BORN: 1804, Paris, France
DIED: 1876, Nohant, France
GENRE: Fiction, nonfiction
The Devil's Pool (1846)
La Petite Fadette (1849)
She and He (1859)
Le Marquis de Villemer (1860)
George Sand was a celebrated yet controversial French writer whose personal life oftentimes overshadowed her creative production. Known for its blend of romance and realism, her writing was effortlessly spontaneous and prolific without sacrificing style and form. Sand stated that the primary happiness in life was to be in love, and so she focused on relationships in most of her novels as she tackled the complexities of politics, society, and gender.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Aristocratic Upbringing in Berry Sand was born Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin in Paris on July 1, 1804, to parents from very different backgrounds. Her father, Maurice Dupin, was an aristocratic soldier, while her mother, Sophie Delaborde, was the daughter of a bird trainer. After her father's death, the four-year-old Sand was entrusted to her paternal grandmother at the family estate of Nohant in Berry, a historical region in France that would later be the setting of several of her novels.
Reached Maturity in Paris When her grandmother died, Sand, then seventeen, was reclaimed by her mother and taken to Paris. At eighteen, Sand married Casimir Dudevant, a local army officer, and later gave birth to two children. Unmoved by her coarse, unromantic husband, Sand grew restless and left her husband and children in 1831 to pursue aspirations of a literary career in Paris. Because divorce in France was illegal at this time, she battled in court for a legal separation that included property rights and custody of one of her children. She eventually prevailed, and Michel de Bourges, who advised her during her legal proceedings, became her lover. Supportive of her strength of character, Bourges persuaded Sand to express herself politically. His influence colored the remainder of Sand's writing, which increasingly reflected her feminist and political concerns.
The failure of the 1830 revolution in France had coincided with the failure of Sand's marriage. The three-day 1830 revolution saw the removal of King Charles X, an ultraroyalist who had ruled since 1824. Charles wanted to restore the absolute powers of the monarchy and the supremacy of the Catholic Church. Leftist forces allied with the upper bourgeoisie to replace Charles with Louis Philippe of the house of Orléans as a “citizen-king,” who agreed to be ruled by the desires of the rising industrial plutocracy.
An Unconventional Woman Free from the social restrictions of marriage, Sand actively pursued life as a writer, moving in literary circles, selling articles, and being mentored by writers, such as Henri de Latouche and Charles Sainte-Beuve. Sand began an affair with Jules Sandeau, a young intellectual who embraced an exciting life that took advantage of Paris's cultural offerings. Encouraged by her daring partner, Sand began dressing as a man to gain access to venues that were usually closed to women.
Though the identity of the young cross-dresser was soon public knowledge, Sand enjoyed shocking the Parisian cultural scene and continued to elicit gossip with her dress and her habit of smoking in public (considered scandalous for a woman). While these actions endangered her reputation, they also gained her literary and social fame. Inspired by Sandeau's own literary output, she continued to write, collaborating with Sandeau and eventually publishing her first solo novel, Indiana (1832), under the male pseudonym George Sand.
Failure in Love Affects Writing Jealous of her success, Sandeau broke with Sand, who was thrust into a period of despair. Disillusioned with men and love, she wrote Leila (1833), a novel exploring women's inability to follow their true desires. Soon after, she began a relationship with a young poet, Alfred de Musset, and joined him in his travels throughout Italy.
Sand, a would-be anarchist, candidly admitted that she hated all political factions and said that had she been born a man, she would be dangerous. Shortly after the failed 1830 revolution she wrote Une Conspiration en 1537, in which she dramatized the anarchist she herself could not be: the Renaissance prince Lorenzo de Medici, who assassinated his cousin Duke Alexander de Medici of Florence in 1537. When Sand gave Musset Une Conspiration en 1537 as a gift in 1833, Musset rewrote the play into his masterpiece, Lorenzaccio (1834), preserving Sand's main characters and events.
Lovers Abroad Though her liaison with Musset ended when she fell in love with the doctor who was tending to Musset during an illness, Sand's time in Italy with Musset sparked her first autobiographical writing, a series of Italian travel vignettes published as Letters of a Traveler in 1847. With a talent for observation, Sand explored the nature of travel and the customs of Italy through a series of vivid portrayals of cultural life abroad.
For nine years, Frédéric Chopin was Sand's next famous lover. During Sand and Chopin's time together in relative seclusion in Majorca, Spain, both artists enjoyed a period of great creative productivity. Sand completed another novel before turning to a literary investigation of socialism, a growing movement in the nineteenth century that criticized the Industrial Revolution for creating inequality and poverty while advocating for the even distribution of wealth. Her dream for a more egalitarian society was reflected in Horace (1842). Sand, who believed that country people had a better understanding of democracy, idealized provincial life, an approach that would influence writers from Thomas Hardy to Leo Tolstoy. However, her provincial idealism also gained criticism for its patronizing tone and its rustic, historically inaccurate portrayals.
Autobiographical Novel Sand's next work demonstrated a more autobiographical feel. Though she denied it was drawn from her own life, her 1859 novel She and He depicts her tumultuous relationship with Musset. The work was immediately attacked for its depiction of Musset, who had died two years earlier, and Sand was criticized for using men to her advantage. She and He even provoked Musset's brother to write a novel in response, and Lui et Elle (He and She) appeared just six weeks after Sand” s book.
Though Sand was criticized for her “unfeminine” affairs and her carefree, dismissive attitude toward convention, she was still held in high regard, and her 1860 novel Le Marquis de Villemer appeared to great fanfare. Along with several of Sand's other works, it was later adapted for the stage. As a result, Sand began writing plays with rustic settings, creations that were extremely popular and reinvented Sand in the eyes of French society.
Retired to Nohant After her 1872 retirement from the world of Paris theater, Sand settled at the family estate in Nohant. There, she spent time caring for her granddaughters, for whom she wrote several stories and novels emphasizing self-confidence, acceptance, and change. She grew less concerned with politics, preferring to enjoy the company of family and friends, including authors Gustave Flaubert and Ivan Turgenev. After suffering from a stomach ailment that was most likely cancer, Sand died in her bedroom on June 9, 1876.
Works in Literary Context
Social Explorations Sand is best known for bold statements about the rights of women in nineteenth-century society, her exploration of contemporary social and philosophical issues, and her depiction of the lives and language of French provincials. Each period of her literary career focused on specific themes and had its own set of influences. Her rustic novels are perhaps the truest representation of her form as an author.
Rebellion Against Marriage The works of her first period reflect her rebellion against the bonds of marriage and deal largely with the relationships between men and women. Clearly influenced by English poet Lord Byron and French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sand wrote romantic novels full of passionate personal revolt and ardent feminism, attitudes that went against societal conventions and outraged her early British and American critics. These early novels, including Indiana, Lelia, and Jacques (1834), were extremely successful and established Sand as an important literary voice for her generation.
Philosophical Concerns The works of Sand's second period—such novels as Consuelo (1842–1843) and The Miller of Angibault (1845)—reveal Sand's increasing concern with contemporary social and philosophical problems. These novels were strongly influenced by French philosopher and politician Pierre Leroux and deal specifically with humanitarianism, Christian socialism, and republicanism. Considered by many to be her least credible works, their tone is often didactic and their plots obviously contrived.
Pastoral Novels Sand's pastoral novels, which depict rural scenes and peasant characters, form the last phase of her career. Set in Berry, where she grew up, The Haunted Marsh (1846) and Francis the Waif (1847–1848) were inspired by her love of the French countryside and her sympathy with the peasants. Realistic in background detail and distinguished by their gentle idealism, these pastoral works are considered by many critics to be Sand's finest novels. Although she continued writing until her death, few of the works written after her pastoral period are remembered today.
Influence Sand's work is recognized as an important step in the development of the French novel, influencing writers like George Eliot and Thomas Hardy with their provincial idealization and portrayal of rustic lifestyles. An admired colleague of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, Sand was also an inspiration to Gustave Flaubert, with whom she had a meaningful literary friendship. Opposites in most every regard, she and Flaubert shared ongoing intellectual arguments over their conflicting literary philosophies.
Works in Critical Context
Considering the moral climate during her lifetime and her open defiance of social standards, it is not surprising that Sand became better known for her personal life than for her literary accomplishments. From the onset of her career, Sand's flamboyant lifestyle colored serious critical evaluation of her work. Reception to Sand's literature was oftentimes hostile, with critics dismissing her “adolescent” work based on what they perceived to be her lack of morality.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Sand's famous contemporaries include:
Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880): Author of Madame Bovary (1856), the story of an adulterous woman in provincial Normandy, this French novelist carried on a lengthy correspondence with Sand.
Jenny Lind (1820–1887): Lind was a Swedish opera singer known as the “Swedish Nightingale.” Her first acclaimed role was Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz at the Swedish Royal Opera in 1838.
Matthew Brady (1822–1896): The celebrated American photographer is credited with the creation of photo-journalism. He took famous photographs of the American Civil War as well as well-known people of the era.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902): Stanton was the leader of the early American women's rights movement as well as a social activist. She wrote the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which was read at the first women's rights conventions in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York.
Georges Bizet (1838–1875): Bizet was a French composer and Romantic pianist. He wrote the opera Carmen, which premiered in 1875.
Criticism through the Years When several of her novels were adapted for the stage, Sand enjoyed great popular success, and many of her books were reissued to a receptive audience. In spite of this, much of Sand's work was dismissed as autobiographical and beneath literary notice. After her death in 1876, Sand's literary popularity declined. There is evidence that Sand's most ardent attackers could have been motivated by gender bias, professional or personal jealousy, or genuine aversion to her art and politics. Whatever their driving force, Sand's critics succeeded in diminishing her accomplishment, and she fell into obscurity. Sand's work was redis-covered in the 1950s and began to receive serious attention from feminist critics who have since redefined her place in the French literary canon.
Indiana Marked by Sand's critique of marriage and her incipient feminism, Indiana outraged some early British and American critics, but was extremely popular with the general reading public, prompting early reviewers to speculate about the author's sex by identifying both masculine and feminine qualities in the novel's language and characterizations. More recently, critics have argued the extent to which Indiana can be interpreted as a feminist novel, and many have studied Sand's manipulation of conventional gender categories through her transformations of Ralph and Raymon. The work has also been read as a critique of bourgeois domesticity and its circumscription of women within the household or private sphere. Modern scholarship has also noted that Sand crafted the central personalities in Indiana from stock characters of romance. Raymon, for example, is a Don Juan type.
Many critics have offered interpretations of the novel, including Carol V. Richards. In George Sand Papers: Conference Proceedings, 1978, Richards interprets the novel as “not the failure of love … but the triumph of an ideal love which wins for the heroine the happiness she missed in her loveless marriage.”
Responses to Literature
- Sand's scandalous personal life often influenced public reception of her novels. Can you think of other public figures who are known more for their lifestyles than their work? Write an essay that compares such figures to Sand.
- Sand's childhood in rural France doubtlessly influenced her pastoral novels. In what ways does Sand's work fit into the broader tradition of pastoral art? Create a presentation that demonstrates this link.
- Though Sand publicly denounced marriage and scorned tradition in her personal life, she was ambiguous as to whether women should have the right to vote. In a paper, address the following questions: Do you think this fact influences whether Sand should be considered a feminist writer? Why or why not? What reasons can you think of for Sand's ambivalence in regard to this monumental issue in women's rights?
- Sand's pen name was adopted from the last name of her lover. Research the origins of other famous pen names such as Lewis Carroll or Mark Twain. Create a pseudonym for yourself and explain why you chose that particular name in a paper.
- Sand's personal relationships with literary and cultural figures influenced her work and life. In an essay, address these questions. Can you find common characteristics that her lovers shared? Why do you think Sand seemed not to stay in love with one person for long? How is such behavior classified in the realm of psychology?
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Sand's novels idealized country life as simple, democratic, and egalitarian. Here are other works of literature and art that explore pastoral life:
Lyrical Ballads (1798), a poetry collection by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth and Coleridge were major figures in the Romantic movement. Romantic poetry often featured pastoral figures such as milkmaids and shepherds.
So Big (1924), a novel by Edna Ferber. Ferber's novel, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1925 and has been adapted for film multiple times, follows the life of a young woman of Dutch descent living in an Illinois farming community.
Sunrise (1927), a film by F. W. Murnau. This movie shows a man's reconciliation with his country wife after his affair with a city woman.
Crecelius, Kathryn J. Family Romances: George Sand'sEarly Novels. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Dickinson, Donna. George Sand: A Brave Man, the Most Womanly Woman. Oxford, U. K.: Berg, 1988.
Richards, Carol V. “Structural Motifs and the Limits of Feminism in Indiana.” In George Sand Papers: Conference Proceedings, 1978. Edited by Natalie Datlof et al. New York: AMS Press, 1982.
Schermerhorn, Elizabeth W. The Seven Strings of the Lyre: The Romantic Life of George Sand. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger, 2003.
Seyd, Felicia. Romantic Rebel: The Life and Times of George Sand. New York: Viking, 1940.
The George Sand Association. Retrieved March 16, 2008, from http://people.hofstra.edu/david_a_powell/gsa.
SAND, GEORGE (1804–1876), French novelist.
The greatest woman writer of nineteenth-century France, George Sand was born Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin of "mixed" parentage. Her father was the illegitimate grandson of Maurice de Saxe (himself the illegitimate son of Augustus II, king of Poland) and her mother of proletarian background. Sand makes much of this double heritage in her autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (1854–1855; Story of My Life), and ascribes her penchant for celebrating rustic and proletarian life, in novels such as Le compagnon du tour de France (1840; The Journeyman Joiner or The Companion of the Tour of France), Horace (1842), Jeanne (1844), La Mare au diable (1846; The Haunted Pool), François le champi (1848), and La petite Fadette (1849; Little Fadette), to her maternal roots.
She burst onto the Parisian literary scene in 1832 with a novel entitled Indiana, an instant best-seller, which she signed G. Sand. It was only a year later, with the publication of Lélia, a work of dark lyric power, that she used the full-fledged pseudonym by which she became (and continues to be) known. At the time, Lélia caused a scandal for its daring depiction of female sexuality. In the early twenty-first century, it is considered one of Sand's masterpieces, along with Consuelo (1842–1843) and La comtesse de Rudolstadt (1843–1844; The Countess of Rudolstadt). The latter two works together constitute a great feminine bildungsroman, a historical saga, and a vast novel with a utopian message.
While Lélia and the Consuelo cycle stand as Sand's two great fictional achievements, representing her Romantic period and her politically engaged decade, they must not overshadow the fact that Sand wrote more than ninety novels during a period spanning more than four decades. She wrote regularly every day throughout her life. At her death, she left an unfinished novel, Albine Fiori, published posthumously and reissued in 1997. She also produced a large body of autobiographical writings; a substantial number of plays; a large number of critical articles on literary, artistic, cultural, and political subjects; and a vast correspondence (twenty-six volumes) with virtually every writer, politician, and cultural personality of her day. Georges Lubin, who devoted half a century to the compilation of her letters, estimates that she had more than two thousand addressees. The letters that Sand exchanged with Gustave Flaubert from 1862 until her death constitute one of the great literary correspondences of the century.
But ultimately it is her novels that matter. After falling out of favor for more than a century, Sand's fictional oeuvre is being widely rediscovered and read. In addition to the titles already cited, many other works are worthy of mention: Spiridion (1839), Gabriel (1840), Isidora (1846), Le Péché de Monsieur Antoine (1847; The Sin of Monsieur Antoine), Le marquis de Villemer (1861), Antonia (1863), La Confession d'une jeune fille (1865; Confession of a young girl), Nanon (1872). Unfortunately, English speakers may find it difficult to find good translations—indeed, to find translations at all in many cases. There is, for example, no full-scale translation of Lélia into English as of 2006. Her style is difficult to translate as she frequently employs some of the longest sentences in the French language after Marcel Proust. Unlike him, however, Sand has yet to be graced with the translators she deserves.
In her century, Sand was routinely discussed as Honoré de Balzac's equal, her idealism contrasted to his realism, an opposition that she herself addresses in Histoire de ma vie and Le compagnon du tour de France. Yet Sand's reputation steadily declined after her death, especially compared to the other great French nineteenth-century novelists. In the age of naturalism, her novels were criticized by Émile Zola and his followers who detested Romanticism and favored the realists. In the early twentieth century, her works were largely disdained, if not reviled, by the likes of Charles Maurras and Léon Daudet who found in her the epitome of what they called "the stupid nineteenth century," Even while abroad, though writers such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry
James, and George Eliot paid her homage, Sand was increasingly marginalized in France. Only her rustic novels were deemed worthy of attention, and these were relegated to the margins of the canon, classified as regional or children's literature.
Her fascinating life, her eccentric lifestyle (male dress and cigars), her famous lovers and friends (Delacroix, Balzac, Flaubert, Franz Liszt, and Frédéric Chopin, among others) exerted more fascination on the public than her works. As a result, many more biographies exist than critical works. The French have obsessed over her affair with the poet Alfred de Musset, with particular emphasis on their escapade to Venice that was a fiasco. This tragic affair has prompted dozens of accounts over the years, following their own original versions, his in La Confession d'un enfant du siècle (1836; Confession of a Child of the Century), and hers in Elle et lui (1859; She and He).Americans prefer to dwell on her nine-year liaison with Chopin. Critics have tended to judge Sand harshly, citing the fact that after they parted, she refused to see him again, even as he lay dying. That the composer produced a large portion of his best work in her care is less often acknowledged.
In the post–World War II era, the efforts of scholars such as Georges Lubin, Léon Cellier, and biographers such as André Maurois revived interest in Sand's work. The centennial of her death in 1976 provided an occasion for both academics and feminists to turn their attention to her, especially in the United States. Despite her renewed fortune, it is striking how easily she still provokes negative reactions in the early twenty-first century. Some feminists fault her for not being feminist enough, particularly for disassociating herself from women's political groups in 1848. Some biographers condemn her as a bad mother, a bad lover, a bad friend. Some critics, echoing Charles Baudelaire's scornful and sexist remarks, still dismiss her as a second-rate writer. Two hundred years after her birth Sand's reputation remains unsettled. The traditional view has not been wholly dislodged. But this is not surprising since taking Sand's writing into full consideration entails seeing nineteenth-century French literature in a radically new light. That is only a question of time.
Sand, George. Correspondance. 25 vols. Edited by Georges Lubin. Paris, 1964–1991; Vol. 26 (Suppléments), Tusson, 1995.
——. Oeuvres complètes. 35 vols. Geneva, 1979–1980. Reprint of C. Lévy, 1863–1926.
——. Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand. Edited by Thelma Jurgrau. Albany, N.Y., 1991. Translation of Histoire de ma vie (1854–1855).
Steegmuller, Francis, ed. and trans. Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence. New York, 1993. Translation based on the edition by Alphonse Jacobs (1981).
Didier, Béatrice. George Sand, écrivain: "Un grand fleuve d'Amérique." Paris, 1998.
Harlan, Elizabeth, George Sand, New Haven, Conn., and London, 2004.
Hecquet, Michèle. Poétique de la parabole: les romans socialistes de George Sand, 1840–1845. Paris, 1992.
Mallet, Francine. George Sand. Paris, 1976.
Mozet, Nicole. George Sand: écrivain de romans. Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire, 1997.
Naginski, Isabelle Hoog. George Sand: Writing for Her Life. New Brunswick, N.J., and London, 1991.
Powell, David A. George Sand. Boston, 1990.
Schor, Naomi. George Sand and Idealism. New York, 1993.
Isabelle Hoog Naginski
The French novelist George Sand (1804-1876) was the most successful woman writer of her century. Her novels present a large fresco of romantic sentiment and 19th-century life, especially in its more pastoral aspects.
George Sand was born Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin in Paris on July 1, 1804. On her father's side she was related to a line of kings and to the Maréchal de Saxe; her mother was the daughter of a professional bird fancier. Aurore's father, Maurice Dupin, was a soldier of the Empire. He died when Aurore was still a child.
At the age of 14, tired of being the "apple of discord" between her mother and grandmother, Aurore went to the convent of the Dames Augustines Anglaises in Paris. Though she did her best to disrupt the convent's peaceful life, she felt drawn to quiet contemplation and direct communication with God.
To save Aurore from mysticism, her grandmother called her to her home in Nohant. Here Aurore studied nature, practiced medicine on the peasants, read from the philosophers of all ages, and developed a passion for the works of François René Chateaubriand. Her eccentric tutor encouraged her to wear men's clothing while horseback riding, and she galloped through the countryside in trousers and loose shirt, free, wild, and in love with nature.
Marriage and Lovers
When her grandmother died, Aurore became mistress of the estate at Nohant. At 19 she married Casimir Dudevant, the son of a baron and a servant girl. He was goodhearted but coarse and sensual, and he offended her lofty and mystical ideal of love. Aurore soon began to seek her idealized love object elsewhere. For a time she maintained a platonic relationship with Aurélien de Se‧ze, but eventually this affair languished. She had begun to realize that it was impossible to sustain love without physical passion.
At the age of 27 Aurore moved to Paris in search of independence and love, leaving husband and children behind. She began writing articles to earn her living and met a coterie of writers. Henri de Latouche and Charles Sainte-Beuve became her mentors.
Aurore fell in love with Jules Sandeau, a charming young writer. They collaborated on articles and signed them collectively "J. Sand." When she published her first novel, Indiana (1832), she took as her pen name "George Sand."
George Sand made a home for Sandeau and for her daughter, Solange, but eventually she wearied of his jealousy and idle disposition. He, in turn, realized that he could never overcome her essential frigidity. She felt as though she had failed in marriage as well as in adultery. Several novels of disillusioned love were the fruit of this period of her life. Then she met the young poet Alfred de Musset, and they became lovers.
George Sand legally separated from her husband; she gained custody over Solange, while her husband kept the other child, Maurice. She now came to enjoy great renown in Paris both as a writer and as a bold and brilliant woman. She had many admirers and chose new lovers from among them. Her lovers included the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin and the doctor who attended Musset in Venice. Perhaps it was her inability to be aroused to physical passion that drove her from one lover to another. She compensated for this deficiency by the spiritual intensity of her love.
George Sand was a democrat; she felt close to the people by birth, and she often praised the humble virtues of the urban and country poor in her novels. She was a Christian of sorts and advocated a socially conscious religion. Like Jean Jacques Rosseau, she believed that inherently good man was corrupted by civilization and faulty institutions.
Despite her own feminist leanings, George Sand never advocated political equality for women. It was in love that she demanded equality, in the free choice of the love object; the inequality of men and women before the law seemed to her a scandal.
As she grew older, George Sand spent more and more time at her beloved Nohant and gave herself up to the intoxications of pastoral life, the entertainment of friends, the staging of puppet shows, and most of all to her grandchildren. Though she had lost none of her vital energy and enthusiasm, she grew less concerned with politics. Her quest for the absolute in love had led her through years of stormy affairs to the attainment of a tolerant and universal love—of God, of nature, of children. She died in Nohant on June 9, 1876.
Every night from midnight until dawn, George Sand covered her daily quota of 20 pages with her large, tranquil writing, never crossing out a line. All her novels are love stories in which her romantic idealism unfolds in a realistic setting. The characters are people she knew, although their sentiments are idealized.
The early works by George Sand are novels of passion, written to alleviate the pain of her first love affairs. Indiana (1832) has as its central theme woman's search for the absolute in love. Valentine (1832) depicts an aristocratic woman, unhappily married, who finds that a farmer's son loves her. Lélia (1854) is a lyrical but searching confession of the author's own physical coldness. Lélia is a beautiful woman loved by a young poet, but she can show him only maternal affection.
During the 1840s George Sand wrote a number of novels in which she exposed her socialist doctrine joined with a humanitarian religion. Le Compagnon du tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842-1843), and Le Péchéde Monsieur Antoine (1847) are typical novels of this period. Her socialism was of an optimistic, idealistic nature. She sympathized in these novels with the plight of the worker and the farmer. She also wrote a number of novels devoted to country life, most produced during her retreat to Nohant at the time of the 1848 uprising. La Mare au diable (1846), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Maîtres sonneurs (1852) are typical novels of this genre. They celebrate the humble virtues of a simple life and offer idealized portraits of the peasants of Berry.
George Sand's last works show a tendency to moralize; in these novels the characters become incarnated theories rather than human beings.
George Sand's appeal to biographers has inspired a number of good works. Elizabeth W. Schermerhorn, The Seven Strings of the Lyre: The Romantic Life of George Sand, 1804-1876 (1927), is authoritative and carefully compiled. Felizia Seyd, Romantic Rebel: The Life and Times of George Sand (1940), is a straightforward account. André Maurois, Lélia: The Life of George Sand (1952; trans. 1953), is readable and emotionally compelling. Two books that emphasize George Sand's love life are Marie J. Howe, George Sand: The Search for Love (1927), and Frances Winwar, The Life of the Heart: George Sand and Her Times (1945). □
The French novelist George Sand was one of the most successful female writers of the nineteenth century.
George Sand was born Armandine Aurore Lucille Dupin in Paris, France, on July 1, 1804. Her father, Maurice Dupin, was related to a line of kings and to the Maréchal de Saxe (Marshal of Saxe); her mother, Sophie, was the daughter of a professional bird fancier who came from a humble background. Maurice Dupin was a soldier and died when Aurore was four years old. After her father's death, Aurore, her mother, and her grandmother moved from Paris to Nohant, France. At the age of fourteen, Aurore was sent to the convent (a community for nuns) of the Dames Augustines Anglaises in Paris. Though she was often rebellious against the convent's peaceful life, she also felt drawn to quiet, deep thought and direct communication with God.
To save Aurore from mysticism (the belief that communication with God can be achieved through spiritual insight), her grandmother called her to her home. Here Aurore studied nature, practiced medicine on the peasants (poor, working class), read from the philosophers of all ages, and developed a passion for the works of French writer François René Chateaubriand (1768–1848). Her colorful tutor encouraged her to wear men's clothing while horseback riding, and she galloped through the countryside in trousers and a loose shirt, free, wild, and in love with nature.
Marriage and lovers
Aurore became mistress of the estate at Nohant when her grandmother died. At nineteen she married Casimir Dudevant, the son of a baron and a servant girl. He was goodhearted but coarse and sensual, and he offended her far-fetched ideal of love. At the age of twenty-seven Aurore moved to Paris in search of independence and love, leaving her husband and children behind. She began writing articles to earn her living and met many writers. Henri de Latouche and historian Charles Sainte-Beuve (1804–1869) became her mentors.
Aurore fell in love with Jules Sandeau, a charming young writer. They collaborated on articles and signed them collectively "J. Sand." When she published her first novel, Indiana (1832), she took as her pen name "George Sand." Eventually her affair with Sandeau dissolved. Then she met the young poet Alfred de Musset (1810–1857), and they became lovers.
George Sand legally separated from her husband; she gained custody over their daughter, Solange, while her husband kept the other child, Maurice. She had come to enjoy a great reputation in Paris both as a writer and as a bold and brilliant woman. She had many admirers and chose new lovers from among them. Her lovers included the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849).
Every night from midnight until dawn, George Sand covered her daily quota of twenty pages with her large, tranquil writing, never crossing out a line. All her novels are love stories in which her romantic idealism unfolds in a realistic setting.
The early works by George Sand are novels of passion, written to lessen the pain of her first love affairs. Indiana (1832) has as its central theme woman's search for the absolute in love. Valentine (1832) depicts an upper-class woman, unhappily married, who finds that a farmer's son loves her. Lélia (1854) is a lyrical but searching confession of the author's own physical coldness. Lélia is a beautiful woman loved by a young poet, but she can show him only motherly affection.
Le Compagnon du tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842–1843), and Le Péché de Monsieur Antoine (1847) are typical novels of this period for the author. She sympathized in these novels with the difficult lives of the worker and the farmer. She also wrote a number of novels devoted to country life, most produced during her retreat to Nohant. La Mare au diable (1846), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Maîtres sonneurs (1852) are typical novels of this genre.
As George Sand grew older, she spent more and more time at her beloved Nohant and gave herself up to the gentle, peaceful life she created for herself there, the entertainment of friends, the staging of puppet shows, and most of all to her grandchildren. Though she had lost none of her vital energy and enthusiasm, she grew less concerned with politics. Her quest for the absolute in love had led her through years of stormy affairs to reaching a tolerant and universal love—of God, of nature, and of children. She died in Nohant on June 9, 1876.
For More Information
Dickenson, Donna. George Sand: A Brave Man, the Most Womanly Woman. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
Jack, Belinda. George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large. New York: Knopf, 2000.
Sand, George. Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand. Edited by Thelma Jurgrau. Albany: State University Press of New York, 1991.