Who he, I hear you ask, and its the wrong question as its really ‘who she’!
Georges Sand was a romantic socialist writer, a proto feminist certainly in favour of female emancipation, but less so of activism. Indeed, she wrote using a man’s name, as a female writer in those days (she lived from 1804-1876) was a rarity. In the UK, we can boast Jane Austen, or even the Bronte sisters, or George Eliot, who seems to be the closest English speaking contemporary who also used a male name. Austen died in 1817, Eliot lived around the same time frame as Sand , from 1819 to 1880 and the Bronte sisters all died very young, each one before the age of 40, all before 1860
So who were the friends and contempories of George Sand?
She spent 7 years as the lover of the classical pianist Chopin,as well as some time as a lesbian with a French actress, Marie Dorval.
Flaubart, a great French writer and Balzac another literary giant were friends, and knew her well, as was Lizst, a great composer and Delacroix ,an artist of note..
What a romantic mix. The table in her house is set with these name cards.
So was George Sand really a lady writer who was fixed in her kitchen with her jars of jam, as unkind (and misogynistic )critics would have it? Or is she a romantic writer who dipped her pen into the sea of ink, leaving a broad sweeping seeping stroke of work behind her, touching geology,(she had a great collection of rocks and fossils) natural sciences( her herbariums are famous and she even acted as the village doctor), theatre ( her house has two, one for marionettes, which her son Maurice made, and one for plays) sewing and design (she designed and helped make the sets and costumes for the plays she wrote) as well as gardening, cooking, (her garden is enormous and her kitchen was very modern for its time)not to mention her real fame, that of writing.
Well, this is where it comes to the rub. I visited her house recently, to take in the vastness of her being , to touch the sublime, and the overwhelming presence I felt at the house is that of Chopin. His dancing music and lightness echoes and winds through the the house, but whether this is because the guide emphasizes Chopin so much, or if its my imagination, is another question.
Sand writes with a very descriptive and rich style. She definitely deserves a (new)look, just as Eliot is probably one of the best novelists in the English language, Sand is a giant of French literature. Perhaps her pen isn’t as politically astute as Eliot’s, she is nevertheless a fellow proto Fabien/proto Socialist.