Social Conditions for Noncanonical Men Poets

Like all the women poets, most of the noncanonical men poets enjoyed less literary social capital than the canonical men; this because they were some combination of lower class, poor, uneducated, non-Russian, and provincial. Pavel Fedotov, the son of a retired lieutenant, grew up in a large and poor Moscow family. Although he attended the élite Cadet Corps, from which he graduated as an ensign, he struggled with poverty for most of his life. Evgenii Mil'keev, also the son of a minor civil servant who died when Mil'keev was three, grew up in poverty in Tobol'sk (Siberia). After four years of education at a Tobol'sk school, he worked as a scribe. Aleksei Kol'tsov, whose father was a cattle dealer, grew up in Voronezh, where he had less than one and a half years of schooling. Fedor Miller was a charity student at a Lutheran school in Moscow but managed to become certified as an apothecary's assistant and then as a home tutor of German and Russian literature. Eduard Guber grew up in Saratov, spoke German as his first language, and graduated as a military engineer from the Saint Petersburg Institute of the Transportation Corps (Institut korpusa putei soobshcheniia).

For several of these noncanonical men poets, their lack of economic resources appears to have affected their physical and psychological resources. Many died early of causes reflecting the stresses of poverty. Fe-dotov died insane at thirty-seven. Mil'keev killed himself at age thirty-one. Guber, whose health was undermined by lifelong poverty, died of a heart attack at thirty-three. Kol'tstov also died at thirty-three of tuberculosis. The canonical men poets generally died much later (Zhukovsky at sixty-nine, Fet at seventy-two, Tiutchev at seventy) or of causes connected with their upper-class status: Pushkin at thirty-seven and Lermontov at twenty-seven in duels, Baratynsky at forty-four while traveling abroad, Iazykov at forty-four of syphilis contracted while at the European University of Dorpat.4

But while literary social capital appears to have been necessary it certainly was not a sufficient condition for canonicity. Aleksei Khomiakov and Apollon Maikov, for example, graduated from Moscow and Saint Petersburg University, respectively, spent a great deal of time in the capitals, traveled abroad, and benefited from many literary connections; Khomiakov was married to Iazykov's sister, and Maikov was able to publish six editions of his complete works during his lifetime. Both Kho-miakov and Maikov have separate Biblioteka poeta editions of their works, perhaps another indication of literary social capital. However, Khomiakov is known primarily as a Slavophile philosopher and is considered to have subordinated his poetry to his Slavophilism. Maikov won many honors in the course of his life, but critics have called his poetry "flat," "weak," and "overworked."5

The noncanonical poets, however, did share male privilege with the canonical poets, which may account for the wider variety of social classes they occupied than the women poets. As discussed in chapter 1, men's literary social networks generally extended to men of all classes but excluded women. Belinsky helped Kol'tsov, the son of a Voronezh cattle dealer, publish his first book of poetry, but one cannot imagine him similarly helping the daughter of a Voronezh cattle dealer. Zhukovsky brought Mil'keev, the orphaned son of a Siberian petty civil servant, to Saint Petersburg to be educated as a poet, but one doubts he would have similarly sponsored Mil'keev's sister. Guber, whom Pushkin befriended and encouraged in his translation of Goethe's Faust, became a literary critic for the journal Biblioteka dlia chteniia. Miller founded his own journal, Razvlechenie (1859-81). Fedotov received encouragement to pursue his career as an artist from the fable writer I. A. Krylov and was embraced by the Sovremennik group (Druzhinin, Nekrasov, Panaev, etc.). Such opportunities were not available to women.

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