The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vol. XIV: RussianScandinavianMiscellaneous
By Aleksander Griboyedov (17951829)
From Wo from Wit
FAMUSOV, SKALOZUB, and CHATSKI.
Fam. (to SKALOZUB). I wonder, by the way, how we are related. Theres no legacy for us to fight about, though. Your cousin once told me how you were related to Nastasya Nikolaevna, but I have forgotten.
Fam. What a pity! I would do anything for a relative. Yes, I would hunt the world for a relative, just to find him and do something for him. Why, nearly all my official subordinates are nephews of mine, or some other near relatives. Of course one always thinks of ones family when there is any prospect of promotion or a decoration. But your cousin told me he did very well in the army through you.
Fam. There are plenty of chances hereany quantity of sisters and nieces and daughters to choose from. Oh, yes, all the opportunity you could wish for in Moscow. Yes, Moscow is a wonderful city, you must admit.
Fam. We are governed by good taste here, and by admirable rules and fine old traditions. For instance, there is a venerable custom of judging a man by his father. He may be a good-for-nothing sort of fellow, but if he has a couple of thousand serfs, that makes him an eligible match. Another might have more ability and pride, and that sort of thingwell, let him pass for a clever fellow. But we dont want him in our families. No, no; we have a decent respect for birth. Besides, look at our hospitalityespecially toward foreigners. They are always welcome, whether they have a good reputation or not. You can always tell a Muscovite when you see one. At fifteen or sixteen our youngsters know more than their teachers. As for our old men, you should hear them discuss things. Such wisdom! Such liberality! It would never do for their criticisms of the government to be published. Not that they ever suggest an innovation. Oh, dear, no! They simply find fault with this and that, or with nothing at all. They get warmed up, and make a good fuss, and then go home. Every one of them ought to be a cabinet minister. And the women! There is nothing they cannot do, from playing cards to commanding armies and managing politics. See what admiration the King of Prussia expressed for our girls when he was herefor their accomplishments, not their faces. Show me girls brought up better than ours! They know how to dress in any sort of clothes; they twist their mouths into the proper shape when they speak; they sing French songs, and dwell on the high notes; they are devoted to the military, because they are so patriotic. Yes, I must say it would be difficult to find another capital like Moscow!
Fam. (aside to CHATSKI). Hush! Keep quiet! Cant you remember? (To SKALOZUB.) Allow me to make you acquainted with my friend Chatskithe son of the late Audrey Ilich, you know. He is not in the government service; he does not care about it. It is a pity, too, because he would make a good official. He is a young man of high intelligence, and he writes a good hand, and translates well. I cannot help regretting
Chat. What do I care for their opinions? A lot of old fossils with an invincible hatred against freedom, whose opinions are derived from newspapers dating back to the conquest of the Crimea! They are always ready to find fault; its always the same old song with them; and the older they grow the worse they getonly they never know it. Where are the reverend sires whom we are to look up to as examples? Those who have grown rich by jobbery and corruption, who escape the law through family patronage, who build fine palaces where they live in wasteful luxury? Pray, who is there in Moscow whose mouth has not been shut by dinners, suppers, and balls? Should it be he to whom I was taken as a mere suckling, for some incomprehensible reason, to make humble obeisancesthat arch-scoundrel surrounded by a host of sycophants? They did everything in the world to please him, and more than once saved his honor and his life when he was besotted in his filthy debauches. And then what did he do for them? Gave them up for three dogs! Or that other worthy, who, to gratify a whim, had cart-loads of children torn away from their parents to dance before him in a ballet. Yes, he, and all Moscow, looked on and clapped their hands while the nymphs and cupids danced! But that did not satisfy his creditors. Nymphs and cupids were sold off by degrees, every one of them. And these are the old men whose gray hairs we are to respect, who are to be the arbiters of our conduct and sit in judgment upon us! But if only one of our young men, hating servility, and wanting neither place nor promotion, gives himself up to science or devotes his whole soul to art, immediately they raise the hue and cry against him: Murder! Help! Look at the dangerous dreamer! The uniformthere is nothing beyond the uniform; their horizon is limited by gold braid and brass buttons; and what was good enough for them is good enough for us. And its the same thing with their wives and daughters: Nothing like the uniform!