Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

and his annual revenue was increased by thirty or forty thousand roubles.

The province abounded in heretics, of a sect regarded with much jealousy by government, and much persecuted for their political rather than their religious opinions: these sectarians longed for peace and quiet, and the price of the Governor's toleration was from one to two hundred thousand roubles a-year.

Certain salt-works at Saratoff, which supply all Russia with that article, contributed their mite to the pocket of his Excellency, which was swelled from numerous other sources not included in this catalogue.

It is not every one who is so successful in enriching himself as was this Governor, but he was no extraordinary instance of rapacity; he merely turned to good account the opportunities which he enjoyed. I was assured that he left a good character behind him, and was much regretted in the province.

In these cases of venality it is not the question here, what will the world think of such a man, and where will he again venture to show his face ? But it is demanded instead, will he be able to justify himself in higher quarters, will he maintain his credit with the minister or with his Majesty? If he can succeed in so doing, he will laugh at the rest of the world, and there will be no blot on his escutcheon: there are no public prints to expose him to opprobrium,

and indeed so low is the standard of public virtue, that his conduct is hardly regarded as disgraceful, and it would almost be considered a piece of Quixotism to set up as the censor of one who had only acted as many others would have done in his place.

The Emperor, I believe, does all in his power to check and discourage this disgraceful system of corruption, by visiting offenders with the utmost severity: it is not, however, probable that it can be effectually destroyed, so long as the sources exist out of which it naturally arises. These appear chiefly to be the inadequacy of the legitimate emoluments attached to every office and employment, and the total absence of public opinion in Russia.

The former of these causes renders a man needy and liable to temptation, and the latter secures him from the disgrace which ought to be the severest punishment of his misconduct.

209

LETTER XV.

Belief in powers of images and saints—Madame B.-A maigre

dinner-The Archbishop of Tamboff - Variety of dishes-A toastDinner visits.

Tamboff, December 27th, 1837. I BELIEVE I told you in a former letter that the upper classes of Russians in general were by no means exact in their observance of the fasts of the church: there are, however, many ladies who are extremely rigid in this respect. Here there is one lady in particular, who in her attention to all such points is undeviating, and who in her professed belief in the miraculous powers of images, saints, and reliques, reminds me of the characters which are described as those of zealous Roman Catholics in the dark ages, but which I scarcely could have supposed were to be met with in real life in the nineteenth century.

This lady having a daughter unwell a few years ago, dreamed that a monk came to her and told her that if she took her child to the shrine of a certain saint at Veronish, a town at no very great distance

from Tamboff, she would be cured. Madame B., for so we will call her, of course followed the advice of her nocturnal counsellor, and the young lady having, after the pilgrimage to Veronish, in due time recovered her health, her restoration was of course attributed to the miraculous interference of the saint; and her mother, out of gratitude for the cure, made a vow to live for the rest of her life as a nun, that is to say, to eat only fish, vegetables, &c., and never to touch meat. She had a picture of the saint copied to serve as an image for her private room, and she declares that by putting a piece of the paper, in which this holy portrait was wrapped, under her pillow at night, she was lately cured of a violent head-ache. She is, however, a firm believer in charms of all kinds; the other day I saw her produce, out of a pile of recipes for the cure of colds, coughs, sore-throats, and so forth, a slip of paper, which she said contained an excellent remedy for the bite of a mad-dog, and that extraordinary as we might think it, she herself had witnessed its good effects. · In one corner were written three short words, which she said must be copied on little bits of paper, and the latter then rolled up into the form of pills, three of which were to be swallowed daily for the space of nine days.

I might fill my letter with stories of this good lady's superstition and credulity: but without taking up more time or paper, I think I have said enough to

give you some idea of her character, which is not quite so uncommon here as it would be with us, though of course she must be rather remarkable in any part of the world. She spends large sums of money in presents to the church, aud especially to the Archbishop of Tamboff, a prelate extremely polite to the fair sex in general, and whom she professes to regard as a perfect saint. Among other testimonials of her esteem and respect, the Archbishop has four beautiful grey carriage horses, the gift of this devout lady, who is deservedly high in favour with his Eminence.

A few days ago Madame B. gave him a grand dinner to celebrate the consecration of a new altar in a church; she was kind enough to invite us to the

you will perhaps be amused by a short description of the entertainment.

As we were then in the middle of the six weeks' fast preceding Christmas, the dinner could not be otherwise than maigre in the presence of the Archbishop, and the invitation to us was accompanied by an explanation of this circumstance, which it is supposed would not be agreeable to foreigners. Independently, however, of the novelty of the whole thing, we deserved no commiseration for the fast; since had I not known the contrary, I should have supposed we were celebrating a feast.

We went to Madame B—'s house about halfpast two, and found the Archbishop, and a good many of the guests already assembled. Every body

party; and

« ForrigeFortsett »