Travels through Part of the Russian Empire and the Country of Poland; along the Southern Shores of the Baltic
Publisher: David Longworth
Place: New York
402 pages with appendix. Octavo (8 3/4" x 5 1/2") bound in black leather with black and red label with gilt lettering to labels, marbled end papers. (Catalogue Russica J557) First American edition, first published in London a year earlier.
Johnston traveled from Danzig to Berlin in 1814, after two decades of Napoleonic Wars in Europe. His account takes the elitist/upper class English view of Eastern Europe. He provides descriptions of villages and cities, many completely devastated by war, as well as people and their arts. He points out the traditions of minorities, especially the Jews of Poland and Lithuania. Interesting insight into the English view of the continent two hundred years ago..
"Robert Johnston attended college in Aberdeen, Scotland, before setting out on an extensive European tour during the years 1812 to 1814 which included travel in Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Poland, and Ireland. In 1815 Johnston published an account and accompanying sketches documenting his time in Russia. Following his travels, Robert Johnston returned to Jamaica to claim his share of his father's estate...Johnston's land holdings increased in 1818, when he married Catherine Cole Taylor, the only child of local plantation owner John Taylor and his wife, Comfort Ann Hind Taylor...The Johnstons finally relocated to Rhode Island when, in 1833, the imperial British parliament emancipated all the slaves in Jamaica. Fearing for his financial stability and for his family's safety, Robert Johnston thought the relocation was necessary, though the Johnstons continued to visit the island. It was on an 1839 voyage to Jamaica that Catherine (Kate) Johnston, Robert and Catherine's oldest daughter, took ill and died suddenly. She was only fifteen years old. Robert Johnston went into rapid decline after hearing of his daughter's death and died soon after, on August 14, 1839...Johnston's Travels Through Part of the Russian Empire...published by J.J. Stockdale in 1815, provides an even more detailed account of his travels in 1814. In this journal, Johnston related vivid descriptions of the people and places he encountered, along with significant amounts of commentary. Of Russian military officers he met, for example, Johnston observed that their uniforms 'increase the manliness of the figure, at the expense of the care and health of the individual many of the officers are so tightly twisted round the waist, as to appear something similar to a wasp.' Johnston went on to describe the ways in which 'the purity of this fine military system is dreadfully contaminated by the introduction of a set of common horse soldiers,' detailing their activities and his perception of their significance. This account offers a good deal of insight into everyday life in Russia and Poland in 1814, particularly in regard to matters of style and custom readily discernable to an outsider such as Johnston" (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Collection 1582, Powell Family Papers, pages 4-5 and 33).
Some foxing, light staining and age toning, number stamp on back page margin else a good copy.
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