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

By Linda M. Lewis | Go to book overview

3

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh and the Labors of Psyche

IN THE FINAL PAGES OF George Sand's La Comtesse de Rudolstadt the opera singer Consuelo—formerly daughter of the people, then queen of patrician fêtes—is reunited in marriage with Albert Rudolstadt—formerly heir to the Bohemian castle, title, and authority of the Château des Géants. Now a member of a secret revolutionary brotherhood known as the Invisibles, Albert has sacrificed title and wealth for the cause, absolute equality being impossible so long as aristocrats hold on to inherited privilege and fortunes. It has been a tortuous and treacherous path for both Consuelo and Albert since their separation at the end of Consuelo, at which point the singer/actress married the dying aristocrat then resumed her career, believing Albert forever in his grave. Having affirmed at last her teacher Porpora's ceaseless admonition that she is “priestess of muses” and not meant for mortal lovers, Consuelo had lapsed into a deep melancholy—insensible to the fire of inspiration and the excitement of performing. Then when she was incarcerated by her patron, Frederick of Prussia, because she would not reveal what she knew of an alleged plot against his throne, she was rescued by a swashbuckling cavalier whose breath, kiss, and arms awakened her to a woman's passion she had never known. The rescuer is Albert in disguise, the very Albert who was, like Consuelo, a prisoner in the Spandaw fortress and whose violin playing in the night inspired her hymns to God. Forced as an initiate into the secret society to choose between two lovers, Consuelo chooses Albert over the masked cavalier Liverani, for the divine breath of Albert's soul has passed into hers, and she acknowledges the spiritual essence of her humanity to be greater than personal sexual gratification. She is a fortunate woman to receive both in the same man.

Albert and Consuelo believe that their union is a miracle, that they have perhaps loved and been separated in some previous existence, as they have in this

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