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Marie d`Agoult

Marie d`Agoult: The Rebel Countess

Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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    Marie d`Agoult
    Book Description:

    Talented and resolutely independent, Marie d'Agoult (1805-76) was one of the most remarkable women of her time. Abandoning her privileged position in society, she eloped with her great love, the pianist and composer Franz Liszt, and later won fame as a writer under the penname Daniel Stern. She published fiction, articles on literature, music, art, and politics, and a history of the revolution of 1848, and she was an eloquent advocate for democracy, the eradication of poverty, and the emancipation of women.Drawing on her memoirs, letters, and other unpublished writings, Richard Bolster's engrossing biography sets Marie d'Agoult's eventful life against a backdrop of dramatic political change in France. Courted by many important figures of her day, she married a nobleman and became a member of the court of Charles X. Her passion for music eventually brought her into contact with Liszt, with whom she moved to Italy and had three children. After their idealistic romance degenerated into disenchantment, d'Agoult returned to Paris, began her writing career, and established a salon for artists, reformers, and freethinkers. Bolster explains how George Sand became d'Agoult's friend and then betrayed her by giving Balzac information about her affair with Liszt, which he used in his novelBéatrix.He concludes with a moving account of d'Agoult's last years.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13768-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. CHAPTER 1 A Soldier’s Daughter
    (pp. 1-11)

    THERE is an old saying in Germany that a child born at midnight is influenced by dark forces which show themselves in dreams and premonitions. Marie de Flavigny would often recall this superstition, because she was herself a Midnight Child who came into the world in late December of 1805. Her place of birth was the ancient German city of Frankfurt, on the river Main. Her mother, Maria, belonged to a prominent local family which owned the leading bank in the city. The Bethmann bank enjoyed high status and was engaged in major financial operations throughout the continent. The decades...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Fall of Napoleon
    (pp. 12-25)

    THE journey from Frankfurt to Paris was a major undertaking in 1809, even for the rich. The section from Mainz to the French capital alone took five days, despite the fact that the roads were well maintained because of their military importance. For reasons of safety, a speed limit was in force: coaches were allowed to bring their horses only to a trot, not a gallop. An unexpected rut in the unpaved roads could easily cause vehicles to overturn, with disastrous consequences for the passengers. Travelers in France at this time had a choice of guidebooks providing information about major...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Ways of the World
    (pp. 26-40)

    DURING the political and military events of the spring and summer of 1815, Marie and her brother were again making contact with their family in Frankfurt. Meanwhile their house in France became the temporary quarters of a company of Prussian soldiers. These uninvited guests, part of the army that occupied France after the battle of Waterloo, were sleeping in their beds, eating their food, drinking their wine, and playing on the piano brought from Vienna. Life in Frankfurt was more normal, and Marie, now an intelligent girl of ten, was observing the character of her German relatives. One member of...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Adolescence
    (pp. 41-52)

    MARIE’S relationship with Maurice was good, and she appreciated his affection and easygoing character, which was so different from her own. In an apparent paradox, this proud and independent girl yearned for a guardian, a strong and protective male figure to whom she could show loyalty and deference. But there was a void in her emotions which her brother could not fill. Her puberty had begun, as if to confirm that her life had moved into a new phase. In later years Marie left no record of the effect of bereavement on her mother, but after many happy years of...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Marriage French Style
    (pp. 53-73)

    IN 1822 Marie began to participate more fully in social life, having become a marriageable young woman. The Parisian high society she was about to enter consisted of three groups which would soon be brilliantly portrayed in the novels of Honoré de Balzac: the old aristocracy, the new nobility created by Napoleon, and the increasingly important class of high finance. The old aristocracy itself was divided into two groups, those who were received in court and those who did not enjoy this high distinction. During the lifetime of Flavigny, who had become allergic to royal courts, Marie’s social life had...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Wind of Revolution
    (pp. 74-101)

    THE regime which Charles and Marie d’Agoult now served was like a ship steaming toward an iceberg, with an incompetent navigator at its helm. Charles X had spent the first two years of his reign encouraging the demands of the Ultras, and in one of his first political acts he had alienated the army by the dismissal of most of the generals who had served under Napoleon. These men of experience and ability, many of them known to Charles d’Agoult, were replaced by inferior officers who were members of the old nobility. In a deliberate act of provocation the decision...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Elopement
    (pp. 102-128)

    MARIE’S assessment of the new French king as a traitor to his family was harsh in that CharlesXhad lost his position owing to his own political errors. His cousin had not actively conspired against him but had simply accepted the crown when it was offered, and this after the spineless Charles had capitulated. Philippe of Orléans, for his part, had showed himself to be a man of courage and energy. In his early years he had experienced poverty in exile and had at one time survived by giving drawing lessons in the town of Reichenau, Austria. He had acquired knowledge...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Life with Liszt
    (pp. 129-152)

    SHE left Paris on the first day of June 1835 in the company of her mother, who thought the purpose of the journey was to give Marie a holiday. Five days later they arrived in the town of Basel, Switzerland, where Liszt was already waiting. She dreaded telling her mother about her planned elopement and postponed the revelation for a few days. When it came, Madame de Flavigny took the news badly, and there followed tearful scenes in which she begged her daughter to reconsider a decision which would have such a profound effect on the whole family. She capitulated...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The Lovers in Italy
    (pp. 153-168)

    MARIE and Franz left Nohant in July 1837, George accompanying their carriage as far as La Châtre, where they were to take the stagecoach. Marie reflected that the months in the country had been beneficial to her. Although she did not possess George’s playful temperament, she had learned something from her. Her dynamic friend had stimulated her imagination and taught her new pleasures. In addition, the sight of George’s shortcomings had enhanced Marie’s self-esteem. She was interested to see that this gifted writer also had some characteristics of a willful child. Indeed, her erratic life seemed to be directed by...

  13. CHAPTER 10 The Break with Liszt
    (pp. 169-194)

    MARIE’S account of the separation portrays her as a sad figure clutching her child to her bosom as a storm raged around the ship leaving Genoa, but this was an exaggeration. She certainly had days of melancholy and self-doubt as she set about rethinking her life in the autumn of 1839, but in the end she did it with success. Franz had urged her to be strong and to rebuild her life in Paris, renewing contact with the family. She did not know how she would be received by her mother or whether Charles would let her see their daughter,...

  14. CHAPTER 11 The Career of Writer
    (pp. 195-224)

    MARIE remembered the myth of Ariadne, who falls in love with Theseus when he is unarmed and facing the labyrinth. They elope and sail toward Athens, but when they stop on the island of Naxos, she falls asleep and he abandons her. Theseus goes on to other adventures and other women, leaving her to lament her fate, but all ends well when she marries the god Bacchus. Marie reflected that this ancient story of love and separation was like an account of her own life, except for the happy ending.

    In spite of this she was soon seeking consolation in...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Autumn Leaves
    (pp. 225-256)

    MARIE was now in the autumn of her life, and many hopes and illusions had fallen to the ground. She could certainly draw satisfaction from her career as writer, and the first volume of herHistoire de la révolution de 1848had appeared. As a historian of recent events she had the advantage of knowing a number of well-informed people across the political spectrum. She had high praise for Lamartine, who, like Marie, had distanced himself from the aristocracy. She portrayed him as a noble defender of principles which would shape the modern world: universal suffrage, free education, the ending...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 257-266)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-272)
  18. Index
    (pp. 273-278)