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Kief foating pavilions carry them down struction” to the delegates, saturated as the Dnieper; the prince magician alone it is with Montesquieu and the rest, has a hundred and twenty of his be- shows her abreast of her time. Politi. loved musicians. Again the same mise. cians of the old school, indeed, shuden-scène: operatic Cossacks rowing out dered at its array of grandiloquent from either shore, the village of yester. maxims—“there are bombs enough in day in the foreground, roofless façades it,” cried Panin, “to bring the walls in the middle distance; the same re- about our ears.” She is here, in spite of views in successive provinces of hussars all that has been said, exactly where out of her own escort! The greatest of we invariably find her, neither a day in optimists saw everything and affected front of her age nor a day behind. Reto see through nothing—the works of form of the ex cathedrâ sort was just his Highness surpass conception. Sud- then in the air. From the Tagus to the denly spring appears, glittering on the Dnieper, and from Copenhagen to the enamelled meadows and majestic river, Vatican, Europe was crowded with they journey to the music of the galleys paternal monarchs and earnest minisbetween throngs of spectators from ters, who were willing to do almost thirty nations. Every morning a fresh everything for the people and nothing scene opens, the days "travel more by them. The world had not seen quickly than they themselves.” At statesmen so sincere, enlightened, and Kaniof she is met by his Majesty of plausible. A generation later, on the Poland, none other than Poniatowski, meeting of the National Assembly, the the lover of Peterhof in the old days! despotic reformation of Montesquieu at Kherson, on an eastern gate, appears and Voltaire will still seem about to be the famous legend, “The road to Byzan- translated into action. Men read their tium;" and there it is the Holy Roman Rousseau: soon they will understand emperor who is drawn into her train,- him; they will also understand that they have already mapped out the “Non de nobis sine nobis," which was Ottoman dominions. So with excur- the haughty motto of the Hungarian sions and alarums eastward by magnates. Poltava of glorious memory to the But her attention soon became dinew “Glory of Catharine,” her city verted. She was not, as Gunning of Ekaterinoslav; and last of all thought, insincere, only fickle; she through undulating steppes to the gor- wanted patience and continuity of aim. geous palace piled upon the sand at The “states-general" had produced an Inkerman, where after banquetings a excellent effect in the world, and, in curtain falls away, and behold—the fact, had afforded her information pasteboard fortifications of Sevastopol! afterwards turned to account. Her eye where a green-wood squadron anchored is on the Turk; as with the second Pitt, beneath them splutters forth its husky had it not been for this cursed war we artillery. Splendide mendax! The West should have seen greater things. "Beapplauded frantically; never had such ginnings-only beginnings!” exclaims an a travelling-show been seen in Europe. eye-witness, “there
plenty of At home, too, the cult of appearances. sketches to be seen, but where is the went hand in hand with generosity and finished picture?” Another reports enthusiasm. “C'est presque un monde,” that shoals of academies and secondary she writes to Voltaire, “à créer, à unir, schools bear witness to Catharine's à conserver!" First comes the adminis- enthusiasm for education, but that tration of justice, and her ukase of 1762, some exist only on paper, while others on its abuses, has a ring of sincerity
to have everything except that can hardly be mistaken. There is scholars. Things are done hastily, and a real courage again in her dealings without just measure or proportion; the with the clergy. Four years later she imitative talent of the Russian does not summons a great assembly to Moscow seem to carry him quite far enough. to consider a new code; and her “In- At her death, says a historian who
VOL. XII. 623
wrote eight years after it, most of her knees with such force and iteration" foundations were already in ruins; that Catharine complained they had everything seemed to have been aban- turned black and blue. But for all that doned before completion. Yet we must she would egg on this strange wild-fowl. not forget that liberal ideas were in "Allons," she would exclaim, a table themselves a revelation to the Russia once set safely between them, "entre of her days, and that after a succ sion hommes tout est permis!” As for Vol. of contemptible sovereigns she ap- taire, his proudest title was that of "lay peared as the first worthy successor of preacher of the religion of Saint CathPeter. It was already something for a arine.” Her correspondence with him, woman there to be governed by large which begins the year after her accessocial conceptions, has it not been said sion and continues until his death, is in even elsewhere that the politics of truth a kind of journalism, written women are proper names? You may partly by herself, partly by others. Its say what you will, she saved the Euro- object is to keep the friend of princes pean tradition of Peter the Great, and and dictator of literary opinion au was in a sense the creator of modern courant with her ideas, measures, and Russia.
general policy. She is not content now, But to her philosophic friends at Paris however, with the applause of her genit mattered little whether her designs eration; she aims at: commanding the were in the parchment or any other sources of history itself. Here she stage. Since Voltaire had hailed her as motions posterity to take its stand bethe Northern Semiramis, no adulation hind contemporaries in the church of was enough to translate their enthu- Voltaire's foundation, while the archsiasm; the "charms of Cleopatra,” for priest of Ferney prostrates himself example, were united in her to "the with iterated formula “Te Catharinam soul of Brutus." On her side she “dis- laudamus, te Dominam confitemur.” tributed compliments in abundance, For St. Catharine was an interested gold medals also (but more often in reader of that correspondence of Dide. bronze), and from time to time even a rot's with her sculptor Falconet, whose little money.” La Harpe, Marmontel, theme is the solidity of posthumous Volney, Galiani, and many others fame. Rulbière had already written an fallen silent in these days were sharers account of the events of 1762, of which in her bounty. She would buy the he had been an eye-witness; she had books of some specially favored and in. tried first to buy him, and then to have stal them at home again as "her him thrown into the Bastille. She will librarians." . Only one or two, d'Alem- search Venice fora pliable historian; and bert, Raynal, stood aloof, with the mis- her own letter on the coup d'état, totrustful Jean-Jacques, who refused the gether with her memoirs, show how demesne of Gatschina! Diderot came strong in her was that “besoin de to St. Petersburg in those days, de- paroistre" analyzed by the great Pascal claiming for two, three, five hours with a century before. Catharine, be quite unmatched copiousness of discourse, certain of it, is no earnest seeker after astounding Catharine with his large truth; rather "the plain man," with argument and fiery eloquence, and enter- something of the acuteness as well as taining her hugely by his oblivion of the insensibility of common sense. everything once fairly launched on his The "Philosophes” were the interest of foaming torrent. The philosopher who, the cultivated, "as scholars had been in borne on spiritual hurricanes, would century, painters in another, leap from his chair at Princess Dash- theologians in a third.” They had the kof's, striding to and fro as he spat upon ear of Europe, who rest now in Mr. the floor in his excitement, forgot him. Morley's bosom. But Catharine con. self equally in the presence of Semir- fessed years after, "Your learned men amis. “In the heat of exposition he in ist bored me to extinction. There brought his hands down on the imperial was only my good protector Voltaire.
Do you know it was he who made me the inconsequence in their ideas, for the mode"
logic of the universe is not professed With what a quaint inconsequence from an academic chair. “Moi," she her truer self appeared at the Revolu- says, "je ne suis qu'un composé de tion? She, who will foresee Napoleon,i batons rompus!" Voltaire had learnt was rudely shocked by the fall of the from Bayle, and Catharine tells us she Bastille. The Revolution touched her in had learnt from Voltaire to distrust her tenderest point. With every year, “the men of a system.” “Stulti sunt in spite of her sentiments and cosmo- innumerabiles,” said Erasmus, and politan culture, this Princess of Zerbst theirs was but an ingenious foolishness. became more and more fervently auto- Diderot, on that adventurous visit of cratic and Russian. She had jestingly his, was bursting with eagerness to asked her doctor to bleed away the last take Russia off the wall, and put it "in drop of her German blood. No one evei the kettle of magicians.” Never before had a more fanatical hero-worship for now had such projects been seen in a the Russian himself, or a deeper en. government office! He gesticulated by thusiasm for the greatness in his his. the hour; she was delighted to listen. tory. It was in the political sphere He drew up scores of schemes; they that her convictions lay, and, she had a were as well-ordered, as regular as his vague but passionate belief in what she own meals. But presently he realized and Russia might do together. Yet here that no one had taken him seriously! were these declaimers threatening to Catharine once remarked herself that overrun Europe, and “Equality setting she wrote on "sensitive skins, while his peoples at the throats of kings!” The material was foolscap.” And finally, cant about fraternity, the catchwords like Mercier de la Rivière, he departed and sentiment, vanish like smoke. No wiser, and a little hurt. "A wonderful anathemas on the Revolution were man,” she said afterwards to Ségur, fiercer than those of the “Ame Répub. “but a little too old-and a little too licaine,” who had burned to restore the young!" His “Plan of a University for ancient institutions of Athens. The Russia," which had an appreciable in. hostess of Diderot breathed fiery indig. fluence on education elsewhere, has nation against “these Western athe- never to this day, says Waliszewski, ists;" and the nationalization of church been translated into Russian. property, the very first of her own re- How natural again, and with what forms, becomes, in the men of '89, an vivid abandon, she presents herself in “organized brigandage." There is an her correspondence with Grimm! He economy of truth, said Burke. Semira- lives in Paris, factotum and confidant, mis, like Romeo, "hung up philosophy," passes his life in executing her com. and the bust of her “preceptor,” Vol- missions. To him she talks, rather than taire, accompanied Fox to the base writes, as she talks to her intimates, in ment!
overwhelming voluble fashion, gossipEnfin tout prilosophe est banni de céans
ing, punning, often playing the buffoon, Et nous ne vivons plus qu'avec les hun
as she does with that little set of hers nêtes gens!
at her retreat of the "Hermitage."
Persons, even places, have their nick. The advantage of women in affairs
names. St. Petersburg is the “duckof this sort is, that they are natural pond;" Grimm himself the “Fag,” opportunists, and care nothing for the “Souffredouleur," "George Dandin," tyranny of your system. There is a wise “M. le Baron de Thunder-ten-Tronck.”
1 Mr. Gladstone and others have recently been Frederick the Great appears as “Herod” discussing remarkable historical prophesies. (a palpable hit that!), the diplomats as Catharine's forecast of Napoleon is, if not one of “Wind-bags,” “Pea-soup," "die Perthe most extraordinary, certainly one of the most
rückirte Haüpter;" Maria Theresa bevividly defined to be found in history.
comes “Maman;" Gustavus of Sweden, correspondence with Grimm, 13th Jan., 1791, 12th
“Falstaff;"' and so on. There is no quesFeb., 1794, etc.
tion here of making a figure; often she n'y a que cela qui fait qu'on surmonte has nothing to say, she writes purely tout.” Her animal spirits were unfailto give her extravagance an outlet. We ing, though her sense of humor was inhave her here as though we had been complete. Her secretary brings her a present at one of those sparkling con. dispatch; she doubles him up with it in versations which, in old days, used to the manner of the historic company at send Grimm sleepless to his rooms, but Angel's, and invites him by way of of which nothing remained memorable, reparation to join her at blind-man'swhich in truth charmed by their vi- buff with her grand-children. Saintevacity rather than by wit-by that Beuve has praised her intellect, yet its verve which so often supplies the place chief characteristic was a superb comof brilliancy. This familiar note will mon
She had read widely appear in her letters to the Emperor enough, but she had not the true pasJoseph; as unlike those addressed to sion for literature. Nuance, the delicate Herod as the letters to Grimm are un- play of wit or imagination, were lost like those to Mme. Geoffrin or Voltaire. upon her. Her authors are Corneille He was also des nôtres. She, who first of all, and Plutarch, who just then judged men in general poorly enough, was greatly in the mode at Paris, though she used them incomparably especially among women. But her well, not only recognized (unlike most sense sometimes carried her farther of his contemporaries) but was fas- than others were carried by genius. cinated by the element of greatness in “Que je plains, ces pauvres savans! ils that extraordinary man. She used him n'osent jamais prononcer ces quatre it is true, as she used Orlof and mots, je ne sais pas, qui sont si comPatiomkin; her good fortune helped her modes pour nous autres ignorans." as it did before, and will again; their The “let us dare to be ignorant,” does great alliance against the Ottoman not take us farther than that! All the brought her everything, and him noth- world knows her speech about torture ing. Still, no foreigner ever dazzled to the Moscow assembly-an excellent her as he, who could so little impose way of ending a sickly innocent, and of himself on his age. “He will live un- letting a stout rogue go free. Listen to rivalled," she wrote in her enthusiasm, her again: "Euler (whom she had “his star is in the ascendant, he will settled at St. Petersburg) nous prédit leave all Europe behind!” A wandering la fin du monde pour le mois de juillet star, alas! He will go before her to the de l'année qui vient. Il fait venir tout grave, the great failure of his genera- exprès pour cela deux comètes, qui tion, in the bitterness of death dictating feront je ne sais quoi à Saturne, qui à that saddest of epitaphs, “Here lies one son tour viendra nous détruire. Or, la who never fulfilled an aim.” Impar grande-duchesse m'a dit de n'en rien congressus! like Michelet's Charles the croire, parce que les prophéties de Bold, “il avait trop voulu, des choses l'Evangile et de l'Apocalypse ne sont infinies."
pas encore remplies, et notamment She was notable in her day for that l'Antéchrist n'est point
venu, ni vitality and "character" by which she toutes les croyances réunies. Moi, à absorbed to herself men so diverse as tout cela je réponds comme le barbier de the histrionic, gigantesque Patiomkin, Séville. Je dis à l'un: 'Dieu vous and the cold and calculating Grimm. bénisse,' et à l'autre: “Va te coucher!' They were her great endowments. Her et je vais mon train." buoyant enthusiasm, her huge self-con. The arts were indifferent to her, and fidence, her audacity and impetus she was insensible to the simplicity of seemed sometimes to enable men and true greatness. She idolized a Zubof, carry them off their feet. Her gaiety but Kosciusko was immured at St. was constitutional; but had it not been Petersburg till the day of her death, and 80, she would have been happy on prin- she never even learnt his precise name. ciple. “Madame, il faut être gaie. Il Yet she brought to society and politics
much of that protean activity which eighteenth century, everybody was diswas the distinction of her teacher Vol. membered on paper by every one else; taire in the field of letters. She did it was but a delicate attention reserved much for education, and something for for a neighbor in times of trouble and Russian literature. She herself wrote, sickness. And John Sobieski had foreor collaborated in plays, whose per- told the doom of Poland a hundred formances the Holy Synod had to at years before. But it remains a blot tend-and applaud-in a body. She upon her name. For her final fate overalso published translations, pamphlets, took Póland not, as is commonly said, books for her grandchildren, a history because of her internal anarchy of Russia to the fourteenth century, and (sedulously fostered by the foreign even helped to edit a newspaper. Un- powers), but because that anarchy like Frederick, she did not despise the seem. d about to disappear. The spirit language of her country. She put her of reform had penetrated to Warsaw, court to school, and at the “Hermitage” and after the Constitution of May 3rd so many lines of Russian were learnt Catharine was afraid of a revival of the every day. But Radistchev said: “Tear national forces similar to that which and silence reign round Tsarkoë-Sielo. had followed the reforms of 1772 in her The silence of death is there, for there neighbor Sweden. She was aided by despotism has its abode.". He received traitors from within, a'quali era più the knout and Siberia, because his cara la servitù che la liberta della loro words were true. She lived, as he said, patria; and on the field of Maciejovitsy remote from her people. Beggars were they were able to cry, "Finis Poloniæ!" forbidden to enter Moscow, lest she No question has been more obscured. should see them; but a rumor ran after The fashion of liberal thought has her return from the South that Alexis changed, the history, like that of town Orlof led her into a barn where were and gown, has been written by the viclaid out the bodies of all who had died torious aggressors, and Poland is beof hunger on the day of her triumphal come the rendezvous of the political entry. Like Peter the Great, she even sophistries, as it has been the cockpit in some ways intensified serfdom. A of the political ruffianism, of all Europe. hundred and fifty thousand “peasants But Catharine could boast that she had of the Crown” were handed over by her pushed the frontiers of Russia farther as serfs to her lovers. Their proprietors than any sovereign since Ivan the could send them with hard labor to Terrible. “I came to Russia a poor Siberia; they could give them fifteen girl. Russia has dowered me richly, thousand blows for a trifling offence; but I have paid her back with Azof, the a Saltykof tortured seventy-five to Crimea, and the Ukraine.” death. Sed ignoti perierunt mortibus There remains the side of her which illi! their day will come, but not yet. attracted Byron, and which no one has
This is not the place to describe the failed to seize. The beginnings of her campaigns of Rumiantsof, Patiomkin, moral descent are there before us in and the rest, against Sweden and the the memoirs; ennui and solitude Ottomans. Her own ideas in the field weighed upon her; and as she gained of foreign policy we have already seen. greater liberty she sought distractions After the Revolution another policy, which, at first, were harmless. The third that of spurring on Gustavus and the stage was the infamous command of Western powers to a crusade against the empress, the grand duke and she France, takes the first place. It gave have no children; the succession must them something to think about, she be secured. If Soltykof, as Catharine explained to Ostermann, and she implies, were the father of her son Paul, “wanted elbow-room." The third the sovereigns who have since occupied Polish partition explains why she was the throne of Russia are Romanofs only so anxious for "elbow-room.” Schemes in name.1 From this point till her death of the kind were common enough in the
1 But there is a distinct resemblance between