George Sand (born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin; July 1, 1804 – June 8, 1876) embodied a capacity for prodigious output and passionate living, with a penchant for 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 woman to emulate such an existence (and even the thought of doing so is exhausting), but she remains a model for creating a full palette of love, productivity, and family.
Despite 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, which will be described in later chapters, she was more adept at self-flagellation than self-congratulation.
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, and in the latter venue she was also prolific; 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. 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.
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. 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.
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
- Inspiration: “I am stronger and more active …”
Biographies about George Sand
Visit George Sand’s home
- Nohant – Nohant, France
George Sand Quotes
“Nothing resembles selfishness more closely than self-respect.” (Indiana, 1832)
“The most honest of men is the one who thinks and acts best, but the most powerful is the one who writes and speaks best.” (Indiana, 1832)
“Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth.”
“Faith is an excitement and an enthusiasm: it is a condition of intellectual magnificence to which we must cling as to a treasure, and not squander on our way through life in the small coin of empty words, or in exact and priggish argument.”
“One approaches the journey’s end. But the end is a goal, not a catastrophe.”
“Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.”
“The trade of authorship is a violent, and indestructible obsession.”
“Work is not man’s punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.”
“Whoever has loved knows all that life contains of sorrow and joy.”
“We cannot tear out a single page of our life, but we can throw the whole book in the fire.”
“One wastes so much time, one is so prodigal of life, at twenty! Our day’s of winter count for double. That is the compensation of the old.” (In a letter to Joseph Dessauer, July 5, 1868)
“Vanity is the quicksand of reason.”
“One writes for all the world, for all who need to be initiated; when one is not understood, one is resigned and recommences. When one is understood, one rejoices and continues. There lies the whole secret of our persevering labors and of our love of art.” (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1866)
“The artist’s vocation is to send light into the human heart.”
“It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides.”
“Women love always: when earth slips from them, they take refuge in heaven.”
“He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life.”
“Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self when one does not lack wit and is familiar with all the niceties of language. Language is a prostitute queen who descends and rises to all roles. Disguises herself, arrays herself in fine apparel, hides her head and effaces herself; an advocate who has an answer for everything, who has always foreseen everything, and who assumes a thousand forms in order to be right. The most honorable of men is he who thinks best and acts best, but the most powerful is he who is best able to talk and write.” (Indiana, 1832)
“I have an object, a task, let me say the word, a passion. The profession of writing is a violent and almost indestructible one.” (Letter to Jules Boucoiran, March 4, 1831; Correspondance, 1812-1876)
“The truth is too simple: one must always get there by a complicated route.” (Letter to Armand Barbès, May 12, 1867; Correspondance, 1812-1876)
“One is happy once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness: simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and above all, a clear conscience.” (Correspondance, 1812-1876)
“You can bind my body, tie my hands, govern my actions: you are the strongest, and society adds to your power; but with my will, sir, you can do nothing.”
“As for gaining money by my pen, that is an aspiration that I have never had, recognizing that I was radically incapable of it.” (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1867)
“One changes from day to day, and… after a few years have passed one has completely altered.”
“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.”
“Admiration and familiarity are strangers.”
“Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius.”
“The beauty that addresses itself to the eyes is only the spell of the moment; the eye of the body is not always that of the soul.”
“Let us accept truth, even when it surprises us and alters our views.” (The Letters of George Sand, 2007)
“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
“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.”
“Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.”
“Butterflies are but flowers that blew away one sunny day when Nature was feeling at her most inventive and fertile.”
“The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now. Another I is beginning.”
“The capacity of passion is both cruel and divine.”
“Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.” (Metella, 1852)
“In times when evil comes because men misunderstand and hate one another, it is the mission of the artist to praise sweetness, confidence, and friendship, and so to remind men, hardened or discouraged, that pure morals, tender sentiments, and primitive justice still exist, or at least can exist, in this world.” (La Petite Fadette, 1849)
“For the present I am overwhelmed with work; work which, unfortunately, is very barren in its results. I still live in hope. Besides, see how strange it is: literature becomes a passion. The more obstacles, the more difficulties you perceive, the more ambitious you are of overcoming them.” (From a letter to a friend, 1831)
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