born May 18 [May 29, New Style], 1787,
died July 7 [July 19], 1855, Vologda
Russian elegiac poet whose sensual and
melodious verses were said to have
influenced the great Russian poet
Batyushkov’s early childhood was spent
in the country on his father’s estate.
When he was 10 he went to Moscow, where
he studied the classics and learned
French and Italian, languages that were
to have an important influence on his
style of writing. In 1802 he went to St.
Petersburg, living for a time with an
uncle, Mikhail Muravyov, a writer and
poet. He served in the army during the
campaigns of 1813–14 against Napoleon.
Afterward, he became a prominent member
of Arzamas (a literary group formed by
the followers of Nikolay Karamzin, who
advocated the modernization of the
Russian literary language).
Batyushkov’s literary output was not
large—a few elegies and lyrics and some
free translations of amorous epigrams
from the Greek—but his verses are unique
in their Italianate quality, producing a
musical softness and sweetness. His
poetry, written between 1809 and 1812,
brought him fame. His collected works
appeared in 1817, and shortly afterward
he ceased writing. Suffering from mental
illness, he was sent abroad in hope of a
cure, which was never achieved.