Mirror of the Soul

A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev


Tyutchev - Mirror of the SoulRussians have long recognised FYODOR TYUTCHEV (1803-1873) as one of the brightest stars in their literary firmament. For Dostoyevsky he was 'our great poet', for Turgenev (who published his first volume of verse) 'one of our most remarkable poets'. He was the favourite poet of Leo Tolstoy, who declared: 'One cannot live without him'. In the considered judgement of Afanasy Fet he was quite simply 'one of the greatest lyric poets ever to have existed on this earth'. Yet outside Russia Tyutchev's (or Tiutchev's) name remains curiously unknown.

John Dewey's new biography — the first in English, and one of the most comprehensive to date in any language — has now been published by Brimstone Press. Providing a long overdue introduction to this major figure, it tells the story of a fascinating life and personality as reflected in the poems, presented here in the author's own verse translations.

Written with the general reader in mind, the book also makes important new contributions in the field of Tyutchev studies. For its account of Tyutchev's life it draws on an extensive range of sources, including much previously unpublished archival material. Datings, addressees and circumstances of composition are established for a number of the poems which have hitherto proved problematic in this respect. Tyutchev's poems, and his relationship to the major intellectual and political movements of his age, are subjected to detailed analysis and reassessment.

Mirror of the Soul has been acclaimed by the critics as a major new work in its field (see below).

John Dewey - specialist on Russian poet TyutchevAuthor - John Dewey

JOHN DEWEY has degrees in languages from the Universities of Cambridge and Nottingham, and for many years taught German and Russian in schools and colleges. His previous publications include translations of Russian poems, verse and prose, and articles on Russian literature.

Critical Responses

‘John Dewey’s magnificent book Mirror of the Soul embraces with equal depth and clarity Tyutchev’s extraordinary poetry, philosophy, love life and (un)diplomatic career. […] Mirror of the Soul is beautifully written and edited. It will be, for a long time, the standard work on Fyodor Tyutchev anywhere in the world.’ Donald Rayfield, Times Literary Supplement

‘This book is not only the first life of Tyutchev in English, it is by far the best and the most complete anywhere, including Russia. Dewey’s scholarship is meticulous and there isn’t a previous biography or study he doesn’t mention, draw on or debate. The volume is handsomely illustrated and reads easily. John Dewey himself is a thoughtful critic.’   Stanley Mitchell, Literary Review

'Writing a biography of Tiutchev (1803-73) presents a special set of problems. […] It is John Dewey's accomplishment in his magnificent biography to cover all this ground with admirable thoroughness while still managing to keep the poetry very much in focus. […] [His translations] certainly convey to the general reader the thrust of Tiutchev's poetry and offer an idea of its greatness. […] [T]he clear writing and lively exposition keep the reader fully engaged. […] [T]he general reader for whom this book is intended […], and Slavists wishing to learn more about this complex and fascinating personality, will find before them a highly informative and richly rewarding volume.' Barry P. Scherr, Slavonic and East European Review

‘The exhaustiveness of the research is matched by the quality of the writing, and it is difficult to imagine that it will be surpassed in any language for many years to come. Not least impressive are the translations of Tyutchev’s lyrics which, unusually for a book of this kind, give the non-Russian speaker a real sense of the originals.’  Malcolm Jones, Emeritus Professor of Slavonic Studies, University of Nottingham

‘Mr Dewey's book is not only a detailed biography of Tyutchev; brilliant analysis of the lyric verse stands side by side with penetrating commentaries on his political writings. [...] On the basis of an extensive range of documentary material, John Dewey has succeeded in demonstrating the duality, contradictions and complexity of a man whom Afanasy Fet called: “one of the greatest lyric poets to have existed on this earth”.’  Natalya Golitsyna,  Radio Free Europe

‘Dewey has made use of an enormous number of documents, his use of German documents, many of them previously unpublished, being particularly impressive. [...] The author has convincingly resolved many of the unresolved questions of Tyutchev's biography. [...] With more than four hundred pages of impeccably produced text, plus photographs, copious notes, a comprehensive bibliography and three indexes, at twenty pounds this book constitutes excellent value for money. The present writer has reviewed books half the length and half the worth of this book, costing twice the price. It is likely to be the standard reference work for many years to come, and Brimstone Press are to be congratulated on making it available.’  Michael Pursglove, East-West Review 

Book Excerpt

Read an excerpt from the book (36kB PDF), including five of John Dewey's translations of Tyutchev's poems. Additionally, read John Dewey's translation of Silentium! on this website.

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The book is available to purchase online or by post as a paperback at £20 (p&p free in the UK), or online as a downloadable e-book at £10

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        Brimstone Press, The Mount, Buckhorn Weston, Gillingham, Dorset, SP8 5HT.

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ISBN 978-1-906385-23-1