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In England, the air would have been rent on such an occasion, by the cheers with which a popular Sovereign,—and such the Emperor undoubtedly is, especially in Petersburg,—would have been received; 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 clearing the ground.
The unreasonable number of holydays in this country is a severe tax on industry, and a serious bar to the advancement and prosperity of the people, who, partly from inclination, and partly from superstition, hold it their bounden duty to spend every important saint's day in total idleness: and 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, if 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, even he did not venture to attack, and others, from the strong popular feeling on the subject, he found himself compelled to re-instate, after having 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, I am told that a schism in the church would be the almost certain result. Bigotry and superstition are powerful opponents to civilization and improvement.
The snow is now all gone, and dust is beginning to fly in the streets; the Neva, however, is still frozen over, but the ice is beginning to weaken, and yesterday, barriers were erected to prevent horses and carriages from going upon it; foot passengers, however, still venture, and the river 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 9, 1838. Ever since the conclusion of Easter-week, until yesterday, we have had delightful weather. On the morning of the twenty-eighth 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, however, 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.
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 put on again a wintry appearance, being entirely 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.
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 they 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, fortytwo feet high, and weighing five thousand poods, or upwards of eighty tons. The columns on the ground-tier, each of which is also a single stone, are fifty-six feet high, and weigh eleven thousand
When I reached the platform to which the pillar was to be raised, I had below me a panorama of
Petersburg, and the country around, for many a mile; the most interesting part of the prospect being the Gulf of Finland, down which I could
as far as Cronstadt. The day was warm and bright, and the air 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 ropes drawn very tight, and padded underneath. Other ropes, or rather cables, secured to these girths, passed lengthways, 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 frame-work 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,