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Photograph: Nadar 


PORTRAIT OF BALZAC, KNOWN AS THE DAGUERREOTYPE 


BALZAC 


BY 


FREDERICK LAWTON, M.A. 


AUTHOR OF ‘' THE THIRD FRENCH REPUBLIC,” ETC. 


WITH THIRTY-TWO) ILLUSTRATIONS 


LONDON: GRANT RICHARDS LTD, 


NEW YORK: WESSELS & BISSELL CO 
1910 


Printed by BaLLantyne, Hanson & Co., at the 
Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh, Scotland 


First printed. . . . . . . . May 1910 
Reprinted. . . . . . . September 1910 


B B219La 
Lawton, Frederick. 
Balzac, 


fo10., 


DEDICATED, 
In remembrance of many pleasant and instructive hours 


spent in his society, to the sculptor 
AUGUSTE RODIN, 


whose statue of Balzac, with its fine, synthetic portraiture, 


jirst tempted the author to write this book, 


Passy, Paris, 1910. 





PREFACE 


Excusine himself for not undertaking to write a life 
of Balzac, Monsieur Brunetiére, in his study of the 
novelist published shortly before his death, refused 
somewhat disdainfully to admit that acquaintance with 
a celebrated man’s biography has necessarily any value. 
“What do we know of the life of Shakespeare?” he 
says, “and of the circumstances in which Hamlet or 
Othello was produced? If these circumstances were 
better known to us, is it to be believed and will it be 
seriously asserted that our admiration for one or the 
other play would be augmented?” In penning this 
quirk, the eminent critic would seem to have wilfully 
overlooked the fact that(a writer’s life may have much 
or may have little to do with his works.) In the case 
of Shakespeare it was comparatively little—and yet we 
should be glad to learn more of this little. (In the case 
of Balzac it wasmuch. His novels are literally his life ; 
and his life is quite as full as his books of all that makes 
the good novel at once profitable and agreeable to read. 
It is not too much to affirm that any one who is 
acquainted with what is known to-day of the strangely 
chequered career of the author of the Comédie Humaine 
is in a better position to understand and appreciate the 
different parts which constitute it. Moreover, the 
steady rise of Balzac’s reputation, during the last fifty 
years, has been in some degree owing to the various 
patient investigators who have gathered information 


vil 


vill PREFACE 


about him whom Taine pronounced to be, with Shake- 
speare and Saint-Simon, the greatest storehouse of 
documents we possess concerning human nature.) 

The following chapters are an attempt to put this 
information into sequence and shape, and to insert such 
notice of the novels as their relative importance requires. 
The author wishes here to thank certain French pub- 
lishers who have facilitated his task by placing books 
for reference at his disposal, Messrs. Calmann-Lévy, 
Armand Colin, and Hetzel, in particular, and also the 
Curator of the Musée Balzac, Monsieur de Royaumont 
who has rendered him service on several occasions. 


OHAP, 
. INTRODUCTION 


II. 


Ill. 


IV. 


VI. 
VII. 
VIII. 
IX. 


XI, 
XII. 
XIII. 
XIV. 
XV. 
XVI. 
XVII. 


Boyvuoop 


EXPERIMENTS 


’ 


«© Ditecra ” 


First Successes anp Fame 


CONTENTS 


IN LITERATURE 


AND 


Lerrers To “Tue StTrRancerR,’ 1831, 


> 


3) 


Pid 


”? 


1833, 
1835, 
1837, 
1839, 
1841, 
1843, 


1845, 


Last Years: MarriaGE anp Deratu 


Tue “Compre Humaine’ 


VALUE OF THE WorK 


INFLUENCE 


Business : 
1832 a 
A 
1834 § 
oS 
1836 
e 
3 
1838 | 8 
S 
1840 | x 
5. 
1842 % 
1844 2 
3 
13846 }™ 


ConcLusion: THE Man anp uis Portraits 


INDEX 


PAGE 


17 


THE 
38 


60 
85 


134 
156. 
179 
202 
222 
251 
272 
299 
319 
341 
360 


375 


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 


PLATE 
1. Portrait or Bauzac, KNOWN aS THE DaGuERREOTYPE Frontispiece 


2, Tue Care Frascati. From a Painting by Debu- 
court . : . To face page 10 


3. House at Tours wHEerE Bauzac was Born : £ 0 Eee 


4. Prison oF THE VeNDomE Co.tece. After a 
Draning by A. Queyroy . : . : so age ee 


5. Bauzac’s Lopeines IN THE Rue LespiGuiIEREs . i >» 44 


6. Bauzac’s Printinc PREMISES IN THE RUE DES 
Marais. ; ; c ‘ : : a 30. Ba: 


7. Hanp or Batzac. From a Plaster-Cast . 3 35 »° 68 


8. Tue Puace pe La ConcorpE IN 1829. From a 


Painting by Canella . ; ; ; ; " » 80 
9. Batzac aT THE AcE or Tuirty. From a Sepia 

Draning by Lows Boulanger. : : 35 Oe 
10. House wHereE Bauzac tivep. 1 Rue Cassin . as », 104 


11. Bauzac anp Countess Hanska. A Caricature 


of the time : ‘ : : : : ms » TG 
12. Tue Bovurtevarp PolssoNNIERE IN 1834. From 

a Painting by Dagnan : ; 5 : e #2126 
13. Tue Hore. pes Haricots wHERE Batzac was 

IMPRISONED : ; : : : : a » 140 
14, Batzac. Danton’s Comic Statue 3 : : Fe » tbe 


15. Tue Vitta or Las JARDIES WHERE BaALZzAc LIVED 
From 1837-1840 : : : : , . » 164 


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS x1 


16 Haine From a Painting by Louis Boulanger . To face page 176 
17. Bauzac. From a Caricature of the year 1888 . o HL SS 
18. House IN | Passy wHERE Batzac LIVED FROM 

1840-1847 é ; ; : i ‘ ai wn 200 
19. Bauzac. From a Lithograph by Julien. , - abe 
20. Batzac. From a Painting by Gérard-Seguin : > 3» 224 
21, Tue Cuamps Exyskes 1n 1843, From a Painting 

by Cadolle . , . : : ; : 3 » 236 
22, CELEBRITIES AT A TEA-Party. From a Caricature 

by Grandville. ; : é ‘ : i 9» 248 
23. GARDEN oF THE House aT Passy . : ; 55 a 200 


24, Bauzac’s House iN THe Rue Fortunér. From a 


~> 


Painting by V. Dargaud . ; : : - Senile 
25. Portrait or Mapame Hanska. From a Painting 

by Gigoux . : ; : : : : Bs ee 
26. Batzac on wis Deatu-Bep. From a Pastel by 

Eugene Giraud . i ; f : : sg » 296 
27. Room 1n Bauzac’s House . ; A ; ; a » 3808 
28. Bauzac. From an Etching by Hédown . i By »» 820 
29. ALFRED bE MussetT aND Honore bE Bauzac. 

Caricature attributed to Théophile Gautier . ri oy a2 
30. THe Eacies or THoucut anp Styie. From a 

Comic Draning by Tony Johannot  . : - », 344 
31. Bauzac’s Famous Stick . ; i ; ; a » 356 


32. Bauzac’s Statur. By Rodin, . ; ; . ss » 368, 





CHAPTER I 


INTRODUCTION 


THE condition of French society in the early half of 
the nineteenth century—the period covered by Balzac’s 
novels—may be compared to that of a people endea- 
vouring to recover themselves after an earthquake. 
Everything had been overthrown, or at least loosened 
from its base—religion, laws, customs, traditions, 
castes. Nothing had withstood the shock. When the 
upheaval finally ceased, there were timid attempts to 
find out what had been spared and was susceptible of 
being raised from the ruins. Gradually the process 
of selection went on, portions of the ancient system 
of things being joined to the larger modern creation. 
The two did not work in very well together, however, 
and the edifice was far from stable. 

During the Consulate and First Empire, the 
Emperor’s will, so sternly imposed, retarded any move- 
ment of natural reconstruction. Outside the military 
organization, things were stiff and starched and solemn. 
High and low were situated in circumstances that 
were different and strange. The new soldier aristo- 
cracy reeked of the camp and battle-field ; the washer- 
woman, become a duchess, was ill at ease in the 
Imperial drawing-room ; while those who had thriven 
and amassed wealth rapidly in trade were equally 


uncomfortable amidst the vulgar luxury with which 
A 


2 HONORE DE BALZAC 


they surrounded themselves. Even the common people, 
whether of capital or province, for whose benefit the 
Revolution had been made, were silent and afraid. 
Of the ladies’ salons—once numerous and remarkable 
for their wit, good taste, and conversation—two or three 
only subsisted, those of Mesdames de Beaumont, 
Récamier and de Staél; and, since the last was re- 
garded by Napoleon with an unfriendly eye, its guests 
must have felt constrained. 

At reunions, eating rather than talking was fashion- 
able, and the eating lacked its intimacy and privacy 
of the past. The lighter side of life was seen more - 
in restaurants, theatres, and fétes. It was modish to 
dine at Frascati’s, to drink ices at the Pavillon de 
Hanovre, to go and admire the actors Talma, Picard, 
and Lemercier, whose, stage performance was better 
than many of the pieces they interpreted. Fireworks 
could be enjoyed at:the Tivoli Gardens; the great 
concerts were the rage for a while, as also the practice 
for a hostess to carry off her visitors after dinner for 
a promenade in the Bois de Boulogne. 

Literature was obstinately classical. After the 
daring flights of the previous century, writers con- 
tented themselves with marking time. Chénedollé, 
whose verse Madame de Staél said to be as lofty as 
Lebanon, and whose fame is. lilliputian to-day, was, 
with Ducis, the representative of their advance-guard. 
In painting, with Fragonard, Greuze and Gros, there 
was a greater stir of genius, yet without anything 
corresponding in the sister art. 

On the contrary, in the practical aspects of life 
there was large activity, though Paris almost alone 
profited by it. Napoleon’s reconstruction in the 
provinces was administrative chiefly. A complete pro- 


INTRODUCTION 3 


gramme was first started on in the capital, which the 
Emperor wished to exalt into the premier city of Europe. 
Gas-lighting, sewerage, paving and road improvements, 
quays, and bridges were his gifts to the city, whose 
general appearance, however, remained much the same. 
The Palais-Royal served still as a principal rendezvous. 
The busy streets were the Rues Saint-Denis and Saint- 
Honoré on the right bank, the Rue Saint-Jacques on 
the left; and the most important shops were to be 
found in the Rue de la Loi, at present the Rue de 
Richelieu. 

The fall of the Empire was less a restoration of 
the Monarchy than the definite disaggregation of the 
ancient aristocracy, which had been centralized round 
the Court since the days of Richelieu. The Court of 
Louis XVIII. was no more like that of Louis XVI. 
than it was like the noisy one of Napoleon. Receiv- 
ing only a few personal friends, the King allowed his 
drawing-rooms to remain deserted by the nobles that 
had returned from exile; and the two or three who 
were regular visitors were compelled to rub elbows 
with certain parvenus, magistrates, financiers, generals 
of the Empire whom it would not have been prudent 
to eliminate. 

In this initial stage of society-decentralization, the 
diminished band of the Boulevard Saint -Germain— 
descendants of the eighteenth-century dukes and mar- 
quises—tried to close up their ranks and to differentiate 
themselves from the plutocracy of the Chaussée d’Antin, 
who copied their manners, with an added magnificence 
of display which those they imitated could not afford. 
In the one camp the antique bronzes, gildings, and 
carvings of a bygone art were retained with pious 
veneration ; in the other, pictures, carpets, Jacob chairs 


4 HONORE DE BALZAC 


and sofas, mirrors, and time-pieces, and the gold 
and silver plate were all in lavish style, indicative of 
their owner’s ampler means. One feature of the pre- 
Revolution era was revived in the feminine salons, 
which regained most, if not the whole, of their 
pristine renown. The Hétel de la Rochefoucauld of 
Madame Ancelot became a second Hétel deRambouillet, 
where the classical Parseval-Grandmaison, who spent 
twenty years over his poem Philippe-Auguste, held 
armistice with the young champion of the Romantic 
school, Victor Hugo. The Princess de Vaudemont 
received her guests in Paris during the winter, and 
at Suresnes during the summer; and her friend the 
Duchess de Duras’ causeries were frequented by such 
men as Cuvier, Humboldt, Talleyrand, Molé, de Villéle, 
Chateaubriand, and Villemain. Other circles existed in 
the houses of the Dukes Pasquier and de Broglie, the 
Countess Merlin, and Madame de Mirbel. 

With the re-establishment of peace, literary and 
toilet pre-occupations began to assert their claims. 
The Ourika of the Duchess de Duras took Paris by 
storm. Her heroine, the young Senegal negress, gave 
her name to dresses, hats, and bonnets. Everything 
was Ourika. The prettiest Parisian woman yearned 
to be black, and regretted not having been born in 
darkest Africa. Anglomania in men’s clothes prevailed 
throughout the reign of Louis XVIII., yet mixed with 
other modes. “Behold an up-to-date dandy,” says a 
writer of the epoch; “all extremes meet in him. You 
shall see him Prussian by the stomach, Russian by 
his waist, English in his coat-tails and collar, Cossack 
by the sack that serves him as trousers, and by his 
fur. Add to these things Bolivar hats and spurs, and 
the moustaches of a counter-skipper, and you have the 


INTRODUCTION 5 


most singular harlequin to be met with on the face 
of the globe.” 

Among the masses there were changes just as strik- 
ing. Kor the moment militarism had disappeared, to 
the people’s unfeigned content, and the Garde Nationale, 
composed of pot-bellied tradesmen, alone recalled the 
bright uniforms of the Empire. To make up for the 
soldier excitements of the Petit Caporal, attractions 
of all kinds tempted the citizen to enjoy himself after 
his day’s toil was finished—menagerie, mountebanks, 
Franconi circus, Robertson the conjurer in the Jardin 
des Capucines. At the other end of the city, in the 
Boulevard du Temple, were Belle Madeleine, the seller 
of Nanterre cakes, famous throughout Europe, the 
face contortionist Valsuani, Miette in his egg-dance, 
Curtius’ waxworks. By each street corner were char- 
latans of one or another sort exchanging jests with the 
passers-by. It was the period when the Prudhomme 
type was created, so common in all the skits and cari- 
catures of the day. One of the greatest pleasures of 
the citizen under the Restoration was to mock at the 
English. Revenge for Waterloo was found in written 
and spoken satires. Huge was the success of Sewrin’s 
and Dumersan’s Anglaises pour rire, with Brunet 
and Potier travestied as grandes dames, dancing a jig 
so vigorously that they lost their skirts. The same 
species of revanche was indulged in when Lady Morgan, 
the novelist, came to France, seeking material for 
a popular book describing French customs. Henri 
Beyle (Stendhal) hoaxed her by acting as her cicerone 
and filling her note-books with absurd information, 
which she accepted in good faith and carried off as 
fact. On Sundays the most respectable families used 
to resort to the guinguettes, or bastringues, of the 


6 HONORE DE BALZAC 


suburbs. Belleville had its celebrated Desnoyers estab- 
lishment. At the Maine gate Mother Sagnet’s was 
the meeting-place of budding artists and grisettes. 
At La Villette, Mother Radig, a former canteen woman, 
long enjoyed popularity among her patrons of both 
sexes. All these scenes are depicted in certain of 
Victor Ducange’s novels, written between 1815 and 
1830, as also in the pencil sketches of the two artists 
Pigal and Marlet. 

The political society of the Restoration was charac- 
terized by a good deal of cynicism. Those who were 
affected by the change of régime, partisans and 
functionaries of the Empire, hastened in many cases 
to trim their sails to the turn of the tide. However, 
there was a relative liberty of the press which permitted 
the honest expression of party opinion, and polemics 
were keen. At the Sorbonne, Guizot, Cousin, and 
Villemain were the orators of the day. Frayssinous 
lectured at Saint-Sulpice, and de Lamennais, attacking 
young Liberalism, denounced its tenets in an essay 
which de Maistre called a heaving of the earth under 
a leaden sky. 

The country’s material prosperity at the time was 
considerable, and reacted upon literature of every kind 
by furnishing a more leisured public. In 1816 Emile 
Deschamps preluded to the after-triumphs of the 
Romantic School with his play the Tour de faveur, 
the latter being followed in 1820 by Lebrun’s Marie 
Stuart. Alfred de Vigny was preparing his Eloa ; 
Nodier was delighting everybody by his talents as a 
philologian, novelist, poet, and chemist. Béranger was 
continuing his songs, and paying for his boldness with 
imprisonment. The King himself was a protector of 
letters, arts, and sciences. One of his first tasks was 


INTRODUCTION 7 


to reorganize the “Institut Royal,” making it into 
four Academies. He founded the Geographical and 
Asiatic Societies, encouraged the introduction of steam 
navigation and traction into France, and patronized 
men of genius wherever he met with them. 

Yet the nation’s fidelity to the White Flag was 
not very deep-rooted. Grateful though the population 
had been for the return of peace and prosperity, a 
lurking reminiscence of Napoleonic splendours com- 
bined with the bourgeois’ Voltairian scepticism to rouse 
a widespread hostility to Government and Church, 
as soon as the spirit of the latter ventured to manifest 
again its inveterate intolerance. Béranger’s songs, 
Paul-Louis Courier’s pamphlets, and the articles of the 
Constitutionnel fanned the re-awakened sentiments of 
revolt; and Charles the Tenth’s ministers, less wisely 
restrained than those of Louis XVIII., and blind to 
the significance of the first barricades of 1827, provoked 
the catastrophe of 1830. This second revolution in- 
augurated the reign of a bourgeois king. Louis- 
Philippe was hardly more than a delegate of the 
bourgeois class, who now reaped the full benefits of 
the great Revolution and entered into possession of 
its spoils. During Jacobin dictature and Napoleonic 
sway, the bourgeoisie had played a waiting TOLEd pean 
present they came to the front, proudly conscious of 
their merits; and an entire literature was destined to 
be devoted to them, an entire art to depict or satirize 
their manners. Scribe, Stendhal, Mérimée, Henry 
Monnier, Daumier, and Gavarni were some of the men 
whose work illustrated the bourgeois régime, either 
prior to or contemporaneous with the work of Balzac. 

The eighteen years of the July Monarchy, which 
were those of Balzac’s mature activity, contrasted 


8 HONORE DE BALZAC 


sharply with those that immediately preceded. In 
spite of perceptible social progress, the constant war of 
political parties, in which the throne itself was attacked, 
alarmed lovers of order, and engendered feelings of 
pessimism. The power of journalism waxed great. 
Fighting with the pen was carried to a point of skill 
previously unattained. Grouped round the Débats— 
the ministerial organ—were Silvestre de Sacy, Saint- 
Mare Girardin, and Jules Janin as leaders, and John 
Lemoinne, Philaréte Chasles, Barbey d’Aurevilly in 
the rank and file. Elsewhere Emile de Girardin’s 
Presse strove to oust the Constitutionnel and Stécle, 
opposition papers, from public favour, and to establish 
a Conservative Liberalism that should receive the sup- 
port of moderate minds. Doctrines many, political 
and social, were propounded in these eighteen years 
of compromise. Legitimists, Bonapartists, and Repub- 
licans were all three in opposition to the Government, 
each with a programme to tempt the petty burgess. 
Saint-Simonism too was abroad with its utopian 
ideals, attracting some of the loftier minds, but less 
appreciated by the masses than the teachings of other 
semi-secret societies having aims more material. 
Corresponding to the character of the régime was 
the practical nature of the public works executed—the 
railway system with its transformation of trade, the 
fortification of the capital, the commencement of 
popular education, and the renovation of decayed or 
incompleted edifices. Unfortunately, the rapidity of 
the development and the rush of speculation prevented 
any co-ordinating method in the effort, so that the 
epoch was poor in its architectural achievement com- 
pared with what had been produced in the past. Even 
other branches of art were greatest in satire. Daumier’s 


INTRODUCTION 9 


Robert Macaire sketches and the Mayeux of Traviés 
had large material supplied them in the various types 
of citizen, greedy of pleasure and gold. The mot: 
“ Knrichissez-vous,” attributed to Guizot, was the axiom 
of the time, accepted as the nec plus ultra by the vast 
majority of people. It invaded all circles with its 
lowering expediency; and he who was to depict its 
effects most puissantly did not escape its thrall. 
* 
x 

When Balzac began to write, no French novelist 
had a reputation as such that might be considered 
great. Up to the epoch of the Restoration, the novel 
had been declared to be an inferior species of literature, 
and no author had dreamed of basing his claims to 
fame on fiction. Lesage had been and was still appre- 
ciated rather on the ground of his satire; and the 
Abbé Prévost, his slightly younger contemporary, re- 
ceived but little credit in his lifetime for the Manon 
Lescaut that posterity was to prize. Throughout the 
eighteenth century, he was chiefly regarded as a literary 
hack who had translated Richardson’s Pamela and done 
things of a similar kind to earn a livelihood. Rousseau 
too was esteemed less for his Nouvelle Héloise than for 
his political disquisitions. No novelist since 1685 had 
ever been elected to the French Academy on account 
of his stories. Jules Sandeau was the first to break the 
tradition by his entrance among the Immortals in 1859, 
to be followed in 1862 by Octave Feuillet. 

Lesage was the writer who introduced into France 
with his Gil Blas what has been called the personal 
novel—in other words, that story of adventures of 
which the narrator is the hero, the aim of the story 
being to illustrate first and foremost the vicissitudes of 
life in general and those of a single person in par- 


10 HONORE DE BALZAC 


ticular. The subsequent introduction of letters into 
the personal novel, which allowed more than one char- 
acter to assume the narrator’s rdle, brought about a 
change which those who initiated it scarcely antici- 
pated. ‘Together with the larger interest, due to there 
being several narrators, came a tendency to introspec- 
tion and analysis, diminishing the prominence of the 
facts and enhancing the effect produced by these facts 
on the thoughts and feelings of the characters. It was 
this development of the personal novel at the com- 
mencement of the nineteenth century, exhibited in 
Chateaubriand’s René, Madame de Staél’s Corinne, 
Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe, George Sand’s Indiana, 
and Sainte-Beuve’s Volupté, which contributed so much 
to create and establish the Romantic School of fiction 
with its egoistic lyricism. 

The historical novel, which more commonly is looked 
upon as having been the principal agent in the change, 
gave, in sooth, only what modern fiction of every. kind 
could no longer do without, namely, local colour. The 
so-styled historical novels of Madame de la Fayette— 
Zayde and the Princesse de Cléves—in the seventeenth 
century, and those of Madame de Tencin and Madame 
de Fontaines in the eighteenth, were simply historic 
themes whereon the authors embroidered the inventions 
of their imaginations, without the slightest attention to 
accuracy or attempt at differentiating the men and 
minds of one age from those of another; nor was it till 
the days of Walter Scott that such care for local colour 
and truth of delineation was manifested by writers who 
essayed to put life into the bones of the past. 

Even Lesage, so exact in his description of all that 
is exterior, lacked this literary truthfulness. His Spain 
is a land of fancy ; his Spaniards are not Spanish; Gil 





° 
7. 








» 
PONE L 


THe Caré& Frascati 
From a Painting by Debucourt 


Photograph: Bulloz 





INTRODUCTION 11 


Blas, albeit he comes from Santillana, is 2 Frenchman. 
Marivaux was wiser in placing his Vie de Marianne 
and his Paysan parvenu in France. His people, though 
modelled on stage pattern, are of his own times and 
country ; and, in so far as they reveal themselves, have 
resemblances to the characters of Richardson. 

To the Abbé Barthélemy, Voltaire, and Rousseau 
the novel was a convenient medium for the expres- 
sion of certain ideas rather than a representation of life. 
The first strove to popularize a knowledge of Greek 
antiquity, the second to combat doctrines that he 
deemed fallacious, the third to reform society. How- 
ever, Rousseau brought nature into his Nouvelle Heé- 
loise, and, by his accessories of pathos and philosophy, 
prepared the way for a bolder and completer treat- 
ment of life in fiction. Different from these was 
Restif de la Bretonne, who applied Rousseau’s theories 
with less worthy aims in his Paysan perverti and 
Monsieur Nicolas, ow Le Cour humain dévoilé. Tf 
mention is made of him here, it is because he was 
a pioneer in the path of realism, which Balzac was to 
explore more thoroughly, and because the latter un- 
doubtedly caught some of his grosser manner. 

The novelists and dramatists whom Balzac made 
earliest acquaintance with were probably those whose 
works were appearing and attracting notice during 
his school-days—Pigault-Lebrun, Ducray-Duminil, and 
that Guilbert de Pixérécourt who for a third of the 
nineteenth century was worshipped as the Corneille 
of melodrama. These men were the favourite authors 
of the nascent democracy; and, in an age when re- 
prints of older writers were much rarer than to-day, 
would be far more likely to appeal to a boy’s taste 
than seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors. At 


12 HONORE DE BALZAC 


an after-period only, when he had definitely entered 
upon his maturer literary career, was he to take up the 
latter and to use them, together with Rabelais, La 
Bruyére, Moliére, and Diderot, as his best, if not his 
constant, sources of inspiration. In the stories of the 
first of the three above-mentioned modern writers, the 
reader usually meets with some child of poor parent- 
age, who, after most extraordinary and comic experi- 
ences, marries the child of a nobleman. In those of 
the second, the hero or heroine struggles with power- 
ful enemies, is aided by powerful friends, and moves 
in an atmosphere of blood and mystery until vice 
is chastized and virtue finally rewarded. The two. 
writers, however, differ more in their talent than in 
their methods, the first having an amount of origin- 
ality which is almost entirely wanting to the second. 
With both, indeed, the main object is to impress and 
astonish, and the finer touches of Lesage and Prévost 
are seldom visible in either’s work. As for Pixérécourt, 
whose fame lasted until the Romantic drama of the 
elder Dumas, Alfred de Vigny, and Victor Hugo 
eclipsed it, he wrote over a hundred plays, each of 
which was performed some five hundred times, while 
two at least ran for more than a thousand nights. 
If it was natural that Balzac should familiarize him- 
self in his adolescence with such writers of his own 
countrymen as every one discussed and very many 
praised, it was natural also he should extend his 
perusals to the translated works of contemporary 
novelists on the further side of the Channel, the more 
so as the reciprocal literary influence of the two 
countries was exceedingly strong at the time, stronger 
probably than to-day when attention is solicited on so 
many sides. To the novels of Monk Lewis, Maturin, 


INTRODUCTION 13 


Anne Radcliffe, and other exponents of the School of 
Terror, as likewise to the novels of Godwin, the 
chief of the School of Theory, he went for instruction 
in the profession that he was wishing to adopt. Mrs. 
Radcliffe’s stories he thought admirable; those of 
Lewis he cited as hardly being equalled by Stendhal’s 
Chartreuse de Parme ; and Maturin—oddly as it strikes 
us now—he not only styled the most original modern 
author that the United Kingdom could boast of, but 
assigned him a place, beside Moliére and Goethe, as 
one of the greatest geniuses of Europe. And these 
eulogiums were not the immature judgments of youth, 
but the convictions of his riper age. As will be seen 
later, the influence remained with him. In all he 
wrote there enters some of the material, native and 
foreign, out of which Romanticism was made. 

To the true masters of English fiction his indebted- 
ness was equally large, exception made perhaps for 
Fielding and Smollett; and one American author 
should be included in the acknowledgment. Goldsmith, 
Sterne, Walter Scott, and Fenimore Cooper were his 
delight. The first and last of Richardson’s productions 
he read only when his own talent was formed. Pamela 
and S%7 Charles Grandison he chanced upon in a library 
at Ajaccio; and, after running them through, pronounced 
them to be horribly stupid and boring. But Clarissa 
Harlowe, on the contrary, he highly esteemed. Already 
in 1821 he had studied it; and, when composing his 
Pierrette, towards the end of the thirties, he spoke of it 
as a magnificent poem, in a passage which brands the 
procedure of certain hypocrites, their oratorical precau- 
tions, and their involved conversations, wherein the 
mind obscures the light it throws and honeyed speech 
dilutes the venom of intentions. The phrase, says 


14 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Monsieur Le Breton, in his well-reasoned book on 
Balzac, is that of a man who was conversant with the 
patient analysis, the conscientious and minute realism 
of this great painter of English life. In Monsieur Le 
Breton’s opinion, Balzac’s long-windedness is, in a 
measure, due to Richardson, who reacted upon him by 
his defects no less than by his excellencies. 

Throughout Balzac’s correspondence, as throughout 
his novels, there are numerous remarks which are so 
many confessions of the hints he received in the course 
of his English readings. In one passage he exclaims: 
“The villager is an admirable nature. When he is 
stupid, he is just the animal; but, when he has good 
points, they are exquisite. Unfortunately, no one 
observes him. It needed a lucky hazard for Goldsmith 
to create his Vicar of Wakefield.” Elsewhere he says: 
“Generally, in fiction, an author succeeds only by the. 
number of his characters and the variety of his situa- 
tions; and there are few examples of novels having 
but two or three dramatis persone depending on a 
single situation. Of such a kind, Caleb Williams, the 
celebrated Godwin’s masterpiece, is in our time the 
only work known, and its interest is prodigious.” 

Sterne, even more than Scott, was Balzac’s favourite 
model. Allusions to him abound in the Comédie 
Humaine. Tristram Shandy the novelist appears to 
have had at his fingers’ ends. Not a few of Sterne’s 
traits were also his own—the satirical humour, in which, 
however, the humour was less perfect than the satire, 
the microscopic eye for all the exterior details of life, 
especially in people’s faces and gestures and dress; and 
both had identical notions concerning the analogy 
between a man’s name and his temperament and 
fate. 


INTRODUCTION 15 


Scott and Cooper being Balzac’s elder contem- 
poraries, it happened that their books were given to the 
French public in translations by one or the other of the 
novelist’s earlier publishers, Mame and Gosselin. His 
taste for their fiction was no mere passing fancy. It 
was as pronounced as ever in 1840, at which date, 
writing in the Revue Parisienne, he declared that 
Cooper was the only writer of stories worthy to be 
placed by the side of Walter Scott, and that his hero 
Leather-stocking was sublime. “I don’t know,” said 
he, “if the fiction of Walter Scott furnishes a creation 
as grandiose as that of this hero of the savannas and 
forests. Cooper’s descriptions are the school at which 
all literary landscapists should study : all the secrets of 
art are there. But Cooper is inferior to Walter Scott 
in his comic and minor characters, and in the construc- 
tion of his plots. One is the historian of nature, the 
other of humanity.” The article winds up with further 
praise of Scott, whom its author evidently regarded as 
his master. 

The part played by these models in Balzac’s literary 
training was to afford him a clearer perception of the 
essential worth of the Romantic movement. Together 
with its extravagancies and lyricism, Romantic litera- 
ture deliberately put into practice some important 
principles which certain forerunners of the eighteenth 
century had already unconsciously illustrated or timidly 
taught. It imposed Diderot’s doctrine that there was 
beauty in all natural character. And its chief apostle, 
Hugo, with the examples of Ariosto, Cervantes, 
Rabelais and Shakespeare to back him, proved that 
what was in nature was or should be also in art, yet 
without, for that, seeking to free art from law and the 
necessity for choice. 


16 HONORE DE BALZAC 


This spectacle of a vaster field to exploit, this possi- 
bility of artistically representing the common, familiar 
things of the world in their real significance, seized on 
the youthful mind of him who was to create the 
Comédie Humaine. It formed the connecting link 
between him and his epoch, and in most directions it 
limited the horizon of his life. 


CHAPTER II 
BOYHOOD 


For all his aristocratic name, Honoré de Balzac was 
not of noble birth. The nobiliary particule he did not 
add to his signature until the year 1830. In his birth 
certificate we read: “ To-day, the 2nd of Prairial, 
Year VII. (21st of May 1799) of the French Republic, 
a male child was presented to me, Pierre-J acques 
Duvivier, the undersigned Registrar, by the citizen 
Bernard-Francois Balzac, householder, dwelling in this 
commune, Rue de l’Armée de I’Italie, Chardonnet 
section, Number 25; who declared to me that the said 
child was called Honoré Balzac, born yesterday at eleven 
o'clock in the morning at witness’s residence, that the 
child is his son and that of the citizen, Anne-Charlotte- 
Laure Sallambier, his wife, they having been married in 
the commune of Paris, eighth arrondissement, Seine 
Department, on the 11th of Pluviose, Year V.” 

The commune’ referred to in the birth certificate 
was Tours. There in the street now rechristened and 
renumbered and called the Rue Nationale, a com- 
memorative plate at No. 39 bears the following in- 
scription: “‘ Honoré de Balzac was born in this house 
on the Ist of Prairial, Year VII. (20th of May 1799) ; 
he died in Paris on the 28th‘ of August 1850.” 

This former capital of Touraine, which the novelist 


1 The registered date of Balzac’s death was the 18th of August. 
The date on the commemorative plate is wrong. See also in a sub- 
sequent chapter, M. de Lovenjoul’s remark on the subject. 

17 B 


18 HONORE DE BALZAC 


says disparagingly in the Curé of Tours was in his time 
one of the least literary places in France, has had, at any 
rate, an honourable past. It was one of the sixty-four 
towns of Gaul that, under Vercingétorix, opposed the 
conquest of Cesar; and to it, in 1870, the French 
Government retired when the Germans marched on 
the capital. Its ancient industry in silk stuffs, estab- 
lished by Louis XI. in the fifteenth century, raised its 
population to eighty thousand. By revoking the Edict 
of Nantes, King “Sun” chased away three thousand of 
the wealthy, manufacturing families, who migrated to 
Holland; and Tours lost, with a quarter of its inhabi- 
tants, its weaving supremacy, which fell into the hands 
of Lyons. Situated on the Loire, in a rich but flat 
district, its surroundings are less interesting than its 
own architectural possessions, including a cathedral of 
mingled Gothic and later styles, a bit of the Norman- 
English Henry the Second’s castle, and its three bridges. 
The’fine central one, of fifteen arches and a quarter of 
a mile long, is a prolongation of the Rue Nationale, — 
and has near it statues of Rabelais and Descartes. 

Balzac’s father, who at the time of Honoré’s birth 
was fifty-three years of age, was not a native of Tours. 
He came from Nougayrié, a small hamlet close to 
Canezac in the Tarn Department and province of 
Languedoc. He was, therefore, a man of the south. 
On the registers he was inscribed as a son of Bernard- 
Thomas Balssa, labowreur, or peasant farmer; but he 
subsequently changed his name to Balzac. Recent 
investigations have disclosed the fact that—whether by — 
his own initiative or that of his son—he was the first to — 
employ the *‘de” before the family name, prefixing it in ~ 
the announcements made of the marriage of his second 
daughter Laurence. 


BOYHOOD 19 


Although of humble origin, the elder Balzac acquired 
both education and position. He embraced the legal 
profession, and was said by his son to have acted as 
_ secretary to the Grand Council under Louis XV., by 
his daughter Laure to have been advocate to the 
Council under Louis XVI. There is no documentary 
proof that he held either of these offices; but he figured 
in the Royal almanacs of 1793 as a lawyer, and would 
seem to have served the Republican Government, 
although his children subsequently asserted that he 
had always been an unswerving Royalist. The family 
tradition was that he had become suspect to Robespierre 
through his efforts to save several unfortunates from 
the guillotine, and would himself have perished had 
not a friend succeeded in getting him sent on a mission 
to the frontier to organize the commissariat department 
there. Thenceforward attached to the War Office, 
he returned to Paris, and in 1797 married Laure 
Sallambier, the daughter of one of his hierarchic chiefs, 
she being thirty-two years his junior. The next year 
he went to Tours as administrator of the General 
Hospice, and remained there for seventeen years. 

The father of the novelist was a man out of the 
common. <A contemporary of his, Le Poitevin Saint- 
Alme, relates that he united in himself the Roman, 
the Gaul, and the Goth, and possessed the attributes 
of these three races—boldness, patience, and health. 
He avowed himself a disciple of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 
considering a return to nature to be the main condition 
of happiness. He shunned doctors, advocated exercisé, 
long walks, woollen garments for every season, and a 
more scientific propagation of his species. His daughter 
—afterwards Madame Surville—says of him in the 
short biography she wrote of her brother: “ My father 


20 HONORE DE BALZAC 


often railed at mankind, whom he accused of unceasingly 
contributing to their own misfortune. He could never 
meet an ill-formed fellow-creature without fulminating 
against parents and governments, who were less careful 
to improve the human race than that of animals.” 

In addition to his notions on hygiene, he interested 
himself in the problems of sociology, anticipating 
Fourier and Saint- Simon, and writing numerous 
pamphlets on philanthropic and scientific questions. 
Large traces of his influence are found in his son’s 
books. His hobby was health cultivation. Every 
man, he said, ought to live to over a hundred, and, 
to attain this result, ought to strive for an equilibrium 
of the vital forces. In his own case there was an-- 
extra reason for his aiming at longevity. Being still 
unmarried at the age of forty-five, he had sunk most 
of his fortune in life annuities, one of which was a 
tontine; and, after his marriage, he encouraged his 
family to hope for his surviving all the competitors 
of his series, and thus being able to bequeath them a 
huge capital. This hope was not realized. His death 
occurred in 1829, when he was eighty-three, and the 
twelve thousand francs income accruing from his 
annuities disappeared. 

His memory was extraordinary. At seventy, happen- 
ing to meet a friend of his childhood, whom he had 
not seen since he was fourteen, he unhesitatingly began 
speaking to him in the Provencal tongue, which he 
had: ceased using for half a century. Equally great 
was his benevolence. On one occasion, hearing that 
his friend General de Pommereul was in monetary 
difficulties, he called at the General’s house, and, finding 
only Madame de Pommereul, said to her, as he placed 
two heavy bags on the table: “I am told you are 


BOYHOOD 21 


short of cash. These ten thousand crowns will be 
more useful to you than to me. I don’t know what to 
do with them. You can give me them back when 
you have recovered what has been stolen from you.” 
Having uttered these few brusk words, he turned and 
hurried away. Later we shall meet with a younger 
General de Pommereul, to whom the novelist dedicated 
his Melmoth Reconciled, adding, “In remembrance of 
the constant friendship that united our fathers and 
subsists between the sons.” 

When young, the novelist’s father must have been 
endowed with great physical strength. He used to 
relate that, during the time he was a clerk to a 
Procureur, he was requested one day to cut up a 
partridge at his master’s table. With the first dig of 
the knife, he not only severed the partridge but the 
dish also, and drove his weapon into the wood of the 
table. Detail worth noticing, this feat procured him 
the respect of the Procureur’s wife. The portrait 
sketched of him by his daughter Laure represents him, 
between sixty and seventy, as a fine old man, still 
vigorous, with courteous manners, speaking little and 
rarely of himself (in this very different from Honoré), 
indulgent towards the young, whose society he was 
fond of, allowing to all the same liberty that he claimed 
for himself, upright and sound in judgment notwith- 
standing his eccentricities, of equable humour, and so 
mild in character that he made every one around him 
happy. Delighting in conversation, now grave, now 
curious, now prophetic, he was always eagerly listened 
to by his elder son, whose indebtedness to him cannot 
be doubted. 

Balzac’s mother, who was married at eighteen, was 
a Parisian by birth. Her father was Director of the 


22 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Paris Hospitals. At the Hotel-Dieu there is a 
Sallambier ward which perpetuates his memory. A 
small, active woman of nervous temperament, irritable 
and inclined to worry about trifles, she yet had abundant 
practical sense—a quality less developed in her husband. 
Her daughter tells us she was beautiful, that she had 
remarkable vivacity of mind, much firmness and 
decision, and boundless devotion to her family. Her 
affection, however, was expressed rather by action than 
in speech. She had great imagination, adds Madame 
Surville; and, says the novelist, “this imagination, 
which she has bequeathed me, bandies her ever from 
north to south and from south to north.” Exceed- 
ingly pious, with a bias to mysticism, she possessed a 
library of books bearing on such doctrines, which were 
read by her son and afterwards utilized by him in his 
fiction. 

Honoré was the second child of his parents. The 
first dying in infancy through the poorness of Madame 
Balzac’s milk, he was sent to a house on the outskirts 
of the town and suckled by a foster-mother. His 
sister Laure, a year younger than himself, was sub- 
mitted to the same treatment, and the two children re- 
mained away from home until they were four and three 
years old respectively. From her remembrance of him, 
when both were toddling mites, his sister speaks of him 
as a charming little boy, whose merry humour, shapely, 
smiling mouth, large brown eyes, at once bright and 
soft, high forehead and rich black hair caused him 
to be noticed a great deal in their daily outings. 

In 1804 came the first important event of his life, 
a visit to Paris to see his maternal grandparents. It 
was a wonderful change from his home surroundings 
in Tours, where a certain severity prevailed. Here he 








House at Tours WHERE BaLzac was Born 


i/ 





BOYHOOD 23 


was spoiled to his heart’s content; and his happiness 
was rendered complete by Mouche, the big watch-dog, 
with whom he was on the best of terms. One evening 
a magic-lantern exhibition was given in the grandson’s 
honour. Noticing that Mouche was not among the 
spectators, he rose from his seat with an authoritative: 
« Wait.” Then, going out, he shortly after came 
back, dragging in his canine friend, to whom he said : 
«‘ Sit down there, Mouche, and look; it will cost you 
nothing. Granddad will pay for you!” A few months 
later his grandfather died, and the widow went to live 
with the Balzacs at Tours. This death made a deep 
impression on the child’s mind, and for a while dwelt 
so constantly in his memory that, on one occasion, 
when Laure was being scolded by her mother for an 
offence which the culprit aggravated by a fit of in- 
voluntary tittering, he approached his sister and whis- 
pered in her ear, with a view to restoring her gravity : 
«¢ Think of grandpapa’s death.” 

Distinguished in these juvenile years more by kind- 
liness than cleverness, he nevertheless manifested a 
certain inventiveness in improvizing baby comedies 
which had more appreciative audiences than some of 
his maturer stage productions. On the contrary, his 
conception of music and his own musical execution 
had no admirers beyond himself. For hours he would 
scrape the chords of a small, red violin, drawing from 
them most excruciating sounds, himself lost in ecstasy, 
and most amazed when he was begged to cease his 
concert, which was somewhat calculated to give his 
friend Mouche the colic. 

The boy’s initial steps in the path of learning were 
taken under the care of a nursery governess, Made- 
moiselle Delahaye, whom he quitted to attend the 


24 HONORE DE BALZAC 
principal day-school in the town, known as the Leguay — 
Institution. When he was eight he entered the College 
school at Vendéme, a quiet spot in Touraine, with 
something of the aspect of a university town. On the 
registers of the school may be read the following 
inscription: “ No. 460, Honoré Balzac, aged eight years 
and five months. Has had small-pox; without in- 
firmities; sanguine temperament; easily excited and 
subject to feverishness. Entered the College on June 
22nd 1807; left on the 22nd of August 1813.” 

An old seventeenth-century foundation of the 
Oratorians, the school possessed at this period a renown 
almost equal to that of Oxford and Cambridge. In his 
Lows Lambert, Balzac gives us a description of the 
place. “The College,” he says, “is situated in the 
middle of the town and on the little river Loir, which 
flows hard by the main school-buildings. It stands in 
a spacious enclosure carefully walled in, and comprises 
all the various establishments necessary in an institution 
of this kind—a chapel, a theatre, an infirmary, a bakery, 
gardens, watercourses. The College, being the most 
celebrated centre of education in France, is recruited 
from several provinces and even from our colonies, so 
that the distance at which families live does not permit 
of parents’ seeing their children. As a rule, pupils do 
not spend the long holidays at home, and remain at the 
College continuously until their studies are terminated.” 
As a matter of fact, Balzac passed his six years there 
without once returning to Tours, being entirely cut off 
from his family, save for such rare visits as were 
suffered from its members. 

The school life was semi-monastic, with a discipline 
of iron. “The leathern ferule played its terrible rdle 
with honour” among Minions, Smalls, Mediums, and 


BOYHOOD 25 


Greats. There were, however, certain mitigations—long 
walks in the woods, cards, and amateur theatricals 
during vacations; gardening and _ pigeon -fancying ; 
stilt-walking, sliding and clog-dancing; and, withal, 
the joys of a chapman’s stall set up in the enclosure 
itself. 

Lows Lambert is a slice of autobiography, attempt- 
ing also a portrait of the novelist, psychologically as well 
as outwardly, while he was at Vendéme. Although 
the author speaks of himself as distinct from his hero, 
they make up one and the same individual. Of him- 
self he says: ‘“‘I had a passion for books. My father, 
being desirous I should enter the Ecole Polytechnique, 
paid for me to take private lessons in mathematics. 
But my coach, being the librarian of the college, let 
me borrow books, without much troubling about what 
I chose, from the library, where during playtime he 
gave me my tuition. Either he was very little quali- 
fied to teach, or he must have been pre-occupied with 
some undertaking of his own; for he was only too 
willing I should read in the hours he ought to have 
devoted to me, himself working at something else. 
Thus, by virtue of a tacit agreement between us, I 
did not complain of learning nothing, and he kept 
secret my book-borrowing. ‘This precocious passion 
led me to neglect my studies and instead to compose 
poems, which indeed were of no high promise, if 
judged by the following verse: ‘O Inca! O roi in- 
fortuné,’ commencing an epopee on the Incas. The 
line became only too celebrated among my companions, 
and I was derisively nicknamed the poet. Mockery, 
however, did not cure me, and I continued my efforts 
in spite of the apologue of the Principal, Monsieur 
Mareschal, who one day related to me the misfortunes 


26 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of a linnet that tried to fly before being fully fledged. 
He wished, no doubt, to turn me from my inveterate 
habit. As I continued to read, I was continually 
punished, and grew to be the least active, most idle, 
most contemplative pupil of the Smalls.” 

And now for the alter ego. “Louis Lambert was 
slender and thin, not more than four feet and a half 
in height, but his weather-beaten face, his sun-browned 
hands seemed to indicate a muscular vigour which he 
had not in a normal state. So, two months after his 
entering the college, when his school life had robbed 
him of his well-nigh vegetable colour, we remarked 
that he became pale and white like a woman. His 
head was unusually big; his hair, beautifully black 
and naturally curly, lent an ineffable charm to his 
forehead, the size of which struck us as extraordinary, 
though, as may be imagined, we little recked of phren- 
ology. The beauty of this prophetic forehead resided 
chiefly in the extremely pure cut of the two brows, 
under which shone his dark eyes—brows that appeared 
to be carved in alabaster. Their lines had the some- 
what rare luck to be perfectly parallel in joining each 
other at the beginning of the features. These latter 
were irregular enough, but the irregularity disappeared 
when one saw his eyes, whose gaze possessed an as- 
tonishing variety of expression. Sometimes clear and 
terribly penetrating, sometimes angelically mild, this 
gaze grew dull and colourless, so to speak, in his con- 
templative moments. | His eye then resembled a pane 
of glass no longer illuminated by the sun. The same 
was true of his strength, which was purely nervous, 
and also of his voice. Both were equally mobile and 
variable. The latter was alternately sweet and har- 
monious, and then at times painful, incorrect, and 


BOYHOOD 27 


rugged. As for his ordinary strength, he was incap- 
able of supporting the fatigue of any games whatever. 
He seemed obviously feeble and almost infirm; but 
once, during his first year at school, one of our bullies 
having jeered at this extreme delicacy that rendered 
him unfit for the rough games practised in the play- 
ground, Lambert with his two hands gripped the end — 
of one of our tables containing twelve desks in two 
rows; then, stiffening himself against the master’s chair 
and holding the table with his feet placed on the 
bottom cross-bar, he said: ‘Let any ten of you try to 
move it.’ I was there and witnessed this singular 
display of strength. It was impossible to drag the 
table from him. He appeared at certain moments to 
have the gift of summoning unusual powers, or of con- 
centrating his whole force on a given point.” 

That Louis Lambert is an attempted revelation 
of Balzac’s adolescent mind we have both Madame 
Surville’s and Champfleury’s additional testimony to 
prove. Discounting the exaggerations, due either to 
literary morbidity of the kind that produced Chateau- 
briand’s René and Sainte-Beuve’s Joseph Delorme,'or to 
the natural vanity of which the novelist had so large a 
share, there yet remains a considerable substratum of 
truth in this record of twin, boyish existence, which 
affords a valuable secondary help towards understanding 
its author’s character. 

The major punishment inflicted at Vendome was 
imprisonment in the dormitory. Referring to himself 
and his double, Balzac says: “ We were freer in prison 
than anywhere. There we could talk for days together 
in the silence of the room, where each pupil had a 
cubicle six feet square, whose partitions were provided 
with bars across the top, and whose grated iron door 


28 HONORE DE BALZAC 


was locked every evening and unlocked every morning 

under the surveillance of a Father, who assisted at 
our going to bed and getting up. The creak of the 
doors, turned with singular celerity by the dormitory 
porters, was one of the peculiarities of the school. In 
these alcoves we were sometimes shut up for months 
on end. The scholars thus caged fell under the stern 
eye of the Prefect, who came regularly, and even 
irregularly, to see whether we were talking instead of 
working at our tasks. But nutshells on the stairs or 
the fineness of our hearing nearly always warned us of 
his arrival, so that we were able to indulge safely in 
our favourite studies.” 

One of the confinements was inflicted on Honoré 
for his faulty Latin and impertinence. “Caius 
Gracchus was a noble heart,” he translated with a free 
paraphrase of vir nobilis. ‘‘ What would Madame de 
Staél say, if she happened to learn you had thus mis- 
construed the sense?” asked the master. (Madame de 
Staél was supposed to be Louis Lambert’s patroness.) 
“She would say you are a stupid,” muttered Honoré. 
“Mister poet, you will go to prison for a week,” re- 
torted the master, who had overheard the comment. 

Among the long walks enjoyed by the pupils on 
Thursdays, when there were no lessons, was one to the 
famous castle of Rochambeau. In 1812, Balzac paid 
his first and impatiently anticipated visit to this spot. 
“When we arrived on the hill,” he says, ‘‘ whence,the 
castle was visible, perched on its flank, and the wind- 
ing valley with the glittering river threading its way 
through a meadow artistically laid out by Nature, 
Louis Lambert said to me: < Why, I saw this last night 
in a dream.’ He recognized the clump of trees 
under which we were, the arrangement of the foliage, 


BOYHOOD 29 


the colour of the water, the turrets of the castle, in 
fine, all the details of the place. ...I relate this 
event,” he continues, “ first because each man can find 
in his existence some phenomenon of sleeping or 
waking analogous to it; and next, because it is true 
and gives an idea of Lambert’s prodigious intelligence. 
In fact, he deduced from the occurrence an entire 
system, possessing himself, like Cuvier, in another 
order of things, of a fragment of life to reconstruct a 
whole creation.” And Lambert is made to develop a 
theory of the astral body and astral locomotion. The 
younger self announces also: “I shall be celebrated— 
an alchemist of thought.” 

With such notions in his head at this early age, 
it was not surprising he should have begun, while in 
his tender teens, a metaphysical composition entitled 
Treatise of the Will. After working for six months on 
it, a day of misfortune arrived. The pieces of paper 
on which it had been written were hidden away from 
all eyes in a locked box, which gradually assumed the 
weird attraction of a Blue Beard’s secret chamber to 
his mocking class-companions, so that at length their 
inquisitiveness drove them to essay capturing the said 
box by violence. Amidst the noise caused by the child- 
author’s desperate defence of his treasure, Father 
Hagoult suddenly appeared; and, being apprized of 
what was inside the box, insisted on its being opened. 
The papers were at once confiscated, and were never 
given back. Their loss caused the boy a serious shock, 
which, combining with debility of longer standing, 
brought on a malady that necessitated his leaving the 
school. The Principal himself advised the removal. 
In 1813, between Easter and the prize distribution, he 
wrote to Madame Balzac asking her to come imme- 


30 HONORE DE BALZAC 


diately and fetch her son away. The lad, he explained, 
was prostrated by a kind of coma, which alarmed his 
teachers all the more as they,were at a loss to account for 
it. To them Honoré was simply an idler. It did not 
occur to them that his condition was owing to cerebral 
fatigue. Thin and sickly-looking at present, he had 
the air of a somnambulist, asleep with his eyes open, 
oblivious of the questions put to him, and unable to 
answer when asked: “‘ What are you thinking of? 
Where are you?” His return home produced a painful 
impression. ‘‘So this is how the college authorities 
remit to us the nice children we entrust to them,” ex- 
- claimed his grandmother. And it must be confessed. 
that the good Fathers, engrossed by the training of their 
. charges’ souls, paid but little attention to the bodies. 

In the rooms where the pupils worked, the exhala- 
tions by which the air was constantly vitiated mingled 
with the smells left by the debris of lunches and teas 
and by other accumulated dirt. There were also cup- 
boards and closets where each pupil used to keep his — 
private booty—pigeons killed on féte days or dishes 
pilfered: from the refectory. Swept only once a day, 
the place was always filthy, and was further rendered 
disagreeable by odours coming from wash-house, dress- 
ing-room, pantries, &c. All this with the mud brought 
in from the outside playgrounds made the atmosphere 
insupportable. Moreover, the pupils’ petty ailments 
and pains were almost entirely unheeded. In winter 
chaps and chilblains were Honoré’s unceasing lot. His 
woman’s complexion, and especially the skin of his 
ears and lips, cracked under the least cold; his soft 
white hands reddened and swelled. Constant colds 
harassed him ; and, until he was inured to the Vendéme 
regimen, pain was his daily portion. 


BOYHOOD 31 


A lively recollection of what he went through in 
these school-days persisted during his maturer years. 
Writing in 1844 to Monsieur Fontémoing, one of 
his few boy-companions that he maintained relations 
with, he said: “ When David is ready to inaugurate 
his statue of Jean Bart in Dieppe, I shall perhaps 
be there to enjoy the spectacle; and then we will 
spend one or two days recalling to mind the cages, 
wooden breeches and other Vendémoiseries.” 

His memory was probably less faithful in 18382, 
when striving to reproduce the tenour of the lost 
Treatise of the Will. At thirteen he could scarcely 
have had such definite notions of intuition and other 
operations of the mind; and there must be a fairly 
long antedating of reflection in attributing to Louis 
Lambert, even with the latter’s two years seniority, 
thoughts like the following :— 

“Often amid calm and silence, when our inner 
faculties are lulled and we indulge in sweet repose, 
and darkness hovers round us, and we fall into a con- 
templation of outer things, straight an idea darts forth, 
flashes through the infinite space created by our brain, 
and then, like a will-o’-the-wisp, vanishes never to 
return — an ephemeral apparition like that of such 
children as yield boundless joy and grief to bereaved 
parents; a species of still-born flower in the fields of 
thought. At times also the idea, instead of forcibly 
gushing and dying without consistence, dawns and 
poises in the fathomless limbo of the organs that give 
it birth; it tires us by its long parturition; then it 
develops and grows, is fertile, rich, and productive in 
the visible grace of youth and with all the qualities 
of longevity; it sustains the most inquiring glances, 
invites them, and never wearies them. Now and again 


820 HONORE DE BALZAC 


ideas are generated in swarms, one evolves another ; 
they interlace and entice, they abound and are dalliant ; 
now and again, they arise pale and looming, and perish 
through want of strength or nourishment—the quicken- 
ing substance is insufficient. And, last of all, on certain 
days they plunge into the abysses, lighting up their 
depths ; they terrify us, and leave us in a soul despair. 
Our ideas have their complete system; they are a 
kingdom of nature, a sort of efflorescence of which a 
madman perhaps might give an iconography. Yes, all 
attests the existence of these delightful creations I may 
compare to flowers. Indeed, their production is no more 
surprising than that of perfumes and colour in the plant.” 

Still, without being a Pascal, Balzac, in the first 
half of his teens, was evidently not an ordinary child. 
There was a ferment of thought, as he said, reacting 
on itself and seeking to surprise the secrets of its own 
being. Fostered by the moral isolation in which he 
lived during these six years, his self-analysis grew 
unwholesome, there being little or nothing on the 
physical side to counterbalance it. Fortunately, the 
return to saner surroundings occurred before the evil 
was irremediable. Running wild for a few months in 
the open air, he recovered his natural vivacity and 
cheerfulness. Every day he went for a long ramble 
through one or another of the landscapes of Touraine, 
and on his way home enjoyed the magnificent sunsets 
lighting up the steeples of his native town and glinting 
on the river covered with craft, both large and small. 
To check his reveries, Madame Balzac forced him to 
amuse his two sisters Laure and Laurence and to fly 
the kite of his little brother Henry,’ who had been born 
while he was at Vendéme. 


1 The name is spelt in the English way. 



















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































PRISON OF THE VENDOME COLLEGE 


WHERE BALZAC WAS CONFINED AS A SCHOOL-Boy 


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BOYHOOD 33 


On Sundays and féte days he regularly accom- 
panied his mother to the Cathedral of Saint-Gatien, 
where he must have been an observant spectator if 
not consistently a devout listener. He prayed by 
fits and starts; and in the intervals studied closely 
and with an eye for effect the appearance of priestly 
persons and functions, with altar and_ stained-glass 
window in the background, and gathered materials 
for his Abbés Birotteau, Bonnet, and others. The 
period was one of compensation and adjustment. What 
he had been striving to assimilate had now the leisure 
to arrange itself in his brain, which was no longer 
overheated. 

As soon as his health was considered sufficiently 
strong, he began attending classes at the institution of 
a Monsieur Chrétien, and supplemented them by private 
lessons received at home. His conviction that he would 
become a famous man was as strong as ever, and his 
naive assertion of it was frequent enough to provoke 
great teasing in the domestic circle. Far from being 
irritated, he laughed with those that laughed at him, his 
sisters saying: “‘ Hail to the great Balzac!” On the 
part of his elders the bantering was intended to damp 
his exalted notions, which they regarded as ill-founded, 
judging him, as his Vendéme professors, by the small- 
ness of his Latin and Greek. His mother in par- 
ticular had no faith in his prophecies nor yet in his 
occasional utterances of deeper things than his years 
warranted: “ You certainly don’t know what you are 
talking about,” was her habitual snub. And, when 
Honoré, not daring to argue further, took refuge in 
his sly, not to say supercilious, smile, she taxed him 
with overweeningness—an accusation that had some 


truth in it. She might well be excused for her scepti- 
Cc 


! 


34 HONORE DE BALZAC _ 


cism, for the youth had also large ignorance in some 
of the commoner things of life, and, moreover, allowed 
himself to be taken in easily. Laure seems to have 
traded a good deal on his credulity for the sake of fun. 
One day she gave him a so-called cactus seedling, sup- 
posed to have come from the land of Judaea. Honoré 
preserved it preciously in a pot for a fortnight, only to 
discover at length that this plant was a vulgar pumpkin. 

At the end cf 1814, Monsieur Balzac came to reside 
in Paris, being placed at the head of the Commis- 
sariat of the First Military Division; and Honoré’s 
education was continued in the capital, for a while at 
the establishment of a Monsieur Lepitre, Rue Saint- 
Louis, and then at another kept by Messieurs Sganzer 
and Beuzelin, Rue de Thorigny, both being situated in 
the Marais Quarter, near his father’s house. So far 
as the subjects of the curriculum were concerned, he 
was still a mediocre pupil. However, literature began 
to attract his attention and efforts, and one composi- 
tion of his for an examination—the speech of Brutus’s 
wife after the condemnation of her sons-—treasured up 
by his sister Laure, is mentioned by her as exhibiting 
some of the energy and realistic presentment in which 
he was ultimately to excel. 

When he was seventeen, his father, seeing that there 
was no chance of his getting into the Ecole Poly- 
technique, decided to put him into the legal profession ; 
and, for the purpose of preliminary training, induced a 
solicitor friend, Guillonnet de Merville,’ to take him 
into his office in the place of a clerk—no other than 
Kugéne Scribe, the future dramatist—who had just 
quitted law for literature. During the eighteen months 
passed here, Balzac went to lectures at the Sorbonne 


1 An Episode under the Terror was dedicated to him. 


BOYHOOD 35 


University, and was coached by private tutors. Among 
the College professors he heard were Villemain, Guizot, 
and Cousin. These great teachers converted his passion 
for reading into more serious habits of study ; and, in 
order to profit more by their lessons, he often spent 
his leisure hours in the libraries of the city and sought 
out old books of value in the cases of the dealers along 
the Quays. 

The pocket-money required for such purchases was 
principally supplied by his grandmother, who per- 
mitted him to win from her at whist or boston in the 
evenings he remained at home. A friend of his grand- 
mother’s that lived in a neighbouring flat was likewise 
very kind to him. She was an old maiden lady who 
had been acquainted with Beaumarchais, and delighted 
to chat with her protégé about the author of the 
Mariage de Figaro. Though now a young man, 
Honoré was not tall; five feet two was his exact 
height. Retaining his childish love of laughter and 
fun of every kind, he showed at present greater facility 
in learning, with a faculty of memory that was pro- 
digious. Having to go with his sisters to balls, he 
took lessons in dancing; but, happening to meet with 
an unlucky fall, and resenting the smiles and giggling 
his accident called forth among the girls, he renounced 
attempts at tripping on the light, fantastic toe, and 
devoted subsequent visits to the task of jotting down 
notes, 

A second period of eighteen months in the office of 
a notary, Maitre Passez, completed his law apprentice- 
ship. In the first pages of Colonel Chabert the novelist 
gives us a sketch of the interior where he acquired 
his knowledge of chicane. Our nostrils are familiarized 
with its stove-heated atmosphere, our eyes with the 


36 HONORE DE BALZAC 


yellow - billed walls, the dirty floor, the greasy furni- 
ture, the bundles of papers, the chimney-piece covered 
with bottles and glasses and bits of bread and cheese ; 
and our ears are assailed by the quips and jokes and 
puns of the clerks and office-boys who were his com- 
panions for atime. He lingers over his reminiscences, 
which, though pleasant from their connection with his 
lost youth, had none the less to do with men and things 
that settled the foundation of his maturer pessimism. 
An article of his in 1839, entitled the Notary, says :— 
«« After five years passed in a notary’s office, it is 
hard for a young man to conserve his candour. He 
has seen the hideous origins of all fortunes, the disputes 
of heirs over corpses not yet cold, the human heart in 
conflict with the Code. . . . A lawyer’s office is a con- 
fessional where the various passions come to empty out 
their bag of bad ideas and to consult about their cases 
of conscience while seeking means of execution.” 
While we have no conclusive evidence on the point, 
it is yet probable that, at least for a while, Balzac had, 
during these years of legal training, serious thoughts 
of adopting law as his career. Otherwise he would 
scarcely have troubled to gain such an extensive ac- 
quaintance with everything appertaining to its theory 
and practice—knowledge which he afterwards utilized 
in several of his books, notably in César Birotteau and 
the Marriage Contract. However, in 1819, he had 
definitely made up his mind to follow Scribe’s example. 
At this date his father informed him that an oppor- 
tunity offered itself for him to become a junior partner 
in a solicitor’s practice, which might be ultimately 
purchased with money advanced him and the dowry 
that an advantageous marriage would bring. When 
the newly-fledged Bachelor of Laws declared that it 


BOYHOOD 37 


was impossible for him to accept the proposal, and that 
he had determined to become a man of letters, trusting 
to his pen for a living, the elder Balzac’s astonishment 
was unbounded. If any echoes of his son’s recent 
cogitations and conversations on the subject had come 
to the father’s ears, they had been deemed so much 
empty talk; and the friends who were consulted in the 
dilemma had nothing more encouraging to say. One 
of them pronounced that Honoré was worth nothing 
better than to make a scrivener of or a clerk in some 
Government department. The poor fellow had a 
good handwriting —this, indeed, deteriorated later. 
Through his parents’ influence, it was thought he 
might ultimately attain a moderate competency. Per- 
haps Laure, the favourite sister and early confidante 
of the novelist, may have used persuasion at this juncture 
with her father and mother. At any rate, as the issue 
of a great deal of lively discussion, the parents agreed 
to let Honoré make a two years’ experiment as a free 
lance in the ranks of the book-writing tribe. By the 
end of that time, they no doubt imagined he would be 
glad enough to re-enact the parable of the prodigal son 
and start in some safer trade. 


CHAPTER III 
EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE AND BUSINESS 


Ir happened that Honoré’s enlistment in the army of 
littérateurs coincided with considerable changes in his 
parents’ circumstances. His father had just been re- 
tired on a pension and had recently lost money in two 
investments. As there were a couple of daughters to 
be provided for, the family, for the sake of economy, 
quitted Paris and went to live at Villeparisis, six leagues 
distant from the capital, where a modest country-house 
had been bought. Honoré, by dint of insistence, ob- 
tained permission to remain in Paris, where he would 
be freer to work and could more easily get into rela- 
tions with publishers; and a meagrely furnished attic- 
study was rented for him at No. 9 Rue Lesdiguieres, 
a street near the Arsenal, still bearing the same name. 
A small monthly allowance was made him, just enough 
to keep him from starving ; and an old woman, Mother 
Comin—the Iris-messenger, he facetiously called her— 
who had been in the family’s service and was staying 
on in the city, undertook to pay him occasional visits 
and to report should he be in difficulties. | 

The novelty of his semi-independence caused him 
at first to look with cheerful eye on his narrow sur- 
roundings. ‘To his sister he wrote in April 1819 :— 

“Here are some details about my way of living. I 
have taken a servant. 

“A servant! What fr be thinking of ? 

8 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE — 39° 


“Yes; a servant. His name is as funny as that of 
* Dr. Nacquart’s domestic. The Doctor’s is Tranquil; 
mine is Myself. He is a bad acquisition! . . . Myself 
is idle, clumsy, and improvident. When his master is 
hungry and thirsty, he has sometimes neither bread nor 
water to give him; he does not know how to protect 
himself against the wind, which blows through the door 
and window like Tulou through his flute, but less agree- 
ably. As soon as I am awake, I ring for Myself, and 
he makes my bed. He sets to sweeping, and is not 
very deft in the exercise. 

“ Myself! 

“ Yes, sir. 

“Just look at the cobweb where that big fly is 
buzzing loud enough to deafen me, and at those bits of 
fluff under the bed, and at that dust on the windows 
blinding me. 

«Why, sir, I don’t see anything. 

«Tut, tut ! hold your tongue, impudence! 

«* And he does, singing while he sweeps and sweep- 
ing while he sings, laughs in talking and talks in 
laughing. He has arranged say linen in the cupboard 
by the chimney, after papering the receptacle white ; 
and, with a three-penny blue paper and bordering, he 
has made a screen. The room he has painted from the 
book-case to the fireplace. On the whole, he is a good 
fellow.” 

In the introduction to Macino Cane, which Balzac 
wrote some fifteen years later, there is a return of 
memory to this sojourn in the Lesdiguieres garret. 
“I lived frugally,” he says; “I had accepted all the 
conditions of monastic life, so needful to the worker. 
When it was fine, the utmost I did was to go for a 
stroll on the Boulevard Bourdon. One hobby alone 


40 HONORE DE BALZAC 


enticed me from my studious habits, and even that was 
study. I used to observe the manners of the Faubourg, 
its inhabitants, and their characters. Dressed as plainly 
as the workmen, indifferent to decorum, I aroused no 
mistrust, and could mix with them and watch their 
bargaining and quarrelling with each other as they 
went home from their toil. My faculty of observation 
had become intuitive; it penetrated the soul without 
neglecting the body, or rather it so well grasped ex- 
terior details that at once it pierced beyond. It gave 
me the power of living the life of the individual in 
whom it was exercised, enabling me to put myself in 
his skin, just as the dervish of the Arabian Nights 
entered the body and soul of those over whom he pro- 
nounced certain words.” 

The would-be man of letters pushed his hobby even 
to dogging people to their homes, and to registering 
in note-book or brain their conversations-—records of 
Joys, sorrows, and interests. 

“I could realize their existence,” he affirms; “I 
felt their rags on my back. I walked with my feet in 
their worn-out shoes; it was the dreaming of a man 
awake. ... To quit my own habits and become 
another by the intoxication of my moral faculties at 
will, such was my diversion. To what do I owe this 
gift ¢ Is it second sight? Is it one of those posses- 
sions of the mind that lead to madness? I have never 
sought out the causes of this gift. I have it and use 
it—that is all I can say.” 

Honoré’s ’prentice attempts at producing a master- 
piece oscillated between the novel and the drama. 
Two stories, entitled respectively Cogquecigrue (an 
imaginary animal) and Stella, were abandoned before 
they were begun. A comic opera had the same fate. 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE § 41 


The Two Philosophers, a farce in which a couple of 
sham sages mocked at the world and quarrelled with 
each other, while secretly coveting the good things 
they affected to despise, appears to have been worked 
at, but uselessly. Next a tragedy, tackled with 
greater resolution, was composed and entirely finished. 
Curiously, the subject of it, Cromwell, was the same as 
that chosen by Victor Hugo, a few years later, to 
achieve the overthrow of classicism and the substitu- 
tion of Romanticism in its stead. 

The drama was written in verse, a form of literary 
composition foreign to Balzac’s talent. Even during 
the months he laboured at his task, he confessed to 
Laure, ’midst his sallies of joking, that what he was 
writing teemed with defective lines. He polished and 
repolished, however, hoping to overcome these draw- 
backs, upheld by his invincible self-confidence. The ~ 
piece, as sketched out in his correspondence, made large 
alterations in English history. Its interest hinged 
chiefly on the dilemma created in Cromwell’s mind by 
his two sons falling into the hands of a small Royalist 
force, and by Charles’s ordering them to be given up 
without conditions to their father, although the King 
was a prisoner. Posed in the third act, the dilemma 
was solved in the fourth by Cromwell’s decision to 
condemn the King, notwithstanding his generosity. At 
the close of the play, the Queen escaped from England, 
crying aloud for vengeance, which she intended to seek 
in all quarters. France would combat the English, 
would defeat and crush them in the end. 

“JT mean my tragedy to be the breviary of peoples 
and kings,” he proudly informed his sister. ‘It is 
impossible for you not to find the plan superb. How 
the interest grows from scene to scene! The incident 


42 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of Cromwell’s sons is most happily invented. Charles’s 
magnanimity in restoring to Cromwell his sons is finer 
than that of Augustus pardoning Cinna.” (In blowing 
his own trumpet Balzac was early an adept.) 

To stimulate his imagination and reflection, he 
transferred his daily walk from the Jardin des Plantes 
to the Pére Lachaise Cemetery. ‘There I make,” he 
explained, “studies of grief useful for my Cromwell. 
Real grief is so hard to depict; it requires so much 
simplicity.” (His garret had still its charm. “The 
time I spend in it will be sweet to look back upon,” he 
said. ‘To live as I like, to work in my own way, to 
go to sleep conjuring up the future, which I imagine 
beautiful, to have Rousseau’s Julie as a sweetheart, 
La Fontaine and Moliére as friends, Racine as a master, 
and Pere Lachaise as a promenade ground! Ah! if it 
could only last for ever!”) His dreaming led“him on 
to wider anticipations even than those of literary glory. 
“If I am to be a grand fellow (which, it’s true, we don’t 
yet know), I may add to my fame as a great author 
that of being a great citizen. This is a tempting 
ambition also.” 

At the end of April -1820, he went to Villeparisis 
with his completed tragedy. Counting on a triumph, | 
he had requested that some acquaintances should be > 
invited to the house to hear it read aloud. Among 
those present was the gentleman who had advised his 
turning clerk in the Civil Service. The reading com- 
menced, and, as it progressed, the youthful author 
noticed that his audience first showed signs of being 
bored, then of being bewildered, and lastly of being 
frankly dissatisfied and hostile. Laure was dumb- 
founded. The candid gentleman broke out into un- 
compromising, scathing condemnation; and those who 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE 43 


were most indulgent were obliged to pronounce that 
the famous tragedy was a failure. Honoré defended 
his production with energy; and, to settle the dispute, 
his father proposed it should be submitted to an old 
professor of the Ecole Polytechnique, whom he knew, 
and who should act as umpire. This course was adopted ; 
and the Professor, after careful examination of the 
manuscript, opined that Honoré would act wisely in 
preferring any other cageer to literature. 

The verdict was received with more calmness than 
might have been expected. Instead of twisting his own 
neck, as he had hinted he might, if unsuccessful, the 
young author quietly remarked that tragedies were not 
his forte and that he intended to devote himself to novels. 

As the price of their assent to his continuance in 
writing, Honoré’s parents stipulated that he should quit 
his garret and come home. The return was all the 
more advisable as Laure was about to be married to a 
Monsieur Surville, who was a civil engineer, and a gap 
was thus created in the home circle, which his presence 
could prevent from being so much felt.’ His health 
besides had suffered during his fifteen months of self- 
imposed privations. In after-life he complained much 
to some of his friends—Auguste Fessart and Madame 
Hanska amongst others—of his parents’ or rather his 
mother’s hardness to him while he was in the 
Lesdiguiéres Street lodgings, and asserted that, if more 
liberality had then been displayed, most of his subse- 
quent misfortunes would have been avoided. This is by 
no means certain. His troubles and burdens would 
seem to have been caused far more by mistakes of 

1 Laurence, the younger sister, was married in 1821, twelve months 


after her sister. Her husband was Monsieur de Montzaigle. She died 
before the close of the decade. 


hd HONORE DE BALZAC 


judgment and improvidence than by any stress of 
circumstance. 

For the next five years he remained with his father 
and mother, excepting the occasional visits paid to 
Touraine, L’Isle-Adam, or Bayeux, at which last place 
his sister Laure was settled for a while. In a letter to 
her there he banteringly spoke of his desire to enter the 
matrimonial state: “Look me out some widow who is 
a rich heiress,” he said; “you know what I require. 
Praise me up to her—twenty-two years of age, amiable, 
polite, with eyes of life and fire, the best husband 
Heaven has ever made. I will give you fifty per cent. 
on the dowry and pin-money.” He alluded to hismother’s 
worrying disposition and susceptibility: «We are oddi- 
ties, forsooth, in our blessed family. What a pity I 
cannot put us into novels.” This he was to do later. * 

Beforehand there was his Romantic cycle to be run 
through, in more than forty volumes, if Laure’s state- 
ment could be believed. What she meant no doubt 
was sections of volumes or else tales; and even the 
composition of forty tales in five years would be a con- 
siderable performance. True, there were partnerships 
with Le Poitevin de lEgreville,; Horace Raisson, 
Ktienne Arago. And the material turned out was of 
the coarsest kind, generally second-hand, a hash-up of 
stories already published, imitations of Monk Lewis, 
Maturin, Mrs. Radcliffe, and French writers of the same 
school, with a little shuffling of characters and incidents. 
The preface to the novel that opened the series— The 
Heiress of Birague—speaks of an old trunk bequeathed 
by an uncle and filled with manuscripts, which the 
author had merely to edit. And the apology had more 
truth in it than he meant it to convey. 


2 Son of Le Poitevin Saint-Alme. 














Batzac’s LODGINGS IN THE RUE LESDIGUIERES 


A cross marks the room occupied 


La 
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EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE § 45 


Balzac was quite aware of the small merit of this 
hack-work. To Laure he confessed: ‘My novel is 
finished. I will send it to you on condition of your 
not lending it or boasting of it as a masterpiece.” He 
could appreciate better achievement, and spoke of 
Kenilworth as the finest thing in the world. His ex- 
cuse was that he had no time to reflect upon what he 
wrote. He must write every day to gain the independ- 
ence that he sought; and had none but this ignoble 
way, as he said, of securing it. 

Moreover, there was still the dreaded possibility of 
his having to embrace another profession than litera- 
ture. The notary was dead and the business had been 
taken over by some one else, so that this danger no 
longer threatened him; but the candid friend was in- 
quiring about a second sinecure. ‘“ What a terrible 
man!” exclaimed Honoré. 

He indulged in a fit of premature discouragement, 
seeking for some one or something to cast a little 
brightness over what he deemed his dull existence. “I 
have none of the flowers of life,” he lamented ; “‘ and 
yet I am in the season when they bloom! What is 
the good of fortune and joys when youth is past? Of 
what use the actor’s garments if one does not play the 
role? The old man is one who has dined and looks at 
others eating. I am young and my plate is empty, 
and I am hungry, Laure. Will ever my two only, 
immense desires—to be celebrated and to be loved—be 
satisfied?” They were, but at a cost that was dearly 
paid. 
However great Balzac’s potential genius, it was 
too little developed, too little exercised at this period 
for him to produce anything of real, permanent worth. 
The fiction in which he was destined to excel, the only 


46 HONORE DE BALZAC 


fiction he was peculiarly fitted to write, demanded 
maturity of experience that he could hardly acquire 
before another decade had passed over his head. Yet 
the stories he reeled off had a certain market value. 
The Heiress of Birague was sold for eight hundred 
frances, Jean-Louis, or the Foundling Girl, for thirteen 
hundred ; and a higher price still was obtained (whether 
the money was actually received is uncertain) for the 
Handsome Jew, afterwards republished under a fresh 
title, The Israelite. 

Contemporary critics declined to acknowledge that, 
in these books and their congeners,’ there were some 
traces of a master-hand. ‘To-day the traces are per- 
ceptible, because. criticism has a better opportunity 
of discovering them. Here and there, and especially 
in Argow, the Pirate, is to be noticed a beginning of 
the realism that was afterwards the novelist’s excellence. 
The theme, that of a brigand purified by love, is, as 
Monsieur le Breton remarks in his study of Balzac, 
a romantic one in the manner of Byron, and has 
things in common with Walter Scott’s Heart of Mid- 
lothian, Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal, and Pixérécourt’s 
Belveder. There is an atmosphere of imagination in 
it, the action is quick, and the characters are strongly 
though distortedly drawn. Moreover, a breath of 
healthy sentiment runs through the story, which is 
not always the case in the later and more celebrated 
novels. Balzac must have learnt much and acquired 
much that was useful to him during this puddling of 
his ore in the furnace of his early efforts; and, if in 
his maturer age he retained certain defects of the 

1 Other youthful productions were The Centenarian, The Last 


Fairy, Dom Gigadas, The Excommunicated Man, Wann-Chlore, or Jane 
the Pale, The Curate of the Ardennes, and Argon, the Pirate. 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE 47 


Romantic school, it was because a lurking sympathy 
with them in his nature prevented his shaking himself 
free of them, when he reformed his manner. 

The style of his letters at this same period was 
admirable, sparkling with wit and with a humour 
that unfortunately grew rarer, bitterer, and even 
coarser often, in his later career. Some of his rapidly 
sketched pictures were incidents of home life. This 
one represents his mother’s fidgety disposition :— 

«Louise, give me a glass of water.” 

«Yes, Ma’am.” 

« Ah, my poor Louise, I’m in a bad way; I am 
indeed !” 

« Nonsense, Ma’am !” 

‘It’s worse than other years.” 

“Tud!... Ma'am!” 

“My head is splitting..... Oh, Louise! the 
shutters are slamming; it’s enough to break all the 
panes in the drawing-room.” 

Already, with the faculty of exaggeration which 
characterised him all his life, he anticipated gaining 
within the next twelvemonth no less than twenty 
thousand francs; forgetting the small result of his 
Cromwell, he spoke of having a lot of theatrical pieces 
in hand, plus an historical novel, Odette de Champdivers, 
and another dealing with the fortunes of the R’hoone 
family. R’hoone was an anagram of his own name 
Honoré. Lord R’hoone was one of his pseudonyms. 
And “Lord R’vhoone,” he told Laure, “ will soon be 
the rage, the most amiable, fertile author ; and ladies 
will regard him as the apple of their eye. Then the 
little Honoré will arrive in a coach with head held 
up, proud look, and fob well garnished. At his ap- 
proach, amidst flattering murmurs from the admiring 


48 HONORE DE BALZAC 


crowd, people will say: ‘He is Madame Surville’s 
brother.’ Then men, women, children, and unborn 
babes will leap as the hills. . . . And I shall be the 
ladies’ man, in view of which event I am saving up my 
money. Since yesterday I have given up dowagers, 
and intend to fall back on thirty-year-old widows. 
Send all you can find to Lord R/hoone, Paris. This 
address will suffice. He is known at the city gates. 
N.B.—Send them, carriage paid, free of cracks and 
soldering. Let them be rich and amiable; as for 
beauty, it is not a sine qua non. Varnish wears off, 
but the underneath earthenware remains.” 

Through all these displays of fireworks one fact 
stands out, that Balzac was in too great a hurry to- 
reap fame and wealth—wealth especially. It was his 
hurry that inspired his constant complaint: “ Ah! if 
only I had enough bread and cheese, I would soon 
make my mark and write books to last.” This was 
not altogether true nor just to his parents. He had 
his bread and cheese and a home to eat it in, which 
authors have not always enjoyed who have gained 
immortality by their unaided pen. Although his 
family were anxious to see him independent, they did 
not oblige him to depend upon what he earned. 
Nothing at the moment prevented him from striving 
to produce something of good quality and spending 
the time necessary over it. He saw the better, but 
followed the worse. 

“‘ My ideas,” he wrote to Laure, “are changing so 
much that my execution will soon change also. .. . 
In a short time there will be the same difference 
between the me of to-day and the me of to-morrow as 
exists between the young man of twenty and the man 
of thirty! I am reflecting; my ideas are ripening. I 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE 49 


recognize that Nature has treated me favourably in 
giving me my heart and my head. Believe in me, dear 
sister, for I need some one to believe in me. I do not 
despair of doing something one day. I see at present 
that Cromwell had not even the merit of being an 
embryon. As for my novels, they are not up to 
much.” 

How could they be when he supplied them, so to 
speak, machine-made! “Citizen Pollet” button-holed 
him in August 1822 and induced him to sign an agree- 
ment binding him to deliver a couple of these stories 
by the Ist of October. Six hundred francs were paid 
cash down, and the rest in deferred bills. ‘The second 
of the couple was the Curate of the Ardennes, which 
Laure helped him to write. 

It surprises at first sight to read that the demand 
for this cheap fiction was so great in the early decades 
of the nineteenth century. The explanation is that, 
during the last years of the Empire, the article had 
scarcely been in the market at all, so that, in the 
Restoration period, which was one of peace and leisure, - 
there was quite a rush for it. On the whole, Balzac 
did not manage to hit the public fancy with his work 
in this line. The further he went with it the less he 
liked it, and such bits of better stuff as he introduced 
in lieu of the blood and mystery rather lessened than 
increased the saleableness of his books. For the printing 
of the Last Fairy he had to pay, himself; and he was 
obliged to own, after five years’ catering for popular 
taste, he was no nearer emerging from obscurity than 
he had been at the commencement. It was discourag- 
ing and humiliating; he had started with such con- 
fidence and boasting. Now those who had spoken 


against his literary vocation seemed to be justified, and 
D 


50 HONORE DE BALZAC 


those who had been most inclined to believe in him 
were sceptical. 

However, there was still one woman who kept her 
faith in his capacity for soaring above the common 
pitch. She it was who, understanding him better than 
his own family, became a second mother to him. 
Attracted by him, in spite of his weaknesses of conceit, 
loudness, and vulgarity, she polished his behaviour, 
guided his perceptions, corrected his pretentiousness, 
influencing him through the sincerity and strength of 
her affection. 

Twenty-two years his senior, she was the daughter 
of a German harpist named Henner, in favour at the 
Court of Louis XVI., whom Marie-Antoinette had 
married to Mademoiselle Quelpée-Laborde, one of her 
own ladies-in-waiting. Both King and Queen stood 
as god-parents to the Henners’ little girl, who, when 
grown up, was married to a Monsieur de Berny, of 
ancient, noble lineage, and bore him nine children. 
The date at which Balzac made her acquaintance has 
been variously stated. Basing themselves upon his — 
Love-story at School, some writers have supposed he 
knew her when he was a boy, but there is no evidence 
to confirm this hypothesis. ‘The first definite mention 
of her and her family occurs in a gossipy letter he — 
wrote to Laure in 1822 from Villeparisis, where the de 
Berny family were settled: “I may tell you,” he says, 
“that Mademoiselle de B. has narrowly escaped being 
broken into three pieces in a fall; that Mademoiselle 
E. is not so stupid as we imagined; that she has a 
talent for serious painting and even for caricature; that 
she is a musician to the tips of her toes; that Mon- 
sieur C. continues to swear; that Madame de Bierny) 
has become a bran, wheat, and fodder merchant, 


EXPERIMENTS IN LITERATURE 51 


perceiving after forty years’ reflection that money is 
everything.” Ree 

At this date, the relationship between: him and 
Madame de Berny was one of ordinary friendship, yet 
with indications of warmer feelings on either side that. 


his parents noticed and disapproved. With a view to": . 


discouraging the intimacy, they induced him to pay 
visits that took him from home for some time; but the 
object they aimed at was not attained. The intimacy 
ripened. Madame de Berny was his only confidante. 
His few male friends were too old or too young for his 
unbosomings. ‘There was the Abbé de Villers whom 
he stayed with at Nogent, and there was Theodore 
Dablin, the retired ironmonger, whom he used to call 
his “ cher petit pére.” Besides these two elders, there was 
the young de Berny, who was considerably his junior. 
But to none of them could he talk unreservedly of his 
ambitions literary and political. For a man between 
twenty and thirty years of age, whose mind is seething 
with evolving thought, there is no more sympathetic 
and appreciative adviser than a woman some years his 
senior. Madame de Berny listened to his expression of 
Imperialistic opinions tinged with Liberalism, as she 
listened to his confession of hopes and disappointments ; 
and, in turn, talked with persuasive accents of those 
pre-Revolution days which she had known as a child. 
She was able also to draw the curtain aside and show 
him something of the history of the Revolution itself 
and of the Terror, during which she and her parents’ 
family had been imprisoned. It was his first mingling 
with the grandeurs that were his delight. Through 
her narration, he was able to enter the old Court society 
and watch the intrigues of the personages who had 
been famous in it. Madame de Berny’s mother was 


52 HONORE DE BALZAC 


still living, and added ker own reminiscences to those 
of her daughter.. Later, by their agency he was intro- 
duced to sonré of the aristocratic partisans of the fallen 
dynasty~-the Duke de Fitz-James and the Duchess de 
- Castries. Under Madame de Berny’s education, his 


:-.'<:Imperialism was transformed into Legitimism. 


How a matron of her age should have allowed the 
friendship of the commencement to develop into a 
liaison is one of those problems of sexual psychology 
easier to describe in Balzac’s own language than to 
explain rationally. We know that she was not happy 
with her husband, and can surmise that she entered 
upon the rdle she played without clearly foreseeing 
its dangers. No doubt, her desire to form this genius 
in the rough carried her away from her moorings, which, 
indeed, had never been very strong, since she had already 
once before in her married life had a lover. Besides 
there was her temperament, sensual and sentimental ; 
and with it the tradition of the eighteenth-century 
morals, indulgent to illicit amours. | 

Most likely, the second phase of her relations with 
Balzac coincided with his temporary abandonment of 
authorship for business. It was in 1825 that he re- 
solved to embark on publishing,’ partly urged by the 
mute reproaches of his parents and partly allured by the 
prospect of rapidly growing rich. He had likewise 
some intention of bringing out his own books, both 
those previously written and those in preparation. Of 
these latter there were a goodly number sketched out in 
a sort of note-book or album, which his sister Laure 
called his garde-manger or pantry. It was full of 

1 The initiator of this project was not Balzac, although his early 


biographers, Madame Surville included, gave him the credit for it, 
See Hanotaux and Vicaire, p. 19. 


EXPERIMENTS IN BUSINESS 53 


jottings anent people, places, and things that he had 
come across in the preceding lustrum. 

The idea of taking up business was mooted to him 
first by a Monsieur d’Assonvillez, an acquaintance of 
Madame de Berny, whom he used to see and talk 
with when staying, as he occasionally did, at the small 
apartment rented by his father in Paris. Just then 
Urbain Canel, the celebrated publisher of Romantic 
books, was thinking of putting on the market compact 
editions of the old French classics, beginning with 
Moliére and La Fontaine; and Balzac, either already 
knowing him or being introduced to him by a mutual 
friend, was admitted to join in the undertaking. The 
money necessary for the partnership was lent to him 
by Monsieur d’Assonvillez, who, as a sharp business 
man, imposed conditions on the loan which secured 
him from loss in case of failure. The editions were 
to be library ones, illustrated by the artist Devéria 
(who about this time painted Balzac’s portrait), and 
were to be published in parts. The price was high, 
twenty francs for each work ; and additional drawbacks 
were the smallness of the type and the poorness of the 
engravings. No success attended the experiment; at 
the end of a twelvemonth not a score of copies had 
been sold. By common consent the firm, which had 
been increased to four partners, broke up their associa- 
tion, and Balzac was left sole proprietor of the concern, 
the assets of which consisted of a large quantity of waste- 
paper, and the liabilities amounted to a respectable 
number of thousand francs. 

Madame Surville attributes the fiasco to the pro- 
fessional jealousy of competitors, who discouraged the 
public from buying ; but the cause of the discomfiture 
lay rather in the faulty manner in which the partners 


5A HONORE DE BALZAC 


carried out their plan. Monsieur d’Assonvillez being 
still an interested adviser, Balzac now submitted to him 
a project for retrieving his losses by adding a printing 
to his publishing business. The stock and goodwill of 
a printer were to be bought, and a working type-setter, 
named Barbier, was to be associated as a second prin- 
cipal in the affair, on account of his practical experience. 
The project was approved, and the elder Balzac was 
persuaded to come forward with a capital of about 
thirty thousand francs, this sum being required to 
pay out the retiring printer, Monsieur Laurens, and 
obtain the new firm’s patent. Madame de Berny had 
already lent Honoré money to help him in the publish- 
ing scheme. At present, she induced her husband to 
intervene with the Government so that the printing 
licence might be granted without delay. 

The printing premises were situated at No. 17, 
Rue des Marais, Faubourg Saint-Germain, to-day 
Rue Visconti, near the Quai Malaquais. The street, | 
which is a narrow one, subsists nearly the same as it 
was a century ago. Older associations, indeed, are 
attached to it. At No. 19 died Jean Racine in 1699, 
and Adrienne Lecouvreur in 1780. No. 17 was anew 
construction when Balzac went to it, having probably 
been built on the site where Nicolas Vauquelin des 
Yveteaux used to receive the far-famed Ninon in his 
gardens. On the impost, where formerly appeared 
the names Balzac and Barbier, now may be read 
«A. Herment, successeur de Garnier.” The place is 
still devoted to like uses. 

In the Lost Illusions, whose part-sequel David 
Séchard reproduces Balzac’s life as a printer, there is a 
description of the ground floor: “a huge room, lighted 
on the street-side by an old stained-glass window and 


EXPERIMENTS IN BUSINESS 5S 


on the inner yard-side by a casement.” A passage in 
Gothic style led to the office ; and on the floor above 
were the living rooms, one of which was hung with 
blue calico, was furnished with taste, and was adorned 
with the owner’s first novels, bound by Thouvenin. In 
this “den,” during the two years that he was engaged 
in the printing trade, were received the daily visits of 
her he called his Dilecta. 

She could not give him the practical business 
qualities in which he was utterly lacking and for which 


his wonderful intuitions of commercial possibilities were 


no compensation ; but she could smile at his enthusiasms 
and sympathize with his disappointments, which had 
their see-saw pretty regularly in the interval from the 
Ist of June 1826 to the 8rd of February 1828. A 
very fair trade was done; and, in fact, some of the 
books he printed were important: Villemain’s JMzs- 
cellanies, Mérimée’s Jacquerie, Madame Roland's 
Memoirs, not to speak of his own small Critical and 
Anecdotal Dictionary of Paris Signboards, published 
under a pseudonym, or rather anonymously, since it was 
signed Le Batteur de Pavé, the “« Man in the Street.” 
But the senior partner, he who should have financed 
the concern with all the more wariness as d’ Assonvillez, 
the principal supplier of capital, had a mortgage upon 
the whole estate, allowed himself to be paid for his 
printing, more often than not, in bills for which no pro- 
vision was forthcoming and in securities that were 
rotten. One debt of twenty-eight thousand francs was 
settled by the transfer of a lot of old unsaleable litera- 
ture, which would have been dear at a halfpenny a 
volume. And then, when everything was in confusion 
__debtors recalcitrant and creditors pressing—what must 
he do but launch on another venture, buy the bank- 


Ann, 


vn Aira 


J 


J? 


++ 


56 HONORE DE BALZAC 


rupt stock of a type-founder, and start manufacturing. 
A fresh partner, Laurent, was admitted into the firm 
in December 1827, with a view to his exploiting the 
presumably auxiliary branch; and a prospectus was 
issued vaunting a process of type-founding, which Balzac 
was wrongly credited with having invented. Within 
two months after this spurt, and while a fine album 
was in preparation, which was to illustrate the firm’s 
improved method, Barbier withdrew from the partner- 
ship. His desertion would have at once spelt disaster, 
if Madame de Berny had not boldly stepped into the 
vacant place, with a power of attorney conferred on her 
by her husband, and pledged her credit for nine thousand 
francs. During three months longer, the tottering 
house continued to hold up; and then, under the 
avalanche of writs and claims, it fell. A petition in 
bankruptcy was filed in April, and the estate was placed — 
in the hands of an official receiver. | 
On reaching this crisis so big with consequences, — 
Balzac had recourse to his mother, who, though little 
disposed in the past to humour his bent, consented now 
to every sacrifice in order to save his credit. Her first 
step was to get her cousin Monsieur Sédillot to occupy 
himself with the liquidation, she authorizing him at the © 
same time to make whatever arrangement he should 
judge the best, and promising to accept it. She was 
most anxious to spare her husband, at present eighty- — 
three years of age, the grief he must feel if informed of 4 
the full extent of the disaster. Alas! notwithstanding — 
her precautions, the old man did learn the truth ; and 
the shock hastened his end. Within twelve months _ 
after the bankruptcy he met with a slight accident, — 
which, acting on his enfeebled constitution, was fatal 
to him. 





Photograph: Neurdei 


Bazac’s PRINTING PREMISES IN THE RUE DES Marals; 
Now RUE VISCONT 





"aoc dal 


EXPERIMENTS IN BUSINESS 57 


Balzac’s liabilities, at the moment of the failure, 


were one hundred and thirteen thousand francs. The 


effect of the liquidation was to reduce the number of 
creditors, so that his indebtedness was restricted to 
members of his own family and to Madame de Berny. 
The latter’s claims were partly met by her son’s taking 
over the business with Laurent, the other partner. Being 
thus reconstituted, the firm subsequently prospered. 
To-day it still carries on its affairs under the control of 
a Monsieur Charles Tuleu, who succeeded Monsieur de 
Berny. Madame Surville would have us believe that, 


if her parents had only supported Honoré more un- 


reservedly at the commencement, he could have realized 
a fortune; but all the facts of her brother’s life go to 
prove the contrary. 

Referring, a decade later, to these dark days, which 
loaded him with a burden of debt that he never shook 
off but increased by his natural inability to balance 
receipts and expenditure, he spoke of Madame de Berny’s 
kindness, and declared that he had repaid the Délecta 
in 1836 the last six thousand francs he owed her, to- 
gether with their five per cent. interest. As on many 
other occasions, Balzac imagined something which had 
not been done, though he apparently believed what 
he asserted. The following anecdote re-establishes the 
facts of the case. | 

Monsieur Arthur Rhoné, a friend of the de Berny 
family, who used to visit the son Alexander in the 
office of the Rue des Marais, often admired on the 
mantelpiece a fine bust of Flora, modelled by Marin. 
One day the printer said to him: “Do you know how 
much that bust cost me? .. . Fifteen thousand francs. 
I got it from Balzac, who owed me a great deal of 
money. Once when I was at his house in Passy, he 


58 HONORE DE BALZAC 


exclaimed : ‘Since I can’t pay you, take what you like 
from here to re-imburse yourself.’” This work of art, 
a Louis XVI. gilt-bronze time-piece, with its two 
candelabra, once also in Balzac’s possession, was part 
payment of the balance due to the de Berny family, 

and was surrendered only in the forties. | 

The novelist, whose memory was so short in money 
matters, had a longer recollection of his moral obliga- 
tions. In the letter above referred to, he confessed : 
“ Without her (Madame de Berny) I should have died. 
She often divined that I had not eaten for several days 
(here he was probably piling on the agony). She pro- 
vided for everything with angelic kindness. Her 
devotion was absolute.” It ended only with the 
Dilecta’s life. 

In the Shagreen Skin, which embodies some of 
Balzac’s youthful experiences, Raphael, the hero, was 
saved from committing suicide, after ruining himself, 
by an accident which forms the thread of the story. 
Possibly, during the bankruptcy proceedings, there 
may have been a fit of despair which urged the insolvent 
printer to end his own troubles in the Seine. If so, it 
was of short duration. A fortnight after he had quitted 
the Rue des Marais, the letter he wrote to General de 
Pommereul showed him planning out a fresh future. 

‘At last has happened,” he said in it, « what many 
persons were able to foresee, and what I myself feared 
in beginning and courageously supporting an establish- 
ment the magnitude of which was colossal CDT tee 
have been precipitated, not without the previsions of 
my conscious mind, from my modest prosperity... . 
For the last month I have been engaged on an 
_ historical work of the highest interest : and I hope that, 
in default of a talent altogether problematic with me, 


EXPERIMENTS IN BUSINESS 59 


my sketch of national customs will bring me luck. 
My first thought was for you; and I resolved to write 
and ask you to shelter me for two or three weeks. A 
camp-bed, a single mattress, a table, if only it is 
quadrupedal and not rickety, a chair and a roof are all 
that I require.” 

The General replied: “Your room awaits you. 
Come quick.” And he went. It was his definite 
entrance into literature, and his resumption of the 
search for wealth withal. 


CHAPTER IV 
FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 


Tue historical novel that Balzac had set himself to 
write was the Chouans, this name being given to the 
Vendée Royalists who, under the leadership of the 
Chevalier de Nougaréde, combated the Revolution and 
Napoleon. The scene being laid in Brittany, it was 
natural that, apart from health reasons, the author 
should wish to inspire his pen by a visit to the places 
he intended to describe. 

His hostess at Fougéres has left us a description of 
her guest: “He was a little, burly man, clad in ill- 
fitting garments that increased his bulk. His hands 
were magnificent. He wore a most ugly hat; but, as 
soon as he took it off, one remarked nothing else besides 
his head. . . . Beneath his ample forehead, on which 
seemed to shine the reflection of a lamp, there were 
brown, gold-spangled eyes which expressed their owner’s 
meaning as clearly as his speech. He had a big, square 
nose, and a huge mouth, which was perpetually smiling in — 
spite of his ugly teeth. He wore a moustache, and his 
long hair was brushed back. At the time he came to 
us he was rather thin, and appeared to be half-starved. 
He devoured his food, poor fellow! For the rest, there 
was so much confidence, so much benevolence, so much 
naiveté, so much frankness in_ his demeanour, his 
gestures, his way of speaking and behaving that it was 


impossible to know him and not love him. .. . His 
60 


_ FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 61 


good humour was so exuberant as to be contagious. 
Notwithstanding the misfortunes he had just passed 
through, he had not been with us a quarter of an hour 
before he made the General and me laugh till tears 
came into our eyes.” 

The Chouwans, which his two or three months’ 
sojourn at Fougéres enabled him to get on with rapidly, 
was completed after his return to Paris, and was pub- 
lished under his own name in 1829. Charles Vimont, 
who accepted and brought it out, paid him no more 
than a thousand frances. The book, although it was 
not badly written, and contained plenty of incident, 
very fair characterization, of the minor personages 
especially, and local colouring imitated from Walter 
Scott, made no great impression. For the ordinary 
reader it differed too little from the Romanticism with 
which he was familiar. Moreover, the action savoured 
too much of the melodramatic; and the character of 
Mademoiselle de Verneuil, and that of the Chouan - 
chief, whom she had promised to deliver up to the 
emissaries of Fouché, were too nebulous to gain general 
sympathy, even with the heroine's tragic devotion. 
There is, however, a fine sketch of Brittany and of its 
spirit of revolt; the numerous figures of the back- 
ground are vigorously executed, and nearly all the 
episodes of the drama are skilfully presented.. A 
perusal of the Chowans makes us regret that there was 
hardly any return to this kind of composition in the 
author’s after-work. 

When embarking on his publishing enterprise, 
Balzac went to live in an apartment of the Rue 
Tournon, No. 2,! close to the Luxembourg. He aban- 


1 Some early biographers state that the novelist went to the Rue 
Tournon after his bankruptcy. This is a mistake. 


62 HONORE DE BALZAC 


doned it for the Rue des Marais in 1826; and, this 
latter abode being given up in 1828, he removed on 
his return from Brittany to No. 4, Rue Cassini, where 
he remained for some years. A friend of his, Latouche 
—soon to become an enemy—helped him to liven up 
the walls of his study with the famous blue calico that 
had adorned his room over the printing office. Certain 
busybodies spread the report that he was furnishing 
his new apartment extravagantly; and Laure, to 
whose ear the tattle had come, ventured to allude to 
it in a letter reproaching him with remissness in writing 
home and to her. The accusation of extravagance, 
which later he really merited, was at this moment a 
trifle previous, money being scarce and credit also. 
“Stamps and omnibus fares are expenses I cannot 
afford,” he assured his sister; “and I abstain from 
going out in order to save my clothes.” 
However,. he was now on the point of scoring a 
literary success. In the same year as his Chouans 
appeared his Physiology of Marriage, a book of satire 
and caricature having a distinct stamp of his maturer 
manner. Werdet, for a number of years his publisher 
and friend, relates in his Portrait Intime that Balzac, 
while still in the Lesdiguiéres Street garret, had gone 
one day to Alphonse Levavasseur and offered, in return 
for a royalty and a cash instalment of two hundred 
francs, to supply him with a book to be entitled: 
Manual of the Business Man, by a former Notary’s Clerk. 
It was agreed the manuscript should be handed in at 
the end of a month; and the two hundred francs were 
paid down. In vain the publisher waited for- his 
Manual. Ultimately he hunted out his debtor; and 
the latter had to confess that the long-promised manu- 
script had never been written, In order to calm the 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME _ 68 


creditor's indignation, Balzac read to him some frag- 
ments of another book which he was really engaged 
upon. After listening for a while, Levavasseur’s 
countenance grew serene: “I will pay you two thousand 
francs for this production when finished, Monsieur,” 
he said; “and we will cancel the old transaction. Come 
with me. I will give you the first thousand francs now. 
The rest you shall have as soon as I get the last corrected 
proofs.” “Dear publisher, your speech is golden,” cried 
Balzac; “I accept.” Nevertheless, the proofs were not 
delivered until 1829. The book immediately became 
popular. “From the day of its appearance,” comments 
Werdet, “literature counted another master and France 
another Moliere.” 

The verdict is exact only if the Physiology is regarded 
in conjunction with the novelist’s after achievement in 
the domain of realistic fiction. Alone it would not 
rank so high. Flippant, cynical,immoral—these epithets, 
which were freely applied to it, all have their justification 
when one looks at the work from any other standpoint 
than that of its being a very amusing and clever 
exposition of sex relations governed by interest and 
passion. Both facts and philosophy are confined within 
an exceedingly narrow horizon, one in which the writer 
was most thoroughly at home, which explains why they 
bear the imprint of a mind already Odasé. 

From a letter Balzac sent to Levavasseur, while 
finishing the last pages of the manuscript, it appears 
that he commenced his task as a jest and completed it 
with more serious purpose: “I intended to dash off a 
pleasantry,” he told him, “and you came one morning 
and asked me to do in three months what Brillat- 
Savarin took ten years to do. I haven’t an idea which is 
not the Physiology. dream of it, fam absorbed by it.” 


64 HONORE DE BALZAC 


The sale of the book was in a measure due to the 
sort of scandal it provoked. Ladies especially bought 
the volume to find out for themselves how far they had 
been maligned ; and Levavasseur, who was pleased with 
his profits, introduced Balzac to Emile de Girardin, then 
chief editor of the Mode, to which paper he now began 
to contribute light articles, not to speak of other 
journals, which were only too glad to receive something 
from his pen. The extent to which the fair sex read 
the Physiology and were affected by it is illustrated by 
a story that Werdet tells of a hoax perpetrated at 
Balzac’s expense by a number of his society friends, 
who had cause to complain of his uppishness towards 
them, a treatment based not merely on the belief he 
entertained in his literary superiority, but on _ his 
pretensions to aristocratic descent. The story belongs 
more properly to the middle thirties, when he had been 
using the prefix “de” before his name already for some 
years, justifying himself on the ground that his father 
claimed issue from an old family that had resisted the ~ 
Auvergne invasion and had begotten the d’Entragues 
stock. His father, moreover, so he said, had discovered’ 
documents in the Charter House establishing a 
concession of lands made by a de Balzac in the fifth 
century ;: and a copy of the transaction had been 
registered by the Paris Parliament. 

Between 1833 and 1836 one of the most celebrated 
Paris “ sets” was that of the Opera “ lions,” seven young 
aristocratic sparks composing it, or, to be precise, six, 
together with the Chevalier d’Entragues de Balzac, as 
his friends jokingly dubbed him—he being an elder. It 
was the period of his first flush of prosperity, when he 
drove about in a hired carriage resplendent with the 
d’Entragues coat of arms, which cost him five hundred 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 65 


francs a month; had a majestic coachman in fine 
livery and a Tom Thumb groom ; sported himself in 
gorgeous garments and strutted about in the Opera 
foyer, amidst the real or feigned admiration of his 
fellows. 

To revenge themselves for their mentor’s supercilious- 
ness towards them, the six other ons induced a dancer 
at the Opera to play the part of a supposed Duke’s 
daughter smitten with the great man’s writings and 
person, a role she undertook the more willingly as, 
being well acquainted with the former, she was anxious 
to prove to him that he was. not so perspicacious as he 
deemed himself. An Opera ball was chosen for the 
adventure; and Balzac was duly baited and taken in 


tow by the lady, whose mask only half concealed her | 


beauty. Thus began a flirtation, with subsequent 
clandestine meetings, allowing the fair unknown to fool 
him to the top of her bent. The author wanted to 
propose for her hand to the Duke her father; but, 
cleverly using her knowledge of his books, the sly jade 
showed him that he would have no chance of being 
accepted. At last she hinted she would like to visit him 
in his author’s sanctum ; and the delighted novelist went 
to most lavish expense in fitting up a boudoir to receive 
her. The visit was presumably asecret one. Protected 
by a young man employed at the Opera, to whom she 
was engaged, and who accompanied her in the disguise 
of a negro, she went to the Rue des Batailles one evening 
and graciously listened to the enraptured conversation 
of her victim till towards midnight, when her mother, 
who was in the plot, came to fetch her. The novelist’s 
fury and humiliation were extreme on his learning how 
neatly he had been tricked, and it was some time before 


he ventured to reappear in his accustomed haunts. As 
E 


Wine 


66 HONORE DE BALZAC 


narrated by Werdet, the story is a good deal embellished, 
and some of the details that he gives were probably 
invented ; but the main outline he vouches to be true. 

Among the editors of journals who sought Balzac’s 
collaboration after the publication of the Physiology 
were Buloz of the Revue de Paris and Victor Ratier 
of the Silhouette. To the latter of them, in 1831, he 
wrote from La Grenadiére, where he had gone to 
recruit, a letter revealing a curiously mixed state of 
mind in this dawning period of fame. He would seem 
to have been under a presentiment of the long years 
of struggle and incessant toil he was about to be in- 
volved in, and to have felt a shrinking of his physical 
nature from them. 

“Oh! if you knew what Touraine is like,’ he 
exclaimed. ‘Here one forgets everything else. I 
forgive the inhabitants for being stupid. They are 
so happy. Now, you know that people who enjoy much 
are naturally stupid. Touraine admirably explains the 
lazzarone. {i have come to regard glory, the Chamber, 
politics, the future, literature, as veritable poison-balls 
to kill wandering, homeless dogs, and I say to myself: 
‘ Virtue, happiness, life, are summed up in six hundred 
francs income on the bank of the Loire... M 
house is situated half-way up the hill, near a delightful 
river bordered with flowers, whence I behold landscapes 
a thousand times more beautiful than all those with 
which rascally travellers bore their readers. Touraine 
appears to me like a pdté de foie gras, in which one 
plunges up to the chin; and its wine is delicious. 
Instead of intoxicating, it makes you piggy and 
happy. . . . Just fancy, I have been the most poetic trip 
possible in France—from here to the heart of Brittany 
by water, passing between the most ravishingiscenery in 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 67 


the world. I felt my thoughts go with the stream, 
which, near the sea, becomes immense. Oh, to lead 
the life of a Mohican, to run about the rocks, to swim 
in the sea, to breathe in the fresh air and sun! Oh, I 
have realized the savage! Oh, I have excellently 
understood the corsair, the adventurer—their lives of 
opposition; and I reflected: ‘Life is courage, good 
rifles, the art of steering in the open ocean, and the 
hatred of man—of the Englishman, for example.’ 
(Here Balzac is of his time.) Coming back hither, the 
ex-corsair has turned dealer in ideas. Just imagine, 
now, a man so vagabond beginning on an article 
entitled, Treatise of Fashionable Life, and making an 
octavo volume of it, which the Mode is going to 
print, and some publisher reprint. . . . Egad! at the 
present moment literature is a vile trade. It leads to 
nothing, and I itch to go a-wandering and risk my 
existence in some living drama. ... Since I have 
seen the real splendours of this spot, I have grown | 
very philosophic, and,/putting my foot on an ant-hill, ° 
—Texclaim, like the immortal Bonaparte: ‘That, or men, 
what is it all in presence of Saturn or Venus, or the 
Pole Star ?’.) And methinks that the ocean, a brig, and 
an English vessel to engulf, is better than a writing- 
desk, a pen, and the Rue Saint-Denis.” 

About the events of the 1830 Revolution the 
novelist was apparently but little concerned. True, the 
change was one of dynasty only, not of régime, albeit 
Louis-Philippe posed rather as a plebiscitary monarch. 
Balzac’s clericalism and royalism, which ultimately 
became so crystallized, were at this date in a position of 
unstable equilibrium. At one moment his criticisms 
have an air of condemning the monarchic principle, at 
another they point to his being a pillar of the ancient 


$ 


* 


68 HONORE DE BALZAC 


system of things. On this occasion he was twitted by 
Madame Zulma Carraud, his sister’s friend, with whom 
his relations grew more intimate as his celebrity aug- 
mented; and he defended himself by a confession of 
faith which forecast his endeavours—less persistent than 
his desires—to add the statesman’s laurels to those of 
the littérateur. His doctrine, following the Machia- 
vellian tradition, was that .the genius of government 
consists in operating the fusion of men and things— 
a method which demonstrated Napoleon and Louis 
XVIII. alike to be men of talent. Both of them 
restrained all the various parties in France—the one by 
force, the other by ruse, because the one rode horse- 
back, the other ina carriage. . . . France, he continued, 
ought to be a constitutional monarchy, with an heredi- 
tary Royal Family, a House of Lords extraordinarily 
powerful and representing property, &e., with all pos- 
sible guarantees of heredity and privilege; then she 
should have a second, elective assembly to represent 
every interest of the intermediary mass separating» 
high social positions from what was called the people. 
The bulk of the laws and their spirit should tend to 
enlighten the people as much as possible—the people 
that had nothing—workmen, proletaries, &c.—so as to 
bring the greatest number of men to that condition of 
well-being which distinguished the intermediary mass ; 
but the people should be left under the most puissant 
yoke, in such a way that the individual units might find 
light, aid, and protection, and that no idea, no form, 
no transaction might render them turbulent. The richer 
classes must enjoy the widest liberty practicable, since 
they had a stake in the country. To the Government 
he wished the utmost force possible, its interests being 
the same as those of the rich and the bourgeois, viz. 





Hanp oF BALzac 
From a Plaster-Cast (Spoelberch de Lovenjoul collection) 





a 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 69 


to render the lowest class happy and to aggrandize the 
middle class, in which resided the veritable puissance 
of States. If rich people and the hereditary fortunes 
of the Upper Chamber, corrupted by their manners and 
customs, engendered certain abuses, these were insepar- 
able from all society, and must be accepted with the 
advantages they yielded. 

This conception of the classes and the masses, 


_ which he afterwards set forth more fully in his Country 


Doctor and Village Curé, partly explains why all his 
best work, besides being impregnated with fatalism, 
has such a constant outlook on the past. It was a 
dogma with him rather than a philosophy, and was 
clung to more from taste than from reasonable convic- 
tion. He believed in aristocratic prerogative, because 
he believed in himself, and ranked himself as high as, 
or rather higher than, the noble. This was at the 
bottom of his doctrine; but he was glad all the same 
to have his claim supported by such outward signs of 
the inward grace as were afforded by vague genealogy 
and the homage of the great. Duchesses were his pre- 


‘dilection when they were forthcoming ; failing them, 


countesses were esteemed. 
The Duchess d’Abrantés—one of his early admirers 


- to whom he dedicated his Forsaken Woman, was 


herself a colleague in letters; and he was able to render 
her some service through his relations with publishers. 
Their correspondence shows them to have been on 


very friendly terms. In one of his letters to her, he 


insisted on his inability to submit to any yoke, and 
rebutted her insinuation that he permitted himself to 
be led—possibly the Duchess’s hint referred to Madame 
de Berny. “My character,” he said, “is the most 
singular one I have ever come across. [| study myself 


70 HONORE DE BALZAC 


as I might another person. I comprise in my five feet 
two every incoherence, every contrast possible ; and 
those who think me vain, prodigal, headstrong, frivolous, 
inconsistent, foppish, careless, idle, unstable, giddy, 
wavering, talkative, tactless, ill-bred, impolite, crotchety, 
humoursome, will be just as right as those who might ~ 
affirm me to be thrifty, modest, plucky, tenacious, 
energetic, hardworking, constant, taciturn, cute, polite, 
merry. Nothing astonishes me more than myself. I 
am inclined to conclude I am the plaything of circum- 
stances. Does this kaleidoscope result from the fact 
that, into the soul of those who claim to paint all the 
affections and the human heart, chance casts each and 
every of these same affections in order that by the 
strength of their imagination they may feel what they 
depict? And can it be that observation is only a sort 
of memory proper to aid this mobile imagination? I 
begin to be of this opinion.” 

Balzac appears to have been introduced to the 
Duchess d’Abrantés about the year 1830, when he 
was engaged in writing his Shagreen Skin, which, out 
of the numerous pieces of fiction produced within this 
and the next twelve months, added most to his notoriety, 
though inferior to such stories as the House of the 
Tennis-playing Cat, and even to the Sceaux Ball in 
the more proper qualities of the novel. 

The Shagreen Skin is the adventure of a young 
man who, after sowing his wild oats and losing his last 
crown at the gaming table, goes to end his troubles in 
the river, but is prevented from carrying out his inten- 
tion by being fortuitously presented with a piece of 
shagreen skin, which has the marvellous property of | 
gratifying its possessor’s every wish, yet, meanwhile, 
shrinks with each gratification, and in the same propor- 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 71 


tion curtails its possessor’s life. On this warp of fairy 
tale, the author weaves a woof of romance and reality 
most oddly blended. The imitations of predecessors 
are numerous. The style is turgid, the thought is 
shallow, the sentiment is exaggerated. But very little 
of the sober characterization soon to be manifested in 
other books is displayed in this one. The best that 
can be said is that the thing has the same cleverness as 
the Physiology, with here and there indications—and 
clear ones—of the novelist’s later power. He him- 
self grossly overestimated it, as, indeed, he overestimated 
not a few of his poorer productions—maybe because 
they cost him greater toil than his masterpieces, which 
generally, after long, unconscious gestation, issued 
rapidly and painlessly from him. 

An amusing expression of this self-praise has come 
down to us in the puff he composed on the occasion of 
a reprint of the Shagreen Skin by Gosselin in 1832. 
“The Philosophic Tales of Monsieur de Balzac,” it 
announced, “have appeared this week. The Shagreen 
Skin is judged as the admirable novels of Anne Radcliffe 
were judged. Such things escape annalists and com- 
mentators. The eager reader lays hold of these books. 
They bring sleeplessness into the mansions of the rich 
and into the garret of the poet; they animate the 
village. In winter they give a livelier reflection to 
the sparkling log, great privileges to the story-teller. 
It is nature, in sooth, who creates story-tellers. Vainly 
are you a learned, grave writer, if you have not been 
born a story-teller, and you will never obtain the popu- 
larity of the Mysteries of Udolpho and the Shagreen 
Skin, the Arabian Nights, and Monsieur de Balzac. I 
have somewhere read that God created Adam, the 
nomenclator, saying to him: You are the story-teller. 


72 HONORE DE BALZAC 


rf And what a story-teller! what verve and wit! what 
indefatigable perseverance in painting everything, daring 
everything, branding everything! How the world is 
dissected by this man! What an annalist! What 
passion and what coolness ! 

“The Philosophic Tales are the red- hs interpreta- 
tion of a civilization ruined by debauch and well-being, 
which Monsieur de Balzac exposes in the pillory. The 
Arabian Nights are the complete history of the luxurious 
East in its days of happiness and perfumed dreams. 
Candide is the epitome of an epoch in which there were 
bastilles, a stag-park, and an absolute king. By thus 
taking at the first bound a place beside these formidable 
or graceful tale-tellers, Monsieur de Balzac proves one 
thing that remained to be proved; to wit, that the 
drama, which was no longer possible to-day on the 
stage, was still possible in the story—that our society, so 
dangerously sceptical, blasé, and scornful, could yet be 
moved by the galvanic shocks of this poetry of the 
senses—full of life and colour, in flesh and blood, drunk 
with wine and lust—in which Monsieur de Balzac 
revels with such delight. Thus, the surprise was great, 
when, thanks to this story-teller, we still found among 
us something resembling poetry—feasts, intoxication, 
the light o’ love giving her caresses amidst an orgie, 
the brimming punch-bowl crowned with blue flames, 
the yellow-gloved politician, scented adultery, the girl 
indulging in pleasure and love and dreaming aloud, 
poverty clean and neat, surrounded with respectability 
and happy hazard—we have seen all this in Balzac. The 
Opera with its lemans, the pink boudoir and its flossy 
hangings, the feast and its surfeits; we have even seen 
Moliére’s doctor reappear, such need has this man of 
sarcasm and grotesqueness. ‘lhe further you advance 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 73 


in the Shagreen Skin—vices, lost virtues, poverties, 
boredom, deep silence, dry-as-dust science, angular, 
witless scepticism, laughable egotism, puerile vanities, 
venal loves, Jewish second-hand dealers, &c.—the more 
astonished and pained you will be to recognize that the 
nineteenth century in which you live is so made up. 
The Shagreen Skin is Candide with Béranger’s notes ; 
it is poverty, luxury, faith, mockery ; it is the heartless 
breast, the brainless cranium of the nineteenth century 
—the century so bedizened and scented, so revolution- 
ary, so ill-read, so little worth, the century of brilliant 
phantasmagorias, of which in fifty years’ time nothing 
will be seizable except Monsieur de Balzac’s Shagreen 
Skin.” 

On account of its sensationalism, the Shagreen Skin 
had a success of curiosity equal, and, if anything, 
superior to that of the Physiology. ‘The author, how- 
ever, had to defend himself against the charge of 
copying foreign literature—Hoffman’s tales in _par- 
ticular. One of his correspondents, the Duchess de 
Castries, who subsequently flattered him and flirted 
with him, wrote to him incognito, taking exception to 
certain statements he had made in each of his two 
popular works. Replying to her, he for the first time 
spoke of his desire to develop his fiction into a vast 
series of volumes destined to make known to posterity 
the life of his century. 

Great schemes were always to be Balzac’s day- 
dreaming, one chasing the other in his fancy. They 
filled his thoughts, and in his heart were his constant 
aim, far more than to be loved, for all he asserted of 
this last desire. If literature was the one means he 
resorted to in his efforts to attain them, this was because 
every other means deceived his expectation, and not 


a 


v4 HONORE DE BALZAC 


because he deliberately preferred it to all others. He 
owned ,the fact without reservation. In the case of 
a man whose literary achievement was so high, such 
slighting of letters has its significance, and is curious. 
Taken in conjunction with other evidence furnished by 
his letters, it proves that genius, though sometimes 
clearly the pure, simple moving of a spirit that cannot 
be resisted, is also—and perhaps as often—a calculating 
partnership, and that the work of art is a compromise. 
Would Balzac have written better if his motive had 
been single? It is not certain. 

During these early days of his popularity, a seat in 
the Chamber of Deputies was his will o’ the wisp. 
Aided by the Dilecta’s friends, he offered himself ‘as a 
candidate in two constituencies, Angouléme and Cam- 
brai, after publishing his pamphlet: 4 Inquiry into 
the Policy of Two Ministries. With a view to shining 
in the future Parliament, he sharpened his witticisms, 
rounded his periods, polished his style, exercised him- 
-self in opposing short phrases to others of Ciceronian 
length, endeavouring the while to put poetry and 
observation into a new subject. At least these things 
were in his mind, as his communication to Berthoud of 
the Cambrai Gazette testified. His intention was to 
become an orator, he said. Had he been elected, he 
might have become the rival of Thiers. They were 
about the same age. Then France might have had 
two “little bourgeois” instead of one, unless one of 
the two had knocked the other out. But whether 
conquering or conquered, Balzac the politician would 
have swallowed up Balzac the novelist, and Hugénie 
Grandet would never have been written. Why he failed 
at the polls is not clear. Probably he did not possess 
enough suppleness to please his party. To tell the 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 75 


truth, we do not learn definitely to which party he 
belonged. He was quite capable of constituting one 
by himself. 

These preoccupations hindered him somewhat in 
carrying out his engagements with publishers and 
editors, so that he did not always get the money he 
counted on. (Yet he worked hard. His habit, at this 
time, was to go to bed at six in the evening and sleep 
till twelve, and, after, to rise and write for nearly 
twelve hours at a stretch, imbibing coffee as a stimu- 
lant through these spells of composition>; What re- 
creation he took in Paris was at the theatre or at 
the houses of his noble acquaintances, where he went 
to gossip of an afternoon. It was exhausting to lead 
such an existence; and even the transient fillips given 
by the coffee were paid for in attacks of indigestion 
and in abscesses which threw him into fits of dis- 
couragement. When suffering from these, he poured 
out his soul to his sister or Madame Carraud, com- 
plaining in his epistles that his destiny compelled him® 
to run after. fame and deprived him of his chance to 
meet with the ideal woman. Madame de Berny, with 
all her devotion, did not satisfy him now. ‘ Despairing 
of ever being loved and understood by the woman of 
my dreams,” he tragically cried, “having met with her 
only in my heart, I am plunging again into the 
tempestuous sphere of political passions and the 
stormy, withering atmosphere of literary glory.” \ But 
the “she” of his dreams, he added, must be wealthy. 
He could not conceive of marriage and love in a 
cottage. It must be admitted that from his sources 
of affection as from his sources of ambition there was 
a gush which was rather muddy, eget 

Altogether, the year of 1882 was an irritating one 


76 HONORE DE BALZAC. 


for Balzac. A rich match he had hoped to make fell 
through. A second attempt of his to enter the 
Chamber of Deputies ended in defeat. His books, 
after their first season or two of favour, were selling 
but poorly in France, although pirated editions were 
issued and had a large circulation abroad. Impatiently 


he meditated plans for doubling and tripling his 


revenue. He would emigrate—he would recommence 
publishing—he would turn playwright. Amid these 
three solicitations he moved in a circle without reaching 
a conclusion. And fortune, while he was hesitating, 
did not come to his*door. In default of her visit, 
not all the flattering epistles he received from ladies 
in Russia and Germany—three and four a day, he 
asserted—were an adequate compensation. A journey 
undertaken for the benefit of his health to Saché, 
Angouléme, and Aix forced him to borrow from his 
mother again, instead of paying back the capital he 
owed her. His unfinished manuscripts he had taken 
with him, but he found it difficult to get on with 
them: “I was going to start work this morning with 
courage,” he wrote to her, “ when your letter came to 
upset me completely. Do you think it possible for 
me to have artistic thoughts when I see all at once 
the tableau of my miseries displayed before me as you 
display them? Do you think I should toil thus, if I 
did not feel it?” 

The novelist’s relations with his mother force the 
attention of any one that studies his life. Their two 
natures were contrary; there were often conflicts 
between them. As a child, he seems not to have 
comprehended the affection underlying the maternal 
severity, and to have entertained a dread of the latter 
which never entirely left him. According to his friend 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 77 


Fessart, he used to confess he always experienced a 
nervous trembling whenever he heard his mother speak ; 
and the effect was in some sort the numbing of his 
faculties when he was in her presence. Her generous 
abnegation at the time of his bankruptcy was a revela- 
tion to him; his gratitude for it was sincere ; and from 
that date onwards, during a number of years, his letters . 
to her evinced it, yet not consistently ; the old distrust 
recurs, and also a growing tendency to utilize her as a 
servant in his concerns. Having once dipped in her 
purse, he did not hesitate to hold out his hand, on each 
occasion that his needs, real or fancied, prompted him, 
being confident of requiting her in the future. His 
refrain was ever the same: “Sooner or later, politics, 
journalism, a marriage, or a big piece of business luck 
will make me a Croesus. We must suffer a little 
longer.” And he finished by exhausting her last penny 
of capital, and reduced her to depend on an allowance 
he gave her, irregularly—an allowance which, when 
he died, had to be continued to her from the purse of 
another. {Madame Balzac was sacrificed to his impro- 
vidence and stupendous egotism; nor can the tender-. 
ness of his language—more frequently than not called 
forth by some fresh immolation of her comfort to his 
interests—disguise this unpleasing side of his character 
and action. \, While he was recouping his strength and 
spirits, on the 1832 holiday, she was in Paris negotiat- 
ing with Pichot of the Revue de Paris, with Gosselin 
and other publishers, arranging for proofs, and also 
for an advance of cash. Even his epistolary good-byes 
were odd mixtures of business with sentiment. After 
casting himself—through the post—on her bosom and 
embracing her with effusion, he terminated by: “ Pay 
everything as you say. On my side, I will gain money 


78 HONORE DE BALZAC 


by force, and we will balance the expenses by the 
receipts.” 

The book that cost him the greatest efforts during . 
the year of 1832 was his Louis Lambert, already men- 
tioned in the second chapter. Writing about it to 
his family from Angouléme, he explained that he was 
attempting in it to vie with Goethe and Byron, with 
Faust and Manfred. It was to be a conclusive reply 
to his enemies, and would make his superiority mani- 
fest. Some day or other it would lead science into 
new paths. Meantime it would produce a deep im- 
pression and astonish the Swedenborgians. Whether 
the members of this sect were astonished, history does 
not record. ‘Those who were most so were the nove- 
list’s friends, and Madame de Berny among the number. 
But their wonder was not a eulogium.~ First of all, 
the hero—his alter ego—is a very poor replica of Pascal ; 
and the exalting of Lambert’s intelligence, which 
was mere self-praise, jarred on them the more, as they 
truly loved him. The Dilecta, whom he had asked ~ 
_to pass her frank opinion on it, did not hesitate to 
tell him some hard truths: “Goethe and Byron,” 
she said, “have admirably painted the desires of a 
superior mind; when reading them, one aggrandizes 
them by all the space they have perceived; one 
admires the scope of their view; one would fain give 
them one’s soul to help theirs to cover the distance 
that separates them from the goal they aspire to reach. 
But, if an author comes and tells me he has attained 
this goal, I no longer see in him, however great he 
may be, more than a presumptuous man; his vanity 
shocks me, and I diminish him by all the height to 
which he has tried to raise himself. . . . I would there- 
fore beg you, dearest, to cut out of your Lambert 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 79 


everything that might suggest these singular ideas; 
for instance: ‘The admirable combat of thought arrived 
at its greatest force, at its vastest expression’... 
‘The moral world, whose limits he had thrown back 
for himself, cannot be tolerated. Write, dearest, in | 
such a manner that the whole crowd may perceive you 
from everywhere, by the height at which you will have 
placed yourself; but do not cry out for people to 
admire you; for, on all sides, the largest magnifying- 
glasses would be directed towards you; and what 
becomes of the most delicious object seen by the 
microscope ?” 

The lesson was a severe one. ‘Though it did not 
cure Balzac of his author’s vanity—nothing could cure 
him of that—it did, for a while at least, direct his 
endeavours towards fiction of a more objective kind. 

What he was now capable of in characterization 
treated objectively he showed in his Colonel Chabert 
and the Curé of Tours, both of which were published 
in the same twelvemonth as Lous Lambert. 'These 
stories are exceedingly simple in construction. The 
Curé is a priest whose joys and ambitions are modest 
and innocent. Having reached the age when indul- 
gence in ease and comfort is excusable, he finds himself 
suddenly deprived of them through unwittingly offend- 
ing his landlady. She, an old maid, as inwardly 
shrewish as outwardly pious, utilizes the Abbé Birotteau 
and another clergyman, who both lodge with her, to 
attract the good society folk of Tours to her evening 
receptions. After due experience of these gatherings, 
the Abbé plays truant, finding it more agreeable to 
spend his leisure with friends elsewhere. His absence 
causes the landlady’s guests to grow remiss and finally 
to desert her; so, to revenge herself, the slighted dame, 


80 HONORE DE BALZAC 


proceeding by petty pin-pricks, makes the Abbé’s life | 
a burden to him, and, ultimately enlisting the brother 
clergyman in her schemes of annoyance, works on 
his jealousy with such cleverness that their victim’s 
career is blasted and blighted. Dependent on the 
development of the characters, the plot is adroitly and 
naturally elaborated. Nowhere is there any forcing 
of the note; and, in alternate flow, humour and pathos, 
of a saner sort than in some of the author’s previous 
work, run and ripple throughout. With deeper pathos 
the novelist tells in Colonel Chabert the virtues of a 
man of obscure origin, whose nobleness meets with 
but scanty recognition, since it conducts him to the 
almshouse in his old age. So vivid is the sober realism 
of this fine story that the public believed the relation 
to be plain, unvarnished facts, and were astonished at 
the writer’s daring to reveal them in all their detail. 
Balzac’s autumn trip was prolonged as far as 
Annecy and Geneva. He had intended going on to 
Italy in company with the Duke de Fitz-James. The 
latter journey, however, was ultimately abandoned, 
as he did not succeed in raising the thousand crowns 
it required. ‘Travelling on the top of a coach, he had 
rather a serious accident when going to Aix. He was 
climbing up to the front seat just as the horses set 
off, and, having missed his footing, fell with all his 
weight against the iron step. The strap, which he 
clutched in his fall, saved him from coming to the 
ground; but the impact of his eighty-four kilograms 
caused the sharp iron to enter the flesh of his leg 
pretty deeply. This wound took some time to heal, 
and the annoyance it caused him was aggravated by 
an additional malady in his stomach which he tried 
to deal with by consulting a mysterious quack in Paris, 


7 


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zoyng :ydeis0joy 7 














FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 81 


sending him, through his mother, two pieces of flannel 
that he had been wearing next his skin. The doctor 
was to examine No. 1 flannel, and by it to determine 
the seat and the cause of the affection, as well as the 
treatment to be followed; then he was to examine 
No. 2, and to give certain instructions as to its further 
use. Balzac asked his mother to touch the flannels 
only with paper, so as not to interfere with their 
effluvia. ‘This belief of his in magnetism of an occult 
kind was an inheritance. His mother, it has already 
been said, was a mystic. Her books of this doctrine 
comprised more than a hundred volumes of Saint- 
Martin, Swedenborg, Madame Guyon, Jacob Boehm, 
and others. All these writers he was familiar with. 
Throughout his life, the influence of their teaching 
and his mother’s firm belief remained with him. On 
his conduct and practice their effect was harmless ; 
but in his literary work they were a disturbance, and, 
wherever they intruded, detracted from its quality. 
Happily, he was beginning to be tempted more and 
more by the artistic side of things in his daily ex- 
perience. Of the lesser novels composed before the 
end of 1832, several were directly inspired by incidents 
brought to his knowledge. The Red Inn was related 
to him by a former army surgeon, a friend of the 
man that was unjustly condemned aud executed. An 
Episode under the Terror was narrated by the hero,, . 
himself. 4 Desert Attachment was the outcome of a 
conversation with Martin, the celebrated tamer of wild 
beasts. On the other hand, Master Cornelius was 
written to correct the false impression of Louis XI. 
which he considered Walter Scott had given to his 
readers in Quentin Durward, this making him very 


angry. His curiosity concerning facts and realities of 
F 


82 HONORE DE BALZAC 


every description led him to seek an interview with 
Samson the executioner. Calling one day to see the 
Director of Prisons, he found himself in presence of 
a pale, melancholy-looking man of noble countenance, 
whose manners, language, and apparent education were 
those of one polished and cultured. It was Samson. 
Entering into conversation with this strange personage, 
the novelist listened to the particulars of his life. 
Samson was aroyalist. On the morrow of Louis XVI.’s 
execution he had suffered the utmost remorse, and 
had paid for what was probably the only expiatory 
mass said on that day for the repose of the King’s soul. 

(Like other littérateurs, Balzac took up many subjects 
which he did not go on with. He had this peculiarity 
besides, that he often asserted some book to be com- © 
pleted which was either not begun at all or was in a 
most unfinished condition.) While on the Angouléme 
and Aix excursion, he spoke especially of The Three 
Cardinals, The Battle of Austerltz (afterwards often 
alluded to simply as the Battle), and The Marquis of 
Carrabas. Not one of these was ever written. They 
were abandoned perhaps on account of other work, or 
else because the execution was less easy than the con- 
ception. Napoleon, who would have been a central 
figure in the Battle, is incidentally introduced in the 
Country Doctor, which was begun in 1882. 

Probably, also, to this same date should be assigned 
the bizarre and even comical expression of hopes and 
fears for the future which Balzac confided to his sister 
Laure. In order to force himself to take exercise, he 
used to correct his proofs either at the printer’s or at 
her house. Sometimes the weather, to the influence of 
which he was very susceptible, sometimes his money- 
tightness, or his fatigue from protracted work would 


ey 


FIRST SUCCESSES AND FAME 88 


cause him to arrive with lack-lustre eyes, sallow com- 
plexion, glum expression and irritable temper. Laure 
essayed to console and brighten him. 

‘“‘Now don’t try to comfort me,” he answered on 
one occasion. “I’m a dead man.” 

And the dead man began to drawl out his tale of 
woe, gradually rousing up as he talked, and, at last, 
speaking excitedly. But the dolent accents returned as 
he opened his proofs and read them. 

“ I shall never make a name, sis.” 

‘“‘ Nonsense! with such books, any one could make 
a name.” 

He raised his head ; his features relaxed ; the sombre 
tints vanished from his face. 

* You are right, by Jove!. . . these books must live. 
... Besides, there is Chance. It can protect a Balzac 
as well as it can a fool. Indeed, one has only to invent 
this chance, Let some one of my millionaire friends 
(and I have a few), or a banker not knowing what to do 
with his money, come and say to me: ‘I am aware of 
your immense talent and your anxieties ; you need such 
and such a sum to be free; accept it without scruple ; 
you will pay it back some day or other; your pen is worth 
my millions!’ That’s all I require, my dear sister.” 

Laure, being accustomed to the appearance of these 
illusions which brought back his cheerfulness, never 
exhibited any surprise at such soaring notes. Having 
created the fable, her imaginative brother continued : 

“Those people spend such sums on whims. ... A 
handsome deed is a whim, like any other, and gives joy 
perpetually. It is something to say: ‘I have saved 
a Balzac. Humanity has good impulses of the sort ; 
and there are people who, without being English, are 
capable of like eccentricities, ‘ Hither a millioniare or a 


84 HONORE DE BALZAC 


banker,’ he cried, thumping on his chest, ‘one of them 
I will have.’” f 

By dint of talking he had come to accredit the 
thing, and gleefully strode about the room, lifting and 
waving his arms. 

“Ah! Balzacisfree! You shall see, my dear friends, 
and my dear enemies, what his progress is.” 

In fancy, he entered the Academy! From there it 
was only a step to the House of Peers. He beheld 
himself admitted thither. Why shouldn’t he be a 
member of the Upper Chamber? This and that person 
had been created a peer. Then he was appointed a 
minister. There was nothing extraordinary about it. 
Presidents existed. Were not people who had boxed 
the compass of ideas the fittest to govern their fellows ? 
A programme, a policy was evolved and carried out ; 
and, as everything was going on smoothly, he had 
_ time to think of the millionaire friend or banker who 
\\ had assisted him. The generous Mecenas should be 
rewarded. He understood the novelist, had lent him 
money on the security of his talent, had enabled him 
to obtain his well-deserved honours. The benefactor 
should now have his share in the honour, a share in the 
immortality. 

After a peregrination of this magnitude and dreams 
* to match, he alighted from his Pegasus, and spoke as an 
ordinary mortal—he had enjoyed himself, and his fit of 
the dumps was exorcised. Putting the last touch to 
his proof-correcting, he left the house with his face 
wreathed in smiles. | | 

“Good-bye,” he said to his sister, at the door; “I 
am off home to see if the banker is there, waiting for 
me. If he isn’t, I shall find some work to do all the 
same; and work is my real money-lender,” 


CHAPTER V 
LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1831, 1832 


( One has little doubt in deciding that, of the two spurs 
which goaded Balzac’s labours, his desire for wealth | 
acted more persistently and energetically than his}| 
desire for glory.) In his conversations, in his corre-||| 
spondence, monéy was the eternal theme; in his novels || 
it is almost always the hinge on which the interest, | 
whether of character, plot, or passion, depends. Money 
was his obsession, day and night ; and, in his dormant 
visions, it must have loomed largely. 

Henry! Monnier, the caricaturist, used to relate 
that, meeting him once on the Boulevard, the novelist 
tapped him on the shoulder and said : 

“I have a sublime idea. In a month I shall have 
gained five hundred thousand francs.” 

«The deuce, you will,” replied Monnier; “let's 
hear how.” 

«Listen, then,” returned his interlocutor. “I will 
rent a shop on the Boulevard des Italiens. All Paris 
is bound to pass by. ‘That’s so, isn’t it?” 

«Yes, Well, what next ?” ; 

« Next, I will establish a store for colonial produce ; 
and, over the window, I will have printed, in letters of 
gold: ‘Honoré de Balzac, Grocer. This will create 
a scandal; everybody will want to see me serving the 
customers, with the classical counter-skipper’s smock 
on. I shall gain my five hundred thousand francs ; it’s 


: 
: 
: 
' 
» 
d 


' 


1 The name is sometimes written in the English, and sometimes . 
in the French way in books mentioning this celebrity. 
85 


86 HONORE DE BALZAC 


certain. Just follow my argument. Every day these 
many people pass along the Boulevard, and will not 
fail to enter the shop. Suppose that each person 
spends only a sou, since half of it will be profit to me 
I shall gain so much a day ; consequently, so much 
a week ; so much a month.” 

And thereupon, the novelist, launched into trans- 
cendental calculations, soaring with his enthusiasm into 
the clouds. 

It was the same Henry Monnier who, meeting 
him another time on the Place de la Bourse, and 
having had to listen to another of such mirific demon- 
strations about a scheme from which both were to 
derive millions, answered drily : 

“Then lend me five francs on strength of the affair.” 

Noticing this sort of monomania, in an article 
which he wrote in the short-lived Diogenes, during the 
month of August 1856, Amédée Roland said of Balzac: 

Ss His ambition was to vie in luxury with Alexandre 
Dumas and Lamartine, who, before the Revolution of 
1848, were the most prodigal and extravagant authors 
in the five continents. ) For anything like a chance of 
finding his elusive millions, he would have gone to 
China. Indeed, on one occasion, he took it into his 
head he would start, together with his friend Laurent 
Jan, and go to see the Great Mogul, maintaining that 
the latter would give him tons of gold in exchange for 
a ring he possessed, which came, so he asserted, right 
down from Mahomet. It was three o'clock in the 
morning when he knocked at Laurent Jan’s door to 
inform his sleeping friend of his project ; and the latter 
had the greatest difficulty in dissuading him from 
setting off forthwith in a post-chaise for India, of 
course, at the expense of the monarch in question.” 


% 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 87 


In justice, however, to Balzac, it should be stated 
that not a few of his suggestions were sensible enough, 
and contained ideas which, if properly put into execu- 
tion, could have yielded profitable results. As a matter 
of fact, some were subsequently exploited by people 
who listened to them, or heard of them. A scheme of 
his for making paper by an improved process, which 
he tried to realize in 1838, and which he induced his 
mother, his sister’s husband, and other friends to sup- 
port with their capital, anticipated the employment of 
esparto grass and wood, which since has been adopted 
successfully by others and has yielded large fortunes to 
them. The scheme was perhaps premature in Balzac’s 
day, not to speak of(his small business capacity, which 
was in an inverse ratio to his inventiveness. ) 

From one of his conceptions, at least, there issued 
an important benefit to the entire literary profession. 
Already, in the previous century, Beaumarchais had 
attempted to establish a society of authors, whose aim 
should be to protect the rights of men of letters. His 
efforts then met with no response. Balzac revived the 
proposal, and coupled with it others tending to im- 
prove the material and style of printing of books. He 
had to contend with the hostility of certain publishers 
and the indifference of many authors. But his en- 
deavours were ultimately understood and appreciated ; 
and, not long afterwards, in 1838, the Société des Gens 
de Lettres was founded. 

In connection with this campaign, which he waged 
for a while alone, there was also his elaboration of the 
arrangement, first accepted by Charpentier, which con- 
sisted in fixing the percentage of the author’s royalty 
on the octavo, three-franc-fifty volume at one-tenth 
of the published price. One of his discussions with 


” 


88 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Charpentier on the subject was overheard in the Café 
of the Palais Royal by Jules Sandeau’s cousin, who 
happened to be playing a game of billiards there. 
After the departure of Balzac and the publisher, the 
cousin remarked that a paper had been forgotten; and, 
on reading it through, with his partner in the game, 
saw a crowd of figures that were so many hieroglyphics 
to them. When the paper was restored to the novelist 
by Jules Sandeau, who lived in the same set of flats 
as Balzac, it transpired that the figures were the calcula- 
tion of the sum that a writer might obtain on the 
decimal basis, if a hundred thousand copies of any 
one of his works were sold. 

Two of the novelist’s most important books appeared 
in 1833, his Country Doctor and Hugénie Grandet. 
The former he disposed of to a new publisher, Mame, 
who was to print it, at first, unsigned, his old publisher 
Gosselin having pre-emption rights that had not been 
redeemed. Referring to it in a letter to Mame, 
towards the end of 1882, he said: “I have long been 
desirous of the popular glory which consists in selling 
numerous thousands of a small volume like Atala, 
Paul and Virginia, the Vicar of Wakefield, Manon 
Lescaut, &c. The book should go into all hands, 
those of the child, the girl, the old man, and even 
the devotee. Then once, when the book is known, 
it will have a large sale, like the Meditations of 
Lamartine, for instance, sixty thousand copies. My 
book is conceived in this spirit ; it is something which 
the porter and the grand lady can both read. I have 
taken the Gospel and the Catechism, two books that 
sell well, and so I have made mine. ‘I have laid the ~ 
scene in a village, and the whole of the story will be 
readable, which is rare with me.” How high his 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 89 


hopes of its quality and saleableness were (the two 
things were oddly mixed up in his mind), he imparted 
to Zulma Carraud. “The Country Doctor has cost 
me ten times more labour than Lowis Lambert,” he 
informed her. ‘There is not a sentence or an idea 
in it that has not been revised, re-read, corrected 
again and again. It’s terrible. But when one wishes 
to attain the simple beauty of the Gospel, surpass 
the Vicar of Wakefield and put the Imitation of Jesus 
Christ into action, one must spare no effort. Emile 
de Girardin and our good Borget (his co-tenant at 
the time) wager the sale will be four hundred thou- 
sand copies. Emile intends to bring out a franc 
edition, so that it may be sold like a Prayer Book.” 

What with his writing for the Revue de Paris, to 
which he was contributing Ferragus, and the pains 
he gave himself with the Country Doctor, he was un- 
able to deliver the latter work to Mame at the date 
stipulated, and the publisher brought a lawsuit against 
him, the first of a series of legal disputes he was 
destined to wage with publishing firms and magazine 
editors during his agitated life. 

Notwithstanding the advertisement produced him 
by the lawsuit, the Country Doctor fell flat in the 
market. Most of the newspapers spoke contemptuously 
of it. One reason given was its loose construction, there 
being no plot, and the two love stories being thrust in 
towards the end to explain the doctor’s altruism and 
the vicarious paternity of the Commandant Genestas. 

This officer, who is stationed not far from a village 
close to the Grande-Chartreuse, pays a few days’ visit 
to a Doctor Benassis there, under pretext of consulting 
him professionally. While on the visit he is initiated 
into the transformation that has been wrought by the 


90 HONORE DE BALZAC 


doctor in the habits of the people and their homes 
and surroundings—a regeneration accomplished quietly 
and gradually, vanquishing hostility and lethargy and 
converting the peasant’s distrust into love. The pla- 
cing of the Commandant’s adopted child under the 
doctor’s care, and Benassis’ death, which occurs shortly 
after, form rather a lame conclusion to the love stories, 
which are mysteriously withheld to tempt the reader 
to go on with his perusal. For all its dogmatism in 
religion and politics, its long arguments in defence 
of the author’s favourite opinions, and its defective con- 
struction, the novel, if one can call it a novel, is one of 
Balzac’s best creations. The pictures of country scenes 
are presented with close fidelity to nature and also with 
real artistic arrangement. There are, moreover, de- 
lineations of rustic character that are truer to life than 
many of the more celebrated ones in the rest of the 
novelist’s fiction; and, in the episode entitled the 
Napoleon of the people,—the narration of an old 
soldier of the First Empire,—there is a topical realism — 
that makes one regret the never-achieved Battle. Add 
to these excellences the writer's having put into his 
work, for the nonce, a sincere aspiration towards the 
ideal ; and, despite flaws, the whole can be pronounced 
admirable. 

It was just about the time the Country Doctor was 
published that he began to dwell upon the advantages 
he might secure by connecting the characters in his 
novels and forming them into a representative society. 
Excited by the perspective this plan offered if all its 
possibilities were realized, he hurried to his sister’s 
house in the Faubourg Poissonniére. 

“Salute me,” he exclaimed joyfully; “I’m on the 
point of becoming a genius !” 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 91 


And he commenced to explain his thought, which 
seemed to him so vast and pregnant with consequence 
as to inspire him with awe. 

** How fine it will be if I can manage the thing,” 
he continued, striding up and down the drawing-room, 
too restless to stay in one place. “I shan’t mind now 
being treated as a mere teller of tales, and can go on 
hewing the stones of my edifice, enjoying, beforehand, 
the amazement of my short-sighted critics, when they 
contemplate the structure complete.” 

At length, Honoré sat down and more tranquilly 
discussed the fortunes of the individuals already born 
from his brain, or, as yet in process of birth. He 
judged them and determined their fate. 

«Such a one,” he said, “is a rascal, and will never 
do any good. Such another is industrious, and a good 
fellow ; he will get rich, and his character will make 
him happy. These have been guilty of many pecca- 
dilloes; but they are so intelligent and have such a 
thorough knowledge of their fellows that they are sure 
to raise themselves to the highest ranks of society.” 

* Peccadilloes!” replied his sister. ‘“ You are 
indulgent.” 

«They can’t change, my dear. They are fathomers 
of abysses; but they will be able to guide others. 
The wisest persons are not always the best pilots. It’s 
not my fault. I haven’t invented human nature. I 
observe it, in past and present; and I try to depict 
it as it is. Impostures in this kind persuade no one.” 

To the members of his family he announced news 
from his world of fiction just as if he were speaking 
of actual events. 

«Do you know who Félix de Vandenesse is marry- 
ing?” he asked. “A Mademoiselle de Grandville. 


92. HONORE DE BALZAC 


The match is an excellent one. The Grandvilles are 
rich, in spite of what Mademoiselle de Belleville has 
cost the family.” 

If, now and again, he was begged to save some wild 
young man or unhappy woman among his creations, 

the answer was: 
“Don’t bother me. Truth above all. Those people 
have no backbone. What happens to them is in- 
evitable. So much the worse for them.” 

(This absorption in the domain of fancy was so 
complete at times as to cause him to confuse it with 
the outside world. It is related that Jules Sandeau, 
returning once from a journey, spoke to him of his 
sister’s illness. ) Balzac listened to him abstractedly for 
a while, and then interrupted him: “All that, my 
friend, is very well,” he said to the astonished Jules, 
“but let us come back to reality; let us speak of 
hugéne Grandet.” 

It was the second great book of 1838; and, on the 
whole, exhibits the novelist at his best. Kulogiums — 
came from friends and. enemies alike. The critics 
were unanimous, too unanimous, indeed, for the 
author, who detected in their chorus of praise a re- 
iterated condemnation of much of his previous pro- 
duction. At last, it even annoyed him to hear his — 
name invariably mentioned in connection with this . 
single novel. “Those who call me the father of 
Kugénie Grandet seek to belittle me,” he cried. “I 
grant it is a masterpiece, but a small one. They 
forbear to cite the great ones.” 
~ His ill-humour was, of course, of later growth. 
(While Hugénie Grandet was being written, between 
July and November of 1883, Balzac was quite content 
to estimate it at its higher value. During the period 





BaLzac AT THE AGE OF THIRTY 


From a Sepia Drawing by Louis Boulanger 
(Musée de Tours) 





LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 93 


of its composition, he had fallen, perhaps for the first 
time in his life, sincerely in love with the woman he 
ultimately married ; and it is appropriate to notice here 
the synchronism of the event with his high-water 
mark in fiction. > As he confessed to Zulma Carraud, 
love was his life, his essence; he wrote best when 
under its influence. There were, be it granted, other 
contributory causes to make this rapidly written story 
what we find it to be. The place, the date, the people, 
the incidents were all close to his own life. Saumur 
and Tours are neighbouring towns; and ’tis affirmed 
that the original of the goodman Grandet, a certain 
Jean Niveleau, had a daughter, whom he refused to 
give in marriage to Honoré. Maybe tradition has 
embroidered a little on the facts, but there would 
seem to be much in the narration that belongs to the 
writer’s personal experience. His sister found fault 
with his attributing so many millions to the miser. 
« But, stupid, the thing is true,” he replied. ‘ Do you 
want me to improve on truth? If you only knew 
what it is to knead ideas, and to give them form and 
colour, you wouldn’t be so quick to criticize.” 

As is usual, when the interest is chiefly character- 
ization, Balzac does not give us a complicated plot. 
We have in Grandet a self-made man, who has amassed 
riches by trade and speculation, and lives with his 
wife and daughter in a gloomy old house, with only 
one servant as miserly as the master. Eugénie’s hand 
is sought by several suitors, and in particular by the 
son of the banker des Grassins and the son of the notary 
Cruchot, these two families waging a diplomatic war- 
fare on behalf of their respective candidates. Into this 
midst suddenly comes the fashionable nephew Charles 
‘Grandet, whose father has, unknown to him, just 


94 HONORE DE BALZAC 


committed suicide to escape bankruptcy. Eugénie 
falls in love with her cousin, and he, apparently, with 
her; but the old man, unsoftened by his brother’s 
death, using it even as a further means of speculation, 
gets rid of the unfortunate lover by gingerly helping 
him to go abroad. Years pass, and Eugénie’s mother 
dies, while she herself withers, under the miser’s 
avaricious tyranny. At length, old Grandet pays his 
debt to nature, and Eugénie is left with the millions. 
Until now she has waited for the wandering lover’s 
return; but he, engaging in the slave-trade, has lost 
all the generous impulses of his youth, and comes 
back only to deny his early affection and marry the 
ill-favoured daughter of a Marquis. Eugénie takes a 
noble revenge for this desertion by paying her dead 
uncle’s debts, which Charles had repudiated, and she 
marries the notary’s son, who leaves her a widow 
soon after. 

Everything in the tale is absolutely natural, ex- 
traordinary in its naturalness; and the reactions of 
its various persons upon each other are traced with 
fine perception. There is not much of the outward 
expression of love—in this Balzac did not excel—but 
there is a good deal of its hidden tragedy. Moreover, 
the miser’s ruling passion is exhibited in traits that 
suggest still more than they openly display; and all 
the action and circumstance are in the subdued tone 
proper to provincial existence. The introductory words 
prepare the reader’s mind for what follows :-— 

“In certain country towns there are houses whose 
aspect inspires a melancholy equal to that evoked by 
the gloomiest cloisters, the most monotonous moor- 
land, or the saddest ruins... . Perhaps, in these 
houses there are at once the silence of the cloister, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 95 


the barrenness of the moorland, and the bones of ruins. 
Life and movement are so tranquil in them that a 
stranger might believe them uninhabited if he did not 
suddenly see the pale, cold gaze of a motionless person 
whose half-monastic face leans over the casement at 
the noise of an unknown step. . . .” 

And the shadow persists even in the love-scene. 

«Charles said to Eugénie, drawing her to the old 
bench, where they sat down under the walnut trees: 
‘In five days, Eugénie, we must bid each other adieu, 
for ever perhaps; but, at least, for a long while. My 
stock and ten thousand francs sent me by two of my 
friends are a very small beginning. I cannot think 
of my return before several years. My dear cousin, 
don’t place my life and yours in the balance. I may 
perish. Perhaps you may make a rich marriage. — 
‘You love me,’ she said.—‘ Oh yes, dearly,’ he replied, 
with a depth of accent revealing a corresponding depth 
of sentiment.—‘I will wait, Charles. Heavens! my 
father is at his window,’ she said, pushing away her 
cousin, who was approaching to kiss her. She escaped 
beneath the archway; Charles followed her there. On 
seeing him, she withdrew to the foot of the staircase 
and opened the self-closing door; then hardly know- 
ing where she was going, Eugénie found herself near 
Nanon’s den, in the darkest part of the passage. There, 
Charles, who had accompanied her, took her hand, drew 
her to his heart, seized her round the waist, and pressed 
her to himself. Eugénie no longer resisted. She re- 
ceived and gave the purest, sweetest, but also the 
entirest of all kisses.” 

The foregoing and others, equally well drawn, are 
figures in the background. Standing out in front of 
them, and in lurid relief, is the central figure of the 


96 HONORE DE BALZAC 


miser, represented with the same mobility of tempera- 
ment noticeable in George Eliot’s creations—a thing 
exceptional in Balzac’s work. Grandet, as long as 
his wife lives, is reclaimable—just reclaimable. Sub- 
sequently, he is an automaton responsive only to the 
sight and touch of his gold. 

The dedication of Hugénie Grandet is to Maria ; and 
Maria, portrayed under the features and character of 
the heroine, was, we learn, an agreeable girl, of middle- 
class origin, who, in the year. of 18838, attached herself 
to Balzac and bore him a child. 

This liaison was running its ephemeral course just 
at the time when accident made him acquainted with — 
his future wife. On the 28th of February 1832, his 
publisher Gosselin handed him a letter with a foreign 
postmark. His correspondent, a lady, who had read, — 
she said, and admired his Scenes of Private Life, re- — 
proached him with losing, in the Shagreen Skin, the 
delicacy of sentiment contained in these earlier novels, 
and begged him to forsake his ironic, sceptical manner — 
and revert to the higher manifestations of his talent. 
There was no signature to this communication; and the 
writer, who subscribed herself “ The Stranger,” begged 
him to abstain from any attempt to discover who she 
was, as there were paramount reasons why she should 
remain anonymous. Balzac’s curiosity was keenly 
aroused by so much mystery, and he tried, but in 
vain, to get hold of some clue that might conduct him 
to the retreat of the zncogmta. After a lapse of seven 
months, a second epistle arrived, more romantic in 
tone than the first; and containing, among obscure 
allusions to the lady’s surroundings and _ personality, 
the following declaration: “You no doubt love and 
are loved ; the union of angels must be your lot. Your — 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 97 


souls must have unknown felicities. The Stranger loves 
you both, and desires to be your friend. . . . She like- 
wise knows how to love, but that is all... . Ah! you 
understand me.” 

A third letter followed this one shortly afterwards, 
asking the novelist to acknowledge its receipt in the 
Quotidienne journal, which he did, expressing in the 
advertisement his regret at not being able to address 
a direct reply. At last, in the spring of 1833, the 
fair correspondent made herself known. She was a 
Countess Evelina Hanska, wife of a Polish nobleman 
living at Wierzchownia in the Ukraine. She further 
allowed it to be understood that she was young, hand- 
some, immensely rich, and not over happy with her 
husband. This information sufficed to set Balzac’s 
imagination agog. At once, he enshrined the dame 
in the temple of his ideal, poured out his heart to her, 
and told her of his struggles and ambitions, meanwhile 
fashioning a realm of the future in which he and she 
were to be the two reigning monarchs. 

Madame Hanska was also a Pole. She belonged 
to the noble Rzewuska stock and was born in the castle 
of Pohrebyszcze between 1804 and 1806. Owing to 
family reverses, her parents, who had several other 
children to provide for, were glad to meet with a 
husband for her in the Count Hanski,’ who was twenty- 
five years her senior. The marriage took place between 
1818 and 1822, and four children, three boys and a 
girl, were its issue; but, the boys all dying in infancy, 
the young mother was left with her little daughter 
Anna to bring up, and with the desires of a rich, 
cultured woman, who did not find in her home-circle 
the wherewithal to satisfy them. 


1 Hanski is the masculine form of Hanska. 
G 


98 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Of her own charms she had spoken truly. Daff- 
inger’s miniature of her, painted when she was thirty, 
represents her as abundantly endowed by nature; 
and Gigoux’ pastel of 1852, which is less faithful and 
shows her considerably older, still gives substantially 
the portrait that Barbey d’Aurevilly sketched of her 
after Balzac’s death: “She was of imposing and noble 
beauty, somewhat massive,” says this writer. “But 
she knew how to maintain, despite her embonpoint, a 
very great charm, which was enhanced by her delight- 
ful foreign accent. She had splendid shoulders, the 
finest arms in the world, and a complexion of radiant 
briliancy. Her soft black eyes, her full red lips, her 
framing mass of curled hair, her finely chiselled fore- 
head, and the sinuous grace of her gait gave her an 
air of abandon and dignity together, a haughty yet 
sensuous expression which was very captivating.” 

Fascinated by Balzac’s masterly delineation of her 
sex, and longing to learn more about the man who 
had appealed to her so powerfully, she contrived a 
journey to Switzerland in 1833, in which her husband 
and child accompanied her. Switzerland was a land 
easier for a noble Russian subject to obtain permission 
to visit. Neufchatel was the place of sojourn chosen, 
since there was the home of Anna’s Swiss governess, 
Mademoiselle Henriette Borel, who had played an 
intermediary’s réle in the beginning of the adventure. 

As soon as he had news of the party’s arrival, 
Balzac posted off, concealing from every one the 
reason for his sudden departure. It had been agreed 
that the meeting should be on the chief promenade; 
and there, on a bench, with one of the novelist’s books 
on her lap, Madame Hanska sat with her husband, 
when he came up and accosted her. One account 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 99 


states that the Countess having, in her excitement, 
allowed a scarf to drop and hide the book, he passed 
her by more than once, not daring to speak till she 
took up the scarf. The same account adds that the 
lady, remarking the little, stout man staring at her, 
prayed he might not be the one she was expecting. 
But no written confession of the Countess’s exists to 
prove that such a thought damped her enthusiasm. 
Balzac’s impression was recorded in a letter to his 
sister. ‘I am happy, very happy,” he wrote. ‘She 
is twenty-seven, possesses most beautiful black hair, 
the smooth and deliciously fine skin of brunettes, a 
lovely little hand, is naive and imprudent to the point 
of embracing me before every one. I say nothing about 
her colossal wealth. What is it in comparison with 
beauty. Iam intoxicated with love.” ‘The one draw- 
back to the meeting was Monsieur Hanski. “ Alas!” 
adds the writer, “he did not quit us during five days 
for a single second. He went from his wife’s skirt to 
my waistcoat. And Neufchatel is a small town, where 
a woman, an illustrious foreigner, cannot take a step 
without being seen. Constraint doesn’t suit me.” 
Evidently, during the Neufchatel intercourse, some 
sort of understanding must have been reached, based 
on the rather unkind anticipation of the Count Hanski’s 
death. At that time, the gentleman’s health was pre- 
carious. He survived, however, until 1841, meanwhile 
more or less cognizant of his wife’s attachment and 
offering no opposition. He even deemed himself 
honoured by Balzac’s friendship. How rapid the pro- 
gress of the novelist’s passion was for the new idol may 
be judged by the letter he despatched to Geneva, two 
or three months later, in December, whilst he was cor- 
recting the proofs of Hugénie Grandet. “I think I 


A 


100 HONORE DE BALZAC 


shall be at Geneva on the 13th,” he wrote. ‘The desire 
to see you makes me invent things that ordinarily don’t 
come into my head. I correct more quickly. It’s not 
only courage you give me to support the difficulties of 
life; you give me also talent, at any rate, facility. . . . 
My Eve, my darling, my kind, divine Eve! what a 
grief it is to me not to have been able to tell you every 
evening all that I have done, said, and thought.” 

The visit to Geneva was paid, and lasted six weeks, 
the novelist quitting Switzerland only on the 8th of 
February 1834. From this date onward, a regular cor- 
respondence was kept up between them, compensating 
for their seeing each other rarely. The project of 
marriage, more tenaciously pursued by Balzac than by 
his Eve, was yet no hindrance to his fleeting fancies for 
other women. ‘These interim amours have a good deal 
preoccupied his various biographers, partly because of 
the undoubted use he made of them in his novels, and 
partly also because of the trouble he gave himself to 
establish among circles outside his own immediate en- 
tourage the legend of his being a sort of Sir Galahad, 
leading a perfectly chaste life and caring only for his 
literary labours. Says Théophile Gautier:— _ 

“He used to preach to us a strange literary hygiene. 
We ought to shut ourselves up for two or three years, 
drink water, eat soaked lupines like Protogenes, go to 
bed at six o’clock in the evening, and work till morn- 
ing . . . and especially to live in the most absolute 
chastity. He insisted much on this last recommenda- 
tion, very rigorous for a young man of twenty-four or 
twenty-five years of age. According to him, real 
chastity developed the powers of the mind to the 
highest degree, and gave to those that practised it 
unknown faculties. We timidly objected that the 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 101 


greatest geniuses had indulged. in” the--love passion, 
and we quoted illustrious names. Balzac; shook his 
head and replied : ‘They would have done ‘much. more 
but for the women.’ The only concession he would 


make us, regretfully, was to see the loved one for half: -- 2 


an-hour a year. Love letters he allowed. They formed 
a writer’s style.” 

George Sand speaks much to the same effect in 
her reminiscences. She believed in the legend, perhaps 
because Balzac was not attracted by her sexually. 

“‘ Moderate in every other respect,” she says, “ he had 
the purest morals, having always dreaded wildness as the 
enemy of talent ; and he nearly always cherished women 
solely in his heart and in his head, even in his youth. 
He pursued chastity on principle; and his relations 
with the fair sex were those merely of curiosity. When 
he found a curiosity equal to his own, he exploited this 

mine with the cynicism of a father-confessor. But, 
when he met with health of mind and body, he was as 
happy as a child to speak of real love and to rise into 
the lofty regions of sentiment.” 

Unfortunately for the preceding testimony, a flat 
contradiction is given to it not only by the recorded 
facts of the novelist’s life, but by his sister, who knew 
better than George Sand and Gautier that Balzac’s 
profession of sublimer sentiments did not exclude a 
more mundane feeling and practice. Commenting on 
George Sand’s generous panegyric of her brother, she 
adds: “ It is an error to speak of his extreme moderation. 
He does not deserve this praise. Outside of his work, 
which was first and foremost, he loved and tasted all the 
pleasures of this world. I think he would have been 
the most conceited of all men, if he had not been 
the most discreet. Confident in himself, he never 


aa 


102 HONORE DE BALZAC 


committed the least: indiscretion in his relations with 
others, and, kept their secrets, though unable to keep 
his own.”.” 

The Viceoant Spoelberch de Lovenjoul is still more 


explicit in his short book on Balzac and Madame 


Hanska, entitled Roman d Amour. Speaking of the 
novelist’s various liaisons and love escapades, which 
were covered up with such solicitude from the eyes 
of the world, he remarks that Balzac, while vaunting 
himself, in argument, of having remained chaste for 
a number of years, owned to his sister that the truth 
was quite different. The novelist did his utmost, con- 
tinues Monsieur de Lovenjoul, to foster the tradition of 
his hermit-like conduct; and to all the jealous women 
with whom he entertained friendly relations he asserted 
that his morals were as spotless as those of a cenobite. 
Ever and everywhere he abused the credulity of those 


_who flattered themselves they were his only love. 


Madame de Berny’ was not among the credulous 
ones, nor yet so resigned as the simple bowrgeoise 
Maria, who, to quote Balzac’s own words, “fell like 
a flower from heaven, exacted neither correspondence 
nor attentions, and said: ‘Love me a year and I will 
love you all my life.” Though forced to accept the 
transformation of her relations with her young lover 
into a purely platonic friendship, she made occasional 
protests against being supplanted by younger rivals— 
the imperious Madame de Castries among the number. 
The birth and growth of his affection for Madame 
Hanska she appears to have felt and resented to a 
greater degree than his previous infidelities to her. 


_ Not even its maintenance, for the time being, on the 


plane of pure sentiment, dispelled her jealous thoughts. 
Being apprized of Balzac’s dedication of a portion of 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 103 


the Woman of Thirty Years Old to his Eve, she in- 
sisted on his expunging the offending name, while the 
sheets were in the press. Whether her fretting over 
his transferred allegiance hastened her end it is im- 
possible to say with any certainty; yet one cannot 
help being struck by the fact that the serious phase 
of the malady that killed her almost coincided with 
the beginning of their separation. 

Madame Hanska, although she started with a sup- 
position of his loving another, became exacting also, 
in proportion as her admirer’s professions of loyalty 
conferred the right upon her. Rumours reached her 
now and again, and sometimes precise information, 
of her place being usurped by another. And, later, 
as will be again mentioned, a breach occurred between 
them which was nearly final. By his various mis- 
tresses, Balzac had four children, including Maria's 
little daughter, two of whom survived him. 

All this notwithstanding, it would be a mistake 
to assume that he was a deliberate woman-hunter, 
and wasted his energies in licentiousness. His immense 
industry and productiveness are enough to prove that 
such lapses were more the natural outcome of his 
having so constant a bevy of lady worshippers about 
him, and occurred as opportunity offered only. On 
the other hand, it must be admitted that woman’s 
counsels, woman’s encouragements, woman's caresses 
and help were very necessary to him; and he drew 
largely on the capacities, material and moral, of the 
Marthas and Maries that crossed his orbit, attracting 
him or themselves attracted. 

The twelvemonth which was marked by the 
achievement of his most perfect novel also brought 
him into regular business relations with Werdet, 


104 HONORE DE BALZAC 


destined to be one of his biographers, who now became 
his chief publisher and remained so during several 
years. Incorrect in many details which lay outside 
his own ken, and which he had gleaned from hearsay 
or books hastily written, Werdet’s own book, a familiar 
portrait of Balzac, is nevertheless a valuable document. 
If the author was unable to fathom the whole of the 
_ genius and character of the man he described, he yet 
sincerely appreciated them; and not even the soreness 
he could not help feeling when ultimately thrown 
aside, destroyed his deep-rooted worship of him whom 
he regarded as one of the highest glories of French 
literature. 

Werdet, when he was introduced to the writer of 
the Physiology of Marriage, had already tried his luck 
at publishing, but had been compelled to abandon the 
Master's position and to enter as an employee into the 
house of a Madame Béchet, who was engaged in the 
same line of business. Having read and liked some 
of Balzac’s earlier works, he persuaded the firm to 
entrust him with the task of negotiating a purchase 
of the exclusive rights of the novelist’s Studies of 
Manners and Morals in the Nineteenth Century. The 
negotiation was carried through in 1832, and a sum 
of thirty-six thousand francs was paid to Balzac. This 
was the writer’s real beginning of money-making. 
Twelve months after, Werdet resolved to start once 
more on his own account. He had only a few 
thousand francs capital. His idea was to risk them 
in buying one of Balzac’s books ; and then, if success- 
ful, gradually to acquire a publishing monopoly in the 
great man’s productions. Distrusting his own powers 
of persuasion, he enlisted the good offices of Barbier, 
the late partner of the Rue des Marais printing-house, 


gM 
: A 


MMe 


MUMMY 


yi) 


TO 
WNT 





HovusE WHERE BaLZAc LIVED 


I, rue Cassini 





LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 105 


who was a persona grata with the novelist. Together, 
they went to the Rue Cassini; and Barbier set forth 
Werdet’s desire. 

“Very good,” replied the great man. “But you 
are aware, Monsieur, that those who now publish my 
works require large capital, since I often need con- 
siderable advances.” 

Proudly, young Werdet brought out his six notes of 
five hundred francs each, and spread them on the table. 

“There is all my fortune,” he said. “You can 
have it for any book you please to write for me.” 

At the sight of them Balzac burst out laughing. 

“How can you imagine, Monsieur, that I—I—de 
Balzac! who sold my Studies of Manners and Morals 
not long ago to Madame Béchet for thirty-six thousand 
francs—I, whose collaboration to the Revue de Paris 
is ordinarily remunerated by Buloz at five hundred 
francs per sheet, should forget myself to the point of 
handing you a novel from my pen for a thousand 
crowns? You cannot have reflected on your offer, 
Monsieur ; and I should be entitled to look upon your 
step as unbecoming in the highest degree, were it not 
that your frankness in a measure justifies you.” 

Barbier tried to plead for his friend, and mentioned 
that, in consideration of Werdet’s share in the transac- 
tion with Madame Béchet, a second edition of the 
Country Doctor might be granted him for the three 
thousand francs. But Balzac, retorting that whatever 
service had been rendered was not to himself but by 
himself, dismissed his visitors with the words : 

“We have spent an hour, gentlemen, in useless 
talk. You have made me lose two hundred francs. 
For me, time is money. I must work. Good-day.” 

They left, and Barbier, to comfort his friend, 


106 HONORE DE BALZAC 


prophesied that, in spite of this reception, Balzac 
would enter into pourparlers with him, and that 
Werdet had only to wait, and news would be received 
from the Rue Cassini shortly. He was not mistaken. 
Three days elapsed and then Werdet had the following 
note sent him :— 

««Srr,—You called upon me the other day when 
my head was preoccupied with some writing that I 
wanted to finish, and I consequently did not very well 
comprehend what was your drift. ‘To-day, my head 
is freer. Do me the pleasure to call on me at four 
o'clock, and we can talk the matter over.” 

Werdet waited nearly a week before he paid the 
requested visit. In quite another tone, the novelist 
discussed the proposed scheme, promised to use his 
influence on the young publisher’s behalf, and gave 
him the Country Doctor for the price offered. | 

Thenceforward, a familiar guest in the dwelling of 
the Rue Cassini, Werdet described it in detail, when 
composing his Portrait Intime. It was part of a two- | 
storied pavilion (as the French call a moderate-sized 
house) standing to the left in a courtyard and garden, 
with another similar building on the right. From 
the ground-floor a flight of steps led up to a glass- 
covered gallery joining the two buildings and serving 
as an antechamber to each. Its sides were hung in 
white and blue-striped glazed calico; and a long, 
blue-upholstered divan, a blue and brown carpet, and 
some fine china vases filled with flowers, adorned it. 
From the gallery the visitor proceeded into a pretty 
drawing-room, fifteen feet square, lighted on the east 
by a small casement that looked over the yard of a 
neighbouring house. Opposite the drawing-room door 
was a black marble mantelpiece. 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 107 


The salon gave access to the bedroom and the 
dining-room, the latter being connected with the 
kitchen underneath by a narrow staircase. A secret 
door in the salon opened. into the bathroom with its 
walls of white stucco, its bath of white marble, and its 
red, opaque window-panes diffusing a rose-coloured 
tint through the air. Two easy-chairs in red morocco 
stood near the bath. 

The bedroom, having two windows, one towards 
the south and the observatory, the other overlooking 
a garden of flowers and trees, was very bright and 
cheery. The furniture, with its shades of white, pink, 
and gold, was rich and handsome. A secret door 
existed also in this chamber, hidden behind muslin 
hangings; it led down the same narrow staircase 
already mentioned to the kitchen, and thence out 
into the yard. Nanon, Balzac’s cook, less discreet 
than Auguste, the valet-de-chambre, had tales to 
tell -Werdet about certain lady visitors who arrived 
by means of this private staircase into the daintily 
arranged bedroom. 

The study, of oblong shape, about eighteen feet 
by twelve, had likewise two windows affording a view 
only over the yard of the next house, which, being 
lofty, made the room dark, even in the sunniest 
weather. Here the furniture was simple, the principal 
piece being an exceedingly fine ebony bookcase, with 
mirrored panels. It contained a large collection of 
rare books, all bound in red morocco and set off with 
the escutcheon of the d’Entragues family. Among 
them were nearly all the authors who had written on 
mysticism, occult science, and religion. Opposite the 
bookcase, between the windows, was a carved ebony 
cabinet filled with red morocco box-cases, and on the 


108 * HONORE DE BALZAC 


top of the cabinet stood a plaster statuette represent- 
ing Napoleon I. Across the sword-sheath was stuck 
a tiny paper with these words written by the novelist : 
“What he could not achieve with the sword I will 
accomplish with the pen. Honoré de Balzac.” 

On the mantelpiece decorated with a mirror, 
there was an alarum in unpolished bronze, together 
with two vases in brown porcelain. And on either 
side of the mirror hung all sorts of woman’s trifles ; 
here, a crumpled glove, there a small satin shoe; and, 
further, a little rusty iron key. Questioned as to the 
significance of this last article, the owner called it his 
talisman. There was also a diminutive framed picture 
exhibiting beneath the glass a fragment of brown silk, 
with an arrow-pierced heart embroidered on it, and 
the English words: An Unknown Friend. In front of 
a modest writing-table covered with green baize was 
a large Voltaire arm-chair upholstered in red morocco; 
and about the room were a few other ebony chairs 
covered in brown cloth. 

Within his sanctum Balzac worked clad in a white 
Dominican gown with hood, the summer material 
being dimity and cashmere; he was shod with em- 
broidered slippers, and his waist was girt with a rich 
Venetian-gold chain, on which were suspended a paper- 
knife, a pair of scissors, and a gold penknife, all of 
them beautifully carved. Whatever the season, thick 
window-curtains shut out the rays of light that might 
have penetrated into the study, which was illuminated 
only by two moderate-sized candelabra of unpolished 
bronze, each holding a couple of continually burning 
candles. 

The installation of these various household neces- 
saries and luxuries was progressive and was associated _ 


LETTERS TO « THE STRANGER” $109 


closely with the heyday period of his celebrity. It 
was during 1833 that the metamorphosis was mainly 
effected, for Werdet relates that, in the month of 
November, he found Balzac, one afternoon, superin- 
tending the laying down of some rich Aubusson carpets 
in his house. Money must have been plentiful just 
then. Learning accidentally on this occasion that his 
publisher had no carpet in his drawing-room, the 
novelist surprised him the same evening by sending 
some men with one that he had bought for him. This 
present Werdet suitably acknowledged a short time 
after; and, throughout the period of their intimacy, 
there were a good few compliments of the kind ex- 
changed, which appear to have cost the man of business 
dearer than the man of letters. 

To tell the truth, Balzac had a knack of presuming 
that something he intended doing was already done. 
One notorious example was the white horse he 
asserted, in presence of a number of guests assembled 
in Madame de Girardin’s drawing-room, had been 
given by him to Jules Sandeau. The animal in ques- 
tion, he said, he had bought from a well-known dealer ; 
the celebrated trainer Baucher had tested it and de- 
clared it to be the most perfect animal ever ridden. 
For nearly half-an-hour the speaker expatiated on the 
points of this wonderful steed, and thoroughly con- 
vinced his audience of the gift having been really 
bestowed. A few evenings later, Jules Sandeau met 
Balzac at the same house, and the subject was of course 
reverted to by their mutual friends. As ‘the novelist 
asked him whether he liked the horse, Jules, not to 
be outvied, answered with an enumeration of its 
qualities. But he never saw the animal for all that. 

Another instance equally amusing was furnished at 


110 HONORE: DE BALZAC 


a dinner given in honour of Balzac by Henri de Latouche, 
who had not then broken with him. At dessert, the 
host sketched the plan of a novel he intended to write, 
and Balzac, who had been drinking champagne, warmly 
applauded: ‘The thing,” he said, ‘is capital. Even 
summarily related, it is charming. What will it be 
when the talent, style, and wit of the author have en- 
hanced it!” Next evening, at Madame de Girardin’s, 
he reproduced, with his native fire and power of descrip- 
tion, the narration he had heard the night before—repro- 
duced it as his own—persuaded it was his own. Every 
one was enthusiastic, and complimented him. But the 
matter was bruited abroad. Latouche recognized in 
Balzac’s proposed new novel the creation he had himself 
unfolded ; and wrote a sharp protest which, for once, 
forced its recipient to distinguish fact from fiction, and 
what was his share, what another’s, in the output of 
ideas. Yet he might be excused for some of his frequent 
fits of forgetfulness, since he sowed his own concep- 
tions and discoveries broadcast, and often encountered 
them again in the possession of lesser minds who had 
utilized them before he could put them into execution. 
In the year of 1883, the novelist’s correspondence 
alludes to several books which, like others previously 
spoken of, were never published, and probably never 
written. Among these are The Privilege, The History 
of a Fortunate Idea, and the Catholic Priest. Meanwhile, 
he did add considerably to his Droll Tales, the first 
series of which appeared in the same twelve months 
as Hugéne Grandet. These stories—in the style of 
Boccaccio, and of some of Chaucer’s writing—broad, 
racy, and somewhat licentious, albeit containing nothing 
radically obscene, were meant to illustrate the history 
of the French language and French manners from olden 


a 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 111 


to modern days. Only part of the project was realized. 
They are told with a wit and humour that are nowhere 
present to the same degree in the rest of the novelist’s 
work, and in their colouring, as Taine justly remarks, 
recall Jordaens’ painting with its vivid carnation tints. 
At this time the author was occupied with Bertha 
Repentant and the Succubus, which, however, were 
published only three years subsequently. 


CHAPTER VI 
LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1833, 1834 


Ir Balzac’s intimates, careful of his future, had besought 
him to jot down in a diary the detailed doings of his 
every-day life, with a confession of his thoughts, feel- 
ings, and opinions, in fine an unmasking of himself, he 
would surely have urged the material impossibility of 
his fulfilling such a task, over and above the labours of 
Hercules to which his ambition and his necessities bound 
him. And yet he performed the miracle unsolicited. 
From the day when he quitted Neufchatel to the 
day when he arrived at Wierzchownia, on his crowning 
visit in 1848, he never ceased chronicling, in a virtually 
uninterrupted series of letters to Madame Hanska, — 
closely following each other during most of this long 
period, a faithful account of his existence—exception 
made for its love episodes—which, having fortunately 
been preserved, constitutes an almost complete autobio- 
graphy of his mature years. When the end of the 
correspondence shall have been given to the public, 
three volumes, at least, will have been taken up with 
the record—a record which taxed his time and strength, 
indeed overtaxed them, causing him to encroach unduly 
on his already too short hours of sleep. The motive 
must have been a powerful one that could induce him 
to make so large a sacrifice. Whether it was love alone, 
as he protested again and again, or love mixed with 
gratified pride, or both ue to the hope of enjoying 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 113 


the vast fortune that loomed through the mists of 
the far-off Ukraine, the phenomenon remains the same. 
Certainly some great force was behind the pen that 
untiringly wrote in every vein and mood these astonish- 
ing Letters to the Stranger. 

In those up to the year 1834 that were, properly 
speaking, private, the tone rises to a pitch of lover- 
passion that could hardly fail to alarm, even whilst 
they flattered the one to whom his devotion was ad- 
dressed. Although Balzac’s brief sojourns in Madame 
Hanska’s vicinity had resulted in no breach of the 
marriage law, there was too much implied in his 
assumption of their betrothal to please the husband, if 
any of these lover’s oaths should fall under his notice. 
And this was what just did happen before many 
months had gone by. In consequence of some accident 
which is not explained, the Count had cognizance of 
two epistles that reached his wife while both were stay- 
ing at Vienna; and, for atime, it seemed as though the 
intercourse would be definitely severed. A humble 
apology was sent to the Count, the letters being passed 
off as a joke; and the interpretation was, fortunately 
for Balzac, accepted. Madame Hanska was offended 
as well as her husband, or, at any rate, she affected to 
be. It appears some negligence had been committed 
by the novelist in forwarding the incriminating epistles. 
However, being cleared in her husband’s eyes, she 
yielded her forgiveness. 

Balzac’s policy, after this mishap, was to keep on 
the best terms possible with Monsieur Hanski, who, to 
use the Frenchman’s English expression, suffered from 
chronic blue devils. After leaving his new friends at 
Geneva, the novelist procured the Count an autograph 


letter from Rossini, this great composer being a 
H 


114 HONORE DE BALZAC 


favourite at Wierzchownia. To his new lady-love he 
sent an effusion of his own in verse, having small poetic 
merit, but natheless pretty sentiment :— 


Rive chérie 
Ou sont nées mes amours, 
Sois ma patrie. 


i 
La, mon amie, 
Des cieux la fleur, 
S’estgattendrie 
De mon malheur. 


Rive chérie 
Od sont nées mes amours, 
Sois ma patrie. 


La, de;ma vie 
Commenga V’heur ; 
Meélancolie 

N’est plus douleur. 


Ah! dis chérie, 
Ou sont nées mes amours 
Est la patrie. 


During the Geneva intercourse, he did his best to 
familiarize Eve with all the names and characters of 
the people he knew, since his interests were to be hers, 
or, at any rate, so he flattered himself. She learnt to 
distinguish the people who were for him from those 
who were against him. Of these latter there were a 
goodly number, some made enemies by his own fault, 
through over-susceptibility or unconscious arrogance. 
Both causes were responsible for the quarrel occurring 
about this time between him and Emile de Girardin, 
which was never entirely healed, in spite of the persever- 
ing efforts of Emile’s wife, better known as Madame 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 115 


Delphine Gay. “TI have bidden good-bye to the Gays’ 
molehill,” he informed Madame Hanska. It was pretty 
much the same with his estrangement from the Duke 
de Fitz-James, which, however, was followed by a speedy 
reconciliation, for the Duke was offering, a few months 
later, to support him again in a political election. The 
unsatisfactory state of his health, and some family 
troubles, decided him to defer his candidature to the 
end of the decade, by which date he hoped to have writ- 
ten two works—The Tragedy of Philippe II. and The 
Elistory of the Succession of the Marquis of Carrabas 
—which should implant his conception of absolute 
monarchic power so strongly in the minds of his 
fellow-citizens that they would be glad to send him to 
Parliament as their representative. Other political 
articles and pamphlets of his, he asserted, would enable 
him by 1839 to dominate European questions. 

Werdet has a great deal to say about his idol’s over- 
weening exaction of homage, leading him to be himself 
guilty of acts of rudeness towards others, thus alienat- 
ing their sympathies. The publisher relates one scene 
that he witnessed at the offices of William Duckett, 
proprietor of the Dictionary of Conversation and Read- 
ing. ‘The office door was suddenly opened and Balzac 
stalked in with his hat on his head. “Is Duckett in?” 
he curtly asked, addressing in common the chief editor, 
his sub, and an attendant. There was a conspiracy of 
silence. Evidently, this was not the novelist’s first 
visit, and his style was known. Again the question 
was put in the same language and manner, and again 
no one replied. Advancing now a step, and speaking 
to the chief editor, he repeated his question for a third 
time. Monglave, who was an irritable gentleman, 
being accosted personally, answered briefly: ‘Put 


116 HONORE DE BALZAC 

your question to the sub-editor.” There was a wheel- 
about, and another peremptory inquiry, to which the 
sub, imitating his chief, replied with “ Ask the atten- 
dant.” At present boiling with rage, Balzac turned to 
the porter and thundered: “Is Duckett in?” ‘Mon- 
sieur Balzac,” returned the attendant, “these gentle- 
men have forbidden me to tell you.” Threatening to 
report the affair to Duckett, the novelist withdrew, 
pursued by the mocking laughter of the chief editor 
and the sub; but, on second thoughts, he deemed it 
more prudent to let the matter drop. 

Another example of this peculiar assumption of 
superiority occurred not long after at a dinner given 
by Werdet in honour of a young author, Jules Bergou- 
nioux, whose novels were being much read. Among 
the guests were Gustave Planche, Jules Sandeau, and 
Balzac. During the meal the conversation, after many 
assaults of wit and mirth, fell on the necessity of defend- 
ing writers against the piracy and mutilation of their 
books in foreign countries, more especially in Belgium. 
All expressed their opinion energetically, young Ber- 
gounioux like the rest, he happening to class himself 
with his fellows in the words—we men of letters. At 
the conclusion of his little speech, Balzac uttered a 
guffaw: “You, sir, a man of letters! what preten- 
sion! what presumption! You! compare yourself to 
us! Really, sir, you forget that you have the honour 
to be sitting here with the marshals of modern litera- 
ture.” 

This exhibition and others similar were natural to 
the man. He could not help them. It was impossible 
for him not to be continually proclaiming his own great- 
ness. ‘ Don’t tax me with littleness,” he said in one of 
his letters to Delphine Gay, in which he justified his 





BaLzac AND COUNTESS HANSKA 
A Caricature of the time 


(Collection of M. Marquet de Vasselot) 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 117 


breaking with her husband. “TI think myself too great 
to be offended by any one.” 

The domestic troubles alluded to above, which were 
worrying Balzac in 1834, had partly to do with his 
brother Henry, a sort of ne’er-do-well, who had been 
out to the Indies and had returned with an undesirable 
wife, and prospects—or rather the lack of them—that 
made him a burden to the other members of the family. 
Madame Balzac, too, was unwell at Chantilly ; and her 
illnesses always affected Honoré, who, at such moments, 
reproached himself for not being able to do more on 
her behalf. Not that his year’s budget was a poor one. 
The seventy thousand francs at which he estimated his 
probable earnings for the twelvemonth were not on this 
occasion so very much beyond the truth, if his author's 
percentages were included. Werdet—the illustrious 
Werdet, who, he said, somewhat resembled the J//us- 
trious Gaudissart’—bought an edition of his philosophic 
novels for fifteen thousand francs; and, besides two 
principal books to be mentioned further on, both of 
which appeared before the close of the year, there were 
parts of Séraphita and The Cabinet of Antiques which the 
Revue de Paris was publishing as serials. His notorious 
quarrel and lawsuit with this Review. was yet to come. 
But there was storm in the air even now. Séraphita, 
the subject inspired by Madame Hanska and dedicated 
to her, was but little to the taste of Buloz the editor ; 
and he declared to Balzac, who was making him wait for 
copy, that it was hardly worth while taking so long and 
making so much fuss over a novel which neither the 
public nor he, the editor, could understand. Happily 
the dear Werdet was at hand to arrange the difficulty. 
Though in the same case as Buloz, and failing altogether 


1 One of the characters in the Comédie Humaine. 


118 HONORE DE BALZAC 


to comprehend the subject or its treatment, he took 
over Séraphita in 1885 and published it. 

Next to politics, as a means of gaining name and 
fame more quickly, Balzac esteemed play-writing. The 
esteem was purely commercial. In his heart of hearts 
he rather despised this species of composition, entertain- 
ing the notion that it was something to be done quickly, 
if at all, and utilizable to please the groundlings. Yet, 
because he saw that there was money in it, he turned 
his hand to it, time after time, and, for long, had to 
abandon it as constantly. In 1834 he formed a partner- 
ship with Jules Sandeau and Emmanuel Arago, with: 
the idea of risking less in case of failure. In addition 
to the tragedy already spoken of, he tried two others— 
The Courtiers and Don Philip and Don Charles, the 
latter modelled on Schiller’s Don Carlos. The Grande 
Mademoiselle was a.comic history of Lauzun; and his 
Prudhomme, Bigamist was a farce, in which a dummy 
placed in a bed seemed to him capable, with a night’s 
working on it, of bringing down the house. Vaguely 
he felt, and vaguely he confessed to his sister, what 
he had seen and confessed thirteen years earlier, that 
the drama was not his forte. But, anchored in the 
conviction that he ought finally to succeed in every- 
thing he undertook, he returned to the attempt with 
_ magnificent pluck and perseverance. 

His colleague for the nonce, Sandeau, he considered 
to be a protégé of his; and used him awhile as a kind 
of secretary. In this year especially he showed much 
solicitude about him. There was nothing to excite 
his jealousy in the author of Sacs et Parchemins, who 
was not elected to the Academy until nearly the end 
of the decade in which Balzac died. On the contrary, 
his pity was aroused by Sandeau’s precarious position and 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 119 


by the recent separation between Madame Dudevant 
and this first of her lovers, who did his best to commit 
suicide by swallowing a dose of acetate of morphia. 
Luckily the dose was so large that Sandeau’s stomach 
refused to digest it. George Sand herself Balzac 
admired but did not care for at this time. He would 
talk to her amiably when he met her at the Opera; 
but, if she invited him to dinner, he invented an excuse, 
if possible, for not going. “Don’t speak to me,” he 
would say, “of this writer of the neuter gender. 
Nature ought to have given her more breeches and 
less style.” 

- His opinion, however, did not prevent him, in 1842, 
from accepting her help. An article had come out 
in her Revue Indépendante, without her knowledge, 
attacking him violently. She wrote to apologize; and 
Balzac called on her, to explain, as he informed 
Madame Hanska, how injustice serves the cause of 
talent. She told him then that she should like to 
write a thorough study of him and his books; and 
he made as though he would dissuade her, saying 
that she would only get herself into bad odour with 
his critics. Still she persisted, and he accordingly asked 
her to compose a preface for an ensuing publication 
of his whole works, the preface to be a defence of 
him against those who were his enemies. Whether 
this notice was written before the novelist’s death 
is uncertain. At any rate, it was not printed until 
1875, when it appeared in her volume Autowr de la 
Table. 

It was difficult for Balzac to be fair towards 
those men of letters among his contemporaries who 
excelled in his own domain; yet his judgment, when 
unwarped, was fine, keen, and, in many instances, 


120 HONORE DE BALZAC 


endowed with prophetic sight. For instance, in 
placing Alfred de Musset as a poet above Victor Hugo 
or Lamartine, he daringly contradicted the opinions of 
his own day, and anticipated a criticism which is at 
present becoming respectable if not fashionable. On 
the other hand, his estimate of Volupté, Saint-Beuve’s . 
just then published novel, which he was soon to imitate 
and recreate in his Lily in the Valley, was manifestly 
prejudiced. He called it a book badly written in most 
of its parts, weak, loosely constructed, diffuse, in which 
there were some good things, in short a puritanical 
book, the chief character of it, Madame Couaén not 
being woman enough. His opinion, which he imparted 
to Madame Hanska, he apparently took no trouble 
to conceal, for Sainte-Beuve was evidently aware of 
it when he treated Balzac very sharply in an article of 
this same year of 1834. From that date, the celebrated 
lecturer looked with coldness and disfavour on the 
novelist, and even in his final pronouncement of the 
Causeries du Lundi, shortly after Balzac’s death, he 
meted out but faint praise. 

Something has been said in a previous chapter 
of the novelist’s belief in certain occult powers of 
the mind, with which the newly discovered action 
of magnetism seemed to him to be connected. At 
first, his ideas on the subject were a good deal mixed. 
When, in 1832, a terrible epidemic of cholera was 
spreading its ravages, he wrote to Doctor Chapelain, 
suggesting that somnambulism—he would have called 
it hypnotism to-day—should be employed to seek 
out the causes of the malady, and a test applied to 
prove whether its virtues were real or chimerical. In 
1834, he had come to pin his faith to the healing 
powers of magnetism. ‘When you or Monsieur 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 121 


Hanski or Anna are ill,” he wrote to Eve, “ let me know. 
Don’t laugh at me. At Issoudun, facts recently de- 
monstrated to me that I possess very large magnetic 
potency, and that, either through a somnambulist ” (he 
meant a hypnotist) “or through myself, I can cure 
persons dear to me.” ‘To all his friends he reiterated 
the same advice—magnetic treatment, which he declared 
his mother capable of exercising as well as himself. 
Madame Balzac’s initiation into the science was due to 
the Prince of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingfurst, 
Bishop of Sardica, who, in his several visits to Paris 
between 1821 and 1829, wrought wonderful cures by 
the simple imposition of hands. As the lady used to 
suffer from a swelling in the bowels whenever she 
ate raw fruit, the Bishop, hearing of it, came one day 
to see her, and applied his method, which cured her. 
Balzac, being a witness of the miracle, became an 
ardent investigator in this new branch—or rather old 
branch revived—of therapeutics. ‘Thenceforward, his 
predilection for theories of the occult went hand in 
hand with his equally strong taste for the analytic 
observation of visible phenomena; and not infre- 
quently he indulged in their simultaneous literary 
expression. The composing of Séraphita was carried 
on at the same time as his Search for the Absolute 
and Pére Goriot. 

Both of these last two novels were finished and 
published in 1834. In the Search for the Absolute, 
we have Balthazar Claés, a man of wealth and leisure, 
living in the ancient town of Douai, and married to a 
wife who adores him and who has borne him children. 
Claés’ hobby is scientific research; his aim, the dis- 
covery of the origin of things, which he believes can be 
given him by his crucible. In his family mansion, of 


122 HONORE DE BALZAC 


antique Flemish style, which is admirably described 
by the novelist at great length, he pursues his tireless 
experiments; and, with less justification than Bernard 
Palissy, encroaches by degrees on the capital of his 
fortune, which melts away in his furnace and alembics. 
During the first period of his essays, his wife tries to 
have confidence in his final success, herself studies all 
sorts of learned treatises, in order to be able to converse 
with him suitably and to encourage him in his work ; 
but, at last, unable to delude her own mind any longer, 
she weeps with her children over the approaching 
destruction of their home, and the grief wears her out 
and kills her. Luckily the daughter, Marguerite, is 
made of sterner stuff than her mother. And, with her 
brother, she toils to pay her father’s debts and to keep 
the home together. At the end, Claés himself dies, 
still absorbed in his chimera, and his last words are an 
endeavour to formulate the marvellous revelation which 
his disordered brain persuades him he has now received. 

“<« Rureka!’ he cried with a shrill voice, and fell 
back on his bed with a thud. In passing away, he 
uttered a frightful groan, and his convulsed eyes, until 
the doctors closed them, spoke his regret not to have 
been able to bequeath to science the key of a mystery 
whose veil had been tardily torn aside under the gaunt 

>» é 

fingers of Death. 

The Search for the Absolute may be classed with 
Eugénie Grandet in the category of the novelist’s best 
creations. Though Claés is, as much as Grandet, and 
perhaps more, an abnormal being, his sacrifice of every 
duty of life to the pursuit of the irrealizable is common 
enough in humanity. By reason of the novelist’s 
intense delineation, his figure shows out in monstrous 
proportions; but these are skilfully relieved by the 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 123 


happier fates of the children. The lengthy descriptions 
of the opening chapter he defended against his sister 
Laure’s strictures, asserting that they had ramifications 
with the subject which escaped her. His present- 
ment, too, of Marguerite he said was not forced, as 
she thought. Marguerite was a Flemish woman, and 
Flemish women followed one idea out and, with phlegm, 
went unswervingly towards their goal. The labour 
the book had cost him he owned to Madame Hanska. 
Two members of the Academy of Sciences taught him 
chemistry, so that he might be exact in his representa- 
tion of Claés’ experiments; and he read Berzelius into 
the bargain. Moreover, he had revised and modified 
the proofs of the novel no fewer than a dozen times. 
As Werdet tells, the real work of composition, with 
Balzac, hardly commenced until he had a set of galley 
proofs. What he sent first to the printer, scribbled 
with his crow’s-quill, was a mere sketch; and the 
sketch itself was a sort of Chinese puzzle, largely com- 
posed of scratched-out and interpolated sentences ; 
passages and chapters being moved about in a curious 
chassé-croisé, which the type-setters deciphered and 
arranged as they best could. Margins and inter- 
columnal spaces they found covered with interpola- 
tions ; a long trailing line indicated the way here and 
the way there to the destination of the inserted passages. 
A cobweb was regular in comparison to the task which ~ 
the printers had to tackle in the hope of finding begin- 
ning, middle, and end. In the various presses where 
his books were set up, the employees would never work 
longer than an hour on end at his manuscript. And 
the indemnity he had to pay for corrections reached 
sometimes the figure of forty francs per sixteen pages. 
Numerous were the difficulties caused on this score 


124 HONORE DE BALZAC 


with publishers, editors, and printers. Balzac justified 
himself by quoting the examples of Chateaubriand, 
Ingres, and Meyerbeer in their various arts. ‘To Buloz, 
of the Revue de Paris, who expostulated, he impa- 
tiently replied: “I will give up fifty francs per sheet 
to have my hands free. So say no more about the 
matter.” It is true that Buloz paid him 250 francs 
per sheet for his contributions. 

Indeed, the novelist’s own method of work was a 
reversal of the natural alternation of regular periods of 
activity and repose. He not only, as he told all his 
correspondents with wearisome iteration, burned the 
midnight oil, but would keep up these eighteen or 
twenty hours’ daily labour for weeks together, until 
some novel that he was engaged on was finished. 
During these spells of composing he would see no one, 
read no letters, but write on and on, eating sparingly, 
sipping his coffee, and refreshing his jaded anatomy by 
taking a bath, in which he would lie for a whole hour, 
plunged in meditation. After his voluntary seclusions, 
he suddenly reappeared in his usual haunts, active and 
feverish as ever, note-book ready to hand, in which he 
jotted down his thoughts, discoveries, and observations 
for future use. On its pages were primitively outlined 
the features of most of the women of his fiction. 

One of these prolonged claustrations, in October 
1834—the day was Sunday—he interrupted by a. call, 
most unexpected, on Werdet. His face was sallow 
and gaunt with vigil, He had been stopped in the 
description of a spot, he explained, by the uncertainty 
of his recollections, and must go into the city in order 
to refresh them. So he invited Werdet to accompany 
him in playing truant for the day. The morning was 
spent in the slums, where he gathered the information 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 125 


required; and the afternoon they whiled away in 
listening to a concert at the Conservatoire. Here he 
was welcomed by the fashionables of both sexes, not- 
withstanding his shabby costume, which he had donned 
in view of his morning’s occupation. On quitting the 
concert room, he carried Werdet off to dine with him 
at Véry’s, the most expensive and aristocratic restau- 
rant in Paris. ‘The place was full of guests; and those 
who were in proximity to the table where the two 
newcomers sat down were astounded to see the 
following menu ordered and practically consumed by 
one man, since Werdet, being on diet, took only a 
soup and a little chicken: A hundred oysters; twelve 
chops; a young duck; a pair of roast partridges; a 
sole; hors d’ceuvre; sweets; fruit (more than a dozen 
pears being swallowed) ; choice wines ; coffee ; liqueurs. 
Never since Rabelais’ or perhaps Louis XIV.’s time, had 
such a Gargantuan appetite been witnessed. Balzac was 
recouping himself for his fasting. 

When the repast, lengthened out by a flow of 
humorous conversation, was at length terminated, the 
nineteenth-century Johnson asked his Boswell if he 
had any available cash, as he himself had none. 
Werdet confessing only to forty francs, the novelist 
borrowed a five-franc piece from him and thundered 
out his request for the bill) To the waiter who pre- 
sented it he handed the coin, at the same time return- 
ing the bill with a few words scribbled at the foot. 
«Tell the cashier,” he cried, “that I am Monsieur 
Honoré de Balzac.” And he stalked out with Werdet, 
whilst all the diners present stared admiringly after the 
great man. 

But the evening was not yet finished. In the 
garden of the Palais-Royal, then more frequented by 


126 HONORE DE BALZAC 


society than to-day, they met Jules Sandeau and 
Emile Regnault. And, as they were near a gambling- 
saloon, Balzac, who had an infallible system for break- 
ing the bank, proposed to Jules that he should go and 
try his luck. A twenty-franc piece was wheedled out 
of Werdet for the experiment, which proved a fiasco. 
Next, the novelist, to convince his companions of the 
accuracy of his theory, which he further detailed, went 
and borrowed forty francs from his heraldic engraver, 
and sent Sandeau and Regnault into the saloon again. 
Alas! fate was once more unkind. They returned 
minus their money. To console themselves, they went 
to the Funambules Theatre, to see Debureau act in 
the Beuf Enragé, and Balzac laughed so loud that 
he and his party had to leave the theatre. On the 
morrow Werdet was called upon to pay the restaurant- 
keeper sixty-two francs, and to reimburse the engraver 
the forty francs loan, which sums, together with what 
he had himself advanced, ran Balzac’s debit for the 
day up to one hundred and twenty-seven francs. 

In Pere Goriot, the publication of which came close 
at the heels of the Search for the Absolute, Balzac 
traces the gradual impoverishment of a fond father by 
his two daughters, married, the one to a nobleman, the 
other to a banker, and whose husbands, when they have 
received the marriage dowry, give their father-in-law, 
who is a plebeian, the cold shoulder, and forbid their 
wives to see him unless in secret. Goriot’s daughters, 
losing in their grand surroundings the little filial affec- 
tion they ever had, exploit the old man’s worship of 
them shamelessly. If they visit him in the boarding- 
house to which he has retired, after selling his home- 
to endow them more richly, it is solely to get from him 
for their pleasures the portion of his wealth he has 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 127 


retained for his own wants. And he never refuses 
them, but sells and sells, until, at last, he is reduced 
to lodge in the garret of the boarding-house and eat. 
almost the refuse of the table. Around this tragic 
central figure are grouped the commensals of the 
Vauquer pension, Rastignac, the young law-student, 
with shallow purse and aristocratic connections ; 
Bianchon, the future great-gun in medicine, at 
present walking the hospitals and attending lectures 
and practising dissections ; Victorine Taillefer, the re- 
jected daughter of a guilty millionaire; Mademoiselle 
Michonneau, the soured spinster, who ferrets out the 
identity of her fellow-boarder Vautrin, and betrays to 
justice this cynical outlaw installed so quietly, and, 
to all appearance, safely, in the pension, where Madame 
Vauquer, the traipsing widow, lords it serenely, atten- 
tive only to her profits. 

Of these subsidiary characters, two, Vautrin and 
Rastignac, furnish a second interest in the story 
parallel to that of Goriot and his daughters, and con- 
stituting a foil. Under the influence of Paris sur- 
roundings and experience, Rastignac passes from his 
naive illusions to a state of worldly wisdom, which he 
reaches all the more speedily as Vautrin is at his 
elbow, commenting with Mephistophelian shrewdness 
on his fellow-men and the society they form. Himself 
aman of education, who has sunk from high to low 
and is branded with the convict?s mark, Vautrin is 
yet capable of affection of a certain kind; but, in the 
mind and heart of the youth he would fain advantage, 
he is capable only of inculcating the law of tooth and 
claw. “A rapid fortune is the problem that fifty 
thousand young men are at present trying to solve 
who find themselves in your position,” he says to 


128 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Rastignac. “You are a single one among this numker. 
Judge of the efforts you have to make and of the 
desperateness of the struggle. You must devour each 
other like spiders in a pot, seeing there are not fifty 
thousand good places. Do you know how one gets 
on here? By the brilliance of genius or the adroitness 
of corruption one must enter the mass of men like a 
cannon-ball, or slip into it like the plague. Honesty 
is of no use.” Having a tempter about him of 
Vautrin’s calibre, strong, undauntable, as humorous as 
Dickens’ Jingle, but infinitely more unscrupulous and 
dangerous, Rastignac is gained over, in spite of his 
first repulsion. The nursing and burying of Pere 
Goriot are his last acts of charity accorded to the 
claims of his higher nature, and even these are sullied 
by his relations with one of Goriot’s daughters. 
Standing on the cemetery heights, and looking down 
towards the Seine and the Vendéme column, he flings 
a defiance to the society spread beneath him, the 
society he despises but still wishes to conquer. 

In this novel many social grades are gathered 
together, and the reciprocal actions of their represen- 
tative members are rendered with effective contrast 
and a good deal of dramatic quickness. The chief 
theme, though so painful, is developed with less strain 
and monotony than in some other of the novelist’s 
works by reason of a larger application, conscious or 
unconscious, of Shakespeare’s practice of intermingling 
the humorous with the tragic. Even the comic is not 
entirely absent, Madame Vauquer especially supplying 
interludes. The novelist himself chuckled as he put 
into her mouth a mispronunciation of the word ¢zllewl,1 
and explained to Madame Hanska, whose foreign 


1 English linden, or lime-tree. 


(ja)pavuavg vasnyy) ueuseq Aq Suynured e@ WoOIy 


2%, FEgI NI AYAINNOSSIOG GuvVAATNOG AHL 
ne zoyjng : ydessoj}04g 





= 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 129 


accent in speaking French suggested it, that he chose 
the fat landlady so that Eve should not be jealous. 

Balzac’s too great absorption in his writing forced 
him more than once in this year to go into the country 
and recuperate his health. During the earlier months 
he spent a short time with the Carrauds at Frapesle, 
which was a favourite sojourn of his, and, later on, at 
Saché, a pleasant retreat in his native Touraine. His 
iron constitution was not able always to resist the 
demands continually made upon it; and his abuse of 
coffee only aggravated the evil. To Laure he ac- 
knowledged, while at Saché, that this beverage refused 
to excite his brain for any time longer than a fortnight ; 
and even the fortnight was paid for by horrible cramps 
in the stomach, followed by fits of depression, which 
he suffered when suddenly deprived of his beloved 
drink. In his Treatise of Modern Stimulants he 
describes its peculiar operation upon himself. “ This 
coffee,” he says, “falls into your stomach, and straight- 
way there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to 
move like the battalions of the Grand Army on the 
battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things re- 
membered arrive full gallop, ensign to the wind. The 
light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent, 
deploying charge; the artillery of logic hurry up with 
their train and ammunition ; the shafts of wit start up 
like sharp-shooters. Similes arise; the paper is covered 
with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded 
with torrents of black water, just as a battle with 
powder.” 

When he tells us how Doctor Minoret, Ursule 
Mirouet’s guardian, used to regale his friends with a 
cup of Moka mixed with Bourbon coffee, and roasted 


Martinique, which the Doctor insisted on personally 
I 


130 HONORE DE BALZAC 


preparing in a silver coffee-pot, it is his own custom 
that he is detailing. His Bourbon he bought only in 
the Rue Mont Blanc (now the Chaussée d’Antin), the 
Martinique, in the Rue des Vieilles Audriettes, the 
Moka at a grocer’s in the Rue de l'Université. It was 
half a day’s journey to fetch them. 

The Tigers or Lions, of the Loge Infernale at the 
Opera, have already been spoken of. It was in this 
year that Balzac, as belonging to the Club, gave a 
dinner to its members, the chief guest being Rossini. 
Nodier, Sandeau, Bohain, and the witty Lautour- 
Mézeray were also present. He doubtless wore on the 
occasion his coat of broadcloth blue, made by his tailor- 
friend Buisson, with its gold buttons engraved by 
Gosselin, his jeweller and goldsmith. On his waist- 
coat of white English pzqué twined and glittered the 
thousand links of the slender chain of Venice gold. 
Black trousers, with footstraps, showing his calves to 
advantage, patent-leather boots, and his wonderful 
stick, which inspired Madame Delphine Gay to write © 
a book, completed the equipment. 

This stick was certainly in existence in 1834, being 
mentioned in the correspondence with Madame Hanska 
during that year. Werdet, however, connects its origin 
with the novelist’s imprisonment, two years later, in 
the Hotel de Bazancourt, popularly known as the Hétel 
des Haricots, which was used for confining those citizens 
who did not comply with Louis-Philippe’s law enrol- 
ling them in the National Guard and ordering them 
to take their turn in night-patrol of the city. Balzac 
was incurably recalcitrant. Nothing would induce him 
to encase himself in the uniform and serve; and, when- 
ever the soldiers came for him, he bribed them to let 
him alone. Finally, these bribes failed of their effect, 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 1381 


and an arrest-warrant was issued against him. In his 
ordinary correspondence two experiences of his being 
in durance vile at the Hétel des Haricots are mentioned, 
one in March 1835, another in August 1836. The 
latter of these is differently dated in the Letters to the 
Stranger, the end of April being given, unless, indeed, 
there were two confinements close together, which is 
hardly probable. What is most likely is, that Werdet 
has confused two things, the story of the lock of hair, 
properly belonging to 1836, and the making of the 
stick, which belongs to 1834. Here is his narration :— 

The publisher one day received a note requesting 
him to go at once to the prison and to take with him 
some money. He went with two hundred francs, and 
found Balzac, in his Dominican’s dress, installed in a 
small cell on the third story, busily engaged in arrang- 
ing papers. Part of the money brought was utilized 
to order a succulent dinner, which Werdet stayed and 
shared in the smoky refectory below. Both prisoner 
and visitor were very merry until the door opened 
and Eugene Sue, the popular novelist, entered, himself 
also a victim of the conscription law. Invited to join 
in the meal, Sue declined, saying that his valet and 
servant were shortly to bring him his dinner. This 
repulse damped Balzac’s spirits until the arrival of a 
third victim, the Count de Lostange, chief editor of 
the Quotidienne, who sat down willingly to table. 
‘Then Balzac forgot Sue’s rudeness, and the mirth was 
resumed. Notwithstanding the efforts of the novelist’s 
influential friends, the Count de Lobau, who was re- 
sponsible for the arrest, showed himself inexorable, and 
a second day was spent in captivity, which Werdet 
came again towards evening to enliven. A whole pile 
of perfumed epistles sent by feminine sympathizers was 


132 HONORE DE BALZAC 


lying on the table, and the publisher had to open them 
and read them aloud to his companion. When a third 
day’s confinement was decided on by the authorities, 
Werdet arranged to celebrate it by a dinner that should 
merit being put on record. He therefore secured the 
presence of some intimates of the novelist, among them 
being Gustave Planche and Alphonse Karr; and at 
5 p.M., eight people were assembled in the cell, with 
Auguste, Balzac’s valet, to serve them. The restaurant- 
keeper Chevet’s menu of exquisite dishes was suitably 
moistened with excellent champagne sent by a Countess, 
and, when the feast was in full progress, Balzac took a 
scented parcel from among his presents and asked per- 
mission to open it. The authorization being granted 
nem. con., he undid the parcel, and disclosed a mass of 
long, fair, silky hair threaded into a gold ring that was 
set with an emerald. On the gift was an inscription 
in English: From an unknown friend. A great dis- 
cussion ensued. One irreverent speaker opined that 
the thing was a hoax, and that the hair had come from 
a wig-maker’s; but his blasphemy was shouted down. 
Another proposed that Balzac should cut off his own 
long, flat locks (it was in 1834 that he began to let 
them grow) and should send them addressed to the 
Unknown Fair One. Poste Restante. But this sug- 
gestion, too, was not approved. The locks were pro- 
claimed to be national property, and to be cut off only 
by the passing of a special law. Next, the ring was 
discussed ; and here it was that Balzac, struck with 
a brilliant idea, announced his intention of ordering 
Gosselin, the goldsmith, to manufacture a marvellous 
hollow stick-knob in which a lock of the blond hair 
should be inserted, and all over the top of the knob 
were to be fixed diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, topazes, 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 1838 


rubies, chosen out of the many he had had given him 
by his rich lady-enthusiasts. On the morrow, he was 
released, after spending, during the few days he had 
been locked up, five hundred and seventy francs in ~ 
refreshment for himself and visitors. 


CHAPTER VII 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1835, 1836 


Tue Rue des Batailles, whither Balzac removed his 
household gods in 1834, was one of those old land- 
marks of Paris which have disappeared in the opening 
up and beautifying of the city. Commencing at the 
fortifications, it penetrated inwards along the waste 
ground of the Trocadéro, and crossed the Rue Chaillot 
at a point which has since become the Place d’Iéna. 
Its direction from there was very nearly the same as 
that of the present Avenue d’Iéna. No. 12, where 
Balzac had his flat, probably occupied the site whereon 
now stands the mansion of Prince Roland Bonaparte. 
From its windows a good view was obtained of the 
Seine, the Champ de Mars, the Ecole Militaire, and 
the Dome of the Invalides. 

As a matter of fact, the house of the Rue des 
Batailles was for a time a supplementary dwelling 
rented by the novelist, so Werdet Says, as a hiding- 
place from the myrmidons of the law. The flat in 
the Rue Cassini was retained, and its furniture also ; 
and an arrangement was made with the landlord by 
which a notice-board hung continually on the door, 
with the words: “This apartment to let.” In reality 
the tenant often sojourned there still, and his cook 
stayed on the premises to look after them, and serve 
her master with meals, whenever he wished to work 
in his old study without pone disturbed. At the Rue 

134 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 135 


des Batailles he lived under the pseudonym of Widow 
Brunet, so that temporarily the sergeant-major of the 
National Guard was outwitted. 

The second flat, when he took it, was composed 
of five small rooms; but an army of workmen was 
summoned ; and what with the pulling down of parti- 
tions and their reconstruction on a more commodious 
plan, the place was metamorphosed into four luxuri- 
ously furnished chambers, the study being fitted up as 
a sort of boudoir. One of its walls was a graceful 
curve against which rested a large, real Turkish divan 
in white cashmere, its drapery being caught and held 
with lozenge-shaped bows of black and flame-coloured 
silk. The opposite wall formed a straight line broken 
only by a white marble chimney-piece pinked out in 
gold. The entire room was hung in red stuff as a 
background, and this was covered with fluted Indian 
muslin, having a top and bottom beading of flame- 
coloured stuff ornamented with elegant black arabesques. 
Under the muslin the red assumed a rose tint, which 
latter was repeated in the window curtains of muslin 
lined with taffety, and fringed in black and red. Six 
silver sconces, each supporting two candles, projected 
from the wall above the divan, to light those sitting 
or lying there. From the dazzlingly white ceiling 
was suspended an unpolished silver-gilt lustre; and 
the cornice round it was in gold. The carpets of 
curious designs were like Eastern shawls; the furniture 
was lavishly upholstered. The time-piece and can- 
delabra were of white marble incrusted with gold; and 
cashmere covered the single table, while several flower- 
stands filled up the corners, with their roses and other 
blooms. This study, which Balzac himself has left us 
a description of in his novel The Girl with the Golden 


136 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Eyes, was soon abandoned as a workroom for another 
more simple and austere, up under the roof. The 
latter, however, he likewise began, being tormented by 
the desire of change, to adorn almost as fantastically. 

Throughout the time that Werdet continued to be 
Balzac’s publisher, and up to the end of 1836, when 
their active business relations ceased, it is difficult to 
be quite accurate in speaking of their relations and the _ 
things spoken of by both in which they were mutually 
concerned. There is frequent discordance in their” 
narration of the same event, and one is often embarrassed 
in trying to reconcile them. On the one hand, it is 
certain that Balzac was not always exact in his state- 
ments ; on the other, Werdet’s memory, in the seventies, 
when he wrote his Portrait Intime of the novelist, was 
as certainly now and again treacherous. An example 
of such discrepancy is furnished by the information 
given concerning Séraphita, which Werdet says he 
bought from Buloz at the end of 1834, and for which 
he had to wait till December 1835. He even makes it 
a reproach that the novelist, after being extracted from 
a dilemma, should have dealt with him so cavalierly. 
Now, from documents published by the Viscount de 
Lovenjoul, there must be a mistake in Werdet’s dates. 
During the year of 1835, the Revue de Paris published, 
after long delay, some further chapters of Séraphita ; 
and not until the end of November in this same twelve- 
month was the treaty signed which rendered Werdet 
possessor of the book. 

Séraphita, or Séraphitus—the name is designedly 
spelt both ways in different parts of the book—is an 
attempt on the novelist’s part to represent in fiction 
the dual sex of the soul. The scene is laid in the fiords 
of Norway. There, in a village, we meet with a person 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” § 137 


of mysterious nature who is loved simultaneously by a 
man and a woman, and who is regarded by each as 
being of the opposite sex. By whiles this herma- 
phrodite seems to respond to the affection of each 
admirer, and by whiles to withdraw on to a higher 
plane of existence whither their mortality hinders them 
from following. To the old pastor of the village, 
Séraplita-Séraphitus talks with assurance of the essence 
of phenomena and the invisible world, but, forsooth, 
only to imitate the shades that visit spiritualistic séances, 
and to say what is either obscure verbiage, or a hash-up 
of philosophies often digested without much sustenance 
derived from them. In the end, this dual personage 
vanishes from our mundane atmosphere, translated 
bodily to heaven; and leaves his or her lovers to repair 
their loss—just like a forlorn widow or widower—by 
making a match based on rules of conduct laid down 
by the departed one. 

Séraphta was Balzac’s pocket Catholicism. He 
had another Catholicism, entirely orthodox, for the use 
of the public at large. Esoterically understood, his 
novel teaches a doctrine of mysticism, intuitionalism, 
and materialism combined. Plotinus, the Manicheans, 
and Swedenborg are borrowed from without reserve. 
Ordinary reason is despised. He believes himself for 
the nonce inspired, like the Pope when launching bulls. 
«The pleasure,” he writes, ‘of swimming in a lake of 
pure water, amidst rocks, woods, and flowers, alone and 
fanned by the warm zephyr, would give the ignorant 
but a weak image of the happiness I felt when my soul 
was flooded with the rays of I know not what light, 
when I listened to the terrible and confused voices of 
inspiration, when from a secret source the images 
streamed into my palpitating brain.” On the contrary, 


138 HONORE DE BALZAC 


he holds—and this does not square well with the pre- 
ceding—that the soul is an ethereal fluid similar to 
electricity ; that the brain is the matrass or bottle into 
which the animal transports, according to the strength 
of the apparatus, as much as the various organisms 
can absorb of this fluid, which issues thence trans- 
formed into will; that our sentiments are movements 
of the fluid, which proceeds from us by jerks when we 
are angry, and which weighs on our nerves when we © 
are in expectation; that the current of this king of 
liquids, according to the pressure of thought and feeling, 
spreads in waves or diminishes and thins, then collects 
again, to gush forth in flashes. He believes also that 
our ideas are complete, organized beings (the theosophic 
notion) which live in the invisible world and influence 
our destinies ; that, concentrated in a powerful brain, 
they can master the brains of other people, and traverse 
immense distances in the twinkling of an eye. In 
short, he anticipates not a little of the science of the 
present day, yet mixing up the true and false in his 
guesses by the very exuberance of his fancy. At the 
close, he gives us his vision of the universe: “They 
heard the divers parts of the Infinite forming a living 
melody; and, at each pause, when the accord made 
itself felt like a huge respiration, the worlds, drawn by 
this unanimous movement, inclined themselves towards 
the immense Being who, from his impenetrable centre, 
sent everything forth and brought it back to himself. 
The light engendered melody, the melody engendered 
light; the colours were light and melody, the move-_ 
ment was number endowed with speech; in fine, all 
was at once sonorous, diaphanous, mobile; so that, all 
things interpenetrating each other, distance was without 
obstacles, and might be traversed by the angels through- 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 139 


out the depths of the infinite. There was the féte. 
Myriads of angels all hastened in like flight, without 
confusion, all similar, yet all dissimilar, simple as the 
field-rose, vast as worlds. They were neither seen to 
come nor go. On a sudden, they studded the infinite 
with their presence, just as the stars shine in the 
indiscernible ether.” 

The fundamental error of Scraphita is its hybridity, 
not to speak of its pretentious psychology. It is 
neither flesh nor fowl; and, exception made for some 
fine passages, more at the beginning than in the rest of 
the book, it jars and irks, and amazes, but does not 
captivate or persuade. 

It had a great success when it came out in book 
form. People were inquisitive to know the end of the 
story, which the Revue de Paris had not given; and 
their eagerness had been further whetted by a cleverly 
graduated series of puffs put into the newspapers. On 
the first day of sale, the whole edition was cleared out 
of Werdet’s warehouse, a thing that had never happened 
before with any of the same author’s works. Balzac, 
who had been duly informed of the good news, hastened 
to the office, and led the publisher off proudly to dine 
with him at Véry’s, and to finish up the evening at the 
Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, with ices afterwards at 
Tortoni’s. The whole affair was carried out in grand 
style. The novelist had on his war-paint, and was 
accompanied by a lady, young, pretty, whose name is 
not revealed to us. Werdet’s vis-d-vis was Madame 
Louise Lemercier, a benevolent blue-stocking of that 
day, who was a Providence to needy men of letters. 
When dinner was over, Balzac’s elegant equipage, with 
its mighty coachman and its diminutive groom, yclept 
Millet-seed, who unfortunately died soon after in the 


140 HONORE DE BALZAC 


hospital, conveyed them to the play, in which Frédérick ' 
Lemaitre and Serres held chief réles. Balzac was the 
hero of the evening. His jewelled stick, and his pretty 
companion monopolized the attention of the spectators, 
who somewhat neglected the amusement offered by 
the Auberge des Adrets on the stage. At the conclu- 
sion of the piece, the four passed out of the theatre 
through a double line of people eager to pay the 
homage that notoriety can always command. 

In the year 1835 the novelist’s restlessness and 
inability to remain long in one spot were evinced in 
a very marked manner. Only by repeated changes of 
scene was he able to carry on his work at all. After 
wearing himself out in a fruitless attempt to complete 
Séraphita in April, he fled to Madame Carraud’s at 
Frapesle. In October he was at La Boulonniére, 
where he put the last touches to Pea—Blossom, better 
‘known as the Marriage Contract, which came out 
before the end of December. His fits of depression 
alternated with spurts of cheerfulness nearly every 
week, according as he had some loss or gain to register ; 
here, a fire at the printer’s, where some of his Contes 
Drélatiques were burned ; there, the sale of an article 
to the Conservateur for three thousand francs. In 
September the barometer rose, and he exclaimed joy- 
fully in a letter to Laure: | 

“The Reviews are at my feet and pay me more 
for my sheets. He! He! 

“The reading public have changed their opinion 
about the Country Doctor, so that Werdet is certain of 
selling his editions directly. Ha! Ha! 

“JIn-short, I can meet my liabilities in November 
and December. Ho! Ho!” 


1 So spelt. 


AIVNOILVN AGUYV®) AHL NI AAAS OL ONISNAAA AOA 


GaHNOSINIWI SYM OVZIVG AYAHM ‘SLOOINVE] Sad TALOH AHL 
. zol[ng : ydeisojoyg 


ee 
ean 
7 
= 





dg Pe 


im, Gs ae Dave 
a, as & 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 141 


This tone changed in October. To his sister now 
he lamented : 

“T am drinking the cup to the dregs. In vain I 
work fourteen hours a day. I cannot suffice.” 

He had held practically the same language to 
Werdet in May,’ when he announced to him his in- 
tention of starting for Austria, where Madame Hanska 
was staying. His brain, he said, was empty; his 
imagination dried up; cup after cup of coffee pro- 
duced no effect, nor yet baths—these last being the 
supreme remedy. 

Werdet did his best to thwart the trip; but Balzac 
would not be gainsaid. He affirmed he should return 
with rejuvenated faculties, after seeing his carissima ; 
and ultimately he persuaded his publisher to advance 
him two thousand francs for his travelling expenses. 
Profuse in his gratitude, he wrote from his hotel in 
Vienna—the Hétel de la Poire, situated in the Lang- 
strasse—that, in the society of the cherished one, he 
had regained his imagination and verve. Werdet, he 
continued, was his Archibald Constable (vzde Walter 
Scott); their fortunes were thenceforward indissoluble ; 
and the day was approaching when they would meet 
in their carriages in the Bois de Boulogne and turn 
their detractors green with envy. This flattery was 
the jam enveloping the information that he had drawn 
on his publisher for another fifteen hundred francs ; 
there was also a promise made that he would come 
back with his pockets full of manuscripts. Instead 
of the manuscripts, he brought back some Viennese 
curiosities. He had done no work while with Madame 


1 In Werdet’s account this journey is placed between September 
and November; but the Letters to the Stranger prove that the date he 
gives is incorrect. 


142 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Hanska, but he had seen Munich, and had enjoyed 
himself immensely, being idolized by the aristocracy 
of the Austrian capital. “And what an_aris- 
tocracy!” he remarked to Werdet ; “quite different 
from ours, my dear fellow; quite another world. 
There the nobility are a real nobility. They are 
all old families, not an adulterated nobility like in 
France.” 

The Vienna visit, which cost him, in total, some 
five thousand francs—a foolish expense in his involved’ 
circumstances—was the cause of his silver plate having 
to be ‘pawned while he was away, in order that certain 
payments of interest that he owed might be made at 
the end of the month. Since he was always plunging 
into fresh extravagance of one kind or another, his 
liabilities had a fatal tendency to grow; and at present 
even more than before, since he was puffed up by the 
lionizing he had enjoyed abroad. It was hardly to be 
expected that a man should study economy who saw. 
himself already appointed to the Secretaryship for 
Foreign Affairs. “This is the only department which 
would suit me,” he said to Werdet. «I have now my 
free entry to the house of the Count d’Appony, 
Ambassador of Austria, and to that of’ Rothschild, 
Consul of the same Power. What glory for you, 
Master Werdet, to have been my publisher. I will 
make your fortune, then.” 

His display and luxury manifested themselves in 
greater sumptuousness of furniture, more servants in 
livery, a box at the Opera for himself, and another 
at the Italiens. And the two secretaries must not 
be forgotten—one was not sufficient—the Count de 
Belloy and the Count de Grammont. Sandeay was not 
grand enough for the post. The reason given by | 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 143 


Balzac to Madame Hanska was Jules’ idleness, non- 
chalance, and sentimentality. As a matter of fact, 
Sandeau did not care to play always second fiddle, 
and to write tragedies or comedies for which Balzac 

wished to get all the credit. Moreover, he was not 
a Legitimist. The novelist had tried to convert him 
to his own doctrine of autocratic government and 
had signally failed. These sprigs of nobility he felt 
himself more in sympathy with. 

About this time his epistles to “The Stranger” 
were full of himself and his Herculean labours, and 
Madame Hanska hinted pretty plainly that the quan- 
tity of the latter did not necessarily imply their quality. 
Such expression of opinion notwithstanding, he boasted 
of conceiving, composing, and printing the Atheist’s 
Mass, a short novel, it is true, in one night only. His 
portrait by Louis Boulanger, which was painted during 
the year of 1835, had been ordered rather with a view 
to advertizing him at the ensuing Salon, although he 
asserted it was because he wanted to correct a false 
impression given of him by Dantan’s caricature in the 
earlier months of the year. The likeness produced by 
Boulanger he esteemed a good one, rendering his 
Coligny, Peter the Great persistence, which, together 
with an intrepid faith in the future, he said was 
the basis of his character. The future hovered as a 
perpetual mirage: in all his introspections, sometimes 
bright with tints of dawn, at other times half-threaten- 
ing. “I am the Wandering Jew of thought,” was his 
cry to Eve from the Hétel des Haricots, ‘‘ always up 
aiid walking without repose, without the joys of the 
heart, without anything besides what is yielded me 
by a remembrance at once rich and poor, without any- 
thing that I can snatch from the future. I hold out 


144 HONORE DE BALZAC 


my hand to it. It casts me not a mite, but a smile 
which means to say : to-morrow.” 

When he embarked on the hazardous venture of 
starting a newspaper of his own, the motive was chiefly 
a desire to exercise a larger political influence. Yet he 
had additional incentives. The Reviews to which he 
had contributed in the past had yielded him almost 
as much annoyance as profit ; and, since the two most 
important ones, the Revue des Deux Mondes and the 
Revue de Paris, both under the same editorship, were 
closed against him, he believed he needed an organ in 
which to defend himself from the rising virulence of 
hostile criticism. A press campaign in his favour 
could be better and more cheaply waged in a paper 
under his entire control. His plan was not to create 
a journal, but to revive one. In 1835 the Chronique 
de Paris, formerly called the Globe, was on its last 
legs, albeit it had been ably edited by William Duckett : 
and the proprietor, Béthune the publisher, was only — 
too glad to listen to Balzac’s overtures, By dint of 
puffing the new enterprise, a company was formed 
with a nominal capital of a hundred thousand francs ; 
Duckett was paid out in bills drawn on the receipts | 
to accrue, since the novelist had no ready money of 
his own; and a start was made under the new manage- 
ment. The staff was a strong one. Jules Sandeau 
was dramatic critic; Emile Regnault supplied the light 
literature; Gustave Planche was art critic ; Alphonse 
Karr wrote satirical articles; Théophile Gautier, 
Charles de Bernard, and Raymond Brucker contri- 
buted fiction; and Balzac, together with his functions 
of chief editor, gave the leading article. 

In its reorganized form, the Review came out 
Sundays and Thursdays and once a week Saturdays. 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 145 


The collaborators met at Werdet’s house to discuss and 
compare notes. Generally, they brought with them 
more conversation than copy, and Balzac would begin 
to scold. 

‘“¢ How can I make up to-morrow’s issue,” he asked, 
“if each of you arrives empty-handed ?” 

“Oh! being a great man and a genius,” was the 
reply, ‘““you have merely to say: ‘Let there be a 
Chronicle,’ and there will be a Chronicle.” 

“But you know that I reserve to myself nothing 
except the article on foreign policy.” 

“Yes, we all know,” answered Karr, punning on 
the French word étrangere, “that your policy is strange.” 

(Not finishing the word étrangére, he said only 
étrange.) 

« Bre,” shouted Balzac, adding the termination. 

“ Ere,” Alphonse yelled back. “You reserve to 
yourself a policy which is foreign to all governments 
present and past and future. And, as you scold me, 
Mr. Editor, is your own article ready ?” 

“No, but it is here”—tapping his forehead—* I 
have only to write it. In an hour it will be done.” 

«¢ With the corrections ?” queried Karr slily. 

“Yes, with the corrections.” 

«Ah! well, prove that to us; and we'll all go on 
dry bread and water until a statue is raised to you. I 
am hungry.” 

Although Balzac’s colleagues had a real respect and 
admiration for his talent, they chaffed him unmerci- 
fully for his vanity. One Saturday, Alphonse Karr, 
as a joke, crowned him with flowers; and Balzac, in all 
good faith, complacently accepted the honour. Around 
him, the laughter broke out fast and furious; and, at 
length, he joined in with volleys that shook the room, 

K 


146 HONORE DE BALZAC 


while his face waxed purple beneath his explosions. 
In his Guépes, Alphonse Karr subsequently recalled 
this improvized coronation of the novelist. 

Edited and composed in such desultory fashion, the 
Chronicle’s prosperity was short-lived, in spite of the 
lustre it temporarily acquired from Balzac’s name, and 
the publication in it of some of his fiction. Before 
long its financial position was so bad that the chief 
editor, as a forlorn hope, tried to induce a young Russian 
nobleman, who was an eager reader of his books, to 
enter the concern with a large amount of fresh capital. 
To bait him, a magnificent dinner was given in the 
Rue Cassini flat, amidst a display of all its tenant’s gold 
and silver plate, liberated from the pawnbroker’s for 
the occasion by a timely advance of two thousand 
francs from Werdet. The feast was an entire success, 
and an appointment was fixed for the next day at the 
Russian’s hotel. Alas! when the envoy went, he re- 
ceived, sandwiched in the guest’s thanks for the royal 
entertainment of the preceding evening, an announce- 
ment of the said guest’s immediate departure for Russia, 
and the intimation that, as the nobleman was not re- 
turning to Paris for some time, it would be impossible 
for him to accept the offer of a sleeping-partnership in 
the Review. ‘Three months later the Chronicle was 
resold to Béthune for a small sum; and the publisher 
disposed of it to a third person, who, however, did 
not succeed in keeping it alive. Balzac’s loss by his 
experiment was about twenty thousand francs. 

And this loss was not the only disagreeable part of 
the business. There were the bills signed to Duckett. 
They being protested in 1887, Duckett sued the novelist 
and obtained judgment against him. At this moment, 
Balzac, tracked by his creditors, had taken temporary © 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 147 


refuge with some friends, the Count Visconti and his 
English wife, who lived in the Champs Elysées. Here 
he remained incognito. One day a man, wearing the 
uniform of a transport company, called at the mansion 
and informed the servant that he had brought six 
thousand francs for Monsieur de Balzac. Suiting the 
action to his words, he dumped down on to the floor 
a heavy bag that chinked as it struck the hall tiles. 
*‘Monsieur de Balzac does not live here,” was the 
servant’s reply. ‘Then is the master of the house in ?” 
asked the man. “No, but the mistress is.” “Then 
tell her I have six thousand francs for Monsieur de 
Balzac.” ‘The servant vanished and soon the lady of 
the mansion appeared and offered to sign the receipt 
herself. To this the man demurred. He must either 
see Monsieur de Balzac or must take the money away 
again. There was a hurried confabulation between 
hostess and guest, the upshot of which was that Balzac, 
falling into the snare, came to the man, thinking that 
some generous friend had sent him the money; and he 
was immediately served with an arrest-warrant for debt. 
“T am caught,” he cried; “but I will pillory Duckett 
for this. He shall go down to posterity with infamy 
attached to his name.” To get the novelist out of the 
mess, Madame Visconti paid the debt for which the 
warrant had been made out; and thus spared him, for 
the nonce, a sojourn in the debtors’ prison at Clichy. 
Balzac’s lawsuit with the Revue de Paris, the details 
of which are given in the Viscount de Lovenjoul’s Last 
Chapter of the History of Balzac’s Works, was brought 
about by the novelist’s quarrel, in 1835, with Buloz, 
the editor, because the latter, while the Lily in the 
Valley was being printed, communicated: proofs of it 
to the Revue Francaise of Saint Petersburg. Balzac at 


148 HONORE DE BALZAC 


once severed his connection with the Revue de Paris, 
and took away his novel, on the ground that the editor 
was not justified in selling it abroad without his—the 
author’s—permission, and especially was not justified 
in communicating premature proofs, which, owing to 
his practice of modifying the text while correcting it, 
could in no way represent his finished work. After an 
attempt made by mutual friends to settle the matter 
amicably, Buloz entered an action against Balzac to 
compel him to continue the publication of the Lily in 
the Valley in the Revue de Paris. Three parts had 
been given. It was the end which the Review de- 
manded, and ten thousand francs damages for the 
delay. ‘The case was heard in May 1836, after months 
of bitter controversy, in which both sides had their ardent 
supporters. The most was made by the plaintiff's 
barrister of Balzac’s previous disputes with other 
editors, who had had to complain of his tardiness in 
completing articles or stories. A letter was also put 
in, signed by Alexandre Dumas, Eugéne Sue, Frédéric 
Soulié, and others, stating that it was usual for authors 
to allow the communication of their productions to the 
Revue Francaise of Saint Petersburg, with a view to 
combating Belgian and German piracies. And Jules 
Janin, who during the Thirties was a zealous opponent 
of Balzac, cast his weight of evidence in favour of the 
Review. The Séraphita episode was dragged in, too, 
with testimony to show that, even after Werdet had 
bought the right to publish the novel in book form, 
Balzac again negotiated for its continuation as a serial 
in the Review, and had, moreover, supplied some other 
chapters, yet without coming to the end. In fact, the 
suit was a complicated one to decide. Ultimately, the 
Court gave its verdict against Buloz on the chief point 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 149 


at issue. He lost the conclusion of the Lily in the 
Valley, and recovered only a small sum of money that 
had been advanced to the novelist for copy not sup- 
plied, and besides had to pay all the expenses of his 
action. 

What galled Balzac particularly during the speeches 
of the plaintiffs barrister, was to hear the style of his 
novel pulled to pieces in language of mingled sarcasm 
and clever criticism that delighted the audience and 
the papers. After the termination of the affair, he 
thoroughly overhauled the parts of the book which had 
been so severely handled, made large alterations, and, 
since fun had also been poked at his pretensions to 
noble ancestry, he prefixed a curious introduction to 
the edition that Werdet was about to publish. In the 
course of it he declared: “If some persons, deceived 
by caricatures, false portraits, penny-a-liners, and lies, 
credit me with a colossal fortune, palaces, and above 
all, with frequent favours from women... I here 
declare to them that I am a poor artist, absorbed in 
art, working at a long history of society, which will be 
either good or bad, but at which I work by necessity, 
without shame, just as Rossini has made operas or Du 
Ryer translations and volumes; that I live very much 
alone, that I have a few firm friends; that my name 
is on my birth-certificate, &c., just as that of Monsieur 
de Fitz-James is on his; that, if it is of old Gaulish 
stock, this is not my fault; but that de Balzac is my 
patronymic, an advantage which many aristocratic 
families have not who called themselves Odet before 
they were called Chatillon, Duplessis, and who are, 
none the less, great families.” 

To the foregoing he joined a long account of his 
birth and his presumed title to ancient lineage, and 


150 HONORE DE BALZAC 


inserted into the bargain a panegyric of Werdet as a 
man of activity, intelligence, and probity, with whom 
his relations would be unbroken, since by this same 
declaration he constituted him henceforward his sole 
publisher. That wasin July 1836. Scarcely six months 
after, when Werdet was threatened with a bankruptcy 
which was likely to involve him—a repetition in minor 
degree of Scott’s entanglement with Constable—he 
veered completely round, called Werdet a rotten plank, 
an empty head, an obstinate mule, and other names 
more expressive than polite, affirmed that he had always 
considered him a bit of a fool, and dropped all further 
connection with him. Werdet, it is true, was no busi- 
ness genius, but he was really attached to Balzac, and 
had yielded to the great man’s importunities as long as 
his purse would support the strain. 

The Lily in the Valley was published by Werdet in 
the week after the lawsuit was finished, and was well 
received by the public. Its success, however, was more 
considerable abroad than in France. The author com- 
plained of the smallness of the numbers sold in France 
compared with those of foreign editions; but Werdet’s 
figures indicate a very fair sale, and are larger than 
those given by Balzac, who in this instance at least was 
not so accurate as his publisher. 

The novel deals with the struggle in the heart of a 
Madame de Mortsauf, torn between her affection for 
Félix de Vandenesse and her determination to remain 
outwardly faithful in conduct towards her husband. 
With his invariable enthusiasm for subjects that pleased 
him in his own work, Balzac believed and affirmed 
that this secret combat waged in a valley of the Indre 
was as important as the most famous military battle 
ever fought. Possibly the amount of early personal 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 151 


biography in the book—yet a good deal romanced—led 
him to his conviction. Possibly, too, the richness with 
which he adorned its style helped to foster the opinion 
he held, which critics have not ratified. Not even 
Lamartine, his eulogist, found much to say in favour 
of the story. ‘To the first part alone he gave his ap- 
proval, likening it to the Song of Solomon. The rest he 
thought vulgar, and hinted that the heroine degenerates 
into a sort of hermaphrodite character. Brunetiére’s 
estimate, given ina parenthesis, is not much more 
favourable. And Taine, when dipping into the book 
for examples of Balzac’s style, neutralizes his praise of 
one portion by his depreciation of another. 

Apart from the question of the novel’s style, which 
is turgid because the lyric note intrudes, the most 
legitimate objection to the book is the sentimentalism 
which pervades it throughout, and palls on the reader 
before he reaches the conclusion. Like Richardson in 
his Pamela, but to a far greater extent than Richardson, 
Balzac has placed the struggle on the physical plane. 
Madame de Mortsauf permits de Vandenesse to make 
love to her, to caress her, and she accords him every- 
thing with the single exception of that which would 
‘ confer on her husband the right to divorce her. The 
interest of the book therefore is largely a material one. 
The moral issue is thrown into the background. And 
de Vandenesse, moreover, is not a person that inspires 
us with respect or even pity. He consoles himself 
with Lady Dudley, while swearing high allegiance to 
his Henriette. 

In sooth, the swain’s position resembled the novelist’s 
own. Honoré was also inditing oaths of fidelity to his 
«dear star,” his “‘ earth-angel ” in far-away Russia, while 
worshipping at shrines more accessible. Lady Dudley 


152 HONORE DE BALZAC 


may well have been, for all his denial, the Countess — 
Visconti, of whom Madame Hanska was jealous and 
on good grounds, or else the Duchess de Castries, to 
whom he said that, in writing the book, he had caught 
himself shedding tears. His reminiscences of Madame 
de Berny aided him in composing the figure of the 
heroine, whose death-bed scene was soon to become 
sober reality. Madame de Berny died in July, having 
had a last pleasure in perusing the story that immor- 
talized her affection for the novelist. Balzac had 
been intending to pay her a farewell visit; but he 
was then in the midst of embarrassments of all kinds, 
and the journey was postponed until it was too late. 
At this moment, the affair of the Chronique was 
being liquidated ; and then Madame Béchet, his late 
publisher, was dunning him for some arrears of copy 
that he owed her. His brother Henry, too, going from 
bad to worse, was ina position that necessitated Madame 
de Balzac’s giving up the remnants of her capital; and, | 
to crown all, a son of Laurence, the dead sister, quitting 
an unhappy home, was living as a vagabond on the 
streets of Paris, whence he had to be rescued. Since, 
to these worries and griefs, there was added certain 
disquieting news from Eve, whose aunt, from reading _ 
some of his books, supposed him to be a gambler and 
debauchee and was trying to turn her niece against him, 
it was not astonishing that he should have been com- 
pletely unnerved. While at Saché, where he had come 
to stay with some friends, the de Margonnes, in order to 
terminate the work he was obliged to do for Madame 
Béchet, he had an attack of apoplexy ; and, on recovering 
from it, was glad to seize an Opportunity offered him of 
a journey to Italy to escape for a while from the scene 
of his toiling and moiling and to have a radical change. 





BaLzac 


Danton'’s Comic Statue 
(Musée Carnavalet) 





LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 153 


His good genius on this occasion was the Count Visconti, 
who, having some legal business of a litigious nature to 
settle at Turin and not being able to attend to it person- 
ally, asked him to go instead. On this trip he was 
accompanied by Madame Marbouty, a woman of letters, 
better known under her pseudonym, Claire Brunne, 
whose acquaintance he had made some years back at 
Angouléme. Madame Marbouty’s exterior had much 
in common with that of George Sand, and the resem- 
blance between the two women gave rise to the report 
that it was the authoress of Indiana who accompanied 
Balzac to Italy at this date. 

The journey back to Paris was effected through 
Switzerland, which enabled him to see Geneva again, 
though under less agreeable auspices than those of 18383. 
His prospects on returning to France were no better 
than when he left. Indeed, they were worse, for 
Werdet’s bad circumstances forced him to pledge him- 
self in several quarters in order to raise some ready 
money for his immediate wants; and, being pledged, he 
was bound to produce at high pressure. His Old Maid, 
which he sold to the Presse for eight thousand francs, 
was written in three nights, Macino Cane, in one night, 
and the Secret of the Ruggieri, in one night also. 
Rossini, happening to meet him during this spell of 
drudgery, condoled with him and remarked that he 
himself had gone through the mill. 

«‘ But when I did it,” he added, “ I was dead after 
a fortnight, and it took me another fifteen days to 
revive.” 

«“ Well!” replied Balzac, ‘I have only the coffin in 
view as a rest ; yet work is a fine shroud.” 

Casting round for a means to free himself from a 
position that had grown intolerable, he was induced to 


154 HONORE DE BALZAC 


_ lend himself.to a scheme suggested by Chateaubriand’s 


example. (Chateaubriand, having fallen into financial 
straits, sold his pen to a syndicate, in return for an 
annual stipend. Balzac did something of the same 
kind. Victor Bohain, who played an intermediary réle 
in the affair, discovered Chateaubriand’s capitalist ; and 
a company was formed which paid the novelist fifty 
thousand francs down to relieve his most pressing needs ; 
and further engaged to allow him fifteen hundred francs 
a month for the first year, three thousand francs a 
month for the second year, and, afterwards, four 
thousand francs a month up to the fifteenth year, when 
the agreement was to come to anend. In return for 
these sums, Balzac promised to furnish a fixed num- 
ber of volumes per year, half profits in which were to 
be his, after all publishing expenses were paid. The 
arrangement was signed on the 19th of November 
1836 ; and this date, in so far as the general quality of 
his writing is concerned, marks a beginning of decadence) 
Thenceforward his fiction, published mostly in political 
dailies first of all—the Presse, the Constitutionnel, the 
Stécle, the Débats, the Messager—had to be composed 
hurriedly and without the corrections which were the 
sine qua non of Balzac’s excellence; and consequently 
it contained many imperfections inherent in such kinds 
of literary work. There was irony in the situation. 
Hitherto, he had despised the daily press and the 
journalists that supplied it with matter, chiefly, it must 
be confessed, because of the slatings he had received 
through these organs of information; and he had re- 
venged himself for the attacks by pillorying the jour-- 
nalistic profession in his novels. Lousteau, Finot, 
Blondet, and other members of the press appear in his 
pages as unprincipled men, only too willing to sell 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” § 155 


themselves to the highest bidder. Of course, such 
retaliation carried with it injustice; and men of high 
principle, like Jules Janin, resented this prejudiced 
condemnation of a class for no better reason than its 
having black sheep, which existed in every circle, 
trade, and profession. Now, Janin had an easy task 
in convicting of inconsistency an accuser who, since it 
‘suited his purpose, was fain to belong to the press 
brotherhood. The real derogation, however, was not 
in Balzac’s turning feuilletoniste, but in his slipping into 
the manner and his adopting the artifices that he 
blamed so unsparingly in Eugéne Sue and Alexandre 
Dumas. Not to speak of his falling off in accurate 
observation, he inserted more and more padding in his 
fiction ; the aridly didactic encroached upon the artist’s 
creation ; and, to make the arid portions go down with 
his readers, he spiced them with exciting episodes and 
all the stage tricks common in the serial story. (To tell 
the truth, he had never quite shaken off his juvenile 
manner of the Heiress of Birague, which reasserted 
itself so much the more easily as his essentially vulgar 
temperament was ready to crop out on the slightest 
encouragement afforded to it.) During his best period 
he had a mentor at his elbow in Charles Lemesle, who 
always read what he wrote before it went to the 
printer; and Balzac, though vain, was too intelligent 
not to avail himself of this friend’s pruning. Under 
the new régime the revising was impossible, and, as 
a result, that difficult perfection which he had so 
perseveringly sought was destined to be attained but 
rarely in the rest of his achievement. 


CHAPTER VIII 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1837, 1838 


By the agreement which farmed out Balzac’s future 
production, Werdet was implicitly sacrificed. The 
final breach did not occur until the middle of 1837, but 
no fresh book was given him after the November of 
1836. There was one unpublished manuscript that 
he then had in his possession—the first part of Lost 
Illusions, and this appeared in the following spring. 
The novelist was intending at the time to bring out 
a new edition of the Country Doctor, of which Werdet 
held the rights. His idea was to present it for the 
Montyon prize of the Academy, and, if successful, 
to devote the money to raising a statue at Chinon in 
memory of Rabelais. Lemesle was one Sunday at. 
Werdet’s place, engaged in revising the book, when 
Balzac arrived in an excited state of mind, and sprang 
on the astonished publisher the demand that their 
respective positions should be legally specified in writ- 
ing, and a clean sweep made which should leave him 
perfectly free. Previously, their business relations had 
been carried on by verbal understandings, which, as a 
matter of fact, did not bind the novelist overmuch, since 
he never sold either a first or a subsequent edition of 
any of his novels for more than a comparatively short 
period—usually a year—at the end of which he re- 
covered his entire liberty, whether the edition were 
exhausted or not. Werdet acquiesced, though grie- 
vously offended and disappointed; but asked that 
certain accounts cuss from the year before 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 157 


should be settled on the same occasion. The promise 
was given, and everything was put straight, except 
the reimbursement of the money Werdet had advanced. 
Instead of acquitting this debt, the ingenious author 
endeavoured to squeeze a little more cash out of his 
long-suffering publisher. For once, Werdet lost his 
temper, and sent the great man off with ‘a flea in 
his ear. It would almost look as if Balzac had pro- 
voked the quarrel, since, on the very evening after 
the tiff, he returned to Werdet’s and offered to redeem 
all existing copyrights that the publisher held for the 
price of sixty-three thousand francs. His proposal was 
accepted, and Béthune, who was acting on behalf of 
the novelist’s syndicate, paid over the amount. 

The transaction was the best possible for Werdet, 
who was too poor to continue playing Mecenas to 
his Horace. (Against such incurable improvidence, 
and such littlé regard for strict equity in money 
dealings, nothing but the impersonality of a syndi- 
cate could stand.) Nevertheless, one cannot help re- 
gretting that the intercourse of the two men should 
have ceased. Having so great a personal regard for 
his hero, and having besides his share of the observant 
faculty, Werdet could have supplied us with biographi- 
eal details of the last twelve years of the novelist’s life 
much more interesting than those of Gozlan, Gautier, 
and Lemer. His naive narrations, which are well com- 
posed and have humour, carry with them a conviction 
of their sincerity, whatever the errors of chronology. 

Werdet’s prosperity finished with Balzac, as it had 
commenced with him. He was ultimately compelled 
to file his petition in ‘bankruptcy, and, abandoning 
business on his own account, to take up travelling for 
other firms, His creditors were not tender towards 


158 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the novelist, and used to the utmost the lien they had 
upon the few unterminated engagements that involved 
him in the liquidation. A letter addressed by Balzac 
to the Marquis de Belloy, his former secretary, testifies 
to the annoyance the creditors caused him :— 


“My DEAR CaRDINAL” (he wrote, calling the 
Marquis by a nickname),—‘ Your old Mar” (a familiar 
appellation applied to Balzac by his friends) “would 
like to know if you are at Poissy, as it is possible he 
may come and request you to hide him. There is a 
warrant out against him on Werdet’s account, and his 
counsellors recommend him to take flight, seeing that 
the conflict between him and the officers of the Com- 
mercial Tribunal is begun. If you are still at Poissy, 
a room, concealment, bread and water, together with 
salad, and a pound of mutton, a bottle of ink, and a 
bed, such are the needs of him who is condemned to 
the hardest of hard literary labour, and who is yours. 

“Le Mar.” 


The last occasion on which Werdet forgathered with 
his favourite author was at his house in the Rue de 
Seine, where, in February 1837, he gave a dinner. 
Some young members of the fair sex were present; 
and Balzac, whether to produce a greater impression 
upon these or because he had been making some 
society calls, arrived nearly an hour late. Nothing 
very special occurred during the evening, but the sozrée 
had its conclusion disturbed by a thunderbolt. On 
rising to depart, Balzac sought his wonderful stick 
—an inseparable companion—which was nowhere to 
be found. Every nook was explored without result. 
The great man yielded to a veritable fit of despair. 
A suspicion crossed his mind: “ Enough of this trick, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 159 


gentlemen,” he cried to the male guests. “For 
Heaven’s sake, restore me my stick. I implore you!” 
and he tore at his long hair in his vexation. But the 
guests assured him they were as ignorant as himself 
of the stick’s whereabouts. Werdet then said he 
would take a cab and inquire at all the places the 
novelist had visited in the course of the afternoon. 
Two hours later he came back, announcing that his 
jaunt had been useless. At this news, Balzac fainted 
outright. The loss of his talisman was overwhelming. 
When he was brought round again, Werdet suggested 
what ought to have been suggested in the first instance, 
namely, that they should proceed to the livery stables 
and see whether the stick had been left in the carriage 
which the novelist had used while on his peregrina- 
tions. The proposal was jumped at. He went thither, 
accompanied by Werdet, and had the ineffable joy of 
discovering the missing bauble quietly reposing in a 
corner of the vehicle. 

During the year of 1836, he had had the unique 
experience of corresponding for some months con- 
tinuously with an unknown lady, who called herself 
Louise, and to whom, in remembrance of their epis- 
tolary intercourse, he dedicated his short tale Facino 
Cane. Whether he really had the opportunity of 
learning who she was—as he asserted—and refrained 
from availing himself of it through deference to her 
wishes, is doubtful. Some, if not all, of the letters 
he received from “ Louise” were written in English ; 
and at least one water-colour painting was sent him 
which had been executed by the lady’s own hand. 
From the tone of his own epistles, which grew warmer 
onwards till the end, one may conjecture that the 
dame was a second Madame Hanska, smitten with 

S 


e 


160 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the novelist’s person through reading his works; and 
Balzac, whose heart was made of inflammable stuff and 
whose brain was always castle-building, indulged for 
a time the hope of meeting with another ideal princess 
to espouse. Like the Orientals, he was quite capable 
of nourishing sentiments of devotion towards as many 
beautiful and fortuned women as showed themselves 
amenable. The sudden cessation of Louise’s letters, 
towards the end of 1836, freed him from the risk of 
KEve’s learning of these divided attentions; and it may 
be presumed that the latter divinity was kept in 
ignorance of his worshipping elsewhere. 

Facino Cane was a blind old violinist who. en- 
countered Balzac, if there is any truth in the story, 
one evening at a restaurant where he was playing for 
the members of a wedding-party. Something in the 
old man’s dignified aspect moved the novelist deeply, 
and, accosting him, Balzac drew forth gradually the 
narration of his life. Facino was, in reality, a Vene- 
tian nobleman, at present reduced to dire poverty and 
obliged to dwell in the Hospice of the Quinze-Vingts.! 
In his youth he had been imprisoned within the Doge’s 
Palace, and, while there, had accidentally come upon the 
secret treasures it contained. After his escape from 
confinement, his dream had been to meet with some 
one who would help him to gain possession of this 
wealth, without taking advantage of his blindness. 
And now he confided his plan to Balzac with un- 
diminished faith in the possibility of its accomplish- 
ment. The pathos of the old man’s situation is created 
with sober touches. Among the novelist’s minor tales, 
this is one of the simplest and best. 


1 Hospital founded by Saint Louis for three hundred noblemen 
whose sight had been destroyed by the Saracens, 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 161 


In his reminiscences, Théophile Gautier mentions, 
apropos of Facino Cane, that Balzac himself was per- 
suaded he knew the exact spot, near the Pointe-a-Pitre, 
where Toussaint Louverture, the black dictator of 
Santo Domingo, had his booty buried by negroes of 
that island, whom he then shot. To Sandeau and 
Gautier the novelist explained, with such eloquence and 
precision, his scheme for obtaining the interred wealth 
that they were wrought up to the point. of declaring 
themselves ready to set out, armed with pick-axe and 
spade, and to put into action Edgar Allen Poe’s yarn 
of the Gold Bug. When money was the theme, 
Balzac’s tongue was infinitely persuasive. 

One is tempted to wonder whether his returning to 
Italy in the spring of 1837, and his visit to Venice, 
after Florence and Milan, were not an indirect conse- 
quence of his F'acino Cane story. It is certain that he 
regarded the ancient land of the Cesars as a possible 
El Dorado ; and, curiously enough, he came back this 
time, if not with Sindbad’s diamonds, yet with some 
prospect of becoming a Silver King. ‘Throughout the 
remainder of the twelvemonth, a plan, connected with 
this prospect, was simmering in his head, a plan which, 
we shall see, was less chimerical than most of those 
that he concocted. 

While he was at Milan, the Italian sculptor Puttinati 
modelled his bust, which pleased him so much that he 
gave him an order for a group representing Séraphita 
showing the path heavenward to Wilfrid and Minna. 
At Venice, he began Massimilla Dont, one of his philo- 
sophic novels, in which the love episode is interwoven 
with mysticism and music, and Rossini’s Mosé is 
analysed with skill. His best production of the year 


was César Birotteau. The subject he had borne in his 
L 


162 . HONORE DE BALZAC 


mind for a long while, but had feared to start on it on 
account of the difficulty of treating it imaginatively. 
At last, tempted by an offer of twenty thousand francs 
if he would complete it by a fixed date, he sat down to 
the task and wrote the novel in three weeks. 

The Grandeur (or Rise) and Fall of César Brrotteau, 
to give the book its fuller title, has neither plot nor 
progress of love-passion. Its value—which is great—is 
almost entirely dependent on a number of little things 
that make up an imposing whole. The subject is a 
commonplace one. Birotteau, who is a dealer in per- 
fumes, and has invented a Sultana cosmetic and a Car- 
minative Water, has reached a position of influence 


and substance. Urged by his wife’s desire to shine in 
iv 


society, he allows himself to be inveigled into an 
expenditure that compromises his fortune and reduces 
him to insolvency. Although retaining the esteem 
of his fellow-citizens, who are convinced of his integrity, 
César is stricken to the heart, less by the loss of his 
money than by his failure to meet his engagements. 
In vain, his wife and daughter hire themselves out in 
order to aid in remedying the disaster for which they 
are largely responsible. In vain, friends rally round 
him, until, little by little, the debts are paid, the per- 
fumer is rehabilitated, and is honoured even by the 
King. On the very evening when, in the society of 
his family and friends and his daughter’s betrothed, 
he regains the feeling of independence and freedom, 
death overtakes him. Joy succeeding to the strain is 
too much for him. 

In the background of the novel is a tableau of the 
Restoration epoch which is admirable; and the intri- 
cacies of finance and law, which form so considerable a 
part of the story, are handled with an ease and fancy that 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 163 


no other writer of fiction has quite equalled. We have 
a romance of ledgers and day-books, in a business 
atmosphere that amazingly well reveals the bent and 
moral worth of the various characters. Césarine, 
Villerault, Popinot have traits which one smiles to 
recognize. And Birotteau’s development both of 
qualities and foibles is free from caricature, yet pleases 
much. 

As was the case with Hugénie Grandet, Balzac 
does not seem to have cared for this masterpiece. 
The rapidity with which he composed it, and the fatigue 
he had undergone, caused him to regard it with some 
irritation. He did not realize that it was all elaborated 
in his brain before he put it on paper. Probably also 
he spoke of it under the disappointment he experienced 
from his continued failures in play-writing. Twice, 
during the twelvemonth, he tackled pieces which he 
described to Madame Hanska. One of them, the 
Premiere Demoiselle, refashioned as the School for 
Husbands and Wives, treated the unsavoury theme of 
‘an adulterous husband who keeps his mistress in his 
own house; and the other, Joseph Prudhomme, much 
better in conception, dealt with the not uncommon 
incident of a girl’s making a respectable marriage after 
a first betrayal, and her bringing up in secret the 
child born out of wedlock. Certain situations arising 
from the plot were both original and affecting. But 
in neither undertaking did he manage to go on to the 
end. Heine, whom he consulted in his difficulties, 
advised him to abandon further efforts in writing for 
the stage. ‘“ You had better remain in your galleys,” 
he said. ‘Those who are used to Brest cannot ac- 
custom themselves to Toulon.” 

“The advice was not palatable to a man of his 


164 HONORE DE BALZAC 


temperament. He wanted all domains to open before — 
him; and poured out his soul in lamentations, even 
while exhausting himself in fresh attempts. Now that 


,/ Madame de Berny was dead, his Eve was the chief 
recipient of these jeremiads. “ Are you not tired of 


hearing me vary my song in all moods ?” he asked her. 
“Does not this unceasing egotism of a man struggling 
in a narrow circle bore you? ‘Tell me, for, by your 
letter, you appear to me inclined to throw me over 
as a sorry pauper that knows only his paternoster, and 
always says the same thing.” ? 

To him, as to ambitious men in every century, 
reflection came now and again, whispering what folly it 
was to spend life in the sole pursuit of glory. Just 
now the whisperings must have been more insistent, for 
he had thoughts of going to live in some sylvan retreat 
on the banks of the Cher or the Loire, right away from 
Paris. A visit to Saché, after an illness, afforded him 
the excuse for searching ; and, as he still proposed to 
write—for his pleasure,—it was congruent he should 
meditate a sort of Héloise and Abélard idyll—two 
lovers drawn to the cloister, and telling in epistles to 
each other the history of their vocation." 

As a preliminary step towards carrying his deter- 
mination into execution, he dismissed his servants, 





- with the exception of Auguste, finally got rid of his 


lease in the Rue Cassini, whence he had removed his 
furniture in the preceding year; and then, feeling 
still a sneaking kindness for the city in which he 
had triumphed, he compromised by retreating to 
Sévres, there to study the ways and means of dwell- 


1 This novel was never written, or at least completed. The Sister 
Marie des Anges, so often spoken of in the noyelist’s correspondence, 
may have been the one here alluded to, 


i 


i 





MBER I 


AVRAY 


VILLE D 


’ 


THE VILLA OF LES JARDIES 
WHERE BALZAC LIVED FROM OCTOBER I 


840 


to DECE 


if 


83 





+s Fs i By 4,7 ‘ 


werd * . é ee 
See ons wh Wag sass iade oles dake Sake Lonel Panes it Ute ace ‘ 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 165 


ing secure from pestering military summonses ad- 
dressed to Monsieur de Balzac, alias Madame Widow 
Brunet, Man of Letters, Chasseur in the First Legion, 
and also, if not secure from, at least not so accessible to 
the calls of dunning creditors. The flat in the Rue 
de Chaillot, however, was retained till the year 1839; 
and, from time to time, he made short stays in it. 
But, in case any of his friends wished to see him during 
these sojourns, they needed to know the pass-words, 
which were not infrequently changed. On arriving at 
the outside door, the visitor must announce, for instance, 
that the seasons of plums had arrived. Then, if he 
could further announce that he was bringing lace from 
Belgium, he would be permitted to enter. But, before 
it was lawful for him to cross the threshold of the 
novelist’s sanctum, he must be prepared to state that 
Madame Bertrand was in good health. 

At Sévres, Balzac soon hit upon a site that pleased 
his fancy. It was a plot of land on a steep slope, about 
forty perches in area.1 This he bought by using his 
credit, and forthwith busied himself with builder’s 
estimates, since he intended to have his hermitage 
inhabitable some time in the following spring. 

Meanwhile his project of retiring—to a distance of 
twenty minutes—from Paris society did not hinder 
him from occasionally putting in an appearance at one 
or another of the aristocratic houses where he had his 
entries, among them that of Madame de Castries, whom 
he continued to see, although she confined her worship 
to his talent, and merely patronized the man. LEither 
from sheer mischievousness, or to revenge herself for 
some real or fancied slight—perhaps, indeed, to mock 
at his talk of retirement—she perpetrated upon him the 


1 More land was subsequently bought. 


166 HONORE DE BALZAC 


practical joke of getting her Irish governess, a Miss 
Patrickson, to send him notes in English, signed Lady 
Neville, in one of which an appointment was made to 
meet him at the Opera. He went to the rendezvous ; 
but no one was there waiting for him. This drew from 
him a sharp letter of reproach; and Miss Patrickson, 
who was, in her private life, a humble admirer of the 
great man, and had on one or two occasions translated 
some of his fiction, was so smitten with remorse for her 
trick that she revealed to him the name of the one who 
had invented it. 

‘Les Jardies, where Balzac had decided to take up 
his residence, was built on the further side of the hill of 
Saint Cloud, facing the south, and with Ville d Avray 
to the west. In front, there was the rising ground of 
the forest of Versailles; to the east, the outlook was 
down on Sévres and, beyond it, on Paris, with the city’s 
smoky atmosphere fringing the uplands of Meudon 
and Bellevue. In the direction of these last places, a 
glimpse was obtainable of the plains of Montrouge and 
the road leading away to Tours. In summer weather 
especially, the landscape here presented charming con- 
trasts, being a wealth of woodland and verdure in a 
miniature Switzerland. 

The architecture of the would-be hermit’s house 
was rather primitive. ‘Three rooms, one over another, 
composed the main building. The ground floor served 
as drawing-room ; above it was the anchoret’s bedroom ; 
and the top story was used as a study. Sixty feet 
away, rose a second building containing kitchens, stables, 
and servants’ rooms. The whole stood in its own 
grounds, fenced in with walls, half of which, being 
situated on the steepest portion of the declivity, persisted 
in tumbling. One curious feature of the house was its 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 167 


outside staircase. Wags pretended that the owner had 
forgotten it in his plans, and been obliged to add it as 
an after-thought. The truth was that an inside stair- 
case would have compelled him to build with less 
simplicity. “Since the staircase wants to be master 
in my dwelling, I will turn it out of doors,” he said. 
And this was done, the said staircase being a sort of 
broad ladder. 

Had the novelist stayed long enough in this rural 
retreat, he would have beautified the interior in accord- 
ance with his fanciful tastes. Friends who were invited 
out there were astonished to see scrawled in chalk on 
the walls : 

«Here, a covering of Paros marble; here, a ceiling 
painted by Eugéne Delacroix ; here, a mosaic flooring 
formed ‘of rare wood from the isles; here, a chimney- 
piece in cipolin marble.” 

Jokingly, Léon Gozlan one day himself inscribed 
on a convenient space : 

“Here, a picture by Raphaél, of priceless value, 
such as was never yet seen.” 

Of course, in the early days of his rusticating, he 
was enthusiastic about his Italian-looking brick cottage, 
with its covered platform or gallery running round the 
first floor and supported on slender pillars. Its value, 
he was sure, would be doubled when he had created the 
garden of Eden round about it, planted with poplars, 
birches, vines, evergreens, magnolias and sweet peas. 
His humour-barometer went up to “set fair.” For the 
moment, no pessimism clouded his sky. Here he 
would abide, here he would work or muse until the 
long-expécted and at last approaching fortune should 
deign to enter beneath his roof; and then—well then, 
he believed he should have had enough of ambition’s 


168 HONORE DE BALZAC 


spoils, and should be content under the shadow of his 
vine, and watch from afar—just twenty minutes or 
half-an-hour at most—the march of events without 
seeking to mingle in them. | 

The original cost of the homestead was about forty 
thousand francs. Other expenses were incurred before 
the whole of the building and installation was com- 
pleted, which made the total cost very considerably 
larger ; and, as hardly any of the amount had been paid 
cash down, Balzac’s liabilities, which were heavy enough 
without this extra charge, very soon introduced a dis- 
turbing element into his Arcadian existence. Within 
the twelvemonth, a distraint was levied upon him 
for non-payment of moneys that were owing. Lemer, 
one of his biographers, narrates that, paying a visit to 
Les Jardies at this date, for the purpose of soliciting 
the novelist’s collaboration in an international album, 
he not only received a promise of help but an invitation 
for himself and a companion to remain and dine off a 
leg of mutton. As the two visitors declined, Balzac 
said: “ Ah! you think, perhaps, I am an ordinary host 
who invites his guests gratis. On the contrary, I 
intend to make you pay for your meal. Aha! You 
shall aid me afterwards to flit. To-morrow, the bailiffs 
are coming to seize my furniture; and I don’t mean’ 
them to find anything to carry away. So, to-night, I 
am going to put everything in my gardener’s cottage. 
The gardener will transport all the bigger articles of 
furniture ; but, for the books, manuscripts, and valuables, 
I shall be glad to have the co-operation of men of 
letters like you.” 

And the owner of Les Jardies was inconsolable 
when his visitors again expressed their inability to 


comply with his request. a 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 169 


Himself a guest once more of the Carrauds at 
Frapesle in February 1838, he took advantage of his 
proximity to Nohant to go and see George Sand; and 
spent two or three days with her. On his arrival, he 
surprised her clad in her dressing-gown, and smoking a 
cigar after dinner, beside the fire, in a huge, solitary 
room. Beneath the gown, she had on some red trousers, 
which allowed her smart stockings and yellow slippers 
to be seen. Since he used to meet her in the house of 
the Rue Cassini, she had grown stout, and now had a 
double chin; but her hair was still unbleached, and her 
bistre complexion preserved its tinge as of old. Work- 
ing hard, she went to bed at six in the morning, and 
got up at noon. During the time he was at Nohant, 
Balzac adopted her habits. They talked from five in 
the evening all through the night and till five o’clock 
in the morning; and he learnt to know her more truly 
in these hours of familiar converse than in the four 
years of her liaison with Jules Sandeau. He summed 
her up as a tomboy, an artist, a mind great, generous, 
devoted and chaste (this last term would need explana- 
tion); her characteristic traits were those of a man, 
not a woman. She had, so he opined, neither force of 
conception, nor gift of constructing plots, nor faculty 
of reaching the true, nor the art of the pathetic. The 
French language she used she did not thoroughly 
know, but she had style. Of her glory she made little 
account, and despised the public. Her fate was to be 
duped—and duped she had been by Bocage, by de 
Lamennais, by Liszt, by Madame d’Agoult. To- 
gether they discussed the future revolution in manners 
and morals, and the influence their books might have 
in bringing it about. She suggested to him some 
subjects that he might develop, and taught him—up 


170 HONORE DE BALZAC 


to then opposed to the weed—how to smoke latakia 
tobacco in a hookah pipe. Imagining the hookah to 
be something Russian, he asked Madame Hanska, to 
whom he related all this, to purchase him one, telling 
her that he would have his wonderful stick-knob, with 
its jewels, adapted to it, since he no longer bore the 
stick about with him as a fetish. 

From Frapesle he returned with the plan matured 
which he had been preparing since his excursion to 
Italy. When at Genoa, in the previous year, a 
merchant had talked to him of the existence of huge 
hills of refuse metal left in the island of Sardinia by 
the Romans, who had worked silver mines there. 
Aware how defective the Roman methods of extraction 
were, Balzac thought there might be profit in treating 
this slag by some process that would cause it to yield 
whatever precious metal it contained ; and he requested 
the merchant to procure him some specimens of the 
slag, and to forward them to Paris for examination, — 
promising, if the tests were satisfactory, to include the 
Genoese in the company which he was sure of being 
able to float for the exploitation of the concern. 
Although the merchant did not forward the specimens, 
Balzac consulted some specialists in Paris, Monsieur 
Carraud amongst others, who all concurred in pro- 
nouncing the enterprise feasible. Finally, the novelist 
decided to proceed to the spot and investigate the 
matter personally. If success awaited him, he would 
gain enough to pay off all his debts; and these he 
estimated to be about two hundred thousand francs—a 
Falstaffian exaggeration, of course, but the real figures 
were large. At present, he had no ready money at 
all; and had to borrow from his mother, a cousin, and 
other friends, in order to get his travelling expenses. 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 171 


Experience proved that he was correct in his theory. 
The slag yielded ten per cent. of lead by a first treat- 
ment, and the lead ten per cent. of pure silver. Unfor- 
tunately, the Genoese merchant had availed himself of 
Balzac’s hint, and had sold the scheme to a Marseilles 
firm, who were already applying for the monopoly to 
the rulers of the island, when, in the spring of 1838, 
he started on his journey thither; and, before he could 
do anything, they had obtained the concession. Once 
more, he had imprudently thrown out an idea, and lost 
his claim on it. 

On his way south he saw much that was new and 
novel to him. Passing through Corsica, he went over 
the house where the Emperor Napoleon was born; 
and, according to his habit of seeking information, he 
ferreted out several things that contradicted received 
history. The Petit Caporal’s father he discovered to 
have been a fairly rich landowner, not a sheriff’s officer, 
as tradition said. Moreover, when the Emperor arrived 
at Ajaccio from Egypt, instead of being acclaimed and 
having a triumphal reception from his countrymen, he 
was outlawed, a price was put upon his head, and he 
escaped only through the devotion of a peasant who 
hid him in the mountains. 

Corsica he considered one of the finest places in 
the world, with mountains like those of Switzerland, 
and needing only the latter country’s lakes. Com- 
pletely undeveloped, and practically unexplored, it was 
inhabited by people that cultivated the dolce far niente 
to the uttermost. Its population of eight thousand 
vegetated rather than lived, ignorant of everything 
beyond the simplest necessities of existence. The 


1 Madame Surville wrongly places the date of the journey in 
1833. 


172 HONORE DE BALZAC 


women disliked strangers, and the men did nothing 
but walk about all day, clad in their threadbare velvet 
coats, smoking to beguile the hours. 

His account of Sardinia is equally curious. It was 
a wilderness, he says, with savannas of palm-trees, 
inhabited by savages. On horseback, he traversed 
a virgin forest, obliged to bend over his horse’s neck 
to avoid the huge branches of holm-oaks and cork- 
trees, and laurels and heather that were thirty feet 
high. In one canton he found people naked, except 
for a waist-cloth, and living on coarse bread made from 
acorns mixed with clay. Their mud hovels had no 
chimney, the fire being lighted on the ground in the 
middle. There was no agriculture in the island, and 
the only work done by the men was tending their 
flocks of goats and other animals. 

A tour through Genoa, Florence, and Milan made 
up the rest of this interesting trip, which lasted from 
March till June. Disappointed in the object for — 
which he left home, it furnished him with leisure to 
gather fresh subjects for his pen, and even to begin 
one—the Diaries of Two Young Wives. What he 
wished to describe in this book was stated in the 
following remarks to Madame Hanska: “I have 
never seen a novel in which happy love, satisfied love, 
is depicted. Rousseau puts too much rhetoric in his- 
attempt, and Richardson too much preaching. The 
poets have too many flourishes; the novelists are too 
much the slaves of facts. Petrarch is too exclusively 
occupied with his images of speech and his concetti ; 
he sees the poetry more than the woman. Pope has 
given perhaps too many regrets to Héloise ; he ,;wanted 
her to be better than nature; and the better is an 
enemy to the good. In fine, God, who created love 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 178 


with humanity, has alone understood it; for none of 
His creatures has described, so as to please me, the 
elegies, fantasies, and poems of this divine passion of 
which each speaks and which so few have really 
known.” 

Did Balzac himself ever know it? By his own 
confession, never in his youth. In the years of his 
adolescence there is no sign of such a feeling having 
agitated his breast, where ambition reigned to the 
exclusion of everything else. If, then, he thought of 
marriage, its prosaic, advantageous side only appears 
to have entered into count; and the liaison, which 
stood him in lieu of it, stirred, beyond sense, nothing 
but sentiments of common gratitude. In riper age, 
his attachment to Madame Hanska was a_ bizarre 
medley of flattered vanity, artistic appreciation of 
beauty, and cold calculation. His epistles reek with 
each and all of these; and his eternal complaints of 
financial embarrassment not infrequently read like the 
expressions of a pauper’s whining. 

That they ultimately wearied out the recipient of 
them is evident from the remonstrances he drew upon 
himself. Eve blamed his lightness of character, the 
facility with which he let himself be tempted, his 
tendency to waste in travelling the funds he would 
have done more wisely to employ in reducing his 
obligations or avoiding them. At such moments he 
defended himself sharply, his tone savouring less of 
the boudoir than the forum. Any and every excuse 
was pressed into service; everything and everybody 
were responsible but himself. Even his mother he 
accused of causing his indebtedness—his mother who 
had ruined herself for him, and from whose remaining 
pittance he took in this self-same year the wherewithal 


174 HONORE DE BALZAC 


to go to Sardinia, although earning many thousands of 
francs annually. The truth is that Balzac exploited 
all the women that loved him, himself incapable of 
loving any one of them with that entire devotion 
which, if aroused, is unique in a man’s life; and, as 
he was ignorant of it, so he has never described it 
adequately, faithfully. In one or two instances, he 
obtains a glimpse of it—as Moses obtained a vision 
of the promised land—from afar; when he tries to get 
nearer, he presents us with mere sensualism. 

What Madame Hanska probably enjoyed most in 
his letters were the obiter dicta which he was never 
tired of pronouncing on his contemporaries. Scribe, 
whose Camaraderie he had been to see, he summed up 
as a man who was conversant in his trade but had no 
veritable art, who possessed talent but not the higher 
dramatic genius, and who, moreover, was altogether 
lacking in style. Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas was to 
him an infamy in verse, and the rest of this author’s — 
pieces miserable melodramas. Théophile Gautier’s 
poetry was decadent, his style sparkling with great 
wit; yet the man was wanting in force of ideas. 
When, however, he added that Gautier would do 
nothing that would last because he was engaged in 
journalism, he spoke with all his hatred of a profes- 
sion that refused him the honour he deemed his due. 
Kugéne Sue, also, he looked upon with jaundiced 
eyes, as being a rival whose material success amazed 
him—a rival, indeed, whom no less a critic than Sainte- 
Beuve erroneously declared to be his equal. Sue, he 
informed Madame Hanska, was a man of narrow 
bourgeois mind, perceiving merely certain insignificant 
details of the vulgar evils of French contemporary 
society. To Balzac, besides, it was blasphemy in Sue 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 175 


that he spoke slightingly of the century which to this 
Legitimist was the grandest epoch in French history, 
slightingly of Louis XIV., who, in the said Legitimist’s 
opinion, was France’s premier king. 

The latter half of 1838 was spent at Les Jardies, 
where the novelist was busy either with his pen or in 
improving the interior and exterior of the property. 
A scheme for cultivating a pine-apple orchard in his 
grounds kept him from fretting over the sorry ter- 
mination of his Sardinian dream. He intended to set 
five thousand plants, and sell the fruit at five francs 
a piece, instead of twenty, which was the ordinary 
price. After deducting the expenses of the under- 
taking, he reckoned he could gain twenty thousand 
francs a year out of his pine-apples. If they had been 
willing to grow in the open air, he would undoubtedly 
have gone from theory into practice. But, as this 
difficulty presented itself in the initial stage, he threw 
up incontinently his market-gardening ; and, since he 
was in urgent want of cash, he bethought himself that, 
lying by him, he had a collection of Napoleon’s sayings, 
which he had been making for the past seven years, 
cutting them out of books that dealt with the 
Emperor’s life. The number was just then five 
hundred. For a sum of five thousand francs he dis- 
posed of the fruits of his industry to a retired hosier 
named Gandy, who published them subsequently 
under the title Maxims and Thoughts of Napoleon, 
the preface being also supplied by the novelist. 

Besides Gambara, a second study of the musical 
art, containing a lyrically expressed analysis of Robert 
le Diable, Balzac produced in 1837 and 1838 two 
longer works, the Employees or the Superior Woman 
and the Mirm of Nucingen. The former, with its 


176 HONORE DE BALZAC 


criticism of the bureaucratic system, depicted a state of 
things which has survived several changes of régime in 
France, in spite of much in it that contradicts common 
sense. Rabourdin, the head clerk in a government 
department, seeks to simplify the useless machinery 
that clogs rather than advances the administration of 
the country. Having a practical mind, he believes 
that a hundred functionaries at twelve thousand francs 
a year would do the same work better than a thousand 
employees at twelve hundred francs, and cost no more. 
As in other of the novelist’s books that preached reform, 
there are parts in this one where the main thread of 
the story disappears like a river in a cafion; and readers 
of the Presse, in which it came out as a serial, railed at 
the author, called his contribution stupid, and threatened 
to cease subscribing if it were not withdrawn. Yet, 
perused in volume form, it reveals comedy in abund- 
ance. The portraits are limned with master hand; 
and Célestine Rabourdin, the wife of the head clerk, | 
has, together with her grace and taste, the gift of 
amusing by the skill with which she bamboozles the 
dissolute des Lupeaulx. 

The Firm of Nucingen is a scathing satire of the 
world of stock-jobbing, where the money of the small 
investor is robbed with impunity under cover of legality. 
Balzac’s Jewish banker, who thrives on others’ ruin is 
a type that exists to-day, as then, without any adequate 
effort made by law to suppress him. Less happy in 
indicating a remedy than in branding an evil, the 
novelist naively held that France had only to adopt 
his doctrine of absolute rule for the suppression to 
become a fact. An unprejudiced reading of history 
should have informed him that régimes have always 
so far existed for the benefit of their creators, and that, 





Bavzac 


After a Painting by Louis Boulanger 
Exhibited in the Salon of 1837 





: Emit okey 


frag emai Dente ican fala ciate dca sin Eraeeee reyes pe da TS 7? + 
s é . ‘ 
eu ft yak ets fy 7. } 
5 2 a \ tle 
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LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 177 


although constitutional monarchies and republics have 
not yet found out a system capable of defending the 
interests of all individual citizens, and perhaps never 
will, absolute monarchy has shown to satiety its inability 
to defend the interests of more than a few. 

In perusing such a book as the foregoing, one is 
led to ask why it was so inoperative on the life of the 
country. One reason perhaps is that Balzac wrote 
from his head rather than from his heart. Whatever 
may be, in other respects, the superiority of the Real- 
istic over the Romantic school of fiction, it is inferior 
in this, viz., that its emotiveness tends to the negation, 
not to the affirmation, of action. One cannot but 
recollect to the novelist’s disadvantage, as applying 
to this reference, the following statement he made to 
Madame Hanska for another purpose: “I have never 
in my life confused the thoughts of my heart with 
those of my head, and, excepting a few lines written 
only for you to read (for instance, Madame de Chau- 
lieu’s jealous letter), I have never expressed in my 
books anything of my heart. It would have been 
the most infamous sacrilege.’ Unconsciously insin- 
cere, like the majority of people in their justificative 
confessions, Balzac often allowed his heart to intrude 
where it had no business to be present. Nevertheless 
(in his realist pictures he exercised himself with all the 
‘cold delight of the anatomist, and with none of the 
warm emotion that might have become communicative. 
This Brunetiére implicitly admits when he says that 
most of Balzac’s novels are, so tO speak, inquiries,— 
collections of documents), | | 

The year 1838 closed questioningly for the hermit 
at Les Jardies. The yoke of his treaty with the 
publishing syndicate was hardly twelve moons old; 

M 


178 HONORE DE BALZAC 


and, however, it galled his neck to the extent of his 
cogitating how he might pay off the earnest money 
he had received, and be his own man again. And 
how was he to do it unless by increasing his earnings ? 
All his actual revenue was swallowed up by his debts 
and habits of living. Ah! if only he could become 
a successful dramatic author! Alone, he did not for 
the moment feel equal to trying. But there was the 
possibility of collaboration. His late secretary, the 
Marquis de Belloy, had recently seemed disposed to 
come and help him again. But de Belloy desired some 
acknowledgment in coin ; and Balzac, on the contrary, 
judged that the honour of collaborating with a novelist 
of his celebrity ought to be sufficient wage. 

«My dear de Belloy,” (he wrote back)—“ Not a 
halfpenny ; much work, your six hours a day, in three 
shifts, that’s what awaits you at Sévres, if you are in 
the mind to come and realize things which are not 
vague plans but definite arrangements, and the relative 
result of which will depend on the brilliant wit that 
you have had the fatal imprudence to cast to the winds. 
I am at the grindstone, and forswear any one that will 
not tackle it. I have put my neck in the big collar 
because the other one was irksome. Your devoted 


Mar | tyr 
» |ine 
» |ried man 
» | about < 


he concluded, punning on his nickname. Like his 
fellow mortals, he was often most merry when he was 
most sad. 


CHAPTER IX 
LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER,” 1839, 1840 


SOMETIMES, notwithstanding his affected indifference, 
Balzac was provoked by the pleasantries, the fleerings 
and floutings of satirists and caricaturists, who, finding 
so many weak points in his armour—so much that was 
ridiculous in his exaggerations, might be excused for 
choosing him as a quarry for their wit, if not for the wit’s 
grossness. In 1839, the Gazette des Ecoles inserted in 
one of its numbers a lithograph exhibiting the novelist 
in the debtors’ prison at Clichy, clad in his monk’s 
gown, and sitting at a table on which there were 
bottles of wine and a champagne glass. In his left 
hand he grasped a pipe that he was smoking, and his 
right arm was round a young woman’s waist. Beneath 
the lithograph was the inscription: “The Reverend 
Father Dom Séraphitus, Mysticus Goriot, of the Regu- 
lar Order of Clichy Friars, taken in by all those he has 
himself taken in, receives amidst his forced solitude 
the consolations of Sancta Séraphita (Scenes of the 
EMidden Life, sequel to those of Private Life). 

The last sentence being open to the interpretation 
that the subject of the caricature was a dishonest man, 
a complaint was lodged with the Procureur-Général 
against the proprietor of the paper, and was supported 
by the newly-constituted Men of Letters Society. 

This Society, of which Balzac may be considered 


almost the founder, came into existence during his 
179 


180 HONORE DE BALZAC 


journey ae Italy in the preceding year. On his return, 
he at once became a member; and, for a while, took 
a prominent part in all its deliberations, being elected 
on the committee, as also Victor Hugo, with whom 
thenceforward his relations were, at least outwardly, 
most cordial. In the first lawsuit engaged by the 
Society against the Mémorial de Rouen for the pur- 
pose of defending the principle of literary property, he 
pleaded with all the force of his talent, and composed a 
Literary Code and some Notes on Literary Ownership 
containing not a few excellent suggestions. His, too, 
was the initiative for the drawing up of a petition to 
the King, with a view to the establishment of literary 
prizes to be bestowed on well-deserving authors every 
ten years. ‘The King, or rather his advisers, rewarded 
this zeal but ill. At one of the committee meetings 
Balzac was prevented from attending by a three days’ 
confinement in a dirty lock-up at Sevres, the cause 
being the old one which had partly driven him from 
Paris—his unwillingness to go, as he humorously put 
it, into the vineyards of his village, and, dressed in 
uniform, to see that truants from Paris were not eating 
the grapes. 

His rural retreat, indeed, was scarcely the safe 
asylum he had fondly hoped it would be. Allusion has 
already been made to one defect—that of the walls 
which, unlike those of Jericho, did not wait for the 
trumpeters’ blast before they fell down. They had an 
incurable preference for tumbling down of themselves. 
Constructed on a subsoil of sandy nature, their founda- 
tions yielded at every spell of rain. In vain, architect 
after architect was applied to, and one mode or another 
was recommended of relaying and buttressing. At the 
next downpour, the servant would disturb his master 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 181 


with the news: “The walls have toppled over again, 
sir, into the neighbours’ gardens.” And the neighbours’ 
gardens were planted with all kinds of edible vegetables, 
which were crushed and pounded out of shape and suc- 
culence, so that the owner of Les Jardies had claims 
for damage continually sent in, until, in sheer despair, 
pledging his credit more deeply, he purchased the land 
beyond, content, at length, that his walls should be 
-able to carry on their freaks in his own demesne, with- 
out let or hindrance or objection from any one. It is 
said that the land on which Les Jardies stood was so 
much on the incline that Frédérick Lemaitre, who once 
ventured over there, was compelled to take a couple of 
stones and place them at each step under his feet in 
order to approach the house. This was, no doubt, one 
of the actor’s jokes. It is probable that, in selecting 
the site, Balzac had in his thought the facility the place 
would afford for reconnoitring when any one came to 
his doors. The domestics were directed to keep a 
sharp look-out; and, as soon as a figure was seen 
approaching that appeared to be a creditor or of the 
State functionary tribe, the blinds of the abode were 
lowered, the dog Turk was dungeoned, and every trace 
of there being inhabitants vanished. After ringing 
uselessly, the unwelcome visitor generally retreated 
under the impression that the place was deserted. 
Then, when the last echo of his steps had died away in 
the distance, the blinds were drawn up again, Turk, 
barking with joy, was released from his captivity, and, 
like the castle of the Sleeping Beauty, Les Jardies re- 
awoke to its normal activity. How ever the tiers of 
planted beds perched one above the other—a modern 
example of the hanging gardens of Babylon—were 
made to resist the solicitations of the walls was a puzzle 


182 HONORE DE BALZAC 


to Balzac’s familiars. As for trees, only one, a walnut, 
managed, by dint of perpetual acrobatism, to conserve 
a stable equilibrium. 

Most of the fiction published by Balzac in 1889— 
A Provincial Great Man in Paris, the Secrets of the 
Princess de Cadignan, and the Village Curé—was 
written with great verve, and may be classed in the list 
of his important work. The second of the three just 
mentioned, which is the shortest, gives us the story of 
a woman who, after losing her fourteenth lover, succeeds 
in getting a fifteenth, d’ Arthez, to believe her virtuous 
and a sort of saint maligned by envy. There is clever- 
ness and to spare in the way the wiles of this sly jade 
are related, and falsehood shown as a fine art in the 
service of passional love. Balzac was thoroughly at 
home in treating such a theme. Both d’Arthez and 
the Princess are prominent characters in certain others 
of his books. ‘The former appears in the Provincial 
Great Man in Paris, which the author calls an audacious 
and frightfully exact painting of the inner morals of 
the French capital. 

It formed a sequel to a previously published short 
novel, the Z'wo Poets, and made part of a still larger 
series united under the title Lost Illusions, the entire 
work being completed in the Forties with Splendour and 
Wretchedness of Courtezans, this last portion having 
also more than one section. The first two volumes 
of the Lost Illusions narrate the early experiences of 
Lucien de Rubempré, a young poet of Angouléme, 
whose family, with some claims to gentility, has fallen 
into narrow circumstances, the widowed mother being 
obliged to earn money as a midwife, and the daughter 
as alaundry-woman. The latter’s marriage with David 
Séchard, a printer, alters the situation of the family for 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” = 188 


the better; and Lucien is enabled to occupy himself in 
the printing-house, while pursuing his poetical efforts. 
Though his literary talent, for the time being, has no 
value in cash, it procures him the friendship of Madame 
de Bargeton, a grand dame of Angouléme; or, more 
properly speaking, it is the pretext and justifica- 
tion; for Lucien really owes the lady’s favour to his 
Apollo-like beauty. Subsequently the poet, desirous 
of shining in Paris, quits his native place with a sum 
of money scraped together by his sister and brother-in- 
law, and goes to the capital, accompanied by Madame 
de Bargeton. His liaison there with the lady is but of 
short duration. In compensation, however, he becomes 
acquainted with a new literary world, into which he 
enters with his meagre stock of poems, plus a novel; 
and, after a number of adventures, turns journalist, a 
metamorphosis that supplies the author with an oppor- 
tunity to rage furiously against all those of that ilk. 
The rest of this first part of the Lost Illusions is taken 
up with the amours of Lucien and an actress named 
Coralie, who gives the poet her heart and person, yet 
he sharing the second with the rich Camuzot. Coralie 
really loves Lucien, even though playing afresh the 
rdle of Manon to his des Grieux; but Lucien, less 
constant in affection, and finding how difficult it is to 
secure wealth and position, abases his pen to vile uses, 
and would gladly abandon his mistress for a profitable 
marriage. At length a duel, in which he is dangerously 
wounded, lays him on a sick-bed, and Coralie, who has 
sacrificed her situation on the stage to her love for him, 
and is herself ill, rises to nurse him back to health, and 
dies under the strain. 

The further history of Lucien de Rubempré belongs 
to the Splendour and Wretchedness of Courtezans. 


184. HONORE DE BALZAC 


Both the beginning and the middle and the end exhibit 
the strong points and the weak points of the novelist. 
The defects were dwelt upon in the Revue de Paris, 
soon after the book’s first part came out, in probably — 
the longest critical article devoted to any single one of 
Balzac’s writings. By the irony of events, Jules Janin, 
who was the author of it, praised, some dozen years 
later, where now he cursed. There was exaggeration 
in his panegyric, pronounced in 1850 under the impulse 
dictating generosity to the memory of a dead foe; and 
there was exaggeration also in his polemic indited under 
the smart of Balzac’s gibes against the press. How- 
ever, the closing words of the article, save for the tone, 
can hardly be gainsaid: “Never,” asserted Janin, “has 
Monsieur de Balzac’s talent been more diffuse, never 
has his invention been more languishing, never has his 
style been more incorrect, even if we include the days 
when the illustrious novelist had nothing to fear from 
serious criticism, days when he was too unknown to be 
noticed by the small newspapers, days when Monsieur 
Honoré de Balzac was as yet only Monsieur Horace de 
Saint- Aubin.” 

The preceding remarks might be applied in substance 
to the Village Curé, which is one of the most incoherent 
of the novelist’s productions. “I have no time to 
finish the book; just the part that concerns the Curé 
will be wanting,” he explained to a correspondent. A 
good deal else was lacking when it was published, the 
whole resembling a patchwork of odds and ends of the 
crudest and least harmonious design. Its central figure 
is Wéronique, the wife of a Limoges banker named 
Grasselin, and greatly her senior, to whom she has been 
married by her parents before she has had the time to 


1 A nom de guerre of Balzac in his apprenticeship days. 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 185 


know anything of love and its behests. Led by her 
goodness of heart to patronize a youth in her husband’s 
employ, she falls in love with him, as he with her, and, 
through weakness, becomes his mistress. A murder, of 
which the young Tascheron is accused, and, as the issue 
proves, quite justly, interrupts this culpable idyll; and 
the assassin is condemned and executed, without re- 
vealing the secret of his liaison, and without Madame 
Grasselin’s interfering to save him, otherwise than 
vaguely, through the Curé of the district. None the 
less, she is aware that the act has been committed in- 
directly through the young man’s love for her. Smitten 
with remorse, after the execution, she quits Limoges, 
and, removing into the country, endeavours there by a 
life of charity and devotion to religion to redeem her 
lapse from her wifely duty. Then, finally, she dies in 
presence of the Archbishop, of Bianchon the great 
doctor, and of the Procureur-Général and other wit- 
nesses, whom she has sent for to listen to her confession 
of moral complicity, the death scene being narrated 
with much theatrical emphasis. On to this melodra- 
matic subject, wilfully rendered obscure, and really in- 
comprehensible, the novelist did his best to tack various | 
ilustrations.of Catholic repentance. He intended the 
book to be the glorification of Catholicism, the refuta- 
tion of Protestantism, the embodiment of virtues private 
and social in people who bowed themselves to his ideal 
of faith; the story he used simply as a thread to con- 
nect these things together. Consequently, the action 
is intermittent, being checked by irrelevant episodes, 
and by long tirades on agriculture, sociology, and on 
other theories set forth by the writer with much ‘zeal 
but also with much acrimony. Catholicism is asserted 
to be the only Church which has shown humanity its 


186 HONORE DE BALZAC 


way of safety; Tascheron’s sister, who returns from 
America, is made to relate that in a certain place where 
Catholic influence prevailed, the Protestants were very 
soon chased away. To this religion of such charming 
mansuetude, whenever it has the upper hand, a Protes- 
tant engineer named Gérard is converted by puerile 
arguments which in any other domain than the theo- 
logical would seem to be the divagations of a lunatic ; 
and the Curé Bonnet proclaims the necessity of passive 
obedience by the masses to the Church’s rule in matters 
civil as well as ecclesiastic. To add spice to this farrago 
of absurdity, Balzac spits out his hatred of the English, 
albeit he is compelled to acknowledge their common 
sense. As he confessed to the Marquis de Custine, it 
was his delight to abuse England, and its inhabitants, 
whether men or women. 

From what we know of his relations with Madame 
Visconti, we may, however, suppose that his prejudice 
against the perfide Albion was not very deep-rooted. — 
Indeed in his sentiments, as in his conduct, consistency 
was conspicuous by its absence. We find this would- 
be Legitimist, absolutist, ultra-orthodox worshipper of 
every old-time privilege and doctrine, yet continually 
saying and doing things that savour more of the demo- 
cratic than the aristocratic. ‘Towards the disintegration 
of monarchic attachments, his fiction contributed at 
least as much as that of George Sand; and even his 
comic resistance to the compulsory service required of 
him in the National Guard showed how little he was 
inclined to accept for himself those doctrines of authority 
which he would fain impose on others. 

Such incongruity between his theory and practice 
may have struck the members of the Académie 
Frangaise, who manifested their disapproval of his 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” "187 


candidature so unmistakably in 1839 that he withdrew 
in favour of Victor Hugo. This forced concession per- 
haps tinged the portrait he sketched of Hugo for Madame 
Hanska about the same time. ‘‘ Victor Hugo,” he said, 
“is an exceedingly witty man; he has as much wit 
as poetry in him. His conversation is most delightful, 
with some resemblance to thatof Humboldt, but superior 
and allowing more dialogue. He is full of bourgeois 
ideas. He execrates Racine, and treats him as a sorry 
sort of man. On this point he is quite mad. His wife 
he has thrown over for J ; and gives for such con- 
duct reasons of signal meanness (she bore him too many 
children ; notice that J has borne him none). In 
fine, there is more good than bad in him. Although 
the good traits are an outcome of pride, and although 
in everything he is a deeply calculating man, he is ami- 
able on the whole, and, besides, is a great poet. Much 
of his force, value, and quality he has lost by the life 
he leads, having overdone his devotion to Venus.” 
Calling Hugo a great poet meant little in Balzac’s 
mouth. Of poetry he made but small account, probably 
because he succeeded so ill in it himself. When poets 
appear in his stories, they are rarely estimable characters. 
For Lucien de Rubempré he has only little sympathy. 
The three specimens of Lucien’s verse given in the novel 
he procured from his acquaintances. The sonnet to 
Marguerite was composed by Madame de Girardin ; 








the one to Camellia, by Lassailly, and that to Tulipe, | 


by Théophile Gautier. 


A movement of disinterested generosity displayed | 


by him in the same year was his fight, in conjunction 
with the artist Gavarni, on behalf of Sebastien Benoit 
Peytel. Peytel was a notary living at Belley, who, on 
the 20th of August 1839, was condemned to death by 


188 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the Ain Assizes on a charge of murdering his wife and 
man-servant. Balzac had known him some time before 
in Paris, when both were on the staff of the theatrical 
journal Le Voleur. The Court of Cassation was ap- 
pealed to in vain; and the sentence was carried out 
at Bourg on the 28th of October. As long as there 
seemed the slightest chance of preventing the execution, 
Balzac continued his efforts to save the notary, though 
blamed by his family and friends for his interference, 
which they set down as quixotic. Presumably Peytel 
had committed the crime in a fit of jealous passion, 
to punish his wife’s adultery. A curious drawing by 
Balzac exists in the first volume of his general corre- 
spondence, in which Gavarni is represented mocking the 
headsman ; and, accompanying the design, is an auto- 
graph letter to Dutacq, managing director of the Siecle, 
referring to an article on the question published by the 
novelist in that paper. 

The time and money he gave to this lost cause were 
all the more meritorious as his own concerns demanded 
greater attention than ever. A new departure had 
occurred in journalism. The appearance of certain 
cheaper newspapers necessitated a change in the roman 
feuilleton ; and the Presse and Stéecle, which had inau- 
gurated the reform, and to both of which Balzac con- 
_ tributed fiction, laid down the principle that they would 
print only short tales complete in three or four numbers. 
This was hard on the novelist. For him to compress 
a story within artificial limits determined by an editor 
was a task even more difficult than to write a play. 

It must have been the desire to escape from such 
servitude which induced him to launch into another 
adventure with a journal of his own. The Revue 
Parisienne, which he founded in J uly 1840, was not a 





Balzac 


8 


year 183 


re of the 


From a Caricatu 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 


newspaper but a magazine, intended to supply the 
public, at a reasonable price, with tales, novels, poetry, 
and articles of criticism both literary and political, and 
to give the same public for their money more than three 
times as much matter as they would get in other reviews. 
The success of Alphonse Karr’s monthly Gwépes, which 
was reported to be selling extraordinarily, encouraged 
him to believe that his own fame, wider spread in 1839 
than in 1836, and greater, would suffice to assure a 
similar result. Author and editor combined, he made 
the three numbers of his review, which were all he was 
able to bring out, at any rate the equal of the older 
established monthlies. In the three appeared his Z. 
Marcas, and A Prince of Bohemia, the former a resusci- 
tation of the Louzs Lambert species of hero transformed 
into a politician. The Russtan Letters, likewise political, 
furnish a very exact and comprehensive sketch of the 
general state of mind in Europe at the commencement 
of the Forties. One article of criticism praised to the 
skies Stendhal’s Chartreuse de Parme published in the 
previous year. A letter he had addressed to Stendhal 
in April 1839 was more moderate in its tone, though 
eulogistic with its well-turned compliment: “I make a 
fresco, and you have made Italian statues.” He blamed 
the writer in his letter for situating the plot of the 
Chartreuse in Parma. “Neither state nor town,” he 
‘told him, “should have been named. It should have 
been left to the imagination to discover the Prince of 
Modena and his minister. Hoffman never failed to 
obey this law without exception in the rules of the 
novel. If everything be left undefined as regards reality, 
then everything becomes real.” In short, notwithstand- 
ing parts that were too long drawn out, he found the 
whole a fine piece of work ; and, ifa modern Machiavelli 








HONORE DE BALZAC 


were to write a novel, it would be, he said, the Chart- 
reuse de Parme. 

Between the judicious language employed in the 
letter and the article of the Revue Parisienne, the differ- 
ence was so enormous that Beyle himself remarked: 
“This astonishing notice, such as never one writer had 
from another, I read, let me own it, amid bursts of 
laughter. Whenever I came to fresh flights of eulogy 
—and I met with them in every paragraph—I could not 
help thinking how my friends would look when they saw 
them.” ‘The reason for this augmented enthusiasm 
must be sought,” says Sainte-Beuve, “in the fact that 
Stendhal lent or gave Balzac a sum of five thousand 
francs in the interval, and thus received back a service 
of amour propre for the service rendered in cash. Since 
the proof of this gift or loan was found in Beyle’s papers, 
at his death, Sainte-Beuve’s explanation seems well 
grounded ; and yet, for Balzac’s credit, one could have 
wished his praise more spontaneous.” 

The cessation of the Revue Parisienne forced its 
founder again to enter the ranks of paid contributors 
to the daily press, and to comply with its exigencies. 
Yet not entirely. His qualities and his defects alike 
led him frequently to break from restraint and to follow 
his own bent, maugre the complaints of readers, maugre 
editors’ entreaties; and, even in the final phase of his 
production, there were some masterpieces supporting 
comparison with those of his best period. 

At the end of the Thirties, he was again, like Bruce’s 
spider, renewing his efforts to climb on to the stage. 
He had three pieces in hand, La Gina, Richard the 
Sponge-Heart, and his School Sor Husbands and Wives, 
already mentioned. The last he had now managed to 
carry through to its conclusion ; and, in February 1839, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” oe 


there seemed to be some prospect of his getting it 
played. Pérémé, an influential acquaintance of his in 
the theatrical world, had persuaded the Renaissance 
Theatre to accept it on approval, but was less fortunate 
with regard to the fifteen thousand francs which Balzac 
had asked for on account. The rdles were discussed 
and partially distributed. Henry Monnier and Frédérick 
Lemaitre were to be chief actors on the men’s side, 
Mesdames Théodore and Albert on the women’s. On 
the 25th of the month, the author presented himself 
with his manuscript before the reading committee ; 
and, to his intense annoyance and dismay, was com- 
pelled to put it back into his pocket. ither the com- 
mittee feared the expense which the representation would 
have entailed, or else the elder Dumas, who was one 
of their most successful suppliers of dramas, and had 
recently fallen out with them, must have made up the 
quarrel just before Balzac’s comedy was read. What- 
ever the reason was, the rejection of the piece grievously 
affected the novelist, who, besides losing a great deal of 
valuable time, had spent money to no purpose in having 
his comedy printed. 

It must be acknowledged that, in dramatic compo- 
sition, whatever Balzac had so far done by himself was 
done grudgingly, and, when possible, shifted on to 
other shoulders. Gozlan relates that Lassailly, who 
went to Les Jardies and lived there for some little time 
as a paid secretary, would be rung up at night, when 
his employer usually worked—rung up not once nor 
twice, but several times, to hear himself asked whether, 
in his waking or his dreaming, he had hatched any good 
plan; and poor Lassailly would have sorrowfully to 
avow that his brain had conceived nothing of any 
importance in the way of drama. 


“IN o9 HONORE DE BALZAC 


_ How Harel, the managing director of the Porte-— 
Saint-Martin, was brought to give in the same twelve- 
month to the rejected of the Renaissance a firm promise 
that anything he liked to do for that theatre should be 
acted is an impenetrable mystery. But then Harel him- 
self was an oddity, and he may have felt bowels of com- 
passion for a confrére so original. ‘The story goes that 
once he tried to borrow thirty thousand frances from 
King Louis-Philippe. ‘Ah! Monsieur Harel,” replied 
the monarch, smiling, “I was thinking of applying to 
you for a similar sum.” 

The subject that, after much cogitation, Balzac 
chose for Harel’s stage was Vautrin—the Vautrin of. 
Pere Goriot and the Lost Illusions—back at his old 
trade of acting Providence to a presumably fatherless 
and friendless young man, whose fortunes he sought to 
advance by means similar to those that had brought 
Lucien de Rubempré (we are anticipating a little) to 
so miserable anend. In the concluding act of the play, 
the young man discovers that he has a family, and a 
father who is a noble; and he marries the girl he loves. 
But Vautrin is arrested, and, although he has been the 
instrument of his protégé’s happiness, he is led off to 
prison once more. The theme, as treated, was a some- 
what hackneyed one, and was further spoiled by ill- 
managed contrasts of the serious and comic, of which 
in any form the French stage was not tolerant. Objec- 
tion had been made on the same score to the School for 
Husbands and Wives at the Théatre Francais, where it 
had been offered after its rejection by the Renaissance. 

Balzac himself had no great opinion of his dramatic 
arrangement of Vautrin. Hehad done wrong, he said, 
to put a romantic character on the stage. After the 
play was finished, he re-wrote nearly the whole of it; 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 193 


and, from what Théophile Gautier relates about the 
way in which it was primitively composed, we can well 
believe that the revision was necessary. When the 
treaty with Harel was signed, Balzac installed himself 
in the small apartment which he rented at his tailor’s, 
No. 104 Rue de Richelieu, and sent for Gautier. “TI 
am going to read to Harel to-morrow,” he announced, 
“a grand five-act drama.” ‘“ Ah!” replied Gautier ; 
“‘so I suppose you want us to hear it and to give you 
our opinion.” <The play is not yet written,’ answered 
Balzac coolly. ‘You shall do one act ; Ourliac, a second ; 
Laurent Jan, a third; de Belloy, a fourth; and I, the 
fifth. There are not so many lines in one act. With 
all of us working together, we shall be able to complete 
it by to-morrow.” Objections were timidly put forward 
as to the hotch-potch that was likely to result from so 
improvized a method of work; but the hasty play- 
wright overruled them all. It need hardly be said that 
the five acts were not ready on the morrow, nor for 
some time after. In fact, Laurent Jan was the only 
collaborator who gave any considerable help. To him, 
in acknowledgment, Balzac dedicated the piece, which 
was performed on the 14th of March 1840. 

Knowing what a number of enemies he had among 
the Parisian journalists and critics, whom he had 
satirized with increased causticity in his latest fiction, 
the author endeavoured to pack the theatre with his 
friends, but there was a large leakage in the sale of 
tickets ; and, on the eventful evening, the seats were 
occupied by a majority of persons hostile to him. He 
must have had an inkling of this; for, when sending a 
ticket to Lamartine, he said to him: “ You will see 
a memorable failure. I have done wrong, I believe, to 
appeal to the public. Morituri te salutant Cesar.” 'The 

N 


19 HONORE DE BALZAC 


first portion of the performance was received, on the 
whole, favourably, though there was no enthusiasm ; 
but, when Frédérick Lemaitre, who was entrusted with 
the réle of Vautrin, came on to the stage, in the fourth 
act, dressed as a Mexican general, and wearing his fore- 
lock of hair in a way that appeared to imitate a like 
peculiarity in the King, there was an outcry among the 
audience; and Louis-Philippe’s son, who was present, 
was informed by complaisant courtiers that the travesty 
was intended as an insult to his father. The next day, 
Harel was advertized that the authorities forbade any 
other representation of the piece ; and, on the 16th, the 
Press, following the Government’s lead, were practically 
unanimous in anathematizing the unhappy dramatist, 
the Débats being particularly acrimonious, and assert- 
ing that Vautrin was a thoroughly immoral play. 
Balzac’s friends, Victor Hugo included, did what 
they could to get the interdiction raised; but the 
Minister was inflexible. All that he would consent 
to was an indemnity of five thousand francs offered 
through Cavé, the Under-Secretary for Fine Arts. This, 
Balzac indignantly refused. One might have expected 
such continued ill-luck to prostrate its victim, at least 
momentarily. Gozlan went out to Les Jardies for the 
purpose of cheering the hermit up. He found him 
calm and collected. “You see that strip of land 
bordering the garden over there?” the latter said, looking 
out of the window. “Yes.” “TI am about to establish » 
there a dairy, with.an installation of the best kind, the 
cows of which will bring me in three thousand francs a 
year.” Gozlan stared. “And you see the other strip 
down yonder farther than the wall?” “Yes.” « Well, 
I intend to plant that with rare vegetables of the sort 
that used to be supplied to the King’s table. That 


“ 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 195 


will bring me in another three thousand francs a year.” 
Gozlan waited for what would come next. ‘And you 
see the plot right facing the southern sun?” “ Yes.” 
* Ah! there I shall plant a vineyard, which will furnish 
exquisite grapes that I can sell for wine-making in 
quantities sufficient to bring me in twelve thousand 
francs a year. This means a revenue of eighteen 
thousand francs annually. And then, the walnut-tree 
you see there—I can utilize it to the tune of two thou- 
sand francs a year.’ “How?” “Ah! that is my 
secret. So we get a total of twenty thousand francs a 
year, which I shall gain by the refusal of my Vautrin.” 

This was brave talk on the part of the obstacle- 
breaker, as he loved to call himself. ’I'was also the 
bravest temper he could assume in face of the outside 
world. To Madame Hanska he revealed more the 
cankering disappointment, just as he had a twelve- 
month previously, after the mishap of the School for 
Husbands and Wives. He had fresh thoughts of 
leaving France, which being, for the nonce, a_bear- 
garden, he said, he detested, and of going away to 
America, perhaps to Brazil, where he should soon grow 
rich. He even told her she might next hear from him 
at Havre or Marseilles, just as he was on the point of 
embarking for the other side of the Atlantic. He had 
been reading Fenimore Cooper again; and the descrip- 
tions given by this painter of Nature always aroused 
his roaming instincts. He envied especially Cooper’s 
power and skill in reproducing the details of a landscape. 
Once, in a pastry-cook’s shop that he had entered with 
Gozlan to devour a plate of macaroni, he brandished a 
book of Cooper’s, which he had been carrying under 
his arm, while he recounted his fruitless efforts to get 
experts in botany to tell him how to describe the 


« ~~ 
f 9. ee 
Poa ty 


ee | 
196°" HONORE DE BALZAC 


differences between certain grasses that he wanted to 
distinguish appropriately in his fiction. An English 
girl who had served him in the shop listened open- 
mouthed to the great man, whose name had been 
uttered by Gozlan; and, when the moment came for 
settling, marked her appreciation of what she had heard 
and seen by charging him nothing for the macaroni. 
Balzac, not to be outdone in generosity, made her a 
gift of his copy of Cooper, expressing his regret that he 
had not one of his own novels with him that he might 
have offered her instead. 

No account of this macaroni feast figures in his 
almost daily letters at this time despatched to Madame 
Hanska. ‘To her, if he mentioned his diet, its meagre- 
ness was emphasized rather. Being in one of his 
chronic hard-up crises, he excused himself for the 
intervals that had occurred between some of his 
previous epistles on the ground of having no ready 
money for the postage—the rates for Russia, it is true, 
were high; and he spoke of buying a bit of dry bread 
on the boulevards, or of intending to beg from Roths- 
child; then flourished his big debt at the end, quoting 
fantastic sums, variable as the barometer, which would 
oblige him sooner or later, notwithstanding his constant 


devotion to the Countess, whom he loved more than he 


loved God, to barter himself away to some agreeable 
young woman who should be willing to bestow her 
person upon him, plus a couple of hundred thousand 
francs. Once or twice there was really question of his 
making a match through the good offices of his mother, 
of whom he none the less said fretfully that she did 
not think much about him. But, on each occasion, 
the negotiations fell through—why we do not learn. 
Such information, maybe, he reseryed for the various 


e 
LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” #197 


dames in Paris whose houses he still frequented. 
Madame de Girardin had managed to get him back; 
and some sort of relations had been re-established 
between him and her husband, mostly business, since 
Monsieur de Girardin continued to be editor of the 
Presse. 

One day, Gozlan met him in the Champs Elysées, 
just as he had left Delphine’s salon. He looked chilly 
and anxious. The chill he attributed to the unheated 
drawing-room that he had quitted; but it was due 
mostly to his condition of mind, then much exercised 
by something of prime importance to him, the finding 
of a name for a story which he had written but could 
not christen, in spite of protracted meditation. It was 
a man’s name he wanted—a name unusual, striking, 
suggestive of the extraordinary nature of the person he 
had created. “Why not try the names you see in the 
street ?” said Gozlan incautiously. “The very thing,” 
answered Balzac, whose face grew radiant. ‘Come 
along with me. We will seek together.” Realizing 
too late into what an adventure he had allowed himself 
to be entangled, Gozlan tried in vain to escape. Pro- 
tests were of no use. Balzac dragged him off; and, 
with noses in the air and absorbed gaze, the two men 
promenaded along the Rue Saint-Honoré and a number 
of other streets, knocking up against the people they 
met and provoking a good deal of profane language 
from these latter, who regarded them as a couple of 
imbeciles. At length, Gozlan, like Columbus’ sailors, 
having more than enough of the tramp, refused to play 
follow-my-leader any longer; and only after a long 
palaver was he dragged up one last narrow street 
dubbed variously the Rue du Bouloi, du Coq Héron, 
and de la Jussienne throughout its course. Here, 


198 | HONORE DE BALZAC 


suddenly, Balzac stopped dead, and pointed to the 
word Marcas, inscribed over a door. <“That’s what 
I’ve been looking for,” he cried. “It exactly suits my 
man. ‘The person that owns the name ought to be 
some one out of the common,—an artist, a worker in 
gold, or something of the kind.” Inquiry proved that 
the real Marcas was a modest tailor. However, his 
name was selected, and the initial Z was tacked on to 
it for the book, Z being by the novelist’s interpretation 
a letter of mystic import. 

Another rather longer tale than this, belonging to 
the year 1840, was Pierrette, which the author dedicated 
to Madame Hanska’s daughter Anna, characterizing 
it as a pearl “sweated through suffering,” and telling 
her that there was nothing in it improper—he used 
the English word. The story is a painful one, and 
is scarcely suitable for a young girl’s perusal, the 
heroine, a simple Breton maid, being the victim of an 
avaricious Provins family, the Rogrons, who, under 
cover of the law, inflict on her such terrible ill-treat- 
ment that she ultimately dies from it. Pierrette first 
appeared as a serial in the S%écle. In the final edition 
of the novelist’s works it is classed under the Celibates - 
and, apropos of this heading, may be mentioned the 
fact that Balzac reproved celibacy as a state injurious 
to society, and held the opinion, dear to the hearts of 
certain Parliamentarians of to-day, that the unmarried 
should be taxed for the benefit of those having large 
families. 

Of course, the agricultural projects entertained for 
a moment after the interdiction of Vautrin soon 
faded from Balzac’s mind, which was still harping on 
the necessity of his conquering the suffrages of the 
public in his character of dramatist. He now set 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 199 


himself to write a play called Mercadet or the Faiseur,: 
the latter word implying by its meaning the tragi- 
comedy of a penniless financier—the novelist’s own 
experience was there to guide him—who invents a 
thousand and one stratagems for keeping his creditors 
at bay, and for creating the illusion of a wealth which 
he has not; who deceives himself as well as others; 
who is neither entirely a rogue nor entirely honest ; 
but who, after all, reaches relative tranquillity and 
competency more through accident than purpose. 
The piece was not performed in its author’s life-time ; 
but friends were acquainted with it already in 1840, 
when Gautier and the rest of the inner circle were 
summoned to Les Jardies to hear the hermit read it, 
differing considerably then from the arrangement that 
was ultimately played. Balzac read it well, with all 
the inflections peculiar to each character and suitable 
to every change of circumstance. He had in him, 
says Gautier, the stuff of a great actor, possessing a 
full, sonorous, metallic voice of rich, powerful timbre, 
and kept his audience under the spell from the begin- 
ning to the end of the recitation. If Wedel and 
Desmousseaux, the administrators of the Comédie 
Francaise, heard him interpret his own pieces, they 
might be excused for having, as he asserted they had, 
a high opinion of his dramatic talent. 

The greatest honour done to Les Jardies during 
the hermit’s residence there was a visit of Victor 
Hugo, who came to talk over the affairs of the Men 
of Letters Society. During lunch, the conversation 
naturally turned on literature, and the host waxed 
bitter against the stupidity of kings that neglected 
letters, and against Louis-Philippe in particular, who 


1 English, Jobder. 


200 HONORE DE BALZAC 


had recently put a stop to the evening gatherings— 
chimney-gatherings they were called—held by the 
Duke of Orleans for the purpose of honouring the 
arts. In the afternoon the guests were shown round 
the domain, and expected to admire its beauties. 
Hugo was extremely sober in his praises until they 
came to the famous walnut-tree. Encouraged by the 
notice accorded to his favourite, the master of Les 
Jardies repeated to Hugo what he had already affirmed 
to Gozlan, to wit, that the tree was worth fifteen 
hundred francs to him (to Gozlan he had said two 
thousand). “In walnuts, I suppose?” retorted the 
chief guest quizzingly. “No,” replied Balzac, chuck- 
ling, “not in walnuts.” And he proceeded to explain 
that, by an old custom, the inhabitants of the neigh- 
bourhood had been accustomed to make the shadow 
of the walnut-tree a “temple of all the gods,” and that 
he had only to exploit the offerings, in the same way 
as a guano island is exploited to-day, for the fifteen 
hundred francs to be added to his revenue. 

A few months later, in December, Les Jardies, 
with its walnut-tree and other advantages, was aban- 
doned in hasty flight; and the hermit took refuge in 
_ the Passy quarter of Paris. On the house and property 
a distraint had been levied for moneys due which had 
not been paid. In total, his desire to abide under his 
own vine and under his own fig-tree had cost him a 
sum that he estimated between one hundred thousand 
and one hundred and twenty thousand francs, De- 
duction made for his Falstaffian speech, the amount 
was probably about eighty thousand.” This might 
have been gradually saved and the interest meantime 
given regularly, if he had been willing to live well 
within his income, With his system of spending not 


Lygi—obgt WOwd GAAII OVZIVG ANAHM ASSVQ NI asnoy 


uojasiag : yde1s0j04q 








LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 201 


only what he earned but hoped to earn each year, 
perpetual insolvency was inevitable. 

At Les Jardies he had small creditors as well as 
great, fear of whom haunted him to the extent of 
curtailing his walks abroad. Léon Gozlan relates 
that, going over to Ville d’Avray early one morning, 
he found Balzac taking a constitutional round the 


asphalt of his house. “Come and have a stroll in the 
woods,” said the visitor. “I am afraid,” answered 
Balzac. “Of what or whom?” “Of the keeper.” 


Not understanding why the novelist, who would not, 
explain, should be in dread of this humble functionary, 
and imagining that much study and labour had made 
his friend a little mad, Gozlan took no denial, and, 
button-holing Balzac, lugged him off into the leafy 
avenues. And there, sure enough, after a while, they 
saw the bugbear, who, as soon as he perceived the 
two pedestrians, bore down on them with plodding 
but vigorous step. The shorter of the two turned 
pale, but tried to put on an air of dignified indiffer- 
ence. Soon the official ran in under their lee, passed 
alongside with slackened pace, and clarioned into the 
novelist’s ear: “ Monsieur de Balzac, this is beginning 
to get musical.” The owner of Les Jardies quailed in 
his shoes. He owed the man thirty francs. 


CHAPTER X 
LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1841, 1842 


Tue abode that Balzac chose, on coming back to live 
within the city walls, was not far from the Rue de 
Chaillot which had been his address before he removed 
to Sévres. It was situated in what is now called the 
Rue Raynouard, but then bore the name of the Rue 
Basse. In reality, the street is low only at one end, 
to which it descends from some high land that forms 
the Passy and Trocadéro quarter, and, for some distance, 
overhangs the Seine. The whole of the street is narrow 
and winding, and still has an old-time provincial aspect, 
though the modern building has begun to make its 
appearance in it, replacing the ancient mansions sur- 
rounded by gardens with ever-encroaching blocks of 
flats. 

Balzac’s new home was at Number 19 (at present 
Number 47). It stood—and the house still stands— 
in a back garden, on a lower level than the road, from 
which it was masked by houses fronting the causeway. 
Any one approaching it from the side of the Rue Basse 
would enter the common vestibule of one of these 
houses, go down some stone steps, and would then find 
himself in a courtyard, opposite a fairly good-sized, 
apparently one-storied cottage, with the tree-adorned 
garden to the right of him. Once inside the cottage, 
however, he would notice that it was built on the 
extreme upper.edge of a precipitous slope, and that on 

0: 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 203 


the farther side the structure had lower stories, with 
an issue through them into a lane at the rear leading to 
the Seine banks and the lower portion of the Rue Basse. 
Whoever, ‘therefore, inhabited the cottage could quit 
it fore or aft, an advantage which must have weighed 
with the incoming tenant, tracked as he was by creditors, 
and hiding himself here under the name of Madame 
de Brugnol. 

The insistence of these claimants on his purse was 
such that, acting on the advice of his solicitor, Gavault, 
in the course of the year 1841, he executed a fictitious 
sale of Les Jardies for the sum of seventeen thousand 
five hundred francs, his hope being to preserve his 
hermitage for the days of wealth and ease to come. 
Meanwhile, he took his mother to live with him. 
After giving him and her other son, Henry, all she 
possessed, and the latter being now in the colonies, 
where he ultimately died in poverty, she was depen- 
dent on what Honoré could pay her each month. 
The living-together arrangement was not very success- 
ful. Madame Balzac’s nervous, fretful temperament 
had not been improved by age and trouble; and her 
elder son found it hard to bear with her complainings, 
excusable and even justifiable though they might be. 
It is not pleasant to read the passages in his letters to 
Madame Hanska, in which he reiterates the old charge 
of his misfortunes being all due to his mother. In some 
of them he goes so far as to say that she was a monster 
and a monstrosity, that she was hastening the death 
of his sister Laure—Laure outlived them both—after 
hastening those of his sister Laurence and his grand- 
mother, that she hated him before he was born, that she 
had a dreadful countenance, that the doctor affirmed 
her to be not mad but malicious, that: his father had 


204 HONORE DE BALZAC 


stated in 1822 he—Honoré—would never have a worse 
enemy than his mother. Had his mother been all 
this and more, it would have been ungenerous and un-. 
filial to blacken her reputation to a stranger. And, 
being false, it was odious. Madame Balzac’s partiality 
towards the second son—heavily enough punished—did 
not prevent her from loving the elder, though their 
characters (hers and his) were not made to comprehend 
each other; and her lack of enthusiasm in the days 
of his literary apprenticeship was natural enough in a 
parent who understood only too well the impractical, 
improvident mind he possessed, and feared its con- 
sequences. The fact was that Balzac ill supported re- 
monstrances from his own family, and especially from 
his mother, and, when irritated by them, forgot every 
benefit he had received from her. 

This peculiarity of temperament rendered his feelings 
towards many of his friends exceedingly variable. One 
day he was lauding them to the skies, another depreci- 
ating them to a cipher. Even his sister Laure, in spite 
of her loyalty to him, did not escape attacks from his 
fickle humour. Like her mother, she never thoroughly 
penetrated the nature of this wayward, excitable, 
compass-boxing brother of hers, whose gaze was so 
much in the clouds and whose feet so often in the 
mire. But she defended him to others ; and, as far 
as her purse and her husband’s could possibly afford, 
she gave him money when he was hard up—and when 
was he not ?—money which he was never in a hurry to 
pay back. Yet her, too, he maligned to “ The Stranger,” 
because she now and again ventured on expostulations. 

Madame Balzac made two stays in the Passy 
cottage, neither of them very long. After leaving the 
first time, she asked her son to pay her a somewhat 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 205 


larger sum per month, which would allow her to live 
decently elsewhere. Considering that he had borrowed 
from her a couple of thousand pounds—over fifty thou- 
sand francs—and that the sum he had paid her irregu- 
larly was not five per cent. interest on the money, this 
request was not unreasonable. Yet he refused to accede 
to it on the ground of being in financial straits; and 
offered her a home with him once more, but in language 
that spoke of strained relations between them, as well 
as of a personal discouragement that was real. 

“'The life I lead,” he wrote, “suits no one; it wearies 
relatives and friends alike. All leave my melancholy 
home. . . . It is impossible for me to work amidst the 
petty tiffs aroused by surroundings of discord ; and my 
activity has waned during the past year. . . . You were 
in a tolerable situation. I had a trustworthy person 
who spared you all household worries. You were not 
obliged to trouble about domestic matters; you were 
in peace and silence. You insisted on interfering with 
me when you should have forgotten I existed, and 
should have let me have my entire liberty, without 
which I can do nothing. This is not your fault; it is 
in the nature of women. To-day, everything is changed. 
If you like to come back, you will have a little of the 
weight that will fall on me and that hitherto affected 
you only because you wished it.” 

The conclusion of the letter, in which he assured 
her of his love, could not counterbalance the harshness 
of its contents. Madame Balzac, be it granted, was 
cantankerous; but how many sons who have never 
sponged on their mothers have supported them cheer- 
fully, gladly, for long years out of meagre resources, 
and have borne with a smile the natural peevishness of 
old age, not to say its egoisms ! 


206 HONORE DE BALZAC 


At this period, Balzac’s acquaintance with the grand 
dames of Paris was considerably diminished. Madame 
de Castries he seems to have broken with altogether. 
Madame Visconti, who lived a good deal at Versailles, 
he saw but seldom. In lieu of these, he regularly visited 
George Sand, who was at present settled in a small flat 
of the Rue Pigalle in Paris, and was there enjoying 
the society of Chopin. With a connoisseur’s envy, the 
novelist describes to Eve the interior, the elegantly 
furnished dining-room in carved oak, the café-au-lait 
upholstered drawing-room, with its superb Chinese 
vases of fragrant flowers, its cabinet of curiosities, its 
Delacroix pictures, its rosewood piano, and the portrait 
of the authoress by Calamatta. What struck him as 
much as anything was the bedroom in brown, with the 
bed on the floor in Turkish fashion. He was careful to 
assure his correspondent that, Chopin being the maitre 
de céans, she had no need to be jealous. But jealous 
she was, though not of George Sand. As Paris was 
a resort for rich Russians, Madame Hanska’s cousins — 
among the number, she had frequent reports of Balzac’s 
doings, distorted by society gossip, the true and the 
untrue being fantastically mixed; and it was no small 
task to disabuse her mind and persuade her that his 
conduct was blameless. Indeed, at bottom she remained 
sceptical. 

In 1841, three books were published which merit 
attention on the part of a student of his works. The 
first, 4 Shady Affair, has the right to be styled an 
historical novel. Dealing with the Napoleonic epoch, 
its interest gathers chiefly round the person of the 
brave peasant Michu, whose devotion to the Legitimist 
house of Cing-Cygne brings him, an innocent victim, to 
the scaffold. The character of Laurence de Cing-Cygne, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 207 


a girl of the Flora MacDonald type, and the characters 
also of the two cousins de Simeuse, who both loved her 
and conspired with her, and whose pardon she gained only 
to lose these faithful knights dying on a field of battle, 
are drawn with great power and naturalness. And the 
plot, in which, together with other police spies, the 
same Corentin reappears that was the evil genius of 
the Chouans, is more rapid and less cumbered than in 
the earlier work. When the Shady Affair came out in 
the Commerce journal, Balzac was accused of having 
identified a certain Monsieur Clément de Ris with his 
Malin de Gondreville, who plays an evil rdle in the 
story—that of an unscrupulous, political turncoat, 
Revolutionary to begin with, Senator under the Empire, 
and Peer under the Restoration. The novelist defended 
himself against the imputation; but the resemblances 
between the fictitious and the real personage were, all 
the same, too close to be quite accidental. 

Something, however, more important than the 
question of likeness or portraiture in the book, is that 
it gives us Balzac’s conception of what the historical 
novel should be. His contemporary Dumas, and his 
predecessor Walter Scott—the latter in a less degree 
than Dumas—did not weave a romance on to a warp 
of history, but romanced the history itself. What he 
tried to do was to keep the historical action exact and 
accurate, and to throw its romantic elements into relief 
without dislocating them. His opinion was that history 
might so be written as to be a sort of novel, which, 
perhaps, will account for his answer to Lamartine, who, 
in 1847, asked him if he could explain how it was that 
the History of the Girondins had obtained a greater 
success than the most popular novels of the same date. 
**Gad !” he replied, ‘the reason is that you wrote this 


208. HONORE DE BALZAC 


fine book as a novelist, not as an historian.” ‘The 
Shady Affair recreates for us the Napoleonic atmos- 
phere, silent and heavy, yet electrically charged with 
grudge, hatred, and ambition, all ready to burst out at 
one or another point. Underhand plotting was the 
order of the day; there was a language of the eye 
rather than of the tongue, since no one was sure that 
in his own family there might not be eavesdroppers 
listening to betray him. 

Ursule Mirouet is a very different kind of story. We 
have here the old Doctor Minoret, who, after making 
a fortune in Paris, returns to spend the last few 
years of his life in Nemours, his native town. Having 
lost wife and child by death, he brings back with him 
a baby niece, who is an orphan, and to whom he devotes 
himself with tender care. In Nemours there are other 
less estimable branches of the Minoret stock, cousins of 
the Doctor’s, whose hopes of inheriting his fortune are 
damped by the presence of the little Ursule. Chief of 
these relatives is the burly postmaster, Minoret Levrault, 
whose son Désiré is destined to the law and is sent by 
his parents to study in Paris. Although a disciple of 
Voltaire, and scouting all religious practice for himself, 
the Doctor is friendly with the Curé, and allows his 
niece to be brought up to Church. At the time the 
story opens an unexpected event astonishes the town. 
The Doctor has become converted, and goes to Mass. 
The cause of the change is a wonderful experience of 
clairvoyance he meets with in the capital, whither he 
has been summoned by a colleague with whom he had 
quarrelled years before over the new-fangled doctrines 
of Mesmerism. What necessary connection there is 
between clairvoyance and Catholicism, or indeed any 
particular form of religion, the novelist does not attempt 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 209 


to prove. It suffices for the sceptical old Doctor to be 
told by a hypnotized woman in Paris what Ursule is 
doing at Nemours, and the conversion is wrought. 
Soon after, Doctor Minoret dies, bequeathing his for- 
tune in just and appropriate shares to his various rela- 
tives, Ursule included. She is at the time a fine young 
woman, beloved by a young gentleman of the place. 
The rest of the novel tells how the big postmaster 
contrives to destroy the part of the will favourable to 
Ursule and to steal certain moneys that belong to 
her; how Minoret’s ghost appears in dreams and signs 
to confound the guilty man and his guilty wife, who 
are at last induced to confess their ill deeds, the repent- 
ance being hastened by the death of their son Désiré ; 
and, in fine, how Ursule marries Monsieur de Porten- 
duére and is happy. 

In its general construction, the book holds well to- 
gether, and the characters in the main are depicted 
without exaggeration, while the traits of individuality 
are ingeniously marked. The Doctor and Ursule are 
less firmly and informingly delineated. As usual, when 
Balzac shows us the figure of a virtuous girl in an 
ordinary domestic circle, he represents her with passive 
rather than active qualities. She has no strong likes 
or dislikes, no particular mental bias, and possesses but 
small attractiveness. In fact, the novelist seems at a 
loss to imagine. In the case of Ursule, we see that 
she cultivates flowers, but we do not feel that she is 
fond of them. As for the Doctor, he would have or 
might have been less a puppet, had the author himself 
judged with wiser reserve the mysterious forces that 
exist in the world of sub-consciousness. 

His belief in these forces being alloyed with much 
superstition, he was always consulting fortune-tellers, 

) 


210 HONORE DE BALZAC 


even those that divined by cards. One of them, a 
certain Balthazar, who was subsequently convicted and 
imprisoned for dishonesty, told him that his past life 
had been one series of struggles and victories, a read- 
ing too agreeable to be doubted; and that he would 
soon have tranquillity, a prophecy which unhappily 
was not fulfilled. Concerning the prospects of a union 
with Madame Hanska, the cartomancer was mute, 
though he described the lady in language sufficiently 
clever for his client to acknowledge the likeness. His 
clairvoyance was exceedingly limited; otherwise he — 
would have warned his client of the approaching death 
of Count Hanski, this event taking place towards the 
close of the year. 

Occupied with her own affairs, which were com- 
plicated by her husband’s illness, and perhaps also 
resenting the falling off in the number of her distant 
worshipper’s epistles, caused by an indisposition in the 
spring and a visit to Brittany to recuperate, she wrote 
only once or twice during 1841; and, as chance would © 
have it, these letters were lost, so that, for nearly twelve 
months, he had no news from her. Pathetically he 
announced that his sister was planning to marry him to 
a Mademoiselle Bonnard, god-daughter to King Louis- 
Philippe; but still no answer came. On the Ist of 
November, as he related to his Eve afterwards, he lost 
one of the two shirt-studs which Madame de Berny 
had given him, and which he wore alternately with 
another pair presented to him by Madame Hanska. 
Beginning on the morrow, he put on thenceforth only 
the pair that Eve had given him; and this trifling 
occurrence affected him so much that all his familiars 
noticed it. He looked upon the loss as a sign from 
Heaven. Poor Madame de Berny! Now that the 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 211 


stud from her had disappeared, he had no further 
tenderness for her memory. Instead of recalling her 
kindness to him, he preferred to speak, in connection 
with what he styled his horrible youth, of the years 
which she—the Dilecta—had tarnished. Too oppor- 
tune to be sincere, this condemnation of his first liaison 
cannot but be regarded as an incense of flattery offered 
to the coy goddess of his later vows. 

The third of the three principal books of 1841 was the 
Maries of Two Young Wives, written, like the Country 
Doctor and the Village Curé, in a decidedly didactic 
tone. We have two girl friends, Renée de Mau- 
combe and Louise de Chaulieu, reared in a convent 
school, who marry, each with an ideal of wedlock that 
differs. ‘The former, a doctor in stays, as her school 
companion calls her, seeks in marriage a calm domestic 
happiness, the duties and joy of motherhood, and has 
a husband worthy but commonplace, to whom she 
gives herself at first without much positive attachment 
on her side. The latter makes of love a passion, and 
marries a Spanish exile, plain-looking but virile, whom 
she bends to her will. ‘The two wives exchange their 
impressions during their early years of matrimony, and 
we see the happiness of the one develop while that of 
the other diminishes. The Spaniard dies and Louise 
de Chaulieu takes a second husband, a poor poet, 
whom she adores as much as her Spaniard had adored 
her. Carrying him off to Ville-d’Avray, she creates 
there a snug Paradise, where she fondles him as if he 
were a toy, until at length her feverish jealousy brings 
on her own illness and death. 

The novel in its earlier phases was being worked 
at together with the Sister Marie des Anges, which 
was promised to Werdet but never completed, and 


212 HONORE DE BALZAC 


seems to have had some connection with it. Possibly, 
in his primitive plan, the author intended to set in 
contrast the spouse and the nun: and certainly, in the 
original draft, there was only one bride. 

In 1842, at the Odéon Theatre, was performed a 
_ dramatic piece from the novelist’s pen, which by some 
critics has been considered to be his best play. There 
are even critics who hold that Balzac was a born 
dramatist, as he was a born novelist, basing their opinion 
on his possession of qualities common to dramatist and 
novelist. His force of characterization, his handling of 
plot, his sense of passion were all sufficient to procure 
him success on the stage, which explains why pieces 
adapted from his novels by other playwrights invariably 
caught the public fancy. But, in order to develop 
character, plot, and passion in his fiction, he employed 
interminable detail and slow action; and his effects 
were obtained rather by constant pressure throughout 
than by sudden impact. The brevity and condensation 
required by the drama were foreign to his genius; 
he could not help trying to put too much into his stage 
pieces, and the unity of subject was compromised. 

The School of Great Men,' as he preferred to call 
his play at the Odéon, carries the spectator back to 
the Spain of Philippe II. Fontanarés, a clever man 
of science but poor, and without influence, has dis-— 
covered the means of navigating by steam. His valet 
Quinola, a genius in his way, resolves to aid his master, 
who, being in love, has all the greater claim on his 
pity; and he contrives to present the King with a 
petition in favour of Fontanarés, and to obtain a ship 
for an experiment to be made. But now professional 
jealousies combine with love rivalries to thwart the 

1 More usually called : The Resources of Quinola. 7 











BaLzac 
From a Lithograph by Julien (1840) 
(Collection of M. Adolphe Juliten) 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 213 


inventor; and when, at last, the ship is made to move 
by its own machinery, the honour of the success is 
attributed to another. To avenge his wrongs, and the 
loss of his betrothed, who is given to his rival and dies, 
he blows up the steamer in presence of an assembled 
multitude, and quits his native land with a courtezan 
who has conceived a liking for him and will provide 
him with money to recommence his enterprise else- 
where. 

Before the first performance, Balzac was just as 
sanguine about the result as he had been with Vautrin. 
It followed several pieces, Félix Pyat’s Cédric the 
Norwegian, Dumas’ Lorenzino, and Scribe’s Chaine, 
which had been coldly received. What if his Quinola 
should be the great attraction of the season! and his 
mind was filled with visions of overflowing houses and 
showers of gold. Alas! if the representations went 
beyond the single one of Vautrin, they did not exceed 
twenty ; and his shre of profits was insignificant. The 
play is not dull to read, with its flavour of Moliére’s 
comedies, and the keenness of Balzac’s observation. 
But its colour and poesy do not compensate for the 
diffuseness of the plot and the undramatic conclusion. 

Instead of acknowledging the defects of his com- 
position, the unlucky dramatist was wroth with his 
public. For a while he caressed the thought of going 
to St. Petersburg, taking out letters of naturalization, 
and opening a theatre in the Russian capital with a view 
to establishing the pre-eminence of French literature— 
embodied in his own writings. It must be owned 
that he was beginning to imagine himself persecuted. 
Victor Hugo, he said, had changed towards him and 
was creating a conspiracy of silence round about him, so 
that no one should speak any more of his works. And 


214 HONORE DE BALZAC 


he liked better being attacked than ignored. Later, 
he asserted that Hugo, after accepting the dedication 
of the Lost Illusions to himself, had induced Edouard 
Thierry to write an abusive article against him. “« He 
is a great writer,” said the novelist in telling this, “ but 
he is a mean trickster.” 

By the death of Count Hanski, the one insuperable 
obstacle to his union with Eve had been removed ; 
and now, in his letters to her, there was a sudden 
outburst of love protestations. He wanted the widow 
to marry him at once, or, at the outside limit, as soon 
as propriety would permit. Madame Hanska replied 
that there was her daughter Anna, only just in her 
teens, who would require her mother’s entire attention 
and care for some years to come; and there were, 
besides, matters concerning the inheritance, which 
would hardly be settled within any shorter period. 
Balzac was dismayed. He could not understand the 
delay, the prudence, the hesitation. Not to speak of | 
his affection, his pride was offended. He overwhelmed 
his Eve with reproaches. Women, he informed her, | 
loved fools, as a rule, because fools were ever ready to 
sit at their feet. Recurring in subsequent letters to 
a quieter manner, he strove to shake her resolution by 
hints at his exhausted strength, his difficulty of com- 
position,—this was nothing new—his lessened alert- 
ness of thought and his weaker invention. Cleverly 
he juxtaposed with these a description of his study, 
in the little Passy house, hung with red velvet, on 
which black silk cords stood out in agreeable contrast ; 
on one wall was Eve’s portrait, and opposite it was 
a painting of the Wierzchownia mansion. Here he 
toiled unceasingly, creating, always creating. God 
only created during six days, he added; while he—the 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 215 


inference was left to be drawn. Feeling how requisite 
it was he should put himself right, in every respect, 
with the lady of his choice, he made a fresh confession 
of his religious faith. His Catholicism, he told her, 
was outwardly of the Bossuet and Bonald type, but 
was esoterically mystical, Saint-Johnian, which form 
alone preserved the real Christian tradition. Some- 
what encouraged by vague inquiries from Madame 
Hanska as to the income required by a household for 
living in Paris, he entered into particulars with gusto ; 
and, stating that he had eighty thousand frances worth 
of furniture, he discussed the best manner of arrang- 
ing an existence with eight hundred thousand francs 
capital. With three hundred thousand francs, a 
country residence and small estate might be bought 
and the means of inhabiting there provided. Another 
hundred thousand would buy a house in Paris to spend 
each winter ; and the residue of four hundred thousand, 
if invested in French Rentes, would purchase an 
additional income of fifteen thousand francs for town 
expenses. These latter he subdivided into three 
thousand francs for carriage hire; five thousand for 
cooking; two thousand five hundred for dress and 
amusement; and two thousand five hundred for 
general charges; the remaining two thousand would 
go in sundries. Madame de Berny, he said, spent only 
eight hundred francs a year on her wardrobe, and kept 
her household with nine hundred francs. Once 
launched into detail, he went far. The Countess 
learnt that he had still the same carpets, covering 
seven rooms, that he had bought for fifteen hundred 
francs in the Rue Cassini. ‘They had worn well and 
were economical. The red velvet in his study had 
cost him two francs fifty a yard; but then he would 


\ 


216 HONORE DE BALZAC 


take it away to another house, instead of giving it to 
the landlord. Living was slightly dearer in Passy, 
he concluded. A mutton chop cost seven sous there, 
instead of the five charged in the city. These last 
details were thrown in by a habit he had grown into 
of defending himself against the strictures passed by 
Madame Hanska on his expenditure. 

They were frequent —such strictures — because 
Balzac was always repeating to her that he was penni- 
less; and she, comparing this talk with other state- 
ments about his gaining large sums yearly, argued 
that the penury must be his own fault. True, there 
was the debt. But the debt grew instead of diminish- 
ing. So, apparently, he was not starving himself to 
pay it back. The fact was that Balzac did not tell 
the truth either about his assets or his liabilities. He 
neither earned as much as he affirmed, nor owed as 
much. According to some of his early biographers, 
his average income was not more than twelve thousand _ 
francs a year. But these figures cannot include lump 
sums he received at irregular intervals, nor yet all the 
royalties due to him on continued sales of his books. 
Taking one year with another, he probably made, 
throughout the greater portion of his literary career, 
between twenty and twenty-five thousand francs 
annually. What must have increased his embarrass- 
ments, in the later Thirties and early Forties, was his 
hobby for buying pictures and articles of vertu ; this, 
with his knack of dropping money in speculations and 
imprudent ventures, rendered it impossible for him to 
live within his means. 

It is curious to notice how his impecuniosity re- 
duced him to regard every goal of his ambition as 
having merely a cash value. Speaking of his election 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 217 


to the Académie Francaise, which he reckoned to be 
near, he explained to Eve that it would mean six 
thousand francs a year to him, since he would be a 
member of the Dictionary Committee ; and then there 
was the Perpetual Secretaryship, which, falling to him 
naturally, would raise his emoluments to more than 
double that amount. Emboldened by these calcula- 
tions—a trifle previous—he confided to Eve his desire 
to start on a trip to Naples, Rome, Constantinople, 
and Alexandria, unless she should veto the proposal. 
In that case, his desire would be hers. Four thousand 
francs was what the journey would cost. Would she 
authorize him to spend so much? At present she 
was the arbitress of his actions. As the trip was 
abandoned, we are obliged to suppose that Eve was 
not favourable to it. 

Mention has already been made of the novelist’s 
initiative in the beginnings of the Men of Letters 
Society, and of his scheme for a petition to the King. 
In its details, what he wished to see adopted was on 
the same lines as those followed now by the Nobel 
Prize distribution—at any rate as regards literature. 
His idea was to secure a small independence for prize- 
takers in tragedy, comedy, opera, fiction, Christian 
philosophy, linguistic or archzological research, and 
epic poetry, by awarding them a capital of a hundred 
thousand francs, and even two hundred thousand to 
poets, and to open thus an easier way to position and 
fame. Finding that his programme was not acceptable 
to the more influential members of the Society, he 
resigned his seat on the committee, and ceased his 
active connection with the Society itself, continuing, 
however, to interest himself in its prosperity. 

Later, his bust by David was placed in the Society’s 


218 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Committee Room, where it may be seen at present 
presiding silently over the meetings. Both the bust 
and the famous daguerreotype of him belong to the 
commencement of the Forties. The sculptor Etex had 
asked him to sit for a bust; but David had the 
preference, being a friend. His profile of the novelist, 
sketched in view of a medallion, an engraving of which 
appeared in 1843 in the Loire Illustrée for August, 
was deemed by Madame Surville to be the only real 
likeness of her brother. Not until 1889 did the Men 
of Letters Society decide to honour Balzac by a statue 
to be erected amidst the life of the capital which he 
had so well described. And even then they allowed 
certain elements of prejudice and passion to dominate 
their counsels, with the result that a magnificent full- 
length figure of the novelist executed by the first 
sculptor in France was rejected; the committee’s 
plighted word was violated; and in lieu was accepted 
and placed in one of the streets of Paris a sorry like- 
ness hastily modelled by a man who, though a good 
sculptor, had one foot in the grave, and who had not, 
besides, the conception of what was required.! 

Of the novels that appeared in 1842, Albert 
Savarus, the first published, is worthy of attention 
chiefly as being a continuation of its author’s personal 
experiences. The hero is the same ideal personifica- 
tion already seen in Lowis Lambert and Z. Marcas. A 
barrister, he suddenly settles in a provincial town, 
bringing with him a past history that no one can pene- 
trate and every one would like to know. When inter- - 
viewed in his private consulting-room, he presents 
himself in a black merino dressing-gown girt about 

* See my Life of Rodin (Fisher Unwin, 1906) or my later and 
smaller edition of the same sculptor’s life (Grant Richards, 1907). 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 219 


with a red cord, in red slippers, a red flannel waistcoat, 
a red skull-cap. The likeness is once again Balzac’s 
own—adorned by fancy: a superb head, black hair 
sparsely sprinkled with white, hair like that of Saint 
Peter and Saint Paul as shown in our pictures, with 
thick glossy curls, hair of bristly stiffness; a white 
round neck, as that of a woman; a splendid forehead 
with the puissant furrow in the middle that great plans 
and thoughts and deep meditations engrave on the 
brow of genius; an olive complexion streaked with red ; 
a square nose; eyes of fire; gaunt cheeks with two 
long wrinkles, full of suffering ; a mouth with sardonic 
smile, and a small, thin, abnormally short chin ; crow’s 
feet at the temples; sunken eyes (he repeats himself 
a little) rolling beneath their beetling arches and resem- 
bling two burning globes; but, despite all these signs 
of violent passions, a calm, profoundly resigned mien ; 
a voice of thrilling softness, . . . the true voice of the 
orator, now pure and cunning, now insinuating, but 
thunderous when required, lending itself to sarcasm 
and then waxing incisive. Monsieur Albert Savarus 
(alias Balzac) is of medium height, neither fat nor slim ; 
to conclude, he has prelate’s hands. 

The mystery of Savarus’ earlier life, revealed as the 
story goes on, is his meeting in Switzerland with 
Francesca, the wife of a rich Italian, whom he eventu- 
ally wins to love him and to promise marriage when 
she is free and he has acquired wealth and fame. All 
the details of the prologue are those of Balzac’s first 
relations with Madame Hanska. The development of 
the novel, in which Philoméne de Watteville falls in 
love with Savarus, surprises his secret attachment to 
Francesca, intercepts his letters to her, and ruins his 
hopes, is less cleverly told. Savarus’ retirement to a 


220 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Carthusian monastery and fate’s punishment of Philo- 
méne, who is mutilated and disfigured in a railway 
accident, form the dénouement, which is strained to 
the improbable. The background of the story, with its 
‘glimpses of the manners and foibles of provincial society, 
is the most valuable portion of the book. 

Between this relapse into lyricism and a much 
stronger work came the amusing Beginning in Life, 
suggested by his sister Laure’s tale, Un Voyage en 
Coucou, and giving the adventures of the young Oscar 
Husson, a sort of Verdant Green, whose pretentious 
foolishness leads him into scrapes of every kind, until, 
having made himself the laughing-stock of all around 
him, and compromised many, he enlists and goes to 
the wars, whence he returns maimed for life. A comic 
character in the sketch is the bohemian artist Léon 
de Lora, nicknamed Mistigris, with his puns and pro- 
verbs that were the rage in the early Forties. A 
character of more serious calibre is Joseph Bridau, the 
talented painter. He and his scamp of a_ brother, 
Philippe, are the twin prominent figures in the novel 
above alluded to: La Rabouilleuse. 

Originally called the Two Brothers, and subse- 
quently 4 Bachelor’s Household, this slice of intensely 
realistic fiction exhibits the art of the author at its highest 
vigour. Philippe Bridau, the mother’s favourite of the 
two boys, enters the army, sees W aterloo, and, after, 
leads the life of an adventurer, with its ups and downs 
of fortune. His widowed mother’s indulgence, his own 
innate selfishness, and the hardening influence of war 
combine to render him a villain of the Richard IIT. 
type, absolutely heartless and conscienceless. He robs 
his own family, fixes himself leech-like on that of an 
uncle, marries the latter’s widow for her money, when 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 221 


he has killed her lover in a duel, drives his wife into 
vice, lets her die on a pallet, and refuses to pay a visit 
to the deathbed of his mother, whose grey hairs he has 
brought down with sorrow to the grave. Like Shake- 
speare’s ideal villain, he has the philosophy, the humour 
of his egotism. “Iam an old camel, familiar with genu- 
flections,” he exclaims. ‘ What harm have I done?” 
he asks, speaking of his robbery of his relative, the old 
Madame Descoings. ‘I have merely cleaned the old 
lady’s mattress.” And he is equally indifferent to what 
destiny reserves for him. “I am a parvenu, my dear 
fellow; I don’t intend to let my swaddling-clothes be 
seen. Myson will be luckier than I; he will be a grand 
seigneur. The rascal will be glad to see me dead. I 
quite reckon on it ; otherwise he would not be my son.” 

Most of the other figures are of equal truth. to life, 
and are presented so as to increase the effect of the 
complete picture: Jean-Jacques Rouget, the stupid 
infatuated uncle, who espouses the intriguing Flore 
Brazier ; and Flore herself, whose petty vices are crushed 
by those of her second husband; Maxime Gilet, the 
bully of Issoudun, whose surface bravado is checked 
and mated by the cooler scoundrelism of Philippe ; 
Agathe, the foolish mother, whose eyes are blind to 
the devotion of her son Joseph; and Girondeau, the 
old dragoon, companion to Philippe who casts him off 
as soon as prosperity smiles and he has no further need 
for him. And the narrow-horizoned, curiously inter- 
laced existences of the country-town add the mass of 
their colour-value, sombre but rich. One could have 
wished in the book a little more counterbalancing 
brightness, and less trivial detail; but neither the 
defect of the one nor the excess of the other takes from 
the novel the right to be considered a masterpiece. 


CHAPTER XI 
LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1843, 1844 


THE great event of the year 1843 was Balzac’s visit 
in the summer to Saint Petersburg, where Madame 
Hanska had been staying since the preceding autumn. 
He had hoped to go there in the January, commis- 
sioned to exploit an important invention for cheaper 
shipbuilding, in which his brother-in-law, Monsieur 
Surville, was concerned. Like each of his previous 
schemes for quickly becoming rich, this invention turned 
out to be a soap-bubble, bursting as soon as trial was 
made of it. What was left intact, however, was his 
determination to go to the banks of the Neva; and, 
throughout the spring, successive letters announced 
preparations for departure. The real motive of his 
joumey was to try to persuade his lady-love to fix the 
date of their marriage. Her period of mourning was 
over, and no objection could be made now on the 
ground of propriety. Such sentimental arguments as 
Madame Hanska might still put forward, he trusted 
to be able to overcome by his presence. 

In order that she might be the more anxious to see 
him, he talked again of abandoning literature, and sail- 
ing for America. ‘This time the West Indies were his 
El Dorado. He did not say how the shy millions were 
to be coaxed into his purse there, unless he wished her 
to understand he intended to export spices, since he 
added: “If I had been a grocer for the last ten years, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 223 


I should have become a millionaire.” Forsooth, these 
details were mere bluff. His inmost thought was that 
Eve would prevent his going across the Atlantic now, 
as Madame de Berny had prevented him—so he said— 
in 1829. Moreover, there was Balthazar’s prediction 
that he was to be happy with her for long years. The 
fortune-teller’s sanctum he attended more frequently 
than church. Going one day to the house of a 
magnetizer, a Monsieur Dupotet, living in the Rue du 
Bac, he gave his hand to a hypnotized woman, who 
placed it on her stomach and immediately loosed it 
again with a scared look: ‘‘ What is that head?” she 
cried. ‘“Itisa world; it frightens me.” ‘She had not 
looked at my heart,” commented Balzac proudly. ‘She 
had been dazzled by the head. Yet since I was born, 
my life has been dominated by my heart—a secret 
which I conceal with care.” All this he related quite 
seriously to Eve. Probably, Madame de Girardin, who 
accompanied him on this pilgrimage, could have told 
Madame Hanska more. 

Writing on his birthday, he inserted the prayer he 
had offered up to his patron-saint for the accomplish- 
ment of his desires, its burden indicating how near he 
believed himself to the longed-for goal: “O great 
Saint Honoré, thou to whom is dedicated a street in 
Paris at once so beautiful and so ugly, ordain that the 
ship may not blow up; ordain that I may be no more 
a bachelor, by the decree of the Mayor or the Consul 
of France ; for thou knowest that I have been spiritually 
married for nigh on eleven years. These last fifteen 
years, I have lived a martyr’s life. God sent me an 
angel in 1833. May this angel never quit me again till 
death! I have lived by my writing. Let me live a 
little by love! Take care of her rather than of me; for 


224 HONORE DE BALZAC 


I would fain give her all, even my portion in heaven ; — 
and especially let us soon be happy. Ave, Eva.” 

The love fervour of this prayer was a dominant 
note throughout the twelvemonth; we notice after 
the visit that the familiar thow prevails over the colder 
you ; and the letters, both in number and length, very 
largely exceed those he had written up to the end of 
1842. Funnily, he expresses admiration of himself for 
this work of supererogation, informing Eve, on one 
occasion, that the sixteen leaves he had recently sent 
her were worth sixteen hundred francs, even two 
thousand, counting extra leaves enclosed to Made- 
moiselle Henriette Borel, the governess, for whom he 
was negotiating an entrance into a nunnery. Love- 
letters estimated at five francs a page!!! 

Let us grant that the epistles at present contained 
more gossip than ever, so that the recipient of them 
had her share of amusement. She was wonderfully 
well kept up in Paris happenings in society, includ-— 
ing the stage and the art galleries. She learnt that 
Madame d’Agoult—Daniel Stern '—had become Emile 
de Girardin’s mistress, on losing Liszt, who had fallen 
into the toils of the Princess de Belgiojoso, the latter 
lady achieving her conquest after luring in succession 
Lord Normanby from his wife, Mignet from Madame 
Aubernon, and Alfred de Musset from George Sand. 
Going to see Victor Hugo’s Burgraves, he reported 
that it was nothing to speak of as history, altogether 
poor as invention, but nevertheless poetic, with a 
poetry that carried away the spectator. It was Titian 
painting on a mud wall. He chiefly remarked the 
absence of feeling, which, in Victor Hugo, was more 
and more noticeable. The author of the Burgraves 


' Her literary pseudonym. 


A saeppoarigbe 


sei cemniimmine g 
te J 


ils 1 
Vi > 
a 
ns 


Fe ras 
Sar ieneneee 


ay see 
ee 


LS 


ae 
ow 





BALzac 


) 


Seguin, exhibited in the Salon 


érard- 
of 1842 
Musée de Tours 


( 


From a Painting by G 





LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 225 


lacked the true. As he did not publish these opinions, 
he was able to go on dining with the poet and to 
praise the beauty of his fourteen-year-old daughter. 
On George Sand’s Consuélo he pronounced a severer 
judgment still, calling it the emptiest, most improb- 
able, most childish thing conceivable—boredom in 
sixteen parts. And yet he had conceived certain 
improbable plots himself. 

(Like Charles Lamb, who left his office earlier in 
the afternoon to make up for arriving late in the 
morning, he counterbalanced these heavy - handed 
slatings of his friends by extolling his own perform- 
ance past and present. Being engaged in revising 
the Chowans for a fresh edition, he was struck by 
qualities in it that he had hitherto held too lightly. 
It was all Scott and all Fenimore Cooper, he said, 
with a fire and wit, into the bargain, that neither of 
these writers ever possessed. The passion in it was 
sublime! Its landscapes and scenes of war were de- 
picted with a perfection and happiness that surprised 
him. As a piece of self-praise there is probably 
nothing surpassing this in the annals of literature. 
In a competition, Balzac’s blasts of vanity would 
beat the Archangel Michael’s last trump for loudness.) 

Horace Vernet, he asserted, would never be a 
great painter. He was a colourist; he knew how to 
design and compose, had technical skill, and, now and 
again, found sentiment, but did not understand how 
to combine these talents in his pictures. He was 
clever, but had no genius. ‘His alter ego. was Dela- 
roche, to whom he gave his daughter in marriage. 
Of the other painters, Boulanger, Delacroix, Ingres, 
Decamps, Jules Dupré were his favourites — true 
artists, he deemed them. At the Salon he saw hardly 

P 


226 HONORE DE BALZAC 


anything to please him besides a canvas by Meissonier 
and Cogniet’s Tintoretto painting his Dead Daughter. 
He would have liked to see Boulanger’s Death of 
Messalina, but the Salon Committee had refused it. 

In music his preferences were as eclectic as in 
pictures. Liszt, whom he thought ridiculous as a 
man, he considered superb as a musician—the Paga- 
nini of the piano, yet inferior to Chopin, since he had 
not the genius of composition. And, in singing, 
Rubini was his idol—Rubini who triumphed in the 
role of Othello, giving the suspicion a7 in a manner 
no one could equal. It intoxicated him to hear this 
tenor with Tamburini, Lablache, and Madame Grisi; 
while Nourrit’s song, Ce Rameau qui donne la Puis- 
sance et UV Immortalité in Robert le Diable made his 
flesh creep. It yielded a glimpse of life with all its 
dreams satisfied. 

Originally intending to start for St. Petersburg 
early in June, Balzac was not able to leave Paris until. 
a month later. As usual, filthy lucre had to do with 
his tarrying. In spite of a loan of 11,500 frances from 
lawyer Gavault—his guardian, the novelist called him 
—who for the privilege of the great man’s friendship 
had been endeavouring during the two years past to 
introduce a little order into his affairs, he had not 
available cash enough for a trip so far, and stayed 
on, hoping to finish his David Séchard,) which was 
running as a serial in the Htat, and his Esther, ap- 
pearing similarly in the Parisien. June he spent at 
Lagny, where his manuscripts were being printed, in 
order to correct the proofs and get his money. But 
the Etat ceased issue while he was there; and the 
Parisien, being in parlous condition, refused likewise 


1 Part of the Lost Illusions. 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 227 


to pay up, so that he had to go off with a thinner- 
lined pocket than he had expected. Otherwise, he 
was in a fitting state of grace to meet his fair tyrant, 
whose envelope lectures had brought him into fear of 
her and at least outward obedience. 

The torrents of coffee by the aid of which he had 
forced his last pen-work through, had been reduced 
to minimum doses; the occasional mustard foot-baths 
that cured his cerebral inflammations were replaced 
by entire ablutions every other day; he liked hot 
baths well enough; but, in the spells of composition, 
they were often indefinitely adjourned, so that this 
season of purification had its raison d’étre. And now, 
with his gaze turned to the east, he wondered how 
long he was going to remain there. His reply to a 
person who asked him to pledge himself for some 
novels on his return reads much as though he were 
counting on an offer to fix his residence in the empire 
of the czars. ‘I don’t: know whether I shall come 
back,” he said. ‘France bores me. I am infatuated 
with Russia. I am in love with absolute power. I 
am going to see if it is as fine as I believe it to be. 
De Maistre stayed a long time at St. Petersburg. 
Perhaps I shall stay also.” This he naturally repeated 
to Madame Hanska. Not that it was new to her. 
A similar hint had been given in January, when he 
capped his declaration, ‘“I abhor the English; I 
execrate the Austrians; the Italians are nothing,” 
with, “I would sooner be a Russian than any other 
subject.” The comic side of this fury is that Madame 
Hanska was a Pole, her late husband too; and neither 
she nor her family were reconciled to the Russian 
yoke. ‘To make his renunciation more complete, he 
humbly spoke his dread she might turn from him 


228 HONORE DE BALZAC 


with the “get away” said to a dog. No! She had 
no intention of dismissing him. His outpourings of 
devotion caressed her woman’s pride, even if she did 
not accept them as gospel truth. And however tedious 
she found his vamping song of sixpence, his sittings 
in the parlour counting out his mirage-money, she 
put up with them in consideration of her privilege. 

Sailing from Havre in the Devonshire, an English 
boat, Balzac arrived at St. Petersburg towards the 
end of July. He lodged in a private house not far 
from Eve’s Koutaizoff mansion ; but passed the three 
months of his sojourn almost entirely in her society. 
It was the first opportunity he had had of getting 
to know her intimately, their previous meetings being 
surrounded with too many restrictions to allow of 
familiar intercourse. No detailed record has come 
down to us of these days of téte-a-téte existence. All 
we learn from subsequent allusions is that, together 
with a good deal of billing and cooing, more sustained 
on the novelist’s side, there were some lovers’ tiffs, 
followed by reconciliations. Apparently the friction 
was mainly caused by Eve’s evasiveness on the subject 
of their marriage. 

It would seem as though there were an attack on 
her aloofness in the long criticism he sent her from 
his lodgings on Madame d’Arnim’s Bellina, a French 
translation of which had been published not long 
before he left Paris. After some general remarks 
on the circumstance of a girl’s fancying herself in 
love with a great man living at a distance, he waxed 
wroth over what he styled Bellina’s head-love, and 
over head-love in general. To this monster, Mérimée, 
in his Double Mistake, had given a thrust, but a thrust 
that made it bleed only. The cleverer Madame d’Arnim 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 229 


had poisoned it with opium. “In order for the literary 
expression of love to become a work of art and to be 
sublime,” he continued, “the love that depicts should 
itself be complete; it should occur in its triple form, 
head, heart, and body; should be a love at once sensual 
and divine, manifested with wit and poetry. Who 
says love says suffering; suffering from waiting; 
suffering from combats; suffering from separation ; 
suffering from disagreement. Love in itself is a sub- 
lime and pathetic drama. When happy, it is silent. - 
Now, the cause of the tedium of Madame d’ Arnim’s 
book,” he added, “is easily discoverable by a soul that 
loves. Goethe did not love Bellina. Put a big stone 
in Goethe’s place—the Sphinx no power has ever been 
able to wrest from its desert sand—and Bellina’s letters 
are understandable. Unlike Pygmalion’s fable, the 
more Bellina writes, the more petrified Goethe be- 
comes, the more glacial his letters. True, if Bellina 
had perceived that her sheets were falling upon granite, 
and if she had abandoned herself to rage or despair, 
she would have composed a poem. But, as she did 
not love Goethe, as Goethe was a pretext for her 
letters, she went on with her girl’s journal; and we 
have read some (not intended for print) much more 
charming, not in units, but in tens.” 

In the rest of the criticism, Balzac swirls round 
his guns and directs his fire on Goethe’s replies to 
Bellina. ‘The latter’s epistles were accompanied with 
presents of braces and slippers and flannel waist- 
coats, which were much more appreciated by the 
poet than her theories on music. Not so did he, 
Balzac, treat his Lina, his Louloup—such was the 
inference suggested. Every one of her, ze. Eve’s, 
sayings was treasured up, after being duly pondered 


230 - HONORE DE BALZAC 


upon. Such adulation must have been delicious to 
Madame Hanska; and yet she sent her sighing swain 
back into his loneliness, with his bonds riveted tighter, 
his promises to break with all rivals more solemn, and 
a disappointment, over his deferred hopes, that brought 
on an illness after his return. 

The journey back was made by land through Riga, 
Taurogen, and Berlin. In the Prussian capital, Von 
Humboldt came to see him with a message from the 
King and Queen; and Shakespeare’s Midsummer 
Night's Dream was seen on the stage, without pleasure 
being derived from it. To its poesy the novelist was 
little open. Instead of pushing on straight to France, 
he bent his course southwards to Dresden, where he 
visited the Pinakothek. The Saxon town pleased him 
more than Berlin, both by its structural picturesqueness 
and surroundings. The palace, begun by Augustus, 
he esteemed the most curious masterpiece of rococo 
architecture. The Gallery he thought over-rated ; but 
he none the less admired Correggio’s Might, his Mag- 
dalene and two Virgins, as also Raphael’s Virgins, and 
the Dutch pictures. His highest enthusiasm was aroused 
by the theatre, decorated by the three French artists 
Despléchin, Séchan, and Diéterle. He reached Passy 
on the 8rd of November, having crowded into the 
preceding week visits to Maintz, Cologne, Aix-la- 
Chapelle, and several places in Belgium. 

The form assumed by his malady was arachnitis, 
an inflammation of the network of nerves enveloping © 
the brain. For the time being, Nacquart, his doctor, 
conjured it away, as he had done in the case of other 
seizures from which the patient had suffered. He had 
known Balzac since boyhood and was well acquainted 
with his constitution. Unfortunately he could not 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER 231 


change the novelist’s abnormal manner of living and 
working. And the mischief was in them. 

Balzac’s three months’ absence from Paris had 
caused profane tongues to wag considerably. Not- 
withstanding his reticence concerning Countess Hanska, 
a legend had gathered round about their relations to 
each other. More than one paper reported that he 
had been off on an expedition, wife and fortune- 
hunting—which was true; and one daily, at least, 
spoke of his having been engaged by the Czar as a 
kind of court littératewr. The Presse especially annoyed 
him by copying from the Indépendance Belge a story 
of his having been surprised by the Belgian police 
dining in an hotel with an Italian forger, whose grand 
behaviour and abundance of false bank-notes had com- 
pletely captivated him. The forger was certainly 
arrested in the hotel where he had put up, but the 
dinner and the chumming were inventions ; at any rate, 
Balzac affirmed they were, uttering furious anathemas 
against the scorpion Girardin, who had allowed so 
illustrious a name to be taken in vain. 

On the 26th of September, during the St. Peters- 
burg visit, his third finished theatrical piece, Pamédla 
Giraud, was produced at the Gaité Theatre. Differing 
essentially from his previous efforts, this play is an 
ordinary melodramatic comedy. Paméla, like Richard- 
son’s heroine, is an honest girl, who, occupied in the 
humble trade of flower-selling, loves a young man, 
Jules Rousseau, that she believes to belong to her 
own modest rank, whereas, in reality, he is the son of 
a big financier. Involved in a Bonapartist conspiracy, 
which has just been discovered, Jules comes one night 
to her room and tries to persuade her to fly with him. 
She refuses; and, while he is with her, the police enter 


232 HONORE DE BALZAC 


and arrest him. To save him she consents, though 
opposed by her parents, to say in Court that her lover 
had spent the night of the conspiracy with her; and 
Jules is acquitted through this false confession of her 
being his mistress. Once the happy result obtained, 
Jules and his family forget her. ‘The lawyer, however, 
smitten by her beauty and virtue, proposes to marry 
her, and is about to carry his intention into effect 
when, remarking that she is pining for the ungrateful 
Jules, he contrives to bring him to Paméla’s feet again, 
and the marriage is celebrated. 

Paméla Giraud was written in 1838, but no theatre 
had been willing to stage it in its original form. Ulti- 
mately two professional playwrights, Bayard and Jaime, 
who had already dramatized, the one, Hugénie Grandet 
and the Search for the Absolute, the other, Pére 
Goriot, pruned the over-plentifulness of its matter and 
strengthened the relief of various parts; and, in the 
amended guise, it was performed. Balzac resented the 
modifications, which explains his equanimity on hearing, 
as he travelled homewards, that the piece had fallen flat. 
He considered that, presented as he wrote it, the chances 
of success would have been greater. He was wrong, 
and those critics as well who attributed the failure to 
enmities arising out of a recent publication of his, en- 
titled the Monography of the Press. Neither of the 
two chief dramatis persone was capable of properly 
interesting a theatrical audience. ‘The character of 
Jules is contemptible from beginning to end, and that 
of Paméla ceases to attract after the trial. The con- 
clusion of this play, as that of Vautrin, is an anticlimax 
and leaves an unsatisfactory impression. 

Why did Balzac write his Monogr ae of the 
Parisian Press? Not altogether from a pure motive, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 233 


one must own. There is too much gall in his language, 
too much satire in the thought. He was sufficiently 
acquainted with the inner ring of journalistic life to be 
able to say truly what were its blemishes ; and, without 
doubt, at the time when he composed the chief of his 
novels, these had a prejudicial effect on literature as on 
other phases of activity. But his pamphlet, besides its 
indiscriminate condemnations, erred in adopting a style 
which rendered the turning of the tables only too easy. 
And Jules Janin, whom he had already indisposed by 
sketching a seeming portrait of him in the Provincial 
Great Man in Paris, came down heavily on the daring 
satirist in the Débats of the 20th of February 1848. 
The retort, so he informed Madame Hanska, made him 
laugh immoderately. Perhaps; but the laugh must 
have been somewhat forced—what the French call 
** yellow.” 

In the Monography, men of letters, baptized by the 
novelist sendelettres—one of the few words coined by 
Balzac which have become naturalized—may be divided 
into several categories. First, there are the publcistes, 
occupied in scratching the pimples of the body politic. 
From these pimples they extract a book which is a 
mystification. Not far removed from the publicistes 
are the chief managing editors and proprietors general, 
big wigs who sometimes become prefects, receivers 
general, or theatrical directors. The type of this class 
is glory’s porter, speculation’s trumpeter, the electorate’s 
Bonneau. He is set in motion by a ballet-dancer, a 
cantatrice, an actress; in short, he is a brigand-captain, 
with other brigands under him. And of the latter :— 
There are the Premiers Paris, alias, first tenors. In 
writing Premiers Paris, it is impossible for a man to 
avoid mental warp and rapid deterioration. In such 


934 HONORE DE BALZAC 


writing, style would be a misfortune. One must know 
how to speak jesuitically ; and, in order to advance, 
one must be clever in getting one’s ideas to walk on 
crutches. ‘Those who engage in the trade confess them- 
selves corrupt; like diplomatists, they have as a pension 
the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres, a few 
librarianships, even archiveships. 

Next to the Premiers Paris come the Fits Paris ; 
then the Camarillists, other banditti commissioned to 
distort Parliamentary speeches; then the newspaper 
Politicians, who have not two ideas in their heads. If 
appointed under-officials, they would be unable to ad- 
minister the sweeping of the streets. Consequently, 
the more incapable a man is, the better he is qualified 
to become the Grand Lama of a newspaper. Indeed, 
nothing is more explicable than politics. It is a game 
at ninepins. 

In addition to its Politicians, the newspaper has its 
Attachés. The Attachés of the Republican party are 
watched very closely. Oneday two Republicans meet, 
and the first says to the second: “ You have sold your- 
self; people find you are getting fatter.’ Whence it 
follows that any paper knowing its trade will have only 
exceedingly thin Attachés ; otherwise, your Attaché will 
be a mere detached Attaché, that is to say, a sort of paid 
spy, who is mostly a professor of rhetoric or philosophy. 
He will dine at all tables, with mission to attack political 
leaders; he runs in and out of newspaper offices, like 
a dog seeking his master; and, when he has bitten : 
sharply, he becomes the professor of a fantastic science, _ 
the private secretary of some cabinet, or else consul- 
general. 

Afterwards come the gendelettre pamphleteers. 
According to the author of the Monography, the 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” = 235 


pamphlet is the brochure masterpiece ; and he himself is 
its most illustrious exponent. The Abbé de Lamennais 
does not know how to speak to the proletariat. He is 
not Spartacus enough, not Marat enough, not Calvin 
enough ; he does not understand how to storm the posi- 
tions of the ignoble bourgeoisie at present in power. 

Following on are the gendelettre-vulgarisateurs, 
who have invented Germany. The type of this class is 
appointed professor in the Collége de France. He 
marches at the head of the Nothingologues ; he is the 
almighty king of the Sorbonne. Such people are the 
skin parasites of France. The Nothingologue is ordinarily 
monolible ;* and, as the bourgeoisie are essentially lack- 
ing in intelligence, they are infatuated with him. The 
Monobible becomes a director of canals, railways, the 
defender of negroes, or else the advocate of slavery ; 
in a word, the Nothingologue is an important man, 
quite as the convinced gendelettre, who reserves to 
himself the Council of State, and as the sceptic 
gendelettre, who becomes Master of Requests or 
Governor of the Marquisas Isles. 

Replying to this diatribe, with its medley of shrewd- 
ness and exaggeration, Janin pointed out that it insulted 
Quinet, professor at the Collége de France; Sainte- 
Beuve, the poet, novelist, and critic, the historian of 
Port-Royal; Philaréte Chasles, professor of Foreign 
Literature ; Loéve Weimars, Consul at Bagdad; not to 
speak of Planche, Berlioz, Michel and Chevalier; and 
that it came amiss from a man who had lived and still 
lived. on newspapers; who himself had been the chief 
managing editor, tenor, Jack-of-all-trades, canard-seller, 
camarillist, politician, premier-Paris, fait-Paris, détaché- 

1 In Balzac’s use of the word: A man who has written only one 
book and boasts of it always. 


236 HONORE DE BALZAC 


attaché, pamphleteer, translator, critic, euphuist, bravo, 
incense-bearer, guerillero, angler, humbug, and even, 
what was more serious, the banker of a paper of which 
he was the only, unique, and perpetual gendelettre, and 
which, so admirably written, cleverly conducted, and 
signed with so great a name, did not live six months. 

Within a very few years, Janin was to bury the 
hatchet of polemics beside Balzac’s grave, and, for- 
getting the soreness generated in him by the Mono-— 
graphy of the Press, to constitute himself the dead 
author’s apologist. : 

Besides his continuation of Lucien de Rubempré’s 
story in the Splendour and Wretchedness of Courtezans, 
Balzac published, in the year 1843, two complete 
novels, viz. Honorine, and The Muse of the County, 
and a portion of an historical study on Catherine de 
Medici. This last work, to which the Calvinist Martyr 
belongs, was undertaken with the idea of composing, 
as he said, a retrospective history of France treated 
clairvoyantly, and, as the fragment shows, with his 
peculiar bias towards despotism. In the experiment 
made with Catherine de Medici, he started out thinking 
to justify and rehabilitate her memory. Instead, he 
found himself obliged to exhibit her committing the 
worst actions imaginable; and, his conclusions not 
concording with his premises, he abandoned further 
incursions into the past. History is a dangerous 
ground for a doctrinaire to investigate. ? 

The former of the two novels is mainly psycho- 
logical. The wife of a Count Octave, having quitted 
her husband for another, has repented of her fault and 
separated from her lover, but, through shamefastness, 
will not return to her husband. She seeks to gain a 
livelihood by flower-making; and her husband, who 


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LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 237 


still loves her and is full of forgiveness, helps her 
secretly to obtain orders. At length, by the good 
offices of a secretary and the latter’s uncle, a priest, he 
pleads with his wife more efficaciously, and induces her 
to return to him, yet without her pardoning herself ; 
and she dies in giving birth to a child, dies because she 
wishes, rather from wounded pride, it would appear, 
than on account of her husband, to whose affection she 
is strangely insensible. ‘The heroine is not particularly 
interesting with her morbidness and hysterical posing ; 
she probably stands for one of Balzac’s principles, 
and his principles are the most tedious thing about 
him. | 

With the Muse of the County, which the author 
declared to be Constant’s Adolphe treated realistically, 
we are back in the truer Balzacian manner. Dinah 
de la Baudraye—a Sancerre Catherine de Vivonne— 
married to an apology for a man, is human flesh and 
blood ; and her love for the journalist Etienne Lousteau 
is natural, though culpable. Indeed, her subsequent 
devotion to this shallow egotist is not without greatness. 
Here the novelist, as much by his wit as by his dénoue- 
ment, gives perhaps the best practical condemnation 
of adultery. 

« Bah!” says the little de la Baudraye, “do you call 
it vengeance, because the Duke of Bracciano will kill 
his wife for putting him into a cage and showing herself 
to him in her lover’s arms. Our tribunals and society 
are much more cruel.” 

“In what?” asked Lousteau. 

“Tn letting the woman live with a slender allow- 
ance. Every one turns away from her. She has neither 
dress nor consideration, two things which are every- 
thing to a woman.” 


238 HONORE DE BALZAC 


“But she has happiness,” replied Madame de la 
Baudraye grandly. 

“No!” replied the husband, lighting his candle to 
go to bed; “for she has a lover.” 

Dinah’s punishment is of this kind. Persuaded at 
length to go back to the house of her husband, who 
has been made a peer of France and accepts Lousteau’s 
children with her, she lives to see her former lover and 
father of her children sink so low that she must despise 
him, while still occasionally tempted to yield to his 
caresses. 

When Alexandre Dumas, the younger, was re- 
ceived into the French Academy in 1875, the Count 
d’Haussonville, who welcomed him, asserted that the 
elder Dumas, like Balzac, Béranger, de Lamennais and 
others, had preferred to remain an outsider. In the 
case of Balzac, the Count was mistaken. The so-called 
preference was Hobson’s choice. He stayed outside 
only because he could not get in. Between 1839 and 
1849, he made several attempts to secure the promise — 
of a number of votes sufficient to elect him. Having 
stood aside at the earlier date in favour of Victor 
Hugo, who was admitted in 1841, he thought he might 
count on a reciprocal service from the poet. And, on 
Bonald’s death in the same year, he asked him, during 
the visit to Les Jardies, to use his influence with his 
colleagues in the Academy. <“ Hugo promised but 
little,” says Gozlan ; and Balzac had to wait for a better 
opportunity. This happened at the end of 1843, when — 
Campenon died, and a vacancy occurred which he — 
might reasonably claim to fill. Encouraged at present — 
by Hugo and Charles Nodier, he began the round of — 
visits required by Academy etiquette; but soon dis- — 
covered that the members whose votes he solicited did 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 239 


not consider him rich enough. He therefore withdrew 
from the list of candidates, writing to Nodier that, if he 
could not succeed in entering the Academy while in 
honourable poverty, he would never present himself at 
the moment when prosperity should have bestowed her 
favours on him. 

And, so far as personal solicitation was concerned, 
he never did. Though not abandoning his desire of 
belonging to the Forty, and esteeming rightly that the 
value of his work entitled him to a place among them, 
he felt after this rebuff that, if a fresh proposal were 
made, it should come from the other side. He might 
have done more to provoke it had not Madame Hanska 
been against his taking any further action in the 
matter, however indirect. Maybe she realized better 
than he did the uselessness of his candidature. The 
enemies he had in the Academy and its entourage 
were too powerful for his claims to be considered. 
Many years afterwards, Victor Hugo related that the 
novelist put himself forward for the vacancy left by 
Ballanche’s death at the end of 1847, and apropos added 
the following anecdote. 

«T was driving,” he said, “down the Rue du Fau- 
bourg Saint-Honoré, when in front of the Church I 
perceived Monsieur de Balzac, who beckoned to me 
to stop. I was going to get out of the carriage, but 
he prevented me, and said: ‘I was just coming to see 
you. You know I am on the list for the Academy.’ 
‘Really!’ ‘Yes. What do you think of my chances ?’ 
‘You are too late, I fear. You will get only my 
vote.’ ‘It is your vote especially I want.’ ‘Are you 
quite in earnest?’ ‘Quite.’ Balzac quitted me. The 
election was virtually decided. For political motives, 
the candidature of Monsieur Vatout had a majority of 


240 HONORE DE BALZAC 


supporters. I tried to canvass for Balzac, but met with 
no success. It vexed me to think that a man of Balzac’s 
calibre should have only one vote, and I reflected that, 
if I could obtain a second one, I might create some 
change of opinion. How was I to gain it? On the 
election day I was sitting beside the excellent Ponger- 
ville, one of the best of men. I asked him point blank, 
‘For whom are you voting?’ ‘For Vatout, as you 
know. ‘I know it so little that I ask you to vote 
for Balzac. ‘Impossible!’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because my 
bulletin is ready. See.’ ‘Oh! that makes no matter.’ 
And on two bits of paper I wrote in my best hand: 
‘Balzac. ‘Well!’ quoth Pongerville; ‘well! you will 
see. The apparitor who was collecting the votes 
approached us. I handed him one of the bulletins I 
had prepared. Pongerville, in his turn, stretched out 
his hand to put Vatout’s name in the urn; but, with a 
friendly tap on his fingers, I caused his paper to flutter 
to the floor. He looked, appeared irresolute for a 
moment; and, as I presented him with the second. 
bulletin, on which Balzac’s name was inscribed, he 
smiled, took it, and gave it with good grace. And that 
is how Honoré de Balzac had two votes in his favour 
at the Academy.” 

This story is inexact chronologically. Balzac was 
not a candidate in 1847-48, when Monsieur Vatout was’ 
chosen, but at two later elections, those of the 11th 
and 18th of January 1849. In each of these he ob- 
tained two votes; and, since the second election was 
to fill the chair of Monsieur Vatout, who died after 
occupying it during a twelvemonth, it would seem that 
Victor Hugo, deceived by his memory, confused th 
two events. As for the conversation with Balzac, it 
probably refers to the candidature which the novelist 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 241 


did begin in 1844; and either Hugo’s age in 1877, 
when he told the story, or his capacity for embellishing 
was responsible for the interview being tacked on to 
the election incident of 1849. 

The Pongerville mentioned by Hugo was the same 
in whose album, in 1844, Balzac wrote a couple of 
complimentary verses. He happened to come across 
the album at his sister’s, and, after inserting his poetry, 
took the book to Pongerville’s house without finding 
him at home. He had certainly reckoned, at the close 
of the preceding year, on having this Academician’s 
vote, as well as Dupaty’s, Hugo’s, and Nodier’s. 
Pongerville may have deemed his own tardy support a 
sufficient reward for the verses. 

Although Balzac’s monetary embarrassments were 
fated to persist as long as he lived, the causes being 
so much in the man, their burden was somewhat less 
felt in and from the year 1844. his better state of 
things was proved by his looking round for a more 
commodious residence. The Passy cottage, picturesque 
as it was, accorded but ill with his designs of marrying 
so grand a dame; and even for his work was not very 
suitable, being close to the flats of the Rue Basse, where 
families lived with children that disturbed his medita- 
tions. He would have liked to free Les Jardies from 
its mortgage and keep the place as a summer resort, 
while renting a snug mansion in the city during the 
winter; but the two abodes were hardly within his 
means, unless Eve would loosen her purse-strings. “I 
will not sell it,” he informed her, referring to his 
“Folly”; “it was built with my blood and brains. I 

ill stick to it—if I cannot dispose of it advantage- 
ously,” he finished up with, inconsequently. And still 
she made no sign; or, rather, she proffered no cash. 

Q 


242 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Business advice she gave in plenty. About each of 
the Paris houses suggested she had some objections 
to make, so that, after fixing successively on a residence 
belonging to Madame Delannoy (one of his creditor 
friends) in the Rue Neuve-des-Mathurins, on the old 
mansion opposite his Passy abode once possessed by 
the Princesse de Lamballe, on a property in the Rue 
Ponthieu, and on a plot of landin the Allée des Veuves 
where he thought they could build, the end of the 
year arrived without any definite solution being reached. 
The two “louloups,” as he called himself and Eve, 
filled their correspondence with calculations and figures, 
the Paris “louloup” expressing his conviction that 
figures were the foundation of their happiness. 

If he did not die too soon, she might consider she 
would marry a million in giving him her hand, he said. 
Slily, he now and again quoted his worth in the esti- 
mation of a rival feminine authority. For example, 
Madame de Girardin was about to write an article 
on the great conversationalists of the day, and had 
mentioned that she held him to be one of the most 
charming. However, when he raised his rate of ex- 
_change in this way, he was always prudent enough to 
follow up with concessions. His intimacy with the 
Englishwoman, Madame Visconti, who was Eve’s bug- 
bear, he broke off completely—at least he swore he had . 
done so, and offered to send his beloved tyrant the 
cold letter in which his whilom friend and benefactress 
bade him good-bye. To let Eve see it would not be | 
gallant on his part, he confessed; but what could he 
deny her, if she insisted. He was her Paris agent, 
even her Paris errand-boy, at one time negotiating the 
entrance of the governess, Mademoiselle Borel, into 
the Saint-Thomas-de-Villeneuve nunnery; at another, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 243 


purchasing gloves, millinery, and other articles of dress. 
Yet she never considered him submissive enough, not- 
withstanding his pretty flattery. 

** Why shouldn’t you have a poet ?” he asked, think- 
ing of himself, “as other people have a dog, a monkey, 
a parrot—the more so as I have in me something of 
these three creatures: I always repeat the same phrase, 
I imitate society, I am faithful.” And again in a burst 
of lyricism, he exclaimed: “ Adieu, loved friend, to 
whom I belong like the sound to the bell, the dog 
to his master, the artist to his ideal, prayer to God, 
pleasure to cause, colour to the painter, life to the sun. 
Love me, for I need your affection, so vivifying, so 
coloured, so agreeable, so celestial, so ideally good, 
of such sweet dominance, and so constantly vibrating.” 
With comparisons of this sort he was lavish. “I am 
like Monsieur de Talleyrand,” he told her in another 
letter. ‘‘ Hither I show a stolid, tin face and do not 
speak a word, or else I chatter like a magpie.” Adopt- 
ing the expression first invented by Guizot, he charac- 
terized their mutual relations as an entente cordiale, 
impatient, none the less, for the realization of his fancy, 
which was to see his idol enter a tabernacle prepared 
to receive her on the return from a delightful honey- 
moon. Meanwhile, he was amassing furniture and 
bric-a-brac, just as the bird bits of straw; and he 
implored her not to scold him. In the Rue Neuve- 
Saint-Augustin, he had ferreted out two Dresden vases, 
which he bought, resolving to deprive himself for a 
time of his grapes at forty sous a pound, in order to 
retrieve the money. 

The retrieval indeed was not easy, since his passion 
for collecting curios led him far, and he generally 
succumbed to the temptation of something ancient 


244 HONORE DE BALZAC 


and rare. In the previous autumn he had bought, for 
thirteen hundred and fifty francs, a secrétaire and com- 
mode in ebony, with inlaid pearl, that had apparently 
been manufactured at Florence in the seventeenth 
century; these objets dart he estimated at values 
ranging up to forty or fifty thousand frances. A descrip- 
tion of them appeared in the press, and rich amateurs 
inquired whether he were willing to sell; but, either 
because he asked too much or really did not want to 
part with them, they were kept, as also his Christ by 
Bouchardon or Girardon, which he obtained for two 
hundred francs and valued at several thousands. If 
he had no cash for his purchases—and this frequently 
happened—he placed one of his already acquired trea- 
sures (possibly unpaid for, too) in the establishment of 
his “‘ respectable relative,” as he styled the pawnbroker, 
and thus secured the coveted object. 

In his intercourse with his own family, Madame | 
Hanska was a continuously troubling factor. The 
prospect of his alliance with this foreign aristocrat had — 
less charm for Madame Balzac and Laure than for 
Honoré. They probably perceived the chimera he 
was pursuing, and could not be expected to show 
enthusiasm. This attitude on their side and a certain 
hauteur on his, partly caused by offended dignity, 
widened the breach between him and them. “I have 
now no family,” he told “ The Stranger,” “and I am glad 
that the coldness should be established before I am 
completely happy; for later the reason of it would 
have been attributed to you, or to what would have 
been termed my uppishness. The isolation, which you 
wish, will be likewise my dearest desire. My sister,” 
he proceeded, ‘“‘has suppressed for ever the literary 
question betwixt us, with her blue-stocking whims, I 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 245 


cannot talk to her of my affairs, nor yet of my mother’s. 
She brings upon me cruel anxieties by her want of tact, 
whenever there is anybody at her house. She asserts 
that her husband isa greater man thanI am.” Madame 
de Berny, he added, had foreseen his mother’s and 
sister's transformation when she told him he was a 
flower that had sprung up on a dunghill! If Madame 
de Berny told him this, it was no doubt in a fit of 
anger against them for endeavouring to sever the 
liaison, an endeavour they were perfectly justified in. 
These portions of Balzac’s confidences, which reflect 
upon his character seriously, and besmirch him more 
than those against whom they were spoken, cannot be 
overlooked in a biography. They have to be included 
in our judgment of him, and, in a measure, concern the 
tragic close of his love romance. 

We are fonder of him in the expansive moods when 
his naive wonder at his own performances carries him 
into self-panegyric, which, not infrequently, we can 
endorse, though with some discount. Thus, for instance, 
the Bourgeois of Paris he declared to be one of those 
masterpieces that leave everything else behind. “It 
is grand, it is terrifying in verve, in philosophy, in 
novelty, in painting, in style.” And yet there was 
Eugene Sue selling the Wandering Jew to a news- 
paper for a hundred thousand francs, while the Phalo- 
sophy of Conjugal Life, a publication of his own in 
-Hetzel’s Diable & Paris, fetched only eight hundred ; 
and the Peasants was paid for only at the rate of sixty 
centimes a line. His Modeste Mignon, which ap- 
peared in the Débats, sold rather dearer, six thousand 
francs being given, and, for the Bourgeois, nine 
thousand. The explanation of Sue’s getting more he 
imagined to be because Sue lived in grander style than 


246 HONORE DE BALZAC 


himself, with flunkeys to open the door and overawe 
the publishers who flocked to the successful writer, 
whereas he, living in a cottage, had to cool his heels in 
an office ante-chamber, and was exploited on account 
of his neediness. There was some truth in what he said ; 
but he did not sufficiently realize that Sue wrote, for 
the market, exciting tales that everybody rushed to 
read. His own books were, of course, most of 
them infinitely superior ; but they appealed to a much 
smaller public. All the same, he was loth to resign 
himself to the depreciation Sue’s bargains effected in 
his own. Feverishly he strove to demonstrate by his 
painfully gained successes that they were masterpieces, 
as he said, by the side of Sue’s chimney-fronts, and 
as far above them as Raphael was above Dubufe. 

Moliére, Lesage, Voltaire, Walter Scott—these were 
the only names he acknowledged as rivals to his own. 
Sue was nothing but a spangled and satined Paul de 
Kock. 

We can grant him that, in fiction, his proper ~ 
manner was as far in advance of his epoch as, in 
politics, his doctrine was behind it. George Sand was 
a medium in both, although she dwelt always a little 
too much in the clouds. At a dinner with her towards 
the end of January, the antagonism of their principles 
manifested itself over his recent visit to Russia. 

“If you were to see the Czar,” Balzac said to her, 
“you would fall in love with him and jump from your 
bousingotism: to autocracy.” 

Madame Dudevant waxed angry. It was not kind 


1A word used to characterise the dress and manners of the 
Romanticists, who were fond of Robespierre waistcoats, long hair, 
and other peculiarities intended to distinguish them from ordinary 
mortals. 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 247 


in a man who had resisted her blandishments to make 
merry over her foibles. 

The Russians, he gravely told her, were extremely 
amiable, easy to get on with, exceedingly literary, since 
everything was done on paper, and Russia was the only 
country in which people knew how to obey. 

The mention of obedience in a people irritated the 
hostess ; but on her seething he poured a drop of cold 
water by asking jestingly : 

«Would you, in a great danger, wish your ser- 
vants to deliberate about what you had ordered them 
to do?” 5 

The Sandist - Philosophico - Republico - Commu- 
nico - Pierre - Lerouxico - Germanico - Deisto train (the 
epithets are Balzac’s) stopped dead at the question. 
Then Marliani, one of the guests, remarked that argu- 
ment was impossible with poets. Balzac bowed, and 
added : 

«“ You hear what he says?” 

« You area dreadful satirist,” retorted George Sand. 
«¢ Go on with your Comédie Humaine.” 

It was not necessary to give the recommendation. 
He was for ever going on; and the further he went, the 
further his horizons receded. The embracing lines 
were rather indiscriminate. He came to think himself 
capable of reducing every domain to his scale. Men’s 
ambitions, however, are part of their motive power ; 
and, had his been less sweeping, the qualities of his 
work might have diminished with the defects. “ Four 
men,” he cried in one of his vauntings, “ have had an 
immense life, Napoleon, Cuvier, O’Connell, and—I 
mean to be the fourth! The first lived with the life 
of Europe; he inoculated himself with armies ! The 
second espoused the globe! The third incarnated in 


248 HONORE DE BALZAC 


himself a people! As for me! I shall have borne a 


whole society in my head! It is just as well to live 
thus as every evening to say, ‘Spades, hearts, trumps , 
or to wonder why Madame such a one has done such 
and such a thing.” 


Modeste Mignon, which was published in 1844 — 


with the extra attraction of some of Auber’s music in 
it, is one of Balzac’s brighter and lighter books, and 
reproduces part of his own last love-story more objec- 
tively treated than in Albert Savarus. Its plot was 
suggested to him by a short tale which Madame 
Hanska composed, intending to submit it for his 
approval, but which she threw in the fire, afterwards 
sending him, in one of her epistles, an outline of what 
she had done. Since he utilized her invention, he paid 
her back by selecting as his point of. departure the 
adventure of a well-educated girl of literary tastes, who, 
through reading the verses of the celebrated Canalis, 


at once a poet and a statesman, fell in love with him © 


and expressed her (literary) admiration in a letter, 
though she had never seen him. ‘There were other 
such cases in the first half of the nineteenth century 
besides that of the Polish Countess and the author of 


Eugénie Grandet. Disdaining to reply to a correspon- - 


dent who did not appear to be a person with whom he 
could take liberties, Canalis delegated the task to his 
friend and secretary, La Briére, who answered under 
_ cover of the great man’s name and ultimately found 
out and, incognito, beheld the lady. She was 
beautiful and he lost his heart to her. When later the 
subterfuge was discovered, Canalis, interested now, 
wanted to marry the lady, she being presumably rich. 
Through pique, Modeste, for a while, listened to his 
suit and smiled on him, albeit, in verity, she was 


Ne a i i cacmrtallt ti e  n 


at ial a 





A.Dumas __ F. Soulié Liszt 
Balzac Mme. de Girardin J.Janin V. Hugo 


CELEBRITIES AT A TEA-PARTY 
From a Caricature by Grandville (1845) 
(Collection of M. Adolphe Jullien) 





LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 249 


touched by La Briére’s sincere affection. The circum- 
stances leading to the unmasking of Canalis’ selfish 
character and to Modeste’s marriage with La Briere are 
handled in a less Balzacian way than the introductory 
chapters, which, however, are more than usually tortuous. 
But the whole story is pleasing; and, in the discursive 
paragraphs, there is less dogmatism and a more delicate 
sense of contrasts than the novelist is wont to exhibit 
when astride a hobby-horse. The following passage 
has an aroma of Shelley’s Defence of Poetry in it, which 
merits our attention. The divine in man says: 

«In order to live, thou shalt bend thyself towards 
earth ; in order to think thou shalt raise thyself heaven- 
wards. We want the life of the soul as much as that 
of the body; whence there are two utilities. Thus it 
is certain that a book will not serve as foot-gear; an 
epic, from the utilitarian point of view, is not worth an 
economical soup from the kitchen of a Benevolent 
Society; and a self-acting boiler, rising a couple of 
inches on itself, procures calico a few pence a yard 
cheaper; but this machine and the improvements of 
industry do not breathe life into a nation, and will not 
tell the future that it has existed; whereas Egyptian 
art, Mexican art, Grecian art, Roman art, with their 
masterpieces accused of uselessness, have attested the 
existence of these peoples in the vast expanse of time, 
there where huge intermediary nations, destitute of 
great men, have disappeared without leaving their visit- 
ing cards on the globe. All works of genius are the 
epitome of a civilization, and presuppose an immense 
utility. Forsooth, a pair of boots will not outvie a 
stage-play in your eyes, and you will not prefer a wind- 
mill to the Church of Saint Ouen. So, a people is ani- 

mated with the same sentiment as a man; and man’s 


250 HONORE DE BALZAC 


favourite idea is to survive himself mentally as he re- — 
produces himself physically. The survival of a people 
is the work of its men of genius.” 

Béatrix, the other completed novel of the year, is a 
drawn-out, ill-composed work, which is not redeemed — 
sufficiently by its minute description of Breton manners 
and its portrait of George Sand in Félicité des Touches. 
Six years separated the publication of the first part of 
the book from that of the conclusion, and, in the 
interval, the unity of plan suffered. Balzac devoted a 
good deal of labour to its execution. In all the con- 
jugal ruses employed by Sabine de Grandlieu to detach 
Calyste, her husband, from Béatrix, he displays his 
peculiar talent, but the ultimate effect is poor. 


CHAPTER XII 
LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER,” 1845, 1846 


THoucu fertile in incidents, the year of 1845 was, from a 
literary point of view, more barren than any in Balzac’s 
past career, exception, of course, made for the time lost 
during his printing-house adventure. Beyond his short, 
witty sketch, 4 Man of Business, relating the tricks 
employed by the princes of bohemianism to pay their 
debts and indulge their caprices gratis, no finished work 
was published. ‘The Peasants, which the author never 
entirely got through, was taken up repeatedly, and as 
often put aside from sheer inability to proceed. 

The deadlock in which he found himself had been 
preparing since his visit to Saint Petersburg. Whether 
the intimacy created there between Madame Hanska 
and himself was that of two lovers in the chaster sense, 
or, as Monsieur Gabriel Ferry asserts, in his Balzac et 
ses Amies, that of a closer union, it had haunted him 
during his subsequent twelvemonth’s loneliness. And 
when Eve, who had come to spend the winter at Dresden, 
discouraged, from fear of her society friends’ backbiting, 
the idea of his going there to see her, he grew incap- 
able of concentrating his mind on his books ; and, even 
in his letters to her, chafed and was irritable, scolding 
her for not stamping her envelopes, and recommending 
her to acquire habits of order and economy !!! confess- 
ing the while that, to escape from his melancholy, he 
had been playing lansquenet, dining out, going to the 
theatres, and leading a ope et life. 


252 HONORE DE BALZAC 


This tone was a bold one to assume, but clever. 
His tyrant, already repenting the pledges given, had 
been hinting it would be better not to carry them out. 
Her own relatives were quite as much against the 
match as Balzac’s, she reminded him, while narrating 
all the malicious tittle-tattle that mutual acquaintances 
were constantly telling her. She defended him, she 
said. “A mistake!” retorted Balzac. “When, in 
your presence, any one attacks me, your best plan is to 
mock the slanderers by outdoing them. /When some one 


sneeringly remarked to Dumas that his father was a 


nigger, he answered : ‘ My grandfather was a monkey.’ ”. 


His scolding for once did good. Eve did not like 
his “wounding prose,” but she talked no more of 
breaking with him. On the contrary, she relented so 
far as to remove the embargo on his going to Dresden ; 
so in May he went. And, what was more, she came in 
August to Paris ; incognito, since the visit was without 
the Czar’s permission, she and her daughter Anna 


travelling from the frontier under the names of Balzac’s 


sister and niece. 

In the novelist’s correspondence, there is a curious 
letter written on the 2nd of August to Madame Emile 
de Girardin. In it the writer excuses himself for not 
calling on her, being obliged to remain at home on 
account of the disquieting condition of a lady friend of 
his who had hurt herself and was under medical treat- 
ment. ‘The inference is that the lady in question was 
staying in his house; and a note written to Madame 
Hanska, on the 4th of September, with its allusion to 
the Passy garden in which they had walked so much 
together, makes it sufficiently plain that she was the 
August guest. Although no proofs have yet come to 
light which we can accept as irrefutable, there seems 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 253 


to be ground for the supposition put forward that a 
premature confinement was the illness, carefully con- 
cealed from every one. 

If the supposition be correct, it explains the con- 
valescent’s being joined by Balzac again in September 
at Baden-Baden, where arrangements were made for 
Eve and himself to meet in October at Chalon-sur- 
Sadne and to travel together to Italy. It was during 
this second stay in Germany that the play of the 
Saltimbanques they had seen suggested to the novelist 
the amusing nicknames which he thenceforth adopted 
when writing to Madame Hanska’s family. Anna was 
dubbed. Zéphirine ; her betrothed, Gringalet ; Eve, 
Atala ; and himself, Bilboquet. Georges, the betrothed, 
who was a Pole bearing the title of Count Mniszech, 
was a young man of scientific tastes and considerable 
learning, for whom Balzac conceived a great liking, 
and whom he helped in his entomological researches. 

The ramble southwards was probably the most 
pleasurable experience in the novelist’s life, being an 
anticipated honeymoon. From Chalon they jour- 
neyed along the banks of the Rhone, visiting no 
fewer than twenty-three towns on the way. At 
Naples they parted, and the prospective bridegroom 
turned Paris-wards, going vid Pisa, Civita Vecchia, and 
Marseilles; in this last city he comforted himself 
for the separation by hunting out further adornments 
for the home he was still busily striving to find in the 
capital. 

At Marseilles lived a poet-friend of his named 
Méry, whom he had enlisted as a collaborator in his 
teeming dramatic schemes. Him he commissioned to 
bargain for certain articles of vertu which Lazard, the 
famous dealer in antiquities, quoted too dear—eight 


254 HONORE DE BALZAC 


hundred frances for a mirror, and five hundred for a 
statuette. “Let Lazard see that you will give a 
thousand francs for the two things,” he advised Méry ; 
“but don’t offer more than nine. Glance stoically at 
the articles when passing by, and joke the dealer. 
Then send acquaintances to offer a little less than 
you. After a fortnight’s haggling, Lazard will let 
you have them one fine morning.” For getting the 
better of these sly shopkeepers, Balzac had a good 
many. devices up his sleeve. 

Back in Passy, he was seized again by the same 
restlessness as in the spring, thwarting his efforts to 
settle down to his desk. The utmost he could accom- 
plish was to wander about, note-book in hand, collect- 
ing material for later use. Happening in December 
to be near the Assize Courts, he went in to listen to ~ 
the trial of Madame Colomés, a niece of Marshal 
Sebastiani, who was accused of forging bills. He was 
struck by her strong resemblance to the dead Dilecta, 
and also by her attachment, herself being forty-five 
years of age, to a young man of twenty. The latter, 
after wasting in riotous living the money she had 
procured him by her forgeries, fled and left her to bear 
the brunt of her shame. The most repugnant detail 
of this unfortunate woman’s case Balzac utilized not 
long afterwards in his Cousin Bette. 

Perhaps it was less his ennui than the curiosity for 
new sensations which caused him to accept Gautier’s 
- Invitation to pass an evening with Baudelaire and one 
or two others, at the Hotel Pimodan, for the purpose 
of eating hashish. He experienced none of the 
extraordinary phenomena usually attributed to the 
consumption of this drug, his explanation being that 
the dose was too weak, or his brain too strong. How- 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 255 


ever, he owned to having heard celestial voices and 
to having seen divine paintings while he descended 
Lauzun’s staircase, in a promenade that seemed to have 
lasted twenty years. He does not appear to have 
repeated the intoxication. Yet, on receiving another 
unkind epistle from Eve, shortly afterwards, he men- 
tioned the possibility of his arming himself against 
his sea of troubles through the drug’s lethal pro- 
perties. 

In anything that had to do with the function of 
the brain, he was as interested as if medicine had been 
his profession. A book of Dr. Moreau’s on madness, 
which he read during these months of mental relaxa- 
tion, drew from him an acknowledgment wherein he 
foreshadowed his intention of studying anatomy and 
myology. “I believe,” he said, “we shall do no good 
until we have determined the action exercised by the 
physical organs of thought in the production of mad- 
ness. The organs are the containing sheaths of some 
fluid or other as yet inappreciable. I hold this for 
proved. Well! there are a certain number of organs 
which are vitiated by their lack, by their constitution, 
others which are vitiated by an excess of afflux. 
People who, like Cuvier and Voltaire, have exercised 
their organs early, have rendered them so powerful 
that no excess can affect them; whereas those. who 
keep to certain portions of the ideal encephalos, which 
we represent as the laboratory of thought—the poets, 
who leave deduction and analysis inactive and exploit 
the heart and imagination exclusively—may become 
mad. In short, there would be a fine experiment to 
make. I have thought of it for twenty years. This 
would be to reconstitute the brain of an idiot, to de- 
monstrate whether a thinking apparatus can be created 


256 HONORE DE BALZAC 
by developing its rudiments. Only by building up a 
brain shall we know how one is demolished.” 

The beginning of the new year did not bring back 
his former zeal for labour. Much of his time he 
frittered away in adding to his collections. Here he 
picked up a portrait of Queen Marie Leczinska by a 
pupil of Coypel, there, a Flemish lustre for which he 
paid four hundred and fifty francs. Eve reproached 
him with his idleness, presumably because he was 
too frequently at the house of Madame de Girardin. 
To calm her he penned a few remarks anent that lady 
not exactly complimentary. ‘“ Madame de Girardin,” 
he said, ‘‘ who is charming among a few friends, is a 
less agreeable hostess when she holds a large recep- 
tion. She belies her origin only by her talent ; but, when 
she is outside her talent, she becomes once more her 
mother’s daughter, that is to say ‘bourgeoise’ and 
‘Gay’ thoroughbred.” ‘To the soirée which drew from 
him this jibe, he had been invited to meet Sheridan’s 
granddaughter—an English bore, he styled her—who | 
looked him up and down through an eye-glass as if he 
were an actor. His relations with Emile, Delphine’s 
husband, continued to be marked by breezes. Before 
starting for Rome on the 17th of March, he sent him 
a few sharp lines complaining of the Presse’s delay in 
printing the Peasants. As a matter of fact, the 
readers of the Presse were not pleased with the story ; 
and the editor had been obliged to request the author 
to modify the unpublished part. Balzac complied, but 
felt sore. 

The earlier chapters of this novel appeared in 1844; 
the last ones did not come out until five years apee 
the novelist’s death. The plot of the book turns on 
the struggle waged by the peasants and petty bourgeois 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 257 


of Soulanges against a new but estimable landlord, 
General Montcornet, whose estate they are determined 
to have by hook or by crook in their own hands, not 
hesitating, at least some of them, to assassinate the 
honest agent who strives to protect his employer's 
property against their depredations. All these coun- 
try folk Balzac has portrayed with effects depending 
on the painter’s and sculptor’s art as much nearly as 
on the writer’s; and the inmates and visitors of the 
village-inn and coffee-house are individualized with 
an anatomical intensity fringing on the brutal. Like 
the Village Curé and the Country Doctor, the Peasants 
is a novel with a purpose and a warning. The author 
preaches against the dividing up of the land; and 
advocates agriculture on a large scale by a rever- 
sion to the old estates with their castles and forests. 
As adjuvants to these he pleads for the development 
of Catholicism, a wider influence of the clergy both 
in education and private life. His picture of peasant 
avarice has been repeated by later writers, Guy de 
Maupassant and Zola. True in many particulars, it 
is traced by a prejudiced mind, and cannot be accepted 
as thoroughly representative. 

At Rome he found Madame Hanska, and stayed 
with her there till May.: Instead of describing the 
Eternal City to his sister, he referred her to de Lamennais’ 
accounts, himself being fully occupied with his com- 
panion and sight-seeing. He was duly received by 
the Pope, and obtained a small crown chaplet for his 
mother, together with His Holiness’ blessing. Saint 
Peter’s surpassed his expectations, and the choir’s 
Miserere so delighted him that he went to hear it a 
second time in lieu of that of the Sixtine Chapel. The 


journey back through Genoa, the Grisons, and Bale 
R 


258 HONORE DE BALZAC 


was a pretext for continuing his bric-a-brac purchases, 
Holbein’s Saint Peter being added to his treasures. 
Reaching Paris at last, he now took up his pen with 
his old ardour. Fresh pledges for the future had been 
given him by Eve. These served to lure him onward ; 
and behind him were the creditors who had lent him 
money for his trip, and were wanting some of it restored. 
At this period Madame Hanska’s funds and his own 
were partly associated. Some of her capital and some 
of his own, probably the sum accruing from the sale of 
Les Jardies, at present definitive, had been invested in 
North Railway Shares, Besides, not a few of his paint- 
ings and antique pieces of furniture had been paid for 
with advances from her strong-box. 
The two works that issued from his new effort of 
creation were Cousin Bette and Cousin Pons. These, 
with Pierrette, made up his series of the Poor Relations. 
The Old Musician, as he originally called Pons, was 
meant to give us the case of a man overwhelmed with 
humiliations and insults, yet preserving his generosity 
and pardoning everybody and everything, avenging 
himself only through kindness. Composed, like César 
Birotteau, very rapidly, it bears evidence of the author’s 
haste. There is no proper love interest in the book, 
the lack being supplied by the friendship between Pons 
and the old German musician, Schmucke. A number 
of subordinate biographies are interwoven with the 
principal story—those of the banker Briinner, the 
Auvergnat Remonencq, the Cibots, who were Pons’ 
porters and caterers, Doctor Poulain and Lawyer 
Fraisier. We have plots within plots, wheels within 
wheels, in this strange, pathetic life of the musician, 
whose collecting hobby and expert’s skill in finding out 
rarities Balzac dwells on with all the greater detail as 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 259 


he was indulging at the time his own bent in this 
direction with peculiar zest and success. But the com- 
plexity and crowding are foils one is glad to have 
against the sordid treachery of the Cibot household, 
as, too, against the woes of Pons and Schmucke. 
Perhaps nowhere in his achievement has the novelist 
got deeper down to the rockbed of genuine humanity 
than in this work. Cousin Pons was published in 
1847. Cousin Bette came a year earlier. 

Besides the two novels just mentioned, Balzac 
finished, during this same period, the long series in 
which Vautrin is a chief, if not the chief, character ; 
and also a book variously named the Brothers of Con- 
solation and the Reverse Side of Contemporary History. 
In the Vautrin sequels he took up again the fortunes 
of Lucien de Rubempré, who, after returning in dis- 
grace to his family, loses courage and is on the point 
of drowning himself when he meets with an Abbé 
Carlos Herrera; the latter changes the young man’s 
suicidal intentions by promising to procure him wealth, 
rank, and honours. Herrera is no other than Vautrin, 
who, having escaped from prison, is at the head of a 
formidable association of convicts. Carefully hiding 
his identity from Lucien, he persuades him to accept 
monetary help; and gradually Lucien contrives to 
enter aristocratic society, becomes the favourite of the 
Duchess of Sérizy, and will be received as the betrothed 
of the nobly born Clotilde de Grandlieu, provided he 
can show that he possesses sufficient landed property. 
It so happens that his mistress Esther, a Jewess of 
great beauty, who is as fond of him as Coralie was, 
kills herself on learning that she must give him up. 
And Esther being in reality an heiress whose father, 
Gobseck, has just died, Vautrin forges a will by which 


260 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the fortune is bequeathed to Lucien. Unluckily for 
the ex-convict’s plans, some police spies have been on 
the track of his proceedings, and an untimely arrest of 
him and his protégé casts them into prison. These 
adventures are told in Whither Bad Ways Lead and two 
other volumes. A concluding book, entitled Vautrin’s 
Last Incarnation, relates the outlaw’s duel with justice 
in his confinement, the suicide of his disciple, and his — 
own pardon at the price of entering into the Govern- 
ment’s secret police. The later portions of this drawn- 
out piece of fiction are written in the melodramatic 
style, and the characterization is distinctly inferior. 
The author loses himself in the various imbroglios, and 
the actors degenerate into creatures of romance, lacking 
consistency. 

The Reverse Side of Contemporary History has 
sumilar defects. It was commenced in the Musée des 
Familles in 1842, was continued in 1844, and was 
completed only in 1848 in the Spectateur Républicain. 
We meet at first with a certain Godefroi who reaches 
middle age without obtaining any permanent satisfac- 
tion out of his life, and who thinks of burying himself 
in some quiet quarter of Paris where he can dwell 
unknowing and unknown. An accident introduces him 
to a kind of lay community whose presiding: spirit is 
a Madame de la Chanterie, and whose members are 
a priest and three old gentlemen. These people are 
devoting what remains to them of their existence to 
alleviating pain and distress. Godefroi js admitted 
into the association, and, during his novice expedition, 
has a curious experience which leads to the disclosure 
of Madame de la Chanterie’s past. This is narrated in 
the second half of the book. We get the whole of that 
lady’s tragic history, an unjust trial of which she was 





Photograph: Bergeron 
GARDEN OF THE HOUSE AT Passy 





- LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 261 


the victim, the Nemesis which punished the bad judge 
in his daughter's frightful malady and his poverty, and 
the heaping of coals of fire on his head by the woman 
who had suffered so direly through him. On arriving 
at the end of the story we cannot recognize it as the 
one we were made acquainted with at the outset. The 
tangle of episode and explanation—the latter confusing 
more than it explains—which intervenes in the middle, 
issues in a coarser thread that persists till the close. 
And yet the start was a fair one. 

With Cousin Bette, we are back among the mon- 
strosities. Bette is the poor relation who, unlike Pons, 
revenges herself for her humiliations and the insults 
bestowed on her. She aids in the pecuniary and moral 
ruin of the Hulot family, acts in cold blood, and attains 
her object before she dies. She is not the only per- 
verted nature delineated. There is the Baron Hulot, 
whose odious licentiousness brings him to a veritable 
cretinism. ‘There is Crevel, a grotesque, contemptible 
dupe; there are the Marneffes, sinks of corruption ; 
and, with these, other minor characters—the vindictive 
Brazilian who wreaks his wrath on Madame Marneffe 
and on Crevel by his mysterious death-causing gift. 
The ideally virtuous Adeline Hulot also the novelist 
belittles, making her offer herself to Crevel to save 
her husband from the consequences of his degrading 
passions. Nearly all the book is harrowing, and even 
the atmosphere of the bohemian circles, where conver- 
sation is one sparkle of satire, is heavily tainted with 
vice. 

George Sand protested against Madame Hulot’s 
portrait as unnatural ; and, herself being the contrary 
of prudish in sexual relations, the opinion cannot be 
called prejudiced. Balzac defended his treatment, while 


262 HONORE DE BALZAC 


admitting there was force in what she said. Arguing 
with her on their respective methods, he replied: ‘‘ You 
seek to paint man as he ought to be. I take him as he 
is. Believe me, we are both right. Both ways lead to 
the same goal. I am fond of exceptional beings. I am 
one myself. Moreover, I need them to give relief to 
my common characters; and I never sacrifice them 
without necessity. But these common characters in- 
terest me more than they interest you. I aggrandize 
them ; I idealize them in an inverse direction, in their 
ugliness or their stupidity. I give to their deformity 
terrifying or grotesque proportions. You could not do 
this. You are wise not to look at people and things 
that would cause you nightmare. Idealize in that which 
is pretty and beautiful. his is woman’s task.” 

In spite of sheriff’s summonses and stormy discus- 
sions with those to whom he still had indebtedness, and 
in spite, too, of a tropical. summer, the would-be bride- 
groom toiled cheerfully on through 1846. His Passy 
cottage was becoming, with the continually augmented 
collection, quite a museum, and Bertall, the artist- 
caricaturist, was in ecstasies over a china service esti- 
mated by its owner at some thousands of francs. His 
good humour rendered him his former conversational 
brilliancy, which had been somewhat damped during 
the past twelvemonth, and, at one of Delphine Gay’s 
dinners, where he met Hugo and Lamartine, he replied 
to Jove’s heavy artillery with a raking fire from his own 
quick-firing guns. Lamartine was enchanted. Balzac 
must go to the Chamber was his verdict. But Balzac, 
at present, was content to correspond with his Eve and 
to occupy himself with the restoration of the pictures 
she was helping him to buy. One of these, the Cheva- 
lier of Malta, he had acquired on Gringalet’s recom- 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” — 263 


mendation when in Rome. It had been bistered over 
by the dealer with a view to hiding a scratch, and there 
was also the dirt of age upon it. Requisitioning a 
clever craftsman in picture-restoring, he submitted the 
treasure to him. “It’s a masterpiece,” pronounced 
the expert ; “but what will it be worth when the dirt 
is off?” Three days later the restorer came back with 
his drugs and implements. And, first, he rubbed a 
corner with some cotton dipped in one of his mixtures, 
which frothed the painting white. Then for an hour he 
scrubbed the surface progressively until he had a lot of 
little cotton balls all black. Afterwards, he began again, 
for the dirt was in layers, and, at the conclusion of the 
scrubbing and brushing, the chevalier emerged as life- 
like and fresh as when painted by the pupil of Raphaél— 
Albert Diirer or another—three hundred years before. 
The scratch was easily repaired, and Balzac was beside 
himself with joy. Relating to Georges Mniszech this 
happy result, which enriched his gallery containing 
already more than half-a-dozen old masters of great 
value, he said: “When connoisseurs and dilletanti 
come to visit my collection I shall say to them, ‘I owe 
this head to a young professor of entomology; he is a 
charming young man, full of wit and feeling, who, for 
the moment, is buried in bliss, science, and the steppes 
of the Ukraine. He is so versed in paintings that he 
is a boon to his friends. Oh! I assure you he out- 
experts all the experts of Paris put together. What is 
his name ?—Gringalet !—No, really ?—As truly as I am 
called Bilboquet.’”’ 

The bliss referred to was Georges’ approaching 
marriage with Eve’s daughter Anna, which was cele- 
brated very unostentatiously at Wiesbaden in October, 
owing to the recent death of the Count’s father | 


264. HONORE DE BALZAC 


Balzac went to the wedding, and stayed with the 
family for four days. He had already spent a short 
time with them in August, on the occasion of the old 
Count Mniszech’s death, and, on his return journey, 
had been accompanied by Madame Hanska as far as 
Strasburg, where she made him such a definite state- 
ment regarding their marriage as amounted to an 
official engagement. It was between the two visits 
that he commissioned Georges to buy Atala a Voltaire- 
armchair for her greater ease and comfort. 

While at the wedding, he was able to tell Eve that 
he had at last come upon a house which was every- 
thing that could be desired for them two selves. It 
was the smaller remaining portion of the splendid 
mansion and grounds built for the famous financier, 
Beaujon, by the architect Girardin in the eighteenth 
century. ‘The original property, situated near the Arc 
de Triomphe, was nicknamed by contemporaries 
Beaujon’s Folly. At the owner’s death, the mansion 
and grounds were sold, and subsequently the Rues 
Chateaubriand, Lord Byron, and Fortunée were cut 
through the place. The abode chosen by the novelist 
bordered on the Rue Fortunée. From its staircase 
there was an entrance into a private chapel, which the 
financier had had constructed in his old age for his 
soul’s edification, and in which he was finally buried. 
The outside of the house in Balzac’s time was modest 
in appearance. Alone, a cupola, seen above the con- 
taining walls, suggested memories of bygone glory. 
Inside, there were still very substantial pieces of luxury 
and artistic decoration that needed only touching up 
to be practically what they had been of yore. Balzac 
detailed all this to his betrothed, and his selection was 
approved. No sooner was he in Paris again than the 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 265 


bargain was settled, and orders were given for the 
necessary repairs and renovation to be executed. 

The end of 1846 seemed to smile on these projects 
of a speedy installation in conformity with his desires. 
Though the North Railway Shares had declined con- 
siderably, he was earning a good deal of money. Cousin 
Bette yielded him thirteen thousand francs, and Cousin 
Pons was sold for nine—modest prices indeed ; but the 
total, with other sources of revenue, gave him for the 
twelvemonth an income of about fifty thousand francs. 
In the Beaujon mansion the workmen soon accom- 
plished prodigies, transforming its dilapidated rooms 
into ship-shape and elegance. Bilboquet issued special 
instructions for apartments to be fitted up for Gringalet 
and Zéphirine—a bedchamber and small salon, both 
circular and sculptured, with paintings on the arches, 
worthy of the destined aristocratic occupants. 

Urged on by the sight of these preparations, he 
threw himself with almost frenzy into fresh literary 
labour. Dr. Nacquart warned him against the conse- 
quences of such brain debauch, as he termed it, pro- 
phesying that harm would ensue. And the doctor was 
right. Balzac was soon to pay for his excesses. Just 
now there was much in the political firmament that 
caused the novelist anxiously to wish that his own 
fortunes and those of Eve were indissolubly united. 
«Make haste!” was his constant cry to her. 

«“T see,’ he said, “Italy and Germany ready to 
move. Peace hangs only by a thread—the life of 
Louis-Philippe, who is growing old; and, if war comes, 
Heaven knows what would happen to us. ... Fora 
young and ambitious sovereign who would not want, 
like Louis-Philippe, above all to die quietly in his bed, 
how favourable the moment would be to regain the 


266 HONORE DE BALZAC 


left bank of the Rhine. The populations are harassed 
by petty, imbecile royalties. England is at logger- 
heads with Ireland, who seeks to ruin her or separate 
from her. All Italy is preparing to shake off the yoke 
of Austria. Germany desires her unity, or perhaps more 
liberty merely. Anyway, we are on the eve of great 
catastrophes. In France, it is our interest to wait, our 
cavalry and navy not being strong enough to enable us 
to triumph on land and sea; but, when these two are 
improved and our defence-works completed, France 
will be redoubtable. One must admit, that, by the 
manner Louis-Philippe is administering and governing, 
he is making her the first Power in the world. Just 
think! nothing is factitious with us. Our army is a 
fine one; we have money; everything is strong and 
real at present. When the port of Algiers is terminated, 
we shall have a second Toulon in front of Gibraltar ; 
we are advancing in the domination of the Mediterranean. 
Spain and Belgium are with us. This man has made 
progress. If he were ambitious and wished to chant - 
the Marseillaise, he would demolish three empires to 
his advantage.” 

The foregoing outlook on the future neglected 
certain signs of the times equally necessary to be 
taken into account with others that were perceived. 
In politics especially, the humourist’s detachment is 
essential to correct perspective, and of humour Balzac 
had but small share. As compensation, pleasantry 
was not wanting in this Duc de Bilboquet, peer of 
France and other places—as he subscribed himself 
to his dear Gringalet. 

In February 1847, for the second time, Madame 
Hanska came to Paris incognito. The Beaujon house 
was nearly ready, and as mistress of it that was to be, 


LETTERS TO “THE STRANGER” 267 


her instructions were required for the garnishing. 
The happy Bilboquet conducted her to the Opera, the 
Italiens, the Conservatoire, and also to the Variétés 
where they saw Bouffé and Hyacinthe play in the 
laughable Filleul de tout le Monde. It was intended 
she should stay till April, and that then he should 
take her back to Germany, leaving her there to pursue 
her journey to Wierzchownia, whither he was to pro- 
ceed later. The novelist’s so far published correspon- 
dence has large gaps in the year 1847, with an entire 
lack of letters to Eve—yet such exist—so that we do 
not learn whether the intermediate programme was 
executed. Until the third volume of the Letters to 
the Stranger is published, it will be impossible to fill 
in accurately the history of the months between Feb- 
ruary and October, in which, however, events of im- 
portance occurred. One of these was Balzac’s burning 
all Madame Hanska’s epistles to him. Why? Ap- 
parently on account of a quarrel. And the quarrel ? 
Was it caused by her finding out that, in 1846, he 
had a liaison with a lady resulting in the birth of a 
six months’ child, which did not survive? Monsieur 
de Lovenjoul, who is the authority for this last 
information, mentions that the harassment Balzac 
suffered from the affair was largely responsible for 
the rapid progress of the heart-disease that finally 
killed him. 

During the month of April? he was occupied in 
removing his furniture from the Passy cottage to his 
new residence. ‘Théophile Gautier, who paid him a 
visit there not long after the installation, gave a sketch 

* On the house in Passy; the dates indicating the period of the 


novelist’s residence there are incorrect. It is to be hoped that the 
error, which has been pointed out to the Curator, will be rectified. 


268 HONORE DE BALZAC 


- of what he saw in an article that appeared in the 
Artiste. He says :— 

** When one entered this dwelling, which, indeed, 
was not easy, since the occupant kept himself close 
there, a thousand tokens of luxury and comfort were 
noticeable which were but little in agreement with 
the poverty that he pleaded. One day, however, he 
received us, and we saw a dining-room wainscoted 
in old oak, with table, chimney-piece, sideboards, 
dressers, and chairs, all in wood so carved as to have 
caused envy to Cornejo Duque and Verbruggen, if 
they had been present; a drawing-room upholstered 
in buttercup damask, and with doors, cornices, skirt- 
ing-board, and embrasures in ebony ; a library arranged 
in bookcases inlaid with tortoise-shell and brass in 
Boule style; a bathroom in yellow and black marble, 
with stucco bass-reliefs ; a dome boudoir, whose ancient 
paintings had been restored by Edmond Hédouin; a 
gallery lighted from above, which we recognized later 
in the collection of Cousin Pons. There were what- — 
nots laden with all sorts of curiosities, Dresden and 
Sévres china, cornet-shaped vases of frosted celadon, 
and, on the carpeted staircase, large porcelain bowls, 
and a magnificent lantern suspended by a red-silk 
cord. ‘Why! you have emptied one of Aboulcasem’s 
siloes,’ we laughingly remarked to Balzac, as we gazed 
at all these splendours. ‘ We were quite right in assert- 
ing that you were a millionaire.’ ‘I am poorer than 
ever I was,’ he replied, with a humble, sly air. ‘Nothing 
of this is mine. I have furnished the house for a 
friend that I am expecting. I am only the keeper and 
porter.’ ” 

Within three short years from this date, the charge - 
fell on her—the friend. She became the porteress 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 269 


of the abode which the other had prepared with such 
lavish attention and expenditure, to serve him only 
as a pall. 

In 1875, the widow and her son-in-law, Count 
Mniszech, resolved to modify the Hotel Beaujon and 
the adjoining buildings, with the intention of perpetuat- 
ing the novelist’s memory. The rotunda of the private 
chapel they planned to convert into a kind of circular 
atrium, with a fountain in the middle and a trellised 
gallery running round it, decorated with busts, statues, 
and other works of art. Changes likewise were to be 
effected in the courtyard, to which the pillars of the 
chapel nave had been removed; and a statue of the 
late owner was to be erected there, close to a tree, 
the seed of which had been planted on the occasion 
of his marriage. The facade of the house on the Rue 
Fortunée, now the Rue Balzac, was also to be em- 
bellished, and the central pavilion made to represent 
the novelist’s apotheosis, with a monumental bass-relief 
and a niche. Only a small portion of these alterations 
was completed. On Madame de Balzac’s death, in 
1882, the property was bought by the Baroness Salo- 
mon de Rothschild; and, before the end of the cen- 
tury, it was demolished and the ground it covered 
was incorporated into the Baroness’s own gardens. All 
that now marks the site is the small dome forming 
the corner of the Rue Balzac and the Rue du Faubourg- 
Saint-Honoré. 

Whatever menaces of rupture between the lovers 
may have darkened their horizon in the spring and 
summer of 1847 had vanished before the autumn. At 
the end of September, Balzac went by invitation to 
Wierzchownia, and remained its guest for over four 
months, The sight of Russia’s huge oak forests, of 


270 HONORE DE BALZAC 


which the Mniszech family possessed some twenty 
thousand acres, suggested to him another of the 
grandiose schemes for gaining a large fortune that 
he was for ever elaborating in his brain. His 
project was to establish an exportation to France of 
oak timber, either by sea or rail; which, with every 
expense figured out, might yield, so he calculated, a 
profit of a million two hundred thousand francs for 
a part area, and would still leave the estate well wooded 
after thinning out the trees. The thing was a gold- 
mine for him and his family if a banker could be in- 
duced to take it up. Alas! his brother-in-law was 
obliged to pour cold water on the project, proving 
to him that the expenses, contrary to what he had 
estimated, would far exceed the receipts. The weak 
point in the affair, however, was one that cheaper 
transport following on increased railway communica- 
tion could remedy.  Balzac’s only mistake was in 
imagining that this could be provided immediately. 
The visitor to Wierzchownia was not wrong in thinking — 
that Russia’s natural productions must sooner or later 
be one of the chief supplies of the European market. 
A better knowledge of the country, acquired during 
his stay, enabled him to perceive that internal reor- 
ganization was needed before the country’s immense 
wealth could be exploited to the same degree as was 
possible in a country like France. In the Forties, Russia 
presented curious contrasts—great magnificence, and 
yet entire want of the commonest conveniences. 
Madame Hanska’s estate was the only one boasting 
of a Carcel lamp and a hospital. There were ten- 
foot mirrors, and no paper on the walls. Still, he had 
not to complain of his apartments in pink stucco, with 
fine carpets on the floor, and furniture that was com- 


LETTERS TO «THE STRANGER” 271 


fortable. It astonished him to find that the whole 
of the Wierzchownia castle—as big as the Louvre— 
was heated by means of straw, which was burnt in 
stoves, the weekly consumption being as much as could 
be seen in the Saint-Laurent market at Paris. But, 
then, everything was huge. One of the Mniszech 
estates extended over a surface as large as the Seine 
and Marne Department, and was watered by no fewer 
than three rivers, the Dnieper being one of them. 
And the cholera was colossal also—a conscientious 
cholera, carrying off its forty to fifty victims a day 
in Kiew alone, and a total of nine thousand at Savataf. 
To reassure his relatives, Balzac added that this plague 
paid most of its calls at the houses of rich uncles, to 
which category he did not belong, and passed by people 
who had debts. Ergo, he was inoculated against its 
attacks. 


CHAPTER XIII 


LAST YEARS: MARRIAGE AND DEATH 


Ir is time something was said now about Balzac’s last 
dramatic compositions. Since the Gaité fiasco, in 1843, 
no other theatre had been brought up to the point of 
producing a further piece from his pen, although several 
negotiations were opened respecting plays supposed to 
be well in hand. In 1844, there was his comedy 
Prudhomme en Bonne Fortune, which the Gymnase 
had some thoughts of staging. Poirson, the manager, 
whom the author met one day in an omnibus, was 
enchanted with the idea, and proposed help even on 
most advantageous terms. ‘The rehearsals were fixed 
for March, and the first performance for May; but, 
for some reason that we do not learn, the execution 
of the project was abandoned. Probably it was the 
burden of unfinished novels and a lurking desire to go 
on with Mercadet, which was lying still in its un- 
achieved state. 

Twelve months later, Mercadet appears to have 
received the last touches, and to be awaiting only an 
opportunity for its representation. But Frédérick 
Lemaitre, who was to assume the chief rdle, had 
previous engagements, that monopolized him; so 
Balzac, meanwhile, turned again to a subject he had 
often toyed with, Richard the Sponge-Heart, the 
name recalling that of Richard the Lion-Heart, with- 
out there being the least analogy between the Norman 

272 


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AGNOLYOY ANY AHL NI aASAOP S,OvzIvg 


a “= ate Ae g Aid ede 


rece 








LAST YEARS 273 


king and the hero of the play. In each preceding 
attempt, the author had stopped short at the end of 
the first act, and, on recommencing, had produced a 
different version. The hero was a joiner, living in the 
Faubourg Saint-Antoine, whose habitual drunkenness 
had procured him his nickname. Had it been de- 
veloped, the piece would have no doubt been a popular 
drama, on the lines subsequently followed by Zola’s 
_Assommoir. There was talk of performing it at the 
Variétés in 1845; the year, however, slipped away, 
and it was not forthcoming. Dining with Gautier in 
December, at the house of Madame de Girardin, Balzac 
agreed with Théophile to go on with the drama in 
collaboration as soon as the theatres should have 
worked off some of their stock. Evidently, this was 
not done. However, Monsieur Henri Lecomte, in his 
Life of Frédérick Lemaitre, affirms that Balzac did 
terminate Richard the Sponge-Heart, and that it was 
handed to Frédérick to study. Then, some months 
afterwards, being in want of money, he asked the actor 
to take it to the publisher, Paulin, and obtain an 
advance of a thousand francs on it. If Paulin had it, 
he must either have mislaid. or destroyed it, for, from 
this date, all traces of it were lost; and, to-day, a few 
fragments alone remain in Monsieur de Lovenjoul’s 
collection. 

In 1846, vague mention was made in the corre- 
spondence with Madame Hanska of a military farce 
called the T'rainards or Laggards. However, nothing 
came of it. But in August 1847, after the publication 
of Cousin Pons, the novelist paid a visit to Monsieur 
Hostein, manager of the Thédtre Historique, which 
had been inaugurated in the preceding February. On 


this stage, which was subsequently transformed into 
7 S 


274 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the Théatre Lyrique, and later demolished to make — 


room for the Boulevard of the Prince Eugene, several 
pieces of Alexandre Dumas had just been played in | 
succession; and Balzac said to himself that he would — 


have a better chance of meeting with appreciative 


audiences in these new premises. Monsieur Hostein — 
relates in his Reminiscences that the novelist, calling » 
on him one day at his Bougival country-residence, — 
went out and sat with him by the river-side, and there — 


explained that he wished to write a great historic drama 


entitled Peter and Catherine (of Russia). Asked for an — 


outline of it, Balzac tapped his forehead and said: “ It 


is all there. I have only to write. The first tableau — 


can be rehearsed the day after to-morrow.” 


«We are,” he continued, “in a Russian inn, with © 
many people running in and out, since troops are pass- — 


ing through the place. 


“ One of the servants is a lively girl. Pay attention — 


to her. She is not beautiful, but attractive! and the © 


visitors notice her, and joke with her. She smiles at — 
every one; but those who go too far in gesture or — 


language soon discover they have made a mistake. 


<< All at once, a soldier enters, bolder than the rest. 
He gets the girl to sit down with him, and wants to — 


clink glasses with her. On the innkeeper’s objecting, he 


rises in a rage, thumps the table with his fist, and cries : 


= 


‘Let no one oppose my will, or I will set fire to the — 


> 


inn. 


«The innkeeper orders the girl to obey, for the troops — 


are everywhere, and the peasant is alarmed. Sitting 
down again, the soldier drinks with the girl, tells her | 
she shall be happy with him, and promises her a finer 


home than she has. 


« But while they are talking, a door opens at the 





PorTRAIT OF MADAME HANSKA AFTER HER MARRIAGE 
WITH BALZAC 


From a Painting by Gigoux 





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Ae vi. F 
2 - 


LAST YEARS 275 


back, and an officer appears. Those present rise with 
respect, except the girl and her companion. Approach- 
ing them, the officer lays his hand heavily on the 
soldier’s arm, and says: ‘Stand up, fellow. Go to the 
counter, and write your name and that of your regi- 
ment, and hold yourself at my orders.’ 

“The soldier stands up automatically, obeys, and, 
having presented the paper, retires. 

“Then the officer sits down and flirts with the girl, 
who accepts his compliments. 

* But now a stranger shows himself at the door. 
He is clad in a big cloak. At the sight of him, men 
and women fall on their knees, except the officer, who 
is too agreeably occupied to notice the new arrival. In 
a moment of enthusiasm, he says to the girl: ‘ You are 
divine. I will take you with me. You shall have a 
fine house, where it is warm.’ 

“ Just then, the man in the cloak draws near. The 
officer recognizes him, turns pale, and bows down, 
uttering : ‘Oh, pardon, sire !’ 

“««Stand up,’ orders the master, meantime examin- 
ing the servant, who, on her side, looks without 
trembling at the all-powerful Czar. 

“* You may withdraw,’ the latter tells the officer. 
‘I will keep this woman, and give her a palace.’ 

“Thus met for the first time Peter I. and she who 
became Catherine of Russia.” 

Having given this prologue, Balzac went on to 
speak .of the staging of his play, which he promised 
to arrange in accordance with what he knew of the 
country’s scenery and customs, Russia being, from an 
artistic point of view, admirable to exhibit theatrically. 
Monsieur Hostein was quite gained over by the pros- 
pect of something so novel; and Balzac, paying him a 


276 HONORE DE BALZAC 


second call, some few days later, pledged himself to 
start for Kiew and Moscow very shortly, and, from 
there, to go to Wierzchownia and finish his drama. 
The journey to Russia was made; and Balzac, in due 
course, returned, but he did not bring with him the 
dénouement of Peter and Catherine. 

Not that his mind was less preoccupied with the 
drama. On the contrary, Champfleury, who went to 
see him in the Rue Fortunée, soon after his arrival 
in Paris, found him more bent on writing for the 
stage than ever. One idea of his now was to create 
a féerie, or sort of pantomime, sparkling throughout 
with wit. Another was to form an association for 
dramatic authors of standing (himself naturally in- 
cluded), not to defend their interests, but to get them 
to work in common, and to keep thus the various 
Paris theatres provided with their work. It was a 
trust scheme before the era of trusts. If the thing 
were managed, they might renew the miracles of 
those indefatigable and marvellous Spanish play- 
-wrights—Calderon, who composed between twelve 
and fifteen hundred pieces, Lope de Vega, who com- 
posed more than two thousand. However, he feared 
that many of his colleagues might not care to fall in 
with his suggestion. ‘They are idlers, donkeys,” he 
added. ‘There is only one worker among them, and 
that is Scribe. But what a piece of literature his 
Memoirs of a Hussar Colonel is!” 

Another visitor to the Rue Fortunée in February 
1848 was Monsieur Hostein, to whom the novelist 
had offered for the spring a piece that should replace 
Peter and Catherine. This time the manuscript was 
ready. It lay on the table, bearing on its. first page 
the title, Gertrude, a Bourgeois Tragedy. ‘The piece 


LAST YEARS 277 


was a five-act one, in prose. A couple of days later, 
actors and actresses were assembled in Balzac’s draw- 
ing-room. Madame Dorval pursed her lips at the 
words, Gertrude, tragedy. ‘Don’t interrupt,” cried 
the author, laughing. However, after the reading of 
the second act they had to interrupt. ‘The play was 
overloaded with detail. A good deal of pruning was 
effected, together with a change in the title, before 
the first performance on the 25th of May; and more 
excisions might have been made with advantage. 
Alterations less beneficial were those introduced into 
the cast, Madame Dorval being eliminated in favour 
of Madame Lacressonniére. This lady was a much 
poorer actress, but was a persona grata with Monsieur 
Hostein. Both public and critics accorded Balzac’s 
new effort a very fair reception, notwithstanding the 
mediocrity of the acting and the peculiar circum- 
stances under which it was produced, just as the 
Revolution storm was breaking out. 

The Mardtre, or Stepmother, as the piece was 
called when staged, presents the home of a Count de 
Grandchamp, who, after being a general under the 
First Empire, has turned manufacturer under the 
Restoration. He has a grown-up daughter, Pauline, 
and a second wife named Gertrude, the latter still a 
young, handsome woman, with a ten-year-old son, the 
little Napoleon. Though they are outwardly on good 
terms, the stepmother and stepdaughter nevertheless 
hate each other. They are in love with the same 
man, Ferdinand, the manager of the general’s works. 
On this hatred the entire interest of the play turns. 
Ferdinand really loves Pauline; but he has formerly 
been engaged to Gertrude, who jilted him to marry 
the general, and this fact somewhat embarrasses him 


278 HONORE DE BALZAC 


in his wooing. Moreover, his father was an officer 
under the Revolution Government, and, if the general 
should learn that, it would ruin his chances of ob- 
taining the old gentleman’s consent. The plot arising 
out of these relations is, at first, cleverly dealt with 
by the author, who involves matters further by a 
second suitor for Pauline, to whom Gertrude tries 
to marry her, in order that she herself may regain 
Ferdinand’s affection. In the second act, a word- 
duel is fought between the two women, during a 
whist-party, each seeking to surprise the opponent’s 
true sentiments towards Ferdinand. This scene is 
exceedingly original; and, subsequently, a bold em- 
ployment is made by the author of the enfant terrible 
—the young Napoleon—for the purpose of helping 
on the unravelling of the plot. The concluding por- 
tion of the piece and its sombre tragedy—the deaths 
of Pauline and Ferdinand—is heavier in dialogue and 
cumbrous in construction, with its officers of justice ~ 
who supply a useless episode. One might sum up 
the Stepmother as a weak ending to a strong begin- 
ning. None the less it shows progress on Vautrin and 
Paméla Giraud. 

A few days after the Revolution, Théodore Cogniard, 
manager of the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre, wrote to 
Balzac and proposed to reproduce Vautrin. Balzac, in 
replying, referred to Lemaitre’s towpet, and explained 
that, when disguising Vautrin as a Mexican general, 
he had in his mind General Murat. He told Cogniard 
he was willing to allow the revival, if care were taken 
against there being any caricature of the now deposed 
monarch. The manager agreed, but the performances 
did not come off, apparently on account of the dis- 
turbed state of the city. In 1850, an unauthorized 


LAST YEARS 279 


revival was put on the stage of the Gaité, while Balzac 
was at Dresden. Being informed of it, the novelist 
protested in a letter to the Jowrnal des Débats, and 
the piece was at once withdrawn. 

The Stepmother was Balzac’s last dramatic com- 
position played during his lifetime. This was partly 
his own fault. In the short epoch of the Second 
Republic, when neither the Comédie Francaise nor 
the Odéon, the two national homes of the drama, 
were thriving, it was to the directors’ interest to 
seek out men of talent; and he had overtures from 
both theatres. Mauzin of the Odéon even promised 
him, as he had promised Alexandre Dumas and Victor 
Hugo, a premium of six thousand francs and a per- 
centage of receipts on any sum over a thousand francs. 
Balzac consented to write a tragedy entitled Rechard 
Sauvage, and got as far as—a monologue. With 
Lockroy of the Théatre Francais also he made an 
arrangement for a comedy. ‘There had been talk at 
first, both inside and outside the Frangais, of a satiri- 
cal piece called the Petty Bourgeois, but having 
nothing except the name in common with his un- 
finished novel similarly yclept. His motive for not 
proceeding with it he set forth to the journalist 
Hippolyte Rolle, in a letter published in his corre- 
spondence. “Is it on the morrow of a battle,” he 
wrote, “when the bourgeoisie have so generously shed 
their blood on behalf of threatened civilization, and 
when they are in mourning, that one can drag them 
before the footlights ?” 

The manager, he said, had been pleased to accept 
in exchange another comedy which would be soon 
performed. This comedy was the resuscitated Mer- 
cadet, the title of which had been altered to the 


280 » HONORE DE BALZAC 


. Speculator in 1847, and the Jobber in 1848. Under 
the last appellation, it was read by the Comédie Com- 
mittee in August, and unanimously approved. How- 
ever, between this date and December, Balzac had 
taken his departure to Wierzchownia, where he 
seemed likely to remain for a while; and, in his 
absence, the members of the Committee repented of 
their bargain. Another solemn sitting was held in 
December, and an amended resolution was passed, 
accepting the Jobber on condition that certain cor- 
rections were made in it. On being apprized of the 
proviso, Balzac immediately cancelled his treaty with 
Lockroy, and entered into negotiations with Hostein, 
who professed himself only too happy to place the 
Théatre Historique at the author’s disposal. Alas! 
the same difficulties and worse cropped up here. 
Hostein® wrote that his public was a boulevard one, 
much fonder of melodrama than comedy, and that, — 
if the Jobber were to succeed, it must be completely 
modified. Naturally, Balzac refused. He had not 
withdrawn it from the first theatre in Paris, which 
demanded only trifling alterations, to permit it to 
be cut up by a theatre of less importance. 

Content to wait till a more complaisant director 
should make overtures to him, he filled in his leisure 
at Wierzchownia by inventing the King of Beggars, 
which he announced to his friend Laurent Jan as an 
up-to-date play flattering the all-powerful plebs; and 
he likewise sketched a tragedy in which Madame 
Dorval was to have the chief rdle. This was in April 
1849, and, a few weeks later, Madame Dorval was 
dead. Only on the 23rd of August 1851, a year after 
his own death, did his executors meet with a director, 
Monsieur Montigny of the Gymnase, who undertook 


LAST YEARS 281 


eae ; : f 
to stage Mercadet the Jobber. Less intransigent than “. 


Balzac, the executors allowed its five acts to be reduced 
to three, and a considerable amount of suppression and 
remodelling to be operated by a professional play- 
wright, Adolphe Dennery. Performed with these 
concessions to theatrical requirements and popular taste, 
and with Geoffroy in the chief rdle, failing Lemaitre 
and Régnier, Mercadet pleased the public greatly, too 
greatly for some bull and bear habitués of the Bourse, 
who feared that their pockets might suffer. Owing to 
their complaints, the Minister for the Interior tempo- 
rarily suspended the representations, basing his inter- 
diction on the ground that expressions struck out by 
the Censor had een inserted again by the actors. 
Prudently, Monsieur Montigny ordered a few more 
excisions, and the prohibition was raised. Seventeen 
years elapsed before the Comédie Francaise at last 
placed Mercadet on its repertory and inaugurated the 
event by a special performance with Got as the 
Jobber. 

The hero of the piece is a financier who has very 
little cash, but innumerable projects for gaining money. 
These involve methods which are not always straight- 
forward ; yet, since he believes in the success of what 
he advocates, hé is not absolutely unprincipled, though 
he does not mind to some extent gulling the gullible. 
His chief aim is to trick his creditors—themselves, as it 
happens, not worthy of much pity ; and, himself kind- 
hearted, loving his wife and daughter, and not a 
libertine, he appeals to the sympathie$ of the reader or 
the audience. Most of the amusement of the play— 
and it is very amusing—is derived from the metamor- 
phoses adopted by the Jobber in dealing with each sort 
of creditor. Moreover, the love-passages between Julie, 


Pak 


/ 
f 


282 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the daughter, and a poor clerk who thinks her an heiress, 
are so managed as to strengthen the comic side of 
certain situations. The unexpected arrival of a rich 
uncle from America releases the Jobber ultimately 
from the tangle into which he has twisted himself. It 
is the least original part of the comedy; but was sug- 
gested, like the rest of the play, by Balzac’s own 
circumstances. Was he not always expecting a wind- 
fall; and was not Eve a kind of rich—relative? To add 
one more detail concerning Mercadet, it was revived at 
the Comédie Francaise in 1879, and again in 1890, 
there being as many as 107 performances. Its indis- 
putable qualities have caused some writers to conclude 
that, if Balzac had lived longer, he would have become 
as great a dramatist as he was a novelist. This is very 
doubtful. Notwithstanding its long incubation of 
nearly a decade, and the advantage it possessed in 
embodying so much personal experience, Mercadet was 
still weak in construction and was largely wanting in 
dramatic compression. And, at fifty years of age, with 
failing powers, Balzac would have found the task 
increasingly hard to acquire an art for which, by his 
own confession, he had no born aptitude. 

The temporary government which was set up, in 
consequence of the February Revolution of 1848, con- 
ceived the curious idea of summoning the members of 
the Men of Letters Society to a meeting in the Palais 
Mazarin, for the purpose of eliciting from them an 
expression of opinion on the situation of literature and 
the best way to protect it. Balzac, who had newly 
arrived from Wierzchownia, went to the meeting and 
was chosen chairman. But no sooner was the discussion 
opened than it degenerated into dispute and tumult ; 
the place became a bear-garden, and, after vainly 


LAST YEARS 283 


endeavouring to Irestore order, he took up his hat and 
left the room. 

When the general elections were held, for the 
forming of a Constituent Assembly, he stood as a 
candidate, and published a long declaration of his 
opinions in the Constitutionnel, in which had appeared 
his Poor Relations. The candidature had no success; - 
it could scarcely be expected to have any. His political 
style was not one to catch the popular vote; and his 
sympathies were too visibly autocratic to commend 
themselves at such a moment. What deceived him 
was that, at first, there appeared to be a chance for the 
establishment of a strong central power well disposed 
towards sage reforms of a social, administrative, and 
financial character, with men like Lamartine to elaborate 
them; and to a government of this kind he could have 
given his support. When he realized that the trend of 
events was towards a Republic of Utopian experiment 
which he regarded as doomed to failure and disaster, 
he quietly dropped out of the struggle, and, leaving 
Paris once more in September, retraced his steps to 
Wierzchownia. 

The political disturbances of the previous six months 
had been prejudicial both to his invested capital and to his 
income accruing fromwork. It was difficult to sell fiction 
advantageously when people were more interested in 
facts; nor did he care much to continue his efforts under a 
régime that he looked upon as a usurpation. Until the 
speedy overthrow which he confidently reckoned upon, 
he said to himself that he would do better to occupy 
himself with the question of his marriage. The hope 
was at present a forlorn one, but it was worth risking. 
He started with the intention of coming back, like the 
Spartan, either on his shield or under it. 


284 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Short of available cash, as always, he borrowed five 
thousand franes from his publisher, Souverain, for the 
expenses of his journey and pocket-money, and placed 
his mother in charge of his Beaujon mansion, with 
procuration to buy the complement of his domestic 
articles. 

The warm welcome he received on reaching Madame 
Hanska’s residence made him so sanguine that he wrote 
to Froment-Meurice, his jeweller in Paris, asking that 
the cornaline cup might be sent him which had been 
on order for the past two years. The jeweller was 
evidently not anxious to oblige such a bad payer. This 
cup, the novelist said, was to be flanked by two figures, 
Faith and Hope, the former holding a scroll, with 
Neuchatel and the date 1833 on it, the latter, another 
scroll, with a kneeling Cupid—the whole resting on a 
ground covered with cacti and various thorny plants 
besides, in silver gilt. 

The blasts of winter in a rigorous climate laid him 
by with bronchitis in November. He suffered at the 
same time great difficulty in breathing ; and the doctors 
diagnosed certain symptoms of heart trouble that 
caused them to consider his case a grave one. This 
malady relegated all matrimonial projects for the 
moment into the background. Madame Hanska did 
not hide that she regretted having put so much of her 
money into the purchase and furnishing of a house that 
they hardly seemed likely to inhabit together. Adding 
up what it had cost them both, they estimated the total 
at three hundred and fifty thousand francs. Into these 
figures the price of pictures entered for a large amount. 
The most recent were Greuze’s Jeune Fille Liffrayée, 
from the last King of Poland’s Gallery ; two Canalettis, 
once the property of Pope Clement XIII.; James LT. 


LAST YEARS 285 


of England's Wife, by Netscher; the same king’s por- 
trait, by Lely, in addition to a Van Dyck, two Van 
Huysums, and three canvases by Rotari, a Venetian 
painter of the eighteenth century. 

The winter was not propitious to Madame Hanska 
either. Two fires on her estate did enormous damage, 
and her money losses were important. Balzac, though 
tenacious of his plan, talked constantly of going back 
to his loneliness, yet stayed on still; and Eve, who either 
would not or could not screw up her courage, invented 
fresh reasons for procrastinating. One of these was the 
Emperor’s refusal to sanction the marriage unless 
Madame Hanska’s landed property were transferred to 
her daughter’s husband. <A scolding letter from the 
novelist’s mother, accusing Honoré of remissness 
towards his nieces and family, was by chance read to 
the Wierzchownia hostess, and this further complicated 
a situation already sufficiently involved. Balzac’s bile 
was stirred. He relieved his feelings in a long reply to 
Laure. It seemed_after all he would return to Paris 
under his shield. (“I had a marriage which made my 
fortune,” he told her. “ Everything is now upset for 
a bagatelle. Know that it is with marriages as with 
cream ; achanged atmosphere, a bad odour, spoils them 
both. Bad marriages are easily arranged; good ones 
only with infinite precaution. ... I can tell you, 
Laure,” he continued, “it is something, when one 
wishes, to be able in Paris to open one’s drawing-room 
and gather in it an élite of society who will find there a 
woman as polished and imposing as a queen, illustrious 
by her birth, allied to the greatest families, witty, 
educated, and beautiful. One has thus a fine means of 
domination. With a household thus established, people 
are compelled to reckon; and many persons of high 


286 HONORE DE BALZAC 


position will envy it, especially since your dear brother 
will bring to it only glory and a clever conduct.” 

Here we have the secret of Balzac’s persistence, and 
ample proof also of what has already been asserted, to 
wit, that his affection for the Stranger was a fancy born 
and bred rather in the head than in the heart. 

It was perhaps to take the edge off this quip quarrel- 
some that the following amusing lines were addressed 
in the next month to his nieces, giving them particulars 
about animal and vegetable foods in Russia. “The 
country,” he said, “has no veal—I mean eatable veal, 
for cows produce calves here as well as elsewhere ; but 
these calves are of Republican leanness. Beef, such as 
one gets in Paris, is a myth ; one remembers it only in 
dreams. In reality, one has meat twenty years old, 
which is stringy and which serves to bulk out the 
packets of hemp intended for exportation, One con- 
soles one’s self with excellent tea and exquisite milk. 
As for the vegetables, they are execrable. Carrots are 
like turnips, and turnips are like nothing. On the 
other hand, there are gruels galore. You make them 
with millet, buckwheat, oats, barley ; you can make 
them even with tree-bark. So, my nieces, take pity 
on this country, so rich in corn, but so poor in vege- 
tables. Oh! how Valentine would laugh to see the 
apples, pears, and plums! She wouldn’t give over at the 
end of a year. Good-bye, my dear girls, and accept 
the Republic patiently ; for you have real beef, veal, and 
vegetables, and a kind uncle happy and fed on gruel.” 

Ill again with his heart in the April of 1849, Balzac 
had the good luck to be attended by a pupil of the 
famous Doctor Franck, the latter being the original of 
his Country Doctor. This disciple, and his son to a 
less extent, were men of a newer and more enlightened 


LAST YEARS 287 


school; and the elder man, by bold experiments, 
reduced his patient’s arterio-sclerosis to the point of 
what seemed to be convalescence. But the treatment 
was tedious and lasted on into the summer, so that the 
novelist was left weak and delicate at the end. In 
such a condition he was less than ever fit to carry on 
his wooing. 

To give himself a countenance, he spoke again of 
departure, fixing the date for the month of October. 
Madame Hanska was apparently willing to let him go. 
She had played the hostess generously during nearly 
a twelvemonth to this invalid, and it seemed to her 
enough. Not that she intended to sever the engage- 
ment. She wished merely to wait and see how matters 
turned out. Meantime, he could watch over their 
common property, now augmented by the acquisition 
of an extra plot of land at the side, which could be 
resold later at a large profit. But a resumption of the 
old burden was more than Balzac could face. In 
September he was prostrated by what Dr. Knothe 
called an intermittent brain fever, which continued for 
more than a month. His constitution pulled him 
through, with the aid of good nursing; and then, 
realizing that her tergiversations had been partly 
responsible for the attack, Eve, at last, in conversa- 
tions between them that followed his recovery, let 
him understand that she relented and was willing to 
accompany him back to Paris as his wife, if the 
Emperor would permit of such a transfer of the estate 
to Count Mniszech as might enable her to receive a 
share of its revenues. 

The victory was won, yet at a heavy cost. Fora 
man so worn down by illness Russia was not the place 
to recruit in, Its biting winds throughout the winter 


288 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of 1849 and 1850 withered what little vitality Balzac 
had still remaining, and at Kiew, where he had gone 
with Madame Hanska on business, he was again laid 
up with fever. 

All the different formalities required by Russian law 
having been finally complied with, the wedding was 
celebrated on the 14th of March, in the Church of Saint 
Barbara at Beriditchef, some few hours distant from 
-Wierzchownia. At once the bridegroom despatched 
the news to his family and friends. His joy was such 
that he fancied he had never known happiness before. 
“I have had no flowery spring,” said his letter to 
Madame Carraud. “But I shall have the most bril- 
liant of summers, the mildest of autumns. .. . I am 
almost crazy with delight.” . 

More than a month elapsed ere the newly married 
couple were able to set out on their journey to the 
French capital, and, even then, they had to travel along 
roads studded with quagmires into which their carriage 
frequently sank up to the axle. Sometimes fifteen or. 
sixteen men and a crick were necessary to extricate 
them. Though on their honeymoon, they found the 
repetition of these incidents monotonous, and were so 
tired when they arrived at Dresden that they stayed 
there to recover themselves. From this town Balzac 
sent a few lines to his mother and sister mentioning 
the approximate date of their reaching home; and in- 
structions were given that everything should be in order, 
flowers on the table, and a méal prepared. He did not 
want his mother to be at the house to receive them, 
deeming it more proper that his wife should call on her 
first, either at Laure’s, or at Suresnes where she was 
living. They got into Paris on the 22nd or 23rd of 
May. 


LAST YEARS 289 


Monsieur de Lovenjoul relates that the two travellers 
drove up to the Beaujon mansion a little before mid- 
night. Weary with the journey, they stepped out of 
the cab and rang the bell, rang more than once, for no 
one came to open the door. Through the windows they 
could see the lamps lighted and signs of their being 
expected. But where was the valet, Francois Munck, 
who had. been left in charge by the novelist’s mother ? 
Apparently, he had deserted his post. Balzac kept on 
ringing, shouting at intervals, and thumping the gate. 
Still there was the same silence inside. The one or 
two people passing at this late hour stopped out of 
curiosity, and began in their turn to call and knock ; 
while the cabman, tired of waiting, put down the 
luggage on the footpath. 

Madame de Balzac grew impatient. It was cold 
standing in the night-air. Her husband, nonplussed 
and exceedingly annoyed, did not know what to say to 
the bystanders. One of the latter offered to fetch a 
locksmith, named Grimault, who lived in a street close 
by. The suggestion was gladly agreed to, since there 
seemed nothing else to be done. However, until such 
time as the locksmith should come, they continued 
battering at the gate and throwing tiny pebbles at the 
windows ; and the master, thus shut out from his own 
dwelling, hallooed to the invisible valet: “I am Mon- 
sieur de Balzac.” It was useless. The door refused 
to open. Around Madame de Balzac, now seated on 
one of the trunks, other passers-by had gathered and 
listened to the novelist’s excited comments on his pre- 
dicament. The occurrence was certainly extraordinary. 

At length, the locksmith was brought and the gate 
was forced. The whole party, hosts and impromptu 


guests, hurried through the narrow courtyard, entered 
T 


290 HONORE DE BALZAC 


the house without further hindrance, and’ were met 
by a strange spectacle. The valet had been seized 
with a sudden fit of madness and had smashed the 
crockery, scattered the food about, spilt a bottle of wine 
on the carpet, upset the furniture, and ruined the flowers. 
Having performed these exploits, he was wandering 
aimlessly to and fro with demented gestures, and in this 
state they discoveredhim. After securing and fastening 
him up in a small room, the visitors helped to place the 
luggage in the yard and then retired, with profuse thanks 
from the novelist, who, being thoroughly unnerved by 
this untoward incident, was obliged to go straight to 
bed. ‘The next day, Francois was taken to an asylum 
at his master’s expense, as is proved by a receipt still 
existing in which Balzac is dubbed a Count. Perhaps 
the title was a piece of flattery on the doctor’s part, or 
the novelist may have imagined that his marrying a 
Countess conferred on him letters of nobility. 

Anyway, this assumed lordship was poor compensa- 
tion for the immense disappointment of his marriage in 
every other respect. From the moment he and his wife 
took possession of their fine Beaujon residence, whatever 
bonds of friendship and tenderness had previously existed 

_between them were irremediably snapped asunder. 
\ Peculiarities of character and temperament in each, 
which, as long as they were lovers, had been but slightly 
felt, now came into close contact, clashed, and were 
proved to be incompatible. Moreover, there were dis- 
agreeable revelations on either side. The husband learnt 
that his wife’s available income was very much inferior 
to what he had supposed or been led to believe, and 
the wife learnt that her husband’s debts, far from being 
paid, as he had asserted, subsisted and were more 
numerous and larger than he had ever in sober truth 


LAST YEARS 291 


admitted. So, instead of coming to Paris to be the 
queen of a literary circle, the Stranger saw herself 
involved in liabilities that threatened to swallow up 
her own fortune, if she lent her succour. 

Reproaches and disputes began in the week follow- 
ing their instalment. The disillusioned Eve withdrew 
to her own apartments in anger; and Balzac, whose 
bronchitis and congestion of the liver had grown worse, 
remained an invalid in his. ) They had intended spending 
only a fortnight or so in Paris, and then travelling south 
to the Pyrenees and Biarritz; but this programme was 
perforce abandoned. All through the month of June 
the patient was under medical treatment, able to go 
out only in a carriage, and, even so, in disobedience to 
the doctor’s orders. One of these visits was to the door 
of the Comédie Francaise, where Arsene Houssaye, 
the Director, came to speak to him about Mercadet, 
and indulgently promised him it should be staged soon, 
the Resources of Quinola also. 

On the 20th of June, he wrote, through his wife, 
to Théophile Gautier, telling him that his bronchitis 
was better and that the doctor was proceeding to treat 
him for his heart-hypertrophy, which was now the 
chief obstacle to his recovery. At the end of the 
letter he signed his name, adding: “I can neither read 
nor write.” They were the last words of his corre- 
spondence. From that date his heart-disease under- 
mined him rapidly ; and the few friends whom he re- 
ceived augured ill from what they remarked. Not that 
he lost hope himself. Although suffering acutely at 
intervals from difficulty in breathing, and from the 
cedema of his lower limbs, which slowly crept upwards, 
he spoke with the same confidence as always of his 
future creations that he meditated. His brain was the 


292 HONORE DE BALZAC 


one organ unattacked. From Dr. Nacquart he in- 
quired every day how soon he might get to work again. 

The month of July and the first half of August 
passed thus, the dropsy gaining still on him in spite 
of all that Nacquart and other medical men could do 
to combat it. To every one but the patient himself, 
it was evident that he was dying. Houssaye, who 
came to see him on the 16th of August, found Dr. 
Nacquart in the room. He relates that Balzac, ad- 
dressing the latter, said: “‘ Doctor, I want you to tell 
me the truth. . : . I see I am worse than I believed. 

. [ am growing weaker. In vain I force myself 
to eat. Everything disgusts me. How long do you 
think I can live ?”—The doctor did not reply.— Come, 
doctor,” continued the sick man, “do you take me for 
a child? I can’t die as if I were nobody. . . . A man 
like me owes a will and testament to the public.”— 
«My dear patient, how much time do you require for 


what you have to do?” asked Nacquart.—“ Six months,” 
replied Balzac; and he gazed anxiously at his inter- 
locutor.—“ Six months, six months,” repeated the 


doctor, shaking his head.—“ Ah!” cried Balzac dolo- 
rously ; “I see you don’t allow me six months. .. . 
You will give me six weeks at least. . . . Six weeks, 
with the fever, is an eternity. Hours are days; and 
then the nights are not lost.”—The doctor shook his 
head again. Balzac raised himself, almost indignant.— 
“What, doctor! Am I, then, a dead man? Thank 
God! I still feel strength to fight. But I feel also 
courage to submit. I am ready for the sacrifice. If 
your science does not deceive you, don’t deceive me. 
What can I hope for yet? ... Six days? ... I can 
in that time indicate in broad outlines what remains to 
be done. My friends will see to details. I shall be 


LAST YEARS 293 


able to cast a glance at my fifty volumes, tearing out 
the bad pages, accentuating the best ones. Human 
will can do miracles. I can give immortal life to the 
world I have created. I will rest on the seventh day.” 
—Since beginning to speak, Balzac had aged ten years, 
and finally his voice failed him.—‘ My dear patient,” 
said the doctor, trying to smile, “ who can answer for 
an hour in this life? ‘There are persons now in good 
health who will die before you. But you have asked 
me for the truth; you spoke of your will and testa- 
ment to the public.”—*< Well?”—* Well! this testa- 
ment must be made to-day. Indeed, you have another 
testament to make. You mustn't wait till to-morrow.” 
—Balzac looked up.—‘I have, then, no more than six 
hours,” he exclaimed with dread. 

The details of this narration, given in the Figaro 
many years after the event: do not read much like 
history. A more probable account tells that Balzac, 
after one of his fits of gasping, asked Nacquart to say 
whether he would get better or not. The doctor 
hesitated, then answered: “You are courageous. I 
will not hide the truth from you. There is no hope.” 
The sick man’s face contracted and his fingers clutched 
the sheet. “ How long have I to live?” he questioned 
after a pause. ‘You will hardly last the night,” 
replied Nacquart. ‘There was a fresh silence, broken 
only by, the novelist’s murmuring as if to himself: 
“Tf only I had Bianchon, he would save me.” Bian- 
chon, one of his fictitious personages, had become for 
the nonce a living reality. It was Balzac who had 
taken the place of his medical hero in the kingdom of 
shadows. Anxious to soften the effect of his sentence, 
Nacquart inquired if his patient had a message or 


1 20th of August 1883. 


294. HONORE DE BALZAC 


recommendation to give. “No, I have none,” was the 
answer. However, just before the doctor’s departure, 
he asked for a pencil, and tried to trace a few lines, 
but was too weak ; and, letting the pencil drop from 
his fingers, he fell into a slumber. 

In his Choses Vues, Victor Hugo informs us that, 
on the afternoon of the 18th, his wife had been to the 
Hotel Beaujon and heard from the servants that the 
master of the house was dying. After dinner he went 
himself, and reached the Hotel about nine. Received 
at first in the drawing-room, lighted dimly by a candle 
placed on a richly carved oval table that stood with 
its six statuettes as supports, in the centre of the room, 
he saw there an old woman, but not, as he asserts, 
the brother-in-law, Monsieur Survill. No member of 
Balzac’s own family was present in the house that 
evening. Even the wife remained in her apartments. 
The old woman told Hugo that gangrene had set in, 
and that tapping now produced no effect on the dropsy. 
As the visitor ascended the splendid, red-carpeted stair- 
case, cumbered with statues, vases, and paintings, he 
was incommoded by a pestilential odour that assailed 
his nostrils. Death had begun the decomposition of 
_ the sick man’s body even before it was a corpse... Ata 
the door of the chamber Hugo caught the sound of i 
hoarse, stertorous breathing. He entered, and saw on 
the mahogany bed an almost unrecognizable form 
bolstered up on a mass of cushions. Balzac’s unshaven 
face was of blackish-violet hue; his grey hair had 
been cut short ; his open eyes were glazed; the profile 
resembled that of the first Napoleon. It was useless 
to speak to him unconscious of any one’s presence. 

Hugo turned and hastened from the spot, thinking 
sadly of his previous visit a month before, when, in 


LAST YEARS 295 


the same room, the invalid had joked with him on his 
opinions, reproaching him for his demagogy. ‘“ How 
could you renounce, with such serenity, your title as 
a peer of France?” he had asked. He had spoken 
also of the Beaujon residence, the gallery over the 
little chapel in the corner of the street, the key that 
permitted access to the chapel from the staircase; and, 
when the poet left him, he had accompanied him to 
the head of the stairs, calling out to Madame de Balzac 
to show Hugo his pictures. 

Death took him the same evening.’ During the 
last hours of his life Giraud had sketched his portrait 
for a pastel ;* and, on the morning of the 19th, a man 
named Marminia was sent to secure a mould of his 
features. This latter design had to be abandoned. 
An impression of the hands alone was obtainable. De- 
composition had set in so rapidly that the face was 
distorted beyond recognition. A lead coffin was 
hastily brought to cover up the ghastly spectacle of 
nature in a hurry. 

Two days later, on the 21st of August, the inter- 
ment took place at Pére Lachaise cemetery. The 
procession started from the Church of Saint-Philippe- 
du-Roule, to which the coffin had been transported 
beforehand. ‘There was no pomp in either service or 
ceremony. A two-horse hearse and four bearers— 
Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Francis Wey, and Baroche, 
the Minister for the Interior, made up the funeral 
accessories. But an immense concourse of people 

1 De Lovenjoul says that Balzac died on the 17th, not the 18th. 
This discrepancy is most curious, the latter date figuring as the official 
one, as well as being given by Hugo and others. 

2 De Lovenjoul says that the sketch was made after death. But, 


if the mask was not possible, it is difficult to understand how a pencil 
likeness could have been drawn. 


296 HONORE DE BALZAC 


followed the body to the grave. The Institute, the 
University, the various learned societies were all repre- 
sented by eminent men, and a certain number of 
foreigners, English, German, and Russian, were present 
also. Baroche attended rather from duty than appre- 
ciation. On the way to the cemetery, he hummed and 
hawed, and remarked to Hugo: “ Monsieur Balzac was a 
somewhat distinguished man, I believe?” Scandalized, 
Hugo looked at the politician and answered shortly : 
“He was a genius, sir.” It is said that Baroche 
revenged himself for the rebuff by whispering to an 
acquaintance near him: “This Monsieur Hugo is 
madder still than is supposed.” 

Over the coffin, as it was laid under the ground 
near the ashes of Charles Nodier and Casimir Delavigne, 
the author of Les Misérables and Les Feuilles d Automne 
pronounced an oration which was a generous tribute 
to the talent of his great rival. On such an occasion 
there was no room for the reservations of criticism, 
It was the moment to apply the maxim, De mortuis 
nil nisi bonum. ‘'The name of Balzac,” he said, “ will 
mingle with the luminous track projected by our epoch 
into the future. . . . Monsieur de Balzac was the first 
among the great, one of the highest among the best. 
All his volumes form but a single book, wherein our 
contemporary civilization is seen to move with a certain 
terrible weirdness and reality—a marvellous book which 
the maker of it entitled a comedy and which he might 
have entitled a history. It assumes all forms and all 
styles; it goes beyond Tacitus and reaches Suetonius ; 
it traverses Beaumarchais and attains even Rabelais ; 
it is both observation and imagination, it lavishes the 
true, the intimate, the bourgeois, the trivial, the material, 
and, through every reality suddenly rent asunder, it 





BaLzac ON HIS DEATH-BED 
From a Pastel by Eugéne Giraud (Musée de Besancon) 





LAST YEARS 297 


allows the most sombre, tragic ideal to be seen. Un- 
consciously, and willy nilly, the author of this strange 
work belongs to the race of revolutionary writers. 
Balzac goes straight to the point. (He grapples with 
modern society ; and from everywhere he wrests some- 
thing—here, illusion ; there, hopes ; a cry; a mask. He 
investigates vice, he dissects passion, he fathoms man 
—the soul, the heart, the entrails, the brain, the abyss 
each has within him. And by right of his free, vigorous 
nature—a privilege of the intellects of our time, who 
see the end of humanity better and understand Provi- 
dence—Balzac smilingly and serenely issues from such 
studies, which produced melancholy in Moliére and 
misanthropy in Rousseau. )'The work he has bequeathed 
us is built with granite strength. Great men forge 
their own pedestal; the future charges itself with the 
statue. . . . His life was short but full, fuller of works 
than of days. Alas! this puissant, untired labourer, 
this philosopher, this thinker, this poet, this genius 
lived among us the life of storm and stress and struggle 
common in all times to all great men. To-day, he is 
at rest. He has entered simultaneously into glory 
and the tomb. Henceforth, he will shine above the 
clouds that surround us, among the stars of the father- 
land.” 

To the credit of Balzac’s widow it should be said 
that, although not legally obliged, she accepted her 
late husband’s succession, heavy as it was with liabilities, 
the full extent of which was communicated to her 
only after the funeral. The novelist’s mother, having 
renounced her claim on the capital lent by her at 
various times to her son, received an annuity of three 
thousand francs, which was punctually paid until the 
old lady’s demise in 1854. Buisson the tailor, Dablin, 


298 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Madame Delannoy, and the rest of the creditors, one 
after the other, were reimbursed the sums they had 
also advanced, the profits on unexhausted copyright 
aiding largely in the liberation of the estate. Before 
Eve’s own death, every centime of debt was cleared off. 
_ In the romance of Balzac’s life it will be always 
arduous, if not infeasible, to estimate exactly Madame 
Hanska’s réle, unless, by some miracle, her own letters 
to the novelist could arise phcenix-like from their ashes. 
The liaison that she is said to have formed soon after 
her husband’s death with Jean Gigoux, the artist, who 
painted her portrait in 1852, may be regarded either as 
a retaliation for Honoré’s infidelities, which she was 
undoubtedly cognizant of, or else as the rebound of a 
sensual nature after the years spent in the too ideal- 
istic realm of sentiment. And, whichever of these 
explanations is correct, the irony of the conclusion 
is the same. 


CHAPTER XIV 
THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 


THE idea of joining his separate books together and 
forming them into a coherent whole was one that 
matured slowly in Balzac’s mind. Its genesis is to be 
found in his first collection of short novels published 
in 1830 under the titles: Scenes of Private Life, and 
containing The Vendetta, Gobseck, The Sceaux Ball, 
The House of the Tennis-playing Cat, A Double 
Family, and Peace in the Household. Between these 
stories there was no real connexion except that certain 
characters in one casually reappeared or were alluded 
to in another. By 1832, the Scenes of Private Life 
had been augmented, and, in a second edition, filled 
four volumes. The additions comprised The Message, 
The Bourse, The Adieu, The Curé of Tours, and 
several chapters of The Woman of Thirty Years Old, 
some of which had previously come out as serials in 
the Revue de Paris or the Mode. 

It has already been related how the novelist all at 
once realized what a gain his literary production might 
have in adopting a plan and building up a social 
history of his.epoch. And, in fact, this conception did 
stimulate his activity for some time, serving too, as 
long as it was uncrystallized, to concentrate his vision 
upon objective realities. — 

Needing, between 1834 and 1837, a more com- 
prehensive title for the rapidly increasing list of his 
works, he called them Studies of Manners and Morals 

299 


300 HONORE DE BALZAC 


an the Nineteenth Century, subdividing them into Scenes 
of Private Life, Scenes of Parisian Life, and Scenes of 
Provincial Life. However, some things he had written 
were classible conveniently neither under the specific 
names nor under the generic one. These outsiders 
he called Tales and Philosophic Novels, subsequently 
shortening the title, between 1835 and 1840, to 
Philosophic Studies. The question was what wider 
description could be chosen which might embrace 
also this last category. Writing to Madame Hanska 
in 1837, he used the expression Social Studies, telling 
her that there would be nearly fifty volumes of 
them. Kither she, or he himself, must, on reflection, 
have judged the title unsatisfactory, for no edition of his 
works ever bore this name. Most likely the thought 
occurred to him that such an appellation was more 
suitable to a strictly scientific treatise than to fiction. 
The expression Comédie Humaine, which he ulti- 
mately adopted, is said to have been suggested to 
him by his whilom secretary, the Count Auguste de 
Belloy, after the latter’s visit to Italy, during which 
Dante’s Divine Comedy had been read and appreciated. 
But already, some years prior to this journey, the 
novelist would seem to have had the Italian poet’s 
masterpiece before his mind. In his Girl with the 
Golden Eyes, he had spoken of Paris as a hell which, 
perhaps, one day would have its Dante. De Belloy’s 
share in the matter was probably an extra persuasion 
added to Balzac’s own leaning, or the Count may 
have been the one to substitute the word human. 


1 A communication has been made to me, while writing this 
book, by Monsieur Hetzel, the publisher, tending to show that his 
father, who was also known in the literary world, had a large share 
in the choice of the Comédie Humaine as a title. 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 301 


Madame Hanska was at once informed of the 
choice. ‘The Comédie Humaine, such is the title of 
my history of society depicted in action,” he told her in 
September 1841. And when, between 1841 and 1842, 
Hetzel, together with Dubochet and Turne, brought 
out sixteen octavo volumes of his works illustrated, 
they each carried this name, while a preface set forth 
the reasons which had led the author to choose it. 
Thereafter, every succeeding edition was similarly 
styled, including Houssiaux’ series in 1855, and the 
series of Calmann-Lévy, known as the definitive one, 
between 1869 and 1876. 

Against the appellation itself no objection can 
reasonably be made. Balzac’s fiction takes in a world 
—an underworld might appropriately be said —of 
Dantesque proportions. As soon as it was fully fledged, 
it started with a large ambition. ‘‘My work,” he 
said to Zulma Carraud in 1834, ‘is to represent all 
social effects without anything being omitted from it, 
whether situation of life, physiognomy, character of 
man or woman, manner of living, profession, zone of 
social existence, region of French idiosyncrasy, child- 
hood, maturity, old age, politics, jurisdiction, war.” 
And in the Forties the same intention was stated as 
clearly. ¢‘I have undertaken the history of the whole 
of society. Often have 1 summed up my plan in this 
simple sentence: A generation is a drama in which 
four or five thousand people are the chief actors. 
This drama is my book.” 

When Hetzel decided to publish a so-far complete 
edition of the Comédie, he induced the novelist to insert 
a preface composed for the occasion. Balzac wished at 
first to use an old preface that he had written in con- 
junction with Félix Davin, and placed, under the latter’s 


302 HONORE DE BALZAC 


signature, at the beginning of the Study of Manners 
and Morals in the Nineteenth Century. Hetzel objected 
_ to this, and urged that so important an undertaking 
ought to be preceded by an author’s apology. His 
advice was accepted, and the preface was developed 
into a veritable doctrine and defence. Here are some 
of its essential passages :— 

“The Comédie Humaine,” says Balzac, “ first dawned 
on my brain like a dream—one of those impossible 
‘projects, it seemed, that are caressed and allowed to 
fly away; a chimera which smiles, shows its woman’s 
face, and forthwith unfolds its wings, mounting again 
into a fancied heaven. But the chimera, as many 
chimeras do, changed into reality. It had its com- 
mands and its tyranny to which I was obliged to yield. 

‘It was born from a comparison between humanity 
and animality. It would be an error to believe that 
the great quarrel which in recent times has arisen 
between Cuvier and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire is con- 
cerned with a scientific innovation. The wnity of com- 
position involved in it had already, under other terms, 
occupied the greatest minds of the two preceding 
centuries. On reading over again the extraordinary 
works of such mystic writers: as Swedenborg, Saint- 
Martin, &c., who have studied the relations of science 
with the infinite, and the writings of the finest geniuses 
in natural history, such as Leibnitz, Buffon, Charles 
Bonnet, &c., one finds in the monads of Leibnitz, in the 
organic molecules of Buffon, in the vegetative force 
of Needham, in the jornting of similar parts of Charles / 
Bonnet—who was bold enough to write in 1760: 
‘The animal vegetates like the plant;’ one finds, I 
say, the rudiments of the beautiful law of self for self 
on which the unity of composition reposes. There is 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 303 


only one animal. The Creator has made use only of 
one and the same pattern for all organized beings. 
The animal is a principle which acquires its exterior 
form, or, to speak more exactly, the differences of its 
form, in the surroundings in which it is called upon to 
develop. The various zoologic species result from these 
differences. The proclamation and upholding of this 
system, in harmony, moreover, with the ideas we have 
of the Divine power, will be the eternal honour of 
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who was the vanquisher of 
Cuvier on this point of high science, and whose triumph 
was acknowledged in the last article written by the 
great Goethe.” 

Continuing his exposition, the novelist says all men 
resemble each other, but in the same manner as a horse 
resembles a bird. They are also divided into species. 
These species differ according to social surroundings. 
A peasant, a tradesman, an artist, a great lord are as 
distinct from each other as a wolf is from a sheep. 
Besides, there is another thing peculiar to man, viz. 
that male and female are not alike, whereas among the 
rest of the animals, the female is similar to the male. 
The wife of a shopkeeper is sometimes worthy to be 
the spouse of a prince, and often a prince’s wife is not 
worth an artist’s. Then, again, there is this difference. 
The lower animals are strictly dependent on circum- 
stances, each species feeding and housing itself in a 
uniform manner. Man has not such uniformity. In 
Paris, he is not the same as in a provincial town ; in the 
provinces, not the same as in rural surroundings, When 
studying him, there are many things to be considered 
—habitat, furniture, food, clothes, language. In fine, 
the subject taken up by a novelist who wishes to treat 
it properly, comprises man as an integral portion of a 


304 HONORE DE BALZAC 


social species, woman as not peculiarly belonging to 
any, and entowrage from its widest circumference of 
country down to the narrowest one of home. 

“«¢ But,” he goes on, “ how is it possible to render the 
drama of life interesting, with the three or four thou- 
sand varying characters presented by a society? How 
please at the same time the philosopher, and the masses 
who demand poetry and philosophy under striking 
images? If I conceived the importance and poetry 
of this history of the human heart, I saw no means of 
execution ; for, down to our epoch, the most celebrated 
narrators had spent their talent in creating one or two 
typical characters, in depicting one phase of life. With 
this thought, I read the works of Walter Scott. 
Walter Scott, the modern trowvére, was then giving a 
gigantic vogue to a kind of composition unjustly called 
secondary. Is it not really harder to compete with the 
registry of births, marriages, and deaths by means of 
Daphnis and Chloé, Roland, Amadis, Panurge, Don 
Quixote, Manon Lescaut, Clarissa, Lovelace, Robinson 
Crusoe, Ossian, Julie d’Etanges, My Uncle Toby, 
Werther, René, Corinne, Adolphe, Gil Blas, Paul and 
Virginia, Jeanie Deans, Claverhouse, Ivanhoe, Manfred, . 
Mignon, than to arrange facts almost similar among 
all nations, to seek for the spirit of laws fallen into 
decay, to draw up theories which lead people astray, 
or, as certain metaphysicians, to explain what exists ? 
First of all, nearly all these characters, whose exist- 
ence becomes longer, more genuine than that of the 
generations amid which they are made to be born, 
live only on condition of being a vast image of 
the present. Conceived in the womb of the century, 
the whole human heart moves beneath their outward 
covering ; it often conceals a whole philosophy. Walter 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 305 


Scott, therefore, raised to the philosophic value of 
history the novel—that literature which from century 
to century adorns with immortal diamonds the poetic 
crown of the countries where letters are cultivated. 
He put into it the spirit of ancient times; he blended 
in it at once drama, dialogue, portraiture, landscape, 
description ; he brought into it the marvellous and the 
true, those elements of the epopee ; he made poetry 
mingle in it with the humblest sorts of language. But 
having less invented a system than found out his 
manner in the ardour of work, or by the logic of this 
work, he had not thought of linking his compositions 
to each other so as to co-ordinate a complete history, 
each chapter of which would have been a novel and 
each novel an epoch. Perceiving this want of connec- 
tion, which, indeed, does not render the Scotchman less . 
great, I saw both the system that was favourable to the 
execution of my work, and the possibility of carrying 
it out. Although, so to speak, dazzled by the surpri- 
sing fecundity of Walter Scott, always equal to himself 
and always original, I did not despair, for I found the 
reason of such talent in the variety of human nature. 
Chance is the greatest novelist in the world. 'To be 
fertile, one has only to study it. French society was 
to be the historian. I was to be only the secretary. 
By drawing up an inventory of virtues and vices, by 
assembling the principal facts of passions, by painting 
characters, by choosing the principal events of society, 
by composing types through the union of several 
homogeneous characters, perhaps I should succeed in 
writing the history forgotten by so many historians, 
that of manners and morals. With much patience and 
courage, I should realize, with regard to France in the 


nineteenth century, the book we all regret which 
U 


306 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Rome, Athens, Tyre, Memphis, Persia, India have not 
unfortunately left about their civilizations, and which, 
like the Abbé Barthélemy, the courageous and patient 
Monteil had essayed for the Middle Ages, but in a form 
not very attractive.” 

One may well believe the novelist when he explains 
that “it was no small task to depict the two or three 
thousand prominent figures of an epoch,” representing 
typical phases in all existences, which, says he, “is one 
of the accuracies I have most sought for. I have tried 
to give a notion also of the different parts of our 
beautiful land. My work has its geography, as it has 
its genealogy and its families, its places and things, its 
persons and its facts, as it has its blazonry, its nobles 
and its commoners, its artisans and its peasants, its 
politicians and its dandies, its army, in fine, its epitome 
of life—all this in its settings and galleries.” 

The Human Comedy, as finally arranged and clas- 
sified in 1845, had three chief divisions: Studies of 
Manners and Morals, Philosophic Studies, Analytic 
Studies ; and the first of these was subdivided into 
Scenes of Private Life, Scenes of Provincial Life, Scenes 
of Parisian Life, Scenes of Miltary Life, Scenes of 
Political Life, Scenes of Country Life. According to 
Monsieur de Lovenjoul’s list given in his History of 
Balzac’s Works, the titles stand as follows. The dates 
added are those of publication, although many of the 
novels were written, either partly or entirely, much 
earlier. 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 307 


THE HUMAN COMEDY 


FIRST PART 
STUDIES OF MANNERS AND MORALS 


Scenes or Private Lire 


1,! The Children; 2, A Girls’ Boarding-School ; 3, Life in a 
Boys’ School; 4, The House of the Tennis-playing Cat (1830); 
5, The Sceaux Ball (1830); 6, Diaries of two Young Wives (1841) ; 
7, The Bourse (1832) ;-8, Modeste Mignon (1844); 9, A Begin- 
ning in Life (1842) 10, Albert Savarus (1842) 11, The Vendetta 
(1830); 12, A Double Family (1830); 13, Peace in the House- 
hold (1830) ; 14, Madame Firmiani (1832); 15, A Woman-Study 
(1830) ; 16, The False Mistress (1841); 17, A Daughter of Eve 
(1838); 18, Colonel Chabert (1832); 19, The Message (1832) ; 
20, Pomegranate Grove (1832); 21, The Forsaken Woman (1832) ; 
22, Honorine (1843); 23, Béatrix (1844) ; 24, Gobseck (1830); 
25, ‘The Woman of Thirty Years Old (1834); 26, Pére Goriot a 
(1834) ; 27, Peter Grassou (1840) ; 28, The Atheist’s Mass (1836) ; 
29, The Interdict (1836); 30, The Marriage Settlement (1835); 
31, Sons-in-Law and Mothers-in-Law ; 32, Another Woman-Study 
(1842). 


Scenes oF Provincrat Lire 


33, The Lily in the Valley (1836);/34, Ursula Mirouet (1841) ; 
35, Eugénie Grandet (1833) “36, The Celibates: I. Pierrette 
(1840); 37, Il. The @uré of Tours (1832); 38, III. A Bachelor’s 
Household (1842) ¥ 39, Parisians in the Provinces: I. The Illus- 
trious Gaudissart (1833); 40, IJ. People who have Wrinkles; 41, 
III. The Muse of the County (1843); 42, dn Actress on her 
Travels ; 43,” The Superior Woman (1837); 44, Rivalries: J. The 
Original ; 45, IIT. The Heirs of Bowsrouge ; 46, II. The Old Maid 


1 The titles in italics indicate books that the novelist intended to 
write, but was prevented from undertaking by his premature death. 

2 This is the same as The Employees. Balzac made a mistake in the 
double insertion, 


308 HONORE DE BALZAC 


(1836); 47, Provincials in Paris: I. The Cabinet of Antiques 
(1838); 48, I. Jacques de Metz; 49, Lost Illusions: I. The 'Two 
Poets (1837); 50, IJ. A Provincial Great Man in Paris (1839) ; 
51, III. The Inventor’s Sufferings (1843). 


Scenes or ParistaN Lire 


52, History of the Thirteen: I. Ferragus 1888) ,/53, II. The 
Duchess de Langeais (1834); 54, III. The Girl with the Golden 
Eyes (1834); 55, The Employees (1837); 56, Sarrazine (1830); 
57, The Rise and Fall of César Birotteau (1837),/58, The Firm 
of Nucingen (1838); 59, Facino Cane (1836); 60, The Princess 
de Cadignan’s Secrets (1839); 61, Splendour and Wretchedness of 
Courtezans: I. How Lemans Love (1838); 62, I]. What Love costs 
Old Men (1844); 63, III. Whither Bad Ways Lead (1846); 64, 
IV. Vautrin’s Last Incarnation (1847) ; 65, The Great, the Hospital, 
and the People; 66, A Prince of Bohemia (1840); 67, The Un- 
conscious Comedians (1846); 68, A Specimen of French Conver- 
sation (1832-1844); 69, 4 View of the Law Courts; 70, The 
Petty Bourgeois (1855) ; 71, Among Savants ; 72, The Stage as it 
is; 73, The Brethren of Consolation: the Reverse Side of Con- 
temporary History (1847). 


Scenes oF Pouitica, Lire 


74, An Episode under the Terror (1830); '75, History and the 
Novel; 76, A Shady Affair (1841); 77, The Two Ambitious 
Men; 78, The Embassy Attaché; 19, How a Ministry is Made ; 
80, The M.P. for Arcis (1847 and 1853); 81, Z. Marcas (1840). 


Scenes or Miuirary Lire 


82, The Soldiers of the Republic; 83, The Beginning of the 
Campaign ; 84, The Vendeeans ; 85, 'The Chouans (1829); 86, 
The French in Egypt: I. The Prophet; 87, IT. The Pacha; 88, 
III. A Passion in the Desert (1830); 89, The Itinerant Army ; 
90, The Consular Guard ; 91, Close to Vienna: I. A Combat ; 92, 
II, The Besieged Army ; 93, III. The Plain of Wagram ; 94, The 
Inn-Keeper ; 95, The English in Spain; 96, Moscow; 97, The 
Battle of Dresden; 98, The Laggards; 99, The Partisans; 100, 








Room IN Bauizac’s HousE 


Bulloz 


Photograph 


(Musée Carnavalet) 





THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 309 


A Cruise; 101, The Pontoons; 102, The Campaign of France ; 
103, The Last Battle-Field ; 104, The Emir ; 105, The Pénissiere ; 
106, The Algerian Corsair. 


Scenes or. Country Lire 


107, The Peasants (18414 and 1855); 108, The Country Doctor 
(1833); 109, The Justice of the Peace; 110, The Village Curé 
(1839); 111, The Environs of Paris. 


SECOND PART 
PHILOSOPHIC STUDIES 


112, The Phedon of To-day ; 113, The Shagreen Skin (1831) ; 
114, Jesus Christ in Flanders (1831); 115, Melmoth Reconciled 
(1835); 116, Massimilla Doni (1839); 117, ‘The Unknown 
Masterpiece (1831); 118, Gambara (1837); 119, The Search 
for the Absolute (1834); 120, President Fritot ; 121, The Philan- 
thropist ; 122, The Cursed Child (1831-1836); 123, The Adieu 
(1830); 124, The Maranas (1832); 125, The Requisitionist 
(1831); 126, El Verdugo (1830); 127, A Tragic Incident at the 
Seaside (1835); 128, Master Cornelius (1831); 129, The Red 
Inn (1831); 130, About Catherine de Medici: Introduction, 
1843, I. The Calvinist Martyr (1841); 131, I. Ruggieri’s Con- 
fession (1836); 132, III. The Two Dreams (1830) ;. 133, The New 
Abélard ; 134, The Elixir of Long Life (1830); 135, The Life and 
Adventures of an Idea; 136, The Outlaws (1831); 137, Louis 
Lambert (1832); 138, Séraphita (1834-35). 


THIRD PART 
ANALYTIC STUDIES 


139, Anatomy of the Educational Bodies ; 140, The Physiology 
of Marriage (1829); 141, Petty Miseries of Married Life (1830- 
1845) ; 142, Pathology of Social Life ; 145, M onography of Virtue ; 
144, Philosophic and Political Dialogue concerning the Perfection 
of the Nineteenth Century. 


310 HONORE DE BALZAC 


In the foregoing list, neither Cousin Bette nor Cousin 
Pons is included, since both were written subsequently 
to its being drawn up by the novelist. Eliminating 
from it the titles of books that were projected only, 
one is struck by the disproportion between the first 
part, comprising fourteen volumes, the second, about 
two and a half, and the third, not more than half a 
volume. Even if we include the unwritten books, the 
diminution from first to second and from second to 
third is considerable. In the novelist’s mind, this 
difference was intentional. According to his concep- 
tion, the first large series represented the broad base of 
effects, upon which was superposed the second plane of 
causes, less numerous and more concentrated. In the 
latter, he strove to answer the why and wherefore of 
sentiments; in the former, to exhibit their action in 
varying modes. In the former, therefore, he repre- 
sented individuals; in the latter, his individuals became 
types. All this he detailed to Madame Hanska, insist- 
ing on the statement that everywhere he gave life to 
the type by individualizing it, and significance to the 
individuals by rendering them typical. At the top of 
the cone he treated, in his analytical studies, of the 
principles whence causes and effects proceed. he 
manners and morals at the base, he said, were the 
spectacle; the causes above were the side-scenes ; and 
the principles at the top were the author. 

Coming to the subdivisions, he explains that his 
Scenes of Private Life deal with humanity’s childhood 
and adolescence, and the errors of these, in Short, with 
the period of budding passions; the Scenes of Pro- 
vinctal Life, with passions in full development—caleu- 
lation, interest, ambition, &c.; the Scenes of Parisian 
Life, with the peculiar tastes, vices, and temptations of 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 311 


capitals, that is to say, with passion unbridled. The 
interpretation assigned to these categories is a fanciful 
one. Passions are born and bred and produce their 
full effect in every place and phase of life. They may 
assume varying forms in divers surroundings, but such 
variation has no analogy with change of age. Only by 
forcing the moral of his stories was the author able 
to give them these secondary significations. Indeed, 
he was often in straits to decide in which category he 
ought to class one and another novel. Pére Goriot 
was originally in the Scenes of Parisian Life, where it 
had a certain raison détre. Ultimately, it found its 
way into the Scenes of Private Life. And a greater 
alteration was made by removing Madame Firmiant 
and the Woman-Study from the Philosophic Studies, 
and placing them also in the Private Life series. 

The principle of classification in the Phelosophic 
Studies is just as arbitrary. We have the realism of 
the Search for the Absolute coupled with the lyricism 
of Séraphita and Louis Lambert; poor history in 
Catherine de Medici ; morbid romance in the Shagreen 
Skin; and, though the range of time is from the 
Middle Ages up to the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, there is no light thrown—whatever the author 
may have thought—upon the why and wherefore of 
sentiments. In abstract thinking Balzac lacked 
originality; in psychology, he never penetrated 
beyond the threshold. 

As for the Analytic Studies, since we have only 
names ‘and not works to judge by—outside of the 


two small series of anecdote and persiflage comprised »~ 


in the Physiology of Marriage and the Petty Miseries 
of Married Life—it is impossible to deny that the 
achieved task would have given us the fons et origo 


312 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of the Comedy. Yet these names are not particularly 
suggestive of anything great. 

Be it granted that the plan of the Comedy was 
grandiose in its scope; it was none the less doomed in 
its execution to suffer for its ambitiousness, since an 
attempt was made to subordinate imagination to science 
in a domain where the rights of imagination were para- 
mount. 

That which Balzac has best rendered in it is the 
struggle for life on the social plane; and that which 
forms its most legitimate claim to be deemed in some 
measure a whole is the general reference to this in all 
the so-called parts. Before the Revolution, the action 
of the law was narrower, being chiefly limited to members 
of one class. With the fall of ancient privilege, the 
sphere of competition was opened to the entire nation; 
and, instead of nobles contending with nobles, church- 
men with churchmen, tradesmen with tradesmen, there 
was an interpenetration of combatants over all the field 
of battle, or rather, the several smaller fields of battle 
became one large one. Balzac’s fiction reproduces the 
later phase in minute detail, and, mostly, with a treat- 
ment suited to the subject. 

Brunetiére, whose chapter on the Comedy is written 
more gropingly than the rest of his study of the novelist, 
makes use of an ingenious comparison with intent to 
persuade that the stories had from the very first a pre- 

destined organic union, with ramifications which the 
author saw but obscurely and which were joined to- 
gether more closely—as also more consciously—during 
the lapse of years. “Thus,” he says, “brothers and 
sisters, in the time of their infancy or childhood, have 
nothing in common except a certain family resemblance 
-—and this not always. But, as they advance in age, 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 313 


the features that individualized them become attenu- 
ated, they return to the type of their progenitors, and 
one perceives that they are children of the same father 
and mother. Balzac’s novels,” he concludes, “have a 
connection of this kind. In his head, they were, so to 
speak, contemporary.” 

The simile is not a happy one. It does not help to 
reconcile us to an artificial approximation of books that 
are heterogeneous, unequal in value, and, frequently, 
composed under influences far removed from the after- 
thought that was given to them as a putative father. » 
Balzac was not well inspired in relating his novels to 
each other logically. Such natural relationship as they 
possess is that of issuing from the same brain, though 
acting under varying conditions and in different stages 
of development; and it is true that, if the story of this 
brain is known, and its experiences understood, a certain 
classification might be made—perhaps more than one— 
of its creations, on account of common traits, resem- 
blances of subject or treatment, which could serve to 
link them together loosely. But, between this arrange- 
ment and the artificial hierarchy of the Comedy, it is 
impossible to find a bridge to pass over. 

One of the real links betwixt the novels is the re- 
appearance of the same people in many of them, which 
thing is not in itself displeasing. It has the advantage 
of allowing the author to display his men and women 
in changed circumstances, to cast side-lights upon them, 
and to reveal them more completely. However, here 
and there, we pay for the privilege in meeting with 
bores whose further acquaintance we would fain have 
been spared. And then, also, we are likely enough to 
come across a hero or heroine as a child, after learning 
all about his or her maturer life ; to accompany people 


314 HONORE DE BALZAC 


to the grave and see them buried, and yet, in a later 
book, to be introduced to them as alive as ever they 
were. This is disconcerting. Usually, Balzac remembers 
his characters well enough to be consistent in other re- 
spects when he makes them speak and act, or lets us 
into his confidence about them. Still, he is guilty of a 
few lapses of memory. In The Woman of Thirty Years 
Old, Madame d’Aiglemont has two children in the earlier 
chapters ; subsequently, one is drowned, and, instead 
of one remaining, we learn there are three—a new read- 
ing of Wordsworth’s We are seven. Again, in the 
Lost Illusions, Esther Gobseck has blond hair in 
one description of her, and black in another. We are 
reduced to supposing she had dyed it. Mistakes of the 
kind have been made by other writers of fiction who 
have worked quickly. In the Comedy, the number of 
dramatis persone is exceedingly large. Balzac laugh- 
ingly remarked one day that they needed a biographical 
dictionary to render their identity clear; and he added 
that perhaps somebody would be tempted to do the 
work at a later date. He guessed rightly. In 1893, 
Messrs. Cerfbeer and Cristophe undertook the task and 
carried it through in a book that they called the Reper- 
tory of the Comédie Humaine. All the fictitious person- 
ages or petty folk that live in the novelist’s pages are duly 
docketed, and their births, marriages, deaths, and stage — 
appearances recorded in this Who's Who, a big volume 
of five hundred and sixty-three pages, constituting a 
veritable curiosity of literature, but of doubtful utility. 

Much has been said in the preceding chapters of — 
the large use Balzac made of his own life, his adven- 
tures, his experiences, in composing the integral 
portions of his Comedy, so that its contents, for any 
one who can interpret, becomes a valuable auto- 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 315 


biography. And the lesser as well as the greater 
novels supply facts. In the Forsaken Woman, 
Madame de Beauséant, who has been jilted by the 
Marquis of Ajuda-Pinto, permits herself to be wooed 
by Gaston de Nueil, a man far younger than herself. 
After ten years, he, in turn, quits her to marry the 
person his mother has chosen for him; but, unable to 
bear the combined burden of his remorse and yearning 
regret, he commits suicide. ‘his tale, like the Lily in 
the Valley, is an adaptation of Balzac’s liaison with 
Madame de Berny. It was written in the very year 
he severed the material ties that bound them. 
The only distinction between his case and that of 
Gaston de Nueil was that he had no desire to kill 
himself, and was content to be no more than a friend, 
since he was the freer to flirt with Madame de Castries. 
And, when the latter lady kept him on tenter-hooks, 
tormenting him, tempting him, but never yielding to 
him, he revenged himself by writing the Duchess de 
Langeais, attributing to the foolish old general his 
own hopes, fears, and disappointments at the hands of 
the coquettish, capricious duchess. ‘I alone,” he said 
in a letter, “know the horrible that is in this narra- 
tive.” And, if, in Albert Savarus, we have a con- 
fession of his political ambitions and campaigns, we 
get in César Birotteau and the Petty Bourgeois his 
financial projects, which never brought him anything 
in; in 4 Man of Business—as well as elsewhere—his 
continual money embarrassments. How deeply he felt 
them, he often lets us gather from his fiction. “I have 
been to a capitalist,” he wrote in one of his epistles to 
Madame Hanska, “a capitalist to whom are due in- 
demnities agreed on between us for works promised 
and not executed; and I offered him a certain number 


316 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of copies of the Studies of Manners and Morals. 1 
proposed five thousand francs with deferred payment, 
instead of three thousand francs cash. He refused 
everything, even my signature and a bill, telling me 
my fortune was in my talent and that I might die any 
time. This scene is one of the most infamous I have 
known. Some day I will reproduce it.” 

And he did, with many things else that happened 
to him in his dealings with his fellows. There is 
biography too, as well as autobiography in the Comedy 
—this notwithstanding his disclaimers. Exact por- 
traiture he avoided for obvious reasons, but intentional 
portraiture he indulged in largely; and life and 
character were sufficiently near the truth for shrewd 
contemporaries to recognize the originals. To add 
one or two examples to the number already given, 
Claire Brunne (Madame Marbouty) seems to have 
suggested his Muse of the County, a Berrichon blue- 
stocking ; Madame d’Agoult and Liszt become Madame. 
de Rochfide and the musician Conti in Béatrix; a 
cousin of Madame Hanska, Thaddeus Wylezinski, 
who worshipped her discreetly, is depicted under the 
traits of Thaddeus Paz, a Polish exile in the False 
Mistress, who assumes a feigned name to conceal his 
love; Lamartine furnished the conception of the poate 
Canalis in Modeste Mignon, the resemblance being | 
at first so striking that the novelist afterwards toned — 
it away a little; and Monnier, the caricaturist, cer- 
tainly supplied the essential elements in Bixiou, who 
is so well drawn in Cousin Bette and the Firm of 
Nucingen. The Baron Nucingen himself has some 
of the features of the James de Rothschild whom 
Balzac knew; and Rastignac embodied the author’s 
impression of Thiers in the statesman’s earlier years, 


THE COMEDIE HUMAINE 317 


One might go further and couple Delacroix the 
painter’s name with that of Joseph Bridau in 4 
Bachelor's Household, Frédérick Lemaitre, the actor’s, 
with Médal’s in Cousin Pons, Emile de Girardin’s with 
du Tillet’s in César Birotteau. At last, however, 
owing to the mingling of one personality with another, 
identification is increasingly difficult, unless the novelist 
comes to our assistance, as in the story Cousin Bette, 
where he confesses Lisbeth, the old maid, to be made 
up out of three persons, Madame Valmore, Madame 
Hanska’s aunt, and his own mother. : 
Summing up Balzac’s entire literary production, 
which in Monsieur de Lovenjoul’s catalogue occupies 
no fewer than fourteen pages, we find that it com- 
prises, besides the ninety-six different works of the 
Comédie Humaine properly so-called, ten volumes of 
his early novels; six complete dramatic pieces—one, the 
School for Husbands and Wives recently published ; * 
thirty Contes Drélatiques; and three hundred and 
fourteen articles and opuscles, some of them fairly 
long, since the Reminiscences of a Pariah has a hundred 
and eighty-four pages octavo, the Theory of Walk- 
ing fifty, the Code of Honest People a hundred and 
twelve, the Impartial History of the Jesuits eighty ; 
these exclusive of the Revue Parisienne with its two 
hundred and twenty pages, which, as we have seen, 
was written entirely by himself. When we remember 
that the whole of this, with the exception of the early 
novels and six of the opuscles, was produced in twenty 
years, we can better appreciate the man’s industry, 
which, as Monsieur Le Breton calculates, yielded an 
average of some two thousand pages, or four to five 
volumes a year. 
1 Played for the first time March 13, 1910, at the Odéon Theatre. 


318 HONORE DE BALZAC 


In the miscellanies one meets with much that is 
curious, amusing, and _ instructive, quite worthy to 
figure in the Comedy—witty dialogues, light stories 
containing deductions 4 da Sherlock Holmes or Edgar 
Allan Poe, plenty of satire, sometimes acidulated as in 
his Troubles and Trials of an English Cat, and theories 
about everything, indicative of extensive reading, large 
assimilation and quick reasoning. The miscellanies 
really stand to the novels in the relation of a sort of 
/ prolegomenon. They serve for its better understanding, 
and are agreeable even for independent study. 


CHAPTER XV 
VALUE OF THE WORK 


THE aim of an author whose writings are intended 
to please must be ethical as well as esthetic, if he re- 
spects himself and his readers. He wishes the pleasure 
he can give to do good, not harm. The good he feels 
capable of producing may be limited to the physical or 
may extend beyond to the moral ; but it will be found 
in his work in so far as the latter is truly artistic. 

Balzac’s prefaces and correspondence are so many 
proofs that he rejected the pretensions of literature or 
any other art to absolute independence. ‘The doctrine 
of art for art’s sake alone would have had no meaning 
to him. However much his striving to confer on his 
novels organic unity, and however much the writing 
against time deteriorated his practice, they did not- 
prevent him from recognizing the ethical claim. What 
he realized less was the necessity of submitting treat- 
ment to the same government of law. 

Even if we grant that the plan of the Comédie 
Humaine existed in the novelist’s mind from the com- 
mencement, obscurely at first, more clearly afterwards, 
the plan itself was not artistic in the sense that an 
image in the architect’s mind is artistic when he designs 
on paper the edifice he purposes to construct, or in the 
painter’s mind when he chooses the subject and details 
of his picture, or in the sculptor’s mind when he arranges 


his group of*statuary, or in the musician’s mind when 
; 319 


320 HONORE DE BALZAC 


he conjures up his opera or oratorio. Balzac’s plan 
was one of numbers or logic merely. The block of. 
his Comedy was composed on the dictionary principle — 
of leaving nothing out which could be put in; and his — 
genius, great as it was, wrestled achingly and in vain — 


with a task from which selection was practically banished 
and which was a piling of Pelion on Ossa. 


For this reason it is that, regarded as an aggregate, | 


the Comédie Humaine can be admired only as one may 
admire a forceful mass of things, when it is looked at 


from afar, through an atmosphere that softens outlines, — 


hides or transforms detail, adds irreality. In such an 
ambience certain novels that by themselves would 
shock, gain a sort of appropriateness, and others that 


are trivial or dull serve as foils. But, at the same time, — 


we know that the effect is partly illusion. 


In a writer’s entire production the constant factor — 
is usually his style, while subject and treatment vary. — 
Balzac, however, is an exception in this respect as in — 


most others. He attains terse vigour in not a few of 


his books, but in not a few also he disfigures page after 


page with loose, sprawling ruggedness, not to say — 


pretentious obscurity. His opinion of himself as a 


stylist was high, higher no doubt than that he held of — 


George Sand, to whom he accorded eminence mainly — 
on this ground. Of the French language he said that — 
he had enriched it by his alms. Finding it poor but 


proud, he had made it a millionaire. And the assertion 
was put forward with the same seriousness that he 
displayed when declaring that there were three men 


only of his time who really knew their mother-tongue— _ 


Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, and himself. That 


his conversancy with French extended from Froissart _ 


downwards, through Rabelais’ succulent jargon as well 








BaLzac 
From an Etching by Hédouin 





VALUE OF THE WORK 321 


as Moliére’s racy idiom, is patent in nearly all he wrote; 
and that he was capable of using this vocabulary aptly 
is sufficiently shown in the best and simplest of his 
works. But it is not so clear that he added anything 
to the original stock. Such words as he coined under 
the impetus of his exuberance are mostly found in his 
letters and have not been taken into favour. 

A demur must likewise be entered against his style’s 
possessing the qualities that constitute a charm apart 
from the matter expressed. Too many tendencies 
wrought in him uncurbed for his ideas to clothe them- 
selves constantly in a suitable and harmonious dress. 
Generally, when his personality intruded itself in the 
narrative, it was quite impossible for him to speak 
unless affectedly, with a mixture of odd figures of 
speech and similes that hurtled in phrases of heavy 
construction. Taine has collected a few of these. In 
the Curé of Tours we read :— 

“No creature of the feminine gender was more 
capable than Mademoiselle Sophie Gamard of formu- 
lating the elegiac nature of an old maid.” 

Farther on in the same story there is a specimen 
frankly comic :— 

“Is not the apparent egoism of men that carry a 
science, a nation, or laws within them the noblest of 
passions, and, in some manner, the maternity of the 
masses? ‘To bring forth new peoples or to generate 
new ideas, must they not unite in their puissant heads 
the teats of a woman with the force of a god ?” 

Men with teats in their head is something yet un- 
revealed by zoology. In the Lily in the Valley such 
involved, metaphor-charged sentences abound. Here 
is one :— 


* All the manufactories of intellectual products 
x 


(322 — HONORE DE BALZAC 


have discovered a spice, a special ginger, which is their 
peculiar enjoyment. Thence the premiums, the antici- 
pated dividends; thence the rape of thoughts which, 
like slave merchants in Asia, the contractors of public 
wit wrest half-hatched from the paternal brain and 
undress and drag to the feet of their brutish sultan, 
their Shahahabam—this terrible public, who, if not 
amused, cuts off their heads by taking from them their 
feed of gold.” 

With the foregoing may be coupled this :— 

‘Caroline is a second edition of Nebuchadnezzar ; 
for, one day, like the royal chrysalis, she will pass from 
the fur of the caterpillar to the ferocity of the imperial 
purple.” 

And this :— 

«She allowed that smile of resigned women to 
escape her which would split granite.” 

Elsewhere, he speaks of the “fluid projections of 
looks that serve to touch the suave skin of a woman;” 
of the “atmosphere of Paris in which seethes a simoon — 
that swells the heart;” of the “coefficient reason of © 
events;” of “pecuniary mnemonics;” of “sentences 
flung out through the capillary tubes of the great 
female confabulation;” of ‘devouring ideas distilled 
through a bald forehead ;” of a “lover’s enwrapping his 
mistress in the wadding of his attentions;” of “ abor- 
tions in which the spawn of genius cumbers an arid 
strand;” of the ‘‘ philosophic moors of incredulity ;” 
of a “town troubled in its public and private intes- 
tines.” | 

In one of the chapters of Séraphita, he says: 
‘‘ Wilfred arrived at Séraphita’s house to relate his 
life, to paint the grandeur of his soul by the greatness 
of his faults; but, when he found himself in the zone 


VALUE OF THE WORK 323 


embraced by those eyes whose azure scintillations met 
with no horizon in front, and offered none behind, he 
became calm again and submissive as the lion who, 
bounding on his prey in an African plain, receives, on 
the wing of the winds, a message of love, and stops. 
An abyss opened into which fell the words of his 
delirium !” 

And the same Wilfred “ trusted to his perspicacity 
to discover the parcels of truth rolled by the old servant 
in the torrent of his divagations.” 

During the years of Balzac’s greatest literary 
activity, which were also those of his bitterest pole- 
mics, his opponents made much capital out of the 
_caprices of his pen. In the lawsuit against the Revue 
de Paris, Monsieur Chaix d’Est-Ange, the defendant’s 
counsel, provoked roars of laughter by quoting passages 
from the Lily in the Valley; and Jules Janin, in his 
criticism of A Provincial Great Man in Paris, grew 
equally merry over the verbal conceits abounding in 
the portraits of persons. And yet the very volumes 
that furnish the largest number of ill-begotten sentences 
contain many passages of sustained dignity, sober 
strength, and proportioned beauty. 

Normally, Balzac’s style, in spite of its mannerisms, 
its use and abuse of metaphor, its laboured evolution 
and expression of the idea, and its length and heaviness 
of period, adapts itself to the matter, and alters with 
kaleidoscopic celerity, according as there is description, 
analysis, or dramatization. Thus blending with the 
subject, it loses a good deal of its proper virtue, which 
explains why it does not afford the pleasure of form 
enjoyed in such writers as George Sand, Flaubert, 
Renan, and Anatole France. ‘The pleasure his word- 
conjuring can yield is chiefly of the sensuous order. 


324 HONORE DE BALZAC 


The following passage is, as Taine says, botany turned 
into imagination and passion :— 

«Have you felt in the meadows, in the month of 
May, the perfume which communicates to every living 
being the thrill of fecundation, which, when you are in 
a boat, makes you dip your hands in the rippling water 
and let your hair fly in the wind, while your thoughts 
grow green like the boughs of the forest? A tiny herb, 
the sweet-smelling anthoxanthum is the principal of 
this veiled harmony. Thus, no one can stay in its 
proximity unaffected by it. Put into a nosegay its 
glittering blades streaked like a green-and-white netted 
dress ; inexhaustible effluvia will stir in the bottom of 
your heart the budding roses that modesty crushes 
there. Within the depths of the scooped-out neck 
of porcelain, suppose a wide margin composed of the 
white tufts peculiar to the sedum of vines in Touraine ; 
a vague image of desirable forms turned like those of 
a submissive slave. From this setting issue spirals of 
white-belled convolvulus, twigs of pink rest-harrow 
mingled with a few ferns, and a few young oak-shoots 
having magnificently coloured leaves; all advance bow- 
ing themselves, humble as weeping willows, timid and 
suppliant as prayers. Above, see the slender-flowered 
fibrils, unceasingly swayed, of the purply amourette, 
which sheds in profusion its yellowy anthers; the snowy 
pyramids of the field and water glyceria; the green 
locks of the barren bromus; the tapered plumes of the 
_ agrostis, called wind-ears ; violet-hued hopes with which 
first dreams are crowned, and which stand out on the 
grey ground of flax where the light radiates round 
these blossoming herbs. But already, higher up, a few 
Bengal roses scattered among the airy lace of the 
daucus, the feathers of the marsh-flax, the marabouts 


VALUE OF THE WORK 825, 


of the meadow-sweet, the umbelle of the white chervil, 
the blond hair of the seeding clematis, the neat saltiers 
of the milk-white cross-wort, the corymbs of the yarrow, 
the spreading stems of the pink-and-black flowered 
fumitory, the tendrils of the vine, the sinuous sprays 
of honeysuckle; in fine, all that is most dishevelled 
and ragged in these naive creatures; flames and triple 
darts, lanceolated, denticulated leaves, stems tormented 
like vague desires twisted at the bottom of the soul; 
from the womb of this prolix torrent of love that over- 
flows, shoots up a magnificent red double-poppy with 
its glands ready to open, displaying the spikes of its 
fire above the starred jasmine and dominating the in- 
cessant rain of pollen, a fair cloud that sparkles in the 
air, reflecting the light in its myriad glistening atoms. 
What woman, thrilled by the love-scent lurking in the 
anthoxanthum, will not understand this wealth of sub- 
missive ideas, this white tenderness troubled by un- 
tamed stirrings, and this red desire of love demanding 
a happiness refused in those struggles a hundred times 
recommenced, of restrained, eternal passion. Was not 
all that is offered to God offered to love in this poesy 
of luminous flowers incessantly humming its melodies 
to the heart, caressing hidden pleasures there, unavowed 
hopes, illusions that blaze and vanish like gossamer 
threads on a sultry night ?” 

This last quotation was probably in Sainte-Beuve’s 
mind when he spoke of the efflorescence by which 
Balzac gave to everything the sentiment of life and 
made the page itself thrill. Klsewhere he found the 
efflorescence degenerate into something exciting and 
dissolvent, enervating, rose-tinted, and veined with every 
hue, deliciously corruptive, Byzantine, suggestive of: 
debauch, abandoning itself to the fluidity of each move- 


326 HONORE DE BALZAC 


ment. Sainte-Beuve was not an altogether unpre- 
judiced critic of the novelist ; but his impeachment can 
hardly be refuted, although Brunetiére would fain per- 
suade us that the only thing which may be reasonably 
inveighed against in Balzac’s style is its indelicacy or 
rather native non-delicacy. If the Contes Drélatiques 
alone had been in question, this lesser accusation might 
suffice. But there are the Lost Illusions, the Bachelor’s 
Household, and Cousin Bette, not to mention other 
novels, in which the scenes of vice are dwelt upon 
with visible complacency and a glamour is created and 
thrown over them by the writer’s imagination, in such 
a way that the effect is nauseous in proportion as it is 
pleasurable. The artistic representation of vice and 
crime is justifiable only in so far as the mind contem- 
plating it is carried out and beyond into the sphere of 
sane emotion. ‘True, by considerable portions of the 
Comédie Humaine only sane emotions are aroused ; but 
these portions are, more often than not, those where- 
from the author’s peculiar genius is absent. It is in 
less conspicuous works, or those in which the didactic 
element is too visible—works like the Curé of Tours, 
the Country Doctor, César Birotteau, Cousin Pons, 
the Reverse Side of Contemporary History that the 
eternal conflict of good and evil is so exhibited as to 
evoke healthy pity, sympathy, admiration, and their 
equally healthy contraries, and also a wider compre- 
hension of life. 

It is difficult to separate the subject-matter of a 
novel from its treatment. Yet a word should be said 
of Balzac’s widening the limits of admission. His 
widening was two-fold. It boldly took the naked 
reality of latest date, the men and women of his time 
in the full glare of passion and action, unsoftened by 


VALUE OF THE WORK 327 


_ the veil that hides and in some measure transforms 
when they have passed into history; and it included 
in this reality the little, the commonplace, the trivial. 
This innovator in fiction aimed, as Crabbe and Words- 
worth had aimed in poetry, at interesting the reader in 
themes which were ordinarily deemed to be void of 
interest. ‘The thing deserved trying. His predecessors, 
and even his contemporaries, had neglected it. An ex- 
perimenter in this direction, he now and then forgot 
that the proper subject-matter of the novel is man— 
man either individual or collective—and spent himself 
in fruitless endeavours to endow the abstract with 
reality. 

When he opined, somewhat rashly, that George 
Sand had no force of conception, no power of con- 
structing a plot, no faculty of attaining the true, no 
art of the pathetic, he doubtless wished the inference 
to be drawn that he was not lacking in them himself. 

As regards the first, his claim can be admitted 
without reserve. Force of conception is dominant 
throughout his fiction. It is that which gained his 
novels their earliest acceptance. Whether they were 
approved or disapproved in other respects, their strong 
originality imposed itself on the attention of friends 
and enemies alike. One felt then, and one feels now, 
though more than half a century has elapsed since they 
were produced, that, whatever factitious accretions 
clung to them, they came into the world with sub- 
stance and form new-fashioned; no mere servile per- 
petuation of an effete type, but a fresh departure in 
the annals of art. 

ae is this seen in his characterization. His 
men and women are most of them put on foot with 
an energy of movement in them and an idiosyncrasy 


328 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of speech and action that has not been surpassed.’ As 
already stated, they generally are not portraits, al- 
though his memory was of that peculiar concave 
visuality which allowed him to cast its images forth 
solidly into space. What he did was to remodel these 
images with proportions differing from those of the 
reality, magnifying or diminishing them pretty much as 
Swift with his Brobdingnagians and Lilliputians; and, 


having got the body of his personage recomposed, with 


mental and moral qualities and defects corresponding to 
every one of its details—for Balzac was a firm believer 
in the corporal being an exact reflection of the spiritual 
—he set his mechanisms in motion. 

To call his men and women meghanisms, while yet 
acknowledging their intense vitality, may seem a con- 
tradiction; but nothing less than this antinomy is 
adequate to indicate the fatality of Balzac’s creatures. 
None of them ever appear to be free agents. Planet- 
like they revolve in an orbit, or meteor-like they rush 
headlong, and their course in the one or the other 
case is guessable from the beginning. Not that change 
or development is precluded. The conjuror provides 
for large transformation; but the law of such trans- 
formation is one of iron necessity, and, when he brings 
in at the end his interferences of Providence, they shock 
us as an inconsequence. However, though bound by 
their weird, his people are extraordinarily various in 


1 «A round waist,” he says, “‘is a sign of force; but women so 
built are imperious, self-willed, more voluptuous than tender. On 
the contrary, flat-waisted women are devoted, full of finesse, inclined 
to melancholy.” Elsewhere, he informs us that “most women who 
ride horseback well are not tender.” “Hands like those of a Greek 
statue announce a mind of illogical domination ; eyebrows that meet 
indicate a jealous tendency. In all great men the neck is short, 
and it is rare that a tall man possesses eminent faculties.” 





Se ee er eee TE 


~_ lam  aia Ei ae e 


VALUE OF THE WORK 329 


their aspect and doings. It is rare that he repeats 
his characters, albeit many of them touch each other 
at certain points. The exceptions are caused by his 
sometimes altering his manner of characterization and 
proceeding from the inside first. This variation goes 
to the extent of distinguishing influences of the soil 
as well as of social grade and temperament. His 
northerners speak and act otherwise than those of 
the south or west, and, in the main, are true to life, 
despite the author’s perceptible satire when depicting 
provincials. 

Parallel to his vigorous creation of character is the 
force with which he builds up their environment. 
Here his realism is intense. Indeed, occasionally one 
is tempted to credit Balzac with a greater love of 
things than of men, yet not the things of nature as 
much as things made by men. His portrayal of land- 
scape may be fine prose, but contains no pure feeling 
of poetry in it, while, in the town, in the house, in the 
street, wherever the human mind and hand have left 
their imprints, his language grows warm, his fancy 
swoops and grasps the significance of detail; these 
dumb survivals of the past become eloquent to his 
ears; his eyes discover in them a reflecting retina 
which, obedient to his command, resuscitates former 
contacts, a world buried and now found again. When 
attempting the historical novel, in which his persons 
are typical rather than individual, he still preserves 
this exactitude of local colouring. His descriptions of 
places, in fact, in all his books are almost photographs, 
and, where change has been slow, still serve to guide 
the curious traveller. 

In his preface to the Cabinet of Antiques, he 
explains how he dealt with his raw material. A young 


330 HONORE DE BALZAC 


man had been prosecuted before the Assize Coutt, 
and had been condemned and branded. ‘This case he 
connected with the story of an ancient family fallen 
from its high estate and dwelling in provincial sur- 
roundings. ‘The story had dramatic elements in it, 
but less intensely dramatic than those of the young 
man’s case. “This way of proceeding,” he says, 
‘should be that of an historian of manners and morals. 
His task consists in blending analogous facts in a 
single picture. Is he not rather bound to give the 
spirit than the letter of the happenings? He syn- 
thesizes them. Often it is necessary to pick out 
several similar characters in order to succeed in making 
up one, just as odd people are met with who are so 
ridiculous that two distinct persons may be created 
out of them. . . . Literature uses a means employed 


in painting, which, to obtain a fine figure, adapts 


the hands of one model, the foot of another, the chest 
of a third, the shoulders of a fourth.” 

The foregoing quotation raises the question of the 
significance of the term truth as applied to fiction. 
Evidently, it cannot have the same meaning as when 
applied to history or biography. In the latter, the 
writer invents neither circumstances nor actions, nor the 
persons engaged in them, but seeks to know the whole 
of the first two exactly as they occurred, and to interpret, 
as nearly to life as may be, the third. However, if he 
be a philosopher, he will perhaps try to show. the in- 
timate relations existing between these same persons 
and the events in which they were concerned; and, 


in doing so, he will step out of his proper réle and 


assume one which is less easy for him than for the 
novelist to play, since the writer of fiction composes 
both his dramatis persone and their story ; and the 


ee ee 








VALUE OF THE WORK 331 


concordance between them is more a matter of art 
than of science. 

Still it is‘possible that neither a novelist’s characters 
nor their environment shall be in entire agreement 
with all observable facts. 'There may be arrangements, 
eliminations, additions, which, though pleasing to the 
reader, may remove the mimic world to a plane above 
that of the so-called real one. Thus removed, Balzac 
judged George Sand’s production to be. And we 
must confess that, even in Little Fadette, The Devil's 
Pool, and Francois le Champi, it deals with human 
experience in a mode differing widely from that which 
the author of Hugénie Grandet considered conform to 
truth. 

As regards the methods of these two rivals, the 
claim to superior truth cannot be settled in Balzac’s 
favour by merely pointing to his realism. Realism tried 
by the norm of truth is relative. What it represents of 
the accidental in life may be much less than what it 
omits of the essential or potential, for these two words 
are often interchangeable. In the same object, different 
people usually see different aspects, qualities, attributes. 
Is one spectacle necessarily true and another false? It 
is certain that George Sand, in her stories of peasant life, 
largely uses the artist’s liberty of leaving out a great 
deal that Balzac would have put in when treating a like 
subject. It is certain that from some themes and details 
that Balzac delighted in describing she deliberately 
turned away, and it is certain also that she introduced 
into her fiction not alittle of the Utopian world that has. 
haunted man in his later development without there 
being actuality or the least chance of realization to lend 
it substance. But Balzac’s fiction has, too, its pocket 
Utopias, less attractive and _ less invigorating than 


332 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Madame Dudevant’s, and in his most realistic portrayals 
there are not infrequently dream-scapes of the fancy. 
The truth that we can most readily perceive in his work 
is one which, after all, embraces the ideally potential 
in man as well as his most material manifestations. It 
is small compared with the mass of what he wrote; but, 
where found, it is supreme. 

In constructing plot Balzac is unequal and often in- 
ferior. Here it is that his romanticist origins reappear 
rankly like weeds, giving us factitious melodrama that 
accords ill with his sober harvest of actuality. And his 
melodrama has not the merit of being various. It nearly 
always contains the same band of rogues, disguised 
under different names, conspiring to ruin innocent 
victims by the old tricks of their trade. 

Then, again, many of his novels have no understand- 
able progression from the commencement, through the 
middle, to the conclusion. This is not because he was 
incapable of involving his characters in the consequences — 
of their actions, but because things that he esteemed of 
greater importance interfered with the story’s logical 
development. We have episodes encroaching on the 
main design, or what was originally intended to be the 
main design, which is disaggregated before the end is 
arrived at. Asa matter of fact, quite a number of his 
plots are swamped by what he forces into them with 
the zeal of an encyclopedist. Philosophy, history, 
geography, law, medicine, trade, industry, agriculture 
enter by their own right. The novelist yields up his 
wand, and the pedagogue or vulgarisateur comes for- 
ward with his chalk and blackboard. Canalization 1s 
explained at length in the Village Curé : wil-making 
is discoursed upon in Ursule Mirouet ; promissory notes, 
bills of exchange, and protests, not to speak of business 








ALFRED DE MussET AND HoNoRE DE BALZAC 
Caricature attributed to Théophile Gautier (1835) 


(Collection of M, Adolphe Jullien) 





ae y ae 


VALUE OF THE WORK 333 


accounts, cover pages in the Lost Illusions ; therapeutics 
takes the place of narrative in the Reverse Side of Con- 
temporary History ; physiology is lectured upon in the 
Lily in the Valley ; Louis Lambert aims at becoming a 
second and better edition of the Thoughts of Pascal ; 
and in Séraphita we have sermons as long and tedious 
as those of an Elizabethan divine. The result is that 
even novels containing the presentment of love in its 
most passional phases lose their right to the name. At 
best they can be called only disparate chapters of fiction ; 
at worst, they are merely raw material. 

As for his achievement in the pathetic, it is almost 
nil. At least, if by pathos we mean that which touches 
the heart’s tenderest strings. Harrow us, he can; play 
upon many of our emotions, he is able to at will. But, 
at bottom, he had too little sympathy with his fellows 
to find in their mistakes, or sins, or sufferings, the where- 
withal to bring out of us our most generous tears. ‘Those 
he wept once or twice himself when writing were drawn 
from him by a reflex self-pity that is easily evoked. (In 
genuine pathos, Hugo is vastly his superior.) 

Women occupy so preponderant a position in the 
Comedy that one is forced to ask one’s self whether 
these numerous heroines are reproduced with the same 
fidelity to nature as are his men. At any rate, they 
are not all treated in the same manner. In his descrip- 
tions of grand ladies the satiric intention is rarely absent. 
Why, it is difficult to say, unless it was that he was 
unable to avoid the error of introducing the pique of 
the plebeian suitor, and that the satire was an effort to 
establish the balance in his favour. ‘“ When I used to 
go into high society,” he told Madame Hanska, “I 
suffered in every part of me through which suffering 
could enter. It is only misunderstood souls and those 


334 HONORE DE BALZAC 


that are poor who know how to observe, because every- 
thing jars on them, and observation results from suffer- 
ing.” In his inmost thought he had no high opinion 
of women. Notwithstanding his flattery of Madame 
Hanska, he was a firm upholder of the old doctrine of 
male supremacy ; and, at certain moments, he slipped 
his opinion out, content afterwards to let Eve or another 
suppose that his hard words were not spoken in earnest. 
One of his would-be witticisms at the expense of the fair 
sex was: “‘ The most Jesuitical Jesuit among the Jesuits 
is a thousand times less Jesuitical than the least Jesuitical 
woman.” ‘The form only of the accusation was new. 
How often before and since the misogynist has asserted 
that women have no conscience. Be it granted that 
Balzac’s grand dames often have very little, and some 
of his other women also. They are creatures of instinct 
and passion susceptible only of being influenced through 


their feelings. Yet, as regards the former, Sainte-Beuve 


assures us that their portraits in the Comedy resemble 
the originals. He says: “Who especially has more 
delightfully hit off the duchesses and viscountesses of 
the Restoration period!” Brunetiére accepts this testi- 
mony of a contemporary who himself frequented the 
salons of the great. Some later critics, on the contrary, 
hold that the novelist has given us stage-dames with 
heavy graces and a bizarre free-and-easiness as being 
the nearest equivalent to aristocratic nonchalance. One 
thing is certain, namely, that Balzac was personally ac- 
quainted rather with that side of aristocratic society 
which was not the better. It «was the side bordering 


on licentiousness, where manners as well as morals are . 


easily tainted and vulgarity can creep in. Again, he 
creates his women with a theory, and, in art, theories 
are apt to become prejudices. According to his appre- 





VALUE OF THE WORK 335 


ciation Walter Scott’s heroines are monotonous ; they 
lack relief, he said, and they lack it because they are 
Protestants. The Catholic woman has repentance, 
the Protestant woman, virtue only. Many of Balzac’s 
women repent, and many of those that repent either 
backslide or come very near to it. His altogether vir- 
tuous women are childish without being children, and 
some are bold into the bargain. In fine, his gamut of 
feminine psychology seems to be limited, very limited. 
Women of the finest mind he neither comprehended 
nor cared to understand. They were outside his range. 

But what he missed in the whole representation of 
the fair sex he made up for by what he invented, as 
indeed, too, in his representation of the sterner sex ; 
and Jules Janin’s account of the matter is not far from 
the truth :— 

‘He is at once the inventor, the architect, the 
upholsterer, the milliner, the professor of languages, 
the chambermaid, the perfumer, the barber, the music- 
teacher, and the usurer. He renders his society all that 
it is. He it is who lulls it to sleep on bed expressly 
arranged for sleep and adultery; he, who bows all 
women beneath the same misfortune; he, who buys on 
credit the horses, jewels, and clothes of all these hand- 
some sons without stomach, without money, without 
heart. He is the first who has found the livid veneer, 
the pale complexion of distinguished company which 
causes all his heroes to be recognized. He has arranged 
in his fertile brain all the adorable crimes, the masked 
treasons, the ingenious rapes, mental and physical which 
are the ordinary warp of his plots. The jargon spoken 
by this peculiar world, and which he alone can inter- 
pret, is none the less a mother-tongue rediscovered by 
Monsieur de Balzac, which partly explains the ephemeral 


336 HONORE DE BALZAC 


success of this novelist, who still reigns in London and 
Saint Petersburg as the most faithful reproduction of 
the manners and actions of our century.” 

Janin’s animus blinded him to the rest, and it is just 
the rest of the qualities which converted the ephemeral 
success into the permanent. Taine’s estimate is more 
discursive. He is further removed from polemics. 
He says :— 

‘Monsieur de Balzac has of private life a very deep 
and fine sentiment which goes even to minuteness of 
detail and of superstition. He knows how to move 
you and make you palpitate from the first, simply in 
depicting a garden-walk, a dining-room, a piece of 
furniture. He divines the mysteries of provincial life ; 
sometimes he makes them. Most often he does not 
recognize and therefore isolates the pudic and hidden 
side of life, together with the poetry it contains. He 
has a multitude of rapid remarks about old maids and 
old women, ugly girls, sickly women, sacrificed and 
devoted mistresses, old bachelors, misers. One wonders 
where, with his petulant imagination, he can have 
picked it all up. It is true that Monsieur de Balzac 
does not proceed with sureness, and that in his numerous 
productions, some of which appear to us almost admir- 
able, at any rate touching and delicious or piquant and 
finely comic in observation, there is a dreadful pell- 
mell. What a throng of volumes, what a flight of 
tales, novels of all sorts, droll, philosophic, and theo- 
sophic. ‘There is something to be enjoyed in each, no 
doubt, but what prolixity! In the elaboration of a 
subject, as in the detail of style, Monsieur de Balzac 
has a facile, unequal, risky pen. He starts off quickly, 
sets himself in a gallop, and then, all at once, he stumbles 
to the ground, rising only to fall again. Most of his 


a a a ae Be 


VALUE OF THE WORK 337 


openings are delightful; but his conclusions degenerate 
or become excessive. At a certain moment, he loses 
self-control. His observing coolness escapes; some- 
thing in his brain explodes, and carries everything far, 
far away. Hazard and accident have a good share in 
Monsieur de Balzac’s best production. He has his 
own manner, but vacillating, fidgety, often seeking to 
regain self-possession.” 

How much one could wish that, instead of pro- 
ducing more, Balzac should have produced less. With 
a man of his native power and perseverance, what 
greater perfection there might have been! Certainly, 
no defect is more patent in the Comédie Humaine than 
the trail of hasty workmanship, the mark of being at so 
much a line. Strangely, the speed with which he wrote 
furnished him with a cause for boasting. More properly, 
it ought to have filled him with humiliation. Many 
littérateurs are compelled to drive and overdrive their 
pens. But, if they have the love of letters innate in 
them, it will go against the grain to send into the 
world their ‘sentences without having had leisure to 
polish each and all. Examples have already been 
given of the short time spent over several books of the 
Comedy. There is no need to repeat these or to add 
to their names. Occasionally, the result was not bad, 
when, as with César Birotteau, the subject had been 
long in the novelist’s head. This, however, was the 
exception. The fifty-five sheets once composed in a 
single week, and the six thousand lines once reeled 
off in ten days, were probably invented as well as set 
on paper within the periods stated. No doubt, much 
was altered in the galley proofs; but the alterations 
would be made with the same celerity, so that they 


risked being no improvement either in style or matter. 
Y 


338 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Balzac, indeed, was aware of the imperfections arising — 


from such a method ; and he not infrequently strove to 
correct them in subsequent editions. The task might 
perhaps have been carried out fully, if the bulk of his 
new novels had not been continually growing faster 
than he could follow it with his revision. 

The commercial compromises that he consented to 
were still more injurious to the artistic finish of some 
of his later pieces of fiction. For instance, when the 
Employees was about to come out in a volume, after 
its publication as a serial, the length was judged to 
be insufficient by the man of business. He wanted 
more for his money. What did Balzac do? He 
searched through his drawers, pitched upon a manu- 
script entitled Physiology of the Employee, and drilled 
it into the other story. Of these patchwork novels The 
Woman of Thirty Years Old is the worst. Originally, 
it was six distinct short tales which had appeared at 
divers dates. The first was entitled Harly Mistakes ; 
the second, Hidden Sufferings ; the third, At Thirty 
Years Old; the fourth, God’s Finger ; the fifth, Two 
Meetings ; and the sixth and last, The Old Age of 
a Guilty Mother. In 1835, the author took it into 
his head to join them together under one title, The 
Same Story, although the names of the characters 
differed in each chapter, so that the chief heroine 
had no fewer than six appellations. Not till 1842 
did he remedy this primary incoherence, yet without 
the removal of the aliases doing anything towards 
bestowing consistency on the several personages thus 
connected in Siamese-twin fashion. To-day, any one 
who endeavours to read the novel through will proceed 
from astonishment to bewilderment, and thence to 
amazement. Nowhere else does Balzac come nearer to 


sh a a 


I 


me: 


VALUE OF THE WORK 339 


that peculiar vanity which fancies that. every licence 
is permissible to talent. 

In his chapter on the social importance of the 
Comédie Humaine, Brunetiére tries to persuade us that, 
before Balzac’s time, novelists in general gave a false 
presentation of the heroes by making love the unique 
preoccupation of life. And he seems to include 
dramatists in his accusation, declaring that love as 
a passion, the love which Shakespeare and Racine 
speak of, is a thing exceeding rare, and that humanity 
is more usually preoccupied with everything and any- 
thing besides love; love, he says, has never been the 
great affair of life except with a few idle people. 
Monsieur Brunetiére’s erudition was immense, and the 
nights as well as days he spent in acquiring his 
formidable knowledge may in his case have prevented 
more than a passing thought being given to the solici- 
tation of love. If the eminent critic had been as 
skilled in psychology as he was in literature, he would 
have been more disposed to recognize that, amidst 
all the toils and cares of life, love, in some phase, 
is after all the mainspring, and that, if it were elimi- 
nated from man’s nature, the most puissant factor 
of his activity would disappear. Love is part of the 
huge sub-conscious in man; and the novelist, in making 
the events of his fiction turn upon it, does no more 
than follow nature. 

However, it is not exact that all novelists and 
dramatists, or even the majority of them, before Balzac’s 
time made love the sole preoccupation of their heroes. 
What they did rather—in so far as their writing was 
true—was to give a visible relief to it which in real life 
is impossible, since it belongs to the invisible, inner 
experience. Nor is it exact that Balzac consistently 


340 - HONORE DE BALZAC 


assigns a secondary place in his novels to love. He 
does so in his best novels, but not in some that he 
thought his best—The Lily in the Valley and Séra- 
plata for example. The relegation of love to the 
background in those novels which happen to be his 
masterpieces was caused by something mentioned in a 
preceding chapter, to wit, that Balzac never thoroughly 
felt or understood love as a great and noble passion. 
And love, with him, being so oddly mixed up with 
calculation, it was to be expected he should succeed 
best in books in which the dominant interest was 
some other passion—an exceptional one. If money — 
plays, on the contrary, such an intrusive réle in his 
novels, its introduction was less from voluntary, 
reasoned choice than from obsession. He deals with 
this subject sometimes splendidly, but, at other times, 
he wearies. Had money filled a smaller part of his 
work, the work would not have lost. 

In fine, with its beauties and its uglinesses, its 
perfections and its shortcomings, the Comedy is the 
illumination cast by a master-mind upon the goings-out 
and comings-in of his contemporaries, the creation of 
a more universal and representative history of social 
life than had been previously written. Having con- 
siderable ethical value, it is worth still more on account 
of the ways it opens towards the fiction of the future. 


CHAPTER XVI 


THE INFLUENCE 


Bauzac’s influence during his lifetime was, with but 
few exceptions, exercised outside his own, novelist’s 
profession. The sphere in which it made itself chiefly 
felt was that of the cultured reading public, and the 
public was, first and foremost, a foreign one. History 
repeated itself. To Honoré d’Urfé, the author of the 
Astrée, in the sixteenth century, while living in Pied- 
mont, a letter came announcing that twenty-nine prin- 
cesses and nineteen lords of Germany had adopted the 
names and characters of his heroes and heroines in the 
Astrée, and had founded an academy of true lovers. 
Almost the same thing occurred to the nineteenth- 
century Honoré de Balzac. For a while, certain people 
in Venetian society assumed the titles and réles of his 
chief personages, playing the parts, in some instances, 
out to their utmost conclusion. 

Sainte-Beuve, who, in 1850, drew attention to this 
curious historical analogy, went on to mention that, in 
Hungary, Poland, and Russia, Balzac’s novels created a 
fashion. The strange, rich furniture that was assembled 
and arranged, according to the novelist’s fancy, out of 
the artistic productions of many countries and epochs, 
became an after-reality. Numerous wealthy persons 
prided themselves on possessing what the author had 
merely imagined. The interior of their houses was 


adorned a la Balzac. 
341 


342 HONORE DE BALZAC 


One evening at Vienna, says his sister, he entered 
a concert-room, where, as soon as his presence was 
perceived and bruited around, all the audience rose in 
his honour; and, at the end of the entertainment, a 
student seized his hand and kissed it, exclaiming : “I 
bless the hand that wrote Sérapluta.” Balzac himself 
relates that, once travelling in Russia, he and _ his 
friends, as night was coming on, went and asked for 
hospitality at a castle. On their entrance, the lady of 
the house and some other members of the fair sex vied 
with each other in eagerness to serve the guests. One 
of the younger ladies hurried to the kitchen for refresh- 
ment. In the meantime, the novelist’s identity was 
revealed to the chdtelaine. A lively conversation was 
immediately engaged in, and, when the impromptu 
Abigail returned with the refreshment, the first words 
she heard were: “Well, Monsieur Balzac, so you 
think—’ Full of surprise and joy she started, 
dropped the tray she had in her hands, and every- 
thing was broken. “Glory I have known and seen,” 
adds the narrator ; “ wasn’t that glory ?” 

It was more. It was power wielded for good or 
evil, like that of every other great man, be he statesman, 
or priest, or artist. The conviction of possessing this 
power caused Balzac to complain with sincere indigna- 
tion of those who charged him with being an immoral 
writer. “The reproach of immorality,” he said in his 
preface to the second edition of Pére Goriot, “which 
has ever been launched at the courageous author, is the 
last that remains to be made, when nothing else can be 
urged against a poet. Ifyou are true in your portrayal, 
if, by dint of working night and day, you succeed in 
writing the most difficult language in the world, the 
epithet immoral is cast in your face. Socrates was 


mai tal 


SR a ee ee 


i i aes 


THE INFLUENCE 343 


immoral, Jesus Christ was immoral. Both were perse- 
cuted in the name of the societies they overthrew or 
reformed. (When the world wishes to destroy any one, 
it taxes him with immorality.” > 

This argument is beside the question. It does not 
settle whether the apologist’s influence upon the men 
and women of his generation and beyond—an influence 
which, in his lifetime, was incontestable, and may be 
deemed potent still, to judge by the extent to which 
his books are read—was and is good or bad. Balzac’s 
personality is here only indirectly involved. His indi- 
vidual character might have been better or worse 
without the conclusion to be drawn being affected. 
Good men’s influence is not always good, nor bad men’s 
influence always bad. Intention may be inoperative, 
and effect may be involuntary. 

Balzac claimed the right to speak of all conduct, to 
represent all conduct in his fiction; and we shall see, 
farther on, that he imposed his claim upon those who 
followed him in literature. But, if he anticipated 
reality—and this is acknowledged—if he led society to 
imitate his fiction, if his exceptional representations 
tended, with him and after him, to become general 
or more frequent in one or another class of society, he 
must be considered morally responsible for the result. 
It has already been remarked, in the preceding chapter, 
that there are two ways of reproducing reality in 
literature and art, one of them favouring, not through 
didacticism but through emotion, the creation in the 
mind of a state of healthy feeling, thought, and effort ; 
the other, that sort of fascination with which the serpent 
attracts its victims. It is certain that Balzac did not 
adequately take this into account, certain also that in 
parts of his Comedy, the secret, unconscious sympathy 


B44 HONORE DE BALZAC 


of the author with some of his sicklier heroes and 
heroines could not and did not have that dynamic 
moral action which he vainly desired. 

Of the chief French novelists or Jittérateurs who 
were his contemporaries, critics are inclined to esteem 
his influence most evident on George Sand and Victor 
Hugo. Brunetiére, indeed, begins with Sainte-Beuve. 
But the similarities discoverable between the author 
of Volupté and the author of the Comédie Humaine 
were present in Sainte-Beuve’s work at a period when 
Balzac was only just issuing from obscurity, and appear, 
moreover, to be due to temperament. In the case 
of George Sand, the inference is based partly on the 
praise she meted out to Balzac in her reminiscences. 
Brunetiére specifies the Marquis de Villemer as the 


one proved example of imitation. But this novel was, 


written in 1861, eleven years after Balzac’s death ; and, 
in so far as it differs from Mauprat and the earlier 
books, whether La Petite Fadette or Consuélo, can be 
shown to be the result of a natural and independent 
evolution. — 

As regards Victor Hugo, on the contrary, there is 
plenty of primd facie evidence that he largely utilized 
Balzac’s material and method; and there is evidence 
also that Balzac utilized, though in a less degree, the 
subjects developed by Hugo. The reciprocal borrow- 

ing is easy to explain, both men, in spite of their 
_ fundamental peculiarities, having much in them that 
was Common—imagination difficult to control, fondness 
for exaggeration, language prone to be verbose and 
turgid, research of devices to astonish the reader. 
Hugo’s Misérables is a monument of his fiction that 
owes much to Balzacian architecture. The realism of 


the latter author is converted without difficulty into - 


a 


ae ee 


en ee 





Eugéne Sue Alexandre Dumas 
Victor Hugo H. de Balzac 


THE EaGLes oF THOUGHT AND STYLE 
From a Comic Drawing by Tony Johannot 





THE INFLUENCE 345 


the former’s romanticism, or, rather, the alloy of 
romanticism is so considerable in Balzac’s work that 
there is little conversion to make. JF erragus and 
Vautrin are prototypes of Valjean, just as Valjean’s 
Cosette exploited by Madame Thénardier is an adapta- 
tion of Ferragus’ daughter or Doctor Minoret’s Ursula. 
The prison manners and slang of the Misérables inevit- 
ably recall those of Vautrin’s Last Incarnation, while, 
on the other hand, Hugo’s salon w/tra reappears in the 
Cabinet of Antiques. And the analogies present them- 
selves continually. One might almost say that the 
whole of the Comédie Humaine suggested things to its 
future panegyrist, who wrote his greatest novel in the 
years consecutive to Balzac’s death. Of course, Hugo’s 
borrowings, being those of a man of genius, were not 
made use of servilely.. Like Shakespeare and Moliére, 
the author of the Misérables metamorphosed and 
enhanced what he took. 

Balzac’s major influence on literature began as soon 
as he was dead. And the men he reacted on soonest 
were the dramatists ;) not through his own plays, which 
figured so small in his achievement, or, if through them 
at all, then only as they applied the same principles as 
his novels. The stage, being ever en vedette, is best 
situated to interpret the signs of the times, and is like- 
wise more open to the solicitations of novelty, more 
ready to try new methods. A noticeable defect of the 
French drama, in the first .half of the nineteenth 
century, was the pronounced artificiality of its characters 
and plots. Whatever the kind of play exhibited, the 
same stereotyped noble fathers, ingenuous maidens, 
coquettes, and Lotharios strutted on the boards. What- 
ever else changed, these did not. Only their costumes 
differed. Moreover, the adventures inwhich the dramatis 


846 HONORE DE BALZAC 


persone displayed themselves contained always the 
same sort of tricks for bringing about the dénouement. 
Even the language had its own set style, outside which 
nothing was appropriate. All this was classicism in its 
most degenerate form, an art from which original in- 
spiration was banished to the profit of a much inferior 
species of skill. Be it granted that the drama, more 
than any other kind of literature, is liable to the en- 
croachment and dominance of such artificiality on 
account of its foreshortening in perspective. Be it 
granted, also, that sometimes a new movement will 
intensify an old habit. The Romanticists, though re- 
formers in other respects, did little or nothing to render 
the stage more real. Their lyricism, in front of the 
footlights, needed buskins and frippery, or, at any rate, 
fostered them, as the pieces of Hugo and de Vigny 
proved. 

The younger Dumas, Emile Augier, Halévy and 
Becque—with a crescendo that in the last of the four is 
somewhat harsh—diverged from the traditional path, 
and in their plays put men and women whose motives 
and conduct were nearer to the humanity of their 
audience. The departure from old lines in these 
dramatists is patent; and, after discounting the part 
that may have been temperamental or contingent on 
some other cause, there remains the larger share to 
attribute to Balzac’s influence. Dumas’ Dame aux 
Camélias, originally staged in 1852, was a timid start in 
the new direction. The theme, that of the courtezan 
in love, was a favourite one with the classical school, 
and much of the ancient style and tone pervades it : yet 
its atmosphere is a modern one, the expression of its 
sentiment is modern, too, and the accessories are sup- 
plied with an eye to material and moral exactitude, 


THE INFLUENCE 347 


The same author’s Question d’ Argent, composed a few 
years later, was a more direct tribute to the modifying 
power of the Comédie Humaine. It was Balzac’s 
Mercadet the Jobber remodelled with a larger stage 
science. Hypnotized subsequently by the piece a, these 
(and not to his advantage) Dumas went off at a tangent, 
whereas Augier, once engaged in the newer manner 
with his Gendre de Monsieur Poirier, persisted iite, 
with each of his succeeding pieces, flattering his model by 
resurrection after resurrection of the Comedy’s principal 
actors, Bixiou and Lousteau in Giboyer and Vernouillet, 
Balthazar Claés in the Desronceretz of Maitre Guérin. 
Ludovic Halévy apparently wished every one to perceive 
what he owed to the father of French realism. Finding 
in the Petty Bourgeois a Madame Cardinal whose comic 
personality and peculiar moral squint suited one of his 
plays, he adopted her entirely, name and all, altering 
only what her more recent surroundings required. 
Henri Becque digested Balzac rather than imitated him. 
One feels in reading his Corbeau that it is a disciple’s 
own work. ‘The master’s virtues and some of the 
disciple’s faults are everywhere present, both in the 
subject and in the treatment. We have the same 
world of money and business that shows so big through- 
out the Comedy, an unfaithful partner and lawyer intro- 
ducing ruin into the house of the widow and orphan. 
The practice of legal ruse and robbery—in these things 
Balzac had rung the changes again and again. What 
‘Becque added were sharpness of contrast, dramatic 
concentration, bitterer satire, and likewise greater art. 
If one may hazard a guess at the reasons that con- 
vinced the older school of playwrights of their error, there 
are two by which they must have been struck—the 
artistic possibilities of the real suggested by the Coméde 


348 HONORE DE BALZAC 


Humaine, and the prescience—one might say the in- 
tuition—it exhibited of things that were destined to 
reveal themselves more prominently in the latter half 
of the nineteenth century. And in this respect Balzac 
in no wise contributed to what he foresaw and, so to 
speak, prophesied—the growing stress of the struggle 
for life in domains political, social, financial, industrial, 
the coming of uncrowned kings greater in puissance 
than monarchs of yore, the reign of not one despot but 
many, the generalization of intrigue, the replacement 
of ancient disorders by others of equal or increased 
virulence and harder to remedy, hundred-headed hydras 
to combat, most difficult of herculean tasks. The re- 
flection of all this in the Comedy was calculated to 
impress at its hour, and the hour arrived. Men looked 
at the counterfeit presentment and wondered why no 
one had recognized these things sooner. From that 
moment, the reputation of the Comédie Humaine was 
made. Perhaps, after all, in such connection, the one 
or two of Balzac’s plays that went so resolutely off the 
old lines—the Resources of Quinola and Mercadet,—may 
have served, in remembrance, despite their insignifi- 
cance beside the novels, which were the true drama, to 
awaken the attention of professional dramatists, especi- 
ally as one after another story of the Comedy was 
dramatized. But it was the fund of observation and the 
leaven of satire which startled, aroused, and ultimately 
set the stage agog. Not even the lighter forms of com- 
position were left unaffected. Labiche, in the vaude- 
ville style, with his Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon and 
_ La Cagnotte, gave his audience, behind his puppets, the 
touch of present reality, the sensation of existent follies. 

The relative slowness with which the novels of 
Balzac’s younger contemporaries and his successors were 


THE INFLUENCE 349 


penetrated with realism was partly due to the lasting 
effect of George Sand’s idealistic fiction. As we have 
seen, Balzac himself was reacted upon by it to some 
extent; but he yielded against his will, and the result 
in his case was a bastard one. She whom he called his 
brother George survived him for more than twenty 
years, and continued to the last to add to her reputa- 
tion, so that naturally the impetus she lent to the 
idealistic movement was long before it was spent, if 
indeed one may say that the impetus has altogether 
been lost. Adepts like Octave Feuillet, with his 
Roman dun Jeune Homme Pauvre, and Victor Cher- 
buliez, with his Comte Kostia, endeavoured to per- 
petuate idealism or at least to recreate it in other forms. 
And then there were independents, like Flaubert, who, 
with Madame Bovary, passed realism by on his way to 
naturalism. Yet it is worth remarking that Flaubert 
made a sort of volte face in 1869, and wrote his Hduca- 
tion Sentimentale, in which, under the pressure of 
simple circumstance, the hero descends gradually from 
the soaring of youth’s hopes and ambitions to the dull, 
dun monotony of mature life, with nothing left him 
save the iron circle of his environment. Here the dis- 
illusionment is that of all Balzac’s chief dramatzs per- 
sone. Moreover, the minor characters of Madame 
Bovary may well owe something to the Comedy. 
These doctors, chemists, curés, prefectoral councillors 
and country squires would possibly never have been 
depicted but for their having already existed for twenty 
years in the predecessor's gallery of portraits. 

There is no need to call the de Goncourts and Guy 
de Maupassant imitators because they bear a strong 
stamp of Balzac’s influence. They have greater art, a 
finer style, and, above all, more pathos than the earlier 


350 HONORE DE BALZAC 


master was capable of. But they are true disciples, 
as likewise Feuillet in his later manner with Monsieur 
de Camors. De Maupassant’s short stories, exempli- 
fying his severely objective treatment at his best, are 
Balzac’s purified of their lingering romanticism, and his 
Bel Ami is a modernized Lucien de Rubempré. And, 
if the resemblances are closer between works of the 
de Goncourts less known, such as Charles Demailly, or 
Manette Salomon and the Lost Illusions, Peter Grassou, 
the Muse of the County, yet the means employed by 
the two brothers to endow with life and form Renée 
Mauperin and Germinie Lacerteux, fixing a back- 
ground, stumping the outlines, filling in details, adding 
particularities, all this was Balzacian method, insufficient 
forsooth, in the domain of psychology, but furnishing | 
idiosyncrasy in plentiful variations. 

When we come to Alphonse Daudet, time enough 
has elapsed for realism to evolve into naturalism so- 
called. Naturalism is realism stark-naked—the dissect- 
ing-room, and a good deal besides, which Monsieur 
Zola illustrated well but not wisely. Daudet, for- 
tunately for his reputation, was a naturalist swé generis, 
with a delicate artistic perception altogether lacking to 
the author of the Rougon-Macquart series. He was 
also an independent, but willing to take lessons in his 
trade. And how much he learnt from Cousin Bette 
may be judged by his Nwma Rouwmestan and Froment 
Jeune et Rissler ainé. There are close analogies also 
between the best of Balzac’s fiction and the sombre 
realism of the Hvangéliste, based on tragic facts that 
had come under Daudet’s personal notice. Of the two 
realisms Daudet’s is certainly the more genuine, with 
its lambent humour that glints on even the saddest of 
his pictures, 


THE INFLUENCE 351 


In neither the naturalistic school of fiction, nor 
the psychological, in so far as the latter is represented 
by Bourget, has Balzac’s influence been a gain. Bour- 
get has borrowed Balzac’s furniture, his pompous didac- 
ticism, his occasional indecency—in fine, all that is least 
essential in the elder’s assets, without learning how to 
breathe objective life into one of his characters. Zola 
borrowed more, but mainly the unwholesome parts, trun- 
cating these further to suit his theory of the novel as a 
slice of life seen through a temperament, and travesty- 
ing in the Rougon-Macquart scheme, with its burden 
of heredity and physiological blemish, Balzac’s cum- 
brous and plausible doctrine of the Comedy. Both 
novelists made a mistake in arrogating to themselves 
the réle of the savant. Neither of them seemed to 
understand that there are limits imposed on each pro- 
fession by the mode of its operation. For Zola the 
novel was not only an observation working upon the 
voluntary acts of life, it was an experiment—like that 
of the astrologers whom Moses met in Egypt—pro- 
ducing phenomena artificially, and allowing a law of 
necessity to be deduced from the result. And for 
Balzac the novel was something of the same kind—a 
synthesis of every human activity framed by one who, 
as he proudly claimed, had observed and analysed 
society in all its phases from top to bottom, legisla- 
tions, religions, histories, and present time. / What 
Balvac didita@aation and what he thought he dtd are 
separated by a gulf which could only have been 
bridged over’ by the long and painful study of a 
man surviving for centuries. His scientific knowledge 
was superficial in nearly every branch. It was his 
divination which was great. And divination is not 
omniscience, 


352 HONORE DE BALZAC 


An offshoot from the naturalistic school apparently, 
but derived more truly from the Comédie Humaine, is 
that decadent, pornographic art, of which Balzac would 
have been ashamed, had he lived to see the vegetation 
that grew up from the seeds he had sown without 
knowing what they would bring forth. In Zola’s 
novels the plant was already full grown; its earlier 
appearance as the slender blade was Champfleury’s 
vulgar satire, the Bourgeois de Molinchart. More 
recently the blossom has revealed its pestilential rank- 
ness so plainly that no one can be deceived as to its 
noxious effect. 

Where Balzac’s influence is likeliest to remain 
potent for good is in the domain of history. He was 
not altogether an initiator here, having learnt from 
Walter Scott in the one as in the other capacity; but 
he developed and focussed what he had received; he 
added to it, and made it a factor in the historical 
science. After him historians began to assign a more 
important place in their narrations and chronicles to 
the manners and interests of the people, patiently seek- 
ing to assemble and situate everything that could relate 
them exactly to the great political and other public 
events which would be nothing but names without 
them. The de Goncourts, in their LMistory of French 
Society during the Revolution and under the Mrectotre, 
applied this method with all the zeal of fresh disciples, 
and, with hardly enough discretion. Taine’s Origins of 
Contemporary France abdicates none of the older 
historian’s réle, but its background is Balzacian. 
Among the later writers who have taken up the 
historian’s pen, Masson, Lendtre, and Anatole France 
illustrate the newer principles, each with a difference, 
but all excellently, the first in his Napoleon, the second 


THE INFLUENCE 353 


in his Old Houses, Old Papers, the third in his Joan 
of Arc. 

It can scarcely be disputed that an entrance of 
realism into French literature would have occurred in 
the second half of the nineteenth century, had there 
been no Balzac. Some other novelists or writers, 
themselves reacted upon by the scientific spirit, would 
have set the example in their own way, if not with the 
achievement of the author of the Comedy. On the 
other hand, it is certain that Balzac, had he put his 
hand to another treatment of fiction, would neverthe- 
less have created a school. His tremendous force 
would have channelled into the future, whatever the 
nature of its current. As Sainte-Beuve well says, he 
wrote what he wrote with his blood and muscles, not 
merely with his thought, and such work backed by 
genius was sure to tell, notwithstanding its defects, 
the latter even to some extent aiding. 


Having partly a bibliographic value, and partly 
confirming the statements above as to Balzac’s influence, 
the following details concerning theatrical adaptations 
of some of his novels may serve as a supplement to 
this chapter. 

The first made was produced at the Vaudeville in 
1832, and was based on the story of Colonel Chabert, 
which, under another title, The Compromise, had finished 

‘as a serial in the March Artiste of the same year. In 
Balzac’s tale—the one of the novels that contains most 
real pathos—the Colonel, who is a Count of the Empire, 
is left for dead on the battlefield of Eylau, with wounds 
that disfigure him dreadfully. Rescued, and sojourning 
for a long while in German hospitals, he ultimately 


returns to France, but only to find his wife, who 
Z 


354 HONORE DE BALZAC 


believes him dead, married to another nobleman. 
Treated as an imposter by everybody save a former 
non-commissioned officer of his regiment, he falls into 
poverty and wretchedness, and dies in a hospice, 
whilst his wife continues to live rich and honoured. 
Jacques Arago and Louis Lurine, who composed the 
play, altered the dénouement. The husband is pen- 
sioned off by his wife, who, however, suffers for her 
hard-heartedness, being afterwards deserted by her 
second husband. A second version of the same subject 
was produced twenty years later at the Beaumarchais 
Theatre by Faulquemont, and, in 1888, a third at 
Brussels. 

Hugénie Grandet was staged as a comedy, at the | 
Gymnase in 1835, by Bayard and Paulin, who dealt 
with the plot very freely. Kugénie, happening to lay 
hold of the letter telling of her uncle’s intention to 
commit suicide, begs her father to send money enough 
to Paris to prevent the catastrophe. On her father’s 
refusing, she steals one of the old man’s strong-boxes 
and gives it to the son of a local notary, who hurries 
to the capital with it and reaches there in time to save 
Charles’ father from ruin and death. As Charles has 
also fled with his uncle’s mare on the same errand, the 
miser thinks he is the thief, and obtains a warrant for 
his arrest. But Eugénie avows everything except the 
name of her accomplice. Explanations occur, now 
that Guillaume Grandet is saved ; Charles comes out 
of prison and marries Kugénie, whose dowry is the 
money that has served so good a purpose. With Bouffé 
in the chief rdle, the Miser’s Daughter, as the piece was 
called, had great popularity, and was several times 
revived. 

In 1885 also, was produced Péy¢ Goriot at the 


THE INFLUENCE 355 


Variétés, there being three collaborators in the drama- 
tizing, Théaulon, de Comberousse, and Jaime. Their 
adaptation possesses the same characters as the novel, 
but the roles are considerably modified. Victorine 
Taillefer becomes Goriot’s illegitimate daughter, who 
is provided for by her father, yet is brought up without 
ever seeing him and without the least inkling of her 
relationship to him. But Vautrin has discovered that 
a sum of five hundred thousand francs is deposited on 
her behalf with a notary; and he goes to Grenoble, 
where she is living, brings her back with him to Paris, 
and presents her to Goriot as a poor girl, his intention 
being to ask her in marriage at the proper moment. 
The retired tradesman takes her in, and she remains 
with him when his other daughters marry, and during 
the time they pass in ungratefully stripping him of his 
fortune. At last his sons-in-law, to salve their con- 
sciences, offer to place him in an almshouse. Goriot 
indignantly refuses, and tells them he has another 
daughter whom he has made rich, and that he will 
go and live with her. Now is Vautrin’s opportunity. 
He informs Goriot who Victorine is, and, since she has 
given her affections to the young Rastignac, he, like a 
good fellow, renounces his own matrimonial project 
and assists the old father in marrying the lovers happily. 
The part of Goriot was acted by Vernet, who did entire 
justice’ to Balzac’s great creation. Simultaneously at 
the Vaudeville, another and poorer version of the novel 
was given ; and, in 1891, at the Thédtre Libre, T'abarand 
experimented a third piece, this last being a faithful 
reproduction of the novel. Antoine scored a big success 
in the part of Goriot, rendering the death-bed scene 
with remarkable power and skill. 

In 1836, La Grande Bretéche, with its vengeful 


356 HONORE DE BALZAC 


husband who walls up his wife’s lover alive, tempted 
Scribe and another playwright, Mélesville. In their 
arrangement, there is a virtuous wife whose husband 
is a bigamist. On learning the truth, she consents to 
receive the visit of Lara, an admirer of hers, whom she 
loves; and, when the Bluebeard, Valdini, surprises his 
victim and proceeds to the immurement, his first wife 
slips in most conveniently and whisks him off, leaving 
Valentine free to marry Lara. 

It is curious to notice how, in almost every in- 
stance, the first adapting dramatists transformed 
Balzac’s tragedies into comedies, softening the stern 
facts of life and its injustices, and meting out the 
juster rewards and punishments which the novelist’s 
realism forbade. 

In Antony Béraud’s Gars, a play drawn from the 
Chowans and performed at the Ambigu-Comique in 
1837, the hero and heroine, instead of dying, are saved 
by a political amnesty decreed by Napoleon ; and the 
curtain falls to the cry of Vive ?Hmpereur. More 
than fifty years later, in 1894, the same theatre gave 
a close rendering of the dramatic portions of the 
Chouans, due to the collaboration of Berton and Blavet, 
the tragic ending being preserved, with all the effects 
_ properly belonging to it. 

Commonplace, like the Garvs, were the arrange- 
ments of the Search for the Absolute, in 1887, and 
César Birotteau in 1838. The former was staged 
under the bizarre title, 4+Mx=O+ 2X, or the 
Dream of a Savant. The authors, Bayard and Biéville, 
concealed their identity under an algebraic X as well; 
and their piece, which made Balthazar Claés a Parisian 
chemist and a candidate to a vacant chair in the 
Collége de France, failed to attract at the Gymnase, 





ees 
a 
ce 
a 


—_— 


Batzac'’s Famous STICK 





~e 


THE INFLUENCE "B57 


in spite of Bouffé’s talent and the redemption of 
Balthazar. 

César Birotteau was performed at the Panthéon 
Theatre, which was demolished in 1846. The love- 
story of Popinot and Césarine, which is so_ briefly 
sketched in the novel, assumes chief importance in 
Cormon’s adaptation, and, of course, César does not 
die. 

Scribe borrowed largely from the Comédie Hu- 
maine. His Sheriff libretto for Halévy’s music at 
the Opéra Comique in 1839 was a transmogrification 
of Master Cornelius. Balzac’s Cornelius is Louis XI.’s 
money-lender, who lives with his sister in an old 
mansion, next to a house which the King’s natural 
daughter, Marie de Sassenage, occupies with her 
husband, the Comte de Sainte-Vallier. The old 
money-lender, perceiving that his gold is disappearing, 
has had four of his apprentices hanged on suspicion. 
The like fate now threatens Marie’s lover, Georges 
d’Estouteville, who, in order to see her more safely, 
had persuaded Cornelius to let him stay in his dwelling 
one night. Marie appeals to the King to spare her 
lover’s life, and Louis, on investigating the matter, 
discovers that Cornelius is a somnambulist, and has 
been robbing himself and burying his gold. On being 
told of this, the old money-lender has no peace of 
mind, fearing the King will take all his treasure, and 
ultimately cuts his own throat. In Scribe’s parody, 
for a parody the piece virtually is, the scene is laid in 
England. John Turnel, the Sheriff of London, is the 
somnambulist, and he suspects his own daughter and 
his cook of stealing his money. But, differing from 
Cornelius, he accepts the situation when the truth is 
revealed to him under circumstances that make him 


358 HONORE DE BALZAC 


as ridiculous as the spectre of Tappington in the 
Ingoldsby Legends ; and, as a comic opera generally 
ends happily, he consents to the marriage of his 
daughter Camilla, and of Keat, the cook, with their 
respective swains. 

An English setting was likewise given by Scribe 
to his play of Héléne, suggested by Balzac’s Honorine, 
which was staged at the Gymnase in 1846. Héléene 
is a young orphan who draws and paints for her living, 
and has the good fortune to have all her canvases 
bought at advantageous prices by a rich dealer named 
Crosby. But suddenly she learns that the dealer is 
acting in behalf of a certain Lord Clavering, and, 
fearing some underhand designs, she refuses to keep 
_ the money that has been paid her. Smitten by her 
disinterestedness as well as by her beauty, Lord 
Clavering would gladly marry her, but is bound by 
his word plighted to Lord Dunbar’s daughter. How- 
ever, the latter elopes with another nobleman, and 
Clavering marries Héléne. This pretty theme, de- 
veloped by the actress Rose Chéri, made a huge hit. 

Nearly as great was the actress’s success at the 
same theatre in 1849, when she played the principal 
role in Clairville’s Madame Marneffe, a version of 
Cousin Bette, but very much modified, since Bette is 
eliminated altogether, and Valerie Marneffe, instead of 
being a depraved creature, is merely a clever woman 
of the world, who avenges her father’s ruin on the 
Baron Hulot and Crevel, they being mainly responsible 
for it. When Balzac was at Wierzchownia, on his last 
visit, he wrote to his mother asking her to go to the 
theatrical agent’s in order to receive his third of the 
receipts produced by the piece. These author’s 
royalties must have helped his purse considerably. 


THE INFLUENCE 359 


In the year after the novelist’s death, the applauded 
representation of Mercadet, at the Gymnase, stimulated 
other managers of theatres to go on exploiting his 
Comedy. In September, the Shagreen Shin, arranged 
by Judicis, was played at the Ambigu-Comique, with 
tableaux of almost literal imitation, yet bringing to life 
again, in the dénouement, the chief dramatis persone, 
and making the whole drama a dream. 

At the Comédie Frangaise, in 1858, Barriére and 
de Beauplan produced a five-act prose play drawn 
from the Lily in the Valley. The novel was an 
awkward one to dramatize, there being very few 
elements in it capable of yielding situations for the 
stage. So the result was poor. <A better thing was 
made in 1859 by de Keraniou out of the Sceaux Ball. 
On it he based an agreeable piece entitled Noblesse 
Oblige, with a delicately interpreted love scene in it 
which met with appreciative audiences at the Odéon. 

One more example, that of Cousin Pons, may be 
given to close the list of these adaptations, which are 
fully related in Edmond Biré’s interesting book dealing 
with certain special aspects of Balzac’s life and work. 
Cousin Pons was staged at the Cluny Theatre in 1873. 
Alphonse de Launay, the author of the play, keeps 
to his text fairly well; but he adds a love episode 
which thrusts the friendship of the two musicians into 
the second place. Moreover, after the death of Pons, 
Schmucke lives to inherit his fortune and the Camusots 
are checkmated. 


CHAPTER XVII 
CONCLUSION: THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS 


It may be affirmed, without thereby disparaging the ~ 
Comédie Humaine, that Balzac’s personality is even 
more interesting than his work; and this is a sufficient 
excuse for returning to it in a last chapter and try- 
ing, at the risk of repetition, to make its presentment 
completer by way of supplement and summary. 

The interest does not arise alone from the contrasts 
of his foibles, which, forsooth, are nearly always comic 
—when they are not tragic. We are just as much 
attracted by the contrasts of his qualities, and by the 
interplay of the former with the latter—the victories 
and defeats, the glimpses of immense possibility, the 
struggles between temperament and environment, all 
these having a fullness of display rarely found in human 
nature. 

Besides the portraits in painting or sculpture exe- 
cuted of the novelist by Devéria, Boulanger, David 
d’ Angers, and others, some mention of which has already 
been made, there was one begun by Meissonier, who 
unfortunately did not finish it. Monsieur Jules Claretie 
states that the canvas on which it was drawn was subse- 
quently covered by the artist’s Man choosing a Sword, 
to-day in the Van Prael collection at Brussels. About 
Boulanger’s picture Théophile Gautier has a good deal 
to tell us in his article of 1837 , published in the Beaux 
Arts de la Presse ; and it scarcely agrees with Balzac’s 

360 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS © 361 


condemnation of the portrait as a daub, when he saw 
the canvas some years later in Russia. Remarking on 
the difficulty of rendering the novelist’s physiognomy, 
on account of its mobility and strange aspect, Gautier 
gives it as his opinion that Boulanger succeeded perfectly 
in seizing the complex expression which seemed to 
escape all efforts of the brush. The description is a 
long one; and any one desirous of comparing with each 
other the impressions received by Balzac’s contemporaries 
who came into close contact with him would do well to 
read it after this description by Lamartine. In the 
tenth of his lectures on Literature during the year 1856, 
the author of Jocelyn, speaking of what he had observed, 
said :— 

‘His exterior was as uncultivated as his genius. 
It was the shape of an element: big head, hair scattered 
over his collar and cheeks like a mane that scissors 
never trimmed, lips thick, eyes soft but of flame ; cos- 
tume clashing with every elegance ; clothes too small 
for his colossal body; waistcoat unbuttoned; linen 
coarse; blue stockings; shoes that made holes in the 
carpet; an appearance as of a schoolboy on holiday, 
who has grown during the year and whose stature has 
burst his garments. Such was the man that by himself 
wrote a whole library about his century, the Walter 
Scott of France, not the Walter Scott of landscape and 
adventure, but what is much more prodigious, the 
Walter Scott of characters, the Dante of the infinite 
circles of human life, the Moliére of read comedy, less 
perfect but more fertile than the Moliére of played 
comedy. Why does not his style equal his conception ? 
France would then have two Moliéres, and the greater 
would not be he who lived first.” 

Returning to the same subject in his hundred 


362 HONORE DE BALZAC 


and sixth lecture, eight years later, Lamartine con- 
tinued :— 

‘‘ He bore his genius so simply that he did not feel 
it. He was not tall, and, however, the lighting up of 
his face and the mobility of his body prevented his 
small stature from being noticed; but this height 
swayed like his thought. Between the ground and 
him there appeared to be a certain margin; now, he 
stooped down to pick up a sheaf of ideas; now, he 
stood tiptoe to follow the soaring of his thought into 
the infinite. He was big, thick-set, square-shouldered- 
and-hipped. His neck, chest, body, thighs, and limbs 
were mighty. There was much of the ampleness. of 
Mirabeau, but no heaviness; there was so much soul 
that this carried that lightly. The weight seemed to 
give him force and not to take it from him. His short 
arms gesticulated with ease; he talked as an orator 
speaks. His voice resounded with the somewhat 
savage energy of his lungs, but it had neither rough- 
ness hor irony nor anger. His legs, on which he 
waddled a little, carried his bust smartly ; his hands, 
plump and broad, expressed his whole thought by 
their waving movements. Such was the man in his 
stalwart frame. But, in front of the face, one forgot 
the framework. The speaking countenance, from 
which it was impossible to detach one’s gaze, both 
charmed and fascinated the beholder. His hair floated 
over the forehead in large locks; his black eyes pierced 
like arrows blunted by benevolence; they entered » 
yours confidently as if they were friends; his cheeks 
were full, rosy, and strongly coloured; the nose was 
well modelled, yet a trifle long; his lips, gracefully 
. limned, ample and raised at the corners; his teeth, 
unequal, broken, and blackened by cigar-smoke ; his 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS — 3638 


head often inclining towards the neck, then proudly 
raised during speech. But the dominating trait of 
his face, more even than intelligence, was communi- 
cative kindness. He charmed your mind when he 
spoke, and, when not speaking, he charmed your 
heart. No passion of hatred or envy could have been 
expressed by this physiognomy; it would have been 
impossible for him not to be kind. Yet it was not 
a kindness of indifference or nonchalance, as in the 
epicurean face of La Fontaine; it was a loving kind- 
ness, intelligent with regard to itself and others, which 
inspired gratitude and the outpouring of the heart, and 
defied a person not to love him. A gay childishness 
was the characteristic of this figure, a soul on holiday 
when he laid down his pen to forget himself with 
his friends. ... But, when I saw him some years 
later, what gravity did that which was serious not 
inspire in him? what repulsion did his conscience not 
evince towards evil? What difficult virtues did his 
apparent joviality not conceal ?” 

This tribute of an intimate, as generous as that of 
Hugo and perhaps more sincere, may pass without 
comment in so far as it concerns the outer man. On 
the moral side its exactitude may be questioned, both 
for what it omits and what it asserts. The omissions 
are considerable. The assertions deal too exclusively 
with that conduct which people generally exhibit in 
their most amicable relations with each other. Balzac’s 
kindness of heart came out in not a few experiences 
of his life; but deeper than these ephemeral bursts 
of generosity were selfishnesses that were enormous 
and persistent. The impulsive energy, the huge 
boyishness, the appetites physical and mental that 
age never trained nor chastened were phenomena 


364 HONORE DE BALZAC 


that all his friends noted, though the manifestations 
differed. 

Some lines of Gozlan’s, in his Balzac in Slippers, 
form a good sequel to Werdet’s account of the Gar- 
gantuan dinner. “ Balzac drank nothing but water,” 
says Gozlan, but this must have been on Fridays; 
“and ate but little meat. On the other hand, he 
consumed great quantities of fruit. . . . His lips palpi- 
tated, his eyes lit up with happiness, at the sight of a 
pyramid of pears or fine peaches. Not one remained 
to go and relate the rout of the others. He devoured 
them all. He was superb in vegetable Pantagruelism, 
with his cravat taken off, his shirt unbuttoned at the 
neck, his fruit-knife in hand, laughing, drinking water, 
carving into the pulp of a doyenné pear. I should 
like to add—and talking. But Balzac talked only 
little. He let others talk, laughed at intervals, silently, 
in the savage manner of Leather-stocking, or else, he — 
burst out like a bomb, if the sentence pleased him. 
It needed to be pretty broad, and was never too broad. 
He melted with pleasure, especially at a silly pun 
inspired by his wines, which were delicious.” 

Another portrait drawn of the novelist by a 
contemporary, interpreting the inner man, but less 
flattering to the great delineator of character, is not 
free from satire and narrowness; but some of the traits 
it outlines are closely and accurately observed. In 
his Histoire du Quarante et Uniéme (Academy) Fauteuil, - 
Arséne Houssaye wrote: “Monsieur de Balzac—that 
haughty rebel who would fain have been a founder, 
that refined Rabelais who discovered a woman where 
Rabelais had discovered only a bottle—Monsieur de 
Balzac dreamed of the gigantic, yet without being 
an architect of Cyclopean times. Consequently, when 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS — 365 


he tried to build his temple of Solomon, he had neither 
marble nor gold enough to his hand. For his human 
comedy he often lacked actors, and had to resign him- 
self frequently to making the understudies play. It 
is the fashion to-day to raise Balzac to the level of 
the dominating geniuses of the world, such as Homer, 
Saint Augustine, Shakespeare and Moliére; but for 
the mind that has accurate vision, how many rocks 
are overturned on this Enceladus, what staircases are 
forgotten in his Tower of Babel, as in his Jardies 
house! Balzac was half a woman, as George Sand 
was half a man. He had a woman’s curiosities, he had 
also her contradictions. Balzac believed himself re- 
ligious; but his church was the witches’ sabbath, and 
his priest was not Saint Paul but Swedenborg, if not 
Mesmer ; his Gospel was the conjuror’s book, perhaps 
that of Pope Honorius—Honorius de Balzac. He 
believed himself a politician, and endeavoured to 
continue de Maistre; he fancied he was glorifying 
authority, whereas he realized the perpetual apotheosis 
of force; his heroes were named indifferently Moses 
or Attila, Charlemagne or Tamerlane, Ricci, the 
General of the Jesuits, or Robespierre, the profaner of 
the sanctuary, Napoleon or Vautrin. The History of 
the Thirteen will remain as the grandiose and monstrous 
defence of personal force defying the social. But will 
it not remain also, by the side of Hegel’s philosophy, 
as an eloquent codicil to those testaments of individual 
sovereignty signed by Aristophanes, Montaigne, and 
Voltaire? He believed himself a spiritualist, and, 
sublime sawbones, he studied only in the medical 
amphitheatre. He entered a drawing-room only 
through the kitchen and the dressing-room. He was 
always ignorant of that fine saying of Hemsterhuys: 


366 HONORE DE BALZAC 


‘This world is not a machine but a poem. He 
believed himself a painter of manners, and he invented 
the manners. His women who are so vividly alive, 
Madame de Langeais or La Torpille, have never been 
intimate with any other company than that of 
Monsieur de Balzac. As other great artists, he 
created his world, a strange world which has consoled 
and welcomed all the outcasts of the real world, an 
impossible world which has more than once painted 
the actual one in its likeness. What charming women 
of the provinces have since developed into a Eugénie 
Grandet, a Madame de Mortsauf, a Madame Claés! 
. . . What was wanting to Balzac in the hell of life, 
whose every spiral he descended, was virginity in love 
and ingenuousness in poetry. He always lost himself 
in the difficult places of style; and himself wept over 
the lack. When he wrote the Search for the Absolute, 
he was in quest of the ideal; but the ideal is that 
which one has inside one’s self, just as love is. The 
studies of the chemist and alchemist, of the doctor — 
and jurist, do not light the flame of Prometheus.” 

These quotations do not exhaust the list of portraits 
emanating from Balzac’s fellows, but they adequately 
illustrate the varying views, which were many. In- 
deed, like the sculptor who produces several studies 
of the same model and shows a different interpretation 
each time, critics have presented us, in more than one ™ 
instance, with descriptions of the novelist, at an earlier 
and a later date, that contain important discrepancies. 

. Balzac was an enigma because he was not always 
the same personality to himself. Both his energies 
and his desires carried him outside the limits in which 
a man’s individuality is usually manifested. Despite 
Monsieur Houssaye, one may even sympathize, though 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS — 367 


incredulous, with admirers that would have him to be 
a universal genius, unfortunately thwarted by fate— 
one who else might have opened up all the avenues 
of knowledge that humanity can ever penetrate. This 
persuasion was undoubtedly his own; and it partly 
explains his Faustus curiosities leading him now and 
again into illegitimate and unwholesome experiments, 
of which we get some glimpse in his books and 
correspondence. 

That he could have succeeded in other careers, the 
medical one, for example, the painter’s or sculptor’s 
perhaps, or the mechanical inventor’s, seems likely ; 
but his impulsiveness, his exuberance, and his poor 
financial ability would have been hindrances in direc- 
tions where success depends largely on exact calculation, 
method, and detail. In political life, his brilliancy 
would assuredly have sufficed to procure him pro- 
minence in opposition. As a minister he would have 
inevitably fallen a victim to the inconsistencies of his 
own attitude—inconsistencies due to the fact that his 
judgments were intuitional and instinctive, with pre- 
judices reacting on them, too numerous and too strong 
to allow him to weigh things fairly and deliberately. 
Moreover, his mind was too much engrossed by the 
sole picturesqueness of phenomena to delve deep 
enough beneath them for their essential relations. 

«This is why it happens that his arguments are often 
worse than his convictions, the latter being inherited, 
in general, and at least having the residuary wisdom 
of tradition together with the additional force of his 
common sense. ‘Thus, on the eve of universal suffrage, 
he felt rather than saw the danger of giving the ignor- 
ant man a power equal to that of the intelligent one, 
and of handing over the supreme decision in the vital 


368 HONORE DE BALZAC 


concerns of a country to unsafeguarded majorities less 
qualified for the task than ancient oligarchy or auto- 
cracy. But he had nothing of worth to suggest, no 
alternative save the return to abuses of the grossest 
kind which experience had proved to lead to revolution. 

His ponderous declaration : “I write by the light 
of two eternal truths, religion and the monarchy,” was 
a sort of cheap-jack recommendation of the so-called 
philosophy in his Comédie Humaine. Wis Catholic 
orthodoxy, if orthodoxy it were, savoured more of 
politics than religion. He did not wish the old 
ecclesiastical organization and faith of France to be 
changed, because he saw in it a useful police agency for 
restraining the masses. As for his Royalism, which 
had a smack of Frondism in it, he stuck to it because 
it accorded with his conservative, eclectic tastes, and 
not because he had worked it out as the best theory 
of government. Such dissertations as appear in his 
writings, on either the one or the other subject, have 
nothing more original about them than can be found 
in the most ordinary election speech or pulpit discourse. 

And in the realm of pure speculative thought he 
was not great. Beyond the limits of the visible, his 
intuition failed: him; so that he floundered helplessly | 
when not upheld by the doctrines of others, which, 
since he did not understand them, he adapted to his 
purpose but awkwardly. Whether there were latent 
faculties in him that might have developed with train- 
ing, it is impossible to affirm or deny; however, we 
may be forgiven the doubt. From a mind so forceful, 
the native perception, though uncultured, should have 
issued in something better than Lambert or Séraphita. 
Still, there is this to be said, that a man whose eyes _ 
were so constantly bent. on facts, whose gaze was 





BALZac 
By Rodin 





THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS — 369 


always spying out details which escaped the common 
observation, was embracing a plane parallel, if inferior, 
to that which was covered by a Plato. 

The title of the author of the Comedy to be called 
a philosopher can be defended only on the ground of 
his adding a new domain to the rule of science. He 
was not the discoverer of the law of cause and effect. 
Nor was he the one in his own country who did the 
. most towards demonstrating the interdependence of 
the various branches of knowledge, this honour being 
reserved to Comte. But the transference of the minute 
causalities of life into fiction was systematized by him. 
He made the thing an artistic method, using it with 
the same power, though not the same chasteness, as 
George Eliot after him. His employment was not 
very logical—how could it be when the guiding 
mind was in chronic fermentation? He gives us this 
contradiction that human thought is at once the 
grandeur and destruction of life—an opinion imbued 
with ecclesiasticism, confusing thought with passion. 
It is passion alone which disintegrates; and, in the 
Comédie Humaine, such monomaniacs as Grandet, — 
Claés, and Hulot are destroyed not by their thought 
but_their desire. 

| Balzac’s pessimism is not philosophic. In him it 
was not the despair of an intellect that had worn itself 
out in vainly seeking for the solution of the riddle of 
- the universe, vainly striving after a theory that should 
reconcile nature’s brute law with the human demand 
for justice and immanent goodness. | By original tempera- 
ment an optimist, he changed and grew pessimistic with 
the untoward happenings of his agitated career,) and 
under the fostering of his native self-esteem. Possibly 


too, as Le Breton asserts, a secondary cause was his 
2A 


370 HONORE DE BALZAC 


having imbibed the pretentious doctrines of the Romantic 
school, the disdains of the young artistic bloods of 1830, 
who held that their clan composed the loftier, super- 
human race, the only one that counted. Berlioz carried 
this folly of pride to its highest pitch. In his Memoirs, 
he declared that the public (of course excluding himself) 
were an infamous tag-rag-and-bob-tail. The people of 
Paris, he protested, were more stupid and a hundred 
times more ferocious, in their caperings and revolu- 
tionary grimaces, than the baboons and orang-outangs 
of Borneo. Balzac at times adopted and expressed 
similar opinions. Gozlan relates that one day the 
owner of Les Jardies said to him in the attic of his 
hermitage: “Come, let us spit upon Paris.” The 
novelist imagined that talents of the kind he possessed 
ought to be admitted to every honour; and his hatred 
of the Revolution and Republicanism was more because 
he believed they were inimical to art—and his art— _ 
than because they had cast down a throne. His bitter- 
ness was to some extent excusable, for he was exploited 
much during his lifetime, and had, even to the end, to 
bend his neck to the yoke. But he also belonged to 
the class of exploiters by his mental constitution. 
Could he have had his way, all the men of letters 
around him would have been in his pay, writing for 
their bare living and contributing to his fame. In this 
connection there is an anecdote narrated by Baudelaire, 
in the Echo des Thédtres of the 25th of August 1846, 
and referable to the year 1839. 

The Jardies hermit had a bill of twelve hundred 
francs to meet; and for this reason he was sad as he 
walked up and down the double passage of the Opera 
—he, the hardest commercial and literary head of the 
nineteenth century ; he, the poetic brain upholstered 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS 371 


with figures like a financier’s office; he, the man of 
mythologic failures, of hyperbolic and phantasmagoric 
enterprises, the lanterns of which he always forgot to 
light ; he, the great pursuer of dreams for ever in quest 
of the absolute; he, the funniest, most attractive as 
well as the vainest character of the Comédie Humaine ; 
he, the original, as unbearable in private life as he was 
delightful in his writings ; the big baby swollen with 
genius and conceit, who had so many qualities and so 
many failings that one feared to attack the latter for 
fear of injuring the former, and thus spoiling this 
incorrigible and fatal monstrosity. 

At length, however, his forehead grew serene and 
he went towards the Rue de Richelieu with sublime 
and cadenced step. There he entered the den of a rich 
man (Curmer), who received him with due honour. 

“Would you like,” quoth he, “the day after to- 
morrow to have in the Siécle and the Débats two smart 
articles on the French depicted by themselves, the 
articles to be signed by me? I must have fifteen 
hundred frances. The affair is a grand one for you.” 

The editor, unlike his confréres, found the proposal 
reasonable, and the bargain was concluded on the spot, 
with the stipulation that the money should be paid on 
the delivery of the first article. Leaving the office, 
the visitor returned to the passage of the Opera; and 
there he met a diminutive young man of shrewish, 
witty countenance (Edouard Ourliac), known among 
journalists for his clownish verve. 

“‘Kdouard, will you earn a hundred and fifty francs 
to-morrow ?” 

“Won't I, if I get the chance!” answered the 
latter. 

“Then come and drink a cup of coffee.” 


872 HONORE DE BALZAC 


“To-morrow,” explained his principal, “I must 
have three big columns on the French depicted by 
themselves, and I must have them early, for I have 
to copy and sign them.” 

Edouard hastened away to his task, while the 
novelist went and ordered a second article in the Rue 
de Navarin. 

The first article appeared two days later in the 
Siécle, and was signed, strangely enough, neither by the 
little man nor by the great man, but by a third person 
known in Bohemia for his tom-cat and opera-comique 
amours (Gérard de Nerval). The second friend was 
big, idle, and lymphatic. Moreover, he had no ideas; 
he knew only how to thread words together like pearls ; 
and, as it takes longer to heap up three long columns 
of words than to make a volume of ideas, his article 
appeared only several days later in the Presse. 

The twelve-hundred-francs debt was paid. Each 
one was perfectly satisfied, except the editor, who was 
not quite. And this was how a man of genius discharged 
his liabilities. 

Balzac’s individuality is one of those that inevitably 
raise the question as to how far genius and creative 
imagination are made up of will-power, how far what 
is produced by great talent is sub-conscious inspiration 
virtually independent of effort. Although Shelley con- 
fines his assertions on the subject to poetry, he never- 
theless seems to imply that creation of any kind has 
little to do with the will. ‘The mind in creation,” 
he says, “is as a fading coal, which some invisible influ- 
ence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory 
brightness; this power arises from within, like the 
colour of a flower which fades and changes as it is 
developed, and the conscious portions of our natures 


THE MAN AND HIS PORTRAITS — 3738 


are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure. 
Could this influence be durable in its original purity 
and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of 
the results ; but, when composition begins, inspiration 
is already on the decline.” The case of Balzac suggests 
that the sort of genius Shelley had in his thought is 
the exception rather than the rule. (The author of 
the Comedy himself asserts that great talents do not 
exist without great will. “You have ideas in your 
brain?” he says. “Just so. I also. . . . What is the 
use of that which one has in one’s soul if no use is made 
of it?” . . . “To conceive is to enjoy; it is to smoke 
enchanted cigarettes ; but, without the execution, every- 
thing goes away in dream and smoke.” . . . “Constant 
work is the law of art as it is that of life; for art 
is creation idealized. Consequently, great artists and 
poets do not wait for orders or customers ; they bring 
forth to-day, to-morrow, continually.’ 

It may be, after all, that the difference is one of 
those verbal ones to which Locke draws attention in 
his Essay on the Human Understanding. WaAll-power 
is partly an inheritance and partly an acquisition. 
And acquired qualities are always less puissantly exer- 
cised, less effective in the results obtained. “ Even in 
poetry it would appear that, without will to unlock 
the door, fine faculties that are dormant may never 
make their existence known. Balzac gives us an ex- 
ample of a native will that was for ever rushing through 
his being and arousing to activity first one and then 
another of his native powers. And, if the total accom- 
plishment was not conform to the tremendous libera- 
tion of force, it was because there was circumstance 
harder than will and the intershock of energies that ran 
counter to each other. 


374 HONORE DE BALZAC 


In fine, alas! there is something absent from the 
man which would have both beautified himself and 
added a saner beauty to his work—the pursuit of 
those finer ideals which mean consistent devotion to 
duty and broad sympathy with human nature, irrespec- 
tive of nation, colour, and position, in its yearnings and 
in its fate. Fascinated by material aims, worshipping 
the Napoleonic epopee to the extent of framing his 
conduct by it, measuring the happiness of existence 
rather by its honours and furniture than by its moral 
attainments, he missed the first poetry of love as he 
missed the last wisdom of age.) This limitation of 
the man makes itself sorely felt in his writings, 
where we, more often than not, tread a Dante’s 
Inferno, unrelieved by the brighter glimpses and 
kindlier impulses that still are found in our world 
of self-seeking and suffering. 


INDEX 


Asst Birorrsau, 79 

Abélard and Héloise idyll, 164 

Abrantés, Duchess d’, 69, 70 

Académie Francaise, 9, 186, 187, 
217 ; Balzac’s candidature to, 238 

Adieu, The, 299 

Adolphe, 10 

Agoult, Madame da’, 169, 224, 316 

Aiglemont, Madame d’, 314 

Aix, 76, 80, 82 

‘Albert Savarus, 218, 219, 248, 315 

Ambigu-Comique theatre, 356, 359 

Amours, Balzac’s, 100, 101, 102 

Amusements of the bourgeois class, 5 

Analytic Studies, 311 

Ancelot, Madame, 4 

Anecdote of Balzac and Curmer, 371, 
372 

Anecdote of Balzac and the Great 
Mogul, 86 

Anecdote of Chronique de Paris, 145 

>> 99 Balzac’s idea of farming, 

194, 195 

Anecdote of Balzac and keeper of 
Ville d’Avray, 201 

Anecdotes by Henry Monnier con- 
cerning Balzac, 85, 86 

Anecdote of hypnotism, 223 

er Jardies House, 168 

os pastry-cook’s shop, 195, 
196 

Anecdotes of school life, 


2) 


26, 27, 
28 
Anecdote of trick played by “ Lions,” 


65, 66 
Anecdote of Z. Marcas, 197, 198 
Anglaises pour rire, 5 
Anglomania, 4 
Angouléme, 74, 76, 82 
Anna Mniszeck, 98, 198 
Annecy, 80 
Antagonism between Balzac and 

George Sand, anecdote, 246, 247 


Antoine, 355 

Appetite and tastes of Balzac, 364 

Appony, Count d’, 142 

Arabian Nights, 72 

Arachnitis attacks Balzac, 280 

Arago, Emmanuel, 118 
», Etienne, 44 
>,  vacques, 354 

Argow, the Pirate, 46, 

Ariosto, 15 

Aristocracy of Boulevard Saint-Ger- 
main, 3, 4 

Aristocracy of Vienna contrasted with 
French, 141 

Aristophanes, 365 

Arnim, Madame 4’, 228, 229 

Art for art’s sake, 319 

Artificiality of French stage in early 
nineteenth century, 345, 346 

Artistic representation of vice, 326 

Assize Courts, 254 

Assonvillez, Monsieur d’, 53, 55 

Astrée, 341 

Atala, 88; nickname for Madame 
Hanska, 253 

Atheist’s Mass, The, 148 

Attila, 365 

Auber, 248 

Aubernon, Madame, 224 

Aubusson carpets, 109 

Augier, Emile, 346, 347 

Auguste, the valet, 107, 182, 164 

Augustine, Saint, 365 


.Autour de la Table, by George Sand, 


119 


Bachelor's Household, A, 220, 2215 
317, 326 

Baden-Baden, 253 

Balthazar, cartomancer, 210, 223 

Balzac and his mother, 76, 77, 78 
,, burns Madame Hanska’s_ et- 
ters, 267 


375 


376 


Balzac defends his method against 
George Sand, 262 

Balzac described by himself, 69, 70 
5 ss >, Madame de Pom- 
mereul, 60, 61 

Balzac in slippers, 364 

Balzac scolds Madame Hanska, 251, 
252 

Balzac seeks wife, 44 

Balzac’s absent-mindedness, 92 

»» absorption in his characters, 


Balzac’s abuse of his sister Laure, 
245 
Balzac’s accident at Aix, 80 
»,> and hiswife’s incompatibility, 
290 
Balzac’s bankruptcy, 56, 57 
»» belief in magnetism, 81 
»,  birth-certificate, 17 
»» brother Henry, 82, 117, 152, 
203 
Balzac’s budget, 117 . 
x correspondence, 14 
» deficiencies, 367, 374 
>> dramatic compositions, 271 
et seq. 
Balzac’s earlier letters, 47, 50, 58, 59, 
62, 66, 67, 69, 76, 140, 143 
Balzac’s egotism, 363 
», father, 18, 19, 20, 21, 56 
» final illness, 291 
»» first acquaintance with Ma- 
dame Hanska, 96, 97, 98 
Balzae’s first novels, 46 
»» first steps in literature, 39 
et seq. 
Balzac’s grandmother, 35 
>» _ hatred of Republicanism and 
Revolution, 370 
Balzac’s ideas of marriage, 75, 76 
»»> individuality, 872 
»> influence on history, 352 
»> literary training, 15 
»» many-sided talent, 367 
»» method of work, 75 
»» money operations with Ma- 
dame Hanska, 258 
Balzac’s mother, 17,195 21,122,728; 
30, 33, 43, 45, 56, 81, 117, 173, 
196, 203, 204, 205, 244,297 
Balzac’s Pantagruelian dinner, 125 
22 paper-making scheme, 87 
2 pessimism, 369 





INDEX 


Balzac’s plan of the Comédie Humaine, 
91 
Balzac’s political doctrines, 68, 69 
»» printing and publishing en- 
terprise, 52 et seq. 
Balzac’s puff of Shagreen Skin, 71, 72 
», quarrel with Madame Han- 
ska, 267 
Balzac’s rhapsodies while proof-cor- 
recting, 83 
Balzac’sscheme for authors’ copyright, 
87 


Balzac’s scheme for exploiting the 
Mniszech forests, 270 
Balzac’s schooldays, 23 et seq. 
»» Scientific knowledge, 351 
», Sister Laure, 19, 22, 23, 27, 
34, 45, 48, 49, 58, 57, 62, '75, 101, 
129, 171, 204, 218, 220, 244 
Balzac’s sister Laurence, 32, 43, 152, 
203 


Balzac’s thought and philosophy, 311, 
368, 369 
Balzac’s Treatise of the Will, 31, 82 
»  will-power, 373 
»»_ writing compared with that 
of George Sand, 331 
Barbey d’Aurevilly, 8, 98 
Barbier, printer, 54, 56, 104 
Baroche, 295, 296 
Barriére, 359 
Barthélemy Abbé, 11, 306 
Batailles, Rue des, 65, 134, 135 
Battle of Austeriitz, 82, 90 
Baudelaire, 254; anecdote of Balzac, 
370 
Bayard, playwright, 232, 354, 356 
Bayeux, 44 
Bazancourt, Hotel de, 130 
Béatrix, 250, 316 
Beaujon House, 264, 265, 266, 289 
of »» description of, 267, 
68 


Beaujon House, modified after Bal- 

zac’s death, 269 
Beaumarchais, 35, 87 

sa theatre, 354 

Beaumont, Madame de, 2 
Beauplan, de, 359 
Beauséant, Madame de, 315 
Béchet, Madame, 104, 105, 152 
Becque, Henri, 346, 347 
Beginning in Life, A » 220 
Bel Ami, 350 — 


INDEX 


Belgiojoso, Princess de, 224 

Bellina, 228, 229 

Belloy, de, 142, 158, 178, 198, 300 

Béranger, 6, 7, 73, 238 

Béraud, Antony, 356 

Bergounioux, Jules, anecdote, 116 

Berlioz, 235, 370 

Berny, Madame de, 50, 51, 52, 56, 
57, 58, 75, 102, 152, 210, 215, 245, 
315 


Bertall, 262 
Bertha Repentant, 111 
Berthoud, 74 
Berton, 356 — 
Berzelius, 123 
Béthune, 144, 146, 157 
Beyle, Henri. See Stendhal 
Bianchon, 127, 293 
Biéville, 356 
Bilboquet, 253, 263, 266 
Biré, Edmond, 359 
Birotteau, Abbé, 33 
Bixiou, 316, 347 
Blavet, 356 
Blondet, 154 
Bocage, 169 
Boccaccio, 110 
Behm, Jacob, 81 
Bohain, Victor, 130, 154 
Bonald, 215, 238 
Bonaparte, Prince Roland, 134 
Bonnard, Mademoiselle, 210 
Bonnet, Abbé, 33 
Bonnet, Charles, 302 
Borel, Mademoiselle, 98, 224, 242 
Borget, 89 
Borrowing money, Balzac’s, 77, 284 
Bossuet, 215 
Bouchardon, 244 
Bouffé, 267, 354, 357 
Boulanger, Louis, 143, 225, 360, 361 
Bourgeois of Paris, 245 
Bourgeoisie, 7 
Bourget, Paul, 351 
Bourse, The, 299 
Brain, Balzac’s theory of, 255, 256 
», fever, Balzac’s, 287 
. Brazil, 195 
Bretonne, Restif de la, 11 
Bridau, Joseph, 220, 317 
», Philippe, 221 
Brillat-Savarin, 63 
Broglie, Duke de, 4 
Brothers of Consolation, The, 259 


377 


Brucker, Raymond, 144 
Brugnol, Madame de, 203 
Brunet, 5 
>», Widow, 135, 165 

Brunetiére, 151, 177, 312, 326, 334, 

339, 344; and preface 
Brunne, Claire, 153, 316 
Buffon, 302 
Bug-Jargal, 46 
Buisson, tailor, 130, 198, 297 
Buloz, 66, 105, 117, 124, 1386, 147 
Burgraves, The, 224 
Byron, 46, 78 


Cabinet of Antiques, The, 117, 329, 
330, 345 

Calamatta, 206 

Calderon, 276 

Caleb Williams, 14 

Calmann-Lévy, 301 

Calvinist Martyr, The, 236 

Cambrai, 74 

Campenon, 238 

Canaletti, 284 

Canalis, 248, 316 

Candide, 72, 73 

Canel, Urbain, 53 

Carraud, Madame, 68, 75, 89, 93, 129, 
140, 169, 288, 301 

Cassini, Rue de, 62, 134, 164, 169 

on >» description of house, 
106, 107, 108 

Castries, Duchess de, 52, 73, 102, 206, 
315 

Castries, Duchess de, trick played on 
Balzac by, 165, 166 

Catherine de Medici, 236, 311 

Catherine de Vivonne, 237 

Catholicism, Balzac’s, 215 

5 glorified by Balzac, 185, 

186 

Catholicism, advocated by Balzac, 257 

Catholic Priest, The, 110 

Causeries du Lundi, 120 

Cavé, Monsieur, 194 

Celibacy, Balzac on, 198 

Celibates, The, 198 

Centenarian, The, 46 

Oerfbeer and Christophe’s Repertory, 
314 

Cervantes, 15 

César Birotteau, 36, 161 et seq., 315, 
317, 326, 356, 357 

Chaillot, Rue de, 134, 165, 202 


378 


Chaix d’Est-Ange, solicitor, 323 

Chalon-sur-Sadne, 253 

Chamber of Deputies, Balzac’s candi- 
dature for, 74, 76, 115 

Champfleury, 27, 276, 352 

Chapelain, letter to Doctor, 120 

Characterization in Balzac’s novels, 
818, 314, 327, 328 

Charles X., 7 

Charpentier, 87 

Chartreuse de Parme, 13, 189, 190 

Chasles, Philarete, 8, 235 

Chastity, Balzac’s doctrine of, 100, 
101 

Chateaubriand, 4, 10, 27, 124, 154 

Chaucer, 110 

Cheap fiction in early nineteenth cen- 
tury, 49 

Chénedollé, 2 

Cherbuliez, 349 

Chevalier, 235 

Chevalier of Malta, picture, 262, 263 

Chevet’s menu, 182 

Children, Balzac’s, 103, 267 

Chopin, 206, 226 

Choses Vues, 294 

Chouans, The, 60, 61, 207, 225, 356 

Chronique de Paris, 144, 152 

os >> 9 anecdotes of, 145, 

146 

Clairville, 358 

Claretie, Jules, 360 

Clarissa Harlowe, 13 

Classification of novels, 307, 308, 309 

5 oy. ~—99.:—Cs« planation of, 

310, 311 

Classification of novels, arbitrary, 311 

Clément de Ris, 207 

Cluny Theatre, 359 

Code of Honest People, The, 317 

Coffee, Balzac’s drinking of, 75, 129 

Cogniard, Théodore, 278 

Cogniet, 226 

Coligny, 143 

Colomés, Madame, 254 

Colonel Chabert, 35, 79, 80, 353, 354 

Comberousse, de, 355 

Comédie Francaise, 279, 280, 282, 
359 

Comédie Humaine, 300, 301, 302, 303 

- Ab nature of plan of, 

320 

Comin, Mother, 38 

Commerce journal, the, 207 





INDEX 


Commercial compromises, Balzac’s, 
338 

Composition, Balzac’s method of, 123, 
124 

Comte, Auguste, 369 

Cone, Balzac’s theory of, in the novels, 
310 

Connell, O’, 247 

Conservateur, The, 140 

Constable, Archibald, 141 

Constant, Benjamin, 10, 237 

Constituent Assembly, The, 283 

Constitutionnel, The, 7, 8, 154, 288 

Consuélo, 225 

Contes Drolatiques, 140, 326 

Cooper, Fenimore, 15, 195, 223 

Coquecigrue, 40 

Corbeaux (The), 347 

Corinne, 10 

Cormon, 357 

Cornaline cup, 284 

Cornéjo-Duque, 268 

Corporal and spiritual, 328 

Correggio, 230 

Corsica, 171 

Country Doctor (The), 69, 82, 88, 89, 
90, 105, 156, 211, 257, 286, 326 

Courtiers, The, 118 

Cousin, 6, 35 

Cousin Bette, 254, 258, 259, 261, 265, 
310, 316, 317, 326, 350, 358 

Cousin Pons, 258, 259, 265, 268, 273, 
310, 317, 326, 359 

Coypel, 256 : 

Crabbe, 327 

Critical and Anecdotal Dictionary of 
Paris Signboards, 55 

Cromwell, 41 et seq., 47, 49 

Crowned with flowers, Balzac, 145 

Ourate of the Ardennes, The, 49 

Ouré of Tours, The, 17, 79, 299, 321, 
326 

Curtius, 5 

Cuvier, 4, 29, 247, 302, 303 


Dasiin, Théodore, 51, 297 
Daffinger, 97 
Daguerreotype, 218 

Dame aux Camélias, 346 
Dantan, 143 

Dante, 300, 361, 374 

Date of Balzac’s death, 295 
Dates of Balzac’s novels, 308, 309, 310 
Daudet, Alphonse, 350 


, 


INDEX 


Daumier, 7, 8 

David, sculptor, 31, 217, 360 

David Séchard, 54, 226 

Davin, Félix, 301 

Death-bed of Balzac, 294, 295 

ak The, 8, 154, 194, 238, 245, 279, 
371 

Debtors’ Prison, caricature, 179 

Debts, Balzac’s, 170, 196, 216 

Decadence, Balzac’s, 154, 155 

Decamps, 225 

Delacroix, 167, 206, 225, 317 

Delahaye, Mademoiselle, 23 

Delannoy, Madame, 242, 298 

Delaroche, 225 

Delavigne, Casimir, 296 

Dennery, Adolphe, 281 

Deschamps, Emile, 6 

Desert Attachment, A, 81 

Desmousseaux, 199 

Desnoyers, 6 

Devéria, 58, 360 

Devils Pool, The, 331 

Diaries of Two Young Wives, 172, 211 

Dickens, 128 

Diderot, 12, 15 

Dilecta, The, 55, 57, 78, 211, 254. 
See also Madame de Berny 

Diogenes, 86 : 

Discouragement, Balzac’s, 164 

Distraint on Balzac’s house, 168, 200 

Dom Gigadas, 46 . 

Don Philip and Don Charles, 118 

Dorval, Madame, 277, 280 

Double Family, A, 299 

Dramatic qualities, Balzac’s, 212, 282 

“e schemes, Balzac’s, 276 
Dresden, 280, 251, 279, 288 
» vases, 243 

Dress, Balzac’s, 108 

Droli Tales, 110,'111, 317. See also 
Contes Drdlatiques 

Dubufe, 246 

Ducange, Victor, 6 

Ducis, 2 

Duckett, William, 144, 146; anec- 
dote of, 115, 116 

Ducray-Duminil, 11, 12 

Dudevant, Madame. 
Sand, 119, &e. 

Dudley, Lady, 151 

Dumas, Alexandre, the elder, 12, 86, 
148, 155, 191, 207, 213, 238, 252, 
274, 279, 295 


See George 


379 


Dumas, Alexandre, the younger, 238, 
346, 347 

Dumersan, 5 

Dupotet, magnetizer, 223 

Dupré, Jules, 225 

Duras, Duchess de, 4 

Diirer, Albert, 263 

Dutacq, 188 


Earty novels by Balzac, 44, 45, 46, 49 

Earnings of Balzac, 117 

Edgar Allan Poe, 161 

Edict of Nantes, 18 

Education Sentimentale, 349 

Egreville, de I’, 44 

Empire society, 2, 3 

Employees, or Superior Woman, 175, 
176, 338 

English girl and Balzac, Story of, 196 


‘Enigma of Balzac’s character, 366, 367 


Entente cordiale, origin of word, 243 

Entragues (d’), de Balzac, 64, 107 

Environment of Balzac’s characters 
in novels, 329 

Episode under the Terror, 34, 81 

Esoteric doctrine, Balzac’s, 138 

van on the Human Understanding, 
373 

Esther, 226, 259, 314 

EKtex, 218 

Eugénie Grandet, 74, 88, 92 et seq., 99, 
122, 163, 232, 354 

Evangéliste, L’, 350 

Eve, Balzac’s love-letter to, 99, 100 

Excommunicated Man, The, 46 


Facino Cane, 39, 153, 159, 160, 161 

False Mistress, The, 316 

Fatality of Balzac’s creatures, 328 

Faulquemont, 354 

Faust, 78 

Fayette, Madame de la, 10 

Ferragus, 89 

Ferry, Gabriel, on Balzac’s relations 
with Madame Hanska, 251 

Fessart, Auguste, 43, 77 

Feuillet, Octave, 9, 349, 350 

Fielding, 13 

Finot, 154 

Firm of Nucingen, 175, 176, 177, 316 

Fitz-James, Duke de, 52, 80, 115, 149 

Flaubert, 323, 349 

Flora Macdonald, 207 

Florence, 172 


380 


Fontaines, Madame de, 10 
Fontémoing, Monsieur, 31 
Force of conception in Balzac, 327 
Forsaken Woman, The, 69, 315 
Fortune-tellers consulted by Balzac, 
210 
Fortunée, Rue, 269, 276 
Fougeéres, 60, 61 
Fourier, 20 
Fragonard, 2 
France, Anatole, 323, 852 
Franck, Dr., 286 
Francois le Champi, 381 
Franconi circus, 5 
Frapesle, 129, 169 
Frascati, 2 
Frayssinous, 6 
Froissart, 320 
Froment Jeune et Rissler ainé, 350 
Froment-Meurice, 284 
Funambules Theatre, 126 
Funeral of Balzac, 295, 296 
», oration by Hugo, 296, 297 


Gairt Theatre, 231, 279 

Gambara, 175 

Gambling experiment, Balzac’s, 126 

Gargantuan dinner, 125 

Gatien, Saint, Cathedral of, 33 

Gautier, Théophile, 100, 144, 157, 
161, 174, 187, 198, 199, 267, 273, 
291, 320, 360, 361 

Gavarni, 7, 188 

Gavault, 2038, 226 

Gay, Delphine, Madame de Girardin, 
109, 110, 115, 116, 130, 187, 197, 
242, 252, 256, 273 

Gazette des Ecoles, The, 179 

Gendelettres, 233 

Gendre de Monsieur Poirier, 847 

Geneva, 80, 100, 153 

Genoa, 170, 172 

Genoese merchant, story of, 171 

Geoffroy, 281 

George Eliot, 96, 369 

Germinie Lacerteux, 350 

Gertrude, 276, 277 

Gigoux, 98, 298 

Gil Blas, 9, 10 

Gina, La, 190 

Girardin, Emile de, 8, 64, 114, 224, 
231, 317 

Girardon, 244 

Giraud, 295 





INDEX 


Girl with the Golden Eyes, 135, 300. 
Glory (anecdote of Balzac in Russia), 
342 
Gobseck, 259 
Godwin, 13, 14 
Goethe, 13, 78, 229 
>», and Bellina, 229 
Goldsmith, 13, 14 
Goncourts, The de, 349, 350, 352 
Gosselin, 15, 71, 77, 96 
es jeweller, 130, 132 
Got, 281 
Government, Balzac’s theory of, 68, 


69 
Gozlan, 157, 167, 194, 195, 196, 197, 
201, 364, 370 
Grammont, Count de, 142 
Grande Bretéche, The, 355, 356 
Grande Mademoiselle, The, 118 
Grandison, Sir Charles, 13 
-Grandmaison, Parseval, 4 
Grandmother, Balzac’s, 35 
Greuze, 2, 284 
Grimault, locksmith, 289 
Gringalet, 258, 262, 263, 265 
Grisi, Madame, 226, 
Gros, 2 
Guépes, The, 146, 189 
Guizot, 6, 9, 35, 243 
Guyon, Madame, 81 
Gymnase Theatre, 272, 280, 356, 358, 
359 


Hagoutt, Father, 29 
Hair, gift of, to Balzac, 132 
Halévy, Ludovic, 346, 347, 357 
Handsome Jew, The, or The Israelite, 
, 46 
vVHanska, Madame, 48, 97, 98, 99, 102, 
103, 113, 114, 117, 180, 142, 143, 
152, 160, 163, 164, 170, 172, 173, 
174, 177, 187, 195, 196, 206, 210, 
216, 219, 222, 230, 231, 239, 243, 
248, 267, 273, 284, 285, 287, 295, 
298, 300, 301, 310, 317 
Hanska, Madame, in Paris, 252, 253, 
266 
(Hanska’s, Madame, death, 269 
vs Madame, relations with 
Balzac’s family, 244 
Hanski, Count, 97, 99, 118, 210, 214 
Harel, 192, 193 
Haricots, Hétel des, 130, 131, 143. 
See Hotel de Bazancourt 


INDEX 


Hashish, Balzac eats, 254, 255 

Hasty workmanship in Balzac, 337 

Hatred of the English, Balzac’s, 67, 
186 

Haussonville, Count d’, 238 

Havre, 228 

Head-love, 228 

Heart and head in Balzac, 177 

Heart of Midlothian, 46 

Hédouin, Edmond, 268 

Heine, 163 

Heiress of Birague, The, 44, 46, 155 

Hemsterhuys, 365 

Henry Balzac, 203. See also Balzac’s 
brother 

Henry II. of England, 18 

Hetzel, publisher, 300, 301 

Hetzel’s Diable d Paris, 245 

Historical novel, 10 

a5 3>  Balzac’s conception 
of, 207 

History of a Fortunate Idea, 110 

» 9» the Girondins, 207 
9» 97 the Succession of the Mar- 

quis of Carrabas, 115 

History of the Thirteen, 365 

Hoax played on Balzac, 64, 65, 66 

Hoffman’s tales, 73, 189 

Hohenlohe-Waldenburg, Prince of, 
121 

Holbein, 258 

Homer, 365 

Honorine, 236, 237, 358 

Hookah pipe, 170 

Horace de Saint-Aubin, 184 

Hostein, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 280 

Hotel Pimodan, 254 

Housekeeping calculations, Balzac’s, 
215 

House of the Tennis-playing Cat, 70, 
299 

Houssaye, Arsene. See Arsene Hous- 
saye 

Houssiaux, publisher, 301 

Hugo, Victor, 4, 12, 15, 46, 174, 180, 
187, 194, 199, 213, 214, 224, 238, 
262, 279, 294, 295, 296, 297, 820, 
344, 363 

Hugo, Victor, compared with Balzac, 
344 

Hugo, Victor, story of the Academy 
election, 239 

Hugo, Victor, visits Les Jardies, 200 

Hulot, Madame, George Sand on, 261 








381 


Human Comedy, List of, 307, 308, 
309 

Humboldt, 4, 187, 230 

Humour in Daudet and Balzac, 350 

Hyacinthe, actor, 267 

Hypnotism, Balzac on, 121 


Inuness of Balzac at Wierzchownia, 
284 

Illustrious Gaudissart, 117 

Imitation of Jesus Christ, 89 

Imitations of Balzac’s heroes and 
heroines, 341 

Immorality, Balzac reproached with, 
342, 343 

Impartial History of the Jesuits, 317 

Income and debts of Balzac, 216 

Indépendance Belge, story in, 231 

Indiana, 10, 153 

Ingoldsby Legends, 358 

Ingres, 124, 225 

Inquiry into the Policy of Two Ministers, 
74 


Italian forger, story of, 231 
Italy, Balzac’s visit to, 153 


Jaime, 232, 355 

James the Second’s wife, picture, 
284 

Janin, Jules, 8, 148, 155, 184, 235, 
236, 323 

Janin’s estimate of Balzac, 335 

Jardies House, 166, 167, 168, 175, 
181, 191, 199, 200, 201, 203, 370 

Jardies House, cost of, 168 

description of, 166 

stories of, 167, 181, 


” ” 


9 ” 

194, 195, 370 
Jean-Louis, 46 
Jingle, 128 
Joseph Prudhomme, 163 
Journalists, Balzac’s 

against, 154, 174 
Judicis, 359 
July Monarchy, 8 


resentment 


Karr, Alphonse, 132, 144, 145, 146, 
189 

Kenilworth, 45 

Keraniou, de, 359 

King of Beggars, 280 

Knothe, Dr., 287 

Kock, Paul de, 246 

Koutaizoff mansion, 228 


382 


LaxsicuE, 348 

Lablache, 226 

La Boulonniére, 140 

La Bruyeére, J2 

Lacressonniére, Madame, 277 

La Fontaine, 53, 368 

La Grenadiére, 66 

Lamartine, 86, 120, 151, 198, 207, 
262, 288, 316 

Lamartine’s description of Balzac, 361, 
362, 363 

Lamb, Charles, 225 

Lamballe, Princesse de, 242 

Lamennais, de, 6, 169, 285, 238, 257 

Land tenure, Balzac’s doctrine of, 257 

Langeais, Duchess de, 315, 366 

Lassailly, 187, 191 

Last Chapter of History of Balzac’s 
Works, 147 

Last Fairy, The, 49 

Latouche, 62 ; anecdote of novel, 110 

Launay, Alphonse de, 359 

Laure helps Balzac, to write, 49 

Laurence Balzac, 32. See also Bal- 
zac’s sister 

Laurens, printer, 54 

Laurent, type-founder, 56 

Laurent Jan, 86, 193, 280 

Lautour-Mézeray, 130 

Lauzun, 118, 255 

Lazard, 258, 254 

Leather-stocking, 15, 364 

Le Breton, 14, 46, 317, 369 

Lebrun’s Marie Stuart, 6 

Lecomte, Henri, 278 

Lecouvreur, Adrienne, 54 

Leczinska, Queen Marie, 256 

Leguay Institution, 24 

Leibnitz, 302 

Lemaitre, Frédérick, 140, 181, 191, 
194, 272, 273, 278, 281, 317 

Le Mar, 158, 178 

Lemer, 157, 168 

Lemercier, 2 

35 Madame Louise, 139 

Lemesle, Charles, 155, 156 

Lemoinne, John, 8 

Lendotre, 352 

Léon de Lora, 220 

Lepitre’s school, 34 

Le Poitevin Saint-Alme, 19 

Lesage, 9, 10, 11, 12 

Lesdiguiéres, Rue, lodgings, 38 et seq., 
62 








INDEX 


Letter, Balzac’s, to his mother, 205 

Levavasseur, Alphonse, 62, 63, 64 

Lily in the Valley, 120, 147, 148; Pre- 
face to, 149, 150 e¢ seq., 315, 321, 
328, 383, 340, 359 

Limits of Balzac’s fiction, 326 

Lina and Louloup, 229, 242 

“ Lions” of the Opera, 64, 65 

L’Isle-Adam, 44 

List of Balzac’s novels, 307, 308, 309 

Liszt, 169, 224, 226, 316 

Literary Code, 180 

Little Fadette, 331, 344 

Lobau, Count de, 131 

Lock of hair anecdote, 131, 182 

Locke, 373 

Lockroy, 279, 280 

Loi, Rue de la, 3 

Loire Illustrée, 218 

Lope de Vega, 276 

Lostange, Count de, 131 

Lost Illusions, 54, 156, 182, 183, 192, 
214, 326, 333, 350 

Louis Lambert, 25 et seq., 78, 79, 89, 
218, 311, 333, 368 

Louis-Philippe, 67, 180, 192, 194, 
199, 210, 265, 266 

Louis the Eighteenth, 3, 4, 7 
»> 9) Eleventh, 81 
>>», Fourteenth, 17 
9 99 Sixteenth, 3, 82 

Louise, letters to, 159, 160 

Lousteau, 154, 347 

Love as a motive power in life, 339 
3» Balzac on, 172, 178, 229 
»_ Balzac’s, for Madame Hanska, 
173, 286 

Love in Balzac’s writings, 94, 339, 
340 

Love, influence of, on Balzac’s writ- 
ings, 93 

Love-letters to Madame Hanska, 224 
243 

Love-Story at School, A, 50 

Lovenjoul, Spoelberch de, 17, 102 
267, 295, 306 

Lucien de Rubempré, 182, 183, 192, 
259, 260, 350 

Lurine, Louis, 354 

Luxury, Balzac’s, 142 


, 


’ 


Macaront, 195, 196 
Madame Bovary, 349 
Madame Firmiani, 311 


INDEX 


Madeline, La Belle, 5 
Magnetism, Balzac’s belief in, 81 
Maistre, de, 6, 227, 365 
Maitre Guérin, 347 
Mame, 15, 88 
Manfred, 78 
Man of Business, The, 251, 315 
Manon Lescaut, 88 
Manual of the Business Man, 62 
Marais, Rue des, 54, 58, 62 (now Rue 
Visconti) 
Mardtre, The, 277, 278, 279 
Marbouty, Madame, 153, 316. 
also Claire Brunne 
Marcas, Z., 189, 197, 198; story of, 
218 
Mareschal, Monsieur, 25 
Margonnes, the de, 152 
Maria, 96, 102 
Marin, 57 
Marivaux, 11 
Marlet, 6 
Marminia, 295 
Marquis of Carrabas, 82, 115 
Marquis de Custine, 186 
Marquis de Villemer, 344 
Marriage, Balzac’s ideas on, 75 
letter on, 285 


See 


33 3) 


” >, schemes of, 44, 196 
” Af with Madame Han- 
ska, 288 


Marriage Contract, The, 36, 140 

Marriage of Anna and Georges Mnis- 
zech, 263 

Marseilles purchases, 253, 254 

Massimilla Doni, 161 

Masson, 352 

Master Oornelius, 81, 357 

Maturin, 13, 44 

Maupassant, Guy de, 349, 350 

Mauzin, 279 

Médal, 317 

Meditations of Lamartine, 88 

Meissonier, 226, 360 

Melesville, 356 

Melmoth reconciled, 21 

Mémorial de Rouen, 180 

Men of Letters Society, 179, 180, 217, 
218, 282 

Mercadet (the Jobber), 199, 272, 279, 
280, 281, 282, 291, 347, 348, 359 

Mérimée, 7, 55, 228 

Merlin, Countess, 4 

Merville, Guillonnet de, 34 


383 


Meéry, 253, 254 

Mesmerism, 208 

Message, The, 299 

Meyerbeer, 124 

Michel, 235 

Midsummer Night's Dream, 230 

Miette, 5 

Mignet, 224 

Milan, 172 

Millet-seed (the groom), 140 

Minoret, Doctor, 129 

Mirabeau, 362 

Mirbel, Madame de, 4 

Mirouet, Ursule, 129. See also Ursule 
Mirouet 

Miscellanies, Balzac’s, 318 

Misérables, Les, 344 

Mistigris, 220 

Mniszech, Georges, 253, 263, 287 

ate estates, 271 

Mode, The, 64, 67, 299 

Modeste Mignon, 245, 248, 249, 316 

Mole, 4 

Moliére, 12, 18, 53, 218, 321, 361, 
365 

Monetary affairs of Balzac improve, 
241 

Monk Lewis, 13, 44 

Monnier, Henry, 7, 85, 86, 191, 316 

Monography of the Press, 232 et seq. 

Montaigne, 365 

Montigny, Monsieur, 280, 281 

Montyon prize, 156 

Montzaigle, Monsieur de, 43 

Morals, Balzac’s, 108 

a ES George Sand on, 101 

BH a his sister on, 101 

Moreau, Doctor, 255 

Morgan, Lady, 5 

Mortsauf, Madame de, 150, 151 

Mouche (the dog), 23 

Munck, Francois, 289, 290 

Munich, 142 

Murat, General, 278 

Muse of the County, 236, 237, 238, 316, 
350 

Musset, Alfred de, 120, 224 

Myself, Balzac’s mythical servant, 39 

Mysteries of Udolpho, 71 





Nacaquart, Dr., 39, 230, 265, 292, 293 

Nanon, 107 

Napoleon, 2, 3, 60, 67, 82, 108, 171, 
247, 294 


384 


Napoleon's Sayings 
Thoughts), 175 

National Guard, 130, 186 

Natural temperament of Balzac, 204 

Naturalism, 350 

Nerval, Gérard de, 372 

Netscher, 285 

Neufchatel, 98 

Ninon, 54 

Niveleau, Jean, 93 

Nobel Prize, 217 

Nodier, 6, 130, 238, 239, 241, 296 

Nohant, 169 

Normanby, Lord, 224 

North Railway Shares, 258, 265 

Notary, Article in, 36 

Notes on Literary Ownership, 180 

Nougaréde, Chevalier de, 60 

Nourrit’s song, 226 

Novels, Balzac’s scheme of, 73, 90 
bee > conversation with 
Laure on, 91, 92 

Numa Roumestan, 350 


(Maxims and 


Objets dart purchased, 244 

Occult powers, Balzac’s belief in, 120, 
121 

Odéon Theatre, 212, 279 

Odette de Champdivers, 47 

Old Maid, The, 153 

Opéra Comique, 357 

Opinions of Balzac on various coun- 
tries, 227 

Orleans, Duke of, 200 

Ourika, 4 

Ourliac, Edouard, 198, 371 

Overweeningness, Balzac’s, 115, 116 


Pacanini, 226 
Palais Mazarin, 282 

>> Royal, 125 
Pamela, 9, 13, 151 
Paméla Giraud, 231, 282, 278 
Panthéon Theatre, 357 
Paper-making scheme, 87 
Pascal's Thoughts, 388 
Pasquier, Duke, 4 
Passez, Maitre, 35 
Passwords, 165 
Passy House, 202, 214, 241, 262 
Pathos in Balzac, 333 
Patrickson, Miss, story of, 166 
Paul and Virginia, 88 
Paulin, playwright, 354 








INDEX 


Paulin, publisher, 273 
Pawnbroker, 146, 244 
Pea Blossom, 140. See The Marriage 
Contract 
Peace in the Household, 299 
Peasants, The, 245, 251, 256, 257, plot 
Percentage scheme for books, 87 
Pére Goriot, 121, 126, 127, 128, 192, 
232, 311, 342, 354, 355 
Pére Lachaise, 42, 295 
Pérémé, 191 
Personal novel, 9 
Peter and Catherine, 274, 275, 276 
Peter Grassou, 350 
Peter the Great, 143 
Peter’s, Saint, 257 
Petersburg, Saint, 213, 222, 226 
Petition to King, 180 
Petrarch, 172 
Petty Bourgeois, The, 279, 315, 347 
», Miseries of Married Life, 311 
Peytel, Balzac’s efforts to save, 187, 
188 
Philosophie Studies, 300, 306, 311 
a Tales, 71, 72 
Philosophy of Conjugal Life, 245 
Physiology of Marriage, 62, 63, 311 
Picard, 2 
Pichot, 77 
Pierrette, 13, 198, 258 
Pigault-Lebrun, 11 
Pine-apple scheme, 175 
Pixérécourt, Guilbert de, 11, 12, 46 
Planche, Gustave, 116, 182, 144, 235 
Playwriting, Balzac’s opinion on, 118 
Plot and characterization in Balzac’s 
writing, 332 
Plotinus, 137 
Plutocracy of Chaussée d’Antin, 3, 4 
Poe, Edgar Allan, 318 
Poem composed by Balzac, 114 
Poetry, Balzac’s dislike of, 187 
Pohrebyszeze, 97 
Poirson, 272 
Poland, King of, 284 
Political candidature, 74, 115 
Pommereul, General de, 20, 21, 58, 59 
a5 Madame de, describes 
Balzac, 60 
Pongerville and the Academy, 240, 
241 
Poor Relations, The, 283 
Pope, The, 187, 257 
» Alexander, 172 


INDEX 


Pope Clement XIII., 284 © 

Pornographic art, 352 

eo Theatre, 139, 192, 
278 

Portraits in the Comédie Humaine, 
316, 317 

Portrayal of landscape in Balzac, 329 

Potier, 5 

Prayer, Balzac’s, to patron saint, 223 

Premiere Demoiselle, The, 163 

Prescience in Balzac, 348 

Presse, The, 8, 153, 154, 176, 188, 197, 
ReaD steer T.. Ki 

Prévost, Abbé, 9, 12 

Princesse de Cléves, The, 10 

Prince of Bohemia, A, 189 

Privilege, The, 110 

Prophecies on the future of Europe, 
265, 266 

Provincial Great Men in Paris, 182, 
233, 323 

Prudhomme type, 5 

Prudhomme Bigamist, 118 

en Bonne Fortune, 272 

Psychology in Balzac, 311 

Puff of Physiology of Marriage, 71, 72, 
73 

Puttinati, sculptor, 161 

Pyat, Félix, 213 


Quentin Durward, 81 

Question d Argent, 347 

Quinet, 235 

Quinola, Resources of, 212, 291, 348 
Quotidienne, The, 97, 131 


Rape rals, 12, 15, 18, 156, 320 

Racine, 54, 187 

Radcliffe, Anne, 13, 44, 71 

Radig, Mother, 6 

Raisson, Horace, 44 

Raphaél, 167, 230, 246, 263 

Rapid writing, Balzac’s, 153 

Rastignac, 127, 316, 355 

Ratier, Victor, 66 

Raynouard, Rue, 202, 241 (formerly 
Rue Basse) 

Realism, slowness of its conquest, 
349 

Realistic school, 177 

Reality, Balzac’s imperfect present- 
ment of, 343 

Récamier, Madame, 2 

Red Inn, The, 81 





385 


Regnault, Emile, 126, 144 

Régnier, 281 

Relation of Balzac’s novels to each 
other, 312, 313 

Reminiscences of a Pariah, 317 

Renaissance Theatre, 192 

Renan, 323 

Renée Mauperin, 350 

Repertory of the Comédie Humaine, 
314 

Restoration Society, 6 

Return, Balzac’s, to Paris in 1850 
story of, 289 

Reverse side of Contemporary History, 
259, 260, 261, 326, 333 

Revolution of 1848, 282 

>, 1830, 67 

Revue des Deux Mondes, 144 
» de Paris, 66, 77, 89, 105, 117, 
124, 1386, 189, 144, 147 et seq., 184, 
299, 323 

Revue Francaise of St. Petersburg, 147 
», Indépendante, George Sand’s, 
119 

Revue Parisienne, 15, 188, 189, 190, 
317 

Rhoné, Monsieur, anecdote by, 57, 
58 

R’hoone, Lord, 47 

Richard Sauvage, 279 

» the Sponge-Heart, 190, 272, 

273 

Richardson, 9, 11, 14, 151, 172 

Rivals acknowledged by Balzac as 
equals, 246 

Robert le Diable, 175 

Robertson, conjuror, 5 

Rochambeau, castle of, 28 

Rochefoucauld, Hétel de la, 4 

Rodin V., 218 

Roland, Amédée, anecdote, 86 

>», Madame, 55 

Rolle, Hippolyte, 279 

Roman feuilleton, change in, 188 

Romantic school, 6, 10, 177, 370 

Rome, Balzac at, 257 

Rossini, 118, 130, 149, 153 ; anecdote, 
161 

Rotari, 285 

Rothschild, 142, 316 

Rousseau, 9, 11, 19, 172 

Rubini, 226 

Russia, Balzac on, 247 

Russian food, 286 


2B 


386 


Russian Letters, 189 

Russian nobleman and Chronique de 
Paris, story, 146 

Ruy Bias, 174 

Ryer, du, 149 


Sacus, 76, 129, 164 
Sacs et Parchemins, 118 
Sagnet, Mother, 6 
Sainte-Beuve, 10, 27, 174, 190, 235, 
325, 326, 334, 341, 344, 353 
Sainte-Beuve, Volupté, 120 
Saint-Hilaire, Geoffroy, 302, 303 
» -Mare-Girardin, 8 
» 7~Simon, viii, 20 
» -simonism, 8 
Sallambier, 19, 22 
Salons, 4 
Samson, the executioner, 82 
Sand, George, 10, 101, 119, 153, 169, 
186, 206, 224, 246, 247, 250, 320, 
323, 327, 344, 349, 365 
Sandeau, Jules, 9, 88, 109, 116, 118, 
119, 126, 1380, 142, 143, 144, 161, 
169 
Sardinia, 170, 172 
Sceauw Ball, 70, 299, 359 
Scenes of Country Life, 306 
» Miltary Life, 306 
» Parisian Life, 300, 306, 310, 
311 
Scenes of Political Life, 306 
» Private Life, 96, 179, 299, 
300, 306, 310, 311 
Scenes of Provincial Life, 300, 306, 
310 
Schiller’s Don Carlos, 118 
School for Husbands and Wives, 163, 
190, 191, 192, 195, 317 
School of Great Men, 212. 
sources of Quinola 
School of Terror, 13 
» _ Theory, 13 
Scott, Walter, 10, 14, 15, 46, 81, 
141, 207, 225, 304, 305, 335, 352, 
361 
Scribe, Eugéne, 7, 34, 36, 174, 213, 
276, 356, 357, 358 
Search for the Absolute, 121, 122, 123, 
282, 811, 356, 366 
Sebastiani, Marshal, 254 
Seeret of the Ruggieri, 1538 
Secrets of the Princess de Cadignan, 
182 


See Re- 





INDEX 


Sédillot, Monsieur, 56 

Self-praise, Balzac’s, 225, 245 

Séraphita, 117, 121, 136 et seq., 140, 
148, 161, 179, 311, 322, 323, 333, 
340, 342, 368 

Serres, actor, 140 

Sevres, 165, 180 

Sewrin, 5 

Sganzer and Beuzelin’s School,'34 

Shady Affair, A, 206, 207, 208 

Shagreen Skin, The, 58, 70, 71, 73, 
96, 311, 359 

Shakespeare, vii, viii, 15, 128, 230, 
365 

Shelley, 249, 372, 373 ° 

Sheridan’s granddaughter, 256 

Sherlock Holmes, 318 

Shipbuilding project, Balzac’s, 222 

Shirt-studs, Balzac’s, 210 

Siécle, The, 8, 154, 188, 371, 372 

Silhouette, The, 66 

Silver, Balzac’s scheme for extract- 
ing, 170 

Silvestre de Sacy, 8 

Sister Marie des Anges, 164, 211 

Sixtine Chapel, 257 

Smollett, 13 

Social Studies, 300 

Société des Gens de Lettres, 87. See 
also Men of Letters Society 

Sonnets in Balzac’s novels, 187 

Sorbonne University, 34 

Soulié, Frédéric, 148 

Souverain, 284 

Splendour and Wretchedness of Cour- 
tezans, 182, 236 

Staél, Madame de, 2, 10, 28 

Staircase at Les Jardies, 167 

Statue to Balzac, 218 

Stature, Balzac’s, 35 

Stella, 40 

Stendhal, 5, 7, 18, 189, 190 

Sterne, 14 

Stick, Balzae’s, 180, 181, 132, 140, 
158, 159 (anecdote) ‘ 

“Stranger, The,” 96 

Strasburg, 264 

Struggle for Life, 312 

Studies of Manners and Morals, 104, 
299, 302, 306, 316 

Studies of Workpeople by Balzac, 
40 

Style, Balzac’s, 320 


i » efflorescence of, 325 


INDEX 


Style, Balzac’s, in early letters, 47 
qualities of, 323 
specimens of, 821, 


33 22 


322, 324, 325 
Succubus, The, 111 
Sue, Eugéne, 131, 148, 155, 174, 245, 
246 


Surville, Madame. See Balzac’s sister 
Laure 

Surville, Monsieur, 48, 222, 294 

Swedenborg, 137, 302, 865 

Swedenborgians, The, 78 

Swift, 328 

Syndicate for exploiting Balzac’s 
novels, 154, 177, 178 


TaBARAND, 855 

Taine, viii, 321, 824; estimate of 
Balzac, 336 ; history, 352 

Tales and Philosophic Novels, 300 

Talleyrand, 4, 248 

Talma, 5 

Tamburini, 226 

Tencin, Madame de, 10, 

Théatre Historique, 273 

>», _ Libre, 355 

Théaulon, 355 

Theory of Walking, Balzac’s, 817 

Thiers, 74, 317 

Three Cardinals, The, 82 

Tigers or Lions of the Opera, 130 

” ” » Story of, 

64, 65 

Tillet, du, 317 

Tilleul, Madame Hanska’s mispro- 
nunciation of, 128 

Titian, 224 

Titles of Balzac’s novels, 307, 808, 
309 

Tom Thumb groom, the, 65, 140 

Tortoni, 139 

Touraine, 32, 44, 66, 129 

Tournon (Rue de), 61 

Tours, 17, 18, 22, 23 

Toussaint Louverture, 161 

Tragedy of Philip I1., 115 

Tratnards or Laggards, 273 

Travies’ Mayeua, 9 

Treatise of Fashionable Life, 67 

5 Modern Stimulants, 129 

Tristram Shandy, 14 

Trocadéro, 202 

Troubles and Trials of an English Cat, 
318 








387 


Truth as applied to fiction, 330 
Turk, the dog at Jardies, 181 
Two Brothers, The, 220 

» Philosophers, The, 41 

» Poets, The, 182 
Typefounding, Balzac’s, 56 


Urrt, Honoré d’, 341 
Ursule Mirouet, 129, 208, 209, 382, 
345 


Vatmorr, Madame, 317 
Valsuani, 5 
Vandenesse, de, 151 
Van Dyck, 285 
», Huysum, 285 
», Prael Collection, 360 
Variétés Theatre, 278, 855 
Vatout, 240 
Vaudemont, Princesse de, 4 
Vaudeville Theatre, 353 
Vauquelin, Nicolas, 54 
Vautrin, 127, 192, 193, 194, 195, 218, 
259, 278, 345, 355 
Vautrin’s last Incarnation, 260 
Vedel, 199 
Vendetta, The, 299 
Vendéme College, The, 24 et seq. 
Venice, 161 
Verbruggen, 268 
Vercingétorix, 18 
Vernet, actor, 355 
», Horace, 225 
Verneuil, Mlle. de, 61 
Véry’s restaurant, 125, 189 
Vicar of Wakefield, 14, 88, 89 
Vienna concert, anecdote of, 342 
» Visit to, 141, 142, 342 
Vigny, de, 6, 12 
Village Curé, 69, 182, 184, 185, 211, 
257, 332 
Ville d’Avray, 201 
Villéle, de, 4 
Villemain, 4, 6, 35, 55 
Villeparisis, 38, 42, 50 
Villers, Abbé de, 51 
Virtuous girl as depicted by Balzac, 
209 
Visconti, Count, 147, 158 
5s Countess, 147, 186, 206, 242 
Voleur, 188 
Voltaire, 11, 208, 365 
Voltairian scepticism, 7 
Voyage en Coucou, 220 


388 


Watts of Jardies garden, 180, 181 
Wandering Jew of Sue, 245 
Wann-Chlore, 46 
Weimars, Loéve, 235 
Werdet, 62, 64, 104, 117, 125, 180, 
131, 182, 184, 136, 141, 142, 145, 
148 
Werdet, judged by Balzac, contrary 
opinions, 150 
Werdet’s bankruptcy, 150 
55 breach with Balzac, 156, 157 
as dinner, 158, 159 
;, introduction to Balzac, 105, 
106, 109 
Werdet’s Portrait Intime, 62, 104 
West Indies, 222 
Wey, Francis, 295 
White Flag, 7 
White Horse, anecdote, 109 
Whither Bad Ways Lead, 260 
Widow, Balzac’s, 297 
Wierzchownia, 97, 114, 214, 267, 269, 
270, 276, 280, 282, 283, 358 


INDEX 


Wiesbaden, 263 

Wish of Balzac for retirement, 164 

Woman-Study, 311 

Woman of Thirty Years Old, 108, 299, 
314, 388 4 

Women, Balzac’s treatment of, and 3 
relations with, 103, 174 

Women in Balzac’s fiction, 333, 334, 
335, 336 

Women judged by Balzac, 334, 335 

Wordsworth, 314, 327 

Work, Balzac’s method of, 124 

Writ served on Balzac, 147 : 

Wylezinski, Thaddeus, 316 


ene 


You abandoned for thou by Balzac 
in writing to Madame Hanska, 
224 


Zayde, 10 

Zéphirine, 253, 265 

Zola, 273, 350, 351, 852 
Zola’s theory of the novel, 351 


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