From Transport to Transgression: Alexander Pushkin’s Literary Journeys

  • Nicholas Warner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


When, in his poem ‘An Evening of Russian Poetry’, Vladimir Nabokov sought to convey a quintessential image of Russia’s most celebrated poet, he conjured up a vision of that poet on the road:

Let me allude, before the spell is broken, to Pushkin, rocking in his coach on long and lonely roads; he dozed, then he awoke, undid the collar of his traveling cloak, and yawned, and listened to the driver’s song.1


Secret Police Romantic Literature Nomadic Life Romantic Writer Russian Writer 
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Notes and references

  1. 1.
    Vladimir Nabokov, ‘An Evening of Russian Poetry’, The New Yorker, 3 March 1945, p. 23.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carl Thompson writes that Romantic literature rendered travel as ‘an act of enormous existential significance and a crucial route to wisdom, self-knowledge, and authenticity’; because of this, it is not surprising that ‘travel becomes one of the master-tropes of Romantic writing’; see Thompson, ‘Travel Writing’, Romanticism: An Oxford Guide, ed. Nicholas Roe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 563. Critical discussions of travel in individual Romantic authors are extensive; some of the more notable general discussions of the travel topos in Romanticism includeGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernard Blackstone, The Lost Travellers: A Romantic Theme with Variations (London: Longmans,1962)Google Scholar
  4. M.H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: Norton, 1973)Google Scholar
  5. Roger Cardinal, ‘Romantic Travel’, Rewriting the Self, ed. Roy Porter (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 135–55Google Scholar
  6. George Dekker, The Fictions of Romantic Tourism: Radcliffe, Scott, and Mary Shelley (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005)Google Scholar
  7. Carl Thompson, The Suffering Traveller and the Romantic Imagination (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 5.
    W.H. Auden, The Enchaféd Flood, or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea (New York: Random House, 1950), pp. 19, 23.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Chloe Chard, ‘Introduction’, Transports: Travel, Pleasure, and Imaginative Geography, 1600–1830, ed. Chloe Chard and Helen Langdon (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 25.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan X: 72, in Jerome McGann, ed., Byron (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 717.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    On Byron’s image as a traveller himself, and on his influence on other travellers, see James Buzard, The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways of Culture, 1800–1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Catherine B. O’Neil, ‘Childe Harold in Crimea: The Byronic Sea Voyage in Russian and Polish Romanticism’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 56 (2007), 78–99.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    On the phenomenon of Russian pilgrimages to the Holy Land, see Theofanis G. Stavrou and Peter R. Weisensel, eds, Russian Travelers to the Christian East from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Century (Columbus, OH: Slavica, 2006), a massive bibliography of primary sources;Google Scholar
  14. Martin Tamcke and Michael Marten, Christian Witness Between Continuity and New Beginnings: Modern Historical Missions in the Middle East (Munster: LIT Verlag, 2006)Google Scholar
  15. Thomas Hummel, ‘Russian Pilgrims: A Russian Army Invades Jerusalem’, Jerusalem Quarterly, 44 (2010), 39–40. On the role of pilgrimage for Russian women, seeGoogle Scholar
  16. Christine D. Worobec, ‘Russian Peasant Women’s Culture: Three Voices’, Women in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Lives and Culture, ed. Wendy Rosslyn and Alessandra Tosi (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2012), pp. 41–62. An English traveller’s charming eyewitness account of Russian pilgrims to Jerusalem in the early twentieth century isGoogle Scholar
  17. Stephen Graham, With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem (London: Macmillan, 1913).Google Scholar
  18. 12.
    Abram Tertz, Strolls with Pushkin, trans. Catherine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Slava I. Yastremski (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 73.Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    Andrew Wachtel, ‘Voyages of Escape, Voyages of Discovery: Transformations of the Travelogue’, Cultural Mythologies of Russian Modernism: From the Golden Age to the Silver Age, ed. Boris Gasparov, Robert P. Hughes and Irina Paperno (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), p. 131.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    Ernest Simmons, Pushkin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1937), p. 236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 17.
    John Bayley, Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 72.Google Scholar
  22. 18.
    Iurii M. Lotman, ‘The Poetics of Everyday Behavior in Eighteenth-Century Russian Culture’, The Semiotics of Russian Cultural History, ed. Alexander D. Nakhimovsky and Alice Stone Nakhimovsky (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 70.Google Scholar
  23. 19.
    Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 4.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    Alexander Pushkin, The Bronze Horseman and Other Poems, trans. D.M. Thomas (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), p. 112. Translations for The Gypsies are from this edition. All other references to Pushkin’s works, except as indicated, are to my translations from the following Russian edition:Google Scholar
  25. Alexander Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Complete Collected Works), ed. B.V. Tomashevskii (Moscow-Leningrad: Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1949; 10 vols).Google Scholar
  26. 39.
    Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Russian Literature (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1981), p. 12; Tertz, Strolls with Pushkin, pp. 147–8.Google Scholar

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© Nicholas Warner 2016

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  • Nicholas Warner

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