September 18, 1956
Cunard Line R.M.S. "Queen Mary"
Dear Volodya: I have been reading the correspondence of Merimee and Turgenev-Une Amitie Litteraire (Hachette, 1952). It turns out that you were mistaken in assuming that Merimee knew no Russian, had his translations fed him by some lady. He was coached by Turgenev for over ten years. He translated a number of Turgenev's stories and checked on the translating of most of them. The dictionaries he used were inadequate, and he was always having to call on Turgenev. His deficiencies appear in these letters, but he does deserve a good deal of credit for pioneering in this field in France. I found the book very interesting and think that you ought to look into it. Merimee on Pushkin is curious. He appreciates him in certain ways, but admits that he is no judge of poetry. What he really admires in Pushkin is the cote Merimee. 1 I had forgotten how prudish and Victorian the Second Empire was. Turgenev is always being expurgated by the editor of La Revue des Deu.x Mandes; and Merimee himself protests about the cruelty of Turgenev's stories. I was able to get an earlier sailing, so am coming back earlier than I expected-landing today and shall be in Wellfleet by the end of the week.
As ever, EW