« ForrigeFortsæt »
used in a cold country; but never in a hot, or even in a temperate climate, while upon the road. In hot countries, if a cask of good vinegar can be procured, the traveller will often bless the means by which it was obtained. When, with a parched tongue, a dry and feverish skin, they bring him bad or good water to assuage his thirst, the addition of a little vinegar will make the draught delicious. Care must be taken not to use it to excess, for it is sometimes so tempting a remedy against somnolency, that it is hardly possible to resist using the vinegar without any mixture of water.'
After visiting the palace of Tsarskoselo, he arrived at Novogorod.
• The place was half buried in snow, but we managed to get to the cathedral, curious to see the collection of pictures, idols of the Greek church, which that ancient building contains; and which, with many others dispersed in the cities and towns of Russia, were introduced long before the art of paint ing was practised in Italy. The knowledge of this circumstance led me to hope that I should make some very curious acquisitions in the country, and upon my first arrival from the Swedish frontier I had given a few pounds to a Russian officer for his god; this consisted of an oval plate of copper, on which the figure of a warrior was beautifully painted on a gold ground. The warrior proved afterwards to be St. Alexander Nevski: and as I advanced through the country to Petersburg, there was hardly a hut, or a post-house, that did not contain one or more paintings upon small pannels of wood.
• The cathedral of Novogorod, dedicated to St. Sophia, in imitation of the name given to the magnificent edifice erected by Justinian at Constantinople, was built in the eleventh century. Many of the pictures seem to have been there from the time in which the church was finished, and doubtless were some of them painted long before its consecration, if they were not brought into the country with the introduction of Christianity. In the Greek church they followed the idols of paganism, and have continued to maintain their place. They are one of the first and most curious sights which attract a traveller's notice; for it is not only in their churches that such paintings are preserved; every room throughout the em
pire has a picture of this nature, large or small, called the Bogh, or God, stuck up in one corner; to this every person who enters offers adoration, before any salutation is made to the master or mistress of the house. The adoration consists in a quick motion of the right hand in crossing, the head bowing all the time in a manner so rapid and ludicrous, that it reminds one of those Chinese mandarin images seen upon the chimney-pieces of old houses, which, when set a-going, continue nodding, for the amusement of old women and children.
I do not know what first gave rise to a notion, very prevalent, that the road from Petersburg to Moscow is a straight line through forests, except that it was the intention of Peter the Great to have it so made. The country is generally open, a wide and fearful prospect of hopeless sterility, where the fir and the dwarf birch, which cover even Arctic regions, scarcely find existence. The soil is for the most part sandy, and apparently of a nature to set agriculture at defiance. Towards the latter part of the journey, corn-fields appeared, of considerable extent.
• The female peasants of the Valday have a costume which resembles one in Switzerland. It consists of a shift with full sleeves, and a short petticoat with coloured stockings. Over this, in winter, they wear a pelisse of lamb's wool, as white as the snow around them, lined with cloth, and adorned with gold buttons and lace. The hair of unmarried women, as in most parts of Russia, is braided, and hangs to a great length down their backs. On their heads they wear a handkerchief of coloured silk. When married, the hair is trussed up, and this constitutes the outward mark of a virgin, or a matron.
• The picture of Russian manners varies little with reference to the prince or the peasant. The first nobleman in the empire, when dismissed by his sovereign from attendance upon his person, or withdrawing to his estate in consequence of dissipation and debt, betakes himself to a mode of life little superior to that of brutes. You will then find him, throughout the day, with his neck bare, his beard lengthened, his body wrapped in a sheep's skin, eating raw turnips, and drinking
quass, sleeping one half of the day, and growling at his wife and family the other. The same feelings, the same wants, wishes, and gratifications, then characterize the nobleman and the peasant; and the same system of tyranny, which extends from the throne downwards, through all the bearings and ramifications of society, even to the cottage of the lowest boor, has entirely extinguished every spark of liberality in the breasts of a people who are all slaves. They are all, high and low, rich and poor, alike servile to superiors; haughty and cruel to their dependants ; ignorant, superstitious, cunning, brutal, barbarous, dirty, mean. The emperor canes the first of his grandees; princes and nobles cane their slaves; and the slaves, their wives and daughters. Ere the sun dawns in Russia, flagellation begins; and throughout its vast empire cudgels are going, in every department of its population, from morning until night.
• Arriving at the barrier of Moscow, we were some time detained during the examination of our passports. This entrance to the city, like most of the others, is a gate with two columns, one on each side, surmounted by eagles. On the left is the guard house. Within this gate a number of slaves were employed, removing the mud from the streets, which had been caused by the melting of the snow. Peasants with their khabitkas, in great numbers, were leaving the town. Into these vehicles, the slaves amused themselves by heaping as much of the mud as they could throw in, unperceived by the drivers, who sat in front. The officer appointed to superintend their labour chanced to arrive and detect them in their filthy work, and we hoped he would instantly have prohibited such an insult from being offered to the poor men. His conduct, however, only served to afford a trait of the national character. Instead of preventing any further attack upon the khabitkas, he seemed highly entertained by the ingenuity of the contrivance; and, to encourage the sport, ordered every peasant to halt, and to hold his horse, while they filled his khabitka with the mud and ordure of the streets ; covering with it the provisions of the poor peasants, and whatever else their khabitkas might contain, with which they were going peaceably to their VOL. IV.--(80)
wives and families. At last, to complete their scandalous oppression, they compelled each peasant, as he passed, to sit down in his khabitka, and then they covered him also with the black and stinking mud. At this unexampled instance of cruelty and insult, some of the peasants, more spirited than the rest, ventured to murmur. Instantly, blows, with a heavy cudgel, on the head and shoulders, silenced the poor wretches complaints. Before this began, the two sentinels at the gate had stopped every khabitka, as it passed, with a very different motive. First, a loud and menacing tone of voice seemed to indicate some order of government; but it was quickly silenced, and became a whisper, in consequence of a small piece of money being slipped into their hands by the peasants, when they passed on without further notice. If the practice continues, the post of centinel at a Russian barrier must be more profitable than that of a staff-officer in the service. I was witness to upwards of fifty extorted contributions of this nature, in the course of half an hour, when the plunder ended as has been described.
“There is nothing more extraordinary in this country than the transition of the seasons. The people of Moscow have no spring: winter vanishes, and summer is! This is not the work of a week, or a day, but of one instant; and the manner of it exceeds belief. We came from Petersburg to Moscow in sledges. The next day, snow was gone. On the 8th of April, at mid-day, snow beat in at our carriage.windows. On the same day, at sun-set, arriving in Moscow, we had difficulty in being dragged through the mud to the commandant's. The next morning the streets were dry, the double windows had been removed from the houses, the casements thrown open, all the carriages were upon wheels, and the halconies filled with spectators. A few days afterwards we experienced seventy-three degrees of heat, according to the scale of Fahrenheit, when the thermometer was placed in the shade at noon.
We arrived at the season of the year in which this city is most interesting to strangers. Moscow is in every thing extraordinary; as well in disappointing expectation, as in sur