A People Passing Rude

A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture

Edited by Anthony Cross
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 347
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjsk8
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  • Book Info
    A People Passing Rude
    Book Description:

    Described by the sixteenth-century English poet George Turbervile as "a people passing rude, to vices vile inclin’d", the Russians waited some three centuries before their subsequent cultural achievements—in music, art and particularly literature—achieved widespread recognition in Britain. The essays in this stimulating collection attest to the scope and variety of Russia’s influence on British culture. They move from the early nineteenth century—when Byron sent his hero Don Juan to meet Catherine the Great, and an English critic sought to come to terms with the challenge of Pushkin—to a series of Russian-themed exhibitions at venues including the Crystal Palace and Earls Court. The collection looks at British encounters with Russian music, the absorption with Dostoevskii and Chekhov, and finishes by shedding light on Britain’s engagement with Soviet film. Edited by Anthony Cross, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Anglo-Russian relations, A People Passing Rude is essential reading for anyone with an interest in British and Russian cultures and their complex relationship.

    eISBN: 978-1-909254-12-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1. By Way of Introduction: British Perception, Reception and Recognition of Russian Culture
    (pp. 1-36)
    Anthony Cross

    Over 450 years have elapsed since the English navigator Richard Chancellor arrived by chance in the White Sea and made his way to the Moscow of Ivan the Terrible. It was a ‘discovery’ that eventually would lead to the establishment of commercial, political and cultural relations between Great Britain and Russia that provide a fascinating history of political estrangement and reconciliation and cultural rejection and acceptance.

    Much has been written both about English influences on Russian life and culture—that were much in evidence from the time of Peter the Great and were particularly apparent in the reign of Alexander...

  6. 2. Byron, Don Juan, and Russia
    (pp. 37-52)
    Peter Cochran

    Russia posed a problem for Byron when writingDon Juan, for although he had never been there, the geographical, historical, and sexual themes of his comic epic dictated that his hero should go there. As a result of his study of Scott’s Waverley Novels, he was determined that no episode should pass without a firm backing either in his own experience, or in authentic prose sources.Don Juanshould have a reality which his Turkish Tales, at least one of which,Lara, was, as he confessed to his publisher, set on ‘the Moon’,¹ manifestly lacked.

    There were a number of...

  7. 3. William Henry Leeds and Early British Responses to Russian Literature
    (pp. 53-68)
    Anthony Cross

    ‘TheWestminster Review(WR) was the very first English periodical of any kind to give a tolerably complete general sketch of Russian literature in its various departments; and though no more than a mere map of the subject, it may be said to have been drawn up according to ‘the latest authorities and discoveries’, and to have been well calculated to excite a more powerful interest than that of mere curiosity’.¹ This is the opening sentence of a review that appeared in 1841 in the very sameWestminster Review, but some thirty-five volumes and seventeen years later than the ‘sketch’...

  8. 4. Russian Icons Through British Eyes, c. 1830-1930
    (pp. 69-88)
    Richard Marks

    The plot of Nikolai Leskov’s famous short story,Zapechatlennyi angel(The Sealed Angel), centres on an icon of a Guardian Angel, painted in the 16th century by the Stroganov school and the most venerated of a large number of icons in the possession of a group of priestless Old Believers employed to build a bridge under the direction of an Englishman, James Jameson. In this tale Jameson and his wife develop a sympathetic interest in ancient icon-painting. Leskov first publishedThe Sealed Angelin the January 1873 issue of theRussian Messenger.¹ Later the same year,An Art Tour to...

  9. 5. The Crystal Palace Exhibition and Britain’s Encounter with Russia
    (pp. 89-96)
    Scott Ruby

    The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was the first World’s Fair Exhibition and focused on culture and industry. This international exhibition took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851 in an enormous fantastical glass and reinforced iron structure, from whence the ‘Crystal Palace’ designation derives. The grandeur of the exhibition was enhanced immediately upon entrance as the visitor was met by an enormous glass fountain designed by Osler of Birmingham. The fountain contained iron bars embedded within the glass for support. Although...

  10. 6. An ‘Extraordinary Engagement’: A Russian Opera Company in Victorian Britain
    (pp. 97-112)
    Tamsin Alexander

    While the story of Sergei Diagilev’s touringsaisons russesof the early 20th century is well known, that of the first visit of a Russian opera company to Britain has not yet been told. In 1888, a Russian troupe¹ performed in cities across the country, exhibiting a wealth of vocal talent and performing three Russian grand operas that depicted the country’s historical triumphs and colonial acquisitions. At a time when still little was known of Russian opera (see Appendix A), when Britain was insecure about its lack of homegrown opera and singers and when the countries were colonial rivals, the...

  11. 7. Russian Folk Tales for English Readers: Two Personalities and Two Strategies in British Translations of the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
    (pp. 113-124)
    Tatiana Bogrdanova

    More than a century-long tradition of British translators’ creative efforts has resulted in Russian folk narratives becoming an integral part of European children’s literature and culture. But who were the main contributors to this process of cultural and textual communication? In the initial stages two personalities, with their own individual styles, were of key importance, but the full extent and significance of their contribution has not as yet been fully appreciated.

    The role of William Ralston in the popularization of Russian folklore and literature has long been recognized in Russia, where his translations were indeed appreciated during his lifetime. The...

  12. 8. ‘Wilful Melancholy’ or ‘a Vigorous and Manly Optimism’?: Rosa Newmarch and the Struggle against Decadence in the British Reception of Russian Music, 1897-1917
    (pp. 125-132)
    Philip Ross Bullock

    In the late 19th century, Russian music came to enjoy a particularly prominent place in orchestral concerts in London, especially in the wake of Tchaikovsky’s visit to Cambridge and London in 1893.¹ In particular, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (the ‘Pathétique’) soon became one of the most regularly performed works of modern symphonic music. Colourful, passionate, seductively orchestrated and with an apparent sense of narrative and drama, it rapidly came to enjoy great popularity with the growing audience for modern orchestral works. Yet not all commentators were happy with this development. The composer Hubert Parry, then Professor of Music at Oxford, used...

  13. 9. ‘Infantine Smudges of Paint… Infantine Rudeness of Soul’: British Reception of Russian Art at the Exhibitions of the Allied Artists’ Association, 1908–1911
    (pp. 133-148)
    Louise Hardiman

    The many-faceted artistic displays of the Ballets Russes, first seen in London in 1911, together with the Russian section of Roger Fry’s famed Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1912, are often cited as the prime instances of when Russian art first made its mark upon the scene of British artistic modernism.¹ Too little attention has been paid, however, to another important forum for the display and reception of Russian art in Britain which dates from several years earlier, namely, the exhibitions of the newly established Allied Artists’ Association (A.A.A.).² These exhibitions, staged in London from 1908 onwards, are equally important to...

  14. 10. Crime and Publishing: How Dostoevskii Changed the British Murder
    (pp. 149-162)
    Muireann Maguire

    Leonid Grossman acutely called Dostoevskii’sCrime and Punishment‘a philosophical novel with a criminal setting’;¹ the Irish novelist George Moore dismissed the same work as ‘Gaboriau with psychological sauce’.² Whether one chooses to exaggerate or minimize the crime narrative inside Dostoevskii’s novel, it exercised considerable influence on the subsequent development of the genre in Britain. Most historians of crime fiction mentionCrime and Punishment, if only in passing and with an apology for tarnishing Dostoevskii’s genius by association. Julian Symons writes, ‘[i]n a way Dostoevskywasa crime novelist, with the true taste for sensational material, but in his single...

  15. 11. Stephen Graham and Russian Spirituality: The Pilgrim in Search of Salvation
    (pp. 163-174)
    Michael Hughes

    The name of Stephen Graham (1884-1975) is familiar to every student of Anglo-Russian relations in the early years of the 20th century. Graham was, in the words of his obituary inThe Times, ‘probably more responsible than anyone else in this country for the cult of Holy Russia and the idealization of the Russian peasant that was beginning to make headway here before 1914 and during the years immediately after’.¹ In a series of books includingA Vagabond in the Caucasus(1911) andUndiscovered Russia(1912), he painted an idealised picture of the way in which the spirit of Russian...

  16. 12. Jane Harrison as an Interpreter of Russian Culture in the 1910s-1920s
    (pp. 175-188)
    Alexandra Smith

    Jane Harrison (1850-1928), a British classical scholar, belongs to the first generation of British women academics whose contribution to the intellectual history of the modernist period was highly praised by her friends and fellow scholars and writers, including Virginia Woolf, Gilbert Murray, Francis Cornford and Prince Dmitrii Sviatopolk-Mirskii. Harrison knew 16 languages, including Russian, and had a broad interest in many aspects of European culture. These included Orphic mysticism, ancient Greek art and drama, Freud’s interpretation of dreams, and Russian culture, albeit she is especially known for her contribution to the interpretation of Greek religion and art and her use...

  17. 13. Aleksei Remizov’s English-language Translators: New Material
    (pp. 189-200)
    Marilyn Schwinn Smith

    Aleksei Remizov, even more so than other writers of the post-revolution emigration, relied on both competent translatorsandprestigious promoters for entry into the British book market. His works did not fall within the genres familiar to British readers from either English or Russian literature. His unique language was a challenge even to Russian readers. As one of his translators said, ‘After all, to translate Remizov is not the same as translating some Turgenev or Tolstoy’.¹ The story of Remizov’s introduction to British audience—the transit of the émigré’s manuscript to a bound volume distributed to British booksellers—follows, almost...

  18. 14. Chekhov and the Buried Life of Katherine Mansfield
    (pp. 201-214)
    Rachel Polonsky

    The critic John Middleton Murry marked the first anniversary of the death of his wife, Katherine Mansfield, with a notoriously bad poem, which he published in his own magazineAdelphiin January 1924. ‘Was she not a child’, the elegy asked, ‘A child of other worlds, a perfect thing/Vouchsafed to justify this world’s imagining?’² In casting Mansfield, a short story writer who died young of tuberculosis, as a ‘perfect thing’, Murry recycles the terms of his own characterization of Anton Chekhov. In a review of Constance Garnett’s translation of Chekhov’s Letters published in theAthenaeumless than four years earlier,...

  19. 15. ‘A Gaul who has chosen impeccable Russian as his medium’: Ivan Bunin and the British Myth of Russia in the Early 20th Century
    (pp. 215-230)
    Svetlana Klimova

    When in 1915 Maurice Baring published his ‘talented and illuminating’²Outline of Russian Literature, the social and intellectual atmosphere in the country made him confident enough to state that ‘a new interest […] with regard to Russian literature‘ was now perceptible among ‘English intellectuals’.³

    There were, it would seem, many reasons for such an interest—social and political as well as cultural. Since the Crimean War Russia had been viewed as a political rival by the British, and this political interest was only increased by social and political instability, the phenomena of nihilism, terrorism and anarchism, in the run-up to...

  20. 16. Russia and Russian Culture in The Criterion, 1922-1939
    (pp. 231-240)
    Olga Ushakova

    In 1922 T.S. Eliot foundedThe Criterionas an international literary review with the aim of introducing the literatures and cultures of different countries and to discuss cultural, social and political problems of global relevance. In ‘Last Words’, his farewell ‘Commentary’ published inThe Criterion’s final issue in January 1939, Eliot emphasized the international mission of his periodical: ‘It was the aim ofThe Criterionto maintain close relations with other literary reviews of its type, on the Continent and in America; and to provide in London a local forum of international thought’.¹ The international character of Eliot’s literary review...

  21. 17. ‘Racy of the Soil’: Filipp Maliavin’s London Exhibition of 1935
    (pp. 241-252)
    Nicola Kozicharow

    The Exhibition of Russian Art in London in the summer of 1935 was the most extensive showcase of Russian art displayed to the British public since 1917 and prompted much discussion of Russian art at the time.¹ As Herbert Zia Wernher stated in his introduction to the catalogue, ‘…it may confidently be claimed that the present exhibition… will, for the first time in history, present to the world outside Russia a picture of Russian art in its various branches and phases, which does something like justice to its task’.² The Exhibition of Russian Art, however, was not the only exhibition...

  22. 18. Mrs Churchill Goes to Russia: The Wartime Gift Exchange between Britain and the Soviet Union
    (pp. 253-268)
    Claire Knight

    During the years of the Anglo-Soviet Alliance (1941-45), Britain brimmed with an unprecedented enthusiasm for all things Russian. This short-lived approbation was expressed both formally—through government aid and overwhelmingly positive media coverage—and also more personally, through the gifts offered by Britons to their Soviet allies. This chapter investigates the financial gifts proffered by the British public to the USSR and the Soviet response, in order to tease out the complex political tensions that underlay the wartime gift exchange between allies.

    In broad terms, scholars have interpreted gift exchange according to two paradigms. First, dating from anthropologist Marcel Mauss,¹...

  23. 19. ‘Unity in difference’: The Representation of Life in the Soviet Union through Isotype
    (pp. 269-284)
    Emma Minns

    Between 1945 and 1947 a series comprising three slim volumes,The Soviets and Ourselves, was published with the aim ‘to promote understanding and prevent misunderstanding […] to understand is to recognize unity in difference’.¹ The first book,Landsmen and Seafarers, aimed to present the diverse climate, geography and natural resources of the Soviet Union and compare them to those of the British Commonwealth; the second,Two Commonwealths, discussed the political evolution of the USSR and the function of contemporary institutions; the final volume,How do you do, Tovarish?claimed to provide an accurate impression of the everyday life of ordinary...

  24. 20. ‘Sputniks and Sideboards’: Exhibiting the Soviet ‘Way of Life’ in Cold War Britain, 1961-1979
    (pp. 285-300)
    Verity Clarkson

    Approaching Earls Court exhibition centre in the summer of 1968, visitors would have been struck by the bold initials ‘USSR’ on the familiar façade¹ (fig. 20.1). They heralded the second of three Soviet ‘Industrial Exhibitions’, staged in 1961, 1968 and 1979, which brought striking Soviet cultural propaganda to London on a vast scale.² Whereas the reciprocal British trade fairs in Moscow of 1961 and 1966 were based on expanding Anglo-Soviet commercial contacts and eschewed blatant propaganda, the Soviet shows proudly presented eye-catching ‘prestige’ displays of the communist ‘way of life’: gleaming space satellites, welding equipment, fashions, model sanatoria, aeroplanes and...

  25. 21. The British Reception of Russian Film, 1960-1990: The Role of Sight and Sound
    (pp. 301-314)
    Julian Graffy

    Film is now well established in British universities as a medium for the study of Russian and Soviet culture and society—but this is a development of the last two decades. Twenty years ago, the study of Russian film in the way and on the scale in which it is practised now was unthinkable, for several reasons, not least of which was the almost total inaccessibility of the primary materials, a problem which our colleagues teaching literature (or we in our role as teachers of literature) did not encounter. The situation was no different in the USA. Here is how...

  26. Index
    (pp. 315-330)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-333)