Imre Madách was born on January 21, 1823, at Alsósztregova in Northern Hungary. His family belonged to the landed gentry. Among his ancestors were warriors and poets, religious leaders and medical writers, legislators and lawyers. Madách’s father married Anna Majthényi, a wealthy young woman from another aristocratic family, intelligent, strong-willed, and deeply religious. She bore her husband five children for whose upbringing she had to assume sole responsibility when he died in 1834.
The young Madách and his brothers and sisters enjoyed an excellent private education. In 1837, he was sent to Pest to complete his schooling and earn a university degree. He was very bright, sensitive, and serious, with a keen interest in art, literature, and philosophy. When he was only sixteen, his first poem appeared in a national magazine. Madách’s constitution was weak: All through his life he would be plagued by health problems. His attachment to his mother was strong. In 1840, the seventeen-year-old author dedicated the slim volume of poetry he had printed to her, not to the girl for whom he had written it. Despite his interest in literature, he did not consider a writing career but intended to obtain a law degree. His formal studies in Pest came to an end in 1840, when he fell seriously ill, a condition possibly aggravated by psychological factors. He had fallen in love with a fourteen-year-old girl, and his mother insisted that she would never agree to their marriage. After a period of recuperation at home, he passed his bar examination in 1842 and then held a number of appointed and elected offices in his home county, but on several occasions, he had to resign for health reasons. He also became active in politics as a supporter of the “Centralist” movement of Baron...
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