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Title: Famous Women: George Sand
Author: Thomas, Bertha
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: _FAMOUS WOMEN_]





_Copyright, 1883_,



The authentic materials available for an account of the life of George
Sand, although lately increased by the publication of a large part of
her correspondence, are still incomplete. Her memoirs by her own hand,
dealing fully with her early life alone, remain unsupplemented by any
entire and detailed biography, for which, indeed, the time seems hardly
yet come. Hence one among many obvious difficulties in the way of this
attempt to prepare for English readers a brief sketch that shall at
least indicate all the more salient features of a life of singularly
varied aspect.

Much, though of interest in itself, must here be omitted, as beyond the
scope of the present study. There are points again into which, as
touching persons still living or quite recently deceased, it would be
premature to enter. But none seem of such importance as to forbid the
endeavor, by a careful review of those facts in the life of George Sand
which most justly represent her character as a whole, and were the
determining influences on her career and on her work, to arrive at truth
and completeness of general outline, the utmost it is possible to hope
to accomplish in this little volume.






























In naming George Sand we name something more exceptional than even a
great genius. Her rise to eminence in the literature of her century, is,
if not without a parallel, yet absolutely without a precedent, in the
annals of women of modern times.

The origin of much that is distinctive in the story of her life may be
traced in the curious story of her lineage.

George Sand was of mixed national descent, and in her veins ran the
blood of heroes and of kings. The noble and the artist, the
_bourgeoisie_ and the people, all had their representatives among their
immediate ancestors. Her grandmother, the guardian of her girlhood, was
the child of Maurice, Marshal Saxe, that favorite figure in history and
romance, himself son of the famous Augustus II., Elector of Saxony, and
King of Poland, and the Swedish Countess Aurora von Königsmark. The
Marshal's daughter Aurore, though like her father of illegitimate
birth--her mother, who was connected with the stage, passed by her
professional name of Mlle. Verrieres--obtained after the Marshal's death
the acknowledgment and protection of his relatives in high places,
notably of his niece, the Dauphin of France, grand-daughter of Augustus
of Poland, and mother of the three kings--Louis XVI., Louis XVIII., and
Charles X.

Carefully educated at St. Cyr, Mlle. de Saxe was married, when little
more than a child, to the Count de Horn, who was also of partly royal
but irregular origin. He very shortly afterward fell in a duel. His
widow, at thirty, became the wife of M. Dupin de Franceuil, an old
gentleman of good provincial family and some fortune. Maurice, their
only child, was the father of George Sand.

Madame Dupin (the suffix de Franceuil was afterwards dropped by her
husband) appears to have inherited none of the adventurous and erratic
tendencies of her progenitors. Aristocratic in her sympathies,
philosophic in her intellect, and strictly decorous in her conduct,
throughout the whole of her long and checkered life she was regarded
with respect. Left a widow again, ten years after her second marriage,
she concentrated her hopes and affections on her handsome and amiable
son Maurice. Though fondly attached to her, he was yet to be the cause
of her heaviest sorrows, by his more than hazardous marriage, and by his
premature and tragical fate.

His strongest natural leanings seem to have been towards art in general,
music and the drama in particular, and of his facile, buoyant, artist
temperament there is ample evidence; but the political conditions of
France under the Directory in 1798 left him no choice but to enter the
army, where he served under Dupont, winning his commission on the field
of Marengo in 1800. It was during this Italian campaign that the young
officer met with the woman who, four years later, became his wife, and
the mother of his illustrious child.

Mademoiselle Sophie Victorie Delaborde, was, emphatically speaking, a
daughter of the people. Her father had been a poor bird-seller at Paris,
where she herself had worked as a milliner. Left unprotected at a very
early age, thoroughly uneducated and undisciplined, gifted with
considerable beauty, and thrown on the world at a time when the very
foundations of society seemed to be collapsing, she had been exposed to
extreme dangers, and without any of the ordinary safeguards against
them. That she proved herself not undeserving of the serious attachment
with which she inspired Maurice Dupin, her least favorable judges were
afterwards forced to admit; though, at the time this infatuation of the
lieutenant of six-and-twenty for one four years his senior, and of the
humblest extraction, and whose life hitherto had not been blameless, was
naturally regarded as utterly disastrous by his elders.

The devoted pair were married secretly at Paris in 1804; and on the 5th
of July in the same year--the last of the French Republic and the first
of the Empire--their daughter entered the world, receiving the name of

The discovery of the _mésalliance_ she had been dreading for some time,
and which her son had not dared to confess to her, was a heavy blow to
old Madame Dupin. However, she schooled herself to forgive what was
irrevocable, and to acknowledge this most unwelcome daughter-in-law, the
infant Aurore helping unconsciously to effect the reconciliation. But
for more than three years M. Dupin's mother and his wife scarcely ever
met. Madame Dupin _mère_ was living in a retired part of the country, in
the very centre of France, on the little property of Nohant, which she
had bought with what the Revolution had left her out of her late
husband's fortune. Maurice, now Captain Dupin and _aide-de-camp_ to
Murat, resided, when not on service, in Paris, where he had settled with
his wife and child. The union, strange though it may seem, continued to
be a happy one. Besides a strong attachment there existed a real
conformity of disposition between the two. The mother of George Sand was
also, in her way, a remarkable woman. She has been described by her
daughter as "a great artist lost for want of development"; showing a
wonderful dexterity in whatever she put her hand to, no matter if
practiced in it or not. "She tried everything, and always
succeeded"--sewing, drawing, tuning the piano--"she would have made
shoes, locks, furniture, had it been necessary." But her tastes were
simple and domestic. Though married out of her rank, she was entirely
without any vain ambition to push herself into fashionable society, the
constraint of which, moreover, she could not bear. "She was a woman for
the fire-side, or for quick, merry walks and drives. But in the house or
out of doors, what she wanted was intimacy and confidence, complete
sincerity in her relations with those around her, absolute liberty in
her habits and the disposal of her time. She always led a retired life,
more anxious to keep aloof from tiresome acquaintance than to seek such
as might be advantageous. That was just the foundation of my father's
character; and in this respect never was there a better-assorted couple.
They could never be happy except in their own little _ménage_.
Everywhere out of it they had to stifle their melancholy yawns, and they
have transmitted to me that secret shyness which has always made the gay
world intolerable, and home a necessity to me."

In a modest _bourgeois_ habitation in the Rue Meslay, afterwards
transferred to the Rue Grange-Batelière, Aurore Dupin's infancy passed
tranquilly away, under the wing of her warmly affectionate mother who,
though utterly illiterate, showed intuitive tact and skill in fostering
the child's intelligence. "Mine," says her daughter, "made no
resistance; but was never beforehand with anything, and might have been
very much behindhand if left to itself."

Aurore was not four years old when adventures began for her in earnest.
In the spring of 1808, her father was at Madrid, in attendance upon
Murat; and Madame Maurice Dupin, becoming impatient of prolonged
separation from her husband, started off with her little girl to join
him. The hazards and hardships of the expedition, long mountain drives
and wild scenery, strange fare and strange sights, could not fail
vividly to impress the child, whose imagination from her cradle was
extraordinarily active. Her mother ere this had discovered that Aurore,
then little more than a baby, and pent up within four chairs to keep her
out of harm's way, would make herself perfectly happy, plucking at the
basket-work and babbling endless fairy tales to herself, confused and
diluted versions of the first fictions narrated to her. A picturesque
line in a nursery song was enough to bring before her a world of
charming wonders; the figures, birds, and flowers on a Sèvres china
candelabrum would call up enchanting landscapes; and the sound of a
flageolet played from some distant attic start a train of melodious
fancies and throw her into musical raptures. Her daily experiences,
after reaching Madrid with her mother, continued to be novel and
exciting in the extreme. The palace of the Prince de la Paix, where
Murat and his suite had their quarters, was to her the realization of
the wonder-land of Perrault and d'Aulnoy; Murat, the veritable Prince
Fanfarinet. She was presented to him in a fancy court-dress, devised for
the occasion by her mother, an exact imitation of her father's uniform
in miniature, with spurs, sword, and boots, all complete. The Prince
was amused by the jest, and took a fancy to the child, calling her his
little _aide-de-camp_. After a residence of several weeks in this abode,
whose splendor was alloyed by not a little discomfort and squalor, the
return-journey had to be accomplished in the height of summer, amid
every sort of risk; past reeking battle-fields, camps, sacked and
half-burnt villages and beleaguered cities. Captain Dupin succeeded,
however, in escorting his family safely back into France again, the
party halting to recruit awhile under his mother's roof.

Nohant, a spot that has become as famous through its associations as
Abbotsford, lies about three miles from the little town of La Châtre, in
the department of the Indre, part of the old province of Berry. The
manor is a plain gray house with steep mansard roofs, of the time of
Louis XVI. It stands just apart from the road, shaded by trees, beside a
pleasure ground of no vast extent, but with its large flower-garden and
little wood allowed to spread at nature's bidding, quite in the English
style. Behind the house cluster a score of cottages of the scattered
hamlet of Nohant; in the centre rises the smallest of churches, with a
tiny cemetery hedged around and adjoining the wall of the manor garden.

At this country home the tired travellers gladly alighted; but they had
barely a few weeks in which to recover from the fatigues of their
Spanish campaign, when a terrible calamity overwhelmed the household.
Maurice Dupin, riding home one night from La Châtre, was thrown from his
horse and killed on the spot.

The story of Aurore Dupin's individual life opens at once with the death
of her father--a loss she was still too young to comprehend, but for
which she was soon to suffer through the strange, the anomalous
position, in which it was to place her. Maurice Dupin's patrician mother
and her plebeian daughter-in-law, bereft thus violently of him who had
been the only possible link between them, found themselves hopelessly,
actively, and increasingly at variance. Their tempers clashed, their
natures were antipathetic, their views contradictory, their positions
irreconcilable. Aurore was not only thrust into an atmosphere of strife,
but condemned to the apple of discord. She was to grow up between two
hostile camps, each claiming her obedience and affection.

The beginning was smooth, and the sadness which alone kept the peace was
not allowed to weigh on the child. She ran wild in the garden, the
country air and country life strengthening a naturally strong
constitution; and her intelligence, though also allowed much freedom in
its development, was not neglected. A preceptor was on the spot in the
person of the fourth inmate of Nohant, an old pedagogue, Deschartres by
name, formerly her father's tutor, who had remained in Madame Dupin's
service as "intendant." The serio-comic figure of this personage, so
graphically drawn by George Sand herself in the memoirs of her early
life, will never be forgotten by any reader of those reminiscences.
Pedant, she says, was written in every line of his countenance and every
movement that he made. He was possessed of some varied learning, much
narrow prejudice, and a violent, crotchety temper, but had proved during
the troubles of the Revolution his sincere and disinterested devotion to
the family he served, and Aurore and "the great man," as she afterwards
nicknamed her old tutor, were always good friends.

Before she was four years old she could read quite well; but she remarks
that it was only after learning to write that what she read began to
take a definite meaning for her. The fairy-tales perused but half
intelligently before were re-read with a new delight. She learnt grammar
with Deschartres, and from her grandmother took her first lessons in
music, an art of which she became passionately fond; and it always
remained for her a favourite source of enjoyment, though she never
acquired much proficiency as a musical performer. The educational
doctrines of Rousseau had then brought into fashion a _régime_ of
open-air exercise and freedom for the young, such as we commonly
associate with English, rather than French, child-life; and Aurore's
early years--when domestic hostilities and nursery tyrannies, from
which, like most sensitive children, she suffered inordinately, were
suspended--were passed in the careless, healthy fashion approved in this
country. A girl of her own age, but of lower degree, was taken into the
house to share her studies and pastimes. Little Ursule was to become, in
later years, the faithful servant of her present companion, who had then
become lady of the manor, and who never lost sight of this humble
friend. Aurore had also a boy playmate in a _protégé_ of her
grandmother's, five years her senior, who patronised and persecuted her
by turns, in his true fraternal fashion. This boy, Hippolyte, the son of
a woman of low station, was in fact Aurore's half-brother, adopted from
his birth and brought up by Madame Dupin the elder, whose indulgence,
where her son was concerned, was infinite. With these, and the children
of the farm-tenants and rural proprietors around, Aurore did not want
for companions. But the moment soon arrived when the painful family
dispute of which she was the object, was to become the cause of more
distress to the child than to her elders. There were reasons which stood
in the way of Madame Maurice Dupin's fixing her residence permanently
under her mother-in-law's roof. But the mind of the latter was set on
obtaining the guardianship of her grand-daughter, the natural heir to
her property, and on thus assuring to her social and educational
privileges of a superior order. The child's heart declared unreservedly
for her mother, whose passionate fondness she returned with the added
tenderness of a deeper nature, and all attempts to estrange the two had
only drawn them closer together. But the pecuniary resources of Maurice
Dupin's widow were of the smallest, and the advantages offered to her
little girl by the proposed arrangement so material, that the older lady
gained her point in the end. Madame Maurice settled in Paris. Aurore
grew up her grandmother's ward, with Nohant for her home; a home she was
to keep, knowing no other, till the end of her life.

The separation was brought about very gradually to the child. The first
few winters were spent in Paris, where her grandmother had an
establishment. Then she could pass whole days with her mother, who, in
turn, spent summers at Nohant, and Aurore for years was buoyed up by the
hope that a permanent reunion would still be brought about. But meantime
domestic jealousy and strife, inflamed by the unprincipled meddling of
servants, raged more fiercely than ever, and could not but be a source
of more than ordinary childish misery to their innocent object. It was
but slowly that she became attached to her grandmother, whose
undemonstrative temper, formal habits and condescending airs were little
calculated to win over her young affections, or fire her with gratitude
for the anxiety displayed by this guardian to form her manners and
cultivate her intellect. Nay, the result was rather to implant in her a
premature dislike and distrust for conventional ideals. From the
standard of culture and propriety, from the temptations of social rank
and wealth held up for her preference, she instinctively turned to the
simple, unrestrained affection of the despised mother, and the greater
freedom and expansion enjoyed in such company. In vain did disdainful
lady's-maids try to taunt her into precocious worldly wisdom, asking if
she could really want to go and eat beans in a little garret. Such a
condition, naturally, she began to regard as the equivalent of a noble
and glorious existence!

Meantime, throughout all these alternations of content and distress,
Nohant and its surroundings were perforce becoming dear to her, as only
the home of our childhood can ever become. The scenery and
characteristics of that region are familiar to all readers of the works
of George Sand; a quiet region of narrow, winding, shady lanes, where
you may wander long between the tall hedges without meeting a living
creature but the wild birds that start from the honey-suckle and
hawthorn, and the frogs croaking among the sedges; a region of
soft-flowing rivers with curlew-haunted reed beds, and fields where
quails cluck in the furrows; the fertile plain studded with clumps of
ash and alder, and a rare farm-habitation standing amid orchards and
hemp-fields, or a rarer hamlet of a dozen cottages grouped together. The
country is flat, and, viewed from the rail or high road, unimpressive.
But those fruitful fields have a placid beauty, and it needs but to
penetrate the sequestered lanes and explore the thicket-bound courses of
the streams, to meet with plenty of those pleasant solitudes after a
poet's own heart, whose gift is to seize and perpetuate transient
effects, and to open the eyes of duller minds to charms that might pass
unnoticed. In this sense only can George Sand be said to have idealized
for us the landscapes she loved.

The thoughtful, poetic side of her temperament showed itself early,
leading her to seek long intervals of solitude, when she would bury
herself in books or dreams, to satisfy the cravings of her intellect and
imagination. On the other hand, her vigorous physical organization kept
alive her taste for active amusements and merry companionship. So the
child-squire romped on equal terms with the little rustics of Nohant,
sharing their village sports and the occupations of the seasons as they
came round: hay-making and gleaning in summer; in winter weaving
bird-nets to spread in the snowy fields for the wholesale capture of
larks; anon listening with mixed terror and delight to the picturesque
legends told by the hemp-beaters, as they sat at their work out of doors
on September moonlight evenings--to all the traditional ghost-stories of
the "Black Valley," as she fancifully christened the country round
about. Tales were these of fantastic animals and goblins, the
_grand'-bête_ and the _levrette blanche_, Georgeon, that imp of
mischief, night apparitions of witches and charmers of wolves, singing
Druidical stones and mysterious portents--a whole fairy mythology, then
firmly believed in by the superstitious peasantry.

As a signal contrast to this way of life came for a time the annual
visits to Paris--suspended after she was ten years old. There liberty
ended, and the girl was transported into a novel and most uncongenial
sphere. Her grandmother's friends and relatives were mostly old people,
who clung to antiquated modes and customs; and distinguished though such
circles might be, the youngest member only found out that they were
intolerably dull. The wrinkled countesses with their elaborate toilettes
and ceremonious manners, the _abbés_ with their fashionable
tittle-tattle and their innumerable snuff-boxes, the long dinners, the
accomplishment-lessons, notably those in dancing and deportment, were
repugnant to the soul of the little hoyden. She made amends to herself
by observing these new scenes and characters narrowly, with the acute
natural perception that was one of her leading gifts. From this
artificial atmosphere of constraint, it was inevitable that she should
welcome hours of escape into her mother's unpretending domestic circle;
and already at ten years old she had pronounced the lot of a
scullery-maid enviable, compared to that of an old _marquise_.

Nevertheless the fact of her having, at an age when impressions are
strongest, and most lasting, mixed freely and on equal terms with the
upper classes of society, was a point in her education not without its
favorable action on her afterwards as a novelist. Despite her firm
republican sympathies, emphatic disdain for mere rank and wealth, and
her small mercy for the foibles of the fashionable world, she can enter
into its spirit, paint its allurements without exaggeration, and
indicate its shortcomings with none of that asperity of the outsider
which always suggests some unconscious envy lurking behind the scorn.

The despised accomplishment-lessons, in themselves tending only to so
much agreeable dabbling, proved useful to her indirectly by creating new
interests, and as an intellectual stimulus. There seems to have been
little or no method about her early education. The study of her own
language was neglected, and the time spent less profitably, she
considered in acquiring a smattering of Latin with Deschartres. She took
to some studies with avidity, while others remained wholly distasteful
to her. For mere head-work she cared little. Arithmetic she detested;
versification, no less. Her imagination rebelled against the
restrictions of form. Nowhere, perhaps, except in the free-fantasia
style of the novel, could this great prose-poet have found the right
field in which to do justice to her powers. The dry _technique_ in music
was a stumbling-block of which she was impatient. History and literature
she enjoyed in whatever they offered that was romantic, heroic, or
poetically suggestive. In her Nohant surroundings there was nothing to
check, and much to stimulate, this dominant, imaginative faculty. Her
youthful attempts at original composition she quickly discarded in
disgust; but it seemed almost a law of her mind that whatever was
possessing it she must instinctively weave into a romance. Thus in
writing her history-epitome she must improve on the original, when too
dry, by exercising her fancy in the description of places and
personages. The actual political events of that period were of the most
exciting character; Napoleon's Russian campaign, abdication, retreat to
Elba, the Hundred Days, Waterloo, the Restoration, following each other
in swift succession. Old Madame Dupin was an anti-Bonapartist, but
Aurore had caught from her mother something of the popular infatuation
for the emperor, and her fancy would create him over again, as he might
have been had his energies been properly directed. Her day-dreams were
often so vivid as to effect her senses with all the force of realities.

Such a visionary life might have been most dangerous and mentally
enervating had her organization been less robust, and the tendency to
reverie not been matched by lively external perception and plentiful
physical activity. As it was, if at one moment she was in a cloud-land
of her own, or poring over the stories of the Iliad, the classic
mythologies, or Tasso's _Gerusalemme_, the next would see her scouring
the fields with Ursule and Hippolyte, playing practical jokes on the
tutor, and extemporizing wild out-of-door games and dances with her
village companions.

Of serious religious education she received none at all. Here, again,
the authorities were divided. Her mother was pious in a primitive way,
though holding aloof from priestly influences. The grandmother, a
disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and of Voltaire, had renounced the
Catholic creed, and was what was then called a Deist. But beyond
discouraging a belief in miraculous agencies she preserved a neutrality
with her ward on the subject, and Aurore was left free to drift as her
nature should decide. Instinctively she felt more drawn toward her
mother's unreasoning, emotional faith than toward a system of
philosophic, critical inquiry. But on both sides what was offered her to
worship was too indefinite to satisfy her strong religious instincts.
Once more she filled in the blank with her imagination, which was
forthwith called upon to picture a being who should represent all
perfections, human and divine; something that her heart could love, as
well as her intelligence approve.

This ideal figure, for whom she devised the name _Corambé_, was to
combine all the spiritual qualities of the Christian ideal with the
earthly grace and beauty of the mythological deities of Greece. For very
many years she cherished this fantasy, finding there the scope she
sought for her aspirations after superhuman excellence. It is hardly too
much to say that the Christianity which had been expressly left out in
her teaching she invented for herself. She erected a woodland altar in
the recesses of a thicket to this imaginary object of her adoration, and
it is a characteristic trait that the sacrifices she chose to offer
there were the release of birds and butterflies that had been taken
prisoners--as a symbolical oblation most welcome to a divinity whose
essential attributes were infinite mercy and love. It will be remembered
that a somewhat similar anecdote is related of the youthful Goethe.

Aurore, as the years went on, had grown sincerely fond of Madame Dupin;
but her mother still held the foremost place in her heart, and she had
never ceased to cherish the belief that if they two could live together
she would be perfectly happy. The discovery of this deeply irritated her
grandmother, who at length was provoked to intimate to the girl
something of the real motive for insisting on this separation--namely,
that her mother's antecedents were such as, in the eyes of Aurore's
well-wishers, rendered it desirable to establish the daughter's
existence apart from that of her parent. Sooner or later such a
revelation must have been made; but made as it was, thus precipitately,
in a moment of jealous anger, the chief result was of necessity to cause
a painful and dangerous shock to the sensitive young mind. It brought
about an unnatural discord in her moral nature, forbidden all at once to
respect what she had loved most, and must continue to love, in spite of
all. On the injurious effects of the over-agitation to which she was
subjected in her childhood she has laid much stress in her remarkable
work, "The Story of My Life." Much of this book, written when she was
between forty and fifty, reads like a romance; and had a certain amount
of retrospective imagination entered into the treatment of these
reminiscences it would not be surprising. The tendency to impart
poetical color and significance to whatever was capable of taking it was
her mastering impulse, and may sometimes have led her to lose the
distinction between fancy and reality, especially as by her own
confession her memory was never her strong point. But she had an
excellent memory for impressions, and no reader whose own recollections
of childhood have not grown faint, but will feel the profound truth of
the spirit of the narrative, which is of a kind that occasional
exaggerations in the letter cannot depreciate in value as a
psychological history. For an account of her early life it must always
remain the most important source.

Aurore was now thirteen, and though she had read a good deal of
miscellaneous literature her instruction had been mostly of a desultory
sort; she was behindhand in the accomplishments deemed desirable for
young ladies; and her country manners, on the score of etiquette, left
something to be desired. To school, therefore, it was decided that she
must go; and her grandmother selected that held by the nuns of the
"English convent" at Paris, as the most fashionable institution of the

This _Convent des Anglaises_ was a British community, first established
in the French capital in Cromwell's time. It has now been removed, and
its site, the Rue St. Victor, has undergone complete transformation. In
1817, however, it was in high repute among conventual educational
establishments. To this retreat Aurore was consigned and there spent
more than two years, an untroubled time she has spoken of as in many
respects the happiest of her life. There is certainly nothing more
delightful in her memoirs than the vivid picture there drawn of the
convent-school interior, drawn without flattery or malice, and with
sympathy and animation.

The nunnery was an extensive building of rambling construction--with
parts disused and dilapidated--quite a little settlement, counting some
150 inmates, nuns, pupils and teachers; with cells and dormitories, long
corridors, chapels, kitchens, distillery, spiral staircases and
mysterious nooks and corners; a large garden planted with chestnut
trees, a kitchen garden, and a little cemetery without gravestones,
over-grown with evergreens and flowers. The sisters were all English,
Irish, or Scotch, but the majority of the pupils and the secular
mistresses were French. Of the nuns the ex-scholar speaks with respect
and affection, but their religious exercises left them but the smaller
share of their time and attention to devote to the pupils. The girls
almost without exception were of high social rank, the _bourgeois_
element as yet having scarcely penetrated this exclusive seminary.
Aurore formed warm friendships with many of her school-fellows, and
seems to have been decidedly popular with the authorities as well, in
spite of the high spirits which amid congenial company found vent in
harmless mischief and a sort of organized playful insubordination. The
school had two parties: the _sages_ or good girls, and the _diables_,
their opposites. Among the latter Aurore conscientiously enrolled
herself and became a leader in their escapades, acquiring the sobriquet
of "Madcap." These outbreaks led to nothing more heinous than playing
off tricks on a tyrannical mistress, or making raids on the forbidden
ground of the kitchen garden. But the charm that held together the
confraternity of _diables_ was a grand, long-cherished design, to which
their best energy and ingenuity were devoted--a secret, heroic-sounding
enterprise, set forth as "the deliverance of the victim." A tradition
existed among them that a captive was kept languishing miserably in some
remote cell, and they had set themselves the task of discovering and
liberating this hapless wretch.

It is needless to say that prisoner and dungeon existed in their
girlishly romantic brains alone, but easy to see how such a legend might
possess itself of their imaginations, and to what bewitching exploits it
might invite firm believers. The supervision was not so very strict but
that a _diable_ of spirit might sometimes play truant from the
class-room unnoticed. The truants would then start on an exciting
journey of discovery through the tortuous passages, exploring the
darkest recesses of the more deserted portions of the convent; now
penetrating into the vaults, now adventuring on the roofs, regardless
of peril to life or limb. This sublimely ridiculous undertaking,
half-sport, half-earnest, so fascinated Aurore as to become the most
important occupation of her mind!

The teaching provided for the young ladies appears to have been of the
customary superficial order--of everything a little; a little music, a
little drawing, a little Italian. With English she had the opportunity
of becoming really conversant, as it was the language commonly spoken in
the convent, where also she could not fail to acquire some insight into
the English character. This she has treated more fairly than England for
long was to treat her. Few of her gifted literary countrymen have done
such justice to the sterling good qualities of our nation. Even when, in
delineating the Briton, she caricatures those peculiarities with which
he is accredited abroad, her blunders seem due to incomplete knowledge
rather than to any inability to comprehend the spirit of a people with
whom, indeed, she had many points of sympathy. She could penetrate that
coldness and constraint of manner so repelling to French natures, and
has said of us, with unconventional truth, that our character is in
reality more vehement than theirs; but with less mastery over our
emotions themselves, we have more mastery over the expression of our
emotions. Among her chosen school-comrades were several English girls,
but on leaving the convent their paths separated, and in her after life
she had but rare opportunities for renewing these early friendships.

Some eighteen months had elapsed in this fashion when Aurore began to
tire of _diablerie_. The victim remained undiscoverable. The store of
practical jokes was exhausted. Her restless spirit, pent up within those
convent walls, was thirsting for a new experience,--something to fill
her heart and life.

It came in the dawn of a religious enthusiasm--different from her
mystical dream of _Corambé_, which however poetical was out of harmony
with the spirit and ritual of a Catholic convent. But monastic life had
its poetical aspects also; and through these it was that its
significance first successfully appealed to her. An evening in the
chapel, a Titian picture representing Christ on the Mount of Olives, a
passage chanced upon in the "Lives of the Saints," brought impressions
that awoke in her a new fervor, and inaugurated a period of ardent
Catholicism. All vagueness was gone from her devotional aspirations,
which now acquired a direct personal import. The change brought a
revolution in her general behavior. She was understood to have been
"converted." "Madcap" was now nicknamed "Sainte Aurore" by her profane
school-fellows, and she formed the serious desire and intention of
becoming a nun.

The sisters, a practical-minded community, behaved with great good sense
and discretion. Without distressing the youthful proselyte by casting
doubts on her "vocation," they reminded her that the consideration was a
distant one, as for years to come her first duty would be to her
relatives, who would never sanction her present determination. Her
confessor, the Abbé Prémord, a Jesuit and man of the world, was likewise
kindly discouraging; and perceiving that her zeal was leading her to
morbid self-accusation and asceticism of mood, he shrewdly enjoined upon
her as a penance to take part in the sports and pastimes with the rest
as heretofore, much to her dismay. But she soon found her liking for
these return, and with it her health of mind. Unshaken still in her
private belief that she would take the veil in due time, she was content
to wait, and in the interval to be a useful and agreeable member of
society. No more insubordination, no more mischievous freaks, yet
"Sainte Aurore" remained the life and soul of all recreations recognized
by authority, which even included little theatrical performances now and

She had become more regular in her studies since her mind had taken a
serious turn, but her heart was less in them than ever. Considering
this, and the deficiencies in the system of instruction itself, it is
hardly surprising that when, in the spring of 1820, her grandmother
fearing that the monastic idea was taking hold of Aurore in good earnest
decided to remove her from the _Couvent des Anglaises_, she knew little
more than when first she had entered it.



Aurore Dupin was now fifteen, and so far, though somewhat peculiarly
situated, she and her life had presented no very extraordinary features,
nor promise of the same. Her energies had flowed into a variety of
channels, and manifestly clever and accustomed to take the lead though
she might be, no one, least of all herself, seems to have thought of
regarding her as a wonder. The Lady Superior of the _Couvent des
Anglaises_, who called her "Still Waters," had perhaps an inkling of
something more than met the eye, existent in this pupil. But a dozen
years were yet to elapse before the moment came when she was to start
life afresh for herself, on a footing of independence and literary
enterprise, and by her first published attempts raise her name at once
above the names of the mass of her fellow-creatures.

Old Madame Dupin, warned by failing health that her end was not far off,
would gladly have first assured a husband's protection for her ward,
whom she had now succeeded in really dissociating from her natural
guardian. The girl's bringing-up, and an almost complete separation for
the last five years, had made a gap--in habits of mind and feeling--such
as could hardly be quite bridged over, between her mother and herself.
But though beginning to be sadly aware of this and of the increasing
violence and asperities of poor Madame Maurice Dupin's temper, which
made peace under one roof with her a matter of difficulty, Aurore hung
back from the notion of marriage, and clearly was much too young to be
urged into taking so serious a step. So to Nohant she returned from the
convent in the spring of 1820. There she continued to strike that
judicious compromise between temporal and spiritual duties and pleasures
enjoined on her by her clerical adviser. Still bent on choosing a
monastic life, when free to choose for herself, she was reconciled in
the meantime to take things as they came, and to make herself happy and
add to the happiness of her grandmother in the ordinary way. So we find
her enjoying the visit of one of her school friends, getting up little
plays to amuse the elders, practicing the harp, receiving from her
brother Hippolyte--now a noisy hussar--during his brief visit home, her
first initiation into the arts of riding--for the future her favorite
exercise--and of pistol-shooting; and last, but not least, beginning to
suspect that she had learned nothing whatever while at school, and
setting to work to educate herself, as best she could, by miscellaneous

In the spring of the following year Madame Dupin's health and mental
faculties utterly broke down. But she lived on for another ten months.
Aurore for the time was placed in a most exceptional position for a
French girl of sixteen. She was thrown absolutely on herself and her own
resources, uncontrolled and unprotected, between a helpless, half
imbecile invalid, and the eccentric, dogmatic pedagogue, Deschartres.
Highly susceptible to influences from without, her mind, during their
sudden and complete suspension, seemed as it were invited to discover
and take its own bent.

Piqued by the charge of dense ignorance flung at her by her ex-tutor,
and aware that there was truth in it, she would now sit up all night
reading, finding her appetite for the secular knowledge she used to
despise grow by what it fed upon. The phase of religious exaltation she
had recently passed through still gave the tone to her mind, and it was
with the works of famous philosophers, metaphysicians, and Christian
mystics that she began her studies. Comparing the "Imitation of Christ"
with Châteaubriand's "Spirit of Christianity," and struck here and
elsewhere with the wide discrepancies and contradictions of opinion
manifest between great minds ranging themselves under one theological
banner, she was led on to speculations that alarmed her conscience, and
she appealed to her spiritual director, the Abbé Prémord, for advice,
fearing lest her faith might be endangered if she read more. He
encouraged her to persevere, telling her in no wise to deny herself
these intellectual enjoyments. But her rigid Catholicism was doomed from
that hour. Hers was that order of mind which can never give ostensible
adhesion to a creed whilst morally unconvinced; never accept that refuge
of the weak from the torment of doubt, in abdicating the functions of
reason and conscience, shifting the onus of responsibility on to others,
and agreeing to believe, as it were, by proxy. She had plunged
fearlessly and headlong into Aristotle, Bacon, Locke, Condillac, Mably,
Leibnitz, Bossuet, Pascal, Montaigne, Montesquieu; beginning to call
many things in question, and, through the darkness and confusion into
which she was sometimes thrown, trying honestly and sincerely to feel
her way to some more glorious faith and light.

In the convent she had been familiarized with Romanism under its most
attractive aspects. The moral refinement, the mystery, the seclusion,
and picturesque beauties of that abode had a poetic charm that had
carried her irresistibly away. But, confronted with the system in its
practical working, she was staggered by many of its features. In the
country churches around her she saw the peasantry encouraged in their
grossest superstitions, and the ritual, carelessly hurried through,
degenerate often into mere mockery. The practice of confession,
moreover--her ultimate condemnation of which, as an institution whose
results for good are scanty, its dangers excessive, will be endorsed by
most persons in this country--and the Church's denial of the right of
salvation to all outside its pale, revolted her; and she caught at the
teaching of those who claimed liberty of conscience. "Reading Leibnitz,"
she observes, "I became a Protestant without knowing it." That purer and
more liberal Christianity she dreamed of had, she discovered, been the
ideal of many great men. The step brought her face to face with fresh
and grave problems of which, she truly observes, the solutions were
beyond her years, and beyond that era. There came to her rare moments of
celestial calm and concord, but she owed them to other and indirect
sources of inspiration. The study of philosophy, indeed, was not much
more congenial to her at sixteen than arithmetic had been at six. In
what merely exercised memory and attention she took comparatively but
languid interest. Instruction, to bring her its full profit, must be
conveyed through the medium of moral emotion, but the mysterious power
of feeling to stimulate intellect was with her immense. She turned now
to the poets--Shakespeare, Byron, Dante, Milton, Virgil, Pope. A poet
herself, she discovered that these had more power than controversialists
to strengthen her religious convictions, as well as to enlarge her mind.
Above all, the writings of the poet-moralist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
helped her towards resolving the question that occupied her, of her true
vocation in life, now that her determination to take the veil was not a
little shaken.

The midnight student was by turns Amazon and sick-nurse as well. From
the fatigue of long watches over her books or by the invalid's bedside,
she found a better and more invigorating refreshment than sleep in
solitary morning rides across country. Her fearlessness on horseback was
madness in the eyes of the neighbors. Riding, then and there, was almost
unheard of for ladies, a girl in a riding-habit regarded as simply a
Cossack in petticoats, and Mademoiselle Dupin's delight in
horse-exercise sufficed to stamp her as eccentric and strong-minded in
the opinion of the country gentry and the towns-folk of La Châtre. They
had heard of her studies, too, and disapproved of them as unlady-like in
character. Philosophy was bad enough, but anatomy, which she had been
encouraged to take up by Deschartres, himself a proficient in medical
science, was worse--sacrilegious, for a person understood to be
professedly of a devotional turn of mind. She went game-shooting with
the old tutor; he had a mania for the sport, which she humored though
she did not share. But when quails were the object, she owns to have
enjoyed her part in the chase, which was to crouch in the furrows among
the green corn, imitating the cry of the birds to entice them within
gunshot of the sportsman. Lastly, finding in the feminine
costume-fashions of that period a dire impediment to out-door enterprise
of the sort, in a region of no roads, or bad roads, of rivers
perpetually in flood, turning the lanes into water-courses for
three-fourths of the year, of miry fields and marshy heaths, she
procured for herself a suit of boy's clothes, donning blouse and gaiters
now and then without compunction for these rough country walks and

Here, indeed, was more than enough to raise a hue-and-cry at La Châtre,
a small provincial town, probably neither better nor worse than the rest
of its class, a class never yet noted for charity or liberality of
judgment. The strangest stories began to be circulated concerning her,
stories for the most part so false and absurd as to inspire her with a
sweeping contempt for public opinion. By a very common phenomenon, she
was to incur throughout her life far more censure through freaks,
audacious as breaches of custom, but intrinsically harmless, nor likely
to set the fashion to others, than is often reserved for errors of a
graver nature. The conditions of ordinary middle-class society are
designed, like ready-made clothes, to fit the vast majority of human
beings, who live under them without serious inconvenience. For the
future George Sand to confine her activities within the very narrow
restrictions laid down by the social code of La Châtre was, it must be
owned, hardly to be expected. It was perhaps premature to throw down the
gauntlet at sixteen, but her inexperience and isolation were complete.
The grandmother in her dotage was no counsellor at all. Deschartres, an
oddity himself, cared for none of these things. Those best acquainted
with her at La Châtre, families the heads of which had known her father
well and whose younger members had fraternized with her from childhood
upwards, liked her none the less for her unusual proceedings, and
defended her stoutly against her detractors.

"You are losing your best friend," said her dying grandmother to her
when the end came, in December, 1821. Aurore was, indeed, placed in a
difficult and painful situation. She had inherited all the property of
the deceased, who, in her will, expressed her desire that her own
nearest relations by her marriage with M. Dupin, a family of the name of
de Villeneuve, well-off and highly connected, should succeed her as
guardians to her ward. But it was impossible to dispute the claims of
Madame Maurice Dupin to the care of her own daughter if she chose to
assert them, which she quickly did, bearing off the girl with her to
Paris--Nohant being left under the stewardship of Deschartres--and by
her unconciliatory behavior further alienating the other side of the
family from whom Aurore, through no fault of her own, was virtually
estranged at the moment when she stood most in need of a friend. Twenty
years later they came forward to claim kinship and friendship again: it
was then with George Sand, the illustrious writer, become one of the

Thus her lot was cast for her in her mother's home and plebeian circle
of acquaintance. So much the worse, it was supposed, for her prospects,
social and matrimonial. This did not distress her, but none the less was
the time that followed an unhappy one. The mother whom she had idolized,
and of whom she always remained excessively fond, appears to have been
something of a termagant in her later years. The heavy troubles of her
life had aggravated one of those irascible and uncontrollable tempers
that can only be soothed by superior violence. Aurore, saddened, gentle,
and submissive, only exasperated her. Her fitful affection and fitful
rages combined to make her daughter's life miserable, and to incline the
girl unconsciously to look over-favorably on any recognized mode of
escape that should present itself.

A long visit to the country-house of some friends near Melun, was hailed
as a real relief by both. Here there were young people, and plenty of
cheerful society. Aurore became like one of the family, and her mother
was persuaded to allow her to prolong her stay indefinitely. Among the
new acquaintance she formed whilst on this visit was one that decided
her future.

M. Casimir Dudevant was a young man on terms of intimacy with her hosts,
the Duplessis family. From the first he was struck by Mlle. Dupin, who
on his further acquaintance was not otherwise than pleased with him.
The sequel, before long, came in an offer of marriage on his part, which
she accepted with the approval of her friends.

He was seven-and-twenty, had served in the army, and studied for the
law; but had expectations which promised an independence. His father,
Colonel Dudevant, a landed proprietor in Gascony, whose marriage had
proved childless, had acknowledged Casimir, though illegitimate, and
made him his heir. It was reckoned not a brilliant _parti_ for the
_châtelaine_ of Nohant, but a perfectly eligible one. It was not a
_mariage de convenance_; the young people had chosen freely. Still less
was it a love match. Romantic sentiment--counted out of place in such
arrangements by the society they belonged to--seems not to have been
dreamed of on either side. But they had arranged it for themselves,
which to Aurore would naturally seem, as indeed it was, an improvement
on the usual mode of procedure, according to which the burden of choice
would have rested with her guardians. It was a _mariage de raison_
founded, as she and he believed, on mutual friendliness; in reality on a
total and fatal ignorance of each other's characters, and probably, on
Aurore's side, of her own as well. She was only just eighteen, and had a
wretched home.

The match was sanctioned by their parents, respectively. In September,
1822, Aurore Dupin became Madame Dudevant, and shortly afterwards she
and her husband established themselves at Nohant, there to settle down
to quiet country life.

If tranquillity did not bring all the happiness that was expected, it
was at least unbroken by such positive trials as those to come, and
whatever was lacking to Madame Dudevant's felicity she forgot for a
while in her joy over the birth of her son Maurice, in the summer of
1823--a son for whom more than ordinary treasures of maternal affection
were in store, and who, when his childhood was past, was to become and
remain until the time of her death a sure consolation and compensation
to her for the troubles of her life.

The first two years after her marriage were spent almost without
interruption in the still monotony of Nohant. "We live here as quietly
as possible," she writes to her mother in June, 1825, "seeing very few
people, and occupying ourselves with rural cares." That absolute
dependence on each other's society that might have had its charm for a
really well-assorted couple was, however, not calculated to prolong any
illusions that might exist as to the perfect harmony of their
dispositions. Already in the summer of 1824 the Dudevants had sought a
change from seclusion in a long visit to their friends the Duplessis,
after which they rented a villa in the environs of Paris for a short
while. The spring found them back at Nohant, and the summer of 1825 was
marked by a tour to the Pyrenees, undertaken in concert with some old
school-fellows of Aurore's, two sisters, who with their father were
starting for Cauterets. The pleasure of girlish friendships renewed gave
double charm to the trip, and her delight in the mountain scenery knew
no bounds.

"I am in such a state of enthusiasm about the Pyrenees," she writes to
her mother, "that I shall dream and talk of nothing but mountains and
torrents, caves and precipices, all the rest of my life." She joined
eagerly in every excursion on foot and horseback, but even moderate
feats of mountaineering, such as are now expected of the quietest
English lady-tourists by their husbands and brothers, were then deemed
startlingly eccentric, and got her into fresh trouble on this head.

Her letters and the fragments of her journal kept during this time, and
in which she tried to commit to paper her impressions, whilst fresh and
vivid, of the Pyrenees, show the same peculiar descriptive power that
distinguished her novels--that art of seizing grand general effects
together with picturesque detail, and depicting them in a simple and
straightforward manner, in which she was an adept. It must be added that
the diffuseness which characterizes her fiction, also pervades her
correspondence. Neither can be adequately represented by extracts. Her
composition is like a gossamer web, that must be shown in its entirety,
as to split it up is to destroy it.

The ensuing winter and spring were passed agreeably in visits with her
husband to his family at Nérac, Gascony, and to friends in the
neighborhood. In the summer of 1826 their wanderings ended. Once more
they settled down at Nohant, where Madame Dudevant, except for a few
brief absences on visits to friends, or to health resorts in the
vicinity, remained stationary for the next four years, during which her
after-destiny was unalterably shaping itself.

It is perfectly idle to speculate on what might have happened had her
lot in marriage turned out a fortunate one, or had she married for love,
or had the moral character of the partner of her life preserved any
solid claim on her respect, since the contrary was unhappily the case.
Their situation, no doubt, was anomalous. In the young girl of barely
eighteen, country-bred and intellectually immature, whom M. Dudevant had
chosen to marry, who could have discerned one of the greatest poetical
geniuses and most powerful minds of the century? Some commiseration
might _à priori_ be felt for the petty squire's son who had taken the
hand of the pretty country-heiress, promising himself, no doubt, a
comfortable jog-trot existence in the ordinary groove, to discover in
after years that he was mated with the most remarkable woman that had
made herself heard of in the literary world since Sappho! But he
remained fatally blind to the nature of the development that was taking
place under his eyes, preserving to the last the serenest contempt for
his wife's intelligence. Her large mind and enthusiastic temperament
sought in vain for moral sympathy from a narrow common spirit, and in
proportion as her faculties unfolded, increasing disparity between them
brought increasing estrangement. Such a strong artist-nature may require
for its expansion an amount of freedom not easily compatible with
domestic happiness. But of real domestic happiness she never had a fair
chance, and for a time the will to make the best of her lot as it was
cast appears not to have been wanting.

The Dudevants, after their return home in 1826, began to mix more freely
in such society as La Châtre and the environs afforded, and at certain
seasons there was no lack of provincial gayeties. Aurore Dudevant all
her life long was quite indifferent to what she has summarily dismissed
as "the silly vanities of finery"--"_Souffrir pour être belle_" was what
from her girlhood she declined to do. Regard for the brightness of her
eyes, her complexion, the whiteness of her hands, the shape of her foot,
never made her sacrifice her midnight study, her walks in the sunshine,
or her good country sabots for the rough lanes of Berry. "To live under
glass, in order not to get tanned, or chapped, or faded before the time,
is what I have always found impossible," she for her part has
acknowledged. And she cared very moderately for general society. She
writes to her mother in spring, 1826: "It is not the thing of all others
that reposes, or even that amuses me best; still there are obligations
in this life, which one must take as they come." She was not yet
two-and-twenty, and carnival-tide with its social "obligations" in the
form of balls and receptions was not unwelcome. They snatched her away
from her increasing depression. She writes of these diversions to her
mother in a lively strain, describing how one ball was kept up till nine
o'clock the next day, how every Sunday morning the _curé_ preaches
against dancing, but in the evening the dance goes on in despite of
him--how this cross _curé_ is not their own parish _curé_ of St.
Chartier,--a very old friend and a "character" who, when Madame Dudevant
was five-and-thirty, used to say of her, "Aurore is a child I have
always been fond of." "As for him, if only he were sixty years younger,"
she adds, "I would undertake to make him dance himself if I set about
it." Then follows an amusing sketch of a rustic bridal, the double
marriage of two members of the Nohant establishment:

     The wedding-feast came off in our coach-houses--there was dinner in
     one, dancing in the other. The splendor was such as you may
     imagine; three tallow candle-ends by way of illumination, lots of
     home-made wine for refreshment; the orchestra consisting of a
     bagpipe and a hurdy-gurdy, the noisiest and, therefore, the best
     appreciated in the country side. We invited some friends over from
     La Châtre, and made fools of ourselves in a hundred thousand ways;
     as, for instance, dressing up as peasants in the evening and
     disguising ourselves so well as not to recognize each other. Madame
     Duplessis was charming in a red petticoat; Ursule, in a blue blouse
     and a big hat was a most comical fellow; Casimir, got up as a
     beggar, had some halfpence given him in all good faith; Stephane,
     whom I think you know, as a spruce peasant, made believe to have
     been drinking, stumbled against our _sous-prèfet_ and accosted
     him--he is a nice fellow, and was just going to depart when all of
     a sudden he recognized us. Well, it was a most farcical evening,
     and would have amused you I will engage. Perhaps you, too, would
     have been tempted to put on the country-cap, and I will answer for
     it that there would not have been a pair of black eyes to compete
     with yours.

In other letters written in a vein of charming good humor, her facility
and spirit are shown in her treatment of trivial incidents, or sketches
of local characters, as this, for example, of an ancient female servant
in her employ:

     The strangest old woman in the world--active, industrious, clean
     and faithful, but an unimaginable grumbler. She grumbles by day,
     and I think by night, when asleep. She grumbles whilst making the
     butter, she grumbles when feeding the poultry, she grumbles even at
     her meals. She grumbles at other people, and when she is alone she
     grumbles at herself. I never meet her without asking her how her
     grumbling is getting on, and she grumbles away more than ever.

And elsewhere she has her fling at the little squabbles and absurdities
of provincial society, the "sets" and petty distinctions, giving a
humorous relation of the collapse of her well-meaning efforts, in
conjunction with friends at the _sous-prèfecture_, to do away with some
of these caste prejudices, of the horror and indignation created in the
oligarchy of La Châtre by the apparition of an inoffensive music-master
and his wife at the _sous-prèfet's_ reception, horror so great that on
the next occasion, the _salon_ of the official was unfurnished with
guests, except for the said music-master and the Dudevants themselves.
She wrote a poetical skit to commemorate the incident, which created
great amusement among her friends.

In the autumn, 1828, her daughter Solange was born. The care of her two
children, to whom she was devoted, occupied her seriously. Maurice's
education was beginning, a fresh inducement to her to study that she
might be better able to superintend his instruction. His least
indisposition put her into a fever of anxiety. Her own health during all
these years had repeatedly given cause for alarm. Symptoms of
chest-disease showed themselves, but afterwards disappeared, her
constitutional vigor triumphing in the end over complaints which seem to
a great extent to have been of a nervous order. Meantime her domestic
horizon was becoming overcast at many points.

Her brother, Hippolyte Chatiron, now married, came with his family to
settle in the neighborhood, and spent some time at Nohant. He had fallen
into the fatal habit of drinking, in which he was joined by M. Dudevant
to the degradation of his habits and, it would be charitable to suppose,
to the confusion of his intelligence. This grave ill came to make an
open break in the household calm, hitherto undisturbed on the surface.
Low company and its brutalizing influences were tending to bring about a
state of things to which the most patient of wives might find it hard to
submit. A rôle of complete self-effacement was not one it was in her
power long to sustain, and the utter moral solitude into which she was
thrown consolidated those forces inclining her to the extreme of
self-assertion. For together with trials without came the growing sense
of superiority, the _ennui_ and unrest springing from mental faculties
with insufficient outlet, and moreover, denied the very shadow of
appreciation at home, where she saw the claim to her deference and
allegiance co-exist with a repudiation she resented of all idea of the
reciprocity of such engagements.

She had voluntarily handed over the management of her property--the
revenue of which was hardly proportionate to the necessary expenses and
required careful economy--to her husband, an arrangement which left her,
even for pocket money, dependent on him. She now set herself to devise
some means of adding to her resources by private industry. The more
ambitious project of securing by her own exertions a separate
maintenance for herself and her children would at this time have seemed
chimerical, but it haunted her as a dream long before it took definite

It was not in literature that she first fancied she saw her way to
earning an independent income. She had begun to make amateur essays in
novel-writing, but was as dissatisfied with them as with the
compositions of her childhood, and with a religious novelette she had
produced whilst in the convent, and speedily committed to the flames.
Again, alluding to her attempts, in 1825, at descriptions of the
Pyrenees, she says: "I was not capable then of satisfying myself by what
I wrote, for I finished nothing, and did not even acquire a taste for

But she had dabbled in painting, and remained fond of it. "The finest of
the arts," she calls it, writing to her mother in 1830, "and the most
pleasant, as a life-occupation, whether taken up for a profession, or
for amusement merely. If I had real talent, I should consider such a lot
the finest in the world." But neither did the decoration of fans and
snuff-boxes nor the production of little water-color likenesses of her
children and friends, beyond which her art did not go, promise anything
brilliant in the way of remuneration.

In her circle of friends at La Châtre--old family friends who had known
her all her life--were those who had recognized and admired her superior
ability. Here, too, she met more than one young spirit with literary
aspirations, and one, at least, M. Jules Sandeau, who was afterwards to
achieve distinguished literary success. The desire to go and do
likewise came and took hold of her, together with the conviction of her
capability to make her mark. However discontented with her essays in
novel-writing hitherto, she began to be conscious she was on the right
track. The Revolution of July, 1830, had just been successfully
accomplished, and new hopes and ambitions for the world in general, and
their own country in particular, lent a stimulus to the intellectual
activity of the youth of France--a movement too strong not to make
itself felt, even in Berry.

The state of things at Nohant for the last two years had, as we have
seen, been tending rather to stifle than to keep alive any hesitation or
compunction Madame Dudevant might have felt at breaking openly from her
present condition. In a letter, dated October, 1830, to her son's
private tutor, M. Boucoiran, who had then been a year under their roof
in that capacity, she remarks, significantly:

     You often wonder at my mobility of temper, my flexible character.
     What would become of me without this power of self-distraction? You
     know all in my life, and you ought to understand that but for that
     happy turn of mind which makes me quickly forget a sorrow, I should
     be disagreeable and perpetually withdrawn into myself, useless to
     others, insensible to their affection.

The distance between herself and her husband had, indeed, been widening
until now the sole real link between them was their joint love for the
children. No pretence of mutual affection existed any longer. Madame
Dudevant's feeling seems to have been of indifference merely; M.
Dudevant's of dislike, mingled, probably, with a little fear. It appears
that he committed to paper his sentiments on the subject, and that this
document, ostensibly intended by him not to be opened till after his
death, was found and perused by his wife. It was the provocation thus
occasioned her, and the certainty thus acquired of her husband's
aversion to her society, that brought matters to a climax; so, at least,
she asserted in the heat of the moment. But nothing, we imagine, could
long have deferred her next step, strange and venturesome though it was.
Violent in acting on a determination when taken, after the manner, as
she observes, of those whose determinations are slow in forming, she
declared her intentions to her husband, and obtained his consent to her

According to this singular arrangement she was to be permitted to spend
every alternate three months in Paris, where she proposed to try her
fortune with her pen. She looked forward to having her little girl to be
there with her as soon as she was comfortably settled, supposing the
experiment to succeed. For half the year she would continue to reside,
as hitherto, at Nohant, so as not to be long separated from her son, who
was old enough to miss her, and to part from whom, on any terms, cost
her dear. But he was to be sent to school in two years, and for the
meantime she had secured for him the care and services of M. Boucoiran,
whom she thoroughly trusted.

Her husband was to allow her £120 a year out of her fortune, and on
condition that the allowance should not be exceeded, he left her at
liberty to get on as she chose, abstaining from further interference.

It seems obvious that this compromise, whilst postponing, could only
render more inevitable a future separation on less amicable terms,
though neither appear to have realized it at the time. Madame Dudevant
can have had no motive to blind her in the matter beyond her desire, in
detaching herself from her present position, not to disconnect her life
from that of her children. The freedom she demanded it was probably too
late to deny. Those about her, her husband and M. Chatiron, who, with
his family, was temporarily domesticated at Nohant, and who so far
supported her as to offer her the loan of rooms held by him in Paris,
for the first part of her stay, thought her resolution but a caprice.
And viewed by the light of her subsequent success it is hard now to
realize the boldness of an undertaking whose consequences, had it
failed, must have been humiliating and disastrous. She had no practical
knowledge of the world, had received no artistic training, and enjoyed
none of the advantages of intellectual society. But she had
extraordinary courage, spirit, and energy, springing no doubt from a
latent sense of extraordinary powers, almost matured, though as yet but
half-manifest. So much she knew of herself, and states modestly: "I had
discovered that I could write quickly, easily, and for long at a time
without fatigue; that my ideas, torpid in my brain, woke up and linked
themselves together deductively in the flow of the pen; that in my life
of seclusion, I had observed a good deal, and understood pretty well the
characters I had chanced to come across, and that, consequently, I knew
human nature well enough to describe it." A most moderate estimate, in
which, however, she had yet to convince people that she was not



In the first days of January 1831, the Rubicon was passed. The step,
though momentous in any case to Madame Dudevant, was one whose ultimate
consequences were by none less anticipated than by herself, when to town
she came, still undecided whether her future destiny were to decorate
screens and tea-caddies, or to write books, but resolved to give the
literary career a trial.

For actual subsistence she had her small fixed allowance from home; for
credentials she was furnished with an introduction or two to literary
men from her friends in the country who had some appreciation, more or
less vague, of her intellectual powers. Though courageous and
determined, she was far from self-confident; she asked herself if she
might not be mistaking a mere fancy for a faculty, and her first step
was to seek the opinion of some experienced authority as to her talent
and chances.

M. de Kératry, a popular novelist, to whom she was recommended, spoke
his mind to her without restraint. It was to the crushing effect that a
woman ought not to write at all. Her sex, Madame Dudevant was informed,
can have no proper place in literature whatsoever. M. Delatouche,
proprietor of the _Figaro_, poet and novelist besides, and cousin of her
old and intimate friends the Duvernets, of La Châtre, was a shade more
encouraging, even so far committing himself as to own that, if she would
not let herself be disgusted by the struggles of a beginner, there might
be a distant possibility for her of making some sixty pounds a year by
her pen. Such specimens of her fiction as she submitted to him he
condemned without appeal, but he encouraged her to persevere in trying
to improve upon them, and advised her well in advising her to avoid
imitation of any school or master, and fearlessly to follow her own

Meantime he took her on to the staff of his paper, then in its infancy
and comparative obscurity. Journalism however was the department of
literature least suited to her capabilities, and her
fellow-contributors, though so much less highly gifted than Madame
Dudevant, excelled her easily in the manufacture of leaders and
paragraphs to order. To produce an article of a given length, on a given
subject, within a given time, was for her the severest of ordeals; here
her exuberant facility itself was against her. She would exhaust the
space allotted to her, and find herself obliged to break off just at the
point when she felt herself "beginning to begin." But she justly valued
this apprenticeship as a professional experience, bringing her into
direct relations with the literary world she was entering as a perfect
stranger. Once able to devote herself entirely to composition and to
live for her work, she found her calling begin to assert itself
despotically. In a letter to a friend, M. Duteil, at La Châtre, dated
about six weeks after her arrival in Paris, she writes:--

     If I had foreseen half the difficulties that I find, I should not
     have undertaken this enterprise. Well, the more I encounter the
     more I am resolved to proceed. Still, I shall soon be returning
     home again, perhaps without having succeeded in launching my boat,
     but with hopes of doing better another time, and with plans of
     working harder than ever.

Three weeks later we find her writing to her son's tutor, M. Boucoiran,
in the same strain:--

     I am more than ever determined to follow the literary career. In
     spite of the disagreeables I often meet with, in spite of days of
     sloth and fatigue that come and interrupt my work, in spite of the
     more than humble life I lead here, I feel that henceforth my
     existence is filled. I have an object, a task, better say it at
     once, a passion. The profession of a writer is a violent one, and
     so to speak, indestructible. Once let it take possession of your
     wretched head, you cannot stop. I have not been successful; my work
     was thought too unreal by those whom I asked for advice.

But still she persisted, providing, as best she could, "copy" for the
_Figaro_, at seven francs a column, and trying the experiment of
literary collaboration, working at fictions and magazine articles, the
joint productions of herself and her friend and fellow-student, Jules
Sandeau, who wrote for the _Revue de Paris_. It was under his name that
these compositions appeared, Madam Dudevant, in these first
trial-attempts, being undesirous to bring hers before the public.

"I have no time to write home," she pleads, petitioning M. Boucoiran for
news from the country, "but I like getting letters from Nohant, it rests
my heart and my head."

And alluding to her approaching temporary return thither, in accordance
with the terms of her agreement with M. Dudevant, she writes to M.
Charles Duvernet:--

     I long to get back to Berry, for I love my children more than all
     besides, and, but for the hopes of becoming one day more useful to
     them with the scribe's pen than with the housekeeper's needle, I
     should not leave them for so long. But in spite of innumerable
     obstacles I mean to take the first steps in this thorny career.

In her case it was really the first step only that cost dear; whilst
against the annoyances with which, as a new comer, she had to contend,
there was ample compensation to set in the novel interests of the
intellectual, political, and artistic world stirring around her. Country
life and peasant life she had had the opportunity of studying from her
youth up; of middle-class society she had sufficient experience; she
counted relatives and friends among the _noblesse_, and had moved in
those charmed circles; but the republic of art and letters, to which by
nature and inclination she emphatically belonged, was a land of promise
first opened up to her now. She was eager and impatient to
deprovincialize herself.

In the art galleries of the Louvre, at the theatre and the opera, in the
daily interchange of ideas on all kinds of topics with her little circle
of intelligent acquaintance, her mind grew richer by a thousand new
impressions and enjoyments, and rapidly took fresh strength together
with fresh knowledge. The heavy practical obstacles that interfere with
such self-education on the part of one of her sex were seriously
aggravated in her case by her narrow income. How she surmounted them is
well known; assuming on occasion a disguise which, imposing on all but
the initiated, enabled her everywhere to pass for a collegian of
sixteen, and thus to go out on foot in all weathers, at all hours, alone
if necessary, unmolested and unobserved, in theatre or restaurant,
boulevard or reading-room. In defense of her adoption of this strange
measure, she pleads energetically the perishable nature of feminine
attire in her day,--a day before double-soles or ulsters formed part of
a lady's wardrobe,--its incompatibility with the incessant going to and
fro which her busy life required, the exclusion of her sex from the best
part of a Paris theatre, and so forth; the ineffable superiority of a
costume which, economy and comfort apart, secured her equal independence
with her men competitors in the race, and identical advantages as to the
rapid extension of her field of observation. The practice, though never
carried on by her to such an extent as very commonly asserted, was one
to which she did not hesitate to resort now and then in later years, as
a mere measure of convenience--a measure the world will only tolerate in
the Rosalinds and Violas of the stage. The career of George Sand was,
like her nature, entirely exceptional, and any attempt to judge it in
any other light lands us in hopeless moral contradictions. She had
extraordinary incentives to prompt her to extraordinary actions, which
may be condemned or excused, but which there could be no greater
mistake than to impute to ordinary vulgar motives. It must also be
remembered that fifty years ago, the female art student had no
recognized existence. She was shut out from that modicum of freedom and
of practical advantages it were arbitrary to deny, and which may now be
enjoyed by any earnest art aspirant in almost any great city. However
unjustifiable the proceeding resorted to for a time by George Sand and
Rosa Bonheur may be held to be, it cannot possibly be said they had no
motive for it but a fantastic one.

Writing to her mother from Nohant, whither she had returned in April for
a length of time as agreed, Madam Dudevant speaks out characteristically
in defense of her love of independence:--

     I am far from having that love of pleasure, that need of amusement
     with which you credit me. Society, sights, finery, are not what I
     want,--you only are under this mistake about me,--it is liberty. To
     be all alone in the street and able to say to myself, I shall dine
     at four or at seven, according to my good pleasure; I shall go to
     the Tuileries by way of the Luxembourg instead of going by the
     Champs Elysées; this is what amuses me far more than silly
     compliments and stiff drawing-room assemblies.

Such audacious self-emancipation, she was well aware, must estrange her
from her friends of her own sex in the upper circles of Parisian
society, and she anticipated this by making no attempt to renew such
connections. For the moment she thought only of taking the shortest,
and, as she judged, the only way for a "torpid country wife," like
herself, to acquire the freedom of action and the enlightenment she
needed. Those most nearly related to her offered no opposition. It was
otherwise with her mother-in-law, the _baronne_ Dudevant, with whom she
had a passage-of-arms at the outset on the subject of her literary
campaign, here disapproved _in toto_.

"Is it true," enquired this lady, "that it is your intention to _print

"Yes, madame."

"Well, I call that an odd notion!"

"Yes, madame."

"That is all very good and very fine, but I hope you are not going to
put the name that I bear on the _covers of printed books_?"

"Oh, certaintly not, madame, there is no danger."

The liberty to which other considerations were required to give way was
certainly complete enough. The beginning of July found her back at work
in the capital. On the Quai St. Michel--a portion of the Seine
embankment facing the towers of Notre Dame, the Sainte Chapelle, and
other picturesque monuments of ancient Paris--she had now definitely
installed herself in modest lodgings on the fifth story. Accepted and
treated as a comrade by a little knot of fellow _literati_ and
colleagues on the _Figaro_, two of whom--Jules Sandeau and Félix
Pyat--were from Berry, like herself; and with Delatouche, also a
Berrichon, for their head-master, she served thus singularly her brief
apprenticeship to literature and experience;--sharing with the rest both
their studies and their relaxations, dining with them at cheap
restaurants, frequenting clubs, studios, and theatres of every degree;
the youthful effervescence of her student-friends venting itself in such
collegians' pranks as parading deserted quarters of the town by
moonlight, in the small hours, chanting lugubrious strains to astonish
the shopkeepers. The only great celebrity whose acquaintance she had
made was Balzac, himself the prince of eccentrics. Although he did not
encourage Madame Dudevant's literary ambition, he showed himself kindly
disposed towards her and her young friends, and she gives some amusing
instances that came under her notice of his oddities. Thus, once after a
little Bohemian dinner at his lodgings in the Rue Cassini, he insisted
on putting on a new and magnificent dressing-gown, of which he was
exceedingly vain, to display to his guests, of whom Madame Dudevant was
one; and not satisfied therewith, must needs go forth, thus accoutred,
to light them on their walk home. All the way he continued to hold forth
to them about four Arab horses, which he had not got yet, but meant to
get soon, and of which, though he never got them at all, he firmly
believed himself to have been possessed for some time. "He would have
escorted us thus," says Madame Dudevant, "from one extremity of Paris to
another, if we had let him."

Twice again before the end of the year, faithful to her original
intentions, we find her returning to her place as mistress of the house
at Nohant, occupying herself with her children, and working at the novel
_Indiana_, which was to create her reputation the following year.

Meanwhile, a novelette, _La Prima Donna_, the outcome of the literary
collaboration with Jules Sandeau, had found its way into a magazine, the
_Revue de Paris_; and was followed by a longer work of fiction, of the
same double authorship, entitled _Rose et Blanche_, published under
Sandeau's _nom de plume_ of Jules Sand.

This literary partnership was not to last long, and to-day the novel
will be found omitted in the list of the respective works of its
authors. Its perusal will hardly repay the curious. The powerful genius
of Madame Dudevant, the elegant talent of the author of _Mlle. de la
Seiglière_, are mostly conspicuous by their absence in _Rose et
Blanche_, or _La Comédienne et la Réligieuse_, an imitative attempt, and
not a happy one, in the style of fiction then in vogue.

Madame Dudevant had stepped into the literary world at the moment of the
most ardent activity of the Romantic movement. The new school was on the
point of achieving its earliest signal triumphs. Victor Hugo's first
poems had just been followed by the dramas _Hernani_ and _Marion
Delorme_. Dumas' _Antony_ was drawing crowded and enthusiastic houses. A
few months before the publication of _Rose et Blanche_ appeared _Notre
Dame de Paris_. The passion for innovation which had seized on all the
younger school of writers was leading many astray. The strange freaks of
Hugo's genius had, to quote Madame Dudevant's own expression, excited a
"ferocious appetite" for whatever was most outrageous, and set taste,
precedent, and probability most flatly at defiance. From those
aberrations into which the great master's imitators had been betrayed
Madame Dudevant's fine art-instincts were calculated to preserve her;
but she had not yet learned to trust to them implicitly.

_Rose et Blanche_, though containing many clever passages--waifs and
strays of shrewd observation, description and character analysis,--is in
the main ill-conceived, ill-constructed, and unreal. The two authors
have sacrificed their individualities in a mistaken effort to follow the
fashion's lead, resulting in a most ineffective compound of tameness and
sensationalism. Amazing adventures are undergone by each heroine before
she is one-and-twenty. Angels of innocence, they are doomed to have
their existences crushed out by the heartless conduct of man, Blanche
expiring of dismay almost as soon as she is led from the altar, Rose
burying herself and her despair in a convent. The then favorite heroes
of romance were of the French Byronic type--young men of fortune who
have exhausted life before they are five-and-twenty, whose minds are
darkened by haunting memories of some terrific crime, but who are none
the less capable of all the virtues and great elevation of sentiment on
occasion. None of these requisitions are left unfulfilled by the
unamiable hero of _Rose et Blanche_, a work which did little to advance
the fortunes of its authors, and whose intrinsic merits offer little
warrant for dragging it out of the oblivion into which it has been
suffered to drop.

To escape the influences of the literary revolution everywhere then
triumphant was of course impossible. To make them serve her individual
genius instead of enslaving her individuality was all Madame Dudevant
needed to learn. Her friend Balzac had done this for himself, suiting
his genius to the period without any sacrifice of originality. Although
not yet at the height of his fame he had produced many most successful
works, and Madame Dudevant, according to her own account, derived great
profit from the study of his method, although with no inclination to
follow in his direction. Yet he afterwards observed to her, "Our two
roads lead to the same goal."

_Rose et Blanche_, though little noticed by the public, brought a
publisher to the door, one Ernest Dupuy, with an order for another novel
by the same authors. _Indiana_ was ready-written, and came in response
to the demand. But as Sandeau had had no hand whatever in this
composition, the signature had of course to be varied. The publisher
wishing to connect the new novel with its predecessor it was decided to
alter the prefix only. She fixed on George, as representative of Berry,
the land of husbandmen; and George Sand thus became pseudonym of the
author of _Indiana_, a pseudonym whose origin imaginative critics have
sought far afield and some have discovered in her alleged sympathy with
Kotzebue's murderer, Karl Sand, and political assassination in general!
Its assumption was to inaugurate a new era in her life.

In the last days of April, 1832, appeared _Indiana_, by George Sand. "I
took," says Madame Dudevant, in her account of the transaction, "the
1,200 francs paid me by the publisher, which to me were a little
fortune, hoping he would see his money back again." She had recently
returned from one of her periodical visits to Nohant, accompanied this
time by her little girl, whom the progress already achieved enabled her
now to take into her charge, and was living very quietly and studiously
in her humble establishment on the Quai St. Michel, when she awoke to
find herself famous.

Her success, for which indeed there had been nothing to prepare
her--neither flattery of friends, nor vain-glorious ambition within
herself--was immediate and conclusive. Whatever differences of opinion
might exist about the book, critics agreed in recognizing there the
revelation of a new writer of extraordinary power. "One of those masters
who have been gifted with the enchanter's wand and mirror," wrote
Sainte-Beuve, a few months later, when he did not hesitate to compare
the young author to Madame de Staël. The novel of sentimental analysis,
a style in which George Sand is unsurpassed, was then a fresh and
promising field. _Indiana_, without the aid of marvellous incidents,
startling crimes, or iniquitous mysteries, riveted the attention of its
readers as firmly as the most thrilling tales of adventure and horror.
It is a "soul's tragedy," and that is all--the love-tragedy vulgarized
since by repeated treatment by inferior novelists, of a romantic,
sensitive, passionate, high-natured girl, hopelessly ill-mated with a
somewhat tyrannical and stupid, yet not entirely ill-disposed old
colonel, and exposed to the seductions of a Lovelace--the truth about
whose unloveable character, in its profound and heartless egoism, first
bursts upon her at the moment when, maddened by brutal insult, she is
driven to claim the generous devotion he has proffered a thousand times.
Side by side with the ideal of selfishness, Raymon stands in contrast
with the ideally chivalrous Ralph, Indiana's despised cousin, who,
loving her disinterestedly and in silence, has watched over her as a
guardian-friend to the last, and does save her ultimately. The florid
descriptions, the high-flown strains of emotion, which now strike as
blemishes in the book, were counted beauties fifty years since; and even
to-day, when reaction has brought about an extreme distaste for
emotional writing, they cannot conceal the superior ability of the
novelist. The sentiment, however extravagantly worded, is genuine and
spontaneous, and has the true ring of passionate conviction. The
characters are vividly, if somewhat closely drawn and contrasted, the
scenes graphic; every page is colored by fervid imagination, and despite
some violations of probability in the latter portion, out of keeping
artistically with the natural character of the rest of the book, the
whole has the strength of that unity and completeness of conception
which is the distinguishing stamp of a genius of the first order. The
_entrain_ of the style is irresistible. It was written, she tells us,
_tout d'un jet_, under the force of a stimulus from within. Ceasing to
counterfeit the manner of anyone, or to consult the exigencies of the
book-market, she for the first time ventures to be herself responsible
for the inspiration and the mode of expression adopted.

The papers spoke of the new novel in high tones of praise, the public
read it with avidity. The authorship, for a time, continued to perplex
people. In spite of the masculine pseudonym, certain feminine qualities,
niceties of perception and tenderness, were plainly recognized in the
work, but the possibility that so vigorous and well-executed a
composition could come from a feminine hand was one then reckoned
scarcely admissible. Even among those already in the secret were
sceptics who questioned the author's power to sustain her success,
since nearly everybody, it is said, can produce one good novel.

"The success of _Indiana_ has thrown me into dismay," writes Madame
Dudevant, in July, 1832, to M. Charles Duvernet, at La Châtre. "Till
now, I thought my writing was without consequence, and would not merit
the slightest attention. Fate has decreed otherwise. The unmerited
admiration of which I have become the object must be justified." And
_Valentine_ was already in progress; and its publication, not many
months after _Indiana_, to be a conclusive answer to the challenge.

The season of 1832, in which George Sand made her _début_ in literature,
was marked, in Paris, by public events of the most tragic character. In
the spring, the cholera made its appearance, and struck panic into the
city. Six people died in the house where Madame Dudevant resided, but
neither she nor any of her friends were attacked. She was next to be a
witness of political disturbances equally terrible. The disappointment
felt by the Liberals at the results of the Revolution of 1830, and of
the establishment of Louis Philippe's Government, upon which such high
hopes had been founded, was already beginning to assert itself in secret
agitation, and in the sanguinary street insurrections, such as that of
June, 1832, sanguinarily repressed. Madame Dudevant at this time had no
formulated political creed, and political subjects were those least
attractive to her. But though born in the opposite camp she felt all her
natural sympathies incline to the Republican side. They were further
intensified by the scenes of which she was an eye-witness, and which
roused a similar feeling even among anti-revolutionists. Thus Heine, in
giving an account of the struggle mentioned above, and speaking of the
enthusiasts who sacrificed their lives in this desperate demonstration,
exclaims: "I am, by God! no Republican. I know that if the Republicans
conquer they will cut my throat, and all because I don't admire all they
admire; but yet the tears came into my eyes as I trod those places still
stained with their blood. I had rather I, and all my fellow-moderates,
had died than those Republicans."

Amid such disturbing influences it is not surprising that we find her
complaining in the letter last quoted that her work makes no progress;
but the lost time was made up for by redoubled industry during her
summer visit to Nohant.

In the autumn appeared _Valentine_. This second novel not only confirmed
the triumph won by the first, but was a surer proof of the writer's
calibre, as showing what she could do with simpler materials. Here,
encouraged by success, she had ventured to take her stand entirely on
her own ground--dispensing even with an incidental trip to the tropics,
which, in _Indiana_, strikes as a misplaced concession to the prevalent
craze for Oriental coloring--and to lay the scene in her own obscure
province of Berry, her first descriptions of which show her rare
comprehension of the poetry of landscape. Like _Indiana_, _Valentine_ is
a story of the affections; like _Indiana_, it is a domestic tragedy, of
which the girl-heroine is the victim of a pernicious system that makes
of marriage, in the first instance, a mere commercial speculation.
Indeed, the extreme painfulness of the story would render the whole too
repulsive but for the charm of the setting, which relieves it not a
little, and a good deal of humor in the treatment of the minor
characters, notably the eighteenth century _marquise_, and the Lhéry
family of peasant-_parvenus_. The personages are drawn with more finish
than those in _Indiana_; the tone is more natural in its pitch. It is
the work of one who finds in every-day observation, as well as in such
personal emotions as come but once in a lifetime, the inspiration that
smaller talents can derive from the latter alone.

In both her consummate art, or rather natural gift of the art of
narrative, is the mainstay of the fabric her imagination has reared.
That incomparable style of hers is like some magic fairy-ring, that
bears the wearer, safe and victorious, through manifold perils--perils
these of prolixity, exaggeration, and disdain of careful construction.
Both _Indiana_ and _Valentine_, moreover, contain scenes and passages
offensive to English taste, but it is impossible fairly to criticise the
fiction of a land where freer expression in speech and in print than
with us is habitually recognized and practiced, from our own standpoint
of literary decorum. It was not for this feature that French criticism
had already begun to charge her books with dangerous tendencies (thus
contributing largely to noise her fame abroad), as breathing rebellion
against the laws of present society; charges which, so far as _Indiana_
and _Valentine_ are concerned, had, as is now generally admitted, but
little foundation. Each is the story of an unhappy marriage, but there
is no attempt whatever to throw contempt on existing institutions, or to
propound any theory, unless it be the idea--no heresy or novelty in
England at least--that marriage, concluded without love on either side,
is fraught with special dangers to the wife, whose happiness is bound up
with her affections. It was the bold and uncompromising manner in which
this plain fact was brought forward, the energy of the protest against
a real social abuse, which moved some critics to sound a war-cry for
which, as yet, no just warrant had been given.

Besides these two novels, containing full proof of her genius, if not of
its highest employment, there appeared, late in 1832, that remarkable
novelette, _La Marquise_, revealing fresh qualities of subtle
penetration and clear analysis. The flexibility of her imagination, the
variety in her modes of its application, form an essential
characteristic of her work. Not by any single novel, nor, indeed by
half-a-dozen taken at random, can she be adequately represented.

When in the winter of 1832 Madame Sand returned with her little girl to
Paris after spending the autumn, as usual, at Nohant, it was to rather
more comfortable quarters, on the Quai Malplaquet. The rapid sale of her
books was placing her in comparatively easy circumstances, and giving
fresh spur to her activity. But her situation was transforming itself
fast; the freedom of obscurity was lost to her for ever from the day
when the unknown personage, George Sand, became the object of general
curiosity--of curiosity redoubled in Paris by the rumors current there
of her exceptional position, eccentric habits, and interesting

The celebrated portrait of her by Eugène Delacroix was painted in the
year 1833. It is a three-quarter view, and represents her wearing her
_quasi_ masculine _redingote_, with broad _revers_ and loosely knotted
silk neck-tie. Of somewhat later date is a highly interesting drawing by
Calamatta, well-known by engravings; but of George Sand in her first
youth no likeness unfortunately has been left to the world. She has been
most diversely described by her different contemporaries. But that at
this time she possessed real beauty is perfectly evident; for all that
she denies it herself, and that, unlike most women, and nearly all
French women, she scorned to enhance it by an elaborated toilette.
Heine, though he never professed himself one of her personal adorers,
compares the beauty of her head to that of the Venus of Milo, saying,
"It bears the stamp of ideality, and recalls the noblest remaining
examples of Greek art." Her figure was somewhat too short, but her hands
and feet were very small and beautifully shaped. His acquaintance with
her dates from the early years of her literary triumphs, and his
description is in harmony with Calamatta's presentation. She had dark
curling hair, a beauty in itself, falling in profusion to her shoulders,
well-formed features, pale olive-tinted complexion, the countenance
expressive, the eyes dark and very fine, not sparkling, but mild and
full of feeling. The face reminds us of the character of "Still Waters,"
attributed to the Aurore Dupin of fifteen by the Lady Superior of the
English convent. Her voice was soft and muffled, and the simplicity of
her manner has been remarked on by those who sought her acquaintance, as
a particular charm. Yet, like all reserved natures, she often failed to
attract strangers at a first meeting. In general conversation she
disappointed people, by not shining. Men and women, immeasurably her
inferiors, surpassed her in ready wit and brilliant repartee. Her
taciturnity in society has been somewhat ungenerously laid to a _parti
pris_. She was one, it is said, who took all and gave nothing. That she
was intentionally chary of her passing thoughts and impressions to those
around her, is, however, sufficiently disproved by her letters. Here she
shows herself lavish of her mind to her correspondents. Conversation and
composition necessitate a very different brain action, and her
marvellous facility in writing seems really to have been accompanied
with no corresponding readiness of speech and reply. Probably it was
only, as she herself states, when she had a pen in her hand that her
lethargic ideas would arise and flow in order as they should. And the
need of self-expression felt by all those who have not the gift of
communicating themselves fully and easily in speech or manner, a strong
need in her case, from her having so much to express, was the spur that
drove her to seek and find the mode of so doing in art.

Her silence in company certainly did not detract from her fascination
upon a closer acquaintance. Of those who fell under the spell, the more
fortunate came at once to terms of friendship with her, which remained
undisturbed through life. Thus, of one among this numerous brotherhood,
François Rollinat, with whom she would congratulate herself on having
realized the perfection of such an alliance of minds, she could write
when recording their friendship, then already a quarter of a century
old, that it was still young as compared with some that she counted, and
that dated from her childhood.

Others fell in love with her, and found her unresponsive. With some of
these, jealousies and misunderstandings arose, and led to estrangements,
for the most part but temporary. Yet the winner of her heart was
scarcely to be envied. She was apt--she has herself thus expressed
it--to see people through a prism of enthusiasm, and afterwards to
recover her lucidity of judgment. Great, no doubt, was her power of
self-illusion; it betrayed her into errors that have been unsparingly
judged. For her power of calm and complete disillusion she was perhaps
unique among women, and it is no wonder if mankind have found it hard to



It was less than two years since she had come up to the capital, to seek
her fortunes there in literature. Aurore Dudevant, hereafter to be
spoken of as George Sand (for she made her adopted name more her own
than that she had borne hitherto, and became George Sand for her private
friends as well as for the public,) found herself raised to eminence
among the eminent. And it was at an exceptionally brilliant epoch in
French imaginative literature that the distinction had been won. Such a
burst of talent as that which signalized the opening years of Louis
Philippe's reign is unexampled in French literary history. With Hugo,
Dumas, De Musset, Balzac, not to mention lesser stars, the author of
_Indiana_ and _Valentine_, although a woman, was acknowledged as worthy
to rank. The artist in her, a disturbing element in her inner life which
had driven her out of the spiritual bondage and destitution of a petty
provincial environment to secure for herself freedom and expansion, had
justified the audacity of the move by a triumphant artistic success.
From this time onward her artistic faculty dominated her life, often,
probably, unknown to herself an invincible force of instinct she obeyed,
whilst assigning, in all good faith, other motives for her course of
action, and for real or apparent inconsequences, that have been
constantly misrepresented and misunderstood.

So sudden and abrupt a change would have turned all heads but the
strongest. Publishers competed with one another to secure her next work.
Buloz, proprietor of the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, engaged her to write
regularly for his periodical, to which, for the next ten years, she
never ceased to be a regular and extensive contributor. Although the
scale of remuneration was not then very high she was clearly secure, so
long as she allowed nothing to interfere with her literary work, of
earning a sufficient income for her own needs. She had learnt the
importance of pecuniary independence, and never pretended to despise the
reward of her industry. To luxury she was indifferent, but the necessity
of strict economy was a burden she was impatient of; she liked to have
plenty to give away, and was always excessively liberal to the poor. Her
little dwelling on the Quai Malplaquet was no longer the hermitage of
an anonymous writer of no account. The great in art and letters,
leading critics, such as Sainte-Beuve and Gustave Planche, came eager to
seek her acquaintance, and delighting to honor the obscure student of a
year ago.

Writing to M. Boucoiran after her return to Paris in December, 1832, she
describes her altered position:--

     All day long I am beset with visitors, who are not all
     entertaining. It is a calamity of my profession, which I am partly
     obliged to bear. But in the evening I shut myself up with my pens
     and ink, Solange, my piano, and a fire. With all these I pass some
     right pleasant hours. No noise but the sounds of a harp, coming I
     know not whence, and of the playing of a fountain under my window.
     This is highly poetical--pray don't make game of me!

There was another side to her success. Fame brought trials and
annoyances that fell with double severity on her as a woman. Her door
was besieged by a troop of professional beggars, impostors, impertinent
idlers, and inquisitive newsmongers. Jealousy and ill-will, inevitably
attendant on sudden good fortune such as hers, busied themselves with
direct calumny and insidious misrepresentation. No statement so
unfounded, so wildly improbable about her, but it obtained circulation
and credit. Till the end of her life she remained the centre of a cloud
of myths, many, to the present day, accepted as gospel. People insisted
on identifying her with the heroines of her novels. Incidents, personal
descriptions, nay, whole letters extracted from these novels will be
found literally transcribed into alleged biographies of herself and her
friends, as her own statement of matters of fact. Now, though the spirit
of her life is strongly and faithfully represented by her fiction taken
as a whole, those who would read in any special novel the literal record
of any of the special events of her existence cannot be too much on
their guard. Whatever the material under treatment, George Sand must
retouch, embellish, transform, artist-fashion, as her genius shall
dictate, till often little resemblance is left between the original and
the production it has done no more than suggest. Romance and reality are
so fused together in these apparent outpourings of spirit that her
nearest friends were at a loss how to separate them. As an actress into
many a favorite part, so could she throw herself into her favorite
characters; but seldom if ever will much warrant be found in actual fact
for identifying these creations with their creatress.

How, indeed, could so many-sided a nature as hers be truly represented
in a single novel? Her rare physical and mental energies enabled her to
combine a life of masculine intellectual activity with the more highly
emotional life of a woman, and with vigilance in her maternal cares.
Maurice was placed in the spring of 1833 at the College Henri IV., at
Paris; thus she had now both son and daughter near her, and watched
indefatigably over them, their childish illnesses and childish
amusements, their moral and intellectual training absorbing a large
share of her time and attention. Heine, a friendly visitor at her house,

     I have often been present for hours whilst she gave her children a
     lesson in French, and it is a pity that the whole of the French
     Academy could not have been present too, as it is quite certain
     that they might have derived great profit from it.

Not all the distractions of fame and work, of passionate pleasure or
passionate sorrow, ever relaxed her active solicitude for the present
and future welfare of her two young children. "They give me the only
real joys of my life," she repeats again and again.

_Lélia_, begun immediately after _Valentine_ was published in the spring
of 1833, and created an immense sensation. Hailed by her admirers as a
sign of an accession of power, of power exerted in quite a new
direction, it brought down on the writer's head a storm of hostile
criticism, as a declared enemy of religion and domestic
morality--enhancing her celebrity not a little.

_Lélia_, a lyrical novel--an outburst of poetical philosophy in prose,
stands alone among the numerous productions of George Sand. Here she
takes every sort of poetical license, in a work without the restrictions
of poetic form, which are the true conditions of so much latitude.
"Manfred" and "Alastor" are fables not further removed from real life
than is _Lélia_. The personages are like allegorical figures, emblematic
of spiritual qualities on a grand scale, the scenes like the
paradisiacal gardens that visited the fancy of Aurore Dupin when a
child. There is no action. The interest is not in the characters and
what they do, but in what they say. The declamatory style, then so
popular, is one the taste for which has so completely waned that _Lélia_
will find comparatively few readers in the present day, fewer who will
not find its perusal wearisome, none perhaps whose morality, however
weak, will be seriously shaken by utterances ever and anon hovering on
the perilous confines of the sublime and the ludicrous.

_Lélia_, a female Faust or Manfred, a mysterious muse-like heroine, who
one night sleeps on the heathery mountain-side, the next displays the
splendor of a queen in palaces and fairy-like villas; her sorely tried
and hapless lover, Sténio, the poet, who pours forth odes to his own
accompaniment on the harp, and lingers the night long among Alpine
precipices brooding over the abyss; Trenmor, the returned gentleman
convict and Apostle of the Carbonari, whose soul has been refreshed,
made young and regenerated at the galleys; and the mad Irish priest,
Magnus, are impossible personages, inviting to easy ridicule, and
neither wisdom nor folly from their lips is likely to beguile the ears
of the present generation.

It is no novel, but a poetical essay, fantastically conceived and
executed with the _sans gêne_ of an improvisatore. For those who admire
the genius of George Sand its interest as a psychological revelation
remains unabated. Into _Lélia_, she owns, she put more of her real self
than into any other of her books--of herself, that is, and her state of
mind at the dawn of a period of moral disturbance and revolt. All must
continue to recognize there an extraordinary exhibition of poetical
power and musical style. As a work of art George Sand has herself
pronounced it absurd, yet she always cherished for it a special
predilection, and, as will be seen, took the trouble to rewrite it some
years later, when in a happier and healthier frame of mind than that
which inspired this unique and most characteristic composition.

The note of despair struck in _Lélia_, the depth of bitter feeling, the
capacity for mental and moral speculation and suffering it seemed to
disclose, astounded many of her familiar acquaintance. "_Lélia_ is a
fancy-type," so writes to the author her friend and neighbor in Berry,
Jules Néraud, an ardent naturalist, whose botanical and entomological
pursuits she had often shared: "it is not like you--you who are merry,
dance the _bourrée_, appreciate lepidoptera, do not despise puns, who
are not a bad needlewoman, and make very good preserves. Is it possible
you should have thought so much, felt so much, without anyone having any
idea of it?"

_Lélia_ was certainly the expression of a new phase in her mind's
history, a moral crisis she could not escape, which was all the more
severe for her having, as she remarks, reached her thirtieth year
without having opened her eyes to the realities of life. Till the time
of her coming to Paris, for very dearth of outward impressions, she had
lived chiefly in dreams, the life of all others most favorable to the
prolongation of ignorance and credulity. The liberty and activity she
had enjoyed for the last two years were fatal to Utopian theories.

It was not only the bitterness that springs from disenchantment in
individuals, the sense of the miserable insufficiency of human love to
satisfy her spiritual aspirations producing "that widely concluding
unbelief which," as her sister in greatness has said, "we call knowledge
of the world, but which is really disappointment in you and in me."
George Sand was one to whom scepticism was intolerable. Pessimistic
doctrines were fatal to her mind's equilibrium, and private experience
and outward intellectual influences were driving her to distrust all
objects of her previous worship, human and divine. The moment was one
when the most fundamental social and religious principles were being
called in question.

"Nothing in my old beliefs," she writes, "was sufficiently formulated in
me, from a social point of view, to help me to struggle against this
cataclysm; and in the religious and socialistic theories of the moment I
did not find light enough to contend with the darkness." The poet's
creed, with which her mind had hitherto rested satisfied, was shaken,
and appeared to prove a false one. She was staggered by the infinity of
evil, misery, and injustice, which dwellers in great cities are not
allowed to forget, the problem of humanity, the eternal mystery of
suffering and wrong predominant in a world on the beneficence of whose
Supreme Power all her faiths were founded.

Her mental revolt and suffering found vent in _Lélia_, which it was an
immense relief to her to write. Characteristic as an exhibition of
feeling and of mastery of language, it is not in the least typical of
her fiction. Yet, but for _Lélia_, and its successor _Jacques_, it is
impossible to point to a work of hers that would ever have lastingly
stamped her, in the public mind, as an expounder of dangerous theories.
In _Lélia_, however, which is strongly imbued with Byronic coloring, she
had chosen to pose somewhat as the proud angel in rebellion; and the
immediate effect of hostile criticism was to confirm her in the position
taken up. Neither _Lélia_ nor _Jacques_ combined the elements of lasting
popularity with those of instant success; but they roused a stir and
strife which created an impression of her as a writer systematically
inimical to religion and marriage--an impression almost ludicrously at
variance with facts, taking her fiction as a whole, but which has only
recently begun to give way, in this country, to a juster estimate of its

The morality of _Lélia_, which it is rather difficult to discuss
seriously in the present day, both the personages and their environment
being too preternatural for any direct application to be drawn from
them, as reflecting modern society, found indiscreet champions as
determined as its aggressors. Violently denounced by M. Capo de
Feuillide, of the _Europe littéraire_, it was warmly defended by M.
Gustave Planche, in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. The war of words grew
so hot between them that a challenge and encounter were the
result--surely unique in the annals of duelling. The swords of the
critics fortunately proved more harmless than their words.

From the morbid depression that had tormented her mind and imagination,
and has its literary memorial in _Lélia_, she was to find a timely,
though but a temporary rescue, in the charm of a new acquaintance--the
delighting society of a poetic mind of an order not inferior to her own.

It was in August, 1833, at a dinner given by Buloz to the staff of the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, that George Sand first made the personal
acquaintance of Alfred de Musset, then in his twenty-third year, and
already famous through his just published poem, _Rolla_, and his earlier
dramas, _Andrea del Sarto_ and _Les Caprices de Marianne_. He rapidly
became enamored of the author of _Lélia_, who for her part felt
powerfully the attraction of his many admirable qualities, mutual
enchantment leading them so far as to believe they could be the hero and
heroine of a happy love tale. In a letter of September 21, addressed to
her friend and correspondent Sainte-Beuve, whom she had made the
confidant of her previous depression and strange moods of gloom, she
writes of herself as lifted out of such dangers by a happiness beyond
any she had imagined, restoring youth to her heart--the happiness
accorded her by the poet's society and his preference for her own. De
Musset, at this time, would have given the world to have been able to
make her his wife.

The story of their short-lived infatuation and of the swift-following
mutual disenchantment,--a story which, says Sainte-Beuve, has become
part of the romance of the nineteenth century,--is perhaps of less
consequence here than in the life of De Musset,[A] in whom the
over-sensitiveness of genius was not allied with the extraordinary
healthy vitality which enabled George Sand to come out of the most
terrible mental experiences unembittered, with the balance of her mind
unshaken, and her powers unimpaired. Yet that he acquired an empire over
her no other ever acquired there is much to indicate. It took her from
France for a while, from her children, her friends--and the breaking of
the spell set her at war, not only with him, but for a while with
herself, with life, and her fellow creatures.

In the last days of 1833, she and the author of _Rolla_ started on a
journey to Italy, where George Sand spent six months, and where she has
laid the scene of a number of her novels: the first and best part of
_Consuelo_, _La Dernière Aldini_, _Leone_, _Leoni_, _La Daniella_, and
others. The spirit of that land she has caught and reproduced perhaps
more successfully than any other of the many novelists who have chosen
it for a frame--of Italy as the artist's native country, that is--not
the Italy of political history, nor of the Medici, but the Italy that is
the second home of painters, poets, and musicians. Can anything be more
enjoyable, and at the same time more vividly true, than George Sand's
delineations of Venice; and, in the first of the _Lettres d'un
Voyageur_, the pictures given of her wanderings on the shores of the
Brenta, of Bassano, the Brenta valley, Oliero, Possagno, Asolo, a
delicious land, till quite recently as little tourist-trodden as in
1834? What a contrast to the purely imaginary descriptions in _Lélia_,
written before those beauties had appeared to her except in dreams!

From Genoa the travellers journeyed to Pisa, Florence, and thence to
Venice, where first George Sand felt herself really at home in Italy.
The architecture, the simplicity of Venetian life and manners, the
theatres--from the opera-houses, where Pasta and Donzelli were singing,
down to the national drama of Pulchinello--the pictures, the sea, the
climate, combined to make of it a place of residence so perfectly to her
mind, that again and again in her letters she expresses her wish that
she could bring over her children and there fix her abode.

"It is the only town I can love for its own sake," she says of it.
"Other cities are like prisons, which you put up with for the sake of
your fellow-prisoners." This Italian journey marks a fresh stage in her
artistic development, quite apart from the attendant romantic
circumstances, the alleged disastrous consequences to a child of genius
less wise and fortunate than herself, which has given an otherwise
disproportionate notoriety to this brief episode.

George Sand was no doubt fatally in error when she persuaded herself,
and even succeeded in persuading the poet's anxious mother, that she had
it in her to be his guardian angel, and reform him miraculously in a
short space of time; and that because he had fallen in love with her she
would know how to make him alter a way of life he had no abiding desire
to abandon. Such a task demands a readiness not merely for
self-sacrifice, but for self-suppression; and her individuality was far
too pronounced to merge itself for long in ministering to another's. She
never seems to have possessed the slightest moral ascendancy over him,
beyond the power of wounding him very deeply by the change in her
sentiments, however much he might feel himself to blame for it.

The history of the separation of the lovers--of De Musset's illness,
jealousy, and departure from Venice alone--is a thrice-told tale. Like
the subject of "The Ring and the Book," it has been set forth, by
various persons, variously interested, with correspondingly various
coloring. The story, as told by George Sand in her later novel, _Elle et
Lui_, is substantially the same as one related by De Musset in his
_Confession d'un Enfant du Siècle_, published two years after these
events, and in which, if it is to be regarded as reflecting personal
idiosyncrasies in the slightest degree, the poet certainly makes himself
out as the most insupportable of human companions. None the less did the
publication of _Elle et Lui_, a quarter of a century later, provoke a
savage retort from the deceased poet's brother, in _Lui et Elle_.
Finally, in _Lui_, a third novelist, Madame Colet, presented the world
with a separate version of the affair from one who imagined she could
have made up to the poet for what he had lost.

But it needs no deep study of human nature, or yet of these novels, to
understand the impracticability of two such minds long remaining
together in unity. Genius, in private life, is apt to be a torment--its
foibles demanding infinite patience, forbearance, nay, affectionate
blindness, in those who would minister to its happiness, and mitigate
the worst results of those foibles themselves. Certainly George Sand,
for a genius, was a wonderfully equable character; her "satanic" moods
showed themselves chiefly in pen and ink; her nerves were very strong,
the balance of her physical and mental organization was splendidly even,
as one imagines Shakespeare's to have been. But the very vigor of her
character, its force of self-assertion, unfitted her to be the
complement to any but a very yielding nature. The direct influence a
passive, merely receptive spirit would have accepted, and gratefully,
was soon felt as an intolerable burden by a mind in many ways different
from her own, but with the same imperious instinct of freedom, and as
little capable of playing anvil to another mind for long. He rebelled
against her ascendancy, but suffered from the spell. She was no Countess
Guiccioli, content to adore and be adored, and exercise an indirect
power for good on a capricious lover. Her logical mind, energetic and
independent, grew impatient of the seeming inconsistencies of her gifted
companion; and when at last she began to perceive in them the fatal
conditions of those gifts themselves, only compassion survived in her,
as she thought, and compassion was cold.

How could De Musset, with such an excellent example of prudence, regular
hours, good sense, calm self-possession, and ceaseless literary industry
as hers before his eyes, not be stirred up to emulate such admirable
qualities? But her reason made him unreasonable; the indefatigability of
her pen irritated his nerves, and made him idle out of contradiction;
her homilies provoked only fresh imprudences--as though he wanted to
make proof of his independence whilst secretly feeling her dominion--a
phenomenon with which highly nervous people will sympathize not a
little, but which was perfectly inexplicable to George Sand.

His genius was of a more delicate essence than hers; he has struck, at
times, a deeper note. But his nature was frailer, his muse not so easily
within call, his character as intolerant of restraint as her own, but
less self-sufficing; and the morbid taint of thought then prevalent, and
which her natural optimism and better balanced faculties enabled her to
throw off very shortly, had entered into him ineffaceably. Whether or
not she brought a fresh blight on his mind, she certaintly failed to
cure it.

The spring had hardly begun when De Musset was struck down by fever.
George Sand, who had previously been very ill herself, nursed him
through his attack with great devotion; and in six weeks' time he was
restored to health, if not to happiness. Theirs was at an end, as they
recognized, and agreed to part--"for a time, perhaps, or perhaps for
ever," she wrote,--with their attachment broken but not destroyed.

It was early in April that De Musset started on his homeward journey.
George Sand saw him on his way as far as Vicenza, and ere returning to
Venice, made a little excursion in the Alps, along the course of the
Brenta. "I have walked as much as four-and-twenty miles a day," she
writes to M. Boucoiran, "and found out that this sort of exercise is
very good for me, both morally and physically. Tell Buloz I will write
some letters for the _Revue_, upon my pedestrian tours. I came back into
Venice with only seven centimes in my pocket, otherwise I should have
gone as far as the Tyrol; but the want of baggage and money obliged me
to return. In a few days I shall start again, and cross over the Alps by
the gorges of the Piave."

And the spring's delights on the Alpine borders of Lombardy are
described by her _con amore_, in the promised letters:--

     The country was not yet in its full splendor; the fields were of a
     faint green, verging on yellow, and the leaves only coming into bud
     on the trees. But here and there the almonds and peaches in flower
     mixed their garlands of pink and white with the dark clumps of
     cypress. Through the midst of this far-spreading garden the Brenta
     flowed swiftly and silently over her sandy bed, between two large
     banks of pebbles, and the rocky _débris_ which she tears out of the
     heart of the Alps, and with which she furrows the plains in her
     days of anger. A semi-circle of fertile hills, overspread with
     those long festoons of twisting vine that suspend themselves from
     all the trees in Venetia, made a near frame to the picture; and the
     snowy mountain-heights, sparkling in the first rays of sunshine,
     formed an immense second border, standing, as if cut out in silver,
     against the solid blue of the sky.

None of these excursions, however, were ever carried very far. For the
next three months she remained almost entirely stationary at Venice, her
head-quarters. She had taken apartments for herself in the interior of
the city, in a little low-built house, along the narrow, green, and yet
limpid canal, close to the Ponte dei Barcaroli. "There," she tells us,
"alone all the afternoon, never going out except in the evening for a
breath of air, working at night as well, to the song of the tame
nightingales that people all Venetian balconies, I wrote _André_,
_Jacques_, _Mattea_, and the first _Lettres d'un Voyageur_."

None can read the latter and suppose that the suffering of the recent
parting was all on one side. The poet continued to correspond with her,
and the consciousness of the pain she had inflicted she was clearly not
sufficiently indifferent herself to support. But neither De Musset nor
any other in whom, through the "prism of enthusiasm," she may have seen
awhile a hero of romance, was ever a primary influence on her life.
These were two. Firstly, her children, who although at a distance were
seldom absent from her thoughts. Of their well-being at school and at
home respectively, she was careful to keep herself informed, down to the
minutest particulars, by correspondents in Paris and at Nohant, whence
no opposition whatever was raised by its occupier to her prolonged
absence abroad. Secondly, her art-vocation. She wrote incessantly; and
independently of the pecuniary obligations to do so which she put
forward, it is obvious that she had become wedded to this habit of work.
"The habit has become a faculty--the faculty a need. I have thus come to
working for thirteen hours at a time without making myself ill; seven
or eight a day on an average, be the task done better or worse," she
writes to M. Chatiron, from Venice, in March. Sometimes, as with _Leone
Leoni_, she would complete a novel in a week; a few weeks later it was
in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. Such haste she afterward deprecated,
and, like all other workers, she aspired to a year's holiday in which to
devote herself to the study of the masterpieces of modern literature;
but the convenient season for such suspension of her own productive
activity never came. And whilst at Venice she found herself literally in
want of money to leave it. Buloz had arranged with her that she should
contribute thirty-two pages every six weeks to his periodical for a
yearly stipend of £160. She had anticipated her salary for the expenses
of her Italian journey, and must acquit herself of the arrears due
before she could take wing.

_Jacques_, the longest of the novels written at Venice, afforded fresh
grounds to those who taxed her works with hostility to social
institutions. Without entering into the vexed question of the right of
the artist in search of variety to exercise his power on any theme that
may invite to its display, and of the precise bearing of ethical rules
on works of imagination, it is permissible to doubt that _Jacques_,
however bitter the sentiments of the author at that time regarding the
marriage tie, ever seriously disturbed the felicity of any domestic
household in the past or present day. It is too lengthy and too
melancholy to attract modern readers, who care little to revel in the
luxuries of woe, so relished by those of a former age. We cannot do
better than quote the judgment pronounced by Madame Sand herself, thirty
years later, on this work of pure sentimentalism--generated by an epoch
thrown into commotion by the passionate views of romanticism--the epoch
of René, Lara, Childe Harold, Werther, types of desperate men; life
weary, but by no means weary of talking. "_Jacques_," she observes,
"belonged to this large family of disillusioned thinkers; they had their
_raison d'être_, historical and social. He comes on the scene in the
novel, already worn by deceptions; he thought to revive through his
love, and he does not revive. Marriage was for him only the drop of
bitterness that made the cup overflow. He killed himself to bequeath to
others the happiness for which he cared not, and in which he believed

_Jacques_, taken as a _plaidoyer_ against domestic institutions,
singularly misses its aim. As critics have remarked, some of the most
eloquent pages are those that treat of married bliss. Our sympathies
are entirely with the wronged husband against his silly little wife. It
is a kindred work to _Lélia_, and its faults are the same; but whilst
dealing ostensibly with real life and possible human beings it cannot,
like _Lélia_, be placed apart, and retain interest as a literary

_André_ is a very different piece of work and a little masterpiece of
its kind. The author, in her preface, tells us how, whilst mechanically
listening to the incessant chatter of the Venetian sempstresses in the
next room to her own, she was struck by the resemblance between the mode
of life and thought their talk betrayed, and that of the same class of
girls at La Châtre; and how in the midst of Venice, to the sound of the
rippling waters stirred by the gondolier's oar, of guitar and serenade,
and within sight of the marble palaces, her thoughts flew back to the
dark and dirty streets, the dilapidated houses, the wretched moss-grown
roofs, the shrill concerts of the cocks, cats, and children of the
little French provincial town. She dreamt also of the lovely meadows,
the scented hay, the little running streams, and the floral researches
she had been fond of. This tenacity of her instincts was a safeguard she
may have sometimes rebelled against as a chain; it was with her an
essential feature, and, despite all vagaries, gave a great unity to her

"Venice," she writes to M. Chatiron in June, "with her marble staircases
and her wonderful climate, does not make me forget anything that has
been dear to me. Be sure that nothing in me dies. My life has its
agitations; destiny pushes me different ways, but my heart does not
repudiate the past. Old memories have a power none can ignore, and
myself less than another. I love on the contrary to recall them, and we
shall soon find ourselves together again in the old nest at Nohant."
_André_ she considered the outcome of this feeling of nostalgia. In it
she has put together the vulgar elements of inferior society in a
common-place country town, and produced a poem, though one of the
saddest. If the florist heroine, Genevieve, is a slightly idealized
figure, the story and general character-treatment are realistic to a
painful degree. There is more power of simple pathos shown here than is
common in the works of George Sand. _André_ is a refreshing contrast, in
its simplicity and brevity, to the inflation of _Lélia_ and _Jacques_.
It was an initial essay, and a model one, in a style with better claims
to enduring popularity.

As the summer advanced, George Sand found herself free to depart, and
started on her way back to France, famishing, as she tells us, for the
sight of her children. Her grand anxiety was to reach her destination
in time for the breaking-up day and distribution of prizes at the
College Henri IV. "I shall be at Paris before then," she writes from
Milan, to her son, "if I die on the way, and really the heat is such
that one might die of it." From Milan she journeyed over the Simplon to
the Rhone valley, Martigny, Chamounix, and Geneva, performing great part
of the way on foot. She reached Paris in the middle of August, and a few
days later started with her boy for Nohant, where Solange had spent the
time during her mother's absence, and where they remained together for
the holidays. Here too she was in the midst of a numerous circle of
friends of both sexes, in whose staunch friendliness she found a solace
of which she stood in real need.



The period immediately following George Sand's return from Italy in
August 1834, was a time of transition, both in her outer and inner life.
If undistinguished by the production of any novel calculated to create a
fresh sensation, it shows no abatement of literary activity. This, as we
have seen, had become to her a necessity of nature. Neither vicissitudes
without nor commotions within, though they might direct or stimulate,
seem to have acted as a check on the flow of her pen.

During the first twelvemonth she continued to reside alternately at
Nohant, whither she came with her son and daughter for their
holidays--Solange being now placed in a children's school kept by some
English ladies at Paris,--and her "poet's garret," as she styled her
third floor _appartement_ on the Quai Malplaquet.

This winter saw the ending for herself and De Musset of their hapless
romance. An approach to complete reconciliation--for the existing
partial estrangement had been discovered to be more unbearable than all
besides--led to stormy scenes and violent discord, and resulted before
very long in mutual avoidance, which was to be final. It is said that
forgiveness is the property of the injured, and it should be remembered
that whenever De Musset's name is mentioned by George Sand it is with
the admiring respect of one to whom his genius made that name sacred,
and who refused to the end of his life to use the easy weapon offered
her by his notorious frailties for vindicating herself at his expense.
And, however pernicious the much talked of effect on De Musset's mind,
it is but fair to the poet to recollect that it is no less true of him
than of George Sand that his best work, that with which his fame has
come chiefly to associate itself, was accomplished after this painful

Into her own mental state--possibly at this time the least enviable of
the two--we get some glimpses in the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_ of the
autumn 1834, and winter 1834-35. Here, again, we should be content with
gathering a general impression, and not ingenuously read literal facts
in all the self-accusations and recorded experiences of the
"_voyageur_"--a semi-fictitious personage whose improvisations were,
after all, only a fresh exercise which George Sand had invented for her
imagination taking herself and reality for a starting-point merely, a
suggestive theme.

But the despair and disgust of life, to which both these and her private
letters give such uncompromising and eloquent expression, indubitably
reflect her feelings at this moral crisis--the feelings of one who
having openly braved the laws of society, to become henceforward a law
unto herself, recognizes that she has only found her way to fresh
sources of misery. Never yet had she had such grave and deep causes of
individual mental torment to blacken her views of existence, and incline
her to abhor it as a curse. "Your instinct will save you, bring you back
to your children," wrote a friend who knew her well. But her maternal
love and solicitude themselves were becoming a source of added distress
and apprehension.

The extraordinary arrangement she and M. Dudevant had entered into four
years before with regard to each other, was clearly one impossible to
last. It will be recollected that she at that time had relinquished her
patrimony to those who had thought it no dishonor to continue to enjoy
it; and the terms of that agreement had since been nominally
undisturbed. But besides that, the control of the children remained a
constant subject of dissension. M. Dudevant was beginning to get into
pecuniary difficulties in the management of his wife's estate. Sometimes
he contemplated resigning it to her, and retiring to Gascony, to live
with his widowed stepmother on the property which at her death would
revert to him. But unfortunately he could not make up his mind to this
course. No sooner had he drawn up an agreement consenting to a division
of property, than he seemed to regret the sacrifice; upon which she
ceased to press it.

Meantime Madame Dudevant, whose position at Nohant was that of a visitor
merely, and becoming untenable, felt her hold on her cherished home and
her children becoming more precarious day by day.

Some of her friends had strongly advised her to travel for a length of
time, both as offering a mortal remedy, and as a temporary escape from
the practical perplexities of the moment. Her rescue, however, was to be
otherwise effected, and a number of new intellectual interests that
sprang up for her at this time all tended to retain her in her own

It was in the course of this spring that she made the acquaintance of M.
de Lamennais, introduced to her by their common friend, the composer,
Franz Liszt. The famous author of the _Paroles d'un Croyant_ had
virtually severed himself from the Church of Rome by his recent
publication of this little volume, pronounced by the Pope, "small in
size, immense in perversity!" The eloquence of the poet-priest, and the
doctrines of the anti-Catholic and humanitarian Christianity of which he
came forward as the expounder, could not fail powerfully to impress her
intelligence. Here seemed the harbor of refuge her half-wrecked faiths
were seeking, and what the abbé's antagonists denounced as the
"diabolical gospel of social science," came to her as the teachings of
an angel of light. Christianity as preached by him was a sort of
realization of the ideal religion of Aurore Dupin--faith divorced from
superstition and the doctrine of Romish infallibility. Complete identity
of sentiments between herself and the abbé was out of the question. But
his was the right mind coming to her mind at the right moment, and
exercised a healing influence over her troubled spirits. For _Le Monde_,
a journal founded by him shortly after this time, she wrote the _Lettres
à Marcie_, an unfinished series, treating of moral and spiritual
problems and trials. Finally, the position M. de Lamennais had taken up
as the apostle of the people further enlisted her sympathies in his
cause, which made religious one with social reform, and amalgamated the
protest against moral enslavement with the liberation-schemes then
fermenting in young and generous minds all over Europe.

The belief in the possibility of their speedy realization was then
wide-spread--a conviction that, as Heine puts it, some grand recipe for
freedom and equality, invented, well drawn up, and inserted in the
_Moniteur_, was all that was needed to secure those benefits for the
world at large. If George Sand, led afterwards into searching for this
empirical remedy for the wrongs and sufferings of the masses, believed
the elixir to have been found in the establishment of popular
sovereignty by universal suffrage, it was through the persuasive
arguments of the leaders of the movement, with whom at this period she
was first brought into personal relations. Her own unbiassed judgment,
to which she reverted long years after, when she had seen these
illusions perish sadly, was less sanguine in its prognostications for
the immediate future, as appears in her own reflections in a letter of
this time:--

     What I see in the midst of the divergencies of all these reforming
     sects is a waste of generous sentiments and of noble thoughts, a
     tendency towards social amelioration, but an impossibility for the
     time to bring forth through the want of a head to that great body
     with a hundred hands, that tears itself to pieces, for not knowing
     what to attack. So far the struggles make only dust and noise. We
     have not yet come to the era that will construct new societies, and
     people them with perfected men.

She had recently been introduced to a political and legal celebrity of
his day, the famous advocate Michel, of Bourges. He was then at the
height of his reputation, which, won by his eloquent and successful
defense of political prisoners on various occasions, was considerable.
Madame Sand had been advised to consult him professionally about her
business affairs, and for this purpose went over one day with some of
her Berrichon friends to see him at Bourges. But the man of law had, it
appears, been reading _Lélia_, and instead of talking of business with
his distinguished client, dashed at once into politics, philosophy, and
social science, overpowering his listeners with the strength of his
oratory. His sentiments were those of extreme radicalism, and he carried
on a little private propaganda in the country around. The force of his
character seems to have spent itself in oratorical effort. He could
preach revolution, but not suggest reform; denounce existing abuses, but
do nothing towards the remodelling of social institutions; and in after
years he failed, as so many leading men in his profession have failed,
to make any impression as a speaker in Parliament. The author of
_Lélia_ was overwhelmed, if not all at once converted, by the tremendous
rhetorical power of this singular man. She was a proselyte worth the
trouble of making, and Michel was bent on drawing her more closely into
active politics, with which hitherto she had occupied herself very
little. He began a correspondence, writing her long epistles, the sum of
which, she says, may thus be resumed:--"Your scepticism springs from
personal unhappiness. Love is selfish. Extend this solicitude for a
single individual to the whole human race." He certainly succeeded in
inspiring her with a strong desire to share his passion for politics,
his faith, his revivifying hopes of a speedy social renovation, his
ambition to be one of its apostles. To Michel, under the sobriquet of
"Everard," are addressed several of the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_ of the
spring and summer of 1835, letters which she defines as "a rapid
analysis of a rapid conversion."

But Michel's work was a work of demolition only; and when his earnest
disciple wanted new theories in place of the old forms so ruthlessly
destroyed, he had none to offer. There were others, however, who could.
She was soon to be put into communication with a number of the active
workers for the republican cause throughout the country. They counted
many of the best hearts and not the worst heads in France, and were
naturally eager to enlist her energies on their side.

Foremost, by right of the influence exercised over her awhile by his
writings, was the philosopher Pierre Leroux, with whom her acquaintance
dates from this same year. In spite of the wide divergence between her
pre-eminently artistic spirit and a mind of the rougher stamp of this
born iconoclast, he was to indoctrinate her with many new opinions. His
disinterested character won her admiration; he was a practical
philanthropist as well as a critical thinker, one whose life and
fighting power were devoted to promoting the good of the working classes
to whom he belonged, having been brought up as a printer. He was
regarded as the apostle of communism, as then understood, or rather not
understood--for the form under which it suggested itself to the social
reformers of the period in question was entirely indefinite.

Meantime the novelist's pen was far from idle. One or two pleasant
glimpses she has given us into her manner of working belong to this
year. In the summer the heat in her "poet's garret" becoming
intolerable, she took refuge in a congenial solitude offered by the
ground-floor apartments of the house, then in course of reconstruction,
dismantled and untenanted. The works had been temporarily suspended,
and Madame Sand took possession of the field abandoned by the builders
and carpenters. The windows and doors opening into the garden had been
taken away, and the place thus turned into an airy, cool retreat. Out of
the apparatus of the workmen, left behind, she constructed her
writing-establishment, and here, secure from interruption, denying
herself to all visitors, never going out except to visit her children at
their respective schools, she completed her novel with no companions but
the spiders crawling over the planks, the mice running in and out of the
corners, and the blackbirds hopping in from the garden; the deep sense
of solitude enhanced by the roar of the city in the very heart of which
she had thus voluntarily isolated herself.

As an artistic experience she found it refreshing, and repeated it more
than once. Soon after, a friend offered her the loan of an empty house
at Bourges, a town that had been suggested to her as a desirable place
of residence, should the circumstances at Nohant ever force her to
abandon it entirely. As a home she saw and disapproved of Bourges, but
she thoroughly enjoyed a brief retreat spent there in an absolutely
deserted, vine-covered dwelling, standing in a garden enclosed by stone
walls. Her meals were handed in through a wicket. A few friends came to
see her in the evenings. The days, and often the nights, she passed in
study and meditation, shut up in the library reading Lavater,
expatiating on her impressions of his theories in a letter addressed to
Franz Liszt (inserted among the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_), or strolling
in the flower garden--"forgotten," she tells us, "by the whole world,
and plunged into oblivion of the actualities of my own existence."

Of her numerous letters of advice to her boy at school, we quote one
written during this summer of 1835, when their future relations to each
other were in painful uncertainty:--

     Work, be strong and proud; despise the little troubles supposed to
     belong to your age. Reserve your strength of resistance for deeds
     and facts that are worth the effort. If I am here no longer, think
     of me who worked and suffered cheerfully. We are like each other in
     mind and in countenance. I know already from this day what your
     intellectual life will be. I fear for you many and deep sorrows. I
     hope for you the purest of joys. Guard within yourself that
     treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to
     lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness. Know how to
     replace in your heart, by the happiness of those you love, the
     happiness that may be wanting to yourself. Keep the hope of another
     life. It is there that mothers meet their sons again. Love all
     God's creatures. Forgive those who are ill-conditioned, resist
     those who are unjust, and devote yourself to those who are great
     through their virtue. Love me. I will teach you many, many things
     if we live together. If that blessing (the greatest that can befall
     me, the only one that makes me wish for a long life) is not to be,
     you must pray for me, and from the grave itself, if anything
     remains of me in the universe, the spirit of your mother will watch
     over you.

In the autumn, 1835, Madame Dudevant, under legal advice, and supported
by the approval of friends of both parties, determined to apply to the
courts for a judicial separation from her husband, on the plea of
ill-treatment. She had sufficient grounds to allege for her claim, and
had then every reason to hope that her demand would not even be
contested by M. Dudevant, who, on former occasions, had voluntarily
signed but afterwards revoked the agreement she hereby only desired to
make valid and permanent, and which, ensuring to him a certain
proportion of her income, gave her Nohant for a place of habitation, and
established the children under her care.

Pending the issue of this suit, which, unexpectedly protracted, dragged
on until the summer of the next year, she availed herself of the
hospitality of a family at La Châtre, friends of old standing, and from
under whose roof she awaited, as from a neutral ground, the decision of
her judges. During this year she saw little of Paris, and less of
Nohant, except for a brief visit which, profiting by a moment when its
walls were absolutely deserted by every other human being, she paid to
her house--not knowing then whether she would ever, so to speak, inhabit
it again in her own right.

On the result of the legal proceedings depended her future home and the
best part of her happiness. Sooner than be parted from her children, she
contemplated the idea, in case of the decision going against her, of
escaping with them to America! Yet, in the midst of all this suspense,
we find her industrious as ever, joining in the daytime in the family
life of the household with which she was domesticated, helping to amuse
the children among them, retiring to her room at ten at night, to work
on at her desk till seven in the morning, according to her wont. A more
cheerful tone begins to pervade her effusions. The clouds were slowly
breaking on all sides at once, and a variety of circumstances combining
to restore to her mind its natural tone--faith, hope, and charity to her
heart, and harmony to her existence. She began to perceive what she was
enabled afterwards more fully to acknowledge as follows:--

     As to my religion, the ground of it has never varied. The forms of
     the past have vanished, for me as for my century, before the light
     of study and reflection. But the eternal doctrine of believers, of
     God and His goodness, the immortal soul and the hopes of another
     life, this is what, in myself, has been proof against all
     examination, all discussion, and even intervals of despairing

It is significant that during these months, spent for the most part at
La Châtre, we find her rewriting _Lélia_, trying, as she expressed her
intention, "to transform this work of anger into a work of gentleness."
_Engelwald_, a novel of some length on which she was engaged, was
destined never to see the light.

To the Comtesse d'Agoult, better known by her _nom de plume_ of Daniel
Stern, whose acquaintance she had recently made in Paris, she writes in
May, 1836:--

     I am still at La Châtre, staying with my friends, who spoil me like
     a child of five years old. I inhabit a suburb, built in terraces
     against the rock. At my feet lies a wonderfully pretty valley. A
     garden thirty feet square and full of roses, and a terrace
     extensive enough for you to walk along it in ten steps, are my
     drawing-room, my study, and gallery. My bed-room is rather
     large--it is decorated with a red cotton curtained bed--a real
     peasant's bed, hard and flat, two straw chairs, and a white wooden
     table. My window is situated six feet above the terrace. By the
     trellised trees on the wall I can get out and in, and stroll at
     night among my thirty feet of flowers without having to open a door
     or wake anyone.

     Sometimes I go out riding alone, at dusk. I come in towards
     midnight. My cloak, my rough hat, and the melancholy trot of my
     nag, make me pass in the darkness for a commercial traveller, or a

     One of my grand amusements is to watch the transition from night to
     day; it effects itself in a thousand different manners. This
     revolution, apparently so uniform, has every day a character of its

The summer that had set in was unusually hot and sultry. Writing to
Madame d'Agoult, July 10, 1836, she thus describes her enjoyment of a
season that allowed of some of the pleasures of primitive existence:--

     I start on foot at three in the morning, fully intending to be back
     by eight o'clock; but I lose myself in the lanes; I forget myself
     on the banks of the river; I run after butterflies; and I get home
     at midday in a state of torrefaction impossible to describe.

Another time the sight of the cooling stream is more than she can
resist, and she walks into the Indre fully dressed; but a few minutes
more and the sun has dried her garments, and she proceeds on her walk of
ten or twelve miles--"Never a cockchafer passes but I run after it."

     You have no idea of all the dreams I dream during my walks in the
     sun. I fancy myself in the golden days of Greece. In this happy
     country where I live you may often go for six miles without meeting
     a human creature. The flocks are left by themselves in pastures
     well enclosed by fine hedges; so the illusion can last for some
     time. One of my chief amusements when I have got out to some
     distance, where I don't know the paths, is to fancy I am wandering
     over some other country with which I discover some resemblance. I
     recollect having strolled in the Alps, and fancied myself for hours
     in America. Now I picture to myself an Arcadia in Berry. Not a
     meadow, not a cluster of trees which, under so fine a sun, does not
     appear to me quite Arcadian.

We give these passages because they seem to us very forcibly to portray
one side, and that the strongest and most permanent, of the character of
George Sand: the admixture of a child's simplicity of tastes, a poet's
fondness for reverie, and that instinctive independence of habits--an
instinct stronger than the restraints of custom--which her individuality
seemed to demand.

In the letter last quoted to Madame d'Agoult, the new ideal which was
arising out of these contemplations is thus resumed:--

     To throw yourself into the lap of mother nature: to take her really
     for mother and sister; stoically and religiously to cut off from
     your life what is mere gratified vanity; obstinately to resist the
     proud and the wicked; to make yourself humble with the unfortunate,
     to weep with the misery of the poor; nor desire another consolation
     than the putting down of the rich; to acknowledge no other God than
     Him who ordains justice and equality upon men; to venerate what is
     good, to judge severely what is only strong, to live on very
     little, to give away nearly all, in order to re-establish primitive
     equality and bring back to life again the Divine institution: that
     is the religion I shall proclaim in a little corner of my own, and
     that I aspire to preach to my twelve apostles under the lime-trees
     in my garden.

The judgment of the court, first pronounced in February, 1836, and given
in her favor by default, no opposition having been raised to her claims
to the proposed partition of property by the defendant, placed her in
legal possession of her house and her children. Appeal was made,
however, prolonging and complicating the case, but without affecting its
termination. In the war of mutual accusations thus stirred up, M.
Dudevant's _rôle_ as accuser, yet objecting in the same breath to the
separation, had an appearance of insincerity that could not fail to
withdraw sympathy from his side, irrespective of any judgment that might
be held on the conduct of the wife, whose absence and complete
independence he had authorized or acquiesced in. Before the actual
conclusion of the law-suit his appeal was withdrawn. As a result, the
previous judgment in favor of Madame Dudevant was virtually confirmed,
and the details were settled by private agreement.

It is almost impossible to overrate the importance to George Sand of a
conclusion that gave her back her old home of Nohant, and secured to her
the permanent companionship of her children. The present pecuniary
arrangement left M. Dudevant some hold over Maurice and his education,
concerning which his parents had long disagreed, and which for another
year remained a source of contention.

The affair thus concluded, Madame Sand entered formally into possession
of Nohant; and early in September she started with her two children for
Switzerland, where they spent the autumn holidays in a long-contemplated
visit to her friend the Comtesse d'Agoult, then at Geneva. This tour is
fancifully sketched in a closing number of the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_,
a volume which stands as a sort of literary memorial of two years of
unsettled, precarious existence, material and spiritual--a time of trial
now happily at an end.

_Simon_, a tale dedicated to Madame d'Agoult, and published in the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, 1836--a graceful story, of no high
pretentions--is noticeable as marking the commencement of a decided and
agreeable change in the tone of George Sand's fiction. Hitherto the
predominant note struck had been most often one of melancholy, if not
despair--the more hopelessly painful the subject, the more fervent,
apparently, the inspiration to the writer. In _Indiana_ she had
portrayed the double victim of tyranny and treachery; in _Valentine_, a
helpless girl sacrificed to family ambition and social prejudice; in
_Lélia_ and _Jacques_, the incurable _Weltschmerz_, heroism unvalued and
wasted; in _Leone Leoni_, the infatuation of a weak-minded woman for a
phenomenal scoundrel; in _André_, the wretchedness which a timid,
selfish character, however amiable, may bring down on itself and on all
connected with it. Henceforward she prefers themes of a pleasanter
nature. In _Simon_ she paints the triumph of true and patient love over
social prejudice and strong opposition. In _Mauprat_,[B] written in
1837, at Nohant, she exerts all the force of her imagination and
language to bring before us vividly the gradual redemption of a noble
but degraded nature, through the influence of an exclusive, passionate
and indestructible affection. The natural optimism of her temperament,
not her incidental misfortunes, began and continued to color her

From Switzerland she returned for part of the winter to Paris. She had
given up her "poet's garret," and occupied for a while a suite of rooms
in the Hôtel de France, where resided also Madame d'Agoult. The _salon_
of the latter was a favorite _rendezvous_ of cosmopolitan artistic
celebrities, whose general _rendezvous_ just then was Paris. A very
Pantheon must have been an intimate circle that included, among others,
George Sand, Daniel Stern, Heine, the Polish poet Mickiewicz, Eugène
Delacroix, Meyerbeer, Liszt, Hiller, and Frédéric Chopin.

The delicate health of her son forced Madame Sand to leave with him
shortly for Berry, where he soon became convalescent. Later in the
season, some of the same party of friends that had met in Paris met
again at Nohant. It was during this summer that George Sand wrote for
her child the well-known little tale, _Les Maîtres Mosaïstes_, in which
the adventures of the Venetian mosaic-workers are woven into so charming
a picture. "I do not know why, but it is seldom that I have written
anything with so much pleasure," she tells us. "It was in the country,
in summer weather, as hot as the Italian climate I had lately left. I
have never seen so many birds and flowers in my garden. Liszt was
playing the piano on the ground floor, and the nightingales, intoxicated
with music and sunshine, were singing madly in the lilac-trees around."

The party was abruptly dispersed upon the intelligence that reached
Madame Sand of her mother's sudden, and, as it proved, fatal illness.
She hurried to Paris, and remained with Madame Maurice Dupin during her
last days. The old fond affection between them, though fitful in its
manifestations on the part of the mother, had never been impaired, and
the breaking of this old link with the past was very deeply felt by
Madame Sand.

Before returning to Nohant, she spent a few weeks at Fontainebleau with
her son, from whom she never liked to separate. They passed their days
in exploring the forest, then larger and wilder than now, botanizing and
butterfly-hunting. At night she sat up writing, when all was quiet in
the inn. Just as, whilst at Venice, her fancy flew back to the scenes
and characters of French provincial life, and _André_ was the result, so
here, amid the forest landscapes of her own land, her imagination rushed
off to Venice and the shores of the Brenta, and produced _La Dernière

This constant industry, which had now become her habit of life, was more
of a practical necessity than ever. Nohant, as already mentioned, barely
repaid the owner the expenses of keeping it up. Madame Sand, who desired
to be liberal besides, to travel occasionally, to gratify little
artistic fancies as they arose, must look to her literary work to
furnish the means.

"Sometimes," she writes from Nohant, in October, 1837, to Madame
d'Agoult, then in Italy, "I am tempted to realize my capital, and come
and join you; but out there I should do no work, and the galley-slave is
chained up. If Buloz lets him go for a walk it is on _parole_, and
_parole_ is the cannon-ball the convict drags on his foot."

Nor was it for herself only that she worked in future, but for her
children, the whole responsibility of providing for both of whose
education she was now about definitely to take on her own shoulders. The
power of interference left to M. Dudevant by the recent legal decision
had been exercised in a manner leading to fresh vexatious contention,
and continual alarm on Madame Sand's part lest the boy should be taken
by force from her side. These skirmishes included the actual abduction
of Solange from Nohant by M. Dudevant during her mother's absence at
Fontainebleau; a foolish and purposeless trick, by which nothing was to
be gained, except annoyance and trouble to Madame Sand, whose right to
the control of her daughter had never been contested. A final settlement
entered into between the parties, in 1838, placed these matters
henceforward on a footing of peace, fortunately permanent. By this
agreement Madame Sand received back from M. Dudevant--who had lately
succeeded to his father's estate--some house property that formed part
of her patrimony, and paid down to him the sum of £2,000; he ceding to
her the remnant of his paternal rights; she freeing him from all charges
for Maurice's education, her authority over which, in future, was
recognized as complete.



The charge of both children now resting entirely in her hands, Madame
Sand was enabled to fulfill her desire of permanently removing her boy,
now fourteen years of age, from the college Henri IV. Not only was she
opposed to the general _régime_ and educational system pursued in French
public schools of this type, she felt persuaded of its special
unsuitability to her son, whose tastes and temperament were artistic,
like her own, and whose classical studies had been repeatedly
interrupted by illness. His delicate health determined her to spend the
winter of 1838-9 abroad with her family. Having heard the climate and
scenery of Majorca highly praised, she selected the island for their
resort; tempted herself by the prospect of a few months absolute quiet,
where, with neither letters to answer, nor newspapers to read, she would
enjoy some rare leisure, which she proposed to spend in studying history
and teaching French to her children.

Just at this time her friend and ardent admirer, Frédéric Chopin, was
recovering from a chest attack, the first presage of the illness that
caused his early death. The eminent pianist and composer had also been
recommended to winter in the South, and greatly needed repose and change
of air to recruit him from the fatigues of the Parisian season. It was
arranged that the convalescent should make one of the expedition to
Majorca. He joined Madame Sand and her children at Perpignan, and they
embarked for Barcelona, whence the sea-voyage to the island was safely
accomplished, the party reaching Palma, the capital, in magnificent
November weather, and never suspecting how soon they would have cause to
repent their choice of a retreat.

But their practical information about the island proved lamentably
insufficient. With the scenery, indeed, they were enraptured. "We
found," says Madame Sand in her little volume, _Un Hiver à Majorque_,
published the following year, "a green Switzerland under a Calabrian
sky, with all the solemnity and stillness of the East." But though a
painter's Elysium, Majorca was wanting in the commonest comforts of
civilized life. Inns were non-existent, foreigners viewed and treated
with suspicion. The party thought themselves fortunate in securing a
villa some miles from Palma, furnished, though scantily. "The country,
nature, trees, sky, sea, and mountains surpass all my dreams," she
writes in the first days, "it is the promised land; and as we have
succeeded in housing ourselves pretty well, we are delighted."

The delight was of brief duration. That Madame Sand's manuscripts took a
month to reach the editor of the _Revue des Deux Mondes_; that the piano
ordered from Paris for Chopin took two months to get to Majorca, were
the least among their troubles. A rainy season of exceptional severity
set in, and the villa quickly became uninhabitable. It was not
weatherproof. Chopin fell alarmingly ill. Good food and medical
attendance were hardly to be procured for him; and finally, the villa
proprietor, having heard that his tenant was suffering from
consumption--an illness believed to be infectious by the Majorcans--gave
the whole party notice to quit. The invalid improving somewhat, though
still too weak to attempt the return journey to France, Madame Sand
transported her ambulance, as she styled it, to some tolerable quarters
she had already discovered in the deserted Carthusian monastery of
Valdemosa--"a poetical name and a poetical abode," she writes; "an
admirable landscape, grand and wild, with the sea at both ends of the
horizon, formidable peaks around us, eagles pursuing their prey even
down to the orange-trees in our garden, a cypress walk winding from the
top of our mountain to the bottom of the gorge, torrents over-grown with
myrtles, palm-trees below our feet, nothing could be more magnificent
than this spot."

Parts of the old monastic buildings were dilapidated; the rest were in
good order, being frequented as a summer retreat by the inhabitants of
Palma. Now, in December, the Chartreuse was entirely abandoned, except
by a housekeeper, a sacristan and a lone monk, the last offshoot of the
community--a kind of apothecary, whose stock-in-trade was limited to
guimauve and dog-grass.

The rooms into which the travellers moved had just been vacated by a
Spanish family of political refugees departing for France. These
lodgings were at least provided with doors, window-panes, and decent
furniture; but the luxury of chimneys was unknown, and a stove, which
had to be manufactured at an enormous price on purpose for the party, is
described as "a sort of iron cauldron, that made our heads ache and
dried up our throats." Continuous stormy weather having suspended steam
traffic with the mainland, the visitors had no choice but to remain
prisoners some two months more, during which the deluge went on with
little intermission.

Still, to young and romantic imaginations the island and life in the
ex-monastery offered considerable charm. Madame Sand and her children
were delighted with the unfamiliar vegetation, the palms, aloes, olives,
almond and orange trees, the Arab architecture, and picturesque
costumes. Valdemosa itself was splendidly situated among the mountains,
in a stone-walled garden surrounded with cypress trees and planted with
palms and olives. In the morning, Madame Sand gave lessons to the
children; in the afternoon, they ran wild out of doors whilst she
wrote--when the invalid musician was well enough to be left. In the
evenings she and the young people went wandering by moonlight through
the cloisters, exploring the monkish cells and chapels. Maurice had
fortunately recovered his health completely, but poor Chopin's state,
aggravated by the damp weather and privations--for the difficulties in
obtaining a regular supply of provisions were immense--remained
throughout their stay a constant and terrible cause of anxiety and
responsibility to Madame Sand. From the islanders no sort of help or
even sympathy was forthcoming, and thievish servants and extortionate
traders were not the least of the annoyances with which the strangers
had to contend. In a letter to François Rollinat she gives a graphic
account of their misfortunes:--

     It has rightly been laid down as a principle that where nature is
     beautiful and generous, men are bad and avaricious. We had all the
     trouble in the world to procure the commonest articles of food,
     such as the island produces in abundance; thanks to the signal
     dishonesty, the plundering spirit of the peasants, who made us pay
     for everything three times what it was worth, so that we were at
     their mercy under the penalty of dying of hunger. We could get no
     one to serve us, because we were not _Christians_ [the travellers
     passed for being "sold to the Devil" because they did not go to
     Mass], and, besides, nobody would attend on a consumptive invalid.
     However, for better for worse, we were established.... The place
     was incomparably poetical; we did not see a living soul, nothing
     disturbed our work; after waiting two months, and paying three
     hundred francs extra, Chopin had at last received his piano, and
     delighted the vaults of his cell with his melodies. Health and
     strength were visibly returning to Maurice; as for me, I worked as
     tutor seven hours a day: I sat up working on my own account half
     the night; Chopin composed masterpieces, and we hoped to put up
     with the remainder of our discomforts by the aid of these

It was in the cells of Valdemosa that Madame Sand completed her novel of
Monastic life, _Spiridion_, then publishing in the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_. "For heaven's sake not so much mysticism!" prayed the editor of
her, now and then; and assuredly those readers for whom George Sand was
simply a purveyor of passionate romances, those critics who set her down
in their minds as exclusively a glorifier of mutinous emotion and the
apologist of lawless love, must have been taken aback by these pages, in
which she had devoted her most fervent energies to tracing the spiritual
history, _peu récréatif_, as she dryly observes, of a monk who, in the
days of the decadence of the monastic orders, retained earnestness and
sincerity; whose mind, revolted by the hypocrisy and worldliness around
him, passes through the successive stages of heresy and philosophic
doubt, and to whom is finally revealed an eternal gospel, which lies at
the core of his old religion, but which later growths have stifled, and
which outlasts all shocks and changes, and is to generate the religion
of the future.

The compositions of Chopin above alluded to, include the finest of his
well-known Preludes, which may easily be conceived of as suggested by
the strange mingling of contrasting impressions in the Chartreuse.
"Several of these Preludes," writes Madame Sand, "represent the visions
that haunted him of deceased monks, the sounds of funeral chants;
others are soft and melancholy; these came to him in his hours of
sunshine and health, at the sound of the children's laughter beneath the
window, the distant thrum of guitars and the songs of the birds under
the damp foliage; at the sight of the pale little roses in bloom among
the snow."

The loneliness and melancholy beauty of the spot, however congenial to
the romance writer or inspiring to the composer, were not the right
tonics for the nerves of the over-sensitive, imaginative invalid. The
care and nursing of Madame Sand made amends for much, and by her good
sense she saved him from being doctored to death by local practitioners.
But his fortitude, which bore up heroically against his personal danger,
was not proof against the dreary influences of Valdemosa in bad weather,
the fogs, the sound of the hurricane sweeping through the valley, and
bringing down portions of the dilapidated building, the noise of the
torrents, the cries of the scared sea-birds and the roar of the sea.

The elevation of the Chartreuse made the climate peculiarly disagreeable
at this season. She writes on:--

     We lived in the midst of clouds, and for fifty days were unable to
     get down into the plains; the roads were changed to torrents, and
     we saw nothing more of the sun. I should have thought it all
     beautiful if poor Chopin could only have got on. Maurice was none
     the worse. The wind and the sea sung sublimely as they beat against
     the rocks. The vast and empty cloisters cracked over our heads. If
     I had been there when I wrote the portion of _Lélia_ that takes
     place in the convent, I should have made it finer and truer. But my
     poor friend's chest got worse and worse. The fine weather did not
     return.... A maid I had brought over from France, and who so far
     had resigned herself, on condition of enormous wages, to cook and
     do the housework, began to refuse attendance, as too hard. The
     moment was coming when after having wielded the broom and managed
     the _pot au feu_, I was ready to drop with fatigue--for besides my
     work as tutor, besides my literary labor, besides the continual
     attention necessitated by the condition of my invalid, I had
     rheumatism in every limb.

The return of spring was hailed as offering a tardy release from their
island. The steamers were running again, and the party determined to
leave at all risks; for though Chopin's state was more precarious than
ever, nothing could be worse for him than to remain. They departed,
feeling, she admits, as though they were escaping from the tender
mercies of Polynesian savages, and once safely on board a French vessel
at Barcelona, they thankfully welcomed the day that restored them to
comfort and civilization, and saw the end of an expedition that had
turned out in most respects so disastrous a _fiasco_.

They remained throughout April at Marseilles, where Chopin, in the hands
of a good doctor, became convalescent. From Marseilles they made a short
tour in Italy, visiting Genoa and the neighborhood, and returning to
France in May, Chopin apparently on the high road to complete recovery.
It was in the following year that his illness returned in a graver form,
and unmistakable symptoms of consumption showed themselves. The life of
a fashionable pianist in Paris, the constant excitement, late hours, and
heavy strain of nervous exertion, were fatal to his future chances of
preserving his health; but it was a life to which he had now become
wedded, and which he never willingly left, except for his long annual
visits to Nohant.

Madame Sand repeatedly contemplated settling herself entirely in the
country. She had no love for Paris. "Parisian life strains our nerves
and kills us in the long run," she writes from Nohant to one of her
correspondents. "Ah, how I hate it, that centre of light! I would never
set foot in it again, if the people I like would make the same
resolution." And again, speaking of her "Black Valley, so good and so
stupid," she adds, "Here I am always more myself than at Paris, where I
am always ill, in body and in spirit."

Paris, however, afforded greater facilities for her children's
education. She had a strong desire to see her son an artist, and he was
already studying painting in Delacroix's studio. Also her income at this
moment did not suffice to enable her to live continuously at Nohant
where, she frankly confessed, she had not yet found out how to live
economically, expected as she was to keep open house, regarded as
grudging and unneighborly if she did not maintain her establishment on a
scale to which her resources as yet were unequal. Her expenses in the
country she calculated as double those in Paris, where, as she writes to
M. Chatiron,--

     Everyone's independence is admirable. You invite whom you like, and
     when you don't wish to receive anyone you let the porter know you
     are not at home. Yet I hate Paris in all other respects. There I
     grow stout, and my mind grows thin. You know how quiet and retired
     my life there is, and I do not understand why you tell me, as they
     say in the provinces, that glory keeps me there. I have no glory, I
     have never sought for it, and I don't care a cigarette for it. I
     want to breath fresh air and live in peace. I am succeeding, but
     you see and you know on what conditions.

Her Paris residence, a few seasons later, she fixed in the Cour
d'Orléans Rue St. Lazare, in a block of buildings one-third of which
was occupied by herself and her family; another belonged to her friend,
Madame Marliani, wife of the Spanish Consul, the third to Frédéric

With respect to Chopin's long and deep attachment to Madame Sand, and
its requital, concerning which so much has been written, there can
surely be no greater misstatement than to speak of her as having
blighted his life. This last part of his life was indeed blighted, but
by ill-health and consequent nervous irritability and suffering; but
such mitigation as was possible he found for eight years in the womanly
devotion and genial society of Madame Sand--real benefits to one whose
strange and delicate individuality it was not easy to befriend--and
which the breach that took place between them shortly before his death
should not allow us to forget.

"Chopin," observes Eugène Delacroix, "belongs to the small number of
those whom one can both esteem and love." Madame Sand joined a
sympathetic appreciation of the refinement of his nature, and an
enthusiastic admiration of his genius--feelings she shared with his
numberless female worshippers--to a strength of character that lent the
support no other could perhaps so fully have given, or that he would
accept from no other, to the fragile, nervous, suffering tone-poet. Her
sentiments towards him seem to resolve themselves into a great
tenderness rather than a passionate fervor--a placid affection for
himself, and an adoration for his music.

All the time their existences, so far from having been united, flowed in
different, nay divergent channels. Chopin, the idol of Paris society,
moved constantly in the aristocratic and fashionable world, from which
Madame Sand lived aloof. She for her part had heavy domestic cares and
anxieties that did not touch him, and with the political party which was
absorbing more and more of her energies he had no sympathy whatever.
Whether the cause were the false start she had made at the outset by her
marriage, forbidding her the realization of a woman's ideal, the
non-separation of the gift of her heart from that of her whole life, or
whether that her masculine strength of intellect created for her serious
public interests and occupations, beside which personal pleasures and
pains are apt to become of secondary moment, certain it appears that
with George Sand, as with many an eminent artist of the opposite sex,
such _affaires de coeur_ were but ripples on the sea of a large and
active existence.

The year after her return from Majorca was marked by her first
appearance before the public as a dramatic author. Although it was a
line in which she afterwards obtained successes, as will be seen in a
future chapter, the result of this initial effort, _Cosima_, a five-act
drama, was not encouraging. It was acted at the Théâtre Français in the
spring of 1840, and proved a failure. It betrays no insufficient sense
of dramatic effect, nor lack of the means for producing it, but decided
clumsiness in the adaptation of these means to that end. The plot and
personages recall those of _Indiana_, with the important differences
that the _beau rôle_ of the piece falls to the husband, and that the
scene is transported back to Florence in the Middle Ages--an undoubted
error, as giving to a play essentially modern and French in its
complexities of sentiment and motive a strong local coloring of a past
time and another people, making the whole seem unreal. It has a
psychological subject which Emile Augier or Dumas _fils_ would know how
to handle dramatically; but as treated by George Sand, we are
perpetually being led to anticipate too much in the way of action, to
have our expectations dissipated the next moment. A wet blanket of
disappointment on this head dampens any other satisfaction that the
merits of the play might otherwise afford.

Hitherto she had continued to write regularly for the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_. As her revolutionary opinions became more pronounced, they
began to find utterance in her romances. Her conversion by Michel had
not only been complete, but the disciple had outstripped the master. The
study of the communistic theories of Pierre Leroux had familiarized her
with the speculations in social science of those who at this time were
devoting their attention to criticising the existing social
organization, and seeking, and sometimes imagining they had found, the
secret of creating a better. George Sand's strong admiration for the
writings of Leroux, always praised by her in the highest terms, strikes
us now as extravagant, but was shared to some extent by not a few
leading men of the time, such as Sainte-Beuve and Lamartine. Her
intellect had eagerly followed this bold and earnest pioneer in
new-discovered worlds of thought; "I do not say it is the last word of
humanity, but, so far, it is its most advanced expression," she states
of his philosophy. The study of it had brought a clearness into her own
views, due, probably, much more to the action of her own mind upon the
novel ideas suggested than to the lucidity of a system of social science
as yet undetermined in some of its main points.

She writes, when looking back on this period from a long distance of

     After the despairs of my youth, I was governed by too many
     illusions. Morbid scepticism was succeeded in me by too much
     kindliness and ingenuousness. A thousand times over I was duped by
     dreams of an archangelic fusion of the opposing forces in the great
     strife of ideas.

Her novel _Horace_, written for the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, was
rejected--as subversive of law and order--by the editor, except on
condition of alterations which she declined to make.

After this temporary rupture with Buloz, Madame Sand's services were
largely appropriated by the _Revue Indépendante_, a new journal founded
in 1840 by her friends Pierre Leroux and Louis Viardot, in conjunction
with whose names hers appears on the title page as leading contributor.
For this periodical no theories could be too advanced, no fictitious
illustrations too audacious, and to its pages accordingly was _Horace_
transferred. Among the secondary characters in this novel figure a young
couple, immaculate otherwise in principle and in conduct, but who as
converts to St. Simonism have dispensed with the ordinary legal sanction
to their union. Perhaps a more solid objection to its insertion in the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_ was the picture introduced of the _émcute_ of
June 1832, painted in heroic colors. Both these features, however, are
purely incidental. The main interest and the real strength of the book
lie in a remarkable study of character-development--that of the chief
personage, Horace. It is a cleverly painted portrait of a type that
reappears, with slight modifications, in all ages; a moral charlatan,
who half imposes on himself, and entirely for a while on other people. A
would-be hero, genius, and chivalrous lover, he has none of the genuine
qualities needed for sustaining the parts. Nonchalant and inert of
temperament, he is capable of nothing beyond a short course of
successful affectation. The imposition breaking down at last, he sinks
helplessly into the unheroic mediocrity of position and pretension for
which alone he is fit.

A veritable attempt at a Socialist novel is the _Compagnon du Tour de
France_ written in the course of 1840, which must surely be ranked as
one of the weakest of George Sand's productions. Exactly the converse of
_Horace_ may be said of this book. In the former, those most repelled by
the revolutionary doctrines flashing out here and there, will yet be
struck and interested by the masterly piece of character-painting that
makes of the novel a success. The utmost fanaticism for the ideas
ventilated in the _Compagnon du Tour de France_ can reconcile no reader
to the dullness and unreality of the story which make of it a failure.
For her socialism itself, as set forth in her writings, dispassionate
examination of what she actually inculcated, leaves but little warrant,
in the state of progress now reached, for echoing the mighty outcry
raised against it at the time. No doubt she thought that a complete
reorganization of society on a new basis was eminently to be desired.
But what she definitely advocated was, first, free education for the
poor, and secondly, some fairer adjustment of the relations to each
other of capital and labor. As to the first, authority has already
sanctioned her opinion; the second question, if unsettled, has become a
first preoccupation with statesmen and philosophers of all denominations
in the present day.

With regard to the complete solution of the problem, she leaves her
socialist heroes, as she herself felt, in doubt and perplexity. There
was something in the schemes and doctrines she conscientiously approved,
irreconcilable with her artist-nature--a materialistic tendency which
clashed with her poetical instincts. When the stern demagogue Michel
denounced the whole tribe of artists as a corrupting influence,
enervating to the courage and will of a nation, she rose up
energetically in defense of the confraternity to which she was born:--

     Will you tell me, pray, what you mean, with your declamations
     against artists? Cry out against them as much as you please, but
     respect art. Oh, you Vandal! I like that stern sectarian who wants
     to dress Taglioni in a stuff-gown and _sabots_, and set Liszt's
     hands to turn the machinery of a wine-press, and who yet, as he
     lies on the grass, finds the tears come into his eyes at the least
     linnet's song, and who makes a disturbance in the theatre to stop
     Othello from murdering Malibran! The austere citizen would suppress
     artists as social excrescences that absorb too much of the sap; but
     this gentleman is fond of vocal music, and so will spare the
     singers. Let us hope that painters will find one among your strong
     heads who appreciates painting, and won't wall up all studio
     windows. And as for the poets, they are your cousins; and you don't
     despise their forms of language and their rhythmical mechanism when
     you want to make an impression on the idle crowd. You will go to
     them to take lessons in metaphor, and how to make use of it.

     Unfortunately for the cause of the superiority of antiquity,
     whenever you go to hear Berlioz's _Funeral March_, the least that
     can happen to you will be to confess that this music is rather
     better than what they used to give us in Sparta, when we served
     under Lycurgus; you will think that Apollo, displeased to see us
     sacrificing to Pallas exclusively, has played us a trick in giving
     lessons to that _Babylonian_, so that by the exercise of a magnetic
     and disastrous power over us, he may lead our spirits astray.

And she would prove to the demagogue, out of his own mouth, that
everything cannot be reduced to "bread and shoes all round," as the
grand desideratum. Give these to men, it will not suffice. The eloquent
orator instinctively seeks besides to impart "hallowed emotions and
mystic enthusiasm to those who toil and sweat--he teaches them to hope,
to dream of God, to take courage and lift themselves above the sickening
miseries of human conditions by the thought of a future, chimerical it
may be, but strengthening and sublime."

For a period, however, she was too fascinated by the new ideas to judge
them, and she straightway sought in her art a means of popularizing
them. "These ideas," she writes in a later preface to her socialist
novel, _Le Péché de M. Antoine_, "at which, as yet but a small number of
conservative spirits had taken alarm, had, as yet, only really begun to
sprout in a small number of attentive, laborious minds. The government,
so long as no actual form of political application was assumed, was not
to be disquieted by theories, and let every man make his own, put forth
his dream, and innocently construct his city of the future, by his own
fire-side, in the garden of his imagination."

She was aware that her readers thought her novels getting more and more
tedious, in proportion as she communicated to her fictitious heroes and
heroines the pre-occupations of her brain, and that she was thus
stepping out of the domain of art. But she affirmed she could never help
writing of whatever was absorbing her thoughts and feelings at the
moment, and must take her chance of boring the public. Fortunately for
_Le Péché de M. Antoine_, nature and human nature are here allowed to
claim the larger share of our attention, and philosophy is a secondary
feature. The scene is laid in the picturesque Marche country on the
confines of Berry, a day's journey from Nohant, and we are glad to
linger with her along the rocky banks of the Creuse, or among the ruined
castles of Crozant and Châteaubrun. The novel contains much that is
original and admirable in the drawing of characters of the most opposite

Finally, in _Le Meunier d'Angibault_,[C] written as was the
last-mentioned work some four or five years later (1844-45), but which
may be named here, as making up with _Le Compagnon du Tour de France_
the trio of "socialist" novels, the _Tendenz_ does not interfere to the
detriment of the artistic plan of the book. In it the romantic elements
of the remote country nook she inhabited are cleverly brought together,
without departing too widely from probability. The dilapidated castle,
the picturesque mill, the traditions of brigandage two generations ago,
all these were realities familiar to her notice. The painting of the
country and country people is masterly; and there is not a passage in
the book to offend the taste of the most scrupulous reader. Nor can it
be justly impugned on the ground of inculcating disturbing political
principles. The personages, in their preference of poverty and obscurity
to rank and wealth, may, in the judgment of some, think and conduct
themselves like chimerical dreamers, but their actions, however
quixotic, concern themselves alone.

But, previous to either of the two novels last named, she had presented
the world with a more ambitious work, whose merit was to compel
universal acknowledgment--the most important, in fact, she had produced
for eight years.



CONSUELO first appeared in the _Revue Indépendante_, 1842-43. This noble
book might not be inaptly described as,

    --a whole which, irregular in parts,
    Yet left a grand impression on the mind.

Its reckless proportions naturally "shocked the connoisseurs" among
literary critics, especially in her own land; but nevertheless it
became, and deservedly, one of her most popular productions, and did
more than any other single novel she ever wrote to spread her popularity
abroad. If _Indiana_, _Valentine_, and _Lélia_ had never been written to
create the fame of George Sand, _Consuelo_ would have done so, and may
be said to have established it over again, on a better and more lasting
basis. Upon so well-known a work lengthened comment here would be
superfluous. Originally intended for a novelette,--the opening chapters
appear in the _Revue_ under the modest heading, _Consuelo_,
_conte_,--the beginning was so successful that the author was urged to
extend her plan beyond its first proposed limits. The novel is an
ephemeral form of art, no doubt, but it is difficult to conceive of a
stage of social and intellectual progress when the first part of
_Consuelo_ will cease to be read with interest and delight.

The heroine once transported from the lagunes of Venice to the frontier
of Bohemia and the castle of Rudolstadt, the character of the story
becomes less naturalistic; the storyteller loses herself somewhat in
subterranean passages and the mazes of adventure generally. She wrote
on, she acknowledges, at hap-hazard, tempted and led away by the new
horizons which the artistic and historical researches her work required
kept opening to her view. But the powerful contrast between the two
pictures,--of bright, sunshiny, free, sensuous, careless Venetian
folk-life, and of the stern gloom of the mediæval castle, where the more
spiritual consolations of existence come into prominence--is singularly
effective and original. So also is the charming way in which an incident
in the boyhood of young Joseph Haydn is treated by her fancy, in the
episode of Consuelo's flight from the castle, when he becomes her
fellow-traveller, and their adventures across country are told with
such zest and _entrain_, in pages where life-sketches of character, such
as the good-natured, self-indulgent canon, the violent, abandoned
Corilla, make us forget the wildest improbabilities of the fiction
itself. The concluding portion of the book, again entirely different in
frame, with its delineation of art-life in a fashionable capital,
Vienna, is as true as it is brilliant. It teems with suggestive ideas on
the subject of musical and dramatic art, and with excellently drawn
types. The relations of professional and amateur, the contradictions and
contentions to which, in a woman's nature, the rival forces of love and
of an artistic vocation may give rise, have never been better portrayed
in any novel. The heroine, Consuelo, is of course an ideal character:
her achievements partake of the marvellous; and there are digressions in
the book which are diffuse in the extreme; but nowhere is the author's
imagination more attractively displayed and her style more engaging. The
tone throughout is noble and pure. To look on _Consuelo_ as an agreeable
story merely is to overlook the elevation of the moral standard of the
book, in which much of its power resides. It marks more strongly than
_Mauprat_ the change that had come over the spirit of George Sand's

In the continuation, _La Comtesse de Rodolstadt_, which followed
immediately in the _Revue Indépendante_, 1843, the novelist strays
further and further from reality--the _terra firma_ on which her fancy
improvises such charming dances. Here she only touches the ground now
and then, and between whiles her imagination asks ours to accompany it
on the most extraordinary flights. As a novel of adventure, it is
written with unflagging spirit; and in the rites and doctrines of the
_Illuminati_, an idealization of the feature of the secret sects of the
last century, she found a new medium of expression for her sentiments
regarding the present abuses of society and the need of thorough
renovation. Secret societies, at that time, were extremely numerous and
active among the Republican workers in France. Madame Sand seems
thoroughly to have appreciated their dangers, and has expressly stated
that she was no advocate of such sects; that though under a tyranny,
such as that which oppressed Germany in the times of which she wrote,
they may be a necessity, elsewhere they are an abuse if not a crime.
"The custom indeed I have never regarded as applicable for good in our
time and our country; I have never believed that it can bring forth
anything in future but a dictatorship, and the dictatorial principle is
one I have never accepted." (_Histoire de ma Vie._)

But the romance of the subject was irresistibly tempting to her
inventive faculty. "Tell Leroux to send me some more books on
freemasonry, if he can find any," she writes to a correspondent at Paris
whilst working at the _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_ at Nohant; "I am plunged
into it over head and ears. Tell him also that he has there thrown me
into an abyss of follies and absurdities, but that I am dabbling about
courageously though prepared to extract nothing but nonsense."

For the musical miracles which it is given to Madame Sand's heroes and
heroines to perform at a trifling cost, she may well at this time have
come to regard them as almost in the natural order. She had received her
second, and her best musical education through the contemplation of
original musical genius, of the rarest quality, among her most intimate
friends, her constant guests at Paris and Nohant. The vocal and
instrumental feats of Consuelo and Count Albert themselves are not more
astonishing than the actual recorded achievements of Liszt, pronounced a
perfect _virtuoso_ at twelve years old--and no wonder! The boy had so
carried away his accompanyists, the band of the Italian opera at Paris,
by his performance of the solo in an orchestral piece, that when the
moment came for them to strike in, one and all forgot to do so, but
remained silent, petrified with amazement. And Liszt when in the full
development of his genius, had, as we have seen, been the art-comrade of
George Sand; he had spent the whole of the summer season of 1837 at
Nohant, transcribing Beethoven's symphonies for the piano-forte whilst
she wrote her romances; she was familiar with his marvellous
improvisations. In her "Trip to Chamounix" (_Lettres d'un Voyageur_, No.
VI.) she has drawn a vivid picture of their extraordinary effect,
describing his unrehearsed organ recital in the Cathedral of Freibourg
to his little party of travelling companions. Nor was the charm of
Chopin's gift less magical. The well-known anecdotes related on this
subject are like so many glimpses into a musical paradise. Madame Sand
has given us an amusing one herself. It is evening in her _salon_ at
Paris. At the piano is Chopin; and she, her son, Eugène Delacroix, and
the Polish poet Mickiewicz sit listening whilst the composer, in an
inspired mood, is extemporizing in the sublimest manner to the little
circle. All are in silent raptures; when the servant breaks in with the
alarm--the house is on fire. They rush to the room where the flames are,
and succeed after a time in extinguishing them. Then they perceive that
the poet Mickiewicz is missing. On returning to the _salon_ they find
him as they left him, rapt, entranced, unconscious of the stir around
him, of the scare that had driven all the rest from the room. "He did
not even know we had gone and left him alone. He was listening to
Chopin, he had continued to hear him." Nor could the bewitched poet be
brought down from the clouds that evening. He remained deaf to their
banter, to Madame Sand's laughing admonition, "Next time I am with you
when the house takes fire, I must begin by putting you into a safe
place, for I see you would get burnt like a mere faggot, before you knew
what was going on."

Eugène Delacroix, one of Madame Sand's earliest and most valued friends
in the artist-world, and one of the many with whom she enjoyed along and
unclouded friendship, gives in his letters some agreeable pictures of
life at Nohant, during his visits there in the successive summers of
1845 and 1846:--

     When not assembled together with the rest for dinner, breakfast, a
     game of billiards, or a walk, you are in your room reading, or
     lounging on your sofa. Every moment there come in through the
     window open on the garden, "puffs of music" from Chopin, working
     away on one side, which mingle with the song of nightingales and
     the scent of the roses.

He describes a quiet, monastic-like existence, simple and studious: "We
have not even the distraction of neighbors and friends around. In this
country everybody stays at home, to look after his oxen and his land.
One would become a fossil in a very short time."

The greatest event for the visitor was a village-festival--a wedding or
a Saint's day--when the rustic dances went on under the tall elms to the
roaring of the bagpipes. Peasant youths and peasant maids joined hands
in the _bourrée_, the characteristic dance of the country; now, we fear,
surviving in tradition only, but then still popular. The great artist
was fired to paint a "Ste. Anne," patron-saint of Nohant, in honor of
the place, but his work progressed but slowly. He writes in August,
1846:--"I am frightfully lazy, I can do nothing, I hardly read; and yet
the days pass too quickly, for I must soon renounce this _vie de
chanoine_, and return into the furnace of stirring ideas, good and bad.
In Berry they have very few ideas, but they do just as well without."
Then he adds, "Chopin has been playing Beethoven to me divinely well.
That is worth all æstheticism."

Little theatrical entertainments of an original kind, presided over by
Madame Sand, and carried out by herself, her children, and their young
friends, became in time a prominent feature of life at Nohant. She thus
describes their nature and commencements:--

     During the long evenings I took it into my head to devise for my
     family theatricals on the old Italian pattern--_commedia
     dell'arte_--plays in which the dialogue, itself extemporized, yet
     follows the outlines of a written plan, placarded behind the
     scenes. It is something like the charades acted in society, the
     development of which depends on the talent contributed by the
     actors. It was with these that we began, but little by little the
     word of the charade disappeared. We acted wild _saynètes_,
     afterwards comedies of plot and intrigue, finally dramas of event
     and emotion.

     All began with pantomime; and this was Chopin's invention. He sat
     at the piano and extemporized, whilst the young people acted scenes
     in dumb show and danced comic ballets. These charming
     improvisations turned the children's heads and made their legs
     nimble. He led them just as he chose, making them pass, according
     to his fancy, from the amusing to the severe, from burlesque to
     solemnity--now graceful, now impassioned. We invented all kinds of
     costumes, so as to play different characters in succession. No
     sooner did the artist see them appear than he adapted his theme and
     rhythm to the parts wonderfully. This would be repeated for two or
     three evenings; after which the _maestro_, departing for Paris,
     would leave us quite excited, exalted, determined not to let the
     spark be lost with which he had electrified us.

Chopin was possessed of much dramatic talent himself, and was an
admirable mimic. When a boy it had been said of him that he was born to
be a great actor. His capacity for facial expressions was something
extraordinary; he often amused his friends by imitations of
fellow-musicians, reproducing their manner and gestures to the life; so
well as actually on more than one occasion to take in the spectator.

Madame Sand thus gives account of the even tenor of her way, in a letter
of September, 1845:--

     I have been in Paris till June, and since then am at Nohant until
     the winter, as usual; for henceforward my life is ruled as
     regularly as music paper. I have written two or three novels, one
     of which is just going to appear.

     My son is still thin and delicate, but otherwise well. He is the
     best being, the gentlest, most equable, industrious, simple-minded,
     and straightforward ever seen. Our characters, like our hearts,
     agree so well that we can hardly live a day apart. He is entering
     his twenty-third year, Solange her eighteenth. We have our ways of
     merriment, not noisy, but sustained, which bring our ages nearer
     together, and when we have been working hard all the week we allow
     ourselves, by way of a grand holiday, to go and eat our cake out of
     doors some way off, in a wood or an old ruin, with my brother, who
     is like a sturdy peasant, full of fun and good nature, and who
     dines with us every day, seeing that he lives not two miles off.
     Such are our grand pranks.

Sometimes these little outings would originate a novel, as with the
_Meunier d'Angibault_, which she ascribes to "a walk, a discovery, a day
of leisure, an hour of idleness." On a ramble with her children she came
upon what she calls "a nook in a wild paradise;" a mill, whose owner
had allowed everything to grow around the sluices that chose to spring
up, briar and alder, oaks and rushes. The stream, left to follow its
devices, had forced its way through the sand and the grass in a network
of little waterfalls, covered below in the summer time with thick tufts
of aquatic plants.

It was enough; the seed was sown and the fruit resulted. "The apple
falling from the tree led Newton to the discovery of one of the grand
laws of the universe.... In scientific works of genius, reflection
derives the causes of things from a single fact. In art's humbler
fancies, that isolated fact is dressed and completed in a dream."

The picture given by Madame Sand and her guests of these years of her
life is charming enough, and in certain ways seems an ideal kind of
existence, amid beloved children, friends, pleasant and calm
surroundings, and the sweets of successful literary activity. But if it
had its bright lights, it had also its deep shadows. For every fresh
pleasure and interest crowded into her existence, there entered a fresh
source of anxiety and trouble. Age, in bringing her more power of
endurance, had not blunted her sensibilities. As usual with the
strongest natures in their hours of depression--and none so strong as
to escape these--she could then look for no help except from herself.
Those accustomed, like her, to shirk no responsibility, no burden, to
invite others to lean on them, and to ask no support, if their fortitude
gives way find the allowance, help and sympathy so easily accorded to
their weaker fellow-creatures nowhere ready for them. The exclamation
wrung from one of the characters in a later work of Madame Sand's, may
be but a faithful echo of the cry of her own nature in some moment of
mental torment. "Let me be weak; I have been seeming to be strong for so
long a time!"

Chopin, though the study of his genius had freshly inspired her own, and
greatly extended her comprehension of musical art, was a being to whom
the burden of his own life was too painful to allow him to lighten the
troubles of another; a partial invalid, a prey to nervous irritation, he
was dependent on her to soothe and cheer him at the best of times, and
to be nurse and secretary besides when he was prostrated by illness or
despondency. One is loth to call selfish a nature so attractive in its
refinement, so unhappy in its over-susceptibility. But it is obvious
that such a one might easily become a trial to those he loved. With all
its vigor her nervous system could not escape the exhaustion and
disturbance that attend on incessant brain-work. "Those who have nothing
to do," she remarks, "when they see artists produce with facility, are
ready to wonder at how few hours, how few instants, these can reserve
for themselves. For such do not know how these gymnastics of the
imagination, if they do not affect your health, yet leave an excitation
of your nerves, an obsession of mental pictures, a languor of spirit,
that forbid you to carry on any other kind of work."

Although her constitution was even stronger than in her youth, she had
for some years been subject to severe attacks of neuralgia. "Madame Sand
suffers terribly from violent headaches and pain in her eyes," remarks
Delacroix, in one of the letters above quoted, "which she takes upon
herself to surmount as far as possible, with a great effort, so as not
to distress us by what she goes through." Her habit of writing
principally at night and contenting herself with the least possible
allowance of repose, few could have persisted in for so long without
breaking down. For many years she never took more than four hours sleep.
The strain began to tell on her eye-sight at last, and already in a
letter of 1842 she speaks of being temporarily compelled to suspend this
practice of night-work, to her great regret, as in the daylight hours
she was never secure from interruption. Only her abnormal power of
activity and of bearing fatigue could have enabled her to fulfill so
strenuously the responsibilities she had undertaken to her children, her
private friends, and the public. The pressure of literary work was
incessant, and whatever her dislike to accounts and arithmetic she is
said to have fulfilled her engagements to editors and publishers with
the regularity and punctuality of a notary. Her large acquaintance,
relations with various classes, various projects, literary, political,
and philanthropical, involved an immense amount of serious
correspondence in addition to that arising from the postal persecution
from which no celebrity escapes. Ladies wrote to consult her on
sentimental subjects--to inquire of her, as of an oracle, whether they
should bestow their heart, their hand, or both, upon their suitors;
poets, to solicit her patronage and criticism. In the course of a single
half-year, 153 manuscripts were sent her for perusal! She replied when
it seemed fit, conscientiously and ungrudgingly; but experience had made
her less expansive than formerly to those whose overtures she felt to be
prompted by curiosity or some such idle motive, in the absence of any
sympathy for her ways of thinking. "I am not to be caught in my words
with indifferent persons," she writes to M. Charles Duvernet,
describing how, when in her friend Madame Marliani's _salon_ in Paris
she heard herself and her political allies or their opinions attacked,
she was not to be provoked into argument or indignant denial, but went
on quietly with her work of hemming pocket-handkerchiefs. "To such
people one speaks through the medium of the Press. If they will not
attend, no matter."

Her sex, her anomalous position, her freedom of expression and action,
exposed her to an extent quite exceptional, even for a public character,
to the shafts of malice and slander. Accustomed to have to brave the
worst from such attacks, she might and did arrive at treating them with
an indifference that was not, however, in her nature, which shrank from
the observation and personal criticism of the vulgar.

To a young poet of promise in whose welfare she took interest, she
writes, August, 1842:--

     Never show my letters except to your mother, your wife, or your
     greatest friend. It is a shy habit, a mania I have to the last
     degree. The idea that I am not writing for those alone to whom I
     write, or for those who love them thoroughly, would freeze my heart
     and my hand directly. Everyone has a fault. Mine is a misanthropy
     in my outward habits--for all that I have no passion left in me but
     the love of my fellow-creatures; but with the small services that
     my heart and my faith can render in this world, my personality has
     nothing to do. Some people have grieved me very much,
     unconsciously, by talking and writing about me personally and my
     doings, even though favorably, and meaning well. Respect this
     malady of spirit.

Madame Sand, being naturally undemonstrative, was commonly more or less
tongue-tied and chilled in the presence of a stranger, and she had a
frank dread of introductions and first interviews, even when the
acquaintance was one she desired to make. Sometimes she asks her friends
to prepare such new comers for receiving an unfavorable first
impression, and to beg them not to be unduly prejudiced thereby. Such a
one would find the persecution of lion-hunters intolerable, and now and
then this drove her to extremities. Great must, indeed, have been the
wrath of one of these irrepressibles, who, more obstinate than the rest,
failing by fair means to get an introduction to George Sand, calmly
pushed his way into Nohant unauthorized by anyone, whereupon her friends
conspired to serve him the trick it must be owned he deserved; and which
we give in the words of Madame Sand, writing to the Comtesse d'Agoult.
The story is told also by Liszt in his letters:--

     M. X. is ushered into my room. A respectable-looking person there
     receives him. She was about forty years of age, but you might give
     her sixty at a pinch. She had had beautiful teeth, but had got
     none left. All passes away! She had been rather good-looking, but
     was so no longer. All changes! Her figure was corpulent, and her
     hands were soiled. Nothing is perfect!

     She was clad in a gray woolen gown spotted with black, and lined
     with scarlet. A silk handkerchief was negligently twisted round her
     black hair. Her shoes were faulty, but she was thoroughly
     dignified. Now and then she seemed on the point of putting an _s_
     or a _t_ in the wrong place, but she corrected herself gracefully,
     talked of her literary works, of her excellent friend M. Rollinat,
     of the talents of her visitor which had not failed to reach her
     ears, though she lived in complete retirement, overwhelmed with
     work. M. G. brought her a foot-stool, the children called her
     mamma, the servants Madame.

     She had a gracious smile, and much more distinguished manners than
     that fellow George Sand. In a word X. was happy and proud of his
     visit. Perched in a big chair, with beaming aspect, arm extended,
     speech abundant, there he stayed for a full quarter of an hour in
     ecstasies, and then took leave, bowing down to the ground

It was the maid that had thus been successfully passed off as the
mistress, who with her whole household enjoyed a long and hearty laugh
at the expense of the departed unbidden guest. "M. X. has gone off to
Châteauroux," she concludes, "on purpose to give an account of his
interview with me, and to describe me personally in all the _cafés_."

This anecdote however belongs to a much earlier period of her life, the
year 1837. Of her cordiality and kindliness to those who approached her
in a right spirit of sincerity and simplicity, many have spoken. For
English readers we cannot do better than quote Mr. Matthew Arnold's
interesting account, given in the _Fortnightly_, 1877, of his visit to
her in August, 1846. Desirous of seeing the green lanes of Berry, the
rocky heaths of Bourbonnais, the descriptions of which in _Valentine_
and _Jeanne_ had charmed him so strongly, the traveller chose a route
that brought him to within a few miles of her home:--"I addressed to
Madame Sand," he tells us, "the sort of letter of which she must in her
lifetime have had scores--a letter conveying to her, in bad French, the
youthful and enthusiastic homage of a foreigner who had read her works
with delight." She responded by inviting him to call at Nohant. He came
and joined a breakfast-party that included Madame Sand and her son and
daughter, Chopin, and other friends--Mr. Arnold being placed next to the
hostess. He says of her:--

     As she spoke, her eyes, head, bearing were all of them striking,
     but the main impression she made was one of simplicity, frank,
     cordial simplicity. After breakfast she led the way into the
     garden, asked me a few kind questions about myself and my plans,
     gathered a flower or two and gave them to me, shook hands heartily
     at the gate, and I saw her no more.

During the eight years of successful literary activity, lying between
Madame Sand's return from Majorca and the Revolution of February, 1848,
the profits of her work had, after the first, enabled her freely to
spend the greater part of the year at Nohant, and to provide a
substantial dowry for her daughter. But the amassing of wealth suited
neither her taste nor her principles. She writes to her poet-protégé M.
Poncy, in September, 1845:--

     We are in easy circumstances, which enables us to do away with
     poverty in our own neighborhood, and if we feel the sorrow of being
     unable to do away with that which desolates the world--a deep
     sorrow, especially at my age, when life has no intoxicating
     personality left, and one sees plainly the spectacle of society in
     its injustices and frightful disorder--at least we know nothing of
     _ennui_, of restless ambition and selfish passions. We have a sort
     of relative happiness, and my children enjoy it with the simplicity
     of their age.

     As for me, I only accept it in trembling, for all happiness is like
     a theft in this ill-regulated world of men, where you cannot enjoy
     your ease or your liberty, except to the detriment of your
     fellow-creatures--by the force of things, the law of inequality,
     that odious law, those odious combinations, the thought of which
     poisons my sweetest domestic joys and revolts me against myself at
     every moment. I can only find consolation in vowing to go on
     writing as long as I have a breath of life left in me, against the
     infamous maxim, "_Chacun chez soi, chacun pour soi_." Since all I
     can do is to make this protest, make it I shall, in every key.

Her republican friends in Berry had founded in 1844 a local journal for
the spread of liberal ideas--such as Lamartine at the time was
supporting at Macon. Madame Sand readily contributed her services to a
cause where she labored for the enlightenment of the masses on all
subjects--truth, justice, religion, liberty, fraternity, duties, and
rights. The government of Louis Philippe, so long as such utterances
attacked no definite institution, allowed an almost illimitable freedom
in expression of opinion. The result was that thought had advanced so
far ahead of action that social philosophers had grown to argue as
though practical obstacles had no existence--to be rudely reminded of
their consequence, when brought to the front in 1848, and acting
somewhat too much as if on that supposition.

It is impossible not to make concerning Madame Sand, the reflection made
on other foremost workers in the same cause of organic social
reform--namely, that her character and her instincts were in curious
opposition to her ideas. What was said by Madame d'Agoult of Louis Blanc
applies with even greater force to George Sand: "The sentiment of
personality was never stronger than in this opposer of individualism,
communist theories had for their champion one most unfit to be absorbed
into the community." For no length of time was the idea of "communism"
accepted, and never was it advocated by her except in the most
restricted sense. The land-hunger, or rather land-greed, of the small
proprietors in her neighborhood had, it is true, given her a certain
disgust for these contested possessions. But from the preference of a
small child for a garden of its own however small, to another's however
large, she characteristically infers the instinct of property as a law
of nature it were preposterous to disallow, and furthermore she lays
down as an axiom that, "in treating the communistic idea it is necessary
first to distinguish what is essential in liberty and work to the
complete existence of the individual, from what is collective." When
forced by actual experience to point out what she holds to be the
rightful application of the idea, she limits it to voluntary
association; and she hoped great things from the co-operative principle,
as tending to eliminate the ills of extreme inequalities in the social
structure, and to preserve everything in it that is worth preserving.



By her novels classed as "socialistic," Madame Sand had, as we have
seen, incurred the public hostility of those whom her doctrines alarmed.
And yet her "communist" heroes and heroines are the most pacific and
inoffensive of social influences. They merely aspire to isolate
themselves, and personally to practice principles and virtues of the
highest order; unworldliness such as, if general, might indeed turn the
earth into the desired Utopia. Nothing can be said against their
example, unless that it is too good, and that there is little hope of
its being widely followed.

Charges of another sort, no less bitter, and though exaggerated,
somewhat better founded, assailed her after the appearance in 1847 of
_Lucrezia Floriani_, a novel of character-analysis entirely, but into
which she was accused of having introduced an unflattering portrait of
Frédéric Chopin, whose long and long-requited attachment to her entitled
him to better treatment at her hands.

With respect to the general question of such alleged fictitious
reproductions, few novelists escape getting into trouble on this head.
It has been aptly observed by Mr. Hamerton that the usual procedure of
the reading public in such cases is to fix on some real personage as
distinctly unlike the character in the book as possible, for the
original, and then to complain of the unfaithfulness of the resemblance.
Madame Sand's taste and higher art-instincts would have revolted against
the practice--now unfortunately no longer confined to inferior
writers--of forcing attention to a novel by making it the gibbet of
well-known personalities, with little or no disguise; and Chopin
himself, morbidly sensitive and fanciful though he was, read her work
without perceiving in it any intention there to portray their relations
to each other, which, indeed, had differed essentially from those of the
personages in the romance.

_Lucrezia Floriani_ is a _cantatrice_ of genius, who, whilst still
young, has retired from the world, indifferent to fame, and effectually
disenchanted--so she believes--with passion. Despite an experience
strange and stormy, even for a member of her Bohemian profession,
Lucrezia has miraculously preserved intact her native nobility of soul,
and appears as a meet object of worship to a fastidious young prince on
his travels, who becomes passionately enamored of her. He over-persuades
Lucrezia into trusting that they will find their felicity in each other.
Their happiness is of the briefest duration, owing to the unreasonable
character of the prince, who leads the actress a miserable life; his
love taking the form of petty tyranny and retrospective jealousy. After
long years of this material and moral captivity, the heroic Lucrezia
fades and dies.

Not content with identifying the intolerable, though it must be owned
severely-tested, Prince Karol with Chopin, imaginative writers have gone
so far as to assert that the book was conceived and written from an
express design on the novelist's part to bring about the breach of a
link she was beginning to find irksome!

Madame Sand has described how it was written--as are all such works of
imagination--in response to a sort of "call"--some striking yet
indefinable quality in one idea among the host always floating through
the brain of the artist, that makes him instantly seize it and single it
out as inviting to art-treatment. It would be preposterous to doubt her
statement. But whether the inspiration ought not to have been sacrificed
is another question. Her gift was her good angel and her evil angel as
well, but in any case something of her despot. Here, assuredly, it
ruled her ill. It is indisputable that, as she had pointed out, the sad
history of the attachment of Lucrezia the actress and Karol the prince
deviates too widely from that which was supposed to have originated it
for just comparisons to be drawn between the two, that Karol is not a
genius, and therefore has none of the rights of genius--including, we
presume, the right to be a torment to those around him--that to talk of
a portrait of Chopin without his genius is a contradiction in terms,
that he never suspected the likeness assumed until it was insinuated to
him, and so forth. But there remains this, that in the work of
imagination she here presented to the public there was enough of reality
interwoven to make the world hasten to identify or confound Prince Karol
with Chopin. This might have been a foregone conclusion, as also that
Chopin, the most sensitive of mortals, would be infinitely pained by the
inferences that would be drawn. Perhaps if only as a genius, he had the
right to be spared such an infliction; and one must wish it could have
appeared in this light to Madame Sand. It seems as though it were
impossible for the author to put himself at the point of view of the
reader in such matters. The divine spark itself, that quickens certain
faculties, deadens others. When Goethe, in _Werther_, dragged the
private life of his intimate friends, the Kestners, into publicity, and
by falsifying the character of the one and misrepresenting the conduct
of the other, in obedience to the requisitions of art, exposed his
beloved Charlotte and her husband to all manner of annoyances, it never
seems to have entered into his head beforehand but that they would be
delighted by what he had done. Nor could he get over his surprise that
such petty vexations on their part should not be merged in a proud
satisfaction at the literary memorial thus raised by him to their
friendly intercourse! This seems incredible, and yet his sincerity
leaves no room for doubt.

Madame Sand's transgressions on this head, though few, have obtained
great notoriety, on account of the extraordinary celebrity of two of the
personages that suggested characters she has drawn. To the supposed
originals, however obscure, the mortification is the same. But what
often passes uncommented on when the individuals said to be traduced are
unknown to fame, sets the whole world talking when one of the first
musicians or poets of the century is involved; so that Madame Sand has
incurred more censure than other novelists, though she has deserved it
more rarely. But regret remains that for the sake of _Lucrezia
Floriani_, one of the least pleasant though by no means the least
powerful of her novels, she should have exposed herself to the charge of
unkindness to one who had but a short while to live.

Other causes had latterly been combining to lead to differences of which
it would certainly be unfair to lay the whole blame on Madame Sand. The
tie of personal attachment between Chopin and herself was not associated
by identity of outward interests or even of cares and family affections,
such as, in the case of husband and wife, make self-sacrifice possible
under conditions which might otherwise be felt unbearable, and help to
tide over crises of impatience or wrong. Madame Sand's children were now
grown up; cross-influences could not but arise, hard to conciliate.
Without accrediting Chopin with the self-absorption of Prince Karol, it
is easy to see here, in a situation somewhat anomalous, elements of
probable discord. It was impossible that he should any longer be a first
consideration; impossible that he should not resent it.

For some years his state of health had been getting worse and worse, and
his nervous susceptibilities correspondingly intensified. Madame Sand
betrayed some impatience at last of what she had long borne
uncomplainingly, and their good understanding was broken. As was
natural, the breach was the more severely felt by Chopin, but that it
was of an irreparable nature, one is at liberty to doubt. He bitterly
regretted what he had lost, for which not all the attentions showered on
him by his well-wishers could afford compensation, as his letters

But outward circumstances prolonged the estrangement till it was too
late. They met but once after the quarrel, and that was in company in
March, 1848. Madame Sand would at once have made some approach, but
Chopin did not then respond to the appeal; and the reconciliation both
perhaps desired was never to take place. Political events had intervened
to widen the gap between their paths. Chopin had neither part nor lot in
the revolutionary movement that just then was throwing all minds and
lives into a ferment, and which was completely to engross Madame Sand's
energies for many months to come. It drove him away to England, and he
only returned to Paris, in 1849, to die.

In May, 1847, the tranquility of life at Nohant had been varied by a
family event, the marriage of Madame Sand's daughter Solange with the
sculptor Clésinger. The remainder of the twelvemonth was spent in the
country, apparently with very little anticipation on Madame Sand's part
that the breaking of the political storm, that was to draw her into its
midst, was so near.

The new year was to be one of serious agitations, different to any that
had yet entered into her experience. Political enterprise for the time
cast all purely personal interests and emotions into the background. "I
have never known how to do anything by halves," she says of herself very
truly; and whatever may be thought of the tendency of her political
influence and the manner of its exertion, no one can tax her with
sparing herself in a contest to which, moreover, she came disinterested;
vanity and ambition having, in one of her sex, nothing to gain by it.
But in political matters it seems hard for a poet to do right. If, like
Goethe, he holds aloof in great crises, he is branded for it as a
traitor and a bad patriot. The battle of Leipzig is being fought, and he
sits tranquilly writing the epilogue for a play. If, like George Sand,
he throws the whole weight of his enthusiastic eloquence into what he
believes to be the right scale, it is ten to one that his power, which
knows nothing of caution and patience, may do harm to the cause he has
at heart.

Madame Sand rested her hopes for a better state of things, for the
redemption of France from political corruption, for the amelioration of
the condition of the working classes, and reform of social institutions
in general, on the advent to power of those placed at the head of
affairs by the collapse of the government of Louis Philippe, a crisis
long threatened, long prepared, and become inevitable.

"The whole system," wrote Heine prophetically of the existing monarchy,
five years before its fall, "is not worth a charge of powder, if indeed
some day a charge of powder does not blow it up." February, 1848, saw
the explosion, the flight of the Royal Family, and the formation of a
Provisional Government, with Lamartine at its head.

It is hard to realize in the present day, when we contemplate these
events through the sobering light of the deplorable sequel, how immense
and wide-spreading was the enthusiasm that at this particular juncture
seemed to put the fervent soul of a George Sand or an Armand Barbès into
the most lukewarm and timid. "More than one," writes Madame d'Agoult,
"who for the last twenty years had been scoffing at every grand thought,
let himself be won by the general emotion." The prevailing impression
can have fallen little short of the conviction that a sort of millennium
was at hand for mankind in general and the French in particular, and
that all human ills would disappear because a bad government had been
got rid of, and that without such scenes of blood and strife as had
disfigured previous revolutions.

The first task was firmly to establish a better one in its place. Madame
Sand, though with a strong perception of the terrible difficulties
besetting a ministry which, to quote her own words, would need, in order
to acquit itself successfully, "the genius of a Napoleon and the heart
of Christ," never relaxed an instant in the enforcement, both by example
and exhortation, of her conviction that it was the duty of all true
patriots and philanthropists to consecrate their energies to the cause
of the new republic.

"My heart is full and my head on fire," she writes to a fellow-worker in
the same cause. "All my physical ailments, all my personal sorrows are
forgotten. I live, I am strong, active, I am not more than twenty years
old." The exceptional situation of the country was one in which,
according to her opinion, it behooved men to be ready not only with
loyalty and devotion, but with fanaticism if needed. She worked hard
with her son and her local allies at the ungrateful task of
revolutionizing Le Berry, which, she sighs, "is very drowsy." In March
she came up to Paris and placed her services as journalist and partizan
generally at the disposal of Ledru-Rollin, Minister of the Interior
under the new Government. "Here am I already doing the work of a
statesman," she writes from Paris to her son at Nohant, March 24. Her
indefatigable energy, enabling her as it did to disdain repose, was
perhaps the object of envy to the statesmen themselves. At their disgust
when kept up all night by the official duties of their posts, she laughs
without mercy. Night and day her pen was occupied, now drawing up
circulars for the administration, now lecturing the people in political
pamphlets addressed to them. To the _Bulletin de la République_, a
government journal started with the laudable purpose of preserving a
clear understanding between the mass of the people in the provinces and
the central government, she became a leading contributor. For the festal
invitation performances given to the people at the "Théâtre de la
République," where Rachel sang the Marseillaise and acted in _Les
Horaces_, Madame Sand wrote a little "occasional" prologue, _Le Roi
Attend_, a new and democratic version of Molière's _Impromptu de
Versailles_. The outline is as follows:--Molière is discovered impatient
and uneasy; the King waits, and the comedians are not ready. He sinks
asleep, and has a vision, in which the muse emerges out of a cloud,
escorted by Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, and
Beaumarchais, to each of whom are assigned a few lines--where possible,
lines of their own--in praise of equality and fraternity. They vanish,
and Molière awakes; his servant announces to him that the King
waits--but the King this time is, of course, the people, to whom Molière
now addresses his flattering speech in turn.

But the fervor of heroism that fired everybody in the first days of
successful revolution, that made the leaders disinterested, the masses
well-behaved, reasonable, and manageable, was for the majority a flash
only; and the dreamed-of social ideal, touched for a moment was to
recede again into the far distance. It was Madame Sand's error, and no
ignoble one, to entertain the belief that a nation could safely be
trusted to the guidance of a force so variable and uncontrollable as
enthusiasm, and that the principle of self-devotion could be relied upon
as a motive power. The divisions, intrigues, and fatal complications
that quickly arose at head-quarters confirmed her first estimation of
the practical dangers ahead. She clung to her belief in the sublime
virtues of the masses, and that they would prove themselves grander,
finer, more generous than all the mighty and the learned ones upon
earth. But each of the popular leaders in turn was pronounced by her
tried and found wanting. None of the party chiefs presented the
desirable combination of perfect heroism and political genius. Michel,
the apostle who of old had converted her to the cause, she had long
scorned as a deserter. Leroux, in the moment of action, was a nonentity.
Barbès "reasons like a saint," she observes, "that is to say, very ill
as regards the things of this world." Lamartine was a vain trimmer;
Louis Blanc, a sectarian; Ledru-Rollin, a weathercock. "It is the
characters that transgress," she complains naïvely as one after the
other disappointed her. Her own shortcomings on the score of patience
and prudence were, it must be owned, no less grave. Her
clear-sightedness was unaccompanied by the slightest dexterity of
action. Years before, in one of the _Lettres d'un Voyageur_, she had
passed a criticism on herself as a political worker, the accuracy of
which she made proof of when carried into the vortex. "I am by nature
poetical, but not legislative, warlike, if required, but never
parliamentary. By first persuading me and then giving me my orders some
use may be made of me, but I am not fit for discovering or deciding

Such an influence, important for raising an agitation, was null for
controlling and directing the forces thus set in motion. In the
application of the theories she had accepted she was as weak and obscure
as she was emphatic and eloquent in the preaching of them. Little help
could she afford the republican leaders in dealing with the momentous
question how to fulfill the immense but confused aspirations they had
raised, how to show that their principles could answer the necessities
of the moment.

The worst, perhaps, that can be said of Madame Sand's political
utterances is that they encouraged the people in their false
belief--which belief she shared--that the social reforms so urgently
needed could be worked rapidly by the Government, providing only it were
willing. Over-boldness of expression on the part of advanced sections
only increased the timidity and irresolution of action complained of in
the administration. As the ranks of the Ministry split up into factions,
Madame Sand attached herself to the party of Ledru-Rollin--in whom at
that time she had confidence,--a party that desired to see him at the
head of affairs, and that included Jules Favre, Étienne Arago, and
Armand Barbès. No more zealous political partizan and agent than Madame
Sand. The purpose in view was to preserve a cordial _entente_ between
these trusted chiefs and the masses whose interests they represented and
on whose support they relied. To this end she got together meetings of
working-men at her temporary Parisian abode, addressing them in speech
and in print, and seemingly blind in the heat of the struggle to the
enormous danger of playing with the unmanageable, unreasoning instincts
of the crowd. She still cherished the chimera dear to her
imagination--the prospective vision of the French people assembling
itself in large masses, and deliberately and pacifically giving
expression to its wishes.

Into the _Bulletin de la République_ there crept soon a tone of
impatience and provocation, improper and dangerous in an official organ.
The 16th number, which appeared on April 16, at a moment when the
pending general elections seemed likely to be overruled by
reactionaries, contained the startling declaration that if the result
should thus dissatisfy the Paris people, these would manifest their will
once more, by adjourning the decision of a false national

This sentence, which came from the pen of Madame Sand, was interpreted
into a threat of intimidation from the party that would make
Ledru-Rollin dictator, and created a considerable stir. There was,
indeed, no call for a fresh brand of discord in the republican ranks.
Almost simultaneously came popular demonstrations of a menacing
character. Ledru-Rollin disavowed the offending _Bulletin_; but the
growing uneasiness of the _bourgeoisie_, the unruly discontent among the
workmen, the Government, embarrassed and utterly disorganized, was
powerless to allay. Madame Sand began to perceive that the republic of
her dreams, the "republican republic," was a forlorn hope, though still
unconscious that even heavier obstacles to progress existed in the
governed many than in the incapacity or personal ambition of the
governing few. She writes to her son from Paris, April 17:--

     I am sad, my boy. If this goes on, and in some sense there should
     be no more to be done, I shall return to Nohant to console myself
     by being with you. I shall stay and see the National Assembly,
     after which I think I shall find nothing more here that I can do.

At the _Fête de la Fraternité_, April 20th, the spectacle of a million
of souls putting aside and agreeing to forget all dissensions, all
wrongs in the past and fears for the future, and uniting in a burst of
joyous exultation, filled her with enthusiasm and renewed hope. But the
demonstration of the 15th of May, of which she was next a spectator,
besides its mischievous effect in alarming the quiet classes and
exciting the agitators afresh, gave fatal evidence of the national
disorganization and uncontrollable confusion everywhere prevailing, that
had doomed the republic from the hour of its birth.

Madame Sand, though she strenuously denied any participation or sympathy
with this particular manifestation, was closely associated in the
public mind with those who had aided and abetted the uprising. During
the gathering of the populace, which she had witnessed, mingling
unrecognized among the crowd, a female orator haranguing the mob from
the lower windows of a _café_ was pointed out to her, and she was
assured that it was George Sand. During the repressive measures the
administration was led to take she felt uncertain whether the arrest of
Barbès might not be followed by her own. Some of her friends advised her
to seek safety in Italy, where at that time the partisans of liberty
were more united and sanguine. She turned a deaf ear. But she was
severed now from all influential connection with those in authority.
Before the end of May she left for Nohant, with her hopes for the rapid
regeneration of her country on the wane. "I am afraid for the future,"
she writes to the imprisoned Barbès, shortly after these events. "I
suffer for those who do harm and allow harm to be done without
understanding it.... I see nothing but ignorance and moral weakness
preponderating on the face of the globe."

Through the medium of the press, notably of the journal _La Vraie
République_, she continued to give plain expression to her sentiments,
regardless of the political enmities she might excite, and of the
personal mortification to which she was exposed, even at Nohant, which
with its inmates had recently become the mark for petty hostile
"demonstrations." Alluding to these, she writes:--

     Here in this Berry, so romantic, so gentle, so calm and good, in
     this land I love so tenderly, and where I have given sufficient
     proof to the poor and uneducated that I know my duties towards
     them, I myself in particular am looked upon as the enemy of the
     human race; and if the Republic has not kept its promises, it is I,
     clearly, who am the cause.

The term "communist," caught up and passed from mouth to mouth, was
flung at Madame Sand and her son by the peasants, whose ideas as to its
significance were not a little wild. "A pack of idiots," she writes to
Madame Marliani, "who threaten to come and set fire to Nohant. Brave
they are not, neither morally nor physically; and when they come this
way and I walk through the midst of them they take off their hats; but
when they have gone by they summon courage to shout, 'Down with the

The ingratitude of many who again and again had received succor from her
and hers, she might excuse on account of their ignorance, but the extent
of their ignorance was an obstacle to immediate progress whose weight
she had miscalculated.

"I shall keep my faith," she writes to Joseph Mazzini at this
crisis--"the idea, pure and bright, the eternal truth will ever remain
for me in my heaven, unless I go blind. But hope is a belief in the near
triumph of one's faith. I should not be sincere if I said that this
state of mind had not been modified in me during these last months."

The terrible insurrection of June followed, and overwhelmed her for the
time. It was not only that her nature, womanly and poetical, had the
greatest horror of bloodshed. The spectacle of the republicans
slaughtering each other, of the evil passions stirred, the frightful
anarchy, ended but at a frightful cost, the complete extinction of all
hopes,--nothing left rampant but fear, rancor and distrust,--was
heart-rendering to her whose heart had been thrown into the national
troubles. Great was the panic in Berry, an after-clap of the
disturbances in the capital. Madame Sand's position became more
unpleasant than ever. She describes herself as "_blasée d
outrages_--threatened perpetually by the coward hatreds and imbecile
terrors of country places." But to all this she was well-nigh insensible
in her despair over the public calamities oppressing her nation--the end
of all long-struggling aspirations in "frightful confusion, complete
moral anarchy, a morbid condition, in most which the courageous of us
lost heart and wished for death.

"You say that the _bourgeoisie_ prevails," she writes to Mazzini, in
September, 1848, "and that thus it is quite natural that selfishness
should be the order of the day. But why does the _bourgeoisie_ prevail,
whilst the people is sovereign, and the principle of its sovereignty,
universal suffrage, is still standing? We must open our eyes at last,
and the vision of reality is horrible. The majority of the French people
is blind, credulous, ignorant, ungrateful, wicked, and stupid; it is
_bourgeoisie_ itself!"

Under no conceivable circumstances is it likely that Madame Sand would
not very soon have become disgusted with active politics, for which her
temperament unfitted her in every respect. Impetuous and
uncompromisingly sincere, she was predestined to burn her fingers; proud
and independent, to become something of a scape-goat, charged with all
the follies and errors which she repudiated, as well as with those for
which she was more or less directly responsible.

For some time to come she remained in comparative seclusion at Nohant.
She had not ceased her propaganda, though obliged to conduct it with
greater circumspection. After the horrors of civil warfare, had come the
cry for order at any price, and France had declared for the rule of
Louis Bonaparte. During the course of events that consolidated his
power, Madame Sand withdrew more and more from the strife of political
parties. She had been, and we shall find her again, inclined to hope for
better things for France from its new master than time showed to be in
store. Other republicans besides herself had been disposed to build high
their hopes of this future "saviour of society" in his youthful days of
adversity and mysterious obscurity. When in confinement at the fortress
of Ham, in 1844, Louis Napoleon sent to George Sand his work on the
Extinction of Pauperism. She wrote back a flattering letter in which,
however, with characteristic sincerity, she is careful to remind him
that the party to which she belonged could never acknowledge any
sovereign but the people; that this they considered to be incompatible
with the sovereignty of one man; that no miracle, no personification of
popular genius in a single individual, could prove to them the right of
that individual to sovereign power.

Since then she had seen the people supreme, and been forced to own that
they knew not what they wanted, nor whither they were going, divided in
mind, ferocious in action. Among the leaders, she had seen some
infatuated by the allurements of personal popularity, and the rest
showing, by their inability to cope with the perplexities of
administrative government, that so far philosophical speculations were
of no avail in the actual solution of social problems.

The result of her disenchantment was in no degree the overthrow of her
political faith. A conviction was dawning on her that her social ideal
was absolutely impracticable in any future that she and her friends
could hope to live to see. But the belief on which she founded her
social religion was one in which she never wavered; a certainty that a
progress, the very idea of which now seemed chimerical, would some day
appear to all as a natural thing; nay, that the stream of tendency would
carry men towards this goal in spite of themselves.



"So you thought," wrote Madame Sand to a political friend, in 1849,
"that I was drinking blood out of the skulls of aristocrats. Not I! I am
reading Virgil and learning Latin." And her best propaganda, as by and
by she came to own, was not that carried on in journals such as _La
Vraie République_ and _La Cause du Peuple_. Through her works of
imagination she has exercised an influence more powerful and universal,
if indirect.

Among the more than half a hundred romances of George Sand, there stands
out a little group of three, belonging to the period we have now
reached--the _mezzo cammin_ of her life--creations in a special style,
and over which the public voice, whether of fastidious critics or
general readers, in France or abroad, has been and remains unanimous in

In these, her pastoral tales, she hit on a new and happy vein which she
was peculiarly qualified to work, combining as she did, intimate
knowledge of French peasant life with sympathetic interest in her
subject and lively poetic fancy. Here she affronts no prejudices,
advances no startling theories, handles no subtle, treacherous social
questions, and to these compositions in a perfectly original _genre_ she
brought the freshness of genius which "age cannot wither," together with
the strength and finish of a practiced hand.

Peasants had figured as accessories in her earlier works. The rustic
hermit and philosopher, Patience, and Marcasse the rat-catcher, in
_Mauprat_, are note-worthy examples. In 1844 had appeared _Jeanne_, with
its graceful dedication to Françoise Meillant, the unlettered
peasant-girl who may have suggested the work she could not read--one of
a family of rural proprietors, spoken of by Madame Sand in a letter of
1843 as a fine survival of a type already then fast vanishing--of
patriarchally constituted family-life, embodying all that was grand and
simple in the forms of the olden time.

In _Jeanne_, Madame Sand had first ventured to make a peasant-girl the
central figure of her novel, though still so far deferring to the
received notions of what was essential in order to interest the "gentle"
reader as to surround her simple heroine with personages of rank and
education. Jeanne herself, moreover, is an exceptional and a highly
idealized type--as it were a sister to Joan of Arc, not the inspired
warrior-maid, but the visionary shepherdess of the Vosges. Yet the
creation is sufficiently real. The author had observed how favorable was
the life of solitude and constant communion with nature led by many of
these country children in their scattered homesteads, to the development
of remarkable and tenacious individuality. So with the strange and
poetical Jeanne, too innately refined to prosper in her rough human
environment, yet too fixedly simple to fare much better in more
cultivated circles. She is the victim of a sort of celestial stupidity
we admire and pity at once. In this study of a peasant heroine resides
such charm as the book possesses, and the attempt was to lead on the
author to the productions above alluded to, _La Mareau Diable_,
_François le Champi_, and _La Petite Fadette_. Of this popular trio the
first had been published already two years before the Revolution, in
1846; the second was appearing in the Feuilleton of the _Journal des
Débats_ at the very moment of the breaking of the storm, which
interrupted its publication awhile. When those tumultuous months were
over, and Madame Sand, thrown out of the hurly-burly of active politics,
was brought back by the course of events to Nohant, she seems to have
taken up her pen very much where she had laid it down. The break in her
ordinary round of work made by the excitements of active statesmanship
was hardly perceptible, and in 1849 _Le Champi_ was followed by _La
Petite Fadette_.

_La Mare au Diable_, George Sand's first tale of exclusively
peasant-life, is usually considered her masterpiece in this _genre_. It
was suggested to her, she tells us, by Holbein's dismal engraving of
death coming to the husbandman, an old, gaunt, ragged, over-worked
representative of his tribe--grim ending to a life of cheerless poverty
and toil!

Here was the dark and painful side of the laborer's existence--a true
picture, but not the whole truth. There was another and a bright side,
which might just as allowably be represented in art as the dreary one,
and which she had seen and studied. In Berry extreme poverty was the
exception, and the agriculturist's life appeared as it ought to be,
healthy, calm, and simple, its laboriousness compensated by the soothing
influences of nature, and of strong home affections.

This little gem of a work is thoroughly well-known. The ploughing-scene
in the opening--ploughing as she had witnessed it sometimes in her own
neighborhood, fresh, rough ground broken up for tillage, the plough
drawn by four yoke of young white oxen new to their work and but
half-tamed, has a simplicity and grandeur of effect not easy to parallel
in modern art. The _motif_ of the tale is that you often go far to
search for the good fortune that lies close to your door. Never was so
homely an adage more freshly and prettily illustrated; yet how slight
are the materials, how plain is the outline! Germain, the well-to-do,
widowed laborer, in the course of a few miles' ride, a journey
undertaken in order to present himself and his addresses to the rich
widow his father desires him to woo, discovers the real life-companion
he wants in the poor girl-neighbor, whom he patronizingly escorts on her
way to the farm where she is hired for service. It all slowly dawns upon
him, in the most natural manner, as the least incidents of the journey
call out her good qualities of head and heart--her helpfulness in
misadventure, forgetfulness of self, unaffected fondness for children,
instinctively recognized by Germain's little boy, who, with his
unconscious childish influence, is one of the prettiest features in the
book. Germain, by his journey's end, has his heart so well engaged in
the right quarter that he is proof against the dangerous fascinations of
the coquettish widow.

There is a breath of poetry over the picture, but no denaturalization
of the uncultured types. Germain is honest and warm-hearted, but not
bright of understanding; little Marie is wise and affectionate, but as
unsentimentally-minded as the veriest realist could desire. The native
caution and mercenary habit of thought of the French agricultural class
are indicated by many a humorous touch in the pastorals of George Sand.

Equally pleasing, though not aiming at the almost antique simplicity of
the _Mare au Diable_, is the story of _François le Champi_, the
foundling, saved from the demoralization to which lack of the softening
influences of home and parental affection predestine such unhappy
children, through the tenderness his forlorn condition inspires in a
single heart--that of Madeline Blanchet, the childless wife, whose own
wrongs, patiently borne, have quickened her commiseration for the wrongs
of others. Her sympathy, little though it lies in her power to manifest
it, he feels, and its incalculable worth to him, which is such that the
gratitude of a whole life cannot do more than repay it.

Part of the narrative is here put into the mouth of a peasant, and told
in peasant language, or something approaching to it. Over the propriety
of this proceeding, adopted also in _Les Maîtres Sonneurs_, French
critics are disagreed, though for the most part they regret it. It is
not for a foreigner to decide between them. One would certainly regret
the absence of some of the extremely original and expressive words and
turns of speech current among the rural population, forms which such a
method enabled her to introduce into the narrative as well as into the

_La Petite Fadette_ is not only worthy of its predecessors but by many
will be preferred to either. There is something particularly attractive
in the portraits of the twin brothers--partly estranged by character,
wholly united by affection,--and in the figure of Fanchon Fadet, an
original in humble life, which has made this little work a general
favorite wherever it is known.

These prose-idylls have been called "The Georgics of France." It is
curious that in a country so largely agricultural, and where nature
presents more variety of picturesque aspect than perhaps in any other in
Europe, the poetic side of rural life should have been so sparingly
represented in her imaginative literature. French poets of nature have
mostly sought their inspiration out of their own land, "In France,
especially," observes Théophile Gautier, "all literary people live in
town, that is in Paris the centre, know little of what is unconnected
with it, and most of them cannot tell wheat from barley, potatoes from
beetroot." It was a happy inspiration that prompted Madame Sand to fill
in the blank, in a way all her own, and her task as we have seen was
completed, revolutions notwithstanding. She owns to having then felt the
attraction experienced in all time by those hard hit by public
calamities, "to throw themselves back on pastoral dreams, all the more
naïve and childlike for the brutality and darkness triumphant in the
world of activity." Tired of "turning round and round in a false circle
of argument, of accusing the governing minority, but only to be forced
to acknowledge after all that they were put there by the choice of the
majority," she wished to forget it all: and her poetic temperament which
unfitted her for success in politics assisted her in finding consolation
in nature.

Moreover a district like Le Berry, singularly untouched by corruptions
of the civilization, and preserving intact many old and interesting
characteristics, was a field in which she might draw from reality many
an attractive picture. She was as much rallied by town critics about her
shepherdesses as though she had invented them. And yet she saw them
every day, and they may be seen still by any wanderer in those lanes,
and at every turn, Fanchons, Maries, Nanons, as she described them,
tending their flock of from five to a dozen sheep, or a few geese, a
goat and a donkey, all day long between the tall hedgerows, or on the
common, spinning the while, or possibly dreaming. A certain refinement
of cast distinguishes the type. Eugène Delacroix, in a letter describing
a village festival at Nohant, remarks that if positive beauty is rare
among the natives, ugliness is a thing unknown. A gentle, passive cast
of countenance prevails among the women: "They are all St. Annes," as
the artist expresses it. The inevitable changes brought about by
steam-communication, which have as yet only begun to efface the local
habits and peculiarities, must shortly complete their work. George
Sand's pastoral novels will then have additional value, as graphic
studies of a state of things that has passed away.

It does not appear that the merit of these stories was so quickly
recognized as that of _Indiana_ and _Valentine_. The author might
abstract herself awhile from passing events and write idylls, but the
public had probably not yet settled down into the proper state of mind
for fully enjoying them. Moreover Madame Sand's antagonists in politics
and social science, as though under the impression that she could not
write except to advance some theory of which they disapproved,
pre-supposed in these stories a set purpose of exalting the excellence
of rustic as compared with polite life--of exaggerating the virtues of
the poor, to throw into relief the vices of the rich. The romances
themselves do not bear out such a supposition. In them the author
chooses exactly the same virtues to exalt, the same vices to condemn, as
in her novels of refined society. She shows us intolerance, selfishness,
and tyranny of custom marring or endangering individual happiness among
the working-classes, as with their superiors. There are Philistines in
her thatched cottages, as well as in her marble halls. Germain, in _La
Mare au Diable_, has some difficulty to discover for himself, as well as
to convince his family and neighbors, that in espousing the penniless
Marie he is not marrying beneath him in every sense. François le Champi
is a pariah, an outcast in the estimation of the rustic world. Fanchon
Fadet, by her disregard of appearances and village etiquette,
scandalizes the conservative minds of farmers and millers very much as
Aurore Dupin scandalized the leaders of society at La Châtre. Most
prominence is given to the more pleasing characters, but the existence
of brutality and cupidity among the peasant classes is nowhere kept out
of sight. Her long practical acquaintance with these classes indeed was
fatal to illusions on the subject. The average son of the soil was as
far removed as any other living creature from her ideal of humanity, and
at the very time when she penned _La Petite Fadette_ she was
experiencing how far the ignorance, ill-will, and stupidity of her
poorer neighbors could go.

Thus she writes from Nohant to Barbès at Vincennes, November 1848:
"Since May, I have shut myself up in prison in my retreat, where, though
without the hardships of yours, I have more to suffer than you from
sadness and dejection, ... and am less in safety." Threatened by the
violence and hatred of the people, she had painfully realized that she
and her party had their most obstinate enemies among those whom they
wished and worked to save and defend.

Her profound discouragement finds expression in many of her letters from
1849 to 1852. The more sanguine hopes of Mazzini and other of her
correspondents she desires, but no longer expects, to see fulfilled. She
compares the moral state of France to the Russian retreat; the soldiers
in the great army of progress seized with vertigo, and seeking death in
fighting with each other.

To her son, who was in Paris at the time of the disturbances in May,
1849, she writes:--

     Come back, I implore you. I have only you in the world, and your
     death would be mine. I can still be of some small use to the cause
     of truth, but if I were to lose you it would be all over with me. I
     have not got the stoicism of Barbès and Mazzini. It is true they
     are men, and they have no children. Besides, in my opinion it is
     not in fight, not by civil war, that we shall win the cause of
     humanity in France. We have got universal suffrage. The worse for
     us if we do not know how to avail ourselves of it, for that alone
     can lastingly emancipate us, and the only thing that would give us
     the right to take up arms would be an attempt on their part to take
     away our right to vote.

During the two years preceding the _coup d'état_ of December, 1851, life
at Nohant had resumed its wonted cheerfulness of aspect. Madame Sand was
used to surround herself with young people and artistic people; but now,
amid their light-heartedness, she had for a period to battle with an
extreme inward sadness, confirmed by the fresh evidence brought by these
years of the demoralization in all ranks of opinion. "Your head is not
very lucid when your heart is so deeply wounded," she had remarked
already, after the disasters of 1848, "and how can one help suffering
mortally from the spectacle of civil war and the slaughter among the

To that was now added a loss of faith in the virtues of her own party,
as well as of the masses. It is no wonder if she fell out of love for
awhile with the ideals of romance, with her own art of fiction, and the
types of heroism that were her favorite creations. But if the shadow of
a morbid pessimism crept over her mind, she could view it now as a
spiritual malady which she had yet the will and the strength to live
down; as years before she had surmounted a similar phase of feeling
induced by personal sorrow.

Already, in 1847, she had begun to write her _Memoirs_, and reverting to
them now, she found there work that suited her mood, as dealing with the
past, more agreeable to contemplate just then than the present or the

However, in September, 1850, we find her writing to Mazzini,--after
dwelling on the present shortcomings of the people, and the mixture of
pity and indignation with which they inspired her: "I turn back to
fiction and produce, in art, popular types such as I see no longer; but
as they ought to be and might be." She alludes to a play on which she
was engaged, and continues: "The dramatic form, being new to me, has
revived me a little of late; it is the only kind of work into which I
have been able to throw myself for a year."

The events of December, 1851, surprised her during a brief visit to
Paris. Her hopes for her country had sunk so low, that she owns herself
at the moment not to have regarded the _coup d'état_ as likely to prove
more disastrous to the cause of progress than any other of the violent
ends which threatened the existing political situation. She left the
capital in the midst of the cannonade, and with her family around her at
Nohant awaited the issue of the new dictatorship.

The wholesale arrests that followed immediately, and filled the country
with stupefaction, made havoc on all sides of her. Among the victims
were comrades of her childhood, numbers of her friends and acquaintance
and their relatives--as well in Berry as in the capital--many arrested
solely on suspicion of hostility to the President's views, yet none the
less exposed to chances of death, or captivity, or exile.

The crisis drove Madame Sand once more to quit the privacy of her
country life, but this time in the capacity of intercessor with the
conqueror for his victims. She came up to Paris, and on January 20,
1852, addressed a letter to the President, imploring his clemency for
the accused generally in an admirably eloquent appeal to his sentiments
as well of justice as of generosity. The plea she so forcibly urged,
that according to his own professions mere opinion was not to be
prosecuted as a crime, whereas the so-called "preventive measures" had
involved in one common ruin with his active opponents those who had been
mere passive spectators of late events, was, of course, unanswerable.
The future Emperor granted her two audiences within a week at the
Elysée, in answer to her request, and he succeeded on the first occasion
in convincing her that the acts of iniquity and intimidation perpetrated
as by his authority were as completely in defiance of his public
intentions as of his private principles. As a personal favor to herself,
he readily offered her the release of any of the political prisoners
that she choose to name, and promised that a general amnesty should
speedily follow. She left him, reassured to some extent as to the fate
in store for her country. The second interview she had solicited in
order to plead the cause of one of her personal friends, condemned to
transportation. The mission was a delicate one, for her client would
engage himself to nothing for the future, and Madame Sand, in
petitioning for his release, saw no better course open to her than as
expressed by herself, frankly to denounce him to the President as his
"incorrigible personal enemy." Upon this the President granted her the
prisoner's full pardon at once. Madame Sand was naturally touched by
this ready response of the generous impulse to which she had trusted. To
those who cast doubts on the sincerity of any good sentiment in such a
quarter, she very properly replied that it was not for her to be the
first to discredit the generosity she had so successfully appealed to.

But between her republican friends, loth to owe their deliverance to the
tender mercies of Louis Napoleon, and her own desire to save their lives
and liberties, and themselves and their families from ruin and despair,
she found her office of mediator a most unthankful one. She persisted
however in unwearying applications for justice and mercy, addressed both
to the dictator directly, and through his cousin, Prince Napoleon
(Jerome), between whom and herself there existed a cordial esteem. She
clung as long as she could to her belief in the public virtue of the
President, or Emperor as he already began to be called here and there.
But the promised clemency limited itself to a number of particular cases
for whom she had specially interceded.

The subsequent conditions of France precluded all free emission of
socialist or republican opinions, but Madame Sand desired nothing better
than to send in her political resignation; and it is impossible to share
the regret of some of her fellow-republicans at finding her again
devoting her best energies to her art of fiction, and in November, 1853,
writing to Mazzini such words of wisdom as these:--

     You are surprised that I can work at literature. For my part, I
     thank God that he has let me preserve this faculty; for an honest
     and clear conscience like mine still finds, apart from all debate,
     a work of moralization to pursue. What should I do if I relinquish
     my task, humble though it be? Conspire? It is not my vocation; I
     should make nothing of it. Pamphlets? I have neither the wit nor
     the wormwood required for that. Theories? We have made too many,
     and have fallen to disputing, which is the grave of all truth and
     all strength. I am, and always have been, artist before everything
     else. I know that mere politicians look on artists, with great
     contempt, judging them by some of those mountebank-types which are
     a disgrace to art. But you, my friend, you well know that a real
     artist is as useful as the _priest_ and the _warrior_, and that
     when he respects what is true and what is good, he is in the right
     path where the divine blessing will attend him. Art belongs to all
     countries and to all time, and its special good is to live on when
     all else seems to be dying. That is why Providence delivers it from
     passions too personal or too general, and has given to its
     organization patience and persistence, an enduring sensibility, and
     that contemplative sense upon which rests invincible faith.

Her novel, _Les Maîtres Sonneurs_, the first-fruits of the year 1853, is
what most will consider a very good equivalent for party pamphlets and
political diatribes.

When composing _La Mare au Diable_, in 1846, Madame Sand looked forward
to writing a series of such peasant tales, to be collectively entitled
_Les Veillées du Chanvreur_, the hemp-beaters being, as will be
recollected, the Scheherazades of each village. Their number was never
to be thus augmented, but the idea is recalled by the chapter-headings
of _Les Maîtres Sonneurs_, in which Étienne Despardieu, or Tiennet, the
rustic narrator, tells, in the successive _veillées_ of a month, the
romance of his youth. It is a work of a very different type to the rural
tales that had preceded it, and should be regarded apart from them. It
is longer, more complex in form and sentiment, more of an ideal
composition. _Les Maîtres Sonneurs_, is a delightful pastoral, woodland
fantasy, standing by itself among romances much as stands a kindred work
of imagination, "As You Like It," among plays, yet thoroughly
characteristic of George Sand, the nature-lover, the seer into the
mysteries of human character, and the imaginative artist. The agreeable
preponderates in the story, but it has its tragic features and its
serious import. A picturesque and uncommon setting adds materially to
its charm. Every thread tells in this delicate piece of fancy-work, and
the weaver's art is indescribable. But one may note the ingenuity with
which four or five interesting yet perfectly natural types are brought
into a group and contrasted; improbable incidents so handled as not to
strike a discordant note, the characteristics of the past introduced
without ever losing hold of the links, the points of identity between
past and present. The scene is the hamlet of Nohant itself; the time is
a century ago, when the country, half covered with forest, was wilder,
the customs rougher, the local coloring stronger than even Madame Sand
in her childhood had known them. The personages belong to the rural
proprietor class. The leading characters are all somewhat out of the
common, but such exist in equal proportions in all classes of society,
and there is ample evidence besides George Sand's of notable examples
among the French peasantry. The plot and its interest lie in the
development of character and the fine tracing of the manner in which the
different characters are influenced by circumstances and by each other.
If the beauty of rustic maidens, and of rustic songs and dance-music, as
here described, seem to transcend probability, it must be remembered it
is a peasant who speaks of these wonders, and as wonders they might
appear to his limited experience. As a musical novel, it has the
ingenious distinction of being told from the point of view of the sturdy
and honest, but unartistic and non-musical Tiennet; a typical
Berrichon. Madame Sand was of opinion that during the long occupation of
Berry by the English the two races had blended extensively, and she
would thus account for some of the heavier, more inexpansive qualities
of our nation having become characteristic of this French province.

More than one English reader of _Les Maîtres Sonneurs_ may have been
struck by the picture there presented of peasant-folk in a state of
peace and comfort, such as we do not suppose to have been common in
France before the Revolution. Madame Sand has elsewhere explained how,
as a fact, Nohant, and other estates in the region round about, had
enjoyed some immunity from the worst abuses of the _ancien régime_.
Several of these properties, as it happened, had fallen to women or
minors--widows, elderly maiden ladies, who, and their agents, spared the
holders and cultivators of the soil the exactions which, by right or by
might, its lords were used to levy. "So the peasants," she writes, "were
accustomed not to put themselves to any inconvenience; and when came the
Revolution they were already so well relieved virtually from feudal
bonds that they took revenge on nobody." A new _seigneur_ of Nohant,
coming to take possession, and thinking to levy his utmost dues, in
cash and in kind, found his rustic tenants turn a deaf ear to his
summons. Ere he could insist the storm burst, but it brought no
convulsion, and merely confirmed an independence already existing.

_Les Maîtres Sonneurs_, whilst illustrating some of the most striking
merits of George Sand, is free from the defects often laid to her
charge; and although of all her pastorals it must suffer the most when
rendered in any language but the original, it is much to be regretted
that some good translation of this work should not put it within the
reach of all English readers.



There are few eminent novelists that have not tried their hands at
writing for the stage; and Madame Sand had additional inducements to do
so, beyond those of ambition satiated with literary success, and tempted
by the charm of making fresh conquest of the public in a more direct and
personal fashion.

From early childhood she had shown a strong liking for the theatre. The
rare performances given by travelling acting-companies at La Châtre had
been her greatest delight when a girl. At the convent-school she had
arranged Molière from memory for representation by herself and her
school-fellows, careful so to modify the piece as to avoid all
possibility of shocking the nuns. Thus the Sisters applauded _Le Malade
Imaginaire_ without any suspicion that the author was one whose works,
for them, were placed under a ban, and whose very name they held in
devout abhorrence. She inherited from her father a taste for acting,
which she transmitted to her children. We have seen her during her
literary novitiate in Paris, a studious observer at all theatres, from
the classic boards of the Français down to the lowest of popular stages,
the Funambules, where reigned at that time a real artist in pantomime,
Débureau. His Pierrot, a sort of modified Pulchinello, was renowned; and
attracted more fastidious critics to his audience than the Paris
artisans whose idol he was. Since then Madame Sand had numbered among
her personal friends such leading dramatic celebrities as Madame Dorval,
Bocage, and Pauline Garcia. "I like actors," she says playfully, "which
has scandalized some austere people. I have also been found fault with
for liking the peasantry. Among these I have passed my life, and as I
found them, so have I described them. As these, in the light of the sun,
give us our daily bread for our bodies, so those by gaslight give us our
daily bread of fiction, so needful to the wearied spirit, troubled by
realities." Peasants and players seem to be the types of humanity
farthest removed from each other, and it is worthy of remark that George
Sand was equally successful in her presentation of both.

Her preference for originality and spontaneity before all other
qualities in a dramatic artist was characteristic of herself, though
not of her nation. Thus it was that Madame Dorval, the heroine of
_Antony_ and _Marion Delorme_, won her unbounded admiration. Even in
Racine she clearly preferred her to Mlle. Mars, as being a less studied
actress, and one who abandoned herself more to the inspiration of the
moment. The effect produced, as described by Madame Sand, will be
understood by all keenly alive, like herself, to the enjoyment of
dramatic art. "She" (Madame Dorval) "seemed to me to be myself, more
expansive, and to express in action and emotion all that I seek to
express in writing." And compared with such an art, in which conception
and expression are simultaneous, her own art of words and phrases would
at such moments appear to her as but a pale reflection.

Bocage, the great character actor of his time, was another who likewise
appealed particularly to her sympathies, as the personation, on the
boards, of the protest of the romantic school against the slavery of
convention and tradition. Her acquaintance with him dated from the first
representation of Hugo's _Lucrèce Borgia_, February, 1833, when Bocage
and the author of _Indiana_, then strangers to each other, chanced to
sit side by side. In their joint enthusiasm over the play they made the
beginning of a thirty years' friendship, terminated only by Bocage's
death in 1862. "It was difficult not to quarrel with him," she says of
this popular favorite; "he was susceptible and violent; it was
impossible not to be reconciled with him quickly. He was faithful and
magnanimous. He forgave you admirably for wrongs you had never done him,
and it was as good and real as though the pardon had been actual and
well-founded, so strong was his imagination, so complete his good

The assistance of Madame Dorval, added to the strength of the Comédie
Française company, did not, however, save from failure Madame Sand's
first drama, _Cosima_, produced, as will be remembered, in 1840. She
allowed nearly a decade to elapse before again seriously competing for
theatrical honors, by a second effort in a different style, and more
satisfactory in its results.

This, a dramatic adaptation by herself of her novel, _François le
Champi_, was produced at the Odéon in the winter of 1849. Generally
speaking, to make a good play out of a good novel, the playwright must
begin by murdering the novel; and here, as in all George Sand's dramatic
versions of her romances, we seem to miss the best part of the original.
However, the curious simplicity of the piece, the rustic scenes and
personages, here faithfully copied from reality, unlike the conventional
village and villager of opera comique, and the pleasing sentiment that
runs through the tale, were found refreshing by audiences upon whom the
sensational incidents and harrowing emotions of their modern drama were
already beginning to pall. The result was a little stage triumph for
Madame Sand. It helped to draw to her pastoral tales the attention they
deserved, but had not instantly won in all quarters. Théophile Gautier
writes playfully of this piece: "The success of _François le Champi_ has
given all our vaudeville writers an appetite for rusticity. Only let
this go on a little, and we shall be inundated by what has humorously
been called the 'ruro-drama.' Morvan hats and Berrichon head-dresses
will invade the scenes, and no language be spoken but in dialect."

Madame Sand was naturally encouraged to repeat the experiment. This was
done in _Claudie_ (1851) and _Le Pressoir_ (1853), ruro-dramas both, and
most favorably received. The first-named has a simple and pathetic
story, and, as usual with Madame Sand's plays, it was strengthened at
its first production by the support of some of the best acting talent in
Paris--Fechter, then a rising _jeune premier_, and the veteran Bocage
ably representing, respectively, youth and age. Old Berrichon airs were
introduced with effect, as also such picturesque rustic festival customs
as the ancient harvest-home ceremony, in which the last sheaf is brought
on a wagon, gaily decked out with poppies, cornflowers and ribbons, and
receives a libation of wine poured by the hand of the oldest or youngest
person present.

"But what the theatre can never reproduce," laments Madame Sand, "is the
majesty of the frame--the mountain of sheaves solemnly approaching,
drawn by three pairs of enormous oxen, the whole adorned with flowers,
with fruit, and with fine little children perched upon the top of the
last sheaves."

Henceforward a good deal of her time and interest continued to be
absorbed by these dramatic compositions. But though mostly eliciting
during her lifetime a gratifying amount of public favor and applause,
the best of them cannot for an instant be placed in the same high rank
as her novels. For with all her wide grasp of the value of dramatic art
and her exact appreciation of the strength and weakness of the acting
world, her plays remain, to great expectations, uniformly disappointing.
Her specialty in fiction lies in her favorite art of analyzing and
putting before us, with extreme clearness, the subtlest ramifications,
the most delicate intricacies of feeling and thought. A stage audience
has its eyes and ears too busy to give its full attention to the finer
complications of sentiment and motive; or, at least, in order to keep
its interest alive and its understanding clear, an accentuation of
outline is needed, which she neglects even to seek.

Her assertion, that the niceties of emotion are sufficient to found a
good play upon, no one now will dream of disputing. But for this an art
of execution is needed of which she had not the instinct. The action is
insufficient, or rather, the sense of action is not conveyed. The
slightness of plot--a mere thread in most instances--requires that the
thread shall at least be never allowed to drop. But she cuts or slackens
it perpetually, long arguments and digressions intervening, and the
dialogue, whose monotony is unrelieved by wit, nowhere compensates for
the limited interest of the action. Awkward treatment is but half felt
when subject and situations are dramatically strong; but plays with so
airy and impalpable a basis as these need to be sustained by the utmost
perfection of construction, concision and polish of dialogue.

Her novel _Mauprat_ has many dramatic points, and she received a score
of applications for leave to adapt it to the stage. She preferred to
prepare the version herself, and it was played in the winter of 1853-4,
with moderate success. But it suffers fatally from comparison with its
original. An extreme instance is _Flaminio_ (1854), a protracted drama,
drawn by Madame Sand from her novelette _Teverino_. This is a
fantasy-piece whose audacity is redeemed, as are certain other
blemishes, by the poetic suggestiveness of the figure of Madeline, the
bird-charmer; whilst the picturesque sketch of Teverino, the idealized
Italian bohemian, too indolent to turn his high natural gifts to any
account, has proved invaluable to the race of novelists, who are not yet
tired of reproducing it in large. The work is one addressed mainly to
the imagination.

In the play we come down from the clouds; the poetry is gone, taste is
shocked, fancy uncharmed, the improbabilities become grotesque, and the
whole is distorted and tedious. Madame Sand's personages are never weary
of analyzing their sentiments. Her flowing style, so pleasant to read,
carries us swiftly and easily through her dissertations in print, before
we have time to tire of them. On the stage such colloquies soon appear
lengthy and unnatural. The climax of absurdity is reached in _Flaminio_,
where we find the adventurer expatiating to the man of the world on
"the divinity of his essence."

There is scarcely a department of theatrical literature in which Madame
Sand does not appear as an aspirant. She was a worshipper of
Shakespeare, acknowledging him as the king of dramatic writers. For her
attempt to adapt "As You Like It" to suit the tastes of a Parisian
audience, she disarms criticism by a preface in the form of a letter to
M. Régnier, of the Comédie Française, prefixed to the printed play. Here
she says plainly that to resolve to alter Shakespeare is to resolve to
murder, and that she aims at nothing more than at giving the French
public some idea of the original. In "As You Like It" the license of
fancy taken is too wide for the piece to be safely represented to her
countrymen, since it must jar terribly on "that French reason which,"
remarks Madame Sand, "we are so vain of, and which deprives us of so
many originalities quite as precious as itself." The fantastic, which
had so much attraction for her (possibly a result of her part German
origin), is a growth that has hard work to flourish on French soil. The
reader will remember the fate of Weber's _Freischütz_, outrageously
hissed when first produced at Paris in its original form. Nine days
later it was reproduced, having been taken to pieces and put together
again by M. Castil-Blaze, and thus as _Robin des Bois_ it ran for 357
nights. The reckless imagination that distinguishes the Shakespearian
comedy and does not shrink before the introduction of a lion and a
serpent into the forest of Arden, and the miraculous and instantaneous
conversion of the wretch Oliver into a worthy suitor for Celia, needed
to be toned down for acceptance by the Parisians. But Madame Sand was
less fortunate than M. Castil-Blaze. Her version, produced at the
Théâtre Français, in 1856, failed to please, although supported by such
actors as Delaunay, Arnold-Plessy, and Favart. Macready, who had made
Madame Sand's acquaintance in 1845, when he was giving Shakespearian
performances in Paris, and whom she greatly admired, dedicating to him
her little theatrical romance _Le Château des Désertes_, was present at
this representation and records it as a failure. But of her works for
the stage, which number over a score, few like her _Comme il vous
plaira_ missed making some mark at the time, the prestige of her name
and the exceptionally favorable circumstances under which they were
produced securing more than justice for their intrinsic merit. It was
natural that she should over-estimate their value and continue to add to
their number. These pieces would be carefully rehearsed on the little
stage in the house at Nohant, often with the aid of leading professional
actors; and there, at least, the success was unqualified.

Her ingenious novel _Les Beaux Messieurs Bois Doré_, dramatized with the
aid of Paul Meurice and acted in 1862, was a triumph for Madame Sand and
her friend Bocage. The form and spirit of this novel seem inspired by
Sir Walter Scott, and though far from perfect, it is a striking instance
of the versatility of her imaginative powers. The leading character of
the septuagenarian Marquis, with his many amiable virtues, and his one
amiable weakness, a longing to preserve intact his youthfulness of
appearance as he has really preserved his youthfulness of heart, is both
natural and original, comic and half pathetic withal. The part in the
play seemed made for Bocage, and his heart was set upon undertaking it.
But his health was failing at the time, and the manager hesitated about
giving him the rôle. "Take care, my friend," wrote Bocage to Madame
Sand; "perhaps I shall die if I play the part; but if I play it not, I
shall die of that, to a certainty." She insisted, and play it he did, to
perfection, she tells us. "He did not act the Marquis de Bois Doré; he
was the personage himself, as the author had dreamt him." It was to be
his last achievement, and he knew it. "It is my end," he said one
night, "but I shall die like a soldier on the field of honor." And so he
did, continuing to play the rôle up till a few days before his death.

More lasting success has attended Madame Sand in two of the lightest of
society comedies, _Le Mariage de Victorine_ and _Le Marquis de
Villemer_, which seem likely to take a permanent place in the
_répertoire_ of the French stage. The first, a continuation that had
suggested itself to her of Sedaine's century-old comedy, _Le Philosophe
sans le savoir_, escapes the ill fate that seems to attend sequels in
general. It is of the slightest materials, but holds together, and is
gracefully conceived and executed. First produced at the Gymnase in
1851, it was revived during the last year of Madame Sand's life in a
manner very gratifying to her, being brought out with great applause at
the Comédie Française, preceded on each occasion by Sedaine's play, and
the same artists appearing in both.

The excellent dramatic version of her popular novel _Le Marquis de
Villemer_, first acted in 1864, is free from the defects that weaken
most of her stage compositions. It is said that in preparing it she
accepted some hints from Alexander Dumas the younger. Whatever the
cause, the result is a play where characters, composition and dialogue
leave little to be desired.

_L'autre_, her latest notable stage success, brings us down to 1870,
when it was acted at the Gymnase, Madame Sarah Bernhardt impersonating
the heroine. This not very agreeable play is derived, with material
alterations, from Madame Sand's agreeable novel _La Confession d'une
jeune Fille_, published in 1864.

If, however, her works for the stage, which fill four volumes, added but
little, in proportion to their quantity, to her permanent fame, her
dramatic studies added fresh interest and variety to her experience,
which brought forth excellent fruit in her novels. Actors, their art and
way of life have fared notoriously badly in fiction. Such pictures have
almost invariably fallen into the extreme of unreality or that of
caricature, whether for want of information or want of sympathy in those
who have drawn them.

The subject, always attractive for Madame Sand, is one in which she is
always happy. Already in the first year of her literary career her keen
appreciation of the art and its higher influences had prompted her
clever novelette _La Marquise_. Here she illustrates the power of the
stage as a means of expression--of the truly inspired actor, though his
greatness be but momentary, and his heroism a semblance, to strike a
like chord in the heart of the spectator--and, in a corrupt and
artificial age, to keep alive some latent faith in the ideal. Since
then the stage and players had figured repeatedly in her works.
Sometimes she portrays a perfected type, such as Consuelo, or Impéria in
_Pierre qui roule_, but always side by side with more earthly and faulty
representatives such as Corilla and Anzoleto, or Julia and Albany, in
Narcisse, incarnations of the vanity and instability that are the chief
dangers of the profession, drawn with unsparing realism. In _Le Château
des Désertes_ we find further many admirable theories and suggestive
ideas on the subject of the regeneration of the theatre. But it fared
with her theatrical as with her political philosophy: she failed in its
application, not because her theories were false, but for want of
practical aptitude for the craft whose principles she understood so

It is impossible here to do more than cast a rapid glance over the
literary work accomplished by George Sand during the first decade of the
empire. It includes more than a dozen novels, of unequal merit, but of
merit for the most part very high. The _Histoire de ma Vie_ was
published in 1855. It is a study of chosen passages out of her life,
rather than a connected autobiography. One out of the four volumes is
devoted to the story of her father's life before her birth; two more to
the story of her childhood and girlhood. The fourth rather indicates
than fully narrates the facts of her existence from the time of her
marriage till the Revolution of 1848. It offers to her admirers
invaluable glimpses into her life and mind, and is a highly interesting
and characteristic composition, if a most irregular chronicle. It has
given rise to two most incompatible-sounding criticisms. Some have been
chiefly struck by its amazing unreserve, and denounced the
over-frankness of the author in revealing herself to the public. Others
complain that she keeps on a mask throughout, and never allows us to see
into the recesses of her mind. Her passion for the analysis of sentiment
has doubtless led her here, as in her romances, to give very free
expression to truths usually better left unspoken. But her silence on
many points about which her readers, whether from mere curiosity or some
more honorable motive, would gladly have been informed, was then
inevitable. It could not have been broken without wounding the
susceptibilities of living persons, which she did right in respecting,
at the cost of disappointment to an inquisitive public.

In January, 1855, a terrible domestic sorrow befell her in the loss of
her six-years-old grandchild, Jeanne Clésinger, to whom she was devoted.
It affected her profoundly. "Is there a more mortal grief," she
exclaims, "than to outlive, yourself, those who should have bloomed upon
your grave?" The blow told upon her mentally and physically; she could
not rally from its effects, till persuaded to seek a restorative in
change of air and scene, which happily did their work.

"I was ill," she says, when writing of these events to a lady
correspondent, later in the same year; "my son took me away to Italy....
I have seen Rome, revisited Florence, Genoa, Frascati, Spezia,
Marseilles. I have walked a great deal, been out in the sun, the rain,
the wind, for whole days out of doors. This, for me, is a certain
remedy, and I have come back cured."

Those who care to follow the mind of George Sand on this Italian journey
may safely infer from _La Daniella_, a novel written after this tour,
and the scene of which is laid in Rome and the Campagna, that the
author's strongest impression of the Eternal City was one of
disillusion. Her hero, a Berrichon artist on his travels, confesses to a
feeling of uneasiness and regret rather than of surprise and admiration.
The ancient ruins, stupendous in themselves, seemed to her spoilt for
effect by their situation in the center of a modern town. "Of the Rome
of the past not enough exists to overwhelm me with its majesty; of the
Rome of the present not enough to make me forget the first, and much too
much to allow me to see her."

But the Baths of Caracalla, where the picture is not set in a frame of
hideous houses, awakened her native enthusiasm. "A grandiose ruin," she
exclaims, "of colossal proportions; it is shut away, isolated, silent
and respected. There you feel the terrific power of the Cæsars, and the
opulence of a nation intoxicated with its royalty over the world."

So in the Appian Way, the road of tombs, the fascination of
desolation--a desolation there unbroken and undisfigured by modern
buildings or otherwise--she felt to the full. But whatever came under
her notice she looked on with the eye of the poet and artist, not of the
archæologist, and approved or disapproved or passed over it accordingly.

The beauties of nature, at Tivoli and Frascati, appealed much more
surely to her sympathies. But of certain sites in the Campagna much
vaunted by tourists and hand-books she remarks pertinently: "If you were
to pass this village" (Marino) "on the railway within a hundred miles of
Paris, you would not pay it the slightest attention." Such places had
their individuality, but she upheld that there is not a corner in the
universe, "however common-place it may appear, but has a character of
its own, unique in this world, for any one who is disposed to feel or
comprehend it." In one of her village tales a sagacious peasant
professes his profound contempt for the man who cannot like the place he
belongs to.

Neither the grottoes and cascades of Tivoli, the cypress and ilex
gardens of Frascati and Albano, nor the ruins of Tusculum, were ever so
pleasant to her eyes as the poplar-fringed banks of the Indre, the
corn-land sand hedgerows of Berry, and the rocky borders of the Creuse
at Crozant and Argenton. She had not ceased making fresh picturesque
discoveries in her own neighborhood. Of these she records an instance in
her pleasant _Promenades autour d'un village_, a lively sketch of a few
days' walking-tour on the banks of the Creuse, undertaken by herself and
some naturalist friends in June, 1857. In studying the interesting and
secluded village of Gargilesse, with its tenth-century church and crypt
with ancient frescoes, its simple and independent-minded population, in
following the course of a river whose natural wild beauties, equal to
those of the Wye, are as yet undisfigured here by railroad or the hand
of man, lingering on its banks full of summer flowers and butterflies,
exploring the castles of Châteaubrun and La Prugne au Pot, George Sand
is happier, more herself, more communicative than in Rome, "the museum
of the universe."

The years 1858 to 1861 show her to us in the fullest conservation of her
powers and in the heyday of activity. The group of novels belonging to
this period, the climax of what may be called her second career, is
sufficiently remarkable for a novelist who was almost a sexagenarian,
including _Elle et Lui_, _L'Homme de Neige_, _La Ville Noire_,
_Constance Verrier_, _Le Marquis de Villemer_ and _Valvèdre_. _Elle et
Lui_, in which George Sand at last broke silence in her own defense on
the subject of her rupture with Alfred de Musset, first appeared in the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, 1859. Though many of the details are
fictitious, the author here told the history of her relations with the
deceased poet much too powerfully for her intention to be mistaken or to
escape severe blame. That a magnanimous silence would have been the
nobler course on her part towards the child of genius whose good genius
she had so signally failed to be, need not be disputed. It must be
remembered, however, that De Musset on his side had not refrained during
his lifetime from denouncing in eloquent verse the friend he had
quarreled with, and satirizing her in pungent prose. Making every
possible allowance for poetical figures of speech, he had said enough to
provoke her to retaliate. It is impossible to suppose that there was not
another side to such a question. But Madame Sand could not defend
herself without accusing her lost lover. She often proved herself a
generous adversary--too generous, indeed, for her own advantage--and in
this instance it was clearly not for her own sake that she deferred her

It is even conceivable that the poet, when in a just frame of mind, and
not seeking inspiration for his _Nuit de Mai_ or _Histoire d'un Merle
blanc_, would not have seen in _Elle et Lui_ a falsification of the
spirit of their history. The theorizing of the outside world in such
matters is of little worth; but the novel bears, conspicuously among
Madame Sand's productions, the stamp of a study from real life, true in
its leading features. And the conduct of the heroine, Therèse, though
accounted for and eloquently defended, is by no means, as related,
ideally blameless. After an attachment so strong as to induce a
seriously-minded person, such as she is represented, to throw aside for
it all other considerations, the hastiness with which, on discovering
her mistake, she entertains the idea of bestowing her hand, if not her
heart, on another, is an exhibition of feminine inconsequence which no
amount of previous misconduct on the part of her lover, Laurent, can
justify. Further, Therèse is self-deceived in supposing her passion to
have died out with her esteem. She breaks with the culprit and engages
her word to a worthier man. But enough remains over of the past to
prevent her from keeping the promise she ought never to have made. When
she sacrifices her unselfish friend to return to the lover who has made
her miserable, she is sincere, but not heroic. She is too weak to shake
off the influence of the fatal infatuation and shut out Laurent from her
life, nor yet can she accept her heart's choice for better or worse,
even when experience has left her little to learn with regard to
Laurent. Clearly both friend and lover, out of a novel, would feel
wronged. Therèse's excuse lies in the extremely trying character of her
companion, whose vagaries may be supposed to have driven her beside
herself at times, just as her airs of superiority and mute reproach may
have driven him not a little mad. Those who wish to know in what spirit
Madame Sand met the attacks upon her provoked by this book, will find
her reply in a very few words at the conclusion of her preface to _Jean
de la Roche_, published the same year.

Most readers of _Elle et Lui_ have been so preoccupied with the
question of the rights and wrongs of the originals in their behavior to
each other, so inclined to judge of the book according to its supposed
accuracy or inaccuracy as a matter of history, that its force, as a
study of the attraction that so often leads two exceptional but
hopeless, irreconcilable spirits to seek in each other a refuge from the
isolation in which their superiority places them, has been somewhat
overlooked. Laurent, whether a true portrait or not, is only too true to
nature; excessive in his admirable powers and in his despicable
weakness. Therèse is an equally faithful picture of a woman not quite up
to the level of her own principles, which are so high that any lapse
from them on her part brings down more disasters on herself and on
others than the misdemeanors of avowedly unscrupulous persons.

Within a few months of _Elle et Lui_ had appeared _L'Homme de Neige_,[D]
a work of totally different but equally characteristic cast. The
author's imagination had still all its old zest and activity, and
readers for whom fancy has any charm will find this Scandinavian romance
thoroughly enjoyable. The subject of the marionette theater, here
introduced with such brilliant and ingenious effect, she had studied
both historically and practically. She and her son found it so
fascinating that, years before this time, a miniature stage had been
constructed by the latter at Nohant, over which he presided, and which
they and their friends found an endless source of amusement. Madame Sand
wrote little dramas expressly for such representations, and would sit up
all night, making dresses for the puppets. In an agreeable little
article she has devoted to the subject, she describes how from the
crudest beginnings they succeeded in elaborating their art to a high
pitch; the _répertoire_ of their lilliputian theater including more than
twenty plays, their "company" over a hundred marionettes.

To the next year, 1860, belong the pleasant tale of artisan life, _La
Ville Noire_, and the well-known and popular _Marquis de Villemer_,
notable as a decided success in a _genre_ seldom adopted by her, that of
the purely society novel.

Already Madame Sand had outlived the period of which she was so
brilliant a representative. After the Romantic movement had spent its
force, a reaction had set in that was influencing the younger school of
writers, and that has continued to give the direction to successful
talent until the present day. Of the so-called "realism," Madame Sand
said that it was nothing new. She saw there merely another form of the
same revolt of nature against affectation and convention which had
prompted the Romantic movement, whose disciples had now become guilty of
affectation in their turn. _Madame Bovary_ she pronounced with truth to
be but concentrated Balzac. She was ready to perceive and do justice to
the great ability of the author, as to original genius in any school;
thus of Tourguénief she speaks with enthusiasm: "Realist to see all,
poet to beautify all, great heart to pity and understand all." But she
deplored the increasing tendency among artists to give the preference
among realities to the ugliest and the most painful. Her personal
leanings avowedly were towards the other extreme; but she was too
large-minded not to recognize that truth in one form or another must
always be the prime object of the artist's search. The manner of its
presentation will vary with the age.

     Let the realists, if they like, go on proclaiming that all is
     prose, and the idealists that all is poesy. The last will have
     their rainy days, the first their days of sunshine. In all arts the
     victory remains with a privileged few, who go their own ways; and
     the discussions of the "schools" will pass away like old fashions.

On the generation of writers that George Sand saw growing up, any
opinion pronounced must be premature. But with regard to herself, it
should now be possible to regard her work in a true perspective. As with
Byron, Dickens, and other popular celebrities, a phase of infinite
enthusiasm for her writings was duly succeeded by a phase of determined
depreciation. The public opinion that survives when blind friendship and
blind enmity have done their worst is likely to be the judgment of



On what, in the future, will the fame of George Sand mainly rest?
According to some critics, on her gifts of fertile invention and fluent
narration alone, which make her novels attractive in spite of the
chimerical theories, social, political and religious, everywhere
interwoven. According to other judges again, her fictions transcend and
are likely to outlive other fictions by virtue of certain eternal
philosophic verities which they persistently set forth, and which give
them a serious interest the changes in novel-fashions cannot effect.

The conclusion seems inevitable that whilst the artistic strength of
George Sand's writings is sufficient to command readers among those most
out of harmony with her views, to minds in sympathy with her own these
romances, because they express and enforce with earnestness, sincerity
and fire, the sentiments of a poetic soul, a generous heart, and an
immense intelligence, on subjects of consequence to humanity, have a
higher value than can attach to skillful development of plot and
intrigue, mere display of literary cleverness, or of the storings of
minute observation.

Her opinions themselves have been widely misapprehended, perhaps because
her personality--or rather that imaginary personage, the George Sand of
the myths--has caused a confusion in people's minds between her ideal
standard and her individual success in keeping up to it. We would not
ignore the importance of personal example in one so famous as herself.
We may pass by eccentricities not inviting to imitation; for if any of
her sex ever thought to raise themselves any nearer to the level of
George Sand by smoking or wearing men's clothes, such puerility does not
call for notice. Still, the influence she strenuously exerted for good
as a writer for the public would have worked more clearly had she never
seemed to swerve from the high principles she expressed, or been led
away by the disturbing forces of a nature calm only on the surface.
Nothing is more baffling than the incomplete revelations of a very
complex order of mind, with its many-sided sympathies and its apparent
contradictions. The self-justification she puts forward for her errors
is sometimes sophistical, but not for that insincere. She is not trying
to make us her dupes; she is the dupe herself of her dangerous
eloquence. But her moral worth so infinitely outweighed the alloy as to
leave but little call, or even warrant, for dwelling on the latter. "If
I come back to you," said her old literary patron Delatouche, into whose
disfavor she had fallen awhile, when he came years after to ask for the
restitution of the friendship he had slighted, "it is that I cannot help
myself, and your qualities surpass your defects."

To pass from herself to her books, no one has made more frank, clear and
unchanging confession of their heart's faith or their head's principles.
Her creed was that which has been, and ever will be in some guise, the
creed of minds of a certain order. She did not invent it. Poets,
moralists, theologians, have proclaimed it before her and after her. She
found for it a fresh mode of expression, one answering to the needs of
the age to which she belonged.

It is in the union of rare artistic genius with an almost as rare and
remarkable power of enthusiasm for moral and spiritual truth that lies
her distinguishing strength. Most of her novels--all her best
novels--share this characteristic of seeming to be prompted by the
double and equal inspiration of an artistic and a moral purpose.
Wherever one of these preponderates greatly, or is wanting altogether,
the novel falls below her usual standard.

For in several qualities reckoned important her work is open to
criticism. "Plan, or the want of it," she acknowledges, with a sort of
complacency, "has always been my weak point." Thus whilst in many of her
compositions, especially the shorter novels, the construction leaves
little to be desired, _Consuelo_ is only one among many instances in
which all ordinary rules of symmetry and proportion are set at naught.
Sometimes the leading idea assumed naturally and easily a perfect form;
if simple, as in _André_ and her pastorals, it usually did so; but if
complex, she troubled herself little over the task of symmetrical
arrangement. M. Maxime Du Camp reports that she said to him: "When I
begin a novel I have no plan; it arranges itself whilst I write, and
becomes what it may." This fault shocks less in England, where genius is
apt to rebel against the restrictions of form, and such irregularity has
been consecrated, so to speak, by the masterpieces of the greatest among
our imaginative writers. And even the more precise criticism of her
countrymen has owned that this carelessness works by no means entirely
to her disadvantage. In fictions more faultless as literary compositions
the reader, whilst struck with admiration for the art with which the
whole is put together, is apt to lose something of the illusion--the
impression of nature and conviction. The faults of no writer can be more
truly defined as the _défauts de ses qualités_ than those of George
Sand. Shorn of her spontaneity, she would indeed be shorn of her
strength. We are carried along by the pleasant, easy stream of her
musical eloquence, as by an orator who knows so well how to draw our
attention that we forget to find him too long. Her stories may be read
rapidly, but to be enjoyed should be read through. Dipped into and their
parts taken without reference to the whole, they can afford
comparatively but little pleasure.

In translation no novelist loses more than George Sand,--who has so much
to lose! The qualities sacrificed, though almost intangible, are
essential to the force of her charm. The cement is taken away and the
fabric coheres imperfectly; and whilst the beauties of her manner are
blurred, its blemishes appear increased; the lengthiness, over-emphasis
of expression, questionable taste of certain passages, become more
marked. Although nevertheless many of her tales remain pleasant reading,
they suffer as much as translated poetry, and only a very inadequate
impression of her art as a novelist can be arrived at from any rendering
of it in a foreign tongue.

Her dialogue has neither brilliancy nor variety. Her characters
characterize themselves by the sentiments they express; their manner of
expression is somewhat uniform--it is the manner of George Sand; and
although pleasant humor and good-natured fun abound in her pages, these
owe none of their attractions to witty sayings, being curiously bare of
a _bon mot_ or an epigram.

But we find there the rarer merits of a poetic imagination, a vast
comprehension of nature, admirable insight into human character and
power of clear analysis; a whole science of sentiment and art of
narrative, and a charm of narrative style that soothes the nerves like

She has given us a long gallery of portraits of extraordinary variety.
It is true that her creations for the most part affect us rather as
masterly portraits than as living, walking men and women. This is
probably owing to the above-noted sameness of style of dialogue, and the
absence generally of the dramatic quality in her novels. On the other
hand they are extremely picturesque, in the highest sense, abounding in
scenes and figures which, without inviting to the direct illustration
they are too vivid to need, are full of suggestions to the artist. The
description in _Teverino_ of Madeleine, the bird-charmer, kneeling at
prayer in the rude mountain chapel, or outside on the rocks, exercising
her natural magic over her feathered friends; in _Jeanne_, of the
shepherd-girl discovered asleep on the Druidical stones; the noon-day
rest of the rustic fishing-party in _Valentine_--Benedict seated on the
felled ash-tree that bridges the stream, Athenaïs gathering
field-flowers on the banks, Louise flinging leaves into the current,
Valentine reclining dreamily among the tall river-reeds,--are a few
examples taken at random, which it would be easy to multiply _ad

Any classification of her works in order of time that professes to show
a progressive change of style, a period of super-excellence or of
distinct decadence, seems to us somewhat fanciful. From _Indiana_ and
its immediate successors, denounced by so many as fraught with peril to
the morals of her nation, down to _Nanon_ (1872), which might certainly
carry off the prize of virtue in a competition in any country, George
Sand can never be said to have entirely abandoned one "manner" for
another, or for any length of time to have risen above or sunk below a
certain level of excellence. _André_, extolled by her latest critics as
"a delicious eclogue of the fields," was contemporary with the
bombastic, false Byronism of _Jacques_; the feeble narrative of _La Mare
au Diable_ with the passion-introspection of _Lucrezia Floriani_. The
ever-popular _Consuelo_ immediately succeeded the feeble _Compagnon du
Tour de France_. _La Marquise_, written in the first year of her
literary life, shows a power of projection out of herself, and of
delicate analysis, hardly to be surpassed; but _Francia_, of forty
years' later date, is an equally perfect study. From the time of
_Indiana_ onwards she continued to produce at the rate of about two
novels a year; and at intervals, rare intervals, the product was a
failure. But we shall find her when approaching seventy still writing
on, without a trace of the weakness of old age.

The charge of "unreality" so commonly brought against her novels it may
be well briefly to examine. Such little fantasy-pieces in Hoffmann's
manner as _Le Château des Désertes_, _Teverino_, and others, making no
pretense to be exact studies of nature, cannot fairly be censured on
this head. Like fairy tales they have a place of their own in art. One
of the prettiest of these is _Les Dames Vertes_, in which the fable
seems to lead us over the borders of the supernatural; but the secret of
the mystification, well kept till the last, is itself so pleasing and
original that the reader has no disappointing sense as of having had a
hoax played upon his imagination.

In character drawing no one can, on occasion, be a more uncompromising
realist than George Sand. André, Horace, Laurent in _Elle et Lui_,
Pauline, Corilla, Alida in _Valvèdre_, might be cited as examples. But
her theory was unquestionably not the theory which guides the modern
school of novel writers. She wrote, she states explicitly, for those
"who desire to find in a novel a sort of ideal life." She made this her
aim, but without depreciation of the widely different aims of other
authors. "You paint mankind as they are," she said to Balzac; "I, as
they ought to be, or might become. You write the comedy of humanity. I
should like to write the eclogue, the poem, the romance of humanity."
She has been taxed with flattering nature and human nature because her
love of beauty--defined by her as the highest expression of
truth--dictated her choice of subjects. An artist who paints roses
paints from reality as entirely as he who paints mud. Her principle was
to choose among realities those which seemed best worth painting.

The amount of idealization in her peasant sketches was naturally
over-estimated by those who, never having studied the class, could not
conceive of a peasant except conventionally, as a drunken boor. The very
just portrait of Cecilia Boccaferri, the conscientious but obscure
artist in _Le Château des Désertes_, might seem over-flattered to such
as imagine that all opera-singers must be persons of riotous living. The
types she prefers to present, if exceptional, are not impossible or
non-existent. An absolutely faultless heroine, such as Consuelo, she
seldom attempts to bring before us; an ideal hero; never.

Further, even when the idealism is greatest the essence is true. Her
most fanciful conceptions, most improbable combinations, seem more
natural than do every-day scenes and characters treated by inferior
artists. This is only partly due to the inimitable little touches of
nature that renew the impression of reality at every page. Her
imagination modified her material, but only in order the more vividly to
illustrate truths positive and everlasting. So did Shakespeare when he
drew Prospero and Miranda, Caliban and Ariel. Art, as regarded by George
Sand, is a search for ideal truth rather than a study of positive
reality. This principle determined the spirit of her romances. She was
the highest in her _genre_; let the world decide which _genre_ is the

When, after the publication of _Indiana_, _Valentine_, _Lélia_ and
_Jacques_, the moral tendency of her works was so sharply attacked, it
was contended on her behalf by some friendly critics that art and
social morality have no necessary connection--a line of defense she
would have been the last to take up for herself. In the present day her
judges complain rather of her incessant moralizing, and on the whole
with more reason. She indignantly denied that her novels had the evil
tendencies imputed to them. Certainly the supposition of the
antagonistic spirit of her writings to Christianity and marriage
vanishes in proportion to the reader's acquaintance with her works. But
against certain doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church
which she believed to be pernicious in their influence, she from the
first declared war, and by her frank audacity made bitter enemies. M.
Renan relates that when he was a boy of fifteen his ecclesiastical
superiors showed him George Sand, emblematically portrayed for the
admonition of the youth under their care, as a woman in black trampling
on a cross! Now, it is not merely that her own faith was eminently
Christian in character, and that the Christian ideal seemed to her the
most perfect that has yet presented itself to the mind of man; but if
unable to accept for herself the doctrine of revelation as commonly
interpreted, she is utterly without the aggressiveness of spirit, the
petty flippancy, that often betray the intellectual bigot under the
banner of free thought. She was too large-minded to incline to ridicule
the serious convictions of earnest seekers for truth, and she respected
all sincerity of belief--all faith that produced beneficence in action.

The alleged hostility of her romances to marriage resumes itself into a
declared hostility to the conventional French system of match-making.
Much that she was condemned for venturing to put forward we should
simply take for granted in England, where--whichever system work the
best in practice--to the strictest Philistine's ideas of propriety there
is nothing unbecoming in a love-match. The aim and end of true love in
her stories is always marriage, whether it be the simple attachment of
Germain, the field-laborer, for the rustic maiden of his choice, the
romantic predilection of the rich young widow in _Pierre qui roule_ for
the handsome actor Laurence, or the worship of Count Albert for the
_cantatrice_ Consuelo. Her ideal of marriage was, no doubt, a high one,
"the indissoluble attachment of two hearts fired with a like love;" a
love "great, noble, beautiful, voluntary, eternal." Among French
novelists she should rather be noted for the extremely small proportion
of her numerous romances that have domestic infelicity for a theme.

Her remark that their real offense was that they were a great deal too
moral for some of their critics, hit home, inasmuch as in her attack on
the ordinary marriage system of France she struck directly at the
fashionable immorality which is its direct result, and which she saw,
both in life and in literature, pass free of censure. It is the selfish
intriguer who meets with least mercy in her pages, and who is there held
up, not only to dislike, but to ridicule.

Persons perplexed by the fact that particular novels of hers which,
judged by certain theories, ought to be morally hurtful, do yet produce
a very different effect, have accounted for it in different ways. One
explains it by saying that if there is poison on one page there is
always the antidote on the next. Another observes that a certain
morality of misfortune is never absent from her fictions. In other
words, she nowhere presents us with the spectacle of real happiness
reaped at the expense of a violation of conscience. And in the rare
cases where the purpose of the novel seems questionable, she defeats her
own end. For truth always preponderates over error in her conceptions,
and the result is a moral effect.

The want of delicacy that not unfrequently disfigures her pages and
offends us, offends also as an artistic fault. As a fact it is taste
rather than conscience that she is thus apt to shock. For the almost
passing coarseness of expression or thought is nothing more than the
overflow, the negligent frankness of a rich and active but healthy
nature, not the deliberate obliquity of a corrupt fancy or perverted
mind. Such unreserve, unfortunately, has too commonly been the
transgression of writers of superabundant energy. But her sins are
against outward decorum rather than against the principles upon which
the rules of decorum are based. No one was better capable of
appreciating and indicating with fine touches, delicacy and niceties of
taste and feeling in others. Her sympathy with such sensitiveness is a
corrective that should render harmless what might vitiate taste if that
qualification were absent. And her stories, though including a very few
instances where the subject chosen seems to most English minds too
repulsive to admit of possible redemption, and the frequent incidental
introduction of situations and frank discussion of topics inadmissible
in English fiction of that period--an honorable distinction it seems in
some danger of losing in the present--can hardly be censured from the
French standpoint, as fair critics now admit. It is inconceivable that a
public could be demoralized by _Indiana_ and _Valentine_, at a time when
no subject seemed wicked and morbid enough to satisfy popular taste.
The art of George Sand in the main was sound and healthy, and in flat
opposition to the excesses both of the ultra-romantic and ultra-realist

Clear-sighted critics, perceiving that the impression produced by her
works is not one to induce men and women to defy the laws of their
country, nor likely to undermine their religious faith, have gone more
to the heart of the matter. The dangerous tendency is more insidious,
they say, and more general. Virtue, and not vice, is made attractive in
her books; but it is an easy virtue, attained without self-conquest. All
her characters, good and bad, act alike from impulse. Those who seek
virtue seek pleasure in so doing, and her philosophy of life seems to be
that people should do as they like. The morality she commends to our
sympathy and admiration is a morality of instinct and emotion, not of
reason and principle. Self-renunciation, immolation of desire in
obedience to accepted precept, is ignored. Sentiment is supreme. Duty,
as a motive power, is set aside.

George Sand, who as a writer from first to last appeared as a crusader
against the evil, injustice and vice that darken the world, did
undoubtedly choose rather to speak out of her heart to our hearts, than
out of her head to our heads, and considered moreover that such was the
more effectual way. Her idea of virtue lay not in the curbing of evil
instincts, but in their conversion or modification by the evoking of
good impulses, that "guiding and intensifying of our emotions by a new
ideal" which has been called the great work of Christianity.

It is not--or not in the first place--that people should do as they
like, but that they should like to do right; and further, that human
nature in that ideal life the sentiment of which pervades her works, and
in which she saw "no other than the normal life as we are called to know
it," does not desire what is hurtful to it.

The goodness that consists in doing right or refraining from doing wrong
reluctantly, or in obedience to prescribed rules, or from mechanical
habit, had for her no life or charm. The object to be striven for should
be nothing less than the "perfect harmony of inward desire and outward

Virtue should be chosen, though we seem to sacrifice happiness; but that
the two are in the beginning identical, that, as expressed by Mr.
Herbert Spencer, "whether perfection of nature, virtuousness of action,
or rectitude of motive, be assigned as the proper aim, the definition of
perfection, virtue, rectitude, brings us down to happiness experienced
in some form, at some time, by some person as the fundamental idea," is
a philosophic truth of which a large _aperçu_ is observable in the works
of George Sand. Self-sacrifice should spring from direct desire,
altruism be spontaneous--a need--becoming a second and better nature;
not won by painful effort, but through the larger development of the
principle of sympathy. Strong in her own immense power of sympathy, she
applied herself to the task of awakening and extending such sympathies
in others. This she does by the creation of agreeable, interesting and
noble types, such as may put us out of conceit with what is mean and
base. Goodness, as understood and portrayed by her, must recommend
itself not only to the judgment but to the heart. She worked to
popularize high sentiments, and to give shape and reality to vague ideas
of human excellence. Her idea of virtue as a motive, not a restraint,
not the controlling of low and evil desires, but the precluding of all
temptations to yield to these, by the calling out of stronger, higher
desires, so far from being a low one, is indeed the very noblest; yet
not on that account a chimera to those who hold, like her, to the
conviction that "what now characterizes the exceptionally high may be
expected eventually to characterize all. For that which the highest
human nature is capable of is within the reach of human nature at
large." "We gravitate towards the ideal," she writes, "and this
gravitation is infinite, as is the ideal itself." And her place remains
among those few great intelligences who can be said to have given
humanity an appreciable impulse in the direction of progress.



When, in 1869, Madame Sand was applied to by M. Louis Ulbach--a literary
friend who proposed to write her biography--for some account of her life
from that time onwards where her memoirs break off, she replied, in a
letter now appended to those memoirs, as follows:--

     For the last five-and-twenty years there is nothing more that is of
     interest. It is old age, very quiet and very happy, _en famille_,
     crossed by sorrows entirely personal in their nature--deaths,
     defections, and then the general state of affairs in which we have
     suffered, you and I, from the same causes. My time is spent in
     amusing the children, doing a little botany, long walks in
     summer--I am still a first-rate pedestrian--and writing novels,
     when I can secure two hours in the daytime and two in the evening.
     I write easily and with pleasure. This is my recreation, for my
     correspondence is numerous, and there lies work indeed! If one had
     none but one's friends to write to! But how many requests, some
     touching, some impertinent! Whenever there is anything I can do, I
     reply. Those for whom I can do nothing I do not answer. Some
     deserve that one should try, even with small hope of succeeding.
     Then one must answer that one will try. All this, with private
     affairs to which one must really give attention now and then, makes
     some ten letters a day.

The old age of George Sand, brighter, fuller and more active than the
youth of most men and women, was in itself a most signal proof of the
stability and worth of her mental organization. Life, which deteriorates
a frail character, told with a perfecting and elevating power upon hers.

Of her earlier personal beauty few traces remained after middle age
except a depth of expression in her eyes, the features having become
thickened by age. Some among those who, like Dickens, first saw her in
her later years and still looked for the semblance of a heroine of
romance, failed to find the muse Lélia of their imaginations under the
guise of a middle-aged _bourgeoise_. But such impressions were
superficial. Her portrait in black and white by Couture, engraved by
Manceau, seems to reconcile these apparent discrepancies. Beauty is not
here, but the face is so powerful and comprehensive that we perceive
there at once the mirror of a mind capable of embracing both the prose
and the poetry of life; and by many this portrait is preferred to the
earlier likenesses.

Nor is there anything more remarkable in her correspondence than the
extremely interesting series of letters, extending from February, 1863,
to within three months of her death in 1876, and addressed to Gustave
Flaubert, at this period her familiar friend. The intercourse of two
minds of so different an intellectual and moral order as those of the
authors of _Consuelo_ and of _Madame Bovary_ offers to all a curious
study. To the admirers of George Sand these letters are invaluable, both
from a literary point of view and as a record of her inner life from
that time onwards, when, as expressed by herself, she resolutely buried
youth, and owned herself the gainer by an increasing calm within. The
secret of her future happiness she found in living for her children and
her friends. That she retained her zest for intellectual pleasures she
ascribed to the very fact that she never allowed herself to be absorbed
for long in these and in herself.

"Artists are spoilt children," she writes to Flaubert, "and the best of
them are great egoists. You tell me I love them too well; I love them as
I love woods and fields, all things, all beings that I know a little and
make my constant study. In the midst of it all I pursue my calling; and
how I love that calling of mine, and all that nourishes and renovates

We must now take up the thread of outward events again, which we have
slightly anticipated.

In the autumn of 1860 Madame Sand had a severe attack of typhoid fever.
She was then on the point of beginning her little tale, _La Famille de
Germandre_; "_le roman de ma fièvre_," she playfully terms it
afterwards, when retracing the circumstances in a letter to her old
friend François Rollinat:--

     The day before that upon which I was suddenly taken very seriously
     ill, I had felt quite well. I had scribbled the beginning of a
     novel; I had placed all my personages; I knew them thoroughly; I
     knew their situations in the world, their characters, tendencies,
     ideas, relations to each other. I saw their faces. All that
     remained to be known was what they were going to do, and I did not
     trouble my head about that, having time to think it over to-morrow.

Struck down on the morrow, she was for many days in a precarious
condition; and in the confused fancies of fever found herself wandering
with _La Famille de Germandre_ about the country, alighting in ruined
castles, and encountering the most whimsical adventures in flood and

It would have been an easy death, she remarked afterwards, had she died
then, as she might, in her dream; but she came to herself to find her
son and friends in such anxiety on her account, so overjoyed at her
convalescence, that she could not but be glad of the life that was given
back to her. Early in 1861 we find her recruiting her forces by a stay
at Tamaris, near Toulon, completing the novel interrupted by illness;
resuming her long walks and botanic studies, and thoroughly enjoying the
sense of returning vital powers.

She stood always in great dread of the idea of possibly losing her
activity as she advanced in years. The infirmities of old age, however,
she was happily to be spared, preserving her energy and mental
faculties, as will be seen, till just before her death. But though she
was restored to health and strength, this illness seems to have left its
traces on her constitution.

Her son's marriage to Mdlle. Calamatta, spoken of by Madame Sand as a
heart's desire of hers at length fulfilled, took place in 1862, not many
months after his return from half a year of travel in Africa and
America, in the company of Prince Napoleon. The event proved a fresh
source of the purest happiness to her, and was not to separate her from
her son. The young people settled at Nohant, which remained her
head-quarters. There a few years later we find her residing almost
exclusively, except when called by matters of business to her
_pied-à-terre_ in Paris, where she never lingered long. To the two
little grand-daughters, Aurore and Gabrielle, whom she saw spring up in
her home, she became passionately devoted. Most of her compositions
henceforward are dated from Nohant, where, indeed, more than fifty years
of her life were spent.

As regards decorum of expression and temperance of sentiments, the later
novels of George Sand have earned more praise than censure; but some
readers may feel that in fundamental questions of taste the comparison
between them and their forerunners is not always entirely to their
advantage. The fervor of youth has a certain purifying power to redeem
from offense matter, even though over-frankly treated, which becomes
disagreeable in cold analysis, however sober the wording, and clear and
admirable the moral pointed.

_Mademoiselle La Quintinie_, which appeared in 1863, was suggested by M.
Octave Feuillet's _Sibille_. The point of M. Feuillet's novel is, that
Sibille, an ardent Catholic, stifles her love, and renounces her lover
on account of his heterodox opinions. Madame Sand gives us the
reverse--a heroine who is reflectively rather than mystically inclined,
and whose lover by degrees succeeds in effecting her conversion to his
more liberal views. Here, as elsewhere, the author's mind shows a
sympathetic comprehension of the standpoint of enlightened Protestantism
curiously rare among those who, like herself, have renounced Romanism
for the pursuit of free thought and speculation. But even those who
prefer the _dénoûment_ of George Sand's novel to that of M. Feuillet's
will not rank _Mademoiselle La Quintinie_ very high among the author's
productions. It is colorless, and artistically weak, however
controversially strong.

Madame Sand, according to her own reckoning in 1869, had made at least
£40,000 by her writings. Out of this she had saved no fortune. She had
always preferred to live from day to day on the proceeds of her work,
regulating her expenses accordingly, trusting her brain to answer to any
emergency and bring her out of the periodical financial crises in which
the uncertainty of literary gains and the liberality of her expenditure
involved her. She continued fond of travelling, especially of exploring
the nooks and corners of France, felt by her to be less well known than
they deserve, and fully as picturesque as the spots tourists go far to
visit. Here she sought fresh frames for her novels. "If I have only
three words to say about a place," she tells us, "I like to be able to
refer to it in my memory so as to make as few mistakes as possible."

In January, 1869, we find her writing of herself in a playful strain to
her friend Flaubert:--

     The individual called George Sand is quite well, enjoying the
     marvelous winter now reigning in Berry, gathering flowers, taking
     note of interesting botanic anomalies, stitching at dresses and
     mantles for her daughter-in-law, costumes for the marionettes,
     dressing dolls, reading music, but, above all, spending hours with
     little Aurore, who is a wonderful child. There is not a being on
     earth more tranquil and happier in his home than this old
     troubadour retired from business, now and then singing his little
     song to the moon, singing well or ill he does not particularly
     care, so long as he gives the _motif_ that is running in his
     head.... He is happy, for he is at peace, and can find amusement in

M. Plauchut, another literary friend and a visitor at Nohant during this
last decade of her lifetime, gives a picture of the order of her day; it
is simplicity itself.

Nine o'clock, in summer and in winter alike, was her hour of waking.
Letters and newspapers would then occupy her until noon, when she came
down to join the family _déjeûner_. Afterwards she would stroll for an
hour in the garden and the wood, visiting and tending her favorite
plants and flowers. At two o'clock she would come indoors to give a
lesson to her grandchildren in the library, or work there on her own
account, undistracted by the romps around her. Dinner at six was
followed by a short evening walk, after which she played with the
children, or set them dancing indoors. She liked to sit at the piano,
playing over to herself bits of music by her favorite Mozart, or old
Spanish and Berrichon airs. After a game of dominoes or cards she would
still sit up so late, occupying herself with water-color painting or
otherwise, that sometimes her son was obliged to take away the lights.
These long evenings, the same writer bears witness, sometimes afforded
rare opportunities of hearing Madam Sand talk of the events and the men
of her time. In the absolute quiet of the country, among a small circle
of responsive minds, she, so silent otherwise, became expansive. "Those
who have never heard George Sand at such hours," he concludes, "have
never known her. She spoke well, with great elevation of ideas, charming
eloquence, and a spirit of infinite indulgence." When at length she
retired, it was to write on until the morning hours according to her old
habit, only relinquished when her health made this imperative.

She had allowed her son and her daughter-in-law to take the cares of
household management off her hands. This left her free, as she
expressed it, to be a child again, to hold aloof from things immediate
and transitory, reserving her thoughts and contemplations for what is
general and eternal. She found a poet's pleasure in abstracting herself
from human life, saying: "There are hours when I escape from myself,
when I live in a plant, when I feel myself grass, a bird, a tree-top, a
cloud, a running stream." Shaking off, as it were, the sense of
personality, she felt more freely and fully the sense of kinship with
the life and soul of the universe.

It was her habit every evening to sum up in a few lines the impressions
of the day, and this journal, for the conspicuous absence of incident in
its pages, she compares to the log-book of a ship lying at anchor. But
one terrible and little anticipated break in its tranquil monotony was
yet to come.

George Sand lived to see her country pass through every imaginable
political experience. Born before the First Republic had expired, she
had witnessed the First Empire, the restored Monarchy, the Revolution of
1830, the reign of Louis Philippe, the convulsions of 1848, the
presidency of Louis Bonaparte, and the Second Empire. She was still to
see and outlive its fall, the Franco-German War, the Commune, and to
die, as she was born, under a republic.

To some of her friends who had reproached her with showing too much
indulgence for the state of things under Imperial rule, she replied that
the only change in her was that she had acquired more patience in
proportion as more was required. The _régime_ she condemned--and amid
apparent prosperity had foretold the corrupting influence on the nation
of the established ideal of frivolity, and that a crash of some kind
must ensue. Her judgment on the Emperor, after his fall, is worth
noting, if only because it is dispassionate. Since his elevation to the
Imperial dignity she had lost all old illusions as to his public
intentions. With regard to these, on the occasion of her interviews with
him at the Elysée, he had completely deceived her, and designedly, she
had at first thought. Nor had she concealed her disgust.

     I left Paris, and did not come to an appointment he had offered me.
     They did not tell me "The King might have had to wait!" but they
     wrote "The Emperor waited." However, I continued to write to him,
     whenever I saw hopes of saving some victim, to ponder his answers
     and watch his actions; and I became convinced that he did not
     intentionally impose upon any one. He imposed on himself and on
     everybody else.... In private life he had genuine qualities. I
     happened to see in him a side that was really generous and sincere.
     His dream of grandeur for France was not that of a sound mind, but
     neither of an ordinary mind. Really France would have sunk too low
     if she had submitted for twenty years to the supremacy of a
     _crétin_, working only for himself. One would then have to give her
     up in despair for ever and ever. The truth is that she mistook a
     meteor for a star, a silent dreamer for a man of depth. Then seeing
     him sink under disasters he ought to have foreseen, she took him
     for a coward.

George Sand's _Journal d'un Voyageur pendant la guerre_ has a peculiar
and painful interest. It is merely a note-book of passing impressions
from September, 1870, to January, 1871; but its pages give a most
striking picture of those effects of war which have no place in military

The army disasters of the autumn were preceded by natural calamities of
great severity. The heat of the summer in Berry had been tremendous, and
Madame Sand describes the havoc as unprecedented in her experience--the
flowers and grass killed, the leaves scorched and yellowed, the baked
earth under foot literally cracking in many places; no water, no hay, no
harvest, but destructive cattle-plague, forest-fires driving scared
wolves to seek refuge in the courtyard of Nohant itself--the remnant of
corn spared by the sun, ruined by hail-storms. She and all her family
had suffered from the unhealthiness of the season. Thus the political
catastrophe found her already weakened by anxiety and fatigue, and
feeling greatly the effort to set to work again. Finally, an outbreak of
malignant small-pox in the village forced her to take her little
grandchildren and their mother from Nohant out of reach of the
infection. September and October were passed at or in the neighborhood
of Boussac, a small town some thirty miles off. Sedan was over, and the
worst had begun; the protracted suspense, the long agony of hope.

Those suffered most perhaps who, like herself, had to wait in enforced
inaction, amid the awful dead calm that reigned in the provinces, yet
forbidden to forget their affliction for a moment. The peasant was gone
from the land--only the old and infirm were left to look after the
flocks, to till and sow the field. Madame Sand notes, and with a kind of
envy, the stolid patience and industry, the inextinguishable confidence,
of poor old Jacques Bonhomme when things are at the worst. "He knows
that in one way or another it is he who will have to pay the expenses of
the war; he knows next winter will be a season of misery and want, but
he believes in the spring"--in the bounty of nature to repair war's

During this time of unimaginable trouble some of the strongest minds
were unhinged. It is no small honor to George Sand that hers should
have preserved its balance. The pages of this journal are distinguished
throughout by a wonderful calm of judgment and an equitable tone--not
the calm of indifference, but of a broad and penetrating intelligence,
no longer to be blinded by the wild excitement and passions of the
moment, or exalted by childish hopes one hour to be thrust into the
madness of despair the next.

Although tempted now and then to regret that she had recovered from her
illness ten years ago, surviving but to witness the abasement of France,
she was not, like others, panic-struck at the prospect of invasion, as
though this meant the end of their country. "It will pass like a squall
over a lake," she said.

But it was a time when they could be sure of nothing except of their
distress. The telegraph wires were cut; rumors of good news they feared
to believe would be succeeded by tales of horror they feared to
discredit. Tidings would come that three hundred thousand of the enemy
had been disposed of in a single engagement and King William taken
prisoner; then of fatal catastrophes befallen to private
friends--stories which often proved equally unfounded.

She had friends shut up in Paris of whom she knew not whether they were
alive or dead. The strain of anxiety and painful excitement made sleep
impossible to her except in the last extremity of fatigue. Yet she had
her little grandchildren to care for; and when they came around her,
clamoring for the fairy tales she was used to supply, she contented them
as well as she could and gave them their lessons as usual, anxious to
keep them from realizing the sadness the causes of which they were too
young to understand.

It was the first time that she had known a distress that forbade her to
find a solace in nature. She describes how one day, walking out with
some friends and following the course of the river Tarde, she had half
abandoned herself to the enjoyment of the scene--the cascade, the
dragon-flies skimming the surface, the purple scabious flowers, the
goats clambering on the boulders of rock that strewed the borders and
bed of the stream--when one of the party remarks: "Here's a retreat
pretty well fortified against the Prussians."

And the present, forgotten for an instant in reverie, came back upon her
with a shock.

Letters in that district took three or four days to travel thirty miles.
Newspapers were rarely to be procured; and when procured, made up of
contradictions, wild suggestions, and the pretentious speeches of
national leaders, meant to be reassuring, but marked by a vagueness and
violence from which Madame Sand rightly augured ill.

The red-letter days were those that brought communications from their
friends in Paris by the aerial post. On October 11, two balloons,
respectively called "George Sand" and the "Armand Barbès," left the
capital. "My name," she remarks, "did not bring good luck to the
first--which suffered injuries and descended with difficulty, yet
rescued the Americans who had gone up in it." The "Barbès" had a
smoother but a more famous flight; alighting and depositing M. Gambetta
safely at Tours.

As the autumn advanced Madame Sand and her family were enabled to return
to Nohant. But what a return was that! The enemy were quartered within
forty miles, at Issoudun; the fugitives thence were continually seen
passing, carrying off their children, their furniture and their
merchandise to places of security. Already the enemy's guns were said to
have been heard at La Châtre. Madame Sand walked in her garden daily
among her marigolds, snapdragon and ranunculus, making curious
speculations as to what might be in store for herself and her
possessions. She remarks:--

     You get accustomed to it, even though you have not the consolation
     of being able to offer the slightest resistance.... I look at my
     garden, I dine, I play with the children, whilst waiting in
     expectation of seeing the trees felled roots upwards; of getting no
     more bread to eat, and of having to carry my grandchildren off on
     my shoulders; for the horses have all been requisitioned. I work,
     expecting my scrawls to light the pipes of the Prussians.

But the enemy, though so near, never passed the boundaries of the "Black
Valley." The department of the Indre remained uninvaded, though
compassed on all sides by the foreign army; and George Sand was able to
say afterwards that she at least had never seen a Prussian soldier.

A sad Christmas was passed. On the last night of 1870 a meeting of
friends at Nohant broke up with the parting words, "All is lost!"

"The execrable year is out," writes Madame Sand, "but to all appearances
we are entering upon a worse."

On the 15th of January, 1871, her little drama _François le Champi_,
first represented in the troublous months of 1849, was acted in Paris
for the benefit of an ambulance. She notes the singular fate of this
piece to be reproduced in time of bombardment. A pastoral!

The worst strain of suspense ended January 29, with the capitulation of
Paris. Here the _Journal d'un Voyageur_ breaks off. It would be sad
indeed had her life, like that of more than one of her compeers, closed
then over France in mourning. Although it was impossible but that such
an ordeal must have impaired her strength, she outlived the war's
ending, and the horrible social crisis which she had foreseen must
succeed the political one. Happier than Prosper Mérimée, than Alexandre
Dumas, and others, she saw the dawn of a new era of prosperity for her
country, whose vital forces, as she had also foretold, were to prevail
in the end over successive ills--the enervation of corruption, of
military disaster, and the "orgie of pretended renovators" at home, that
signalized the first months of peace abroad.

In January, 1872, we again find her writing cheerily to Flaubert:--

     Mustn't be ill, mustn't be cross, my old troubadour. Say that
     France is mad, humanity stupid, and that we are unfinished animals
     every one of us, you must love on all the same, yourself, your
     race, above all, your friends. I have my sad hours. I look at my
     blossoms, those two little girls smiling as ever, their charming
     mother, and my good, hard-working son, whom the end of the world
     will find hunting, cataloguing, doing his daily task, and yet as
     merry as Punch in his rare leisure moments.

In a later letter she writes in a more serious strain:--

     I do not say that humanity is on the road to the heights; I believe
     it in spite of all, but I do not argue about it, which is useless,
     for every one judges according to his own eyesight, and the general
     outlook at the present moment is ugly and poor. Besides, I do not
     need to be assured of the salvation of our planet and its
     inhabitants in order to believe in the necessity of the good and
     the beautiful; if our planet departs from this law it will perish;
     if its inhabitants discard it they will be destroyed. As for me, I
     wish to hold firm till my last breath, not with the certainty or
     the demand to find a "good place" elsewhere, but because my sole
     pleasure is to maintain myself and mine in the upward way.

The last five years of her life saw her pen in full activity. In the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_, _Malgrétout_, the novel of 1870, was succeeded
by _Flamarande_ and _Les Deux Frères_--compositions executed with
unflagging energy and animation of style; _La Tour de Percemont_, and a
series of graceful fairy-stories entitled _Contes d'une grand'mère_.
_Nanon_ (1872), a rustic romance of the First Revolution, is a highly
remarkable little work, possibly suggested by her recent experiences of
the effect of public disturbances on remote country places.

She was also a constant contributor to the newspaper _Le Temps_. A
critical notice by her hand of M. Renan's _Dialogues et Fragments
Philosophiques_, reprinted from those columns, bears date May, 1876,
immediately before she succumbed to the illness which in a few days was
to cut short her life.

At the beginning of this year she had written on this subject to
Flaubert, in the brave spirit she would fain impart to her weaker

     Life is perhaps eternal, and work in consequence eternal. If so,
     let us finish our march bravely. If otherwise, if the individual
     perish utterly, let us have the honor of having done our task. That
     is duty, for our only obvious duties are to ourselves and our
     fellow-creatures. What we destroy in ourselves we destroy in them.
     Our abasement abases them; our falls drag them down; we owe to them
     to stand fast, to save them from falling. The desire to die early
     is a weakness, as is the desire to live long.

George Sand, like most persons of an exceptional constitution, had
little faith in the efficacy for herself of medical science. She was
persuaded that the prescribed remedies did her more harm than good, and
on more than one occasion, when her health had caused her children
uneasiness, they had had to resort to an affectionate _ruse_ to induce
her to take advice. Her habit of disregarding physical ailments,
fighting against them as a weakness, and working on in their despite,
led her to neglect for too long failing health that should have been
attended to. During the whole of May, 1876, Madame Sand, though
suffering from real illness, continued to join in the household routine
and to proceed with her literary work as usual. Not till the last days
of the month did she, unable any longer to make light of her danger, at
length consent to send for professional advice. It was then too late.
She was suffering from internal paralysis. The medical attention which,
sought earlier, might, in the opinion of the doctors, have prolonged her
life for years, could now do nothing to avert the imminent fatal
consequences of her illness. "It is death," she said; "I did not ask for
it, but neither do I regret it." For beyond the sorrow of parting it had
no particular terrors for her; she had viewed and could meet it in
another spirit. "Death is no more," she had written; "it is life renewed
and purified."

She lingered for a week, in great suffering, but bearing all with
fortitude and an unflinching determination not to distress those around
her by painful complaining. Up to her last hour she preserved
consciousness and lucidity. The words, "_Ne touchez pas à la verdure_,"
among the last that fell from her lips, were understood by her children,
who knew her wish that the trees should be undisturbed under which, in
the village cemetery, she was soon to find a resting-place--a wish that
had been sacredly respected.

Her suffering ceased a short while before death, which came to her so
quietly that the transition was almost imperceptible to the watchers by
her side. It was on the morning of the 8th of June. She was within a
month of completing her seventy-second year. Although her life's work
had long since been mainly accomplished, yet the extinction of that
great intelligence was felt by many--as fitly expressed by M.
Renan--"like a diminution of humanity."

Two days later she was buried in the little cemetery of Nohant, that
adjoins her own garden wall. The funeral was conducted with extreme
simplicity, in accordance with her taste and spirit. The scene was none
the less a memorable one. The rain fell in torrents, but no one seemed
to regard it; the country-people flocking in from miles around, old men
standing bare-headed for hours, heedless of the deluge. The peasant and
the prince, Parisian leaders of the world of thought and letters, and
the humblest and most unlearned of her poorer neighbors, stood together
over her grave.

Six peasants carried the bier from the house to the church, a few paces
distant. The village priest came, preceded by three chorister-boys and
the venerable singing-clerk of the parish, to perform the ceremony. A
portion of the little churchyard, railed off from the rest and planted
with evergreen-trees, contains the graves of her grandmother, her
father, and the two little grandchildren she had lost. A plain granite
tomb in their midst now marks the spot where George Sand was laid,
literally buried in flowers.

A great spirit was gone from the world; and a good spirit, it will be
generally acknowledged: an artist in whose work the genuine desire to
leave those she worked for better than she found them, is one inspiring
motive. Such endeavor may seem to fail, and she affirmed: "A hundred
times it does fail in its immediate results. But it helps,
notwithstanding, to preserve that tradition of good desires and of good
deeds, without which all would perish."

       *       *       *       *       *


[A] The biography of Alfred De Musset, by Paul De Musset, translated
from the French by Harriet W. Preston. Boston, Roberts Brothers.

[B] Mauprat, translated by Miss Vaughan. Boston, Roberts Brothers.

[C] The Miller of Angibault. Translated by M. E. Dewey. Boston, Roberts

[D] The "Snow Man," translated by Virginia Vaughan. Boston: Roberts

       *       *       *       *       *








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"An admirable translation. As to 'Mauprat,' with which novel Roberts
Brothers introduce the first of French novelists to the American public,
if there were any doubts as to George Sand's power, it would for ever
set them at rest.... The object of the story is to show how, by her
(Edmée's) noble nature, he (Mauprat) is subsequently transformed from a
brute to a man; his sensual passion to a pure and holy love."--_Harper's

"The excellence of George Sand, as we understand it, lies in her
comprehension of the primitive elements of mankind. She has conquered
her way into the human heart, and whether it is at peace or at war, is
the same to her; for she is mistress of all its moods. No woman before
ever painted the passions and the emotions with such force and fidelity,
and with such consummate art. Whatever else she may be, she is always an
artist.... Love is the key-note of 'Mauprat,'--love, and what it can
accomplish in taming an otherwise untamable spirit. The hero, Bernard
Mauprat, grows up with his uncles, who are practically bandits, as was
not uncommon with men of their class, in the provinces, before the
breaking out of the French Revolution. He is a young savage, of whom the
best that can be said is, that he is only less wicked than his
relatives, because he has somewhere within him a sense of generosity and
honor, to which they are entire strangers. To sting this sense into
activity, to detect the makings of a man in this brute, to make this
brute into a man, is the difficult problem, which is worked out by
love,--the love of Bernard for his cousin Edmée, and hers for him,--the
love of two strong, passionate, noble natures, locked in a
life-and-death struggle, in which the man is finally overcome by the
unconquerable strength of womanhood. Only a great writer could have
described such a struggle, and only a great artist could have kept it
within allowable limits. This George Sand has done, we think; for her
portrait of Bernard is vigorous without being coarse, and her situations
are strong without being dangerous. Such, at least, is the impression we
have received from reading 'Mauprat,' which, besides being an admirable
study of character, is also a fine picture of French provincial life and
manners."--_Putnam's Monthly._

"Roberts Brothers propose to publish a series of translations of George
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many which are worth translating, and among these is 'Mauprat,'--though
by no means the best of them. Written to show the possibility of
constancy in man, a love inspired before and continuing through
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notions respecting the author,--who is generally supposed to be as
indifferent to the sanctities of the marriage relation as was her
celebrated ancestor, Augustus of Saxony.... The translation is
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translated from any language. The new series is inaugurated in the best
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bearing more than the burdens that were laid upon her. The story of the
three sisters is infinitely sad, but it is the ennobling sadness that
belongs to large natures cramped and striving for freedom to heroic,
almost desperate, work, with little or no result. The author of this
intensely interesting, sympathetic, and eloquent biography, is a young
lady and a poet, to whom a place is given in a recent anthology of
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"Miss Robinson had many excellent qualifications for the task she has
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"The biographer who finds such material before him as the lives and
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and sympathy."--_The Critic._

"'Emily Brontë' is the second of the 'Famous Women Series,' which
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peculiar interest to all who are at all familiar with the sad and
singular history of herself and her sister Charlotte. That the author,
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"Miss Blind's little biographical study of George Eliot is written
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drift and purpose of her art, and analyzes carefully her various
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but with appreciation, insight, and a clear grasp of those
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"The lives of few great writers have attracted more curiosity and
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As it is, many of the anecdotes commonly repeated about her are
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late, to reduce the true story of her career to the lowest terms,
and this service has been well done by the author of the present
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this little book as if there were a great probability about it. A
soft, gentle tone pervades its every sentence, and one cannot read
it without feeling refreshed and strengthened."--_The Alta

THE GREAT EPICS OF MEDIÆVAL GERMANY. An Outline of their Contents and
History. By George Theodore Dippold, Professor at Boston University and
Wellesley College. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.50

Professor Francis J. Child, of Harvard College, says: "It is an
excellent account of the chief German heroic poems of the Middle
Ages, accompanied with spirited translations. It is a book which
gives both a brief and popular, and also an accurate, account of
this important section of literature, and will be very welcome here
and at other colleges."

"No student of modern literature, and above all no student who aims
to understand the literary development of Europe in its fullest
range, can leave this rich and ample world of early song
unexplored. To all such Professor Dippold's book will have the
value of a trustworthy guide.... It has all the interest of a
chapter in the growth of the human mind into comprehension of the
universe and of itself, and it has the pervading charm of the vast
realm of poetry through which it moves."--_Christian Union._

MY HOUSEHOLD OF PETS. By Théophile Gautier. Translated from the French
by Susan Coolidge. With illustrations by Frank Rogers. 16mo. Cloth.
Price, $1.25

"This little book will interest lovers of animals, and the quaint
style in which M. Gautier tells of the wisdom of his household pets
will please every one. The translator, too, is happy in her work,
for she has succeeded in rendering the text into English without
loss of the French tone, which makes it fascinating. These
household pets consisted of white and black cats, dogs, chameleons,
lizards, magpies, and horses, each of which has a character and
story of its own. Illustrations and a pretty binding add to the
attractions of the volume."--_Worcester Spy._

"The ease and elegance of Théophile Gautier's diction is wonderful,
and the translator has preserved the charm of the French author
with far more than the average fidelity. 'My Household of Pets' is
a book which can be read with pleasure by young and old. It is a
charming volume.--_St. Louis Spectator._

***Our publications are for sale by all booksellers, or will be sent
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       *       *       *       *       *

Famous Women.


_The next volumes in the Famous Women Series will be_:

MARGARET FULLER. By Julia Ward Howe.


_Already published_:

GEORGE ELIOT. By Miss Blind.

EMILY BRONTË. By Miss Robinson.

GEORGE SAND. By Miss Thomas.

MARY LAMB. By Mrs. Gilchrist.

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