Maurycy Mochnacki (13 September 1803, in Bojaniec near Żółkiew – 20 December 1834, in Auxerre) was a Polish literary, theatre and music critic, publicist, journalist, pianist, historian and independence activist. One of the main theorists of Polish Romanticism. He joined the November Uprising in 1830 taking part in several battles for example at Stoczek, Ostrołęka, Grochów and Wawer. For that activity he was promoted to officer rank and awarded the War Order of Virtuti Militari, which is the highest Polish military decoration.
Maurycy Mochnacki was born in a part of Poland annexed by Russian, where people were tired with everyday brutality, censorship, arrests and imprisonments. They dreamed of a free independent country and cultivated their own tradition, customs and the inner spiritual life. Mochnacki came from a patriotic and political active family. Mochnacki's father - lawyer, land-owner and participant of the Kościuszko Insurrecton in 1794, wanted to give his children the best education. At the beginning, Maurycy learned classical and contemporary literature, history and foreign languages at home. In 1815, the family moved to Lviv, where he took music classes and also played the piano and the violin. In 1819, the family settled down in the town of Czersk near Warsaw. First, Maurycy studied in a prestigious high school in Warsaw then, he started law studies at Warsaw University, but was expelled very soon for striking a policeman who requested him to extinguish his pipe. In a further blow to the family's reputation, he was sentenced to 14 days hard labour, working with criminal offenders in the Belvedere Park. At the end of 1823, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Carmelite Convent for belonging to a secret organization called ‘the Union of Free Polish Brothers’. To get the freedom, he had to write a memorial in which he accused the education system in the Congress Kingdom of early political education for young people and disastrous liberalism. Shortly after his release, he was forced to work at censorship office but lost the job after six months. Those episodes would have a profound influence on his future life.
A legal career now impossible, Maurycy Mochnacki concentrated on art and political activity. His family flat in Warsaw became a meeting place for Polish patriots, writers and musicians, such as Fryderyk Chopin or Maria Szymanowska. Mochnacki was considered a fine pianist but preferred writing essays on Mozart, Beethoven or Weber to performing. At the time he started writing an essay titled 'On the Spirit and the Sources of poetry in Poland', in which he argued that a national literature could only grow from Romantic roots. He also believed that Polish literature should not be a copy of French or German models; instead, writers would have to find Polish version of Romanticism, rooted in national tradition, history and spirit. Mochnacki had a strong influence on the birth of modern literary criticism in Poland. He noted the connection between literary criticism, philosophy and aesthetics. He introduced philosophical notion, for example Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's, into literary criticism. He wrote about novels and poetry of great Polish Romantic writers such as Adam Mickiewicz. Mochnacki thought that literature played a major role in society and was capable of changing people`s thinking, and also it could play a role in creating a new country.
Mochnacki worked in several magazines. From 1827 till 1829 he was an editor at Kurier Polski where he criticized established writers. In 1830 he took part in preparations for the November Uprising against Russian rule in Poland. During the November Uprising he set up a political club, called the Patriotic Society and Mochnacki once again was imprisoned for being against an insurrection's dictator Józef Chłopicki. At the same time he studied German philosophy, especially books by Schlegel and Schiller. He thought that literature was more than just an artistic pursuit, it had a mission and a real influence on the political situation.
In 1831 he fought in number of battles and was wounded. He was promoted to an officer's rank and awarded Poland`s highest military order – the Virtuti Militari medal. After the fall of the uprising he emigrated with his brother to France where he died in 1834.
- Davies, N. (1982). God's playground, a history of Poland (Volume II, 1795 to the Present). New York: Columbia University Press.
- Krzyżanowski, J. (1978). History of Polish literature. Warszawa: Polish Scientific Publishers.
- Strzyżewski, M. (2004). Maurycy Mochnacki Rozprawy Literackie. Wrocław: Ossolineum.
- Great Emigration
- Kazimierz Brodziński
- Adam Jerzy Czartoryski
- Stanisław Kostka Potocki
- Juliusz Słowacki
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