A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture

By Manfred Kridl; Olga Scherer-Virski | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
LITERATURE AT HOME AFTER 1831

Polish literature after 1831 possesses, as it were, two aspects; one is represented by the work of émigré writers and the other by the literary movement at home. The latter displays no writer of genius, except Fredro, whose best work, however, belongs to the period before 1836. But literary and intellectual activity did not die out completely, as might have been expected in view of the political condition of the nation. In all three of the occupied areas of Poland a variety of literary, scholarly, and publiccist work was maintained by more or less talented writers.

Placing the writings of Aleksander FREDRO ( 1793-1876) in some definite literary period and within a certain literary environment has always been a source of difficulty for Polish literary historians. The difficult lies mainly in the fact that his work began during the period of Warsaw Classicism (in 1817) and broke off abruptly in 1835, not to be revived until more than ten years later -- at a time when classicism had ended for good and romanticism was already declining. But these problems are of a chronological nature. Far more important is the question of the character of Fredro's productions as a playwright. Though they coincided with the classical and romantic epochs, his works cannot be considered typical of either of these trends. Certain traits are present which may be classified as 'classisal,' but there are also others which may, with reservations, be called 'romantic.'1 The essential nature of his output, however, has very little in common with the distinctly drawn traits of either movement; it stands beyond them as a highly original and autonomous production.

Fredro was a descendant of a rich family of magnates who received the title of count under Austrian occupation. He was educated at home

____________________
1
On the question of Fredro 'romanticism' consult the studies of Eugenjusz Kucharski, "Aleksander Fredro jako romantyk", Pamiętnik literacki 1906, Nr. 3; ' Geneza "Zemsty", Bibljoteka Warszawska, 1909, Nr. 3.

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