Memoir chronicle of Alexander Herzen "Past and Thoughts": a brief summary

The work "Past and Dumas", a brief content of which is given in this article, is a memoir chronicle written by Alexander Herzen. It represents a panorama of life in Russia and Europe in the middle of the XIX century.

History of creation

former and thoughts a summary

The work "Past and Thoughts", a brief content that allows you to get a full impression about him, was written over several years. Most of the chapters were created from 1852 to 1855, some of them were published in the Polar Star.

At the same time, Herzen constantly finished writing and revising the main book of his life, practically until his death. It is worth noting the extraordinary success after the publication of the first chapters, which aroused an unprecedented interest in readers of these memoirs.

During the creation of the work Herzen experienced difficult periods in his life. He had to revise not only his revolutionary views.In fact, his family was falling apart. After the death of the writer, the most famous chapter of his memoirs was published, devoted to the extramarital relations of his wife with the poet Herweg.

The structure of the memoirs

herzen past and thoughts

Herzen's work covers a wide time period of his life, starting with his stay in Moscow occupied by the French. Then he was still a child and could not tell much about those events to the world. Therefore, in the memoirs you can find the memories of his nanny. At the end of the chronicle, the writer shares his impressions of traveling in Europe in the mid-60s.

Actually, the memories called Hermit's Past and Thoughts are difficult. A consistent narrative is conducted only in the first five parts of the eight. This is followed by essays, excerpts from published works, arranged in chronological order. The author himself often compared his work with a house that constantly has to be completed.

Start: "Children's and University"

Alexander Herzen

The summary of "Past and thoughts" should begin with a description of the life of the main character in the house of his father.

The uprising of the Decembrists had a great influence on the formation of the personality of Herzen. Then he was 13 years old. The acquaintance with Nikolai Ogarev in 1827 was key.It was his distant relative, who for many years became his true friend. Together they worked in London, in the Russian printing house.

Herzen in The Past and Thoughts describes that he became close to Ogarev because of his love for Schiller. Young people considered their friendship to be an alliance of political conspirators. In the memoirs there is a famous scene in which they swear to each other on the Sparrow Hills, promising to devote their whole life to an ideological struggle.

Carrying his radical political views to the masses Alexander Herzen continued in his student years. He studied at the Moscow University at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics.

"Prison and Link"

brief retelling

The second section is called "Prison and Link". In this part of the memoirs "Past and Duma", a summary of which is presented in this article, describes the period from 1834 to 1838. Herzen and Ogarev are arrested and exiled on the basis of a "fabricated" case of insulting the emperor. Alexander Herzen is in Vyatka (present Kirov). There he works in the provincial office, oversees the statistics department. In this chapter, “Past and Thoughts,” there are a lot of all kinds of anecdotal, and sometimes sad stories from the life of the provincial government.

In 1838, Herzen was transferred to Vladimir.


past and thoughts quotes

In the third part of the event takes place in 1838 and 1839. In Vladimir, the author meets Natalia Zakharyin. Romantic relationships arise between them. The problem is that Natalya is a distant relative of Herzen, the illegitimate daughter of his uncle, who was brought up all this time under the supervision of her evil aunt.

Relatives are categorically against their union, although young people hoped to get married.

In 1838, Herzen decided to take a risky step: together with the bride they come to Moscow, where he is forbidden to visit, and secretly get married.

"Moscow, Petersburg and Novgorod"

past and thoughts reviews

A brief retelling of the fourth part, which is in this article, will help to find out what happened to the author of memoirs from 1840 to 1847. Perhaps, it should start with the fact that during this period Herzen and Ogarev received permission to return to the capital.

In Moscow, they became interested in the activities of the Hegelian group. In this part, the author argues at length about the currents of Westernizers and Slavophiles, then popular in Russia.

In 1846, there was an ideological gap between friends. One of the key reasons was the quarrel between Herzen and Granovsky, with whom they could not come to a consensus on the immortality of the human soul.At the same time, Herzen decided to leave Russia.

"Before the revolution and after it"

A brief retelling of the fifth part of the memoirs should be devoted to the first years that Herzen spends in Europe. First he goes to Paris. The author describes the national liberation movement, which captures Italy, as well as the revolution of 1848 in France.

In the memoir chronicle of Alexander Herzen there is a place for the reasoning about the emigrants who live in Paris, the Catholic pathos, and the personality of the Polish poet and social activist Adam Mickiewicz. The section ends with the author's flight to Switzerland.

It is worth noting that in this part the canons of the narrative are interrupted in chronological order, alternating with brief essays and articles. For example, in the interlude "Western Arabesques" the author talks about the death of an entire civilization, clearly being impressed by the regime of Napoleon III. In his opinion, Europe will soon be ruined by philistinism, which builds material well-being into a cult. Herzen sees a way out only in the creation of a socially equal state.

This part also includes the chapter about Proudhon, whom the author met.He disagrees with many of his ideas in the book On Justice in the Church and in the Revolution. Especially Herzen does not like the fact that Proudhon is actually sacrificing a human person to a just state. He is also sickened by his possessive attitude towards women. Herzen believes that Proudhon talks too primitively about complex and multilayered things, such as jealousy and treason. From the attention paid by the author to these questions, it becomes clear that this is a painful and acute topic for him.

At the end of the fifth part, the dramatic events that accompanied the Herzen family are described. In particular, describes the last years of his wife's life. The chapter was published after the death of all the persons involved in it.

The presence of many essays and essays makes researchers doubt the exact definition of a genre. "Past and thoughts", according to most writers, is still a memoir.

In a separate essay of the fifth part, Herzen describes what happens in Paris in 1848. The uprising is severely suppressed, and the throne is occupied by Napoleon III. Attention is paid to the difficulties in the personal life of the author.The illness of his little daughter left a serious imprint on the impressionable spouse, who already had a tendency to depression. Being on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Natalia becomes close to the poet Herveg, a German publicist and close friend of her husband. He touches her soul with his eternal complaints about the loneliness of his soul and lack of understanding from others.

At the same time, Natalia Alexandrovna still loves her husband. The way the circumstances, tormented her even more. In the end, she is faced with a choice and decides to talk with Herzen. He expresses willingness to give her a divorce, if it will be better. But Natalya ultimately decides to stay with her husband and interrupts communication with Herweg.

Partially this episode in satirical colors depicts the family life of a German poet. Hervega's wife, Emma, ​​is the daughter of a banker. The poet married her with a prudent purpose. Emma is an enthusiastic woman who sincerely believes that she devotes her life to the care of a genius, in her opinion, husband.

Having reconciled, Herzen and his wife spend several happy months in Italy. The next test awaits them in 1851. Herzen’s mother and their son Kohl are killed in shipwreck.

Meanwhile, Herweg does not want to come to terms with the fact that he was abandoned. He pesters spouses with complaints and threats, even threatening to commit suicide. In addition, notifies all their mutual friends about their confused relationship. Herzen is supported by comrades. At the same time, many unpleasant and petty scenes occur. Old cash debts are remembered, it comes to beating. Natalia Aleksandrovna is not in a position to transfer this pressure, dies in 1852 after the next childbirth. In this case, the official cause of death is consumption.

The essay ending the fifth part is called "Russian Shadows". It is dedicated to the emigrants with whom Herzen communicated. In particular, we are talking about his classmate Sazonov, who has been wandering aimlessly around Europe for many years. For Herzen, Sazonov is a type of Russian man who for nothing has killed many forces and opportunities in himself instead of directing them to a useful business.

In the same essay, Herzen demands that the generation of the "Sixties" recognize the rightness of people who sacrificed everything for their convictions, denied all the benefits offered by modernity. From the memoirs Past and Thoughts, Herzen's quotation from this section: “Such people cannot be simply handed over to the archive” is still remembered.

Another emigrant, interesting to the author, is Engelson, a representative of the Petrashevsky generation.Selfish, something cracked, with passion engaged in the study of himself and self-observation. But all this practically leads to nothing.

Sixth part

former and thoughts genre

In the memoirs "The Past and Thoughts", after the death of his wife, the author leaves for England. After Herweg made his personal tragedy public, he had to change the situation. Calm Herzen found in the work. There he began work on the work "Past and Thoughts", opened a Russian printing house in London. At that time, he wrote about the salutary loneliness, how he managed to remain alone among the noisy crowd.

England at that time was also filled with Russian émigrés. He also talks about them in detail in this part of his memoirs. Also, some essays and articles are devoted to the leaders of the European national liberation movement, with many of whom Herzen was personally acquainted with. The chapter "Mountain Peaks" is dedicated to Kossuth, Mazzini and Ledru-Rollin, the head of Camicia rossa tells about the visit to the UK Garibaldi. The people accepted him with enthusiasm, and the government was intriguing, not wanting to quarrel with France.

There is a place and a story about criminals and spies, who, in the guise of political exiles, demanded money. Details about this can be found in the chapter "London freemen of the fifties."

One of the ideas of Herzen was based on the existence of a national character. Therefore, he devotes separate essays to emigrants of different nationalities. Brief articles were named "Germans in Emigration", "Polish immigrants". He paid particularly close attention to how national characters manifest themselves in people, pushing them together. This is vividly demonstrated in the “Two Processes” chapter. Here it is described in a humorous way how the case of French duelists considers an English court.

Seventh part

The penultimate part of the memoirs is devoted directly to the Russian emigration. The author writes separate and detailed essays on Pechorin and Bakunin. Attention is also paid to the history of the Russian freestyle typography and the publication of the magazine "Kolokol", by which Herzen, according to the established aphorism, "woke up" Russia. The magazine was published from 1858 to 1862. Reasoning about the memoirs "Past and Thoughts", readers often devote reviews to these pages of the work. After all, the "Bell" played an important role in the life of the country. It was imported at that time underground, while everyone read it.

The enormous popularity of the Bells is devoted to the chapter Apogee and Perigee.Its influence increased after the fires in Moscow. In addition, Herzen’s support for the rebels in 1862 of the Poles in the pages of his magazine played an important role.

In the same part, Herzen describes the entertaining visit of a colonel to him. Apparently, an ignorant and illiberal person, but who considered it his duty to get to know Herzen. The author himself writes that he felt at that moment a general. This colonel treated him like his boss.


The final part of the memoir covers the time interval between 1865 and 1868. It is noteworthy that it does not have a name or a single topic. For example, the first chapter in it is entitled "Without Communication". It describes the impressions that the author had after visiting various European countries in the 60s. It is worth noting that in those years, the foreigners appeared to the writer as the “kingdom of the dead.”

So, a whole chapter called "From the Beginning" tells about the once famous and successful people who have become deep old men. Herzen is sure that the only country where you can still live is Switzerland.

The title of the final chapter of the memoirs "Past and Thoughts" - "Old Letters".It contains messages to Herzen from famous people of that time - Belinsky, Chaadaev, Field, Proudhon, Granovsky. Herzen contrasts these letters to his memoirs.

Many of them are surprisingly similar to the whole book "Past and Thoughts", as memories written by the author himself. In it, he scrupulously tried to save something everyday and accidental along with serious discussions about the prospects of European civilization. Perhaps the author of "Past and thoughts" succeeded.

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