Theodore Pavlovic - Life, Work, and Legacy: The Complete Story of the Serbian Intellectual

In the depths of Serbian history, Theodore Pavlovic stands as a pillar of intellectual richness and national dedication. His life, intertwined with the strength of character and deep love for his people, tells a story of relentless effort and commitment that guided him through all challenges and obstacles. Born at a time when the Serbian people were seeking their identity, Pavlovic emerged as a prominent member of society, recognized for his exceptional talent and leadership abilities.

The Revival of the Serbian Learned Society

The new beginning of the Serbian Learned Society is considered to be January 21, 1837, when at the assembly, Theodor Pavlovic was re-elected as the secretary. Among the numerous congratulations to Pavlovic for obtaining permission for the Society's work, Šafárik also expressed his joy about it, which pleased him greatly. However, he now faced numerous problems in securing material conditions for enhancing the Society's role in the cultural development of Serbs in Hungary. Here's what Pavlovic himself wrote about all this in Issue II of the Chronicle for 1841:

"...The famous Šafárik expressed his special joy about it, predicting a new blossoming future for our literature and suggested that the Chronicle be named 'New Chronicle'. Such optimistic hopes delighted both the Society and the Chronicle, but soon, with a heavy heart, I had to realize that the Society's funds, exhausted since the publication of 1826, were spent on the Chronicle, which, like other things, was distributed too cheaply, too expensively, and mostly on the credit of God-given trust, were now consumed in flames of zeal to the last penny: I had to make sure to create a new fund from scratch, which was all the more difficult to achieve because it was harder to find someone willing to sacrifice anything for this failing organization, for which the Society was declared, and which it itself testified about. But God is good! And patriotism is not an empty word for all Serbs; there were noble-hearted individuals whose chests beat for their nation, to whom my plea and request reached, touching their patriotic hearts, and thus financial aid in times of greatest need, as if from the clouds, always came, and the Chronicle, as well as other books, despite all difficulties of the Society, continued to be published almost miraculously, in defiance of all obstacles.

Among the troubles, there were two substantial ones that significantly hindered both the Society and the Chronicle: firstly, a great worm or drone appeared in the Society, which poisoned the other bees in the Society's hive, methodically gnawed away at its combs of industry, making every effort to produce more, thus disgusting and thwarting the Society, thus leading to its dissolution and destruction. But thank God, everything was saved — and the other misfortune was that the new Chronicle became unattractive even to previous subscribers, and those to whom its venerable age should have been the greatest advantage, didn't find it worth buying. Since without subscribers the literary business in our country cannot thrive, the Chronicle caused the most trouble and put both the Society and me in great difficulty. Therefore, in the third year, to ease the situation, I edited it for free, just to avoid depleting the Society's funds again, and for this current year, only two issues of the Chronicle have been published.

However, from the birth of the Society and the Chronicle, this publication alongside previous hardships was still particularly challenging for me, but barely welcomed survival finally came, because after the ban on the Chronicle, to prevent it from extinguishing without a public voice, without publicly and equally glowing enlightenment, I begged in 1835 to be allowed to publish the Serbian National Newspaper, and now with great difficulty, both this and that at the same time, and connected with literary contributions, financial expenses, and other troubles, I later even published the Novine, and that was the time when I first had to provide funds for the Society. The Chronicle barely managed to continue reluctantly and with the help of others, squeezing in my compositions, correcting and censoring them, defending against criticism both ours and foreign, taking care of subscribers, issuing letters and announcements, sending out books and parcels to spread them in the world, asking for money for the Chronicle, although I never received it here and there, and thus I had to publish the Chronicle. I say I had to, had to according to the inner command for the good of the nation, the longing of my heart, and the understanding of the national literature's benefits and needs; because even though when the Society and the Chronicle were reintroduced, and later, as the Society's protocols state, beyond my capabilities, being burdened with triple responsibilities, I tried to find another editor, I prayed, yet I didn’t see anyone worthy of that task appear. I was forced to keep the editorial office despite all the associated troubles, if I didn’t want to allow the Society and the book-publishing machine operated by the Society to stop visibly at that time."

"This is a superficial presentation of my involvement with the publication of the Chronicle, a bittersweet history in which I listed a greater number of difficulties. I did not intend to bring any lawsuit; I only brought it up to remind my judge, and the judge from 1831 onwards, up to today's 27th issue of the Chronicle, to consider all these shortcomings we worked under. I'm not complaining; instead, I confess that all my adversities and troubles, as great as they were, were utilized for a greater incentive for the common good, and I strived with even greater enthusiasm. I don't complain because as bitter as the struggle might be, the victory is equally sweet and pleasant, so even in the greatest adversity, I felt the pleasure of consolation, seeing how the Chronicle became increasingly perfect, how new Serbian heroes tested their spiritual powers for the general benefit on this vast field of literature. How sweetly our mother tongue is formed, perfected, and developed through the Chronicle, and how the spirit of the nation is excited by the Chronicle, and how both our own and foreign nations are presented with beautiful examples. All of this softened me with pleasure, encouraged me in every effort so far, and now I feel comfort in complete satisfaction. The entire Serbian nation now accepts and recognizes the Serbian Learned Society as covered and protected by the entire nation, seeing that nothing more can shake it, but that it thrives and progresses for the good and support of the nation. Alongside this well-organized Society, the Chronicle grows in perfection in our literature to serve on a higher level, so to speak.

For the Serbian people in Austria, it was of particular importance to secure means for maintaining national educational and cultural institutions, which were at that time exclusively funded from their own national sources and means. A review of the material situation after the renewal of activities revealed that besides a certain property in books, the Serbian Learned Society had only 1,012 silver forints, which was insufficient to continue work within the previous framework and to achieve the goals set by the original founders, not to mention the realization of Pavlovic's plans. He set such goals for the renewed Society that it could only achieve them if its material base were radically changed. The membership fee of 40 silver forints was not enough to cover the costs of publishing the Chronicle and the growing need for publishing books by Serbian authors, let alone for the Serbian Learned Society to become a cultural and educational institution that would accelerate the revival of the Serbs in Hungary. Pavlovic was obsessed with the desire for the Society to become so powerful that it would not be satisfied with just publishing the Chronicle and a few books, but that it would become the center and director of the entire life of the Serbs. In these efforts, he received moral support from the majority of Serbian writers, but he was aware that in addition to these, it was necessary to gather around the Society other Serbian intellectuals and especially wealthy Serbian nobility. He worked tirelessly to increase membership, using not only the Chronicle but also his two newspapers, in which he continuously called on respectable Serbs to join the Society, and urged affluent nobles to opt for philanthropy, to come forward as benefactors for the cultural transformation of the Serbian people. Not only did he encourage and call noble Serbs to make contributions, but he also highlighted every single contribution in his newspapers, so that every donor could be assured that his contribution went to the intended purposes, and also to, for his own cover, disclose the funds received to the public, demonstrating how and with what income the Society was being managed.

Such work by Pavlovic was of great importance in gaining trust in the Society, so that the most educated, respectable, and wealthiest Serbs became members and benefactors of the Serbian Learned Society. As early as 1837, benefactors appeared who did not exist in the Society before. Among them, the noble family of Jovan Naka stands out with their contribution of 5,000 forints. There are also other respectable names that, as Dr. Pejićić says, appeared every year like strings of pearls. Among the patriots, entire Orthodox communities are noticeable, to whom, considering the prestige the Society was increasingly acquiring day by day, it was an honor to become its members and benefactors."

With great concern and effort, Pavlović managed to enroll Sava Tekelija into the Society in 1833, a lawyer and one of the wealthiest, as well as highly influential Serbs, not only among his compatriots but also respected in intellectual circles and by prominent individuals of Hungarian nationality. This was not easy, as it involved dealing with an experienced, wise, and educated man who was very cautious and did not embark on ventures for which he was not absolutely sure would yield the desired results. Despite all these characteristics, Tekelija was also very capricious and did not accept the progressive attitudes of the Society, being quite distrustful of it.

It took a lot of effort to persuade such a man, worldly and yet "timidly capricious and elusive... now resembling a miser and a usurer of unmistakable Gypsy blood," to join the Society. Subotić reminds us that the slightest negligence or mistake in convincing Tekelija could have ruined everything. It took years to endure and faithfully and carefully shelter and preserve this noble but overly sensitive plant from various harmful winds of life. Pavlović truly nurtured and dedicated himself to it for many hours and days until he finally managed to persuade the old hero to finish the project on time—while there was still time.

"If Sava Tekelija's contribution as the founder of those great institutions is invaluable, Pavlović deserves recognition for contributing by great effort, endeavor, and assistance, and the work was completed in his time."

Thanks to great effort and perseverance, Pavlović succeeded in making Sava Tekelija a member of the Serbian Learned Society and soon its President. On the other hand, it was necessary to persuade the membership to accept him as president. Such persistence and maneuvering, for such an experienced and cunning man, would have meant nothing if Tekelija did not know Pavlović as a valuable, intelligent young lawyer with exceptional intellectual and moral qualities.

In addition to Tekelija, Pavlović also managed to persuade the young nobleman Jovan Naka to donate 5,000 silver forints to the Society, which, for that time, was an exceptionally large sum. Naka intended his gift for the development of Serbian literature. His wife, Anastasija Vučetić, from a respected Trieste family, was a great Serbian patriot. She— as Pavlović notes in his letter— contributed greatly to inspiring her husband for the endeavors of the Serbian Learned Society, as she herself supported orphans, the sick, and the elderly. Here is a part of the letter in which Pavlović thanks her:

"Your deeds are recorded in the book of philanthropy by angels themselves, and they will be recognized and rewarded with heavenly approval. But your spirit soars even higher... You love everything that is Serbian, support it, and with feminine tenderness, but with more masculine enthusiasm, nurture it."

How much Jovan Naka himself was inspired by the endeavors of the Society can be seen from his Basic Letter, which he issued as a testimony, emphasizing its virtues. Later, after this case, the Basic Letter became a mandatory act that benefactors issued with their gifts. Here is what Naka's Basic Letter contained:

"After many years of experience, being convinced that the Literary Society of the Serbian Learned Society, as praised and confirmed by the Highest Majesty, as well as the unanimous testimony of the entire nation, diligently and steadfastly endeavors to spread education and literature among the people, and also handles and employs contributions from patriots with suitable recognition and approval, I not only deem it most suitable and fitting to entrust my blocked capital to its management in Pest, to the Literary Society of the Serbian Learned Society, but also, by this present letter, call upon the members of the Society to do so."

Since these two noblemen had already contributed their gifts, it was easier to attract others. New benefactors now had great confidence in the wealth of the Society, thanks to the gifts of Naka and Tekelija.

Here's the English translation of the text:

"By successfully persuading Sava Tekelija to become a member and the first, at the same time, the greatest benefactor of Matica Srpska, Pavlović set an example to follow, considering Tekelija's role in Serbian society and among the most prominent Hungarians. This served as encouragement for many Serbian patriots to emulate him and also bequeath large endowments for cultural-educational purposes and literature. In those difficult conditions for our people, this contributed significantly to its cultural advancement and national preservation.

After these and other smaller gifts, the newly conceived goals of Matica were no longer just a vision but conditions were created for their realization. This also meant that the new Matica was not the same as envisioned by its founders, the merchants from Pest in 1826. Therefore, this is not simply a renewal of Matica and continuation of its work, but it represents its fundamental transformation.

Accordingly, Pavlović was not just a renewer of Matica, as some in Matica believe, but he was the creator of new goals and conditions for their revitalization, meaning that he, besides being a renewer, was also a regenerator of Matica Srpska.

The endeavor to give Matica a new role in the cultural-educational development of the Serbian people and the successes in its realization influenced the sudden rise in its prestige, not only among Serbs but also among other Slavic peoples who until then did not have a similar institution. Soon, similar institutions were established among them, inspired by Matica Srpska. Thus, the Illyrian (later Croatian), Czech, Slovak, Moravian, Lusatian Serb, Dalmatian, Slovenian, and others emerged. Some of them have survived to this day, and it is proudly noted that among the few that remained is Matica Srpska, the oldest among them, which has endured as a monument of a turbulent time in the cultural history of the Serbs.

Pavlović, after renewing the work, was not satisfied with merely creating a material base for the expanded activities of Matica but he was equally zealous in striving to improve the renewed Letopis. Here is how he presented the reissue of Letopis to the Serbian reading audience:

"Sweet offspring revived! Behold, it steps joyfully with a happy foot! Our sorrow, thanks to God and the Tsar, turns into great joy! It is true that it is weak and trembling, its steps quivering and faltering: but Your, gentle Kin, will embrace it with softer arms. Your Love will refresh it, Your care will strengthen it. Accept, therefore, dear Kin, Letopis, sweet and gracious, accept it as your own, as born of your own, and be assured that the more tenderly you nurture it, the more it will serve you and yours to your benefit and honor."

Letopis continues the previously established Slavic policy, perhaps even more pronounced than before its abolition. The circle of collaborators expands, and it emerges more and more perfect.

Pavlović's insistence on his aspirations to advance the cultural-educational life of the Serbian people and preserve the Serbian language is evidenced by his efforts to accelerate this process through the establishment of Serbian theaters even before that.

He wished to gather adults through the national theater and teach them nobility, beauty, and usefulness while condemning evil and vices. In fact, through the theater, he aimed to influence the older generation, so that while schools prepare future noble generations from children, their parents "do not undermine the noble schoolwork at home."

In Letopis in 1837, he published his views on the role of the theater in the development of culture and education in general, where, among other things, he emphasized: "One can see that Serbian theaters could be established and maintained in Sombor, Zemun, Pančevo, V. Kikinda, Novi Sad, and in some other towns where Serbs are in the majority. What a step would be made in the progress of the education of the Serbian-national language and general national enlightenment. How could the Serbian public be entertained there! What a nurturing school for youth it would be, where decency and good behavior would be practiced. Such theaters would inspire Serbian writers to write original works, for which our national history provides abundant material, and classical works could be translated. Oh, what benefits it would bring if Matica would also print such works! Let no one say that this cannot be done in our country! It can! We just need to make an effort! We need to have a patriotic fervor, values, strong will."

Pavlović similarly encouraged in the "Serbian National Newspaper issue 14 for 1839" on "church singing." In every village, the church singer should select children with good voices and hearing, whom he would then group to "harmonize harmoniously, and in this way diligently teach them beautiful singing." Later, it would be easy for the whole people to join in the singing in the church. "In larger towns and cities, where the community can afford to pay more young singers, this sweet singing can be more easily established, and if learned from notes, but only if it is constant, everywhere uniformly... thus only church, not theatrical singing."

The Serbian National Newspaper repeatedly emphasized the need for the establishment of singing societies to preserve the beautiful old singing and develop a sense of beautiful music among the people.

These were the conditions from which Kornelije Stanković and several of his followers emerged. Based on these foundations, they created their excellent works, and from singing and church music, Petar Konjović also started. Stevan Hristić and Miloje Milojević.

So that the people would not falter due to frequent criticism and the exposure of its shortcomings, Pavlović did not miss the opportunity to praise deserving contemporaries in his newspapers in every possible way, especially our glorious ancestors.

Guided by this, he introduced into Matica Srpska the celebration of the Serbian enlightener St. Sava in 1840. Jovan Subotić opened this ceremony with an appropriate lecture. This celebration, not only repeated in Matica from year to year, but it was described and praised worthily in his newspapers, thus contributing that for a short time every major Serbian town, following the example of Zemun, introduced the celebration of St. Sava.

Pavlović was aware of the power of the spirit, so he took care of the demeanor of teachers and priests, and from the most patriotic to the poorest, he sent his newspapers free of charge, even though he could barely make ends meet. He always had in mind — as he says — "how powerful the spirit is when a little boy drives away a big ox with a stick wherever he wants..."
In his desire to revive his great plans for the development of the activities of Matica Srpska, he had to give up editing Letopis, which in 1841 entrusted to a young, but already prominent writer, Jovan Subotić."

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