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JUNE, 1893.

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THE TSAR ALEXANDER III.

“Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow."

THE

HE Tsar Alexander III. is probably the least known monarch

in Europe. Like certain stupendous masses of matter that move afar off in the heavenly void, his influence is gauged by the disturbances felt in our own system, while his character, movements, and affinities are matters of mere conjecture, rather than subjects of positive knowledge. Under these circumstances, every ray of light let in upon his life should be welcomed with gratitude; and, as a sketch of him appeared some time ago in a popular periodical, I owe it, perhaps, to my readers to lay before them, in brief outline, the salient features of the portrait. Stripped of the ornate eloquence of the enthusiastic artist, they are as follows:

"The Tsar feareth God and loveth his people, and he chastiseth with a rod of iron a multitude of his servants who do likewise. In the days before his kingship he could not say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister, nor unto Understanding, 'Thou art my kinswoman'; but he might have truly said, • Be thou my wife,' for there was no relationship betwixt them. Since he was anointed king he is become as a shining light to all his people ; and his kingdom containeth many millions of men and women who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and much cattle. His power extendeth to the uttermost ends of the land, and his nod is obeyed with fear and trembling; and he cannot accomplish the good that he hath conceived in his heart, and must needs do the evil that he loatheth as hateful in the sight of God. His bowels yearn upon all his people alike, even as the sun shineth upon the evil and the good, and rain falleth on the just and on the unjust; and he smiteth sorely the children of Judah, for that they were injudicious in the choice of their parents, and were born of the seed which brought forth the Saviour of mankind; and likewise on the Poles and Ruthenians, the Finns and the Baltic Germans, his hand lieth heavy. As the hart panteth after water-brooks, so thirsteth his soul after truth; and he suppressed the books and the writings which are records thereof, and waxeth wroth with them that write such. He longeth to have the needs of his

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people laid bare before him, if so be that he may relieve them in his mercy; and he banished Madame Tsebrikova and a host of others who would fain make known to him the wants of their brethren. He searcheth out wise counsellors with diligence and understanding; and he hath made friends of liars and false witnesses who drink iniquity like water, and to them he giveth heed. And death and life are in the power of their tongues, wherefore their evil-doings should not be reckoned among his transgressions, nor the innocent blood which they shed be upon his head. He knoweth in his heart that there is no power but of God, and the enemies of God are an abomination in his sight; and he made a covenant with the seed of Beelzebub in the land of the Gaul, with them which said in their hearts, "There is no God, neither should there be any king. He charged all his people, saying, "Walk ye in the way of the Lord’; and against the Stundists and the Baptists, and all them that do what seemeth good to the Lord is his anger kindled, and he casteth them into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. In like manner he executeth fury upon Lutherans, and bendeth his bow against Buddhists; the temples of Catholics he hath razed to the ground, and Baptist prayer-houses he hath demolished; but theatres and dens of iniquity he openeth on the Sabbath, sharing with the owners thereof the spoils of their iniquity. Verily, the Tsar is a just man; and English Puritans should rejoice with exceeding joy that he hath been anointed with the oil of gladness over his fellows."*

In reading thiş sketch, the subject of it might well have exclaimed with Job, “ Have pity upon me, 0 ye, my friends!” For a long number of years I have enjoyed innumerable opportunities of observing the Tsar, and verifying my observations in the light of the personal experience of those near and dear to him, and my impression is that he is neither a knave nor a fool, a criminal nor a hero, but a well-meaning unit of one of the innumerable crowds that do not dress in fustian, one to whom Nature has denied the rich mental equipment of the average Russian, and upon whom education has. failed to bestow the compensating accomplishments of a constitutional monarch. To compare him to an intelligent English gentleman, and then to shriek over the most consistent of his actions for which an English gentleman would be sent to a lunatic asylum or a prison, is scarcely logical, and certainly not artistic, for instead of a portrait it gives us a caricature. The Emperor of Russia is not a double personality composed of an unbending Puritan and an easy-going Russian; he is a harmonious whole whose disposition and character have their root in the psychological peculiarities of the race and the individual. He has committed one, and only one, cardinal mistake, more disastrous to his people than any crime. A firm believer in the miraculous, he confidently expected to be regenerated by the Sacramentf of Coronation, as Faust was metamorphosed by the magical draught of Mephistopheles, and fancied that the dull-plodding officer of yesterday would find himself endowed to-day with all the qualities of mind and heart needed by one whose irresponsible will was to become the sole law of one hundred millions of men. It was as if the tender Polydoros, buckling on his brother Hector's armour, and having quaffed a draught of the water of Xanthus, should have set out single-handed to encounter the mighty Achilles. To accuse him, of any specific mistake in the art of governing is as reasonable as it would be to set an honest village blacksmith to repair a lady's chronometer, and then give technical names to the simple process by which he shatters it into fragments; or to attribute the failure of a town tailor to succeed as a farmer in Australia to his fondness for certain erroneous theories of the “science of geoponics."

* Cf. Review of Reviews.

+ The imperial coronation was first a ceremony, which Philarete raised to a sacramental rite (taïnodeistvie), and which the clergy later on transformed into a Sacrament, of which there are now eight in the Orthodox Church.

The Tzar, like the bulk of his countrymen, is a believer in the continuous interference of Providence with the course of human events, in the divine missions of men and women, in modern prophecies, miracles, voices, and visions; and his belief in his own special mission as God's vicegerent is of the nature of Tertullian's faith, which,, having fed upon all accessible impossibilities, waxed stronger and craved for more. And this is the real clue to his character, the source of his strength and weakness. In other words, the unity in this bewildering multiplicity, the cement that knits together the fragments of this curious psychological mosaic, is a mistaken religious sense of duty based upon an exaggerated sense of importance.

Alexander Alexandrovitch, not having become heir-apparent to the throne before his twenty-first year, was not brought up to the calling of monarch any more than he was trained to the profession of surgery.

The rôle for which Nature, grace, and education had fitted him could be equally well played by any one of a million" supers on the world's stage, and his consciousness of his shortcomings, before his coronation, was 'as keen as that of the inebriated Irishman who declared himself sober enough to know that he was not sober. His elder brother's death, which the nation viewed as the finger of cruel fate, he regarded with awe as that of a paternal Providence shaping his destiny; and bowing before the inscrutable decree which thus marked him out as the Pope of a vast empire and the autocrat of a national Church, he wisely left the puzzling question of ways and means to be worked out by Omnipotence, which alone could grapple with the insoluble problem.

In person the Tzar is powerfully built, strong and muscular; in his younger days he was able to bend a bar of iron across his knees, or to burst in a strong door with his shoulder. He possesses one of those heavy unwieldy figures whose awkward movements, resulting largely from morbid self-consciousness and consequent shyness, no callisthenies could subdue to the easy bearing which characterises the ordinary man of the world. His usual manner is cold, constrained, abrupt, and so suggestive of charlishness as often to deprive spon

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taneous favours of the honey of friendship for the sake of which they were accorded. All the forces of his being seem to have retreated from the centres to the fastnesses of flesh and bone, muscle and sinew, producing that lack of emotional warmth and intellectual vigour which marks the mendicant Grey Friar of Nature, whose appearance suggested to Alfieri the picturesque expression, la pianta umana.

A story is told of the Emperor before he had yet become heirapparent which, although vouched for by ex-Ministers and courtiers, I cite merely for the light it throws on the impression which his mental capacities made at that time upon competent judges. Shortly after he had been appointed tutor to the two Grand Dukes, M. Pobedonostseff, now the trusted counsellor of the Tsar, penned a letter to his friend, Admiral Shestakoff, in which he describes the occupations and progress of his imperial pupils.

of his imperial pupils. After having descanted in enthusiastic terms on the marvellous talents of the elder brother, the Russian Fénelon struck a minor key in his allusions to the present Tsar, regretting that “our darling dove” (nasch goloobooshka) had been so sadly misused by Nature, who sent him into the world with the shabbiest of intellectual outfits. Whether the story be true or false, the personal appreciation that underlies it is acquiesced in by all the preceptors of the Grand Dake, who was considered, as was David Hume by his mother, to be "a fine, goodnatured cratur, but uncommon wake-minded”; so that if Heaven's gifts to kings be at all commensurate with their genuine needs, Alexander III. can scarcely be accused of exaggeration for holding that few monarchs have such good cause as he to be grateful for the sacramental rite of coronation. But whatever change was effected on that memorable day must be taken to be as mysterious as the sacramental methods that produced it; for none of his Ministers, beginning with Count Ignatieff and ending with M. Vyschnegradsky, entertains the slightest doubt that even at the present day the mental arc of an ordinary Russian farmer is quite sufficient to. measure the curve of the intellectual circle of his ruler.

The Tsar's moral staple consists mainly of negative virtues which leave the 'imagination cold. There are no white-hot passions, no headstrong vices, no noble enthusiasms which distinguish the born ruler of men. His attitude is usually quiescent; his passivity frequently Buddhistic; and whenever the spirit bloweth upon him as it listeth, it puffeth up quite as often as it moves and inspirits. Truly it is well for many human beings--and the Tsar is one of the multitude-that, in spite of the contrary assertion of the German mystic, character is something very different from destiny. { Those who accuse the Emperor of cruelty wrong the man and misconstrue his acts. It would be as reasonable to prosecute for assault and battery the good-natured American who, having belaboured a supposed

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