The Influence of Barry Cornwall and the Phenomenon of Polygenesis in Alexander Pushkin’s “The Little House in Kolomna”

Zaur V. Agayev, Princeton University

In considering the question of the influence of the 19th-century English poet Barry Cornwall on the creative works of Alexander Pushkin, scholars to date have concentrated primarily on the comparative framework of Cornwall’s “Dramatic Scenes” and Pushkin’s “Little Tragedies.” However, Pushkin’s use of Cornwall’s poetry is not limited to his reading of the “Scenes.” Consequently, in this paper I discuss the phenomenon of polygenesis in Alexander Pushkin’s “Little House in Kolomna” in connection to Barry Cornwall’s poems “Gyges” and “Diego de Mantilla; A Spanish Tale,” two works that do not belong to the “Dramatic Scenes.”

I use the comparative methodology employed by B.V. Tomashevsky in his “Strofika Pushkina,” in which the author repeatedly shows how Pushkin selectively borrowed material and forms from other poets and used them in his own verse and for his own goals, to produce evidence of Cornwall’s significant influence on the “Little House in Kolomna” and to illustrate the presence of both of his poems in Pushkin’s own poema. These borrowings are particularly clear in the original draft of Pushkin’s work, and so I will use this version of the text in my analysis. By juxtaposing Corwall’s “Gyges” and “Diego de Mantilla” and Pushkin’s “Little House,” I will confirm the existence of remarkable textual, stylistic, and thematic similarities between the texts. This discovery is particularly interesting because it allows us insight into Pushkin’s creative method and genius.

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Pushkin, A, S., “Domik v Kolomne.” Iz biblioteki velikikh pisatelei. Pushkin. (Saint-Petersburg, 1907-1915). Vol. 3. 92-99.
Pushkin, A. S., “Domik v Kolomne.” Poeziia. (Leningrad, 1949). 279-285.
Tomashevskii, B.V., Pushkin. Raboty raznykh let. “Strofika Pushkina.” (Moskva, 1990).