Rupert Hughes.

The Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume 1 online

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mental support for ten long years.

George Sand's books are full of allusions to Chopin, and from the many
that are quoteworthy, the following may be cited from her "Histoire de
ma Vie," as throwing a few flecks of light on the woman's attitude in
the affair:

"He was the same in friendship (as in love), becoming enthusiastic at
first sight, getting disgusted and correcting himself (_se reprenant_)
incessantly, living on infatuations full of charm for those who were the
object of them and on secret discontents which poisoned his dearest
affections."

"Chopin accorded to me, I may say, honoured me with, a kind of
friendship which was an exception in his life. He was always the same to
me."

"The friendship of Chopin was never a refuge for me in sadness. He had
enough of his own ills to bear."

"We never addressed a reproach to each other, except once, which, alas,
was the first and the final time."

"But if Chopin was with me devotion, kind attention, grace,
obligingness, and deference in person, he had not for all that abjured
the asperities of character towards those who were about me. With them
the inequality of his soul, in turn generous and fantastic, gave itself
full course, passing always from infatuation to aversion, and vice
versa."

"Chopin when angry was alarming, and, as, with me, he always restrained
himself, he seemed almost to choke and die."


It is generally believed that in the character of _Prince Karol_ in her
novel, "Lucrezia Floriani," published in 1847, Sand used that lethal
weapon of revenge novelists possess, and portrayed or caricatured
Chopin. It is only fair to give her disclaimer, though Liszt repeated
the charge in his "Life of Chopin," and though Karasovski says that
Sand's own children told Chopin that he was pictured as Prince Karol.
None the less, hearken to the novelist's own defence:

"It has been pretended that in one of my romances I have painted his
(Chopin's) character with a great exactness of analysis. People were
mistaken, because they thought they recognised some of his traits; and,
proceeding by this system, too convenient to be sure, Liszt himself, in
a life of Chopin, a little exuberant as regards style, but nevertheless
full of very good things and very beautiful pages, has gone astray in
good faith. I have traced in _Prince Karol_ the character of a man
determined in his nature, exclusive in his sentiments, exclusive in his
exigencies. Chopin was not such. Nature does not design like art,
however realistic it may be. She has caprices, inconsequences, probably
not real, but very mysterious. Art only rectifies these inconsequences,
because it is too limited to reproduce them.

"Chopin was a résumé of these magnificent inconsequences which God alone
can allow himself to create, and which have their particular logic. He
was modest on principle, gentle by habit, but he was imperious by
instinct and full of unlegitimate pride, which was unconscious of
itself. Hence sufferings which he did not reason out and which did not
fix themselves on a determined object.

"However, _Prince Karol_ is not an artist. He is a dreamer and nothing
more; having no genius, he has not the right of genius. He is therefore
a personage more true than amiable, and the portrait is so little that
of a great artist that Chopin, in reading the manuscript every day on my
desk, had not the slightest inclination to deceive himself, - he who,
nevertheless, was so suspicious.

"And yet, afterwards, by reaction, he imagined, I am told, than this was
the case. Enemies (he had such about him who call themselves his
friends; as if embittering a suffering heart was not murder), enemies
made him believe that this romance was a revelation of his character. At
that time his memory was no doubt enfeebled; he had forgotten the book,
why did he not re-read it?

"This history is so little ours - It was the very reverse of it. There
were between us neither the same raptures _(envirements)_, nor the same
sufferings. Our history had nothing of a romance; its foundation was too
simple and too serious for us ever to have had occasion for a quarrel
with each other _à propos_ of each other."

As to the final separation, following my principle of letting the people
tell their own stories so far as possible, I may turn again to George
Sand's own version:

"After the last relapse of the invalid, his mind had become extremely
gloomy, and Maurice [her son], who had hitherto tenderly loved him, was
suddenly wounded by him in an unexpected manner about a trifling
subject. They embraced each other the next moment, but the grain of sand
had fallen into the tranquil lake, and little by little the pebbles fell
there, one after another - all this was borne; but at last, one day,
Maurice, tired of the pin-pricks, spoke of giving up the game. That
could not be, and should not be. Chopin would not stand my legitimate
and necessary intervention. He bowed his head and said that I no longer
loved him.

"What blasphemy after these eight years of maternal devotion! But the
poor bruised heart was not conscious of its delirium. I thought that
some months passed at a distance and in silence would heal the wound,
and make his friendship again calm and his memory equitable. But the
revolution of February came, and Paris became momentarily hateful to
this mind incapable of yielding to any commotion in the social form.
Free to return to Poland, or certain to be tolerated there, he had
preferred languishing ten (and some more) years far from his family,
whom he adored, to the pain of seeing his country transformed and
deformed (_dénaturé_). He had fled from tyranny, as now he fled from
liberty.

"I saw him again for an instant in March, 1848. I pressed his trembling
and icy hand. I wished to speak to him, he slipped away. Now it was my
turn to say that he no longer loved me. I spared him this infliction,
and entrusted all to the hands of Providence and the future.

"I was not to see him again. There were bad hearts between us. There
were good ones, too, who were at a loss what to do. There were frivolous
ones who preferred not to meddle with such delicate matters.

"I have been told that he had asked for me, regretted me, and loved me
filially up to the very end. It was thought fit to conceal from him that
I was ready to hasten to him. It was thought fit to conceal this from me
till then."

This, then, is George Sand's story, which has not been granted very much
credence.

The cause of their - "divorce," one might call it - is blurred by the
usual discrepancies of gossip. The most probable account seems to be
that according to which Chopin mortally wounded Sand by receiving her
daughter and her son-in-law when they were out of Sand's favour. All
accounts agree that this was to her only a pretext for breaking shackles
that had begun to be irksome. All are agreed that it was Sand and not
Chopin who ended the relationship, and that she, as Niecks bluntly puts
it, "had recourse to the heroic means of kicking him, metaphorically
speaking, out-of-doors."

The woman seems easily to have forgotten the man who had proved, at
best, of little joy to her, for, as she says, she could never go to him
with her troubles, since he had always a plenty of his own. It was a
relief, then, to her, being a far busier woman than he a man, to find
herself free.

But Chopin was robbed of his last support. The strong woman he had
leaned upon was gone, and he was alone with the consumption that was
eating his life away. He started forth upon a concert tour, but the
chill climates of England and Scotland were not refuges from his
haunting disease. He died slowly and in poverty, though he was
unconscious of want, thanks to the generosity of a Russian countess and
a Scotch woman. Dependent upon women to the last! In his dying hours it
is said that George Sand called at his house, but was not admitted to
see him, though, as he wailed two days before his death, "She said I
should die in no other arms than hers" (_Que je ne mourrais que dans ses
bras_).

But even the story of her visit is denied. Turgeniev said that fifty
countesses had claimed that he died in their arms. Among the number was
the Countess Potocka, who is cherished traditionally as one of Chopin's
loves, and who was much with him during his last days, and sang for him,
at his request, as he lay dying. Poor genius! he must even have a woman
sing his swan-song for him! Potocka is best known by a familiar portrait
that you will find in a thousand homes. But how the higher criticism
undermines the gospel of tradition! The truth is that Chopin denied ever
having been in love with her or she with him, and Huneker even claims
that the famous portrait of her is not of her at all.

But however attended, visited, caressed, Chopin died at the threshold of
his prime, his life, lighted at most with a little feverish twinkling of
stars, one nocturne.

END OF VOLUME I.







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Online LibraryRupert HughesThe Love Affairs of Great Musicians, Volume 1 → online text (page 15 of 15)