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- such treatment. The sons were taught to say prayers by heart and to perform martial exercises. The daughters had little teaching other than how to make garments and house-linen intended for their dowry.
The social conditions of the time rendered literary progress slow and fitful. No perceptible advance was made until the reign of Peter the Great, when there were signs of an intellectual awakening in response to the Tsar's stirring activities. A peasant writer named
. Possofchkov gave expression to views which were too much in advance of his generation to be appreciated. Not merely an iconoclast, he suggested means of improving the conditions of his class, but his theories fell on stony ground; his advocacy of compulsory universal education received no attention, and the appeal he made to land-owners to keep their peasantry well-housed and cared-for was equally unavailing. It was too soon to preach to Russian statesmen that education and economic prosperity must go hand-in-hand; and his contemporary, Tatischev, was equally disregarded. Tatischev also sounded the first notes of a cry for political progress and liberty, an appeal that was to go on gathering volume
for two hundred years.
Peter the Great, while engaged in introducing better methods of shipbuilding, manufacturing, and all kinds of improvements in economic matters, cared little for purely intellectual acquirements. He brought in English, German, Dutch, and Swiss workmen, who disseminated
new scientific ideas and introduced Western methods to - Russian craftsmen ; but he was ready to crush inde
pendence of thought whether in the Church or the laity. Nevertheless, at his death, Prokopovich, the Bishop of Novgorod, himself a man of distinguished learning, bore witness to the great Tsar's qualities of mind and heart.
'Oh! Russia,' he says, 'he is your Moses; are not his laws the firm protection of truth and the unbreakable fetters of Trong-doing? And are not his statutes clear, a light upon Four path? And are not the high-ruling senate and the many institutions founded by him so many beacons on the road of progress, the warding-off of harm, the safety of the peaceful, and the unmasking of wrong-doers ?'
But, in spite of what has been termed the renaissance of Russia under Peter, the starting-point of the g classic literature of Russia cannot be placed much ear than the latter half of the 18th century. To this per belong the initial stages of popular education, wl owed much to the Freemasons, who included many r of intellect and of active benevolence. Byelinsky, greatest literary critic that Russia has produced, da the true beginning of Russian literature from publication of The Ode on the Capture of Kho This poem was from the pen of Lomonosov, a nat of Archangel, of peasant birth, to whom was gi the glory of first creating beauty of style from Russian language. Lomonosov, though he stands high in the annals of his native literature, is held greater honour in foreign countries as a scientist. the words of a learned American professor, Only wh he described the phenomena of nature or scientific fa did he become truly inspired and write the poems te have survived him.'
Perhaps, at this point, we may digress for a mome in order to draw attention to a curious lack in t history of Russian literature; it is the lack of influenc both as to form and matter, exercised by the Russi Bible. It has been often said that Shakespeare and ti Bible are enough in themselves to form a literary sty In Russia, where this honour has been ascribed Lomonosov, a man of only moderate genius, the Bib has played no such vitally important part; and th for several reasons. In the first place, the Russian Bit was not printed until 1580, more than a hundred yea later than our own, and then in Slavonic only, whic continues in use in the churches although it has lo become a dead language to the laity. The Epistle to t Romans was printed in Russian in 1815, but it was n until 1875 that the Holy Synod published a comple Russian version of the Bible; and under the Imperi laws no other version of the Bible in Russian coul be introduced into Russia. Thus a source to whic English writers have owed so much has remaine practically closed to Russian authors, who have never theless found in their native tongue an instrument capable of expressing the finest shades of meaning, witinfinite varieties of rhythm and cadence.
It was the French literature of the revolutionary period that the Russians of the 18th century chose for their guide and model. Catherine the Great, who herself translated French plays for the Imperial stage, was for some years an ardent admirer of the French encyclopædists, of Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert. But when the French revolution reached its climax, she became alarmed for her own security, and not only grew cold to the Continental progressives but proceeded to crush the society of Freemasons, which had grown rich and influential and exercised its power in the direction of spreading knowledge and publishing a quantity of books of an educational kind, at prices that brought them within the reach of the poorer classes. The leader of this altruistic crusade was a writer named Novikov, who became the head of a great printing and bookselling business in Moscow ; but his former friendly relations with the Empress came to an end as soon as she realised that he was a serious reformer.
In spite of his widespread philanthropy and good works in a time of famine, Novikov was thrown into prison and condemned to death on a charge of conspiracy, The death sentence was not carried oụt, but he remained in close confinement in the terrible Schlüsselberg prison until Catherine was succeeded by her son, Paul I (1796). Another progressive writer of the same period, Radischev, was similarly treated, and after many years of exile in the remotest part of Siberia, was released at length, only to end his life by suicide, in despair of the conditions of his countrymen. The publications of both
these men were confiscated and destroyed; but not before ; they had sown seed that was destined to flower in the inspired verse of Russia's greatest poet.
We have now reached the critical period of transition in politics and literature, and of open conflict between the forces of reaction and progress. It is a remarkable feature of Russian Liberalism that it has, as a rule, emanated in the first place from the upper ranks of society. The spirit of change, stirred into activity by the French revolution, was manifest among the highest in the land, long before it reached the lower class. The accession of Alexander I was signalised by the wane of German influence in Court circles, where it had rou the bitter jealousy and enmity of the Russian nobi during the reign of Paul. Alexander set himself to reform of abuses and the spread of popular educati but unfortunately the measures he passed were sufficiently radical to fulfil their purpose. It is nc worthy that he found not only the military caste, the leading writers of the time, in opposition to reforms ; but, in spite of lack of support from those w
; should have been most eager to second his efforts, favoured the diffusion of knowledge to a degree beyo any of his predecessors. It was he who authorised English Bible Society to extend its work to Russia.
The writings of two great men of letters, the histori Karamzin and the poet Batiouchkov, reveal how close interwoven with social and political interests was t intellectual life of the early 19th century. In • History of Russia,' Karamzin upholds the autocra system and extols the past glories of the Slavonic ra. He may be said to have been the originator of Sla philism in politics and literature.
'Russian history,' he writes, 'casts lustre on How strangely and wonderfully drawn we are to the bap of the Volga, Dnieper, and the Don, knowing as we do wh happened there in remote antiquity! Not only Novgoro Kiev, and Vladimir, but even the huts of Eletz, Kozelsk, a Galich become of monumental interest. ... The shadows past centuries rise in visions before our eyes.'
The Napoleonic invasion roused the nation patriotic fervour, which found expression in the poet of the time; but unhappily little was achieved beyond t] awakening of futile hopes, which finally culminated the tragedy of the Decembrist conspiracy. Ryléev, brilliant young writer, died on the scaffold in the prin of manhood, but was already known throughout Russia the author of a number of fine patriotic ballads, and a poem descriptive of the struggle for liberty of Litt Russia under the famous Hetman Mazeppa, ending i the disastrous defeat of Charles XII at Poltava.
Ryléev died untimely, but he was followed an eclipsed by his friend and admirer Pushkin, by genera consent the greatest of Russian poets. It is not too muc. to say that Pushkin was the first truly national poet of Russia, and the first to make Russian poetry admired and honoured beyond her frontiers, just because he threw off the domination of foreign influence so noticeable in the works of his forerunners, and clothed his thought in purely Russian dress. Eugene Onéguine, Pushkin's chief hero, is typically Russian. He is the prototype of the superfluous man, of whom we have many later examples, such as the
the Oblomov' of Goncharov. Talented and amiable, but wanting in energy and steadfastness of purpose, he seems to have been oppressed and paralysed by the vastness and inertia of the land of his birth. It is a type that still exists in Russian life and fiction, that of the man who meditates on the meaning of life, without ever coming to a conclusion, who aspires to greatness and has transient fits of energy, but quickly lapses back into indolence and apathy. He is ever waiting for the vital spark that will fire his energies ; but in waiting life passes, and is ended before he is aware. The character of the heroine, with whom Onéguine only falls in love when she is married to another, shows on the other hand strength, dignity, and fortitude. The love she felt for Onéguine in her girlhood does not change, but she resists him none the less, when at length, too late, he returns it.
Pushkin owed much to childish associations, to the fireside folk-tales of his old nurse and the familiar talk of the peasants on his estate. Homely everyday modes of expression, details of life and character slighted by lesser men as unworthy of regard, all went to give his Ferse the essentially Russian spirit which till then had been absent from Russian poetry. The de
The depth of thought and mystic intensity of a Milton, a Wordsworth, a Goethe, were not within his province, but his lyric melody, vivacity, and ease are untranslatable and perhaps anrivalled. With Pushkin one associates the name of Lermontov,
poem on the death of the former occasioned his exile to the Caucasus. Lermontov has been compared to Byron, but probably, if a comparison is worth making, he had more in common with Shelley than with any other English poet. He was a devoted lover of the wild beauty of the Caucasus; and his finest poems, such as The
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