Peter the Great through British Eyes: Perceptions and Representations of the Tsar since 1698

By Aston, Michael N | Canadian Slavonic Papers, June-September 2001 | Go to article overview

Peter the Great through British Eyes: Perceptions and Representations of the Tsar since 1698


Aston, Michael N, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Anthony Cross. Peter the Great Through British Eyes: Perceptions and Representations of the Tsar since 1698. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000. xii, 172 pages. Plates. Index.

Anthony Cross's latest work, inspired by the tercentenary of Peter the Great's visit to England in 1698, adds to the author's impressive list of published monographs about Russian literature and culture. The present piece, which attempts to survey three centuries of British attitudes towards Peter and his Russia, reflects his interests in Anglo-Russian relations. It focuses on documentary sources, dramatic works and the visual arts. This approach is unusual, as the author claims, but provides insights into how the British portrayed Peter the Great in various media.

A meticulously thorough, detailed survey of published sources, including books, magazines, handbills and other materials, is a fine point of Cross's study, occupying almost two-thirds of the work. Cross discusses in chronological order all printed references he can find that deal with Peter. The early years, from Peter's origins to the end of the eighteenth century, yield particularly rich sources. Here we find a wide range of opinions about the tsar, including, for example, eyewitness reports of Peter's visit, the impressions of merchants, courtiers, naval and military figures, ship builders and travellers. The nineteenth century story, covered in one short chapter, yields fewer surprises. Most of the works discussed are literary or historical appraisals of well-established opinions about Peter the Great.

Disappointingly, the survey of printed materials does not extend beyond the nineteenth century, an authorial decision that Cross does not address until the Epilogue (from a reader's view, perhaps the point belongs in the Preface). Arguing that twentieth-century works (particularly those written in the latter half) about Peter and his Russia are mainly academic in origin, the author considers them outside the mainstream of British public opinion. He is content, therefore, to provide a bibliographical sketch of the major publications of the period that address Peter the Great, but leaves it at that. He states (p. 162): "how this academic research... reaches beyond academic circles and affects long-standing stereotypes and perceptions is of course the moot point." Given this arguable view, should not similar reasoning be applied, for example, to eighteenth-century sources? Our knowledge of eighteenthcentury British printing and publishing is limited at best, and questions about how many copies of a work were printed, their distribution and readership are largely unanswerable. Much of the material that Cross considers is of specialized interest and probably had a limited audience. Can we claim, then, that the published material of that period reflects any broader public opinion than academic treatises of today?

Cross's brief survey of Peter the Great as the subject of British dramatic works reflects the paucity of plays that deal with the tsar. It is puzzling, however, that the author does not look to the history of British drama for a possible explanation. At the close of the chapter, Cross is on target when he writes: "Peter is thus relegated... once more to the role of music-hall or comic opera from which he had barely escaped during his appearances on the British stage during the preceding century and a half' (p. 14). Unfortunately, he does not pursue the thought further. First, only two British theatres-Royal Covent Garden and Drury Lane-were legally able to present dramatic works (due to The Licensing Act, 1737). Commercial interests influenced competition for these two stages. Shakespeare's plays, for instance, were popular, moneymaking attractions. Personal factors also applied. Thus, for example, David Garrick (owner and lead actor of Drury Lane) selected pieces that suited his acting talents. Second, from the seventeenth century the Lord Chamberlain censored all stage productions-a power that declined only in the early part of the nineteenth century. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Peter the Great through British Eyes: Perceptions and Representations of the Tsar since 1698
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.