Karel Hyneck Macha

Portrait of Karel Hyneck Macha

Karel Hyneck Macha was a Czech Romantic poet. He was born in Prague, Czechia on 16th November 1810 and died in Litomerice, Czechia on 6th November 1836 aged 26.

Major Works

“The Secret Diary” (1835) 
“Cikani” (Gypsies) (1835–36)
“Máj” (May) (1836) 

Biography Timeline

Karel Hynek Mácha was born on 16th November 1810 in Prague, Austrian Empire (now Czechia). His father was the foreman at a mill. He learned Latin and German in school.

1830: He had originally attempted to write in German but now begins to write poems, sketches, and stories in Czech. He is particularly influenced by the Czech national revival and by English and Polish Romantic literature.

1832: He attends Prague University to study law and becomes interested in the theatre. In July he appears in “Czech and German” a play by Jan Nepomuk Stepanek in Benesov, where he meets Elenora Somkova. 

1834: He was always fond of hiking and spends a long time walking in northern Italy during August with his friend Antonin Strobach. His “Diary of Travel to Italy” describes his visits to Venice, Trieste and Ljubljana as well as all the privations along the way. 

1835: He begins writing the novel “Cikani” (Gypsies) which he completes in the following year. The “Diary of 1835” contains items of an intimate nature and it is thought that it was probably not intended for publication.

1836: He completes his law studies at Prague and takes a post as a legal assitant in Litoměřice. Elenora becomes pregnant out of wedlock and gives birth to a son called Ludvik in October (which dies nine months later). His best-known work, the lyrical epic poem “Maj” (May) was originally rejected by publishers and is published at his own expense. It is not well received by his contemporaries who describe it as confusing and not aligned with national ideas. (During the twentieth Century it became extremely influential amongst Czech writers). Three days before his wedding to Elenora was due to take place he helps to extinguish a fire in building and becomes ill through overexertion.

Karel Hynek Mácha died on 5th November 1836 in Litoměřice the day before his wedding day. The cause of death has been given as pneumonia or Brechdurchfall, a mild form of cholera. He was buried in a pauper’s grave in Litoměřice. In 1939, his remains were given a formal state burial at the Vysehrad Cemetery in Prague amongst other writers and composers.

Further Information

List of works by Mácha.