RARE LIFE OF DICKENS
S.-Peterburg. Tipografiia I. N. Skorokhodova … 1891.
8vo (189 × 120 mm), pp. , 294, ii; with photographic portrait frontispiece by Shtein (browned); closed tear in the gutter of final leaf of text; contemporary quarter sheep, rubbed, cloth tips, purchase note (dated December 1890) to the title; old bookseller’s marks and later sticker to rear pastedown.
First separate edition, originally published across six numbers of Anna Evreinova’s journal Severnyi vestnik
(an early supporter of the young Chekhov) in 1890. Like Dostoevsky, the poet Aleksei Pleshcheev (1825–1893) had been arrested as a radical in 1849 and sentenced to death, only for his sentence to be commuted to penal servitude. After ten years in exile, he returned to Moscow, where he contributed to literary journals, published a number of novels and, more importantly perhaps, ran a kind of literary salon. Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Tchaikovsky were all among his acquaintance, and Pleshcheev’s verse provided lyrics for Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. The latter’s 16 Songs for Children
(1883) contained 14 poems by Pleshcheev (notably ‘Legenda’, a translation of the American poet Richard Henry Stoddard’s ‘The young child Jesus had a garden’, best known to English-speaking audiences now as the Christmas piece ‘The Crown of Roses’, in a back-translation by Percy Dearmer).
Pleshcheev had translated a chapter on slavery from Dickens’ American Notes in 1863. He bases his biography here on Du Pontavice de Heussey’s L’inimitable Boz (1889).
Fridlender & Katarskii 1357. WorldCat lists a sole copy, at the New York Public Library.