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- Chopin: The Man and His Music - 6/43 -


Lovenjoul must be consulted, as he possessed a bundle of letters that were written by George Sand and M. Buloz, the editor of "La Revue des Deux Mondes," in 1858.

De Musset went to Venice with Sand in the fall of 1833. They had the maternal sanction and means supplied by Madame de Musset. The story gives forth the true Gallic resonance on being critically tapped. De Musset returned alone, sick in body and soul, and thenceforth absinthe was his constant solace. There had been references, vague and disquieting, of a Dr. Pagello for whom Sand had suddenly manifested one of her extraordinary fancies. This she denied, but De Musset's brother plainly intimated that the aggravating cause of his brother's illness had been the unexpected vision of Sand coquetting with the young medical man called in to prescribe for Alfred. Dr. Pagello in 1896 was interviewed by Dr. Cabanes of the Paris "Figaro" and here is his story of what had happened in 1833. This story will explain the later behavior of "la merle blanche" toward Chopin.

"One night George Sand, after writing three pages of prose full of poetry and inspiration, took an unaddressed envelope, placed therein the poetic declaration, and handed it to Dr. Pagello. He, seeing no address, did not, or feigned not, to understand for whom the letter was intended, and asked George Sand what he should do with it. Snatching the letter from his hands, she wrote upon the envelope: 'To the Stupid Pagello.' Some days afterward George Sand frankly told De Musset that henceforth she could be to him only a friend."

De Musset died in 1857 and after his death Sand startled Paris with "Elle et Lui," an obvious answer to "Confessions of a Child of the Age, "De Musset's version--an uncomplimentary one to himself--of their separation. The poet's brother Paul rallied to his memory with "Lui et Elle," and even Louisa Colet ventured into the fracas with a trashy novel called "Lui." During all this mud-throwing the cause of the trouble calmly lived in the little Italian town of Belluno. It was Dr. Giuseppe Pagello who will go down in literary history as the one man that played Joseph to George Sand.

Now do you ask why I believe that Sand left Chopin when she was bored with him? The words "some days afterwards" are significant. I print the Pagello story not only because it is new, but as a reminder that George Sand in her love affairs was always the man. She treated Chopin as a child, a toy, used him for literary copy- -pace Mr. Hadow!--and threw him over after she had wrung out all the emotional possibilities of the problem. She was true to herself even when she attempted to palliate her want of heart. Beware of the woman who punctuates the pages of her life with "heart" and "maternal feelings." "If I do not believe any more in tears it is because I saw thee crying!" exclaimed Chopin. Sand was the product of abnormal forces, she herself was abnormal, and her mental activity, while it created no permanent types in literary fiction, was also abnormal. She dominated Chopin, as she had dominated Jules Sandeau, Calmatta the mezzotinter, De Musset, Franz Liszt, Delacroix, Michel de Bourges--I have not the exact chronological order--and later Flaubert. The most lovable event in the life of this much loved woman was her old age affair-- purely platonic--with Gustave Flaubert. The correspondence shows her to have been "maternal" to the last.

In the recently published "Lettres a l'etrangere" of Honore de Balzac, this about Sand is very apropos. A visit paid to George Sand at Nohant, in March 1838, brought the following to Madame Hanska:

It was rather well that I saw her, for we exchanged confidences regarding Sandeau. I, who blamed her to the last for deserting him, now feel only a deep compassion for her, as you will have for me, when you learn with whom we have had relations, she of love, I of friendship.

But she has been even more unhappy with Musset. So here she is, in retreat, denouncing both marriage and love, because in both she has found nothing but delusion.

I will tell you of her immense and secret devotion to these two men, and you will agree that there is nothing in common between angels and devils. All the follies she has committed are claims to glory in the eyes of great and beautiful souls. She has been the dupe of la Dorval, Bocage, Lamenais, etc.; through the same sentiment she is the dupe of Liszt and Madame d'Agoult.

So let us accept without too much questioning as did Balzac, a reader of souls, the Sand-Chopin partnership and follow its sinuous course until 1847.

Chopin met Sand at a musical matinee in 1837. Niecks throttles every romantic yarn about the pair that has been spoken or printed. He got his facts viva voce from Franchomme. Sand was antipathetic to Chopin but her technique for overcoming masculine coyness was as remarkable in its particular fashion as Chopin's proficiency at the keyboard. They were soon seen together, and everywhere. She was not musical, not a trained musician, but her appreciation for all art forms was highly sympathetic. Not a beautiful woman, being swarthy and rather heavy-set in figure, this is what she was, as seen by Edouard Grenier:--

She was short and stout, but her face attracted all my attention, the eyes especially. They were wonderful eyes, a little too close together, it may be, large, with full eyelids, and black, very black, but by no means lustrous; they reminded me of unpolished marble, or rather of velvet, and this gave a strange, dull, even cold expression to her countenance. Her fine eyebrows and these great placid eyes gave her an air of strength and dignity which was not borne out by the lower part of her face. Her nose was rather thick and not over shapely. Her mouth was also rather coarse and her chin small. She spoke with great simplicity, and her manners were very quiet.

But she attracted with imperious power all that she met. Liszt felt this attraction at one time--and it is whispered that Chopin was jealous of him. Pouf! the woman who could conquer Franz Liszt in his youth must have been a sorceress. He, too, was versatile.

In 1838, Sand's boy Maurice being ill, she proposed a visit to Majorca. Chopin went with the party in November and full accounts of the Mediterranean trip, Chopin's illness, the bad weather, discomforts and all the rest may be found in the "Histoire de Ma Vie" by Sand. It was a time of torment. "Chopin is a detestable invalid," said Sand, and so they returned to Nohant in June 1839. They saw Genoa for a few days in May, but that is as far as Chopin ever penetrated into the promised land--Italy, at one time a passion with him. Sand enjoyed the subtle and truly feminine pleasure of again entering the city which six years before she had visited in company with another man, the former lover of Rachel.

Chopin's health in 1839 was a source of alarm to himself and his friends. He had been dangerously ill at Majorca and Marseilles. Fever and severe coughing proved to be the dread forerunners of the disease that killed him ten years later. He was forced to be very careful in his habits, resting more, giving fewer lessons, playing but little in private or public, and becoming frugal of his emotions. Now Sand began to cool, though her lively imagination never ceased making graceful, touching pictures of herself in the roles of sister of mercy, mother, and discreet friend, all merged into one sentimental composite. Her invalid was her one thought, and for an active mind and body like hers, it must have been irksome to submit to the caprices of a moody, ailing man. He composed at Nohant, and she has told us all about it; how he groaned, wrote and re-wrote and tore to pieces draft after draft of his work. This brings to memory another martyr to style, Gustave Flaubert, who for forty years in a room at Croisset, near Rouen, wrestled with the devils of syntax and epithet. Chopin was of an impatient, nervous disposition. All the more remarkable then his capacity for taking infinite pains. Like Balzac he was never pleased with the final "revise" of his work, he must needs aim at finishing touches. His letters at this period are interesting for the Chopinist but for the most part they consist of requests made to his pupils, Fontana, Gutmann and others, to jog the publishers, to get him new apartments, to buy him many things. Wagner was not more importunate or minatory than this Pole, who depended on others for the material comforts and necessities of his existence. Nor is his abuse of friends and patrons, the Leos and others, indicative of an altogether frank, sincere nature. He did not hesitate to lump them all as "pigs" and "Jews" if anything happened to jar his nerves. Money, money, is the leading theme of the Paris and Mallorean letters. Sand was a spendthrift and Chopin had often to put his hands in his pocket for her. He charged twenty francs a lesson, but was not a machine and for at least four months of the year he earned nothing. Hence his anxiety to get all he could for his compositions. Heaven-born geniuses are sometimes very keen in financial transactions, and indeed why should they not be?

In 1839 Chopin met Moscheles. They appeared together at St. Cloud, playing for the royal family. Chopin received a gold cup, Moscheles a travelling case. "The King gave him this," said the amiable Frederic, "to get the sooner rid of him." There were two public concerts in 1841 and 1842, the first on April 26 at Pleyel's rooms, the second on February 20 at the same hall. Niecks devotes an engrossing chapter to the public accounts and the general style of Chopin's playing; of this more hereafter. From 1843 to 1847 Chopin taught, and spent the vacations at Nohant, to which charming retreat Liszt, Matthew Arnold, Delacroix, Charles Rollinat and many others came. His life was apparently happy. He composed and amused himself with Maurice and Solange, the "terrible children" of this Bohemian household. There, according to reports, Chopin and Liszt were in friendly rivalry--are two pianists ever friendly?--Liszt imitating Chopin's style, and once in the dark they exchanged places and fooled their listeners. Liszt denied this. Another story is of one or the other working the pedal rods--the pedals being broken. This too has been laughed to scorn by Liszt. Nor could he recall having played while Viardot-Garcia sang out on the terrace of the chateau. Garcia's memory is also short about this event. Rollinat, Delacroix and Sand have written abundant souvenirs of Nohant and its distinguished gatherings, so let us not attempt to impugn the details of the Chopin legend, that legend which coughs deprecatingly as it points to its aureoled alabaster brow. De Lenz should be consulted for an account of this period; he will add the finishing touches of unreality that may be missing.

Chopin knew every one of note in Paris. The best salons were open to him. Some of his confreres have not hesitated to describe him as a bit snobbish, for during the last ten years of his life he was generally inaccessible. But consider his retiring nature, his


Chopin: The Man and His Music - 6/43

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