Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Alexander Sergueevich Griboyedoff

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1712011Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, Volume XI — Alexander Sergueevich Griboyedoff

GRIBOYEDOFF, Alexander Sergueevich (1795-1829), was born in 1795 at Moscow, where he studied at the university from 1810 to 1812. He then obtained a commission in a hussar regiment, but resigned it in 1816. Next year he entered the civil service, and in 1818 was appointed secretary of the Russian legation in Persia, whence he was transferred to Georgia. There he began the drama which has made him famous. He had commenced writing early, and had produced on the stage at St Petersburg in 1816 a comedy in verse, translated from the French, called The Young Spouses, which was followed by some other pieces of the same kind. But neither these, nor the essays and verses which he wrote for periodicals, would have been long remembered, but for the immense success gained by his comedy in verse, Goré ot uma, or "Misfortune from Intelligence." A satire upon Russian society, or, as a high official styled it, "A pasquinade on Moscow," its plot is slight, its merits consisting in its accurate representation of certain social and official types, such as Famousoff, the lover of old abuses, the hater of reforms; his secretary, Molchanin, servile fawner upon all in office; the aristocratic young liberal and Anglomaniac, Repetiloff; contrasted with whom is the hero of the piece, Tchatsky, the ironical satirist, just returned from the west of Europe, who exposes and ridicules the weaknesses of the rest, his words echoing that outcry of the young generation of 1820 which reached its climax in the military insurrection of 1825, and was then sternly silenced by Nicholas. Griboyedoff spent the summer of 1823 in Russia, completed his play, and took it to St Petersburg. There it was rejected by the censorship. Many copies were made and privately circulated, but Griboyedoff never saw it published. The first edition was printed in 1833, four years after his death. Only once did he see it on the stage, when it was acted by the officers of the garrison at Erivan. Soured by disappointment he returned to Georgia, made himself useful by his linguistic knowledge to his relative Count Paskievitch-Erivansky during a campaign against Persia, and was sent to St Petersburg with the treaty of 1828. Brilliantly received there, he thought of devoting himself to literature, and commenced a romantic drama, A Georgian Night. But he was suddenly sent to Persia as minister-plenipotentiary. Soon after his arrival at Teheran a tumult arose, caused by the anger of the populace against some Georgian and Armenian captives, Russian subjects, who had taken refuge in the Russian embassy. It was stormed, Griboyedoff was killed (February 11, 1829), and his body was for three days so ill-treated by the mob that it was at last recognized only by an old scar on the hand, due to a wound received in a duel. It was taken to Tiflis, and buried in the monastery of St David. There a monument was erected to his memory by his widow, to whom he had been but a few months married. But his memory is best preserved by his play Gore ot uma, which has since his death been repeatedly published and performed, and will always be quoted as one of the masterpieces of Russian literature. An English translation by N. Benardaky appeared in London in 1857.