Wojciech Grzymała

Wojciech Grzymała


Wojciech Grzymała (1793–1871)

François Villain, lithograph, after a drawing by Charles-Louis Bazin, signed ‘Ch. Bazin/Paris 1832’, 305 x 255.

Collection: Biblioteka Jagiellońska, Cracow [T.81 I.4590].

The license is accorded by the owner.


Count Wojciech Grzymała—the addressee of over seventy known letters by Chopin. During the November Rising, he was the delegate of the Polish National Government in London. As a political émigré, he settled permanently in Paris, where he became a close collaborator of Duke Adam Czartoryski—he was co-founder of the Polish Historical and Literary Society, of which Chopin was also a member. While still in Warsaw, Grzymała followed the career of the young pianist and composer, as is attested by two little-known reviews written by him for the Kurier Polski (23 and 26 March 1830) following Chopin’s second concert at the Teatr Narodowy (22 March). ‘Mr Chopin’s second concert was in every respect even more felicitous than the first. […] The new Rondo, bringing to mind the melodies of Carpathian highlanders, made a great impression. […] it was regretted that Mr Chopin did not repeat that potpourri of Polish songs and rhythms which aroused such enthusiasm in the previous concert. […] Chopin’s playing, it is beautiful declamation and seems to arise naturally from his compositions. The national song that permeates his works does not render them monotonous, but only serves him as a background to his brilliant ideas; he takes from it simple, but vivid colours, in order to show them, in concord with his thoughts and feelings, once more from afar, how beautiful they seem in this poetical attunement, how art can lift and ennoble them and impart to them a new existence’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, pp. 118–119]. Towards the end of the 1830s, Grzymała, seventeen years Chopin’s senior, became one of his closest friends and a trusted adviser; he was also George Sand’s confidant in her aspirations to conquering the young composer’s heart. Chopin’s letters to Grzymała testify their great friendship and intimacy.

‘Dear friend, I must see you urgently today, be it at night, at 12 or at 1. Fear not any embarrassment for yourself, dear friend. You know that I am always able to esteem your heart. It’s a question of advice for me’ [Paris, summer 1838] [Sydow, i, 325]. During the sojourn on Majorca, Chopin wrote to his friend: ‘Dear friend […] I am coughing and croaking, loving you. We often recall you. No letter from you has yet arrived. This is a devilish land, as regards post, people and comforts. The sky is beautiful like your soul; the land is black like my heart. I love you always. [Palma], 3 December ]1838]’ [Sydow, i, 329]. As the years passed, the exchange of letters between them became increasingly frequent, and on Chopin’s side ever more personal. From Johnston Castle [Scotland], he wrote on 4–9 September 1848: ‘This letter, begun yesterday, I shall finish today, but the weather has changed and it is foul outside, and I am angry, and I am sad, and the people are wearying me with their excessive care. And I have no relief, and work I cannot. I feel alone, alone, alone, although surrounded. […] Today the 9th. I send you my old letter from the 4th Sept. Forgive me all the scribbling; you know what torment it is for me sometimes to write, the pen burns beneath my fingers, I pull my hair out and I cannot write what I wanted, only a thousand unnecessary things’ [Sydow, ii, 274]. After Chopin’s death, in a letter to Auguste Léo, Grzymała wrote: ‘Our Chopin is no more. The void that he leaves us should strengthen our friendship, as none of us will forget him till we die, nor cease to feel his absence. I tried to write to you several times, but when I began to write of Chopin’s illness, the pen fell from my hand, out of fear that when I poured my trepidation onto paper, it would thereby become more real’ [Paris, towards the end of October, 1849] [Sydow, ii, 322–323].