1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sienkiewicz, Henryk

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SIENKIEWICZ, HENRYK (1846-), Polish novelist, was born in 1846 at Wola Okrzeska near Lukow, in the province of Siedlce, Russian Poland. He studied philosophy at Warsaw University. His first work, a humorous novel entitled A Prophet in his own Country, appeared in 1872. In 1876 Sienkiewicz visited America, and under the pseudonym of “Litwos,” contributed an account of his travels to the Gazeta Polska, a Warsaw newspaper. Thenceforward his talent as a writer of historical novels won rapid recognition, and his best-known romance, Quo Vadis? a study of Roman society under Nero, has been translated into more than thirty languages. Originally published in 1895, Quo Vadis? was first translated into English in 1896, and dramatized versions of it have been produced in England, the United States, France and Germany. Remarkable powers of realistic description, and a strong religious feeling which at times borders upon mysticism, characterize the best work of Sienkiewicz. Hardly inferior to Quo Vadis? in popularity, and superior in literary merit, is the trilogy of novels describing 17th-century society in Poland during the wars with the Cossacks, Turks and Swedes. This trilogy comprises Ogniem i mieczem (“With Fire and Sword,” London, 1890, 1892 and 1895), Potop (“The Deluge,” Boston, Mass., 1891) and Pan Woxodjowski (“Pan Michael,” London, 1893). Among other very successful novels and collections of tales which have been translated into English are Bez Dogmatu (“Without Dogma,” London, 1893; Toronto, 1899), Janko muzykant: nowele (“Yanko the Musician and other Stories,” Boston, Mass., 1893), Krzyżacy (“The Knight of the Cross,” numerous British and American versions), Hania (“Hania,” London, 1897) and Ta Trzecia (“The Third Woman,” New York, 1898). Sienkiewicz lived much in Cracow and Warsaw, and for a time edited the Warsaw newspaper Slowo; he also travelled in England, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Africa and the East, and published a description of his journeys in Africa. In 1905 he received the Nobel prize for literature.

A German edition of his collected works was published at Graz (1906, &c.), and his biography was written in Polish by P. Chmielowski (Lemberg, 1901) and J. Nowiński (Warsaw, 1901).