Literature versus literacy

  • Patrick Waddington


Turgenev did, as has been seen, begin work on Fathers and Sons in the second half of August, 1860. But what exactly did he achieve? Did he, as one might imagine, write the death scene first, or did he simply make a sketch for the book? For lack of documents this is impossible to tell; but he could very well have started what is known as ‘Bazarov’s diary’. Some might think he had already been engaged on this, ever since he met Dmitriyev; but the testimony of memoirs seems to indicate the contrary. According to the interview with Boyesen, the novel did not ‘come into existence’ until after he had had the vision of Bazarov’s tragic death: only then was he obsessed by him, and forced to consider his history. Turgenev further said:

When a character is suggested to me, he immediately takes possession of my mind; he haunts me continually by night and day, and will leave me no peace until I have done with him. When I read, he whispers his opinions in my ear; when I walk, he persists in making his criticism upon everybody I meet and upon everything I see and hear. Then at last I have to yield. I sit down and write his biography. I ask who was his father and who was his mother, what sort of people they were, and of what kind of family they came, how they looked, and what were their habits. Then I inquire into the particulars of my hero’s education; what was his personal appearance, how and in what kind of a town or country did he spend those years of his life in which character is especially moulded. Sometimes I go still further, as, for instance, in the case of Bazaroff, the nihilist. He had taken such a powerful hold of me, I had to keep his journal, in which he wrote his opinions on all the leading questions of the day, religious, political, and social.…


Powerful Hold Death Scene Personal Appearance Tragic Death Free Moment 


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  1. Pis’ma, IV, 108, 125; Sochineniya, VIII, 208–11, 214, 224–5, 239, 241, 248, 262, 348, 350, 355, 396, 398, 400, 402, 448, 450–4, 470, XIV, 98; Boyesen, ‘A Visit’, 463; Pavlovsky, 78; Ostrovskaya, 79; Freeborn, ‘Turgenev at Ventnor’, 394. According to Pavlovsky (perhaps not a reliable witness), Turgenev lent Bazarov’s diary to an enquirer and was never given it back.Google Scholar
  2. Pis’ma, IV, 114–18, 125, 143; Sochineniya, VI, 361–4, 549, XV, 245–53, 425–7; Herzen, XXVII, 89–90, 92, 104–5, 261, 454–5; Annenkov (1960), 449, 452; White, 639–40, 642; Post Office Directory of Hampshire (1859, 1867); Swinburne, 1, 37; Freeborn, ‘Turgenev at Ventnor’, 400–5, 410–12. The play of words in Russian is v Burnemause/o burnom Emause (burnyy = ‘stormy’). The structure on the site of Belinda House is due to be pulled down.Google Scholar
  3. Pis’ma, III, 304, 334, IV, 83, 119–20, 128–30, 158, VIII, 109; Sochineniya, VIII, 220; Nouv. corr. inédite, I, 90, 128; Lettres inidites, 93; Herzen, XXVII, 75–93, 101–2, 145–6, 604–5; Annenkov (1960), 449; Post Office Directory of Hampshire (1859, 1867); Brannon, various eds; White; Kelly’s Directory, Bournemouth Business Directory, Sydenham and Zillwood; Ordnance Survey of Hampshire (Bournemouth); 1861 census returns for Christchurch-Bournemouth; Meysenbug, Rebel, 300–1, Memoiren, II, 187; Mendel’son, 91; Literaturnoye nasledstvo, torn 63, 503. The Bournemouth Visitors’ Directory, and Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset Advertiser, held at the British Library only from 1868 on, is attested as having started ten years earlier in H. M. Gilbert and G. N. Godwin, Bibliotheca Hantoniensis, Southampton, 1891, xxxviii.Google Scholar
  4. Pis’ma, IV, 120–3; Mendel’son, 92–3; Herzen, XXVII, 94. In the published text, which is very probably corrupt, the lady is called ‘Emilie Hermitage-blanc’ (Emilia Whitehouse or Whiteabbey?)Google Scholar

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© Patrick Waddington 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Waddington
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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