Ferenc Kazinczy


Ferenc Kazinczy

Ferenc Kazinczy (October 27, 1759 –August 22, 1831) was a Hungarian author, the most indefatigable agent in the regeneration of the Magyar language and literature at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. His name is today connected to the extensive Language Reform of the 19th century, when thousands of words were coined or revived, enabling the Hungarian language to keep up with scientific progress and become an official language of the nation in 1844.

He was born at Érsemjén (today Şimian, Romania), in the county of Bihar, Hungary. He studied law at Kassa and Eperjes, and in Pest, where he also obtained a thorough knowledge of French and German literature, and made the acquaintance of Gideon Raday, who allowed him the use of his library. In 1784 Kazinczy became subnotary for the county of Abaúj; and in 1786 he was nominated inspector of schools at Kassa. There he began to devote himself to the restoration of the Magyar language and literature by translations from classical foreign works, and by the augmentation of the native vocabulary from ancient Magyar sources. In 1788, with the assistance of Dávid Baróti Szabó and János Batsányi, he started at Kassa the first Magyar literary magazine, "Magyar Muzeum"; the "Orpheus", which succeeded it in 1790, was his own creation. Although, upon the accession of Leopold II, Kazinczy, as a non-Catholic, was obliged to resign his post at Kassa, his literary activity in no way decreased. He not only assisted Raday in the establishment and direction of the first Magyar dramatic society, but enriched the repertoire with several translations from foreign authors. His "Hamlet", which first appeared at Kassa in 1790, is a rendering from the German version of Schröder.

Implicated in the democratic conspiracy of the abbot Martinovics, Kazinczy was arrested in December 1794, and condemned to death; but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment. He was released in 1801, and shortly afterwards married Sophia Török, daughter of his former patron, and retired to his small estate at Széphalom or "Fairhill", near Sátor-Újhely, in the county of Zemplén. In 1828 he took an active part in the conferences held for the establishment of the Hungarian academy, in the historical section of which he became the first corresponding member. He died of cholera at Széphalom.

Kazinczy, although possessing great beauty of style, cannot be regarded as a powerful and original thinker; his fame is chiefly due to the felicity of his translations from the masterpieces of Lessing, Goethe, Wieland, Klopstock, Ossian, La Rochefoucauld, Marmontel, Molière, Metastasio, Shakespeare, Sterne, Cicero, Sallust, Anacreon, and many others. He also edited the works of Baróczy (Pest, 1812, 8 vols.) and of the poet Zrinyi (1817, 2 vols.), and the poems of Dayka (1813, 3 vols.) and of John Kis (1815, 3 vols.). A collected edition of his works, consisting for the most part of translations, was published at Pest, 1814-1816, in 9 vols. His original productions ("Eredeti Munkái"), largely made up of letters, were edited by Joseph Bajza and Francis Toldy at Pest, 1836-1845, in 5 vols. Editions of his poems appeared in 1858 and in 1863.

In 1873, a neo-classicistic memorial hall (mausoleum) and graveyard was built in Széphalom for his memory, based on the plans of the architect Miklós Ybl. Today it belongs to the Ottó Herman Museum. The Museum of the Hungarian Language is intended to be built here, whose cornerstone has been laid in the park.

References

*1911


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