A French Description of Nicholas I

[excerpted from Germaine de Lagny, The Knout and the Russians; or, the Muscovite Empire, the Czar and His People, John Bridgeman, tr. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1854), pp. 223-249]


The Emperor Nicholas is assuredly the most honest man in his empire, just as he is the handsomest, the most just, the most humane, and the most intelligent. Ile commands the respect and esteem of all who surround him, or who have the honour to approach him, less by the sacred character 'with which he is in- vested, than by the rare and great qualities for which he is distinguished. As a friend, as a father, and as a husband, he is a perfect model of domestic virtue.

Exactly in the same degree that lie is generous, indulgent, and humane, with regard to the errors caused by the wild impetuosity of youth, is he implacable to those propagators of theories who expose the people to the disorders and shocks which for the last four years have kept all Europe in commotion. For such men e is without mercy, and without pity; he punishes without holding out the slightest hope of pardon.

Among the boyars of his court, there are some few friends of his childhood, whom he loves with the fanaticism of the warmest friendship, and by whom, in turn, he is loved with the most unlimited devotion and disinterestedness. When the man is transformed into the Emperor, all bow and incline respectfully before him. When he again changes into the man, he is, in the fullest acceptation of the word, a gentleman, and invariably kind friend.

Twice a-year, on New Year's Day and on the Fêteday of the Empress, the doors of the imperial palace are thrown open to such as have obtained beforehand tickets of admission, when soldiers, courtiers, merchants, and moujicks, in their national dress, mingle together. The aristocracy, the diplomatic body, the foreigners, who have received invitations, and the common people admitted to the fëte, are introduced promiscuously in the grand apartments, where all have to wait, pressed upon by the crowd, for the appearance of the Emperor, and of the imperial family. His commanding figure is at length seen towering above the ocean of heads that surround him-the crowd opens before him, and he advances, followed by his noble retinue. He walks freely, and even without experiencing the slightest inconvenience from the mass of people, through closely-packed rooms, where an instant before one would not have believed another person could have penetrated. As soon as he disappears, the crowd of peasants closes behind him, like the ripple on the water that follows in the track of a ship.

He loves and reveres the companion of his life ; he adores and idolises his children, and is never more happy than when in the midst of them, playing at all sorts of innocent games with some, and teasing the others with the most innocent jokes.

Endowed with robust health and iron energy, he is indefatigable in his labours, and tires out his ministers and secretaries with work. He is the first to rise, and the last to retire to rest, and devotes his whole time and solicitude to the administration of his vast empire. He superintends everything -- the army, the finances, the navy, trade and agriculture -- endeavouring to introduce zeal and probity into I every department, without ever being successful. The disease of venality under which the empire is suffering is too far spread; there his autocracy is vanquished.

Emperor and Czar, invested with triple power, he looks upon himself as a man charged by Providence with a divine mission, which he endeavours to fulfil with remarkable intelligence, and with the energy of an honest man who knows exactly the object he has in view.

It would be as odious as unjust to refuse the Emperor Nicholas the praise really due to him, because he dedicates all his energy towards extending the political influence of his country. If he governs his people with the roughness and severity which we have described, and preserves in his empire a body of laws and a state of things stamped with barbarism and cruelty, it is because lie knows that his people, with whom he is better acquainted than any one else, is incapable of living under a regimen more in harmony with the precepts of the Gospel. We have already said in a former portion of our work, that the instant Russian law ceases to strike and crush like the thunderbolt, the moment it ceases to inspire terror, Russia will be covered with ruins and with blood. We saw, when speaking of the military colonies of the Volkoff, of what excesses the nation is capable.


The Emperor has endeavoured to do, and has really effected, all the good be could, but always with great prudence. That the good is not more evident, we must blame his aristocracy alone, who at all times has offered the most violent opposition, and obliged him. to pursue a retrograde course.

The existence of this man of genius has, ever since his accession to the throne, been nought save one continual struggle with the venality and corruption which crush his empire, for his penetration had discerned the evil long before it was pointed out to him. On one occasion, he resolved to probe this evil with all the energy of an honest heart. He charged two intelligent men belonging to his staff of secretaries- two Germans from Courland, in whom he placed implicit confidence-to investigate most thoroughly all the branches of the public administration; to observe, to see, to judge everything for themselves, and boldly to take the soundings of this ocean of corruption, however deep it might be. The will of the Czar is law, and is, I fearlessly assert, often attended with beneficial results. The task was no easy one; thousands of obstacles were shattered to pieces and overcome. The work was long and, contrary to his expectations, conscientious. It is true, that it would not have been easy to disguise the evil. The portrait was not flattered. Instances of bribery, shuffling and venality were pointed out to the Czar without any respect for persons. Names were written in full, and proofs were abundant. The sore gaped as wide as a gulf. Punishment was out of the question, for it would have been necessary to let the knout fall upon the noblest shoulders in his empire, and his vengeance almost everywhere-to open the gates of Siberia to the majority of those who surrounded him.for, figuratively speaking, the very doors of his palace threatened to fall, eaten away with corruption! The Czar shed a tear or two, and threw the report into the fire. In a country of this kind, justice, before being severe, must be prudent.

The very same evening, weighed down with grief, he went, according to his usual custom, to the house of one of his favourite ministers, Count -------. The sombre, discontented air of the Autocrat, completely stupified the mind of the favourite, who, in a stammering voice, plucked up sufficient courage to ask his august master what had occurred to affect his mind to such a degree, and stamp upon his face the marks of such profound sadness. The Czar, with that sharp, abrupt tone, for which be is celebrated, related to his minister- general all he had just learned, told him the
revelations recently made, and exclaimed with con. centrated indignation:

"Everyone robs throughout the empire! Everyone around me robs! In whatever direction I choose to glance, I behold only pilferers and robbers! There is only one, person, a single one, who can walk proudly with head erect. Of this person, at least, I am sure," he added, looking at his favourite very fixedly and very strangely.

Count ------, imagining that the Emperor was alluding to him, bowed and bent himself almost to the ground, in order to thank his most august master for having had the goodness to think him an honest servant.

But the Czar, striking his breast, added the following words: -

"And that person who does not rob is myself! I am the only person throughout the empire who does not steal!

This struggle of the good with the bad, always kept up by the Emperor with a degree of ardour and courage often amounting to temerity, has more than once nearly cost him his life. We must not forget that, when a Czar becomes troublesome, he is either poisoned, or killed by the cord or the sword, if not by means still more atrocious, for Russian genius is very fertile in intentions of this description. We have the example of Paul's death to prove this.

As we have before said, the revolution of February, 1848, was a stroke of fortune for the Czar. But for that, it is highly probable that he would have fallen under the blows of his malignant and perfidious aristocracy, among whose number there are still, at the moment of our writing these lines, several of the murderers of his father. He owes his safety to the fear which the socialist theories inspired, and still inspire. Since 1839, the nobility has been endeavouring to get rid of the Czar; ten times, perhaps, has he been on the point of being struck, and ten times have his audacity and his sang-froid saved him.

Among the conspirators were, and still are, members of his household, whom he was loading every day with marks of his kindness.

To conspire at St. Petersburg, under the eyes of the Czar, or even at Moscow, the refuge of all discontented and offended spirits, would have been rather too dangerous. The conspirators arranged their plans abroad, in Italy, France, and Switzerland, but principally in. Germany, at a watering-place, where they agreed to meet, ostensibly for the sake of their health. At this period, travellingppermits and passports were easily obtained, -- in fact, they were never refused. At the watering-place in question, the conspirators could plot freely, secure from all danger. They arranged their plans, and disposed of the lives of the Czar and his young family with the same indifference as if they had been projecting a party of pleasure. Among the most active members of this strange band of conspirators, were persons occupying high offices in the state, superior officers of the army, equerries, chamberlains, and senators, some being of pure Russian extraction, and others Courlanders, Livonians, and Esthonians. In order to speak more freely of the actions and conduct of the Czar, without attracting anybody's attention, they designated him by a nickname that was almost ignoble, and all that bad been said, done, and agreed on, while they were taking the waters, was reported, with the greatest exactitude, to the brethren and friends who had remained in Russia.

Up to 1839, or 1840, at which period the feeling of discontent began to grow very strong, it had never been seriously resolved, at least as far as I am aware, that the Czar should perish. The feudal aristocracy felt neither sufficiently powerful nor sufficiently popular to risk such a measure, and already dreaded the tchinn. They had allowed him to give himself the airs of an autocrat, and it was too late to oblige him to quit them (we are citing the very words which issued from Russian lips). But they did not, on this account, abandon their plans; they speculated on the Czarovitch's accession to the throne; they knew that he was a weak-minded person; they discussed the guarantees which they should insist On his granting, and the probable results of an act obtained by force ; they took into consideration every possible eventuality, and without altogether renouncing all idea of committing a crime, they were fatally impelled towards it. For, supposing even that the Czarovitch had consented to sign an act of indemnity under the pressure of his boyars, it is very improbable that, once master of the government and the army, and seconded besides by his brothers, especially the Grand-Duke Constantine, a man of remarkable energy, he would not immediately have endeavoured to free himself from it. In such a case, therefore, to avoid perishing in Siberia, or the Caucasus, on the scaffold, or in some other manner, the nobility would inevitably be obliged to have recourse to the three traditional methods of their country: poison, the cord, or the pressure of a muscular hand-and inelude in one act of extermination all the members of the imperial family.


In 1839, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and all the large cities of the empire, were suddenly thrown. into a state of terrible anxiety. A strange rumour circulated in every family, and people whispered to one another that, in the silence of his study, the Emperor was preparing the emancipation of all the serfs. The aristocracy, taken unawares, trembled for its privileges, its property, its riches, and even its life; for, in Russia, a liberal measure is almost always followed by a revolt, and the nobles have so many sins upon their conscience to answer for! All of a sudden, a ukase appeared! It merely contained a clause authorising and rendering mutually binding, every farming lease contracted voluntarily between a noble and his serf. This was a step towards liberty. The attempt was a bold one, how. ever, for, up to that time, the peasant did not even possess the right of disposing of his intelligence, being debarred from entering into any contract whatever.'

This measure, although marked with deep wisdom, was not attended with the slightest success : not that it was misunderstood by the serfs, but because, knowing the value of the promises made them by their masters, they did not relish the liberty offered, and flatly refused it. In their eyes, it was but another form, in virtue of which the boyars might odiously use them to their own advantage. Besides, in case of a dispute, by whom and how would justice be awarded? This was something that the ukase did not tell them, and the unhappy serfs were already too well acquainted with the venality of their magistrates and of their country.

And yet this liberty of making an agreement granted to these thirty or forty millions of slaves, was intended to deliver them from the tyranny of the stewards, and even of the nobles themselves, since, through it, instead of being mere ploughs, they were transformed into agriculturists.

This ukase, which had made so much noise, excited so much rage, and, for a moment, shaken the whole social system, sank back into nothingness. Fortunately, the mountain had only brought forth a mouse. But the blow had been given. Every malignant passion was strengthened, and, if its courage had not

failed, the aristocracy would have exterminated the imperial family.

The marriage of the Grand-Duchess Marie, and the Duke de Leuchtenberg, was a fresh motive for discontent and hatred. There was not one of the ostentatious boyars, who did not look upon himself as of a better family than a Prince de Beauharnais, and all of them treasured up a feeling of deep vengeance against the Emperor for having proved himself the best of fathers, and for having, in this alliance, consulted only the heart and the happiness of his child. Did he chance to have a palace built for his daughter ? They vociferated. loudly and perseveringly that he was ruining Russia. Did he appoint his son- in-law to the colonelcy

of a regiment ? Their outcries became doubly violent, and they went so far as to say that he was a sans- culotte, making a pun upon the word. Even the children, playing the part of echoes to their relations, never spoke of the Prince but in an affected tone of contempt.

It was during this period, extending from 1839 to 1840, that the Emperor threw down the gauntlet a hundred times to his nobility, and treated it with so much disdain and haughtiness as would lead any one to suppose that he was acquainted with its dark plots and projects. It seemed as if he wished to drive it to extremities by various measures, each of which successively narrowed its privileges. He wounded it in its pride, by opening the gates of the university, of the public schools, and of all the branches of the administration of the Empire, to every individual who presented himself, whether the son of a tradesman or of an emancipated serf. Mons. de Custine's book was published, and met with a brilliant reception; the Emperor publicly purchased a great number of copies, as much as to say to his nobles: " See how well this writer has appreciated and judged you!" The revolution of February, I again repeat, was an unexpected miracle of Providence, a miracle which saved the Czar, and perhaps Russia as well, from a terrible catastrophe.

During these nine years, he was constantly in danger. All persons expected, nearly every day, to hear that he had perished by a violent death, which would, inevitably, be followed by a revolt of the army. Two parties would then have stood face to face: the Feudal Nobility and the Tchinn. The first impulse of the Russian peasant who has revolted, is to massacre the nobles and the foreigners; that of the soldier is to kill and exterminate his officers and every one who is German, under which name he confounds the natives of almost every nation. The principal foreigners residing at St. Petersburg, had, in expectation of some event of the kind, taken measures for escaping and gaining Finland. It is exactly from this epoch that date the introduction into Russia of decked boats, mid the foundation of boating clubs, the members of which, under pretence of learning how to manage their craft, used to go and make themselves acquainted with the navigation about Cronstadt, in order, as I have just said, to gain the islands with which the coast of Finland is constellated, and whence they could reach Sweden without the least danger.


Like Janus, the Czar has two faces, the one smiling and gracious, and the other severe and harsh. The first is kept for his home, his moujicks, who adore him, and. the artists and scholars that he is always pleased to see and meet upon his way: the second is for his boyars, his army, and especially for the persons employed in the various branches of the administration of his empire. He drives almost always alone, unless when accompanied by one of his sons, in a carriage or a sledge, through the streets of his capital, and nothing can be more curious than to observe the play of his features. If he answers, on his right, the salute of an officer or a soldier, of a boyar or of a tradesman, his face is severe and his look almost terrible ; but if his attention is immediately afterwards attracted to his left, by a group of foreigners or artists, the expression of his physiognomy is softened down, and instead of placing his hand, in military fashion, on a level with his hat, he waves it graciously.

His costume is invariable, being always that of a superior officer. Nothing distinguishes him particularly from the officers of his army, unless it is his tall figure and handsome, manly face. lie does not allow any of his officers to dress in plain clothes, and only assumes them himself when abroad.

The Emperor Nicholas has inherited the antipathy and hatred of his ancestors for beards and long hair. Except his coachmen, whom he chooses from among the most blackly-bearded individuals in his empire, all persons connected with the civil administration are obliged to shave off every particle of hair on their faces. The army alone wears the moustache and imperial. The nobility and free citizens may wear whiskers, but only as far as on a level with the bottom of the ear. The Czar himself personally watches over, besides causing others to do the same, the scrupulous observance of these regulations.

He has an equal horror of those dandies, to be found in every country, who think it the acme of good taste to ape the manners, customs, absurdities, and eccentricities of every nation but their own.

One day, as he was passing along the Newski Perspective, his glance happened to fall, by the merest accident, on a young man whom he took to be an Englishman of the first water. This individual's face was covered by thick whiskers of an extraordinary length, half curled, and a moustache twisted up at the ends, like fish-hooks, while half his head was imprisoned in a prodigiously eccentric shirt collar. Ile had got on a checked costume, peculiarly English, with a plaid round his shoulders, and a Scotch bonnet upon his head. At first, the Czar did not recognize him, but, taking him for a tourist, passed on without paying any more attention. The next day, this strangely-costumed personage again came under his observation, and the Czar thought he recognized one of his boyars. He stopt his sledge and made a sign for him to approach. As may be supposed, the young boyar waited for the invitation to be repeated, for fear he might have been mistaken. But, being directly pointed out by the Czar's finger, he was under the necessity of answering the summons, and walked up tremblingly to the Czar, who said drily, making room for him: " Take a seat, sir!" Every one, seeing the Emperor pass with Count -- at his side, asked himself, how in the name of Heaven the latter had succeeded in placing himself on so intimate a footing with the Czar. Never, till that day, had his 'Majesty been seen driving out with a favourite. This departure from courtly routine formed the subject of every one's conversation, and of endless commentaries, all the rest of the day. Could it be a tribute of respect, which his Majesty thus publicly rendered to the taste and manners of this young Muscovite, disguised like an Englishman? Such might be the case, and as, in Russia, the courtiers are the slaves of the sovereign's slightest caprices, they began making every preparation for imitating the fashionable appearance which Count - had imported with such fortunate results.

At the expiration of an hour, the Emperor drove back to the Danitschkoff Palace, where the imperial family have resided since the Winter Palace was burnt clown. Ile himself introduced the fashionable Muscovite into the saloons of the Empress, to whom he presented him, saying in the most easy and good- humoured manner:

" Here, Madame Nicholas," for it is thus he names the Empress in the intimacy of private life, " I present to you one of our most faithful subjects. Look at him closely. Do you not know him ? Well, there is nothing astonishing in that. He has, for the last few years, been travelling in France and England, and this is the horrible condition in which he has returned to us."

Then, turning towards Count --, who was struck dumb with terror and stupifaction, he said to him:

" You may retire, but let me beg of you to shave and become a true Russian as formerly. Remember, that it is more honourable to remain one of your own country, than to ape the absurdities of foreign nations."

The same evening, the adventure was known in all the drawing-rooms of the capital, to the great amusement of everybody.


The Emperor Nicholas is radically good, just, and humane. Afore than one foreigner owes him his fortune, while more than one officer of his army owes him his life, and, what is of still greater account, his honour.

As I have said in one of the preceding chapters, it often happens that the contents of the strongbox of a regiment are squandered away at some org or other. The unfortunate wretch, who has thus forgotten his duty, and possesses neither property of his own nor relations to make up the deficiency, has no resource left but the truly paternal goodness of the Czar. A young officer, bearing one of the most illustrious names in Russia, bad lost all his patrimony in a gambling-bouse. Impelled by his love of play, and, perhaps, by the hopes of recovering his fortune, he had risked the money belonging to his regiment upon the green table, and once again lost. There were four courses open to him: suicide, degradation, Siberia, and the Emperor. He proceeded to the palace, and confided to the aide-de-camp in waiting the request he wished the latter to convey to his Majesty. As soon as the Czar heard the first few words pronounced by his aide- de-camp, he hastily exclaimed: Enough, enough, sir! do not pronounce his name, for, if I knew it, I ought to punish him "-then, opening a drawer in his bureau, and taking out thirty thousand roubles, he added: "There, give him that, and do not let the matter ever be mentioned to me again."


A thousand similar traits are to be found in the life of the Emperor Nicholas. His solicitude extends even to the foreigners residing in his empire. Never was it more evident, as far as Frenchmen are concerned, than after the revolution of February, 1848. The French. embassy no longer existed. The Chargé d'Affaires bad sent in his resignation and quitted Russia. Nothing remained at St. Petersburg but a staff of subordinates in a state of the greatest disorder. The Emperor gave orders that all the principal French residents of the capital should be requested to appear at the office of the minister of police, where, after having informed them of the events that were taking place in France, the minister told them that his Majesty took them under his especial protection, and that they might, without any anxiety, pursue their various labours, trades, and professions, as heretofore. He added that passports would be delivered to those whose interests recalled them to their native country. They were, also, requested to abstain in public, or before Russians, from all conversation of a political character, as every one infrindged this order would be immediately expelled the country, without any hope of being allowed to return.

I regret being compelled to say, that they did not all I prove grateful for this act of kindness on the part of the Emperor. Several of them stupidly endeavoured to propagate their political opinions, and were conducted to the frontiers. I know no persons more insupportable and arrogant than a certain class of my compatriots when abroad. Endowed with an excessive dose of pride and national anmour-propre, they treat as savages the nation with whom they live, and to whom they have come for the purpose of forwarding their own interests. They are always instituting comparisons between their native country and that in which they are hospitably welcomed. I have met with some Frenchmen, in Russia, who pushed their impertinence so far as to think it extraordinary that all Russians did not speak French.

On receiving intelligence of the revolutions at Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Frankfort, etc., the Czar immediately gave orders that all the frontiers of his empire, both by land and sea, should be hermetically closed. He established a sanitary chain of Cossacks round Russia, and isolated it more completely, perhaps, from the rest of Europe, than China itself. The newspapers, however, were still allowed to enter; but, before being distributed, they passed under the scissors of the censors, who lacerated them without pity. The persons intrusted with this task, trembled daily for their liberty. A single line of politics overlooked was sufficient to conduct them to Siberia. As a natural consequence, they tolerated only the literary articles, the price of stocks, the advertisements, and the miscellaneous news. One day, I happened to say to an official that it would be better to stop the papers altogether than to mutilate them in such a manner. "That would never do," he replied; , we would rather reprint them here."


Without entirely sharing the prejudices of his people, the Emperor is, nevertheless, irresistibly swayed by the idea of fatalism. The following anecdote is a proof of this. Every morning, he causes all the franked letters which have been sent by post (for he never receives any personally) to be brought to him; be has them then read by his secretary, and classifies them all in his prodigious memory. One day, while thus engaged, he suddenly recollected a plan which bad been forwarded to him the evening previous, and which be had placed in his bureau. Not being able to lay his hand upon it, he commenced looking about with impatience. During this time, the secretary continued reading, and, to each of the letters, the Czar replied: " Refused" Some dozen requests had met with this fate, when the Czar found the plan. From that moment, to each of the rest, be replied: " Granted."

When the secretary bad concluded his task, he said:

" Would your Majesty allow me to make an observation ? "

Certainly; speak," replied the Emperor.

Just now, Sire, your Majesty was searching for a plan. Under the influence of the vexation which your Majesty appeared to experience at not finding it, you refused some dozen requests -- if your Majesty would permit me to read them again, perhaps among the number there might be some deserving of your kindness."

" Ah! true!" replied the Czar, "you do well to remind me of the circumstance ; " then suddenly correcting himself, he added, with an inspired air, 11 But no-no, I refused to grant them-it was the will of God-it was fated to happen so; I have, doubtless, judged them rightly, and I maintain what I have said."


Up to the present time, the Emperor Nicholas has been visibly protected by Providence. He has enjoyed the most complete domestic happiness that it ever fell to the lot of a human being to know. Father of a numerous family, he has had the rare good fortune of seeing it grow up, and of keeping it near his own person. He has been successful in the government of his vast empire. This extraordinary man seems to be beyond the reach of misfortune. But there is, however, one black spot in his existence which exasperates him: be cannot resist the effects of the sea! What is most extraordinary, too, is that he has never embarked in a Russian bark or ship, for a pleasure trip or a voyage, without being assailed by the most horrible tempests,
or winds violent enough to sink the strongest ship. Tossed about, shattered, disfigured and almost broken to pieces, the vessels on board of which he has been, have, in spite of all this, succeeded in reaching port. But does not this perseverance on the. part of fate to pursue him, this furious commotion of the ocean, whenever he has had to traverse it, seem like an energetic protestation on the part of Neptune against the favourite whim of the Russian government to create a navy ?

This fact is so well known to Russians, that none of the members of his family or his household ever like to accompany him; they only do so with the greatest reluctance. He knows the repugnance of his favourites for a voyage or pleasure trip by sea, and takes a malicious delight in ordering the attendance of those who are the most timid.

Half his life may truly be said to have been spent upon the high roads of his vast empire, and those of Europe. He likes to travel fast. In Russia, when sledging has once really commenced, he never goes at a rate of less than four leagues an hour. This extraordinary speed has caused him more than one fall, and more than one accident. On one occasion, for instance, between Moscow and Novgorod, his sledge, being run away with by some fiery horses of the Steppes, capsized in a deep ravine, and the Czar was taken up with a broken clavicle.


Whenever the Emperor Nicholas is called upon to administer justice, his decisions are stamped with the most religious impartiality. In one of the early years of his reign, a young girl of illustrious family became deeply enamoured of a young officer of the noble-guards. As the consent which she solicited was refused with a degree of obstinacy that was perfectly unjustifiable, she fled from the paternal roof, and got secretly married. She was a minor; and her family, which was the most important in the province, as much by the austerity of its morals, as by its immense fortune, and the influence derived from science, merit, and a high official position, demanded the punishment of the seducer. It required the most terrible chastisements - - the knout, the whip, the rod, or, at least, Siberia-in a word, nothing was horrible enough in its eyes for so atrocious a case. The Czar would not listen to all these complaints. A scandalous offence had, it is true, been committed, but it had been instantly atoned for. Besides, the young man was of as good a family as his youthful bride, and the Czar thought that they ought to be left alone. The complaints and clamour of the family, however, increased, until, at last, the Czar, whose patience was completely exhausted, replied personally to the mother of the young bride:-" Well then, Madam, be it so; I will punish them, I will make an example. The young count shall go and find a certain death in the army of the Caucasus, and your daughter shall be sent to end her days. in a convent." This menace, which he most certainly did not intend to put into execution, had all the success he expected, nor did he cease to exert himself until he had prevailed upon the young lady's family to pardon and forget her error.


The court frequently visits the theatre in winter. Emperor passes an hour or two there every evening. He is particularly fond of the Italian opera and the French plays, for which he makes enormous sacrifices. His great pleasure, between the acts, is to go down upon the stage, and talk to the members of the company, men as well as women, always exquisitely polite to the former, and amiably gallant to the latter. Being himself naturally very simple in his taste and demeanour, he desires that every one else should be natural, without affectation. Ile likes to awe persons, and is himself the first to laugh. at the awkwardness and constraint felt by strangers in his presence. For instance, going one day unexpectedly on the stage of the French theatre, he found all the actresses in groups, mutually backbiting one another. Immediately they perceived him, they fell into a line, like soldiers presenting arms, and made a profound curtsey, which struck him as so comical, that, to amuse himself a little at their expense, he placed himself before them, and taking hold of the two skirts of his uniform. surtout, returned their salute with a smile; lie then went up and talked to them some time with the greatest kindness.

All dramatic artists who leave Russia after a stay of ten years, have a pension of eighty pounds each, out of his own privy purse. More than one mediocre actor is indebted to him for an easy and certain competency in his old age.


He speaks French admirably, and is thoroughly acquainted with all the niceties of the language. Formerly lie used to take a pleasure in making bonsmots and other kinds of jokes, but, although very clever in this respect, his brother, the Grand-Duke Michael, was far superior to him. He used to make them on every possible occasion, even in. the midst of a serious conversation. There is not a single boyar admitted to the court in 1839, who does not recollect the famous pun that he made upon his own niece, the Grand- Duchess Marie, the evening of the day on which she was married to the Duke of Leuchtenberg.

The Empress is no whit inferior to the Emperor in goodness of heart and elevation of soul. She possesses, in the highest degree, every feminine virtue. As a wife, she loves the Emperor beyond expression Endowed with profound good sense, and with a rare spirit of penetration, she is, so to speak, a tutelary angel, around whom all who are unhappy collect, in order to obtain favours, or a commutation of the severe sentences of her husband. The Emperor is fond of yielding to the gentle. influence exercised over him by his wife, and it is very seldom, unless in instances of the most atrocious crime, that she does not obtain forgetfulness of the past, or at least a mitigation of the punishment. All the benefits that she has conferred, and still confers, remain unknown; she never profanes them by publishing them to the world, and the unhappy beings whom she saves, or whom she succours, have not to blush at their misery or their misfortunes.

She accepts, and even eagerly seeks, the office of patroness of all works of charity. She knows that good deeds done by those in high stations, always meet with numerous imitators.

In 1848, when the cholera was ravaging the city, she displayed a far greater amount of courage than is natural to her sex. Two or three thousand victims fell every day struck down by the plague. Terror was painted on every face, and despair planted in every heart. The city was deserted, and all the public offices abandoned. In less than four days applications were made for more than eighty thousand passports. The nobility had fled, and even the persons connected with the court requested to leave. The streets were strewed with corpses, and encumbered with dying persons. The Czarina preserved all her courage and energy. She was to be seen everywhere, accompanied by the princesses, restoring every one's courage by her own example. The Czar, on his side, used to traverse the city on foot, accompanied by his sons, and followed by some few aides-de-camp who had not dared to flee. He visited all the hospitals and all the barracks, making it a point to go into the quarters which had suffered most, nor did he withdraw to his summer residence the Palace of Czarsko-Selo, until the city was, so to speak, almost abandoned. We can safely affirm that not more than a hundred thousand souls, including the garrison, were left within the walls. Three hundred and fifty thousand bad retired into the country.

For several years past, the Czarina has been in a very delicate and unsettled state of health. More than once have the medical men of the country despaired of preserving her for her numerous and fine family, whom she idolises, and all of whom-sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren -- assemble around her every evening. The son-in-law, also, whom she has just lost, and whom she used to love as much as her own sons, was very assiduous in his attendance at these meetings.