Pavel Jozef Šafárik

Pavel Jozef Šafárik

Born 13 May 1795
Kobeliarovo (Kisfeketepatak), Slovakia, then Kingdom of Hungary
Died 26 June 1861 (1861-06-27) (aged 66)
Other names German: Paul Joseph Schaffarik; Serbian: Павле Јосиф Шафарик; Latin: Paulus Josephus Schaffarik; Hungarian: Pál József Safarik
Citizenship Kingdom of Hungary
Religion Lutheranism

Pavel Jozef Šafárik (13 May 1795 – 26 June 1861) was a Slovak philologist, poet, one of the first scientific Slavists; literary historian, historian and ethnographer.


His father Pavol Šafárik (1761–1831) was a Protestant clergyman in Kobeliarovo (Kisfeketepatak) and before that a teacher in Štítnik (Csetnek), where he was also born. His mother, Katarína Káresová (1764–1812) was born in a poor lower gentry family in Hanková (Annafalva) and had several jobs in order to help the family in the poor region of Kobeliarovo. P. J. Šafárik had two elder brothers and one elder sister. One brother, called Pavol Jozef as well, died before Šafárik was born. In 1813, after Katarína's death, Šafárik's father married the widow Rozália Drábová, although Šafárik and his brothers and sister were against this marriage. The local teacher provided Šafárik with Czech books.

On the 17 of June 1822, when he was in Serbia (see below), P. J. Šafárik married 19-year-old Júlia Ambrózy de Séden (Slovak: Júlia Ambróziová; 1803–1876), a highly intelligent member of lower gentry born in 1803 in present-day Serbia.[1][2][3] She spoke Slovak, Czech, Serbian and Russian, and supported Šafárik in his scientific work. In Serbia, they also had three daughters (Ľudmila, Milena, Božena) and two sons (Mladen Svatopluk, Vojtěch), but the first two daughters and the first son died shortly after their birth. Upon Šafárik's arrival in Prague, they had 6 further children, out of which one died shortly after its birth.

His eldest son Vojtěch (1831–1902) became an important chemist, Jaroslav (1833–1862) became a military doctor and later the supreme assistant at the Joseph Academy in Vienna, Vladislav (1841 - ?) became a professional soldier, and Božena (1831–?) married Josef Jireček (1825–1888), a Czech literary historian, politician and a tutor in Šafarík's family. Vojtech wrote an interesting biography of his father - Co vyprávěl P. J. Šafařík (What Šafárik said) - and the son of Božena and Jireček the study Šafařík mezi Jihoslovany (Šafárik among the Southern Slavs).


Upper Hungary (today's Slovakia) (1795–1815)

Pavel spent his childhood in the region of Kobeliarovo in northern Gemer (Gömör) characterized by attractive nature and rich Slovak culture. He gained his basic education from his father. As P. J. Šafárik's son Vojtech put it later in his book (see Family): When, at the age of 7, his father showed him only one alphabet, he by himself hands down learned to read, and from then on he was always sitting on the stove and was reading. By the age of eight, he had read the whole Bible twice and one of his favorite activities was preaching to his brothers and sister, and to local people.

In 1805–08 Šafárik studied at a "lower gymnasium" (in some sources described as Protestant school which was just changed into a middle Latin school) in Rožňava (Rozsnyó), where he learned Latin, German and Hungarian. Since he did not have enough money to finance his studies, he continued his studies in Dobšiná (Dobsina) for two years, because he could live there with his sister. At that time, it was absolutely necessary for anyone, who wanted to become a successful scientist in the Kingdom of Hungary (which included today's Slovakia) to have a good command of Latin, German, and Hungarian. Since the school in Rožňava specialized in Hungarian and the school in Dobšiná in German, and Šafárik was an excellent student and both schools had a good reputation, all prerequisites for a successful career were fulfilled as early as at the age of 15.

In 1810-1814 he studied at the Evangelical lyceum of Kežmarok (Késmárk), where he got to know many Polish, Serbian and Ukrainian students and his most important friend Ján Blahoslav Benedikti, with whom they together read texts of Slovak and Czech national revivalists, especially those of Josef Jungmann. He was also familiarized with classical literature and German esthetics (also thanks to the excellent library of the lyceum), and started to show interest in Serbian culture. He graduated from the following branches of study: philosophy (including logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, economia ruralis, Latin style, comparative philosophy and history of the Kingdom of Hungary), politics and law (including jus naturae, jus privatum civile et criminale, scienciae politicae), and theology (including dogmatic and moral theology, hermeneutics, Greek language, Hebrew language, physics, medicine, natural law, state law and international law). The studies at this school were very important for his life, as he pointed out later himself, and since this was a largely German school, he was able to get a (partial) scholarship for a university in Germany.

He worked as a private tutor in the family of Dávid Goldberger in Kežmarok between 1812 and 1814, which he also did one year after the end of his studies in Kežmarok. His mother died in late 1812 and his father remarried 6 months later. His first larger work was a volume of poems entitled The Muse of Tatras with a Slavonic Lyre published in 1814 (see Works). The poems were written in the old-fashioned standard of the Moravian Protestant translation of the Bible that the Slovak Lutherans used in their publications with many elements from the Slovak and some from the Polish language.

Germany (1815–1817)

In 1815 he began to study at the University of Jena, where he turned from a poet into a scientist. It was the wish of his father, who financed him, to study there.

He attended lectures in history, philology, philosophy and natural sciences (lectures held by the professors Fries, Oken, Luden, Eichenstädt), studied books of Herder and Fichte, was observing current literature and studied classical literature. While there he also translated into Czech the Clouds of Aristophanes (issued in the Časopis Českého musea [Journal of the Bohemian museum] in 1830) and the Maria Stuart of Schiller (issued in 1831). In 1816 he became a member of the Latin Society of Jena. 17 of Šafárik's poems written at this time (1815–16) appeared in the Prvotiny pěkných umění by Hromádka in Vienna and made Šafárik well-known among the Slovaks and the Czech lands. In Jena, which Šafárik liked very much, he mainly learned to apply scientific methods and found a lot of new friends. One of them was the important Slovak writer Ján Chalupka, and another one, Samuel Ferjenčík, introduced him to Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Although he was an excellent student, Šafárik had to leave the University of Jena in May 1817 for unknown reasons (probably lack of money).

In 1817, on his way back home, he visited Leipzig and Prague. In Prague, where he was searching for a tutor job, he spent one month and joined the literary circle, whose members were Josef Dobrovsky, Josef Jungmann and Vaclav Hanka, whom Šafárik thus got to know in person.

Upper Hungary (today's Slovakia) (1817–1819)

Between the summer of 1817 and June 1819, he worked as a tutor in Pressburg (Bratislava) in the well-known family of Gašpar Kubínyi.[4] He also became a good friend of the Czech František Palacký, with whom he had already exchanged letters before and who was also a tutor in Pressburg at that time. The town of Pressburg was a social and intellectual center of the Kingdom of Hungary at that time. In the spring of 1819, Šafárik befriended the important Slovak writer and politician Ján Kollár.

Before he left for Serbia, Šafárik spent some time in Kobeliarovo and with his grandfather in Hanková. This was the last time Šafárik saw his native country.

Serbia (1819–1833)

In April 1819, his friend Ján Blahoslav Benedikti helped him to get a doctor's degree, which he needed in order to become headmaster of a new gymnasium in Novi Sad (Újvidék), in the south of the Kingdom of Hungary, where he befriended the teacher and writer Georgije Magarašević.[5] From 1819 to 1833 he was headmaster and teacher at the Serbian Orthodox gymnasium at Novi Sad. All other teachers at the gymnasium were Serbs, including novelist Milovan Vidaković, who taught there at the same time as Šafárik. He himself taught mathematics, physics, logic, rhetoric, poetry, stylistics and classic literature in Latin, German, and when Magyarization (Hungarisation) by the authorities intensified, also in Hungarian. From 1821 onwards, he also worked as a tutor of the son of the nephew of Metropolitan Stefan Stratimirović. In 1824 he had to renounce the post of headmaster because the Austrian government prohibited the Serbian Orthodox Church from employing Protestants from the Kingdom of Hungary. This caused Šafárik, who had to finance his newly arisen family, to lose a substantial source of income. He therefore tried to find a teaching position in his native country, but for various reasons he did not succeed. In Novi Sad he studied Serbian literature and antiquities, and he acquired many rare - especially Old Church Slavonic - books and manuscripts, which he used in Prague later. He also published a collection of Slovak folk songs and sayings in collaboration with Ján Kollár and others (see Works). In 1826 his Geschichte der slawischen Sprache und Literatur nach allen Mundarten was published. This book was the first attempt to give anything like a systematic account of the Slavonic languages as a whole.

Bohemia (1833–1861)

In 1832 he finally decided to leave Novi Sad and tried to find a teacher or librarian job in Russia, but again without success. In 1833, with the help of Ján Kollár and on invitation of influential friends in Prague who promised to finance him, he went to Prague, where he spent the remainder of his life. During his entire stay in Prague, especially in the 1840s, his very existence depended on the 380 guldens he received annually from his Czech friends under the condition which explicitly expressed František Palacký: "From now on, anything you write, you will write it in the Czech language only." Šafárik was an editor of the journal Světozor (1834–1835). In 1837 poverty compelled him to accept the uncongenial office of censor of Czech publications, which he abandoned in 1847. Between 1838 and 1842 he was first editor, later conductor, of the journal Časopis Českého musea, since 1841 he was a custodian of the Prague University Library. In Prague, he published most of his works, especially his greatest work Slovanské starožitnosti ("Slavonic Antiquities") in 1837. He also edited the first volume of the Výbor (selections from old Czech writers), which appeared under the auspices of the Prague literary society in 1845. To this he prefixed a grammar of the Old Czech language (Počátkové staročeské mluvnice).

In the papers collection Hlasowé o potřebě jednoty spisowného jazyka pro Čechy, Morawany a Slowáky ("Voices on the necessity of a united standard language for the Bohemians, Moravians and Slovaks") published by Ján Kollár in 1846, Šafárik moderately criticized Ľudovít Štúr's introduction of a new Slovak standard language (1843) that replaced the previously used Lutheran standard which was closer to the Czech language (the Slovak Catholics used a different standard). Šafárik – as opposed to most of his Czech colleagues – always considered the Slovaks a separate nation from the Czechs (e.g. explicitly in his works Geschichte der slawischen Sprache... and in Slovanský národopis) but he advocated the use of Slovacized Czech ("Slovak style of the Czech language") as the only literary language among the Slovak people.

During the Revolution of 1848 he was mainly collecting material for books on the oldest Slavic history. In 1848 he was made head of the University Library of Prague and a masterful professor of Slavonic philology in the University of Prague, but resigned to the latter in 1849 and remained head of the university library only. The reason for this resignation was that during the Revolution of 1848-49 he participated at the Slavic Congress in Prague in June 1848 and thus became suspicious for Austrian authorities. During the absolutistic period following the defeat of the revolution, he lived a secluded life and studied especially older Czech literature and Old Church Slavonic texts and culture.

In 1856/57, as a result of persecution anxieties, overwork, and ill health, he became physically and mentally ill and burned most of his correspondence with important personalities (e.g. with Ján Kollár). In May 1860, his depressions made him jump into the Vltava river, but he was saved. This event produced considerable sensation among the general public. In early October 1860 he asked for retirement from his post as University Library head. The Austrian emperor himself enabled him this in a letter written by his majesty himself and granted him a pension, which corresponded to Šafárik's previous full pay. Šafárik died in 1861 in Prague and was buried in the evangelical cemetery in Karlín Quarter.



Scientific works

Collected works & papers




  1. Hanus 1895.
  2. "Príspevok ku genealógii Pavla Jozefa Šafárika" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-29.
  3. "Révai lexicon No. 1:2" (PDF).
  4. "Biografické kalendárium P . J. Šafárika" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2014.
  5. Marcel Cornis-Pope; John Neubauer (18 July 2007). History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume III: The making and remaking of literary institutions. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-90-272-9235-3. In addition to books, it published the journal Serbski Letopis, founded two years earlier by Georgije Magarašević, Pavel Jozef Šafárik, and Lukijan Mušicki in Novi Sad, where Magarašević was professor and Šafárik the director of the Serbian gymnasium.


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