Mihaly Vorosmarty Biography
Mihály Vörösmarty was born on 1st december 1800 at Puszta-Nyek. He is probably best known for Szozat which is efectively the second Hungarian National Anthem.
Vörösmarty’s father was a steward of the Nádasdys and Mihály was educated as a Roman Catholic by Cistercians at Székesfehérvár and later at Pest by the Piarists. Following the death of his father in 1811 Vörösmarty’s large family were left extremely poor and he had to pay his own way through his academical course at Pest.
He became politically involved by the events of his youth and his patriotism gave direction to his poetical genius. At the same time he was consumed by his love for Etelka Perczel (to whose family he was a paid tutor) but she was socially far above him. To this unrequited love we owe a whole host of exquisite lyrics, while his patriotism found expression in the heroic epic Zalán futása (Zalan’s Flee) (1824). Considered by many as one of the gems of Magyar literature.
This epic piece marked a transition from the classical to the romantic school.
Following this publication Vörösmarty was hailed by Károly Kisfaludyand the Hungarian romanticists as one of themselves. He was still very poor and living from hand to mouth. He had given up the study of the law for literature, but his contributions to newspapers and reviews were very poorly paid.
Between 1823 and 1831 he composed four dramas and eight smaller epics, partly historical, partly fanciful. Of these epics he regarded Cserhalom (1825) as his best, but critics have given the preference to A két szomszédvár (Two Neighbouring Castles) (1831), a terrible story of hatred and revenge.
He was elected a member of the philological section of the newly formed Hungarian Academy in 1830, and ultimately succeeded Károly Kisfaludy as director with an annual pension of 500 florins.
He was also one of the founders of the Kisfaludy Society, and in 1837 started the Athenaeum and the Figyelmező.
With his election in the academy Vörösmarty devoted himself mainly to dramas over the following 15 years or so, the best of his plays being Vérnász (Blood Wedding) (1833), which won the Academy’s 200-gulden prize. He also published several volumes of poetry, containing some of his best work. Szózat (Appeal, 1836), which became a national anthem, Az elhagyott anya (The Abandoned Mother) (1837) and Az uri hölgyhöz (To the Noble Lady) (1841). All were inspired by his burning patriotism.
In 1843 he married Laura Csajághy and this inspired him to compose a new series of works. In 1848, in conjunction with Arany and Petőfi, he began an excellent translation of Shakespeare’s works. He himself was responsible for Julius Caesar and King Lear.
With the support of Lajos Kossuth and Imre Cseszneky he was elected to represent Jankovác at the diet of 1848, and in 1849 was made one of the judges of the high court. The failure of the revolution of 1848-49 profoundly affected him and for a short time he was an exile, and when he returned to Hungary in 1850 he was already an old man.
In 1854 he wrote his last great poem, the touching A vén cigány (The old Gypsy) and he died at Pest on November 19th, 1855, in the same house where Károly Kisfaludy had died twenty-five years ago. His funeral two days later became a day of national mourning and his penniless children were provided for by a national subscription.