By Marc Raeff
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Extra info for Catherine the Great: A Profile
Wagner and Cardel were two complete opposites, each of whom had a certain influence on the impressionable girl, and both gave rise to comparisons which perhaps led to her first doubts. Wagner was a Lutheran and Cardel a Calvinist; he did not understand any French and she not a word of German. Wagner was a dull pedant who knew only his "ennuyeuses Prufungen," but Cardel "knew almost everything without having studied anything, just like her pupil"; Wagner was "stupid" and Cardel was an "intelligent girl" who "knew on her fingers all the comedies and tragedies" and gave her pupil a taste for Moliere's comedies.
BIL'BASSOV 34 The time remaining from the duties required by court etiquette Catherine spent in riding, reading, and talking with ladies-inwaiting. Taking the advice of a friend of the family to "nourish her soul with serious reading," she gradually went from novels such as Tristan lc blanc and the various Vies of Brant6me to more serious works such as the Vic de Henry IV by Perifixe or Barry's Histoirc d'Allcmagnc; she read Plutarch and Cicero, labored over Montesquieu, devoured the Lcttrcs de Mmc de Sevigne with delight, and first became acquainted with the works of Voltaire in 1746.
She did not miss a chance to be successful in this. Eighteen years of boredom and solitude gave her the opportunity to read a lot. Having become empress she endeavored to give her subjects happiness, liberty, and prosperity. She forgave everyone willingly and hated no one. She was tolerant, loved life, and was jovial by nature, with a republican spirit and a good heart, and had many friends. " Through the efforts of the Russian Historical Society, which has already published several volumes of the "Papers of Empress Cath- VASILII A, BIL'BASSOV erine II," we can gain a rather good idea of Catherine's personality as it comes through in her correspondence, and can check the image she sketched in her epitaph against her own words.