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Opening of the navigation - Departure of Mr. Law - The factory library
Visit to the Academy of Fine Arts — The President The destruction of Pompeii, by Brilloff — Young Kotzebue — Manufactory of tapestry Malachite temple — Public library — The MSS. Writing of Mary Queen of Scots Autographs - Letter from Henrietta, Queen of Charles I. — Expedition to Tzarsko Celo by the railroad — Conclusion of the letters.
St. Petersburg, May 22nd, 1838. Two days ago the first steamboats of this season from Lubeck came into Cronstadt. One of them had been due ten days, but had been unable to make its way earlier through the ice. However, as the navigation of the Gulf of Finland is at last open,
presume we may consider the winter as fairly at an end, in spite of the Ladoga ice,* which still continues at intervals to float thickly past. Great numbers of people have been long waiting with impatience to commence a summertrip abroad in search of health or pleasure; and the two steamboats, which will sail for Lubeck to-morrow and the next day, will be crowded with
passengers. We had intended to be among the number; but our friend Mr. Law is going to England with some of his family for a few months, and he is anxious to lose no part of the short summer, as he must return not later than September. We have therefore given up the berths which we had engaged, and I have undertaken to act for a few weeks as chaplain at Petersburg, in his place, until the arrival of the representative he had provided. The latter, by a singular chance, happens to be no other than my oldest and most intimate friend, who is detained in England by business, and cannot arrive here until the middle of July. The Laws will sail to-morrow in the Naslednik; and we shall then remove from our hotel into their comfortable and well-furnished house on the English
* The last ice came down on the 26th of May. The leaves on the lime trees did not open till about the ist of June.
Quay, which is under the same roof with the church. We shall therefore almost imagine ourselves in England; though, indeed, during our whole stay at Petersburg we have enjoyed much English society. I have not dwelt upon this subject in my letters, because you naturally want to hear, not about English people, but about Russia and the Russians; and there is no great difference between our countrymen abroad and our countrymen at home in their customs and ideas. You will readily believe the pleasure and enjoyment which the free use of the Factory library has afforded us during our residence in this city. We have been kindly permitted to carry away any books we chose, and to read them at home; while every variety of literature, from a periodical to a book of reference, finds a place on those well-filled shelves. The English Factory is virtually independent of the censorship, as the government liberally allows them to receive from England and to place in their library any books they please, on the understanding that these unexamined works shall circulate among the English only, and not among their Russian friends.
Among the objects of interest which we have lately been visiting are the Public Library of Petersburg, and the Academy of Fine Arts, of which M—'s uncle, Mr. Olenine,* is president. He is one of the most distinguished literary men in Russia; was private secretary to the late Emperor, and has been for many years high in office. His house is well known to most foreigners who have visited St. Petersburg; and we have spent in it many of the most agreeable hours we have passed during our stay here.
The object of greatest interest in the exhibition of the Academy at present is a large historical picture by the Russian painter Brilloff. The subject is the destruction of Pompeii, and the picture was painted in Italy. It was presented to the Academy by M. Demideff, who is said to have purchased it from the artist for thirty-five thousand
* Tradition says that this family came orignally from Ireland, and they themselves suppose the name to be a corruption of O'Neill. A certain degree of fable is, however, mingled in the history, as the Hibernian ancestress is said to have been borne across the sea by a bear, in commemoration of which remarkable circumstance, a bear carrying a lady appears at this day in their coat of arms,
roubles, about fifteen hundred pounds. The general effect of this picture on the eye, at a first glance, is disagreeable, from the nature of the subject, and from the glare of colouring which belongs to such a scene. The hot falling cinders have the appearance of a shower of blood. The conception of the picture, however, shows no ordinary genius; and the expressions and attitudes of the figures and faces are beautifully imagined and admirably painted. The most striking figures are those of an old man borne in the arms of his son, and of a woman stretched dead or dying in the foreground, with black hair streaming on the pavement. She has apparently been thrown out of a chariot, of which the axle is broken, and the horses are rushing wildly away in terror. Next to these is a family group, including a mother with an infant in her arms, unconscious of the danger, and stretching out its hands to catch a small bird which is fluttering on the ground. Lastly, at the left side of the picture appears a group of Christians, as is evident from a cross hung round the neck of one of them. Their resigned, though awe-struck faces, and their attitudes of prayer, are finely contrasted with the terror and despair expressed on the faces and forms of those surrounding them. The portrait of Brilloff himself is to be seen behind the Christians in the person of a man who carries the implements of a painter on his head. The architectural parts of this picture are not so well drawn as the figures. At the right hand there are three statues, intended to be tottering on the parapet of a high building, but which look rather as if they were preparing to make a voluntary plunge into the midst of the crowd below.
In walking through the rooms of the Academy we found a young artist copying a picture, the details of which, it being a battle-piece, he was extremely courteous in explaining, as well as in answering other questions. We found afterwards that he was a son of the famous Kotzebue, who was sent to Siberia (by mistake) by the Emperor Paul.
As I am now on the subject of works of art, I may mention, though they have nothing to do with the Academy, the productions of the Imperial manufactory of tapestry in Petersburg It is on the plan of the Gobelins at Paris, and is now in full operation, preparing carpets and hangings for
the new Winter Palace. The carpets are exceedingly rich and plendid, chiefly in the French style. The tapestry, however, is a more interesting work, and it is exceedingly beautiful. One or two pictures which have been copied, or are now in progress, have quite the effect of paintings at a little distance. The best of those which we saw is a picture of Alexander the Great, receiving the family of Darius.
Another splendid work of art which we have lately seen is a miniature temple destined to be placed in the church of St. Isaac, and in the mean time standing for safety in the large hall of the Tauride, which serves at present as a receptacle for the furniture saved from the Winter Palace. This shrine or temple consists of a dome seven feet in diameter, supported on eight Corinthian pillars about eight feet high. The exterior of the dome is covered with a profusion of gilding on a ground of malachite, and the interior is of lapis lazuli. The pillars are of malachite, with gilt bases and capitals, and the floor is of polished stone of various colours; the whole being raised on steps of polished porphyry. There is, perhaps, too much gilding about this very beautiful work, but this is much in accordance with its destined position in a Greek church. It was presented to the Emperor by M. Demideff, who procured the malachite from his mines in Siberia, and who sent it to Italy to be worked. Malachite is, as you probably are aware, a stone peculiar to the copper-mines of Siberia. It is of the colour of verdigris marbled, and bears evident marks of having once been in a state of fusion. It can only be obtained in small pieces, so that all malachite work, however solid it may appear, is a species of mosaic formed of innumerable fragments of irregular shape.
In the visit of which I have spoken to the Public Library, I was chiefly interested by the collection of MSS. ; some of the most remarkable of which were pointed out to me by Mr. Atkinson, the librarian, who was kind enough to accompany mo over the whole Institution. The library contains about four hundred thousand volumes, a considerable part of which were acquired by right of might, having been transferred to tersburg from the Public Library at Warsaw. There are
it forty thousand volumes of MSS.
LET. XXV.) AUTOGRAPHS OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.
Among those which I examined is a missal which was purchased in France, and which formerly belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. It is quite perfect, except that in the illuminations with which it is abundantly ornamented there have once been numerous coats of arms, every one of which, from the beginning of the book to the end, has been carefully erased, and the shield left vacant. It is difficult to guess with what object this has been done, as no other mutilation is apparent. The chief interest of this missal lies in numerous scraps of the Queen's hand-writing which are to be found in it, breathing in general a melancholy spirit in accordance with her unhappy fortunes. It must be owned that much cannot be said in favour of her poetry, the exact meaning of which is not always very clear. Near the beginning is written across the bottom of two pages, Ce livre est a moi, Marie reyne, 1553,* doubtless an autograph.
In another page are written the following lines in the Queen's hand :
Un coeur que l'outrage martire,
Qui iamais davantage eust contraire le sort,
MARIE R. Below these lines the Queen has scrawled a memorandum, “escrire au Secretare pour Douglas.” I was afterwards shown, in a collection of original letters, one from Mary to the King of France, written during her imprisonment, in which, addressing the King as Monsieur mon Frere, and signing herself votre bonne scur Marie, she speaks of Douglas, recommending him to the future favour of his most Christian Majesty, whom she at the same time thanks for his attention to her former request in behalf of the same person. In another letter from Fotheringay
* The last figure is very indistinct, but it appears to be a 3,