Ivan Krylov, lover of pigeons and oysters: What was the famous fabulist like in life? nasshliski

February 13 marked the 255th anniversary of the birth of the fabulist Ivan Krylov.

Photo: wikimedia.org


Ivan Andreevich Krylov’s father was a hero. He, among others, defended the city of Yaitsky (now in this place the city of Uralsk) from the troops of Emelyan Pugachev, Pugachev counted him among his personal enemies and was sentenced in absentia to hanging along with the entire family of he. But he withstood the siege and then personally interrogated Pugachev. His seven-year-old son Ivan, who happily escaped from the gallows, then actively played “Pugashevism” with other children in the town of Yaitsky; Naturally, he and his friends sided with the government troops, while other children posed as rebels.

But overall, it didn’t turn out to be that fun. Krylov awaited the siege of the city of Yaitsky with his mother and his brother in Orenburg, which was also besieged; There was hunger there, which he would not forget until his death (many explain the legendary gluttony of the adult Krylov). And my father received practically nothing for his feat. He resigned, moved to Tver, became an official and … did not accept bribes. He was just an honest man. And in those days, officials were fed mainly by bribes and “gratitude.” Therefore, when Andrei Prokhorovich Krylov died, he left his wife and children nothing but a chest of books. He took this chest to the garrisons, but he hardly had time to read… But Ivan had time. And he became addicted to reading for the rest of his life, literally devouring books.

At the age of eleven he became an “administrative office clerk” of the Tver magistrate. It was unlikely that this work was to his heart’s content. Semyon Brilliant, Krylov’s pre-revolutionary biographer, wrote: “The little official knew many things that no one else could even dream of at his age. He loved to mix among the common people. He was attracted to spectacles: fires, fist fights; He also loved to sit for hours at a time somewhere in the wash houses of Porto, listening to the stories of the common people and the serfs.”

A few years later, the mother and children moved to St. Petersburg (there was nothing to lose in Tver) and there 14-year-old Ivan entered service in the Treasury Chamber. But he soon resigned and began to compose.

He wrote his first play, the comic opera “The Coffee House” (about a fortune teller who uses coffee grounds) at the age of 13. It was bought by the printer Bernard Breitkopf; He offered a substantial fee of 60 rubles, but Krylov preferred to accept it in the form of books. And Breitkopf gave him several volumes of fashionable French authors: Boileau, Corneille and Racine.

Inspired, Krylov began to write tragedies: “Cleopatra”, “Philomela”… It was terrible. He moved on to comedies, but they didn’t stand out either. As, in fact, satirical stories, pamphlets, odes and poems… “Most of Krylov’s works are only of historical interest,” wrote Julius Aikhenvald a century and a half later, “but his fables, fables, this national history, equally confirmed by grandparents and grandchildren, which vividly colored our conversation at dinner, is what has become the favorite property of the Russian people.”


Ivan Andreevich began to compose fables as a teenager. But he resigned immediately. He returned to this genre in the new 19th century, when he was over 30 years old. At first they were translations of his beloved La Fontaine, but the translations were made in such a bright and vivid language that the poet Ivan Dmitriev exclaimed: “This is your real family, you have finally found it!

Dmitriev immediately sent two fables to Count Shalikov, who published the magazine “Moscow Spectator”, and in 1806 they were published under the title “Two Fables for SI Bnkndfvoy” (that is, for Sonya Benkendorfova, the daughter of his friends). In 1809, 23 fables were published (including “The Raven and the Fox”, “The Musicians”, “The Chest”, “The Wolf and the Lamb”, “The Sea of ​​Animals”), and became, as we would say today, a bestseller. Two years later another book appeared. In society they begged him to read fables (he was an excellent reader), and he agreed. He read them to the Empress at the Winter Palace, much to his pleasure. And Emperor Alexander I announced that he was always ready to help Krylov if he wrote well. Over time, his fables, inspired by La Fontaine, began to be translated into other languages, including French, and the French were delighted.

Ivan Andreevich was accepted into the Russian Academy and also got a job as an assistant librarian at the Imperial Public Library. And in this wealthy position, as the biographer writes, he “became completely lazy.” “I, my dear, am terribly lazy… And what, my dear, should I say! And the French know that I am lazy,” he said himself. Oblomov’s direct ancestor, he could not get off the couch for a long time. His creed could be expressed in his own words:

“Behind the winds from all sides

Without moving I look at the vanity of the world

And I philosophize while I sleep.”

As he became rich, he made sure his apartment had luxurious furniture. “Everywhere they supply silver, bronze, porcelain, alabaster and crystal in stores. The floors are covered with beautiful English rugs. In the buffet there are fashionable games and other accessories of rich tables…” At the same time, “he didn’t care about cleanliness or order. The servants consisted of a salaried woman with a girl, her daughter. No one in the house even thought to sweep the dust off the furniture and other things. (…) He did not have an office or desk. He friendly asked those who came to him to always sit down, which a neatly dressed guest could do, not without difficulty. Krylov smoked cigars incessantly and used a cigarette holder to protect his eyes from the heat and smoke. During the conversation, the cigarette went out every minute. He called. The girl, passing from the kitchen down the hallway, sometimes singing a song, brought a thin wax candle without a candelabra, poured a little wax on the table and lit the fire in front of her modest master. The hallway window was almost always open. Krylov, throwing grain, brought the pigeons from Gostiny Dvor and they got used to being with him as if they were on the street. The tables, the shelves, the objects on them and everything around them showed traces of the presence of these daily guests of the fabulist. In the morning he got up quite late. His friends often found him in bed around ten…” wrote his biographer Piotr Pletnev.

Tomb of Ivan Krylov

Photo: wikimedia.org

But he went to dinner at the club and his appetite was legendary. “They tried to please him with heavy Russian dishes and it was impossible to tire him with the quantity of them. An enemy of foreigners, he was not an enemy of foreign oysters, exterminating at least 100 of them at a time, but no less than 80,” Brilliant reported. And another biographer, Nikolai Stepanov, described the holidays this way: “The veal cutlets used to be of enormous size, they barely fit on the plate. Krylov took one, then another, stopped and, looking at the diners, quickly made a mathematical calculation and then resolutely took the third… The huge fried turkey aroused genuine admiration from him. “Firebird! – Krylov repeated, “a crunch is felt on the very lips…” They say it weighed 168 kilograms.

This lifestyle caused “hot flashes of blood in the head”, that is, strokes. And yet she was able to recover from them and live to be 76 years old. Until November 1844. One night he had porridge of mashed grouse with butter for dinner and the next morning he felt ill. Before his death, according to legend, he reread the fables and biography of another great fabulist: Aesop. A rumor spread throughout St. Petersburg that Krylov died of volvulus, but in reality the cause of death was pneumonia. And his fables are still alive; Written even before Pushkin, they still look surprisingly fresh and bright today.

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