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The Wickedest Man In The World
by [?]

Precisely at what time the faithful and affectionate subjects of his Majesty Ivan IV., Czar of all the Russias, conferred upon him his pet name, “The Terrible,” history neglects to inform us, but we are left in no uncertainty as to the entire appropriateness of the title, which is now inseparably linked with his baptismal name. He inherited the throne at the age of three years, and his early education was carefully attended to by his faithful guardians, who snubbed and scared him, in the hope that they might so far weaken his intellect as to secure a permanent control over him, and through him govern Russia as they pleased. They made a footstool of him sometimes, and a football at others, and, under their system of training, the development of those qualities of mind and heart for which he is celebrated was remarkably rapid. He was always Ivan the Terrified, and he became Ivan the Terrible before he was old enough to have played a reasonably good game of marbles, or to have become tolerably expert in the art of mumbling the peg. Indeed, it seems that the young grand-prince was wholly insensible to the joys of these and the other excellent sports in which ordinary youths delight, and being of an ingenious turn of mind, he invented others better suited to his tastes and character. One of these pastimes–perhaps the first and simplest one devised by the youthful genius–consisted in the dropping of cats, dogs, and other domestic animals from the top of the palace to the pavement below, and sentimental historians have construed these interesting experiments in the law of gravitation into acts of wanton cruelty. Another of the young czar’s amusements was to turn half-famished pet bears loose upon passing pedestrians, and it is the part of charity to suppose that his purpose in this was to study the psychological and physiognomical phenomena of fear. A less profitable way he had of accomplishing the same thing was by throwing, or, as youthful Americans phrase it, “shying,” stones at passers-by, concealing himself meanwhile behind a screen. He cultivated his skill in horsemanship by riding over elderly people, cripples, and children. In short, his boyish sports were all of an original and highly interesting sort.

Up to the age of thirteen Ivan was under the tutelage of a council, of which the Prince Shnisky was chief, and it was this prince who domineered over the boy and made a footstool and a football of his body. At that age Ivan asserted his independence in a very positive and emphatic way, which even the Prince Shnisky could not misapprehend. The young czar was out hunting, accompanied by Shnisky and other princes and boyards, among whom was Prince Gluisky, a rival of Shnisky’s, who was prejudiced against that excellent gentleman. At his suggestion, Ivan addressed his guardian Shnisky in language which the latter deemed insolent. Shnisky replied angrily, and Ivan requested his dogs to remonstrate with the prince, which they did by tearing him limb from limb.

Having thus silenced the dictation of Shnisky, the young prince became the ward of the no less excellent Gluisky, and was carefully taught that the only way in which he could effectually assert authority was by punishment. It was made clear to his budding intellect, too, that the shortest, simplest, and altogether the best way to get rid of disagreeable persons was to put them to death, and throughout his life Ivan never forgot this lesson for a single moment. Power, he was told, was worthless unless it was used, and the only way in which it could be really used was by oppression. For three years no pains were spared to teach him this system of ethics and politics, and the young prince, in his anxiety to perfect himself in the art of governing, diligently practised all these precepts.