Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Art. IX. Memoine of the Life of Prince Potemkin; Field-Marshal,

and Conimander-in-chief of the Russian Army; Grand Admiral of the Fleets; Knight of the Principal Orders of Prussia, Sweden, and Poland, and of all the Orders of Russia, &c. &c. , Comprehending Original Anecdotes of Catherine the second, and of the Russian Court.

Translated from the German. 8vo. pp. 260. Colburn. 1812. WE have been much amused by the perusal of this little yo

lunie,-not certainly from its containing any matter that can be considered as original, for we believe there is no fact mentioned in it that has not frequently appeared in print; nor from its presenting us with any remarkably novel or enlightened deductions from the events which it records, but from the interest that cannot fail to be excited by the life of a man whose caprices for so long a period controuled the happiness of millions, and whose vicious as well as virtuous quali-, ties were of that exaggerated character, as none but a nas, tion yet tainted with barbarism could have nurtured, nor any government, but the most despotic, have brought into exercise. For the accuracy of any part of the narration, indeed, we have no other evidence than the notoriety of the facts, there not being throughout the work, except in two or three instances, any authority referred to, or any original source of information pointed out, to wbich the author pretends to have, had access.

Unlike the successive favourites of Catherine, (wbo‘almost invariably possessed very eminent influence, in the councils of the state, and were selected for qualities as little indicating those requisite in a statesman, as a cast in the eye, or a a nalt in the gait,) Potemkin owed the eminent station he 80 long occupied, no less to the strong natural, talents with which lie appears to bave been very bountifully gifted, than to the manly majesty of his person. He was originally destined for the church, but very early quitted the monastery in which he had been placed for education, for the army, as being more suitable to the bent of his genius, and presenting a fairer opportunity for acquiring riches and fame. It was at the time he held a very subaltern situation in his new pro. fession, that one of those sudden revolutions occurred, to which the Russians are no strangers, that placed Catherine. upon the throne, and gave him an opportunity of introducing himself to the notice of his sovereign.

We will not tire and offend our readers by travelling through the disgusting details of base intrigue and unblushing licentiousness which disgraced the court of Catherine, and, at the expence, and to the impoverishmert of her people, raised to eminence and affluence the meanest of her minions. With one or two very laudable exceptions the post of favourite VOL. VIII.

2 À

seems to have been uniformly, occupied by men destitute of every commendable quality, as was naturally to be expected from the little discrimination and delicacy with which the se. lection was made.

Potemkin commenced his career in the character of lover: but reflecting that the fickle heart of Catherine might prove as faithless to him as it had done to former admirers, he left no resources unemployed to subdue her understanding, and thus to establish that permanent influence over her will, of which he meditated the acquisition, and which, by perseveránce, he at length actually succeeded'in acquiring. With this view he procured himself to be appointed Lieutenant General, and when by this and other means he had cloathed himself with the requisite political influence, he resigned the situation of lover, after having occupied it for two years, in order to prepare for engrossing in his own person the despotic controul over his sovereign, and thence over her subjects. Luckily, the caprice of Catherine rather favoured than obstructed bis views : the change was not disagreeable to her, and she was little less disposed to be guided by his judgement in the selection of her favourites, than she was to abandon the interests and happiness of her people to his absolute commavá.

His conquest of the Crimæa is well known; and the miseries which he entailed upon that devoted country are still too deeply visible, and can never be sufficiently deplored. We are told that during an insurrection that took place in the Crimæa immediately after the conquest, Potemkin appointed his cousin to subdue the rebels.

• He took it is said, p. 55.) many of them prisoners, and caused a great number of Tartars of all ranks and ages to be: executed. To es. cape the certain punishment which awaited them, thousands fled the country. . These terrible measures consolidated the possession of the Crimæa in the hands of the Russians ; but they reigned over scarcely half, of the population which the peninsula contained before the conquest.'

The following passage will serve to convey some idea of that combination of avarice and prodigality which so strongly niarked the character of Potemkin, and which it were to be wished were of somewhat rarer occurrence nearer home.

'. The wealth of Potemkin has never been ascertained. He in fact had the imperial treasure itself at his disposal. The Rev. Wm. Tooke stàtes, that in the first two years he received about nine millions of rou.. bles; that he afterwards accumulated immense riches; that one of his bookcases was full of gold, diamonds, and notes of several banks; and that his whole fortune was estimated at fifty millions of roubles. Others státe it at sixteen, some at nine, and some at forty millions. But if we judge of his fortune by his expeaces, it must have been much more COD

siderable. His expenditure was, indeed, that of a rieh sovereign. Independent of the presents with which the Empress loaded him, be had the revenue of his numerous dignities, the gtatifications given him by foo reign courts on the signature of any important diplomatic treats, and the bribes he exacted from the favourites.' His rentralls must also have been immense, since he possessed not less than forty-five thousand peasants. He was, however, of a very avaricious disposition : he even frequently refused to pay bis tradesmen. A celebrated French veterinary professors went from Vienna to Petersburgh, for the purpose of curing a beautiful horse that had been presented to Potemkin by the Emperor Joseph the Second, and which was so ill that it had been given over by the profession at Petersburgh. The French professor built a stable for the animal upon a particular construction, and by the most incessant attention succeeded in restoring it to health. When the horse-doctor waited upon Potemkin' with the joyful news, and expected to be profusely rewarded, he was refused admittance,- never could see him afterwards, and never was.' paid. Yet, notwithstanding these occasional acts of avaricious dishones. iy, his prodigalicy in some cases was such that he was frequentiy embarerassed. Having given orders for the most extravagant preparations for an entertainment, the person employed ventured to hint at the enormous sums which they would cost. What, sir," said. Potemkin,“ do you "pretend to know the depth of my treasury?"- and his orders were obeyed.' pp. 77, 78.

The celebrated journey marle by the empress to the Crimæa is detailed with considerable minuteness, and we have reason to believe with tolerable fidelity; and by those who cán dismiss from their minds, while perusing it, the nriseries: inflicted on the people by the wanton expence io occasioned, will be found far from úninteresting. To gratify the sorereign, and Jure her into an extravagant conception of the wealth, population, prosperity, and future progress of her empire, palaces at convenient distances were built for her habitation, villages and manufacturing towns were got up on the occasion at every convenient spot to arrest her attention, roads''were formed, rivers made navigable, and every where the most splendid entertainments were provided for her reception. A single fire work (it is said, p. 104) cost forty thousand roubles, and everything else seems to have been conducted upon a scale proportionably gigantiv.

We cannot afford space to follow Petenskin in his war with the Turks: and as our limits preclude us from giving in detail the particular facts on which an accurate conception of his character must be formed, we shall beg leave to refer our readers to the very faithtul and spirited portrait, copied in one of our former numbers,* from the Prince de Ligne.

* See Ecl. Rev. Vol. VII. F.

[ocr errors]

286)

1

Art. X. & Series of Discourses, principally on the Evidences of Christian

nity. By the Rev. M. J. Naylor, B. D. Vicar of Peniston, Lecturer of the Parish Church, Wakefield, and Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge. 8vo. Price 108. 6d. pp. 467. Deighton, Cambridge.

Longman and Co. Mawman. 1810. SOME years ago, when infidel sophistry was diligently

disseminated throughout the country, Mr. Naylor thought it to be his duty to deliver to his charge a set of sermons, in proof of the divine origin of the Christian 'religion. After he had preached these sermons, the approbation of his friends, together with a desire of doing good, and a hope of being able thereby more effectually to supply the wants of his family, induced hiin to lay them before the public. This account of the causes that

rise to the composing and publishing of these sermons, is very ingenuous and credible. It was certainly very commendable in Mr. Naylor to endeavour to preserve his flock from the contagion of infidelity, even if he had been less qualified for that task than he appears to be. This was a duty arising from his office, and it was enough if he discharged it to the best of his abilities. But whether the motives he has specified were sufficient to justify him in making his labours public is not so easy to determine. The general argument in favour of Christianity has already, we take it, been put in the best and strongest light; while the separate parts of it are scarcely susceptible of additional labour or illustration. It is a duty that every Christian owes to his religion, not to attempt to do indifferently what has already been done so well. Nothing, it should seem, can exempt him from this obligation, except it were the malice of scepticism and infidelity, vamping up old objections in order ; to provoke the disciples of Christ to renew a contest which may now be considered as decided. - To say there is an advántage in giving the argument a variety of forms, is to trifle. It has already been varied, and has assumed all the best forms. It cannot be varied now, and put in a new shape, without being debased and enfeebled. On this ground we object to the publication of these Discourses. We do not mean to say that they do not contain reason sufficient to make an impartial man a Christian. They embrace most of the topics employed on such occasions. These topics, indeed, are not stated so perspicuously or so forciqly as they have been by former ad. vocates; and from the order in which they are placed, they neither support each other, nor appear as an accumulation of probabilities, each strong by itself, in confirmation of one fact.

gave

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But still this volume contains a considerable portion of information; and, in general, the reasoning of it is logical and conclusive. We object to it not as being a bad book, but as being quite unnecessary; and as doing, in a very humble and inferior style, what has been executed in the best manner by accomplished masters.

In illustration of this, we beg leave to mention the order in which our author has arranged the Evidences of Christianity. He begins with the character of Christ,--then treats of his mi- racles, his prophecies, bis resnrrection, and of his apostles,-

afterwards handles the authenticity of the New Testament, the . credibility of the first witnesses of Christianity, the publicity of its origin, its rapid spread, its beneficiat influence on the world, and its connexion with Judaism. This procedure looks very like raising the walls, and putting on the roof, before the .foundation is laid. The great prout of the truth of Christiani- ty is found in the niracles wrought by Jesus Christ and his apostles: and the first inquiry ihat an impartial and judicious man wond attempt to solve, on examining into its truth, would be, whetlier these miracles were actually performed. As this is a question of fact, he would, as in all such questions, begin the solution of it. by considering the testimony allerlged in favour of the miracles. After he was satisfied with the testimony,there is no doubt but he would advert to collateral circumstances, such as the behaviour of those who performed the miracles, the character of the miracles themselves, the reception that the doctrine met with in favour of which they were wrought, and other auxiliary evidence. Accordingly, it sis with great judgement that Dr. Paley laboured, in the first instance, to set the direct bistorical evidence in its full light ; being well aware that the other evidence became strong as this was kept in view, as well as accumulated upon its being established. But Mr. Naylor, for the sake of variety, has preposterously inverted this natural and established order. The consequences are, that not one argument has its full force; that the various evidences do not, in a state of union, throw their light and power upon one point; and that the reader is wearied with needless repetitions.

In a note upon part of the first of these discourses, we find our author labouring to evince the innocence, in certain cases, of infidelity. Thus he speaks:

• There may be persons, whose general conduct is entitled to our approbation, and who exhibit no defect of judgment in other respects, yet whose minds are so constituted, or have been so prejudiced, by erroneous views of the Christian religion, and by a consideration of the great calamities brought upon the world by the unchristian conduct of some its pro.

« AnteriorContinuar »