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the houses of Russian gentlemen, are almost invariably foreigners, and their time is chiefly occupied in teaching modern languages; a classical education is nearly unheard of.
The Russian boy is utterly unaccustomed to hardy and manly amusements; athletic games appear to be almost unknown, and he in general never mounts a horse till he is grown up, or nearly so, when he learns to ride, if he learns at all, in a riding-school; and he would be surprised to see many a little English lad of seven or eight years old galloping his poney, and perfectly at ease upon his back, having learned to sit fast by meeting with a harmless tumble or two at the beginning.
The Russians dine early, and their children, from two or three years old, * almost invariably dine with them; the consequence is, that they are accustomed to eat of all the dishes which are handed round, many of which, of course, are highly improper for them, and the effects of the diet are generally visible in their pale and unhealthy looks. What is much worse, however, is the conversation to which they listen at table; the parents may take care to avoid all topics which are unsuited to the ears of children, but they cannot exercise a similar control over their
* The young children are attended by nurses, who never appear to leave them for a moment. Nothing is more common than for a nurse to dine with her master and mistress and their guests, if the party is small and private.
guests, who make remarks upon the conduct of their neighbours, and discuss the usual subjects of gossip and scandal without much attention to the moral lessons which they may be giving to the children at table with them.
In most countries every one has a general idea of his neighbour's fortune; but in Russia, where the fortunes consist in slaves, the number of which on each estate is registered, the calculations can be made with great nicety. Every child knows, for it is a piece of information which servants do not fail to instil into them from a very early age, how many peasants his father has, and how many of them will fall to his own share; they therefore, from their infancy, look upon themselves as beings of a superior class, born to lord it over their serfs. At the age of eighteen or nineteen the youug Russian, in the majority of cases, enters the army, and from the moment he is fairly embarked in the service, he is harassed and fatigued to death with drilling and exercising from morning till night. He has scarcely a leisure moment for improving his mind, if he wishes it, and he probably spends the best years of his life in complete banishment, quartered in a wretched country village in a peasants house, with no society but that of a few comrades, whose thoughts do not extend beyond the pleasures of drinking and smoking. It is not wonderful, if, after a few years of such an existence, his mind becomes debased; he is inca
pable of entertaining enlightened ideas, and is almost entirely unfitted for civilized society.
The ladies in Russia are, generally speaking, very superior, both in acquirements and manners, to the
The system of private education is suitable and proper for girls; and as they have no military service to put an end to improvement, and to exclude them from good society on their entrance into life, their minds are better cultivated in proportion than those of the young men, and their manners more polished and refined.
There is, however, an important event, which not unfrequently operates as effectually to stop the education of the young ladies, as does the commencement of a military career in the other sex, I allude to the early marriages, which, as I have observed, are often arranged by parents without consulting the inclinations of the parties most concerned. A girl is sometimes married at sixteen, and often at seventeen; from this time the cares of a family begin to fall upon her, and in the generality of cases she either devotes herself to gaiety and dissipation, or she divides her whole time between the care of her children and the management of her household, giving up the practice of any accomplishment she may have already acquired, and discontinuing every pursuit which might tend to improve her mind or increase her store of information. I have already mentioned * the number and
* See the conclusion of Letter IX.
variety of tasks which the mistress of a family in Russia often has to superintend; and it must be observed that little confidence can in general be placed in the servants; since, being slaves, they have only to avoid absolute punishment, and have no inducement to exert themselves beyond what is necessary for this purpose. They have no places to lose by misconduct, no advantageous situations to gain by a good character: their master is bound to support them whether they are indolent or active, sulky or obliging; and though they may be lazy, dirty, and awkward, he cannot exchange them for the better. The servants themselves well know that this is the case, and, therefore, the generality of them only try to perform their service with as little trouble as possible. They have not much work to do, for three or four Russian servants are employed where one English man would be necessary, and they spend half their time in sleeping or in playing cards : sleep, especially, never appears to come amiss to them; they can enjoy it any where or in any position, and they would certainly join most cordially with Sancho Panza in the blessings which he invoked on its inventor. It is, nevertheless, the domestic servants who chiefly feel the weight of slavery, since they are always under the master's eye, and, of course, are subject to a more galling surveillance than the ordinary serfs; they also do not so readily obtain permission to marry, since too rapid an increase to the
household numbers is by no means profitable to the master.
The system of slavery, and the military character of the Government, instil from the cradle such notions into the minds of Russians, that many of them seem unable to comprehend any true principles of impartial law or justice; a remark, the truth of which may be illustrated by the following story, which was told me by an officer, who being himself an aide-de-camp, seemed deeply impressed with the sacred character of Generals. When the Emperor was detained in the small town of Chemba in the year 1836, in consequence of his collar-bone having been broken by the overturning of his carriage, a certain General was travelling to join his Majesty. On the road he encountered a party of peasants from Little Russia, with waggons drawn by oxen; the people were resting, and the oxen were lying about and obstructing the passage; the carriage was therefore stopped, and the istvostchiks called out to the peasants to clear the way instantly for the General, who was in a hurry. The Little Russians, however, who, it seems, are an obstinate independent race, showed no alacrity in obeying these peremptory orders; the General, therefore, put his head out of his carriage, and told his servant to get down, and take a stick to the peasants if they did not make haste and drive their beasts out of the way.
The servant did as he was ordered, and