PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
Besides minor corrections, the present edition contains the correction of the day and year of Frederick Francis Chopin’s birth, which have been discovered since the publication of the second edition of this work. According to the baptismal entry in the register of the Brochow parish church, he who became the great pianist and immortal composer was born on February 22, 1810. This date has been generally accepted in Poland, and is to be found on the medal struck on the occasion of the semi-centenary celebration of the master’s death. Owing to a misreading of musicus for magnificus in the published copy of the document, its trustworthiness has been doubted elsewhere, but, I believe, without sufficient cause. The strongest argument that could be urged against the acceptance of the date would be the long interval between birth and baptism, which did not take place till late in April, and the consequent possibility of an error in the registration. This, however, could only affect the day, and perhaps the month, not the year. It is certainly a very curious circumstance that Fontana, a friend of Chopin’s in his youth and manhood, Karasowski, at least an acquaintance, if not an intimate friend, of the family (from whom he derived much information), Fetis, a contemporary lexicographer, and apparently Chopin’s family, and even Chopin himself, did not know the date of the latter’s birth.
Where the character of persons and works of art are concerned, nothing is more natural than differences of opinion. Bias and inequality of knowledge sufficiently account for them. For my reading of the character of George Sand, I have been held up as a monster of moral depravity; for my daring to question the exactitude of Liszt’s biographical facts, I have been severely sermonised; for my inability to regard Chopin as one of the great composers of songs, and continue uninterruptedly in a state of ecstatic admiration, I have been told that the publication of my biography of the master is a much to be deplored calamity. Of course, the moral monster and author of the calamity cannot pretend to be an unbiassed judge in the case; but it seems to him that there may be some exaggeration and perhaps even some misconception in these accusations.