BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.
No. CCCXL. FEBRUARY 1844. Vol. LV.
THE HERETIC THRUSH-HUNTING. BY ALEXANDER DUMAS HIGH LIFE IN THE LAST CENTURY NEWS FROM AN EXILED CONTRIBUTOR THE PROPHECY OF THE TWELVE TRIBES A BEWAILMENT FROM BATH; OR, POOR OLD MAIDS MARSTON; OR, THE MEMOIRS OF A STATESMAN. PART VIII. SECESSION FROM THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND SITTING FOR A PORTRAIT MY FRIEND THE LAND OF SLAVES THE PRIEST'S BURIAL PRUDENCE FREE TRADE AND PROTECTION
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 The Heretic. Translated from the Russian of Lajetchnikoff. By T.B. Shaw, B.A. of Cambridge. In three volumes.
It is now about three centuries since Richard Chancellor, pilot-major of the fleet which, under the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby, and by the advice of Sebastian Cabot, set out to discover a north-east passage to China, carried his ship, the Edward Bonaventura, into Archangel. The rest of the fleet put into a haven on the coast of Lapland, where all their crews, with the gallant commander, perished miserably of cold and hunger. Chancellor, accompanied by Master George Killingworthe, found his way to Moscow, where he was courteously entertained by the Tsar Ivan IV., surnamed the Terrible. On his return to England in 1554, he delivered a friendly letter from the Tsar to King Edward VI., and announced to the people of England "the discovery of Muscovy." The English adventurers where mightily astonished by the state and splendour of the Russian court, and gave a curious account of their intercourse with the tyrant Ivan, who treated them with great familiarity and kindness, though he was perhaps the most atrocious monster, not excepting the worst of the Roman emperors, that ever disgraced a throne. The Tsar "called them to his table to receive each a cup from his hand to drinke, and took into his hand Master George Killingworthe's beard, which reached over the table, and pleasantly delivered it to the metropolitan, who seeming to bless it, said in Russ, 'This is God's gift;' as indeed at that time it was not only thicke, broad, and yellow coulered, but in length five foot and two inches of a size."
Chancellor returned the following year to Moscow, and arranged with the Tsar the commercial privileges and immunities of a new company of merchant-adventurers who desired to trade with Muscovy; but in 1556, while on his way home, accompanied by Osep Neped, the first Russian ambassador to the court of England, their ship was wrecked on our own coast, at Pitsligo bay, where Chancellor was drowned, with most of the crew; but Osep Neped, who escaped, was conducted with much pomp to London, and there established on a firmer basis the commercial relations between the two countries, to which Chancellor's discovery had led, and of which he had laid the foundation. The commerce thus begun has continued uninterrupted, to the mutual advantage of both nations, up to this time, and thousands of our countrymen have there gained wealth and distinction, in commerce, in the arts, in science, and in arms.
But of the twenty-seven millions of men, women, and children who people Great Britain and Ireland, how many may be presumed to know any thing of Russian literature, or even to have enquired whether it contains any thing worth knowing? Are there a dozen literary men or women amongst us who could read a Russian romance, or understand a Russian drama? Dr Bowring was regarded as a prodigy of polyglot learning, because he gave us some very imperfect versions of Russian ballads; and we were thankful even for that contribution, from which, we doubt not, many worthy and well-informed people learned for the first time that Russia produced poets as well as potashes. Russia has lately lost a poet of true genius, of whom his countrymen are proud, and no doubt have a right to be proud, for his poetry found its way at once to the heart of the nation: but how few there are amongst us who know any thing of Poushkin, unless it be his untimely and melancholy end?
The generation that has been so prolific of prose fiction in other parts of Europe, has not been barren in Russia. She boasts of men to whom she is grateful for having adorned her young literature with the creations of their genius, or who have made her history attractive with the allurements of faithful fiction, giving life, and flesh, and blood to its dry bones; and yet, gentle reader, learned or fair—or both fair and learned—whether sombre in small clothes, or brilliant in bas-bleus—how many could you have named a year ago of those names which are the pride and delight of a great European nation, with which we have had an intimate, friendly, and beneficial intercourse for three consecutive centuries, and whose capital has now for some years been easily accessible in ten days from our own?
Surely it is somewhat strange, that while Russia fills so large a space, not only on the map, but in the politics of the world—while the influence of her active mind, and of her powerful muscle, is felt and acknowledged in Europe, Asia, and America—that we, who come in contact with her diplomatic skill and her intelligence at every turn and in every quarter, should never have thought it worth while to take any note of her literature—of the more attractive movements of her mind.
The history, the ancient mythology, and the early Christian legends of Russia, are full of interest. We there encounter the same energetic and warlike people, who, from roving pirates of the Baltic sea, became the founders of dynasties, and who have furnished much of what is most romantic in the history of Europe. The Danes, who ravaged our coasts, and gave a race of princes to England; the Normans, from whom are descended our line of sovereigns, and many of our noble and ancient families—the Normans, who established themselves in Sicily and the Warrhag, or Varangians, who made their leader, Rurik, a sovereign over the ancient Sclavonic republic of Novgorod, and gave their own distinctive appellation of Russ to the people and to the country they conquered, were all men of the same race, the same habits, and the same character. The daring spirit of maritime adventure, the love of war, and the thirst of plunder, which brought their barks to the coasts of Britain and of France, was displayed with even greater boldness in Russia. After the death of Rurik, these pirates of the Baltic, under the regent Oleg, launching their galleys on the Borysthenes, forced the descent of the river against hostile tribes, defeated the armies of Byzantium, exercised their ancient craft on the Black sea and on the Bosphorus, and, entering Constantinople in triumph, extorted tribute and a treaty from the Keisar in his palace.
Then, after a time, came the introduction of the Christian religion and of letters; and the contests which terminated in the triumph of Christianity over the ancient mythology, in which the milder deities of the Pantheon, with their attendant spirits of the woods, the streams, and the household hearth, would seem to have mingled with the fiercer gods of the Valhalla. Then the frequent contests and varying fortunes of the principalities into which the country was divided—the invasions of the Tartar hordes, under the successors of Chenjez Khan, destroying every living thing, and deliberately making a desert of every populous place, that grass might more abound for their horses and their flocks—the long and weary domination of these desolating masters; the gradual relaxation of the iron gripe with which they crushed the country; the pomp and power of the Russian church, even in the worst times of Tartar oppression; the first gathering together of the nation's strength as its spirit revived; the first great effort to cast off the load under which its loins had been breaking for more than two centuries, and the desperate valour with which the Russians fought their first great battle for freedom and their faith, and shook the Tartar supremacy, under the brave and skilful Dimitri, on the banks of the Don—the cautious wisdom and foresight with which he created an aristocracy to support the sovereignty he had made hereditary—the pertinacity with which, in every change of fortune, his successors worked out slowly, and more by superior intelligence than by prowess, the deliverance of their country—the final triumph of this wary policy, under the warlike, but consummately able and dexterous management of Ivan the Great—the rapidity and force with which the Muscovite power expanded, when it had worn out and cast off the Tartar fetters that had bound it—the cautious and successful attempts of Ivan to take from the first a high place amongst the sovereigns of Europe—the progress in the arts of civilized life which was made in his reign—the accession of weight and authority which the sovereign power received from the prudent and dignified demeanour of his son and successor—the sanguinary tyranny with which Ivan IV., in the midst of the most revolting atrocities and debaucheries, broke down the power of the aristocracy, prostrated the energies of the nation, and paved the way for successive usurpations—the skilful and crafty policy, and the unscrupulous means by which Boris raised himself to the throne, after he had destroyed the last representatives of the direct line of Rurik, which, in all the vicissitudes of Russian fortune, had hitherto held the chief place in the nation—the taint of guilt which poisoned and polluted a mind otherwise powerful, and not without some virtues, and made him at length a suspicious and cruel tyrant, who, having alienated the good-will of the nation, was unable to oppose the pretensions of an impostor, and swallowed poison to escape the tortures of an upbraiding conscience—the successful imposture of the monk who personated the Prince Dimitri, one of the victims of Boris' ambition, and who was slaughtered on the day of his nuptials at the foot of the throne he had so strangely usurped, by an infuriated mob; not because he was known to be an impostor, but because he was accused of a leaning to the Latin church—the season of anarchy that succeeded and led to fresh impostures, and to the Polish domination—the servile submission of the Russian nobility to Sigismund, king of Poland, to whom they sold their country; the revival of patriotic feelings, almost as soon as the sacrifice had been made—the bold and determined opposition of the Russian church to the usurpation of a Latin prince, the persecutions, the hardships, the martyrdom it endured; the ultimate rising of the Muscovite people at its call—the sanguinary conflict in Moscow; the expulsion of the Poles; the election of Michael Romanoff, the first sovereign of his family and of the reigning dynasty—the whole history of the days of Peter, of Catharine, and of Alexander, and even the less prominent reigns of intermediate sovereigns—are full of the interest and the incidents which are usually considered most available to the writers of historical romance.
But such materials abound in the history of every people. Men of genius for the work find them scattered every where—in the peculiarities of personal character developed in the contests of petty tribes or turbulent burghers, as often as in the revolutions of empires. The value of historical, as well as of other fictions, must be measured by the power and the skill it displays, rather than by the magnitude of the events it describes, or the historical importance of the persons it introduces; and therefore no history can well be exhausted for the higher purposes of fiction. Of what historical importance are the stories on which Shakspeare has founded his Romeo and Juliet—his Othello—his Hamlet, or his Lear? Does the chief interest or excellence of Waverley, or Ivanhoe, or Peveril of the Peak, or Redgauntlet, or Montrose, depend on the delineation of historical characters, or the description of historical events? What space do Balfour of Burleigh, or Rob Roy, or Helen Macgregor, fill in history? The fact appears to be, that, even in the purest historical prose fictions, neither the interest nor the excellence generally depend upon the characters or the incidents most prominent in history. A man of genius, who calls up princes and heroes from the dust into which they have crumbled, may delight us with a more admirable representation than our own minds could have furnished of some one whose name we have long known, and of whose personal bearing, and habits, and daily thoughts, we had but a vague and misty idea; and acknowledging the fidelity of the portrait we may adopt it; and then this historical person becomes to us what the imagination of genius, not what history, has made him, and yet the portrait is probably one in which no contemporary could have recognized any resemblance to the original. But the characters of which history has preserved the most full and faithful accounts, whose recorded actions reflect most accurately the frame of their minds, are precisely those which each man has pictured to himself with most precision, and therefore those of which he is least likely to appreciate another man's imaginary portraits. The image in our own minds is disturbed, and we feel something of the disappointment we experience when we find some one of whom we have heard much very different from what we had imagined him to be. The more intimately and generally an historical character is known, the more unfit must it be for the purposes of fiction.
Then again, in fiction, as in real life, our sympathies are more readily awakened, and more strongly moved, by the sufferings or the successes of those with whom we have much in common—of whose life we are, or fancy that we might have been, a part. The figures that we see in history elevated above the ordinary attributes of man, are magnified as we see them through the mist of our own vague perceptions, and dwindle if we approach too near them. If they are brought down from the lofty pedestal of rank or fame on which they stood, that they may be within reach of the warmest sympathies of men who live upon a lower level, the familiarity to which we are admitted impairs their greatness, on the same principle, that "no man is a hero to his valet-de-chambre."
We are inclined to believe that the great attraction of historical prose fiction is not any facility which it affords for the construction of a better story—for we think it affords none—nor any superior interest that attaches to the known and the prominent characters with which it deals, or to the events it describes; but rather the occasion it gives for making us familiar with the everyday life of the age and the country in which the scene is laid. Independent of the merits of the fiction as a work of imagination, we find another source of pleasure; and, if it be written faithfully and with knowledge, of instruction in the vivid light it casts on the characteristics of man's condition, which history does not deign to record. This kind of excellence may give value to a work which is defective in the higher essential qualifications of imaginative writing; as old ballads and tales, which have no other merit, may be valuable illustrations of the manners of their time, so by carefully collecting and concentrating scattered rays, a man possessed of talents for the task may throw a strong light on states of society that were formerly obscure, and thus greatly enhance the pleasure we derive from any higher merits we may find in his story.
M. Lajetchnikoff, in the work before us, appears to have aimed at both these kinds of excellence; and, in the opinion of his countrymen, to have attained to that of which they are the best or the only good judges. Mr Shaw, to whom we are indebted for all we yet know of this department of Russian literature, tells us in his preface that he selected this romance for translation because—
"It is the work of an author to whom all the critics have adjudged the praise of a perfect acquaintance with the epoch which he has chosen for the scene of his drama. Russian critics, some of whom have reproached M. Lajetchnikoff with certain faults of style, and in particular with innovations on orthography, have all united in conceding to him the merit of great historical accuracy—not only as regards the events and characters of his story, but even in the less important matters of costume, language, &c.
"This degree of accuracy was not accidental: he prepared himself for his work by a careful study of all the ancient documents calculated to throw light upon the period which he desired to recall—a conscientious correctness however, which may be pushed too far; for the original work is disfigured by a great number of obsolete words and expressions, as unintelligible to the modern Russian reader (unless he happened to be an antiquarian) as they would be to an Englishman. These the Translator has, as far as possible, got rid of, and has endeavoured to reduce the explanatory foot-notes—those 'blunder-marks,' as they have been well styled—to as small a number as is consistent with clearness in the text."
M. Lajetchnikoff takes occasion, while referring to some anachronisms which will be found in The Heretic, to state, in the following terms, his opinion of the duties of an historical novelist—
"He must follow rather the poetry of history than its chronology. His business is not to be the slave of dates; he ought to be faithful to the character of the epoch, and of the dramatis personae which he has selected for representation. It is not his business to examine every trifle, to count over with servile minuteness every link in the chain of this epoch, or of the life of this character; that is the department of the historian and the biographer. The mission of the historical novelist is to select from them the most brilliant, the most interesting events, which are connected with the chief personage of his story, and to concentrate them into one poetic moment of his romance. Is it necessary to say that this moment ought to be pervaded by a leading idea?... Thus I understand the duties of the historical novelist. Whether I have fulfilled them, is quite another question."
We are not quite sure what is here meant by "a leading idea." If it be that some abstract idea is to be developed or illustrated, we can neither subscribe to the canon nor discover the leading idea of this specimen of the author's productions; but we rather suppose that he only means to say that there should be a main stream of interest running through the whole story, to which the others are tributary—and in this sense he has acted on the rule; for the heretic, from his birth to his burial, is never lost sight of, and almost the whole action, from the beginning to the end, is either directly or indirectly connected with his fortunes, which preserve their interest throughout, amidst sovereigns and ambassadors, officials and nobles, court intrigues and affairs of state, of love, of war, and of religion. This machinery, though somewhat complicated, is on the whole very skilfully constructed, and moves on smoothly enough without jolting or jarring, without tedious stops or disagreeable interruptions, and without having to turn back every now and then to pick up the passengers it has dropped by the way. The author, however, appears to have assumed—and, writing for Russians, was entitled to assume—that his readers had some previous acquaintance with the history of the country and the times to which his story belongs. His prologue, which has no connexion with the body of the work, but which relates a separate incident that occurred some years after the conclusion of the principal narrative, introduces us to the death-bed of Ivan III., at whose court the whole of the subsequent scenes occur; and is calculated from this inversion of time, and the recurrence of similar names, and even of the same persons, to create little confusion in the mind of the reader who is ignorant of Russian history.
"The epoch chosen by Lajetchnikoff," says his translator, "is the fifteenth century; an age most powerfully interesting in the history of every country, and not less so in that of Russia. It was then that the spirit of enquiry, the thirst for new facts and investigations in religious, political, and physical philosophy, was at once stimulated and gratified by the most important discoveries that man had as yet made, and extended itself far beyond the limits of what was then civilized Europe, and spoke, by the powerful voice of Ivan III., even to Russia, plunged as she then was in ignorance and superstition. Rude as are the outlines of this great sovereign's historical portrait, and rough as were the means by which he endeavoured to ameliorate his country, it is impossible to deny him a place among those rulers who have won the name of benefactors to their native land."
When Ivan III., then twenty-two years old, mounted the tributary throne of Muscovy in 1462, the power of the Tartars, who for nearly two centuries and a half domineered over Russia, had visibly declined. Tamerlane, at the head of fresh swarms from the deserts of Asia, had stricken the Golden Horde which still held Russia in subjection; and having pursued its sovereign, Ioktamish Khan, into the steppes of Kiptchak and Siberia, turned back almost from the gates of Moscow, to seek a richer plunder in Hindostan. Before the Golden Horde could recover from this blow, it was again attacked, defeated, and plundered, by the khan of the Crimea. Still the supremacy of the Tartar was undisputed at Moscow. The Muscovite prince advanced to the outer door of his palace to receive the ambassador of his master; spread costly furs under his horse's feet; kneeled at his stirrup to hear the khan's orders read; presented a cup of kimmis to the Tartar representative, and licked off the drops that fell upon the mane of his horse.
But during nearly a century and a half, the Muscovite princes had laboured successfully to consolidate their own authority, and to unite the nation against its oppressors. The principle of hereditary succession to the dependent throne had been firmly established in the feelings of the people; the ties of country, kindred, and language, and still more the bonds of common religion, had united the discordant principalities into which the country was still divided, by a sentiment of nationality and of hatred against the Tartars, which made them capable of combining against their Mahommedan masters.
Ivan's first acts were acts of submission. They were perhaps intended to tranquillize the suspicions with which the first movements of a young prince are certain to be regarded by a jealous superior; and this purpose they effectually served. Without courage or talent for war, his powerful and subtle mind sought to accomplish its objects by intellectual superiority and by craft, rather than by force. Warned by the errors of his predecessors, he did not dispute the right of the Tartars to the tribute, but evaded its payment; and yet contrived to preserve the confidence of the khan by bribing his ministers and his family, and by a ready performance of the most humiliating acts of personal submission. His conduct towards all his enemies—that is, towards all his neighbours—was dictated by a similar policy; he admitted their rights, but he took every safe opportunity to disregard them. So far did he carry the semblance of submission, that the Muscovites were for some years disgusted with the slavish spirit of their prince. His lofty ambition was concealed by rare prudence and caution, and sustained by remarkable firmness and pertinacity of purpose. He never took a step in advance from which he was forced to recede. He had the art to combine with many of his enemies against one, and thus overthrew them all in succession. It was by such means that he cast off the Tartar yoke—curbed the power of Poland—humbled that of Lithuania, subdued Novgorod, Tver, Pskoff, Kazan, and Viatka—reannexed Veira, Ouglitch, Rezan, and other appanages to the crown, and added nearly twenty thousand square miles with four millions of subjects to his dominions. He framed a code of laws—improved the condition of his army—established a police in every part of his empire—protected and extended commerce—supported the church, but kept it in subjection to himself; but was at all times arbitrary, often unjust and cruel, and throughout his whole life, quite unscrupulous as to the means he employed to compass his ends.
One of the most successful strokes of his policy, was his marriage with Sophia, daughter of the Emperor Paleologos, who had been driven from Constantinople by the Turks. This alliance, which he sought with great assiduity, not only added to the dignity of his government at home, but opened the way for an intercourse on equal terms with the greatest princes of Europe. It was Sophia who dissuaded him from submitting to the degrading ceremonial which had been observed on receiving the Tartar ambassadors at Moscow—and to her he probably owed the feelings of personal dignity which he evinced in the latter part of his reign. It was this alliance that at once placed the sovereigns of Russia at the head of the whole Greek church; whose dignitaries, driven from the stately dome of St Sophia in Byzantium, found shelter in the humbler temple raised by the piety of their predecessors, some ages before, in the wilds of Muscovy, and more than repaid the hospitality they received by diffusing a love of learning amongst a barbarous people. It was by means of the Greeks who followed Sophia, that Ivan was enabled to maintain a diplomatic intercourse with the other governments of Europe; it was from her that Russia received her imperial emblem, the double-headed eagle; it was in her train that science, taste, and refinement penetrated to Moscow; it was probably at her instigation that Ivan embellished his capital with the beauties of architecture, and encouraged men of science, and amongst others Antonio, "the heretic," and Fioraventi Aristotle, the architect and mechanician, to settle at Moscow.
But it is time we should proceed to the story. The greater part of the first volume is occupied by an account of the family, birth, and youth of the hero. Born of a noble family in Bohemia, he is educated as a physician. This was not the voluntary act of his parents; for what haughty German baron of those times would have permitted his son to degrade himself by engaging in a profession which was then chiefly occupied by the accursed Jews? No, this was a degradation prepared for the house of Ehrenstein, by the undying revenge of a little Italian physician, whom the stalwart baron had pitched a few yards out of his way during a procession at Rome. This part of the history, though not devoid of interest, is hardly within the bounds of a reasonable probability—but it contains some passages of considerable vigour. The patient lying in wait of the revengeful Italian, and the eagerness with which he presses his advantage, making an act of mercy minister to the gratification of his passion, is not without merit, and will probably have its attractions for those who find pleasure in such conceptions.
The young Antonio is educated by the physician, Antonio Fioraventi of Padua, in ignorance of his birth—is disowned by his father, but cherished by his mother; and grows up an accomplished gentleman, scholar, and leech, of handsome person, captivating manners, and ardent aspirations to extend the limits of science, and to promote the advancement of knowledge and of civilization all over the earth. While these dreams are floating in his mind, a letter on the architect Fioraventi, who had for some time resided in Moscow, to his brother, the Italian physician, requesting him to send some skilful leech to the court of Ivan, decides the fate of Antonio.
"Fioraventi began to look out for a physician who would volunteer into a country so distant and so little known: he never thought of proposing the journey to his pupil; his youth—the idea of a separation—of a barbarous country—all terrified the old man. His imagination was no longer wild—the intellect and the heart alone had influence on him. And what had Antony to hope for there? His destiny was assured by the position of his instructor—his tranquillity was secured by circumstances—he could more readily make a name in Italy. The place of physician at the court of the Muscovite Great Prince would suit a poor adventurer; abundance of such men might be found at that time possessed of talents and learning. But hardly was Aristotle's letter communicated to Antony, than visions began to float in his ardent brain.—'To Muscovy!' cried the voice of destiny—'To Muscovy!' echoed through his soul, like a cry remembered from infancy. That soul, in its fairest dreams, had long pined for a new, distant, unknown land and people: Antony wished to be where the physician's foot had never yet penetrated: perhaps he might discover, by questioning a nature still rude and fresh, powers by which he could retain on earth its short-lived inhabitants; perhaps he might extort from a virgin soil the secret of regeneration, or dig up the fountain of the water of life and death. But he who desired to penetrate deeper into the nature of man, might have remarked other motives in his desire. Did not knightly blood boil in his veins? Did not the spirit of adventure whisper in his heart its hopes and high promises? However this might be, he offered, with delight, to go to Muscovy; and when he received the refusal of his preceptor, he began to entreat, to implore him incessantly to recall it.—'Science calls me thither,' he said, 'do not deprive her of new acquisitions, perhaps of important discoveries. Do not deprive me of glory, my only hope and happiness.' And these entreaties were followed by a new refusal.—'Knowest thou not,' cried Fioraventi angrily, 'that the gates of Muscovy are like the gates of hell—step beyond them, and thou canst never return.' But suddenly, unexpectedly, from some secret motive, he ceased to oppose Antony's desire. With tears he gave him his blessing for the journey.—'Who can tell,' said he, 'that this is not the will of fate? Perhaps, in reality, honour and fame await thee there?'
"At Padua was soon known Antony Ehrenstein's determination to make that distant journey; and no one was surprised at it: there were, indeed, many who envied him.
"In truth, the age in which Antony lived was calculated to attune the mind to the search after the unknown, and to serve as an excuse for his visions. The age of deep profligacy, it was also the age of lofty talents, of bold enterprises, of great discoveries. They dug into the bowels of the earth; they kept up in the laboratory an unextinguished fire; they united and separated elements; they buried themselves living, in the tomb, to discover the philosopher's stone, and they found it in the innumerable treasures of chemistry which they bequeathed to posterity. Nicholas Diaz and Vasco de Gama had passed, with one gigantic stride, from one hemisphere to another, and showed that millions of their predecessors were but pigmies. The genius of a third visioned forth a new world, with new oceans—went to it, and brought it to mankind. Gunpowder, the compass, printing, cheap paper, regular armies, the concentration of states and powers, ingenious destruction, and ingenious creation—all were the work of this wondrous age. At this time, also, there began to spread indistinctly about, in Germany and many other countries of Europe, those ideas of reformation, which soon were strengthened, by the persecution of the Western Church, to array themselves in the logical head of Luther, and to flame up in that universal crater, whence the fury, lava, and smoke, were to rush with such tremendous violence on kingdoms and nations. These ideas were then spreading through the multitude, and when resisted, they broke through their dikes, and burst onward with greater violence. The character of Antony, eager, thirsting for novelty, was the expression of his age: he abandoned himself to the dreams of an ardent soul, and only sought whither to carry himself and his accumulations of knowledge.
"Muscovy, wild still, but swelling into vigour, with all her boundless snows and forests, the mystery of her orientalism, was to many a newly-discovered land—a rich mine for human genius. Muscovy, then for the first time beginning to gain mastery over her internal and external foes, then first felt the necessity for real, material civilization."
Antony pays a farewell visit to his mother at the humble tower in Bohemia, where she resided estranged from his father, of whose rank and condition she left him ignorant.
"If there were a paradise upon earth, Antony would have found it in the whole month which he passed in the Bohemian castle. Oh! he would not have exchanged that poor abode, the wild nature on the banks of the Elbe, the caresses of his mother, whose age he would have cherished with his care and love—no! he would not have exchanged all this for magnificent palaces, for the exertions of proud kinsmen to elevate him at the imperial court, for numberless vassals, whom, if he chose, he might hunt to death with hounds.
"But true to his vow, full of the hope of being useful to his mother, to science, and to humanity, the visionary renounced this paradise: his mother blessed him on his long journey to a distant and unknown land: she feared for him; yet she saw that Muscovy would be to him a land of promise—and how could she oppose his wishes?"
Preceding our hero to Moscow, we are presented to the Great Prince before Antonio's arrival. Ambassadors had come from Tver, and a Lithuanian ambassador and his interpreter had been truly or falsely convicted of an attempt to destroy Ivan by poison. The Great Prince's enquiry what punishment is decreed against the felon who reaches at another's life, leads to the following dialogue:—
"'In the soudebnik it is decreed,' replied Gouseff, 'whoever shall be accused of larceny, robbery, murder, or false accusation, or other like evil act, and the same shall be manifestly guilty, the boyarin shall doom the same unto the pain of death, and the plaintiff shall have his goods; and if any thing remain, the same shall go to the boyarin and the deacon.'...
"'Ay, the lawyers remember themselves—never fear that the boyarin and deacon forget their fees. And what is written in thy book against royal murderers and conspirators?'
"'In our memory such case hath not arisen.'
"'Even so! you lawyers are ever writing leaf after leaf, and never do ye write all; and then the upright judges begin to gloze, to interpret, to take bribes for dark passages. The law ought to be like an open hand without a glove, (the Prince opened his fist;) every simple man ought to see what is in it, and it should not be able to conceal a grain of corn. Short and clear; and, when needful, seizing firmly!... But as it is, they have put a ragged glove on law; and, besides, they close the fist. Ye may guess—odd or even! they can show one or the other, as they like.'
"'Pardon, my Lord Great Prince; lo, what we will add to the soudebnik—the royal murderer and plotter shall not live.'
"'Be it so. Let not him live, who reached at another's life.' (Here he turned to Kouritzin, but remembering that he was always disinclined to severe punishments, he continued, waving his hand,) 'I forgot that a craven croweth not like a cock.' (At these words the deacon's eyes sparkled with satisfaction.) 'Mamon, be this thy care. Tell my judge of Moscow—the court judge—to have the Lithuanian and the interpreter burned alive on the Moskva—burn them, dost thou hear? that others may not think of such deeds.'
 A jeu de mots impossible to be rendered in English; Kouritza, in Russian, is a 'hen.'"—T.B.S.
"The dvoretzkoi bowed, and said, stroking his ragged beard—'In a few days will arrive the strangers to build the palace, and the Almayne leech: the Holy Virgin only knoweth whether there be not evil men among them also. Dost thou vouchsafe me to speak what hath come into my mind?'
"'Were it not good to show them an example at once, by punishing the criminals before them?'
"The Great Prince, after a moment's thought, replied—'Aristotle answereth for the leech Antony; he is a disciple of his brother's. The artists of the palace—foreigners—are good men, quiet men ... but ... who can tell!... Mamon, put off the execution till after the coming of the Almayne leech; but see that the fetters sleep not on the evil doers!'
"Here he signed to Mamon to go and fulfill his order."
Here is another scene with the Great Prince.
"He stopped, and turned with an air of stern command to Kouritzin.
"The latter had addressed himself to speak—'The ambassadors from Tver ... from the'....
"'From the prince, thou wouldst say,' burst in Ivan Vassilievitch: 'I no longer recognize a Prince of Tver. What—I ask thee, what did he promise in the treaty of conditions which his bishop was to negotiate?—the bishop who is with us now.'
"'To dissolve his alliance with the Polish king, Kazimir, and never without thy knowledge to renew his intercourse with him; nor with thine ill-wishers, nor with Russian deserters: to swear, in his own and his children's name, never to yield to Lithuania.'
"'Hast thou still the letter to King Kazimir from our good brother-in-law and ally—him whom thou yet callest the Great Prince of Tver?'
"'I have it, my lord.'
"'What saith it?'
"'The Prince of Tver urgeth the Polish King against the Lord of All Russia.'
"'Now, as God shall judge me, I have right on my side. Go and tell the envoys from Tver, that I will not receive them: I spoke a word of mercy to them—they mocked at it. What do they take me for?... A bundle of rags, which to-day they may trample in the mud, and to-morrow stick up for a scarecrow in their gardens! Or a puppet—to bow down to it to-day, and to-morrow to cast it into the mire, with Vuiduibai, father vuiduibai! No! they have chosen the wrong man. They may spin their traitorous intrigues with the King of Poland, and hail him their lord; but I will go myself and tell Tver who is her real master. Tease me no more with these traitors!'
 "When Vladimir, to convert the Russians to Christianity, caused the image of their idol Peroun to be thrown into the Dniepr, the people of Kieff are said to have shouted 'vuiduibai, batioushka, vuiduibai!'—batioushka signifies 'father;' but the rest of the exclamation has never been explained, though it has passed into a proverb."—T.B.S.
"Saying this, the Great Prince grew warmer and warmer, and at length he struck his staff upon the ground so violently that it broke in two.
"'Hold! here is our declaration of war,' he added—'yet one word more: had it bent it would have remained whole.'
"Kouritzin, taking the fatal fragments, went out. The philosopher of those days, looking at them, shook his head and thought—'Even so breaketh the mighty rival of Moscow!'"
The Almayne physician is lodged by order of the Great Prince in one of the three stone houses which Moscow could then boast—the habitation of the voevoda Obrazetz, a fine old warrior, a venerable patriarch, and bigot, such as all Russians then were. To him the presence of the heretic is disgusting; his touch would be pollution; and the whole family is thrown into the utmost consternation by the prospect of having to harbour so foul a guest—a magician, a man who had sold his soul to Satan—above all, a heretic. The voevoda had an only daughter, who, with Oriental caution, was carefully screened from the sight of man, as became a high-born Russian maiden.
"From her very infancy Providence had stamped her with the seal of the marvellous; when she was born a star had fallen on the house—on her bosom she bore a mark resembling a cross within a heart. When ten years old, she dreamed of palaces and gardens such as eye had never seen on earth, and faces of unspeakable beauty, and voices that sang, and self-moving dulcimers that played, as it were within her heart, so sweetly and so well, that tongue could never describe it; and, when she awoke from those dreams, she felt a light pressure on her feet, and she thought she perceived that something was resting on them with white wings folded; it was very sweet, and yet awful—and in a moment all was gone. Sometimes she would meditate, sometimes she would dream, she knew not what. Often, when prostrate before the image of the Mother of God, she wept; and these tears she hid from the world, like some holy thing sent down to her from on high. She loved all that was marvellous; and therefore she loved the tales, the legends, the popular songs and stories of those days. How greedily did she listen to her nurse! and what marvels did the eloquent old woman unfold, to the young, burning imagination of her foster child! Anastasia, sometimes abandoning herself to poesy, would forget sleep and food; sometimes her dreams concluded the unfinished tale more vividly, more eloquently far."
We must give the pendant to this picture—the portrait of Obrazetz himself, sitting in his easy-chair, listening to a tale of travels in the East.
"How noble was the aged man, free from stormy passions, finishing the pilgrimage of life! You seemed to behold him in pure white raiment, ready to appear before his heavenly judge. Obrazetz was the chief of the party in years, in grave majestic dignity, and patriarchal air. Crossing his arms upon his staff, he covered them with his beard, downy as the soft fleece of a lamb; the glow of health, deepened by the cup of strong mead, blushed through the snow-white hair with which his cheeks were thickly clothed; he listened with singular attention and delight to the story-teller. This pleasure was painted on his face, and shone brightly in his eyes; from time to time a smile of good-humoured mockery flitted across his lips, but this was only the innocent offspring of irony which was raised in his good heart by Aphonia's boasting, (for very few story-tellers, you know, are free from this sin.) Reclining his shoulders against the back of his arm-chair, he shut his eyes, and, laying his broad hairy hand upon Andriousha's head, he softly, gently dallied with the boy's flaxen locks. On his countenance the gratification of curiosity was mingled with affectionate tenderness: he was not dozing, but seemed to be losing himself in sweet reveries. In the old man's visions arose the dear never forgotten son, whom he almost fancied he was caressing. When he opened his eyes, their white lashes still bore traces of the touching society of his unearthly guest; but when he remarked that the tear betraying the secret of his heart had disturbed his companions, and made his daughter anxious, the former expression of pleasure again dawned on his face, and doubled the delighted attention of the whole party."
At length the dreaded guest arrived.
"Evil days had fallen on Obrazetz and his family. He seemed himself as though he had lost his wife and son a second time. Khabar raged and stormed like a mountain torrent. Anastasia, hearing the horrible stories—is sometimes trembling like an aspen-leaf, and then weeps like a fountain. She dares not even look forth out of the sliding window of her bower. Why did Vassilii Feodorovitch build such a fine house? Why did he build it so near the Great Prince's palace? 'Tis clear, this was a temptation of the Evil One. He wanted, forsooth, to boast of a nonsuch! He had sinned in his pride.... What would become of him, his son and daughter! Better for them had they never been born!... And all this affliction arose from the boyarin being about to receive a German in his house!"
The voevoda gave strict injunctions that none of his family should go to meet the procession; but M. Lajetchnikoff knows that all such orders are unavailing.
"Curiosity is so strong in human nature, that it can conquer even fear: notwithstanding the orders of the boyarin, all his servants rushed to obtain a glance at the terrible stranger; one at the gate, another through the crevices of the wooden fence, another over it. Khabar, with his arms haughtily a-kimbo, gazed with stern pride from the other gate. Now for the frightful face with mouse's ears, winking owlish eyes streaming with fiendish fire! now for the beak! They beheld a young man, tall, graceful, of noble deportment, overflowing with fresh vigorous life. In his blue eyes shone the light of goodness and benevolence through the moisture called up by the recent spectacle of the execution: the lips, surmounted by a slight soft mustache, bore a good-humoured smile—one of those smiles that it is impossible to feign, and which can only find their source in a heart never troubled by impure passions. Health and frost had united to tinge the cheeks with a light rosy glow; he took off his cap, and his fair curls streamed forth over his broad shoulders. He addressed Mamon in a few words of such Russian as he knew, and in his voice there was something so charming, that even the evil spirit which wandered through the boyarin's heart, sank down to its abyss. This, then, was the horrible stranger, who had harmed Obrazetz and his household! This, then, was he—after all! If this was the devil, the fiend must again have put on his original heavenly form. All the attendants, as they looked upon him, became firmly convinced that he had bewitched their eyes.
"'Haste, Nastia! look how handsome he is!' cried Andriousha to the voevoda's daughter, in whose room he was, looking through the sliding window, which he had drawn back. 'After this, believe stupid reports! My father says that he is my brother: oh, how I shall love him! Look, my dear!'
Nastia—the diminutive of Anastasia; Nastenka, the same. Russian caressing names generally end in sia, sha, ousha, or oushka—as Vasia, (for Ivan;) Andriousha, (Andrei;) Varpholomeoushka, ( Bartholomew.)"—T.B.S.
"And the son of Aristotle, affirming and swearing that he was not deceiving his godmother, drew her, trembling and pale, to the window. Making the sign of the cross, with a fluttering heart she ventured to look out—she could not trust her eyes, again she looked out; confusion! a kind of delighted disappointment, a kind of sweet thrill running through her blood, never before experienced, fixed her for some moments to the spot: but when Anastasia recovered herself from these impressions, she felt ashamed and grieved that she had given way to them. She already felt a kind of repentance. The sorcerer has put on a mask, she thought, remembering her father's words: from this moment she became more frequently pensive."
We are conducted to the state prisons of Moscow, and introduced to some of the prisoners whose names have figured in history. We select the following dialogue as a specimen of the author's power to deal with such matters. The prisoner is Marpha, the lady of Novogorod, who, by her courage and her wealth, had laboured to preserve its independence.
"Here the Great Prince rapped with his staff at a grating; at the knock there looked out an old roman, who was fervently praying on her knees. She was dressed in a much-worn high cap, and in a short veil, poor, but white as new-fallen snow; her silver hair streamed over a threadbare mantle: it was easy to guess that this was no common woman. Her features were very regular, in her dim eyes was expressed intellect, and a kind of stern greatness of soul. She looked proudly and steadily at the Great Prince.
"'For whom wert thou praying, Marphousha?' asked the sovereign.
"'For whom but for the dead!' she sullenly replied.
"'But for whom in particular, if I may make bold to ask?'
"'Ask concerning that of my child, thou son of a dog—of him who was called thy brother, whom thou murderedst—of Novgorod, which thou hast drowned in blood, and covered with ashes!'
"'O, ho, ho!... Thou hast not forgotten thy folly, then—Lady of Novgorod the Great.'
"'I was such once, my fair lord!'
"At these words she arose.
"'Wilt thou not think again?'
"'Of what?... I said that I was praying for the dead. Thy Moscow, with all its hovels, can twice a-year be laid in ashes, and twice built up again. The Tartar hath held it two ages in slavery.... It pined, it pined away and yet it remains whole. It hath but changed one bondage for another. But once destroy the queen—Novgorod the Great—and Novgorod the Great will perish for ever.'
"'How canst thou tell that?'
"'Can ye raise up a city of hewn stone in a hundred years?'
"'I will raise one in a dozen.'
"'Ay, but this is not in the fairy tale, where 'tis done as soon as said. Call together the Hanse traders whom thou hast driven away.'
"'Ha, hucksteress! thou mournest for the traders more than for Novgorod itself.'
"'By my huckstering she grew not poor, but rich.'
"'Let me but jingle a piece of money, and straight will fly the merchants from all corners of the world, greedy for my grosches.'
"'Recall the chief citizens whom thou hast exiled to thy towns.'
"'Cheats, knaves, rebels! they are not worth this!'
"'When was power in the wrong? Where is the water of life that can revive those thou hast slain? Even if thou couldst do all this, liberty, liberty would be no more for Novgorod, Ivan Vassilievitch; and Novgorod will never rise again! It may live on awhile like lighted flax, that neither flameth nor goeth out, even as I live in a dungeon!'
"'It is thine inflexible obstinacy that hath ruined both of ye. I should like to have seen how thou wouldst have acted in my place.'
"'Thou hast done thy work, Great Prince of Moscow, I—mine. Triumph not over me, in my dungeon, at my last hour.'
"Marpha Boretzkaia coughed, and her face grew livid; she applied the end of her veil to her lips, but it was instantly stained with blood, and Ivan remarked this, though she endeavoured to conceal it.
"'I am sorry for thee, Marpha,' said the Great Prince in a compassionate tone.
"'Sharp is thy glance.... What! doth it delight thee?... Spread this kerchief over Novgorod.... 'Twill be a rich pall!'... she added with a smile.
"'Let me in! let me in!... I cannot bear it.... Let me go in to her!' cried Andriousha, bursting into tears.
"On the Great Prince's countenance was mingled compassion and vexation. He, however, lifted the latch of the door, and let the son of Aristotle pass in to Boretzkaia.
"Andrea kissed her hand. Boretzkaia uttered not a word; she mournfully shook her head, and her warm tears fell upon the boy's face.
"'Ask him how many years she can live,' said the Great Prince to Aristotle, in a whisper.
"'It is much, much, if she live three months; but, perhaps, 'twill be only till spring,' answered Antony. 'No medicine can save her: that blood is a sure herald of death.'
"This reply was translated to Ivan Vassilievitch in as low a tone as possible, that Boretzkaia might not hear it; but she waved her hand, and said calmly—'I knew it long ago'....
"'Hearken, Marpha Isakovna, if thou wilt, I will give thee thy liberty, and send thee into another town.'
"'Another town ... another place ... God hath willed it so, without thee!'
"'I would send thee to Bayjetzkoi-Verkh.'
"''Tis true, that was our country. If I could but die in my native land!'
"'Then God be with thee: there thou mayst say thy prayers, give alms to the churches; I will order thy treasury to be delivered up to thee—and remember not the Great Prince of Moscow in anger.'
"She smiled. Have you ever seen something resembling a smile on the jaws of a human skull?
"'Farewell, we shall never meet again,' said the Great Prince.
"'We shall meet at the judgment-seat of God!' was the last reply of Boretzkaia."
The daughter of Obrazetz loved the heretic, who was long unconscious of the feelings he had inspired, and himself untouched by the mysterious fire that was consuming the heart of the young Anastasia. But his turn, too, had come—he, too, had seen and loved; but she knew not of his love—she hardly knew the nature of her own feelings; sometimes she feared she was under the influence of magic, or imagined that the anxiety she felt for the heretic was a holy desire to turn him from the errors of his faith to save his immortal soul—or, if she knew the truth, she dared not acknowledge it even to her own heart—far less to any human being. To love a heretic was a deadly sin; but to save a soul would be acceptable to God—a holy offering at the footstool of the throne of grace and mercy. This hope would justify any sacrifice. The great Prince was about to march against Tver, and Antonio was to accompany him. Could she permit him to depart without an effort to redeem him from his heresy, or, alas! without a token of her love? She determined to send him the crucifix she wore round her neck—a holy and a sacred thing, which it would have been a deadly sin to part with unless to rescue a soul from perdition—and she sent it. Her brother, too, was to accompany the army, and had besides, on his return, to encounter a judicial combat. The soul of the old warrior Obrazetz was deeply moved by the near approach of his son's departure. One son had died by his side—he might never see Ivan more, and his heart yearned to join with him in prayer. "The mercies of God are unaccountable."
"Trusting in them, Obrazetz proceeded to the oratory, whither, by his command, he was followed by Khabar and Anastasia.
"Silently they go, plunged in feelings of awe: they enter the oratory; the solitary window is curtained; in the obscurity, feebly dispelled by the mysterious glimmer of the lamp, through the deep stillness, fitfully broken by the flaring of the taper, they were gazed down upon from every side by the dark images of the Saviour, the Holy Mother of God, and the Holy Saints. From them there seems to breathe a chilly air as of another world: here thou canst not hide thyself from their glances; from every side they follow thee in the slightest movement of thy thoughts and feelings. Their wasted faces, feeble limbs, and withered frames—their flesh macerated by prayer and fasting—the cross, the agony—all here speaks of the victory of will over passions. Themselves an example of purity in body and soul, they demand the same purity from all who enter the oratory, their holy shrine.
"To them Anastasia had recourse in the agitation of her heart; from them she implored aid against the temptations of the Evil One; but help there was none for her, the weak in will, the devoted to the passion which she felt for an unearthly tempter.
Thrice, with crossing and with prayer, did Obrazetz bow before the images; thrice did his son and daughter bow after him. This pious preface finished, the old man chanted the psalm—'Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High.' Thus, even in our own times, among us in Russia, the pious warrior, when going to battle, almost always arms himself with this shield of faith. With deep feeling, Khabar repeated the words after his father. All this prepared Anastasia for something terrible she trembled like a dove which is caught by the storm in the open plain, where there is no shelter for her from the tempest that is ready to burst above her. When they arose from prayer, Obrazetz took from the shrine a small image of St George the Victorious, cast in silver, with a ring for suspending it on the bosom. 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!' he said, with a solemn voice, holding the image in his left hand, and with his right making three signs of the cross—'with this mercy of God I bless thee, my dear and only son, Ivan, and I pray that the holy martyr, George, may give thee mastery and victory over thine enemies: keep this treasure even as the apple of thine eye. Put it not off from thee in any wise, unless the Lord willeth that the foe shall take it from thee. I know thee, Ivan, they will not take it from thee living; but they may from thy corse. Keep in mind at every season thy father's blessing.'
"Anastasia turned as white as snow, and trembled in every limb; her bosom felt oppressed as with a heavy stone, a sound as of hammering was in her ears. She seemed to hear all the images, one after another, sternly repeating her father's words. He continued—'It is a great thing, this blessing. He who remembereth it not, or lightly esteemeth it, from him shall the heavenly Father turn away his face, and shall leave him for ever and ever. He shall be cast out from the kingdom of heaven, and his portion shall be in hell. Keep well my solemn word.'
"Every accent of Obrazetz fell upon Anastasia's heart like a drop of molten pitch. She seemed to be summoned before the dreadful judgment-seat of Christ, to hear her father's curse, and her own eternal doom. She could restrain herself no longer, and sobbed bitterly; the light grew dim in her eyes; her feet began to totter. Obrazetz heard her sobs, and interrupted his exhortation. 'Nastia, Nastia! what aileth thee?' he enquired, with lively sympathy, of his daughter, whom he tenderly loved. She had not strength to utter a word, and fell into her brother's arms. Crossing himself, the boyarin put back the image into its former place, and then hastened to sprinkle his child with holy water which always stood ready in the oratory. Anastasia revived, and when she saw herself surrounded by her father and brother, in a dark, narrow, sepulchral place, she uttered a wild cry, and turned her dim eyes around. 'My life, my darling child, my dove! what aileth thee?' cried the father. 'Recollect thyself: thou art in the oratory. 'Tis plain some evil eye hath struck thee. Pray to the Holy Virgin: she, the merciful one, will save thee from danger.'
"The father and son bore her to the image of the Mother of God. Her brother with difficulty raised her arm, and she, all trembling, made the sign of the cross. Deeply, heavily she sighed, applied her ice-cold lips to the image, and then signed to them with her hand that they should carry her out speedily. She fancied that she saw the Holy Virgin shake her head with a reproachful air.
"When they had carried Anastasia to her chamber, she felt better."
Hitherto none had shared her secret thoughts; but the experienced eye of the widow Selinova had detected the nature of her malady, and she longed to know the object of her affection.
"One day, they were sitting alone together, making lace. A kind of mischievous spirit whispered her to speak of the heretic. Imagine yourself thrown by destiny on a foreign land. All around you are speaking in an unknown tongue; their language appears to you a chaos of wild, strange sounds. Suddenly, amid the crowd, drops a word in your native language. Does not then a thrill run over your whole being? does not your heart leap within you? Or place a Russian peasant at a concert where is displayed all the creative luxury and all the brilliant difficulties of foreign music. The child of nature listens with indifference to the incomprehensible sounds; but suddenly Vorobieva with her nightingale voice trills out—The cuckoo from out the firs so dank hath not cuckooed. Look what a change comes over the half-asleep listener. Thus it was with Anastasia! Till this moment Selinova had spoken to her in a strange language, had only uttered sounds unintelligible to her; but the instant that she spoke the native word, it touched the heart-string, and all the chords of her being thrilled as if they were about to burst. Anastasia trembled, her hands wandered vaguely over her lace cushion, her face turned deadly pale. She dared not raise her eyes, and replied at random, absently.
"'Ah!' thought Selinova, 'that is the right key: that is the point whence cometh the storm!'
"Both remained silent. At length Anastasia ventured to glance at her visitor, in order to see by the expression of her face, whether she had remarked her confusion. Selinova's eyes were fixed upon her work, on her face there was not even a shade of suspicion. The crafty widow intended little by little, imperceptibly, to win the confidence of the inexperienced girl.
"'And where then is he gone?' she asked after a short pause, without naming the person about whom she was enquiring.
"'He is gone with the Great Prince on the campaign,' answered Anastasia blushing; then, after a moment's thought she added—'I suppose thou askedst me about my brother?'
"'No, my dear, our conversation was about Antony the leech. What a pity he is a heretic! You will not easily find such another gallant among our Muscovites. He hath all, both height and beauty: when he looketh, 'tis as though he gave you large pearls; his locks lie on his shoulders like the light of dawn; he is as white and rosy as a young maiden. I wonder whence he had such beauty—whether by the permission of God, or, not naturally, by the influence of the Evil One. I could have looked at him—may it not be a sin to say, I could have gazed at him for ever without being weary!'
"At these praises Anastasia's pale countenance blushed like the dawning that heralds the tempest. 'Thou hast then seen him?' asked the enamoured maiden, in a trembling, dying voice, and breaking off her work.
"'I have seen him more than once. I have not only seen him, but wonder now, my dear—I have visited him in his dwelling!'
"'The maiden shook her head, her eyes were dimmed with the shade of pensiveness; a thrill of jealousy, in spite of herself, darted to her heart. 'What! and didst thou not fear to go to him?' she said—'Is he not a heretic?'
"'If thou knewest it, Nastenka, what wouldst thou not do for love?'
"'Love?' ... exclaimed Anastasia, and her heart bounded violently in her breast.
"'Ah if I were not afraid, I would disclose to thee the secret of my soul.'
"'Speak, I pray thee, speak! Fear not; see! I call the Mother of God to witness, thy words shall die with me.'
"And the maiden, with a quivering hand, signed a large cross.
"'If so, I will confide in thee what I have never disclosed but to God. It is not over one blue sea alone that the mist lieth, and the darksome cloud: it is not over one fair land descendeth the gloomy autumn night; there was a time when my bosom was loaded with a heavy sorrow, my rebellious heart lay drowned in woe and care: I loved thy brother, Ivan Vassilievitch. (The maiden's heart was relieved, she breathed more freely.) Thou knowest not, my life, my child, what kind of feeling is that of love, and God grant that thou mayest never know! The dark night cometh, thou canst not close thine eyes: the bright dawn breaketh, thou meetest it with tears, and the day is all weary—O, so weary! There are many men in the fair world, but thou see'st only one, in thy bower, in the street, in the house of God. A stone lieth ever on thy breast, and thou canst not shake it off.'
"Then Selinova wept sincere tears. Her companion listened to her with eager sympathy: the feelings just depicted were her own.
* * * * *
"There was a deep silence. It was broken by the young widow.
"'Nastenka, my life?' she began in a tone of such touching, such lively interest, as called for her reluctant confidence.
"The daughter of Obrazetz glanced at her with eyes full of tears, and shook her head.
"'Confide in me, as I have confided in thee,' continued Selinova, taking her hand and pressing it to her bosom. 'I have lived longer in the world than thou ... believe me, 'twill give thee ease ... 'tis clear from every symptom, my love, what thou ailest.'
"And Anastasia, sobbing, exclaimed at last—'O, my love, my dearest friend, Praskovia Vladimirovna, take a sharp knife, open my white breast, look what is the matter there!'
"'And wherefore need we take the sharp knife, and wherefore need we open the white breast, or look upon the rebellious heart? Surely, by thy fair face all can tell, my child, how that fair face hath been darkened, how the fresh bloom hath faded, and bright eyes grown dull. After all, 'tis clear thou lovest some wandering falcon, some stranger youth.'
"Anastasia answered not a word; she could not speak for tears; and hid her face in her hands. At last, softened by Selinova's friendly sympathy, and her assurances that she would be easier if she would confide her secret to such a faithful friend, she related her love for the heretic. The episode of the crucifix was omitted in this tale, which finished, of course, with assurances that she was enchanted, bewitched.
"Snowdrop! beautiful flower, thou springest up alone in the bosom of thy native valley! And the bright sun arises every day to glass himself in thy morning mirror; and the beaming moon, after a sultry day, hastens to fan thee with her breezy wing, and the angels of God, lulling thee by night, spread over thee a starry canopy, such as king never possessed. Who can tell from what quarter the tempest may bring from afar, from other lands, the seeds of the ivy, and scatter them by thy side, and the ivy arises and twines lovingly around thee, and chokes thee, lovely flower! This is not all: the worm has crawled to thy root, hath fixed its fang therein, and kills ye both, if some kind hand save ye not."
These extracts will enable our readers to judge for themselves of the merits of M. Lajetchnikoff's style as it appears in Mr Shaw's translation. A better selection might have been made, had we not been desirous to avoid any such anticipation of the development of the story as light diminish its interest; but we are inclined to believe that most of our readers will agree with us in thinking, that if M. Lajetchnikoff has succeeded in faithfully illustrating the manners of the age of Ivan the Great, he has also shown that he possesses brilliancy of fancy, fervour of thought, and elevation of sentiment, as well as knowledge of the movements of the heart, revealed only to the few who have been initiated into nature's mysteries.
He does not appear to be largely gifted with the power of graphic description, of placing the scenes of nature, or the living figures that people them, vividly before us—he loves rather to indulge, even to excess, mystical or passionate thoughts that are born in his own breast, and to adorn them with garlands woven from the flowers of his fancy; but these flowers are of native growth, the indigenous productions of the Russian soil. His images often sound to our ears homely, sometimes even familiar and mean, but they may be dignified in their native dress. He has no lively perception of the beauties of external nature; his raptures are reserved for the wonders of art, for what the human mind can create or achieve; and, curiously enough, it is architecture that seems to excite in him the greatest enthusiasm. In illustration of this feeling, we must still extract an eloquent discourse on the life of the artist, which the author puts into the mouth of Fioraventi Aristotle—a passage of much feeling, and, we fear, of too much truth:—
"Thou knowest not, Antony, what a life is that of an artist! While yet a child, he is agitated by heavy incomprehensible thoughts: to him the sphynx, Genius, hath already proposed its enigmas; in his bosom the Promethean vulture is already perched, and groweth with his growth. His comrades are playing and making merry; they are preparing for their riper years recollections of childhood's days of paradise—childhood, that never can be but once: the time cometh, and he remembereth but the tormenting dreams of that age. Youth is at hand; for others 'tis the time of love, of soft ties, of revelry—the feast of life; for the artist, none of these. Solitary, flying from society, he avoideth the maiden, he avoideth joy; plunging into the loneliness of his soul, he there, with indescribable mourning, with tears of inspiration, on his knees before his Ideal, imploreth her to come down upon earth to his frail dwelling. Days and nights he waiteth, and pineth after unearthly beauty. Woe to him if she doth not visit him, and yet greater woe to him if she doth! The tender frame of youth cannot bear her bridal kiss; union with the gods is fatal to man; and the mortal is annihilated in her embrace. I speak not of the education, of the mechanic preparation. And here at every step the Material enchaineth thee, buildeth up barriers before thee: marketh a formless vein upon thy block of marble, mingling soot with thy carmine, entangling thy imagination in a net of monstrous rules and formulas, commandeth thee to be the slave of the house-painter or of the stone-cutter. And what awaiteth thee, when thou hast come forth victorious from this mechanic school—when thou hast succeeded in throwing off the heavy sum of a thousand unnecessary rules, with which pedantry hath overwhelmed thee—when thou takest as thy guide only those laws which are so plain and simple?... What awaiteth thee then? Again the Material! Poverty, need, forced labour, appreciators, rivals, that ever-hungry flock which flieth upon thee ready to tear thee in pieces, as soon as it knoweth that thou art a pure possessor of the gift of God. Thy soul burneth to create, but thy carcass demandeth a morsel of bread; inspiration veileth her wing, but the body asketh not only to clothe its nakedness with a decent covering, but fine cloth, silk, velvet, that it may appear before thy judges in a proper dress, without which they will not receive thee, thou and thy productions will die unknown. In order to obtain food, clothes, thou must work: a merchant will order from thee a cellar, a warehouse; the signore, stables and dog kennels. Now at last thou hast procured thyself daily bread, a decent habit for thy bones and flesh: inspiration thirsteth for its nourishment, demanding from thy soul images and forms. Thou createst, thou art bringing thy Ideal to fulfilment. How swiftly move the wheels of thy being! Thy existence is tenfold redoubled, thy pulse is beating as when thou breathest the atmosphere of high mountains. Thou spendest in one day whole months of life. How many nights passed without sleep, how many days in ceaseless chain, all filled with agitation! Or rather, there is nor day nor night for thee, nor seasons of the year, as for other men. Thy blood now boileth, then freezeth; the fever of imagination wasteth thee away. Triumph setteth thee on fire, the fear of failure maddeneth thee, tearing thee to pieces, tormenting thee with dread of the judgments of men; then again ariseth the terror of dying with thy task unfinished. Add, too, the inevitable shade of glory, which stalketh ever in thy footsteps, and giveth thee not a moment of repose. This is the period of creation! While creating, thou hast been dwelling at the footstool of God. Crushed by thy contact with the hem of his garment, overwhelmed by inspiration from Him whom the world can scarcely bear, a poor mortal, half alive, half dead, thou descendest upon earth, and carriest with thee what thou hast created there, in His presence! Mortals surround thy production, judging, valuing, discussing it in detail; the patron laudeth the ornaments, the grandeur of the columns, the weight of the work; the distributors of favour gamble away thy honour, or creep like mice under thy plan, and nibble at it in the darkness of night. No, my friend, the life of an artist is the life of a martyr."
We are so much accustomed to see virtue rewarded and vice punished, that we might perhaps have been better pleased to have seen this kind of poetical justice more equitably dispensed; but the cause of virtue is perhaps as effectually served by making it attractive as by making it triumphant, and vice is as much discouraged by making it odious or contemptible as by making it unsuccessful.
It only remains to say a few words of the translator's labours; and although we do not pretend to decide on the fidelity of the version he has given us, or how much his author may have lost or gained in his hands, we cannot but think that we perceive internal evidence of efforts to be faithful, even at the hazard of losing perhaps something of more value in the attempt. However this may be, it is plain that Mr Shaw is himself a vigorous and eloquent writer of his own language, as the extracts we have given may vouch. We feel greatly indebted to him for unlocking to us the stores of Russian fiction, which, if they contain many such works as The Heretic, will well repay the labour of a careful examination. There is about every thing Russian an air of orientalism which gives a peculiar character to their dress, their mansions, their manners, their feelings, their expressions, and their prejudices, which will probably long continue to distinguish Russian literature on that of the other nations of Europe, whose steps she has followed, perhaps too implicitly, in her attempts to overtake them in the race of civilization and intellectual improvement.
* * * * *
BY ALEXANDER DUMAS.
We have heard of certain cooks, the Udes and Vatels of their day, whose boast it was to manufacture the most sumptuous and luxurious repast out of coarse and apparently insufficient materials. We will take the liberty of comparing M. Dumas with one of these artistical cuisiniers, possessing in the highest degree the talent of making much out of little, by the skill with which it is prepared, and the piquant nature of the condiments applied. A successful dramatist, as well as a popular romance-writer, his dialogues have the point and brilliancy, his narrative the vivid terseness, generally observable in novels written by persons accustomed to dramatic composition. Confining himself to no particular line of subject, he rambles through the different departments of light literature in a most agreeable and desultory manner; to-day a tourist, to-morrow a novelist; the next day surprising his public by an excursion into the regions of historical romance, amongst the well-beaten highways and byways of which he still manages to discover an untrodden path, or to embellish a familiar one by the sparkle of his wit and industry of his researches. The majority of his books convey the idea of being written currente calamo, and with little trouble to himself; and these have a lightness and brilliancy peculiar to their lively author, which cannot fail to recommend them to all classes of readers. They are like the sketches of a clever artist, who, with a few bright and bold touches, gives an effect to his subject which no labour would enable a less talented painter to achieve. But M. Dumas can produce highly finished pictures as well as brilliant sketches, although for the present it is one of the latter that we are about to introduce to our readers.
Every body knows, or ought to know, that M. Dumas has been in Italy, and found means to make half a dozen highly amusing volumes out of his rambles in a country, perhaps, of all others, the most familiar to the inhabitants of civilized Europe—a country which has been described and re-described ad nauseam, by tourists, loungers, and idlers innumerable. On his way to the land of lazzaroni he made a pause at Marseilles to visit his friend Mery, a poet and author of some celebrity; and here he managed to collect materials for a volume which we can recommend to the perusal of the daily increasing class of our countrymen who think that a book, although written in French, may be witty and amusing without being either blasphemous or indecent.
We have reason to believe that many persons who have not visited the south-eastern corner of France, think of it as a "land of the cypress and myrtle;" where troubadours wander amongst orange groves, or tinkle their guitars under the shade of the vine and the fig-tree. There is something in a name, and Provence, if it were only for the sake of its roses, ought, one would think, to be a smiling and beautiful country. And so part of it is; but in this part is assuredly not included the district around its chief city. One hears much of the vineyards and orange groves of the south. We do not profess to care much about vines, except for the sake of what they produce; most of the vineyards we ever saw looked very like plantations of gooseberry bushes, and the best of them were not so graceful or picturesque as a Kentish hop-ground. As to olives, admirable as they undoubtedly are when flanking a sparkling jug of claret, we find little to admire in the stiff, greyish, stunted sort of trees upon which they think proper to grow. But neither vines nor olives are to be found around Marseilles. Nothing but dust; dust on the roads, dust in the fields, dust on every leaf of the parched, unhappy-looking trees that surround the country-houses of the Marseillais. The fruit and vegetables consumed there are brought for miles overland, or by water from places on the coast; flowers are scarce—objecting, probably, to grow in so arid a soil, and in a heat that, for some months of the year, is perfectly African. Game there is little or none; notwithstanding which, there are nowhere to be found more enthusiastic sportsmen than at Marseilles. It is on this hint M. Dumas speaks. His description of the manner in which the worthy burghers of Marseilles make war upon the volatiles is rather amusing.
"Every Marseillais who aspires to the character of a keen sportsman, has what is termed a poste a feu. This is a pit or cave dug in the ground in the vicinity of a couple of pine-trees, and covered over with branches. In addition to the pine-trees, it is usual to have cimeaux, long spars of wood, of which two are supported horizontally on the branches of the trees, and a third planted perpendicularly in the ground. These cimeaux are intended as a sort of treacherous invitation to the birds to come and rest themselves. So regularly as Sunday morning arrives, the Marseillais Cockney installs himself in his pit, arranges a loophole through which he can see what passes outside, and waits with all imaginable patience. The question that will naturally be asked, is—What does he wait for?
"He waits for a thrush, an ortolan, a beccafico, a robin-redbreast, or any other feathered and diminutive biped. He is not so ambitious as to expect a quail. Partridges he has heard of; of one, at least, a sort of phoenix, reproduced from its own ashes, and seen from time to time before an earthquake, or other great catastrophe. As to the hare, he is well aware that it is a fabulous animal of the unicorn species.
"There is a tradition, however, at Marseilles, that during the last three months of the year, flocks of wild pigeons pass over, on their way from Africa or Kamschatka, or some other distant country. Within the memory of man no one has ever seen one of these flights; but it would nevertheless be deemed heresy to doubt the fact. At this season, therefore, the sportsman provides himself with tame pigeon, which he fastens by a string to the cimeaux, in such a manner that the poor bird is obliged to keep perpetually on the wing, not being allowed rope enough to reach a perch. After three or four Sundays passed in this manner, the unfortunate decoy dies of a broken heart."
There is not nearly so much caricature in this picture as our readers may be disposed to think. Whoever has passed a few weeks of the autumn in a French provincial town, must have witnessed and laughed at the very comical proceedings of the chasseurs, the high-sounding title assumed by every Frenchman who ever pointed a gun at a cock-sparrow. One sees them going forth in the morning in various picturesque and fanciful costumes, their loins girded with a broad leathern belt, a most capacious game-bag slung over their shoulder, a fowling-piece of murderous aspect balanced on their arm; their heads protected from the October sun by every possible variety of covering, from the Greek skull-cap to the broad-brimmed Spanish sombrero. Away they go, singly, or by twos and threes, accompanied by a whole regiment of dogs, for the most part badly bred, and worse broken curs, which, when they get into the field, go pottering about in a style that would sorely tempt an English sportsman to bestow upon them the contents of both barrels. Towards the close of the day, take a stroll outside the town, and you meet the heroes returning. "Well, what sport?" "Pas mal, mon cher. Not so bad," is the reply, in a tone of ill-concealed triumph; and plunging his hand into his game-bag, the chasseur produces—a phthisical snipe, a wood pigeon, an extenuated quail, and perhaps something which you at first take for a deformed blackbird, but which turns out to be a water-hen. As far as our own observations go, we do aver this to be a very handsome average of a French sportsman's day's shooting. If by chance he has knocked down a red-legged partridge, (grey ones are very scarce in France,) his exultation knows no bounds. The day on which such a thing occurs is a red-letter day with him for the rest of his life. He goes home at once and inscribes the circumstance in the family archives.
But this state of things, it will perhaps be urged, may arise from the scarcity of game in France, as probably as from the sportsman's want of skill. True; but the worst is to come. After you have duly admired and examined snipe, pigeon, quail, and water-hen, your friend again rummages in the depths of his gibeciere, and pulls out—what?—a handful of tomtits and linnets, which he has been picking off every hedge for five miles round. "Je me suis rabattu sur le petit gibier," he says, with a grin and a shrug, and walks away, a proud man and a happy, leaving you in admiration of his prowess.
M. Dumas expresses a wish to make the acquaintance of one of these modern Nimrods, and his friend Mery arranges a supper, to which he invites a certain Monsieur Louet, who plays the fourth bass in the orchestra of the Marseilles theatre. The conversation after supper is a good specimen of persiflage. After doing ample justice to an excellent repast, during which he had scarcely uttered a word,
"Monsieur Louet threw himself back in his chair and looked at us all, one after the other, as if he had only just become aware of our presence, accompanying his inspection with a smile of the most perfect benevolence; then, heaving a gentle sigh of satisfaction—'Ma foi! I have made a capital supper!' exclaimed he.
"'M. Louet! A cigar?' cried Mery: 'It is good for the digestion.'
"'Thank you, most illustrious poet!' answered M. Louet; 'I never smoke. It was not the fashion in my time. Smoking and boots were introduced by the Cossacks. I always wear shoes, and am faithful to my snuff-box.'
"So saying, M. Louet produced his box, and offered it round. We all refused except Mery, who, wishing to flatter him, attacked his weak side.
"'What delicious snuff, M. Louet! This cannot be the common French snuff?'
"'Indeed it is—only I doctor it in a particular manner. It is a secret I learned from a cardinal when I was at Rome.'
"'Ha! You have been to Rome?' cried I.
"'Yes, sir; I passed twenty years there.'
"'M. Louet,' said Mery, 'since you do not smoke, you ought to tell these gentlemen the story of your thrush-hunt.'
"'I shall be most happy,' replied M. Louet graciously, 'if you think it will amuse the company.'
"'To be sure it will,' cried Mery. 'Gentlemen, you are going to hear the account of one of the most extraordinary hunts that has taken place since the days of Nimrod the mighty hunter. I have heard it told twenty times, and each time with increased pleasure. Another glass of punch, M. Louet. There! Now begin.—We are all impatience.'