A Beautiful Anarchist, or, Nick Carter's Bravest Act

A Beautiful Anarchist, or, Nick Carter's Bravest Act

A Beautiful Anarchist, Published September 14, 1907 by Street and Smith, appeared as part of the New Nick Carter Weekly series.


Many writers for Street and Smith wrote anonymously as did the writer of A Beautiful Anarchist. Some of the authors that contributed to issues within this series are A. L. Armagnac, Frederick Russell Burton, O. P. Caylor, Weldon J. Cobb, William Wallace cook, Fredrick W. Davis, Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey, and E. C. Derby. It is important to note that the majority of issues within the New Nick Carter Weekly were written by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (Cox 193).


Nick Carter – A resourceful, prominent, and witty detective. He is the main character of the story.

Joseph – An assistant to Nick Carter who introduces the messenger.

Ivan Dovanief – A Russian Nihilist seeking protection from Nick Carter.

Peter Petronoff – The messenger at the beginning of the story that presents the letter to Nick Carter. He is also the servant to Ivan Dovanief.

Madam Dovanief – The wife of Ivan Dovanief.

Olga Dovanief – The daughter of Ivan Dovanief and Madam Dovanief.

Charlie Malet – An old friend of Nick Carter and a U.S. Secret Service agent who is familiar with Russian affairs and assists Nick Carter with his case.

Prince Michael Orloff – The true identity of Peter Petronoff. He is also the brother to Madam Dovanief and brother-in-law to Ivan Dovanief (aka Alexandrovitch).

Alexandrovitch – The true identity of Ivan Dovanief. Also revealed that he is of Russian royalty.

Jimmy – The young boy who assists Nick Carter in tracking the escaped Russians.

Al – A police officer and friend of Nick Carter who assists in the apprehension of the fleeing Russians.

Bagranoff – The true identity of the dead body that resembled Ivan Dovanief.


The setting of this dime novel takes place in various locations throughout an unnamed city, presumably New York City where Nick Carter’s residence is in previous stories.  

Plot Summary

The dime novel opens with an unknown messenger, later discovered to be Peter Petronoff, delivering a mysterious letter from a Russian nihilist, Ivan Dovanief, seeking protection from Nick Carter. The letter puzzles Nick Carter who cannot understand why a Russian nihilist would be seeking protection from persecution from the Russian government from him. Nick Carter consults a friend and U.S. Secret Service agent Charlie Malet, who agrees to join Nick on his investigation. The terms of the mysterious letter illustrated that Nick was to meet the messenger, Peter Petronoff, the following morning in order to meet Ivan Dovanief. Upon arriving at the residence, Nick and Malet find a dead body, presumably Ivan Dovanief, on the first floor, and Madam Dovanief, and Olga Dovanief bound and gagged on the second floor in separate rooms. This period of the story discusses Nick Carter’s confusion with potential motives and conspiracies surrounding the murder scene and family members. The climax of the story begins when Nick Carter realizes the dead body is not that of Ivan Dovanief but of someone that looks similar to him. Upon confronting Olga and Madam Dovanief, Nick Carter returns to find they have escaped. A chase ensues and Nick Carter has to enlist the help of a local boy, Jimmy, and a police officer, Al, to assist him with tracking the escaped suspects. Once Nick Carter successfully tracks the suspects he overhears a conversation during which it is revealed that Olga and Madam Dovanief were not fully aware of the conspiracy to drug and Bagranoff. The climax of the story unfolds when Nick and Al confront the suspects and Madam Dovanief threatens them with a bomb during a standoff. Nick Carter charges Madam Dovanief who consequently throws the bomb into the air; however, Nick Carter is able to catch the bomb safely and is able to arrest the suspects.


The theme of Russian nihilists, terrorists, and political activism is a revolving theme that is illustrated in this particular issue, as well as previous Nick Carter issues and is continued in subsequent issues as well. This theme plays into the historical context at the time and expands on popular American cultural and societal views on the subject of Russian nihilists and domestic terrorism. Frequent generalizations are often made as a result of this, such as, “…one of the deadly bombs in the use of which the Russians are so expert.” A unique underlying plot in this issue is the introduction of Russian royalty and the disclosure that this plot is the result of an over-arching family affair among the antagonists.

Contextual Analysis

A Beautiful Anarchist was published in 1907 during a time of an increasingly violent wake of Russian nationalist based terrorism. In the first eight months of 1906 there were 1,782 terrorist acts in Russia, 134 involving bombs, which killed or wounded 1,363 people (Morrissey). This era of Russian nationalist terrorist was the result of many factors but included a rapid influx of socioeconomic and industrialization coupled with political repression. During the late 19th century a series of political based assassinations were carried out by the terrorist faction of the Russian Populist Movement (Phillips). These uprisings and growing disparities of wealth and living conditions elevated the theme of anarchy within many literary works at the time. Within Russia particularly, nationalist and political organizations were vying for power during this time and there was a looming threat of a state of anarchy or complete governmental collapse. This resulted in a severe military suppression resulting in what is now referred to as the Moscow Uprising. During this suppression 1,059 people were killed, including 86 children, and 6,992 people were sentenced to death by military courts (Morrissey). As a result of these historical considerations, nihilism rapidly became associated with Russian Nihilists seeking revolutionary reforms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Patyk).


Cox, Randolph J. Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. Westport: Greenwood, 2000.

Morrissey, Susan K. "The “Apparel of Innocence”: Toward a Moral Economy of Terrorism in Late Imperial Russia." The Journal of Modern History 84.3 (2012): 607-42. Print.

Patyk, Lynn Ellen. "Remembering "the Terrorism": Sergei Stepniak-Kravchinskii's Underground Russia." Slavic Review 68.4 (2009): 758-81. Print.

Phillips, Wm. M. “Nightmares of Anarchy: Language and Cultural Change, 1870-1914.” Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2003. Questia. Web. 2 Apr. 2013.