Friday, October 23, 2009

Which George?? (You are nuts!)

In the last blog I've confused George Eliot with George Sand--it was George Sand, not George Eliot, who was in love with Chopin? But both Georges were women writing under pseudonyms, and both were novelists. In the beginning I was ignorant totally and didn't know the works of either. A well read friend reminded me Eliot had an affair with Chopin, but she was wrong and didn't know it so I believed her--we were both very ignorant.

Then another friend told me the truth--it was Sand, the French writer, who had the affair with Chopin.

Then another friend, smarting probably from the trouncing I'd recently given him in English, leaped into action: was I STUPID? It was SAND NOT ELIOT!! he yelled in email at me, and cited wikipedia as to the novelists' thirty some year (??) gap in age and generation. Then he dismissed my excuses about the two Georges both being novelists, and my having read none of them (and only having seen a movie once about one of them having an affair with Chopin!) Would I connect him with Chopin just because his name was George--in that case George Bush might be connected with Chopin?

I thought about our different kinds of ignorance. Mine, first, the profound. The second, from the friend who misinformed me--nearly as ignorant as I was. The third kind of ignorance, that exhibited by my second friend, never for a moment shaking it (my ignorance) in my face. Here it is, the correction nicely couched in his reading history, his own ignorance highlighted:

"One thing I should mention is that Chopin did not have an affair with George Eliot. It was with George Sand, the French novelist, whom I've never read. Have you? And have you read Middlemarch? It's up there in my top five of all time. I've got to get back to her and read Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda."

The fourth kind of ignorance was the worse kind, exhibited by the third friend. Only the exchange itself explains how bad it was:

HIM: George Eliot? did you mean George Sand?

ME: No, George Eliot --Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, Mill on the Floss,Silas Marner. I did confuse them in my blog though, since my friend told me George Eliot and Chopin were an item--it was George Sand and Chopin she meant.

HIM: you could not mean George Elliot and is George Sand and Chopin torid love affair on wrote: No, George Eliot --Mill on the Floss etc...
I saw masterpiece Theater version of what a depressing story...but powerful, wonder how he would read...but I am into maragaret Atwood now and Updike and Coetzee...

ME: Yes! George Sand not George Eliot with Chopin! That's what I said in my last letter, guess you didn't read it to the end, here's a copy--

"No, George Eliot --Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner. I did confuse them in my blog though, since my friend told me George Eliot and Chopin were an item--it was George Sand and Chopin she meant."

Like George Sand, George Eliot was a woman too (Mary Ann Evans?
something like that)--one of the greats.

HIM: yes both are greats, but only one had an affair with Chopin...


Eliot was involved with George Henry Lewes who was a married man.
she died in 1880,,,....

George Sand was four years old when George elliot died....

Chopin was born in 1837....37 years after Eliot's death....

so how can anyone associate them? because their names were George....well what not say George Bush was involved with Chopin too.

ME: Oh dear, of COURSE they would be mixed up! Both 19th century
female novelists whose pseudonym is George? You are nuts

(He then sent me, separately, a link to WIKIPEDIA about George Sand, so I'd see when she was born and all.)

There you have four different aspects of ignorance--and two examples of how those who are in the know handle that fact with other people. Some, ignoring the fact that everyone is ignorant about something, make a big deal of what they know. Others, exhibiting wisdom and lovely manners (which are, you know, meant to put others at ease--of this I am not ignorant) put you in proper relation with your ignorance, as in the case of the second friend. The first friend? The one who first misinformed me George Eliot and Chopin were an item? She is less ignorant than I, being my younger twin, and I too remember that movie, in which the Ms. Sand went off arm and arm with Mr. Chopin. She at least had read Silas Marner in high school, as I had not.

Now I am glorying in the magnificence of George Eliot's Middlemarch. I have finally discovered a character in a novel to which I can totally relate--Dorothea. I am amazed that I am only now discovering George Eliot. Should I read something by George Sand, of whom I am terribly ignorant? I don't think I will, since reading Wikipedia about her has made me more aware of her reputation as a personality than as an author. Unlike her reputation as the lover of Chopin, Sand's reputation as a writer has not lasted the test of time.

Wouldn't it have been funny if Jane Austen wrote under the name George?

**********Appendum--photograph of my great, great grandmother Mary (Polly) Freemen, a contemporary of George Eliot. She was born seven years before Eliot and lived ten years longer than she did. From what I have read of what she wrote (she too was a fine writer), she had much in common with Dorothea in Middlemarch.
Polly Freeman (cropped) --young


  1. good reporting of what happened. But I am not sure why you have such a strong reaction. Is it because you cannot be wrong or ignorant of certain intellectual things?
    it could be as part of my French background we had to read George Sand and we knew about his torid affair with Chopin on Mallorca.
    I recently bought three books that I had to read in high school in this country in the 50s. I had a great English teacher. the books never left my mind: Arnold Bennet's Old Wives' Tale; Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge; Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage (when I did not even know what the word bondage meant and no one could explain it to me at the time)......
    vivid books....
    on our final exam our teacher asked us which of the sisters had a better life in Old Wives' Tale. I picked the one who left her town and went to Europe, went through the war (the first) ran a rooming house, other words a life like mine, in chaos but adventurous.

  2. I would imagine that, instead, it was a reaction to the bald rudeness of a sentiment like this: "MY POINT IS YOUR [sic] SHOULD HAVE KNOWN RIGHT OFF."

    This only shows what the speaker ought to have known "right off" - that when you are knowledgeable about a particular subject, you ought to be more humble, not less, because you wisely understand that *no one* knows all (no, not even yourself).