How Henryk chose his pseudonym Janusz Korczak. He feared madness descending from his father upon him as an hereditary illness, a common fear of the period. He poured out anguish in his novel Suicide with dark sentiments. A well known editor responded with no sympathy and Henryk responded "to wound a poet's heart,etc". He submitted a play which received honorable mention called Which Way and learned at the last moment he needed a pen name . The play was of a young man whose madness destroyed his family. It bore the pseudonym Janusz Korczak from the first book seen by Kraszewski called The Story of Janasz Korczak and the Swordbearer. The printer misspelled the first name as Janusz. He took the name of a Kraszewski character not by chance. Henryk's uncle Jakub dedicated his novel The Family Drama to Kraszewski appended "Take me under your wing, Master, like an eagle protecting a fledgling bird!". The young playwright is also seeking shelter from this author and the noble character of the fictional Korczak appealed to Henryk.
Between school and his tutoring, Henryk bad few spare moments, but alone in
his room, his only refuge in an apartment now filled with boarders, he was
haunted by the thought that he, too, might end up in an asylum. He was the " son
of a madman, a hereditary affliction. " He poured out his anguish in a novel
called Suicide in which the hero " hated life out of fear of insanity " He wrote
poems with the same dark sentiments until a well-known editor responded to one
that began " Ab, let me die / Ab, don´t let me live! / Ab, let me descend into
my dark grave! " with an unsympathetic " Go ahead! "
" To wound a poet´s
heart is like treading on a butterfly, " he confided to his journal. " I won´t
be a writer, but a doctor. Literature is just words, while medicine is deeds.
Two years later, in the fall of 1898, Henryk -by then an intense young
medical student of twenty with vivid blue-green eyes and reddish hair already
thinning at the crown-seemed to have forgotten his determination to abandon
writing. Hearing of a playwriting contest under the patronage of the famous
pianist ignacy Paderewski, he submitted a fouract play entitled Which way? ,
about a deranged man whose madness destroyed his family. It won honorable
mention (despite the judges´ reservations about its somber mood and lack of
dramatic tension), but the play would not concern us did it not bear the
pseudonym Janusz Korczak.
Legend has it that Henryk learned at the last
moment that he needed a pen name for the contest and took it hastily from the
first book he saw on his desk: The Story of Janasz Korczak and the Swordbearer´s
Daughter, by Poland´s most prolific historical novelist, Jozef Ignacy
Kraszewski. The printer (it is said) made a mistake, and the name came out
Janusz rather than Janasz. But, in reality, pseudonyms were not a contest
requirement, and Henryk's decision to take the name of a Kraszewski character
could not have been random chance. Uncle Jakub Goldszmit had dedicated his novel
The Family Drama to Kraszewski with the emotional supplication: "Take me under
your wing, Master, like an eagle protecting a fledgling bird!" The young
playwright seems also to have been seeking shelter under the Master's wing.
The noble character and courage of the fictional Janasz Korczak, a poor
orphan of gentry lineage, must have appealed to Henryk, if not the contrived
plot. A broken leg prevents Janasz from serving in the Battle of Vienna in 1863,
but he does not let it prevent him from rescuing his beloved cousin, Jadwiga,
and his uncle, the King´s swordbearer, from the enemy. Denied Jadwiga´s hand in
marriage because he is only a poor relative, Janasz turns his fate around by
patience, honesty, and selfcontrol, eventually winning Jadwiga and a place in
the king´s court