Mihai Eminescu

Portrait of Mihai Eminescu

Mihai Eminescu was a Romanian poet, novelist and journalist and generally regarded as one of the most influential writers in Romania. He was born in Botosani, Romania on 15th January 1850 and died in Bucharest on 15th June 1889 aged 38.

Major Works

“Doina” (1884)
“Lacul” (The Lake), 1876
“Luceafarul” (The Vesper) (1883)
“Sarmarnul Dionis” (Poor Dionis) (1872)

Biography Timeline

Mihai Eminescu (originally Mihail Eminovici) was born on 15th January 1850 in Botoșani, Moldavia, then part of the Ottoman Empire. His father was Gheorghe Eminovici, an aristocrat from Bukovina in the Austrian Empire. His mother was Raluca Iurașcu, an heiress from an old noble family. He spent his early childhood in Botoșani and the village of Ipotesti.

1858: He goes to school in Cernăuƫi, a Germano-Romanian cultural centre (now in Ukraine). 

1866:  He attends two years at the gymnasium school. His first poetry is first published in the student pamphlet “Lăcrămioarele Invățăceilor Gimnaziaști” (The Tears of the Gymnasium Students) and is entitled “La Mormântul lui Aron Pumnul (At the Grave of Aron Pumnul) after the recent death of his Romanian teacher. In February he publishes “De-aș Avea” (If I Had) in the literary magazine in Pest, Hungary called “Familia”.

1867: His first job is as a clerk and prompter to Iorgu Caragiale’s theatre group.

1868: He transfers to Mihai Pascaly’s theatre group and also works as a clerk at Bucharest’s National Theatre. He continues writing poetry and translating the works of the theatre critic Heinrich Theodor Rötscher. He begins work on his novel “Geniu Pustiu” (Wasted Genius) (published 1904).

1869: He is one of the founder members of the “Orient” literary circle on 1st April which collects Romanian folklore and literary history. On 29th June members of the “Orient” group are commissioned to go to different provinces and he travels to Moldavia where he accidently meets his brother, the soldier Iorgu, in Cismigiu Gardens. He eventually renews ties with his family and his father gives him an allowance to continue his studies at the University of Vienna which begins in October. He attends the faculty of Philosophy and Law as an “extraordinary auditor” not having passed the requisite exams. He publishes “La Moartea Principelui Știrbei” (On the Death of Prince Știrbei) about the former ruler of Wallachia. He also contributes to the periodical “Convorbiri Literare” (Literary Conversations) which is produced by Junimea, a Romanian literary society as its editor Iacob Negruzzi is impressed by his poem “Venere şi Madonă” (Venus and Madonna). 

1870: He writes three articles under the pseudonym “Varro” about the plight of Romanians and other minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the magazine “Federaţiunea” in Pest. He then works as a journalist for “Albina” (The Bee) newspaper in Pest.

1872: He finishes at the University of Vienna and moves to Berlin where he continues his studies at the university there funded by Junimea. He is influenced by German philosophy and western literature. He writes the poem “Memento Mori”. 

1874: He is appointed as a school inspector and chief librarian at the University of Iasi. He edits the paper “Curierul de Iași” (The Courier of Iaşi) and continues to write for “Convorbiri Literare”.

1876: He writes the story “Cezara” and the poem “Lacul” (The Lake).

1877: He moves to Bucharest where he works as a journalist.

1880: He becomes editor in chief of the conservative newspaper “Timpul” (The Time).

1883: He begins to suffer from mental health problems and is treated by doctors in Austria and Italy. He writes the poem “Luceafărul” (The Evening Star or the Vesper) which concerns Romanian medieval history and folklore and later has a literary review named after it. He also writes “Odă în Metru Antic (Ode in Ancient Meter).

1884: He writes the poems “Doina”, “Floare Albastră” (Blue Flower), “Dorința” (Desire) and “Epigonii” (Epigones).

1886: He writes the poem “La Steaua” (To the Star). He has a nervous breakdown and is treated for syphilis by Romanian doctors at the Neamt Monastery.

1889: Dr. Itszak in Botosani recommends massages but later in Bucharest Dr Alexandru A Sutu injects him with mercuric chloride at his sanatorium, the Caritas Institute.

Mihai Eminescu died on 15th June 1889 at the Caritas Institute in Bucharest, Romania. His cause of death is disputed. Being hit over the head by Petre Poenaru, another patient, or mercury poising are suggested but the latter is more likely according to modern medical theories. He was buried at the Bellu Cemetery, Bucharest, Romania.

Further Information

List of books by Eminescu.