Jane Wilhelmina Stirling

Jane Wilhelmina Stirling


Jane Wilhelmina Stirling (1804–1859)

Jean-Jacques-Marie-Achille Devéria, lithograph, 19th c., 180 x 105.

Collection: Muzeum Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Cracow [inv. no. 481/1].

The license is accorded by the owner.


Jane Wilhelmina Stirling came from a noble Scottish family. She became famous thanks to the ‘adoration’ which she bestowed on the person and oeuvre of Chopin, and also for her memories of him. Chopin’s first mention of her appears with the date 3 January 1844 in a handwritten dedication on a copy of his Nocturnes, Op. 9. In August 1844, the Nocturnes, Op. 55 were published in Paris with a dedication to Jane Stirling. These dates indicate that Chopin met Jane Stirling c.1843. She was his pupil, and possibly a talented one, given that Chopin told her: ‘One day you’ll play very, very well’. [Eigeldinger 2000, p. 228]. In 1849, Chopin entrusted his pupil Mme Rubio to her (Vera Rubio, a talented Russian pianist). After the composer’s death, Stirling worked under the guidance of Thomas Tellefsen (a Norwegian pianist-composer and pupil of Chopin’s), to whom she was particularly close. She organised Chopin’s stay and concerts in England and Scotland, in 1848, aided by her inseparable elder sister, Mrs Erskine. Her profile is outlined by Solange Clésinger in her memoirs: ‘During lesson-times at the master’s house, one would often come across two long persons, of Scottish origin and size, thin, pale, ageless, solemn, dressed in black, never smiling. Under this rather lugubrious surface were concealed two lofty, generous and devoted hearts. The one who took lessons was called Miss Stirling; the other lady accompanying her was her sister Mrs Erskine’ [Eigeldinger 1986, p. 180–181]. Chopin wrote about his stay in Great Britain in a letter to Wojciech Grzymała: ‘London, Good Friday [21 April 1848] […] The good honest Erskines have thought of everything, even chocolate, not just an apartment, which I shall nevertheless change […]. They asked in earnest after you. You’ll not believe how kind they are; only now I see that this paper on which I am writing has my initials, and I’ve found many such little niceties’ [Sydow, ii, 241]. In a letter to Auguste Franchomme, Chopin wrote: ‘I’ve arrived at Calder House, twelve miles from Edinburgh, castle of Lord Torphichen, brother-in-law of Mrs Erskine, where I intend to stay till the end of the month and rest after my splendid feats in London. […] I have here (materially speaking) the utmost peace and I listen to beautiful Scottish songs – I would love to be able to compose anything whatsoever, be it only to give pleasure to these good ladies, Mrs Erskine and Miss Stirling. I have in my room a Broadwood grand, Miss Stirling’s Pleyel stands in the salon – I’ve no lack of paper or quills’ [Sydow, ii, 256–257]. The Scottish ladies dogged Chopin’s footsteps, as he remarked in a letter to Grzymała: ‘Edinburgh, 30 October [1848] […] My kind-hearted Scottish ladies, whom I’ve not seen for a couple of weeks already, will be here today: they would like me to stay and knock about the Scottish palaces here, there and everywhere, where I am invited. Kind-hearted, but so wearisome that may the Lord God protect!… I receive letters every day, answer none, and whenever I go anywhere, they come along with me, if they can’ [Sydow, ii, 284]. In 1849, Jane Stirling gave discreet financial assistance to the composer, aware of his difficult material situation. She carefully preserved works by her teacher containing numerous dedications, variants and handwritten remarks. She purchased the lion’s share of Chopin’s legacy, grouping together numerous manuscripts, letters, papers, sketches and various objects. All of this she offered to a few friends, kept for personal reasons or sent to the composer’s family in Warsaw, including Chopin’s last piano, which she bought directly from Pleyel a few days before the master’s death. The Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina in Warsaw is in possession of twenty-five letters written by Jane Stirling to Fryderyk’s sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, which are a valuable source of information regarding the posthumous edition of Chopin’s works and his legacy.