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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Joseph Ignatius Kraszewski

JOSEPH IGNATIUS KRASZEWSKI (1812-1887), Polish novelist and miscellaneous writer, was born at Warsaw on the 28th of July 1812, of an aristocratic family. He showed a precocious talent for authorship, beginning his literary career with a volume of sketches from society as early as 1829, and for more than half a century scarcely ever intermitting his literary production, except during a period of imprisonment upon a charge of complicity in the insurrection of 1831. He narrowly escaped being sent to Siberia, but, rescued by the intercession of powerful friends, he settled upon his landed property near Grodno, and devoted himself to literature with such industry that a mere selection from his fiction alone, reprinted at Lemberg from 1871 to 1875, occupies 102 volumes. He was thus the most conspicuous literary figure of his day in Poland. His extreme fertility was suggestive of haste and carelessness, but he declared that the contrivance of his plot gave him three times as much trouble as the composition of his novel. Apart from his gifts as a story-teller, he did not possess extraordinary mental powers; the "profound thoughts" culled from his writings by his admiring biographer Bohdanowicz are for the most part mere truisms. His copious invention is nevertheless combined with real truth to nature, especially evinced in the beautiful little story of Jermola the Potter (1857), from which George Eliot appears to have derived the idea of Silas Marner, though she can only have known it at second hand. Compared with the exquisite art of Silas Marner, Jermola appears rude and unskilful, but it is not on this account the less touching in its fidelity to the tenderest elements of human nature. Kraszewski's literary activity falls into two well-marked epochs, the earlier when, residing upon his estate, he produced romances like Jermola, Ulana (1843), Kordecki (1852), devoid of any special tendency, and that after 1863, when the suspicions of the Russian government compelled him to settle in Dresden. To this period belong several political novels published under the pseudonym of Boleslawita, historical fictions such as Countess Cosel, and the "culture" romances Morituri (1874-1875) and Resurrecturi (1876), by which he is perhaps best known out of his own country. In 1884 he was accused of plotting against the German government and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in a fortress, but was released in 1886, and withdrew to Geneva, where he died on the 19th of March 1887. His remains were brought to Poland and interred at Cracow. Kraszewski was also a poet and dramatist; his most celebrated poem is his epic Anafielas (3 vols., 1840-1843) on the history of Lithuania. He was indefatigable as literary critic, editor and translator, wrote several historical works, and was conspicuous as a restorer of the study of national archaeology in Poland. Among his most valuable works were Litwa (Warsaw, 2 vols., 1847-1850), a collection of Lithuanian antiquities; and an aesthetic history of Poland (Posen, 3 vols., 1873-1875). (R. G.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Joseph Ignatius Kraszewski'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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