George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ LargeThe French writer George Sand has fascinated readers since she burst on to the literary scene in 1832 with her best-selling novel Indiana and her shocking lifestyle. Sand was the best-selling and best paid novelist of her time, but she eventually became more famous for her unconventional life than for her iconoclastic, highly personal, and immense body of work. Sand was a social and political radical, a feminist, an ardent republican and a socialist. She was also friend and lover to some of the most prominent men and women of her time. Sand was born Aurore Dupin in 1804, into an unconventional and unhappy family. Jack describes Aurore's childhood as a tutorial in the nuances of class, inequality, and insecurity. Her father Maurice was a soldier from an aristocratic family, her mother Sophie-Victoire was ". . . a dancer, no, less than a dancer . . ." When Maurice married Sophie, his family was horrified. Maurice was often absent and in debt, so his wife and child had to rely on his mother, the formidable Madame Aurore Dupin, who despised Sophie for her lower-class, undisciplined ways. Torn between "two rival mothers," little Aurore's life changed dramatically when Maurice died and Mme Dupin decided to pay Sophie an income for leaving Aurore in her care. Mme Dupin made sure young Aurore received an excellent education, but she was dismayed at the girl's active fantasy life and her failure to become a proper lady. Aurore was sent to a convent. Instead of reforming her, the solitude and time away from her family enabled her to spend time thinking and writing. Later, her unhappy marriage to Casimir Dudevant convinced her that marriage was a "primitive" institution designed to subjugate women. Aurore continued to write, to express her emotions, and explore intellectual and romantic alternatives. As she and Casimir began to lead separate lives, she required an independent income. She moved to Paris, worked for Le Figaro, collaborated on a novel with her lover Jules Sandeau, and created her own identity: George Sand the writer.
George Sand wore men's clothing and smoked in public. She had affairs with famous men she lived eight years with Frederic Chopin, had a disastrous fling with Prosper Merimee, and a lengthy affair with prominent lawyer Michel de Bourges. A passionate affair with actress Marie Dorval brought more fame and notoriety. The author Belinda Jack proposes that Sand often expressed feelings and ideas in writing before acting. Jack uses material from Sand's five-volume autobiography, and her extensive diaries and correspondence to create a condensed, balanced portrait of an artist exploring her own life and engaging the issues of her time.
Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor in Nashville.