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From Batiushkov’s death to 1917

July 17, 2010

Attempts at Batiushkov’s biography began with pieces in Москвитянин (1855) by N. F. Bunakov and in Русский архив (1867) by P. I. Bartenev (41). These were overshadowed by a monograph by L. N. Maikov, the poet Apollon Maikov’s brother.

The story of that edition begins with Viazemskii suggesting that Batiushkov’s younger brother Pompei Nikolaevich publish Konstantin’s collected works. P. N. Batiushkov started collecting documents, at first working with Viazemskii; he also provided Bartenev with information for his 1867 article before spurring L. Maikov to produce his 3-volume edition of Batiushkov’s works (41-43).

Leonid Nikolaevich Maikov

There was much to praise about Maikov’s edition.  He and V. I. Saitov included extensive notes and a list of the poet’s known manuscripts. Maikov published 33 poems and many letters for the first time, and volume 1 opened with his influential monograph, long the only major work on Batiushkov (43-44).

The edition also had weaknesses: Maikov was too quick to read poems as biographical and confined himself to collecting facts about the poet’s life rather than giving a theoretically grounded interpretation of his work (45). Later he tried to make up for what was missing from his monograph by giving a speech called “A Description of Batiushkov As Poet,” but here he wrongly presented Batiushkov as a representative of “pure art,” “art for art’s sake,” no doubt under the influence of his brother Apollon’s views (45-47). In his article on “Pushkin on Batiushkov,” in which Pushkin’s marginal notes on an edition of Batiushkov were first published, he argued that Pushkin became critical of Batiushkov after his Lyceum years (47).

After Maikov, nothing of comparable importance is written about Batiushkov before the revolution. Pypin in the 1890s emphasizes Batiushkov’s status as a well-off nobleman in his history of Russian literature (48). (At least in the 1907 edition, this seems less central to Pypin’s narrative than Fridman led me to expect.) In the early twentieth century, the development of Pushkin studies leads to several articles on Batiushkov and Pushkin (48-49). Some, like A. Nekrasov, offer readings of Batiushkov divorced from the Russian context, that tie almost every line of his to, say, Petrarch (49). I. N. Rozanov’s treatment of Batiushkov in his 1914 “Русская лирика” is better than most from the period (49-50).

This covers section 5 of chapter 1 of N. V. Fridman’s Поэзия Батюшкова (Moscow, 1971), pp. 41-51, except for a paragraph on how “the decadents” saw Batiushkov that I’ll save for a separate post.

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