Sand, George

george sand

George Sand (1804-1876) 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.

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. Her colorful character and individuality seemed to have eclipsed her literary legacy, not to diminish her work, but for some, she proved it was more important to be courageous and original in one’s life than to be prolific in one’s work.

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George Sand Quotes

george sand by nadar, 1864“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”

“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.”

“I am more than ever intent upon following a literary career. In spite of the repugnance which I sometimes experience, despite the days of idleness and fatigue which cause me to break off my work, in spite of the life, more than quiet, which I lead here, I feel that henceforth my existence has an aim. I have a purpose in view, a task before me, and, if I may use the word, a passion. For the profession of writing is nothing else but a violent, indestructible passion. When it has once entered people’s heads it never leaves them.” (From a letter to a friend, Jules Boucoiran, March, 1831)

“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. What is art without the hearts and minds on which it pours? A sun which would not project rays and would give life to no one.” (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.”

George Sand by Alfred de Musset

George Sand by Alfred de Musset

“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)

“While you are running around to get material for your novel, I am inventing all sorts of pretexts not to write mine. I let myself be distracted by guilty fancies, something I am reading fascinates me and I set myself to scribbling on paper that will be left in my desk and bring me no return. That has amused me, or rather that has compelled me, for it would be in vain for me to struggle against there caprices; they interrupt me and force me…you see that I have not the strength of mind that you think.” (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1869)

“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)

“As for my frenzy of work, I will compare it to an attack of Herpes. I scratch myself while I cry. It is both a pleasure and a torture at the same time. And I am doing nothing that I want to! For one does not choose one’s subjects, they force themselves on one. Shall I ever find mine? Will an idea fall from Heaven suitable to my temperament? Can I write a book to which I shall give myself heart and soul? It seems to me in my moments of vanity, that I am beginning to catch a glimpse of what a novel ought to be. But I still have three to four of them to write before that one (which is, moreover, very vague), and at the rate I am going, if I write these three or four, that will be the most I can do.” (From a letter to Gustave Flaubert, 1866)

“I don’t believe in all the sorrows that people predict for me in the literary career on which I’m trying to embark. You have to know and appreciate what motives drive me and what goal I’m pursuing. My husband has fixed my living allowance at 3,000 francs. You know that’s not much for me, for I like to give money away, and not bother counting. I therefore think only of improving my well-being through some earnings, and as I’ve no desire to be known, I won’t be. I will attract neither the envy nor hatred of anyone. Most writers are nourished by bitterness and battles, I know, but those that have no other ambition to make a living, live in the shade, peacefully.” (From a letter to her friend Jules Boucoiran, 1831)

 

 

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