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The Cynosure

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to shave off their beards, smoke tobacco, and accompany their wives and daughters into society. He tore young men, literally, from their families, and sent them abroad to study. This changed the life of the Russian aristocracy superficially. Beneath the acquired artificialities, they remained barbarians, slaves of Czarism, debased rulers, and outragers of their own serfs. But in its train, this pretence of civilization brought philosophy and literature. One cannot play at culture without being affected by culture in consequence. It is dangerous even for Czarism to play with fire. The fingers of authority are bound to be burnt, a little.

Catherine II., whom Bakunin's grand-uncle served, played more daringly with the fire than Peter the Great and so burnt the fingers of the autocracy more seriously than did the mighty crushing workman Czar, the huge animal autocrat. Catherine, who died in 1786, when European Revolution and thought was at its height, had personal need of literature and philosophy, and of companionship in thought. She forced the study of the great works of the period upon her nobles. She was the friend of Voltaire and Diderot, and corresponded with Encyclopedists. She commanded their works to be read. She worshipped civilization and deified abstract humanity- very abstract-yet very dangerous to despotism. Naturally, involuntarily, her nobles became philosophers as they might have become hangmen, had she commanded them to do so. The effect on their manners was to the good, however, and their intellect suffered no harm. Out of this compulsory reading of literature, love of philosophy grew, and small pioneer groups of aristocrats were formed, for whom the shining idea of the epoch, the idea of humanity, which should supersede entirely that of the deity, was the great revelation. It unfolded itself in their lives, became at once the foundation and the ideal of their existence, a new religion. They became its Apostles, its propagandists, and the real founders of Russian thought and literature. Catherine had builded better than she intended; and although, from fear, she suppressed the movement, and cruelly persecuted its leaders, the stone of the temple had been laid and the building of the temple could not be stopped. The building proceeded steadily, though secretly, during the reigns of Paul I. (1796-1801) and Alexander I. (1801-1825), until it startled the world of "Nicholas with the Big Stick" by its proportions and extent. There can be no doubt that Bakunin's father owed his liberal education to the philosophic ambition of Catherine II. To her fears, and those of her successors, was due the condition of Russia to which he returned.

He returned to Russia, at the age of thirty-five, a member of the Russian diplomatic service, with no immediate intention of quitting it. But the aristocratic world of St. Petersburg made such a repulsive impression on him, that he tendered his resignation voluntarily and immediately, and retired to his family seat, which he never left even for a day. Here his doors were never closed, so


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