THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN
Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN> From the Publisher

 

THE TALES OF THE LATE IVAN PETROVICH BELKIN

(1829-30)

 

 

Mme. Prostakova: Aye, truly, my
sir, he's been fond of histories
ever since he was little.
Skotinin: Mitrofan takes after me.
The Young Hopeful



From the Publisher


Having undertaken the task of publishing I. P. Belkin's Tales, herewith offered to the public, we wished to append to them a biography, however brief, of their late author and thus at least partially to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of lovers of our native literature. With this purpose in mind we approached Maria Alekseevna Trafilina, Ivan Petrovich Belkin's nearest of kin and heir, but unfortunately she was unable to provide any information due to the circumstance that she had never met the deceased. She advised us to address ourselves on the subject to a certain estimable gentleman who had been a friend of Ivan Petrovich's. We acted on her advice and received the desired response, as follows below. We print it without any change or annotations, as a precious document testifying to a noble frame of mind and to a touching bond of friendship, and, at the same time, as a perfectly adequate biographical sketch.

My dear sir,

On the twenty-third of this month I had the honor of receiving your esteemed letter of the fifteenth in which you express your wish to obtain detailed information concerning the dates of birth and death, army service, family circumstances, and occupations, as well as the moral character, of the late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, my erstwhile sincere friend and owner of an estate neighboring mine. It is a great pleasure for me to comply with your request, and I herewith convey to you, my dear sir, everything from his conversations as well as from my own observations that I can recall.
Ivan Petrovich Belkin was born of honest and noble parents in the village of Goriukhino in the year 1798. His late father, Second Major Pete Ivanovich Belkin, had been joined in matrimony to the maiden Pelageia Gavrilovna of the Trafilin family. He was not a rich man, but he was frugal and quite clever at managing his estate. Their son received his elementary instruction from the parish sexton. It was to this honorable man that he owed, it seems, his fondness for reading and for exercising his pen in the realm of Russian letters. In the year 1815 he enlisted in a chasseur infantry regiment (whose number I do not recall), in which he remained until 1823. The death of his parents, occurring almost simultaneously, compelled him to retire from the service and to return to the village of Goriukhino, his patrimony.
Having assumed the management of his affairs, Ivan Petrovich, who lacked experience and possessed a soft heart, soon let his estate fall into disarray by relaxing the strict discipline established by his late father. He dismissed the reliable and efficient village elder with whom the peasants (as usual) were dissatisfied, and he handed over the management of the village to his old housekeeper, who had won his confidence by her art of telling stories. This stupid woman could never tell a twenty-ruble note from a fifty-ruble one; the peasants, who were all her bosom friends, did not fear her in the least; the new elder they elected indulged them so much, cheating along with them, that Ivan Petrovich had to abolish corvee and introduce a very moderate quitrent; but even then they took advantage of his weakness — persuading him to give them a considerable reduction in the first year, paying over two-thirds of the rent in nuts, bilberries, and such in the following years, and still remaining in arrears.
As a friend of Ivan Petrovich's late father, I considered it my duty to offer my advice to the son as well, repeatedly volunteering to restore the earlier order that he had allowed to deteriorate. Once I came to his house with this purpose in mind, demanded to be shown the ledgers, summoned that crook of an elder, and started examining said ledgers in the presence of Ivan Petrovich. The young landowner at first followed my investigations with the greatest possible attention and assiduity; but as soon as it became evident from the accounts that in the last two years the number of peasants had increased while that of the poultry and cattle belonging to the estate had noticeably decreased, Ivan Petrovich contented himself with these preliminary reckonings and would not listen to me any more; and at the very moment when I had thrown that rogue of an elder into utter confusion by my investigation and stern questioning and had reduced him to total silence, I caught, to my great irritation, the sound of Ivan Petrovich vigorously snoring in his chair. From that time on, I ceased interfering with his business arrangements, and entrusted his affairs (as did he) to the care of the Almighty.
This incident, by the way, did not in the least disturb our friendly relations, since though I regretted his weakness and his disastrous negligence - a trait common to all our young noblemen - I nevertheless loved him sincerely; indeed it would have been impossible not to love such a meek and honest young man. On his part, Ivan Petrovich showed respect for my years and was deeply attached to me. Until his very end he met me almost every day, cherishing my simple conversation, even though in habits, way of thinking, and character we were hardly alike.
Ivan Petrovich led a most temperate existence, avoiding all manner of excess; I never once saw him tipsy (which can be regarded as an unheard-of miracle in these parts); he had a great fondness for the fair sex, but he was truly as bashful as a maiden.*
In addition to the tales that you were pleased to mention in your letter, Ivan Petrovich left behind quite a number of manuscripts. I have some of them, but others have been used by his housekeeper for various domestic purposes. As a case in point, last winter all the windows in her wing of the house were sealed up with the first part of a novel that he had left unfinished. The above-mentioned tales, if I am not mistaken, represent his first experiments. They are, as Ivan Petrovich said several times, mostly true stories that he had heard from different people.** The proper names used in the stories, however, are almost all fictitious, invented by himself; as for the names of towns and villages, they are taken from our neighborhood, which is the reason why my village is also mentioned somewhere. This happened not because of any malicious intentions, but solely because of a lack of imagination.
In the fall of 1828 Ivan Petrovich fell ill with a febrile cold, which turned into a high fever; he passed away in spite of the unremitting efforts of our district doctor, an exceptionally skillful man, especially in the cure of such deep-rooted ailments as corns and the like. Ivan Petrovich died in my arms in the thirtieth year of his life and was buried near his deceased parents in the churchyard of the village of Goriukhino.
Ivan Petrovich was a man of medium height, with gray eyes, light brown hair, and a straight nose; his complexion was fair and his face thin.
This, my dear sir, is all that I can remember with regard to the way of life, occupation, moral character, and appearance of my late neighbor and friend. I ask you humbly, however, under no circumstances to mention my name even if you deem it fit to make some use of my letter: although I much respect and like authors, I would think it unnecessary and at my age improper to take up their vocation.

Yours very sincerely, etc.
November 16, 1830
The village of Nenaradovo

We think it is our duty to respect the wish of the honorable friend of our author, and therefore we will merely express our deepest gratitude for the information he has provided and hope that the reading public will appreciate its sincerity and kind intention.

A.P.


* Here follows an anecdote, which we will not print believing it to be superfluous; we wish to assure the reader, however, that it contains nothing injurious to the memory of Ivan Petrovich Belkin.
** Indeed in Mr. Belkin's manuscript there is a note above each tale in the author's hand: "heard by me from such and such a person." (There follow the person's rank or ride and initials.) We will copy them out for inquisitive researchers: "The Stationmaster" was related by Titular Councillor A.G.N.; "The Shot" by Lieutenant Colonel I.L.P.; "The Undertaker" by the steward B.V.; and finally both "The Blizzard" and "The Squire's Daughter" by the maiden K.I.T.


 

Оригінал твору

Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).
А.С. Пушкин. Полное собрание сочинений в десяти томах