Portrait depicting Adam Mickiewicz
Poison or cholera? The Death of Adam Mickiewicz. Most non-Polish individuals have no idea what this name signifies. So, who exactly is this man?
Born in 1798, Mickiewicz is one of those men you will spot around the city plastered onto various monuments that appear out of thin air. Poet and political activist, Mickiewicz is considered the father of Polish romanticism. He was part of the Three Bards, the national poets of Polish romantic literature. At barely 26, being the controversial figure he was and having some serious beef with the Polish government, Mickiewicz was exiled to Russia on behalf of his sneaky liberal activity. There he befriended many and upon his return from exile, he had become one of the key figures of Polish society.
Mickiewicz; a grieving man transformed into a lifeless puppet by teachers and historians alike. Dehumanised to a point where to many he is none but the author of the books that tormented their schooldays, Mickiewicz’ true nature is often forgotten. Until his very last day, he kept his wife, children and his beloved country close to his heart. Devoted liberal and feminist, his grief is often dismissed, as well as his suffering occurring from the oppression that he underwent during the tsarist regime.
Katastrofalne małżeństwo- The disaster of Celina and Adam
Eventually, Mickiewicz wedded to one, a newly orphaned Celina, in 1834. She was 14 years his junior and quite a strong-willed young woman. At first, she despised him, as would any 22-year-old marrying a man almost double her age. Eerily, Mickiewicz treated her more like his daughter rather than his fiancée. He saw her as a beautiful, talented girl with whom he could endlessly converse, but eventually, he prayed he would jilt her. Although his mind was set on abandonment, compassion eventually got the best of him, even though he desired to keep quiet about the wedding. On that special day, Celina was a nymph for her husband; it was then he first gazed at her as a husband does to his wife. However, things soon took a turn for the worse. She was accused of an overwhelming desire to dominate Mickiewicz through her sly ways, extravagance and overspending on her husband’s money(which was quite tight) because she had been spoiled by her parents, a lack of cooking and housekeeping skills and mental instability; in short, Mickiewicz had fallen for a woman who was using him.
Portrait Depicting Celina and Adam
In 1838, the disturbed Celina publicly declared herself the Mother of God. She called herself a prophet and a redeemer of the Poles. Naturally, these psychiatric-ward-worthy declarations despaired Mickiewicz, who loved her tremendously. During this time, hubby had cared for her with the deepest love and made sure she had everything she required, but now, her mental illness and the chaos of their marriage led to a desperate act on his side. In December 1838(the same year as her declaration of being the Virgin Mary), he was driven to an abyss of despair. Mickiewicz flung himself out of a window. He survived, but this act’s repercussions long haunted him.
After recovery, he could not bear having to take care of her alone. Being the father of two young children, he feared for both their safety and their presence so he did what he found wisest; he sent her off to a hospital. There, she met one, Towiański, who indoctrinated her to such a point that she joined his cult, which she remained in until the end of her life.
“Both parties lack delicacy; he talks to her as if to a servant and she, it sometimes seems, deems it a personal victory that such a genius should serve her- Take off my shoes! Get out! What business is it of yours? which one can hear her saying to her husband on visits-whereas at home he shouts: Fill my pipe! bring in the wood, and so forth.”
-Tanska Hoffmanowa on the charming couple.
Ironically, in 1855 both members of this ‘happy’ marriage endured the same fate. In the earlier part of the year, Celina died under mysterious circumstances, Soon after, the grieving Mickiewicz (for although upset, the unhappy wretch still adored and was adored by his wife) was off to war, leaving his children behind. In November, he passed from illness produced by cholera or arsenic, his children remaining orphans. Not even a year had elapsed since his wife’s death; fate has a strange way of going around. Such was the destiny of Adam Mickiewicz, doomed to a miserable end, but leaving a powerful legacy both through his poems and his life’s drama.
Adam Mickiewicz on his deathbed, 1855
Why should you care?
Mister Sir not only had a stormy marriage and impacted romanticism but also changed the course of entire revolutions. By influencing the Polish course of the ‘Spring of the Peoples’, he gathered a Polish Legion of 600 individuals. This influenced the Romanians(who at the time grasped any idea coming their way, Polish Insurgence or French Revolt, they took it), and this, in turn, might have influenced the modern-day country. So yes, besides creating some of the most prominent pieces of poetry and influencing romanticism in Eastern Europe, this one Polish guy managed to alter the direction of the Romanian revolutions.
(Besides it’s a great source for gossip and drama!)
In conclusion, Mickiewicz was a man like any other. No, he was not mundane or dour, but he was human, with flaws and assets. He is the first choice for my project because he is one of the most dehumanised figures in what may be the whole of history, attributing to him not a soul but a couple of empty pages.
If you care more about this topic you can ask me directly or reference- Mickiewicz: the Life of a Romantic by Roman Koropeckyj (very compelling and packed with drama!).