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Arriving at St. Petersburgh, Sir Robert can scarcely find words to express his admiration of its magnificence.
« Such grandeur and symmetry in building, I never before be. “ held in any of the different capitals to which my fondness for 66 travel has conducted me. Every house seems a palace, and
every palace a city.” (Vol. I. p. 19.)
He then proceeds to give an animated and picturesque description of those parts of the city most worthy notice. But there is one point in which he and Mr. Coxe are at direct variance. Sir Robert says,
"6 The dingy hue of bricks, or the frippery of plaister, seldom « offends the eye in this noble city. Turn where you will, rise “ immense fabrics of granite." (Vol. I. p. 20.)
While Mr. Coxe asserts, that
" The brick houses are ornamented with a white stucco, which has led several travellers to say, that they are built of stone; whereas, unless I am greatly mistaken, there are only two stone structures in all Petersburgh!” Coxe's Travels into Russia, &c. Vol. II. p. 267. Edit. 1787.
Now unless it can be supposed that the city has been entirely rebuilt since the time that Mr. Coxe was there, it is not easy to account for these opposite statements.
Among the new works carrying on, Sir Robert describes a Metropolitan church, which when completed, he has no doubt, “ will be a very powerful rival to the two great cathe“drals of Rome and London.” The architect of this great design was formerly a slaye of Count Strogonoff, but enfranchised by that nobleman out of respect to his talents. It seems that the application of mechanism to the purpose of abridging human labour, is here little understood or encouraa ged. « All difficulties are overcome by human exertions 66 alone! Multitudes of labourers come some thousand versts “ from the interior, to work during the summer season, and « when the frost sets id, retire thither again."
Sir Robert next proceeds to give some account of the paintings in the hermitage, but there is little of novelty or interest in his remarks. At the Taurida palace he is in raptures with a statue of Venus, which he prefers to the Venus de Medici, and describes con amore the other classic treasures which are there deposited. He leads his reader also across the Neva, to the Institution for the Encouragement of the Arts; thinks sculpture and architecture in a very promising state, but that there is a very manifest want of genius for painting. In all these places, however, his brother-knight Sir John Carr has been before him; and Sir Robert always speaks of his work with true knightly courtesy.
As in the days of chivalry, piety was considered no less necessary than valour to form the character of a Christian knight, Sir Robert is resolved to shew that he is not deficient in this respect. Indeed, he misses no opportunity of displaying his skill in wielding the weapons of Theology; even the far-famed Sir Hudibras might have feared a conflict with him. Without hesitation, he undertakes to unveil the mysteries of the Greek church, for the amusement of his military friend, to whom all the letters, of which the two volumes consist, are stated to have been addressed. He owns, indeed, that " much time is required, much reading, and many “ conversations with the intelligent ministers of the Greek
church, to gain any correct idea of its institutions ;” (Vol. 1. p. 97.) but with a noble confidence in his own powers, and a most courageous contempt for correct ideas, he does not shrink from the toil. And here again it would neither be just to Sir Robert nor the public, to pass unnoticed the supercilious observation of the Edinburgh Reviewer.
" We say nothing of the account of the Greek church too -a jubject very little adapted to such superficial writers as this author." Edin. Rev. xxvii. p. 175.
If the Reviewer had looked a little closer into the matter, he would have given Sir Robert credit for the depth and accuracy of his researches; which are sufficiently evinced by his perfect agreement with the learned Dr. King: an agreement so very remarkable indeed, that the Knight not only does not say a single thing, which is not to be found in the Doctor's “ Ceremonies of the Greek Church," but he generally says it in the very same words.
This resemblance extends to the most trifling particulars. Thus the Doctor sets out with observing, “ As the Greek church is of the highest antiquity, so," &c. ; while the Knight says,
" As the church in question is of higher anti« quity, than any other distinction amongst Christians, so," &c. (Vol. I. p. 69.) Again the Doctor, at the end of his account of Confession, says, “ I shall conclude this article with the ingenious remark of Dr. Covell.” The very same remark is thus prefaced on the very same occasion by the Knight. “I cannot deny myself the pleasure of repeating
an observation of Dr. Covell's,"-(Vol. 1. p. 77.) It is certainly rather singular that both Knight and Doctor should hit on the same remark, but such things may happen sometimes by accident. Indeed Sir Robert appears to have pursued, accidentally no doubt, the very same track which the Doctor had traversed before him, and meets with the same guides. Thus he mentions the work of Peter Mogilas, intitled, “ A confession of the catholic' and apostolic faith of “ the Greeks and Russians," and tells his friend that he “ may find it in Greek or Latin"-(Vol. I. p. 76). Now it is very probable that he might have gained some credit for this display of erudition, if unfortunately Dr. King had not on the same occasion given some account of the work of this same Peter Mogilas, and added in a note, “ An edition of this work in Greek, Latin, and German, was printed at Breslaw, 1751.” In one respect, however, the superior address of the Knight is apparent ; while the Doctor states, that “ the ser« vice of the Greek church is so long and complicated, that " it is very difficult to give a clear account of it, and still 66 more difficult to give a short one,” and occupies a large quarto volume with his description ; Sir Robert, with that vigour of compression, which is the surest mark of genius, dispatches church, priests, monks, and nuns, in three letters!
The winter sets in during the Knight's stay at St. Petersburgh, and affords him an opportunity of describing the appearance of the natives at that season, and the sports on the frozen Neva: and this he does with a considerable degree of spirit. Tliere is nothing new, indeed, in his picture, but it shews the eye of a painter, if Sir Robert will allow the expression : every object is placed in the most picturesque point of view. But in the splendour of the Russian court, he soon loses sight of all inferior objects. He feels it necessary to account for his having been two months in the capital of the Emperor of all the Russias, without calling on him. " The brave Alexander,” it seems, was with his army on the frontiers.
“ He was set out,” says Sir Robert, “ before my arrival;
hence I have not yet had the happiness of paying my personal « obeisances to so much true imperial dignity. In the course of 6 a few days, I hope to be in presence with the fair of his illus. “ trious family.”-(Vol. I. p. 129.)
Accordingly the very next letter commences with these words; “ I have been at court.” The young Empress was 66 the only one of the imperial family present.”
“ Her person is not tall, yet it is graceful and elegantly pro“ portioned; and the air of it is tender and interesting. Her “ eyes are soft and blue; her complexion tonchingly delicate. “ As she passed through the long line of military nobles, she “honoured us (i. e. us military nobles) with the most smiling “affability ; and her small regular features expressed a soft “ urbanity, almost approaching timidity. Her voice is peculiarly “ melodious."'-(Vol. I. p. 130, 131.)
Soon after this, the Emperor returns from his defeated armies, and Sir Robert is then formally presented at court, where it appears, he is soon received by every member of the
Imperial family on the most intimate footing. He gives a very favourable sketch of the figure and manners of the “ illustrious," " invaluable” Alexander : nor, in his admiration of the son, does he forget the mother :
“ The Dowager Empress, who is of a Pallas form and mien, is
a most admirable woman. I have before given you an idea of “ her numerous charities. She is exquisitely accomplished; and
possesses a courtesy of address that is undescribable. To her “ fair hand I am indebted for a diamond, which, in devotion to “ her virtues, I shall ever wear next my heart."--(Vol. I. p. 149.)
This is quite in tlie style of a loyal and courteous knight ; but the circumstance of this pledge of royal favour might have been rendered more interesting, if Sir Robert had stated on what occasion it was bestowed, or in reward of what services it was given. That he has not done so must ever be a subject of regret with those who love to contemplate noble actions, and to see them royally rewarded.
Among the festivities, in which he is engaged, he takes occasion to describe the ice-hills constructed on the Neva, and the ceremony of blessing the waters, which he concludes right piously with a prayer. Those who have read fuller accounts of these things in Coxe and King, will think perhaps that he might have spared himself th: trouble.
Having run round the whole circle of Russian entertainments, Sir Robert continues no longer at St. Petersburgh, than just to give the patterns of the uniforms of Alexander's motley troops, and to describe their “ nicely blacked mustaccios" and “ enormous whitened whiskers ;” and then, in midwinter, departs for Mosco. The city of Twer, lying in his road, is a place of too much consequence to be passed through unnoticed. Now, whether there is something in the air of Twer, which inspires one exclusive set of ideas, and one exclusive form of words, those only who have been there can tell : but certain it is, that they who read Sir Robert's ac. count, (Vol. I. p. 182.) and that of Mr. Coxe, (Travels into