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house, and the cloth was already laid, we waited full two hours before we sat down to table.
Our host did his best to amuse us; and to kill time we were led about to see hemp beaten, flax spun, and potatoes dug up in what appeared to me a very
ordinary manner, but according to what the owner of the place appeared to consider a very new way; in short, we were lionized over all the usual details, agricultural and manufactural, of a Russian country place; for there is hardly a landed proprietor who does not carry on a manufacture of some kind or other. At last, the dinner, which was an exceedingly good one, and which we were all the better able to appreciate from the long delay, was announced, and immediately after it we set off, and reached home before nine o'clock.
We have now a sharp frost, and two days ago (the 1st of October) were reminded of the approach of winter, on getting up in the morning, by finding the roofs of the houses around white with snow. We however are armed against the cold, as we have provided ourselves, since we came here, with furs and warm clothing for the winter. The shops, as I have already said, are well supplied, especially with furs; but it is by no means agreeable, on a cold day, to make purchases which require a little time in selecting: for, according to the old Russian custom, the shops have no 'stoves or fire-places. They are not situated here as in most countries, at the residence of
the tradesman to whom they belong, but are all collected together in a sort of bazaar, a large building consisting of warehouses with shops in front, and no fire is allowed in it for fear of accidents. The tradesman spends the day in his shop, and only goes home at night. When it is cold he wraps himself up in fur, and keeps himself warm by drinking enormous quantities of hot tea, which is retailed in the streets to them and to the droschka drivers who stand for hire, by people who are constantly going about with a portable semavar or urn, kept hot by charcoal, and with cups fixed in a belt and, strapped round their waists. The bazaar or collection of shops in all Russian towns is called the Gastine Dvor, which signifies, I believe, Public Court.
Every Sunday morning, and every fête-day, the Governor holds a sort of levee; that is to say a crowd of official persons in full uniform assemble before breakfast to pay their respects: and twice a-week his lady is at home to all the people who are inclined to spend the evening, and a large society is generally assembled to play cards and sup. Besides this, we have had dinner parties two or three times a week, and the party living in the house is considerable in itself. This, however, is not the gay season at Yaroslav, as most of the families who compose the society in the winter are still absent at their country houses. The establishment in this house is large even in Russia, especially for a town, but it would be consi
dered enormous, in most cases, in England: here, however, assessed taxes are unheard of. In the house about a hundred people are maintained ; and upwards of thirty horses, chiefly for harness, are kept in condition in the stables.
The Russians appear to be extremely devoted to card-playing, which they carry on on Sunday as much as any other day. I am not speaking here of gambling, which, however, I fear, is lamentably prevalent, but of the practice in ordinary society, where whist is the usual game. They sit down before dinner, which is usually at three or four o'clock, and when it is announced, they leave their cards on the table, and resume their
game the moment they return from the dining-room, continuing to play from that time till the party disperses ; so that excepting for those who are no card-players, there really is no conversation. I observe every where a custom which is exceedingly slovenly, namely, that of marking the state of the game by scoring it in chalk upon the table-cloth, instead of using counters. Pieces of chalk, and brushes for erasing the figures, are always put on the table with the cards.
I will conclude my letter by a few remarks on the subject of Russian rank and title, which do not go together as in England. The Russians have but two titles of honour,—that of knaize, prince or duke, and graf, count.
There are also barons, but they are not originally of Russian extraction, but German, usually
from Courland and Livonia. All these titles multiply themselves ad infinitum,* being enjoyed equally by every descendant of the possessor, in the male line, without any distinction in favour of the eldest branch: they are, therefore, of little value, except as procuring, perhaps, a slight degree of consideration in society, especially in the eyes of foreigners. All rank, privilege, or precedence in Russia is either military, or is measured by a military grade. A prince who is an ensign must give way to the son of a shopkeeper who is a lieutenant, and the daughter of an untitled general will walk before a princess whose father is only colonel.t Though, however, titles are of no account, nobility confers great privileges: none but a noble can possess serfs, without which landed property in this country is of little value. The nobles are free from the conscription, which presses heavily on all other classes. They are in no case liable to the knout and other corporeal punishments; and they can always claim to enter
* As an instance of this, I may observe that of the name of Galit. zin only, there are, at present, no less than three hundred princes : how many princesses there may be I do not know, but they, of course, are very numerous.
+ There is, however, a title of Prince which is conferred rarely, and only for long or distinguished services, and which is therefore highly valuable. The Prince Volchonsky, Field-marshal Count Paskewitch, Prince of Warsaw; and the Prince of Italy, Count Souvaroff, are noblemen holding this rank. Princes of this class have the style of highness, and the title, I believe, descends only to the eldest son and his heirs male ; at all events, it does not pass to all the descendants, like other Russian titles.
the service, at the least, as under-officers, and to receive a commission, or to attain an equivalent rank as civilians, at the farthest, in three years, excepting in cases of misconduct. I should add, that being noble in Russia corresponds to the being gentleman in England; although the Russian assumes the coronet and full-faced helmet with closed visor, instead of the simple crest and side-faced helmet of the untitled English gentleman. He does not, however, use supporters to his arms, unless they have been specially granted to his family. Nobility is earned by service or acquired by inheritance: every one who serves the Emperor, either in a civil or military capacity with the rank of officer, is noble, and may, therefore, wear a coronet on his seal or carriage, even if he is by birth bourgeois or peasant: unless, however, he was noble by birth, his nobility does not descend to his children, until he has reached, at least, the grade of major; after this, his family is placed in the position of hereditary noblesse.
A census is taken at certain intervals, and if, during a period amounting to two or three generations, any family from father to son have failed to enter the service of the crown, they lose their nobility, are erased from the list, and reduced to the class of ordinary peasants. Excepting the clergy, who are a class apart, the members of all branches of the liberal professions are, as I have already told you,