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NOTABLE LIVING WOMEN AND THEIR DEEDS.
GEORGE SAND (MADAME DUDEVANT.) THERE are some lives which fascinate us by their young officer went out one evening to dine with some
interest, but of whose course we cannot approve. friends, and on his way home was thrown from his horse This is one of them. The impulses of genius are, as we
and instantly expired. know from many examples, not always identical with moral Soon Aurore found herself installed permanently at strength; and we must not wish one an apology for the Nohant as the protegée and heiress of her grandmother. other. But at present we are less concerned with many The grandmother's ideas were those of the eighteenth blot and many an eccentricity in the life of George Sand, century; her mind was imbued with paradoxical notions, than with the works with which she has enriched the world. and her whole religion was comprised in the philosophy It is better to spend our
of Rousseau. She was a time in admiring great
woman of marvellous talents than in con
spirit, but much more demning the faults by
brilliant than solid. In which they are often
her ribbon-drawer she accompanied—a maxim
kept the hand of a skewhich we hope the
leton, and it was genereader will bear in mind
rally believed that she in perusing the follow
was a lady of science and ing biographical no
a deep student of osteotice.
logy. It is something to be
The theories of Maof royal descent, and our
dame Dupin, naturally heroine can claim as one
enough, influenced the of her ancestors on her
education of her grandfather's side, Augustus
child. By the time AuII, King of Poland.
was fifteen years Her father was the Mar
old, she could ride and quis Maurice Dupin de
and Franceuil. He entered
grace, and handle a gun the army as a volunteer
or flourish a sword most in 1793, rose to the rank
dexterously. This was of colonel in the time of
but one side of her trainthe empire, and died by
ing, however; the other a fall from his horse in
was dreamy and intellec1808, when his only
tual. She early exhibited daughter was a little girlof
a tendency to escape from four years of age. Of her
real life into the world of mother there is not
imagination. Sheinvented much to say ; there was
endless stories, and about no royal blood in her
her eleventh year was veins: she was a bird
busily occupied with the seller's child, and with a history which we shall pass composition of a grand romance. The hero, Corambé, over.
half pagan, half Christian, was the ideal of her dreams, Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin-such was the original and she grew so infatuated with his imaginary virtues name of George Sand—was born in Paris on the 5th of that she erected an altar to him in the grounds of the July, 1804. There was no love lost between her aristo- château. She read many a book of poetry, and studied cratic grandmother and the plebeian mother ; but we find history with intense pleasure as a subject on which she Maurice Dupin with his wife and children on a visit to could exercise her active imagination. She took great the old lady, Madame Dupin, at her seat, the Château de delight in the beauty of rustic scenes; and, romping Nohant, in the autumn of 1808. It was then that the about in the fields and woods with the children of the
neighbouring peasants she insensibly formed those ideas of perfecet quality which bore abundant fruit in after life.
It was a romantic childhood, but not altogether a happy one. Her grandmother and her mother both disputed the possession of her heart. The grandmother triumphed in the end ; but no one can suppose that the child abandoned its allegiance to its only surviving parent without many sad thoughts and gloomy hours.
About 1817, Madame Dupin awoke to the conviction that the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau was out of date, and that Aurore should be prepared on other principles for entering the world. She sent her to the English convent in Paris, there to be taught the practices of the Church and the accomplishments of a lady of the nineteenth century. In the convent she remained for three
years, and at the end of the time very nearly settled her vocation in life by taking the veil. “ She did not incline towards devotion at once,” says one writer; “according to her own account she was, during eighteen months, a perfect hoyden—the despair of her professors and of the mother-superior. But one evening, holding vigil in the chapel on the eve of a festival, she was seized with religious ecstacy.
She had never read the Scriptures before ; she now studied them with the ardour of a neophyte, and her zeal for asceticism and the life of a nun became so strong that it imperilled her health. A shrewd old Jesuit confessor dissuaded her from her hysteric purposes, and this holy man must have done long penance if he lived to watch the career of his penitent.” When Aurore returned to a tranquil state of mind, she organized a little theatre in the convent, and diverted the community with her recollections of Molière.
Aurore returned to Nohant, and was just in time to close the eyes of her grandmother. By the death of Madame Dupin she came into possession of the Château Nohant. She now spent much of her leisure in riding about the country, followed by a little peasant, and abandoned to her own meditations. She took to reading Byron, Mably, Leibnitz, Shakspeare, and, lastly, JeanJacques Rousseau. Religious practices were abandoned, and scepticism took possession of her soul. “In her young head of eighteen budded the fine idea that nothing is true, and that all is wrong; so that, disgusted at living amidst so much wickedness, she one day tried to commit suicide by spurring her horse down a ravine. Fortunately, the only victim of this escapade was the horse, who broke his back.”
At this time, Aurore was thrown into close contact with her mother, and she experienced all the difficulties of her mother's wayward character. “She was sionally,” said Aurore, in after years, "frank and tender towards
and whenever she shed a tear, or exercised a maternal care towards me, I began to love her and to hope ; but this hope was always the road to despair; it was crushed on the morrow. Nevertheless, she loved me; or, at least, she loved in me the memory of my father
and of my infancy; but she also hated in me the memory of my grandmother."
An opportunity presented itself for escaping from the trials of her position. It was proposed that she should marıy the son of M. le Baron Dudevant, a young man then twenty-seven years of age. According to French custom in such cases, there was nothing extraordinary in the fact that neither the bride nor the bridegroom pretended to any, romantic sentiment in this marriage, which was dictated to them by their families. It was simply a marriage of convenience; and Aurore, at least, regarded the match with complacency, as an arrangement which would deliver her, as she imagined, from the miseries of her present life. The wedding took place in 1822.
The young Baron Dudevant was a retired military officer, who had become a gentleman farmer; he was an authority on the subject of rearing cattle, and a master before whom all trembled-servants, horses, and dogs. He was of all men the least likely to engage the affections of one such as our youthful Aurore. She brought him a fortune of half a million francs, and with it he made haste to extend his agricultural operations, never, apparently, recognizing the fact that his wife, with her natural vigour of mind and sensibility of character, was leading a most uncomfortable monotonous existence.
At first, Madame Dudevant endured her troubles with patience. Then two children-a son and daughter-consoled her with their smiles. But, at last, she fell into a serious illness, and by medical advice was ordered to the Pyrenees. Her husband, too much taken up with his ploughs and sheep, did not accompany her on this expedition. At Bordeaux she first mingled freely in the world, and learned from the homage and adoration of society how conspicuous a part she was qualified to play. When she returned to her own home, how dull and monotonous it seemed. She resolved, as a remedy against ennui and mortification, to devote herself thenceforth to the sedulous cultivation of poetry, arts, and science, and to surround herself with such friends as could sympathize with her pursuits.
Just at this a visitor arrived at the Château of Nohant. This visitor was Jules Sandeau, a young law student from Paris. It was impossible for him to be long under the same roof with Madame Dudevant without discovering her tastes and talent, which were in close affinity to his own. Sympathy was wanted to develop her genius, and Jules Sandeau was the first to inspire in her a longing for literary distinction.
The student returned to the capital, bearing in his heart a profound passion which he had not dared to avow. Feelings of doubt and suspicion now aggravated the harsh characteristics of the husband of Madame Dudevant; their mutual relationship became insupportable, and an agreement of separation was drawn up in 1831, by which the care and companionship of her children were still, in a measure, accorded to her.
Breathing more freely than she had done for nine long
years, Madame Dudevant bade farewell to the scenes of her earliest recollections, and hastened to Paris. She paid a brief visit to the convent of which she had formerly been an inmate, but it was now no place for her. Young, energetic, and ambitious, she felt that the great world must be the scene of her future labours. From the convent she removed to a little garret in the Quai SaintMichel, en face de la Morgue. Here Jules Sandeau was not long in finding her.
It was necessary to live, and Madame Dudevant was absolutely without resources. Jules Sandeau could not assist her; he had a very modest allowance from his family, and had the utmost difficulty in keeping the wolf from his own door. The lady had a little skill in painting, and managed to get employment from a toy-vendor in ornamenting candlesticks, snuff-boxes, and cigar-cases. This was wearisome and ill-paid work. Jules Sandeau and she then determined to seek advice from Henri de Latouche, then editor of “Figaro." Latouche received them kindly.
“Why,” said he to Sandeau, “ do you not try journalism? It is less difficult than you imagine.
Be one of our contributors."
“Alas ! ” replied Sandeau, “I am too lazy for journalism."
“But I shall assist you,” said Madame Dudevant, smiling
“ Bravo !” exclaimed De Latouche. Write, and bring me your articles as soon as possible.”
From that day Madame Dudevant laid the pencil aside, and took up the pen. The two literary aspirants set to work in company, and thus began that curious literary partnership which so greatly mystified the Parisian press. The editor of the “Figaro” was pleased with their articles, and recommended them to try a romance.
Our two collaborateurs set to work, and at the end of six weeks had finished a book, of which the title was “ Rose et Blanche.” The manuscript they managed to dispose of for four hundred francs.
Whose name was to go upon the title-page? “Not mine," said Madame Dudevant, “ for fear of a scandal.”
" And not mine,” said Jules Sandeau, “ for fear of my relations, on whom I am dependent.” It was agreed, then, that the name of Sandeau was to be cut in half to destroy its chance of recognition, and the title-page of the book was signed Jules Sand.
The young authors now believed their fortune made, and that four hundred francs was an inexhaustible sum. They led for a time a life of ease and gaiety, and it was at this period that Madame Dudevant first gave offence by donning male attire, which she assumed for greater independence of action. They need not, however, have been so elated with their good fortune ; “Rose et Blanche" was in no way an extraordinary novel ; it only occasionally rises above mediocrity, and gives no hint of the splendid abilities which Madame Dudevant afterwards displayed.
When the last of the four hundred francs was paid
away, Madame Dudevant was advised to obtain a pension alimentaire from her husband. She set out for Nohant, after having arranged with Jules Sandeau the plan of a new novel, to be called “Indiana.” In her absence. Sandeau dreamed and did no work ; but, on her return, Madame Dudevant surprised him with the complete manuscript. It sold for six hundred francs. On its titlepage appeared, for the first time, the 'now familiar name of George SAND. At first, Madame Dudevant had desired that it should bear the name of Jules Sand, but this Sandeau would not agree to; he had had no hand, he said, in the new work, and deserved none of the glory of it. So it was agreed to retain the surname of Sand, and to choose a new Christian name ; and George was selected, for the matter-of-fact reason that the day on which the matter was decided happened to be St. George's Day, the 23rd of April.
The success of “Indiana " was enormous. It was a romance in which a glowing heart, deeply wounded by the pressure of social relations, gives vent to its feelings. Hardly any book has ever excited more public curiosity. A clamour of enthusiasm and reprobation arose regarding it, and disputes were endless as to the sex of the author. Some talked of his genius, and others of her personal experience.
George Sand was now no longer poor. She removed into apartments worthy of herself, and to them were admitted a distinguished circle of literary men. She continued to dress in masculine attire, and it became her well. “She was to be met with,” says a contemporary, “in the streets, in the promenades, and upon the boulevard, dressed in a little grey riding-coat, upon the collar of which hung curls of the most beautiful black hair in the world. She held a cane in her hand, and smoked a cigarette with the most perfect ease and grace."
Intoxicated by success, George Sand forgot the faithful companion of her days of ill-fortune. Sandeau, wounded at heart, set out for Italy, alone, on foot, and without money; and, though he afterwards rose to position as an author, and became a member of the Academy, we lose sight of him so far as our story is concerned.
The author of “ Indiana” now sought to add new diamonds to her literary crown. The “ Revue de Paris" and the “ Revue des Deux Mondes ” were both eager
to secure the publication of her works in their pages. “Valentine" appeared in the end of 1832. Six months after, “ Lelia” was given to the world; it was written under the influence of profound dejection after the massacres of Varsovia, the “A B C” insurrection of Paris, and the ravages of cholera. In both “ Valentine" and “Lelia," as well as in “ Indiana," George Sand violently attacked the institution of marriage. A great commotion amongst the critics was the result, and one duel at least took place in consequence, but no blood was shed. The wounds of men of letters are made with the pen, not with the sword.
George Sand now made the acquaintance of Alfred de Musset, and conceived a great admiration for his poetry. She visited Italy with him, and Venice so harmonized with her taste that she returned to it in 1834. She has given her impressions of it in several romances, particularly in the “ Lettres d'un Voyageur,” which appeared at intervals; “ Jacques,” published in 1834; “André” and “ Léone Léoni,” issued in 1835, and “Simon,” written in 1836. In addition to those works, volume after volume were poured forth; hardly any author has ever exhibited such fertility of thought and such a wealth of imagination. “La Marquise," " Lavinia,” “Métella," "Mattea,” “ Mauprat,” “ La Dernière Aldini,” “ Les Maître Mosaïstes, “ Pauline,' and “Un Hiver à Majorque," were published between 1835 and 1837. Her style was found to possess an irresistible charm : it had two precious qualities~-elegance and clearness. Her phrases were sometimes incorrect, but there was a charm even in their incorrectness. In all her works her socialistic tendencies were predominant. Her logic, certainly, was not convincing, but no one could deny the vigour and purity of her imagination. “This was always the case,” it has been remarked, “ with Madame Dudevant. Even those who disapprove of her exaggerated and one-sided ideas of life, must admire the perfect form, the captivating style, the plastic finish, and the great affluence of thought and sentiment displayed in all her productions."
In 1835, George Sandmade the acquaintance of the advocate, Michel de Bourges, the great Republican orator; he preached Republicanism to her, and the unity of social and religious truth, but troubled her with the exaggeration of his ideas. The impression made by Lamennais, whom she also knew at this time, was much more profound.
The following year she commenced an action against her husband for ill-treatment, with a view to obtaining possession of her fortune and the guardianship of her two children. The noble agriculturist, who had all along exhibited the most sovereign contempt for the transcendant abilities of his wife, lost the case. George Sand clasped her children to her heart-her son Maurice being then twelve years old, and her daughter Solange nineteenand soon the old manor of Nohant received her within its walls. Maurice and Solange never again left her. They accompanied her to Paris and on all her travels.
The success of these legal proceedings seems to have exercised a beneficial effect on the mind of Madame Dudevant. She appeared, all at once, to repudiate the desperate doctrines which she had sown in some of her former works. “ Consulo" and several smaller romances now appeared, all being remarkable for the purity and simplicity of their construction. We can picture the authoress to ourselves at this time, standing robed in white, and with her children by her side, beneath the trees which had sheltered her earliest youth. scarcely recognizable as the George Sand who might formerly have been seen walking alone through the
streets of Paris, with a cane in her hand and a cigarette in her mouth.
The famous Polish musical composer, Frederic Chopin, was now admitted to her circle, and soon became her most intimate friend. It was an intimacy which lasted for eight years. It ended at last, as many other friendships do. Poor Chopin !
Madame Sand now occupied herself with the education of her two children, and spent her time sometimes in Paris, and sometimes at her estate in the country, or in journeys into Switzerland and Italy.
Until about 1837, the novels of George Sand had not exhibited in a marked degree the influence of any contemporary mind upon her own. Some had been pure works of art, and the rest had dealt with questions which her personal experience had suggested to her. But though she passes, it has been said, for the incarnation of pure feminine independence, George Sand has done much to vindicate the theory that woman is incomplete without man. Her mind, so high in its range, is pliable as wax, and no man of genius has ever applied his ideas to it without imprinting them deep. The influence of Lamennais appeared in the “ Lettres à Marcie," published in 1837 in the “Monde," which Lamennais had founded. They breathed the spirit of Christian resignation, mixed up with a host of heterodox maxims.
The influence of M. Pierre Leroux is visible in “Spiridion,” which is dedicated to him, and in “Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre,” works in which there is a mixture of imagination and philosophy. “Les Sept Cordes de la Lyre," by the way, is an extraordinary piece of prose poetry. We find a lively sympathy for music displayed in “Consulo." This was, without doubt, the result of the influence of Chopin, united with the remembrances of Madame Viardot, who is personified in the heroine. The socialistic aspirations of Michel de Bourges appear in “La Comtesse de Rudolstadt,” and in several other novels which followed it.
George Sand returned to the cultivation of higher art in “ Jeanne,” published in 1844. Of several exquisite works which succeeded, the best of all is " La Mare au Diable;" it is a small piece, but a chef-d'æuvre in its way; and, indeed, looked at from an æsthetic point of view, is with respect to plan and execution, the most complete production of her pen. Those of her longer romances which are generally allowed to be the finest, are “ Valentine," “ André," and, in particular parts, “ Consulo."
A great political event, the Revolution of February, 1848, and the proclamation of the Republic, now came to agitate the life and thoughts of George Sand. She threw herself with ardour into the movement, and wasted some valuable time on one of the most barren subjects in the universe. An author, dealing with literature as an art, should keep clear of politics.
She fortunately soon abandoned the role of political and social reformer, and took up new ground. The field on which she entered was that of dramatic literature.
Her first piece, “Cosina, ou la Haine dans l'Amour," brought out in 1840, had not succeeded, and had been withdrawn. A second piece, “ Le Roi Attend,” had not much success either; but“ François le Champi," put on the stage in 1849, and “Claudia” in 1851, were more fortunate, and were repeated several times with great applause. Then followed “Les Vacances de Pandolphe," "Le Démon du Foyer," " Molière," "Le Pressoir," and many others which we would mention were it not that a list of names is, above all things, uninteresting. The success of the “Marquis of Villemer” at the Odéon, in 1864, was one of the greatest triumphs of the author. It cannot be denied, however, that the dramatic compositions of George Sand have not been received with the same favour as her other writings. Her reflective talent is better adapted to the development of plots in books than to the rapid action of the stage.
Following many illustrious examples, George Sand, in 1854, published her memoirs in the “ Presse," under the title of “Histoire de ma vie.” The public expected much scandal and many curious revelations, but they were disappointed. George Sand gave them a history of her philosophic development instead of scandal, and much psychology but few anecdotes. It was perhaps as well. In one part she affords us a view of the doctrines which have animated her life, and as these have been much misrepresented, we shall, in justice, quote the following passage : “My religion,” she says, “has never varied at bottom; the forms of the past have vanished for me as well as for the age in which I live; but the eternal doctrines of believers, the good God, the immortality of the soul, and the hopes of another life, have resisted all examination, all discussion, and even intervals of desperate doubt."
Amongst the latest productions of our authoress, we may mention “Malle. la Quintinie," published in 1863, a philosophic and religious novel, intended as an answer to the mystic novel of M. Octave Feuillet, the “ Histoire de Sibylle ;" "Monsieur Sylvestre" (1866); “ Le Dernier Amour" (1867); “Cadio" (1868); " Pierre qui Roule” (1869); and “L'Autre" (1870). Several of these works appear to unite to the maturity of mental talent all the life and freshness of youth.
“As an apostle of republicanism and an advocate of popular education,” says a recent writer, “the influence of George Sand has been immense. Of late years she bas produced in her books two invariable types—a strongminded, highly-educated, and very lovable girl, and an equally strong-minded hero, generally a peasant, selftaught, but with all the instincts and manners of a gentleman, and ardently progressive. They are not types true to life, but the authoress's inference is that they might be made so if women were reared to be something better than dolls, and if government and clergy were not unanimous in wishing to keep the peasantry in ignorance. After all, there is no reason why Frenchmen should not gradually improve themselves up to the level of George
Sand's ideal, for it is not an ideal out of reach, nor does it by any means imply the repudiation of all religious belief."
Madame Sand used, until recently, to reside almost always at Nohant. She has a large income, derived not only from her estate, but from her books. Accustomed in her later years to a somewhat extravagant course of life, her income is not always equal to her expenditure. This is not favourable to literary production. She has thus been tempted, like so many others, to write too much, and without sufficient study. “Obliged to gain money," she says, “I have often forced my imagination to produce, without troubling myself to inquire whether my reason went hand-in-hand with it."
A French writer gives us a glimpse of the interior of her dwelling. In it, he says, there reigas an almost vulgar simplicity, and the furniture bears witness rather to George Sand's reverence for what was her grandmother's than to her taste in the matter of ornament. At eleven o'clock the breakfast-bell rings. George Sand does not appear at first, and Maurice, her son, presides in her absence. She arrives about the middle of the repast, embraces her son, shakes hands with each guest, and goes to take her usual place. Her table is well and plentifully furnished. The lady of the house takes coffee morning and evening. Silent and grave herself, she delights much in listening to conversation. Stories and bons-mots find in her a smiling and sympathizing auditor, and sometimes she abandons herself to jesting when a subject is started worthy of her raillery
Her habit at one time of going about attired in the raiment of the other sex gave rise to many odd incidents; and before letting the curtain fall on our heroine, we shall recount one of these. When passing through Marseilles once, she was invited by an old physician named Cauvières to dine with him. That he might the more suitably entertain his distinguished guest, George Sand, Cauvières borrowed a house of a friend named Falke. The literary lion went to this dinner in female attire. After the
company had assembled, M. Falke arrived. He looked round, but recognized no George Sand. Having lent his house for this entertainment in honour of the great author, M. Falke during dinner could scarcely restrain his wrath against M. Cauvières for having tricked and disappointed him. At dessert, he grumbled aloud
“Ah, bah! you promised to show me George Sand, but I don't see him here."
M. Cauvières, in much perplexity at this outburst, indicated the place where sat the author of “Indiana.”
It was now M. Falke's turn to feel embarrassed. He rose from his seat, and bowing low, “ Pardon, ma. dame!” he cried. “In truth, I could never have recognized you, for I did not know before that a lady could be a man of letters.