Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
George Sand$

Elizabeth Harlan

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780300104172

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300104172.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 25 June 2022

“Our Motto is Freedom”

“Our Motto is Freedom”

(p.126) Chapter Thirteen “Our Motto is Freedom”
George Sand

Elizabeth Harlan

Yale University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter recounts the events that commenced during a cold spell in January 1831, when Aurore made the three-day journey from Nohant to Paris via mail coach. Being the only passenger on the journey, Aurore slept stretched across the back seat of the coach, her head propped on a bag filled with three trussed turkeys en route from the provinces with provisions for a well-fed family of Parisians. Once in Paris, Aurore briefly occupied Hippolyte's apartment on the rue de Seine-Saint-Germain, while looking for work and rooms of her own. Blaming her for being unrealistic about the cost of living in the city, her half-brother predicted financial and professional failure. Life in the capital was sweetened, however, by the presence of Aurore's new lover, Jules Sandeau, whom she had met the previous summer while he was home from his law studies in Paris.

Keywords:   mail coach, Hippolyte, rue de Seine-Saint-Germain, cost of living, half-brother, professional failure, Jules Sandeau

I feel myself being reborn and I see a new destiny opening before me…. It's something like a faith to which I will consecrate my whole self. The God has not yet descended upon me, but I'm in the process of building the temple, of purifying my heart and my life.

DURING A COLD SPELL in January 1831, Aurore made the three-day journey from Nohant to Paris, facing the trip by mail coach with adventuresome high spirits; her dream of freedom was coming true. “I arrived without incident and well rested,” she reported in her first letter home. “The driver covered me like a mail sack with straw and a sheepskin.” The only passenger on the journey, Aurore slept stretched across the back seat of the coach, her head propped on a bag filled with three trussed turkeys en route from the provinces to provision a well-fed family of Parisians. “I was tempted to stash one in my overnight pack,” she added in her note, playfully displaying her ravenous appetite for the tempting new tastes and experiences that beckoned her to the capital.1

Once in Paris, Aurore briefly occupied Hippolyte's apartment on rue de Seine-Saint-Germain, while looking for work and rooms of her own. Blaming her for being unrealistic about the cost of living in the city, her half brother predicted financial and professional failure. Life in the capital was sweetened, however, by the presence of Aurore's new lover, Jules Sandeau, whom she had met the previous summer while he was home from his law studies in Paris. Handsome and fragile, with thick blond curls, Sandeau at nineteen was seven years younger than Aurore. By February they were living together in Jules' modestly furnished rooms on quai des Grands-Augustins. From their windows Aurore gazed out upon the beautiful Pont-Neuf, the towers of Notre-Dame, and the rows of charming seventeenth-century houses that lined the Ile de la Cité.

As before, she was disappointed that her mother was away in (p.127) Charleville visiting Caroline. “I thank you, my dear little Mama, for your obvious desire to see me,” she wrote sarcastically. “Don't think for a moment … that I feel any jealousy whatever toward my sister,” she insisted. “Since you want to give Maurice a gift,” the crescendo of anger continued, “I don't dare tell you it would be better to give Oscar two instead.”2 Caroline's son, Oscar, was a year older than Maurice. Just as Sophie had favored Caroline over Aurore in their childhood, she was now repeating the cycle with Oscar and Maurice.

Besides sibling rivalry, Aurore was having other problems. “I was eager to get rid of my provincialism and get into the swim of things, to be au courant with ideas and customs. I had an urge to do this; I was curious. Except for the most salient books, I knew nothing of the modern arts; I was especially thirsty for theater.” But as eager as Aurore was for new experiences, she was blocked at every turn. She would have liked to read but lacked books. Even if she got hold of some, it was winter and very cold, and she could not afford enough logs to keep the fire in her room going all day long. She tried the Mazarine library, but it, too, was unheated. “I would have been better off working in the towers of Notre-Dame.”3 There was also the practical problem of how to get around Paris inexpensively and efficiently:

I saw my young friends from Berry, my childhood companions, live in Paris with as little as I, and keep abreast of everything that interested intelligent young people. Literary and political events, the excitement of the theaters and the museums, the clubs and the streets—they saw everything, they went everywhere. My legs were as strong as theirs, and so were my good little Berrichon feet, which had learned to walk on bad roads, balancing on thick wooden clogs. But on the pavements of Paris I was like a boat on ice. Delicate footwear cracked in two days; overshoes made me clumsy; I wasn't used to lifting my skirts. I was muddy, tired, runny-nosed, and I saw my shoes and clothing—not to mention the little velvet hats—spattered in the gutters, falling into ruin with frightening rapidity.4

And so, like the men with whom she kept company, Aurore took to wearing boots. “With those little iron heels, I felt secure on the sidewalks. I flew from one end of Paris to the other. It seemed to me that I could (p.128) have made a trip around the world.” But in addition to footgear, there was the problem of dress. Aurore recalled Honoré de Balzac's admonition: “You can't be a woman in Paris without an income of twenty-five thousand francs.”5

The wardrobe a woman needed for public events was far too expensive for Aurore on her limited budget, and so she did as Sophie had done while living on a shoestring in Paris with Maurice: she dressed as a man. After all, hadn't Aurore learned to ride and hunt in a smock and gaiters as a girl? Now she would wear a waistcoat of gray cloth with matching trousers and vest, accessorized by the gray hat and wide wool tie of the first-year student. With her ample dark hair cropped short and covered by a top hat, and her slim, petite figure clad in male garb, Aurore found it easy to pass as a man. The poet Auguste Barbier described her as looking “like a young boy dressed as a woman; she was curious rather than pleasant or good-looking.”6

For Aurore, it wasn't so much a question of male versus female; cross-dressing gave her freedom by making her “invisible.” She wrote: “I was no longer a lady, nor was I a ‘gentleman.’ I was jostled on the sidewalk like a thing that got in the way of busy passers-by. I didn't care; I wasn't busy. No one knew me, no one looked at me, no one gave me a second thought; I was an atom lost in the immense crowds. No one said, as they had at La Châtre, ‘There's Madame Aurore, wearing the same hat and dress she always wears’; or as they did at Nohant, ‘There goes our lady on her big horse. She must be out of her mind to gallop like that.’ In Paris, no one thought anything at all about me; they didn't see me.”7

The Paris of this era was undergoing rapid expansion owing to an influx of provincials who sought work opportunities as the capital developed commercially. From five hundred thousand inhabitants in 1800, the population had surged to one million by 1840. The grisettes, a new class of young women named for the standard gray cloth they wore, were arriving in droves from the provinces to provide labor for the rapidly increasing manufacture of crafts and other fine articles. Living on their own, often in the Latin Quarter, the grisettes formed liaisons with young male students, many of whom were also away from home and family for the first time. Their romances, which rarely led to marriage, became the stuff of stories and novels depicting free love and la vie de Bohème.8

The concept of Bohemianism first emerged in France in the 1830s (p.129)

“Our Motto is Freedom”

Les Deux Promeneurs. Lithograph by Gavarni. (Courtesy C. O. Darré, Musée George Sand, La Chatre)

and, according to the historian Jerrold Seigel, was characterized by “the unlimited right of each person to make his (less often her) personal development and interest the motive of his activity…. Bohemianism took shape by contrast with the image with which it was commonly paired: bourgeois life…. Artists, the young, shady but inventive characters all shared—with the gypsies whose name they bore—a marginal existence based on the refusal or inability to take on a stable and limited social identity.”9

The Bohemians wore what they pleased, lived as they chose, and thought as they wished without regard for bourgeois conventions. Aurore was to become a key player on the Bohemian scene. In addition to Sandeau, her circle of close friends included Gabriel Planet, who assembled a Berrichon (p.130) group in Paris and offered a heated space where friends could pay a modest fee to read newspapers; the law student and journalist Félix Pyat; Emile Regnault from Bourges, who was studying medicine; and the passionately republican Alphonse Fleury. They gathered in cafés and in one another's apartments, attended theater, visited museums.

It was obvious from the beginning that to survive, Aurore would have to supplement her modest allowance of 250 francs per month. At first she tried her hand at painting and decorating snuff boxes, but this slow, labor-intensive industry taxed her eyes and could hardly produce enough to generate a living wage. In her future novel Valentine, Sand would reflect: “Those of us who know little English, drawing and music, those who paint lacquered boxes, do watercolors on screens, make flowers out of velvet, and twenty other useless things … what could we do? Only one in twenty of us have any real expertise.”10

And so Aurore turned her attention toward the developing literary industry. Culture had begun to occupy a new and privileged place in the French capital. As Paris grew, the middle class expanded in size and wealth, the general public gained literacy, and literature (printed matter of all kinds) was in demand. Serialized novels, the daily feuilletons that appeared on the bottom half of the front page, accounted for the growing success of newspapers. A bevy of new journals came into existence, and Aurore would be the beneficiary. In The Double Life of George Sand, Woman and Writer, Renée Winegarten comments on this phenomenon: “The moment when Aurore entered the Parisian journalistic scene happened to be a propitious one for women in some respects, and not only on account of the notable growth of popular journalism. From the early eighteenth century onward, greater leisure had encouraged an increase in the number of women readers as well as in the number of authors who catered to them.”11

But literary success did not come without an early setback. Through her friend the deputy François Duris-Dufresne, she gained an introduction to a colleague in the chamber, a novelist named Auguste-Hilarion Kératry. To this sixty-two-year-old, white-haired gentleman who had written a ridiculous story in which a priest violates a woman who appears to be dead, Aurore presented her fledgling novel, “Aimée,” written at Nohant. “Make babies, not books,” advised Kératry, whom Stendhal dubbed “the biggest charlatan of all our liberal writers, which is saying quite a lot.” Although Sand told this story on herself in her autobiography and may have engaged (p.131) in the kind of fabrication to which she was inclined, Kératry's reaction to the aspiring young woman writer has become part of the canon of Sand legend. From the bedchamber in which Kératry had received her, with his twenty-five-year-old wife reclining under a pink silk comforter, Aurore ostensibly took her leave after firing off the following retort: “Honestly, sir, take your own advice, if you think it so good.”12

Aurore turned next to an aristocratic Berrichon friend of the Duvernets named Hyacinthe de Latouche, who had just taken over the satirical journal Le Figaro, founded in 1826. Latouche was not impressed with “Aimee,” but out of loyalty to his deceased friend Maurice Dupin, he offered Aurore a subeditorship on Le Figaro. Latouche's home on quai Malaquais was a wonderful place to work. Aurore enjoyed reporting to a professional office and keeping to a nine-to-five schedule like the other “eaglets” on Latouche's staff. She occupied a cozy spot at a desk near the fireplace and was paid seven francs a column for her work. Aurore toiled over multiple drafts of her articles on the precut sheets of paper that were provided so that the length of the finished piece would conform to the allotted space in the published journal. She was giddy with excitement about her newfound vocation: “A writer must see everything, know everything, laugh at everything,” she wrote Boucoiran back at Nohant. “Oh, yes, vive la vie d'artiste! Our motto is freedom.”13

Aurore introduced Jules Sandeau to Latouche, for whom the lovers began collaborating on articles published under the sole signature of J. Sandeau. Aurore had agreed to this anonymity partly in response to family pressure: Casimir's stepmother, the baroness Dudevant, was horrified at the prospect of Aurore's publishing under the family name. Sophie, too, had been critical of Aurore's first published pieces, and so the young writer, caught between two disapproving mothers, sought shelter by hiding her authorial identity behind that of her male companion. But Sandeau was given to fits of depression and laziness, which left Aurore with much of the work. Instead of blaming him or becoming impatient with his procrastination, Aurore tended to mother her young lover.

In addition to Le Figaro, Aurore contributed to La Mode, a royalist publication headed by Emile de Girardin, to the newly founded L'Artiste, and to La Revue de Paris. She was learning that in order to write as she pleased one day, she must first comply with the requirements of her editors, however capricious and against her own principles. “Staff writer, junior editor; (p.132) that's all I am for the moment,” she wrote Boucoiran.14 But the important thing was honing her skills as an observer, which she did in the cafés and at the theater. In the mornings, when she took her coffee across the street from her apartment at the café Conti by the Pont-Neuf, Aurore delighted in watching the locals read the articles she had contributed the day before, puzzling over the thinly veiled political barbs she had directed at well-known personalities and public figures.

In March, Aurore published an anonymous antigovernment article making fun of the administration's police-state mentality. Louis Philippe, the Citizen King, took personal offense, and Le Figaro was seized, though the case was soon dropped and the journal was allowed to continue publication. Aurore's ability to pique the interest of the reading public, as well as to confuse and mystify them, conferred a heady sense of power. She had discovered a forum in which to express the rebellious and seditious streak she had inherited from her mother and had given vent to in her days among the English Augustinians. “I have a goal, a task, I admit it, a passion. Writing is a violent, practically indestructible drive; when it takes hold of a feeble mind, it can no longer be stopped.”15 She was, characteristically, only half kidding about the feeble mind. A genuine humility attended Aurore's sense of herself as a writer. She knew she was good and getting better, and so she allowed the passionate drive to express thoughts and feelings, however iconoclastic and outrageous, to take over.

Despite Hippolyte's cynicism about managing on her own, Aurore found ways of working around her limited income. The rent for her modest apartment came to three hundred francs a year. In lieu of a servant, a woman caretaker helped Aurore with her housework for fifteen francs a month. Her evening meal was brought in from a local restaurant for a couple of francs a day, and Aurore washed and ironed her own linen underwear. But the relative impoverishment of her surroundings was more than compensated for by the intellectual and spiritual enrichment of her new way of life.

It was in this modest setting that Aurore first received visits from another of Latouche's protégés, the rising literary star Honoré de Balzac, with whom Aurore and Jules shared readings and discussions of their respective works in progress. “How he used to enjoy talking about his creations, telling them to us in advance, making them up as he talked, reading them as drafts or proofs! Naive and as joyous as a child, he asked advice (p.133) as if we were all children, not listening to the answers, or using them to fight against it, with his obstinate superiority. He would never lecture; he spoke about and for himself alone…. He was so marvelous, so dazzling, so lucid, that we said to ourselves, on our way out, ‘Oh yes, he really will have the future he dreams of. He understands too well what he is not, not to make a great personality of himself.’”16

In late February, eight-year-old Maurice sent his mother a letter with a drawing. “I received your letter yesterday, my dear little child, with a little artilleryman who doesn't resemble you very much at all. You made his shako practically as high as his whole body.”17 Caught up in her passion for self-improvement, Aurore often lost sight of the fact that Maurice (and subsequently Solange) were young and impressionable and in need of her maternal reassurance more than her critical intervention.

She wrote Boucoiran: “I live only for what concerns Maurice, and the news you send me is all the more tender and dear…. Oh yes, I suffer when I am separated from my children. I suffer terribly!” In the very next paragraph, Aurore proclaimed her commitment to her work: “I am more than ever resolved to pursue a literary career, despite the distaste I sometimes have for it, despite the days of procrastination and exhaustion that interrupt my work, despite the more than modest life I am leading here, I feel that I'm fulfilling my destiny.”18

Passionate attachment to her vocation was taking precedence over dedication to her children. Hippolyte's criticism stung all the more for the guilt Aurore felt at being away: “The best thing you have done is your son; he loves you more than anyone in the world. Be careful not to blunt this feeling.” Aurore would mask the guilt she felt about leaving the children by rationalizing her reason for writing: “I have children whom I love more than all the rest, and without the hope of being more useful to them someday with my writer's quill than with a homemaker's needle, I would not leave them for such a long time.”19

In April, on the eve of her departure for Nohant, Aurore was once again (as on the eve of her departure from Paris three months earlier) immobilized by a bout of rheumatism. She wrote young Maurice regretting that her return home would be delayed, revisiting upon her son the trauma of her own childhood separation from her mother. Aurore was apparently suffering as much from ambivalence about forsaking her freedom as she was from whatever physical malady had taken hold.

(p.134) She wrote Casimir several days later, reporting that she was feeling better and would take an extra day en route home to visit the lovely cathedral town of Bourges and the famous Jacques Coeur palace. With the fervor of a young student whose eyes are just opening onto the wonders of the world, she wrote Emile Regnault at length of the exalted experience of viewing for the first time the great Bourges cathedral. Her spiritual and aesthetic sensibilities having been heightened by her sojourn in Paris, Aurore was awed by the splendors of Saint-Etienne: “Do you realize that your cathedral is one of the most beautiful things in the world? Its interior is the most admirable thing I've seen in my life…. It's the essence of romanticism, whereas Notre-Dame is classical. Notre-Dame is to gothic monuments what Chateaubriand is to writers, while S[ain]t Etienne is what Victor Hugo is to poets, or else it's Byron and Hoffman[n], Raphael and Salvator, Rossini and Weber.”20

Back at Nohant, Aurore was overcome with depression. She expressed joy in her reunion with the children but in little else. In mid-April she wrote her friend Charles Meure, “I get into such bad moods that it's impossible for me to show my face, even to those whom I love most in the world.” No sooner had she returned home than she became anxious to be off again for Paris. She confided to her mother: “Everything I'm forced to do has become odious to me, everything I do for myself I do with all my heart…. To be out alone and to say to myself, ‘I'll dine at four or seven just as I wish; I'll stop by the Luxembourg on my way to the Tuileries, instead of the Champs-Elysées, if I so fancy, that's what I'll do.’”21

Sophie continued to level attacks on Aurore. She was acting too independently; she was selfish; she was not paying enough attention to home. Hungry for her mother's understanding and approval, Aurore continued to plead her case: “As far as I'm concerned, my dear Mama, the freedom to think and act is the most important right. If one can join with this the little cares of a family, this freedom is infinitely sweeter, but where do you find that? One way of life always undermines the other.” Desperate to justify her own independence, Aurore reminded Sophie of what it was like for her to be judged and condemned: “You, my dear Mama, you suffered intolerance, false virtue, hypocrites in your own life. Your beauty, your youth, your independence, your happy and easy-going disposition, how much they were counted against you…. A tender and indulgent mother who would have opened her arms to you at each difficulty and said, ‘Let (p.135) them condemn you; I forgive you! Let them malign you; I bless you!’ What good she would have done you!” Aurore was asking no more for herself than Sophie took years ago: a pension on which to live and the freedom to pursue her heart's desire. “I ask little for myself, the same pension, the same comfort as you.” To this formula Aurore added one crucial ingredient: a writing career that would one day render her self-sufficient. “A thousand écus a year and I would have enough, factoring in my love of writing and that my pen already brings in a little revenue.”

In May, homesick for Paris and filled with nostalgia, Aurore wrote Emile Regnault: “I always find myself dreaming of Paris with its hazy evenings, its pink clouds that hang over the rooftops, and the pretty, tender green willow trees that surround the bronze statue of old Henri, and those poor little slate-colored pigeons who make their nest in the grotesque old masks on the Pont-Neuf.”22 But for her children, she told Regnault, she would not have traded all this even for the verdant Berrichon countryside.

The problem of raising her children persisted; unwittingly, Aurore was imprinting on their lives the same pattern of distress that she had experienced as a child. Before her departure for Paris in the summer of 1831, eight-year-old Maurice took sick. Aurore's response was cavalier: “Maurice was just ill,” she wrote Regnault. “That doesn't mean my departure will be delayed. He's fine today and I hope to leave him in perfect health. Poor child. He's terribly upset.”23 She was apparently oblivious to the connection between Maurice's bouts of illness, which were becoming more frequent, and her comings and goings.

Once in Paris, another piece of the old pattern puzzled its way into her relationship with her son. Despite having been hurt by her mother's preference for Caroline, Aurore was instilling in Maurice seeds of jealousy toward Oscar, Caroline's son. “He's no bigger than you even though he's a year older, but he's much stronger. He's very nice and affectionate.” She went on to point out the advantages Maurice had enjoyed, provoking the same guilt that Sophie and her grandmother provoked in her when she complained of being kept away from her mother. Educational advantages were invoked as compensation for maternal deprivation. Oscar “is not as advanced as you,” Aurore wrote Maurice. “It's not his fault. You've received much more attention than he has. Take advantage of the position you're in, you will be very glad one day to have gotten an education, and you will have the good fortune to be the pride and joy of your mother.”24

(p.136) Maurice was not consoled by these rationalizations. Aurore sent him a policeman's costume, which he failed to acknowledge. She wrote him an angry letter: “It brings me much pain to realize that you have forgotten your poor Mama and that you don't want to take a moment away from your play to write me. I asked you to give me news of your sister; you didn't keep your promise, which is not nice and disturbs me very much.”25

In addition to scolding Maurice when he didn't do what she wanted, Aurore spared him no account of her own health problems, reversing the roles of parent-as-protector and child-as-protected. “All of yesterday I had the most horrible headache. I didn't get up until five in the evening. If I had had you near me you could have taken care of me.” In November she became ill again and wrote Maurice a letter racked with fear and guilt about their separation: “I dreamt that you came to see me in Paris and that you had a horrid, torn-up pair of pants with big patches on the back. I called out after you because I thought you were on the balcony and I was afraid of seeing you fall.”26

In June, as Aurore prepared for her return to Paris, there were more ailments. “I'm afraid of dying in the next month, I'm really scared,” she wrote Regnault. “A migraine, a corn on my foot throw me into real terror.” In another letter written the same day, Aurore elaborated on her state of mind and body: “It's chronic, my condition. There is always something wrong, when the rheumatism subsides, shooting pains in my heart start up and then there are the headaches, nerves, infinitely protracted constipation and thousands of random little ailments I can't even count and for which I can't be bothered figuring out the cause.”27

The unknown cause most likely had to do with Aurore's aggravated emotional state. Her pursuit of freedom had its cost; her elaborate array of symptoms and the manner in which they manifested themselves are persuasive evidence of the conflict in which she was caught. Before each displacement between Nohant and Paris, Aurore would experience physical ailments reminiscent of her traumatized response to her mother's comings and goings when she was a child. And with it all, she was unwittingly passing the torch of her own pain to her child.

In May 1831, Aurore wrote Regnault with the requirements for the apartment he would help her find for her stay in Paris the coming summer: “A single room is not enough…. If I only have one, I'll run the risk of being blocked … or being caught in flagrant délit, embracing little Jules. (p.137) I would like to have an exit for letting Jules out at any hour, because my husband could show up I won't say out of the clear blue sky, but from the diligence, some day at four in the morning without a place to stay and do me the honor of descending on me.”28

The note is playful and exhibitionistic, demonstrating not only passion in her relationship with Sandeau but sport as well. In mid-July, Aurore and Jules set up housekeeping in the sixth floor garret of a large corner house near the Pont-Neuf, across from the morgue on quai Saint-Michel. A painting by Corot, “View of the Seine Taken from the Pont-Neuf,” done in 1833, immortalizes the modest dwelling, the last house on the right with arches, which no longer exists. The three small rooms with a balcony overlooking Notre-Dame, Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie, and the Sainte-Chapelle were everything Aurore could have wanted: “I had sky, water, air, swallows, rooftop greenery; I did not feel too much part of modern Paris, which would not have suited my taste nor my resources, but more so in the picturesque and poetic Paris of Victor Hugo, the Paris of the past.”29

In September, Aurore returned to Nohant and Jules to La Châtre. Gustave Papet stood guard below Aurore's window at Nohant to protect the lovers from being surprised during their late-night trysts. “Your name mixed with our kisses, all our thoughts were of you,” she wrote Papet the morning after. “And I believe that your devotion, your presence so close by, your concern for our happiness, added to our pleasure.” Half boasting, half titillating, she spared Regnault none of the details of their ecstasy: “And that night that he was there, in my room, in my arms, happy, beat, hugged, bitten, moaning, crying, laughing. I don't think we've ever experienced such heights of pleasure…. I'm dumbstruck, I'm covered with bites and blows. I can't stand up. I'm wild with joy. If you were there I would bite you until you bled so you could be part of our ecstasy.”30

Delirious nights of lovemaking alternated with hard days at work on Rose and Blanche, a novel on which Aurore and Jules were collaborating. “When one has not spent the morning working,” she wrote Duvernet, “there's no pleasure in being free in the evening.” For each of the five volumes of Rose and Blanche, its authors would be paid 250 francs, plus an additional 500 francs at the end of three months. Aurore was spending ten and twelve hours at her desk, working through the night until six in the morning. At the end of one week, she had completed the first volume. “Work is the great remedy,” she wrote Regnault in September.31 Jules was (p.138)

“Our Motto is Freedom”

George Sand. After a portrait attributed to Courtois. (Courtesy C. O. Darré, Musée George Sand, La Chatre)

procrastinating, as usual, and producing very little. The finished novel plots the contrasting course of the lives of two young girls, Rose, who grows up to be an actress, and Blanche, who becomes a nun. After being serialized in various journals, it was published in December 1831 under the joint name J. Sand, suggested by Latouche.

Although Rose and Blanche was a popular success, Sophie heartily disapproved. Aurore's response was convenient if cowardly. She disowned her part in producing some of the book's more scintillating passages, attributing them to Jules. She assured her mother that the book on which she was now working, which would become her first independently published novel, Indiana, would be different. Aurore confided her true feelings about the former work to Duvernet: “I always have the most beautiful plans in the world, but what I'm doing makes me sick at heart. Blanche (p.139) and Rose are two stupid creatures, the most distasteful and boring composition I can think of.”32

Sand's early Russian biographer, Wladimir Karénine, disagrees with her assessment and admires the “marked realism of George Sand's first great novel”:

It's very possible that if, from the beginning, George Sand hadn't fallen in with the romantics and hadn't been indoctrinated by de Latouche, Sainte-Beuve and others, but had written from her own inspiration without trying out the ‘genre sublime’ then in vogue, her talent would have taken an altogether different course and would have been more in the manner of Balzac (even though in the same chapters where she speaks of her foray into a literary vocation she herself says that from the start she and Balzac had understood the difference in their literary aspirations and proclivities: she was given to idealizing in the direction of beauty, and he in the direction of the comic or the ugly).33

Jules' health took a bad turn in October while he was still at La Châtre, as he began to exhibit symptoms of consumption. Aurore became fearful that their passion could destroy him: “But to know that this love which devours us is killing him little by little, to know that this delirium of happiness enflames his blood and consumes his life! This thought is horrifying. It has tormented me for a very long time, and now it becomes alarming because it is warranted.”34

Should they remain apart? she wondered in her letter to Regnault. Would six months away from each other be the reprieve that would restore Jules' health? A few days later Aurore was even more agitated about the presumed consequences of their sexual passion: “To feel him become thin and wasted, dying day by day, and to tell yourself that you are killing him, that your caresses are poison, your love a fire that consumes but does not revive, a fire that destroys, that devours, and leaves only ashes, is a terrifying thought.”35

They resorted to abstinence for three months; Aurore eventually gave in to Jules' passion when it appeared that withholding was causing him more harm than good. She then became fearful that giving in was worse than resisting. “I'm killing him, and the pleasure that I give him is costing (p.140) him his life. I am his peau de chagrin.”36 Balzac had just produced his novel of this name, and apparently Aurore savored lending such literary allure to her personal life. The high romantic theme that lust could destroy a lover's health was a commonplace of nineteenth-century passion that would dot the landscape of Aurore's future love affairs.

As for her own health, Aurore was suffering, too. By winter, which she and Sandeau were spending in Paris, she was taking vapor of digitalis for stomach pains that were growing worse. Her pulse was weak and her tongue discolored, but she was happily hard at work on a novel she was writing by herself.

At year's end, she wrote Maurice from Paris that ill health would prevent her from being with him for New Year's day. She promised him gifts upon her eventual return and admonished him to be good, to kiss his sister, and to love his mother in her absence.37


(1) . Corr. I, to Casimir Dudevant, [8 Jan. 1831], 773.

(2) . Ibid., to Mme. Maurice Dupin, 21 Jan. [1831], 786.

(3) . SML IV, xiii, 892.

(4) . Ibid.

(5) . Ibid.

(6) . Richardson, The Bohemians, 40–41, citing Auguste Barbier, Souvenirs personnels, 323–324.

(7) . SML IV, xiv, 904–905.

(8) . The opera by Puccini was based on the well-known book by Henri Murger, Scènes de la vie de bohème (Paris: Garnier, 1851).

(9) . Seigel, Bohemian Paris, 9–11.

(10) . Sand, Valentine, 48.

(11) . Winegarten, Double Life of George Sand, 97.

(12) . In OA, vol. 2, note 2, 149/1338, Lubin attributes Stendhal's description of Kératry to an article that appeared in London Magazine in September 1825. SML IV, xv, 915.

(13) . Corr. I, to Jules Boucoiran, [4 Mar. 1831], 818.

(14) . Ibid.

(15) . Ibid., 817–818.

(16) . SML IV, xv, 918.

(17) . Corr. I, to Maurice Dudevant, 2 Mar. [1831], 816.

(18) . Ibid., to Jules Boucoiran, [4 Mar. 1831], 817.

(19) . Ibid., 824; to Charles Duvernet, 6 Mar. [1831], 821.

(20) . Ibid., to Emile Regnault, [12 Apr. 1831], 835–836.

(21) . Ibid., to Charles Meure, 14 Apr. [1831], 844; to Mmm. Maurice Dupin, 31 May [1831], 886–888, including citations from the same letter in the following paragraph.

(22) . Ibid., to Emile Regnault, [2 May 1831], 854.

(23) . Ibid., [28 June 1831], 906.

(24) . Ibid., to Maurice Dudevant, [11 July 1831], 914–915.

(25) . Ibid., 20 Aug. [1831], 931.

(26) . Ibid., [30 July 1831], 891; [toward 10 Nov. 1831], 977.

(27) . Ibid., to Emile Regnault, [before 13 June 1831], 891; 13 June 1831, 896.

(28) . Ibid., [toward 25 May 1831], 875.

(29) . SML IV, xiii, 891.

(30) . Corr. I, to Gustave Papet, [20 Sept. 1831], 944.

(31) . Ibid., to Charles Duvernet, [27 June 1831], 904; to Emile Regnault, [18 Sept. 1831], 941.

(32) . Ibid., to Charles Duvernet, [15 Nov. 1831], 984.

(33) . Karénine, George Sand 1:339.

(34) . Corr. I, to Emile Regnault, [3 Oct. 1831], 955.

(35) . Ibid., [8 Oct. 1831], 962.

(36) . Ibid., 963. The title of Balzac's novel La Peau de chagrin is translated as “The Magic Skin” or as “The Fatal Skin.”

(37) . Ibid., to Maurice Dudevant, [30 Dec. 1831], 993.