Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

The opinion that the Russian Mir is a real element of selfgovernment by the people is, we believe, equally unfounded. In no country in the world is the entire administration so centralised and so bureaucratic as in Russia. M. SchédoFerroti speaks of 188,000 civil officers of the State, who have to interpret and apply to every conceivable relation of life, some 50,000 rules and ordinances, emanating from the supreme power of the Czar. In spite of the increased preponderance of the rural population, the government centres entirely in the towns, which are the seat of official life and power. The peasantry, says Eckardt, are a rudis indigesitaque moles,' whose leaden weight arrests all progress in the life of the nation. As long as the autocratic power exists, says Mr. Wallace, 'no kind of administration can be exempted from Imperial control.'

It has been asserted that the distribution of land amongst the peasantry and the authority of the village communities are permanent barriers against the revolutionary doctrines which threaten the existence of some other States. In France, we have no doubt that the great subdivision of land is such a barrier, because every man holds his field or his vineyard in fec-simple, and would die to defend his property.

The conservative instinct of the country holds in check the revolutionary passions of the great towns. But in Russia, where no property really exists, but merely temporary possession, Herr Eckardt says positively the spread of revolutionary ideas in • all classes of the Russian nation is an officially recognised • fact, which cannot be contested ;' and we ourselves have cognisance of a despatch issued by the Minister of the Interior to the Governor of a great province, in which he deplores the frightful extension of the secret revolutionary societies, which permeate the country. Far from believing the social state of Russia based upon these village communities to be more secure than that of the countries where the full rights of private property are recognised and protected by law, there is great reason to believe that this vast Empire contains within it illregulated forces and desires, which may lead to violent changes and convulsions. Mr. Wallace has drawn as pleasing a picture as he can of the country and the people amongst whom he has spent some agreeable years. His book has been so generally read that it would be superfluous to load our own pages by quoting the scenes he describes with so much spirit and, we have no doubt, truth. But there is another side to the

question, and by way of showing what it is, we shall cite a part of a letter from a Russian country gentleman, published in 1865 VOL. CXLV. NO CCXCVIII.

D D

by the 'Moscow Gazette,' which was then, and is still, one of the most zealous champions of the national party and of reform.

'I have been spending,' said this writer, this last summer in an estate lying to the south-east of Moscow, which I have long known, and with which my own interests are connected. What, then, did I see before my eyes ? Universal depression and apathy, reckless living for the present hour, idleness, drunkenness, and thieving. Everything that occurred, whether great or small, to myself or to others, had its source or origin in one of these vices, whose hateful names I have just written down. Apathy was shown in the cessation of all activity, in the extinction of all enterprise. Upon the accomplishment of the great work of emancipation, most of us were deceived by hopes of the advantages attendant on free labour. We planned improvements, we purchased ploughs and agricultural implements. Money enough was spent, but the thing would not go. The low prices of grain, the excessive rate of wages, above all the impossibility of getting free labourers at any price at all, rendered cultivation by day labourers impossible. Soon afterwards wages fell, and the price of grain rose. But husbandry did not pay. Why? because of the dissolute and disorderly conduct of the men. No farmer can be certain that his labourers will not all have gone off the next morning, without feeding the horses and cattle, and without lighting the stoves-gone off, not from any dispute, but just because there is a holiday in the next village, and Wanka says to Fedka, “ Come along, old fellow, there is a drop to be had there-let “us be off.” The whole pack of them will come back, may be, in three or four days; but in the meantime the stock have died, and the work of the farm has been stopped. . . . On Mondays nobody works at all, either for himself or anyone else. Every saint's day is kept for at least three days. If you hire men by time, you cannot reckon on more than fifteen days work in a month; if by piece-work, it is even worse. What are they all about? Drinking up the money in the brandy-shop; for if you give a man a rouble beforehand, be sure you will never see him again. The sottishness of our peasants has now passed from holidays to working days. They get drunk not only in honour of the saints, but on every possible opportunity.' (Eckardt, p. 234.)

To this it must be added that the migratory habits of the male population, leaving the women at home, are the cause of great abuses, and that the worst forms of disease, the result of debauchery, appear by some recent reports to have infected whole provinces of the Empire. Efficient medical advice and remedies are, for the most part, quite unattainable.

Those who vaunt the Russian system on the ground that it excludes competition and presents the most complete picture of protected labour, should remember that no country can withdraw itself from competition in the markets of the world, and that Russia herself is competing and must compete in her chief products with countries, younger but more advanced

than herself, which have the advantage of a far better climate, a richer soil, and above all of free property in land and the full results of free labour. At this moment, the corn of Southern Russia is undersold by the farmers of the United States, and she has to compete at a great disadvantage with California and the valley of the Mississippi. The trade of Russia with England in linseed, which was an export of immense consequence, has been annihilated by the increasing production of oleaginous grains in India and Egypt. The textile fibres of India, especially jute, have also seriously impaired the trade im Russian hemp and flax. The Russian trade in hides and tallow has powerful rivals in the boundless cattle ranges of South America and Australia. And in these countries she is opposed by the ardour and enterprise of the freest and most energetic races of the world. Can Russia support an increasing foreign debt, with decreasng profits of foreign trade ?* Can she even in peace maintain her credit in Europe, let alone the cost of mobilised armies, and wars carried on against. wild or empoverished nations, from whom no milliards can be extracted by victory ? Mr. Wallace should have endeavoured to answer these questions. The whole structure of Russian society, and the course of her internal and external policy, might be measured by the standard of finance, correctly applied. That alone can give us the secret of her weakness or her strength. Down to the smallest village community and the brandy-shop, it is, as we have seen, the operation of her fiscal system which retains men in shackles and in debauchery; and as if this were not enough to check the progress of a nation, she adds to it the most burdensome military establishment that ever existed. Mr. Wallace lays it down as an axiom that the finances of Russia are sound, though the peasantry are heavily taxed, and the revenue is inelastic. We wish he had favoured us with the ground on which he rests

* The official returns of the trade of Russia for 1875, just published, show a decrease of about 50 million roubles in her exports, over the exports of 1874, though an increase on the exports of 1873. The articles which have fallen off are corn, timber, flax, and linseed. The imports of 1875, on the contrary, largely increased, to the amount of about 60 million roubles. The total value of the exports of 1875 was 382,000,000 roubles; and of the imports 534,056,000, leaving an adverse balance of 152,000,000 to be paid in money or bills. As the borrowing power of Russia in foreign countries is for the present exhausted, she will probably be able to spend less in purchases and imports from foreign markets; and must pay for what she wants in her own produce or in gold.

this opinion ; which is, we confess, exactly opposed to that we have been led to form.

We turned with some interest to Mr. Wallace's chapter on what he terms the New Law Courts,' by which he means, not any new edifices, but the new system of judicature established in the present reign, which is no doubt an improvement on that which previously existed. But we infer from the loose and inaccurate language in which Mr. Wallace describes legal proceedings, that he has but little acquaintance with the subject. Thus he uses the term Court of Revision ’instead of the familiar English term. Court of Review,' and says he can find no better English expression to convey his meaning. It is clear, however, from his account of the matter that justice must be very imperfectly administered in a country where there is no bar, and that the persons who plead before these Courts are ignorant and corrupt. Trial by jury has been introduced, but Mr. Wallace gives an amusing account of the manner in which a jury of Russian peasants takes the proceedings into its own hands, with a total disregard of the rules of evidence and the obligations of law, acquitting or .condemning prisoners according to the view they may take of the general merits of each case.

Upon the whole, although we took up this book with great expectations, we have laid it down with considerable disappointment. Much more might have been made of the materials Mr. Wallace has taken pains to collect, part of which he still holds in reserve. The style is diffuse, and the work clumsily put together, with strange digressions, which, though sometimes amusing, are inappropriate. But we think highly of Mr. Wallace's candour and veracity-the more so as his statements of fact frequently destroy the effect of his reasoning and his opinions. In his zeal to study the peculiar condition of the peasantry, he has left untouched the principal elements of the power and policy of the Russian Empire ; and there still remains a wide field for his inquiries and observations before he can claim to have made Russia known to the British public.

Art. IV.-1. Queen Mary, a Drama. By ALFRED TexNYSON.

London : 1875. 2. Harold, a Drama. By ALFRED TENNYSON. London:

1876. Without disturbing the repose of the Unities (which

are to modern drama what the Orders are to modern architecture), it is certainly not undesirable to recall to readers of the present day the real characteristics implied in the expression dramatic,' which has suffered a licentious and multifarious usage of late, as if it were a mere synonyme for * forcible' or impassioned.'* But let it be distinctly recognised that "drama' is an act, a thing done—that dramatic poetry is poetry manifested through action, and it is obvious that the application of the epithet to any poetry which does not include the development of an action can only be justifiable in a limited and conventional sense. No doubt, so soon as a poet quits the purely reflective order of poetry for that which consists in the expression, not of his own sentiments, but of those of imaginary characters totally distinct from himself, as in the poems called by Mr. Browning Dramatic Lyrics '—SO • many utterances of so many imaginary persons not mine'-he has made an important step in the

direction of dramatic writing; the complete self-effacement of the author being an essential condition of drama. But it is not by the mere collocation, in consecutive scenes, of a set of personages, however characteristically delineated in themselves, that anything worth calling a drama can be realised. No mere combination of life studies' can make a great picture. We must be able in a drama to distinguish clearly the predominant end of the action, the mainspring which sets it going, and the bearing of the speech and action of the several characters in relation to that main end, or to some minor action which is included in or depends upon the principal one. Without this consistent unity of aim and purpose the best wrought and most spirited delineation of separate characters can only take rank as a series of tableaux vivants, or characteristic scenes.' A composition of such a nature, whether in prose or verse, may have very high

It is even applied to music, and we have · dramatic symphonies' and dramatic concertos ;' a use of the epithet which, if it mean anything, must mean merely what Beethoven intended by such terms as 'pathétique,' 'appassionata,' &c., affixed to some of his compositions.

« ElőzőTovább »