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had concealed them from the enemy, and fell with the utmost fury on the Moguls. The effect of this unforeseen attack was decisive. Astonished at the vehement onset, by troops fresh and in the best order, the Tartars filed, and their chief, Mamia, who from an elevated spot beheld the rout of his host, exclaimed, 'The God of the Christian is powerful!' and joined in the general flight. The Russians pursued the Moguls to the Metcha, in endeavouring to cross which vast numbers were slain or drowned, and the camp, with an immense booty, fell into the hands of the victors."-Vol. v. p. 79-82.
This great victory, however, did not decide the contest; and nearly a hundred years elapsed before the independence of Russia from the Tartars was finally established. Not long after this triumph, as after Borodino, Moscow was taken and burnt by the Moguls ; the account of which must, for the present, close our extracts.
“No sooner were the walls of Moscow escaladed by the Tartars, than the whole inhabitants, men, women, and children, became the prey of the cruel conquerors. Knowing that great numbers had taken refuge in the stone churches, which would not burn, they cut down the gates with hatchets, and found immense treasures, brought into these asylums from the adjoining country. Satiated with carnage and spoil, the Tartars next set fire to the town, and drove a weeping crowd of captives, whom they had selected for slaves from the massacre, into the fields around. What terms,' say the contemporary annalists, can paint the deplorable state in which Moscow was then left? That populous capital, resplendent with riches and glory, was destroyed in a single day!' Nothing remained but a mass of ruins and ashes; the earth covered with burning remains, and drenched with blood, corpses half burnt, and churches wrapt in flames. The awful silence was interrupted only by the groans of the unbappy wretches, who, crushed beneath the falling houses, called aloud for some one to put a period to their sufferings.”—Vol. v. p. 101.
Such was Russia at its lowest point of depression in 1378.
The steps by which it regained its independence, and became again great and powerful, would furnish abundant subject for another article on Karamsin's Modern History.
We know not what impression these extracts may have made on our readers, but on ourselves they have produced one of the most profound description. Nothing can be so interesting as to trace the infancy and progressive growth of a great nation as of a great individual. In both we can discover the slow and gradual training of the mind to its ultimate destiny, and the salutary influence of adversity upon both, in strengthening the character and calling forth the energies. It is by the slowest possible degrees that nations are trained to the heroic character, the patriotic spirit, the sustained effort, which is necessary to durable elevation. Extraordinary but fleeting enthusiasm, the genius of a single man, the conquests of a single nation, may often elevate a power like that of Alexander in ancient, or Napoleon in modern times, to the very highest pitch of worldly greatness. But no reliance can be placed on the stability of such empires ; they invariably sink as fast as they have risen, and leave behind them nothing but a brilliant, and, generally, awful impression on the minds of succeeding ages. If we would seek for the only sure foundations of lasting greatness, we shall find them in the persevering energy of national character ; in the industry with which wealth has been accumulated, and the fortitude with which suffering has been endured through a long course of ages; and, above all
, in the steady and continued influence of strong religious impressions, which, by influencing men in every important crisis by a sense of duty, has rendered them superior to all the storms of fortune. And the influence of these principles is nowhere more clearly to be traced than in the steady progress and present exalted position of the Russian empire.
Of Karamsin's merits as an author, a conception may be formed from the extracts we have already given. We must not expect in the historian of a despotic empire, even when recording the most distant events, the just discrimination, the enlightened views, the fearless opinions, which arise or can be hazarded only in a free country. The philosophy of history is the slow growth of the opinions of all different classes of men, each directed by their ablest leaders, acting and reacting upon each other through a long course of ages. It was almost wholly unknown to the ancient Greeks: it was first struck out at a period when the recollections of past freedom contrasted with the realities of present servitude, by the mighty genius of Tacitus ; and the sagacity of Machiavelli, the depth of Bacon, the philosophy of Hume, the glance of Robertson, and the wisdom of Guizot, have been necessary to bring the science even to the degree of maturity which it has as yet attained. But in brilliancy of description, animation of style, and fervour of eloquence, Karamsin is not exceeded by any historian in modern times. The pictures he has given of the successive changes in Russian manners, institutions, and government, though hardly so frequent as could have been wished, prove that he has in him the spirit of philosophy ; while in the animation of his descriptions of every important event, is to be seen the clearest indication that he is gifted with the eye of poetic genius. Russia may well be proud of such a work; and it is disgraceful to the literature of this country that no English translation of it has yet appeared. We must, in conclusion, add, that the elevated sentiments with which it abounds, as well as the spirit of manly piety and fervent patriotism in which it is conceived, diminish our surprise at the continued progress of an empire which was capable of producing such a writer.
THE HISTORICAL ROMANCE
(BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, SEPT. 1845]
We are constantly told that invention is worn out ; that everything is exhausted ; that all the intellectual treasures of modern Europe have been dug up; and that we must look to a new era of the world, and a different quarter of the globe, for new ideas or fresh views of thought. It must be confessed, that if we look to some parts of our literature, there seems too good reason for supposing that this desponding opinion is well founded. Everything, in some departments, does seem worked out. Poetry appears for the time wellnigh extinguished. We have some charming ballads from Tennyson, some touching lines from Miss Barrett; but where are the successors of Scott and Byron, of Campbell and Southey ? Romance, in some branches, has evidently exhausted itself. For ten years we had novels of fashionable life, till the manners and sayings of lordlings and right honourables had become familiar to all the haberdashers' apprentices and milliners' girls in London. That vein being worked out, literature has run into the opposite channel. Action and reaction is the law, not less of the intellectual than the physical world. Inventive genius has sought out, in the lower walks of life, those subjects of novel study and fresh description which could no longer be found in the bigher. So far has this propensity gone, so violent has been the oscillation of the pendulum in this direction, that novelists have descended to the very lowest stages of society in search of the new or the exciting. Not only have the manners, the selfishness, and vulgarity of the middle ranks been painted with admirable fidelity, and drawn with inimitable skill, but the habits and slang of the very lowest
portrayed with prurient minuteness, and interest sought to be awakened in the votaries of fashion or the Sybarites of pleasure by the delineation of the language and ideas of the most infamous wretches who ever disgraced society by their vices, or endangered it by their crimes.
“ Whatever,” says Dr Johnson, “makes the Past, the DISTANT, or the FUTURE predominate over the present, exalts us in the scale of thinking beings.” The words are familiar till they have become trite; but words are often repeated when the sense is far off. It is in the general oblivion of the thought of the philosopher, while his words were in every mouth, that the cause of the want of originality in modern works of imagination is to be found. The tendency to localise is the propensity which degrades literature, as it is the chief bane and destroyer of individual character. It is the opposite effect of engendering a disposition to expand, which constitutes the chief value of travelling in the formation of character. If the thought and conversation of individuals are limited to the little circle in which they live, or the objects by which they are immediately surrounded, we all know what they speedily become.
It is in the extension of the interest to a wider circle, in the admission of objects of general concern and lasting importance into the sphere of habitual thought, that the only preservative against this fatal tendency is to be found. It is the power of doing this which forms the chief charm of the highest society in every country, and renders it in truth everywhere the same. A man of the world will find himself equally at home, and conversation flow at once with equal ease, in the higher saloons of London or Paris, of Rome or Vienna, of Warsaw or St Petersburg. But he will find it scarcely possible to keep up conversation for a quarter of an hour in the bourgeois circle of any of these capitals. It is the same with literature, and especially that wide and important branch of literature which, aiming at the exciting of interest or delineating of manners, should in an especial manner be guarded against the degradation consequent on a narrow restriction of its subjects to matters only of local concern.
The prodigious success and widespread popularity which have attended some of the most able novels of this new