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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

That this famous novelist has not

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER V


[Sidenote: George Sand--generalities about her.]

There is a Scotch proverb (not, I think, among those most generally known), "Never tell your foe when your foot sleeps"; and some have held that this applies specially to the revelation, by an author, of his own weak points. I do not agree with them, having always had a fancy for playing and seeing cards on table--except at cards themselves, where a dummy seems to me only to spoil the game. Therefore I admit, in coming to George Sand, that this famous novelist has not, _as_ a novelist, ever been a favourite of mine--that I have generally experienced some, and occasionally great, difficulty in reading her. Even the "purged considerate mind" (without, I venture to hope, much dulling of the literary palate) which I have brought to the last readings necessary for this book, has but partially removed this difficulty. The causes of it, and their soundness or unsoundness as reasons, must be postponed for a little--till, as usual, sufficient survey and analysis of at least specimens (for here as elsewhere the immense bulk of the total work defies anything more than "sampling") have supplied due evidence. But it may be said at once that no kind of prejudice or dislike, arising from the pretty notorious history and character of Amantine (Amandine? Armandine?) Lucile Aurore Dupin or Dudevant,

commonly called George Sand, has anything to do with my want of affection or admiration for her work. I do not recommend her conduct in her earlier days for imitation, and I am bound to say that I do not think it was ever excused by what one may call real love. But she seems to have been an extremely good fellow in her age, and not by any means a very bad fellow in her youth. She was at one time pretty, or at least good-looking;[174] she was at all times clever; and if she did not quite deserve that almost superhuman eulogy awarded in the Devonshire epitaph to

Mary Sexton, Who pleased many a man and never vexed one,[175]

she did fulfil the primal duty of her sex, and win its greatest triumph, by complying with the first half of the line, while, if she failed as to the second, it was perhaps not entirely her fault.[176] Finally, Balzac's supposed picture of her as Camille in _Beatrix_ has the almost unique peculiarity, among its author's sketches of women, of being positively attractive--attractive, that is to say, not merely to the critic as a powerful study and work of art; not perhaps at all to the sentimentalist as a victim or an adorable piece of _candeur_; not to the lover of physical beauty or passion, but to the reader--"sensible" in the old sense as well as in the new--who feels that here is a woman he should like to have known, even if he feels likewise that his weather-eye would have had to be kept open during the knowledge.

[Sidenote: Phases of her work.]

It has been customary--and though these customary things are sometimes delusive and too often mechanical, there is also occasionally, and, I think, here, her work, something not negligible in them, if they be not applied too rigidly--to divide George Sand's long period (nearly half a century) of novel-production into four sub-periods, corresponding roughly with the four whole decades of the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties.[177] The first, sometimes called,

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