George Sand to Liszt, July-August 1835: "Yes, Franzi, I am still in that deserted house; alone, absolutely alone, never opening the outside door except to admit a cenobitic dinner, and I cannot recall having known sweeter and purer days..."

Editor: That house belonged to her new lover, Louis-Chrysostom Michel, and actually she spent most of her time with him.


"It is a great comfort to me, I assure you, to realize that my spirit has not kept watch for so long that it has become inured to the joys of its vibrant younger days.... The closer I get to life's decline, the more I savor, piously and justly, the generous and providential things that it has to offer. On the far side of the hill, I pause and descend slowly, casting a loving, admiring glance at the beauties of the place I leave behind..."

Editor: Sand had just turned 31.

From Charles Suttoni's collection of Liszt's letters. The footnotes are delightful. Liszt at 25 is pompous and fussy, really smug about playing Beethovan under some other composer's name and the audience applauding it less. "If I submitted Moby Dick today..." of the 1830s.

Some good ideas and true observations about the creative life, but damn if he wasn't a terrible writer, at least at the age of 25—haven't gotten farther than that yet.

Liszt to Sand, April 1837: "Artisans everywhere, and not an *artist* to be seen. And this state of affairs also imposes cruel suffering on one who was born with the pride and fierce independence of a true son of art. All about him he sees a mob of those who manufacture art paying heed to the public's caprice, striving assiduously to gratify the fantasies of rich simpletons, and obeying the slightest whim of fashion. So eager are they to bow their heads and abase themselves...!"

"He must accept these people as brothers and watch the crowd, confusing him with them, offer him the same coarse appreciation, the same childish, dazed admiration. And don't let anyone tell you that this is the suffering of injured vanity and self-esteem. No, no, you know it well, you who are so highly placed that no rival can touch you. The bitter tears that fall at times from our eyelids are those of one who, adoring the True God, sees His temple invaded by idols and the gullible populace..."

"...kneeling before the gods of mud and stone for which they have abandoned the Madonna's altar and the worship of the Living God.

Perhaps you find me in a very somber mood today. For you, perhaps, the nightingale's song accompanied the transition from a delightful night to a splendid day. Perhaps you took a nap beneath the flowering lilacs and dreamed of a beautiful, golden-haired angel... As for myself... I willingly laid my artist's heart open to all the bruises of an active public life."

@Sololoso These were written for public consumption, only ostensibly to each other. Sand's letters were published in the Revue des deus mondes, Liszt's in the Gazette musicale. So there's lots of dramatic flourish; she writes at the beginning of her letter, "I do not know where you are at present" even though she does know because he just ran off with his pregnant lover, Marie d'Agoult, who, uh, was already married with a kid.

@Sololoso And who was apparently a collaborator on these letters.

@elilyyu Hah, public consumption of celebrity drama is timeless, I guess.

@elilyyu @Sololoso

the persistence of private/not private letter-writing is interesting; it seems to have faded now, but it goes way way back into antiquity


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