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had in their hands what appeared to be plates tied up in napkins; and I find that this was the first meat which they intended to eat on the conclusion of Lent, and which they brought to church, according to an ancient custom, to be blessed by the priests.
I should have told you that on Good Friday all the Court go,
-the gentlemen as usual in uniform, but the ladies in deep mourning,--to kiss the representation of our Saviour's tomb in the Palace Chapel. On Easter Sunday nothing goes on but felicitations, presenting of eggs (the emblem of the Resurrection), and kissing. Servants may kiss their masters or mistresses; and a peasant may kiss the Emperor, though perhaps in the latter case the privilege is not very often exercised. 66 Christos voscress,"
Christ has risen," is the universal salutation; and it is a curious thing to see two peasants or tradesmen meet in the street. Christos voscress,” they cry out; off go their hats and caps; and then with one accord they rush together and inflict on one another three kisses on the cheek *-right, left, right. After this each replaces his hat, first making a most profound bow to the other, and at length they separate. There is a story told of the present Emperor, who once on Easter-day, passing a sentry, saluted him as usual with the words - Christ is risen." “ No; he's not, your Majesty,” said the soldier, presenting arms.
" He's not!” said the Emperor; "what do you mean? This is Easter Sunday. ” “I know that, please your Majesty," replied the man ; " but I am a Mahometan.”
The Russians, high and low, are great observers of times and seasons; and custom requires that at Easter, as well as at Christmas, all persons should visit their acquaintances to congratulate them on the occasion of the festival. Several carriages broke down last week in the performance of this arduous duty, for the streets were in a terrible state, and some almost impassable, owing to the thaw; the snow not having
* The custom of men kissing one another is as common in Russia as in Germany. Gentlemen hardly ever presume to shake hands with ladies, even if they are intimate acquaintances. In lieu of this, the gentleman kisses the lady's hand, while she at the same time puts her lips to his cheek. This custom is on the decline at Petersburg.
entirely disappeared, but being worn into deep holes, which of course were full of water, On Easter Sunday I saw a few sledges for the last time.
Opposite to the Admiralty, in the open Place, large wooden booths had been erected for theatrical and other exhibitions, and in front of the booths were what are called katchellies, namely, swings, merry-go-rounds, and similar inventions. These continued in full play and in high favour during the whole of Easter-week. On the three last days of the week there was a carriage promenade in front of the katchellies ; and in the throng a string of twenty coaches-and-six, followed by six outriders, was conspicuous. The carriages were plain and neat, painted green, and all exactly alike, with handsome powerful horses, equipped in heavy German harness, and the coachman, postilions, footmen, and outriders, dressed in scarlet great-coats with capes, and in cocked hats, leather breeches, and jack boots. The coachmen were evidently not much accustomed to driving four-in-hand, * and an English whip would hardly have admired their manner of handling the reins. These were Court equipages, and each carriage contained six young ladies belonging to the public institutions or schools at Petersburg, under the patronage of the Empress, who annually bestows this indulgence upon the pupils.
The last and gayest of the promenades took place, according to custom, the day before yesterday, being the Sunday after Easter. It was attended by the Court and all the fashionable world, and every vehicle in Petersburg was placed in requisition. We remained at our windows, and we could not have been better placed, as, owing to the police regulations, all the carriages were obliged to pass down our street in order to enter the Admiralty Place, and from about half-past five in the evening the stream for two hours was incessant. Soon after six o'clock the officers of the regiment of Gardes à cheval, who had been gradually assembling, drew up under our windows in scarlet uniforms, waiting to escort the Emperor, who in the course of half an hour drove up, seated as usual in a plain open carriage with a pair of horses, and accompanied by his eldest son.
* The horses were driven, not in the Russian style, but in English, or. rather German fashion.
They stopped opposite to us, threw off their cloaks, and appeared in the same uniform as the officers in attendance. An aide-de-camp brought the Emperor his horse, which he mounted, and, his son following his example, they saluted right and left, and rode on, followed by the officers of the Gardes à cheval.* As they disappeared under the arch of the Etat Major, the Empress with her three daughters turned into the street, at the other end, and passed down it in a handsome open carriage. and-four, with two postilions in English style, and followed by two outriders dressed exactly like the postilions, in blue-andsilver jackets and velvet caps, and escorted by a party of officers of the Chevaliers Gardes. The evening was exceedingly fine, and the display was well worth seeing.
As it was known that the Emperor would mount his horse in that spot, a great crowd was assembled to see him : and I could not help being struck by the manner in which he was received, though I am told it was exactly in accordance with his own wishes. In England the air would have been rent on such an occasion by the cheers with which a popular sovereign would have been received—and popular the Emperor undoubt. edly is, especially in Petersburg. Here all was calm and silent. Every head was uncovered, but neither hat nor handkerchief was waved in the air; and to have waved one, or to have uttered a shout, would undoubtedly have been considered a gross breach of etiquette, and the enthusiasm of the offender would have been quickly checked by the police. Nothing can be more graceful and dignified than the manner in which the Emperor acknowledges the salutes which he receives as he drives about. He has the royal talent of appearing to direct his attention to each individual in particular, and he never fails to return every salute, even that of a private soldier. With the promenade of Sunday the public festivities of Easter concluded. Yesterday the exhibitions and katchellies ceased, and workmen are now busily employed in removing the booths and in clearing the ground.
The unreasonable number of holidays in this country is a severe tax on industry, and at the same time a serious bar to the
* The Gardes à cheval and the Chevaliers Gardes are regiments correspond. ing to our Life Guards and Blues, and equipped like them,
NUMBER OF HOLIDAYS INJURIOUS.
advancement and prosperity of the people, by hindering business and interrupting work; but a reform in this point would be as difficult to effect with the Russian as it would be to persuade John Bull to live for half the year on black bread and quass, though beef and beer were within his reach. The Emperor Paul discanonized a considerable number of saints; but there were some whose fêtes, though he much desired it, he did not venture to attack, and there were others whom, from the strong popular feeling, he found himself compelled to re-instate, after having once struck their names out of the calendar. The difficulty of meddling with saints' days forms the principal obstacle to the introduction of the new style into Russia. The advantage of this change is obvious to all, but were it carried into effect a schism in the church is apprehended as the almost certain result.
The snow is now all gone, and dust is already beginning to fly in the streets. The Neva, indeed, is still frozen over, but the ice is become insecure; and yesterday barriers were erected to prevent horses and carriages from going upon it. Foot passengers, however, still venture to cross the river, and the ice is not expected to break up for some days.
Breaking up of the ice — Ice from the Ladoga — Placing a pillar in the
church of St. Isaac — Grand parade — Arrival of the Emperor; of the Empress - Review of the troops — Departure of the Court from St. Petersburg - Interview with the Empress.
Petersburg, May 9th, 1838. Ever since the conclusion of Easter-week, until yesterday, we have had delightful weather. On the morning of the twentyeighth of last month, eighteen days after the commencement of the thaw, the ice on the Neva broke up, the floating-bridge was removed to let it pass, and in the course of three or four hours the river was sufficiently free to allow the safe passage of boats ; indeed, scarcely a piece of ice was to be seen. No boats, how. ever, are allowed to ply until the following ceremony, which dates from the reign of Peter the Great, has been performed. The Commandant of the fortress, under a salute from its guns, crosses the river in his barge, and has an audience of the Emperor, to present him with a certain silver cup, filled with the water of the Neva; and his Majesty returns the cup filled, instead of water, with gold coins. After this the navigation of the Neva is considered as open.
We are still, however, reminded of our northern latitude. The ice in the Gulf of Finland is still firm; and since yesterday the Neva, which for ten days past had reflected nothing but blue sky and bright sun, has been nearly covered with floating ice, as white as snow, drifting rapidly down under the united influence of wind and current. This ice comes from the Ladoga, a lake more than two hundred miles long and a hundred and fifty broad, out of which the Neva issues forty or fifty miles above Petersburg. When the ice of the lake breaks up, and passes down the Neva, it produces for some days a return of winter here. The floating bridges are removed, and the river is encumbered with huge masses of ice, grinding and crashing in the strong current, so that the passage becomes