By Marc Raeff
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Extra info for Catherine the Great: A Profile
He, or more accurately, his works, shaped my mind, my intellect. I have said to you many times, I think, that I am his pupil (je suis son ecoliere) : when I was younger I loved to please him; my actions satisfied me only when they were worth reporting to Voltaire, and I immediately told him about them. He was so accustomed to this that he scolded me (il me grondait) VASILII A. BIL'BASSOV when I forgot to tell him the latest news and he heard it from someone else. " Neither her philosophical mind nor the reading of ancient writ~ ers nor her correspondence with Voltaire overshadowed the woman in Catherine II.
This refrain is repeated constantly in Catherine's letters, but it would be a mistake to take this refrain literally. Catherine accepted any approbation in print, wherever it came from. She generously rewarded such praise, and never expressed serious dissatisfaction at the publication of her letters, but wanted the letters to serve only as material for the laudatory articles to which she paid close attention. "Le gazetier de Cologne en fera du bruit" was the magic argument which would always make her more conciliatory.
I told them to hurry since I wanted to have the satisfaction of correcting it. " This humorous epitaph is preserved in the State Archive. Here is how Catherine described herself in it: "Here lies Catherine the Second, born in Stettin April 21 [May 2], 1729. She went to Russia in 1744 to marry Peter the Third. At fourteen she made a three-point resolution: to please her husband, Empress Elizabeth, and the nation. 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.
Catherine the Great: A Profile by Marc Raeff