Zhivoi trup. Drama v 6 deistviiakh i 12 kartinakh [A Living Corpse. A drama in 6 acts and 12 scenes].

Moscow, A. Ia. Petrov, [1911].

Small 8vo, pp. 3-66; somewhat browned and fragile, stitched and stapled in the original printed paper wrappers, with a portrait of Tolstoy to front cover, paste-over price slip to rear cover; wrappers soiled, spine worn and partly wanting, ownership inscriptions to covers.


US $3852€3104

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One of the earliest printings of Tolstoy’s Living Corpse, one of a number of editions in 1911, the year it was first staged, posthumously, at the Moscow Arts Theatre.

Aleksandra Tolstoy explains the genesis of the play: ‘Tolstoy saw Uncle Vanya played by the Moscow Art Theatre early in 1900 and, as he wrote in his diary, was much “upset”. “There is no real action … It is incomprehensible what Chekhov wanted to say anyhow”. Yet having seen Uncle Vanya, Tolstoy was suddenly seized with the desire to write a play which had been in his mind since the middle of the nineties. He immediately made an outline, based on a [true] story … It concerned a decent, upright woman married to a weak man, a drunkard. Abandoned by him, and in love with another man, the woman persuaded her husband, when he reappeared, to pretend suicide in order that she might remarry. When the fraud was discovered, she was charged with bigamy and was only at the last minute saved from life exile in Siberia. “It seems to me,” Tolstoy wrote in his diary, “that in A Living Corpse there are notes inspired by Chekhov’s work. Such is the secret of artistic creativeness”’ (Tolstoy: a life of my father, 1953, pp. 403–4).

Zhivoi trup was first printed in Russkoe Slovo in September 1911, and simultaneously in a separate printing edited by Chertkov and published by Sytin; some alterations were made for its appearance in the Posthumous Works (1911-12, see next item).


[TOLSTOI.] Ne vecherniaia zaria. Tsyganskaia pesnia (tsyganskii tabor no. 62) ispolniaemaia v p’es “Zhivoi trup” gr. L. N. Tolstogo [No sunset. A gyspy song (Gyspy Camp no. 62) sung in the play ‘The Living Corpse’ by L. N. Tolstoy] … Moscow and Leipzig, P. Iurgenson, [1911?].

Folio, pp. 3, [1], printed music, with a final page of advertisements, title with a red art nouveau border; slightly worn, with a few short marginal tears.

First edition thus, a traditional gypsy folksong included in the performance of Act II of Zhivoi Trup [The Living Corpse] by Tolstoy, scored here for piano and voice.

‘Tolstoy always admired gypsy singing … He paid it rapturous tribute throughout his life, from his 1856 “Two Hussars” (Dva gusara) to his drama The Living Corpse, which features a gyspy chorus singing on stage’ (Carly Emerson, ‘Tolstoy and music’, in Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy).

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