Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, best known by her pseudonym George Sand, was a French novelist and memoirist. In 1822, at the age of eighteen, Sand married Baron Casimir Dudevant (1795 – 1871), illegitimate son of Baron Jean-François Dudevant. She and Dudevant had two children. In early 1831 she... show more
Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, best known by her pseudonym George Sand, was a French novelist and memoirist.
In 1822, at the age of eighteen, Sand married Baron Casimir Dudevant (1795 – 1871), illegitimate son of Baron Jean-François Dudevant. She and Dudevant had two children. In early 1831 she left her husband, after having discovered his last will and testament and, in it, read his opinions on women in general and on her in particular, and entered upon a four- or five-year period of "romantic rebellion." In 1835, she was legally separated from Dudevant and took her children with her.
Sand conducted affairs of varying duration with Jules Sandeau (1831), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset (summer 1833 – March 1835), Félicien Mallefille (who at the time was her children's tutor), and others; including, probably most prominently, Frédéric Chopin (1837 – 47). Later in life, she corresponded with Gustave Flaubert. Despite their obvious differences in temperament and aesthetic preference, they eventually became close friends. She also engaged in an intimate friendship with actress Marie Dorval, which led to widespread but unconfirmed rumors of a lesbian affair.
Her liaison with the writer Jules Sandeau heralded her literary debut. They published a few stories together, signing them "Jules Sand." Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831), was written in collaboration with Sandeau. She subsequently adopted, for her first independent novel, Indiana (1832), the pen name that made her famous – George Sand.
Drawing from her childhood experiences of the countryside, she wrote the rural novels La Mare au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1847 – 1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs Bois-Doré (1857). A Winter in Majorca described the period that she and Chopin spent on that island in 1838 – 9. Further notable novels of Sand's include Lélia (1833), Mauprat (1837), Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842 – 43), and Le Meunier d'Angibault (1845). Important theatre pieces and autobiographical writings include Histoire de ma vie (1855), Elle et Lui (1859, about her affair with Musset), Journal Intime (posthumously published in 1926), and Correspondence. Sand often performed her theatrical works in her small private theatre at her grandmother's Nohant estate, where she herself had been brought up, where she returned to after her separation from her husband, and where she wrote most of her books.
In addition, Sand authored literary criticism and political texts. She wrote many essays and published works establishing her position, siding with the poor and the working class. When the 1848 Revolution began, Sand started her own newspaper which was published in a workers' co-operative. This allowed her to publish more political essays. She wrote "I cannot believe in any republic that starts a revolution by killing its own proletariat."
Sand's reputation came into question not only because of her highly public affairs and (for the 19th century) unconventional attitude towards marriage and partnership, but even more so when she began sporting men's clothing in public – which she justified by the clothes being far sturdier and less expensive than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time. In addition to being comfortable, Sand's male dress enabled her to circulate more freely in Paris than most of her female contemporaries, and gave her increased access to venues from which women were often barred. Also scandalous was Sand's smoking tobacco in public; neither peerage nor gentry had yet sanctioned the free indulgence of women in such a habit, especially in public (though Franz Liszt's paramour Marie d'Agoult affected this as well, smoking large cigars). These and other behaviors were exceptional for a woman of the early and mid-19th century, when social codes – especially in the upper classes – were of the utmost importance. As a consequence of many unorthodox aspects of her lifestyle, Sand was obliged to relinquish some of the privileges appertaining to a baroness – though, interestingly, the mores of the period did permit upper-class wives to live physically separated from their husbands, without losing face, provided the estranged couple exhibited no blatant irregularity to the outside world.
Poet Charles Baudelaire was a contemporary critic of George Sand, calling her "stupid, heavy and garrulous" and her ideas on morals as of "the same depth of judgment and delicacy of feeling as those of janitresses and kept women." Other writers of the period, however, differed in their assessment. Flaubert, by no means an indulgent or forbearing critic, was an unabashed admirer. Honoré de Balzac, who knew Sand personally, once said that if someone thought George Sand wrote badly, it was because their own standards of criticism were inadequate. He also noted that her treatment of imagery in her works showed that her writing had an exceptional subtlety, having the ability to "virtually put the image in the word." – Today she is seen as an important champion of women's rights and noted particularly for her detailed correspondence, as well as her memoirs and diaries (Histoire de ma vie and Journal Intime), which not only chronicle her personal life but also give a vivid portrayal of 19th century Paris and France, and of the many notable personalities with whom she interacted.