« AnteriorContinuar »
the arbitrary will of another. Hence, we suspect, has arisen the tone of commiseration that pervades most of the accounts we have seen of the Russian peasantry, and the pictures which have been drawn of the wretchedness of their condition. By some they have been represented as scarcely to be envied by the unhappy negroes in our West Indian possessions; and Mr. James, we think, does not appear sufficiently to appreciate the comforts which they enjoy perhaps in a greater degree than the lower orders of any other country, and which go far to counterbalance the numerous vexations to which they are doubtless unavoidably subject. We have been in the habitations of the poorer sort, as well in the more northern as in the southern parts of Russia ; and we freely confess, that in contrasting their situation with that of the poor in Ireland, in Scotland, or even in England, we could not but feel, (and it was with regret that we were compelled to admit the conviction) that in all the points which contribute to soften the hardships of life amongst the labouring class, the Russian had the decided advantage : a warm house over his head, good clothing, fuel in abundance, and plenty of food, all, in fact, that the rustic state requires-the Russian peasant enjoys.
The examples too of many who, though still continuing in a state of slavery, have realized considerable fortunes, and carry on lucrative employments, sufficiently prove the mildness of the bondage to which they are subject.' Bonaparte appears, throughout the whole of his career, to have entertained the mistaken idea, that the lower orders of other countries would be as easily cajoled by his professions, as the French. To satisfy the army was the object which occupied his chief attention, the people as a body never entered into his calculation. The Poles he had flattered and deceived; and he imagined that the Russians would be equally alive to his promises of freedom; but here, as in Spain, he showed his ignorance of the national character: the bigotry of the Spaniards proved one of the chief means of their salvation, for it was the very priests whom Bonaparte despised, who were the most active in keeping up the spirit of patriotism; and all the tempting offers of emancipation at the hands of France were entirely thrown away upon
the Russian serf who witnessed the horrors and desolation with which the march of his deliverer was attended.
The scene presented by Moscow at the time of Mr. James's arrival was such as might be expected at so early a period, aster the tremendous visitation which it had suffered. Few but the houses of the poor had been rebuilt, and nearly two-thirds of the town still lay in ruins. We perceive that he is inclined to attribute the conflagration entirely to the enthusiasm of Russian patriotism; a confession, however, so painful to the national feeling is, as he states, not unnaturally withheld, and it is invariably ascribed both at Petersburg and Moscow, to the malice of the French army. We have in a former number given our reasons for doubting the statement made by the French, in regard to the havoc made by the flames amongst the Russian wounded, who are said by Mr. James to have amounted to 7000 or 8000; it is probable that the greater part perished for want of surgical assistance, and the deficiency of the necessary instruments, which were carried off for the use of
Amongst the tales of horror which the disastrous retreat of the enemy furnished in abundance, the following became known to Mr. James from his visit to the Foundling Hospital at Moscow. We have heard from other quarters, that an extraordinary degree of attachment and self-devotion was manifested by the Spanish women who accompanied this ill-fated expedition, for they invariably preferred to follow the fortunes of their unhappy countrymen, and resisted all the offers of better treatment which was held out to them by the Russians.
"We were interested extremely by the appearance of two Spanish children among the number, who were, as far as could be ascertained from their account, the offspring of a chaplain from Madrid, accompanying the division of Spanish forces employed in the French service during the late invasion of Russia. He, however, died at Moscow, and their mother, who had been delivered of an infant during their stay, fearing to hazard the vengeance of the inhabitants in their return to the city, endeavoured with her little family to accompany the retreating French army. Her strength seems to have been very unequal to the attempt; and when they last saw her, she was lying on the road-side unable to preceed, her body doubtless perfectly exhausted, and her mind, as might be gathered from their description, in a complete state of delirium. The daughter, though only eleven years of age, took charge of her brother as well as her infant sister, whom she carried on her back for many leagues. This little party followed the troops during all the severity of the weather without any other provision than the few scraps of horse-flesh or offal which the half-starved soldiers could spare from their meals. After many escapes, they at lengti reached Krasnoi : but during the action which there took place they were frightened at the appearance of a squadron of Cossacks, and fed to conceal themselves in the forest ; here they staid for two days without any food, and were at last accidentally found by a Russian soldier, crawling as well as their little remaining strength would permit them along the snow. Their feet were entirely bare, and being seized by the frost, had become useless: their language was not understood; and bad they even been skilled in the Russian tongue, their voices, feeble and inarticulate, could hare availed them nothing: their appearance, how
ever, was sufficient to proclaim their situation, and to ensure them commiseration in this country. The Grand Duke Constantine happened to fall in with them after their discovery by the soldier, and ordered them to be well taken care of, finally giving them a place in this asylum. They were of an intelligent countenance, and were said to possess some talent ; and we must hope the singular story of the first part of their lives will be followed by a more happy career in the land that has adopted them.'--pp. 269, 270.
From Moscow Mr. James pursued the line of the French retreat. The field of Borodino would naturally occupy much of his attention. Even at that time it was still strewn with the melana choly tokens of the carnage which had taken place, and he was fortunate enough to find a sad historian of the eventful day, in a wounded Polish officer who was returning from captivity, and had paused to contemplate the spot where he had fought.
Mr. James appears to have passed rapidly through Poland, and we regret that he did so, for little is known of the interior of the country, and we admire the people, though as fully convinced as Bonaparte could be, of their actual unfitness for any thing approaching to political freedom. The cause of independence is so dear to the Poles, that Mr. James is of opinion, that the creation of the Dutchy of Warsaw under the Vice-Royalty of Russia
will be gratifying to them. He is probably correct in this idea : but we understand that the arrangement is by no means popular at St. Petersburg.
The Russian tariff has been a good deal talked of lately, and our readers will find in Mr. James's book much useful matter on the commerce of Russia, the state of her manufactures, the obstacles which stand in the way of their improvement, the depreciation of her paper money, &c.; and though we touch slightly upon these, as well as on several other statistical points here noticed, they are not the less worthy of attention from the sensible manner in which they are treated.
We cannot close this instructive and entertaining volume without noticing the excellence of the plates.---The subjects of them are in general highly interesting; and those etchings with which Mr. : Legge appears to have taken the most pains would by no means disgrace the efforts of the artist whose attention had been more exclusively devoted to this branch of his profession.
ART. XII. 1. Letters from Albion to a Friend on the Con
tinent, written in the Years 1810-1813. 2 vols. 12mą.
1814. 2. Letters from London. Observations of a Russian during at
Residence in England of Ten Months, &c. Translated from the original Manuscript of Oloff Napea, Ex-officer of Cavalry. 8vo.
1816. 3 Londres, la Cour et les Provinces d'Angleterre, d'Ecosse et
d'Irlande, ou Esprit, Mours, Coutumes, Habitudes Pricée des
Habitans de la Grande Bretagne. 2 vols. 1816. 4. A Dane's Excursions in Britain. By J. A. Anderson. 2 vols. 12 mo.
1809. 5. A Journal of Travels in England, Holland, and Scotland, in
the Years 1805-6. By Benjamin Silliman. 2 vols. New York.
1810. 6. Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain, during the
Years 1810 and 1911. By a French Traveller, (M. Simond)
&c. 2 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh. 1815. 7. L'Angleterre au Commencement du Dix-Neuvième Siècle. Par
M. De Levis, Duc et Pair de France. I tom. 1815. 8. England and the English People. By Jean-Baptiste Say, Pro
fessor of Political Economy, &c. Translated by John Richter,
1816. 9. Quinze Jours à Londres, à la fin de 1815. Par M. ****.
manufactory: they are imitations of Espriella's Letters --but the writers have not knowledge enough of Germany and Russia to support the characters which they have assumed, and have not always thought it necessary to visit the places which they venture to describe. It is neither safe to travel by the map, nor to write travels by it.---The third in order is an account of English manners, written by a man who never was in England;-some merit, however, is due to himn on the score of industry, for having collected anecdotes and jests out of number, and thereby enriched his own language with apothegms from the work of that great English grammarian, Master Dyche, and with good things called from the Collectanea of Mr. Joseph Miller, of facetious memory. The other works are what they pretend to be the genuine observations of foreign travellers who have seen more or less of England. From such books a judicious readermay derive a double advantage; bythe hastyconclusions which are drawn from misapprehended facts, and the many errors which he cannot fail to detect, he will learn
not to rely implicitly upon the unfavourable accounts which his countrymen may publish of other countries ; and by seeing things in the light wherein they are seen by strangers, he may sometimes be taught more justly to appreciate his own.
It is to be regretted that the custom of writing travels should have begun so late, and that among the earlier travellers so few should have visited England. Hentzner gives us a bad character in Elizabeth's reign ;-he says that the English are good sailors and famous pirates ; cunning, deceitful, and thievish,--sunt boni naute et insignes pyrate, astuti, fallacés et furaces. The first part of the character, as belonging to the age of Drake and Cavendish, must be taken for better for worse, as in both parts just. The cunning which is imputed to them agrees ill with the opinion of old Philippe de Comines, who * tells us that King Edward and his people went bluntly to work in their treaty, and could not understand the dissimulations which were used in France and elsewhere, being naturally choleric;— but a man must have patience with them. Our national character had ripened under the Tudors, and the astuti of whom Hentzner speaks were probably the long-headed statesmen of Elizabeth's court. There was some foundation also for the worst part of the character which he gave our ancestors; the religious revolution had not then subsided; it had produced the opposite extremes of profligacy and hypocrisy, and the lower classes, owing to the great change in society which was taking place, were in a frightful state. He says that more than three hundred criminals were annually executed in London ; and the population of London must at least have quintupled since that time. Yet that we were not worse than our neighbours, is manifested by the astonishment which the German expresses at seeing how the goldsmiths in London exposed their precious wares: and we had a character also for cleanliness and comfort-pro regionis more bene et laute fuimus habiti is the account which he gives of his treatment at the inns: These were perilous times; more than thirty heads were exposed on London Bridge (1598), and the scaffold at the Tower was per
This was the natives' concern: to a foreigner, the most unpleasant circumstance was, that the roads about Dover were dreadfully infested by-ghosts.
* Le Roy Edouard ni ses gens n'avoient fort pratiqué les faits de ce royaume et alloient plus grossement en besogne; parquoy ne peurent si tost entendre les dissimulations dont on use deça et ailleurs ; car naturellement les Anglois, qui ne sont jamais partis d' Ango leterre, sont fort coleriques, comme aussi sont loutes les nations de pays froids. And again, Sans point de doutè, comme j'ai dit ailleurs, les Anglois ne sont pas si subtils en traites et en appointemens, comme sont les François; et quelque chose que l'on en die, ils vont assez grossement en besogne ; mais il faut avoir un peu de patience, et ne debattre pourt, coleriquement arec cuz.