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

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Leonard Sylvain Jules Sandeau (1811–1883)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
WHEN Jules Sandeau (as he is usually known) was a humble young law student, he visited Nohant, and there he met the young Baroness Dudevant (George Sand), whose influence was to change the whole course of his life. Up to that time he had pursued the regular routine of French boys.  1
  Born in the heart of France—at Aubusson, in the Department of Creuse—in 1811, he passed his school days there; and then was sent to the law school in Paris. It was during one of his vacation trips that he and Baroness Dudevant discovered their congeniality of tastes and ambitions. She was heartily tired of her husband and of an irksome domestic life, and convinced of her own latent power of authorship; while Sandeau too inclined more toward literature than law. So they went to Paris together in 1831, when Sandeau was twenty and Madame Dudevant twenty-seven. There they rented a garret on the Quai Saint Michel, and toiled cheerfully for a meager livelihood.  2
  Henri de Latouche, editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, became interested in these gifted young Bohemians. He subjected them to severe but helpful criticism, and accepted some of their sketches for his paper. At his suggestion they wrote a novel in collaboration,—‘Rose et Blanche,’ a colorless tale not indicative of either’s power. It is said that Sandeau suggested the plot of George Sand’s powerful novel ‘Indiana.’ He also furnished her with her nom de plume: George because upon St. George’s day he advised her to try her hand alone, and Sand from his own name.  3
  The liaison terminated in two years, when Sandeau went off to Italy; and with the exception of one moment’s chance encounter, the two never met again. Unquestionably the strongly emotional period spent with the gifted young woman deepened Sandeau’s nature, and stimulated all his faculties. He continued to write, and proved his possession of individual though not powerful talent. In 1839 ‘Marianna’ appeared,—a delicate analysis of the ebb and flow of passion; and its success enabled him to become a frequent contributor to the Revue des Deux Mondes.  4
  The true value of Sandeau’s work lay in a nobility of sentiment which was the spontaneous expression of his own nature. He was always obliged to earn his own living; yet he never allowed mercenary considerations to affect the quality of his work. His novels are models of careful construction. He could not treat overwhelming passions; but his refined nature had an intuitive appreciation of the more delicate emotions acquired by civilized society. He was particularly fond of depicting the inevitable repulsion experienced by the ancient aristocracy when forced to meet and adapt itself to new and more democratic social conditions. This was the theme of ‘Mademoiselle de la Seiglière,’ and also of ‘La Maison de Penarvan,’—two of his strongest books. That he could also write charmingly for children is shown in ‘La Roche aux Mouettes.’  5
  It was Sandeau’s fate to be associated with greater minds, to whom perhaps more than their share of praise was sometimes given. He wrote several plays in collaboration with Émile Augier; notably ‘Le Gendre de M. Poirier,’ which ranks as one of the best modern French comedies. He did not cater to public taste, and never became widely popular. It was his fellow authors who most respected and admired him.  6
  In spite of his scanty means, he was very generous. During his early struggles he and the great Balzac were friends. It is said that one day Balzac, hard pressed for a small sum, asked Sandeau for it. Sandeau went out, and by pawning his overcoat raised the money, and took it to him. A few days later, Balzac asked the loan of Sandeau’s coat. “I cannot give it to you,” said Sandeau simply; and Balzac stormed at his meanness until shamed by a discovery of the truth. Another time, feeling sorry for an old, poor, and embittered publisher named Werdet, he presented him with the manuscript of one of his ablest and most popular stories, ‘Le Docteur Herbleu.’ Naturally he himself never became rich; although he was made comfortable by the proceeds of his writing, augmented by his salary as librarian,—first at the Mazarin library, to which position he was appointed in 1853, and later at St. Cloud. Upon the downfall of the second Napoleon this office was abolished; and Sandeau was granted a pension.  7
  Sandeau was elected Academician in 1859. His literary activity extended over about twenty-five years; and he ceased to write many years before his death on April 24th, 1883. Although he had little influence in determining the trend of literature, Sandeau was a decided romanticist in the early days of the romantic movement. His tales are pleasant rather than exciting reading; most noteworthy for delicacy of perception and sympathetic delineation of character.  8

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