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´╗┐Title: Women in the Life of Balzac
Author: Floyd, Juanita Helm, 1880-
Language: English
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                    WOMEN IN THE LIFE OF BALZAC


                         JUANITA HELM FLOYD


                           MY SISTER NANNIE

         " . . . for no one knows the secret of my life,
            and I do not wish to disclose it to any one."
             _Lettres a l'Etrangere_, V. I, p. 418, July 19, 1837.

                           PREPARER'S NOTE

  This text was originally published in 1921 by Henry Holt and


In presenting this study of Balzac's intimate relations with various
women, the author regrets her inability, owing to war conditions, to
consult a few books which are out of print and certain documents which
have not appeared at all in print, notably the collection of the late
Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.

The author gladly takes this opportunity of acknowledging her deep
gratitude to various scholars, and wishes to express, even if
inadequately, her appreciation of their inspiring contact; especially
to Professor Chester Murray and Professor J. Warshaw for first
interesting her in the great possibilities of a study of Balzac. To
Professor Henry Alfred Todd she is grateful for his sympathetic
scholarship, valuable suggestions as to matter and style, and for his
careful revision of the manuscript; to Professor Gustave Lanson, for
his erudition and versatile mind, which have had a great influence; to
Professor F. M. Warren, for reading a part of the text and for many
general ideas; to Professor Fernand Baldensperger, for reading the
text and for encouragement; to Professor Gilbert Chinard, Professor
Earle B. Babcock and Professor LeBraz for re-reading the text and for
valuable suggestions; and to Professor John L. Gerig for his
sympathetic interest, broad information, and inspiring encouragement.

To still another would she express her thanks. The Princess Radziwill
has taken a great interest in this work, which deals so minutely with
the life history of her aunt, and she has been most gracious in giving
the author much information not to be found in books. She has made
many valuable suggestions, read the entire manuscript, and approved of
its presentation of the facts involved.

                                                 JUANITA H. FLOYD.
Evansville, Indiana.


A quantity of books have been written about Balzac, some of which are
very instructive, while others are nothing but compilations of gossip
which give a totally wrong impression of the life, works and
personality of the great French novelist. Having the honor of being
the niece of his wife, the wonderful _Etrangere_, whom he married
after seventeen years of an affection which contained episodes far
more romantic than any of those which he has described in his many
books, and having been brought up in the little house of the rue
Fortunee, afterwards the rue Balzac, where they lived during their
short married life, I can perhaps better appreciate than most people
the value of these different books, none of which gives us an exact
appreciation of the man or of the difficulties through which he had to
struggle before he won at last the fame he deserved. And the
conclusion to which I came, after having read them most attentively
and conscientiously, was that it is often a great misfortune to
possess that divine spark of genius which now and then touches the
brow of a few human creatures and marks them for eternity with its
fiery seal. Had Balzac been one of those everyday writers whose names,
after having been for a brief space of time on everyone's lips, are
later on almost immediately forgotten, he would not have been
subjected to the calumnies which embittered so much of his declining
days, and which even after he was no longer in this world continued
their subterranean and disgusting work, trying to sully not only
Balzac's own colossal personality, but also that of the devoted wife,
whom he had cherished for such a long number of years, who had all
through their course shared his joys and his sorrows, and who, after
he died, had spent the rest of her own life absorbed in the
remembrance of her love for him, a love which was stronger than death

Having spent all my childhood and youth under the protection and the
roof of Madame de Balzac, it was quite natural that every time I saw
another inaccuracy or falsehood concerning her or her great husband
find its way into the press, I should be deeply affected. At last I
began to look with suspicion at all the books dealing with Balzac or
with his works, and when Miss Floyd asked me to look over her
manuscript, it was with a certain amount of distrust and prejudice
that I set myself to the task. It seemed to me impossible that a
foreigner could write anything worth reading about Balzac, or
understand his psychology. What was therefore my surprise when I
discovered in this most remarkable volume the best description that
has ever been given to us of this particular phase of Balzac's life
which hitherto has hardly been touched upon by his numerous
biographers, his friendships with the many distinguished women who at
one time or another played a part in his busy existence, a description
which not only confirmed down to the smallest details all that my aunt
had related to me about her distinguished husband, but which also gave
an appreciation of the latter's character that entirely agreed with
what I had heard about its peculiarities from the few people who had
known him well, Theophile Gautier among others, who were still alive
when I became old enough to be intensely interested in their different
judgments about my uncle. After such a length of years it seemed
almost uncanny to find a person who through sheer intuition and hard
study could have reconstituted with this unerring accuracy the figure
of one who had remained a riddle in certain things even to his best
friends, and who in the pages of this extraordinary book suddenly
appeared before my astonished eyes with all the splendor of that
genius of his which as years go by, becomes more and more admired and

One must be a scholar to understand Balzac; his style and manner of
writing is often so heavy and so difficult to follow, reminding one
more of that of a professor than of a novelist. And indeed he would
have been very angry to be considered only as a novelist, he who
aspired and believed himself to be, as he expressed it one day in the
course of a conversation with Madame Hanska, before she became his
wife, "a great painter of humanity," in which appreciation of his work
he was not mistaken, because some of the characters he evoked out of
his wonderful brain remind one of those pictures of Rembrandt where
every stroke of the master's brush reveals and brings into evidence
some particular trait or feature, which until he had discovered it,
and brought it to notice, no one had seen or remarked on the human
faces which he reproduced upon the canvas. Michelet, who once called
St. Simon the "Rembrandt of literature," could very well have applied
the same remark to Balzac, whose heroes will live as long as men and
women exist, for whom these other men and women whom he described,
will relive because he did not conjure their different characters out
of his imagination only, but condensed all his observations into the
creation of types which are so entirely human and real that we shall
continually meet with them so long as the world lasts.

One of Balzac's peculiarities consisted in perpetually studying
humanity, which study explains the almost unerring accuracy of his
judgments and of the descriptions which he gives us of things and
facts as well as of human beings. In his impulsiveness, he frequented
all kinds of places, saw all kinds of people, and tried to apply the
dissecting knife of his spirit of observation to every heart and every
conscience. He set himself especially to discover and fathom the
mystery of the "eternal feminine" about which he always thought, and
it was partly due to this eager quest for knowledge of women's souls
that he allowed himself to become entangled in love affairs and love
intrigues which sometimes came to a sad end, and that he spent his
time in perpetual search of feminine friendships, which were later on
to brighten, or to mar his life.

Miss Floyd in the curious volume which she has written has caught in a
surprising manner this particular feature in Balzac's complex
character. She has applied herself to study not only the man such as
he was, with all his qualities, genius and undoubted mistakes, but
such as he appeared to be in the eyes of the different women whom he
had loved or admired, and at whose hands he had sought encouragement
and sympathy amid the cruel disappointments and difficulties of an
existence from which black care was never banished and never absent.
With quite wonderful tact, and a lightness of touch one can not
sufficiently admire, she has made the necessary distinctions which
separated friendship from love in the many romantic attachments which
played such an important part in Balzac's life, and she has in
consequence presented to us simultaneously the writer, whose name will
remain an immortal one, and the man whose memory was treasured, long
after he had himself disappeared, by so many who, though they had
perhaps never understood him entirely, yet had realized that in the
marks of affection and attachment which he had given to them, he had
laid at their feet something which was infinitely precious, infinitely
real, something which could never be forgotten.

Her book will remain a most valuable, I was going to say the most
valuable, contribution to the history of Balzac, and those for whom he
was something more than a great writer and scholar, can never feel
sufficiently grateful to her for having given it to the world, and
helped to dissipate, thanks to its wonderful arguments, so many false
legends and wild stories which were believed until now, and indeed are
still believed by an ignorant crowd of so-called admirers of his, who,
nine times out of ten, are only detractors of his colossal genius, and
remarkable, though perhaps sometimes too exuberant, individuality.

At the same time, Miss Floyd, in the lines which she devotes to my
aunt and to the long attachment that had united the latter and Balzac,
has in many points re-established the truth in regard to the character
of a woman who in many instances has been cruelly calumniated and
slandered, in others absolutely misunderstood, to whom Balzac once
wrote that she was "one of those great minds, which solitude had
preserved from the petty meannesses of the world," words which
describe her better than volumes could have done. She had truly led a
silent, solitary, lonely life that had known but one love, the man
whom she was to marry after so many vicissitudes, and in spite of so
many impediments, and but one tenderness, her daughter, a daughter who
unfortunately was entirely her inferior, and in whom she could never
find consolation or comfort, who could neither share her joys, nor
soothe her sorrows.

In her convictions, Madame de Balzac was a curious mixture of atheism
and profound faith in a Divinity before whom mankind was accountable
for all its good or bad deeds. All through her long life she had been
under the influence of her father, one of the remarkable men of his
generation, who had enjoyed the friendship of most of the great French
writers of the period immediately preceding the Revolution, including
Voltaire; he had brought her up in an atmosphere of the eighteenth
century with its touch of skepticism, and the Encyclopedia had always
remained for her a kind of gospel, in spite of the fact that she had
been reared in one of the most haughty, aristocratic circles in
Europe, in a country where the very mention of the words _liberty_ and
_freedom of opinion_ was tabooed, and that her mother had been one of
those devout Roman Catholics who think it necessary to consult their
confessor, even in regard to the most trivial details of their daily
existence. Placed as she had been between her parents' incredulity and
bigotry, my aunt had formed opinions of her own, of which a profound
tolerance and a deep respect for the beliefs and convictions of others
was the principal feature. She never condemned even when she did not
approve, and she hated hypocrisy, no matter in what shape or aspect it
presented itself before her eyes. This explains the courage she
displayed when against the advice and the wishes of her family, she
persisted in marrying Balzac, though it hardly helps us to understand
from what we know of the latter's character, how he came to fall so
deeply in love with a woman who in almost everything thought so
differently from what he thought, especially in regard to those two
subjects which absorbed and engrossed him until the last days of his
life, religion and politics.

That he loved her, and that she loved him, in spite of these
differences in their points of view, is to their mutual honor, but it
adds to the mystery and to the enigmatical side of a romance that has
hardly been equalled in modern times; and it accounts for the fact
that some friction occurred between them later on, when my aunt found
herself trying to restrain certain exuberances on the part of her
husband regarding her own high lineage, about which she never thought
much herself, though she had always tried to live up to the duties
which it imposed upon her. I am mentioning this circumstance to
explain certain exaggerations which we constantly find in Balzac's
letters in regard to his marriage. His imagination was extremely
vivid, and its fertility sometimes carried him far away into regions
where it was nearly impossible to follow him, and where he really came
to believe quite sincerely in things which had never existed. For
instance in his correspondence with his mother and friends, he is
always speaking of the necessity for Madame Hanska to obtain the
permission of the Czar to marry him. This is absolutely untrue. My
aunt did not require in the very least the consent of the Emperor to
become Madame de Balzac. The difficulties connected with her marriage
consisted in the fact that having been left sole heiress of her first
husband's immense wealth, she did not think herself justified in
keeping it after she had contracted another union, and with a
foreigner. She therefore transferred her whole fortune to her
daughter, reserving for herself only an annuity which was by no means
considerable, and it was this arrangement that had to be sanctioned,
not by the sovereign who had nothing to do with it, but by the Supreme
Court of Russia, which at that time was located in St. Petersburg.
Balzac, however, wishing to impress his French relatives with the
grandeur of the marriage he was about to make, imagined this tale of
the Czar's opposition, in order to add to his own importance and to
that of his future wife, an invention which revolted my aunt so much
that in that part of her husband's correspondence which was published
by her a year or two before her death, she carefully suppressed all
the passages which contained this assertion which had so thoroughly
annoyed as well as angered her. I have sometimes wondered what she
would have said had she seen appear in print the curious letter which
Balzac wrote immediately after their wedding to Dr. Nacquart in which
he described with such pomp the different high qualities, merits, and
last but not least, brilliant positions occupied by his wife's
relatives, beginning with Queen Marie Leszczinska, the consort of
Louis XV, and ending with the husband of my father's stepdaughter,
Count Orloff, whom the widest stretch of imagination could not have
connected with my aunt.

I cannot refrain from mentioning here an anecdote which is very
typical of Balzac. He was about to return to Paris from Russia after
his marriage. My aunt coming into his room one morning found him
absorbed in writing a letter. Asking him for whom it was intended she
was petrified with astonishment when he replied that it was for the
Duke de Bordeaux, as the Comte de Chambord was still called at the
time, to present his respects to him upon his entrance into his
family! My aunt at first could not understand what it was he meant,
and when at last she had grasped the fact that it was in virtue of her
distant, very distant, relationship with Queen Marie Leszczinska that
he claimed the privilege of cousinship with the then Head of the Royal
House of France, it was with the greatest difficulty and with any
amount of trouble that she prevailed upon him at last to give up this
remarkable idea, and to be content with the knowledge that some
Rzewuski blood flowed in the veins of the last remaining member of the
elder line of the Bourbons, without intruding upon the privacy of the
Comte de Chambord, who probably would have been somewhat surprised to
receive this extraordinary communication from the great, but also
snobbish Balzac.

It was on account of this snobbishness, which had something childish
about it, that he sometimes became involved in discussions, not only
with my aunt, but also with several of his friends, Victor Hugo among
others, who could not bring themselves to forgive him for thinking
more of the great and illustrious families with which his marriage had
connected him than of his own genius and marvelous talents. Hugo most
unjustly accused my aunt of encouraging this "aberration," as he
called it, of Balzac's mind; in which judgment of her he was vastly
mistaken, because she was the person who suffered the most through it,
and by it. But this unwarranted suspicion made him antagonistic to
her, and probably inspired the famous description he left us of
Balzac's last hours in the little volume called _Choses vues_. This
was partly the cause why people afterwards said that my aunt's married
life with the great writer had been far from happy, and had resolved
itself into a great disappointment for both of them. The reality was
very different, because during the few months they lived together,
they had known and enjoyed complete and absolute happiness, and Madame
de Balzac's heart was forever broken when she closed with pious hands
the eyes of the man who had occupied such an immense place in her
heart as well as in her life. Many years later, talking with me about
those last sad hours when she watched with such tender devotion by his
bedside, she told me with accents that are still ringing in my ears
with their wail of agony: I lived through a hell of suffering on that

Nevertheless she bore up bravely under the load of the unmerited
misfortunes which had fallen upon her. Her first care, after she had
become for the second time a widow, was to pay Balzac's debts, which
she proceeded to do with the thoroughness she always brought to bear
in everything she undertook. She remained upon the most affectionate
terms with his family, and it was due to her that Balzac's mother was
able to spend her last years in comfort. These facts speak for
themselves, and, to my mind at least, dispose better than volumes on
the subject could do of the conscious or unconscious calumny cast by
Victor Hugo on my aunt's memory. It must here be explained that the
real reason why he did not see her, when he called for the last time
on his dying friend, and concluded so hastily that she preferred
remaining in her own apartments than at her husband's side, consisted
in the fact that she did not like the poet, who she instinctively
felt, also did not care for her, so she preferred not to encounter a
man whom she knew as antagonistic to herself at an hour when she was
about to undergo the greatest trial of her life, and she retired to
her room when he was announced. But Hugo, who had often reproached
Balzac for being vain, had in his own character a dose of vanity
sufficient to make him refuse to admit that there could exist in the
whole of the wide world a human being who would not have jumped at the
chance of seeing him, even under the most distressing of

I have said already that my aunt's opinions consisted of a curious
mixture of atheism and a profound belief in the Divinity. Her mind was
far too vigorous and too deep to accept without discussion the dogmas
of the Roman Catholic Church to which she belonged officially, and she
formed her own ideas as to religion and the part it ought to play in
human existence. She held the firm conviction that we must always try,
at least, to do what is right, regardless of the sorrow this might
entail upon us. In one of her letters to my mother, she says:

 "You will know one day, my dear little sister, that what one cares
  the most to read over again in the book of life are those
  difficult pages of the past when, after a hard struggle, duty has
  remained the master of the battle field. It has buried its dead,
  and brushed aside all the reminders that were left of them, and
  God in his infinite mercy allows flowers and grasses to grow again
  on this bloody ground. Don't think that by these flowers, I mean
  to say that one forgets. No, on the contrary, I am thinking of
  remembrance, the remembrance of the victory that has been won
  after so many sacrifices; I am thinking of all those voices of the
  conscience which come to soothe us, and to tell us that our Father
  in Heaven is satisfied with what we have done."

A person who had intimately known both Balzac and my aunt said one day
that they completed each other by the wide difference which existed in
their opinions in regard to the two important subjects of religion and
politics. The remark was profoundly true, because it was this very
difference which allowed them to bring into their judgments an
impartiality which we seldom meet with in our modern society. They
mutually respected and admired each other, and even when they were not
in perfect accord, or just because they were not in perfect accord as
to this or that thing, they nevertheless tried, thanks to the respect
which they entertained for each other, to look upon mankind, its
actions, follies and mistakes, with kindness and indulgence. The
curious thing in regard to their situation was that my aunt who had
been born and reared in one of the most select and prejudiced of
aristocratic circles, never knew what prejudice was, and remained
until the last day of her life a staunch liberal, who could never
bring herself to ostracize her neighbor, because he happened to think
or to believe otherwise than she did herself. She was perfectly
indifferent to advantages of birth, fortune or high rank, and she was
rather inclined to criticize than to admire the particular society and
world amidst which she moved. Balzac on the contrary, though a
_bourgeois_ by origin, cared only for those high spheres for which he
had always longed since his early youth, and of which a sudden freak
of fortune so unexpectedly had opened him the doors. In that sense he
was the _parvenu_ his enemies have accused him of being, and he often
showed himself narrow minded, until at last his wife's influence made
him consider, without the disdain he had affected for them before,
people who were not of noble birth or of exalted rank. On the other
hand, Madame de Balzac, thanks to her husband's Catholic and
Legitimistic tendencies and sympathies, became less sarcastic than had
been the case when she had, perhaps more than she ought, noticed the
smallnesses and meannesses of the particular set of people who at that
period constituted the cream of European society. They both came to
acquire a wider view of the world in general, thanks to their
different ways of looking at it, and this of course turned to their
great mutual advantage.

I will not extend myself here on the help my aunt was to Balzac all
through the years which preceded their marriage, when there seemed no
possibility of the marriage ever taking place. She encouraged him in
his work, interested herself in all his actions, praised him for all
his efforts, tried to be for him the guide and the star to which he
could look in his moments of dark discouragement, as well as in his
hours of triumph. Without her affection to console him, he would most
probably have broken down under the load of immense difficulties which
constantly burdened him, and he never would have been able to leave
behind him as a legacy to a world that had never property appreciated
or understood him, those volumes of the _Comedie humaine_ which have
made his name immortal. Madame Hanska was his good genius all through
those long and dreadful years during which he struggled with such
indomitable courage against an adverse fate, and her devotion to him
certainly deserved the words which he wrote to her one day, "I love
you as I love God, as I love happiness!"

All this has taken me very far from Miss Floyd's book, though what I
have just written about my uncle and aunt completes in a certain sense
the details she has given us concerning the wonderful romance which
after seventeen years of arduous waiting, made Madame Hanska the wife
of one of the greatest literary glories of France. Her work is
magnificent and she has handled it superbly, and reconstituted two
remarkable figures who were beginning to be, not forgotten, which is
impossible, but not so much talked about by the general public, who a
few years ago, had shown itself so interested in their life history as
it was first disclosed to us in the famous _Lettres a l'Etrangere_,
published by the Vicomte Spoelberch de Lovenjoul. She has also cleared
some of the clouds which had been darkening the horizon in regard to
both Balzac and his wife, and restored to these two their proper
places in the history of French literature in the nineteenth century.
She has moreover shown us a hitherto unknown Balzac, and a still more
unknown _Etrangere_, and this labor of love, because it was that all
through, can only be viewed with feelings of the deepest gratitude by
the few members still left alive of Madame de Balzac's family, my
three brothers and myself. I feel very happy to be given this
opportunity of thanking Miss Floyd, in my brothers' name as well as in
my own, for the splendid work which she has done, and which I am quite
certain will ensure for her a foremost place among the historians of

                                    CATHERINE, PRINCESS RADZIWILL.

                            AUTHOR'S NOTE

The steady rise of Balzac's reputation during the last few decades has
been such that almost each year new studies have appeared about him.
While the women portrayed in the _Comedie humaine_ are often commented
upon, no recent work dealing in detail with the novelist's intimate
association with women and which might lead to identifying the
possible sources of his feminine characters in real life has been

The present study does not undertake to establish the origin of all
the characters found in the _Comedie humaine_, but is an attempt to
trace the life of the novelist on the side of his relations with
various women,--a story which is even more thrilling than those
presented in many of his novels,--in the hope that it will help
explain some of the interesting enigmas presented by his work. So far
as the writer could find the necessary evidence, many of the women in
Balzac's novels have been here identified with women he knew in the
course of his life; and while giving due weight to the suggestions of
various writers, and indicating some of the most striking
resemblances, she has tried to avoid a mere promiscuous identification
of characters.

In the case of many novelists such an investigation would not be worth
while, but Balzac's place in literature is so transcendent and his
life and writings are so closely and fascinatingly interblended, that
it is hoped that the following study, in which the writer has striven
to maintain correctness of detail, may not be unwelcome, and that it
will throw light on Balzac's complex character, and help his readers
better to understand and appreciate some of his most noted women
characters. It is believed that this study will show that the
influence of women on Balzac was much wider and his acquaintance with
them much broader than has previously been supposed.

Apropos of remarks made by Sainte-Beuve and Brunetiere regarding
Balzac's admission to the higher circles of society, Emile Faguet has
this to say:

 "I would point out that the duchesses and viscountesses at the end
  of the Restoration were known neither to Sainte-Beuve nor to
  Balzac, the former only having begun to frequent aristocratic
  drawing-rooms in 1840, and Balzac, in spite of his very short
  _liaison_ with Madame de Castries, having become a regular
  attendant only a few months before that date. Sainte-Beuve himself
  has told us that the Faubourg Saint-Germain _was closed to men of
  letters before 1830_, and since it had to spend a few years
  becoming accustomed to their admittance, Sainte-Beuve's testimony
  is not at all valid as regards the great ladies of the
  Restoration, even at the end."

Perhaps it is due partly to the above statement and partly to the fact
that Balzac tried to give the impression that he led a sort of
monastic life, that it is generally believed the novelist never had
access to the aristocratic society of his time, and never had an
opportunity of observing the great ladies or of frequenting the
marvelous balls and receptions that fill so large a place in his
writings. Whether he made a success of such descriptions is not the
question here, but the following pages will at least furnish proof
that he not only had many social opportunities, but that his presence
was sought by many women belonging to high life and the nobility.

In presenting in the following pages a somewhat imposing list of
duchesses, countesses and women of varying degrees of nobility, it is
not intended to picture Balzac as a _preux chevalier_, for he was far
from being one. Even in the most refined of _salons_, he displayed his
Rabelaisian manners and costume, and remained the typical author of
the _Contes drolatiques_; but to maintain that he never knew women of
the upper class or never even entered their society, involves a
misapprehension of the facts. Neither would the present writer give
the impression that this was the only class of women he knew or
associated with, for he certainly was acquainted with many of the
_bourgeoisie_ and of the peasant class; but here it is difficult to
make out a case, since his letters to or about women of these classes
are rare, and literary men of his day have not given many details of
his association with them.

From Balzac's youth, his most intense longings were to be famous and
to be loved. At times it might almost be thought that the second
desire took precedence over the first, but it was not the ordinary
woman that this future _Napoleon litteraire_ was seeking. His desire
was to win the affection of some lady of high standing, and when urged
by his family to consider marriage with a certain rich widow of the
_bourgeoisie_, it can be imagined with what a sense of relief he wrote
his mother that the bird had flown. An abnormal longing to mingle with
the aristocracy remained with him throughout his life; and during his
stay at Wierzchownia, after having all but made the conquest of a very
rich lady belonging to one of the most noted families of Russia, he
flattered himself by exaggerating her greatness.

Not being crowned from the first with the success he desired, Balzac
needed encouragement in his work. For this he naturally turned to
women who would give him of their time and sympathy. In his early
years, he received this encouragement and assistance from his sister
Laure, from Madame de Berny, Madame d'Abrantes, Madame Carraud and
others, and in his later life he was similarly indebted to Madame
Hanska. They gave him ideas, corrected his style, conceived plots,
furnished him with historical background, and criticized his work in
general. Is it surprising then that, having received so much from
women, he should have accorded them so great a place in his writings
as well as in his personal life?

While Balzac did not, as is often stated, _create_ the "woman of
thirty," this characteristic type having already appeared in Madame de
Stael's _Delphine_, in Benjamin Constant's _Adolphe_, and in
Stendhal's _Le Rouge et le Noir_, he must be credited with having
magnified her charms and presented her advantages and superiority to a
much higher degree than had been done before. Women indeed play in
general an important role in his work, many of his novels bear their
names; about one-third of the stories of _La Comedie humaine_ are
dedicated to women; and while not quite so large a proportion of the
characters created are women, they are numbered among the most
important personages of his prolific fancy.

If we are to believe his own testimony, his popularity among women was
by no means limited to his Paris environment, for he writes: "Fame is
conveyed to me through the post office by means of letters, and I
daily receive three or four from women. They come from the depths of
Russia, of Germany, etc.; I have not had one from England. Then there
are many letters from young people. It has become fatiguing. . . ."

It was only a matter of justice that women should show their
appreciation thus, for Balzac rendered them a gracious service in
prolonging, by his enormous literary influence, the period of their
eligibility for being loved. This he successfully extended to thirty
years, even to forty years; with rare skill he portrayed the charm of
a declining beauty--as one might delight in the glory of a brilliant
autumn or of a setting sun. At the same time, and on the one hand, he
depicted the young girl of various types, and women of the working and
servant class. And since his own life is so reflected throughout his
work, it is of interest to become acquainted with the inner and
intimate side of his genius, which has left us some of the greatest
documents we possess concerning human nature.

Balzac knew many women, and to understand him fully one should study
his relations with them. If he has portrayed them well, it is because
he loved them tenderly, and was loved by many in return. These
feminine affections formed one of the consolations of his life; they
not only gave him courage but helped to soften the bitterness of his
trials and disappointments.

While an effort has been made in the following work to solve the
questions as to the identity of the _Sarah, Maria, Sofka,
Constance-Victoire, Louise, Caroline,_ and the _Helene_ of Balzac's
dedications, and to show the role each played, no attempt has here
been made to lift the tightly drawn veil which has so long enveloped
one side of Balzac's private life. Whoever wishes to do this may now
consult the recent publication of the late Vicomte de Spoelberch de
Lovenjoul, or the _Mariage de Balzac_ by the late Count Stanislas
Rzewuski. It is far more pleasant--even if the charges be untrue--to
think as did the late Miss K. P. Wormeley, that no supporting testimony
has been offered to prove anything detrimental to the great author's
character. Though doubtless much overdrawn, one prefers the delightful
picture of him traced by his old friend, George Sand.

                     WOMEN IN THE LIFE OF BALZAC

                              CHAPTER I


In the delightful city of Tours, the childhood of Honore de Balzac was
spent in the midst of his family. This consisted of an original and
most congenial old father, a nervous, business-like mother, two
younger sisters, Laure and Laurentia, and a younger brother, Henri.
His maternal grandmother, Madame Sallambier, joined the family after
the death of her husband.

At about the age of eight, Honore was sent to a semi-military
_college_. Here, after six years of confinement, he lost his health,
not on account of any work assigned to him by his teachers, for he was
regarded as being far from a brilliant student, but because of the
abnormal amount of reading which he did on the outside. When he was
brought home for recuperation, his old grandmother alternately
irritated him with her "nervous attacks" and delighted him with her
numerous ways of showing her affection. At this time he wandered about
in the fresh air of the province of Touraine, and learned to love its
beautiful scenery, which he has immortalized in various novels.

After he had spent a year of this rustic life, his family moved to
Paris in the fall of 1814. There he continued his studies with M.
Lepitre, whose Royalist principles doubtless influenced him. He
attended lectures at the Sorbonne also, strolling meanwhile about the
Latin Quarter, and in 1816 was placed in the law office of M. de
Guillonnet-Merville, a friend of the family, and an ardent Royalist.
After eighteen months in this office, he spent more than a year in the
office of a notary, M. Passez, who was also a family friend.

It was probably during this period of residence in Paris that he first
met Madame de Berny, she who was later to wield so great an influence
over him and who held first place in his heart until their separation
in 1832. Probably at this same period, too, he met Zulma Tourangin, a
schoolmate of his sister Laure, and who, as Madame Carraud, was to
become his life-long friend. Of all the friendships that Balzac was
destined to form with women, this with Madame Carraud was one of the
purest, longest and most beautiful.

Having attained his majority and finished his legal studies, Balzac
was requested by his father to enter the office of M. Passez and
become a business man, but the life was so distasteful to him that he
objected and asked permission to spend his time as best he might in
developing his literary ability, a request which, in spite of the
opposition of the family, was finally granted for a term of two years.
He was accordingly allowed to establish himself in a small attic at
No. 9 rue Lesdiguieres, while his family moved to Villeparisis.

His father's weakness in thus giving in to his son was most irritating
to Balzac's mother, who was endowed with the business faculties so
frequently met with among French women. She was convinced that a
little experience would soon cause her son to change his mind. But he,
on his part, ignored his hardships. He began to dream of a life of
fame. In his garret, too, he began to develop that longing for luxury
which was to increase with the years, and which was to cost him so
much. At this time, he took frequent walks through the cemetery of
Pere-Lachaise around the graves of Moliere, La Fontaine and Racine. He
would occasionally visit a friend with whom he could converse, but he
usually preferred a sympathetic listener, to whom he could pour out
his plans and his innermost longings. Otherwise his life was as
solitary as it was cloistered. He confined himself to his room for
days at a time, working fiercely at the manuscript of the play,
_Cromwell_, which he felt to be a masterpiece.

This work he finished and took to his home for approval in April,
1820. What must have been his disappointment when, certain of success,
he not only found his play disapproved but was advised to devote his
time and talents to anything except literature! But his courage was
not daunted thus. Remarking that _tragedies_ appeared not to be in his
line, he was ready to return to his garret to attempt another kind of
literature, and would have done so, had not his mother, seeing that he
would certainly injure his health, interposed; and although only
fifteen months of the allotted two years had expired, insisted that he
remain at home, and later sent him to Touraine for a much needed rest.

During his stay at home, he was to suffer another disappointment. His
sister Laure, to whom he had confided all his secrets and longings,
was married to M. Surville in May, 1830, and moved to Bayeux. He was
thus deprived of her congenial companionship. The separation is
fortunate for posterity, however, since the letters he wrote to her
reveal much of the family life, both pleasant and otherwise, together
with a great deal concerning his own desires and struggles. Thus early
in life, he realized that his was a very "original" family, and
regretted not being able to put the whole group into novels. His
correspondence gives a very good description of their various
eccentricities, and he has later immortalized some of these by
portraying them in certain of his characters.

Continually worried by his irritable mother, feeling himself forced to
make money by writing lest he be compelled to enter a lawyer's office,
he produced in five years, with different collaborators, a vast number
of works written under various pseudonyms. He tutored his younger and
much petted brother Henri, but found his pleasures outside of the
family circle. It was arranged that he should give lessons to one of
the sons of M. and Mme. de Berny, and thus he had an opportunity of
seeing much of Madame de Berny, whose patience under suffering and
sympathetic nature deeply impressed him. On her side, she took an
interest in him and devoted much time in helping and indeed "creating"
him. Unhappy in her married life, she must have found the
companionship of Balzac most interesting, and realizing that the young
man had a great future, she acted as a severe critic in correcting his
manuscripts, and cheered him in his hours of depression. Her mother
having been one of the Queen's ladies in waiting, the Royalist
principles previously instilled in the mind of the young author were
reinforced by this charming woman, as well as by her mother, who could
entertain him indefinitely with her exciting stories of imprisonment
and hairbreadth escapes.

After a few years of life at Villeparisis, Balzac removed to Paris. He
had met an old friend, M. d'Assonvillez, whom he told of the conflict
between his family and himself over his occupation, and this gentleman
advised him to seek a business that would make him independent, even
offering to provide the necessary funds. Balzac took the advice, and
with visions of becoming extremely rich, launched into a publishing
career, proposing to bring out one-volume editions of various authors'
complete works, commencing with La Fontaine and Moliere. As he did not
have the necessary capital for advertising, however, his venture
resulted in a loss. His friend then persuaded him to invest in a
printing-press, and in August, 1826, he made another beginning. He did
not lack courage; but though he later manipulated such wonderful
business schemes in his novels he proved to be utterly incapable
himself in practical life.

A second time he was doomed to failure, but with his indomitable will
he resolved that inasmuch as he had met with such financial disasters
through the press, he would recover his fortunes in the same way, and
set himself to writing with even greater determination than ever. Now
it was that Madame de Berny showed her true devotion by coming to his
aid in his financial troubles as well as in his literary ones; she
loaned him 45,000 francs, saw to it that the recently purchased
type-foundry became the property of her family, and, with the help of
Madame Surville, persuaded Madame de Balzac to save her son from the
disgrace of bankruptcy by lending him 37,000 francs. Thus, after less
than two years of experience, he found himself burdened with a debt
which like a black cloud was to hang over him during his entire life.
Other friends also came to his rescue. But if Balzac did not have
business capacity, his experience in dealing with the financial world,
of which he had become a victim, furnished him with material of which
he made abundant use later in his works.

In September, 1828, after this business was temporarily out of the
way, Balzac went to Brittany to spend a few weeks with some old family
friends, the Pommereuls. There he roved over the beautiful country and
collected material for _Les Chouans_, the first novel which he signed
with his own name. Notwithstanding the fact that before he had reached
his thirtieth year, he was staggering under a debt amounting to about
100,000 francs, Balzac with his never-failing hope in the future and
his ever-increasing belief in his destiny, cast aside his depression,
and fought continually to attain the greatness which was never fully
recognized until long after his death.

He had entered on what was indeed a period of struggle. Establishing
himself in Paris in the rue de Tournon, and later in the rue de
Cassini, he battled with poverty, lacking both food and clothing; but
his courage never wavered. Drinking black coffee to keep himself
awake, he wrote eighteen hours a day, and when exhausted would run
away to the country to relax and visit with his friends. The Baron de
Pommereul was only one of a rather numerous group. He frequently
visited Madame Carraud at her hospitable home at Frapesle, and M. de
Margonne in his chateau at Sache on the Indre. Often he would spend
many weeks at a time with the latter, where he made himself perfectly
at home, was treated as one of the family, and worked or rested just
as he wished. Leading the hermit's life by preference, he needed the
quietude of the country atmosphere in order to recover from the great
strain to which he subjected himself when the fit of authorship was
upon him. Thus it happened that several of his works were written in
the homes of various friends.

_Les Chouans_ and other novels met with success. Balzac's reputation
now gradually rose, so that by 1831 he was attracting much favorable
attention. Among the younger literary set who sought his acquaintance
was George Sand with whom he formed a true friendship which lasted
throughout his life. Now, too, though he was not betrayed into
neglecting his work for society, he accepted invitations, won by his
growing reputation, to some of the most noted salons of the day, among
them the Empire salon of Madame Sophie Gay, where he met many of the
literary and artistic people of his time, including Delphine, the
daughter of Madame Gay, who, as Madame de Girardin, was to become one
of his intimate friends. Here he met Madame Hamelin and the Duchess
d'Abrantes, who was destined to play an important role in his life,
and also the tender and impassioned poetess, Madame Desbordes-Valmore.
The beautiful Madame Recamier invited him to her salon, too, and had
him read to her guests, and he was also a frequent visitor in the
salon of the Russian Princess Bagration, where he was fond of telling
stories. Besides the salons, he was invited to numerous houses, dining
particularly often with the Baron de Trumilly, who took a great
interest in his work.

As his fame increased, letters arrived from various part of Europe.
Some of these were anonymous, and many were from women. Several of the
latter were answered, and early in 1832 Balzac learned that one of his
unknown correspondents was the beautiful Marquise de Castries (later
the Duchess de Castries). Throwing aside her incognito, she invited
him to call, and he, anxious to mingle with the exclusive society of
the Faubourg Saint-Germain, gladly accepted and promptly became
enraptured with her alluring charm. It was doubtless owing to the
influence of her relative, the Duc de Fitz-James, that he became
active in politics at this time.

In the course of this same year (1832) there came to him an anonymous
letter of great significance, dated from the distant Ukraine, and
signed _l'Etrangere_. Though not at that time giving him the slightest
presentiment of the outcome, this letter was destined eventually to
change the entire life of the novelist. A notice in the _Quotidienne_
acknowledging the receipt of it brought about a correspondence which
in the course of events revealed to the author that the stranger's
real name was Madame Hanska.

Love affairs, however, were far from being the only things that
occupied Balzac. He was continually besieged by creditors; the clouds
of his indebtedness were ever ready to burst over his head. Meanwhile,
his mother became more and more displeased with him, and impatient at
his constant calls upon her for the performance of all manner of
services. She now urged him to make a rich marriage and thus put an
end to his troubles and hers. But such was not Balzac's inclination,
and he rightly considered himself the most deeply concerned in the

All the while he was prodigiously productive, but the profits from his
works were exceedingly small. This fact was due to his method of
composition, according to which some of his works were revised a dozen
times or more, and also to the Belgian piracies, from which all
popular French authors suffered. In addition to this, his extravagant
tastes developed from year to year, and thus prevented him from
materially reducing his debts.

Unlike most Frenchmen, Balzac was particularly fond of travel in
foreign countries, and when allured by the charms of a beautiful
woman, he forgot his financial obligations and allowed nothing to
prevent his responding to the call of the siren. Thus he was enticed
by the Marquise de Castries to go to Aix and from there to Geneva in
1832, and one year later he rushed to Neufchatel to meet Madame
Hanska, with whom he became so enamored that a few months afterwards
he spent several weeks with her at this same fatal city of Geneva
where the Marquise had all but broken his heart. In the spring of 1835
he followed a similar desire, this time going as far as the beautiful
city of the blue Danube.

The charms of his sirens were not enough, however, to keep so
indefatigable a writer from his work. He permitted himself to enjoy
social diversions for only a few hours daily and some of his most
delightful novels were written during these visits, where it seemed
that the very shadow of feminine presence gave him inspiration. It
should be added, too, that in the limited time given to society during
these journeys, he not only worshipped at the shrine of his particular
enchantress of the moment, but managed to meet many other women of
social prominence.

As his fame spread, his extravagance increased; with his famous cane,
he was seen frequently at the opera, at one time sharing a box with
the beautiful Olympe. But his business relations with his publisher,
Madame Bechet, which seemed to be promising at first, ended unhappily,
and the rapidly declining health of his _Dilecta_, Madame de Berny,
not to mention the failure of another publisher Werdet, which there is
not space here to recount, cast a gloom from time to time over his
optimistic spirit. He now became the proprietor of the _Chronique de
Paris_, but aside from the literary friendships involved, notably that
of Theophile Gautier, he derived nothing but additional worries from
an undertaking he was unfitted to carry out. An even greater anxiety
was the famous lawsuit with Buloz, which was finally decided in his
favor, but which proved a costly victory, since it left him physically

In order to recuperate, he sought refuge in the home of M. de
Margonne, and travelled afterwards with Madame Marbouty to Italy,
where he spent several pleasant weeks looking after some legal
business for his friends, M. and Mme. Visconti. It was on his return
from this journey that he learned of the death of Madame de Berny.

During this period of general depression, Balzac devoted a certain
amount of attention to another correspondent, Louise, whom he never
met but whose letters cheered him, especially during his imprisonment
for refusing to serve in the Garde Nationale. In the same year (1836),
he was drawn by the charming Madame de Valette to Guerande, where he
secured his descriptive material for _Beatrix_.

In the spring of 1837, he went to Italy for the second time, hoping to
recuperate, and wishing to see the bust of Madame Hanska which had
been made by Bartolini. He visited several cities, and in Milan he was
received in the salon of Madame Maffei, where he met some of the best
known people of the day. He had now thought of another scheme by means
of which he might become very rich,--always a favorite dream of his.
He believed that much silver might be extracted from lead turned out
of the mines as refuse, and was indiscreet enough to confide his ideas
to a crafty merchant whom he met at Genoa. A year later, when Balzac
went to Sardinia to investigate the possibility of the development of
his plans, he found that his ideas had been appropriated by this
acquaintance. On his return from this trip to Corsica and Sardinia, on
which he had endured much physical suffering, and had spent much money
to no financial avail, he stopped again at Milan to look after the
interests of the Viscontis. In the Salon of the same year (1837), the
famous portrait by Boulanger was displayed. About the same time,
together with Theophile Gautier, Leon Gozlan, Jules Sandeau and
others, he organized an association called the _Cheval Rouge_ for
mutual advertisement.

Balzac now bought a piece of land at Ville d'Avray (Sevres), and had a
house built, _Les Jardies_, which afforded much amusement to the
Parisians. He went there to reside in 1838 while the walls were still
damp. Here he formed another scheme for becoming rich, this time in
the belief that he would be successful in raising pineapples at his
new home. _Les Jardies_ was a three-story house. The principal
stairway was on the outside, because an exterior staircase would not
interfere with the symmetrical arrangement of the interior. The garden
walls, not long after completion, fell down as they had no
foundations, and Balzac sadly exclaimed over their giving way! After a
brief residence here of about two years, he fled from his creditors
and concealed his identity under the name of his housekeeper, Madame
de Brugnolle, in a mysterious little house, No. 19, rue Basse, Passy.

Aside from his novels, which were appearing at a most rapid rate,
Balzac wrote many plays, but they all met with failure for various
reasons. Other literary activities, such as his brief directorship of
the _Revue Parisienne_, numerous articles and short stories, and his
cooperation in the _Societe des Gens-de-Lettres_, which was organized
to protect the rights of authors and publishers, occupied much of his
precious time; in addition, he had his unremitting financial

This "child-man," however, with his imagination, optimism, belief in
magnetism and clairvoyance, and great steadfastness of character, kept
on hoping. Not discouraged by his ever unsuccessful schemes for
becoming a millionaire, he conceived the project of digging for hidden
treasures, and later thought of making a fortune by transporting to
France oaks grown in distant Russia.

In the spring of 1842 Balzac's novels were collected for the first
time under the name of the _Comedie humaine_. This was shortly after
one of the most important events of his life had occurred, when on
January 5 he received a letter from Madame Hanska telling of the death
of her husband the previous November. Balzac wished to leave for
Russia immediately, but Madame Hanska's permission was not
forthcoming, and it was not until July of 1843 that Balzac arrived at
St. Petersburg to visit his "Polar Star."

On his return home he became very ill, and from this time onward his
robust constitution, which he had so abused by overwork and by the use
of strong coffee, began to break under the continual strain and his
illnesses became more and more frequent. His visit to his
_Chatelaine_, however, had increased his longing to be constantly in
her society, and he was ever planning to visit her. During her
prolonged stay in Dresden in the winter and spring of 1845, he became
so desperate that he could not longer do his accustomed work, and when
the invitation to visit her eventually came, he forgot all in his
haste to be at her side.

With Madame Hanska, her daughter Anna, and the Count George Mniszech,
Anna's fiance, Balzac now traveled extensively in Europe. In July,
after some preliminary journeys, Madame Hanska and Anna secretly
accompanied him to Paris where they enjoyed the opportunity of
visiting Anna's former governess, Lirette, who had entered a convent.
In August, after visiting many cities with the two ladies, Balzac
escorted them as far as Brussels. In September he left Paris again to
join them at Baden, and in October, went to meet them at Chalons
whence all four--Count Mniszech being now of the party--journeyed to
Marseilles and by sea to Naples. After a few days at Naples, Balzac
returned to Paris, ill, having spent much money and done little work.

Ever planning a home for his future bride, and buying objects of art
with which to adorn it, Balzac with his numerous worries was
physically and mentally in poor condition. In March, 1846, he left
Paris to join Madame Hanska and her party at Rome for a month. He
traveled with them to some extent during the summer, and a definite
engagement of marriage was entered into at Strasbourg. In October he
attended the marriage of Anna and the Count Mniszech at Wiesbaden, and
Madame Hanska visited him secretly in Paris during the winter.

He was now in better spirits, and his health was somewhat improved,
enabling him to do some of his best work, but he was being pressed to
fulfil his literary obligations, and, as usual, harassed over his
debts. In September he left for Wierzchownia, where he remained until
the following February, continually hoping that his marriage would
soon take place. But Mme. Hanska hesitated, and the failure of the
Chemin de Fer du Nord added more financial embarrassments to his
already large load. The Revolution of 1848 brought him into more
trouble still, and his health was obviously becoming impaired. Yet he
continued hopeful.

After spending the summer in his house of treasure in the rue
Fortunee, he again left, in September, 1848, for Wierzchownia, this
time determined to return with his shield or upon it. During his
prolonged stay of eighteen months, while his distraught mother was
looking after affairs in his new home, his health became so bad that
he could not finish the work outlined during the summer. No sooner had
he recovered from one malady than he was overtaken by another. Unable
to work, distracted by bad news from his family, and being the witness
of several financial failures incurred by Madame Hanska, Balzac
naturally was supremely depressed. At this time, a touch of what may
not uncharitably be termed snobbishness is seen in his letters to his
family when he extols the unlimited virtues of his _Predilecta_ and
the Countess Anna.

After seventeen long years of waiting, with hope constantly deferred,
Balzac at last attained his goal when, on March 14, 1850, Madame
Hanska became Madame Honore de Balzac. His joy over this great triumph
was beyond all adequate description, but he was unable to depart for
Paris with his bride until April. After a difficult journey, the
couple arrived at Paris in May, but the condition of Balzac's health
was hopeless and only a few more months were accorded him. With his
usual optimism, he always thought that he would be spared to finish
his great work, and when informed by his physician on August 17 that
he would live but a few hours, he refused to believe it.

Unless he had been self-centered, Balzac could never have left behind
him his enormous and prodigious work. In spite of certain unlovely
phases of his private character and failure to fulfil his literary and
financial obligations, he was a man of great personal charm. Though at
various times he was under consideration for election to the French
Academy, his name is not found numbered among the "forty immortals."
But he was the greatest of French novelists, a great creator of
characters, who by some competent critics has been ranked with
Shakespeare, and he has left to posterity the incomparable, though
unfinished _Comedie humaine_, which is in itself sufficient for his

                              CHAPTER II


                           BALZAC'S MOTHER

 "Farewell, my dearly beloved mother! I embrace you with all my
  heart. Oh! if you knew how I need just now to cast myself upon
  your breast as a refuge of complete affection, you would insert a
  little word of tenderness in your letters, and this one which I am
  answering has not even a poor kiss. There is nothing but . . . Ah!
  Mother, Mother, this is very bad! . . . You have misconstrued what
  I said to you, and you do not understand my heart and affection.
  This grieves me most of all! . . ."

The above extract is sadly typical of a relationship of thirty years,
1820-1850, between a mother, on the one hand, who never understood or
appreciated her son--and a son, on the other, whose longings for
maternal affection were never fully gratified. To his mother Balzac
dedicated _Le Medicin de Campagne_, one of his finest sociological

Madame Surville has described Balzac's mother, and her own, as being
rich, beautiful, and much younger than her husband, and as having a
rare vivacity of mind and of imagination, an untiring activity, a
great firmness of decision, and an unbounded devotion to her family;
but as expressing herself in actions rather than in words. She devoted
herself exclusively to the education of her children, and felt it
necessary to use severity towards them in order to offset the effects
of indulgence on the part of their father and their grandmother.
Balzac inherited from his mother imagination and activity, and from
both of his parents energy and kindness.

Madame de Balzac has been charged with not having been a tender mother
towards her children in their infancy. She had lost her first child
through her inability to nurse it properly. An excellent nurse,
however, was found for Honore, and he became so healthy that later his
sister Laure was placed with the same nurse. But she never seemed
fully to understand her son nor even to suspect his promise. She
attributed the sagacious remarks and reflections of his youth to
accident, and on such occasions she would tell him that he did not
understand what he was saying. His only reply would be a sweet,
submissive smile which irritated her, and which she called arrogant
and presumptuous. With her cold, calculating temperament, she had no
patience with his staking his life and fortune on uncertain financial
undertakings, and blamed him for his business failures. She suffered
on account of his love of luxury and his belief in his own greatness,
no evidence of which seemed sufficient to her matter-of-fact mind. She
continued to misjudge him, unaware of his genius, but in spite of her
grumbling and harassing disposition, she often came to his aid in his
financial troubles.

Contrary to the wishes of his parents, who had destined him to become
a notary, Balzac was ever dreaming of literary fame. His mother not
unnaturally thought that a little poverty and difficulty would bring
him to submission; so, before leaving Paris for Villeparisis in 1819
she installed him in a poorly furnished _mansard_, No. 9, rue
Lesdiguieres, leaving an old woman, Madame Comin, who had been in the
service of the family for more than twenty years, to watch over him.
Balzac has doubtless depicted this woman in _Facino Cane_ as Madame
Vaillant, who in 1819-1820 was charged with the care of a young
writer, lodged in a _mansard_, rue Lesdiguieres.

After fifteen months of this life, his health became so much impaired
that his mother insisted on keeping him at home, where she cared for
him faithfully. On a former occasion Madame de Balzac had had her son
brought home to recuperate, for when he was sent away to _college_ at
an early age, his health became so impaired that he was hurriedly
returned to his home. Balzac probably refers to this event in his life
when he writes, in _Louis Lambert_, that the mother, alarmed by the
continuous fever of her son and his symptoms of _coma_, took him from
school at four or five hours' notice.

During the five years (1820-1825) that Balzac remained at home in
Villeparisis, he longed for the quiet freedom of his garret; he could
not adapt himself to the bustling family circle, nor reconcile himself
to the noise of the domestic machinery kept in motion by his vigilant
and indefatigable mother. She was of a nervous, excitable nature,
which she probably inherited from her mother, Madame Sallambier. She
imagined that he was ill, and of course there was no one to convince
her to the contrary. Had she known that while she thought she was
contributing everything to the happiness of those around her, she was
only doing the opposite, we may be sure that she of all women would
have been the most wretched.

Balzac having failed in his speculations as publisher and printer, was
aided by his mother financially, and she figured as one of his
principal creditors during the remainder of his life. (E. Faguet in
_Balzac_, is exaggerating in stating that Madame de Balzac sacrificed
her whole fortune for Honore, for much of her means was spent on her
favorite son, Henri.)

M. Auguste Fessart was a contemporary of the family, an observer of a
great part of the life of Honore, and his confidant on more than one
occasion. In his _Commentaires_ on the work entitled _Balzac, sa Vie
et ses Oeuvres_, by Madame Surville, he states that the portrait of
Madame de Balzac is flattering--a daughter's portrait of a mother--and
declares that Madame de Balzac was very severe with her children,
especially with Honore, adding that Balzac used to say that he never
heard his mother speak without experiencing a certain trembling which
deprived him of his faculties. Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, in reviewing
the _Commentaires_ of M. Fessart, notes the recurring instances in
which pity is expressed for the moral and material sufferings almost
constantly endured by Balzac in his family circle. These sufferings
seem to have impressed him more than anything else in the career of
the novelist. In speaking of Balzac's financial appeal to his family,
M. Fessart notes: "And his mother did not respond to him. She let him
die of hunger! . . . I repeat that they let him die of hunger; he told
me so several times!" When Madame Surville speaks of their keeping
Balzac's presence in Paris a secret, saying that it was moreover a
means of keeping him from all worldly temptations, M. Fessart replies:
"And of giving him nothing, and of allowing him to be in need of
everything!" Finally, when Madame Surville speaks of her parents' not
giving Balzac the fifteen hundred francs he desired, M. Fessart
confirms this, saying that his family always refused him money.

A letter from Balzac to Madame Hanska testifies to this attitude of
his family towards him: "In 1828 I was cast into this poor rue
Cassini, in consequence of a liquidation to which I had been
compelled, owing one hundred thousand francs and being without a
penny, when my family would not even give me bread."

MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire, to whose admirable work we shall have
occasion to refer often, state that Madame de Balzac advanced
thirty-seven thousand six hundred francs for Balzac on August 16, 1822,
and that his parents paid a total of forty-five thousand francs for

Having read M. Fessart's description of Madame de Balzac, one can
agree with Madame Ruxton in saying that Balzac has portrayed his own
youth in his account of the early life of Raphael in _La Peau de
Chagrin_, Balzac's mother, instead of Raphael's father, being
recognized in the following passage:

 "Seen from afar, my life appears to contract by some mental
  process. That long, slow agony of ten years' duration can be
  brought to memory to-day in some few phrases, in which pain is
  resolved into a mere idea, and pleasure becomes a philosophical
  reflection . . . When I left school, my father submitted me to a
  strict discipline; he installed me in a room near his own study,
  and I had to rise at five in the morning and retire at nine at
  night. He intended me to take my law studies seriously. I attended
  school, and read with an advocate as well; but my lectures and
  work were so narrowly circumscribed by the laws of time and space,
  and my father required of me such a strict account, at dinner,
  that . . . In this manner I cowered under as strict a despotism as
  a monarch's until I became of age."

In confirmation of this idea, Madame Ruxton[*] quotes Madame Barnier,
granddaughter of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, who knew both Balzac and his
mother, and who describes her as a cold, severe, superior, but
hard-hearted woman, just the opposite of her son. Balzac himself
states: "Never shall I cease to resemble Raphael in his garret."

[*] In _La Dilecta de Balzac_, Balzac states that he has described his
    own life in _La Peau de Chagrin_. For a picture of Balzac's
    unhappy childhood drawn by himself, see _Revue des deux Mondes_,
    March 15, 1920.

After the death (June 1829) of her husband, Madame de Balzac lived
with her son at different intervals, and during his extended tour of
six months in 1832 she attended to the details of his business. With
her usual energy and extreme activity, she displayed her ability in
various lines, for she had to have dealings with his publisher, do
copying, consult the library,--sending him some books and buying
others,--have the servant exercise the horses, sell the horses and
carriage and dismiss the servant, arrange to have certain payments
deferred, send him money and consult the physician for him, not to
mention various other duties.

While Madame de Balzac was certainly requested to do far more than a
son usually expects of his mother, her tantalizing letters were a
source of great annoyance to him, as is seen in the following:

 "What you say about my silence is one of those things which, to use
  your expression, makes me grasp my heart with both hands; for it
  is incredible I should be able to produce all I do. (I am obeying
  the most rigorous necessity); so if I am to write, I ought to have
  more time, and when I rest, I wish to lay down and not take up my
  pen again. Really, my poor dear mother, this ought to be
  understood between us once for all; otherwise, I shall have to
  renounce all epistolary intercourse. . . . And this morning I was
  about to make the first dash at my work, when your letter came and
  completely upset me. Do you think it possible to have artistic
  inspirations after being brought suddenly face to face with such a
  picture of my miseries as you have traced? Do you think that if I
  did not feel them, I should work as I do? . . . Farewell, my good
  mother. Try and achieve impossibilities, which is what I am doing
  on my side. My life is one perpetual miracle. . . . You ask me to
  write you in full detail; but, my dear mother, have you yet to be
  told what my existence is? When I am able to write, I work at my
  manuscripts; when I am not working at my manuscripts, I am
  thinking of them; I never have any rest. How is it my friends are
  not aware of this? . . . I beg of you, my dear mother, in the name
  of my heavy work, never to write me that such a work is good, and
  such another bad: you upset me for a fortnight."

Balzac appreciated what his mother did for him, and while he never
fully repaid her the money she had so often requested of him, she
might have felt herself partially compensated by these kind words of

 "My kind and excellent mother,--After writing to you in such haste,
  I felt my inmost heart melt as I read your letter again, and I
  worshipped you. How shall I return to you, when shall I return to
  you, and can I ever return to you, by my love and endeavors for
  your happiness, all that you have done for me? I can at present
  only express my deep thankfulness. . . . How deep is my gratitude
  towards the kind hearts who pluck some of the thorns from my life
  and smooth my path by their affection. But constrained to an
  unceasing warfare against destiny, I have not always leisure to
  give utterance to what I feel. I would not, however, allow a day
  to pass without letting you know the tenderness your late proofs
  of devotion excite in me. A mother suffers the pangs of labor more
  than once with her children, does she not, my mother? Poor
  mothers, are you ever enough beloved! . . . I hope, my much
  beloved mother, you will not let yourself grow dejected. I work as
  hard as it is possible for a man to work; a day is only twelve
  hours long, I can do no more. . . . Farewell, my darling mother; I
  am very tired! Coffee burns my stomach. For the last twenty days I
  have taken no rest; and yet I must still work on, that I may
  remove your anxieties. . . . Keep your house; I had already sent
  an answer to Laura, I will not let either you or Surville bear the
  burden of my affairs. However, until the arrival of my proxy, it
  is understood that Laura, who is my cash keeper, will remit you a
  hundred and fifty francs a month. You may reckon on this as a
  regular payment; nothing in the world will take precedence of it.
  Then, at the end of November to December 10, you will have the
  surplus of thirty-six thousand francs to reimburse you for the
  excess of the expenditure over the receipts during the time of
  your stewardship; during which, thanks to your devotion, you gave
  me all the tranquility that was possible. . . . I entreat you to
  take care of yourself! Nothing is so dear to me as your health! I
  would give half of myself to keep you well, and I would keep the
  other half, to do you service. My mother, the day when we shall be
  happy through me is coming quickly; I am beginning to gather the
  fruits of the sacrifices I have made this year for a more certain
  future. Still, a few months more and I shall be able to give you
  that happy life--that life without cares or anxiety--which you so
  much need. You will have all you desire; our little vanities will
  be satisfied no less than the great ambitions of our hearts. Oh
  do, I pray you, nurse yourself! . . . Your comfort in material
  things and your happiness are my riches. Oh! my dear mother, do
  live to see my bright future realized!"[*]

[*] In speaking of Balzac's relations to his mother, Mr. F. Lawton
    (_Balzac_) states: "Madame Balzac was sacrificed to his
    improvidence and stupendous egotism; nor can the tenderness of the
    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. . . . And his
    epistolary good-byes were odd mixtures of business with

Thus did the poor mother alternately receive letters full of scoldings
and of terms of endearment from her son whose genius she never
understood. She was faithful in her duties, and her ambitious son
probably did not realize how much he was asking of her. But she may
have had a motive in keeping him on the prolonged visit during which
this last letter was written, for she was interested in his
prospective marriage. Although her full name is never mentioned, the
women in question, Madame D----, was evidently a widow with a fortune,
and in view of this prospect was most pleasing to Madame de Balzac.
However, this matrimonial plan fell through, and Balzac himself was
never enthusiastic over it. He felt that his attentions to Madame
D---- would consume his very precious time, and that the affair could
not come off in time to serve his interests. Could it be that Balzac
was alluding to this same Madame D---- when he wrote some time later:
"My beloved mother,--the affair has come to nothing, the bird was
frightened away, and I am very glad of it. I had no time to run after
it, and it was imperative it should be either yes or no."

This marriage project, like many others planned either for or by
Balzac, came to naught, and his mother evidently became displeased
with him, for she left him on his return, when he was in great need of
consolation and sympathy. As frequently happened under such
circumstances, Balzac expressed his deep regrets at his mother's
conduct to one of his best friends, Madame Carraud, and confided to
her his loneliness and longings.

Madame de Balzac was much occupied with religious ideas, and had made
a collection of the writings of the mystics. Balzac plunged into the
study of clairvoyance and mesmerism, and his mother, interested in the
marvelous, helped him in his studies, as she knew many of the
celebrated clairvoyants and mesmerists of the time.

At various times, Balzac's relations with his mother were much
estranged; at one time he did not even know where she was. When she
was disappointed in her favorite child, Henri, she seemed to recognize
the great wrong involved in her lack of affection for Honore and his
sister Laure. But she never gave him the attentions that he longed
for. In May, 1840, he wrote to Madame Hanska that he was especially
sad on the day of his _fete catholique_ (May 16) as, since the death
of Madame de Berny, there was no one to observe this occasion, though
during her life every day was a _fete_ day; he was too busy to join
with his sister Laure in the mutual observance of their birthdays, and
his mother cared little for him; once the Duchesse de Castries had
sent him a most beautiful bouquet,--but now there was no one.

The same year (1840) he took his mother to live with him _Aux
jardies_. This he regarded as an additional burden. Her continual
harassing him for the money he still owed her, her nervous and
discordant disposition, her constant intrigues to force him to marry,
and her numerous little acts that placed him in positions beneath the
dignity of an author's standing were an incessant source of annoyance
to him.

She did not remain with him long, but he tried to perform his filial
duties and make her comfortable, as various letters show. One of these
reads as follows:

 "My dear Mother,--It is very difficult for me to enter into the
  engagement you ask of me, and to do so without reflection would
  entail consequences most serious both for you and for myself. The
  money necessary for my existence is, as it were, wrung from what
  should go to pay my debts, and hard work it is to get it. The sort
  of life I lead is suitable for no one; it wears out relations and
  friends; all fly from my dreary house. My affairs will become more
  and more difficult to manage, not to say impossible. The failure
  of my play, as regards money, still further complicates my
  situation. I find it impossible to work in the midst of all the
  little storms raised up in a household where the members do not
  live in harmony. My work has become feeble during the last year,
  as any one can see. I am in doubt what to do. But I must come to
  some determination within a few days. When my furniture has been
  sold, and when I have disposed of 'Les Jardies,' I shall not have
  much left. And I shall find myself alone in the world with nothing
  but my pen, and an attic. In such a situation shall I be able to
  do more for you than I am doing at this moment? I shall have to
  live from hand to mouth by writing articles which I can no longer
  write with the agility of youth which is no more. The world, and
  even relations, mistake me; I am engrossed by my work, and they
  think I am absorbed in myself. I am not blind to the fact, that up
  to the present moment, working as I work, I have not succeeded in
  paying my debts, nor in supporting myself. No future will save me.
  I must do something else, look out for some other position. And it
  is at a time like this that you ask me to enter into an
  engagement! Two years ago I should have done so, and have deceived
  myself. Now all I can say is, come to me and share my crust. You
  were in a tolerable position; I had a domestic whose devotion
  spared you all the worry of housekeeping; you were not called on
  to enter into every detail, you were quiet and peaceful. You
  wished me to count for something in your life, when it was
  imperative for you to forget my existence and allow me the entire
  liberty without which I can do nothing. It is not a fault in you,
  it is the nature of women. Now everything is changed. If you wish
  to come back, you will have to bear a little of the burden which
  is about to weigh me down, and which hitherto has only pressed
  upon you because you chose to take it to yourself. All this is
  business, and in no way involves my affection for you, which is
  always the same; so believe in the tenderness of your devoted

Later, when Balzac purchased his home in the rue Fortunee, his mother
had the care of it while he was in Russia. He asked her to visit the
house weekly and to keep the servants on the alert by enquiring as
though she expected him; yet Balzac wrote his nieces to have their
grandmother visit them often, lest she carry too far the duties she
imposed on herself in looking after his little home. He cautioned her
to allow no one to enter the house, to insist that his old servant
Francois be discreet, and especially that she be prudent in not
talking about his plans; and that by all means she should take a
carriage while attending to his affairs; this request was not only
from him but also from Madame Hanska.

She was most faithful in looking after his home and watching the
workmen to see that his instructions were carried out. In fact, she
never left the house except when, on one occasion, owing to the
excessive odors of the paint, she spent two nights in Laure's home.

Balzac's stay at Wierzchownia, however, was far from tranquil, for his
mother was discontented with the general aspect of his affairs and
increased his vexations by writing a letter in which she addressed him
as _vous_, declaring that her affection was conditional on his
behavior, a thing he naturally resented. "To think," he writes, "of a
mother reserving the right to love a son like me, seventy-two years on
the one side, and fifty on the other!"

This letter caused a serious complication in his affairs in Russia,
but the mother evidently became reconciled for a few months later she
wrote to him expressing her joy at the news of his recovery, and
asking him to extend to his friends her most sincere thanks for their
care of him in his serious illness. Aside from knowing of his illness
and her inability to see him, she was most happy in feeling that he
was with such good friends.

She complained of his not writing oftener, but he replied that he had
written to her seven times during his absence, that the letters were
posted by his hostess and that he did not wish to abuse the
hospitality with which he was so royally and magnificently
entertained. He resented his mother's dictating to him, a man of fifty
years of age, as to how often he should write to his nieces, for while
he enjoyed receiving their letters, he thought they should feel
honored in receiving letters from him whenever he had time to write to

When the poor mother attempted to be gracious to her son by sending
him a box of bonbons, she only brought him trouble, for she packed it
in newspapers, and in passing the custom-house, it was taken out and
the candy crushed. Instead of thanking her for her good intentions, he
rebuked her for her stupidity in regard to sending printed matter into
Russia, as it endangered his stay there.

Balzac was always striving to pay his mother his long-standing
indebtedness, but the Revolution of 1848, in connection with his
continued illness, made this impossible. This burden of debt was also,
at this time, preventing his obtaining a successful termination of his
mission to Russia, for, as he explained to his mother, the lady
concerned did not care to marry him while he was still encumbered with
debt. Being a woman past forty, she desired that nothing should
disturb the tranquillity in which she wished to live.

Owing to this critical situation and to his poor health, Balzac had
repeatedly requested his mother never to write depressing news to him,
but she paid little attention to this request and sent him a letter
hinting at trouble in so vague a manner and with such disquieting
expressions that, in his extremely nervous condition, it might have
proved fatal to him. Yet it did not affect him so seriously as it did
Madame Hanska, who read the letter to him, for owing to his terrible
illness and the method of treatment, his eyes had become so weak that
he could no longer see in the evening. Madame Hanska was so deeply
interested in everything that concerned Balzac that this news made her
very ill. For them to live in suspense for forty days without knowing
anything definite was far worse than it would have been had his mother
enumerated in detail the various misfortunes. From the preceding
revelations of the disposition of Madame de Balzac, one can easily
understand how it happened that her son has immortalized some of her
traits in the character of _Cousine Bette_.

During the remainder of Balzac's stay in the Ukraine, he was
preoccupied with the thought of his mother having every possible
comfort, with his becoming acclimatized in Russia,--impossible though
it was for him in his condition,--and above all with the realization
of his long-cherished hope. But he cautioned his mother to observe the
greatest discretion in regard to this hope, "for such things are never
certain until one leaves the church after the ceremony."

What must have been his feeling of triumph when he was able to write:

 "My very dear Mother,--Yesterday, at seven in the morning, thanks
  be to God, my marriage was blessed and celebrated in the church of
  Saint Barbara, at Berditchef, by the deputy of the Bishop of
  Jitomir. Monseigneur wished to have married me himself, but being
  unable, he sent a holy priest, the Count Abbe Czarouski, the
  eldest of the glories of the Polish Roman Catholic Church, as his
  representative. Madame Eve de Balzac, your daughter-in-law, in
  order to make an end of all obstacles, has taken an heroic and
  sublimely maternal resolution, viz., to give up all her fortune to
  her children, only reserving an annuity to herself. . . . There
  are now two of us to thank you for all the good care you have
  taken of our house, as well as to testify to you our respectful

Balzac was not only anxious that his bride should be properly
received, but also that his mother should preserve her dignity. On
their way home he writes her from Dresden to have the house ready for
their arrival (May 19, 20, 21), urging that she go either to her own
home or to Laure's, for it would not be proper for her to receive her
daughter-in-law in the rue Fortunee, and that she should not call
until his wife had called on her. After reminding her again not to
forget to procure flowers, he suggests that owing to his extremely
feeble health he meet her at Laure's, for there he would have one less
flight of stairs to climb. These suggestions, however, were
unnecessary, as his mother had been ill in bed for several weeks in
Laure's house.

After the novelist's return to Paris with his bride, his physical
condition was such that in spite of the efforts of his beloved
physician, Dr. Nacquart, little could be done for him, and he was
destined to pass away within a short time. Balzac's mother, she with
whom he had had so many misunderstandings, she who had doubtless never
fully appreciated his greatness but who had sacrificed her physical
strength and worldly goods for his sake, an old woman of almost
seventy-two years, showed her true maternal love by remaining with her
glorious and immortal son in his last moments.


 "To the Casket containing all things delightful; to the Elixir of
  Virtue, of Grace, and of Beauty; to the Gem, to the Prodigy of all
  Normandy; to the Pearl of the Bayeux; to the Fairy of St.
  Laurence; to the Madonna of the Rue Teinture; to the Guardian
  Angel of Caen, to the Goddess of Enchanting Spells; to the
  Treasury of all Friendship--to Laura!"

Two years younger than Balzac, his sister Laure, not only played an
important part in his life, but after his death rendered valuable
service by writing his life and publishing a part of his
correspondence.[*] Being reared by the same nurse as he, and having
had the same home environment, she was the first of his intimate
companions, and throughout a large part of his life remained one of
the most sympathetic of all his confidantes. As children they loved
each other tenderly, and his chivalrous protection of her led to his
being punished more than once without betraying her childish guilt.
Once when she arrived in time to confess, he asked her to avow nothing
the next time, as he liked to be scolded for her.

[*] MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire, _Le Jeunesse de Balzac_, have correctly
    observed that Balzac's sister, Madame Surville, has written a most
    delicate and interesting book, but that she had not correctly
    portrayed her brother because she was blinded by her devotion to

He it was who accompanied her to dances, but having had the misfortune
to slip and fall on one such occasion he was so sensitive to the
amused smiles of the ladies that he gave up dancing, and decided to
dominate society otherwise than by the graces and talents of the
drawing-room. Thus it was that he became merely a spectator of these
festivities, the memory of which he utilized later.

It was to Laure that, in the strictest confidence, he sent the plan of
his first work, the tragedy _Cromwell_, writing it to be a surprise to
the rest of the family when finished. To her he looked for moral
support, asking her to have faith in him, for he needed some one to
believe in him. To her also he confided his ambitions early in his
career, saying that his two greatest desires were to be famous and to
be loved.

Laure was married in May, 1820, to M. Midi de la Greneraye Surville,
and moved from her home in Villeparisis to Bayeux. When she became
homesick Balzac wrote her cheerful letters, suggesting various means
of employing her time. His admiration of her was such that he even
asked her to select for him a wife of her own type. He explained to
her that his affection was not diminished an atom by distance or by
silence, for there are torrents which make a terrible to-do and yet
their beds are dry in a few days, and there are waters which flow
quietly, but flow forever.

Madame Surville seems to have been the impersonation of discretion and
appreciation; she was intimately acquainted with all the characters in
his work and made valuable suggestions; he was most happy when
discussing plans with her. He longed to have his glory reflect on his
family and make the name of Balzac illustrious. When carried away with
some beautiful idea, he seemed to hear her tender voice encouraging
him. He felt that were it not for her devotion to the duties of her
home, their intimacy might have become even more precious and that
stimulated by a literary atmosphere she might herself have become a

He consulted her frequently with regard to literary help, once asking
her to use all her cleverness in writing out fully her ideas on the
subject of the _Deux Rencontres_, about which she had told him, for he
wished to insert them in the _Femme de trente Ans_. As early as 1822
she received a similar request asking her to prepare for him a
manuscript of the _Vicaire des Ardennes_; she was to prepare the first
volume and he would finish it. And many years later (1842), Balzac
asked his sister to furnish him with ideas for a story for young
people. After the name of this story had been changed a few times, it
was published under the title of _Un Debut dans la Vie_. This explains
why Balzac used the following words in dedicating it to her: "To
Laure. May the brilliant and modest intellect that gave me the subject
of this scene have the honor of it!" This, however, was not the first
time he had honored her by dedicating one of his works to her, for in
1835 he inscribed to "Almae Sorori" a short story, _Les Proscrits_.

Balzac was often depressed, and felt that even his own family was not
in sympathy with his efforts; he told his sister that the universe
would be startled at his works before his relations or friends would
believe in their existence. Yet he knew that they did appreciate him
to a certain extent, for his sister wrote him that in reading the
_Recherche de l'Absolu_, and thinking that her own brother was the
author of it, she wept for joy.

In his youth, at all events, Balzac seems to have had no secrets from
his sister, and it is to her that the much disputed letter of
Saturday, October 12, 1833, was addressed. Their friendship was
sincere and devoted; and yet there were coolnesses, caused largely by
the influence of their mother,--and of M. Surville, whose jealous and
tyrannical disposition prevented their seeing each other as frequently
as they would have liked. She once celebrated her birthday by visiting
her brother, but she held her watch in her hand as she had only twenty
minutes for the meeting. For awhile, he could not visit her; later,
this estrangement was overcome, and after the first presentation of
his play _Vautrin_ (1840), his sister cared for him in her home during
his illness.

Madame Surville performed many duties for her brother but was not
always skilful in allaying the demands of his creditors. On Balzac's
return from a visit to Madame Hanska in Vienna, he found that his
affairs were in great disorder, and that his sister, frightened at the
conditions, had pawned his silverware. In planning at a later date to
leave France, however, he did not hesitate to entrust his treasures to
his sister, saying that she would be a most faithful "dragon." He was
also wisely thoughtful of her; on one occasion when she had gone to a
masked ball contrary to her husband's wishes, Balzac went after her
and took her home without giving her time to go round the room.

She evidently had more influence over their mother than had he, for he
asked her when on the verge of taking Madame de Balzac into his home
again, to assist him in making her reasonable:

 "If she likes, she can be very happy, but tell her that she must
  encourage happiness and not frighten it away. She will have near
  her a confidential attendant and a servant, and that she will be
  taken care of in the way she likes. Her room is as elegant as I
  can make it. . . . Make her promise not to object to what I wish
  her to do as regards her dress: I do not wish her to be dressed
  otherwise than as she _ought to be_, it would give me great
  pain . . ."

During his prolonged stay in Russia, he requested his sister to
conceal from their mother the true condition of his illness and the
uncertainty of his marriage, and to entreat her to avoid anything in
her letters which might cause him pain. Feeling that she would never
have allowed such a thing had she known of it, he informed her in
detail concerning their mother's letter which had caused him endless

While Madame Surville was a great stimulus to Balzac early in his
literary career, she in turn received the deepest sympathy from him in
her financial struggle, and, while he was so happy and was living in
such luxury in Russia, he only regretted that he could not assist her,
for he had enjoyed hospitality in her home.

Madame Surville had at least one of her mother's traits--that of
continually harassing Balzac by trying to marry him to some rich
woman; once she had even chosen for him the goddaughter of
Louis-Philippe. But the most serious breach of relations between the
two resulted from her failure to approve of Balzac's adoration of
Madame Hanska. While admitting the extreme beauty of the celebrated
Daffinger portrait, she was jealous of his _Predilecta_. When she saw
the bound proofs of _La Femme superieure_ which he had intended for
Madame Hanska, she felt that she was being neglected. In the end, he
robbed his _Chatelaine_ to the profit of his _cara sorella_. But when
she became impatient at Balzac's prolonged stay at Wierzchownia, he
resented it, explaining that marriage is like cream--a change of
atmosphere would spoil it,--that bad marriages could be made with the
utmost ease, but good ones required infinite precautions and
scrupulous attention. He tried to make her see the advantage of this
marriage, writing her:

 "Consider, dear Laura, none of us are as yet, so to speak,
  _arrived_; if, instead of being obliged to work in order to live,
  I had become the husband of one of the cleverest, the best-born,
  and best-connected of women, who is also possessed of a solid
  though circumscribed fortune, in spite of the wish of the lady to
  live retired, to have no intercourse even with the family, I
  should still be in a position to be much better able to be of use
  to you all. I have the certainty of the warm kindness and lively
  interest which Madame Hanska takes in the dear children. Thus it
  is more than a duty in my mother, and all belonging to me, to do
  nothing to hinder me from the happy accomplishment of a union
  which _before all is my happiness_. Again, it must not be
  forgotten that this lady is illustrious, not only on account of
  her high descent, but for her great reputation for wit, beauty,
  and fortune (for she is credited with all the millions of her
  daughter); she is constantly receiving proposals of marriage from
  men of the highest rank and position. But she is something far
  better than rich and noble; she is exquisitely good, with the
  sweetness of an angel, and of an easy compatibility in daily life
  which every day surprises me more and more; she is, moreover,
  thoroughly pious. Seeing all these great advantages, the world
  treats my hopes with something of mocking incredulity, and my
  prospects of success are denied and derided on all sides. If we
  were all to live . . . under the same roof, I could conceive the
  difficulties raised by my mother about her dignity; but to keep on
  the terms which are due to a lady who brings with her (fortune
  apart) most precious social advantages, I think you need only
  confine yourself to giving her the impression that my relations
  are kind and affectionate amongst themselves, and kindly
  affectionate towards the man she loves. It is the only way to
  excite her interest and to preserve her influence, which will be
  enormous. You may all of you, in a great fit of independence, say
  you have no need of any one, that you intend to succeed by your
  own exertions. But, between ourselves, the events of the last few
  years must have proved to you that nothing can be done without the
  help of others; and the social forces that we can least afford to
  dispense with are those of our own family. Come, Laura, it is
  something to be able, in Paris, to open one's _salon_ and to
  assemble all the _elite_ of society, presided over by a woman who
  is refined, polished, imposing as a queen, of illustrious descent,
  allied to the noblest families, witty, well-informed, and
  beautiful; there is a power of social domination. To enter into
  any struggle whatever with a woman in whom so much influence
  centers is--I tell you this in confidence--an act of insanity. Let
  there be neither servility, nor sullen pride, nor susceptibility,
  nor too much compliance; nothing but good natural affection. This
  is the line of conduct prescribed by good sense towards such a

One can see how Madame Surville would resent such a letter, especially
when she might have arranged another marriage, advantageous and
sensible, for him. But poor Balzac, knowing her interest in his
happiness, writes to her a joyful letter the day after his marriage:
"As to Madame de Balzac, what more can I say about her? I may be
envied for having won her: with the exception of her daughter, there
is no woman in this land who can compare with her. She is indeed the
diamond of Poland, the gem of this illustrious house of Rzewuski."
After explaining to her that this was a marriage of pure affection, as
his wife had given her fortune to her children and wished to live only
for them and for him, Balzac tells his sister that he hoped to present
Madame Honore de Balzac to her soon, signing the letter, "Your brother
Honore at the summit of happiness."

A great attraction for Balzac in the home of Madame Surville were his
two nieces, Sophie and Valentine, to whom he was devoted, and with
whom he frequently spent his evenings. The story is told that one
evening on entering his sister's home, he asked for paper and pencil,
which were given him. After spending about an hour, not in making
notes, as one might imagine, but in writing columns of figures and
adding them, he discovered that he owed fifty-nine thousand francs,
and exclaimed that his only recourse was to blow his brains out, or
throw himself into the Seine! When questioned by his niece Sophie in
tears as to whether he would not finish the novel he had begun for
her, he declared that he was wrong in becoming so discouraged, to work
for her would be a pleasure; he would no longer be depressed, but
would finish her book, which would be a masterpiece, sell it for three
thousand _ecus_, pay all his creditors within two years, amass a dowry
for her and become a peer of France!

Balzac had forbidden his nieces to read his books, promising to write
one especially for them. The book referred to here is _Ursule Mirouet_
which he dedicated to Sophie as follows:

 "To Mademoiselle Sophie Surville.

 "It is a real pleasure, my dear niece, to dedicate to you a book of
  which the subject and the details have gained the approbation--so
  difficult to secure--of a young girl to whom the world is yet
  unknown, and who will make no compromise with the high principles
  derived from a pious education. You young girls are a public to be
  dreaded; you ought never to be permitted to read any books less
  pure than your own pure souls, and you are forbidden certain
  books, just as you are not allowed to see society as it really is.
  Is it not enough, then, to make a writer proud, to know that he
  has satisfied you? Heaven grant that affection may not have misled
  you! Who can say? The future only, which you, I hope, will see,
  though he may not, who is your uncle

To Valentine Surville he dedicated _La Paix du Menage_.

The novelist was interested in helping his sister find suitable
husbands for her daughters. He and Sophie had a wager as to which--she
or he--would marry first; so when Balzac finally reached his own
long-sought goal, he did not forget to remind his niece that she owed
him a wedding gift.

Sophie became an accomplished musician, having for her master Ambroise
Thomas. Balzac spoke very lovingly of Valentine during her early
childhood; but she was so attractive that he feared she would be
spoiled. And spoiled she was, or perhaps naturally inclined to
indolence, for he wrote her a few years later:

 "I should be very glad to learn that Valentine studies as much as
  the young Countess, who, besides all her other studies, practices
  daily at her piano. The success of this education is owing to hard
  work, which Miss Valentine shuns a little too much. Now, I say to
  my dear niece that to do nothing except what we feel inclined to
  do is the origin of all deterioration, especially in women. Rules
  obeyed and duties fulfilled have been the law of the young
  Countess from childhood, although she is an only child and a rich
  heiress. . . . Thus I beg Valentine not to exhibit a Creole
  _nonchalance_; but to listen to the advice of her sister, to
  impose tasks on herself, and to do work of various sorts, without
  neglecting the ordinary and daily cares of the household, and,
  above all, constantly to withstand the inclination we all have,
  more or less, to give ourselves up to what we find pleasant; it is
  by this yielding to inclination that we deteriorate and fall into

While Balzac was living in Wierzchownia, he urged his nieces to write
to him oftener, as the young Countess Anna took the greatest interest
in their chatter; they were like two nightingales coming by post to
enchant the Ukrainian solitude. He had portrayed them so well that all
took an interest in them, and their letters were called for first
whenever he received a package from Paris. He requested them to send
him certain favorite recipes, and planned to have Sophie play with the
young countess.

Sophie seemed to have some of the traits of her grandmother; for the
novelist wrote his sister:

 "Sophie has traced out a catechism of what she considers _my
  duties_ towards you, just as last year my mother wrote me a
  catechism of my duties towards my nieces; it is a sort of cholera
  peculiar to our family, to lecture uncles both at home and abroad.
  I make fun if it, but all these little things are remarked upon,
  which I do not like; then these blank pages make me furious. I
  forgive Sophie on account of the _motif_, which is you, and for
  all she and Valentine have done for your _fete_. Ah! if my wishes
  are ever realized, how I shall enjoy introducing my dear nieces,
  both so unspoiled by the devil! I have sung their praises here. I
  have said Sophie is a great musician: I add, Valentine is a _man
  of letters_, and she is tired with writing three pages."

If certain letters received by Balzac from his family irritated him,
he perhaps unconsciously was making his sister jealous by continually
extolling the young Countess Mniszech:

 "She has a genius, as well as a love, for music; if she had not
  been an heiress, she would have been a great artiste. If she comes
  to Paris in eighteen months or two years, she will take lessons in
  thorough bass and composition. It is all she needs as regards
  music. She has (without exaggeration) hands the size of a child of
  eight years old. These minute, supple, white hands, three of which
  I could hold in mine, have an iron power of finger, in the
  proportion, like that of Liszt. The keys, not the fingers, bend;
  she can compass ten keys by the span and elasticity of her
  fingers; this phenomenon must be seen to be believed. Music, her
  mother, and her husband: these three words sum up her character.
  She is the Fenella of the fireside; the will-o'-wisp of our souls;
  our gaiety; the life of the house. When she is not here, the very
  walls are conscious of her absence--so much does she brighten them
  by her presence. She had never known misfortune; she knows nothing
  of annoyance; she is the idol of all who surround her, and she had
  the sensibility and goodness of an angel: in one word, she unites
  qualities which moralists consider incompatible; it is, however,
  only a self-evident fact to all who know her. She is evidently
  well informed, without pedantry; she has a delightful _naivete_;
  and though long since married, she has still the gaiety of a
  child, loving laughter like a little girl, which does not prevent
  her from possessing a religious enthusiasm for great objects.
  Physically, she has a grace even more beautiful than beauty, which
  triumphs over a complexion still somewhat brown (she is hardly
  sixteen);[*] a nose well formed, but not striking, except in the
  profile; a charming figure, supple and _svelte_; feet and hands
  exquisitely formed, and wonderfully small, as I have just
  mentioned. All these advantages are, moreover, thrown into relief
  by a proud bearing, full of race, by an air of distinction and
  ease which all queens have not, and which is now quite lost in
  France, where everybody wishes to be equal. This exterior--this
  air of distinction--this look of a _grande dame_, is one of the
  most precious gifts which God--the God of women can bestow. The
  Countess Georges speaks four languages as if she were a native of
  each of the countries whose tongue she knows so thoroughly. She
  has a keenness of observation which astonishes me; nothing escapes
  her. She is besides extremely prudent; and entirely to be relied
  on in daily intercourse. There are no words to describe her, but
  _perle fine_. Her husband adores her; I adore her; two cousins on
  the point of _old-maidism_ adore her--she will always be adored,
  as fresh reasons for loving her continually arise."

[*] For the incorrectness of this statement, see the chapter on the
    Countess Mniszech.

Such adoration of Madame Hanska's daughter was enough to make Madame
Surville jealous, especially when she was so despondent over her
financial situation, but Balzac tried to cheer her thus: "You should
be proud of your two children, they have written two charming letters,
which have been much admired here. Two such daughters are the reward
of your life; you can afford to accept many misfortunes."[*]

[*] Sophie Surville, the older daughter, whose matrimonial
    possibilities were so much discussed, was finally unhappily
    married to M. Mallet. She was a good harpist, and taught the harp.
    She died without issue. Valentine was married, 1859, to M. Louis
    Duhamel, a lawyer. She had a good voice for singing and literary
    talent; she took charge of having Balzac's correspondence
    published. She had two children; a daughter who became Mme. Pierre
    Carrier-Belleuse, wife of an artist, and a son, _publiciste
    distingue_. Laurence de Balzac had two sons; the older Alfred de
    Montzaigle, dissipated, a friend of Musset, died in 1852 without
    issue. The younger son, Alfonse, married Mlle. Caroline Jung; he
    died in 1868 at Strasbourg. Of their three children, only one,
    Paul de Montzaigle, lived. M. Surville-Duhamel, Mme. Pierre
    Carrier-Belleuse, and M. de Montzaigle are the only living
    relatives of Balzac. Mme. Belleuse and M. de Montzaigle have each
    a little daughter.


 "Ah we are fine specimens in this blessed family of ours! What a
  pity we can't put ourselves into novels."

Another member of Balzac's family circle was his affectionate and
amiable grandmother, whom he loved from childhood. After her husband's
death, Madame Sallambier lived with her daughter, Madame de Balzac.
She seems to have had a kind disposition, and having the requisite
means, she could indulge Honore in various ways. When he was brought
back from _college_ in wretched health, she condemned the schools for
their neglect.

While studying at home, Balzac frequently spent his evenings playing
whist or Boston with her. Through voluntary inattention or foolish
plays, she allowed him to win money which he used to buy books.
Throughout his life he loved these games in memory of her. She
encouraged him in his writings, and when _L'Heritiere de Birague_ was
sold for eight hundred francs, he was sure of the sale of the _first_
copy, for she had promised to buy it. He was devoted to her, and when
he had neglected writing to her for some time, he atoned by sending to
her a most affectionate letter.

After the marriage of his sister Laure, Balzac kept her informed in
detail concerning the family life. Of his grandmother, we find the

 "Grandmamma begs me to say all the pretty things she would write if
  that unfortunate malady did not rob her of all her facilities!
  Nevertheless she begins to think her head is better, and if the
  spring comes there is every reason to hope she will recover her
  wonted gaiety. . . . Grandmamma is suffering from a nervous
  attack; . . . Papa says that grandmamma is a clever actress who
  knows the value of a walk, of a glance, and how to fall gracefully
  into an easy chair."

If Madame Sallambier with her nervous attacks annoyed Balzac in his
youth, he spoke beautifully of her after her death, and referred to
her as his "grandmother who loved him," or his "most excellent
grandmother." In speaking of his grief over the death of Madame de
Berny, he said that never, since the death of his grandmother, had he
so deeply sounded the gulf of separation. One of his characteristics
he inherited from his grandmother, that of keeping trivial things
which had belonged to those he loved.

Not a great deal is said of Balzac's younger sister, Laurentia, but he
has left this pen picture of her:

 "On the whole you know that Laurentia is as beautiful as a picture
  --that she has the prettiest of arms and hands, that her
  complexion is pale and lovely. In conversation people give her
  credit for plenty of sense, and find that it is all a natural
  sense, which is not yet developed. She has beautiful eyes, and
  though pale many men admire that. . . . You are not aware that
  Laurentia has taken a violent fancy to Augustus de L-----. Say
  nothing that might lead her to suspect I have betrayed the secret,
  but I have all the trouble in the world to get it into her head
  that authors are the most villainous of matches (in respect of
  fortune, be it understood). Really Laurentia is quite romantic.
  How she would hate me if she knew with what irreverence I allude
  to her tender attachment."

This attachment was evidently not very serious, for not long afterward
Laurentia was married to Monsieur de Montzaigle. His family had a
title and stood well in the town, so Laurentia's parents were pleased
with the marriage. This was a great event in the family, and Balzac
describes to his married sister, Laure, the accompanying excitement in
the home:

 "Grandmamma is in a great state of delight; papa is quite
  satisfied,--so am I,--so are you. As to mamma, recall the last
  days of your own _demoisellerie_, and you will have some idea of
  what Laurentia and I have to endure. Nature surrounds all roses
  with thorns: mamma follows nature."[*]

[*] It was from the father of Laurentia's husband that M. and Madame
    de Berny bought their home in Villeparisis.

The happiness of poor Laurentia was of short duration. She died five
years after her marriage, having two children. Her husband did not
prove to be what the Balzac family had expected, and her children were
left destitute for Madame de Balzac to care for. Balzac always spoke
tenderly of her, and once in despair he exclaimed that at times he
envied his poor sister Laurentia, who had been lying for many years in
her coffin.

After Balzac's return from St. Petersburg, his letters were filled
with allusions to Madame de Brugnolle, his housekeeper and financial
counselor. He brought presents to various friends, and her he
presented with a muff. Besides being very practical, economical and
kind, she was a good manager for Balzac financially and strict with
him regarding his diet; the _bonne montagnarde_ did almost everything
possible, from running his errands to making his home happy. He sent
business letters under her name, and her fidelity and devotion are
seen in her denying herself clothes in order to buy household
necessities for him.

She served the novelist as a spy when he and Gavault disagreed. When
Lirette visited Paris, she treated her very kindly and gave up her own
room in order to arrange comfortable quarters for her. She had some
relatives who had entered a convent, and she talked of ending her days
in one, but Balzac begged her to keep house for him. He felt that she
was born for that! Madame de Brugnolle was of much help to him in
looking after Lirette's financial affairs, visiting her in the
convent, and carrying messages to her from him. Many times she
comforted him by promising to look out for his family, even consenting
to go to Wierzchownia, if necessary, as Lirette's visit had helped her
to realize as never before the angelic sweetness of his _Loup_.

In return for this devotion, he took her with him to Frankfort and to
Bury to visit Madame de Bocarme. He celebrated the birthday of the
_montagnarde_ in 1844, giving her some very attractive presents. Her
economy and devotion seemed to increase with time, and enabled him to
travel without any worry about his home. What must not have been the
trial to him when this happy household came to be broken up later by
her marriage!

Madame Delannoy was an old family friend of the Balzacs. She aided
Balzac in his financial troubles as early in his career as 1826, and
though he remained indebted to her for more than twenty years, he
tried to repay her and was ever grateful to her, calling her his
second mother. The following, written late in his career, reveals his
general attitude towards her:

 "I have just written a long letter to Madame Delannoy, with whom I
  have settled my business; but this still leaves me with
  obligations of conscientiousness towards her, which my first book
  will acquit. No one could have behaved more like a mother, or been
  more adorable than she has been throughout all this business. She
  has been a mother, I will be a son."

But if she remained one of his principal creditors, she received many
literary proofs of his appreciation. As early as 1831 he dedicated to
her a volume of his _Romans et Contes philosophiques_, but later
changed the title to _Etudes philosophiques_, and dedicated to her _La
Recherche de L'Absolu_:

 "To Madame Josephine Delannoy, nee Doumerg.

 "Madame, may God grant that this book have a longer life than mine!
  The gratitude which I have vowed to you, and which I hope will
  equal your almost maternal affection for me, would last beyond the
  limits prescribed for human feeling. This sublime privilege of
  prolonging the life in our hearts by the life of our works would
  be, if there were ever a certainty in this respect, a recompense
  for all the labor it costs those whose ambition is such. Yet again
  I say: May God grant it!

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

Balzac once thought of buying from Madame Delannoy a house that was
left her by her friend, M. Ferraud, but which she could not keep. He
felt that this would be advantageous to them both, but the plan was
never carried out. Besides their financial and literary relations,
their social relations were most cordial. He speaks of accompanying
her and her daughter to the Italian opera twice during the absence of
Madame Visconti.

In 1842, Balzac dedicated _La Maison-du-Chat-qui-pelote_ to
Mademoiselle Marie de Montbeau, the daughter of Camille Delannoy, a
friend of his sister, and the granddaughter of Madame Delannoy.

Another friend of Balzac's family was Madame de Pommereul. In the fall
of 1828 after his serious financial loss, Balzac went to visit Baron
and Madame de Pommereul in Brittany, where he obtained the material
for _Les Chouans_, and became familiar with the chateau de Fougere. To
please Madame de Pommereul, Balzac changed the name of his book from
_Le Gars_ to _Les Chouans_, after temporarily calling it _Le Dernier

She has given a beautiful pen portrait of the youthful Balzac in which
she describes minutely his appearance, noting his beautiful hands, his
intelligent forehead and his expressive golden brown eyes. There was
something in his manner of speaking, in his gestures, in his general
appearance, so much goodness, confidence, naivete and frankness that
it was impossible to know him without loving him, and his exuberant
good nature was infectious. In spite of his misfortunes, he had not
been in their company a quarter of an hour, and they had not even
shown him to his room, before he had brought the general and herself
to tears with laughter.

 "On some evenings he remained in the drawing-room in company with
  his hosts, and entered into controversies with Madame de
  Pommereul, who, being very pious herself, tried to persuade him to
  make a practice of religion; while Balzac, in return, when the
  discussion was exhausted, endeavored to teach her the rules of
  backgammon. But the one remained unconverted and the other never
  mastered the course of the noble game. Occasionally he helped to
  pass the time by inventing stories, which he told with all the
  vividness of which he was master."

A few months after this prolonged visit, Balzac wrote to General de
Pommereul, expressing his deep appreciation of their hospitality, and
in speaking of the book which he had just written, hoped that Madame
de Pommereul would laugh at some details about the butter, the
weddings, the stiles, and the difficulties of going to the ball, etc.,
which he had inserted in his work,--if she could read it without
falling asleep.

Balzac made perhaps his most prolonged visits in the home of another
old family friend, M. de Margonne, who was living with his wife at
Sache. He describes his life there thus:

 "Sache is the remains of a castle on the Indre, in one of the most
  delicious valleys of Touraine. The proprietor, a man of fifty-five,
  used to dandle me on his knee. He has a pious and intolerant
  wife, rather deformed and not clever. I go there for him; and
  besides, I am free there. They accept me throughout the region as
  a child; I have no value whatever, and I am happy to be there,
  like a monk in a monastery. I always go there to meditate serious
  works. The sky there is so blue, the oaks so beautiful, the calm
  so vast! . . . Sache is six leagues from Tours. But not a woman,
  not a conversation possible!"

Not only did Balzac visit them when he wished to compose a serious
work, but he often went there to recuperate from overwork. He probably
did not enjoy their company, as he spoke of "having" to dine with them
and he is perhaps even chargeable with ingratitude when he speaks of
their parsimony.

Like his own family, these old people were interested in seeing him
married to a rich lady, but to no avail. In spite of his unkind
remarks about them, Balzac appreciated their hospitality, and
expressed it by dedicating to M. de Margonne _Une Tenebreuse Affaire_.

                     MADAME CARRAUD--MADAME NIVET

 "You are my public, you and a few other chosen souls, whom I wish
  to please; but yourself especially, whom I am proud to know, you
  whom I have never seen or listened to without gaining some
  benefit, you who have the courage to aid me in tearing up the evil
  weeds from my field, you who encourage me to perfect myself, you
  who resemble so much that angel to whom I owe everything; in
  short, you who are so good towards my ill-doings. I alone know how
  quickly I turn to you. I have recourse to your encouragements,
  when some arrow has wounded me; it is the wood-pigeon regaining
  its nest. I bear you an affection which resembles no other, and
  which can have no rival, because it is alone of its kind. It is so
  bright and pleasant near you! From afar, I can tell you, without
  fear of being put to silence, all I think about your mind, about
  your life. No one can wish more earnestly that the road be smooth
  for you. I should like to send you all the flowers you love, as I
  often send above your head the most ardent prayers for your

Balzac's friendship with Madame Zulma Carraud was not only of the
purest and most beautiful nature, but it lasted longer than his
friendship with any other woman, terminating only with his death. It
was even more constant than that with his sister Laure, which was
broken at times. Though Madame Surville states that it began in 1826,
the following passage shows an earlier date: "I embrace you, and press
you to a heart devoted to you. A friendship as true and tender now in
1838 as in 1819. Nineteen years!" The first letter to her in either
edition of his correspondence, however, is dated 1826.

Madame Carraud, as Zulma Tourangin, attended the same convent as
Balzac's sister Laure. Her husband was a distinguished officer in the
artillery and a man of learning, but absolutely lacking in ambition,
preferring to direct the instruction of Saint-Cyr rather than to risk
the chances of advancement presented in active service. He became
inspector of the gunpowder manufactory at Angouleme, and later retired
to his home at Frapesle, near Issoudun. Though an excellent husband,
his inactivity was a great annoyance to his wife. According to several
Balzacian writers, Madame Carraud became the type of the _femme
incomprise_ for Balzac, but the present writer is inclined to agree
with M. Serval when he calls this judgment astonishing, since she was
a woman who adored her husband and sons, was an author of some moral
books for children, and nothing in her suggested either vagueness of
soul or melancholy. Madame Carraud herself gives a glimpse of her
married life in saying to Balzac that she and her husband are not
sympathetic in everything, that being of different temperaments things
appear differently to them, but that she knows happiness, and her life
is not empty.

Often when sick, discouraged, overworked or pursued by his creditors,
Balzac sought refuge in her home, and with a pure and disinterested
maternal affection, she calmed him and inspired him with courage to
continue the battle of life. It was indeed the maternal element that
he needed and longed for, and Madame Carraud seems to have been a rare
mother who really understood her child. He confided in her not only
his financial worries, but also his love affairs, his aspirations in
life, and his ideas of woman:

 "I care more for the esteem of a few persons, amongst whom you are
  one of the first, both in friendship and in high intellect--one of
  the noblest souls I have ever known,--than I care for the esteem
  of the masses, for whom I have, in truth, a profound contempt.
  There are some vocations that must be obeyed, and something drags
  me irresistibly towards glory and power. It is not a happy life.
  There is in me a worship of woman, and a need of loving, which has
  never been completely satisfied. Despairing of ever being loved
  and understood as I desire, by the woman I have dreamt of (never
  having met her, except under one form--that of the heart), I have
  thrown myself into the tempestuous region of political passions
  and into the stormy and parching atmosphere of literary glory.
  . . . If ever I should find a wife and a fortune, I could resign
  myself very easily to domestic happiness; but where are these
  things to be found? Where is the family which would have faith in
  a literary fortune? It would drive me mad to owe my fortune to a
  woman, unless I loved her, or to owe it to flatteries; I am
  obliged, therefore, to remain isolated. In the midst of this
  desert, be assured that friendships such as yours, and the
  assurance of finding a shelter in a loving heart, are the best
  consolations I can have. . . . To dedicate myself to the happiness
  of a woman is my constant dream, but I do not believe marriage and
  love can exist in poverty. . . . I work too hard and I am too much
  worried with other things to be able to pay attention to those
  sorrows which sleep and make their nest in the heart. It may be
  that I shall come to the end of my life, without having realized
  the hopes I entertained from them. . . . As regards my soul, I am
  profoundly sad. My work alone keeps me alive. Will there never be
  a woman for me in this world? My fits of despondency and bodily
  weariness come upon me more frequently, and weigh upon me more
  heavily; to sink under this crushing load of fruitless labor,
  without having near me the gentle caressing presence of woman, for
  whom I have worked so much!"

Though Balzac and his mother were never congenial, he became very
lonely after she left him in 1832. In the autumn of that year he had a
break with the Duchesse de Castries, so he began the new year by
summing up his trials and pouring forth his longings to Madame Carraud
as he could do to no other woman, not even to his _Dilecta_. In
response to this despondent epistle, she showed her broad sympathetic
friendship by writing him a beautiful and comforting letter, in which
she regretted not being able to live in Paris with him, so as to see
him daily and give him the desired affection.

Not only through the hospitality of her home, but by sending various
gifts, she ministered to Balzac's needs or caprices. To make his study
more attractive, she indulged his craving for elegance and grace by
surprising him with the present of a carpet and a lovely tea service.
In thanking her for her thoughtfulness, he informed her that she had
inspired some of the pages in the _Medicin de Campagne_.

Besides being so intimate a friend of Madame Carraud, the novelist was
also a friend of M. Carraud, whom he called "Commandant Piston," and
discussed his business plans with him before going to Corsica and
Sardinia to investigate the silver mines. M. Carraud had a fine
scientific mind; he approved of Balzac's scheme, and thought of going
with him; his wife was astonished on hearing this, since he never left
the house even to look after his own estate. However, his natural
habit asserted itself and he gave up the project.

Madame Carraud was much interested in politics, and many of Balzac's
political ideas are set forth in his letters to her when he was a
candidate for the post of deputy. She reproached him for a mobility of
ideas, an inconstancy of resolution, and feared that the influence of
the Duchesse de Castries had not been good for him. To this last
accusation, he replied that she was unjust, and that he would never be
sold to a party for a woman.

Another tie which united Balzac to Madame Carraud was her sympathy for
his devotion to Madame de Berny, of whom she was not jealous. Both
women were devoted to him, and were friendly towards each other, so
much so that in December, 1833, she invited Balzac to bring Madame de
Berny with him to spend several days in her home at Frapesle. This he
especially appreciated, since neither his mother nor his sister
approved of his relations with his _Dilecta_.

Madame Carraud occupied in Balzac's life a position rather between
that of Madame de Berny and that of a sister. Indeed, he often
referred to her as a sister, and she was generous minded enough to ask
him not to write to her when she learned how unpleasant his mother and
sister were in regard to his writing to his friends.

Seeing his devotion to her, one can understand why he begged her to
spare him neither counsels, scoldings nor reproaches, for all were
received kindly from her. One can perceive also the sincerity of the
following expressions of friendship:

 "You are right, friendship is not found ready made. Thus every day
  mine for you increases; it has its root both in the past and in
  the present. . . . Though I do not write often, believe that my
  friendship does not sleep; the farther we advance in life,
  precious ties like our friendship only grow the closer. . . . I
  shall never let a year pass without coming to inhabit my room at
  Frapesle. I am sorry for all your annoyances; I should like to
  know you are already at home, and believe me, I am not averse to
  an agricultural life, and even if you were in any sort of hell, I
  would go there to join you. . . . Dear friend, let me at least
  tell you now, in the fulness of my heart, that during this long
  and painful road four noble beings have faithfully held out their
  hands to me, encouraged me, loved me, and had compassion on me;
  and you are one of them, who have in my heart an inalienable
  privilege and priority over all other affections; every hour of my
  life upon which I look back is filled with precious memories of
  you. . . . You will always have the right to command me, and all
  that is in me is yours. When I have dreams of happiness, you
  always take part in them; and to be considered worthy of your
  esteem is to me a far higher prize than all the vanities the world
  can bestow. No, you can give me no amount of affection which I do
  not desire to return to you a thousand-fold. . . . There are a few
  persons whose approval I desire, and yours is one of those I hold
  most dear."

Among those to whom Balzac could look for criticism, Madame Carraud
had the high intelligence necessary for such a role; he felt that
never was so wonderful an intellect as hers so entirely stifled, and
that she would die in her corner unknown. (Perhaps this estimate of
her caused various writers to think that Madame Carraud was Balzac's
model for the _femme incomprise_.) Balzac not only had her serve him
as a critic, but in 1836 he requested her to send him at once the
names of various streets in Angouleme, and wished the "Commandant" to
make him a rough plan of the place. This data he wanted for _Les deux
Poetes_, the first part of _Les Illusions perdues_.

Like his family and some of his most intimate friends, she too
interested herself in his future happiness, but when she wrote to him
about marriage, he was furious for a long time. Concerning this
question, Balzac informs her that a woman of thirty, possessing three
or four hundred thousand francs, who would take a fancy to him,
would find him willing to marry her, provided she were gentle,
sweet-tempered and good-looking, although enormous sacrifices would be
imposed on him by this course. Several months later, he writes her
that if she can find a young girl twenty-two years of age, worth two
hundred thousand francs or even one hundred thousand, she must think
of him, provided the dowry can be applied to his business.

If the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul is correct in his statement,
Balzac showed Madame Carraud the first letter from _l'Etrangere_, in
spite of his usual extreme prudence and absolute silence in such
matters. She answered it, so another explanation of Balzac's various
handwritings might be given. At least, Madame Carraud's seal was used.

In later years, Madame Carraud met with financial reverses. The
following letter, which is the last to her on record, shows not only
what she had been to Balzac in his life struggle, but his deep
appreciation and gratitude:

 "We are such old friends, you must not hear from any one else the
  news of the happy ending of this grand and beautiful soul-drama
  which has been going on for sixteen years. Three days ago I
  married the only woman I have ever loved, whom I love more than
  ever, and whom I shall love to my life's end. I believe this is
  the reward God has kept in store for me through so many years of
  neither a happy youth nor a blooming spring; I shall have the most
  brilliant summer and the sweetest of all autumns. Perhaps, from
  this point of view, my most happy marriage will seem to you like a
  personal consolation, showing as it does that Providence keeps
  treasures in store to bestow on those who endure to the end. . . .
  Your letter has gained for you the sincerest of friends in the
  person of my wife, from whom I have had no secrets for a long time
  past, and she has known you by all the instances of your greatness
  of soul, which I have told her, also by my gratitude for your
  treasures of hospitality toward me. I have described you so well,
  and your letter has so completed your portrait, that now you are
  felt to be a very old friend. Also, with the same impulse, with
  one voice, and with one and the same feeling in our hearts, we
  offer you a pleasant little room in our house in Paris, in order
  that you may come there absolutely as if it were your own house.
  And what shall I say to you? You are the only creature to whom we
  could make this offer, and you must accept it or you would deserve
  to be unfortunate, for you must remember that I used to go to your
  house, with the sacred unscrupulousness of friendship, when you
  were in prosperity, and when I was struggling against all the
  winds of heaven, and overtaken by the high tides of the equinox,
  drowned in debts. I have it now in my power to make the sweet and
  tender reprisals of gratitude . . . You will have some days'
  happiness every three months: come more frequently if you will;
  but you are to come, that is settled. I did this in the old times.
  At St. Cyr, at Angouleme, at Frapesle, I renewed my life for the
  struggle; there I drew fresh strength, there I learned to see all
  that was wanting in myself; there I obtained that for which I was
  thirsty. You will learn for yourself all that you have
  unconsciously been to me, to me a toiler who was misunderstood,
  overwhelmed for so long under misery, both physical and moral. Ah!
  I do not forget your motherly goodness, your divine sympathy for
  those who suffer. . . . Well, then as soon as you wish to come to
  Paris, you will come without even letting us know. You will come
  to the Rue Fortunee exactly as to your own house, absolutely as I
  used to go to Frapesle. I claim this as my right. I recall to your
  mind what you said to me at Angouleme, when broken down after
  writing _Louis Lambert_, ill, and as you know, fearing lest I
  should go mad. I spoke of the neglect to which these unhappy ones
  are abandoned. 'If you were to go mad, I would take care of you.'
  Those words, your look, and your expression have never been
  forgotten. All this is still living in me now, as in the month of
  July 1832. It is in virtue of that word that I claim your promise
  to-day, for I have almost gone mad with happiness. . . . When I
  have been questioned here about my friendships you have been
  named the first. I have described that fireside always burning,
  which is called Zulma, and you have two sincere woman-friends
  (which is an achievement), the Countess Mniszech and my wife."[*]

[*] Balzac is not exaggerating about the free use he made of her home,
    for besides going there for rest, he worked there, and two of his
    works, _La Grenadiere_ and _La Femme abandonnee_, were signed at

His devotion is again seen in the beautiful words with which he
dedicates to her in 1838 _La Maison Nucingen_:

 "To Madame Zulma Carraud.

 "To whom, madame, but to you should I inscribe this work, to you
  whose lofty and candid intellect is a treasury to your friends, to
  you who are to me not only an entire public, but the most
  indulgent of sisters? Will you deign to accept it as a token of a
  friendship of which I am proud? You, and some few souls as noble
  as your own, will grasp my thought in reading _la Maison Nucingen_
  appended to _Cesar Birotteau_. Is there not a whole social
  contrast between the two stories?

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

While hiding from his creditors, Balzac took refuge with Madame
Carraud at Issoudun, where he assumed the name of Madame Dubois to
receive his mail. Here he met some people whose names he made immortal
by describing them in his _Menage de Garcon_, called later _La
Rabouilleuse_. The priest Badinot introduced him to _La Cognette_, the
landlady to whom the vineyard peasant sold his wine. La Cognette, some
of whose relatives are still living, plays a minor role in the
_Comedie humaine_. Her real name was Madame Houssard; her husband,
whom Balzac incorrectly called "Pere Cognet," kept a little cabaret in
the rue du Bouriau. "Mere Cognette," who lost her husband about 1835,
opened a little cafe at Issoudun during the first years of her
widowhood. Balzac was an intermittent and impecunious client of hers;
he would enter her shop, quaff a cup of coffee, execrable to the
palate of a connoisseur like him, and "chat a bit" with the good old
woman who probably unconsciously furnished him with curious material.

The coffee drunk, the chat over, Balzac would strike his pockets, and
declaring they were empty, would exclaim: "Upon my word, Mere
Cognette, I have forgotten my purse, but the next time I'll pay for
this with the rest!" This habit gave "Mere Cognette" an extremely
mediocre estimate of the novelist, and she retained a very bad
impression of him. Upon learning that he had, as she expressed it,
"put me in one of his books," she conceived a violent resentment which
ended only with her death (1855). "The brigand," she exclaimed, "he
would have done better to pay me what he owes me!"

Another poor old woman, playing a far more important role in Balzac's
work, lived at Issoudun and was called "La Rabouilleuse." For a long
time, she had been the servant and mistress of a physician in the
town. This wretched creature had an end different to the one Balzac
gave his Rabouilleuse, but just as miserable, for having grown old,
sick, despoiled and without means, she did not have the patience to
wait until death sought her, but ended her miserable existence by
throwing herself into a well.

The doctor, it seems, at his death had left her a little home and some
money, but his heirs had succeeded in robbing her of it entirely.
--Perhaps this story is the origin of the contest of Dr. Rouget's
heirs with his mistress.

This Rabouilleuse had a daughter who inherited her name, there being
nothing else to inherit; she was a dish washer at the Hotel de la
Cloche, where Balzac often dined while at Issoudun. Can it be that he
saw her there and learned from her the story of her mother?

Balzac was acquainted also with Madame Carraud's sister, Madame
Philippe Nivet. M. Nivet was an important merchant of Limoges, living
in a pretty, historical home there. It was in this home that Balzac
visited early in his literary career, going there partly in order to
visit these friends, partly to see Limoges, and partly to examine the
scene in which he was going to place one of his most beautiful novels,
_Le Cure de Village_. While crossing a square under the conduct of the
young M. Nivet, Balzac perceived at the corner of the rue de la
Vieille-Poste and the rue de la Cite an old house, on the ground-floor
of which was the shop of a dealer in old iron. With the clearness of
vision peculiar to him, he decided that this would be a suitable
setting for the work of fiction he had already outlined in his mind.
It is here that are unfolded the first scenes of _Le Cure de Village_,
while on one of the banks of the Vienne is committed the crime which
forms the basis of the story.

                             CHAPTER III

                           LITERARY FRIENDS


 "O matre pulchra filia pulchrior!"

Though Balzac did not go out in "society" a great deal, he was
fortunate in associating with the best literary women of his time, and
in knowing the charming Madame Sophie Gay, whose salon he frequented,
and her three daughters. Elisa, the eldest of these, was married to
Count O'Donnel. Delphine was married June 1, 1831, to Emile de
Girardin, and Isaure, to Theodore Garre, son of Madame Sophie Gail, an
intimate friend of Madame Gay. These two women were known as "Sophie
la belle" and "Sophie la laide" or "Sophie de la parole" and "Sophie
de la musique." Together they composed an _opera-comique_ which had
some success. In 1814, Madame Gay wrote _Anatole_, an interesting
novel which Napoleon is said to have read the last night he passed at
Fontainebleau before taking pathetic farewell of his guard. A few
years before this, she wrote another novel which met with much
success, _Leonine de Monbreuse_, a study of the society and customs of
the _Directoire_ and of the Empire.

Madame Gay had made a literary center of her drawing-room in the rue
Gaillon where she had grouped around her twice a week not only many of
the literary and artistic celebrities of the epoch, but also her
acquaintances who had occupied political situations under the Empire.
Madame Gay, who had made her debut under the _Directoire_, had been
rather prominent under the Empire, and under the Restoration took
delight in condemning the government of the Bourbons. Introduced into
this company, though yet unknown to fame, Balzac forcibly impressed
all those who met him, and while his physique was far from charming,
the intelligence of his eyes reveled his superiority. Familiar and
even hilarious, he enjoyed Madame Gay's salon especially, for here he
experienced entire liberty, feeling no restraint whatever. At her
receptions as in other salons of Paris, his toilet, neglected at times
to the point of slovenliness, yet always displayed some distinguishing

Having acquired some reputation, the young novelist started to carry
about with him the enormous and now celebrated cane, the first of a
series of magnificent eccentricities. A quaint carriage, a groom whom
he called Anchise, marvelous dinners, thirty-one waistcoats bought in
one month, with the intention of bringing this number to three hundred
and sixty-five, were only a few of the number of bizarre things, which
astonished for a moment his feminine friends, and which he laughingly
called _reclame_. Like many writers of this epoch, Balzac was not
polished in the art of conversing. His conversation was but little
more than an amusing monologue, bright and at times noisy, but
uniquely filled with himself, and that which concerned him personally.
The good, like the evil, was so grossly exaggerated that both lost all
appearance of truth. As time went on, his financial embarrassments
continually growing and his hopes of relieving them increasing in the
same proportion, his future millions and his present debts were the
subject of all his discourses.

Madame Gay was by no means universally beloved. In her sharp and
disagreeable voice she said much good of herself and much evil of
others. She had a mania for titles and was ever ready to mention some
count, baron or marquis. In her drawing-room, Balzac found a direct
contrast to the Royalist salon of the beautiful Duchesse de Castries
which he frequented. In both salons, he met a society entirely
unfamiliar to him, and acquainted himself sufficiently with the
conventions of these two spheres to make use of them in his novels.

The _Physiologie du Mariage_, published anonymously in December, 1829,
gave rise to a great deal of discussion. According to Spoelberch de
Lovenjoul, two women well advanced in years, Madame Sophie Gay and
Madame Hamelin, are supposed to have inspired the work, and even to
have dictated some of its anecdotes least flattering to their sex.
This Madame Hamelin, born in Guadeloupe about 1776, was the marvel of
the _Directoire_, and several times was sent on secret missions by
Napoleon. The role she played under the _Directoire_, the _Consulat_
and the Empire is not clear, but she was a confidential friend of
Chateaubriand, lived in the noted house called the _Madeleine_, near
the forest of Fontainebleau, and wrote about it as did Madame de
Sevigne about _Les Rochers_. While living there, she received her
Bonapartist friends as well as her Legitimist friends. Having lived in
a society where life means enjoyment, she had many anecdotes to
relate. She was a fine equestrienne, a most beautiful dancer,
apparently naturally graceful, and bore the sobriquet of _la jolie
laide_. Her marriage to the banker, M. Hamelin, together with her
accomplishments, secured her a place in the society of the
_Directoire_. Balzac, in a letter to Madame Hanska, refers to her as
_une vieille celebrite_, and states that she wept over the letter of
Madame de Mortsauf to Felix in _Le Lys dans la Vallee_. It is
interesting to note that he later built his famous house and breathed
his last in the rue Fortunee to which Madame Hamelin gave her
Christian name, since it was cut through her husband's property, the
former Beaujon Park, and that it became in 1851 the rue Balzac.

Delphine Gay, the beautiful and charming daughter of Madame Sophie
Gay, was called "the tenth muse" by her friends, who admired the
sonorous original verses which she recited as a young girl in her
mother's salon. She became, in June, 1831, the wife of Emile de
Girardin, the founder of the _Presse_. Possessing in her youth, a
_bellezza folgorante_, Madame de Girardin was then in all the splendor
of her beauty; her magnificent features, which might have been too
pronounced for a young girl, were admirably suited to the woman and
harmonized beautifully with her tall and statuesque figure. Sometimes,
in the poems of her youth, she spoke as an authority on the subject of
"the happiness of being beautiful." It was not coquetry with her, it
was the sentiment of harmony; her beautiful soul was happy in dwelling
in a beautiful body.

She held receptions for her friends after the opera, and Balzac was
one of the frequenters of her attractive salon. Of her literary
friends she was especially proud. According to Theophile Gautier, this
was her coquetry, her luxury. If in some salon, some one--as was not
unusual at that time--attacked one of her friends, with what eloquent
anger did she defend them! What keen repartees, what incisive sarcasm!
On these occasions, her beauty glowed and became illuminated with a
divine radiance; she was magnificent; one might have thought Apollo
was preparing to flay Marsyas!

 "Madame de Girardin professed for Balzac a lively admiration to
  which he was sensible, and for which he showed his gratitude by
  frequent visits; a costly return for him who was, with good right,
  so avaricious of his time and of his working hours. Never did
  woman possess to so high a degree as Delphine,--we were allowed to
  call her by this familiar name among ourselves--the gift of
  drawing out the wit of her guests. With her, we always found
  ourselves in poetical raptures, and each left her salon amazed at
  himself. There was no flint so rough that she could not cause it
  to emit one spark; and with Balzac, as you may well believe, there
  was no need of trying to strike fire; he flashed and kindled at
  once." (Theophile Gautier, _Life Portraits, Balzac_.)

Balzac was interested in the occult sciences--in chiromancy and
cartomancy. He had been told of a sibyl even more astonishing than
Mademoiselle Lenormand, and he resolved that Madame de Girardin, Mery
and Theophile Gautier should drive with him to the abode of the
pythoness at Auteuil. The address given them was incorrect, only a
family of honest citizens living there, and the old mother became
angry at being taken for a sorceress. They had to make an ignominious
retreat, but Balzac insisted that this really was the place and
muttered maledictions on the old woman. Madame de Girardin pretended
that Balzac had invented all this for the sake of a carriage drive to
Auteuil, and to procure agreeable traveling companions. But if
disappointed on this occasion, Balzac was more successful at another
time, when with Madame de Girardin he visited the "magnetizer," M.
Dupotet, rue du Bac.

Besides enjoying for a long time the "happiness of being beautiful,"
Delphine also enjoyed almost exclusively, in her set, that of being
good. In this respect, she was superior to her mother who for the sake
of a witticism, never hesitated to offend another. She had but few
enemies, and, wishing to have none, tried to win over those who were
inimical towards her. For twenty-five years she played the diplomat
among all the rivals in talent and in glory who frequented her salon
in the rue Laffitte or in the Champs-Elysees. She prevented Victor
Hugo from breaking with Lamartine; she remained the friend of Balzac
when he quarreled with her autocratic husband. She encouraged Gautier,
she consoled George Sand; she had a charming word for every one; and
always and everywhere prevailed her merry laughter--even when she
longed to weep. But her cheery laugh was not her highest endowment;
her greatest gift was in making others laugh.

Balzac had a sincere affection for Delphine Gay and enjoyed her salon.
In his letters to her he often addressed her as _Cara_ and _Ma chere
ecoliere_. Her poetry having been converted into prose by her prosaic
husband, she submitted her writings to Balzac as to an enlightened
master. He asked _Delphine Divine_ to write a preface for his _Etudes
de Femmes_, but she declined, saying that an habitue of the opera who
could so transform himself so as to paint the admirable Abbe
Birotteau, could certainly surpass her in writing _une preface de
femme_. She did, however, write the sonnet on the _Marguerite_ which
Lucien de Rubempre displayed as one of the samples of his volume of
verses to the publisher Dauriat; also _Le Chardon_. Balzac made use of
this poem, however, only in the original edition of his work; it was
replaced in the _Comedie humaine_ by another sonnet, written probably
by Lassailly. Madame de Girardin brings her master before the public
by mentioning his name in her _Marguerite, ou deux Amours_, where a
personage in the book tells about Balzac's return from Austria and his
inability to speak German when paying the coachman.

It was at the home of Madame de Girardin that Lamartine met Balzac for
the first time, June, 1839. He asked her to invite Balzac to dinner
with him that he might thank him, as he was just recovering from an
illness during which he had "simply lived" on the novels of the
_Comedie humaine_. The invitation she wrote Balzac runs as follows:
"M. de Lamartine is to dine with me Sunday, and wishes absolutely to
dine with you. Nothing would give him greater pleasure. Come then and
be obliging. He has a sore leg, you have a sore foot, we will take
care of both of you, we will give you some cushions and footstools.
Come, come! A thousand affectionate greetings." And Lamartine has left
this appreciation of her and her friendship for Balzac:

 "Madame Emile de Girardin, daughter of Madame Gay who had reared
  her to succeed on her two thrones, the one of beauty, the other of
  wit, had inherited, moreover, that kindness which inspires love
  with admiration. These three gifts, beauty, wit, kindness, had
  made her the queen of the century. One could admire her more or
  less as a poetess, but, if one knew her thoroughly, it was
  impossible not to love her as a woman. She had some passion, but
  no hatred. Her thunderbolts were only electricity; her
  imprecations against the enemies of her husband were only anger;
  that passed with the storm. It was always beautiful in her soul,
  her days of hatred had no morrow. . . . She knew my desire to know
  Balzac. She loved him, as I was disposed to love him myself. . . .
  She felt herself in unison with him, whether through gaiety with
  his joviality, through seriousness with his sadness, or through
  imagination with his talent. He regarded her also as a rare
  creature, near whom he could forget all the discomforts of his
  miserable existence."

A few years after their meeting, Lamartine inquired Balzac's address
of Madame de Girardin, as she was one of the few people who knew where
he was hiding on account of his debts. Balzac was appreciative of the
many courtesies extended to him by Madame de Girardin and was
delighted to have her received by his friends, among whom was the
Duchesse de Castries.

Madame de Girardin made constant effort to keep the peace between
Balzac and her husband, the potentate of the _Presse_. Balzac had
known Emile de Girardin since 1829, having been introduced to him by
Levavasseur, who had just published his _Physiologie du Mariage_.
Later Balzac took his Verdugo to M. de Girardin which appeared in _La
Mode_ in which Madame de Girardin and her mother were collaborating;
but these two men were too domineering and too violent to have
amicable business dealings with each other for any length of time.
Balzac, while being _un bourreau d'argent_, would have thought himself
dishonored in subordinating his art to questions of commercialism; M.
de Girardin only esteemed literature in so far as it was a profitable
business. They quarreled often, and each time Madame de Girardin
defended Balzac.

Their first serious controversy was in 1834. Balzac was no longer
writing for _La Mode_; he took the liberty of reproducing elsewhere
some of his articles which he had given to this paper; M. de Girardin
insisted that they were his property and that his consent should have
been asked. Madame de Girardin naturally knew of the quarrel and had a
difficult role to play. If she condemned Balzac, she would be lacking
in friendship; if she agreed with him, she would be both disrespectful
to her husband and unjust. Like the clever woman that she was, she
said both were wrong, and when she thought their anger had passed, she
wrote a charming letter to Balzac urging him to come dine with her,
since he owed her this much because he had refused her a short time
before. She begged that they might become good friends again and enjoy
the beautiful days laughing together. He must come to dinner the next
Sunday, Easter Sunday, for she was expecting two guests from Normandy
who had most thrilling adventures to relate, and they would be
delighted to meet him. Again, her sister, Madame O'Donnel, was ill,
but would get up to see him, for she felt that the mere sight of him
would cure her.

Anybody but Balzac would have accepted this invitation of Madame de
Girardin's, were it only to show his gratitude for what she had done
for him; but Balzac was so fiery and so mortified by the letter of M.
de Girardin that, without taking time to reflect, he wrote to Madame

 "I have said adieu to that mole-hill of Gay, Emile de Girardin and
  Company. I seized the first opportunity, and it was so favorable
  that I broke off, point-blank. A disagreeable affair came near
  following; but my susceptibility as man of the pen was calmed by
  one of my college friends, ex-captain in the ex-Royal Guard, who
  advised me. It all ended with a piquant speech replying to a

However, in answering the invitation of Madame de Girardin, Balzac
wrote most courteously expressing his regrets at Madame O'Donnel's
illness and pleading work as his excuse for not accepting. This did
not prevent the ardent peacemaker from making another attempt. Taking
advantage of her husband's absence a few weeks later, she invited
Balzac to lunch with Madame O'Donnel and herself. But time had not yet
done its work, so Balzac declined, saying it would be illogical for
him to accept when M. de Girardin was not at home, since he did not go
there when he was present. The following excerpts from his letters,
declining her various invitations, show that Balzac regarded her as
his friend:

 "The regret I experience is caused quite as much by the blue eyes
  and blond hair of a lady who I believe to be my friend--and whom I
  would gladly have for mine--as by those black eyes which you
  recall to my remembrance, and which had made an impression on me.
  But indeed I can not come. . . . Your _salon_ was almost the only
  one where I found myself on a footing of friendship. You will
  hardly perceive my absence; and I remain alone. I thank you with
  sincere and affectionate feeling, for your kind persistence. I
  believe you to be actuated by a good motive; and you will always
  find in me something of devotion towards you in all that
  personally concerns yourself."

Her attempts to restore the friendship were futile, owing to the
obstinacy of the quarrel, but she eventually succeeded by means of her
novel, _La Canne de Monsieur de Balzac_. In describing this cane as a
sort of club made of turquoises, gold and marvelous chasings, Madame
de Girardin incidentally compliments Balzac by making Tancrede observe
that Balzac's large, black eyes are more brilliatn than these gems,
and wonder how so intellectual a man can carry so ugly a cane.

This famous cane belongs to-day to Madame la Baronne de Fontenay,
daughter of Doctor Nacquart. In October, 1850, Madame Honore de Balzac
wrote a letter to Doctor Nacquart, Balzac's much loved physician,
asking him to accept, as a souvenir of his illustrious friend, this
cane which had created such a sensation,--the entire mystery of which
consisted in a small chain which she had worn as a young girl, and
which had been used in making the knob. There has been much discussion
as to its actual appearance. He describes it to Madame Hanska (March
30, 1835), as bubbling with turquoise on a chased gold knob. The
description of M. Werdet can not be relied on, for he states that
Gosselin brought him the cane in October, 1836, and that Balzac
conceived the idea of it while at a banquet in prison, but, as has
been shown, the cane was in existence as early as March, 1835, and
Madame de Girardin's book appeared in May, 1836. As to the description
of the cane given by Paul Lacroix, the Princess Radziwill states that
the cane owned by him is the one that Madame Hanska gave Balzac, and
which he afterwards discarded for the gaudier one he had ordered for
himself. This first cane was left by him to his nephew, Edouard
Lacroix. Several years later (1845), Balzac had Froment Meurice make a
cane _aux singes_ for the Count George de Mniszech, future son-in-law
of Madame Hanska, so the various canes existing in connection with
Balzac may help to explain the varying descriptions.

Balzac could not remain indifferent after Madame de Girardin had thus
brought his celebrated cane into prominence. He was absent from Paris
when the novel appeared, and scarcely had he returned when he wrote
her (May 27, 1836), cordially thanking her as an old friend. He also
after this made peace with M. de Girardin. But one difficulty was
scarcely settled before another began, and the ever faithful Delphine
was continually occupied in trying to establish peace. Her numerous
letters to Balzac are filled with such expressions as: "Come
to-morrow, come to dinner. Come, we can not get along without you!
Come, Paris is an awful bore. We need you to laugh. Come dine with us,
come! Come!!! Now come have dinner with us to-morrow or day after
to-morrow, to-day, or even yesterday, every day!! A thousand greetings
from Emile." Thus with her hospitality and merry disposition, she
bridged many a break between her husband and Balzac.

Finally, not knowing what to do, she decided not to let Balzac mention
the latest quarrel. When he referred to it, she replied: "Oh, no, I
beg you, speak to Theophile Gautier. If is not for nothing that I have
given him charge of the _feuilleton_ of the _Presse_. That no longer
concerns me, make arrangements with him." Then she counseled her
husband to have Theophile Gautier direct this part of the _Presse_ in
order not to contend with Balzac, but the novelist was so unreasonable
that M. de Girardin had to intervene. "My beautiful Queen," once wrote
Theophile to Delphine, "if this continues, rather than be caught
between the anvil Emile and the hammer Balzac, I shall return my apron
to you. I prefer planting cabbage or raking the walls of your garden."
To this, Madame de Girardin replied: "I have a gardener with whom I am
very well satisfied, thank you; continue to maintain order _du

The relations between M. de Girardin and the novelist became so
strained that Balzac visited Madame de Girardin only when he knew he
would not encounter her husband. M. de Girardin retired early in the
evening; his wife received her literary friends after the theater or
opera. At this hour, Balzac was sure not to meet her husband, whose
non-appearance permitted the intimate friends to discuss literature at
their ease.

Although Madame de Girardin was married to a publicist, she did not
like journalists, so she conceived the fancy of writing a satirical
comedy, _L'Ecole des Journalistes_, in which she painted the
journalists in rather unflattering colors. The work was received by
the committee of the Theatre-Francais, but the censors stopped the
performance. Balzac was angry at this interdiction, for he too
disliked journalists, but Madame de Girardin took the censorship
philosophically. In her salon she read _L'Ecole des Journalistes_ to
her literary friends; there Balzac figured prominently, dressed for
this occasion in his blue suit with engraved gold buttons, making his
coarse Rabelaisian laughter heard throughout the evening.

Balzac's fame increased with the years, but he still regarded the
friendship of Madame de Girardin among those he most prized, and in
1842 he dedicated to her _Albert Savarus_. When she moved into the
little Greek temple in the Champs-Elysees, she was nearer Balzac, who
was living at that time in the rue Basse at Passy, so their relations
became more intimate. Yet when, after his return from St. Petersburg
where he had visited Madame Hanska in 1843, the _Presse_ published the
scandalous story about his connection with the Italian forger, he
vowed he would never see again the scorpions Gay and Girardin.

Madame de Girardin regretted Balzac's not being a member of the
Academy. In 1845, a chair being vacant, she tried to secure it for
him. Although her salon was not an "academic" one, she had several
friends who were members of the Academy and she exerted her influence
with them in his behalf; when, after all her solicitude, he failed to
gain a place among the "forty immortals," she had bitter words for
their poor judgment, Balzac at that time being at the zenith of his
reputation. Some time before this, too, she promised to write a
_feuilleton_ on the great conversationalists of the day, maintaining
that Balzac was one of the most brilliant; and she was thoughtful in
inserting in her _feuilleton_ a few gracious words about his recent
illness and recovery.

Balzac confided to Madame de Girardin his all absorbing passion for
Madame Hanska. She knew of the secret visit of the "Countess" to Paris
and of his four days' visit with her in Wiesbaden. She knew all the
noble qualities and countless charms of the adored "Countess," but
never having seen her, she felt that Madame Hanska did not fully
reciprocate the passionate love of her _moujik_. Becoming ironical,
she called Balzac a _Vetturino per amore_, and told him she had heard
that Madame Hanska was, to be sure, exceedingly flattered by his
homage and made him follow wherever she went--but only through vanity
and pride,--that she was indeed very happy in having for _patito_ a
man of genius, but that her social position was too high to permit his
aspiring to any other title.

When the _Avant-Propos_ of the _Comedie humaine_ was reprinted in the
_Presse_, October 25, 1846, it was preceded by a very flattering
introduction written by Madame de Girardin. She continued to entertain
the novelist, sending him many amusing invitations. In spite of the
"Potentate of the _Presse_," her friendship with Balzac lasted until
1847, when she had to give him up.

The ever faithful Delphine knew of Balzac's financial embarrassment
and persuaded her husband to postpone pressing him for the debts which
he had partially paid before setting out for the Ukraine. The
Revolution of February seriously affected Balzac's financial matters.
After the death of Madame O'Donnel, in 1841, Madame de Girardin's
friendship lost a part of its charm for Balzac and the rest of it
vanished in these troubles. Since the greater part of the last few
years of Balzac's life was spent in the Ukraine, she saw but little of
him, but she hoped for his return with his long sought bride to the
home he had so lovingly prepared for her in the rue Fortunee.

Whether Balzac was fickle in his nature, or whether he was trying to
convince Madame Hanska that she was the only woman for whom he cared,
one finds, throughout his letters to her, various comments on Madame
de Girardin, some favorable, some otherwise. He admired her beauty
very much, and was saddened when, at the height of her splendor, she
was stricken with smallpox. He was grateful to her for the service she
rendered him in arranging for the first presentation of his play
_Vautrin_, throughout the misfortune attending this production she
proved to be a true friend. Although he accepted her hospitality
frequently, at times being invited to meet foreigners, among them the
German Mlle. De Hahn, enjoying himself immensely, he regretted the
time he sacrificed in this manner, and when he quarreled with her
husband, he expressed his happiness in severing his relations with
them. While a charming hostess at a small dinner party, she became,
Balzac felt, a less agreeable one at a large reception, her talents
not being sufficient to conceal her _bourgeois_ origin.

Madame de Girardin was in the country near Paris when she heard the
sad news of the death of the author of the _Comedie humaine_. The
shock was so great that she fainted, and, on regaining consciousness,
wept bitterly over the premature death of her fried. A few years
before her own death, in 1855, Madame de Girardin was greatly
depressed by painful disappointments. The death of Balzac may be
numbered as one of the sad events which discouraged, in the decline of
life, the heart and the hope of this noble woman.

Madame Desbordes-Valmore was another literary woman whom Balzac met in
the salon of Madame Sophie Gay, where she and Delphine recited poetry.
Losing her mother at an early age under especially sad circumstances
and finding her family destitute, after long hesitation, she resigned
herself to the stage. Though very delicate, by dint of studious
nights, close economy and many privations, she prepared herself for
this work. At this time she contracted a _habit_ of suffering which
passed into her life. She played at the _Opera Comique_ and recited
well, but did not sing. At the age of twenty her private griefs
compelled her to give up singing, for the sound of her own voice made
her weep. So from music she turned to poetry, and her first volume of
poems appeared in 1818. She began her theatrical career in Lille,
played at the Odeon, Paris, and in Brussels, where she was married in
1817 to M. Valmore, who was playing in the same theater. Though she
went to Lyons, to Italy, and to the Antilles, she made her home in
Paris, wandering from quarter to quarter.

Of her three children, Hippolyte, Undine (whose real name was
Hyacinthe) and Ines, the two daughters passed away before her. Her
husband was honor and probity itself, and suffered only as a man can,
from compulsory inaction. He asked but for honest employment and the
privilege to work. She was so sensitive and felt so unworthy that she
did not call for her pension after it was secured for her by her
friends, Madame Recamier and M. de Latouche. A letter written by her
to Antoine de Latour (October 15, 1836) gives a general idea of her
life: "I do not know how I have slipped through so many shocks,--and
yet I live. My fragile existence slipped sorrowfully into this world
amid the pealing bells of a revolution, into whose whirlpool I was
soon to be involved. I was born at the churchyard gate, in the shadow
of a church whose saints were soon to be desecrated."

She was indeed a "tender and impassioned poetess, . . . one who united
an exquisite moral sensibility to a thrilling gift of song. . . . Her
verses were doubtless the expression of her life; in them she is
reflected in hues both warm and bright; they ring with her cries of
love and grief. . . . Hers was the most courageous, tender and
compassionate of souls."

A letter written to Madame Duchambye (December 7, 1841), shows what
part she played in Balzac's literary career:

 "You know, my other self, that even ants are of some use. And so it
  was I who suggested, not M. de Balzac's piece, but the notion of
  writing it and the distribution of the parts, and then the idea of
  Mme. Dorval, whom I love for her talent, but especially for her
  misfortunes, and because she is dear to me. I have made such a
  moan, that I have obtained the sympathy and assistance of--whom do
  you guess?--poor Thisbe, who spends her life in the service of the
  _litterrateur_. She talked and insinuated and insisted, until at
  last he came up to me and said, 'So it shall be! My mind is made
  up! Mme. Dorval shall have a superb part!' And how he laughed!
  . . . Keep this a profound secret. Never betray either me or poor
  Thisbe, particularly our influence on behalf of Mme. Dorval."

His friendship for her is seen in a letter written to her in 1840:

 "Dear Nightingale,--Two letters have arrived, too brief by two
  whole pages, but perfumed with poetry, breathing the heaven whence
  they come, so that (a thing which rarely happens with me) I
  remained in a reverie with the letters in my hand, making a poem
  all alone to myself, saying, 'She has then retained a recollection
  of the heart in which she awoke an echo, she and all her poetry of
  every kind.' We are natives of the same country, madame, the
  country of tears and poverty. We are as much neighbors and
  fellow-citizens as prose and poetry can be in France; but I draw
  near to you by the feeling with which I admire you, and which made
  me stand for an hour and ten minutes before your picture in the
  Salon. Adieu! My letter will not tell you all my thoughts; but
  find by intuition all the friendship which I have entrusted to it,
  and all the treasures which I would send you if I had them at my

Soon after Balzac met Madame Hanska, he reserved for her the original
of an epistle from Madame Desbordes-Valmore which he regarded as a
masterpiece. Balzac's friendship for the poetess, which began so early
in his literary life, was a permanent one. Just before leaving for his
prolonged visit in Russia, he wrote her a most complimentary letter in
which he expressed his hopes of being of service to M. Valmore at the
Comedie Francaise, and bade her good-bye, wishing her and her family
much happiness.

Madame Desbordes-Valmore was one of the three women whom Balzac used
as a model in portraying some of the traits of his noted character,
Cousin Bette. He made Douai, her native place, the setting of _La
Recherche de l'Absolu_, and dedicated to her in 1845 one of his early
stories, _Jesus-Christ en Flandres_:

 "To Marceline Desbordes-Valmore,

 "To you, daughter of Flanders, who are one of its modern glories, I
  dedicate this naive tradition of old Flanders.

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

Though Balzac's first play, and first attempt in literature,
_Cromwell_, was a complete failure, this did not deter him from
longing to become a successful playwright. After having established
himself as a novelist, he turned again to this field of literature.
Having written several plays, he was acquainted, naturally, with the
leading actresses of his day; among these was Madame Dorval, whom he
liked. He purposed giving her the main role in _Les Ressources de
Quinola_, but when he assembled the artists to hear his play, he had
not finished it, and improvised the fifth act so badly that Madame
Dorval left the room, refusing to accept her part.

Again, he wished her to take the leading role in _La Maratre_ (as the
play was called after she had objected to the name, _Gertrude,
Tragedie bourgeoise_). To their disappointment, however, the theater
director, Hostein, gave the heroine's part to Madame Lacressoniere;
the tragedy was produced in 1848. The following year, while in Russia,
Balzac sketched another play in which Madame Dorval was to have the
leading role, but she died a few weeks later.

Mademoiselle Georges was asked to take the role of Brancadori in _Les
Ressources de Quinola_, presented for the first time on March 19,
1842, at the Odeon.

Balzac was acquainted with Mademoiselle Mars also, and was careful to
preserve her autograph in order to send it to his "Polar Star," when
the actress wrote to him about her role in _La grande Mademoiselle_.

                        LA DUCHESSE D'ABRANTES

 "She has ended like the Empire."

Another of Balzac's literary friends was Madame Laure Junot, the
Duchesse d'Abrantes. She was an intimate friend of Madame de Girardin
and it was in the salon of the latter's mother, Madame Sophie Gay,
that Balzac met her.

The Duchesse d'Abrantes, widow of Marechal Junot, had enjoyed under
the Empire all the splendors of official life. Her salon had been one
of the most attractive of her epoch. Being in reduced circumstances
after the downfall of the Empire and having four children (Josephine,
Constance, Napoleon and Alfred) to support, her life was a constant
struggle to obtain a fortune and a position for her children. But as
she had no financial ability, and had acquired very extravagant
habits, the money she was constantly seeking no sooner entered her
hands than it vanished. Wishing to renounce none of her former
luxuries, she insisted upon keeping her salon as in former days,
trying to conceal her poverty by her gaiety; but it was a sorrowful
case of _la misere doree_.

Feeling that luxury was as indispensable to her as bread, and finding
her financial embarrassment on the increase, she decided to support
herself by means of her pen. She might well have recalled the wise
words of Madame de Tencin when she warned Marmontel to beware of
depending on the pen, since nothing is more casual. The man who makes
shoes is sure of his pay; the man who writes a book or a play is never
sure of anything.

Though the Generale Junot belonged to a society far different from
Balzac's they had many things in common which brought him frequently
to her salon. Balzac realized the necessity of frequenting the salon,
saying that the first requisite of a novelist is to be well-bred; he
must move in society as much as possible and converse with the
aristocratic _monde_. The kitchen, the green-room, can be imagined,
but not the salon; it is necessary to go there in order to know how to
speak and act there.

Though Balzac visited various salons, he presented a different
appearance in the drawing-room of Madame d'Abrantes. The glories of
the Empire overexcited him to the point of giving to his relations
with the Duchesse a vivacity akin to passion. The first evening, he
exclaimed: "This woman has seen Napoleon as a child, she has seen him
occupied with the ordinary things of life, then she has seen him
develop, rise and cover the world with his name! She is for me a saint
come to sit beside me, after having lived in heaven with God!" This
love of Balzac for Napoleon underwent more than one variation, but at
this time he had erected in his home in the rue de Cassini a little
altar surmounted by a statue of Napoleon, with this inscription: "What
he began with the sword, I shall achieve with the pen."

When Balzac first met the Duchesse d'Abrantes, she was about forty
years of age. It is probably she whom he describes thus, under the
name of Madame d'Aiglemont, in _La Femme de trente Ans_:

 "Madame d'Aiglemont's dress harmonized with the thought that
  dominated her person. Her hair was gathered up into a tall coronet
  of broad plaits, without ornament of any kind, for she seemed to
  have bidden farewell forever to elaborate toilets. Nor were any of
  the small arts of coquetry which spoil so many women to be
  detected in her. Only her bodice, modest though it was, did not
  altogether conceal the dainty grace of her figure. Then, too, the
  luxury of her long gown consisted in an extremely distinguished
  cut; and if it is permissible to look for expression in the
  arrangement of materials, surely the numerous straight folds of
  her dress invested her with a great dignity. Moreover, there may
  have been some lingering trace of the indelible feminine foible in
  the minute care bestowed upon her hand and foot; yet, if she
  allowed them to be seen with some pleasure, it would have tasked
  the utmost malice of a rival to discover any affectation in her
  gestures, so natural did they seem, so much a part of old childish
  habit, that her careless grace absolves this vestige of vanity.
  All these little characteristics, the nameless trifles which
  combine to make up the sum of a woman's beauty or ugliness, her
  charm or lack of charm, can not be indicated, especially when the
  soul is the bond of all the details and imprints on them a
  delightful unity. Her manner was in perfect accord with her figure
  and her dress. Only in certain women at a certain age is it given
  to put language into their attitude. Is it sorrow, is it happiness
  that gives to the woman of thirty, to the happy or unhappy woman,
  the secret of this eloquence of carriage? This will always be an
  enigma which each interprets by the aid of his hopes, desires, or
  theories. The way in which she leaned both elbows on the arm of
  her chair, the toying of her inter-clasped fingers, the curve of
  her throat, the freedom of her languid but lithesome body which
  reclined in graceful exhaustion, the unconstraint of her limbs,
  the carelessness of her pose, the utter lassitude of her
  movements, all revealed a woman without interest in life. . . ."

Balzac's parents having moved from Villeparisis to Versailles, he had
an excellent opportunity of seeing the Duchess while visiting them, as
she was living at that time in the Grand-Rue de Montreuil No. 65, in a
pavilion which she called her _ermitage_. In _La Femme de trente Ans_,
Balzac has described her retreat as a country house between the church
and the barrier of Montreuil, on the road which leads to the Avenue de
Saint-Cloud. This house, built originally for the short-lived loves of
some great lord, was situated so that the owner could enjoy all the
pleasures of solitude with the city almost at his gates.

Soon after their meeting, a sympathetic friendship was formed between
the two writers; they had the same literary aspirations, the same love
for work, the same love of luxury and extravagant tastes, the same
struggles with poverty and the same trials and disappointments.

Since Balzac was attracted to beautiful names as well as to beautiful
women, that of the Duchesse d'Abrantes appealed to him, independently
of the wealth of history it recalled. He was happy to make the
acquaintance of one who could give him precise information of the
details of the _Directoire_ and of the Empire, an instruction begun by
the _commere Gay_. Thus the Duchesse d'Abrantes was to exercise over
him, though in a less degree, the same influence for the comprehension
of the Imperial world that Madame de Berry did for the Royalist world,
just as the Duchesse de Castries later was to initiate him into the
society of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Madame d'Abrantes, pleased as she was to meet literary people,
welcomed most cordially the young author who came to her seeking
stories of the Corsican. Owing to financial difficulties she was
leading a rather retired and melancholy life, and the brilliant and
colorful language of Balzac, fifteen years her junior, aroused her
heart from its torpor, and her friendship for him took a peculiar
tinge of sentiment which she allowed to increase. It had been many
years since she had been thus moved, and this new feeling, which came
to her as she saw the twilight of her days approaching, was for her a
love that meant youth and life itself.

Hence her words pierced the very soul of Balzac and kindled an
enthusiasm which made her appear to him greater than she really was;
she literally dazzled and subjugated him. Her gaiety and animation in
relating incidents of the Imperial court, and her autumnal sunshine,
its rays still glowing with warmth as well as brightness, compelled
Balzac to perceive for the second time in his life the insatiability
of the woman who has passed her first youth--the woman of thirty, or
the tender woman of forty. The fact is, however, not that Balzac
created _la femme sensible de guarante ans_, as is stated by Philarete
Chasles, so much as that two women of forty, Madame de Berny and
Madame d'Abrantes, created him.

This affection savored of vanity in both; she was proud that at her
years she could inspire love in a man so much younger than herself,
while Balzac, whose affection was more of the head than of the heart,
was flattered--it must be confessed--in having made the conquest of a
duchess. Concealing her wrinkles and troubles under an adorable smile,
no woman was better adapted than she to understand "the man who bathed
in a marble tub, had no chairs on which to sit or to seat his friends,
and who built at Meudon a very beautiful house without a flight of

[*] This house, _Les Jardies_, was at Ville-d'Avray and not at Meudon.

But the love on Balzac's side must have been rather fleeting, for many
years later, on March 17, 1850, he wrote to his old friend, Madame
Carraud, announcing his marriage with Madame Hanska: "Three days ago I
married the only woman I have ever loved." Evidently he had forgotten,
among others, the poor Duchess, who had passed away twelve years

But how could Balzac remain long her ardent lover, when Madame de
Berny, of whom Madame d'Abrantes was jealous, felt that he was leaving
her for a duchess? And how could he remain more than a friend to
Madame Junot, when the beautiful Duchesse de Castries was for a short
time complete mistress of his heart,[*] and was in her turn to be
replaced by Madame Hanska? The Duchess could probably understand his
inconstancy, for she not only knew of his attachment to Madame de
Castries but he wrote her on his return from his first visit to Madame
Hanska at Neufchatel, describing the journey and saying that the Val
de Travers seemed made for two lovers.

[*] It is an interesting coincidence that the Duchess whose star was
    waning had been in love with the fascinating Austrian ambassador,
    Comte de Metternich, and the Duchess who was to take her place,
    was just recovering from an amorous disappointment in connection
    with his son when she met Balzac.

Knowing Balzac's complicated life, one can understand how, having gone
to Corsica in quest of his Eldorado just before the poor Duchess
breathed her last, he could write to Madame Hanska on his return to
Paris: "The newspapers have told you of the deplorable end of the poor
Duchesse d'Abrantes. She has ended like the Empire. Some day I will
explain her to you,--some good evening at Wierzschownia."

Balzac wished to keep his visits to Madame d'Abrantes a secret from
his sister, Madame Surville, and some obscurity and a "mysterious
pavilion" is connected with their manner of communication. For a while
she visited him frequently in his den. He enjoyed her society, and
though oppressed by work, was quite ready to fix upon an evening when
they could be alone.

It was not without pain that she saw his affection for her becoming
less ardent while hers remained fervent. She wrote him tender letters
inviting him to dine with her, or to meet some of her friends,
assuring him that in her _ermitage_ he might feel perfectly at home,
and that she regarded him as one of the most excellent friends Heaven
had preserved for her.

 "Heaven grant that you are telling me the truth, and that indeed I
  may always be for you a good and sincere friend. . . . My dear
  Honore, every one tells me that you no longer care for me. . . . I
  say that they lie. . . . You are not only my friend, but my
  sincere and good friend. I have kept for you a profound affection,
  and this affection is of a nature that does not change. . . . Here
  is _Catherine_, here is my first work. I am sending it to you, and
  it is the heart of a friend that offers it to you. May it be the
  heart of a friend that receives it! . . . My soul is oppressed on
  account of this, but it is false, I hope."

Balzac continued to visit her occasionally, and there exists a curious
specimen of his handwriting written (October, 1835) in the album of
her daughter, Madame Aubert. He sympathized with the unfortunate
Duchess who, raised to so high a rank, had fallen so low, and tried to
cheer her in his letters:

 "You say you are ill and suffering, and without any hope that finer
  weather will do you any good. Remember that for the soul there
  arises every day a fresh springtime and a beautiful fresh morning.
  Your past life has no words to express it in any language, but it
  is scarcely a recollection, and you cannot judge what your future
  life will be by that which is past. How many have begun to lead a
  fresh, lovely, and peaceful life at a much more advanced age than
  yours! We exist only in our souls. You cannot be sure that your
  soul has come to its highest development, nor whether you receive
  the breath of life through all your pores, nor whether as yet you
  see with all your eyes."

Being quite a linguist, Madame d'Abrantes began her literary career by
translations from the Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, and by writing
novels, in the construction of which, Balzac advised her. As she had
no business ability, he was of great assistance to her also in
arranging for the publication of her work:

 "In the name of yourself, I entreat you, do not enter into any
  engagement with anybody whatsoever; do not make any promise, and
  say that you have entrusted your business to me on account of my
  knowledge of business matters of this kind, and of my unalterable
  attachment to yourself personally. I believe I have found what I
  may call _living money_, seventy thousand healthy francs, and some
  people, who will jump out of themselves, to dispose in a short
  time of 'three thousand d'Abrantes,' as they say in their slang.
  Besides, I see daylight for a third and larger edition. If
  Mamifere (Mame) does not behave well, say to him, 'My dear sir, M.
  de Balzac has my business in his charge still as he had on the day
  he presented you to me; you must feel he has the priority over the
  preference you ask for.' This done, wait for me. I shall make you
  laugh when I tell you what I have concocted. If Everat appears
  again, tell him that I have been your attorney for a long time
  past in these affairs, when they are worth the trouble; one or two
  volumes are nothing. But twelve or thirteen thsousand francs, oh!
  oh! ah! ah! things must not be endangered. Only manoeuver
  cleverly, and, with that _finesse_ which distinguishes Madame the
  Ambassadress, endeavor to find out from Mame how many volumes he
  still has on hand, and see if he will be able to oppose the new
  edition by slackness of sale or excessive price.

                                        "Your entirely devoted."
                                                 (H. DE BALZAC.)

Such assistance was naturally much appreciated by a woman so utterly
ignorant of business matters. But if Balzac aided the Duchess, he
caused her publishers much annoyance, and more than once he received a
sharp letter rebuking him for interfering with the affairs of Madame

It was doubtless due to the suggestion of Balzac that Madame
d'Abrantes wrote her _Memoires_. He was so thrilled by her vivid
accounts of recent history, that he was seized with the idea that she
had it in her power to do for a brilliant epoch what Madame Roland
attempted to do for one of grief and glory. He felt that she had
witnessed such an extraordinary multiplicity of scenes, had known a
remarkable number of heroic figures and great characters, and that
nature had endowed her with unusual gifts.

A few years before her death, _La Femme abandonnee_ was dedicated:

 "To her Grace the Duchesse d'Abrantes,

 "from her devoted servant,

                     "HONORE DE BALZAC."

If such was the role played by Balzac in the life of Madame
d'Abrantes, how is she reflected in the _Comedie humaine_?

It is a well known fact that Balzac not only borrowed names from
living people, but that he portrayed the features, incidents and
peculiarities of those with whom he was closely associated. In the
_Avant-propos de la Comedie humaine_, he writes: "In composing types
by putting together traits of homogeneous natures, I might perhaps
attain to the writing of that history forgotten by so many
historians,--the history of manners."

In fact, he too might have said: "I take my property wherever I find
it;" accordingly one would naturally look for characteristics of
Madame d'Abrantes in his earlier works.

According to M. Joseph Turquain, Mademoiselle des Touches, in
_Beatrix_, generally understood to be George Sand, has also some of
the characteristics of Madame d'Abrantes. Balzac describes
Mademoiselle des Touches as being past forty and _un peu homme_, which
reminds one that the Countess Dash describes Madame d'Abrantes as
being rather masculine, with an _organe de rogome_, and a virago when
past forty. Calyste became enamored of Beatrix after having loved
Mademoiselle des Touches, while Balzac became infatuated with Madame
de Castries after having been in love with Madame d'Abrantes, in each
case, the blonde after the brunette.

Mademoiselle Josephine, the elder and beloved daughter of Madame
d'Abrantes, entered the Convent of the Sisters of Charity of
Saint-Vincent de Paul, contrary to the desires of her mother. In writing
to the Duchess (1831), Balzac asks that Sister Josephine may not forget
him in her prayers, for he is remembering her in his books. Balzac may
have had her in mind a few years later when he said of Mademoiselle de
Mortsauf in _Le Lys dans la Vallee_: "The girl's clear sight had,
though only of late, seen to the bottom of her mother's heart. . . ."
for Mademoiselle Josephine entered the convent for various reasons,
one being in order to relieve the financial strain and make marriage
possible for her younger sister, another perhaps being to atone for
the secret she probably suspected in the heart of her mother, and
which she felt was not complimentary to the memory of her father. And
also, in _La Recherche de l'Absolu_: "There comes a moment, in the
inner life of families, when the children become, either voluntarily
or involuntarily, the judges of their parents."

In writing the introduction to the _Physiologie du Mariage_, Balzac
states that here he is merely the humble secretary of two women. He is
doubtless referring to Madame d'Abrantes as one of the two when he

 "Some days later the author found himself in the company of two
  ladies. The first had been one of the most humane and most
  intellectual women of the court of Napoleon. Having attained a
  high social position, the Restoration surprised her and caused her
  downfall; she had become a hermit. The other, young, beautiful,
  was playing at that time, in Paris, the role of a fashionable
  woman. They were friends, for the one being forty years of age,
  and the other twenty-two, their aspirations rarely caused their
  vanity to appear on the same scene. 'Have you noticed, my dear,
  that in general women love only fools?'--'_What are you saying,

[*] M. Turquain states that Madame Hamelin is one of these women and
    that the Duchesse d'Abrantes in incontestably the other. For a
    different opinion, see the chapter on Madame Gay. The italics are
    the present writer's.

In _La Femme abandonnee_, Madame de Beauseant resembles the Duchess as
portrayed in this description:

 "All the courage of her house seemed to gleam from the great lady's
  brilliant eyes, such courage as women use to repel audacity or
  scorn, for they were full of tenderness and gentleness. The
  outline of that little head, . . . the delicate, fine features,
  the subtle curve of the lips, the mobile face itself, wore an
  expression of delicate discretion, a faint semblance of irony
  suggestive of craft and insolence. It would have been difficult to
  refuse forgiveness to those two feminine failings in her in
  thinking of her misfortunes, of the passion that had almost cost
  her her life. Was it not an imposing spectacle (still further
  magnified by reflection) to see in that vast, silent salon this
  woman, separated from the entire world, who for three years had
  lived in the depths of a little valley, far from the city, alone
  with her memories of a brilliant, happy, ardent youth, once so
  filled with fetes and constant homage, now given over to the
  horrors of nothingness? The smile of this woman proclaimed a high
  sense of her own value."

In the postscript to the _Physiologie du Mariage_, Balzac mentions a
gesture of one of these "intellectual" women, who interrupts herself
to touch one of her nostrils with the forefinger of her right hand in
a coquettish manner. In _La Femme abandonnee_, Madame de Beauseant has
the same gesture. Another gesture of Madame de Beauseant in _La Femme
abandonnee_ indicates that Balzac had in mind the Duchesse d'Abrantes:
". . . Then, with her other hand, she made a gesture as if to pull the
bell-rope. The charming gesture, the gracious threat, no doubt, called
up some sad thought, some memory of her happy life, of the time when
she could be wholly charming and graceful, when the gladness of her
heart justified every caprice, and gave one more charm to her
slightest movement. The lines of her forehead gathered between her
brows, and the expression of her face grew dark in the soft
candle-light. . . ." The Duchesse d'Abrantes had on two occasions rung
to dismiss her lovers, M. de Montrond and General Sebastiani. Balzac
had doubtless heard her relate these incidents, and they are contained
in the _Journal intime_, which she gave him.[*]

[*] Madame d'Abrantes presented several objects of a literary nature
    to Balzac, among others, a book of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a few
    leaves of which he presented to Madame Hanska for her collection
    of autographs.

In _La Femme abandonnee_, Balzac describes Madame de Beauseant as
having taken refuge in Normandy, "after a notoriety which women for
the most part envy and condemn, especially when youth and beauty in
some way excuse the transgression." Can it be that the novelist thus
condones the fault of this noted character because he wishes to pardon
the _liaison_ of Madame d'Abrantes with the Comte de Metternich?

Is it then because so many traces of Madame d'Abrantes are found in
_La Femme abandonnee_, and allusions are made to minute episodes known
to them alone, that he dedicated it to her?

Was Balzac thinking of the Duchesse d'Abrantes when, in _Un Grand
Homme de Province a Paris_, speaking of Lucien Chardon, who had just
arrived in Paris at the beginning of the Restoration, he writes: "He
met several of those women who will be spoken of in the history of the
nineteenth century, whose wit, beauty and loves will be none the less
celebrated than those of queens in times past."

In depicting Maxime de Trailles, the novelist perhaps had in mind M.
de Montrond, about whom the Duchess had told him. Again, many
characteristics of her son, Napoleon d'Abrantes, are seen in La
Palferine, one of the characters of the _Comedie humaine_.

If Madame de Berny is Madame de Mortsauf in _Le Lys dans la Vallee_,
Madame d'Abrantes has some traits of Lady Dudley, of whom Madame de
Mortsauf was jealous. The Duchess gave him encouragement and
confidence, and Balzac might have been thinking of her when he made
the beautiful Lady Dudley say: "I alone have divined all that you were
worth." After Balzac's affection for Madame de Berny was rekindled,
Madame d'Abrantes, who was jealous of her, had a falling out with him.

It was probably Madame Junot who related to Balzac the story of the
necklace of Madame Regnault de Saint-Jean d'Angely, to which allusion
is made in his _Physiologie du Mariage_, also an anecdote which is
told in the same book abut General Rapp, who had been an intimate
friend of General Junot. At this time Balzac knew few women of the
Empire; he did not frequent the home of the Countess Merlin until
later. While Madame d'Abrantes was not a duchess by birth, Madame Gay
was not a duchess at all, and Madame Hamelin still further removed
from nobility.

It is doubtless to Madame d'Abrantes that he owes the subject of _El
Verdugo_, which he places in the period of the war with Spain; to her
also was due the information about the capture of Senator Clement de
Ris, from which he writes _Une tenebreuse Affaire_.

M. Rene Martineau, in proving that Balzac got his ideas for _Une
tenebreuse Affaire_ from Madame d'Abrantes, states that this is all
the more remarkable, since the personage of the senator is the only
one which Balzac has kept just as he was, without changing his
physiognomy in the novel. The senator was still living at the time
Madame d'Abrantes wrote her account of the affair, his death not
having occurred until 1827. In her _Memoires_, Madame d'Abrantes
refers frequently to the kindness of the great Emperor, and it is
doubtless to please her that Balzac, in the _denouement_ of _Une
tenebreuse Affaire_, has Napoleon pardon two out of the three
condemned persons. Although the novelist may have heard of this affair
during his sojourns in Touraine, it is evident that the origin of the
lawsuit and the causes of the conduct of Fouche were revealed to him
by Madame Junot.

Who better than Madame d'Abrantes could have given Balzac the
background for the scene of Corsican hatred so vividly portrayed in
_La Vendetta_? Balzac's preference for General Junot is noticeable
when he wishes to mention some hero of the army of the Republic or of
the Empire; the Duc and Duchesse d'Abrantes are included among the
noted lodgers in _Autre Etude de Femme_. It is doubtless to please the
Duchess that Balzac mentions also the Comte de Narbonne (_Le Medecin
de Campagne_).

Impregnating his mind with the details of the Napoleonic reign, so
vividly portrayed in _Le Colonel Chabert_, _Le Medecin de Campagne_,
_La Femme de trente Ans_ and others, she was probably the direct
author of several observations regarding Napoleon that impress one as
being strikingly true. Balzac read to her his stories of the Empire,
and though she rarely wept, she melted into tears at the disaster of
the Beresina, in the life of Napoleon related by a soldier in a barn.

The Generale Junot had a great influence over Balzac; she enlightened
him also about women, painting them not as they should be, but as they

[*] M. Joseph Turquain states that when the correspondence of Madame
    d'Abrantes and Balzac, to which he has had access, is published,
    one will be able to determine exactly the role she has played in
    the formation of the talent of the writer, and in the development
    of his character. His admirable work has been very helpful in the
    preparation of this study of Madame d'Abrantes.

During the last years of the life of Madame d'Abrantes, a somber tint
spread over her gatherings, which gradually became less numerous. Her
financial condition excited little sympathy, and her friends became
estranged from her as the result of her poverty. Under her gaiety and
in spite of her courage, this distress became more apparent with time.
Her health became impaired; yet she continued to write when unable to
sit up, so great was her need for money. From her high rank she had
fallen to the depth of misery! When evicted from her poverty-stricken
home by the bailiff, her maid at first conveyed her to a hospital in
the rue de Chaillot, but there payment was demanded in advance. That
being impossible, the poor Duchess, ill and abandoned by all her
friends, was again cast into the street. Finally, a more charitable
hospital in the rue des Batailles took her in. Thus, by ironical fate,
the widow of the great _Batailleur de Junot_, who had done little else
during the past fifteen years than battle for life, was destined to
end her days in the rue des Batailles.


 "The Princess (Belgiojoso) is a woman much apart from other women,
  not very attractive, twenty-nine years old, pale, black hair,
  Italian-white complexion, thin, and playing the vampire. She has
  the good fortune to displease me, though she is clever; but she
  poses too much. I saw her first five years ago at Gerard's; she
  came from Switzerland, where she had taken refuge."

The Princesse Belgiojoso had her early education entrusted to men of
broad learning whose political views were opposed to Austria. She was
reared in Milan in the home of her young step-father, who had been
connected with the _Conciliatore_. His home was the rendezvous of the
artistic and literary celebrities of the day; but beneath the surface
lay conspiracy. At the age of sixteen she was married to her fellow
townsman, the rich, handsome, pleasure-loving, musical Prince
Belgiojoso, but the union was an unhappy one. Extremely patriotic, she
plunged into conspiracy.

In 1831, she went to Paris, opened a salon and mingled in politics,
meeting the great men of the age, many of whom fell in love with her.
Her salon was filled with people famous for wit, learning and beauty,
equaling that of Madame Recamier; Balzac was among the number. If
Madame de Girardin was the Tenth Muse, the Princesse Belgiojoso was
the Romantic Muse. She was almost elected president of _Les Academies
de Femmes en France_ under the faction led by George Sand, the rival
party being led by Madame de Girardin.

Again becoming involved in Italian politics, and exiled from her home
and adopted country, she went to the Orient with her daughter Maria,
partly supporting herself with her pen. After her departure, the
finding of the corpse of Stelzi in her cupboard caused her to be
compared to the Spanish Juana Loca, but she was only eccentric. While
in the Orient she was stabbed and almost lost her life. In 1853 she
returned to France, then to Milan where she maintained a salon, but
she deteriorated physically and mentally.

For almost half a century her name was familiar not alone in Italian
political and patriotic circles, but throughout intellectual Europe.
The personality of this strange woman was veiled in a haze of mystery,
and a halo of martyrdom hung over her head. Notwithstanding her
eccentricities and exaggerations, she wielded an intellectual
fascination in her time, and her exalted social position, her beauty,
and her independence of character gave to her a place of conspicuous

As to whether Balzac always sustained an indifferent attitude towards
the Princesse Belgiojoso there is some question, but he always
expressed a feeling of nonchalance in writing about her to Madame
Hanska. He regarded her as a courtesan, a beautiful _Imperia_, but of
the extreme blue-stocking type. She was superficial in her criticism,
and received numbers of _criticons_ who could not write. She wrote him
at the request of the editor asking him to contribute a story for the
_Democratie Pacifique_.

Balzac visited her frequently, calling her the Princesse
_Bellejoyeuse_, and she rendered him many services, but he probably
guarded against too great an intimacy, having witnessed the fate of
Alfred de Musset. He was, however, greatly impressed by her beauty,
and in the much discussed letter to his sister Laure he speaks of
Madame Hanska as a masterpiece of beauty who could be compared only to
the Princesse _Bellejoyeuse_, only infinitely more beautiful. Some
years later, however, this beauty had changed for him into an ugliness
that was even repulsive.

It amused the novelist very much to have people think that he had
dedicated to the Princesse Belgiojoso _Modeste Mignon_, a work written
in part by Madame Hanska, and dedicated to her. In the first edition
this book was dedicated to a foreign lady, but seeing the false
impression made he dedicated it, in its second edition to a Polish
lady. He did, however, dedicate _Gaudissart II_ to:

  Madame la Princesse de Belgiojoso, nee Trivulce.

Balzac found much rest and recuperation in travel, and in going to
Turin, in 1836, instead of traveling alone, he was accompanied by a
most charming lady, Madame Caroline Marbouty. She had literary
pretensions and some talent, writing under the pseudonym of _Claire
Brune_. Her work consisted of a small volume of poetry and several
novels. She was much pleased at being taken frequently for George
Sand, whom she resembled very much; and like her, she dressed as a
man. Balzac took much pleasure in intriguing every one regarding his
charming young page, whom he introduced in aristocratic Italian
society; but to no one did he disclose the real name or sex of his
traveling companion.

On his return from Turin he wrote to Comte Frederic Sclopis de
Salerano explaining that his traveling companion was by no means the
person whom he supposed. Knowing his chivalry, Balzac confided to the
Count that it was a charming, clever, virtuous woman, who never having
had the opportunity of breathing the Italian air and being able to
escape the ennui of housekeeping for a few weeks, had relied upon his
honor. She knew whom the novelist loved, and found in that the
greatest of guarantees. For the first and only time in her life she
amused herself by playing a masculine role, and on her return home had
resumed her feminine duties.

During this journey Madame Marbouty was known as _Marcel_, this being
the name of the devoted servant of Raoul de Nangis in Meyerbeer's
masterpiece, _Les Huguenots_, which had been given for the first time
on February 29, 1836. The two travelers had a delightful but very
fatiguing journey, for there were so many things to see that they even
took time from their sleep to enjoy the beauties of Italy. In writing
to Madame Hanska of this trip, he spoke of having for companion a
friend of Madame Carraud and Jules Sandeau.

Madame Marbouty was also a friend of Madame Carraud's sister, Madame
Nivet, so that when Balzac visited Limoges he probably called on his
former traveling companion.

When the second volume of the _Comedie humaine_ was published (1842),
Balzac remembered this episode in his life and dedicated _La
Grenadiere_ to his traveling companion:

 "To Caroline, to the poetry of the journey, from the grateful

In explaining this dedication to Madame Hanska, Balzac states that the
_poesie du voyage_ was merely the poetry of it and nothing more, and
that when she comes to Paris he will take pleasure in showing to her
this intimate friend of Madame Carraud, this charming, intellectual
woman whom he has not seen since.

Balzac went to Madame Marbouty's home to read to her the first acts of
_L'Ecole des Menages_, which she liked; a few days later, he returned,
depressed because a great lady had told him it was _ennuyeux_, so she
tried to cheer him. _Souvenirs inedits_, dated February, 1839, left by
her, and a letter from her to Balzac dated March 12, 1840, in which
she asks him to give her a ticket to the first performance of his
play,[*] show that they were on excellent terms at this time. But
later a coolness arose, and in April, 1842, Madame Marbouty wrote _Une
fausse Position_. The personages in this novel are portraits, and
Balzac appears under the name of Ulric. This explains why the
dedication of _La Grenadiere_ was changed. Some writers seem to think
that Madame Marbouty suggested to Balzac _La Muse du Departement_, a
Berrichon bluestocking.

[*] The play referred to is doubtless _Vautrin_, played for the first
    time March 14, 1840.

Among the women in the _Comedie humaine_ who have been identified with
women the novelist knew in the course of his life, Beatrix (Beatrix),
depicting the life of the Comtesse d'Agoult, is one of the most noted.
Balzac says of this famous character: "Yes, Beatrix is even too much
Madame d'Agoult. George Sand is at the height of felicity; she takes a
little vengeance on her friend. Except for a few variations, _the
story is true_."

Although Balzac wrote _Beatrix_ with the information about the heroine
which he had received from George Sand, he was acquainted with Madame
d'Agoult. Descended from the Bethmanns of Hamburg or Frankfort, she
was a native of Touraine, and played the role of a "great lady" at
Paris. She became a journalist, formed a _liaison_ with Emile de
Girardin, and wrote extensively for the _Presse_ under the name of
Daniel Stern. She had some of the characteristics of the Princesse
Belgiojoso; she abandoned her children. Balzac never liked her, and
described her as a dreadful creature of whom Liszt was glad to be rid.
She made advances to the novelist, and invited him to her home; he
dined there once with Ingres and once with Victor Hugo, but he did not
enjoy her hospitality. Notwithstanding the aversion which Balzac had
for her, he sent her autograph to Madame Hanska, and met her at
various places.

Among women Balzac's most noted literary friend was George Sand, whom
he called "my brother George." In 1831 Madame Dudevant, having
attained some literary fame by the publication of _Indiana_, desired
to meet the author of _La Peau de Chagrin_, who was living in the rue
Cassini, and asked a mutual friend to introduce her.[*] After she had
expressed her admiration for the talent of the young author, he in
turn complimented her on her recent work, and as was his custom,
changed the conversation to talk of himself and his plans. She found
this interview helpful and he promised to counsel her. After this
introduction Balzac visited her frequently. He would go puffing up the
stairs of the many-storied house on the quai Saint-Michel where she
lived. The avowed purpose of these visits was to advise her about her
work, but thinking of some story he was writing, he would soon begin
to talk of it.

[*] Different statements have been made as to who introduced George
    Sand to Balzac. In her _Histoire de ma Vie_, George Sand merely
    says it was a friend (a man). Gabriel Ferry, _Balzac et ses
    Amies_, makes the same statement. Seche et Bertaut, _Balzac_,
    state that it was La Touche who presented her to him, but Miss K.
    P. Wormeley, _A Memoir of Balzac_, and Mme. Wladimir Karenine,
    _George Sand_, state that it was Jules Sandeau who presented her
    to him. Confirming this last statement, the Princess Radziwill
    states that it was Jules Sandeau, and that her aunt, Madame Honore
    de Balzac, has so told her.

They seem to have had many enjoyable hours with each other. She
relates that one evening when she and some friends had been dining
with Balzac, after a rather peculiar dinner he put on with childish
glee, a beautiful brand-new _robe de chambre_ to show it to them, and
purposed to accompany them in this costume to the Luxembourg, with a
candlestick in his hand. It was late, the place was deserted, and when
George Sand suggested that in returning home he might be assassinated,
he replied: "Not at all! If I meet thieves they will think me insane,
and will be afraid of me, or they will take me for a prince, and will
respect me." It was a beautiful calm night, and he accompanied them
thus, carrying his lighted candle in an exquisite carved candlestick,
talking of his four Arabian horses, which he never had had, but which
he firmly believed he was going to have. He would have conducted them
to the other end of Paris, if they had permitted him.

Once George Sand and Balzac had a discussion about the _Contes
droletiques_ during which she said he was shocking, and he retorted
that she was a prude, and departed, calling to her on the stairway:
"_Vous n'etes qu'une bete!_" But they were only better friends after

Early in their literary career Balzac held this opinion of her: "She
has none of the littleness of soul nor any of the base jealousies
which obscure the brightness of so much contemporary talent. Dumas
resembles her in this respect. George Sand is a very noble friend, and
I would consult her with full confidence in my moments of doubt on the
logical course to pursue in such or such a situation; but I think she
lacks the instinct of criticism: she allows herself to be too easily
persuaded; she does not understand the art of refuting the arguments
of her adversary nor of justifying herself." He summarized their
differences by telling her that she sought man as he ought to be, but
that he took him as he is.

If Madame Hanska was not jealous of George Sand, she was at least
interested to know the relations existing between her and Balzac, for
we find him explaining: "Do not fear, madame, that Zulma Dudevant will
ever see me attached to her chariot. . . . I only speak of this
because more celebrity is fastened on that woman than she deserves;
which is preparing for her a bitter autumn. . . . _Mon Dieu!_ how is
it that with such a splendid forehead you can think little things! I
do not understand why, knowing my aversion for George Sand, you make
me out her friend." Since Madame Hanska was making a collection of
autographs of famous people, Balzac promised to send her George
Sand's, and he wished also to secure one of Aurore Dudevant, so that
she might have her under both forms.

It is interesting to note that at various times Balzac compared Madame
Hanska to George Sand. While he thought his "polar star" far more
beautiful, she reminded him of George Sand by her coiffure, attitude
and intellect, for she had the same feminine graces, together with the
same force of mind.

On his way to Sardinia, Balzac stopped to spend a few days with George
Sand at her country home at Nohant. He found his "comrade George" in
her dressing-gown, smoking a cigar after dinner in the chimney-corner
of an immense solitary chamber. In spite of her dreadful troubles, she
did not have a white hair; her swarthy skin had not deteriorated and
her beautiful eyes were still dazzling. She had been at Nohant about a
year, very sad, and working tremendously. He found her leading about
the same life as he; she retired at six in the morning and arose at
noon, while he retired at six in the evening and arose at midnight;
but he conformed to her habits while spending these three days at her
chateau, talking with her from five in the evening till five the next
morning; after this, they understood each other better than they had
done previously. He had censured her for deserting Jules Sandeau, but
afterwards had the deepest compassion for her, as he too had found him
to be a most ungrateful friend.

Balzac felt that Madame Dudevant was not lovable, and would always be
difficult to love; she was a _garcon_, an artist, she was grand,
generous, devoted, chaste; she had the traits of a man,--she was not a
woman. He delighted in discussing social questions with a comrade to
whom he did not need to show the _galanterie d'epiderme_ necessary in
conversation with ordinary women. He thought that she had great
virtues which society misconstrued, and that after hours of discussion
he had gained a great deal in making her recognize the necessity of
marriage. In discussing with him the great questions of marriage and
liberty, she said with great pride that they were preparing by their
writings a revolution in manners and morals, and that she was none the
less struck by the objections to the one than by those to the other.

She knew just what he thought about her; she had neither force of
conception, nor the art of pathos, but--without knowing the French
language--she had _style_. Like him, she took her glory in raillery,
and had a profound contempt for the public, which she called
_Jumento_. Defending her past life, he says: "All the follies that she
has committed are titles to fame in the eyes of great and noble souls.
She was duped by Madame Dorval, Bocage, Lammennais, etc., etc. Through
the same sentiment she is now the dupe of Liszt and Madame d'Agoult;
she has just realized it for this couple as for la Dorval, for she has
one of those minds that are powerful in the study, through intellect,
but extremely easy to entrap on the domain of reality."

During this week-end visit, Madame Dudevant related to Balzac the
story of Liszt and Madame d'Agoult, which he reproduced in _Beatrix_,
since in her position, she could not do so herself. In the same book,
George Sand is portrayed as Mademoiselle des Touches, with the
complexion, pale olive by day, and white under artificial light,
characteristic of Italian beauty. The face, rather long than oval,
resembles that of some beautiful Isis. Her hair, black and thick,
falls in plaited loops over her neck, like the head-dress with rigid
double locks of the statues at Memphis, accentuating very finely the
general severity of her features. She has a full, broad forehead,
bright with its smooth surface on which the light lingers, and molded
like that of a hunting Diana; a powerful, wilful brow, calm and still.
The eyebrows, strongly arched, bend over the eyes in which the fire
sparkles now and again like that of fixed stars. The cheek-bones,
though softly rounded, are more prominent than in most women, and
confirm the impression of strength. The nose, narrow and straight, has
high-cut nostrils, and the mouth is arched at the corners. Below the
nose the lip is faintly shaded by a down that is wholly charming;
nature would have blundered if she had not placed there that tender
smoky tinge.

Balzac admitted that this was the portrait of Madame Dudevant, saying
that he rarely portrayed his friends, exceptions being G. Planche in
Claude Vignon, and George Sand in Camille Maupin (Mademoiselle des
Touches), both with their consent.

Madame Dudevant was an excessive smoker, and during Balzac's visit to
her, she had him smoke a hooka and latakia which he enjoyed so much
that he wrote to Madame Hanska, asking her to get him a hooka in
Moscow, as he thought she lived near there, and it was there or in
Constantinople that the best could be found; he wished her also, if
she could find true latakia in Moscow, to send him five or six pounds,
as opportunities were rare to get it from Constantinople. Later, on
his visit to Sardinia, he wrote her from Ajaccio: "As for the latakia,
I have just discovered (laugh at me for a whole year) that Latakia is
a village of the island of Cyprus, a stone's throw from here, where a
superior tobacco is made, named from the place, and that I can get it
here. So mark out that item."[*]

[*] _Lettres a l'Etrangere. This contradicts the statement of S. de
    Lovenjoul, _Bookman_, that Balzac had a horror of tobacco and is
    known to have smoked only once, when a cigar given him by Eugene
    Sue made him very ill. He evidently had this excerpt of a letter
    in mind: "I have never known what drunkenness was, except from a
    cigar which Eugene Sue made me smoke against my will, and it was
    that which enabled me to paint the drunkenness for which you blame
    me in the _Voyage a Java_." This visit to George Sand was made
    five years after this letter was written. Or S. de Lovenjoul might
    have had in mind the statement of Theophile Gautier that Balzac
    could not endure tobacco in any form; he anathematized the pipe,
    proscribed the cigar, did not even tolerate the Spanish
    _papelito_, and only the Asiatic narghile found grace in his
    sight. He allowed this only as a curious trinket, and on account
    of its local color.

George Sand and Balzac discussed their work freely and did not
hesitate to condemn either plot or character of which they did not
approve. Some of Balzac's women shocked her, but she liked _La
premiere Demoiselle_ (afterwards L'Ecole des Manages), a play which
Madame Surville found superb, but which Madame Hanska discouraged
because she did not like the plot. She aided him in a financial manner
by signing one of his stories, _Voyage d'un Moineau de Paris_. At that
time, Balzac needed money and Stahl (Hetzel) refused to insert in his
book, _Scenes de la Vie privee de Animaux_ (2 vols., 1842), this story
of Balzac's, who had already furnished several articles for this
collection. George Sand signed her name, and in this way, Balzac
obtained the money.

Madame Dudevant not only remained a true friend to Balzac in a
literary and financial sense, but was glad to defend his character,
and was firm in refuting statements derogatory to him. In apologizing
to him for an article that had appeared without her knowledge in the
_Revue independente_, edited by her, she asked his consent to write a
large work about him. He tried to dissuade her, telling her that she
would create enemies for herself, but, after persistence on her part,
he asked her to write a preface to the _Comedie humaine_. The plan of
the work, however, was very much modified, and did not appear until
after Balzac's death.

Balzac dined frequently with Madame Dudevant and political as well as
social and literary questions were discussed. He enjoyed opposing her
views; after his return from his prolonged visit to Madame Hanska in
St. Petersburg (1843), George Sand twitted him by asking him to give
his _Impressions de Voyage_.

A story told at Issoudun illustrates further the genial association of
the two authors: Balzac was dining one day at the Hotel de la Cloche
in company with George Sand. She had brought her physician, who was to
accompany her to Nohant. The conversation turned on the subject of
insane people, and the peculiar manner in which the exterior signs of
insanity are manifested. The physician claimed to be an expert in
recognizing an insane person at first sight. George Sand asked very
seriously: "Do you see any here?" Balzac was eating, as always,
ravenously, and his tangled hair followed the movement of his head and
arm. "There is one!" said the Doctor; "no doubt about it!" George Sand
burst out laughing, Balzac also, and, the introduction made, the
confused physician was condemned to pay for the dinner.

Balzac expresses his admiration for her in the dedication of the
_Memoires de deux jeunes mariees_:

 "To George Sand.

 "This dedication, dear George, can add nothing to the glory of your
  name, which will cast its magic luster on my book; but in making
  it there is neither modesty nor self-interest on my part. I desire
  to bear testimony to the true friendship between us which
  continues unchanged in spite of travels and absence,--in spite,
  too, of our mutual hard work and the maliciousness of the world.
  This feeling will doubtless never change. The procession of
  friendly names which accompany my books mingles pleasure with the
  pain their great number causes me, for they are not written
  without anxiety, to say nothing of the reproach cast upon me for
  my alarming fecundity,--as if the world which poses before me were
  not more fecund still. Would it not be a fine thing, George, if
  some antiquary of long past literatures should find in that
  procession none but great names, noble hearts, pure and sacred
  friendships,--the glories of this century? May I not show myself
  prouder of that certain happiness than of other successes which
  are always uncertain? To one who knows you well it must ever be a
  great happiness to be allowed to call himself, as I do here,

                                           "Your friend,
                                                    "DE BALZAC."

                              CHAPTER IV

                     BUSINESS AND SOCIAL FRIENDS

                     MADAME BECHET--MADAME WERDET

A woman with whom Balzac was to have business dealings early in his
literary career was Madame Charles Bechet, of whom he said: "This
publisher is a woman, a widow whom I have never seen, and whom I do
not know. I shall not send off this letter until the signatures are
appended on both sides, so that my missive may carry you good news
about my interests; . . ."

Thus began a business relation which, like many of Balzac's financial
affairs, was to end unhappily. At first he liked her very much and
dined with her, meeting in her company such noted literary men as
Beranger, but as usual, he delayed completing his work, meanwhile
resorting, in mitigation of his offense, to tactics such as the
following words will indicate: ". . . a pretty watch given at the
right moment to Madame Bechet may win me a month's freedom. I am going
to overwhelm her with gifts to get peace."

Balzac often caused his publishers serious annoyance by re-writing his
stories frequently, but at the beginning of this business relation he
agreed with Madame Bechet about the cost of corrections. He says of
the fair publisher: "The widow Bechet has been sublime: she had taken
upon herself the expense of more than four thousand francs of
corrections, which were set down to me. Is this not still pleasanter?"

But this could not last long, for she became financially embarrassed
and then had to be very strict with him. She refused to advance any
money until his work was delivered to her and called upon him to pay
for the corrections. This he resented greatly:

 "Madame Bechet has become singularly ill-natured and will hurt my
  interests very much. In paying me, she charges me with corrections
  which amount on the twelve volumes to three thousand francs, and
  also for my copies, which will cost me fifteen hundred more. Thus
  four thousand five hundred francs and my discounts, diminish by
  six thousand the thirty-three thousand. She could not lose a great
  fortune more clumsily, for Werdet estimates at five hundred
  thousand francs the profits to be made out of the next edition of
  the _Etudes de Moeurs_. I find Werdet the active, intelligent, and
  devoted publisher that I want. I have still six months before I
  can be rid of Madame Bechet; for I have three volumes to do, and
  it is impossible to count on less than two months to each volume."

She evidently relented, for he wrote later that Madame Bechet had paid
him the entire thirty-three thousand francs. This, however, did not
end their troubles, and he longed to be free from his obligations, and
to sever all connection with her.

In the spring of 1836, Madame Bechet became Madame Jacquillart.
Whether she was influenced by her husband or had become weary of
Balzac's delays, she became firmer. The novelist felt that she was too
exacting, for he was working sixteen hours a day to complete the last
two volumes for her, and he believed that the suit with which she
threatened him was prompted by his enemies, who seemed to have sworn
his ruin. Madame Bechet lost but little time in carrying out her
threat, for a few days after this he writes:

 "Do you know by what I have been interrupted? By a legal notice
  from Bechet, who summons me to furnish her within twenty-four
  hours my two volumes in 8vo, with a penalty of fifty francs for
  every day's delay! I must be a great criminal and God wills that I
  shall expiate my crimes! Never was such torture! This woman has
  had ten volumes 8vo out of me in two years, and yet she complains
  at not getting twelve!"

There had been a question of a lawsuit as early as the autumn of 1835;
to avoid this he was then trying to finish the _Fleur-des-Pois_
(afterwards _Le Contrat de Mariage_). But their relations were more
cordial at that time, for a short time later, he writes: "My
publisher, the sublime Madame Bechet, has been foolish enough to send
the corrected proofs to St. Petersburg. I am told nothing is spoken of
there but of the _excellence of this new masterpiece_."

Both Madame Bechet and Werdet were in despair over Balzac's journey to
Vienna in 1835, but things grew even worse the next year. The novelist
gives this glimpse of his troubles:

 "My mind itself was crushed; for the failure of the _Chronique_
  came upon me at Sache, at M. de Margonne's, where, by a wise
  impulse, I was plunged in work to rid myself of that odious
  Bechet. I had undertaken to write in ten days (it was that which
  kept me from going to Nemours!) the two volumes which had been
  demanded of me, and in eight days I had invented and composed
  _Les Illusions perdues_, and had written a third of it. Think what
  such application meant! All my faculties were strained; I wrote
  fifteen hours a day. . . ."

In explaining Balzac's association with Madame Bechet, M. Henri
d'Almeras states that Madame Bechet was interested, at first, in
attaching celebrated writers to her publishing house, or those who had
promise of fame. She organized weekly dinner parties, which took place
on Saturday, and here assembled Beranger, Henri de Latouche, Louis
Reybaud, Leon Gozlan, Brissot-Thivars, Balzac and Dr. Gentil. It was
with Madame Bechet as with Charles Gosselin. The publication, less
lucrative than she expected, of the first series of the _Scenes de la
Vie parisienne_ and the _Scenes de la Vie de Province_ made it
particularly disagreeable to her to receive the reproaches of a writer
who, with his admirable talent, could not become resigned to meet with
less success than other litterateurs not so good as he.

The termination of their business relations is recounted thus:
"_Illusions perdues_ appears this week. On the 17th I have a meeting
to close up all claims from Madame Bechet and Werdet. So there is one
cause of torment the less."

If M. Hughes Rebell is correct in his surmise, at least a part of
Werdet's admiration for the novelist was inspired by his wife, who had
become a great admirer of the works of the young writer, not well
known at that time. Madame Werdet persuaded her husband to speak to
Madame Bechet about Balzac, and to advise her to publish his works.
Her husband did so, but Madame Werdet did not stop at this. She
convinced him that he should leave Madame Bechet and become Balzac's
sole publisher; this he was for five years, and, moreover, served him
as his banker. M. Rebell thinks also that Madame Werdet is the
"delicious _bourgeoise_" referred to in Balzac's letter to Madame


 "You wish to know if I have met Foedora, if she is true? A woman
  from cold Russia, the Princess Bagration, is supposed in Paris to
  be the model for her. I have reached the seventy-second woman who
  has had the impertinence to recognize herself in that character.
  They are all of ripe age. Even Madame Recamier is willing to
  _foedorize herself_. Not a word of all that is true. I made
  Foedora out of two women whom I have known without having been
  intimate with them. Observation sufficed me, besides a few
  confidences. There are also some kind souls who will have it that
  I have courted the handsomest of Parisian courtesans and have
  concealed myself behind her curtains. These are calumnies. I have
  met a Foedora; but that one I shall not paint; besides, it has
  been a long time since _La Peau de Chagrin_ was published."

Quoting Amedee Pichot and Dr. Meniere, S. de Lovenjoul states that
Mademoiselle Olympe Pelissier is the woman whom Balzac used as a model
for his Foedora, and that, like Raphael, he concealed himself in her
bedroom. She is indeed the woman without a heart; she kept in the rue
Neuve-du-Luxembourg a salon frequented by noted political people such
as the Duc de Fitz-James. Being rich as well as beautiful, and having
an exquisite voice, she was highly attractive to the novelist, who
aspired to her hand, and who regarded her refusal with bitterness all
his life. Several years later she was married to her former voice
teacher, M. Rossini.

Balzac met the famous Olympe early in his literary career; he says of

 "Two years ago, Sue quarreled with a _mauvaise courtesone_
  celebrated for her beauty (she is the original of Vernet's
  _Judith_). I lowered myself to reconcile them, and they gave her
  to me. M. de Fitz-James, the Duc de Duras, and the old count went
  to her house to talk, as on neutral ground, much as people walk in
  the alley of the Tuileries to meet one another; and one expects
  better conduct of me than of those gentlemen! . . . As for
  Rossini, I wish him to write me a nice letter, and he has just
  invited me to dine with his mistress, who happens to be that
  beautiful _Judith_, the former mistress of Horace Vernet and of
  Sue you know. . . ."

Some months after this Balzac gave a dinner to his _Tigres_, as he
called the group occupying the same box with him at the opera.
Concerning this dinner, he writes:

 "Next Saturday I give a dinner to the _Tigres_ of my opera-box, and
  I am preparing sumptuosities out of all reason. I shall have
  Rossini and Olympe, his _cara dona_, who will preside. . . . My
  dinner? Why, it made a great excitement. Rossini declared he had
  never seen eaten or drunk anything better among sovereigns. This
  dinner was sparkling with wit. The beautiful Olympe was graceful,
  sensible and perfect."[*]

[*] The present writer has not been able to find any date that would
    prove positively that Balzac knew Madame Rossini before writing
    _La Peau de Chagrin_ which appeared in 1830-1831.

Balzac was a great admirer of Rossini, wrote the words for one of his
compositions, and dedicated to him _Le Contrat de Mariage_.

Among the famous salons that Balzac frequented was that of Madame
Recamier, who was noted even more for her distinction and grace than
for her beauty. She appreciated the ability of the young writer, and
invited him to read in her salon long before the world recognized his
name. He admired her greatly; of one of his visits to her he writes:

 "Yesterday I went to see Madame Recamier, whom I found ill but
  wonderfully bright and kind. I have heard that she did much good,
  and acted very nobly in being silent and making no complaint of
  the ungrateful beings she has met. No doubt she saw upon my face a
  reflection of what I thought of her, and without explaining to
  herself this little sympathy, she was charming."

Although one would not suspect Madame Hanska of being jealous of
Madame Recamier, perhaps it is because she wished to _foedorize_
herself that Balzac writes:

 "_Mon Dieu!_ do not be jealous of any one. I have not been to see
  Madame Recamier or any one else. . . . As to my relations with the
  person you speak of, I never had any that were tender; I have none
  now. I answered a very unimportant letter, and apropos of a
  sentence, I explained myself; that was all. There are relations of
  politeness due to women of a certain rank whom one has known; but
  a visit to Madame Recamier is not, I suppose, _relations_, when
  one visits her once in three months."

One of the famous women whom Balzac met soon after he began to acquire
literary fame was the Duchesse de Dino, who was married to
Talleyrand's nephew in 1809.

 "When her husband's uncle became French Ambassador at Vienna in
  1814, she went with him as mistress of the embassy. When he was
  sent to London in 1830, she accompanied him in the same capacity.
  She lived with him till his death in 1838, entirely devoted to his
  welfare, and she had given us in these pages a picture of the old
  Talleyrand which is among the masterpieces of memoir-writing. From
  this connection she was naturally for many years in the very heart
  of political affairs, as no one was, save perhaps that other
  Dorothea of the Baltic, the Princess de Lieven. To great beauty
  and spirit she added unusual talents, and in the best sense was a
  great lady of the _haute politique_."

Balzac had met her in the salon of Madame Appony, but had never
visited her in her home until 1836, when he went to Rochecotte to see
the famous Prince de Talleyrand, having a great desire to have a view
of the "witty turkeys who plucked the eagle and made it tumble into
the ditch of the house of Austria." Several years later, on his return
from St. Petersburg, he stopped in Berlin, where he was invited to a
grand dinner at the home of the Count and Countess Bresson. He gave
his arm to the Duchesse de Talleyrand (ex-Dino), whom he thought the
most beautiful lady present, although she was fifty-two years of age.

The Duchesse has left this appreciation of the novelist: ". . . his
face and bearing are vulgar, and I imagine his ideas are equally so.
Undoubtedly, he is a very clever man, but his conversation is neither
easy nor light, but on the contrary, very dull. He watched and
examined all of us most minutely."

Notwithstanding that the beautiful Dorothea did not admire Balzac, he
was sincere in his appreciation of her. A novel recently brought to
light, _L'Amour Masque_, or as the author first called it, _Imprudence
et Bonheur_, was written for her. Balzac had been her guest
repeatedly; he had recognized in her one of the rare women, who by
their intelligence and, as it were, instinctive appreciation of genius
can compensate to a great _incompris_ like Balzac for the lack of
recognition on the part of his contemporaries; one of those women near
whom, thanks to tactful treatment, a depressed man will regain
confidence in himself and courage to go on.

Of the distinguished houses which were open to Balzac, that of the
Comte Appony was one of the most beautiful. This protege of the Prince
of Metternich, having had the rare good fortune to please both
governments, was retained by Louis-Philippe, and was as well liked and
appreciated in the role of ambassador and diplomat as in that of man
of the world. The Countess Appony possessed a very peculiar charm, and
was a type of feminine distinction. Balls and receptions were given
frequently in her home, where all was of a supreme elegance.

Balzac visited the Count and Countess frequently, often having a
letter or a message to deliver for the Comtesse Marie Potocka. He
realized that it would be of advantage to be friendly toward the
Ambassador of Austria, and he doubtless enjoyed the society of his
charming wife. He writes of one of these visits:

 "Alas! your _moujik_ also has been _un poco_ in that market of
  false smiles and charming toilets; he has made his debut at Madame
  Appony's,--for the house of Balzac must live on good terms with
  the house of Austria,--and your _moujik_ had some success. He was
  examined with the curiosity felt for animals from distant regions.
  There were presentations on presentations, which bored him so that
  he placed himself in a corner with some Russians and Poles. But
  their names are so difficult to pronounce that he cannot tell you
  anything about them, further than that one was a very ugly lady,
  friend of Madame Hahn, and a Countess Schouwalof, sister of Madame
  Jeroslas. . . . Is that right? The _moujik_ will go there every
  two weeks, if his lady permits him."

The novelist met many prominent people at these receptions, among them
Prince Esterhazy; he went to the beautiful soirees of Madame Appony
while refusing to go elsewhere, even to the opera.

Several women Balzac probably met through his intimacy with their
husbands. Among these were Madame de Bernard, whose name was
Clementine, but whom he called "Mentine" and "La Fosseuse," this
character being the frail nervous young girl in _Le Medecin de
Campagne_. In August, 1831, M. Charles de Bernard wrote a very
favorable article about _La Peau de Chagrin_ in the _Gazette de
Franche-Comte_, which he was editing at that time. This naturally
pleased the novelist; their friendship continued through many years,
and in 1844, Balzac dedicated to him _Sarrazine_, written in 1830.

Early in his literary career Balzac knew Baron Gerard, and in writing
to the painter, sent greetings to Madame Gerard. Much later in life,
while posing for his bust, made by David d'Angers, he saw Madame David
frequently, and learned to like her. He felt flattered that she
thought he looked so much younger than he really was. On his return
from St. Petersburg, in 1843, he brought her a pound of Russian tea,
which, as he explained, had no other merit than the exceeding
difficulties it had encountered in passing through twenty


 "Madame de Visconti, of whom you speak to me, is one of the most
  amiable of women, of an infinite, exquisite kindness; a delicate
  and elegant beauty. She helps me much to bear my life. She is
  gentle, and full of firmness, immovable and implacable in her
  ideas and her repugnances. She is a person to be depended on. She
  has not been fortunate, or rather, her fortune and that of the
  Count are not in keeping with this splendid name. . . . It is a
  friendship which consoles me under many griefs. But,
  unfortunately, I see her very seldom."

Madame Emile Guidoboni-Visconti, nee (Frances Sarah) Lowell, was an
Englishwoman another _etrangere_. Balzac shared the same box with her
at the Italian opera, and in the summer of 1836, he went to Turin to
look after some legal business for the Viscontis. He had not known
them long before this, for he writes, in speaking of _Le Lys dans la
Vallee_: "Do they not say that I have painted Madame Visconti? Such
are the judgments to which we are exposed. You know that I had the
proofs in Vienna, and that portrait was written at Sache and corrected
at La Bouleauniere, before I had ever seen Madame Visconti."[*]

[*] La Bouleauniere was the home of Madame de Berny, at Nemours.
    Balzac visited Madame Hanska at Vienna in the spring of 1835.

Either this new friendship became too ardent for the comfort of Madame
Hanska, or she heard false reports concerning it, for she made
objections to which Balzac responds:

 "Must I renounce the Italian opera, the only pleasure I have in
  Paris, because I have no other seat than in a box where there is
  also a charming and gracious woman? If calumny, which respects
  nothing, demands it, I shall give up music also. I was in a box
  among people who were an injury to me, and brought me into
  disrepute. I had to go elsewhere, and, in all conscience, I did
  not wish Olympe's box. But let us drop the subject."

The friendship continued to grow, however, and in December, 1836, the
novelist offered her the manuscript of _La vieille Fille_. He visited
her frequently in her home, and on his return from an extended tour to
Corsica and Sardinia in 1838 he spent some time in Milan, looking
after some business interests for the Visconti family.

When Balzac was living secluded from his creditors, Madame Visconti
showed her friendship for him in a very material way. The bailiff had
been seeking him for three weeks, when a vindictive Ariadne, having a
strong interest in seeing Balzac conducted to prison, presented
herself at the home of the creditor and informed him that the novelist
was residing in the Champs-Elysees, at the home of Madame Visconti.
Nothing could have been more exact than this information. Two hours
later, the home was surrounded, and Balzac, interrupted in the midst
of a chapter of one of his novels, saw two bailiffs enter, armed with
the traditional club; they showed him a cab waiting at the door. A
woman had betrayed him--now a woman saved him. Madame Visconti flung
ten thousand francs in the faces of the bailiffs, and showed them the

[*] Eugene de Mirecourt, _Les Contemporains_, does not give the date
    of this incident. Keim et Lumet, _H. de Balzac_, state that it
    occurred in 1837, but E. E. Saltus, _Balzac_, states that it was
    in connection with the indebtedness to William Duckett, editor of
    the _Dictionnaire de la Conversation_, in 1846. F. Lawton,
    _Balzac_, states that it was in connection with his indebtedness
    to Duckett on account of the _Chronicle_, and that Balzac was sued
    in 1837. If the letter to Mme. de V., _Memoir and Letters of
    Balzac_, was addressed to Madame Visconti, he was owing her in
    1840. M. F. Sandars, _Honore de Balzac_, states that about
    1846-1848, Balzac borrowed 10,000 or 15,000 francs from the
    Viscontis, giving them as guarantee shares in the Chemin de Fer
    du Nord.

During Balzac's residence _aux Jardies_ he was quite near Madame
Visconti, as she was living in a rather insignificant house just
opposite the home Balzac had built. He enjoyed her companionship, and
when she moved to Versailles he regretted not being able to see her
more frequently than once a fortnight, for she was one of the few who
gave him their sympathy at that time.

Several months later Balzac was disappointed in her, and referred to
her bitterly as _L'Anglaise_, _L'Angleterre_, or "the lady who lived
at Versailles." He felt that she was ungrateful and inconsiderate, and
while he remained on speaking terms with her, he regarded this
friendship as one of the misfortunes of his life.

After the death of Madame Visconti (April 28, 1883), a picture of
Balzac which had been in her possession was placed in the museum at
Tours. This is supposed to be the portrait painted by Gerard-Seguin,
exhibited in the _Salon_ in 1842, and presented to her by Balzac at
that time.

In answering several of Madame Hanska's questions, Balzac writes: "No,
I was not happy in writing _Beatrix_; you ought to have known it. Yes,
Sarah is Madame de Visconti; yes, Mademoiselle des Touches is George
Sand; yes, Beatrix is even too much Madame d'Agoult." A few months
later he writes: "The friendship of which I spoke to you, and at which
you laughed, apropos of the dedication, is not all I thought it.
English prejudices are terrible, they take away what is an essential
to all artists, the _laisser-aller_, unconstraint. Never have I done
so well as when, in the _Lys_, I explained the women of that country
in a few words."[*]

[*] This is probably the basis for Mr. Monahan's statement that Balzac
    pictured Madame Visconti as Lady Dudley in _Le Lys dans la

From the above, one would suppose that Madame Visconti is the "Sarah"
whom Balzac addresses in the dedication of _Beatrix_:

 "To Sarah.

 "In clear weather, on the Mediterranean shores, where formerly
  extended the magnificent empire of your name, the sea sometimes
  allows us to perceive beneath the mist of waters a sea-flower, one
  of Nature's masterpieces; the lacework of its tissues, tinged with
  purple, russet, rose, violet, or gold, the crispness of its living
  filigrees, the velvet texture, all vanish as soon as curiosity
  draws it forth and spreads it on the strand. Thus would the glare
  of publicity offend your tender modesty; so, in dedicating this
  work to you, I must reserve a name which would, indeed, be its
  pride. But, under the shelter of its half-concealment, your superb
  hands may bless it, your noble brow may bend and dream over it,
  your eyes, full of motherly love, may smile upon it, since you are
  here at once present and veiled. Like this pearl of the
  ocean-garden, you will dwell on the fine, white, level sand where your
  beautiful life expands, hidden by a wave that is transparent only
  to certain friendly and reticent eyes. I would gladly have laid at
  your feet a work in harmony with your perfections; but as that was
  impossible, I knew, for my consolation, that I was gratifying one
  of your instincts by offering you something to protect.

                                                 "DE BALZAC."[*]

[*] S. de Lovenjoul, _Histoire des Oeuvres de Balzac_, states that the
    "Sarah" to whom Balzac dedicated _Beatrix_ is no other than an
    Englishwoman, Frances Sarah Lowell, who became the Comtesse Emile
    Guidoboni-Visconti. She was born at Hilks, September 29, 1804, and
    died at Versailles April 28, 1883.

In sending the corrected proofs of _Beatrix_ to "Madame de V----,"
Balzac writes:

 "My dear friend,--Here are the proofs of _Beatrix_: a book for
  which you have made me feel an affection, such as I have not felt
  for any other book. It has been the ring which has united our
  friendship. I never give these things except to those I love, for
  they bear witness to my long labors, and to that patience of which
  I spoke to you. My nights have been passed over these terrible
  pages, and amongst all to whom I have presented them, I know no
  heart more pure and noble than yours, in spite of those little
  attacks of want of faith in me, which no doubt arises from your
  great wish to find a poor author more perfect than he can
  be. . . ."

In contradiction to the preceding, M. Leon Seche thinks that _Beatrix_
was dedicated to Madame Helene-Marie-Felicite Valette, and that she
is the "Madame de V-----" to whom the letter is addressed. Helene de
Valette (she probably had no right to the "nobiliary" _de_ although
she signed her name thus) was the daughter of Pierre Valette,
Lieutenant de Vaisseau, who after the death of Madame Valette, in
1818, became a priest at Vannes in order to be near their daughter
Helene, who was in the convent of the Ursulines. At the age of
eighteen he married her to a notary of Vannes, thirty years her
senior, a widower with a bad reputation, whose name was
Jean-Marie-Angele Gougeon. Scarcely had she married when she had an
intrigue with a physician; her husband died soon after this, and she
resumed her maiden name. She adopted the daughter of a _paludier_,[*]
Le Gallo, whose wife had saved her from drowning, and named her
"Marie" in memory of de Balzac's favorite name for herself.

[*] _Paludier_. One who works in the salt marshes.

In stating that the letter to "Madame de V-----" is addressed to
Madame Valette, M. Seche publishes a letter almost identical with the
one that is found in both the _Memoir and Letters of Balzac_ and the
_Correspondence, 1819-1850_, one of the chief differences being that
in this letter Balzac addresses her as "My dear Marie" instead of "My
dear friend." In telling "Madame de V-----" that he is sending her the
proofs of _Beatrix_, Balzac refers to the suppression of his play
_Vautrin_, and says that the director _des beaux-arts_ has come a
second time to offer him an indemnity which _ne faisait pas votre
somme_. This might lead one to think that he had had some financial
dealings with her.

In the dedication of _Beatrix_, dated _Aux Jardies_, December, 1838,
Balzac speaks of Sarah's being a pearl of the Mediterranean. In the
Island of Malta is a town called Cite-Vallette--suggestive of the name
Felicite Valette. Felicite is also the name of the heroine, Felicite
des Touches, although Marie is the name of Madame Valette that Balzac
liked best.

In 1836, after reading some of Balzac's novels, Madame de Valette
wrote to Balzac. Attracted by her, he went to Guerande where he took
his meals at a little hotel kept by the demoiselles Bouniol, mentioned
in _Beatrix_. Under her guidance he roamed over the country and then
wrote _Beatrix_. She pretended to him to have been born at Guerande
and to have been reared as a _paludiere_ by her godmother, Madame de
Lamoignon-Lavalette, whence the reference in the dedication to the
former "empire of your name." Her real godmother was Marie-Felicite
Burgaud. Balzac did not know that she had been married to the notary
Gougeon, and thought that her mother was still living.

When Madame de Valette went to Paris to reside, she was noted for her
beauty and eccentric manners; she rode horseback to visit Balzac _aux
Jardies_. She met a young writer, Edmond Cador, who revealed to Balzac
all that she had kept from him. This deception provoked Balzac and
gave rise to an exchange of rather sharp letters, and a long silence
followed. After Balzac's death she gave Madame Honore de Balzac
trouble concerning _Beatrix_ and her correspondence with Balzac, which
she claimed. She died January 14, 1873, at the home of the Baron
Larrey whom she had appointed as her residuary legatee. She is buried
in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, and on her tomb is written _Veuve

In her letters to Balzac, given by Spoelberch de Lovenjoul to the
French Academy, she addressed him as "My dear beloved treasure," and
signed her name _Babouino_. There exists a letter from her to him in
which she tells him that she is going to Vannes to visit for a
fortnight, after which she will go to Bearn to make the acquaintance
of her husband's people, and asks him to address her under the name of

[*] Leon Seche, _Les Inspiratrices de Balzac, Helene de Valette, Les
    Annales Romantiques_, supposes that this is another falsehood,
    since he could find no record of where any member of the Gougeon
    family had ever lived in Bearn. Much of his information has been
    secured from Dr. Closmadeuc, who lived at Vannes and who attended
    Madame de Valette in her late years; also, from her adopted
    daughter, Mlle. Le Gallo.

After the death of Madame de Valette, the Baron Larrey, in memory of
her relations with Balzac, presented to the city of Tours the
corrected proofs of _Beatrix_, and a portrait of Balzac which he had
received from her.

Among Balzac's numerous Russian friends was Mademoiselle Sophie
Kozlowska. "Sophie is the daughter of Prince Kozlowski, whose marriage
was not recognized; you must have heard of that very witty diplomat,
who is with Prince Paskevitch in Warsaw."[*]

[*] _Lettres a l'Etrangere_. By explaining to Madame Hanska who Sophie
    is, one would not suppose that Balzac met her at Madame Hanska's
    home, as M. E. Pilon states in his article.

This friendship seems to have been rather close for a while, Balzac
addressing her as _Sofka_, _Sof_, _Sophie_ and _carissima Sofi_. Just
before the presentation of his play _Quinola_ he wrote her, asking for
the names and addresses of her various Russian friends who wished
seats, as many enemies were giving false names. He wanted to place the
beautiful ladies in front, and wished to know in what party she would
be, and the definite number of tickets and location desired for each

In this same jovial vein he writes her: "Mina wrote me that you were
ill, and that dealt me a blow as if one had told Napoleon his
aide-de-camp was dead." His attitude towards her changed some months
after writing this; she became the means of alienating his friend
Gavault from him, or at least he so suspected, and thought that she was
influenced by Madame Visconti. This coldness soon turned to enmity,
and she completely won from him his former friend, Gavault, who had
become very much enamored with her. The novelist expressed the same
bitterness of feeling for her as he did for Madame Visconti, but as
the years went by, either his aversion to these two women softened, or
he thought it good policy to retain their good will, for he wished
their names placed on his invitation list.

Balzac's feeling of friendship for her must have been sincere at one
time, for he dedicated _La Bourse_:

 "To Sofka.

 "Have you not observed, mademoiselle, that the painters and
  sculptors of the Middle Ages, when they placed two figures in
  adoration, one on each side of a fair Saint, never fail to give
  them a family likeness? On seeing your name among those who are
  dear to me, and under whose auspices I place my works, remember
  that touching harmony, and you will see in this not so much an act
  of homage as an expression of the brotherly affection of your
  devoted servant,
                                                    "DE BALZAC."

                       --LA COMTESSE BOLOGNINI

 "I have found a letter from the kind Comtesse Loulou, who loves you
  and whom you love, and in whose letter your name is mentioned in a
  melancholy sentence which drew tears to my eyes; . . . I am going
  to write to the good Loulou without telling her all she has done
  by her letter, for such things are difficult to express, even to
  that kind German woman. But she spoke of you with so much soul
  that I can tell her that what in her is friendship, in me is
  worship that can never end."

The Countess Louise Turheim called "Loulou" by her intimate friends
and her sister Princess Constantine Razumofsky, met Madame Hanska in
the course of her prolonged stay in Vienna in 1835, and the three
women remained friends throughout their lives. The Countess Loulou was
a canoness, and Balzac met her while visiting in Vienna; he admired
her for herself as well as for her friendship for his _Chatelaine_.
Her brother-in-law, Prince Razumofsky, wished Balzac to secure him a
reader at Paris, but since there was limitation as to the price, he
had some trouble in finding a suitable one. This made a correspondence
with the Countess necessary, as it was she who made the request; but
Madame Hanska was not only willing that Balzac should write to her but
sent him her address and they exchanged messages frequently about the

In 1842, _Une double Famille_, a story written in 1830, was dedicated:

 "To Madame la Comtesse de Turheim

 "As a token of remembrance and affectionate respect.

                                      "DE BALZAC."

The Countess de Bocarme, nee du Chasteler, was an artist who helped
Balzac by painting in water-colors the portraits of her uncle, the
field-marshal, and Andreas Hofer; he wished these in order to be able
to depict the heroes of the Tyrol in the campaign of 1809. She painted
also the entire armorial for the _Etudes de Moeurs_; this consisted of
about one hundred armorial bearings, and was a masterpiece. She
promised to paint his study at Passy in water-colors, which was to be
a souvenir for Madame Hanska of the place where he was to finish
paying his debts. All this pleased the novelist greatly, but she
presented him with one gift which he considered as in bad taste. This
was a sort of monument with a muse crowning him, another writing on a
folio: _Comedie humaine_, with _Divo Balzac_ above.

Madame de Bocarme had been reared in a convent with a niece of Madame
Rosalie Rzewuska, had traveled much, and was rather brilliant in
describing what she had seen. She visited Balzac while he was living
_aux Jardies_. She was a great friend of the Countess Chlendowska,
whose husband was Balzac's bookseller, and the novelist counted on her
to lend the money for one of his business schemes. Being fond of
whist, she took Madame Chlendowska to Balzac's house during his
illness of a few weeks, and they entertained him by playing cards with

Balzac called her _Bettina_, and after she left Paris for the Chateau
de Bury in Belgium, he took his housekeeper, Madame de Brugnolle, to
visit her. Madame de Chlendowska was there also, but he did not care
for her especially, as she pretended to know too much about his
intimacy with his "polar star." Madame de Bocarme had one fault that
annoyed him very much; she, too, was inclined to gossip about his
association with Madame Hanska.

In 1843, Balzac erased from _Le Colonel Chabert_ the dedication to M.
de Custine, and replaced it by one to Madame la Comtesse Ida de
Bocarme, nee du Chasteler.

One of the most attractive salons in Paris at the beginning of the
Monarchy of July was that of Countess Merlin, where all the
celebrities met, especially the musicians. Born in Havana, the young,
beautiful, rich and talented Madame Merlin added to the poetic grace
of a Spaniard the wit and distinction of a French woman. General
Merlin married her in Madrid in 1811, and brought her to Paris, where
she created a sensation. Being an accomplished musician, she gave
delightful concerts, and though also gifted as a writer she was as
simple and unpretentious as if she had been created to remain obscure.
In addition, she was so truly good that she had almost no enemies; her
charity was inexhaustible, and she possessed one of those hearts which
live only to do good and to love.

It was Balzac's good fortune to be introduced into the salon. He
explained to Madame Hanska that he went there to play lansquenet in
order to escape becoming insane! He was anxious to have Madame Merlin
present at the first presentation of his _Quinola_, where she wished
to have Martinez de la Rosa with her, but the novelist dissuaded her
from this.

Madame Merlin was a friend of Madame de Girardin, and ridiculed the
Princesse Belgiojoso when these two were rival candidates for the
presidency of the new Academy that was being formed.

During Madame Hanska's secret visit to Paris in 1847, Balzac declined
an invitation to dinner with Madame Merlin, excusing himself on the
ground of lack of time, but promised to call upon her soon. A few
months before this (1846), he dedicated to her _Les Marana_, a short
story written in 1832. _Juana_ is inscribed to her also.

As has been seen, Balzac frequently depicted the features, lives, or
peculiarities of various friends under altered names, but toward the
close of _Beatrix_ he laid aside all disguise in comparing the
appearance of one of his famous women to the beauty of the Countess:
"Madame Schontz owed her fame as a beauty to the brilliancy and color
of a warm, creamy complexion like a creole's, a face full of original
details, with the clean-cut, firm features, of which the Countess de
Merlin was the most famous example and the most perennially
young . . ."

In 1846, Balzac dedicated _Un Drame au Bord de la Mer_, written
several years before, to Madame La Princesse Caroline Galitzin de
Genthod, nee Comtesse Walewska. Balzac doubtless met her while
visiting Madame Hanska in Geneva in 1834, as she was living at
Genthod. He met a Princesse Sophie Galitzin, whom he considered far
more attractive, and later met another Princesse Galitzin. One of
these ladies evidently aroused the suspicions of Madame Hanska, but
the novelist assured her that there was no cause for her anxiety.

Another woman whom Balzac honored with a dedication of one of his
books, but for whom he apparently cared little, was Madame la Baronne
de Rothschild, wife of the founder of the banking house in Paris.
Balzac had met Baron James de Rothschild and his wife at Aix, where
she coquetted with him. He had business dealings with this firm, and
planned, several years later, to present to Madame de Rothschild as a
New Year's greeting some of his works handsomely bound; the volumes
were delayed, and he accordingly made a change in some of his business
matters, for this was evidently a gift with a motive. The dedication
to her of _L'Enfant Maudit_ in 1846, as well as that of _Un Homme
d'Affaires_ to her husband in 1845, was perhaps for financial reasons
or favors, since he never seemed to care for the couple in society.

In the winter of 1837, Countess San-Severino Porcia wrote from Paris
to her friend in Milan, the Countess Clara Maffei, that Balzac was
coming to her city, and suggested that she receive him in her salon.
This distinguished and cultured woman had visited the novelist in
Paris, and had been much surprised at the kind of home in which he was
living, how like a hermit he was secluded from the world and the
persecutions of his creditors; she was amazed when he received her in
his celebrated monastic role.

The Countess Maffei retained her title after her marriage (in 1832)
with the poet, Andrea Maffei, who was many years older than she. She
was a great friend of the Princess Belgiojoso, and during the stirring
times of 1848 the Princess had been a frequent visitor in her salon.
Six years younger than the Princess, the Countess threw herself heart
and soul into the political and literary life of Milan.

 "For fifty-two consecutive years (1834-1886) her salon was the
  rendezvous not merely of her compatriots but of intellectual
  Europe. The list of celebrities who thronged her modest
  drawing-room rivals that of Belgiojoso's Parisian salon, and
  includes many of the same immortal names. Daniel Stern, Balzac,
  Manzoni, Liszt, Verdi, and a score of others, are of international
  fame; but the annuals of Italian patriotism, belles-lettres and
  art teem with the names of men and women who, during that half
  century of uninterrupted hospitality, sought guidance, inspiration
  and intellectual entertainment among the politicians, poets,
  musicians and wits who congregated round the hostess."[*]

[*] W. R. Whitehouse, _A Revolutionary Princess_.

Balzac arrived in Milan in February, 1837, was well received, and was
invited to the famous salon of Countess Maffei. The novelist was at
once charmed with his hostess, whom he called _la petite Maffei_, and
for whom he soon began to show a tender friendship which later became
blended with affection.

Unfortunately Balzac did not like Milan; only the fascination of
the Countess Maffei pleased him. He quarreled with the Princess
San-Severino Porcia, who would not allow him to say anything unkind
about Italy, and was depressed when calling on the Princess Bolognini,
who laughed at him for it.

In the salon of the Countess Maffei the novelist preferred listening
to talking; occasionally he would break out into sonorous laughter,
and would then listen again, and--in spite of his excessive use of
coffee--would fall asleep. The Countess was often embarrassed by
Balzac's disdainful expressions about people he did not like but who
were her friends. She tried to please him, however and had many of her
French-speaking friends to meet him, but he seemed most to enjoy tea
with her alone. Referring to her age, he wrote in her album: "At
twenty-three years of age, all is in the future."

After Balzac's return to Paris he asked her, in response to one of her
letters, to please ascertain why the Princess San-Severino was angry
with him. Later he showed his appreciation of her kindness by sending
her the corrected proofs of _Martyres ignores_, and by dedicating to
her _La fausse Maitresse_, published in 1841. The dedication, however,
did not appear until several months later.

In a long and beautiful dedication, Balzac inscribed _Les Employes_ to
the Comtesse Serafina San-Severino, nee Porcia, and to her brother,
Prince Alfonso Serafino di Porcia, he dedicated _Splendeurs et Miseres
des Courtisanes_, concerning which he thought a great deal while
visiting in the latter's home in Milan. The hotel having become
intolerable to the novelist, he was invited by Prince Porcia to occupy
a little room in his home, overlooking the gardens, where he could
work at his ease. The Prince, a man of about Balzac's age, was very
much in love with the Countess Bolognini, and was unwilling to marry
at all unless he could marry her, but her husband was still living.
The Prince lived only ten doors from his Countess, and his happiness
in seeing her so frequently, together with his riches, provoked gloomy
meditations in the mind of the poor author, who was so far from his
_Predilecta_, so overcome with debts, and forced to work so hard.

To Madame la Comtesse Bolognini, nee Vimercati, who was afterwards
married to Prince Porcia, Balzac dedicated _Une Fille d'Eve_:

 "If you remember, madame, the pleasure your conversation gave to a
  certain traveler, making Paris live for him in Milan, you will not
  be surprised that he should lay one of his works at your feet, as
  a token of gratitude for so many delightful evenings spent in your
  society, nor that he should seek for it in the shelter of your
  name which, in old times, was given to not a few of the tales by
  one of your early writers, dear to the Milanese. You have a
  Eugenie, already beautiful, whose clever smile proclaims her to
  have inherited from you the most precious gifts a woman can
  possess, and whose childhood, it is certain, will be rich in all
  those joys which a sad mother refused to the Eugenie of these
  pages. If Frenchmen are accused of bring frivolous and inconstant,
  I, you see, am Italian in my faithfulness and attachments. How
  often, as I write the name of Eugenie, have my thoughts carried me
  back to the cool stuccoed drawing-room and little garden of the
  _Viccolo dei Capuccini_, which used to resound to the dear child's
  merry laughter, to our quarrels, and our stories. You have left
  the _Corso_ for the _Tre Monasteri_, where I know nothing of your
  manner of life, and I am forced to picture you, no longer amongst
  the pretty things, which doubtless still surround you, but like
  one of the beautiful heads of Raffaelle, Titian, Correggio or
  Allori which, in their remoteness, seem to us like abstractions.
  If this book succeeds in making its way across the Alps, it will
  prove to you the lively gratitude and respectful friendship of
  your humble servant,

                                                    "DE BALZAC."


Several women whom Balzac knew, but who apparently had no special
influence over his life, are mentioned here; he evidently did not care
enough for them or did not know them well enough to include their
names in the dedicatory register of the _Comedie humaine_. This,
however, by no means exhausts the list of his acquaintances among
women. Many of them he had met through his intimacy with his "Polar
Star"; he was indeed so popular that he once exclaimed to her that he
was overwhelmed with Russian princesses and took to flight to avoid

The noted salon of the charming Princesse Bagration, wife of the
Russian field-marshal, was open to the novelist early in his career.
With her aristocratic ease and the distinction of her manners, she had
been one of the most brilliant stars at Vienna where her salon, as at
Paris, was one of the most popular. Among her intimate friends was
Madame Hamelin whom she had known during her stay in Vienna.
Notwithstanding Balzac's careless habits of dress, he was welcome in
this salon, where the ladies enjoyed the stories which he told with
such charm, and at which he was always the first to laugh, though told
against himself.

As has been mentioned the Princess Bagration passed at Paris for the
model of Foedora. If M. Gabriel Ferry is correct, Balzac met the
Duchesse de Castries in the salon of the Princess Bagration before
their correspondence began, but never talked to her and did not
suppose that he had attracted her attention.

One of Balzac's acquaintances whom he met during his visit to Madame
Hanska at Geneva was the Countess Bossi. He met her again at Milan in
1838, on his return from his journey to Corsica, but he was not
favorably impressed with her, although he once deemed it wise to
explain to his _Chatelaine_ his conduct relative to her.

Madame Kisseleff was one of Madame Hanska's friends whom he probably
met in Vienna; he dined at her home frequently and enjoyed her
company, for she could talk to him of his _Louloup_. She was a friend
of Madame Hamelin, and moved to Fontainebleu to be near her while the
latter was living at _La Madeleine_. While living in Paris, Madame
Kisseleff entertained Madame Hamelin and several other ladies together
with Balzac; these dinners and his _visites de digestion_ caused him
to see much of her for awhile, but as in many of his other
friendships, his ardor cooled later, and he went to her home only when
specially invited. In 1844, she left Paris to reside at Homburg where
she built a house. The novelist took advantage of her friendship to
send articles to Madame Hanska through the Russian ambassador.

Balzac made _visites de politesse_ to the Princesse de Schonburg, an
acquaintance of Madame Hanska's, but no more than were required by
courtesy. It would have been convenient for him to have seen much of
her, had he cared to, for she had placed her child in the same house
with him on account of its vicinity to the orthopaedic hospital.

One of Madame Hanska's friends whom Balzac liked was Madame Jaroslas
Potocka, sister of the Countess Schouwaloff. She wrote some very
pleasing letters to him, but he was too busy to answer them, so he
sent her messages, or enclosed notes to her in his letters to his

La Baronne de Pfaffins, nee Comtesse Mierzciewska, was a Polish lady
whom Balzac met rather late in life. He first thought she was Madame
Hanska's cousin, but later learned that it was to M. de Hanski that
she was related. Her Polish voice reminded him so much of his
_Louloup_ that he was moved to tears; this friendship, however, did
not continue long.

Another acquaintance from the land of Balzac's "Polar Star" was Madame
Delphine Potocka who was a great friend of Chopin, to whom he
dedicated some of his happiest inspirations, and whose voice he so
loved that he requested her to sing while he was dying. Her box at the
opera was near Balzac's so that he saw her frequently, and dined with
her, but did not admire her.


 "To Maria:

 "May your name, that of one whose portrait is the noblest ornament
  of this work, lie on its opening page like a branch of sacred box,
  taken from an unknown tree, but sanctified by religion, and kept
  ever fresh and green by pious hand to protect the home.

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

Just who is the "Maria" to whom the dedication of _Eugenie Grandet_ is
addressed is a question that in the opinion of the present writer has
never been satisfactorily answered. The generally accepted answer is
that of Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, who thought that "Maria" was the girl
whom Balzac described as a "poor, simple and delightful _bourgeoise,
. . . the most naive creature that ever was, fallen like a flower from
heaven," and who said to Balzac: "Love me a year, and I will love you
all my life."

Even admitting that this much disputed letter of October 12, 1833, was
written by Balzac, though it does not bear his signature, the name
"Maria" does not appear in it, so it is no proof that she is the woman
to whom Balzac dedicated one of his greatest and probably the most
popular of his works, _Eugenie Grandet_, although the heroine has some
of the characteristics of the woman referred to in that letter in that
she is a "naive, simple, and delightful _bourgeoise_." But in
reviewing the women to whom Balzac dedicated his stories in the
_Comedie humaine_, one does not find any of this type. Either they are
members of his family, old family friends, literary friends, rich
people to whom he was indebted, women of the nobility, or women whom
he loved for a time at least, and all were women whom he could respect
and recognize in society, while the woman referred to in the letter of
October 12, 1833, does not seem to have had this last qualification.

In reply to his sister Laure's criticism that there were too many
millions in _Eugenie Grandet_, he insisted that the story was true,
and that he could create nothing better than the truth. In
investigating the truth of this story, it has been found that Jean
Niveleau, a very rich man having many of the traits of Grandet, lived
at Saumur, and that he had a beautiful daughter whom he is said to
have refused to give in marriage to Balzac. Whether this be true or
not, the novelist has screened some things of a personal nature in
this work.

Although the book is dated September, 1833, he did not finish it until
later. It was just at this time that he met Madame Hanska, and visited
her on two different occasions during the period that he was working
on _Eugenie Grandet_. As he was pressed for money, as usual, his
_Predilecta_ offered to help him financially; this he refused, but
immortalized the offer by having Eugenie give her gold to her lover.

In declining Madame Hanska's offer, he writes her:

 "Beloved angel, be a thousand times blessed for your drop of water,
  for your offer; it is everything to me and yet it is nothing. You
  see what a thousand francs would be when ten thousand a month are
  needed. If I could find nine, I could find twelve. But I should
  have liked, in reading that delightful letter of yours, to have
  plunged my hand into the sea and drawn out all its pearls to strew
  them on your beautiful black hair. . . . There is a sublime scene
  (to my mind, and I am rewarded for having it) in _Eugenie
  Grandet_, who offers her fortune to her cousin. The cousin makes
  an answer; what I said to you on that subject was more graceful.
  But to mingle a single word that I have said to my Eve in what
  others will read!--Ah! I would rather have flung _Eugenie Grandet_
  into the fire! . . . Do not think there was the least pride, the
  least false delicacy in my refusal of what you know of, the drop
  of gold you have put angelically aside. . . ."

The novelist not only gave Madame Hanska the manuscript of _Eugenie
Grandet_, but had her in mind while writing it: "One must love, my
Eve, my dear one, to write the love of _Eugenie Grandet_, a pure,
immense, proud love!"

The dedication of _Eugenie Grandet_ to "Marie" did not appear until in
1839. Balzac knew several persons named "Marie." The present writer
was at one time inclined to think that this Marie might have been the
Countess Marie Potocka, whom he met while writing _Eugenie_, but her
cousin, the Princess Radziwill, says that she is sure she is not the
one he had in mind, and that she was not the type of woman to whom
Balzac would ever have dedicated a book. The novelist had dealings
with Madame Marie Dorval, and in 1839, at the time the dedication was
written, doubtless knew of her love for Jules Sandeau. Balzac knew
also the Countess Marie d'Agoult, but she never would have inspired
such a dedication.

Still another "Marie" with whom he was most intimate about 1839, is
Madame Helene-Marie-Felicite de Valette, and it will be remembered
that while she was usually called "Helene," "Marie" was Balzac's
favorite name for her. But it is doubtful that he knew her when he
wrote the book.

Yet Balzac's love was so fleeting that if he had had this "Maria" in
mind in 1833 when he wrote _Eugenie_, he probably would have long
since forgotten her by the time the dedication was made. It is a well
known fact that Balzac dedicated many of his earlier books to friends
that he did not meet until years later, and many dedications were not
added until 1842.

 "To Helene:

 "The tiniest boat is not launched upon the sea without the
  protection of some living emblem or revered name, placed upon it
  by the mariners. In accordance with this time-honored custom,
  Madame, I pray you to be the protectress of this work now launched
  upon our literary ocean; and may the imperial name which the
  Church has canonized and your devotion has doubly sanctified for
  me guard it from peril.
                                                    "DE BALZAC."

The identity of the enchantress who inspired this beautiful dedication
of _Le Cure de Village_ has been the subject of much speculation for
students of Balzac. The author of the _Comedie humaine_ knew the
beautiful Helene Zavadovsky as early as 1835, and, as has been seen,
knew Madame de Valette in 1836.

The Princess Radziwill states that this "Helene" was a sister of
Madame Hanska, and that she died unmarried in 1842. She was much loved
by all her family, and after the death of her mother in 1837 made her
home with her sister Eve in Wierzchownia. The present author has found
no mention of her in Balzac's letters in connection with _Le Cure de
Village_, of which novel he speaks frequently, nor of his having known
her personally, but since Balzac was continually twitting Madame
Hanska about her pronunciation of various words, he was doubtless
referring to her sister Helene's Russian pronunciation when he writes:
"From time to time, I recall to mind all the gowns I have seen you
wear from the white and yellow one that first day at Peterhof
(Petergoff, _idiome_ Helene), . . ."

While Balzac evidently knew personally the women whom he had in mind
in the dedications to "Maria" and to "Helene,"--problems which have
perplexed students of Balzac,--he found time for correspondence with a
lady whom he never saw, and about whom he knew nothing beyond the
Christian name "Louise." The twenty-three letters addressed to her
bear no precise dates, but were written in 1836-1837.

Her first letter was sent to Balzac through his bookseller, who saw
her seal; but Balzac allayed, without gratifying, his curiosity by
assuring him that such letters came to him frequently. The writer was
under the impression that Balzac's name was "Henry" and some of her
correspondence was in English.

That he should have taken the time to write to this unknown
correspondent shows that her letters must have possessed some
intrinsic value for him, yet he refused to learn her identity.

 "Chance permitted me to know who you might be, and I refused to
  learn. I never did anything so chivalrous in my life; no, never! I
  consider it is grander than to risk one's life for an interview of
  ten minutes. Perhaps I may astonish you still more, when I say
  that I can learn all about you in any moment, any hour, and yet I
  refuse to learn, because you wish I should not know!"

In reply to a letter from Louise in which she complained that her time
was monopolized by visits, he writes:

 "Visits! Do they leave behind them any good for you? For the space
  of twelve years, an angelic woman stole two hours each day from
  the world, from the claims of family, from all the entanglements
  and hindrances of Parisian life--two hours to spend them beside me
  --without any one else's being aware of the fact; for twelve
  years! Do you understand all that is contained in these words? I
  can not wish that this sublime devotedness which has been my
  salvation should be repeated. I desire that you should retain all
  your illusions about me without coming one step further; and I do
  not dare to wish that you should enter upon one of these glorious,
  secret, and above all, rare and exceptional relationships.
  Moreover, I have a few friends among women whom I trust--not more
  than two or three--but they are of an insatiable exigence, and if
  they were to discover that I corresponded with an _inconnue_, they
  would feel hurt."[*]

[*] _Memoir and Letters of Balzac_. The woman Balzac refers to here is
    Madame de Berny, but this is an exaggeration.

He revealed to her his ideas regarding women and friendship; how he
longed to possess a tender affection which would be a secret between
two alone. He complained of her want of confidence in him, and of his
work in his loneliness. She tried to comfort him, and being artistic,
sent him a sepia drawing. He sought a second one to hang on the other
side of his fireplace, and thus replaced two lithographs he did not
like. As a token of his friendship he sent her a manuscript of one of
his works, saying:

 "All this is suggested while looking at your sepia drawing; and
  while preparing a gift, precious in the sight of those who love
  me, and of which I am chary, I refuse it to all who have not
  deeply touched my heart, or who have not done me a service; it is
  a thing of no value, except where there is heartfelt friendship."

During his imprisonment by order of the National Guard, she sent him
flowers, for which he was very profuse in expressing his thanks. He
appreciated especially the roses which came on his birthday, and
wished her as many tender things as there were scents in the blooming

She apparently had some misfortune, and their correspondence
terminated abruptly in this, his last letter to her:

 "_Carina_, . . . On my return from a long and difficult journey,
  undertaken for the refreshment of my over-tired brain, I find this
  letter from you, very concise, and melancholy enough in its
  solitude; it is, however, a token of your remembrance. That you
  may be happy is the wish of my heart, a very pure and
  disinterested wish, since you have decided that thus it is to be.
  I once more take up my work, and in that, as in a battle, the
  struggle occupies one entirely; one suffers, but the heart becomes

_Facino Cane_ was dedicated to Louise:

 "As a mark of affectionate gratitude."

                              CHAPTER V

                       SENTIMENTAL FRIENDSHIPS

                           MADAME DE BERNY

 "I have to stand alone now amidst my troubles; formerly I had
  beside me in my struggles the most courageous and the sweetest
  person in the world, a woman whose memory is each day renewed in
  my heart, and whose divine qualities make all other friendships
  when compared with hers seem pale. I no longer have help in the
  difficulties of life; when I am in doubt about any matter, I have
  now no other guide than this final thought, 'If she were alive,
  what would she say?' Intellects of this order are rare."

Balzac loved to seek the sympathy and confidence of people whose minds
were at leisure, and who could interest themselves in his affairs.
With his artistic temperament, he longed for the refinement, society
and delicate attentions which he found in the friendships of various
women. "The feeling of abandonment and of solitude in which I am
stings me. There is nothing selfish in me; but I need to tell my
thoughts, my efforts, my feelings to a being who is not myself;
otherwise I have no strength. I should wish for no crown if there were
no feet at which to lay that which men may put upon my head."

One of the first of these friendships was that formed with Madame de
Berny, nee (Laure-Louise-Antoinette) Hinner. She was the daughter of
a German musician, a harpist at the court of Louis XVI, and of
Louise-Marguerite-Emelie Quelpec de Laborde, a lady in waiting at the
court of Marie Antoinette. M. Hinner died in 1784, after which Madame
Hinner was married to Francois-Augustin Reinier de Jarjayes,
adjutant-general of the army. M. Jarjayes was one of the best known
persons belonging to the Royalist party during the Revolution, a
champion of the Queen, whom he made many attempts to save. He was one
of her most faithful friends, was intrusted with family keepsakes, and
was made lieutenant-general under Louis XVIII. Madame Jarjayes was
much loved by the Queen; she was also implicated in the plots. Before
dying, Marie Antoinette sent her a lock of her hair and a pair of
earrings. Laure Hinner was married April 8, 1793, to M. Gabriel de
Berny, almost nine years her senior, who was of the oldest nobility.
Madame de Berny, her husband, her mother and her stepfather were
imprisoned for nine months, and were not released until after the fall
of Robespierre.

The married life of Madame de Berny was unhappy; she was intelligent
and sentimental; he, capricious and morose. She seems to have realized
the type of the _femme incomprise_; she too was an _etrangere_, and
bore some traits of her German origin. Coming into Balzac's life at
about the age of forty, this _femme de quarante ans_ became for him
the _amie_ and the companion who was to teach him life. Still
beautiful, having been reared in intimate court circles, having been
the confidante of plotters and the guardian of secrets, possessed of
rare trinkets and souvenirs--what an open book was this _memoire
vivante_, and with what passion did the young interrogator absorb the
pages! Here he found unknown anecdotes, ignored designs, and here the
sources of his great plots, _Les Chouans_, _Madame de la Chanterie_,
and _Un Episode sous la Terreur_.

All this is what she could teach him, aided perhaps by his mother, who
lived until 1837. Here is the secret of Balzac's royalism; here is
where he first learned of the great ladies that appear in his work,
largely portrayed to him by the _amie_ who watched over his youth and
guided his maturity.

Having consulted the _Almanach des 25,000 adresses_, Madame Ruxton
thinks that Balzac met Madame de Berny when the two families lived
near each other in Paris; M. de Berny and family spent the summers in
Villeparisis, and resided during the winters at 3, rue Portefoin,
Paris. It is possible that he met her at the soirees, which he
frequented with his sisters, and where his awkwardness provoked smiles
from the ladies. While it is generally supposed that they met at
Villeparisis, MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire also believed that they must
have known each other before this, if Balzac is referring to his own
life in _Oeuvres diverses: Une Passion au College_.

Madame de Berny is first mentioned in Balzac's correspondence in 1822
when, in writing his sister Laure the general news, he informs her
that Madame de Berny has become a grandmother, and that after forty
years of reflection, realizing that money is everything, she had
invested in grain. But he must have met her some time before this, for
his family was living in Villeparisis as early as 1819.

M. de Berny bought in 1815 the home of M. Michaud de Montzaigle in
Villeparisis, and remained possessor of it until 1825. M. Parquin, the
present owner of this home, is a Balzacien who has collected all the
traditions remaining in Villeparisis concerning the two families.
According to Villeparisis tradition, Madame de Berny was a woman of
great intelligence who wrote much, and her notes and stories were not
only utilized by Balzac, but she was his collaborator, especially in
writing the _Physiologie du Mariage_ and the first part of the _Femme
de trente Ans_.

When Balzac went to Villeparisis to reside, he became tutor to his
brother Henri, and it was arranged that he should also give lessons to
one of the sons of M. and Madame de Berny. Thus Balzac probably saw
her daily and was struck by her patience and kindness toward her
husband. She was apparently a gentle and sympathetic woman who
understood Balzac as did no one else, and who ignored her own troubles
and sufferings for fear of grieving him in the midst of his struggles.

It was owing to the strong recommendation of M. de Berny, councilor at
the Court at Paris, that Balzac obtained in the spring of 1826 his
royal authorization to establish himself as a printer. During the year
1825-1826, Madame de Berny loaned Balzac 9250 francs; after his
failure, she entered in _name_ into the type-foundry association of
Laurent et Balzac. She advanced to Balzac a total of 45,000 francs,
and established her son, Alexandre de Berny, in the house where her
protege had been unsuccessful.

Though Balzac states that he paid her in full, he can not be relied
upon when he is dealing with figures, and MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire
question this statement in relating the incident told by M. Arthur
Rhone, an old friend of the de Berny family. M. de Berny told M. Rhone
that the famous bust of Flore cost him 1500 francs. One day while
visiting Balzac, his host told him to take whatever he liked as a
reimbursement, since he could not pay him. M. de Berny took some
trifle, and after Balzac's death, M. Charles Tuleu, knowing his
fondness for the bust of Flore, brought it to him as a souvenir of
their common friend. This might explain also why M. de Berny possessed
a superb clock and other things coming from Balzac's collection.

It was while Balzac was living in a little apartment in the rue des
Marais that his _Dilecta_ began her daily visits, which continued so
long, and which made such an impression on him.

Madame de Berny was of great help to Balzac in the social world and
was perhaps instrumental in developing the friendship between him and
the Duchesse de Castries. It was the Duc de Fitz-James who asked
Balzac (1832) to write a sort of program for the Royalist party, and
later (1834), wished him to become a candidate for deputy. This Duc de
Fitz-James was the nephew of the godmother of Madame de Berny. It was
to please him and the Duchesse de Castries that Balzac published a
beautiful page about the Duchesse d'Angouleme.

Although Madame de Berny was of great help to Balzac in the financial
and social worlds, of greater value was her literary influence over
him. With good judgment and excellent taste she writes him: "Act, my
dear, as though the whole multitude sees you from all sides at the
height where you will be placed, but do not cry to it to admire you,
for, on all sides, the strongest magnifying glasses will instantly be
turned on you, and how does the most delightful object appear when
seen through the microscope?"

She had had great experience in life, had suffered much and had seen
many cruel things, but she brought Balzac consolation for all his
pains and a confidence and serenity of which his appreciation is
beautifully expressed:

 "I should be most unjust if I did not say that from 1823 to 1833 an
  angel sustained me through that horrible struggle. Madame de
  Berny, though married, was like a God to me. She was a mother,
  friend, family, counselor; she made the writer, she consoled the
  young man, she created his taste, she wept like a sister, she
  laughed, she came daily, like a beneficent sleep, to still his
  sorrows. She did more; though under the control of a husband, she
  found means to lend me as much as forty-five thousand francs, of
  which I returned the last six thousand in 1836, with interest at
  five per cent., be it understood. But she never spoke to me of my
  debt, except now and then; without her, I should, assuredly, be
  dead. She often divined that I had eaten nothing for days; she
  provided for all with angelic goodness; she encouraged that pride
  which preserves a man from baseness,--for which to-day my enemies
  reproach me, calling it a silly satisfaction in myself--the pride
  that Boulanger has, perhaps, pushed to excess in my portrait."

Balzac's conception of women was formed largely from his association
with Madame de Berny in his early manhood, and a reflection of these
ideas is seen throughout his works. It was probably to give Madame de
Berny pleasure that he painted the mature beauties which won for him
so many feminine admirers.

It is doubtless Madame de Berny whom Balzac had in mind when in
_Madame Firmiani_ he describes the heroine:

 "Have you ever met, for your happiness, some woman whose harmonious
  tones give to her speech the charm that is no less conspicuous in
  her manners, who knows how to talk and to be silent, who cares for
  you with delicate feeling, whose words are happily chosen and her
  language pure? Her banter caresses you, her criticism does not
  sting; she neither preaches or disputes, but is interested in
  leading a discussion, and stops at the right moment. Her manner is
  friendly and gay, her politeness is unforced, her earnestness is
  not servile; she reduces respect to a mere gentle shade; she never
  tires you, and leaves you satisfied with her and yourself. You
  will see her gracious presence stamped on the things she collects
  about her. In her home everything charms the eye, and you breathe,
  as it seems, your native air. This woman is quite natural. You
  never feel an effort, she flaunts nothing, her feelings are
  expressed with simplicity because they are genuine. Though candid,
  she never wounds the most sensitive pride; she accepts men as God
  made them, pitying the victims, forgiving defects and absurdities,
  sympathizing with every age, and vexed with nothing because she
  has the tact of foreseeing everything. At once tender and gay, she
  first constrains and then consoles you. You love her so truly that
  if this angel does wrong, you are ready to justify her. Such was
  Madame Firmiani."

It was to Madame de Berny's son, Alexandre, that Balzac dedicated
_Madame Firmiani_, and he no doubt recognized the portrait.

Balzac often portrayed his own life and his association with women in
his works. In commenting on _La Peau de Chagrin_, he writes:

 "Pauline is a real personage for me, only more lovely than I could
  describe her. If I have made her a dream it is because I did not
  wish my secret to be discovered."

And again, in writing of _Louis Lambert_:

 "You know when you work in tapestry, each stitch is a thought.
  Well, each line in this new work has been for me an abyss. It
  contains things that are secrets between it and me."

In portraying the yearnings and sufferings of Louis Lambert (_Louis
Lambert_), of Felix de Vandenesse (_Le Lys dans la Vallee_) and of
Raphael (La Peau de Chagrin_), Balzac is picturing his own life.
Pauline de Villenoix (_Louis Lambert_) and Pauline Gaudin (_Le Peau de
Chagrin_) are possibly drawn from the same woman and have many
characteristics of Madame de Berny. Madame de Mortsauf (_Le Lys dans
la Vallee_) is Pauline, though not so outspoken. Then, is it not _La
Dilecta_ whom the novelist had in mind when Louis Lambert writes:

 "When I lay my head on your knees, I could wish to attract to you
  the eyes of the whole world, just as I long to concentrate in my
  love every idea, every power within me";

and near the end of life, could not Madame de Berny say as did Pauline
in the closing lines of _Louis Lambert_:

 "His heart was mine; his genius is with God"?

The year 1832 was a critical one in the private life of Balzac. Madame
de Berny, more than twenty years his senior, felt that they should
sever their close connection and remain as friends only. Balzac's
family had long been opposed to this intimate relationship and had
repeatedly tried to find a rich wife for him. Madame de Castries, who
had begun an anonymous correspondence with him, revealed her identity
early in that year, and the first letter from l'Etrangere, who was
soon to over-shadow all his other loves, arrived February 28, 1832.
During the same period Mademoiselle de Trumilly rejected his hand.
With so many distractions, Balzac probably did not suffer from this
separation as did his _Dilecta_. But he never forgot her, and
constantly compared other women with her, much to her detriment. He
regarded her, indeed, as a woman of great superiority.

In June (1832), Balzac left Paris to spend several weeks with his
friends, M. and Mme. de Margonne, and there at their chateau de Sache,
he wrote _Louis Lambert_ as a sort of farewell of soul to soul to the
woman he had so loved, and whose equal in devotion he never found. In
memory of his ten years' intimacy with her, he dedicated this work to
her: _Et nunc et semper dilectae dicatum 1822-1832_. It is to her
also, that he gave the beautiful Deveria portrait, resplendent with
youth and strength.[*]

[*] MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire think that it is Madame de Berny who was
    weighing on Balzac's soul when he relates, in _Le Cure de
    Village_, the tragic story of the young workman who dies from love
    without opening his lips.

M. Brunetiere has suggested that the woman whose traits best recall
Madame de Berny is Marguerite Claes, the victim in _La Recherche de
l'Absolu_, while the nature of Balzac's affection for this great
friend of his youth has not been better expressed than in Balthasar
Claes, she always ready to sacrifice all for him, and he, as
Balthasar, always ready, in the interest of his "grand work," to rob
her and make her desperate while loving her. However, Balzac states,
in speaking of Madame de Berny:

 "At any moment death may take from me an angel who has watched over
  me for fourteen years; she, too, a flower of solitude, whom the
  world had never touched, and who has been my star. My work is not
  done without tears! The attentions due to her cast uncertainty
  upon any time of which I could dispose, though she herself unites
  with the doctor in advising me some strong diversions. She pushes
  friendship so far as to hide her sufferings from me; she tries to
  seem well for me. You understand that I have not drawn Claes to do
  as he! Great God! what changes in her have been wrought in two
  months! I am overwhelmed."

M. le Breton has suggested that Madame de Berny is Catherine in _La
Derniere Fee_, Madame d'Aiglemont in _La Femme de trente Ans_, and
Madame de Beauseant in _La Femme abandonnee_, and has strengthened
this last statement by pointing out that Gaston de Nueil came to
Madame de Beauseant after she had been deserted by her lover, the
Marquis d'Ajuda-Pinto, just as the youthful Balzac came to Madame de
Berny after she had had a lover.

It is doubtless to this friendship that Balzac refers when he writes
in the last lines of _La Duchesse de Langeais_: "It is only the last
love of a woman that can satisfy the first love of a man." It is of
interest to note that Antoinette is the Christian name of the heroine
of this story. Throughout the _Comedie humaine_ are seen quite young
men who fall in love with women well advanced in years, as Calyste de
Guenic with Mademoiselle Felicite des Touches in _Beatrix_, and Lucien
de Rubempre with Madame Bargeton in _Illusions perdues_.

In _Eugenie Grandet_ Balzac writes:

 "Do you know what Madame Campan used to say to us? 'My children, so
  long as a man is a Minister, adore him; if he falls, help to drag
  him to the ditch. Powerful, he is a sort of deity; ruined, he is
  below Marat in his sewer, because he is alive, and Marat, dead.
  Life is a series of combinations, which must be studied and
  followed if a good position is to be successfully maintained.'"

Since Madame Campan was _femme de chambre_ of Marie Antoinette, Balzac
probably heard this maxim through Madame de Berny.

Although some writers state that Madame de Berny was one of Balzac's
collaborators in composing the _Physiologie du Mariage_, he says,
regarding this work: "I undertook the _Physiologie du Mariage_ and the
_Peau de Chagrin_ against the advice of that angel whom I have lost."
She may have inspired him, however, in writing _Le Cure de Tours_, as
it is dated at her home, Saint-Firmin, 1832.

In 1833, Balzac wrote Madame Hanska that he had dedicated the fourth
volume of the _Scenes de la Vie privee_ to her, putting her seal at
the head of _l'Expiation_, the last chapter of _La Femme de trente
Ans_, which he was writing at the moment he received her first letter.
But a person who was as a mother to him and whose caprices and even
jealousy he was bound to respect, had exacted that this silent
testimony should be repressed. He had the sincerity to avow to her
both the dedication and its destruction, because he believed her to
have a soul sufficiently lofty not to desire homage which would cause
grief to one as noble and grand as she whose child he was, for she had
rescued him when in youth he had nearly perished in the midst of
griefs and shipwreck. He had saved the only copy of that dedication,
for which he had been blamed as if it were a horrible coquetry, and
wished her to keep it as a souvenir and as an expression of his

Balzac was ever loyal to Madame de Berny and refused to reveal her
baptismal name to Madame Hanska; soon after their correspondence began
he wrote her: "You have asked me the baptismal name of the _Dilecta_.
In spite of my complete and blind faith, in spite of my sentiment for
you, I cannot tell it to you; I have never told it. Would you have
faith in me if I told it? No."

After 1834 Madame de Berny's health failed rapidly, and her last days
were full of sorrow. Among her numerous family trials Balzac

 "One daughter become insane, another daughter dead, the third
  dying, what blows!--And a wound more violent still, of which
  nothing can be told. Finally, after thirty years of patience and
  devotion, forced to separate from her husband under pain of dying
  if she remained a few days longer. All this in a short space of
  time. This is what I suffer through the heart that created me.
  . . . Madame de Berny is much better; she has borne a last shock,
  the illness of a beloved son whose brother has gone to bring him
  home from Belgium. . . . Suddenly, the only son who resembles her,
  a young man handsome as the day, tender and spiritual like
  herself, like her full of noble sentiments, fell ill, and ill of a
  cold which amounts to an affection of the lungs. The only child
  out of _nine_ with whom she can sympathize! Of the nine, only four
  remain; and her youngest daughter has become hysterically insane,
  without any hope of cure. That blow nearly killed her. I was
  correcting the _Lys_ beside her; but my affection was powerless
  even to temper this last blow. Her son (twenty-three years old)
  was in Belgium where he was directing an establishment of great
  importance. His brother Alexandre went for him, and he arrived a
  month ago, in a deplorable condition. This mother, without
  strength, almost expiring, sits up at night to nurse Armand. She
  has nurses and doctors. She implores me not to come and not to
  write to her."[*]

[*] _Lettres a l'Etrangere. Various writers in speaking of Madame de
    Berny, state that she had eight children; others, nine. Balzac
    remarks frequently that she had nine. Among others, Madame Ruxton
    says that she had eight. She gives their names and dates of birth.
    The explanation of this difference is probably found in the
    following: "I am going to fulfil a rather sad duty this morning.
    The daughter of Madame de B . . . and of Campi . . . asks for me.
    In 1824, they wished me to marry her. She was bewitchingly
    beautiful, a flower of Bengal! After twenty years, I am going to
    see her again! At forty years of age! She asks a service of me;
    doubtless a literary ambition! . . . I am going there. . . . Three
    o'clock. I was sure of it! I have seen Julie, to whom and for whom
    I wrote the verses: 'From the midst of those torrents of glory and
    of light, etc.:' which are in _Illusions perdues_. . . ." Neither
    the name _Julie_ nor the date of her birth is given by Madame

Some secret pertaining to Madame de Berny remains untold. In 1834
Balzac writes Madame Hanska: "The greatest sorrows have overwhelmed
Madame de Berny. She is far from me, at Nemours, where she is dying of
her troubles. I cannot write you about them; they are things that can
only be spoken of with the greatest secrecy." He might have revealed
this secret to her in 1835 when he visited her in Vienna; the
following secret, however, is not explained in subsequent letters, and
Balzac did not see Madame Hanska again until seven years later in St.

 "I have much distress, even enormous distress in the direction of
  Madame de Berny; not from her directly but from her family. It is
  not of a nature to be written. Some evening at Wierzchownia, when
  the heart wounds are scars, I will tell it to you in murmurs so
  that the spiders cannot hear, and so that my voice can go from my
  lips to your heart. They are dreadful things, which dig into life
  to the bone, deflowering all, and making one distrust all, except
  you for whom I reserve these sighs."

Though Madame de Berny may have been jealous of other women in her
earlier association with Balzac, she evidently changed later, for he

 "Alas! Madame de Berny is no better. The malady makes frightful
  progress, and I cannot express to you how grand, noble and
  touching this soul of my life has been in these days measured by
  illness, and with what fervor she desires that another be to me
  what she has been. She knows the inward spring and nobility that
  the habit of carrying all things to an idol gives me. My God is on

Contrary to his family, Madame Carraud sympathized with Balzac in his
devotion to Madame de Berny, and invited them to be her guests. In
accepting he writes:

 "Her life is so much bound up in mine! Ah, no one can form any true
  idea of this deep attachment which sustains me in all my work, and
  consoles me every moment in all I suffer. You can understand
  something of this, you who know so well what friendship is, you
  who are so affectionate, so good. . . . I thank you beforehand for
  your offer of Frapesle to her. There, amid your flowers, and in
  your gentle companionship, and the country life, if convalescence
  is possible, and I venture to hope for it, she will regain life
  and health."

He apparently did not receive such sympathy from Madame Hanska in
their early correspondence:

 "Why be displeased about a woman fifty-eight years old, who is a
  mother to me, who folds me in her heart and protects me from
  stings? Do not be jealous of her; she would be so glad of our
  happiness. She is an angel, sublime. There are angels of earth and
  angels of heaven; she is of heaven."

Madame de Berny's illness continued to grow more and more serious. The
reading of the second number of _Pere Goriot_ affected her so much
that she had another heart attack. But as her illness and griefs
changed and withered her, Balzac's affection for her redoubled. He did
not realize how rapidly she was failing, for she did not wish him to
see her unless she felt well and could appear attractive. On his
return to France from a journey to Italy with Madame Marbouty, he was
overcome with grief at the news of the death of Madame de Berny. He
found on his table a letter from her son Alexandre briefly announcing
his mother's death.

But the novelist did not cease to respect her criticism:

 "I resumed my work this morning; I am obeying the last words that
  Madame de Berny wrote me; 'I can die; I am sure that you have upon
  your brow the crown I wished there. The _Lys_ is a sublime work,
  without spot or flaw. Only, the death of Madame de Mortsauf does
  not need those horrible regrets; they injure the beautiful letter
  she writes.' Therefore, to-day I have piously effaced a hundred
  lines, which, according to many persons, disfigure that creation.
  I have not regretted a single word, and each time that my pen was
  drawn through one of them, never was the heart of man more deeply
  stirred. I thought I saw that grand and sublime woman, that angel
  of friendship, before me, smiling as she smiled to me when I used
  a strength so rare,--the strength to cut off one's own limb and
  feel neither pain nor regret in correcting, in conquering one's

Balzac was sincere in his friendship with Madame de Berny, and never
ceased to revere her memory. The following appreciations of her worth
are a few of the numerous beautiful tributes he has paid her:

 "I have lost the being whom I love most in the world. . . . She
  whom I have lost was more than a mother, more than a friend, more
  than any human creature can be to another; it can only be
  expressed by the word _divine_. She sustained me through storms of
  trouble by word and deed and entire devotedness. If I am alive
  this day, it is to her that it is due. She was everything to me;
  and although during the last two years, time and illness kept us
  apart, we saw each other through the distance. She inspired me;
  she was for me a spiritual sun. Madame de Mortsauf in _Le Lys dans
  la Vallee_, only faintly shadows forth some of the slighter
  qualities of this woman; there is but a very pale reflection of
  her, for I have a horror of unveiling my own private emotions to
  the public, and nothing personal to myself will ever be known."

 "Madame de Berny is dead. I can say no more on that point. My
  sorrow is not of a day; it will react upon my whole life. For a
  year I had not seen her, nor did I see her in her last moments.
  . . . _She_, who was always so lovingly severe to me, acknowledged
  that the _Lys_ was one of the finest books in the French language;
  she decked herself at last with the crown which, fifteen years
  earlier, I had promised her, and, always coquettish, she
  imperiously forbade me to visit her, because she would not have me
  near her unless she were beautiful and well. The letter deceived
  me. . . . When I was wrecked the first time, in 1828, I was only
  twenty-nine years old and I had an angel at my side. . . . There
  is a blank which has saddened me. The adored is here no longer.
  Every day I have occasion to deplore the eternal absence. Would
  you believe that for six months I have not been able to go to
  Nemours to bring away the things that ought to be in my sole
  possession? Every week I say to myself, 'It shall be this week!
  . . .' I was very unhappy in my youth, but Madame de Berny
  balanced all by an absolute devotion, which was understood to its
  full extent only when the grave had seized its prey. Yes, I was
  spoiled by that angel."[*]

[*] Madame de Berny died July 27, 1836.

So faithful was Balzac to the memory of his _Dilecta_ that nine years
after her death, he was deeply affected on seeing at the _Cour
d'Assises_ a woman about forty-five years of age, who strongly
resembled Madame de Berny, and who was being arraigned for deeds
caused by her devotion to a reckless youth.


 "He who has not seen, at some ball of Madame, Duchesse de Berry,
  glide airily, scarcely touching the floor, so moving that one
  perceived in her only grace before knowing whether she was a
  beauty, a young woman with blond, deep-golden hair; he who has not
  seen appear then the young Marquise de Castries in a fete, cannot,
  without doubt, form an idea of this new beauty, charming, aerial,
  praised and honored in the salons of the Restoration."

Balzac had a brief, yet ardent friendship with the Duchesse de
Castries which ended so unhappily for him that one might say: "Heaven
has no rage like love to hatred turned." Madame de Castries was the
daughter of the Duchesse (nee Fitz-James) and the Duc de Maille. She
did not become a duchess until in 1842, and bore the title of marquise
previous to that time. Separated from her husband as the result of a
famous love affair, the Marquise gathered round her a group of
intellectual people, among whom were the writers Balzac, Musset,
Sainte-Beuve, etc., and continued active in literary and artistic
circles until her death (1861).

On Balzac's return to Paris after a prolonged visit with his friends
at Sache during the month of September, 1831, he received an anonymous
letter, dated at Paris, a circumstance which was with him of rather
frequent occurrence, as with many men of letters.

This lady criticized the _Physiologie du Mariage_, to which Balzac
replies, defending his position:

 "The _Physiologie du Mariage_, madame, was a work undertaken for
  the purpose of defending the cause of women. I knew that if, with
  the view of inculcating ideas favorable to their emancipation and
  to a broad and thorough system of education for them, I had gone
  to work in a blundering way, I should at best, have been regarded
  as nothing more than an author of a theory more or less plausible.
  I was therefore, obliged to clothe my ideas, to disguise them
  under a new shape, in biting, incisive words that should lay hold
  on the mind of my readers, awaken their attention and leave
  behind, reflections upon which they might meditate. Thus then any
  woman who has passed through the 'storms of life' would see that I
  attribute the blame of all faults committed by the wives, entirely
  to their husbands. It is, in fact, a plenary absolution. Besides
  this, I plead for the natural and inalienable rights of woman. A
  happy marriage is impossible unless there be a perfect
  acquaintance between the two before marriage--a knowledge of each
  other's ways, habits and character. And I have not flinched from
  any of the consequences involved in this principle. Those who know
  me are aware that I have been faithful to this opinion ever since
  I reached the age of reason; and in my eyes a young girl who has
  committed a fault deserves more interest than she who, remaining
  ignorant, lies open to the misfortunes of the future. I am at this
  present time a bachelor, and if I should marry later in life, it
  will only be to a widow."

Thus was begun the correspondence, and the Duchess ended by lifting
her mask and inviting the writer to visit her; he gladly accepted her
gracious offer to come, not as a literary man nor as an artist, but as
himself. It is a striking coincidence that Balzac accepted this
invitation the very day, February 28, 1832, that he received the first
letter from _l'Etrangere_.

What must have been Balzac's surprise, and how flattered he must have
felt, on learning that his unknown correspondent belonged to the
highest aristocracy of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and that her
husband was a peer of France under Charles X!

 "Madame de Castries was a coquettish, vain, delicate, clever woman,
  with a touch of sensibility, piety and _chaleur de salon_; a true
  Parisian with all her brilliant exterior accomplishments,
  qualities refined by education, luxury and aristocratic
  surroundings, but also with all her coldness and faults; in a
  word, one of those women of whom one must never ask friendship,
  love or devotion beyond a light veneer, because nature had created
  some women morally poor."

At first, Balzac was too enraptured to judge her accurately, but after
frequenting her salon for several months, he says of her:

 "It is necessary that I go and climb about at Aix, in Savoy, to run
  after some one who, perhaps, will laugh at me--one of those
  aristocratic women of whom you no doubt have a horror; one of
  those angelic beauties to whom one ascribes a soul; a true
  duchess, very disdainful, very loving, subtle, witty, a coquette,
  like nothing I have ever yet seen, and who says she loves me, who
  wants to keep me in a palace at Venice (for I tell you
  everything), and who desires I should write nothing, except for
  her; one of those women who must be worshiped on one's knees when
  they wish it, and whom one has such pleasure in conquering; a
  woman to be dreamt of, jealous of everything."

A few weeks later he writes from Aix:

 "I have come here to seek at once both much and little. Much,
  because I see daily a person full of grace and amiability, little,
  because she is never likely to love me."

Under the influence of the Duchesse de Castries and the Duc de
Fitz-James, Balzac gave more and more prominence to Catholic and
Legitimist sentiments; and it was perhaps for her sake that the
novelist offered himself as a candidate for deputy in several
districts, but was defeated in all of them. He thought it quite
probable that the Duc de Fitz-James would be elected in at least two
districts, so if he were not elected at Angouleme, the Duke might
use his interest to get him elected for the place he declined.

It was after Balzac met Madame de Castries that one notes his
extravagant tastes and love of display as shown in his horses and
carriage, his extra servant, his numerous waistcoats, his gold
buttons, his appearance at the opera with his wonderful cane, and his
indulgence in rare pictures, old furniture, and bric-a-brac in

Induced to follow her to Aix, he continued his work, rising at five in
the morning and working until half past five in the afternoon. His
lunch came from the circle, and at six o'clock, he dined with Madame
de Castries, and spent the evening with her. His intimacy with this
illustrious family increased, and he accepted an invitation to
accompany them to Italy, giving several reasons for this journey:

 "I am at the gates of Italy, and I fear to give way to the
  temptation of passing through them. The journey would not be
  costly; I could make it with the Fitz-James family, who would be
  exceedingly agreeable; they are all perfect to me. . . . I travel
  as fourth passenger in Mme. de Castries' _vetturino_ and the
  bargain--which includes everything, food, carriages, hotels--is a
  thousand francs for all of us to go from Geneva to Rome; making my
  share two hundred and fifty francs. . . . I shall make this
  splendid journey with the Duke, who will treat me as if I were his
  son. I also shall be in relation with the best society; I am not
  likely to meet with such an opportunity again. M. de Fitz-James
  has been in Italy before, he knows the country, and will spare me
  all loss of time. Besides this, his name will throw open many
  doors to me. The Duchess and he are both more than kind to me, in
  every way, and the advantages of their society are great."

From Aix they went to Geneva. Just what happened here, we shall
probably never know. Suddenly abandoning the proposed trip, Balzac
writes his mother:

 "It is advisable I should return to France for three months. . . .
  Besides, my traveling companions will not be at Naples till
  February. I shall, therefore, come back, but not to Paris; my
  return will not be known to any one; and I shall start again for
  Naples in February, via Marseilles and the steamer. I shall be
  more at rest on the subjects of money and literary obligations."

Later he alludes thus to his sudden departure from Geneva:

 "_Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu!_ God, in whom I believe, owed me some sweet
  emotions at the sight of Geneva, for I left it disconsolate,
  cursing everything, abhorring womankind! With what joy shall I
  return to it, my celestial love, my Eva!"

Thus was ended an ardent friendship of about eight months' duration,
for instead of rejoining the Duchesse de Castries in Italy Balzac's
first visit to that country was made many years later, and then in the
delightful company of his "Polar Star."

In speaking of this sudden breach, Miss M. F. Sandars says:

 "We can only conjecture the cause of the final rupture, as no
  satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. The original 'Confession'
  in the _Medecin de Campagne_, which is the history of Balzac's
  relations and parting with Madame de Castries, is in the
  possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul. The present
  'Confession' was substituted for it, because the first revealed
  too much of Balzac's private life. However, even in the original
  'Confession,' we learn no reason for Madame de Castries' sudden
  resolve to dismiss her adorer, as Balzac declares with indignant
  despair that he can give no explanation of it. Apparently she
  parted from him one evening with her usual warmth of affection,
  and next morning everything was changed, and she treated him with
  the utmost coldness."

Fully to appreciate what this friendship meant to both, one must
consider the private life of each. As has been seen, it was in the
summer of 1832 that Balzac and his _Dilecta_ decided to sever their
intimate connection, and since his _Chatelaine_ of Wierzchownia had
not yet become the dominating force in his life, his heart was
doubtless yearning for some one to adore.

There was also an aching void in the heart of Madame de Castries. She,
too, was recovering from an amorous attachment, more serious than was
his, for death had recently claimed the young Count Metternich.
Perhaps then, each was seeking consolation in the other's society.

There was nothing more astonishing or charming than to see in the
evening, in one of the most simple little drawing-rooms, antiquely
furnished with tables, cushions of old velvet and screens of the
eighteenth century, this woman, her spine injured, reclining in her
invalid's chair, languid, but without affectation. This woman--with
her profile more Roman than Greek, her hair falling over her high,
white brow--was the Duchesse de Castries, nee de Maille, related to
the best families of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. Accompanying the
young Comte de Metternich on the hunt, she was caught in the branch of
a tree, and fell, injuring her spine. But a shadow of her former
brilliant self--such had become this beauty, once so dazzling that the
moment she entered the drawing-room, her gorgeous robe falling over
shoulders worthy of a Titian, the brilliancy of the candles was
literally effaced.[*]

[*] Philarete Chasles was a frequent visitor of her salon. When Balzac
    visited Madame Hanska at Vienna in the summer of 1835, he did a
    favor for the Duchesse de Castries while there. He wrote _La
    Filandiere_, 1835, one of his _Contes drolatiques_, for Madame de
    Castries' son, M. le baron d'Aldenburg.

Balzac refers frequently to Count Metternich in writing to Madame
Hanska of his association with Madame de Castries:

 "There is still a Metternich in this adventure; but this time it is
  the son, who died in Florence. I have already told you of this
  cruel affair, and I had no right to tell you. Though separated
  from that person out of delicacy, all is not over yet. I suffer
  through her; but I do not judge her. . . . Madame de C---- insists
  that she has never loved any one except M. de M---- and that she
  loves him still, that Artemisia of Ephesus. . . . You asked me, I
  believe, about Madame de C---- She has taken the thing, as I told
  you, tragically, and now distrusts the M---- family. Beneath all
  this, on both sides there is something inexplicable, and I have no
  desire to look for the key of mysteries which do not concern me. I
  am with Madame de C---- on the proper terms of politeness, and as
  you yourself would wish me to be."

After their abrupt separation at Geneva, their relations continued to
be estranged:

 "For the moment I will tell you that Madame de C---- has written me
  that we are not to see each other again; she has taken offense at
  a letter, and I at many other things. Be assured that there is no
  love in all this! . . . I meant to speak to you of Madame de
  C----, but I have not the time. Twenty-five days hence I will tell
  you by word of mouth. In two words, your Honore, my Eva, grew
  angry at the coldness which simulated friendship. I said what I
  thought; the reply was that I ought not to see again a woman to
  whom I could say such cruel things. I asked a thousand pardons for
  the 'great liberty,' and we continue on a very cold footing."

Balzac was deeply wounded through his passionate love for Madame de
Castries, and resented her leaving him in the depths of an abyss of
coldness after having inflamed him with the fire of her soul; he began
to think of revenge:

 "I abhor Madame de C----, for she blighted my life without giving
  me another,--I do not say a comparable one, but without giving me
  what she promised. There is not the shadow of wounded vanity, oh!
  but disgust and contempt . . . If Madame de C----'s letter
  displeases you, say so frankly, my love. I will write to her that
  my affections are placed in a heart too jealous for me to be
  permitted to correspond with a woman who has her reputation for
  beauty, for charm, and that I act frankly in telling her
  so. . . ."

Indeed, his experience with Madame de Castries at Geneva had made him
so unhappy that on his return to that city to visit his _Predilecta_,
he had moments of joy mingled with sorrow, as the scenery recalled
how, on his previous visit, he had wept over his _illusions perdues_.
While other writers suggest different causes, one might surmise that
this serious disappointment was the beginning of Balzac's heart
trouble, for in speaking of it, he says: "It is necessary for my life
to be bright and pleasant. The cruelties of the woman whom you know
have been the cause of the trouble; then the disasters of 1848. . . ."

He tried to overcome his dejection by intense work, but he could not
forget the tragic suffering he had undergone. The experience he had
recently passed through he disclosed in one of his most noted stories,
_La Duchesse de Langeais_, which he wrote largely in 1834 at the same
fatal city of Geneva, but this time, while enjoying the society of the
beautiful Madame Hanska. In this story, under the name of the heroine,
the Duchesse de Langeais, he describes the Duchesse de Castries:

 "This was a woman artificially educated, but in reality ignorant; a
  woman whose instincts and feelings were lofty, while the thought
  which should have controlled them was wanting. She squandered the
  wealth of her nature in obedience to social conventions; she was
  ready to brave society, yet she hesitated till her scruples
  degenerated into artifice. With more wilfulness than force of
  character, impressionable rather than enthusiastic, gifted with
  more brain than heart; she was supremely a woman, supremely a
  coquette, and above all things a _Parisienne_, loving a brilliant
  life and gaiety, reflecting never, or too late; imprudent to the
  verge of poetry, and humble in the depths of her heart, in spite
  of her charming insolence. Like some straight-growing reed, she
  made a show of independence; yet, like the reed, she was ready to
  bend to a strong hand. She talked much of religion, and had it not
  at heart, though she was prepared to find in it a solution of her

In the same story under the name of the Marquis de Montriveau, Balzac
is doubtless portraying himself. It was probably in the home of the
Duchesse de Castries that Balzac conceived some of his ideas of the
aristocracy of the exclusive Faubourg Saint-Germain, a picture of
which he has drawn in this story of which she is the heroine. Her
influence is seen also in the characters so minutely drawn of the
heartless _Parisienne_, no longer young, but seductive, refined and
aristocratic, though deceptive and perfidious.

Before publishing _La Duchesse de Langeais_, the novelist was either
tactful or vindictive enough to call on Madame de Castries and read to
her his new book. He says of this visit: "I have just returned from
Madame de C----, whom I do not want for an enemy when my book comes
out and the best means of obtaining a defender against the Faubourg
Saint-Germain is to make her approve of the work in advance; and she
greatly approved of it." But a few weeks later, he writes: "Here I am,
on bad terms with Madame de C---- on account of the _Duchesse de
Langeais_--so much the better." If Balzac refers to Madame de Castries
in the following except, one may even say that he had her correct his

 "Say whatever you like about _La Duchesse de Langeais_, your
  remarks do not affect me; but a lady whom you may perhaps know,
  illustrious and elegant, has approved everything, corrected
  everything like a royal censor, and her authority on ducal matters
  is incontestable; I am safe under the shadow of her shawl."

Balzac continued to call on her and to write to her occasionally, and
was very sympathetic to her illness, especially as her Parisian
friends seemed to have abandoned her. Though death did not come to her
until more than twenty-five years later, he writes at this time:

 "Madame de Castries is dying; the paralysis is attacking the other
  limb. Her beauty is no more; she is blighted. Oh! I pity her. She
  suffers horribly and inspires pity only. She is the only person I
  visit, and then, for one hour every week. It is more than I really
  can do, but the hour is compelled by the sight of that slow

In her despondency he tries to cheer her:

 "I do not like your melancholy; I should scold you well if you were
  here. I would put you on a large divan, where you would be like a
  fairy in the midst of her palace, and I would tell you that in
  this life you must love in order to live. Now, you do not love. A
  lively affection is the bread of the soul, and when the soul is
  not fed it grows starved, like the body. The bonds of the soul and
  body are such that each suffers with the other. . . . A thousand
  kindly things in return for your flowers, which bring me much
  happiness, but I wish for something more. . . . You have mingled
  bitterness with the flatteries you have the goodness to bestow on
  my book, as if you knew all the weight of your words and how far
  they would reach. I would a thousand times rather you would
  consider the book and the pen as things of your own, than receive
  these praises."[*]

[*] It is interesting to note Balzac's fondness for flowers, as is
    seen in his association of them with various women, and the
    prominent place he has given them in some of his works.

Though his visits continued, their friendship gradually grew colder,
and in 1836 he writes: "I have broken the last frail relations of
politeness with Madame de C----. She enjoys the society of MM. Janni
and Sainte-Beauve, who have so outrageously wounded me. It seemed to
me bad taste, and now I am happily out of it."

_La Duchesse de Langeais_ appeared in 1834, but Madame de Castries had
not fully wreaked her revenge on Balzac. For some time an Irish woman,
a Miss Patrickson, had insisted on translating Balzac's works. Madame
de Castries engaged her as teacher of English, and used her as a means
of ensnaring Balzac by having her write him a love letter and sign it
"Lady Nevil." Though suspicious about this letter, he answered it, and
a rendezvous was arranged at the opera. That day he called on Madame
de Castries, and she had him remain for dinner. When he excused
himself to go to the opera, she insisted on accompanying him; he then
realized that he was a victim of her strategy, which he thus

 "I go to the opera. No one there. Then I write a letter, which
  brings the miss, old, horrible, with hideous teeth, but full of
  remorse for the part she had played, full of affection for me and
  contempt and horror for the Marquise. Though my letters were
  extremely ironical and written for the purpose of making a woman
  masquerading as a false lady blush, she (Miss Patrickson) had
  recovered them. I had the upper hand of Madame de C---- She ended
  by divining that in this intrigue she was on the down side. From
  that time forth she vowed me a hatred which will end only with
  life. In fact, she may rise out of her grave to calumniate me. She
  never opened _Seraphita_ on account of its dedication, and her
  jealousy is such that if she could completely destroy the book she
  would weep for joy."[*]

[*] Seized with pity for this poor Irish woman, Balzac called later to
    see about some translations and found her overcome by drink in the
    midst of poverty and dirt. He learned afterwards that she was
    addicted to the habit of drinking gin.

Notwithstanding their enmity Balzac visited her occasionally. She had
become so uncomely that he could not understand his infatuation at
Aix, ten years before. He disliked her especially because she had for
the moment, in posing as Madame de Balzac, made Madame Hanska believe
he was married. He enjoyed telling her of Madame Hanska's admiration
for and devotion to him, and sarcastically remarked to her that she
was such a "true friend" she would be happy to learn of his financial
success. Thus, during a period of several years, while speaking of her
as his enemy, the novelist continued to dine with her, but was ever
ready to overwhelm her with sarcasm, even while her guest. Yet, in
1843, he dedicated to her _L'Illustre Gaudissart_, a work written ten
years before.

Though he was fully recovered with time, this drama, played by a
coquette, was almost tragic for the author of the _Comedie humaine_.
No other woman left so deep a mark of passion or such rankling wounds
in his bleeding heart, as did she of whom he says:

 "It has required five years of wounds for my tender nature to
  detach itself from one of iron. A gracious woman, this Duchess of
  whom I spoke to you, and one who had come to me under an
  incognito, which, I render her this justice, she laid aside the
  day I asked her to. . . . This _liaison_ which, whatever may be
  said, be assured has remained by the will of the woman in the most
  reproachable conditions, has been one of the great sorrows of my
  life. The secret misfortunes of my situation actually come from
  the fact that I sacrificed everything to her, for a single one of
  her desires; she never divined anything. A wounded man must be
  pardoned for fearing injuries. . . . I alone know what there is of
  horror in the _Duchesse de Langeais_."

In 1831 Balzac asked for the hand of a young lady of the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, Mademoiselle Eleonore de Trumilly, second daughter of
his friend the Baron de Trumilly, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Artillery
of the Royal guard under the Restoration, a former _emigre_, and of
Madame Alexandra-Anna de Montiers. This request was received by her
father, who transmitted it to her, but she rejected the suitor and
married June 18, 1833, Francois-Felix-Claude-Marie-Marguerite Labroue,
Baron de Vareilles-Sommieres, of the diocese of Poitiers.

The Baron de Trumilly (died April 7, 1832) held high rank among the
officers of the artillery, and his cultured mind rendered him one of
the ornaments of society. He lived in friendly and intellectual
relations with Balzac while the future novelist was working on the
_Chouans_ and the _Physiologie du Mariage_, and at the time Balzac was
revising the latter for publication, he went to dine frequently at the
home of the Baron, who used to work with him until late in the
evening. In this work he introduces an old _emigre_ under the initials
of Marquis de T---- which are quite similar to those of the Baron de
Trumilly. This Marquis de T---- went to Germany about 1791, which
corresponds to the life of the Baron.

Baron de Trumilly welcomed Balzac into his home, took a great interest
in his work, and seemed willing to give him one of his three
daughters; but one can understand how the young novelist, who had not
yet attained great fame, might not favorably impress a young lady of
the social standing of Mademoiselle de Trumilly, and her father did
not urge her to accept him.

Although Balzac wrote Madame Hanska that when he called the girl loved
by Dr. Benassis in his "Confession" (Le Medecin de Campagne)
"Evelina," he said to himself, "She will quiver with joy in seeing
that her name has occupied me, that she was present to my memory, and
that what I deemed loveliest and noblest in the young girl, I have
named for her," some think that the lady he had in mind was not Mme.
Hanska, but Eleonore de Trumilly, who really was a young unmarried
girl, while Madame Hanska was not only married, but the mother of
several children. Again, letters written by the author to his family
show his condition to have been desperate at that time. Balzac asserts
that the story of _Louis Lambert_ is true to life; hence, despondent
over his own situation, he makes Louis Lambert become insane, and
causes Dr. Benassis to think of suicide when disappointed in love.

Thus was the novelist doomed, early in his literary career, to meet
with a disappointment which, as has been seen, was to be repeated some
months later with more serious results, when his adoration for the
Duchesse de Castries was suddenly turned into bitterness.


 "And they talk of the first love! I know nothing as terrible as the
 last, it is strangling."

The longest and by far the most important of Balzac's friendships
began by correspondence was the one with Madame Eveline Hanska, whose
first letter arrived February 28, 1832. The friendship soon developed
into a more sentimental relationship culminating March 14, 1850, when
Madame Hanska became Madame Honore de Balzac. This "grand and
beautiful soul-drama" is one of the noblest in the world, and in the
history of literature the longest.

So long was Balzac in pursuit of this apparent chimera, and so ardent
was his passion for his "polar star" that the above words of Quinola
may well be applied to his experience. So fervent was his adoration,
so pathetic his sufferings and so persistent his pursuit during the
seventeen long years of waiting that Miss Betham-Edwards has
appropriately said of his letters to Madame Hanska:

 "Opening with a pianissimo, we soon reach _a con molto
  expressione_, a _crescendo_, a _molto furore_ quickly following.
  Every musical term, adjectival, substantival, occurs to us as we
  read the thousand and odd pages of the two volumes. . . . Nothing
  in his fiction or any other, records a love greatening as the
  tedious years wore on, a love sovereignly overcoming doubt,
  despair and disillusion, such a love as the great Balzac's for

Their relationship from the beginning of their correspondence to the
tragic end which came so soon after Balzac had arrived "at the summit
of happiness," has been shrouded in mystery. This mystery has been
heightened by the vivid imagination of some of Balzac's biographers,
where fancy replace facts.

Miss Katherine P. Wormeley denies the authenticity of some of the
letters published in the _Lettres a l'Etrangere_, saying:

 "No explanation is given of how these letters were obtained, and no
  proof or assurance is offered of their authenticity. A foot-note
  appended to the first letter merely states as follows: 'M. le
  vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, in whose hands are the
  originals of these letters, has related the history of this
  correspondence in detail, under the title of _Un Roman d'Amour_
  (Calmann Levy, publisher). Madame Hanska, born Evelina (Eve)
  Rzewuska, who was then twenty-six or twenty-eight years old,
  resided at the chateau of Wierzchownia, in Volhynia. An
  enthusiastic reader of the _Scenes de la Vie privee_, uneasy at
  the different turns which the mind of the author was taking in
  _La Peau de Chagrin_, she addressed to Balzac--then thirty-three
  years old, in the care of the publisher Gosselin, a letter signed
  _l'Etrangere_, which was delivered to him February 18, 1832. Other
  letters followed; that of November 7 ended thus: 'A word from you
  in the _Quotidienne_ will give me the assurance that you have
  received my letter, and that I can write to you without fear. Sign
  it; to _l'E---- H. de B_.' This acknowledgment of reception
  appeared in the _Quotidienne_ of December 9. Thus was inaugurated
  the system of _petite_ correspondence now practised in divers
  newspapers, and at the same time, this correspondence with her who
  was seventeen years later, in 1850, to become his wife."[*]

[*] Miss M. F. Sandars states that a copy of the _Quotidienne_
    containing this acknowledgment was in the possession of the
    Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, and that she saw it. At the
    time of writing this preface, Miss Wormeley did not believe the
    correspondence began until February, 1833. In undertaking to prove
    this, she cited a letter from Balzac written to Madame Hanska,
    dated January 4, 1846, in which he says that the thirteen years
    will soon be completed since he received her first letter. She
    corrects this statement, however, in writing her _Memoir of
    Balzac_ three years later. The mistake in this letter here
    mentioned is only an example of the inaccuracy of Balzac, found
    not only in his letters, but throughout the _Comedie humaine_. But
    Miss Wormeley's argument might have been refuted by quoting
    another letter from Balzac to Madame Hanska dated February, 1840:
    "After eight years you do not know me!"

Regarding the two letters published in _Un Roman d'Amour_, pp. 33-49,
dated November 7, 1832, and January 8, 1833, and signed _l'Etrangere_,
Miss Wormeley says it is not necessary to notice them, since the
author himself states that they are not in Madame Hanska's

She is quite correct in this, for Spoelberch de Lovenjoul writes: "How
many letters did Balzac receive thus? No one knows. But we possess
two, neither of which is in Madame Hanska's handwriting." In speaking
of the first letter that arrived, he says:

 "This first record of interest which was soon to change its nature,
  has unfortunately not been found yet. Perhaps this page perished
  in the _autodafe_ which, as the result of a dramatic adventure,
  Balzac made of all the letters he had received from Madame Hanska;
  perhaps also, by dint of rereading it, he had worn it out and
  involuntarily destroyed it himself. We do not know. In any case,
  we have not found it in the part of his papers which have fallen
  into our hands. We regret it very much, for this letter must be
  remarkable to have produced so great an impression on the future
  author of the _Comedie humaine_."

The question arises: If Balzac burned in 1847 "all the letters he had
received from Madame Hanska," how could de Lovenjoul publish in 1896
two letters that he alleged to be from her, dated in 1832 and 1833?

The Princess Radziwill who is the niece of Madame Honore de Balzac and
was reared by her in the house of Balzac in the rue Fortunee, has been
both gracious and generous to the present writer in giving her much
valuable information that could not have been obtained elsewhere. In
answer to the above question, she states:

 "Balzac said that he burned my aunt's letters in order to reassure
  her one day when she had reasons to fear they would fall into
  other hands than those to whom they belonged. After his death, my
  aunt found them all, and I am sorry to say that _it was she who
  burned them_, and that I was present at this _autodafe_, and
  remember to this day my horror and indignation. But my aunt as
  well as my father had a horror of leaving letters after them, and
  strange to say, they were right in fearing to leave them because
  in both cases, papers had a fate they would not have liked them to

The sketch of the family of Madame Honore de Balzac as given in _Un
Roman d'Amour_, is so inaccurate that the Princess Radziwill has very
kindly made the following corrections of it for the present writer:

 "(1) Madame Hanska was really born on December _24th, not 25th_,
  1801. You will find the date on her grave which is under the same
  monument as that of Balzac, in Pere Lachaise in Paris. I am
  absolutely sure of the day, because my father was also born on
  Christmas Eve, and there were always great family rejoicings on
  that occasion. You know that the Roman Catholic church celebrates
  on the 24th of December the fete of Adam and Eve, and it is
  because they were born on that day that my father and his sister
  were called Adam and Eve. I am also quite sure that the year of my
  aunt's birth was 1801, and my father's 1803, and should be very
  much surprised if my memory served me false in that respect. But I
  repeat it, the exact dates are inscribed on my aunt's grave. . . .
  I looked up since I saw you a prayer book which I possess in which
  the dates of birth are consigned, and thus found 1801, and I think
  it is the correct one, but at all events I repeat it once more,
  the exact date is engraved on her monument.

 "(2) Caroline Rzewuska, my aunt's eldest sister, and the eldest of
  the whole family, is the Madame Cherkowitsch of Balzac's letters,
  and not Shikoff, as the family sketch says. It is equally
  ridiculous to say that some people aver she was married four
  times, and had General Witte for a husband; but Witte was a great
  admirer of hers at the time she was Mme. Sobanska. There is also a
  detail connected with her which is very little known, and that is
  that she nearly married Sainte-Beauve, and that the marriage was
  broken off a few days before the one fixed for it to take place.
  That was before she married Jules Lacroix, and wicked people say
  that it was partly disappointment at having been unable to become
  the wife of the great critic, which made her accept the former.

 "(3) My aunt Pauline was married to a Serbian banker settled in
  Odessa, a very rich man called Jean Riznitsch, but he was _neither
  a General nor a Baron_. Her second daughter, Alexandrine, married
  Mr. Ciechanowiecki who also never could boast of a title, and
  whose father had never been _Minister de l'Interieur en Pologne_.

 "(4) My aunt Eve was neither married in 1818 nor in 1822 to Mr.
  Hanski, but in 1820. It was not because of _revers de fortune_
  that she was married to him, but it was the custom in Polish noble
  families to try to settle girls as richly as possible. Later on,
  my grandfather lost a great deal of money, but this circumstance,
  which occurred after my aunt's marriage, had nothing to do with
  it. My grandfather,--this by the way,--was a very remarkable man,
  a personal friend of Voltaire. You will find interesting details
  about him in an amusing book published by Ernest Daudet, called
  _La Correspondence du Comte Valentin Esterhazy_, in the first
  volume, where among other things is described the birth of my aunt
  Helene, whose personality interests you so much, a birth which
  nearly killed her mother. Besides Helene, my grandparents had
  still another daughter who also died unmarried, at seventeen years
  of age, and who, judging by her picture, must have been a wonder
  of beauty; also a son Stanislas, who was killed accidentally by a
  fall from his horse in 1826.

 "(5) My uncle Ernest was not the second son of his parents, but the
  youngest in the whole family."

It is interesting to note that Balzac wished to have his works
advertised in newspapers circulating in foreign countries and wrote
his publisher to advertise in the _Gazette_ and the _Quotidienne_, as
they were the only papers admitted into Russia, Italy, etc. He
repeated this request some months later, by which time he not only
knew that _l'Etrangere_ read the _Quotidienne_, but he had become
interested in her.

As has been mentioned, it is a strange coincidence that this first
letter from _l'Etrangere_ arrived on the very day that the novelist
wrote accepting the invitation of the Duchesse de Castries. Balzac
doubtless little dreamed that this was the beginning of a
correspondence which was destined to change the whole current of his

Many versions have been given as to what this letter contained, some
saying that Madame Hanska had been reading the _Peau de Chagrin_,
others, the _Physiologie du Mariage_, and others, the _Maison du
Chat-qui-pelote_, but if the letter no longer exists how is one to
prove what it contained? Yet it must have impressed Balzac, for he
wanted to dedicate to her the fourth volume of the _Scenes de la Vie
privee_ in placing her seal and "Diis ignotis 28 fevrier 1832" at the
head of _l'Expiation_, the last chapter of _La Femme de trente Ans_,
which he was writing when her letter arrived, but Madame de Berny
objected, so he saved the only copy of that dedication and wished
Madame Hanska to keep it as a souvenir, and as an expression of his

According to Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, Balzac showed one of Madame
Hanska's letters to Madame Carraud, and she answered it for him; but
with his usual skill in answering severe cross-examinations, he

 "You have asked me with distrust to give an explanation of my two
  handwritings; but I have as many handwritings as there are days in
  the year, without being on that account the least in the world
  versatile. This mobility comes from an imagination which can
  conceive all and remain vague, like glass which is soiled by none
  of its reflections. The glass is in my brain."

In this same letter, which is the second given, Balzac writes: ". . .
I am galloping towards Poland, and rereading all your letters,--I have
but three of them, . . ." If this last statement be true, the answer
to Spoelberch de Lovenjoul's question, "How many letters did Balzac
receive thus?" is not difficult.

Miss Wormeley seems to be correct in saying that this second letter is
inconsistent with the preceding one dated also in January, 1833,
showing an arbitrary system of dating. There are others which are
inconsistent, if not impossible, but if Spoelberch de Lovenjoul after
the death of Madame Honore de Balzac found these letters scattered
about in various places, as he states, it is quite possible that
contents as well as dates are confused.[*]

[*] One can see at once the injustice of the criticism of M. Henry
    Bordeaux, _la Grande Revue_, November, 1899, in censuring Madame
    Hanska for publishing her letters from Balzac.

The husband of Madame Hanska, M. Wenceslas de Hanski, who was never a
count, but a very rich man, was many years her senior, and suffered
from "blue devils" and paresis a long time before his death. Though he
was very generous with his wife in allowing her to travel, she often
suffered from ennui in her beautifully furnished chateau of
Wierzchownia, which Balzac described as being "as large as the
Louvre." This was a great exaggeration, for it was comparatively
small, having only about thirty rooms. With her husband, her little
daughter Anna, her daughter's governess, Mademoiselle Henriette Borel,
and two Polish relatives, Mesdemoiselles Severine and Denise
Wylezynska, she led a lonely life and spent much of her time in
reading, or writing letters. The household comprised the only people
of education for miles around.

Having lost six of her seven children, and being an intensely maternal
woman, the deepest feelings of her heart were devoted to her daughter
Anna, who also was destined to occupy much of the time and thought of
the author of the _Comedie humaine_.

If the letters printed in _Un Roman d'Amour_ are genuine, in the one
dated January 8, 1833, she speaks of having received with delight the
copy of the _Quotidienne_ in which his notice is inserted. She tells
him that M. de Hanski with his family are coming nearer France, and
she wishes to arrange some way for him to answer her letters, but he
must never try to ascertain who the person is who will transmit his
letters to her, and the greatest secrecy must be preserved.

It is not known how she arranged to have him send his letters, but he
wrote her about once a month from January to September, and after that
more frequently, as he was arranging to visit her. M. de Hanski with
his numerous family had come to Neufchatel in July, having stopped in
Vienna on the way. Here Balzac was to meet l'Etrangere for the first
time. He left Paris September 22, stopping to make a business visit to
his friend, Charles Bernard, at Besancon, and arriving at Neufchatel
September 25. (Although this letter to M. Bernard is dated August,
1833, Balzac evidently meant September, for there is no Sunday, August
22, in 1833. He did not leave Paris until Sunday, September 22, 1833.)
On the morning after his arrival, he writes her:

 "I shall go to the Promenade of the faubourg from one o'clock till
  four. I shall remain during that time looking at the lake, which I
  have never seen."

Just what happened when they met, no one knows. The Princess Radziwill
says that her aunt told her that Balzac called at her hotel to meet
her and that there was nothing romantic in their introduction.
Nevertheless, the most varied and amusing stories have been told of
their first meeting.

Balzac remained in Neufchatel until October 1, having made a visit of
five days. He took a secret box to Madame Hanska in which to keep his
letters, having provided himself with a similar one in which to keep
hers. If we are to credit the disputed letter of Saturday, October 12,
we may learn something of what took place. Even before meeting Madame
Hanska, he had inserted her name in one of his books, calling the
young girl loved by M. Benassis "Evelina" (Le Medecin de Campagne).

Early in October M. de Hanski took his family to Geneva to spend the
winter. After Balzac's departure from Neufchatel the tone of his
letters to Madame Hanska changed; he used the _tutoiement_, and his
adoration increased. For a while he wrote her a daily account of his
life and dispatched the journal to her weekly.

Madame Hanska came into Balzac's life at a psychological moment. From
his youth, his longing was "to be famous and to be loved." Having
found the emptiness of a life of fame alone, having apparently grown
weary of the poor Duchesse d'Abrantes, about to cease his intimacy
with Madame de Berny, having been rejected by Mademoiselle de
Trumilly, and having suffered bitterly at the hands of the Duchesse de
Castries, he embraced this friendship with a new hope, and became
Madame Hanska's slave.

If Balzac was charmed with the stories of the daughter of the _femme
de chambre_ of Marie Antoinette, was infatuated with a woman who had
known Napoleon, and flattered by being invited to the home of one of
the beautiful society ladies of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, what must
have been his joy in learning that his new _Chatelaine_ belonged to
one of the most aristocratic families of Poland, the grandniece of
Queen Marie Leczinska, the daughter of the wise Comte de Rzewuska, and
the wife of one of the richest men in Russia!

But Madame Hanska was a very different woman from the kind,
self-sacrificing, romantic Madame de Berny; the witty, splendor-loving,
indulgent, poverty-stricken Duchesse d'Abrantes; or the frail,
dazzling, blond coquette, the Duchesse de Castries. With more strength
physically and mentally than her rivals, she possessed a marked
authoritativeness that was not found in Madame de Berny, a breadth of
vision impossible to Madame Junot, and freedom from the frivolity and
coquetry of Madame de Castries.

The Princess Radziwill feels that the Polish woman who has come down
to posterity merely as the object of Balzac's adoration, should be
known as the being to whom he was indebted for the development of his
marvelous genius, and as his collaborator in many of his works.
According to the Princess, _Modeste Mignon_ is almost entirely the
work of Madame Hanska's pen. She gives this description of her aunt,
which corresponds to Balzac's continual reference to her "analytical

 "Madame de Balzac was perhaps not so brilliant in conversation as
  were her brothers and sisters. Her mind had something pedantic in
  it, and she was rather a good listener than a good talker, but
  whatever she said was to the point, and she was eloquent with her
  pen. She had that large glance only given to superior minds which
  allows them, according to the words of Catherine of Russia, 'to
  read the future in the history of the past.' She observed
  everything, was indulgent to every one. . . . Her family, who
  stood in more or less awe of her, treated her with great respect
  and consideration. . . . We all of us had a great opinion of the
  soundness of her judgments, and liked to consult her in any
  difficulty or embarrassment in our existence."

No sooner had Balzac returned from his visit to Neufchatel intoxicated
with joy, than he began to plan his visit to Geneva. He would work day
and night to be able to get away for a fortnight; he decided later to
spend a month there, but he did not arrive until Christmas day. In the
meantime, he referred to their promise (to marry) which was as holy
and sacred to him as their mutual life, and he truly described his
love as the most ardent, the most persistent of loves. _Adoremus in
aeternum_ had become their device, and Madame Hanska, not having as
yet become accustomed to his continual financial embarrassment, wished
to provide him with money, an offer which is reproduced in _Eugenie

Upon his arrival at Geneva the novelist found a ring awaiting him; he
considered it as a talisman, wore it working, and it inspired
_Seraphita_. He became her _moujik_ and signed his name _Honoreski_.
She became his "love," his "life," his "rose of the Occident," his
"star of the North," his "fairy of the _tiyeuilles_," his "only
thought," his "celestial angel," the end of all for him. "You shall be
the young _dilecta_,--already I name you the _predilecta_."[*]

[*] Balzac was imitating Madame Hanska's pronunciation of _tilleuls_
    in having Madame Vauquer (_Pere Goriot_) pronounce it _tieuilles_.

His adoration became such that he writes her: "My loved angel, I am
almost mad for you . . . I cannot put two ideas together that you do
not come between them. I can think of nothing but you. In spite of
myself my imagination brings me back to you. . . ." It was during his
stay in Geneva that Madame Hanska presented her chain to him, which he
used later on his cane.

Balzac left Geneva February 8, 1834, having spent forty-four days with
his _Predilecta_, but his work was not entirely neglected. While
there, he wrote almost all of _La Duchesse de Langeais_, and a large
part of _Seraphita_. This work, which she inspired, was dedicated:

 "To Madame Eveline de Hanska, nee Countess Rzewuska.

 "Madame:--here is the work you desired of me; in dedicating it to
  you I am happy to offer you some token of the respectful affection
  you allow me to feel for you. If I should be accused of incapacity
  after trying to extract from the depths of mysticism this book,
  which demanded the glowing poetry of the East under the
  transparency of our beautiful language, the blame be yours! Did
  you not compel me to the effort--such an effort as Jacob's--by
  telling me that even the most imperfect outline of the figure
  dreamed of by you, as it has been by me from my infancy, would
  still be something in your eyes? Here, then, is that something.
  Why cannot this book be set apart exclusively for those lofty
  spirits who, like you, are preserved from worldly pettiness by
  solitude? They might impress on it the melodious rhythm which it
  lacks, and which, in the hands of one of our poets, might have
  made it the glorious epic for which France still waits. Still,
  they will accept it from me as one of those balustrades, carved by
  some artist full of faith, on which the pilgrims lean to moderate
  on the end of man, while gazing at the choir of a beautiful
  church. I remain, madame, with respect, your faithful servant,

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

In the spring of 1834, M. de Hanski and his family left Geneva for
Florence, traveled for a few months, and arrived in Vienna during the
summer, where they remained for about a year. But Balzac continued his
correspondence with Madame Hanska. She was interested in collecting
the autographs of famous people, and Balzac not only had an album made
for her, but helped her collect the signatures.

More infatuated, if possible, than ever with her, he wanted her to
secure her husband's consent for him to visit them at Rome. Then he
felt that he must go to Vienna, see the Danube, explore the
battlefields of Wagram and Essling, and have pictures made
representing the uniforms of the German army.

In _La Recherche de l'Absolu_, he gave the name of Adam de
Wierzchownia to a Polish gentleman, Wierzchownia being the name of
Madame Hanska's home in the Ukraine. "I have amused myself like a boy
in naming a Pole, M. de Wierzchownia, and bringing him on the scene in
_La Recherche de l'Absolu_. That was a longing I could not resist, and
I beg your pardon and that of M. de Hanski for the great liberty. You
could not believe how that printed page fascinates me!" He writes her
of another character, La Fosseuse, (Le Medecin de Campagne): "Ah! if I
had known your features, I would have pleased myself in having them
engraved as La Fosseuse. But though I have memory enough for myself, I
should not have enough for a painter."

Either Balzac's adoration became too ardent, or displeasure was caused
in some other way, for no letters to Madame Hanska appear from August
26 to October 9, 1834. In the meantime, a long letter was written to
M. de Hanski apologizing for two letters written to his wife. He
explained that one evening she jestingly remarked to him, beside the
lake of Geneva, that she would like to know what a love-letter was
like, so he promised to write her one. Being reminded of this promise,
he sent her one, and received a cold letter of reproof from her after
another letter was on the way to her. Receiving a second rebuke, he
was desperate over the pleasantry, and wished to atone for this by
presenting to her, with M. de Hanski's permission, some manuscripts
already sent. He wished to send her the manuscript of _Seraphita_
also, and to dedicate this book to her, if they could forgive him this
error, for which he alone was to be censured.

Balzac was evidently pardoned, for he not only dedicated _Seraphita_
to her, as has been shown, but arrived in Vienna on May 16, 1835, to
visit her, bringing with him this manuscript. His stay was rather
short, lasting only to June 4. While there, he was quite busy, working
on _Le Lys dans la Vallee_, and declined many invitations. To get his
twelve hours of work, he had to retire at nine o'clock in order to
rise at three; this monastic rule dominated everything. He yielded
something of his stern observance to Madame Hanska by giving himself
three hours more freedom than in Paris, where he retired at six.

Soon after his return from Vienna, the novelist was informed that a
package from Vienna was held for him with thirty-six francs due.
Having, of course, no money, he sent his servant in a cab for the
package, telling him where he could secure the money and, dead or
alive, to bring the package. After spending four hours in an agony of
anticipation, wondering what Madame Hanska could be sending him, his
messenger arrived with a copy of _Pere Goriot_ which he had given her
in Vienna with the request that she give it to some one to whom it
might afford pleasure.

It will be remembered that while in Vienna, Balzac's financial strain
became such that his sister Laure pawned his silver. He afterwards
admitted that the journey to Vienna was the greatest folly of his
life; it cost him five thousand francs and upset all his affairs. He
had other financial troubles also, but found time and means to consult
a somnambulist frequently as to his _Predilecta_, and regretted that
he did not have one or two soothsayers, so that he might know daily
about her. His superstition is seen early in their correspondence
where he considered it a good omen that Madame Hanska had sent him the
_Imitation de Jesus-Christ_ while he was working on _Le Medecin de
Campagne_. Again and again he insisted that she tell him when any of
her family were ill, feeling that he could cure at a distance those
whom he loved; or that she should send him a piece of cloth worn next
to her person, that he might present this to a clairvoyant.

After delving deeply into mysticism, and writing some books dealing
with it, the novelist writes his "Polar Star":

 "I am sorry to see that you are reading the mystics: believe me,
  this sort of reading is fatal to minds like yours; it is a poison;
  it is an intoxicating narcotic. These books have a bad influence.
  There are follies of virtue as there are follies of dissipation
  and vice. If you were not a wife, a mother, a friend, a relation,
  I would not seek to dissuade you, for then you might go and shut
  yourself up in a convent at your pleasure without hurting anybody,
  although you would soon die there. In your situation, and in your
  isolation in the midst of those deserts, this kind of reading,
  believe me, is pernicious. The rights of friendship are too feeble
  to make my voice heard; but let me at least make an earnest and
  humble request on this subject. Do not, I beg of you, ever read
  anything more of this kind. I have myself gone through all this,
  and I speak from experience."

As has been stated, Madame Hanska was of assistance to Balzac in his
literary work. He used her ideas frequently, and was gracious in
expressing his appreciation of them to her:

 "I must tell you that yesterday . . . I copied out your portrait of
  Mademoiselle Celeste, and I said to two uncompromising judges:
  'Here is a sketch I have flung on paper. I wanted to paint a woman
  under given circumstances, and launch her into life through such
  and such an event.' What do you think they said?--'Read that
  portrait again.' After which they said:--'That is your
  masterpiece. You have never before had that _laisser-aller_ of a
  writer which shows the hidden strength.' 'Ha, ha!' I answered,
  striking my head; 'that comes from the forehead of _an analyst_.'
  I kneel at your feet for this violation; but I left out all that
  was personal. . . . I thank you for your glimpses of Viennese
  society. What I have learned about Germans in their relations
  elsewhere confirms what you say of them. Your story of General
  H---- comes up periodically. There has been something like it in
  all countries, but I thank you for having told it to me. The
  circumstances give it novelty."[*]

[*] This is only one of the numerous allusions Balzac made to the
    analytical forehead of Madame Hanska.

Though Balzac's letters to Madame Hanska became less effervescent as
time went on, each year seemed to add to his admiration and "dog-like
fidelity." She, on the other hand, complained of his dissipation, the
society he kept, and his short letters.

While Balzac was in Vienna, he was working on _Le Lys dans la Vallee_.
Although he said that Madame de Mortsauf was Madame de Berny, M. Adam
Rzewuski, a brother of Madame Hanska, always felt that this character
represented his sister, and called attention to the same intense
maternal feeling of the two women, and the same sickly, morose
husband. The Princess Radziwill also believes that this is a portrait
of her aunt, which hypothesis is further strengthened by comments of
Emile Faguet, who says that to one who has read Balzac's letters in
1834-1835 closely, it is clear that Madame de Mortsauf is Madame
Hanska, and that the marvelous M. de Mortsauf is M. de Hanski.

Mr. F. Lawton also thinks that Balzac has shown his relations to
Madame Hanska in making Felix de Vandenesse console himself with Lady
Dudley while swearing high allegiance to his Henriette, just as Balzac
was "inditing oaths of fidelity to his 'earth-angel' in far-away
Russia while worshipping at shrines more accessible. Lady Dudley may
well have been, for all his denial, the Countess Visconti, of whom
Madame Hanska was jealous and on good grounds, or else the Duchesse de
Castries, to whom he said that while writing the book he had caught
himself shedding tears." Balzac says of this book:

 "I have received five _formal complaints_ from persons about me,
  who say that I have unveiled their private lives. I have very
  curious letters on this subject. It appears that there are as many
  Messieurs de Mortsauf as there are angels at Clochegourde, and
  angels rain down upon me, but _they are not white_."

In the early autumn of 1835, M. de Hanski and his family, having spent
several weeks at Ischl, returned to their home at Wierzchownia after
an absence of more than two years. It was during this long stay at
Vienna that Madame Hanska had Daffinger make the miniature which
occupies so much space in Balzac's letters in later years.

It must have been a relief to poor Balzac when his _Chatelaine_
returned to her home, for while traveling she was negligent about
giving him her address, so that he was never sure whether she received
all his letters, and she did not number hers, as he had asked her to
do, so that he was not certain that he received all that she wrote
him; neither would she--though leading a life of leisure--write as
often as he wished. But if he scolded her for this, she had other
matters to worry her. She was ever anxious about the safety of her
letters, asked for many explanations of his conduct, for
interpretations of various things in his works, and who certain
friends were, so much so that his letters are filled with vindications
of himself. Even before they had ever met, he wrote her that he could
not take a step that was not misinterpreted. She seemed continually to
be hearing of something derogatory to his character, and trying to
investigate his actions. The reader has had glimpses enough of
Balzac's life to understand what a task was hers. Yet she doubtless
sometimes accused him unnecessarily, and he in turn became impatient:

 "This letter contains two reproaches which have keenly affected me;
  and I think I have already told you that a few chance expressions
  would suffice to make me go to Wierzchownia, which would be a
  misfortune in my present perilous situation; but I would rather
  lose everything than lose a true friendship. . . . In short, you
  distrust me at a distance, just as you distrusted me near by,
  without any reason. I read quite despairingly the paragraph of
  your letter in which you do the honors of my heart to my mind, and
  sacrifice my whole personality to my brain. . . . In your last
  letters, you know, you have believed things that are
  irreconcilable with what you know of me. I cannot explain to
  myself your tendency to believe absurd calumnies. I still remember
  your credulity in Geneva, when they said I was married."

Even her own family added to her suspicions:

 ". . . Your letter has crushed me more than all the heavy nonsense
  that jealousy and calumny, lawsuit and money matters have cast
  upon me. My sensibility is a proof of friendship; there are none
  but those we love who can make us suffer. I am not angry with your
  aunt, but I am angry that a person as distinguished as you say she
  is should be accessible to such base and absurd calumny. But you
  yourself, at Geneva, when I told you I was as free as air, you
  believed me to be married, on the word of one of those fools whose
  trade it is to sell money. I began to laugh. Here, I no longer
  laugh, because I have the horrible privilege of being horribly
  calumniated. A few more controversies like the last, and I shall
  retire to the remotest part of Touraine, isolating myself from
  everything, renouncing all, . . . Think always that what I do has
  a reason and an object, that my actions are _necessary_. There is,
  for two souls that are a little above others, something mortifying
  in repeating to you for the tenth time not to believe in calumny.
  When you said to me three letters ago, that I gambled, it was just
  as true as my marriage at Geneva. . . . You attribute to me little
  defects which I do not have to give yourself the pleasure of
  scolding me. No one is less extravagant than I; no one is willing
  to live with more economy. But reflect that I work too much to
  busy myself with certain details, and, in short, that I had rather
  spend five to six thousand francs a year than marry to have order
  in my household; for a man who undertakes what I have undertaken
  either marries to have a quiet existence, or accepts the
  wretchedness of La Fontaine and Rousseau. For pity's sake, do not
  talk to me of my want of order; it is the consequence of the
  independence in which I live, and which I desire to keep."

In spite of these reproaches, Balzac's affection for her continued,
and he decided to have his portrait made for her. Boulanger was the
artist chosen, and since he wished payment at once, Madame Hanska sent
the novelist a sum for this purpose. For a Christmas greeting, 1836,
she sent him a copy of the Daffinger miniature made at Vienna the
preceding year. Again--this time in _Illusions perdues_--he gave her
name, Eve, to a young girl whom he regarded as the most charming
creature he had created (Eve Chardon, who became Madame David

In the spring of 1837 Balzac went to Italy to spend a few weeks.
Seeing at Florence a bust of his _Predilecta_, made by Bartolini, he
asked M. de Hanski's permission to have a copy of it, half size, made
for himself, to place on his writing desk. This journey aroused Madame
Hanska's suspicions again, but he assured her he was not dissipating,
but was traveling to rejuvenate his broken-down brain, since, working
night and day as he did, a man might easily die of overstrain.

He continued to save his manuscripts for her, awaiting an opportunity
to send or take them to her. Her letters became less frequent and full
of stings, but he begged her to disbelieve everything she heard of him
except from himself, as she had almost a complete journal of his life.
He explained that the tour he purposed making to the Mediterranean was
neither for marriage nor for anything adventurous or silly, but he was
pledged to secrecy, and, whether it turned out well or ill, he risked
nothing but a journey. As to her reproaches how he, knowing all,
penetrating and observing all, could be so duped and deceived, he
wondered if she could love him if he were always so prudent that no
misfortune ever happened to him.

In the spring of 1838 he took his Mediterranean trip, going to
Corsica, Sardinia, and Italy in quest of his Eldorado, but, as usual,
he was doomed to meet with disappointment. On his return he went to
_Les Jardies_ to reside, which was later to be the cause of another
financial disaster. Replying to her criticism of his journey to
Sardinia, he begged her never to censure those who feel themselves
sunk in deep waters and are struggling to the surface, for the rich
can never comprehend the trials of the unfortunate. One must be
without friends, without resources, without food, without money, to
know to its depths what misfortune is.

In spite of her reproaches he continued to protest his devotion to
her. Though her letters were cold, he begged her to gaze on the
portrait of her _moujik_ and feel that he was the most constant, least
volatile, most steadfast of men. He was willing to obey her in all
things except in his affections, and she was complete mistress of
those. Seized with a burning desire to see her, he planned a visit to
Wierzchownia as soon as his financial circumstances would permit.

During a period of three months, Balzac received no letter from his
"Polar Star," but he expressed his usual fidelity to her. Miserable or
fortunate, he was always the same to her; it was because of his
unchangeableness of heart that he was so painfully wounded by her
neglect. Carried away, as he often was, by his torrential existence,
he might miss writing to her, but he could not understand how she
could deprive him of the sacred bread which restored his courage and
gave him new life.

His long struggle with his debts and his various financial and
domestic troubles seemed at times to deprive him of his usual hope and
patience. In a depressed vein, he replies to one of her letters:

 "Ah! I think you excessively small; and it shows me that you are of
  this world! Ah! you write to me no longer because my letters are
  rare! Well, they were rare because I did not have the money to
  post them, but I would not tell you that. Yes, my distress had
  reached that point and beyond it. It is horrible and sad, but it
  is true, as true as the Ukraine where you are. Yes, there have
  been days when I proudly ate a roll of bread on the boulevard. I
  have had the greatest sufferings: self-love, pride, hope,
  prospects, all have been attacked. But I shall, I hope, surmount
  everything. I had not a penny, but I earned for those atrocious
  Lecou and Delloye seventy thousand francs in a year. The Peytel
  affair cost me ten thousand francs, and people said I was paid
  fifty thousand! That affair and my fall, which kept me as you
  know, forty days in bed, retarded my business by more than thirty
  thousand francs. Oh! I do not like your want of confidence! You
  think that I have a great mind, but you will not admit that I have
  a great heart! After nearly eight years, you do not know me! My
  God, forgive her, for she knows not what she does!"

The novelist wrote his _Predilecta_ of his ideas of marriage, and how
he longed to marry, but he became despondent about this as well as
about his debts; he felt that he was growing old, and would not live
long. His comfort while working was a picture of Wierzchownia which
she had sent him, but in addition to all of his other troubles he was
annoyed because some of her relatives who were in Paris carried false
information to her concerning him.

Not having heard from her for six months, he resorted to his frequent
method of allaying his anxiety by consulting a clairvoyant to learn if
she were ill. He was told that within six weeks he would receive a
letter that would change his entire life. Almost four more months
passed, however, without his hearing from her and he feared that she
was not receiving his letters, or that hers had gone astray, as he no
longer had a home.

For once, the sorcerer had predicted somewhat correctly! Not within
six weeks, to be sure, but within six months, the letter came that was
to change Balzac's entire life. On January 5, 1842, a letter arrived
from Madame Hanska, telling of the death of M. de Hanski which had
occurred on November 10, 1841.

His reply is one of the most beautiful of his letters to her:

 "I have this instant received, dear angel, your letter sealed with
  black, and, after having read it, I could not perhaps have wished
  to receive any other from you, in spite of the sad things you tell
  me about yourself and your health. As for me, dear, adored one,
  although this event enables me to attain to that which I have
  ardently desired for nearly ten years, I can, before you and God,
  do myself this justice, that I have never had in my heart anything
  but complete submission, and that I have not, in my most cruel
  moments, stained my soul with evil wishes. No one can prevent
  involuntary transports. Often I have said to myself, 'How light my
  life would be with _her_!' No one can keep his faith, his heart,
  his inner being without hope. . . . But I understand the regrets
  which you express to me; they seem to me natural and true,
  especially after the protection which has never failed you since
  that letter at Vienna. I am, however, joyful to know that I can
  write to you with open heart to tell you all those things on which
  I have kept silence, and disperse the melancholy complaints you
  have founded on misconceptions, so difficult to explain at a
  distance. I know you too well, or I think I know you too well, to
  doubt you for one moment; and I have often suffered, very cruelly
  suffered, that you have doubted me, because, since Neufchatel, you
  are my life. Let me say this to you plainly, after having so often
  proved it to you. The miseries of my struggle and of my terrible
  work would have tired out the greatest and strongest men; and
  often my sister has desired to put an end to them, God knows how;
  I always thought the remedy worse than the disease! It is you
  alone who have supported me till now, . . . You said to me, 'Be
  patient, you are loved as much as you love. Do not change, for
  others change not.' We have both been courageous; why, therefore,
  should you not be happy to-day? Do you think it was for myself
  that I have been so persistent in magnifying my name? Oh! I am
  perhaps very unjust, but this injustice comes from the violence of
  my heart! I would have liked two words for myself in your letter,
  but I sought them in vain; two words for him who, since the
  landscape in which you live has been before his eyes, has not
  passed, while working, ten minutes without looking at it; I have
  there sought all, ever since it came to me, that we have asked in
  the silence of our spirits."

He was concerned about her health and wished to depart at once, but
feared to go without her permission. She was anxious about her
letters, but he assured her that they were safe, and begged her to
inform him when he could visit her; for six years he had been longing
to see her. "Adieu, my dear and beautiful life that I love so well,
and to whom I can now say it. _Sempre medisimo_."

The role played by M. de Hanski[*] in this friendship was a peculiar
one. The correspondence, as has been seen, began in secrecy, but
Balzac met him when he went to Neufchatel to see Madame Hanska. Their
relations were apparently cordial, for on his return to Paris, the
novelist wrote him a friendly note, enclosing an autograph of Rossini
whom M. de Hanski admired. The Polish gentleman (he was never a count)
must have been willing to have Balzac visit his wife again, at Geneva,
when their friendship seemed to grow warmer. Balzac called him
_l'honorable Marechal de l'Ukraine_ or the _Grand Marechal_, and
extended to him his thanks or regards in sending little notes to
Madame Hanska, and thus he was early cognizant of their
correspondence. The future author of the _Comedie humaine_ seems to
have been taken into the family circle and to have become somewhat a
favorite of M. de Hanski, who was suffering with his "blue devils" at
that time.

[*] The present writer is following the predominant custom of using
    the _de_ in connection with M. de Hanski's name, and omitting it
    in speaking of his wife.

Since Balzac was not only an excellent story-teller but naturally very
jovial, and M. de Hanski suffered from ennui and wished to be amused,
they became friends. On his return to Paris, they exchanged a few
letters, and Balzac introduced stories to amuse him in his letters to
Madame Hanska. He wrote most graciously to the _Marechal_, apologizing
for the two love letters he had written his wife, and this letter was
answered. The novelist was invited by him to visit them in
Wierzchownia--an invitation he planned to accept, but did not.

In the spring of 1836, M. de Hanski sent Balzac a very handsome
malachite inkstand, also a cordial letter telling him the family news,
how much he enjoyed his works, and that he hoped with his family to
visit him in Paris within two years. He mentioned that his wife was
preparing for Balzac a long letter of several pages, and assured him
of his sincere friendship. Balzac was most appreciative of the gift of
the beautiful inkstand, but felt that it was too magnificent for a
poor man to use, so would place it in his collection and prize it as
one of his most precious souvenirs.

Besides discussing business with the Polish gentleman, Balzac
apologized often for not answering his letters, offering lack of time
as his excuse, but he planned to visit Wierzchownia, where he and M.
de Hanski would enjoy hearty laughs while Madame Hanska could work at
his comedies. In spite of this friendly correspondence, the _Marechal_
probably hinted to his wife that her admiration for the author was too
warm, for Balzac asked her to reassure her husband that he was not
only invulnerable, but immune from attack. Balzac spoke of dedicating
one of his books in the _Comedie humaine_ to M. de Hanski, but no
dedication to him is found in this work. His death, which occurred
some months after this suggestion, doubtless prevented the realization
of it.

Balzac evidently received a negative reply to his letter to Madame
Hanska asking to be permitted to visit her immediately after her
husband's death. It would have been a breach of the _convenances_ had
he gone to visit her so early in her widowhood. Soon after learning of
M. de Hanski's death, he saw an announcement of the death of a
Countess Kicka of Volhynia, and since his "Polar Star" had spoken of
being ill, he was seized with fear lest this be a misprint for Hanska,
and was confined to his bed for two days with a nervous fever.

What must have been Balzac's disappointment, when almost ready to
leave at any moment, to receive a letter which, as he expressed it,
killed the youth in him, and rent his heart! She felt that she owed
everything to her daughter, who had consoled her, and nothing to him;
yet she knew that she was everything to him.

He thought that she loved Anna too much, protested his fidelity to her
when she accused him, and reverted to his favorite theme of comparing
her to the devoted Madame de Berny. He complained of her coldness,
wanted to visit her in August at St. Petersburg, and desired her to
promise that they would be married within two years.

Princess Radziwill wrote: "When Madame Hanska's husband died, it was
supposed that her union with Balzac would occur at once, but obstacles
were interposed by others. Her own family looked down upon the great
French author as a mere story-teller; and by her late husband's people
sordid motives were imputed to him, to account for his devotion to the
heiress. The latter objection was removed, a few years later, by the
widow's giving up to her daughter the fortune left to her by Monsieur

It is at this period that Balzac furnishes us with the key to one of
his works, _Albert Savarus_, in writing to Madame Hanska:

 "_Albert Savarus_ has had much success. You will read it in the
  first volume of the _Comedie humaine_, almost after the _fausse
  Maitresse_, where with childish joy I have made the name
  _Rzewuski_ shine in the midst of those of the most illustrious
  families of the North. Why have I not placed Francesca Colonna at
  Diodati? Alas, I was afraid that it would be too transparent.
  Diodati makes my heart beat! Those four syllables, it is the cry
  of the _Montjoie Saint-Denis!_ of my heart."

Francesca Colonna, the Princess Gandolphini, is the heroine of
_l'Ambitieux par Amour_, a novel supposed to have been published by
Albert Savarus and described in the book which bears his name. Using
her name, the hero is represented as having written the story of the
Duchesse d'Argaiolo and himself, he taking the name of Rodolphe. Here
are given, in disguise again, the details of Balzac's early relations
to Madame Hanska. Albert Savarus, while traveling in Switzerland, sees
a lady's face at the window of an upper room, admires it and seeks the
lady's acquaintance. She proves to be the Duchesse d'Argaiolo, an
Italian in exile. She had been married very young to the Duke
d'Argaiolo, who was rich and much older than she. The young man falls
in love with this beautiful lady, and she promises to be his as soon
as she becomes free.

Gabriel Ferry states that Balzac first saw Madame Hanska's face at a
window, and the Princess Radziwill says that Balzac went to the hotel
to meet her aunt. It is to be noted that the year 1834 is that in
which Balzac and Madame Hanska were in Geneva together.

The Villa Diodati, noted for having been inhabited by Lord Byron, is
situated on Lake Geneva, at Cologny, not far from Pre Leveque,[*]
where M. de Hanski and his family resided in the _maison

[*] Balzac preserved a remembrance of the happy days he had spent with
    Madame Hanska at Pre-Leveque, Lake Geneva, by dating _La Duchesse
    de Langeais_, January 26, 1834, Pre-Leveque.

There are numerous allusions to Diodati in Balzac's correspondence,
from which one would judge that he had some very unhappy associations
with Madame de Castries, and some very happy ones with Madame Hanska
in connection with Diodati:

 "When I want to give myself a magnificent fete, I close my eyes,
  lie down on one of my sofas, . . . and recall that good day at
  Diodati which effaced a thousand pangs I had felt there a year
  before. You have made me know the difference between a true
  affection and a simulated one, and for a heart as childlike as
  mine, there is cause there for an eternal gratitude. . . . When
  some thought saddens me, then I have recourse to you; . . . I see
  again Diodati, I stretch myself on the good sofa of the Maison
  Mirabaud. . . . Diodati, that image of a happy life, reappears
  like a star for a moment clouded, and I began to laugh, as you
  know I can laugh. I say to myself that so much work will have its
  recompense, and that I shall have, like Lord Byron, my Diodati. I
  sing in my bad voice: 'Diodati, Diodati!'"

Another excerpt shows that Balzac had in mind his own life in
connection with Madame Hanska's in writing _Albert Savarus_:

 ". . . It is six o'clock in the morning, I have interrupted myself
  to think of you, reminded of you by Switzerland where I have
  placed the scene of _Albert Savarus_.--Lovers in Switzerland,--for
  me, it is the image of happiness. I do not wish to place the
  Princess Gandolphini in the _maison Mirabaud_, for there are
  people in the world who would make a crime of it for us. This
  Princess is a foreigner, an Italian, loved by Savarus."

Many of Balzac's traits are seen in Albert Savarus. Like Balzac,
Albert Savarus was defeated in politics, but hoped for election; was a
lawyer, expected to rise to fame, and was about three years older than
the woman he loved. Like Madame Hanska, the Duchesse d'Argaiolo, known
as the Princess Gandolphini, was beautiful, noble, a foreigner, and
married to a man very rich and much older than she, who was not
companionable. It was on December 26 that Albert Savarus arrived at
the Villa on Lake Geneva to visit his princes, while Balzac arrived
December 25 to visit Madame Hanska at her Villa there. The two lovers
spent the winter together, and in the spring, the Duc d'Argaiolo
(Prince Gandolphini) and his wife went to Naples, and Albert Savarus
(Rodolphe) returned to Paris, just as M. de Hanski took his family to
Italy in the spring, while Balzac returned to Paris.

Albert Savarus was falsely accused of being married, just as Madame
Hanska had accused Balzac. The letters to the Duchess from Savarus are
quite similar to some Balzac wrote to Madame Hanska. Like Balzac,
Savarus saw few people, worked at night, was poor, ever hopeful,
communed with the portrait of his adored one, had trouble in regard to
the delivery of her letters, and was worried when they did not come;
yet he was patient and willing to wait until the Duke should die. Like
Madame Hanska, the Duchess feared her lover was unfaithful to her, and
in both cases a woman sowed discord, though the results were

[*] Miss K. P. Wormeley does not think that _Albert Savarus_ was
    inspired by Balzac's relations with Madame Hanska. For her
    arguments, see _Memoir of Balzac_.

Madame Hanska did not care for this book, but Balzac told her she was
not familiar enough with French society to appreciate it.

Miss Mary Hanford Ford thinks that Madame Hanska inspired another of
Balzac's works: "It is probable that in Madame de la Chanterie we are
given Balzac's impassioned and vivid idealization of the woman who
became his wife at last. . . . Balzac's affection for Madame Hanska
was to a large degree tinged with the reverence which the Brotherhood
shared for Madame de la Chanterie. . . ." While the Freres de la
Consolation adored Madame de la Chanterie in a beautiful manner,
neither her life nor her character was at all like Madame Hanska's.
This work is dated December, 1847, Wierzchownia, and was doubtless
finished there, but he had been working on it for several years.

In the autumn of 1842,[*] Madame Hanska went to St. Petersburg. She
complained of a sadness and melancholy which Balzac's most ardent
devotion could not overcome. He became her _patito_, and she the queen
of his life, but he too suffered from depression, and even consented
to wait three years for her if she would only permit him to visit her.
He insisted that his affection was steadfast and eternal, but in
addition to showing him coldness, she unjustly rebuked him, having
heard that he was gambling. She had a prolonged lawsuit, and he wished
her to turn the matter over to him, feeling sure that he could win the
case for her.

[*] Emile Faguet, _Balzac_, says that it was in 1843 that Madame
    Hanska went to St. Petersburg. He has made several such slight
    mistakes throughout this work.

Thus passed the year 1842. She eventually consented to let him come in
May to celebrate his birthday. But alas! A great _remora_ stood in the
way. Poor Balzac did not have the money to make the trip. Then also he
had literary obligations to meet, but he felt very much fatigued from
excessive work and wanted to leave Paris for a rest. Her letters were
so unsatisfactory that he implored her to engrave in her dear mind, if
she would not write it in her heart, that he wished her to use some of
her leisure time in writing a few lines to him daily. As was his
custom when in distress, he sought a fortune-teller for comfort, and
as usual, was delighted with his prophecy. The notorious Balthazar
described to him perfectly the woman he loved, told him that his love
was returned, that there would never be a cloud in their sky, in spite
of the intensity of their characters, and that he would be going to
see her within six months. The soothsayer was correct in this last
statement, at least, for Balzac arrived at St. Petersburg soon after
this interview.

Madame Hanska felt that she was growing old, but Balzac assured her
that he should love her even were she ugly, and he relieved her mind
of this fear by writing in her _Journal intime_ that although he had
not seen her since they were in Vienna, he thought her as beautiful
and young as then--after an interval of seven years.[*]

[*] Balzac should have said an interval of _eight_ years instead of
    _seven_, for he visited her in Vienna in May and June, 1835, and
    he wrote this in September 1843. This is only one of the
    novelist's numerous mistakes in figuring, seen throughout his
    entire works.

Balzac arrived in St. Petersburg on July 17_29, and left there late in
September,[*] 1843, stopping to visit in Berlin and Dresden. Becoming
very ill, he cut short his visit to Mayence and Cologne and arrived in
Paris November 3, in order to consult his faithful Dr. Nacquart.
Excess of work, the sorrow of leaving Madame Hanska, disappointment,
and deferred hopes were too much for his nervous system. His letters
to Madame Hanska were, if possible, filled with greater detail than
ever concerning his debts, his household and family matters, his works
and society gossip. The _tu_ frequently replaces the _vous_, and
having apparently exhausted all the endearing names in the French
language, he resorted to the Hebrew, and finds that _Lididda_ means so
many beautiful things that he employs this word. He calls her _Liline_
or _Line_; she becomes his _Louloup_, his "lighthouse," his "happy
star," and the _sicura richezza, senza brama_.

[*] Unless the editor of _Lettres a l'Etrangere_ is confusing the
    French and Russian dates, he has made a mistake in dating certain
    of Balzac's letters from St. Petersburg. He had two dated October
    1843, St. Petersburg, and on his way home from there Balzac writes
    from Taurogen dating his letter September 27-October 10, 1843.
    Hence the exact date of his departure from St. Petersburg is

Madame Hanska and Balzac seem to have had many idiosyncrasies in
common, among which was their _penchant_ for jewelry, as well as
perfumes. Since their meeting at Geneva, the two exchanged gifts of
jewelry frequently, and the discussion, engraving, measuring, and
exchanging of various rings occupied much of Balzac's precious time.

His fondness for antiques was another extravagance, and he invested
not a little in certain pieces of furniture which had belonged to
Marie de Medicis and Henri IV; this purchase he regretted later, and
talked of selling, but, instead, added continually to his collection.
He was constantly sending, or wanting to send some present to Madame
Hanska or to her daughter Anna, but nothing could be compared with the
priceless gift he received from her. The Daffinger miniature arrived
February 2, 1844.

As a New Year's greeting for 1844, Balzac dedicated to Madame Hanska
_Les Bourgeois de Paris_, later called _Les petits Bourgeois_, saying
that the first work written after his brief visit with her should be
inscribed to her. This dedication is somewhat different from the one
published in his OEuvres:

 "To Constance-Victoire:[*]

 "Here, madame and friend is one of those works which fall, we know
  not whence, into an author's mind and afford him pleasure before
  he can estimate how they will be received by the public, that
  great judge of our time. But, almost sure of your good-will, I
  dedicate it to you. It belongs to you, as formerly the tithe
  belonged to the church, in memory of God from whom all things
  come, who makes all ripen, all mature! Some lumps of clay left by
  Moliere at the base of his statue of Tartufe have been molded by a
  hand more audacious than skilful. But, at whatever distance I may
  be below the greatest of humorists, I shall be satisfied to have
  utilized these little pieces of the stage-box of his work to show
  the modern hypocrite at work. That which most encouraged me in
  this difficult undertaking is to see it separated from every
  religious question, which was so injurious to the comedy of
  _Tartufe_, and which ought to be removed to-day. May the double
  significance of your name be a prophecy for the author, and may
  you be pleased to find here the expression of his respectful

                                                     "DE BALZAC.
 "January 1, 1844."

[*] _Constance_ was either one of Madame Hanska's real names, or one
    given her by Balzac, for he writes to her, in speaking of
    Mademoiselle Borel's entering the convent: "My most sincere
    regards to _Soeur Constance_, for I imagine that Saint Borel will
    take one of your names." Although Balzac hoped at one time to have
    _Les petits Bourgeois_ completed by July 1844, it was left
    unfinished at his death, and was completed and published in 1855.

During the winter of 1844, Madame Hanska wrote a story and then threw
it into the fire. In doing this she carried out a suggestion given her
by Balzac several years before, when he wrote her that he liked to
have a woman write and study, but she should have the courage to burn
her productions. She told the novelist what she had done, and he
requested her to rewrite her study and send it to him, and he would
correct it and publish it under his name. In this way she could enjoy
all the pleasure of authorship in reading what he would preserve of
her beautiful and charming prose. In the first place, she must paint a
provincial family, and place the romantic, enthusiastic young girl in
the midst of the vulgarities of such an existence; and then, by
correspondence, _make a transit_ to the description of a poet in
Paris. A friend of the poet, who is to continue the correspondence,
must be a man of decided talent, and the _denouement_ must be in his
favor against the great poet. Also the manias and the asperities of a
great soul which alarm and rebuff inferior souls should be shown; in
doing this she would aid him in earning a few thousand francs.

Her story, in the hands of this great wizard, grew like a mushroom,
without pain or effort, and soon developed into the romantic novel,
_Modeste Mignon_. She had thrown her story into the fire, but the fire
had returned it to him and given him power, as did the coal of fire on
the lips of the great prophet, and he wished to give all the glory to
his adored collaborator.

When reading this book, Madame Hanska objected to Balzac's having made
the father of the heroine scold her for beginning a secret
correspondence with an author, feeling that Balzac was disapproving of
her conduct in writing to him first, but Balzac assured her that such
was not his intention, and that he considered this _demarche_ of hers
as _royale and reginale_. Another trait, which she probably did not
recognize, was that just as the great poet Canalis was at first
indifferent to the letters of the heroine, and allowed Ernest de la
Briere to answer them, so was Balzac rather indifferent to hers, and
Madame Carraud--as already stated--is supposed to have replied to one
of them.

There is no doubt that Balzac had his _Louloup_ in mind while writing
this story, for in response to the criticism that Modest was too
clever, he wrote Madame Hanska that she and her cousin Caliste who had
served him as models for his heroine were superior to her. He first
dedicated this work to her under the name of _un Etrangere_, but
seeing the mistake the public made in ascribing this dedication to the
Princesse Belgiojoso, he at a later date specified the nationality,
and inscribed the book:

 "To a Polish Lady:

 "Daughter of an enslaved land, an angel in love, a demon in
  imagination, a child in faith, an old man in experience, a man in
  brain, a woman in heart, a giant in hope, a mother in suffering
  and a poet in your dreams,--this work, in which your love and your
  fancy, your faith, your experience, your suffering, your hopes and
  your dreams are like chains by which hangs a web less lovely than
  the poetry cherished in your soul--the poetry whose expression
  when it lights up your countenance is, to those who admire you,
  what the characters of a lost language are to the learned--this
  work is yours.

                                                    "DE BALZAC."

In _La fausse Maitresse_, Balzac represented Madame Hanska in the role
of the Countess Clementine Laginska, who was silently loved by Thaddee
Paz, a Polish refugee. This Thaddee Paz was no other than Thaddee
Wylezynski, a cousin who adored her, and who died in 1844. Balzac
learned of the warm attachment existing between Madame Hanska and her
cousin soon after meeting her, and compared his faithful friend Borget
to her Thaddee. On hearing of the death of Thaddee, he writes her:
"The death of Thaddee, which you announce to me, grieves me. You have
told me so much of him, that I loved one who loved you so well,
_although_! You have doubtless guessed why I called Paz, Thaddee. Poor
dear one, I shall love you for all those whose love you lose!"

Balzac longed to be free from his debts, and have undisturbed
possession of _Les Jardies_, where they could live _en pigeons
heureux_. Ever inclined to give advice, he suggested to her that she
should have her interests entirely separate form Anna's, quoting the
axiom, _N'ayez aucune collision d'interet avec vos enfants_, and that
she was wrong in refusing a bequest from her deceased husband. She
should give up all luxuries, dismiss all necessary employees and not
spend so much of her income but invest it. He felt that she and her
daughter were lacking in business ability; this proved to be too true,
but Balzac was indeed a very poor person to advise her on this
subject; however, her lack of accuracy in failing to date her letters
was, to be sure, a great annoyance to him.

On the other hand, she suspected her _Nore_, had again heard that he
was married, and that he was given to indulging in intoxicating
liquors; she advised him not to associate so much with women.

Having eventually won her lawsuit, she returned to Wierzchownia in the
spring of 1844, after a residence of almost two years in St.
Petersburg. Her daughter Anna had made her debut in St. Petersburg
society, and had met the young Comte George de Mniszech, who was
destined to become her husband. Balzac was not pleased with this
choice, and felt that the _protege_ of the aged Comte Potocki would
make a better husband, for moral qualities were to be considered
rather than fortune.

After spending the summer and autumn at her home, Madame Hanska went
to Dresden for the winter. As early as August, Balzac sought
permission to visit her there, making his request in time to arrange
his work in advance and secure the money for the journey, in case she
consented. While in St. Petersburg, she had given him money to buy
some gift for Anna, so he planned to take both of them many beautiful
things, and _une cave de parfums_ as a gift _de nez a nez_. If she
would not consent to his coming to Dresden, he would come to Berlin,
Leipsic, Frankfort, Aix-la-Chapelle, or anywhere else. He became
impatient to know his fate, and her letters were so irregular that he
exclaimed: "In heaven's name, write me regularly three times a month!"

Poor Balzac's dream was to be on the way to Dresden, but this was not
to be realized. It will be remembered, that Madame Hanska's family did
not approve of Balzac nor did they appreciate his literary worth, they
felt that the marriage would be a decided _mesalliance_, and exerted
their influence against him. Discouraged by them and her friends, she
forbade his coming. While her family called him a _scribe exotique_,
Balzac indirectly told her of the appreciation of other women, saying
that Madame de Girardin considered him to be one of the most charming
conversationalists of the day.

This uncertainty as to his going to visit his "Polar Star" affected
him to such a degree that he could not concentrate his mind on his
work, and he became impatient to the point of scolding her:

 "But, dear Countess, you have made me lose all the month of January
  and the first fifteen days of February by saying to me: 'I start
  --to-morrow--next week,' and by making me wait for letters; in
  short, by throwing me into rages which I alone know! This has
  brought a frightful disorder into my affairs, for instead of
  getting my liberty February 15, I have before me a month of
  herculean labor, and on my brain I must inscribe this which will
  be contradicted by my heart: 'Think no longer of your star, nor of
  Dresden, nor of travel; stay at your chain and work miserably!
  . . . Dear Countess, I decidedly advise you to leave Dresden at
  once. There are princesses in that town who infect and poison your
  heart, and were it not for _Les Paysans_, I should have started at
  once to prove to that venerable invalid of Cythera how men of my
  stamp love; men who have not received, like her prince, a Russian
  pumpkin in place of a French heart from the hands of hyperborean
  nature. . . . Tell your dear Princess that I have known you since
  1833, and that in 1845 I am ready to go from Paris to Dresden to
  see you for a day; and it is not impossible for me to make this
  trip; . . ."

In the meantime she had not only forbidden his coming to visit her,
but had even asked him not to write to her again at Dresden, to which
he replies:

 "May I write without imprudence, before receiving a counter-order?
  Your last letter counseled me not to write again to Dresden.
  However, I take up my pen on the invitation contained in your
  letter of the 8th. Since you, as well as your child, are
  absolutely determined to see your Lirette again, there is but one
  way for it, viz., to come to Paris."

He planned how she could secure a passport for Frankfort and the Rhine
and meet him at Mayence, where he would have a passport for his sister
and his niece so that they could come to Paris to remain from March 15
until May 15. Once in Paris, in a small suite of rooms furnished by
him, they could visit Lirette at the convent, take drives, frequent
the theatres, shop at a great advantage, and keep everything in the
greatest secrecy. He continues:

 "Dear Countess, the uncertainty of your arrival at Frankfort has
  weighed heavily on me, for how can I begin to work, whilst
  awaiting a letter, which may cause me to set out immediately? I
  have not written a line of the _Paysans_. From a material point of
  view, all this has been fatal to me. Not even your penetrating
  intelligence can comprehend this, as you know nothing of Parisian
  economy nor the difficulties in the life of a man who is trying to
  live on six thousand francs a year."

Thus was his time wasted; and when he dared express gently and
lovingly the feelings which were overpowering him, his beautiful
_Chatelaine_ was offended, and rebuked him for his impatience.
Desperate and almost frantic, he writes her:

 "Dresden and you dizzy me; I do not know what is to be done. There
  is nothing more fatal than the indecision in which you have kept
  me for three months. If I had departed the first of January to
  return February 28, I should be more advanced (in work) and I
  would have had two good months at St. Petersburg. Dear sovereign
  star, how do you expect me to be able to conceive two ideas, to
  write two sentences, with my heart and head agitated as they have
  been since last November; it is enough to drive a man mad! I have
  drenched myself with coffee to no avail, I have only increased the
  nervous trouble of my eyes; . . . I am between two despairs, that
  of not seeing you, of not having seen you, and the financial and
  literary chagrin, the chagrin of self-respect. Oh! Charles II was
  right in saying: 'But She? . . .' in all matters which his
  ministers submitted to him."

On receipt of a letter from her April 18, 1845, saying, "I desire much
to see you," he rushed off at once to Dresden, forgetful of all else.
In July, Madame Hanska and her daughter accompanied him home,
traveling incognito as Balzac's sister and his niece, just as he had
planned. Anna is said to have taken the name of Eugenie, perhaps in
remembrance of Balzac's heroine, Eugenie Grandet. After stopping at
various places on the way, they spent a few weeks at Paris. Balzac had
prepared a little house in Passy near him for his friends, and he took
much pleasure in showing them his treasures and Paris. Their identity
was not discovered, and in August he accompanied them as far as
Brussels on their return to Dresden. There they met Count George
Mniszech, the fiance of Anna, who had been with them most of the time.

Balzac could scarcely control his grief at parting, but he was not
separated from his _Predilecta_ long. The following month he spent
several days with her at Baden-Baden, saying of his visit:

 "Baden has been for me a bouquet of sweet flowers without a thorn.
  We lived there so peacefully, so delightfully, and so completely
  heart to heart. I have never been so happy before in my life. I
  seemed to catch a glimpse of that future which I desire and dream
  of in the midst of my overwhelming labors. . . ."

The happiness of Madame Hanska did not seem to be so great, for, ever
uncertain, she consulted a fortune-teller about him. To this he
replies: "Tell your fortune-teller that her cards have lied, and that
I am not preoccupied with any blonde, except Dame Fortune." As to
whether she was justified in being suspicious, one can judge from the
preceding pages. Balzac always denied or explained to her these
accusations; however true were some of his vindications of himself, he
certainly exaggerated in assuring her that he always told her the
exact truth and never hid from her the smallest trifle whether good or

In October, 1845, the novelist left Paris again, met his "Polar Star,"
her daughter and M. de Mniszech at Chalons, and accompanied them on
their Italian tour by way of Marseilles as far as Naples. On his
return to Marseilles on November 12, he invested in wonderful bargains
in bric-a-brac, a favorite pursuit which eventually cost him a great
deal in worry and time as well as much money. Madame Hanska had
supplied his purse from time to time.

Although he was being pressed by debts and for unfinished work, having
wasted almost the entire year and having had much extra expense in
traveling, Balzac could not rise to the situation, and implored his
_Chatelaine_ to resign herself to keeping him near her, for he had
done nothing since he left Dresden. In this frame of mind, he writes:

 "Nothing amuses me, nothing distracts me, nothing enlivens me; it
  is the death of the soul, the death of the will, the collapse of
  the entire being; I feel that I cannot take up my work until I see
  my life decided, fixed, settled. . . . I am quite exhausted; I
  have waited too long, I have hoped too much, I have been too happy
  this year; and I no longer wish anything else. After so many years
  of toil and misfortune, to have been free as a bird of the air, a
  thoughtless traveler, super-humanly happy, and then to come back
  to a dungeon! . . . is that possible? . . . I dream, I dream by
  day, by night; and my heart's thought, folding upon itself,
  prevents all action of the thought of the brain--it is fearful!"

Balzac was ever seeing objects worthy to be placed in his art
collection, going quietly through Paris on foot, and having his friend
Mery continue to secure bargains at Marseilles. A most important event
at this period is the noticeable decline in the novelist's health.
Though these attacks of neuralgia and numerous colds were regarded as
rather casual, had he not been so imbued with optimism--an inheritance
from his father--he might have foreseen the days of terrible suffering
and disappointment that were to come to him in Russia. Nature was
beginning to revolt; the excessive use of coffee, the strain of long
hours of work with little sleep, the abnormal life in general which he
had led for so many years, and this suspense about the ultimate
decision of the woman he so adored, were weakening him physically.

In January, 1846, Madame Hanska was in Dresden again, and as was
always the case when in that city, she wrote accusing him. This time
the charge was that of indulging in ignoble gossip, and the reproach
was so unjust that, without finishing the reading of the letter, he
exposed himself for hours in the streets of Paris to snow, to cold and
to fatigue, utterly crushed by this accusation of which he was so
innocent. In his delicate physical condition, such shocks were
conducive to cardiac trouble, especially since his heart had long been
affected. After perusing the letter to the end, he reflected that
these grievous words came not from her, but from strangers, so he
poured forth his burning adoration, his longing for a _home_, where he
could drink long draughts of a life in common, the life of two.

In the following March the passionate lover was drawn by his
_Predilecta_ to the Eternal City, and a few months later they were in
Strasbourg, where a definite engagement took place. In October he
joined her again, this time at Wiesbaden, to attend the marriage of
Anna to the Comte George de Mniszech. This brief visit had a
delightful effect: "From Frankfort to Forbach, I existed only in
remembrance of you, going over my four days like a cat who has
finished her milk and then sits licking her lips."

Madame Hanska had constantly refused to be separated from her
daughter, but now Balzac hoped that he could hasten matters, so he
applied to his boyhood friend, M. Germeau, prefect of Metz, to see if
he, in his official capacity, could not waive the formality of the law
and accelerate his marriage; but since all Frenchmen are equal before
the _etat-civil_, this could not be accomplished.

It was during their extensive travels in 1846 that Balzac began
calling the party "Bilboquet's troup of mountebanks": Madame Hanska
became Atala; Anna, Zephirine; George, Gringalet; and Balzac,
Bilboquet. Although Madame Hanska cautioned him about his extravagance
in gathering works of art, he persisted in buying them while
traveling, so it became necessary to find a home in which to place his
collection. It is an interesting fact that while making this
collection, he was writing _Le Cousin Pons_, in which the hero has a
passion for accumulating rare paintings and curios with which he fills
his museum and impoverishes himself. Balzac had purposed calling this
book _Le Parasite_, but Madame Hanska objected to this name, which
smacked so strongly of the eighteenth century, and he changed it. As
he was also writing _La Cousine Bette_ at this time, we can see not
only that his power of application had returned to him, but that he
was producing some of his strongest work.

For some time Balzac had been looking for a home worthy of his
_fiancee_ and had finally decided on the Villa Beaujon, in the rue
Fortunee. Since this home was created "for her and by her," it was
necessary for her to be consulted in the reconstruction and decoration
of it, so he brought her secretly to Paris, and her daughter and
son-in-law returned to Wierzchownia. This was not only a long
separation for so devoted a mother and daughter, but there was some
danger lest her incognito be discovered; Balzac, accordingly, took
every precaution. It is easy to picture the extreme happiness of the
novelist in conducting his _Louloup_ over Paris, in having her near
him while he was writing some of his greatest masterpieces, and,
naturally, hoping that the everlasting debts would soon be defrayed
and the marriage ceremony performed, but fortunately, he was not
permitted to know beforehand of the long wait and the many obstacles
that stood in his way.

Just what happened during the spring and summer of 1847 is uncertain,
as few letters of this period exist in print. Miss Sandars (_Balzac_),
states that about the middle of April Balzac conducted Madame Hanska
to Forbach on her return to Wierzchownia, and when he returned to
Paris he found that some of her letters to him had been stolen, 30,000
francs being demanded for them at once, otherwise the letters to be
turned over to the Czar. Miss Sandars states also that this trouble
hastened the progress of his heart disease, and that when the letters
were eventually secured (without the payment) Balzac burned them, lest
such a catastrophe should occur again. The Princess Radziwill says
that the story of the letters was invented by Balzac and is
ridiculous; also, that it angered her aunt because Balzac revealed his
ignorance of Russian matters, by saying such things. Lawton (_Balzac_)
intimates that Balzac and Madame Hanska quarreled, she being jealous
and suspicious of his fidelity, and that he burned her letters. De
Lovenjoul (_Un Roman d'Amour_) makes the same statement and adds that
this trouble increased his heart disease. But he says also (_La Genese
d'un Roman de Balzac_) that Madame Hanska spent two months secretly in
Paris in April and May; yet, a letter written by Balzac, dated
February 27, 1847, shows that she was in Paris at that time.

Balzac went to Wierzchownia in September, 1847, and traveled so
expeditiously that he arrived there several days before his letter
which told of his departure. When one remembers how he had planned
with M. de Hanski more than ten years before to be his guest in this
chateau, one can imagine his great delight now in journeying thither
with the hope of accomplishing the great desire of his life. He was
royally entertained at the chateau and was given a beautiful little
suite of rooms composed of a salon, a sitting-room, and a bed-room.[*]

[*] This house, where all the mementos of Balzac, including his
    portrait, were preserved intact by the family, has been utterly
    destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

Regarding the vital question of his marriage, he writes his sister:

 "My greatest wish and hope is still far from its accomplishment.
  Madame Hanska is indispensable to her children; she is their
  guide; she disentangles for them the intricacies of the vast and
  difficult administration of this property. She has given up
  everything to her daughter. I have known of her intentions ever
  since I was at St. Petersburg. I am delighted, because the
  happiness of my life will thus be freed from all self-interest. It
  makes me all the more earnest to guard what is confided to me.
  . . . It was necessary for me to come here to make me understand
  the difficulties of all kinds which stand in the way of the
  fulfilment of my desires."[*]

[*] The above shows that Balzac's ardent passion for his _Predilecta_
    was for herself alone, and that he was not actuated by his greed
    for gold, as has been stated by various writers.

During this visit, Balzac complained of the cold of Russia in January,
but his friends were careful to provide him with suitable wraps.
Business matters compelled him to return to Paris in February. In
leaving this happy home, he must have felt the contrast in arriving in
Paris during the Revolution, and having to be annoyed again with his
old debts. This time, he went to his new home in the rue Fortunee, the
home that had cost the couple so much money and was to cause him so
much worry if not regret.

About the last of September, 1848, Balzac left Paris again for Russia,
and his family did not hear from him for more than a month after his
arrival. His mother was left with two servants to care for his home in
the rue Fortunee, as he expected to return within a few months. It is
worthy of note that in this first letter to her, he spoke of being in
very good health, for immediately afterwards, he was seized with acute
bronchitis, and was ill much of the time during his prolonged stay of
eighteen months.

Madame Hanska planned to have him pay the debts on their future home
as soon as the harvest was gathered, but concerning the most important
question he writes:

 "The Countess will make up her mind to nothing until her children
  are entirely free from anxieties regarding their fortune.
  Moreover, your brother's debts, whether his own, or those he has
  in common with the family, trouble her enormously. Nevertheless, I
  hope to return toward the end of August; but in no circumstance
  will I ever again separate myself from the person I love. Like the
  Spartan, I intend to return with my shield or upon it."

Things were very discouraging at Wierzchownia; Madame Hanska had
failed to receive much money which she was to inherit from an uncle,
and, in less than six weeks, four fires had consumed several farm
houses and a large quantity of grain on the estate. Although they both
were anxious to see the rue Fortunee, their departure was uncertain.

But the most distressing complication was the condition of Balzac's
health, which was growing worse. He complained of the frightful
Asiatic climate, with its excessive heat and cold; he had a perpetual
headache, and his heart trouble had increased until he could not mount
the stairs. But he had implicit faith in his physician, and with his
usual hopefulness felt that he would soon be cured, congratulating
himself on having two such excellent physicians as Dr. Knothe and his
son. His surroundings were ideal, and each of the household had for
him an attachment tender, filial and sincere. It was necessary to his
welfare that his life should be without vexation, and he asked his
sister to entreat their mother to avoid anything which might cause him

On his part, he tried to spare his mother also from unpleasant news,
and desired his sister to assist him in concealing from her the real
facts. He had had another terrible crisis in which he had been ill for
more than a month with cephalalgic fever, and he had grown very thin.

Though several of Balzac's biographers have criticized Madame Hanska
most bitterly for holding Balzac in Russia, and some have even gone so
far as to censure her for his early death, it will be remembered that
his health had long begun to fail, and that no constitution could long
endure the severe strain he had given his. No climate could help his
worn-out body to a sufficient degree. Balzac himself praised the
conduct of the entire Hanski family. The following is only one of his
numerous testimonies to their devotion.

 "Alas! I have no good news to send. In all that regards the
  affection, the tenderness of all, the desire to root out the evil
  weeds which encumber the path of my life, mother and children are
  sublime; but the chief thing of all is still subject to
  entanglements and delays, which make me doubt whether it is God's
  will that your brother should ever be happy, at least in that way;
  but as regards sincere mutual love, delicacy and goodness, it
  would be impossible to find another family like this. We live
  together as if there were only one heart amongst the four; this is
  repetition, but it cannot be helped, it is the only definition of
  the life I lead here."

The situation of the author of the _Comedie humaine_ was at this time
most pitiable. Broken in health and living in a climate to which his
constitution refused to be acclimated,[*] weighed down by a load of
debt which he was unable to liquidate in his state of health (his work
having amounted to very little during his stay in Russia), consumed
with a burning passion for the woman who had become the overpowering
figure in the latter half of his literary career, possessing a pride
that was making him sacrifice his very life rather than give up his
long-sought treasure, the diamond of Poland, his very soul became so
imbued with this devouring passion that the pour _moujik_ was scarcely
master of himself.

[*] Concerning the climate of Kieff, the Princess Radziwill says: "The
    story that the climate of Kieff was harmful to Balzac is also a
    legend. In that part of Russia, the climate is almost as mild as
    is the Isle of Wight, and Balzac, when he was staying with Madame
    Hanska, was nursed as he would never have been anywhere else,
    because not only did she love him with her whole heart, but her
    daughter and the latter's husband were also devoted to him."

His family were suffering various misfortunes, and these, together
with his deplorable condition, caused Madame Hanska to contemplate
giving up an alliance with a man whose family was so unfortunate and
whose social standing was so far beneath hers. She preferred to remain
in Russia where she was rich, and moved in a high aristocratic circle,
rather than to give up her property and assume the life of anxiety and
trials which awaited her as Madame Honore de Balzac.

At times he became most despondent; the long waiting was affecting him
seriously, and he hesitated urging a life so shattered as was his upon
the friend who, like a benignant star, had shone upon his path during
the past sixteen years.

 "If I lose all I have hoped to gain here, I should no longer live;
  a garret in the rue Lesdiguieres and a hundred francs a month
  would suffice for all I want. My heart, my soul, my ambition, all
  that is within me, desires nothing, except the one object I have
  had in view for sixteen years. If this immense happiness escapes
  me, I shall need nothing. I will have nothing. I care nothing for
  la rue Fortunee for its own sake; la rue Fortunee has only been
  created _for her_ and _by her_."

The novelist was cautious in his letters lest there should be gossip
about his secret engagement, and his possible approaching marriage.
Apropos of his marriage, he would say that it was postponed for
reasons which he could not give his family; Madame Hanska had met with
financial losses again through fires and crop failures. With his
continued illness, he had many things to trouble him.

But with all his trials, Balzac remained in many ways a child. After
the terrible Moldavian fever which had endangered his life, in the
fall of 1849 he took great pleasure in a dressing-gown of _termolana_
cloth. He had wanted one of these gowns since he first saw this cloth
at Geneva in 1834. Again he was ill, for twenty days, and his only
amusement was in seeing Anna depart for dances in costumes of royal
magnificence. The Russian toilettes were wonderful, and while the
women ruined their husbands with their extravagance, the men ruined
the toilettes of the ladies by their roughness. In a mazurka where the
men contended for ladies' handkerchiefs, the young Countess had one
worth about five hundred francs torn in pieces, but her mother
repaired the loss by giving her another twice as costly.

The year 1850, which was to prove so fatal to Balzac, opened with a
bad omen, had he realized it. His health, which he had never
considered as he should have done, was seriously affected, and early
in January another illness followed which kept him in bed for several
days. He thought that he had finally become acclimated, but after
another attack a few weeks later he concluded that the climate was
impossible for nervous temperaments.

Such was, in brief, the story of his stay in Russia, but his optimism
and devotion continued, and he writes:

 "It is sanguine to think I could set off on March 15, and in that
  case I should arrive early in April. But if my long cherished
  hopes are realized, there would be a delay of some days, as I
  should have to go to Kieff, to have my passport regulated. These
  hopes have become possibilities; these four or five successive
  illnesses--the sufferings of a period of acclimatization--which my
  affection has enabled me to take joyfully, have touched this sweet
  soul more than the few little debts which remain unpaid have
  frightened her as a prudent woman, and I foresee that all will go
  well. In the face of this happy probability, the journey to Kieff
  is not to be regretted, for the Countess has nursed me heroically
  without once leaving the house, so you ought not to afflict
  yourself for the little delay which will thus be caused. Even in
  that case, my, or our, arrival would be in the first fortnight of

Until the very last, Balzac was very careful that his family should
not announce his expected wedding. Finally, all obstacles overcome,
the long desired marriage occurred March 14, 1850.[*]

[*] Though Balzac speaks of having to obtain the Czar's permission to
    marry, the Princess Radziwill states that no permission was
    required, asked or granted. Balzac always gave March 14, 1850, as
    the date of his marriage while de Lovenjoul and M. Stanislas
    Rzewuski give the date as April 15, 1850. The Princess Radziwill
    writes: "Concerning the date of Balzac's marriage, it was
    solemnized as he wrote it to his family on March 2_14_1850, at
    Berditcheff in Poland. Balzac, however, was a French subject, and
    as such had to be married according to the French civil law, by a
    French consul. There did not exist one in Berditcheff, so they had
    perforce to repair to Kieff for this ceremony. The latter took
    place on April 3_15 of the same year, and this explains the
    discrepancy of dates you mention which refer to two different

What must have been the novelist's feeling of triumph, after almost
seventeen years of waiting, suffering and struggle, to write:

 "Thus, for the last twenty-four hours there has been a Madame Eve
  de Balzac, nee Countess Rzewuska, or a Madame Honore de Balzac, or
  a Madame de Balzac the elder. This is no longer a secret, as you
  see I tell it to you without delay. The witnesses were the
  Countess Mniszech, the son-in-law of my wife, the Count Gustave
  Olizar, brother-in-law of the Abbe Czarouski, the envoy of the
  Bishop; and the cure of the parish of Berditcheff. The Countess
  Anna accompanied her mother, both exceedingly happy . . ."

With great joy and childish pride, Balzac informed his old friend and
physician, Dr. Nacquart, who knew so well of his adoration for his
"Polar Star" and his seventeen long years of untiring pursuit, that he
had become the husband of the grandniece of Marie Leczinska and the
brother-in-law of an aide-de-camp general of His Majesty the Emperor
of all the Russias, the Count Adam Rzewuski, step-father of Count
Orloff; the nephew of the Countess Rosalia Rzewuska, first lady of
honor to Her Majesty the Empress; the brother-in-law of Count Henri
Rzewuski, the Walter Scott of Poland as Mizkiewicz is the Polish Lord
Byron; the father-in-law of Count Mniszech, of one of the most
illustrious houses of the North, etc., etc.!

Though this was by far and away Balzac's greatest and most passionate
love, the present writer cannot agree with the late Professor Harry
Thurston Peck in the following dictum: "It was his first real love,
and it was her last; and, therefore, their association realized the
very characteristic aphorism which Balzac wrote in a letter to her
after he had known her but a few short weeks: 'It is only the last
love of a woman that can satisfy the first love of a man.'"

After their marriage, the homeward journey was delayed several weeks.
The baggage, which was to be conveyed by wagon, only left April 2, and
it required about two weeks for it to reach Radziwiloff, owing to the
general thaw just set in. Then Balzac had a severe relapse due to lung
trouble, and it was twelve days before he recovered sufficiently to
travel. He had an attack of ophthalmia at Kieff, and could scarcely
see; the Countess Anna fell ill with the measles, and her mother would
not leave until the Countess recovered. They started late in April for
what proved to be a terrible journey, he suffering from heart trouble,
and she from rheumatism. On the way they stopped for a few days at
Dresden, where Balzac became very ill again. His eyes were in such a
condition that he could no longer see the letters he wrote. The
following was written from Dresden, gives a glimpse of their troubles:

 "We have taken a whole month to go a distance usually done in six
  days. Not once, but a hundred times a day, our lives have been in
  danger. We have often been obliged to have fifteen or sixteen men,
  with levers, to get us out of the bottomless mudholes into which
  we have sunk up to the carriage-doors. . . . At last, we are here,
  alive, but ill and tired. Such a journey ages one ten years, for
  you can imagine what it is to fear killing each other, or to be
  killed the one by the other, loving each other as we do. My wife
  feels grateful for all you say about her, but her hands do not
  permit her to write. . . ."

Madame de Balzac has been most severely criticized for her lack of
affection for Balzac, and their married life has generally been
conceded to have been very unhappy. This supposition seems to have
been based largely on hearsay. Miss Sandars quotes from a letter
written to her daughter on May 16 from Frankfort, in which, speaking
of Balzac as "poor dear friend," she seems to be quite ignorant of his
condition, and to show more interest in her necklace than in her
husband. The present writer has not seen this _unpublished_ letter;
but a _published_ letter dated a few days before the other, in which
she not only refers to Balzac as her husband but shows both her
affection for him and her interest in his condition, runs as follows:

 "Hotel de Russie (Dresden). My husband has just returned; he has
  attended to all his affairs with a remarkable activity, and we are
  leaving to-day. I did not realize what an adorable being he is; I
  have known him for seventeen years, and every day, I perceive that
  there is a new quality in him which I did not know. If he could
  only enjoy health! Speak to M. Knothe about it, I beg you. You
  have no idea how he suffered last night! I hope his natal air will
  help him, but if this hope fails me, I shall be much to be pitied,
  I assure you. It is such happiness to be loved and protected thus.
  His eyes are also very bad; I do not know what all that means, and
  at times, I am very sad. I hope to give you better news to-morrow,
  when I shall write you."

Comments have been made on the fact that Balzac wrote his sister his
wife's hands were too badly swollen from rheumatism to write and yet
she wrote to her daughter, but there is a difference between a
mother's letter to her only child, and one to a mother-in-law as
hostile as she knew hers to be. She probably did not care to write,
and Balzac, to smooth matters for her, gave this excuse.

The long awaited but tragic arrival took place late in the night of
May 20, 1850. The home in the rue Fortunee was brilliantly lighted,
and through the windows could be seen the many beautiful flowers
arranged in accordance with his oft repeated request to his poor old
mother. But alas! to their numerous tugs at the door-bell no response
came, so a locksmith had to be sent for to open the doors. The
minutest details of Balzac's orders for their reception had been
obeyed, but the unfortunate, faithful Francois Munch, under the
excitement and strain of the preparations, had suddenly gone insane.

Was this a sinister omen, or was it an exemplification of the old
Turkish proverb, "The house completed, death enters"? Our hero's
marriage proved to be the last of his _illusions perdues_, for only
three months more were to be granted him. MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire have
pertinently remarked that five years before his death, Balzac closed
_Les petites Miseres de la Vie conjugal_ with these prophetic words:
"Who has not heard an Italian opera of some kind in his life? . . .
You must have noticed, then, the musical abuse of the word
_felichitta_ lavished by the librettist and the chorus at the time
every one is rushing from his box or leaving his stall. Ghastly image
of life. One leaves it the moment the _felichitta_ is heard." After so
many years of waiting and struggle, he attained the summit of
happiness, but was to obey the summons of death and leave this world
just as the chorus was singing "_Felichitta_."

Some of Balzac's biographers have criticized Madame Honore de Balzac
not only for having been heartless and indifferent towards him, but
for having neglected him in his last days on earth. Her nephew, M.
Stanislas Rzewuski, defended her, he said, not because she was his
aunt but because of the injustice done to the memory of this poor
_etrangere_, whose faithful tenderness, admiration and devotion had
comforted the earthly exile of a man of genius. Balzac, realizing his
hopeless condition, was despondent; his hopes were blighted, and his
physical sufferings doubtless made him irritable. On the other hand,
Madame de Balzac, however, seductive and charming, however worthy of
being adored and being his "star," had a high temper. This was the
natural temper of an aristocratic woman. It never passed the limits of
decorum, but it was violent and easily provoked.[*] Then too, she had
been accustomed to luxury and had never known poverty. She was ill
also and probably disappointed in life.

[*] The Princess Radziwill states that there are several inaccuracies
    in this article by her half-brother. He was very young when their
    aunt died, and he was influenced by his mother, who never liked
    Madame de Balzac. She points out that her aunt's temper was most
    even, that she never heard her raise her voice, and only once saw
    her angry.

M. Rzewuski has resented, and doubtless justly so, the oft-quoted
death scene by Victor Hugo. He says that at such a time the great poet
was perhaps a most unwelcome guest and she had left the room to avoid
him; that she probably returned before Balzac's last moments came;
that Hugo was only there a short while; that if she did not return she
could not have known that this was to be Balzac's last night on earth,
and that, worn out with watching and waiting, she was justified in
retiring to seek a much needed rest.[*]

[*] As to Octave Mirbeau's calumnious story, denied by both the
    Countess Mniszech and Gigoux's nephew and heir, the Princess
    Radziwill states that when Balzac died, her aunt did not know
    Gigoux and had never seen him. He was introduced to her only in
    1860 by her daughter, who asked him to paint her mother's
    portrait; and they became good friends.

The story is told that when Dr. Nacquart informed Balzac that he must
die, the novelist exclaimed: "Go call Bianchon! Bianchon will save me!
Bianchon!" The Princess Radziwill states, however, that she has heard
her aunt say often that this story is not true. But were it true,
Balzac's condition was such that no physician could have saved him,
even though possessing all the ability portrayed by the novelist in
the notable and omnipresent Dr. Horace Bianchon, who had saved so many
characters of the _Comedie humaine_, who had comforted in their dying
hours all ranks from the poverty-stricken Pere Goriot to the wealthy
Madame Graslin, from the corrupt Madame Marneffe to the angelic
Pierette Lorrain, whose incomparable fame had spread over a large part
of Europe.

Madame Hanska has been reproached also for the medical treatment given
Balzac in Russia. It is doubtless true that lemon juice is not
considered the proper treatment for heart disease in this enlightened
age, but seventy years ago, in the wilds of Russia, there was probably
no better medical aid to be secured; and even if Dr. Knothe and his
son were "charlatans," it will be remembered that Balzac not only had
a _penchant_ for such, but that he was very fond of these two
physicians and thought their treatment superior to that which was
given at Paris.

M. de Fiennes complained that grass was allowed to grow on Balzac's
grave. To this M. Eugene de Mirecourt replied that what M. de Fiennes
had taken for grass was laurel, thyme, buckthorn and white jasmine;
the grave of Balzac was constantly and religiously kept in good order
by his widow. One could ask any of the gardeners of Pere-Lachaise

Whatever the attitude of Balzac's wife towards him during his life,
she acted most nobly indeed in the matter of his debts. Instead of
accepting the inheritance left her in her husband's will and selling
her rights in all his works, the beautiful _etrangere_ accepted
courageously the terrible burden left to her, and paid the novelist's
mother an annuity of three thousand francs until her death, which
occurred March, 1854. She succeeded in accomplishing this liquidation,
which was of exceptional difficulty, and long before her death every
one of Balzac's creditors had been paid in full.

There seems to be no _authoritative_ proof that Balzac's married life
was either happy or unhappy. The Princess Radziwill always understood
from her aunt that they were as happy as one could expect, considering
that Balzac's days were numbered. The present writer is fain to say,
with Mr. Edward King: "He died happy, for he died in the full
realization of a pure love which had upheld him through some of the
bitterest trials that ever fall to the lot of man."

 "Say to your dear child the most tenderly endearing things in the
  name of one of the most sincere and faithful friends she will ever
  have, not excepting her husband, for I love her as her father
  loved her."[*]

[*] The Countess Mniszech died in September, 1914, at the age of
    eighty-nine, so must have been born about 1825 or 1826. She spent
    the twenty-five years preceding her demise in a convent in the rue
    de Vaugirard in Paris and retained her right mind until the day of
    her death. It will always be one of the greatest regrets of the
    present writer that she did not know of this before the Countess's
    death, for the Countess could doubtless have given her much
    information not to be obtained elsewhere.

Balzac was probably never more sincere than when he wrote this
message, for perhaps no father ever loved his own child more devotedly
than he loved Anna, the only child living of M. and Mme. de Hanski.

Most of Balzac's biographers who state that he met Madame Hanska on
the promenade, say that her little daughter was with her. Wherever he
first met her, she won his heart completely. Some pebbles she gathered
during his first visit to her mother at Neufchatel, Balzac had made
into a little cross, on the back of which was engraved: _adoremus in
aeternum_. She was at this time about seven or eight years of age.
When he visited them again at Geneva, their friendship increased, and
in writing to her mother he sent the child kisses from _son pauvre
cheval_. He loved her little playthings, some of which he kept on his
desk; was always wanting to send her gifts, anxious for her health and
happiness, took great interest in her musical talent, and was ever
delighted to hear of her progress or pleasures. One of his rather
typical messages to her in her earlier years was: "Place a kiss on
Anna's brow from the most tranquil steed she will ever have in her

As she grew older, the novelist thought of dedicating one of his works
to her, and wrote to her mother that the first _young girl_ story he
should compose he would like to dedicate to Anna, if agreeable to both
of them. The mother's consent was granted, and he assured her that the
story Pierrette (written, by the way, in ten days) was suitable for
Anna to read. "_Pierrette_ is one of those tender flowers of
melancholy which in advance are certain of success. As the book is for
Anna, I do not wish to tell you anything about it, but leave you the
pleasure of surprise."

 "To Mademoiselle Anna de Hanska:

 "Dear Child, you, the joy of an entire home, you whose white or
  rose-colored scarf flutters in the summer through the groves of
  Wierzchownia, like a will-o'-the-wisp, followed by the tender eyes
  of your father and mother--how can I dedicate to you a story full
  of melancholy? But is it not well to tell you of sorrow such as a
  young girl so fondly loved as you are will never know? For some
  day your fair hands may comfort the unfortunate. It is so
  difficult, Anna, to find in the history of our manners any
  incident worthy of meeting your eye, that an author has no choice;
  but perhaps you may discern how happy you are from reading this
  story, sent by

                                           "Your old friend,
                                                    "DE BALZAC."

Balzac was very proud of the success of _Pierrette_, and wished Madame
Hanska to have Anna read it, assuring her that there was nothing
"improper" in it.

 "_Pierrette_ has appeared in the _Siecle_. The manuscript is bound
  for Anna. _L'envoi_ has appeared; I enclose it to you. Friends and
  enemies proclaim this little book a masterpiece; I shall be glad
  if they are not mistaken. You will read it soon, as it is being
  printed in book form. People have placed it beside the _Recherche
  de l'Absolu_. I am willing. I myself would like to place it beside

[*] The dedication was placed at the end, _en envoi_.

After the death of Anna's father, Balzac advised her mother in many
ways. His interest in Anna's musical ability, which was very rare,
increased and he had Liszt call on Madame Hanska and play for them
when he went to St. Petersburg. He expressed his gratitude to Liszt
for this favor by dedicating to him _La Duchesse de Langeais_. He
regretted this later, after the musician fell into such discredit.

Balzac was anxious that Madame Hanska should manage the estate wisely,
and that she should be very careful in selecting a husband for Anna.
The young girl had many suitors at St. Petersburg, and he expressed
his opinion freely about them. He wanted her to be happily married,
and wrote her mother regarding the essential qualities of a husband.
He loved Anna for her mother's sake as well as for her own, and when
the fond mother wrote him about certain traits of her daughter he
encouraged her to be proud of Anna, for she was far superior to the
best-bred young people of Paris.

He did not approve, at first, of the young Count de Mniszech and
championed another suitor; later he and the Count became warm friends,
and in 1846, he dedicated to him _Maitre Cornelius_, written in 1831.
Besides having a very handsome cane made for him, he sent him many

Balzac expressed his admiration of Anna not only to her mother, but to
others. He wrote the Count, who was soon to become her husband, that
she was the most charming young girl he had ever seen in the most
refined circles of society. He found her far more attractive than his
niece, who had the bloom of a beautiful Norman, and he thought that
possibly some of his admiration for her was due to his great affection
for her mother.

One is surprised to see what foresight Balzac had--so many things he
said proved to be true. He thought, for instance, that Anna had the
physique to live a hundred years, that she had no sense of the
practical, that her mother--as he took care to warn her--would do well
to keep her estate separate from her daughter's, or otherwise she
might some day have cause for regret. Whether Madame Honore de Balzac
was too busy with literary and business duties after her husband's
death, or whether her extreme affection prevented her from refusing
her only child anything she wished, the results were disastrous. It
was fortunate for Balzac that he did not live to see the fate of this
paragon, for this would have grieved him deeply, while he probably
would not have been able to remedy matters.

While a part of Balzac's affection for Anna was doubtless owing to his
adoration for her mother, she must have had in her own person some
very charming traits, for after he had lived in their home for more
than a year, where he must have studied her most carefully, he says of
her: "It is true that the Countess Anna and Count George are two ideal
perfections; I did not believe two such beings could exist. There is a
nobleness of life and sentiment, a gentleness of manners, an evenness
of temper, which cannot be believed unless you have lived with them.
With all this, there is a playfulness, a spontaneous gaiety, which
dispels weariness or monotony. Never have I been so thoroughly in my
right place as here."

Balzac certainly was not tactful in continually praising the young
Countess to his sister and his nieces, but he was doubtless sincere,
and no record has been found of his ever having changed his opinion of
this young Russian whom he loved so tenderly.

A woman who played an important role in Balzac's association with
Madame Hanska was Mademoiselle Henriette Borel, called Lirette. She
had been governess in the home of Madame Hanska since 1824.
Sympathetic and devoted to the children, she grieved when death took
them. She helped save Anna's life, for which the entire family loved
her. It was doubtless due to her influence that M. de Hanski and his
family chose Neufchatel, her home city, as a place to sojourn. They
arrived there in the summer of 1833, and left early in October of the
same year. While at Neufchatel they were very gracious to Lirette's
relatives and Madame Hanska invited them to visit her at Geneva.

Whether Lirette wrote with her own hand the first letter sent by
Madame Hanska to Balzac--letters which de Lovenjoul says were not in
the handwriting of the _Predilecta_--we shall probably never know, but
that she knew of the secret correspondence and aided in it is seen
from the following:

 "My celestial love, find an impenetrable place for my letters. Oh!
  I entreat you, let no harm come to you. Let Henriette be their
  faithful guardian, and make her take all the precautions that the
  genius of woman dictates in such a case. . . . Do not deceive
  yourself, my dear Eve; one does not return to Mademoiselle
  Henriette Borel a letter so carefully folded and sealed without
  looking at it. There are clever dissimulations. Now I entreat you,
  take a carriage that you may never get wet in going to the post.
  . . . Go every Wednesday, because the letters posted here on
  Sunday arrive on Wednesday. I will never, whatever may be the
  urgency, post letters for you on any day except Sunday. Burn the
  envelopes. Let Henriette scold the man at the post-office for
  having delivered a letter which was marked _poste restante_, but
  scold him laughing, . . ."

Balzac courteously sent greetings to Lirette in his letters to Madame
Hanska, and evidently liked her. Her religious tendencies probably
impressed him many years before she took the veil, for he writes of
her praying for him.

While Balzac naturally met Lirette in his visits to Madame Hanska, it
was while he was at St. Petersburg in the summer of 1843 that he
became more intimate with her, for she had decided to become a nun,
and consulted him on many points. Since she was to enter a convent at
Paris, he visited a priest there for her, secured the necessary
documents, and advised her about many matters, especially her property
and the convent she should enter. Though he aided her in every way he
could, he did not approve of this step, but when she arrived in Paris,
he entertained her in his home, giving up his room for her. At various
times he went with her to the convent and his housekeeper, Madame de
Brugnolle, also was very kind to her.

Lirette impressed the novelist as being very stupid, and he wondered
how his "Polar Star" could have ever made a friend of her. She was as
blind a Catholic as she had been a blind Protestant. She seemed
willing now to have him marry Madame Hanska, after many years of
aversion to him. He tried to impress upon her that a rich nun was much
better treated than a poor one, but she would not listen to him, and
insisted on making what he considered a premature donation of
everything she possessed to her convent. She annoyed him very much
while he was trying to save her property, yet he was pleased to do
this for the sake of his _Predilecta_ and Anna. He looked after her
with the same solicitude that a father would have for his child, and
after doing everything possible for her, he conducted her to the
_Convent de la Visitation_ without a word of thanks from her, though
he had made sacrifices for her, and though his housekeeper had slept
on a mattress on the floor, giving up her room in order that Lirette
should have suitable quarters. But although hurt by her ingratitude he
had enjoyed talking with her, for she brought him news from his
friends in Russia.

Lirette evidently did not realize what she was doing in the matter of
the convent, and was displeased with many things after entering it.
Balzac was vexed at what she wrote to Madame Hanska, but felt that she
was not altogether responsible for her actions, believing that it was
a very personal sentiment which caused her to enter the convent.[*] He
could not understand her indifference to her friends, she did penance
by keeping a letter from Anna eighteen days before opening it. He
found her stupidity unequaled, but he sent his housekeeper to see her,
and visited her himself when he had time.

[*] It has been stated that Mademoiselle Borel was so impressed by the
    chants, lights and ceremony at the funeral of M. de Hanski in
    November 1841, that it caused her to give up her protestant faith
    and enter the convent. Miss Sandars (_Balzac_) has well remarked:
    "We may wonder, however, whether tardy remorse for her deceit
    towards the dead man, who had treated her with kindness, had not
    its influence in causing this sudden religious enthusiasm, and
    whether the Sister in the Convent of the Visitation in Paris gave
    herself extra penance for her sins of connivance." Mademoiselle
    died in this convent, rue d'Enfer, in 1857.

In addition to all this, the poor novelist had one more trial to
undergo; this was to see her take the vows (December 2, 1845). He was
misinformed as to the time of the ceremony, so went too soon and
wasted much precious time, but he remained through the long service in
order to see her afterwards. But in all this Lirette was to accomplish
one thing for him. As she had helped in his correspondence, she was
soon to be the means of bringing him and his _Chatelaine_ together
again; the devotion of Madame Hanska and Anna to the former governess
being such that they came to Paris to see her.

In the home of the de Hanskis in the Russian waste were two other
women, Mesdemoiselles Severine and Denise Wylezynska, who were to play
a small part in Balzac's life. Both of these relatives probably came
with M. de Hanski and his family to Switzerland in 1833; their names
are mentioned frequently in his letters to Madame Hanska, and soon
after his visit at Neufchatel the novelist asks that Mademoiselle
Severine preserve her gracious indifference. These ladies were cousins
of M. de Hanski, and probably were sisters of M. Thaddee Wylezynski,
mentioned in connection with Madame Hanska. After her husband's death,
Madame Hanska must have invited these two ladies to live with her, for
Balzac inquires about the two young people she had with her.

Mademoiselle Denise has been suspected of having written the first
letter for Madame Hanska, and the dedication of _La Grenadiere_ has
been replaced by the initials "A. D. W.," supposed to mean "a Denise
Wylezynska"; the actual dedication is an unpublished correction of
Balzac himself.

The relative that caused Balzac the most discomfort was the Countess
Rosalie Rzewuska, nee Princess Lubomirska, wife of Count Wenceslas
Rzewuski, Madame Hanska's uncle. She seems to have been continually
hearing either that he was married, or something that was detrimental,
and kept him busy denying these reports:

 "I have here your last letter in which you speak to me of Madame
  Rosalie and of _Seraphita_. Relative to your aunt, I confess that
  I am ignorant by what law it is that persons so well bred can
  believe such calumnies. I, a gambler! Can your aunt neither
  reason, calculate nor combine anything except whist? I, who work,
  even here, sixteen hours a day, how should I go to a
  gambling-house that takes whole nights? It is as absurd as it is
  crazy. . . . Your letter was sad; I felt it was written under the
  influence of your aunt. . . . Let your aunt judge in her way of my
  works, of which she knows neither the whole design nor the
  bearing; it is her right. I submit to all judgements. . . . Your
  aunt makes me think of a poor Christian who, entering the Sistine
  chapel just as Michael-Angelo has drawn a nude figure, asks why
  the popes allow such horrors in Saint Peter's. She judges a work
  from at least the same range in literature without putting herself
  at a distance and awaiting its end. She judges the artist without
  knowing him, and by the sayings of ninnies. All that give me
  little pain for myself, but much for her, if you love her. But
  that you should let yourself be influenced by such errors, that
  does grieve me and makes me very uneasy, for I live by my
  friendships only."

In spite of this, Balzac wished to obtain the good will of "Madame
Rosalie," and sympathized with her when she lost her son. But she had
a great dislike for Paris, and after the death of M. de Hanski, she
objected to her niece's going there. The novelist felt that she was
his sworn enemy, and that she went too far in her hatred of everything
implied in the word _Paris_[*]; yet he pardoned her for the sake of
her niece.

[*] The reason why Madame Rosalie had such a horror of Paris was that
    her mother was guillotined there,--the same day as Madame
    Elizabeth. Madame Rosalie was only a child at that time, and was
    discovered in the home of a washerwoman.

It was Caliste Rzewuska, the daughter of this aunt, whom Balzac had in
mind when he sketched _Modeste Mignon_. She was married to M.
Michele-Angelo Cajetani, Prince de Teano and Duc de Sermoneta, to whom
_Les Parents pauvres_ is dedicated.

Balzac seems to have had something of the same antipathy for Madame
Hanska's sister Caroline that he had for her aunt Rosalie, but since
he wrote to his _Predilecta_ many unfavorable things of a private
nature about his family, she may have done the same concerning hers,
so that he may not have had a fair opportunity of judging her. He was
friendly towards her at times, and she is the Madame Cherkowitch of
his letters.

It was probably Madame Hanska's sister Pauline, Madame Jean Riznitch,
whose servants were to receive a reward from a rich _moujik_ in case
they could arrange to have him see Balzac. This _moujik_ was a great
admirer of the novelist, had read all his books, burnt a candle to
Saint Nicholas for him every week, and was anxious to meet him. Since
Madame Riznitch lived not far from Madame Hanska, he hoped to see
Balzac when he visited Wierzschownia.

The relative whose association with Balzac seems to have caused Madame
Hanska the most discomfort was her cousin, the Countess Marie Potocka.
He met her when he visited his _Chatelaine_ in Geneva_, where the
Countess Potocka entertained him, and after his return to Paris, he
called on Madame Appony, wife of the Austrian ambassador, to deliver a
letter for her. Before going to Geneva he had heard of her, and had
confused her identity with that of the _belle Grecque_ who had died
several years before.

During his visit to Geneva the novelist deemed it wise to explain his
attentions to Madame P-----: "It would have seemed ridiculous (to the
others) for me to have occupied myself with you only. I was bound to
respect you, and in order to talk to you so much, it was necessary for
me to talk to Madame P-----. What I wrote you this morning is of a
nature to show you how false are your fears. I never ceased to look at
you while talking to Madame P-----."

After his return to Paris he wrote a letter to Madame P-----, and was
careful to explain this also:

 "Do not be jealous of Madame P-----'s letter; that woman must be
  _for us_. I have flattered her, and I want her to think that you
  are disdained. . . . My enemies are spreading a rumor of my
  _liaison_ with a Russian princess; they name Madame P----- . . .
  Oh! my love, I swear to you I wrote to Madame P----- only to
  prevent the road to Russia being closed to me."

He received a letter from her which he did not answer, for he wished
to end this correspondence. It is within the bounds of possibility
that Balzac cared more for the Countess Potocka than he admitted to
his "Polar Star," but several years later, when she had become
avaricious, he formed an aversion to her and warned Madame Hanska to
beware of her cousin.


 "I live by my friendships only."

Many people write their romances, others live them; Honore de Balzac
did both. This life so full of romantic fiction mingled with stern
reality, where the burden of debt is counter-balanced by dramatic
passion, where hallucination can scarcely be distinguished from fact,
where the weary traveler is ever seeking gold, rest, or love, ever
longing to be famous and to be loved, where the hero, secluded as in a
monastery, suddenly emerges to attend an opera, dressed in the most
gaudy attire, where he lacks many of the comforts of life, yet
suddenly crosses half the continent, allured by the fascinations of a
woman, this life is indeed a _roman balzacien par excellence_!

He tried to shroud his life, especially his association with women, in
mystery. Now since the veil is partially lifted, one can see how great
was the role they played. It has been said that twelve thousand
letters were written to Balzac by women, some to express their
admiration, some to recognize themselves in a delightful personage he
had created, others to thank him or condemn him for certain attitudes
he had sustained towards woman.

For him to have so thoroughly understood the feminine mind and
temperament, to have given to this subtle chameleon its various hues,
to have portrayed woman with her many charms and caprices, and to have
described woman in her various classes and at all ages, he must have
observed her, or rather, he must have known her. He very justly says
in his _Avant-propos_:

 "When Buffon described the lion, he dismissed the lioness with a
  few phrases; but in society the wife is not always the female of
  the male. There may be two perfectly dissimilar beings in one
  household. The wife of a shopkeeper is sometimes worthy of a
  prince and the wife of a prince is often worthless compared with
  the wife of an artisan. The social state has freaks which are not
  found in the natural world; it is nature _plus_ society. The
  description of the social species would thus be at least double
  that of the animal species, merely in view of the two sexes."

Thus, he made a special study of woman, penetrated, like a father
confessor, into her innermost secrets, and if he has not painted the
duchesses with the delicacy due them, it was not because he did not
know or had not studied them, but probably because he was picturing
them with his Rabelaisian pen.

He knew many women who were active during the reign of Louis XVI,
women who were conspicuous under the Empire, and women who were
prominent in society during the Restoration, hence, one would
naturally expect to find traces of them in his works.

But it is not only this type of woman that Balzac has presented. He
painted the _bourgeoise_ in society, as seen in the daughters of
_Pere Goriot_, and many others, the various types of the _vieille
fille_ such as Mademoiselle Zephirine Guenic (_Beatrix_) who never
wished to marry, Cousine Bette who failed in her matrimonial attempts,
and Madame Bousquier (_La vieille Fille) who finally succeeded in

The working class is represented in such characters as Madame
Remonencq (_Le Cousin Pons_) and Madame Cardinal (_Les petits
Bourgeois_), while the servant class is well shown in the person of
the _grand_ Nanon (_Eugenie Grandet_), the faithful Fanny (_La
Grenadiere_), and many others. As has been seen, there is a trace of
his old servant, Mere Comin, in the person of Madame Vaillant (_Facino
Cane_), and Mere Cognette and La Rabouilleuse (_La Rabouilleuse_) are
said to be people he met while visiting Madame Carraud. The novelist
must have known many such women, for his mother and sisters had
servants, and in the homes of Madame de Berny, Madame Carraud and
Madame de Margonne, he certainly knew the servants, not to mention
those he observed at the cafes and in his wanderings.

Balzac knew several young girls at different periods of his life. His
sister Laure was his first and only companion in his earlier years,
and he knew his sister Laurence especially well in the years
immediately preceding her marriage. Madame Carraud was a schoolmate of
Madame Surville and visited in his home as a young girl. He was not
only acquainted with the various daughters of Madame de Berny, but at
one time there was some prospect of his marrying Julie. Josephine and
Constance, daughters of Madame d'Abrantes, were acquaintances of his
during their early womanhood. He must have known Mademoiselle de
Trumilly as he presented himself as her suitor, and being entertained
in her home frequently, doubtless saw her sisters also. Since he
accompanied his sister to balls in his youth, it is natural to suppose
that he met young girls there, even if there is no record of it.

A few years later he became devoted to the two daughters of his sister
Laure, and lived with her for a short time. He knew Madame Hanska's
daughter Anna in her childhood, but was most intimate with her when
she was about twenty. While Madame de Girardin was not so young, he
met her several years before her marriage, called her Delphine, and
regarded her somewhat as his pupil. He liked Marie de Montbeau and her
mother, Camille Delannoy, who was a friend of his sister Laure and the
daughter of the family friend, Madame Delannoy. Though not intimate
with her, he met and observed Eugenie, the daughter of Madame de
Bolognini at Milan, and probably was acquainted with Inez and
Hyacinthe, the two daughters of Madame Desbordes-Valmore.

In his various works, he has portrayed quite a number of young girls
varying greatly in rank and temperament, among the most prominent
being Marguerite Claes (_La Recherche de l'Absolu_), noted for her
ability and her strength of character, headstrong and much petted
Emilie de Fontaine (_Le Bal de Sceaux_), Laurence de Cinq-Cygne, the
very zealous Royalist (_Une tenebreuse Affaire_), romantic Modeste
Mignon, pitiable Pierrette Lorrain, dutiful and devout Ursule Mirouet,
unfortunate Fosseuse (_Le Medecin de Campagne_), bold and unhappy
Rosalie de Watteville (_Albert Savarus_), and the well-known Eugenie

The novelist has revealed to us that he modeled one of these heroines
on a combination of the woman who later became his wife, and her
cousin, a most charming woman. It is quite possible that some if not
all of the other heroines would be found to have equally interesting
sources, could they be discovered.

Concerning the much discussed question as to whether Balzac portrayed
young girls well, M. Marcel Barriere remarks:

 "There are critics stupid enough to say that Balzac knew nothing of
  the art of painting young girls; they make use of the inelegant,
  unpolished word _rate_ to qualify his portraits of this _genre_.
  To be sure, Balzac's triumph is, we admit, in his portraits of
  mothers or passionate women who know life. Certain authors,
  without counting George Sand, have given us sketches of young
  girls far superior to Balzac's, but that is no reason for scoffing
  in so impertinent a manner at the author of the _Comedie humaine_,
  when his unquestionable glory ought to silence similar
  pamphletistic criticisms. We advise those who reproach Balzac for
  not having understood the simplicity, modesty and graces so full
  of charm, or often the artifice of the young girl, to please
  reread in the _Scenes de la Vie privee_ the portraits of Louise de
  Chaulieu, Renee de Maucombe, Modeste Mignon, Julie de
  Chatillonest, Honorine de Beauvan, Mademoiselle Guillaume, Emilie
  de Fontaine, Mademoiselle Evangelista, Adelaide du Rouvre,
  Ginervra di Piombo, etc., without mentioning, in other _Scenes_,
  Eugenie Grandet, Eve Sechard, Pierrette Lorrain, Ursule Mirouet,
  Mesdemoiselles Birotteau, Hulot d'Ervy, de Cinq-Cygne, La
  Fosseuse, Marguerite Claes, Juana de Mancini, Pauline Gaudin, and
  I hope they will keep silence, otherwise they will cause us to
  question their good sense of criticism."

Balzac said it would require a Raphael to create so many virgins;
accordingly, from time to time the type of woman of the other extreme
is also seen. She is portrayed in the _grande dame_ and in the
_courtisane_, that is, at the top and the bottom of the social ladder.
On the one side are the Princesse de Cadignan, the Comtesse de Seriby,
etc., while on the other are Esther Gobseck, Valerie Marneffe, and
others. Some of the novelist's most striking antitheses were attained
by placing these horrible creatures by the side of his noblest and
purest creations.

In his _Avant-propos_, he criticized Walter Scott for having portrayed
his women as Protestants, saying: "In Protestantism there is no
possible future for the woman who has sinned; while, in the Catholic
Church, the hope of forgiveness makes her sublime. Hence, for the
Protestant writer there is but one woman, while the Catholic writer
finds a new woman in each new situation." Naturally, most of the women
of the _Comedie humaine_ are Catholic, but among the exceptions is
Madame Jeanrenaud (_L'Interdiction_), who is a Protestant; Josepha
Mirah and Esther Gobseck are of Jewish origin. In portraying various
women as Catholics, convent life for the young girl is seen in
_Memoires de deux jeunes mariees_, and for the woman weary of society,
in _La Duchesse de Langeais_. Extreme piety is shown in Madame de
Granville (_Une double Famille_), and Madame Graslin devoted herself
to charity to atone for her crime.

Various pictures are given of woman in the home. Ideal happiness is
portrayed in the life of Madame Cesar Birotteau. Madame Grandet,
Madame Hulot (_La Cousine Bette_), and Madame Claes (_La Recherche de
l'Absolu_) were martyrs to their husbands, while Madame Serizy made a
martyr of hers. Beautiful motherhood is often seen, as in Madame
Sauviat (_Le Cure de Village_), yet some of the mothers in Balzac are
most heartless. A few professions among women are represented,
actresses, artists, musicians and dancers being prominent in some of
the stories.

It is quite possible and even probable that Balzac pictured many more
women whom he knew in real life than have been mentioned here, and
these may yet be traced. For obvious reasons, he avoided exact
portraiture, yet in a few instances he indulged in it, notably in the
sketch of George Sand as Mademoiselle des Touches. And lest one might
not recognize the appearance of Madame Merlin as Madame Schontz
(_Beatrix_), he boldly made her name public.

In presenting the women whom we know, the novelist was usually
consistent. As has been seen, he regarded the home of Madame Carraud
at Frapesle as a haven of rest, and went there like a wood-pigeon
regaining its nest. The suffering Felix de Vandenesse (_Le Lys dans la
Vallee_) could not, therefore, find calm until he went to the chateau
de Frapesle to recuperate. The novelist could easily give this minute
description of Frapesle with its towers, as well as the chateau de
Sache, the home of M. de Margonne, having spent so much of his time at
both of these places.

The reader, having seen in the early pages of this book, Balzac's
relation to his mother,--in case Felix de Vandenesse represents Balzac
himself--is not surprised to learn that the mother of Felix was cold
and tyrannical, indifferent to his happiness, that he had but little
or no money to spend, that his brother was the favorite, that he was
sent away to school early in life and remained there eight years, that
his mother often reproached him and repressed his tenderness, and that
to escape all contact with her he buried himself in his reading.

Felix was in this unhappy state when he met Madame de Mortsauf, whose
shoulders he kissed suddenly, and whose love for him later made him
forget the miseries of childhood; in the same manner, Balzac made his
first declaration to Madame de Berny. Madame de Mortsauf could easily
be Madame de Berny with all her tenderness and sympathy, or she could
be Madame Hanska. The intense maternal love of the heroine could
represent either, but especially the latter. M. de Mortsauf could be
either M. de Berny or M. de Hanski. Balzac left Madame de Berny and
became enraptured with Madame de Castries, and had had a similar
infatuation for Madame d'Abrantes, just as Felix made Madame de
Mortsauf jealous by his devotion to Lady Arabelle Dudley. It will be
remembered that Madame Hanska was suspicious of Balzac's relations
with an English lady, Countess Visconti, although the novelist states
that he had written this work before he knew Madame Visconti. The
novelist has doubtless combined traits of various women in a single
character, but the fact still remains that he was depicting life as he
knew it, even if he did not attempt exact portraiture.

While the famous Vicomtesse de Beauseant (_La Femme abandonnee_) has
many characteristics of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, and some of those of
Madame de Berny, and _La Femme abandonnee_ was written the year Balzac
severed his relations with his _Dilecta_. But it is especially in the
gentleness and patience portrayed in Madame Firmiani, in the affection
and self-sacrifice of Pauline de Villenoix for Louis Lambert, and the
devotion of Pauline Gaudin to Raphael in _La Peau de Chagrin_ that
Madame de Berny is most strikingly represented. She was all this and
more to Balzac. Furthermore, he may have obtained from her his
historical color for _Un Episode sous la Terreur_, just as he was
influenced by Madame Junot in writing stories of the Empire and
Corsican vengeance.

It was perhaps to avoid recognition of the heroine and to revenge
himself on Madame de Castries that he made the Duchesse de Langeais
enter a convent and die, after her failure to master the Marquis de
Montriveau, while for his part the hero soon forgot her.

Soon after introducing Madame de Mortsauf (_Le Lys dans la Vallee_),
Balzac compares her to the fragrant heather gathered on returning from
the Villa Diodati. After studying carefully his long period of
association with Madame Hanska, one can see the importance which the
Villa Diodati had in his life. This is only another incident, small
though it be, showing how this woman impressed herself so deeply on
the novelist that almost unconsciously he brought memories of his
_Predilecta_ into his work. It has been shown that she served as a
model for some of his most attractive heroines; was honored, under
different names, with the dedication of three works besides the one
dedicated to her daughter; and was the originator of one of his most
popular novels for young girls, while many traces of herself and her
family connections are found throughout the whole _Comedie humaine_.

Though by far the most important of them all, she was only one of the
many _etrangeres_ he knew. As has been observed, he knew women of
Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, England, Italy and Spain, and had
traveled in most of these countries; hence one is not surprised at the
large number of foreign women who have appeared in his work. Among the
most noted of these are Lady Brandon (_La Grenadiere_); Lady Dudley
(_Le Lys dans la Vallee_); Madame Varese (_Massimilla Doni_); la
Duchesse de Rhetore (_Albert Savarus_), who was in reality Madame
Hanska, although presented as being Italian; Madame Claes (_La
Recherche de l'Absolu_), of Spanish origin though born in Brussels;
Paquita Valdes (_La Fille aux Yeux d'Or_); and the Corsican Madame
Luigi Porta (_La Vendetta_).

In regard to Balzac's various women friends, J. W. Sherer has very
appropriately observed: "And the man was worthy of them: the student
of his work knows what a head he had; the student of his life, what a

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