Contemporaries thought Bestuzhev and Marlinskii were two different people
Three things I want to remember from the early chapters of Lauren Leighton’s Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinsky:
1. He mostly signed his works Bestuzhev before his arrest (with one instance of Marlinskii), and Marlinskii after; contemporaries didn’t realize it was the same writer when Marlinskii began to make a name for himself.
2. After the failure of the Decembrist uprising, Bestuzhev-Marlinskii promptly cooperated with the authorities and gave evidence against his friend Ryleev (while trying to protect others, like his brothers). This led to softer treatment than others received, including the chance to write again. He and Ryleev may have agreed in advance that he would put the blame on Ryleev, who wanted martyrdom and was probably doomed anyway. Part of the evidence for this theory is that he never seemed to feel guilty about Ryleev in his personal letters.
3. As a critic he wasn’t just a civic-minded forerunner of Belinskii, Chernyshevskii, Dobroliubov et al. (as Soviet critics used to emphasize), but also one of the most typical Romantic critics in Russia, who specialized in issues of language and style. He attacked Katenin’s linguistically incorrect view of the relationship between Russian and Old Slavic.
Meanwhile, in my Pisemskii novel, a provincial poet who admires Kukol’nik criticizes Pushkin’s prose, and his opponent in the argument says that, well, he likes Marlinskii, so what can you expect (Men of the Forties, part 3, chapter 12).