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A lost noble culture or a step toward real life?

July 15, 2010

Section 4 of chapter 1 of N. V. Fridman’s Поэзия Батюшкова (Moscow, 1971), pp. 36-41, moves on to the reception of Batiushkov in the 1850s.


First we hear about the revolutionary democrats: Chernyshevskii didn’t write much about Batiushkov, but Dobroliubov did, largely continuing along lines laid out by Belinskii. Batiushkov, in this telling, was instrumental in “bringing poetry closer to life”: he took a step downward toward life compared to Karamzin and Zhukovskii, and after him Pushkin took yet a step further (36-37). Dobroliubov praised Batiushkov’s satire, in particular “Певец в Беседе


любителей русского слова” (38). He also polemicized with S. P. Shevyrev on the subject of Batiushkov; for Shevyrev, Batiushkov showed how great literature came from the nobility, and moreover from its most ancient and distinguished lineages (38-39).

In contrast to Dobroliubov we have Viazemskii (the late, post-1840s, no longer progressive Viazemskii, Fridman reminds us), for whom reading Batiushkov is like rediscovering a lost “noble culture” from a generation or two earlier, which the vulgar tastes of the “modern” generation have obscured as thoroughly as lava did Pompeii (39-41).

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