THE AGE OF PETER THE GREAT
'Yesterday the czar of Muscovy was brought from Greenwhich in his majesties barge, and at present lyes incognito at a house joyning to the water-side in Norfolk street.' Thus simply a contemporary chronicler recorded the arrival in London of Peter I in January 1698.1 His visit to England, which lasted for four months, is the most picturesque episode in the history of Anglo-Russian relations and could hardly fail to arouse some interest in the country which he had thus honoured. Nevertheless by itself it could do little to shake the conventional picture of Russia and the Russians which for nearly a century and a half had been becoming established there.
Peter's unorthodox personality stimulated a good deal of comment, half amused, half scandalised. 'After I had seen him often,' wrote Bishop Burnet, 'and had conversed much with him, I could not but adore the depth of the providence of God, that had raised up such a furious man to so absolute an authority over so great a part of the world.'2 In particular his absorption in naval matters and his curious shyness in public were commented on with some surprise.3 Nor was the curiosity which he aroused all completely disinterested. Appearing almost as the inhabitant of another planet, he could not avoid the attention of spectators and projectors anxious to submit to him schemes for the development of Russia, and, in some cases at least, their own profit. Such was the Marquis of Carmarthen, himself an____________________