History of Literature







George Sand


 

George Sand
 





Sand sewing, by Delacroix, 1838.

 



George Sand


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Amantine (also "Amandine") Aurore Lucile Dupin, later Baroness (French: baronne) Dudevant (1 July 1804 – 8 June 1876), best known by her pseudonym George Sand (French pronunciation: [ʒɔʁʒ sɑ̃d]), was a French novelist. She is considered by some a feminist, though she refused to join this movement. She is regarded as the first French female novelist to gain a major reputation.

 

Early life


Sand's father, Maurice Dupin, was the grandson of the Marshal General of France, Maurice, Comte de Saxe, himself an illegitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, King of Poland and a Saxon elector, and a cousin to the sixth degree to the kings of France Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X.[2] Sand's mother, Sophie-Victoire Delaborde, was a commoner. Sand was born in Paris but raised for much of her childhood by her grandmother, Marie Aurore de Saxe, Madame Dupin de Franceuil, at her grandmother's estate, Nohant, in the French province of Berry (See House of George Sand). She later used the setting in many of her novels. It has been said that her upbringing was quite liberal. In 1822, at the age nineteen, she married Baron Casimir Dudevant (1795–1871), illegitimate son of Baron Jean-François Dudevant. She and Dudevant had two children: Maurice (1823–1889) and Solange (1828–1899). In early 1831, she left her prosaic husband and entered upon a four- or five-year period of "romantic rebellion." In 1835, she was legally separated from Dudevant and took her children with her.



Portraits of George Sand




Contemporary views

Sand's reputation came into question when she began sporting men's clothing in public — which she justified by the clothes being far sturdier and less expensive than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time. In addition to being comfortable, Sand's male dress enabled her to circulate more freely in Paris than most of her female contemporaries, and gave her increased access to venues from which women were often barred — even women of her social standing.

Also scandalous was Sand's smoking tobacco in public; neither peerage nor gentry had yet sanctioned the free indulgence of women in such a habit, especially in public (though Franz Liszt's paramour Marie d'Agoult affected this as well, smoking large cigars). These and other behaviors were exceptional for a woman of the early and mid-19th century, when social codes—especially in the upper classes—were of the utmost importance.

As a consequence of many unorthodox aspects of her lifestyle, Sand was obliged to relinquish some of the privileges appertaining to a baroness — though, interestingly, the mores of the period did permit upper-class wives to live physically separated from their husbands, without losing face, provided the estranged couple exhibited no blatant irregularity to the outside world.

Poet Charles Baudelaire was a contemporary critic of George Sand: "She is stupid, heavy and garrulous. Her ideas on morals have the same depth of judgment and delicacy of feeling as those of janitresses and kept women.... The fact that there are men who could become enamoured of this slut is indeed a proof of the abasement of the men of this generation."

Other writers of the period, however, were more favorable in their assessments of Sand. The later novelist Flaubert, who was by no means an indulgent or forbearing critic, held unabashed admiration for her, as did Marcel Proust. Honoré de Balzac, another french novelist who knew Sand personally, once said that if someone thought George Sand wrote badly, it was because their own standards of criticism were inadequate. He also noted that her treatment of imagery in her works showed that her writing had an exceptional subtlety, having the ability to 'virtually put the image in the word'.




Portrait of George Sand by Auguste Charpentier (1838)


 

Relationships


Sand conducted affairs of varying duration with Jules Sandeau (1831), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset (summer 1833 – March 1835), Louis-Chrystosome Michel, Pierre-François Bocage, Félicien Mallefille and Frédéric Chopin (1837–47).
 

 

 

 


Jules Sandeau

Leonard Sylvain Julien (Jules) Sandeau (February 19, 1811 – April 24, 1883) was a French novelist.

He was born at Aubusson (Creuse), and was sent to Paris to study law, but spent much of his time in unruly behaviour with other students. He met George Sand, then Madame Dudevant, at Le Coudray in the house of a friend, and when she came to Paris in 1831 they had a relationship. The intimacy did not last long, but it produced Rose et Blanche (1831), a novel written together under the pseudonym J. Sand, from which George Sand took her famous pseudonym.

 

 

 

 

 


Prosper Mérimée

In 1841, Prosper Mérimée and his friend George Sand made a major contribution to the history of medieval art by discovering the luminous tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn during a stay at the Château de Boussac in the Limousin district of central France, which entered immediately into history thanks to the writings of George Sand.

 

 

 

 


Alfred de Musset

Alfred de Musset
The tale of his celebrated love affair with George Sand, which lasted from 1833 to 1835, is told from his point of view in his autobiographical novel, La Confession d'un Enfant du Siècle (The Confession of a Child of the Age, made into a film, Children of the Century), and from her point of view in her Elle et lui. Musset's Nuits (1835–1837, Nights) trace his emotional upheaval of his love for George Sand, from early despair to final resignation. He is also believed to be the author of Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess (1833), a lesbian erotic novel, also believed to be modeled on George Sand.
 

 

 

 

 

 


Frédéric Chopin



Chopin, by Delacroix

In 1836, at a party hosted by Countess Marie d'Agoult, mistress of friend and fellow composer Franz Liszt, Chopin met French author and feminist Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin, the Baroness Dudevant, better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. Sand's earlier romantic involvements had included Jules Sandeau (their literary collaboration had spawned the pseudonym George Sand), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset, Louis-Chrystosome Michel, the writer Charles Didier, Pierre-François Bocage and Félicien Mallefille.

Chopin initially felt an aversion to Sand. He declared to Ferdinand Hiller: "What a repulsive woman Sand is! But is she really a woman? I am inclined to doubt it." Sand, however, in a candid thirty-two page letter to Count Wojciech Grzymała, a friend to both her and Chopin, admitted strong feelings for the composer. In her letter she debated whether to abandon a current affair in order to begin a relationship with Chopin, and attempted to gauge the currency of his previous relationship with Maria Wodzińska, which she did not intend to interfere with should it still exist. By the summer of 1838, Chopin's and Sand's involvement was an open secret.

A notable episode in their time together was a turbulent and miserable winter on Majorca (8 November 1838 to 13 February 1839), where they, together with Sand's two children, had gone in the hope of improving Chopin's deteriorating health. However, after discovering the couple were not wed, the deeply religious people of Majorca became inhospitable, making accommodations difficult to find; this compelled the foursome to take lodgings in a scenic yet stark and cold former Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa.

Chopin also had problems having his Pleyel piano sent to him. It arrived from Paris on 20 December but was held up by customs. (Chopin wrote on 28 December: "My piano has been stuck at customs for 8 days... They demand such a huge sum of money to release it that I can't believe it.") In the meantime Chopin had a rickety rented piano on which he practiced and may have composed some pieces.

On 3 December, he complained about his bad health and the incompetence of the doctors in Majorca: "I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead."




Chopin, by Delacroix, 1838. Part of joint portrait with George Sand. (Musée du Louvre, Paris.)
 


On 4 January 1839, George Sand agreed to pay 300 francs (half the demanded amount) to have the Pleyel piano released from customs. It was finally delivered on 5 January. From then on Chopin was able to use the long-awaited instrument for almost five weeks, time enough to complete some works: some Preludes, Op. 28; a revision of the Ballade No. 2, Op. 38; two Polonaises, Op. 40; the Scherzo No. 3, Op. 39; the Mazurka in E minor from Op. 41; and he probably revisited his Sonata No. 2, Op. 35. The winter in Majorca is still considered one of the most productive periods in Chopin's life.

During that winter, the bad weather had such a serious effect on Chopin's health and chronic lung disease that, in order to save his life, the entire party were compelled to leave the island. The beloved French piano became an obstacle to a hasty escape. Nevertheless, George Sand managed to sell it to a French couple (the Canuts), whose heirs are the custodians of Chopin's legacy on Majorca and of the Chopin cell-room museum in Valldemossa.

The party of four went first to Barcelona, then to Marseille, where they stayed for a few months to recover. In May 1839, they headed to Sand's estate at Nohant for the summer. In autumn they returned to Paris, where initially they lived apart; Chopin soon left his apartment at 5 rue Tronchet to move into Sand's house at 16 rue Pigalle. The four lived together at this address from October 1839 to November 1842, while spending most summers until 1846 at Nohant. In 1842, they moved to 80 rue Taitbout in the Square d'Orléans, living in adjacent buildings.

It was around this time that we have evidence of Chopin's playing an instrument other than the piano. At the funeral of the tenor Adolphe Nourrit, who had jumped to his death in Naples but whose body was returned to Paris for burial, Chopin played an organ transcription of Franz Schubert's lied Die Gestirne.

During the summers at Nohant, particularly in the years 1839-43, Chopin found quiet but productive days during which he composed many works. They included his great Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53, the "Heroic", one of his most famous pieces. It is to Sand that we owe the most compelling description of Chopin's creative processes—of the rise of his inspirations and of their painstaking working-out, sometimes amid real torments, amid weeping and complaints, with hundreds of changes in the initial concept, only to return to the initial idea.[42] She describes an evening with their friend Delacroix in attendance:

Chopin is at the piano, quite oblivious of the fact that anyone is listening. He embarks on a sort of casual improvisation, then stops. 'Go on, go on,' exclaims Delacroix, 'That's not the end!' 'It's not even a beginning. Nothing will come ... nothing but reflections, shadows, shapes that won't stay fixed. I'm trying to find the right colour, but I can't even get the form ...' 'You won't find the one without the other,' says Delacroix, 'and both will come together.' 'What if I find nothing but moonlight?' 'Then you will have found the reflection of a reflection.' The idea seems to please the divine artist. He begins again, without seeming to, so uncertain is the shape. Gradually quiet colours begin to show, corresponding to the suave modulations sounding in our ears. Suddenly the note of blue sings out, and the night is all around us, azure and transparent. Light clouds take on fantastic shapes and fill the sky. They gather about the moon which casts upon them great opalescent discs, and wakes the sleeping colours. We dream of a summer night, and sit there waiting for the song of the nightingale ...
As the composer's illness progressed, Sand gradually became less of a lover and more of a nurse to Chopin, whom she called her "third child." But the nursing began to pall on her. In the years to come she would keep up her friendship with Chopin, but she often gave vent to affectionate impatience, at least in letters to third parties, in which she referred to Chopin as a "child," a "little angel," a "sufferer" and a "beloved little corpse."



In 1845, as Chopin's health continued to deteriorate, a serious problem emerged in his relations with Sand. Those relations were further soured in 1846 by problems involving her daughter Solange and the young sculptor Auguste Clésinger. In 1847 Sand published her novel Lucrezia Floriani, whose main characters — a rich actress and a prince in weak health — could be interpreted as Sand and Chopin; the story was uncomplimentary to Chopin, who could not have missed the allusions as he helped Sand correct the printer's galleys. In 1847 he did not visit Nohant. Mutual friends attempted to reconcile them, but the composer was unyielding.

One of these friends was mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot. Sand had based her 1843 novel Consuelo on Viardot, and the three had spent many hours at Nohant. An outstanding opera singer, Viardot was also an excellent pianist who had initially wanted the piano to be her career and had taken lessons with Liszt and Anton Reicha. Her friendship with Chopin was based on mutual artistic esteem and similarity of temperament. The two had often played together; he had advised her on piano technique and had assisted her in writing a series of songs based on the melodies of his mazurkas. He in turn had gained from Viardot some first-hand knowledge of Spanish music.

The year 1847 brought to an end, without any dramatics or formalities, the relations between Sand and Chopin that had lasted ten years, since 1837.

Count Wojciech Grzymała, who had followed Chopin's romance with George Sand from the first day to the last, would later opine: "If he had not had the misfortune of meeting G.S. [George Sand], who poisoned his whole being, he would have lived to be Cherubini's age." Chopin died at thirty-nine; his friend Cherubini had died at Paris in 1842 at age eighty-one. The two composers repose four meters apart at Père Lachaise Cemetery.
 

Later in life, she corresponded with Gustave Flaubert. Despite their obvious differences in temperament and aesthetic preference, they eventually became close friends.

She was engaged in an intimate friendship with actress Marie Dorval, which led to widespread but unconfirmed rumors of a lesbian affair. Letters written by Sand to Dorval mentioned things like "wanting you either in your dressing room or in your bed."
 

 

 

 


Gustave Flaubert


Marie Dorval

 

 

In January, 1833, female writer George Sand met Marie Dorval after the former wrote the actress a letter of appreciation following one of her performances. The two women became involved in an intimate friendship, and were rumored to have become lesbian lovers. This has since been debated, and has never been verified. Theater critic Gustave Planche reportedly warned Sand to stay away from Dorval. Likewise, Count Alfred de Vigny, Dorval's lover, warned the actress to stay away from Sand, whom he referred to as "that damned lesbian". Popular writers from that time, such as Théophile Gautier and Honoré de Balzac, capitalized on the rumors.


Whatever the truth in their relationship, Sand and Dorval would remain close friends for the remainder of Dorval's lifetime. In 1834, Dorval starred in Vigny's play Chatterton, and in 1840 she played the lead in a play written by Sand, entitled Cosima, and the two women collaborated on the script. However, the play was not well received, and was cancelled after only seven showings.

She had many successes that did follow, especially in popular productions at the Odéon Theatre. Her last two major appearances were in François Ponsard's Lucrèce (1843) and in Adolphe d'Ennery's Marie-Jeanne, ou la femme du peuple (Marie-Jeanne, Or the Woman of the People, 1845).

Her career began going downhill with a shift in fashion and the public's desire for younger actresses, and she began traveling with a troupe of actors doing small shows around the countryside. By the age of 51, her health was failing due to her long life of travel and shows, and she sank into depression following the death of one of her grandchildren. Sand assumed the financial support for Dorval's surviving grandchildren following Marie's death in 1849.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Majorca one can still visit the (then abandoned) Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa, where she spent the winter of 1838–39 with Chopin and her children. This trip to Majorca was described by her in Un Hiver à Majorque (A Winter in Majorca), published in 1855. Chopin was already ill with incipient tuberculosis at the beginning of their relationship, and spending a winter in Majorca - where Sand and Chopin did not realize that winter was a time of rain and cold, and where they could not get proper lodgings - exacerbated his symptoms.

They split two years before his death, for a culmination of reasons. Sand's insecurities at forty probably contributed to her boredom and sexual dissatisfaction with Chopin. In Lucrezia Floriani, a novel, Sand used Chopin as a model for a sickly Eastern European prince named Karol. He's cared for by a middle-aged actress past her prime, Lucrezia, who suffers a great deal by caring for Karol. Though Sand claimed not to have made a cartoon out of Chopin, the book's publication and widespread readership may have exacerbated their apathy to each other. However, the tipping point in their relationship involved her daughter Solange. Chopin continued to be cordial to Solange after she and her husband, Auguste Clesinger, had a vicious falling out with Sand over money. Sand took Chopin's support of Solange as outright treachery, and confirmation that Chopin had always "loved" Solange. Sand's son Maurice also disliked Chopin. Maurice wanted to establish himself as the 'man of the estate,' and did not wish to have Chopin as a rival for that role. Chopin was never asked back to Nohant. In 1848, he returned to Paris from a tour of the UK and died at the Place Vendôme. Chopin was penniless at that point; his friends had to pay for his stay there, as well as his funeral at the Madeleine. The funeral was attended by over 3,000 people, including Delacroix, Liszt, Victor Hugo and other famous people. George Sand, however, was notable by her absence.



 

Writing career

A liaison with the writer Jules Sandeau heralded her literary debut. They published a few stories in collaboration, signing them "Jules Sand." Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831), was written in collaboration with Sandeau. She subsequently adopted, for her first independent novel, Indiana (1832), the pen name that made her famous – George Sand.

Drawing from her childhood experiences of the countryside, she wrote the rural novels La Mare au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1847–1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs Bois-Doré (1857). A Winter in Majorca described the period that she and Chopin spent on that island in 1838-9.

Her other novels include Indiana (1832), Lélia (1833), Mauprat (1837), Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842–1843), and Le Meunier d'Angibault (1845).

Further theatre pieces and autobiographical pieces include Histoire de ma vie (1855), Elle et Lui (1859) (about her affair with Musset), Journal Intime (posthumously published in 1926), and Correspondence. Sand often performed her theatrical works in her small private theatre at the Nohant estate.

In addition, Sand authored literary criticism and political texts. She wrote many essays and published works establishing her socialist position. Because of her early life, she sided with the poor and working class. When the 1848 Revolution began, women had no rights and Sand believed these were necessary for progress. Around this time Sand started her own newspaper which was published in a workers' co-operative. This allowed her to publish more political essays. She wrote "I cannot believe in any republic that starts a revolution by killing its own proletariat."

Her most widely used quote is "There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved."

She was known well in far reaches of the world, and her social practices, her writings and her beliefs prompted much commentary, often by other luminaries in the world of arts and letters. A few excerpts demonstrate much of what was often said about George Sand:

"She was a thinking bosom and one who overpowered her young lovers, all Sybil — a Romantic."
V.S. Pritchett (writer)

"What a brave man she was, and what a good woman."
Ivan Turgenev (novelist)

"The most womanly woman."
Alfred de Musset (poet)

 


George Sand. Photo by Nadar, 1864.


Death
George Sand died at Nohant, near Châteauroux, in France's Indre département on 8 June 1876, at the age of 71 and was buried in the grounds of her home there. In 2004, controversial plans were suggested to move her remains to the Panthéon in Paris.

 

 
     
         
 

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