by Codruta Mihailovici, National Archives of Romania
Mihai Eminescu is considered the poet of the Romanians, the greatest one. His work (influenced by the Western European authors and the philosophical doctrines of German academics, such as Schopenhauer) belongs to Western European Romanticism but with strong national touches. His life (birth, death, love) is still full of mystery.
The National Archives of Romania preserve in Iassy, Bucharest, Alba Iulia, Cluj Napoca, Botoșani and other branches documents created or related to Mihai Eminescu and his family.
According to the Register of the “Assumption of the Virgin” Church in Botosani he was born on January 15th, 1850.
The date and location of birth raised controversy during the time but based on oficial records this was finally set as January 15th, which became, since 2010, the Romanian National Culture Day. At the age of 7, Eminescu left his home to attend school in Cernowitz (National-Hauptschule, K.K. Ober-Gymnazium) until 1863, when he returned.
At age of 16, Eminescu (his real name was, actually, Eminovici) had his poetry debute and during his short life he created works (both poetry and prose) which strongly influenced Romanian writers and poets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In his youth he joined various theatrical groups, traveling over the country before settling in Bucharest where he found a job working as a copyist for the prestigious National Theater.
Later, he studied in Viena (1869–1872) and Berlin (1872–1874), Law and Philosophy, and after returning home he got involved in reforming romanian political and educational system.
He was appointed school inspector and librarian at the University of Iaşi.
A significat number of the reports he wrote as school inspector are preserved by the National Archives. They outline the poor situation of the rural educational system and the progresist view of Eminescu reflected by the measures he propose to improve it.
As the librarian of the University of Iassy, the documents reveal his interest to enrich the Library book fund by using all the financial resources available.
He left Iassy in 1877 and became editor in chief of the conservative paper Timpul, in Bucharest, being an active member of the Junimea literary society, whilst he continued to write on a wide range of themes from nature and love, to deep social commentary, and create the revolution of Romanian verse. He also produced some of the most affecting written accounts of the Russo-Turkish War ever recorded.
Eminescu’s poetry has a distinctive simplicity of language, a masterly handling of rhyme and verse form, a profundity of thought, and a plasticity of expression which affected nearly every Romanian writer of his own period and after.
The poet’s manuscripts, containing 46 volumes and approximately 14.000 pages, were offered by Titu Maiorescu as a gift to the Romanian Academy on January 25th, 1902. Since then they are preserved by the Library of the Romanian Academy and a part of them are available online at: http://aleph500.biblacad.ro:8991/F?func=find-b-0&local_base=img.
Although critics say that Eminescu lyrics are loosing the essence during the process of translation, his poems have been translated into several languages, mostly into German.
His masterpiece is considered the poem The Evening Star (written in 1883, published in 1884), influenced by the Schopenhauer’s philosophy.
His literary activity came to an end after 1883, when he suffered a mental disorder (manic-depressive psychosis) that led to his death in an asylum, at the age of just 39 (on June 15, 1889). He was burried in Bellu Cemetery, in Bucharest, where the most important personalities (historical and political figures, poets, writers, artists) are laid to rest . Even today the debate related to his death is still going, some claim a bipolar disorder which caused the death, others mercury poisoning, the treatment for syphilis (the disease he suffered since 1883).
Love of his life
Mihai Eminescu met Veronica Micle, on March 1872, also a poet, but married, in Vienna, they’ve fallen in love and this connection last for the rest of their lives. First, a chaste romance, mostly, flared up once they both returned to Romania and later, after the death of Veronica’s husband in 1879, they have started to appear together in public.
Their bond was reflected in their lyrics, too. The National Archives of Romania preserve some lyrics of Veronica Micle written as a response on Eminescu’s poem The Evening Star.
They have never married and the relation was extremely tumultuous caused by jealousy, poverty and interference of other persons. After Eminescu’s death, Veronica retired to a monastery, drafted a volume collecting his poems dedicated to her and her own poems, and then she poisoned herself with arsenic and died on August 1889.
As we previously said, the National Archives of Romania preserve a significat archive related to ancestors of Mihai Eminescu (Iminovici family who came from Transylvania to Bukovina in the mid-18th century, the activity of Mihai Eminescu’s father as state employee of the Moldavian Principality) and part of Eminescu’s private and profesional archive (correspondence with family during the study abroad, activity as school inspector and librarian, correspondence regarding his work etc.). At the National Central Historical Archives in Bucharest the personal fond Mihai Eminescu has descriptions already available online at:
The fond (which consists of 129 documents) is entirely digitized and the images will be soon available in the institutional portal.
Eminescu had a strong connection with the archives, before his legacy was brought to be preserved by the archives. Since 1874, when he studied abroad he aimed to search in foreign arhives documents related to romanians history, but not only. He had a five days trip to Konigsberg to research the Kant’s archive, then Kraków, Lvov willing to reveal the importance of the historical documents when documenting a political, historical event. He even started to learn how to read the latin documents and to verify the elements of authenticity. He also took an interest on slavonic palaeography and cyrillic alphabet.
More about Mihai Eminescu life and work, and documents preserved by the National Archives of Romania in the material (unfortunatelly, in Romanian) prepared by my colleague, Elena Musat: