« НазадПродовжити »
which communicated under ground, with the room where his body guards were assembled. Whenever he used to give this signal, every one New to the palace with the utmost speed, whether dressed or not, and whoever first arrived was richly rewarded, while the last was as certain of destruction!
Returning to the west quarter of the admiralty, a similar square to that in front of the Hermitage is laid out, and which contains the humbled and disfigured church of St. Isaac, as a striking example of the cultivated taste of Catharine, and the rudeness of her successor. The interior of the church is partly finished with marble, but altogether gloomy and somewhat neglected.
In the same square is the prodigious rock, on which is placed the elegant equestrian statue of Peter the Great. This great rock of granite was drawn from the neighbourhood of the capital, on cannon balls, placed in a grooved railway, which corresponds with an opposite grooved space, fixed to the basis of the rock. It was moved forwards by means of ropes, pullies and windlasses, drawn both by men and horses. A drummer was stationed on the rock to give a signal to the workmen. Its size, when brought to St. Petersburg, was between
ST. PETERSBURG-STATUE OF PETER THE CREAT. 101.
forty and fifty feet in length, upwards of twenty in breadth, and as much in height.
When the artist, Falconet, had finished his statue of Peter the Great, though as admirable a specimen of the art, as ever graced the followers of a Phidias or Praxiteles, yet, from the giant rudeness of its pedestal, it could not but be rendered too minute in the general outline; he, therefore, in order to assimilate their dimensions, mutilated the rock, and thus gave an imaginary measure of bulk to the figure. The attitude of the statue represents the monarch, as having gained the summit of a precipice, and restraining the violence of his horse, which is seen rearing on its hind legs, with a full and flowing tail, touching the writhing body of a serpent, on which the horse tramples. The head of the figure is crowned with laurel, and a loose flowing robe is thrown over its body. The left hand holds the reins, while the other is stretched out in the act of giving benediction to his subjects. On the rock the following short, but expressive inscription, is fixed in golden letters, both in the Latin and Russian language,
“ CATHARINE II. to PETER I." Connected with this square is the elegant strect, known by the name of the English-line, from its being, at one period, the principal residence of the
English merchants; its extent is upwards of a mile, and separated from the river by a broad street and a massive pier of hewn granite, through which are cut flights of steps in order to descend to the numerous boats and barges.
This short description gives an account of the principal features of the city, on the south side of the river, which contains the most elegant buildings, and is the residence of the court, the nobles and gentry, with a population of one hundred and eighty thousand persons. In the quarters of the admiralty all the finest buildings are situated. As we approach towards the barriers of the town, much open space is seen, partly covered with wooden hovels and marshes, while the streets are laid with planks of wood.
On the north side of the river is situated the opposite division of the city, which is built partly on two islands formed by the different branches of the Neva. The most conspicuous of these buildings are the citadel, the academy of arts, the military institution, the exchange, custom-house, etc.
The exchange and custom-house are situated on the west end of the lower island, called the quarter of Vassili Ostroff, at the separation of the branches of the river, and immediately fronts the citadel, which is situated on the opposite corner of the up
per island, named the St. Petersburg quarter. A new exchange was erected a few years ago, but, from some singular motive, has never been opened; the merchants, in consequence, continue to meet in the open air, in front of the old house. The new exchange consists of an oblong square, surrounded with a broad piazza, supported on numerous pillars. In front of the building are placed two extraordinary monumental pillars, with large figures emblematic of ships, but more like some nondescript monster. Nothing can be more ludicrous. Behind the exchange is the custom-house, warehouses, quay and docks; this range of buildings is probably more contemptible than those in any other of the trading towns along the barren shores of Sweden.
Every vessel, bound to the capital, must be cleared at Cronstadt, before it is permitted to enter the Neva. From the inactive and irregular manner, in which every department of public business seems to be conducted in this country, it is impossible not to feel chagrined at the vexatious delays and losses sustained by it. A redundancy of persons is employed in every official situation, and a disregard to method or system is pursued by every one.
While one obeys, another seems afraid to command. This must in part arise from the despotic nature of the
government; it is only by comparison that we judge of the excellencies or defects of governments, and the nearer they approach to simplicity, and the more unrestricted they are, the more they ought to be admired.
The galliot, which brought us to Cronstadt, though only in ballast, was detained there two days before it could be cleared out for the capital. With the vessel, was detained our luggage, without our being permitted to take any part of it. On her arrival at St. Petersburg, not less than ten days were consumed in the necessary arrangements of granting a license for their being landed, and even this indulgence was accomplished by the irresistible
power of money!
No laws are stricter than those of the customs of this country, against the importation of prohibited goods, yet no where is a law more evaded. To encourage the manufactory of Russian woollen cloths, those of other countries are rigidly prohibited; yet not a noble or foreign merchant is seen without his dress being the work of an English loom!
If a ship is consigned, and not acknowledged by its agent, within a given time, she is liable to be confiscated. The agent must specify the goods, and pay
the duties accordingly, without seeing them. If the cargo is more than what is specified,