Mary Ivanovna Gogol

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It is impossible to describe how much my husband loved me


GM-30 - I owe this case to Cyril Galaburda. Sources: Boris Sokolov: Gogol, ėnciklopedija (ISBN 5-9265-0001-2) - & 

Mary Ivanovna Gogol (1791–1868) Kosyaróffsky was Nicolas Gogol's mother. She married his father, Basil Athanasievich Gogol in 1805, aged 14, when the latter was 27 years old. 

In a letter dated March 4th 1856 she described how they first met, in a letter to S.T. Aksakoff: 

“When Basil Athanasievich Gogol was spending his vacations at home, he visited his mother at Akhtyrka, in the [Ukrainian] province of Kharkiv. They prayed to a miraculous icon, attended mass, participated in public prayer and spent the night there. That night, he was dreaming about that same church. He was standing at its left side, and suddenly its royal gates opened. Some crowned queen dressed in purple walked towards him and started to talk to him. He only remembers her words:
‘You will be possessed by many maladies [...] but it will pass’, Our Lady said to him, ‘you will recover, get married, and this is your wife.’ While uttering these words, she raised her right hand, and he noticed a little child sitting on the floor by her feet. He clearly remembered the child's face.

Later on, he returned home and got his mind off these things. The dream was forgotten. His village didn't have any church so they had to visit the village of Yaresky, close to the river Psjol. There he met my aunt and when the wet-nurse delivered a seven-months-old baby he was stunned, because the baby's face was identical to the one he'd seen in his dream. 

He didn't tell anyone but started watching me. When I was older he'd been amusing me with various toys. He never got bored when I was playing with dolls, he'd build homes of playing-cards. My aunt had always wondered why a young man like him didn't get tired of playing with a child for days. I got to know him well, saw him often and began to love him.

Then, 13 years later, he had the same nocturnal dream about the same church. But this time, the doors he saw opened weren't royal gates, but doors leading to an altar. A pretty girl in white clothes and wearing a shining crown came to him. She pointed to the left and said: ‘Here is your bride!’ He looked and saw a little girl in a white dress sitting and working at a table, who had the same face.

Soon afterwards, we returned from Kharkiv and he asked my parents to give us permission to marry.”

Mary also told Walter Ivanovich Schenrok (a biographer of Nicolas Gogol) how she became acquainted with Basil Gogol (free translation):

“I was just 13-years-old. I used to feel something special whenever I was in his presence, although I always remained calm. My fiancé visited us very often. Sometimes he asked me whether it was hard for me to bear him or whether I felt bored by him. I always replied that I liked our being together. And he has always been really kind and thoughtful towards me from my very childhood.

Sometimes, when I was walking towards the river Psjol, together with some other girls, I could hear wonderful music coming from the bushes on the opposite river bank. It was not difficult to understand that it was him playing. When I was going for a walk, music coming from hidden places in the garden used to accompany me until I'd be home gain. I told my aunt about this and she smiled and said: ‘You go for a walk at precisely the right time. He likes nature and enjoys music when the weather is fine. But don't go very far from home.’

Once he didn't find me home and he went to the garden. I noticed him and started shivering, so I returned.

When we were alone, he once asked me whether I loved him. I replied that I loved everybody. I don't understand how I could hide my feelings for him, being just 13 years old. After I left him, he told my aunt that he wanted to marry me very much, but was not sure whether I was in love with him. My aunt replied that I was; that I was kind and that I would make a wonderful wife; that she was sure I loved him because I'd always longed for him; that I'd replied the way I did just because I'd been afraid of men, because she used to tell me how cunning men were.

Once he had left, my aunt called me and told me about his proposal. I said I was afraid of being ridiculed by my friends. But she brought me to reason. I was taken to my parents for they wanted to prepare something. I didn't feel lonely, because my fiancé visited me often. When he couldn't come, he'd write me a letter. Whenever I received letters, I handed them over to my father without opening them. My father once read one of his letters and told me, smiling: 'He's certainly read too many novels.’ There were a lot of tender and affectionate phrases in his letters. [...] The letters written by my fiancé were always with me. 

The date of our marriage was set to be a year later. When I was 14-years-old, we were married in a church at Yaresky. Then my husband left and I lived with my aunt, because I was still too young to be living alone in his absence. Then I stayed with my parents at the place where I'd seen him often. But at the beginning of November he started to beg my parents to send me back to him, for he couldn't live without his wife. So I didn't spend a whole year with them as I had planned to do, but only one month. My parents gave me their blessing and let me go. He took me to the village of Vasìljeffka, where his parents met us. They accepted me as their own daughter. My mother-in-law dressed me in her old dresses.

It is impossible to describe how much my husband loved me. I was absolutely happy. Even though he was thirteen years older than I. I never left the village and this didn't disturb me at all."

The village life in Vasiljeffka followed a steady rhythm and Mary described it as follows:

"Our family possessed 130 serves. I didn't attend balls or other gatherings. All of my happiness lay with my family. We couldn't spend even a day without each other. So he never drove his droshky [specific type of carriage] over his fields without me. 

In one case I had to stay at home and I was constantly worrying about him, as if I would never seen him again. Until Dimitry Troschínsky [Nicolas Gogol's distant relative] arrived from St. Petersburg, he spent almost all of his time with me. Troschinsky loved my husband and did not want us to leave St. Petersburg. There I saw the high life I had always avoided: balls, theatres, the aristocracy from both capitals. But I have always been glad to return to Vasiljefka where I sometimes lived alone for the sake of my mother-in-law as she couldn't stand loneliness. My husband had to stay with Troschinsky […].”

Mary Gogol gave birth to twelve children. Five of these, two sons and three daughters died in childhood.

When Basil Gogol died in March 1825, Mary became totally occupied with her household. She later recalled:

"I first took care of all the men's work [sic] in the field and then I took care of the paper work. I felt sure I had to economize for my children's sake, to make things better as much as possible. When my husband was alive, he was doing all this on his own, but now I had to deal with it somehow. Maybe these troubles and my perfect health saved me from my sorrow. I sought consolation in my son. Thus, I could overcome all my pain and returned to my original state of mind.”

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