No, despite appearances, I'm not obsessed with nineteenth-century horsedrawn vehicles, although I do love those classic novels in which our hero dashes to the rescue in one kind of coach or another.
It's just that I have this little bee in my bonnet about the fact that we gasoline-era moderns understand the exact social significance of jeep, Jaguar, Jetta, and jalopy, but we are, except for specialists, utterly clueless as to the valence of barouche, basket carriage, berlin, britchka, brougham, buckboard, buggy, cabriolet, caleche, cariole, carryall, chaise, chariot, clarence, coupe, croydon, curricle, cutter, dearborn, diligence, dog-cart, fiacre, fly, four-wheeler, gig, go-cart, governess cart, hansom, jaunty car, jersey-wagon, landau, phaeton, post-chaise, rockaway, shandrydan, shay, spider-phaeton, spring-van, stanhope, sulky, surrey, tandem, telyezhka, tilbury, tarantass, trap, troika, victoria, vis-a-vis, wagonette, or wurt. Which of these words tells us that the driver is rich or stylish, and which of them implies that he is vulgar and tasteless? Or downtrodden? We don't know, and so we read our traditional literature with a handicap.
It is good fortune that when in Don Juan (a comic epic well worth the revisiting), Byron trots out a kibitka (a vehicle new to me), he tells us all we need to know: "And there in a kibitka he rolled on,/ (A cursed sort of carriage without springs,/ Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone...." [IX, 234-6]). Byron testifies that the kibitka is down there in the horsedrawn slums. An online dictionary is less poetic but more detailed than Lord B: "a kibitka is a rude kind of Russian vehicle, on wheels or on runners, sometimes covered with cloth or leather, and often used as a movable habitation."
Definitely not the kind of vehicle out of which Sir Plantagenet should step when he opens Parliament or accompanies Lady Glencora to the ball.
May 10. My friend W. S. wants to know if history provides an instance in which a "a cabal of kibbutzniks kibitzed in a kibitka?" A good question to which I am at present unable to provide an answer. May 19. Professor Marion Morrison wants to know why I prefer Russian vehicles to "les voitures hippomobiles." Whoa, Professor M. Time to get off your high horse!