When Flaubert and Sand began their thirteen-year friendship, both had acquired controversial reputations in France’s literary and social circles. Born Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, George Sand was an accomplished writer of plays, novels and articles. She was renowned for her tumultuous affairs with Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), novelist, playwright and poet, and the composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849). Her early works, autobiographical in inspiration, evoke a quest for love and happiness. In such lyrical novels as INDIANA (1832) and LELIA (1833), Sand recounts the torments experienced by women who must struggle against their passions. In the last twenty-five years of her life, Sand lived tranquilly, and works written during this time communicate a humanitarian view of existence, her love of nature and of rustic life.
Seventeen years younger than she, Flaubert, afflicted with a nerve-related illness, abandoned his law studies in Paris in 1844, and from that time devoted himself exclusively to his writing. In 1856, LA REVUE DE PARIS published in serial form MADAME BOVARY, subsequently to appear in its entirety in 1857. The work depicts the illicit involvements of Emma Bovary, torn between a life of illusory romance and the reality of her brutish husband; it provoked enormous controversy, as many critics rushed to denounce the immorality of the main character—and of her creator.
This correspondence is one of the most noteworthy of the past century, for, despite distinct differences in the aesthetics and literary attitudes of Flaubert and Sand, it reveals the evolution from a cordial friendship built on respect to a relationship of profound intimacy, intellectual honesty, and mutual support. In addition to a large part of the correspondence used to finalize travel and social plans, one is struck by the sincere affection, trust, and reliance that comes to exist between the two writers. Political events that figure prominently include the Franco-Prussian War; political figures such as the Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie are also objects of certain comments. More than a historical chronicle, however, this correspondence is an exchange of ideas between two creators of fictional worlds, who questioned their art, for whom it was an arduous task, and, ultimately, whose first love was writing.
Sources for Further Study
Belles lettres. VIII, Summer, 1993, p.48.
London Review of Books. XV, May 27, 1993, p.9.
Las Angeles Times. February 4, 1993, p. E2.
The New Republic. CCVIII, March 29, 1993, p.46.
The New York Review of Books. XL, June 10, 1993, p.5.
The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, February 21, 1993, p.3.
The New Yorker. LXIX, July 26, 1993, p.32.
Publishers Weekly. CCXL, January 18, 1993, p.460.
The Times Literary Supplement. March 26, 1993, p.5.
The Wall Street Journal. March 26, 1993, p. A8.