Have you ever heard of George Sand? George Sand was the pen name of Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant, a novelist and proto-feminist who lived in 19th century France. She wore men’s clothing, which was considered shocking for the time. I can’t remember anymore how I first heard of her, but I remember when. I was a freshman in college, and I had come across some writings from her journal after her parting from Alfred de Musset. I remember being so affected by what I read. This was a woman in pain — so in love and so forlorn. Clearly, I thought, she would never love another. Then I discovered she was Chopin’s lover until shortly before his death.
Right after I became aware of George Sand, it seems, a movie called Impromptu starring Judy Davis and Hugh Grant as Sand and Chopin, respectively, was released. It was OK. I ran out and bought a bunch of Sand novels, but I only ever read one: Indiana. Maybe it was the translation (probably not the translation linked, as I couldn’t find it on Amazon), but I thought it was awful, and I wondered if the author’s unconventional life might not be the only reason it’s even still available.
If you can read French, several of her works are available from Project Gutenberg. Her letters and journals are well worth checking out. In a letter to Frederic Girerd, she wrote:
People think it very natural and pardonable to trifle with what is most sacred when dealing with women: women do not count in the social or moral order. I solemnly vow — and this is the first glimmer of courage and ambition in my life! — that I shall raise woman from her abject position, both through my self and my writing, God will help me!…let female slavery also have its Spartacus. That shall I be, or perish in the attempt.
Honore de Balzac wondered, “What will become of the world when all women are like George Sand?”
Update: A weird bit of serendipity… July 1, when I posted this entry, was George Sand’s birthday.