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chapter twelve m hibernation (1849–1855) O n the eve of the declaration announcing his resignation from the editorial board of La Tribune des Peuples, Mickiewicz decided to break his six-year, Towiański-induced silence to Ignacy Domeyko. “We write to you in difficult times,” he confided to his friend in Chile, from amidst fog and storm. God’s disfavor continues to hang over us and our Fatherland ....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 impudence with which it made such a fuss here....The fall of the Hungarian cause...ended the moral being of the emigration. Many are accepting amnesty or seeking it, some are leaving for America. I’m hanging on here in Paris so far, but I don’t know for how long. The regime is threatening me as well. Everything around me far and wide has either died out or broken with me.... In the emigration, or rather in what’s left of it, the material poverty is grim. It haunts us constantly as well, and sometimes makes itself felt. So far, however, we’ve had a place to live and bread and something to pay with, hence so far we belong to the fortunate. Amid the unrelenting gloom, Mickiewicz nonetheless found some room for hope. “Truth will not perish,” he consoled himself, “and whatever good still remains in our souls will see its moment of rebirth.” For the moment, though, there was little to do but go on “living and enduring”—“no small thing in times like these.”1 hibernation (1849–1855) 419 1 As Maria Mickiewicz recalled years later, the weeks immediately after her father’s resignation from La Tribune were particularly difficult. Although the poet continued to receive his half salary from the Collège, he had refused Branicki’s offer to pay for the three months the paper had been suspended. At one point, the Mickiewiczes were apparently forced to pawn “all the valuables in the house, one after another.” But thanks in part to the occasional gift—from Łubieńska, from Celina’s sister in St. Petersburg, and even from some of Mickiewicz’s Russian friends in Moscow, who, having heard that he “was living in great penury in Batignolles,” managed to pass on five thousand rubles—their situation soon stabilized, enough, at least, for “the more expensive items to make their way back home again.” As Celina put it to her sister at the beginning of 1850, they may not have had much, “but [they] were grateful to God even for this,” considering the woeful predicament of many of their fellow émigrés.2 Of far greater concern to the Mickiewiczes was the increasing precariousness of their status in France. Between the poet’s efforts on behalf of republican Italy and his collaboration with French radicals, to say nothing of his ethnic profile, the poet found himself now under constant suspicion from a regime that was growing more repressive with every day. (Denunciations from hostile émigrés accusing the poet of Russian sympathies certainly did not help matters.) Arrest and deportation were a very real possibility, as almost all of the Polish democrats in France quickly learned. Yet despite the choice his recently acquired Swiss passport afforded, Mickiewicz refused to follow the example of those who, sharing his predicament, opted for voluntary exile. He chose to remain, hoping to ride out the reactionary tide by lying low, ready to accept his fate, should it worsen, with Christian resignation. After all, as he wrote to Łubieńska, “the loser is always guilty. If things don’t work out for us, we should first inquire to what extent we ourselves are the cause and only then consider the external circumstances.”3 After the whirlwind of events of the preceding two years, Mickiewicz’s life now settled into a predictable and narrowly circumscribed flow. Each week now had its set routine. One evening a week was invariably reserved for dinner at Vera Khliustin’s, his old Russian friend from Rome and Władysław’s godmother. Another was devoted to private concerts either at the Mickiewiczes’, the Quinets’, or at the home of Alfred Dumesnil, Michelet’s son-in-law and an ardent admirer of the poet from his days at the Collège: Adelle Dumesnil would sing, Alfred Dessus, the poet’s friend from...


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