Moscow University (1843)

My Past and Thoughts by Alexander Herzen.

(Alexander Ivanovitch Herzen (1812-1870) was a Moscowborn Russian author, the illegitimate son of a rich nobleman. At the age of 22 he was arrested for 'dangerous liberalism' and three years later was Sled to Viatka, where he worked as a clerk in the Civil Service. In 1840 he returned to Moscow, and took a prominent part in the 'debate' between Westerners and Slavophiles. He was arrested again, and exiled to Novgorod. He left Russia in 1847, never to return, moving for the rest of his life between Paris, London, and Geneva, and dying in Paris.)

`Granovsky's lectures,' Chaadayev said to me as we came away from the third or fourth, out of a lecture-hall packed to overflowing with ladies and all the aristocratic society of Moscow, 'are of historical significance.' I entirely agreed with him. Granovsky turned the lecture-hall into a drawing-room, a place for meeting, for social intercourse of the beau monde. To do this he did not deck our history in laces and silks; quite the contrary: his language was severe, extremely grave, full of force, daring, and poetry,. which vigorously jolted his hearers and woke them up. He escaped the consequences of his boldness, not from any compromise he made but from the mildness of expression which was natural to him, from the absence of sentences a la frangaise, which put huge dots on tiny i's, like the moral after a fable. As he laid the events of history before his audience, grouping them artistically, he spoke in them so that the thought, unuttered but perfectly clear, was the more readily assimilated by his hearers that it seemed to be their own thought.

The conclusion of his first course of lectures was a regular ovation, a thing unheard of at Moscow University. When at the end, deeply moved, he thanked the audience, everyone leapt up in a kind of intoxication, ladies waved their handkerchiefs, others rushed to the platform, pressed his hands and asked for his portrait. I myself saw young people with flushed cheeks shouting through their tears: 'Bravo! Brava There was no possibility of getting out. Granovsky stood as white as a sheet, with his arms folded and his head a little bent; he wanted to say a few words more but could not. The applause, the shouting, the fury of approbation doubled, the students ranged themselves on each side of the stairs and left the visitors to make a noise in the lecture-room. Granovsky made his way, exhausted, to the council-room; a few minutes later he was seen leaving it, and again there was endless clapping; he turned, begging for mercy with a gesture and, ready to drop with emotion, went into the office. There I flung myself on his neck and we wept in silence...

Tears as happy flowed down my cheeks when the hero Ciceruacchio. in the Coliseum illuminated by the last rays of the setting sun, dedicated his youthful son to the Roman people, who had risen in armed insurrection, a few months before they both fell shot without trial by the military executioners of the urchin* who wore a crown!

Yes, those were precious tears; the first, born of my faith in Russia, the second, of my faith in the Revolution!

Where is that Revolution? Where is Granovsky? Gone together with the boy with the black curls, the broadshouldered popolano, and the others who were so near and dear to us. My faith in Russia is still left. Surely it will not be my lot to lose that too?

And why did blind chance carry off Granovsky, so noble and so active, that deeply suffering spirit, on the very threshold of a new age for Russia, as yet obscure, but different, at all events? Why did not chance let him breathe that fresh air of which we have had a breath and which does not smell so strongly of the torture-chamber and the barracks?