29 SEPTEMBER 1906, Page 25

Celebrated Crimes of the Russian Court. By Alexandre Dumas. (Hurst

and Blackett. Os. net.)—M. Dumas went out to report on the results of Alexander IL's emancipation of the serfs. If he went to bless, he did not exactly fulfil his purpose, for this is the book he wrote. It begins with Ivan the Terrible, and takes us along a road which is as truly a via scelerata as any that has ever been in the world. Here is the letter in which Alexis Orloff announced to the Empress Catherine the death of her husband : " Empress : our Beloved Mother : How can I tell you what has happened? It is truly fatality! We went in to see your husband, and taking wine with him, it put us in such a drunken mood that words arose—and we were so hotly insulted that we came to blows. Suddenly we saw him drop dead. What are we to do ? Take our heads, if you must ; or, dear Mother, think that what is past cannot be undone, and forgive us our mishap." She did forgive the " mishap " ; more than that, she made Orloff a Count of the Roman Empire. What really happened was that Orloff gave the Czar a glass of drugged spirits, threw himself upon him, bore him back upon his bed, held him down under his knee, while a companion stabbed him with a heated ramrod.