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concerning Impressions de voyage: En Russie; De Paris Astrakan: Nouvelles impressions de voyage

     In 1858, Alexandre Dumas was invited to accompany the family of an immensely wealthy Russian noble, Count Kouchelef-Bezborodko, on a trip to Russia. Making up his mind on the spot, Dumas departed within the week on a trip lasting, in all nine months, from which came two books of travels En Russie and Le Caucase, and at least two works of fiction: Sultanetta and La Boule de Neige, the latter set in Baku and written while Dumas was there.
     En Russie was an immense book of four volumes, totaling some 300 pages of text, and reportedly has never been completely translated into English. Dumas filled the book not only with an account of his travels, but with sketches of Russian history and literature, translations of Russian poetry, and mini-biographies of some of the people he met. The most common English translation available, the 1960 "Chilton" edition, translated by Alma Murch, is heavily abridged and contains mostly the travelogue segments. There is also a free-standing 1905 translation of some of the historical sketches published under the title "Celebrated Crimes of the Russian Court."
     Dumas traveled with the Kouchelefs and his acquaintance, Daniel Douglas-Home, the celebrated psychic and spirtualist, who was to marry a Kouchelef daughter in St. Petersburg. They traveled by train to Stettin, and by boat to St. Petersburg. Dumas records, with barely disguised glee, that Douglas-Home's psychic powers vanished under the onslaught of severe seasickness. From St. Petersburg, Dumas took an excursion into Finland, and thence by train to Moscow, by coach to the Volga, and by boat to Nizhni-Novgorod, Kazan and ultimately Astrakhan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where En Russie ends and Le Caucase begins.
     Dumas' most trenchant observations (to a modern reader) were of the corruption and injustice of the Czarist regime, the brutality of the nobles, and the alienation of the population from their rulers.

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