Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 979 pages of information about Russia.
of which most of the ladies take part—­and silently play “Preference,” “Yarolash,” or Bridge.  Those who for some reason are obliged to be alone can amuse themselves with “Patience,” in which no partner is required.  In the other games the stakes are commonly very small, but the sittings are often continued so long that a player may win or lose two or three pounds sterling.  It is no unusual thing for gentlemen to play for eight or nine hours at a time.  At the weekly club dinners, before coffee had been served, nearly all present used to rush off impatiently to the card-room, and sit there placidly from five o’clock in the afternoon till one or two o’clock in the morning!  When I asked my friends why they devoted so much time to this unprofitable occupation, they always gave me pretty much the same answer:  “What are we to do?  We have been reading or writing official papers all day, and in the evening we like to have a little relaxation.  When we come together we have very little to talk about, for we have all read the daily papers and nothing more.  The best thing we can do is to sit down at the card-table, where we can spend our time pleasantly, without the necessity of talking.”

In addition to the daily papers, some people read the monthly periodicals—­big, thick volumes, containing several serious articles on historical and social subjects, sections of one or two novels, satirical sketches, and a long review of home and foreign politics on the model of those in the Revue des Deux Mondes.  Several of these periodicals are very ably conducted, and offer to their readers a large amount of valuable information; but I have noticed that the leaves of the more serious part often remain uncut.  The translation of a sensation novel by the latest French or English favourite finds many more readers than an article by an historian or a political economist.  As to books, they seem to be very little read, for during all the time I lived in Novgorod I never discovered a bookseller’s shop, and when I required books I had to get them sent from St. Petersburg.  The local administration, it is true, conceived the idea of forming a museum and circulating library, but in my time the project was never realised.  Of all the magnificent projects that are formed in Russia, only a very small percentage come into existence, and these are too often very short-lived.  The Russians have learned theoretically what are the wants of the most advanced civilisation, and are ever ready to rush into the grand schemes which their theoretical knowledge suggests; but very few of them really and permanently feel these wants, and consequently the institutions artificially formed to satisfy them very soon languish and die.  In the provincial towns the shops for the sale of gastronomic delicacies spring up and flourish, whilst shops for the sale of intellectual food are rarely to be met with.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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