More About Ernst’s Secretary

Gaëtan Niépovié’s Etudes Physiologiques sur les Grandes Métropoles de L’Europe Occidentale (Paris: Ch.Gosselin, 1840) is a very detailed account (more than 500 pages) of Parisian life and manners in the 1830s – behaviour in cafes, at the theatre, at the opera and is full of musical and theatrical gossip by someone who knew Chopin, Onslow, Berlioz, Rossini etc. Walter Benjamin mentions it briefly in the Arcades Project where he refers to it as being authoritative on the names of Paris omnibuses, and this remark has been picked up by a couple of modern texts (Anselm Gerhard, The Urbanization of Opera, Hazel Hahn, Scenes of Parisian Modernity) but Niépovié’s work is otherwise completely obscure.

Gaëtan Niépovié, however, turns out to be a pseudonym of one Karol Frankowski, and the book was also published in Polish, in 1846. As Ernst’s secretary, Frankowski, was born in Posen 1810/11, and calls himself ‘Charles’ when in England or France, I naturally wonder whether Ernst’s secretary and the author of Etudes Physiologiques are one and the same man. (For more information about Ernst’s secretary, see ‘Ernst and Staff on English Census’ below.)

I’ve often speculated as to what Frankowski might have done with himself between the time he arrived in Paris with Ernst in 1831 and when Ernst started touring again in 1836/7 and 1839. As Ernst’s career was far from firmly established and he did little travelling in the intervening years, he wouldn’t have needed a fulltime secretary. Frankowski was clearly a lively, amiable man with a ready pen; a fine linguist and musician; and would have had access, via Ernst and Chopin, to the best artistic circles in Paris. Thus writing a gossipy account of these very circles for the provincial market in France and Poland, seems a very natural way to use his circumstances to make money (it’s also possible the book is based on work originally published in newspapers). Original editions of the book are scarce and expensive, but it is now available in a modern print-on-demand edition (available from Amazon.UK, for example). Although there is minimal reference to Ernst, those interested in his milieu will find the book a fascinating source of information.

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