The Peripatetic Reviewer

JUST as the Tower of London, best seen on a misty day, preserves the relics of power and cruelty, and the crown jewels of the English monarchy; just as the Vatican and St. Peter’s are the living symbols of the beauty, the dedication, and the temporal power of the Roman Catholic Church, so the Kremlin is the heart, the tyranny, and the heritage of Russia. Within those red, crenelated walls with their nineteen dominating towers is a stronghold of palaces, cathedrals, private chapels, a royal theater, barracks, stables, administration buildings, and museums, miraculously preserving from invasions and rebellions the rich hoarding of eight hundred years. One comes away stunned by the immense size, by the blaze of the screens and the icons, by the incomparable craftsmanship of the jewels and vestments, the inlaid thrones, the golden coronation coaches, the incredible gifts.
In order not to be overwhelmed, it is best to hold tight to the little, common impressions. You approach the Kremlin on foot up the ramp leading to the Borovitskaya Tower, one of a hurrying, expectant crowd. Emerging from the great gate, you pause to take in the sweeping view over Moscow; you note the flower beds and the steep wooded slopes leading down to the inner moat. This would have been a tough baby for archers to assault. A big queue is forming in front of the Hall of Arms, and you join up. Only a limited quota is admitted at a time, and your first act in the vestibule is to fish out a pair of floppy carpet slippers from a huge carton and tie them on over your shoes. It makes you feel sheepish, but it explains why the parquet is immaculate. As you ascend the grand stairway, your eye is caught by two ancient paintings, one of the earliest Kremlin, built of white sandstone, like a vast blockhouse above the snowy plain which is now the city; the other, of the sixteenth-century Kremlin of Ivan the Great, with the Uspensky domes rising from
within and the newly built chapels of St. Basil’s at the head of Red Square. It is significant that with these two primitives there is a third, more dramatic canvas of an aged priest, the Metropolitan Philip, on his knees as the assassins for Ivan the Terrible unlock his cell. A grim reminder.
This building was designed as a national museum in the 1890s, and one of the first edicts issued by Lenin over the wireless of the cruiser Aurora in October, 1917, was to keep it inviolate. The airy, spacious rooms with their great glass cases are a perfect environment. Skiing along the waxed floor on my slippers, I tried to associate these objects with the rulers who used them. I did not feel Peter the Great’s presence here as vividly as in his Summer Palace at Leningrad, but his jack boots — which he made himself—and uniforms are larger by far than those of any other czar. Catherine comes alive in her robes and coronation dress; wonderful that brocade, pearl-encrusted silk, and silver bullion thread should retain their luster so long. I saw her again in the carriage sledge, with its upholstery, warming pan, and folding table, a roomette on runners in which she used to travel the snowbound leagues from one capital to the other. Here are the ostentatious gifts she made to Prince Potemkin, and some he made to her. Most pathetic are the fabulous Easter eggs with their jeweled miniatures of the Romanovs, designed for the last of the czars. A tiny model of the czar’s yacht was inside one crystal eggshell, and beside it a little wind-up train of platinum for his ailing son.
An earthquake did much to wreck the Kremlin in the reign of Ivan the Great. To repair the damage, he imported the Italian architects who were responsible for the great cathedrals which now open on to Kremlin Square. The very old icons and the original frescoes, filmed with smoke from a million candles, were painted over, plastered over, and lost from view. Now, thanks to fastidious restoration, reaching down, in some instances, through five layers of painting, the pristine artistry is again in the clear.
From the steps of the Uspensky Cathedral, as you look up to the left, a cluster of gaily painted small onion domes rising from the roof of the Terem Palace suggests an inner sanctuary, the Golden Throne Room and the czar’s private chapel and bedroom, the most inaccessible suite in the Kremlin in olden times. You still have to get a special permit to see these rooms, and it certainly is worth waiting for. Our young receptionist was one of the comeliest Russians I have seen, very fair, with a skin that flushed easily. She led us up two long flights and into living quarters of utmost fascination: small, the alcoves and walls covered either with heavy gold decorations or with frescoes of spring flowers; the throne room, rosy from the light streaming in through the tinted mica windows; the czar’s bedroom, dwarfed by a massive tiled stove and a wooden, canopied fourposter. The bed was plainly a replica and too narrow.
“Where did the czarina sleep?” I asked.
“That is an unprofessional question,” our pretty guide said, coloring like a carnation.
“I know,” I said. “But that’s not the real bed— what happened to it?”
“You’re right,” she replied, still blushing. “It was burned by Napoleon.”
From there we descended to the suite of Nicholas II in the Great Kremlin Palace, and to his empress’s boudoir, ornate and rigidly ugly, and into the breath-taking Hall of St. George, the ivory and gold ballroom with its great domed ceiling which Catherine built from the rubble left by Napoleon, the name of every regiment, every hero decorated with the St. George cross inscribed in gold upon its walls.
“What is it used for today?” I asked.
“Official receptions,” she said. “And then, during the Christmas holidays, the children of Moscow come here for their tree and their presents. Two thousand of them at a time, twice a day for two weeks.”
“Wow!” I said. “That must be something to see!” and then, as I glanced down at the exquisite parquet, “I suppose you must put a covering on the floor for all those wet little feet.”
“Yes,” she answered. “That is a professional question.”


The Soviets have published a handsome collection of photographs of the Kremlin in a volume which is sold at the kiosk in Cathedral Square. But a still more sumptuous volume has appeared
this spring under American auspices. In the fall of 1956, DAVID DOUGLAS DUNCAN was in Russia to do a photographic essay of the Volga; he arrived too late, the river was already freezing, and so instead, at a chance meeting with Khrushchev in the Turkish Embassy, he asked if he might photograph the Kremlin. The Premier gave his consent, and for the next three years, on five successive trips to Moscow, Mr. Duncan took the pictures and assimilated the history which together make THE KREMLIN (New York Graphic Society, $25.00) the most beautiful book on Russia I have seen. The eighty-three color photographs were taken on Kodachrome, with two 35-millimeter Leica M3D cameras fitted with Canon, Nikkor, and Zeiss-Biogon lenses. The interiors were made by time exposures utilizing the existing light, whether in the Golden Garret or in the private chapel where only the czar’s family worshiped. These pictures bring home the grandeur and the beauty, and the text, concise and well selected, provides a sense of progression; it establishes the necessary background and gives one to understand what each of the rulers, including Lenin, has contributed to this treasury of a nation.


C. P. SNOW is in the substantial tradition of the English novel. He always has a story to tell, and he tells it with the thoroughness and craftsmanship of a Galsworthy; he is an excellent portraitist of men, especially men of intellect — the scholarscientist — whose motives, vanities, and subtle resourcefulness he understands with masculine certainty; finally, he knows and enjoys the refinements of university life and savors the rivalry for power and honors, which can be quite as unscrupulous in that society as in the city. In THE AFFAIR (Scribner’s, $4.50), he is writing of Cambridge and of a college which bears resemblance to Trinity. One of the younger fellows has been accused of using fabricated photographs in support of a thesis, and when he passes the blame on to his senior, a scientist of high standing, now dead, a scandal is incipient which the college authorities are quick to cover up.
The accused, Donald Howard, is a Marxist and belligerently class-conscious. He makes a poor witness, and he cannot produce the distorted photograph which he claims he used in good faith and the presence of which might exonerate him. He is dropped from the college rolls, and had it not been for his passionate, strong-willed wife, the case would have been closed. The man who reopens it at Laura Howard’s insistence is Lewis Eliot, an ex-fellow of the college and a barrister who has risen to distinction in the government. Through Eliot’s disciplined reasoning in cross-examination the case becomes more than a battle of wits, more than an academic tempest in a teapot. Eliot’s deft handling of the master, of Arthur Brown, the senior tutor and a traditionalist, of Nightingale, the fussy bursar, and, most surprising of all, of the ninety-four-year-old Icelandic scholar, M. H. L. Gay, is what makes this such an engrossing story.
One of the delights in reading Mr. Snow is to pick up his peppery observation of contemporary life. One cannot fail to respond to phrases such as these: “we were reminding each other in the shorthand of marriage”; “she asked after our child, but with the touch of impatience of people who haven’t any”; “she could not sympathise with the shifts, the calculations, the self-seekingness of men making their way.” For its vitality and excellence, I should put this book beside The Masters, which up until now has been Mr. Snow’s best.


The relationship between the owner of a great publishing property and his chief editor is always a sensitive one, and it can be a mind tamer. This is the heart of the matter in T. S. MATTHEWS’ highly readable autobiography, NAME AND ADDRESS (Simon and Schuster, $4.50). The son of Bishop Matthews of New Jersey, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, young Tom Matthews suffered through a rather sheltered boyhood, overprotected by his mother, aunts, sisters, and governess. He began to find himself at St. Paul’s, and even more at Princeton, and after a training in ideals on the staff of the New Republic, where he worshiped Herbert Croly and was coached by Edmund Wilson, he came to the staff of Time eager to write but distrustful of his administrative ability. Of these early days he says, “On every piece of copy I typed I could have written with truth, I do not like my work.’ ” But he stayed on, withdrawing from the hurly-burly to do the book reviews and occasionally the columns on religion. His copy was excellent and influential; it helped to set a new tone for Time. Later, when he was called to be managing editor and was promoted as far as one could go, his fairness was disputed and his judgment questioned, particularly in national affairs.
There is too much porch to the meetinghouse in Name and Address; there are too many excursions in childhood before one comes to know the maturing man. But the characterizations, even of boyhood, are terse and lively, especially of those who rub him the wrong way; and Mr. Matthews’ probing assessment of American journalism is honest and unsparing save for one detail: Why did he endure his unhappiness for so long?