Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 995 pages of information about Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Complete.
a change for the better, purifying and ennobling, calling forth qualities that till then had lain dormant.  At the time the events I have to relate take us to Poland, the nation is just at this last turning-point, but it has not yet rounded it.  To what an extent the bad qualities had overgrown the good ones, corrupting and deadening them, may be gathered from contemporary witnesses.  George Forster, who was appointed professor of natural history at Wilna in 1784, and remained in that position for several years, says that he found in Poland “a medley of fanatical and almost New Zealand barbarity and French super-refinement; a people wholly ignorant and without taste, and nevertheless given to luxury, gambling, fashion, and outward glitter.”

Frederick ii describes the Poles in language still more harsh; in his opinion they are vain in fortune, cringing in misfortune, capable of anything for the sake of money, spendthrifts, frivolous, without judgment, always ready to join or abandon a party without cause.  No doubt there is much exaggeration in these statements; but that there is also much truth in them, is proved by the accounts of many writers, native and foreign, who cannot be accused of being prejudiced against Poland.  Rulhiere, and other more or less voluminous authorities, might be quoted; but, not to try the patience of the reader too much, I shall confine myself to transcribing a clenching remark of a Polish nobleman, who told our old friend, the English traveller, that although the name of Poland still remained, the nation no longer existed.  “An universal corruption and venality pervades all ranks of the people.  Many of the first nobility do not blush to receive pensions from foreign courts:  one professes himself publicly an Austrian, a second a Prussian, a third a Frenchman, and a fourth a Russian.”


Frederick Chopin’s ancestors.—­His father Nicholas Chopin’s
birth, youth, arrival and early vicissitudes in Poland, and
marriage.—­Birth and early infancy of Frederick Chopin.—­His
parents and sisters.

Goethe playfully describes himself as indebted to his father for his frame and steady guidance of life, to his mother for his happy disposition and love of story-telling, to his grandfather for his devotion to the fair sex, to his grandmother for his love of finery.  Schopenhauer reduces the law of heredity to the simple formula that man has his moral nature, his character, his inclinations, and his heart from his father, and the quality and tendency of his intellect from his mother.  Buckle, on the other hand, questions hereditary transmission of mental qualities altogether.  Though little disposed to doubt with the English historian, yet we may hesitate to assent to the proposition of the German philosopher;

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