Imágenes de páginas

great splendour, in the celebration of divine worship here. Behind it was a vast pile of scaffolding, raised for the purpose of erecting a magnificent metropolitan church, in the room of the one which I have just named. This place of worship, when completed, will surpass in size and splendour every other building in the residence; and, if I may judge from the model, will be little inferior in magnitude and grandeur to our St. Paul's. . The emperor has allotted an enormous sum for its completion: all the holy utensils are to be set with the richest diamonds; even the screen is to be studded with precious stones. The scaffolding of this colossal temple is stupendous, and most ingeniously designed and executed, and would alone be sufficient to prove the genius and indefatigable labour of the Russians. Most of the masons and bricklayers who were engaged in raising the New Kazan, as well as those who are to be seen embellishing the city in other parts, are boors from the provinces. The axe constitutes the carpenter's box of tools : with that he performs all his work. No one can observe with what admirable judgment, perspicuity, and precision, these untutored rustics work, and what graceful objects rise from their uncouth hands, without doing them the justice to say, that they are not to be surpassed by the most refined people in imitation and ingenuity: from me they have drawn many a silent eulogium, as I passed through the streets.

Whilst I was gazing upon the New Kazan, the foundation of which, as well as the pedestals of the columns, are already raised, on a sudden all the hats flew off about me, in compliment to the empress dowager, and her lovely daughters the grand duchesses, who, with their attendants, were passing in two very plain carriages of a dark olive colour, drawn each by four horses, with two footmen behind, in liveries of the colour of the carriages, with a red cape, large cocked hats, and military boots: upon the pannels were merely the letter E. and the black eagle. This august family, like that of the sovereign of England, but with less show, frequently ride about the city, and pay friendly visits.

Strolling nearly to the end of the Perspective, I found myself in the market-plade, and saw lying near the great market, scales, the apparatus to which delinquents are fastened, when they receive the punishment of the knout, that terrible scourge which Peter the Great, and the empress Elizabeth, were perpetually raising over the heads of their subjects, but which the mercy of the present emperor never, except for crimes of the deepest dye, permits to be exercised with fatal violence. The last man who perished by it broke into the cottage of a family consisting of five persons, in a dark night, and butchered every one of them with a pole-axe. An act of such wanton barbarity, and so alien to the character of the Russian, did not fail to excite the highest sensations of horror. After a fair trial, the murderer was twice knouted; and, upon receiving his last punishment, was, in the language of the Russian executioner, finished,by receiving several strokes of the thong dexterously applied to the loins, which were thus cut open: the miserable wretch was then raised, and the ligaments which united the nostrils were terribly lacerated by pincers: but this latter part of his punishment, as I was informed by a gentleman who was present, created no additional pang to the sufferer, for the last stroke of the scourge only fell upon a breathless body. When a criminal is going to receive the knout, he has a right, if he chuses, to stop at a certain kabac, and drink an allowance of liquor at the expense of government.

I question if the cruelty of punishment is to be determined by the quantum of unnecessary agony which it causes, whether the infliction of death by suspension is not almost as barbarous as the knout : sufferers in the former mode have been seen to display, for eight and ten minutes, all the appearances of the most horrible torment. There is no mode of putting a capital offender to death so swift and decisive as decapitation. The scaffold, the preparation, the fatal stroke, the blood, are pregnant with exemplary and repulsive horror: the pang of the sufferer is instantaneous—all the substantial ends of justice are effected with all possible humanity.

In Russia, ladies of rank have suffered the punishment of the knout: the Abbé Chappe D'Auteroche relates the circumstance of an execution of this nature which took place in the reign of the cruel Elizabeth. He states that madame Lapookin, who was one of the loveliest women belonging to the court of that empress, had been intimately connected with a foreign ambassador who was concerned in a conspiracy against Elizabeth, and, on this account, his fair companion was denounced as an accessory in his guilt, and condemned to undergo the knout: the truth was, madame Lapookin had been indiscreet enough to mention some of the endless amours of her imperial mistress. The beautiful culprit mounted the scaffold in an elegant undress, which encreased the beauty of her charms, and the interest of her situation. Distinguished by the captivation of her mind and person, she had been the idol of the court, and wherever she moved she was environed by admirers : she was now surrounded by executioners, upon whom she gazed with astonishment, and seemed to doubt that she was the object of such cruel preparations. One of the executioners pulled off a cloak which covered her bosom, at which, like Charlotte Cordey, as she was preparing for the guillotine, her modesty took alarm, she started back, turned pale, and burst into tears. Her clothes were soon stripped off, and she was naked to the waist, before the eager eyes of an immense concourse of people profoundly silent. One of the executioners then took her by both hands, and turning her half round, raised her on his back, inclining forwards, lifting her a little from the ground; upon which the other executioner laid hold of her delicate limbs with his rough hands, adjusted her on the back of his coadjutor, and placed her in the properest posture for receiving the punishment. He then retreated a few steps, measuring the proper distance with a steady eye, and leaping backwards, gave a stroke with the whip, so as to carry away a slip of skin from the neck to the bottom of her back; then striking his feet against the ground, he made a second blow, parallel to the former, and in a few minutes all the skin of the back was cut away in small slips, most of which remained hanging to her chemise: her tongue was cut out immediately after, and she was banished to Siberia.

It is impossible to reflect upon this savage scene, in which the empress betrayed all the qualities of a ruthless barbarian, without equal horror and indignation. History represents Elizabeth as the most indolent, voluptuous, and sensual, of her sex, which her portraits fully confirm. An anecdote is related of her, which proves, if any thing further were wanting, that she was a total stranger to feeling. One of her ladies in waiting, who was far advanced in years, and laboured under a great weakness in her legs, one day very nearly fainted in the presence of the empress from the fatigue of standing. Elizabeth observing her situation, enquired the cause; and, upon being informed, she coolly replied: “Oh, is it so? then lean a fo little against those drawers, and I will make believe that I don't

" see you.

The late empress Catherine exercised her vengeance upon a similar occasion with more lenity, but in a very mortifying manner. A lovely young woman, who had married the count M

one of

her discarded favourites, obtained from her husband some singular particulars respecting his intimacy with the empress, which she very injudiciously related to some of her female friends at Moscow, where she resided. Not long after, just as the lady and her husband were resigning themselves to sleep, they were awakened by a loud knocking at the door of their chamber, which the husband unbolted, when a stout police officer entered with a large rod in one hand, and an imperial order in the other. The husband was commanded to kneel on one side of the bed, and make no resistance or noise, as in the next room there were several brethren of this

summary minister of justice in waiting. The lady was ordered, just as she was, to descend from the bed, and lay herself upon the floor; the officer then tied her hands and feet, and gave her a severe whipping : when he had finished the discipline, he loosened her, raised her up,

and said, “ This is the punishment which the empress inflicts upon tattlers ; “ the next time, you go to Siberia.” The story was soon buzzed abroad, and the poor young lady could not appear for some time after in Moscow without exciting a titter.

In her pleasures, Catherine only reflected upon the unbridled indulgences of the sovereigns of the opposite sex, which she cherished as precedents of indisputable authority. As an Empiress, she considered herself above those restraints with which the protective code of society has environed the delicacy and chastity of women, the bright lustre of which cannot be breathed upon without being sullied. It is not likely that I, who belong to a country which female modesty has selected for her favourite residence, and in the diadem of which she has fixed her whitest plume, should advocate the licentiousness of Catherine; yet it is but justice to her memory to say, that she endeavoured to conceal her faulty pleasures under a surface of refinement; that she punished, with efficacious severity, every inclination to depravity in her court; and that she laboured only to make the better parts of her character exemplary.

The present empress dowager, though past the meridian of beauty, exhibits very powerful traces of her having been one of nature's favourites. Her complexion is very fine, her face full, her eyes of hazel colour, sweet and expressive; her person somewhat corpulent, but very majestic. Her manners are in a peculiar degree soft, benign, and captivating. She devotes herself to the education of the younger branches of her august family, to the superintendence and encou

[ocr errors]

ragement of benevolent institutions, and to a very tasteful cultivation of the arts. One of her pursuits is somewhat singular: she is an excellent medalist. I have seen some of her works in this elegant branch of art, as well as some of her chasing in gold, which would do honour to any artist. Her needle-work is also very beautiful, and must be admired even by those who have beheld the exquisite performances of a Linwood.

The present emperor Alexander is about twenty-nine years of age, his face is full, very fair, and his complexion pale ; his eyes blue, and expressive of that benificent mildness which is one of the prominent features of his character. His person is tall, lusty, and well proportioned; but, being a little deaf, to facilitate his hearing, he stoops: his deportment is condescending, yet dignified. In the discharge of his august duties he displays great activity and acuteness, but without show and bustle : the leading features of his mind are sound discretion and humanity, qualities which cannot fail to render an empire flourishing, and a people happy. He is so much an enemy to parade, that he is frequently seen wrapped up in his regimental cloak, riding about the capital alone, upon a little common droshka: in this manner he has been known to administer to the wants of the poor. It is his wish, if he should be recognized in this state of privacy, that no one will take off their hats; but the graciousness of his desire only puts the heart in the hand as it uncovers the head. I have many times seen him in a chariot, perfectly plain, of a dark olive, drawn by four horses, driven by a bearded coachman, a common little postilion, and attended by a single footman. Soldiers are always upon the look-out for him, to give timely notice to the guard of his approach ; without this precaution it would be impossible, amidst the crowd of carriages which is to be seen in the residence, to pay him the honours due to his rank. The emperor is very much attached to the English, numbers of whom have settled in the empire, and have formed, under the auspices of the government, a sort of colony. The emperor has often been heard to say, that “ The man within whose reach heaven has placed the “ greatest materials for making life happy, was, in his opinion, an “ English country Gentlemen.

Although the emperor has never visited England, he is perfectly acquainted with its character and manners, as he is with its language. A very amiable and respectable English gentleman, Mr. G.

« AnteriorContinuar »