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Mikhail Lermontov Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A Hero of Our Time (1839)Description / Buy at Amazon
Two Brothers (1933)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

The Demon and Other Poems (1890)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Russian Romantic Prose(1979)Description / Buy at Amazon

Mikhail Lermontov
Mikhail Lermontov was born October 15, 1814 and was a Russian Romantic writer, painter, and poet, sometimes called “the poet of the Caucasus”, and was the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin’s death in 1837 and the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism. Mikhail’s influence on later Russian literature is still felt in modern times, not just through his poetry, but also in his prose, which founded the tradition of the Russian psychological novel.

He was born in Moscow into the Lermontov family, and he grew up in the village of Tarkhany (which is now Lermontovo in Penza Oblast). Mikhail’s paternal family descended from the Scottish family of Learmonth, and can be traced to Yuri Learmonth, who was a Scottish officer in the Polish-Lithuanian service that settled in Russia during the middle of the 17th century.

Yuri, Mikhail’s dad, followed a military career. Having moved up the ranks to captain he married Maria Arsenyeva, age sixteen, who was the wealthy young heiress of a prominent aristocratic Stolypin family. Mikhail’s maternal grandma regarded this marriage as a mismatch and deeply disliked her son-in-law.

She died at the age of 21, after the couple grew apart. Apparently it was her husband’s erratic and violent behavior and the resulting stresses which accounted for her early demise. His affair with another woman probably didn’t help matters much. She developed tuberculosis, with her health quickly deteriorating.

After her death, a fight broke out between father and son, which led to Mikhail staying with his paternal grandma until he was 16 years old. The doting grandma spared no expense in providing the young Lermontov, who was three at the start of this arrangement, with the best schooling and lifestyle that her money could buy. He received an extensive home education, became fluent in German and French, learned how to play several musical instruments and he proved to be a gifted painter. While living with his grandma, he hardly ever met with his dad.

But his health was fragile, suffering from rickets (accounting for his bow-leggedness) and scrofula and he was kept under close surveillance of Anselm Lewis, a French doctor.

The intellectual atmosphere in which he grew up resembled that experienced by Aleksandr Pushkin, though the domination of French had started giving way to a preference for English, and Lamartine shared popularity with Byron.

Looking for a better climate and treatment at the mineral springs for the child, his grandma twice (in 1819 and 1820) took him to the Caucasus where they lived with her sister. In summer of 1825, as his health began to deteriorate further, the extended family traveled south for a third time. The Caucasus greatly impressed the child, inspiring a passion for its stirring beauty and mountains, calling them sacred at one point. It was here that Lermontov experienced his very first romantic passion, falling for a nine year old girl.

His grandma strictly limited contact between Mikhail and his dad, fearing that Mikhail’s dad would eventually claim his right to raise his son himself. It caused Mikhail much remorse and pain. Despite all of the pampering that was lavished on him, and being torn by the family feud, Mikhail grew up withdrawn and lonely.

Following his third trip to the Caucasus in August of 1825, he started his regular studies with tutors working in Greek and French, beginning to read English, German, and French authors’ original texts. In summer of 1827, he and his grandma moved to Moscow.

Mikhail, at the age of fourteen, took his exams and joined the 5th form of the Moscow University’s boarding school for the nobility’s children. His personal tutor was Alexey Merzlyakov, along with Zinoviev, who taught Latin and Russian. Under their influence Mikhail began to read a bunch, making great use of his vast home library, which included books by Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Dmitriev, Mikhail Lomonosov, Konstantin Batyuhkov, Ivan Krylov, Ivan Koslov, Vladislav Ozerov, and Vasily Zhukovsky.

Pretty soon he was editing an amateur student journal. A friend, his cousin Yekaterina, described the young man as being married to this huge volume of Byron. She at one time had been the object of his affections and to her he’d dedicated some of his late 1820s poems to including “The Beggar”.

By 1829, he’d written some of his well known early poems. With “Caucasian Prisoner”, “The Culprit”, “Oleg”, “Dva Brata”, “The Corsair”, and the original version of “The Demon” being impressive exercises in Romanticism. Lord Byron was the major source of inspiration for Mikhail, despite efforts from his literary tutors, including Semyon Rayich, head of the school’s literature class, to divert his attention from that influence.

A poem called “The Spring”, published in 1830 by the Ateneum magazine, marked his informal publishing debut.

Along with his poetic abilities, he developed an inclination toward poisonous wit and sardonic, cruel humor. His abilities to draw these caricatures was matched just by his ability to pin somebody down with a well aimed epigram. While in the boarding school, he proved to be an exceptional student, excelling at the 1828 exams, reciting a Zhukovsky poem, performed this violin etude and took the first place prize for his literary essay. In April of 1830, the University’s boarding school was turned into an ordinary gymnasium and he quit, much like the rest of his fellow students.

He attended Moscow University, starting in August of 1830. He attended lectures faithfully, often reading a book in the corner of the auditorium, never taking part in student life, just making exceptions for incidents that involved grand scale trouble making. He would take an active part in the notorious 1831 Malov scandal, but was not formally reprimanded.

His dad, having been furious by his son’s alienation, left Arsenieva’s permanently, just to die a little later from consumption. It was a terrible loss for Mikhail, which he wrote about in “Forgive Me, Will We Meet Again?” and “The Terrible Fate of Father and Son”.

He died at the age of 26 on July 27, 1841 in a duel just like Alexander Pushkin. Making this even more tragically strange (if not also fatalistic) is that each poet described in their major works fatal duel outcomes, in which the lead characters (Pechorin and Onegin) were coming out victorious.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Mikhail Lermontov

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