Any romance novelists out there reading this? It is high time that Conchita Arguello and Nikolai Rezanov were brought to life on the pages of a romantic novel. Such a great love story deserves a new treatment. No happy ending of reunited lovers, unfortunately, but all the passion and longing you could possibly want.
Surely someone has done it already?
Yes, but it could do with an update. Gertrude Atherton, a popular turn-of-the-century California novelist, wrote Rezanov and Doña Concha: A True Romance of Old California in 1907. A few (very few) libraries still have the book, but it is forgotten and out of print these many years.
If you want to read it though, you can find it on Google Books.
Bret Harte wrote a poem based on the story, called Concepcion de Arguello. You can find it at the Poemhunter website. The poem tells the story of “Count von Resanoff, the Russian, envoy of the mighty Czar” and how
He from grave provincial magnates oft had turned to talk apart
With the Commandante’s daughter on the questions of the heart.
The lovers part, and forty years later an English baronet comes to Monterey. At a dinner given in his honor someone speaks of Conchita’s Russian lover:
Quickly then cried Sir George Simpson: ‘Speak no ill of him, I pray!
He is dead. He died, poor fellow, forty years ago this day,–
‘Died while speeding home to Russia, falling from a fractious horse.
Left a sweetheart, too, they tell me. Married, I suppose, of course!
‘Lives she yet?’ A deathlike silence fell on banquet, guests, and hall,
And a trembling figure rising fixed the awestruck gaze of all.
Two black eyes in darkened orbits gleamed beneath the nun’s white hood;
Black serge hid the wasted figure, bowed and stricken where it stood.
‘Lives she yet?’ Sir George repeated. All were hushed as Concha drew
Closer yet her nun’s attire. ‘Senor, pardon, she died, too!’