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CHAP. the Hermitage, at Petersburg, into an inclined
plane; offering a more commodious and more easy descent. A similar alteration was introduced at Tsarskoselo. This conducted her from the apartments of the palace into the garden.
It was in one of those walks, as Professor Pallas Anecdote afterwards informed me, that Commodore Billings lings's Ex- obtained, by a stratagem, her final order for pedition.
his expedition to the North-west coast of AMERICA. Bezborodko, the Minister, although he had received the Empress's order, put him off from time to time, not choosing to advance the money requisite for the different preparations; and Billings began to fear the plan would never be put in execution. In the midst of his despondency, Professor Pallas undertook to make the matter known to the Empress, and advised the Commodore to accompany him to Tsarskoselo. As soon as they arrived, Pallas conducted him to a part of the garden which he knew the Empress would frequent at her usual hour. Here they had not waited long, before she made her appearance. With her usual affability, she entered into conversation with Professor Pallas ; and, after inquiries respecting his health, asked the name of the young officer, his companion. The Professor informed her; adding, “ he is the person whom your Majesty was pleased to appoint, in consequence
recommendation, to the command of the ex- CHAP. pedition destined for the North-west coast of America." And what,” said the Empress, “has delayed his departure ?" “ He waits, at this moment, your Majesty's orders,” replied the Professor. At this the Empress, without any reply, and evidently somewhat ruffled, quickened her pace towards the palace. The next morning the necessary supplies came from the Minister, with orders that he should set out immediately
That the expedition might have been confided to better hands, the public have been since informed, by the Secretary Sauer'. This Professor Pallas lamented to have discovered, when it was too late. But the loss sustained by any incapacity in the persons employed to conduct that expedition, is not equal to that which the public suffered by the sudden recall of the unfortunate Ledyard : this, it is said, Ledgard. would never have happened, but through the jealousy of his own countrymen, whom he chanced to encounter as he was upon the point of quitting the Eastern continent for
(1) See Account of an Expedition to the Northern Parts of Russia, &c. by Martin Sauer, Secretary to the Expedition. 4to. Lond. 1802.
CHAP. America, and who caused the information to
be sent to Petersburg which occasioned the
The gardens of Tsarskoselo are laid out in the English taste; and therefore the only novelty belonging to them is their situation, so far removed from the nation whose customs they pretend to represent.
Barbarous Decoration of the Apartments.
The interior of the building presents a number of spacious and gaudy rooms, fitted up in a style combining a mixture of barbarism and magnificence hardly to be credited. The walls of one of the rooms are entirely covered with fine pictures, by the best of the Flemish, and by other masters. These are fitted together, without frames, so as to cover, on each side, the whole of the wall, without the smallest attention to disposition or general effect. But, to consummate the Vandalism of those who directed the work, when they found a place they could not conveniently fill, the pictures were cut, in order to adapt them to the accidental spaces left vacant. The soldiers of Mummius, at the sacking of Corinth, would have been puzzled to contrive more ingenious destruction of the Fine Arts. Some of Ostade's best works were among the number of those
thus ruined. We were also assured, by authority we shall not venture to name, that a profusion of pictures of the Flemish School were then lying in a cellar of the palace. But the most extraordinary apartment, and that which usually attracts the notice of strangers more than any other, is a room, about thirty feet square, entirely covered, on all sides, from top to bottom, with amber; a lamentable waste of innumerable specimens of a substance which could nowhere have been so ill employed. The effect produces neither beauty nor magnificence. It would have been better expended even in ornamenting the heads of Turkish pipes; a custom which consumes the greatest quantity of this beautiful mineral. The appearance made by it on the walls is dull and heavy. It was a present from the King of Prussia. apartment prepared for Prince Potemkin, the floor was covered with different sorts of exotic wood, interlaid; the expense of which amounted to an hundred roubles for every squared archine. A profusion of gilding appears in many of the other rooms.
The ball-room is an hundred and forty feet long by fifty-two feet wide, and two stories high. The walls and pilasters of another apartment were ornamented with lapis-lazuli, as well as the tables it contained. The Cabinet of Mirrors is a small room lined with large
CHAP. pier-glasses, looking upon a terrace, near which
is a covered gallery above two hundred and sixty feet long. There are various statues about the house and gardens, in marble and in bronze, all without merit. The chapel is entirely of gilded wood, and very richly ornamented.
A small flower-garden leads to the bath; which is ornamented with jasper, agates, and statues and columns of marble. The grotto is also similarly adorned with a number of beautiful minerals, wrought as columns, busts, basreliefs, vases, &c.; among others, there is a vase composed of the precious stones of Siberia. From this grotto is seen a lake, on which appears the rostral column to Orlof; erected by the Empress in honour of the naval victory he obtained over the Turks at Tchesmé.
After we left Tsarskoselo, the snow diminished very fast, and our fears of reaching Moscow upon sledges increased'. But during the night, and part of the morning of the 4th of April,
(1) The carriage-road from Petersburg to Moscow, a distance of near 500 miles, consists, in the summer season, of the trunks of trees laid across. In consequence of the jolting these occasion, it is then one of the most paivful and tedious journeys in Europe.