Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, Volume 1 by Frederick Niecks

Part 7 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

St. Paul, just as if a Cherokee and a Kaffir had met and
conversed. He has such a pretty new notturno, several parts
of which I have retained in my memory for the purpose of
playing it for Paul's amusement. Thus we passed the time
pleasantly together, and he promised seriously to return in
the course of the winter if I would compose a new symphony
and perform it in honour of him. We vowed these things in the
presence of three witnesses, and we shall see whether we both
keep our word. My works of Handel [Footnote: A present from
the Committee of the Cologne Musical Festival of 1835.]
arrived before Chopin's departure, and were a source of quite
childish delight to him; but they are really so beautiful
that I cannot sufficiently rejoice in their possession.

Although Mendelssohn never played any of Chopin's compositions in
public, he made his piano pupils practise some of them.
Karasowski is wrong in saying that Mendelssohn had no such
pupils; he had not many, it is true, but he had a few. A remark
which Mendelssohn once made in his peculiar naive manner is very
characteristic of him and his opinion of Chopin. What he said was
this: "Sometimes one really does not know whether Chopin's music
is right or wrong." On the whole, however, if one of the two had
to complain of the other's judgment, it was not Chopin but
Mendelssohn, as we shall see farther on.

To learn what impression Chopin made on Schumann, we must once
more turn to the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, where we find the
Polish artist's visit to Leipzig twice mentioned:--

October 6, 1835. Chopin was here, but only for a few hours,
which he passed in private circles. He played just as he
composes, that is, uniquely.

The second mention is in the P.S. of a transcendental
Schwarmerbrief addressed by Eusebius (the personification of the
gentle, dreamy side of Schumann's character) to Chiara (Clara

October 20, 1835. Chopin was here. Florestan [the
personification of the strong, passionate side of Schumann's
character] rushed to him. I saw them arm in arm glide rather
than walk. I did not speak with him, was quite startled at
the thought.

On his way to Paris, Chopin stopped also at Heidelberg, where he
visited the father of his pupil Adolph Gutmann, who treated him,
as one of his daughters remarked, not like a prince or even a
king, but like somebody far superior to either. The children were
taught to look up to Chopin as one who had no equal in his line.
And the daughter already referred to wrote more than thirty years
afterwards that Chopin still stood out in her memory as the most
poetical remembrance of her childhood and youth.

Chopin must have been back in Paris in the first half or about
the middle of October, for the Gazette musicale of the 18th of
that month contains the following paragraph:--

One of the most eminent pianists of our epoch, M. Chopin, has
returned to Paris, after having made a tour in Germany which
has been for him a real ovation. Everywhere his admirable
talent obtained the most flattering reception and excited
enthusiasm. It was, indeed, as if he had not left our capital
at all.



IN 1837.

IF we leave out of account his playing in the salons, Chopin's
artistic activity during the period comprised in this chapter was
confined to teaching and composition. [Footnote: A Paris
correspondent wrote in the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik of May 17,
1836, that Chopin had not been heard at all that winter, meaning,
of course, that he had not been heard in public.] The publication
of his works enables us to form an approximate idea of how he was
occupied as a creative musician. In the year 1835 were published:
in February, Op. 20, Premier Scherzo (in B minor), dedicated to
Mr. T. Albrecht, and in November, Op. 24, Quatre Mazurkas,
dedicated to M. le Comte de Perthuis. In 1836 appeared: in April,
Op. 21, Second Concerto (in F minor), dedicated to Madame la
Comtesse Delphine Potocka: in May, Op. 27, Deux Nocturnes (in C
sharp minor and D flat major), dedicated to Madame la Comtesse
d'Appony; in June, Op. 23, Ballade (in G minor), dedicated to M.
le Baron de Stockhausen; in July, Op. 22, Grande Polonaise
brillante (E flat major) precedee d'un Andante spianato for
pianoforte and orchestra, dedicated to Madame la Baronne d'Est;
and Op. 26, Deux Polonaises (in C sharp minor and E flat minor),
dedicated to Mr. J. Dessauer. It is hardly necessary to point out
that the opus numbers do not indicate the order of succession in
which the works were composed. The Concerto belongs to the year
1830; the above notes show that Op. 24 and 27 were sooner in
print than Op. 23 and 26; and Op. 25, although we hear of its
being played by the composer in 1834 and 1835, was not published
till 1837.

The indubitably most important musical event of the season 1835-
1836, was the production of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, which took
place on February 29, 1836, and had an extraordinary success. The
concert-rooms, however, concern us more than the opera-houses.
This year brought to Paris two Polish musicians: Lipinski, the
violinist, and Gusikow, the virtuoso on the Strohfiedel,
[FOOTNOTE: "Straw-fiddle," Gigelira, or Xylophone, an instrument
consisting of a graduated series of bars of wood that lie on
cords of twisted straw and are struck with sticks.] whom
Mendelssohn called "a true genius," and another contemporary
pointed out as one of the three great stars (Paganini and
Malibran were the two others) at that time shining in the musical
heavens. The story goes that Lipinski asked Chopin to prepare the
ground for him in Paris. The latter promised to do all in his
power if Lipinski would give a concert for the benefit of the
Polish refugees. The violinist at first expressed his willingness
to do so, but afterwards drew back, giving as his reason that if
he played for the Polish refugees he would spoil his prospects in
Russia, where he intended shortly to make an artistic tour.
Enraged at this refusal, Chopin declined to do anything to
further his countryman's plans in Paris. But whether the story is
true or not, Lipinski's concert at the Hotel de Ville, on March
3, was one of the most brilliant and best-attended of the season.
[FOOTNOTE: Revue et Gazette musicale of March 13, 1836. Mainzer
had a report to the same effect in the Neue Zeitschrift fur

The virtuoso, however, whose appearance caused the greatest
sensation was Thalberg. The Gazette musicale announced his
arrival on November 8, 1835. He was first heard at M.
Zimmermann's; Madame Viardot-Garcia, Duprez, and De Beriot being
the other artists that took active parts in the soiree. The
enthusiasm which Thalberg on this occasion as well as
subsequently excited was immense. The Menestrel expressed the all
but unanimous opinion when, on March 13, 1836, it said: "Thalberg
is not only the first pianist in the world, but he is also a most
distinguished composer." His novel effects astonished and
delighted his hearers. The pianists showed their appreciation by
adopting their confrere's manipulations and treatment of the
piano as soon as these ceased to puzzle them; the great majority
of the rising Parisian pianists became followers of Thalberg, nor
were some of the older ones slow in profiting by his example. The
most taking of the effects which Thalberg brought into vogue was
the device of placing the melody in the middle--i.e., the most
sonorous part of the instrument--and dividing it so between the
hands that they could at the same time accompany it with full
chords and brilliant figures. Even if he borrowed the idea from
the harpist Parish-Alvars, or from the pianist Francesco G.
Pollini, there remains to him the honour of having improved the
invention of his forerunners and applied it with superior
ability. His greatness, however, does not solely or even mainly
rest on this or any other ingeniously-contrived and cleverly-
performed trick. The secret of his success lay in the
aristocratic nature of his artistic personality, in which
exquisite elegance and calm self-possession reigned supreme. In
accordance with this fundamental disposition were all the details
of his style of playing. His execution was polished to the
highest degree; the evenness of his scales and the clearness of
his passages and embellishments could not be surpassed. If
sensuous beauty is the sole end of music, his touch must be
pronounced the ideal of perfection, for it extracted the essence
of beauty. Strange as the expression "unctuous sonorousness" may
sound, it describes felicitously a quality of a style of playing
from which roughness, harshness, turbulence, and impetuosity were
altogether absent. Thalberg has been accused of want of
animation, passion, in short, of soul; but as Ambros remarked
with great acuteness--

Thalberg's compositions and playing had soul, a salon soul to
be sure, somewhat like that of a very elegant woman of the
world, who, nevertheless, has really a beautiful disposition
[Gemueth], which, however, is prevented from fully showing
itself by the superexquisiteness of her manners.

This simile reminds me of a remark of Heine's, who thought that
Thalberg distinguished himself favourably from other pianists by
what he (Heine) felt inclined to call "his musical conduct
[Betragen]." Here are some more of the poet-critic's remarks on
the same subject:--

As in life so also in art, Thalberg manifests innate tact;
his execution is so gentlemanlike, so opulent, so decorous,
so entirely without grimace, so entirely without forced
affectation of genius [forcirtes Genialthun], so entirely
without that boastful boorishness which badly conceals the
inner pusillanimity...He enchants by balsamic euphony, by
sobriety and gentleness....There is only one I prefer. That
is Chopin.

As a curiosity I must quote a passage from a letter dated July
10, 1836, and addressed by George Sand to the Comtesse d'Agoult.
Feelings of friendship, and, in one case at least, of more than
friendship, made these ladies partial to another prince of the

I have heard Thalberg in Paris. He made on me the impression
of a good little child, very nice and very well-behaved.
There are hours when Franz [Liszt], while amusing himself,
trifles [badine], like him, on some notes in order to let the
furious elements afterwards loose on this gentle breeze.

Liszt, who was at the time of Thalberg's visit to Paris in
Switzerland, doubted the correctness of the accounts which
reached him of this virtuoso's achievements. Like Thomas he would
trust only his own senses; and as his curiosity left him no rest,
he betook himself in March, 1836, to Paris. But, unfortunately,
he arrived too late, Thalberg having quitted the capital on the
preceding day. The enthusiastic praises which were everywhere the
answer to his inquiries about Thalberg irritated Liszt, and
seemed to him exaggerations based on delusions. To challenge
criticism and practically refute the prevalent opinion, he gave
two private soirees, one at Pleyel's and another at Erard's, both
of which were crowded, the latter being attended by more than
four hundred people. The result was a brilliant victory, and
henceforth there were two camps. The admiration and stupefaction
of those who heard him were extraordinary; for since his last
appearance Liszt had again made such enormous progress as to
astonish even his most intimate friends. In answer to those who
had declared that with Thalberg a new era began, Berlioz,
pointing to Liszt's Fantasia on I Pirati and that on themes from
La Juive, now made the counter-declaration that "this was the new
school of pianoforte-playing." Indeed, Liszt was only now
attaining to the fulness of his power as a pianist and composer
for his instrument; and when after another sojourn in Switzerland
he returned in December, 1836, to Paris, and in the course of the
season entered the lists with Thalberg, it was a spectacle for
the gods. "Thalberg," writes Leon Escudier, "est la grace, comme
Liszt la force; le jeu de l'un est blond, celui de l'autre est
brun." A lady who heard the two pianists at a concert for the
Italian poor, given in the salons of the Princess Belgiojoso,
exclaimed: "Thalberg est le premier pianiste du monde."--"Et
Liszt?" asked the person to whom the words were addressed--
"Liszt! Liszt--c'est le seul!" was the reply. This is the spirit
in which great artists should be judged. It is oftener narrowness
of sympathy than acuteness of discrimination which makes people
exalt one artist and disparage another who differs from him. In
the wide realm of art there are to be found many kinds of
excellence; one man cannot possess them all and in the highest
degree. Some of these excellences are indeed irreconcilable and
exclude each other; most of them can only be combined by a
compromise. Hence, of two artists who differ from each other, one
is not necessarily superior to the other; and he who is the
greater on the whole may in some respects be inferior to the
lesser. Perhaps the reader will say that these are truisms. To be
sure they are. And yet if he considers only the judgments which
are every day pronounced, he may easily be led to believe that
these truisms are most recondite truths now for the first time
revealed. When Liszt after his first return from Switzerland did
not find Thalberg himself, he tried to satisfy his curiosity by a
careful examination of that pianist's compositions. The
conclusions he came to be set forth in a criticism of Thalberg's
Grande Fantaisie, Op. 22, and the Caprices, Op. 15 and 19, which
in 1837 made its appearance in the Gazette musicale, accompanied
by an editorial foot-note expressing dissent. I called Liszt's
article a criticism, but "lampoon" or "libel" would have been a
more appropriate designation. In the introductory part Liszt
sneers at Thalberg's title of "Pianist to His Majesty the Emperor
of Austria," and alludes to his rival's distant (i.e.,
illegitimate) relationship to a noble family, ascribing his
success to a great extent to these two circumstances. The
personalities and abusiveness of the criticism remind one
somewhat of the manner in which the scholars of earlier
centuries, more especially of the sixteenth and seventeenth,
dealt critically with each other. Liszt declares that love of
truth, not jealousy, urged him to write; but he deceived himself.
Nor did his special knowledge and experience as a musician and
virtuoso qualify him, as he pretended, above others for the task
he had undertaken; he forgot that no man can be a good judge in
his own cause. No wonder, therefore, that Fetis, enraged at this
unprovoked attack of one artist on a brother-artist, took up his
pen in defence of the injured party. Unfortunately, his retort
was a lengthy and pedantic dissertation, which along with some
true statements contained many questionable, not to say silly,
ones. In nothing, however, was he so far off the mark as in his
comparative estimate of Liszt and Thalberg. The sentences in
which he sums up the whole of his reasoning show this clearly:
"You are the pre-eminent man of the school which is effete and
which has nothing more to do, but you are not the man of a new
school! Thalberg is this man--herein lies the whole difference
between you two." Who can help smiling at this combination of
pompous authoritativeness and wretched short-sightedness? It has
been truly observed by Ambros that there is between Thalberg and
Liszt all the difference that exists between a man of talent and
a man of genius; indeed, the former introduced but a new fashion,
whereas the latter founded really a new school. The one
originated a few new effects, the other revolutionised the whole
style of writing for the pianoforte. Thalberg was perfect in his
genre, but he cannot be compared to an artist of the breadth,
universality, and, above all, intellectual and emotional power of
Liszt. It is possible to describe the former, but the latter,
Proteus-like, is apt to elude the grasp of him who endeavours to
catch hold of him. The Thalberg controversy did not end with
Fetis's article. Liszt wrote a rejoinder in which he failed to
justify himself, but succeeded in giving the poor savant some
hard hits. I do not think Liszt would have approved of the
republication of these literary escapades if he had taken the
trouble to re-read them. It is very instructive to compare his
criticism of Thalberg's compositions with what Schumann--who in
this case is by no means partial--said of them. In the opinion of
the one the Fantaisie sur Les Huguenots is not only one of the
most empty and mediocre works, but it is also so supremely
monotonous that it produces extreme weariness. In the opinion of
the other the Fantaisie deserves the general enthusiasm which it
has called forth, because the composer proves himself master of
his language and thoughts, conducts himself like a man of the
world, binds and loosens the threads with so much ease that it
seems quite unintentional, and draws the audience with him
wherever he wishes without either over-exciting or wearying it.
The truth, no doubt, is rather with Schumann than with Liszt.
Although Thalberg's compositions cannot be ranked with the great
works of ideal art, they are superior to the morceaux of Czerny,
Herz, and hoc genus omne, their appearance marking indeed an
improvement in the style of salon music.

But what did Chopin think of Thalberg? He shared the opinion of
Liszt, whose side he took. In fact, Edouard Wolff told me that
Chopin absolutely despised Thalberg. To M. Mathias I owe the
following communication, which throws much light on Chopin's

I saw Chopin with George Sand at the house of Louis Viardot,
before the marriage of the latter with Pauline Garcia. I was
very young, being only twelve years old, but I remember it as
though it had been yesterday. Thalberg was there, and had
played his second fantasia on Don Giovanni (Op. 42), and upon
my word Chopin complimented him most highly and with great
gravity; nevertheless, God knows what Chopin thought of it in
his heart, for he had a horror of Thalberg's arrangements,
which I have seen and heard him parody in the most droll and
amusing manner, for Chopin had the sense of parody and
ridicule in a high degree.

Thalberg had not much intercourse with Chopin, nor did he
exercise the faintest shadow of an influence over him; but as one
of the foremost pianist-composers--indeed, one of the most
characteristic phenomena of the age--he could not be passed by in
silence. Moreover, the noisy careers of Liszt and Thalberg serve
as a set-off to the noiseless one of Chopin.

I suspect that Chopin was one of that race of artists and poets
"qui font de la passion un instrument de l'art et de la poesie,
et dont l'esprit n'a d'activite qu'autant qu'il est mis en
mouvement par les forces motrices du coeur." At any rate, the
tender passion was a necessary of his existence. That his
disappointed first love did not harden his heart and make him
insensible to the charms of the fair sex is apparent from some
remarks of George Sand, who says that although his heart was
ardent and devoted, it was not continuously so to any one person,
but surrendered itself alternately to five or six affections,
each of which, as they struggled within it, got by turns the
mastery over all the others. He would passionately love three
women in the course of one evening party and forget them as soon
as he had turned his back, while each of them imagined that she
had exclusively charmed him. In short, Chopin was of a very
impressionable nature: beauty and grace, nay, even a mere smile,
kindled his enthusiasm at first sight, and an awkward word or
equivocal glance was enough to disenchant him. But although he
was not at all exclusive in his own affections, he was so in a
high degree with regard to those which he demanded from others.
In illustration of how easily Chopin took a dislike to anyone,
and how little he measured what he accorded of his heart with
what he exacted from that of others, George Sand relates a story
which she got from himself. In order to avoid misrepresenting
her, I shall translate her own words:--

He had taken a great fancy to the granddaughter of a
celebrated master. He thought of asking her in marriage at
the same time that he entertained the idea of another
marriage in Poland--his loyalty being engaged nowhere, and
his fickle heart floating from one passion to the other. The
young Parisian received him very kindly, and all went as well
as could be till on going to visit her one day in company
with another musician, who was of more note in Paris than he
at that time, she offered a chair to this gentleman before
thinking of inviting Chopin to be seated. He never called on
her again, and forgot her immediately.

The same story was told me by other intimate friends of Chopin's,
who evidently believed in its genuineness; their version differed
from that of George Sand only in this, that there was no allusion
to a lady-love in Poland. Indeed, true as George Sand's
observations are in the main, we must make allowance for the
novelist's habit of fashioning and exaggerating, and the woman's
endeavour to paint her dismissed and aggrieved lover as black as
possible. Chopin may have indulged in innumerable amorous
fancies, but the story of his life furnishes at least one
instance of his having loved faithfully as well as deeply. Nor
will it be denied that Chopin's love for Constantia Gladkowska
was a serious affair, whether the fatal end be attributable to
him or her, or both. And now I have to give an account of another
love-affair which deserves likewise the epithet "serious."

As a boy Chopin contracted a friendship with the brothers
Wodzinski, who were boarders at his father's establishment. With
them he went repeatedly to Sluzewo, the property of their father,
and thus became also acquainted with the rest of the family. The
nature of the relation in which Chopin and they stood to each
other is shown by a letter written by the former on July 18,
1834, to one of the brothers who with his mother and other
members of the family was at that time staying at Geneva, whither
they had gone after the Polish revolution of 1830-31, in which
the three brothers--Anthony, Casimir, and Felix--had taken part:-

My dear Felix,--Very likely you thought "Fred must be moping
that he does not answer my letter!" But you will remember
that it was always my habit to do everything too late. Thus I
went also too late to Miss Fanche, and consequently was
obliged to wait till honest Wolf had departed. Were it not
that I have only recently come back from the banks of the
Rhine and have an engagement from which I cannot free myself
just now, I would immediately set out for Geneva to thank
your esteemed mamma and at the same time accept her kind
invitation. But cruel fate--in one word, it cannot be done.
Your sister was so good as to send me her composition. It
gives me the greatest pleasure, and happening to improvise
the veryevening of its arrival in one of our salons, I took
for my subject the pretty theme by a certain Maria with whom
in times gone by I played at hide and seek in the house of
Mr. Pszenny...To-day! Je prends la liberte d'envoyer a mon
estimable collegue Mile Marie une petite valse que je viens
de publier. May it afford her a hundredth part of the
pleasure which I felt on receiving her variations. In
conclusion, I once more thank your mamma most sincerely for
kindly remembering her old and faithful servant in whose
veins also there run some drops of Cujavian blood.
[Footnote: Cujavia is the name of a Polish district.]


P.S.--Embrace Anthony, stifle Casimir with caresses if you
can. as for Miss Maria make her a graceful and respectful
bow. Be surprised and say in a whisper, "Dear me, how tall
she has grown!"

The Wodzinskis, with the exception of Anthony, returned in the
summer of 1835 to Poland, making on their way thither a stay at
Dresden. Anthony, who was then in Paris and in constant intercourse
with Chopin, kept the latter informed of his people's movements and
his people of Chopin's. Thus it came about that they met at Dresden
in September, 1835, whither the composer went after his meeting
with his parents at Carlsbad, mentioned in the preceding chapter
(p. 288). Count Wodzinski says in his Les trois Romans de Frederic
Chopin that Chopin had spoken to his father about his project of
marrying Maria Wodzinska, and that this idea had sprung up in his
soul by the mere force of recollections. The young lady was then
nineteen years of age, and, according to the writer just mentioned,
tall and slender in figure, and light and graceful in gait. The
features, he tells us, were distinguished neither by regularity nor
classical beauty, but had an indefinable charm. Her black eyes were
full of sweetness, reverie, and restrained fire; a smile of
ineffable voluptuousness played around her lips; and her
magnificent hair was as dark as ebony and long enough to serve her
as a mantle. Chopin and Maria saw each other every evening at the
house of her uncle, the Palatine Wodzinski. The latter concluded
from their frequent tete-a-tete at the piano and in corners that
some love-making was going on between them. When he found that his
monitory coughs and looks produced no effect on his niece, he
warned his sister-in-law. She, however, took the matter lightly,
saying that it was an amitie d'enfance, that Maria was fond of
music, and that, moreover, there would soon be an end to all
this--their ways lying in opposite directions, hers eastward to
Poland, his westward to France. And thus things were allowed to go
on as they had begun, Chopin passing all his evenings with the
Wodzinskis and joining them in all their walks. At last the time of
parting came, the clock of the Frauenkirche struck the hour of ten,
the carriage was waiting at the door, Maria gave Chopin a rose from
a bouquet on the table, and he improvised a waltz which he
afterwards sent her from Paris, and which she called L'Adieu.
Whatever we may think of the details of this scene of parting, the
waltz composed for Maria at Dresden is an undeniable fact.
Facsimiles may be seen in Szulc's Fryderyk Chopin and Count
Wodziriski's Les trois Romans de Frederic Chopin. The manuscript
bears the superscription: "Tempo de Valse" on the left, and "pour
Mile. Marie" on the right; and the subscription: "F. Chopin, Drezno
[Dresden], September, 1835." [FOOTNOTE: It is Op. 69, No. 1, one of
the posthumous works published by Julius Fontana.]

The two met again in the following summer, this time at
Marienbad, where he knew she and her mother were going. They
resumed their walks, music, and conversations. She drew also his
portrait. And then one day Chopin proposed. Her answer was that
she could not run counter to her parents' wishes, nor could she
hope to be able to bend their will; but she would always preserve
for him in her heart a grateful remembrance.[FOOTNOTE: Count
Wodzinski relates on p. 255 of his book that at a subsequent
period of her life the lady confided to him the above-quoted
answer.] This happened in August, 1836; and two days after mother
and daughter left Marienbad. Maria Wodzinska married the next
year a son of Chopin's godfather, Count Frederick Skarbek. The
marriage turned but an unhappy one, and was dissolved.
Subsequently the Countess married a Polish gentleman of the name
of Orpiszewski, who died some years ago in Florence. She, I
think, is still alive.

Karasowski relates the affair very differently. He says Chopin,
who knew the brothers Wodzinski in Poland, met them again in
Paris, and through them made the acquaintance of their sister
Maria, whose beauty and amiability inspired him at once with an
interest which soon became ardent love. But that Chopin had known
her in Poland may be gathered from the above letter to Felix
Wodzinski, quite apart from the distinct statements of the author
of Les trois Romans that Chopin was a frequent visitor at
Sluzewo, and a great friend of Maria's. Further, Karasowski, who
does not mention at all the meeting of Chopin and the Wodzinskis
at Dresden in 1835, says that Chopin went in the middle of July,
1836, to Marienbad, where he knew he would find Maria and her
mother, and that there he discovered that she whom he loved
reciprocated his affection, the consequence being an engagement
approved of by her relations. When the sojourn in Marienbad came
to an end, the whole party betook itself to Dresden, where they
remained together for some weeks, which they spent most

[FOOTNOTE: Karasowski relates that Chopin was at the zenith of
happiness. His good humour was irresistible. He imitated the most
famous pianists, and played his dreamy mazurkas in the manner
much in favour with Warsaw amateurs--i.e., strictly in time and
with the strongly-accented rhythm of common dance-tunes. And his
friends reminded him of the tricks which, as a boy, he had played
on his visits to the country, and how he took away his sisters'
kid gloves when he was going to an evening-party, and could not
buy himself new ones, promising to send them dozens as soon as he
had gained a good position in Paris. Count Wodzinski, too, bears
witness to Chopin's good humour while in the company of the
Wodzinskis. In the course of his account of the sojourn at
Marienbad, this writer speaks of Chopin's polichinades: "He
imitated then this or that famous artist, the playing of certain
pupils or compatriots, belabouring the keyboard with extravagant
gestures, a wild [echevele] and romantic manner, which he called
aller a la chasse aux pigeons."]

Unless Chopin was twice with the Wodzinskis in Dresden,
Karasowski must be mistaken. That Chopin sojourned for some time
at Dresden in 1835 is evidenced by Wieck's letter, quoted on p.
288, and by the above-mentioned waltz. The latter seems also to
confirm what Count Wodzinski says about the presence of the
Wodzinskis at Dresden in that year. On the other hand, we have no
such documents to prove the presence at Dresden in 1836 either of
Chopin or the Wodzinskis. According to Karasowski, the engagement
made at Marienbad remained in force till the middle of 1837, when
Chopin received at Paris the news that the lady withdrew from it.
[FOOTNOTE: In explanation of the breaking-off of this supposed
engagement, it has also been said that the latter was favoured by
the mother, but opposed by the father.] The same authority
informs us that before this catastrophe Chopin had thoughts of
settling with his future wife in the neighbourhood of Warsaw,
near his beloved parents and sisters. There he would cultivate
his art in retirement, and found schools for the people. How,
without a fortune of his own, and with a wife who, although
belonging to a fairly wealthy family, would not come into the
possession of her portion till after the death of her parents, he
could have realised these dreams, I am at a loss to conjecture.

[FOONOTE: To enable his readers to measure the social distance
that separated Chopin from his beloved one, Count Wodzinski
mentions among other details that her father possessed a domain
of about 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares). It is hardly necessary
to add that this large acreage, which we will suppose to be
correctly stated, is much less a measure of the possessor's
wealth than of his social rank.]

Chopin's letters, which testify so conclusively to the cordial
friendship existing between him and the Wodzinskis, unfortunately
contain nothing which throws light on his connection with the
young lady, although her name occurs in them several times. On
April 2, 1837, Chopin wrote to Madame Wodzinska as follows:--

I take advantage of Madame Nakwaska's permission and enclose
a few words. I expect news from Anthony's own hand, and shall
send you a letter even more full of details than the one
which contained Vincent's enclosure. I beg of you to keep
your mind easy about him. As yet all are in the town. I am
not in possession of any details, because the correspondents
only give accounts of themselves. My letter of the same date
must certainly be in Sluzewo; and, as far as is possible, it
will set your mind at rest with regard to this Spaniard who
must, must write me a few words. I am not going to use many
words in expressing the sorrow I felt on learning the news of
your mother's death--not for her sake whom I did not know,
but for your sake whom I do know. {This is a matter of
course!) I have to confess, Madam, that I have had an attack
like the one I had in Marienbad; I sit before Miss Maria's
book, and were I to sit a hundred years I should be unable to
write anything in it. For there are days when I am out of
sorts. To-day I would prefer being in Sluzewo to writing to
Sluzewo. Then would I tell you more than I have now written.
My respects to Mr. Wodzinski and my kind regards to Miss
Maria, Casimir, Theresa, and Felix.

The object of another letter, dated May 14, 1837, is likewise to
give news of Anthony Wodzinski, who was fighting in Spain. Miss
Maria is mentioned in the P.S. and urged to write a few words to
her brother.

After a careful weighing of the evidence before us, it appears to
me that--notwithstanding the novelistic tricking-out of Les trois
Romans de Frederic Chopin--we cannot but accept as the true
account the author's statement as to Chopin's proposal of
marriage and Miss Wodzinska's rejection at Marienbad in 1836. The
testimony of a relation with direct information from one of the
two chief actors in the drama deserves more credit than that of a
stranger with, at best, second-hand information; unless we prefer
to believe that the lady misrepresented the facts in order to
show herself to the world in a more dignified and amiable
character than that of a jilt. The letters can hardly be quoted
in support of the engagement, for the rejection would still admit
of the continuation of the old friendship, and their tone does
not indicate the greater intimacy of a closer relationship.

Subsequent to his stay at Marienbad Chopin again visited Leipzig.
But the promises which Mendelssohn and Chopin had so solemnly
made to each other in the preceding year had not been kept; the
latter did not go in the course of the winter to Leipzig, and if
he had gone, the former could not have performed a new symphony
of his in honour of the guest. Several passages in letters
written by Schumann in the early part of 1836 show, however, that
Chopin was not forgotten by his Leipzig friends, with whom he
seems to have been in correspondence. On March 8, 1836, Schumann
wrote to Moscheles:--

Mendelssohn sends you his hearty greetings. He has finished
his oratorio, and will conduct it himself at the Dusseldorf
Musical Festival. Perhaps I shall go there too, perhaps also
Chopin, to whom we shall write about it.

The first performance of Mendelssohn's St. Paul took place at
Dusseldorf on May 22, and was a great success. But neither
Schumann nor Chopin was there. The latter was, no doubt, already
planning his excursion to Marienbad, and could not allow himself
the luxury of two holidays within so short a time.

Here is another scrap from a letter of Schumann's, dated August
28, 1836, and addressed to his brother Edward and his sister-in-
law Theresa:--

I have just written to Chopin, who is said to be in
Marienbad, in order to learn whether he is really there. In
any case, I should visit you again in autumn. But if Chopin
answers my letter at once, I shall start sooner, and go to
Marienbad by way of Carlsbad. Theresa, what do you think! you
must come with me! Read first Chopin's answer, and then we
will fully discuss the rest.

Chopin either had left or was about to leave Marienbad when he
received Schumann's letter. Had he received it sooner, his answer
would not have been very encouraging. For in his circumstances he
could not but have felt even the most highly-esteemed confrere,
the most charming of companions, in the way.[FOOTNOTE:
Mendelscohn's sister, Rebecka Dirichlet, found him completely
absorbed in his Polish Countess. (See The Mendelssohn Family,
Vol. II, p. 15.)] But although the two musicians did not meet at
Marienbad, they saw each other at Leipzig. How much one of them
enjoyed the visit may be seen in the following extract from a
letter which Schumann wrote to Heinrich Dorn on September 14,

The day before yesterday, just after I had received your
letter and was going to answer it, who should enter?--Chopin.
This was a great pleasure. We passed a very happy day
together, in honour of which I made yesterday a holiday...I
have a new ballade by Chopin. It appears to me his
genialischstes (not genialstes) work; and I told him that I
liked it best of all.

[FOOTNOTE: "Sein genialischstes (nicht genialstes) Werk." I
take Schumann to mean that the ballade in question (the one
in G minor) is Chopin's most spirited, most daring work, but
not his most genial--i.e., the one fullest of genius.
Schumann's remark, in a criticism of Op. 37, 38, and 42, that
this ballade is the "wildest and most original" of Chopin's
compositions, confirms my conjecture.]

After a long meditative pause he said with great emphasis: "I
am glad of that, it is the one which I too like best." He
played besides a number of new etudes, nocturnes, and
mazurkas--everything incomparable. You would like him very
much. But Clara [Wieck] is greater as a virtuoso, and gives
almost more meaning to his compositions than he himself.
Imagine the perfection, a mastery which seems to be quite
unconscious of itself!

Besides the announcement of September 16, 1836, that Chopin had
been a day in Leipzig, that he had brought with him among other
things new "heavenly" etudes, nocturnes, mazurkas, and a new
ballade, and that he played much and "very incomparably," there
occur in Schumann's writings in the Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik
unmistakable reminiscences of this visit of the Polish musician.
Thus, for instance, in a review of dance-music, which appeared in
the following year, and to which he gave the fantastic form of a
"Report to Jeanquirit in Augsburg of the editor's last artistico-
historical ball," the writer relates a conversation he had with
his partner Beda:--

I turned the conversation adroitly on Chopin. Scarcely had
she heard the name than she for the first time fully looked
at me with her large, kindly eyes. "And you know him?" I
answered in the affirmative. "And you have heard him?" Her
form became more and more sublime. "And have heard him
speak?" And when I told her that it was a never-to-be-
forgotten picture to see him sitting at the piano like a
dreaming seer, and how in listening to his playing one seemed
to one's self like the dream he created, and how he had the
dreadful habit of passing, at the end of each piece, one
finger quickly over the whizzing keyboard, as if to get rid
of his dream by force, and how he had to take care of his
delicate health--she clung to me with ever-increasing
timorous delight, and wished to know more and more about him.

Very interesting is Schumann's description of how Chopin played
some etudes from his Op. 25; it is to be found in another
criticism of the same year (1837):--

As regards these etudes, I have the advantage of having heard
most of them played by Chopin himself, and, as Florestan
whispered in my ear at the time, "He plays them very much a
la Chopin." Imagine an AEolian harp that had all the scales,
and that these were jumbled together by the hand of an artist
into all sorts of fantastic ornaments, but in such a manner
that a deeper fundamental tone and a softly-singing higher
part were always audible, and you have an approximate idea of
his playing. No wonder that we have become fondest of those
pieces which we heard him play himself, and therefore we
shall mention first of all the first one in A flat, which is
rather a poem than an etude. It would be a mistake, however,
to suppose that he brought out every one of the little notes
with distinctness; it was more like a billowing of the A flat
major chord, swelled anew here and there by means of the
pedal; but through the harmonies were heard the sustained
tones of a wondrous melody, and only in the middle of it did
a tenor part once come into greater prominence amid the
chords along with that principal cantilena. After listening
to the study one feels as one does after a blissful vision,
seen in a dream, which, already half awake, one would fain
bring back. He soon came to the one in F minor, the second in
the book, likewise one which impresses one indelibly with his
originality; it is so charming, dreamy, and soft, somewhat
like the singing of a child in its sleep. Beautiful also,
although less new in character than in the figure, was the
following one in F major; here the object was more to exhibit
bravura, the most charming bravura, and we could not but
praise the master highly for it....But of what use are
descriptive words?

This time we cannot cite a letter of Mendelssohn's; he was
elsewhere similarly occupied as Chopin in Marienbad. After
falling in love with a Frankfort lady, Miss Jeanrenaud, he had
gone to Scheweningen to see whether his love would stand the test
of absence from the beloved object. It stood the test admirably,
and on September 9, a few days before Chopin's arrival in
Leipzig, Mendelssohn's engagement to the lady who became his wife
on March 28, 1837, took place.

But another person who has been mentioned in connection with
Chopin's first visit to Leipzig, Henrietta Voigt, [FOOTNOTE: The
editor of "Acht Briefe und ein Facsimile van Felix Mendelssohn-
Bartholdy" speaks of her as "the artistic wife of a Leipzig
merchant, whose house stood open to musicians living in and
passing through Leipzig."] has left us an account of the
impression made upon her. An entry in her diary on September 13,
1836, runs thus:--

Yesterday Chopin was here and played an hour on my piano--a
fantasia and new etude of his--interesting man and still more
interesting playing; he moved me strangely. The over-
excitement of his fantastic manner is imparted to the keen-
eared; it made me hold my breath. Wonderful is the ease with
which his velvet fingers glide, I might almost say fly, over
the keys. He has enraptured me--I cannot deny it--in a way
which hitherto had been unknown to me. What delighted me was
the childlike, natural manner which he showed in his
demeanour and in his playing.

After this short break of his journey at Leipzig, which he did
not leave without placing a wreath of flowers on the monument of
Prince Joseph Poniatowski, who in 1812 met here with an early
death, being drowned in the river Elster, Chopin proceeded on his
homeward journey, that is toward Paris, probably tarrying again
for a day or two at Heidelberg.

The non-artistic events of this period are of a more stirring
nature than the artistic ones. First in time and importance comes
Chopin's meeting with George Sand, which more than any other
event marks an epoch in the composer's life. But as this subject
has to be discussed fully and at some length we shall leave it
for another chapter, and conclude this with an account of some
other matters.

Mendelssohn, who arrived in London on August 24, 1837, wrote on
September 1 to Hiller:--

Chopin is said to have suddenly turned up here a fortnight
ago; but he visited nobody and made no acquaintances. He
played one evening most beautifully at Broadwood's, and then
hurried away again. I hear he is still suffering very much.

Chopin accompanied by Camille Pleyel and Stanislas Kozmian, the
elder, came to London on the 11th of July and stayed till the
22nd. Pleyel introduced him under the name of M. Fritz to his
friend James Broadwood, who invited them to dine with him at his
house in Bryanston Square. The incognito, however, could only be
preserved as long as Chopin kept his hands off the piano. When
after dinner he sat down to play, the ladies of the family
suspected, and, suspicion being aroused, soon extracted a
confession of the truth.

Moscheles in alluding in his diary to this visit to London adds
an item or two to its history:--

Chopin, who passed a few days in London, was the only one of
the foreign artists who visited nobody and also did not wish
to be visited, as every conversation aggravates his chest-
complaint. He went to some concerts and disappeared.

Particularly interesting are the reminiscences of the writer of
an enthusiastic review [Footnote: Probably J. W. Davison.]of some
of Chopin's nocturnes and a scherzo in the "Musical World" of
February 23, 1838:--

Were he [Chopin] not the most retiring and unambitious of all
living musicians, he would before this time have been
celebrated as the inventor of a new style, or school, of
pianoforte composition. During his short visit to the
metropolis last season, but few had the high gratification of
hearing his extemporaneous performance. Those who experienced
this will not readily lose its remembrance. He is, perhaps,
par eminence, the most delightful of pianists in the drawing-
room. The animation of his style is so subdued, its
tenderness so refined, its melancholy so gentle, its niceties
so studied and systematic, the tout-ensemble so perfect, and
evidently the result of an accurate judgment and most
finished taste, that when exhibited in the large concert-
room, or the thronged saloon, it fails to impress itself on
the mass. The "Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik" of September 8,
1837, brought the piece of news that Chopin was then at a
Bohemian watering-place. I doubt the correctness of this
statement; at any rate, no other information to that effect
has come to my knowledge, and the ascertained facts do not
favour the assumption of its truth.

Never robust, Chopin had yet hitherto been free from any serious
illness. Now, however, the time of his troubles begins. In a
letter, undated, but very probably written in the summer of 1837,
which he addressed to Anthony Wodzinski, who had been wounded in
Spain, where civil war was then raging, occur remarks
confirmatory of Mendelssohn's and Moscheles' statements:--

My dearest life! Wounded! Far from us--and I can send you
nothing....Your friends are thinking only of you. For mercy's
sake recover as soon as possible and return. The newspaper
accounts say that your legion is completely annihilated.
Don't enter the Spanish army....Remember that your blood may
serve a better purpose....Titus [Woyciechowski] wrote to ask
me if I could not meet him somewhere in Germany. During the
winter I was again ill with influenza. They wanted to send me
to Ems. Up to the present, however, I have no thought of
going, as I am unable to move. I write and prepare
manuscript. I think far more of you than you imagine, and
love you as much as ever.

F. C.

Believe me, you and Titus are enshrined in my memory.

On the margin, Chopin writes--

I may perhaps go for a few days to George Sand's, but keep
your mind easy, this will not interfere with the forwarding
of your money, for I shall leave instructions with Johnnie

With regard to this and to the two preceding letters to members
of the Wodzinski family, I have yet to state that I found them in
M. A. Szulc's "Fryderyk Chopin."



It is now necessary that the reader should be made acquainted
with Madame Dudevant, better known by her literary name, George
Sand, whose coming on the scene has already been announced in the
preceding chapter. The character of this lady is so much a matter
of controversy, and a correct estimate of it so essential for the
right understanding of the important part she plays in the
remaining portion of Chopin's life, that this long chapter--an
intermezzo, a biography in a biography--will not be regarded as
out of place or too lengthy. If I begin far off, as it were
before the beginning, I do so because the pedigree has in this
case a peculiar significance.

The mother of George Sand's father was the daughter of the
Marschal de Saxe (Count Maurice of Saxony, natural son of August
the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, and the
Countess Maria Aurora von Konigsmark) and the dame de l'opera,
Mdlle. de Verrieres, whose real name was Madame de la Riviere,
nee Marie Rinteau. This daughter, Marie Aurore, married at the
age of fifteen Comte de Home, a natural son of Louis XV., who
died soon after; and fifteen years later she condescended to
accept the hand of M. Dupin de Francueil, receveur general, who,
although of an old and well-connected family, did not belong to
the high nobility. The curious may read about Mdlle. de Verrieres
in the "Memoires" of Marmontel, who was one of her many lovers,
and about M. Dupin, his father, mother-in-law, first wife &c., in
Rousseau's "Confessions," where, however, he is always called De
Francueil. Notwithstanding the disparity of age, the husband
being twice as old as his wife, the marriage of M. Dupin and the
Comtesse de Home proved to be a very happy one. They had one
child, a son, Maurice Francois Elisabeth Dupin. He entered the
army in 1798, and two years later, in the course of the Italian
campaign, became first lieutenant and then aide-de-camp to
General Dupont.

In Italy and about the same time Maurice Dupin saw and fell in
love with Sophie Victoire Antoinette Delaborde, the daughter of a
Paris bird-seller, who had been a supernumerary at some small
theatre, and whose youth, as George Sand delicately expresses it,
"had by the force of circumstances been exposed to the most
frightful hazards." Sacrificing all the advantages she was then
enjoying, she followed Maurice Dupin to France. From this liaison
sprang several children, all of whom, however, except one, died
very young. A month before the birth of her in whom our interest
centres, Maurice Dupin married Sophie Delaborde. The marriage was
a civil one and contracted without the knowledge of his mother,
who was opposed to this union less on account of Sophie's
plebeian origin than of her doubtful antecedents.

It was on July 5, 1804, that Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, who
under the name of George Sand became famous all the world over,
saw for the first time the light of day. The baby, which by a
stratagem was placed in the arms of her grandmother, mollified
the feelings of the old lady, whom the clandestine marriage had
put in a great rage, so effectually that she forgave her son,
received his wife, and tried to accommodate herself to the
irremediable. After the Spanish campaign, during which he acted
as aide-de-camp to Murat, Maurice Dupin and his family came to
Nohant, his mother's chateau in Berry. There little Aurora lost
her father when she was only four years old. Returning home one
evening from La Chatre, a neighbouring town, he was thrown off
his horse, and died almost instantly.

This was an event that seriously affected the future of the
child, for only the deceased could keep in check the antagonism
of two such dissimilar characters as those of Aurora's mother and
grandmother. The mother was "dark-complexioned, pale, ardent,
awkward and timid in fashionable society, but always ready to
explode when the storm was growling too strongly within"; her
temperament was that "of a Spaniard--jealous, passionate,
choleric, and weak, perverse and kindly at the same time." Abbe
Beaumont (a natural son of Mdlle. de Verrieres and the Prince de
Turenne, Duke de Bouillon, and consequently grand-uncle of
Aurora) said of her that she had a bad head but a good heart. She
was quite uneducated, but had good natural parts, sang
charmingly, and was clever with her hands. The grandmother, on
the other hand, was "light-complexioned, blonde, grave, calm, and
dignified in her manners, a veritable Saxon of noble race, with
an imposing demeanour full of ease and patronising goodness." She
had been an assiduous student of the eighteenth century
philosophers, and on the whole was a lady of considerable
culture. For about two years these two women managed to live
together, not, however, without a feeling of discord which was
not always successfully suppressed, and sometimes broke out into
open dissension. At last they came to an arrangement according to
which the child was to be left in the keeping of the grandmother,
who promised her daughter-in-law a yearly allowance which would
enable her to take up her abode in Paris. This arrangement had
the advantage for the younger Madame Dupin that she could
henceforth devote herself to the bringing-up of another daughter,
born before her acquaintance with Aurora's father.

From her mother Aurora received her first instruction in reading
and writing. The taste for literary composition seems to have
been innate in her, for already at the age of five she wrote
letters to her grandmother and half-brother (a natural son of her
father's). When she was seven, Deschartres, her grandmother's
steward, who had been Maurice Dupin's tutor, began to teach her
French grammar and versification, Latin, arithmetic, botany, and
a little Greek. But she had no liking for any of these studies.
The dry classifications of plants and words were distasteful to
her; arithmetic she could not get into her head; and poetry was
not her language. History, on the other hand, was a source of
great enjoyment to her; but she read it like a romance, and did
not trouble herself about dates and other unpleasant details. She
was also fond of music; at least she was so as long as her
grandmother taught her, for the mechanical drilling she got from
the organist of La Chatre turned her fondness into indifference.
That subject of education, however, which is generally regarded
as the foundation of all education--I mean religion--was never
even mentioned to her. The Holy Scriptures were, indeed, given
into the child's hands, but she was left to believe or reject
whatever she liked. Her grandmother, who was a deist, hated not
only the pious, but piety itself, and, above all, Roman
Catholicism. Christ was in her opinion an estimable man, the
gospel an excellent philosophy, but she regretted that truth was
enveloped in ridiculous fables. The little of religion which the
girl imbibed she owed to her mother, by whose side she was made
to kneel and say her prayers. "My mother," writes George Sand in
her "Histoire de ma Vie," from which these details are taken,
"carried poetry into her religious feeling, and I stood in need
of poetry." Aurora's craving for religion and poetry was not to
remain unallayed. One night there appeared to her in a dream a
phantom, Corambe by name. The dream-created being took hold of
her waking imagination, and became the divinity of her religion
and the title and central figure of her childish, unwritten
romance. Corambe, who was of no sex, or rather of either sex just
as occasion might require--for it underwent numberless
metamorphoses--had "all the attributes of physical and moral
beauty, the gift of eloquence, and the all-powerful charm of the
arts, especially the magic of musical improvisation," being in
fact an abstract of all the sacred and secular histories with
which she had got acquainted.

The jarrings between her mother and grandmother continued; for of
course their intercourse did not entirely cease. The former
visited her relations at Nohant, and the latter and her
grandchildren occasionally passed some weeks in Paris. Aurora,
who loved both, her mother even passionately, was much harassed
by their jealousy, which vented itself in complaints, taunts, and
reproaches. Once she determined to go to Paris and live with her
mother, and was only deterred from doing so by the most cruel
means imaginable--namely, by her grandmother telling her of the
dissolute life which her mother had led before marrying her

I owe my first socialistic and democratic instincts to the
singularity of my position, to my birth a cheval so to speak
on two classes--to my love for my mother thwarted and broken
by prejudices which made me suffer before I could comprehend
them. I owe them also to my education, which was by turns
philosophical and religious, and to all the contrasts which
my own life has presented to me from my earliest years.

At the age of thirteen Aurora was sent to the convent of English
Augustines in Paris, the only surviving one of the three or four
institutions of the kind that were founded during the time of
Cromwell. There she remained for the next three years. Her
knowledge when she entered this educational as well as religious
establishment was not of the sort that enables its possessor to
pass examinations; consequently she was placed in the lowest
class, although in discussion she could have held her own even
against her teachers. Much learning could not be acquired in the
convent, but the intercourse with other children, many of them
belonging, like the nuns, to English-speaking nations, was not
without effect on the development of her character. There were
three classes of pupils, the diables, betes, and devotes (the
devils, blockheads, and devout). Aurora soon joined the first,
and became one of their ringleaders. But all of a sudden a change
came over her. From one extreme she fell into the other. From
being the wildest of the wild she became the most devout of the
devout: "There was nothing strong in me but passion, and when
that of religion began to break out, it devoured everything in my
heart; and nothing in my brain opposed it." The acuteness of this
attack of religious mania gradually diminished; still she
harboured for some time the project of taking the veil, and
perhaps would have done so if she had been left to herself.

After her return-to Nohant her half-brother Hippolyte, who had
recently entered the army, gave her riding lessons, and already
at the end of a week she and her mare Colette might be seen
leaping ditches and hedges, crossing deep waters, and climbing
steep inclines. "And I, the eau dormante of the convent, had
become rather more daring than a hussar and more robust than a
peasant." The languor which had weighed upon her so long had all
of once given way to boisterous activity. When she was seventeen
she also began seriously to think of self-improvement; and as her
grandmother was now paralytic and mentally much weakened, Aurora
had almost no other guidance than that of chance and her own
instinct. Thomas a Kempis' "Imitation of Christ," which had been
her guide since her religious awakening, was now superseded, not,
however, without some struggles, by Chateaubriand's "Le Genie du
Christianisme." The book was lent her by her confessor with a
view to the strengthening of her faith, but it produced quite the
reverse effect, detaching her from it for ever. After reading and
enjoying Chateaubriand's book she set to work on the philosophers
and essayists Mably, Locke, Condillac, Montesquieu, Bacon,
Bossuet, Aristotle, Leibnitz, Pascal, Montaigne, and then turned
to the poets and moralists La Bruyere, Pope, Milton, Dante,
Virgil, Shakespeare, &c. But she was not a metaphysician; the
tendencies of her mind did not impel her to seek for scientific
solutions of the great mysteries. "J'etais," she says, "un etre
de sentiment, et le sentiment seul tranchait pour moi les
questions a man usage, qui toute experience faite, devinrent
bientot les seules questions a ma, portee." This "le sentiment
seul tranchait pour moi les questions" is another self-
revelation, or instance of self-knowledge, which it will be
useful to remember. What more natural than that this "being of
sentiment" should prefer the poets to the philosophers, and be
attracted, not by the cold reasoners, but by Rousseau, "the man
of passion and sentiment." It is impossible to describe here the
various experiences and doings of Aurora. Without enlarging on
the effects produced upon her by Byron's poetry, Shakespeare's
"Hamlet," and Chateaubriand's "Rene"; on her suicidal mania; on
the long rides which, clad in male attire, she took with
Deschartres; on the death of her grandmother, whose fortune she
inherited; on her life in Paris with her extravagantly-capricious
mother; on her rupture with her father's family, her aristocratic
relations, because she would not give up her mother--I say,
without enlarging on all this we will at once pass on to her
marriage, about which there has been so much fabling.

Aurore Dupin married Casimir Dudevant in September, 1822, and did
so of her own free will. Nor was her husband, as the story went,
a bald-headed, grey-moustached old colonel, with a look that made
all his dependents quake. On the contrary, Casimir Dudevant, a
natural son of Colonel Dudevant (an officer of the legion of
honour and a baron of the Empire), was, according to George
Sand's own description, "a slender, and rather elegant young man,
with a gay countenance and a military manner." Besides good looks
and youth--he was twenty-seven--he must also have possessed some
education, for, although he did not follow any profession, he had
been at a military school, served in the army as sub-lieutenant,
and on leaving the army had read for the bar and been admitted a
barrister. There was nothing romantic in the courtship, but at
the same time it was far from commonplace.

He did not speak to me of love [writes George Sand], and
owned that he was little inclined to sudden passion, to
enthusiasm, and in any case no adept in expressing it in an
attractive manner. He spoke of a friendship that would stand
any test, and compared the tranquil happiness of our hosts
[she was then staying with some friends] to that which he
believed he could swear to procure me.

She found sincerity not only in his words, but also in his whole
conduct; indeed, what lady could question a suitor's sincerity
after hearing him say that he had been struck at first sight by
her good-natured and sensible look, but that he had not thought
her either beautiful or pretty?

Shortly after their marriage the young couple proceeded to
Nohant, where they spent the winter. In June, 1823, they went to
Paris, and there their son Maurice was born. Their only other
offspring, the daughter Solange, did not come into the world till
fiveyears later. The discrepancies of the husband and wife's
character, which became soon apparent, made themselves gradually
more and more felt. His was a practical, hers a poetic nature.
Under his management Nohant assumed an altogether different
aspect--there was now order, neatness, and economy, where there
was previously confusion, untidiness, and waste. She admitted
that the change was for the better, but could not help regretting
the state of matters that had been--the old dog Phanor taking
possession of the fire-place and putting his muddy paws upon the
carpet; the old peacock eating the strawberries in the garden;
and the wild neglected nooks, where as a child she had so often
played and dreamed. Both loved the country, but they loved it for
different reasons. He was especially fond of hunting, a
consequence of which was that he left his wife much alone. And
when he was at home his society may not always have been very
entertaining, for what liveliness he had seems to have been
rather in his legs than in his brain. Writing to her mother on
April i, 1828, Madame Dudevant says: "Vous savez comme il est
paresseux de l'esprit et enrage des jambes." On the other hand,
her temper, which was anything but uniformly serene, must have
been trying to her husband. Occasionally she had fits of weeping
without any immediate cause, and one day at luncheon she
surprised her husband by a sudden burst of tears which she was
unable to account for. As M. Dudevant attributed his wife's
condition to the dulness of Nohant, the recent death of her
grandmother, and the air of the country, he proposed a change of
scene, which he did the more readily as he himself did not in the
least like Berry. The pleasant and numerous company they found in
the house of the friends with whom they went to stay at once
revived her spirits, and she became us frolicsome as she had
before been melancholy. George Sand describes her character as
continually alternating between "contemplative solitude and
complete giddiness in conditions of primitive innocence." It is
hardly to be wondered at that one who exhibited such glaring and
unaccountable contrasts of character was considered by some
people whimsical (bizarre) and by her husband an idiot. She
herself admits the possibility that he may not have been wrong.
At any rate, little by little he succeeded in making her feel the
superiority of reason and intelligence so thoroughly that for a
long time she was quite crushed and stupefied in company. Afraid
of finding themselves alone at Nohant, the ill-matched pair
continued their migration on leaving their friends. Madame
Dudevant made great efforts to see through her husband's eyes and
to think and act as he wished, but no sooner did she accord with
him than she ceased to accord with her own instincts. Whatever
they undertook, wherever they went, that sadness "without aim and
name" would from time to time come over her. Thinking that the
decline of her religiousness was the cause of her lowness of
spirits, she took counsel with her old confessor, the Jesuit Abbe
de Premord, and even passed, with her husband's consent, some
days in the retirement of the English convent. After staying
during the spring of 1825 at Nohant, M. and Madame Dudevant set
out for the south of France on July 5, the twenty-first
anniversary of the latter's birthday. In what George Sand calls
the "History of my Life," she inserted some excerpts from a diary
kept by her at this time, which throw much light on the relation
that existed between wife and husband. If only we could be sure
that it is not like so much in the book the outcome of her
powerful imagination! Besides repeated complaints about her
husband's ill-humour and frequent absences, we meet with the
following ominous reflections on marriage:--

Marriage is beautiful for lovers and useful for saints.

Besides saints and lovers there are a great many ordinary
minds and placid hearts that do not know love and cannot
attain to sanctity.

Marriage is the supreme aim of love. When love has left it,
or never entered it, sacrifice remains. This is very well for
those who understand sacrifice. The latter presupposes a
measure of heart and a degree of intelligence which are not
frequently to be met with.

For sacrifice there are compensations which the vulgar mind
can appreciate. The approbation of the world, the routine
sweetness of custom, a feeble, tranquil, and sensible
devotion that is not bent on rapturous exaltation, or money,
that is to say baubles, dress, luxury--in short, a thousand
little things which make one forget that one is deprived of

The following extracts give us some glimpses which enable us to
realise the situation:--

I left rather sad. * said hard things to me, having been told
by a Madame *** that I was wrong in making excursions without
my husband. I do not think that this is the case, seeing that
my husband goes first, and I go where he intends to go.

My husband is one of the most intrepid of men. He goes
everywhere, and I follow him. He turns round and rebukes me.
He says that I affect singularity. I'll be hanged if I think
of it. I turn round, and I see Zoe following me. I tell her
that she affects singularity. My husband is angry because Zoe

...We quickly leave the guides and the caravan behind us. We
ride over the most fantastic roads at a gallop. Zoe is mad
with courage. This intoxicates me, and I at once am her

In addition to the above, we must read a remark suggested by
certain entries in the diary:--

Aimee was an accomplished person of an exquisite distinction.
She loved everything that in any way is elegant and ornate in
society: names, manners, talents, titles. Madcap as I
assuredly was, I looked upon all this as vanity, and went in
quest of intimacy and simplicity combined with poesy. Thanks
to God, I found them in Zoe, who was really a person of
merit, and, moreover, a woman with a heart as eager for
affection as my own.

M. and Madame Dudevant spent the greater part of autumn and the
whole winter at Guillery, the chateau of Colonel Dudevant. Had
the latter not died at this time, he might perhaps have saved the
young people from those troubles towards which they were
drifting, at least so his daughter-in-law afterwards thought. In
the summer of 1826 the ill-matched couple returned to Nohant,
where they continued to live, a few short absences excepted, till
1831. Hitherto their mutual relation had left much to be desired,
henceforth it became worse and worse every day. It would,
however, be a mistake to account for this state of matters solely
by the dissimilarity of their temperaments--the poetic tendency
on the one side, the prosaic on the other--for although it
precluded an ideal matrimonial union, it by no means rendered an
endurable and even pleasant companionship impossible. The real
cause of the gathering clouds and imminent storm is to be sought
elsewhere. Madame Dudevant was endowed with great vitality; she
was, as it were, charged with an enormous amount of energy,
which, unless it found an outlet, oppressed her and made her
miserable. Now, in her then position, all channels were closed
up. The management of household affairs, which, if her statement
may be trusted, she neither considered beneath her dignity nor
disliked, might have served as a, safety-valve; but her
administration came to an untimely end. When, after the first
year of their married life, her husband examined the accounts, he
discovered that she had spent 14,000 francs instead of 10,000,
and found himself constrained to declare that their purse was too
light for her liberality. Not having anything else to do, and her
uselessness vexing her, she took to doctoring the poor and
concocting medicines. Hers, however, was not the spirit that
allows itself to be fettered by the triple vow of obedience,
silence, and poverty. No wonder, therefore, that her life, which
she compared to that of a nun, was not to her taste. She did not
complain so much of her husband, who did not interfere with her
reading and brewing of juleps, and was in no way a tyrant, as of
being the slave of a given situation from which he could not set
her free. The total lack of ready money was felt by her to
constitute in our altogether factitious society an intolerable
situation, frightful misery or absolute powerlessness. What she
missed was some means of which she might dispose, without
compunction and uncontrolled, for an artistic treat, a beautiful
book, a week's travelling, a present to a poor friend, a charity
to a deserving person, and such like trifles, which, although not
indispensable, make life pleasant. "Irresponsibility is a state
of servitude; it is something like the disgrace of the
interdict." But servitude and disgrace are galling yokes, and it
was not likely that so strong a character would long and meekly
submit to them. We have, however, not yet exhausted the
grievances of Madame Dudevant. Her brother Hippolyte, after
mismanaging his own property, came and lived for the sake of
economy at Nohant. His intemperance and that of a friend proved
contagious to her husband, and the consequence was not only much
rioting till late into the night, but occasionally also filthy
conversations. She began, therefore, to consider how the
requisite means might be obtained--which would enable her to get
away from such undesirable surroundings, and to withdraw her
children from these evil influences. For four years she
endeavoured to discover an employment by which she could gain her
livelihood. A milliner's business was out of the question without
capital to begin with; by needlework no more than ten sous a day
could be earned; she was too conscientious to make translation
pay; her crayon and water-colour portraits were pretty good
likenesses, but lacked originality; and in the painting of
flowers and birds on cigar-cases, work-boxes, fans, &c., which
promised to be more successful, she was soon discouraged by a
change of fashion.

At last Madame Dudevant made up her mind to go to Paris and try
her luck in literature. She had no ambition whatever, and merely
hoped to be able to eke out in this way her slender resources. As
regards the capital of knowledge she was possessed of she wrote:
"I had read history and novels; I had deciphered scores; I had
thrown an inattentive eye over the newspapers....Monsieur Neraud
[the Malgache of the "Lettres d'un Voyageur"] had tried to teach
me botany." According to the "Histoire de ma Vie" this new
departure was brought about by an amicable arrangement; her
letters, as in so many cases, tell, however, a very different
tale. Especially important is a letter written, on December 3,
1830, to Jules Boucoiran, who had lately been tutor to her
children, and whom, after the relation of what had taken place,
she asks to resume these duties for her sake now that she will be
away from Nohant and her children part of the year. Boucoiran, it
should be noted, was a young man of about twenty, who was a total
stranger to her on September 2, 1829, but whom she addressed on
November 30 of that year as "Mon cher Jules." Well, she tells him
in the letter in question that when looking for something in her
husband's writing-desk she came on a packet addressed to her, and
on which were further written by his hand the words "Do not open
it till after my death." Piqued by curiosity, she did open the
packet, and found in it nothing but curses upon herself. "He had
gathered up in it," she says, "all his ill-humour and anger
against me, all his reflections on my perversity." This was too
much for her; she had allowed herself to be humiliated for eight
years, now she would speak out.

Without waiting a day longer, still feeble and ill, I
declared my will and mentioned my motives with an aplomb and
coolness which petrified him. He hardly expected to see a
being like me rise to its full height in order to face him.
He growled, disputed, beseeched. I remained immovable. I want
an allowance, I shall go to Paris, my children will remain at

She feigned intractability on all these points, but after some
time relented and consented to return to Nohant if her conditions
were accepted. From the "Histoire de ma Vie" we learn what these
conditions were. She demanded her daughter, permission to pass
twice three months every year in Paris, and an allowance of 250
francs per month during the time of her absence from Nohant. Her
letters, however, show that her daughter was not with her during
her first three months at Paris.

Madame Dudevant proceeded to Paris at the beginning of 1831. Her
establishment there was of the simplest. It consisted of three
little rooms on the fifth story (a mansarde) in a house on the
Quai Saint-Michel. She did the washing and ironing herself, the
portiere assisting her in the rest of the household work. The
meals came from a restaurant, and cost two francs a day. And thus
she managed to keep within her allowance. I make these and the
following statements on her own authority. As she found her
woman's attire too expensive, little suited for facing mud and
rain, and in other respects inconvenient, she provided herself
with a coat (redingote-guerite), trousers, and waistcoat of
coarse grey cloth, a hat of the same colour, a large necktie, and
boots with little iron heels. This latter part of her outfit
especially gave her much pleasure. Having often worn man's
clothes when riding and hunting at Nohant, and remembering that
her mother used to go in the same guise with her father to the
theatre during their residence in Paris, she felt quite at home
in these habiliments and saw nothing shocking in donning them.
Now began what she called her literary school-boy life (vie
d'ecolier litteraire), her vie de gamin. She trotted through the
streets of Paris at all times and in all weathers, went to
garrets, studios, clubs, theatres, coffee-houses, in fact,
everywhere except to salons. The arts, politics, the romance of
society and living humanity, were the studies which she
passionately pursued. But she gives those the lie who said of her
that she had the "curiosite du vice."

The literary men with whom she had constant intercourse, and with
whom she was most closely connected, came, like herself, from
Berry. Henri de Latouche (or Delatouche, as George Sand writes),
a native of La Chatre, who was editor of the Figaro, enrolled her
among the contributors to this journal. But she had no talent for
this kind of work, and at the end of the month her payment
amounted to perhaps from twelve to fifteen francs. Madame
Dudevant and the two other Berrichons, Jules Sandeau and Felix
Pyat, were, so to speak, the literary apprentices of Delatouche,
who not only was much older than they, having been born in 1785,
but had long ago established his reputation as a journalist,
novelist, and dramatic writer. The first work which Madame
Dudevant produced was the novel "Rose et Blanche"; she wrote it
in collaboration with Jules Sandeau, whose relation to her is
generally believed to have been not only of a literary nature.
The novel, which appeared in 1831, was so successful that the
publishers asked the authors to write them another. Madame
Dudevant thereupon wrote "Indiana", but without the assistance of
Jules Sandeau. She was going to have it published under the nom
de plume Jules Sand, which they had assumed on the occasion of
"Rose et Blanche." But Jules Sandeau objected to this, saying
that as she had done all the work, she ought to have all the
honour. To satisfy both, Jules Sandeau, who would not adorn
himself with another's plumes, and the publishers, who preferred
a known to an unknown name, Delatouche gave Madame Dudevant the
name of George Sand, under which henceforth all her works were
published, and by which she was best known in society, and
generally called among her friends. "Valentine" appeared, like
"Indiana," in 1832, and was followed in 1833 by Lelia. For the
first two of these novels she received 3,000 francs. When Buloz
bought the Revue des deux Mondes, she became one of the
contributors to that journal. This shows that a great improvement
had taken place in her circumstances, and that the fight she had
to fight was not a very hard one. Indeed, in the course of two
years she had attained fame, and was now a much-praised and much-
abused celebrity.

All this time George Sand had, according to agreement, spent
alternately three months in Paris and three months at Nohant. A
letter written by M. Dudevant to his wife in 1831 furnishes a
curious illustration of the relation that existed between husband
and wife. The accommodating spirit which pervades it is most

I shall go to Paris; I shall not put up at your lodgings, for
I do not wish to inconvenience you any more than I wish you
to inconvenience me (parceque je ne veux pas vous gener, pas
plus que je ne veux que vous me geniez).

In August, 1833, George Sand and Alfred de Musset met for the
first time at a dinner which the editor Buloz gave to the
contributors to the Revue des deux Mondes. The two sat beside
each other. Musset called on George Sand soon after, called again
and again, and before long was passionately in love with her. She
reciprocated his devotion. But the serene blissfulness of the
first days of their liaison was of short duration. Already in the
following month they fled from the Parisian surroundings and
gossipings, which they regarded as the disturbers of their
harmony. After visiting Genoa, Florence, and Pisa, they settled
at Venice. Italy, however, did not afford them the hoped-for
peace and contentment. It was evident that the days of
"adoration, ecstasy, and worship" were things of the past.
Unpleasant scenes became more and more frequent. How, indeed,
could a lasting concord be maintained by two such disparate
characters? The woman's strength and determination contrasted
with the man's weakness and vacillation; her reasoning
imperturbation, prudent foresight, and love of order and
activity, with his excessive irritability and sensitiveness,
wanton carelessness, and unconquerable propensity to idleness and
every kind of irregularity. While George Sand sat at her writing-
table engaged on some work which was to bring her money and fame,
Musset trifled away his time among the female singers and dancers
of the noiseless city. In April, 1834, before the poet had quite
recovered from the effects of a severe attack of typhoid fever,
which confined him to his bed for several weeks, he left George
Sand after a violent quarrel and took his departure from Venice.
This, however, was not yet the end of their connection. Once
more, in spite of all that had happened, they came together; but
it was only for a fortnight (at Paris, in the autumn of 1834),
and then they parted for ever.

It is impossible, at any rate I shall not attempt, to sift the
true from the false in the various accounts which have been
published of this love-drama. George Sand's version may be read
in her Lettres d'un Voyageur and in Elle et Lui; Alfred de
Musset's version in his brother Paul's book Lui et Elle. Neither
of these versions, however, is a plain, unvarnished tale. Paul de
Musset seems to keep on the whole nearer the truth, but he too
cannot be altogether acquitted of the charge of exaggeration.
Rather than believe that by the bedside of her lover, whom she
thought unconscious and all but dead, George Sand dallied with
the physician, sat on his knees, retained him to sup with her,
and drank out of one glass with him, one gives credence to her
statement that what Alfred de Musset imagined to be reality was
but the illusion of a feverish dream. In addition to George
Sand's and Paul de Musset's versions, Louise Colet has furnished
a third in her Lui, a publication which bears the stamp of
insincerity on almost every page, and which has been described, I
think by Maxime du Camp, as worse than a lying invention--namely,
as a systematic perversion of the truth. A passage from George
Sand's Elle et Lui, in which Therese and Laurent, both artists,
are the representatives of the novelist and poet, will indicate
how she wishes the story to be read:--

Therese had no weakness for Laurent in the mocking and
libertine sense that one gives to this word in love. It was
by an act of her will, after nights of sorrowful meditation,
that she said to him--"I wish what thou wishest, because we
have come to that point where the fault to be committed is
the inevitable reparation of a series of committed faults. I
have been guilty towards thee in not having the egotistical
prudence to shun thee; it is better that I should be guilty
towards myself in remaining thy companion and consolation at
the expense of my peace and of my pride."..."Listen," she
added, holding his hand in both of hers with all the strength
she possessed, "never draw back this hand from me, and,
whatever happens, preserve so much honour and courage as not
to forget that before being thy mistress I was thy
FRIEND....I ask of thee only, if thou growest weary of my
Jove as thou now art of my friendship, to recollect that it
was not a moment of delirium that threw me into thy arms, but
a sudden impulse of my heart, and a more tender and more
lasting feeling than the intoxication of voluptuousness."

I shall not continue the quotation, the discussion becomes too
nauseous. One cannot help sympathising with Alfred de Musset's
impatient interruption of George Sand's unctuous lecturing
reported in his brother's book--"My dear, you speak so often of
chastity that it becomes indecent." Or this other interruption
reported by Louise Colet:--

When one gives the world what the world calls the scandale of
love, one must have at least the courage of one's passion. In
this respect the women of the eighteenth century are better
than you: they did not subtilise love in metaphysics [elles
n'alambiquaient pas l'amour dans la metaphysique].

It is hardly necessary to say that George Sand had much
intercourse with men of intellect. Several litterateurs of some
distinction have already been mentioned. Sainte-Beuve and Balzac
were two of the earliest of her literary friends, among whom she
numbered also Heine. With Lamartine and other cultivators of the
belles-lettres she was likewise acquainted. Three of her friends,
men of an altogether different type and calibre, have, however, a
greater claim on the attention of the student of George Sand's
personality than any of those just named, because their
speculations and teachings gave powerful impulses to her mind,
determined the direction of her thoughts, and widened the sphere
of her intellectual activity. The influences of these three men--
the advocate Michel of Bourges, an earnest politician; the
philosopher and political economist: Pierre Leroux, one of the
founders of the "Encyclopedie Nouvelle," and author of "De
l'humanite, de son principe et de son avenir"; and the Abbe
Lamennais, the author of the "Essai sur l'indifference en matiere
de religion," "Paroles d'un Croyant," &c.--are clearly traceable
in the "Lettres a Marcie, Spiridion," "Les sept Cordes de la
Lyre," "Les Compagnons du tour de France," "Consuelo," "La
Comtesse de Rudolstadt," "Le Peche de M. Antoine," "Le Meunier
d'Angibault," &c. George Sand made the acquaintance of Pierre
Leroux and the Abbe Lammenais in 1835. The latter was introduced
to her by her friend Liszt, who knew all the distinguished men of
the day, and seems to have often done her similar services.
George Sand's friendship with Michel of Bourges, the Everard of
her "Lettres d'un Voyageur," dates farther back than 1835.

During George Sand's stay in Venice M. Dudevant had continued to
write to her in an amicable and satisfied tone. On returning in
the summer of 1834 to France she therefore resumed her periodical
sojourns at Nohant; but the pleasure of seeing her home and
children was as short-lived as it was sweet, for she soon
discovered that neither the former nor the latter, "morally
speaking," belonged to her. M. Dudevant's ideas of how they ought
to be managed differed entirely from those of his wife, and
altogether things had become very uncongenial to her. George
Sand, whose view of the circumstances I am giving, speaks
mysteriously of abnormal and dangerous influences to which the
domestic hearth was exposed, and of her inability to find in her
will, adverse as it was to daily struggles and family quarrels,
the force to master the situation. From the vague and exceedingly
brief indications of facts which are scattered here and there
between eloquent and lengthy dissertations on marriage in all its
aspects, on the proper pride of woman, and more of the same
nature, we gather, however, thus much: she wished to be more
independent than she had been hitherto, and above all to get a
larger share of her revenues, which amounted to about 15,000
francs, and out of which her husband allowed her and her daughter
only 3,000 francs. M. Dudevant, it must be noted, had all along
been living on his wife's income, having himself only
expectations which would not be realised till after his
stepmother's death. By the remonstrances of his wife and the
advice of her brother he was several times prevailed upon to
agree to a more equitable settlement. But no sooner had he given
a promise or signed a contract than he revoked what he had done.
According to one of these agreements George Sand and her daughter
were to have a yearly allowance of 6,000 francs; according to
another M. Dudevant was to have a yearly allowance of 7,000
francs and leave Nohant and the remainder of the revenues to his
wife. The terms of the latter of these agreements were finally
accepted by both parties, but not till after more than a year's
quarrelling and three lawsuits. George Sand sued for a divorce,
and the Court of La Chatre gave judgment in her favour on
February 16, 1836. This judgment was confirmed after a second
trial by the same Court on May 11, 1836.

[Footnote: What George Sand calls her "matrimonial biography" can
be read in "Le Droit" ("Journal des Tribunaux") of May 18, 1836.
The account there given, no doubt inspired by her advocate if not
directly by herself, contains some interesting items, but leaves
others unmentioned. One would have liked to learn something more
of the husband's pleadings.

The proceedings began on October 30, 1835, when "Madame D----- a
forme centre son mari une demande en separation de corps. Cette
demande etait fondee sur les injures graves, sevices et mauvais
traitements dont elle se plaignait de la part de son mari."

The following is a passage from Michel of Bourges, her advocate's
defence: "Des 1824, la vie intime etait devenue difficile; les
egards auxquels toute femme a droit furent oublies, des actes
d'emportement et de violence revelerent de la part de M. D----- un
caractere peu facile, peu capable d'apprecier le devouement et la
delicatesse qu'on lui avail temoignes. Les mauvais traitements
furent d'abord plus rares que les mauvais precedes, ainsi les
imputations d'imbecillite, de stupidite, furent prodiguees a
Madame D----- le droit de raisonner, de prendre l'art a la
conversation lui fut interdit...des relations avec d'autres
femmes furent connues de l'epouse,et vers le mois de Decembre,
1828, toute cohabitation intime cessa.

"Les enfants eux-memes eurent quelque part dans les mauvais

M. Dudevant then appealed to the Court of Cassation at Bourges,
where the case was tried on July 25; but he withdrew his appeal
before judgment was given. The insinuations and revelations made
in the course of these lawsuits were anything but edifying.
George Sand says that she confined herself to furnishing the
proofs strictly demanded by the law, and revealed only such facts
as were absolutely necessary. But these facts and proofs must
have been of a very damaging nature, for M. Dudevant answered
them by imputations to merit one hundred-thousandth part of which
would have made her tremble. "His attorney refused to read a
libel. The judges would have refused to listen to it." Of a
deposition presented by M. Dudevant to the Court, his wife
remarks that it was "dictated, one might have said, drawn up," by
two servants whom she had dismissed. She maintains that she did
not deserve this treatment, as she betrayed of her husband's
conduct only what he himself was wont to boast of.

George Sand's letters [Footnote: George Sand: Correspondence 1812-
1876; Six volumes (Paris: Calman Levy).] seem to me to show
conclusively that her chief motives for seeking a divorce were a
desire for greater independence and above all for more money.
Complaints of ill-treatment are not heard of till they serve to
justify an action or to attain a purpose. And the exaggeration of
her varying statements must be obvious to all but the most
careless observer. George Sand is slow in making up her mind; but
having made it up she acts with fierce promptitude, obstinate
vigour, and inconsiderate unscrupulousness, in one word, with
that concentration of self which sees nothing but its own
desires. On the whole, I should say that M. Dudevant was more
sinned against than sinning. George Sand, even as she represents
herself in the Histoire de ma Vie and in her letters, was far
from being an exemplary wife, or indeed a woman with whom even
the most angelic of husbands would have found it easy to live in
peace and happiness.

From the letters, which reveal so strikingly the
ungentlewomanlikeness (not merely in a conventional sense) of her
manners and her numerous and curious intimacies with men of all
ages, more especially with young men, I shall now cull a few
characteristic passages in proof of what I have said.

One must have a passion in life. I feel ennui for the want of
one. The agitated and often even rather needy life I am
leading here drives spleen far away. I am very well, and you
will see me in the best of humours. [To her friend A. M.
Duteil. Paris, February 15, 1831.]

I have an object, a task, let me say the word, a passion. The
profession of writing is a violent and almost indestructible
one. [To Jules Boucoiran. Paris, March 4, 1831.]

I cannot bear the shadow of a constraint, this is my
principal fault. Everything that is imposed upon me as a duty
becomes hateful to me.

After saying that she leaves her husband full liberty to do what
he likes--"qu'il a des maitresses ou n'en a pas, suivant son
appetit,"--and speaking highly of his management of their
affairs, she writes in the same letter as follows:--

Moreover, it is only just that this great liberty which my
husband enjoys should be reciprocal; otherwise, he would
become to me odious and contemptible; that is what he does
not wish to be. I am therefore quite independent; I go to bed
when he rises, I go to La Chatre or to Rome, I come in at
midnight or at six o'clock; all this is my business. Those
who do not approve of this, and disparage me to you, judge
them with your reason and your mother's heart; the one and
the other ought to be with me. [To her mother. Nohant, May
31, 1831.]

Marriage is a state so contrary to every kind of union and
happiness that I have good reason to fear for you. [To Jules
Boucoiran, who had thoughts of getting married. Paris, March
6, 1833.]

You load me with very heavy reproaches, my dear child...you
reproach me with my numerous liaisons, my frivolous
friendships. I never undertake to clear myself from the
accusations which bear on my character. I can explain facts
and actions; but never defects of the mind or perversities of
the heart. [To Jules Boucoiran. Paris, January 18, 1833.]

Thou hast pardoned me when I committed follies which the
world calls faults. [To her friend Charles Duvernet. Paris,
October 15, 1834.]

But I claim to possess, now and for ever, the proud and
entire independence which you believe you alone have the
right to enjoy. I shall not advise it to everyone; but I
shall not suffer that, so far as I am concerned, any love
whatever shall in the least fetter it. I hope to make my
conditions so hard and so clear that no man will be bold and
vile enough to accept them. [To her friend Adolphe Gueroult.
Paris, May 6, 1835.]

Nothing shall prevent me from doing what I ought to and what
I will do. I am the daughter of my father, and I care not for
prejudices when my heart enjoins justice and courage. [To her
mother. Nohant, October 25, 1835.]

Opinion is a prostitute which must be sent about her business
with kicks when one is in the right. [To her friend Adolphe
Gueroult. La Chatre, November 9, 1835.]

The materials made use of in the foregoing sketch of George
Sand's life up to 1836 consist to a very considerable extent of
her own DATA, and in part even of her own words. From this fact,
however, it ought not to be inferred that her statements can
always be safely accepted without previous examination, or at any
time be taken au pied de la lettre. Indeed, the writer of the
Histoire de ma Vie reveals her character indirectly rather than
directly, unawares rather than intentionally. This so-called
"history" of her life contains some truth, although not all the
truth; but it contains it implicitly, not explicitly. What
strikes the observant reader of the four-volumed work most
forcibly, is the attitude of serene self-admiration and self-
satisfaction which the autobiographer maintains throughout. She
describes her nature as pre-eminently "confiding and tender," and
affirms that in spite of the great and many wrongs she was made
to suffer, she never wronged anyone in all her life. Hence the
perfect tranquillity of conscience she always enjoyed. Once or
twice, it is true, she admits that she may not be an angel, and
that she as well as her husband may have had faults. Such humble
words, however, ought not to be regarded as penitent confessions
of a sinful heart, but as generous concessions of a charitable
mind. In short, a thorough belief in her own virtuousness and
superior excellence was the key-note of her character. The
Pharisaical tendency to thank God for not having made her like
other people pervades every page of her autobiography, of which
Charles Mazade justly says that it is--

a kind of orgy of a personality intoxicated with itself, an
abuse of intimate secrets in which she slashes her friends,
her reminiscences, and--truth.

George Sand declares again and again that she abstains from
speaking of certain matters out of regard for the feelings or
memories of other persons, whereas in reality she speaks
recklessly of everybody as long as she can do so without
compromising herself. What virtuous motives can have prompted her
to publish her mother's shame? What necessity was there to
expatiate on her brother's drunkenness? And if she was the
wronged and yet pitiful woman she pretended to be, why, instead
of burying her husband's, Musset's, and others' sins in silence,
does she throw out against them those artful insinuations and
mysterious hints which are worse than open accusations? Probably
her artistic instincts suggested that a dark background would set
off more effectively her own glorious luminousness. However, I do
not think that her indiscretions and misrepresentations deserve
always to be stigmatised as intentional malice and conscious
falsehood. On the contrary, I firmly believe that she not only
tried to deceive others, but that she actually deceived herself.
The habit of self-adoration had given her a moral squint, a
defect which was aggravated by a powerful imagination and
excellent reasoning faculties. For, swayed as these were by her
sentiments and desires, they proved themselves most fertile in
generating flattering illusions and artful sophisms. George Sand
was indeed a great sophist. She had always in readiness an
inexhaustible store of interpretations and subterfuges with which
to palliate, excuse, or even metamorphose into their contraries
the most odious of her words and actions. It is not likely that
any one ever equalled, much less surpassed, her expertness in
hiding ugly facts or making innocent things look suspicious. To
judge by her writings and conversations she never acted
spontaneously, but reasoned on all matters and on all occasions.

At no time whatever [writes Paul Lindau in his "Alfred de
Musset"] is there to be discovered in George Sand a trace of
a passion and inconsiderateness, she possesses an
imperturbable calmness. Love sans phrase does not exist for
her. That her frivolity may be frivolity, she never will
confess. She calculates the gifts of love, and administers
them in mild, well-measured doses. She piques herself upon
not being impelled by the senses. She considers it more
meritorious if out of charity and compassion she suffers
herself to be loved. She could not be a Gretchen [a Faust's
Margaret], she would not be a Magdalen, and she became a Lady

George Sand's three great words were "maternity," "chastity," and
"pride." She uses them ad nauseam, and thereby proves that she
did not possess the genuine qualities. No doubt, her conceptions
of the words differed from those generally accepted: by "pride"
(orgueil), for instance, she seems to have meant a kind of
womanly self-respect debased by a supercilious haughtiness and
self-idolatry. But, as I have said already, she was a victim to
self-deception. So much is certain, the world, with an approach
to unanimity rarely attained, not only does not credit her with
the virtues which she boasts of, but even accuses her of the very
opposite vices. None of the writers I have consulted arrives, in
discussing George Sand's character, at conclusions which tally
with her own estimate; and every person, in Paris and elsewhere,
with whom I have conversed on the subject condemned her conduct
most unequivocally. Indeed, a Parisian--who, if he had not seen
much of her, had seen much of many who had known her well--did not
hesitate to describe her to me as a female Don Juan, and added
that people would by-and-by speak more freely of her adventures.
Madame Audley (see "Frederic Chopin, sa vie et ses oeuvres," p.
127) seems to me to echo pretty exactly the general opinion in
summing up her strictures thus:--

A woman of genius, but a woman with sensual appetites, with
insatiable desires, accustomed to satisfy them at any price,
should she even have to break the cup after draining it,
equally wanting in balance, wisdom, and purity of mind, and
in decorum, reserve, and dignity of conduct.

Many of the current rumours about her doings were no doubt
inventions of idle gossips and malicious enemies, but the number
of well-ascertained facts go far to justify the worst
accusations. And even though the evidence of deeds were wanting,
have we not that of her words and opinions as set forth in her
works? I cannot help thinking that George Sand's fondness for the
portraiture of sensual passion, sometimes even of sensual passion
in its most brutal manifestations, is irreconcilable with true
chastity. Many a page in her novels exhibits indeed a surprising
knowledge of the physiology of love, a knowledge which
presupposes an extensive practical acquaintance with as wellas
attentive study of the subject. That she depicts the most
repulsive situations with a delicacy of touch which veils the
repulsiveness and deceives the unwary rather aggravates the
guilt. Now, though the purity of a work of art is no proof of the
purity of the artist (who may reveal only the better part of his
nature, or give expression to his aspirations), the impurity of a
work of art always testifies indubitably to the presence of
impurity in the artist, of impurity in thought, if not in deed.
It is, therefore, not an unwarranted assumption to say that the
works of George Sand prove conclusively that she was not the
pure, loving, devoted, harmless being she represents herself in
the "Histoire de ma Vie." Chateaubriand said truly that: "le
talent de George Sand a quelque ratine dans la corruption, elle
deviendrait commune en devenant timoree." Alfred Nettement, who,
in his "Histoire de la litterature franqaise sous le gouvernement
de Juillet," calls George Sand a "painter of fallen and defiled
natures," remarks that--

most of her romances are dazzling rehabilitations of
adultery, and in reading their burning pages it would seem
that there remains only one thing to be done--namely, to break
the social chains in order that the Lelias and Sylvias may go
in quest of their ideal without being stopped by morality and
the laws, those importune customs lines which religion and
the institutions have opposed to individual whim and

Perhaps it will be objected to this that the moral extravagances
and audacious sophistries to be met with in "Lelia," in "Leoni,"
and other novels of hers, belong to the characters represented,
and not to the author. Unfortunately this argument is untenable
after the publication of George Sand's letters, for there she
identifies herself with Lelia, and develops views identical with
those that shocked us in Leoni and elsewhere.

[Footnote: On May 26, 1833, she writes to her friend Francois
Rollinat with regard to this book: "It is an eternal chat between
us. We are the gravest personages in it." Three years later,
writing to the Comtesse d'Agoult, her account differs somewhat:
"I am adding a volume to 'Lelia.' This occupies me more than any
other novel has as yet done. Lelia is not myself, je suis
meilleure enfant; but she is my ideal."--Correspondance," vol.
I., pp. 248 and 372.]

These letters, moreover, contain much that is damaging to her
claim to chastity. Indeed, one sentence in a letter written in
June, 1835 (Correspondance, vol. I., p. 307), disposes of this
claim decisively. The unnecessarily graphic manner in which she
here deals with an indelicate subject would be revolting in a man
addressing a woman, in a woman addressing a man it is simply

As a thinker, George Sand never attained to maturity; she always
remained the slave of her strong passions and vitiated
principles. She never wrote a truer word than when she confessed
that she judged everything by sympathy. Indeed, what she said of
her childhood applies also to her womanhood: "Il n'y avait de
fort en moi que la passion...rien dans man cerveau fit obstacle."
George Sand often lays her finger on sore places, fails, however,
not only to prescribe the right remedy, but even to recognise the
true cause of the disease. She makes now and then acute
observations, but has not sufficient strength to grapple
successfully with the great social, philosophical, and religious
problems which she so boldly takes up. In fact, reasoning
unreasonableness was a very frequent condition of George Sand's
mind. That the unreasonableness of her reasoning remains unseen
by many, did so at any rate in her time, is due to the marvellous
beauty and eloquence of her language. The best that can be said
of her subversive theories was said by a French critic--namely,
that they were in reality only "le temoignage d'aspirations
genereuses et de nobles illusions." But even this is saying too
much, for her aspirations and illusions are far from being always
generous and noble. If we wish to see George Sand at her best we
must seek her out in her quiet moods, when she contents herself
with being an artist, and unfolds before us the beauties of
nature and the secrets of the human heart. Indeed, unless we do
this, we cannot form a true idea of her character. Not all the
roots of her talent were imbedded in corruption. She who wrote
Lelia wrote also Andre, she who wrote Lucrezia Floriani wrote
also La petite Fadette. And in remembering her faults and
shortcomings justice demands that we should not forget her family
history, with its dissensions and examples of libertinism, and
her education without system, continuity, completeness, and
proper guidance.

The most precious judgment pronounced on George Sand is by one
who was at once a true woman and a great poet. Mrs. Elizabeth
Barrett Browning saw in her the "large-brained woman and large-
hearted man...whose soul, amid the lions of her tumultuous
senses, moans defiance and answers roar for roar, as spirits
can"; but who lacked "the angel's grace of a pure genius
sanctified from blame." This is from the sonnet to George Sand,
entitled "A Desire." In another sonnet, likewise addressed to
George Sand and entitled "A Recognition," she tells her how vain
it was to deny with a manly scorn the woman's nature...while

The world thou burnest in a poet-fire,
We see thy woman-heart beat evermore
Through the large flame. Beat purer, heart, and higher,
Till God unsex thee on the heavenly shore
Where unincarnate spirits purely aspire!


Book of the day: