In 1981, the Kórnik library acquired some exceptionally valuable manuscript materials of the Mycielski family living at Wydawy near Poniec, Greater Poland. They included more than 130 letters written by Helena Mycielska to her old friend Maria Harsdorf née Gniewosz. Helena (1857–1937), daughter of Józef and Maria née Turno, came from a family which stamped their virtue in difficult periods of Polish history. Her ancestors and relatives participated in national uprisings, were patriotic and social activists, scholars, and artists. Helena herself was interested in literature and art. She authored small works and reviews. She was also interested in the past of her family living in Wydawy and meticulously collected materials on their history. In about 1886, during a drawing course in Krakow, she met Maria Gniewosz, with whom she soon made friends, although Maria was 12 years younger than herself. The beautiful friendship of the two gentry women survived until Maria’s death in 1910. Helena Mycielska’s letters very interestingly document the life of the Polish landed gentry at the turn of the 20th century on the lands remaining under the rule of foreign powers for several dozen years. In the first part of the presented letters, the reader may become acquainted with Helena’s daily problems, dreams, and interests, as well as the issues which were important for her mother, her siblings, and her numerous relatives and acquaintances. She devoted a lot of space to house-related issues, in particular the duties which, as the eldest daughter, she was obliged to carry out, including the keeping of books of accounts, the keeping in order of all the bills, the managing of the home finances and the caring for the garden. She wrote about the numerous guests visiting her hospitable home at Wydawy. She gave many accounts of her participation in numerous family events such as christenings, weddings, and funerals. She mentioned her trips to Ignacy Paderewski’s concerts in Poznan and Wrocław. She devoted a lot of space in her correspondence to the books she read. She also confided to Maria on her own writing. She very carefully followed her friend’s developments as the author of reviews and small literary works, and gave her some good advice concerning the manner of writing. She often mentioned religious issues, in particular the retreats in which she participated, and she gave interesting accounts of the teaching of rural children, paying attention to the talents many of them displayed.
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