Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov (1814 - 1841)

Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov is a great Russian poet and prose writer. His lyric was the summit of Russian poetry of the post-Pushkin period. His poetry is characterized with romantic world-view, marked individualism of the lyrical character and specific poetic style - exalted and expressive, sometimes with the use of inexact words that gives an impression of agitated improvisation. Lermontov's early Byronic poems constituted one of the major phenomena of Russian romanticism. While his poems «The Demon» and «Mtsyri» demonstrate re-evaluation of Byronic ideas and the crisis of poetic individualism. In his later poems («The Boyar Orsha», «The Song about the Merchant Kalashnikov») the author turns to different values - national customs and traditions. In the novel «A Hero of Our Time» (1838-1840) he created the socio-psychological type of his contemporary that defined the whole period of social development. Lermontov's Pechorin became one of the literature characters without whom one cannot imagine the history of Russian literature and social thought. The method of psychological analysis that was brilliantly developed by Lermontov in his novel opened new perspectives for the future development of Russian prose.

Lermontov's biography is closely connected with Petersburg. He first came here in autumn 1832, having decided to devote himself to military service. He entered the School of the Ensigns of the Guards and the Cavalry Cadets. Throughout two years of study that he would later call «horrible» he was composing. There, among other things, he created the novel «Vadim» and the long poem «The Demon». In 1834 Lermontov was promoted to the rank of the cornet of Life Guards Hussar Regiment quartered in Tsarskoe Selo. As other hussar officers he constantly visited Petersburg, attending balls, masquerades, theatres… These impressions were later reflected in his drama «Masquerade» and long story «Countess Ligovskaya». In March 1837 Lermontov was exiled to the Caucasus to the Nizhegorodsky Dragoon Regiment for his poem «The Death of the Poet» that contained harsh lines about the high-rank perpetrators of Pushkin's death. In late 1837 due to the efforts of his grandmother Lermontov was transferred to the Grodnensky Regiment positioned not far from Novgorod. Up to his second exile to the Caucasus in 1841, where the poet soon died at the duel, he had lived for long periods in the capital, maintaining close relationships with famous men of letters, published his works in Petersburg's magazines. During that period he created his best works, including the novel «A Hero of Our Time». No wonder most of Lermontov's manuscripts are kept in Petersburg.

Pushkinsky Dom has now in its possession the richest collection of Lermontov's manuscript legacy, the foundation of that was made by the unique collection of a famous writer and journalist A.A.Kraevsky that had been started while the poet was still alive. Lermontov fund comprises the poet's note books with texts of long and short poems, dramas, notes, prosaic sketches and plans. Basing on these manuscript materials one can follow Lermontov's creative career for ten years. The school note books allow seeing the regularity and intensity of his literary work. Also interesting are those note books that were most likely composed as the first poet's «selected works»: texts of the poems, copied by a scribe, but checked and corrected by the author. The archive also includes albums with Lermontov's autographs, his letters to different people and official papers concerning his service, duels and circumstances of the poet's death.

Lermontov fund of the Literature Museum possesses unique materials. The pride of the collection is, first of all, Lermontov's personal things, like the Dagestan-made dagger that the poet had presented to Kraevsky; a pencil taken from the poet's pocket after his death at the duel; the icon of «Joann the Warrior» given to Lermontov by his grandmother on the eve of his leaving for the Caucasus; a sabre, epaulettes of the cornet of the Life Guards Hussar Regiment; theatrical small telescope. Also interesting is the so-called masquerade book made by Lermontov himself: one of the masquerades Lermontov was dressed as a magus carrying in his hands «The Books of Fates» with Chinese hieroglyphs and signs of the zodiac pasted on it. The museum also preserves Lermontov's paintings, like «The Duke Lerma» - portrait of the fictional Lermontov's ancestor, to whom the poet gave likeness to himself; the watercolor portrait of V.A.Lopukhina (1835-1837); Caucasus landscapes executed in oil (1837-1838) and also a large sketch book with drawings (1832-1834). The museum collection abundantly represents the poet's iconography: the portrait of Lermontov as a child made by an unknown artist presumably in 1820-1822, the portraits of Lermontov painted by F.O.Budkin (1834), D.P.Palen (1840), and K.A.Gorbunov (1841).

All the rich and diverse historical material kept in Lermontov funds, containing priceless information about the poet's life and art, served as a foundation for the most complete editions, the texts in which were collated with the originals. These are, first of all, Complete Collected Works edited by K.Khalabaev and B.Eihenbaum (1926-1934); 5-volume Complete Works published by «Academia» (1935-1937); the academic edition in 6 volumes prepared by Pushkinsky Dom researchers under the leadership of B.V.Tomashevsky (1954-1957)

O.S.Muraviev