He begins by rejecting all common assumptions about serfdom, the foundation of Russian social hierarchy, and its reform, including all of its social and economic ramifications. Nikolai Petrovich, Arkady's father and Bazarov's host throughout the first third of the novel, has developed an enlightened theory of serfdom: he calls his estate of five thousand acres with two hundred serfs a "farm" 24 3 , has "in effect" freed the serfs who were once house servants and provided them with duties that carry no responsibilities, and has even hires laborers to work the land and a townsman as a steward, paying the steward two hundred fifty rubles each year and maintaining that the former steward, Peter, is free 25 With these "reformed" attitudes, Nikolai and his brother Pavel still adhere to the traditional distinctions between aristocracy and working class, treating the "servants" and laborers with the respect due a member of a much lower class-the class lines remain along with the corresponding social and political attitudes.
Thus Pavel and Nikolai still see themselves as aristocrats among peasants, describing the hired steward derogatorily as "a tall, thin man with a sugary, consumptive voice and deceitful eyes" who "tried to depict peasants as drunkards and slaves. Neither Pavel nor Nikolai converse with any servant on any other topic except the running of the estate. Bazarov later confronts Pavel and Nikolai about their attitudes toward the peasants, which leads to the following confrontational argument with Pavel:.
You don't even know how to talk to them. This was precisely his manner with almost every other character in the novel. Bazarov considered every human an equal in purely scientific terms-comparing all humans to frogs, stating, "since you and I are just like frogs, except that we walk on two legs, I'll find out what's going on inside us as well"-which was his only means of characterizing people Later, when he and Arkady discuss the peasants, Arkady typifies the sentiments of contemporary reformers by saying, "Russia will attain perfection when the poorest peasant has a house like that ['one that's so fine and white'] and each one of us should help bring that about.
Besides, what the hell do I need his thanks for? So, he'll be living in a fine white hut while I'm pushing up Burdock; well, then what? After Bazarov's indictment, all that remains is the character of Bazarov himself and his strong negative personal feelings for other individuals, peasants and aristocrats like Pavel, whom he calls an "idiot" alike. Bazarov also rejects the authority of Russian political leadership as "spoiled hegemony," not "enlightened leadership. The description could as easily have been in the voice of Bazarov as in that of the narrator.
Matve Ilich is not painted sympathetically: he wears ostentatious and somewhat undistinguished and undeserved medals on his chest, is considered a progressive but embodies such egotism that he does not "resemble the majority of such people," is usually made a fool of, "follow[s] the development of contemporary literature.
Unable to remain with such a character long, Bazarov and Arkady seek the company of a young lady they met at one of the governor's balls. Bazarov himself never provides a specific indictment of Russian politics; to do so directly would have been dangerous for Turgenev. In the narrator's description we receive Bazarov's criticism-a government official whose every action emanates not from nihilistic-based self-reliance 99 , but out of obedience to political and societal norms , Earlier, when describing one of the local landowning aristocrats, Bazarov remarks to Pavel, "He's trash, a lousy little aristocrat" 37 , a description which Bazarov later allows to be known applies, as far as he is concerned, to all members of the aristocracy.
His disdain for those who perpetuate the status quo, such as the political and social leaders, cannot be overlooked. Bazarov also rejects emotions which are not common to the base drives of nature, including all assumptions and contrivances surrounding the concept of courtly or romantic love.
Upon seeing Anna Odintsova at the governor's ball, Arkady seems immediately attracted and enamored of her graces. Bazarov, on the other hand, categorizes her scientifically; as the two go to meet her, Bazarov says, "Let's see what species of Mammalia this person belongs to" While with the lady, Bazarov limited his discussion to "medicine, homeopathy, and botany" Later, after speaking with the lady, Bazarov comments, " 'She's been through many changes, my dear boy; she's tasted the common bread.
What a delectable body! While Bazarov may not be completely able to control his emotions with the duchess, 30 he continues to believe in the importance of debunking the concept of romantic love, particularly after Odintsova rejected him once he had declared his love for her.
After leaving the duchess' estate, Bazarov provides Arkady clear insight into his behavior with Anna Odintsova and explains why he rejects concepts of romantic love. That's all. Well, Arkady Nikolaevich, I see you understand love like all our modern young men: 'Here, chick, chick! Here, chick, chick! I'm not like that. Here's a heroic ant dragging away a half-dead fly.
Go on, brother, pull! Don't pay any attention to her resistance; take advantage of the fact that as an animal you have the right not to feel any compassion, unlike us, self-destructive creatures that we are" Bazarov's outcry reminds us of his constant characterization of humans in animal terms, implying that it is emotions "compassion" that differentiate humans from animals and that those very emotions are the means by which humans destroy themselves. As for a nihilistic negation of the spiritual realm of life, little direct mention of the religious is made in the novel. Father Aleksai alone represents the Church in the novel, a man about whom Bazarov says only, "I'm prepared to sit down at table with any man" It is Bazarov's mother's description, provided by the narrator, which may indicate either Bazarov's or the nihilist narrator's opinion of religion.
The narrator's connection of religion and superstition with emotion and slavish adherence to established social order provides a clear picture of Bazarov's opinion of religion-a means of suppressing the individual's ability to be completely self-reliant and true to oneself. These four areas of negation-socio-economic, political, emotional, and spiritual-provide ample evidence for Bazarov's radical nihilism in the cultural-intellectual sense, but there is more to that character than a simple nihilistic motive for existence.
It is in Bazarov's relationship to Odintsova that we find a contradictory vein running through the character-that of the romantic. Despite his protestations to the contrary and his rationalizations afterward, Bazarov is capable of feeling deep emotions, particularly love.
Bazarov was a great lover of women and feminine beauty, but love in the ideal sense, or, as he expressed it, the romantic sense, he called rubbish or unforgivable stupidity; he considered chivalrous feelings somewhat akin to deformity or disease. Later, Bazarov reveals that "something": " 'Then you should know that I love you, stupidly, madly. It is here that Bazarov the romantic reveals himself-though only for a brief moment-until he finds that Odintsova does not return that love. He then reverts to his former nihilistic self, though not without a corresponding decline in spirit and increase in boredom, as if the experience of falling in love and being rejected deprived him of some aspect of his drastic self-reliance and confidence.
It is in closely reading the character of Bazarov that direct correlation between the Romantic or Byronic hero and Bazarov as hero can be drawn. In a review of Vronchenko's translation of Faust in Otechestvennye zapiski , No. He becomes the center of the surrounding world; he. He is willing to talk about society, about social questions, about science; but society, like science, exists for him-not he for them I, Understanding this as Turgenev's genuine conception of the romantic hero, written nearly twenty years earlier than the current novel, two specific statements can be made about this characterization as relate to this paper.
First, this is not an inaccurate examination of the Byronic hero, whether conceived of the author's life or the lives of the author's literary creations. Second, this is not an inaccurate picture of Bazarov in Fathers and Sons. According to William C. Much in this description [quoted passage above] could well be applied to Bazarov: the last sentence is reminiscent of his outburst against concern for the peasants' wellbeing in the face of his own inevitable death, while the phrase "apotheosis of personality" identifies one of the dominant motifs in Bazarov's character.
In chapter X Pavel Petrovich remarks Bazarov's "almost Satanic pride," while Arkady, in chapter XIX, notices "the fathomless depths of Bazarov's conceit," and asks him whether he considers himself a god. Whatever the difficulties in establishing a typology for homo romanticus, the passage quoted above suggests that in his commentary on Faust , Turgenev presented an interpretation of the Romantic hero which reached its culmination in the creation of Bazarov We find in Bazarov this egocentrism, this apotheosis, and this existence of society for the hero: Pavel says of Bazarov and the nihilists, "First there's the almost Satanic pride, then ridicule" 41 while Bazarov says of himself, "As for the age-why should I depend on it?
Let it rather depend on me" In a letter to M. Katkov, Turgenev responds to criticism made by Katkov that Bazarov represented an apotheosis of The Contemporary, a revolutionary literary journal by saying, "I hope that. Regardless of whether Turgenev intended for Bazarov to undergo an apotheosis of personality, his character throughout the first half of the novel suggests a strong egotism that borders becoming god-like, and Turgenev certainly seemed to have this characterization of the romantic hero in mind when creating Bazarov.
These characteristics of Bazarov provide a portrait of a hero with remarkably Byronic qualities. Even stronger evidence of a direct correlation between Byronic romanticism and Fathers and Sons -of "viewing Bazarov's nihilism as one component of a Romantic image"-can be found in preparatory remarks for the novel Virgin Soil Nov, :. He writes that there are "Romantics of Realism," who "long for the real and strive toward it as former Romantics did toward the 'ideal,' " who seek in this reality "something grand and significant" Brumfield Clive rephrases the argument, suggesting that many of Bazarov's "nihilistic" thoughts are a part of a "Romantic-Idealistic revolt against Romantic Idealism in the name of Realism" This opens the door to the possibility that Bazarov is not a revolutionary leader at heart, but a free spirit, Ein Einzeleager, whose great strength is his ability to criticize himself; his very "antipathy toward Romanticism gives him away" as a Romantic Clive goes so far as to identify specific scenes and areas of the novel in which Bazarov's direct Romantic nature appears.
First, he claims that Bazarov's relationship with Arcady reveals his Romantic sensibility, since they pour out their hearts to one another Bazarov taking the lead in un-Aristotelian fashion , they visit one another's families together, they fall in love at the same time at the same place, and they become virtually inseparable despite their "sweet quarrels.
Third, he defines as a Romantic characteristic the curse and protection of a hero's "awareness of being aware," identifying Bazarov's personality as an example. Fourth, Bazarov demonstrates a Byronic hatred of cant While these Romantic characteristics do appear in the character of Bazarov, reading the novel and the character as a directly Romantic work limits the author's ability to portray his beloved Russia and its characters, perhaps the strongest characteristic of this novel.
Perhaps the best way to read the Byronic influence upon Bazarov is, as Brostram puts it, to consider Turgenev as an heir to Romantic pessimism or Welschmertz-"ironic pessimism and despair which could find no relief in the momentary ecstasies of transcendence"-not really an example of nihilistic "absolute pessimism" but of metaphysical doubt and uncertainty Yet even this conception of Bazarov leaves something to be desired, for it seems to place the character within a framework in which there is little room for change or development.
Some critics have argued that the strongest characteristic of Fathers and Sons is that it is the only novel Turgenev wrote which contains a character who undergoes realistic development. Without a doubt, the strong-willed negating nihilist of the first chapters seems far removed from the bored, restless, resigned son of the last chapters before his death. To explain this development with a Romantic twist, John Mersereau, Jr. Inasmuch as Don Quixote and Hamlet contain within them seeds of the Romantic hero, 36 a brief discussion of Bazarov in these terms might shed light on Bazarov's Byronic roots.
Mersereau describes Bazarov at the beginning of the novel " 'tilting at windmills' in the guise of Nikolai Petrovich and his effete brother, Pavel" This explains the considerable hostility between Bazarov and Pavel, particularly since Bazarov actively engaged in trying arguments with Pavel that resulted in anger and confusion on Pavel's part. Mersereau identifies the beginning of the shift toward a Hamlet-like persona when he receives the shock of Odintsova's rejection of his love, particularly since he was prepared to love no matter what the consequences.
This led to introspection and self-doubt, characteristics Bazarov had never experienced before, characteristics which possibly caused Bazarov to escape the boredom of having no real purpose by "willing" himself to die like his Russian romantic counterparts Pechorin, Pushkin, and Lermontov Mersereau's interpretation allows for Bazarov's evolution from beginning to end of novel while providing a hint of the influence of Byronic romanticism. A final suggestion, though perhaps not logically sound, is to present the strong affinity between the biographies of Turgenev and Byron.
Both reflect a sympathetic view toward their apotheosis-prone characters: Turgenev finds he believes in almost all of the nihilist positions Bazarov posits throughout the novel, while Byron portrays himself in characters like Don Juan 's narrator and the Giaour while he deifies himself in Manfred's self-determination and decisive sense of justice.
Both experience similar exiles from their homeland as a direct result of their writings-Turgenev's was self-imposed in many cases by Russia's lack of appreciation for his work and by his desire to be near Pauline Viardot; Byron's was forced by English intolerance for his irreverence and misunderstood morality. Tragically, Byron never returned to his homeland, while Turgenev did, hailed a hero of Russian literature. Both reflect an inability to find fulfillment in romantic relationship, and both sired children for whom they seemed to have little regard although Turgenev eventually accepted and finally learned to love Paulinette.
Although these similarities provide little insight into the Byronic influence exerted upon Bazarov by Turgenev, they do present an interesting insight into the similarities of the ill-received author.
No single treatment of Bazarov could possibly do this archetypal character justice. The fact that Bazarov is an archetype at all-the archetypal nihilist-provides a flexible and sliding image which is nearly impossible to pin down with a single characterization. According to Mersereau, Bazarov is one of the first round Russian realistic characters who undergoes a psychological evolutionary development and whose legacy extends to Raskol'nikov, Prince Andrew, Anna Karenina, and Dmitrij Karamazov Yet the realistic treatment of character, passed on to Turgenev by Lermontov and Pushkin before him and Henry James within his generation, provides an excellent springboard for the development in Bazarov of what Brumfield called "the culmination" of Turgenev's romantic hero conceived in Clearly Bazarov was created from Byronic and Romantic roots.
Turgenev certainly read, translated, and even interpreted Byron's literature, while Byron's life and literature exerted a strong influence on the early Russian Romantics. Nihilism itself is a Russian phenomenon, but Turgenev's literary expression of that movement transcends its Russian roots with Bazarov's conflicting internal struggle between romantic idealism and romantic realism, between pure instinctual negation and romantic love.
This struggle within Bazarov provides us the clearest picture of the character's Romantic roots and of his psychological development. While it is convenient to draw direct correlation between Bazarov and Byronism, no direct connection exist-the influence must travel through the revolutionary tumult of nineteenth century Russia, through the interpretation of Byronic heroism into a peculiarly Russian phenomenon focused upon negation, through the censorial power of the czars and the resulting exiles and persecutions, and through the emancipation of the serfs and the corresponding radical shift in social paradigm which emancipation forced.
Bazarov is a purely Russian character, and Turgenev is often assigned the title "Russian realist. Once overshadowed by such authors as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Turgenev's fame is returning to the forefront of modern criticism because of his intensely realistic psychological portraits; Bazarov the Byronically romantic idealistic nihilist is one of the best, revealing the complex contradictions that make modern "heroes" great.
Turgenev was appalled: he noticed a coldness amounting almost to indignation in many people he liked and with whose views he sympathised, and he received congratulations and almost kisses from people whom he regarded as political enemies. He was receiving letters from all over Russia, some of his correspondents accusing him of being a die-hard reactionary and telling him that they were burning his photographs with a contemptuous laugh, and others reproaching him for kowtowing to the nihilists and groveling at the feet of Bazarov" In a letter to poet and critic Sluchevsky, Turgenev wrote how he felt the novel should be interpreted, "My whole novel is directed against the nobility as the foremost class of Russian society" Turgenev, Ivan.
In Turgenev Letters Vol. This incredible backlash forced Turgenev to continually defend his novel and drove him away from Russia for many years. The breadth of this gap can be found in the opposing essays of Pisarev "Bazarov" and Herzen "Bazarov Again". Pisarev represents the younger "sons," Herzen the older "fathers. The journal became the finest of the day, lasting long enough to publish fifty of Turgenevs last poems, part of a collection entitled Poems in Prose. During the Romantic period it published many romantic poems Moser , 97, , Pushkins later poetry was not directly inspired by specific works, but was Byronic nevertheless Brown vol.
Pechorin writes in his journal of 11 May, "I have an inborn urge to contradict; my whole life has been a mere chain of sad and futile opposition to the dictates of either heart or reason.
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This is darker Byronism taken to extremes, when Romantic idealism lingers no longer and is replaced by the power of negation. Alexander Herzen interprets Pisarevs conception of the origins of Bazarov as follows: "the Onegins and the Pechorins begat the Rudins and the Beltovs. The Rudins and the Beltovs begat Bazarov" All citations are listed as "Turgenev " to indicate Katzs recent translation. See the Preface to the novel vii-viii for more information about this specific translation. Nikolai uses French so that the servants will not understand him; French was the "official" language of aristocracy and government, not Russian.
The significance of this statement cannot be underestimated in understanding Bazarovs peculiar brand of nihilism. Bazarov negates and tears down society because society deserves it, not because it is the conventional "thing to do. In the oppressive literary culture of Russia in the middle and late nineteenth century it became customary to provide blanks for locations and persons to avoid censorship and persecution. Thus, Pavels lovers name is "Princess R. Turgenev writes in "Apropos of Fathers and Sons" that "I was involuntarily attracted to him [Bazarov]" n.
In the same essay he claims, "I share almost all of Bazarovs convictions with the exception of those on art" When I state that the narrator seems to speak in the voice of Bazarov, I mean that the author as narrator, from time to time, does speak in the voice of Bazarov, particularly when the narrator expresses a particular opinion about some aspect of Russian society.
Most such expressions are critical in the novel. Bazarov explains to Arkady, "I advocate a negative point of viewas a result of my sensations. I find it pleasant to negate, my brain is so organizedand thats that! Why do I like chemistry? Why do you like apples? Its all the same thing" Ones slavish obedience to social norms seems to block ones ability to act on ones physical and mental instincts. Note that Bazarov does not allow for emotion to be instinctivehe refers to base drives like hunger and pleasure.
The book provides insight into Turgenevs conception of romanticism which differs somewhat from twentieth century conceptions. I could not find this in any other translation, so provide this as repeated in Brumfield This essay is difficult to find in English translation; therefore, the selections quoted are from Mersereaus article. As discussed in reference to the film Don Juan de Marco. The Don Juan characters artistic interpretations throughout history have swung between Quixotic action to Hamlet-like tortured introspection.
Brostram, Kenneth N. Paul Debreczeny. Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, Brown, William Edward. Ann Arbor: Ardis, Brumfield, William C. Byron, George Gordon, Lord. The Oxford Authors. Jerome J. New York: Oxford University Press, Their object then is to delude and to deceive by false representations, by magnificent descriptions, and by toning down the colouring so as to suit the taste of more civilised countries.
Similar authors to follow
In such a climate, with chauvinism dictating the direction of curiosity, truth proved the first casualty of war in more ways than one. Predisposed to believe the very worst about Russia and largely ignorant of its literature, London publishers and editors laid themselves open to what might punningly be called the blatant ruse. Both the Eclectic and The Athenaeum proved the fraudulent nature of Home Life in Russia by juxtaposing extracts from it with translations of Dead Souls.
It quoted the claims for authenticity made in the preface to Home Life in Russia and ended by noting the irony of this deception within a deception: The proposal to purchase dead serfs could not be made to any honest man in his senses, without occasioning some enquiry as to its purpose, and leading in consequence to its detection. That the general tone of the work in regard to swindling is not sufficiently distasteful to swindlers is proved by the circumstances that the adventures of one Russian impostor have, as we have seen, been introduced into England by another.
While the Eclectic and The Athenaeum were both forthright in their condemnation of the fraud, the British Quarterly Review attempted to have its cake and eat it. In its round-up of eighteen works on Russia, noted on p. He affirms that the story is true; and our experience of Russia would induce us to say that such circumstances as the author relates are not only possible but exceedingly probable to have occurred.
There are those, however, who allege, notwithstanding these specific statements, that the book is not what it purports to be. We have no means of verifying this statement at hand. BQR, , —3 However, at some point in the editorial process, the British Quarterly Review became convinced that the charges were true and clearly felt obliged to salvage its own credibility by accepting the claims of rival publications about that of Home Life.
That distortion and deception should have occurred is, therefore, hardly surprising. Fortunately, not all periodicals made such crudely polemical use of the Russian literature that came into their hands as did the British Quarterly Review. Richard Stang , in his study of the theory of the novel in England between and , has shown how the theory of realism, and the terminology needed for its articulation and development, emerged in England in the early s. As his work shows, the impulse towards literary realism in these years received a vital stimulus from the debate over the question of verisimilitude in the visual arts.
But both the visual and literary arts were themselves at once challenged and stimulated by the development of photography. Not that he professes any liberal ideas: quite the contrary — he seeks to avoid self-obtrusion throughout, and limits himself to reproducing, with an instinctive fidelity, what he has heard and seen.
Nature has given him a fine perception of the beauties of scenery, and of the peculiarities of the human character: he paints them with the simplicity and ardour of a lover, and he is none the less of an artist because a practised eye will detect the absence or even the want of art. Of all descriptive works, those which are produced by men of this stamp are the most valuable and the most lasting, because they are necessarily stamped with the fidelity of truth.
The result is a gross distortion of that delicate, restrained and flexible style with which Turgenev is able to achieve effects of either humorous irony or pathos. Vieux, en as-tu fini avec les voisins, pour la limite? His replies are phlegmatic and brief, thus throwing into relief both his acceptance of his lot and the demeaning treatment he has received. First I was a page, then a coachman, then a gardener, and finally a whipper-in. You get the women to do it.
It is not necessary, surely to learn cooking. Why, we make the women cook, and then we taste — that is all, — said Soutchok, raising his thin, yellow face, in which a smile seemed to be vainly struggling into light. Curiously, this is one point in the text where Meiklejohn — unaccountably — chooses to modify his source. He has added whole pages, made up some things and discarded others to an unbelievable degree.
How unscrupulous this Frenchman is — and thanks to his good offices, I shall become a laughing stock. Letters, II, Turgenev must have welcomed the chance to redeem this unfortunate situation, which came during a visit to Paris in Cela est impardonnable. The Delaveau version did not appear in print until after the Crimean War. By that time English interest in Russia, and in Turgenev, had subsided, and the work did not appear in English. The Spectator, for example, noted that: the book is a translation from a French translation of the Russian.
It is therefore difficult to form an accurate judgement on the individual merits of Ivan Tourghenieff, for we know not what lightness or vivacity of manner the French litterateur may have introduced, though we do not think he has gone much further than manner. The fourth extract has no introduction and is, as Lohrli notes, not attributed to its author.
Other scenes are simply astounding, compelling us to lift our hands and eyes in wonder that such monstrous things should be possible in a land which protests that it is eminently a member of true Christendom. Still, they pay me properly. I wonder really how they make ends meet. This tendency to blunt both the irony and the social specificity of the original is not confined to the first Household Words extract. By a series of omissions the love theme of the story is given a false precedence over the complex social and moral implications in which it is embedded in the original.
In the former, as Royal Gettmann has noted 20 , the character Vladimir, the freed house-serf, is deleted from the Household Words version, thus removing a significant social type and a foil to the other peasant characters in the story. It was also a symptom of the more pervasive condescension towards developments in European fiction of that influential corpus of critical opinion, the English periodical press.
Indeed, there existed in English criticism of the middle and late nineteenth century a distinct tension between those more enlightened students of European culture such as Lewes, Arnold and James, who wished to see the English literary and philosophical consciousness widened and Europeanised, and the aggregate conservatism of literary journalism, which helped retard the full impact of contemporary European culture on English literature until the last years of the century. The affinity should surprise no one, for the novels of both writers make their primary appeal to the sympathetic emotions of the reader and, in their cultural and national particulars, proclaim a common human experience that could make Dickens so popular in Russia and Turgenev so accessible to the West.
It is to some of the striking parallels between the ways in which these two writers — from opposite ends of the continent and radically differing cultures — articulated the realist aesthetic that I wish to devote a final section of this chapter. Becker 7—8 The studies of the decade by Stang and others have assembled ample material to show that the s were the crucial decade for both the practice and the theoretical articulation of realism.
Two extracts from his letters will make the point. At the same time, the realist impulse in both Turgenev and George Eliot is one of sympathetic honesty rather than brutal exposure. Considered together, what Turgenev and George Eliot show is not just the closely similar processes whereby the European realist movement crystallised in different local conditions, but also the extent to which, in one important strain at least, that movement was moral and sympathetic, as well as scientific and investigative. Appeals founded on generalisations and statistics require a sympathy ready-made, a moral sentiment already in activity; but a picture of human life such as a great artist can give surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves, which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment.
In the letter to Annenkov of October , quoted on p. In both instances the collocation is significant: the commitment to common humanity and the striving for a clear, unexaggerated realist art are inseparable. The fact that he aspires to, and at his best achieves, those aims in a more condensed form of fiction than any of his great English contemporaries was to make him an object of admiration and emulation for the generation of English and American writers who succeeded Dickens and George Eliot, and who sought ways of escaping from their great but overpowering examples.
FON, 1 The affection, affinity and reverence felt by Henry James for Turgenev, and the personal contacts through which these developed, represent one of the best attested and documented relationships between writers of different nationalities. Of these accounts, three deserve particular mention. Instead it is proposed to select only those biographical and documentary points of reference that will serve the main purpose of this and the following chapter, which is to make a fresh comparative assessment of their work.
By viewing James and Turgenev in a single critical and historical perspective, I hope to explore not only questions of positive influence and affinity, but also areas of difference, which, I believe, are both governed by, and shed light on, the radically differing cultural situations of the two.
This fumbling in the cadaver of the old world, however, only disgusts me when so unrelieved as in this case by any contrast or souffle of inspiration such as you get in Tourgueneff. Perry and W. Howells had adopted his work as a criterion of excellence. He was commended as a model for what one might call the ideal of pictorial realism with a moral face, which Perry and Howells saw as the desirable basis for the practice of American writers and the taste of American readers. It is during the early s that the New England periodicals can be observed trying to establish a code of principles and practice for the novel, resting on the assumption that the genre has both moral and aesthetic functions.
In so doing the American editors clearly hoped to safeguard the dignity and high seriousness of a literary form peculiarly susceptible to debasement by popular taste and careless practice. They were his friends, associates and correspondents, and with them he conducted a debate on the nature of the art of fiction, lasting — certainly in the case of his relationship with Howells — for many years.
In its turn this general enthusiasm for Turgenev as an example of a realist, capable and worthy of being imitated, must be seen as typifying a new spirit of intellectual inquiry, a quest for new intellectual and artistic frontiers, prevailing among the circles that centred on W. Howells and the Atlantic Monthly during the early years of his editorship. The desire to establish and affirm the principle and methods of realism in fiction is one important aspect of a wider effort to define a moral, intellectual and cultural framework within which American thought and letters might thrive.
As agnostics they turned away from supernaturalism, whether Hebraic or Platonic, towards forms of humanism. The resultant metaphysical and emotional tensions they resolved as pragmatism in philosophy and realism in art. From the heart of Cambridge as far as the eye of the age could see, in every intellectually respectable direction the newness flourished. Turgenev, possessed of a moral sense and a truthful eye, yet in no way transcendental in his vision, was a perfect example of a morally reponsible and emotionally responsive realist.
He had, moreover, the distinct advantage of belonging to neither of the two Western European cultures from which Howells, at least, was keen to distance the new American realism. The Russian academic, M. Nevertheless, the New England critics did enunciate precise aesthetic grounds for their high estimation of Turgenev.
These grounds, and the idiom in which they were expressed, were to characterise the aesthetic which Henry James himself developed in the course of his career as a critic and novelist. Thus, the analogy of pictorial art pervades the criticism of T. In a play the people have no obvious interference from the author at all. Of course he creates them, but there is no comment; there can be none.
Dr Elena Katz
The characters do it all. The novelist who carries the play method furthest is Tourgenief and for a long time I preferred him to any other. For Howells, James is the leader of a new school of American novelists, committed to the Turgenevan brand of sensitively discriminating realism, dramatic in method without being sensational in effects. More than that, it could be practised just as well in the rarer cultural atmosphere of the United States as in Europe.
It is this assumption which reflects a fundamental difference in the cultural situations — and, therefore, in the artistic outlooks — of James and Turgenev. James believed that the artist enjoys an absolute freedom to reconstitute the facts of reality in a formal order that transcends life itself. By contrast, Turgenev possessed a strong sense of the historical determinants of culture.
I propose to focus upon this difference in outlook in order to add a contrastive dimension to the frequently undertaken comparative studies of James and Turgenev, and, additionally, to shed light on the difference between a politicised and a non-politicised culture. Of course, the phrase is intentionally ambivalent and might be seen, quite simply, as an assertion of the axiom that art is not life. There is much evidence to suggest that James lived intensely, but vicariously, through and by art. The following lines spoken by the narrator in The Author of Beltraffio p.
To appropriate the facts of reality to serve as the furniture of the House of Fiction is one thing; to change them into adornments for the Palace of Art is quite another. Ostensibly those reservations concern the absence of shaped form in such novels as Middlemarch and War and Peace, but in essence his objections are to any attempt to probe the achieved image, to create an art of three-dimensional relief in which effect is extended back to cause, a fiction more analogous to plastic than pictorial art and sharing its procedures with the human and social sciences.
Nothing so suggestively illustrates the different approaches to character as portraiture taken by James and George Eliot as the continual, ironical play in Middlemarch upon the discrepancy between painted images and the reality of flesh, blood and emotion. The point I wish to make is that despite their very real similarities of method and process, Turgenev, by virtue of a difference in temperament, vision and, above all, cultural situation, had a keener sense than James of the manifestation of impersonal forces in personal lives and a stronger awareness that, although it might suffer outrageous injustice in the process, fiction had to be tried at the bar of history, as well as that of art.
Throughout the nineteenth century Russia underwent a protracted political crisis, from which the personal destiny of its people could not be detached or abstracted imaginatively, any more then it could be freed literally. I propose to illustrate this point in two ways.
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To the best of my knowledge, such a comparison has not been undertaken before and I believe it sheds light on what is often assumed to be the complete affinity between James and Turgenev. Both testimonies assert the unquestionable and inalienable right of the author to freedom from constraint and direction by agencies other than his own imagination. The apparent similarities go further; both Turgenev and James affirm the image, as apprehended by the artist, as the irreducible building block of fiction, and, by that token, proof of the inviolable nature of the artistic imagination.
But beneath this resemblance lies a fundamental difference of emphasis which amounts to a difference in conception and meaning. To insist upon this double analogy is to create an essentially reflexive proposition in which art appears as both subject and predicate. Turgenev, challenged by hostile critics with the view that there is both a higher reality and a higher necessity than imaginative art, was compelled to argue his case in terms of a causation external to the artistic process.
In his opening remarks, making a vigorous response to those critics who have accused him of deviating from the direction he had first taken as a novelist more than twenty years earlier, he states that, on the contrary, he might be more justifiably accused of excessive consistency. He continues: The author of Rudin, written in , and the author of Virgin Soil, written in , are one and the same man.
After completing a selfjustificatory commentary upon the conception and often hostile reception of each of his six major works and launching a counterattack upon the tendentiousness of recent criticism, Turgenev delivers a robust defence of artistic freedom: Every writer, who has talent — which is, of course, a prerequisite — every writer, I maintain, tries above all to reproduce, in a living and faithful form, those impressions which he has culled from his own life and that of others: every reader has the right to judge to what extent he has succeeded in this and where he has gone wrong: but who has the right to tell him which impressions are suitable for literature and which are not?
Everyone is familiar with the saying: the poet thinks in images; the saying is indisputably true. Believe me, real talent never serves extraneous ends, it is its own satisfaction: it draws its content from the life that surrounds it; it is the concentrated reflection of that life; but it is just as incapable of producing a panegyric as it is a lampoon. In the last analysis such things are beneath it. Only those who are incapable of doing anything better can submit themselves to a given theme or adhere to a programme. But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and to say.
The tracing of a line to be followed, of a tone to be taken, of a form to be filled out is a limitation of that freedom. The disillusioned artist-narrator speaks of how he can endure the thought that beauty and art are relative rather than absolute, but he is driven to despair by the thought that art, like everything else human, is perishable: But it is not the relative nature of art that bothers me; it is its transience — its decay, its ruin — that disheartens me and makes me lose faith.
She has no need to hurry, for sooner or later she will prevail. Unconsciously and unswervingly obedient to her own laws, she does not recognise art, just as she does not recognise freedom or goodness. How can we poor humans, we poor artists, come to terms with this mute, blind force, which does not even celebrate its own victories, but goes relentlessly onward, consuming everything. How can we withstand the rude shock of these endlessly and indefatigably oncoming waves, how in the end can we believe in the significance, the value of those perishable images which we, in darkness and on the very edge of the precipice, fashion for a moment from the dust.
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Much of what James saw and praised in Turgenev is there for the praising. Much of what James felt himself to have in common with Turgenev was indeed common to the two. But, at certain points and over certain aspects in his critical writings on Turgenev, James errs, omits or stumbles in his judgement; at certain times he unwittingly exposes differences in artistic outlook between himself and Turgenev.
What is incident but the illustration of character? The first form in which a tale appeared to him was as the figure of an individual, or a combination of individuals, whom he wished to see in action, being sure that such people must do something very special and interesting. It is not open to us as yet to discuss whether a novel had better be an excision from life or a structure built up of picture cards, for we have not yet made up our minds as to whether life in general may be described. There is evidence of a good deal of shyness on this point — a tendency rather to put up fences than to jump over them.
Among us, therefore, even a certain ridicule attaches to the consideration of such alternatives. But individuals may feel their way, and perhaps even pass unchallenged, if they remark that for them the manner in which Turgenieff worked will always seem the most fruitful. PP, —16 Although James felt able to speak of the plot—character issue as a neglected one in Anglo-American literary life, his words may be construed more as a gentle taunt than a statement of fact.
We have to go too far back, too far behind, to say. They accumulate, and we are always picking them over, selecting among them. They are the breath of life — by which I mean that life, in its own way, breathes them upon us. They are so, in a manner prescribed and imposed — floated into our minds by the current of life. I do not think my stories struck him as quite meat for men. Turgeniew, with his incisive psychology.
The resemblance is generally superficial; but it does not seem to us altogether fanciful to say that Russian young girls, as represented by Liza, Tatiana, Maria Alexandrovna, have to our sense a touch of the faintly acrid perfume of the New England temperament — a hint of Puritan angularity. They are heroines to the letter, and of a heroism obscure and undecorated: it is almost they alone who have the energy to determine and to act.
Liza and Elena are not Russian girls, but some sort of Pythian prophetesses, full of extravagant pretensions. Irina in Smoke, Madame Odintsov in Fathers and Children, all the lionesses, in fact, fiery, alluring, insatiable creatures forever craving for something are all nonsensical. Of her James writes: Madame Polosow, though her exploits are related in a short sixty-five pages, is unfolded in the large dramatic manner. We seem to be in her presence, to listen to her provoking bewildering talk, to feel the danger of her audacious conscious frankness.
Her quite peculiar cruelty and depravity make a large demand on our credulity; she is perhaps a trifle too picturesquely vicious. Even if we admit the motive of concern for the sensibilities of his New England readers, we are still left with the impression that, in the matter of women and sexual relations, it remains questionable how much the James of — like his heroine, Maisie — really knew. Where Turgenev falters or fails in his imaginative apprehension of historical reality, James, with an apparently superficial acquaintance with Russian politics and society, is doubly prone to misjudgement.
As a matter of principle, he takes the fictional picture as reality, and, in any case, knows little of the reality on which the picture is based. Perry in the same month. On 18 April , James wrote to Perry: I send you herewith the cheap and nasty reprint of Terres Vierges which John Turgenieff lately sent me — having kept it only to review it. The nice edition is not yet out. Poor T is much cut down.
I should not find myself able conscientiously to recommend any American publisher to undertake Terres Vierges. It would have no success. James b; II: By contrast, the review to which James refers in his letter is generous in its praise of the novel, containing no adverse criticism at all. In his private opinion, expressed to Perry, James is stating no more than Turgenev himself was ready to acknowledge — that the novel was indeed a failure and that it was so largely because Turgenev was physically and mentally out of touch with his native country and its current mood.
To his credit, James, the stylist par excellence, consistently recognised the importance of accurate and sensitive translation and remained highly conscious of the problem up to the time of the Garnett translations of the s: the impatience of his admirers was increased by the fact that — Russian scholars being few — the book would be for some time before the world and yet be inaccessible. Virgin Soil, set in —70 and toyed with by Turgenev for at least seven years, was out of touch and out of date before it was published. It lacks precisely that solidity of specification which James prescribed as the sine qua non of realistic fiction.
James, however, appears to take the picture offered on trust, and the comfort he takes in the innocuous because incompetent nature of the young narodniki seems ironical when one considers that it is expressed on the eve of a period of terrorist violence and government reaction: The outside world knows in a vague way of the existence of secret societies in Russia, and of the belief entertained by some people that their revolutionary agitation forms a sufficient embarrassment at home to keep the Government of the Czar from extending his conquests abroad.
Of one of these secret societies M. Objective information on Russia was lacking, while the Russo-Turkish war and the anti-Russian sentiments it aroused disposed even the educated towards an uncritical acceptance of sources, fictional or otherwise. Pulcheria likes very much a novel which she read three or four years ago, but which she has not forgotten. It was by Ivan Turgenieff, and it was called On the Eve. Theodora has read it. I know because she admires Turgenieff and Constantius has read it, I suppose because he has read everything. If I had not reason but that for my reading it would be small.
But Turgenieff is my man. The tale of which I speak contains in the portrait of the hero very much such a general idea as you find in the portrait of Deronda. Poor man, if he had foreseen the horrible summer of ! His character is the picture of a race-passion, of patriotic hopes and dreams. But what a difference in the vividness of the two figures. Insaroff is a man; he stands up on his feet; we see him, hear him, touch him. And it has taken the author but a couple of hundred pages — not eight volumes — to do it. She is certainly most remarkable, but, remarkable as she is, I should never dream of calling her as wonderful as Gwendolen.
One is a poet, the other is a philosopher. One cares for the aspect of things and the other cares for the reason of things. George Eliot, in embarking with Deronda, took aboard, as it were, a far heavier cargo than Turgenieff with his Insaroff. She proposed consciously to strike more notes.
Oh, consciously, yes! Superficially, The Princess of Casamassima owes most to Turgenev, but, as I hope to show, it dramatises personal destinies without dramatising the issues on which they are meant to hinge. Typical of this response is the American critic W. I wish I had never read any of T, so that I might begin. You are right in saying that he is better than George Meredith. George Meredith strikes me as a capital example of the sort of writer that Turgenieff is most absolutely opposite to — the unrealists — the literary story-tellers.
This is a fact which Daniel K. Lerner assembles four groups of stories which he regards as so close in either structure or theme that they suggest influence. Lerner stresses the ambiguous treatment of abnormal phenomena in each writer, implying, without stating, that there must be some sort of influence. That these broad structural similarities exist is not in question, but Lerner makes no reference to the substantial differences in subject and treatment of subject which distinguish the two stories quite radically. It luxuriates in its own intense and cloying pathos, savouring the mood of unhappy and unrequited love which is its theme.
Each piece is so quintessentially the work of its individual maker that to imply influence through broad structural resemblance, without reference to the marked individuality of each work, seems to me to offer an incomplete representation of whatever connections may exist between the two stories. However, the line of artistic interest in each story is radically different. It is essentially light in tone and atmosphere. It seems to me that in respect of the short stories of James and Turgenev there are no grounds for drawing any other than the broadest and most qualified inferences of tangible influence, even in those cases where the structure or themes are similar.
The case of the novels is, I believe, different. One such feature is the international theme and the form it takes in the work of the two. Both James and Turgenev made use of the condition of exile as a vantage-point from which to observe and embody imaginatively the complex relationship between their native countries and Western Europe.
This pivotal position between problematically related cultures I take to be one of the most important common factors between them, representing as it does a situation rare among the major novelists of the nineteenth century. From the point of view of their own work, what exile and experiences in Western Europe offered James and Turgenev was the considerable artistic possibility of combining two cultures in a single focus with all the scope for contrast and mutual illumination that afforded.
The artistic dispassionateness which both James and Turgenev valued so highly has much to do with their common fate of being poised between radically differing cultures and owing allegiance to both. At the same time, the question of the relationship between their native countries and Western Europe is, in certain respects, treated differently by James and Turgenev, being handled by the latter in a historical and ideological perspective which, as I have already suggested, is generally absent in James.
Throughout his fiction there is a strong sense of the antinomy in which the United States and Europe are locked. In both early works such as The American and late ones such as The Golden Bowl and The Wings of the Dove the relationship between the two cultures becomes a paradigm for the struggle of good and evil. Turgenev wrote in a historical context in which the cultural contrast between Russia and Western Europe was subsumed in the ideological divergence between the two.
Because of the rigid political absolutism, the monolithic nature of Tsarism, the cultural impact of the West on Russia from the time of Peter the Great onward registered as an intermittent seismic effect, rather than an influence organically interfused. This experience, expressed at the level of national policy by what might be called xenophobia tempered by necessity, determined that, whenever literature dealt with international themes, it had no choice but to see personal destiny — failure, alienation, fulfilment — at least partially in historical and political terms.
Turgenev, while occasionally giving symphathetic treatment to moderate Slavophilism, adhered consistently to Westernist beliefs. That element is certainly there and not to be slighted, but I think we must see something more, I think Turgenev is saying, by the most exquisite indirection, that when the Russian intellectual comes home, trying to break away form the West that has become contaminated and turning to the remaining purities of Russia, he will again be frustrated: his cosmopolitan experience, which he cannot undo, makes him unfit for the task of reading the heart of Russia.
The private tragedy of Lavretsky is, on one plane of meaning, the tragedy of Russian liberalism, the tragedy of politics of homelessness and homesickness. With such characters, James is extracting, from the vein of failure, the rich ore of drama, pathos and psychological interest that Turgenev had exploited before him. The heartsore and world-weary Alexei? You may surrender to pettiness more than we do. But you are better able to look the Devil in the eye. While the broad pattern of relationships and characters in the two novels may be similar, the differences of theme, mood and scope seem to me to exceed that similarity.
There is, indeed, an undeniable resemblance between the situation of Isabel Archer and that of Elena as well as a likeness in the way in which that situation is presented and allowed to unfold. James writes in The Portrait of a Lady p. She dreamt of them and crossquestioned all her acquaintances about them. She gave her alms with careful thought, with an instructive gravity almost with emotion. On the Eve, PSS, VIII, 33 The distinction is no pedantic one; it indicates differences in the conception of both these two characters and the novels whose principal figure they are.
Elena is altruistic and humanitarian, and exemplifies those qualities at both a realistic and an emblematic level in On the Eve. Isabel, though rich in imaginative sympathies, is egoistical and awaits destiny in essentially personal terms. In the case of The Princess Casamassima there is substantial and specific borrowing of plot and character. Roderick Hudson, which James wished to be considered his first novel, was written during the year in which his North American Review article on Turgenev was published. It is in that review, apropos of Rudin, that we find the author reflecting upon the theme of tragic failure in terms suggestive of his volatile artist hero: The theme is one which would mean little enough to a coarse imagination, — the exhibition of a character peculiarly unrounded, unmoulded, unfinished, inapt for the regular romantic attitudes.
NAR, We should note, however, that it is the theme which interested James — the theme of a complex, flawed nature, egoistical but exercising a compelling hold over those who know and are vexed by him. This should not lead us, as it has led Lerner in his study of this subject, to imply too close a correspondence between Rudin and Roderick Hudson as individual portrayals of character.
There are, it is true, suggestive similarities. Roderick Hudson and Dmitri Rudin are both studies of ennui, of egoism, of giftedness squandered and of the effects of changeable, capricious and cold natures upon others. Both heroes see their failure in terms of the will. Nothing succeeds! What is it that prevents me from living and behaving like others? Hardly have I succeeded in reaching a definite position or stopping at a known point of view when fate drags me down from it.
Rudin is a man of eloquence, vision and intelligence who fails in, and is failed by, life. By contrast Roderick Hudson finds an outlet for his giftedness, denied to Rudin. His tragedy is that the temperament that makes of him an artist should ultimately thwart his gift. What happens to Roderick is that his acute susceptibility to the sensuous — to Italy, to women, to art — overwhelms his powers of both imaginative and moral self-control.
In ironic contrast to him is Rowland Mallett whose tragedy is to possess so sound a balance between the imaginative and the moral faculties that he produces no art at all. Shubin, an important character if not a principal in On the Eve, might well be the sketch from which Roderick Hudson is the study. Like Roderick he is a sculptor whose gift is saved, though not nearly so munificently, by fortuitous patronage.
For both Roderick and Shubin, the air of their native countries is oppressive and Rome appears to them as their spiritual and artistic home. The suggestion that James drew specifically upon On the Eve in writing Roderick Hudson is supported by the likeness of the contrastive relationship between Bersenev and Shubin to that between Rowland Mallett and Roderick Hudson.
The Bersenev—Shubin relationship offers a study in contrasting qualities, all of which occur in the friendship of Rowland and Roderick. Both relationships contrast stability and instability of temperament, ethical and sensual natures, egoism and altruism, reflectiveness and spontaneity, unbridled Hellenism and moderate Hebraism — to use the Arnoldian terms in which Roderick himself speaks to the artist Gloriani. But the view that we may perceive a specific debt to On the Eve in Roderick Hudson is particularly strongly supported by two passages, each occurring early in their respective novels.
In setting, tone, theme, even wording, they display such close similarities as to make it seem likely that James used the Turgenev passage as a model. Both passages take the form of speculative philosophical discussion between the two pairs of young men. In each passage the more sober nature strikes a note of moral and metaphysical caution, while the artist figures — Shubin and Hudson — give enthusiastic expression to an unqualified subjectivism. By the side of the Moscow River, not far from Kuntsovo, two young men were lying on the grass in the shade of a tall lime tree.
On the Eve, 7 These very similar openings are followed by brief accounts of the two men in each pair. These passages of description and narrative foreshadow the contrast between Epicurean and ethical natures which is to be developed. There are twenty impressions that seem ultimate, that appear to form an intelligent era. But others come treading on their heels and sweeping them along, and they all melt like water into water and settle the question of precedence among themselves.
I demand happiness from the forest and the river and the earth and the sky and from every little cloud and blade of grass. Happiness, happiness! And yet even in so precise a case of borrowing as this, the interest lies as much as anything in the different renderings given to an essentially common subject by James and Turgenev.
Both novels are about youth, its positive potentialities and the possibilities of its tragic waste. Both novels are about the placing of what may seem like absolute values and meanings in a relative perspective. But the difference of emphasis is characteristic of that difference in world view between James and Turgenev that I have stressed throughout.
These absolutes in James are most often tamed and domesticated for fictional effect, frequently deployed as sources of drama and pathos, but stripped of their metaphysical and existential implication by the processes of the art that deploys them. As Roderick Hudson and On the Eve are both novels on the theme of youth and its potentialities, tragically destroyed, so The American and A Nest of the Gentry are about the quest for new life and love in middle age. Such a claim is not the first. Tourgueneff, however, would justify so miserable an ending; he is remorseless, but he does not shock nor disappoint.
It may well be that in these concluding strictures there is an element of both New England moral idealism and American chauvinism — a resentment at James not only for allowing wickedness to triumph over good, but also for letting the victory be one of the Old World over the New. My subject was: an American letting the insolent foreigner go, out of his good nature, after the insolent foreigner had wronged him and he had held him in his power. The subject is sad certainly but it all holds together.
He has found its moral interest, if we may make the distinction, deeper than its sentimental one, a pair of lovers accepting adversity seem to him more eloquent than a pair of lovers grasping at happiness. The moral of his tale, as we are free to gather it, is that there is no effective plotting for happiness, that we must take what we can get, that adversity is a capable mill-stream, and that our ingenuity must go toward making it grind out corn.
We have already noted above p. But it is no less noteworthy that what James and Turgenev are doing in The American and A Nest of the Gentry is to create the types of masculine virtue of their respective nationalities, and to create them in contradistinction to the most pernicious elements of West European society.
His highly favourable — indeed somewhat idealised — portrayal of a fellow countryman seemed to Howells proof that his friend had not lost all attachment to his native soil. Replete with all that is most promising in American life — confidence, energy, wealth, optimism, intelligence — he lacks only that which no potentiality can give — the accumulated experience of the past, the history, culture, manners and refinements of Europe.
But beauty itself withdraws from the life of the world and is placed beyond his reach. But in The American, more unequivocally than in most of his fiction, the balance of moral credit lies on the American side, with Newman as the archetype of national virtue. In this respect, A Nest of the Gentry presents suggestive parallels, for it too, in a much less qualified way than is usual in Turgenev, offers in the figure of Lavretsky an affirmation of national identity and a corresponding rejection of the more unpalatable aspects of European civilisation.
The parallels are numerous. Even the physical characteristics of both men are quintessentially national. A Nest of the Gentry, PSS, VII, This impression of their native strength in both senses of the term is qualified only by the eyes of each of the two men, for it is in their eyes that the troubled or problematical aspects of their personal and national destinies lie.
In each instance, when the crisis comes, it takes the form of a test of native moral strength when confronted by the most pernicious and most tainted ways of Europe. In each novel what the hero is engaged in might be seen as a vain quest for prelapsarian beauty, truth and innocence, with the luxuriant growth of Europe figuring as the Tree of Knowledge. Lavretsky contemplates the unchanging pulse of life of his home and reflects that, at the very time, in other places on the earth, life was seething, racing and roaring on its way; here the same life flowed inaudibly by, like water through marshy grass; and until evening Lavretsky could not tear himself away from the thought of this receding, outflowing life; anguish for the past was melting in his soul like spring snow and — strongest of all!
A Nest of the Gentry, Lavretsky and Newman are, in middle age, searching for a rootedness that will bestow moral and emotional peace and satisfaction.
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The search, in each case, is characterised by a relaxed openness to life, an absence of prejudice or fixity of view, demonstrated partly by means of the provision of a foil to the central character. In The American the foil is the priggish Babcock, a mixture of New England puritanism and rigid aesthetic academicism. While not all Mikhai? The American and A Nest of the Gentry are both novels about men past the first flush of youth who no longer wish to subordinate the world to themselves or a governing idea but to adapt to and be absorbed by it.
But Lavretsky, in the depths of the reaction and inertia of Nicolayevan Russia, feels his personal predicament in terms of social and historical responsibility. The two novels do indeed both deal with crises of culture, but in the one it is the derived and in the other the primary meaning of the word which applies. One must never forget, in speaking of him, that he was both an observer and a poet. The poetic element was constant, and it had great strangeness and power. It was no part of my intention, here, to criticise his writings, having said my say about them, so far as possible, some years ago.
But I may mention that in re-reading them I find in them all that I formerly found of two other elements — their richness and their sadness. Correspondingly, he became more receptive to, and aware of, the note of sadness in human life, and the shadow cast over life by death. James b, III: 67 James, one senses, was at this time nearer than ever to the situation that Turgenev occupied all his life — that of an essentially apolitical writer compelled by the manifest evidence and pressure of a historical crisis and its equally obvious bearing on his own life to introduce a sociopolitical dimension into his work.
If revolutionary cells did resemble, and were linked to, each other throughout Europe, as James and the nervous leader writers of The Times seem to have assumed, the use of Virgin Soil as a model for plot, character and relationship must have seemed entirely legitimate to the author of The Princess Casamassima. But the choice of a clandestine revolutionary cell as theme, and the use of Virgin Soil as a broad model, beg other important questions, even if one assumes the existence of such cells in the form which James gives them. If James was trying to take the pulse of English political life in — 5, he was feeling in the wrong place.
He would have done better to undertake the altogether more difficult task of dramatising the life of Bernard Shaw and the Webbs. But, of course, James is not essentially interested in the nature and direction of the impersonal forces of history; he is interested in the history of particular cases. The subject of The Princess Casamassima, like the subject of Virgin Soil, appeals to him not because of any historical centrality, but because it is potentially a good story, a most suitable particular case.
The subject of the Princess is magnificent, and if I can only give up my mind to it properly — generously and trustfully — the form will shape itself as successfully as the idea deserves. There was always of course the chance that the propriety might be challenged — challenged by readers of a knowledge greater than mine. Yet knowledge, after all, of what?
My vision of the aspects I more or less fortunately rendered was exactly my knowledge. If I made my appearances live, what was this but the utmost one could do with them. But applied specifically to The Princess Casamassima, the argument sounds specious. It is surely the case not only that James did not know enough about the revolutionary underground, but that he either was not sufficiently aware of, or simply did not care about, its relatively peripheral place in the pattern of social, political and ideological change that characterised England in the s.
The obvious similarities, and many of the divergences, between The Princess Casamassima and Virgin Soil have occasioned a good deal of scholarly analysis which I do not propose to duplicate. Nevertheless, the salient features of some of the articles devoted wholly or partly to the relationship between the two novels merit comment. Daniel Lerner argues for almost complete equivalence in his comparison of the two characters of Nezhdanov and Hyacinth. Representative of this approach is Eunice C. If, for example, we accept that the novel is not essentially a work of elaborated psychological realism; but an emotional drama with strong melodramatic overtones, its tragic outcome may be claimed to be built into the pattern of the drama which James intends his novel to be — which is not to argue for the convincingness of its human theme, but simply for the internal consistency of its design.
But we may also read the respective fates of Nezhdanov and Hyacinth according to an extrinsic framework of meaning, within which the fates of Nezhdanov and Hyacinth Robinson signify and symbolise the differences in the world-historical sense of James and Turgenev. In this perspective, the two suicides form a fascinating contrast.
Whether or not Nezhdanov is a good poet is immaterial to the fact that the force of history will not let him retreat into the solipsism of self-expressive art. In Fathers and Sons Turgenev had created a hero, Bazarov, who, in his nihilism, appeared to have mastered and channelled the clamorous demands of the self so successfully that he had aligned himself completely with the impersonal, destructive necessities of history. Symbolically, history, personified by Bazarov, is halted in its tracks by the only powers that can check it. By contrast, in the later work, Virgin Soil, history has won.
Thus Nezhdanov loses Marianna to Solomin, the man of historical destiny, single-mindedly aligning himself with the forces of change. But even if the response is misguided, the historical crisis which provoked it remains a real categorical imperative. Although Nezhdanov no longer has faith in the cause, he nevertheless accepts history as the arbiter of his fate. In Virgin Soil ideology first annexes and then consumes in the person of Nezhdanov both art and subjective individualism. Whereas Bazarov had been a willing votary of the Moloch of history, paradoxically redeemed for humanity by love and death, Nezhdanov is a sacrifice to the same idol, and unhappy love and death are the means by which the idol metes out its punishment.
James, though not unsympathetic to the cause of political reform, was unequivocal in his high valuation of culture and art, and the life of sensuous experience that attends them. A letter to Charles Eliot Norton of December sets out his feelings at some length. The condition of that body [the English upper class] seems to me to be in many ways very much the same rotten and collapsible one as that of the French aristocracy before the revolution — minus cleverness and conversation. At all events much of English life is grossly materialistic and wants blood-letting. First, his analogy with the sacking of Rome by the barbarians implies that, if and when social revolution occurs, it will be an act of vandalism, however much the aristocracy may have deserved its fate.
Second, James speaks of the body social as being in need of blood-letting rather than destruction, of curing rather than killing. If the price of bringing about equality was to be the destruction of culture — by which James understood not just the arts, but the whole fabric of cultivated life — then it was too high a price to pay. This is, of course, precisely the judgement made by Hyacinth Robinson and his decision places him in an impasse from which the only exit is by suicide.
Hyacinth pledges himself to commit an act of supreme importance to the cause of revolution, but in so pledging himself, symbolically, he makes the revolution dependent on him for the execution of its objective. When Hyacinth defects to the cause of art, of culture and of subjective experience, his act of defection, though it leads to his death, signifies and symbolises, in terms of the scale of values which the novel offers, a victory for culture over ideology.