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قراءة كتاب The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume 2

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The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume 2

The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume 2

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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of course gathered into the catalogue every woman whom Liszt saw more than once; but we need not pay this tribute to malice by mentioning the names of all of Liszt's hostesses. Among those who may be more definitely suspected of being made victims by, or victimising, him is the Comtesse Adèle Laprunarède, afterward Duchess de Fleury. She, of course, was, as De Beaufort says, "sparkling, witty, young, beautiful." Her home was lonely and rural; her husband was very old; Liszt, to repeat, was a musician and Hungarian. The old comte was blind enough to invite him to spend the winter months at his château. For a whole winter Liszt was kept there in her castle a prisoner, with fetters of silk. The old comte seems never to have suspected. When Liszt eventually, like Tannhäuser, mutineered against the charms of the Venusberg and returned to Paris, he wrote many letters to the comtesse, in which, as he himself said, he gained his "first practice in the lofty French style."

George Sand

But this intrigue was followed by his appearance in the procession of George Sand's lovers. Ramann, in his biography, writes of the curious state of society of the Paris of this Revolutionary period: "Women were beginning to demand freedom and to experiment with the writing of perfervid romances, which questioned the very foundation principles of marriage and made a religion of Affinity."

George Sand was a chief crusader against the curse of monogamy. She practiced this anarchy in the guise of religion, as the old crusaders out-heathened the barbarians, and raided civilisation in the name of the Cross. George Sand's gospel, summed up briefly by Ramann, is as follows:

"'Love,' says the authoress, 'is Christian compassion concentrated on a single being. It belongs to the sinner, and not to the just; only for the former it moves restlessly, passionately, and vehemently. When thou, O noble and upright man,' she continues, with deceitfully fantastic warmth, 'when thou feelest a violent passion for a miserable fallen creature, be reassured that is genuine love; blush not therefore! so has Christ loved who crucified him.' According to this view, the love that sins from love must be virtue. One can scarcely be alarmed then when she says: 'The greater the crime, so much the more genuine the love which it accomplishes;' or, when Leone Leoni, steeped in passion and crime, but talented and adorned with manly beauty, exclaims to his beloved, 'As long as you hope for my amendment you have never loved my personal self.' It also appears to correspond with this casuistry of erotic fancy, when the heroes of her tragedies, of sky-storming earnestness, but adorned with all unnatural qualities, give themselves up to the latter as to an intoxicating spell, and in the delirium of self-delusion hold sin for virtue, and the unnatural for higher truth and beauty. With this creed, experimental love was a logical sequence, and great constancy was already to be unprogressive stubbornness. 'All love exhausts itself,' said Sand in 'Lelia'; 'disgust and sadness follow; the union of the woman with the man should therefore be transitory.'"

If the putting of preachment into practice is virtue, George Sand was the most virtuous of all novelists, for the hotel of her large and roomy heart was for the entertainment of transients only. It was in 1834, when Liszt was twenty-three and Sand thirty, that he was caught in the vortex swirling around "the fire-eyed child of Berry." Alfred de Musset introduced Liszt to her, as later Liszt passed her on to Chopin—or should we say she discarded the poet for the Hungarian, as later the Hungarian for the Pole? it would be more gallant and quite as true. Like Chopin, Liszt was at first repelled at the sight of George Sand. But soon he was entangled in that "caméraderie" which was the fashionable name for liaison in that time.

From her the Comtesse de Laprunarède had borrowed him for her snow-begirt castle, and when he returned to Paris there was another woman there, awaiting her turn to carry him off. This was the Comtesse Marie Cathérine Sophie d'Agoult, who was born on Christmas night, in 1805, and therefore was six years older than Liszt, whom she met in 1834. It was not till six years later that the comtesse took up literature as a diversion, and made herself some little name as an art critic and writer, choosing, as did George Sand, a masculine and English pen-name, "Daniel Stern."

The comtesse had been married in 1827; her marriage settlement was signed by King Charles the Tenth, the Dauphin, and others of almost equal rank. The comte was forty-five, she only half his age. He seems to have been a by no means ideal character, and she found her diversion in the brilliant society she gathered into her salon. For some time she seems to have been fascinated by Liszt before she could reach him with her own fascinations.

Indeed she was always the pursuer, and he the pursued. This is the more strange, since, at least at first, she was extremely handsome. Ramann has thus pictured her:

"The Countess d'Agoult was beautiful, very beautiful, a Lorelei: slender, of lofty bearing, enchantingly graceful and yet dignified in her movements, her head proudly raised, with an abundance of fair tresses, which waved over her shoulders like molten gold, a regular, classic profile, which stood in strange and interesting contrast with the modern breath of dreaminess and melancholy that was spread over her countenance; these were the general features which rendered it impossible to overlook the countess in the salon, the concert-room, or the opera-house, and these were enhanced by the choicest toilets, the elegance of which was surpassed by few, even in the salons of the Faubourg St. Germain. That fantastic dreams were hidden behind the purity of her profile, and passion, burning passion, under the soft melancholy of her expression, was known to but a few, at the time that her connection with the young artist began."

Her "Souvenirs" justify the accusation of unusual vanity as the mainspring in her motives, but if it were only her passion for conquest that made her seek Liszt, she was punished bitterly. In 1834 she captured him, and the preliminary formalities of flirtation were hastily overpassed. But once they were embarked on the maelstrom of passion, they seem to have been of exquisite torment and terror to each other. Liszt fell into a period of atheism which, to his constitutionally religious soul, was agony. As for the comtesse, death entered upon the romance and took away one of her three children. For awhile she was only a broken-hearted mother, and the intrigue seems to have had a moment's pause, but only to return.

Now, however, it had for Liszt something of unfreshness and monotony. He determined to break loose, and in the spring of 1835 told the comtesse that he was going to leave her. She, however, would not consent. He yielding as gracefully as he could, took a lodging in a quiet part of the city, where his life consisted of music, literature, and the comtesse, who visited him incessantly. Her love had quite infatuated her, to take the tone of the time; nowadays we might say that she found it so serious that she desired to make it honest. The means she hit upon were such as might strike a foolish woman as an inspiration. Believing that the long way round was the short way home, she thought to atone for her past foibles by casting them into sudden insignificance—to clear the sultry air by a thunder crash.

When Liszt heard that the comtesse planned to leave her husband, and even her children, and go into foreign exile with him, he felt that the comtesse was taking the bit into her teeth with a vengeance, but saw as he would on the lines, and cry "whoa" as he would, the runaway comtesse still insisted on running away.

Liszt called on her mother to interfere; she was run over. He appealed to her former confessor; his staying