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Pushkin takes a wife and writes The Bronze Horseman

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Natalya Pushkina   Pushkin self-caricature - suggesting a reference to the Bronze Horseman
Natalya Nikolaevna Pushkina
British Library Ac.9088b, p.138
Copyright © The British Library Board
  Pushkin self-caricature - suggesting a reference to the Bronze Horseman
British Library YA.1990.b.9605, p.68

Copyright © The British Library Board

Natalya Nikolaevna Goncharova came from an impoverished family, but she had the reputation of being one of the country’s outstanding beauties. Pushkin had been kicking his heels in Moscow, and although he applied more than once for permission to go abroad Nicholas always refused. Marriage offered the only prospect of change in a life which was barely under his control, but the marriage kept being put off – partly because of Pushkin’s poor financial situation. An uncle died, then Pushkin was quarantined during the autumn in Boldino, his father’s estate, by an outbreak of cholera. On his return to Moscow another old friend died, and the wedding did not take place until February 1831.

The years of his courtship and early married life were among Pushkin’s most productive. He finished Evgeny Onegin, wrote four highly-regarded tragedies (including Mozart and Salieri), an innovative group of short stories, a narrative poem, and about 30 shorter poems. He also worked seriously on a history of the Cossack rebellion against the Empress Catherine led by Emelyan Pugachev. Nicholas gave permission for it to be published and lent him the money to publish it at his own expense.

Pushkin felt his future was assured. In the autumn of 1833 Pushkin finished his history and wrote a verse fairy story, two short stories and a novel, then topped it off with the epic poem The Bronze Horseman. This poem remains a towering work that continues to overshadow much of Pushkin’s output. On the other hand, the prose style of stories like The Queen of Spades was to exert a greater influence on succeeding generations of writers, both in Russia and beyond.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

Pushkin's death and its aftermath Next - 'Pushkin's death and its aftermath'

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