The Works of George Sand

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George Sand By Eugène Delacroix – The Yorck Project: Wikipedia Commons*

This is a collaborative blog, created through the joint efforts of readers who enjoy the works of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin – better known by her nom-de-plume George Sand. It is hoped to gather information about her works in one place for quick and easy reference, and contributions from other enthusiasts are welcomed.

To access the reviews and summaries that we currently have, visit the Index of Works page (see the menu) where there are links to follow under the title of the work.

Also visit sister sites La Comedie Humaine which is a resource for readers of Honoré de Balzac, The Works of Émile Zola and our still-under-development  site celebrating the author Guy de Maupassant.

Subscribe to receive notifications of new posts to this site (e.g. new commentaries etc.) as they are published.

This blog is the brainchild of Lisa Hill from ANZ LitLovers in Australia and co-conspirators Bill Holloway from The Australian Legend and Dagny a.k.a Madame Vauquer from the Vauquer Boarding House.

Well, what about you?  If you have suggestions, corrections, additional information, or commentaries, summaries or excerpts on your own website that you would like to share, please use the contact form below.  We would also welcome contributions recommending the best translations.

  • For the story of this painting – once part of a dual portrait with Chopin playing the piano and George Sand smoking a cigar, visit Wikipedia.

La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool), by George Sand

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La Mare au Diable (1846) is the fifth book that I’ve read in the original French instead of in translation, and the second I’ve read by George Sand.

The novella is one of a series of four pastoral novels by George Sand (1804-1876): the others are François le Champi (1847–1848), La Petite Fadette (1849), and Les Beaux Messieurs Bois-Doré (1857).  This edition is a student edition published by Nelson, and it still bears the sticker from Hall’s Book Store in Bourke Street, where those of us of a certain age bought all our school text books. The book once belonged to the father of Bill from The Australian Legend and in beautiful copperplate, it bears his name and the date from September 1949.  So the book is a real treasure, with a story of its own, thank you Bill!

As we know from Indiana (which I also read in French, see my review) George Sand was subversive.  Notable for smoking in public and wearing men’s clothes, she was also acerbic about marriage because of her views about equality of the sexes.  However, La Mare au Diable is, at first glance anyway, a story of a happy marriage, a devastated widower, children in need of a mother, and in-laws pressuring their father into marrying again (because they have had to look after the children while he works on the farm.)  And though the fates conspire against true love for most of the novel, it ends up satisfactorily.

However, the novella features two strong women who refuse to be pressured into marriage until they are ready.  I have summarised the plot at Sensational Sand (here, but don’t go there if you want to avoid spoilers), so suffice to say here that the woman that Germain is supposed to marry has been a widow for two years and has been playing off three suitors against each other for all that time because she’s not in any hurry to marry again.  She doesn’t fancy any of them, but their presence signals to other men that she hasn’t settled on widowhood and is open to the right offer. She is wealthy and has no children to support, so she has more choices than other women do.

But despite much more limited choices, the other woman, the one that Germain has fallen for, possibly under the influence of the Devil’s Pool, doesn’t fancy him either, because he’s almost twice his age.  He’s also sulky and pessimistic.  She loves his children and enjoys looking after them, but she’s alert to the dangers of being left a widow by a husband much older than she is.  More importantly, she would rather live in poverty, without work, than marry someone she doesn’t care for.  (This same young woman has also refused the advances of her #MeToo employer, and subsequently refused a bribe intended to keep her quiet about it. )

So why doesn’t she care for Germain?  He’s handsome, and while not rich, he’s certainly better off than she is.  A poor girl sent off to be a shepherdess in another village because her mother’s farm can’t support the two of them, can’t afford to be too choosy, right? Well, despite her capitulation at the end, Marie is a good judge of character.  She’s strong enough to tell him that he should be making his own choices, not just doing what his in-laws say he should do.  He’s a lugubrious fellow, and he gives up too easily: it’s she who takes the initiative when they are stranded in the woods, and it’s she who has the skills and ability that enable to survive a bitterly cold night after he’s got them lost.

An observant reader will notice other things too.  Germain takes her under his cloak because she’s used hers, not his, to wrap up his child against the cold.  There’s not a lot to eat, and she takes barely a morsel because he’s used to eating four times a day and she’s used to being hungry.  She tears her skin dealing with the kindling for the fire while he watches on, impressed by her skills.  Marie doesn’t judge him for this unmanly selfishness, but I have no doubt that George Sand meant her readers to do so.

A very interesting little book!

PS The book is listed in the 2012 edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but not in the 2006 edition that I’m tracking.

You can read the story for free (in English) at Project Gutenberg, and you can listen to it in French at LibriVox.

Author: George Sand, (the nom de plume of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)
Title: La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool)
Publisher: Nelson, Paris, London, Edinburgh & New York, 1947, first published 1846, 282 pages (A6)
ISBN: none
Source: gift of Bill Holloway from The Australian Legend.

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers

La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand (Summary, Chapters 11-17)

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La Mare du Diable 001

This is the third instalment of my summary of La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand. It covers Chapters V1-X of the 1947 French edition; see here for a summary of Chapters I-V, and here for a summary of Chapters V1-X.

Chapter XI A La Belle Étoile (A Beautiful Star)

In this chapter Germain declares his desire to take Marie as his wife.  Marie’s teeth are chattering and she is trembling with the cold, and when he takes her hands in his to warm them up, he is overcome by his senses and asks her to consider being his wife, despite her intention to marry someone younger.  In the original French, this is signalled by his use of the familiar ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’, but Marie continues to use the formal ‘vous’; when Marie rejects his earnest pleading, he reverts to the formal ‘vous’, a distinction which is lost in translation.

—Si vous m’aimiez un peu, vous ne verriez pas si clairement mes défauts.  Mais vous n’aimez pas, voilà!

—Eh bien! ce n’est pas ma faute, répondit-elle, un peu blesse de ce qu’il ne la tutoyait plus… (p.142, underlining mine)

—If you loved me a little, you would not see my faults so clearly.  But you don’t love me, you see!

—Well, that’s not my fault, she replied, a little wounded that he no longer used the intimate form of address.

The conversation falters: Germain holds his head in his hands cursing his lot and wishing he were dead, while Marie, too astonished to sleep, tends the fire.  When dawn breaks, he is too discouraged to ask how she is, though he knows she hasn’t slept.  He gathers their belongings, takes Petit Pierre in his arms, and asks if Marie still wants him to escort her to Ormeaux?

No, she does not, and this wounds him further. They set off and a passing wood-cutter sets them on the right route to got their separate ways, but also tells him that Grise is in his yard. Germain decides to retrieve the horse first. Marie offers to clean up Petit Pierre and look after him at Ormeaux until Germain is ready to present him to the woman at Fourche.  Somewhat bitterly, Germain scorns the idea that having declared himself to Marie, he should then pay advances to another women, but again, in the French original, he has reverted to the intimate ‘tu’. (She maintains the formal address). Marie tells him that it was just an idea that came to him in the night when his spirits were un peu dérangé (a little deranged).  She reminds him about the expectations that his father-in-law has of him and says she’ll take Petit-Pierre to force him to go to Fourche, and Germain’s parting words to his son are that he should persuade Marie to become his mother because they both want that.

Ch Xii ‘La Lionne du Village’ (‘The Village Lioness’)

Having tidied himself and his horse, Germain receives a hearty welcome from his prospective new father-in-law, but is disconcerted to find that there are three other suitors who’ve been paying court to the widow for two years. Two of these rustics are no competition, but there is a younger one though he is just as stupid as they are.  The Widow Guérin herself, was handsome enough but a bit smug.  Her frivolous style of dressing does not appeal to him at all, but that’s because he is determined to find fault with her.

Cette recherche d’habillement et ces manières dégagées la lui firent trouver vieille et laide, quoiqu’elle ne fût ni l’un ni l’autre.

This style of clothing and her free and easy manners made her seem old and ugly, though she was neither.

Germain is mortified when his gloomy manner is ascribed to him being love and anxious about the competition, and when they all set off for Mass together, he keeps aloof while the widow flirts with the other three.

Ch XIII ‘Le Maître’ (‘The Master’)

At the church Germain refuses to give the woman the satisfaction of parading in with all four suitors, and instead churlishly talks with others that he knows and enters by a different door. He then refuses to dance with her afterwards, saying that he has not danced with anyone since losing his wife, and when Père Leonard remarks that mourning is over once you’re looking for a new wife, Germain says he’s too old for it now anyway.

And in response to Père Leonard’s pep talk about how he should put his pride in his pocket and woo the widow by coming to dance with her each week, Germain tells him that actually he’s not a suitor, he’s there to buy two of the cattle.  (This is partly true, and Germain figures his father will be less cross with him if he comes back with oxen that he’d wanted to buy.)

But on his way to inspect the cattle, he decides to call in at Ormeaux.  He’s given up on his hopes for Marie, but he wants to see Petit-Pierre.  To his dismay, they are not there.  They were, but left in a hurry.  They’d gone looking for Germain at Fourche and not found him there, and the household servants had turned them away as beggars, reinforcing Germain’s scorn for rich people and their lack of kindness.   Germain becomes frantic when a gossipy farmer tells him that the farmer from Ormeaux is in pursuit of Marie, and c’est un gaillard endiablé pour courir après les filles. (He’s a devilish fellow for running after the girls).

Ch XIV ‘La Vielle’ (‘The Old Woman’)

Germain soon finds himself back beside the pool where he had spent the night with Marie and Petit-Pierre.  There’s a superstitious old woman there, who tells him the name: It’s the Devil’s Pool and one must always approach it first by throwing three stones from the left hand and then making the sign of the Cross with the right.  That drives away the evil spirits. Germain isn’t interested in her nonsense, he asks if she’s seen a girl with a child.

The old woman shocks Germain by telling him that a child drowned there, but then goes on to say it was a long time ago. But his confidence is shaken when she tells him that if anyone has the misfortune to stay there at night, they have no hope of leaving there before dawn, no matter how many leagues they might walk. (This is what happened to Germain and Marie in Chapter X, see here).

Anyway, Germain sets off in search of Petit Pierre, but finds no one until a farmer turns up on his horse.  Germain suspects that this is the farmer from Ormeaux, but restrains himself while the farmer tells him that he is in search of his shepherdess who left without taking her money when he decided she wasn’t strong enough for the work.

Germain half believes this, until he sees Petit Pierre hiding under a bush, and the child comes out, terrified of the farmer.  Marie emerges too, and runs into Germain’s arms.  Her clothing is torn and she’s very pale, but #CodeForHerVirtueStillIntact she has no trace of shame on her face.

The farmer, alarmed that she might tell others what he tried to do, tries to bribe her, but she throws his gold coins in his face, and Germain unhorses him and knocks him down. The farmer tries to make a joke of it, but Germain warns him of the reception he’d get if he showed his face in their town, and storms off, taking Petit Pierre by one hand and Marie by the other.

Ch XV ‘Le Retour a La Ferme’ (‘The Return to the Farm’)

As they make their way home, Petit Pierre recounts his version of what had happened at Fourche and Ormeaux though he’s careful to say that he has forgotten exactly what That Bad Man said to Marie.  But he says he will tell Germain if he really wants to know!

At the farm, Germain explains as best he can, and though his in-laws are disappointed, they agree that he could not have acted otherwise and that it must have been God’s Will. Germain, meanwhile, says nothing further to Marie, and dares not ask his father-in-law if he can hire her to look after the children.  He knows this means poverty for Marie and her mother, but all he can do is surreptitiously maintain their stocks of firewood and leave sacks of wheat and potatoes in their barn.  And though Marie suspects the source of these magical gifts, they keep quiet about this because her mother thinks that people will think she’s a witch.

Ch XVI ‘La Mère Maurice’ (‘Mother Maurice’)

Germain continues to mope, and one day Mother Maurice taxes him with getting a wife who can help lift his mood.  But the one he wants won’t have him, he says, and Mother Maurice (a bit shocked when he reveals that it’s Marie) undertakes to see what she can do.

Ch XVII ‘La Petite Marie’ (‘Little Marie’)

On Sunday after Mass, Mother Maurice challenges him again to speak to Marie, and because he has the permission of his in-laws, he finally does it.  There is a touching scene in which he pleads his case while she is turned away from him, and he is trembling with emotion too, so he doesn’t realise until the last few lines that she has changed mind and loves him after all.

And that doesn’t just make Germain happy, but Petit Pierre is happy too!


In this edition there is also an Appendix which is apparently about the marriage customs in France during this era, but I haven’t read it yet…

Author: George Sand
Title: La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool)
Publisher: Nelson, Paris, London, Edinburgh & New York, 1947, first published 1846, 282 pages (A6)
ISBN: none
Source: gift of Bill Holloway from The Australian Legend.

La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand (Summary, Chapters 6-10)

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La Mare du Diable 001

This is the second instalment of my summary of La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand. It covers Chapters V1-X of the 1947 French edition; see here for a summary of Chapters I-V.

Chapter VI: ‘Petit Pierre’ (‘Little Peter’)

The chapter begins with an image of Grise, the horse pictured on the cover, galloping away as her mother la vieille Grise (Old Grise) tries and fails to follow her on her journey.  [This image clearly symbolises Old Mother Guillette’s anxiety and distress about the departure of her daughter.]

At the sight of this, Germain remembers that he didn’t kiss Petit Pierre goodbye before leaving.  He tells Marie that Petit Pierre was very distressed the night before and had cried for an hour in his bed.  But when it was time to leave in the morning, the boy was nowhere to be found.  Marie asks Germain why he didn’t bring the child along too, and Germain repeats his father-in-law’s advice that it would be best not to show his potential new wife the burdens she would have to take on.  Marie is just remonstrating that his children are so lovely that no one could reject them when they see (as per the cover illustration) Petit Pierre asleep under a bush.  There follows a scene in which Petit Pierre uses all his manipulative wiles to wangle his way into accompanying his father.  Germain rues that he did not previously hire Marie to care for his children and she offers to do it if it turns out that his new wife doesn’t like children.

Il ne faut pas voir comme ça les choses par le mauvais côté, répondit la petite Marie, en tenant la bride du cheval pendant que germain plaçait son fils sur le devant du large bât garni de peau de chèvre: si votre femme n’aime pas les enfants, vous me prendrez à votre service l’an prochain, et, soyez tranquille, je les amuserai si bien qu’ils ne s’apercevront de rien. (p.83, underlining mine)

You shouldn’t look at things from the dark side, replied little Marie, holding the horse’s bridle while Germain placed his son at the front of the broad goatskin pack-saddle; if your wife doesn’t like children, you can take me into your service next year, and, relax, I will amuse them so well that they won’t notice anything.

And even though in the original French text Sand has been careful for these two to address each other using the formal ‘vous’ rather than the more intimate ‘tu’—the reader, watching closely, can see where Marie’s tenderness towards Germain’s children, is going to lead…

Chapter VII: ‘Dans La Lande’ (‘On the Moor’)

Having arranged to send a message to Maurice that Petit Pierre was with them, the trio set off again. But before long Petit Pierre is hungry, and so they stop at Mère Rebec’s wine-shop.  Marie claims that she is too sad to eat, but Germain reminds her that she had earlier given her bread to Petit Pierre, and so they have a meal of omelette, bread and wine and it takes the best part of an hour.  This delay makes them late, and it is getting dark when Germain loses his way.  He thinks they are bewitched:

Je crois que nous sommes ensorcelés, dit Germain en s’arrêtant, car ces bois ne sont pas assez grands pour qu’on s’y perde, à moins d’être ivre, et il y a deux heures au moins que nous y tournons sans pouvoir en sortir. (p.92-3)

I believe we are bewitched, said Germain as he stopped, because these woods aren’t big enough to get lost in, unless a man is drunk, and yet we’ve been riding about for two hours without getting out of them.

They dismount and try walking instead so that they can see the way better, but Grise is fed up and breaks away, so with the perils of a ditch and a pond somewhere about,  Germain decides that the best thing to do is stay put and wait till the mist rises.  Then they can look for a house…

Ch VIII ‘Sous Les Grandes Chênes’ (‘Under the Great Oak Trees’)

Marie proves herself a very capable young lady in this chapter.  She takes Germain to task for being so pessimistic, organises a bed for the sleeping child and a fire to keep them warm; and she cooks Germain’s gift for his potential new father-in-law—some partridges and a hare.  They were in his saddlebag (which was thrown off, fortuitously, by Grise as she bolted), and Marie supplements them with some chestnuts that she had (fortuitously) gathered along the way.  Germain is very impressed by her ingenuity and skills, notes that she wouldn’t cost much to keep since (unused to eating four meals a day like he is) she eats barely a morsel, and thinks that she will make a very good wife one day.

But like the respectable young lady she is, Marie doesn’t notice the turn that Germain’s thoughts are taking, and just as he begins to discuss her marriage prospects, Petit Pierre (fortuitously) wakes up.

Ch IX ‘La Prière du Soir’ (‘The Evening Prayer’)

A cannon-shot, apparently, wouldn’t wake Pierre, but the sound of anyone eating certainly does, and he soon tucks into the meal, Marie still staunchly claiming that she’s not hungry.

[It’s my recollection that a lot of fiction in this era portrays women and girls as too ladylike to have a hearty appetite, see R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone (1869), for example, nibbling so delicately that it’s not possible to see that she’s eating at all.]

Once properly awake, Petit Pierre remembers the wolves his father had said were in the forest, but Marie cleverly reassures him, impressing Germain with the way she knows just what to say to children. It’s because she’s so young herself and remembers her own mother’s reassurances, says Germain, cursing the 30-year-old woman he’s supposed to marry because she won’t know how to be a mother to his children.

This reminds Petit-Pierre that he should say his prayer for his mother, and he does so at Marie’s breast, eventually nodding off… only to wake briefly and say:

Mon petit père, dit-il, si tu veux me donner une autre mère, je veux que ce soit la petite Marie.

Et, sans attendre de réponse, il ferma les yeux et s’endormit.

Dear father, said he, if you want to give me another mother, I want it to be Little Marie.

And without waiting for an answer, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Ch X ‘Malgré Le Froid’ (‘Despite the Cold’)

Marie pays no attention to the child’s strange words, and tells Germain to get some sleep while she watches over them both.  He can’t sleep, he tells her, he has 50 ideas in his head, and she mocks him a little.  She thinks he has only one idea: before, it was the idea of eating, and now it’s the idea of sleeping. He’s a bit offended, and she ticks him off for being such a worrier, not showing much courage for a man, and certainly not as much courage as she has in dealing with her own grief.

He talks about her likely fate among strangers, and again she ticks him off for this pessimistic forecast: he should be optimistic for her sake, she thinks. He leads her onto the idea of marriage as an escape route, and is dismayed to find that when she’s saved up enough money, she wants a young man, not someone his age.

Un vieux, sans doute; mais, par exemple, un homme de mon âge?

Votre âge est vieux pour moi, Germain; j’aimerais l’âge de Bastien, quoique Bastien ne soit pas si joli homme que vous.

Tu aimerais mieux Bastien le porcher? dit Germain avec humeur.  Un garçon qui a les yeux faits comme les bêtes qu’il mène?

An old man,  of course not, but, for example, a man of my age?

Your age is old for me, Germain.  I would like someone of Bastien’s age, though he is not as good-looking as you are.

You would prefer Bastien the swineherd? said Germain moodily.  A boy who has eyes like the beasts he tends?

Bastien is 18, you see…

However, she goes on to say, he’s not very bright and he’s not very clean, but when Germain presses her on this, she asks Qu’est-ce que ça fait? (What’s it got to do with you?) It’s just as well that she doesn’t hear his intemperate words in response because she’s fallen asleep, just like a child…

But Germain can’t sleep.  He wanders about in circles, almost falling over the sleeping pair in the dark, and when Marie wakes, they set off in hope of finding a house because Germain knows it will only get colder as dawn approaches.  Germain takes Marie in under his cloak, (because hers is around the still sleeping Petit Pierre), and he struggles to keep his feelings under control.

But after two hours, they find themselves back where they were.


On to XI A La Belle Étoile (A Beautiful Star) in the next instalment…

Author: George Sand
Title: La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool)
Publisher: Nelson, Paris, London, Edinburgh & New York, 1947, first published 1846, 282 pages (A6)
ISBN: none
Source: gift of Bill Holloway from The Australian Legend.

La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool) by George Sand (Summary, Chapters 1-5)

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La Mare du Diable 001I’ve been slowly reading this 1947 French edition of La Mare au Diable for a while, but I’ve now decided to start summarising each chapter here as I read it…

The book begins with a ‘Notice’, narrated in first person, and dated 12 April 1851.  In it, she says that when she began writing this story, as part of a series of rustic tales called Veillées du Chanvreur (Evenings with Hemp-workers), she had no ambition to write anything revolutionary.  Stories of country life have been around for ever, and like many others which celebrate the simple life, she merely intended to write a story about such a life. Critics searching for greater meaning than that are mistaken.

Holbein's Ploughman

The Ploughman, engraving by Hans Holbein (1538) Source: Clip Art Etc

Sand was inspired by an engraving of a ploughman by Holbein, she says, and I think it’s this one,  from his 1538 series ‘Danse Macabre’ (‘The Dance of Death’) in which Death is hastening along beside the exhausted ploughman as he tills the barren soil that stretches before him.  In the ensuing ‘L’Auteur au Lecteur’ (‘Note to the Reader’), she quotes an old French quatrain, and explains that in all of Holbein’s series, Death is a fearsome spectre, except for just one image: Lazarus, the poor man who does not fear Death because life is so burdensome.

A la sueur de ton visaige
Tu gagnerois ta pauvre vie,
Après long travail et usaige,
Voicy la mort qui te convie.

By the sweat of your brow
You earn your poor living
After long years of exploitation
Here is your invitation to death.

Sand rejects Holbein’s vision: for him, there was divine retribution for rich sinners and consolation for the misery of a poor life, but Sand wants to celebrate life because she believes that God blessed it. As an artist working in another form, she doesn’t want to depict poverty as ugly, vicious and criminal. The novelist has a more poetic task. She wants to make her subject lovable, and perhaps flatter him if necessary to achieve it.

II ‘Le Labour’ (‘The Ploughing’)

After musing further on the contrast between the common images of labour in the fields and what can actually be seen there, the narrator, walking in the countryside, sees an old man, steadily ploughing his team of two placid oxen, while at the far end a younger man with a team of four is guiding a spirited team of four over stony ground.  His task is harder because his oxen are not yet used to the yoke, but he has youth on his side. He is accompanied by a beautiful young child of six or seven, (beau comme un ange) who is doing his best to goad the beasts but is hampered by the sweetness of his young voice. It is a scene of hard work but also contentment, in marked contrast to Holbein’s scene of despair.  The narrator acknowledges that the peasant lacks sophistication and high intelligence, but she cautions against patronising him, because she knows Germain, and she knows his story…and she will rescue it from oblivion.

III ‘Le Père Maurice’ (Father Maurice)

Maurice tells his son-in-law Germain that he needs to remarry: his three children Petit-Pierre (7), Solange and Sylvain (not yet 4) have been cared for by their grandparents, but they’re a handful and a burden.  Not only that, but the grandparents will soon have another one to look after because their daughter-in-law is about to give birth, and she won’t be able to look after her other child while she’s lying-in. Germain’s children must be watched because of the accidents that could easily happen, so it’s time he took a second wife.

Germain is still grieving for the death of his wife Catherine (Maurice’s daughter): he says it’s not part of the bargain that he should forget her if he were unlucky enough to lose her. She was a wonderful woman:

J’avais une brave femme, une belle femme, douce, courageuse, bonne à ses père et mère, bonne à sa mari, bonne à ses enfants, bonne au travail, aux champs comme à la maison, adroite à l’ouvrage, bonne à tout enfin.

I had a valiant wife, a beautiful wife, sweet, courageous, good to her father and mother, good to her husband, good to her children, as good at work in the fields as in the house, clever at her work, good at everything.

Maurice acknowledges his loss, a grief which he shares.  But he’s not telling Germain to forget her.  He says that if Catherine could speak, she would tell him that the children need a mother.  It will be hard to find someone worthy of her, but when they do, Germain will love her as he loved their daughter, because he is an honest man.

Germain acquiesces, and Maurice goes on to advise against a young wife because youth is fickle and three children are a burden.  He should have a wife about the same age as he is, and willing to accept her duty.  And, rejecting Germain’s suggestions of local women as either too young or too poor, Maurice recommends a widow without children of her own, pretty enough to bear attractive children, and preferably with some property of her own.  Neither of them know of such a perfect woman in their own village.

IV ‘Germain Le Fin Labourer’ (Germain, The Astute Ploughman’)

What Maurice has in mind is a woman (also called Catherine) who lives in the village of Fourche. It turns out that he has already made overtures and established that she is good-hearted, good-looking enough when she was younger though she’s 32 now, and (importantly) she has land she could sell. Because he’s a simple fellow, Germain is a bit taken aback by his father-in-law’s preoccupation with money, but Maurice says so much the better if Germain has a wife with brains. Maurice is a little worried that after he dies, there may be trouble between Germain and his son, but Germain reassures him that he would never make a claim on Jacques’ inheritance.

Maurice reminds him that things do not always turn out as expected, and also he needs to be mindful that any children he has with a second wife could have no claim on his first wife’s inheritance. So she needs to have some property of her own.

Still reluctant about the whole idea, Germain tries to stall with claims of too much work to do, but Maurice insists and Germain caves in, musing on his grief but not strong enough to argue against Maurice’s rather cold-blooded plans.

V. ‘La Guillette’ (‘Mother Guillette’)

That night, Old Mother Guillette calls on Maurice, her neighbour, to borrow some embers for the fire. She’s interested to hear the news about Germain, and when she hears that he is going to Fourche, she asks if he could escort her only daughter Marie to nearby Ormeaux.  They are very hard up because their farm isn’t big enough to support them both, so, aged 16, Marie is going away to work as a shepherdess.

Maurice readily agrees, but the narrator sounds a note of caution.  More sophisticated folk would balk at the idea of a 28-year-old man being entrusted with the care of a 16 year-old girl, but in this simple rustic world, Germain wouldn’t dream of corrupting her chastity.  Maurice and his family are held in high regard, and since Germain is going in search of a wife, it doesn’t enter anyone’s head that he could take advantage of her.


On to VI ‘Petit-Pierre’ (‘Little Peter’) in the next instalment…

Author: George Sand
Title: La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool)
Publisher: Nelson, Paris, London, Edinburgh & New York, 1947, first published 1846, 282 pages (A6)
ISBN: none
Source: gift of Bill Holloway from The Australian Legend.

The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg

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The Dream Lover (2015) is a fictionalized life, written in the first person, of celebrated French novelist George Sand (1804-1876) who was of course a woman, born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. I’ve been listening to it over the past couple of days and have constructed this review from my memory of the story, relying on Wikipedia for dates and names.

Ironically, in her memoir Histoire de ma Vie (1855), Sand writes, “I would not want to tell my life like a novel. The content would be overwhelmed by the form.”

Sand was the author of 60 or so novels and two memoirs. As well as I can gather, her themes were adultery, sexual satisfaction for women, and the unfairness of marriage laws which vested all of a woman’s property in the husband. She went about publicly in men’s clothes, lived separately from her husband, conducted a number of ‘scandalous’ affairs, and hinted at being bi-sexual, particularly in her relations with the actress Marie Duval.

I am always looking out for antecedents for the strong anti-marriage theme in the writing of C19th Australian women novelists and feminists like Catherine Helen Spence, Mary Gaunt and Rosa Praed, and Sand interests me in this regard. I’m not sure how much of her work was translated into English, though I’m sure she was well known. Berg quotes passages from Sand’s work and what I presume are genuine letters, particularly in relation to her views on sexual politics, but again does not suggest any influences.

The novel begins in 1831 with Aurore leaving her husband Casimir Dudevant and their two children at their country home Nohant – which she had inherited from her grandmother along with a substantial fortune, but which he controls – to join her lover in Paris and to set out on her career as a writer. We move ahead in two parallel streams – her career as an independent adult going on from that point, and her childhood and young womanhood leading up to the separation. The writing is good, but not excellent, and the story itself is fascinating. As we switch back and forth between the timelines each episode is dated but still with the potential to be confusing, especially listening and not paying full attention, for instance Aurore dealing inexpertly with a suitor in one timeline and dragging a lover into bed in the other.

As briefly as I can, the story is that her well-born father Maurice Dupin was an officer in Napoleon’s army. While serving in Italy he falls in love with Sophie, a courtesan, whom he marries secretly against his mother’s wishes. They have a daughter, Aurore and subsequently a son who is born when Sophie joins Maurice in Spain (I guess at the beginning of the Peninsular War) but who is sickly, particularly after the long trek back to Nohant in central France (about 300 km south of Paris) and soon dies. Maurice dies not long after, in a riding accident. Sophie does not get on with her mother in law and accepts an allowance to go and live in Paris while Aurore is brought up as a lady by her grandmother, and is educated by Maurice’s old tutor.

Aurore is probably a bit wild. She gets her first taste of men’s clothing riding around the countryside in trousers and a loose shirt. Her grandmother reacts by putting her into a convent school run by English catholic nuns in Paris where she spends a relatively happy couple of years until she is 16 and it is time to put her on the marriage market. Her grandmother dies and Aurore becomes mistress of the estate until at 19, she marries Dudevant and he begins to run it down.

Berg pictures her as inexperienced (of course) in bed but also unresponsive. Nevertheless they have a son, Maurice, and then a daughter, Solange, though by then Aurore has been experimenting with lovers, so Solange’s paternity is uncertain.

Dudevant offers Aurore no comfort intellectually and she is frustrated by his stewardship of her estate. After eight years they separate and Dudevant gives her an allowance (out of her own money!) to live in Paris. Initially the children stay with their father and the parents take turns living at Nohant.

Aurore and her lover Jules Sandeau jointly write Rose et Blanche (1831) which is published under the pen name Jules Sand. The following year she writes Indiana, using the pen name George Sand, which name she adopts for herself from then on (that is, people now call her George). She has a job as a theatre critic and starts wearing men’s clothes because only men are allowed to sit in the cheap seats down the front.

The problem of women achieving satisfaction is a running theme in her early novels, and Berg has her spending one never repeated weekend of sensual delights with Marie Duval at Nohant where Duval teaches her the uses of all her ladybits. This seems to make life more pleasant both for her and for the many subsequent men in her life.

Divorce was abolished in France by Napoleon, but after four or five years of independence Sand and Dudevant negotiate a legal separation in which she regains control of Nohant and custody of the children. Sand is in any case already a prolific and commercially successful author and so though her stated sympathies are with the poor, her upbringing and lifestyle put her firmly with the rich and famous.

We go on. Maurice is a good boy, Solange is a handful. George is friends with Franz Liszt and stays with him in Switzerland in time to meet baby Cosima (The Young Cosima, Henry Handel Richardson). Liszt introduces her to Frederic Chopin, and Sand and Chopin live together for the decade 1837-47, eventually separating when Chopin sides with Solange over Solange’s impetuous marriage to August Clésinger.

In 1848 Sand is an enthusiastic supporter of the February Revolution marking the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the (short-lived) Second Republic. I think though that with the return of Empire under Napoleon III she finds it politic to retire to the country. She continues to entertain and in later years becomes friends with the reclusive Flaubert, twenty years her junior. She dies at Nohant in 1876.

 

Elizabeth Berg, The Dream Lover, Random House, 2015. Audio version Brilliance Audio, 2015, read by Emily Sutton-Smith

Google Books has some interesting critical studies of George Sand (here) including modern introductions to Story of my Life and Indiana.

Originally posted at The Australian Legend (here)

La Mare du Diable (The Devil’s Pool) cover images

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La Mare du Diable (translated as The Devil’s Pool or The Haunted Pool, was published in 1846.   This French edition was published by Bibliothèque Neson, Paris, 1947.

Available translations in English appear to be public domain versions.

For images of other book cover art work, visit the Images page in the top menu.

Indiana, by George Sand

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IndianaI hope you noticed, dear reader, that contrary to my usual practice at ANZ LitLovers, I have not #NamedTheTranslator. That is because *drum roll* I have read this novel by French author George Sand in the original French. And after the first dozen chapters, I did not ‘translate’ as I read. I just read it, without worrying much about vocabulary I didn’t know unless it really seemed critical. (You can see for yourself where I stumble in my translations below).

This is not to imply that I understood every word of it. Certainly not. My French is not that good, and literary French from the 19th century was an ambitious project to tackle. I have no doubt that I missed many subtleties and nuances, and I occasionally realised as I progressed through the chapters that I had completely misunderstood something from an earlier chapter. But I understood it enough to enjoy it, and to recognise George Sand as a champion of the poor and an advocate of women’s rights. I admired her overt scorn for a character who abandons a woman because she is of a different class and therefore not marriageable. And in her authorial intrusions, she doesn’t beat about the bush:

Moi, je crois que l’opinion politique d’un homme, c’est l’homme tout entier. Dites-moi votre coeur et votre tête, et je vous dirai vos opinions politiques. Dans quelque rang ou quelque parti que le hasard nous ait fait naître, notre caractère l’emporte tôt ou tard sur les préjugés ou les croyances de l’éducation. Vous me trouverez peut-être absolu; mais comment pourrais-je me décider à augurer bien d’un esprit qui s’attache à de certains systèmes que la générosité repousse ? Montrez-moi un homme qui soutienne l’utilité de la peine de mort, et, quelque consciencieux et éclairé qu’il soit, je vous défie d’établir jamais aucune sympathie entre lui et moi. Si cet homme veut m’enseigner des vérités que j’ignore, il n’y réussira point; car il ne dépendra pas de moi de lui accorder ma confiance. (Ch 14) Me, I believe that a man’s political opinions are the whole man. Tell me your head and your head, and I will tell you your political opinions. In whatever rank or whatever party it is our fortune to be born, our character prevails over prejudices or educational beliefs. You perhaps find me absolute: but how else can I decide to ascertain (?) a mind/spirit which attaches itself to certain systems that (makes) generosity flourish? Show me a man who supports the usefulness of the death penalty and however conscientious and clear-minded he might be, I defy you to ever establish any sympathy between him and me. If that man wants to instruct me in truths of which I am ignorant, he will never succeed; because he cannot depend on me to accord him my confidence.
George Sand by Charles Louis Gratia (c1835) (Source: Wikipedia)

George Sand by Charles Louis Gratia c1835) (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

George Sand was the pseudonym of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (1804-1876), a prolific French novelist who cast a sardonic eye over her society. She had a ‘liberal’ upbringing, and it was a liaison with the writer Jules Sandeau that prompted her to co-author her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831). Indiana was the first novel she wrote independently and she went to write an impressive string of novels, publishing two and three each year. (You can see them listed at Wikipedia.) Amongst her contemporaries, Baudelaire sneered at her, but Balzac admired her subtlety and imagery, and she was read by Dostoyevsky, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Proust. More recently she is referenced by Virginia Woolf and by Elizabeth Allende, and in film, television and music.

Indiana is the story of a noblewoman married off to an older military gent called Delmare. She doesn’t love him, and he’s a clumsy boorish man who has no idea about the emotional needs of a very young woman. The author herself had married at eighteen, so she was writing from the heart and it shows. (This is why I’ve chosen the portrait which shows her as a young woman, not the usual dour Nadar photo of her when she was in her sixties.)

BEWARE:SPOILERS ABOUND

Anyway, Indiana suffers from an assortment of ailments which derive from her misery, and she cries a lot much to the irritation of Col. Delmare – but she still manages to look pale and attractive to her English neighbour Sir Ralph Who Loves Her From Afar. Although Indiana is on the lookout for love, she doesn’t countenance Sir Ralph and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the sang-froid of Englishmen discounts them as potential lovers. (And George Sand should know about lovers, because she had a lot of them). Enter Raymon, (who we of Anglo-Saxon persuasion would call a Cad or a Bounder) and despite some hiccups along the way, (notably the suicide of Indiana’s maid and soul-sister Noun who fell pregnant to Raymon even as he swore his love to Indiana), he manages to steal Indiana’s foolish young heart.

Having won her heart, he doesn’t want it. He sees Indiana take fearlessly to the horse that Sir Ralph so cunningly bought for her, and is a bit unnerved by her courage. He likes his women meek. (And rich as well, of course).

Raymon fut effrayé de la voir courir ainsi, se livrant sans peur à la fougue de ce cheval qu’elle connaissait à peine, le lancer hardiment dans le taillis, éviter avec une adresse étonnante les branches dont la vigueur élastique fouettait son visage, franchir les fossés sans hésitation, se hasarder avec confiance dans les terrains glaiseux et mouvants, ne s’inquiétant pas de briser ses membres fluets, mais jalouse d’arriver la première sur la piste fumante du sanglier. Tant de résolution l’effraya et faillit le dégoûter de Mme Delmare. Les hommes, et les amants surtout, ont la fatuité innocente de vouloir protéger la faiblesse plutôt que d’admirer le courage chez les femmes. L’avouerai-je ? Raymon se sentit épouvanté de tout ce qu’un esprit si intrépide promettait de hardiesse et de ténacité en amour. Ce n’était pas dans le coeur résigné de la pauvre Noun, qui aimait mieux se noyer que de lutter contre son malheur. Ch 14) Raymond was alarmed to see her ride away like this, submitting herself without fear to the fiery spirit of a horse that she barely knew, launching him boldly through the shrubbery, avoiding with astonishing precision (adresse?) the springing branches that (might have?) whipped her face, crossing ditches without hesitation, confidently risking the slippery, muddy ground, unafraid of breaking her slender limbs, but brooking no rival (jalouse?) to be first at the steaming scent of the boar. So much determination alarmed him and almost aroused disgust in him for Madame Delmare. Men, especially lovers, are addicted to the innocent smug foolishness of wishing more to protect weakness than to admire the courage of women. Will I confess? Raymon was terrified by everything that a spirit so intrepid promised in boldness and tenacity in love. It was not like the resigned heart of poor Noun, who preferred to drown herself rather than to fight against her misfortune.

As in most French literature of this period, there are allusions to politics. Sir Ralph and the Colonel have long had a tacit agreement to avoid points of conflict, but when Raymond wangles his way into being a regular visitor, he provokes argument. Raymond is a monarchist, Sir Ralph is a republican and Colonel Delmare yearns for the Empire. As Sands remarks,

C’est une grande imprudence d’introduire la politique comme passe-temps dans l’intérieur des familles. It is a great imprudence to introduce politics as a pastime in family life.

This dissension bodes ill, and it’s no surprise that Sir Ralph’s relationship with the Colonel comes off worst. He has to do a lot of eating humble pie in this novel, (which probably gave French readers a certain grim satisfaction as Anglo-French relations were not at their best in this period).

Indiana is a remarkably foolish young woman, who seems to irritate her creator. There are authorial gems along the way, like this one in Chapter 12.

Ce n’était pas la première fois que Raymon voyait une femme prendre l’amour au sérieux, quoique ces exemples soient rares, heureusement pour la société. This was not the first time that Raymond had seen a woman take love seriously, although these examples are rare, happily for society.

Luise, rival to Indiana for Raymon’s capricious attention, is much smarter. She understands that an heiress can’t hope for love, not when two million francs are at stake. She doesn’t blame Raymon, but she’s not silly enough to love him. She knows that French society requires that she marry, but she’s going to keep her independence for as long as she can, and she’s going to make Raymon work for what he wants. The reader can almost hear Sand chuckling to herself as her pen writes the scene where Luise mocks Indiana’s absurd histrionics.

This authorial declaration – La femme est imbécile par nature – in chapter 23 made me find a proper English translation:

Woman is naturally foolish; it is as if Heaven, to counterbalance the eminent superiority over us men which she owes to her delicacy of perception, had implanted a blind vanity, an idiotic credulity in her heart. It may be that one need only be an adept in the art of bestowing praise and flattering the self-esteem, to obtain dominion over that subtle, supple and perspicacious being. Sometimes the men who are most incapable of obtaining any sort of ascendancy over other men, obtain an unbounded ascendancy over the minds of women. Flattery is the yoke that bends those ardent but frivolous heads so low. Woe to him who undertakes to be frank and outspoken in love! he will have Ralph’s fate. This is what I should reply if you should tell me that Indiana is an exceptional character, and that the ordinary woman displays neither her stoical coolness nor her exasperating patience in resistance to conjugal despotism. I should tell you to look at the reverse of the medal, and see the miserable weakness, the stupid blindness she displays in her relations with Raymon. I should ask you where you ever found a woman who was not as ready to deceive as to be deceived; who had not the art to confine for ten years in the depths of her heart the secret of a hope sacrificed so thoughtlessly in a day of frenzied excitement, and who would not become, in one man’s arms, as pitiably weak as she could be strong and invincible in another man’s.

Sand, George, 1804-1876, Indiana (Kindle Locations 3251-3261). The University of Adelaide Library. Kindle Edition. Translation by George Burnham Ives

Does it all end badly? Well, alas, Raymon does not get his just desserts. George Sand was blending romanticism with realism in this novel and chaps like Raymon got away with their knavery all the time in French society. So she wasn’t about to blunder into a soppy happy ending, no. Yes, Indiana and Sir Ralph get to know each other better after he rescues her from penury in Paris, but no, she does not recover from her dolours. But the solution Sand chooses is bizarre, so much so that when Sir Ralph proposes a suicide pact, I ventured to an English translation to check that I had understood correctly how a God-fearing man could justify it. But he does, and although they both recover some equanimity on the long sea voyage to a suitable waterfall on the Île Bourbon (renamed Île La Réunion after the fall of the Bourbons), and although, yes, Indiana forgives him when he finally (finally!) tells his tale of woe and declares his stoic love for her, and – gosh! she even agrees that he can be her husband in heaven and on earth! – the novel concludes with a splendidly melodramatic finale:

Alors Ralph prit sa fiancée dans ses bras, et l’emporta pour la précipiter avec lui dans le torrent…

Then Ralph took his fiancée in his arms and carried her away to hurl themselves into the torrent…

Indiana & Ralph at the waterfallWell, almost. There is a nicely ambiguous ending to tease the reader: it could be that Indiana finds love at last and – consistent with her passionate nature – held his hand as they plunged to their deaths in the waterfall. But the last chapter, which takes the form of a letter to ‘J. Neraud’, suggests otherwise. An adventurer who has a slight acquaintance with Sir Ralph stumbles on an isolated cottage on the island. He had heard all kinds of fascinating rumours about Sir Ralph and Indiana but no one had seen them or knew what had become of them. Are the couple who are living contentedly there the reclusive scandal-makers, or are they the product of the letter-writer’s delusions after two days lost in a storm? A kind of prototype Choose-Your-Own-Ending, eh?

BTW According to Wikipedia, Sand, who had never been to the French colony of Réunion, based her descriptions of the colony, on the travel writing of her friend Jules Néraud.

Author: George Sand
Title: Indiana, first published 1832
Publisher: downloaded as a PDF from La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec Volume 12 : version 1.01
Also consulted Indiana by George Sand,The University of Adelaide Library. Kindle Edition. Translation by George Burnham Ives.

PS The tables in this post have tested my skills with html and *pout* I could not get the cell padding right!

Crossposted at ANZ LitLovers.