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.
|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
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.
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
It is now
classified as a “Jardin de France.
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…
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.”
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…’
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
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.
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
But the most unusual use of the repetition is a
computer game, which features a villain named appropriately Rosa
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.
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.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)