LETTERS FROM AFANASIJ FET
TO SERGEJ PETROVSKIJ AND KONSTANTIN LEONT’EV
Edited, preparation of the text, introduction and notes
by V. N. Abrosimova
The present publication includes the letters addressed to the editor of The Moscow Herald, Sergej Aleksandrovich Petrovskij, and to the prominent socio-political essayist, literary critic and writer, Konstantin Nikolaevich Leont’ev. In their own way, these letters demonstrate two different sides of the literary reputation of their author, who combined the qualities of “an angel-like artist” and “a tight-fisted lordling” that is, the lyric poet Fet, or the stud-farm owner Shenshin. One of the first to stress the ambiguity of his personality was Saltykov-Shchedrin (1863): “<...> Mr Fet hid in the country. There, in his spare time, he partly writes romances and partly plays the misanthrope; first he writes a romance, then plays the misanthrope for a while, then he writes another romance, then plays the misanthrope again; and all this is sent to The Russian Herald for publication”.
The almost impenetrable boundary between Fet’s poetry and the prose of life may have been determined, to some extent, by the fact that the years of Fet’s youth were the period in literature which saw a sharp decline of interest in poetry: prose took up an attacking position, poetry went on the defence. In his correspondence, as well as in his life he, never embarrassed, easily turned from the “sublime” to the “low”, from poetry to everyday life, and vice versa. Apart from these curious biographical and psychological details, Fet’s letters contain extensive descriptions of his addressees. Both the documents published here and the commentary on them are vivid illustrations of Shenshin’s social and political opinions, as well as of Fet’s aesthetic views. One of these letters includes the original version of Fet’s epistle to Ol’ga the Queen of the Greeks (this wording of the poem was thought to have been lost).