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
Next - 'Pushkin's death and its aftermath'