Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov 

Portrait of Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov

Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov was a Russian poet, essayist and translator. He was born on 29th May 1787 in Vologda, Russia and died on 19th July 1855 in Vologda, Russia aged 68.

Major Works

“Poslanie k Stikham Moim” (Epistle to My Verses); (1805)
“Videnie na bregakh Lety” (A Vision on the Shores of the Lethe) (1809)
“Nadezhda”
 (Hope), “Posledniaia Vesna” (The Last Spring) (1815)

Biography Timeline

Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov was born on 29th May 1787 at his father’s estate in Vologda, Russia. He spends his early years in the village of Danilovskoe, Bezhetski district, with his father and grandfather.

1797: He goes aged ten to Moscow to study the classics as well as french, latin, geography, history and mathematics at a Pensionnat (private boarding school) run by O.P. Jacquinot.

1801: He moves to St Petersburg to study at a Pensionnat run by the Italian I.A. Tripoli and lives with his uncle Mikhail Muravyov, a writer and poet. He begins to study Italian.

1802: He translates into French Metropolitan Platon Levshin’s address at the coronation of Tsar Alexander the First of Russia.

1804: He begins to write poetry including “Bog” (God) and “Mechta” (Dream).

1805: His first published poem is the satirical “Poslanie k Stikham Moim” (Epistle to My Verses) which appears in “Novosti Russkoi Literatury”, a supplement to Moscow University’s journal.

1806: Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops occupy Berlin and Prussia and their ally Alexander the First declares a tax to help the Russian army.

1807: In January he is attached to General Nikolai Nikolaevich Tatishchev’s staff as a civilian and on 22nd February he enlists as a junior officer in the St Petersburg battalion of the Militia. He meets Ivan Aleksandrovich Petin whilst on campaign. In May he is at the Battle of Gutstadt and on 29th May he is seriously wounded at the Battle of Heilsberg. He is taken to hospital and then to Riga to convalesce in the house of the merchant Müguel. He falls in love with his daughter Emilie and writes “Vospominaniia 1807 Goda” (Recollections of 1807).

1808: He is awarded the Order of St. Anne, 3rd class, for bravery. He translates Torquato Tasso’s poem “Gerusalemme Liberata”.

1809: In July he writes his famous “Videnie na Bregakh Lety” (A Vision on the Shores of the Lethe) which becomes very successful. It describes a dream in which all Russian poets have died and their works are weighed in the river. If they float they carry on for eternity. If they sink, they become unknown.

1812: On 22nd April he becomes an Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts at the Imperial Public Library and lives nearby. On 12th June Napoleon Bonaparte invades Russia. After recovering from a fever Batyushkov joins the army with the rank of Captain and writes “K Dashkovu” (To Dashkov) about seeing Moscow in flames.

1813: He continues to serve in the army throughout the campaigns of 1813–14.

1814: In January the Russians cross the Rhine river and enter France. He spends his first month in Paris attending a meeting of the Academie Francaise but then falls ill and decides to return home. He spends two weeks in London in May and then returns to Russia. The account of the journey is published in 1827. Alexander Pushkin writes his work “To Batyushkov”.

1815: In early January an illness causes a nervous reaction and he sets off for a cure. He spends the second week of Lent in Tikhvin where he experiences a religious conversion. He writes “Nadezhda”(Hope), “Vyzdorovleniie” (Convalescence) and “Posledniaia Vesna” (The Last Spring). He meets Alexander Pushkin at Tsarskoe Selo and later joins the Arzamas literary group, led by Nikolay Karamzin, which advocates the modernisation of the literary Russian language.

1817: His collected works are published and in October he publishes “Opyty” which gains him public recognition. On 17th October he is made an honorary member of the “Military Society” and the next day he is made an honorary librarian at the Public Library. 

1818: He becomes an honorary member of the “Free Society of the Lovers of Russian Letters”.

1820: His depression gets worse and in August he applies for leave to go to Germany and in November he moves to Dresden. He gets involved on a series of quarrels with the editor of “Syn Otechestva”, who is his supporter, and ends up destroying all his manuscripts. In December he moves to Rome.

1821: In May he moves to Teplitz to convalesce and in September and December he applies for retirement. Instead, the Russian Tsar grants him indefinite leave.

1822: He arrives in St Petersburg on 14th April and then travels to the Caucasus in May. In August he goes to Simferopol in the Crimea clearly showing signs of a persecution complex. He burns all his books and attempts suicide three times.

1823: On 4th April he is sent back to St. Petersburg by a doctor. There his friends and relatives look after him. In April he writes to the Tsar to ask if he can be sent to a monastery, instead he is sent for treatment at the expense of the state.

1824: He is sent to the “Maison de Santé” in Sonnenstein in Saxony, Germany. 

1828: He is moved to Moscow. 

1833: He is released and goes to live in Vologda with a life pension.

1853: His lastl poem is written in Vologda on 14th May. The final lines are “Ia prosypaius’, chtob zasnut’, / I spliu, chtob vechno prosypat’sia” (I only wake to fall asleep / And sleep, to awake without end.

Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov died of typhus on 19th July 1855 in Vologda, Russia. He was buried in the Priluki Monastery near Vologda.