But in 1847 came a break between the two. Whatever the mystery of it may be, it turns upon what Chopin said of Sand:
“I have never cursed any one, but now I am so weary of life that I am near cursing her. Yet she suffers, too, and more, because she grows older as she grows more wicked.”
In 1848, Chopin gave his last concert in Paris, and in 1849 he died. According to some, he was the victim of a Messalina. According to others, it was only “Messalina” that had kept him alive so long.
However, with his death came a change in the nature of George Sand. Emotionally, she was an extinct volcano. Intellectually, she was at her very best. She no longer tore passions into tatters, but wrote naturally, simply, stories of country life and tales for children. In one of her books she has given an enduring picture of the Franco-Prussian War. There are many rather pleasant descriptions of her then, living at Nohant, where she made a curious figure, bustling about in ill-fitting costumes, and smoking interminable cigarettes.
She had lived much, and she had drunk deep of life, when she died in 1876. One might believe her to have been only a woman of perpetual liaisons. Externally she was this, and yet what did Balzac, that great master of human psychology, write of her in the intimacy of a private correspondence?
She is a female bachelor. She is an artist. She is generous. She is devoted. She is chaste. Her dominant characteristics are those of a man, and therefore, she is not to be regarded as a woman. She is an excellent mother, adored by her children. Morally, she is like a lad of twenty; for in her heart of hearts, she is more than chaste—she is a prude. It is only in externals that she comports herself as a Bohemian. All her follies are titles to glory in the eyes of those whose souls are noble.
A curious verdict this! Her love-life seems almost that of neither man nor woman, but of an animal. Yet whether she was in reality responsible for what she did, when we consider her strange heredity, her wretched marriage, the disillusions of her early life—who shall sit in judgment on her, since who knows all?
Perhaps no public man in the English-speaking world, in the last century, was so widely and intimately known as Charles Dickens. From his eighteenth year, when he won his first success in journalism, down through his series of brilliant triumphs in fiction, he was more and more a conspicuous figure, living in the blaze of an intense publicity. He met every one and knew every one, and was the companion of every kind of man and woman. He loved to frequent the “caves of harmony” which Thackeray has immortalized, and he was a member of all the best Bohemian clubs of London. Actors, authors, good fellows generally, were his intimate friends, and his acquaintance extended far beyond into the homes of merchants and lawyers and the mansions of the proudest nobles. Indeed, he seemed to be almost a universal friend.