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bonds of an alliance, equally formidable to the liberty of Poland, the security of Prussia, and the peace of Europe. "At once a courtier and a negotiator," observes our author, "I myself was instructed by my master, to cultivate more and more the favour of Catherine, and to watch, at the same time, with diligence, the designs and actions of the ambitious princess." This scheme of espionage was, no doubt, common to the ambassadors in her suite; and she knew it, and knew them, as they knew themselves, to be alike spies on each other: and hence, universal distrust and jealousy, anxious and studied caution, insidious and suspected remark, amid all the familiarity of intercourse, the flow of humour, the sallies of genius, and the bursts of merriment, which are recorded of the inner, Olympian circle. Below and without, all was similarly hollow and trustless; and this condition of things extorts from Ségur the remark—"Travelling alone, one sees men, countries, customs, establishments, such as they really are; but in accompanying a monarch, the traveller finds every thing prepared, disguised, coloured for the purposes of display; and in the words and actions of men, under such circumstances, he scarcely discovers more sincerity than in the manifestoes of politicians." Prince Potemkin transplanted whole communities and forests; raised magnificent palaces and temples; spread enchanted gardens; assembled armies, fleets, Tartar tribes, and vassal khans and hospodars; illuminated savage mountains and immense plains; and lavished vast sums in other gigantic and splendid devices; in order that his imperial mistress might survey only a dazzling picture of power, abundance, pomp, and delight, and concentrate the rays of her favour upon the servant who so loyally, gallantly, and successfully promoted the happiness of her people, the glory of her throne, and the pleasures of her expedition. Every guest and attendant near her, perpetually tasked his ingenuity for new forms and conceits of flattery and delusion; and if we may judge from the samples of compliment which Segur produces, her understanding must have been much oftener offended than her vanity was regaled. Indeed, to be the object of all this artificial tribute of obsequiousness, selfishness, and frivolity; to be constantly practised upon as a dupe, at whatever elevation of rank, under whatever prestiges of authority, with whatever attributes of ordinary greatness and refinements of ostentatious devotion, strikes us, allowing even that artifice, insincerity, and illusion infest every condition of life, as a pitiable lot, for which a sceptre cannot compensate in the dictates of sound reason and just feeling,—even one wreathed with more flowers, and roughened by fewer asperities, than belonged to that of the Empress of All the Russias.
During this journey, as in the capital, the representatives of the foreign potentates, the ministers of state, the proudest of the ancient stock of boyars or grandees, nay, the diademed Pole, and the Cssar of Germany, felt that there was a personage of the retinue, much more important than any of them in the eyes and heart of Catherine: and this was an upstart youth, Momonoff, who held the post of paramour, which she and her still more libidinous predecessor Elizabeth, had rendered an integral department, or regular office in the autocracy, quite as formally public, and expensive to the empire, as any of the others, .scarcely less ignominious for the Russian state and people than the empresship of Sporus for the Romans, and oftener transferred than the seals of the military or political administration. Joseph II. became himself a little jealous of the ascendency of the pet; and what he observed to Segur on the subject, and what Segur relates of his conduct, deserve to be copied, in illustration of the habits and debasement of all parties:—
"The emperor, while he laughed at the faults of prince Potemkin, could well account for the influence which he possessed over Catherine. 'But I cannot conceive,' said he to me one day, 'how a woman so proud, and so careful of her glory, can show such a weak indulgence to the caprices of her young aid-deoamp, Momonoff, who is really nothing better than a spoilt child.
I cannot express how much I was annoyed at an absurdity of conduct which vou must have remarked as well as myself; several times, and particularly at Kherson, in presence of an extensive circle, or more properly speaking in public, she admitted him to her own whist-table, with the most important personages; in addition to which she quietly permitted this young man, in a fit of absence of mind, to take the chalk, with which, in Russia, they mark the points, and make use of it in drawing iigures and landscapes on the cloth, while all were waiting motionless and with their eyes cast down, for the termination of this childish amusement, in order to resume their game.'
The observation was just: Catherine, whose character was infinitely more gentle and condescending, than those imagined who did not know her intimately, carried perhaps to an extreme her indulgent kindness towards the caprices of prince Potemkin, the follies of her grand equerry, and the fits of absence to which Momonoff was subject. But this critical reflection lost much of its force in the mouth of the person who made it; for, too eager himself to please Catherine, he lavished on the young favourite continual marks of kindness and consideration; and, enduring even the whimsical haughtiness of prince Potemkin, he allowed himself, like other courtiers of the empress, to be kept waiting for his appearance in the saloon without complaining."
The personal sorrows which Catherine suffered,—and which cannot be denied to have been well merited after she had passed the age of sixty,—from these connexions, are exemplified in the annexed quotation from our author, referring to a later
"An internal grief, experienced, at this time, by Catherine, seemed, in some measure, to divert her mind from its political anxieties. That extraordinary woman presented in her character, an astonishing mixture of the strength of our sex and the weakness of her own. Age had set its stamp upon her features, but her heart, as well as her self-love preserved their youth; both the one and the •ther were now severely wounded.
She discovered that her aid-de-camp, her favourite, count Momonoff, loaded hy her with kindness, preferment, and riches, after having many times deceived
her, groaned beneath the yoke of a favour which grievously restrained his liberty.
The empress, hoping yet to revive his sensibility, wrote to him, saying, that she saw, with sorrow, that all her endeavours could not succeed in rendering him happy, and in dispelling his melancholy. 'As I wish,' she said to him, 'your happiness before every thing, I have formed the design of uniting you with the richest heiress of the empire: answer me, will this project satisfy your wishes''
Momonon" refused the proposed marriage; but, at the same time, he avowed to Catherine that all her favours, though inspiring him with the most profound gratitude, could not make him happy; that his heart, in spite of all his efforts, had been, for a long while, the slave of an insurmountable passion for one of her ladies of honour, the princess Scherebatoff. Ashamed at his ingratitude, but incapable of changing his sentiments, he respectfully implored the clemency of his sovereign.
Catherine, irritated at this unexpected news, quitted her court, secluded herself in her apartments, and countermanded the spectacles which were to have taken place at Czarskozelo; but recovering rapidly from a passion and a weakness little worthy of her, she commanded the presence of the princess and her faithless lover, had them affianced before her, gave a rich dowry to her maid of honour, and to the culpable Count an estate with two thousand peasants, attended at the marriage ceremony, aml, in accordance with custom, she herself placed a set of diamonds on the head of the bride. After having gained this victory over her pride, she commanded them to absent themselves from her court."
Poniatowski was the second favoured lover of Catherine, while she was only grand dutchess, and her husband Peter still lived. Her temporary passion for the Pole had burnt fiercely. After their forced separation, the recollection of it so far prevailed that she exerted her power to place him on the throne of his native country. When he was announced as approaching to join her in the course of her journey, all those of her suite who were acquainted with the relation in which the two had stood towards each other, felt some curiosity as to the nature of their meeting. Our author thus describes what passed:—
"The artillery of the fleet and of the town announced the arrival of the monarchs. Catherine sent several of her officers of state, in an elegant shallop, to salute the King of Poland.
That Prince, in order to avoid all embarrassing etiquette, and wishing to preserve an incognito not altogether compatible with so much splendour, said to them: 'Gentlemen, the King of Poland has desired me to introduce to you the Count Poniatowski.'
When he had ascended the imperial galley, we pressed in a circle round him, anxious to witness the first emotions and to hear the first words of these illustrious personages, under circumstances so different from those under which they had formerly been seen, when they were united by love, separated by jealousy, and pursued by hatred.
But our expectations were almost entirely disappointed; for, after a mutual salutation, grave, cold, and dignified, Catherine having given her hand to Stanislas, they entered a cabinet, where they remained shut up for half an hour.
As soon as this lele-a-lele was over, their Majesties rejoined us; and, as we had not been able to hear them, we endeavoured to read their thoughts in their features: but the light clouds which rested on their countenances rendered our attempt difficult enough. On the side of the Empress there was a cloud of embarrassment and unusual restraint; and, in the eyes of the King, a certain expression of sadness, which an affected smile could not entirely conceal.
That Prince now eanre and spoke in an obliging manner to all those amongst us whom he knew; the Empress presented the others to him. I was received very graciously by him.
Every thing- had been so arranged as not to leave a vacant moment in a day, which both sides, perhaps, equally wished to shorten. We soon embarked m handsome boats, to go on board the galley where the entertainment was to be given. It was of the most sumptuous, delicate, and elegant description.
The Empress had on her right hand the King, and on her left the ambassador Cobentzel. Prince Potemkin, Mr. Fitz-Herbert, and I, were placed opposite to their Majesties.
Little was eaten and little was said; people looked about them a great deal, listened to the fine music, and drank to the health of the King, amidst a grand salute of cannon.
On rising from the table, the King took from the hands of a page the gloves and the fan of the Empress, and presented them to her. He then looked for, and could not find his hat; the Empress seeing it, had it brought to her, and gave it to him. 'Ah! Madam,' said Stanislas, on receiving it, 'you formerly gave me a much finer one.'"
The Empress set out from St. Petersburgh on the 18th of January 1787, with a cavalcade composed of fourteen carriages and one hundred and eighty-four sledges, and forty others to be used in case of necessity. Five hundred and sixty horses were ready at each post. At that season the days were the shortest, but no darkness was permitted; for at short distances from each other, and on both sides of the road, enormous piles of fir, cypress, birch, and pine, had been raised, which were set on fire, and gave a light as brilliant as that of day:—
"Along the route," says our author, "the poor and rustic inhabitants of the towns and villages assembled in crowds, in spite of the severity of the cold, and waited patiently with their beards stiffened with icicles, round a little palace, raised, as if by enchantment, in the midst of their dwellings, and in which the joyous court of the Empress, seated at a sumptuous table, on the cushions of large and commodious sofas, felt neither the severity of the climate nor the poverty of the country; finding every where a pleasant warmth, exquisite wines, rare fruits, and delicate dishes."
This may convey an adequate idea of the journey on the land: we shall add some extracts to shadow out that on the water. When the spring arrived, the party could navigate the Borysthenes:—
"On the first of May, 1787, the Empress embarked on board her galley, followed by the most stately fleet that a great river had ever borne. It was composed of more than eighty vessels, and the crews and guards amounted to three thousand men; at their head moved seven galleys of an elegant form, and of a majestic size, skilfully painted, and manned with crews, numerous, active, and uniformly dressed. The splendid apartments constructed on the decks, glittered with £old and silk.
The first of these galleys, which followed the Empress's, carried M. M. de Cobentzel and Fitz-Herbert; the second was assigned to the Prince de Eigne and myself, the others were appropriated to Prince Potemkin, his nieces, the grand chamberlain, the first equerry, and those ministers and persons of distinction whom the Empress had allowed to accompany her. The remainder of the fleet carried the inferior officers, the provisions, and the baggage. Mademoiselle Protasoff and Count Momonoff were on board the same galley as her Majesty. We each of us found in ours, a room and cabinet as sumptuous as it was elegant, a convenient sofa, an excellent bed of Chinese taffeta, and a mahogany secretary.
Each galley had its own music. A great number of boats and canoes fluttered unceasingly around the sides of the squadron, resembling in appearance the creations of magic, rather than reality.
Our progress was slow; we stopped often, on which occasions we went on board fast sailing skiffs, walked on the borders of the river, or in the green and fertile islands through which the river flows.
An immense concourse of people saluted the Empress with noisy acclamations, while the sailors belonging to her Majesty's squadron, beat time to the noise of the cannon with their brilliant and painted oars on the waters of the Borysthenes.
There appeared on the borders of the river, a crowd of curious and admiring spectators, who came from all parts of the empire to gaze at our splendid retinue, and to present to their Sovereign the various productions of their different climatesSmall companies of Cossacks were frequently seen manoeuvring on the plains washed by the Dnieper. The towns, villages, country-houses, and even some of the rustic cabins, were so ornamented and disguised with triumphal arches, garlands of flowers and elegant architectural decorations, that their appearance completed the illusion, and transformed them into so many superb cities, or palaces suddenly raised, in gardens formed by magic.
The snow had disappeared: a beautiful verdure covered the earth: the country was enamelled with flowers; a brilliant sun animated, enlivened, and coloured every object. The air resounded with the harmonious music of our galleys; and the various costumes of the spectators on the banks of the river, seemed to diversify this rich and moving picture.
As we approached some important towns, we beheld, ranged at their posts, squadrons of chosen troops, whose appearance was rendered splendid by the beauty of their arms and the richness of their uniforms.
Our mornings alone were free. We employed them agreeably in reading, conversing, going from one galley to another, or in making excursions on the borders of the river.
At one o'clock, we regularly returned to the galley of the Empress, with whom we dined. The number, who were admitted to her table, did not, in general, exceed ten persons. Once a week only she invited all who had the honour to accompany her. The dinner on those occasions was served on board a very large vessel, where sixty persons could be seated with great comfort."
We shall not attempt to follow the happy courtier in all the stages and adventures of the excursion, but simply cull some striking passages of his narrative, in addition to those which we have used by anticipation.—
"The delightful familiarity which the Empress permitted to those who travelled with her, the presence of her young favourite, the remembrance of those who had preceded him in her favour, her philosophy, her gaiety, her correspondence with the Prince de Ligne, Voltaire, and Diderot, having led me to suppose that she would not be shocked at a tale of gallantry, I recited one to her, which was, in truth, a little free and gay, but still sufficiently choice in its expressions to have been well received at Paris by the Due de Nivemais, by the Prince de Beauveau, and by ladies whose virtue equalled their good humour.
To my great surprise, I saw the laughing traveller suddenly assume the deportment of a majestic sovereign. She interrupted me by a question altogether foreign to the purpose, and changed the subject of conversation.
Some minutes afterwards, in order to show her that I understood her lesson, 1 entreated her attention to a piece of verse of a very different kind from the former, and to which she lent the most obliging attention: as if desirous that her weaknesses should be respected, she took care to cover themVith a veil of decency and dignity."