Our Notes & References
Pushkin and the Golden Age of Russian poetry come to the West: the very first publication of Russia’s celebrated poet in Western Europe in the first anthology of Russian poetry in French.
Attractive example of this scarce work, inscribed by the author to a G. de Melville [possibly, Merville].
Dupré de Saint-Maure (1772-1854) arrived to Saint Petersburg in 1819 and entered the circle of Russian writers, poets in particular. Shortly afterwards he decided to publish a collection of French translations of different genres to show the diversity of contemporary Russian poetry, at a time indeed when it was especially blooming. As Dupré did not speak almost any Russian, he asked poets to provide exact translations of their works themselves, that he would then turn into poetry. Pushkin’s text was given by his father, Sergei Lvovich.
The resulting anthology included the best poets of Russia under Alexander I: an extract from Pushkin’s Ruslan i Ludmila; thirteen fables by Krylov, the Russian La Fontaine and his longest publication to date outside Russia; as well as works by Antiochus Kantemir (‘the father of Russian poetry’), Vasilii Zhukovskii and Gavrila Derzhavin, for a total of sixteen poets. An extensive, 35-pp. long introduction provides a history of Russian literature, based on a contemporary and successful book by Nikolai Gretsch. Works of each author are prefaced with brief biographies and notes on their style, mentioning previous notable works; after each text a short commentary explains its role within Russian culture. The books ends with Dupré de Saint-Maure’s own creations and extensive notes.
Dupré’s Anthologie russe appeared at a time when the Western audience was developing a keen interest in a new generation of talented Russian poets, who would later form the pantheon of the Golden Age of Russian literature: Pushkin had been positively reviewed in French since 1821, Zhukovskii’s Svetlana appeared in English in 1823 too, and Count Orlov’s beautiful Paris edition of Krylov was to be published two years later.
Dupré’s innovative Anthologie received positive reviews in France and Russia, where it became particularly popular among readers. Even three years later, E. Héreau conducted a thorough analysis of the work in the November issue of the Revue encyclopedique, noting “Nous avons un jeune poëte, Alexandre Pouchekine [sic], qui s’est déjà fait connaître par des productions où l’on aperçoit l’empreinte d’un grand talent et d’une verve originale” (quote from Teplova).
As announced in his prospectus, Trouvé published simultaneously two variants of this anthology, with the exact same text: ours, directed to the French market, “imprimée sur beau papier en caractères de M. Firmin Didot” – the other, of 4to format with 6 plates, being opened for subscription in St. Petersburg. Ours seems to be much rarer and does not appear in most bibliographies.
Provenance G. de Merville [?Melville] (handwritten gift inscription from the author to title verso).
Bibliography Not in Mezhov, Puchkiniana 3176. Prospectus in Journal des Savants, Paris, August 1823, p. 510; Natalia Teplova, Pouchkine en France au XIXe siècle : problèmes de translation sous la direction d’Annick Chapdelaine, Volume 14, Number 1, 2001, pp. 211–235 (online).