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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 812 pages of information about Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician Complete.
and rich in all the truly womanly virtues.....For her quietness and homeliness were the greatest happiness.”  K. W. Wojcicki, in “Cmentarz Powazkowski” (Powazki Cemetery), expresses, himself in the same strain.  A Scotch lady, who had seen Justina Chopin in her old age, and conversed with her in French, told me that she was then “a neat, quiet, intelligent old lady, whose activeness contrasted strongly with the languor of her son, who had not a shadow of energy in him.”  With regard to the latter part of this account, we must not overlook the fact that my informant knew Chopin only in the last year of his life—­i.e., when he was in a very suffering state of mind and body.  This is all the information I have been able to collect regarding the character of Chopin’s mother.  Moreover, Karasowski is not an altogether trustworthy informant; as a friend of the Chopin family he sees in its members so many paragons of intellectual and moral perfection.  He proceeds on the de mortuis nil nisi bonum principle, which I venture to suggest is a very bad principle.  Let us apply this loving tenderness to our living neighbours, and judge the dead according to their merits.  Thus the living will be doubly benefited, and no harm be done to the dead.  Still, the evidence before us—­including that exclamation about his “best of mothers “in one of Chopin’s letters, written from Vienna, soon after the outbreak of the Polish insurrection in 1830:  “How glad my mamma will be that I did not come back!”—­justifies us, I think, in inferring that Justina Chopin was a woman of the most lovable type, one in whom the central principle of existence was the maternal instinct, that bright ray of light which, dispersed in its action, displays itself in the most varied and lovely colours.  That this principle, although often all-absorbing, is not incompatible with the wider and higher social and intellectual interests is a proposition that does not stand in need of proof.  But who could describe that wondrous blending of loving strength and lovable weakness of a true woman’s character?  You feel its beauty and sublimity, and if you attempt to give words to your feeling you produce a caricature.

The three sisters of Frederick all manifested more or less a taste for literature.  The two elder sisters, Louisa (who married Professor Jedrzejewicz, and died in 1855) and Isabella (who married Anton Barcinski—­first inspector of schools, and subsequently director of steam navigation on the Vistula—­and died in 1881), wrote together for the improvement of the working classes.  The former contributed now and then, also after her marriage, articles to periodicals on the education of the young.  Emilia, the youngest sister, who died at the early age of fourteen (in 1827), translated, conjointly with her sister Isabella, the educational tales of the German author Salzmann, and her poetical efforts held out much promise for the future.

CHAPTER II

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