תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

and be seen, but with a wise and healthy adopt the shaven chin, tight trousers, despotism he compelled his nobles to do and cleansed skin of the European. so likewise. He even issued rules and Even with his army he had considerable regulations according to which these at difficulty in effecting these social reforms homes' were to be conducted. What a on account of the inherited and deeplystrange society must that have been rooted belief in the sanctity of the beard where such decrees as the following were and the divineness of dirt. The tug of thought dangerous and revolutionary - war came, however, when he tried to The host must hang out a poster inviting force these atheistic innovations on the all and sundry who came under the fol- body of the people. He legislated that lowing categories :-Noblemen, officers citizens of all ranks should curtail their of state, army and navy, merchants and coat-tails and cut down their beards, shipbuilders, with their wives and chil- which were simply a cover and hidingdren : no assembly was to begin before place for unclean animals ; but sold infive or be prolonged after ten : the host dulgences on payment of a fine of one must provide the requisite food, drink, hundred roubles by the wealthier classes; and amusements, chairs, candles, and and by the poorer ones, such as the cards; but the guests were to help them- priests and serfs, a fine of a copeck selves. Everyone was to be free to every time they passed the gate of a city. come and go as he liked without the for- A copper coin, with a figure of a nose, malities of welcome and leave-taking. mouth, and chin concealed in a tangled Any person making himself disagreeable brushwood of hair, was handed to the was to be punished by being compelled taxpayer by the toll-keeper at the gate. to drink a bottle of wine out of a goblet European habits and customs were hateto be called the great eagle.' It mustful to the people. Hitherto, indeed, the be confessed that these gatherings were Russians had spoken of all other nations often boisterous and unruly ; but the as the infidels, with whom it was a heinCzar's efforts to Europeanise his semi- ous sin to associate. Peter not only exTartar subjects could not be expected to punged this sin from the national creed have a triumphant issue all at once, nor and the statute-book, but even ordered could it be expected that the graceful the young nobles to betake themselves courtesies and refinements of Paris would and their wives to the capitals and courts in a moment become indigenous in St. of Europe, to graduate in civilisation, Petersburg. What though the gentlemen and qualify themselves to be refining eleand even the ladies got drunk and quar- ments in Russian society on their return. relsome and fought, and some thirsty The Czar anticipated reforms but lately and unquenchable souls planned strife in introduced into England when he made order to qualify for the great eagle'? gambling and games of chance illegal, Rome was not built in a day, and the professional mendicancy a crime, and isbuilding up of a new moral order in so- sued sanitary and police regulations. ciety is a task more difficult and toil- Ridicule was his favorite weapon in some, inasmuch as tempers are not so bringing any custom of which he disaptractable as bricks. It was the begin- proved into public disrepute ; and many ning of a free and friendly intercourse ; a one did he laugh out of existence with and, then, do not most Northern nations grim, lumbering, elephantine humor. -witness the Scotch-require the aid of The priests looked with sour visages on that mighty solvent, alcohol, to thaw all his reforms, and indeed the sympatheir reserve and make them loving, so thy of the people was rather with them cial, and communicative? There was a than with him. The following was the certain amount of chivalry, moreover, device he adopted to reinstate himself in developed in Russian society by means public favor and turn the laugh against of this drunkenness : those who were the clergy, who had been advancing what less drunk helped to stand, and aided are now called Ultramontane claims. homewards, those who were more drunk His object in this story was to poke fun than they.

at the office of Patriarch, which the It was a sore trial to Peter to persuade priests and people desired, against his subjects to dispense with the flowing Peter's wish, to have revived. He rebeard and flowing garb of the Tartar and solved to create his clown, who was in

A man

his eighty-fourth year, a kind of mock was carried from the table. patriarch. It was determined to marry dwarf was substituted at the ladies' this motley, and a strapping widow of table. Did not Peter say he could rethirty was chosen as his bride. Four poor form his people, but not himself ? A dinstutterers, who took a quarter of an hour ner-party at the Czar's must indeed have to get their tongues round each word, been a sight not conceivable out of Bedwere victimised by being sent round to lam, and could only have been planned invite the guests, a deep draught of in the maddest brain on earth, if a MS. brandy having previously been adminis- among the Sloane papers in the British tered to promote their Áuency of utter- Museum is believable. Such practical ance. Four fellows with tremendous jokes ! such wild, grotesque gambolling! physical exaggerations, fat, inflated, and the frolics of leviathan ! the laughter of clumsy, were appointed to run as heralds a Titan, as frightful in his fun as in his and footmen ; their movements, also, fury! There was accommodation at the being made erratic by drink. A few Czar's table for about a hundred ; but helpless paralytics and lamesters were the grim humorist always issued invitadeputed to play the part of bridesmen and tions to twice or thrice that number, waiters. The open carriage in which the and left his guests to elbow, jostle, and young couple made their glorious proces- fight for chairs and places, and retain sion to church, amid drums beating them against all comers and claimants if banners flying, discordant instruments they could. Not unfrequently a free playing, was dragged by four roaring and fight was extemporised, and noses tapfrightened bears, amid the uncontrolla- ped, and even the sacred persons of amble laughter of the populace. To crown

To crown bassadors have been profanely touched all, the marriage between this Patriarch and trified with. The Czar sat at the of the Church and this poor victimised head of the table, a broad grin on his widow was celebrated by a toothless and face, rolling the spectacle like a sweet wrinkled centenarian priest, deaf and morsel under his tongue. The guests blind, for whom the aid of a prompter are so closely packed that feeding room had to be provided. On such a grand is not to be thought of, and ribs are scale of hospitality was this state mar- often blackened and almost driven in by riage conducted that there was hardly a active and vigorous elbows, provoking sober person to be found in the whole fierce recriminations and quarrels. city of Moscow; and the Czar brought The kitchen is so near to the dining-hall it to a climax by giving an entertainment that there floats through the latter a fragat the senate house, where each guest rance of onions, garlic, and train oil, was forced, probably under the threat of mellowed and tempered by the more deSiberia, to quaff the contents of the licious aroma of the roast. The more 'double-eagle.' Again and again was knowing and initiated guests wave away this heavy horse-play repeated, till the soups and such-like edibles, and manifest office of patriarch became associated a special appetite for tongues, hams, and with ridicule in the minds of the popu- viands that cannot be tampered with, or lace for ever. And what kind of society made the vehicles of practical joking, for must that have been where such a scene as often as not it happens that a bunch as the following could be looked on as of dead mice will be drawn out of the proper ? Previous to the Czar's ordi- soup or discovered snugly embedded in nance by which inixed assemblies became a dish of green peas ; and sometimes, compulsory, the ladies and gentlemen when his guests have well partaken of met in separate rooms. At one of the certain pastries, the Czar will courteousgrand dinners given by the Czar, a huge ly inquire if the cat, wolf, raven, or pie was placed in the centre of the gen- other unclean animal proved a savory or tlemen's table, out of which, when the delicious morsel, with what result let the startled carver broke the crust, a beauti- imaginative guess. The approach to a ful dwarf lady, in puris naturalibus, all regular Donnybrook was hastened on by except a head-dress, stepped, proposed liberal supplies of brandies, strong ales, in a set speech and drank in a glass of and wines so adroitly served out as to wine the health of the company, and expedite the grand climacteric of drunkthen retired into her snug retreat and enness. But one plate was allowed to each guest ; and if, reserving his appe- per and brandy was his favorite tipple tite for some sweeter dish, he left off for a while. He was in England for when but one-half of his serving of soup, four months finishing his shipbuilding or raven, or roast was consumed, it was education, and he and his shopmates a serious perplexity how he was to get often retired to a public house near rid of the rejected victuals and get his Tower Hill to recruit their exhausted plate cleansed for a new supply. There energies with beer and brandy. In comwas nothing for it but to empty the con- pliment to Peter, Boniface christened his tents on his neighbor's plate ; and then house 'The Czar of Muscovy.' Here followed a game of battledore and shut- is the bill of fare of another of Peter's tlecock, ending in blows, till the more dinners, eaten this time in England ; it peacefully disposed of the two bowlers is recorded in a letter from Mr. Humthrew the bone of contention under the phrey Wanley to Dr. Charlett, and is table, wiping his polluted plate with his preserved among the papers of Ballard's finger, and giving it a final polish with collection in the Bodleian Library :—'I the tablecloth. A loving and brotherly cannot,' says Mr. Wanley, vouch for frame of temper having thus been dif- the following bill of fare which the Czar fused throughout the festive throng, the and his company of twenty-one ate at Czar decrees that no one is to leave the Godliming, in Surrey, but it is attested filthy, crowded, and heated room till by an eye-witness who saw them eating, midnight, the dinner having begun at and who had it from the landlord. noon; but before the parting hour ar- Breakfast : half a sheep, a quarter of rives, the guests, between loss of blood lamb, ten pullets, twelve chickens, three and loss of wit, are incapacitated for quarts of brandy, six quarts of wine, and leaving, and make their beds promis- seven dozens of eggs, with salad in procuously where they fall. Was ever such portion.' A goodly breakfast, surely ! a lawless, chaotic orgy seen in a royal but listen to the dinner : ‘Five ribs of palace on earth since Belshazzar's feast, beef, 42 lbs. in all, one sheep, 56 lbs., or will it ever be seen again ? ‘Nature three quarters of lamb, a shoulder and brings not back the mastodon,'nor Peter loin of boiled veal, eight pullets, eight the Great.

rabbits, two and a half dozen of sack, a M. de Staehlin, giving an account of dozen of claret.' The Czar's visit must his ordinary manner of life, especially in have seriously disturbed the meat marhis later years, says that his table was kets of England if this is the record, not frugal, that he preferred plain fare; of a feast, but of an every-day meal. hotch-potch, roast pork or beef, and In personal appearance Peter was tall cheese, washed down by a little beer or and robust, quick and nimble of foot, the red wines of France and Hungary. and dexterous and rapid in all his moveHe could not eat fish ; and in his early ments. His face was plump and round. youth he lived chiefly on fruits, pastries, His eyes were large and bright, with and farinaceous diets. He usually dined brown eyebrows. His hair was short at one in the afternoon, after which he and curling and of a brownish color. retired to his bedroom for a couple of His look was fierce and restless, his gait hours' sleep ; and at four he revised the quick and swinging. That superfine work of the forenoon. Summer and and satirical young lady, Wilhelmina, , winter alike, he rose at four in the morn- Margravine of Baireuth, describes him ing, and after a light and hasty breakfast as tall and well-made. " His countedevoted his attention to affairs of state. nance,' she says, is beautiful, but has He acquired a taste for strong liquors in something in it so rude and savage as to his early youth ; and this taste, it was fill you with fear.' When she saw him alleged, was rather fostered than curbed during his visit to Frederick William's by his sister Sophia, who was regent dur- Court in 1717, he was dressed like a ing his minority, and who had designs sailor, in a frock without lace or ornaon the throne herself. His carousals, of ment. A fine, noble, heroic face the which he often boasted, were frequent portraits represent him as having ; only and deep ; but M. de Staehlin represents his gross eating and deep drinking, and him in his later years as having over- low morals, had impaired its majesty, mastered the vicious craving. Hot pep- and given it rather a sensual and fallen

expression. From his youth he had Peter's flesh was rebellious—by no means been subject to a spasmodic affection of obedient to the higher sovereignties of his the nerves which always attacked him in nature. The Czar and Czarina during his hours of rage. It is said to have re- their visit to Berlin were attended by a sulted from a fright he received in early suite of ladies-ladies on the one hand, boyhood; some rebel soldiers forced and washerwomen, cooks, housemaids, their way into the convent where he was on the other, as circumstances required brought up, and flashed their naked -almost every one of whom carried in swords round his head. The spasms her arms a richly robed child. On its showed themselves by a contortion of paternity being inquired after, the chamthe muscles of the neck and of his eleon mother replied, Le Czar m'a face. Dining at Berlin, Wilhelmina tells fait l'honneur de me faire cet enfant.' how such an attack took place. ' At The following story shows both the weak table the Czar was placed beside the and the good side of Peter's character. Queen,' Wilhelmina's mother. “There

• There He fell in love with a beautiful young lady took him a kind of convulsion, some- of the bourgeoisie class residing at Mosthing like Tic, or St. Vitus, which he cow, and commanded her father to send seemed quite unable to control. He got her to his court. In horror and despair, into contortions and gesticulated wildly, the girl, without letting her parents know and brandished about his knife within a her intentions, left her home at the dead yard of the Queen's face, who, in great of night and sought shelter in the house alarm, made several times as if to rise. of her old nurse. The Czar stormed The Czar begged her to retain her com- and raved, and threatened her parents posure as he would not hurt her, and with Siberia unless they at once produced took her by the hand and grasped it so her. Their grief for their lost child at violently that she shrieked out in pain. last persuaded even the Czar that they The Czar laughed heartily, and added were innocent of the crime of thwarting that she had not bones of so hard a tex- his will. A ‘hue and cry' was raised, ture as his Catharine.' 'After supper and so large were the rewards offered for a grand ball was opened, which the Czar her recovery, that the whole country evaded, and, leaving the others to dance, joined in an ineffectual search. The walked alone homewards to Mon Bijou,' husband of her protector had built a hut a palace which Frederick William had of logs, thatched with brackens, on an placed at his disposal, and in which the oasis in the centre of a marsh surroundCzar and his suite made fearful havoc, ed by thick woods. Here she lived almost breaking the thrifty King's heart. alone for a year, seeing no one except The sight of a beetle, it is alleged, had the woodman and his wife, who carried the effect of throwing him into such a food to her in the dead of night. Here fit, and the sight of a beautiful young one day she was discovered by a huntswoman had the effect of taking him out man, á colonel in the army, who had of one. M. de Staehlin says that when wandered far in pursuit of game. He the Czar was so attacked the Empress entered into conversation with her, and was instantly sent for, and failing her, her cultured voice and refined manner the first young woman that came in the betrayed that she was not the peasant way was conducted to the Czar's apart- maiden her dress represented her to be. ment; and, as if she had been sent for, He taxed her with being Peter's lost was introduced with the formal announce- heroine. In great fear she confessed ; ment, 'Peter Alexievitz, this is the per- and, on her knees, with a broken voice, son you desired to speak with.' The pleaded that he would not betray her soft voice and agreeable conversation hiding-place. He assured her that all and sweet presence of the charmer had danger was past, that Peter had forgotsuch an effect on the Czar, that instantly ten her, and that she might return to her the convulsion ceased and he was himself home. What experienced novel-reader again, his visage calm and his humor cannot guess the rest of the story? The sweet. Would that this had been the only colonel took the news home to her sorspell or exorcism that such a presence rowing parents : but he did more, for he could wield over him, but it seemed to told the story to the Empress Catharine, awake more devils than it expelled. and that kindly lady at once agreed to NEW SERIES.–VOL. XXX., No. I

7

ence.

inform the Czar of the poor girl's suffer- Russians, and Martha's sergeant slain. ings, and ask His Majesty to forgive her. As the captives filed past the Russian Peter had the rare virtue of being able to General Bauer, Martha's grief, tears, forgive those he had wronged. He at beauty, and youth provoked his sympaonce settled a pension of 3,000 roubles thy. Learning her story, he took her a year on the girl, gave her the colonel into his own household as housekeeper for a husband, provided such a marriage and mistress. Here Prince Menzikoff feast as only a Czar can, gave away the one day saw her, and in his turn was bride, and congratulated the colonel on fascinated by the romance of her story having secured the most virtuous woman and the beauty of her person. He in Russia as his wife. Captain Bruce, begged her as a present from the General. who was military tutor to the Czar's Martha was called in to decide whether eldest son, testifies that this story, ro- she would go with the Prince or stay, the mantic though it seems, is true, and that advantages of both alternatives being he had it from the heroine's own lips. fairly set before her. She made a deep

The history of the Czarina Catharine courtesy to the two gentlemen and reis equally romantic. She was a mild, tired, not having spoken a word. There loving, kindly woman ; and her influ- can be little doubt in what capacity she ence over her irascible and savage hus- lived with the Prince, at whose house band was always on the side of mercy, the Czar one day saw her, and in his and never used to inflame his fiery tem- turn succumbed to her persuasive influper. Many a head did she save from

In the year 1704 she, being then the gallows, and many a back from the seventeen years of age, became the knout. The Margravine of Baireuth Czar's mistress, and afterwards his emdescribes her as 'short and lusty, and press, first by a private and then by a remarkably coarse, without grace or ani. public marriage, and finally, at his demation. At first sight, any one would cease, autocrat of All the Russias. The have judged her to be a third-rate Ger- Czar got deeply attached to her, and was man actress. Her clothes looked as never happy when 'my Catharine' was though made for a big doll, they were so absent. She was cheerful and lively, of old-fashioned and decked with tinsel. a sweet, pliable disposition ; never peevAlong the facing of her gown were orders ish or perverse ; and moved around her and little things of metal ; a dozen or- bear of a husband, anticipating his every ders, and as many portraits of saints, of want. She bore the burden of the honor relics, and the like ; so that when she to which she had not been born with walked it was with a jingling, as if you meekness and lowliness, and never forheard a mule with bells to its harness,' a got her humble birth and upbringing. description which must be liberally dis- What ! thou good man ! art thou still counted to get at the truth. The Mar- alive?' she said in the days of her splengravine saw oddities wherever she dor to Wurmb, who had been her fellowlooked, and was smart first and truthful servant in Gluck's household, he as afterwards. In her early life the Czari- tutor, she as maid-of-all-work. I will na's name was Martha. Her mother provide for thee,' she said, and got him was a Livonian serf. She was left an a pension. She befriended the family of orphan at the age of three. A Lutheran her benefactor Gluck, who had died a clergyman named Gluck saw her at the prisoner in Moscow; his son she took as house of the priest of her native parish, her page, gave portions to his

widow and who seems to have constituted himself the two eldest daughters, and appointed the guardian of the poor, friendless orphan, youngest a maid of honor at her court. and took her into his house in the capa- Catharine's ready wit once saved the city of nurse or slavey.' In exchange Czar and his army from dishonor and for her services she received her foud, a destruction. It was during one of his fair education, and her clothing. As she campaigns against the Turks. The Rusgrew up to girlhood she had her fair share sian army was completely surrounded ; of admirers, of whom she specially fav- provisions and ammunition were all but ored a Livonian sergeant of the Swedish exhausted, and every attempt to break army. The day after their marriage the out of this trap resulted in repulse and town of Marienburg was stormed by the defeat. Crushed down with despair,

« הקודםהמשך »