Chulkov, Mikail

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Chulkov, Mikail (1743? – 1792): Russian, Writer.

Best known for writing The Comely Cook, or the Adventures of a Debauched Woman, Mikhail Chulkov's works encompassed many genres responsible for a number of firsts in the Russian literary tradition: the first low burlesque poem, the first mythological dictionary, the first memoir novel, and the first published Russian songbook. He is probably responsible for the emergence of parody, satire, and an interest in folklore in Russian literature.

Chulkov was born around 1743, to a family in the merchant or clerical class. He studied at Moscow University around 1756- 1758. In 1761, he moved to Saint Petersburg, pursuing a job in the Court Theater, possibly as a hairdresser, and later performing small roles in a few plays before leaving in 1765. Around this time, Chulkov married Anna Gavrilovna Batalina, who bore him a son, Vladimir, in 1766. The same year was his authorial debut, The Mocker. The first two parts of this collection of tales were published between 1766 and 1768. Between 1766 and 1774, Chulkov published fiction, a lexicon of mythology, and A Collection of Various Songs, which contained popular folk songs, as well as songs by well-known contemporaries. He was also involved with the publication of two literary journals, initiated by Catherine II, the Great, one of his greatest patrons. In 1770, he abandoned his literary career for more profitable works, including dictionaries and text books, and began working in government service in 1772 for the Senate and then Department of Commerce. During the 1780’s, wealthy patrons supported his work, and in 1789, he wrote the fifth and final part to The Mocker. Much of his work was influenced by folktales, mythology, and proverbs, thus creating a bridge between the high and the low literature of the time.

Further Reading:

Marcus C.Levitt ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 150: Early Modern Russian Writers, Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 1995.

Sigrid Kelsey

Louisiana State University