Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Music Manuscripts in the Polish Library in Paris

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Music Manuscripts in the Polish Library in Paris

Article excerpt

The history of the Polish Library in Paris is closely related to the history of the Polish emigration movements and emigre community. In order to give the main topic a proper background, a few historic facts of crucial importance should be mentioned first, as these facts explain a number of phenomena discussed in this paper.

Poland lost its independence at the end of the 18th century, when its territory was partitioned between and incorporated into the three neighbouring empires of Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Poland was removed from the political map of Europe in 1795 and did not exist again as a sovereign state until 1918. However, the Polish people had never consented to the loss of their national freedom and independence. "A nation without the state", i.e., people deprived of virtually any political instruments with which to make decisions of and for themselves, developed specific forms for the defence and protection of their historic memory and tradition, anchored in culture and art as their main way of expression. Over the whole period of the 19th century, Polish people incited a number of military actions in order to regain independence.

One of the most significant armed rebellions was the November Uprising that began on 29 November 1830 in Warsaw and spread over the central and eastern regions of Poland. In spite of several victorious military actions and the heroic struggle of the insurgents, the uprising was defeated and definitely suppressed in October 1831 as the rebellious bid for independence met a fierce response from the Russian Empire. The repressions hitting insurrectionists as well as ordinary citizens were the cruellest in the Kingdom of Poland, which existed as a political unit created and controlled by the Russian Empire, with Warsaw as its capital. All schools at the the university level were closed, including the University of Warsaw and the Conservatoire. Citizens' freedoms were restricted, properties were seized and confiscated, and many insurrectionists were sentenced to prison or exiled to Siberia.

The reaction across Europe, particularly in progressive circles, to the Polish insurrection was very favourable, almost enthusiastic. The uprising appeared was seen as a revolt against the old regime. Sympathy and solidarity with Poland were demonstrated and manifested in many countries. (2) The uprising in Warsaw was followed by a sudden surge of Polonophile attitudes in France. The "Polish revolution" seemed to be a herald of upcoming historical events. The uprising was enthusiastically welcomed by Bonapartists, Republicans, and Liberals, as well as by all those who looked forward to great changes in the world, as prophesied by historiosophers. The press in Paris and in provincial newspapers highlighted the "Polish cause" (la cause polonaise) in their daily news service. The Comite Central Frangais en Faveur des Polonais was established in the beginning of 1831 as an act of public support to the uprising, and helped to activate pro-Polish milieus all over France. Several prominent figures, such as General Lafayette, Victor Hugo, Theophile Gautier, Emil Deschamps, David d'Angers, and many influential military men and politicians supported and joined the actions of the committee.

As the uprising seemed to turn into a regular Polish-Russian war, public sentiments fluctuated as the news about the victories or defeats of Poles came to France. Public support did not die after the fall of the uprising, when Polish troops marched into Western Europe. For instance, Polish soldiers were welcomed with enthusiasm in the south and east regions of today's Germany. Many various societies of the friends of Poland were founded. In Leipzig and Dresden, manifestations in support of Poland were held and many books on the Polish history and culture appeared in print. Spontaneous reactions of people clearly contrasted there with the position of the Prussian government which treated the insurrectionists with a great distance--almost suspicion. …

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