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Peesemsky, Alexey Feofilactovich

PEESEMSKY, ALEXEY FEOFILACTOVICH (1820-1881), Russian novelist, was born on his father's estate, in the province of Kostroma, on the ioth/22nd of March 1820. In his autobiography he describes his family as belonging to the ancient Russian nobility, but his more immediate progenitors were all very poor, and unable to read or write. His grandfather ploughed the fields as a simple peasant, and his father, as Peesemsky himself said, was washed and clothed by a rich relative, and placed as a soldier in the army, from which he retired as a major after thirty years' service. During childhood Peesemsky read eagerly the translated works of Walter Scott and Victor Hugo, and later those of Shakespeare, Schiller, Goethe, Rousseau, Voltaire and George Sand. From the gymnasium of Kostroma he passed through Moscow University, and in 1884 entered the government service as a clerk in the office of the Crown domains in his native province. Between 1854 and 1872, when he finally quitted the civil service, he occupied similar posts in St Petersburg and Moscow. His early works exhibit a profound disbelief in the higher qualities of humanity, and a disdain for the other sex, although he appears to have been attached to a particularly devoted and sensible wife. His first novel, Boyarstchina, was forbidden for its unflattering description of the Russian nobility. His principal novels are Tufak ("A Muff"), 1850; Teesicha doush ("A Thousand Souls "), 1862, which is considered his best work of the kind; and Vzbalomoucheneoe more (" A Troubled Sea "), giving a picture of the excited state of Russian society about the year 1862. He also produced a comedy, Gorkaya soudbina (" A Bitter Fate "), depicting the dark sides of the Russian peasantry, which obtained for him the Ouvaroff prize of the Russian Academy. In 1856 he was sent, together with other literary men, to report on the ethnographical and commercial condition of the Russian interior, his particular field of inquiry having been Astrakhan and the region of the Caspian Sea. His scepticism in regard to the liberal reforms of the 'sixties made him very unpopular among the more progressive writers of that time. He died at Moscow on the 2nd of February 1881 (Jan. 21, Russian style).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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