The Life of a Romantic
Publication Year: 2008
Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), Poland's national poet, was one of the extraordinary personalities of the age. In chronicling the events of his life-his travels, numerous loves, a troubled marriage, years spent as a member of a heterodox religious sect, and friendships with such luminaries of the time as Aleksandr Pushkin, James Fenimore Cooper, George Sand, Giuseppe Mazzini, Margaret Fuller, and Aleksandr Herzen-Roman Koropeckyj draws a portrait of the Polish poet as a quintessential European Romantic.
Spanning five decades of one of the most turbulent periods in modern European history, Mickiewicz's life and works at once reflected and articulated the cultural and political upheavals marking post-Napoleonic Europe. After a poetic debut in his native Lithuania that transformed the face of Polish literature, he spent five years of exile in Russia for engaging in Polish "patriotic" activity. Subsequently, his grand tour of Europe was interrupted by his country's 1830 uprising against Russia; his failure to take part in it would haunt him for the rest of his life. For the next twenty years Mickiewicz shared the fate of other Polish émigrés in the West. It was here that he wrote Forefathers' Eve, part 3 (1832) and Pan Tadeusz (1834), arguably the two most influential works of modern Polish literature. His reputation as his country's most prominent poet secured him a position teaching Latin literature at the Academy of Lausanne and then the first chair of Slavic Literature at the Collége de France. In 1848 he organized a Polish legion in Italy and upon his return to Paris founded a radical French-language newspaper. His final days were devoted to forming a Polish legion in Istanbul.
This richly illustrated biography-the first scholarly biography of the poet to be published in English since 1911-draws extensively on diaries, memoirs, correspondence, and the poet's literary texts to make sense of a life as sublime as it was tragic. It concludes with a description of the solemn transfer of Mickiewicz's remains in 1890 from Paris to Cracow, where he was interred in the Royal Cathedral alongside Poland's kings and military heroes.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Upon hearing of Adam Mickiewicz’s death in Istanbul in 1855, his sometime friend and rival Zygmunt Krasin´ski proclaimed, “We all stem from him.”1 Like all of his fellow Poles, Krasin´ski understood at that moment that with his works, no less than through his tempestuous life, Mickiewicz had come to defi ne the very essence of modern Polish national consciousness. For nearly two hundred years, his name has served as a point of reference whenever the survival of the Polish nation was at stake, and when-ever ideas about its fate needed legitimation. His words inspired insurrections against ...
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AMaydF Adam Mickiewicz aux yeux des Français, ed. Zofi a Mitosek (Warsaw: PWN, 1992).AMwppo Adam Mickiewicz w poezji polskiej i obcej 1818–1855–1955 (Antologia), ed. Jerzy AMwm Adama Mickiewicza wspomnienia i mys´li, ed. Stanisław Pigon´ (Warsaw: DpM Stanisław Szpotan´ski, Działalnos´c´ polityczna Mickiewicza, vol. 3 of Adam Dz. Adam Mickiewicz, Dzieła (Wydanie Rocznicowe), 17 vols. (Warsaw: Czytelnik, ...
chapter one mchildhood (1798–1815)
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As family legend would have it, on 24 December 1798/6 January 1799,* a midwife lay Mikołaj and Barbara Mickiewicz’s second-born on a book and cut his umbilical cord, hoping in this way to “predestine him to be an intelligent man.” Where, exactly, this happened—an inn? a home?—will probably never be known, but if it did, it was somewhere on or near a farmstead called Zaosie in a far northeastern corner of Europe known then as Lithuania. The midwife’s superstitious gesture would prove providential.1Adam Mickiewicz was born and raised in what is now western Belarus, at the time a re-...
chapter two myouth (1815–1824)
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On 12/24 September 1815, “his head fi lled with stories about bandits,” the sixteen-year-old Mickiewicz set out from No-wogródek in a Jewish wagonnette for the day-long trip to Vil-nius. Within a few days of his arrival there, he registered at the university and settled in with a distant relative, who also happened to be the dean of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. Mickiewicz was to live in the university-owned building for the next two years. Before long he became fast friends with a few of its other young residents, like him petty gentrymen from the provinces for whom a university edu-...
chapter three mexile (1824–1829)
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After a journey of two weeks, Mickiewicz, Malewski, Jez˙owski, Sobolewski, and Pietraszkiewicz arrived in St. Petersburg on 9/21 November 1824, two days after the Neva had inundated the city. The devastation of the fl ood notwithstanding—thousands were killed and hundreds of buildings damaged—the city fi lled the young men with awe:One can’t compare it with anything. The magnifi cence of the various buildings, their number and beauty surpasses the imagination, the wide streets, the sidewalks covered with dressed stone, the granite lining the canals and banks of the Neva astonish with their ...
chapter four mthe grand tour (1829–1831)
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The fi rst two letters Mickiewicz sent from the West were to Malewski and Szymanowska. The one to Malewski avoided sentimentality. It boasted, rather, of the poet’s ability to fend for himself: to get a carriage to Lübeck; to haggle when necessary; to exchange currency “with all the cold-bloodedness of a banker” (ducats, it appears, were at a premium). Everything Mickiewicz reported seeing or doing was new and interesting and exciting—“in a word, a real tourist.” The letter to Szymanowska was demonstratively nostalgic, full of longing for the familiar: “I myself wanted this trip and I’m not lamenting ...
chapter five mcrisis and rebirth (1831–1832)
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Mickiewicz left Rome on 19 April 1831 in the company of Sobolevskii, a Russian prince, his Polish wife, their son, their painter, and another Russian. He was “sad” to leave a city that he had come to “love like a second fatherland.” The poet’s immediate destination was Geneva; but beyond that, he was still uncertain. On the eve of his departure, Mickiewicz had said good-bye to Henrietta with a gift of Byron, in which he underlined the poem “Farewell! If Ever Fondest Prayer”:He also went to confession. On emerging, the poet was apparently so moved that he left ...
chapter six memigration (1832–1834)
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Although they were all traveling as private citizens, Mickiewicz and his companions were greeted no less eﬀ usively by the natives of Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden than the thousands of emigrating veterans who had preceded them over the previous ten months. “At every stop,” recalled Aleksander Jełowicki, one of the young oﬃ cers ac-committees organized by friends of Poland . . . would greet us. A Pole could make his way from the fi rst German town to France without a penny; in every town his needs were seen Mickiewicz squared accounts some months later, when he dedicated the German transla-...
chapter seven mdomesticity (1834–1839)
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In the late fall of 1833, Mickiewicz received a visit from his old Pe-tersburg acquaintance Dr. Stanisław Morawski. Besides precious news of mutual friends in Russia—Malewski settling in with his new wife Helena Szymanowska; Pietraszkiewicz exiled to Tobolsk; Zan still in Orenburg; Czeczot languishing in poverty in Tver—Morawski brought Mickiewicz a proposition, hatched, it seems, together with Helena Szymanowska. The proposition was simple: would Mickiewicz consider marrying her sister Celina. As far as the poet was concerned at the time, or so he assured Odyniec, the whole thing was less than serious ...
chapter eight macademe (1839–1841)
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T he trip to Lausanne was leisurely, taking the Mickiewiczes through Dijon, Besançon, and Geneva. This was Celina’s fi rst ex-cursion outside of the Department of the Seine since her arrival in Paris fi ve years earlier; that she “had not a spot of the trouble with the children that [she]’d been expecting” seems to have made it all the more enjoyable. For Mickiewicz, the journey was an opportunity to relax and take stock. Like the group of émigrés that had organized an ambivalently heartfelt farewell for him on the eve of his departure, he understood that his decision to go to Lausanne—or, rather, leave Paris—was, ...
chapter nine msectarianism (1841–1846)
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On 15 December 1840, close to a million people gathered on a route from the Arc de Triomphe to the Invalides, stamping their feet in the fourteen-degree cold, to witness the arrival of Napoleon’s remains from St. Helena. Like most of his fel-low émigrés, Mickiewicz watched entranced as the towering catafalque drawn by sixteen magnifi cent horses carried the remains of the emperor past plaster statues of French he-roes and kings, smoking braziers, and escutcheons inscribed with the names and dates of his victories. And right then and there, “in broad daylight,” the poet had a vision (or so ...
chapter ten mscission (1846–1848)
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Mickiewicz arrived in Paris on 10 April 1846. Four days later—it happened to be the Tuesday after Easter, the fi fth since the foundation of the Circle of God’s Cause—Sister Alix Mollard called a meeting of the brethren, during which Brother Adam was to make some sort of restitution. For whatever reason, Sister Alix was not satisfi ed. She accused the poet of having “introduced Satan into the Circle.” Anyone, she threatened, unwilling to “recognize the Sisters surrounding the Master as Holy” would be “crushed.” Mickiewicz responded by announcing that he was breaking ...
chapter eleven mpolitics (1848–1849)
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The journey from Paris to Marseilles took over two weeks, “more on foot than by carriage,” as Mickiewicz would later recall. From Marseilles it was another two days by boat to Civi-tavecchia, where as Poles he and Geritz had their passports stamped for free by “sympathetic” Italians—a good thing, no doubt, since upon his ar-rival in Rome on 7 February the poet had only nine paoli (about fi ve francs) to his name; After a few days in the Hotel di Minerva—and a futile search on Geritz’s part in the cold February rain for a place to stay in the vicinity of the Scala Santa—Mickiewicz took ...
chapter twelve mhibernation (1849–1855)
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On the eve of the declaration announcing his resignation from the editorial board of La Tribune des Peuples, Mickiewicz de-cided to break his six-year, Towian´ski-induced silence to Ignacy Domeyko. “We write to you in diﬃ cult times,” he from amidst fog and storm. God’s disfavor continues to hang over us and our Father-land. . . . The eruption in France that we had foreseen and predicted has ended, plunging the world again into darkness. The emigration is paying dearly for the pride and impu-dence with which it made such a fuss here. . . . The fall of the Hungarian cause . . . ended ...
chapter thirteen mrebirth and death (1855)
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In May 1851, as Mickiewicz retreated from the public arena after his frenzy of activity in 1848–1849, Zygmunt Krasin´ski predicted to one of his correspondents, “Just wait and see, he’ll soon throw himself once again into something else with fervor.” It would take another four years, but Krasin´ski once again proved that there were few who understood Mickie-On 28 April 1855, an embittered Italian patriot took a shot at Napoleon III as he was riding down the Champs Élysées. A week later, Mickiewicz joined Prince Adam Czarto-ryski and a handful of his loyal followers in a visit to the Tuileries Palace to thank Provi-...
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On 27 June 1890, as a delegation of dignitaries from Poland, a handful of émigrés, and surviving members of Mickiewicz’s family looked on, the poet’s remains were dis-interred in preparation for their translation to Poland. Upon opening the coﬃ n, the a covering of rotten grass . . . , which [they] began to rake away with pitchforks and to place into wheelbarrows. After two or three more clumps of soppy grass were moved, ...
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...1. Zygmunt Krasin´ski to Adam Sołtan, 8 December 1855, in Listy do Sołtana, ed. Sudolski, 617.5. Weintraub, Poetry of Adam Mickiewicz; Welsh, Adam Mickiewicz.6. Jastrun, Adam Mickiewicz; Pruszyn´ski, Adam Mickiewicz; Dernałowicz, Adam Mickiewicz.10. See Bibliography, Kronika Z˙ycia i Twórczos´ci Mickiewicza.1. Aleksander Mickiewicz to Franciszek Mickiewicz, 1860, Korespondencja AM 1:308 n. 1....
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Korespondencja Adama Mickiewicza. Edited by Elz˙bieta Jaworska et al.*Dernałowicz, Maria. Od “Dziadów” cze˛s´ci trzeciej do “Pana Tadeusza.” Marzec 1832–czerwiec 1834. Kronika ——. Paryz˙, Lozanna. Czerwiec 1834–paz´dziernik 1840. Kronika z˙ycia i twórczos´ci Mickiewicza. Warsaw: Dernałowicz, Maria, Ksenia Kostenicz, and Zofi a Makowiecka. Kronika z˙ycia i twórczos´ci Mickiewicza. Lata Kostenicz, Ksenia. Legion Włoski i “Trybuna Ludów.” Styczen´ 1848–grudzien´ 1849. Kronika z˙ycia i twórczos´ci ...
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...( Bibliothèque universelle), 150 –51; “Lettre sur l’état I” (“L’Histoire de l’avenir”), 116; “History of the “S´witez´”, 36; “Szanfary”, 111; “Three Budryses” Mickiewicz, Józef Teofi l Rafał (“Zizi”) [Mickiewicz’s Vilnius, 5, 8 –10, 12–16, 21, 23–27, 29 –31, 34–35, 38, ...
Page Count: 568
Publication Year: 2008