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July 1: George Sand

George Sand (1804)

George Sand

It was on this date, July 1, 1804 in Paris, that Aurore Dupin was born – who would become known as the French Romantic novelist George Sand. Her mother was a strict Catholic, but her grandmother admired Voltaire and Rousseau. Aurore was close to both, but her mother saw that she was educated in a convent. However, her self-education included Locke, Montesquieu, Montaigne, La Bruyère, Pope, Milton, Dante, Virgil, and Shakespeare.

After a marriage of convenience, at age 18, from which she escaped with two children, she took a pen name inspired by her collaborator on her first novel and ever after was known as George Sand. With her second novel, Indiana (1832), she became the most popular novelist of her time. Sand was attracted to free love and Socialism as well as to feminism.

Sand had love affairs with such prominent figures as Prosper Merimée (1803-70), Alfred de Musset (1833-34), and Frédéric Chopin, (1838-47). Her strong social conscience was seasoned with anti-clericalism. On an 1855 visit to Rome, Sand noted, "Rome is the kingdom of Satan ... of people kneeling in servitude to its Cardinals ... The story must be told of what happens to those subjected to the tyranny of the priesthood."

Sand told that story in La Daniella, which appeared in 1856 and was "passionately anti-clerical." So offensive was it to the Church that they induced the police to close down La Presse, which had been serializing it, and forced the novel out in book form with its most objectionable parts omitted.

In the Preface to her 1862 novel Mademoiselle La Quintinie, Sand explained, "There is something in addition to the doctrine of the clergy, whose activities fall into the category of political agitation. She feared, she said, "a vast plot against the principle of social and individual freedom." In her novels she frequently used the word "God," but described it as "an avatar of which the meaning is often an enigma." She did not believe in life after death. After her death on 8 June 1876, her daughter Solange had George Sand buried in accordance with Roman Catholic rites — against her mother's wishes.

Originally published July 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Our Fearless Leader.

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February 26: Victor Hugo

To a census-taker, who asked him in 1872 if he was a Catholic, Hugo replied, "No. A Freethinker." Hugo predicted that Christianity would soon disappear, but men would still believe in God.

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