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thing but books which people will call bad and dangerous, and which will be so, mayhap. What, then, am I to do?' When the final break with Musset has been made, the appeal for aid, the self-accusation, are renewed. She bitterly regrets the confidence she has reposed in herself. 'I see, indeed, that all the wrong I have suffered and done is due to the absorbing pride which has ruined me. Everything in outward circumstance challenged me to the life of presumptuous heedlessness and brazen heroism. But I failed to reckon with human weakness, which was sure to make every step forward a losing of ground. Living solely for and at the risk of self, I have always exposed and sacrificed myself as a thing that was free, useless to others, independent, to the degree of self-destruction for the mere pleasure of it or from indifference to all else. Accursed be the men and the books whose sophistry furthered me in such a course.'
As for love, the dream of a tender and durable love, she will use all her energy in endeavouring not to realise it; and as for the other love, the blind and violent, she would neither inspire nor feel it. Both are sweet and precious; but she is too old for either. She makes bold to prophesy that, although she cannot affirm durability of her disposition in general, she is sure that faith and hope and all desire of love is at an end with her.
So she had said before, and so she will say again. For Michel de Bourges awaits her in the near future, the new Robespierre, the forcible-feeble tribune of whom she made an idol in her days of political strife ; an idol whose feet of clay she surmised upon their first acquaintance, and came later to detect all too well, after her wont. But meanwhile, in all sincerity, she implores SainteBeuve to reveal to her the secret of his serenity. Perchance he has found it in the Christian religion. ‘But how might one enter the temple? Every time I pass by the gate, I kneel before that divine poetry, seen afar off; but, if I draw nigh, I no longer see what I believed was to be found there, and there only. I could wish to find my God wholly in His majesty and glory, and bow myself down before Him, and have no other being of my kind about me to say, "'Tis He,” for then I should doubt. Ah! how happy you are! What crime have I committed that I should be thus condemned to the part of the Wandering Jew? You say that you suffer, and know how to suffer. What! I know it as well as you. I could be sure your griefs would seem to me far lighter than to yourself, if only I had that which you have in the way of consolation; if only I could centre my thoughts once, a single moment each day, and declare in adoration : "Behold! this, for me, is beyond all doubting.". But then, he-Sainte-Beuve—has made for himself a noble existence; he has led the better life, not wasted his heart as she has wasted it. Yet love, love! Whereupon she chants palinodes in honour of the dread god; revokes the palinodes; cares but to creep away to her own countryside, and die as soon as may be. And SainteBeuve was but curious about religion at the time, he informs us in later years. A lay-priest, in the idealising
, and enthusiastic belief of George Sand, he could straightway break the seal of confession, and court the applause we can imagine by suave rehearsal of these letters before Mme Récamier and her circle.
A few years later, and the two correspondents have almost exchanged their parts. After 1838, after her thirty-fourth year, George Sand is well on her way to that personal calm, that disinterestedness which compels respect or admiration. It has become her turn to offer comfort and counsel. The occasions of greeting are not frequent; there is not the deep maternal affection which is the undertone, later, of the letters to Flaubert; she realises that Sainte-Beuve is wholly committed to his desolate mistrust of God and man, whereas Flaubert, for all his loudly vociferated pessimism, is young and not beyond hope—at least she loves to think it. But in both series of letters there is the same gentle remonstrance, the same charming self-depreciation, the same deft eagerness to impart of that brave confidence which has come to be her own—the confidence that all is well with the world, since all tends to the final triumph of whatsoever is fair and truly to be desired.
She recalls to him the time when, doubting everything, she was unhappy in the extreme, and wrote letters as absurd as herself. The same interests and needs and desires move her now as then, she assures him; only she is no longer broken by the sense that her ideals are impossible. And if, after the political disasters of 1848, she has learnt to recognise that social regeneration is Vol. 216.-No. 430.
not to be achieved forthwith by the preaching of theories and the practice of political revolutions, if she is no longer exposed to his censure of such activity, she would have him know that her hopes, her impassioned enthusiasm as to the future of mankind, abide with her. She takes every opportunity to renew her generous gratitude for the aid he sought to lend her when, in her time of storm, he counselled the philosophic and objective calm of contemplation. She would lightly administer balm for the wounds he conceals, but whose existence she is swift to divine. He sends her his Chateaubriand’; and she lays her touch upon the subtle malice and grudging of the book only to heal it, if so might be. Is it altogether true, she asks, that genius, that poetry, is developed at the expense of the heart? She would rather believe that the two are fully compatible.
Sainte-Beuve prefers writers of the second rank. Well, let us all be such writers and keep our hearts and friends, if the men of the first rank are condemned to love nothing but themselves. To quit all thought of self, that is the secret. But Sainte-Beuve, surely, is not justified in preferring the second-rate, the men of cool judgment, to the impassioned and enthusiastic. For is he not himself, she adroitly puts it, the author of • Volupté' as well as of the Causeries, and therefore belonging to the family of the eloquent, the men of the first rank, like Chateaubriand? As for herself, life may lead her where it lists. “I traverse serene regions and render thanks to God for allowing me to enter therein; but how that has come about I know not. Perhaps it was because I meant well : “pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.”' Once on a day he could be, and was, described as haunted by the thought of the divine.' Should he not be so still? A little sceptical,' has he grown all too
• calm, too sedate and satisfied in his wisdom ? Her own trust in the goodness of things—was it not he who once sought to inspire it in her? who once brought her peace? He, her old master, should not smile at her confidence and reproach her for being still impassioned, for being sincere and disinterested, for knowing how to believe. He has lost his belief, she fears; is somewhat discontented with human things. But there remains the divine. Were it not well even now to be haunted,
troubled, as to things eternal ? The prince of critics, with his unwearied curiosity, cannot surely hold that this life of ours is enough to satisfy. He with his books, as she with her botany—they cannot but find that the least detail yields an opening to the dream of infinity. Two mere lines of lamp-posts, as it were, stretching parallel without an end, he might say. Well, then, since there was no end to the vista, he cannot maintain there is nothing at the end of it all.
Quisque suos patimur manes.' Sainte-Beuve cherished more and more the chill serenity of acceptance, the grim creed that whatever is good is too good to be true. Sainte-Beuve had never been stirred to the depths, like George Sand, by the spectacle of social misery and the exploitation of man by man. They had both outlived their Romantic period. They had ceased to reflect upon their own single destinies. They no longer believed themselves Renés and Obermanns, dowered with unrealisable aspirations whose exquisite pain was beyond the comprehension of the vulgar. But, upon that, their ways parted. An Epicurean, Sainte-Beuve sheltered himself from the concerns of others; George Sand chose public activity, almost thinking to frame the social world anew with but the briefest delay. Not that she was a politician, save in an episode. From the first, as the Lettres d'un Voyageur' show, she saw and declared that the best, the sole possible reform, is for each, and every reformer, to begin by self-reformation, by taming his selfishness, by striving towards perfection. But she never saw that liberty and equality, both desirable, are unapt to be reconciled, if not even incompatible. In all probability it was her very love and fervid desire of fraternity that blinded her to the difficulty. She was not a thinker, this notable child of Rousseau. Benevolent optimism stood to her for philosophical and sociological ideas. As she wrote in her age to Flaubert: • Do not laugh at my principles, the principles of a candid child which are still mine through everything, through“ Lélia" and the Romantic epoch, through love and doubt, enthusiasm and disenchantment. To love, to sacrifice oneself, only to claim oneself again when the sacrifice is harmful to those who are the object of it, and still to sacrifice oneself in the hope of serving a true cause--love Not that I mean the
personal passion, but rather the love of the race, the extended sentiment of self, the horror of self by itself. And as for that ideal of justice you mention, I have never seen it separate from love, since the first law for a natural society to subsist is that of mutual service, as with th ees and ants. This help of all towards the same end may be termed instinct in the lower races—the term matters little; but, in man, instinct is love; and he who withdraws himself from love withdraws himself from truth, from justice.'
George Sand was not a politician, not a thinker, but none the less, in her eloquence and passion, a true civiliser; though Sainte-Beuve, as we have seen, would reserve the title to his secondary writers, to his men of the cool judgment. All that is great civilises, as Goethe pointed out. And Plato knew that ideals are not a whit the less valuable because we are unable to demonstrate the possibility of their speedy realisation. A great force of heart employed in the service of the widest social ideals—that is the value of George Sand's work in the sphere of politics. The means to the desired end are open to criticism. She achieved more by the charm of her pastorals, by the indirect presentation of the problem, than by that forced linking of romance and theoretic aim which had marred the social novels she wrote before 1848. And after the catastrophe, and the proclamation of the Empire, the fiery ardour of George Sand might change its form, but was not in any way diminished. A republican in theory, she could for a time believe Napoleon III to be the defender of the rights of the people against the contending parties. That government was acceptable which advanced the cause of the many and of the general good ; all government was only too liable to partisan selfseeking and domination. Her socialism, in the end, was that of St John, fully expressed in a single phrase : • Little children, love one another.' Her love of the poor and oppressed was no longer accompanied by its twinsister hatred, swift to misjudge men and careless to comprehend the difficulty of questions. It became charity, all-embracing, resting upon the largest hope for the commonweal. Her maternity grew world-wide. She achieved within herself the harmony of her ideals.
Nor did she labour without effect. She passed, and still may pass, the torch of idealism to others. It is