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Xenophobia in French: Count Andrei Rostopchin’s reflections in the catalogue of his library


Count Andrei Rostopchin

Andrei Rostopchin (1813-92) was the youngest son of Count Fiodor Rostopchin (1763-1826), the controversial governor of Moscow who was rumoured to have been responsible for starting the great fire in the city on the eve of Napoleon’s occupation of it in 1812 and a leading conservative nationalist who was portrayed in a very negative light by Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910) in War and Peace.

From an early age Andrei Rostopchin lived abroad, briefly in Italy and then from 1816 until 1823 or 1824 in France, his father having felt it prudent to leave Russia in 1814 when suspicions mounted that it was he who had instigated the burning of Moscow. After the family’s return to Russia Andrei had spells in the army, in the early 1830s (when he fought against the Poles during the war of 1830-31) and the early 1840s. In 1833 he married Evdokiia, née Sushkova (1811-58), known as Dodo, who in her youth had studied English, French, German and Italian and who would become a translator and noteworthy poetess.

Ekaterina RostopchinaThe couple spent periods in Moscow during the years 1833-36 and St Petersburg during the years 1836-45, frequenting the social world of the two capitals, and in the years 1845-47 they lived abroad. They had two daughters and a son, all born in the period 1837-39. It was an unhappy marriage, though, and Evdokiia also had two illegitimate children by Andrei Karamzin (1814-54), one of the sons of Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826), the major prose writer and historian of the age of Alexander I.[1] After Evdokiia’s death Andrei married again. In the late 1860s and the 1870s he served in the administration of Eastern Siberia, retiring in 1881 with the high rank of Privy Councillor (Тайный советник).[2]

Rostopchin was a lover and avid collector of works of art and books. He accumulated a collection of paintings that included the canvases of European masters such as Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Rembrandt (1606-69), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Titian (1488 or 1490-1576) and portraits of Catherine II (the Great), the Emperor Paul and Louis XIV (whose personal rule lasted from 1661-1715). He also owned many portraits and sculptures of members of his own family. In 1847 he purchased a mansion in Moscow to house his collection of almost 300 paintings (the mansion is now No. 15 on Sadovaia Kudrinskaia) and in 1850 he generously opened the collection to the public on Sundays free of charge. However, in 1852 Andrei had to close his collection for financial reasons, for he was in the process of squandering the large family fortune, and over the next decade he sold off the greater part of the collection of paintings and many of the books. He also donated many books to the Imperial Public Library.

The catalogue to Andrei Rostopchin’s library

The material that we publish here comprises extracts from the manuscript version, dated 1861, of the catalogue of his library that Andrei Rostopchin wrote in French.[3] The catalogue was also published in printed form, in Brussels, but in a print run of only 50 copies.[4] Entitled An anecdotal, bibliographical, biographical catalogue of the books in the library of Count Andrei Rostopchin, more chronological than alphabetical, and facetious, accompanied by a vinaigrette of notes, most of them offensive to the ear, for the dead as well as the living, this catalogue is a long document, running to 194 folios or 384 numbered pages in the manuscript version and 332 pages in the printed version.

Rostopchin’s library, like his collection of paintings, was very substantial. It contained collections of manuscripts and of old books, including incunabula and editions from the publishing houses of Aldes and Elzevir. There were books on agriculture, architecture, economy, fine arts, geography, history, literature, mathematics, medicine, physics, religion, the ‘occult sciences’ and other subjects. There were also sections on numerous different countries, including America, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland.[5] The great majority of the books that Rostopchin catalogued are in French. There was a preponderance of books in French in nearly all sections of the library. Some sections consisted exclusively or almost exclusively of books in French, for example the sections containing books on France (1,204 volumes) and theatre (268 volumes) and the sections containing novels (1,004 volumes), books by French authors (685 volumes) and journals (nearly all the 162 volumes are in French). This preference for books written and published in French may explain why some sections of the library were sparse compared to the section on France. The Russian section, for example, contained only 190 volumes. Languages other than French (for instance, English, German, Italian and Latin) were also relatively poorly represented.

Scrutiny of the contents of Rostopchin’s library shows him to be an « honnête homme » in the eighteenth-century sense rather than a specialist in any particular field. That is to say, the owner of this library was indeed interested in many different branches of knowledge, but perhaps in a superficial way and only to a level that allowed him to maintain a social conversation on a subject. Libraries of this sort were a typical possession of European aristocrats in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Rostopchin’s section on history provides a good example of what such a library might contain. There are various collections of essays, memoirs, many books on diplomacy and books on the history of Europe (this latter element of the library may reflect Rostopchin’s own predilection for western culture). There are atlases, almanacs such as the Almanach de Gotha (an annual genealogical, diplomatic and statistical publication) and a large number of dictionaries (for example, heraldic and biographical dictionaries and the well-known Dictionnaire historique et critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary) by Pierre Bayle (1647–1706)). There are also editions of documents relating to congresses that were important for European history in general and Russian history in particular, such as the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 and the Congress of Paris in 1856.

The verbose and playful title of the catalogue and some of the comments that Rostopchin makes in it, like the very composition of the library, reflect the light-hearted, amateur spirit that characterised the honnête homme. Rostopchin explicitly opposes the painstaking, exhaustive collection of books. A library should contain no more than 8,000 volumes, he thinks: where there are just eight volumes there are already some that are useless and where there are more than 8,000 there are bound to be foolish things. Again, like his father Fiodor, Andrei has a fondness for the provocative witticism: it is wrong, he says, to steal a book from a public library or to deplete a private collection whose owner knows the true worth of each volume, but it is commendable to steal a book from an owner who is an imbecile.

At the same time the catalogue betrays a splenetic side in Andrei, which he would seem also to have inherited from his father. This side finds expression in a comment on the function of the catalogue that Andrei wrote on one copy of it:

Ce catalogue, qui est plus qu’un catalogue, contient la recette infaillible pour se guérir de la bile. Ayant bien craché une fois à la face du genre humain, tout ce qu'on а à lui reprocher, on peut redevenir sensible et bon homme tout à fait.[6]

[This catalogue, which is more than a catalogue, contains an infallible recipe for a cure for bile. Once you have spat out in the face of the human race all that you hold against it, then you can start to feel again and become a good man in all respects.]

Rostopchin pours out such ill-feeling in passages, often preceded by ‘NB’, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the catalogue. Take for example, his remarks on Rousseau apropos of bibliographical entry No. 2297 in it:

N.B. La plus grande partie des défenseurs actuels de Rousseau, avouent que le plus grand mérite de ses oeuvres est dans son style. Or, prenez n'importe quel ouvrage de Rousseau, ouvrez une page au hasard et soulignez au crayon les barbarismes et les fautes contre la grammaire. Vous serez étonné du résultat et devrez avouer que tout enfant de 12 ans, qui a reçu de l'éducation, aurait mieux écrit.[7]

[N.B. Most present-day defenders of Rousseau admit that the greatest merit of his works is his style. Well, take any work you like by Rousseau, open a page at random and underline the barbarisms and grammatical errors. You’ll be astonished at the result and you’ll have to admit that any educated twelve-year-old would have written better.]

Rostopchin’s reflections in these passages, especially the articulation of his prejudices about various foreign peoples, can hardly be said to be profound, and in many cases they will seem repugnant to readers. And yet they do reveal the uncomplicated attitudes of a man whose privilege is threatened by the Russian reverberations of European social and political change. They also yield reasons for the persistence of the habit of writing in French in Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century. In this essay we shall therefore deal first with the insight that the catalogue provides for the cultural and intellectual historian into the mindset of a conservative Russian aristocrat in the years immediately after the Crimean War (1853-56), during the early part of the reign of Alexander II. (This was the period during which Alexander’s government was planning and implementing the great reforms, the most important of which was the emancipation of the serfs in 1861.) We shall then be in a position to explain the interest of Rostopchin’s catalogue from the point of view of the social and cultural history of language.

Rostopchin’s remarks on Germany, Holland, Britain and Japan

Rostopchin is particularly concerned in his catalogue with economic, social and political developments that imperil the old order on which his own position depends. In a substantial passage in the manuscript version of the catalogue, for example, he worries about the likelihood of instability in the post-reform period. Pinning no hopes on the nobility (who lack any able man to represent their interests) or on the restless radical intelligentsia or on the government’s functionaries, he fears that the country’s future will be bleak. He is apprehensive about what will happen now that the peasantry, who he believes have hitherto enjoyed some protection from landowners, will be at the mercy of rapacious agents of the government. (It is not merely the peasants’ welfare that concerns Rostopchin, of course, but the question whether they will continue to exhibit such patience as they have in the past. He is not sure whether to construe this patience as admirable or stupid.) Everything will depend on the monarch whose intentions, Rostopchin believes, are good, but who will have to struggle alone against a revolutionary current which might unleash terrible anarchy. Thus the prospect of peasant revolt that had haunted Fiodor Rostopchin in the first Alexandrine age seems even more menacing to his son in the second.

The importance that Rostopchin, in these circumstances, attaches to strong central political leadership and to the unity that he thinks religious conformity and xenophobia can bolster is well illustrated in a passage on Germany that occurs in both the manuscript and the printed versions of his catalogue. For all its rich natural endowments, Germany finds itself in a condition of ‘inexpressible confusion’ (« confusion inexprimable ») from which it will only recover, Rostopchin asserts, if Providence sends a ‘superior man’ (« homme supérieur ») capable of unifying the many states into which the nation is divided. The country’s current weakness can be attributed, Rostopchin opines, to the fragmenting effect of the Reformation and to the prominence of Jews in the higher echelons of German university teaching. Only the calming effect of the beer of which Germans are so fond, Rostopchin claims to believe, can explain the absence in German lands of the sort of bloody conflicts to which other countries in a similar condition have been reduced. The passage may be read, mutatis mutandis, as an implicit endorsement of the Russian doctrine of Official Nationality, which was based on the tenets of Autocracy, Orthodoxy and Nationality, with disapproval of what is non-Russian taking the form in this instance of naked anti-Semitism.

Apprehensions about the threat that social change posed to the Russian ancien régime, xenophobia and no doubt frustration at Russia’s gradual loss of power since its triumph in the Napoleonic Wars – all these factors give rise in Rostopchin’s catalogue to crude outbursts against other European peoples, besides the Germans. For example, Rostopchin articulated a strong prejudice against the Dutch of Amsterdam. While admiring Amsterdam as an incomparably beautiful city, he deplored the ‘stamp of cretinism’ (« cachet de crétinisme ») that he claimed to see on the faces of its inhabitants and wondered why no other traveller appeared to have remarked upon it. The phenomenon could only be explained, he concluded, by the fact that Amsterdam was inhabited exclusively by businessmen who for centuries had been engaged in nothing but commerce and who thought only of money-making. Everything to do with imagination, the fine arts, literature, Rostopchin supposed, was foreign to the Amsterdamers. It was this absence of any intellectual function, he assumed, that had dulled their understanding and deadened their expressions. On one level this contempt for business and money-making reveals, of course, the social prejudices of an aristocrat. At the same time, it is quite in keeping with a feeling that was widespread in the mid-nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia, in both its ‘Slavophile’ and ‘Westernist’ camps, that the commercial spirit was symptomatic of the egoism of ‘Europe’ and of Europe’s general spiritual and moral decadence.

Rostopchin expressed a broader and even deeper antipathy towards Britain (or rather ‘England’, for Scotland, Wales and Ireland were rarely distinguished from England in the Russian mental landscape at this time). Britain, a personified entity, was ‘guileful, impudent, egoistic, inhuman, with an insatiable thirst for riches’ (« astucieux, impudent, égoiste, inhumain, insatiable de richesses »). It was also ‘a refuge for every brigand in Europe’ (« refuge de tous les brigands de l’Europe »). (Rostopchin is no doubt thinking of Karl Marx (1818-83), Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72) and his own compatriots Mikhail Bakunin (1814-76) and Alexander Herzen (1812-70), all of whom had found sanctuary in London.) Other peoples waited impatiently, Rostopchin assumed, for the moment when France would defeat the British for the good of the whole world. This Anglophobia may have owed something to the prejudices of Andrei’s father, Fiodor, but it was also characteristic of the intellectual climate in Russia in the years immediately following Russia’s defeat in the Crimea, in which the British had played a major role. It combined crude national stereotyping with the reassuring, if fanciful, conviction that Britain was a nation nearing the end of its historical ascendancy.

Even Japan, which would shortly undergo a process that bore some resemblance to the westernisation undertaken in Russia some hundred and fifty years earlier by Peter I (the Great), furnished material for Rostopchin’s complaints about western European nations in general and Britain in particular. Japan was a remote, backward nation that was being subjected to colonial exploitation, and as such it deserved sympathy. The so-called civilisation that ‘Europe’ intended to introduce to Japan amounted to ‘the negation [...] of all moral principle, [and to] anarchy and syphilis’ [« la négation [...] de tout principe moral, l’anarchie et la vérole »]. Fleeced by the British through exchange of good money for base coinage, ‘this unfortunate country would soon be treated as Peru and Mexico had been [treated] by the Spaniards’ [« ce malheureux pays sera bientôt traité comme l'a été le Pérou et le Mexique par les Espagnols »].[8]

Rostopchin’s Gallophobia

The centrepiece of Rostopchin’s fulminations against other nations in his catalogue, however, is a tirade against France and the French. The tirade is reminiscent of those récits de voyage which so many Russians, conservative and radical alike, had produced from the late eighteenth century onwards and in which an account of a visit to France had often served as a climax. It is this part of the catalogue that has the greatest bearing on our consideration of the seemingly perverse habit of using French as a medium for Russian Gallophobia.[9]

It should be noted, before we examine this tirade closely, that much of it is taken more or less verbatim, with minor changes to wording and punctuation, from a letter that Andrei’s father Fiodor had addressed to Alexander I in the period of the Bourbon Restoration (c. 1814-30) after the Napoleonic Wars.[10] Andrei has updated Fiodor’s acerbic criticisms of France and the French, changing details such as certain statistics that were no longer accurate in the age of the Second Empire and incorporating information about political, social and cultural developments that had taken place since his father’s death. Even when he is merely repeating what his father has said, though, we are entitled to assume that Andrei Rostopchin himself subscribes to the views that are being expressed in his catalogue, of which he is the author in control.

There is nothing in contemporary France of which Rostopchin approves. He believes that French military men have become soft and lost their martial prowess. The nation’s innumerable lawyers are self-seeking. Rural priests have been infected by democratic and socialist ideas and the clergy in general seem to have lost doctrinal certainty. The republic of letters consists of ageing scribblers. The millions of hacks who write for the press are prepared to lie and slander in their clamour for pension, place or decoration. Paris, which the French regard as the capital of the universe,[11] corrupts the nation. Many of its inhabitants devote their lives simply to satisfying the craving for luxury and the tastes of the wealthy.

Above all, like so many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian observers of other peoples, Rostopchin draws up an indictment of French character and morals, and in so doing he borrows liberally from his father’s invective. The Frenchman is a ‘balloon inflated with vanity’ (« un ballon gonflé de vanité »: the phrase belongs to Rostopchin père). He (Rostopchin repeatedly uses the male pronoun) is fickle, yielding to any influence. He is a slave to his sensations. He is flighty, being prone to speak before he thinks and to act before he has a motive. He lives life on the spur of the moment. He abhors reflection, ennui and inactivity. He obscures his bad actions with a veneer of fine words such as ‘fatherland’, ‘glory’ and ‘honour’ (patrie, gloire, honneur). He is beside himself with emotion if in a sentimental vaudeville he hears reference to his victories. He wants to make an instant fortune, and so lacks probity. Pure love is no longer known in France; marriage has come to be seen as a financial contract. Nowhere are people so depraved or women in particular so brazen, as in France, particularly in Paris. No people have such a taste as the French for erotic or sadistic literature, which is openly distributed. France is also the dirtiest of Europe’s civilised nations, in Rostopchin’s opinion. Owing to the scarcity of public baths, the absence of hot water in schools and colleges in winter, the high price of laundry services and not least their native avarice, the French – we are led to believe – rarely wash or change their clothes.

Napoleon IIIAndrei Rostopchin’s critique of France and the French was doubtless sharpened by the fact that its current sovereign, Louis-Napoleon (1808-73), was the nephew of the man who had invaded Russia. Andrei was able to add to Fiodor’s critique the claim that Louis-Napoleon too, like Napoleon Bonaparte, wished to dominate Europe and subjugate other peoples by fomenting revolutions. Moreover, the memory of French victory over Russia in the Crimea was fresh when Rostopchin wrote his catalogue. The pain of that outcome can be felt behind Rostopchin’s refusal to accept that the French actually defeated the Russians when they took Sebastopol during the war: the Russian forces, Andrei contends, withdrew from the town in order to remain in control of the fortresses on the hills outside it.

However, in most respects Rostopchin’s critique of France and the French is far from topical. It is a recapitulation of numerous commonplaces about French character that are to be found not only in Fiodor Rostopchin’s acerbic writings of the first Alexandrine period (and it is Fiodor who has articulated the commonplaces so incisively for Andrei) but in many other Russian writings that had been produced over a long period from the mid-eighteenth century. These writings represent a range of genres from comic drama and the novel to the travelogue and the political and moral essay. The political standpoints of their authors span the spectrum from Orthodox romantic conservativism and Official Nationality, at one end, to socialism and other forms of radicalism at the other. A mercenary outlook, egoism, vanity, superficiality, hypocrisy, loquacity, obsequiousness, flippancy (the « étourderie française » to which Rostopchin refers, as Fiodor had done) – these are the conventional topoi of Russian discourse on French character and mores from Fonvizin to Pogodin, Herzen and Dostoevsky.[12] Not that this contempt for the French as a nation is an exclusively Russian phenomenon. Many men of letters of different European nationalities – Bohemian, Dutch, German, Italian and so forth – expressed it in various genres and in doing so they had some effect on the Russian Gallophobic tradition.[13] Indeed, a tradition of harsh criticism of the flaws of the French was well represented in France itself, particularly in the works of Montesquieu and Voltaire.[14]

The social meaning of the use of French by a Russian aristocrat

The surprising thing, perhaps, is not that Rostopchin should cling to the topoi to which we have just referred. Rather it is that even in the second half of the nineteenth century he should still be using the French language with such insouciance as the medium in which to repeat them. How can a man who is bitterly critical of France and the French see no irony in the fact that he uses the French language to express his Gallophobia even after a strong literary and intellectual tradition with Russian as its medium had established itself? How can Rostopchin resort to the French language in order to condemn the Frenchman for believing that he is ‘a being superior to the rest of humanity because his language is the most widely used among the living languages’ (« un être supérieur au reste de l’humanité, parceque sa langue est la plus répandue des langues vivantes »)?

One possible explanation of the apparent paradox, of course, is simply that French is the language which Rostopchin writes with the greatest ease, at least in a literary register. After all, he had spent his formative boyhood years in France. Nor should we rule out the possibility that he had an international readership in mind when he wrote his catalogue, including readers who might wish to purchase his library as his personal financial circumstances deteriorated, although the very small print run of the printed version of the catalogue would seem to undermine that explanation. On the other hand, it is just as likely, if Rostopchin did conceive of his catalogue as an advertisement of his property, that he was hoping to find buyers among his compatriots in the small aristocratic sphere that he inhabited. In any case, his habit of using French for domestic literary purposes is illustrated not merely by the catalogue but also by an item in the library that the catalogue describes, namely A History of the World (up to the Battle of Actium), which Rostopchin wrote for his children.[15] This task cost him dear in financial terms, inasmuch as he had to pay to have his history printed, but he did not regret the time he had spent on it. Thus a Russian nobleman in 1861 is still using French for a pedagogical purpose, as Mikhail Shcherbatov had in his letters to his son Dmitrii almost a hundred years earlier. Rostopchin’s use of French in his library catalogue, then, is not, or is not primarily, a means of transmitting a vision of Russia’s historical past and futurity to a foreign readership, as it was, for example, for Alexander Herzen in a series of essays that he had published in French in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

In seeking an explanation of this instance of the use of French by a Russian aristocrat for communication with a mainly domestic readership as late as the age of Alexander II, we might usefully consider the stage in the development of French culture with which Rostopchin most closely associates the French traits that he deplores. No matter that Russian writers thought they had identified these traits a century earlier. The nation of which Rostopchin is so critical is not the France of the ages of Louis XIV and Louis XV, starting in the late seventeenth century and continuing through most of the eighteenth, but the France that had come into being after 1789, particularly the France that had developed since the July Revolution (i.e. the revolution of 1830 which overthrew the restored Bourbon Charles XII).

Rostopchin draws a sharp contrast between these two Frances. The former, pre-revolutionary and pre-Napoleonic France had conquered Europe by its « esprit », which we may take to mean its elite culture in the broadest sense. The French were still entitled to be proud of the neo-classical literature in which that esprit found expression. Rostopchin had personally encountered some of its incarnations. In his youth, he says, presumably with his childhood years in Paris in mind, he had met surviving representatives of the ancien régime in whom he had observed ‘models of politeness, urbanity, elegance of tone and good fashions’ (« des modèles de politesse, d’urbanité, d’élégance de ton et de bonnes façons »). In contemporary bourgeois France writers continued to express the spirit of the nation, it would seem, but now that spirit was destructive and vulgar. A class of writers had developed who had demoralised the French people by inciting the overthrow of the existing social order, preaching atheism, arousing sexual passions and encouraging adultery. (Rostopchin thinks Eugène Sue (1804-57), George Sand (1804-76) and Alfonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) are particularly culpable.) In the eighteenth century, then, the French shone through their literature and danced the minuet; in the nineteenth, they reigned by virtue of their fashions and coiffure and they danced the cancan.

Flaws in education, as well as the corrupting influence of men and women of letters, helped to explain the contrast between the two epochs and the nation’s decline. The French are now taught nothing, Rostopchin laments, that ‘a civilised man’ (« un homme civilisé ») should know. Their ignorance is particularly manifest in geography and history. One of its causes is the method of public education, which gives little weight to the learning of living languages, thus depriving people of the opportunity to civilise themselves by studying other countries through their literatures or through travel. More importantly, public education destroyed the social exclusivity that was required if a ‘civilised man’, as the aristocrat conceived of him, was to be bred successfully. The members of the well-mannered pre-revolutionary French elite whom Rostopchin had met in his boyhood had been formed in the bosom of their families. Nowadays, on the other hand, all French people, including members of the social elite, would have to rub shoulders with one another at school. From early childhood they would consequently ‘contract’ a ‘triviality of tone and language’ (« trivialité du ton et du langage »). (The possible implication of the verb ‘to contract’ – that is to say, that a disease is being passed on – seems apt.) This triviality would remain with all French people for the rest of their lives, irrespective of their social background, with the result that all would comport themselves in society ‘like porters’ (« comme des crocheteurs »).

It is clear, then, that Rostopchin, despite his vilification of French national character, subscribes wholeheartedly to the cultural values of the pre-revolutionary French social elite, values which were expressed through and inextricably bound up with francophonie. It is not France as a whole at any point in its history that he deplores, but the vulgar bourgeois France of the July Monarchy and Second Empire with its commercial ethos, democratisation, popularised culture, quasi-pornographic literature, unwashed populace and loss of good manners and taste. The French language, far from being an inappropriate medium for jaundiced comment about France in modern times, enables Rostopchin to associate himself with a way of life that is under threat, in Russia in the age of reform as well as in France under the Second Empire. And yet, just as the French people, in Rostopchin’s imagination, could claim greatness only in the past, so Russian aristocrats like Rostopchin himself were now becoming relics of a moribund social estate. Their outstanding literary incarnation is Pavel Kirsanov in Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Children (set in 1859 and published in 1862), which so sensitively captures conflicts of class and generation at the very moment when Rostopchin was writing his catalogue.

Derek Offord and Vladislav Rjéoutski
February 2013

*Image credits

Portrait (1809) of Countess Ekaterina Rostopchina by Orest Kiprensky: image courtesy of Olga's Gallery,
Portrait (c. 1852) of Louis-Napoleon (Napoleon III) by Franz-Xaver Winterhalter: image courtesy of Olga's Gallery,

[1] There is an informative entry on Evdokiia Rostopchina by Ruth Sobel in Neil Cornwell (ed.), Reference Guide to Russian Literature (London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998), pp. 698-99. For Rostopchina’s literary biography in Russian, see the entry in Русские писатели 1800-1917: биографический словарь [Russian Writers 1800-1917: A Biographical Dictionary], 5 vols (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo ‘Sovetskaia entsiklopediia’, then Nauchnoe izdatel’stvo ‘Bol’shaia Rossiiskaia entsiklopediia’, then Izdatel’stvo ‘Bol’shaia rossiiskaia entsiklopediia, 1989-2007), vol. V, pp. 369-74. There is also online biographical material on her in Аргументы и факты [Arguments and Facts] at (accessed on 16.11.2012). A volume of her poetry was published in the late Soviet period: E. P. Rostopchina, Стихотворения, проза, письма [Verse, Prose, Letters], ed. Boris Romanov (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1986).

[2] For biographical information on Andrei Rostopchin, see the exhaustive entry in the pre-revolutionary Русский биографический словарь [Russian Biographical Dictionary] which is available on the site of the Russian State Library at (accessed on 28.11.2012). See also the entry atРостопчин and the briefer sketch atРостопчин (both accessed on 16.11.2012).

[3] This manuscript is kept in the Manuscript Department of the Russian State Library (hereafter RGB), f. 183, op. 1, d. 1089.

[4] [Rostopchin] Gensiskhana. Pour comprendre ce titre, lisez la note du № 468. Catalogue anecdotique, bibliographique, biographique et facétieux des livres de la Bibliothèque du Andrei Fedorovich Rostopchin : accompagné d'une vinaigrette de notes, la plupart malsonnantes, pour les morts comme pour les vivants [...] ; avec un portrait de l'Auteur ([Brussels]: Impr. de M.-J. Poot et C-ie, 1862). The word ‘Gensiskhana’ in this title is a reference to Genghis Khan (1162?-1227), the Mongol conqueror whose horde threatened Europe in the early thirteenth century and from whom Andrei’s family on his father’s side claimed to be descended. The printed version of Rostopchin’s catalogue differs somewhat from the manuscript version. At the point where Rostopchin makes some introductory remarks about Germany, for example, the text of the catalogue has been slightly revised in the printed version for what would appear to be mainly stylistic reasons. In his preamble to the section on Russia, on the other hand, the two texts are altogether different in content, for reasons that no doubt have to do with Rostopchin’s intended readership. For a foreign readership, Rostopchin says in the printed version of the catalogue, he is not going to publicise the material on his country’s history that he has organised in his mind because, first, it would be ‘useless’ and ‘unseemly’ to set out ‘before the eyes of Europe evils and abuses which do not concern it’ and, secondly, none of the good things that he would have to say ‘would be believed by foreigners, who have deliberately decided to find nothing but bad in Russia’. The French text of these two passages from the printed version of the catalogue (i.e. a passage on Germany and a passage on Russia) is reproduced in nn. 6 and 28 to the text from the manuscript version of the catalogue which accompanies this essay: see Xenophobia in French: Count Andrei Rostopchin’s reflections in the catalogue of his library: text.

[5] The catalogue’s table of contents is as follows (numbers in brackets indicate the page in the manuscript version on which the section in question begins): « Manuscrits (1), Incunables (4), Aldes (9), Editions Elzéviriennes (13), Histoire (20), Allemagne (49), Amérique (58), Angleterre (62), Belgique (78), Chine (80), Egypte (84), Espagne (85), France (89), Révolution française (180), Grèce (187), Hollande (189), Inde (192), Italie (194), Japon (202), Pologne (204), Portugal (206), Russie (207), Saint-Domingue (231), Suède (232), Suisse (234), Turquie (236), Journaux (239), Voyages (242), Religion (259), Jésuites (269), Maladies de la cervelle (273), Sciences occultes (277), Beaux-arts (282), Introduction à la science (296), Agriculture (298), Architecture (299), Astronomie (302), Botanique (303), Chimie (304), Economie domestique (304), Economie politique (305), Géographie (305), Hippiatrique et vénérie (306), Histoire naturelle (308), Linguistique (310), Mathématiques (311), Médecine (312), Minéralogie (317), Ornithologie (318), Physique (318), Auteurs anciens (319), Auteurs étrangers (323), Auteurs français (330), Poésie (340), Mélanges (344), Théâtre (347), Romans (362), Facéties (382), Bibliographie (384), Table des auteurs ».

[6] Quoted in the biographical entry on Rostopchin at (accessed on 02.03.2013).

[7] RGB, f. 183, op. 1, d. 1089, p. 338.

[8] A similarly negative impression of Britain as a capitalist and colonial power had been conveyed, during and immediately after the Crimean War, and shortly before the publication of Rostopchin’s catalogue, in a voluminous travelogue, The Frigate Pallas, in which the novelist Ivan Goncharov (1812-91) described his visit to Japan in 1853-54 as part of a Russian diplomatic mission. In the course of the long voyage undertaken by this mission from the Baltic to the Pacific, Goncharov had visited not only Portsmouth and London but also British colonial possessions in Southern Africa and the Far East. For all their qualities, the industrious, inventive and energetic English seemed to Goncharov pompous, haughty, taciturn, self-regarding, contemptuous of other nationalities, hypocritical and ‘wretchedly commercial’. Goncharov’s travel account was originally published as Русские в Японии в конце 1853 и в начале 1854 годов [Russians in Japan at the End of 1853 and the Beginning of 1854] (St Petersburg: Akademiia nauk, 1855), then as a revised edition entitled Фрегат Паллада, 2 vols (St Petersburg: A. I. Glazunov, 1858). There is an abridged translation of this work: Goncharov, The Voyage of the Frigate ‘Pallada’, ed. and trans. N. W. Wilson (London: The Folio Society, 1965). For Goncharov’s views on the English, see pp. 35-39, 42, 51-52, 72, 207 and 212 of this version (the quotation is taken from the last of these pages). On Goncharov’s Frigate Pallas, see Milton Ehre, Oblomov and His Creator: The Life and Art of Ivan Goncharov (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 142-53, and Vsevolod Setchkareff, Ivan Goncharov: His Life and His Works (Würzburg: Jal, 1974), pp. 80-110.

[9] The tirade continues over pp. 89-97 (on France) and 116-22 (on the French people).

[10] Andrei’s nephew (the son of his elder sister Sophie) quotes at length from Fiodor Rostopchin’s letter in his biography of Fiodor: see Marquis A. de Ségur, Vie du comte Rostopchine: gouverneur de Moscou en 1812 (Paris: Bray et Retaux, 1871), p. 311. This biography is available online through Google Books via (accessed on 30.11.2012). See pp. 296-306 for Fiodor’s letter to Alexander I.

[11] This is a view which Tolstoy’s Pierre Bezukhov accepts in conversation with the French officer who is billeted in his house in Moscow in War and Peace: see vol. III, part 3, chapter 29 of the novel.

[12] See, e.g., Письма из Франции и Италии [Letters from France and Italy], in A. I. Gertsen [Herzen], Собрание сочинений в тридцати томах [Collected Works in Thirty Volumes] (Moscow, Izdatel’stvo Akademii nauk SSSR, 1954-65), vol. V, pp. 7-224 (see especially the first four ‘letters’), and Зимние заметки о летних впечатлениях, in F. M. Dostoevskii, Собрание сочинений в тридцати томах [Collected Works in Thirty Volumes] (Leningrad: Nauka, 1972-90), vol. V, pp. 46-98 (see especially chapters 6-8).

[13] See, e.g., Jens Häseler, Albert Meier (eds), Gallophobie im 18. Jahrhundert. Akten der Fachtagung vom 2./3. Mai am Forschungszentrum Europäische Aufklärung [Gallophobia in the Eighteenth Century. Proceedings of the Colloquium of 2-3 May at the Research Centre for the European Enlightenment] (Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2005); Raymond Heitz, York-Gothard Mix, Jean Mondot, Nina Birkner, Gallophilie und Gallophobie in der Literatur und den Medien in Deutschland und in Italien im 18. Jahrhundert [Gallophophilia and Gallophobia in Literature and the Media in Germany and Italy in the Eighteenth Century] (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2011).

[14] Interestingly, Voltaire develops his critical view of contemporary France in a poem of 1760, entitled Le Russe à Paris, which he dedicated to Ivan Shuvalov.

[15] André Rostopchine, Histoire universelle (jusqu’à la bataille d’Actium), 2 vols (Moscow: Semen, 1843-44). The Battle of Actium, fought in 31 BC, was a decisive naval engagement between the forces of Octavian (the future Augustus; 63 BC-19 AD), on the one hand, and Mark Antony (83 BC-30 BC) and Cleopatra (69 BC-30 BC), on the other, in the final war of the Roman Republic.


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