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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 carriageand-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 corresponding 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 perilous for boats; while the air itself is chilled, and the bitter north wind brings driving storms of sleet and snow.
Some days ago I went to see a pillar placed in the new church of St. Isaac, which is now in progress. The operation was extremely interesting, from the size of the pillar and the height at which it was placed—it being the second tier or story of columns on which the workmen were engaged. The last pillar was erected yesterday, and the colonnade, which is circular, is now complete. Its base must be a hundred and thirty or forty feet from the ground, and each pillar is a solid block of granite, forty-two feet high, and weighing five thousand poods, or upwards of eighty tons. The columns on the ground-tier, each of which is also a monolith, are fifty-six feet high, and they weigh eleven thousand poods each.
When I reached the platform to which the pillar was to be raised, I had below me a panorama of Petersburg and of the country around for many a mile; the most interesting part of the prospect being the Gulf of Finland, down which I could see as far as Cronstadt. The day was warm and bright, and the air was free from cloud or smoke. From the platform down to the next stage, a depth of about eighty feet, was fixed a strong timber frame, covered with planks, so as to form a very steep inclined plane. At the bottom of this slide, when I first looked down, the column to be raised was lying horizontally on rollers; it was girthed round with very thick
drawn very tight, and was padded underneath. Other ropes, or rather cables, secured to these girths, passed along the column, crossing each other over its lower end, and it was lashed to strong planks which lay under it, that the polish of the stone might not be injured in ascending the slide. Over the base on which the column was to stand was placed a high framework of strong timbers. The cables, twelve in number, attached to the pillar, passed through blocks fixed in the frame, and, with the aid of one moveable pulley to each, were drawn by twelve capstans, each manned by fourteen or sixteen men. There were two extra capstans for the purpose of guiding the lower end of the pillar when suspended in the air. Altogether, upwards of two hundred men were employed in the operation.
When all was ready, the capstans began to turn, and by
degrees the column, instead of lying in a horizontal position, rested on the inclined plane, which was well greased. U this it began slowly to ascend, two men standing on its upper end, to be ready in case of the cables becoming entangled. The capstans were all numbered, and the superintendent at the top, calling out sometimes to one gang and sometimes to another to move faster or slower, kept all the ropes drawing equally. The column at length reached the top of the inclined plane, and it was then raised until it was hanging in the high wooden frame exactly over the base on which it was to stand. A coin was dropped into a small hole in the centre of the base, which was then covered with a sheet of lead; and the tackling round the lower end of the pillar being cut and cleared away, it was lowered gently into its place. The whole operation, which was now complete, had occupied about two hours, from the time the capstans began to work until the pillar rested upon its base.
The church of St. Isaac will be an edifice not unworthy of Petersburg, and it will be a remarkable monument of a century which is not an age of cathedral building. About forty thousand pounds have been annually expended upon it for some years past, and the exterior will not be completed for at least two more. The church is to be a few feet higher than St. Paul's, with a dome, the roof of which will be gilt, of nearly the same size with the dome of our cathedral. No materials are employed in any part of the edifice but marble, stone, brick, and metal, so that the building will be fire-proof.
Four days ago we had the good fortune to witness in the Champ-de-Mars a splendid military spectacle. About forty thousand men were on the ground, including nine thousand cavalry, one hundred and twenty-eight pieces of artillery, and a pontoon-train. The whole belonged to the corps of the Imperial Guards, and formed, therefore, I presume, the finest body of troops in the empire. The day was lovely, and the coup-d'æil most superb. At twelve o'clock the Emperor arrived on the ground, followed by a numerous suite. The drums beat, and the troops cheered as he galloped down the line and through the ranks. By the time he had completed this rapid