German, the father alone being Hungarian. With his father the lad remained, and found him a severe and domineering master. But in 1827 he died, leaving his sixteen-year-old son alone in Paris. That stalwart self-reliance and sense of honour, which gave nobility to so much of Liszt's character, now showed itself; he sold his grand piano to pay the debts his father had left him, and sent for his mother to come to Paris, where he supported her by giving piano lessons. Then, as later, he found plenty of pupils, the difference being that then, as not later, he took pay for his lessons, though not even then from all.
Here he was at sixteen, tall and handsome, and with a face of winsomeness that never lost its spell over womankind. Sixteen-year-older that he was, he was a man of great fame, and the grind of acquiring technic was all passed. Moscheles had already said of him in print: "Franz Liszt's playing surpasses everything yet heard, in power and the vanquishing of difficulties." Here he was, then, young, beautiful, famous, a dazzling musician, and Hungarian. What do you expect?
It makes small difference what you expect, for the reality was that his heart was eager for the seclusion of a monastery; his soul pined for religious excitement only! At fourteen he had begun to rebel against his nickname, "Le petit Litz." It was with the utmost difficulty that his father had been able to keep him from making religion his career, and giving up his already glittering fame. Never in his life did he cease to thrill with an almost hysterical passion for churchly affairs and ceremonies.
At fourteen he had dedicated his first composition to the other sex. It was a set of "exercises," and the compliment was paid to Lydia Garella, a quaint little hunchback, whom he used afterward to refer to as his first love. But it was later, when he was giving lessons to support his mother, and just turned seventeen, that he drifted into what was really his first love. The Comte de Saint Criq, then Minister of the Interior, had an only daughter, the seventeen-year-old Caroline. The young comtesse' mother gave her into Liszt's charge for musical education. The young comtesse was, they say, of slender frame and angelic beauty, and deeply imbued with that religious ardour which, as in Liszt's case, often modulates as imperceptibly into love, as an organist can gradually turn a hymn into a jig, or an Italian aria into a hymn.
The mother was fond of presiding at the music lessons, and of leading the young teacher to air his views about religion and life, and she watched with pleasure the gradual development of what was inevitable, a more than musical sympathy between the daughter and the teacher. But the romance seemed to win her approval, and when suddenly she saw that she was soon to die, she made a last request of her husband, that he should not refuse the young lovers their happiness. He allowed his wife to die in confidence that the affair met his approval, but without the faintest intention of permitting so insane a thing as a marriage of his daughter with an untitled musician. His business affairs, however, kept him away from home, and from thought upon the subject. After the death of the mother, the comtesse and the pianist met and wept together; then resumed their music lessons, reading much between the lines, and far preferring dreamy duets to difficult solos.
Liszt had read little but music and religion; the slim, fair comtesse had read much verse and romance. So she was his teacher in that literature which would most interest a brace of young lovers. There was no one at home to note how late he stayed of evenings, and one night he returned to his own house to find it locked and his mother asleep. Rather than disturb her, he spent the night on the steps. Another evening, Franz and Caroline found parting such sweet sorrow, that when he reached her outer door, he found it locked for the night. He was compelled to call the porter from those slumbers which only doorkeepers know, and this man was doorkeeperishly wrathful at having his beauty-sleep broken; he growled his rage. This is the only time recorded when Franz Liszt failed to respond to a hint for money. His head was too high in the clouds, no doubt. The servant, thus suddenly awakened to the impropriety of affairs, hastened the next morning to inform the comte that his daughter was studying the music of the spheres as well as that of the piano, and that her lessons were prolonged till midnight.
The next time Franz came to teach, the ghoulish porter gleefully informed him that his master wished to speak to him. The comte was most politely firm, and murdered the young love with most suave apologies for the painful amputation. The difference in rank, it went without saying, put marriage out of the question, and, therefore, all things considered, he could not derange monsieur to the giving of more music lessons,—for the present, at least.
The young musician took the coup de grâce bravely; without a word he gave the comte his hand in mute acceptance of his fate, and bowed himself out. The true bitterness of his loss he sought to hide by fleeing to the Church. His love had been pure and ardent. It had been found impossible. His hopes had been put to death; therefore an end to the world. He bent his burning head low upon the cold steps of Saint Vincent de Paul, and resolved to renounce the world. He wrote ten years later, and still with suffering: "A female form chaste and pure as the alabaster of holy vessels, was the sacrifice I offered with tears to the God of Christians. Renunciation of all things earthly was the only theme, the only word of that day."
Caroline, too, sank under the bitterness of the loss. She fell dangerously ill, and when she recovered she thought only of the convent; but her father, who had so easily exiled her lover, knew how to persuade her to marriage. A few months later she became Madame d'Artigou; they say she gave her husband no affection, and that her heart was still, and always, Liszt's; while in his heart she was for ever niched as the young Madonna of his life.
For the present the shock of sacrifice threatened his whole career, and his life and mind as well. Again the monastery beckoned him, and now it was his mother's turn to oppose the Church in its effort to engulf this brilliant artist. After a long struggle he yielded to her, but for a time he was a recluse, and his melancholy gradually wore out his health; until at length he was given up for a dying man, and obituary eulogies actually were published. But as Mark Twain wrote of himself: "The reports of his death were greatly exaggerated."
When Liszt gave up all hope of entering the Church, he began a restless orgy of effort for mental diversion; all manner of theories and foibles allured him.
As Heine said of him, his mind was "impelled to concern itself with all the needs of mankind, impelled to poke its nose into every pot where the good God cooks the future." The theatre offered for a time another form of dissipation than his religious hysteria. He hated concerts, and compared himself to a conjurer or a clever trick poodle; he took up with the Revolution of 1830; Saint-Simonianism enmeshed him; later he fell under the spell of the Abbé Lamennais. Then Paganini came to Paris and fascinated and frightened Liszt, as he frightened the world with his unheard-of fiddling. It was his privilege to drive Liszt back to the piano with an ambition to rival Paganini; as rival him he did. Next Berlioz and romanticism fevered his brain, and then in 1831, the twenty-year-old Liszt and the twenty-one-year-old Chopin struck up their historic friendship, and the two men glittered and flashed in the most artistic salons of Paris. It was about this time that the Polish Countess Plater said, speaking of the genial Ferdinand Hiller and the two cronies:
"I would choose Hiller for my friend, Chopin for my husband, Liszt for my lover."
There seems to have been a snow-storm of love affairs at this period. It is impossible even to name the flakes. Gossip