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Pushkin, Alexander The Nineteenth Century

Pusey, Edward Bouverie. Daniel the Prophet. London: dence of the amazing erudition of Pusey and shows
John Henry and James Parker, 1864. Reprint. New his method as an apologist for traditional beliefs,
York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885. theological and biblical.
_______. Occasional Sermons Selected from Published
Sermons of E. B. Pusey. London: Walter Smith, 1884. See also: Thomas Arnold; William Ewart Gladstone;
Specimens of Pusey’s pulpit work that show that he Frederic Harrison; John Henry Newman; Friedrich
was a rather awkward preacher but one who pro- Schleiermacher; Duke of Wellington.
claimed his message with great fervor. Related articles in Great Events from History: The
_______, ed. The Minor Prophets with Commentary Ex- Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900: July 14, 1833: Ox-
planatory and Practical. 6 vols. Oxford, England: ford Movement Begins; October 9, 1845: Newman
Parker, 1860-1877. Reprint. 2 vols. New York: Funk Becomes a Roman Catholic.
and Wagnalls, 1885. This effort offers the best evi-

Alexander Pushkin
Russian poet
Revered by generations of Russian writers, Pushkin left sponsored by imperial decree, where he studied every-
his greatest legacy in his poetry. His literary memory is thing from religion and philosophy to swimming and
compounded by the fact that his works inspired horsemanship. At the age of fourteen, Pushkin published
internationally celebrated operas, ballets, and films. his first poem, “To a Poet-Friend,” in the well-respected
European Herald. His official entry into the literary
Born: June 6, 1799; Moscow, Russia world occurred on January 8, 1815, when, as part of his
Died: February 10, 1837; St. Petersburg, Russia qualifying examination for the upper school, he recited
Also known as: Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin his own poem “Recollections of Tsarskoye Selo” before
(full name) distinguished guests. His remarkable use of language,
Area of achievement: Literature rhythm, onomatopoeia, and references to myth estab-
lished him as a prodigy.
Early Life During 1817, Pushkin’s last year at school, he be-
Alexander Pushkin (PEWSH-kyihn) was the son of a friended hussars stationed at Tsarskoye Selo and joined
tenant of a ministerial steward and a mother who was them in bouts of drinking and gambling. After his gradu-
descended from an Abyssinian who had become the ation, he was appointed to the Ministry of Foreign Af-
adopted godson and personal secretary of Peter the Great. fairs, but in 1818 he joined the Society of the Green
Sergey Lvovich, Alexander’s father, was more inter- Lamp, a literary club with liberal political leanings. The
ested in drawing rooms and theaters than in his estate, next year, he was suspected of collaborating with revolu-
which he left to the mismanagement of his wife, Na- tionaries. Further complications arose with the publica-
dezhda Osipovna Hannibal. tion in 1820 of his long poem Ruslan i Lyudmila (English
With curly, chestnut-colored hair, Alexander was a translation, 1936). This poem created enormous contro-
sallow, thick-lipped, and dreamy-eyed child. Neglected versy, winning praise for its epic quality but drawing
by his parents, who preferred his younger brother Leo condemnation for, among other things, its atheism. Push-
and his elder sister Olga, he turned to his nanny, Arina kin was forced into exile on Ascension Day, May 6,
Rodionovna, who regaled him with legends and songs 1820. He spent the next few years in the south of Russia,
about wizards, princesses, knights-errant, and elves. He especially in Yekaterinenshtadt, the Caucasus, and Ki-
also enjoyed the company of his maternal grandmother, shinev.
Marya Hannibal, and it was at her country estate that
Pushkin learned to love his native language. Life’s Work
As soon as he was old enough to read, he had a number Befriended by Nicholas Raevsky, the younger son of a
of tutors, but he was a poor student. In 1811, he entered general celebrated for his exploits in the Napoleonic
the lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo, a school instituted and Wars, Pushkin was invited to holiday with the Raevsky
The Nineteenth Century Pushkin, Alexander

family in the Caucasus, which fueled his imagination for 1972), a thin, rather banal response to Shakespeare’s The
his poem Kavkazskiy plennik (1822; The Prisoner of the Rape of Lucrece (1594), shocked readers with its sexual
Caucasus, 1895). Raevsky’s elder brother Alexander frankness. Pushkin wrote many lyric poems in the same
was the model for the poet’s sneering Mephistophelean year, including “André Chenier,” about the poet-martyr
hero in “The Demon” of the same year. of the French Revolution. Its theme of heroic indepen-
As his literary fame increased, so did his social notori- dence was regarded suspiciously by government cen-
ety. He continued to be extravagant in misconduct, sur- sors, who deleted all references to the revolution. Push-
viving a duel against an officer whom he had accused of kin’s political consciousness was further exercised in his
cheating at baccarat and using the incident in his short drama Boris Godunov (1831; English translation, 1918),
story “Vystrel” (1831; “The Shot”). Pushkin finally re- a powerful story of ambition, murder, and retribution.
signed from the government in 1824, but the emperor Never produced in Pushkin’s own time, the play was
transferred him to the Pushkin estate in the deserted savaged by critics, who thought it massively disorga-
province of Mikhailovka, near Pskov. There he lived in nized because it shifted focus from Czar Boris to the Im-
sparse, unheated quarters, without books or his custom- postor Dmitry.
ary amusements. He wrote to friends requesting copies This professional setback was coupled with trouble
of works by William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller, Jo- ensuing from Pushkin’s friendship with several conspir-
hann Wolfgang von Goethe, George Gordon, Lord By- ators in the Decembrist Revolt on December 4, 1825,
ron, Miguel de Cervantes, Dante, Petrarch, John Milton, against Czar Nicholas I, who had ascended the throne af-
and Tacitus. ter Alexander I had died suddenly in November. Sick
Engrossed in his own idiosyncratic activities, Pushkin with fury and shame for having had to plead for compas-
neglected the family farm. During this period, he com- sion over his friendship with a key conspirator, Pushkin
pleted Tsygany (1827; The Gypsies, 1957), a verse tale was escorted to the emperor, who appointed himself the
based on his experiences in Bessarabia, a story of de- writer’s censor and commanded the court to take note of
feated egotism. Strong on description, it had affected, the new, repentant Pushkin.
bombastic dialogue. Graf Nulin (1827; Count Nulin, In Moscow, Pushkin lived with a friend and was in-
vited to salons and parties of the famous, but the secret
police watched him diligently. The czar wanted the poet
supervised continually and tested Pushkin’s loyalty and
liberalism by both subtle and unsubtle means. Pushkin
grew tired of Moscow and left for St. Petersburg, where
he saw little of his parents. He was investigated rather be-
latedly for his authorship of Gavriiliada (1822; Gabriel:
A Poem, 1926) and later was reprimanded for traveling
without authorization.
Pushkin’s writing remained calm and controlled,
though his life was not. In October, 1828, he began
Poltava (1829; English translation, 1936), a poem on
Peter the Great. Also that year, his beloved nanny
Rodionovna died in St. Petersburg, and he met sixteen-
year-old Natalya Goncharov in Moscow in the winter,
falling victim to her youthful beauty. Natalya was to be
his victimizing “madonna,” for she was a vain, shallow
creature. He became engaged to Natalya on May 6, 1830,
but a cholera epidemic forced him to Boldino, where he
composed Povesti Belkina (1831; The Tales of Belkin,
1947), his first sustained fictional work, and almost com-
pleted his masterpiece Evgeny Onegin (1825-1833; Eu-
gene Onegin, 1881), which he had started in 1823.
Written as a novel in sonnet sequences, Eugene Onegin
Alexander Pushkin. (Library of Congress) was modern in its devastating sociological criticism
Pushkin, Alexander The Nineteenth Century

Pushkin’s Major Works finities with such figures as Goethe’s

Werner and Byron’s Childe Harold,
Poetry and he stands as the first hero of Rus-
1820 Ruslan i Lyudmila (Ruslan and Liudmila, 1936) sian realism.
1822 Gavriiliada (Gabriel: A Poem, 1926) Pushkin’s marriage to Natalya in
1822 Kavkazskiy plennik (The Prisoner of the Caucasus, September, 1831, was followed by a
1895) move to St. Petersburg, where he
1827 Bakhchisaraiskiy fontan (The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, served as historiographer and where
1849) his mounting debts compounded his
1827 Graf Nulin (Count Nulin, 1972) anxieties. The next five years were
1827 Tsygany (The Gypsies, 1957) solid successes as far as his literary
1829 Poltava (English translation, 1936)
achievements were concerned. In
1833 Domik v Kolomne (The Little House at Kolomna, 1977)
1833 Skazka o mertvoy tsarevne (The Tale of the Dead
1837, he was elected to the Russian
Princess, 1924) Academy.
1833 Skazka o rybake ir rybke (The Tale of the Fisherman The final four years of Pushkin’s
and the Fish, 1926) life marked a transition from poetry
1833 Skazka o tsare Saltane (The Tale of Tsar Saltan, 1950) to prose. In 1834, he produced Skazka
1834 Skazka o zolotom petushke (The Tale of the Golden o zolotom petushke (The Tale of the
Cockerel, 1918) Golden Cockerel, 1918) in verse,
1837 Medniy vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman, 1899) but he found more renown with the
Fiction novella Pikovaya dama (1834; The
Years in left column are earliest dates of production or publication. Queen of Spades, 1896), which bore
1825-1832, 1833 Evgeny Onegin (Eugene Onegin, 1881) comparison with Eugene Onegin.
1828-1841 Arap Petra velikogo (Peter the Great’s Negro, 1896) Its themes of destruction, death, and
1834 Kirdzhali (English translation, 1896) madness were underlined by subtle
1834 Pikovaya dama (The Queen of Spades, 1858) symbolism in a manner reminiscent
1836 Kapitanskaya dochka (The Captain’s Daughter, 1846) of his great French contemporary
1841 Dubrovsky (English translation, 1892)
1841 Yegipetskiye nochi (Egyptian Nights, 1896)
Pushkin’s final masterpiece was
1857 Istoriya sela Goryukhina (History of the Village of
Goryukhino, 1966) Kapitanskaya dochka (1836; The
Captain’s Daughter, 1846), a histor-
Drama ical novella set during the period of
1831 Boris Godunov (English translation, 1918) the Pugachev Rebellion. The hero is
1852 Skupoy rytsar (The Covetous Knight, 1925)
a young officer loyal to the queen
1839 Kamyenny gost (The Stone Guest, 1936)
1832 Motsart i Salyeri (Mozart and Salieri, 1920)
who runs the gamut of happiness,
1833 Pir vo vryemya chumy (The Feast in Time of the Plague, pain, and vindication both in love
1925) and in honor. In this work, Pushkin
1838 Rusalka (The Water Nymph, 1924) conjoins story and history, fashion-
ing a thoroughly credible romance
while also creating an interesting
portrait of the rebel leader Emelyan
amid the doomed Romanticism of the central characters. Ivanovich Pugachev by presenting him through the sen-
Technically, the story was in eight cantos, each stanza in sitivities of less important characters. The alternation of
four-foot iambics, alternating between masculine and scenes of love and domestic calm with scenes of battle
feminine rhymes. It was the first occasion that Pushkin and camp precedes Leo Tolstoy’s orchestration of simi-
had used a regular stanzaic arrangement for a long poem, lar scenes in Voyna i mir (1865-1869; War and Peace,
and the “Onegin” stanza with its final rhymed couplet 1886), although Pushkin’s scale is smaller.
was probably derived from Byron’s ottava rima. It was Despite his literary prowess, Pushkin found himself
the figure of Onegin, however, that sealed the impor- caught up in a spiral of destructive passions. His wife,
tance of the work, for the melancholy Romantic had af- though by now the mother of his four children, was still a
The Nineteenth Century Pushkin, Alexander

flirt. Besides being the emperor’s special interest, she be- Pushkin’s turbulent life. Binyon quotes passages of
came the object of admiration of Baron Georges-Charles Pushkin’s poetry to provide a better understanding of
D’Anthès, the adopted godson of Baron Heckeren. On the poet’s personal experiences.
November 4, 1836, Pushkin received an anonymous “di- Bloom, Harold, ed. Alexander Pushkin. New York:
ploma,” designating him a member of the “Order of Chelsea House, 1987. Edited with an introduction by
Cuckolds.” In response, Pushkin challenged D’Anthès to Harold Bloom, one of the major postmodernist critics,
a duel, which was avoided by skillful manipulation on this is a representative selection of some of the best
the part of Heckeren. On his friend’s advice, D’Anthès academic criticism on Pushkin. Opens with an intro-
married someone else and tried unsuccessfully to make ductory critical essay by Bloom and a note that com-
peace with Pushkin. Matters came to a head with a duel ments on the eleven individual essays that follow.
on February 8, 1837, in which D’Anthès suffered a super- Includes discussions of Pushkin’s poetry, prose, lan-
ficial rib injury while Pushkin was mortally wounded. guage, imagination, and image as a Russian national
Howling in agony, Pushkin turned to his wife to absolve poet. Contains a chronology and a bibliography.
her of any guilt for his death. He died on February 10. Feinstein, Elaine. Pushkin: A Biography. Hopewell,
N.J.: Ecco Press, 1998. Details Pushkin’s volatile life
and personality. Features selections from his poetry
There is no critical disagreement over Alexander Push-
(some of which were translated by the author) to dem-
kin’s legacy to succeeding generations of Russian writ-
onstrate how Pushkin’s work displayed “the facility
ers in prose and poetry. His mature work drew on a vari-
of Byron, the sensuous richness of Keats and a bawdy
ety of genres and influences, and he can no more be
wit reminiscent of Chaucer.”
limited by the term “Romantic” than the term “realist.”
Mirsky, D. S. Pushkin. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1926. A
He was not a rebel by nature, so his Romanticism re-
critical biography that is sometimes unsatisfyingly
mained a force of circumstance. His most outstanding
brief in its treatment of many works, but reveals much
successes, Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, and
about Pushkin’s psychology.
The Captain’s Daughter, show a tension between a Ro-
Simmons, Ernest J. Pushkin. Cambridge, Mass.: Har-
mantic emotionalism and a cool intellect that moderates
vard University Press, 1937. A well-documented ac-
his tendency toward excess.
count of Pushkin’s life, although it contains no rigor-
Although the tone of his writing varies almost as
ous discussion of his work.
much as his inconstant temperament in life, the total
Troyat, Henri. Pushkin. Translated by Nancy Amphoux.
body of his writing is charged with satirical humor and
Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970. A massive but
implicit sociological criticism. The most explicit evi-
compelling biography that is richly evocative of
dence of this lies in works such as Ruslan and Liudmila,
Pushkin’s life and times, while giving detailed analy-
Gabriel, Count Nulin, and Eugene Onegin. Versatile in
ses of all of his significant writing. Although highly
everything from verse epistles to lyrics and narratives,
laudatory of the artist, it never forgets to present the
from historical studies to Romantic tragedies, Pushkin
man in all of his emotional mutations.
was preeminently a poet and novella writer.
Vickery, Walter N. Alexander Pushkin. New York:
The paradox of Pushkin was that he was intensely
Twayne, 1970. A useful guide for nonspecialist read-
Russian even when he was derivatively French. His land-
ers that conforms to a house style favoring much plot
scape was thoroughly indigenous, as were his most
description and generalized comment. Its main focus
memorable characters. His plays (of which only Boris
is on Pushkin’s themes and poetic personality.
Godunov has the scope and intensity of a major work)
follow history’s course even as they move into human-
See also: Alexander I; Lord Byron; Fyodor Dosto-
kind’s inner world of mind, spirit, and will. Although at
evski; Nikolai Gogol; Mikhail Lermontov; Nikolay
first there is little that is Slavic about Pushkin, his work
Ivanovich Lobachevsky; Modest Mussorgsky; Nich-
evokes some of the most cherished memories of Russia’s
olas I; Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov; Stendhal; Peter
past and his own times.
Ilich Tchaikovsky; Leo Tolstoy.
—Keith Garebian
Related articles in Great Events from History: The
Further Reading Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900: June 23-December
Binyon, T. J. Pushkin: A Biography. London: Harper- 14, 1812: Napoleon Invades Russia; December,
Collins, 2002. Well-reviewed biography, focusing on 1849: Dostoevski Is Exiled to Siberia.