Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Russia, &c. Vol. II. p. 203, 204, Edit, 1787.) who had been at Twer before him, must suppose the existence of some, such influence, unless there can be imagined any other way, by which the exact resemblance which one description bears: to the other, could have been produced. Nor is it only in their account of the place that the Knight and the Clerk agree; their adventures there are exactly alike. The carriage of Mr. Coxe, which had broken down, is sent to a smith at Twer, who, instead of mending it, only makes it worse : Sir Robert is equally unfortunate, but infinitely more witty. His barouche breaks down at Twer, and is mended there; but so clumsily, that, to use his own words, it soon

“Shewed symptoms of disunion again, and at the village of "Klin, our servants had the extraordinary pleasure of another

summer-set in the snow !"-(Vol. I. p. 184.)

It would seem proper, therefore, that future gazetteers should, in addition to their present account of Twer, note that it is a place famous for the breaking down of carriages, and bad smiths. The same cause, whatever it be, that produces this perfect sympathy between the Knight and the Clerk, operates as long as they continue in the vicinity of Twer. The one observes, that it is necessary to cudgel the Russian boors into obedience; the other, more circumstantial, tells a long story in support of the maxim. Mr. Coxe de scribes the interior of a Russian cottage, and his description is so extremely faithful, that Sir Robert, in a sketch, which he has illustrated by his pencil, has been compelled almost to. use the very same words. But it would not, perhaps, be right to point out any further instances of this extraordinary family-likeness in the productions of the Knight and the Clerk, lest ill-natured people should suspect, that it could not have happened by chance: which might tend to affect the legitimacy of Sir Robert's offspring, and his title to their paternity. At length the traveller arrives at Mosco:--fit scene for

errant-knight, where there are nought but gorgeous castles, and lords, and princes, and peerless dames, and dwarfs, and giants, and splendid feasts, and fairy revels.

But though “ pleasure wooes him in as many shapes as ever Armida « assumed to charm away the wits of the doughty Rinaldo," (Vol. I. p. 210,) Sir Robert is happily so secure by nature on this point, that he must be very acute indeed who should discover, that he has less wit during his stay at Mosco, than at any other period of his errantry. Here, as elsewhere, the noble and the fair contend who most shall do him homage : and on one occasion, when he is invited by the young Countess Orloff to a sumptuous banquet, given on her birthday, he makes a notable discovery, which the invention of Cervantes has not exceeded.

“ Music, vocal and instrumental, resounded from all sides : " and when the health of the lady was drunk, a flourish of kettle. “ drums and trumpets rent the air, and peals of ordnance (to those “who saw them not) reduced by their thunder the roar of festivity to the murmuring of distant merry-making.

“ I happened,” continues the Knight, who appears to have run about the palace as familiarly as any favourite domestic animal, to be

gone into an adjoining room at the moment of one of these explosions, and, most unluckily for their future effect on my

senses, got a peep behind the curtain. I found that these "repeated, seeming discharges of cannon, were produced by an

accumulation of cows' bladders distended with wind, and rapid. “ ly laid in succession on large blocks of wood, where, with the "velocity of a steam-engine, they were burst at once by the " action of a ponderous mould or mallet.”--(Vol. I. p. 212.)

At this feast, which, to distinguish it from the many others that were rendered illustrious by the presence of the Knight, may be called the feast of Cow-bladders, he meets with a paragon of beauty, who proves “ his guiding star through all "the mazes of that happy festival.” This naturally leads him to the subject of kissing ; which, it seems, is reduced " to a sort of system in this country, and arranged in classes.” Here he is in his proper field, and displays to adyantage his

learning and peculiar felicity of illustration. The following specimen is inimitable :

6 No bearded boor meets his fellow, but forty smacks are “ heard, as though each were sucking cyder through a vent-peg !""* (Vol. I. p. 215.)

During his residence at Mosco, Sir Robert takes occasion to make various remarks on the state of slavery in Russia, on the abolition of capital punishments throughout the empire, and on the use of the knout, of which instrument, and the mode of using it, he gives a minute description. This part of the work, thongh it will not surprize the reader by its originality of information, nor too severely exercise his judgment by its profundity or acuteness of reflection, will at least confirm the writer's title to the approbation and esteem' of those, who set a bigher value on the virtues of the heart than on orders of knighthood.

Curiosity leads him to visit the public baths, of which various travellers have given such various accounts : and here he beholds the Russian fair, “ sporting about like porpoises,” and “ swimming like geese," without the slightest veil to hide their natural unloveliness : a scene too iinmodest for the chaste eyes of loyal knight; but it cannot be said he paints it con amore. Ile is much better pleased, when 6 dining with "Count P," “ receiving the most gratifying attentions ci from Prince U- or Prince V-," when “ invited by 6 Prince W- so “ eininent for learning and talents, to " go down to his country residence," or when “his military “ curiosity is politely gratified by Prince G-" Indeed, as Sir Robert had not, at this time, even received his “ diploma 66 of knighthood," nothing could possibly be more gratifying than the attentions which were so universally paid to him by the most illustrious personages, since they could be considered only as a just tribute to his personal worth. governor-general of Mosco, he was " indebted for a thousand

To the

66

.66 marks of friendship,” and more especially for “a pelisse of “ the rarest and most costly materials, being lined with the “skins of unborn lambs.” On his visiting a prison, “ the

guard turns out and presents arms." The princess Dashcoff, “ one of the most celebrated women in history, the friend 1 of Catharine the Great,” who from “ a patriotic zeal for “ her country, concealed her charms under a helmet, and < braced her beautiful bosom in steel," does him the honour 56 to have a few auxiliary regiments reviewed before him. All this is the more extraordinary, as Sir Robert omits to mention what feats of arms he had performed to overshadow his reputation as an artist; and yet it should seem, from his own statement, that, previous to his reception among the nobles of Russia, it must have been necessary for him to sink the painter.

“ Owing to the peculiar constitution of this empire, the arts 5 and sciences are, in general, but secondary objects in the minds of the natives. The nobles deem no profession honour.

able, but that of arms. Ambition would be thought to stoop, " if it sought any celebrity from excelling by the chissel, the pencil, or the pen : hence, the finest talents among the high. "born are never directed towards any of these points. Military “ glory is all their aim :-the study of the arts and sciences is " left to slares; or at best to slaves made free."-(Vol. I. 133.)

[ocr errors]

Sir Robert, it is true, was not entirely without pretensions 10 military rank; he had borne some commission in the Middlesex militia. But then again it appears, that none but officers of high rank are at all noticed by such worshipful society as he mingled with familiarly. This is placed beyond question on an occasion, when, accompanied by a friend, he accepts an invitation from Prince - who was encamped at a short distance from Mosco.

“We passed,” says he, “ the remainder of the evening with "the Prince, who gave us a very elegant supper, and treated us " with a respect and attention which made a comparison the more “extreme, that I could not help drawing : I mean the immense

distance at which personages of his rank hold even the officers

serving under them. While we sat round the table, the sub(6 alterns and captains of his regiment stood at one end, and in " that position partook of the repast. As it is the custom of the

country, they did not appear humiliated; but enjoyed their "share of the passing dishes with sufficient goût and good humour.” (Vol. I. p. 274.)

It was certainly, therefore, not on account of his talents as an artist, nor his commission in the militia, that the Knight was received with such distinguished honour by the Princes and Imperial family of the Russian empire. Whatever pretensions he might have of a higher nature, however, the reader is left to guess, as Sir Robert conceals them with the most scrupulous modesty : a very commendable and knightly quality. But it may not perhaps be entirely out of place to observe, that other travellers have sometimes been honoured by similar distinctions, through a misapprehension of their real rank. Acerbi, with considerable naïveté, gives, among the table of contents of his second volume, chap. xi. the following head; “ Great hospitality and attention-Advantage 56 of being mistaken for a Prince in travelling !"-As Sir Robert drops no hint of any such mistake being made with respect to himself, except on one occasion, nothing of the sort is to be presumed : and after all, it is of little importance to the public, to know the reasons of this singular exception in his favour: he might have produced cards of invitation from every prince in the North, and no one would have inquired how he came by them, if it did not appear from the frequency with which he brings the subject forward, and the delight with which he dwells on it, that he wishes to attract the public attention particularly to this one point, as of higher importance and interest than any other, which he has had occasion to touch on, in the course of his travels; as the principal object, in fact, to which every thing else is only to be considered subordinate and incident. It will not be thought strange, therefore, if, in this review, more attention

« PreviousContinue »