23 DECEMBER 1854, Page 25


THE ENGLISHWOMAN IN RUSSIA.* THIS volume is the result of ten years' residence and travel in Russia ; during which period the writer's field of observation ex- tended from Archangel to Moscow, from St. Petersburg to the -Volga. Except a journey from Archangel to the capital, and some passing notice of minor trips for particular features attend- ing them, the author's conclusions are presented in the form of description illustrated by anecdote and example, rather than by personal narrative. As regards the external appearance of St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as of travel along the main roads, she has been preceded by Kohl and many other writers. Nor are her accounts of public institutions, official people, and general society, new in the broad impressions they leave upon the mind. Length of residence gave to the writer greater op- portunities of forming a close and extensive judgment than has

6 been possessed by other travellers. With what precise object she went to Russia does not appear. There she mixed familiarly in society and freely with the people. She saw the gentry and the magnates in the privacy of their homes and country-houses, as well as on public or festal occasions. Her matter is ampler, her illustrations are more numerous and characteristic, than those of other describers, with that certainty of hand which follows in drawing from the life. With the exception of a volume by Mr. Venables, descriptive of a long visit he paid to a Russian country- house, published a good many years ago, this is the only book we remember to have met that gives a trustworthy account of the Russians en famine.

For the purpose of forming a judgment upon the national cha- racter, the entire people—the genuine Russians—may be con- sidered, first, as they naturally are ; second, as they are made by Government regulation and circumstances. Naturally, the Rus- sian has many good qualities. He is brave, patient, enduring, goodnatured, hospitable, and devout; and these observations apply to all classes, though some qualities are in certain classes better developed than others. The Russian as fashioned by Imperial regulation and the life around him is a very dif- ferent person. The serfs are, generally speaking, thieves and liars, except that some will not steal from their own masters beyond eatables : but these vices are unavoidable in their position ; de- ceit is their only shield, and they have slender examples of ho- nesty above them. Cruel and ferocious they occasionally are, but for the most part under fearful provocation. The vices of the serfs are reproduced in their masters under the form of servility and corruption ; though, according to our author, stealing is not uncommon in the gentry grade, and the experienced in such matters do not leave trinkets or plate about in rooms where visitors are left alone. The slavish submission of body and mind to the Emperor or his delegated authority is painted as something terrible ; those who have loftier feelings being compelled to follow the fashion, and to conceal their opinions except from foreigners whom they can trust. The most frightful immorality prevails throughout society ; the radical cause being, that the serf must marry or refrain from marrying at his master's bidding,—a power which, however harshly exercised, is not always capricious, but originates in the state of the law. Among the upper classes, marriages are altogether de convenance. The writer quotes as indicative of society the remark of a Russian nobleman, that "true communism is only to be found in Russia." A great distinction must be drawn, it strikes us, between the landed gentry and great territorial nobles, and the class of official nobility. The gentry, though ill-educated, with many prejudices, and some roughness of manner, are kind and 'boundlessly hospitable. Their servile manner to authority is pro- bably to a great degree Oriental. The educated officials with for- tune are like the officials of any other country. Some of the nigh nobility seem anxious to do their duty so far as they can. The mass of the employes are adventurers and foreigners; Poles, a large number of Germans, and needy Russians, men too proud to embark in business of any kind, and whose sole dependence is on the public service. They are painted by our fair observer as black as can be.

"The most detestably mean class in Russia are certainly the Government employes. There is no baseness too base, no dishonesty too dishonest, no cringing too low, no lie too barefaced, ne timeserving too vile for them. 'Do you see those men in their gold-laced coats, cocked-hats, swords, and nbands?' said a Governor's lady to me one day ; they are all coming to congratulate my husband. There is not one but would think it an honour to wipe the dust off his shoes.' I fear, although severe, she spoke the truth, and knew well how to appreciate the character of her countrymen. There are, as far as we could learn, few exceptions to this servility, and unfortu- nately it seems to run through the whole of the different official ranks in .• The Englishwoman in Russia : Impressions of Society and Manners of the Rus- sians at Home. By a Lady ten years Resident in that Country. With Illuatrations. Publiahed by Murray. Russia. It begins at the beginning : the Ministers cringe to the Emperor, the heads of the departments to the Ministers, the employes to their Chiefs, and so on down to the very lowest writer or clerk receiving pay from the Government ; and, what is worse, every one has his price according to his rank. When I was staying at the house of a provincial governor, the Empe- ror paid a visit to the place, and walked up and down in front of the station talking to his Excellency. His Majesty had no sooner left the town than the heads of the departments, the military officers, police, and employes, rushed in full-dress to the Governor's to offer their congratulations on the oc- casion. If he had been promised the inheritance of the Imperial crown it- self, they could scarcely have magnified the honour more, or proffered a greater amount of flattery and adulation than they did on this event.

"There were two of the employes in the province of which I speak who were exceptions to this : the Governor respected them accordingly."

Between the Poles and the Russians there is not much love lost. The Germans are very unpopular, not only as foreigners, but as being, it is said, very harsh and tyrannical to those below them and cringing to those above them. They are also regarded with contempt, as men who have no tie or object beyond money.

"The Germans in Russia are extremely numerous ; they have spread themselves over the whole country and have monopolized a great deal of the trade. There are only two patriotic nations in Europe,' said a Russian Ad- miral, 'Russia and England ; the French arc partisans of their party ; but as for those Germans, their country is where they find they can gain most

money.' * * " From all that is told concerning them, the Russo-Germans seem to be the most rapacious of any people in the country : they are the most cringing when in an inferior station, and the most tyrannical and merciless when in power.

" Immense numbers of our officers are Germans,' said a nobleman to me. They enter the service, and, as they have their fortune to make, they will submit to all sorts of insults, cringe and curry favour with their superiors, and do anything to get on. Now, a Russian will not do that : he will throw up his commission and leave the service upon a very slight provocation.' My experience did not enable me to agree with him."

It seems strange that in a censor-ridden country like Russia the meannesses of the officials should be allowed the stage. Such, however, is the case ; and an outline is given of a very clever farce in which the entire officials of a town are terrified and victimized by a sharper flying from his creditors, who is mistaken for a Go- vernment superintendent. Translations of Shakspere's plays, not involving liberty subjects, are permitted ; though the burning hatred of tyranny and social oppression thrown out in the philo- sophy of Hamlet or the madness of Lear is really as dangerous as Julius Ccesar.

" There are translations of some of Shakspere's plays performed ; the two most frequently witnessed are Hamlet' and King Lear ': the class of shopkeepers, who may be called the people in Russia, for the others are mere serfs, are those by ivhom they are chiefly appreciated, and Shakspere is reverenced by most of them nearly as much as in England, although they have read his work only in a translation ; perhaps at some future time his lofty thoughts will have a good effect upon their opinions and conduct. When I was at Twer I saw the part of 'Hamlet' exceedingly well performed by a young actor ; and the audience, even in this small provincial town, seemed thoroughly to appreciate it. I once went to a shop in St. Petersburg, when I remarked to a lady who was with me, that the proprietor much resembled the portraits of Shakspere ': although the remark was made in French, the shopkeeper understood it, and, to my astonishment, made me a low bow and thanked me. It was only a small fruit-shop, and we neither of us had the least idea that he had over heard the poet's name."

The writer did not leave Russia till some time after the declara- tion of war. She describes its effect upon the people and the upper classes as very great; the English, who were not much liked, only respected before, at once became hatefuL They were cut in the street by their acquaintances, and angrily talked to in society. The arrogance, whether natural or acquired, that distinguishes the Russian, was displayed in boasts of their victories, and threats of what would happen to England, including the flag of the Czar fly- ing over the Tower of London. They had hopes from America.

" It was extraordinary how the Russians clung to the idea that they had secured the aid of America to save them from their embarrassments. They spoke of the help they were to receive with as much assurance as if a treaty had already been signed on the subject, and they appeared to regard the President of the United States with as much respect as a sailor does his sheet- anchor in a storm. To do the Americans justice, they took all the advances in perfectly good faith, and rather encouraged the hope : they were courted in all companies, feasted, petted, and, as they say, 'made much of,' and seemed rather pleased than otherwise. It is odd that citizens of a Republican nation, such as that of the States, should have so great a reverence for titles, orders, stars, and the like trumpery ; for surely, if a person be a gentleman in the proper sense of the word, it is not necessary that he be ticketed as such like a prize ox in a rattle-show; and in Russia, above every other country, a glittering star, or a cross suspended by a scarlet riband round the neck, would be a most fallacious criterion that the wearer merited so high an ap- pellation. Indeed, it often happens that the subjects of the Czar, the breast of whose coat is like a cushion, on which all the family jewels are pinned, have the vilest souls and the blackest hearts, together with the most empty heads, in his dominions. I do not know if a foreigner would not really form a more correct estimate of their character if he judged of their baseness by the number of orders they display. The Americans in St. Petersburg did not seem to think so, for, the very morning I left it, one of the attaches of their Embassy showed my friends, with the greatest exultation, the Easter eggs with which the Princess so-and-so, the Countess such-an-one, and several officials of high rank about the court, had presented him : he also exhibited the portraits of the whole of the Imperial Family, which he intended to hang up, he said, ' as household treasures, when he returned to New York,' whither he was going right away,' as he assured us. "The Russians, upon the strength of their hopes, were always threatening us with the American fleet in the Baltic, which would place the Allied fleets between two enemies. Is the old adage about extremes meeting really BO near the truth? Whether there were any substantial foundations to all these castles in the air, we had no means of knowing. The French have a proverb, n'y a pas de fumee sans feu.' "

Mingled with their rage, arrogance, and enthusiasm indica- tions peeped out, that etrue show an under-current of danger. The writer was informed "that many of the lower classes in the capital had the idea that if the English conquered them they should no lenger be slaves, and not have a poll-tax to pay." A mistaken notion, but showing where the shoe pinches the people. The merchants were horrified at the obstructions to trade, the no- bility angry at the conscription.

"The numerous conscriptions levied since the Russians entered the Prin- cipalities have taken away not only the worthless slaves but the very flower of the estates, and great was the dissatisfaction even openly expressed by the proprietors : 'Noire Enmereur se trouvera en face de eon peuple,' said one of them ; from which an inference may be drawn. On all sides universal dis- approbation was heard : but they were careful not to lay the blame on the Czar ; so their anger was vented on the English and Lord Palmerston, who they still persisted in saying was the prime mover of all, and on whom, of course, their own Government was glad to throw the odium."

The conscription does not seem to be popular with the lower class, nor the service either.

"A foreigner in St. Petersburg informed me that he had 'gone to see the recruits that morning, but there did not seem to be much patriotism among them : there was nothing but sobs and tears to be seen among those who were pronounced fit for service, whilst the rejected ones were frantic with delight, and bowed and crossed themselves with the greatest gratitude.' The most distressing scenes may be seen in the streets among the bands of re- cruits—they, their mothers and sisters, or wives, all weeping together as they walk along ; for the women, with innate tenderness, accompany them for many miles out of the town, unwilling, until the very last moment, to bid the objects of their affection adieu forever; whilst the latter, in entering the Russian army, like the condemned in Dante's Inferno,' leave all hope be- hind. •

"Desertions are, of course' extremely frequent ; and since the commence- ment of the war they are fifty times multiplied, if one may judge from the numerous groups of miserable wretches, heavily chained, met with almost hourly in the streets of St. Petersburg. I am sure it was enough to make one's heart ache with sorrow and indignation to look on their grief-stricken faces and thin figures, which seemed as if they had been wandering with the wolves in the wilderness to escape from the cruelty of their fellow men. Once or twice I suet a group even more horrible than these. Several sol- diers with fixed bayonets were walking on each side of a droshsky, on which was seated one of their comrades holding in his arms what was certainly the corpse of some unhappy deserter who had just received the punishment for his fault, his head shaking listlessly from side to side, and his arms hanging straight and rigid, the livid shadow of death on his sharp and painful fea- tures, showing that the heavy lash had at last released him from his misery. In looking round on the broad streets of the capital, and seeing in contrast with so much suffering and misfortune the gaudy carriages of the nobles and their gaily-dressed occupants, who seemed so wholly busied in the pur- suit of pleasure that they could not spare a single moment to reflect on the unhappiness of their fellow creatures, I was often tempted to ask myself whether, if entreaty were made, as in times of old, to spare the city for ten's sake,' the domes and towers of St. Petersburg would still stand to cast their shadow on the earth."

Here is the effect on the country itself.

"No one can have any idea of the effect on the population these continual conscriptions produce, unless he has seen it. When we were leaving the country, we passed through nearly twelve hundred versts of Russian and Polish land : excepting recruits, we scarcely saw a young man in any of the villages. There were only very old peasants with the women and children ; even young lads were drawn away, and the chaussees or post-roads were all being mended by women and girls."

There is a good deal more of a similar kind ; but some of the fair writer's opinions are perhaps to be taken with qualification. In addition to her patriotism, and her anger at the language she heard, she looked at military matters with the eye of a civilian; as indeed several masculine writers seem to have done before her. Her financial skill scarcely reaches to a test; for she records, though with some doubt, a Russian statement that the military expenditure was at the rate of more than a million a week,—a thing utterly impossible. She may or may not be mistaken in her estimate of Russian vengeance.

"The check that the Russian arms are receiving at our hands, we may be well assured they will neither forgive nor forget; and even centuries to come, they will, if they have the power, take their revenge for it : it is their national character, and they will never rest until their thirst for vengeance is slaked, if it be possible. How fairly soever they may speak—how plau- sibly soever they may act—they will ever be on the watch, like a cat for its prey, for the slightest weakness, or the least slip, that could give them the most trifling advantage, or tend to the attainment of their object. Remem- ber the taking of Moscow by the Poles, and see for how many centuries they were lying in wait for Warsaw, and how patiently generation after genera- tion they set traps and pitfalls to catch the Polish people tripping, although their enemies were at that time one of the most civilized and powerful states of Europe, whilst they themselves were scarcely recognized as a nation, and were almost unknown to the West. Like drops of water undermining a bank, they venture little by little, and work in silence until their object is gained—then wo and desolation to those that fall. But now that 'vaulting ambition has o'erleap'd itself,' let us hope that the children's children of England and France may bid defiance for ever to their schemes of vengeance."