Biography Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev

Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev

photo of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev
  • Time Period1803 - 1873
  • Place
  • CountryRussia

Poet Biography

Tyutchev was born on December 5, 1803 on an estate 200 miles southwest of Moscow. He was educated at home until he was 17 and was nurtured in an atmosphere of piety, patriotism, and reverence for the throne that often characterized the Muscovite landed gentry of the period. Undoubtedly, this atmosphere also helped to shape Tyutchev's future Slavophile views. Under the tutelage of E. S. Raich, a minor poet of the time, Tyutchev gained a strong knowledge of the classics both European and Russian, and was encouraged to write verse.

Tyutchev's public literary career began when he was just 15 years old, when "The Nobleman" was read aloud at the Society of Lovers of Russian Literature, a group organized run by a professor of literature at the University of Moscow. In 1819, Tyutchev entered the University, where he studied for two years and received an advanced degree. Appointed to the Russian legation in Munich in 1822, he spent much of the next 22 years in the West. The influence of German Romanticism on Tyutchev's writing was great, and he was published in a variety of second-tier journals in this period. Then, in 1836, sixteen of his poems were published in Pushkin's journal The Contemporary .

Though Tyutchev had a great interest in international politics, and enjoyed socialized in the upper level political circles, he did not have a serious enough attitude toward his diplomatic post to launch a serious career. In 1839 he left his government post without permission so that he could marry his second wife, and was subsequently discharged from the civil service. When he returned to Russian and once again joined St. Petersburg society, he began a more serious literary career.

Though married twice, Tyutchev could not find spiritual satisfaction with either of his wives, and he was constantly involved in extramarital affairs. One of these proved to be the most significant event of Tyutchev's later life. Elena Aleksandrovna Denisieva was an impoverished young noblewoman, with whom Tyutchev had a long and intense affair for fourteen years. Denisieva became a secondary wife to the poet, bore him three children, nursed him through illness, and supported him during his frequent bouts of melancholia. The couple did not particularly hide their affair, and were stigmatized by society. Perhaps due to this burden, their affair was often a difficult one, and included many quarrels. Denisieva's health began to decline, and she eventually succumbed to tuberculosis in 1864.

Shaken by his mistresses death, Tyutchev wrote little in the following years, and in 1872 a stroke left him paralyzed. Over the next year other strokes followed, and he died on June 27, 1873.