George Sand, French writer and journalist, one of the main pillars of French Romanticism.
This extraordinary woman is the brilliant star around which the intellectuals of an entire era orbited, regardless of their nationalities.
George Sand’s family
George Sand, baptized Aurore Dupin Delaborde, was born on July 5, 1804, in Paris.
Her father, Maurice François Dupin de Francueil, was a highborn aristocrat, cavalry officer, grandson by bastard line of King Augustus II of Poland.
Her mother, Sophie Delaborde, was a poor dressmaker, the daughter of a bird vendor and who had little understanding with Aurore’s paternal grandmother, Madame Maria Aurora of Saxony.
In 1808, when Aurore was only four years old, her father fell off the horse he was riding and died of his injuries.
Aurore’s paternal grandmother, Madame Dupin decided to separate her only granddaughter from Sophie Delaborde, whom she considered a pernicious influence.
The aristocratic grandmother made every effort to get Aurore to live with her at the Nohant family mansion in Berry County.
Aurore’s mother did not resist excessively handing over the girl to her grandmother María Aurora.
Childhood and early youth of Aurore Dupin
Aurore Dupin spent the rest of her childhood in Nohant, the place she would always return to in search of happiness, the place she loved the most in this world.
Madame Dupin took over the education of little Aurore.
A teacher who had been her father’s tutor, was chosen by Aurore’s grandmother to educate her.
This tutor was the one who induced her to wear men’s clothing, because it was more comfortable to walk and jump across the field.
George Sand was able to run more freely and easily than in girlish outfits.
Her grandmother cried when she saw her like this, because it reminded her of her late son.
At that time, no woman in the region rode alone on horseback, they did so only at the croup of a servant.
Guided by her tutor, she had the audacity to study anatomy and surgery.
Despite the fact that, at that time, the study of bones was considered by many to be a desecration.
In 1817, when she was 13 years old, Aurore was anxious to go live with her mother in Paris, without caring about being poor and ignorant.
She disputed with her grandmother Madame Dupin and she decided to send her to an English nunnery in that city.
There she was educated and spent three years, during which she became happier than ever.
George Sand, after turning 17
Aurore was 17 years old and revolted against aristocratic prejudices, the privileges of fortune and education, the childish idleness of the privileged class, moral intolerance and pagan customs in a society that called itself Christian.
She got tired of life, she wanted to isolate herself from the world in the midst of country solitude; and only through prayer did she resist that depression.
With readings by Plutarch and other Greek and Latin authors, she moved away from the idea of taking her own life.
Music also helped her calm down: in her room she had a piano, a harp and a guitar. She played pieces by ear.
In Nohant, George Sand became a rock doctor as a volunteer and ventured as a pharmacist making ointments and syrups.
There she led an almost religious life, made vows of silence and poverty.
Later she wrote the following: “I realized that I loved God, that my thought embraced and fully accepted that ideal of justice, tenderness and holiness“.
On the eve of Christmas 1821, her beloved grandmother passed away.
George Sand’s marriage to Casimi Dudevant
In the spring of 1822, Aurore met Baron Casimir Dudevant, whom she married a few months later, when she was just 18 years old.
It was never clear why Aurore chose to marry this grim man, who had been almost ten years with her and with whom she had little in common.
They had two children, Maurice, born in 1823, and Solange, born in 1828.
But this union of Aurore with Baron Dudevant, ended up collapsing.
Finally, in 1830, after eight years of marriage, they decided that they preferred to continue living apart.
George Sand from 1831 to 1835
In early 1831, Aurore Dupin abandoned her husband and, along with their two children, returned to Paris, following her young lover, Jules Sandeau, eight years her junior.
With her return to Paris, Aurore, still Baroness Dudevant, began the most scandalous period of her life, but also the most intellectually fruitful.
She started as a writer, collaborating with her young lover Jules Sandeau on several short stories they published in 1831, under the pseudonym “Jules Sand“.
Also under the pseudonym Jules Sand, Aurore published, in that same year, a novel titled “Rose et Blanche“.
Aurore Dupin was looking for a literary counselor when she was introduced to a writer by the name of Kératri.
This good gentleman told her that, in his opinion, a woman should not write. “Believe me,” he added, “don’t make books; make children“.
Knowing a little about the life of Aurore Dupin, it is easy to imagine the face she put on, and how short the counselor lasted.
Days after this fleeting meeting, Aurore was hired as a columnist for the newspaper “Le Figaro“.
She also began collaborating on “La Revue des Deux Mondes“. These publications were key in her literary career.
There she propagated her republican ideas, which contrasted strongly with her social position as an aristocrat. It was still Baroness Dudevant.
Aurora was aware that she did not know how to walk gracefully through the streets of Paris and that her freedom as a single woman was very restricted.
She wanted to go out freely, lose her provincial air and be able to go to the theater.
As a separated woman, she should not be alone on the streets of Paris, and even less, to appear alone in a theater.
She recalled with a certain nostalgia her childhood forays, from when the preceptor of her childhood encouraged her to live in freedom.
Determined not to be daunted, she made herself make a long frock coat with pants and a vest, a hat and a wool tie.
She put on boots and forced herself to speak in a low, muffled voice to hide the woman’s tone.
This masculine “disguise” allowed her to circulate more freely in Paris; and thus obtained access to places that would have been denied for a woman of her social status.
Still, she continued to dress in feminine clothing at social gatherings.
In 1832, Aurore published her first solo novel, “Indiana,” where she first signed with the name George Sand.
Before long she published the second novel signed by George Sand: “Valentine“.
In 1833, George Sand was very successful with the novel “Lélia“.
Between 1830 and 1833, she published eight novels, which shows her enormous capacity for work and invention.
A 23-year-old young man, considered one of the child prodigies of French letters, as well as an unleashed libertine, Alfred Musset, had been deeply impressed by the reading of “Indiana“, and wanted to meet the author personally.
The meeting between the two occurred during the presentation reading of “Lélia“, the new work of George Sand.
Before long, they became lovers. Her love story is one of the most famous of French letters.
Musset’s aristocratic family did not look favorably on the relationship; and they regarded Aurore as an upstart seeking to profit from Alfred’s fame.
The truth is that both were very different.
Aurore Dupin Baroness Dudevant, was a 29-year-old woman who had two children and was fully aware of her responsibilities.
Alfred Musset was 23 years old, he was a great poet, but he lived among binge drinking, women, gambling and opium.
In the summer of 1833, the two lovers left Paris for Italy, where Musset planned to gather information to write a play about Lorenzo de Medici.
In Italy, the young Alfred Musset indulged in the nocturnal pleasures of Venice; before long, he fell ill with typhoid fever, possibly from his continual revelry.
Aurore took care of him and spent more than 17 days at his side.
The hotel doctor, an Italian named Pietro Pagello saved Musset’s life, but took his lover from him.
Aurore fell in love with that serious and formal doctor, so different from the unstable and tempestuous Musset.
When the poet discovered them, he could not bear the humiliation and returned alone to Paris in early 1834.
Aurore remained in Venice for a few more months, until she decided to return to France accompanied by Pagello.
But the relationship with the formal Italian doctor did not last long.
In 1835, Aurore and Alfred Musset continued to see each other intermittently, until their final breakup, at the end of that year.
George Sand from 1836 to 1847
A year later, in 1836, Alfred Musset dedicated to Aurore his magnum opus, “Confession of a son of the century”, one of the most emblematic novels of French Romanticism.
Many began to criticize Aurore Dupin for dressing according to men’s fashion and for smoking.
Aurore had no problem smoking in public, something that in the mid-19th century was seen as outright provocation.
A friend of poets and writers, George Sand was always a free spirit and never worried about what they will say about her bohemian life and her love relationships with Prosper Merimée, and especially with the poet Alfred de Musset and later with the composer and pianist. Polish Frédéric Chopin, with whom she would live for nine years.
Among the many who harshly criticized Aurore for her customs was the poet Charles Baudelaire, author of “Les Fleures du Mal“.
Baudelaire said of her: “She is stupid and conceited. Their moral ideas have the same depth of judgment and delicacy as those of the cleaners and the maintained ones”. ”The fact that there are men who fall in love with this bitch, is proof of how low the men of this generation have fallen”.
There were many people who rejoiced criticizing her, but George Sand also made great friends among the intellectuals of the time.
Within her circle of friends were the composer Franz Liszt, the painter Eugène Delacroix, the writer Heinrich Heine as well as Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac, Jules Verne and Gustave Flaubert.
She maintained a long correspondence with Flaubert where the great friendship that united them is reflected.
Aurore Dupin, that is to say George Sand, at that time did not stop causing scandals.
One of them was her friendship with actress Marie Dorval. The two women were always together and shared practically everything; a possible romantic relationship between them was suspected.
Marie’s official lover, Count Alfred de Vigny, was not short and talking about Aurore said “that damn lesbian“.
Aurore and Marie kept their friendship intact until the actress’s death in 1849. Aurore Dupin financially took care of Marie’s grandchildren.
In 1836, a few months after her breakup with Alfred de Musset, Aurore attended a party given by her friend Countess Marie d’Agoult.
There she met Fréderic Chopin, a young Pole who had achieved great success as a pianist and composer.
The first meeting between the two was anything but romantic: Chopin was scandalized by Aurore’s masculine clothing and expressed his aversion calling her “repulsive” and asking if “that very unfriendly Sand was really a woman“.
In turn, George Sand, perceiving his manners, asked if “that Chopin is a lady“.
In the summer of 1838, Chopin had just broken up with his girlfriend Maria Wodzinska.
George Sand immediately offered to provide emotional support. Chopin was undecided for fear of scandal, but he relented and spent that summer in Paris with her.
In those days, Aurore Dupin and Baron Casimir Dudevant went to trial over the matter of their separation.
In the process, justice ruled in favor of Aurore Dupin and granted her custody of his children: Maurice, 15, and Solange, 10.
She continued to write her twenty regulatory pages each night. She was always a tireless writer.
George Sand and Chopin on the island Mallorca
When the winter of 1838 began, George Sand traveled to Mallorca, in search of a better climate for the rheumatism of her son Maurice.
Her daughter Solange also traveled with her.
Despite the fact that Chopin did not like traveling due to his precarious health and the discomforts of transportation at that time, George Sand convinced him to accompany them.
The island of Mallorca seemed like the perfect place for Chopin to recover from his tuberculosis.
They first stayed in a summer house, which was not fit to live in winter.
The cold, the humidity and the smoke aggravated the incipient illness of Chopin, who did not stop coughing.
So they rented a cell in the old Charterhouse of Valldemosa.
They had assumed that the weather in Mallorca was warmer than in Paris, but that winter was very cold, and the downpours did not stop.
The neighbors of the place looked at them very badly for not being married; they saw them haughty and contemptuous.
George Sand and Chopin viewed Majorcans as superstitious, intrusive, and inhospitable.
To make matters worse, the Chopin piano they had ordered to bring from Paris took several months to arrive.
George Sand took the best care of her young lover, who was sweet, cheerful, and charming in public; but that, sick, it was desperate in the privacy.
Still, the couple was increasingly in love.
George Sand saw in Chopin the deepest genius and the most full of feelings and emotions she had ever known. “He has made the language of infinity speak to a single instrument“.
That winter was artistically fruitful: Fréderic Chopin composed his “Preludes Op. 28” and George Sand wrote the book “A Winter in Mallorca“.
Aurore and Chopin left Mallorca on February 13, 1839, bound for Barcelona, Marseille and Nohant.
Before returning to Barcelona, Chopin sold his piano to the Canut family. Today it is exposed in cell number 4 of this beautiful Charterhouse.
George Sand’s return to France
After the winter, in May 1839, the family returned to France and settled in Nohant.
Thanks to the good weather, the tranquility and the care and encouragement of George Sand, Chopin had a very productive period.
But he was getting weaker and weaker due to consumption. He couldn’t take even a short walk and had to ride on a donkey.
George Sand and Chopin’s relationship was marked by the pianist’s illness, which gradually turned the writer from lover to nurse, and almost to mother.
In 1845, George Sand suffered a lot from abdominal pain that went back a long time, perhaps the beginning of the intestinal illness that would end her life.
In 1847, there were strong family disputes between George Sand, her daughter Solange, her husband and Maurice.
Chopin took sides in Solange’s favor. George Sand ended up expelling them all from Nohant.
Chopin went to Paris and never returned to Nohant.
George Sand felt liberated as Chopin’s character grew increasingly sour.
Two years after this breakup, on October 17, 1849, Fréderic Chopin died in Paris, a victim of the tuberculosis that had accompanied him half his life, with only 39 years of age.
His heart was sent to Poland, while his body was buried in the Parisian Père Lachaise cemetery, just 200 meters from the place where, eight years later, Alfred de Musset would be buried.
Last years in the life of Aurore Dupin
In 1848 the Revolution broke out in France against the government of Louis Philippe de Orléans, the last King that France had.
Aurore Dupin moved to Paris and worked more than ever, with her writings, on behalf of workers and women’s rights.
Her frustration was enormous when massacres took place in various places. Aurore wrote: “I cannot believe in any republic that begins its revolution by killing its own proletariat“.
Very disappointed, she retired to her beloved Nohant, where she lived almost permanently until her death; except for a small parenthesis of three years, between 1864 and 1867, in which she lived in Palaiseau, near Versailles, together with her last lover, Alexandre Manceau.
In the town of Nohant, inherited from her paternal grandmother, she found her permanent refuge, animated by the young artists she protected, by those close to her who sheltered under her wings, by the theatrical performances that were organized in the theater that she had built in her mansion.
Among those close and invited, were the musician Liszt, the painter Delacroix, the writers Balzac, Gautier and Flaubert.
Over the years, George Sand progressively distanced herself from the busy life she had maintained in her younger years.
But she kept writing. She wrote a series of novels about peasant life and published her autobiographies.
She also completed the 25 volumes that make up his “correspondence“.
In Nohant, surrounded by her grandchildren, whom she adored; and of her friends, who adored her, Aurore Dupin spent the last years of her life.
She had left behind scandal and provocation, politics and feminism. She stopped being George Sand, the writer, to become Madame Sand.
From that time are the famous photographic portraits made by one of the parents of the photograph, Gaspar-Félix Tournachon, where we see a peaceful, serene woman, in whose bonhomie there are no signs of the turbulent life she led.
At 72, the writer baptized by the peasants as the “kind lady of Nohant“, closed her eyes forever, on June 8, 1876.
Today she is remembered as one of the greatest writers in the French language, and as one of the most important role models for feminism.
She herself wrote in a response to her critics, “The world will one day know and understand me; and if that doesn’t happen, it won’t matter too much, because I will have opened the way for other women”.
The works of George Sand
The works that Aurore Dupin left for posterity under the pseudonym George Sand cover 60 novels; almost 50 stories, short stories and novels; 30 plays; numerous articles of criticism and politics, autobiographical writings and an enormous correspondence (more than 1,200 letters).
Among her most successful novels are “Indiana” (1832), “Lélia” (1833), “The Companion of France” (1840), “Consuelo” (1842-43), “The Dreaming Masters” (1853), “A winter in Mallorca” (1955)
Among her autobiographical works are “Story of my life” (1855), “Her and Him” (1859) where she relates her relationship with Alfred Musset, “Intimate Diary” (1926).
In “Devil’s Swamp” (1846),she recounts her childhood experiences in the countryside and writes about rural issues.
George Sand left in Nohant numerous volumes of her complete works.