1 2005 Kultura English
obálka čísla

* Feb. 4, 1808 in Kutna Hora (in English: Mining Mountain)

+ July 11, 1856 in Plzen [Pilsen]

He was born on February 4, 1808 in Kutna Hora, Bohemia, located about 50 miles east of Prague. Indeed, it truly was the beginning of a sore march through life , full of hardships. They ended on the day of his death in l956. His mother Barbora came from a well-to-do family, but she married a poor military oboe-player, George Tilly, for love. When Joseph was in his teens, he changed his surname Tilly to the more Czech sounding one, Tyl Barboras mother was so strongly opposed to her daughter’s marriage, . that she at first was not able to show her or her grandson any love. Joseph. But finally the rich grandmother supported Josef financially during his studies at the academic gymnasium {i.e. High School} in Prague. Unfortunately, this support was terminated by a fire which destroyed the greater part of Kutna Hora, including the grandmother’s house.

After this disaster she was a poor woman, and after only one year of financial support, Josef also lived in poverty. For the rest of his life.

Fortunately, at that time thefamous playwright Vaclav Kliment Klicpera was also living in Hradec Kralove. His outstanding personality contributed greatly to the cultural development of the town. At that time, Josef attended the well-known High School in Hradec Kralove and lived free of charge with the Klicpera family. By this arrangement.

Klicpera acquired not only a student, but moreover a dedicated reader of his newly created plays. In addition, he was also advising Josef in his early literary activities and creations. Indeed, Josef Kajetan Tyl, who became later on such a great playwright, could not have selected a better teacher. In the course of their relationship, besides the current rapport of a professor towards a student, a close bond of friendship developed.

After having graduated from High School, Tyl went to study at the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague. But, in a short time, in 1892, (ten letopocet nemuze byt spravny????he dropped his studies in favour of writing dramas and acting. However, he never was a good actor.However, the rich experiences he acquired during his first engagement with the Helmer itinerant theater company were of decisive significance for him.

During that time he fell seriously ill, but fortunately he met his collegue and actress Magdalena Forchheimova, who was five years older than he. She took great care of him and thus may have saved his life.

Tyl married Magdalena and returned to Prague, where he accepted a position of bookeeper for the military. While this employment provided a secure income for Josef and Magdalena, it did not satisfy his artistic soul. Because of that, in 1833, he took charge of editing a magazine called Jindy a nyni [=in English: Formerly and Now, whose name was later changed to Kwety ceske, in English: Czech Blossoms,which he managed for over a decade.

In December 1834, Tyl’s most famous play, Fidlovacka (the name of a shoemaker’s holiday) was performed for the first time. Early in 1835, the dramatist was acting in a later performance in the role of middleman Kozelka.(co nebo kdo je Kozelka??? Between July 1835 and June 1837, Tyl gathered his most important dramatic experiences. During that time he also directed many plays performed by amateurs at the Kajetanske divadlo [ in English: Kajetan Theater]. In those performances Magdalena also often participated. often acting, as did her sister Anna.who later became Tyl’s second companion. He was also the organizer and director of that theater.

It was also there thatof Lori Somkova’s identity became known. She became the sweetheart of the well known poet Karel Hynek Macha who also performed in many roles there, although he was not an exceptionally talented actor. His acting was criticized as too mercurial and too aggressive. Nowadays, we would probably say that he was overacting. Macha had a violent nature which was one of the reasons why he parted company with Tyl for good. Tyl had reproached Macha for his manner of acting as well as his uncouth behavior towards Lori. Tyl was a good-natured man and not a constant fighter as Macha. .

Tyl was living with Magdalena though not married. In this regard, Macha was similar. In those days, such an attitude of course provoked the townspeople . In 1839, Tyl ultimately married Magdalena.

By then Macha was already, and Lori mourned not only him, but also their only Son.

Jan Kaska, originally a tailor, began his acting career in Tylâ’s theater also, but subsequently became a famous actor at the National Theater, the theatre for which every Czech actor was aiming. When Kaska was still associated with the Kajetan Theater, he tailored a very extravagant cloak with gray lining for Macha, which the latter wore frequently while strolling in Prague streets in order to provoke the townspeople.

Tyl eventually married Magdalena who was a very practical woman. As he was very lively, cheerful and idealistic, he needed a pragmatic companion. The only fly in the ointment was that Magdalena was unable to bear children. In spite of that, Tyl was very happy while he was living with Magdalena.

It is assumed that the circumstances Tyl described in Rozervanec [= in English:The unbalanced Person ] was inspired by real life. He wrote it four years after Macha passed away. It dealt with the latter’s relationship with Lori and his excentric nature. Karel Sabina, a member of Macha’s circle of, acquaintances, set out to vindicate Macha’s reputation.description in a story of his own.

Another person who also stood up for Macha and was critical of Tyl’s narrative was Macha’s very good friend and confidant Eduard Hindl, who was not a man of letters. Hindl had guided Macha to the Doksy countryside, about thirty miles to the north of Prague, where what is now called Machas Lake is located. It is also mentioned in Macha’s well known poem Maj.(May.)

Tyl always had a very high opinion of Macha’s talent, which he considered much greater than that of any other poet of the time. Nevertheless, Tyl criticized Macha for not writing sufficiently about patriotic subjects., while he himself always concentrated on Bohemia. It can even be said that his patriotism bordered on zealotry. At the time when his Rozervanec was rejected by the public, he encountered problems at home. His sister-in-law Anna who was his junior by 14 years took his advice and returned to Prague from Lvov, situated at that time in eastern Poland where she was an actress in the theater. At that time, Tyl was About to establish a new theater in Ruzova street, where he wanted to produce some Czech plays. Anna was as dreamer and full of ideas.Tyl saw her as a kindred spirit, a quality he missed in Magdalena. Anna lived in their household, but he did not want to part company with his wife, and so he continued to live happily with the two sisters. Society, of course was aware of this situation, which he made no effort to conceal. However, when Anna began to bear his children, the bigamy in which he lived was confirmed, but this did not bother him.Such a way of living was, of course, considered excentric.

The Czech public valued his work greatly, particularly its patriotic aspects. That is why his bigamy was tolerated to some extent. On the other hand, Bozena Nemcova, the famous writer, who greatly admired Tyl, was maligned very much by the Czech public because of her numerous lovers.Tyl, though a bigamist, had Two relationships simultaneously, but was more easily forgiven as a man.

Unexpectedly, Tyl’s prose story Posledni Cech (The last Czech in English) was valued the most. It was awarded a prize by Matice ceska [ a Czech patriotic organization]. Also, he was fortunate to obtain support from several patrons. Thanks to them, he was as the first Czech writer who could publish his collected works. However, his reputation was damaged by a very popular young journalist and scathing critic, Karel Havlicek Borovsky, who reviewed Tyl’s works, which until then been considered to be brilliant very negatively. Havlicek mostly disliked Tyl’s belief that everyone should sacrifice his life to his native country. Havlicek had no doubt that his opinions were the correct ones.

At that time, part of the Czech nation believed Havlicek to be right, the other sided with Tyl. On his side were the romantics who fought for the preservation of the Czech language and culture. Havlicek was a more practical man. He believed that the Czech language could be invigorated solely by talented writers whose qualities would be judged by other criteria than those previously applied. Until then, the main criterion was patriotic fervour. Havlicek saw a new, different spirit in Czech literature which was freeing itself from the swaddling clothes of the first enthusiastic patriots.

After his conflict with Havlicek, Tyl succeded in acquiring the position of dramaturgist of Czech plays at Stavovske divadlo [ = in English: Estate Theater ], in Prague. After the revolution in 1848, however, the Czech theatrical group was dismissed and Tyl had to leave it as well.That is why he returned with his wife and children to the place of his former theatrical career by joining the Kuras Theater Itinerant Company.

Tyl suffered the greatest hardships during the last five years of his life He was continually ill, and earning a livelihood as an itinerant actor was not an easy matter.In 1853, the District Administration withdrew his licence to perform Czech plays, and all actors were disbanded. As a result, Tyl was without any means to support for his large family. In fact, Tyl’s situation was in many respects similar to that of Bozena Nemcova. They were both writing petitions to all kinds of insitutions or corporations imploring them for some financial aid.. Tyl travelled in the hope of finding work, until he finally found a position with the Zoellner Theater Company. This employment enabled him to gradually pay his debts. Like Havllicek, he became an exiled outlaw.

In 1951, because of his poverty, Tyl was compelled to accept a nomadic life, staying predominantly in the countryside. At that time, Tyl was an actor at a theater in Jindrichuv Hradec, a town, located in the south-eastern part of Bohemia. As at that time Havlicek was crossing that town in a coach on his way to get to exile in Brixen, Austria, it may be only assumed that either met or at least saw each other there on December 12, 1851.Tyl was very seriously ill, we are not sure with what disease, and and Havlicek’s tuberculosis was worsening.Havlicek’s wife had died previously, also of tuberculosis.

On April 22, 1856, Tyl’s last performance took place – in his own play Chudy kejklir[= in English The Poor Clown].Before long, he undertook his last journey to Plzen (Pilsen), in Western Bohemia, where he died on July 11, 1856. At that time, his second wife Ann was awaiting the birth of their seventh child. As for Havlicek, he died the same year. Czech literature lost two very important persons, one of whom, Tyl, was the darling of the public, and the other, Havlicek; was considered the Czech nation’s martyr.

In the course of his life, Tyl wrote an enormous quantity and variety of plays. He enriched dramatic literature by many historical, family and fairy tale subjects. As for historical plays, Jan Hus and Zizka z Trocnova [= in English Zizka from Trocnov] experienced sensational performances, especially around the year 1848. As regards plays about family and civic life, one may recall among others Pani Marjanka [ = in English Mistress Mary) or Matka pluku [= in English: The Mother of the Regiment]. His most famous fairy tale play was Strakonicky dudak [ = in English: The Bagpipe-Player from Strakonice] , played for the first time in 1847, is often performed even nowadays. Strakonicky dudak is considered a classical play of Czech literature.. Regarding his comic plays, let us mention Fidlovacka, which became so popular in particular owing to the harpist’s song Kde domov muj [ = in English:Where Is My Home], which became the Czech national anthem. We could mention many other brilliant plays of his, some of which are still performed on Czech stages.

Besides, he was also a popular writer of short stories. Again, he took his motives from either historical tales, which were influenced by another Czech author, Vaxlav Kliment. Klicpera, and by various adventurous romantic narratives. In addition, he found themes for his short-stories in contemporary life.

Moreover, Tyl also translated many plays of German and French playwrights, so that they could be included in the repertories of of Czech theaters. At the beginning of his career, he was praised extravagantly by the whole Czech nation. But later, during the period of political persecutions and rigid absolutism of Alexander Bach, a former Vienna attorney and subsequently Secretary of Justice in Austrian Empire, the same Czech nation forgot this outstanding man, leaving him to die in poverty and oblivion, and precisely the same attitude was adopted regarding Bozena Nemcova.

Jana Volfová
[Translated by Charles J. Opatrny]

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