Monday, May 27, 2013

The Unintended Reformation by Brad S. Gregory

I have recently finished The Unintended Reformation by Brad S. Gregory.  Without doubt, this is one of the most consequential books I've read in some time.  Gregory is a professor of history at Notre Dame, so it should come as no surprise that he approaches the subject from a Catholic angle.  Many readers--used to the Reformation being portrayed as a decidedly good thing--may find this disconcerting.  Those of a conservative political bent or of a liberal theology will find plenty to offend them as well.  I believe that this will become a seminal work, a revisionist history that (hopefully) pushes the conversation in new directions.
 The promotion for the volume notes that it is as much about the present as it is the past.  Indeed, Gregory finds the roots of our contemporary hyperpluralistic, consumerist, and religiously disenchanted society in the Reformation itself, not just the Enlightenment.  Instinctively, I already knew this, even back in my Protestant days, long before I became Orthodox.  Viewing the West as it stands now from six different perspectives, Gregory methodically and substantially connects all the dots.  His theories do not explain everything, but they explain quite a lot.  Without further commentary on my part, I will post some of his noteworthy passages, below:
The underlying problem is that most people seek--and through relentless advertising are encouraged to pursue--ever greater material affluence and comfort, despite the fact that the average American income, for example, rose eightfold in real terms during the twentieth century.  Westerners now live in societies without an acquisitive ceiling:  a distinctly consumerist (rather than merely industrial) economic ethos depends precisely on persuading people to discard as quickly as possible what they were no less insistently urged to purchase, so that another acquisitive cycle might begin.
If "rights" and "persons" no less than "morality" are mere constructs without empirical grounding in the findings of science, and only science can legitimately tell us anything true about reality, then such constructs can be deconstructed and dismissed in the pursuit of alternatives.
Reformation leaders thought the root problem was doctrinal, and in seeking to fix it by turning to the Bible they unintentionally introduced multiple sorts of unwanted disagreement.  This constituted a new set of problems, different from the first.  What was true Christianity and how was it known?  Doctrinal controversy was literally endless, and religio-political conflicts...were destructive and inconclusive.
What sort of public life or common culture is possible in societies whose members share ever fewer substantive beliefs, norms, and values save for a nearly universal embrace of consumerist acquisitiveness?
This chapter traces the historical trajectory whereby the assumptions about God, nature, and science that dominate contemporary intellectual life have come to be taken with such uncritical matter-of-factness.  they are widely regarded as ideologically neutral,, obvious truths rather than seen for what they are:  ideologically loaded, contestable truth claims based on unverifiable beliefs.
...this anti sacramental view of science and religion, if the universe as a whole were a closed system of natural causes, there would be no place for God either causally or conceptually.  God would simply be superfluous, because there would be neither a place nor any evidence for him.  But a genuinely transcendent god, if real, is not spatial at all.  So such a God, if real, no more needs room to act than he needs room to exist.  Both presuppositions--the assimilation o God to the natural world and the mutual exclusivity of natural causes and divine presence--are implicitly part of modern science as it is conceived and practiced, although bot have long ceased to be active concerns among practicing scientists qua scientists.  Bot indeed repudiate central claims of Christianity....
However human reason is construed or understood, it cannot fathom what is by definition unfathomable, and so despite traditional Christian theology's pervasive and variegated use of reason it can never finally grasp directly that with which it is chiefly concerned.
This is Scotus's univocal conception of being--"univocal" because it is predicated in conceptually equivalent terms of everything that exists, including God....and...would prove to be the first step toward the eventual domestication of God's transcendence...
The Reformation chiefly matters for the emergence of modern science in quite another way:  the intractable doctrinal disagreements among Protestants and especially between Catholics and Protestants...had the unintended effect of sidelining explicitly Christian claims about God in relationship to the natural world.  This left only empirical observation and philosophical speculation as supra-confessional means of investigating and theorizing that relationship.
...the denial that Jesus could be really present in the a logical corollary of metaphysical univocity.  A "spiritual" presence that is contrasted with  a real presence presupposes an either-or dichotomy between a crypto-spatial God and the natural world that precludes divine immanence in its desire to preserve divine is precisely and God's radical otherness as non spatial that makes his presence in and through creation possible, just as it had made the incarnation possible....The denial of the possibility of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, by contrast, ironically implies that the "spiritual" presence of god is itself being conceived in spatial or quasi-spatial terms...
But what if the anti-Roman exclusion of divine immanence that presupposed metaphysical univocity were to be combined with Occam's razor and a conception of the natural world as an explanatory adequate system of self-contained, efficient causes?  Then there would be neither a place for the active, ever-present, biblical God of Christianity, nor a reason to refer to him except perhaps as as an extraordinarily remote, first efficient cause.  This would mean, of course, that the god under consideration would no longer be the biblical God.  It would be the God of deism....In this way, the Protestant denial of sacramentality as it was understood in the Roman church contributed unintentionally and indirectly to post-enlightenment disenchantment.
Empirical investigation of the natural world had not falsified any theological claims.  Rather, incompatible Catholic and Protestant views about the meaning of god's actions created an intellectually sterile impasse because of the objections they inevitably provoked from theological opponents, and the intractable doctrinal controversies they constantly reinforced.  What was left as a mean for understanding the natural world?  Only reason--understood and exercised in ways that did not depend on any contested Christian doctrines.
But for most innovative eighteenth-century thinkers...the principal remaining significant question about God was whether he was an initial, remote, efficient cause of the universe's deterministic mechanism, or simply a superstitious invention of unenlightened, primitive peoples ignorant of the truth about dynamic, eternal matter....His domestication now complete or nearly so among such thinkers, God was in both cases conceived as though he were spatial and temporal.
A rejection of the church's authority and many of its teachings is precisely what happened in the Reformation.  All Protestant reformers came to believe that the established church was no longer the church established by Jesus.  So they spurned many truth claims of the faith as embodied in the Roman church....The Reformation's upshot was rather that Roman Catholicism, even at its best, was a perverted form of Christianity even if all its members had been self-consciously following all the Roman church's teachings and had been enacting all its permitted practices.  Institutional abuses and immorality were seen as symptomatic signs of a flawed foundation, namely false and dangerous doctrines--that is, mistaken truth claims.
It is thus misleading to say that "Protestantism itself splintered into rival denominations, or 'confessions,'" as if there ever was some point in the early Reformation when anti-Roman Christians had agreed among themselves about wha3t scripture said and God taught.  There wasn't.
Commitment to the authority of scripture led neither obviously nor necessarily to justification by faith alone or to salvation through grace alone as the cornerstone doctrines of Christianity.  Radical Protestants made abundantly clear that the Bible did not "interpret itself" in this way, whatever protagonists claimed to the contrary.  Unfettered and unconstrained, the Reformation simply yielded the full, historically manifest range of truth claims made about what the Bible said....From the very outset of the Reformation, the shared commitment to sola scriptura entailed a hermeneutical heterogeneity that proved doctrinally contentious, socially divisive, and sometimes...politically subversive.
The assertion that scripture alone was a self-sufficient basis for Christian faith and life...produced not even rough agreement, but an open-ended welter of competing and incompatible interpretations of Luther's "one certain rule"....Scholars...have overlooked the significance of the principle of sola scriptura for contemporary hyperpluralism.  Unless radical and magisterial Protestants are studied together, historically and comparatively, this significance cannot be seen.  
Christian morality was irreducibly communal and social.  According to the Gospels, Jesus did not tell his listeners to believe whatever they wished to believe as individuals, or to follow him only in their private thoughts and interior sentiments but not in concrete, public, shared human life.  On sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, service, and generosity simply was Christianity.  It was the Gospel concretized and enacted.  It was not something called "religion" distinguished from the rest of life, but rather all of life lived in certain way.
His [Luther's] experience of justification by faith alone convinced him that the dialectic between Law and Gospel as he understood it comprised the cornerstone for correctly understanding God's word.  It followed that the Roman church' teachings were mistaken wherever they contradicted his reading of the Bible, linked to his transformative experience of God's gratuitously given grace....all other Christians did likewise who not only denounced the sinful shortcomings of the Roman church...but in addition rejected its authority based on their respective interpretations of the Bible.  This meant rejecting in various ways many inherited Christian truth claims--often not in accord with Luther...but in an open-ended plethora of rival views about "the better interpretation."
In large measure it was Augustine's vision, still--but now in the context of a divided Christendom whose magisterial Protestant and Catholic antagonists each claimed Augustine.
...the ideological scaffolding and political framework beneath the energetic, mostly Protestant churches and effervescent evangelization in the United States between the ratification of the Constitution and the Civil War was religion of the individual, by the individual, and for the individual...."of all the countries in the world, America is the one in which the precepts of Descartes are least studied and best followed."
The prescriptive content of the country's foundational political documents was so thin and abstract as to be virtually nonexistent:  "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but nothing about how to live, how to exercise one's liberty, or in what happiness consists....It was their legally protected freedom, if they so chose, to live for their own enjoyments and pleasures and the acquisition of material things, to pursue the fulfillment of their desires while ignoring whomever they chose to ignore.  It was constitutional.  Each American citizen had a right to it.  Such a life would bear scant resemblance to the teachings of Jesus, who preached the opposite...
Millions of Americans seem still to believe the Wilsonian notion that the United States has a divine destiny and providential mission to accomplish in the world, that of "spreading freedom and democracy"...the aim is apparently to force (at least certain strategically selected) others to be free, if necessary through proactive military intervention, even if it means killings tens of thousands of the would-have-been-liberated and unsettling the lives of millions more.
...the widespread default in Western societies at large is emotivism, an ethics of subjective, feelings-based, personal preference, which only exacerbates the unresolved and irresolvable disagreements...Everything becomes "political" because once morality has been subjectivized no arguments can succeed, since there is no shared set of assumptions from which they can proceed.
This chapter argues that a transformation from a substantive morality of the good to a formal morality of rights constitutes the central change in Western ethics over the past half millennium...Those who repudiated the Roam church uncoupled the medieval discourse on natural rights from the teleological Christian ethics within which it had been embedded.  That discourse was transformed and the consequential trajectory to a modern ethics of rights established as a result of Christian contesting about the good, the violence of the Reformation era, and the subsequent demands for religious freedom....In society at large, aside from the ever burgeoning dominance of consumerism and capitalism, nothing has replaced Christianity in providing for shared goods.  The result is a de facto reliance on emotivist, individual preference to determine the good as such and a seemingly inexorable trend towards increasing permissiveness necessarily coupled with ever more insistent calls for toleration.
Fleeing the scriptural unmasked Whore of Babylon, anti-Roman Christians would have to constitute a moral community afresh, based on the Bible.  Yet no such alternative moral community emerged.  There were only rival moral communities...
...all Protestants based their flight on the same foundation:  their interpretation of scripture...Because they read differently, they fled differently.
From the outset of the reformation to the present day, the insistence on sola scriptura and its adjuncts has produced and continues to yield an open-ended range of incompatible interpretations of the Bible, with centrifugal social and wide-ranging substantive implications for morality.
Indeed, the moralistic character of early modern Catholic and magisterial Protestant regimes...helps to explain why in the early twenty-first century many Christians understand ethics less as the pursuit of holiness linked to human flourishing as part of the imitation of Christ, than in legalistic terms as "following the rules" lest punishment ensue.  It also helps to account for the strength of the dominant secular narrative of Western modernity as an emancipatory drive for ever-greater individual liberation from resented impositions, with religion interpreted primarily as a form of oppressive social control.
 ..."we hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Given that there had never been anything self-evident about such claims, however, common they had become by the late eighteenth century, one might admire the strategic moxie that in pressured circumstances sought preemptively to stifle all would-be criticism and debate.  That is what claims of self-evident truths try to do, by offering assertions in place of arguments....the founding documents of the United States enshrined not a substantive ethics of the good but a formal ethics of rights, one that eparted in critical ways from the conception of rights both in medieval Christianity and in magisterial Protestantism during the Reformation era. 
Something new was created:  a "private sphere" within which individuals could do as they pleased based on their own beliefs and preferred goods, provided they were publicly obedient.
The threat of subversion and fears of heterodoxy in the conflicts between confessionalizing Catholic and magisterial Protestant rulers made obedience the central social virtue of early modern Europe.  And the central social virture of Western modernity, within the institutions of the liberal state, is toleration--as it must be.
The consumerist cycle of acquire, discard, repeat now makes up the default fabric of Western life in the early twenty-first century, regardless of how one assesses it and whether or not one resists it, because "the conditions under which choices are made are not themselves a matter of choice"....ubiquitous practices of consumerism are more than anything else the cultural glue that holds Western societies together...acquisitiveness unites us....Classic moral critiques of capitalism's exploitative (and often brutally gendered) effects on industrial workers have lost none of their relevance amid the scramble to outsource labor since the 1970s....Only now Western consumers are spared having to see the workers who make their stuff and the factory conditions in which they toil.
Democracy is the right to buy anything you want.  Freedom's just another word for lots of things to buy.
But neoclassical economists no less than the champions of consumerist self-fashioning are quite wrong in thinking that the practices of never-ending, material acquisitiveness are an unavoidable given of human nature, a cross-cultural and trans historical constant,.  Such a claim naturalizes acquired, contingent human behaviors in order to justify them and to preempt analysis.  Most human cultures have not exhibited such practices, nor have they believed what most modern Westerners believe about material things and their acquisition:  rather, "consumer aspirations have a history."
...Protestants unambiguously condemned avarice, acquisitive individualism, an any separation of economic behavior from biblical morality or the common good....Yet, Luther and Reformed Protestants disagreed with their Catholic contemporaries about teleological virtue ethics...One's actions...did not contribute to one's salvation which was entirely and exclusively God's free gift of grace by faith alone....This was a long-term, internal development within Reformed Protestantism in which once-devout, shared busyness would eventually yield to individuals' self-appointed secular business in a disenchanted "public sphere," within which the descendants of Reformation-era Protestants had learned to segregate economic behavior from interior dispositions.
Luther's sharp two-kingdom distinctions between faith and politics, the inner man and the outer man, the freedom of a Christian and obedience to secular authorities, were probably more important than a zealous work ethic as an indirect influence on the development of modern capitalism.
Conflating prosperity with providence and opting for acquisitiveness as the lesser of two evils until greed was rechristened as benign self-interest, modern Christians have in effect been engaged in a centuries-long attempt to prove Jesus wrong.  "You cannot serve both God and Mammon."  Yes we can.  Or so most participants in world history's most insatiably consumerist society, the United States, continue implicitly to claim through their actions, considering the number of self-identified American Christians in the early twenty-first century who seem bent on acquiring ever more adn better stuff, including those who espouse the "prosperity Gose" within American religious hyperpluralism.
The substantive emptiness of the nation's founding documents was possible not only because Americans were strongly shaped by Christian moral assumptions, but also because so many of them had simultaneously departed in practice from the traditional Christian condemnation of avarice.
If Christianity is among other things a discipline of selflessness in charitable service to others, then the United States' legally protected ethos of self-regarding acquisitiveness, culturally reinforced at every turn, would seems to be its antithesis.  The latter says "satisfy your own desires"; the former, "you must deny your very self."  But if one thinks religion is about the life of the spirit rather than about the material world; that faith is about what one feels inside rather than what one does with one's body;  that detachment from material things implies an inner attitude rather than actually giving things away; and that one has already "got saved" by one's "personal Lord and Savior" in the self-chosen congregation that makes one feel most comfortable, then one perhaps doesn't see much of a conflict.
Liberal Protestant theologians and skeptical biblical scholars, having hitched their wagon to post-Kantian philosophy beholden to univocal metaphysical assumptions, found that wagon's payload progressively lightened until it was unclear how Christianity could consist of anything more than post-Schleiermacherian pious sentiments.
The interpretation of scripture had been centrally important in Christianity from the time of the church fathers....The Reformation's fundamental claim of sola scriptura upped the ante considerably.  According to those who rejected the Roman church, Christian experiential knowledge and the prospects for eternal salvation now turned directly and entirely o the correct understanding of the Bible....the bible was not sharply contrasted with the "human additions" and mere "traditions of men"....According to Protestants, anyone who looked anywhere else for this knowledge, including the "holy" example of the church's saints, was self-deceived.
Charles Hodge:  "the Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science.  It is his storehouse of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches, is the same as that which the natural philosopher adopts to ascertain what nature teaches."  Hodge's insouciant confidence reflected an intellectual complacency about religio-social and historical realities....American Protestant theologians were as little equipped to handle the intellectual challenges of Darwinism, German biblical criticism, and historicism as Aristotelian natural philosophers had been prepared to accommodate Newtonianism in the eighteenth century....of an attempt to determine, as some sort of lowest common denominator, what it was that all Protestants shared in common and then to promote it....It turned out that they shared only their rejection of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

My Memorial Day Story


     My dad did not serve in World War II.  He was 28 at the time, married with one child, and the chief support for family on both sides.  I wonder about this, as other men his age, in like circumstances, did enlist.  I never thought to ask about this, as we were not a particularly flag-waving military family.  My dad's brothers, however, did serve.  The older one was married, but without children.  The younger two--one in the Army and the other in the Navy--were already in the service when the war began.  I can't speak about the former's service, but do know that my Uncle Hap's stint in the Army and Uncle Bill's career in the Navy are not to be discounted.

     In 1984, we held a family reunion in Lampasas, Texas, shortly before my dad and the brothers began passing away.  That night, my Uncles D.L., Hap and Bill were holed-up in one of the motel rooms, engaged in a heated discussion about "the war."  My dad, not having a dog in that fight and a bit bemused by it all, stepped down the veranda to the room where other family members were congregated, including Aunt Mary (Bill's wife.)  Although as the wife of a naval officer she had lived around the world, she spoke as if she had never left her Polish neighborhood of Buffalo.  My dad shared what was happening in the other room, to which Aunt Mary quipped:

      "God.   To hear D.L. tell it, you'd think HE won the war--when everybody knows that Bill did.”

Thanks for that, Aunt Mary.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Oliver Wardrop's "The Kingdom of Georgia: Notes of Travel in a Land of Wine, Women and Song"

I am currently reading The Kingdom of Georgia:  Notes of Travel in a Land of Wine, Woman and Song, published in 1888 by Olver Wardrop.  Like W. E. D. Allen, of whose work I reviewed here, here, here and here, Wardrop and his wife, Marjory were curious English travelers who stumbled into Georgia by chance.  They spent the remainder of their lives thinking, writing and speaking about the country that had captured their imagination.  I understand their obsession.    

Wardrop's work is an absolute pleasure to read, due in large part to passages such as the following, describing picnics in a churchyard overlooking Tbilisi:

The view from the churchyard is a splendid one ; the whole city, with its wonderful diversity of form and colour, lies at your feet ; on the right you can see far along the Kakhetian road, and on the left the great highway to Vladikavkaz follows the winding course of the Kura. In the evening we often climbed to the top of a bare crag not far from the church, carrying with us a large earthenware flagon of wine, a roast leg of mutton, fruit, cucumbers, and other delicacies, and spreading out our cloaks on the ground lay there making merry, singing and telling tales until long after midnight ; the lights of the town below us seemed like a reflection of the bright stars above us, and the music and laughter of many a jovial group came up the hillside to mingle with our own.

The entire first chapter is copied below, courtesy of Burusi.

One morning in April, 1887, after a five days’ passage from Odessa, we entered the harbour at Batum.
Batum (Hotel Imperial, Hotel de France, Hotel d’Europe) is a town of 10,000 inhabitants, mostly Georgians; it consists of an ancient Asiatic quarter, dirty and tumble- down looking, and a European one only seven years old. Its situation at the foot of the mountains is lovely beyond all description. The place has a decidedly ” Far West” look about it, everything seems halffinished ; the streets are broad and, with a few exceptions, unpaved, the depth of the mud varies from three or four inches to half a yard, heaps of rotting filth furnish food for numerous pigs, and in the best thoroughfares ducks find convenient lakes on which to disport themselves.
დაბრუნება ბათუმის ნავსადგურში
I took an early opportunity of presenting myself at the British Vice-Consulate, a small, two storey cottage, tlie lower half of which is of brick, the upper of corrugated iron sheets. Mr. Demetrius R. Peacock, the only representative of British interests in the Caucasus, is a man whose services deserve fuller recognition. It would be hard to find a post where more diplomatic tact is required, yet he contrives to make himself respected and admired by all the many races with which he is in daily contact. Mr. Peacock was born in Russia, and has spent most of his life in that empire, but he is nevertheless a thorough Englishman. In Tiflis I heard a good story about him. On one occasion the French Consul-General jokingly said to him, ” Why, Peacock, you are no Englishman, you were born in Russia.” To which our representative replied, ” Our Saviour was born in a stable, but for all that He did not turn out a horse.”
Although Batum is not very attractive as a town, it is at any rate far preferable to Poti or Sukhum, and it has undoubtedly a splendid future before it. Even at the present time the exports amount to nearly 400,000 tons, chiefly petroleum, manganese ores, wool, cotton, maize, tobacco, wine, fancy woods, &c. It is essentially a city of the future ; and its inhabitants firmly believe that it will yet be a powerful rival of Odessa in trade, and of the Crimean coast-towns as a watering-place. At present we should hardly recommend it to invalids ; the marshes round about are gradually being drained; but they still produce enough malaria to make the place dangerous to Europeans ; the drinking-water, too, is bad.
The harbour is fairly well sheltered, but rather small ; yet, to the unprofessional eye, there seems no reason why it might not easily be enlarged if necessary. The entrance is protected by a fortification in the form of an irregular rectangle, lying on the S.W. corner of the bay, behind the lighthouse. The earthworks, about seventy or eighty feet high, and lined with rciasonry, cover a piece of ground apparently about 300 paces long by 180 paces broad ; a broad-gauge railway surrounds the fortress. When I was there the work was being pushed forward very rapidly, and preparations were being made to fix a heavy gun close to the lighthouse — at that time there were only about a dozen guns of small calibre in position.
In the town there is absolutely nothing to attract the stranger’s attention ; a few mosques and churches, petroleum refineries, half a dozen European shops, some half -finished public buildings, and the embryo of a public garden on the shore serve as an excuse for a walk ; but if the traveller happens to hit upon a spell of wet weather, he will soon have seen all he wants to see of Batum, and will get out of its atmosphere of marsh gas and petroleum as soon as possible.
The only daily train leaves at eight o’clock in the morning ; the station, although it is a terminus of so much importance, is a wretched wooden building, a striking contrast to the one at Baku, which would not disgrace our own metropolis. The railway skirts the sea for about thirty miles, and on the right lies a range of hills covered with a luxuriant growth of fine forest-trees and thick undergrowth gay with blossoms ; in the neighbourhood of the town there are already many pretty villas. The rain of the previous few weeks had made the woods wonderfully beautiful, and the moist air was heavy with fragrance ; I never saw such a wealth of plant life before. At Samtredi, where the lines from Batum and Poti meet, we leave Guri and Mingreli behind us and enter Imereti. On the left we now have a fine broad plain, and near us flows the Rion, the ancient Phasis. The country is far more thickly populated than Guri or Mingreli, or any other part of Trans-Caucasia, but it could easily support a mucli larger number if the ground were properly worked. I was amazed wlien I saw, for the first time, five pairs of oxen dragging one wooden plough, but the sight of this became familiar to me before I had lived long in Georgia.
At the roadside stations (I need hardly say that our train stopped at all of them) I saw some fine faces — one poor fellow in a ragged sheepskin cloak quite startled me by his resemblance to Dante Alighieri. From the station of Rion, on the river of that name, a branch line runs northward to Kutai’s, none other than the Cyta in Colchis whence Jason carried oS” Medea and the Golden Fleece.
Kutais (Hotel de France, Hotel Colchide, Hotel d’ltalie) is a beautiful town of 25,000 inhabitants, almost all Georgians. The ruins of an old castle on the other side of the river show where the town stood a century ago, and from this point the best view of Kutai’s is obtained. Abundance of good building-stone, a rich soil, and plenty of trees, render the capital of Imereti a charming sight; its elevation of about 500 feet makes its atmosphere cool and bracing compared with that of the coast-towns. The traveller who wishes to become acquainted with Georgian town-life cannot do better than stay in Kutais a month or two.
About five miles off is the monastery of Gelati, built in the tenth century, and renowned as the burial-23lace of the glorious Queen Tamara. From Kutais a journey may be made to Svaneti, the last Caucasian state conquered by Russia, and even now only nominally a part of the Tsar’s dominions ; Mr. Wolley’s book, ” Savage Svanetia,” will give the intending visitor some idea of the sport that may be had in that wild region. The road across the Caucasus from Kutais to Vladikavkaz is much higher and wilder than the famous Dariel road, and I much regret that I had not time to travel by it.
Pursuing our journey from Rion to the eastward we soon reach Kvirili, which is about to be connected by a branch line of railway with Chiaturi, the centre of the manganese district; at present all the ore is carried down to the main line, a distance of twenty-five miles, in the wooden carts called arhas. Passing through glens of wondrous beauty, adorned with picturesque ruins of ancient strongholds, we at length arrive at the mountain of Suram, 3027 feet above Black Sea level, the watershed which separates the valley of the Kura, with its hot summers and cold winters, from the more temperate region drained by the Rion. The railway climbs very rapidly to the summit of the pass, but it comes down still more rapidly ; there is a slope of one in twenty for a distance of a thousand feet ; at the bottom is the town of Suram with its fine old castle. We now follow the course of the Kura all the way to Tiflis, passing Mikhailovo (whence a road runs to Borzhom, the most fashionable summer-resort in TransCaucasia) and Grori, a good-sized town, near which is the rock city of Uphlis Tsikhe. It is half past nine at night before Mtzkhet, the ancient capital of Georgia, is reached, and at a quarter past ten we enter Tiflis, ten hours from Kuta’is, and fourteen hours from Batum. Our journey is not yet ended, however, for it takes half an hour to drive from the station to the fashionable quarter of the town where the hotels are situated.
The best hotels are Kavkaz, Eossija, London; all pretty good. If the traveller intends to make a prolonged stay, he can easily find furnished apartments and dine at a restaurant (eg. the French Restaurant d’Europe, opposite the Palace). The best plan of all is to board with a Georgian family; but without good introductions it is somewhat difficult to do this. Although beef only costs l^d. a pound and chickens 2d. each, living is dear in Tiflis; the necessaries of life, except house-rent and clothing, are cheap, and one need not, like Alexandre Dumas, pay three roubles for having his hair cut, but the “extras” are heavy, and if the visitor is not disposed to spend his roubles with a free hand and a light heart, he will meet with a poor reception, for the Georgian hates nothing more than meanness, a vice from which he firmly believes Englishmen to be free.
Tiflis takes its name from the hot medicinal springs, for which it has been famous for fourteen centuries at least; in Georgian it is called Tphilisi, which philologists assert to be derived from a root akin to or identical with the Indo-European tep; the meaning of Toeplitz and Tiflis is thus the same.
In the fifth century king Vakhtang Gurgaslan founded Tiflis, and began to build the Cathedral of Sion, which still stands in the midst of the city. The castle, situated on a high, steep rock, near the Kura, is older than the city itself, and its construction is attributed to the. Persians. Tiflis has shared in all the triumphs and misfortunes which have befallen Georgia, and the history of the capital would only be a repetition of the history of the nation.
The city is built on both sides of the Kura, at an elevation of 1200 feet, between two ranges of steep, bare hills, which rise to a height of 2500 feet, and hem it in on all sides, thus it lies at the bottom of a deep rock basin, and this accounts for the terrible heat which renders it such an unpleasant dwelling-place in July and August.
The river Kura is crossed by several fine bridges, the best of which is named after Prince Yorontsov, who during his governorship did great things for TransCaucasia, and gained for himself the lasting gratitude of all the peoples committed to his care. The population of 105,000 consists not only of Georgians, but of Russians (civil servants and soldiers), Armenians (traders and money-lenders), Persians, Tatars, and a few Europeans, viz. Germans (colonists from Suabia), Frenclimen (milliners, hotel-keepers). Although the English residents might be counted on one’s fingers, it seems a pity that her Majesty’s Consulate should have been closed in 1881 ; surely Great Britain has in Georgia interests at least equal to those of France, Germany, Belgium, and the other nations which have representatives in Tiflis.
The effect which Tiflis produces on the mind of the stranger is perfectly unique; its position, its surroundings, the varied nature of its street-life, the gaiety and simplicity of its social life, all combine to form a most powerful and most pleasurable impression. If the reader will mentally accompany me, I shall take him through some of the more interesting quarters, and endeavour to give him some idea of the place.
First of all, starting from the fashionable district called Salalaki, let us climb the rocky road which leads to the ruins of the castle, whence we obtain the finest view of the city. The best time to enjoy the panorama is evening, and in summer no one would ever think of making the toilsome ascent much before sunset. From these crumbling walls one looks over a vast expanse of house-tops and church spires, through the midst of which winds the muddy Kura. At our feet lies the old town, a labyrinth of narrow, crooked streets, stretching from the square of Erivan down to the waterside, where stands the Cathedral of Sion.
Quite near at hand the river becomes very narrow, and advantage of this circumstance has been taken by building a bridge, which leads to the citadel of Metekh (now used as a prison) and the large Asiatic quarter called Avlabar.
მთაწმინდა, მამა დავითის ეკლესია
Holy Mount (Mtatsminda)

On this side of the river, forming a continuation of the range of hills on which we are standing, rises the Holy Mount (Mtatsminda), and perched high up near its summit is the pretty white church of St. David, behind which rises a wall of bare, black rock.
მეფისნაცვლის სასახლე, ტფილისი

Half-way between it and the river is the Governor’s palace, with its extensive gardens, just at the beginning of the Golovinskii Prospekt, a long boulevard with fine shops and public buildings; between the boulevard and the river lies the Municipal Garden, named after Alexander I. Turning our eyes towards the other side of the Kura, beyond Avlabar, we see, on the hill facing St. David’s, a large block of buildings used as a military depot, arsenal, and barracks, and still farther on, on the river bank, is a thick green belt which we recognize as the gardens of Mikhailovskaya Street, ending in the splendid park called Mushta’id. Crossing the bridge, we Qow turn our back on the city and descend into ‘he Botanical Garden, situated in a sheltered ravine, a delightful place for an evening stroll; on the opposite side of the ravine is a Tatar village with a lonely graveyard.
ერევნის მოედანი
Erivan Square
The Erivan Square is the great centre of ictivity; in its midst is the Caravanserai, a vast rectangular building full of shops, not unlike the aostino’i Dvor, in Petersburg, but poorer.
თამამშევის ქარვასლა-თეატრი
From that corner of the square in which is the Hotel du Caucase, runs Palace Street, all one side of which is occupied by the Caravanserai of the late Mr. Artsruni, a wealthy Armenian, and behind, in a fine garden, is the Georgian theatre; both the garden and the theatre belong to the Land Bank of the Nobles, an institution which deserves the attention of all who are interested in the Iverian nation. The bank was founded in 1874 in order to aid farmers to work their lands by advancing them money at the lowest possible rate of interest; all the profits are spent in the furtherance of philanthropic schemes and in the encouragement of national education. It is a significant fact that the more intelligent members of Georgian society should have chosen this mode of activity in preference to any other, but the reason of their choice is apparent; from the bitter experience of the last hundred years they have learnt that although munificence is one of the noblest of the virtues, extravagance and ostentation are hurtful, and they have, therefore, wisely determined to do all they can to improve the economic condition of the country. The public meetings of the shareholders give an opportunity for discussion and speech-making, and it is in this ” Grruzinskii Parlament ” (as the Russians have nicknamed it) that Prince Chavchavadze has gained for himself the not unmerited title of the ” Georgian Gambetta.” I was an occupant of the Ladies’ Gallery at one of these assemblies, and I shall never forget the impression produced upon me by the sight of these handsome, warlike Asians in their picturesque garb, conducting their proceedings exactly in the same order as British investors do every day in the City of London. Try and imagine the heroes of the Elizabethan Age at Cannon Street Hotel discussing the current dividend of the S.B.R., and you will have some idea of my feelings.
Only those who have lived the life of the people in Trans-Caucasia know what a terrible curse the money-lending community are. A local proverb says, ” A Greek will cheat three Jews, but an Armenian will cheat three Greeks,” and the Georgian, straightforward, honest fellow, is but too often cruelly swindled by the artful children of Ha’ik. When the fraud is very apparent the Armenian often pays for his greed with all the blood that can be extracted from his jugular vein.
During my stay in Tiflis, a certain wild young prince, Avalov, had made himself popular by slaughtering a few Armenians ; his latest exploit made so much stir that a prosecution was talked of ; but Avalov was no dweller in towns, he spent his time meri-ily out in the greenwood, and it would have needed a company of Kazaks to arrest him.
While the authorities were deliberating, the prince sent a polite message to say that if they tried to make matters unpleasant for him, he would, with God’s help, devote the remainder of his natural life to running amuck of every ” salted ” Armenian (a reference to their habit of salting children as soon as they are born) that crossed his path. Another young nobleman got three years’ imprisonment for “perforating” an insulting usurer, and the cruelty of the sentence was much spoken of ; a lady said to me, ” Just fancy, that fine young fellow imprisoned among common criminals for killing a rascal of an Armenian,” as who should say for killing a dog.
Let it be clearly understood that I say nothing against the Armenian nation ; I have the strongest admiration for their undoubted literary and administrative talent, and for the energy with which they resist all attempts to destroy their national spirit. The Armenian not being a money-lender or trader, is a citizen of which any country might be proud ; but the usurer, whether he be Jew, Armenian, or Briton, is a most despicable character, and, unfortunately, the peculiar conditions under which the Armenians have lived for many centuries have necessarily made Shylocks of a large percentage of them.
დიდების ტაძარი
Caucasian Museum
Continuing our walk, we emerge from Palace Street into the wide Grolovinskii Prospekt, which takes its name from Golovin, a former governor of the Caucasus. On the left lies the palace, a fine modern building in the European style, and on the right is the Caucasian Museum, in which the student will find geological, zoological, ethnographical, entomological, botanical, archeological, and numismatic collections of the highest interest.
On the walls of the staircase are several large pictures, the most interesting of which are, a portrait of Queen Tamara, copied from the painting at Gelati, and “The Arrival of the Argonauts in Colchis,” the figures in which are all portraits.
tlie G-rand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovicli being represented as Jason. There is also a very large collection of photographs, comprising all that is worth seeing in the Caucasus and in Persia. In the same block of buildings is the Public Library, in which will be found most of the literature relating to the country, and a fair number of books on general subjects.
The library is at the corner of the Prospekt and Baronovskaya Street, and turning down the latter, the first turning on the right brings us to the Post Office, facing which is a girls’ grammar school. The traveller who happens to pass that way when the lessons for the day are over (and he might do worse if he likes to see pretty young faces), will be surprised, unless he has been in Russia, to see that all the children are dressed alike, regardless of age, complexion, and taste; he will be still more surprised when he hears that if one of these uniforms is seen out after 5 p.m., the fair wearer is severely punished, it being the opinion of the Tsar’s Minister of Education that school-girls, and school-boys too, should after that hour be at home preparing their tasks for next day. The school accommodation is lamentably inadequate ; in the government of Tiflis there are only about 280 children at school for every 10,000 of the population, in the government of Kutais only 250.
Eeturning to Grolovinskii Prospekt, we pass on the right the Staff Headquarters of the army of the Caucasus, the best restaurant in the city, some good shops, and then arrive at the Aleksandrovskii G-arden, which slopes down to the river bank; its shady walks are thronged every evening when a military band performs. Near its extreme corner, and almost on the waterside, is the Russian theatre ; although the house is a small one and only used as a makeshift until the new theatre is finished, it is a very pleasant place to spend an evening; good companies from Petersburg and Moscow play during the season, and I saw some of the stars of the profession there. Unfortunately, there is a preference for translations of French and German pieces with which the European is already familiar, but Eussian plays are not totally ignored. I once saw a version of ” Le Monde ou Ton s’ennuie ” which was in the smallest details of gesture and property a photographic reproduction of the comedy as I have seen it on the classic boards of the Theatre Frangais — but there was one startling innovation, Bellac was described on the programme as an abbe (sic !). The great charm of the Tifliskii Theatre is, however, its open air crush-room, a fine large garden where a band plays between the acts, and where refreshments may be partaken of and smoking indulged in.
The new theatre on Golovinskii Prospekt is a handsome edifice which was still unfinished at the time of my visit. The farther you get from the Erivan Square the less ‘aristocratic does the Boulevard become, the only other building of note in that part of it being the Cadets’ College; the opening of the new theatre will, however, make a great difference, and in a few years the dirty little beershops on the left will doubtless disappear, and Golovinskii Prospekt will be one of the finest streets in the world. Its situation is a splendid one, and is not unworthy of comparison with that of Princes’ Street, Edinburgh ; the Holy Mount, rising black and steep to a considerable height, and adorned with the pretty white church of St. David, might not inaptly be said to be to Tiflis what the Castle Hill is to the modern Athens.
At the end of the Boulevard is the posting-station, whence we can return to our starting-place by tram-car. All the main thoroughfares of the city are now laid with tram-lines, the construction of which is due to a Belgian company which is paying very good dividends.
მთაწმინდა, მამა დავითის ეკლესია
Church of St. David
Thursday afternoon is the best time for visiting the Church of St. David, for a service is then held and large numbers of women attend. Proceeding from Salalaki along Laboratornaya, which is parallel to the Boulevard and is the most select street in Tiflis, we reach the street of the Holy Mount (Mtatsmindskaya), a steep, roughly-paved thoroughfare which leads up to St. David’s Place, and a winding mountain path takes us thence to the church. St. David was a Syrian monk who came to Georgia in the sixth century, and lived a hermit’s life among the woods which at that time covered the hill. Tradition says that the daughter of a wealthy man who lived near there, finding herself in an interesting condition, thought the best way of getting out of the difficulty would be to accuse the saint of being the cause of this state of affairs. The holy man, naturally, objected, and having made his accuser appear in an assembly of the people, he proved his innocence by making the unborn child say audibly who was its father. Whereupon, in answer to the prayers of the saint, the child was converted into a stone, which the damsel brought forth immediately.
This stone was made the foundation of a church. David then asked that a spring of living water of fructifying virtue might be made to flow ; this fountain is still visible, and its water is largely used by married ladies ; the climb of twenty minutes from St. David’s Place is so toilsome that even the most bitter Malthusian would hasten to quench his thirst there ; as far as I know, it is the only water in Tiflis fit for human consumption. Every pious lady who visits the shrine carries a stone or brick up the hill with her, and it is from these that the church was built and is still kept in repair. There is another interesting custom in which maidens and matrons alike take part ; after adoring the picture of the Virgin, the suppliant silently walks round the building three times, unwinding as she goes a reel of thread, fit symbol of the boundlessness of her love and veneration for the Immaculate Mother of God. Then picking up one of the pebbles with which the ground is covered, she rubs it against the plastered wall, and with beating heart waits to see . if it will stick — if it does, then her prayer has been heard, the lass will have a sweetheart, the wife will have a son. The church is of modern construction, but its design differs in no respect from the ancient Byzantine style, specimens of which may be seen all over Georgia. The interior is like that of any other Greek church, and on the walls there are some quaint but rather crude pictures. The mass is, of course, in Georgian, and the choral service strikes rather strangely on Western ears, although not wanting in melody.
Just below the church is a monument bearing the inscription in Russian : ” Aleksandr Sergeyevich Grriboyedov, born January 4th, 1795, killed in Teheran, January 30th, 1829. Thy mind and thy deeds will never die in the memory of Russia, but why did my love outlive thee ? ” The story of Griboyedov’s life is a sad but interesting one. By birth, education, and talents he was fitted to become one of the most brilliant members of Russian society, but he was early infected with the restless critical spirit of the century, and at the age of seventeen he had already thought out the plot of his great comedy Gore ot uma, which is a bitter satire on the fashionable life of his day. In 1812 his patriotism led him to join in the national defence, but he never saw active service ; like his brother officers he enlivened the monotony of barrack life with the wildest dissipation and folly ; for instance, we read that he galloped up two flights of stairs and into a ball-room, that he took advantage of his position as organist in a Polish church, to strike up a well-known comical tune in the midst of high mass. But lie soon abandoned this un satisfactory life, went to Petersburg in 1815, turned liis attention to dramatic literature, and produced some successful pieces. In 1818 we find liim in Persia as secretary to tlie embassy at Tavriz; there he led a solitary life and studied the Persian language, he read all the poetical literature of the country, and himself wrote Persian lyrics.
In 1823 he took a year’s leave of absence, and employed much of the time in revising his great work ; it was his aim to make his verse ” as smooth as glass,” and he sometimes re-wrote a phrase a dozen times before it pleased him. “When it was at length finished, the severe censure prevented its representation, and it was many years after the poet’s death before the full text of the play was heard in Russia. After taking part in a war against the Caucasian Mountaineers, the Persian war gave him an opportunity of exhibiting a bravery bordering on recklessness, and when Erivan had been stormed it was through his skilful diplomacy that Russia obtained such favourable terms of peace, although the British Minister aided Persia with his counsels. In 1828 he left Petersburg with the rank of ambassador at the Persian Court. Before leaving he expressed to his friends the most gloomy forebodings, he was sure that lie would not return to Russia alive. At Tiflis, however, he found temporary relief from his mournful feelings in the society of Nina Chavchavadze, daughter of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, the poet, a lady whom he described as a “very Madonna of Murillo ;” he married her, and she went with him as far as Tavriz, he promising to come back to her as soon as possible.
He had no sooner reached Teheran, than his enemies at the court of the Shah began to excite popular feeling against him, and an incident soon occurred which gave some excuse for an attack on the embassy. An Armenian prisoner who had risen to the dignity of chief eunuch in the Shah’s household, and two women, an Armenian and a German, from the harem of a powerful personage, fled to the Russian ambassador and asked him to assist them to return to Russian territory. Griboyedov insisted that, according to the treaty of peace, all prisoners had a right to freedom, and he refused to give up the refugees. On the 30th of January, 1829, a mad, yelling crowd of 100,000 men made an attack on the embassy. Griboyedov, sword in hand, led out his handful of horsemen and was immediately killed ; only one member of the embassy escaped death. It was Griboyedov’s wish that he should be buried in Georgia, and they chose this romantic spot which the poet had loved so much during his stay in Tiflis. The beautiful Nina remained faithful to her husband’s memory, and mourned for him eight-and-twenty years, until she was carried up the winding path to share his grave.
The view from the churchyard is a splendid one ; the whole city, with its wonderful diversity of form and colour, lies at your feet ; on the right you can see far along the Kakhetian road, and on the left the great highway to Vladikavkaz follows the winding course of the Kura. In the evening we often climbed to the top of a bare crag not far from the church, carrying with us a large earthenware flagon of wine, a roast leg of mutton, fruit, cucumbers, and other delicacies, and spreading out our cloaks on the ground lay there making merry, singing and telling tales until long after midnight ; the lights of the town below us seemed like a reflection of the bright stars above us, and the music and laughter of many a jovial group came up the hillside to mingle with our own.
After descending the hill, we cross the Boulevard at the publishing office of KavJcaz, the official organ, and skirting the Alexandrovskii Garden, soon reach tlie finest bridge in the town, Vorontsovskii Most, from which we get an interesting view of the waterside part of the Asiatic quarter ; most of the houses have balconies overhanging the river, and one is involuntarily reminded of the Tiber banks at Rome.
მ. ვორონცოვის ძეგლი, 1880 წ. დ. ერმაკოვის ფოტო
Statue of Prince Yorontsov
On the other side of the bridge, in a small square, is a statue of Prince Yorontsov, Governor of the Caucasus, from 1844 to 1854. During my stay the good people of that district were astonished one morning to see the Prince’s head surmounted by a tall, well-worn sheepskin hat, such as the Lesghians wear ; the effect was exceedingly ridiculous, and the youthful revellers who, at considerable risk of breaking their necks, were the authors of the joke, were well rewarded for their pains by the laughter of all who passed that way, for your Georgian is a merry fellow.
Turning to the right, we traverse Peski, a quarter very different from Salalaki. Here we see small open-fronted Oriental shops in which dark Persians ply their trades, making arms, saddlery, jewellery, selling carpets, and doing a hundred other things all before the eyes of men and in the open air. There is a strange confusion of tongues and dresses ; a smart little grammar-school girl rubs shoulders with a veiled Mussul man woman, and occasionally you see the uniform of a Russian officer elbowing his way through a crowd of Lesghians, Armenians, Georgians, Persians ; through the midst of all this confusion runs the tram-car. “We are not beyond all the influences of civilization, for, besides the tramway, we see on a sign-board the legend “Deiches Bir” (PDeutsches Bier), over the picture of a flowing tankard.
We cross the narrow bridge and pay a visit to the baths. Perhaps the reader knows something of the so-called Turkish bath, and imagines that the baths of Tiflis are of the same sort ? There is certainly some similarity between the two, but there are profound differences ; the treatment to which the visitor is subjected at a Turkish bath in Constantinople is not to be compared with what the Persian shampooer puts you through in Tiflis. He goes through a whole course of gymnastics with you, during which he jumps on your chest, on the small of your back, doubles you up as if you were a fowl ready for cooking, and, besides removing every particle of your epidermis, performs sundry other experiments at which the novice stares aghast. At the end of it all you make up your mind that it is not so terrible as it looks, and as you feel wonderfully refreshed you resolve to return again before long. The water is of a heat of about 100° Fahr., and is impregnated with sulphur and other substances which give it a healing virtue ; it is to these springs that Tiflis owes its existence, and they have always been of much importance in the daily life of the people. Formerly it used to be the fashion for ladies of rank to hire baths and dressing-rooms for a whole day, spending the time in perfuming themselves, staining their finger tips, dressing the hair, and performing a dozen other ceremonies of the toilette, concluding with dinner, but the growth of European habits has rendered this custom less common.
The Cathedral of Sion is, as we said before, as old as the city itself, but, of course, it has suffered considerably at the hands of destroyers and restorers. Its style is the same as that of all the other churches in Georgia, and it doubtless served as a pattern for most of them. The inside has been tastefully decorated in modern times, and produces a pleasing effect, although it seems small to anybody who is familiar with the cathedrals of Europe. In front of the altar is the Cross of St. Nina, formed of two vine branches bound together with the saint’s hair; this cross has always been the most sacred relic in Georgia.  There is also a modest tomb, which contains the body of Prince Tsitsishvili, a Georgian who was appointed Governor of the Caucasus by Alexander I., and who, after a glorious career, was foully murdered outside the walls of Baku by the treacherous khan of that city.
From the cathedral the way to the European quarter leads through the so-called Armenian Bazar, one of the most interesting parts of the city. Old arms, coats of mail, helmets and shields, such as are still used by the Khevsurs up in the mountains, silver ornaments and many other interesting trifles, may be purchased here, but nothing of great value is offered for sale, and the jewellery, with the exception of filigree work from Akhaltsikhe (which is hard to get and very expensive) is not very good. On the birthday of the Tsarevich, I was walking down to the cathedral in order to be present at High Mass, when I saw an incident thoroughly characteristic of the arbitrary proceedings of the Russian police. A burly 1 gorodovoi, clad in white uniform and fully armed, was forcing the Asiatic shopkeepers in the bazar to close their premises in order to do honour to the son of the autocrat. I remembered how I had seen the Turkish soldiery in Jerusalem perform a similar task a few months before, when the young Prince of Naples entered the Holy-City ; it is true that the Turks went a step further than the Muscovites, for they drove the people out into the main street, and refused to let them go home until the evening, but the idea was the same in both cases. The best native tailor of Tiflis lives in this neighbourhood, and I had the honour of having a Circassian suit made for me by him ; it fitted like a glove. I may say that, although a great many people in Tiflis wear European dress, in the country it is almost unknown. I found that for travelling there is nothing better than the Circassian garb ; it stands a great deal of rough usage, and always looks respectable.
Mushtaid is the finest promenade in the city. It is situated at the west end, and is approached by the Mikhailovskaya, a long, straight street, with, fine gardens on either side of it. Some of the best restaurants in the city are in these vineshaded gardens, and one of them is devoted to wrestling matches. It was my good fortune to be present at a famous contest in which the Kakhetian champion, Grdaneli, fought a certain bold Imeretian professor of the fancy art. The performance was highly interesting, and it was gratifying to learn from the bills that the proceeds “were to be for the benefit of a young man who wanted to study at Petersburg, but had not the necessary means. The inner ring was formed of country gentlemen and officers, all sitting cross-legged on the ground; behind them, tier above tier, were at least a thousand spectators, breathless with expectation. A primitive band, consisting of a drum and a zurna (an instrument which sounds like the bagpipes), played a war- like air, to the sound of which the heroes danced round the arena amid the frantic applause of the crowd. Both men were fine fellows, but Grdaneli was a very Hercules, and withal amiable-looking ; he was the favourite, and justified his reputation of being invincible by utterly demolishing the Western man in a very short space of time. Every incident of the battle called forth from the bystanders loud yells of praise and encouragement which might have been heard miles ofi”.
The two best clubs have summer quarters in Mikhailovskaya Street, by the waterside — the Eruzhoh (near the Vera Bridge) and the Georgian Club (nearer Yorontsovskii Bridge) ; both have concert-rooms and gardens attached to them, and the famous dance called Lesginha may be seen there with its accompaniment of hand-clapping. The costumes worn by both sexes are picturesque and rich, and one meets people of all nationalities including political exiles from Poland, Russian officers and officials, German professors and representatives of many otlier races besides Georgians. All arms must be left at the entrance. Georgian music is very unlike our own, and at first it strikes tlie European as loud, wild, discordant, positively unpleasant, but when one is accustomed to it, it is very agreeable. Before I had heard many of the national melodies, I was very much astonished when an accomplished lady told me that her reason for preferring the Georgian Club to the Kruzhok was, that at the former Asiatic music was performed ; but I can now understand her liking for the music of her country. In the Appendix I have written down a few melodies which will not, I think, grate harshly on English ears.
The beauty of the Georgian women has been called in question by some travellers, but these are nearly all men whose acquaintance with the people has been extremely limited. The favourite observation of these critics is a stereotyped phrase about ” undeniably good features, but want of animation.” Surely Alexandre Dumas the elder knew a beautiful face when he saw it; he says; “Z/(X Grece, c’est Galatee encore marbre ; la Georgie, c’est Galatee devenue femme” Mushtaid, the town garden, owes nearly all its charms to nature, the walks and open spaces are neatly kept, but nearly the whole area is a forest in the recesses of which we may lie undisturbed for hours, looking down on the turbid waters of Kura and listening to the rustling of the leaves above and around. Every evening its avenues are crowded with carriages and horsemen ; beautiful faces, tasteful toilettes, gay uniforms all combine to form a charming picture. Fancy fairs are occasionally held, at which the visitor may mingle with all the social celebrities, lose his money in rafiQes, buy things he doesn’t want — in short enjoy himself just as if he were at home. But I doubt whether many frequenters of bazaars in England have seen such an acrobatic feat as was performed in Mushtaid last summer; an individual in tights hung himself by the neck on the upper end of an inclined wire, stretched over the heads of the spectators, and slid down it at lightning speed, firing half a dozen pistol-shots as he went. No week passes without a popular fete of some kind, for the Georgians are as fond of gaiety as any nation in the world.
From the above brief sketch the reader will see that Tiflis is a city where one can live for a long time without suffering from ennui. Although the immediate neighbourhood looks bare and uninviting, there are, within a few miles, many beautiful spots well worth a visit. The climate has been much abused by some writers, and it must be admitted that during the months of July and August the heat is very trying, but in my opinion Tiflis is a healthy place ; since the great plague of ninety years ago it has been pretty free from epidemics, and although fever and dysentery kill a good many people every year, the victims are nearly all residents of low-lying parts of the city, where no European would live if he could help it.
During the warm weather there are often storms, characterized by all the grandeur that might be expected in a region of great mountams so near the tropics ; after one of these the steep streets become foaming torrents. The sheltered position of the city protects it from the terrible gusts of wind which make the plain to the eastward almost uninhabitable, and the storms seldom cause any more serious damage than broken windows and flooded houses. Hitherto all the town water was obtained from the Kura, and delivered to the consumer from bullock- skins, but a well has now been dug a little below St. David’s, whence the dwellers on the right bank will get a supply of a liquid which is not tepid, not opaque, not evil-smelling, and not semi-solid.