Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

COURT AND FASHIONABLE

MAGAZINE,

For APRIL, 1807.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

OF

ILLUSTRIOUS LADIES.

The Sirteenth Ninnber.

HER IMPERIAL MAJESTY THE EMPRESS OF RUSSIA.

||

||

ELIZAVETA ALEXIEVNA, Empress of || Russia, is one of the most handsome and interesting figures of her court. She is of the illustrious House of Baden-Durlach, was born January 24, 1779, and on the 9th of October, 1793, was married to the Emperor Alexander, then Grand Duke. On embracing the Greek religion, at the ceremony of her re-baptism, by the hands of the Archbishop of Moscow, a rite indispensably necessary for all foreigners previous to their adoption into the Imperial family, the Empress Catharine II. gave her the name of Elizaveta Alexievna, or Elizabeth the daughter of Alexius. These patronymics of the Russians have something in them antique and respectable. A common Russian might call the Empress Catharine, even when speaking to her, Ekatarina Alexievna. According to the general rule, however, the Princess of Baden should have called herself Elizaveta Carlovna, as she was the daughter of Prince Charles; but her Imperial grandmother determined otherwise. That Sovereign had invited the Princess and her sister into Russia as fit matches for her grand-sons, the two Grand Dukes, Alexander and Constantine. Their mother, by birth Princess of Darmstadt, had already been sent thither in her youth with her sisters, one of whom had the unfortunate honour to become the first wife of Paul. This Princess, an amiable woman, and the worthy mother

of a charming family, declined appearing again, with her daughters, on a stage where she herself had formerly made an unsuccessful appearance, but entrusted them to the care of the Countess Shuvalof, widow of the author of the " Epistle to Ninon," who was charged with the hymeneal negotiation, together with one Strekalof, as an escort.

||

These Princesses, after a long and toilsome journey, arrived at night, towards the end of autumn, 1792, and in terrible weather, which seemed considerably to affect them. They were made to alight at the palace in which Prince Potemkin had resided, where they were received by the Empress, accompanied by Madame Branicka, her favourite dame d'honneur. At first the young Princesses took the latter for the Empress; but the Countess Shuvalof having undeceived them, they threw themselves at her Majesty's feet, and with tears kissed her robe and her hand, till she raised them up and embraced them: they were then left to sup at full liberty.

|

The next day Catharine came to visit them, while they were yet at their toilette, and presented them the ribband of the order of St. Catharine, together with jewels and stuffs; then displaying before them their wardrobe, looking at it, she said, My young friends, when I arrived in Russia I was not so rich as you."

66

The young Grand Dukes were intro

||

duced to them the same day. The eldest, court could not efface from her mind, and who had already suspected the motive of was at length sent away loaded with pretheir arrival, had a pensive and embar-sents, which afforded her less pleasure than rassed air, and said nothing. Catharine the expectation of soon beholding again told them, that, knowing the mother of the banks of the Rhine, the Princess Louisa these Princesses, and their country being seemed to smile at the destiny that awaited taken from them by the French, she had her. An unknown comforter had entered sent for them to have them educated at her her heart, and dried her tears. The sight court. On their return from the palace, of the young Prince, who was to be her the two young Princes talked much about husband, and who equalled herself in them; and Alexander said, that he thought beauty of person and gentleness of mind, the eldest very pretty. "Oh, not in the had inspired her with love: she submitted least," cried the younger, with that brus- gracefully to every thing required of her, querie which is so natural to him, "nei- learned the Russian language, was inther of them; they should be sent to Riga, structed in the Greek religion, and was to the Princes of Courland: they are soon in a capacity of making public proonly fit for them." fession of her new faith, and receiving on her fine-turned arms, and bare delicate feet, the unctions administered by a bishop, who proclaimed her Grand Duchess, under the name of Elizabeth Alexievna.— Catharine chose rather to give her her own cognomen, than leave her that of her father, according to the usual custom.

||

In the mouth of May following, the ceremony of betrothing was performed with extraordinary pomp and entertainments. Russia had just terminated three wars, almost equally triumphant. A multitude of Generals and other Officers, covered with the laurels they had gathered in battle, augmented the number of the Court. Many Swedes, admirers of Ca. tharine; almost all the Polish Magnats who had submitted or were devoted to her, Tartarian Khans, Envoys from Great Bukharia, Turkish Pashas, Greek and Moldavian Deputies, Sophis of Persia, with French emigrants, demanding at once protection and vengeance, increased at this juncture the crowd of courtiers attending the august autocratrix of the North. No Court ever exhibited so brilliant and variegated a spectacle. These were the last resplendent days that Catharine enjoyed. She dined on a throne, raised in the midst of different tables, crowned and covered with gold and diamonds; her eye carelessly wandered over the immense assembly, composed of persons of all nations, whom she seemed to behold at her feet. Surrounded by her numerous and brilliant family, a poet would have taken her for Juno seated amongst the gods of Olympus.

||

What Alexander had said, however, was reported to his grandmother, who was delighted to find that the lady she designed for him, and with whom she herself seemed enchanted, appeared handsome in his eyes. Catharine pretended that she had resembled Louisa of Baden when she arrived in Russia; and ordered the picture taken of her at that time to be brought, that she might compare it with the Frinces; when, as may be supposed, every one present declared that two drops of water could not be more alike. From that moment she became singularly attached to Louisa, redoubled her tenderness towards Alexander, and engaged with more pleasure in the plan of leaving the throne to them as her immediate successors.

The young strangers made their first appearance at court on the day when the deputies of Poland were admitted to thank Catharine for the honour she had done the Republic by keeping three-fourths of it for herself. The Princesses were as much dazzled with the magnificence that surrounded them, as others were with their opening charms; but the elder met with an accident, which led the superstitious Russians to augur th she would be unfortunate in their country. As she approached the throne of Catharine, she struck her foot against the corner of one of the steps, and fell flat on the ground before the throne. Heaven, however, we hope, has averted the omen.

While the young sister spent the tedious days lamenting her absence from her country and relations, which all the pomp of the

ORIGINAL COMMUNICATIONS.

THE CONTRAST OF OUR PRESENT WITH OUR POSSIBLE SITUATION,

3

EFFICATIOUS IN CHECKING THE PROGRESS OF DISCONTENT.

****

"THE night rolls rapidly away, and I in ain expect the ungrateful man who has deserted me. That such coldness should dwell in one who calls himself a lover! that my tenderness should thus be outraged! Alas, it is matrimony that has made me miserable! While I was still free, young, and beautiful, I loved, and I tasted happiness! but now Dorval is unfaithful. How is the female sex to be pitied among a people who are called so sensible and so superior, so distinguished for their nobleness and their gallantry! Women have every thing to dread; marriage, love, the opinion of the world, and the Jaws themselves. Happy, thrice happy, those remote regions, faithful stil! to nature, where love knows no deceit, but reigns without artifice, without anxiety, and without end!"

Thus exclaimed the young and blooming Celina as, stretched on a bed of the softest down, but which to her was a bed of thistles, she laid anxiously listening for the well known knock of a husband whose manners and habits were too modish to be agreeable to one who had married with the chimerical expectation of finding him always a lover. Celina possessed a lively imagination, and a heart more than sufficiently susceptible; the latter had disposed her to form an early attachment to Dorval, and the former pictured, in an union with him, a thousand delights which life never realized. Disappointed at finding the marriage state not all that she had fancied it, Celina, by discontent, rendered it much worse than she might have proved it; by contrasting the overcharged picture painted on her imagination with the sober representation of wedded life which she found at home, she continually added to the incidental vexations of the marital state, and deepened the mortification and chagrin which must invariably result from a tendency to regard any situation of life as productive of unalloyed happiness. Dorval was frank, good humoured, agreeable, and sincerely attached to his wife, but he was gay, fond of company, and had been so completely tired of living only to love, by passing something more than the honey-moon with Celina in a romantic but solitary retirement, that he returned to the gay metropolis, where they now resided, with a No. XVI. Vol. II.

tenfold relish for all its pleasures; and while Celina, in spite of every entreaty to the contrary, remained moping at home, he was seen by turns in every fashionable circle in London.

While Celina was indulging in such soliloquies as we have given a specimen of, sleep overpowered her, and she was conveyed by Morpheus, in a dream, to the uncultivated regions of North America, and landed on the banks of the Mississippi. The scene was wild but sublime, and as all remembrance of Dorval had now vanished, the enraptured Celina began to construct new fabrics of visionary happiness, which she doubted not these romantic wilds would realise. She traversed with light and sylph-like steps a path which led into the interior of the country, and had proceeded to some distance from the Mississippi, when suddenly a savage, coppercoloured, naked, and besmeared with dirt, stood before her. He addressed her, he told her she must be his wife; and laying a quantity of skins, stakes, and tools, upon her back, bade her hasten to a place which he pointed out, and build them a hut. "You must then prepare my dinner," added he, " and when I am satisfied you may regale upon the remainder." Trembling beneath her burden, and weeping bitterly the disappointment of those hopes which had taught her to expect bliss supreme in those artless regions, she bent her way to the distant spot where her delicate hands were to be employed in the rough labour her tyrant had commanded. Her slight limbs almost refused to perform their office, and the savage finding threats insufficient to quicken her pace, was proceeding to stripes, when suddenly she felt herself raised in the air, and in a few minutes beheld herself in the charming island of Otaheite.

||

New hopes instantly sprang up in her mind, and were as speedily dissipated by the scenes which presented themselves. The inhabitants, accustomed to obey on the instant every impulse of nature, gave, by their licentiousness, continual shocks to her delicacy; every instant she was constrained to turn aside her eyes to avoid sights which filled her with disgust. Sick of uncivilized life, and convinced that certain restraints, and even anxieties, heighten the pleasures of love, Z

she was meditating on the means of escaping to more polished, though less inartificial regions, when again Morpheus opportunely lent his aid, and transported her among the New Zealanders; a race of savages, indeed, but of another description from those she had quitted.

Scarcely had she shewn herself when she was
constrained to receive as a husband one of the
rude and uncultivated natives. The inhabitants
of New Zealand, however, in common with
other American tribes, are insensible to the
charms of beauty and the power of love; and the
susceptible Celina found sufficient subject for
complaint in the coldness and indifference with
which she was treated. Her husband had been
at no pains during his courtship to win her fa-
Your by the assiduities which are so gratifying to
the mind of sensibility, and he was still less soli-equal terms an enemy who is on his guard, or to

advance towards their villages, but with such
solicitude to conceal their approach, that they
often creep on their hands and feet through the
woods, and paint their skins of the same colour
with the withered leaves, in order to avoid de-
tection. If so fortunate as to remain unobserved,`
they set fire to their huts in the dead of night,"
and massacre their inhabitants as they fly naked
and defenceless from the flames. If they hope
to effect a retreat without being pursued, they
carry off some prisoners, whom they reserve for
a more dreadful fate; but if, notwithstanding all
their address and precautions, they find that
their motions are discovered, that the enemy has
taken the alarm, and is prepared to oppose them,
they usually deem it most prudent to retire;
they regard it as extreme folly to meet upon

citous afterwards to obtain it by indulgence and
gentleness. But this was not all; the tribe of
which Celina had become a member were on the
eve of a war with a neighbouring horde, and in
conformity to the custom of the country, she
was ordered to prepare to attend her husband to
the battle.

give battle in an open field. The most distin-
guished success is a disgrace to a leader, if pur-
chased with any considerable loss of his followers;
and they never boast of a victory if s'ained with
the blood of their countrymen. To fall in battle,
instead of being reckoned an honourable death,
is a misfortune which subjects the memory of
a warrior to the imputation of rashness or im-
prudence.

In all these toils the unhappy Celina was com
pelled to share, except those which the proximity
of the enemy spared her. At length her tribe
was surprised while asleep (for though vigilance
and attention are the qualities chiefly requisite
where the object of war is to deceive and sur-
prise, the American savages never station sen-
tinels around the place where they rest at night),
and the greatest part of it cut off before they were
at all sensible of the danger. One of the con-
querors seized upon Celina, and grinning with
the delight afforded by the anticipation of the
luxurious repast her white delicate limbs would
afford, delivered her to his attendants to be roast-
ed, among other female captives, for the banquet
of victory.

In carrying on their wars the savages of Ame rica proceed in a manner very different to the operations of civilized nations in similar cases; they never take the field in numerous bodies, as it would require a greater effort of foresight and industry than is usual among savages, to provide for their subsistence during a march of some hundred miles through dreary forests, or during a long voyage upon their immense lakes and rivers. Their armies are not encumbered with baggage or military stores; each warrior, besides his arms, carries a mat, and a small bag of pounded maize, and with these is completely equipped for any service. While at a distance from the enemy's frontier, they disperse through the woods, and support themselves with the game which they catch; as they approach nearer to the territories of the nation which they intend to attack, they collect their troops, and advance with greater caution. Even then they proceed wholly by stratagem and ambuse de; they place not their glory in attacking their enemies with open force; to surprise and destroy is the greatest merit of a commander, and the highest pride of his followers. War and hunting are their only occupations, and they conduct both with the same arts; they follow the track of the enemy through the forest; they endeavour to discover their haunts, they lurk in some thicket near to these, and with the patience of a sportsman lying in wait for game, will continue in their station day after day, until they can rush upon their prey when least able to resist them. If they meet no straggling party of the enemy, they

The situation of the fair dreamer may be imagined, it cannot be described; she knelt, sha supplicated, she threw herself, deluged with tears, at the feet of the remorseless chief; but vain was every attempt to move compassion in the bosom of the obdurate barbarian. The fire was kindled, and the lovely victim led fettered towards it. Morpheus, however, once more interposed, lent her his wings, borne on which she arrived at Pekin.

The singular and novel appearance of every thing she beheld riveted her attention. On each side of a wide street extended a long line of buildings, consisting of shops and warehouses; the particular goods of which were displayed in groupes in the front of the houses. Before these

rotunda in London, or by the Jews and old women in Rosemary-lane; pedlars with their packs, jugglers, conjurers, fortune-tellers, mountebanks, quack doctors, comedians, and musi cians, left no space unoccupied.

were generally erected large wooden pillars, whose tops were much higher than the sides of the houses, bearing inscriptions in gilt characters, setting forth the nature of the wares to be sold, and the honest reputation of the seller; and to attract the more notice, they were generally hung with various coloured flags and streamers, and Tibbands, from top to bottom, exhibiting the appearance of a line of shipping dressed in the colours of all the nations of Europe. The sides of the houses were not less brilliant in the several colours with which they were painted; these consisted generally of sky-blue, or green, mixed with gold. What appeared to her very singular was, that the articles for sale which made the greatest show were coffins for the dead; the most splendid European coffin furniture would make but a poor figure if placed beside that intended for a wealthy Chinese. Next to those, her attention was attracted by the brilliant appearance of the funeral biers, and marriage cars, both of which were covered with ornamental canopies. At the four points where the great streets intersect one another, were erected those singular buildings, sometimes of stone, but generally of wood, which have been called triumphal arches, but which are, in fact, monuments to the memory of those who had deserved well of the community,, or who had attained an unusual longevity; they consist invariably of a large central gateway, with a small one on each side, all of which are covered with narrow roofs; and,rived at a solitary cabin, inhabited by a youth of

While Celina was gazing with astonishment on this diversified scene, she beheld with horror a cart pass containing a number of dead b dies of infants. She had read in several authors that the city of Pekin was disgraced by the horrible custom of infanticide, but till now she had hoped the assertion was unfounded in truth. * She shuddered at the conviction, and before her countenance had lost the traces of her feelings, she was accosted by a Mandarin. Struck with her beauty he made proposals of marriage, which she as promptly accepted; but shut up in a splendid palace, and guarded with the most vigilant jealousy, she soon bitterly regretted having formed this hasty union. The splendour of every thing that surrounded her, and the homage which she received from inferior slaves, afforded her no consolation for the loss of her own liberty, or the infidelity of a husband who, she found, far from confining his attentions to herself, polluted the marital bed by sharing it with a hundred others. Disgusted with him, and with the tedium incident to the solitude in which she passed the greatest part of her time, she planned and effected her escape. After wandering for some time without encountering any interruption, she ar

the Tartar tribe, where she asked permission to repose her weary limbs. A mutual attachment was rapidly formed, and Celina married once more, and became a mother. In giving birth to an infant, she became acquainted with a Tartar custom no less well authenticated than singular; she was delivered without either pain or trouble, and immediately after her husband entered the

like the houses, painted, varnished, and gilt in the most superb manner. The multitude of moveable workshops of tinkers, butchers, cobblers, and blacksmiths, the tents and booths where tea, fruit, rice, and other eatables are exposed for sale, with the wares and merchandize arrayed before the doors, contracted the spacious street to a narrow road in the middle, just wide enough for two carriages to pass. Different trains that are accompanying, with lamentable cries, a corpse to the grave, and, with squalling music, brides to meet their husbands, the troops of dromedaries laden with coals from Tartary, the wheel-barrows and hand-carts stuffed with vegetables, occupy nearly the whole of this middle space in one continued line; all was in motion. The sides of the street were filled with an immense concourse of people, buying and selling, and bartering their different commodities. The hurry and confused noise of this mixed multitude, proceeding from the loud bawling of those who were crying their wares, the wrangling of others, with every now and then a strange twanging noise like the jarring of a cracked Jew's harp, the barber's signal made by his tweezers, the mirth and the laughter that prevailed in every group, could scarcely be exceeded by the brokers in the Bank

* It is an absolute fact, that no punishment attends, in this country, the inhuman practice of destroying infants; on the contrary, carts appointed by the police, go round Pekin every morning, for the purpose of picking up the bodies of such infants as may have been thrown out into the streets during the night, and no enquiries whatever are made. It is said, but we will hope this is an exaggeration of an inhumanity sufficiently atrocious, that such of the infants as are living are thrown along with the others into a common pit without the city walls. "When I mention," says Mr. Barrow, speaking on this subject, "that dogs and swine are let loose in all the narrow streets of the capital, the reader may conceive what will sometimes necessarily happen to the exposed infants before the police carts can pick them up."-Barrow's Travels in China.

« AnteriorContinuar »