abuses reach the ear of his Majesty instantaneously. He is acquainted with the official conduct of each of his Ministers; he is even aware of the regularity or irregularity of the attendance of the Senators. It is needless to say, that the inquiries instituted there take place, not in form of law, but according to equity ; they in fact answer the purpose of the nightly prowl- ins of Caliph Haroun Alraachid and his Grand Vizier.
But Nicholas is not a man who would refuse to perform these nightly prowl- ings in his own person, were they practicable through his vast empire. I felt intense curiosity with regard to the real character and conduct of an individual placed in so awfully responsible a situation ; and, unless all Russia conspired to deceive me, I think I have been able to form some tolerably correct ideas on the subject.
No fatigue is too harassing for this "barbarian "par excellence of the North ; no object is too great to be grasped by his vision, or too small to escape it. The gravest fraud in a report and the minutest error in its grammar are alike de- teats' by the imperial censor ; and this is the more startling to the reporter, as his delinquency, either in honesty or elegant composition, is in general brought home to him the eery next day. To effect this, Nicholas condemns each day to bear its own burden. After coming home, perhaps from the theatre, he sits down to work ; and he never thinks of going to bed till all is finished, if he should sit up till four o'clock in the morning. With regard to his character as a man of business, I heard only one dissentient voice in Russia : I was told by one of the officers of government, that he was beginning to telex in this extraordinary assiduity. I hope, and be- lieve, that the information was untrue.
The following account represents the Autocrat in a favourable light both as a Russian monarch and a man ; but neither here nor anywhere in the volume are there any anecdotes which offer a set-off to his political treatment of the Poles. According to the wisdom of our ancestors, the Devil is good-tempered when he is pleased.
NICHOLAS AT MOSCOW.
On my artival, the whole of this variegated population were stirring like the inhabitants of a beehive. There seemed to he a " sensation " in the town, as if something prodigious had happened—as if another Alexandrine column was erecting itself in the Kremlin. " The Emperor is come !"—this was the cry' and the nobles were yoking their coaelles and four, the droskis flying, double loaded, along the streets, and the mujiks, male and female, rushing like a whirlwind after. At St. Petersburg, where the Emperor habitually resides, he is a moan of—considerably upwards of six feet ; but nothing more. He reviews his troops before the palace, goes out to walk with his wife and children, strolls along the English quay ; and although every hat is moved that is in the way, very few come on purpose to move. And why ?—because they can come at any time. In Moscow he is a rarity ; in Moscow, which is a Russian city, lie is loved almost to idolatry. " Our tittle father !" cry the muj iks, looking up into his face with devoted affection, as he struggles through them.
" Come now, make a little room for me," says the Emperor, passing on with his hand raised to his hat ; " do, brother, stand out of the way !" The oc- casion is liken fke through i the whole town; mil the Kremlin, to which every- body has access, is like the scene of a great fair. The palace, defended from the people by no enclosure, is surrounded by a dense crowd of men, women, and children, from morning till night. Sometimes a beautiful little boy, one of the young princes, climbs up to the window to look out, and all heads are instantly uncovered, as if it was Nicholas himself.
One day the imperial mother of this really fine family was sitting at the window, looking down upon the crowd, when the Emperor coming behind her, put his arm round her neck and kissed her. No one unacquainted with the Itte,sian character can conceive the effect of this simple act. The general shout that came flora the lips of the people arose from the holiest depths of their bent ; and I venture to say, that there was no man of that vast concourse who woirld not have laid down his liter for the Czar, and no woman who would not have urged her sou or husband to do so.
DICER IAT. ANECDOTES.
The Emperor, who is a very tall and a very handsome man, is naturally of a lively disposition. He is always dressed with great precision, and every one understatals that it is necessary to appear before him both well-dressed and with a cliceiful countenance. Ile is easy of access; and seems to think an appear- ance of state almost unnecessary. At St. Petersburg, however, at each side of the door Which leads to the imperial apartments, stands a black man dressed in gorc,reous Eastern costume. There are twelve of these men, who relieve each other alternately in the duty of opening and shutting the door, and announcing the name of the visiter. After breakfast, the Emperor's first care is to go to the nursery to see his chiidreu, and ascertain how they have slept. He takes each of them up, kisses them, romps with them—fur Ile is full of frolic, and glad to be a boy again when the cares of the WOIld will let him.
Their 3Iajesties dine at three o'clock (the general hour for the upper classes in Russia) with pet feet simplicity and towards the conclusion of the meal, the Cram' Duke Alexander and the pioneer children come in to kiss their parents. When they rise front table, the Emperor bestows upon his consort also some hearty kisses. Ile calls her " his wit t:;" but the Empress, who is a Prussian, never alludes tu him but as " the Emperor." She speaks English ex- tremely well, but Nicholas only indifferently. " The character of the Emperor and Empress," writes an English friend to me, "ism+ that it is difficult to speak of them without exciting in strangers a suspicion that the description is overcharged. It is no exaggeration to say that I never saw a family where more affection and harmony existed, and that I believe the examples to be very rare indeed where so much can be discovered. I have frequently seen these illustrious individuals surrounded by their children, and have partaken of the influence every one receives who witnesses die scene; and lean say, that in their domestic vittues they are worthy of being held forth as a pattern not only to all sovereigns but to all niankind."
At St. Petersburg, Nicholas has frequently gone home in a droski when it rained; and once having no money in his pocket, the isvoschik, ignorant of his quality, detained his cloak till he sent down his fare. A better anecdote, how- ever, is told of the contact he sometimes comes into with the louver classes.
One Easter, on coming out of the palace, lie addressed the sentry with his usual familiarity, in the form of salutation prescribed for that day= Christ is risen !" Instead of the usual reply, " Ile is indeed," the fellow answered gravely, " Ile is not indeed !" " Hey? how ? what is that?" said the Emperor, "I said, Christ is risen!" " And I replied, he is not !"
" Why, who and what, in God's name, are you ?"
gt louts a Jew .0" We had noted several passages for extract ; and amongst them, a geed picture of the Prussian and Russian frontiers, some lively sketches of persons met with en route, a few statistical accounts of the cost of living at different towns, and the writer's views upon the present state of the serfs, besides other matters "too numerous to mention." But the half-dozen claimants on the table warn us to pass on.
2. As a pure Annual—a m6lange of short tales, detached descriptions, middling verse, and papers of a kindred nature to HERVEY'S Reflections among the Tombs—the Forget Me Not is the best which we have yet seen. Its papers are various, with something of spirit and even of character • and a few of them are worthy of higher praise. "Life in the Woods" is a good sketch of the perils of settlers and the habits of wild animals, told in a rattling, off-hand manner, which offers a pleasant con- trast to the measured decorum of Annuals. The style of the writer, too, is vivid, though a little strained ; his matter has not come out of books; and if his stories are not true, they are humorous. Mr. CHORLEY has a pleasant tale called "Julian' containing some clever bits of satire; but we would warn Inin against making music the staple of all his tales, or the machinery by which all catastrophes are to be produced. " The Lion and the Lamb" is a good picture of nautical life and character, by the author of " Tough Yarns." " A Night near Monte Video is an interesting anecdote, truthfully told. " Our Helper," by Miss IsaBEL HILL, exhibits, we dare say, a correct specimen of Gloucestershire dialect; and is pleasant enough till we get to the conclusion, where, notwithstanding a twofold perusal, we are at fault. " A Chinese Visitation" is a very courtly and agreeable account of the Viceroy of Canton's visit to an English ship. Amongst the poetical productions, those of MONTGOMERY,SERLE, and MARY HOWITT are the best. " The Death of the Righteous." by the Bard of Sheffield, possesss some of the force of the old religious writers' without their pedantry. " The Lady and the Sea Captain," by MARY Howirr, has the quaint simplicity of the old ballad, with the fair Friend's picture-hke power added. The dramatic scene between CROMWELL and his favourite daughter— though it leads to nothing, and is deficient in the passion which is the essence of the drama—is written with effect ; and the intro- duction of the anecdote of the Protector's disregarding the Am- bassadorial privilege and executing the brother of the Portuguese Envoy, affiwds. Mr. SERLE the opportunity of penning a striking passage, that halts between poetry and claptrap.
Here is part of an anecdote from " Life in the Woods," the paper already mentioned.
Among the earliest settlers in the wilds of Salmon River, was a Vermontese, by the name of Dobsou—a large, resolute, and athletic man. Returaing one evening from a fruitless hunt after his vagrant cows, which, according to tug' torn in the new countlies, had been turned into the woods to procure their own subsistence from the rank herbage of the early summer, just before imerging
from the forest upon the clearing of his neighbour, the late worthy Mr. Joseph Sleeper, he saw a large bear descending from a lofty sycamore, where ha had been in quest, probably, of honey. A bear ascends a tree much more expertly than he descends it, being obliged to come down stern-foremost. .1Iy friend Dobson did not very well like to be joined in his evening walk by such a cotn- pinion ; and, without it:fleeting what he should do with the " varmint " after- wards, he ran up to the tree on the opposite side from the animal's body, and, just before be leached the ground, seized him firmly by both his fore-paws. Brain growled and gnashed his tusks; but he soon ascertained that his paws were in the grasp of paws equally iron-strung with his own. Nor could he use his ninder-paws to disembowel his antagonist, as the manner (of the bear is, inasmuch as the trunk of the tree was between them. But Dobson's predicament, as he was endowed with rather the most 1 easun was worse yet. Ile could no more assail the bear than the bear could assail him. Nor could Ile venture to let go of him, since the presumption o as that Bruin is not make him a very gracious return for thus unceremoniously taking him by the hand. The twiii:alit was fast deepening into darkness, anol his pasition was far less comthrtable than it otherwise omit(' have la-en at the ant e hour sur- rounded by his wife and children at the supper-t;oble, to say nothing of the glooniy prospect for the night. Still, as Joe Shaper's house was not far distant, he hoped to be able to call him to his assistance. But his lungs, though none of the weakest, were uneopial to the task ; and, although he hallooed and bawled the livelong night, making the woods awl the iseikin nog a gain, he succeeded no better than did Ciendower of old in calling spirits from rite vasty deep. It Was a wearisome night far Dobson : such a game of /odd-first be had never been engaged in before. Bruin, too), was pit obably somewhat worrird, although he youiol not describe his sensation ii English, albeit lie took the ro'gillar BUII Mal1011 of making knawn his di,satisfaction—that is to i-ay, he arowled incessantly. But there was no lit go in the ease, and Dohson was therefore under the necessity of hooldtna- fast, until it seemed to his cleric:Hal and aching fingers as though the bear's paws and his had grown together.
As daylight returned, and the smoke from Mr. Sleeper's ellitnney began to curl up gracefully, though rather dimly in the distance, Dobson again repeated his cries tior succour ; awl his heart was soon gladdened by the appearance of his worthy but inactive neighbour, who had at last been attracted by the voice of the impatient sult•rer, bearing an axe upon his shoulder. Dobson had never been so touch rejoiced at seeing Mr. Sleeper before, albeit he was a very kind and estimable neighbour. " Why don't you make haste, Mr. Sleeper, and not be lounging along at that rate, when you see a fellow Christian in such a kettle of fish as " I run ! Is that your, Mr. Dobson, up a tree there? Aud was it you I heard hallooing so last night ? I guess you ought to have you'r lodging for nothing if you've stood up agin the tree all night." " It's no joke, though, I can tell you, Mr. Job Sleeper ; and if you'd had hold of the paws of the black varmint all night, it strikes me you'd think you'd paid dear enough fur it. But if you hear,' me calling for help its the night, why didn't you come and see what was the trouble ?" " Oh, I was just going tired to bed, after laying up log-fence all day, and I thought I'd wait till morning, and come out bright and die/y. But, if I'd known 't was you--"
" KDOWU 't was me !" replied Dobson bitterly, " you knew 't was somebody who had &shawl blood too good for these plaguy black varmints though ; and you know there's been a smart sprinkle of bears about the settlement all the spring!"
" Well, don't be in a huff, Tommy. It's never too late to do good. So, hold tight now, and don't let the larnal crittur get loose, while I split his head open."
" No, no," said Dobson. "After holding the beast here all night, I think! ought to have the satisfaction of killing him. So, you just take hold of his paws here, and I will take the axe and let a streak of daylight into his skull about the quickest."
The proposition being a fair one, Mr. Sleeper was too reasonable a man to object. He was no coward neither ; and he therefore stepped up to the tree, and cautiously taking the bear with both his hands, relieved honest Dobson from his predicament. The hands of the latter, though sadly stiffened by the tenacity with which they had been clenched for so many hours, were soon brandishing the axe • and he apparently made all preparations for giving the deadly blow—and deadly it would have been had he struck, since, like the sous of Zeruiah, Dobson needed to strike but once. But, to the surprise of Sleeper, he did not strike; and, to his further consternation, Dobson swung the axe upon his shoulder, and marched away, whistling as he went, with as much apparent indifference as the other had shown when coming to his rehef. It was now Sleeper's turn to make the forest vocal with his cries. In vain he raved, and called, and threatened. Dobson walked on and disappeared, leaving his friend as sad a prospect for his breakfast as himself had had for his supper.
To relieve the suspense of the anxious reader, it is right to add, that Dobson returned and killed the bear in the course of the afternoon. 3. The Pearl, or Affection's Oft, is an American Annual; de- signed for the young, if a judgment may be formed from the in- formation the papers aim at conveying or the moral lessons they would enforce. Two of its contributors are English,—Miss Mu'- FORD, and MISS STRICKLAND. The merit of the work is, its useful and truthful character; its defect, a feeble minuteness, which gives some of its articles the appearance of having been written from individual instances for individual use. From this charge we must except the contributions of Mrs. ANNA BACHE. Her fairy tale is an ingenious illustration of the advantages of peace over glory ; and her verses called " The Wolf" bear away the bell.
TII E WOLF.
" The mist is on the river, And the sun below the hill, Yet in the tangled forest My children linger still.
Ilenri! Claude !" the mother cries—
Echo to her call replies.
Along the western footpath The light is fading mow ; She stands before her cottage With hand above her brow, With breath suppressed and bending ear, If that she may their footsteps hear.
She stands within her cottage And she spreads the rustic board With evety simple dainty IIer scanty stores afford: Snowy curds, and grapes, and bread, For her darling boys are spread.
" Come, brothers, lift the fagots, And let us hasten hinne."
" Oh, Hem i ! I am weary With the long, long way we've come." What ! little Victor crying so, Who for a soldier means to go?
" Claude, lead our little brother, And I will take your load ;
The hymn our mother taught Us
We'll sing to cheer the road.
Our long delay will make her fear—
We're coining, coaling, mother dear !"
" Look I Henri—in yon thicket A frightful dog I see"— Befiore his little brother Undannteolly springs he- " Oh, help me, Cod !"—with firmer bold Ile grasps his wood-knife, firm and buld.
Ile waits the monster's onset—
A howl rings through the wood, And Ilenri and his feat fel foe Lie in with other's blood.
Scarce hu it, the bow erects his head; But the gaunt wolf is stretched there—dead.
If" The Messenger" be the narrative of a real adventure in Devonshire, we shall be tempted to forswear placing reliance on travellers' accounts hereafter. The whole " most truly lies:' Every incident might have occurred as described, y,rt the tale has all the effect of Falsehood. It resembles a figure seen through a distorted and discoloured medium : something of the general form is preserved, but the likeness and character are gone, and the various colours are reduced to one uniform tint. We should have declared it impossible to give undesignedly such an impres- sion of falsehood from such simple truths, had we never read very indifferent novels. But a new light has dawned upon us in this direction. It is not that bail novelists always draw from fancy in- stead of life, but they have peculiar ways of seeing nature.
4. Mrs. ALAR1C Warrs's New-Year's Gift and Juvenile Souvenir sustains its well-deserved reputation. The prose papers are mostly capital of their kind ; and such of the poetry as we have read is very good in its way—slightly childish, but there- fore the better adapted to its readws. "The Little Shropshire" is a tale of humble life, which combines with the main story some pretty landscapes, and a picture of distress that would be terrible if told with less of quietness and truth. "A Letter from School" is a lesson to governesses how to make learning a pleasure. "The Conscript," "The Lost Chain," and "The Two Friends," (notwithstanding our memory is familiar with the leading inci- dent of the last,) are interesting, though with less of reality than the first story. " Albert " is a touching and doubtless a true in- stance of filial duty ; and "The Louis D'Ot," although the in- cidents are a little too lucky in their results, inculcates a most important moral—that of at once meeting difficulties, and sub- mitting to any temporary privations, rather than get entangled in pecuniary obligations.
5. BAXTER'S Agricultural and Horticultural Annual aims more ut the useful than the elegant; although, as we formerly hinted, its external appearance is by no means homely, but reminds us of one of those bladish young farmers to whom Mr. GLE1G attributes many political and social changes. Of the contents of its closely-printed pages very little is original, for the work was designed and commenced but late in the year. For the practical objects of the Annual, it is perhaps lucky that this is the case. In what may be called the science of business, it is far better to have a selection from the different volumes or papers which have been written during a given period, than, by an ill-judged longing for originality, to get together a number of crude notions or a medley of borrowed facts and conclusions. At all events, the purchaser of BAXTER'S Annual will have no reason
to complain of a want either of variety or of value. Besides an appendix of miscellaneous, statistical, and legal information, and an almanack, there are fifty-seven articles on points connected with agriculture, horticulture, arboriculture, and floriculture, from directions as to the packing of fruit to be sent to a distance, up to disquisitions on the phenomena and rationale of vegetation.
6. It was formerly observed that the Geographical Annual is a republication of the very distinct and exquisite Cabinet Atlas published by Mr. Bunn. To the present issue has been appended (if it did not appear before, which we forget,) a compendious Ga- zetteer from one of the most painstaking and useful little books of the day, MAUNDER'S Treasury of knowledge. The volume also contains a new map of the British Isles according to the Constitution under " the Bill." To the title of "Annual," in the usual acceptation of the term, it has therefore few pretensions; but as a handsome little book, containing a vast mass of pure geo- graphical information, and fitted as a work of reference for library, drawing-room, or boudoir, it is worth possessing by all who have not yet procured it.
7. The Historical Keepsake professes to he a series of tales il- lustrative of English History. They appear to be a collection of' stories addressed to children, many if not all of which have been separately published. They strike us as having less matter than the generality of the best juvenile books contain : and in those by the editor the style is too stilted to be praised as a model of pro- priety. But history is still history ; and though the additions made to it are none of the best, the interest of its events and anec- dotes still remains. One of the least ambitious and the most succesful papers is the account of Lord GEORGE GORDON.