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 Searching for THE REAL ROSE…

Professor Arnie Greenberg

Rose d’Aiguy      

Most people now know the quotation, “A rose is a rose is a rose…” But others know it as “Rose is a rose…

Can you see the difference?

The first quote refers to a flower and the second refers to a person. The quote is by the American writer Gertrude Stein.

But which if any is the real rose (or Rose?

Repetition was one of Gertrude’s trademarks and this expression appears again and again. Later other writers, with some of the words changed, used it as a device. But for me, the day I stood at the grave of Rose Lucy Renee Anne D’Aiguy MacMasters in the tiny community of Beon France, I knew I found the real Rose.

Chateau Beon - click to enlarge
Chateau Beon

I had been a guest at Chateau Beon, where Rose once lived. There, as a guest of her son Jean, I was asked to visit her last resting-place. With a few others, we entered the tiny cemetery. In the south- east corner, we stood reading the tombstone of Jean’s mother. She died in Belly, France on Feb 13,1988.

In the ensuing years my wife and I have become friends with Jean and his wife Noriko. We have visited often. I even brought tour groups to Beon to walk around the spacious garden, meet Jean & Noriko and read some of The World is Round, written by Gertrude. I stayed in their chateau and recently spent 10 days in Lyon where they have lived since the Chateau was sold. We ate in wonderful restaurants since Lyons is a gourmand’s dream, renewed our friendship with Jean’s lawyer and his wife, Pierre and Claude Beaude and spent hours talking of the past and future in Jean’s sunlit apartment atop a tall building in central Lyon.

Fifteen years have changed us all. Jean is now a prolific budding artist which reminds us that Rose too was an artist (and a poet). He is still in the experimental stages but his paintings of tropical fish and Spanish dancers are exciting and alive. Over time I expect to see great success from my friend.

Jean D’Aiguy MacMasters - click to enlarge
Jean D’Aiguy MacMasters
his recent works - click to enlarge
his recent works

Jean’s family history is filled with names of statesmen, soldiers and people of distinction and writers. His great grandmother’s picture still adorns his wall. She wrote Liline and Her Dumb Friends, which Gertrude certainly read.

Rose’s mother May Tagnard (La Baronne d’Aiguy) translated  some of Gertrude’s books & befriended Gertrude who often wrote in the small gardener’s house at the edge of the property. The d’Aiguy Chateau Beon was an imposing gray stone building filled with memories, memorabilia and Gertrude’s books.. It was May who found the Clos Poncet in Culoz for Gertrude and Alice to live in during the war.

It is now classified as a “Jardin de France.                                              

Now the question arises, is the expression Rose is a rose…referring to a flower or a young girl. Actually it was used many times and the earliest date I found is in the 1913 poem, Sacred Emily which states “Rose is a rose is a rose”. Here, Rose is the name of a woman. Her meaning was that ‘things are what they are”…Rose is a rose…

Yet Gertrude once remarked, “I know that in daily life we don’t go around saying ‘is a…is a…is a…’ but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry.”

The reference used in her children’s book The World is Round is for the main character Rose d’Aiguy.  One source tells us that Rose was awed by Gertrude’s presence and often ran away into the mountain behind their chateau. According to the story, she went into the mountain and carved her name on a tree trunk. She carved ‘Rose’ and then continued around the trunk ‘…is a rose…is a rose…’ 

Proof…I can’t say, since Gertrude used a flower (Rose) inside the circular quotation on her stationary.   

I am told that Gertrude read much of the story to Rose as it was being written. According to her, the little girl enjoyed the story very much. Gertrude wrote:

I am Rose my eyes are blue

I am Rose and who are you

I am rose and when I sing

I am Rose like anything

Rose went on to marry Donald MacMasters and Jean (referred to on the internet as Count Jean d’Aiguy) was born in 1952. He may have his mother’s talent for art but he has yet to try his hand at poetry.

Jean spent many years away at school. He returned to Beon for Pose’s funeral and on the advice of Maitre Baude (his lawyer) he later returned with his wife, Noriko, to live there permanently. 

Most academics know that Rose is a rose… or… rose is a rose was a line always associated Gertrude. I like to believe that Rose d’Aiguy was really the first rose.

Gertrde Stein & Alice B Toklas (and Basket) near Rose’s chateau - click to enlarge
Gertrude Stein & Alice B Toklas (and Basket) near Rose’s chateau

Other authors have taken the liberty to change the expression to suit themselves.   In William Burrough’s Naked Lunch, he wrote, “the word for word is word” and “a rat is a rat is a rat is a rat”. Hemingway, after a falling out with Gertrude, wrote in For Whom the Bell Tolls, “ A rose is a rose is an onion’. Add Aldous Huxley who changed the line to “An apple is an apple is an apple.”

But the most unusual use of the repetition is a computer game, which features a villain named appropriately Rosa Zarrosas-Arroz.

All very interesting but for me the expression will always be attached to my friend Jean’s mother, Rose is a rose is a D’Aiguy.

Arnie Greenberg


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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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