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quiet people on this side the Channel as a sort of portent, a sign of something coming-a new disease that may attack us any day; but further consideration leads us to regard the matter less as a phenomenon; a train of cause and effect reveals itself. It is conceivable that this perverted genius may have imitators in England, but the real thing cannot arise here for the present. We see that only France, and that only at one juncture of its history, could have produced her. She is the flower of tendencies of a hundred years' growth; it needed all the political and religious disturbance of the eighteenth century to create a position so free from good moral influences, and at the same time so exciting to the intellect, as prevailed in this unhappy woman's childhood.
The safeguards with which society and the individual are hedged about are none of them superfluous; not a single provision, domestic, civil, religious, can be spared; we cannot do without father, mother, and home, school, church, pastor, and magistrate : if one of these influences fails, society suffers; our nature will not reach its best without them all. But France presents a period when all these influences failed at once. When the nation lost its reason, when there was a universal failure of all the immense control of association and authority. In her particular case this chaos still reigned when Aurora Dudevant was born (1804); born with a nature of violent passions, vigorous, eloquent intellect, extraordinarily acute, eager senses, and an intense self-consciousness; one of those organizations especially demanding early control, as, at best, conscience must have much to do to make itself heard in the supremacy of present interests which characterizes this class of temperaments. But every abuse of the ancient and modern régime seemed to concentre in her home. Her father died in her infancy: we only hear of him as the bone of contention between mother and grandmother, who severally represented old France and new, and who nourished a mutual hatred. Both had strong natural powers calculated to gain influence which, clashing in the child's mind, would produce an utter discord of ideas. The old lady who assumed the task of education boasted of her patrician blood, and her illegitimate descent from dukes and marshals: she was a disciple of Voltaire, and se disait déiste. The mother, a child of the people,' only reclaimed from a life of infamy by her marriage, was a creature absolutely without self-control, whose beauty and talents only served to lend attraction to a disorganized existence, and to excuse a temper which allowed itself every license of action and language. She was not without a religion of her own making, which she in her turn sought to
infuse into her daughter, but nothing could interfere less withpractice, past or to come. Thus she objected to confess, because she did not believe she had ever done any harm-parce que si j'en fait, c'est malgré moi. Je ne me corrigerai pas de mes défauts; je n'y peux rien; mais j'aime Dieu d'un cœur sincère, et je le crois trop bon pour nous punir dans l'autre vie. Aurora was by turns the confidant of both these parents, and was early instructed in the worst points of each, and of all that socially or morally could be said to their disadvantage. Her illegitimate brother was a mauvais sujet and a drunkard. Even the maids were esprits forts. Her femme de chambre connaissait son Voltaire better than her old mistress, and was perfectly up in Rousseau's Contrat Social. Her pastor, the Cure of Nohaut (her grandmother's estate in Berry, which she afterwards inherited), she describes as an excellent man, but dépourvu de toute idée religieuse, a man not merely apathetic and dead, but of spirit and force of character enough to stamp irreligion and profaneness as a child's first impressions connected with public worship. There is an amusing sermon given and she says she had, with her two ears, heard more than two hundred like them-which, for outrage on place and occasion, might match with any specimen of pulpit perversity. He was in the habit of profaning the most sacred functions by irreverent disputes with the assistants. An impatient parishioner exclaims:-
Quelle diable de messe, disait-elle tout haut, ce gredin-là n'en finira pas! Allez au diable, disait le curé à demi-voix en se retournant pour bénir l'auditoire: Dominus vobiscum. Ces dialogues jetés à travers la messe et dans un style si accentué que je ne puis en donner qu'une trèsfaible traduction, troublaient à peine la gravité de l'auditoire rustique, et comme ce furent les premières messes auxquelles j'assistai, il me fallut quelque temps pour comprendre que c'étaient des cérémonies religieuses.' -Histoire de ma Vie, vol. ix. p. 203.
The last and most sacred offices of religion were not presented to her in a more serious light; for in recording the death of her déiste' grandmother she relates that the old lady was persuaded by a zealous ecclesiastic, a near relative, to receive the viaticum on the plea that it would please him as a Christian and do her no harm. The priest shall come,' he cries, to breakfast; the thing will be done at once, and by the evening you will think no more about it.'
These were her pastors. Her tutor, who was attached to the family by an act of fidelity during the Revolution, was philosophe and an unbeliever; and by her own showing was the first to induct her at sixteen into boy's clothes. Her glimpses of the outer world did not impart any better influences.
saw at an uncle's (an old canon) a society of unvenerable vieilles comtesses, whom her mother, in revenge for her personal exclusion, held up to her ridicule and contempt. Their miserable cosmetic arts, their vanity, their wigs and wrinkles, their old scandals and various imbecilities represented old age to the observant child divested of all its claim to respect. Even death was deprived of its awe: for a young surgeon recommended himself to her girlish interest by lectures on anatomy, illustrated by dissections of the human subject: and while the taste lasted, she slept with a skeleton on her drawers, learning to control with so strong a hand certain midnight panics caused by the grim guest as might at least have taught her that the will has some power over the passions. Of a character and disposition to turn all this teaching to immediate account, she grew up her own mistress in a household torn by strife and division, without faith or reverence for anything human or divine. She says she should have liked to believe in something from the poetry of her nature, but her grandmother would not let her. However, at the convent, where she passed some time, she had a crisis of enthousiasme Catholique, according to her own showing; but she revolted at the first show of authority, and closed with Rousseau. as her creed and teacher instead. A young person thus trained, with so notorious a mother, and with cleverness and spirit to make herself conspicuous, was not likely to escape animadver sion. Her habit of scampering about the country on horseback," en habit de garçon, with a train of Berrichou youths after her, her surgical experiments, her reputed infidelity, might naturally cause some of that provincial gossip her books are perpetually denouncing. At sixteen or seventeen her quarrel with society had begun. At the earlier of these periods she decides to disregard opinion, and do henceforth whatever pleases her in the later she finds un grand calme in defying for ever the rules of social life. Not that the calme was real: a young woman cannot be really indifferent to opinion. Her vigorous mind struggled and rebelled, but still suffered, at least so we must interpret the misanthropy and strong temptation to suicide, which, she says, haunted her at this time, and which would further tend to denaturalize and distort her whole moral system. We cannot, as we have said, imagine a more exceptional training or one that would lead a human being, especially a woman, upon the entrance of active life, more entirely astray and at fault. One good influence had indeed always been with her-country scenes and fresh air, of which her fine sense of beauty and a certain natural geniality of temperament, as well as robustness of frame, made her inhale the full force. Every pure and natural page of
her works breathes this one redeeming influence. In her rural scenes, and pictures of peasant life, the reader is sensible of a fresher, more wholesome, atmosphere. Even into this charmed circle the demon sometimes intrudes, but his haunt is in another compartment of the author's brain.
We have said that this pernicious training was in an extra degree injurious and fatal because its subject was a woman; and this because in a female mind it would raise more enduring obstacles to the admission of better principles. Having been once congenial there was less chance of its being successfully combated. In spite of this lady's desperate struggles to be masculine, in spite of her intellect, in spite of that philosophy which her admirers attribute to her, her mind was essentially a feminine one in its strength and in its weakness; in the accuracy and minuteness of her observation within a certain range, in the narrow and bounded limits of that range. Her books only too blindly reflect the influences which most closely surrounded her youth. She has never been an originator. She responded to her teaching with all the world of mind open to her search, with all that history can teach, all the future that religion opens to us, her mind was absolutely circumscribed by the opinion of Paris of her own particular day. What its prominent men rejected she rejected: what they received she believed: what they did in Paris she might do. Because they discarded Christianity she really believed it an effete religion: it was no pretence, she thought, that philosophy had finally done for faith. She talks of the time when men worshipped Christ' as of a past event. In her plans for the regeneration of the world Christianity is never recognized; it is only looked on as the sling and the stone of a past obsolete warfare. In like manner she thought that Christian morals were exploded; that those who held to them were old-fashioned, simply behind the time; that she was only a little in advance; that all would come to her way of thinking soon. There are evidences of her not knowing the storm she was raising. She was not in a position by her education to know it intuitively; she had not a wide enough survey, not breadth and force of mind enough to lift herself out of this lower, bounded region to repair that first miserable crippling of the intellect. We are not palliating the sin of all this from first to last, but we mean that whatever excuse docs exist for Madame George Sand (as she has been styled) lies in her training, in her bounded intellectual view, in her first impressions being exceptional ones, in her early confusion on the first principles of morals, in the want of all good traditions: there is no excuse for the works themselves
as they stand; such, that is to say, as embody her immorality from whatever source it arose.
It has been a grave question with us how far it is desirable for any reason to open out the real nature and principles of these audacious productions. But they are read; and those who read them find excuses for them, pleading that they are the struggle of a deep, fearless, thoughtful mind, working its way through obscurity to the light. What we would prove is, that the mind which conceived them was never in a condition to reason dispassionately, that it was never at leisure to think. Her own account shows that the brain was most prolific of novels when, as her countryman expresses it, she was 'encore plus riche en aventures qu'en chefs-d'œuvre.' They poured from her, in the first years of her Paris life, with an astonishing fecundity. Such as they are, they are the reflection of this life, which it is therefore indispensable to our purpose that we should at least touch upon.
Having received such training then, our Aurora was not slow in putting it in practice. How soon she formed her theory of marriage we are not precisely informed, but we would assume it to be after she had conformed to that rite. Whatever prejudices she had overcome she was essentially a Frenchwoman, and as such it was perhaps virtually impossible to imagine any other entrance into life, any alternative between marriage and the cloister. She married M. Dudevant, and after the birth of two children separated from him. Her own history, she informs us, is to throw no particular light on her domestic relations, probably there is not much light to be thrown beyond the avowed fact of her wearying of them. We can quite understand that the cares of a household would agree ill with the sans gêne she had cultivated in herself; and we are briefly told that she found housekeeping made her egotistical, and therefore renounced its cares, and then wearied of inaction. This history of her life, of twenty volumes, she expressly tells us is not to include a history of its events, a plan of which we do not wish to complain. Indeed she probably considers her course to have been sufficiently notorious to obviate any necessity for embarrassing explanations on her part. Taking for granted, therefore, a general acquaintance with facts in her compatriots, she confines herself to allusions; and in detailing her reasons for abandoning her home, mysteriously introduces us to un être absent, an old friend with whom at this time she was in correspondence, and by whose assistance she entered upon that new phase of independent existence in which she is best known to the world. Madame Dudevant never adopts the