Page:Phelps - Essays on Russian Novelists.djvu/23

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RUSSIAN CHARACTER IN FICTION

"The ladies praised his voice and the music, but were more struck with the softness and sonorousness of the Russian language." I remember being similarly affected years ago when I heard King Lear read aloud in Russian. Baron von der Brüggen says,[1] "there is the wonderful wealth of the language, which, as a popular tongue, is more flexible, more expressive of thought than any other living tongue I know of." No one has paid a better tribute than Gogol:—

"The Russian people express themselves forcibly; and if they once bestow an epithet upon a person, it will descend to his race and posterity; he will bear it about with him, in service, in retreat, in Petersburg, and to the ends of the earth; and use what cunning he will, ennoble his career as he will thereafter, nothing is of the slightest use; that nickname will caw of itself at the top of its crow's voice, and will show clearly whence the bird has flown. A pointed epithet once uttered is the same as though it were written down, and an axe will not cut it out.

"And how pointed is all that which has proceeded from the depths of Russia, where there are neither Germans nor Finns, nor any other strange tribes, but where all is purely aboriginal, where the bold and lively Russian mind never dives into its pocket

  1. Russia of To-day, page 203.

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