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PETER THE GREAT.
“I THINK,” said Egeria one morning, “it is Dr Clarke who describes the Russians as plated savages,—their magnificence as but lackered barbarity; and I doubt not there is much truth in the remark. They set forward in the march of improvement when the rest of Europe was in comparative maturity, and assumed 'many of the exterior symbols of civilization before they had passed through the different stages by which the mental refinement can alone be attained. This was undoubtedly owing to the peculiar character and carpenter-accomplishments of Peter the Great. His mind was naturally of the European cast, but his subjects, as I have before observed to you, were in many points essentially Asiatic: his talents were of a rude and coercive kind. His administration may be described as a constant effort, to impose not only civilization in manners, but philosophy and mechanical industry on a people who knew not the worth nor the importance of either. He had, in truth, looked more at the physical results of political strength in other states than at the causes which produced it, and this mistake in any weaker or more delicate hand would have been fatal. His contempt of the lives of his people, and his ambition to build up a state, without reference to the opinions of his subjects, constitute the two grand features of his history. He knew that he could not be great in the community of the Euro
pean states, without fleets, arsenals, and armies. He had seen himself, that all great empires had magnificent capitals, and something too he had heard of Babylon and of Rome, and therefore he resolved to build St Petersburgh. But although all that he did with respect to those undertakings was founded in sagacious conceptions, both of immediate and remote policy, yet it was nevertheless barbaric. The nation for whom he planned and accomplished so many stupendous designs, neither knew their utility nor could comprehend their policy; but there was an intellectual power about the man that awed and commanded his barbarians like the influence of a god.
“ As a monarch, according to our British notions, Peter was one of the worst kind. It is because we see his character in what he achieved that we respect the memory of this colossal despot. Were we to consider him in the means he employed, and to read the history of his glorious reign in the details, our aversion towards him would only be mitigated by the scorn with which we would regard his docile and ductile barbarians. Can any thing be more gross than his court was ?-Look at the ridiculous account of his visit to that of Berlin."
“ In the year 1717, Peter the Great came with his empress and court to pay a visit at Berlin. On his first presentation, the czar took Frederic by the hand, and said, he was glad to see him; he then offered to kiss the queen, but she declined the honour. He next presented his son and daughter, and four hundred ladies in waiting, the greater part of whom, the princess assures us, were washerwomen and scullions promoted to that nominal dignity. Almost every one of them, how. ever, she adds, had a baby richly dressed in her arms; and when any one asked whose it was, answered with great coolness and complacency, that the czar had done her the honour to make her the mother of it.' The czarine was very short, tawny, and ungraceful, dressed like a provincial German player, in an oldfashioned robe, covered with dirt and silver, and with some dozens of medals and pictures of saints strung down the front, which clattered every time she moved like the bells of a pack-horse. She spoke little German, and no French ; and finding that she got on but ilk with the queen and her party, she called her fool into a corner to come and entertain her in Russianwhich she did with such effect, that she kept her in a continual roar of laughter before all the court. The czar himself is described as tall and rather handsome, though with something intolerably harsh in his physiognomy. On first seeing our royal author he took her up in his arms, and rubbed the skin off her face in kissing her, with his rough beard ; laughing very heartily at the airs with which she resented this familiarity. He was liable at times to convulsive starts and spasms, being seized with them when at table, with his knife in his hand, put his hosts into no little bodily terror. He told the queen, however, that he would do her no harm, and took her hand in token of his good humour ; but squeezed it so unmercifully that she was forced to cry out-at-which he laughed again with great violence, and said, “ her bones were not so well knit as his Catherine's.' 'There was to be a grand ball in the evening ; but as soon as he had done eating, he got up, and trudged home by himself to his lodgings in the suburbs. Next day they went to see the curiosities of the place. What pleased him most was a piece of antique sculpture, most grossly indecent. Nothing, however, would serye him but that his wife should kiss this figure ; and
when she hesitated, he told her he would cut off her head if she refused. He then asked this piece and several other things of value from the King, and packed them off for Petersburgh, without ceremony. In a few days after, he took his departure; leaving the palace in which he had been lodged in such a state of filth and dilapidation as to remind one of the desolation of Jerusalem.”
THE PHILOSOPHY OF KANT.
“ WELL, I do think,” said Egeria, one morning in attempting to read Villers' account of the Transcendental Philosophy of Kant, “ that the history of philosophy may be described as the history of human folly; and yet the art of philosophizing purposes to itself the development of the truths and principles of Divine wisdom !-I begin to suspect, that the slow progress which the generality of mankind make in the science of the mind, is owing in a great measure to the many dogmas which every system of metaphysics entertains obnoxious to common sense. But of all systems, that of this ethereal German seems the most pregnant with these sort of absurdities; and yet it is impossible to deny to the author the praise of great acumen, and a degree of subtlety almost without parallel. The history of the man indeed demonstrates, that, by the course of reflection and meditation which he adopted, he necessarily disqualified himself from advancing the improvement of mankind,—the sole end and object of all science ; for, beyond question, the only authors that have helped forward the process of intellectualizing in the world, are those who have mixed much with the bustle and business of life. There is no example of a mere literary man ever having done much good to his species, except in the capacity of a schoolmaster,-if, in that capacity, it be fair to consider him as exclusively literary; for, perhaps, few situations are more trying, or require more of address to manage, and of discernment to perceive the peculiarities of those to be managed, than that of a schoolmaster."
“ What is the history of Kant ?” said Benedict; “I never recollect to have heard much either of him or of his philosophy,—but that implies nothing derogatory either to his wisdom or his genius. The tardiness with which the discoveries of Newton,—so simple and so important, and so readily corresponding with the general habits of science,-were adopted among ourselves, is well known; and, therefore, we need not wonder that Kant's philosophy should be so little studied or understood in this country."
" It will never be either studied or understood in England, you may rely on that, Benedict,” replied the Nymph; “we are much too practical a people to waste our time or thoughts on the unprofitable phantoms of a flatulent imagination. Kant, the sage or visionary of Köningsberg, is reputed as having, in a life of nearly eighty years, sequestrated himself from the world,-his admirers say, contenting himself, in the true simplicity of a sage, with the occu