Gogol turned to writing full-time when his position as assistant lecturer in World History at the University of St. Petersburg (1834-1835) failed. It was at this time that he published his collection of short stories Mirgorod (1835), containing the Sir Walter Scott influenced Taras Bulba, Old World Landowners, the comical satire The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovic Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovic and Viy. Gogol worked on St. Petersburg Stories (1835-1841) next. The Nose, a masterful comic short story (1835) was later turned into an opera. Release of Diary of a Madman (1835) and The Overcoat set in St. Petersburg and deemed one of the greatest short stories ever written, was overshadowed by his The Inspector General (1836), a satire of sweeping indictment about provincial officials and turned into a stage production. It caused much controversy whereupon Gogol fled to Rome where apart from a few brief visits he stayed for twelve years.
Dead Souls was published in 1842, a satirisation of serfdom, seen by many as the first 'modern' Russian novel and a call for reform and freedom for serfs, much to Gogol's chagrin. In response, a few years before he returned to Russia his Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends (1847), illustrating his high regard for the autocratic tsarist regime and patriarchal Russian way of life caused disappointment among the radicals who were looking for more of Gogol's social criticism. To him slavery was justified in the bible and need not be abolished. "It is no use to blame the looking glass if your face is awry." (Gogol, 1836) It was not well received and political factions in Russia responded angrily.
Gogol had a gift for caricature and imaginative invention, influencing many other upcoming writers including Dostoevsky, but was often misunderstood. He was a deeply sensitive man, tormented throughout his life with moral and religious issues. As he got older, the criticism of his writing from his peers increasingly drained his spirit. Turning to religion, Gogol made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1848. Upon return, greatly depressed and under the influence of the religious fanatical priest, Father Konstantinovskii, Gogol subjected himself to a fatal course of fasting and died on the 4th of March, 1852, at the age of forty-two. He lies buried in the Novo Devichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.