Maurycy Karasowski.

Frederic Chopin; his life, letters, and works (Volume v.1) online

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Chopin is and remains the boldest and proudest poetic spirit of the age."—

KoBERT Schumann




Publisher of Musical Works.




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Nicholas Chopin's Family and Friends. Zywny. Eisner. i.

Frederic's Childhood. His First Appearance in Public.

Polish National Songs. - - - - 17.

Chopin's Early Manhood. His First Journey. His

Relations with Prince Anton Radziwill - - ^^.

The Journey to Berlin. Chopin's Letters. An Incident

of the Return to Warsaw - - - - 40.


Journey to Vienna, Prague, Teplitz, Dresden. Chopin's

Performance at two Concerts in Vienna - - 59.

Influence of the Last Journey on Chopin. Letters to
Titus Woyciechowski. Farewell Concert in War-
saw. Chopin leaves his Native City - - 87.


The Classic and Romantic Elements in Polish Literature.
Influence of the Romantic School on Chopin. His
First Compositions - - - 123.


German and Italian Music in the years 1827 — ^831.

Johann Matuszynski _ - . _ j^q.


Chopin's Stay in Breslau, Dresden, Prague, and Vienna 152.

The Insurrection in Warsaw and its disastrous effect

on Chopin's sojourn in Vienna - - - 170.




Further sojourn in Vienna. The journey to Munich. - 193.


Destruction of Chopin's letters and other mementoes in
Warsaw. Stay in Munich. Departure for Paris.

Stay in Paris. Chopin proposes to receive instruction
from Kalkbrenner. Correspondence about this
with Eisner. Letter to Titus Woyciechowski.
Chopin's desire to go to America not realized.
He resolves to return to Warsaw. Soiree at
Rothschild's . . . . .


Return to Paris. Moscheles and Liszt.
Pianoforte Teacher -

Chopin as a


Chopin as a Man


Chopin as a Composer
Appendix -




Improvement of Chopin's position in Paris. Eisner's
letter. Moscheles's and Field's opinions of
Chopin. Trip to Aix-la-Chapelle, Carlsbad,
Marienbad, Dresden, and Leipsic. Visit to
Mendelssohn and Schumann - - - 241.

Chopin's Acquaintance with George Sand. His life
among his friends. Winter sojourn in the
Island of Majorca (1838-1839.) - - - 259.


Domestic Sorrows. Two Letters of George Sand. Breach
with George Sand. Journey to England. Return
to Paris. Chopin's illness and death - - 295.



Our frequent conversations on Chopin have taught
me to respect you as an admirer of this great
master, and as a true and faithful interpreter of
his glorious productions. It is to you, therefore,
that I dedicate this work, which, without vanity,
I may call a monument raised with care and
devotion to his memory,

A ccept it as a proof of my sincere friendship and
appreciative esteem for your talents.

MoRiTz Karasowski.

Dresden^ January, 1877.



Several years of friendship with the family of
Frederic Chopin have enabled me to become ac»
quainted with his letters and to place them before
the public. Just as I had finished transcribing the
first series (letters of his youth) and was on the point
of chronologically arranging the second (Paris corre-
spondence) the insurrection of 1863 broke out in
Poland, and the sympathy aroused by the political
condition of the Fatherland weakened public interest
in its literary and artistic productions. I therefore
deemed it advisable to abstain from the publication
of Chopin's letters.

When I gave back to his family the original
letters, I did not dream that in a few months they
would be destroyed. How this happened I shall
in the proper place explain. The loss is a great
and irreparable one, for the number of letters from
Paris, during a most brilliant and interesting epoch,
was by no means inconsiderable.

In compliance with the wishes of many of Chopin's



friends and admirers, I have undertaken to sketch
his career from the materials afforded me by his one
surviving sister, from his letters which I published
in Warsaw, and from some other letters to his

In this work, which contains full particulars about
Chopin's youth, I have corrected the erroneous dates
and mis-statements, which have found their way
into all the German and French periodicals and
books. If I should succeed in presenting the reader
with a life-like portrait of the immortal artist^ it will
be the highest reward of my labour of love.

The Author.





M N the year 1787 Warsaw was in a state of
^ unwonted excitement, for the thoughts of the
people were attracted to and concentrated upon
the Diet, that was shortly to assemble for the
purpose of preserving the Polish nation from the
miseries incident to anarchy, for upholding the
Republic, remodelling old and defective laws, and
framing new ones in harmony with the require-
ments of the times.

A radical reform of the effete Constitution was
considered by high State functionaries, the clergy,
and by the old nobility, to be necessary. Admittedly,




the Republic ought to be strong enough to protect
itself against hostile foreign influence, or a repetition
of the dismemberment of 1773. Consequently, an
imposing standing army was organized, and, for the
purpose of raising the status of the citizens, special'
privileges were granted to the trading classes, and
the serfs were emancipated. Indeed, the patriots
were desirous of making all classes politically equal.

The election of members for the Diet was co;
ducted in a spirit of true patriotic zeal, and nea
all classes in Warsaw were taking part in the nee
sary arrangements. Many of the noblest famili
removed to the capital. Foreign ambassadors a]
tended the palace to ascertain the intentions of Kin|f
Stanislas Augustus respecting the thorough reforms
required by the people. The chariots of the highest
official functionaries, Wojewoden, and Kastellane,
frequently accompanied by outriders in their gor-
geous national costume, and carriages, filled with
elegantly dressed ladies, rolled along the streets ;
while everywhere there prevailed a bustle and ex-
citement long unknown in Warsaw.

The whole nation was inspired by the hope of a
brighter future. The nobility were to aid a peaceful
revolution by voluntarily renouncing their privileges
in favour of a younger generation. The future Repub-
lic was viewed in the most glowing light. Notwith-
standing the recent partition which had rent the
very heart of the country, and narrowly circumscribed
its boundaries, every patriot believed that Poland


would now rise from the degradation caused by long
years of anarchy, and, strengthened with new energy,
defy every danger.

No wonder the inhabitants of the capital witnessed
the preparations for the important Diet with enthu-
siasm, or that the streets were thronged with pe'ople.
Members of the aristocracy, famous for their patriot-
ism and willing self-sacrifice for the good both of
the people and the Republic, were universally greeted
with genuine esteem and affection. Such was the
scene of stirring activity presented by the capital
during the preparations for the quadrennial Diet.

Among the crowds which thronged the chief
thoroughfares was a young Frenchman, just arrived
from his own country. Everything that met his
eye — from the dress of the burgher to the gorgeous
apparel of thetrich noble, who at that time generally
wore the picturesque national costume — fixed his
attention, and appeared to him unusually interesting
and original. This stranger was Nicholas Chopin,
father of the renowned pianist and tone-poet.

Nicholas Chopin was born at Nancy, in Lorraine,
April 17th, 1770. The duchies of Lorraine and Bar
passed, as is well-known, by the peace of Vienna, in
1735, into the possession of the King of Poland,
Stanislas Leszczynski, after whose death they re-
verted to France.

Stanislas Leszczynski, a constant friend to science
and art, made great efforts for the spread of general
culture among his people ; he founded, at Nancy, the

A— 2


still-existing " Academie Stanislai," and by his just
and mild rule won the undivided esteem and affection
of his subjects. Nicholas Chopin was born when the
remembrance of this prince and philosopher was still
in its first freshness. It had long been the desire of
Chopin, and many other educated Lorrainers, who
knew something of the history of Poland, to visit the
country of the exiled monarch who ruled their own
little land, and to become acquainted with a nation
which, despite its own needs, was ever ready to
assist the wants of others.

An opportunity soon presented itself. The Starostin
Lacynska, who met Nicholas Chopin, at Nancy,
and was prepossessed by his highly cultured mind
and amiable manners, offered him the appointment
of tutor to her two children, which he readily ac-
cepted. Bidding adieu to his family and friends,
he followed the Starostin, and arrived in Warsaw
during the political agitation of 1787.

During his residence with Starostin Lacynska, in
the city, and at the village of Czerniejow, the young
Frenchman became acquainted with many important
official personages, some of whom played a promi-
nent part in the Diet.

He early perceived that a study of the manners
and customs of the people required a thorough
knowledge of the language, and in that acquisition
he soon made considerable progress. The dis-
cussions in the Diet interested him much, because
they revealed the many wrongs inflicted on a nation


which, under the sceptre of the Jagiellons, had been
among the most powerful and distinguished.

Nicholas Chopin, also, witnessed some important
political celebrations in Warsaw. The proclamation
of the new Constitution of the 3rd May, 1791, made
a deep and permanent impression upon him.*

With the exception of a few obstinately prejudiced
aristocrats, the results of the Diet were received by
the whole nation with unexampled enthusiasm. The
joy of the people of Warsaw was unbounded, and
everyone hoped for a return of the golden age of
Poland, as the reign of Sigismund August II. has
been rightly called.

As Nicholas Chopin found his social pleasures
exclusively among Polish circles, he began to regard
Poland as his second home, and heartily sympathised
with the memorable act which promised brighter
fortunes to the land of the Sarmatians. The recol-
lection of this period never faded from his memory,
and he would often describe to his family the
transport and enthusiasm of the people who thought
its future happiness assured by a firm government,
the equality of all classes before the law, and a
standing army of 100,000 men.

"^^ Speaking of this new Constitution, Fox said, " It is a
work, in which every friend to reasonable Hberty must be
sincerely interested." Burke exclaimed : " Humanity must
rejoice and glory when it considers the change in Poland."—
Translator's, Note.


Unfortunately these bright hopes were but short
lived. Jealous neighbours, to whose interests the
re- organization and strengthening of Poland were
inimical, foreswore its downfall. Contrary to all
principles of justice, for Poland had not in the
smallest degree meddled in her affairs, Russia was
the first to take up arms, under the pretext of oppo-
sing the Jacobite tenets of the Constitution and of
restoring to the nobles the power taken from them
by the people. The lust of power and the corrupti-
bility of certain magnates were used by the Russian
government for its own iniquitous ends, and the
good laws decreed by the quadrennial- Diet never
came into operation.

Frederick William II.,* of Prussia — although he
professed friendship for Poland, praised the Consti-
tution, and on March 29th, 1790, concluded, through
his ambassador in Warsaw, Lucchesini, an offensive
and defensive alliance, guaranteeing the national
independence — did not hesitate to enter into a mutual
engagement with Russia for a second partition of
Poland, by which he received, in the year 1793, an
area of 1,100 square miles, in the neighbourhood of
Dantzic and Thorn. From this time until its total

* In a letter to the King of Poland, dated May 23rd, he said,
" I congratulate myself on having had it in my power to main-
tain the liberty and independence of the Polish nation, and one
of my most pleasing cares will be to support and draw closer
the bond which unites us." — Translator's Note.


annihilation, one misfortune after another beset the
sorely tried nation. When the weak and vacillating
King Stanislas Augustus not only deserted his people,
because they defended their independence and the
Constitution of May 3rd, but even joined the Russian
party, the great Polish families, one by one, left
Warsaw for more secure abodes.

Nicholas Chopin, having lost his appointment with
Starostin Laczynska, resolved to leave the country ;
illness, however, forced him to remain in Warsaw.
He, therefore, witnessed, in 1794, the revolution of
which Kosciuszko was the hero, and also the siege
of the capital by the Prussians. Brave by nature,
and zealous for the independence of Poland, Nicholas
Chopin entered the ranks of the National Guards,
and took an active part in the defence of the country.
He had attained the position of captain at the time
of the defeat of the Polish army at Maciejowice,
when Kosciuszko was severely wounded and taken
prisoner, and overwhelming forces were marching on
the suburb of Praga. Nicholas Chopin was ordered
thither with his company, and his death would have
been inevitable had he not been relieved from his
post by another company a few hours before the

It is notorious that, after the capture of Praga,
November 5th, 1794, Suwarow ordered his troops
to kill all the inhabitants, old men, women, and
children not excepted. More than 10,000 persons
fell victims to the conqueror's cruelty. The third


partition of Poland, which was accomplished in the
following year, gave the death blow to its political
existence. Poland disappeared from the ranks of
nations, and figured only on the map of Europe in
fragments, incorporated with other States. Warsaw
alone was under Prussian supremacy.

After passing through this stormy period, Nicholas
Chopin once more resolved to return to France ; but
was again seized by a severe illness, which forbade
him undergoing the fatigue and delay which the
long journey at that time involved. He, therefore,
remained in Warsaw, and supported himself by
giving lessons in French. When ask«d why he
had abandoned the idea of returning to his own
country, he used to reply : " I have twice made the
attempt, but was prevented both times by a severe
illness, which almost cost me my life ; it seems to
be the will of Providence that I should stay in
Poland, and I willingly submit."

In the beginning of the present century we find
Nicholas Chopin established in the house of the
Countess Skarbek, as tutor to her son. He there
met and fell in love with Fraulein Justine Krzyza-
nowska, whom, in 1806, he married. Their union
was blessed with three daughters and one son.
Count Frederic Skarbek was god-father to the latter,
and gave him his own baptismal name, " Frederic."

While little Frederic's parents were rejoicing in
his growth and development, the political condition
of Poland again changed. The formation of the


Grand Duchy of Warsaw, by Napoleon I., in the
year 1807, on the basis of the peace of Tilsit, aroused
the Poles from the political death sleep into which
they had sunk after the last partition of their
country. Raised by the successful conqueror to
the importance of an actual capital, Warsaw became
the centre of action, animating and concentrating
all the powers of the newly-made Duchy., Thither
everyone eagerly repaired. With impetuous haste a
government was organized, a soldiery formed, and
new schools established. Following the general
example, Nicholas Chopin returned with his family
to Warsaw, where he would be able to work with
greater advantage both to himself and to the country
of his adoption. On October ist, 1810, he was ap-
pointed Professor of French at the newly established
Lyceum, where he continued in active work for
twenty-one years, that is, until its overthrow by
the Russian government. On January ist, 18 12, he
entered on similar duties at the School of Artillery
and Engineering.

When the kingdom of Poland had been restored,
on the basis of the Congress of Vienna, principally
out of those portions which had previously formed
the Grand Duchies, Nicholas Chopin undertook the
professorship of French at the Military Elementary
School. The insurrection of November 29th, 1830,
which had awakened among Polish patriots hopes of
deliverance from Russian domination, ended in total


Fresh misfortunes vivsited the country. The most
intelligent portion of the nation and the representa-
tives of the government emigrated, the army was
disbanded, the universities removed, the Lyceum and
other educational establishments closed. Nicholas
Chopin was a member of the Examining Com-
mittee for candidates for appointments in the public
schools, and finally became professor at the Academy
for Roman Catholic Clergy.

The strenuous exertions undertaken by Chopin,
out of love for his adopted country, induced a
gradual failure of his powers ; he, therefore, accepted
a pension, and retired from public life. His integrity
and noble-mindedness, his dignity under adverse
fortune, and the blameless purity of his life, caused
him to be highly respected in the country he had
made his own. The best Polish families were
anxious to entrust the training of their sons to his
care, and to place them in a household universally
esteemed, so that for some years Nicholas Chopin
had the charge of a considerable number of youths
who were educated with his own son Frederic.
Anxiety about his son did much to becloud the last
years of his life. Amid the devoted care of his family
Nicholas Chopin died, in 1844, aged seventy-four.

Justine Chopin, who had shared all her husband's
joys and troubles, was of an exceedingly gentle dis-
position, and excelled in all womanly virtues. The
fame of her son Frederic, did not render her in
the least haughty. Domestic peace was her highest


happiness. Providence afflicted her with severe
trials : after the death of her husband she lost two
amiable daughters, and then her only and dearly
loved son, the last moments of whose life she was
unable to soothe by her motherly care. But these
afflictions were borne with touching patience. In
extreme old age she lived in the house of her one
surviving daughter ; her last days were devoted
almost entirely to prayer, and she never went out
except to church. She died October ist, 1861.

Louisa, the eldest child, born April 6th, 1807,
received a very careful education, and soon became
a great help to ,her parents. She was distinguished
by unusual intellectual gifts, industry, and very
agreeable manners. In conjunction with her sister,
Isabella, she WTote some books on the best means
for the elevation of the working classes. After her
marriage with Professor Jedrzejewicz, in 1832, she
devoted herself to the education of her children, and
gave less attention to literature. She did not, how-
ever, entirely lay aside her pen, but wrote and
published, in various journals, papers and articles
on the education of youth. She died October 2gth,


Nicholas Chopin's second daughter, Isabella,
married the Inspector of Schools, Anton Barcinski,
who afterwards became Director of Steamboats.
They are both still living in Warsaw.

Emily, the youngest daughter, a very attractive
girl, of whom the highest hopes were entertained,-


died in her fourteenth year, April loth, 1827.
Educated beyond her years, unceasingly bright and
witty, she possessed the happy gift of always diffus-
ing cheerfulness. She was, therefore, much beloved,
and her wit, affectionate flattery, or droll mimicry,
often prevailed with her parents when her elder
sisters' and even her brother's influence had been of
no avail.

Thirsting for knowledge, she worked untiringly.
The writings of the principal Polish authors, such
as Clementine and Tanska, had so deeply im-
pressed her, that she made it the aim of her
life to become an authoress. She, therefore,
at an early age, zealously studied her mother
tongue, which she soon succeeded in mastering.
Some poems which she wrote for special occasions
were distinguished by blameless form and harmony ;
even in her thirteenth year Emily and her sister
Isabella were engaged in translating into Polish the
tales of the German writer, Salzmann ; but her
early death, unfortunately, prevented the completion
of this work. Judging from such of her poetical
effusions as still remain, it may be assumed, that
had she lived, Emily would have attained as bril-
liant a position in Polish literature as her brother
has in music. She suffered from an incurable com-
plaint of the chest, and, in her last moments, seeing
the suffering and despair of the relatives around her,
she repeated the lines :


" Wie bitter ist des Menschen Loos auf Erden,
Sieht er wie um sein Leid, die Seinen traurig werden."

Thus, at the early age of fourteen, passed away
this talented girl, whose premature intellectual
development was so remarkable.

In contemplating the family of Frederic Chopin
we see his own character in its fairest light, and
understand how he became what he was. In a
certain sense a human being resembles a plant :
nationality, parents, family, friends, and teachers,
all have a share in his development. Happy the
man who regards his parents with loving reverence,
who rejoices in good brothers and sisters and ex-
cellent teachers.

One of Nicholas Chopin's oldest friends was his
colleague and superior, the famous philologist, Dr.
Samuel Bogumil von Linde, who earned the thanks
of the whole nation by the compilation of his valu-
able Polish dictionary. His merit is so much the
greater as, independently of the labours of Wilhelm
von Humboldt and Bopp, he applied the com-
parative and historical method to his work, thus
rendering it, to speak accurately, a parallel com-
parison of the Slavonic languages. .

Frederic Chopin often played duets with Madame
von Linde, who was an unusually well educated
woman, and a remarkable pianist for her time.
To her Chopin dedicated his first published work,
Rondo, o'p. I. This composition was the first


instalment of the rare treasures with which he
has enriched the hterature of music.

Another of Nicholas Chopin's colleagues was
Waclaw Alexander Maciejowski, celebrated for his
researches in history and Slavonic law. His works
are much valued by students, and have been trans-
lated into several languages.

Among others who were from time to time
Nicholas Chopin's guests were : Count Skarbek,
an excellent author, foster-son to Nicholas, and
god-father to Frederic Chopin ; the Professors of
the University, Brodzinski, poet and student of
aesthetics ; Julius Kolberg, an engineer, father of
the ethnologist Oskar, the indefatigable collector
of folk songs ; Jarocki, a learned zoologist ; Anton
Brodowski, a celebrated historical and portrait

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Online LibraryMaurycy KarasowskiFrederic Chopin; his life, letters, and works (Volume v.1) → online text (page 1 of 12)