youngster with already those marks of will and purpose
on his beautiful face that were to be his credentials to
place and power.
He had often played at concerts in the towns and vil-
lages about, and when there were visitors at the palace
this fine, slim son of the bookkeeper was sent for to
This attention kept ambition alive in the hearts of his
parents, and after many misgivings they decided to
hazard all and move to Vienna to give their boy the
opportunities they felt he deserved.
The entire household effects being sold, the bookkeeper
found he had nearly six hundred francs one hundred
fifty dollars. To this amount Prince Esterhazy added
fifty dollars, and Hummel gave his mite, and with
tears of regret at breaking up the home-nest, but with
high hope, flavored by chill intervals of fear, the father,
mother and boy started for Vienna.
Arriving in that city the distinguished Carl Czerny,
pupil of Beethoven, was importuned to take the lad.
Only the letter from Hummel secured the boy an
audience, for Czerny was already overburdened with
pupils. But when he had listened to the lad's playing, he
consented to take him as a pupil, merely saying that he
showed a certain degree of promise. It is sternly true
that Czerny did not fully come into the Liszt faith until
after that concert of April Thirteenth, Eighteen Hun-
dred Twenty-three, when Beethoven, ripe with years,
crowded his way to the front and kissed the player on
both cheeks, calling him " my son." Such a greeting
from the great Master spoke volumes when we consider
the lifelong aversion that Beethoven held toward
" prodigies," and his disinclination to attend all con-
certs but his own.
And thus did Franz Liszt begin his professional pilgrim-
age, consecrated by the kiss of the Master.
Paris was the next step) to Paris, the musical and
artistic center of the world. To win in Paris meant fame
and fortune wherever he wished to exhibit his powers.
The way the name of Franz Liszt swept through the
fashionable salons of Paris is too well known to recount.
Scarcely thirteen years of age, he played the most
difficult pieces with peculiar precision and power. And
his simple, boyish, unaffected manner his total lack
of self-consciousness won him the affection of every
mother-heart. He was fondled, feted, caressed, and took
it all as a matter of course. He had not yet reached the
age of indiscretion.
USIC is a secondary sexual manifestation, just
as are the songs of birds, their gay and gaudy
plumage, the color and perfume of flowers
that so delight us, and the luscious fruits that
nourish us all is sex. And then, do you not remember
that expression of Renan's, " The unconscious coquetry
of the flowers" ? Without love there would be no poetry
and no music. All the manifest beauty of earth is only
Nature's nuptial decoration.
James Huneker, not always judicious, but a trifle more
judicial than others that might be named, declares that
two women, making a simultaneous attack upon the
great composer, caused him to cut for sanctuary, and
hence we have the Abbe Liszt, thus proving again that
love and religion are twin sisters.
The old-time biographers can easily be placed in two
classes: those who sought to pillory their man, and those
who sought to protect him. Neither one told the truth;
but each gave a picture, more or less blurred, of a being
conjured forth from their own inner consciousness.
Franz Liszt was naturalized in the Faubourg Saint
Germain. It was here that he was first hailed as the
infant prodigy, and proud ladies, at his performances,
pressed to the front and struggled for the privilege of
imprinting on his fair forehead a chaste and motherly
kiss 53 33
IGHT years had passed: years of work and
travel and constant growing fame. The youth
had grown into a man, and his return to the
scene of his former triumphs was the signal
for a regathering of the clans to note his progress or
decline. The verdict was that from " Le Petit Prodige,"
he had evolved into something far more interesting
"Le Grand Prodige." Tall, handsome, strong, and with
a becoming diffidence and a half-shy manner, his name
went abroad, and he became the rage of the salons. His
marvelous playing told of his hopes, longings, fears and
aspirations proud, melancholy, imploring, sad, sullen
his tones told all.
Fair votaries followed him from one performance to
another. Leaving out of the equation such mild incidents
as the friendship for George Sand, which began with a
brave avowal of platonics, and speedily drifted into
something more complex; also the equally interesting
incident of his being invited to visit the Chateau of the
lovely Adele Laprunarede, and the Alpine winter catch-
ing the couple and holding them willing captives for
three months, blocked there in a castle, with nothing
worse than a conscience and an elderly husband to
appease, we reach the one, supreme love-passion in the
life of Liszt. The Countess d'Agoult is worthy of much
more than a passing note.
At twenty years of age she had been married to a man
twenty-one years her senior. It was a " mariage de
convenance" arranged by her parents and a notary
in a powdered wig. It is somewhat curious to find how
many great women have contracted just such mar-
riages. Grim disillusionment following, true love holding
nothing in store for them, they turn to books, politics
or art, and endeavor to stifle their woman's nature with
the husks of philosophy.
Count d'Agoult was a hard-headed man of affairs
stern, sensible and reasonably amiable that is to say,
he never smashed the furniture, nor beat his wife. She
submitted to his will, and all the fine, girlish, bubbling
qualities of her mind and soul were soon held in check
through that law of self-protection which causes a
woman to give herself unreservedly only to the One who
Understands. Yet the Countess was not miserable only
at rare intervals did there come moods of a sort of
dread longing, homesickness and unrest; but calm
philosophy soon put these moods to rout. She had
focused her mind on sociology and had written a short
history of the Revolution, a volume that yet commands
the respect of students. At intervals she read her
essays aloud to invited guests. She studied art, delved
a little in music, became acquainted with the leading
thinking men and women of her time, and opened
her salon for their entertainment.
Three children had been born to her in six years.
Maternity is a very necessary part of every good
woman's education " this woman's flesh demands its
natural pains," says a great writer in a certain play.
A staid, sensible woman was the Countess d'Agoult
tall, handsome, graceful, and with a flavor of melancholy,
reserve and disinterestedness in her make-up that made
her friendship sought by men of maturity. She talked
but little, and won through the fine art of listening 33
She was neither happy nor unhappy, and if the gaiety
of girlhood had given way to subdued philosophy, there
were still wit, smiles and gentle irony to take the place
of laughter. "Life," she said, "consists in molting one's
illusions." 33 33
The Countess was twenty-nine years of age when " Le
Grand Prodige," aged twenty- three, arrived in Paris,
She had known him when he was " Le Petit Prodige "
when she was a girl with dreams and he but a child. She
wished to see how he had changed, and so went to hear
him play. He was insincere, affected and artificial, she
said his mannerisms absurd and his playing acrobatic.
At the next concert where he played she sought him out
and half -laughingly told him her opinion of his work. He
gravely thanked her, with his hand upon his heart, and
said that such honesty and frankness were refreshing.
After the concert Liszt remembered this woman she
was the only one he did remember she had made her
impression 33 33
He did not like her.
Soon Liszt was invited to the salon of the Countess
d'Agoult, and he, the plebeian, proudly repulsed the
fair aristocrat when her attentions took on the note of
patronage. They mildly tiffed a very good way to
begin a friendship, once said Chateaubriand.
The feminine qualities in the heart of Liszt made a lure
of the person who dared affront him. He needed the
flint on which his mind could strike fire nothing is so
depressing as continual, mushy adulation. He sought out
the Countess, and together they traversed the border-
land of metaphysics, and surveyed, as the days passed,
all that intellectual realm which the dawn of the
Twentieth Century thinks it has just discovered.
She taunted him into a defense of George Sand, who
had but recently returned from her escapade to Venice
with Alfred de Musset. Liszt defended the author of
" Leone Leoni," and read to the Countess from her
books to prove his case.
When haughty, proud and religious ladies mix mentali-
ties with sensitive youths of twenty-four, the danger-line
is being approached. The Grand Passions that live in
history, such as that of Abelard and Heloise, Petrarch
and Laura, Dante and Beatrice, swing in their orbit
around world-weariness. Love does not concern itself
with this earth alone it demands a universe for its free
expression. And the only woman who is capable of the
Grand Passion who stakes all on one throw of the
dice is the melancholy woman, with this fine, religious
reserve. No one suspected the Countess d'Agoult of in-
discretion she was too cold and self-contained for that!
And so is the world deceived by the Eternal Paradox of
things that law of antithesis which makes opposites
look alike. Beneath the calm dignity of matronly
demeanor the fires of love were banked. Probably even
the Countess herself did not know of the volcano that
was smoldering in her heart. But there came a day
when the flames burst forth, and all the reserve, poise,
quiet dignity, caution and discretion were dissolved
into nothingness in love's alembic.
Poor Franz Liszt!
Poor Countess d'Agoult!
They were powerless in the coils of such a passion. It
was a mad tumult of wild intoxication, of delicious pain,
of burning fears, and vain, tossing unrest. The woman's
nature, stifled by its six years of coaxing marital repres-
sion, was asserting itself. Liszt did not know that a
woman could love like this neither did the woman.
Once they parted, after talking the matter over solemnly
and deciding on what was best for both they parted
coldly with a mere touching of the lips in a last
good-by 53 53
The next week they were together again.
Then Liszt fled to the Abbe Lamennais, and in tears
sought, at the confessional and in dim retirement, a
surcease from the passion that was devouring him. Here
was a pivotal point in the life of Liszt, and the Church
came near then, claiming him for her own. And such
would have been the case, were it not for the fact that
one of the children of the Countess d'Agoult was sick
unto death. He knew of the sleepless vigils the weary
watching of the fond mother.
The child died, and Franz Liszt went to the parent in
her bereavement, to offer the solace of religion and bid
her a decent, respectful farewell, ere he left Paris forever.
He thought grief was a cure for passion, and that in the
presence of death, love itself was dumb. How could he
understand that, in most strong natures, tears and pain,
and hope and love are kin, and that each is in turn the
manifestation of a great and welling heart!
Liszt stood by the side of the Countess as the grave
closed over the body of her firstborn child. And as they
stood there, under the darkening sky, her hand went
groping blindly for his. She wrote of this, years and
years after, when seventy winters had silvered her hair
and her steps were feeble she wrote of this, in her
book called, " Souvenirs," and tells how, in that
moment of supreme grief, when her life was whitened
and purified by the fires of pain, her hand sought his.
The deep current of her love swept the ashes of grief
away, and she reached blindly for the hands those
wonderful music-making hands of Liszt that they
might support her. And standing there, side by side, as
the priest intoned the burial service, he whispered to
her, " Death shall not divide us, nor is eternity long
enough to separate thee from me!"
T -was only a few days after that Liszt left
Paris but not for a monastery. He journeyed
to Switzerland, and stopping at Basle he was
soon joined by the Countess, her two children,
and her mother.
All Paris was set in an uproar by the " abduction." The
George Sand school approved and loudly applauded the
" eclat "; but it was condemned and execrated by the
majority. As for the injured husband, it is said he gave a
banquet in honor of the event; his feelings, no doubt,
being eased by the fact that the goodly dot his wife had
brought him at her marriage was now his exclusive pos-
session. He had never gauged her character, anyway,
and he inwardly acknowledged that her mind was of a
sort with which he could not parry.
And now she had wronged him; yet in his grief he took
much satisfaction, and in his martyrdom there was
The chief blame fell on Liszt, and the accusation that he
had " broken up a happy home " came to his ears from
many sources. " They blame you and you alone," a
friend said to him.
" Good! good! " said Liszt, " I gladly bear it all."
George Sand, plain in feature, quiet in manner, soft and
feminine when she wished to be, yet possessing the mind
of a man, went to Switzerland to visit the runaway
Liszt and the " Lady Arabella." At first thought, one
might suppose that such a visit, after the former
relationship, might have been a trifle embarrassing for
both. But the fact that in the interval George Sand had
been crunching the soul of Chopin formed an estoppel
on the memory of all the soft sentiment that had gone
before. George Sand brought her two children, Maurice
and Solange, and the " Lady Arabella " had two of her
own to keep them company. A little family party was
made up, and with a couple of servants and a guide, a
little journey was taken through the mountain villages,
all in genuine gipsy style. George Sand, who worked up
all life, its sensations and emotions, into good copy, has
given us an account of the trip, that throws some very
interesting side-lights on the dramatis persona?.
The recounter and her children were all clothed in
peasant costume man-style, with blouses and trou-
sers. Gipsy garbs were worn by the servants, and Liszt
was arrayed like a mountaineer, and carried a reed pipe,
upon which he, from time to time, awoke the echoes.
When the dusty, unkempt crew arrived at a village inn,
the landlord usually made hot haste to secrete his silver-
ware. Once when a sudden rainstorm drove the way-
farers into a church, Liszt took his seat at the organ and
played played with such power and feeling that the
village priest ran out and called for the neighbors to
come quickly, as the Angel Gabriel, in the guise of a
mountaineer, was playing the organ. Anthem, oratorio,
and sweet, subtle, soulful improvisation followed, and
the villagers knelt, and eyes were filled with tears.
George Sand records that she never heard such playing
by the Master before; she herself wept, and yet through
her tears she managed to see a few things, and here is one
picture which she gives us: " The Lady Arabella sat on
the balustrade, swinging one foot, and cast her proud
and melancholy gaze over the lower nave, and waited
in vain for the celestial voices that were supposed to
vibrate in her bosom 53 Her abundant light hair,
disheveled by the wind and rain, fell in bewildering
disorder, and her eyes, reflecting the finest hue of the
firmament, seemed to be wandering over the realm of
God's creation after each sigh of the huge organ, played
by the divine Liszt.
' This is not what I expected/ said she to me languidly.
*jf " 'Ah, that is what you said of the mountain peaks
and the glacier, yesterday,' said I."
It will be seen, by those who have read between the
lines, that George Sand did not much like " the fair
Lady Arabella of the wondrous length of limb." In
passing, it is well to note, in way of apology for this
allusion as to " length of limb," that George Sand was
once spoken of by Heine as '* a dumpy-duodecimo."
It is to be regretted that we have no description of
George Sand by the Lady Arabella.
Years passed in study and writing, with occasional
concert tours, wherein the public flocked to hear the
greatest pianist of his time. The power, grasp and
insight of the man increased with the years, and
wherever he deigned to play, the public was not slow in
giving him that approbation which his masterly work
deserved. Liszt was one of the Elect Few who train on.
On these short concert trips his wife (for such she must
certainly be regarded) seldom accompanied him this
in deference to his wish, and this, it seems, was the first
and last and only cause of dissension between them 3$
The Countess was born for a career and her spirit chafed
at the forced retirement in which she lived.
Ten years had gone by and three children had been born
to her and Liszt. One of these, a boy, died in youth, but
one of the daughters became, as we know, the wife of
Richard Wagner, and the other daughter married
Oliver Emile Ollivier, the eminent statesman and man of
letters member of the Cabinet in that memorable year,
Eighteen Hundred Seventy, when France declared war
on Germany. Both of these daughters of Liszt were
women of rare mentality and splendid worth, true
daughters of their father.
Position is a pillory; sometimes the populace will pelt
you with rose-leaves at others, with ancient vegetables.
Liszt believed that for his wife's peace of mind, and his
own, she should not crowd herself too much to the
front he feared what the mob might say or do. We
can not say that she was jealous of his fame, nor he of
hers. However, as a writer she was winning her way.
But the fateful day came when the wife said, " From
this day on I must everywhere stand by your side, your
wife and your equal, or we must part." ^ They parted.
*I Liszt made princely provision for her welfare, and the
support of their children, as well as those that had come
to her before they met.
She went south to Italy, and he began that most wonder-
ful concert tour, where, in Saint Petersburg, sums equal
to ten thousand dollars were taken at the door for single
Countess d'Agoult was the respected friend of King
Emmanuel, and her salon at Turin was the meeting-
place of such men as Renan, Meyerbeer, Chopin,
Berlioz and Rossini. She carried on a correspondence
with Heinrich Heine, was the trusted friend of Prince
Jerome Bonaparte, Lamartine and Lamennais, and was
on a footing of equality with the greatest and best minds
of her age. She wrote several plays, one of which,
" Jeanne d'Arc," was presented at the Court Theater of
Turin, with the Royal Family present, and was a
marked success. Her criticism on the work of Ingres
made that artist's reputation, just as surely as Ruskin
made the fame of Turner. But one special reason why
Americans should remember this woman is because she
first translated Emerson's " Essays " and caused them
to be published in Italian and French.
I am not sure that Liszt ever quite forgave her for not
dying of broken heart, when they parted there at Lake
Maggiore. He thought she would take to opium or
strong drink, or both. She did neither, but proved, by
her after-life, that she was sufficient unto herself. She
was worthy of the love of Liszt, because she was able to
do without it, She was no parasitic, clinging vine that
strangles the sturdy oak.
The Abbe Lamennais, the close friend of Liszt, once
said, " Liszt is a great musician, the greatest the world
has ever seen, but his wife can easily take a mental
octave which he can not quite span."
The Countess d'Agoult died March Fifth, in Eighteen
Hundred Seventy-six, at the age of seventy years. When
tidings of her passing reached the Abbe Liszt, he caused
all of his immediate engagements to be canceled and
went into monastic retirement, wearing the robe of
horsehair and a rope girdle at his waist. He filled the
hours for the space of a month with silent reverie and
prayer 33 33
And even in that cloister-cell, with its stone floor and
cold, bare walls, the leaden hours brought the soundless
presence of a tall and stately woman. Through the
desolate bastions of his brain she glided in sweet dis-
array, looked into his tear-dimmed eyes, smoothing
softly the coarse pillow where rested that head with its
lion's mane which we know so well a head now
whitened by the frost of years. No sound came to him
there, save a soft voice which Fate refused to silence, and
this voice whispered and whispered yet again to him:
" Death shall not divide us, nor is eternity long enough
to separate thee from me! "
ELIGION is not the cure of love. Perhaps
religion is love and love is religion anyway,
we know that they are often fused. For a
time after Liszt had parted from the Countess,
fortune smiled. Then came various loans to friends,
managerial experiments, the backing of an ill-starred
opera, and a season of overwrought nerves.
Luck had turned against the supposed invincible Liszt.
Then it was that the Princess Wittgenstein appears on
the scene. This fine woman, earnest, strong in character,
intellectual, had tried ten years of marital hard times
and quit the partnership with a daughter and a goodly
dot S3 33
The Princess had secretly loved Liszt from afar, and
had followed him from town to town, glorying in his
triumphs, feeding on his personality.
When trouble came she managed to have a message
conveyed to him that an unknown woman would
advance, without interest or security, enough money for
him to pay all his debts and secure him two years of
leisure in which he might regain his health and do such
work as his taste might dictate.
Of course Liszt declined the offer, begging his unknown
friend to divulge her identity that he might thank her
for her disinterested faith in the cause of Art.
A meeting was brought about and the result was as
usual. The Grand Duchess of Saxe- Weimar, in the face
of scandal, took the Abbe and Princess under protection,
giving them the Chateau of Altenburg, near Weimar, for
a retreat. There Liszt, guarded from all intrusion,
composed the symphonies of " Dante " and " Faust,"
sonatas, masses and parts of " Saint Elizabeth." For
thirteen years they lived an idyllic existence. Then,
having married her daughter by her first husband to
Prince Hohenlohe, the Princess set out for Rome to
obtain a dispensation from the Pope, so she and the
Abbe could be married. Her husband, who was a Prot-
estant, had long before secured a divorce and married
again. Pope Pius the Ninth granted her wish, and she
hastened home and prepared for the wedding. It was
said that flowers were already placed on the altar, the
marriage feast was prepared, the guests invited, when
news came that the Pope had changed his mind on the
argument of one of the lady's kinsmen. We now have
every reason to believe, though, that the Pope changed
his mind on the earnest request of Liszt.
On the death of the Princess Wittgenstein, the Pope
dispensed Liszt from his priestly ties, but he was called
the Abbe until his death.
Whenever I find any one who can write better on a
subject than I can, I refuse to go on.
There is a book called, " Music Study in Germany,"
written by my friend Amy Fay, and published by The
Macmillan Company, from which I quote.
If Amy Fay had not chosen to be the superb pianist that
she is, she might have struck thirteen in literature.
There are a dozen biographies of Liszt, but none of them
has ever given us such a vivid picture of the man as has
this American girl. The simple, unpretentious little
touches that she introduces are art so subtile and true
that it is the art which conceals art. The topmost turret
of my ambition would be to have Amy Fay Boswellize
Says Amy Fay:
Liszt is the most interesting and striking-looking man
imaginable, tall and slight, with deep-set eyes, long iron-
gray hair, and shaggy eyebrows. His mouth turns up