George Sand 1804-1876
(Pseudonym of Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin Dudevant) French novelist, essayist, and dramatist.
For further discussion of Sand's career, see .
One of the most celebrated writers and controversial personalities of nineteenth-century France, Sand wrote prolifically in a variety of genres, producing over eighty novels, three collections of short stories, a four-volume autobiography, numerous essays, twenty-five plays, and approximately twenty thousand letters. She remains best known for her novels, which have been praised for their vivid depictions of the peasantry and the countryside, insightful studies of human nature, and natural prose style. Although she was one of the most popular novelists of her time, after her death her works received little critical attention until late in the twentieth century. Instead, she was primarily remembered for her bold behavior while living in Paris as a young woman; wearing men's clothing, espousing equal marital rights for women, and engaging in love affairs with prominent artistic figures.
Sand's parents, who married one month before her birth in Paris, were of dissimilar backgrounds: her mother was a bird seller's daughter, while her father was an officer in Napoleon's army and purportedly an illegitimate descendant of Frederic-Auguste de Saxe, King of Poland. Following her father's death when she was four, Sand went to live with her paternal grandmother at the family estate of Nohant in Berry, though she maintained contact with her mother. Recent commentators have suggested that this continuous and opposing influence of two mother-figures during her childhood strongly influenced Sand's perception of gender identity in ways that are evident in her literary works. Sand was privately tutored at her grandmother's estate until the age of thirteen, when she was sent to the Convent of the English Augustinians in Paris for three years. When she was eighteen, Sand married a local army officer, Casimir Dudevant, and eventually became the mother of two children. Dudevant and Sand soon realized that they were incompatible, and after several restless and unhappy years of marriage, Sand left her husband in 1831 to pursue a literary career in Paris. Following the publication of two novels written in collaboration with her lover Jules Sandeau and signed J. Sand, she began her career in earnest with the novel Indiana (1832), writing independently under the name George Sand. For the next several decades, Sand remained a prominent member of the artistic and intellectual community of Paris due to her considerable literary output as well as her friendships with such figures as Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert. Sand also captured public interest with her political beliefs which made her an unofficial intellectual spokesperson for the 1848 revolution. Sand spent her last years at Nohant, where she died in 1876.
Sand is best known for her bold statements about the rights of women in nineteenth-century society, her exploration of contemporary social and philosophical issues, and her depiction of the lives and language of French provincials. Several of her important early novels, including Indiana, Valentine (1832), Lelia (1833), and Jacques (1834), reflect her rebellion against the bonds of marriage and deal largely with relationships between men and women. Clearly influenced by Lord Byron and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sand crafted Romantic narratives depicting passionate personal revolt against societal conventions and an ardent feminism, attitudes which outraged her early British and American can critics. Those novels were extremely popular with the reading public, however, and they established Sand as an important literary voice for her generation. Sand's abiding interest in politics and philosophy is evident in such novels as Consuelo (1842-43) and Le meunier d'Angibault (1845; The Miller ofAngibaulf). These works, dealing specifically with humanitarianism, Christian socialism, and republicanism, have been described by critics as the least plausible of her literary efforts: the tone is often didactic and the plots contrived. Sand is perhaps most renowned for her pastoral novels. Set in her native Berry, La mare au diable (1846; The Haunted Marsh), Francois;ois le champí (1848; Francis the Waif), and La petite Fadette (1849; Little Fadette) were inspired by her love of the countryside and her sympathy with the peasants. Realistic in background detail and distinguished by their Romantic idealism, they are considered by many scholars to be Sand's finest novels. The most enduring products of her later years are her autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (1854-55; Story of My Life), and her voluminous correspondence.
From the beginning of her career, Sand's unconventional lifestyle interfered with serious critical assessment of her works. In spite of moral prejudice, which dominated early critical analyses of her works, she eventually won acceptance as an artist during her lifetime. Following her death, and during the first half of the twentieth century, Sand was delegated to the fringes of the established canon as an unimportant writer whose romantic pastorals were worthy only as children's literature. Studies of Sand during this period also followed the tradition of biographical criticism, focusing on the links between Sand's works and her notorious romantic relationships. Since the early 1970s, Sand has been rescued from this relative obscurity by the concentrated efforts of feminist critics, who have hailed her as a pioneer. Focusing on her bold portrayal of strong female characters, her consistently stringent criticism of socially sanctioned gender inequality, and her incisive exploration of the place of a woman writer in a predominantly male literary establishment, feminist critics have established Sand as an important figure in gender studies. Other scholars have extended their focus from Sand's female characters to the combined politics of gender and class in Sand's works to highlight her Utopian socialism. By foregrounding the ideological commitment underlying Sand's use of fantasy and folklore, especially in her later works, these scholars have placed Sand in the literary tradition of romantic idealism which challenges the exclusive canonical emphasis on realistic literature. Though debates continue regarding the precise nature of Sand's feminism and socialism, Sand is now firmly established as a major figure in nineteenth-century French literature.