an era when women writers were considered unladylike, one woman stood out
from the rest. She called herself George Sand in order to protect her
true identity. A French Romantic writer
who produced wildly popular novels throughout most of her adult life, Sand
was born on July 1 of an aristocratic father and a lower-class mother.
She was reared by her austere paternal grandmother on a country estate in
After entering a convent in Paris, she returned to the
countryside and led an unconventional life, donning the male clothes that
became a mark of her rebellion.
Her real name was Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin. Over
her literary career, she produced more than 70 novels, 24 plays, and 40,000 letters.
She wrote about everything from love, adventure, and foreign lands to French secret
societies. But her real legacy lay in her own force of personality and
the way she defied convention while pioneering a path to independence for
other women to follow.
Acclaimed nearly as much for her love affairs
with prominent figures as for her writings, Sand was over the course of her
life involved with Prosper Merimée, Alfred de Musset (1833-34),
Frédéric Chopin, (1838-47), Alexandre Manceau (1849-65), Flaubert, Balzac,
Franz Liszt, and other
personalities of the time.
Her works influenced Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoi, Gustave Flaubert, and Marcel Proust. In 1842, English
critic George Henry Lewes wrote that Sand was ''the most remarkable writer
of the present century.''
Widespread critical attention accompanied the publication of
most of Sand's novels, beginning with Indiana (1832), a story of a
naive, love-starved woman abused by her much older husband and deceived by a
Sand received her education at Nohant, her grandmother's
estate, and at Couvent des Anglaises, Paris (1817-20). In 1822, she
married the baron Casimir Dudevant, to whom she bore one son and one
daughter. She inherited Nohant in 1821, but because of her unhappy
marriage, she left her family in 1831 and returned to Paris.
In 1831, Sand
began writing for the magazine, Le Figaro. She also contributed to
the Revue des Deux Mondes (1832-41) and La République (1848)
and was a coeditor of Revue Indépendante (1841). She befriended several poets, artists, philosophers, and
politicians and wrote in a few weeks with her lover Jules Sandeau a novel,
Rose et Blanche, under the pseudonym Jules Sand. The second
novel, Indiana (1832), gained immediate fame. It was followed
by Valentine (1832) and Lelia (1833). After reading Indiana, poet Alfred de Musset wrote an admiring letter to Sand, marking the beginning of a passionate love affair.
At the age of 33, Sand began an affair with Chopin.
The composer, however, did not at first find her very attractive.
"Something about her repels me," he said to his family. The
1991 film, Impromptu, covers their first meeting, as the more recent
Chopin's Funeral unravels their estrangement. In the
author's own story, A Winter in Majorca, Sand wrote of the
relationship's most famous high-note, a four-month island retreat undertaken
so that Chopin's tuberculosis might improve and that he might work in peace. Their relationship
ended in 1847 when Sand suspected the composer had fallen in
love with her daughter, Solange.
In her early works, Sand's writings show the influence of the writers with
whom she was associated. From the 1840s on, she had discovered her
own literary voice, which had roots in her childhood's peasant milieu.
For the rest of her life, she was committed to the ideals of Socialism,
which her friend Flaubert rejected in their dispute. After the failed 1848
French Revolution, Sand settled at Nohant. From 1864 to 1867, she
lived in Palaiseau, near Versailles.
Sand spent the rest of her life writing and traveling. Throughout her
literary career, Sand played an important role in the evolution of the
form of the modern-day novel. Her books, although popular, were also controversial.
She often questioned the sexual identity and gender destinies in fiction.
Sand herself was accused of lesbianism and nymphomania, partly because of
affairs with well-known celebrities. In Consuelo (1843), the
musically gifted heroine defies the tragic destiny depicted in Madame de
Staël's Corinne (1807). In her mid-life autobiography, Story of My Life
(1854-55), she displaces conventional
distinctions separating male from female, fact from fiction, and public life
Besides writing numerous novels, Sand also wrote memoirs, short stories,
essays, and fairy tales.
George Sand died on June 8, 1876. Following her death,
her literary reputation began a slow but steady decline. By the
beginning of the 20th century, her work attracted virtually no attention.
But that wouldn't have bothered the headstrong and iron-willed author.
"The world will know and understand me someday," she once wrote to her
critics. "But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter.
I shall have opened the way for other women."
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