The World of George Sand

By Natalie Datlof; Jeanne Fuchs et al. | Go to book overview

20
Healers in George Sand's Works

Annabelle M. Rea

Madame Sand is a better doctor than I and I have used her services.

Geneviève Bréton, Journal 1867-1871

In the century of Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard, George Sand, like so many of her contemporaries, was fascinated by medicine. Anyone familiar with her correspondence knows of the centrality of health in her preoccupations, both her own health and that of those around her. For someone who says that she never complains or worries about her health ( Corr., 7:614-615), Sand provides in her letters an extensive list of maladies.1 Georges Lubin has attributed some of Sand's apparent health disturbances to what he terms the "social lie" ( Corr., 7:253 n. 1), a protective device taken much further by Florence Nightingale, who spent years in bed in order to free her time for her writing. Occasionally in her correspondence Sand admits to turning bothersome visitors away with excuses about her health.2

Regardless of how many of her maladies were feigned, Sand was an amazingly strong woman for her time. In 1844, for example, she wrote to her friend the worker-poet Charles Poncy ( Corr., 6:591) about spending but one day in bed after the birth of Solange and going riding a week later. Basing her conclusion on Henry James's assessment, Ellen Moers, in Literary Women, speaks of Sand's "physical robustness."3 In this, Sand served as a countermodel in her century where, according to Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, "culture seems actually to have admonished women to be ill."4 Many of Sand's characters imitate her in this respect.

The correspondence, as well as Histoire de ma vie, also show the importance of healers in Sand's life. We know that her tutor François Deschartres, who had studied medicine but was "largely self-taught," gave young Aurore lessons in medicine and arranged for her to do further study with the medical student Stéphane

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