Dead Souls—A Poem
А РОЕМ BY
FROM THE RUSSIAN BY
CHATTO & WINDUS
Nikolay Vassilyevitch Gogol was born in 1809 near Mirgorod in the Ukraine. He was the delicate fragile child of a typical Russian land-owning family, pious, affectionate and passionately fond of music and theatricals. In 1829 he obtained a post in a government office in Petersburg, found his way into literary circles and met Pushkin, who was the first to welcome with enthusiasm his Evenings on a Farm in the Ukraine a series of stories of Little Russian life, published in 1831. In the years immediately following he wrote his two famous comedies, and several short stories, and in 1842 published the first part of his masterpiece, the prose novel Dead Souls. It was to have consisted of three parts, but the second part he was constantly revising and three times threw into the fire. It was almost certainly finished, but only an incomplete MS. has survived. The third part was probably sketched in outline only.
His literary career was practically brought to an end by his unhappy publication of Correspondence with Friends, a selection of devout reflections and pious homilies in the form of letters. This he regarded as the supreme work of his life, and he was broken-hearted at the indignation and censure it provoked.
From this time to his death in 1852 he became more and more absorbed in religious observances and morbid anxiety about his spiritual state.
The influence of Gogol may be traced in all the great writers that came after him. His realism, his humanity and irony, his 'laughter through tears' have given to all that is best in Russian literature its distinctive character.