Blagonamerennyia rechi. Tom I [– II] [Well-meaning speeches. Volume I [–II]].

St Petersburg, A. A. Kraevsky, 1876.

2 vols., 8vo, pp. [ii], 327; [ii], 415; paper very lightly browned, paper flaw to one leaf with loss of a few letters; generally a good copy in Russian contemporary dark brown pebbled cloth, gilt lettering to spines, some chipping to joints and extremities of spines but hinges intact; with the gilt intials V. M. (in Cyrillic) at foot of spines.

£1800

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First edition: a volume of social and political satires by the greatest satirist of nineteenth-century Russia. The title is ambiguous – the word ‘well-meaning’ was widely used by the administration to mean ‘loyal’, i.e. ‘politically reliable’.

‘Saltykov’s purpose with the Blagonamerennyia rechi (his longest cycle of sketches, written 1872–6) was to reveal the emptiness of the alleged bases of contemporary Russian society – family, property, and the state – which were the constant themes of various “loyal speeches”, but which at the same time were ignored and abused, not least by those who most loudly proclaimed them. In the course of his cycle Saltykov gives a valuable assessment of the current state of Russian society and of the new disposition of social forces which had emerged as a result of the reforms of the 1860s’ (I. P. Foote, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin: selected satirical writings, 1977, p. 122).

Kilgour 1023; Smirnov-Sokol’skii 1090. OCLC also records copies at Stanford, Library of Congress, Princeton and Illinois; not in the British Library catalogue.

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