Portrait of George Sand by Auguste Charpentier (1838)
Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin
1 July 1804
|Died||8 June 1876 (aged 71)|
(m. 1822; separated 1835)
Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (French: [amtin lysil o dyp]; 1 July 1804 - 8 June 1876), best known by her pen name George Sand (French: [? sd]), was a French novelist, memoirist, and socialist. One of the more popular writers in Europe in her lifetime, being more renowned than both Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac in England in the 1830s and 1840s, Sand is recognised as one of the most notable writers of the European Romantic era.
George Sand - known to her friends and family as "Aurore" - was born in Paris and was raised for much of her childhood by her grandmother Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Madame Dupin de Francueil, at her grandmother's estate Nohant in the French province of Berry (see House of George Sand). Sand later used the estate setting in many of her novels. Her father Maurice Dupin was the grandson of the Marshal General of France, Maurice, Comte de Saxe, an out-of-wedlock son of Augustus II the Strong, king of Poland and elector of Saxony, and a cousin to the sixth degree to Kings Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X of France. She was also more distantly related to King Louis Philippe of France through common ancestors from German and Danish ruling families. Sand's mother, Sophie-Victoire Delaborde, was a commoner.
Sand was one of many notable 19th-century women who chose to wear male attire in public. In 1800, the police issued an order requiring women to apply for a permit in order to wear male clothing. Some women applied for health, occupational, or recreational reasons (e.g., horseback riding), but many women chose to wear pants and other traditional male attire in public without receiving a permit. They did so as well for practical reasons, but also at times to subvert dominant stereotypes. Sand was one of the women who wore men's clothing without a permit, justifying them as being less expensive and far sturdier than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time. In addition to being comfortable, Sand's male attire 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). While there were many contemporary critics of her comportment, many people accepted her behaviour until they became shocked with the subversive tone of her novels. Those who found her writing admirable were not bothered by her ambiguous or rebellious public behaviour. Victor Hugo commented "George Sand cannot determine whether she is male or female. I entertain a high regard for all my colleagues, but it is not my place to decide whether she is my sister or my brother."
In 1822, at the age of eighteen, Sand married Casimir Dudevant (1795-1871; first name "François"), out-of-wedlock son of Baron Jean-François Dudevant. She and Dudevant had two children: Maurice (1823-1889) and Solange (1828-1899). In 1825 she had an intense but perhaps platonic affair with the young lawyer Aurélien de Sèze. In early 1831, she left her husband and entered upon a four- or five-year period of "romantic rebellion." In 1835, she was legally separated from Dudevant, and took custody of their children.
Sand had romantic affairs with Jules Sandeau (1831), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset (summer 1833 - March 1835), Louis-Chrysostome Michel, Pierre-François Bocage, Charles Didier, Félicien Mallefille, Louis Blanc, and composer Frédéric Chopin (1837-1847). Later in her life, she corresponded with Gustave Flaubert, and despite their differences in temperament and aesthetic preference, they eventually became close friends. She engaged in an intimate romantic relationship with actress Marie Dorval.
Sand spent the winter of 1838-1839 with Chopin in Mallorca at the (formerly abandoned) Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa. The trip to Mallorca was described in her Un hiver à Majorque (A Winter in Majorca), first published in 1841. Chopin was already ill with incipient tuberculosis at the beginning of their relationship, and spending a cold and wet winter in Mallorca where they could not get proper lodgings exacerbated his symptoms. They separated two years before his death for a variety of reasons. In her novel Lucrezia Floriani, Sand used Chopin as a model for a sickly Eastern European prince named Karol. He is cared for by a middle-aged actress past her prime, Lucrezia, who suffers a great deal through her affection 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 later antipathy towards each other. The tipping point in their relationship involved her daughter Solange.
Chopin continued to be cordial to Solange after she and her husband Auguste Clésinger had a falling out with Sand over money. Sand took Chopin's support of Solange to be extremely disloyal, 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. Chopin was never asked back to Nohant; in 1848, he returned to Paris from a tour of the United Kingdom, to die at the Place Vendôme in the following year. Chopin was penniless at that time; 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 Eugène Delacroix, Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo and other notables. George Sand was notably absent.
Sand died at Nohant, near Châteauroux, in France's Indre département on 8 June 1876, at the age of 71. She was buried in the private graveyard behind the chapel at Nohant-Vic. In 2003, plans that her remains be moved to the Panthéon in Paris resulted in controversy.
George Sand was the most popular writer (of any gender) in Europe by the age of 27, more popular than both Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac in England in the 1830s and 1840s, and she remained immensely popular as a writer throughout her lifetime and long after her death. Early in her career, her work was in high demand and already by 1836, the first of several compendia of her writings was published in 24 volumes. In total, 4 separate editions of her "Complete Works" were published during her lifetime. In 1880 her children sold the rights to her literary estate for 125,000 Francs (equivalent to 36 kg worth of gold, or 1.3 million dollars in 2015 USD)
Drawing from her childhood experiences of the countryside, Sand wrote the pastoral novels La Mare au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1847-1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs de Bois-Doré (1857).A Winter in Majorca described the period that she and Chopin spent on that island from 1838 to 1839. 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). 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.
Sand's literary debut came as a result of a collaboration with the writer Jules Sandeau. They published several stories together, signing them Jules Sand. Sand's 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.
In addition, Sand wrote literary criticism and political texts. In her early life, she sided with the poor and working class as well as women's rights. When the 1848 Revolution began, she was an ardent republican. Sand started her own newspaper, published in a workers' co-operative.
Politically, she became very active after 1841 and the leaders of the day often consulted with her and took her advice. She was a member of the provisional government of 1848, issuing a series of fiery manifestos. While many Republicans were imprisoned or went to exile after Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte's coup d'état of December 1851, she remained in France, maintained an ambiguous relationship with the new regime and negotiated pardons and reduced sentences for her friends.
Sand was known for her implication and writings during the Paris Commune, where she took a position for the Versailles assembly against the "communards," urging them to take violent action against the "rebels." She was appalled by the violence of the Paris Commune. She wrote: "The horrible adventure continues. They ransom, they threaten, they arrest, they judge. They have taken over all the city halls, all the public establishments, they're pillaging the munitions and the food supplies."
Sand's writing was immensely popular during her lifetime and she was highly respected by the literary and cultural elite in France. Victor Hugo, in the eulogy he gave at her funeral, said "the lyre was within her."
In this country whose law is to complete the French Revolution and begin that of the equality of the sexes, being a part of the equality of men, a great woman was needed. It was necessary to prove that a woman could have all the manly gifts without losing any of her angelic qualities, be strong without ceasing to be tender ... George Sand proved it.-- Victor Hugo, Les funérailles de George Sand
Eugène Delacroix was a close friend and respected her literary gifts.Flaubert, by no means an indulgent or forbearing critic, was an unabashed admirer. Honoré de Balzac, who knew Sand personally, once said that if someone thought she 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."Alfred de Vigny referred to her as "Sappho".
Not all of her contemporaries admired her or her writing: poet Charles Baudelaire was one 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."
Fyodor Dostoevsky "read widely in the numerous novels of George Sand" and translated her La dernière Aldini in 1844, but "discovered to his dismay that the work had already appeared in Russian". In his novel Demons (1871), the character of Stepan Verkhovensky takes to translating the works of George Sand in his periodical, before the periodical was subsequently seized by the ever-cautious Russian government of the 1840s. The English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) wrote two poems: "To George Sand: A Desire" (1853) and "To George Sand: A Recognition". The American poet Walt Whitman cited Sand's novel Consuelo as a personal favorite, and the sequel to this novel, La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, contains at least a couple of passages that appear to have had a very direct influence on him. In the first episode of the "Overture" to Swann's Way--the first novel in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time sequence--a young, distraught Marcel is calmed by his mother as she reads from François le Champi, a novel which (it is explained) was part of a gift from his grandmother, which also included La Mare au Diable, La Petite Fadette, and Les Maîtres Sonneurs. As with many episodes involving art in À la recherche du temps perdu, this reminiscence includes commentary on the work. Sand is also referred to in Virginia Woolf's book-length essay A Room of One's Own along with George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë as "all victims of inner strife as their writings prove, sought ineffectively to veil themselves by using the name of a man."
Frequent literary references to George Sand can be found in Possession (1990) by A. S. Byatt and in the play Voyage, the first part of Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia trilogy (2002). George Sand makes an appearance in Isabel Allende's Zorro, going still by her given name, as a young girl in love with Diego de la Vega, i.e., Zorro.
George Sand is portrayed by Merle Oberon in A Song to Remember, by Patricia Morison in Song Without End, by Rosemary Harris in Notorious Woman, by Judy Davis in James Lapine's 1991 British-American film Impromptu; and by Juliette Binoche in the 1999 French film Children of the Century (Les Enfants du siècle).