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Chopin's letter of 30 October 1848

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Photo of Chopin's original letter of 30 October 1848.  Source:  "Chopin:  Fame Resounding Far and Wide", by Hanna Wroblewska-Straus, Warsaw, 1999.To Wojciech Grzymala
Edinburgh, 30 October [1848]

MY DEAREST LIFE!  Have you forgotten me, that you read into my letters - in which I wrote to you that I am progressively weaker, duller, without any hope, without a home: - to read in this, that I am going to get married? On the day on which I received your dear and good letter, I wrote a sort of instructions for the disposal of my bits and things if I should peg out here.

I have dragged about Scotland, but now it's too cold, and tomorrow I return to London, so lord Stuart writes to me, to play on the 16th at a concert which is to be given for the Poles, before the opening of the ball. On the way back from Hamilton Pallace [sic] (60 miles from here), where I stayed a few days at the duke of Hamilton's, I took a chill, and for five days have not been out. I am staying with Dr. Lyszczinski, who is treating me homeopathically, and I don't want to pay any more visits, for the cholera is just round the corner; and then, if I collapse, it will be for the whole winter. If the weather should improve, I should like to go back to Hamilton Pallace, and from there to the island of Ayran [sic] (which belongs entirely to them), to the princess of Baden, who has married their son, the Marquis of Duglas [sic]; but nothing will come of it. While I was there, they had, besides the great aristocrats of their own family and country, the duke and duchess of Parma; he is prince Luca; she is a sister of the duke of Bordeaux (a very gay young couple). They invited me to stay with them, at Kingston, when I return to London; for now they will live in England, since they were driven out of Italy. That is all right, but I am not fit for it now; and if I made haste to leave Hamilton, it was just because I can't sit at table from 8 till 10½ without pains such as Gutmann had (do you remember?); and in the morning, though I breakfasted in my room and came down late, and was carried on the stairs, all the same, it was too much for me. From Wishaw, from lady Belhaven's, where I stayed before going to Hamilton, I wrote to you before your letter arrived; but it was such a black, sulky letter that I did not send it to you.

After November 16th, if there is any improvement in your affairs, or -


The fragment below is believed by Voynich to have been written in London in November 1848, which does not make sense, because Chopin refers to the opportunity to visit more "Scottish palaces".  Thus, the transisition could be as shown in letter n° 742 of Sydow's French translation:

[... or if the London fogs drive me out, I shall return to Paris ...]

… the London fogs are driving me out, so I am returning to Paris, if it is not too late for the journey.

My Scotswomen are kind; I have not seen them for two or three weeks, but they are coming today. They want me to stay, and go on dragging round the Scottish palaces, here and there and everywhere, as I am invited. They are kind, but so boring that the Lord preserve them! -   Every day I get letters, and answer none of them; and wherever I go, they come after me if they can. Perhaps that has given someone the notion that I am getting married; but there really has to be some kind of physical attrait (note 1), and the unmarried one (note 2) is too much like me. How could you kiss yourself -

Friendship is all very well, but gives no right to anything further. I have made that clear.

Even if I could fall in love with someone, as I should be glad to do, still I would not marry, for we should have nothing to eat and nowhere to live. And a rich woman expects a rich man, or if a poor man, at least not a sickly one, but one who is young and handsome. It's bad enough to go to pieces alone, but two together, that is the greatest misfortune. I may peg out in a hospital, but I won't leave a starving wife behind me.

Anyhow, I don't need to write you all this, for you know how I think - [crossed out]. So I don't think at all of a wife, but of home, of my Mother, my Sisters. May God keep them in His good thoughts. Meanwhile, what has become of my art? And my heart, where have I wasted it? [crossed out.]  I scarcely remember any more, how they sing at home. That world slips away from me somehow; I forget, I have no more strength [crossed out]; if I rise a little, I fall again, lower than ever.

I am not complaining to you, but since you have asked, I explain to you that I am nearer to a coffin than to a marriage bed. My mind is fairly calm [crossed out].

Write me a line. Address: Szulczewski, Esq., 10 Duke Street, St. James's. Stuart's Polish literary society is there. I am not sending the fourth letter I have written to you, only a fragment of another, written in an impatient mood, so that you may know how cross I am sometimes.

                                                     Yours till death CH.

1  attraction.
2  Miss Jane Stirling.

Expert opinions
28 July 1849
3 August 1849

Image of the hardcover:  Chopin in 1833, a lithograph by Engelmann after a drawing by Pierre-Roch Vigneron.  Source:  Bibliothèque nationale de France / Gallica.

Source of the letter:

Two fragments listed as letters n° 270 and 271 in Chopin's Letters, "collected by Henryk Opienski and translated from the original Polish and French by E.L. Voynich" (New York, 1932).

As concluded by "CHOPIN and The Swedish Nightingale" (ref. the analysis on page 95), the two fragments are parts of the one and same letter that must have been written while Chopin was still in Edinburgh.   A French translation by Sydow concur wth this conclusion.

The two footnotes were placed by Voynich.

(letter n° 742)

"Mes braves Ecossaises que je n'ai pas vu depuis quelque temps, viendront me rendre visite aujourd'hui. Elles souhaitent que je reste encore pour aller rôder dans ces palais écossais ici et là, et partout où l'on m'invite. Elles sont bonnes mais si ennuyeuses. Que le Bon Dieu leur pardonne !… Elles m'écrivent tous les jours, je ne leur réponds pas mais dès que je me trouve n'importe où elles y arrivent tout de suite quand elles le peuvent."


Selected Correspondence of Fryderyk Chopin, London 1962 (p. 349):

Hedley uses the same erroneous meaning of 'Chopin getting letters from the Scottish sisters every day', when Chopin's original letter says in Polish:  "Every day I get letters, and answer none of them;  and where ever I go, they come after me if they can."

The letters were no doubt forwarded from the various addresses listed in other of Chopin's letters.  Jenny Lind was at the time in Dublin (where she broke with her fiancé "G") and was known to be an ardent letter writer.


"Letter of 30 October, 1848 is a deposit of the Ministry of Culture and has been purchased by myself on June 26-th,1998 in New York (the Sotheby's auction), our inventory Number D/242, while the letter of 3 August [1849] we have received as a gift from Mr. Marek Keller from Paris/Mexico, our inventory Number M/2984.  The same donor has recently (on 27 May, 2003) donated to us the letter of 28 July [1849], our inventory Number M/3140."  ...

"Letter of 30 October [1848] contains the word "listy" (letters) in the fragment indicated by you.  Below find please the fragment which interests you in the Polish version:  "Co dzien listy odbieram, na zaden nie odpisuje i jak tylko gdzie pojade, tak za mna przyciagna, jesli moga" (in the English translation it should read:  Every day I get letters, and answer none of them;  and wherever I go they come after me if they can.)"

"It should be mentioned that the first editors, Mr. Opienski included, have published this letter in two parts under two different numbers.  I fail to understand why they did so."

Hanna Wroblewska-Straus
Director of the Frederick Chopin Museum at
The Frederick Chopin Society in Warsaw
3 July 2003

Note by Icons of Europe:
As additional statements on this fact, Chopin wrote:  (i) at Johnston Castle on 4 September 1848 to Grzymala, "Please address my letters from now on to Dr. Lishinski";  and (ii) in Keir, Perthshire on 20 October to Mlle de Rozières in Paris, "... and write to me at the same address in Edinburgh;  wherever I may be, the letters will find me." -  Thus, letters were forwarded to Chopin as he moved around.

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