By the time he was twenty, Mór (also Móricz or Maurus) Jókai (YOH-koy) had written his first play. The partial success of this work led him to choose the life of a writer, and he abandoned a fledgling career in law to apply himself vigorously to this end. Before he was fifty he had finished twenty-nine long novels, some poetry, humorous articles, dramas, and sixty-eight volumes of tales. He had established himself as the great living figure in Magyar literature.
He also had a good marriage with Róza Laborfalvi. Having fought in the unsuccessful revolt against Austria in 1848, he was deeply involved in political journalism. He founded Hon, a Magyar patriotic newspaper, and in 1860 he was sentenced to a month of solitary confinement for printing his views. His novels, which expressed nationalistic sentiments and were widely published abroad, served both his literary hopes and the aspirations of his people.
Jókai’s work has often been compared to that of Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, and Sir Walter Scott. Like them, he was not above melodrama, and like them, he was loved by his readers. When he died in 1904, he was accorded a public funeral by unanimous vote of the legislature.