Windows into History… in Wonderland 6.
We have a connecting theme this month: Lewis Carroll (Rev. Charles Dodgson) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Dodgson was not generally keen on foreign travel, but in 1867 he did go abroad on a tour of Europe with his friend Rev. Henry Liddon, with his ultimate goal to explore Russia, a country that fascinated him. The following amusing anecdote is taken from The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, written by Dodgon’s nephew Stuart Dodgson Collingwood and published in 1898, which contains some quotes from Dodgon’s own journal of the trip:
His experiences with an exorbitant drojky-driver at St. Petersburg are worthy of record. They remind one of a story which he himself used to tell as having happened to a friend of his at Oxford. The latter had driven up in a cab to Tom Gate, and offered the cabman the proper fare, which was, however, refused with scorn. After a long altercation he left the irate cabman to be brought to reason by the porter, a one-armed giant of prodigious strength. When he was leaving college, he stopped at the gate to ask the porter how he had managed to dispose of the cabman. “Well, sir,” replied that doughty champion, “I could not persuade him to go until I floored him.”
After a hearty breakfast I left Liddon to rest and write letters, and went off shopping, etc., beginning with a call on Mr. Muir at No. 61, Galerne Ulitsa. I took a drojky to the house, having first bargained with the driver for thirty kopecks; he wanted forty to begin with. When we got there we had a little scene, rather a novelty in my experience of drojky-driving. The driver began by saying “Sorok” (forty) as I got out; this was a warning of the coming storm, but I took no notice of it, but quietly handed over the thirty. He received them with scorn and indignation, and holding them out in his open hand, delivered an eloquent discourse in Russian, of which sorok was the leading idea. A woman, who stood by with a look of amusement and curiosity, perhaps understood him. I didn’t, but simply held out my hand for the thirty, returned them to the purse and counted out twenty-five instead. In doing this I felt something like a man pulling the string of a shower-bath — and the effect was like it — his fury boiled over directly, and quite eclipsed all the former row. I told him in very bad Russian that I had offered thirty once, but wouldn’t again; but this, oddly enough, did not pacify him. Mr. Muir’s servant told him the same thing at length, and finally Mr. Muir himself came out and gave him the substance of it sharply and shortly— but he failed to see it in a proper light. Some people are very hard to please.
A “drojky”, more commonly spelt “droshky” or “drosky” is a low, four-wheeled, open carriage. An example is illustrated above.
If you enjoyed reading this, please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.