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M. Doumic lectured yesterday afternoon on George Sand and the love-novel. A translation of M. Doumic's summary of the lecture follows:
For two centuries the novel had been seeking to make a place for itself in France and had succeeded only now and then by a happy accident. It was George Sand who gave the novel the start it needed. Since then it has become one of the principal forms of French literature.
George Sand was a born novelist. From her earliest years, it may be said that she lived by imagination, absorbed in a life of imaginary creation which put the things of real life outside of her ken. This was a result of her rural bringing up in Berry, which she loved so dearly.
There are two things to remember in considering the development of her genius. In the first place she had to suffer the contempt with which her grandmother treated her mother, who was a common work-woman. Here we see in George Sand the first seed of revolt against social institutions. Secondly, she was unhappy in her marriage and it was to plead her cause that she first became a writer.
The novels in her earlier style,- "Indiana," "Valentine," "Lelia," and "Jacques,"- belong distinctly to the history of romanticism. They met with an extraordinary success, which was due to their conformity to the state of the contemporary mind, to their eloquence, an unusual quality in the novel,- and finally to the fact that these books approached questions of universal interest and of vital importance to the very existence of society.
The author's theory which stands out most plainly is about love. It is that love is of divine essence, that it justifies itself, that we can not and ought not to resist it, that every one has a right to love, and that love has a right to everything. Such a conception was new in French literature. It was the outcome of Rousseau's theories and of the belief in the goodness of instinct. Later, this conception came to permeate French literature, and it was still later that we find in novels and plays the trio of the incomparable woman, the sublime lover and the tyrannical husband. A reaction against this conception took place in Flaubert and the younger Dumas.
Soon, however, George Sand gave up this style. The goodness of heart which made her sympathize with the sufferings of the people, and her love of nature widened the scope of her inspiration. She is the personification of the idealistic novel.
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