Page images

out. These fine qualities not being apparent to the traveller, their absence is charged upon the five protecting Powers, who, it is contended, sacrifice the interests of the country to their own selfish purposes, and enable those in power to keep themselves there against the will of the country by mere intrigue. It is indeed an open question whether we should not have better consulted our own interests as well as those of the Principalities, if, instead of agreeing to place them under the protection of five Powers all jealous of each other, we had left them to their own devices. Upon a future occasion, in a conversation which I had with Prince Couza, he graphically described the liberty he enjoyed under the present system. There was no violation of the stipulations which he did not daringly commit under the protecting ægis of one or other Power. However illegal or arbitrary his acts, however much in defiance of treaty-right, he was always sure to have one Power on his side sometimes France, sometimes Russia, generally both if his policy was directed against Turkey. If, instead of joining in an agreement with other Powers which obliges us as a point of honour to interfere whenever an unscrupulous ruler breaks the constitution, we had confined ourselves to a treaty prohibiting any Power under any pretence whatever from interfering in the internal administration of these Principalities, we should have saved ourselves from those difficulties which are likely soon to arise and embarrass our policy as seriously as the Schleswig-Holstein complications have done. The pretensions of Turkey, unfortunately, were those which we thought it necessary to support, not perceiving that in diplomatic as in military strategy you increase the strength of your position exactly in proportion as you retract your lines. At this moment the vulnerable point of Turkey is her suzerainty over the Principalities; she has got this "tabia" of diplomacy lying outside all her fortifications.


It is of no earthly use to her-a source of weakness rather than of strength, and sure to be attacked before long. When it is attacked, she need no more calculate upon England coming to her rescue, than to that of Poland, Denmark, or any of the other numerous countries and causes which we abandon and betray the moment it suits us. better let her make a merit of necessity, and at a time when there is no pressure at work, no coercion used, cede what will otherwise prove her ruin, and obtain in return rights which will strengthen her Danubian frontier. The reason that Russia and France may have a cause of quarrel with us upon this question at any moment they choose, is simply because Turkey has rights in it which we are bound to protect. Up to this moment it has not suited either Power to open the Eastern Question. The insurrection in Poland for a time divided the interests of France and Russia, and a skilful diplomacy on our part at that time might have pushed matters to the point of an open breach. This would have given a coup-de-grace to the Franco-Russian policy in the East. It was one of the indirect advantages which would have accrued from the gratification of the sentimentalism of the English in the matter of Poland. There has probably never been a question in which the interests of diplomacy could have been so well served by the unreasoning impulses of the masses as in this matter of Poland. Never could the oppressed - nationality twaddle have been made more available to the far-seeing statesman. To the ignorant it I would have been a matter of sentiment; to the initiated, one of profound diplomacy. While the Emperor was in an agony lest we should have pushed him on to an open rupture with Russia, he was deluding his own people into the idea that there was nothing he wished for more than a war for Poland, which we prevented. It would, indeed, have been well worth our while to have brought this

about. The first principle of diplomacy is to keep on good terms with foreign Powers one's self; the second, to foster dissensions between those who, if united, would be dangerous to you. It is this latter principle which Prince Couza works to such great advantage. We seem carefully to reverse this order; and the result of our recent diplomacy has been to quarrel with every European Power, and to unite them against us. Thus we are quite as much-detested as a nation in the Principalities as in Germany or Denmark; and being about to lure the Turks to their destruction, we shall end by being execrated by the only people which still in its simplicity clings to our alliance, and believes in its efficacy. At the same time, while the Roumains, like the Greeks, hate and abuse us, I have little doubt that, like them, if they were called on to elect a prince by popular vote, they would unite in favour of an English one. However much we are despised as a friend or disliked as an enemy, we are immensely respected by virtue of our internal institutions, and of our individual independence of character. While the English Government is universally unpopular, the Englishman abroad is usually preferred to any other foreigner, and to a great extent redeems or extenuates the faults of his administration in the eyes of those with whom he is staying. The wonder to every foreigner is, that the national policy should be the result of the national character. As individuals, Englishmen have the credit of being the most scrupulously truthful and honourable of men; as a nation we are 'perfide;" and so far from the latest efforts of our diplomacy having tended to remove this impression, we have achieved a higher reputation for perfidy during the last two or three years than we ever enjoyed before. Individually, the Englishman is admitted to be brave; politically, the name of England is a byword for cowardice. Individually he is regarded as absurdly open-handed his generosity is pro


verbial; but the national policy is held up as the type of all that is sordid, cold-blooded, and selfish. Everything, in fact, that the Englishman is, the English Government is not; and it requires no little patience and temper in the present day to travel, and venture upon political discussions with foreigners. Nor does the secret conviction that they are right tend to increase one's serenity.

In this little out-of-the-way Moldavian town, the vices of England were crammed down our throats. We were accused of egotism, of being mercenary, of impeding the development of these provinces for our own selfish ends, of intrigues so black that even a Moldavian imagination shuddered to contemplate them, and of designs so elaborate and far-seeing that the only way it was possible to convince people that they did not exist, was by explaining the phenomenon of extremes meeting. Thus a sublime degree of folly and simplicity may at last be mistaken for a wisdom and a subtlety not appreciable by the masses.

English travellers are so rare in Moldavia that even in Jassy one is looked upon rather as a curiosity; and the ignorance of society with reference to England is as great as that usually displayed by British members of Parliament when they are discussing our relations with China. Perhaps when one considers the superior opportunities which such a man as Mr Cobden enjoys of obtaining information, there is less excuse for him than for a Jassy politician. In general, the few ideas upon any subject which the Moldavian men possess they derive from the women. Nothing was more striking than the invariable rule which insured your hearing from the men in the morning what had been propounded to you by the old women the night before. As is usually the case in communities in a low state of European civilisation, the female portion of society is immeasurably superior to the male; indeed, it would be difficult to find anything in Europe

inferior to a Moldavian male, except, perhaps, a Wallachian. With the men, therefore, it was rarely possible to discuss politics, or any other subject. They scarcely ever open a book; they only engage in politics because they offer such splendid opportunities for looting the public money; they only travel to pick up the vices of civilisation; they only marry because the facilities for divorce are so great that marriage ceases to be a tie. That there are rare exceptions to the general rule is only to be expected; but with every desire to do justice to a country where, at all events, the rites of hospitality are thoroughly understood, it is impossible to be blind to its faults. If the traveller never ventured upon a general and impartial criticism of the people of a country because he happened to be well received in it, there would be little use in his travelling; nor are the Moldavians or Wallachians likely to cure their faults unless they hear what those who would willingly extenuate them, were it possible, find reprehensible. One of the peculiarities of the race is a great sensitiveness to criticism by a stranger; and it made one uncomfortable to feel that any chance remark was likely to be twisted into an uncomplimentary sense, whether one meant it or not. It is true, this only applies to superficials. It is so generally admitted among themselves that nobody can be trusted, that it is the habit never to play cards except with the stakes on the table. Nor do they care for being charged with moral defects. What hurts their pride is an unfavourable contrast between a Moldavian and a French made dish, or a cynical expression of countenance on entering a salon, as though you were comparing the furniture with that of a handsome Paris appartement. They have the most supreme admiration for all the worst points in the French character; they go to Paris expressly to pick them up, and are very indignant if you do not praise them for having them. They dress after the French, play

soldiers after them, take universalsuffrage votes after them, cook after them, furnish after them, dance, flirt, gamble after them, and anxiously watch for the impression which this admirable imitation of everything French makes upon the stranger. Far more particular about the polish of their boots than the purity of their honour, a Roumain gentleman would prefer you to compliment him on his French accent rather than on his integrity. Indeed, I am bound to say that nothing that I have said of them here is half so severe as what I have heard them say of one another. It was quite disheartening at last, when, on making some new acquaintance, and hearing him give vent to fervent patriotic sentiments, and lofty aspirations for himself and his country, I was always told, when I described to one of his friends my pleasure at having at last found an honest man, "What! that man honest? Of all the unprincipled scoundrels in the Principalities he is chief." In the end one is obliged, from sheer despair, to abandon one sex for the other. Were it not for the men, the women would be nicer than they are; but as it is, they do what they can to redeem their country. They have nobler aspirations, higher intelligences, and more force of character. They are so glad to see a stranger, that, if he is the least presentable, he is sure of an entrée into society; and as, more especially since the seat of government has been moved to Bucharest, the number of firstclass boyard families now resident in Jassy is considerably diminished, he will soon know every one. town itself is not a particularly agreeable place of residence, apart from its society. It is neither one thing nor the other. It has neither the repose and languor of the East, nor the stir and vivacity of the West. The streets are irregular and ill-paved; the shops are poor, and there is no great thoroughfare where it is amusing to flâner. Indeed, in the absence of a trottoir, nobody dreams of walking. The hack car.


riages are the best in Europe-light, open, one-horse phaetons, as daintily got up as though they were private property: the ladies and gentlemen are flying about in them, jolting over the rough pavement at a rapid pace all day and night. The drivers of these are for the most part Russians, belonging to that peculiar sect in the Greek Church which enjoins mutilation. As there is a law in Russia prohibiting the practice, they flock across the frontier, and for some reason or other almost invariably become cab-drivers. There is something particularly loathsome and unhealthy-looking in their ap


The city contains between fifty and sixty thousand inhabitants, composed of Jews, gypsies, Armenians, Germans, Sclaves, Roumains, Poles, and other foreigners. The best proof of the mongrel nature of the population is to be found on the signboards, where German, Italian, Moldavian, French, and sometimes Russian or Turkish, appear indiscriminately. The fact of being only ten miles from Russia on the one hand, and of having been for many years in the occupation of the Turks on the other, gives the city a half-Russian, halfTurkish aspect, which makes it unlike any other-Turkish suburbs of hovels, and Russian silent streets and grand houses, Turkish baths and Russian churches, with the corruption and intrigue of both countries concentrated. There are some public gardens in the outskirts of the town, where the band plays two or three times a-week, and where one is quite sure to see congregated all the beauty and fashion of the Moldavian capital; and there is a theatre, which was closed at the period of my visit, but we made up for it by dancing every night instead. The houses are large palatial residences, usually standing in courtyards, and elaborately furnished. In fact, in so far as servants, equipages, and the externals of domestic life are concerned, everything is scrupulously French. Everybody talks French perfectly, and a large

proportion of society English, so that nothing can be pleasanter than to be drawn for a brief period into its vortex.

There are picnics to be undertaken to charming country-houses -among others, to one upon the banks of the Pruth - to which we all go in a cortège of light carriages and four, and dash across the steppe through clouds of dust; but our fair companions in their light gauzy dresses and gay parasols are as indifferent to it as our wild gypsy postboys. Here we find a handsome chateau, magnificently furnished, and commanding an extensive view of the plains of Bessarabia; the Pruth winds at the base of the steep hill, clothed to the water's edge with wood, through which are cut romantic paths, doubly delightful in this country, where wood is scarce. From here we can see with a glass the soldiers of the Russian garrison; and if General Kotzebue does intend to cross the Pruth, it will be at this point that the operation is likely to be effected. Even then there was a very general impression that an invasion of the province by Russia was imminent, and rumours were constantly flying about of reinforcements of troops arriving in Bessarabia. Polish insurrection and the Circassian war, however, gave full employment to the armies of the Czar. Now everything is changed-the subjugation and deportation of the warlike race which is migrating under such distressing circumstances to Turkey, will release from Caucasian service an army of 120,000 men, who will be available for any stroke of policy which may be undertaken by Russia in this direction; while the Polish insurrection is so utterly extinguished for the time at least, that the state of that country need not embarrass any aggressive movement. That before the expiration of this year another army of occupation will be quartered in Moldavia, is a very fair subject for prophecy; but whether that army will be Russian or Austrian is not so easy to determine. The Moldavi


ans are rich in their experiences of armies of occupation, and it is amusing to hear them indulging in invidious comparisons between them. I found one universal opinion. First, of course, all armies of occupation are hateful and detestable, tyrannise over society, rob the poor, and otherwise misconduct themselves. If an army of angels could occupy the country,they would be disliked and complained of; but the order in which the three nations who have been severally represented in this military form in the Principalities are disliked, is as follows: First, the Austrians-officers and men both cordially hated, but officers especially so. Second, the Turks-Preferred to the Austrians, but very naturally disliked upon religious and social grounds. And, thirdly, the Russians the least abused of the three, thanks especially to a certain General Kotzebue, who governed Moldavia with judgment and honesty. So that the crossing of the Pruth by the Russians would be preferred to the crossing of the Dniester by the Austrians. It is rumoured that Austria and Russia have come to an arrangement with reference to these Principalities, and that Austria is to annex Moldavia, and Russia Wallachia; but it is impossible to say in an atmosphere of intrigue which the inner wheel of all is, or who is betraying whom. It used to be supposed that France and Russia thoroughly understood each other in their policy here; but Prince Couza's coup d'état has given considerable dissatisfaction to the latter Power. However, the slopes of Stinka are not the place to talk politics. The men could not if they wished, and the women are not inclined to be bored with so dry a subject. So we play games and dance until far on into the night, and then, with the brightest of full moons lighting up our way, gallop back again across the steppe to Jassy.

Among other social pastimes of the gay capital, the races are not to


be forgotten. The race-course is within a mile of the town, situated in a valley, altogether the most picturesque spot in the neighbourhood. A motley crowd gathers here to see Russian horses compete with English and every variety of crossbreeds. In this respect the horses and the people who are collected to look at them are pretty much on a par. Some of the Moldavian ladies went on horseback; and as the weather was bright, the scene was gay in spite of the dust. As usual, there were two or three English jockeys, and Moldavian and Russian jockeys in remarkable half-Cossacklooking costumes, who flogged their horses without intermission from the starting to the winning post, and seemed to think the only use of the reins was to shake them near the horse's ears. The chief defect in the scenery round Jassy is the absence of wood and water, otherwise the country is prettily broken; and where money has been spent upon planting and otherwise beautifying it, there are some charming spots. The most celebrated of these is a country-house called Sokola, the property of one of the late hospodars; but the glory of Jassy has departed since the seat of government has been moved to Bucharest-in other words, since the union of the two provinces. In order to hear a Moldavian really eloquent, this is the subject to get him on; it is the only piece of politics in which he is thoroughly interested, because it touches his pocket. It also gives him an opportunity for indulging in vituperation, which is his strong point. It is only by abusing the Wallachians, collectively and individually, that he can in any way console himself for the injury he feels they have done him. In this respect the Moldavian is very like the Neapolitan; and it is not unnatural, considering the origin of both, that there should be a strong family resemblance. To hear him abusing Wallachia, is like listening to a Neapolitan abusing Piedmont. All


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »