On Queen's Song, "39"

They tell me---although I cannot now prove it, as I do not have access to the necessary research materials---that the song "39" by the great rock group, Queen, and which was on their album, A Night At The Opera, alludes to two statements made by the Polish composer, Frederic Chopin, to Solange Sand, the daughter of his former mistress, the French novelist George Sand.  Although she was the daughter of one of France's most wildly successful novelists, Solange had a difficult childhood and adolescence; Chopin, who lived with George Sand and her family at her ancestral estate, Nohant, was the only father-figure in Solange's life; and he knew it.  And he did not betray it.

Because song lyrics are copyright, and I would rather err on the side of prudence than violation, I will not quote the lyrics that were written by Brian May (who is also a degreed Astronomer).  I shall, instead, describe the circumstances of the statements, and paraphrase them (as I have no knowledge of the French language).

Sometime after Chopin and George Sand had ended their relationship, Solange, who was then a young adult, attended one of his concerts.  Backstage, she approached him and berated him for failing to respond to the many letters she had sent him since he had departed Nohant.  He asked her how she signed her letters:  she replied that she used her legal name, Solange Dudevant (she was, at that time, believed to be the daughter of George Sand's first, and only, legal husband, Casimir Dudevant; but scholars now believe she was the child of one of the workers that Casimir had employed to work the farm that he operated at Nohant).  Chopin told Solange that he normally detested fan mail, and had told his secretary to deliver to him any letter with the last name "Sand" on it (he had hoped to hear from George Sand, and never did).  The rest of the fan mail he received (and they say he received a considerable amount) was trashed, unread.

So he advised Solange to sign her letters with the last name "Sand," and not Dudevant, and the letters would be read and would receive replies.

They tell me that, later, very close to his death (if not actually on his deathbed), he told Solange that he could see her mother's eyes in her eyes.

Apparently, while living at Nohant, Solange had become romantically involved with the sculptor, Auguste Clesinger; and Chopin and her mother had both advised Solange against marriage.  She defied them, and married him.  He proved to be fond of domestic abuse, and thoroughly beat her up several times.  When she left him and return to Nohant, her mother (one of the most liberal-thinking novelists . . . on paper) refused to allow her to resume residency there, while Chopin insisted that she should be welcome in her own childhood home.  Some believe this is the dispute that led to the end of Chopin's relationship with George Sand.  Ironically, Clesinger created the massive sculpture that now marks Chopin's resting place.

As an aside, I will recommend to the reader to listen to the second movement of Chopin's second piano concerto:  the movement's main theme is, in my opinion, the most perfect secular music ever composed.


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