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same sequence of events narrated by the actors themselves, and, therefore, occasionally conflicting. For, as the Schoolmen used to say: Quando duo faciunt idem, non est idem. Although Witte's story, penned at odd moments when fierce and impotent rage against the Tsar and his counsellors was still strong upon him, is too often an undisguised indictment of these, while Izvolsky's exposé becomes at times a touching apology for his late sovereign, a comparison of the two may enable the unbiassed reader to strike the balance and reach a more or less fair estimate of the character, qualities, and defects of the monarch who contributed more than any other individual to demolish the Empire which he was so anxious to consolidate.
Witte's book is a collection of desultory notes and comments penned spasmodically in his various moods, now in the depths of despair, now burning with rage against adversaries who were conspiring to destroy at once his work, his character, and his life ; and the readers whom he had in his mind's eye were his fellowcountrymen living under conditions not materially different from those of his own day. Hence he takes for granted on the part of his readers a thorough knowledge of Russian institutions, politics, and men, which very few Westerners possess. And the translator has done nothing to fill these gaps. Like Goetz von Berlichingen, Witte was better fitted to make history than to write it, and the memoirs as they have been given to the public are superlatively disappointing. Much that ought never to have seen the light has here been published in extenso; while his accounts of certain momentous events, which to my personal knowledge he had consigned to writing, have been either suppressed or mislaid. The style is amorphous, and at times the grammar is bad.
For the last time, in the spring of 1914, I admonished Witte that unless he prepared his reminiscences carefully for the press, correcting slips of memory and errors and leaving the manuscript quite ready for the printer, his reputation would inevitably suffer. For, as most of his notes had passed through my hands, I was aware of the necessity of suppressing some, correcting others, and rewriting many of them. In their published form the memoirs, which I have perused with a feeling of intense
sadness, are disfigured by many concrete errors, some contradictory statements, and several inaccuracies. How defective Witte's memory was will be readily discerned by those readers of his memoirs who are conversant with recent Russian and European history. His fantastic story of the part which he played in dealing with the grave crisis caused by the Agadir incident may serve as a sample. He assured me on many occasions that the service which he then rendered to the peace of the world consisted in his proposing to the French Premier, M. Rouvier, who welcomed the plan, an international conference to pass judgment on the main issues between France and Germany, and in inducing the Kaiser to adopt his suggestion. This version of the story was so utterly at variance with well-known facts, and implied such a disservice to France, that I at once challenged its accuracy, denied its possibility, and urged him to consult his manuscript memoirs. Witte stoutly maintained that he was right in every particular and the subject dropped. On five or six occasions I returned to the charge, but in vain.
The story as he told it, I explained, was not credible, because Witte's conversation with Rouvier took place on Sept. 20, 1905, and his reception by the Kaiser six days later; whereas the international conference had been agreed upon as early as July 8, that is to say, three weeks before he set out for the United States to discuss peace terms with the Japanese. I further insisted that it was Germany who proposed a conference on the ground that the status of Morocco ought not to be determined by separate agreements made by Great Britain, France, and Spain among themselves, but must be referred to an international areopagus. Moreover, I pointed out that France was opposed to the scheme, and sustained her opposition until the danger of war began to loom visible in the political horizon. Consequently, it was absurd to affirm that Rouvier was enamoured of it or that France was grateful to the proposer, or that the proposal could have originated with Russia.*
The facts were these. By the time Witte arrived in
* The negotiation is given in detail, with many letters hitherto unpublished, in the “Life of Theodore Roosevelt,” vol. 1, caps. 36 and 37.
Paris from the United States a deadlock in the negotiations had occurred over the programme of the Conference, the French refusing to include in it the demarcation of the Moroccan and Algerian frontiers, while the Kaiser's Government insisted on that too being submitted to the delegates. It was at this conjuncture that the Russian statesman reached Rominten and discussed the matter with the Kaiser. He argued so forcibly in favour of the French contention that Wilhelm finally declared himself convinced, and there and then telegraphed instructions to Prince Bulow to give way to the French. And this was undoubtedly a sterling service to the cause of peace.
But as Count Witte persistently maintained the exactitude of his own version, I mentioned the matter to the French Ambassador in St Petersburg, M. Bompard, who like myself was amazed at this pathetic travesty of history. At last Witte told me that he had consulted his memoirs, and he actually dictated to me the same extraordinary story in which he figures as the originator of the international conference, and Rouvier and France as his grateful debtors for this welcome issue out of a political no-thoroughfare. I besought him to correct the narrative; but he felt unable to do so, and it has now been submitted to the public without a word of explanation or correction by the American translator.
Slips of this nature and the lack of any clue to guide the foreign reader through the bewildering maze of Russian parties, politicians, and incidents, detract very considerably from the value of these memoirs to the historian. It is no exaggeration to affirm that the eminent statesman who penned them in the heat of ruthless political struggles has done himself great injustice, from the consequence of which-in default of his friends—his own brilliant achievements in statecraft alone can save him.
A third book, M. Nekludoff's Diplomatic Reminiscences,' takes us to the uttermost periphery of the scene of the great Russian drama, and unfolds to our gaze the reaction which the far-resonant events at the centre or faint echoes of these produced in Bulgaria and Sweden. This diplomatist's personal experiences constitute a welcome addition to the existing materials for a history of Russia's intercourse with those two
realms. But, as he spent so large a portion of his life in foreign lands, seldom sojourning for long in his own, and took no active part in the principal social or political movements which were rapidly transforming the Russian Empire, he was necessarily out of touch with the leading spirits among his countrymen, and, therefore, less qualified than either Witte or Izvolsky to view the activities of those prime movers in correct perspective. That probably accounts for the undue importance which he ascribes to Rasputin in the making or marring of the policy of the Tsar's Government and for the arching of eyebrows and the scandalised tone with which he alludes to the mystic exaltation of the unbalanced Tsaritsa. In one passage of his interesting work he states that • Rasputin was in fact a Khlyst, i.e. half “Shaker,” half Flagellant—a strange sect which from time to time rises in Russia from the common depths to the upper classes of society' (p. 71, note). As a matter of fact, Rasputin never was a member of the sect in question, which has always counted some representatives of the aristocracy among its adherents, nor did he adopt all its corybantic rites. He admitted to me that he had introduced one of its practices—that of promiscuity-into his small congregation at the outset of his religious activity in Siberia; but added that he had originated it himself as the practical conclusion of a quasi-theological reasoning process which he unfolded to me. With the sectarians themselves he never, he assured me, had any dealings.
None of the numerous writings on Russia's temporary eclipse which have seen the light since the dethronement of Nicholas II, renders the publication of Izvolsky's enlightening and admirably written memoirs superfluous. Far from that, they form one of the most valuable contributions as yet offered to the solution of a few of the many puzzles which confront the student of contemporary European history and the student of Russian psychology. For they embody the testimony of a man endowed in a high degree with the tastes and temperament of a historian, who was an actor in some of the momentous events which he so fully describes, was an eye and ear witness of others, and was minded to reveal what he knew as far as possible sine amore et sine odio. Izvolsky brought to the execution of his task a variety
of qualities, for the combination of which few even among his personal friends were disposed to give him credit. A partisan throughout the period with which his book deals, and a target for calumnious gossip, malicious lies and scurrilous lampoons, Izvolsky contrived to divest himself of passion and prejudice, and to describe persons and things with a degree of detachment, serenity, and fairness which challenges and will receive the respect of his adversaries, and fills one with regret that an untimely end has deprived us of what would have been a veracious and masterly presentment of those later and deciding political developments which it was his intention to unfold in subsequent volumes. Parenthetically, I may add that to my knowledge the materials for bringing this work to completion, although at present said to be missing, were in existence five years ago; and on several occasions he consulted them at my request and supplied me with extracts from his copious notes.
Alexander Izvolsky was a diplomatist of the old school of the Gortshakoffs and Lobanoff-Rostoffskys, and like so many others of that class he continually wore a mask. Taking his profession ever seriously, he behaved like the high priest of an esoteric religion, and, as was said of the French revolutionist, St Just, il portait sa tête comme un saint sacrament,' He certainly repelled new acquaintances with his consequential airs, his diplomatic monocle, his precious phraseology, oracular utterances, and epigrammatic remarks. And those among them whose acquaintanceship never ripened into friendship pictured him as a self-centred, pompous petit maître who lacked the essential qualities of statesmanship and was fitted at most to translate simple ideas into the stately language of diplomacy.
In truth, Izvolsky, whom I had the privilege of knowing well, was a man of generous sympathies, wellbalanced judgment and harmonious temper, whose extreme purism in style and language was but the outcome of a habit of clear thinking. He was a loyal friend, a fair-minded critic, and a magnanimous adversary, and throughout his career he maintained a high reputation for honour and integrity. Years ago, when he and I were in Copenhagen and Count Witte as Prime Minister was the best-hated man in Russia, whom it was