LGBTQ History

Poland’s anti-LGBTQ historians have been hiding composer Frederic Chopin’s gay love letters

Frederic Chopin, composer, Polish, gay
Polish composer Frederic ChopinPhoto: Maria Wodzińska

Frederic Chopin, the 19th-century composer known for his Romantic-era piano pieces, is a much-revered figure in his home country of Poland. So it’s no wonder that music journalist Moritz Weber made waves in the anti-LGBTQ country when he recently revealed that Chopin wrote sexual notes and love letters to his male friends.

Chopin had relationships with women like writer Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (whose nom de plume — pen name — was George Sand) and Maria Wodzińska, who he was briefly engaged to. But in a recent Swiss radio documentary, Weber said Chopin’s letters to the two women weren’t nearly as explicit or loving as his letters to men.

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“He didn’t write letters to [those women] at all. And he doesn’t write about them in a way that you could conclude there was love,” Weber said, adding that his relationships with women seem like that of an artist t0 a benefactor rather than one of passion.

“What is obvious in his letters that there is love written to his male friends,” Weber continued, “most passionately to Tytus Woyciechowski.”

Woyciechowski was a political activist and art patron who lived with Chopin’s birth family in his youth. Though Woyciechowski later married a woman, he named his second son Fryderyk, after Chopin.

“As always, I carry your letters with me,” Chopin wrote to Woyciechowski in a letter dated March 27, 1830. “How good it will be for me to take out your letter and make sure that you love me. And at least to look at the writing and the hand of the one I can only love.”

In an April 4, 1830 letter, Chopin wrote to him, “I’m going to wash myself. Don’t kiss me now, because I haven’t washed myself yet — have you? Even if I rubbed Byzantine oils on myself, you wouldn’t kiss me if I didn’t magnetically force you to do it. There’s some force in nature. Today, you’ll dream of kissing me.”

Weber said that Chopin also sent passionate letters to his fiancée’s brother Antoni Wodzińska, a male physician named Jan Matuszyński, and Chopin’s close friend Julian Fontana.

Chopin once wrote to Antoni Wodzińska, “Believe me that I think of you as I think of Tytus.” Chopin lived with Matuszyński and Fontana in Paris for years.

Weber believes Chopin may have kept his male romances private as the his letters demonstrate a preoccupation with public appearance. Weber also says that Polish historians and Wikipedia editors have often changed the male pronouns in Chopin’s letters to female ones or have deleted any mentions of Chopin’s male love letters from his online biographies.

Weber thinks Polish homophobes might be doing this as the country and its government leaders have increasingly embraced anti-LGBTQ sentiment, a hostility empowered by the Roman Catholic Church of which 92.9 percent of all citizens are believers, according to the country’s 2015 census.

Earlier this year, one-third of people in Poland declared itself as an “LGBT-free zone” — something U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has condemned. The rise in anti-queer sentiment has coincided with an increase in nationalist identity and a pride in its history, music and culture. This explains why some Polish people want to keep Chopin’s queerness under wraps — it goes against their proud, heterosexual Catholic identity, even though that identity has cracks throughout it.

But as word of Chopin’s queerness spreads, it won’t be easy for Polish society to hide the famous composer from view. The nation’s capital of Warsaw is home to the international Chopin Airport and Chopin’s name and image grace numerous parks, streets, and buildings in major cities.

“Even his heart, preserved in alcohol after his death in 1849 at the age of 39, is sealed into a wall of Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church,” CNN notes.

Here is Chopin’s most famous work, his four-and-a-half-minute Second Nocturne, formally called Opus 9 Number 2.