In mid-July 1848 the London season ended and Chopin was invited to stay with Jane Stirling’s relatives in Scotland.
He left London via Euston on August 5th and travelled up the new West Coast route via Birmingham and Carlisle, arriving the same evening at Edinburgh’s Lothian Road station.
Following a two-day stay in the city at the Douglas Hotel, he travelled on to Calder House, home of Jane’s brother-in-law, Lord Torphichen, where he passed an agreeable time until going to Manchester on August 25th with Jane and Daniel, the new servant Broadwood had found for him. He was to give a concert at the Gentleman’s Concert Hall on August 28th. When Chopin saw the audience of 1,200 in the concert hall he had a great shock. He said to his friend Osborne who was also taking part “My playing will be lost in such a large room, my compositions ineffective”. The critics were surprisingly complimentary, mentioning “a brilliancy of touch and a delicate sensibility of expression which we have never heard excelled ...nocturnes, etudes and Berceuse elicited a rapturous encore”.
Chopin returned to Edinburgh to stay with Dr. Lyszynski and his wife in 10 Warriston Crescent. He was a Polish homeopathic doctor whom Jane had found to give Chopin treatments during his Scottish visit. Chopin was to return to him at regular intervals.
On September 2nd Chopin went to Johnstone Castle, home of one of Jane’s sisters, Anne Houston. The weather was terrible and he became bored and irritable. One of the main problems was that he could not speak English and in these dark and damp castles he began to feel oppressed and lonely.
The Glasgow concert on September 27th at the Merchants’ Hall was a great success. People came from all Scotland to hear Chopin, amongst them the Murrays, Lord Torphichen, the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, Lady Belhaven, the Duchess of Argyll, the Czartoryskis and many of the Stirling clan.
From Johnstone Castle Chopin went to Keir House, home of William Stirling, head of the clan. In letters written from Keir House he says “…everything makes me uncomfortable and I sit there panting until dinner time, after which one has to sit for two hours with the men at the table and look at them speaking and listen to them drinking. Bored to tears I then go to the drawing room where I need all my strength of mind to come to life a little”, “If the weather is fine I will stay here for October, for I have more invitations that I can reply to and life in the stately homes here is truly curious ... Everyone is today going to Edinburgh for the Caledonian Rout. All week there will be races, amusements, balls etc. All the nobility will be there. I look forward to some gossip”.
Chopin’s Edinburgh concert took place at 8.30 at the Hopetoun Rooms on October 4th. Tickets were half a guinea. ‘The Scotsman’ announced the programme, which was much the same as the Glasgow concert – though presumably with many additions because there were no supporting singers. The hall was packed and Chopin was greeted with enormous enthusiasm, particularly by Poles who were in the audience.
“My kind Scottish ladies are boring me anew. Madame Erskine – a devout Protestant – this good woman without doubt wants to convert me. She’s greatly interested in my salvation”.
The long, lonely hours and the Scottish mists and general bad weather finally ruined Chopin’s health. He went back to Dr. Lyszynski for further treatments, but they made no difference.
He returned to London on October 31st, a broken man. After staying a few days with Broadwood, he moved to 4 St. James’s Place SW1 and from there on November 18th he went to give his last-ever public performance at Guildhall. Except for this one occasion he did not leave his apartment, but was regularly visited by the Czartoryskis, Broadwood and Jane Stirling and her sister.
The two doctors who attended him, including Sir James Clark, the Queen’s doctor, advised him to return to Paris, which he did on November 23rd. He died the following year on October 17th.
Photo: Calder House, Mid Calder, Livingstone, Mid Lothian, Scotland