Lot 134: Rare Ivan Turgenev Autograph Letter Signed to Pohl about Translating His Work
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
October 26, 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: TURGENEV, IVAN. (1818-1883). Russian realist author best known for his novel Fathers and Sons. ALS. (“I. Turgeneff”). 1p. 8vo. N.p. (Baden-Baden?), Sunday (c. 1864-1870?). To German music critic, poet and composer RICHARD POHL (1826-1896). In German with translation. ********** “The translation you gave me is the same as the one that appeared in ‘Didaskalia’, but what is interesting is that some things have been taken out, as far as I can judge. I am taking the liberty of sending you the translation given by the Riga Newspaper; at least it is complete. It may be presumptive of me to ask you to read my work over again, but in the winter one has more time, and you are very gracious. I extend my hand to you…”********** Following his education at universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Turgenev studied philosophy and history at the University of Berlin, becoming enamored of Germany and its growth 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 immigrate had been strengthened by Russia’s hostile reception to his 1862 masterpiece Fathers and Sons, often regarded as the first modern Russian novel, which 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. Here, Turgenev was enthusiastically received as the ambassador of Russian culture, and became a great friend of writers Gustave Flaubert, George Sand, the Goncourts, Emile Zola, and Henry James. ********** Although our letter lacks a date and place, the absence of a postmark on the envelope suggests it was delivered by hand and, based on the street address, written while Turgenev and Pohl were living in Baden-Baden, and where Viardot and Turgenev had built their individual villas. Pohl had championed the cause of Realism in the pages of the Neue Musikzeitung during the so-called War of the Romantics. In 1854, he became an editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and there, under the pseudonym “Hoplit,” he wrote scathing articles that supported Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt and criticized the Romantic composers. Pohl also collaborated with Liszt on the 1859 Leipzig Tonkünstler-Versammlung, an event meant to “unite German musicians on a national level,” (Franz Liszt: A Story of Central European Subjectivity, Quinn). Turgenev wrote librettos to three of Viardot’s operas, one of which, “Le dernier sorcier,” was translated into German by Pohl for its German language performances in 1869. ********** Didaskalia was the literary supplement to the venerable newspaper Das Frankfurter Journal. ********** Delicately penned on blue lined stationery; folded and near fine condition, with the original envelope.