Friday, September 26, 2014

The Longitude and Latitude of St. Petersburgh

Political cartoons have been around a long time.  One of the most famous caricaturists of nineteenth century England was George Cruikshank.  Below is one of my favorites of his, dubbed the Longitude and Latitude of St. Petersburgh.

Why, you might ask?

The scene is Almack’s, that exclusive ladies' club of London.  The gentlemen all sport the requisite knee breeches and white stockings.  The ladies are in their finery, ostrich plumes waving.  And every eye is turned to the couple dancing to the music of the orchestra in the box at the upper left.  That couple, it is said, is Prince Pyotr Borisovich Kozlovsky of Russia and the Countess Lieven (later Princess). As you can see, they make quite a pair. 

It wasn't only their looks that contrasted.  The prince was from one of Europe’s oldest royal families, but wasn't particular bright or ambitious.  He was a bit of a womanizer and somewhat associated with literary circles, mostly through connections, not achievements.  He entered the diplomatic corps, served for a time in Sardinia, and was a part of the Congress of Vienna.  As wide as he was tall, he visited England with the Russian delegation in 1812 and seems to have paid court to many a lady, married or not.  The novelist Maria Edgeworth is credited as saying of him, “If he throws himself at my feet, he will never be able to get up again.” 

Dorothea von Lieven, on the other hand, also came from a Russian royal family and was wife to the Russian ambassador in London in 1812.  She was everything the prince was not--tall, slender, intelligent, and ambitious.  Her social skills made her invitations among the most sought after in the land, giving her husband’s career a major boost.  She was the first foreigner to be made a patroness of Almack’s and is said to have introduced the waltz to England.  Somehow, I doubt she saw herself dancing it with Kozlovsky and certainly not to be ridiculed in cartoon afterward.

The prince, however, thought the whole thing hilarious.  He would.

1 comment:

Marissa Doyle said...

Aaaaand guess who makes an appearance on the first page of the story I'm working on right now, Regina? :)