“Avoid late nights in the salons of nobility, and look after your health… everything depends on that.” Motherly advice…or a veiled threat?
The writer of those words, Teresa Wodzinska, sometimes referred to Fryderyk Chopin as her “fourth son.” And he nearly became her son-in-LAW. It was a match seemingly made in heaven. Maria Wodzinska was a dark-eyed Polish beauty. She sang, painted watercolors, and played Chopin’s Ballades on the piano. And they were old family friends: “I used to chase her through the rooms at Pszenny in days gone by,” wrote Chopin; Maria’s older sister recalled, “Of all the boys he was the most willing to joke and play.”
And, when Chopin was 25 and Maria was 16, the girl next door had become the living embodiment of the land he’d left behind. He was lonely, homesick, and living in Paris. She was wealthy, beautiful, and thoroughly and delightfully Polish. Chopin could stand it no longer. Visiting her family on holiday in 1836, Chopin made his first – and only – proposal of marriage. “At the Twilight Hour,” snippily noted Teresea Wodzinska.
Maria was thrilled; Mom and Dad weren’t so sure. There was the matter of Chopin’s ever-fragile health. And his whirlwind social life. And his suspect status as a composer. The Wodzinskas made a counter-offer: A one-year waiting period to see if Chopin’s health, fortunes, and habits would improve. Hence the warnings, buried in motherly advice.
But it was not to be. Chopin’s life only got messier, once George Sand entered the picture. The following summer, Chopin receives a “Dear Fryderyk” letter from Maria Wodzinska. He wraps Marie’s correspondence and the rejection letter in a bundle and labels it My Sorrow. And writes this “Farewell” Waltz in A-flat major, inscribed “To Mademoiselle Maria.” - Benjamin K. Roe