Friday, October 28, 2011

We came to Abo, on the coast of Finland

Imagine it! We land under cover of the night; three men of heathenish aspect drive three horses with shaggy manes, lengthy tails, and vixenish steps, having over their several backs a sort of yoke turned wrong side up, which increases their dangerous appearance, and attached to three little, light, rickety contrivances called droskeys. Seven expectant individuals dispose themselves variously in these villainous vehicles, in momentary danger of capsizing. The paragon of captains utters an authoritative sentence in the unclassic Finnish tongue; when, presto! we are off, at furious speed, with frightful clatter, over the stony street. Our wiry, fiery, little steeds stay not for break, stop not for stone, but rush us through the Abo streets in a manner calculated to make one sick with jolting, insane with fear, or gleeful to excess, according to his humor. Ours was the last, and the glimmering gas-lights cast the shadows of a mad-cap company as we raced up the steep streets, past the low, yellow, plastered houses standing in unvarying lines on either side, and onward to the ball.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wyborg Bible Society is held, speeches are delivered in German, in Finnish, and in Russian

We reached the town of Wyborg, 140 versts from St. Petersburg, about one o'clock, to dinner. Wyborg is quite unlike Russia in its appearance: indeed, as soon as one enters Finland, a higher degree of civilization is very perceptible. Wyborg is a small port, strongly fortified with bastions of irregular masses of granite and dry ditches. The houses are well constructed, exactly in the Swedish mode of building; being of wood, painted of a darkred colour, and the windows four square. It has 5000 inhabitants, three Lutheran churches, one Russian church, one Catholic church, and a Gymnasium, which is attended by about fifty students, with eight teachers: they have a district school, in which there are five teachers and seventy scholars; also two elementary schools for the lower classes. Children of the better classes, here, as in Russia, are educated at home, by private teachers. When the anniversary of the Wyborg Bible Society is held, speeches are delivered in German, in Finnish, and in Russian.

Robert Pinkerton: Russia; or, Miscellaneous observations on the past and present state of that...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Depressed feeling is generally true of the Finlanders

I met to-day a young gentleman from Finland. He had come over to make inquiries of Mr. Siljestrom, in regard to the improvements he had brought back from America in the school-system.

He said that the young Russian Emperor was beginning to be in favour of popular schools ; and some of those interested were trying now to find what had been done elsewhere. At present, they have nothing in Finland of value in institutions of popular education. A progress, however, was beginning. It is well known, though this gentleman did not state it, that it is the policy of the Russian Government now to encourage the Finnish national spirit, in order to counterbalance any attachment towards their old masters or countrymen, the Swedes. For this object, the revival of the old Finnish literature, of such poems as the Kalewala and the Kantelitar, has met with great favour from the Russian authority. The great Finnish University, as is well known, has been removed from Abo to Helsingfors, where it can be more directly under Russian influence, and at present no Swedish is allowed in the language of instruction. This process of Russianizing goes very skilfully on, year by year. The nobles are enticed by honours to Russia ; the offices in Finland are filled by Russians, and the peasants made to forget as much as possible their old connection with Sweden. From all accounts, these efforts are succeeding. The peasantry is becoming attached to the government. Russia has never kept, of course, her promises in regard to States Assemblies with local powers in Finland ; but she is now forced by the spirit of the age to do something for popular education.

This gentleman, like all the Finlanders I have met, was very guarded; yet you could not help remarking a certain depressed or sad expression, both in his appearance and in the few words he said of political matters.

My friends say this depressed feeling is generally true of the Finlanders. You instinctively know it is the shadow of despotism.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A distinguished Finlander, going to London

It is related of him, that upon one occusion a distinguished Finlander, going to London, availed himself of that opportunity to visit Swedenborg, who was residing there at the time. Being ushered into the reception room, and informed that Swedenborg already had company with him, he was left alone to await his coming. As he had taken his seat near the inner door, he could not avoid hearing the lively conversation which was passing within the adjoining room, accompanied with the sound of footsteps pacing up and down the floor. The conversation was in Latin, and respecting the antiquities of Rome, a subject in which the young stranger was deeply interested. He was surprised, however, to observe that the conversation was carried on throughout with only one voice speaking, between pauses of longer or shorter duration, during which the speaker seemed to obtain satisfactory answers, and was incited to new enquiries. While tho stranger remained absorbed in both the manner aud the subject-matter of the conversation, the door opened, and Swedenborg, passing him with a friendly salutation, conducted his imaginary visitant out of the opposite door with many bows, all the while expressing in fluent Latin, the gratification the visit had afforded him, and begging an early repetition of it. This leave-taking over, he approached the Finlander with much cordiality, saying, "Excuse me for making you wait! I had, as you observed, a visitor." The stranger, embarrassed, answered, " Yes, I observed it." "And can you guess whom?" asked Swedenborg. "Impossible," replied the other. "Only think, my dear sir, Virgil! and so you know he is a fine and pleasant fellow. I have always had a good opinion of the man, and he deserves it. He is as modest as he is witty, and most agreeably entertaining." Although this singular interview impressed the Finlander with the belief that he was conversing with an insane man, he afterwards visited him several times, and perceived nothing extraordinary excepting his monstrous mental resources and learning.

Monday, October 3, 2011

He going to make me queen of Finland

Their supper was the feast of two girls. Carol was in the dining-room, in a frock of black satin edged with gold, and Bea, in blue gingham and an apron, dined in the kitchen; but the door was open between, and Carol was inquiring, "Did you see any ducks in Dahl's window?" and Bea chanting, "No, ma'am. Say, ve have a svell time, dis afternoon. Tina she have coffee and knackebrod, and her fella vos dere, and ve yoost laughed and laughed, and her fella say he vos president and he going to make me queen of Finland, and Ay stick a fedder in may hair and say Ay bane going to go to var—oh, ve vos so foolish and ve LAUGH so!"
Sinclair Lewis: Main Street

Frozen Lapland, rude and churlish Finland

 I never addressed myself, in the language of decency and friendship, to a woman, whether civilized or savage, without receiving a decent an...