Simchenko L.

“The Advocate of Humanity” in the “The Country of Free Institutions”: The echo of Charles Dickens’s death in Russian journals of the 1870s.

Abstract: 

The article analyses the Russian reception of Charles Dickens’s personality and creative work in the early 1870s when his death brought about a new surge of interest in the author and his novels. Certain leading Russian literary and socio-political journals of the time – “Delo”, “Vestnik Evropy”, “Niva”, “Russkii Vestnik” – in different ways interpreted Dickens’s life and work in their obituaries and analytical essays, written under the impression of the author’s death. The article shows that the reception of Dickens is of interest due to the fact that his creative work influenced not just a narrow circle of advanced readers, but also the whole Russian educated community. Irrespective of their different social, cultural and political views, Russian publicists were unanimous in their high appraisal of his talent and the moral impact of his works upon readers. By analyzing the reception of Dickens we prove that Russia’s appeal to English social and cultural experiences could be mainly explained by the urgent needs of the Russian socio-political life. The article demonstrates that the reception of Dickens in the early 1870s is of interest in terms of the history of literature since those were the years when Russian literary criticism and reading public insisted that literature should in principle deal with the most urgent issues of contemporary social and moral life, that writers should have a social responsibility and accentuate acute issues of the development of Russian realism. The article both shows the essential features, characterizing the attitude to Dickens expressed by different printed editions, and tries to determine some general issues in the Russian “legacy” of Dickens in terms of true artistic, moral and ethical values, the universal meanings of which are evident in his works, uniting his readers of various origins, beliefs and views. The uniqueness of the Russian readers’ responsiveness to the foreign artistic influence, described by F. M. Dostoevsky, makes an appeal to this topic, based on the Russian material, even more interesting and significant.

Key words: 

Dickens, English literature of the nineteenth century, reception, Russian journalism, Russian literary journals, obituary.

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