Maurycy Mochnacki 

Portrait of Maurycy Mochnacki

Maurycy Mochnacki was a Polish literary, theatre and music critic, journalist, pianist, and historian. He was born on 13th September 1803 in Bojanice, Galicia, Russian Empire (now Poland) and died on 20th December 1834 in Auxerre, France aged 31.

Major Works

“O Duchu i Zródłach Poezji w Polszcze” (On the Spirit and Sources of Poetry in Poland) (1825)
“O Literaturze Polskiej Wieku XIX” (On Polish Literature of the 19th Century) (1830)
“Powstanie Narodu Polskiego w r. 1830 i 1831” (The Insurrection of the Polish Nation in the Years 1830 and 1831) (1834)

Biography Timeline

Maurycy Mochnacki was born on 13th September 1804 in Bojanice, Galicia, Russian Empire (now Poland). His father was a lawyer, land-owner, and Polish nationalist and made sure his children studied classical and modern literature, foreign languages and history whilst at home.

1815: The family move to Lviv in Ukraine and he is taught to play the piano and violin. 

1819: The family move again to Czersk near Warsaw where he completes his studies at the local high school and then enters the University of Warsaw to study law. He is expelled from the university for hitting a policeman who had requested him to put his pipe out and he is sentenced to fourteen days hard labour with other criminals by the authorities.

1823: With a legal career now impossible he has concentrated on art and political activity and his flat in Warsaw has become a meeting place for Polish patriots, writers and musicians including Frederic Chopin. He, himself, is a noted pianist but prefers writing essays on famous composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven to performing. At the end of the year he is arrested for belonging to a secret organization called the Union of Free Polish Brothers and is imprisoned in a Carmelite convent. To be allowed to leave he has to write a piece declaring that the education system in the Kingdom of Poland is tantamount to indoctrination of its youth into liberal ways. After his release he is forced to work for the board of censors but loses the post after six months.

1825: He publishes the essay “O Duchu i Zródłach Poezji w Polszcze” (On the Spirit and Sources of Poetry in Poland) which basically attack’s another writers essay on Classical and Romantic writing and states that literature plays a major role in society and thought and has a role in building a new country. He discusses many Polish writers including Adam Mickiewicz and with it he becomes the leader of the Warsaw Romantic critics.

1827: He becomes editor of the Kurier Polski until 1829.

1830: He writes “O Literaturze Polskiej Wieku XIX” (On Polish Literature of the 19th Century) where he maintains that a nation should recognise its uniqueness in its literature. He is particularly influenced by the views of the Germans Friedrich von Schiller and Friedrich von Schlegel and believes that literature is more than just an art form but it has a political function as well. On 29th November he takes part in the November Uprising against the Russian authorities and is present at battles in Stoczek, Ostroleka, Grochow and in Warsaw.

1831: During his military service he is wounded. For his actions he receives Poland’s highest military order the Virtuti Militari medal and is promoted to become an officer. He organises a political club, called the Patriotic Society and is again imprisoned and then has to emigrate to France.

1832: He contributes political articles to “Pamiętnik Emigracji Polskiej” (Memoirs of the Polish Émigrés). 

1834: He writes “Powstanie Narodu Polskiego w Latach 1830–1831” (The Insurrection of the Polish Nation in the Years 1830 and 1831) which is now considered the best first-hand study of the period. 

Maurycy Mochnacki died of tuberculosis on 20th December 20 1834 in Auxerre, France and was buried there. In 2021 his remains were transferred to the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw after a national service held at the Church of Our Lady Queen of the Polish Crown, also known as the Field Cathedral of the Polish army.

Further Information

Online library list of works by Mochnacki.

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