In order to reply to these paradoxes, where shall we go in search of our arguments? We can go to George Sand herself. A few years later, during her intercourse with Lamennals, she wrote her famous _Lettres a Marcie_ for _Le Monde_. She addresses herself to an imaginary correspondent, to a woman supposed to be suffering from that agitation and impatience which she had experienced herself.
"You are sad," says George Sand to her, "you are suffering, and you are bored to death." We will now take note of some of the advice she gives to this woman. She no longer believes that it belongs to human dignity to have the liberty of changing. "The one thing to which man aspires, the thing which makes him great, is permanence in the moral state. All which tends to give stability to our desires, to strengthen the human will and affections, tends to bring about the _reign of God_ on earth, which means love and the practice of truth." She then speaks of vain dreams. "Should we even have time to think about the impossible if we did all that is necessary? Should we despair ourselves if we were to restore hope in those people who have nothing left them but hope?" With regard to feminist claims, she says: "Women are crying out that they are slaves: let them wait until men are free! . . . In the mean time we must not compromise the future by our impatience with the present. . . . It is to be feared that vain attempts of this kind and unjustifiable claims may do harm to what is styled at present the cause of women. There is no doubt that women have certain rights and that they are suffering injustice. They ought to lay claim to a better future, to a wise independence, to a greater participation in knowledge, and to more respect, interest and esteem from men. This future, though, is in their own hands."
This is wisdom itself. It would be impossible to put it more clearly, and to warn women in a better way, that the greatest danger for their cause would be the triumph of what is called by an ironical term--feminism.
These retractions, though, have very little effect. There is a certain piquancy in showing up an author who is in contradiction with himself, in showing how he refutes his own paradoxes. But these are striking paradoxes which are not readily forgotten. What I want to show is that in these first novels by George Sand we have about the whole of the feminist programme of to-day. Everything is there, the right to happiness, the necessity of reforming marriage, the institution, in a more or less near future, of free unions. Our feminists of to-day, French, English, or Norwegian authoresses, and theoricians like Ellen Key, with her book on _Love and Marriage_, all these rebels have invented nothing. They have done nothing but take up once more the theories of the great feminist of 1832, and expose them with less lyricism but with more cynicism.
George Sand protested against the accusation of having aimed at attacking institutions in her feminist novels. She was wrong in protesting, as it is just this which gives her novels their value and significance. It is this which dates them and which explains the enormous force of expansion that they have had. They came just after the July Revolution, and we must certainly consider them as one of the results of that. A throne had just been overturned, and, by way of pastime, churches were being pillaged and an archbishop's palace had been sack-
aged. Literature was also attempting an insurrection, by way of diversion. For a long time it had been feeding the revolutionary ferment which it had received from romanticism. Romanticism had demanded the freedom of the individual, and the writers at the head of this movement were Chateaubriand, Victor Hugo and Dumas. They claimed this freedom for Rene, for Hermann and for Antony, who were men. An example had been given, and women meant to take advantage of it. Women now began their revolution.
Under all these influences, and in the particular atmosphere now created, the matrimonial mishap of Baronne Dudevant appeared to her of considerable importance. She exaggerated and magnified it until it became of social value. Taking this private mishap as her basis, she puts into each of her heroines something of herself. This explains the passionate tone of the whole story. And this passion could not fail to be contagious for the women who read her stories, and who recognized in the novelist's cause their own cause and the cause of all women.
This, then, is the novelty in George Sand's way of presenting feminist grievances. She had not invented these grievances. They were already contained in Madame de Stael's books, and I have not forgotten her. Delphine and Corinne, though, were women of genius, and presented to us as such. In order to be pitied by Madame de Stael, it was absolutely necessary to be a woman of genius. For a woman to be defended by George Sand, it was only necessary that she should not love her husband, and this was a much more general thing.