GORKY, Maxim.

Meshchane. [Philistines.]

Stseny v domie Bezsiemenova. dramaticheskii eskiz v 4 aktakh. [Scenes from the House of Bessemenov. A dramatic study in 4 acts.]

St Petersburg: Znanie, 1902 Stock Code: 140124

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First edition of Gorky's controversial first play. Initially, Meshchane was licensed for publication but banned from public performance by the censors. Following negotiations and some judicious cutting, permission was granted for the play to proceed at the private Panayevsky Theatre in St Petersburg. It debuted on 26 March 1902 with a heavy police presence in the audience and a dozen armed policemen hidden under the stage. "The production was something of a landmark, in that it heralded the advent of Gorky the playwright, hitherto known only as a writer of short stories" (Worrall, p. 127).

"The potency of Gorky's first two plays... is not to be doubted. They were seen by the authorities to represent a threat to public order. In October 1902 the Main Administration of the censorship called the attention of the governor of Nizhni Novgorod province to the fact that neither play was approved for viewing by the lower orders and that even the Moscow Art Theatre had to secure permission for each performance when it gave Meshchane. He was requested to use his police power to make sure that Meshchane be permitted presentation only from copies with cuts made by the censor... Even when the plays were performed with cuts, literate audiences knew the excised lines... a worker recalled having become acquainted with Meshchane in 1903 or 1904: 'A comrade from the factory gave me this book. When I came home from work I would lock myself in my room and sit and read the play without interruption. It gave me indescribable joy!... Gorky's Meshchane opened my eyes to what was going on around me'" (Thurston, pp. 194-195).

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Octavo (199 x 136 mm). Contemporary quarter brown sheep, title to spine in blind, black pebble-grain cloth sides, floral panel in blind to front cover, pp. 36 advertisements to rear, edges sprinkled red, original wrappers bound in at front and rear.


Contemporary Russian bookseller's stamp to title page. Spine rubbed, foot of spine a little worn, occasional spotting and finger-marking to contents, generally clean. A very good copy indeed.


Cynthia Carlile & Sharon McKee, Chekhov and His Times, University of Arkansas Press, 1995, p. 117; Gary Thurston, The Popular Theatre Movement in Russia, 1862-1919, Northwestern University Press, 1998; Nick Worrall, The Moscow Art Theatre, Routledge, 2003


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