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Emilia Chopin

Emilia Chopin

Emilia Chopin

*9 XI 1812 Warszawa, †10 IV 1827 Warszawa

Emilia, Fryderyk's sister and youngest child of Mikołaj Chopin and Justyna Krzyżanowska, Emilia was born in Warsaw on 9th November 1812 at her parents' apartment in the Saski Palace (at 413a Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave., the seat of the Warsaw Lycaeum). She was christened on 15th December that year by the superior of missionaries from the Holy Cross church Teodor Borysiewicz (the certificate erroneously indicating her birth date as 20th/22nd November). Emilia was entered into civil records on 22nd November by Mikołaj Chopin, witnessed by Wojciech Żywny and Jan Austen, and the child's day of birth was declared as 9th November. The christening ceremony was completed only on 14th June 1815 at the Holy Cross, and Emilia's godparents were Ksawery Zboiński and Franciszka Dekert. From early 1817 until her death Emilia lived at the Kazimierzowski Palace (394 Krakowskie Przedmieście Ave., currently Warsaw University campus), at the new seat of the Warsaw Lycaeum, where her parents received an apartment on the 2nd floor of the right wing.

From her early years Emilia showed artistic and literary aptitude, pushing biographers (including A. Clavier) to state that only early death prevented her from showing a prodigious talent. This seems substantiated by her childhood poems and stage sketches, such as the rhymed comedy Omyłka, czyli mniemany filut [The Error, or Presumed Joker], written together with Fryderyk in 1824 for their father's nameday, occasional gift poems, and her deep interest (at the age of 10) in children's books, particularly those of Klementyna Tańska-Hofman.

Emilia befriended the family of the Lycaeum's dean Samuel Bogumił Linde, and engaged into a vivid correspondence with his daughter from an earlier marriage Ludwika (later married Gorecka), although only five letters have survived, plus one from Duszniki from 1826, which was published by Hoesick but subsequently went missing.

In 1826 on the advice of her Warsaw doctors Emilia went to a treatment in Duszniki, accompanied (and perhaps sponsored) by countess Ludwika Skarbek. They left Warsaw around 15th July, and the treatment - according to the patients' records - lasted from 23rd July until 30th August 1826. Also Emilia's mother Justyna and brother Fryderyk, followed by sister Ludwika who was travelling with the family of Fryderyk Skarbek, spent the summer of 1826 in Duszniki.

Emilia's childhood fascinations and brisk mind manifested themselves in her plays with Fryderyk. Together they founded a so-called 'literary and entertainment society', with Fryderyk as president and Emilia as secretary. Members of the 'society' included students of Mikołaj Chopin's boarding school, who were assigned various roles according to their capabilities: stories were recited, scenes were stages etc. In the last year of her life Emilia embarked a more serious project, helping her sister Ludwika in the translation and adaptation of the educational novel of German children's author Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (1744-1811). The outcome, titled Ludwik i Emilka, was published anonymously in 1828. F. Skarbek and K. Estreicher attribute this Polish adaptation jointly to Ludwika and Emilia, Kazimierz W. Wójcicki and M. Karasowski - to Emilia and Izabella, while A. Dzierzbicka (Polish Biographical Dictionary) - to Ludwika and Izabella.

From her early childhood Emilia's health was a matter of growing concern. Early symptoms of an illness (probably tuberculosis) caused a general weakness of the organism, while a pale complexion and glowing eyes have her a "luminous and angelic" aspect, according to contemporary testimonies. Coupled with particular kindness and gentleness, a vivid intelligence and aptitude for the sciences, they made Emilia truly special. Despite medical attempts (whose efficiency has been questioned and even accused of having speeded up her death) Emilia's illness quickly developed and she spent her last months coughing with blood and often losing her senses. She did not, however, lose any of her kind-heartedness, accepting her fate with serenity. She comforted her family with rhymed jokes, such as
"Give me some wine, and I'll be fine"
or deeper philosophical thoughts:
"Dire is man's fate on this world
He suffers, only to suffer more
".

Emilia died in Warsaw on 10th April 1827 at the age of fifteen and was buried at the Powązki cemetery.

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski

Bibliography

André Clavier, Emilia Chopin. Questions critiques suivies d'une édition complète de témoignages & documents, Lens 1975.
André Clavier, Dans l'entourage de Chopin, Lens 1984.
Hanna Wróblewska-Straus, Katarzyna Markiewicz, Katalog wystawy Fryderyk Chopin i bracia Kolbergowie na tle epoki. Przyjaźń, praca, fascynacje [Fryderyk Chopin, the Kolberg brothers and their time. Friendship, work, fascinations. Exhibition catalogue], Chopin Society, Warsaw 2005, pp. 95-98 (HW-S).

 


 

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