F rédéric Chopin may have set hearts aflutter in the salons of 19th-century Paris, but he was not exactly known for his amorous liaisons. Under seven stone and fatally consumptive, he was more likely to be found being carried up to bed by his manservant than hopping between the sheets with a raunchy paramour. Even George Sand, with whom Chopin was most definitely romantically linked, describes their relationship as “eight years of maternal devotion”.

Countess Delfina Potocka

A little thing like that wasn’t going to stop out-of-work musicologist Paulina Czernicka, however. In 1945, this hitherto anonymous lady approached Polish Radio claiming to have access to an unknown correspondence between Chopin and Countess Delfina Potocka, proof of a torrid affair, containing gossipy criticisms of his artistic contemporaries plus a wealth of purple passages and scatological outbursts.

But who was this Polish siren, and could there have been a relationship? Delfina married Count Mieczysław Potocki at the age of 18. An unhappy match, it ended in divorce, after which she moved to Paris where she proceeded to gain a racy reputation. The love of her life was the...