Biographer of Balzac
Miss Mary Frances Sandars, who died on June 20, was a biographer who deserved more fame than came her way, writes a correspondent. Her "Life of Balzac" (Murray) is probably the best one written by an English author.
Born on July 5, 1864, she was the eldest daughter of Samuel Sandars, J.P., of Chalfont Grove, Bucks, a bibliophile and collector of illuminated manuscripts, which he bequeathed to the Cambridge University Library. It was Emil Reich who lectures she attended, who first encouraged her to use her talents. These lay in the direction of analysis as well as description. In her books her choice of quotations was judicious, and, without being herself an authority, she exhibited a much more reliable sense of the comparative trustworthiness of her sources than in common in popular biographers. her books were sustained throughout be a genuine interest which she communicated to her readers, and her sympathies even when ardent were never entirely uncritical. She had the conscience as well as the tastes of a historian. These qualities are shown in her "Life of Balzac" and her "George Sand," two themes full of pitfalls for the enthusiastic biographer. French social history and French literature attracted her, and she wrote a portrait-biography of Louis XVIII, and of "Lauzan, Courtier and Adventurer," a Gascon favourite of Louis XIV.'s; and when she died she was at work upon a life of Saint-Simon. The Court of Versailles was familiar to her. Her last book was a life of Christina Rossetti.
Her activities were not confined to writing. At one time she was interested in politics and she became chairman of one of the wards of the South Kensington Conservative and Unionist Associations. She was a clear, persuasive public speaker, and during the War she used this gift to forward such useful ends as food economy. She was a member of the committee of the Cambridge House Settlement in Camberwell and a regular visitor to the Chelsea Infirmary. The lively sense of social responsibility implied in these activities were discernible also in her writings as a sense of proportion, and her work bore the stamp of that culture which is the fruit of strenuously cultivated leisure.