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Dead Souls

gogol, russian, serfs, translated, quixote, previous and alexander

DEAD SOULS. Gogol was indebted to the great Russian poet, Pushkin, for the subject of his °epoch-making° satire, Chichikova tli Myertvuiya Dushi.> (Chichikof's Adventures or Dead Souls)— perhaps better translated (Dead Serfs'.) and to 'Don Quixote> for its plan. Under the old ,regime in Russia the serfs, •fastened to the soil° by the economic regulations of the usurper Tsar, Bdris Godurtof, who was compelled to stop by drastic measures the emigration of farmhands, were regarded as personal property and the pomyeschiki, or landed-proprietors, were allowed to mortgage them to the State bank. The census was taken only once in ten years, and it naturally happened that in those intervals many of them died. It 'was argued that the birth-rate would offset the death-rate, so that taxation on the basis Of the previous enumeration would be fairly equitable. In Gogol's tale, which he called a Poem, a wily rascal, the Collegiate Councillor, Pavel Ivino vitch Chichikof, conceives the scheme of going about from place to place and getting by hook or by crook, by purchase or by gift, the title to such serfs as had died since the previous census. With the long list thus acquired he plans to borrow enough ready money to pur chase a genuine estate with 'living souls. His journeys bring him into contact with all sorts and conditions of men and Women. Gogol describes them without mercy, showing the deleterious influence of slave-holding on Owner and serf alike. As in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,> to which 'Dead Souls> has been compared, there is no attempt to preach; the implication is per mitted to carry its own weight. The emancipa tion of the muzhiks had been advocated by the most enlightened' Russians for many years, especially during the reign of the Emperor Alexander I (1801-25) ; during the reign of Nicholas I (1825-55), who was occupied with other affairs, the reform slumbered or at least was put aside, and not until Alexander II had conic to the throne was the liberation actually effected. It had been made necessary by the demand of popular sentiment stimulated by 'Dead Souls' and by Turgenief's 'Recollections of a Sportsman.> (Dead Souls' was to have consisted of three parts. The first part an pCared in 1842 and created a. senialion. A second edition followed in 1844. It naturally aroused bitter enmity among the .proprietor

class who felt that they had been traduced. The author, who was a sick man, tried to make ex Planaticms; he begged his readers to wait .for the conclusion before they formed their final judgments; but he grew more and more ; and in a fit of melancholy he burned the manuscript of the second part which was only partially finished; after his death in 1852, an earlier draft was discovered and incorporated with the first. Later a Dr. Zaharchenko of Kief took it upon himself 'to Continue and finish Gogol's masterpiece, bbt it was a dead failure. The chief interest of 'Dead Souls' is historical: it depicts a condi tion forever passed away, but its gallery of por traits and of landscapes shows vividly what Russia was in the first half of the 19th cen tury. Chichikof shrewd, plausible, tactful, am bitious; his lackey, Petrushka, taciturn, stupid, Ugly; his coachman Selifan, talkative, with his head in the clouds and always getting lost;' his troika Of horses (a three-fold Rosinante), each with its own individuality; his °brichleas with leather flaps and staring bull's-eyes; all are as familiar to the Russian reader as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. In Russian literature the names and varied characters of Chichikof's dupes frequently appear without explanation: they are household words; and many of the sayings so wittily and often sardonically intro duced by Gogol have become proverbs. Tice work is only a torso, but in its details it 'became the model for many successive Russian writers who affected his style of realism. °Myertvuiya Dushi° fills the third •volume of the collected works of Gogol published in a beautiful edition by T. I. Hagen, Moscow 1884. It was trans lated Isabel F. Hapgood' andpublished, New York 18815, London 1888. It is analyzed by the Vicomte de Vogue in Roman russe' ((The Russian Novelists,' Boston 1887), and in Ernest Dupily's 'Great Masters of Russian Literature.' A more detailed life of Gogol, with analyses of his works and a bibliography, may' be found in Louis Paul Marie Leger's (Nicolas Gogol' (Paris 1914). 'Dead Souls' was translated into French under the title, Les Ames modes,' by Ernest Chariere (Paris 1885); the first part was translated into Get man,. as 'Die todten Seeten ein satirisch komtsches Zeitgemilde' by Philipp Lobinstein in 1872.