Juliusz Slowacki

Portrait of Juliusz Slowacki

Juliusz Slowacki was a Polish Romantic poet and known as one of the three bards in that country. He was born in Kremenets, Ukraine on 4th September 1809 and died in Paris on 3rd April 1849 aged 39.

Major Works

Kordian First Part of a Trilogy: The Coronation Plot” (1833).
“Testament Mój” (My Testament) (1839).
“Mazepa” (1840).
Król-Duch” (1849).

Biography Timeline

Juliusz Słowacki was born on 4th September 1809 in Krzemieniec, Poland. (then part of the Russian Empire, now in Ukraine). His father was Euzebiusz Slowacki of noble birth who taught poetry and literature at the Krzemieniec Lyceum school in Kremenets. His mother was Salomea Slowacka (nee Januszewska). He was educated at the Lyceum and at a Vilnius Imperial University preparatory gymnasium in Wilno (now Vilnius. Lithuania). 

1814: His father dies leaving his mother to raise him on her own.

1818: His mother marries August Becu, a professor of medicine. 

1822: He meets Adam Mickiewicz for the first time at one of his mother’s literary salons.

1824: Mickiewicz is arrested and sent into exile by the authorities for his involvement in the Philomaths, a patriotic Polish student society. The two meet on his last day.

1825: He begins to study law at Vilnius Imperial University. His earliest surviving poems date from this time. 

1829: He moves to Warsaw where he is employed in the Russian controlled Governmental Commission of Revenues and Treasury.

1830: He writes his first novel “Hugo”, which is published in the magazine “Melitele”. He is active during the November Uprising. “Hymn” is first published on 4th December in “Polak Sumienny” (The Conscientious Pole).

1831: In January he joins the diplomatic staff of the Polish Revolutionary government led by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski and works as a copyist and then a courier. He travels to Dresden in March, and London and Paris in July. He hears about the failure of the revolution in September and stays in exile in Paris.

1832: He publishes his first poetry collections and the plays “Mindowe” and “Maria Stuart” and meets Mickiewicz again but he is angered by Mickiewicz’s harsh portrayal of his step father Professor Bécu in his poem “Diazy” and even threatens to challenge him to a duel. Finding criticism of his own works amongst the Polish community on Paris he decides to leave for Geneva in Switzerland.

1833: He writes the drama “Kordian First Part of a Trilogy: The Coronation Plot” which is published the following year and is considered one of his best works. His new volume of poetry is more nationalistic and receives better reviews in Poland. He writes the poems “W Szwajcarii”, (In Switzerland) “Rozlaczenie” (Separation), “Stokroti” (Daisies) and “Chmury” (Clouds).

1834: He writes the play “Balladyna” (published 1839) about a fictional Slavic queen which describes the thirst for power and the evolution of the criminal mind. 

1836: He moves to Italy and in Rome he makes friends with Zygmunt Krasinski who is considered as one of the three Polish bards alongside Mickiewicz and Slowacki himself.

1837: After a short break in Florence in June he travels from Rome to Naples and then Sorrento. In August he leaves to go to Greece and then Egypt and the Middle East including the Holy Land. This journey is described in the narrative poem “Podróż do Ziemi Swiętej z Neapolu” (Voyage to the Holy Land from Naples) (published 1866). Other works he writes are the prose poem “Anhelli” (published 1837), “Ojciec Zadzumionych (The Father of the Plague-stricken), “Grob Agamemnona” (Agamemnon’s Grave), “Rozmowa z Piramidami” (A talk with the Pyramids) and “Listy Poetyckie z Egiptu” (Poetic Letters from Egypt). 

1838: After his travels he moves back to Paris in December. 

1839: He writes “Testament Mój” (My Testament) which is considered as his most famous work. His investments on the French stock market are lucrative enough to allow him to continue his literary career without needing other employment.

1840: He writes the plays “Lilla Weneda” and “Mazepa” which is the only one staged during his lifetime. These were well received by the critics. Amongst his friend in Paris was Frederic ChopinMickiewicz is elected as professor of Slavic Literature at the College of France thereby maintaining his dominance in the affection of the Polish literati and heightening Slowacki’s rivalry.

1841: He begins write the lyrical poem “Beniowski”. He travels to Frankfurt in Germany but Paris will remain his home for the rest of his life.

1842: He joins Kolo Sprawy Bozej (Circle of God’s Cause) a religio-philosophical group. Mickiewicz is also a member.

1843: He writes the anti-Romantic comedy drama “Fantazy” (published 1866). He leaves Kolo Sprawy Bozej.

1844: He travels to Pornic in Brittany during the summer and writes “Genezis z Ducha” (Genesis from the Spirit) which introduces his influential philosophical system. He also writes the play “Sen Srebrny Salomei” (The Silver Dream of Salome).

1847: He begins to write the poem “Król-Duch” (The Spirit King).

1848: He returns briefly to Poland during the new uprising, Spring of Nations, and addresses the National Committee in Poznan on 27th April. By the 9th May the revolt is crushed by the Prussians and he is arrested and sent back to Paris. In June on his journey back he meets his mother in Wroclaw. He publishes the poem “Posrod Niesnaskow Pan Bog Uderza” (Among the discord God hits) later in the year and his final plays “Zawisza Czarny” and “Samuel Zborowski”.

1849: His health is now declining and in March he is visited three times by the Polish writer Cyprian Norwid. A day before his death he dictates the final passages of “Król-Duch” although it never gets completely finished.

Juliusz Słowacki died of tuberculosis on 3rd April 1849 in Paris, France. Only about thirty people attended his funeral when he was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. In 1927 his remains were transferred to Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, Poland.

Further Information

List of works by Slowacki.