The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana

by Jess Nevins

"Journey in a Stagecoach" (1828)

copyright © Jess Nevins 2022

“Journey in a Stagecoach” (original: “Puteshestvie v Dilizhanse”) was written by “Antony Pogorelsky” first appeared in The Double, or My Evenings in Little Russia (1828). “Antony Pogorelsky” was the pseudonym of Alexey Perovsky (1787-1836), a minor Russian writer who is best-known as one of the early imitators of E.T.A. Hoffmann in Russia.

“Journey in a Stagecoach” is one of four stories about Antony and his doppelgänger on Antony’s estate in the Ukraine. “Journey in a Stagecoach” is a story told to the doppelgänger by an unnamed friend. During a stagecoach trip the friend met Colonel Fritz Van der K., who told him his life story. The Colonel was born in Borneo, where his father had retired. At age four Fritz was kidnapped by a band of gorillas and was taken into the jungle. He spent four years there and was raised by Tutu, a female gorilla. Tutu loved Fritz and taught him the skills he needed to survive in the jungle. Fritz lived with the gorillas for four years and came to see Tutu as his mother, but one day Fritz saw his family’s house and instinctively went there. His family was overjoyed to see him again, but Fritz had trouble adjusting to life among humans. Three years later Tutu slipped into Fritz’s bedroom to see him. She made several visits to see Fritz, and Fritz began thinking wistfully about his life in the jungle with the gorillas, but one day Fritz’s father caught them together and chopped off one of Tutu’s hands. This chased Tutu off, but it also alienated Fritz from his father, and Fritz became withdrawn, sullen, and resentful. Within a few years Fritz’s parents died, his sisters married, and his brothers entered the military. Fritz, called “Silent Fritz” by the neighbors, lived alone, reading and taking long walks in the jungle. One day he saw Tutu, and they begin walking together in the jungle every day. She became Fritz’s closest friend. But during Carnival Fritz saw a beautiful woman, Amalia, and he fell in love with her. They were soon engaged, but when Fritz told Amalia about Tutu, Amalia (who like the other islanders hated gorillas) demanded that Fritz choose between Tutu and herself. Fritz chose Amalia. He went to see Tutu one last time to explain himself, but when Tutu accidentally broke a locket with a picture of Amalia, Fritz was infuriated and shot Tutu dead. The next day Fritz left Borneo, but everywhere he went he heard Tutu’s voice. Fritz eventually joined the French army but was still tormented by guilt and heard Tutu’s voice and saw her. The doppelgänger adds that Fritz was reported to have been eaten alive, either by wild animals or cannibals, in New Holland (Dutch Australia).

Perovsky wrote “Journey in a Stagecoach” as a satire of Charles de Pougens’ Jocko. Jocko, translated into Russian in 1825, was tremendously successful in Russia, inspiring a play, scarves, and even a color.1 Jocko naturally inspired imitators as well as satire, but Perovsky had higher goals than to merely imitate de Pougens’ work. Perosvky “sought to overturn through parody the pathos at work in Jocko and in so doing to transform Pougens's sentimental story about the love between a man and an ape into a Russian tale permeated with healthy doses of romantic irony.”2 Pougens succeeded, and moreover balanced the moral scales which de Pougens apparently did not see a need for. The narrator of Jocko felt no guilt for his shabby treatment of Jocko, while Perovsky’s Fritz deservedly suffers for his acts toward Tutu. Perovsky sends up de Pougens’ condescension to Jocko, so that it is Tutu who teaches Fritz morality and love. The lachrymose Sensibility (see: The Gothic) of Jocko’s narrator is replaced with Fritz’s more realistic and unlikable personality. And the pseudo-miscegenation of Jocko is replaced with a mother-son relationship.

“Journey in a Stagecoach” is a minor work, as Perovsky is a minor author, but serves as a worthy rejoinder to Jocko and should be read in tandem with it.

Recommended Edition

Print: Antoniń≠ Pogorel’skiń≠, The Double, or My Evenings in Little Russia. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1988.

For Further Research

Ronald D. Leblanc, “A Russian Tarzan, or ‘Aping’ Jocko,” Slavic Review 46, no. 1 (Spring 1987): 70-86.

 

1 Leblanc, “A Russian Tarzan,” 72.

2 Leblanc, “A Russian Tarzan,” 73.