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the tents of some roving Tartars. It seems to be precisely that kind of country which is described by Della Cella as surrounding the Great Syrtis in Africa. It has all the appearance of having been at some time or other covered by the waters of the Caspian. Pallas and Gmelin, indeed, were strongly disposed to think that the Caspian must at one time have communicated with the sea of Azof-and said, none could think otherwise who looked to the low and sandy plain that stretches between the two seas, its saline plants, its soil impregnated with salt, and the abundance of shells peculiar to the Caspian Sea. If the union in question ever existed, however, it must have been at a period antecedent to all history; for Herodotus describes these regions just as we now find them. Nothing, we believe, but damming up the Strait of Constantinople could unite the Caspian and the Black Sea ; and this would do more than that—it would convert the great southern steppe of Russia into one vast ocean.
Various conjectures concerning the Caspian have, in ancient as well as modern times, exercised the ingenuity of man. thought by the ancients, who were little acquainted with the effect produced by evaporation,* that a sea into which the waters of the mighty Volga, the Kuma, the Terek, the Cyrus or Kour, the Qural, and various minor streams, were constantly pouring, would necessarily overflow the low and flat parts of the surrounding country, unless there were some outlet for the water to escape; and thus, although Herodotus had given a sufficiently accurate description of the Caspian as an inland sea, unconnected with any other, † yet Strabo, five hundred years afterwards, was persuaded that it communicated with the Northern Ocean by a narrow strait : Pliny, indeed, adopted the same opinion, and it prevailed even in the days of Justinian. In more modern times, the Caspian has been supposed by some to be connected with the Palus Mootis, by others with the Persian Gulf, and by a third set again with the Black Sea, by subterraneous passages : we have been told that at the mouth which is supposed to open in the last-mentioned sea, is found a species of sea-weed that grows only on the shores of the Caspian; and the same thing has been said of leaves and branches of plants appearing at certain seasons in the Persian Gulf, that grow only on the southern shores of the Caspian near Ghilan and Mazanderan. † The Black Sea theorists add that, near the Cas
The same opinion prevailed in more modern times. • Considering,' says Herbert, how that these mighty rivers are incessantly vomiting their full-gorged watery stomachs into it (the Caspian), in reason it may be granted, that it would overflow its banks, did it not as well empty as receive; for that is but a weak assertion that the sun attracts equally by vapours to that excess water which is poured in.'--Herbert's Travels. + Herod. Clio.
I The voyagers Struys and P. Avril, and also Kæmpfer, suppose these gulfs of communication to exist.
pian vortex of this supposed passage, a species of fish is caught peculiar to the Euxine. Even Gibbon, in describing the shores of the Phasis, talks of the hollowness of the ground appearing to indicate the subterraneous channels between the Euxine and the Caspian.' There is a story which has run the round of the geographical dictionaries, and is erroneously attributed in them to Athanasius Kircher, which says that, in olden time, a fish was taken from the Caspian Sea with a golden ring about its tail, whereupon men read this inscription—Mithridates mihi dabat in urbe Sinope libertatem et hoc donum.' Such a story might well be considered worthy of Kircher, a man of much learning but small sense, and strangely deficient in the faculty of discriminating truth from fiction. He has, however, fables enough of his own, and should not be saddled with this story; though, indeed, he borrows a legend not unlike it from Abulhassen, showing how a certain bashaw of Suez, having caught a dolphin of monstrous size, fixed a plate of brass to the branchiæ of the animal, with this inscription in Arabic letters - Amed Abdalla Bassa Suez tibi vitam unà cum hoc munere donavit, anno Hegiræ, 720'—and how this same dolphin was afterwards caught near Damietta, in the Mediterranean.*
Dismissing these puerilities, we may observe that, according to a very general opinion, the waters of the Caspian have long been on the decrease : and this on the whole accords with the observation of the Chevalier Gamba—who mentions some facts that give colour to another idea, namely, that there are certain periodical variations in the increase and decrease of its waters. He tells us that, no longer ago than four years, vessels drawing eighteen feet water navigated places which at present will admit of none drawing more than fifteen; that, not many years ago, the walls of Bakou were washed by the waves of the Caspian, from which they are now so distant, that the imperial navy no longer frequents as usual that bay, + but anchors at the island of Sara ; that new islands, one of them several miles in length, have appeared at a distance from the western shore. We are further informed that, about a century ago, at the mouth of the Terek, there was a town on an island in the sea, of the name of Toumin, which is at present covered by the waves; but the most extraordinary statement, and that which would prove the variations' in the increase and decrease of the Caspian beyond a doubt, if true, is, that some time ago there appeared above the surface of the water, more than two versts from the shore, the summit of a building,
Ath. Kircheri Mundus Subterraneus, lib ii. cap. 13. + It is stated by Hanway, that in his time (now nearly eighty years ago) 'ships can be moored head and stern forty fuihoms off shure.'
the lower parts of which have by degrees emerged from the water to such an extent that the edifice is now ascertained to have been a vast caravansera.
How greatly it is to be regretted that, during M. Gamba's stay at Bakou, a fever, which had seized his son and his interpreter, should have prevented him from obtaining ocular proof of the existence of le caravanserail découvert par les eaux, et les îles nouvelles'! Of the existence of the former of them we must take leave to express our doubt, till the information comes in a less questionable shape: we suspect it is nothing more than the repetition of an old story told to Jonas Hanway, that the tops of houses might yet be seen where the water is several feet deep.' And as to the islands, here the explanation is easy enough, when we remember the shifting and accumulation of the vast quantities of mud and sand brought down by the Volga, the Qural, and other large rivers, and the violent storms that sometimes agitate the Caspian Sea.
It may, too, happen,-nay, undoubtedly does happen, that the quantity of water thrown in by these rivers in different years, and the quantity of the evaporation, are not so nicely balanced as to preserve the surface at one uniform level; as, indeed, is proved by the fact of that level being highest in winter, or early spring, when the evaporation is least, and the influx of water greatest; and lowest in dry summers like that which is just passed, when the evaporation is greatest and the influx of water least.
But we believe we have exhausted our limits. If any one should think it impossible, that forty thousand persons, of forty different modes of faith-Jews, Christians, Mahomedans, and Pagans—ever could be found living together under the same government, and in the same town, each worshipping the Deity after his own manner, all tolerated, nay protected, by one presiding nation, and all tolerating each other, without hatred, or malice, or uncharitableness, on the score of their respective religious opinions—let the sceptic go to Astrachan. He will there find Russians, Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Hindoos, Calmucks, Cossacks, Mongols, Chinese, Bucharians, Turcomans, Poles, Germans, Italians; in short, representatives of every nation and every horde, from the wildest steppe of Asia to the most civilized kingdoms of Europe—and among the rest, three English, or rather Scotch families, sent by the Bible Society of London to convert the Bucharians, Calmucks, &c., to the Christian faith. For this end,' says M. Gamba, they distribute Bibles translated into the languages of these different peoples ; but the greater number, unable to read, can make no use of them, and those who can read are hardly disposed to change their creed for a religion deprived of all ceremony and exterior worship.' Mr. Henderson says, in substance, nearly the same thing :—Sometimes they found VOL. XXXV. NO. LXX.
few of the inhabitants at home; at others, those whom they did meet would scarcely listen to them. Sometimes they treated their message with mockery and scorn, hooted them with the utmost rudeness, and ordered them away.' And yet it is stated by both our authors, that these Scotch families inhabit, (we need not say at whose expense,) 'beyond comparison, the best-looking house in Astrachan !'*-Nobody can attach importance to the coldness with which professed proselyte-makers may happen to be received anywhere. But perhaps we ought to distinguish from the state of general harmony we have been applauding, two sects of Christians—the Rascolnicks, a kind of Russian Roundheads, and the Roman Catholics, whose priests are here, as they too often are elsewhere, ignorant, bigoted, and intolerant. Both these sects bear a hatred, plusquam theologicum, towards the established Greek church.
We cannot conclude without saying that the perusal of these two works, from the pens of two apparently impartial and dispassionate men, who have no grievances to complain of, no angry and disappointed feelings to gratify, no favour to ask or expect, and, in short, no other objects in view than the promulgation of truth, (always excepting that little share of vanity which attaches, more or less, to authorship,) must, we think, leave on the mind of the dispassionate reader an impression eminently favourable to the character of the Russian government.
So little does there appear of the exercise of what Englishmen think of when they hear the mention of despotic power-jealousy, and unnecessary interference in private concerns--that, on the contrary, a spirit of forbearance, of kindness, and consideration, is everywhere manifested towards those who have sought protection under the imperial crown—whether it be to those hordes of barbarians which, in thousands and tens of thousands, have intruded themselves, most inconveniently sometimes, into parts of the Russian territory already occupied by Russian subjects, or to those restless and infatuated beings, whom disordered imaginations concerning points of religion would not permit to remain quiet in more civilized countries.
The government of Russia is no doubt arbitrary and despotic; but, as in Denmark, where the subjects are almost proverbially happy, the despotism is a mitigated and a mild one.
It is one also in which the abuse of power carries with it its own corrective. Much unquestionably depends on the personal character of the sovereign; but he cannot, if so inclined, long play the tyrant with impunity. A Russian of high rank, being present at a conversation in England, which turned upon the unceremonious manner in which they get rid of an obnoxious autocrat in Russia, * This useless mission, we believe, has since been abandoned.
is said to have sottovoce observed, 'It is very natural for you to disapprove of it; but we consider it as our Magna Charta.' Russia has shown, indeed, that she has no wish, like the two great Mahomedan states of Turkey and Persia, to keep her subjects in a state of hopeless slavery and stupid ignorance: she is, on the contrary, proceeding, with a rapidity that could hardly be expected, to alleviate, with the view of eventually abolishing, the one—and, with a liberality almost unexampled, to afford the means of enlightening the other, by the endowing of free schools for the children of the poorer citizens and the military, in every city and town throughout the empire-while excellent seminaries for the higher classes, at which the superior branches of education may be had at a trifling cost, are also to be found everywhere encouraged and protected by the government. The spiritual schools, as Mr. Henderson calls those for the education of the clergy, are perhaps too numerous and educate too many students. The papas, or parish priests, are miserably poor, and the number of churches is far beyond what can be required for the purposes of religion. It can scarcely be necessary, for instance, that a town of twenty or thirty thousand inhabitants, not half of them Russians, should have fifty or sixty churches, and yet such is often the case. There is nothing, perhaps, more detrimental to the cause of true religion than to see its teachers degraded in their circumstances below the bulk of their fellow-citizens, whom it is their office to instruct. The same remark as to numbers may be applied to the military schools, as means for recruiting the army. In fact, the church and the army of Russia absorb a far larger portion of the population than sound policy would seem to warrant; and the stop which has been put to General Aratcheef's plans of military colonization would appear to show, that-in regard to one of these departments, at least the imperial government have perceived, and are anxious to amend, the evil.
ART. IV.-1. English Synonymes discriminated. By W. Taylor,
jun., of Norwich. 12mo. London. 1813. pp. 294. 2. English Synonymes explained in Alphabetical Order; with
copious Ilustrations and Eramples, drawn from the best Writers. By George Crabb, A.M., &c. 8vo. London.
Third Edition. 1824. THE THE field of synonymy, in England, has been but little culti
vated; it displays, indeed, few flowers, and, it may be thought, promises still fewer fruits to repay the cultivator; but a nicer examination will prove that the flowers, like those of the grass2 D 2