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CHAP. XIV.

A GLOOMY CATASTROPHE.

It is with deep regret that I approach the delicate and awful subject of this chapter. Humanity would gladly cover it with the pall of oblivion; but justice to the memory of an unhappy monarch, and to the chief of the august family of Russia, demand a candid though careful development of the events which preceded the fall of the last emperor. The original source of my information is from one who beheld the catastrophe which I am about to relate, whom I can neither name nor doubt; a catastrophe which is too near the period in which I write, not to render an unrestrained disclosure of all the particulars with which I have been furnished unfair, if not imprudent. The causes that first created those well-known prejudices which Catherine II cherished against her son, have perished with her ; but all the world knows, that, during the many years which rolled away between the grand duke's arrival at the age of maturity and his elevation to the throne, his august mother never admitted him to any participation of power, but kept him in a state of the most abject and mortifying separation from the court, and in almost total ignorance of the affairs of the empire. Although Paul, by his birth, was generalissimo of the armies, he never was permitted to head a regiment ; and although, by the same right, grand admiral of the Baltic, he was interdicted from even visiting the fleet at Cronstadt. To these pain. ful privations may be added, that when he was recommended, that is ordered, to travel, during his absence Catherine seized and sent to Siberia one of his most cherished friends, because she discovered that he had informed her son of some inconsiderable state affair. Thus Paul beheld himself not only severed from the being who gave him birth, but from all the ordinary felicities of life. The pressure of his hand excited suspicion ; peril was in his attachment, and in his confidence guilt and treason. He could not have a friend, without furnishing a victim.

A gentleman nearly connected with me, now no more, a man of talent and acute observation and veracity, had several years since the honour of spending a short period at the little secluded court of Gatchina, upon which, as the dazzling beams of imperial favour

never shone, the observer was left in the tranquillity of the shade, to make a more calm, steady, and undiverted survey. At this time, Paul displayed a mind very elegantly inclined, and without being brilliant, highly cultivated, accomplished and informed, frank and generous, brave and magnanimous, a heart tender and affectionate, and a disposition very sweet, though most acutely and poignantly susceptible : his person was not handsome, but his eye was penetrating, and his manners such as denoted the finished gentleman. In his youth he was seen by the bed-side of the dying Panin, the hoary and able minister of Catherine, and his tutor, kissing and bathing his hand with tears. As an evidence of his intellectual vigour, let the elaborate and able ukase, by which he settled the precedence and provision of the imperial family, unquestionably his own unassisted composition, be referred to. He loved his amiable princess, and his children, with the most ardent, the most indulgent fondness, and it was the labour of their love, as well as of his servants, who were devotedly attached to him, to requite his affections and graciousness, and to endeavour to fill up with every endearing, every studied attention, the gloomy chasm which had been formed by an unnatural and inexplicable neglect ; but this chasm was a bottomless abyss, upon the brink of which his wounded spirit was ever wandering! Paul possessed a high martial inclination, and, reflecting that he might one day mount the throne of a military empire, he made the art of war the principal object of his studies; but neither this pursuit, so copious, so interesting, nor the endearments of those who surrounded him, could expel from his mind the sense of his injuries. He beheld himself, the second personage and the destined ruler of the empire, postponed to the periodical favourite of his mother, the minister of her unbounded voluptuousness, not unfrequently elevated to the presidency of the hermitage from the ranks, with no other pretensions than vigorous health and a mighty frame ; whilst, on the other hand, the bleeding shade of his father was for ever, in his morbid imagination, pointing to his wound, and whispering revenge. Thus exiled from the heart of his mother, is it a matter of surprise that he should exclude her from his own?

Catherine more than once observed, that her son would not long occupy the throne after her decease ; and it has been the fashion to say, that her alienation from him was justified by the events which succeeded her death. With this prophetic spirit, she devoted all her

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care to the education of her grandsons, Alexander and Constantine, and exercised all the powers she possessed towards the consummation of her prediction. She foretold that the flower which she had planted would wither early: she shook it till every blossom fell, and shaded it so, that the dew of heaven should never visit it more: she pressed and pierced the delicate and ardent mind of her son until she subverted it. Was it then a proof of inspiration, to prognosticate the brevity of his reign over an empire, the history of which has too often and fatally proved, that however despotic its government, and there is not one under heaven more absolute, a cautious and dexterous cultivation of the interest, feelings, prejudices, and affections, of the people, is inseparable from the safety of the ruler?

A short time before her demise, Catherine committed to P 2- her last favourite, whom she highly esteemed, a declaration of her will, addressed to the senate, purporting that Paul should be passed over in the succession, and that the grand duke Alexander should mount the vacant throne. As soon as the favourite was acquainted with the sudden death of the empress, he flew to Pavlovsk, about thirty-five versts from the capital, where Paul occasionally resided, whom he met on the road, and, after a short explanation, delivered up to him this important document. Paul, charmed with his zeal and loyalty, preserved him in all his honours and fortunes, whilst a general and rapid dispersion, to all points of the compass, instantaneously succeeded amongst the members of the male seraglio of the Hermitage. The emperor ascended the throne without difficulty, but a total stranger to his subjects. One of the first measures of his reign displayed, in a very singular manner, the native goodness of his heart, under the clouds that rapidly began to overshadow it, in an act of piety towards his murdered father, whose remains he removed from the church of St. Alexander Nevski, called the Monastery; and having exhibited them in great funeral state, he consigned them to the sepulchre of Catherine II, in the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. The latter part of this extraordinary transaction has often induced me to think that Paul did not believe that his mother issued the order for the assassination of his father. At this eccentric solemnity, he compelled count Alexey Orloff, and prince Baratynski, under whose hands the unhappy monarch is said to have perished, to stand on each side of the body as it lay in state, and afterwards to follow it to the tomb, as the principal mourners.

Not long after this event, his mind began occasionally to display the most fearful symptoms of distraction; but when his reason was restored, the hapless emperor never faited to endeavour, with the most affecting sensibility, to repair the ruin and havoc which his delirium had occasioned. The deposed Stanislaus, the broken-hearted king of Poland, partook alternately of his beneficence and severity; but with what demonstration of respect and genuine grief did the emperor attend the obsequies of this last of the Sarmates ? On that gloomy occasion, he commanded in person the guards who assisted at the funeral; and uncovering himself, with the most affecting emotions, saluted the coffin as it passed. To the memory of the hoary and heroic Suvaroff, who fell a broken-hearted victim to the distraction of his imperial master, in periods of agonized and compunctious reflection, he raised a colossal statue of bronze, in the vast area behind Benskoi's palace, opposite to Romantzoff's monument; and, on the days when he reviewed his troops there, he used to order them to march by in open order, and face the statue, which he said represented one of the greatest and bravest generals of his own or any other age.

Notwithstanding the important service which had rendered him, the emperor could never separate him, in his mind's eye, from the caresses of his mother, and speedily became disgusted with him; spoke of him with great asperity to his friends, and at length, converting the bounty of Catherine into a robbery, he denounced him as a defaulter to the imperial treasury of half a million of rubles; and, convinced of the justice of the allegation, proceeded, without loss of time, to sequester the vast estates which belonged to him and to his two brothers. Driven to desperation by such conduct, one of the sufferers, the second brother, one day boldly walked up to the emperor upon the parade, and, with manly eloquence, represented the injustice of his measures. Paul received him without anger, heard him without interruption, reflected, and restored the property: but the original disgust rapidly returning, he ordered PZ- to reside upon his estate, to which he submitted for a considerable time. But the mind of the exile was too ardent to endure seclusion; ambitious, bold, active, and enterprising, he determined upon releasing himself from the unjust constraint imposed upon him by his sovereign, the delirium of whose mind now frequently burst forth with all the fury and desolation of a convulsed volcano. Messrs. Otto, Sieyes, and Talleyrand, who, at that time, formed a diplomatic trio, or rather were spies, at the court of Petersburg, with the dexterity of talent, and the subtilty of Frenchmen, resolved to turn the gathering storm to the advantage of their own country, by means, which, extending beyond their calculation and their wishes, finally and rapidly led to the overthrow of the emperor. Under their tuition, a French actress was introduced on the boards of the French theatre at Petersburg, and placed in such situations of allurement, that the eye of the emperor could not but notice her. The ruin of domestic happiness furnished these politicians with the means of their success. A French actress was destined to estrange the emperor from his family, and to create a temporary and terrible change in the affairs of Europe. Madame Chevalier possessed that style of face, which, without being regularly handsome, was more sweet, expressive, and captivating, than the exact symmetry of a finished beauty. Her person was small, but delicate, and rather enbonpoint: her manners were of the highest order, and enchanted every one wlo approached her. The emperor was fond of music: madame Chevalier excelled upon the harp, and sang to it some sweet and crafty verses, composed by one of her three employers, and which she herself had set to music; the subject of which was, the martial skill, valour, and generosity, of the emperor. She had not spread her witcheries long, before an evening was appointed for a private gratification of the musical taste and passion of the emperor. This syren very soon became the sole idol of his shattered mind, which she moved according to the direction of her secret principals, until the emperor withdrew himself from his alliance with Austria, recalled Suvaroff and his army covered with glory, crowded the roads to Siberia with British subjects, and filled with terror and consternation the exchange of the British empire. I mean not to enumerate all the calamities which followed: they were too signal not to be widely known, too recent not to be well remembered; and, from their very nature, incontestably proved the aberration of those faculties which could alone, by their presence, render the emperor responsible for all the misery, dismay, and ruin, which threatened the very existence of the empire. P-Z- resolved upon availing himself of the influence of the fair favourite, to whom he addressed himself with all the insinuation of person, manners, wit, and money: having engaged her in his favour, he made her acquainted

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