Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library
  PREVIOUSNEXT  

CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · QUICK INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHIES
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · PORTRAITS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
George Sand (1804–1876)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Th. Bentzon (Thérèse Blanc) (1840–1907)
 
IF genius means creative faculty constantly renewed, and powerful and fertile inspiration, then George Sand certainly had more genius than any other female writer. Others are distinguished by a more chastened talent, or have soared to the heaven of art on a steadier wing; but none have surpassed her in magnificent spontaneity. One of her latest critics—speaking of her ample and copious style, which satisfied even Flaubert, yet is frequently disparaged by modern chiselers of “artistic writing”—uses the expressive Latin phrase lactea ubertas; giving the idea of an abundant stream of generous milk ever gushing forth and overflowing. M. Jules Lemaître adds that this quality resembles natural kindness of heart, and is its near relative. And he is right. George Sand was above all else kind-hearted, and was most womanly in this; she was truly feminine also in her extraordinary power of assimilation,—which however did not interfere with her originality, as everything she absorbed, whether ideas or knowledge, seemed to blossom in a new and personal form when she applied it.  1
  Nothing is more interesting than to go to the source of her life to find the determining causes of her work; and to her friendships, chosen in the most varied spheres, to follow the evolutions of her thought. One can then see that she was an admirable instrument, formed by nature in one of her exceptional moods, to vibrate with extraordinary intensity under every influence approaching her. The aspirations, failures, doctrines, the good and evil, of half a century, palpitate in her noble fictions, even though we can here and there discern the errors of a mind led astray by enthusiasm. Every problem interesting to contemporary humanity attracted her broad sympathies. Long before those avowed apostles of pity, the Russian writers, she felt that “for those who are born compassionate, there will always be something to love, and consequently to pity, serve, and suffer for, on earth.” She was the first who said forcibly that the most living and religious source of the progress of the human mind was in the idea of solidarity.  2
  And this is why she will always be great, in spite of the transformation of taste, which in the name of pretended realism declares this idealist somewhat out of fashion. It is not her fault if her instinct always led her to write poetic rather than analytic works. According to her theories of art,—and very instructive theories they are,—a novel should be a mixture of both, with true situations and characters grouped around a type intended to personify the sentiment of the book. The author must not be afraid to give this sentiment all the force with which he aspires to it himself, but must on no account degrade it in the play of events. He may moreover lend it powers above the average, and charms and sufferings beyond the probabilities admitted by the greater number of minds. Above all, the author must beware of thinking that he does not need a faith of his own for writing, and that it is enough to reflect facts like a mirror. “No, this is not true: readers are attracted only to the writer with an individuality, whether this pleases or shocks them.” This phrase is in a letter which George Sand wrote me, while she emphasized the following words: “The soul must not be void of faith, for talent cannot develop in a vacuum; it may flutter there for a moment, but only to expire.”  3
  Truly this has nothing in common with the cruel impersonality so boasted of nowadays: this is not the novel as understood by M. Zola, who has never agreed with her that true reality is made up of both beauty and ugliness, and that the will to do good finds its place and use after all; nor is it the laborious effort, often driven to the point of anguish, of her friend Flaubert, who used to torture himself to find an epithet, and to whom she said, when scolding him: “Feed on the ideas and sentiments stored in your brain and your heart;… form, which you think so important, will be the result of your digestion, without any help. You consider it an aim,—it is only an effect.” The minutely detailed psychology of a certain school was equally foreign to her, although she has made some superb and profound studies of character: fraternal jealousy in ‘Jean de la Roche,’ and Prince Karl’s jealousy of the past in ‘Lucrezia Floriani,’—merely to mention one of the passions into which she delved deeply. But her aim was to interest, above all else, and who shall dare to say that she was wrong? In her eyes supreme impartiality was something anti-human; incompatible with the novel, whose prime object is to be human. She wrote for the sheer delight of giving the best of her heart and brains to many others. As for the improbabilities she is accused of trying to make people accept on principle, we must admit that very often nothing is more improbable than reality itself, especially when that reality is the life of George Sand; whence, as may be readily understood, she drew her inspiration with an artist’s privilege. Every contrast can be found in it; the wildest extravagance of fancy as well as a bourgeoise simplicity.  4
  Aurore Dupin was born the year of Napoleon’s coronation, at the apogee of the glories of France; which she always loved passionately, while at the same time she had an extremely correct opinion of the faults of the Latin races, particularly that lack of practical common-sense she was so aware of in herself, and which condemns one either to be led or made use of by others. Nevertheless there was a mixture of foreign blood in her veins; and strangely enough, she had inherited her republican soul through royal descent,—twice branded, however, with the stigma of illegitimacy. She was a descendant of Augustus II., Elector of Saxony and King of Poland; for her grandmother was a natural daughter of the Maréchal de Saxe, and had married M. Dupin de Francueil. It was impossible for those who, like me, knew her in her old age, not to compare her, on seeing her so calm, dignified, and tenderly devoted to her children, to that noble woman who had been the lady of the manor of Nohant before her, had brought her up, and bequeathed her some of her tastes, among them a love for music.  5
  Madame Dupin had known Gluck and Piccini; she interpreted the old masters—Porpora, Hasse, Pergolese—etc., with deep feeling, in spite of her semi-paralyzed fingers and voice cracked by old age, but once so magnificent. Through her, her granddaughter received those musical impressions that abound in the delightful story of ‘Consuelo,’ where George Sand displays so complete an acquaintance with the manners and spirit of the eighteenth century. Madame Dupin de Francueil had, besides her talents and most remarkable mental qualities, all those natural virtues that can be strengthened by philosophy in the absence of religious belief.  6
  The direction given by such a mother had already begun to bear its fruits in Maurice, the father of the future George Sand,—a brave soldier during the Revolution, who became a handsome officer of the First Empire, and died young, but had the intuitive gift of writing, as his brilliant and gushing letters prove; yet his excellent heart had inherited certain ancestral weaknesses. He became attached to a girl of low birth and no education, who had already been led into sorry adventures. And so the blood of kings and heroes mingled with that of the lower-class Parisians in the veins of the little girl, who at a later day was to transform the active qualities of her ancestors into qualities of imagination. Her maternal grandfather had been a bird-seller, who plied his trade on the quays of the Seine; and it is interesting to note the love that George Sand had all her life for feathered folk. She has spoken of them almost as eloquently as of music and children,—those divine themes which her pen never exhausted. And the fascination was reciprocal. In her garden at Nohant she used to walk surrounded by a flock of sparrows and goldfinches, who trustfully pecked from the hands held out to them, just as she describes it in ‘Teverino.’  7
  George Sand owed something more than her love of birds to her mother,—whom she loved passionately, but whose inferior station, barely tolerated by the family, made the daughter suffer keenly;—I mean a deep tenderness for the poor and lowly, an advanced predilection for outlaws of all sorts, a revolt against social prejudices and conventionalities, and a certain bohemianism that—in her youth especially—was constantly struggling against that good-breeding which nevertheless served her so well for giving her personages the tone proper to good society. Her most perfect specimen of this is the old Marchioness in ‘Le Marquis de Villemer’; yet in spite of her plebeian sympathies, the same refinement appears everywhere. And here we have the evidence of her grandmother’s and the convent’s influence.  8
  Aurore Dupin’s years at the English nuns’ convent contributed not a little to the formation of a peculiar manner, in which so many contrary elements were combined. Her free-thinking grandmother had put her in this pious retreat out of respect to the customs of society. She wished the dreamy and untrained child, who had grown up in all the freedom of country life, and was adopting peasant habits, to learn good manners. Let us hasten to add that for our future joy, George Sand always remained somewhat a peasant; we owe her admirable pastoral novels to this rustic substratum. She certainly conceived their germ in the ruminating life she led when quite a child at Nohant, in the company of little shepherds who charmed her with the legends she used so well later on.  9
  The convent made a mystic of this wild creature, but not at once, for she bore her well-deserved name of Madcap a long time; still, the influence of a group of women of the highest moral superiority acted upon her by degrees. She has rendered them the most grateful homage in her ‘Memoirs,’ recognizing that the years spent in that great female family were the happiest and most peaceful of her life.  10
  Religious idealism seems to have been innate with George Sand. Brought up by a Voltairean grandmother with contempt for what she called superstitions, she had made up a religion for herself out of a compound of mythology, fairy stories, and theories of political equality gathered in her childish readings—seemingly least fitted to suggest it. Her first poetic effort—and this word must be used from the beginning in speaking of her prose—was written to extol Corambé; a beneficent genius, to whom she raised altars in the park at Nohant when about eleven years old, at the time when she was under the double spell of the Iliad and ‘Jerusalem Delivered.’ Jesus and his Gospel succeeded the somewhat pagan phantom she had adored during her pensive childhood: the most ardent piety seized her, and she came near consecrating herself to a religious life; this would have been a great loss to French literature. Fortunately the wisdom of the nuns curbed her excessive zeal; yet all through life she had that sacred pain, which has been so aptly termed “the anguish of divine things.” If it had not been for this, she never could have expressed, as she did many years later in ‘Spiridion,’ all the agony endured by the soul of a young priest on losing his faith. The influence of her intimacy with Abbé de Lamennais can be traced here; but there is more than that,—there is a personal experience.  11
  Aurore astounded her grandmother by coming home a Catholic. She soon ceased to find certitude in dogma, however. A most irregular course of reading led her helter-skelter through all philosophies and all literatures. Spinoza seized her; her admiration made her set Leibnitz above all metaphysicians; she came in turn under the ascendency of Chateaubriand, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Byron; but her real master was Rousseau. By her first novels especially she belongs to his school; no freer from the great fault of declamation than he, as enamored of nature as he had been, and able to speak the burning language of love as he had known how to speak it.  12
  If it is true that modern pedagogy, by following methods and giving an important place to science, has the inevitable result of killing women’s imagination and making them uniform, then George Sand was a most privileged creature; for she was brought up without a plan,—educating herself hap-hazard, learning a little Latin when quite a child with Deschartres, her deceased father’s preceptor, and no doubt picking up many other things as well, while with that learned and eccentric man. She was influenced by the convent next, where her ardor for learning was somewhat benumbed; and finally turned loose in a library, where like a bee she made honey of everything.  13
  A perfect rage for reading and physical exercise, long hours of study alternating with long rides, were her peculiarities, when some of her imprudent friends thought it was time to marry this young girl, so entirely free from coquetry or even the desire to please. Her large, black, dreamy eyes seemed ever following some inward vision, and gave her, as she says herself, a stupid look; in fact she never was bright at any period of her life. Her conversation was not brilliant, although she has often made her written dialogues extremely so; talking tired her, and the George Sand of future literary dinners usually played there a mute part. Melancholy by reflection, she needed gayety; and this silent creature often surprised those about her by sudden outbursts of animal spirits. Moreover, she never thought herself handsome. (Balzac, who has described her as Camille Maupin in his novel ‘Beatrix,’ has contradicted her on this point.)  14
  She was given in marriage to M. Dudevant, the son of a retired colonel. He had been an officer himself, but was now nothing but a hunting country-gentleman, and at times a hard drinker. It will surprise no one that this hasty and ill-assorted union was unhappy. It is more astonishing that it should have lasted nearly ten years. To give it so long life, it needed the all-powerful assistance of maternity,—George Sand’s really great passion, and her only lasting and indestructible one. She nursed her children herself; took care of them night and day, even at the beginning of her restless career; always found the time to look after them most tenderly; and at last, in the later period of her life, when she had calmed down, she became the indefatigable educator of her granddaughters. She was most skillful with her needle, and did not despise any household detail. I saw her thus when she was sixty years old; but when she was twenty she enjoyed dancing the bourrée with the peasants on holidays as well.  15
  Finally all this was not enough for her, and she went to Paris for a short time every year; but as her husband, the master of their common fortune, gave her a ridicuously small allowance, she utilized her talents in order to live,—made crayon portraits, painted miniature ornaments, or collaborated with several journalists from her native province of Berri, for the Figaro. These articles never were remarkable, as George Sand had neither the requisite spirit and dash, nor had she any talent for brevity; although later she succeeded several times in short stories, as those rare pearls ‘Lavinia,’ ‘Metella,’ etc., prove. By a remarkable coincidence, ‘Lavinia,’ published before 1838, resembles Owen Meredith’s ‘Lucile,’ published in 1860, almost stroke for stroke.  16
  One year when she was in the country, having read much of Walter Scott, she wrote her first novel. “Having read it over,” she says ingenuously, “I concluded that it was good for nothing; but that I could write some not quite so bad.” She had found her vocation.  17
  At first Jules Sandeau wrote with her, and later left her half his surname. As for “George,” it is as common a name in Berri as “Patrick” in Ireland. The courts did not decree the legal separation of M. and Madame Dudevant until 1836. It was in favor of the latter, intrusting her with the education of her two children; this proves that all the blame cannot have been hers. By this time she had published her masterpieces, if one can apply this term to George Sand’s novels,—for perhaps there is not a perfect one among them, except the pastoral novels. Working without any plan, stopping as if exhausted when she had said all that was pent up in her, she usually broke down at the dénouement.  18
  These captivating early works are pre-eminently works of passion. It would be a mistake to consider them the voluntary unveiling of the author’s life; but one is certain to find it everywhere, and apparently in spite of herself. ‘Indiana’ was surely not the cry of her personal revolt against marriage, for the selfish lover in it is not any nobler than the tyrannical husband; but just here George Sand has demonstrated with the deepest feeling, in which many a memory echoes, how far she considers a woman superior to man when love is at stake. She seems to be less severe in her opinions with Jacques, a heroic husband, who resolves to commit suicide, so as to save his wife from the shame of becoming guilty towards him. There is no less audacity and horror of conventional forms in ‘Valentine,’ where aristocratic prejudices are trampled under foot by the descendant of an illustrious race, in favor of the son of a peasant. The dangerous doctrine that love can dictate duties superior to law is brought forward in these burning pages, and must have served as an excuse to many sensitive souls that went astray; and we may say that they must have been among the best and noblest of such souls, for George Sand never knew how to use the demoralizing language that appeals to base natures.  19
  ‘Lélia’ must be considered a magnificent prose poem, as all the characteristics of the most elevated poetry are found in it: amplitude, rhythm, brilliancy, and powerful imagery. Taken as a whole, it is more out of date than all George Sand’s other novels, just on account of this excessive poetic enthusiasm. Yet it is the one containing the greatest beauties. The characters seem like incarnated myths or allegories. Lélia represents agonized aspirations towards the sublime, although we recognize that duality in her which is more or less noticeable in every one, but was present in so extraordinary a degree in George Sand. Sténio, while he recalls Alfred de Musset, typifies the struggles of an inspired poet, whose weak and vacillating will betrays him to seducing sensualism. The priest Magnus stands for the demoralized and fanatic clergy as George Sand saw it; for she was always the enemy of the clergy, if not of religion. As for the philosophical idea,—uniting as it does, in its absurd and entangled action, such strange characters as Trenmor the virtuous convict, Pulchérie the wise courtesan, etc., who all argue and declaim,—we have the key to it; for when George Sand wrote ‘Lélia,’ she was painting the agonized state of her own soul facing a terrible enigma. She had reached her thirtieth year without having had her eyes opened to the realities of life; and then suddenly found herself in a great social center where all the sadness, want, vice, and injustice of the world confronted her. Up to that time she had wept over her own woes; now she felt like an atom among the millions of creatures crushed by inexorable fate. Her despair is reflected in the character of Lélia, in whom the evil of doubt and the thirst for truth are warring; her heart, incapable of finding happiness anywhere, is consumed with boundless desires; and she dies without having gratified them.  20
  The subject of ‘Mauprat’ is simpler and more wholesome. It is the effect of passion, working for good this time, upon a wild, violent, and apparently untamable creature, in whom the pure young girl he adores creates a conscience, and as it were, a soul. The supreme power of ennobling love was a subject dear to George Sand. She takes it up again in ‘Simon’; where a semi-peasant, by his merit and talents, becomes the equal of the high-born lady. And both these beautiful books end by a happy marriage, no more nor less than a fairy tale. ‘Le Secrétaire Intime,’ if it were not the most delightful of fancies without the intention of proving anything, would lead us to believe that clandestine marriages have the greatest chance of being the happiest.  21
  In ‘Leone Leoni’ George Sand reverses the subject of ‘Manon Lescaut,’ and shows us how a weak and gentle woman is bewitched and subjugated to the very last by a man most unworthy of her. In ‘La Dernière Aldine,’ she makes us, by sheer art, accept the somewhat delicate subject of the love of a great Venetian lady for her gondolier; this love, however, for some unknown reason remaining perfectly chaste.  22
  We must not forget that this bold and mad harvest, in which common-sense has no place, was grown in 1830,—the era of all Utopias and anticipated possibilities; when a new world seemed about to be born on the ruins of the old. This was the time when Théophile Gautier went to the theatre with long hair and a pink satin waistcoat, when Balzac wore a monk’s white robe instead of a dressing-gown, and when George Sand used to cut off her beautiful black locks and wear masculine attire, making herself look a boy of twelve in it on account of her diminutive stature. However much may have been said about this, she never wore those unbecoming clothes except in an intermittent way, finding them more convenient and less expensive than others.  23
  Up to 1840 George Sand wrote under the impulse of feeling, following no system; later on, a system was grafted on the feeling without destroying it. Lamennais’s humanitarian Christianity, Michel de Bourges’s revolutionary tirades, Pierre Leroux’s dreamy socialism,—all took hold on her either successively or at once. With more zeal than discernment she made herself the echo of the most advanced principles of political equality and of communism. These ideas led her to publish ‘Le Compagnon du Tour de France,’ in which an aristocratic maiden openly declares her resolution to marry into the lower classes, so as to belong to them herself; ‘Le Meunier d’Angibault,’ wherein an obstinate artisan proudly refuses the hand of the young countess he adores, because she represents the wealth he would not have at any price (fortunately she becomes poor, and rejoices at it as if it were the greatest happiness); and ‘La Comtesse de Rudolstadt,’ that misty sequel to the sunny and harmonious story of ‘Consuelo,’ with all its theosophical and humanitarian allegories, that at times make us yawn. If however we leave out the political harangues, carbonarism, and other chimeras, what magnificent fragments there are in these partisan books!—although their romantic imagination is smothered by the medley of accumulated dissertations and arguments. Still the author is always arguing and fighting for progress and reforms; and some of these have been achieved since,—in a less radical way, no doubt, than she would have wished, yet they would have gratified her. George Sand was in open rebellion against every kind of slavery. She greatly admired ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ saying of Harriet Beecher Stowe: “I do not know whether she is a genius, but she has more than genius,—she surely is a saint.” She spurned the limits of sex, and above all things despised hypocrisy. As regards what is called the “woman question” to-day, Margaret Fuller certainly went as far as she did, while she had many more illusions on woman’s native nobility; but setting talents aside, there is a difference between them, delicately expressed by Margaret Fuller herself:—“Those who would reform the world must show that they do not speak in the heat of wild impulse; their lives must not be sustained by passionate error. They must be religious students of the Divine purpose with regard to men, if they would not confound the fancies of a day with the requisitions of eternal good.”  24
  In order to rest after her socialist campaigns, George Sand would wing her flight to dreamland; and it was wise of her to do so, for we would now willingly give up all the dullness of ‘Horace’ and the turgid speeches in ‘Le Péché de M. Antoine,’ for that one day’s drive on charming roads when a group of tourists, brought together by good luck, have that accidental meeting with Teverino, the vagabond genius, beautiful as a young god, and disporting himself free and naked under his wreath of reeds, in the bluest of lakes. He needs only to don gentleman’s clothes to be one, and an accomplished one at that; he plays the part for a time, scorns it, and disappears. What a delightful excursion beyond the vulgarities of everyday life!  25
  The idyl too always seized George Sand as soon as she left the streets of Paris, and returned to the peace and refreshing breezes of her beloved Nohant. After the fiery and rather bombastic eloquence and paradoxes found in her other works launched against society, the artless speech of her peasants is most restful reading.  26
  There is no purer, simpler, nor more beautiful French than that which adapts itself so perfectly to the humble subjects of ‘La Mare au Diable’ and ‘François le Champi.’ Some critics have said that George Sand’s peasants were not real. They seem to me, on the contrary, to be very closely studied from the honest and laborious population of central France; and however much they may be idealized, they are far more like those I have known than the brutes painted by the masters of the so-called naturalistic school, the latter evidently preferring to look at their coarseness through a magnifying glass. George Sand did the reverse; she set off the best traits of these primitive natures, with whom she had the greatest affinity. The revolution of 1848 tore her from her eclogues; her friends dragged her into the very thick of the fight, and used her as a sonorous instrument. She drew up ‘Lettres au Peuple’ and the ‘Bulletins de la République’; but her illusions about the new form of government could not hold out against the bloody days of June: she says that “disgust drove her to solitude, where she faced her free and revolted conscience”; and she now went back to her best, her noblest inspirer,—Nature. Whether she carries about a broken heart in Italy after a celebrated quarrel, or gayly climbs the Alps with Liszt and the Countess d’Agoult,—whether she spends the winter at Majorca nursing Chopin, or wanders dreamily along the sunken lanes of the Black Valley and the banks of the Indre,—she never fails to reflect the humble or striking beauties surrounding her, or to make a soul vibrate in them. She has the marvelous and peculiar art of infusing a human emotion into external and inanimate objects—which then seems to emanate from them. Has she not written an immortal page on perfume and memory, in connection with a sage leaf she had bruised between her fingers?  27
  Nohant was a salutary retreat for her in every respect. She spent the greater part of her life there in close communion with the earth, frequently cultivating it with her own hands, and drawing her favorite subjects of study from plants and stones. Nothing interested her more than natural history. She gave herself up to it with ardor; convinced that constant study was imperative, and that if a writer does not lay up a treasure of knowledge, the tool he uses, though ever so fine, will be wielded in vain. Botany and geology filled her days, and she read much besides: science, history, everything interesting her. In the evening, other things were read aloud in the family circle; very often plays were acted. According to her fixed habit, she wrote at night after every one had retired, never failing to cover twelve large quarto pages before going to bed,—her inspiration being so tractable.  28
  As she grew older she went to Paris less frequently, except when there was a question of performing one of the plays she willingly dramatized from her novels. She was passionately fond of the stage and all connected with it; and liked to put actors and showmen of all sorts in her books, as she did in ‘L’Homme de Neige,’ ‘Le Château des Désertes,’ ‘Pierre qui Roule,’ etc. But when it came to writing a play, she did not always show the qualities the stage demands,—such as logical sequence in a briskly carried action, sparkling dialogue, and a sense for comic situations. Several of her comedies or dramas, however, were very successful; viz., ‘Le Mariage de Victorine,’ ‘Claudie,’ and ‘Le Marquis de Villemer.’ She made a great many plays for her own little theatre at Nohant, never neglecting her marionettes, who inspired ‘Le Diable aux Champs,’ and for whom her fairy fingers were always making new costumes.  29
  In the novels written towards the close of her life there is not a trace of that sensual ideality once considered such a grave fault in the author of ‘Lélia’; pure and spotless ideality shines in them: and it seemed to cost her no effort to write those charming, fantastic tales for her granddaughters,—tales any child can enjoy, but needing refined scholars to do them full justice. She kept abreast of all new efforts in literature with interest and sympathy, yet always repeating that “art for art’s sake” was a vain phrase; that art for whatever is worthy, and for the general welfare, should be the aim of all study; that when there is a beautiful sentiment in one’s soul, it becomes a duty to find such expression for it as will make it enter into many other souls. For this reason she, the great democrat, could not belong to the haughty schools that despise the general public—the masses—to the degree of frequently using language intelligible only to a handful of the initiated. Neither would she admit, feeling all humanity vibrate within herself, that this humanity was to be represented by scoundrels, villains, and fools alone; nor that truth was to be found merely in the painting of evil. These may have been old-fashioned ideas; but by remaining true to them, this inexhaustible Scheherazade found the means of keeping an audience composed of all classes attentive to her ever fresh and youthful stories, and raised her readers above the obscenity so complacently provided for them elsewhere. Being sincerely modest, she did not believe in posterity, imagining that it would take her at her own valuation. Once they were finished, she completely forgot her novels. “‘Consuelo’—what is that?” she asked Flaubert. “I do not remember a single word of it. Are you indeed reading it, and does it really amuse you? If so, I must read it again and be pleased with myself, because you are.”  30
  Death found her as busy as ever. Two days before the end, although she at times suffered acutely, she wrote cheerfully: “I feel stronger and freer within myself than ever.” She passed away in her seventy-third year, before her powers had waned.  31
  Those who wish to enter further into this life, in which personal vicissitudes are so closely connected with the evolution of genius, will find all of George Sand in ‘L’Histoire de ma Vie,’ where she has drawn so correct a portrait of herself,—although she tells us hardly more than the story of her childhood and early youth, to the eternal regret of scandal-mongers; in the ‘Lettres d’un Voyageur,’ those poetic disclosures that she occasionally made to the public in an impersonal yet most transparent form; and finally in her ‘Correspondence,’ which reveals her great warm heart perfectly. One cannot fail to be touched on seeing her, while busy writing a hundred volumes, lavish kindness unceasingly on every claimant, answering every question, counseling young authors and giving them letters of introduction, helping hesitating talent to discover its vocation, pleading for exiles or political prisoners; and most bountifully putting her time, her words, her influence, even when it cost her the most, at the disposal of others. This ‘Correspondence’ shows how her adversaries themselves respected her; and how anxious the Emperor Napoleon III., whom she petitioned more than once, was to please her.  32
  After reading these letters covering a period of over fifty years, and where she always appears to be the slave of her family, tender to her friends, helpful to a swarm of strangers who thought themselves authorized to intrude upon her on account of her unbounded generosity,—no one will be surprised that she should have blessed the hour of rest when it came. She had already given old age a smiling welcome, saying that it was “so good of God to calm us by taking away those stings of personality that are so sharp in youth. How can people complain of losing some things with age,” she added, “when, on the contrary, they gain so many others? when our ideas grow broader and more correct, when our heart softens and grows larger, and our victorious conscience may at last look back and say, ‘I have done my task!’” Her special task had been to bear high aloft the banner of ideality and liberty, to love and glorify the humble, and to rise above herself by work. She had earned more than a million francs by her pen in the days when literature had nothing in common with merchandise, and she had given all this fortune to others.  33
  When one day in June 1876 she dropped that valiant pen, she surely had also earned the right to a gentle, uninterrupted sleep in the pretty little cemetery at Nohant. She did not believe that death was the end, but held to a perpetual ascent towards infinite goodness and infinite truth. And she would laughingly say that she hoped she might go to some planet where reading and writing were unknown, so she might rest “for good.” Indeed, she had a right to rest after having exercised the most beautiful sovereignty over the minds of two generations,—a sovereignty not yet at an end, although just now it seems somewhat eclipsed.  34
  The future will winnow her abundant but uneven work, and separate the tares from the wheat; and of the latter there will remain a well-filled measure fully sufficing for her glory.  35
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.