Chopin, Frederic François

On his return to Paris from London, Chopin met George Sand (Mme. Aurore Dudevant), then at the height of her fame and the leading literary woman in Paris, who shared with Victor Hugo the honor of preeminence in French letters. She was a woman who challenged the attention of the world, as much by the irregularities of her private life as by her literary genius. She dominated Chopin's life after they became friends, and her influence upon his career was most marked. The story of this attachment has been told by Taine, Henry Janes, W. H. Hadow, James Huneker and numerous others and has been touched upon in all the biographies of the composer and the writer. Chopin seems to have had other love affairs, it being said of him that he was in the habit of falling in and out of love all the time. In his early days in Warsaw the composer had met and loved Constantia Gladkowska, or Gladowska, a pupil of the Warsaw Conservatory, but he is said never to have let her know of his affection, although she inspired him to write the adagio of the concerto in F minor and the yalse in D flat. She sang at one of his concerts in Warsaw and later went on the operatic stage. Later she married and Chopin appears to have dropped her from his mind. His second affair of the heart took place in 1836, when he visited Dresden and there met Marie Wpdzinski, whose brothers had been pupils at his father's school in Warsaw. Marie is said by Karasowski to have reciprocated Chopin's love and desired to marry him, but was debarred from doing so by her parents, who wished her to wed a man richer in the world's goods. The following year she married the son of Chopin's godfather, the man for whom Chopin had been named, Count Frederic Skarbek, and after a time she vanished into obscurity. George Sand was the third and last of Chopin's love affairs. She has been variously described. Professor Niecks pictured her as a female Don Juan, and as a pen painter of fallen and defiled natures. Hadden calls her a cormorant, even while admitting that she nursed and cared for Chopin in his illness as his mother might; while on the other hand, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot and W. H. Hadow, (apparently her only apologist among the opposite sex), called her good and great and described her affection for Chopin as maternal and nothing more. Mme. Sand had had many lovers before Chopin came into her life; Alfred de Musset, Delacroix the painter, Jules Sandeau, (in conjunction with whom she had written her first book, Rose et Blanche), Franz Liszt and others, and on account of most of these "affairs," after their termination, sooner or later found their way into her novels. Chopin was destined, if the gossips of the time were to be believed, to go the way of all the rest. According to Liszt and Mme. Sand herself, the meeting took place at the apartment of Chopin, through Liszt, who brought the novelist to call. Chopin is said to have disliked her at first and even wrote to his parents of meeting the great novelist and of not being attracted to her. Sand was unconventional, eccentric in dress and brusque in manner. She was fond of smoking cigars and had none of the social graces, preferring to lapse into absolute silence if not particularly interested in the person who was talking to her. She was many years older than Chopin, a divorced woman with two children, a son and daughter. She overcome all of Chopin's prejudices, however, as she had those of others, and there is every reason to believe that he grew to love her as he never loved anyone else. Shortly after the meeting, about 1837, Chopin being in feeble health, visited the novelist at her country home at Nohant, where she was in the habit of passing several months each year. Here she nursed and cared for him until he grew better. Bronchitis having developed the following year, Mme. Sand arranged for him to accompany her and her son and daughter to the island of Majorca in Spain to pass the winter. Sand is said to have decided upon the trip, " Chopin dreading to leave Paris, as every change was a terrible event in his life." Mme. Sand gives an account of the sojourn in her little book, A Winter in Majorca, which has been translated into English. For a time life ran smoothly enough and Chopin apparently showed signs of improvement, but after the wet season had set in his health grew worse, he suffered from hemorrhages, and the climate and the strange people fretted him continually. The natives drove " that consumptive person," as they called him, from the villa, which the party had rented and they were obliged to take up their abode in a disused Carthusian monastery on the outskirts of the town. Here the discomforts were so many that life became unbearable. Chopin made a "detestable invalid," said Sand; but here he wrote some of his most beautiful compositions, among others the preludes, which Rubinstein called "the very pearls of Chopin's work," in which is to be found such a combination of sweetness and strength, that Robert Schumann described them as "canons buried in flowers." The party finally left the island, making short stops at Barcelona and at Genoa, and then returning to Paris. For several years the friendship between the two continued, Chopin passing a part of every summer at Nohant with Mme. Sand and her family, and the winters in Paris with her. He was prosperous and happy, was teaching music and his compositions were beginning to meet with the appreciation that they deserved. In 1846, the rupture of the friendship, which Professor Niecks calls the catastrophe of Chopin's life, occurred and he was never the same afterward. No one appears to have been taken into the confidence of either as to the cause, although many conjectures were made. By some, Chopin is said to have displeased Sand by receiving her daughter and the husband she had married against her mother's wishes.