Gogol is considered one of the greatest writers not only in Russian, but also in world literature. The majority of readers studied the biography of the great writer in the course of the school curriculum, and it is believed that there are no “blank spots” in it. However, even for close people and friends of the writer, the motives of his actions were not always clear, not to mention the generation that lives so many decades after the end of Gogol’s life. The biography of Nikolai Vasilyevich is very interesting, it is full of interesting facts, tragic events and mystical coincidences.
The mystery of birth
A whole chain of events preceded the birth of an outstanding author. His mother was a girl of amazing beauty, but this was not what attracted her husband to her – Vasily Gogol-Yanovsky. He saw his future bride in a dream. When she was only a year old, Gogol-Yanovsky first met her, if we can consider the meeting of a one-year-old girl and a fifteen-year-old boy as an acquaintance. At the age of 14, she was married to her husband, who was twice as old.
After the wedding, the couple passionately dreamed of children, but such mercy was not granted to them for a long time. The fact is that both clans, from which the parents of Nikolai Vasilyevich came, did not differ in good health. Vasily Gogol-Yanovsky himself suffered from bouts of fever, and a couple of days before his death, he had a throat bleeding. In the mother’s family, several people suffered from mental disorders, and she herself was an extremely impressionable person.
The first two children died immediately after they were born, which was extremely painful and difficult for young parents to endure. Young Maria Ivanovna decided to seek help from God, so she decided on a desperate measure: she walked from the family estate to the church located in Velikiye Sorochintsy to bow down at the icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker. Kneeling down, she asked the patron saint to give them and her husband a child whom she pledged to name Nicholas.
To the great joy of the Gogolei-Yanovskys, Maria Ivanovna soon learned that she was pregnant for the third time. She fulfilled her promise and on April 1, 1809, she gave birth to a healthy boy, who was named Nikolai.
The origins of mental instability
Having lost two children, Gogol’s mother did not cope well with worries about the health of her only child. She was a very pious woman, her soul was tormented by bad feelings and superstitious omens, which is not difficult to understand after such huge shocks. Maria Ivanovna endlessly looked for new symptoms and diagnoses from her son and bothers the district doctors with them.
She passed on her superstitious horror to the children. From an early age, she colorfully told her son about the upcoming Last Judgment. According to his personal recollections, the eerie and mystical pictures that these stories conjured up in the imagination of Nikolai Vasilyevich returned to him in nightmares all his life.
The future writer was an extremely shy, sullen and uncommunicative child. Even towards his younger brothers and sisters, he did not show friendliness, avoided playing with them, preferring loneliness, which is so uncharacteristic for childhood.
In personal memoirs, the writer says that he experienced the first panic attack when he was still five years old. In addition, drawings, which were Nikolenka’s favorite hobbies, did not evoke any delight among those around him, which sharply reflected on the self-esteem of the future writer. It is a known fact that once, in a strange state of all-consuming horror, which overtook Gogol in a moment of loneliness, he drowned a cat in a pond, after which he came to indescribable repentance. He did not hide this fact from his parents, for which he was severely punished by his father.
At the age of 10, studies begin in a lyceum, where the strangeness of behavior is not hidden from peers. Nikolenka here gets the nickname Mysterious Karla, which is quite consistent with the behavior of this eccentric. His increased nervousness does not escape the eyes of his classmates, sometimes he jumps up, walks around the room and returns to his original place, keeping a tense expression on his face.
In his studies, Nikolai Vasilyevich did not shine, but he entered a literary circle. This hobby was close from childhood, as my father wrote plays that were staged by the Gogol-Yanovskys in the family circle with great pleasure.
Perhaps everyone has seen the portraits of the outstanding playwright and mystic. The most recognizable feature of a literary man is a long, narrow and pointed nose. The fact that Nikolai Vasilyevich was very shy of his nose was known to all his friends and acquaintances. At that time, this shape of the nose was considered a sign of high origin and aristocracy. This feature was inherited from the mother not only by the eldest son, but also by all the children in this family. The great playwright did not like a clear sign of aristocracy on his face and became the cause of many complexes.
Each portrait painter who performed portraits was forced by the writer to smooth out the situation and depict a smaller nose, he was extremely scrupulous about this, therefore biographers regretfully state the fact that the real appearance of the author of immortal works can be restored only approximately.
The researchers of the author’s work believe that the desperate attempt of this impressionable person to overcome his complex led to the birth of the work “The Nose”.
Phobias and fears
It is unlikely that in all domestic literature there is at least one more person who can compare in the number of phobias with Gogol. One of the fears that Nikolenka faced from an early age was the fear of a thunderstorm. During the thunder and lightning, the boy hid under the bed, tightly covering his ears with his hands and roaring loudly. Having turned into an adult man, such shocking behavior ended, but Nikolai Vasilyevich could not cope with the desire to close his ears even in adulthood.
Insects, spiders and worms evoked mystical horror in the writer’s soul. He sincerely considered them messengers of hell and devilish creation. Although Gogol was not a fully social phobe, the fact of inappropriate behavior during the appearance of strangers did not go unnoticed by those around him. As soon as a stranger entered the room, the writer abruptly retreated under any convenient or even ridiculous pretext. Knowing about such quirks, it did not even occur to friends to prevent such an escape.
But Gogol’s main phobia was the fear of being buried in a state of lethargic sleep or in a coma. The playwright’s imagination painted terrible pictures of awakening in a dark coffin deep in the ground, where no one would hear the screams of a person dying from lack of oxygen. The writer spoke so much about this that in the end it gave rise to doubts among the descendants as to whether he was not buried alive. This point of view was considered by historians and biographers of the great writer, but the fact that the body was buried alive was not confirmed, since a death mask was made from the face of the deceased. It is known that during the manufacture of such a mask, a person does not receive oxygen, therefore it is impossible to perform it live.
The mother loved her eldest son with tender love. She supported him in all endeavors and enthusiastically accepted any idea that he lived. After the first work – “Ganz Küchelgarten” – was blown to smithereens by critics, the young author, in desperation, bought up the entire edition and destroyed it.
The writer discusses the idea of a work that will bring him real success with his mother. It is no coincidence that the story “Evenings on a Farm Near Dykanka” is addressed to the theme of life and customs of central Ukraine. At that time, turning to the origins became a new trend in the literature on which many authors have relied. In order for the material to come out worthy and interesting, it was decided not to rush. While Gogol himself is far from home, his mother and sisters are painstakingly working: collecting material, writing down folk beliefs and customs and describing in detail everything worthy of attention to Nikolai Vasilyevich in letters. For the publication of this work, the family does not spare a huge amount, although the financial situation of the Gogole-Yanovskys during these years was very disappointing.
The work is a success: “Evenings on a farm near Dikanka” bring real success and recognition to the writer. A copy from the first edition was tremblingly kept in the parental home. At the moment, it is on display for all to see in the writer’s museum, located in the Gogol-Yanovsky estate.
At every opportunity, the writer thanked his mother and sisters for their great help in the work and implementation of the plan, emphasizing that without their participation he would not have had enough passion, patience, efficiency, or money.
Gogol’s first serious hobby was Anna Villegorskaya, one of the most enviable brides of that time. She was not only pretty, but also came from a noble Petersburg family. The secular beauty sunk into the soul of a vulnerable young man, and their communication became quite close. Anna’s parents warmly welcomed the writer, but they politely refused the marriage proposal, hinting that Gogol was not rich and noble enough to be married to Anna.
To drown out the bitterness of refusal, Nikolai Vasilyevich goes to Rome for new impressions, and after returning to St. Petersburg, his acquaintance with the main love of life, Alexandra Rosset, heals his emotional wound.
Alexandra Osipovna was not at all a flirt, like most girls of her age and position, but Gogol was delighted with her natural beauty and intelligence. The writer noted that their souls were like spiritual twins. Wit and a wonderful sense of humor set her apart from other maids of honor at the palace, so she was distinguished from the general crowd not only by the empress, but also by Nicholas I himself loved to talk with her.
Among admirers of Alexandra Rosset were such famous favorites of women as Pushkin, Lermontov, Zhukovsky, Vyazemsky, so Gogol did not harbor illusions about their relationship, which did not prevent these two difficult personalities from becoming close people and devoted friends. Their touching correspondence continued for many years, and in the intervals between wanderings and journeys Nikolai Vasilyevich periodically came to visit Alexandra Osipovna, who had already been married.
It was no secret to any of his relatives and friends that strange and even mystical things had happened to Gogol in recent years. His mental state deteriorated sharply, which also affected his physical health. Back in 1939, after visiting Italy, he fell ill with malaria, after which dizziness, fainting, and visual hallucinations often appeared.
Piety has always been a family trait of the Gogol-Yanovskys, but in the writer it manifested itself in a painful form. As soon as the condition of the author of “Dead Souls” began to deteriorate, the craving for fasting and fear of God intensified. At this time, many years of work on the second volume of “Dead Souls” was actively going on, and the author was burning with this idea, with deep passion he read out excerpts to all his friends, described future plot twists and an enchanting ending. But at the moment when the creative process was coming to an end, another deterioration occurred.
Nikolai Vasilievich moved from strict religious fasts to almost total starvation, continuing to reproach himself for excessive gluttony. Modern medicine would call it anorexia nervosa. Physical exhaustion, aggravated by neurotic disorders, progressed. Before his death, Nikolai Vasilyevich held another strictest post for 15 days, he was painfully thin and weak. He was seized by a strong fear of death, which once tormented his father.
In this state, the writer decides to burn his completed work. All evening and part of the night he prays for several hours, and then burns the pages of the second part of Dead Souls. After that, until morning, Gogol sobs in his bed.
Within nine days, the great writer dies. This death was not unexpected; all the doctors who examined the patient warned about the upcoming finale. The mother of one of the best mystics, playwrights and prose writers nevertheless lived to see a nightmare, a premonition of which tormented her all her life: she had to bury her beloved son.
For many years, in the Gogol-Yanovsky estate, the wing, where Gogol’s working secretary was located, is kept in the same form as during the life of the odious writer.