The most important French woman writer of the nineteenth century, George Sand, is better known for her adventurous life and her friends and lovers than for her fifty-odd literary works, her voluminous autobiography, and the most extensive correspondence of her century, all of which make her one of the most prolific writers ever. During her lifetime she was acclaimed as a poet, as a Romantic, as a utopist, as a feminist, and as a socialist, but posterity remembers her first of all as a scandalous woman.
Born in Paris as Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, at the age of four she was taken by her father to Madrid, which was then occupied by the French army. It was an unforgettable experience for the young girl. But her father died shortly after returning to France, and she found herself in the uncomfortable position of being a one-woman melting pot, torn between her loving but unpredictable “low-class” mother and her domineering grandmother of German descent, who decided to supervise her education herself.
As a child, the future George Sand shared the life of the peasant children on her grandmother's estate at Nohant, in the central province of Berry, while receiving a fine education—a boy's education—under private tutors. As an adolescent she attended the “Couvent des Anglaises, ” an English-style Parisian boarding school.
Settling in Paris in 1831, she published her sensational first novel, Indiana (1832), under her new pen name, George Sand. In Henry James's words: “She wrote as a bird sings; but unlike most birds, she found it unnecessary to indulge, by way of prelude, in twitterings and vocal exercises; she broke out at once with her full volume of expression” (“George Sand, ” in Literary Criticism, 705-6).
The following year she produced her most innovative and controversial novel,