George Sand: Her Life & Writings HTML version
The Humanitarian Dream
Pierre Leroux--Socialistic Novels
Hitherto we have seen George Sand put into her work her sufferings, her protests as a
woman, and her dreams as an artist. But the nineteenth-century writer did not confine his
ambitions to this modest task. He belonged to a corporation which counted among its
members Voltaire and Rousseau. The eighteenth-century philosophers had changed the
object of literature. Instead of an instrument of analysis, they had made of it a weapon for
combat, an incomparable weapon for attacking institutions and for overthrowing
governments. The fact is, that from the time of the Restoration we shall scarcely meet
with a single writer, from the philosopher to the vaudevillist, and from the professor to
the song-maker, who did not wish to act as a torch on the path of humanity. Poets make
revolutions, and show Plato how wrong he was in driving them away from his Republic.
Sophocles was appointed a general at Athens for having written a good tragedy, and so
novelists, dramatists, critics and makers of puns devoted themselves to making laws.
George Sand was too much a woman of her times to keep aloof from such a movement.
We shall now have to study her in her socialistic role.
We can easily imagine on what side her sympathies were. She had always been battling
with institutions, and it seemed to her that institutions were undoubtedly in the wrong.
She had proved that there was a great deal of suffering in the world, and as human nature
is good at bottom, she decided that society was all wrong. She was a novelist, and she
therefore considered that the most satisfactory solutions are those in which imagination
and feeling play a great part. She also considered that the best politics are those which are
the most like a novel. We must now follow her, step by step, along the various roads
leading to Utopia. The truth is, that in that great manufactory of systems and that
storehouse of panaceas which the France of Louis-Philippe had become, the only
difficulty was to choose between them all.
The first, in date, of the new gospels was that of the Saint-Simonians. When George Sand
arrived in Paris, Saint-Simonism was one of the curiosities offered to astonished
provincials. It was a parody of religion, but it was organized in a church with a Father in
two persons, Bazard and Enfantin. The service took place in a bouis-bouis. The costume
worn consisted of white trousers, a red waistcoat and a blue tunic. On the days when the
Father came down from the heights of Menilmontant with his children, there was great
diversion for the people in the street. An important thing was lacking in the organization
of the Saint-Simonians. In order to complete the "sacerdotal couple," a woman was
needed to take her place next the Father. A Mother was asked for over and over again. It
was said that she would soon appear, but she was never forthcoming. Saint-Simon had
tried to tempt Madame de Stael.
"I am an extraordinary man," he said to her, "and you are just as extraordinary as a
woman. You and I together would have a still more extraordinary child." Madame de
Stael evidently did not care to take part in the manufacture of this prodigy. When George