Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

affairs and navigation, where all the nobility are obliged to send some of their children. 5. Colleges at Moscow, Petersburgh, and Kiof, for languages, polite literature, and mathematics; and schools in the villages, where the children of the peasants are taught to read and write. 6. A college of physicians, and a noble dispensatory at Moscow, which furnishes medicines to the great cities, and to the armies; whereas before there was no physician but the czar's, and no apothecary in all his dominions. 7. Public lectures in anatomy, a word never heard before in Russia. Voltaire relates, that the czar had studied this branch of knowledge under Ruysch at Amsterdam; and made such improvements under this master, as to perform even chirurgical operations himself. He afterwards purchased the cabinet of that anatomist, which contained an immense collection of the most curious, instructive, and uncommon preparations. 8. An observatory, not only for the use of astronomers, but as a repository for natural curiosities. 9. A physic garden, to be stocked with plants, not only from all parts of Europe, but from Asia, Persia, and even the distant

parts

of China. 10. Printing-houses, where he abolished their old barbarous characters, which, through the great number of abbreviations, were almost become unintelligible. 11. Interpreters for all the languages of Europe ; and likewise for the Latin, Greek, Turkish, Kalmuc, Mogul, and Chinese. 12. A royal library, composed of three very large collections, which he purchased in England, Holstein, and Germany.

These, and many more, were particular institutions and establishments : but the czar made general reformations, to which indeed the other were only subservient. He changed the architecture of his country, which was ugly and deformed; or, more properly, he first introduced that science into his dominions. He sent for a great number of pictures from Italy and France; and thus instructed in the art of painting a people, who knew no more of it, than what they could collect from the wretched daubing of men who painted the imaginary heads of saints. He sent ships laden with merchandize to Genoa and Leghorn, which returned freigh with marble and statues : and pope Clement XI. pleased with his taste, presented him with a fine antique, which the czar, not caring to trust by sea, ordered to be brought to Petersburgh by land. Religion was not neglected in this general reform : ignorance and superstition had over-run it so much, that it scarcely merited the name of Christian. The czar introduced knowledge, where it was miserably wanted; and this knowledge enabled him to abolish, at least in a considerable degree, fasts, miracles, and saint-worship. He ventured further than to the correction of rites : he, abolished the patriarchate, though much independent of him; and thus got rid of a power, which was always interrupting and disconcerting his measures. He took away part of the revenues of those churches and monasteries which he thought too wealthy; and, leaving only what was necessary for their subsistence, added the overplus to his own demesnes. made many judicious ecclesiastical canons, and ordered preaching in the Russian language. Lastly, he established a general liberty of conscience throughout his dominions. There is one more reformation, and perhaps as necessary and useful as any of the former, which he made even in his last illuess, though it was exceedingly painful. When the senators and great personages, then about him, mentioned the various obligations which Russia lay under to him, for abolishing ignorance and barbarism, and introducing arts and sciences, he told them, that he had forgot to reform one of the most important points of all, namely, the mal-administration of justice, occasioned by the tedious and litigious chicanery of the lawyers; and signed an order from his bed, limiting the determination of all causes to eleven days, which was immediately sent to all the courts of his empire.

This wonderful man died of the strangury, caused by an imposthume in the neck of his bladder, Jan. 28, 1725, aged fifty-three. He was tall, and remarkably well shaped; had a noble countenance, eyes sparkling with vivacity, and a robust constitution. His judgment was sound, which, as Voltaire has observed, may justly be deemed the foundation of all real abilities : and to this solidity was joined an active disposition, which led him into the most arduous undertakings. Whoever reflects upon the interruptions, difficulties, and oppositions, that must unavoidably occur in civilizing and reforming a large and barbarous empire, must suppose the czar to have been, as indeed he really was, a man of the greatest firmness and perseverance. His education was far from being worthy of his genius: it had been spuiled by the princess Sophia, whose interest it was that he should be immersed in licentious excesses. How

He was

ever, in spite of bad example, and even his own strong propensity to pleasure, his natural desire of knowledge and magnanimity of soul broke through all habits; nay, they broke through something even greater than habits. It is remarkable, that from his childhood he had such a dread of water, as to be seized with a cold sweat and with convulsions, even in being obliged to pass over a brook. The cause of this aversion is thus related : When he was about five years

of ag'e he was carried in the spring season over a dam, where there was a water-fall or cataract. asleep in his mother's lap, but the noise and rushing of the water frightened him so much that it brought on a fever; and, after his recovery, he retained such a dread of that element, that he could not bear to see any standing water, much less to hear a running stream. Yet sach was the force of his resolution, that he gradually conquered this antipathy, and his aversion of water was afterwards changed into an excessive fondness for that element. He had a son who lived to be a man; but this son engaging with his mother, whoin Peter had divorced, in 1692, and other malcontents, in a conspiracy against his father in 1717, was condemned to die. He saved the executioners the trouble by dying a natural death; and an account of this unfortunate prince, with original papers, was published by the czar himself. The title of it, as it stands in the second volume of the “ Present Siate of Russia," translated from the German, and printed at London, 1722, in 8vo, runs thus : " A Manifesto of the Criminal Process of the Czarewitz Alexi Petrowitz, judged and published at St. Petersburg, the 25th of June, 1718, translated from the Russian original, and printed by order of his czarish majesty at the Hague, 1718." The czar composed several pieces upon naval affairs; and his name must therefore be added to the short catalogue of sovereigns who have favoured the public with their writings.

The czarina, bis widow, whom he nominated his successor, was, upon his death, immediately acknowledged empress of Russia by the several estates of the empire. The history of this lady is rather extraordinary. She was born in Livonia, in 1684; and losing her parents, who were of low condition, she became destitute. The parish. clerk, who kept a school, took her into his house, and supported her, till Dr. Gluck, minister of Marienburg, happening to come to that village, eased the clerk of the girl, whom he liked exceedingly, and carried' her home with him. Dr. Gluck treated her almost in the same manner as if she had been his own daughter; and not only had her taught spinning and sewing, but instructed her also himself in literature above her sex, and especially in the German language. At length a Livonian serjeant in the Swedish army, fell passionately in love with her, and she agreed to marry him : but the next day the Russians made themselves masters of Marienburg; and the general, casting his eyes accidentally on Catherine, and observing something very striking in her air and manner, took her then under his protection, and afterwards into his service. Some time after, she was advanced to be a housekeeper to prince Menzikoff

, who was the general's patron; and there the czar seeing her, she made such an impression on him that he married her. She was taken at Marienburg in 1702, and married to the czar in 1710 : what became of her former husband, the serjeant, is not known. She was a woman of wonderful abilities and address, and a very fit consort for such a man as Peter the Great. It has been alreariy observed in what manner she rescued him from ruin by her management, when he was surrounded by the Turks: and he seems to have made her the partner of his councils and undertakings, as well as of bis bed. He shewed the high opinion he had of her by nominating her to succeed him; but she died in little more than two years after him. She had several daughters by the czar; the youngest of which, Elizabeth, after the heirs of the elder branches were extinct, ascended the throne in 1741.?

PETERS (HUGH), a noted favatic in the time of Charles I. was the son of a merchant at Fowey, in Coruwall, and was some time a member of Trinity college, in Cambridge, whence, it is said, he was expelled for irregular behaviour; but this expulsion must have taken place after he had taken both his degrees, that of A. B. in 1618, and of A. M. in 1622. He afterwards betook himself to the stage, where he acquired that gesticulation and buffoonery which he so often practised in the pulpit. He was admitted into holy orders by Dr. Mountaine, bishop of London, and was for a considerable time lecturer of St. Sepulchre's, in that city ; but, being prosecuted for criminal conversation with another

1 Voltaire's Hist. of Peter the Great.-Modern Universal History.-Fortenelle's Eloge.-Coxe's Travels.-Tooke's Russia.

[ocr errors]

man's wife, he fled to Rotterdam, where he was pastor of the English church, together with the learned Dr. William Ames, who, it is probable, either did not know, or did not believe the report of his being prosecuted for adultery*. He afterwards went to America, and after a residence of seven years, returned to England at a time when men of his character were sure of employment. He became, therefore, a violent declaimer against Charles I. and in favour of all the measures of the republican party; and Cromwell found him one of his most useful tools with the army and the lower classes of the people. When king Charles was brought to London for his trial, Hugh Peters, as sir William Warwick says, “ was truly and really his gaoler." Dr. Kennet informs us that he bore a colonel's commission in the civil war; that he was vehement for the death of the king; that it was strongly suspected that he was one of his masked executioners, and that one Hulet was the other. After the restoration he was executed with the other regicides. His character appears to have been in all respects unworthy of his religious profession ; what can be alleged in his favour may be seen in our authorities.

PETIS DE LA CROIX (FRANCIS), an agreeable French writer and learned Orientalist, was born in 1654.

After a suitable education he becaine the king of France's secretary, and interpreter for Oriental languages, and succeeded his father in those offices, which, his countrymen inform us, he was eminently well qualified to fill. To a very considerable share of general learning, he added an integrity and firmness of mind which enabled him to resist the importunities of corruption in a very remarkable instance. He had great offers made to him if he would insert in the treaty between the Algerines and Lewis XIV. that the six hundred thousand livres, to be received by the latter, should be paid in Tripoli crowns, which would have made a difference of a sixth part. But this he rejected with contempt, although the trick could not have been discovered, or known to any except those who were to profit by it.

His own court, however, imposed a duty upon him more congenial to his disposition, and bighly conducive to the advancement of his favourite studies. In compliance with

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Peters published " Amesii Lectiones in Psalmos, cum Epist. Dedic." Lond. 1647, 8vo.

1 Life by Harris.-Brook's Lives of the Puritans. --Burnet's Own Times.Barwick's Life, &c.-Granger.

***

1

« ZurückWeiter »