Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin

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Mikhail Yevgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin (Russian: Михаил Евграфович Салтыков-Щедрин; 27 January [O.S. 15 January] 1826 in Spas-Ugol village, Tver Guberniya — 10 May [O.S. 28 April] 1889 in Saint Petersburg), better known by his pseudonym Shchedrin (Щедрин), was a major Russian satirist of the 19th century. At one time, after the death of the poet Nikolai Nekrasov, he acted as editor of the well-known Russian magazine, the Otechestvenniye Zapiski, until it was banned by the government in 1884. His best known work is the novel The Golovlyov Family (1876).

Contents

Early life

A scion of the ancient Saltykov family, Mikhail Saltykov was born on his father’s estate in the province of Tula. His early education was neglected, and his youth, owing to the severity and the domestic quarrels of his parents, had many melancholy experiences. Largely neglected, he developed a love for reading, though the only book in his father’s house was the Bible, which he studied attentively.

At ten years of age he entered the Moscow Institute for sons of the nobility, and subsequently the Lyceum at Saint Petersburg, where Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, afterwards minister for foreign affairs, was one of his schoolfellows. While there he published poetry, and translations of some of the works of Lord Byron and Heinrich Heine, and on graduating the Lyceum he obtained employment as a clerk for the Ministry of War.

During 1854 he published A Complicated Affair, which, because of the revolutionary activity at that time in France and Germany, was the cause of his banishment to Vyatka, where he spent eight years as a minor government official. This experience enabled him to study the life and habits of civil servants in the interior, and to give a clever description of Russian provincial officials in his Provincial Sketches.

Later life

On his return to Saint Petersburg he was soon promoted to administrative posts of considerable importance. After making a report on the condition of the Russian police, he was appointed deputy governor, first of Ryazan and then of Tver. His predilection for literary work induced him to end his government service, but pecuniary difficulties soon compelled him to re-enter it, and during 1864 he was appointed president of the local boards of taxation successively at Penza, Tula and Ryazan.

During 1868 he finally quit the civil service. Subsequently he wrote his principal works, namely, The Old Times of Poshekhonye, which possesses a certain autobiographical interest, The History of a Town, a satirical allegory of Russian history, Messieurs et Mesdames Pompadours; and his only novel, The Golovlyov Family (also translated as House of Greed or A Family of Noblemen). The latter book, often considered his masterpiece, is a study of overpowering greed.

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