Philobiblon: A new blog and a new name

Friday, January 20, 2006

A new blog and a new name

... well both new to me anyway.

Winter Evenings, or Lucubrations on Life and Letters, being posted by Radgeek, is what she has labelled a "retroblog", being the words of the Rev. Vicesimus Knox (1752-1821).

It seems to consist - well has so far anyway - of those literate, neat, what you might call Ciceronian, formal essays, which you seldom see today.

Here, very neatly, is an essay about the appropriate form for an essay:

Every mode of introducing an air of novelty has been tried by the periodical writers. Allegories, Diaries, Eastern Tales, Little Novels, Letters from Correspondents, Humour, Irony, Argument, and Declamation, have been used to vary the form of conveying periodical instruction. These contrivances were successful, till the repetition of the same modes of diversification caused a nausea.

Well worth checking out ... and I think the "retroblog" term is also well worth adopting ...

Meanwhile today my own retroblogger, Francis Williams Wynn, is reporting on the accounts she heard of the death of the Russian Emperor Paul I (son of Catherine the Great), recollections occasioned by the death of his successor, Alexander I. It was a bloody, chaotic scene:

Paul resisted stoutly, attempted to conceal himself, &c.; and they seem to have hacked him most cruelly. At last Beningsen and Ouwarow took the sash of one of the sentinels on duty and closed the scene by strangling him, but not till he had received some tremendous blows on the head, and not till one of them (Beningsen, I think) had trampled upon him, and had with his sharp spurs inflicted two wounds in his stomach.

Her account seems to be based in part on the accounts of two English governesses at the court, a Mrs Browne and a Miss Kennedy, who had a pretty scary time of it:

Miss Kennedy with her young charge slept in the room immediately over that of the Emperor : she heard the violent uproar (' row,' Lord Dillon called it), trembled, quaked, got the infant out of its own bed into hers, and with him in her arms lay expecting some horrible event. This dreadful interval lasted more than an hour, when Madame de Lieven (the mother of the Prince Lieven who was ambassador in England, and then grande maitresse of the Empress) rushed half dressed into the room, and desired Miss Kennedy to bring the Grand Duke to his mother instantly, if she wished to save his life and her own.

Miss Williams Wynn's account seems to square broadly with this account of the life of Paul, which says of his death:

On the night of March 12, 1801, Pahlen, Count Bennigsen, and the Zubov brothers Nikolai and Platon entered the Mikhailovski Castle with the assistance of a co-conspirator, an unfaithful aide-de-camp of Paul's. They found the tsar's bed empty. The conspirators, who were drunk, found their head of state hiding behind a screen in his chamber. In an alcohol induced frenzy, they proceeded to murder the man to whom they had sworn their loyalty. Thus died Pavl Petrovich Romanov, who left the world in circumstances as lacking in love as his entrance.


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