The Mellowing of George Sand: Mother, Grandmother, Gardener

george sand by nadar, 1864

For French author George Sand (1804-1876), motherhood was often fraught with the kind of drama that colored many of her relationships prior to mellow older age. Her son Maurice was a major mama’s boy, causing petty jealousy for Sand’s most famed live-in lover, Frederic Chopin.

Could it have been from spite that he unconsciously (or not so unconsciously) fell in love with Sand’s daughter, Solange, when she was a pretty and flirtatious young lady of seventeen?

From her grandmother, Sand inherited an exquisite estate in Nohant, located in the Indre region of central France. There she hosted a legion of writers and artists with whom she was friendly, including Delacroix, Turgenev, Flaubert, Liszt, and Balzac.

Summers found her retreating from hectic city life in Paris to this divine estate. She located to this idyllic locale permanently  for her last years.

. . . . . . . . . . Portrait of George Sand in Top hatLearn more about George Sand
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Aimee MacKenzie wrote in her 1921 introduction to The Gustave Flaubert-George Sand Letters:

“In her final retreat at Nohant, surrounded by her affectionate children and grandchildren, diligently writing, botanizing, bathing in her little river, visited by her friends and undistracted by the fiery lovers of the old time, she shows an unguessed wealth of maternal virtue, swift, comprehending sympathy, fortitude, sunny resignation, and a goodness of heart that has ripened into wisdom.”      

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Nohant - Estate of George Sand

George Sand’s ancestral home in the village of Nohant, France
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Who could have predicted that literature’s wild woman would settle down to such  domestic tranquility in her final years? Much of the pleasure she derived was from having (mostly) healed the tumultuous relationship with her daughter, acquiring a stellar daughter-in-law, and above all, from her granddaughters, who she genuinely adored.

Her over-the-top sexuality gave way to a doting maternal nature, and her spendthrift ways to a desire to “have a little to leave to my children and grandchildren.”

Part of that “little” she left them included Nohant; one of her granddaughters, Aurore Dudevant, transferred the estate to France to be designated as a National Historic Monument (Nohant, like other authors’ homes, is open to the public).

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George Sand quote on youth and age

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Even if it seems presumptuous, it’s a pleasant flight of fancy to dream of the legacy you might be able to pass along to your heirs from your literary endeavors. Isn’t it wonderful to imagine that something you’ve created will survive for the next generation to enjoy?

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