Ernst and staff on English census

It is fortunate that Ernst – together with his secretary and servant – was in England on the night of 30th March 1851, because this meant he and his staff had to appear on an English census return.

Ernst and staff on census

This is often quite difficult to read, but the essential information – under the headings: Address, Name, Relation to Head of Family, (Marital) Condition, Age, Occupation, Where Born – is as follows:

12[?] Margaret Street; Henry Ernst     ;                 ;36; Artist Musician; Brünn

“             “              “     ; Charles Frank; Servant  ;40; Secretary            ; Posen

“             “              “     ; Louis                 ; Servant  ;31; Servant               ; Mitau

(possibly ‘Milan’)

12 Margaret Street consists of two houses. One of these is lived in by Richard Jeffs and his family, the other is rented out as Jeffs’ business. The census form also gives us some idea of the milieu of Margaret Street, occupied as it is by gas engineers and accountants.

The form doesn’t tell us anything new about Ernst, but it does give us some of the first hard information about his secretary. We know from Berlioz’s Memoirs, and Ernst’s and Berlioz’s letters, that his surname was Frankowski, but the form tells that his Christian name was Charles (and therefore probably, and originally, Karl or Karol); that he was born in 1810/11; and that he came from Posen. Friends and acquaintances called him ‘Frank’ (or sometimes ‘Franke’) and he has anglicized his surname on the form.

From these facts, it may be possible to identify him and deduce some of his history.His year of birth suggests he was more or less the same age as Chopin, and his Polish surname and place of birth suggest that he too was Polish. Frankowski’s German was completely fluent (as we know from his one surviving letter, to Maurice Schlesinger), but the most likely explanation for this fact is that, in the early C19th, 25% of Posen’s population had German as their first language. As we would expect from his occupation, Frankowski was highly musical and we know he gave valuable musical advice to Berlioz and composed a waltz that achieved some celebrity. (HWE:57) It is therefore highly likely that he had been a music student, and, given his place of birth, the most natural place for him to have studied would have been the Warsaw Conservatoire. All this suggests he is the same man who appeared at an early Warsaw Conservatoire concert of Chopin’s on May 27th 1825. Chopin played the first movement of a concerto by Moscheles amongst other things, and a ‘Herr Frankowski’ played the 1st movement of a concerto by Rode. (The AMZ review is reprinted in William G.Atwood, Fryderyk Chopin: Pianist from Warsaw (Columbia Univ Press, 1987), p.199).

Chopin went to Vienna – still a great musical centre – after leaving Warsaw, and it seems more than probable that other Polish music students – anxious to establish careers and escape oppression at home – did the same. Perhaps Herr Frankowski was amongst them. Chopin, of course, went on to acquire a European reputation, but some of his less talented compatriots were not so fortunate. The AMZ review of Chopin’s early concert says nice things about nearly all the performers except Frankowski; he, it reports, merely performed the movement by Rode. This suggests that Frankowski was not an outstanding violinist, but if he was – as seems likely – a good general musician, then finding a job as accompanist and secretary to a world-class violinist who wanted to travel would seem like an excellent career-move.


I’ve always thought that Ernst was too young to go on a European tour by himself when he was only 16 (or allegedly 14 – a position he sticks to on the census), but if he had a secretary who was 2-4 years older, had already travelled a lot in Europe, and had some important contacts, his journey would make more sense. In addition, the object of Ernst’s first tour, in 1829, was probably Paris, and this would make a knowledge of French essential. There is no reason at this date to suppose Ernst spoke French well, and thus a French-speaking secretary would have been invaluable. (Frankowski’s French would definitely have been fluent since in both Poland and Russia it was the usual language of aristocratic and artistic circles.) It’s quite possible that Frankowski introduced Ernst to Chopin, and hence to Liszt and many other important musicians.

We know, from Schumann’s report, that Ernst had a male secretary who travelled with him through Baden in 1830; indeed, Schumann was disgusted by the fact that Ernst was ‘very intimate with his nauseating secretary.’ (HWE:46-7) This suggests, at the very least, that Ernst and his secretary were old friends; and it seems highly likely that they established this friendship when Ernst was studying at the Vienna Conservatoire.

There is no conclusive evidence to show that Ernst’s male secretary in 1830, the Warsaw Conservatoire’s ‘Herr Frankowski’ in 1825, and the Karl Frankowski who certainly worked as Ernst’s secretary between 1837 and 1854, are one and the same man, but it seems more than probable.

Why does Ernst and Frankowski’s servant – Louis, 31, born in Mitau (modern Jelgava) – lack a surname? Giving your surname was a legal requirement on census forms, and everyone else on the page, including the servants, has their surname recorded. He might have been out of the house when the census-form collector called, but it seems highly unlikely that neither Ernst nor Frankowski knew his surname. Might he not have had a surname? Could he have been Afro-Caribbean? The French name might lend weak support to this idea.

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