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French in Russian diplomacy: Antiokh Kantemir’s address to King George II and his diplomatic and other correspondence


Antiokh Kantemir: his life and his diplomatic and literary careers

Antiokh Kantemir (or Cantemir, in eighteenth-century transliterated form), the author of the texts that we reproduce here, was the fourth son of Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), a Moldavian political leader and scholar.[1] In 1710 Dimitrie was elected Voivode, or local governor, of the Principality of Moldavia, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.[2] He entered into secret negotiations with Peter I (the Great), whose victory at Poltava in 1709 over the Swedish forces of Charles XII (King of Sweden 1697-1718) convinced him that Muscovy was now the ascendant power in the region. However, when in 1711 Russian and Moldavian allied forces were defeated by the Turks on the River Prut, Dimitrie was forced to take refuge in Russia. Peter rewarded him for his allegiance, granting him estates, a substantial income and property in Moscow, to which the family moved in 1713. In Russia Dimitrie continued scholarly work on which he had long been engaged. At the request of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, of which he became a member in 1714, he wrote a Description of Moldavia in Latin.[3] He also completed the work for which he is chiefly remembered, his History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire, also in Latin, a valuable source for historians of the Ottoman Empire.[4] (The work was known to Voltaire (1694-1778) when he wrote his History of Charles XII and to Edward Gibbon (1737-94), who used it when writing his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.[5]) Thanks to Antiokh, an English translation of Dimitrie’s magnum opus was published in London in 1734-35; French and German translations were subsequently published too, in Paris and Hamburg in 1743 and 1745 respectively. Towards the end of his life Dimitrie also wrote an extensive work on the ancient origins of the Moldavian people.[6]

Peter I at PoltavaAntiokh Kantemir was born in Constantinople (by this time Istanbul) in 1708 or 1709.[7] Like his father, he received an excellent education, first in Moscow – mainly from private tutors, it would seem – and later in St Petersburg, at the school of the Academy of Sciences founded there by Peter and opened shortly after Peter’s death in 1725. Together with his father he accompanied Peter to the Caspian region during his Persian campaign of 1722-23. In the years 1729-31 he was one of a number of men of letters who have come to be known as the Learned Watch (Ученая дружина),[8] which also included the future historian Vasilii Tatishchev (1686-1750) and Feofan Prokopovich (1681-1736), the most powerful churchman of Peter’s reign and a staunch apologist for Peter’s reforms. These men strove to maintain the momentum of Peter’s westernisation of Russia.

Kantemir also played an important part in Russian political events in 1730. On the death of the infant Peter II in that year, the powerful Russian aristocrats on the Supreme Privy Council that had effectively governed Russia during Peter’s short reign invited Anna Ivanovna, a niece of Peter the Great and widow of Frederick William (1692-1711), Duke of Courland, to accept the Russian throne. These ‘bigwigs’ or ‘top brass’ (верховники), as they were known, influenced perhaps by the oligarchic aspirations of nobilities in neighbouring Poland and Sweden, sought to impose ‘conditions’ on Anna. Kantemir, as a supporter of absolutism on the Petrine model, wrote a petition on behalf of other nobles who opposed this attempt to limit the power of the Russian autocrat. Anna duly tore up the conditions and, having installed herself on the throne, rewarded Kantemir and his siblings with further estates. Nonetheless, Kantemir had difficulty reconciling himself to Anna’s regime, under which her favourite from Courland, Ernst Johann von Bühren (1690-1772; Бирон is the Russian form of his name), was a dominant influence. Before long, Kantemir was sent to London as Russian diplomatic representative at the Court of St James’s. There he remained from 1732 until 1738, when he was transferred to France as Russian envoy to the court of Louis XV (reigned 1715-74). He died at a young age in 1744, having suffered from poor health for many years.

Antiokh Kantemir

Kantemir is best known today for his literary oeuvre, which represents a major contribution to the foundation in Russia of a literature of a modern secular kind. He tried his hand at the ode, the elegy, the fable, the love-song, the epigram and even the epic. However, it was in his eight satires, written and reworked over the years 1729-43, that his literary talents found their most notable expression.[9] Most of his satires – like the satires of Horace (65 BC-8 BC), Juvenal (who flourished in the late first century and early second century AD) and Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711), which served as his models – are devoted mainly to mockery of universal human vices and folly. The first two satires, on the other hand, address issues of topical importance in post-Petrine Russia, such as the prospects for further westernisation and enlightenment, the character of the clergy, the role of the Church and the status and responsibilities of the nobility. Thus, in his first satire, directed against ‘the detractors of learning’, Kantemir ridicules contemporaries who complain that the champions of science and culture spread useless knowledge, corrupt morals, undermine religious faith or simply distract people from more enjoyable occupations. In his second satire he upholds Peter’s meritocratic principle, attacking noblemen who believe that ancient lineage entitles them to privileged status and defending the right of men from lower social backgrounds to earn nobility through diligent service to the state.[10]

It was no doubt because of their perceived topicality and potentially controversial nature that Kantemir’s satires were not published in Russian during his lifetime, although they did circulate in Russia in manuscript form. Not until 1762, at the beginning of the reign of Catherine II, did the satires appear in a Russian edition, published by the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg.[11] (We deal in the following section with their publication prior to 1762 in languages other than Russian.) More than a hundred years elapsed after 1762 before the publication of a further important Russian edition of them.[12]

The languages in Kantemir’s repertoire

The domestic language predominantly used by the Kantemir family in Antiokh’s infancy may have been Greek. However, Greek was not widely used at this time among the Moldavian and Wallachian elites, and the Kantemirs’ use of it would have to be explained by the origin of Antiokh’s mother, Cassandra Cantacuzene (she died in 1713), who claimed descent from the Byzantine royal family. Nor was French yet well known by these elites, for Moldavia and Wallachia would not open up to French influence until after Peter’s ill-fated campaign against the Turks in 1711, whereupon the often well-educated Phanariot Princes appointed by the Ottoman sultans brought the habit of French-speaking to the region. Latin, on the other hand, was a language of culture with which some Moldavian and Wallachian aristocrats were familiar in the early eighteenth century. Antiokh’s father, as we have seen, wrote several works in that language.[13]

Having arrived in Russia, Antiokh quickly learned Russian, which seems to have become his first language: at any rate, Russian was the language to which he resorted in later life, in preference to Greek, as the easiest medium for correspondence with his sister when he was exhausted by illness.[14] From Anastasius Condoidi, a Greek priest from Moldavia who came to Russia with the Kantemirs, he also learned Classical Greek, Latin and Italian. The last of these languages – in Genoese, Tuscan or Venetian varieties – was for long a lingua franca among merchants and seafarers in the Mediterranean. It was also the chief language used for negotiation between Europeans and Ottoman Turks.[15] Indeed, Italian was still widely used in diplomacy in Europe in the early eighteenth century, which may partly explain why so many Italians were in the service of various European states at this time.[16] The young Kantemir’s knowledge of Italian was quite good and later became excellent as a result of intensive communication with Italians settled in London.[17]

From Johann Gotthilf Vockerodt (?-1750s), a graduate of Leipzig University who served as Dimitrie Cantemir’s secretary before taking up the post of secretary in the Prussian embassy in St Petersburg in 1717, Antiokh also started to learn French.[18] There is reason to think that he acquired oral facility in French before he was sent to the West by Anna: Piotr Apostol (?-1758), the son of a future Ukrainian Hetman, who spent the years 1725-27 in St Petersburg, mentions in his French diary that he and the young Kantemir made visits to Frenchmen resident in the Russian capital.[19] Kantemir’s active command of the French written language at this stage of his life was no doubt more limited, since he would have had little occasion to correspond in it. His reading knowledge, on the other hand, must have been good. Not only was he familiarising himself in the 1720s with French literature (we have already mentioned the literary influence of Boileau on him); he was also translating French works into Russian, notably a dialogic defence of the Copernican system, A Conversation on the Plurality of Worlds (1686) by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757) which he finished translating in 1730.[20] It is possible, incidentally, that Kantemir’s attempts at lexicography, which began in the 1720s and which have quite recently come to light,[21] were driven partly by his interest in improving his command of French as well as by his perception of knowledge of French as a useful accomplishment for his Russian contemporaries.

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia had been severed in 1719 as a result of tensions arising over issues relating to Peter’s Northern War with Sweden (1700-21). When in November 1731 relations were restored, Kantemir’s proficiency in foreign languages, as well as his learning and breadth of culture, made him a strong candidate for the position of envoy to London, in spite of his young age. Kantemir, for his part, must have been pleased to have this opportunity to go to the West, even though his posting might have been seen as a form of honourable exile from a court at which he seems not to have been much appreciated. The posting offered him access to a cosmopolitan cultural and intellectual world that was rejecting the obscurantist attitudes he had recently derided in his first satire. He was formally appointed on 24 December 1731 (OS), in the first instance as Russian Resident in London (he later became the Russian Minister to the British court). He left Moscow on 1 January 1732, travelled through Berlin and The Hague and arrived in London in March. Despite his youth, Anthony Cross has observed, Kantemir duly ‘proved a conscientious and respected diplomat, employing his powers of analysis and literary talents to produce a stream of reports which were thereafter regarded as models among the more discerning members of the Russian corps diplomatique’.[22]

We cannot be sure that French was the language to which Kantemir had most frequent recourse for social purposes during his years in England. He does not seem to have made any attempt to seek out the French Huguenot community in London, with which Voltaire had become acquainted during his stay in 1726-29 and out of which his Letters concerning the English Nation had arisen.[23] Instead, Kantemir moved in a circle of Italian diplomats and writers who met regularly at his house and with whom he could probably communicate more easily in Italian than in French, at least during the early part of his residence in London. This circle included Giambattista Gastaldi (dates unknown), the Genoese chargé d’affaires in London from 1728-55, Cavaliere Giuseppe Osorio-Alarcón (1697-1763), the Sardinian ambassador, Vincenzo Pucci (dates unknown), who represented Tuscany, Giovanni Zamboni (1683?-1753), Resident in London for the Landgrave of the Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt and some other Italians who were then living in London, such as Count Francesco Algarotti (1712-64).[24]

At the same time, we cannot say with certainty to what extent Italian was used in this circle. The fact that Kantemir wrote letters to some of his Italian friends (for instance, Gastaldi, Osorio and Zamboni) in French, leads us to think that he may have begun to resort to French as the lingua franca of cultivated society. He also wrote in French to numerous other literary correspondents and diplomatic or other personal acquaintances of diverse national origin. Many of these correspondents were French, or were based in France, for example: Théodore Chevignard de Chavigny, plenipotentiary minister of France in England; Prince Joseph Wenzel von Liechtenstein (1696-1772), the Austrian ambassador in France; Cécile Thérèse Pauline Marquise de Monconseil (1707-87), a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of France; Cardinal Melchior de Polignac (1661-1741), a Roman Catholic cardinal, diplomat and poet; the Italian actor and writer Luigi Riccoboni (1676-1753), who, urged by Kantemir, dedicated his work on theatre reform[25] to the Russian empress; Agostino Paolo Domenico Sorba (1715-71), a Genoese diplomat; Voltaire; and various other, less well-known individuals. Other acquaintances with whom Kantemir corresponded in French were based in London, such as Marco António de Azevedo Coutinho (1688-1750), a Portuguese envoy, and Baron Wasner, an Austrian diplomat, as well as the above-mentioned Gastaldi, Osorio and Zamboni in his Italian circle.[26]

Kantemir’s use of French as the vehicle for literary and historical work – for example, three pieces of light poetry, which were eventually published in 1764,[27] and a biography of his father[28] – demonstrates his appreciation of the growing role of that language in the European world of letters, as well as in the social world. It was also in French that his main literary achievement, his collection of satires, was first published. The satires were translated into Italian, with the help of Kantemir himself, and then retranslated into French prose, probably by Kantemir’s Italian friend Ottaviano Guasco (1712-81). This first edition of the satires was published, after Kantemir’s death and probably in The Hague rather than in London, as stated on the title page, in 1749.[29] It was followed by a second edition, published in Paris in 1750,[30] and then by a German verse translation in 1752.[31] This recourse to French in Kantemir’s literary work and the desire to be published in France are all the more striking if one bears in mind the generally rather negative attitude that Kantemir had towards the cultural life of France (he is said to have been rather disappointed by contemporary French literature and music).[32] The contents of Kantemir’s personal library, which contained roughly 850 published books and manuscripts, appear to bear out the point about the paramount importance of the French language in his literary and intellectual universe. All the languages Kantemir knew – English, French, Italian, Greek and Latin as well as Russian – were fairly well represented in the library, but books in French outnumbered those in other languages.[33]

Most importantly for our purpose here, command of French was also an essential skill for Kantemir in his diplomatic role. French could now be used for a diplomat’s official dealings with the nation in which he was representing his country. This function was no doubt particularly important when a diplomat’s knowledge of the indigenous language of the country in which he was serving was relatively poor, as was the case with Kantemir, who did not have a sure command of English, at least in the early stages of his stay in London.[34]

French in diplomacy in Kantemir’s time

In the seventeenth century, French was already one of the leading languages of diplomacy, together with German, Italian, Latin and Spanish, which were also widely used. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, and especially in the eighteenth, it became the international language of diplomacy right across Europe and it continued to have this function at least until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. However, its progress was not equally rapid in all the various activities in which diplomats engaged. It was widely used in oral negotiations and in written treatises on diplomacy, for example, but it was more slowly introduced in diplomatic correspondence.[35] Various political and cultural factors help to explain the growing currency and status of French in diplomacy. These factors include the declining power of the Vatican and of Spain during the reign of Charles II (reigned 1665–1700) and the differences between German dialects, which complicated communication between diplomats within the Holy Roman Empire and encouraged the use of a lingua franca there. The prestige of France, on the other hand, was waxing and Paris was in the ascendant as a diplomatic centre during the reign of Louis XIV (reigned 1643–1715). Moreover, French diplomatic style, in contrast to the formal and circumspect style associated with Spanish diplomacy, was characterised by an ease that was becoming popular across the continent and it was soon adopted as standard.[36]

Jeremy Black, in his recent book on the history of diplomacy, provides some examples of treaties concluded in Europe in the second half of the seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century which reflect the rising importance of French in European diplomacy. These include the Peace of the Pyrenees between France and Spain in 1659, which was signed separately in French and Spanish (but not in Latin), the international peace conference at Nijmegen in 1678-79, at which the Franco-Spanish treaty was drawn up in both French and Spanish, and the Rastatt conference of 1713-14, aimed at ending the War of the Spanish Succession, at which the Austrians used French.[37] French was also widely used at ceremonies at which ambassadors presented their credentials,[38] although usage varied, of course, from country to country. The procedure adopted when the Duke of Liria (Diego Francisco Stuart Fitzjames, de Liria y Jérica, 1696-1738) was received as Spanish ambassador in St Petersburg in 1728 shows us just how confused the linguistic situation could still be, especially, perhaps, on the European periphery.Peter II The Duke made his speech in Spanish, the language of the power he represented. The text of his speech, which he then handed over to the Russian side, was written in Latin. The Russian Vice-Chancellor, Heinrich Johann Friedrich Ostermann (1668-1747), responded to the Duke in Russian, the official language of the Russian Empire. The Duke then paid a ‘compliment’ to the emperor (that is to say, the young Peter II) in French and Ostermann replied in that language. All the other speeches delivered by the Duke on the same day, for example his speech in the presence of Princess Elizabeth, were also in French.[39]Andrei Ostermann

The rise of French as the international language of diplomacy was also assisted by the popularity of the French model of noble education,[40] since in many European countries the most distinguished diplomatic positions were traditionally reserved for the representatives of social elites. Already by the end of the seventeenth century these elites often had a very good command of the French language, thanks to the type of education to which they had been exposed in childhood. Furthermore, adult noblemen were often reluctant to undergo formal tuition (for example, in Latin, which had long been essential for a diplomat), so that they were more inclined to use for diplomatic purposes a language that they already knew than to acquire a new one.[41] Of course, in some European countries, such as Russia, exposure to the French educational model had not yet taken place in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and consequently their elites did not yet have French.

The experience of a Russian embassy to France in 1668 vividly illustrates the way in which ignorance of French could weaken the position of diplomats and complicate their mission. The Russian ambassador sent to France by Tsar Alexis, Piotr Potiomkin (1617-1700), arrived with an interpreter who spoke only ‘Muscovite’ and German, neither of which languages was of much use in France.

The Russian mission also contained a merchant from Courland who spoke Dutch, Italian and Latin but had no French. The Russians tried to explain their position to the French through two interpreters, one of whom translated what they said in Russian into German and the other of whom translated the German into French. Not only was this method cumbersome, it could also lead to misunderstanding. As negotiations faltered, the Russian embassy acquired the services of a Polish priest who had visited Russia in the 1650s, now lived in France and spoke some Russian as well as Latin and French. So precarious was this arrangement, though, that the Russian side felt obliged, when negotiations had concluded, to insist that the response of the French king to the Russian tsar be in Latin or some other language other than French and that it be submitted to them in time for them to have an opportunity to absorb its contents with the help of their translators.[42] This ignorance of foreign languages, and also of diplomatic etiquette, explains why foreigners had to be employed to represent Russia diplomatically – a need which came to be felt particularly acutely in the reign of Peter the Great.[43]

The documents we publish in this section of our corpus and elsewhere in it (for example, the letters of Prince Ivan Andreevich Shcherbatov (1696-1761) to his French teacher in London) attest to the great change that came about in Russian diplomatic representation abroad in the years that followed Peter’s reign. In particular, they attest to the growth of knowledge of the French language, which was a prerequisite for effective diplomatic representation in the post-Petrine European world.

Documents illustrating Kantemir’s use of French

The texts that accompany this essay form only a small part of Kantemir’s correspondence in French from the period when he was living in London and Paris. They illustrate the function of French as an international diplomatic language and as a lingua franca for Russians when they were communicating with people of non-Russian origin.

Our first text illustrating the use of French in diplomacy is a record of the address that Kantemir made to King George II (reigned 1727-60) when he presented his credentials to the king in 1732. Kantemir copied down this speech and commented on it in Russian in letters he sent at the time, explaining how the king listened and responded to him (presumably also in French, although Kantemir does not state this). It seems that the credentials themselves were in English.[44] The second text is a letter of the same year, 1732, the recipient of which we presume to be William Stanhope (1690-1756), 1st Earl of Harrington and the Secretary of State for the Northern Department in the Cabinet of Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745).[45] The third and fourth texts, while not examples of official Russian transactions with a foreign nation, illustrate the use of French as a lingua franca for Russians in their formal dealings with foreigners, including foreigners who were living in Russia. In these cases, the foreigner in question is Baron Johann Albrecht von Korff (1697-1766), President of the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg from 1734 to 1740. Further letters written by Kantemir in French to Korff, and letters to Korff’s successor Carl Hermann von Brevern (1704-44) and to Johann Daniel Schumacher (1690-1761), a Councillor in the Academy’s chancellery, are also extant.[46] All these high-ranking officials of the Academy were of German origin (Korff was born in Courland, Brevern in Riga and Schumacher in Alsace) and knew French, which was one of the working languages of the Academy.[47] It was only to his compatriot Andrei Nartov (1693-1756), who directed the academic chancellery of the Academy, that Kantemir wrote in Russian.[48]

While adducing these early examples of Russians’ use of French as a diplomatic or official lingua franca for communication with foreigners, we should also emphasise that Kantemir did not use French for diplomatic correspondence with his Russian superiors in Russia. The large extant volume of dispatches sent by Kantemir from London and Paris over the years 1732-44 attests to this fact.[49] Evidently in the 1730s Russian diplomats posted overseas still corresponded with their minister in Russia in their native language.[50] Russian was also the language that Kantemir used most of the time for letters that he exchanged with other Russian aristocrats, for instance Ivan Shcherbatov, who succeeded him as the Russian diplomatic representative in London in 1740-41 (and whom we have also observed as a resident in London, in the period just before the rupture of diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia in 1719).[51] French, in other words, had not yet become a language of social intercourse between Russian nobles who would probably have been capable of using it for this purpose. Kantemir’s correspondence with the Russian chargé d’affaires in the Ottoman Empire, Aleksei Veshniakov (1700-46) seems at first sight to provide an exception to this rule, since we have a letter written by Veshniakov to Kantemir in French. However, it is an exception that may be explained by Veshniakov’s sense of beleaguerment in a country which he perceived as hostile and barbaric: he may have found comfort, while serving at the Porte, in practising the language of the polite society for which he yearned.[52]

We may conclude, then, that it was not yet normal in the 1730s and 1740s for Russians to use French as a social or official language among themselves. However, Russian diplomats in Western Europe, immersed in the social and cultural life of the countries in which they were representing Russia, were the first among the Russian elites to practise the new forms of cultivated sociability for which the French language was the main vehicle at this time.

The standard of Kantemir’s French

Besides illustrating the functions of French in diplomacy and official correspondence at this early period in the history of Russian francophonie, the texts we reproduce here also offer some insight into the standard of Kantemir’s French at different stages in his diplomatic and literary career. Scholars have expressed differing opinions on Kantemir’s proficiency in French.[53]

At the beginning of his stay in England, Kantemir’s active command of French was evidently good but not perfect. The phrasing of his address to King George and his letter to Harrington is generally correct and in most cases the expressions he uses are well-chosen and idiomatic. However, these two documents do contain mistakes, even when allowance is made for differences in eighteenth-century French spelling from modern standard practice and for laxity in the use of French accents. Some of the mistakes in the following examples (« honeur », « de puis », « long tems », « heureûse ») are minor misspellings but others, which occur in homophonous forms, amount to grammatical errors such as breaches of rules of agreement in the endings of nouns, adjectives and verbs. In our examples we give the correct form in square brackets, including the accents that modern standard forms would bear.

  • « j’aurai l’honeur [honneur] d’etre au [aux] pieds de V.M. »;
  •  « tout [tous] les trouble [troubles] qui ont regné de puis [depuis] si long tems [longtemps] sont amené [amenés] a une heureûse [heureuse] fin »;
  • « des Etrange [d’Etranges] Revolutions »;
  • « sou [sous] une Puissance etrangeres [etrangère] »;
  • « quellque [quelques] jours »;
  • « Le Grand Cas et la Haute Estime, que l’Imperatrice ma souveraine fait de la sacrée Persone [Personne] de V.M. lui ont rendues [rendu] tres-agreables les assurances de Votre amitié »;
  • « c’est a cela seulement, que tous mes souhaits se borne [se bornent] »;
  • « Le mal de mes yeux ne me permetent pas de sortir » [permet, although in this instance the form that Kantemir uses and the correct form are not completely homophonous; or perhaps Kantemir is erroneously treating « yeux » as the subject of the sentence];
  • « Je pris [prie] tres humbl. »

Kantemir also makes mistakes in forms that are not homophonous (and these mistakes would be heard if the words were correctly pronounced), for instance: « metre a couvertes’, instead of « mettre à couvert », and « ce heureux succé », instead of « cet heureux succès » (this last mistake may arise from confusion of aspirated and non-aspirated ‘h’). However, the prevalence of mistakes in homophonous forms confirms the impression that Kantemir, when he arrived in England, was more accustomed to using the French spoken language than the written language and that, as far as use of the written language was concerned, he had been primarily occupied in the 1720s with translation from French into Russian rather than with writing in French himself. That state of affairs was only to be expected: it reflected the position of French among the most cultivated section of the Russian aristocracy in the 1720s and 1730s.

One can gauge Kantemir’s progress in written French during the years he spent abroad by comparing texts that he wrote at the beginning of his stay in England in 1732 with texts that he wrote from, say, 1735 on.[54] In his letters of this later period we find very few of the spelling mistakes that were numerous in the earlier writings. However, solecisms are not exceptional even in this later period. Here are some examples drawn from just one letter addressed to Sorba in October 1736 (we give the correct forms in square brackets):

  • [...] ce ne sont pas elles [eux], les dîners et les grandes fêtes, qui nous donnent de [des] preuves de l’amitié.
  • […] je n’oublierai jamais les obligations, que j’ai à vous et à Mad. Sorba [envers vous et Mad. Sorba]
  • […] j’espère, par l’intercession du [de] M.Gendron, de [de] parvenir à la parfaite guérison.
  • Si je serais [j’étais] si heureux, je devrais être réellement satisfait de mon voyage de Paris […]
  • Si j’y avois [étais] resté encore trois jours […]
  • La populace […] ne cherche rien plus [rien de plus].
  • […] les officiers […] part [partent] l’un après l’autre pour Edinbourg.
  • […] il y a infiniment des ivrognes [d’ivrognes].[55]

Similar mistakes are ubiquitous in Kantemir’s letters of this period:

  • « la gazette a dit la vérité, excepté encore qui [ce qui] regarde mon caractère »;
  • « vous priant de vous informer sur les articles suivantes [suivants] »;
  • « et me faudrait [il me faudrait, Kantemir probably is influenced by Russian here (мне нужно)] un bon appartement »;
  • « la maladie que [qui a] apparemment été assez forte »;
  • « Votre obligeante lettre du 7-me [du 7] m’a été rendue avant-hier, laquelle [pour laquelle] je ne saurais assez vous remercier »;
  • « je ne saurais vous dire l’intentation [l’intention] de cette escadre ».[56]

Most of these minor errors are of a grammatical nature, but a few relate to choice of word. Occasionally Russian usage affects Kantemir’s French at the level of punctuation, inasmuch as he regularly inserts a comma before « que », following Russian practice before the conjunction ‘что’ and relative pronouns.[57]


We thus observe one of the most highly educated and cultivated Russian men of the immediate post-Petrine age in the process of perfecting a skill that was essential for members of the diplomatic service and literary community of a nation aspiring to enter the European political and cultural world. Not only would command of French be required if Russia’s representatives were to become integrated into international diplomatic and cultural networks; it would also enable Russians to present their nation to other nations as a civilised member of the European community. In Western Europe, French was useful as a social language too, as we see from Kantemir’s personal correspondence with people of various nationalities and in particular from his interaction with his Italian friends (and from those Italian friends’ use of French among themselves). Kantemir did not use French, though, as an official or social language with francophone Russian compatriots. In the 1730s and 1740s French had not yet established itself as a social language within the Russian nobility.

Finally, it is worth pointing out, in view of the anxiety expressed by later generations about the supposedly detrimental effect of French-speaking on the Russian nobleman’s sense of native identity, that there is no reason to think the allegiance of this cosmopolitan man to Russia was at all weakened by the multilingualism that political and cultural negotiation with foreigners required or encouraged. Kantemir had been exposed to a diverse linguistic and cultural environment from his earliest years, but he had a strong attachment to his adoptive land. This attachment was evident both in his dedication to his diplomatic mission and in his conception of the patriotic duty of a Russian writer to establish a literary tradition that could raise the nation towards cultural parity with the West. The French language was an important tool, in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, for anyone pursuing either of the two vocations chosen by Kantemir.

Vladislav Rjéoutski and Derek Offord
February 2013

*Image credits

Portrait (1710s) of Peter the Great at the Battle of Poltava by Johann Gottfried Tannauer: image courtesy of Olga's Gallery,
Portrait of Antiokh Kantemir from the frontispiece of Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Кантемира, ed. P. A. Efremov and V. Ia. Stoiunin, 2 vols (1867-68), vol. I. Photograph © Jamie Carstairs
Portrait of Peter II: image is used from, courtesy of The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Portrait of Count Andrei Ostermann: image is used from, courtesy of The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

[1] We are grateful to Sergei Nikolaev, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, for his help during the preparation of this introduction.

[2] Dimitrie Cantemir had briefly been Voivode for the first time after his father’s death in 1693 but had been removed at the instigation of noble families opposed to him.

[3] i.e., Descriptio Moldaviae, a work in three parts written in Latin in the years 1714-16.

[4] i.e., Historia incrementorum atque decrementorum Aulae Othomanicae, also written over the years 1714-16.

[5] Histoire de Charles XII, in Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire [Complete Works of Voltaire] (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1970–), vol. IV (1996), p. 575; see also p. 404.

[6] Written in Latin in the period 1719-22 and translated by the author himself into Romanian as Hronicul vechimei a Romano-Moldo-Vlahilor [The Chronicle of the Ancientness of the Romano-Moldavian-Wallachians]. This is a history of the Romanian people that describes their Roman pre-history and then the history of the Daco-Romans, or Romanised Dacians, in the three provinces of Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia. The work is an attempt to present a hybrid nation as having linguistic, ethnic and historical unity in the past, the present and – Cantemir hopes – the future. We are indebted to Ileana Mihaila of the University of Bucharest for guidance on translating Cantemir’s title and on the content of this work. On Dimitrie Cantemir see, e.g., the biographical information on him by Mihai Maxim at (accessed on 16.10.2012).

[7] The most likely date is 1709: see H. Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa. Ein russischer Schriftsteller des 18. Jahrhunderts und seine Beziehungen zur westeuropäischen Literatur und Kunst. [Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir and Western Europe. An Eighteenth-Century Russian Writer and His Relationship to West European Literature and Art] (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1966), pp. 1-5. Kantemir himself considered his date of birth to be 10 September 1709, according to one of the notes in his seventh satire: see Antiokh Kantemir, Cобрание стихотворений [Collected Verse], with an introductory article by F. Ia. Priima and text and notes prepared by Z. I. Gershkovich, 2nd edn (Leningrad: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1956), p. 165. See also Stefan Lemny, Les Cantemir. L’aventure européenne d’une famille princière au XVIIIe siècle [The Kantemirs. The European Adventure of a Princely Family in the Eighteenth Century] (Paris: Editions Complexe, 2009), p. 177.

[8] The term Ученая дружина was used by Prokopovich in a letter to Kantemir and was taken up by Georgii Plekhanov, the first Russian Marxist, who wrote elegant essays on Russian intellectual history in the immediate pre-revolutionary period: see the chapter «“Ученая дружина” и самодержавие» [‘The “Learned Watch” and autocracy’], in Plekhanov’s История общественной мысли в России [The History of Social Thought in Russia], in G. V. Plekhanov, Сочинения [Works], 24 vols (Moscow and Leningrad: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo, 1923-27), vol. XXI, pp. 41-102, especially 78-102. However, the Learned Watch, Sergei Nikolaev has argued, is a metaphor of Prokopovich’s and a construct of Plekhanov’s rather than a solid literary community: see S. N. Nikolaev, Литературная культура Петровской эпохи [The Literary Culture of the Petrine Age] (St Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 1996), p. 111.

[9] According to Kantemir’s Italian friend Ottaviano Guasco (see the second section of this introduction), Kantemir began to write a ninth satire shortly before he died but did not finish it and the text is not extant. We are grateful to Sergei Nikolaev for this information.

[10] For Kantemir’s poetic works, see Kantemir, Cобрание стихотворений, op. cit.; the final versions of the first and second satires to which we have referred, including Kantemir’s extensive endnotes to the satires, are on pp. 57-67 and 68-88 respectively. For general information in English on Kantemir’s literary oeuvre see William Edward Brown, A History of Eighteenth-Century Russian Literature (Ardis: Ann Arbor, 1980), pp. 31-53; Ilya Serman, ‘The eighteenth century: Neo-Classicism and the Enlightenment’, in The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, ed. Charles A. Moser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 45-53; Derek Offord, ‘Antiokh Dmitr’evich Kantemir’, in Reference Guide to Russian Literature, ed. Neil Cornwell (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998), pp. 413-14; Victor Terras, A History of Russian Literature (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 122-24. There is a fairly recent Russian collection of essays on Kantemir: A. S. Kurilov, ed., Антиох Кантемир и русская культура [Antiokh Kantemir and Russian Culture] (Moscow: ‘Nasledie’, 1999). See also S. I. Nikolaev, «Антиох Дмитриевич Кантемир» [‘Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir’], in Словарь русских писателей XVIII векa [A Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century Russian Writers] (St Petersburg: Institut russkoi literatury (Pushkinskii dom) RAN, 2006-11) at (accessed on 16.10.2012); Emmanuel Waegemans, Histoire de la littérature russe [History of Russian Literature] (Toulouse: Université Toulouse le Mirail, 2003), pp. 23-25.

[11] Сатиры и другие стихотворческие сочинения князя Антиоха Кантемира с историческими примечаниями и кратким описанием его жизни [Satires and Other Poetic Works of Prince Antiokh Kantemir with Historical Notes and a Brief Description of His Life] (St Petersburg: pri imp. Akademii nauk, 1762).

[12] Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Дмитриевича Кантемира [Works, Letters and Selected Translations of Prince Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir], ed. P. A. Efremov and V. Ia. Stoiunin, 2 vols (St Petersburg: Izdanie Ivana Il’icha Glazunova, 1867-68).

[13] See L. V. Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века. I. Кантемир и итальянская культура» [‘Essays on the literature of the first half of the eighteenth century. I. Kantemir and Italian culture’], in XVIII век [The Eighteenth Century], ed. A. S. Orlov (Moscow and Leningrad: AN SSSR, 1935), vol. I, pp. 83-102, especially pp. 83-84.

[14] R. I. Sementkovskii, «Условия при которых рос Кантемир в детстве» [‘The conditions in which Kantemir grew up in his childhood’], in V. I. Pokrovskii, Антиох Дмитриевич Кантемир. Его жизнь и сочинения [Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir. His Life and Works], 2nd edn (Moscow: Tipografiia G. Lissnera i D. Sobko, 1910). A reprint of this edition was published by Willem A. Meeuws, Oxford, in 1985: see pp. 10-11. Kantemir also corresponded with his sister in Italian: see Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», pp. 84-85; Luigia Maiellaro, «Переписка кн. А.Д. Кантемира с сестрой Марией на итальянском языке» [‘The correspondence of Prince A. D. Kantemir with his sister Maria in Italian’], Archivio russo-italiano II [Russian-Italian Archive II] (Salerno: Università di Salerno, 2002), pp. 25-78; idem, «Переписка кн. А.Д. Кантемира с сестрой Марией. 1740-1744 гг.» [‘The correspondence of Prince A. D. Kantemir with his sister Maria, 1740-1744’], Archivio russo-italiano IV [Russian-Italian Archive IV] (Salerno: Università di Salerno, 2005), pp. 147-201.

[15] On this last point see Joseph Cremona, ‘Italian-based lingua francas around the Mediterranean’, in Anna Laura Lepschy and Arturo Tosi (eds), Multilingualism in Italy Past and Present (Oxford: Legenda, 2002), pp. 24-30, and Alberto Varvaro, ‘The Maghreb papers in Italian discovered by Joe Cremona’, in Anna Laura Lepschy and Arturo Tosi (eds), Rethinking Languages in Contact: the Case of Italian (Oxford: Legenda, 2006), pp. 146-51. We are grateful to Mair Parry for drawing these secondary sources to our attention.

[16] Lucien Bély, L’Art de la paix en Europe. Naissance de la diplomatie moderne, XVIe-XVIIIe siècle [The Art of Peace in Europe. The Birth of Modern Diplomacy, from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century] (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2007), p. 411. Most of Kantemir’s Italian friends in London, to whom we refer later in this section of our essay, were diplomats.

[17] Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», p. 84.

[18] Vockerodt wrote memoirs on Russia in the age of Peter the Great (Considérations sur l’état de la Russie sous Pierre le Grand [Considerations on the State of Russia under Peter the Great]), which were used by Voltaire when he was writing his Histoire de l’empire de Russie sous Pierre le Grand [History of the Russian Empire under Peter the Great] (Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire [Voltaire's Complete Works], vols XLVI-XLVII: see, e.g., vol. XLVI, pp. xxx, 435 n.).

[19] P. D. Apostol, «Дневник. (Май 1725 г.-май 1727 г.)» [‘Diary (May 1725-May 1727)’], in Киевская старина [Kievan Antiquity], 1895, vol. 50, nos 7-8, pp. 100-55.

[20] Разговоры о множестве миров господина Фонтенелла, Парижской Академии Наук Секретаря (St Petersburg: Pri Imp. Ak. Nauk, 1740): see Kantemir, Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Дмитриевича Кантемира, vol. II, pp. 390-429. Fontenelle’s French title is Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. Kantemir completed his translation of Fontenelle’s work in 1730; the ten-year delay in publication of the translation is explained by the controversial nature of the Copernican system in the eyes of the Church.

[21] Русско-французский словарь Антиоха Кантемира [Antiokh Kantemir’s Russian-French Dictionary], ed. with an introduction by E. Babaeva, 2 vols (Moscow: Azbukovnik, 2004).

[22] A. G. Cross, ‘By the Banks of the Thames’: Russians in Eighteenth Century Britain (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 1980), p. 9.

[23] The French title of Voltaire’s work was Lettres philosophiques [Philosophical Letters].

[24] On Kantemir’s contact with the Italian community in London, see Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», pp. 95-97; Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa, pp. 108-29; and Il’ia Z. Serman, «Антиох Кантемир и Франческо Альгаротти» [‘Antiokh Kantemir and Francesco Algarotti’], in A Window on Russia: Papers from the V International Conference of the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia, ed. Lindsey Hughes and Maria di Salvo (Rome: La Fenice, 1996), pp. 147-54. This Italian circle should not be seen as a collection of people coming from the cultural periphery of Europe, but – as shown by Serman in the article cited here – as a group holding the most modern views at that time. Pumpiansky, on the other hand, had argued that the literary views of the circle’s members were rather old-fashioned and that the influence of these Italians on Kantemir goes some way to explaining Kantemir’s conservative literary tastes and his dislike of contemporary French literature (Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», pp. 88-91, etc.).

[25] Louis Riccoboni, De la Réformation du théâtre [On Reforming the Theatre] (no place of publication: no publisher, 1743). There were subsequent editions of this work.

[26] Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa, pp. 282-333; Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», p. 92.

[27]  « Madrigal à Madame la duchesse d’Aiguillon » [‘A Madrigal to the Duchess of Aiguillon’]; « Epître à Elizabeth, Impératrice de toutes les Russies » [‘Epistle to Elizabeth, Empress of All the Russias’]; « Vers sur la critique » [‘Verses on Criticism’]: see Elite des poésies fugitives [The Pick of Light Poetry], 3 vols (London: no name of publisher, 1764), vol. II, pp. 69, 309-11; vol. III, p. 13. See also G. Lozinskij, « Le prince Antioche Cantemir poète français », Revue des études slaves, 1925, vol. 5, nos 3-4, pp. 238-43. Kantemir’s madrigals were published by Adrien Michel Hyacinthe Blin de Sainmore (1733-1807), the author of a literary correspondence which was addressed to the wife of the future Russian Emperor Paul I and of a history of Russia. See also E. P. Grechanaia, Когда Россия говорила по-французски [When Russia spoke French] (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2010), pp. 79-80.

[28] V. Cândea, « La vie du prince Dimitrie Cantemir écrite par son fils Antioh. Texte intégral d’après le manuscrit original de la Houghton Library » [‘Life of Prince Dimitrie Kantemir written by his son Antioh. Full text from the original Houghton Library manuscript’], Revue des études sud-est européennes [Review of South-East European Studies], 1985, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 203-21.

[29] Satyres de Monsieur le Prince Cantemir. Avec l’histoire de sa vie [Satires of Prince Cantemir. With the History of His Life] (London [according to the cover]: Chez Jean Nourse, 1749). See also N. A. Kopanev, «О первых изданиях сатир А.Кантемира» [‘On the first editions of A. Kantemir’s satires’], in A. M. Panchenko (ed.), XVIII век. Сборник 15. Русская литература XVIII века в ее связях с искусством и наукой [The Eighteenth Century. Volume 15. Eighteenth-Century Russian Literature in Contact with Art and Science] (Leningrad: Nauka, Leningradskoe otdelenie, 1986), passim, especially p. 150.

[30] Kopanev, «О первых изданиях сатир А.Кантемира», p. 142.

[31] Heinrich Eberhard von Spilker, Versuchte freye Uebersetzung der Satyren des Prinzen Kantemir [An Attempt at a Free Translation of the Satires of Prince Kantemir] (Berlin: bey A. Haude und J. C. Spener, 1752).

[32] Россия и Запад: горизонты взаимопознания. Литературные источники XVIII века (1726-1762) [Russia and the West: The Horizons of Mutual Perception. Literary Sources of the Eighteenth Century (1726-1762)], vol. II (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2003), p. 21. It is of interest in this connection that Kantemir was considered by the French authorities, during his residence as the Russian envoy in Paris, to be rather more sympathetic to England than to France. Jean-Jacques Amelot (1689-1749), the French State Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote in April 1744 to Marquis Jacques-Joachim Trotti de La Chétardie (1705-59), the French ambassador in Russia: « il étoit plus Anglois que s’il fut né a Londres et il n’a jamais cherché qu’à donner en Russie les plus mauvaises impressions contre la France » [‘he was more English than if he had been born in London and he never tried to give anything but the worst impression of France in Russia’]: see V. N. Aleksandrenko, К биографии князя А.Д.Кантемира [On the Biography of Prince A. D. Kantemir] (Warsaw: Tipografiia Varshavskogo Uchebnogo Okruga, 1896), p. 6. Kantemir’s general coolness towards French culture and France, however, by no means clouded his understanding of the importance of knowledge of the French language in modern European culture and diplomacy.

[33]  Aleksandrenko, К биографии князя А.Д.Кантемира, pp. 15-46.

[34] Five months after his arrival in London, Kantemir admitted in a letter to Baron Heinrich Johann Ostermann (1687-1747), who at that time was Vice-President of the Russian College of Foreign Affairs, that he had difficulty understanding English: see Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», p. 91. It is striking that Kantemir formed no relationship, as far as we can see, with any contemporary English writers.

[35] Jeremy Black, A History of Diplomacy (London: Reaktion books, 2010), p. 74.

[36] Ibid., p. 75.

[37] Ibid.

[38] See, e.g., an account of the embassy of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill, 1650-1722) to Holland upon the accession of Queen Anne (reigned 1702-14): ‘her Majesty directed the Earl of Marlborough, who was dispatched to Holland on this Occasion, to give like verbal Assurances to their High Mightinesses. His Excellency arrived at the Hague on the 5th of April [...] and was conducted to the Assembly of the States General [...] His Excellency coming into the Assembly, was seated in an arm’d Chair over-against the Heer Dyckvelt, President [...] He afterwards made his Speech in French, to notify his Majesty’s Death, his Queen’s Succession [...] Monsieur Dyckvelt answer’d his Excellency’s Speech in the same Language [...] (The History of England during the Reigns of King William and Queen Mary, Queen Anne, King George I [...]. This book, which was written by a Mr Oldmixon and published in London in 1735, is available online at (accessed on 09.02.2013).

[39] RGADA, f. 1261, op. 1, d. 68, fols 2 v.-6 v.

[40] See for example A. Tchoudinov and V. Rjéoutski (eds), Франкоязычные гувернеры в Европе, 17-19 вв. [Francophone Tutors in Europe from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century], in Французский ежегодник 2011 [French Yearbook 2011] (Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii RAN, 2011).

[41] Black, A History of Diplomacy, p. 74.

[42] Marie-Karine Schaub, « Avoir l’oreille du roi : l’ambassade de Pierre Potemkine et Siméon Roumiantsev en France en 1668 » [‘To have the king’s ear: the embassy of Piotr Potiomkin and Semion Rumiantsev to France in 1668’], in Paroles des négociateurs. Entretien dans la pratique diplomatique de la fin du Moyen Age à la fin du XIXe siècle [Negotiators’ Words. Conversation in Diplomatic Practice from the End of the Middle Ages to the End of the Nineteenth Century] (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2010), pp. 213-28; see especially pp. 220-21, 228.

[43] Russia was not exceptional in this respect. Some other countries (for example, England, some small German states, Spain and Sweden) hired foreign diplomats for the same reason. However, in the eighteenth century one can see an increasing tendency among European powers to hire their own subjects to conduct their diplomatic business. This tendency, together with the increasing proficiency of European elites in French, enabled embassies to reduce the number of foreigners working for them and to employ foreigners only in minor posts (as in England). In some countries (for instance, in Sweden from 1723) certain diplomatic posts began to be reserved for that country’s own subjects: see Black, A History of Diplomacy, pp. 101, 110.

[44] RGADA, f. 1261, op. 1, d. 69, fol. 2: «Послал известить церемоний мейстера о моем прибытии: и потому извещению он был у меня по полудни, и по здешнему обыкновению взял у меня копию с грамоты на аглицском языке для сообщения Милорду Гамильтону, Статцкому Секретарю». (‘I dispatched someone to announce my arrival to the Master of Ceremonies; and having received my announcement he was with me in the afternoon and, in accordance with the practice here, took from me a copy of my credentials in English to be passed to Lord Hamilton, the Secretary of State.’

[46] Kantemir, Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Дмитриевича Кантемира, vol. II, pp. 322-36.

[47] Korff’s letters to Kantemir are also in French: see, e.g., ibid., p. 324, n. 1. All letters written by Kantemir in French seem to have been translated into Russian in St Petersburg, either by translators of the Academy or by its students.

[48] Ibid., p. 336.

[49] Ibid., pp. 97-314.

[50] The British Foreign Office used French extensively in its correspondence under George I (reigned 1714-27) but subsequently came to rely on English. However, more generally (for example, in Denmark, Sardinia and Saxony) diplomatic correspondence was increasingly conducted in French in the eighteenth century. A similar development took place in Prussia, under Frederick II (the Great; reigned 1740-1786) in particular, although German was also used. In Austria it took place after the accession of Maria Theresa (reigned 1740-80). In Russia it was not until the reign of Catherine II (1762-96) that the College of Foreign Affairs (Коллегия иностранных дел) adopted French for internal correspondence with its own diplomats. In some parts of Europe German continued to play an important role in the handling of German affairs (for example, in Copenhagen, Hanover and Vienna). Italian continued to play an important role in the Ottoman Empire, in the diplomatic sphere, until as late as the 1830s. See Black, A History of Diplomacy, pp. 110-11.

[51] Kantemir, Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Дмитриевича Кантемира, vol. II, pp. 315-21. Ivan Shcherbatov, as we know from his early letters was francophone: see the examples of his correspondence in our corpus at Teaching and learning French in the early eighteenth century: Ivan Shcherbatov’s letters to his French teacher: texts. We therefore cannot explain the fact that Kantemir wrote to Shcherbatov in Russian as due to ignorance of French on Shcherbatov’s part. However, Helmut Grasshoff, whose work we have cited above, did find one short letter written by Kantemir in French, in August 1738, to a Prince Shcherbatov, who is no doubt the same person: see Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa, p. 289. There is at least one other example of a letter written in French by Kantemir to a Russian (Count Golovkin, in 1738: ibid.).

[52] On Veshniakov, see the site at (accessed on 28.01.2013), which provides a list of Russian diplomats in the Ottoman Empire.

[53] Lozinskij claimed that Kantemir’s French was excellent: ‘he brought a perfect knowledge of French to France’ (Lozinskij, « Le prince Antioche Cantemir poète français », p. 238). Pumpiansky, on the other hand, thought it was awkward and riddled with errors: ‘his French was and remained far from perfect’ and ‘solecisms, often glaring, are ubiquitous’ (Pumpianskii, «Очерки по литературе первой половины XVIII века», p. 92).

[54] We have used the following sources: (i) Kantemir, Сочинения, письма и избранные переводы князя Антиоха Андреевича Кантемира, vol. II, where the editors of Kantemir’s correspondence with the presidents of the Academy of Sciences state that they have not altered the spelling in the letters they publish from the Academy’s Archives (p. 322, n. 1); (ii) Kantemir’s private letters published by Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa, op. cit.; (iii) Россия и Запад, op. cit.

[55] Россия и Франция, pp. 67-68.

[56] Ibid., pp. 72-99.

[57] Similar mistakes can be found in letters by Kantemir’s Italian friends, e.g. in letters by Gastaldi: « Si vous aurez [avez] la bonté », « mais comme je ne connais aucun [‘personne’ in this context] dans cette ville », « J’aimerai mieux d’avoir à traiter avec elle qu’à vu [voir] cinquante de ses avocats », « C’est une dame qui a infiniment de l’esprit et de la pénétration [d’esprit et de pénétration] », « infiniment du plaisir [de plaisir] », etc. (Grasshoff, Antioch Dmitrievič Kantemir und Westeuropa, pp. 323-24).


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