After leaving her boorish husband back in the provinces for the artistic milieu in the bohemian Latin Quarter, George Sand (as Aurore Dudevant thereafter called herself) experienced a swift and extravagant success as the queen of the literary generation of the 1830s. By her middle age, she was negotiating for an 80-volume Complete Works and her reputation overshadowed that of Balzac, Stendhal and Dumas pete. Today, needless to say, she is read not at all but remembered only for her trousers, her cigars and her liaison with Frederic Chopin. Which is just as well, if one judges from the exalted prose Francophile Curtis Cate has excerpted from the ten volumes of her letters. Cate takes her measure as a virile, extroverted Romantic heroine who, in pursuit of ideal love, acquired a list of former lovers (always young and quite filial) almost as long as that of her novels--a predilection this biographer defines as ""nympholepsy"" rather than nymphomania. Like so many other 19th century women, she nonetheless held that monogamous marriage was the best of all possible worlds while living altogether otherwise. She never looked back. She neither rewrote nor even reread her incorrigibly didactic and controversial stories about tragic love between members of different social classes. Curtis Cate's biography is necessarily eventful and passionate--a colorful parade of the outstanding figures (Liszt, Merimee, Musset, the Brownings, Flaubert, de Tocqueville. . .) drawn to the fame of the mother-protectress of 19th century letters and social causes. With her outsized hungers and willfulness, she's simply overwhelming.