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The Russian Novelist, Poet and Playwright Writes Out and Signs a Quotation from French Philosopher Voltaire

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TURGENEV, IVAN. (1818-1883). Russian novelist, poet, and playwright; his novel Fathers and Sons is a masterpiece of 19th-century Russian literature. AMsS. (“Ivan Tourguineff”). 1p. Small 8vo. Bade[n], 1869. In French with translation on stationery blind-embossed with his initials. A quatrain from part of a longer work (“Stances Irregulières”) that Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) sent to King Frederick the Great’s sister, Princess (later Queen) Louisa Ulrika of Sweden (1720-1782), in January 1747.

“S’occuper c’est savoir jouir

L’oisiveté pèse et tourmente;

L’âme est un feu, qu’il faut nourrir

Et qui s’éteint, s’il ne s’augmente” 


“To keep busy is to know how to enjoy

Idleness weighs and torments;

The soul is a fire, which must be fed

And which goes out, if it does not grow”

Portrait of Voltaire


Portrait of Ivan Turgenev

Ivan Turgenev


Following his education in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Turgenev left for Berlin to study philosophy and history at the university where he became enamored of Germany and its development since the Age of Enlightenment. In 1843, he fell in love with the already married, renowned French mezzo‑soprano, Pauline Viardot – a passion that dominated the remainder of his life. In 1861, Viardot, whose voice was failing, “withdrew from the great opera houses of Europe, and she and her husband settled in the immensely fashionable spa and little court of Baden on the Rhine, where she could hold a salon, give concerts, and take a few pupils for enormous fees. Now she beckoned Turgenev once more. He was rich. He could build a small theater for her, help her publish her musical albums, and was an enormous social asset at her salons… What Russians resented was that from this time until his death his home was Europe and close to the Viardots: to his estate in Russia he certainly went from time to time, but as one whose ties are elsewhere,” (“Turgenev in Baden,” The New York Review of Books, Pritchett). Turgenev’s resolve to emigrate had been strengthened by Russia’s hostile reception to his 1862 masterpiece Fathers and Sons, often regarded as Russia’s first modern novel. It was criticized by the younger generation for slander and by the older for its sympathetic view of nihilism. It was in Baden‑Baden that he wrote his only novel of this period, Smoke, published in 1867. When the Franco‑Prussian War broke out in 1870 the Viardots were forced to leave Germany and Turgenev accompanied them to London and then to Paris, where Turgenev was enthusiastically received as the ambassador of Russian culture, becoming a great friend of writers Gustave Flaubert, George Sand, Emile Zola, and Henry James.

Voltaire, the great representative of Europe’s Age of Enlightenment could not have been but of considerable influence on Turgenev. In fact Turgenev’s father bitterly complained of his twenty-year old son when he exclaimed, “He fusses at the table and doesn’t eat; he can’t bear the odor and stuffiness of the room; the sight of people getting drunk upsets him; one doesn’t dare beat anyone in front of him, either; he doesn’t want to enter government service—he’s unhealthy you see. Shame on him, the big baby! And it’s all because he’s got a head full of Voltaire!” (Quoted in The Essential Turgenev, Northwestern University Press, 1994, p. 352).

Folded and framed with a portrait of Turgenev. Not examined out of the frame. Very rare in this form.

The Russian Novelist, Poet and Playwright Writes Out and Signs a Quotation from French Philosopher Voltaire

$5500 • item #20863

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