June 28, 2012

Chopin: prostrate with grief

Kate Chopin had a difficult life. For one, her four siblings all died before reaching adulthood. Her husband died young and, in financial difficulty, she moved back to St. Louis at the insistence of her mother, Eliza Faris O'Flaherty. Her mother, however, died of cancer shortly thereafter on June 28, 1885. Kate Chopin was "literally prostrate with grief."

Eliza O'Flaherty had a substantial influence on her daughter Kate Chopin. Perhaps most importantly, O'Flaherty was Creole (the "O'Flaherty" name came from her Ireland-born husband) and she retained a French accent which inspired her daughter's writing. But her death left the 35-year old Chopin, as biographer Emily Toth wrote, "at the head of a generational chain." All of her siblings were dead, as were both her parents and her husband. She moved to the other side of the city, far away from her childhood home. A family friend and doctor urged Chopin to write to overcome her grief — an occupation which also resulted in an income and allowed her to provide for her own six children. Her first published work was music: a polka for piano (1888) she originally composed for her daughter:
*My sources for this post are Unveiling Kate Chopin (1999) by Emily Toth and Kate Chopin's Private Papers (1998) edited by both Emily Toth and Per Seyersted.


  1. Chopin gave a preview performance of the Marché and reviews of this performance state Chopin had a ghostly appearance.
    Chopin Biography

  2. You're thinking of a different Chopin, I'm afraid...