« ElőzőTovább »
intractable, difficult to be tamed, impatient of coercion, and it is only by the continued chastenings that it receives from a vigorous understanding, that its wilder impulses can be sufficiently restrained. We are certain Mr. Sheil is possessed of genius, we think he is also possessed of a controlling intellect, and that, now he has passed the meridian of youth, the latter has asserted its dominion. Let him take care, however, that it preserves it. Without meaning to join common cause with the Inutilitarians, we must grant that Mr. Sheil sometimes abuses, very much to his detriment, some of his best qualities. Mr. Sheil's mind is an original one, yet a violent struggle after originality is, we think, one of his besetting sins, and inclines many to doubt that he possesses what he appears so solicitous to lay claim to. The dread that Mr. Sheil feels of being common-place, leads him, when forced by circumstances into ordinary topics, to trick out the homely subject with words and expressions too ornate, too inflated, too much overlaid with gaudy words and gorgeous ornament, which cause satiety to anticipate conviction. Irony, sarcasm, ridicule, invective, apostrophe, metaphor, and trope, all crowd and shoulder one another, in brilliant miscellany, through his speeches, making a tumultuous and straggling attack on the mind of the hearer, until it is overpowered and exhausted by these constant and pungent appeals to its most sensitive faculties, rather than conquered or led captive. Other and more minute blemishes we might point out, but we have given sufficient to satisfy the scruples of criticism, and, as we hope, to warn him off those shoals on which he may make shipwreck of his reputation. We are fully aware of the inflammable nature of the subjects on which Mr. Sheilhashitherto been engaged, and of the urgent necessity there was of lighting up the public mind into a perception of its wrongs.
With respect to the style Mr. O'Connell adopts in his speeches, we have to make but few remarks. He does not aim at eloquence, and therefore is not obnoxious to rigid criticism, at the same time that the emotions of a sanguine temperament occasionally almost ripen into it, and in most of his speeches there is a continuous ebullition of volcanic energy, which if not attaining to oratory, has nevertheless the effect of rendering his hearers attentive, and keeping them up to the level of his own excitement. The multiplicity of his avocations, and the hurry of public life, prevent him imparting to his speeches even that finish which, under more favourable circumstances, he might be fully competent to. His language, therefore, is in general careless and slovenly, and his arguments frequently unconnected and inconsequential, yet not more so than the difficulties he labours under must warrant. Where some short time has been taken for preparation, a higher power is apparent. His speech on the Vestry Act, before alluded to, may, we think, be taken as a fair specimen of his more elaborate performances. We conceive it to be one of singular ability.
ANECDOTES OF RUSSIA. Ar the present period when the eyes of all Europe are turned toward Russia and Turkey, I imagine that descriptions of either countries cannot fail to be amusing; and as I have resided some time in both countries, a few anecdotes of the former may not be misplaced.
I was in Moscow in 1828, and attended the religious observance of the anniversary of the retreat of the French army from that city. The snow had fallen, and the prospect of a rigid winter was everywhere conspicuous; sledges had superseded the droskas, and the whole view, comprising the Sparrow Hills, looked cheerless and uncomfortable. At ten o'clock in the morning, the inhabitants of the city assembled near the Holy Gate* of the Kremlin; and here I awaited the procession, I may say, with considerable coolness. It was useless to pass the Gate, as every one so doing to enter the Kremlin must be uncovered. This act of veneration is traced by some as a commemoration of the miraculous delivery of the Kremlin from an invasion of the Tartars ; others date the custom from the cessation of the last plague.+ The procession began about half-past ten : it consisted of all the clergy of Moscow, and certainly was accompanied by almost all the lower class of the inhabitants. The riches of the churches were exhibited, and the dresses or decorations of the more advanced divines, were the most splendid I ever beheld ; the lower class, comprising the curates, &c. walked uncovered, their long, flowing hair, hanging over their shoulders ; the banners of the churches, the crucifix, the soldiers, and the populace, making a sight novel and imposing. This is a grand holiday for the Russians; the saints have an extra quantity of candles presented, and the image over the gate, (whose miraculous power, wben Bonaparte attempted to destroy the Kremlin, interposed in so signal a manner, that the glass which covered the saint was unbroken) has more prostrations on that day than all the year put together. The women were all in their best attire, and some, in spite of the little eyes, and those far apart, looked attractive and pretty. The Tartar, the Persian, the French, German, English, and Russian nations, mingled in the ceremony, and accompanied the procession round the walls of the Kremlin. It was a sight, mingled with the recollection of that famous retreat, that amply repaid the ineasy sensations of cold and fatigue.
That Moscow was burnt by the Russians themselves, no one can doubt; it was their mode of defence from the first moment of the invasion, and would, had it entirely succeeded in Moscow, in all probability have placed Napoleon under the protection of Alexander. Rostopchin was a very fit person to entrust with this commission : if the reports of the Russians of the present day are to be credited, he was not only a brave and a good general, but a man of considerable education. The following anecdote may be amusing, and contribute to show Rostopchin in his proper character. A young Frenchman, who was tutor in a Russian nobleman's family, and who had received the usual hospitable and generous treatment of the Russians, lampooned the father of the children under his care in a poem, called “ Large Panse,"— the Russian being rather inclined to corpulency. The lampoon was well written, and wounded the pride of the writer's benefactor : it was soon
+ Conte de Laveau, page 54.
whispered over Moscow, and the Frenchman gladly received his passport; but on going out of Moscow, he was arrested and thrown into prison for two days: he was liberated at the expiration of that time, and received the following letter from Rostopchin :
« Le 20 Septembre, 1813. « Je ne vous connais pas, et je ne veux pas vous connaître. Vous joignez à l'impudence Française, la belle vertu de mepriser le pays où on vous accorde follement l'hospitalité. Pourquoi avez vous choisi le métier de précepteur? est-ce pour corrompre la bétise, et l'inexpérience ? et qu'êtes vous vous même ? Je connais votre mère, et c'est par égard pour son age, que j'use l'indulgence avec vous. Votre poeme, de “Large Panse,' vous aurait ouvert les portes du Nord. Il faut que vous ayez un fond de vice pour vous honorer du nom de Français, synonisme de brigand. Pensez murement à vos actions, et si vous n'êtes pas plus circonspect à l'avenir, votre fin sera mauvais. Le génereux Alexandre livre quelquefois à la justice, les fidels serviteurs du Coquin Napoleon."
There is a whimsical postscript to this letter, which the indelicacy of the language prohibits me from inserting.
All travellers have ridiculed the superstitions of the Russians, and not without reason. · A stranger, in passing through the Gostonoi-Dwn, will be struck by the appearance of the numerous merchants, and shopkeepers of the same calling, close together. In this respect, Moscow resembles Constantinople in its bazaars; and whoever has visited these two cities will be struck by the resemblance. Thus, the silversmiths are together; the shoe, or print bazaar, quite separate; and to each trade, from the sharpsighted money-changer to the cheating vender of furs, a separate place is allotted. But of all thriving trades, god-making is one of the best. Shops, by hundreds, are filled with ready-made divinities; but in entering this shop, the Russian will select the one belonging to the master of the house, to which he makes his bow and his cross.
It requires some management to refrain from laughing at the absurd prostrations and crossings of all the fools of the town, at every daab at which a candle can be burnt. It is really difficult sometimes to pass the miraculous image before-mentioned, over the gate of the Kremlin, without stumbling over some old, besotted, bigoted woman, who, in spite of dirt and droskas, knocks her head, with unremitted sanctity, for an hour against the pavement. Often have I seen a long-bearded hypocrite offering some foolish girl a relic to kiss; while the poor deluded creature imagined the pious offering of a few copecs would insure the safety of a lover or parent from the heretic Turk. Every droskadriver crosses himself when he passes one of these public gods; and the merchant, before lie drives himself to cheat you, most piously makes the sign of the cross. But this species of adoration is, of course, better seen in a church. Happy he who can get near an altar, or the carpet before it; this is sure salvation, and heads and tails make the most ridiculous motions. Old and young, men and women, greybeards and children, all kotow it to admiration. From these frequent prostrations, hasty travellers would conclude the Russian is sincere in his devotions. I know a young Englishman who had his pocket picked in the Casan Church in Petersburg, and the theft was committed by one who practised prostrations most earnestly. At the door of almost all Russian churches will be found a vender of candles, by which, to pious saints, they make concessions. The candle-merchant invariably crosses himself the whole of the ceremony, excepting when he pockets the money for these holy offerings. A Russian's prayers seem to consist in two words, “Gospodi Pomelui!” “ The Lord have mercy upon us !” and in the chapel at Galitzin's Hospital, near Moscow, this is sung with the most admirable effect. I do not remember in all my life to have heard voices that had such an effect upon me as in the above church. No music is allowed; and the singers are so well selected, that they generally sing in the four or five best notes of their voices, the bass being deep indeed, and the higher notes sung by boys. Every traveller has remarked this in the Emperor's chapel at Petersburg; but the preference is given, by good judges, in favour of Galitzin's Hospital.
We have heard from several late travellers in the North, that the Russian Government is famous for its toleration; and these travellers found their opinion upon the fact, that four or five churches of different religions are to be found in the Newski Perspective at Petersburg. As far as the fact of these churches existing, they are right; but in other respects they are decidedly wrong. A foreigner may worship God in what manner he likes ; but a Russian cannot so easily change his reli. gion.-At Moscow, in November last, I saw a man who had been kept in prison for eighteen months on a charge of heresy; he had never been tried, but had been kept in solitary confinement. We have heard from a late traveller that the Russians enjoy a Habeas Corpus act; but when one is personally acquainted with a man enjoying all the delights of solitary confinement for eighteen months, we are inclined, of course, to doubt the truth of the assertion.
In Moscow, also, all kinds of churches exist, and amongst these is a church, for it cannot be called a mosque, for Tartar worship. I attended on Friday; as they had no minah to call the pious at the hour of prayer, the Imaun mounted a wall, and stood in a tottering situation, exhorting the people with “ Allah is God !--come to prayer, come to prayer. Prayer is to be preferred to sleep,”-in a loud and singing voice. On my approach, the door was opened; but as I did not seem inclined to relinquish my warm boots, on a day when the thermometer was at 10° below zero, a compromise was made, on condition that I would not spit upon the floor : to this I readily consented, and was provided with a bench in a quiet corner of the church.
On the entrance of a Tartar, he immediately relinquished his boots, and stood upon a carpet with his face towards Mecca; he then prostrated himself three times,—some continued this for about ten minutes : they then put their hands upon their eyes, and then the thumbs, with the hand extended to the tips of their ears; the hands were then held clasped in front of the body, and the silent devotion ensued. By the two former motions, I concluded they intended to shut out from the eyes and ears all worldly objects and sounds. Erect, and faced towards Mecca, they stood in silent devotion, which now and then was interrupted by a prostration, or a deep sigh. The Mullah, who had been silently employed, as well as the rest, after about half an hour's devotion, mounted a small elevated place, and delivered (leaning on a reed) a discourse, the upshot of which I did not clearly understand. But at the conclusion, when the priest called out “to Mecca,” all the devout rushed towards the priest, and bowed, and repeated “ Bis millah.” they ranged themselves in ranks like soldiers, and I saw the Imaun very busily employed in keeping the rear rank close to the front. After this they dispersed. They seemed, throughout, very devout worshippers; nor did they seem displeased at my attendance, but bowed to me on leaving the church.
I had often heard of the ceremonies of a Tartar funeral, and in all my travels in this world I never had been fortunate enough to see one. I now gave myself up to continual inquiries concerning the health of a very wealthy Tartar, whom I understood to be in a very precarious state. About a fortnight after my kind inquiries he died, and I determined to do him the honour to attend his funeral. He very nearly escaped my vigilance : but one day, as I was walking near the Gostonoi Dwn, I saw ten or twelve men running away with a large box, which was carried on poles. I soon found out that this was my friend, and away I ran by the side of the box along the Kremlin wall, to the bridge which crosses the Moskowa; here I found a droska, and very shortly afterwards I was in the line of these vehicles formed by the Tartars. As this was a man of some note, every man of that persuasion in Moscow was in attendance. The bearers were occasionally relieved, but they never stopped for this ceremony; they seemed determined to run him to earth as quickly as possible. The first halt we made was at the Tartar church above mentioned: here the coffin (if it can be called one) was placed on the Mecca side of the church, but outside of it, and the Tartars took up a pious but a wet situation on the ground in its rear. I endeavoured to get a better sight of the ceremony by advancing in front of the coffin, but my old friend the Imaun waved respectfully to me, intimating that I was not to stand between the corpse and Mecca. The priest said a short prayer in a hurried tone, when the bearers again seized the coffin and trotted it away to its final destination. The Tartars entered the church, and prayed in good earnest for about ten minutes. Then, on they came towards the Tartar burialground, on droskas, as before. The ground destined for this purpose is about four wersts from the city, to the northward of the Smolensko road; and for once in my life I was not asked for my passport in passing a Russian barrier. • The burial-ground commands a very fine view of Moscow and the surrounding country, and the day was particularly fine and clear. The grave was dug in the direction of Mecca, and braided at the bottom like a coffin. The Tartars having formed themselves in a semicircle in the rear of the Mullah and the Imaun, the corpse was taken from the box; it was wrapped in rich shawls, and perfumed with myrrh; it had been embalmed so well that no taint of corruption reached me. The body was very shortly uncovered to the last sheet, and was placed by the priest himself in the grave, with the feet towards Mecca. The priest then sat down in his former position, and the scene became uncommonly interesting. The droska-drivers occupied the left of the grave. My party, with a Russian butcher or two, with some little children, the right, and the Faithful the centre, each of whom, on the priest having placed the corpse, kissed some earth and threw it in the grave. A dead silence lasted about two minutes, which was broken by the priest, who, assisted by the Imaun, sung the prayers in a most discordant voice and a nasal intonation. The hands of all were then held as