George Sand: Her Life & Writings HTML version

Aurore Dupin
Psychology Of A Daughter Of Rousseau
In the whole of French literary history, there is, perhaps, no subject of such inexhaustible
and modern interest as that of George Sand. Of what use is literary history? It is not only
a kind of museum, in which a few masterpieces are preserved for the pleasure of
beholders. It is this certainly, but it is still more than this. Fine books are, before anything
else, living works. They not only have lived, but they continue to live. They live within
us, underneath those ideas which form our conscience and those sentiments which inspire
our actions. There is nothing of greater importance for any society than to make an
inventory of the ideas and the sentiments which are composing its moral atmosphere
every instant that it exists. For every individual this work is the very condition of his
dignity. The question is, should we have these ideas and these sentiments, if, in the times
before us, there had not been some exceptional individuals who seized them, as it were,
in the air and made them viable and durable? These exceptional individuals were capable
of thinking more vigorously, of feeling more deeply, and of expressing themselves more
forcibly than we are. They bequeathed these ideas and sentiments to us. Literary history
is, then, above and beyond all things, the perpetual examination of the conscience of
There is no need for me to repeat what every one knows, the fact that our epoch is
extremely complex, agitated and disturbed. In the midst of this labyrinth in which we are
feeling our way with such difficulty, who does not look back regretfully to the days when
life was more simple, when it was possible to walk towards a goal, mysterious and
unknown though it might be, by straight paths and royal routes?
George Sand wrote for nearly half a century. For fifty times three hundred and sixty-five
days, she never let a day pass by without covering more pages than other writers in a
month. Her first books shocked people, her early opinions were greeted with storms.
From that time forth she rushed head-long into everything new, she welcomed every
chimera and passed it on to us with more force and passion in it. Vibrating with every
breath, electrified by every storm, she looked up at every cloud behind which she fancied
she saw a star shining. The work of another novelist has been called a repertory of human
documents. But what a repertory of ideas her work was! She has said what she had to say
on nearly every subject; on love, the family, social institutions and on the various forms
of government. And with all this she was a woman. Her case is almost unique in the
history of letters. It is intensely interesting to study the influence of this woman of genius
on the evolution of modern thought.
I shall endeavour to approach my subject conscientiously and with all due respect. I shall
study biography where it is indispensable for the complete understanding of works. I
shall give a sketch of the original individuals I meet on my path, portraying these only at
their point of contact with the life of our authoress, and it seems to me that a gallery in