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JQA Diary, volume 28 21 February 1811


Neal Millikan Recreation

21. We had all received Cards of invitation, to attend at the public examination of the Studies of the young ladies, who are about to leave the School, which is called the Institute of the Order of St: Catherine— These Cards were brought by the Aide des Cérémonies who brings the Notices for the Courts. the invitations are given by order of the Empress Mother who is the patroness of the institution— The examination was fixed for two days successively; the 8th: and 9th: of February at 9. in the morning— But we did not receive our Cards; untill late yesterday, to attend this day, at 10. O’Clock— We went at that hour, in full dress, as to a Court— The Building of the Institution is on the Fontanka— We were introduced to a very large Hall, which we found crowded with Company— Convenient seats, in the most distinguished places were assigned to the foreign Ministers— The Ambassador, Counts Bussche and Schenk, Baron Blome, and General Watzdorf were there— Count Lüxbourg, and most of the Secretary’s— Mr: Everett, and Mr: Gray, attended. Mr: Smith did not. None of the Imperial family were there— But almost all the Ministers of State; and principal nobility of the Empire.— The Examination of this day had just begun when we arrived— A printed Synopsis or Programme, of the examination was distributed among the persons attending, with a list of the young ladies who have finished their education, and are going out. The objects upon which the examination turned on the first day were 1. Religion; Sacred History of the old and new Testament, and Moral Philosophy— 2. Universal Geography, preceded by an abridged Course of mathematical Geography. 3. Universal History, Antient & Modern, and the History of Russia in particular— 4. Russian Literature.— On the second, that is this day 5. Arithmetic. 6. The 213German language 7. French literature 8. Experimental Philosophy. 9. Singing and Music. 10. Dancing— Besides which were to be presented some essays of Compositions and of Translations, and a variety of Specimens of drawing, embroidery and other works of the young Ladies— The Examination of Arithmetic was in the Russian language, and I could not understand it— The instructor however put the questions, and the young ladies answered by making cyphered figures with chalk on a large black board standing in a frame like a looking-glass, and which could be seen by all the Audience; and by explaining the cyphers as they made them— The Examination of the French and German Language was made by Books in French German, and Russian, which the young Ladies brought to persons of the Company—requesting them to open the book to any passage which they pleased— The Lady then took the book, at the passage indicated to her, and read three or four sentences from the Book, translating it as she went along, into French, German, or Russian, according to the Language of each Book— For this examination it is obvious there could be no special previous preparation, and it was one of those of which they appeared to acquit themselves the most indifferently— One of the Ladies brought me a French Book, and translated into a Russian a passage at which I opened it for her— But I was not qualified to be her judge— Not understanding a work of her translation— But it is an excellent mode of examination to ascertain proficiency. The Examination of French Literature was in Logic and Rhetoric— The whole of this was the repetition of a lesson by heart, and it had been well learnt by them all— The instructor put all the questions, and the Ladies answered verbatim from their books— They were chiefly logical and rhetorical definitions; with examples of syllogisms—enthymems—epicherema’s, and the principal rhetorical figures— Most of the Specimens were in verse, from the french Poets; and the young Ladies generally, excepting that they spoke not quite loud enough recited remarkably well— Then followed experimental philosophy; the examination of which was likewise in French, and managed by the Instructor— An Air-pump and an electrical machine were brought in, and a table with a Leyden jar, and vials of gaz with several other of the instruments used in courses of Lectures upon this Science. the Instructor who in appearance and manners was something of a caricature, asked questions upon the properties of matter—extension, cohesion, divisibility, mobility, porosity &c—and as the young Ladies answered, desired them to shew the proof of the answer by an experiment.— the gravity and elasticity of the air, with samples of oxygen, hydrogen, and muriatic acids and gazes were thus proved, and an account and description of the barometer and thermometer were given: but many of the experiments were unsuccessful— one of them consisted in inflaming some Spirits of wine and making them spout up from a glass fountain— The young lady and her teacher both burnt their fingers in making this experiment, and he spilt some of the burning fluid on the floor, which he undertook to extinguish with an empty decanter, and which burnt for two or three minutes— He extracted the Air by the pump from the two hollow hemispheres of brass, to shew the gravity of the atmosphere by their adhesion— He gave them to the young lady, to shew that they could not be pulled asunder— She gave one end of them to Count Luxbourg and held the other herself— At the first and slightest pull the hemispheres parted.— The young Lady without being disconcerted, put the two parts of the Ball together again; placed it upon the pump; extracted the air effectually, and then shewed that the hemispheres could not be pulled asunder— So that the failure of the experiment at first afforded the strongest proof that she knew how to make it. But the teacher who seemed quite as much inclined to exhibit his own skill as that of the young Ladies, had taken so much time with his chemistry and Air, that there was none left for Electrical experiments— After this the select part of the Auditory pass’d from the great Hall into an adjoining room, where the drawings, paintings, embroidery and other works were exposed— The drawings were in crayons, indian ink, or water Colours—most of them framed and copied from handsome Prints— The name of each young Lady was marked by a ticket, upon her performance, and all the names of the workers to the large pieces of embroidery which had occupied several hands— All these samples were extremely well done— The specimens of writing and composition were numerous but I accidentally did not see any of them— In another adjoining room there were tables laid and a cold Collation served— Cordials were also carried round to the Company by Servants— After about half an hour pass’d in these rooms we returned to the great Hall; where a new arrangement of the Seats became necessary as a larger area was indispensible for the exhibitions— A Piano forte was placed in the middle of the Hall, but the performer upon this was a man; as were the whole band of accompaniment— The young Ladies sung— Airs— Duets— Recitative, and Choruses— The best singers were of course chosen for the solitary performances, which were in a high style of excellence— The whole was 214uncommonly good— The whole examination was concluded with dancing— The Russian dance— the Spanish Fandango with Castagnets— A Polish dance— the Shawl and Garland Dances, by three or four, and the whole number joined in Choirs— The Walse, was not danced— The number of young ladies who leave the school, is eighty one— There are four Classes each of an equal number— They are all very accomplished and graceful, but almost all not handsome to say the least— The prettiest and most accomplished of them all is a Countess Chaillot an orphan daughter of a french emigrant— We came home between three and four O’Clock, and in the Evening amused ourselves with Cards—retiring very early, and very weary to bed.