Friday, November 18, 2011

The Davydov's

November 18 [1827].—This has been also a day of exertion. I was interrupted for a moment by a visit from young Davidoff with a present of a steel snuff-box [Tula work], wrought and lined with gold, having my arms on the top, and on the sides various scenes from the environs and principal public buildings of St. Petersburg—a joli cadeau—and I take it very kind of my young friend. I had a letter from his uncle, Denis Davidoff, the black captain of the French retreat. The Russians are certainly losing ground and men in Persia, and will not easily get out of the scrape of having engaged an active enemy in a difficult and unhealthy country. I am glad of it; it is an overgrown power; and to have them kept quiet at least is well for the rest of Europe.


The Russian Davidoff’s, or Davydov’s, make the pages of Sir Walter Scott’s journal on several occasions.  Denis Davydov, who claimed descent from Ghengis Khan, was famous for his guerilla war tactics which helped push Napoleon’s Grand Armee out of Russia.  He also wrote poetry.

Denis Davydov is mentioned in the works of Russian writers, including Alexander Poushkin’s “The Shot”, and his military tactics figure in Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”.  His nephew, the young Count Davydov, spent some time with Scott at Abbotsford in 1826.  Count Davydov is mentioned in other journals, including the “Memoirs of Sir William Hamilton”: Sir William, besides mixing to some extent in the ordinary society of Edinburgh, had a very considerable amount of intercourse with strangers who came to visit the city, and whom his reputation, even at this early period, attracted to his mother's house. Among these, many of whom became his friends, were Baron Schwarzkopf, a young Prussian nobleman; G. H. Bernstein, afterwards Professor of Oriental Literature at Breslau; Mr Edward Everett, afterwards editor of the 'North American Eeview,' and Minister in London from the United States. At a somewhat later period (1826) Count Davidoff (now Count Orloff Davidoff), the representative of a well-known Bussian noble family, spent two or three years in Edinburgh with his tutor, Mr Colyar, and was much with Sir William and his brother. The young Count carried with him to his native country very vivid and permanent impressions of Edinburgh social life and feeling, and set himself, on his return to his large estates, to ameliorate as far as he could the condition of his numerous serfs.'

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