I do not know whether it will be possible to leave soon, for thousands of reasons, but I really want to and I want to see you. I'm quite through with stupidity, which here abounds.
"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" is a book to buy and read and lock up, but it is not a book to miss.
The value of Mr. Joyce's book has little to do with its incidental insanitary condition. Like some of the best novels in the world it is the story of an education; it is by far the most living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing. See more
It is a mosaic of jagged fragments that does altogether render with extreme completeness the growth of a rather secretive, imaginative boy in Dublin. The technique is startling, but on the whole it succeeds. Like so many Irish writers from Sterne to Shaw Mr. Joyce is a bold experimentalist with paragraph and punctuation. He breaks away from scene to scene without a hint of the change of time and place; at the end he passes suddenly from the third person to the first; he uses no inverted commas to mark off his speeches.
Petersburg is full of evil rumours. And not only rumours, either. There is some very vague talk of a workers’ demonstration arranged to coincide with the opening of the Duma on 27th. I think this is unlikely. I don’t imagine we will see anything of the sort. There are many reasons, but the most important, (which makes it quite unnecessary to list the others) is the fact that the workers will not support the Duma coalition.
I was called to the Empress, to find that she looked unwell and tired. I did not stay long; she was quite affectionate but it was clear her mind was elsewhere. I told her I should like to go to Petrograd for a longer period of time. I shall pass the Lenten fast with them if the Lord sees fit. I see that this will be a good thing to do: there is no resentment, but the situation has become more or less clear.
The bread queues in Petrograd have been getting longer and longer, although the wheat and rye has been rotting all along the Great Siberian Railroad and in the south west regions. The city garrison, which consisted of new recruits and reserves was not, of course, a reliable enough force to maintain order in the event of serious disturbances. I asked the military command if they were planning to bring more dependable regiments back from the front line. I received the reply that thirteen guard cavalry regiments were expected to come from the front shortly.
Having found out that I was to present a report to the Emperor on the following day, Rodzianko called on me in my hotel. Our conversation stretched deep into the night and finished at 2am. Wishing him a good night, I promised once again to try and make the Tsar see sense and issue the reforms of the so-called “Progressive Bloc”.
The “Progressive Bloc” was the name given to an assembly of party leaders and influential statesmen from the State Duma and State Council. Given the state of the country, their demands in early 1917 were very modest. The most important of these demands was that the Tsar would issue a decree granting full authority to Prime Minister Alexander Trepov to select cabinet ministers for the government. After the selection, the cabinet was to be accountable not to the Duma but to the Tsar personally.
We’ve had the most unbearable frosts. I have shut the library, which I am not heating, and am working in my bedroom, which I can barely keep above eight degrees. I’m feeling bitter about my 74 years, and about the fact that, while the horizons for constructive and creative minds are endlessly expanding, I personally cannot work for more than four or five hours in a day.
I’m having a very bad winter this year. I’ve been in poor health for 6 weeks already and the last bout had me feeling especially awful; I suffered from a terrible pain in the bony ridge of my brow.
This evening I gave a dinner to the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and her son, the Grand Duke Boris. My other guests were Sazonov, Shebeko, the former ambassador to Vienna, Princess Marie Troubetzkoï, Princess Bielosselsky Prince and Princess Michael Gortchakov, Princess Stanilas Radziwill, M. and Madame Polovtsov, Count and Countess Alexander Shuvalov, Count and Countess Joseph Potocki, Princess Gagarin, M. Poklevski, Madame Vera Narishkin, Count Adam Zamoïjski, Benckendorff, General Knorring and my staff. See more
The Grand Duchess was at the head of my table. I was on her left and Sazonov on her right. The Grand Duke sat opposite her; on his right was the Vicomtesse du Halgouët, wife of my secretary who acts as hostess, and on his left Princess Marie Troubetzkoï.
During dinner, my conversation with the Grand Duchess was purely small-talk and her conversation with Sazonov was of the same character.
But when we returned to the drawing-room, she asked me to sit by her, and we talked more freely. With an air of the deepest dejection she told me that she is leaving the day after to-morrow for Kislovotsk, on the northern slopes of the Caucasus:
"I badly need sun and a rest, " she said. "The emotions of recent times have worn me out. I'm leaving with my heart heavy with apprehension. What will have happened by the time I see you again? Things can't go on like this!"
"So affairs are not improving?"
"No. How could they? The Empress has the Emperor entirely under her thumb her only adviser is Protopopov who consults the ghost of Rasputin every night! I can't tell you how downhearted I feel. Everything seems black, wherever I look. I'm expecting the most dire catastrophes. And yet God can't mean Russia to perish!"
"God only helps those who help themselves; I have never heard of Him preventing a suicide. And what the Emperor is now doing is simply suicide, suicide for himself, his dynasty and his people."
"But what can we do?"
"Fight on. The recent intervention by the Grand Dukes has failed: we must try again, but on broader grounds and, permit me to add, in a more serious and prudent, and less censorious spirit. Both the Right and Left sections of the Council of Empire and the Duma contain elements well qualified to organize resistance to the abuses of autocracy. I believe that Protopopov, Dobrovolsky and all the rest of the Empress's camarilla would soon crumble into dust if all the reasonable and patriotic men in these two assemblies made common cause for the sake of national salvation and undertook to show the Emperor, firmly and logically, but with due moderation, that he is leading Russia straight to disaster; if the imperial family combined to speak with one voice while carefully avoiding the slightest suspicion of intrigue or conspiracy, and if you thus succeeded in creating in the upper strata of the State an all-embracing concentration on national revival. But there is no time to lose! The danger is pressing; every hour counts. If salvation does not come from above, there will be revolution from below. And that will mean catastrophe!"
Her only answer was a despairing sigh. Then she remembered her royal duties, in the performance of which she has no superior, and asked some of the ladies to come and talk to her . . .