József baron Eötvös de Vásárosnamény
(13 September 1813 – 2 February 1871) was a Hungarian
writer and statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...
, the son of Ignacz baron Eötvös de Vásárosnamény and Anna von Lilien, who stemmed from an Erbsälzer family of Werl in Germany.
He received an excellent education and also spent many years in western Europe, assimilating the new ideas both literary and political, and making the acquaintance of the leaders of the Romantic
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...
school. On his return to Hungary he wrote his first political work, Prison Reform
; and at the diet
In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries.-Etymology:...
of 1839–1840 he made a great impression by his eloquence and learning. One of his first speeches (published, with additional matter, in 1841) warmly advocated Jewish emancipation. In 1842 he married Ágnes Rosty, daughter of Adalbert Rosty.
Eötvös disseminated his progressive ideas in the columns of the Pesti Hírlap
, as well as in his novels The Village Notary
(1844–1846) - one of the classics of Hungarian
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....
literature - Hungary in 1514
, and the comedy Long live Equality!
The February Hungarian Revolution of 1848
The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was one of many of the European Revolutions of 1848 and closely linked to other revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas...
was the complete triumph of Eötvös's ideas, and he held the portfolio of public worship and instruction in the first Hungarian ministry. Eötvös, Ferenc Deák
Ferenc Deák de Kehida , , was a Hungarian statesman and Minister of Justice. He was known as "The Wise Man of the Nation".-Early life and law career:...
and István Széchenyi
Széchenyi committed suicide by a shot to his head on April 8, 1860. All Hungary mourned his death. The Academy was in official mourning, along with the most prominent persons of the leading political and cultural associations...
represented the pacific, moderating influence in the council of ministers, but when the premier, Lajos Batthyány
Count Lajos Batthyány de Németújvár was the first Prime Minister of Hungary. He was born in Pressburg on 10 February 1807, and was executed by firing squad in Pest on 6 October 1849, the same day as the 13 Martyrs of Arad.-Career:His father was Count József Sándor Batthyány , his mother Borbála...
, resigned, Eötvös retired for a time to Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...
during the War of Independence. Yet he continued to serve the cause in his influential writings, for example Influence of the Ruling Ideas of the 19th century on the State
(Pest, 1851–1854, German editions at Vienna and Leipzig the same year).
On his return home, in 1851, he abstained from all political movements
Passive Resistance is a name attributed to an era of Hungarian politics in the 19th century. It refers to a form of opposition to Austrian domination of Hungary...
. In 1859 he published The Guarantees of the Power and Unity of Austria
(the German edition was published in Leipzig the same year), in which he tried to arrive at a compromise between personal union and ministerial responsibility on the one hand and centralization on the other. After the Italian war, however, such a position was regarded as inadequate by the majority of the nation. In the diets of 1861, 1865, and 1867 Eötvös was one of the most loyal followers of Deák, with whose policy he now completely associated himself. On the formation of the Andrássy cabinet in February 1867 he once more accepted the portfolio of public worship and education, being the only one of the ministers of 1848 who thus returned to office. He had now, at last, the opportunity of realizing the ideals of a lifetime. That very year the diet passed his bill for the emancipation of the Jews; though his further efforts in the direction of religious liberty were less successful, owing to the opposition of the Catholics. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the National Schools Act, the most complete system of education provided for Hungary since the days of Maria Theresa. In 1866, he was elected president of the Hungarian academy. He died at Pest
Pest is the eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest, Hungary, comprising about two thirds of the city's territory. It is divided from Buda, the other part of Budapest, by the Danube River. Among its most notable parts are the Inner City, including the Hungarian Parliament, Heroes' Square and...
on 2 February 1871. On 3 May 1879 a statue was erected to him at Pest in the square which bears his name.
Eötvös occupies a prominent place in Hungarian literature. The best of his verses are to be found in his ballad
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...
s, but he is better known for his novels. When he published The Carthusians
, written on the occasion of the floods at Pest in 1838, the Hungarian novel was still in its infancy, being chiefly represented by the historico-epics of Jsikh. Eötvös first modernized it, giving prominence in his pages to current social problems and political aspirations. The famous Village Notary
came still nearer to actual life, while Hungary in 1514
is especially interesting because it attributes the great national catastrophe of the Battle of Mohács
The Battle of Mohács was fought on August 29, 1526 near Mohács, Hungary. In the battle, forces of the Kingdom of Hungary led by King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia were defeated by forces of the Ottoman Empire led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent....
to the blind selfishness of the Hungarian nobility and the intense sufferings of the people under them. The best edition of Eötvös collected works is that of 1891, in 17 volumes. Comparatively few of his writings have been translated, but there is a good English version (London, 1850) and numerous German versions of The Village Notary
, while The Emancipation of the Jews
has been translated into Italian and German (Pest, 1841– 1842), and a German translation of Hungary in 1514
, under the title of Der Bauernkrieg in Ungarn
was published at Pest in 1850.