(31) Eleventh Lettre d’un voyageur: To Giacomo Meyerbeer.
As examples of music in literature we have George Sand’s phrase, more lyrical and musical than picturesque. We have, too, the gentle, soothing strophes of Sully Prudhomme and the vague melody of the Verlaine songs: “De la musique avant toute chose.” It would be absurd to exaggerate the influence exercised by George Sand, and to attribute to her an importance which does not belong to her, over poetical evolution. It is only fair to say, though, that music, which was looked upon suspiciously for so long a time by classical writers of sane and sure taste, has completely invaded our present society, so that we are becoming more and more imbued with it. George Sand’s predilection for modern art is another feature which makes her one of us, showing that her tendencies were very marked for things of the present day.
THE HUMANITARIAN DREAM
Hitherto we have seen George Sand put into her work her sufferings, her protests as a woman, and her dreams as an artist. But the nineteenth-century writer did not confine his ambitions to this modest task. He belonged to a corporation which counted among its members Voltaire and Rousseau. The eighteenth-century philosophers had changed the object of literature. Instead of an instrument of analysis, they had made of it a weapon for combat, an incomparable weapon for attacking institutions and for overthrowing governments. The fact is, that from the time of the Restoration we shall scarcely meet with a single writer, from the philosopher to the vaudevillist, and from the professor to the song-maker, who did not wish to act as a torch on the path of humanity. Poets make revolutions, and show Plato how wrong he was in driving them away from his Republic. Sophocles was appointed a general at Athens for having written a good tragedy, and so novelists, dramatists, critics and makers of puns devoted themselves to making laws. George Sand was too much a woman of her times to keep aloof from such a movement. We shall now have to study her in her socialistic role.
We can easily imagine on what side her sympathies were. She had always been battling with institutions, and it seemed to her that institutions were undoubtedly in the wrong. She had proved that there was a great deal of suffering in the world, and as human nature is good at bottom, she decided that society was all wrong. She was a novelist, and she therefore considered that the most satisfactory solutions are those in which imagination and feeling play a great part. She also considered that the best politics are those which are the most like a novel. We must now follow her, step by step, along the various roads leading to Utopia. The truth is, that in that great manufactory of systems and that storehouse of panaceas which the France of Louis-Philippe had become, the only difficulty was to choose between them all.