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George Sand, Some Aspects of Her Life and Writings by Rene Doumic

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felt suffocated by all the quick breathing and paralyzed by the
inquisitive eyes turned on him. "You were intended for all this,"
he adds, "as, if you do not win over your public, you can at least
overwhelm it."

Chopin was made much of then in society. He was fragile and delicate,
and had always been watched over and cared for. He had grown
up in a peaceful, united family, in one of those simple homes
in which all the details of everyday life become less prosaic,
thanks to an innate distinction of sentiment and to religious habits.
Prince Radz'will had watched over Chopin's education. He had
been received when quite young in the most aristocratic circles,
and "the most celebrated beauties had smiled on him as a youth."
Social life, then, and feminine influence had thus helped to make him
ultra refined. It was very evident to every one who met him that he
was a well-bred man, and this is quickly observed, even with pianists.
On arriving he made a good impression, he was well dressed, his white
gloves were immaculate. He was reserved and somewhat languid.
Every one knew that he was delicate, and there was a rumour of an
unhappy love affair. It was said that he had been in love with a girl,
and that her family had refused to consent to her marriage with him.
People said he was like his own music, the dreamy, melancholy themes
seemed to accord so well with the pale young face of the composer.
The fascination of the languor which seemed to emanate from
the man and from his work worked its way, in a subtle manner,
into the hearts of his hearers. Chopin did not care to know Lelia.
He did not like women writers, and he was rather alarmed at this one.
It was Liszt who introduced them. In his biography of Chopin, he tells
us that the extremely sensitive artist, who was so easily alarmed,
dreaded "this woman above all women, as, like a priestess of Delphi,
she said so many things that the others could not have said.
He avoided her and postponed the introduction. Madame Sand
had no idea that she was feared as a sylph. . . ." She made
the first advances. It is easy to see what charmed her in him.
In the first place, he appealed to her as he did to all women, and then,
too, there was the absolute contrast of their two opposite natures.
She was all force, of an expansive, exuberant nature. He was
very discreet, reserved and mysterious. It seems that the Polish
characteristic is to lend oneself, but never to give oneself away,
and one of Chopin's friends said of him that he was "more Polish
than Poland itself." Such a contrast may prove a strong attraction,
and then, too, George Sand was very sensitive to the charm of music.
But what she saw above all in Chopin was the typical artist, just as she
understood the artist, a dreamer, lost in the clouds, incapable of
any activity that was practical, a "lover of the impossible."
And then, too, he was ill. When Musset left Venice, after all the
atrocious nights she had spent at his bedside, she wrote: "Whom shall
I have now to look after and tend?" In Chopin she found some one
to tend.

About this time, she was anxious about the health of her son Maurice,
and she thought she would take her family to Majorca. This was
a lamentable excursion, but it seemed satisfactory at first.
They travelled by way of Lyons, Avignon, Vaucluse and Nimes.
At Perpignan, Chopin arrived, "as fresh as a rose." "Our journey,"
wrote George Sand, "seems to be under the most favourable conditions."
They then went on to Barcelona and to Palma. In November, 1838,
George Sand wrote a most enthusiastic letter: "It is poetry, solitude,
all that is most artistic and _chique_ on earth. And what skies,
what a country; we are delighted."[26] The disenchantment was soon
to begin, though. The first difficulty was to find lodgings,
and the second to get furniture. There was no wood to burn and
there was no linen to be had. It took two months to have a pair
of tongs made, and it cost twenty-eight pounds at the customs for
a piano to enter the country. With great difficulty, the forlorn
travellers found a country-house belonging to a man named Gomez,
which they were able to rent. It was called the "Windy House."
The wind did not inconvenience them like the rain, which now commenced.
Chopin could not endure the heat and the odour of the fires.
His disease increased, and this was the origin of the great tribulations
that were to follow.

[26] The following is an unpublished letter to Madame Buloz:

_Monday 13th._


"I have only been at Palma four days. My journey has been
very satisfactory, but rather long and difficult until we were out
of France. I took up my pen (as people say) twenty times over
to write the last five or six pages for which _Spiridion_ has been
waiting for six months. It is not the easiest thing in the world,
I can assure you, to give the conclusion of one's own religious belief,
and when travelling it is impossible. At twenty different places I have
resolved to think it solemnly over and to write down my conclusion.
But these stoppages were the most tiring part of our journey.
There were visits, dinners, walks, curiosities, ruins, the Vaucluse
fountain, Reboul and the Nimes arena, the Barcelona cathedrals,
dinners on board the war-ships, the Italian theatres of Spain
(and what theatres and what Italians!), guitars and Heaven knows
what beside. There was the moonlight on the sea and above
all Valma and Mallorca, the most delightful place in the world,
and all this kept me terribly far away from philosophy and theology.
Fortunately I have found some superb convents here all in ruins,
with palm-trees, aloes and the cactus in the midst of broken mosaics
and crumbling cloisters, and this takes me back to _Spiridion_.
For the last three days I have had a rage for work, which I cannot
satisfy yet, as we have neither fire nor lodging. There is not
an inn in Palma, no house to let and no furniture to be bought.
On arriving here people first have to buy some ground, then build,
and afterwards send for furniture. After this, permission to live
somewhere has to be obtained from Government, and after five or six years
one can think about opening one's trunk and changing one's chemise,
whilst waiting for permission from the Customs to have some shoes
and handkerchiefs passed. For the last four days then we have
spent our time going from door to door, as we do not want to sleep
in the open air. We hope now to be settled in about three days,
as a miracle has taken place. For the first time in the memory
of man, there is a furnished house to let in Mallorca, a charming
country-house in a delightful desert. . . ." {The end of footnote

At that time Spain was the very last country in which to travel
with a consumptive patient. In a very fine lecture, the subject
of which was _The Fight with Tubcrculosis_,[27] Dr. Landouzy proves
to us that ever since the sixteenth century, in the districts of
the Mediterranean, in Spain, in the Balearic Isles and throughout
the kingdom of Naples, tuberculosis was held to be contagious,
whilst the rest of Europe was ignorant of this contagion.
Extremely severe rules had been laid down with regard to the measures
to be taken for avoiding the spread of this disease. A consumptive
patient was considered as a kind of plague-stricken individual.
Chateaubriand had experienced the inconveniences of this scare
during his stay in Rome with Madame de Beaumont, who died
there of consumption, at the beginning of the winter of 1803.
George Sand, in her turn, was to have a similar experience.
When Chopin was convicted of consumption, "which," as she writes,
"was equivalent to the plague, according to the Spanish doctors,
with their foregone conclusions about contagion," their landlord simply
turned them out of his house. They took refuge in the Chartreuse
monastery of Valdemosa, where they lived in a cell. The site
was very beautiful. By a wooded slope a terrace could be reached,
from which there was a view of the sea on two sides.

[27] L. Landouzy of the Academy of Medecine, _La Lutte contre
la tuberculose_, published by L. Maretheux.

"We are planted between heaven and earth," wrote George Sand.
"The clouds cross our garden at their own will and pleasure,
and the eagles clamour over our heads."

A cell in this monastery was composed of three rooms: the one
in the middle was intended for reading, prayer and meditation,
the other two were the bedroom and the workshop. All three rooms
looked on to a garden. Reading, rest and manual labour made up
the life of these men. They lived in a limited space certainly,
but the view stretched out infinitely, and prayer went up direct to God.
Among the ruined buildings of the enormous monastery there was a
cloister still standing, through which the wind howled desperately.
It was like the scenery in the nuns' act in _Robert le Diable_.
All this made the old monastery the most romantic place in the

[28] George Sand to Madame Buloz. Postscript to the letter
already quoted:

"I am leaving for the country where I have a furnished house
with a garden, magnificently situated for 50 francs a month.
I have also taken a cell, that is three rooms and a garden for 35
francs a year in the Chartreuse of Valdemosa, a magnificent,
immense monastery quite lonely in the midst of mountains.
Our garden is full of oranges and lemons. The trees break
under them. We have hedges of cactus twenty to thirty feet high,
the sea is about a mile and a half away. We have a donkey to take
us to the town, roads inaccessible to visitors, immense cloisters
and the most beautiful architecture, a charming church, a cemetery
with a palm-tree and a stone cross like the one in the third act
of _Robert le Diable_. Then, too, there are beds of shrubs cut
in form. All this we have to ourselves with an old woman to wait
on us, and the sacristan who is warder, steward, majordomo and
Jack-of-all-trades. I hope we shall have ghosts. The door of my
cell leads into an enormous cloister, and when the wind slams
the door it is like a cannon going off through all the monastery.
I am delighted with everything, and fancy I shall be more often in
the cell than in the country-house, which is about six miles away.
You see that I have plenty of poetry and solitude, so that if I
do not work I shall be a stupid thing." {The end of footnote [28]}

The only drawback was that it was most difficult to live there.
There was no way of getting warm. The stove was a kind of iron
furnace which gave out a terrible odour, and did not prevent the rooms
from being so damp that clothes mildewed while they were being worn.
There was no way of getting proper food either. They had to eat the
most indigestible things. There were five sorts of meat certainly,
but these were pig, pork, bacon, ham and pickled pork. This was all
cooked in dripping, pork-dripping, of course, or in rancid oil.
Still more than this, the natives refused, not only to serve the
unfortunate travellers, but to sell them the actual necessaries of life.
The fact was, they had scandalized the Majorcan people. All Majorca
was indignant because Solange, who at that time was nine years old,
roamed about the mountains _disguised as a man_. Added to this,
when the horn sounded which called people to their devotions in
the churches, these strange inhabitants of the old Valdemosa monastery
never took any more notice than pagans. People kept clear of them.
Chopin suffered with the cold, the cooking made him sick, and he used
to have fits of terror in the cloisters. They had to leave hastily.
The only steamboat from the island was used to transport the pigs
which are the pride and wealth of Majorca. People were only taken
as an extra. It was, therefore, in the company of these squealing,
ill-smelling creatures that the invalid crossed the water. When he
arrived at Barcelona, he looked like a spectre and was spitting blood.
George Sand was quite right in saying that this journey was an
"awful fiasco."

Art and literature did not gain much either by this expedition.
George Sand finished her novel entitled _Spiridion_ at Valdemosa.
She had commenced it before starting for Spain. In a volume on _Un
hiver a Majorque_ she gave some fine descriptions, and also a harsh
accusation of the monks, whom she held responsible for all the mishaps
of the Sand caravan. She considered that the Majorcans had been
brutalized and fanaticized, thanks to their influence. As to Chopin,
he was scarcely in a state to derive any benefit from such a journey,
and he certainly did not get any. He did not thoroughly appreciate
the beauties of nature, particularly of Majorcan nature. In a
letter to one of his friends he gives the following description of
their habitation:--

"Between rocks and sea, in a great deserted monastery, in a cell,
the doors of which are bigger than the carriage entrances to
the houses in Paris, you can imagine me, without white gloves,
and no curl in my hair, as pale as usual. My cell is the shape
of a large-sized bier. . . ."

This certainly does not sound very enthusiastic. The question is
whether he composed anything at all at Valdemosa. Liszt presents
him to us improvising his Prelude in B flat minor under the most
dramatic circumstances. We are told that one day, when George Sand
and her children had started on an excursion, they were surprised
by a thunderstorm. Chopin had stayed at home in the monastery,
and, terrified at the danger he foresaw for them, he fainted.
Before they reached home he had improvised his _Prelude_, in which he
has put all his terror and the nervousness due to his disease.
It appears, though, that all this is a legend, and that there is
not a single echo of the stay at Valdemosa in Chopin's work.

The deplorable journey to Majorca dates
from November, 1838 to March, 1839.
The intimacy between George Sand and Chopin continued eight years more.

In the summer Chopin stayed it Nohant. Eugene Delacroix, who was
paying a visit there too, describes his presence as follows:
"At times, through the window opening on to the garden, we get wafts
of Chopin's music, as he too is at work. It is mingled with the
songs of the nightingales and with the perfume of the rose trees."

Chopin did not care much for Nohant. In the first place, he only
liked the country for about a fortnight at a time, which is very
much like not caring for it at all. Then what made him detest
the country were the inhabitants. Hippolyte Chatiron was terrible
after he had been drinking. He was extremely effusive and cordial.

In the winter they first lived in the Rue Pigalle. George Sand
used to receive Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc, Edgar Quinet, Etienne
Arago, and many other men. Chopin, who was not very intellectual,
felt ill at ease amongst all these literary men, these reformers,
arguers and speechifiers. In 1842, they emigrated to the Square
d'Orleans. There was a sort of little colony established there,
consisting of Alexandre Dumas, Dantan the caricaturist, the Viardots,
Zimmermann, and the wife of the Spanish consul, Madame Marliani,
who had attracted them all there. They took their meals together.
It was a regular phalinstery, and Chopin had very elegant tastes!

We must give George Sand credit for looking after him with
admirable devotion. She certainly went on nursing her "invalid,"
or her "dear skeleton," as she called him, but her infatuation
had been over for a long time. The absolute contrast of two
natures may be attractive at first, but the attraction does
not last, and, when the first enthusiasm is over, the logical
consequence is that they become disunited. This was what Liszt said
in rather an odd but energetic way. He points out all that there
was "intolerably incompatible, diametrically opposite and secretly
antipathetic between two natures which seemed to have been mutually
drawn to each other by a sudden and superficial attraction,
for the sake of repulsing each other later on with all the force
of inexpressible sorrow and boredom." Illness had embittered
Chopin's character. George Sand used to say that "when he was angry
he was terrifying." He was very intelligent, too, and delighted
in quizzing people for whom he did not care. Solange and Maurice
were now older, and this made the situation somewhat delicate.
Chopin, too, had a mania for meddling with family matters.
He quarrelled one day with Maurice. Another day George Sand was
annoyed with her son-in-law Clesinger and with her daughter Solange,
and Chopin took their side. This was the cause of their quarrel;
it was the last drop that made the cup of bitterness overflow.

The following is a fragment of a letter which George Sand sent to
Grzymala, in 1847: "For seven years I have lived with him as a virgin.
If any woman on earth could inspire him with absolute confidence, I am
certainly that woman, but he has never understood. I know, too, that many
people accuse me of having worn him out with my violent sensuality,
and others accuse me of having driven him to despair by my freaks.
I believe you know how much truth there is in all this. He himself
complains to me that I am killing him by the privations I insist upon,
and I feel certain that I should kill him by acting otherwise."[29]

[29] Communicated by M. Rocheblave.

It has been said that when Chopin was at Nohant he had a village
girl there as his mistress. We do not care to discuss the truth
of this statement.

It is interesting to endeavour to characterize the nature of this episode
in George Sand's sentimental life. She helps us herself in this.
As a romantic writer she neglected nothing which she could turn
into literature. She therefore made an analysis of her own case,
worked out with the utmost care, and published it in one of her
books which is little read now. The year of the rupture was 1847,
and before the rupture had really occurred, George Sand brought
out a novel entitled _Lucrezia Floriani_. In this book she traces
the portrait of Chopin as Prince Karol. She denied, of course,
that it was a portrait, but contemporaries were not to be deceived,
and Liszt gives several passages from _Lucrezia Floriani_ in his
biography of the musician. The decisive proof was that Chopin
recognized himself, and that he was greatly annoyed.

As a matter of fact, there was nothing disagreeable about this portrait.
The following fragments are taken from it: "Gentle, sensitive,
exquisite in all things, at the age of fifteen he had all the charms
of youth, together with the gravity of a riper age. He remained
delicate in body ind mind. The lack of muscular development caused
him to preserve his fascinating beauty. . . . He was something
like one of those ideal creatures which mediaeval poetry used
for the ornamentation of Christian temples. Nothing could have
been purer and at the same time more enthusiastic than his ideas.
. . . He was always lost in his dreams, and had no sense
of reality. . . ." His exquisite politeness was then described,
and the ultra acuteness and nervosity which resulted in that power
of divination which he possessed. For a portrait to be living,
it must have some faults as well as qualities. His delineator
does not forget to mention the attitude of mystery in which the
Prince took refuge whenever his feelings were hurt. She speaks
also of his intense susceptibility. "His wit was very brilliant,"
she says; "it consisted of a kind of subtle mocking shrewdness,
not really playful, but a sort of delicate, bantering gaiety."
It may have been to the glory of Prince Karol to resemble Chopin,
but it was also quite creditable to Chopin to have been the model
from which this distinguished neurasthenic individual was taken.

Prince Karol meets a certain Lucrezia Floriani, a rich actress
and courtesan. She is six years older than he is, somewhat past
her prime, and now leading a quiet life. She has done with love
and love affairs, or, at least, she thinks so. "The fifteen years
of passion and torture, which she had gone through, seemed to her
now so cruel that she was hoping to have them counted double
by the supreme Dispenser of our trials." It was, of course,
natural that she should acknowledge God's share in the matter.
We are told that "implacable destiny was not satisfied," so that
when Karol makes his first declaration, Lucrezia yields to him,
but at the same time she puts a suitable colouring on her fall.
There are many ways of loving, and it is surely noble and disinterested
in a woman to love a man as his mother. "I shall love him," she says,
kissing the young Prince's pale face ardently, "but it will be as
his mother loved him, just as fervently and just as faithfully.
This maternal affection, etc. . . ." Lucrezia Floriani had a way
of introducing the maternal instinct everywhere. She undertook
to encircle her children and Prince Karol with the same affection,
and her notions of therapeutics were certainly somewhat strange
and venturesome, for she fetched her children to the Prince's bedside.
"Karol breathed more freely," we are told, "when the children
were there. Their pure breath mingling with their mother's made
the air milder and more gentle for his feverish lungs." This we shall
not attempt to dispute. It is the study of the situation, though,
that forms the subject of _Lucrezia Floriani_. George Sand gives
evidence of wonderful clear-sightedness and penetration in the art
of knowing herself.

She gives us warning that it is "a sad story and sorrowful truth"
that she is telling us. She has herself the better _role_ of the
two naturally. It could not have been on that, account that Chopin'
was annoyed. He was a Pole, and therefore doubly chivalrous,
so that such an objection would have been unworthy of a lover.
What concerns us is that George Sand gives, with great nicety, the,
exact causes of the rupture. In the first place, Karol was jealous
of Lucrezia's stormy past; then his refined nature shrank from
certain of her comrades of a rougher kind. The invalid was irritated
by her robust health, and by the presence and, we might almost say,
the rivalry of the children. Prince Karol finds them nearly always
in his way, and he finally takes a dislike to them. There comes
a moment when Lucrezia sees herself obliged to choose between the two
kinds of maternity, the natural kind and the maternity according
to the convention of lovers.

The special kind of sentiment, then, between George Sand and Chopin,
Just as between Lucrezia and Prince Karol, was just this:
love with maternal affection. This is extremely difficult to define,
as indeed is everything which is extremely complex. George Sand
declares that her reason for not refusing intimacy with Chopin was
that she considered this in the light of a duty and as a safeguard.
"One duty more," she writes, "in a life already so full, a life
in which I was overwhelmed with fatigue, seemed to me one chance
more of arriving at that austerity towards which I felt myself being
drawn with a kind of religious enthusiasm."[30]

[30] _Histoire de via vie._

We can only imagine that she was deceiving herself. To accept
a lover for the sake of giving up lovers altogether seems a somewhat
heroic means to an end, but also somewhat deceptive. It is certainly
true that there was something more in this love than the attraction
she felt for Musset and for Michel. In the various forms and
degrees of our feelings, there is nothing gained by attempting
to establish decided divisions and absolute demarcations for the
sake of classifying them all. Among sentiments which are akin,
but which our language distinguishes when defining them, there may
be some mixture or some confusion with regard to their origin.
Alfred de Vigny gives us in _Samson_, as the origin of love,
even in man, the remembrance of his mother's caresses:

_Il revera toujours a la chaleur du sein._

It seems, therefore, that we cannot apply the same reasoning,
with regard to love, when referring to the love of a man or of
a woman. With the man there is more pride of possession, and with
the woman there is more tenderness, more pity, more charity.
All this leads us to the conclusion that maternal affection
in love is not an unnatural sentiment, as has so often been said,
or rather a perversion of sentiment. It is rather a sentiment in
which too much instinct and heredity are mingled in a confused way.
The object of the education of feeling is to arrive at discerning
and eliminating the elements which interfere with the integrity of it.
Rousseau called Madame de Warens his mother, but he was a man who was
lacking in good taste. George Sand frequently puts into her novels
this conception of love which we see her put into practice in life.
It is impossible when analyzing it closely not to find something
confused and disturbing in it which somewhat offends us.

It now remains for us to study what influence George Sand's friendship
with some of the greatest artists of her times had on her works.
Beside Liszt and Chopin, she knew Delacroix, Madame Dorval,
Pauline Viardot, Nourrit and Lablache. Through them she went into
artistic circles. Some of her novels are stories of the life of artists.
_Les Maitres Mosaistes_ treats of the rivalry between two studios.
_La derniere Aldini_ is the story of a handsome gondolier who,
as a tenor, turned the heads of patrician women. The first part of
_Consuelo_ takes us back to the singing schools and theatres of Venice
in the eighteenth century, and introduces us to individuals taken from
life and cleverly drawn. We have Comte Zustiniani, the dilettante,
a wealthy patron of the fine arts; Porpora, the old master,
who looks upon his art as something sacred; Corilla, the prima donna,
annoyed at seeing a new star appear; Anzoleto, the tenor,
who is jealous because he gets less applause than his friend;
and above and beyond all the others Consuelo, good kind Consuelo,
the sympathetic singer.

The theatres of Venice seem to be very much like those of Paris
and of other places. We have the following sketch of the vanity
of the comedian. "Can a man be jealous of a woman's advantages?
Can a lover dislike his sweetheart to have success? A man can certainly
be jealous of a woman's advantages when that man is a vain artist,
and a lover may hate his sweetheart to have any success if they both
belong to the theatre. A comedian is not a man, Consuelo, but a woman.
He lives on his sickly vanity; he only thinks of satisfying that vanity,
and he works for the sake of intoxicating himself with vanity.
A woman's beauty is apt to take attention from him and a woman's
talent may cause his talent to be thrown in the background.
A woman is his rival, or rather he is the rival of a woman.
He has all the little meannesses, the caprices, the exigences and
the weak points of a coquette." Such is the note of this picture
of things and people in the theatrical world. How can we doubt
its veracity!

At any rate, the general idea that George Sand had of the artist
was exactly the idea adopted by romanticism. We all know
what a being set apart and free from all social and moral laws,
what a "monster" romanticism made of the artist. It is one
of its dogmas that the necessities of art are incompatible
with the conditions of a regular life. An artist, for instance,
cannot be _bourgeois_, as he is the exact opposite. We have
Kean's speech in Dumas' drama, entitled _Kean, or Disorder and Genius._

"An actor," he says, "must know all the passions, so that he may express
them as he should. I study them in myself." And then he adds:
"That is what you call, orderly! And what is to become of genius
while I am being orderly?"

All this is absurd. The artist is not the man who has felt the most,
but the man best gifted for imagining the various states of mind
and feeling and for expressing them. We know, too, that an
irregular life is neither the origin nor the stamp of extraordinary
intellectual worth. All the cripples of Bohemian life prove
to us that genius is not the outcome of that kind of life,
but that, on the contrary, such life is apt to paralyze talent.
It is very convenient, though, for the artist and for every other
variety of "superior beings" to make themselves believe that ordinary
morals are not for them. The best argument we can have against
this theory is the case of George Sand. The artist, in her case,
was eminently a very regular and hard-working _bourgeois_ woman.

The art in which George Sand gave evidence of the surest taste was music.
That is worthy of notice. In one of her _Lettres d'un voyageur_,
she celebrates Liszt attacking the _Dies irae_ on the Fribourg organ.
She devotes another letter to the praise of Meyer-beer. She has analyzed
the different forms of musical emotion in several of her books.
One of the ideas dear to romanticism was that of the union and fusion
of all the arts. The writer can, and in a certain way he ought,
to produce with words the same effects that the painter does
with colours and the sculptor with lines. We all know how much
literature romantic painters and sculptors have put into their art.
The romantic writers were less inclined to accord the same welcome
to music as to the plastic arts. Theophile Gautier is said
to have exclaimed that music was "the most disagreeable and the
dearest of all the arts." Neither Lamartine, Hugo, nor any other
of the great writers of that period was influenced by music.
Musset was the first one to be impassioned by it, and this may have
been as much through his dandyism as from conviction.

_Fille de la douleur, Harmonie, Harmonie,

Langue que fiour l'amour invents le ginie,

Qui nous viens d'Italie, et qui lui vins des cieux,

Douce langue du coeur, la seule ou la pensiee,

Cette vierge craintive et d'une ombre ofensie,

Passe en gardant son voile et sans craindre les eux,

Qui sait ce qu'un enfant peut entendre et peut dire

Dans tes soupirs divins nes de l'air qu'il respire,

Tristes comme son coeur et doux comme sa voix?_

George Sand, who agreed with Musset, claimed for "the most beautiful
of all the arts," the honour of being able to paint "all the shades
of sentiment and all the phases of passion." "Music," she says,
"can express everything. For describing scenes of nature it
has ideal colours and lines, neither exact nor yet too minute,
but which are all the more vaguely and delightfully poetical."[31]

[31] Eleventh _Lettre d'un voyageur_: To Giacomo Meyerbeer.

As examples of music in literature we have George Sand's phrase,
more lyrical and musical than picturesque. We have, too, the gentle,
soothing strophes of Sully Prudhomme and the vague melody of the
Verlaine songs: "_De la musique avant toute chose_." It would
be absurd to exaggerate the influence exercised by George Sand,
and to attribute to her an importance which does not belong to her,
over poetical evolution. It is only fair to say, though, that music,
which was looked upon suspiciously for so long a time by classical
writers of sane and sure taste, has completely invaded our present
society, so that we are becoming more and more imbued with it.
George Sand's predilection for modern art is another feature which
makes her one of us, showing that her tendencies were very marked
for things of the present day.




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 Sand's
first novels appeared, the Saint-Simonians were full of hope.
This was the woman they had been waiting for, the free woman,
who having meditated on the lot of her sisters would formulate
the Declaration of the rights and duties of woman. Adolphe Gueroult
was sent to her. He was the editor of the _Opinion nationale_.
George Sand had a great fund of common sense, though, and once more
the little society awaited the Mother in vain. It was finally decided
that she should be sought for in the East. A mission was organized,
and messengers were arrayed in white, as a sign of the vow of chastity,
with a pilgrim's staff in their hand. They begged as they went along,
and slept sometimes outdoors, but more often at the police-station.
George Sand was not tempted by this kind of maternity, but she kept
in touch with the Saint-Simonians. She was present at one of their
meetings at Menilmontant. Her published _Corrspondance_ contains
a letter addressed by her to the Saint-Simonian family in Paris.
As a matter of fact, she had received from it, on the 1st
of January, 1836, a large collection of presents. There were in all
no less than fifty-nine articles, among which were the following:
a dress-box, a pair of boots, a thermometer, a carbine-carrier,
a pair of trousers and a corset.

Saint-Simonism was universally jeered at, but it is quite a mistake
to think that ridicule is detrimental in France. On the contrary,
it is an excellent means of getting anything known and of
spreading the knowledge of it abroad; it is in reality a force.
Saint-Simonism is at the root of many of the humanitarian doctrines
which were to spring up from its ashes. One of its essential
doctrines was the diffusion of the soul throughout all humanity,
and another that of being born anew. Enfantin said: "I can
feel St. Paul within me. He lives within me." Still another
of its doctrines was that of the rehabilitation of the flesh.
Saint-Simonism proclaimed the equality of man and woman, that of
industry and art and science, and the necessity of a fresh repartition
of wealth and of a modification of the laws concerning property.
It also advocated increasing the attributions of the State considerably.
It was, in fact, the first of the doctrines offering to the
lower classes, by way of helping them to bear their wretched misery,
the ideal of happiness here below, lending a false semblance
of religion to the desire for material well-being. George Sand
had one vulnerable point, and that was her generosity. By making
her believe that she was working for the outcasts of humanity,
she could be led anywhere, and this was what happened.

Among other great minds affected by the influence of Saint-Simonism,
it is scarcely surprising to find Lamennais. When George Sand first
knew him, he was fifty-three years of age. He had broken with Rome,
and was the apocalyptic author of _Paroles d'un croyant_. He put
into his revolutionary faith all the fervour of his loving soul,
a soul that had been created for apostleship, and to which the
qualification of "a disaffected cathedral" certainly applied.

After the famous trial, Liszt took him to call on George Sand in
her attic. This was in 1835. She gives us the following portrait
of him: "Monsieur de Lamennais is short, thin, and looks ill.
He seems to have only the feeblest breath of life in his body,
but how his face beams. His nose is too prominent for his small
figure and for his narrow face. If it were not for this nose out of
all proportion, he would be handsome. He was very easily entertained.
A mere nothing made him laugh, and how heartily he laughed."[32]
It was the gaiety of the seminarist, for Monsieur Feli always
remained the _Abbe_ de Lamennais. George Sand had a passionate
admiration for him. She took his side against any one who
attacked him in her third _Lettre d'un voyageur_, in her _Lettre
a Lerminier_, and in her article on _Amshaspands et Darvands_.
This is the title of a book by Lamennais. The extraordinary names
refer to the spirits of good and evil in the mythology of Zoroaster.
George Sand proposed to pronounce them _Chenapans et Pedants_.
Although she had a horror of journalism, she agreed to write
in Lamennais' paper, _Le Monde._

[32] _Histoire de ma vie._

"He is so good and I like him so much," she writes, "that I would
give him as much of my blood and of my ink as he wants."[33] She
did not have to give him any of her blood, and he did not accept
much of her ink. She commenced publishing her celebrated _Lettres
a Marcie_ in _Le Monde_. We have already spoken of these letters,
in order to show how George Sand gradually attenuated the harshness
of her early feminism.

[33] _Correspondance_: To Jules Janin, February 15, 1837.

These letters alarmed Lamennais, nevertheless, and she was obliged
to discontinue them. Feminism was the germ of their disagreement.
Lamennais said: "She does not forgive St. Paul for having said:
`Wives, obey your husbands.'" She continued to acknowledge
him as "one of our saints," but "the father of our new Church"
gradually broke away from her and her friends, and expressed his
opinion about her with a severity and harshness which are worthy
of note.

Lamennais' letters to Baron de Vitrolles contain many allusions
to George Sand, and they are most uncomplimentary.

"I hear no more about Carlotta" (Madame Marliani), he writes,
"nor about George Sand and Madame d'Agoult. I know there has
been a great deal of quarrelling among them. They are as fond
of each other as Lesage's two _diables_, one of whom said:
`That reconciled us, we kissed each other, and ever since then we
have been mortal enemies.'" He also tells that there is a report
that in her novel, entitled _Horace_, she has given as unflattering
a portrait as possible of her dear, sweet, excellent friend,
Madame d'Agoult, the _Arabella_ of the _Lettres d'un voyageur_.
"The portraits continue," he writes, "all true to life, without being
like each other." In the same book, _Horace_, there is a portrait
of Mallefille, who was beloved "during one quarter of the moon,"
and abhorred afterwards. He concludes the letter with the following
words: "Ah, how fortunate I am to be forgotten by those people!
I am not afraid of their indifference, but I should be afraid
of their attentions. . . . Say what you like, my dear friend,
those people do not tempt me at all. Futility and spitefulness
dissolved in a great deal of _ennui_, is a bad kind of medicine."
He then goes on to make fun, in terms that it is difficult to quote,
of the silly enthusiasm of a woman like Marliani, and even of
George Sand, for the theories of Pierre Leroux, of which they did
not understand the first letter, but which had taken their fancy.
George Sand may have looked upon Lamennais as a master, but it is very
evident that she was not his favoured disciple.

It was due to his teaching that George Sand obtained her definite
ideas about Catholicism, or rather against it. She was decidedly
its adversary, because she held that the Church had stifled the spirit
of liberty, that it had thrown a veil over the words of Christ,
and that it was the obstacle in the way of holy equality.
What she owed specially, though, to Lamennais was another lesson,
of quite another character. Lamennais was the man of the nineteenth
century who waged the finest battle against individualism,
against "the scandal of the adoration of man by man."[34]

[34] Compare Brunetiere, _Evolution de la poesie lyrique_,
vol. i. p. 310.

Under his influence, George Sand began to attach less importance
to the personal point of view, she ceased applying everything
to herself, and she discovered the importance of the life of others.
If we study this attentively, we shall see that a new phase now
commenced in the history of her ideas. Lamennais was the origin
of this transformation, although it is personified in another man,
and that other man, was named Pierre Leroux.

What a strange mystery it is, among so many other mysteries,
that of one mind taking possession of another mind. We have come
into contact with great minds which have made no impression on us,
whilst other minds, of secondary intelligence, perhaps, and it may
be inferior to our own, have governed us.

By the side of a Lamennais, this Pierre Leroux was a very
puny personage. He had been a compositor in a printing works,
before founding the _Globe_. This paper, in his hands,
was to become an organ of Saint-Simonism. He belonged neither
to the _bourgeois_ nor to the working-class. He was Clumsy,
not well built, and had an enormous shock of hair, which was the joy
of caricaturists. He was shy and awkward, in addition to all this.
He nevertheless appeared in various _salons_, and was naturally
more or less ridiculous. In January, 1840, Beranger writes:
"You must know that our metaphysician has surrounded himself with women,
at the head of whom are George Sand and Marliani, and that, in gilded
drawing-rooms, under the light of chandeliers, he exposes his
religious principles and his muddy boots." George Sand herself made
fun of this occasionally. In a letter to Madame d'Agoult, she writes:

"He is very amusing when he describes making his appearance in your
drawing-room of the Rue Laffitte. He says: `I was all muddy,
and quite ashamed of myself. I was keeping out of sight as much
as possible in a corner. _This lady_ came to me and talked
in the kindest way possible. She is very beautiful.'"[35]

[35] _Correspondance_: To Madame d'Agoult, October 16, 1837/.

There are two features about him, then, which seem to strike
every one, his unkemptness and his shyness. He expressed his ideas,
which were already obscure, in a form which seemed to make them
even more obscure. It has been said wittily that when digging
out his ideas, he buried himself in them.[36] Later on, when he
spoke at public meetings, he was noted for the nonsense he talked
in his interminable and unintelligible harangues.

[36] P. Thureau-Dangin, _Histoire de la Monarchie de Juillet._

And yet, in spite of all this, the smoke from this mind attracted
George Sand, and became her pillar of light moving on before her.
His hazy philosophy seemed to her as clear as daylight, it appealed to
her heart and to her mind, solved her doubts, and gave her tranquillity,
strength, faith, hope and a patient and persevering love of humanity.
It seems as though, with that marvellous faculty that she had for
idealizing always, she manufactured a Pierre Leroux of her own,
who was finer than the real one. He was needy, but poverty becomes
the man who has ideas. He was awkward, but the contemplative man,
on coming down from the region of thought on to our earth once more,
only gropes along. He was not clear, but Voltaire tells us that when
a man does not understand his own words, he is talking metaphysics.
Chopin had personified the artist for her; Pierre Leroux, with his
words as entangled as his hair, figured now to her as the philosopher.
She saw in him the chief and the master. _Tu duca e tu maestro_.

In February, 1844, she wrote the following extraordinary lines:
"I must tell you that George Sand is only a pale reflection
of Pierre Leroux, a fanatical disciple of the same ideal,
but a disciple mute and fascinated when listening to his words,
and quite prepared to throw all her own works into the fire,
in order to write, talk, think, pray and act under his inspiration.
I am merely the popularizer, with a ready pen and an impressionable mind,
and I try to translate, in my novels, the philosophy of the master."

The most extraordinary part about these lines is that they were
absolutely true. The whole secret of the productions of George
Sand for the next ten years is contained in these words.
With Pierre Leroux and Louis Viardot she now founded a review,
_La Revue independante_, in which she could publish, not only novels
(beginning with _Horace_, which Buloz had refused), but articles
by which philosophical-socialistic ideas could have a free course.
Better still than this, the novelist could take the watchword from
the sociologist. just as Mascarilla put Roman history into madrigals,
she was able to put Pierre Leroux's philosophy into novels.

It would be interesting to know what she saw in Pierre Leroux,
and which of his ideas she approved and preferred. One of the ideas
dear to Pierre Leroux was that of immortality, but an immortality
which had very little in common with Christianity. According to it,
we should live again after death, but in humanity and in another world.
The idea of metempsychosis was very much in vogue at this epoch.
According to Jean Rcynaud and Lamennais, souls travelled from star
to star, but Pierre Leroux believed in metempsychosis on earth.

"We are not only the children and the posterity
of those who have already lived, but we are, at bottom,
the anterior generations themselves. We have gone
through former existences which we do not remember,
but it may be that at times we have fragmentary
reminiscences of them."

George Sand must have been very deeply impressed by this idea.
It inspired her with _Sept cordes de la lyre_, _Spiridion_,
_Consuelo_ and the _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_, the whole cycle
of her philosophical novels.

The _Sept cordes de la lyre_ is a dramatic poem after the manner
of _Faust_. Maitre Albertus is the old doctor conversing
with Mephistocles. He has a ward, named Helene, and a lyre.
A spirit lives in this lyre. It is all in vain that the painter,
the _maestro_, the poet, the critic endeavour to make the cords vibrate.
The lyre remains dumb. Helene, even without putting her hands on it,
can draw from it magnificent harmony; Helene is mad. All this
may seem very incomprehensible to you, and I must confess that it
is so to me. Albertus himself declares: "This has a poetical
sense of a very high order perhaps, but it seems vague to me."
Personally, I am of the same opinion as Albertus. With a little effort,
I might, like any one else, be able to give you an interpretation
of this logogriph, which might appear to have something in it.
I prefer telling you frankly that I do not understand it.
The author, perhaps, did not understand it much better so that it
may have been metaphysics.

I would call your attention, though, to that picture of Helene,
with the magic lyre in her hand, risking her life, by climbing to the
spire of the steeple and uttering her inspiring speech from there.
Is not this something like Solness, the builder, from the top
of his tower? Like Tolstoi, Ibsen had evidently read George Sand
and had not forgotten her.

_Spiridion_ introduces us into a strange convent, in which we see
the portraits come out of their frames and roam about the cloisters.
The founder of the convent, Hebronius, lives again in the person
of Father Alexis, who is no other than Leroux.

In _Consuelo_ we have the same imagination. We have already
considered the first part of this novel, that which takes place
at Venice, in the schools of music and in the theatres of song.
Who would have thought that the charming diva, the pupil of Porpora,
was to have such strange adventures? She arrives in Bohemia,
at the Chateau of Rudolstadt. She has been warned that extraordinary
things take place there. Comte Albert de Rudolstadt is subject to
nervous fits and to great lethargy. He disappears from the chateau
and then reappears, without any one seeing him go in or out.
He believes that he has been Jean Ziska, and this is probably true.
He has been present at events which took place three hundred
years previously, and he describes them. Consuelo discovers
Albert's retreat. It is a cavern hollowed out of a mountain in
the vicinity, which communicates, by means of a well, with his rooms.
The Chateau of Rudolstadt is built on the same architectural plan
as Anne Radcliffe's chateau. After staying for some time in this
bewildering place, Consuelo sets forth once more. She now meets Haydn,
goes through the Bohmer Wald with him, arrives in Venice, is introduced
to Maria Theresa, and is engaged at the Imperial Theatre. She is now
recalled to the Chateau of Rudolstadt. Albert is on his deathbed,
and he marries her _in extremis_, after telling her that he is
going to leave her for a time, but that he shall return to her on
earth by a new birth. He, too, had evidently read Pierre Leroux,
and it was perhaps that which had caused his illness.

_Consuelo_ is a novel of adventures after the style of _Gil Blas_,
the _Vie de Marianne_, and _Wilkelm Meister_. It is a historical novel,
for which we have Joseph Haydn, Maria Theresa, Baron Trenk,
and the whole history of the Hussites. It is a fantastical story with
digressions on music and on popular songs, but running through it all,
with the persistency of a fixed idea, are divagations on the subject
of earthly metempsychosis. Such, then, is this incongruous story,
odd and exaggerated, but with gleams of light and of great beauty,
the reading of which is apt to leave one weary and disturbed.

We meet with Consuelo again in another book. In those days,
it was not enough for a novel to consist of several volumes.
People liked a sequel also. _Vingt ans apres_ was the sequel to
_Trois Mousquetaires_, and the _Vicomte de Bragelonne_ was a sequel
to that sequel. Our grandparents were capable of allowing themselves
to be bored to a degree which makes us ashamed of our frivolity.
The _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_ was the sequel to _Consuelo_. As time
went on, Pierre Leroux called George Sand's attention to the study
of freemasonry. In 1843, she declared that she was plunged in it,
and that it was a gulf of nonsense and uncertainties, in which "she
was dabbling courageously."

"I am up to my ears in freemasonry," she writes. "I cannot get
away from the kaddosh, the Rose Croix and the Sublime Scotchman.
The result of all this will be a mysterious novel." The mysterious
novel was the _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_. Consuelo, who through her
marriage with Albert is now Comtesse de Rudolstadt, continues her
European tour. She reaches Berlin, and we find her at the Court
of Frederick II. We now have Voltaire, La Mettrie, the Sans-Souci
suppers, Cagliostro, Saint-Germain and the occult sciences.
Frederick II sends Consuelo to prison. There appears to be no
reason for this, unless it be that in order to escape she must
first have been imprisoned. Some mysterious rescuers take a great
interest in Consuelo, and transport her to a strange dwelling,
where she has a whole series of surprises. It is, in fact, a sort
of Palace of Illusions. She is first in a dark room, and she then
finds herself suddenly in a room of dazzling light. "At the far
end of this room, the whole aspect of which is very forbidding,
she distinguishes seven personages, wrapped in red cloaks and wearing
masks of such livid whiteness that they looked like corpses.
They were all seated behind a table of black marble. Just in
front of the table, and on a lower seat, was an eighth spectre.
He was dressed in black, and he, too, wore a white mask. By the wall,
on each side of the room, were about twenty men in black cloaks
and masks. There was the most profound silence. Consuelo turned
round and saw that there were also black phantoms behind her.
At each door there were two of them standing up, each holding a huge,
bright sword."[37]

[37] _Comtesse de Rudolstadt._

She wondered whether she had reached the infernal regions,
but she discovered that she was in the midst of a secret society,
styled the Invisibles. Consuelo is to go through all the various
stages of the initiation. She first puts on the bridal dress,
and after this the widow's weeds. She undergoes all the various trials,
and has to witness the different spectacles provided for her edification,
including coffins, funeral palls, spectres and simulated tortures.
The description of all the various ceremonies takes up about half
of the book. George Sand's object was to show up this movement of
secret societies, which was such a feature of the eighteenth century,
and which was directed both against monarchical power and against
the Church. It contributed to prepare the way for the Revolution,
and gave to this that international character and that mystic allure
which would otherwise have been incomprehensible.

From _Spiridion_ to the _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_, then, we have this
series of fantastical novels with ghosts, subterranean passages,
secret hiding-places,

hallucinations and apparitions. The unfortunate part is that
at present we scarcely know to what category of readers they
would appeal. As regards grown-up people, we all prefer something
with a vestige of truth in it now-a-days. As to our children,
they would prefer _Monte-Cristo_ to _Consuelo_, and _Tom Thumb_
to _Spiridion_. At the time that they were written, in spite
of the fact that Buloz protested against all this philosophy,
these novels were quite in accordance with the public taste.
A mania for anything fantastic had taken possession of the most
serious people. Ballanche wrote his _La Palingenesie_, and Edgar
Quinet _Ahasverus_. Things took place through the ages, and the
reader travelled through the immensity of the centuries, just as
though Wells had already invented his machine for exploring time.
In a country like France, where clear-mindedness and matter-of-fact
intelligence are appreciated, all this seems surprising. It was
no doubt the result of infiltrations which had come from abroad.
There was something wrong with us just then, "something rotten
in the kingdom of France." We see this by that fever of socialistic
doctrines which burst forth among us about the year 1840.
We have the _Phalanstere_ by Fourier, _La Phalange_ by Considerant,
the _Icarie_ by Cabet, and his famous _Voyage_, which appeared
that very year. We were always to be devoured by the State,
accompanied by whatever sauce we preferred. The State was always to
find us shelter, to dress us, to govern us and to tyrannize over us.
There was the State as employer, the State as general storekeeper,
the State to feed us; all this was a dream of bliss. Buonarotti,
formerly Babeuf's accomplice, preached Communism. Louis Blanc
published his _Organisation du travail_, in which he calls to his
aid a political revolution, foretaste of a social revolution.
Proudhon published his _Memoire sur la propriete_, containing the
celebrated phrase: "Property means theft." He declared himself
an anarchist, and as a matter of fact anarchy was already everywhere.
A fresh evil had suddenly made its appearance, and, by a cruel irony,
it was the logical consequence of that industrial development
of which the century was so proud. The result of all that wealth
had been to create a new form of misery, an envious, jealous form
of misery, much more cruel than the former one, for it filled
the heart with a ferment of hatred, a passion for destruction.

It was Pierre Leroux, also, who led George Sand on to Socialism.
She had been on the way to it by herself. For a long time she had
been raising an altar in her heart to that entity called the People,
and she had been adorning it with all the virtues. The future
belonged to the people, the whole of the future, and first of all
that of literature.

Poetry was getting a little worn out, but to restore its freshness
there were the poets of the people. Charles Poncy, of Toulon,
a bricklayer, published a volume of poetry, in 1842, entitled _Marines_.
George Sand adopted him. He was the demonstration of her theory,
the example which illustrated her dream. She congratulated him
and encouraged him. "You are a great poet," she said to him, and she
thereupon speaks of him to all her friends. "Have you read Baruch?"
she asks them. "Have you read Poncy, a poet bricklayer of twenty years
of age?" She tells every one about his book, dwells on its beauties,
and asks people to speak of it.

As a friend of George Sand, I have examined the poems by Poncy of
which she specially speaks. The first one is entitled _Meditation
sur les toits_. The poet has been obliged to stay on the roof
to complete his work, and while there he meditates.

_"Le travail me retient bien tard sur ces toitures_. . . ."

He then begins to wonder what he would see if, like Asmodee
in the _Diable boiteux_, he could have the roof taken off,
so that the various rooms could be exposed to view. Alas! he
would not always find the concord of the Golden Age.

_Que de fois contemolant cet amas de maisons
Quetreignent nos remparts couronnes de gazons,
Et ces faubourgs naissants que la ville trop pleine
Pour ses enfants nouveaux eleve dans la plaine.
Immobiles troufieaux ou notre clocher gris
Semble un patre au milieu de ses blanches brebis,
Jai pense que, malgre notre angoisse et nos peines,
Sous ces toits paternels il existait des haines,
Et que des murs plus forts que ces murs mitoyens
Separent ici-bas les coeurs des citoyens._

This was an appeal to concord, and all brothers of humanity were
invited to rally to the watchword.

The intention was no doubt very good. Then, too, _murs mitoyens_
was an extremely rich and unexpected rhyme for _citoyens_.
This was worthy indeed of a man of that party.

Another of the poems greatly admired by George Sand was _Le Forcat_.

_Regarder le forcat sur la poutre equarrie
Poser son sein hale que le remords carie_. . .

Certainly if Banville were to lay claim to having invented rhymes
that are puns, we could only say that he was a plagiarist after
reading Charles Poncy.

In another poem addressed to the rich, entitled _L'hiver_, the poet
notices with grief that the winter

. . . _qui remplit les salons, les Wdtres,
Remplit aussi la Morgue et les amphitheatres._

He is afraid that the people will, in the end, lose their patience,
and so he gives to the happy mortals on this earth the following counsel:

_Riches, a vos plaisirs faites participer
L'homme que les malheurs s'acharnent a frapper
Oh, faites travailler le pere de famille,
Pour qu'il puisse arbiter la pudeur de sa fille,
Pourqu'aux petits enfants maigris par les douleurs
Il rapporte, le soir, le pain et non des pleurs,
Afin que son epouse, au desespoir en proie,
Se ranime a sa vue et l'embrasse avec joie,
Afin qua l'Eternel, a l'heure de sa mort.
Vous n'offriez pas un coeur carie de remords_.

The expression certainly leaves much to be desired in these poems,
but they are not lacking in eloquence. We had already had something
of this kind, though, written by a poet who was not a bricklayer.
He, too, had asked the rich the question following:

_Dans vos fetes d'hiver, riches, heureux du monde,
Quand le bal tournoyant de ses feux vous inonde. . .
Songez-vous qu'il est la, sous le givre et la neige,
Ce pere sans travail que la famine assiege?_

He advises them to practise charity, the sister of prayer.

_Donnez afin qu'un jour, a votre derniere heure,

Contre tous vos peches vous ayez la Priere

D'un mendiant puissant au ciel_."

We cannot, certainly, expect Poncy to be a Victor Hugo. But as we
had Victor Hugo's verses, of what use was it for them to be rewritten
by Poncy? My reason for quoting a few of the fine lines from
_Feuilles d'automne_ is that I felt an urgent need of clearing away
all these platitudes. Poncy was not the only working-man poet.
Other trades produced their poets too. The first poem in _Marines_
is addressed to Durand, a poet carpenter, who introduces himself
as "_Enfant de la foret qui ceint Fontainebleau_."

This man handled the plane and the lyre, just as Poncy did
the trowel and the lyre.

This poetry of the working-classes was to give its admirers plenty
of disappointment. George Sand advised Poncy to treat the things
connected with his trade, in his poetry. "Do not try to put on other
men's clothes, but let us see you in literature with the plaster
on your hands which is natural to you and which interests us,"
she said to him.

Proud of his success with the ladies of Paris, Poncy wanted to wash
his hands, put on a coat, and go into society. It was all in vain
that George Sand beseeched Poncy to remain the poet of humanity.
She exposed to him the dogma of impersonality in such fine terms,
that more than one _bourgeois_ poet might profit by what she said.

"An individual," she said, "who poses as a poet, as a pure artist,
as a god like most of our great men do, whether they be _bourgeois_
or aristocrats, soon tires us with his personality. . . . Men are
only interested in a man when that man is interested in humanity."

This was all of no use, though, for Poncy was most anxious to
treat other subjects rather more lively and--slightly libertine.
His literary godmother admonished him.

"You are dedicating to _Juana l'Espagnole_ and to various other fantastical
beauties verses that I do not approve. Are you a _bourgeois_ poet
or a poet of the people? If the former, you can sing in honour
of all the voluptuousness and all the sirens of the universe,
without ever having known either. You can sup with the most
delicious houris or with all the street-walkers, in your poems,
without ever leaving your fireside or having seen any greater beauty
than the nose of your hall-porter. These gentlemen write their
poetry in this way, and their rhyming is none the worse for it.
But if you are a child of the people and the poet of the people,
you ought not to leave the chaste breast of Desiree, in order to run
about after dancing-girls and sing about their voluptuous arms."[38]

[38] See the letters addressed to Charles Poncy in the _Correspondance._

It is to be hoped that Poncy returned to the chaste Desiree.
But why should he not read to the young woman the works of
Pierre Leroux? We need a little gaiety in our life. In George
Sand's published _Correspondance_, we only have a few of her letters
to Charles Poncy. They are all in excellent taste. There is an
immense correspondence which M. Rocheblave will publish later on.
This will be a treat for us, and it will no doubt prove that there
was a depth of immense candour in the celebrated authoress.

It does not seem to me that the writings of the working-men poets
have greatly enriched French literature. Fortunately George
Sand's sympathy with the people found its way into literature
in another way, and this time in a singularly interesting way.
She did not get the books written by the people themselves,
but she put the people into books. This was the plan announced
by George Sand in her preface to the _Compagnon du tour de France_.
There is an entirely fresh literature to create, she writes,
"with the habits and customs of the people, as these are so little
known by the other classes." The _Compagnon du tour de France_
was the first attempt at this new literature of the people.
George Sand had obtained her documents for this book from a little
work which had greatly struck her, entitled _Livre du compagnonnage_,
written by Agricol Perdiguier, surnamed Avignonnais-la-Vertu,
who was a _compagnon_ carpenter. Agricol Perdiguier informs us
that the _Compagnons_ were divided into three chief categories:
the _Gavots_, the _Devorants_ and the _Drilles_, or the _Enfants
de Salomon_, the _Enlants de Maitre Jacques_ and the _Enfants
du_ _Pere Soubise_. He then describes the rites of this order.
When two _Compagnons_ met, their watchword was "_Tope_."
After this they asked each other's trade, and then they went to drink
a glass together. If a _Compagnon_ who was generally respected
left the town, the others gave him what was termed a "conduite
en regle." If it was thought that he did not deserve this,
he had a "conduite de Grenoble." Each _Compagnon_ had a surname,
and among such surnames we find _The Prudence of Draguignan_,
_The Flower of Bagnolet_ and _The Liberty of Chateauneuf_.
The unfortunate part was that among the different societies,
instead of the union that ought to have reigned, there were rivalries,
quarrels, fights, and sometimes all this led to serious skirmishes;
Agricol Perdiguier undertook to preach to the different societies
peace and tolerance. He went about travelling through France
with this object in view. His second expedition was-at George
Sand's expense.

A fresh edition of his book contained the letters of approval addressed
to him by those who approved his campaign. Among these signatures
are the following: Nantais-Pret-a-bien-faire, Bourgignonla-Felicite,
Decide-le-Briard. All this is a curious history of the syndicates
of the nineteenth century. Agricol Perdiguier may have seen
the _Confederation du Travail_ dawning in the horizon.

In the _Compagnon du Tour de France_, Pierre Huguenin, a carpenter,
travels about among all these different societies of the _Compagnonnage_,
and lets us see something of their competition, rivalries, battles, etc.
He is then sent for to the Villepreux Chateau, to do some work.
The noble Yseult falls in love with this fine-talking carpenter,
and at once begs him to make her happy by marrying her.

In the _Meunier d'Angibault_ it is a working locksmith, Henri Lemor,
who falls in love with Marcelle de BIanchemont. Born to wealth,
she regrets that she is not the daughter or the mother of workingmen.
Finally, however, she loses her fortune, and rejoices in this event.
The personage who stands out in relief in this novel is the miller,
Grand Louis. He is always gay and contented, with a smile on his lips,
singing lively songs and giving advice to every one.

In the _Peche de M. Antoine_, the _role_ of Grand Louis falls to
Jean the carpenter. In this story all the people are communists,
with the exception of the owner of the factory, who, in consequence,
is treated with contempt. His son Emile marries the daughter
of Monsieur Antoine. Her name is Gilberte, and a silly old man,
the Marquis de Boisguilbaut, leaves her all his money,
on condition that the young couple found a colony of agriculturists
in which there shall be absolute communism. All these stories,
full of eloquence and dissertations on the misfortune of being rich
and the corrupting influence of wealth, would be insufferable,
if it were not for the fact that the Angibault mill were in the
Black Valley, and the crumbling chateau, belonging to Monsieur Antoine,
on the banks of the Creuse.

They are very poor novels, and it would be a waste of time to attempt
to defend them. They are not to be despised, though, as regards
their influence on the rest of George Sand's work, and also as
regards the history of the French novel. They rendered great
service to George Sand, inasmuch as they helped her to come out of
herself and to turn her attention to the miseries of other people,
instead of dwelling all the time on her own. The miseries she now saw
were more general ones, and consequently more worthy of interest.
In the history of the novel they are of capital importance,
as they are the first ones to bring into notice, by making
them play a part, people of whom novelists had never spoken.
Before Eugene Sue and before Victor Hugo, George Sand gives a _role_
to a mason, a carpenter and a joiner. We see the working-class
come into literature in these novels, and this marks an era.

As to their socialistic influence, it is supposed by many people
that they had none. The kind of socialism that consists of making
tinkers marry marchionesses, and duchesses marry zinc-workers,
seems very childish and very feminine. It is just an attempt at
bringing about the marriage of classes. This socialistic preaching,
by means of literature, cannot be treated so lightly, though, as it
is by no means harmless. It is, on the contrary, a powerful means
of diffusing doctrines to which it lends the colouring of imagination,
and for which it appeals to the feelings. George Sand propagated
the humanitarian dream among a whole category of men and women who
read her books. But for her, they would probably have turned a deaf
ear to the inducements held out to them with regard to this Utopia.
Lamartine with his _Girondins_ reconciled the _bourgeois_ classes
to the idea of the Revolution. In both cases the effect was the same,
and it is just this which literature does in affairs of this kind.
Its _role_ consists here in creating a sort of snobbism,
and this snobbism, created by literature in favour of all the
elements of social destruction, continues to rage at present.
We still see men smiling indulgently and stupidly at doctrines
of revolt and anarchy, which they ought to repudiate, not because
of their own interest, but because it is their duty to repudiate
them with all the strength of their own common sense and rectitude.
Instead of any arguments, we have facts to offer. All this was
in 1846, and the time was now drawing near when George Sand was
to see those novels of hers actually taking place in the street,
so that she could throw down to the rioters the bulletins that she
wrote in their honour.





IN 1846, George Sand published _Le Peche de M. Antoine_.
It was a very dull story of a sin, for sins are not always amusing.
The same year, though, she published _La Mare au Diable_.
People are apt to say, when comparing the socialistic novels and
the pastoral novels by George Sand, that the latter are superb,
because they are the result of a conception of art that was
quite disinterested, as the author had given up her preaching mania,
and devoted herself to depicting people that she knew and things that
she liked, without any other care than that of painting them well.
Personally, I think that this was not so. George Sand's pastoral
style is not essentially different from her socialistic style.
The difference is only in the success of the execution, but the
ideas and the intentions are the same. George Sand is continuing
her mission in them, she is going on with her humanitarian dream,
that dream which she dreamed when awake.

We have a proof of this in the preface of the author to the reader
with which the _Mare au Diable_ begins. This preface would be
disconcerting to any one who does not remember the intellectual
atmosphere in which it was written.

People have wondered by what fit of imagination George Sand,
when telling such a wholesome story of country life, should evoke
the ghastly vision of Holbein's Dance of Death. It is the close
of day, the horses are thin and exhausted, there is an old peasant,
and, skipping about in the furrows near the team, is Death,
the only lively, careless, nimble being in this scene of "sweat
and weariness." She gives us the explanation of it herself.
She wanted to show up the ideal of the new order of things,
as opposed to the old ideal, as translated by the ghastly dance.

"We have nothing more to do with death," she writes, "but with life.
We no longer believe in the _neant_ of the tomb, nor in salvation
bought by enforced renunciation. We want life to be good,
because we want it to be fertile. . . . Every one must be happy,
so that the happiness of a few may not be criminal and cursed
by God." This note we recognize as the common feature of all the
socialistic Utopias. It consists in taking the opposite basis to that
on which the Christian idea is founded. Whilst Christianity puts off,
until after death, the possession of happiness, transfiguring death
by its eternal hopes, Socialism places its Paradise on earth.
It thus runs the risk of leaving all those without any recourse
who do not find this earth a paradise, and it has no answer to give
to the lamentations of incurable human misery.

George Sand goes on to expose to us the object of art, as she
understands it. She believes that it is for pleading the cause
of the people.

She does not consider that her _confreres_ in novel-writing and in
Socialism set about their work in the best way. They paint poverty
that is ugly and vile, and sometimes even vicious and criminal.
How is it to be expected that the bad, rich man will take pity on
the sorrows of the poor man, if this poor man is always presented
to him as an escaped convict or a night loafer? It is very evident
that the people, as presented to us in the _Mysteres de Paris_,
are not particularly congenial to us, and we should have no
wish to make the acquaintance of the "Chourineur." In order
to bring about conversions, George Sand has more faith in gentle,
agreeable people, and, in conclusion, she tells us: "We believe
that the mission of art is a mission of sentiment and of love,
and that the novel of to-day ought to take the place of the parable
and the apologue of more primitive times." The object of the artist,
she tells us, "is to make people appreciate what he presents to them."
With that end in view, he has a right to embellish his subjects
a little. "Art," we are told, "is not a study of positive reality;
it is the seeking for ideal truth." Such is the point of view of
the author of _La Mare au Diable_, which we are invited to consider
as a parable and an apologue.

The parable is clear enough, and the apologue is eloquent.
The novel commences with that fine picture of the ploughing
of the fields, so rich in description and so broadly treated that
there seems to be nothing in French literature to compare with it
except the episode of the Labourers in _Jocelyn_. When _Jocelyn_
was published, George Sand was severe in her criticism of it,
treating it as poor work, false in sentiment and careless in style.
"In the midst of all this, though," she adds, "there are certain
pages and chapters such as do not exist in any languaoe, pages that
I read seven times over, crying all the time like a donkey."
I fancy that she must have cried over the episode of the _Labourers_.
Whether she remembered it or not when writing her own book
little matters. My only reason for mentioning it is to point
out the affinity of genius between Lamartine and George Sand,
both of them so admirable in imagining idylls and in throwing
the colours of their idyllic imagination on to reality.

I have ventured, to analyze the _Comtesse de Rudolstadt_ and
even _Consuelo_, but I shall not be guilty of the bad taste
of telling the story of _La Mare au Diable_, as all the people of
that neighbourhood are well known to us, and have been our friends
for a long time. We are all acquainted with Germain, the clever
farm-labourer, with Marie, the shepherdess, and with little Pierre.
We remember how they climbed the _Grise_, lost their way in the mist,
and were obliged to spend the night under the great oak-trees. When
we were only about fifteen years of age, with what delight we read
this book, and how we loved that sweet Marie for her simple grace
and her affection, which all seemed so maternal. How much better
we liked her than the Widow Guerin, who was so snobbish with her
three lovers. And how glad we were to be present at that wedding,
celebrated according to the custom in Berry from time immemorial.

It is easy to see the meaning of all these things. They show us
how natural kindliness is to the heart of man. If we try to find out
why Germain and Marie appear so delightful to us, we shall discover
that it is because they are simple-hearted, and follow the dictates
of Nature. Nature must not be deformed, therefore, by constraint
nor transformed by convention, as it leads straight to virtue.

We have heard the tune of this song before, and we have seen
the blossoming of some very fine pastoral poems and a veritable
invasion of sentimental literature. In those days tears were shed
plentifully over poetry, novels and plays. We have had Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre, Sedaine, Florian and Berquin. The Revolution,
brutal and sanguinary as it was, did not interrupt the course
of these romantic effusions. Never were so many tender epithets
used as during the years of the Reign of Terror, and in official
processions Robespierre was adorned with flowers like a village bride.

This taste for pastoral things, at the time of the Revolution,
was not a mere coincidence. The same principles led up to the idyll
in literature and to the Revolution in history. Man was supposed
to be naturally good, and the idea was to take away from him all
the restraints which had been invented for curbing his nature.
Political and religious authority, moral discipline and the prestige
of tradition had all formed a kind of network of impediments,
by which man had been imprisoned by legislators who were inclined
to pessimism. By doing away with all these fetters, the Golden Age
was to be restored and universal happiness was to be established.
Such was the faith of the believers in the millennium of 1789,
and of 1848. The same dream began over and over again, from Diderot
to Lamartine and from Jean-Jacques to George Sand. The same state
of mind which we see reflected in _La Mare au Diable_ was to make
of George Sand the revolutionary writer of 1848. We can now understand
the _role_ which the novelist played in the second Republic.
It is one of the most surprising pages in the history of this
extraordinary character.

The joy with which George Sand welcomed the Republic can readily
be imagined. She had been a Republican ever since the days of Michel
of Bourges, and a democrat since the time when, as a little girl,
she took the side of her plebeian mother against "the old Countesses."
For a long time she had been wishing for and expecting a change
of government. She would not have been satisfied with less than this.
She was not much moved by the Thiers-Guizot duel, and it would have
given her no pleasure to be killed for the sake of Odilon Barrot.
She was a disciple of Romanticism, and she wanted a storm.
When the storm broke, carrying all before it, a throne, a whole society
with its institutions, she hurried away from her peaceful Nohant.
She wanted to breathe the atmosphere of a revolution, and she was soon
intoxicated by it.

"Long live the Republic," she wrote in her letters. "What a dream and
what enthusiasm, and then, too, what behaviour, what order in Paris.
I have just arrived, and I saw the last of the barricades. The people
are great, sublime, simple and generous, the most admirable people
in the universe. I spent nights without any sleep and days without
sitting down. Every one was wild and intoxicated with delight,
for after going to sleep in the mire they have awakened in heaven."[39]

[39] _Correspondance: _ To Ch. Poncy, March 9, 1848.

She goes on dreaming thus of the stars. Everything she hears,
everything she sees enchants her. The most absurd measures delight her.
She either thinks they are most noble, liberal steps to have taken,
or else they are very good jokes.

"Rothschild," she writes, "expresses very fine sentiments about
liberty at present. The Provisional Government is keeping him
in sight, as it does not wish him to make off with his money,
and so will put some of the troops on his track. The most
amusing things are happening." A little later on she writes:
"The Government and the people expect to have bad deputies,
but they have agreed to put them through the window. You must come,
and we will go and see all this and have fun."[40]

[40] _Correspondance:_ To Maurice Sand, March 24, 1848.

She was thoroughly entertained, and that is very significant.
We must not forget the famous phrase that sounded the death-knell
of the July monarchy, "La France s'ennuie." France had gone in for a
revolution by way of being entertained.

George Sand was entertained, then, by what was taking place.
She went down into the street where there was plenty to see.
In the mornings there were the various coloured posters to be read.
These had been put up in the night, and they were in prose and
in verse.

Processions were also organized, and men, women and children,
with banners unfurled, marched along to music to the Hotel de Ville,
carrying baskets decorated with ribbons and flowers. Every corporation
and every profession considered itself bound in honour to congratulate
the Government and to encourage it in its well-doing. One day the
procession would be of the women who made waistcoats or breeches,
another day of the water-carriers, or of those who had been decorated
in July or wounded in February; then there were the pavement-layers,
the washerwomen, the delegates from the Paris night-soil men.
There were delegates, too, from the Germans, Italians, Poles,
and most of the inhabitants of Montmartre and of Batignolles.
We must not forget the trees of Liberty, as George Sand speaks of
meeting with three of these in one day. "Immense pines," she writes,
"carried on the shoulders of fifty working-men. A drum went first,
then the flag, followed by bands of these fine tillers of the ground,
strong-looking, serious men with wreaths of leaves on their head,
and a spade, pick-axe or hatchet over their shoulder. It was magnificent;
finer than all the _Roberts_ in the world."[41] Such was the tone
of her letters.

[41] _Correspondance._

She had the Opera from her windows and an Olympic circus at every
cross-road. Paris was certainly _en fete_. In the evenings it
was just as lively. There were the Clubs, and there were no less
than three hundred of these. Society women could go to them
and hear orators in blouses proposing incendiary movements,
which made them shudder deliciously. Then there were the theatres.
Rachel, draped in antique style, looking like a Nemesis, declaimed
the _Marseillaise_. And all night long the excitement continued.
The young men organized torchlight processions, with fireworks,
and insisted on peaceably-inclined citizens illuminating. It was
like a Nationial Fete day, or the Carnival, continuing all the week.

All this was the common, everyday aspect of Paris, but there
were the special days as well to break the monotony of all this.
There were the manifestations, which had the great advantage of
provoking counter-manifestations. On the 16th of March, there was
the manifestation of the National Guard, who were tranquil members
of society, but on the 17th there was a counter-manifestation of the
Clubs and workingmen. On such days the meeting-place would be at
the Bastille, and from morning to night groups, consisting of several
hundred thousand men, would march about Paris, sometimes in favour
of the Assembly against the Provisional Government, and sometimes
in favour of the Provisional Government against the Assembly.
On the 17th of April, George Sand was in the midst of the crowd,
in front of the Hotel de Ville, in order to see better. On the 15th
of May, as the populace was directing its efforts against the
Palais Bourbon, she was in the Rue de Bourgogne, in her eagerness
not to miss anything. As she was passing in front of a _cafe_,
she saw a woman haranguing the crowd in a very animated way from
one of the windows. She was told that this woman was George Sand.
Women were extremely active in this Revolution. They organized
a Legion for themselves, and were styled _"Les Vesuviennes_."
They had their clubs, their banquets and their newspapers.
George Sand was far from approving all this feminine agitation,
but she did not condemn it altogether. She considered that "women
and children, disinterested as they are in all political questions,
are in more direct intercourse with the spirit that breathes from
above over the agitations of this world."[42] It was for them,
therefore, to be the inspirers of politics. George Sand was one of
these inspirers. In order to judge what counsels this Egeria gave,
we have only to read some of her letters. On the 4th of March,
she wrote as follows to her friend Girerd: "Act vigorously,
my dear brother. In our present situation, we must have even more
than devotion and loyalty; we must have fanaticism if necessary."
In conclusion, she says that he is not to hesitate "in sweeping
away all that is of a _bourgeois_ nature." In April she wrote
to Lamartine, reproaching him with his moderation and endeavouring
to excite his revolutionary spirit. Later on, although she was not
of a very warlike disposition, she regretted that they had not,
like their ancestors of 1793, cemented their Revolution at home
by a war with the nations.

[42] _Correspondance:_ To the Citizen Thore, May 28, 1848.

"If, instead of following Lamartine's stupid, insipid policy,"
she then wrote, "we had challenged all absolute monarchies,
we should have had war outside, but union at home, and strength,
in consequence of this, it home and abroad."[43] Like the great ancestors,
she declared that the revolutionary idea is neither that of a sect
nor of a party. "It is a religion," she says, "that we want
to proclaim." All this zeal, this passion and this persistency
in a woman is not surprising, but one does not feel much confidence
in a certain kind of inspiration for politics after all this.

[43] _Correspondance:_ To Mazzini, October 10, 1849.

My reason for dwelling on the subject is that George Sand did not content
herself with merely looking on at the events that were taking place,
or even with talking about them with her friends. She took part
in the events, by means of her pen. She scattered abroad all kinds
of revolutionary writings. On the 7th of March, she published her
first _Letter to the People_, at the price of a penny, the profits
of which were to be distributed among working-men without employment.
After congratulating these great and good people on their noble victory,
she tells them they are all going to seek together for the truth
of things. That was exactly the state of the case. They did
not yet know what they wanted, but, in the mean time, while they
were considering, they had at any rate begun with a revolution.
There was a second _Letter to the People_, and then these ceased.
Publications in those days were very short-lived. They came to
life again, though, sometimes from their ashes. In April a newspaper
was started, entitled _The Cause of the People_. This was edited
almost entirely by George Sand. She wrote the leading article:
_Sovereignty is Equality_. She reproduced her first _Letter to
the People_, gave an article on the aspect of the streets of Paris,
and another on theatrical events. She left to her collaborator,
Victor Borie, the task of explaining that the increase of taxes
was an eminently republican measure, and an agreeable surprise
for the person who had to pay them. The third number of this paper
contained a one-act play by George Sand, entitled _Le Roi attend_.
This had just been given at the Comedie-Francaise, or at the Theatre de
la Republique, as it was then called. It had been a gratis performance,
given on the 9th of April, 1848, as a first national representation.
The actors at that time were Samson, Geffroy, Regnier, Anais,
Augustine Brohan and Rachel. There were not many of them, but they
had some fine things to interpret.

In George Sand's piece, Moliere was at work with his servant,
Laforet, who could not read, but without whom, it appears,
he could not have written a line. He has not finished his play,
the actors have not learnt their parts, and the king is impatient
at being kept waiting. Moliere is perplexed, and, not knowing
what to do, he decides to go to sleep. The Muse appears to him,
styles him "the light of the people," and brings to him all
the ghosts of the great poets before him. AEschylus, Sophocles,
Euripides and Shakespeare all declare to him that, in their time,
they had all worked towards preparing the Revolution of 1848.
Moliere then wakes up, and goes on to the stage to pay his respects
to the king. The king has been changed, though. "I see a king,"
says Moliere, "but his name is not Louis XIV. It is the people,
the sovereign people. That is a word I did not know, a word as great
as eternity."

We recognize the democrat in all this. _Le Roi_ _attend_ may
be considered as an authentic curiosity of revolutionary art.
The newspaper announced to its readers that subscriptions could be paid
in the Rue Richelieu. Subscribers were probably not forthcoming,
as the paper died a natural death after the third number.

George Sand did much more than this, though.[44] We must not forget
that she was an official publicist in 1848. She had volunteered
her services to Ledru-Rollin, and he had accepted them. "I am
as busy as a statesman," she wrote at this time. "I have already
written two Government circulars."[45]

[44] With regard to George Sand's _role_, see _La Revolution de_ 1848,
by Daniel Stern (Madame d'Agoult).

[45] _Correspondance:_ To Maurice Sand, March 24, 1848.

With George Sand's collaboration, the _Bulletin de la Republique_
became unexpectedly interesting. This paper was published every
other day, by order of Ledru-Rollin, and was intended to establish
a constant interchange of ideas and sentiments between the Government
and the people. "It was specially addressed to the people of
rural districts, and was in the form of a poster that the mayor
of the place could have put up on the walls, and also distribute
to the postmen to be given away. The _Bulletins_ were anonymous,
but several of them were certainly written by George Sand.
The seventh is one of these, and also the twelfth. The latter
was written with a view to drawing the attention of the public
to the wretched lot of the women and girls of the lower classes,
who were reduced to prostitution by the lowness of their wages.
Their virginity is an object of traffic," we are told, "quoted on the
exchange of infamy." The sixteenth _Bulletin_ was simply an appeal
for revolt. George Sand was looking ahead to what ought to take place,
in case the elections did not lead to the triumph of social truth.
"The people," she hoped, "would know their duty. There would,
in that case, be only one way of salvation for the people who had
erected barricades, and that would be to manifest their will a
second time, and so adjourn the decisions of a representation that
was not national." This was nothing more nor less than the language
of another Fructidor. And we know what was the result of words
in those days. The _Bulletin_ was dated. the 15th, and on the 17th
the people were on the way to the Hotel de Ville. These popular
movements cannot always be trusted, though, as they frequently take
an unexpected turn, and even change their direction when on the way.
It happened this time that the manifestation turned against those
who were its instigators. Shouts were heard that day in Paris
of _"Death to the Communists"_ and _"Down with Cabet_." George Sand
could not understand things at all. This was not in the programme,
and she began to have her doubts about the future of the Republic--
the real one, that of her friends.

It was much worse on the 15th of May, the day which was so fatal
to Barbes, for he played the part of hero and of dupe on that
eventful day. Barbes was George Sand's idol at that time.

It was impossible for her to be without one, although, with her
vivid imagination, she changed her idols frequently. With her idealism,
she was always incarnating in some individual the perfections that
she was constantly imagining. It seems as though she exteriorized
the needs of her own mind and put them into an individual who seemed
suitable to her for the particular requirements of that moment.
At the time of the monarchy, Michel of Bourges and Pierre Leroux
had been able to play the part, the former of a radical theorician
and the latter of the mystical forerunner of the new times.
At present Barbes had come on to the scene.

He was a born conspirator, the very man for secret societies.
He had made his career by means of prisons, or rather he had
made prison his career, In 1835, he had commenced by helping
thirty of the prisoners of April to escape from Sainte-Pelagie.
At that time he was affiliated to the _Societe des Familles_.
The police discovered a whole arsenal of powder and ammunition
at the house in the Rue de Lourcine, and Barbes was condemned to
prison for a year and sent to Carcassonne, where he had relatives.
When he left prison, the _Societe des Saisons_ had taken the
place of the _Societe des Familles_. With Blanqui's approval,
Barbes organized the insurrection of May 12 and 13, 1830.
This time blood was shed. In front of the Palais de Justice,
the men, commanded by Barbes, had invited Lieutenant Droulneau
to let them enter. The officer replied that he would die first.
He was immediately shot, but Barbes was sentenced to death for this.
Thanks to the intervention of Lamartine and Victor Hugo, his life
was spared, but he was imprisoned at Mont Saint-Michel until 1843,
and afterwards at Nimes. On the 28th of February, 1848, the Governor
of Nimes prison informed him that he was free. He was more surprised
and embarrassed than pleased by this news.

"I was quite bewildered," he owned later on, "by this idea of leaving
prison. I looked at my prison bed, to which I had grown so accustomed.
I looked at my blanket and at my pillow and at all my belongings,
hung so carefully at the foot of my bed." He asked permission
to stay there another day. He had become accustomed to everything,
and when once he was out again, and free, he was like a man who feels
ill at ease.

He took part in the affair of the 15th of May, and this is what gives
a tragic, and at the same time comic, character to the episode.
Under pretext of manifesting in favour of Poland, the National Assembly
was to be invaded. Barbes did not approve of this manifestation,
and had decided to keep out of it. Some people cannot be present
at a revolutionary scene without taking part in it, and without
soon wanting to play the chief part in it. The excitement goes
to their head. Barbes seems to have been obeying in instinct over
which he had no control, for, together with a workman named Albert,
he headed the procession which was to march from the Chamber of Deputies
to the Hotel de Ville and establish a fresh Provisional Government.
He had already commenced composing the proclamations to be thrown
through the windows to the people, after the manner of the times,
when suddenly Lamartine appeared on the scene with Ledru-Rollin
and a captain in the artillery. The following dialogue then
took place:

"Who are you?"

"A member of the Provisional Government."

"Of the Government of yesterday or of to-day

"Of the one of to-day."

"In that case I arrest you."

Barbes was taken to Vincennes. He had been free rather less
than three months, when he returned to prison as though
it were his natural dwelling-place.

George Sand admired him just as much after this as before. For her,
the great man of the Revolution was neither Ledru-Rollin, Lamartine,
nor even Louis-Blanc; it was Barbes. She compared him to Joan of Arc
and to Robespierre. To her, he was much more than a mere statesman,
this man of conspiracies and dungeons, ever mysterious and unfortunate,
always ready for a drama or a romance. In her heart she kept an altar
for this martyr, and never thought of wondering whether, after all,
this idol and hero were not a mere puppet.

The skirmish of May 15 undeceived George Sand very considerably.
The June insurrection and the civil war, with blood flowing in the
Paris streets, those streets which were formerly so lively and amusing,
caused her terrible grief. From henceforth her letters were full
of her sadness and discouragement. The most gloomy depression took
the place of her former enthusiasm. It had only required a few
weeks for this change to take place. In February she had been
so proud of France, and now she felt that she was to be pitied for
being a Frenchwoman. It was all so sad, and she was so ashamed.
There was no one to count upon now. Lamartine was a chatterer;
Ledru-Rollin was like a woman; the people were ignorant and ungrateful,
so that the mission of literary people was over. She therefore
took refuge in fiction, and buried herself in her dreams of art.
We are not sorry to follow her there.

_Francois le Champi_ appeared as a serial in the _Journal des Debats_.
The _denouement_ was delayed by another _denouement_, which the
public found still more interesting. This was nothing less than
the catastrophe of the July Monarchy, in February, 1848.

After the terrible June troubles, George Sand had been heartbroken,
and had turned once more to literature for consolation.
She wrote _La Petite Fadette_, so that the pastoral romances
and the Revolution are closely connected with each other.
Beside the novels of this kind which we have already mentioned,
we must add _Jeanne_, which dates from 1844, and the _Maitres Sonneurs_,
written in 1853. This, then, completes the incomparable series,
which was the author's _chef-d'oeuvre_, and one of the finest gems
of French literature. This was George Sand's real style, and the note
in literature which was peculiarly her own. She was well fitted for
such writing, both by her natural disposition and by circumstances.
She had lived nearly all her life in the country, and it was
there only that she lived to the full. She made great efforts,
but Paris certainly made her homesick for her beloved Berry.
She could not help sighing when she thought of the ploughed fields,
of the walnut-trees, and of the oxen answering to the voice of
the labourers.

"It is no use," she wrote about the same time, "if you are born
a country person, you cannot get used to the noise of cities.
It always seems to me that our mud is beautiful mud, whilst that
here makes me feel sick. I very much prefer my keeper's wit
to that of certain of the visitors here. It seems to me that I am
livelier when I have eaten some of Nannette's wheat-cake than I
am after my coffee in Paris. In short, it appears to me that we
are all perfect and charming, that no one could be more agreeable
than we are, and that Parisians are all clowns."[46]

[46] _Correspondance:_ To. Ch. Duvernet, November 12, 1842.

This was said in all sincerity. George Sand was quite indifferent
about all the great events of Parisian life, about social tittle-tattle
and Boulevard gossip. She knew the importance, though, of every
episode of country life, of a sudden fog or of the overflowing
of the river. She knew the place well, too, as she had visited
every nook and corner in all weathers and in every season.
She knew all the people; there was not a house she had not entered,
either to visit the sick or to clear up some piece of business
for the inmates. Not only did she like the country and the country
people because she was accustomed to everything there, but she had
something of the nature of these people within her. She had a certain
turn of mind that was peasant-like, her slowness to take things in,
her dislike of speech when thinking, her thoughts taking the form
of "a series of reveries which gave her a sort of tranquil ecstasy,
whether awake or asleep."[47] It does not seem as though there
has ever been such an _ensemble_ of favourable conditions.

[47] See in _Jeanne_ a very fine page on the peasant soul.

She did not succeed in her first attempt. In several of her novels,
ever since _Valentine_, she had given us peasants among her characters.
She had tried labourers, mole-catchers, fortune-tellers and beggars,
but all these were episodic characters. _Jeanne_ is the first novel
in which the heroine is a peasant. Everything connected with Jeanne
herself in the novel is exquisite. We have all seen peasant women
of this kind, women with serious faces and clearly-cut features,
with a dreamy look in their eyes that makes us think of the maid
of Lorraine. It is one of these exceptional creatures that George Sand
has depicted. She has made an ecstatic being of her, who welcomes
all that is supernatural, utterly regardless of dates or epochs.
To her all wonderful beings appeal, the Virgin Mary and fairies,
Druidesses, Joan of Arc and Napoleon. But Jeanne, the Virgin
of Ep Nell, the Velleda of the Jomatres stones, the mystical sister
of the Great Shepherdess, was very poorly supported. This remark
does not refer to her cousin Claudie, although this individual's
conduct was not blameless. Jeanne had gone into service at Boussac,
and she was surrounded by a group of middle-class people, among whom
was Sir Arthur----, a wealthy Englishman, who wanted to marry her.
This mixture of peasants and _bourgeois_ is not a happy one.
Neither is the mixture of _patois_ with a more Christian way of talking,
or rather with a written style. The author was experimenting and
feeling her way.

When she wrote _La Mare au Diable_ she had found it, for in this work
we have unity of tone, harmony of the characters with their setting,
of sentiment with the various adventures, and, above all,
absolute simplicity.

In _Francois le Champi_ there is much that is graceful,
and there is real feeling mingled with a touch of sentimentality.
Madeleine Blanchet is rather old for Champi, whom she had brought
up like her own child. In the country, though, where difference
of age is soon less apparent, the disproportion does not seem as
objectionable as it would in city life. The novel is not a study
of maternal affection in love, as it is not Madeleine's feelings
that are analyzed, but those of Francois. For a long time he had been
in love without knowing it, and he is only aware of it when this love,
instead of being a sort of agreeable dream and melancholy pleasure,
is transformed into suffering.

The subject of _La Petite Fadette_ is another analysis of a love
which has been silent for a long time. It is difficult to say
which is the best of these delightful stories, but perhaps,
on the whole, this last one is generally preferred, on account
of the curious and charming figure of little Fadette herself.
We can see the thin, slender girl, suddenly appearing on the road,
emerging from a thicket. She seems to be part of the scenery,
and can scarcely be distinguished from the objects around her.
The little wild country girl is like the spirit of the fields,
woods, rivers and precipices. She is a being very near to Nature.
Inquisitive and mischievous, she is bold in her speech, because she
is treated as a reprobate. She jeers, because she knows that she
is detested, and she scratches, because she suffers. The day comes
when she feels some of that affection which makes the atmosphere
breathable for human beings. She feels her heart beating faster
in her bosom, thanks to this affection, and from that minute
a transformation takes place within her. Landry, who has been
observing her, is of opinion that she must be something of a witch.
Landry is very simple-minded. There is no witchcraft here except that
of love, and it was not difficult for that to work the metamorphosis.
It has worked many others in this world.

The _Maitres Soneurs_ initiates us into forest life, so full of
mysterious visions. In opposition to the sedentary, stay-at-home life
of the inhabitant of plains, with his indolent mind, we have the
free-and-easy humour of the handsome and adventurous muleteer,
Huriel, with his love of the road and of all that is unexpected.
He is a _cheminau_ before the days of M. Richepin.

I do not know any stories more finished than these. They certainly
prove that George Sand had the artistic sense, a quality which has
frequently been denied her. The characters in these stories
are living and active, and at the same time their psychology
is not insisted upon, and they do not stand out in such relief
as to turn our attention from things, which, as we know, are more
important than people in the country. We are surrounded on all
sides by the country, and bathed, as it were, in its atmosphere.
And yet, in spite of all this, the country is not once described.
There is not one of those descriptions so dear to the heart of those
who are considered masters in the art of word-painting. We do riot
describe those things with which we live. We are content to have them
ever present in our mind and to be in constant communion with them.
Style is, perhaps, the sovereign quality in these stories.
Words peculiar to the district are introduced just sufficiently
to give an accent. Somewhat old-fashioned expressions are employed,
and these prove the survival of by-gone days, which, in the country,
are respected more than elsewhere. Without any apparent effort,
the narrative takes that epic form so natural to those who,
as _aedes_ of primitive epochs, or story-tellers by country firesides,
give their testimony about things of the past.

I am aware that George Sand has been accused of tracing portraits
of her peasants which were not like them. This is so absurd that I
do not consider it worth while to spend time in discussing it.
It would be so easy to show that in her types of peasants there
is more variety, and also more reality, than in Balzac's more
realistic ones. Without being untruthful portraits, it may be
that they are somewhat flattered, and that we have more honest,
delicate and religious peasants in these stories than in reality.
This may be so, and George Sand warns us of this herself. It was her
intention to depict them thus.

It was not absolute reality and the everyday details of the peasants'
habits and customs that she wanted to show us, but the poetry
of the country, the reflection of the great sights of Nature
in the soul of those who, thanks to their daily work, are the
constant witnesses of them. The peasant certainly has no exact
notion of the poetry of Nature, nor is he always conscious of it.
He feels it, though, within his soul in a vague way. At certain
moments he has glimpses of it, perhaps, when love causes him emotion,
or perhaps when he is absent from the part of the world, where he has
always lived. His homesickness then gives him a keener perception.
This poetry is perhaps never clearly revealed to any individual,
not to the labourer who traces out his furrows tranquilly in the
early morning, nor to the shepherd who spends whole weeks alone
in the mountains, face to face with the stars. It dwells, though,
in the inner conscience of the race. The generations which come
and go have it within them, and they do not fall to express it.
It is this poetry which we find in certain customs and beliefs,
in the various legends and songs. When Le Champi returns to his
native place, he finds the whole country murmuring with the twitter

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