Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview
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Time: The Final Months

On returning to Petersburg in the fall of 1862, both Dostoevsky and Strakhov took up their work on Time again with renewed vigor. Grigoryev had also returned from self-imposed exile in Orenburg and was once again a rallying presence. By mid-year, Time's subscription list had gone over the four thousand mark, thus reaching the level of such long-established publications as Notes of the Fatherland. Financial security was at last in sight for the hard-pressed Dostoevskys, who had worked like galley slaves to establish their publication on a sound economic footing. Even more encouraging, their editorial portfolio was overflowing with manuscripts that kept pouring in from all corners of Russia and testified to the growing prestige acquired by Time in the brief span of two years.

The editors of Time, however, found themselves in an increasingly awkward predicament. The government ban of The Contemporary in July 1862, along with the simultaneous arrest of Chernyshevsky, had caused a sharp shift in the socialcultural climate. It was no longer possible to criticize radical ideas—no matter how respectfully, or with how many qualifications—without seeming to support the repressive measures of the regime. To cease to argue with the radicals would have meant to abandon Time's very reason for being, but to continue with the same editorial policy was to court disaster and even execration.

Some notion of the tense and suspicious atmosphere then reigning in literary circles may be gathered from Nekrasov's astonishing frankness in his letter to Dostoevsky explaining why another promised contribution would not be forthcoming. Rumors were circulating, he admitted, “that I betrayed Chernyshevsky "to the authorities" and walk around freely in the open air in Petersburg…. In view of all this, I must not, for the time being, give any further cause for ambiguous rumors.” 1 Dostoevsky was upset by the implications of this letter and had every reason to take umbrage at Nekrasov's insinuation that Time might be considered reactionary. Even though his articles during 1862–1863 reveal his growing disenchantment with the radicals and an increasing tilt toward Slavophilism, Time had not become conservative in any sense that would have gained favor

1 N. S. Nekrasov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 12 vols. (Moscow, 1948–1953), 10: 479–480.


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