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The Adventures of Chichikov, or Dead Souls. A Poem by N. Gogol, Moscow, 1842. Gift (!) copy. Contemporary full leather binding, the remains of all edges gilt, a gold embossment has faded. Spine slightly rubbed. On the top cover of the binding are engraved the given name, patronymic and surname of the person to whom the book was presented. Inside a very clean and fresh copy. The book was professionally renovated. First lifetime edition of the famous novel by N.V. Gogol. Extremely rare!

 

 

 


As it is known, the plot of the poem was suggested to Gogol by A.S. Pushkin. Probably, the plot grew out of the Pushkin’s letter to P.A. Pletnev dated of 16 February 1831, «I am getting married in a few days; and here is my household report: I pledged my 200 souls, took 38000 roubles, and this is how I had them distributed: 11000 to my mother-in-law who wanted by alls means her daughter to be with a dowry, which makes it lost money. 10 000 to Nashchokin to help him out in a bad situation: that is sure money. The remaining 17000 – for house arrangements and one-year living. In June I will be visiting you and will at last start living en bourgeois, which seems to be impossible here with aunts and their stupid and ridiculous demands, but what can I do. Now, I wonder if you understand what a dowry means and why I got angry. I am able to marry a poor woman who has no dowry, but to fall in debts because of her dresses and stuff – this would be something I am unable to do.» In Dead Souls Chichikov is anxious to pledge the dead souls bought out from landowners with the Trustees’ Council in order to live a life en bourgeois and have that dowry for marrying a governor’s daughter. Chichikov is not only the main character, he is also the core which holds the whole plot of the Dead Souls. As Gogol ironically put it, «if Chichikov had not had this idea (to buy all those who were dead and to pledge them), then this poem would not have existed». The aunt of the writer, Maria Grigorievna, was saying that the plot of this poem also had its roots in Mirgorodchina, Gogol’s native town, «The idea to write D.S. was taken by Gogol from my uncle Pivinsky. He had 200 hectars and 30 souls of peasants and five children. You can’t live on that, so there were those Pivinsky’s vodka home factory. Many landowners had their own vodka factories at the time, and there were no excises. Suddenly, government officials started to travel around gathering information about everyone who had his own vodka factory. There was a talk that those landowners who have less than 50 peasants are not entitled to manufacture their own vodka. Which was bad news for these small landowners. However, Harlampy Pivinsky slapped himself on the forehead and exclaimed, «Hey! I’ve got an idea!» And off he went to Poltava where he left a deposit for his dead peasants as if they were alive. And because even with those dead ones he still had less than 50 souls, he went to his neighbours and bought their dead peasants’ souls, registered them in his name and, thus having become the owner of 50 souls (formally), was making vodka happily until he died, and that suggested the plot to Gogol who would travel sometimes to Fedunki, the Pivinsky’s estate, and besides, the whole town of Mirgorodchina knew about Pivinsky’s dead souls.» On 07 October 1835, Gogol wrote to Pushkin from Saint-Petersburg, «I started writing D.S. The plot has extended up to a very lengthy novel and it looks like it’s going to come out very funny. But for now I stopped it on the third chapter. I am looking for a good sneak with whom to I could easily agree. I want to show in this novel the whole Russia at least from one side.» On his continuation of the novel Gogol wrote to V.A. Zhukovsky from Paris in November 1836, «The autumn here is wonderful, almost a summer. My room warmed up, and I resumed my writing D.S. which I began in Petersburg. I rewrote the beginning, I rethought the whole plan and now I am leading it happily as a chronicle… What an enormous, what an original plot! This will be my first decent thing which will bring out my name. I can see in front of me our landowners, our clerical people, our officers, our muzhiks, our huts, in short, all our orthodox Russia. It even seems funny to me that I am writing the Dead Souls in Paris. Another Leviathan being made …» The remaining bigger part of the poem was being written for a long a time in Rome. There was no money left, he was almost beyond the poverty line, and very ill. In late 1840 Gogol told to S.T. Aksakov that he was about to start the final cleaning and finishing of the first volume. That took another whole year. D.S. was censored in Moscow and was completely cut down! Only the Emperor Nikolay I was able to help. At the same time, he sent D.S. to Petersburg censors some of whom were his friends. Many renowned trustees petitioned in favour of Nikolay Vasilievich, among whom were Count S.G. Stroganov, Prince M.A. Dondukov, who was chief of the Saint-Petersburg censors, Prince V.F. Odoevsky. Having received at last the manuscript of Dead Souls, after various censorial obstacles which were caused mainly by the Tale about Captain Kopeikin, Gogol began its publishing. He had no money. The book was printed in Moscow at the university’s printing house on credit. Pogodin took care of paper expenses. Gogol started preparing a paperback cover for his poem and painted the original. On the cover under the dashing tarantass were depicted: on the left side – part of a village, on the right one – a mile pole. Between them, from both sides, bottles with glasses, fish starters on a plate; a salt caster and a bottle on top, were as if they were crowning the whole array of images, and at the bottom there were bottles with glasses and a dish with a big sturgeon and small fish, which looked just like the table of that police chief whom Sobakevich joined for an eating binge. There are very images of live people, in fact only two: one the right field a drunk muzhik dancing with a cup of vodka in his hand, and a couple dancing in the ball-room. But the symbols of death were plenty, scattered around the whole picture: skeletons, skeletons, and skulls, skulls… because it’s a requiem for the Dead souls, their way to immortality, and just next to them are fools, nasty roads and forever drunk muzhiks! Oh, Russia! After 2 months, in spring 1842, the book was released in the amount of 2400 copies. By the time of Gogol’s departure abroad everything was ready, he wanted to take twenty copies with him. Soon after he left Gogol’s Dead Souls were sold out in Moscow and later throughout Russia. The book was sold like wildfire and the Russian Troika stepped into its immortality…

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