—V. P. Turgeneva to Ivan Sergeevich, Spasskoe, 30 July 1838
On the eve of World War I the St. Petersburg Public Library acquired, from an anonymous donor, 124 letters from V. P. Turgeneva to her son, Ivan Sergeevich, written from 1838 to 1844. His side of the correspondence is not extant, but his youthful personality is often vividly evoked by his mother’s words, and his letters are reflected and occasionally quoted in hers. These letters from the hand of V. P. would comprise, an archivist once observed, a thick book.1 During the era they represent, I. S. (“Milyi drug i syn, Vanichka,” somewhat more frequently “Mon cher Jean”) entered Berlin University to study philosophy, traveled in Europe, published twenty short poems and the comic verse narrative Parasha, met Vissarion Belinskii and became his friend, began his lifelong friendship with the Viardots, was first stricken with gallstones and other complaints, published his first story (already mature and polished, “Andrei Kolosov“), and wrote part of a work of fiction now seen as a key to his creativity (“Perepiska,” published in 1856).