George Sand (born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin; July 1, 1804 – June 8, 1876) was a French novelist, essayist and playwright. She was also known for pushing the envelope on gender roles and the drama in her everyday life, not the least of which were her countless romantic entanglements.
Some put her literary legacy at eighty novels, others at seventy, in addition to several plays and countless shorter works, including: essays, journalistic pieces, and a multi-volume autobiography. It would be nearly impossible for any contemporary writer to emulate such prolific output, but she remains a model for creating a full palette of love, productivity, and family.
She was admired by many of the leading figures of her day, with whom she developed abiding friendships, with or without love affairs. Notable among them were Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert.
Despite her own protestations to the contrary, George Sand found the discipline to produce an immense body of work while giving meaning to the phrase “living large.” Too bad she didn’t leave explicit instructions on how exactly she accomplished what she did; until her surprisingly mellow older age, she was more adept at self-flagellation than self-congratulation.
George Sand made a habit of pleading pity for her “literary agonies.” Despite her complaints, the word “prolific” is woefully inadequate to describe her output. Aside from her published books and staged plays, she also wielded a journalistic pen to give voice to her concerns for women’s rights and social justice. She started her own newspaper right around the time of the revolution of 1848 to disseminate her progressive and socialist views.
You might also like: George Sand on the Agony and Ecstasy of the Writing Life
You can be sure that the Masterpiece Theatre version of Sand’s life focused more on her adventures in the bedroom than at her desk. Her most notable love interest was legendary composer Frederic Chopin, and her most controversial, with the glamorous actress Marie Dorval.
Sand preferred younger men and enjoyed plenty of them; Her nom de plume was inspired by one such lover, Jules Sandeau, with whom she collaborated on a few stories. When she tired of Sandeau, she became the writer Alfred De Musset’s mistress for a year, and so continued her amours.
If she were alive today, she’d be labeled a “cougar.” As it was, one of her few detractors, the poet Baudelaire, branded her a slut, proving that sexism is timeless.
Expressions of the masculine
One of the earliest and best-known cross-dressers, she wore men’s clothing both for comfort (for traveling, which she loved, apparently trousers were more practical than crinolines) and to make a statement. Similarly, she was famed (and mocked) for her public cigar-smoking, and never went far without her hookah.
In Lélia: The Life of George Sand, André Maurois writes touchingly: “Those who came to see the notorious lady who wore trousers and smoked cigars found instead a passionate and dedicated mind that transcended any of her gaudy poses. For in revolting against the conventions of the world, George Sand felt and suffered very much as a woman.”
You might also like: The Mellowing of George Sand
Paving the way for women
To her critics, Sand wrote, “The world will know and understand me someday. But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter. I shall have opened the way for other women.” In short, she was a nothing short of a force of nature.
Though her oversized biography and persona are perhaps better known in the English-speaking world, her work was much admired by many of her literary contemporaries. It was, however, considered unseemly and completely unfeminine by others. Not to diminish her work, but to some observers, her importance seemed to be more for the courage and originality of her life than her literary output.
More about George Sand on this site
- George Sand on the Agony and the Ecstasy of the Writing Life
- The Mellowing of George Sand
- “To George Sand: A Desire” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Indiana by George Sand: The Author Answers Her Critics
- Quotes by George Sand on Life, Love, and Work
Major Works (Novels)
This is but a tiny fraction of George Sand’s prodigious, almost ridiculously prolific output. She wrote and published many novels, as well as some one dozen plays and countless essays and other works of nonfiction.
- Indiana (1832)
- Valentine (1832)
- Lélia (1833)
- Jacques (1833)
- Mauprat (1837)
- Consuelo (1842)
- La Mare au Diable (1846)
- Le Petite Fadette (1849)
Biographies and Autobiographies
- Story of My Life: The Autobiography of George Sand
- George Sand by Elizabeth Harlan
- George Sand: A Biography by Curtis Cate
- Lélia: The Life of George Sand by André Maurois
- The George Sand Association
- Reader discussion of Sand’s works on Goodreads
- George Sand page on Amazon
Listen and read online
Visit George Sand’s home
- Nohant – Nohant, France
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