Classic Lithuanian Literature Anthology

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Kristijonas Donelaitis

(1714-1780)

Donelaitis

    Forms of the name: Donaleitis, Donalitius, Donelis, Duonelaitis.

    Kristijonas Donelaits was one of the most original writers of European Enlightenment, a classic of Lithuanian literature.
    He was born on January 1, 1714, in Lithuania, in a small Lazdynėliai village not far from Gumbinė in a family of free peasants. In 1713 he has entered the school of Königsberg Knypava Cathedral and graduated it in 1736. In 1736-1740 he studied theology and attended the seminar of Lithuanian language at Königsberg University. In 1740-1742 he worked in the school of Stalupėnai as a teacher of music and conductor of the choir, from 1742 became a headmaster of the school. From 1743 to the end of his life K.Donelaitis was a priest in Tolminkiemis. His leisure time was devoted to writing of poetry, composition of music, making of barometers, musical and optical instruments. The first two decades of his life in Tolminkiemis were not favourable to creative work. Tense relations with local authorities were an obstacle to creative work. He was depressed by administration of ethnically mixed parish (2/3 of German population, 1/3 of Lithuanian) and economic affairs of the church. The seven years war (1756-1763) has directly touched Tolminkiemis in 1756 and created difficulties as well.
    K.Donelaitis had started his literary work in 1740-1743. Six of his fables had reached our times and most probably they were written during this initial period of his creative activity. K.Donelaitis has worked on his main work "The Seasons" in 1765-1775. He had not published his works himself. The first publisher of the works by K.Donelaitis was L. Rėza (he had published "The Seasons" in 1818, the fables in 1824). K.Donelaitis had written poems in German as well.
    He died on November 18, 1780, in Tolminkiemis and was burried in the church.