« AnteriorContinuar »
become proverbial. The panacea now applied by the latter to remove every kind of difficulty, is invariably a levy of recruits : if a scarcity occurs, or the country is menaced by a pestilence; if a new treaty is concluded, or rumours of an émeute in Paris are heard; in fact, whatever event casts its shadow before, an imperial ukase is sure to make its appearance, ordering a fresh levy of conscripts. By a similar policy, the army which in Catherine's time amounted only to 200,000, has been augmented to thrice that number-augmented, but not improved; and if we are to credit the Admiral, it has greatly fallen off. In proof of bis assertion, he draws a parallel between the achievements of the Russian troops on the same theatre of war under the reign of Catherine, and those of her successors, much to the advantage of the former. Romanzoff and Souvaroff, for instance, never failed to rout large Turkish armies with not more than 20,000 men, whilst hundreds of thousands of Russians have since marched against the Turks, without obtaining any marked success. In the last war between Russia and Turkey (1827-28), 'no less than 400,000 Russian troops were employed, and four levies of recruits were made during the continuance of hostilities, and yet, after the conclusion of the treaty of Adrianople, Diebitch could hardly bring back men enough to form the nucleus of several regiments. Let it be borne in mind too, that Turkey has become comparatively much weaker since the celebrated battle of Navarino, and that donkies loaded with Russian gold have found their way into many a Turkish fortress. Again, Souvaroff defeated the French under Moreau, Macdonald, and Joubert, whilst at a subsequent period, the Russians never won a single field fought against the French. The same weakness of the Russian army was displayed in the late Polish war, when the Russians marched into Poland 400,000 men, and yet were obliged to make two campaigns: the Poles, meanwhile, having never been able to bring at once into the field more than 30,000 regular troops. The cause of this phenomenon is not to be traced to any degeneracy in the Russian soldier, but rather to the incapacity of his leaders, who no longer understand how to excite in him any passion. He goes to war neither for fame nor booty, nor for aught else in earth or heaven ;-he goes because he must go. With him it is “ the cold that performs the effects of fire." Another cause is said to be the personal interference of the Emperors in military affairs, which seems to paralyze the officers. The Admiral mentions a curious fact of this kind, which took place in the beginning of the famous campaign of 1812. When ihe Emperor arrived at the head-quarters of the army at Wilno, several of the generals made a formal protest, to the effect that be should withdraw, or that they must resign their posts ; upon which Alexander immediately departed for St. Petersburg. A third cause is the employment of so many foreign officers, who are unacquainted with the character of the Russian soldier, and ever remain perfect strangers to him. Disadvantages of this nature did not exist in the time of Catherine, who gave her generals full liberty of action; and they were also all Russians, and some, as Souvaroff, of the very highest stamp. Though a man of education, be identified himself in all respects with the soldiers, whose minds he entirely swayed, by addressing himself to their superstitious feelings. After a battle he used to say, “ That such as had fallen were to be envied for their lot, as they were already dwelling with angels, and enjoying eternal life in the greatest felicity and beatitude. Strive to do like them; fight well, and render yourselves worthy of the same blessings."
It was to this superstitious character of the Russian people that Napoleon alluded when at St. Helena he said, that were he an autocrat at St. Petersburg, he would let bis beard grow, and would arrive at an appointed day at Calais. If we are to believe travellers' tales, and even the Admiral bimself, the present Emperor is acting according to the advice of Napoleon or rather endeavours to do so. With such facts before us, how are we to comprehend the continual progress made by Russia in the extension of her territory? In our author's opinion this is not to be ascribed to the skill of the government, but primarily to the imbecility of other foreign powers, and next to the irresistible impulse of conquest which Catherine gave to Russia. What Sir W. Scott affirmed of Napoleon during his Russian campaign is also applicable to Russia ; namely, that she is in the state of a drunken inan, who is unable to stand still, though he can yet walk and even run. In other words, she is driven forward by the force of necessity without knowing whither she is going. Having given up the idea of raising its people in the moral scale (even Catherine was brought to this pass), the Russian government has nothing left but to conquer without cessation, in which it meets with no obstacle whatever on the part of its subjects; who when all the world shall belong to their governors, at last, according to a prediction of J.J. Rousseau " mangeront du sucre,” giving, as our author says, in exchange to the subjugated nations only chains, since they have nothing else to give. The Russian government finds itself in a perplexing dilemma; it cannot have conquered nations in the possession of their rights and liberties, as in that case the native Russians would feel themselves humiliated, whilst, on the other hand, it is unable to raise the latter to the height of its newly acquired subjects. The consequence of such a state of things must be and is, that all its subjugated nations are invariably degraded to the level of the Russians; which circumstance may account for those incessant revolts in the Russian dominions; meanwhile, “ expectation stands in horror.”
"Oh heaven! that such resemblance of the Highest
Should yet remain, when faith and realty
Where boldest, though to sight unconquerable?". The sacred maxim of our religion—"What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul”-is however as applicable to empires as to individuals. The body of Russia is swelling into a Titan-like mountain, which threatens to suffocate her spirit, and only advances with the greater speed to the catastrophe which will hurl it down the precipice “ten thousand fathoms deep." For this again, according to the Admiral, Russia will be indebted to Catherine; for she it was, who instead of realizing her idea of setting at liberty that spirit, only set in motion the machine built up for aggression by Peter the Great. Thus, once more, we have to reduce the dimensions of her greatness, nay it will vanish one day into tame and smoke. In the mean time, we are not averse to grant her the praise bestowed on her by the Adiniral:
" A nation that has lost its liberty, and which by nature is unable to appreciate and still less to regain it, is the more patient under the yoke of despotism, since such a condition does not exclude a possibility of happiness, and even of glory: the first being often but an ignorance of what is better, and the second but an ignorance of what is true. Besides a despot is not necessarily a tyrant, and when he does justice and abstains from arbitrary acts, he may prove a benefactor to his subjects. Therefore a highly gifted man, placed by circumstances or by his own merit at the head of a docile population, is sure to render it prosperous and powerful; and although this condition must be precarious, since it is dependent on the frail existence of an individual, the reality of it for the time being cannot be contested. Such fortunate accidents have from time to time shed a lustre over the more or less obscure annals of enslaved nations; and such a one for Russia was the reign of Catherine II., surnamed the Great, than which it would be in vain to seek another equally glorious in the history of that empire."
When Madame de Staël complimented Alexander by saying to him that he was worth a constitution to his people, he in return likewise asserted that he was but an accident. Surely we English have no need to envy the nations whose happiness depends entirely upon a grim looking chapter of accidents, although the Whigs, the earth-born, are doing their best to place us in this sad predicament.
Art. III. -1. Rahel-Ein Buch des Andenkens für ihre
Freunde. 3 vols. 8vo. Berlin. 1834. 2. Galerie von Bildnissen aus Rahel's Umgang und Briefwechsel:
herausgegeben von K. A. Varnhagen von Ense. 2 vols. 8vo.
Leipzig. 1836. These letters of the celebrated German lady Rahel have-we confess it with shame and confusion of face-been lying on our German shelf these four years unopened. We plead guilty to a sort of horror (a one-sided British instinct no doubt) of all books of private memoirs, after which we see the great mass of the German literary public running mad. Such is the contrariety of national character in the two races, that if a book of this description is much bepraised in Germany, the chance is, that it is altogether unfit for the English public. In some few cases the mere strangeness and novelty of the thing may attract; people may be induced to go and stare at the “GERMAN MIND”as they do at Van Amburgh's lions, or Duvernay's pirouettes ; and sometimes also an adventitious circumstance may induce a practical Englishman to peep for a moment into the dim cloudy glow and whirling voluminosities of Teutonic intellect. So the patronage of the religious public enabled Jung Stilling to plant himself firmly on British ground; so the name of Goethe served as an introduction to Bettine Brentano. But in the general case the Englishman will not go out of his own day-light and open turnpikes to wander in some subterranean sublime Antiparos or Adelsberg of German speculation. Call it one-sidedness, call it shallowness, call it literary Philisterei if you will; it is a national habitude ingrown with the most essential and substantial virtues of the British character, which we shall not be ashamed of, any more than we are of our east wind, which bites but also braces. Rahel, therefore, the German de Staël, and because German in some essential points much better than the French one, can cherish small hope of ever being known generally to the British public. From German students only, and from the philosopher and psychologist, can she expect, and she is entitled to demand, sympathy. Happily both these classes, the class of native Bri- . tish thinkers, and the class of Germanizing thinkers (for a man cannot be a German scholar to any purpose without being a tbioker), are at the present moment rapidly on the increase. To such the following short notice of the life, character, and opinions of one of the most extraordinary women of modern times may not be unacceptable.
We mentioned in our late notice of Varnhagen von Ense's Memoirs, that one of the most remarkable passages of his various
much" de Stabich bin
life was his introduction to and subsequent marriage with the celebrated Rahel Levin, or Robert. The circumstances of that connection were highly honourable to Varnhagen. The lady was twelve years older than himself, without rank, comfortable indeed, but nothing extraordinary in the money line; and in religion, externally at least, and to the eye of the world, a Jewess. Beauty, of the vulgar merchantable kind, was also not pre-eminent. The only thing that remained, therefore, was the spiritual beauty, the beauty of soul, of character, and expression, and to this Varnhagen instantly surrendered himself, with a devotion and a singleheartedness in these hard times unfortunately not so common as it was in the days of Petrarch. Varnhagen describes the first glimpses he caught of this intellectual lady in the following terms. The scene is Berlin, Rahel’s habitual residence-date, 1803.
“At one of our literary soirées, while we were engaged reading Wieland, a visit was suddenly announced ; and at the name of the visitor that sort of commotion was instantly observed in the room, which is wopt to preludize the entrance of something great and uncommon. It was Rabel Levin, or Robert. Often bad I heard this person the subject of discourse in intelligent circles; and when her name was mentioned, it was always in such terms as were calculated to excite in my mind the idea of something extraordinary, and altogether unique. The general idea of her character that I had formed was that of an energetic compound of intellect and nature, both in substance and form most original and pure. (Ein energisches zusammen seyn von Geist und Natur in ursprunglichster reinster Kraft und Form.) And when this or the other critic might say any thing less favourable, it was always so expressed, tbat an impartial listener must draw from the severest remark more substantially of praise than blame. At this very time there was much talk in Berlin of a strong attachment that she bad formed, more elevated in its character, and also more tragic in its issue, than any that the poets had sung. I naturally therefore watched the entrance of the announced visitor with no common attention. There appeared a light, graceful figure, of small stature, but strong make, with delicate and full limbs, feet and hands remarkably small: the countenance encircled with rich, dark locks, spoke intellectual superiority; the quick and yet firm dark glances left the observer in doubt whether they gave or received more; an expression of suffering lent a soft grace to the clear features. She moved in a dark dress, light almost as a shadow, but also with freedoin and sureness; her greeting was as easy as it was kindly. But wbat strucķ me most was the sonorous and mellow voice which seemed to swell from the inmost depths of the soul, and a conversation the most extraordinary that I had ever met with. Sbe tbrew out in the most easy and unpretending fasbion thoughts full of originality and humour, where wit was united with naïveté, and acuteness with amiability; and into the whole a deep truth was cast, as it were out of iron, giving to every sentence a completeness of total impression which rendered it