Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the new Winter Palace. The carpets are exceedingly rich and splendid, 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 miniatnre 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 me 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 Petersburg from the Public Library at Warsaw. There are about forty thousand volumes of MSS.

LET. XXV.] AUTOGRAPHS OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.

201

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 cour que l'outrage martire,
Par un mepris ou d'un refus,
A le pouvoir de faire dire,
Je ne suis pas ce que ie fus.

MARIE.
In another place, in the same writing, are these verses :-

Qui iamais davantage eust contraire le sort,
Si la vie m'est moins utile que le mort,
Et plus tost que chager de mes maus l’adventure,
Chacun change pour moi d'humeur et de nature.

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 seur 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 Castle the unhappy Queen expresses her too well-grounded fear of never being released from prison. This collection includes autographs of Henry the Seventh, Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth, James the First, Charles the First and his Queen Henrietta, together with those of many distinguished persons of inferior rank. Among others is Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, in whose hand are two or three letters to the King of France, expressing the deepest gratitude and devotion to his most Christian Majesty, and entreating for a continuance of his favour. I am afraid Queen Elizabeth would not have been altogether pleased with the tone of these epistles. Among the most interesting letters was a long one dated at St. Germains, from Henrietta, Queen of Charles the First, to the Sieur Grigpon, begging him, if possible, to procure from the Speakers of the two Houses and the General a pass for herself and her attendants, to enable her to visit her husband in England, and to remain with him as long as can be permitted. The Queen expresses her fears that this pass will be refused, but she reminds the Sieur Grignon how much she has the object at heart, and assures him of her eternal gratitude if he succeeds. She then offers to make out, for the inspection of the Speakers and the General, a list of the attendants whom she proposes to bring with her, in order that the name of any person to whom they object may be omitted in the pass.

* The last figure is very indistinct, but it appears to be a 3. + Thus written, obviously for changer.

With these short extracts I will conclude my letter; nor will I detail to you an expedition which we made lately by the railroad with some Russian friends to Tzarsko Celo, where we saw all that is to be seen—the armoury, which is well arranged; the park, which boasts of no fine trees; and the palace itself, which is magnificent. The saloon, the walls of which are entirely encrusted with amber, is celebrated, and is not only curious but beautiful. The floors throughout the palace are exquisite ; nor am I sure that a famous parquet, which is ornamented by inlaid bouquets of mother-of-pearl, was the one I most admired. One room has a most singular appearance, from the walls being entirely covered to a certain depth with paintings of all sizes, unframed and fitted into one another like a puzzle; the variety of size and colouring of the paintings giving to the whole an appearance of patchwork. The inn at

LET. XXV.]

ABSURD PUNISHMENT OF SCHOOLBOYS.

203

which the railroad train set us down is about two versts from the palace, to which we went in an omnibus, and returned in the same manner. After a very merry dinner, in spite of our number, which was thirteen, we embarked again on the railroad and steamed rapidly back to Petersburg, a distance of about sixteen miles. *

* At Tzarsko Celo there is a public institution, under the authority of Government, for the education of boys and very young men. An order was lately issued that none of the pupils should wear their hair long. One of them disobeyed this order, and, as he persisted in disobedience, after repeated cautions, he was placed under arrest. Upon this a number of the young men, seventeen or eighteen years old, assembled round the President's house, breaking windows, and committing a great riot. This insubordination obviously required severe repression, but, instead of expelling the offenders, or inflicting such other punishment as our ideas would suggest, the authorities have treated the affair as a political demonstration; and some twenty of these unfortunate lads, all sons of gentlemen of good family, have been sentenced to the ranks of the army as common soldiers. Our Russian friends do not venture to comment on the cruelty and tyranny of such a punishment, but they do not scruple to express their opinion of its absurdity under the circumstances, and they hope that the Emperor may be induced to pardon these foolish boys.

CONCLUDING REMARKS ON RUSSIA.

Acknowledgment of Russian kindness and hospitality. SYSTEM OF

EDUCATING BOYS In public institutions - At home -- Nature of their studies — Foreign preceptors — Amusements Treatment of children

Military discipline – Village quarters — The young ladies — Results of early marriages — Servants. - THE GREEK CHURCH — The clergy – The fasts — Religious tolerance Children must always be Greeks if either parent is of that church. - PETERSBURG NOT RUSSIA — Character of the peasant — Of the tradesman Commercial spirit pervading all classes. - PROSPECTS OF RUSSIA Probable effects of a political change - Want of independent classes Light in which the Emperor is viewed by his subjects - Public functionaries — Their motives of action - Suspicions of Government - Tend to deter Russia from foreign aggression – Opinions of four distinguished generals on the power of Russia, offensive and defensive - Reasons why disturbances should be apprehended in Russia — Elements of revolution — The conscription - Natural results of a revolution - Bloodshed and violence - Domestic servants The revolt of the military colonies — Intrepid behaviour of the Emperor — The present system bad — A change likely to be worse - Character of the Emperor.

In adding to the preceding series of Letters a few general remarks on Russia, I feel reluctant to censure in any degree a country which, were I to describe it merely as it presented itself to me, and according to the treatment which I everywhere experienced from its inhabitants, would certainly be depicted by me under the influence of most favourable impressions. I should be extremely ungrateful were I not to acknowledge the very great kindness and hospitality which were shown to us by those whom it was the immediate object of our journey to visit, and which I often felt exceeded our natural claim upon them as relatives and foreigners. We also everywhere met with much attention and civility from those strangers with whom we became acquainted.

In the following remarks I shall endeavour carefully to

« ForrigeFortsett »