Poet, cavalry officer, celebrity - Mikhail Lermontov moved in an atmosphere of political intrigue and personal recklessness, producing poetry considered second only to Pushkin's in Russian literature and a career which has often been compared to Byron's. Between the salons and palaces of St Petersburg and the savage splendour of the Caucasus - his "country of marvels" - Lermontov lived his brief life without compromise. Born in 1814, he is best known as the author of "A Hero of our Time" and "The Demon". He managed to be both and neither. At odds wih authority, yet at ease on his own terms, he wrote as he fought, in protest and fierce independence and died in a duel at the age of 26. This biography is a popular study of the poet.