Alexey Andreyevich Rzhevsky (1737-1804)
In February of 1759 the empress Elisabeth Petrovna paid attention to 'Monthly compositions serving for good and amusement', a madrigal, which was devoted to actress, Libera Sakko, from the Italian troupe, who was acting in that year with big success on Petersburg stage.
Your eyes shine with heavenly flame,
Shadow presents us delicate features,
Eyes are charming, and bearing is incomparable.
Though some ladies revile and slander you,
But their envy should be regarded as a praise:
You were really born to captivate hearts..
Elisabeth thought herself to be the first beauty of St. Petersburg and was displeased when the beauty of another woman was admired. Besides empress understood the mention of "some ladies" to be allusion to her.
The publisher was reprimanded, and the sheet with "indecent" verses was cut out from all unsold numbers of magazine.
The author of the madrigal, which caused such a sensation, was guards corporal 22 year-old Alexey Andreyevich Rzhevsky, who for the first time published his work in the press.
After it within three years in the magazines issued by Sumorokov and Kheraskov, the literary apprentice of which he was, Rzhevsky placed 225 works - stanzas, elegies, sonnets, rondels, parables, madrigals, riddles, epigrams.
In Rzhevsky's lyrics many poetic genres are present, the form of his poems is often masterly; he writes an ode composed of monosyllables; a sonnet which could be read in the usual way, then you read only the first hemistiches, at last, only the second hemistiches - in result appeared three different sonnets.
In those years Rzhevsky was the most active member of Moscow poetic circle of Kheraskov.
His friends-poets and fans of poetry expected, that the talent of Rzhevsky would blossom with time. But in 1763 his name disappeared from pages of magazines: he stopped writing.
That year empress Catherine II came to the Russian throne. To the descendant of an ancient appanage princes there opened a new way to ranks, and he, leaving literary activity, rushed into the whirlpool of court life.
As though summing up poetic activity of Rzhevsky, N.I.Novikov in "Russian writers' historical dictionary" in 1772 wrote that Rzhevsky's poems "are rather good and show keen mind and talent for versification. His verses are beautiful, style is pleasant, ideas are sharp, and images are strong and creative."
Gradually Rzhevsky moved forward into the first line of statesmen, became senator.
To Rzhevsky-senator devoted his message Kheraskov. He recollected past years, friendly chats, simple life in village, the main charm of which were "simple" verses. "Now... you are different", - asserted Kheraskov and, speaking about present life of his friend in the circle of magnificent and flattering grandees, asked:
Do you enjoy your life?
Of two lives
Which do you praise?
You are modest in your answer,
-So I'd better break it up.
Probably, Rzhevsky, nevertheless, more than once doubted, whether he was right to exchange poetry for luxury of palace. He did not break off connections with writers - friends of youth. Later he made friends with Derzhavin, who in an ode "Happy family" berhymed the fireside of Rzhevsky. Occasionally Rzhevsky himself put pen to paper, but inspiration that so frequently visited corporal Rzhevsky, never condescended to Rzhevsky-grandee.
Verses of Rzhevsky has never been collected together and issued by a separate book - they have remained forgotten on pages of old magazines.
One of Rzhevsky's contemporaries devoted to him these verses, which expressed the opinion of many friends and fans of the poet:
By features Rzhevsky has us shown,
That he praiseworthy passion for literature had:
He with taste, knowledge and style in it shone.
And, if he had not chosen to have a high rank,
He would have been a great writer.