Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

about. The first principle of diplomacy is to keep on good terms with foreign Powers one's self; the second, to foster dissensions between those who, if united, would be dangerous to you. It is this latter principle which Prince Couza works to such great advantage. We seem carefully to reverse this order; and the result of our recent diplomacy has been to quarrel with every European Power and to unite them against us. Thus we are quite as much detested as a nation in the Principalities as in Germany or Denmark; and being about to lure the Turks to their destruction, we shall end by being execrated by the only people which still in its simplicity clings to our alliance, and believes in its efficacy. At the same time, while the Roumains, like the Greeks, hate and abuse us, I have little doubt that, like them, if they were called on to elect a prince by popular vote, they would unite in favour of an English one. However much we are despised as a friend or disliked as an enemy, we are immensely respected by virtue of our internal institutions, and of our individual independence of character. While the English Government is universally unpopular, the Englishman abroad is usually perferred to any other foreigner, and to a great extent redeems or extenuates the faults of his administration in the eyes of those with whom he is staying. The wonder to every foreigner is, that the national policy should be the result of the national character. As individuals, Englishmen have the credit of being the most scrupulously truthful and honourable of men; as a nation we are “perfide;” and so far from the latest efforts of our diplomacy having tended to remove this impression, we have achieved a higher reputation for perfidy during the last two or three years than we ever enjoyed before. Individually, the Englishman is admitted to be brave; politically, the name of England is a byword for cowardice. Individually he is regarded as absurdly open-handed—his generosity is pro

verbial; but the national policy is held up as the type of all that is sordid, cold-blooded, and selfish. Everything, in fact, that the Englishman is, the English Government is not; and it requires no little patience and temper in the present day to travel, and venture upon political discussions with foreigners. Nor does the secret conviction that they are right tend to increase one's serenity. In this little out-of-the-way Moldavian town, the vices of England were crammed down our throats. We were accused of egotism, of being mercenary, of impeding the development of these provinces for our own selfish ends, of intrigues so black that even a Moldavian imagination shuddered to contemplate them, and of designs so elaborate and far-seeing that the only way it was possible to convince people that they did not exist, was by explaining the phenomenon of extremes meeting. Thus a sublime degree of folly and simplicity may at last be mistaken for a wisdom and a subtlety not appreciable by the masses. English travellers are so rare in Moldavia that even in Jassy one is looked upon rather as a curiosity ; and the ignorance of society with reference to England is as great as that usually displayed by British members of Parliament when they are discussing our relations with China. Perhaps when one considers the superior opportunities which such a man as Mr Cobden enjoys of obtaining information, there is less excuse for him than for a Jassy politician. In general, the few ideas upon any subject which the Moldavian men possess they derive from the women. Nothing was more striking than the invariable rule which insured your hearing from the men in the morning what had been propounded to you by the old women the night before. As is usually the case in communities in a low state of European civilisation, the female portion of society is immeasurably superior to the male; indeed, in would be difficult to find anything in Europe inferior to a Moldavian male, except, perhaps, a Wallachian. With the men, therefore, it was rarely possible to discuss politics, or any other subject. They scarcely ever open a book; they only engage in polities because they offer such splendid opportunities for looting the public money; they only travel to pick up the vices of civilisation: they only marry because the facilities for divorce are so great that marriage ceases to be a tie. That there are rare exceptions to the general rule is only to be expected; but with every desire to do justice to a country where, at all events, the rites of hospitality are thoroughly understood, it is imsible to be blind to its faults. o: traveller never ventured upon a general and impartial criticism of the people of a country because he happenel to be well received in it, there would be little use in his travelling; nor are the Moldavians or Wallachians likely to cure their faults unless they hear what those who would willingly extenuate them, were it possible, find reprehensible. One of the peculiarities of the race is a great sensitiveness to criticism by a stranger; and it made one uncomfortable to feel that any chance remark was likely to be twisted into an uncomplimentary sense, whether one meant it or not. It is true, this only applies to superficials. It is so generally admitted among themselves that nobody can be trusted, that it is the habit never to play cards except with the stakes on the table. Nor do they care for being charged with moral defects. What hurts their pride is an unfavourable contrast between a Moldavian and a French made dish, or a cynical expression of countenance on entering a salon, as though you were comparing the furniture with that of a handsome Paris appartement. They have the most supreme admiration for all the worst points in the French character; they go to Paris expressly to pick them up, and are very indignant if you do not praise them for having them. They dress after the French, play

wol. xoVI. D

soldiers after them, take universalsuffrage votes after them, cook after them, furnish after , them, dance, flirt, gamble after them, and anxiously watch for the impression which this admirable imitation of everything French makes upon the stranger. Far more particular about the polish of their boots than the purity of their honour, a Roumain gentleman would prefer you to compliment him on his French accent rather than on his integrity. Indeed, I am bound to say that nothing that I have said of them here is half so severe as what I have heard them say of one another. It was quite disheartening at last, when, on making some new acquaintance, and hearing him give vent to fer. vent patriotic sentiments, and lofty aspirations for himself and his country, I was always told, when I described to one of his friends my

leasure at having at last found an

onest man, “What! that man honest? . Of all the unprincipled scoundrels in the Principalities he is chief.” In the end one is obliged, from sheer despair, to abandon one sex for the other. Were it not for the men, the women would be nicer than they are; but as it is, they do what they can to redeem their country. They have nobler aspirations, higher intelligences, and more force of character. They are so glad to see a stranger, that, if he is the least presentable, he is sure of an entrée into society; and as, more especially since the seat of government has been moved to Bucharest, the number of firstclass boyard families now resident in Jassy is considerably diminished, he will soon know every one. The town itself, is not a particularly agreeable place of residence, apart from its society. It is neither one thing nor the other. It has neither the repose and languor of the East, nor the stir and vivacity of the West. The streets are irregular and ill-paved; the shops are poor, and there is no great thoroughfare where it is amusing to fláner. Indeed, in the absence of a trottoir, nobody dreams of walking. The hack carriages are the best in Europe—light, open, one-horse phaetons, as daintily got up as though they were private property; the ladies and gentlemen are flying about in them jolting over the rough pavement at a rapid pace all day and night. The drivers of these are for the most part Russians, belonging to that peculiar sect in the Greek Church which enjoins mutilation. As there is a law in Russia prohibiting the practice, they flock across the frontier, and for some reason or other almost invariably become cab-drivers. There is something particularly loathsome and unhealthy-looking in their appearance. The city contains between fifty and sixty thousand inhabitants, composed of Jews, gypsies, Armenians, Germans, Sclaves, Roumains, Poles, and other foreigners. The best proof of the mongrel nature of the population is to be found on the signboards, where German, Italian, Moldavian, French, and sometimes Russian or Turkish, appear indiscriminately. The fact of being only ten miles from Russia on the one hand, and of having been for many years in the occupation of the Turks on the other, gives the city a half-Russian, halfTurkish aspect, which makes it unlike any other—Turkish suburbs of hovels, and Russian silent streets and grand houses, Turkish baths and Russian churches, with the corruption and intrigue of both countries concentrated. There are some public gardens in the outskirts of the town, where the band plays two or three times a-week, and where one is quite sure to see congregated all the beauty, and fashion of the Moldavian capital; and there is a theatre, which was closed at the Fo of my visit, but we made up

or it by dancing every night in

stead. The houses are large palatial residences, usually standing in courtards, and elaborately furnished. }. fact in so far as servants, equi

ages, and the externals of domestic #. are concerned, everything is scrupulously French. Everybody talks French perfectly, and a large

proportion of society English, so that nothing can be pleasanter than to be drawn for a brief period into its Vortex. There are picnics to be undertaken to charming country-houses —among others, to one upon the banks of the . Pruth—to which we all go in a cortege of light carriages and four, and dash across the steppe through clouds of dust; but our fair companions in their light gauzy dresses and gay parasols are as indifferent to it as our wild gypsy postboys. Here we find a handsome chateau, magnificently furnished, and commanding an extensive view of the plains of Bessarabia; the Pruth winds at the base of the steep hill, clothed to the water's edge with wood, through which are cut romantic paths, doubly delightful in this country, where wood is scarce. From here we can see with a glass the soldiers of the Russian garrison; and if General Kotzebue does intend to cross the Pruth, it will be at this point that the operation is likely to be effected. Even then there was a very general impression that an invasion of the province by Russia was imminent, and rumours were constantly flying about of reinforcements of troops arriving in Bessarabia. The Polish insurrection and the Circassian war, however, gave full emo to the armies of the Czar. ow everything is changed—the subjugation and deportation of the warlike race which is migrating under such distressing circumstances to Turkey, will release from Caucasian service an army of 120,000 men, who will be available for any stroke of policy which may be undertaken by Russia in this direction; while the Polish insurrection is so utterly extinguished for the time at least, that the state of that country need not embarrass any aggressive movement. That before the expiration of this year another army of occupation will be quartered, in Moldavia, is a very fair subject for prophecy; but whether that army will be Russian or Austrian is not so easy to determine. The Moldavi

ans are rich in their experiences be forgotten. The race-course is of armies of occupation, and it is within a mile of the town, situated amusing to hear them indulging in a valley, altogether the most picin invidious comparisons between turesque spot in the neighbourhood. them. I found one universal opin- A motley crowd gathers here to ion. First, of course, all armies of see Russian horses compete with occupation are hateful and detestEnglish and every variety of crossable, tyrannise over society, rob breeds. In this respect the horses the poor, and otherwise misconduct and the people who are collected to themselves. If an army of angels look at them are pretty much on a could occupy the country, they would par. Some of the Moldavian ladies be disliked and complained of; but went on horseback; and as the the order in which the three na- weather was bright, the scene was tions who have been severally repre- gay in spite of the dust. As usual, sented in this military form in the there were two or three English Principalities are disliked, is as fol- jockeys, and Moldavian and Russian lows: First, the Austrians-officers jockeys in remarkable half-Cossackand inen both cordially hated, but looking costumes, who flogged their officers especially 80. Second, the horses without intermission from Turk3 referred to the Austrians, the starting to the winning post, but very naturally disliked upon re- and seemed to think the only use ligious and social grounds. And, of the reins was to shake them near thirdly, the Russians -- the least the horse's ears. The chief defect abused of the three, thanks especie in the scenery roand Jassy is the ally to a certain General Kotzebue, absence of wood and water, otherwho governed Moldavia with judg- wise the country is prettily broken; ment and honesty. So that the and where money has been spent erussing of the Pruth by the Russi- upon plauting and otherwise beauans would be preferred to the cross- tifying it, there are some charming ing of the Dniester by the Austri- spots. The most celebrated of these ans. It is rumoured that Austria is a country-house called Sokola, and Russia have come to an arrange- the property of one of the late ment with reference to these Princi- hospodars; but the glory of Jassy palities, and that Austria is to an- has departed since the seat of nex Moldavia, and Russia Walla- government has been moved to cbia, but it is impossible to say in Bucharest - in other words, since an atmosphere of intrigue which the the union of the two provinces. inner wheel of all is, or who is be- In order to hear a Moldavian really traying whom. It used to be sup- eloquent, this is the subject to posed that France and Russia tho- get him on; it is the only piece of roughly understood each other in politics in which he is thoroughly their policy here; but Prince Cou- interested, because it touches his za's coup d'état has given consider- pocket. It also gives him an opable dissatisfaction to the latter portunity for indulging in vituperaPower. However, the slopes of tion, which is his strong point. It Stinka are not the place to talk is only by abusing the Wallachians, politics. The men couid not if they collectively and individually, that wished, and the women are not in- he can in any way console himself clined to be bored with so dry a for the injury he feels they have subject So we play games and done him. In this respect the dance until far on into tue night, Moldavian is very like the Neapoliand then, with the brightest ot full tan; and it is not unnatural, conInoong highting up our way, gallop sidering the origin of both, that back again across the steppe to there should be a strong family Jassy.

resemblance. To hear him abusing Among other social pastimes of Wallachia, is like listening to a the gay capital, the races are not to Neapolitan abusing Piedmont All

the misfortunes of the country are traced to the unhappy union which has given the sister province the opportunity of benefiting at the expense of Moldavia. The advanced Moldavians who, from “a unitednationality” point of view, were in favour of the union before they tried it, are now either afraid to adhere to their old views, or have changed their minds. A few still say the experiment has not been fairly tried, and lay all the blame on Prince Couza, who, by the way, being a Moldavian himself, is hated, for that reason among others, in Wallachia. It is only due to the Wallachians to state that they return the animosity of the northern province with interest. When wo: men engage in the discussion, and come to be personal, the Wallachians call the Moldavians the descendants of Jews, and the Moldavians retort upon the others by calling them a nation of gypsies, It is indeed the fact that some of the noblest families in Wallachia are descended from this race, of which they are more ashamed than our own Carews; while the Jewish element, not visible in Wallachia, is most prominently developed in Moldavia. It may safely be predicted that when Couza dies, but possibly before, there will be a separation of the provinces. The Moldavians are perfectly determined that the union shall not continue; their real ardent aspiration is for a foreign prince to rule over them. They havo, tried a long series of their own boyards, and have found one more incompetent than the other. According to their own admission, they must look abroad for the virtues and the talents which none of their countrymen possess, but which they fondly hope may be found among the scions of some royal house; nor will they believe that the throne of Moldavia, such as it is, would be a position which an English country gentleman, with a tolerable rent-roll, would decline, to .. •othing of a Prince of the Blood.

we years ago the Duc de

Morny was actually offered this very throne, but even he was not to be tempted from the Bourse and the Bois de Boulogne. In fact, he replied that he would rather be a “concierge dans le Rue de Bac qu'un roi en Moldavie.” To any young adventurer of an ambitious and filibustering turn of mind, and possessing a certain talent for intrigue, Moldavia opens a most attractive field. The first step would be an influential matrimonial alliance; as the women are generally, heiresses, wealth might be combined with beauty; then a short social career of popularity; then the ascendency of the strong will and contriving brain over the fops and imbeciles, around him; then a conspiracy; then a popular rising, and a divorce of Wallachia, followed, if it suited him, by the divorce of his own partner, who, being entitled by the laws of her Church to three successive husbands during her lifetime, would probably be delighted at the prospect of a change. The only difficult part of the programme would be to get the Moldavians to take heart of grace, and rebel. They are dying to do it now, but Couza's wretched little army, though it was held in check by 250 Poles, is enough to overawe them. Meantime it is a notable instance of union not making strength; and the probable result of all, these, dissensions among themselves will be the annexation of both provinces to one or other or both of the two great neighbouring Powers, who are only waiting to swallow them up. It will be better for the countries themselves that this should be their fate. However bad may be the government of Russia or Austria, however inconvenient such an acquisition of territory may be in the “European equilibrium" point of view, there can be no doubt that it is the only chance which exists of developing the material resources of these fertile countries, and imparting to their institutions some kind of stability. At present no speculator dares venture on contracting with

« AnteriorContinuar »