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CHAP. XIII.

A CAUTION-THE HOUSE OF PETER THE GREAT-SINGULAR ANECDOTE -POLICE-A TRAVELLER'S DUTY-AN EXTRAORDINARY PURGATION

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I WAS much inconvenienced by shipping a trunk containing books and wearing apparel at Stockholm for Petersburg, which I was assured would be there as soon as I should, yet it never arrived till just before my departure. Let me recommend every traveller to avoid this mode of conveyance, not merely for the uncertainty which always attends a Swedish byc-boat during such a voyage, but on account of the difficulty of obtaining possession of property so sent, after it reaches the custom-house at Petersburg. If it should contain books, they must be submitted to a censor, and the owner must pay a duty of thirty pounds per cent. ad valorem, upon the things. Whilst I was at Petersburg, a book called the Secret Memoirs of the Court of Petersburg was prohibited. The author was a French emigrant, and had been cherished by that court whose secret intrigues he had ungratefully exaggerated to the world. This man, a short time since, had the audacity to request permission of the emperor to return to Petersburg, which he had quitted some time before. The emperor, with his accustomed sound sense and liberality, sent him word, « That his dominions were open to every body, but he was not so “ much his enemy as to recommend his entering them.”

The house, or rather cottage, in which Peter the Great resided during the foundation of Petersburg, a city which is the growth of little more than a century, stands on the left of the emperor's bridge, in the road to the fortress. This little building, so sacred to the Russians, was covered over with a brick building of arcades by the late empress, to protect and support it against the ravages of time. The rooms are three, all upon the ground floor, and very low : it was in this very cottage that a whimsical scene occurred whilst the fortress was building. A Dutch skipper, hearing that Petersburg was building, and that the emperor had a great passion for ships and commerce, resolved to try his good fortune there, and accordingly

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arrived with the first merchant vessel that ever sailed upon the Neva, and was the bearer of a letter of introduction to the captain of the port from a friend of his in Holland, requesting him to use his interest to procure a freight for him. Peter the Great was working like a common labourer in the admiralty as the galliot passed, and saluted with two or three small guns. The emperor was uncommonly delighted, and having been informed of the Dutchman's business, he resolved to have some frolic with him, and accordingly commanded the port captain to see the skipper, as soon as he landed, and direct him to the emperor as a merchant just settled there, whom he intended to personate ; the better to carry on the joke, Peter repaired to this cottage with his empress, who, to humour the plan, dressed herself in a plain bourgeois habit, such as suited the wife of a merchant. The Dutchman was introduced to the emperor, who received him with great kindness, and they sat and ate bread and cheese, and smoked together for some time, during which the Dutchman's eye examined the room, and began to think that no one who lived in so mean a place could be of any service to him : presently the empress entered, when the skipper addressed her, by observing that he had brought her a cheese, a much better one than she had ever tasted, for which, affecting an awkward manner, she thanked him. Being much pleased with her appearance, he took from his coat a piece of linen, and begged her acceptance of it for shifts. “Oh !” exclaimed the emperor, taking the pipe from his mouth, “ Kate, you will now “ be as fine and as proud as an empress ! there, you are a lucky « woman; you never had such shifts as you will now have, in your

life “ before. This was followed by the stranger begging to have a kiss, which she coyoy indulged him in. At this moment Prince Menzikof, the favourite and minister of Peter the Great, who represented him upon matters of state, entered with all his orders, and stood before the emperor uncovered.

The skipper began to stare with amazement, whilst Peter, by winking and making private signs, induced the prince immediately to retire. The astonished Dutchman said, “ Why you appear to have great acquaintance here?” Yes,” replied Peter, “ and so may you, if you stay here but ten days; there are “ plenty of such needy noblemen as the one you saw; they are al

ways in debt, and very glad to borrow money of any one, and they “ have even found out me ; but, sir, beware of these fellows; resist “ their importunity, however flattering, and do not be dazzled by “ their stars and garters, and such trumpery." This explanatory advice

put the stranger a little more at his ease, who drank and smoked on very cheerfully, and made his bargain with the Imperial Mer! chant for a cargo. Just as he had settled this point to his wish, the officer of the guard, which had been changed, entered to receive his orders, and stood with profound respect uncovered, and before Peter could stop him, addressed him by the title of Imperial Majesty. The Dutchman sprang from his chair, fell on his knees before the emperor and empress, and implored forgiveness for the liberties he had been taking. Peter enjoyed the scene, and laughing heartily, raised up the terrified suppliant, and made him kiss the empress's hand, presented him with fifteen hundred rubles, gave him a freight, and ordered that his vessel, as long as her timbers remained together, should be permitted to enter all the Russian ports free of duty. This privilege made the rapid fortune of the owner. A friend of mine frequently saw her, some years since, at Cronstadt. On the right hand side of the cottage is a boat, built by the hands of Peter the Great. It resembles a large Thames wherry, and does honour to the skill of the princely boat-builder. As I sat in the carriage, waiting for some of my companions, I made a sketch of the house, boat, a droshka, and a group of Russians and an American, who were there. Upon our return the evening was advanced, and the night watch was set ; we met the police-master moun upon a droshka, drawn by two horses in full gallop, followed by two of the police on horseback, dressed in light green, and armed with sabres; they were going their rounds through the city, to see that order was preserved, and that the nocturnal guards, amounting to five hundred, were at their respective posts. Soon after, we met with a patroling troop of Cossacs on horseback. In no city is there greater safety and tranquillity preserved than at Petersburg, which for this purpose is divided into ten departments, and these divided into several smaller parts, each of which has its proper chief and subordinate officers, who, by a very simple organization, preserve the capital, at all hours of the night, in a state of quiet and security, that cannot fail to excite the admiration of foreigners, and particularly of Englishmen. Those detestable agents of government, spies, have no existence in Petersburg; without their baneful assistance, the police is so admirably and powerfully extended, that, like a spider's web, whatever comes in contact with it, is felt from the centre to the extremities.

The commanding officers of the police do not rank with the officers of the army, nor are they received with much respect in society.

I one evening saw an instance of severity which surprised and disgusted me; but probably it was intended to strike terror, and to abbreviate the labour of the police, by commanding an instantaneous submission to its functionaries. A quarrel had taken place between two men in the street through which I was passing, and before the third exchange of imprecations, two of the police appeared, and ordered these disturbers of the peace to walk before them to the nearest sieja, or little watch-house, but one of them refused to go, upon which an officer drew his sabre, and cut him in the face; the man, like a true Russian, more affected at the sight of the blood, than by the pain of the wound, submitted himself to the law, and marched off without further delay.

It would be well for the safety and tranquillity of the inhabitants of London, and more particularly of its immediate neighbourhood, if its police were more extended, swift and powerful. In this respect we are assuredly inferior to most nations. I am aware that arbitrary governments have, hitherto, displayed the most perfect systems of police ; but is this the reason why the genius and constitution of a free one cannot admit of its extending domestic protection to its subjects ? Is civil liberty incompatible with preventive policy? Is the freedom of the country gone, when murderers and robbers cease to be free? or is it to preserve our chartered privileges, that a band of superannuated watchmen, who, to protract their becoming an additional burden upon the poor-rate, beyond the ordinary era of eleemosynary aid, are helmeted in flannel night-caps, and with a rattle and a lanthorn, admirable equipments for second childhood, and eyes dim with age! are sent forth to guard the lives and property of the inhabitants of the most crowded, populous, and wealthy city in the world ?. To find fault is an easy and an odious office. But a traveller, like a bee, should never be upon the wing without bringing home some sweet to encrease the honey of his native hive. Neither at night, nor by day, are the streets infested by women of the town; they live in a quarter by themselves, and I believe are not very numerous; some of them are Polish, of course handsome ; some Germans, of course fascinating ; and some, and the most of them, fair and frail wanderers from the upper parts of Finland, which, although the portion of the province that we saw was so destitute of every thing like beauty, is said to possess many pretty faces and good persons amongst the females. If it be true, as Mr.Justice Colquhoun's registerasserts, that the prostitutes of London amount to fifty thousand, I should not suppose, from all that I could learn, that the frail sisterhood of Petersburg exceeds a tenth of their number. Where these unhappy beings abound, it is always a compliment to the chastity of the purer part of the sex. There was some portion of sagacity in the remark made by a poor little night wanderer, in a city on the continent which shall be nameless, when a traveller, who pitied and relieved her distress, observed, that he was surprised to see so few of the sisterhood in such a capital. “ Alas, sir,” said the unfortunate, “ we cannot live for the virtuous « part of our sex.” One morning presented a very singular spectacle. A number of well-dressed women, walking in pairs, fastened by the arm to each other with cords, with their band-boxes in their hands, and each couple attended by a police officer, were very quietly and decorously marching to the emperor's cotton-mills, which are correctional houses of industry for ladies of this description. There were no repining looks amongst them, not a pouting lip, so great in general is the constitutional submission to the law in the north. Upon enquiry, I found that a man had been violently ill-treated in the haunts of these Idalian goddesses, and that upon the affair being represented to the emperor, he ordered three hundred of them to be marched off for a few months, as above mentioned. How the list was filled up, whether by ballot, or promiscuously, I know not. Passing by the senate in which the nobles assemble to digest and discuss such laws as the emperor may chuse to submit to their consideration, the image of justice, which adorns the right hand side of the grand entrance towards the statue of Peter the Great, attracted my notice ; she was blindfolded as usual, but the equipoise of her scales was destroyed : a wag, who some time since had lost his cause, in consequence, as he thought, of the venality of his judges, between frolic and pique had dexterously cast a copec into one of them, and had thus kicked up the beam.

It would be unfair and invidious to investigate the present laws of Russia; the emperor is convinced of their radical defects, and it is intended, with all possible speed, to bless the empire with a new code. The brilliant elementary outline of legislation, which Catherine II, with the most imposing pomp and solemnity, submitted to the deputies from all parts of the empire, in which she professed to

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