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cellent engineer, general Bawr, passing through Riga, met by chance with the collection of tales already noticed. The name caught his immediate attention; he started, and enquiring particulars respecting the author, learned to his no small surprise that it was the same Kotzebue who then laboured, under him, at a very different species of employment. He purchased the book, brought it back with him to Petersburgh, and one day at table produced it unexpectedly. The colour that instantly rose in my face betrayed me, and the applause I received on this occasion blew the embers, still smothering in my bosom, again into a blaze.
By degrees I resumed the delightful occupation of devoting my leisure hours, which indeed were but few, to my old literary pursuits. A German theatre had been for some little time established at Petersburgh, but on a very indifferent footing. A lady, of the name of Teller, was the only one among the performers who possessed any real talents for the stage. The next in rank to her, for ability, was Fiala : a specimen sufficient to give an idea of their general mediocrity. The receipts of the house were very small, and the whole institution was on the point of falling to the ground, when the intriguing Fiala ap-. plied to general Bawr, intreating him, as a German, to take it under his protection, and to use his influence with the Czarina for procuring its enrollment among her imperial theatres. This was accordingly done ; Bawr undertook the direction himself, and from that moment I was restored to my own element.
I wrote a tragedy, in five acts, called · Demetrius, Czar of Moscow,' taken from the well-known story of the ve or false Demetrius, who, according to report, was murdered as a child at Uglitsch, but who afterwards appeared, supported by the Poles, and dethroned the traitor Boris Godunow. The world needs not now to be informed, that the best historians are divided upon the question whether or not this Deme.
trius was an impostor? A strong prejudice was at least awakened in his favour, from the woman, who was undoubted mother to the child supposed to have been murdered, bursting into an agony of tears, in the midst of a numerous assembly of the people, at beholding the adventurer, as he was called, and with the wildest effusions of joy acknowledging him as her
It is however, alas ! but too certain, that policy has often engaged even maternal tenderness in its interest, and those tears might not improbably be artificially shed by Maria Feodorowna, from hatred to the usurper, and a desire of revenging herself by contributing in any way to his downfalĩ. Be this as it may, I did not like, in my capacity of tragedian, to produce an impostor as the hero of my piece, and accordingly I supported his being really the dethroned prince.
When my drama was completed, I read it to a small but chosen circle. The then Prussian ambassador at the Russian court, and the president of the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Petersburgh, men of acknowledged and distinguished taste in literature, were among my audience. The piece was approved, probably more from the indulgence of my hearers than from its own merit. Such, at least, is the impression I now have upon the subject, as I should by no means venture at present to bring it upon the stage. General Bawr ordered it to be immediately performed, and very splendid dresses and decorations, after the old Russian costume, were prepared for it.
As the Czarina had consigned the entire management of the theatre to Bawr, he thought his own fiat sufficient, and that it was unnecessary to lay the manuscript before the theatrical censor. But this piece of negligence nearly proved the overthrow of all my transports. As the intended day of representation approached, and had been announced in the publiç prints, the governor of the police sent one morning to the theatre, prohibiting the performance. Fiala, thunderstruck, hastened to general Bawr, and the general to the governor, to assure him that my tragedy was perfectly inoffensive. But this signified little. It appeared, that Peter the Great had issued an ukase, expressly declaring Demetrius an impostor; and this being still in force, was more incontestible evidence against him, than the tears of his mother were in his favour. In vain did I urge, that I was wholly ignorant of the existence of such an ukase : it was still asked how I dared in the very face of an imperial decree, to present my hero to the public under the title of Czar of Moscow.'
Esteem and consideration for general Bawr, however, at length removed even this difficulty, and the governor of the police consented to the representation of my play, yet not without previously sending an officer to me with an injunction to make such alterations, as that Demetrius should be publicly unmasked, and displayed before all the people in his true character of an impostor. Mortified to the last degree at the idea of thus mutilating my offspring, I represented to the officer that the piece might as well be thrown at once into the fire ; but
my remonstrances were of no avail, he resolutely insisted that this trifling alteration should be made. My only resource was in another application to the general, who once more stood my friend, and finally procured a compromise of the matter. The performance of the piece, as I had written it, was permitted, on condition of my making, in my own person, a solemn declaration that I was firmly convinced of Demetrius' imposture; and in representing the matter otherwise in my play, had only been guilty of a poetical licence.
All obstacles being thus at last removed, my unfortunate tragedy was performed before a numerous audience, whose curiosity was considerably increased by so many demurs. It was received with an applause, to which the forbearance generally practised towards youth could alone give me any pretension.
Soon after I wrote a comedy, "The Nun and the Chambermaid,' that proved extremely successful, though from a very different cause. The abolition of convents, in which Joseph the Second was then deeply engaged, and the blockade of the Dutch fleet in the Texel by an English squadron, furnished materials for the plot; and much as these events attracted the public attention, a piece founded on them could scarcely fail to please. Added to this, it was beyond all comparison better played than ‘Demetrius.'
A short time before, some author from Vienna, I know not his name, had written a comedy, which had the good fortune to please the Czarina, and she testified her approbation by making him a handsome present. I therefore expected that count Cobentzel, the imperial ambassador at Petersburgh, would have taken this opportunity of returning her majesty's compliment, nor did the idea originate solely in my own silly vanity, since he had expressed a wish to be allowed a copy for the theatre at Vienna. This re. quest I thought would not admit of any other construction than such an intended compliment, as the innate worth of the thing would by no means authorise it; and I therefore eagerly put into his hands the only copy I had reserved for myself. But never to this moment have I heard another word upon the subject. Perhaps my patron's death, which happened shortly after, was the principal cause of this silence ; since now the same publicity could not have attended any act of munificence shewn upon the occasion. In short, one copy of my play was thus lost, and the prompter soon after running away with that belonging to the theatre, I was wholly and entirely deprived of the babe. This was undoubtedly a matter of small importance, and I mention it only, lest the manuscript should fall into the hands of any of our gain-thirsty booksellers, who might, unless warned against it, consign it without mercy to his press. Should such be the case, I here enter my solemn protest against its publication.
I now engaged in an undertaking which proved of considerable utility, though attended with little trouble. Among the vast throng of periodical works that inundate Germany, a very small number then made their way to Petersburgh, and even they were little read : indeed, to own the truth, a few numbers excepted, they contained little worth attention. What things did merit perusal I therefore selected, and printe them monthly in a good sized pamphlet. Several volumes of this work, which after my departure was continued by another editor, have appeared, and been favourably received at Petersburgh, as well as in some of the provinces. In this work, besides several unpublished essays of my own, I inserted some specimens of “The Sufferings of the Family of Ortenberg;' a romance on which I was then employed.
In the year 1782, some of my friends who had in. Auence at court, had fixed their minds on establishing me in a post, to which they thought it would prove a strong recommendation in my favour, were I to write a volume of moral tales and fables for young princes, and dedicate it to the grand duke's son. Never have ing felt within myself any propensity to this species of poetry, I hesitated much about such an undertaking ; but since it was to serve as a vehicle for future promotion, I at length resolved to make the experiment.
I immediately mentioned the idea to my publisher at Petersburgh, a worthy man, but who, not being a person of great talents himself, regarded what little I possessed with a degree of enthusiasm. He engaged, without a moment's hesitation, not only to take my fábles, but to publish them in a very splendid manner, and had scarcely patience to wait for beginning to print till I had properly corrected the first sheets. He came to me daily, and at last almost seized upon the copy, and sent it off to the press. The fables were printed on the finest vellum paper, with a