1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dashkov, Catherina Romanovna Vorontsov, Princess

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DASHKOV, CATHERINA ROMANOVNA VORONTSOV, Princess (1744–1810), Russian littérateur, was the third daughter of Count Roman Vorontsov, a member of the Russian senate, distinguished for his intellectual gifts. (For the family see Vorontsov.) She received an exceptionally good education, having displayed from a very early age the masculine ability and masculine tastes which made her whole career so singular. She was well versed in mathematics, which she studied at the university of Moscow, and in general literature her favourite authors were Bayle, Montesquieu, Boileau, Voltaire and Helvetius. While still a girl she was connected with the Russian court, and became one of the leaders of the party that attached itself to the grand duchess (afterwards empress) Catherine. Before she was sixteen she married Prince Mikhail Dashkov, a prominent Russian nobleman, and went to reside with him at Moscow. In 1762 she was at St Petersburg and took a leading part, according to her own account the leading part, in the coup d’état by which Catherine was raised to the throne. (See Catherine II.) Another course of events would probably have resulted in the elevation of the Princess Dashkov’s elder sister, Elizabeth, who was the emperor’s mistress, and in whose favour he made no secret of his intention to depose Catherine. Her relations with the new empress were not of a cordial nature, though she continued devotedly loyal. Her blunt manners, her unconcealed scorn of the male favourites that disgraced the court, and perhaps also her sense of unrequited merit, produced an estrangement between her and the empress, which ended in her asking permission to travel abroad. The cause of the final breach was said to have been the refusal of her request to be appointed colonel of the imperial guards. Her husband having meanwhile died, she set out in 1768 on an extended tour through Europe. She was received with great consideration at foreign courts, and her literary and scientific reputation procured her the entrée to the society of the learned in most of the capitals of Europe. In Paris she secured the warm friendship and admiration of Diderot and Voltaire. She showed in various ways a strong liking for England and the English. She corresponded with Garrick, Dr Blair and Principal Robertson; and when in Edinburgh, where she was very well received, she arranged to entrust the education of her son to Principal Robertson. In 1782 she returned to the Russian capital, and was at once taken into favour by the empress, who strongly sympathized with her in her literary tastes, and specially in her desire to elevate Russ to a place among the literary languages of Europe. Immediately after her return the princess was appointed “directeur” of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences; and in 1784 she was named the first president of the Russian Academy, which had been founded at her suggestion. In both positions she acquitted herself with marked ability. She projected the Russian dictionary of the Academy, arranged its plan, and executed a part of the work herself. She edited a monthly magazine; and wrote at least two dramatic works, The Marriage of Fabian, and a comedy entitled Toissiokoff. Shortly before Catherine’s death the friends quarrelled over a tragedy which the princess had allowed to find a place in the publications of the Academy, though it contained revolutionary principles, according to the empress. A partial reconciliation was effected, but the princess soon afterwards retired from court. On the accession of the emperor Paul in 1796 she was deprived of all her offices, and ordered to retire to a miserable village in the government of Novgorod, “to meditate on the events of 1762.” After a time the sentence was partially recalled on the petition of her friends, and she was permitted to pass the closing years of her life on her own estate near Moscow, where she died on the 4th of January 1810.

Her son, the last of the Dashkov family, died in 1807 and bequeathed his fortune to his cousin Illarion Vorontsov, who thereupon by imperial licence assumed the name Vorontsov-Dashkov; and Illarion’s son, Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov (b. 1837), held an appointment in the tsar’s household from 1881 to 1897.

The Memoirs of the Princess Dashkoff written by herself were published in 1840 in London in two volumes. They were edited by Mrs W. Bradford, who, as Miss Wilmot, had resided with the princess between 1803 and 1808, and had suggested their preparation.