Today is the birthday (1804) of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, best known by her nom de plume George Sand, French novelist and memoirist. Sand wrote: “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, and my husband, M. François Dudevant, claims no title: the highest rank he ever reached was that of infantry second lieutenant.”
Sand, who was always known simply as “Aurore”, was born in Paris, but raised for much of her childhood by her grandmother, Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Madame Dupin de Francueil, at her grandmother’s estate, Nohant, in the French province of Berry. Sand later used the setting in many of her novels. Her father, Maurice Dupin, was the grandson of the Marshal General of France, Maurice, Comte de Saxe, an illegitimate son of Augustus II the Strong, king of Poland and a Saxon elector, and a cousin to the sixth degree to kings Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X of France. She was also related much more distantly to king Louis Philippe of France through common ancestors from German and Danish ruling families.
In 1822, at the age of 18, Sand married Casimir Dudevant (1795–1871), illegitimate son of baron Jean-François Dudevant. She and Dudevant had two children: Maurice (1823–1889) and Solange (1828–1899). In early 1831, she left her husband and entered upon a period of “romantic rebellion.” In 1835, she was legally separated from Dudevant and took her children with her.
Sand conducted affairs of varying duration with Jules Sandeau (1831), Prosper Mérimée, Alfred de Musset (summer 1833 – March 1835), Louis-Chrysostome Michel, Pierre-François Bocage, Charles Didier, Félicien Mallefille, Louis Blanc, and Frédéric Chopin (1837–1847). Later in life, she corresponded with Gustave Flaubert, and despite their differences in temperament and aesthetic preference, they eventually became close friends. She engaged in an intimate friendship with actress Marie Dorval, which led to widespread but unconfirmed rumors of a lesbian affair. Letters written by Sand to Dorval made such references as “wanting you either in your dressing room or in your bed”.
In Majorca one can still visit the Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa, where she spent the winter of 1838–1839 with Chopin and her children. She described this trip to Majorca in Un hiver à Majorque (A Winter in Majorca), first published in 1841. Chopin was already ill with incipient tuberculosis (or, as has recently been suggested, cystic fibrosis) at the beginning of their relationship, and spending a winter in Majorca — where Sand and Chopin did not realize that winter was a time of rain and cold and where they could not get proper lodgings—exacerbated his symptoms. They separated two years before his death for a variety of reasons. In her novel Lucrezia Floriani, Sand used Chopin as a model for a sickly Eastern European prince named Karol. He is cared for by a middle-aged actress past her prime, Lucrezia, who suffers a great deal because of her affection for Karol. Though Sand claimed not to have made a mockery out of Chopin, the book’s publication and widespread readership may have exacerbated their antipathy to each other. The tipping point in their relationship involved her daughter Solange. Chopin continued to be cordial to Solange after she and her husband, Auguste Clésinger, had a vicious falling out with Sand over money. Sand took Chopin’s support of Solange as outright treachery and confirmation that Chopin had always “loved” Solange. Sand’s son Maurice also disliked Chopin. Maurice wanted to establish himself as the “man of the estate” and did not wish to have Chopin as a rival. Chopin was never asked back to Nohant. In 1848, Chopin returned to Paris from a tour of the United Kingdom, and died at the Place Vendôme the following year. Chopin was penniless at that time. His friends had to pay for his stay there, as well as his funeral at the Madeleine. The funeral was attended by over 3,000 people, including Eugène Delacroix, Franz Liszt, Victor Hugo and other famous people. George Sand was notable by her absence.
A liaison with the writer Jules Sandeau began her literary career. They published a few stories in collaboration, signing them “Jules Sand”. Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831), was written in collaboration with Sandeau. She subsequently adopted, for her first independent novel, Indiana (1832), the pen name that made her famous – George Sand. Drawing from her childhood experiences of the countryside, she wrote the pastoral novels La Mare au Diable (1846), François le Champi (1847–1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs Bois-Doré (1857). Her other novels include Lélia (1833), Mauprat (1837), Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840), Consuelo (1842–1843), and Le Meunier d’Angibault (1845). Theater pieces and autobiographical pieces include Histoire de ma vie (1855), Elle et Lui (1859, about her affair with Musset), Journal Intime (posthumously published in 1926), and Correspondence. Sand often performed her theatrical works in her small private theatre at the Nohant estate.
In addition, Sand wrote literary criticism and political texts. She sided with the poor and working class, and championed women’s rights. When the 1848 Revolution began, she was an ardent republican. Sand started her own newspaper, which was published in a workers’ co-operative. However, by 1871, during the Paris Commune, she had become more conservative, she wrote: “The horrible adventure continues. They ransom, they threaten, they arrest, they judge. They have taken over all the city halls, all the public establishments, they’re pillaging the munitions and the food supplies.”
Sand’s reputation came under stern criticism when she began wearing men’s clothing in public, which she justified by saying that men’s clothes were far sturdier and less expensive than the typical dress of a noblewoman at the time. This is still true. Sand also found men’s clothing comfortable and enabled her to circulate more freely in Paris than most of her female contemporaries, and gave her increased access to venues from which women were often barred, even women of her social standing. Sand’s smoking tobacco in public was also considered scandalous. No one approved the free indulgence of women in such a habit, especially in public (though Franz Liszt’s mistress, Marie d’Agoult, did this as well, smoking large cigars). These and other behaviors were exceptional for a woman of the early and mid-19th century, when social codes—especially in the upper classes—were of the utmost importance. As a consequence of many unorthodox aspects of her lifestyle, Sand had to relinquish some of the privileges afforded her by her class status.
George Sand died at Nohant, near Châteauroux, in France’s Indre département on 8th June 1876, at the age of 71 and was buried in the private graveyard behind the chapel at Nohant-Vic. In 2003, plans that her remains be moved to the Panthéon in Paris resulted in controversy.
Here are a few salient quotes from Sand:
I have an object, a task, let me say the word, a passion. The profession of writing is a violent and almost indestructible one.
It’s not the first time I’ve noticed how much more power words have than ideas, particularly in France.
Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life.
The truth is too simple: one must always get there by a complicated route.
We cannot tear a single page from our life, but we can throw the whole book into the fire.
Art for the sake of art itself is an idle sentence. Art for the sake of truth, for the sake of what is beautiful and good — that is the creed I seek.
All of us who have time and money to spare, travel — that is to say, we flee; since surely it is not so much a question of travelling as of getting away? Which of us has not some sorrow to dull, or some yoke to cast off?
In my post on Flaubert https://www.bookofdaystales.com/gustave-flaubert/ I noted that Sand and Flaubert were constant companions for dinner, and wrote at great length about their rather similar problems with digestion. Sand’s recipe for galette which I posted there will work for today as well. Sand was not only a noted cook and gourmet, but she also kept a collection of family recipes which her granddaughter collected into a cookbook: À la table de George Sand. Here is her recipe for veal cutlets. Given that she often swore off meat because it did not agree with her, this recipe is unusual, not only because it is a meat dish, but also because it is meat wrapped in meat. I have given the recipe in Sand’s original French (marginally edited). If you are French challenged, any online translation app will work. It’s easy French.
Côtelettes de veau en papillotes
4 côtes de veau
400 g de filets de Poulet
100 g de champignons de Paris
50 g de beurre
100 g de chapelure
50 g de persil haché
Mettez dans le bol d’un mixeur les filets de poulet coupés en morceaux, les champignons coupés en quatre, le persil, les oeufs, salez et poivrez. Démarrez le robot à vitesse moyenne, de manière à obtenir une farce « coupée au couteau », pas trop fine, mais homogène tout de même. Enduisez des deux côtés les côtes de veau avec cette farce, en tapotant pour qu’elle adhère bien. Panez recto verso avec la chapelure. Mettez une heure au réfrigérateur pour que l’ensemble tienne bien. Dans une poêle, faites délicatement dorer au beurre les côtes des deux côtés. Préchauffez le four à 180 °C. Beurrez du papier cuisson sulfurisé. Enveloppez les côtes en formant des papillotes. Placez-les sur une plaque de cuisson et enfournez-les pendant 20 minutes. Servez dans le papier.