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WERE I to attempt fully to express my sense of the distinguished honour conferred upon me, by your gracious permission to dedicate the following pages to Your MAJESTY, I should be compelled to make use of language that might appear fulsome. I will, therefore, abstain from employing phrases that have been applied so often and so indiscriminately as to lose all meaning, and confine myself to observing, that, colossal as the power of Russia is, she offers little at present to excite the envy of Great Britain.

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The Sovereign, also, of a free and generous people, may contemplate without jealousy the power of an Autocrat, however boundless. If, therefore, I have occasionally paid the homage of admiration to those great and enlightened monarchs who have wielded the sceptre over so many millions with a benevolent despotism, what has been uttered in their praise will, I trust, recommend me more than whole pages of compliment addressed to Your MAJESTY. Justly, indeed, should I deserve Your MAJESTY'S contempt, could I for one moment conceive that aught of tribute to the memory of ALEXANDER THE FIRST could be unpleasing to the ear of GEORGE THE FOURTH.

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I have the honour to remain,

With every sentiment of the most profound respect,
SIRE,

Your MAJESTY'S

Most devoted Subject and Servant,

WILLIAM RAE WILSON.

PREFACE.

NOTWITHSTANDING that the two capitals of Russia have been frequently described, I have been induced to lay before the public my own observations, trusting that these sketches of them will be found to contain many particulars that have been passed by without notice by other travellers. In fact, the improvements that have taken place at St. Petersburg during the reign of Alexander, and the renovation of Moscow, have tended to render preceding descriptions obsolete; while those who have more recently visited these places, have, by no means, described them so fully as to supersede any occasion for similar works. Neither do I myself pretend to have supplied their omissions; yet I may, perhaps, be allowed to say, that I have contributed a few gleanings to the common stock of our information relative to Russia, a country daily becoming more important and interesting

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to the rest of Europe, whether it be with regard to amicable or hostile relations.

PREFACE.

In the Appendix will be found several unedited letters of Mary Queen of Scots, and other distinguished characters, copied, with all possible accuracy, from the originals in the Imperial Library at St. Petersburg; which will, I flatter myself, be found an acceptable and interesting addition to the work. I was likewise careful in collecting information relative to the Bible Society; and have, moreover, incorporated in the narrative many circumstances relative to events subsequent to my journey.

Whatever be the imperfections imputed to this work, I can conscientiously assert, that I have uniformly endeavoured to adhere to the truth, whether favourable or otherwise; and if, on certain occasions, I have spoken strongly on some parts of the system of government in Russia, and been obliged to censure, in no measured terms, the gross superstition which seems to prevail among the mass of the population; if I regard, at once, with wonder and regret, the solicitude taken to repress public opinion, that surest monitor, and least treacherous counsellor of sovereigns; I am very far

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from wishing to assert, that the people of Russia deserve all the reproaches with which English travellers have loaded them.

In the same breath we declare the Russians to be semi-barbarians, and furiously inveigh against them because we do not find them models of perfection; we are determined to note down only their faults, and then abuse them because we do not bring home a catalogue of virtues. Let us rather keep in view that the latter and virtues they assuredly have, arise not from the excellence, but in spite of the defects of their institutions. Patriotism is unquestionably a noble sentiment; but I will not denominate that patriotism which displays itself only in depreciating others - that hateful spirit, which would pass its ban upon all beyond its own narrow pale.

In conclusion I would remark, that the more Russia advances in civilization and arts, and in proportion as her civil and political institutions shall be improved, so will the happiness and welfare of millions be increased. Much, indeed, must first be done; but I trust that there will be found sufficient energy and virtue to promote such a cause; and may he who is styled the Autocrat of all the Russias, deserve the appellation

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