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George Sand

George Sand

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    George Sand
    Book Description:

    George Sand was the most famous-and most scandalous-woman in nineteenth-century France. As a writer, she was enormously prolific-she wrote more than ninety novels, thirty-five plays, and thousands of pages of autobiography. She inspired writers as diverse as Flaubert and Proust but is often remembered for her love affairs with such figures as Musset and Chopin. Her affair with Chopin is the most notorious: their nine-year relationship ended in 1847 when Sand began to suspect that the composer had fallen in love with her daughter, Solange.

    Drawing on archival sources-much of it neglected by Sand's previous biographers-Elizabeth Harlan examines the intertwined issues of maternity and identity that haunt Sand's writing and defined her life. Why was Sand's relationship with her daughter so fraught? Why was a woman so famous for her personal and literary audacity ultimately so conflicted about women's liberation? In an effort to solve the riddle of Sand's identity, Harlan examines a latticework of lives that include Solange, Sand's mother and grandmother, and Sand's own protagonists, whose stories amplify her own.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13056-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xx)

    WHO WAS George Sand? More than a century before Simone de Beauvoir declared, “It is still across the dreams of men that women dream,” Sand not only dreamed of a liberated life, shelivedit.¹ Born Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin in Paris in 1804, she grew up to become a successful, prolific, controversial author who left her husband, took lovers, adopted a male pseudonym, fought for and regained custody of her children and possession of her home, founded journals, participated in the political life of her nation, and died shortly before her seventy-second birthday, surrounded by her adoring son, Maurice,...


    • CHAPTER ONE Her Father’s Daughter
      (pp. 3-9)

      WHAT SHINES through most brightly in George Sand’s charming, harmonious depiction of coming into the world is her desire to resolve the conflict into which she was born. Whatever the particulars of her birth may have been, what she presents in her autobiography is a carefully crafted composition, a social still life that tells as much about how Sand wished to interpret the conditions of her birth as it does about the way it actually occurred:

      I came into the world on July 5, 1804; my father was playing the violin and my mother wore a pretty pink dress. It...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Importance of Being Marie-Aurore de Saxe
      (pp. 10-25)

      MARIE-AURORE was only two years old in 1750 when her illustrious father, Maurice de Saxe, marshal of the French Army, died. Because she was so young and he had been away on military campaigns during most of her early years, he could not have made much of an impression on her. The distance between them was accentuated by her being the illegitimate daughter of his former mistress Marie Rinteau. Nevertheless, the connection with such a powerful and prominent man was the shaping force of Marie-Aurore’s life.

      During the first third of that life, Marie-Aurore waged a battle to gain, if...

    • CHAPTER THREE Sophie Victorious
      (pp. 26-36)

      ANTOINETTE-SOPHIE-VICTOIRE Delaborde was born in Paris in July 1773. Sophie, as she came to be called, was the daughter of Antoine-Claude Delaborde, who ran a billiard parlor and sold birds on the quai de la Mégisserie until his death in 1781. Virtually nothing is known of Sophie’s mother, Marie Anne Cloquard, who died in July 1790. “The genealogies of ordinary people cannot compete with those of the rich and powerful,” Sand would one day observe inStory of My Life.¹ After their father’s death Sophie and her younger sister, Lucie, were looked after by their grandparents, Jean-Georges Cloquard and his...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Spanish Sojourn
      (pp. 37-52)

      ON 10 MARCH 1808, Napoléon’s brother-in-law, Prince Murat, arrived in Madrid with his aide-de camp, Maurice Dupin, to command the one hundred thousand French troops posted to the Spanish peninsula. By May, separated from the husband on whose support the family depended and eight months pregnant with his second child, Sophie could no longer contain her anxiety. In the past she had chosen to leave Aurore behind in order to join Maurice at his military post; this time Sophie took her along.

      The Paris spring was fresh and lovely, the time of year when Caroline and Aurore could play outside...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Sophie’s Choice
      (pp. 53-62)

      AURORE WAS TERRIFIED by the black stockings she was forced to wear and referred to them as “legs of death.” When other members of the household began to appear in mourning, Aurore asked her mother, “You mean my daddy died again today?”¹ Although unaware that Maurice was his father, Hippolyte cried and screamed at night. The double deaths of the baby and Maurice, coupled with the grief he was witnessing in everyone around him, induced nightmares in the otherwise intrepid nine-year-old child.

      The superstitious servants made matters worse by circulating stories that Maurice’s ghost had been sighted walking around the...


    • CHAPTER SIX Enigma of the Sphinx
      (pp. 65-71)

      INSTORY OF MY LIFE,there are two crucial revelations concerning Sophie Dupin that are among the most traumatic experiences of Aurore’s young life. In each incident, one involving Madame Dupin, the other, some five years later, involving Sophie herself, Aurore is confronted with devastating disclosures about her mother’s past. Taken together, the two scenes are curiously complementary and serve as symbolic bookends to Aurore’s adolescence.

      The first scene of confrontation takes place when Aurore is thirteen years old. She has been living with her grandmother in relative isolation at Nohant and is filled with pain and longing for her...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Convent and Conversion
      (pp. 72-81)

      IT WAS A COLD, damp day in January of 1818 when Madame Dupin deposited Aurore at the Convent of the English Augustinians in Paris. If Aurore harbored hopes that her mother would veto the plan, these were soon dispelled. Sophie touted the advantages and accomplishments that such an education would afford, leaving Aurore no alternative but submission. “I was made to don the uniform of purplish serge, my outfits were put into a trunk, a hack drove us to Rue des Fossés-Saint-Victor, and after we had waited a few minutes in the parlor, a door connecting to the convent was...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Coming of Age
      (pp. 82-90)

      THE CONVENT OF THE English Augustinians had provided the most spiritually enriching experience of Aurore’s life, and it was with much regret that she packed her bags and bade her friends and beloved mentors good-bye. As she rolled away from Paris in Madame Dupin’s large blue calèche and headed south to Nohant, neither of them could know that the ailing dowager would never return to the capital.

      Wrenched from her home away from home, the only neutral territory she had known, Aurore was soon caught up again in the struggle between her mother and grandmother. No sooner had Aurore arrived...

    • CHAPTER NINE Pater Semper Incertus Est
      (pp. 91-98)

      WITH MADAME DUPIN no longer in her way, Sophie descended on Nohant to protest René Vallet de Villeneuve’s role as Aurore’s guardian, an arrangement that had been made before Madame Dupin’s death. Increasingly vindictive and irrational, Sophie soon whisked Aurore away to Paris. Mother and daughter took up temporary residence with Aunt Lucie Maréchal before moving into Madame Dupin’s apartment on the elegant rue Neuve-des-Mathurins. All that Aurore had been able to take with her from Nohant were a few books, her chambermaid, and her dog.

      Now that they were living together, Sophie mounted a virulent attack on Aurore, based...


    • CHAPTER TEN Marriage and Motherhood
      (pp. 101-110)

      IN THE SPRING OF 1822, at a dinner party at the home of Aurore’s uncle Beaumont, Sophie met an engaging couple named Angèle and James Roëttiers Du Plessis, who invited her and her daughter to visit their country home, a Louis XVI villa at Le Plessis-Picard, near Melun. Enchanted by the lushly landscaped park and the acres of meadows grazed by livestock from a neighbor’s farm, Aurore immediately felt at home in the Du Plessis family. The feeling of comfort was reciprocal, and what began as a brief visit turned into an extended stay.

      Madame Angèle, twenty-seven and prematurely gray,...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Passion in the Pyrenees
      (pp. 111-117)

      FOR AURORE’S TWENTY–FIRST birthday, the Dudevants headed south in a mail coach to join Jane and Aimée Bazouin, friends from the convent. In response to Aurore’s emotional and physical distress, the Bazouin sisters, on a visit to Nohant en route to the Pyrenees, had suggested that she join them on holiday at Cauterets and Bagnères. Before leaving, Aurore wrote her mother, recalling their difficult journey to Spain when she was four years old. “We’re going to take a little trip of 140 leagues in one stretch. That’s nothing for you who go to Spain the way one goes to...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Ready, Set, Go
      (pp. 118-125)

      BY SPRING the Dudevants were settling back into the routines at Nohant. The Berrichon countryside felt lonely and bleak after the liveliness of the south. To relieve the tedium, they entertained a constant stream of visitors. The Du Plessis family came and went, staying for several months during the fall and winter and again in the spring of 1827.

      In January, Aurore went to Paris for two weeks to visit family and friends and to attend the theater. After being away for two years, she found the capital cold and impersonal. She missed Nohant and longed for Maurice: “I’m racked...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN “Our Motto Is Freedom”
      (pp. 126-140)

      DURING A COLD SPELL in January 1831, Aurore made the three-day journey from Nohant to Paris, facing the trip by mail coach with adventuresome high spirits; her dream of freedom was coming true. “I arrived without incident and well rested,” she reported in her first letter home. “The driver covered me like a mail sack with straw and a sheepskin.” The only passenger on the journey, Aurore slept stretched across the back seat of the coach, her head propped on a bag filled with three trussed turkeys en route from the provinces to provision a well-fed family of Parisians. “I...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN George Sand Is Born
      (pp. 141-148)

      THE EXCITEMENT ABOUT Aurore’s new novelIndianaswept over Paris in spring 1832, at the same time a massive cholera epidemic struck the capital. For the next six months the deadly disease raged, claiming more than 18,000 lives from a population of some 650,000. The epidemic peaked in April, when more than 860 deaths were recorded in one day. From her window on quai Saint-Michel, Aurore could see corpses being loaded onto moving vans, stationed like cabs in public places, waiting to carry off the dead. She contracted mild symptoms, took hot tea, covered herself with woolen blankets, and was...


    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN A Daughter Is Born
      (pp. 151-159)

      SAND’S AMBIVALENCE toward her daughter began even before she was born. Indeed, Solange’s birth was conditioned very differently from Maurice’s, memorialized by Sand as “the most beautiful moment of my life.” At his birth, she proudly tied the umbilical knot with a piece of green silk. Although she would subsequently suppress it, Aurore returned guilty and ashamed from the sojourn in Paris with Stéphane during which she became pregnant with Solange. “I’m unworthy of anyone’s friendship,” she confided in a letter to her friend Zoé Leroy.¹

      The pregnancy was difficult; by April, Aurore had gained too much weight and was...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN The Author and the Actress
      (pp. 160-171)

      AS 1832 CAME TO AN END, Sand was filled with excitement about her newly established publishing career. To her editor Buloz she wrote enthusiastically, “I will be sure to give you an article for February 1st. Until then I can’t pull myself away from my book.”¹ She concluded by thanking him for the recent increase in her salary withLa Revue des Deux Mondes.

      Professional commitment and success, however, did not come without personal conflict. Having stayed in Paris through Christmas and New Year’s, Sand had once again disappointed young Maurice, who longed for his mother’s return for the holidays....

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Sons and Lovers
      (pp. 172-190)

      AT A DINNER PARTY in June 1833, in honor of François Buloz and a group of his authors, twenty-nine-year-old George Sand made the acquaintance of Alfred de Musset. The second son of an aristocratic Parisian family, trim and handsome with wavy blond hair, an aquiline nose, bright blue eyes, and a reputation for womanizing, the twenty-three-year-old Musset was a rising star in the Parisian literary galaxy. His father had died the previous year, leaving Musset emotionally vulnerable despite his newly acquired title of viscount. “His self-infatuation was so mingled with hatred,” writes Dan Hofstadter inThe Love Affair as a...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Mother Love
      (pp. 191-201)

      IN THE FALL OF 1836, Sand made the acquaintance of the young Polish composer Frédéric Chopin at the home of Princess Marie d’Agoult and Franz Liszt. Having fled Poland at the threat of the Russian occupation, Chopin arrived in Paris in 1831, the same year Aurore Dudevant went to the capital to launch her literary career. Among the other distinguished guests at the soirée were Giacomo Meyerbeer, Eugène Sue, Heinrich Heine, and a group of Polish exiles associated with Adam Mickiewicz, who would shortly become a professor at the Collège de France. Although Sand was immediately taken with Chopin, the...

    • CHAPTER NINETEEN Liaison Dangereuse
      (pp. 202-214)

      SOLANGE WAS EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD and engaged to Fernand de Preaulx when her mother presented her to the thirty-three-year-old sculptor Jean-Baptiste Auguste Clésinger on 18 February 1847. Over the course of several sittings, Clésinger not only sculpted Solange’s bust, he also captured her heart and won her hand. By the end of the month, Solange had called o ¤ her engagement to Preaulx, and on 19 May she and Clésinger were married.¹ Despite the broken engagement and precipitous replacement, Sand was decidedly in favor of her daughter’s marriage to Clésinger.

      In Sand’s recounting, the romance takes the form of a...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY Broken Bonds: Solange and Chopin
      (pp. 215-227)

      TO LAUNCH A STYLE OF LIFE befitting the image of success, the Clésingers immediately furnished an expensive apartment. Solange outfitted herself with a wardrobe worthy of their projected status, and Clésinger retained a horse, carriage, and coachman, the better to display themselves on drives about Paris. In just several months, the newly married couple came close to consuming Solange’s entire dowry.

      On a visit to Nohant in July, the Clésingers pressed their case for financial assistance. Sand declined on grounds of insufficient funds, but this refusal did not curb their audacity; they suggested, actually demanded, that she take out a...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Collateral Damage and Lucrézia Floriani
      (pp. 228-236)

      IN THE SPRING OF 1846, Sand began work on her novelLucrézia Floriani,the story of a forty-year-old woman—the eponymous heroine—who has retired at the peak of a successful stage career to her country estate, where she is raising her four children born out of wedlock to three different fathers. As the novel opens, Floriani is visited by a former friend and theater colleague, Count Salvator Albani, and his companion, Prince Karol de Roswald. On the eve of their departure, Prince Karol falls gravely ill, and their stay is extended for several months, during which Lucrézia nurses him...


    • CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO Revolution and Reverberations
      (pp. 239-257)

      THE FEBRUARY REVOLUTION of 1848 and the advent of the Second Republic roused George Sand from the dejection into which the nightmare of family events had cast her. She had spent the waning months of 1847 reliving the sordid saga of her recently married daughter. Adding to her torment, Sand’s much coddled son , Maurice , had recently moved to Paris to participate in the overthrow of King Louis Philippe, leaving her fearful and bereft. “Your place is here if there are serious disturbances,” she wrote him on the eve of the revolution. “Come home right away unless calm is...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Coming to Writing
      (pp. 258-272)

      FLOWERS ON THE WALLPAPER, folds of a window curtain, buzzing flies, and objects seen as though doubled in the flickering candlelight are George Sand’s earliest memories of her cradled infancy on the fourth floor of the rue Meslée apartment where her life began. Benign though these memories may be, Sand shouldn’t be taken at her word when she writes nostalgically in her autobiography that life’s “beginnings are so sweet and childhood such a happy time.” In fact, as we have seen, Sand’s childhood was dominated by a cruel and divisive contest between her mother and grandmother, who represented different eras,...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Confession of a Young Girl
      (pp. 273-284)

      INSTORY OF MY LIFE,Sand makes a compelling statement about the reason for writing her autobiography: “I have always promised myself not to die without having done what I have always advised others to do for themselves: a sincere study of my own nature and a careful examination of my own existence.” Seventeen years later, in 1864, Sand would writeConfession of a Young Girl,a novel in which the protagonist, Lucienne de Valangis, makes a similar pronouncement: “I want to give you an account of my life and myself with the most scrupulous sincerity.” This similarity in itself...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE The Art of Loving
      (pp. 285-310)

      WHEN SAND WAS FIFTY-TWO, her handwriting changed. In a study devoted exclusively to this midlife transformation,George Sand Under the Magnifying Glass,Frédéric Dubois interprets this phenomenon as a sign of personal growth and development: “Liberation, serenity, these states of mind concur with the graphologist’s findings: straightening [signals] independence in relation to the environment; the garland instead of the arch and the angle, [which signaled] feminine receptivity and benevolence, makes way for virility and resistance; freer use of graphic space and primacy of movement over form [signals] freedom of feeling, spontaneity. Enlargement adds a note of self-confidence which goes along...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 311-316)

    IT BEGAN RAINING in the morning of 10 June 1876. Church bells sounded the death knell that beckoned people from miles around to trudge down muddy roads leading to the tiny French village where the Good Lady of Nohant had lived and died. Posted at the château gate, her two young granddaughters distributed alms to the poor, a traditional gesture of gratitude for the bountiful life that had come to a close. Journalists milled around the courtyard, eager to record their impressions of George Sand’s funeral.

    The intestinal blockage from which Sand had been su ¤ ering was inoperable, and...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 317-352)
    (pp. 353-360)
    (pp. 361-362)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 363-376)