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Crimean texts

[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]

The Times 18 May 1857 p 9

(Concluded from May 15)


On Saturday evening the interesting narrative that has so much occupied the attention of the public was brought to its termination.

The inconveniences endured at Balaklava, the high price charged for the necessaries of life, and the indifferent quality of the articles so dearly purchased were set forth in the early part of this third division of the narrative; the position of Mr. Russell himself, using gunpowder and water for ink, and writing with a quill plucked from the only goose in the camp, forming a ludicrous symbol of the general state of things. The “brilliant little victory” gained by Sir De Lacy Evans over a reconnoitring part of Russians came in as an episode in the story of Balaklava, and the lecturer dwelt on it with the more emphasis as he said that it had never received its due share of honour or reward. The battle of Inkermann was a difficult subject to treat from the fact that it really admitted of no description, being composed, as Mr. Russell remarked, of isolated conflicts, perpetual rallies, and “duels” between individuals. Nevertheless, he pursued these disjointed details with great accuracy, and then, after admitting the greatness of the victory, declared that it afforded no cause for rejoicing, obtained, as it had been, at the cost of so much valuable life. However, not to countenance the Russian version of the tale, according to which the French and English suffered more severely than their enemy, he described a caricature circulated in the country of the Czar as a satire on the false statements of the Russian newspapers. A mob of soldiers presents itself at the celestial gate, representing that it is composed of the Russian soldiers who fell at Inkermann, but is repelled by St. Peter, who regards his applicants as imposters, on the ground that they number several thousands, whereas, according to the newspapers, only a few hundreds were killed. The barbarity exercised by the Russians towards the wounded on the battle-field had the effect of deadening the feelings of humanity naturally inherent in the British soldier, and this moral degeneracy was illustrated by an anecdote, half comic, half horrible, of a dying Russian, who was on the point of being buried alive by some English soldiers, simply because his case was hopeless.

The heavy gales that tormented the little army (now reduced to about 15,000) in the autumn furnished matter for some grotesque description, which soon deepened into a gloomy picture of the pestilence that lasted with all its details of filth and wretchedness till the road from Balaklava was commenced. Occasion was here taken to advert to the horrors of Scutari, and the zeal of “the gentleman who had the administration of the funds confided to a newspaper” for the relief of the sick and wounded received an especial acknowledgment. The despairing listlessness that preceded the final operations, and was checkered by desertion from the army of the allies to that of the Russians, was lamented by Mr. Russell as many similar cases of procrastination had been lamented before. If the French refused to commence the assault earlier, why, he asked, did the English always yield to the refusal? He had, indeed, heard of regrets expressed by the French that they were always kept back from the assault, but on this subject he was a thorough unbeliever. The “affairs” of the Mamelon and the Redan occupied most of the remaining portion of the lecture, and the description of the unfortunate assault of the latter formed, perhaps, the most interesting episode of the whole narrative. Force, accuracy, and vivacity were combined. The “tiger-spring” of the French upon the Malakhoff, which was the concluding achievement of the tale, came as a contrast in every respect to the description of the assault on the Redan. The lecturer was in the midst of one affair, and recorded his immediate impressions. In the second the manner in which a distant occurrence gradually revealed itself to the mind of spectators watching the course of events with painful interest was finely described.

So great has been the success of Mr. Russell’s lectures that they will be repeated at the same rooms (Willis’s) on the afternoons of the 23d and 28th inst. and the 1st of June. The subscribers to the second series may be promised even a greater treat than that presented to the patrons of the first. Although a thorough proficient in descriptive writing, Mr. Russell was a complete novice in the art of lecturing when he mounted his rostrum on Monday last, and his discourse during the past week have been to him an initiation into a new mystery. Hence, while the public has watched with anxiety the progress of events in the Crimea, the friends of Mr. Russell have with scarcely less anxiety watched the progress of the lecturer himself. With infinite delight did this kindly little party perceive that the nervousness and hesitation in delivery which had been noticed on the Monday, and still more on the Thursday, had almost entirely disappeared on Saturday. When he resumes his series on Saturday next he will have passed through a noviciate [sic] during which he has been aided by the counsels of the best practical critics that the world could afford, — men who were acquainted with him personally, and could compare his manner in the lecture-room with his manner in private society; men who had witnessed the same events as himself, and could constantly recall old pleasantries to his memory; men who have been the leading minds in entertainments that have attracted thousands, and who contributed largely from the stores of their experience. It is not too much to say that all the choice spirits whose names could be used as so many pass-words at every institution or assembly connected with literature, art, or amusement, have been as much interested in Mr. Russell’s success as they could have been had their own private advantage depended upon it.

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