I’m about halfway through Lazhechnikov‘s Ледяной дом (The ice house; see this post), and I’ve come to a very interesting epigraph (all the chapters, of course, in good nineteenth-century style, have epigraphs):
Часто в пылу сражения царь задумывался о своем царстве, и посреди боя оставался равнодушным его зрителем, и, бывши зрителем, казалось, видел что-то другое.
Опал. И. К.
[Often in the heat of battle the king thought of his kingdom, and in the middle of the fight he remained an indifferent observer, and it seemed that he was seeing something else.
Opal. I. K.]
Before the internet this would have been as mysterious to me as it must have been to its first readers in 1835, but judicious googling revealed to me that it was a distorted quote from Ivan Kireevsky‘s story Опал (The opal), which was written at the end of 1830 but not published until 1861. Rosina Neginsky, in her article on Kireevsky in volume 198 of the Dictionary of Literary Biography series (Russian Literature in the Age of Pushkin and Gogol: Prose), calls it “a beautiful fairy tale” that “was a seminal creative work for later Russian writers,” adding that Gogol’s “Nevskii prospekt” owes a debt to it. In the story, Nureddin, ruler of Syria, is about to conquer Origell, ruler of China, when a magic opal ring takes him to another world where he is captivated by a mysterious woman who makes him forget his desire for glory, and the sentence there reads “Часто в пылу сражения сирийский царь задумывался о своем перстне, и посреди боя оставался равнодушным его зрителем, и, бывши зрителем, казалось, видел что-то другое” [Often in the heat of battle the Syrian king thought of his ring, and in the middle of the fight he remained an indifferent observer, and it seemed that he was seeing something else]. As you can see, the only difference is that Lazhechnikov eliminated “Syrian” and had him thinking of his kingdom rather than his ring. The interesting thing to me is that only the friends of Lazhechnikov or Kireevsky had any chance of recognizing the quotation; presumably “Opal. I. K.” was a complete mystery to most readers. It just goes to show you that the date of first publication is not always when a piece of writing starts influencing literature.
Another point of interest to me in the novel is the insertion of anachronisms; Lazhechnikov has Trediakovsky carrying around a copy of his Tilemakhida (a rhymed Russian version of Fénelon’s Les Aventures de Télémaque; see this post) and quoting from it, to everyone’s amusement (Trediakovsky had become a figure of fun in the 1830s for reasons having nothing to do with his actual merits), [and has the novel’s hero, Artemy Volynsky, making subversive annotations in a copy of Histoire de Jeanne première, Reine de Naples,] even though neither work would be written and published until the 1760s, decades after the period in which the novel is set (1739/40). But it is, after all, a fun read, not a serious work.
Update. It seems I have been unfair to Lazhechnikov on one count: what I took to be a reference to Histoire de Jeanne première, Reine de Naples is apparently in fact a reference to a passage on Joanna of Naples in Justus Lipsius‘s Monita et Exempla Politica (which was a factor in the historical trial of Volynsky). Mea culpa!