Onesuch Press has brought back to life this forgotten Polish classic and adorned it with new introductions. It's a fictionalised diary of real Countess Francoise Krasinska written by Klementyna Tanska-Hoffman (or we would say in Polish 'Klementyna Hoffmanowa z Tanskich') and published originally in 1825 - twenty-five years after Krasinska's death.
It is actually possible that she managed to fool some publishers into believing they were dealing with the real thing, such a crafty maiden she was.
The story of Countess Francoise Krasinksa is a real-life Cinderella story with real-life consequences and Hoffmanowa recreates it with emotional authenticity and historical veracity. We meet Francoise when she is just a young a girl living comfortably with her parents in the court of Maleszow in southern Poland, far away from the glitz of the capital. She is a happy and innocent girl who nurses a bit of a celebrity crush on Prince Charles, a pretender to the Polish throne.
It would be nothing but an idyllic pastoral about the simple pleasure of the country life if Francoise didn't move to Warsaw where, with the help of her aunt, she enters the society and takes it by storm. Hoffmanowa does a good job of creating a three-dimensional portrait of a woman who gets corrupted by the glamour she is suddenly surrounded with but at heart remains the same naive girl. The narrator is believable, witty and feisty, even if occasionally vain.
There are passages that smuggle in some sharp observations like this one:
"Our old butler, Peter, was muttering to himself this morning that around the church in Piotrowice there are said to be ever so many coaches and curricles. Poor man! He is expecting more work, so he grumbles but I am unable to conceal my delight at the prospect of the agreeable evening we shall have. Thus is ever in this world of ours ; our pleasures must be purchased by the pains of the class which toils for us!"
“I feel conscious that I should find no reason to regret abandoning so pleasant a manner of life and such valuable privileges to become a wife of anyone. Beside, marriag is not in my opinion, so exceedingly desirable as some persons think. A woman's career is over when she marries. Once married, all is fixed - certainty takes the place of all her pleasant dreams. For her, no more hopes, no more doubts, no more suspense, no more possibility of anything better. She knows what she is and will be until death. For my part, I like to give free scope to my thoughts.”
As you can see it is elegantly written but it also gives an invaluable insight into the life of Polish aristocracy in 18th century, so it's recommended to historians and researchers. If say, you want to write a historical romance set in 18th century Poland, this little book is all you need.
I wish we had read more things like that at school rather than endless texts about another failed insurrection.