Page images

and especially the prince, who told me with a sigh, that the true greatness of life was to be master of purselves; that he would not have changed such a state of life as mine, to have been czar of Muscovy; and that he found more felicity in the retirement he seemed to be banished to there, than ever he found in the highest authority he enjoyed in the court of his master the czar: that the heighth of human wisdom was to bring our tempers down to our circumstances, and to make a calm within, under the weight of the greatest storm without. When he came first hither, he said, he used to tear the hair from his head, and the clothes from his back, as others had done before him ; but a little time and confideration had made him look into himself, as well as round himself, to things without : that he found the mind of man, if it was but once brought to reflect upon the state of universal life, and how little this world was concerned in its true felicity, was perfectly capable of making a felicity for itself, fully satisfying to itself, and suitable to its own belt ends and desires, with but very little assistance from the world; that air to breathe in, food to sustain life, clothes for warmth, and liberty for exercise, in order to health, compleated, in his opinion, all that the world could do for us: and though the greatness, the authority, the riches, and the pleasures, which fome enjoyed in the world, and which he had enjoyed his share of, had much in them that was agreeable to us, yet he observed, that all those things chiefly gratified the coarsest of our affections, such as our ambition, our particular pride, our avarice, qur vanity, and our sensuality; all which were,


indeed, the mere product of the worst part


man, were in themselves crimes, and had in them the feeds of all manner of crimes; but neither were related to or concerned with, any of those virtues that consti. tuted us wise men, or of those graces which distinguished us as Christians : that being now deprived of all the fancied felicity, which he enjoyed in the full exercise of all those vices, he said, he was at leisure to look upon the dark side of them, where he found all manner of deformity; and was now convinced, that virtue only makes a man truly wise, rich, and great, and preserves him in the way to a superior happiness in a future state; and in this, he said, they were more happy in their banishment, than all their enemies were, who had the full possession of all the wealth and power that they (the banished) had left behind them.

Nor, Sir, said he, do I bring my mind to this politically, by the necessity of my circumstances, which fome call miserable; but, if I know any thing of myself, I would not go back, no not though my master, the czar, should call me, and offer to reinstate me in all my former grandeur; I say, I would no more go back to it, than I believe


foul when it shall be delivered from this prison of the body and has had a taste of the glorious state beyond life, would come back to the goal of flesh and blood it is now inclosed in, and leave heaven to deal in the dirt and grime of human affairs.

He fpake this with so much warmth in his temper, so much earnestness and motion of his spirits, which were apparent in his countenance, that it was evident it was the true sense of his soul; and, indeed, there was no room to doubt his fincerity.


I told him, I once thought myself a kind of a monarch in my old station, of which I had given him an account, but that I thought he was not a monarch only, but a great conqueror ; for that he that has got a victory over his own exorbitant defires, and has the absolute dominion over himself, and whose reason entirely governs his will, is certainly greater than he that conquers a city. But, my lord, said I, shall I take the liberty to ask you a question ? With all my heart, faid he. If the door

your liberty was opened, said I, would not you take hold of it to deliver yourself from this exile?

Hold, said he, your question is subtle, and requires some serious just distinctions to give it a sincere answer ; and I'll give it you from the bottom of my heart. Nothing that I know of in this world would move me to deliver myself from the state of banishment, except these two : First, the enjoyment of

my relations; and, secondly, a little warmer climate : but I protest to you, that to go back to the pomp of the court, the glory, the power, the hurry of a minister of state; the wealth, the gaiety, and the pleasures, that is to fay, follies of a courtier; if my mas. ter should send me word this moment, that he reitores me to all he banished me from ; I protest, if I know myself at all, I would not leave this wilderness, these desarts, and these frozen lakes, for the palace of Moscow.

But, my lord, said I, perhaps you not only are Banished from the pleasures of the court, and from the power, and authority, and wealth, you enjoyed be. fore, but you may be absent too from some of the conveniencies of life; your estate, perhaps, confiscated,


and your effects plundered ; and the supplies feft you here may not be suitable to the ordinary demands of life.

Ay, said he, that is as you suppose me to be, a lord, or a prince, &c. So, indeed, I am; but you are now to consider me only as a man, an human creature, not at all distinguished from another; and so I can suffer no want, unless I should be visited with fickness and distempers. However, to put the queftion out of dispute ; you see our manner; we are in this place five persons of rank; we live perfectly retired, as suited to a state of banishment; we have fomething rescued from the shipwreck of our fortunes, which keeps us from the mere necessity of hunting for our food; but the poor soldiers who are here, without that help, live in as much plenty as we. They go into the woods, and catch sables and foxes ; the labour of a month will maintain them a year ; and as the way of living is not expensive, so it is not hard to get susficient to ourselves : So that objection is out of doors.

I have no room to give a full account of the most agreeable conversation I had with this truly great man; in all which he shewed, that his mind was so inspired with a superior knowledge of things, so supported by religion, as well as by a vast share of wifdom, that his contempt of the world was really as much as he had expressed, and that he was always the fame to the last, as will appear in the story I ain going to tell.

I had been here eight months, and a dark dreadful sinter I thought it to be; the cold was so intense,


[ocr errors]

that I could not so much as look abroad without being wrapt in furs, and a mask of fur before my face, or rather a hood, with only an hole for breath, and two for fight. The little day-light we had, was, as we reckoned, for three months, not above five hours a day, and fix at molt; only that the snow lying on the ground continually, and the weather being clear, it was never quite dark. Our horses were kept (or rather starved) under-ground; and, as, for our servants (for we hired fervants here to look after our horses and ourselves), we had every now and then their fingers and toes to thaw, and take care of, left they should mortify and fall off.

It is true, within doors we were warm, the houses being close, the walls thick, the lights small, and the glass all double. Our food was chiefly the fleih of deer, dried and cured in the season; good bread enough, but baked as biscuits ; dried fish of several forts, and fome flesh of mutton, and of buffaloes, which is pretty good beef. All the store of provision for the winter are laid up in the summer, and well cured ; our drink was water mixed with aqua vitæ instead of brandy; and, for a treat, mead instead of wine ; which, however, they have excellent good. The hunters, who ventured abroad all weathers, frequently brought us in fresh venison, very fat and good; and fometimes bears flesh, but we did not much care for the last. We had a good stock of tea, with which we treated our friends as above; and, in a word, we lived very chearfully and well, all things considered.

It was now March, and the days grown confiderably longer, and the weather at least tolerable; so


« PreviousContinue »