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 Histoire de ma vie.
It certainly was not her portrait. She was healthy and believed in life, in the goodness of things and in the future of humanity, just as Victor Hugo and Dumas pere, those other forces of Nature, did, at about the same time. A soul foreign to her own had entered into her, and it was the romantic soul. With the magnificent power of receptivity which she possessed, George Sand welcomed all the winds which came to her from the four quarters of romanticism. She sent them back with unheard-of fulness, sonorous depth and wealth of orchestration. From that time forth a woman's voice could be heard, added to all the masculine voices which railed against life, and the woman's voice dominated them all!
In George Sand's psychological evolution, Lelia is just this: the beginning of the invasion of her soul by romanticism. It was a borrowed individuality, undoubtedly, but it was not something to be put on and off at will like a mask. It adhered to the skin. It was all very fine for George Sand to say to Sainte-Beuve: "Do not confuse the man himself with the suffering. . . . And do not believe in all my satanical airs. . . . This is simply a style that I have taken on, I assure you. . . ."
Sainte-Beuve had every reason to be alarmed, and the confessor was quite right in his surmises. The crisis of romanticism had commenced. It was to take an acute form and to reach its paroxysm during the Venice escapade. It is from this point of view that we will study the famous episode, which has already been studied by so many other writers.
No subject, perhaps, has excited the curiosity of readers like this one, and always without satisfying that curiosity. A library could be formed of the books devoted to this subject, written within the last ten years. Monsieur Rocheblave, Monsieur Maurice Clouard, Dr. Cabanes, Monsieur Marieton, the enthusiastic collector, Spoelberch de Lovenjoul and Monsieur Decori have all given us their contributions to the debate. Thanks to them, we have the complete correspondence of George Sand and Musset, the diary of George Sand and Pagello's diary.
 Consult: Rocheblave, La fin dune Legende; Maurice Clouard, Documents inedits sur A. de Musset; Dr. Cabanes, Musset et le Dr. Pagello; Paul Marieton, Une histoire d'amour; Vicomte Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, La vrai histoire d'Elle et Lui; Decori, Lettres de George Sand et Musset.
With the aid of all these documents Monsieur Charles Maurras has written a book entitled Les Amants de Venise. It is the work of a psychologist and of an artist. The only fault I have to find with it is that the author of it seems to see calculation and artifice everywhere, and not to believe sufficiently in sincerity. We must not forget, either, that as early as the year 1893, all that is essential had been told us by that shrewd writer and admirable woman, Arvede Barine. The chapter which she devotes to the Venice episode, in her biography of Alfred de Musset, is more clear and simple, and at the same time deeper than anything that had yet been written.
It is a subject that has been given up to the curiosity of people and to their disputes. The strange part is the zeal which at once animates every one who takes part in this controversy. The very atmosphere seems to be impregnated with strife, and those interested become, at once, the partisans of George Sand or the partisans of Musset. The two parties only agree on one point, and that is, to throw all the blame on the client favoured by their adversary. I must confess that I cannot take a passionate interest in a discussion, the subject of which we cannot properly judge. According to Mussetistes, it was thanks to George Sand that the young poet was reduced to the despair which drove him to debauchery. On the other hand, if we are to believe the Sandistes, George Sand's one idea in interesting herself in Musset was to rescue him from debauchery and convert him to a better life. I listen to all suchpious interpretations, but I prefer others for myself. I prefer seeing the physiognomy of each of the two lovers standing out, as it does, in powerful relief.
It is the custom, too, to pity these two unfortunates, who suffered so much. At the risk of being taken for a very heartless man, I must own that I do not pity them much. The two lovers wished for this suffering, they wanted to experience the incomparable sensations of it, and they got enjoyment and profit from this. They knew that they were working for posterity. "Posterity will repeat our names like those of the immortal lovers whose two names are only one at present, like Romeo and Juliette, like Heloise and Abelard. People will never speak of one of us without speaking of the other."
Juliette died at the age of fifteen and Heloise entered a convent. The Venice lovers did not have to pay for their celebrity as dearly as that. They wanted to give an example, to light a torch on the road of humanity. "People shall know my story," writes George Sand. "I will write it. . . . Those who follow along the path I trod will see where it leads." Et nunc erudimini. Let us see for ourselves, and learn.
Their liaison dates from August, 1833.
George Sand was twenty-nine years of age. It was the time of her greatest charm. We must try to imagine the enchantress as she then was. She was not tall and she was delightfully slender, with an extraordinary-looking face of dark, warm colouring. Her thick hair was very dark, and her eyes, her large eyes, haunted Musset for years after.
"Ote-moi, memoire importune,
And this woman, who could have been loved passionately, merely for her charm as a woman, was a celebrity! She was a woman of genius! Alfred de Musset was twenty-three years old. He was elegant, witty, a flirt, and when he liked he could be irresistible. He had won his reputation by that explosion of gaiety and imagination, Les Contes d'Espagne el d'Italle. He had written some fine poetry, dreamy, disturbing and daring. He had also given Les Caprices de Marianne, in which he figures twice over himself, for he was both Octave the sceptic, the disillusioned man, and Coelio, the affectionate, candid Coelio. He imagined himself Rolla. It was he, and he alone, who should have been styled the sublime boy.
And so here they both are. We might call them Lelia and Stenio, but Lelia was written before the Venice adventure. She was not the reflection of it, but rather the presentiment. This is worthy of notice, but not at all surprising. Literature sometimes imitates reality, but how much more often reality is modelled on literature!
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George Sand, Some Aspects of Her Life and Writings -by- Rene Doumic