Page images

great innovations which he had advised, he exhibited his surprise by a sort of haughty discontent.

"Then speaking to him freely, I said: "Monsieur Diderot, I have listened with the greatest pleasure to all that your brilliant genius has inspired you with; but all your grand principles, which I understand very well, though they will make fine books, would make sad work in actual practice. You forget, in all your plans for reformation, the difference between our two positions: you work only upon paper, which submits to every thing; it is altogether obedient and supple, and opposes no obstacles, either to your imagination or to your pen; whereas I, a poor Empress, I work upon human nature, which is, on the contrary, irritable and easily offended."

I am satisfied that, from that time, he pitied me, and looked on me as one possessed only of a narrow and ordinary mind. From that moment he spoke to me only on literary subjects, and politics disappeared from our conversations.'-pp. 34, 35.

The Empress and her suite stopped in the dull city of Kioff for a couple of months, much to the annoyance of Count Segur, who was oppressed with ennui all the time, though living like a prince, at the expense of the court which he attended. Among the numerous generals who repaired thither on the occasion, was the famous Souwaroff, or Suwarrow. The following anecdote of this veteran is characteristic::

'I remember I asked him once, whether it was true that, when he was in the army, he seldom slept, subduing nature, even without necessity, lying always upon straw, and never drawing off his boots nor quitting his arms:-Yes, he said, I hate idleness; and from my fear of sleeping, I have always a cock in my tent which is very punctual in frequently awaking me; when I wish now and then to enjoy luxury and repose comfortably, I take off one of my spurs.'-pp. 55, 56.

In one trait this hardy warrior seems to have resembled Napoleon-that of asking strangers a number of questions without scarcely waiting for the answers. We give a laughable specimen of his introductory conversation with M. de Lameth, a French gentleman, then on his travels in Russia :

To what country do you belong? said the General, abruptly.-France. -What profession?-Military.-What rank?-Colonel.--Your name ?Alexander de Lameth.-Good.

'M. de Lameth, a little annoyed at this short interrogation, called on the General in his turn, and looking at him steadfastly, said: To what country do you belong?--Russia.-What profession?-Military.-What rank? General.-What name?-Souwaroff.-Good. Both immediately fell a laughing, and thenceforward were very good friends.-p. 57.

Among the occupations to which Catherine had recourse at Kioff, in order to while away the time, was the study of the art of poetry.

'This Princess took it into her head to learn to make verses: I was occupied eight days in making her acquainted with the rules of poetry; but, from the moment we attempted to put them in practice, both she and I discovered that time had never been worse employed, and I believe that it

[blocks in formation]

would be difficult to meet with an ear less susceptible of the harmony of verse than her's was.

Her brain, entirely filled with reasoning and politics, afforded no images to enrich her thoughts; her mind seemed to sink under the fatigue of a toilsome search for metre and for rhyme. She allowed, therefore, that her efforts in this species of composition would not be more happy than those of the celebrated Mallebranche, who said, that after very great labour, he was incapable of making any other verses than the two following:

"Il fait le plus beau temps du monde

Pour aller à cheval, sur la terre et sur l'onde."

'The weather's as fine as weather can be,

On horseback to ride o'er the land and the sea.'-p. 59.

Mr. Fitzherbert, like a true John Bull, told the Empress that she had no chance of success in that department of fame, and that she ought to limit her poetical exertions to the epitaph which she wrote on her dog.

"Ci-git la duchesse Anderson,

Qui mordit monsieur Rogerson." 'Here lies the Duchess Anderson,

Who once bit Mr. Rogerson.'-p. 60.

This scene of courtly languor was at length materially relieved by the arrival of Prince Potemkin, and that celebrated master of conversational eloquence and pleasantry, the amiable Prince de Ligne. The former took up his residence at the monastery Petschersky, where he displayed all the state and personal hauteur of a grand vizier. We must give the portrait which the author draws of that semi-barbarous chieftian :

Either from natural indolence, or from an affected importance, which he considered as useful and politic, this powerful and capricious favourite of Catherine, after having appeared in the grand uniform of Marshal, covered with decorations and diamonds, loaded with embroidery and lace, and with his head dressed, curled and powdered, like the oldest of our courtiers, generally put on a morning gown, with his neck bare, his legs half naked, his feet in large slippers, and his hair flat and badly combed. He lay effeminately stretched out upon a large sofa, surrounded by a crowd of officers and the most considerable personages of the empire, rarely inviting any of them to be seated, and almost always pretending to be too much occupied by a game at chess, to perceive the Russians, or the foreigners who arrived in his saloon.

I was well acquainted with all his singularities; but as scarcely any one of the bystanders was aware of the intimate familiarity which existed between this eccentric minister and myself, I confess that my self-love experienced some embarrassment, upon the reflection that so many strangers would behold the minister of the King of France exposed, like any other person, to submit to his insolence and his caprice.

In order, therefore, that no one should be deceived, I adopted this course: when I had arrived at the monastery, and had been announced, perceiving that the prince did not at all discompose himself, not even so

much as to raise his eyes from the chess-board, I went directly up to him, I took his head between my hands, I embraced him cordially and without ceremony, and then set myself down by his side upon his sofa. This familiarity of course astonished the spectators, but it was perfectly intelligible to him.'--pp. 62, 63.

The stratagem which our diplomatist adopted on this occasion, appears to our comprehension to have been sufficiently perilous. We should have expected the prince to have returned the salute in a less gracious manner, but it seems to have passed off without any further remark.

It was while Count Segur was at Kioff, that he received the first intelligence of the assembly of the notables in Paris. So little did he, or any of the statesmen then near Catherine, foresee the consequences of that measure, that he proclaimed it as a fortunate step, upon which every body congratulated him. Even Catherine spoke of it with enthusiasm, and said that she could not too much eulogise the young king, whom she compared to Henry IV. The probability is, that she hoped that such a measure would sufficiently employ the court of Versailles for some time, and thus permit her to carry on, without impediment from that quarter, her designs upon the Ottoman dominions. The elements of war with that power were already sufficiently matured: an immense Russian army was collected by Prince Potemkin near the Euxine sea, under pretence of rendering the pompous voyage of the Empress a more magnificent and imposing spectacle in the eyes of Europe; and her ambassador at Constantinople already began to find various causes of complaint against the Sultan. Count Segur was instructed to exert all his talents in order to prevent the breaking out of hostilities: with what success we need not say, as the events which followed are fully recorded in the page of history. The Count mentions, however, one opinion, which we can scarcely believe to have have been well founded. He thinks that the real project of Catherine, was not to take possession of Constantinople, but to add Moldavia and Wallachia to all her other recent conquests, and, after forming the whole into a new Grecian empire, to place the crown on the head of young Constantine.

Had we space for observation here, we might point out the evasions to which Catherine resorted in order to deceive the French minister. Her envoy at Constantinople, acting under the instructions of Potemkin, was doing every thing in his power in order to precipitate the two countries into an immediate war. When his conduct is remonstrated against, she calls Potemkin before her, and censures his proceedings, as being unauthorised; which he admits, but excuses on some slight grounds. Still matters go on as before, and it seems that she succeeded in persuading Segur, that, at the utmost, her wishes reached no farther than Wallachia and Moldavia; as if, after acquiring those two provinces, her march to Constantinople could be arrested!

There are those who believe, that even to the present hour, the court of Petersburgh have not lost sight of that splendid prize; but wait for the turn of events, in order to contend for it, against the effeminate and tottering power of the Turks. Has the entertainment of this project any connexion with those family arrangements, which, to the surprise of all Europe, lately gave the throne of Russia to a younger, passing over the elder brother? Is Constantine still destined to rule over the capital from which his name was honoured? Was he not designed for this by Catherine; and is the fulfilment of her project to be his compensation, for the departure in his person from the regular line of succession?

From Kioff the Empress proceeded on her journey, as soon as the spring rendered the waters of the Borysthenes navigable. Her galley was splendidly fitted up, and was followed by more than eighty vessels, of different descriptions. Upon the arrival of the fleet at Kanieff, Stanislaus, the king of Poland, was in attendance, to pay his homage to Catherine. The two monarchs had formerly, as it is well known, been united by ties more tender than those of mere political friendship. The interview was expected to be embarrassing to both parties.

When he had ascended the imperial galley, we pressed in a circle around him, anxious to witness the first emotions, and to hear the first words of these illustrious personages, under circumstances so different from those under which they had formerly been seen, when they were united by love, separated by jealousy, and pursued by hatred.

But our expectations were almost entirely disappointed; for, after a mutual salutation, grave, cold, and dignified, Catherine having given her hand to Stanislas, they entered a cabinet, where they remained shut up for half an hour.

'As soon as this tête-à-tête was over, their Majesties rejoined us; and, as we had not been able to hear them, we endeavoured to read their thoughts in their features: but the light clouds which rested on their countenances rendered our attempt difficult enough. On the side of the Empress there was a cloud of embarrassment and unusual restraint; and, in the eyes of the King, a certain expression of sadness, which an affected smile could not entirely conceal.'-pp. 102, 103.

The King gave a superb ball at Kanieff, which he entreated the Empress to honour by her presence. She told him that she feared to make any further delay, as she might keep the emperor (Joseph II.) waiting, who was to meet her at Kherson. This was what a

Bond-street lounger would call "a dead cut;" the poor King went away in despair, and Catherine resumed her voyage, which was not interrupted until she had quitted the fleet, in order to receive the Emperor, who had left Kherson to meet her.

The object of this rendezvous was of course to form plans for the then intended war with the Turks. If the testimony of the Prince de Ligne may be depended upon, the two sovereigns "talked very amicably of a very fine project, the re-establishment

of the Grecian republics." This idea, by the way, did not at all surprise Count Segur, who has the happy trick of believing that forty years ago he foresaw every thing that was to happen in Europe. This is one of the Count's predominant affectations. After history has recorded facts, he wishes us to believe that he had prophesied them.

Our author details some interesting conversations which he had with the Emperor, at Kherson, but which we have no room to notice. Neither can we follow the Empress in her journey through the Crimea. The chief diplomatic employment of our author, during the latter part of the journey, was to indispose Catherine to the war, and to carry into effect a project of his own, for a fourfold alliance between France, Spain, Austria and Russia, in order to preserve the balance of Europe against the Anglo-Prussian league. This project entirely failed, as France was disposed rather to assist the Turks, than to aid Catherine against them; and as, besides, the troubles of the rising revolution gave the court of Versailles quite enough to do at home.

Catherine having returned to St. Petersburgh, war was soon declared between her and the Porte. Count Segur remained some time longer at her court, and in the portion of his memoirs which relates to this period, he connects with them detailed observations on the general state of Europe, which few readers, we apprehend, will be induced to go through. He at length obtained leave to return to France, and upon his arrival in Paris found the constituent assembly in full operation. The principles which its leading members proclaimed, seem to have found great favour with him, while their eloquence excited his admiration. But the French revolution, and the characters who figured in it, are now become threadbare subjects. They no doubt will fill another volume or two, in which the Count threatens to disclose the events of his personal history during the last thirty-six years. We trust, however, that he will spare himself the trouble of abridging, so often as he has done in the volumes already published, the modern history of Europe, If he will but confine himself to what he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, his books may be of considerable value, although they may want that raciness of manner, which is one of the principal charms of that sort of narrative classed under the title of memoirs.

ART. IX. History of the Peninsular War. By Robert Southey, Esq., LL. D., Poet Laureate, &c. &c. In Three Volumes. Vol. II., 4to. pp. 807. 27. 10s. London: Murray. 1827.

AFTER a sufficient interval of four years, since the publication of the first volume of his history of the Peninsular War, Mr. Southey has here given to the world the second portion of the same undertaking. In the conduct of its narrative, and the tone of its senti

« PreviousContinue »