Germaine de Staël, George Sand, and the Victorian Woman Artist

By Linda M. Lewis | Go to book overview

1

Secular Sibyl and Divine Sophia Staël's Corinne and Sand's Consuelo

The first reading of “Corinne” is an epoch a woman never forgets ... —GERALDINE JEWSBURY, The Half Sisters

France must turn, with the crowning due to genius, to ... Corinne & George Sand—ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, correspondence

Madame de Stael's name still rises first to the lips when we are asked to mention a woman of great intellectual power.... George Sand is the un- approached artist, who . . . unites the clear delineation of character and the tragic depth of passion.—GEORGE ELIOT, “Madame de Sablé”

“You came to France to talk of . . .George Sand?” she asked him, with dancing eyes—“mon Dieu! Mon Dieu! What do you take us for?”—MRS. HUMPHRY (MARY) WARD, The History of David Grieve

NOT ONLY WERE THE French artists Germaine de Staël (1766 —1817) and George Sand (1804 —1876) models as women who dared to publish, but they also inspired nineteenth-century English women writers by their personal courage, their uniqueness and vivacity, and their commitment to liberté in art and politics. Furthermore, Staël's Corinne (1807) and Sand's Consuelo (1842) became the reference points for woman-as-artist fictions of the entire second half of the century. The central questions of female art and female creativity are raised in these groundbreaking novels, and English women writers of the artist-as-heroine motif engage these two important texts again and again, producing works intriguing for their intertextuality, their personal slant on issues already in the air that intellectual and creative women were breathing. In the character of Corinne is the precedent of the artist whose creativity both establishes a larger-than-life myth of womanhood and combats, in code, the political regime of her nation.

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