They are very poor novels, and it would be a waste of time to attempt to defend them. They are not to be despised, though, as regards their influence on the rest of George Sand’s work, and also as regards the history of the French novel. They rendered great service to George Sand, inasmuch as they helped her to come out of herself and to turn her attention to the miseries of other people, instead of dwelling all the time on her own. The miseries she now saw were more general ones, and consequently more worthy of interest. In the history of the novel they are of capital importance, as they are the first ones to bring into notice, by making them play a part, people of whom novelists had never spoken. Before Eugene Sue and before Victor Hugo, George Sand gives a role to a mason, a carpenter and a joiner. We see the working-class come into literature in these novels, and this marks an era.
As to their socialistic influence, it is supposed by many people that they had none. The kind of socialism that consists of making tinkers marry marchionesses, and duchesses marry zinc-workers, seems very childish and very feminine. It is just an attempt at bringing about the marriage of classes. This socialistic preaching, by means of literature, cannot be treated so lightly, though, as it is by no means harmless. It is, on the contrary, a powerful means of diffusing doctrines to which it lends the colouring of imagination, and for which it appeals to the feelings. George Sand propagated the humanitarian dream among a whole category of men and women who read her books. But for her, they would probably have turned a deaf ear to the inducements held out to them with regard to this Utopia. Lamartine with his Girondins reconciled the bourgeois classes to the idea of the Revolution. In both cases the effect was the same, and it is just this which literature does in affairs of this kind. Its role consists here in creating a sort of snobbism, and this snobbism, created by literature in favour of all the elements of social destruction, continues to rage at present. We still see men smiling indulgently and stupidly at doctrines of revolt and anarchy, which they ought to repudiate, not because of their own interest, but because it is their duty to repudiate them with all the strength of their own common sense and rectitude. Instead of any arguments, we have facts to offer. All this was in 1846, and the time was now drawing near when George Sand was to see those novels of hers actually taking place in the street, so that she could throw down to the rioters the bulletins that she wrote in their honour.