HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
From the Pre-Revolutionary period to the 3rd Republic 1770-1870 - Part IV
1 March 2023
“The Scandal of Freedom”
with Sylvie Koneski
Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) chose in 1832 a male pen name, Georgs Sand, showing her disdain for society’s taboos to the point of dressing as a man and smoking cigars. She quickly became one of the most decried and admired women of the 19th century. When she died, Victor Hugo declared: "George Sand has in our time a unique place. Others are great men; she is the Great Woman”. But the majority of the "great men" of her time saw her as an "error of nature", a disturbing force of genius.
Her love life held an essential place in her existence. Her two-year affair (1833-35) with poet Alfred de Musset embodied the exaltation of love. Their correspondence testifies to two romantic yet desperate beings. The affair will inspire Musset’s greatest works, Lorenzaccio (1835) and Confession of a Child of the Century (1836), and Sand’s novel Elle et Lui [She and Him] in 1859.
In 1838, Sand fell in love with the Polish pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin. It was in Nohant, Sand's estate in the Berry, that Chopin composed the masterpieces of his maturity. Sand wrote six major novels there at night. She dedicated the most famous, La Mare au diable [The Devil’s Pool] to Chopin.
Chopin and Alfred de Musset were only two of the many men whom Sand pursued, often in vain, in her quest of the ideal lover. A complex personality, with a personal history to match, George Sand left in her work (novels, plays, autobiographical writings and correspondence) an extraordinary imprint of her life but also an essential mystery.
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