Dickens' life for Russian readers

[DICKENS] – PLESHCHEEV, Aleksei Nikolaevich

Zhizn Dikkensa

[The Life of Dickens]

Publication: Skt. Peterburg, I. N. Skorokhodov, 1891 (but censor auth. 17 Nov. 1890).

[DICKENS] – PLESHCHEEV, Aleksei Nikolaevich, Zhizn Dikkensa

Rare first significant biography of the great Victorian author in Russian, written by an active (and politically engaged) man of letters. First book edition. Apparently no copy in Britain, only at the NYPL and in Sidney outside Russia.

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This first significant Russian biography of the great English author: a very good example of the first book edition.

Rare: we could not trace any example on the market outside Russia; apparently only 2 copies in WorldCat (NYPL and Sydney), plus two in Russia (SPb. State University and the Moscow Russian State Library). No copy traced in Britain.

Like Dostoevsky, the poet Aleksei Pleshcheev (1825-93) 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 recent L’inimitable Boz (1889), adding further information from other works. It appeared first across six numbers of Anna Evreinova’s journal Severnyi vestnik (an early supporter of the young Chekhov) in 1890.


Contemporary purchase note dated 18 Dec. 1890 to the title; S.P. (Cyrillic initials to spine foot); Bibl. Sem. ?K. (possibly Library of a Seminary; Russian inscription to title, with figures added); old bookseller’s marks and later sticker to rear pastedown.


Fridlender & Katarskii 1357.

Item number



Physical Description

Octavo (18.9 × 12 cm). Photographic portrait frontispiece by V.I. Shtein protected by tissue guard, title, 294 and ii pp.


Contemporary Russian blue marbled boards, flat tan sheep spine with direct lettering, red cloth corners.


Binding a bit rubbed, esp. at extremities, hinges restored at head; portrait lightly browned and with tiny chips to lower blank margin, closed tear in the gutter of final leaf of text.

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