Monday, November 11, 2013

Franz Liszt's Mistress Marie d'Agoult

Beautiful and wealthy, Marie de Flavigny was the daughter of a German mother and a French aristocrat. Well-educated and a lover of literature, Marie went to French convents and spoke fluent French and German.  She met Goethe and she read authors such as Victor Hugo.  She also composed musical pieces and played the piano.

Unfortunately, she was young and naive when she married the soldier Charles, the Comte d'Agoult, who was fifteen years older than her.  She didn't get on with his family and she didn't care for him very much.  He realised this and offered her her freedom if she ever wanted it!  However, they had their first daughter Louise the year after their marriage in 1826, and it looked as though they might stay together.  Marie established a salon in Paris and pursued her intellectual and cultural interests.

Six years after their marriage, however, Marie met the young 21-year old Franz Liszt at a party and fell for his green eyes and tall, handsome looks immediately.  The couple shared a love of music and Marie could hardly fail to be impressed by the talented musician.  They began a friendship that developed into a love affair after Marie's first daughter died and she became depressed.  Liszt sent her a book by George Sand and they began an affair.  The couple eventually ran away to Italy when Marie became pregnant. She left her second daughter Claire with her husband.

The couple lived together in Italy and Switzerland, and they were often criticised and isolated because of their immorality.  But many artists didn't care, and they associated with people such as George Sand and Frederick Chopin, who dedicated his second set of etudes to her.  They had three daughters: Blandine, Cosima and Daniel.  Cosima married Richard Wagner.

Unfortunately, the affair didn't last because Liszt travelled a lot to perform and Marie suspected him of being unfaithful.  She got fed up with this, and they eventually broke up.  Marie returned to France, established another salon, and wrote acclaimed novels and political histories, including a three-volume History of the Revolution of 1848 and Nerida.

She is certainly a fascinating character, and I intend to read more about her!

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