The page of Kazinczy Ferenc, English biography

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Kazinczy Ferenc

Biography

Born October 27, 1759 in Érsemlyén; died August 23, 1831 in Széphalom. Organizer of literary activities, poet, essayist, letterwriter, translator, language reformer. Descendant of Protestant landed gentry. Lived and educated in home of maternal grandfather until 1767; in home of parents 1767-1768 in Alsóregmec, where he studied Latin, German, Bible, and religion. Spent year following in Késmárk studying German. Began studies in Sárospatak in September 1769, where he developed strong interest in writings of classical authors, Gessner, István Gyöngyösi (q.v.), György Bessenyei (q.v.) and Ignác Mészáros, learned French, and practiced visual arts and drawing. Published a geography of Hungary in 1775. Turned to literary activity. His translation of Bessenyei's Der Amerikaner, published in 1776, brought personal acquaintance with leader of the Literary Revival. Studied visual arts in Vienna 1777-1778 but continued to be drawn to literature. Completed studies at Sárospataki Kollégium in 1779. Studied law in Eperjes 1781-1782. In September 1782 in Pest as law student, where he became acquainted with Gedeon Ráday (q.v.). Returned to Regmec in 1783 to help his widowed mother, and sought help of Lőrinc Orczy (q.v.) in obtaining position, at first without success. Became Freemason in 1784 under the name of Orpheus. Obtained position as honorary deputy clerk in October 1784 through Orczy's intercession and soon became vice notary. Lived in Kassa. Became district superintendent of elementary schools in 1786. Founded Magyar Museum in 1788 with Dávid Baróti Szabó and János Batsányi (qq.v.) but resigned from staff in spring 1788. Did much translating between 1787 and 1791. Began Orpheus, of which eight numbers appeared 1790-1792. Stirred patriotic feelings 1791-1792, especially through activity in theater and translations (Rousseau's Contrat social, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Lessing's Emilia Galotti, Wieland's Diogenes). Lost school position and returned to Regmec in 1791 and engaged in writing and agriculture. Arrested for Jacobin activity on December 14, 1794, imprisoned, and released on June 28, 1801, after spending terms in Brünn, Obrovic, Kufstein, and Munkács. Lived in Érsemlyén. In 1803 went to Vienna (also in 1777, 1786, 1788, 1789, 1791, 1792, 1808, 1812, and 1815); stopped in Pest on way home to visit noted writers. Married Sophie Török in 1804. Attended funeral of Mihály Csokonai Vitéz (q.v.), in 1805. In 1806 settled on estate in Széphalom, where he devoted himself to agriculture and literary career. Visited Transylvania in 1816. Assigned task of organizing archives of Zemplén County in 1820, which he carried on until his death. Near the end of his life he visited Pannonhalma, Esztergom, and Pest. Died of cholera.
Important leader of Literary Revival for many years through numerous translations, voluminous correspondence, original works, and efforts to reform Hungarian language. Helped to shape the course of literary development and taste in the period. Most important writings are his letters and his memoirs, Pályám emlékezete and Fogságom naplója, which reveal his personality and attitudes. Most prolific letter writer in world literature. Maintained that translations of important European works would develop quality of Hungarian literature more than original Hungarian works. Edited works of Miklós Zrínyi (q.v.), Sándor Báróczi, Gábor Dayka (q.v.), János Batsányi (q.v.), and János Kis.
Some of his poems have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish.

Hungarian Authors. A Bibliographical Handbook by Albert Tezla
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