Once More about Arkadii Rodzianko and Pushkin

Joseph Peschio[1]

A noted poet of the late Alexandrine period, Arkadii Gavrilovich Rod­zianko (1793–1846) is remembered in literary history primarily for his association and poetic dialogue with Pushkin. Rodzianko addressed at least one poem to Pushkin (“A. S. Pushkinu”) and wrote an ode on the occasion of his death. For his part, Pushkin addressed two poems to Rodzianko, “K Rodzianke” (“Ty obeshchal o romantizme”) and “Iz pis´ma k Rodzianke” (“Prosti, ukrainskoi mudrets”). And one of Pushkin’s most fa­mous poems, “Ia pomniu chudnoe mgnovenie,” has its roots in an ex­change of letters between Pushkin, Rodzianko, and the latter’s friend, Anna Petrovna Kern, in 1824. Pushkin scholars have of course assembled thorough commentaries of Pushkin’s epistles to Rodzianko,[2] but Rod­zianko’s side of this dialogue has not yet received adequate scholarly attention. In fact, many Rodzianko poems which are important to under­standing his dialogue with Pushkin remain unpublished. As such, existing interpretations of Pushkin’s poems to Rodzianko cannot help but be inade­quate. In this article, I will present two of Rodzianko’s unpublished poems and reconsider the character, tone, and circumstances of Pushkin and Rodzianko’s literary relationship.

Rodzianko has always been approached in connection with the crea­tion of Pushkin’s (and Rodzianko’s) reputation, and I follow this very fruit­ful track here. A growing number of literary scholars in a range of very different research traditions is studying reputation (the LC subject head­ing “literary reputation” currently brings up 374 recent titles in the Mod­ern Language Association Bibliography), which has resulted in some fuzzy terminology. I should distinguish here between two kinds of reputation:

1) the notion of “social reputation”—the collectively-constructed characterization of a writer that becomes current among a signifi­cant portion of his readership, thereby shaping reader reception (for example, William Burroughs’s reputation as a drug addict af­fects how we read Naked Lunch);

2) the notion of “literary reputation”—the position a writer occu­pies in the literary establishment, which profoundly impacts read­ing behaviors (for example, readers approach Umberto Eco and Dan Brown’s very similar novels in very different ways because Eco is an “intellectual author” and Brown is a “popular author”).

Certainly, literary reputation often becomes part of social reputation and vice-versa.

Reputation has long been of interest to Pushkin scholars because it conditioned the way in which Pushkin wrote and the way in which he has been read. Interestingly, it would appear that “sotsial´naia reputatsiia” was first coined as a Russian literary-historical term by Vadim Vatsuro in his 1969 article on Rodzianko and Pushkin, and he continued to study the issue throughout his career.[3] Reputation remains a hot topic in Pushkin studies: Avram Reitblat[4] explains how Pushkin elbowed his way into the literary world by manipulating the mechanisms of literary reputation, and Stephanie Sandler[5] surveys the course Pushkin’s reputation has taken over the last two centuries. The years 1817–20 were crucial in the creation of both Pushkin’s social reputation and literary reputation, and Rodzianko played a role in this. He was one of the first to cast Pushkin as the leader of a youth movement; paradoxically, he also helped to create Pushkin’s reputation for frivolity.

To date, we have a rather rudimentary picture of Rodzianko’s bio­graphy, and I have little to add.[6]He was born in Poltava and educated there and in Moscow, where he studied with Merzliakov. Through family and other ties, he was connected to the Kapnist circle, which informed his political outlook. He came to St. Petersburg in either 1814 or 1815, entered the Life Guards, and was acknowledged as a serious poet (by Der­zhavin, among others) by 1816. His literary career was brief, but fairly distinguished. His poems appeared in Kalliopa, Blagonamerennyi, Poliar­naia zvezda, Russkii invalid, Trudy Obshchestva Liubitelei Rossiiskoi Slovesnosti, Nevskii al´manakh, Sovremennik, Iakovlev’s Opyt russkoi antologii, and other publications.[7] In the years 1817–21, Rodzianko was in the thick of St. Petersburg literary life. He was inducted into the Free Society of Amateurs of Letters, Sciences, and Arts in 1818, and was a member—along with Pushkin, Del´vig, Fedor Glinka, and other important poets and political figures—of The Green Lamp in 1819–21.[8] Rodzianko withdrew from literature for the most part upon retiring to his Poltava estate in 1821, soon after he was exonerated in that year’s disbanding and prosecution of the Welfare Union. With the exception of one famous epi­sode, little is known of his life in retirement. In 1822, he composed the satire “Dva veka,”[9] in which he rather viciously lampoons many of Push­kin’s friends, as well as Pushkin himself. The exiled Pushkin was incensed and feigned disbelief that Rodzianko could have written such a thing.[10]

Beyond that, we know only that he and Pushkin reconciled and met up at least once in 1823–24, and Rodzianko later got married and had five chil­dren. The accepted “narrative arc” of Rodzianko’s biography seems to look roughly like this: A hedonist radical with a conservative literary aesthetic, Rodzianko flourished for a time in the literary scene until he incurred the displeasure of the authorities and retired at the rank of captain to his es­tate, where he eventually renounced both his libertine tendencies and his liberalism, becoming a gruff country squire/poet.

Like Pushkin’s, Rodzianko’s literary reputation has shifted over the years. For roughly 150 years, he was cast as an Epicurean and “light” poet. Bestuzhev-Marlinskii, for example, dubbed Rodzianko “bespechnyi pevets krasoty i zabavy,”[11] and nineteenth-century literary historians tended to concur with this characterization. But Vadim Vatsuro chal­lenges this characterization in his landmark study of Pushkin’s milieu, “Pushkin i Arkadii Rodzianka,” already mentioned as the only substantive scholarly treatment of Rodzianko’s poetry and politics to date. In this arti­cle Vatsuro depicts Rodzianko as a serious political and social satirist. A very important finding in the article, among others, is that Rodzianko served as a source of Pushkin’s reputation among the “Southern Decem­brists” as a frivolous genius, one not to be trusted with important political secrets—a reputation which of course profoundly impacted Pushkin’s bio­graphy and work.[12] Vatsturo’s article has long since become part of the “Golden Fund” of pushkinovedenie, and his portrait of Rodzianko is une­quivocal: “Pered nami literaturnyi deiatel´ epokhi dekabrizma, s postoian­nym i prochnym tiagoteniem k grazhdanskoi poezii.”[13] Vatsuro deems Rodzianko’s reputation as a semi-pornographic poet “aberratsiia, chitatel´­skaia legenda.”[14]

Vatsuro’s article was prompted by his discovery of a manuscript collection of Rodzianko’s poetry (hereafter: “RGB”).[15]

Это подносный экземпляр, своего рода авторский изборник сочинений Родзянки, писанный рукой переписчика и включаю­щий стихи с 1812 по 1840 г. Он был составлен автором для жены Надежды Акимовны, урожденной Клевцовой, по-видимому в конце 1830-х – начале 1840-х годов; попал он к Норову несом­ненно от самого Родзянки, сохранявшего с ним многолетнюю дружескую связь. Сборник содержит 150 стихотворений, в по­давляющем своем большинстве неопубликованных.… Стихи, как правило, датированы.…[16]

To his description, I might add the following: RGB fills a 450-page, gold-leaf notebook covered in red velvet; a penciled table of contents in an unknown hand accompanies the notebook; many of the texts have penciled corrections in the same hand; the scribe was a bad one who made a great many errors, omitting and combining words; there is no dedication in the notebook to Rodzianko’s wife or anyone else.[17]

I might also add that most of the texts in RGB are light, humorous, and/or erotic poems, which are, from the standpoint of Soviet literary scholarship, thoroughly frivolous. For whatever reason—censorship, politics, prudishness, practical exigencies—Vatsuro neglected to mention most of these poems, some of which bear directly on the our understanding of Pushkin and Rodzianko’s poetic dialogue, as well as the origins of Push­kin’s social reputation.[18] These poems are definitely worth knowing about. Rodzianko’s “lighter side” allows us, among other things, to clear up an issue that has confounded Pushkinists, Vatsuro among them, for decades: the concatenation of the libertinism and liberalism in Rodzianko’s poetry and biography.

Vatsuro views Rodzianko as a paradoxical figure. For him (and many other literary historians), libertinage and political radicalism were mutu­ally exclusive in the period. His description of Rodzianko’s involvement in The Green Lamp underscores this view:

Мы подошли к тому периоду биографии Родзянки, когда он становится участником «Зеленой Лампы» и общается с Пуш­киным, и здесь сразу же возникают неясности. Сближение этого эпикурейца с театральным кружком Всеволожских естественно: но в какой мере было закономерно появление его в литера­турном обществе с политической окраской?[19]

This question, in fact, should be put differently. In his testimony on The Green Lamp before the Investigative Commission on the Decembrist Up­rising, the Lampist S. P. Trubetskoi said, “people were accepted into the membership only by unanimous consent.”[20] The question, then, is why would a literary society with a political slant be interested in an Epi­curean? Clearly, Rodzianko’s combination of libertinage and liberalism must, in some respects, be representative of The Green Lamp as a whole. In the eyes of his contemporaries, especially Pushkin, there was in fact nothing paradoxical about Rodzianko. Rather, his was a fairly typical pose, one that Pushkin and his circle appropriated and modified.

An unpublished epistle dated 1817 and addressed to “A.V.P.” (RGB 260–63) is a striking example of Rodzianko’s combination of libertinism with more serious matters of politics and poetry. In the poem Rodzianko addresses “A.V.P.” and extends through him (or her?) an invitation to a certain “P......” This “P......” is characterized as a profligate rake, a poet, and, at the same time, the laurelled “Poet-Hierophant” of his generation.
















Великому буяну,
Великому страмцу,
Ушей моих тирану,
Всех мерзостей певцу
Поклон вопрос учтивой? –
Где П…… блудливой
Шатается с гурьбой
Друзей винолюбивых,
Как он красноречивых
За чашей пуншевой? –
Уже ли по секрету
Всему вверяет свету
Душевны тайны вновь,
Печатает в журналах,
В куплетах, мадригалах,
Сердечную любовь!
Или настроя лиру
Уму на перекор,
Злодей кует сатиру
На легкий братский спор,
Религью защишает,
Философов ругает,
И только понимает
В восторге сам себя! –
Или мечтать любя,
Он в летний сад уходит,
В аллеях скромно бродит
Меж сплетшихся ветвей
Деревьев престарелых;
Вдруг видит нимф веселых,
Киприды дочерей;
С лукавою улыбкой,
Знакомою тропинкой,
Учтиво их ведет
В наемные палаты,
Где в долг и без уплаты
До первых денег пьет! –
Или проказник смелой
К Евстафьевне летит,
С гнусливой поседелой
Кухаркою шумит;
Меж тем как всех пленяет
Венеры общий пир,
Черты он собирает
Для дружеских сатир!
Где б ни был ты, забавный,
Болтливый дорогой,
Любезнейший и давний
Злодей – приятель мой,
Усердно, не отступно
Ты прошен, в сей же час
В мой уголок приютной
Спешить утешить нас
Рассказами своими,
Стихами разлихими,
Единственным пеньем,
Зефирными прижками
И действуя ногами
Обворожай умом. –
Взойди! Жрецы готовы
И стол – олтарь накрыт;
Надень венок лавровый
Гиерофант – Пиит!
Да жертва воскружится,
Да чаша осушится
Великая до дна,
И полный Диониса
В пещеры Элевзиса
Лети на крыльях сна! –

I have been unable to decode the initials of the title with any certainty. The most likely candidate is Aleksandr Viktorovich Podzhio (Poggio). Though we have no definitive proof, Rodzianko and Poggio probably knew one another in 1817.[21] If “A.V.P.” is indeed addressed to Poggio, the intended readership of the epistle is, by extension, Rodzianko’s and Poggio’s fellow guardsmen and conspiratorial intimates.

The identity of “P......” likewise cannot be established for certain, but this is of course the most intriguing initial, as one is immediately tempted to read it as “Pushkin.” And, in fact, this is actually a fairly creditable hypothesis. For now, it remains no more than a hypothesis, albeit a pro­vocative one. If, however, additional evidence subsequently comes to light, “A.V.P” might force us to revise slightly the accepted timeline of the creation of Pushkin’s social and literary reputations. First of all, it might force us to re-fix the date of Pushkin and Rodzianko’s acquaintance. Vatsuro dates their acquaintance to the first meetings of The Green Lamp in 1819.[22] In fact, they could have met no later than August 8, 1818, when both attended a meeting of the Free Society of Amateurs of the Letters, Sciences, and Arts.[23] “A.V.P.” suggests that they may even have met at least a year earlier, in 1817, by which time Pushkin, fresh out of the Lyceum, already had a rather well-developed reputation as a rake and man-about-town.

Bearing in mind the qualifications above, several things nonetheless suggest that Pushkin is the man Rodzianko invites in “A.V.P.” to join him for an evening of revelry. Taking into account the original orthography, the six dots of “P……” can be decoded as: “Пушкинъ.” Naturally, “Push­kin” does not fit into the iambic trimeter line, and neither—as far as I can tell—does the name of any of his fellow poets. However, omitting short words after ellipses was a common scribal error. It is quite possible that the line read “Gde Pushkin <nash> bludlivoi?” The image of “P……” in the poem also suggests Pushkin. It fits to a tee all the commonplaces of Pushkin’s social reputation at the time: the “childish genius,” a leaping, lascivious, loud-mouthed carouser, whom the Gypsy Tat´iana Dement´eva later likened to “an excitable monkey.”[24]

There is only one proper name in “A.V.P” which might provide evi­dence as to the identity of “P……”: Sofia Evstaf´evna (a.k.a. Ostaf´evna and Astaf´evna), who was the hostess at a famous Petersburg bordello.[25] Rodzianko depicts the behavior of “P......” at Evstaf´evna’s as atypical—“P......” remains aloof, joking with the cook and collecting details for a satire. This fits in with other accounts of Pushkin’s behavior at Evstaf´evna’s. For example, instead of joining “the feast of Venus,”

Александр Сергеевич, бывало, выберет интересный субъект [i.e., one of the prostitutes] и начинает расспрашивать о детстве и обо всей прежней жизни, потом усовещивает и уговаривает бросить блестящую компанию, заняться честным трудом – работой, итти в услужение, при том даст деньги на выход, и таким образом не одну жертву спас от погибели, а всего лучше, что благонравная Софья Евстафьевна жаловалась на поэта полиции, как на без­нравственного человека, развращающего ее овечек.[26]

As regards the allusions to the poetry of “P......” (lines 11–24), it seems a little misguided to assume that Rodzianko refers to any particular poems. In “Dva veka,” he sums up Pushkin’s oeuvre to date as “Kinzhal” and “two or three Noëls”—not exactly an accurate resume of Pushkin’s career in 1822.[27] Rodzianko is more interested in depicting the social repu­tation of the poet than the specifics of his verse. The different manners of writing and publishing poetry take on very distinct behavioral connota­tions, which are ultimately more interesting to Rodzianko than the formal characteristics of the resultant texts. In short, for him, literary reputation is part of social reputation.[28]

Nonetheless, there is one interesting point of intersection with Push­kin’s poetry in “A.V.P.”: Pushkin’s “Poslanie Lide,” one of only six poems Pushkin published in 1817, seems to be a subtext here. Rodzianko doubt­less knew it well. “Poslanie Lide” is a rejection of stoicism in favor of earthly pleasures (a theme Rodzianko is very sympathetic to in much of his poetry), and Pushkin lets the philosophers have it, albeit jokingly:

Совет ваш вовсе не смешон:
Но мне он, слышите ль, не нужен,
Затем, что слишком он мудрен;
Дороже мне хороший ужин
Философов трех целых дюжин;[29]

The “Lida” of the poem was probably Maria Smith, the young widow who resided in the Lyceum director’s home and with whom the adolescent Pushkin and Del´vig were infatuated. Pushkin not only “curses philoso­phers” (as in “A.V.P.,” line 22) in “Poslanie Lide,” but publishes a proclamation of “true love” (as in “A.V.P.,” line 16) for his Lida.[30]

Further, Rodzianko’s allusion to “satires / On trifling friendly argu­ments” (lines 19–20) might also refer to “Poslanie Lide,” where we read:

Но пусть кричат на супостата,
Их спор – лишь времени утрата

But it could also refer to any of Pushkin’s Lyceum satires, from “Ten´ Fonvizina” to “Noël na leib-gusarskii polk.” Most likely, Rodzianko has in mind Pushkin’s satires in an Arzamasian spirit: a product of the literary circles at the Noblemen’s Pansion of Moscow University, Rodzianko was a confirmed skeptic of Karamzin’s followers, and his “Spory” contains a scathing critique of their polemical activities.[31]

“A.V.P.” is also linked to Pushkin’s epistle “K Batiushkovu” (1815) because it is written in the same iambic trimeter, which Pushkin adopted from Zhukovskii’s “Batiushkovu” and Batiushkov’s own “Moi penaty” for polemical purposes.[32] In 1817, iambic trimeter still carried the “semantic aura” of this exchange, and “A.V.P.” is of a piece with this broader re­sponse. For ten years after Viazemskii and Zhukovskii’s iambic trimeter replies to “Moi penaty,” “hardly any of the leading poets passed up a chance to try his hand at this light genre.”[33] Published in Rossiiskii mu­zeum in 1815, Pushkin’s “K Batiushkovu” was no doubt familiar to Rod­zianko, and Pushkin’s defense of hedonistic verse in that epistle finds a fairly ironic twist in “A.V.P.”: versification here is not an end in of itself, but just another form of impish merrymaking.

The most convincing evidence for my hypothetical reading is to be found in the context of Rodzianko’s poetic lexicon, specifically his use of the word “hierophant” (line 63). Rodzianko employs this image of the high ceremonial priest of the Magi in a peculiar way. Unlike other poets of the period, who use it in the sense of “diviner” (cf. Shelley: “Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration”) or Masonic “initiator,” Rodzianko uses it in the sense of “leader.”[34] “Hierophant” appears only twice in the RGB manuscript: once in “A.V.P.” and once in the following 1824 epistle, known to Pushkinists since the 1880s.[35]

«А. С. Пушкину»

О Пушкин, мот и расточитель
Даров поэзии святой,
И молодежи удалой
Гиерофант и просветитель,
Любезный женщинам творец,
Певец разбойников, цыганов,
Поэматических романов,
Скажи, чего ты не певец? (RGB, 348)[36]

It seems entirely plausible that the hierophant in “A.V.P.” is also Pushkin, and that Rodzianko returns to this word—which he has kept in reserve for Pushkin, as it were—several years later just as he returns to the image of Pushkin the frivolous genius.

Rodzianko was certainly not the only person to cast the adolescent Pushkin as the leader of a movement. Indeed, by 1820, “Pushkin” was for some a common noun, denoting a young upstart with libertine proclivities and dangerous political views.[37] One could also speak of “Pushkintsy” by 1820—as if Pushkin had an army of admirers and fellow-travelers backing him up.[38] But, if “P......” is in fact Pushkin, Rodzianko may well have been one of the first to cast Pushkin in the role of hierophant. As such, he played a crucial role not only in the construction of Pushkin’s social repu­tation as too lighthearted for serious political action (as Vatsuro convinc­ingly argues), but also in the creation of Pushkin’s rather more “frivolous” social reputation as a libertine.

As Reitblat (in Kak Pushkin vyshel v genii) and many other scholars note, Pushkin was not to cement his literary reputation until the publica­tion of “Ruslan i Liudmila” in 1820. My hypothetical reading of “A.V.P.” suggests that Pushkin may have had a stable social reputation fully three years before he acquired a literary reputation. This fits in with the extant narrative of Pushkin’s early career. It was precisely the desire to see Pushkin’s literary reputation eclipse his salacious social reputation that prompted the Arzamasians to play such an active role in getting “Ruslan i Liudmila” finished and published. In February 1820, Turgenev wrote to Viazemskii:

Племянник [Василия Львовича Пушкина] почти кончил свою поэму, и на сих днях я два раза слушал ее. Пора в печать. Я надеюсь от печати и другой пользы, личной для него: увидев себя в числе напечатанных и, следовательно, уважаемых авторов, он и сам станет уважать себя и несколько остепенится. Теперь его знают только по мелким стихам и по крупным шалостям, но по выходе в печать его поэмы будут искать в нем если не парик академический, то по крайней мере не перво­степенного повесу.[39]

Perhaps more importantly, Pushkin’s social reputation conditioned both the writing and the reception of “Ruslan i Liudmila.” The various lyrical subjects of the poema all capitalize on Pushkin’s reputation for frivolity, and his irate reviewers commonly conflated these lyrical sub­jects, especially their lack of decorum, with Pushkin himself.[40] In short, the semantics of his social reputation are encoded in the text of the poema, forming the pragmatic substrate from which its reception grew.

Unlike the Arzamasians, Rodzianko gave full approbation to the values Pushkin projected in his “Petersburg-period” social behavior. In “A. S. Pushkinu” (and perhaps in “A.V.P.” as well) Rodzianko does not criti­cize Pushkin for his frivolity. Rather, he praises him for it. Back in 1937, Zhirmunskii noted in passing:

Сочетание эротического либертинажа с религиозным вольно­думством и политическим свободомыслием – характерное явле­ние для французского Просвещения.… Среди лицейских товарищей Пушкина и в дружеском обществе «Зеленая Лампа”, в которое Пушкин входит по окончании лицея, эпикурейско-эротическая струя неизменно сочетается с “вольномыслием” в вопросах религии и политики.[41]

With time, this collocation grew into a broader cultural trend, with Push­kin at its head. According to one informant of the Third Division, over the course of the 1820s, as youth culture followed the example set by its “hierophants,” libertinism and the scoffing rejection of moral values and social convention became increasingly fashionable.[42] Rodzianko’s image of Pushkin is a combination of genius and frivolity, and it is ultimately this combination that makes Pushkin the Hierophant and Illuminator of the day’s “courageous youth.” To Rodzianko, there is no paradox here. Rod­zianko sees Pushkin’s frivolity, especially his poetic frivolity, as his claim to greatness as the high priest of the day’s liberal youth. And Pushkin, this “bold prankster,” earned his post, in part, by refusing to get serious. This is part of a broader trend in Golden Age Russian culture. As Iurii Lotman put it:

Шалость и лень [for Pushkin] становились условными обозна­чениями неподчинения мертвенной дисциплине государствен­ного бюрократизма. Чинному порядку делового Петербурга они противостояли как протест против условных норм приличия и как отказ принимать всерьез весь мир государственных ценностей.[43]

In the end, it is precisely Pushkin’s frivolity that makes him “a dangerous man” in Rodzianko’s eyes—an effective enemy of all that which Rodzianko excoriates in his early poems on civic and historical themes, and, more­over, a more effective enemy than somber civic poets like Ryleev.

Rodzianko not only helped create Pushkin’s social and literary repu­tation, he continued to propagate it for over a decade. For him, Pushkin’s libertinism was not a passing phase of youth, but an enduring constant in the poet’s biography. In 1827, three years after their exchange of letters regarding A. P. Kern, Rodzianko wrote the following epistle—still unpub­lished—to Ol´ga Dmitrievna Troshchinskaia (RGB 296–98):







«К О.Д.Т. При посылкe башмачка»

Когда бы Пушкин видеть мог
Ваш башмачок хотя случайно,
Не три бы пары стройных ног
Начел в Руси он православной –[44]

С изящным чувством знатока
Занявшись ножек красотою,
Он не забыл бы башмачка
Чудесной подарить строфою.

И в самом деле, холм, луга,
Театра пол, паркеты зала!
Когда красавицы нога
На вас без башмачка блистала?

Сквозя под кружевом чулка
В кипящем вихре Терпсихоры
Ей можноль так без башмачка
Влечь и пленять сердца и взоры? –

Хотя часы бывают те,
Что я желал бы, может статься,
В ея природной красоте
Прелестной ножкой восхищаться;

Прильнуть к ней жадною рукой,
Сжимать горящими устами…
Но что я брежу, Боже мой!
И на беду – не башмаками!

И так об них опять начнем;
Вам смею предложить условье:
Позвольте вашим башмачком
За ваше ж выпить мне здоровье?

И к славе женских русских ног
Потом себе его оставить
Чтоб Пушкину улику мог
Я с первой почтою отправить. –

Rodzianko continued to cast himself as an erotic poet, even if only in jest—and this is certainly no “aberration” or “legend of the readership.” Fur­thermore, this sort of distinctly non-civic writing is for him inextricably linked to Pushkin. For his part, Pushkin returned the “favor,” invariably emphasizing precisely the same aspect of Rodzianko’s writing. Though Rodzianko’s civic verse was certainly no secret – he published several of his civic poems—e.g. “Vlastoliubie” (1812)[45]—Pushkin never refers to Rod­zianko’s prodigious civic streak. Instead, he addresses him as “The Bard of Socratic Love” (an allusion to the homoerotic poems Rodzianko presented at The Green Lamp) and the “Ukrainian Piron.” Thus, the formation of reputation here is a kind of collaborative process, one that is concomi­tantly negotiated and shaped in dialogue. And this dialogue was of a rather different character than Vatsuro would have us believe. Perhaps its most stunning by-product is “Ia pomniu chudnoe mgnovenie…” which took shape in the context of Pushkin and Rodzianko’s epistles of 1824—and this fact alone should inspire us to take a more candid look at the tone and manner of their relationship.


University of Oregon



Peschio, Joe. "Once More about Arkadii Rodzianko and Pushkin." Pushkin Review 8-9 (2005-06): 77-92.

[1] The research for this article was funded in part by the ACTR Title VIII Research Scholar Program and the Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Abroad Program. I would like to thank my reviewers at Pushkin Review, whose voluminous, thor­ough, and perspicacious comments were of great help to me in revising this article. I regret that I was most likely unable to put them to use as well as I should have.

[2] See, especially, B. Modzalevskii, "Komentarii," in A. Pushkin, Pis'ma (Moscow-Leningrad: GIZ, 1926–28), 1: 377 ff.; repr. http://feb-web.ru/feb/pushkin/texts/selected/pp1/ pp13175-.htm (accessed 27 May 2007).

[3] In his article on Rodzianko, Vatsuro frames the concept as follows: “Во все вре­мена историческому лицу сопутствует та или иная репутация, которая на­кладывается зачастую на объективный характер его деятельности, а иногда и заслоняет его собой. В периоды социальных брожений, особенно, как это было в 1820-е годы, связанных с деятельностью замкнутых и даже конспиративных обществ, репутация личная нередко возникает в своем социальном качестве и должна внимательно учитываться исторической критикой. Исследования так­ого рода «социальных репутаций» для 1820-х годов нет; между тем оно могло бы объяснить многое в политической жизни этого времени.” V. E. Vatsuro, “Push­kin i Arkadii Rodzianka (Iz istorii grazhdanskoi poezii 1820-kh gg.),” Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii.1969 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1971), 43–68, esp. 64; repr. http://feb-web.ru/feb/pushkin/serial/v71/v71-043-.htm (accessed 22 May 2007).

Some years later, in his introduction to Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremen­nikov, he revisited this language: “Во все времена историческому лицу сопутст­вует социальная репутация. Рядом с подлинным человеком живет, как отдел­ившаяся от него тень, его облик, созданный современниками, представление о его личности и о его общественной роли. Если оно резко расходится с объектив­ным смыслом его деятельности, потомкам приходится восстанавливать истори­ческую справедливость. Социальная репутация Пушкина создавалась разными людьми и из разных побуждений – и по добросовестному заблуждению, и на­меренно, потому что начиная с 1826 года он попадает в сферу политической и литературной борьбы.” Vatsuro, “Pushkin v soznanii sovremennikov,” in V. Va­tsuro, ed., Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov(St. Petersburg: Akademi­cheskii proekt, 1998), 13; repr. http://feb-web.ru/feb/pushkin/ critics/vs1/vs1-005-.htm (accessed 22 May 2007).

[4]Kak Pushkin vyshel v genii: Istoriko-sotsiologicheskie cherki o knizhnoi kul´ture Pushkinskoi epokhi (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2001).

[5] Stephanie Sandler, Commemorating Pushkin: Russia’s Myth of a National Poet (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

[6] For the facts of Rodzianko’s biography, I rely here on the entry on Rodzianko in B. L. Modzalevskii’s Alfavit dekabristov (Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1925), Modzalev­skii’s commentary in Pushkin’s Pis´ma, and his article on Rodzianko in Russkii biograficheskii slovar´ (St. Petersburg: Imperatorskoe Russkoe Istoricheskoe Ob­shchestvo, 1913), 295–97, as well as L. A. Chereiskii’s article on Rodzianko (“Rodzianko, A. G.”) in Pushkin i ego okruzhenie (Leningrad: Nauka, 1989; repr. http://feb-web.ru/feb/pushkin/index.htm?/feb/pushkin/critics/chr/chr.html) (accessed 27 February 2007). Vatsuro’s “Pushkin i Arkadii Rodzianka” remains the only substantive treatment of Rodzianko’s poetry to date.

[7] For a bibliography of Rodzianko’s publications, see Modzalevskii, “Rodzianko,” in Russkii biograficheskii slovar´.

[8] On The Green Lamp and Rodzianko’s role in the group, as well as an exhaustive bibliography of Green Lamp materials and studies, see Joseph Peschio, “Prankish­ness in Golden Age Literature and Culture” (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2004), 116–57.

[9] Rodzianko, in Poety 1820-x i 1830-x godov, ed. L. Ia. Ginzburg, 2 vols.(Lenin­grad: Sovetskii pisatel´, 1972), 1:162–66.

[10] For a detailed treatment of “Dva veka” and this falling-out with Pushkin, see Vatsuro, “Pushkin i Arkadii Rodzianka,” 54–64.

[11]“Vzgliad na staruiu i novuiu slovesnost´ v Rossii,” in Poliarnaia zvezda na 1823 god (St. Petersburg, 1823), 29.

[12] Vatsuro, “Pushkin i Arkadii Rodianka,” 65–66.

[13] Ibid., 44.

[14] Ibid., 47.

[15] The collection is in the archives of A. S. Norov at the Russian State Library, fond 201, no. 7.

[16] Ibid., 44.

[17] Though this is most likely Rodzianko’s hand, I have not been able to verify it for certain.

[18] I suspect that Vatsuro passed over many of these poems because of Rodzianko’s reputation as a homoerotic poet. It was not for nothing that Pushkin called him “the Bard of Socratic Love” (a term he takes from Voltaire’s entry on homosexu­ality in the Philosophical Dictionary): Rodzianko was the author of many poems, especially “Horatian” odes, which celebrate sexual love between men and boys. I discuss some of these poems in detail in a forthcoming article on Rodzianko’s ode “K Ligurinusu.”

[19] “Pushkin i Arkadii Rodzianka,” 48. When Vatsuro contrasts “the Vsevolozhskii theater circle” to “a literary society with a political bent,” he surely has in mind Tomashevskii’s solution to the Green Lamp debate: that the nineteenth-century rumor mill confused The Green Lamp with Nikita Vsevolozhskii’s regular Satur­day gatherings, which were indeed an orgiastic affair; B. V. Tomashevskii, Push­kin, 2 vols. (Moscow: Nauka, 1990), 1: 184. In fact, this argument is highly spe­cious, as I discuss in detail in my dissertation (Peschio, “Prankishness,” 135–36).

[20] Quoted in P. Shchegolov, “Zelenaia Lampa,” Pushkin i ego sovremenniki 7 (1908): 19–50, esp. 28.

[21] Vatsuro writes: “[Rodzianka] nesomnenno znal uchastnikov tainykh obshchestv, sviazannykh s krugom Kapnistov: Murav´evykh-Apostolov, Lorera, Lunina” (“Pushkin i Arkadii Rodzianka,” 48). Poggio was an ensign in the Preobrazhenskii Regiment of the Life Guards in 1817; junior-ensign Rodzianko was stationed nearby in the Jaeger Regiment of the Life Guards; during his last year at the Lyceum, Pushkin often socialized with the officers of the Hussar Regiment sta­tioned at Tsarskoe Selo; the under-officers of the Hussar, Jaeger, and Preobra­zhenskii Regiments commonly fraternized. As such, a link between the three may well have existed, though it is not yet possible to say for certain.

[22] Ibid., 48.

[23] Chereiskii, Pushkin i ego okruzhenie, 372. St. Petersburg State University has posted a marvelous website devoted to this society: http://www.lib.pu.ru/rus/Volsnx/ (accessed 22 May 2007). The protocol from the August 8, 1818 meeting is to be found on http://www.lib.pu.ru/rus/Volsnx/prot/prot18.html (accessed 22 May 2007). The chronology of their acquaintance is of some significance to the issue of what role Rodzianko played in the creation and dissemination of Pushkin’s social reputation.

[24] S. Gessen and B. Modzalevskii, eds., Razgovory Pushkina (Moscow, 1929), 143.

[25] Chereiskii, Pushkin i ego okruzhenie, 415.

[26] Quoted in Modzalevskii, Pushkin’s Pis´ma, 2: 313.

[27] Rodzianko, Poety 1820-x i 1830-x godov, 164; Vatsuro, “Pushkin i Arkadii Rod­zianka,” 55 ff.

[28] Interestingly, Pushkin’s two known poems addressed to Rodzianko are both very much behavioral artifacts in that both were part of his pursuit of Anna Petrovna Kern (see below).

[29] Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Moscow-Leningrad: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1937–49), 1: 226–27.

[30] It is also possible that Rodzianko refers here to Pushkin’s unfinished (and unknown) comedy “Filosof.” Pushkin’s schoolmate, Illichevskii, wrote in January 1816, “Kstati o Pushkine: on pishet teper´ komediiu v piati deistviiakh, v stikhakh, pod nazvaniem Filosof”; quoted in K. Grot, Pushkinskii litsei (St. Petersburg, 1911), 61.

[31] RGB, 148–58; Rodzianko, Poety 1820-x i 1830-x godov, 157–62.

[32] A. Zorin, “Batiushkov v 1814–1815 gg.,” Izvestiia ANSSSR. Seriia literatury i iazyka 47: 4 (1988): 368–78, esp. 376–77.

[33] M. Gasparov, Ocherk istorii russkogo stikha (Moscow: Fortuna limited, 2002), 118–19; cf. Gasparov, “Semanticheskii oreol metra: K semantike russkogo trekh­stopnogo iamba,” in Lingvistika i poetika, ed. V. P. Grigoriev(Moscow: Nauka, 1979), 93–114.

[34] The word “Hierophant” does not appear in the language of Karamzin, Batiush­kov, or Boratynskii, perhaps because it smacked of Freemasonry. Pushkin uses this word exactly once in his entire oeuvre; he uses it to refer to people who prac­tice some sort of obscure, occult, secret art (such as Freemasonry). This reference occurs in his essay “Aleksandr Radishchev” (1836): “Нам уже слишком известна французская философия 18-го столетия; она рассмотрена со всех сторон и оценена. То, что некогда слыло скрытным учением гиерофантов, было потом об­народовано, проповедано на площадях и навек утратило прелесть таинствен­ности и новизны. Другие мысли, столь же детские, другие мечты, столь же несбыточные, заменили мысли и мечты учеников Дидрота и Руссо, и легко­мысленный поклонник молвы видит в них опять и цель человечества, и раз­решение вечной загадки, не воображая, что в свою очередь они заменятся другими” (Pushkin, PSS,, 12: 31, http://feb-web.ru/feb/pushkin/texts/push17/vol12/y12-030-.htm?cmd=0).

[35] For a detailed commentary on this epistle and the letter it is taken from, see Modzalevskii, Pis´ma,377.

[36] This epistle concludes Rodzianko’s May 10, 1825 letter to Pushkin, written jointly with A. P. Kern (Pushkin, PSS, 13: 170—171). They close the letter:

<Родзянко> Но заставила их [Pushkin’s congratulations to Rodzianko for managing to seduce Kern] прочесть себе 10 раз. <Керн> Право не 10. – <Родзянко> а 9 – еще солгал. Пусть так, тем то Анна Петровна и очаровательнее, что со всем умом и чувствительностию образованной женщины, она изобилует такими детскими хитростями – но прощай, люблю тебя и удивляюсь твоему гению, и восклицаю: О Пушкин, мот и расточитель<…>”

[37] We find one example of this usage in Vasilii Karazin’s denunciation of April 2, 1820, in which he writes to Kochubei that the Lyceum is a hotbed of libertinage and anti-government sentiment and cites Pushkin as an example of the rabble-rousers produced there. “No iz vospitannikov bolee ili menee est´ pochti vsiakii Pushkin, i vse oni sviazany s kakim-to podozritel´nym soiuzom”; V. Karazin, “Zapiska ministru vnutrennikh del Kochubeiu ot 2 aprelia 1820 goda,” Russkaia starina, no. 5 (1899): 278.

[38] Criticizing Voeikov’s review of “Ruslan i Liudmila,” Archbishop Evgenii, for ex­ample, wrote to a friend, “Na retsenzenta vosstaiut, kazhetsia, ne tol´ko Push­kintsy, a vsia molodezh´”; quoted in V. Koshelev, Pervaia kniga Pushkina (Tomsk: Vodolei, 1997), 161.

[39]Ostaf´evskii arkhiv kniazei Viazemskikh, I. Perepiska kniazia P.A. Viazemskogo s A. I. Turgenevym (St. Petersburg: Izd. Sheremeteva, 1899), 2: 23–24.

[40] For the critical reaction to “Ruslan i Liudmila,” see Vatsuro, Pushkin v vospomi­naniiakh sovremennikov, 5–26.

[41] V. A. Zhirmunskii, “Pushkin i zapadnye literatury,” Vremennik Pushkinskoi komissii 3 (1937), 69; repr. http://feb-web.ru/feb/common/doc.asp?0&/feb/pushkin/serial/ v37/v372066-.htm.

[42] F. Bulgarin, Vidok Figliarin: Pis´ma i agenturnye zapiski F. V. Bulgarina v III otdelenie, ed. A. Reitblat (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1998), 109.

[43] Iu. Lotman, Pushkin (St. Petersburg: Iskusstvo-SPB, 1997), 50.

[44] Rodzianko, of course, refers to Evgenii Onegin 1: XXX.

[45] In Blagonamerennyi 1 (1818): 309.