Ion Heliade Rădulescu

Portrait of Ion Heliade Radulescu

Ion Heliade Rădulescu was a Romanian poet, essayist, short story writer, newspaper editor and politician. He was born in Targoviste, Romania on 6th January 1802 and died in Bucharest, Romania on 27th April 1872 aged 70.

Major Works

“Zburatoruk” (1836)
Paralelism între Limba Română şi Italiană” (Parallels between the Romanian language and Italian) (1840)
Măceșul” (The Eglatine) (1844)
Cântecul Ursului” (The Bear’s Song) (1848)

Biography Timeline

Ion Heliade Rădulescu was born on 6th January 1802 in Targoviste, Romania.  His fathe,r Ilie Rădulescum, was a wealthy businessman of Greek origin. His mother was Eufrosina Danielopol, a Greek woman. As three of his siblings had died of bubonic plague he was doted upon by his parents. He was tutored in Greek at home but taught himself to read Romanian Cyrillic script with the help of his father’s servants.

1813: He is sent to Gârbovi to escape the plague and thereafter is tutored by the Orthodox monk Naum Ramniceanu where he begins to read popular novels.

1815: He moves to the Greek school at Achitu Magureanu in Bucharest.

1818: He moves to Saint Sava school where he studies with Gheorghe Lazăr.

1820: He graduates and becomes Lazăr’s assistant, teaching arithmetics and geometry. He begins to adopt the surname Heliade.

1821: During the Wallachian Uprising in February the school is forced to close.

1822: He reopens Saint Sava when Gheorghe Lazăr falls ill without being paid. Several intellectuals of will join him later to help out. He opens an art class run by Carol Valstain. The new Prince Grigore the Fourth Ghica who is assigned as ruler by the Ottoman Empire endorses education in Romanian.

1823: He meets Maria Alexandrescu whom he will later marry.

1827: He founds the Soțietatea Literară Românească (the Romanian Literary Society) with Dinicu Golescu which attempts to encourage the establishment of Romanian-language newspapers. He sets about turning Saint Sava into a college.

1828: He proposes that the Romanian Cyrillic Script should be reduced to 27 letters and he supports others who want to unify Romanian variants into a standard language. He publishes his first work, an essay on Romanian Grammar.

1829: On 20th April he begins printing the newspaper “Curierul Romanesc” in Bucharest and he is asked by the new Russian authorities to print the “Monitorul Oficial al României” (Romanian Official Bulletin) at the end of Russo-Turkish War.

1830: In October he opens the first privately owned printing press in the country with his uncle, Nicolae Rădulescu, on his estate at Cișmeaua Mavrogheni. Among the first works he publishes is poetry by Alphonse de Lamartine.

1833: He founds the Societatea Filarmonică (the Philharmonic Society) in Bucharest with several other writers and statesmen and sets about raising money to start a national theatre.

1834: In August he organises the first show by the Soţietatea Filarmonică featuring music by Vincenzo Bellini and his own translation of Voltaire’s “Mahomet”. He becomes Court Poet to the new ruler Prince Alexandru the Second Ghica and teaches at the Soţietatea Filarmonică’s school. He completes his first translations of poems by Lord Byron.

1835: He begins printing the short-lived “Gazeta Teatrului Național” (the official voice of the National Theatre) He translates “Amphitryon” by Moliere into Romanian.

1836: The weekly Curierul Românesc produces a literary supplement, called “Curier de Ambe Sexe”. His poem “Zburatoruk” is published in it and he publishes his first collection of prose and poetry.

1837: He writes an essay on the debate as to whether Homer’s works should be translated into Romanian and encourages Romanian speakers to create new writing. He opens the first permanent exhibit of art works in Wallachia and prints a brochure on drawing and architecture to coincide with it.

1839: He prints a version of “Julie” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and translates Miguel de Cervante’s “Don Quixote”. Curierul Românesc begins to be issued three or four times a week.

1840: He publishes “Paralelism între Limba Română şi Italiană” (Parallels between the Romanian language and Italian).

1841: He publishes “Paralelism între Dialectele Român şi Italian sau Forma Ori Gramatica Acestor Două Dialecte” (Parallels between the Romanian and Italian Dialects or the Form or Grammar of These Two Dialects”).

1844: He publishes a pamphlet entitled “Măceșul” (The Eglatine) which is critical of Russian influences and sells over 30,000 copies. 

1845: He celebrates the late 16th century Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave in his poem “O noapte pe ruinele Târgoviştii” (A Night on the Ruins of Targoviste) and in his epic “Mihaiada”, of which only two sections are completed. (the second in 1859). 

1846: His son Ion is born despite his numerous affairs and marital disharmony. He plans work on a “universal library”.

1847: He publishes “Prescurtare de Gramatica Limbei Româno-Italiene (Summary of the Grammar of the Romanian-Italian Language). He translates Lord Byron’s “Don Juan”.

1848: During the spring after the first European revolutions he joins the secret dociety Fratia and sits on its leadership committee. Curierul Românesc ceases printing in April due to lack of finances and he writes the satirical “Cântecul Ursului” (The Bear’s Song) aimed at his enemies. He reads out the Proclamation of Islaz on 21st June for the Wallachian Revolution. He is made Minister of Education in the new regime but the Russians institute a clampdown and their system of government is re-established called the Regulamentul Organic. He escapes to seeks refuge in the British Embassy in Bucharest.

1850: He is allowed to enter Austrian ruled Banat and then goes into exile in France. His wife and children are sent to Turkey. He publishes his memoirs of the Revolution in Paris. He meets the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and advances the Romanian cause with him and his staff. He also writes for the newspapers “La Presse” “La Semaine” and “Le Siecle”. He begins to condemn the young radicals for their zealousness amongst the Romanian emigres in Paris.

1851: He reunites with his family on the Greek island of Chios where they stay until 1854.

1856: Following the evacuation of Russian troops from the Danubian Principalities during the Crimean War he is appointed to represent the Romanians in Shumen (modern Bulgaria). Briefly returning to Bucharest he is expelled by the new Austrian authorities and returns to Paris where he writes an analysis of the European situation after the Peace Treaty of 1856.

1858: He publishes “Biblice” (Biblical Writings) as part of a projected four-part Christian history of the world. 

1859: He publishes his translation of the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) called “Biblia Sacră ce Cuprinde Noul şi Vechiul Testament” (The Holy Bible, Comprising the New and Old Testament). He then returns to Bucharest, now the capital of the United Principalities, and adds Rădulescu to his surname. The Romanian Ruler, Cuza, awards him an annual pension.

1866: He is elected as a Deputy for the city of Targoviste in the Chamber of Deputies elections.

1867: He is elected as President of the “Academic Society” (Romanian Academy).

1868: He publishes a textbook on poetics.

Ion Heliade Rădulescu died on 27th April 1872 at home in Polonă Street, Bucharest, Romania. He had a large funeral ceremony filled with admirers and was buried in the courtyard of the Mavrogheni Church in Bucharest. 

Further Information

List of works by Rădulescu.