Lives Journal 4 

Damir Globochnik





The poet, writer, linguist, editor and political publicist Fran Levstik (1831–1887) first assembled the handwritten satirical journals Brencelj (1865) and Dobrodejno olje (1867) for reading at social evenings of the Juzhni Sokol (later known as Ljubljanski sokol), then later decided to begin publication of a printed satirical journal and through it realise year-long aspirations for his own journal with which he could also improve his financial situation.

Levstik was aware of the great importance of journalism. Newspapers were the main possibility for spreading news, enabling the exchange of ideas, discussing political matters, strengthening awareness of the linguistic, economic, cultural and political connectedness of Slovenes. By having his own journal, he wanted to increase his possibility of influencing domestic political life.




Fran Levstik, around 1865



Levstik acquired the status of informal role-model and leader of the liberal youth and the intelligentsia in general (he was the ideologist of the »Mladoslovenci« – the Young Slovenes). He was known as the most consistent critic of the linguistic and political circumstances of his time, and the Slovene public awaited his new journal with great interest. The first announcement of Levstik’s satirical journal Blisk, at the end of 1869 was met by an attack from the editor of the German language journal for Slovene matters Triglav, the dramatist, writer and satirist Jakob Aleshovec (1842–1901), who in 1869 chose the name Brencelj for his printed satirical journal. Triglav reflected the fear of the Carniolan leaders (the Staroslovenci – Old Slovenes), as Levstik’s reputation led them to expect that he would attack them in a satirical journal due to old grudges and their current activity.

In February 1870, Levstik was invited by the poet and writer Josip Stritar (1836–1923) to help him edit the literary journal Zvon in Vienna. Levstik and Josip Stritar (five years his junior) were fellow countrymen and the most prominent literary theoreticians of their time.

Stritar’s loan helped him settle his debts. In order to acquire the financial means necessary for his satirical journal he also borrowed money from other friends and received a small loan from Carniolan provincial governor Conrad von Eybesfeld. Conrad, a Styrian German, was taught Slovene by Levstik from June 1867 onwards.

On 5 March 1870, Levstik left Ljubljana for Vienna. On 6 March, Levstik stopped in Maribor at the request of the Young Slovene politician and satirical publicist Dr. Valentin Zarnik (1835–1888) (Levstik named the handwritten journal Dobrodejno olje [beneficent oil] from the metaphor he used in a vote of confidence given to Zarnik for his endeavours in support of the Zedinjena Slovenija – United Slovenia program).

In Vienna he rented a room at 39 Ungargasse in which the editorial board of Pavliha had their premises. On 12 March 1870, Viennese students prepared a ‘komerz’ (ceremonial drinking session) in Levstik’s honour.

While in Vienna, Levstik corresponded with the editor of Slovenski narod, the first Slovene professional journalist Anton Tomshich (1842–1871). Thanks to editor Tomshich and his assistant, Levstik’s younger compatriot and friend from Dolenjska, Josip Jurchich (1844–1881), Maribor’s Young Slovene journal reported on Levstik’s preparations for his satirical journal and defended it against Aleshovec’s attacks published in Triglav. The Styrian Young Slovenes looked on Levstik’s preparations with favour and wished him success. They believed the journal would considerably strengthen journalistic opposition to the Carniolan leaders. Other journals also reported on Levstik’s forthcoming journal, some expressing encouragement others attacking it. In April 1870 the Klagenfurt journal Besednik wrote that Levstik should rather stick to questions of grammar. Stritar too is said to have attempted to persuade Levstik to step down from the satirical journal.

During the polemic with Levstik and Slovenski narod, Triglav wrote that Carniolan provincial governor Conrad offered Levstik a high annual salary if he became editor of the Slovene language government journal. The claim is thought to be true but Levstik turned down the tempting offer in 1869 despite his dire financial situation.

Even earlier he had turned down an offer from former professor and friend, Slovene turncoat Karl Deschmann, who invited him to join the German Verfassungstreue Partei (the party which supported the December constitution and the February patent). A similar response is thought to have met the offer to become editor of the official provincial journal, the Laibacher Zeitung, when in 1865 he lost his job as secretary at the Slovenska matica.

As part of its attacks on Levstik, Triglav also used Conrad’s remark to Levstik about the Young (Slovene) politicians and the reproach that the satirical journal would receive financial aid from the notorious government slush fund (Ger. der Reptilienfonds).


Levstik followed Stritar’s advice and chose a name for the satirical journal which was taken from the well-known national humorous figure known as Pavliha (Stritar and Jurchich wanted to publish a satirical journal under this name in 1866). Stritar also contributed an introductory poem. Levstik and Stritar decided they would issue Zvon and Pavliha alternately every two weeks so that an opposition journal would be published in Vienna every week.

The first issue of Pavliha came out on 30 April 1870. The owner, publisher, editor and writer of the satirical bimonthly Pavliha was Levstik. Like Stritar’s Pesmi (1869) and Zvon, it was printed by the »oo Mechitaristov« printing house (the printing house of the Armenian congregation). The first issue was ready a little later than planned. The reasons Levstik gave for the delay included a strike by Viennese typesetters and the preparation of the title caricature and clichés for the caricatures, as well as the lie that the journal would be supported by the government.

Pavliha was well received and its circulation grew. Besides poking fun at Austrian statesmen and Slovene national and political turncoats, Levstik also mocked the Old Slovenes (especially Luka Svetec and Dr. Josip Poklukar), while at the same time offering to make peace with them. Levstik chose the lawyer and member of the Imperial Council Luka Svetec (1826–1921) as a target of satire in Pavliha out of the personal wish for revenge for he discovered that the leaders (especially Svetec with the help of the bishop’s sister) had tarnished his reputation in the eyes of Bishop Vidmar of Ljubljana, saying that he was slow in preparing Wolf’s Slovene-German dictionary. Svetec, who according to Levstik was the person behind the reproach that the satirical journal Pavliha was bribed by the government, was dealt with in a regular column entitled »Svetcheva Omivalnica« [Svetec’s washroom] (or »dementirtisch«). In it Levstik wrote parodies of Svetec’s long articles and disclaimers in Novice and Slovenski narod. Svetec defended the actions of Slovene politicians in Vienna which Levstik criticised in Slovenski narod.

»Gregor Po­trebnik« was another regular column. In it Levstik commented on current events in a humorous way. The character Pavliha also had his own column in which he had conversations with senior statesmen and politicians, or talked about what he had experienced in Ljubljana and elsewhere.


The Old Slovenes did not react particularly negatively to Pavliha and they did not increase their attacks. Zarnik, Jurchich and the doctor, Young Slovene politician and co-owner of Slovenski narod, Dr. Josip Voshnjak (1834–1911) advised Levstik to leave the leaders alone and to be neutral regarding the Church, in Pavliha.


The caricatures on the covers of Pavliha were something special. In Vienna, Levstik got in touch with an acquaintance of Josip Stritar, one of the best Czech caricaturists of the 19th century Karel Klích (1841–1926). Between 1869 and 1871, Klích was the main illustrator and editor of the leading Viennese humoristic newspaper Der Floh (1869–1881, 1883–1919), the first Austro-Hungarian satirical journal, which was laid out in French or English style. Klích, who had some trouble preparing his first caricature for Pavliha due to getting married and going on honeymoon, did not demand payment for his work and Levstik thanked him publically for this. Levstik’s cooperation with Klích is thought to be the first proven instance of Czech-Slovene cooperation in the field of art. Karel Klích is considered to be one of the best caricaturists of the 19th century and is also known as an inventor in the field of printing.

In terms of its format, Pavliha is supposed to have imitated the Viennese satirical journal the Figaro (1857–1919). It was laid out in a similar way to Der Floh: on the front cover there was a large portrait caricature; there followed regular satirical columns and other perfected literary contributions by Levstik which were mainly of the genre of political satire. It was printed on four pages.


For the cover page of Pavliha Karel Klích drew whole-page caricatures, which were incomparably better than the caricatures in the satirical journals Brencelj and Juri s pusho (the first Slovene satirical journals, which were first issued in 1869). Klích’s caricatures are accomplished, detailed drawings with a sense for characterisation, realistic stylisation and the gentle exaggeration of certain physiognomic features. The faces of the caricatures strongly resemble those of the actual person and all persons depicted in the caricatures have large heads on disproportionately small and weak bodies, the disproportion heightening the satirical effect. Around the year 1870 this was a fairly new style of caricatural deformation of the human figure which Klích copied from French examples.

Klích drew the caricatures from photographs, which the journalist Albin Arko (1845–1893) sent Levstik from Ljubljana. Arko was his confidant in Ljubljana who also gathered subscribers, passed issues of the satirical journals to subscribers, collected biographical details about Slovene politicians, reported on what the people of Ljubljana thought about the journal and supplied Levstik with news on important events. Levstik also had correspondents in Gorizia and Maribor.


In terms of the content of the caricatures, Klích probably stuck faithfully to Levstik’s instructions for he was not well acquainted with the people he drew caricatures of or the Slovene situation. The satirical effect of the caricatures is also heightened by attributes, which symbolise political or ideological appurtenance and the activities of the people they depict (e.g. the nemshkutar top hat and tailcoat). Their meaning is explained in long commentaries in which Levstik uncovered the characters and moral qualities of the people depicted.

The front covers of Pavliha featured three turncoats (the Imperial Council delegate Vincenc Ferreri Klun, the president of the court in Novo Mesto, Anton Gertscher, and the leader of liberal Germans in Ljubljana, Karel Deschmann), the Croatian »madzharon« ban Levin Rauch, the liberal German opponent of Slovenes in Lower Styria Friderik Brandstätter, Dr. Valentin Zarnik and the German statesman Otto Bismarck-Schönhausen.


The political events at the time were not favourable for the satirical journal, which Levstik intended to be an independent newsletter for national, anti-nemshkutar, upright and radical politics.

The voting by Slovene delegates in the Imperial Council in favour of the dual monarchy in June 1867 and the new wording of the fundamental law on national representation in October of the same year split the Slovene political scene. The majority was of the opinion that the delegates should act in the spirit of Slav solidarity and (instead of the Poles) follow the example of the Czechs who since 1863 had boycotted sessions of the national assembly. Despite protests by part of the Slovene public, the Slovene delegates continued to sit in the Imperial Council. Their action was defended by the newspaper Novice. Slovenski narod criticised Carniolan delegates in particular as the delegates of Styria and Gorishka were said to have followed their example.

The withdrawal of Slovene delegates from the Viennese Imperial Council in March 1870 provided an opportunity for the settlement of tense relations between the Styrian branch of the Young Slovenes and the Carniolan Old Slovenes. The withdrawal of the delegates was influenced not so much by pressure from the Slovene public as by the increasingly tense relations between the federalist minority and centralist majority in the Imperial Council. Nevertheless, the withdrawal of the Slovene delegates was met with great enthusiasm in Slovenia.

Slovenski narod began appealing for national unity. The Styrian Young Slovenes began making efforts to achieve reconciliation with the Old Slovenes. To this end, they met with Carniolan leader Dr. Lovro Toman at Maribor railway station in April and May. Levstik did not agree with the way the Young Slovenes were conforming to the leaders, so he began writing critically about the Young Slovenes and about the concord which had been agreed for the time of the elections.


Tomshich responded with an indignant letter to Levstik. He informed Levstik about how the Styrian patriots did not agree with the opinion expressed in Pavliha and advised him to support the Old Slovene candidates otherwise the provincial diet would acquire a German majority. He also expressed his conviction that the Young and Old Slovenes would soon fall out again. From the correspondence it is possible to feel the growing differences between Levstik and Tomshich.

The Young Slovenes believed that the concord would benefit Dr. Zarnik who posed as candidate in the elections to the provincial diet in the constituency of Trebnje. Despite opposition from the Old Slovenes, spearheaded by editor of Novice Dr. Janez Bleiweis, he was elected to the provincial diet for the first time in 1869 (the first Young Slovene mandate in the Carniolan Provincial Diet). Zarnik’s candidacy was openly opposed by the Old Slovene leaders. As the national political society called Slovenija refused to list him as one of their candidates, Zarnik decided to stand as an independent candidate. Following the banquet after the meeting in Cerknica on 12 June (two weeks before the elections), Zarnik made a considerable political slipup with a remark aimed against the clergy. In the desire to gain Old Slovene voters, he reached an agreement in Trebnje with envoys of the Slovenija society Dr. Josip Poklukar and Dr. Radoslav Razlag on the day of the election. In exchange for the Young Slovene mandate, Zarnik was prepared to promise that he would abide by the wishes of the majority in the provincial diet and so accept the political support of the leaders. In this way he wanted to provide at least a little Young Slovene opposition in the Carniolan Provincial Diet. He would be able to continue to lead a radical political program regarding Zedinjena Slovenija (the Slovene political program from 1848 which aimed to unite Slovenes in Carniola, Styria, Primorska and Carinthia in one administrative entity within the monarchy, and campaigned for the Slovene language to have an equal value in public life) and at the same time keep his social function. Levstik gradually lost faith in the integrity and radicalism of Zarnik and the editor of Slovenski narod Tomshich. Through satirical-critical commentaries in Pavliha he initially wanted to help Zarnik’s candidature, but after finding out about events in Trebnje he tried instead to build up opposition to Zarnik’s compromising amongst the Young Slovenes.

In issue 6, Levstik published a caricature on the front cover which showed Zarnik sitting on the floor between an Old and a Young Slovene chair, and his commentary took an open stance against Zarnik who was otherwise Levstik’s political ally and friend. In the commentary accompanying the caricature which is not written in the first person as it is for the first five caricatures, Levstik suggested that in haggling for the delegate’s chair, Zarnik had given in to Bleiweis, Razlag, Dr. Etbin Henrik Costa and other leaders.


Zarnik was horrified. Tomshich publically condemned Pavliha (he was instructed to do so by the proprietors of Slovenski narod). He compared it with the Croatian humoristic-satirical journal Zvekan, which had been issued in Zagreb since 1867. It was generally believed at the time that Zvekan was on the side of the madzharon regime of ban Rauch as it lambasted the leaders of the Croatian National party.

Subscribers began sending back the journal and cancelling their subscriptions. Levstik lost the support of both the Styrian Young Slovenes and the Viennese students. Few people approved of Levstik’s criticism of Zarnik. Of Levstik’s friends in Maribor, only Jurchich continued to defend Pavliha.

The last, seventh issue of Pavliha was shorter than usual. In it Levstik again reprimanded Zarnik, expressing the view that he should have stuck to his original program and independent candidacy. The front cover bore one of Klích’s latest caricatures of the monarchy’s greatest external enemy, the Prussian Minister President Bismarck, who led Prussia into war with France. Levstik had no shortage of photographs of Slovene politicians from which caricatures could be made. By featuring a caricature of a foreign statesman on the front cover he probably wanted to show the fledgling Slovene public that his criticism had been justified, that even the greatest political personalities cannot be spared if they make mistakes.


Levstik arranged with Stritar for faithful subscribers to receive Zvon instead of Pavliha. He explained in the September 1870 issue of Zvon why Pavliha was no longer being issued. In the beginning of 1871, Levstik renewed his relations with Slovenski narod but soon severed them again.

The end of Pavliha had a decisive effect on Levstik’s journalistic and public activities and on his life’s path. In August 1872, he took a job as librarian in the Ljubljana lyceum library. After 1870, Levstik almost completely ceased his activities as journalist and political publicist. He turned instead to literature and linguistics.



Translated from Slovenian by Marko Petrovich




Slovenian (gajica)

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