Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Russian peasants made more neat and durable labtis than the Finlanders

"The Emperor," says M. Strehlin, "notwithstanding the important affairs that demanded his attention, did not neglect those which seem of inferior consequence, but which, nevertheless, contribute to the happiness of the people. Several of his actions prove this beyond dispute; but the only one we shall mention here, is the pains he took to improve the Russian labti. The labti is a kind of shoe worn by the country people, and is made of osiers, or the bark of the birch tree matted in the form of a sock, and tied on the foot with a string.

The Czar having remarked that the Russian peasants made more neat and durable labtis than the Finlanders, attributed the diseases to which the latter were subject to this want of industry. He asked them why they did not make their labtis with more care? and as they answered they could not, he sent for six men, well skilled in the business, from the governments of Novogorod and Cassan, from whence many thousands are circulated, every year, over the different provinces of the empire.

These six workmen were successively distributed through the parishes of Finland, where, under the inspection of the vicars, they taught the peasants to make their labtis in a more wholesome and durable manner; nor were they permitted to return home till all the inhabitants had learned their method.

The vicars were obliged to give an account every month to the governor of Vibourg of the progress made by their parishioners. They also received a sum of money, which they distributed to the shoemakers at the rate of a rouble per week.

By these means the Czar procured the Finland peasantry shoes more capable of resisting the weather, and consequently more proper to defend them from the diseases to which they were exposed by those they were before accustomed to wear."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jessie always made friends with foreigners from strange places

There was quite a house party when we arrived, some Cambridge people, some young men, the younger son of the Whiteheads, Eric, then fifteen years old but very tall and flower-like and the daughter Jessie just back from Newnham. There could not have been much serious thought of war because they were all talking of Jessie Whitehead's coming trip to Finland. Jessie always made friends with foreigners from strange places, she had a passion for geography and a passion for the glory of the British Empire. She had a friend, a finn, who had asked her to spend the summer with her people in Finland and had promised Jessie a possible uprising against Russia. Mrs. Whitehead was hesitating but had practically consented. There was an older son North who was away at the time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Lapp-land puff, no Finland weather

Pleasures of a polar winter

But, to enter fully into the enjoyments of a polar winter, we should pass the time with the Finlander in his cabin, or the Laplander in his hut. Sunk into the ground some feet, by way of protection from the penetrating power of frost; and presenting but a mere conical point to the weight of snow, and the power of wind, the dwelling bids defiance to the rigour of the season: while the family within find themselves assembled, and alive to social enjoyment. This is the season for conversation and intercourse. While all abroad is frozen, the mind may expand. The parents have laid in their stores ; they have made provision for the winter's consumption ; the young men, under their direction, have set their traps, and they tend them, to see, from time to time, what further support they furnish. This is, now, their chief occupation ; and the rest of their time they spend in forming those connexions which are hereafter to become their constant enjoyments. Young women are then engaged in kindnesses. The fact is, that these people are removed from those fascinations by which the desire of accumulation impels natives of more temperate climates. They value the productions, the natural productions of their own country: these are their wealth. Artificial riches, the gains arising from calculations, and profits by means of the precious metals, they are not, indeed, strangers to; but are indifferent about. They have, no doubt, among them, different dispositions and characters : the worthy and the unworthy, the generous and the selfish. They have their hard hearts, and their miserly spirits. But these, acting within narrow limits, the infelicities they occasion are narrow also. They show, indeed, that under all climates, and seasons, man is the cause of his own disappointments and vexations. Not the circumstances that surround him, whether he be placed amid the fervent plains of India, the sandy desarts of Arabia, the temperate vales of Europe, or the snow-clad regions of the poles, are to blame. Man is not, therefore, either happy or unhappy, whether he enjoy the perpetual spring of Quito, the verdant summer of Britain, the rich autumn of Italy, or,the winter—the long, long winter of Lapland, and the Arctick circle. They are all equally indifferent to his real happiness.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A pagan Finlander, grinning with rage

Then he heard a rustling close beside him in the thickets; and, lo! from a narrow passage, like a cave in the rocks, which hitherto he had not observed, he saw the features of a pagan Finlander, grinning with rage, and preparing to assault him. Now then he proved the worth of the sword which had been made for him by Asmandur; for he struck with it so irresistibly, that the pagan's head was cleft into two; but, as if some demon of the mountains had assisted the adverse party, by opening to them the subterraneous passages among the cliffs, this man was followed by numberless others, who came howling and outrageous at his defeat.

Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouqué: The magic ring: a romance, Volume 2

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I suppose those islands will be off the coast of Finland.

The sky was perfectly clear and cloudless, save for a few light clouds that hung about the eastern horizon, and were blazing gold and red in the light of the newly-risen sun. The air-ship was flying at an elevation of about two thousand feet, which appeared to be her normal height for ordinary travelling. There was land upon both sides of them, but in front opened a wide bay, the northern shores of which were still fringed with ice and snow.

"That is the Gulf of Finland," said Arnold. "The winter must have been very late this year, and that probably means that we shall find the eastern side of the Ourals still snow-bound."

"So much the better," replied Colston. "They will have a much better chance of escape if there is good travelling for a sleigh."