Fonvizin Denis Ivanovich 3(14). 4.1744 or 1745, Moscow, - 1(12).12.1792, St. Petersburg
Russian writer, enlightener. In the comedy "Brigadier" satirically depicted the customs of nobility, their passion for all French. In the comedy "Young Oaf", landmark work of Russian literature, Fonvizin, seeing the root of all Russian troubles in serfdom, derided system of nobiliary education and upbringing. "The Notes of the First Travel" played essential role in formation of Russian prose.
Fonvizin was born in a rich noble family. In 1755-62 he studied at grammar school of Moscow university. In 1762 Fonvizin became the interpreter at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and moved to St. Petersburg. In 1763-69 he served as the secretary to the cabinet-minister I.P. Elagin. By the 1760s the enlightener outlook of Fonvizin had finally formed: he supported universal schooling, gradual - as far as "education" allowed - abolition of serfdom. His ideal of a political system was the educated monarchy. Fonvizin translated from German language "Moralizing Fables" (1761) by Danish enlightener L.Holberg, from French language - tragedies by Voltaire "Alzira, or the Americans" (1762), the treatise "Short story about liberty of the French nobility and benefit of the third rank" (1764-66). In this period Fonvizin also wrote the first original works: "Message to my servants Shumilov, Vanka and Petrushka" (published in 1769) and moralizing comedy of everyday life "Brigadier" (1768-69, published in 1792-95).
In 1769 Fonvizin became the secretary of the head of Ministry of Foreign Affaires N.I.Panin with whom he shared opposition to the government of Catherine II and hatred for favoritism, Fonvizin was sure that "fundamental laws" were necessary in Russia. In 1777-1778 Fonvizin visited France; his letters to P.I. Panin comprised "Notes of the First Travel" (published in the 1800s), where the bright picture of national crisis of pre-revolutionary France was given.
In 1781 Fonvizin wrote the most important work - the comedy "Young Oaf" (staged in 1782, published in 1783) in which he depicted life in the house of Prostakovy landowners with its ridiculous customs as a system of relations based on serfdom, showed negative influence of serfdom on forming of personality. In the image of the positive hero of the comedy Starodum, contemporaries of Fonvizin for the first time saw the type of an educated Russian humanist, patriot, fighter against serfdom and despotism. Comedy of Fonvizin exerted significant influence on development of Russian realistic theatre, in particular on creativity of I.A. Krylov, A.S. Griboedov, N.V. Gogol, A.N. Ostrovsky.
In 1782 Fonvizin resigned, deciding to devote himself to literary work. In 1783 he published a number of satirical works: "Experience of Russian citizen, belonging to some class", "Narration of a sham deaf and dumb person", and also "Some questions, which could excite special attention of clever and fair people", on which empress herself answered with irritation. Further attempts by Fonvizin to appear in print were stopped by Catherine II: in 1788 he was not allowed to issue five volumes of collected works and magazine "The friend of fair people, or Starodum" (comprising the magazine satire "General court grammar" was distributed in lists). Fonvizin managed only to publish (anonymously) the story "Kalisfen" (1786).
Last years of life Fonvizin was seriously ill. In 1789 he began to write "Confession of my deeds and plans' (it was not finished, published in 1830); evidently, the sketch of the comedy "The choice of family tutor" goes back to 1790. Fonvizin is one of the largest representatives of Russian enlightener realism, the founder of the first Russian national comedy, "a friend of freedom", by A.S. Pushkin's definition.