The last great emotional crisis in George Sand’s life was that which centers around her relations with Frederic Chopin. Chopin was the greatest genius who ever loved her. It is rather odd that he loved her. She had known him for two years, and had not seriously thought of him, though there is a story that when she first met him she kissed him before he had even been presented to her. She waited two years, and in those two years she had three lovers. Then at last she once more met Chopin, when he was in a state of melancholy, because a Polish girl had proved unfaithful to him.
It was the psychological moment; for this other woman, who was a devourer of hearts, found him at a piano, improvising a lamentation. George Sand stood beside him, listening. When he finished and looked up at her, their eyes met. She bent down without a word and kissed him on the lips.
What was she like when he saw her then? Grenier has described her in these words:
She was short and stout, but her face attracted all my attention, the eyes especially. They were wonderful eyes—a little too close together, it may be, large, with full eyelids, and black, very black, but by no means lustrous; they reminded me of unpolished marble, or rather of velvet, and this gave a strange, dull, even cold expression to her countenance. Her fine eyebrows and these great placid eyes gave her an air of strength and dignity which was not borne out by the lower part of her face. Her nose was rather thick and not over shapely. Her mouth was also rather coarse, and her chin small. She spoke with great simplicity, and her manners were very quiet.
Such as she was, she attached herself to Chopin for eight years. At first they traveled together very quietly to Majorca; and there, just as Musset had fallen ill at Venice, Chopin became feverish and an invalid. “Chopin coughs most gracefully,” George Sand wrote of him, and again:
Chopin is the most inconstant of men. There is nothing permanent about him but his cough.
It is not surprising if her nerves sometimes gave way. Acting as sick nurse, writing herself with rheumatic fingers, robbed by every one about her, and viewed with suspicion by the peasants because she did not go to church, she may be perhaps excused for her sharp words when, in fact, her deeds were kind.
Afterward, with Chopin, she returned to Paris, and the two lived openly together for seven years longer. An immense literature has grown around the subject of their relations. To this literature George Sand herself contributed very largely. Chopin never wrote a word; but what he failed to do, his friends and pupils did unsparingly.
Probably the truth is somewhat as one might expect. During the first period of fascination, George Sand was to Chopin what she had been to Sandeau and to Musset; and with her strange and subtle ways, she had undermined his health. But afterward that sort of love died out, and was succeeded by something like friendship. At any rate, this woman showed, as she had shown to others, a vast maternal kindness. She writes to him finally as “your old woman,” and she does wonders in the way of nursing and care.