Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

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.f 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 disti ed 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 a 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,

considered as “ in the service;” and each individual is classed with entire reference to military rank. One civilian has the grade of ensign, another of lieutenant, and so on, up to full general. From the rank of major-general upwards, all persons, with their wives and daughters, so long as the latter remain unmarried, have the style of Excellency. Their sons, of course, enjoy no rank but what they have themselves attained in the service. A general's daughter ranks with a colonel's wife: but a lady, on marrying, loses whatever title or precedence she may have held by right of birth, or by an office at court, such as that of maid of honour, and can only assume that of her husband. Less fortunate than our honourable and right honourable young ladies, who retain their rank or title after marriage, the Russian general's daughter is no longer Her Excellency, when she has become the captain's wife, and Mademoiselle la Princesse must descend to plain Madame, if she weds an untitled husband.

91

LETTER VII.

Exhibition of fire-engines-Fire establishments in the hands of Go.

vernment-Account of the system-Village regulations--Frequent occurrence of rural fires–Visit to a monastery-Ex-archbishopA Te Deum-Convent treasures-Origin of the use of images in the Greek church — Visit to Riepinsk — Going to bed—Mayor of Riepinsk-Towing barge--Project of establishing steam on the Volga“ A name's day-Performance of mass by the archbishop-Mode of communicating the death of the Emperor Alexander to his mother

- Treasures of the monastery at Yaroslav- Remarks on Russian churches Conclusion of visit at Yaroslav - Post-horse system Feldt yägers.

Yaroslav, October 4th, 1837. We were much interested, a few days ago, by a little impromptu exhibition, which displayed the efficiency of the fire-establishment, and the alertness of the men: before, however, commencing any description of what we saw, I must give you a short account of the Russian system.

The fire establishments here are not, as in England, in the hands of insurance companies, but under the immediate control of government. The firemen are soldiers, and the horses, engines, &c., are the property of the crown; the whole, however, appears to be well organized, and the general regulations laid

« ForrigeFortsett »