After this episode with Pagello, it cannot be said that the life of George Sand was edifying in any respect, because no one can assume that she was sincere. She had loved Jules Sandeau as much as she could love any one, but all the rest of her intrigues and affinities were in the nature of experiments. She even took back Alfred de Musset, although they could never again regard each other without suspicion. George Sand cut off all her hair and gave it to Musset, so eager was she to keep him as a matter of conquest; but he was tired of her, and even this theatrical trick was of no avail.
She proceeded to other less known and less humiliating adventures. She tried to fascinate the artist Delacroix. She set her cap at Franz Liszt, who rather astonished her by saying that only God was worthy to be loved. She expressed a yearning for the affections of the elder Dumas; but that good-natured giant laughed at her, and in fact gave her some sound advice, and let her smoke unsentimentally in his study. She was a good deal taken with a noisy demagogue named Michel, a lawyer at Bourges, who on one occasion shut her up in her room and harangued her on sociology until she was as weary of his talk as of his wooden shoes, his shapeless greatcoat, his spectacles, and his skull-cap, Balzac felt her fascination, but cared nothing for her, since his love was given to Mme. Hanska.
In the meanwhile, she was paying visits to her husband at Nohant, where she wrangled with him over money matters, and where he would once have shot her had the guests present not interfered. She secured her dowry by litigation, so that she was well off, even without her literary earnings. These were by no means so large as one would think from her popularity and from the number of books she wrote. It is estimated that her whole gains amounted to about a million francs, extending over a period of forty-five years. It is just half the amount that Trollope earned in about the same period, and justifies his remark—“adequate, but not splendid.”
One of those brief and strange intimacies that marked the career of George Sand came about in a curious way. Octave Feuillet, a man of aristocratic birth, had set himself to write novels which portrayed the cynicism and hardness of the upper classes in France. One of these novels, Sibylle, excited the anger of George Sand. She had not known Feuillet before; yet now she sought him out, at first in order to berate him for his book, but in the end to add him to her variegated string of lovers.
It has been said of Feuillet that he was a sort of “domesticated Musset.” At any rate, he was far less sensitive than Musset, and George Sand was about seventeen years his senior. They parted after a short time, she going her way as a writer of novels that were very different from her earlier ones, while Feuillet grew more and more cynical and even stern, as he lashed the abnormal, neuropathic men and women about him.