A second important motivation for publishing was Justice’s desire to refute the ‘aspersions and misrepresentations’ of others, who, she writes, were claiming that she was a fantasist who was only pretending to have been in Russia. Consequently, her Voyage sets out to provide evidence of her first-hand knowledge of Petersburg. Several Anglophone scholars of the eighteenth century have reacted disparagingly to what they regard as the frustrating superficiality of Justice’s account and its focus on quotidian details of lives of domestic servants. One of them, Anthony Cross, also remarks that Justice displays naivety and prejudice in her assessments of Russia and Russians. However, the fact that these are the impressions of a modest, somewhat proper, middle-class female observer – rather than a travelling aristocrat – is precisely what gives her account intrinsic interest and value.
Justice touches upon a range of areas of Russian life: coins and their values, for instance, or the clothing of different social classes. She marvels at the abundance of fish and meat available, gives prices, and indicates cooking methods. She describes ordinary labour - how the stove is lit and managed, or ice breaking, for instance – and lists common punishments for disobedient servants (which include the cat o’ nine tails and burial up to the neck in the ground with food at a distance, Tantalus-style). She comments disapprovingly more than once on Russian drinking habits: ‘they love the strongest Liquor they can get; and if they cannot obtain it honestly, they will steal it’; ‘There is none of them that ever will refuse Liquor, that I ever saw’. She writes about the traditional maslenitsa celebrations at the start of Lent (‘to be sober at this time would be uncustomary’), and tells what she knows of christenings, weddings, and funerals (finding the rituals attached to the last of these especially ‘absurd’).
Owing to her social position, Justice is an outside observer of palace and court culture. Of the notoriously sadistic Empress Anna, she writes that she ‘has both Majesty and sweetness in her countenance’, and that ‘tho’ absolute, yet she is always merciful’. She touches upon the 1735 visit of the Persian Ambassador and his famous gift to the Empress of an elephant, which Justice was disappointed not to have seen for herself. This elephant was a participant in one of Anna’s most legendary acts of cruelty: she reputedly forced a member of the aristocracy to become court jester and then to marry her maid. For their wedding night, Anna ordered an ice palace -- complete with ice-sculpted beds, steps, chairs, windows, and even a fireplace with logs -- to be constructed. Prince Golitsyn and his ‘bride’ were paraded to the ice palace through the streets in a cage on top of the elephant. Justice mentions nothing of this, merely writing of the elephant, ‘His food was Rice, and his drink Brandy’.
Overall, Justice expresses more sympathetic engagement with, and admiration for, Russians and Russian life than some scholars suggest. She notes that ‘Russians are all born slaves, and are often bought, and sold’, and emphasizes their ‘very great Faith’. She comments upon ‘several Remarkables worthy of notice, That very few grow mad, or are guilty of self-murder: And I never saw either Man, Woman, or Child, that were crooked’. The language used here to describe mental illness, suicide, and disability – uncomfortable from a twenty-first century perspective – is perhaps what has prompted historians’ remarks about Justice’s naivety and prejudice. Her account is certainly highly subjective, but Justice’s personality emerges from it as a result. It gives a compelling sense of a middle-class Englishwoman’s attitudes and voice in this period, one of the historical peaks of Anglo-Russian relations. Britain was the ‘most favoured nation’, according to the first commercial treaty of 1734, and British and Russian merchants enjoyed equal rights in either country. At one point, Justice expresses her firm belief that ‘there is no part of the world where the English live better than they do at Petersburgh’.