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  • Correspondance générale. Tome III: novembre 1839–1841
Marie de Flavigny, Comtesse d’ Agoult : Correspondance générale. Tome III: novembre 1839–1841. Édition établie et annotée par Charles F. Dupêchez . Paris, Champion, 2005. 677 pp. Hb €110.00.

This correspondance in the scholarly edition by Charles Dupêchez continues to provide valuable information about some leading figures of the Romantic era. This volume covers the difficult years when Marie d'Agoult and Liszt were living apart, amicably at first. Back in Paris with Liszt's daughters after the scandal of her elopement and liaison, the errant countess was not welcomed by her class. Undaunted, she created a salon that attracted a galaxy of stars such as Vigny, Sainte-Beuve, Hortense Allart, Eugène Sue and a number of musicians. Her old friend Delphine Gay introduced her to her husband Girardin, and the press magnate soon joined the ranks of her suitors and admirers. He published articles by her in La Presse, a first step that led to her future reputation for writings on art and history. Despite her attempts, Marie d'Agoult never got back to friendly relations with George Sand, who had cruelly passed on details of her love life to Balzac, who used them in Béatrix. Marie would always regret the end of her once passionate friendship with the leading female writer of her time, and the painter Lehmann was one of those who urged her to forgive and forget. It did not happen, and the two women would engage in a theatrical embrace when they met, but then avoid each other. Lehmann was one of the many who fell under the charm of Marie d'Agoult, and his letters express a friendship close to love. She felt that other members of the intelligentsia, even Chopin and Berlioz, failed to appreciate Liszt, and she attributed this to Parisian vanity. Liszt replied that his friends Chopin and Berlioz could not judge him because they did not really know him. Her letters to Liszt still express deep affection, and the hidden fear that she was bound to lose the struggle in which she was engaged, as the lover of an artist. The musician was condemned to a life of performance in all the cities of Europe, even Plymouth, where he had no audience because he was upstaged by the launching of a ship. Marie believed in the [End Page 400] historical importance of her correspondence with Liszt, a record of the love of an aristocrat and an artist, and wanted to keep it for posterity: 'Notre vie intéressera tant de gens!', she wrote in November 1939. Letters written at this time reveal the complexity of her relationship with Liszt, who was at once lover, friend and mentor. In one missive, she says that in order to gain honour in Paris he must be successful, and above all rich. This shows that she has now renounced her former idealism, when her head was quite full of Music and Love.

Richard Bolster
University Of Bristol

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