Drawing of A.F. Veltman on the manuscript of the novel “The Wanderer”
A.F. Veltman and E.I. Veltman with their children
Alexander Fomich studied at home, his mother was his teacher. In 1811 he entered the school for the nobility attached to Moscow University, but his studies were interrupted the next year by the invasion of Napoleon.
In 1814, Alexander Fomich resumed his education. He graduated in 1817 from the Korpus kolonnovozhatykh, a school established by General Nikolay N. Muravyov in his home to train staff officers, and was commissioned as an ensign (praporshchik) in the army. He was posted to the Second Army at Tulchin in southern Ukraine and assigned to work on a topographical survey of Bessarabia.
In Bessarabia, Alexander Fomich became popular among his fellow officers for his humorous verse, but he was eclipsed when Alexander Pushkin arrived in Kishinev in 1820. Although Pushkin was only twenty-one, he was already famous, and Alexander Fomich tried to avoid meeting him, but the two soon became friendly and Pushkin praised Veltman's poetry in a letter to a friend.
After taking part in the Russo-Turkish War (1828-1829), in which he was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir (second class) for bravery, Alexander Fomich left the army to pursue a career in literature, retiring in January 1831 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
In 1842 Alexander Fomich became assistant director of the Kremlin Museum of Armaments, a post that provided him with a good salary, a government apartment, and the rank of court councilor so that he was free to write and pursue his antiquarian interests. In 1848 his friend Mikhail Pogodin invited him to help edit the journal Moskvityanin (The Muscovite).
In 1852 Alexander Fomich became Director of the Museum of Armaments, and he and his wife became prosperous, entertaining guests on Thursdays in their large and luxurious new apartment near the Arbat. In 1854 he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences. Elena died in 1868 and Veltman himself two years later.
Quotes from others about the person
Boris Yakovlevich Bukhshtab, in his 1926 article "Pervye romany Vel'tmana" (Veltman's earliest novels), wrote: "In the history of Russian literature there is no other writer who, having enjoyed as much popularity in his own time as Vel'tman, so rapidly disappeared into complete oblivion."
Tolstoy called him lively and exact, with "no exaggeration", and said that at times he was better than Gogol.
Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky's biographer, called him "one of the most original novelists of the 1830s".
Alexander Fomich married his second cousin Anna Pavlovna Veidel in 1832 and his daughter Nadezhda was born in 1837, so he needed more financial support than his military pension and his literary career could provide.
Anna Pavlovna died in 1847, and in 1850 he married Elena Ivanovna Kube, who had been a successful writer under her maiden name and now took Veltman's.