fame, as I have said, under the name of Daniel Stern. In the fall of 1837 Liszt and the comtesse went to Italy, where, especially at Bellaggio, they appear to have been genuinely happy. He seems to be describing himself when he writes:
"Yes, my friend, when the ideal form of a woman floats before your dreaming soul, a woman whose heaven-born charms bear no allurement for the senses, but only wing the soul to devotion, and if you saw at her side a youth of sincere and faithful heart, weave these forms into a moving story of love, and give it the title, 'On the Shores of the Lake of Como.'"
To us, who think of Liszt always by his last pictures, presenting him in his venerable age, it is hard to remember that at this time he was only twenty-seven. It was at this time, too, that he wrote the only composition he ever dedicated to the comtesse. In later years, it was almost the only composition of his that she would praise; it was a fantasia on the "Huguenots." The two lovers continued their wanderings through Italy and Austria, he giving concerts for the flood sufferers and the Beethoven monument and she travelling with him. While in Rome in 1839, the comtesse had borne him a son, Daniel, having previously given him two daughters,—Blandine, who married the French statesman, Emile Olivier, and died in 1862; and Cosinia, the famous wife of Wagner. All three children had been legitimised immediately upon their birth.
Meanwhile, he and the comtesse were drifting apart, in spite of these three hostages to fortune. It is difficult to justify Liszt's desertion of the woman, except by slandering her memory, and it is difficult to save her memory without slandering his. The cause, as explained by Ramann, is, that she cherished an ambition to be Liszt's Muse, and made strong demands for the acceptance of her opinions upon his works. We can easily imagine the situation: A sensitive, fiery composer, who is incidentally the chief virtuoso of the world, dashes off a gorgeous composition, and in the first warmth of enthusiasm plays it to his companion. She, desirous of asserting her importance, listens to it with that frame of mind which makes it easy to criticise any work of art ever created—the desire to find fault. Benevolent and sincere as her intentions may have been, the criticisms of this shallow and musically untrained woman must have driven Liszt to desperation.
It is a rare musician that can tolerate the faintest disapproval of even his poorest work, and frequently a critic lauds to the skies all of the composer's works except one or two, and then, in order to give his eulogy an appearance of discrimination and remove the taste of unadulterated gush, inserts a mild implication that this one or these two compositions are not the greatest works in existence—that unhappy critic is practically sure to find that his eulogy has been accepted as a mere matter of course, and his criticism bitterly resented as a gratuitous and unwarranted assault upon beautiful creations which his small skull and hickory-nut heart are unable to grasp.
Liszt was never especially philosophical under fault-finding, and to have a fireside critic after him, nagging him day and night, must have soured all the milk of human kindness in his heart. The comtesse was stubborn in her views, and her artistic conferences with Liszt degenerated into violent brawls. The young French poet, De Rocheaud, "assisted," as the French say, at one of these combats between an hysterical woman and a thin-skinned musician. The poet believed in Muses and such things, using as an argument that beautiful fable which Dante built on the most slender foundations.
"Think of Dante and Beatrice," exclaimed De Rocheaud. "Think how the divine poet listened to her words as to revelations. Be thou Dante, and she Beatrice." "Bah, Dante! bah, Beatrice!" cried Liszt, "the Dantes create the Beatrices. The genuine die when they are eighteen years old."
At length the gipsy spirit moved Liszt to make a long continental tour to complete the depletions in his purse. He did not care to take the comtesse and the children with him. With much difficulty he persuaded her to go to Paris and live with his mother, since she was on bad terms with her own family. Later he succeeded in reconciling the comtesse with these, also. After the death of her mother, the comtesse inherited a fortune, but Liszt continued to support the children.
The comtesse died of pleurisy in 1876, at the age of seventy-one. How long these sweethearts of musicians last!
Thus closes the chapter of Liszt's affairs with the Comtesse d'Agoult. It had lasted, all things considered, surprisingly long—five years.
A pleasant note of character was sounded by Liszt, which rings him to the difficult love affair of Robert Schumann. In one of his letters, Liszt tells how fond he had been of Schumann and Wieck and his daughter Clara. Then came the famous struggle between father and suitor for the possession of the girl. Liszt took Schumann's side, because he thought he was in the right; he even went so far as to break off all intercourse with Wieck—who took his revenge by publishing ferocious criticisms on Liszt's playing.
In 1845 Liszt wrote a letter of calm, cool friendship to George Sand, his "Dear George." For years he roved Europe, flitting from ovation to ovation, from flirtation to flirtation. But he was drifting unwittingly toward the grand affair of his life. A woman—the woman—was waiting for him in Russia. Mr. Huneker says of Liszt and the Comtesse d'Agoult:
"Every one knows that he was as so much dough in her hands." So, in a more than different way, we shall find him—who had slain his hecatomb of hearts—helpless in the power of his one great love. Again he is first compelling, then compelled.
February 8, 1819, in Monasterzyka in Kiev, Carolyne von Ivanovska was born. She was the only daughter of a rich Polish nobleman. The parents soon separated, and the child's life was divided between them. The father brought her up, as La Mara tells, as if she were a boy. He made her the companion of his conversations late into the night; and, in order to make her the more congenial a comrade, he taught her to ride wild horses and smoke strong cigars. Then the other half of the year, she was the ward of her "beautiful, lovely, elegant" mother, who doted on society, and introduced her daughter to the capitals and the salons of Europe.
So, says La Mara, "under constantly changing surroundings, now in the midst of the world, now in the deep solitude, Carolyne von Ivanovska lived her first years."
When she was seventeen, her father bought her a husband, the son of the Field Marshal Fürst Wittgenstein, and on May 7, 1836, she gave her hand to the Prince Nicolaus von Sayn-Wittgenstein, seven years her senior. He was at the time a cavalry captain in the Russian army, a handsome, but intellectually unimpressive man. To quote La Mara again: "From this marriage the Princess Carolyne gained only one happiness: the birth of a daughter, the Princess Marie, on whom she centred the glowing love of her heart."
While the two fathers-in-law lived, the children-in-law were kept together; but the old men soon went their way. Then the young wife gave up attempting to endure the unhappiness of her home, and sought solace from her loneliness in the full blaze of literary and artistic society. In February, 1847, Franz Liszt floated in across her horizon, "auf Flügeln des Gesanges." Of course, he gave a concert in Kiev for charity. Among the contributions, he received a one-hundred-rouble note—about $75. Liszt desired to thank the good-hearted one in person—Kismet!
Even if the princess had not been beautiful, La Mara thinks she would have overwhelmed Liszt with "her wonderful eloquence and her unbelievable intellectuality." It was a case of congeniality at first