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Chopin's Letter of 28 July 1849

To Wojciech Grzymala
Chaillot, Saturday, 28 July [1849]

After your answer and her letter I just gave up. I didn't know whether to suspect her of hallucinations, or her messenger of theft, or whether to condemn Mme Étienne, or to regard myself as forgetful or crazy; in short, my head went round.

She came to me with a confession, and told everything so stupidly, and her sister apparently knew nothing about it. I was finally obliged to tell her the truth, that I could not understand such munificent gifts from anyone, unless perhaps the Queen of England or Miss Coutt [Coutts?]. But that's how it is. The personage to whom such a sum was entrusted without his knowledge, and who took no receipt from Mme Étienne for the letter (or parcel), went to Alexis Somnambul.[1]  Here the drama begins:

Alexis tells him that on a Thursday in March (the 8th) he took some very important papers, addressed - (he wrote down my address); that the packet never arrived à sa destination;[2]  that he has not got it, that he gave it up, in some kind of small dark room, to which one goes down 2 steps, to some woman (there were two of them, and the taller one took it); that she had in her hand a letter, which the postman had given to her; that, taking the letter in question from this person, she told him that she would at once deliver it; but, Alexis added, she carried it downstairs, without even showing it to me, and I never saw the letter. When he was asked whether he could not see what had been done with the letter, he answered that he could not see, but that if anyone would bring him some hair, or a handkerchief, or gloves, belonging to the person who received the letter, he could tell. Mrs. Erskine was present at the séance at Alexis's, and came yesterday to tell me about it, and to ask me how to get hold of something belonging to Mme Étienne, so as to give it to Alexis. I got Mme Étienne to come to me, on a pretext of bringing me Boist and some handkerchiefs; and when she came I said - as if I wanted to get rid of Mrs. Erskine, who was supposed to be asking for a lock of my hair for a clairvoyante who cures sick people in St. Germain (where the Scottish ladies are now living) - I said, as if I were trying to get out of it, that I would send her some of Mme Étienne's hair, and if she could tell whose it was, I would believe in her and send my own, but that I was convinced she would take the well person's hair for the invalid's. So, at my request, Mme Étienne cut off a lock of her hair and wrapped it up, and Mrs. Erskine took it away.

This morning the messenger came to me with Mrs. Erskine, from Alexis. Alexis had recognized the hair of the person to whom the packet was given. He said that she had put the sealed packet into a small piece of furniture beside her bed, that the packet was still there and not lost, or delivered, or opened. That if the man goes about it tactfully, she will give it up to him, but that care is necessary. So then this man went straight from me, at noon, to the Square d'Orléans, found Mme Étienne alone, reminded her that in March he had called and given her a packet for me, which he had told her was very important. She recognized him, and gave him back the packet, which he had given to her all those months back. It had not been unsealed, and inside were 25 thousands, untouched. At my lodging Mrs. Erskine opened it in his and my presence. What do you think of it? That clairvoyant!!! The packet lying so long untouched!! Such queer occurrences make my head swim. You may take notice that I did not accept the donation; and that is enough about the matter, in writing. Some day I will tell you more.

Now, I believe in magnetism.

It's by God's grace that it was found. There are many details that I don't write to you, for my pen burns.

And now about something else - Princess Sapieha, Izia and Wladzio went to Dieppe today. The Princess of Wirtemb. remains. Plichcina is doubtless already in Warsaw.

I begin to doubt about my sister. I am no worse, and no better. I love you, and I wish I could see you.

I embrace you.


Nothing new about Orda

Expert opinions
30 October 1848
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.


Notes by Voynich, the editor (1932):

A clairvoyant
2  at its destination

Notes by Icons of Europe:
- Emphasis in bold;
- 8 March 1849 did fall on a Thursday.


Letter n° 286 in
Chopin's Letters
"collected by Henryk Opienski and translated from the original Polish and French by E.L. Voynich" (New York, 1932).

This and other letters are reproduced in the new biography with comments on their significance by Cecilia and Jens Jorgensen.  The two fragments of Chopin's letter of 30 October 1848 from Scotland document his marriage deliberations. However, the English and French translations deviate on key points.

The 25,000 francs are equivalent to some 100,000 euro today.


As stated in "CHOPIN and The Swedish Nightingale" (page 77), the clairvoyant 'Alexis Somnambul' did exist.  His real name was Alexis Didier (1824-1886).

A new book on his 'magnetic sleepwalking' theory was published in 2003.