TSQ Library TΡί 34, 2010TSQ 34

Toronto Slavic Annual 2003Toronto Slavic Annual 2003

Steinberg-coverArkadii Shteinvberg. The second way

Anna Akhmatova in 60sRoman Timenchik. Anna Akhmatova in 60s

Le Studio Franco-RusseLe Studio Franco-Russe

 Skorina's emblem

University of Toronto · Academic Electronic Journal in Slavic Studies

Toronto Slavic Quarterly

Derek Offord

Alexander Herzen and James de Rothschild

On 25 March 1847 (1) the self-avowed Russian socialist Alexander Herzen, who had already achieved some prominence as thinker, novelist and so-called Westernizer in the intelligentsia that was emerging in Russia, arrived in Paris, accompanied by a large entourage of family members and domestic helpers. He was in the early stages of the Grand Tour then popular among Russian noblemen and had not intended when he left Russia to settle permanently in the West. In the event, though, Herzen would now base himself for five years in the francophone world, with sojourns in Nice, Bern and Geneva as well as Paris. (He also made a visit to Italy from December 1847 to April 1848.) This period of his life ended in August 1852, when he moved to the safer political  haven of London, where he was to remain for a further twelve and a half years.

The years 1847-52 were very productive for Herzen from a literary point of view, yielding the various cycles of letters that were eventually published as the collection Letters from France and Italy (2) and a number of essays that outlined his "Russian Socialism", as well as the work that he regarded as his masterpiece, From the Other Shore (3). They were also a period of great political disappointment for him. He was severely shaken by the defeat of all the European revolutionary forces that he supported in 1848-49 and by the triumph of reaction or the consolidation of power in Western Europe in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The defeat was most crushing in France itself, where the workers' insurrection of June 1848 was suppressed with much bloodshed by General Cavaignac and where Louis-Napoleon carried out a coup d'état in December 1851 and then, a year later, proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III. At the same time Herzen was buffeted by family turmoil and loss. In 1849-50 his wife, Natalie, conducted a passionate affair with the German poet Georg Herwegh, whom the Herzens had befriended soon after their arrival in Paris. (Natalie's adultery became known to Herzen at the beginning of 1851.) On 16 November 1851 his mother, Luise Haag, and youngest son, the deaf-mute Kolia, were drowned at sea in a shipping accident off the south of France. Finally, on 2 May 1852, Natalie died, weakened by pregnancy, pleurisy and the emotional traumas of recent years.

During Herzen's passage through this turbulent period, which he liked to compare in a poetic vein to a stormy voyage, one of the most stable landmarks in his life was that most unsocialistic institution, the House of Rothschild. Students of Herzen have always been aware of Herzen's relationship with the most successful and influential banking house of his day. Indeed Herzen himself alluded to it in his autobiography, My Past and Thoughts. And yet the relationship has received no close attention, even in major biographies (4), and has been viewed through no lens other than Herzen's own. The lack of interest in this aspect of Herzen's biography may be partly explained by the fact that both Soviet scholars and major British scholars, most notably Isaiah Berlin and Aileen Kelly (5), who have written about Herzen have established a hagiographic tradition which close examination of Herzen's entanglement in the capitalist world might disturb. No doubt, though, it is also due to the dearth of substantial documentary evidence of the relationship. Scrutiny of previously unseen papers that are housed in The Rothschild Archive (6), and which are published for the first time in this number of Toronto Slavic Quarterly, will therefore not only serve to fill a lacuna in scholarship on Herzen but will also enable us to retouch the self-portrait that Herzen painted and that has in my opinion been too readily accepted by his more admiring intellectual biographers. Ultimately this fresh look at Herzen's relationship with the House of Rothschild – or more specifically with James de Rothschild, who headed the Paris branch of the House – will lead us to a larger subject, to which I turn at the end of this article, namely the attitude towards financial affairs and commercial life that Herzen helped (to Russia's detriment, perhaps) to establish in the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia.

- 1 -

Herzen was indisputably an important thinker who had many attractive qualities. He warned of the terrible power of ideological abstractions over people's lives and cautioned against subservience to oppressive systems of any kind, intellectual and religious as well as political. He addressed and provided arresting insights into questions that were of cardinal significance in Russian thought, such as the relationship between Russia and the West. He also wrote with an elegance and wit that were rare among nineteenth-century Russian thinkers. And yet alongside the libertarian spirit and literary polish of Herzen's writings there are features that many modern readers will find less attractive and weaknesses that need to be glossed over or somehow condoned if the idealized image of him is to be maintained (7). He is much given – pace Berlin, who finds in him not a "trace of Byronic self-dramatization" (8) – to self-display and posturing, presenting himself as a noble martyr. He crudely caricatures, or simply abuses, his political or ideological enemies. He was not a champion of democracy once it became clear, in France in 1848, that democracy would not deliver the social outcome that he desired. Indeed he deplored universal suffrage as "the last vulgar commonplace of the formal political world", and regretted, in November 1848, that the new French electoral system had "given the vote to the orangutans", who made up four-fifths of the country (xxiii, 111). Nor did he consider law to be binding on a whole people in all circumstances. He sanctioned mob violence and mounted various specious arguments in defence of the Jacobins who had sent many thousands to the guillotine (v, 154-55, 185-86). He had a predilection for the casual stereotyping of social classes, ethnic groups and nationalities and was prone to xenophobic cliché (xi, 150; xxiii, 87, 90, 91, 114, 138; xxiv, 185). The stereotyping extended to women, who were associated in Herzen's mind with capriciousness (xxiii, 255). "In general I hate women profoundly", he wrote in June 1852 to Mariia Reichel (9), who was looking after two of his three surviving children at this time (and who constituted a happy exception to the rule that he was describing); "they are beasts, and vicious ones at that: they are rabid egoists and conceal everything under a mask of love" (xxiv, 281).

Most important from the present point of view, Herzen repeatedly asserted that Western civilization was in terminal decline. This assertion rested on the assumption that the bourgeoisie, which had become the dominant economic and social force in Western Europe, was morally bankrupt. The sole ruling passion of this class, of which Herzen always spoke with an air of immeasurable superiority, was "money-grubbing, profit-making, stock-jobbing". Armed with a morality based on arithmetic and financial power and a science, political economy, that viewed the human individual as an "organic machine", the bourgeoisie had reduced human life to a means of minting coins and had transformed the state, courts and army into instruments for the protection of property (v, 34-36, 58, 61, 63-67, 142). Herzen's conviction that the civilization of Western Europe was dying and his castigation of the bourgeoisie were contemporaneous and inextricably connected with his formulation of a highly romanticized view of the Russian people, especially the Russian peasantry, who, Herzen contended, were unmaterialistic and indifferent to private property and still exhibited a sense of community. By virtue of their national character and an indigenous institution, the peasant commune, that supposedly expressed it, the Russian people would be able, Herzen believed, to bypass the capitalist phase of economic development and to take over leadership of the civilized world from the moribund nations of Western Europe (v, 74; vi, 161-68, 172-74; vii, 10, 286-87; xii, 152; xxiii, 79-80, 107; xxiv, 127).

The stark opposition between the senescent bourgeois, capitalist West and a youthful, potentially communist Russia that Herzen strove to establish in the late 1840s and early 1850s was highlighted in his writings by strands of demonology and iconography in which he offset against one another various collective social characters (for instance, the French bourgeoisie and the Italian common people) and individual historical figures, such as the poet and liberal statesman Alphonse de Lamartine and the socialist agitator Auguste Blanqui. Prominent in the ranks of the demons, and standing at the apex of the bourgeois world that Herzen detested, were the Jewish banking family, the Rothschilds, who through acumen, assiduity and adaptability had by various means amassed a huge fortune in the first half of the nineteenth century (10). The family was explicitly mentioned by Herzen in 1847, in one of the "Letters from the Avenue Marigny" that were subsequently incorporated in his Letters from France and Italy, as exemplifying the highest degree of wealth and privilege that the bourgeoisie had yet attained (v, 35) (11). There is a further reference in a similar tone in From the Other Shore, which was first published in German in 1850. Here the Rothschilds are cited as one of a series of pairs of phenomena which ought to elicit a clear moral response from a spiritually healthy individual but which in fact cannot rouse the senile personification of bourgeois civilization whom Herzen depicts from his torpor (vi, 28).

Notwithstanding this disdain for the Rothschilds, Herzen was already availing himself of help from them in February 1848, when he turned to the Italian branch of the House following the theft of a briefcase of his that contained important financial documents during a visit to Naples (v, 114-15; xxiii 62-65). It was perhaps from this contact that his relationship with the banking house stemmed. At any rate it is evident from a letter of 25 April 1848 to Grigorii Kliuchariov, who was overseeing Herzen's affairs during his absence from Russia, that by that date Herzen was in touch with James, head of the Paris branch, about a bill of exchange that had been sent to him from Moscow (xxiii, 71). He was also by then using the Paris branch of the bank as a collecting point for his mail (xxiii, 73). By the second half of the following year he was in "constant contact" with James "about shares and various matters" (xxiii, 209; see also 164). The close relationship continued until Herzen's move to London in 1852, whereupon he passed smoothly into the sphere of James's nephew Lionel (1808-89), who directed the family's English business. Not that Herzen's contact with James ceased with his departure from the francophone world, for he continued to correspond with him in the 1850s and 1860s, particularly about investments that he had taken out under James's tutelage.

From Herzen's correspondence, especially his previously unpublished letters to and from James de Rothschild as well as his letters to Kliuchariov, it is possible to build up quite a detailed picture of his financial affairs and of the services that Rothschild rendered to Herzen and his family in the early years of their emigration. For one thing, the bank remained a reliable conduit for mail addressed to the itinerant political refugee, and Herzen frequently asked correspondents to write to him care of the bank's address (e.g. xxiii, 209; xxiv, 9, 35, 36, 201). The House was also a source of guidance on practical matters, besides purely financial matters, in the foreign world in which the Herzens now found themselves. For example, in June 1849, when Herzen had fled to Geneva, he confidently expected the House not only to take care of his share certificates in his absence but even to advise Natalie about difficulties that might arise during her journey to Switzerland to join him as a result of the fact that the family's passport was in his name (xxiii, 148). Moreover, Herzen tried from time to time to exploit Rothschild's social and political influence. Thus in May 1852, when he wished to return to Paris from Nice (which was not at that time within French territory), he wondered in a letter to his friend the German composer Adolf Reichel whether Rothschild might be able to intercede on his behalf (xxiv, 274). Most importantly, though, Herzen constantly consulted the bank about his family's financial affairs, or urged Natalie or his friends and various informal aides (Georg and Emma Herwegh, Reichel, the Polish dramatist Edmond Chojecki) to consult it about them (e.g. xxiii, 148, 152, 155, 158, 161). Indeed he seems from the spring of 1848 to have been almost wholly dependent on James, and one of his assistants, Schaumbourg, about whom he spoke with respect and a certain fondness, for the management of his family's resources. The financial services from which Herzen benefited, besides the routine service of maintaining his account, changing bills of exchange and keeping his financial papers, included continual advice on investment of his assets, brokerage, and – as it became clear that Herzen would not return to Russia – recovery of as much of the family's wealth as possible from his homeland. These services enabled Herzen safely to negotiate a period when political turbulence threatened to disrupt the smooth operation of the European banking system and then to take advantage of the new opportunities for speculation which began to present themselves once political stability had been restored.

It should be said at this point that by the time he arrived in the West in the spring of 1847 Herzen was already a very wealthy man. In 1841 he had received from his father, by a deed of transfer of ownership, an estate in the Chukhloma District of Kostroma Province. The estate was quite sizable, judging by the fact that in April 1849 the village of Lepekhino on it was populated by 229 male serfs (xxiii, 330) (12). Then when his father Ivan Alekseevich Iakovlev died, on 6 May 1846 (OS), Herzen inherited one-third of his father's capital, amounting to 106,000 silver roubles (13), as did his elder half-brother, Egor (1803-82), and his mother, Luise Haag. (Herzen celebrated the acquisition of his fortune, as the poet Iazykov unkindly described it in a letter of August 1846, by installing himself day after day in an expensive Muscovite restaurant and quaffing expensive wines with friends such as Granovskii, Ogariov and Satin. (14)) By February 1848 (as we see from a list that Herzen provided for Kliuchariov of the financial documents that he had temporarily lost in Naples when his briefcase was stolen) he held bonds of the Moscow Savings Bank (15) with a value of 120,000 silver roubles and promissory notes for smaller sums, in addition to letters from creditors acknowledging debits amounting to 45,000 roubles (xxiii, 62-63). He also enjoyed substantial income, which he reckoned to be in the region of 10,000 roubles a year as a rule, from his estate and capital (xxiii, 99). As for Luise Haag's assets, which would also pass to Herzen on her death, they included 60,000 paper roubles and a bond worth 17,500 silver roubles as well as the share of Iakovlev's capital, 106,000 silver roubles, which she had inherited (xxiii, 62-63). The combined capital of mother and son was therefore in the region of 300,000 silver roubles, in addition to the Kostroma estate and two houses in Moscow (16).

During his first year in the West Herzen's main financial concerns were to keep abreast of the management of his assets in Russia and to arrange for the transfer of sufficient resources from his Russian income to pay for his family's travels. (While enjoying his observation of revolutionary events in Paris and Rome Herzen rented comfortable accommodation in fashionable central locations.) However, as the Russian government introduced more repressive policies in response to the European revolutionary events of 1848-49, and as it came to seem more and more unwise for a man of Herzen's political sympathies to return to Russia, he began the process of transferring his assets to the West. The operation is difficult to trace from his correspondence with Kliuchariov, because Herzen could not be open about it in letters that were likely to be read by the Russian authorities. However, we do know that in February 1849, when Herzen was hungry for capital to invest (xxiii, 124, 129), deposits in his name in the Moscow Savings Bank, amounting to 100,000 silver roubles, were transferred to the St Petersburg Savings Bank, whence they were handed over in March, on Herzen's instructions, to Rothschild's agent in St Petersburg, Karl Gasser (xxiii, 381). Herzen also began to explore ways of liquidizing the asset of his estate in Kostroma Province. Already in April 1848 he was wondering whether to sell this estate and asked Kliuchariov to enquire whether his half-brother Egor would buy it for 50,000 silver roubles (xxiii, 71, 77). A year later he signed a document, witnessed by the Russian consul in Paris, in which he declared his wish to mortgage the estate and draw the value of it from the Moscow Board of Guardians and authorized Kliuchariov to put this wish into effect (xxiii, 330). Over the summer and autumn of 1849 he asked Kliuchariov urgently to attend to the matter (xxiii, 173, 179). At the same time Herzen's mother's assets were being transferred too. In the summer of 1849 she received the proceeds of her bond of the Moscow Savings Bank worth 60,000 paper roubles, or 76,772 francs, which had been released to her, under the terms of Iakovlev's will, now that three years had elapsed since his death. In a letter to Rothschild she acknowledged receipt of this sum and immediately put it at Herzen's disposal (17).

It was at this point, as he extracted his capital from Russia in the second half of 1848 and the first half of 1849, that Herzen seems to have developed a taste for speculation à la bourgeoise. One may assume that it is not coincidental that this development took place in the year when his relationship with James de Rothschild evidently began to blossom. At any rate it was the House of Rothschild that guided him as he entered the capitalist world. Through the House, and with very little risk, he tells Kliuchariov in November 1848, he has made an investment against the security of one of his bonds from the Moscow Savings Bank (xxiii, 115). In February 1849 he jubilantly reports that Rothschild has told him that his investment of 20,000 in New York has yielded 25,000 (xxiii, 124) (18). The scale of Herzen's investment in 1849, though, far surpasses what he declared to Kliuchariov in the extant letters to his attorney. In April 1849 Herzen bought a house in Paris for 135,000 francs at no. 14, rue Amsterdam (19). He was also soon purchasing Belgian Government stock and United States Government stock (20). From letters that he wrote to James de Rothschild in 1867, as the end of the twenty-year term of his United States Government stock approached, we see that thirteen tranches of this stock, worth between 2,000 and 5,000 dollars each and amounting to 50,000 dollars in all, were purchased in the period from 13 January to 29 October 1849 (21).

It can be argued, of course, that it was only prudent of Herzen to use the best advice available to him to preserve his wealth in a time of financial uncertainty (although the same argument could be mounted in defence of any member of the bourgeoisie which Herzen was collectively vilifying for its mercenary mentality). Herzen himself takes pains to present his activity in the financial markets as not merely sensible but at bottom altruistic: he is so strongly tempted by commercial deals, he explains to Kliuchariov in a self-justifying tone, not because he has any particular desire to become rich but because with greater resources one may sometimes stretch out a hand to friends in need (xxiii, 118, 126). It has to be said, though, that Herzen does not seem to have been a reluctant participant in the financial affairs of the capitalist world in these early days of the Second Republic, after the defeat of the indigent masses whose cause he espoused. On the contrary, he took to the capitalist's world like a duck to water. He has decided "to enter into a little commercial matter", he tells Kliuchariov in his letter of November 1848, because "[T]he profits that are to be had here now for cash are beyond what one could believe" (xxiii, 115). In fact not to pick up the profit would be "shameful" (xxiii, 124). Flushed with the success of his speculation he told Kliuchariov that his financial dealings were going "superbly" and that he must seem like a "banker" (xxiii, 134). As for Rothschild and his ilk, who eschew what to them are small transactions, he is rather in awe of them (xxiii, 124), but he appears to enjoy the contact. "Nothing can be more piquant", he wrote to one of his Moscow friends in May 1849, than his "kindly relations [with] and visits to Baron de Rothschild", who was convinced he was a count and a fool (xxiii, 137).

- 2 -

In the latter part of 1848 and the first half of 1849, then, with James de Rothschild's help, Herzen made a smooth, successful and even gratifying entry into the bourgeois world. By the end of 1849, though, he needed more from Rothschild than advice on the use of the instruments provided by this world for the extraction of the greatest possible profit from capital. He also needed help in recovering the remaining assets (chiefly his estate in Kostroma Province and the 106,000 silver roubles inherited by his mother from Iakovlev) that the Russian authorities, alerted to the movement of Herzen's and Luise Haag's assets out of Russia, were now trying to sequester (22).

Herzen himself learned of the distraint on his and his mother's property rather belatedly, in October 1849. On receiving this news, which was to cause him great inconvenience and anxiety over a period of some nine months, he immediately set about once again obtaining Rothschild's assistance. On 26 October 1849 he wrote from Geneva to the wife of Herwegh, with whom he was still on excellent terms, asking her to have Chojecki go to Rothschild to discuss a ruse to recover the estate. Herzen outlines the ruse as follows:

Edmond must go to Rothschilds, Edmond must see the honourable Schaumbourg again and put this question to him ([or] better still address it to Rothschild himself). "Mr H owes Mrs Haag 100,000 or 120,000 roubles in assig[nats]. Mrs Haag has an acknowledgement of debt from Mr H that she would like to surrender to Mr Rothschild in order to have the immovable property that belongs to H in Russia sold. Mr Rothschild will not pay until he has received the money, but he will issue H with a certificate signed by him; H for his part will do everything within his power to expedite this sale in Russia?" (xxiii, 204; Herzen's italics)

Then on 6 November, by which time Chojecki had evidently carried out Herzen's instructions and spoken to Rothschild, Herzen wrote to Rothschild himself, proposing this means of forcing the sale of his Kostroma estate. He appealed to the banker as a man of honour, promised to meet whatever expenses Rothschild might incur, as well as to pay his commission, and accepted in advance whatever conditions he might wish to impose, provided that he brought the matter to a successful conclusion (23). It was the need to be in touch with Rothschild over this matter that forced Herzen to return to Paris from his Swiss refuge in December 1849 and kept him in the French capital throughout the spring of 1850 (xxiii, 275).

James de Rothschild saw no prospect of recovering the Kostroma estate but the release of the value of Luise Haag's bond he did consider feasible (xxiii, 222-23) and he therefore took up the matter through his agent, Gasser. In Russia several high-ranking officials – the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, the Head of the Corps of Gendarmes, the Minister of Internal Affairs, and the Governor-General of Moscow, no less – now became embroiled in it. The matter caused them considerable difficulty, not merely because of James de Rothschild's intercession on Herzen's behalf but also, it would seem, because of some sense of legality among them. It was felt that since the 106,000 roubles which Gasser was seeking on behalf of Haag had been bequeathed to her and placed on deposit in accordance with her late husband's testament, this sum could not be sequestered. Nicholas I therefore eventually approved its release in April 1850. That is not at all to say, of course, that the matter would have been resolved in Herzen's favour without Rothschild's intervention and the persistence of Gasser, who even managed to obtain an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Nessel'rode. The estate in Kostroma Province, on the other hand, proved impossible to recover, as Rothschild had predicted, as did the relatively small cash balance of Herzen's assets in Russia, amounting to 2,945 roubles, that Kliuchariov had been managing (24).

Infuriated by the procrastination of the Russian authorities (xxiii, 281-82) and unaware of the progress that had been made, Herzen had begun by late May 1850 privately to criticize Rothschild for lack of will to resolve the matter and for his reluctance, to Herzen's mind, to offend the Russian authorities (xxiv, 62, 69, 79, 87, 91). However, in late June he learned from Schaumbourg that his apprehensions were misplaced (xxiv, 97) and shortly afterwards he received from Rothschild a letter and statement giving a full account of the capital and interest received, the bank's charges and commission, and the sum (471,000 francs) that the net amount yielded when the silver roubles had been converted into francs at a rate of four francs to the rouble. The whole sum, like the 76,772 francs received by Haag the previous year, was put at the disposal of Herzen himself (25). Costs such as insurance and Gasser's expenses amounted to 1.7% of the total capital, and the commission charged by the bank was 3% (26).

In a letter of September 1850 to Herwegh, who had been mocking his apparent obsession with financial matters, Herzen affected a certain insouciance about investment of his newly recovered assets: "what's the good of hurrying", he mused, "this affair has now lost all its interest; the money is saved, it'll be possible to invest it one way or another" (xxiv, 118). However, the correspondence between Herzen and Rothschild, together with a schedule of his assets that Herzen drew up in 1851, indicates that in fact Herzen lost no time in converting the moneys that Rothschild had recovered into more investments recommended by Rothschild. Following some discussion between banker and client Rothschild used 315,000 francs of Herzen's capital to purchase a further $15,000 of United States Government stock, $17,000 of Virginia State stock and $20,000 of Ohio stock (27). He also bought for Herzen a little over 100,000 francs' worth of Piedmont 5% stock (28). (Herzen bought a further tranche of this stock, to a value of 54,500 francs, through a Piedmontese banker, Avigdor, based in Nice where he was now resident (29).) Herzen and Rothschild discussed the acquisition of some Dutch 2½% stock, and an investment of some 73,000 francs was duly made in that stock too (30). A smaller sum, some 14,000 francs, went into Spanish stock (xxiv, 383). Altogether Herzen had invested approximately a million francs through Rothschild in the course of 1849-50. In 1852, following the death of his mother and his acquisition of her remaining assets, he purchased further rente to a value of 60,000 francs in a new Belgian Government loan (31), a share worth 25,000 francs in a new loan to the City of Paris (an investment highly recommended by Rothschild) (32) and stock worth 25,000 francs in the Lyon-Avignon Railway Company (33).

In this fresh spell of speculation, as in the previous spell, Herzen showed himself always willing to be guided by James de Rothschild. He could give no better proof of the high value that he placed on his advice, he told James as he was persuaded to use some of his capital to buy Ohio stock rather than yet more United States Government stock, than to follow it immediately (34). His capital invariably went into projects or funds that Rothschild himself was promoting. James, after all, had made large investments in the construction of the French railway network from the mid-1830s, including an investment of two-and-three-quarter million francs in the construction of the Lyon-Avignon line in 1847 (35). As for state loans, the Rothschilds aspired to control the finances of the new Belgian state, which had been created in 1831, by establishing close relations with the Belgian Finance Minister and taking all the treasury bonds that he offered them (36). James made a loan to Piedmont in 1849, one of many that the Rothschilds made to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. The family also continued to enjoy pre-eminence in Spanish finance up until 1854. It might be said that by investing in the stock of governments that the Rothschilds supported Herzen the investor was making a personal contribution, however small, to the preservation of the stable European order which the Rothschilds, as financiers, valued and helped to maintain by means of their political influence but which Herzen the revolutionary supposedly hoped to undermine. Even more dubious from an ethical point of view was Herzen's investment in Virginia, a state of the antebellum southern confederacy with a large slave population which provided the labour-force on its cotton plantations (37).

- 3 -

It is tempting for admirers of Herzen, surveying Herzen's life in the light of his own account of it (to which I shall shortly turn), to view the liquidation of his assets in Russia and his investment of them through James de Rothschild as part of a grand plan designed to fund his largesse to fellow emigres and to underpin a campaign of political opposition to Russian autocracy. In truth, though, Herzen's intense financial activity in his early years in the West was not conceived as a means to any overarching political end. Rather it was driven by his need to maintain himself and his family in the style to which a wealthy Russian noble household was accustomed (38) and, it must be said, by an eye to the main chance that lays such a vehement critic of bourgeois ethics open to the charge of duplicity.

Herzen had displayed prudence in financial affairs, indeed a certain acquisitiveness, before he took the decision to move his wealth abroad, or even before he had left Russia. These traits then developed freely as a result of his acquaintance with James de Rothschild, although they continued after Herzen's arrival in the West also to find expression in some income-generating activities undertaken on Herzen's own initiative. One such activity was property-letting. During the first year of his foreign travels, for example, Herzen let his vacant house in Moscow to his ideological opponents, the Aksakovs, and in spring 1848 he was wondering whether he could let it to them for a further year (xxiii, 43, 50, 70) (39). When he sold the house in the summer of 1848 he contemplated putting the proceeds towards the purchase a more expensive house in an attractive area of the city with a view to letting it during his continuing absence from Moscow (xxiii, 77, 124-25). He also valued the income from the property that he acquired in the rue Amsterdam in Paris in 1849 (xxiii, 198, 200, 201) and did not want to surrender it by selling the property when he was contemplating departure from the city the following year. "The tenant has paid me . . . up to 1 January and promises to pay another term before my departure", he told Herwegh, whom he chided for mocking his preoccupation with his financial affairs. It was "not altogether a bad investment", Herzen argued: "if you don't think about the shelling [by the forces suppressing the insurrection that Herzen supported] – it yields 5%" (xxiv, 46). He also engaged – frequently and on a large scale and both before and after his departure from Russia – in money-lending to relatives and friends. In December 1847, for instance, he found it "profitable" to lend Ogariov 25,000 silver roubles for two years at a rate of interest of 8%, with one of Ogariov's estates in Penza Province as security for the loan and with all the administrative expenses to be borne by Ogariov (xxiii, 48-50) (40).

Thus Herzen the private individual, around the time of his arrival in the West, already paid meticulous attention to his financial affairs and seized opportunities (that is to say, the sale, purchase and letting of property and money-lending, as well as the acquisition of stock in half a dozen countries) to increase his capital and income. Evidently this private man was not distracted from financial matters by the despondency of Herzen's literary self at the failure and brutal suppression of the workers' insurrection in Paris in June 1848 (41). On the contrary, under the tutelage of James de Rothschild, he began to take advantage of the pecuniary opportunities that the new political situation afforded to investors. He relished his financial adventures and boasted of his prowess in the bourgeois world that his public persona affected to despise. Incidentally this entrepreneurial spirit responded enthusiastically to the enhanced opportunities for rapid transport and affordable tourism in that world (xxiii, 38-39). He may also on some level have derived gratification from the power that his resources enabled him to exercise over others within his own social milieu (42).

However, the public figure who expressed himself in Herzen's writings and in correspondence with fellow Russian intellectuals and acquaintances in the European cultural sphere differed sharply from the private fellow-traveller in the world of capital whom I have described. This public, literary Herzen was a romantic patrician, who rued the passing of the poetry of life in the new iron age and bemoaned the soullessness of travel by rail (v, 16), or he was a Schillerian beautiful soul who steadfastly dedicated his life to a noble libertarian cause (43), or a blameless actor abandoned to a cruel destiny in a flawed universe. Surveying his predicament in a draft letter to Ogariov in April 1852, this tragic literary hero compared himself to a warrior who sees that victory is impossible but throws himself into battle all the same, drawing comfort from the assumption that there is nothing for which he could reproach himself. "I am pure", writes this hero, and "see not a single thing for which I am to blame in my past, but Fate is dragging me to execution" (xxiv, 263). Again, addressing himself as a "[s]ocialist and revolutionary" (xxiv, p. 350; see also 307, 325) to Michelet, Proudhon, George Sand and Richard Wagner, the wronged idealist denounced the adulterer Herwegh and held up his own "pure and innocent" conduct for public admiration (e.g. xxiv, 307-310, 324-30, 295-97).

It was as an apologia for this heroic, public, literary persona that the monumental autobiography which we know as My Past and Thoughts was originally conceived. The work would be a cathartic "memoir" on his "case" (xxiv, 338, 351, 354), which Herzen began to write once it became clear, in the summer of 1852, that this "case" would not now be heard by the "court of honour" that Herzen, in his naivety, had expected European public opinion to convene. The initial conception of the work as a self-justificatory version of events in Herzen's personal life should by itself make us wary of taking it at face value as a reliable historical memoir in which the dialogues that punctuate the text can safely be accepted as more or less literally accurate. A species of non-fictional prose it may be, but My Past and Thoughts is not a piece of prose in which there is no fiction.

It is with the tension between Herzen's private and public personae in mind, and with an understanding of his authorial purpose and his capacity to transmute historical actors into colourful literary characters, that we should approach the account that he offers in My Past and Thoughts of his relations with James de Rothschild. Herzen was of course alive to the possibility that the well-known fact that he had a relationship with the House of Rothschild could give rise to the charge of hypocrisy. In order to forestall the charge he openly addressed the issue, deploying his literary talents to distance himself from his financial mentor, to understate his wealth and the extent of his speculation, to present himself as master of every situation in which he found himself, and to maintain the image of himself that he had created as a noble voyager in a sea of poshlost' (44).

For one thing, Herzen leads readers of My Past and Thoughts to believe that his relationship with James de Rothschild began rather later, after the "June Days" of 1848, than it apparently did. From his correspondence with Kliuchariov it is clear that he was already using the bank in April 1848, as we have seen (xxiii, 74), and indeed that he was exploiting his connection with the Rothschilds even before that, during his visit to Naples in February 1848. By attributing his first contact with James de Rothschild to the period after the "June Days" Herzen contrives perhaps to explain his contact with the banker more easily as a product of political expediency rather than financial prudence. He is not tainted by association with the corrupt bourgeoisie, he is implicitly assuring his readers, until such time as the suppression of the Parisian insurrection and the impossibility of his return to Russia had forced upon him a measure of pragmatism (45).

Nor does Herzen's characteristically ironic account of his relations with James de Rothschild in My Past and Thoughts capture his appreciation of the kindness that Rothschild showed him, as Herzen himself acknowledged in one of his letters to Kliuchariov. When he urgently needed cash to provide for his mother in July 1849 Rothschild lent him 15,000 francs "with such solicitude and without any conditions" that Herzen the nobleman with a sense of honour, it seems, was touched and felt obliged to repay him as soon as possible (xxiii, 164). Again, in June 1851 Rothschild received him "with the greatest cordiality" and, on learning that Herzen was planning to go to London, offered without being asked to do so to write him a letter of recommendation to Lionel (xxiv, 189). Herzen also gives the false impression in his autobiography that he began to be on the best of terms with Rothschild only after Rothschild had recovered his mother's sequestered assets, in June 1850, and that the reason for the supposed change in Rothschild's attitude towards him was that Rothschild liked in him "the field of battle on which he had beaten Nicholas" (x, 140).

More importantly, Herzen creates the impression in his autobiography that his investments in the capitalist economy were rather trivial. On Rothschild's advice, he reports casually and with uncharacteristic succinctness, he bought "some American shares, a few French ones and a small house in the rue Amsterdam which was occupied by the le Havre Hotel" (x, 134). This information, though, is presented in such a way as to blur the fact that Herzen was reinvesting his family's movable wealth both before and after the attempt by the Russian authorities to sequester it. Nor does Herzen give a true indication of the scale of either portion of that recovered wealth. In particular he does not convey the scale of his American stock-holding, which was very large for a private investor. (Out of more than 200 investors in United States Government stock, for example, only the Polish Count Branicki and the Duke of Polignac held more than the $60,000 that Herzen had eventually acquired (46).) He is also vague in his autobiography about his French investments, in railways and the reconstruction of Paris, which the reader of My Past and Thoughts would think were small, and he makes no mention at all of his rentes, also purchased at the cost of hundreds of thousands of francs, in Belgium, Holland, Piedmont and Spain.

Besides striving to understate the scale and range of his investment in the booming capitalist economy in the period after the restoration of the bourgeois order in the Second French Republic and under the Second Empire, Herzen attempts to turn the possible argument that his dealings with Rothschild might be considered hypocritical inside out. Perturbed by nothing quite so much as the possibility that his honour might be impugned, he contends that in fact his dealings with Rothschild serve to shield him from the charge of insincerity. For it would have been a sham, as well as "stupid", he protests,

to scorn property in our time of financial disorder. Money is independence, power, a weapon. And nobody throws away a weapon in time of war, even if it is a rusty one that has come from the enemy. The slavery of poverty is frightful; I have studied it in all its aspects, having lived for years with men who have escaped from political shipwrecks in the clothes they stood up in. I therefore thought it right and necessary to take every measure to extract what I could from the bear's paws of the Russian Government. (x, 132)

Not that Herzen regards his transformation from a socialist, taking his "first revolutionary steps", into a Western rentier and student of the Stock Exchange as a merely prudential act. For he contrives to present his prosaic intercourse with the bourgeois world in a poetic light by portraying himself as either the helpless plaything of contingency or, possibly, an actor of masterly skill and independence. "The rift between modern man and the environment in which he lives", he writes pensively,

brings a fearful confusion into private behaviour. We are in the very middle of two currents which run against one another; we are thrown, and shall continue to be thrown for a long time to come, first in one direction and then in another, until one current or the other at last prevails and the current, still restless and turbulent but now flowing in one direction, comes to the aid of the swimmer by carrying him along with it.
        Happy is the man [such as Herzen himself, the reader will infer] who knows how to manoeuvre up to this point so that, by yielding to the waves and swinging from side to side, he swims on his own course all the same! (x, 134)

When he does have to deal with the bourgeois world, moreover, Herzen seems more a detached spectator than a willing participant in its affairs and succeeds in manipulating his morally flawed and intellectually inferior literary interlocutors. The story of his purchase of a property in Paris affords him an opportunity to exhibit this superiority. Herzen's conduct in this transaction (straightforward, honest, unmercenary and trusting, as one would expect of a Russian nobleman, readers will imagine) contrasts with the shiftiness of the vendor and the "bureaucratic pedantry" of the Parisian notaries and bankers with whom the transaction brings him into contact (x, 134).

Thus Herzen's autobiographical narrative, with its interpolated dialogues in which Herzen may always prevail and its summative judgements on the people with whom he comes into contact, enables him to parade his favourite persona, the noble romantic exile, akin to the poète maudit. It even allows him, finally, to gain a measure of control over Europe's most astute banker. In his account of his conversations with Rothschild he appears to strengthen Rothschild's resolve by teasing him about Nicholas's initial refusal to pay over the value of his mother's bond, which represents a snub to Rothschild (x, 137). He also claims to possess a native Russian craft that enables him to beat down the charge of 5% that Rothschild allegedly wanted to impose for his service (x, 139-40) (47). Not that Rothschild's charges (actual as outlined in Rothschild's letter of 29 June 1850, or as originally proposed, according to Herzen) would seem to warrant Herzen's resentment when one is aware of the unconditional nature of the plea for assistance that Herzen had made to the banker in November 1849.


* * *

I have not suggested in this article, of course, that Herzen was somehow at fault for attempting to keep intact his inherited wealth when he became a political exile or for using the services of the best financial adviser available to him in order to do so. Nor am I striving to prove that the use to which Herzen put his capital was somehow immoral, although his investment in the state of Virginia, when judged by the ethical standard of a later age, might seem so. What I do contend is that as a public scourge of the bourgeoisie Herzen is compromised by his private dependence on the family whom he considered emblematic of that class. His self-presentation as an exemplar of a moral excellence that was altogether lacking in the acquisitive bourgeoisie, and the streams of censorious invective that he directed against the bourgeoisie, do not sit well with his readiness to exploit all the mechanisms of the capitalist world which his banker recommended to him. His own defence of his entanglement with the bourgeois financial world as a necessary means of providing for his dependants is one that any bourgeois, after all, could also mount. There is in Herzen's conduct a persistent hypocrisy which his relationship with the Rothschilds exemplifies (48), and it tarnishes the idealized image of him that has come to prevail in British scholarship.

Most importantly, scrutiny of the relationship between Herzen and the Rothschilds invites reappraisal of the contribution of the mid-nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia to Russia's historical development. It is conventional to admire the intelligentsia for its uncompromising idealism, for its sincere aspiration to create a world of greater economic equality and social justice and freer relations between human beings. Together with its utopian cast of mind went a disdain for mere material things, for money and bourgeois values such as thrift and assiduity. This disdain, which was equally characteristic of both the conservative wing and the radical wing of the intelligentsia, may have been encouraged by several factors. It may have been due to the fact that many members of that grouping in its formative phase, in the age of Nicholas, were of noble social origin (and therefore looked down on money-making), or to the Romantic ethos that exerted such a powerful influence on European culture in the first half of the nineteenth century, or even to the revival of Orthodox teachings in educated circles in the same period. It is also possible that by spurning wealth, or affecting to spurn it, the intelligent accumulated among the Russian peers by whom he wished to be judged a sort of symbolical capital, to use Bourdieu's concept, that was in a sense more valuable to him than material possessions. And in any case in the unlikely eventuality that the Russian nobleman had a taste for entrepreneurship the opportunities available to him to make money were very limited in Russia.

Removed from his native environment, though, the Russian intelligent encountered societies in which fewer – perhaps very few – educated people had qualms about the acquisition of material wealth and in which there were myriad opportunities to make money, through enterprise or speculation. In Herzen after his arrival in the West one detects a disjunction between the idealism of the Russian intelligentsia and a more pragmatic outlook encouraged by Western economic conditions. (We have seen signs in Herzen's behaviour even before his departure from Russia that he was predisposed to a greater extent than many of his Russian contemporaries to adopt this outlook.) On the one hand, Herzen was a barin or gentleman who used the Romantic ideas and manner of his age to deplore the vulgar bourgeois world and to exalt the common man, the Russian peasant who supposedly led an authentic, natural life. On the other hand, he was an investor and speculator who, to be sure, wished from the mid-1850s to fund his political and literary ventures but who also intended to continue to live in the style of a nobleman and relished the unprecedented opportunities for money-making that opened up before him in the West. His relations with the Rothschilds suggest a private acceptance that the disdain of the Russian intelligentsia for material goods and bourgeois values was a restrictive pose. Publicly, though, he continued to condemn the financial activity in which he allowed himself privately to participate, thus helping significantly to perpetuate in the Russian intelligentsia a deep antipathy towards the bourgeois world and its values and, arguably, to retard Russia's economic, social and political development.



  1. Dates are given here in the Old Style (OS), according to the Julian calendar, if they relate to events in Russia, but in the New Style (NS), according to the Gregorian calendar that was in use in Western Europe, when they relate to events there. In the nineteenth century the Julian calendar was twelve days behind the Gregorian calendar. Thus the date of Herzen's departure from Russia (31 January OS) was 12 February in the West.
  2. Pis'ma iz Frantsii i Italii, in A. I. Gertsen [Herzen], Sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh (Moscow, 1954-65; hereafter Herzen, SS), v, pp. 7-224. References to Herzen's works and letters in brackets in the text of this article are to this definitive edition (volumes are indicated by Roman numerals and pages by Arabic numerals).
  3. S togo berega, ibid., vi, pp. 7-142.
  4. In El'sberg's biography of over six hundred and fifty pages, for example, Rothschild's name does not appear except in a quotation from one of Herzen's works: see Ia. El'sberg, Gertsen: Zhizn' i tvorchestvo, 3rd edn, Moscow, 1956. Even in Judith Zimmerman's monograph, which is devoted almost entirely to Herzen's life and career in the years 1847-52, there is but a handful of references to Rothschild: see Judith Zimmerman, Mid-Passage: Alexander Herzen and European Revolution, 1847-1852, Pittsburgh, PA, 1989.
  5. See, e.g., Isaiah Berlin, "Introduction", in Alexander Herzen, "From the Other Shore" and "The Russian People and Socialism", translated by Moura Budberg and Richard Wollheim, London, 1956, pp. vii-xxiii; idem, "Alexander Herzen", in Russian Thinkers, ed. Henry Hardy and Aileen Kelly, London, 1978, pp. 186-209; Aileen Kelly, "Introduction", in Alexander Herzen, Ends and Beginnings, selected and edited with an introduction by Aileen Kelly from My Past and Thoughts, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Humphrey Higgens, Oxford and New York, 1985, pp. vii-xvi; idem, Toward Another Shore: Russian Thinkers Between Necessity and Chance, New Haven and London, 1998; idem, entry on Herzen in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 10 vols., London and New York, 1998, iv, pp. 404-410; idem, Views from the Other Shore: Essays on Herzen, Chekhov, and Bakhtin, New Haven and London, 1999. Elena Dryzhakova's monograph, Gertsen na zapade: v labirinte nadezhd, slavy i otrechenii, St Petersburg, 1999, belongs in the same tradition, as its title suggests.
  6. The papers in question are housed at the Centre des Archives du Monde du Travail (hereafter CAMT) at Roubaix, near Lille, which is a branch of the French National Archives. They include a bundle of documents (now catalogued in CAMT as 68 H-1869) that concern Herzen's business with the Paris House of the Rothschild bank, viz. thirty-four letters from Herzen to Rothschilds, one letter to Rothschilds from Herzen's mother, Luise Haag, and three other financial documents. The first twelve of these letters of Herzen's and the letter from Luise Haag relate to the period 1849-52. Several of the letters written after 1852, especially some of a spate in 1867, also have pertinence for this study of Herzen's relations with James de Rothschild in the early years of his emigration, for they relate to investments arranged in those years through the Paris branch of the banking house.
            Also at CAMT are copies of thirty-one of the letters written by the bank to Herzen over the period June 1850 to July 1870 and one letter written to Herzen's surviving son in 1871 after Herzen's death. These copies are preserved in the surviving volumes, or registers, of copies of the bank's correspondence with its private customers. These volumes, of which there are some 650 for the period in question, are catalogued at CAMT as 132 AQ. Unfortunately there are no copies of letters from Rothschilds' to their private customers before February 1850, i.e. for the first three years of Herzen's emigration, for the 129 volumes that are known to have covered the period 1812-50 have disappeared.
            The entire correspondence between Herzen and the bank was conducted in French.
            The extant correspondence between Herzen and the Paris branch of the House of Rothschild is also available to members on the online Research Forum of The Rothschild Archive at http://www.rothschildarchive.org/research/.
            I gratefully acknowledge the permission granted by The Rothschild Archive to have access to the material at CAMT, to draw on and quote from it in this article and to publish it in an edited form. I also warmly thank Melanie Aspey and Caroline Shaw of The Rothschild Archive, for the support that they have lent to my project, and the archivists at CAMT, especially Amable Sablon du Corail, Andrée-Marie Dormion and Gersende Piernas, for their practical assistance before and during my visits to the archive in September 2005 and May 2006.
  7. For a more detailed summary of the weaknesses in Herzen's writings to which I draw attention in this and the next two paragraphs see my book Journeys to a Graveyard: Perceptions of Europe in Classical Russian Travel Writing, Dordrecht, 2005, pp. 168-70, 174-77, from which I have drawn most of the material in these three paragraphs.
  8. Berlin, "Introduction", op. cit. (note 5), p. xvi; but cf. E. H. Carr: Herzen "felt himself something of a Byron" (E. H. Carr, The Romantic Exiles: A Nineteenth-Century Portrait Gallery, Harmondsworth, 1968, p. 40).
  9. Mariia Reichel, née Ern, had lived in the household of Herzen's father, Ivan Alekseevich Iakovlev, and had accompanied Herzen's family on its foreign journey in 1847, charged with care of Herzen's deaf-mute son Kolia. In 1850 she married the German composer Adolf Reichel (1817-97), whom Bakunin had befriended in Paris, and who had been widowed the previous year. On the death of Natalie Herzen Mariia and her husband took care of Herzen's daughters, Natal'ia (Tata) and Ol'ga, who did not rejoin Herzen until April 1853, by which time he had settled in London.
  10. There is a large literature on the family. The most authoritative recent scholarly study is Niall Ferguson, The World's Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild, London, 1998. (Ferguson briefly touches on the relations between James de Rothschild and Herzen on pp. 505-507.) There are more popular shorter English accounts by Frederic Morton, The Rothschilds, London, 1963, and Anka Muhlstein, Baron James: The Rise of the French Rothschilds, London, 1983.
  11. This reference to the Rothschilds remained unchanged in later editions of this letter, published in 1855 and 1858, even though by that time Herzen was much indebted to the family. There is a further reference to the Rothschilds on p. 61.
  12. Only about one quarter of Russia's serf-owners possessed more than one hundred souls at this period: see Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter, Social Identity in Imperial Russia, Dekalb, 1997, p. 33.
  13. Besides the silver rouble there existed in nineteenth-century Russia a paper rouble, or assignat. The silver rouble was worth between three and four times more than a paper rouble. Roubles mentioned hereafter in this article are silver roubles unless otherwise stated.
  14. B. F. Egorov et al., Letopis' zhizni i tvorchestva A. I. Gertsena, 5 vols., Moscow, 1974-90, i, p. 363.
  15. This institution (the Russian term for which is Sokhrannaia kazna) originated within the Board of Guardians (Opekunskii sovet) founded in the age of Catherine (ruled 1762-96) for the care of widows and orphans. In the documents that I have consulted both these Russian terms are used to denote the institution that issued the bonds inherited by Herzen and his mother.
  16. Some impression of the extent of this wealth can be gained from the fact that a million francs would have been sufficient to maintain Herzen's large household in comfort in central Paris, at the rate of expenditure that Herzen was incurring there in 1849 (Herzen, SS, xxiii, p. 126), for over thirty years. A further indication of the strength of Herzen's financial position after the recovery of his estate and in the post-revolutionary French climate is provided by a letter of April 1849, in which Herzen told Kliuchariov that one could rent a marvellous furnished and carpeted flat in central Paris for 8,000 francs a year, that the prices of everything had recently fallen, and that one needed hardly any servants (ibid., pp. 133-34).
  17. CAMT, 59 H-1869: letter of Luise Haag, 19 August 1849. On the terms of Iakovlev's deposit see Herzen, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, ed. M. K. Lemke, 22 vols., Petrograd, 1915-25 (hereafter Lemke), xiv, p. 9.
  18. It is not clear whether this sum is in roubles, francs or dollars.
  19. At the time when Herzen cashed his bonds from the Moscow Savings Bank the silver rouble was worth 3 francs and 85 centimes (Herzen, SS, xxiv, p. 102). If we assume that Herzen's bonds yielded a sum in the region of 385,000 francs, then the purchase of the house would have accounted for only one-third of his assets.
  20. CAMT, 68 H-1869: Herzen's letters of 5 September, 11 September and 6 November 1849.
  21. Ibid.: letter of 25 September 1867; see also Herzen's letters of 22 June, 11[?] August, 7 October and 12 November 1867. The dollar was worth roughly six French francs at this time.
            Two extant documents written by Herzen himself, besides his correspondence with Rothschild, shed light on Herzen's investments in this period, namely: (i) a letter that he wrote to a Piedmontese diplomat, Michelangelo Pinto, in October 1850 when he was contemplating settling in or near Nice and therefore decided to state his financial credentials to a man who might have been able to help him, and (ii) most importantly, a schedule of his assets written in December 1851 shortly after the death of his mother, whose assets he had also controlled but now formally inherited. See Herzen, SS, xxiv, pp. 148-49 and 383 respectively.
  22. On the distraint and attempts to have it removed see Lemke, op. cit. (note 17), xiv, pp. 8ff.
  23. CAMT, 68 H-1869: Herzen's letter of 6 November 1849.
  24. Lemke, op. cit. (note 17), xiv, pp. 12-13.
  25. CAMT, 68 H-1869: Herzen's letter of 3 July 1850.
  26. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1784, ff. 27-28: Rothschilds' letter of 29 June 1850.
  27. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1786, f. 364: Rothschilds' letter of 22 August 1850. See also register no. 1784, f. 27 (Rothschilds' letter of 29 June 1850) and 68 H-1869 (Herzen's letters of 3 and 13 July 1850).
            It would seem that some of the new investment in United States Government stock was purchased with the capital already available to Herzen before recovery of his mother's share of Iakovlev's legacy, since the certificates that Herzen came to surrender in 1867 include only two, for 5,000 dollars each, issued after receipt of the moneys released by the Russian government.
            The precise sums, in francs, that were paid for the United States Government stock, Virginia stock and Ohio stock that Herzen purchased in 1850 were 94,295, 97,143 and 123,975 respectively.
  28. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1786, f. 364: Rothschilds' letter of 22 August 1850.
  29. See Herzen, SS, xxiv, p. 383.
  30. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1786, f. 743: Rothschilds' letter of 11 September 1850. See also Rothschilds' letter of 22 August 1850 (ibid., f. 364 and reverse). Herzen soon contemplated selling his Dutch stock, though, because it produced so little income (Herzen, SS, xxiv, pp. 349, 368).
  31. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1812, f. 146: Rothschilds' letter of 13 February 1852.
  32. CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1814, f. 253: Rothschilds' letter of 23 March 1852.
  33. CAMT, 68 H-1869: Herzen's letter of 14 April 1852; CAMT, 132 AQ, register no. 1815, f. 561: Rothschilds' letter of 19 April 1852.
  34. CAMT, 68 H-1869: Herzen's letter of 13 July 1850.
  35. CAMT: see the description of the archival holding 132 AQ, i, p. 40.
  36. Muhlstein, op. cit. (note 10), p. 103.
  37. See Stanley L. Engerman, "Slavery and Its Consequences for the South in the Nineteenth Century", in Engerman and Robert E. Gallman, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996-2000), ii, pp. 329-66, especially 337-51. At the beginning of the American Civil War Virginia was the state with the largest number of slaves.
            It is unlikely, despite his later agitation in favour of the emancipation of the Russian serfs, that Herzen saw negro slavery as a social evil, if we are to judge by the racist witticism with which he concludes the first of his "Letters from the Avenue Marigny". He lives in an age, he tells his readers there apropos of a visit to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, in which one may observe "wild people" in Africa and tame animals in a zoo: in Africa the people are like monkeys and in the zoo the monkeys are like people (Herzen, SS, v, p. 27).
  38. We should not lose sight of the fact that Herzen was a serf-owning lord, or barin, mindful that the serfs on his Kostroma estate were obliged to pay him a tithe. "I hope the peasants will continue to be punctilious and dispatch their obrok on time", he wrote to Kliuchariov as he travelled to Italy in November 1847, worrying about the flow of cash that he needed to fund his tourism; "otherwise take it upon yourself to remind them" (Herzen, SS, xxiii, 44; see also 115-116, 127).
  39. On the rent received from letting his property in Russia see Lemke, op. cit. (note 17), xiv, p. 10.
  40. See also Herzen, SS, xxiii, pp. 100-101 and Literaturnoe nasledstvo, vol. 61 (1953), p. 769. The loan was not finally made until a year later. On other loans made by Herzen see letters 11 and 31 in Herzen's correspondence with James de Rothschild (published for the first time in this number of Toronto Slavic Quarterly) and my notes 64 and 118 on these letters. On records of interest earned on these loans see Lemke, op. cit. (note 17), xiv, pp. 10-11.
  41. cf. his letter of 6 August 1848 to Kliuchariov (Herzen, SS, xxiii, pp. 93-94) and his letter of 6 September 1848 to his Moscow friends (ibid., pp. 94-97).
  42. It is striking, for instance, that Bakunin and Ogariov (Herzen's closest Russian revolutionary associates), Herwegh (who was his intimate confrère in the years 1848-50), and lesser satellites such as Vladimir Engel'son (on whom there is a chapter in Carr, op. cit. (note 8), pp. 108-118) were in some respects childlike individuals who were incapable of managing their financial affairs or, for that matter, their emotional lives. It is not unreasonable to suppose that it suited Herzen, a self-centred and controlling personality, to permit, indeed to encourage, the financial dependency of such people on him. That he is not above consciously using his wealth as a psychological weapon is evident from a glacial letter that he wrote in January 1851 to Emma Herwegh – who after all had been no less wronged than Herzen himself by the adulterous relationship between her husband and Herzen's wife – in which he bludgeoned her with reminders of her financial indebtedness to him (Herzen, SS, xxiv, 156).
  43. See, e.g., Herzen's letter of 13 September 1850 to Mazzini (Herzen, SS, xxiv, p. 140).
  44. See Herzen's account of his relationship with James de Rothschild in Byloe i dumy (Herzen, SS, x, pp. 132-40). For an English translation of this account see Alexander Herzen, My Past and Thoughts, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Humphrey Higgens, 4 vols, London, 1968, ii, pp. 757-65.
  45. The account in My Past and Thoughts also has Herzen learning of the distraint placed on his property by the Russian authorities somewhat later (in December 1849) than the date (26 October 1849) when, according to a letter of Herzen's to Emma Herwegh, he actually learned of it (Herzen, SS, xxiii, p. 204).
  46. See the file "Virginia 1866" at 132 AQ 74. I am grateful to Caroline Shaw for drawing my attention to this file. See also my note 52 in the correspondence between Herzen and James de Rothschild that is published in this number of Toronto Slavic Quarterly.
  47. The customary reliance on Herzen's account leads Ferguson, for example, to accept Herzen's claim that Rothschild increased his commission from ½% to 5% (Ferguson, op. cit. (note 10), p. 506).
  48. But it is not the only example. Although Herzen was consumed with jealousy and self-righteous rage when he learned of his wife's attachment to Herwegh, for instance, he himself seduced, or allowed himself to be seduced by, the wife of his friend Ogariov after Natalie's death and the arrival of the Ogariovs in London in 1856, thus destroying the marriage of his closest friend. Again, despite his declared reverence for the unsullied character of workers and peasants, Herzen apparently opposed his son's marriage to an Italian girl of the working class on the grounds that she was a "plebeian through and through" and had "neither birth nor breeding". See Carr, op. cit. (note 8), p. 237.
  49. step back back   top Top
University of Toronto University of Toronto