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 Denis Fonvizin

Born:   14 April [O.S. 3 April] 1744 or 1745
Deceased:   12 December [O.S. 1 December] 1792

Russian writer, author of comedies


The writer Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin was the founder of the genre of Russian comedy of manners. He was born into a noble family in Moscow on 14 April [O.S.  3 April] 1744 or 1745.

He was educated at a grammar school and then at the Philosophical Faculty of the Moscow University. In 1756-1759 he took part in amateur play productions of the Mikhail Heraskov students’ theater and then at the Public Theater of Professional Actors as well. In the period from 1769 to 1782 he worked as a secretary of Count Panin column at the board of foreign affairs. From 1777 to 1787 Fonvizin lived in France. 

He tried his wings at writing in his student years, when he translated a number of fables and satirical stories from the German language. Altogether the writer translated 226 fables throughout his creative career. 
He made his debut as the author with The Message to My Servants Shumilov, Vanka and Petrushka. In 1769 he wrote the comedy The Foreman (published not until 1786), and his most well-known comedy The Minor saw the light in 1783, one year after it was first staged. As a legend goes, after The Minor premiered in Petersburg, Prince Potyomkin approached Fonvizin and said: “Denis, you can already die as well, you will never write better!” According to another version, it was Derzhavin and not Prince Potyomkin, who stated this. The Minor comedy still runs in theaters around Russia. By the way, during his training in the Nezhin preparatory school Nikolay Gogol played the role of Prostakova in students’ performances. 
In the last years of his life Denis Fonvizin worked on his autobiographical novel Frank Confession but did not live long enough to complete it. Denis Fonvizin died in Petersburg on December 12, 1792.

Tags: Russian Writers Russian Literature Denis Fonvizin   

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