Contributors: Maria Kalinowska (Faculty Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw), Milena Chilińska (Faculty Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw)
Location: The Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia
Description: This travel diary belonged to Juliusz Słowacki (born 1809 in Krzemieniec, Volhynia, now part of Ukraine, died 1849 Paris), second only to Adam Mickiewicz as the most important Polish Romantic poet. He is considered one of the most important Polish writers influencing national consciousness and culture, expressing the problems of modern Polish history in the greatest depth. Słowacki’s oeuvre reflects the European historiosophical and aesthetic issues of his time. Romantic ideals of freedom, revolution, progress, and sacrifice, as well as Romantic irony and artistry, gain unique and original interpretations in his works. Because of the prevailing political situation in his homeland, he lived in exile and travelled throughout Western Europe from the early 1830s onwards, never able to return to Poland.
From 1836 to 1837 Słowacki completed a major journey to Greece and the Middle East. He made extensive notes and drawings on his journey, as well as drafts of poems, in a notebook now known as the Eastern Diary. This notebook was thought to have been lost, but in 2010 it resurfaced unexpectedly in a library in Moscow. The story of this document is as fascinating as the story of Słowacki’s journey itself.
Słowacki’s journey took him from Italy to Greece, and then on to Egypt, the Holy Land, and Lebanon. In August 1836, following the example of other Romantic poets such as Byron, Chateaubriand, and Lamartine, Słowacki set off from Otranto on his great journey to the East. He toured Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land, visited the Armenian monastery in Beit Khashbo, Mount Lebanon in March 1837, and arrived in Beirut in April. In May he returned from Tripoli to Italy, living in Florence until mid-December 1838. An account of his journey can be found in Journey to the Holy Land from Naples, mostly written on the Greek island of Syros. Referring to the history of Italy and Greece, the poem contains thoughts on European culture and its foundations, and expresses the poet’s Philhellenic fascinations. It is rich in aesthetic tones and brilliantly expresses the creative attitude of the Romantic ironist. Słowacki began his journey as a Romantic ironist and ended it, symbolically, at the Tomb of Christ. A night spent in Jerusalem at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre changed him, opening the way to mystical experience. His encounters with ancient Mediterranean civilizations and the Middle East would inspire him for the rest of his life and return in his later works.
The Eastern Diary was kept in the Krasiński Library (Biblioteka Ordynacji Krasińskich) in Warsaw up to 1939. The notebook disappeared at the start of the Second World War and was generally thought to have been burnt. Over seventy years later Professor Henryk Głębocki of the Jagiellonian University, in a sensational discovery, came across the notebook in a library in Moscow. The dramatic and intriguing story of what happened to the notebook after 1939 has been told by Henryk Głębocki, Zbigniew Przychodniak and Urszula Makowska („Raptularz wschodni” Juliusza Słowackiego. Edycja – studia – komentarze, vol. II).
In the 19th and 20th centuries, editors were only interested in the completed works contained in the notebook, and thus largely focused on the posthumously published poem Journey to the Holy Land from Naples. However, in 2020 the entire Eastern Diary was published for the first time. It can be read as a fascinating testimony of Romantic travel. Apart from the poem Journey to the Holy Land from Naples, the notebook contains other poems at different stages of completion, drawings, watercolours, different kinds of notes, fragments of prose, plans for future works, remarks about material read and sites visited, as well as notes on expenses (e.g. the cost of renting a camel), and a dictionary of useful Arabic phrases. There are drawings of the Paleopolis in Corfu, the faces of Arabic women, the view from the monastery in Lebanon, the pyramids, and horses on the ships. The editors did not treat the notebook as merely an incoherent rough draft, a collection of random jottings and notes. Rather we concentrated on what integrates the diary, attempting to see it as a whole and to discover the principles that unify its extremely diverse contents. We attempted to collect the heterogeneous materials around a central theme: the experience of travel and the poet’s toying with the conventions of Romantic travel writing. However, we also wanted to see this diary as a fragmentary and open work, as the journal of a Romantic artist travelling around sites that were considered central to European and Middle Eastern cultures, and experiencing a deep spiritual transformation.
The editing project lasted five years, from 2015 to 2019. (1) The aim of the international editorial team was to adopt an interdisciplinary approach encompassing literature, history, and textual criticism. The results were published in three volumes. During the course of the project it became clear that the editorial work could be enhanced by electronic media. A website has been created to display the text of the original manuscript, and is constantly being updated. It is hoped that it will provide a resource not just for scholars, but for a more general audience of readers interested in finding out more about the lost text – the manuscript, its transcription, translation, visual elements, and critical commentaries — visit at: https://slowacki.al.uw.edu.pl/
Creator: Juliusz Słowacki
Subject: Juliusz Słowacki (1809-1849), Polish Romanticism, Journey to the East, Journey to the Holy Land from Naples, travel literature about Greece, Egypt, the Holy Land
Media rights: The Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia who made scans of the manuscript available.
Object type: Manuscript
Format: Ink, watercolours and pencil on paper
Publisher: „Raptularz wschodni” Juliusza Słowackiego. Edycja – studia – komentarze, ed. M. Kalinowska, E. Kiślak, U. Makowska, Z. Przychodniak, M. Troszyński, D. Kaja, vol. I-III, DiG, Faculty Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw / Nicolaus Copernicus University Toruń / Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding , Warsaw 2019.
- „Raptularz wschodni” Juliusza Słowackiego, vol. I Podobizna autografu, DiG, Warsaw 2019.
- „Raptularz wschodni” Juliusza Słowackiego. Edycja – studia – komentarze, ed. M. Kalinowska, U. Makowska, Z. Przychodniak, M. Troszyński, D. Kaja, vol. II Edycja – komentarz – objaśnienia, DiG, Warsaw 2019.
- „Raptularz wschodni” Juliusza Słowackiego. Edycja – studia – komentarze, ed. M. Kalinowska, E. Kiślak, Z. Przychodniak, vol. III Studia i interpretacje, DiG, Warsaw 2019.
Catalogue number: The Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia: 183/II, N 12/7 and previously (pre-war) the Krasiński Library in Warsaw (Biblioteka i Muzeum Ordynacji Krasińskich w Warszawie): ms. 5217
Our website: http://slowacki.al.uw.edu.pl/
Our Instagram: slowacki.eu
- This work was completed as part of the framework of a research project financed by the National Science Centre (registration number 2014/15/B/HS2/01360).