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Title: Balzac
Author: Saltus, Edgar
Language: English
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[Illustration: Drawing of Balzac]




Houghton, Mifflin and Company
New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street
The Riverside Press, Cambridge

Copyright, 1884.
By Edgar Evertson Saltus.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.


                               CHAPTER I.
                   THE VAGARIES OF GENIUS            5
                              CHAPTER II.
                   THE COMÉDIE HUMAINE              39
                              CHAPTER III.
                   THE BUSKIN AND THE SOCK          69
                              CHAPTER IV.
                   THE CHASE FOR GOLD              108
                               CHAPTER V.
                   THE THINKER                     140
                              CHAPTER VI.
                   BIBLIOGRAPHY                    165


                  *       *       *       *       *

                              CHAPTER I.

                        THE VAGARIES OF GENIUS.

“Great minds are bravely eccentric; they scorn the beaten

In the city of Tours, in whose gabled streets there lingers still some
memory of la belle Impéria, Honoré de Balzac was born on the 20th of
May, 1799.

His childhood was in no wise extraordinary, save for the avidity with
which he read the Bible and the keen delight which he took in the
possession of a little red violin. He was indifferent to romps and
games, and when not lost in the mysterious depths of the Scriptures he
played by the hour on his fiddle, and extracted therefrom an enjoyment
which was almost sensual in its intensity. His parents were
well-considered people, in easy circumstances. Honoré was their
first-born, and to him were subsequently given two sisters and a
brother, concerning whom only a passing mention need be made. His
eldest sister, Laure, became the wife of M. de Surville, a civil
engineer, survived her illustrious brother, and published his letters,
together with a weak sketch of his life; his second sister also
married, but died at an early age; while his brother Henri sought his
fortune, after the manner of younger sons, in the colonies, failed to
find it, and was otherwise entirely uninteresting.

At the age of eight, Balzac was placed as boarder at the Collége de
Vendôme, where, through the compression of his dreamy nature by
unaccustomed tasks and rules, he soon lapsed into a careless neglect of
his duties, and became, in consequence, one of the most frequently
punished pupils in his class. Favored, however, by the tacit connivance
of a tutor, he passed most of his time in the library. Science,
philosophy, belles-lettres, religion, history, and even dictionaries,
he read and inwardly digested, and during the six years that he
remained at the school he assimilated the substance of all the books
worth reading.

This absorption of ideas produced a noteworthy effect. His eye embraced
six or eight lines at a time, and his mind appropriated the thought
with a velocity equal to his glance; a single word in a phrase often
sufficing for a clear understanding of the whole.

His memory was like a vise. He remembered not only the ideas which he
had acquired in reading, but also those which conversation and
reflection had suggested. Words, names, figures, and places he not only
recalled at will, but he saw them within himself, brilliant and colored
as they were at the moment when he had first perceived them.

Mentally fortified by his extensive reading, he wrote at the age of
twelve the famous “Traité de la Volonté,” so often mentioned in his
later works, but which was confiscated by the regent as the probable
cause of his neglect of the regular curriculum, and which Balzac says
he doubtless sold for waste paper without recognizing the value of the
scientific treasures whose germs were thus wasted in ignorant hands.

After this loss, more than terrible to a young imagination, Balzac
sought consolation in verse, and wrote a poem on the Incas, commencing:
“O Inca! roi infortuné et malheureux!” which, with the exception of his
subsequent “Cromwell,” was his sole familiarity with the peplum of the
Muse; for, of the four sonnets in the “Illusions Perdues,” the first
and second are by Lassaily, the third is by Madame de Girardin, and the
fourth by Gautier, while the poem in “Modeste Mignon” was the work of
Gérard de Nerval.

From these secret and laborious studies, as well as from possible
fermentation of ideas, Balzac fell into a sort of coma and nervous
fever, which was singularly inexplicable to his masters and teachers.
His parents were hastily summoned, and the precocious boy, now almost
epileptic, was taken home, where rest and quiet gradually calmed the
tumult in his brain, and restored the health and vivacity of boyhood.
Little by little the results of his extraordinary labors became
classified within his troubled mind, and to them were added other ideas
of a less abstract nature; and in wandering on the banks of the Loire,
or in attending the impressive ceremonies at the Cathedral of
Saint-Gatien, he acquired not only a love of the beautiful, but also
the sincere and abiding faith in religion with which he subsequently
enriched the pages of the “Comédie Humaine.” At home, as at school,
however, his intelligence was entirely unsuspected, and his sister,
Madame de Surville, relates that whenever he chanced to make a
brilliant remark his mother would invariably say, “It is impossible,
Honoré, for you to understand what you are talking about;” whereupon
Honoré would laugh, without deigning to enter into any explanations.[1]
His father, however, who was an inoffensive disciple of both Montaigne
and Swift, had his own reasons for thinking well of his son, and
decided that a child of his could never by any chance be a fool; and
while at that time he saw nothing in the boy which promised any
immediate celebrity, he nevertheless cherished a few vague hopes.

But the prescience which the father lacked had already visited the son.
From time to time he stated that he would some day be famous, and this
boast appeared so outrageously insulting to his brother and sisters
that they punished him with every torture which childish ingenuity
could invent.

Balzac’s family soon after moved to Paris, where he again was placed at
school. There, as at Vendôme, he gave no sign of future genius, and as
before was regarded as an idler and a dullard.

His classes completed, he attended the lectures of Guizot, Cousin, and
Villemain, and his degree of bachelier-ès-lettres obtained, he entered
a law office which Scribe had just quitted. Here he acquired that
luminous insight to law and procedure which served him to such
advantage in the varied litigations of his future world, and enabled
him, years after, to plead, as Voltaire did for Calas, in defense of
Sébastien Peytel, a former acquaintance, accused of the murder of his
wife and servant. The case was lost, and his client convicted; but his
oration was none the less superb, and his argument is still cited as
one of the most brilliant efforts in the annals of the French bar.

His legal apprenticeship completed, it was naturally expected that he
would follow the law as a profession, but Balzac had other ideas; he
felt as did Corneille _e tutti quanti_, that his vocation was not such
as is found in courts, and expressed a preference for a purely literary

“But,” objected his father, “do you not know that in literature, to
avoid being a slave, you must be a king?”

“Very well,” Balzac replied, “king I will be.”

After many arguments it was finally agreed that he should be allowed
two years of probation; and as his family were about to return to the
country, he was lodged in the Rue Lesdiguières, near the Bibliothèque
de l’Arsenal, on an allowance of a hundred francs a month. His life
there he has in “Facino Cane” described as follows:—

“I passed my days at the neighboring library. I lived frugally, for I
had accepted all the conditions of that monastic life which is so
necessary to students and thinkers. I seldom went out, and when I did a
simple promenade was converted into a source of study, for I observed
the customs of the faubourg, its inhabitants and their characters. As
badly dressed as the workmen and as careless of decorum, I attracted no
attention from them, and was enabled to mix among them and watch their
bargains and disputes.

“Observation had become to me intuitive. It penetrated the spirit
without neglecting the body, or rather it seized exterior details so
clearly that it immediately went beyond them. It gave me the power of
living the life of any individual upon whom it was exercised, and
permitted me to substitute my personality for his, as did the dervish
in the ‘Thousand and One Nights’ who had the power of occupying the
body and soul of those over whom he pronounced certain words. When,
therefore, between eleven and twelve at night, I encountered a workman
and his wife returning from the theatre, I amused myself in following
them from the Boulevard du Pont-aux-Choux to the Boulevard
Beaumarchais. At first they would speak of the play which they had just
witnessed. From that they would begin to talk of their own affairs, the
mother dragging her child after her, listening neither to its
complaints nor to its demands. The money which was to be paid to them
was added, and then spent in twenty different ways. Then came the
household details, murmurings on the excessive price of potatoes, the
length of the winter, energetic discussions on the baker’s bill, and
finally little quarrels, in which they displayed their characters in
picturesque words. While listening to them I espoused their life. I
felt their rags on my back; my feet marched in their tattered shoes;
their desires, their needs, all passed into my spirit, and mine into
theirs: it was the dream of a waking man. With them I grew angry at
their tyrannical masters or at their customers who made them come again
and again without paying what they owed.

“To relinquish my identity, to become another through the intoxication
of the moral faculties, and to play this game at will, such was my sole
distraction. I have sometimes wondered if this gift was one of those
faculties whose abuse leads to madness, but its causes I have never
sought. I know, merely, that I possess and make use of it.”

This ability to penetrate mentally the individuality of another is the
evident explanation of the minuteness with which all of Balzac’s
characters are drawn, as well as the secret of their logical attitudes;
for as in every-day life, while it is a question whether man is his own
providence or is interwoven in a web of pre-ordained circumstances, yet
in either case certain results are inevitable and a matter of
statistic, so in Balzac there is no dodging of fate or shirking of
consequences, and he is careful, in sending his own blood tingling
through the veins of his creations, to surround them with the same laws
to which he is himself subjected.

During his novitiate Balzac prepared a five-act tragedy in blank verse,
entitled “Cromwell,” a subject which it is curious to note was
simultaneously chosen by Victor Hugo. At its completion, a professor of
the École Polytechnique was requested to decide whether the lines
contained a sufficient promise of genius to warrant a further pursuit
of literary honors on the part of the young aspirant. The play,
conscientiously examined, was deemed simply detestable, and the referee
adjudged that Balzac might do what he would, but that literature was
certainly not his vocation.

From this decision there was no present appeal; and while his mother
and sisters begged him to engage in some other occupation, his father
assured him that he would suppress his allowance should he persist in
his intentions. Another perhaps would have yielded, but his pride and
belief in his destiny made his resolution unalterable, and Balzac was
left in solitary sadness to meditate on the coquetries of the Muse.

“I delighted,” he says in “La Peau de Chagrin,” “in the thought that I
should live in the midst of tumultuous Paris in an inaccessible sphere
of work and silence, in a world of my own, of books and ideas, where
like the chrysalis I should build a tomb only to emerge again brilliant
and famous.

“I took the chances of dying to live. In reducing existence to its
actual needs, I found that three sous for _charcuterie_ prevented me
from dying of hunger and preserved my mind in a state of singular
lucidity, while enabling me at the same time to observe the wonderful
effects which diet produces on the imagination. My lodging cost three
sous a day, I burned at night three sous’ worth of oil, and for two
sous more I heated my room with charcoal: and in this manner I lived in
my aerial sepulchre, working night and day with such pleasure that
study seemed the most beautiful theme, the happiest solution, of
existence. The calm and silence necessary to the student possess an
indescribable something which is as sweet and intoxicating as love, and
study itself seems to lend a sort of magic to all that surrounds us.
The forlorn desk on which I wrote, my piano, my bed, my chair, the
zigzags of the wall-paper,—all these things became as though animated
and humble friends, the silent accomplices of my future. Many a time I
have communicated my soul to them in a glance, and often in looking at
the broken moulding I encountered new developments of thought, some
striking proof of my system, or words which I considered peculiarly
fitted to express ideas almost untranslatable.”

Balzac had not as yet any settled plan of work, but he tried his hand,
while forming his style, at a quantity of comic operas, dramas,
comedies, and romances, none of which, however, were accepted save by
the gutter’s sneering fatalist, the ragpicker.

After many fruitless attempts and knocks at many a door, Balzac
succeeded at last in finding a publisher, but of a type seen only in
opéra bouffe, who proffered in payment of a romance a promissory note
with a year to run. Balzac of course had no choice. He wished to appear
in print. The bargain was concluded, and the “Héritière de Birague” was
produced. Then, under various pseudonyms, such as Lord R’hoone, the
anagram of Honoré, Dom Rago, M. de Viellerglé, and Horace de
Saint-Aubin, he produced a quantity of novels somewhat after the style
of Pegault Lebrun, and yet so diverse in treatment that one of them,
“Wann-Chlore,”[2] was attributed to a luminary of the Romantic school,
and another, “Annette et le Criminel,” was suppressed by the
censorship. Some of these books, whose paternity he always denied, have
since been collected under the title of “Œuvres de Jeunesse,” but of
the greater part no trace remains.

Exhausted by privations and worn with continued study, Balzac was
obliged to return to his family, then established at Villeparisis,
where, broken in mind and health, he sank into an almost hopeless

“Is this what you term life,” he wrote[3] to his sister,—“this
involuntary rotation and perpetual return of the same things? I am in
the springtide of a flowerless life, and I long to have some charm
thrown over my chill existence; for of what use is fortune and pleasure
when youth is gone? Of what use is the actor’s gown if he play no
longer his part? Old age is a man who has dined and looks at others
eat; and I, I am young, and I hunger before an empty plate—Laura,
Laura, shall I, then, never realize my two immense desires, to be
celebrated and to be loved?”

But Balzac soon wearied of this plaintive inactivity, and, fertile in
projects, conceived the plan of printing Molière complete in one
volume, and of following it with similar editions of the French
classics. When these had appeared, he proposed, like Richardson, to
produce his own works, and his illuminous imagination immediately
foresaw new Clarissas issuing from the press.

The necessary working capital he procured from his family, who, though
far from rich, were none the less glad to aid him in an enterprise for
which literature would be abandoned and a legitimate business adopted.

But after the publication of Molière and La Fontaine, in each of which
he inserted an elaborate and original introduction, he was obliged,
through the cabals of the other publishers, to relinquish his plan,
while burdened at the same time with a load of debt which oppressed
almost every hour of his after life.

He was now absolutely without resources. The expense of a few sous
attending the carriage of a letter, an omnibus ride, anything, in fact,
which demanded the outlay of ready money, he was obliged to forego, and
even remained in his garret that he might preserve as long as possible
the only shoes which he owned.

“My sole possessions,” he wrote to his sister, “are my books, which I
cannot part with, and my good taste, which unfortunately for the rich
cannot be bought. If I were in prison I should be happier; life then
would cost me nothing, and in any event I could not be more of a
captive than I am.”

But the pecuniary loss which he had sustained, and which amounted to
about 120,000 francs, served but as a stimulus to renewed activity; and
resolving that he would recover from the printing press all that it had
robbed him of, he commenced to seek some undiscovered vein of literary
treasure, and in 1829 brought out “Le Dernier Chouan,” the first
romance which he considered worthy to bear his own name. Its ferocity
and passion attracted great attention, and the public became at once
favorably disposed toward him; but when, a few months later, the
“Physiologie du Mariage” appeared, its success was not only
instantaneous, but Balzac was heralded as a new Molière. He now emerged
from quasi obscurity into the white light of fame. Publishers were
submissive, praise was unstinted. He had realized the first of his
immense desires, and had it not been for his weight of debt he might
perhaps have been able to realize the other, but his time was not his
own. He labored, if possible, more incessantly than ever, conceived the
plan of the “Comédie Humaine,” and from that time up to almost the day
of his death produced a series of masterpieces which in point of
interest and erudition form the most gigantic monument in the history
of modern literature.

His work accompanied him wherever he went. He dreamed of it; he wrote
while he ate; he traveled over the better part of Europe, and wrote
while he traveled; he composed in the omnibus and in the street; and
had he had a mistress he would, in all probability, have followed the
example of Baudelaire, and composed in her arms. Thoroughly
conscientious, he invariably visited the place where the scenes of a
drama were to be located. “I am going to Alençon,” he would say; “you
know Mlle. Cormon[4] lives there;” or, “I am off for Grenoble; there is
where M. Benassis[5] lives:” for it should be remembered that not only
were Balzac’s characters as realistically vivid to him as are the
hallucinations of a neurosthene, but he invariably spoke of them as
another would of friends and acquaintances. “Let us talk of realities,”
he one day said to Jules Sandeau, who had been speaking to him of an
invalid relative, “let us talk about ‘Eugénie Grandet;’” and at another
time, when his sister asked for some information about Captain
Jordy,[6] Balzac replied very simply, “I never knew the man before he
came to Nemours, but if he interests you, I will try to learn something
of him.” It was a long time before he was able to find a suitable
husband for Mlle. Camille Grandlieu, and rejected all who were
suggested to him. “They are not in the same set,” he would say. “Chance
alone can supply her with a husband, and chance is a commodity which a
novelist should use but sparingly. Reality alone justifies the
improbable, and the probable alone is permitted to us.” But Mlle. de
Grandlieu was not destined to braid St. Catherine’s tresses, and
afterwards, to Balzac’s great delight, found a suitable husband in the
person of the young Comte de Restaud,[7] who in spite of his mother’s
derelictions[8] was otherwise a very acceptable suitor.

After the place of his novel had been visited, viewed from every
aspect, the customs noted and the localisms acquired, Balzac would
return to Paris, shut himself up in a garret,—the garret has its
poetry,—and for weeks and sometimes months at a time he would not only
disappear entirely from view, but all trace of him would be lost.

At other times, he would lodge under an assumed name, which he imparted
only to his most intimate friends. “My address,” he wrote to Madame
Carraud in 1834, “is always Madame Veuve Durand, 13, Rue des
Batailles;” and in 1837, he wrote to Dablin, “To see the Widow Durand,
a name must be given. Yours is on the list.”

“The house,” Gautier wrote,[9] “of the Widow Durand was as well guarded
as the Garden of the Hesperides. Two or three passwords were exacted,
and that they might not become vulgarized they were frequently changed.
Among others, I recall the following. On telling the janitor that the
season for prunes had arrived, the visitor was permitted to cross the
threshold; to the servant who prowled about the head of the stairway,
it was necessary to murmur ‘I bring laces from Belgium;’ and on
assuring the valet de chambre that Madame Bertrand was in excellent
health, the visitor was ushered into the great man’s presence.”

It was in the Rue des Batailles that the famous boudoir of the “Fille
aux Yeux d’Or” actually existed; and though its luxury would not appear
unusual to-day, it was, nevertheless, a source of continual wonder to
his Bohemian friends, and his own description of it is not devoid of

“One side of the boudoir formed a graceful semicircle, while in the
centre of the other, which was perfectly square, there shone a
mantel-piece of marble and gold. The door, which was concealed behind a
rich portière of tapestry, was directly in front of the window.

“In the horseshoe was a Turkish divan, fifty feet in circumference and
as high as a bed. The covering was of white cashmere tufted with bows
of black and lilac silk, which were disposed as at the angles of a

“The back of this immense bed rose several inches above a pile of
cushions, which added to the general effect by their coloring and
artistic arrangement.

“The boudoir was hung with a red material, over which was draped an
Indian muslin fluted like a Corinthian column by a piping alternately
hollow and round, and bordered at top and bottom by a band of lilac
embroidered with black arabesques. Beneath the muslin the red became
pink, and this delicate shading was repeated in the window curtains,
which were of Indian muslin lined with pink silk and ornamented with a
fringe of black and lilac.

“At equal distances on the wall above the divan were six sockets of
silver-gilt, each of which supported two candles, while from the centre
of the ceiling hung a highly polished lustre of the same material.

“The carpet was like a camel’s-hair shawl, and seemed a mute reminder
of the poetry of Persia. The furniture was covered with white cashmere
relieved by lilac and black. The clock and candelabras were of gold and
marble. The one table which the boudoir contained was covered with
white cashmere, while all about were jardinières of white and red

Behind the semicircle was a secret passage, at one end of which was an
iron cot and at the other a desk; and here it was that Balzac, secure
from intrusion, worked and composed at his ease.

To return, however, to the Widow Durand. In 1838 he wrote to Madame
Hanska, the lady who subsequently became his wife:—

“The Widow Durand is dead. She was killed by the contemptible conduct
of the daily papers, who have betrayed a secret which should have been
sacred to every man of honor.”

After this misfortune Balzac installed himself openly at Les Jardies, a
country house which he had built at Ville d’Avray, and where he was, as
he expressed it, “like the lantern of Demosthenes, and not, as every
one else says, of Diogenes;” but when, a year or two later, he took up
his residence in the Rue Basse, at Passy he surrounded himself with all
his former precautions, instituted a series of countersigns which he
changed weekly, and transformed himself into “Madame Bri....”

When guarded in this way from any intrusion, Balzac would work from
twelve to twenty-one hours a day. His usual hours of sleep were from
six in the evening until midnight. Then he would bathe, don the white
robe of a Dominican friar, poise a black skull cap on his head, and,
under the influence of coffee and by the light of a dozen candles,
would work incessantly till he could work no more.

His work completed, the lion would forsake his den, and for an evening
or two he would be seen in the Loge Infernale at the opera, invariably
carrying a massive cane whose head glittered with jewels, and which
Madame de Girardin was pleased to imagine rendered him invisible at
will;[11] or he would make brief apparitions in the salons of the
literati and nobility, and then, suddenly, without a word of warning,
he would shut himself up as impenetrably as before.

His manner of writing was stamped with the same eccentricity which
characterized all his habits. When a subject which he proposed to treat
had been well considered, he would cover thirty or forty sheets with a
scaffolding of ideas and phrases, which he then sent off to the
printer, who returned them in columns wired and centred on large
placards. The work, freed in this way from any personality and its
errors at once apparent, was then strengthened and corrected. On a
second reading the forty pages grew to a hundred, two hundred on the
third, and so on, while on the proof-sheets themselves new lines would
start from the beginning, the middle, or the end of a phrase; and if
the margins were insufficient, other sheets of paper were pinned or
glued to the placards, which were again and again returned, corrected,
and reprinted, until the work was at last satisfactorily completed.

But perhaps the most graphic description of Balzac’s manner of writing
is the one contained in an article by Edouard Ourliac in the “Figaro”
for the 15th of December, 1837, of which the following is a free


Let us sing, drink, and embrace, like the chorus in an opéra bouffe;
let us waft kisses in the air and turn on our toes, as they do in the

Let us rejoice now that we may. The “Figaro,” without appearing to have
done so, has conquered the elements, all the malefactors, and every
sublunary cataclysm.

The “Figaro” has conquered César Birotteau.

Never did the angered gods, never did Juno, Neptune, M. de Rambuteau,
or the prefect of the police, oppose against Jason, Theseus, or the
wayfarers of the capital, greater obstacles, monsters, ruins, dragons,
demolitions, than these two unhappy octavos. We have them at last, and
we know their cost.

The public will have but the trouble to read them, though that should
count as a pleasure.

As to M. de Balzac, twenty days of labor, two reams of paper, another
masterpiece, that counts as nothing.

Whatever else it may be considered, it is at least a typographical
exploit and a worthy example of literary and commercial heroism.

Writer, publisher, and printer, all deserve the praise of their

Posterity will gossip about the binders, and our grand-nephews will
regret that they do not know the names of the apprentices.

I regret it myself,—otherwise I would tell them.

The “Figaro” promised the book for the 15th of December, and M. de
Balzac began it on the 17th of November.

M. de Balzac and the “Figaro” have the singular habit of keeping their

The printing-press was prepared, and pawed the ground like an excited

M. de Balzac sent immediately two hundred sheets, scribbled in five
nights of fever.

Every one knows how he writes. It was an outline, a chaos, an
apocalypse, a Hindu poem.

The office paled. The time was short, the writing unheard of. The
monster was transformed and translated as nearly as possible into
familiar signs. No one could make head or tail of it. Back it went to
the author. The author sent back the first two proofs glued on enormous

It was frightful, it was pitiful. From each sign, from each printed
word, shot a penstroke, gleaming and gliding like a sky-rocket, and
bursting at the extremity in a luminous fire of phrases, epithets,
substantives, underlined, crossed, intermingled, erased, and
superposed. Its aspect was simply dazzling.

Fancy four or five hundred arabesques of this kind, interlacing,
knotted together, climbing and slipping from one margin to another and
from the bottom to the top.

Fancy twelve geographical maps entangling cities, rivers, and mountains
in the same confusion, a skein harassed by a cat, all the hieroglyphics
of the Pharonian dynasty, or twenty fireworks exploding at once.

The office then was far from gay. The typesetters beat their breasts,
the presses groaned, the proof-readers tore their hair and the
apprentices became howling idiots. The most intelligent recognized the
Persian alphabet, others the Madagascan, while one or two considered
them to be the symbolic characters of Vishnu.

They worked on chance and by the grace of God.

The next day M. de Balzac sent back two pages of the purest Chinese. It
was then the 1st of December. A generous typesetter offered to blow out
his brains. Then other sheets were brought, written in the most legible
Siamese. Three compositors lost their sight and the little French that
they knew.

The proofs were sent back seven consecutive times; then, a few symptoms
of excellent French appeared, and there was even noticed a certain
connection between the phrases; but the day was fast approaching, and
we felt that the book would never appear.

Desolation was at its height, and it was at this point that the work
became further complicated by an admirable concourse of calamities.

At the time when haste was the greatest, the miserable being who that
night carried the proof-sheets to M. de Balzac was waylaid and robbed.

M. de Balzac had had the forethought to establish himself at Chaillot.
The miserable being screamed and yelled. The bandits took to their
heels. One proof-sheet was found at Neuilly, another in an orchard, a
third descending the Seine. It is certain that they were thrown away
only on account of their illegibility. Misfortune has its advantages.

The proofs were recovered, but the night was lost. There were cries and
gnashing of teeth. The end was fast approaching. However, the
typesetters took courage and the workmen took the bit in their teeth.
The office galloped. The compositors foamed at the mouth, the presses
ravened, the binders were on springs, the apprentices danced with
excitement, the proof-reader shook like an epileptic, and the foreman
had convulsions. The office was a cage of palsied lunatics.

The work was again taken in hand, and M. de Balzac and the “Figaro”
have kept their word.

“César Birotteau” will see the light of day on the 15th of December. We
have it now, and we hold it tight. The office is armed, insured, and
barricaded. Smoking is not permitted. There are lightning-rods on the
roof, and mounted guards at the door.

Every precaution has been taken against accidents and the ardor of our

At this moment “César Birotteau” is a work in two volumes, an immense
tableau, an entire poem, composed, written, and corrected fifteen times
by M. de Balzac in twenty days, and deciphered, disentangled, and
reprinted fifteen times in the same period. It may be added that M. de
Balzac kept forty other workmen busy with something else at another

We will not now consider the value of the work.

It may be everything, or but a masterpiece.

The names of Balzac’s characters are all taken from real life; for,
like Dickens, his theory was that names which were invented gave no
life to imaginary creations, and, as did the English novelist, he
gathered many of them from the signboards in the street. His joy at the
discovery of Matifat was almost as great as his delight in finding
Cardot. He found the former in the Rue de la Perle, in the Marais. “I
can see him now,” he said; “he will have the pallid face of a cat. But
Cardot is different: he will be dry as a bone, hasty and ill-tempered.”

In 1840, Balzac proposed to write for the “Revue Parisienne”—a
periodical which, it may be explained, appeared but three times, and
whose three numbers Balzac wrote entirely—the story of a man of
genius, who, used as a tool by others, died through the ingratitude of
those whom he had raised to magnificent positions, and who had then
abandoned him to poverty and want.

Such a character needed a name proportioned to his destiny; a name
which explained and announced him as clearly as the cannon-ball
announces the cannon; a name which would be peculiarly his own, and
would reflect his face, his figure, his voice, his past, his future,
his genius, his passions, his misfortunes, and his glory.

But this supernatural alliance of man and name was not immediately
discoverable, and Balzac, who had put into circulation as many
cognomens as are contained in the “Almanach de Gotha,” expressed
himself incapable of manufacturing it. A name, he considered, could no
more be fabricated than could granite or marble. They were all three
the work of time and revolutions. They made themselves.

As a last and supreme resource, therefore, he set out one day, in
company with Léon Gozlan, on a journey, in search of a baptismal
signboard for his hero; and from the Barrière de l’Étoile to the
summits of Montmartre they zigzagged across Paris, subjecting every
name they encountered to the closest scrutiny.

Thousands of names were examined, analyzed, and rejected, until at last
Gozlan, utterly worn out, refused to walk another step.

Balzac looked at him, it is to be supposed, very much as Columbus
looked at his mutinous sailors, and by force of entreaties obtained,
not three days’ grace, but three streets more.

In the first two nothing was found, but at the extremity of the third
Balzac suddenly changed color, and cried in a voice broken by emotion,—

“There, there! Read that name!”

Above a narrow, oblong door, which opened on a sombre courtyard, there
hung a sign which bore for device the name of Marcas.

“Our journey is at an end!” Balzac exclaimed; “it terminates in a blaze
of glory. The name of my hero shall be Marcas. Marcas contains the
philosopher, the statesman, and the poet. I will call him Z. Marcas,
and thereby add to his name a flame, a tiara, and a star. Nothing could
be better. I wonder, however, who this Marcas is; surely some great

“He is a tailor,” Gozlan brutally replied; “there is another sign of
his in the courtyard.”

Balzac looked deeply chagrined.

“No matter,” he said; “he merited a better fate. If I seem annoyed, it
is not that I am lacking in respect for tailors in general, but because
his calling reminds me of certain debts and a few protested notes.”

A day or two later the “Revue Parisienne” appeared, and with it the
story of Z. Marcas, now forming part of the “Scènes de la Vie
Politique” and containing the following monograph:—

“A certain harmony existed between the man and the name. This Z. with
which Marcas was preceded, which was to be seen on the address of his
letters, and with which he always completed his signature,—this last
letter of the alphabet presented to the imagination a something which
was indescribably fatal.

“Marcas! Repeat over to yourself this name, composed of two syllables:
does it not seem to contain a sinister significance? does it not seem
as though its owner were born to be martyred.

“Though weird and wild, this name has nevertheless the right to descend
to posterity: it is well composed, it is easily pronounced, and
possesses the brevity required of famous names. Is it not as soft as it
is bizarre? but does it not also seem unfinished?

“I would not dare to affirm that destiny is uninfluenced by a name, for
between the deeds of men and their names there are inexplicable
affinities and visible discords which at once astonish and surprise.
But this subject will some day assuredly form part of the occult

“Does not the Z. present a thwarted and contradicted appearance? does
it not represent the contingent and fantastic zigzags of a tormented
life? What ill wind can have blown on this letter that in every
language to which it is admitted commands barely fifty words! Marcas’
Christian name was Zépherin. Saint Zépherin is highly venerated in
Brittany. Marcas was a Breton.

“Examine the name again. Z. Marcas! The entire existence of the man is
contained in the fantastic assemblage of these seven letters.
Seven!—the most significant of the cabalistic numbers. Marcas died at
the age of thirty-five; his life therefore was composed of but seven
lustres. Marcas! Does not the sound bring to you the idea of something
precious, broken in a noiseless fall?”

The fatality which Balzac conceived as attaching to Marcas was by no
means limited to this imaginary creation. It followed him into real
life, and was at one time a source of such serious preoccupation that
he stood one evening for two hours in the square of the Château d’Eau
confidently awaiting some fortunate occurrence, and like Gautier in
“Mademoiselle de Maupin” he awoke on certain days in a state of great
agitation, trembling at every noise, and convinced that the happiness
of his life was somehow at stake.

These extraordinary sensations naturally led to a belief in the
supernatural; and as his mother, who was also interested in the
abnormal, was acquainted with all the celebrated mesmerists and mediums
of the day, he was readily furnished with opportunities of
experimenting in magnetism and clairvoyance. His charming story of
“Ursule Mirouët” unquestionably proves that he subsequently became a
firm believer in that occult electricity which is variously known as
the Theopœa of the ancients, the Akâsa of the modern Hindu, and the
psychic force of Sergeant Cox; while his account of the soul-projection
of “Séraphita” is vivid enough to satisfy the most exacting hierophant,
and would have passed him, initiate, into the brotherhood of the

But perhaps the most curious evidence of his every-day faith in
divination is that contained in the two following extracts from his

                      TO M. CHAPELAIN, PHYSICIAN.

                                                   PARIS, _May, 1832_.

SIR,—I am attracted by the power of somnambulism, and wonder why you
have not sought to obtain from some lucid subject the causes of this

Science is interested therein, and its discovery would be an eternal
honor to us.

Had I not been ill for a week past I would have ascended to the honors
of practice, and endeavored to convince myself whether the power of a
somnambulist was limited or infinite.

The second extract is from a letter addressed to his mother a year

“I send you herewith two pieces of flannel which I have worn on the
body. Take them to M. Chapelain, and when he has examined the first,
ask of him the cause and position of the malady[13] and how it should
be treated. See that everything is clearly explained. Then with the
second piece ask the why and wherefore of the blister ordered in the
precedent consultation.

“Be careful to keep the flannels well wrapped up, that the emanations
may not be disturbed.”

Balzac’s hatred of journalists was intense, and from Sainte-Beuve down
to the most insignificant penny-a-liner all were enveloped in the same
superb contempt.

No branch of the profession was exempt from this antipathy, and critics
and _feuilletonistes_ shared alike in his wholesale condemnation:—

“They want my scalp, do they, these Mohicans of the press! Bah! I will
drink out of their skulls.”

Drink he did, indeed, and long delicious draughts, at that; and in
picking up with the point of his pen the venality, envy, and petty
spites of the trade, he drew in the “Illusions Perdues,” in which Jules
Janin figures in the transparent disguise of Étienne Lousteau, a
picture of journalism which was as faithfully unpleasant as it was
pitying and contemptuous. In this respect, however, it is well to state
that no one was as indifferent to the opinion of the press as Balzac
himself. He rarely, if ever, read the criticisms on his books, and left
them, in the consciousness of their worth, to find their level unaided.

One of the causes of his disdain of everything which smacked of
journalism was this: He had engaged to write “Séraphita” for the “Revue
des Deux Mondes,” and shortly after the story had been delivered he
learned that it was published at St. Petersburg. Thinking, as was but
natural, that the editor had been the victim of some audacious theft,
he hastened to tell him what he had heard; and his astonishment may be
readily imagined when he was informed that the Russian edition had
appeared with the sanction of the editor himself, who not only insisted
that he had a perfect right to do as he pleased with the manuscript,
but positively refused to make any indemnity. Thereupon, Balzac, in
spite of the remonstrances of his friends, who pointed out that any
contest with the “Revue,” whose word was law, would inevitably result
in the closing of its columns to him, began a lawsuit, alleging that,
independent of the pecuniary loss which he suffered, a precedent of
this kind, once established, would in the future be highly prejudicial,
not only to him, but to all his confrères. Much to his amazement,
however, the defendant appeared in court with a list of signatures of
almost all of those whom he had sought to defend at his own risk and
peril, who attested that from a literary as well as from an ethical
standpoint they considered the action of the editor of the “Revue des
Deux Mondes” as eminently right and proper.

The law was, none the less, perfectly clear. Balzac won the suit, and
with it a host of enemies, whose hatred was so vigorous that it barely
abated, even after his death. Their insults delighted him. “Fire away,”
he would say; “the armor is strong. Your abuse is an advertisement;
your praise would lull the public to sleep, but your diatribes wake
them up. Besides, you hit the mark sometimes, and every fault you
signalize I correct, which in the end is so much gained.”

Among the host of enemies thus aroused were those who, not content with
denying his genius, advanced their artillery into private life, and
painted him in the possession of every vice in the criminal statutes;
and it is from the falsehoods of these guerrilleros that all the
stupidities which have been told concerning him found their primal
gestation. Not only his morality, his honesty, his sobriety, were
attacked, but even his name was denied to him. The _de_ was declared
not only an affectation, but a theft; and when some one said to him, in
allusion thereto, “But you are no connection of the De Balzac
d’Entragues,” “Ah! am I not?” he answered placidly. “Well, then, so
much the worse for them.”


Footnote 1:

  _Balzac_, by Madame de Surville. Calmann Lévy, Paris.

Footnote 2:

  _Correspondance de H. de Balzac._ Calmann Lévy, Paris, 1877.

Footnote 3:

  The present title is _Jane la Pâle_.

Footnote 4:

  _Les Rivalités._.

Footnote 5:

  _Le Médecin de Campagne._

Footnote 6:

  _Ursule Mirouët._

Footnote 7:


Footnote 8:

  _Le Père Goriot._

Footnote 9:

  _Honoré de Balzac_, par Théophile Gautier. Un volume in-18, chez
  Poulet-Malanis, 1859.

Footnote 10:

  _La Fille aux Yeux d’Or._

Footnote 11:

  See _La Canne de M. de Balzac_, par Madame de Girardin. Dumont, 1838.

Footnote 12:

  The cholera.

Footnote 13:

  Stomachic disorders, caused by the abuse of coffee.

                              CHAPTER II.

                          THE COMÉDIE HUMAINE.

“One would say he had read the inscription on the gates of
Busyrane,—‘Be bold;’ and on the second gate,—‘Be bold, be bold, and
evermore be bold;’ and then again had paused well at the third
gate,—‘Be not too bold.’”—EMERSON, _Plato._

The general plan and outline of the “Comédie Humaine” originated in a
comparison between humanity and animal existence. That which Buffon had
achieved in zoölogy, Balzac proposed to accomplish in moral science,
and the habits and customs as well as the vices and virtues of his
contemporaries found in him a secretary whose inventory offers to
posterity an elaborate insight into the every-day life of France in the
nineteenth century, and realizes for their future curiosity that work
which the ancient monarchies have neglected to bequeath to us as their
own civilizations.

But the pictures of two or three thousand of the most striking figures
of an epoch required, in a general history of society, not only frames
but galleries, and the work therefore is divided into,

Scènes de la Vie Privée.

Scènes de la Vie de Province.

Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Scènes de la Vie Politique.

Scènes de la Vie Militaire.

Scènes de la Vie de Campagne.

These six subdivisions are grouped under the general title of “Études
de Mœurs,” and in them the attempt has been made to examine and explain
the general causes of earthly happiness and misery, as demonstrated in
the results obtainable in the practice of the great principles of order
and mortality, or in the selfish abandonment to purely personal

Happiness, Balzac considered, consisted in the exercise of our
faculties as applied to realities. But inasmuch as its principles vary
with each latitude, and ideas of right and wrong find their
modifications in the climate, he concluded that morals and convictions
were valueless terms, and that happiness was to be found, first, in
violent emotions which undermine existence; second, in regular
occupations functionating like mechanism; or, lastly, in the study of
the laws of nature and in the application of the lessons thereby

In his treatment of this subject he has prepared a complete history of
the effects of the agitation of social existence, and each of the
foregoing divisions represents a particular aspect of life.

In the “Scènes de la Vie Privée,” life is represented between the last
developments of childhood and the first calculations of virility. These
scenes contain tableaux of the emotions and undefined sensations
combined with pictures of the errors committed through ignorance of the
exigencies of the world.

The “Scènes de la Vie de Province” represents that phase of existence
in which passions, calculations, and ideas take the place of
sensations, impulses, and illusions. The instincts of the young man of
twenty are generous; at thirty he calculates and turns egotist. These
scenes therefore initiate the reader into the thousand aspects of the
transition through which a man passes when abandoning the thoughtless
impulses of adolescence for the politic attitudes of manhood. Life
becomes serious: positive interests jostle with violent passions,
disillusions begin, the social machinery is revealed, and from the
shock of moral or pecuniary interests the crime bursts in the midst of
the most tranquil household.

Herein are unveiled the petty annoyances by whose periodicity a
poignant interest is concentrated in the slightest detail of existence.
Herein are also exposed the petty rivalries, the jealousies born of
vicinage, and the family worries, whose increasing force degrades and
weakens the most resolute will. The charm of dreams escapes; the
prosaic and the matter of fact alone exist; woman reasons, and no
longer feels; she calculates where before she gave. Life is now ripened
and shaded.

In the “Scènes de la Vie Parisienne” the questions are enlarged, and
existence painted in bold outlines gradually arrives at the frontiers
of decrepitude. Herein purity of sentiment is exceptional: it is broken
in the play of interests and scattered by the mechanism of the world.
Virtue is calumniated, innocence is purchased. Passions become vices,
emotions ruinous gratifications; everything is analyzed, bought, and
sold. Life is a bazaar; humanity has but two forms, that of the
deceiver and the deceived; it is a struggle and a combat, and the
victor is he who best throttles society and moulds it to his own ends.
The death of relatives is awaited; the honest man is a simpleton;
generosity is a means, religion a governmental necessity, probity a
policy; everything is marketable; absurdity is an advertisement,
ridicule a passport, and youth, which has lived a hundred years,
insults old age.

These scenes close the tableaux of individual existence, and their
three frameworks contain representations of youth, manhood, and old
age. First the bloom of life, the expansion of the soul, and the
radiance of love; then come the calculations, the transformation of
affection into passion; and, lastly, the accumulation of interests and
the continual satisfaction of the senses joined to the inevitable
weariness of mind and body.

Nothing but that which affects the individual proper has herein been
treated, and the fragments of the “Scènes de la Vie Politique” express,
in consequence, a wider range of thought. In these pages the actors
represent the interest of the masses, and place themselves above those
laws to which the types in the preceding series were subjected. The
foregoing divisions described the constant antagonism of thought and
sentiment, but in these scenes thought is an organizing force and
sentiment is completely abolished. They are, however, incomplete, as
are also the “Scènes de la Vie Militaire,” in which Balzac proposed to
represent the action as taking place, not in an apartment, but on the
battle-field; not in the struggle of man with man, but in the
concussion of France and Europe, in the slaughter of the conquered and
the pæans of the victors.

After these pages, whose completion was prevented by his sudden death,
the calm and peaceful pictures of the “Scènes de la Vie de Campagne”
follow in orderly sequence. They represent rest after exertion,
landscapes after interiors, the hush of the country after the uproar of
the city, the cicatrice after the wound. This last division contains
the same interests and the same struggles, but weakened now by lack of
contact, like passions grown dull in solitude. It is the twilight of a
busy day, a summer evening solemn with sombre shadows. It contains the
purest characters and the application of the great principles of order,
morality, and religion, and its actors, worn with the fatigues of the
world, mingle complacently with the innocence of childhood.[14]

Thus completed, the entire work has its geography and its own
genealogy, its localities and their concomitants, its personages and
their deeds. It has its own armorial, its nobility and middle class,
its artisans, its peasants, and its army. It is a world in itself. But
its most striking feature is the admirable unity preserved throughout;
and this unity is undoubtedly due to a suggestion derived from the
works of Sir Walter Scott, whom Balzac considered as a gifted sculptor
who chiseled magnificent figures and draped them with genius and
sublimity, but, while presenting the seductive effects of a marvelous
analysis, left them lacking in synthesis and totally unrelated.

“The Waverley Novels,” he said,[15] “resemble the Musée de la Rue des
Petits-Augustins, in which each object, while magnificent in design,
relates but to itself. Genius is complete only when to the faculty of
creating it joins the power of coördinating its creations. The gifts of
observation and description are in themselves insufficient; they must
tend to a certain result. The Scotch bard was possessed of too clear a
vision not to have understood this axiom, but its understanding
assuredly came too late.” To this reflection the unity of the “Comédie
Humaine” is probably due; and that it may not be objected that certain
of its passages are unrelated to the others, it is well to note that
Balzac died too suddenly to be able to connect the broken threads,
which in any event are but few and far between.

But the task of rendering his work at once interesting and instructive
was one of much greater difficulty than that of Scott’s, who drew his
characters from former days, when every class of society was clearly
defined, and clothed them from a wardrobe opulent with historical
effects; whereas Balzac was obliged to offer in clear relief the almost
imperceptible differences of the types of yesterday and to-day, that
through an equality of fortune and education have destroyed the
contrasts which once existed between the different degrees of the
social order. Aided, however, by that peculiar intuition which never
forsook him, he chose from among the physiognomies of his epoch an
assortment of those fugitive traits which are imperceptible to the eyes
of the vulgar; and in scrutinizing face after face, attentive to the
changes of expression and inflections of voice, he was enabled to
present a series of individualities which are far more realistic than
those of his illustrious predecessor.

After displaying in the “Études de Mœurs” all the moral and physical
transformations through which mankind passes, and after describing the
social effects of their natural or civil positions, Balzac sought in
the “Études Philosophiques” to demonstrate the causes of these effects;
and while the first part of the “Comédie Humaine” contains but a series
of individualities typified in the treatment of his subject, in the
second part are to be found the same types individualized: as, for
example, where in the “Études de Mœurs” Grandet is purely and simply a
miser, avarice in the “Études Philosophiques” is incarnated in the
person of Maître Cornélius, and the subject, like a sponge, gains in
weight what it loses in breadth.

The “Études Philosophiques” is the fruit of analyzed comparisons of all
the works which the philosophers of antiquity and the specialists of
his day had produced on the intellect; and starting with the famous
axiom of Jean Jacques Rousseau, that “l’homme qui pense est un animal
dépravé,”—an idea which, as is well known, found its poetic
interpretation in Byron’s “Manfred,” and its dramatic aspect in the
“Faust” of Goethe,—Balzac proceeds to prove that ideas and sentiments
are simply dissolvents of a greater or less activity; and taking as his
premises the admitted fact that instincts violently excited by
factitious or fortuitous circumstances produce unconsciousness and even
death, and also that thought, when augmented by the transitory force of
passion, may become a poison or a dagger, he infers, from the ravages
produced by the intellect, that thought is the most active agent in the
disorganization of man, and consequently of society. “Consider,” he
says in “Louis Lambert,” “the difference between man who desires
nothing and lives like a plant for a hundred years, and the creating
artist who suffers early death. Where the sun is, there is thought and
brevity of existence; where the cold is, there is torpor and
longevity.” Then, after considering man as a simple organization, he
brandishes the proposition that vitality decreases in exact proportion
to the strength of desire and the dissipation of thought, and leads the
reader, therewith, through the gradual development of his theory, which
is first attacked in “La Peau de Chagrin.” This weird and fantastic
production, in which skepticism and the supernatural join hands,
represents the ravages of thought and the supreme expression of egotism
as seared by the hot iron of civilization.

In “La Recherche de l’Absolu,” the theme is continued, but viewed in a
broader and more comprehensive light. In “La Peau de Chagrin,” the
individual is destroyed by the force of desire. In “La Recherche de
l’Absolu,” the pursuit of an idea annihilates an entire family. The
first is the world of pleasure, an epoch in itself; the second is the
world of science, and glitters with brilliant hypotheses. In both
instances, an idea, gradually strengthened, becomes a passion and a
disorganizing force. In “L’Adieu,” happiness, exalted to the highest
degree, becomes a destructive agency. In “Le Réquisitionnaire”, a
mother is killed by the violence of maternal affection. In “El
Verdugo,” a father is slain by his son that a title may be preserved.
In “Le Drame au Bord de la Mer,” a son is slain by his father that an
hereditary instinct may be destroyed. In “Maître Cornélius,” avarice
kills the miser. In “Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu,” art kills the artist. In
“Gambara,” the composer is crazed by his own conceptions. In “L’Enfant
Maudit,” terror is the destroyer, and the subject treated herein finds
a natural and logical sequence in the “Auberge Rouge.” In “Les
Proscrits,” the sentiment of religion becomes the destroyer, and in
“Séraphita” the same idea is more vividly presented. “César Birotteau,”
an existence untroubled by misery, is, through sudden good fortune, cut
off as by a scythe. In the “Église,” the agent is incredulity, but in
“Louis Lambert” is to be found the most severe deduction from the
fundamental proposition in that it represents the thinker killed by

The destructive power of the mind and imagination, from the Neronian
conflagration to the suicide of Castlereagh and Chatterton, the aphasia
of Emerson, and the insanity of Tourgénieff, is too well known and too
thoroughly understood to need further commentary in these pages; and in
connection with this it need but be said that, while the attraction of
gravity had been witnessed by countless generations, as it remained to
Newton to formulate the obvious propositions of cause and effect, so in
this branch of mental science, whose results have been patent since the
beginning of history, a Balzac was necessary for the full elucidation
of the subject, and for the proper presentation of the conclusions
derived from the psycho-mental evidence of ages.

After having, in the “Études de Mœurs,” described society in every
aspect, and demonstrated in the “Études Philosophiques” all the
underlying causes of the general results, Balzac proposed in the third
and last division of the “Comédie Humaine,” namely, in the “Études
Analytiques,” to examine the principles upon which the first two rest.

This last division, however, is one of the few unfinished windows of
his Aladdin’s palace, for, out of the six volumes which it was to
contain, two only were written before death intervened. These two
works, the “Physiologie du Mariage” and the “Petites Misères de la Vie
Conjugale,” are a series of duos between husband and wife, augmented at
times by the tenor notes of the _amant._ The first is dedicated to the
reader, and contains the deceptions of the husband; the second, those
of the wife. At once malicious and diabolically witty, these two books
are as delicately analytical as the deductions of Leuwenhoeck and
Swammerdam, and abound with that peculiar though refreshing condiment
which is generally known as Gallic salt.

It is to be regretted that these two books, the first of which was
published at the outset of the author’s career, and the second towards
the close of his life, were not strengthened and augmented by the
others with which he proposed to accompany them, and whose subjects and
titles—namely, “Anatomie des Corps Enseignants,” “Pathologie de la Vie
Sociale,” “Monographie de la Vertu,” “Dialogue Philosophique et
Politique sur la Perfection du XIXe Siècle”—have alone descended to
us; for this vein of literary treasure can never be profitably worked
save by another Balzac or a modern Aristophanes.

It was in 1844 that Balzac said, “The first half of the present century
will be found to have been greatly influenced by four men,—Napoleon,
Cuvier, O’Connell, and myself. The first lived on the blood of Europe,
the second espoused the globe, the third became the incarnation of an
entire race, while I shall have carried a complete society in my brain.”

Though almost another half century has now elapsed since these words
were uttered, it would seem that the influence which he was then
conscious of exerting is even more vigorous than before. The characters
which he painted formed, it is true, part of a Paris now dead and
forgotten, but the types have survived, and the lessons which he
deduced therefrom are as eminently instructive now as they were in the
days when he wrote; and while, taking the world at large as the
groundwork of his edifice, man was necessarily but the detail, he has,
in his description thereof, painted him in every phase,—consequent and
inconsequent, neither completely good nor completely vicious, logical
at times, and sometimes great, but incessantly opposing his own
interests to the laws of society in that gigantic struggle of customs
and sentiments which is as inconsistent to-day as it was fifty years

When the “fiat lux” was pronounced, and man completed, Balzac turned to
his natural companion, and in his portraiture of woman not a single
type is lacking. Herein he is unexcelled and unsurpassable. That which
Euripides considered as the most terrible of all misfortunes, and De
Maistre nothing but a beautiful animal, found its most graphic
expression through him. As a faithful naturalist, he has, in descending
the spiral of civilization, described and classified the _femina
simplex_; but the ideal woman, sublime in her errors, magnificent in
her devotion, and royal in her forgiveness, has found her geographer in
him. His descriptions of Madame de Beauséant, the Duchesse de Langeais,
Madame Firmiani, the Countess in “Colonel Chabert,” Madame Claës,
Madame Jules, Madame de Montsauf, Béatrix, and Mademoiselle des Touches
comprise woman almost in her entirety; they are landmarks in
psychological study; and so true to nature are they that their
appearance marked a new era in literature.

It is in these portraits that Balzac is most realistic; and while a few
of the most admirable among them are sometimes erring, yet it will be
admitted that womankind is not composed exclusively of angels;
perfection is often dull, and a fault may be a virtue. By way of
contrast, however, he has, in Eugénie Grandet, Madame Firmiani, Madame
de la Chanterie, Marguerite Claës, Madame Jules, Agathe Rouget,
Pierrette, Madame Hulot, and Ursule Mirouët, not only solved the
difficult problem of rendering virtue interesting, but he has created
in frames of impeccable beauty a series of irreproachable Madonnas.

His revelation of woman is completed in a special and parallel study of
love. Love he considered the mainspring of humanity; without it,
religion, history, romance, and art would be useless; and he has
analyzed, dissected, and explained its every phase, hesitation,
palpitation, and tenderness.

Beyond the scenic effects which he lent to passion, Balzac entered
thoroughly into the specialties of trade and profession, and it seems
almost incredible that one mind could have grappled with the details of
the practice of law which are so admirably described in the “Contrat de
Mariage,” in his portrait of Derville the lawyer, Peerquin the notary,
and the proceedings in “César Birotteau,” while imagining such types as
Vautrin, who dominated Paris from the depths of the galleys, or La
Fille aux yeux d’or languishing in her octagonal boudoir.

As Bianchou he is alienist and physician; in Dr. Mirouët he is medium
and mesmerist; he is a miser in Grandet and discounter in Gobseck; he
is vicar at Tours and old maid at Issoudun. None better than he has
described that class of fascinating scoundrels of which Rastignac is
the type, nor painted more clearly the heralds of _ennui_ and
philosophers of satiety than he has done in De Marsay and Maxime de
Trailles. In “Les Deux Poètes” he is printer and manufacturer of paper;
in the “Cousin Pons” he presents the flower of an imagination
intoxicated with the master paintings of great artists; while in the
“Illusions Perdues” the journalist is dissected and the publisher

In the veins of his characters there is not a drop of ink; they live,
move, and have their being, and their eyelashes are as delicately
finished as their epigrams.

Starting from the mud and vermin of Parisian by-ways, and ascending to
the steps of the throne, Balzac garnered every possible type, no two of
which are similar; each is original and all are profoundly human; and
while the dregs of London are not further removed from the splendors of
Teheran than is mother Nourrison from the Duc de Grandlieu, yet
Balzac’s intuition divined the one as clearly as he described the other.

In his transitions and contrasts, however, there is as little
abruptness as there is in the marriage of the blue of the skies with
the green of a landscape; changes follow in orderly and natural
sequence, and the mind of the reader is only confused at the
multiplicity of his attainments, which present in turn houses and
costumes, interiors and countries, intermingled with plot, science,
religion, politics, agriculture, erudition, mysticism, and wit.

Balzac was also a delicious landscape painter, and his scenes from
Brittany in “Les Chouans,” his landscapes of Touraine and particularly
that of Vouvay in “La Femme de Trente Ans,” the grand sketch of Norway
in “Séraphita,” that of the Mediterranean island in “La Duchesse de
Langeais,” are cited by Davin as masterpieces of graphic description.

The resources of Balzac’s genius are perhaps as clearly exhibited in
“Eugénie Grandet” as in any of his other works, and the appearance of
this romance gave the keynote to the present Realistic school. “Eugénie
Grandet” is the conquest of absolute truth in art. It is the drama
applied to the most simple events of life; the fusion of the trivial
and the sublime, the pathetic and the grotesque. It is a picture of
life as it is, and the model of what a novel should be.

The _motif_ here commenced is admirably continued in “Le Curé de
Tours,” which contains none of those elements heretofore considered
indispensable in the manufacture of fiction. From these pages love and
marriage are banished; there is barely an event to be mentioned, yet
the dumb, tortuous struggle between the two priests is at once clear
cut and peculiarly vivid. Herein the most humble trivialities of the
subject are elevated and dramatized, and to attentive eyes this book
will perhaps contain the secret of Balzac’s superiority; for as no rôle
is poor to a good actor, Balzac in this story demonstrates that nothing
was small beneath his pen.

The interiors of Gerard Dow, with their vast chimneys lit by flickering
flames, their polished floors, walls hung with tapestries, their
sculptured cornices and quaint and curious furniture, their shadowed
backgrounds and doors which seem about to open upon some mysterious
room, are to be found in “La Recherche de l’Absolu,” in which the
opulent detail of the Flemish school is equaled, if not surpassed.
Here, as in “Eugénie Grandet,” the drama is formed of the fusion of the
trivial and the sublime, and for the proper presentation of the subject
he extracted from the past of chemistry its possibilities for the

This work, as is the case with almost all his others, contains evidence
of the most obstinate researches; and in this respect it may be noted
that the majority of his books are the result of patient labor and
prolonged meditations.

“Ursule Mirouët,” one of his most chaste conceptions, is the fruit of
exhaustive experiments in clairvoyance. “Séraphita” was born of the
suggestions of a hundred works of the mystics. “César Birotteau” is a
text-book on bankruptcy.

The production of “Gambara” and “Massimillia Doni” necessitated not
only a thorough musical schooling, but vast operatic knowledge, and
before attacking his subject Balzac engaged a violinist to saturate him
with Rossini. “La Grande Bretèche” is the essence of the Causes
Célèbres, and dowered French literature with a new shudder. The
“Contrat de Mariage” is a code of legal _finesse._

“Maître Cornélius,” which with the exception of “Catherine de Médicis”
contains the only ghosts that he has evoked from the night of the past,
is an attempt to rehabilitate Louis XI., and to refute the historical
portion of “Quentin Durward.”

“Les Deux Proscrits” was the result of prolonged meditations on the
works of Dante, while “La Dernière Incarnation de Vautrin” is a
dictionary of prison slang.

But the works for which he cared the most and on which he expended the
greatest amount of labor were “Louis Lambert” and “Le Médecin de

In “Louis Lambert,” he asks whether electricity is not the basis of the
particular fluid from which ideas are derived, and proceeds thereupon
to consider thought as a complete system similar to that of vegetation;
and after analyzing the birth, life, or death of certain thoughts,[16]
he expresses the opinion that ideas and sentiments are endowed with
physical properties, such as weight and movement; and after fortifying
it with striking examples of expectation, fear, anger, and
determination, he concludes that facts do not exist, that ideas alone
endure, and that volition is a material force, similar to that of steam.

In spite of the amount of labor which a work of this kind necessitated,
a still greater amount was expended on “Le Médecin de Campagne,” of
which every line and every phrase was weighed, rewritten, and corrected
again and again. In this work he attempted to grasp the simple beauty
of the Scriptures, to surpass the “Vicar of Wakefield,” and to put the
“Imitation of Christ” into action; but its pages were written above the
level of the ordinary reader, and in spite of its profundity of thought
it is perhaps the least known of all his writings.

The romance, however, which gained for him the greatest favor in the
boudoirs of Europe was the “Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées,” which is
one of the few works in which happy and satisfied love has been
successfully depicted. In Rousseau there was too much rhetoric, in
Richardson too much pretension; Scott was hampered by English prudery,
and is consequently chill as an icicle; the poets as a rule were too
extravagant and too much engrossed in metaphors; and it remained to
Balzac to describe the insensate fears and unreasoning jealousies of
that passion of which many speak, but few have known.

The masterful handling of these widely contrasting subjects shows not
only an equipment of profound penetration and power of observation, but
also an erudition at once varied and luminous. His works are those of
an anatomist from whom nothing escaped, a psychologist from whom
nothing was hidden, and a realist who described all. Joined thereto was
the gift of adjective: in this he is the Benvenuto Cellini of
literature, for his words seem less like symbols of speech than
awakeners of trains of thought.

His originality is entirely undisputed. It would not be a difficult
task to point out the buried hands which modeled the grandiose figure
of Hugo, and the tombs ransacked by Shakespeare are still open to
inspection; but Balzac was totally without literary ancestry. The
influence of Scott and Hoffmann, at that time enormous, possibly
presided at the conception of some of his earlier works, and brought to
them strength from the massiveness of the one and coloring from the
unexpectedness of the other; they were perhaps the transitory models of
a necessary apprenticeship, in which the masters were soon to be
neglected and surpassed. Aside from this early schooling, Balzac is
indebted to no one,—neither to the Greeks nor to the Romans, to the
Italian school, to the Trouvères of feudal France nor to the
Minnesingers of the Middle Ages; and even where Hoffmann is not, he at
least is entirely modern and absolutely original; for the fantastic
effects of the former were drawn from Micromegas, who had already
extracted them from Cyrano de Bergerac,—a well into which, it may be
noted, Voltaire himself has dipped; and in this respect, that it may
not be objected that the “Contes Drolatiques” are but a continuation of
Rabelais, Béroalde de Verville, and the Reine de Navarre, it is well to
point out that where but the female was seen by these writers Balzac
discovered the woman, a difference surely as great as between the
bottle and the wine.

And here perhaps a word may be said in regard to the present Realistic
school, of which he was the founder, and whose influence is daily
becoming more noticeable and apparent.

The term _present_ Realistic school is used advisedly; for though it
was only about twenty-five or thirty years ago that realism began to be
seriously considered, it is erroneous to suppose that it is of purely
modern origin. For realism as expressed in literature is but the
sentiment of the obvious and the true; and in the days when art was a
splendid novelty, the first poets, as also the first painters, sought
their inspirations directly from the primal source of all
reality,—that is, from Nature herself.

Nature, therefore, is the mother of realism, artistically considered,
and Homer was its first exponent; for not only was the actuality of his
subject never neglected for the purely ideal, but it was also a first

But the impressions produced by the real undergo in the mere
transcription certain modifications, which are greater or less
according to the organization of the exponent; and while some of the
subject’s delicate aroma invariably escapes in its passage, however
transitory, from brain to canvas, the proper conservation of what
remains constitutes the work of art on whose opulence succeeding
generations are nourished, and from which, in turn, other impressions
are derived; and where the original exponent has artistically
transcribed that which he has seen and felt, his followers express not
that which reality suggests to them, but that which Nature suggested to
him, and the original types of the one become the modified models of
the others, until in descending the centuries reality becomes
unrecognizable, and art and literature through constant copying of
copies become at last enervated and meaningless.

When, therefore, the poetry of the Greeks was becoming entangled in the
subtleties of versification, it received a fresh and vigorous impulsion
from Theocritus, who, disregarding the set rules of his contemporaries,
and returning to the direct observation of reality, expressed not only
the ideal, as poetry should, but also Nature in her most humble and
familiar details, and represented his Shepherdess as beautiful but
unkempt, the odor of cattle about her, and with her hands hardened by
contact with the horns of the steers. Pictures of the obvious and the
true should represent, therefore, not only the beautiful but the
repulsive, not only that which is unpleasant but that which is
agreeable; and the Shepherdess of Theocritus, in her unkempt beauty,
would be as untrue to nature had she not the odor of the cattle about
her as are the patched and powdered bergères with which Watteau charmed
the Pompadour.

Nature loves and abounds in contrasts, as witness the toad squatting
beneath the rose bush; and while either may afford a separate study,
yet the union of the two is necessary in a faithful picture of what
actually exists.

When, therefore, Villon broke away from the stilted and flowery
madrigals of the school of Charles d’Orléans, and sought anew for the
simplicity of Nature, he was but continuing Theocritus and paving the
way for Diderot and Rétif de la Bretonne. The current of opinion,
however, was adverse to these writers, and it was not until the early
part of the present century, when the Romantic school, with its
vanguards led by Madame de Staël and Chateaubriand and with Victor Hugo
for its subsequent chief, had succeeded after a terrible struggle in
freeing themselves from the established rules and conventional phrasing
of the classicists and had raised the standard of liberty in art, that
many of the prejudices which the Academicians had engendered
disappeared, and the ground, swept clean and clear, was prepared for
the advent of a new teacher.

It was at this propitious moment that Balzac, already famous through
his “Physiologie du Mariage,” presented his credentials in the “Peau de
Chagrin,” and with an audacity unparalleled in literature represented
his hero as troubled not only about the state of his mistress’
affections, but also as to whether he would have money enough to pay
her fare in a cab.

The stupefaction and indignation of the purists at this unheard-of
infraction of their formal style were indescribable, but the Romantic
school upheld the innovation, and the new generation applauded the
realistic portrayal of the penniless student who went to an evening
entertainment on the points of his shoes, while dreading a splash of
mud more than a shot from a pistol.

In this respect, therefore, the “Peau de Chagrin” marked the first
return in the nineteenth century to the real and to the true; it gave a
fresh impulse to an expiring literature, and constituted the
corner-stone of the Realistic school, which has found such able
exponents not only in the De Goncourts and Flaubert, but in Dickens,
Thackeray, Tourgénieff, and a host of lesser lights.

But Balzac’s incontestable superiority over other writers consists in
his descriptions of the habits and customs of every-day life, and in
his perception and rendition of the delicate and innumerable shadings
which accompany their thousand complications, in the scenes of private
life which he depicted, in the little mysterious dramas which take
place every day in every social sphere, and especially in his
portraits. The exactitude of the transcription, the delicacy of the
shading, and the profusion and realism of detail are such that it would
almost seem as though reality itself had been transported and placed
before the eyes of the reader.

The third and last number of the “Revue Parisienne” contains a
criticism of Balzac’s on the “Chartreuse de Parme,” in which, in
alluding to the author, he says, “Stendhal is one of the most
remarkable writers of the day, but in his work form is neglected; he
writes as a bird sings.”

Form, the absence of which he noticed in Stendhal, was to him a source
of continued care and preoccupation, and he would often spend an hour
in burnishing a single sentence. With all his facility of conception,
execution was exceedingly laborious, and his admiration of Gautier’s
ability to dash off without an erasure a warm-colored and impeccable
article, while unbounded, was not unmixed with a certain conviction
that the work would be improved by a thorough revision.

As has been seen, Balzac spent almost ten years in forming his hand and
chastening his style, and the courage which he then manifested was
equaled only by the patience with which he sought to improve the
coloring of his afterwork. As a grammarian he is unsurpassed, and the
faults which are noticeable in many of his works are for the most part
purely clerical, and due to his mania for writing his books on
proof-sheets instead of in manuscript. As an innovator he was of course
attacked,—all innovators are,—and Sainte-Beuve, whose manner of
writing Balzac had characterized as macaroni, continually ridiculed his
style and form of expression. In this respect, however, it should be
remembered that at the time of Balzac’s advent into literature the
French language had been passed through a strainer so fine that no
terms remained to express anything beyond the purely conventional; and
Balzac, who was thoroughly impressed with Aristotle’s idea that the
inexpressible does not exist, was almost obliged to create a language
of his own; and in his endeavor to express himself with realistic
clearness he seized upon every suggestive technicality which he
encountered in science, in the green room, the alcoves of the hospital,
or the by-ways of Paris, and built a vocabulary from all that was most
expressive in the different strata of existence. It was he who invented
“chic” and many other terms of an equally felicitous nature.

“As for neologisms, as the critics call them,” he said, “who, I would
like to know, has a right to give alms to a language, unless it be its
writers? Of course I create words, but my parvenus will become nobles
in time.”

But through discipline and constant attention Balzac’s style assumed at
last the undulatory rhythm of the Romantic school, and became not only
picturesque, mathematical, and peculiarly incisive, but the model of
many of the prominent writers of to-day.

The attacks of the critics were not confined, however, to his style and
form of expression; charges of personal as well as literary immorality
were brought against him, and it is curious to note that while Venice
reveled through an entire carnival in a masquerade of his characters
his books were prohibited in Rome and Madrid.

Personally considered, Balzac was much more of a Benedictine than a
disciple of Rabelais; even his student days were those of an anchorite,
and purity of life was to him not only a refinement, but a basis
indispensable to elevation of thought, and an essential in the
production of any work of enduring value. Disorder he regarded as fatal
to talent, and Gautier says that he preached what he practiced, and
recommended to him that he should visit his Dulcinea but once a year,
and then only for half an hour. “Write to her, if you wish to,” he
said; “it forms the style.” In his books he has, it is true, agreeably
painted the seductions of vice, but its contagious and destructive
effects are rigorously exposed; and through all the struggles of his
characters probity, purity, and self-denial are alone triumphant. In
what, then, does his immorality consist? In his vast conception, it was
necessary, he explained,[17] here to signalize an abuse and here to
point out an evil; but every writer who has an aim and who breaks a
fresh lance in the domain of thought is invariably considered immoral.
Socrates was immoral; Christ was immoral: both were persecuted by the
people whom they reformed.

In describing in the “Comédie Humaine” all the elements of society, in
grasping it in the immensity of its agitations, it was inevitable that
one part should expose more wickedness than virtue, that one part of
the fresco represented a culpable group: hence the critic has brought
his charge of immorality without observing the morality of other parts
destined to form a perfect contrast. And in this particular we must
observe that the most conscientious moralists are agreed that society
is incapable of producing as many good as evil actions, yet in the
“Comédie Humaine” the virtuous characters exceed in number those of a
reprehensible disposition.

Blamable actions, faults, crimes, from the slightest to the most grave,
find therein an invariable punishment, human or divine, evident or
secret; and while it would be impossible to clothe two or three
thousand characters in white and orange blossoms, it must be evident
even to the most careless observer that the Marneffes, male and female,
the Hulots, Brideaus _e tutti quanti_, are not imagined,—they are
simply described.


Footnote 14:

  See Introduction by M. Felix Davin to the first edition of the
  _Comédie Humaine_.

Footnote 15:

  _Correspondance de H. de Balzac_.

Footnote 16:

  See also _La Peau de Chagrin_.

Footnote 17:

  Preface to the _Comédie Humaine_.

                             CHAPTER III.

                        THE BUSKIN AND THE SOCK.

                 “Le génie, c’est la patience.”—BUFFON.

In the story of “Albert Savarus” Balzac drew a picture of the hero
which, with slight modifications, might have served as his own.

He was tall and somewhat stout. His hands were those of a prelate, and
his head was that of a Nero. His hair was black and dense, and his
forehead, furrowed by sabre-cuts of thought, was high and massive. His
complexion was of an olive hue; his nose was prominent and slightly
arched; his mouth was sympathetic, and his chin firm. But his most
remarkable characteristic was the expression of his gold-brown eyes,
which, eloquent with interrogations and replies, seemed, instead of
receiving light from without, to project jets of interior flame.

His many vicissitudes had endowed him with an air of such calm
tranquillity as might have disconcerted a thunderbolt; while his voice,
at once penetrating and soft, had the charm attributed to Talma’s.

In conversation persuasive and magnetic, he held his auditors
breathless in a torrent of words and gesture. He convinced almost at
will, and his imagination, once unbridled, was sufficient to cause a
vertigo. “He frightens me,” said Gérard de Nerval; “he is enough to
drive one crazy.”

“He possessed,” Gautier said, “a swing, an eloquence, and a _brio_
which were perfectly irresistible. Gliding from one subject to another,
he would pass from an anecdote to a philosophical reflection, from an
observation to a description. As he spoke, his face flushed, his eyes
became peculiarly luminous, his voice assumed different inflections,
while at times he would burst out laughing, amused by the comic
apparitions which he saw before describing, and announced, in this way,
by a sort of _fanfare_, the entrance of his caricatures and witticisms.
The misfortunes of a precarious existence, the annoyances of debt,
fatigue, excessive work, even illness, were unable to change this
striking characteristic of continual and Rabelaisian joviality.”

Friends, enemies, editors, strangers, money-lenders, and usurers, all
with whom he came in contact, were fascinated and coerced by the
extraordinary magnetism which he exerted without effort, and the most
vigorous intellects were bewildered by his projects of fortune and
dreams of glory.

Attracted by the mine of wealth which the theatre opens to the popular
playwright; and burdened with a real or imaginary weight of debt, from
which one or two dramas, if favorably received, would free him
entirely; and desirous, moreover, of experiencing the delirious
intoxication which the plaudits of the gallery bring to the successful
dramatist, Balzac’s inflammable imagination became a veritable
whirlwind of plots and epigrams whenever a new play was well received.

But for the playwright, as for the mechanic, an apprenticeship is
obligatory, and, though Balzac’s novels contained action and analysis,
drama and observation, it was not, as we have seen, until after a long
and laborious preparation that he was enabled to attract the attention
of the public; and it is evident that the heights which he then scaled
were so fatiguing and time-consuming that his life, wearied by the
struggle, was not of sufficient duration to permit his winning equal
triumphs on the stage.

From his early schooldays, however, in which, it will be remembered, he
commenced a tragedy on the Incas, which was afterwards followed by a
drama in blank verse entitled “Cromwell,” the stage had possessed an
irresistible attraction for him; and if therein he was not at first
successful, it was perhaps from the very cause which brought to him his
original popularity, and the superabundance of his ideas, paradoxical
as it at first appears, was undoubtedly his greatest stumbling-block.

To imagine a plot was nothing, the scenes were but details, and the
outline of a melodrama was to him the work of as little labor as would
be required in the conception of a pleasing menu; but when the general
plan was sketched, each scene would suggest a dozen others, and the
Coliseum of Vespasian would not have been large enough to present the
simultaneous action which the play, at once interminable and
impossible, would have demanded.

Another reason for his lack of immediate success was the jealousy of
his colleagues and the hatred of the critics; and as at that time the
existence of a play depended entirely upon the manner in which the
first representation was received, it was not very difficult to create
a cabal against this usurper, who, not content with his legitimate
celebrity, seemed, at the bare mention of a play, to meditate a
universal literary monarchy, in which he would reign supreme; and while
the conquest of both spheres has been effected by Hugo, Voltaire, and
others of like ilk, yet these authors were careful to fortify their
progress with a book in one hand and a play in the other, whereas it
was not until Balzac had reached his apogee that he began a serious
attack on the stage.

It was in the year 1840 that Balzac submitted “Vautrin,” his first
drama, to the director of the Porte-St.-Martin. The play was at once
accepted; for the author’s reputation was not only gigantic, but the
Porte-St.-Martin had almost foundered in successive tempests, and to
the director, who was as penniless as he was appreciative, the offer
was little less than a godsend. An agreement was signed forthwith, and
Balzac abandoned Les Jardies for more convenient quarters, where he
could attend to the rehearsals and remodel the scenes on the stage
itself, which, it may be added, he continued to do up to the very last

During these preparations, the boulevards were agog with excitement.
The actors and the director, accompanied by Balzac’s friends, wandered
daily from the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle to Tontoni’s and the Café
Riche, exciting the curiosity of the _flaneurs_ by their reticence or
murmured confidences; and Balzac’s ingress and egress from the theatre
were, it is said, watched and waited for by curious crowds.

Never in the history of the drama had a first representation been so
impatiently awaited; and Balzac, foreseeing the immense sale which the
seats would have, bought up the entire house, and then, while
endeavoring that the tickets should circulate only among his friends
and their acquaintances, sold the better part of it over again at a
large advance.

“My dear friend,” he wrote to Dablin, “if among your acquaintances
there are any who wish to assist at the first representation of
‘Vautrin,’ let me know who they are, as I prefer to let the boxes to
those whom I know about, rather than to those who are unknown to me. I
particularly wish to have handsome women present. The demand for boxes
is greater than the supply. The journalists are to be sacrificed.”

To Gozlan he wrote,—

“I have sent you a ticket for the stalls. The rehearsals have almost
killed me. You will witness a memorable failure. I have been wrong, I
think, to summon the public.

“Morituri te salutant, Cæsar!”

Unfortunately, the interval between the sale of the seats and the first
representation was sufficiently great to permit of two thirds of the
tickets falling into the hands of those who were unknown or hostile to
Balzac; and consequently, when the great day arrived, the critics
sharpened their knives, and in place of the indulgent friends and
handsome women whom Balzac had expected to welcome his play the theatre
was crowded with malevolent faces.

The title-rôle was taken by Frédéric Lemaître, and while the first
three acts were received without any demonstrations, either of approval
or disapprobation, over the fourth there burst a tempest which, since
the birth-night of “Hernani,” was unequaled in the annals of the stage;
for Lemaître, reappearing in the costume of a Mexican general,
seemed—whether by accident or design, it has never been clearly
understood—to present an insulting resemblance to Louis Philippe,
whose eldest son happened to be in one of the most conspicuous boxes.

The entire house, from pit to gallery, re-echoed with hisses and
catcalls. Threats and even blows were exchanged, for here and there, in
spite of the general indignation, a few still remained faithful to

Through Lemaître’s eccentricity, the battle was lost and the drama
killed. Further representations were prohibited by the government; and
though, a few days later, M. de Rémusat called upon Balzac, and offered
in the name of the state an indemnity for the pecuniary loss which he
had sustained, it was haughtily refused. “If my play was justly
prohibited, there is,” he said, “no reason why I should be indemnified;
if it be otherwise, I can accept nothing, unless an indemnity be also
made to the manager and actors of the Porte-St.-Martin.”

Two years after the failure of “Vautrin,” and entirely unaffected by
its sudden collapse, Balzac knocked at the door of the Odéon which was
at that time under the management of Lireux. By this gentleman Balzac
was received with the greatest cordiality; for while his first play had
fallen flat, yet it had fallen with such a crash that, in the lapse of
time, it was difficult to distinguish its failure from success.
Moreover, the Odéon was bankrupt, and as Balzac, with his customary
enthusiasm, offered nothing less than a Golconda in his manuscript, he
was fêted, caressed, and altogether received with open arms.

From the office to the green room, from the door-keeper to the
scene-shifters, smiles, compliments, and welcomes were showered upon
him, and he was unanimously requested to read his play at once. As
soon, therefore, as the actors were assembled and silence obtained,
Balzac began to read “Les Ressources de Quinola.” At first thick and
embarrassed, his voice gradually grew clearer, and expressed the most
fugitive undulations of the dialogue. His audience laughed and wept by
turns, and Balzac laughed and wept with them; the entire troop was
fascinated, and applauded as only actors can. Suddenly, however, at the
end of the fourth act, Balzac stopped short, and explained in the
simplest and most unaffected manner that, as he had not yet written the
fifth, he would be obliged to recite it to them.

The stupor and surprise of his audience can be more readily imagined
than described: for the fifth act of “Quinola” is the unraveling of all
the tangled threads, the union of all the joints; it is the climax and
logical termination of all that has gone before; and Balzac, as he
calmly rolled up his manuscript and tied it with a bit of string,
easily, fluently, and unhesitatingly continued the drama through the
six final scenes, and without a break, without a pause, through a
torrent of varied intonations, led his listeners by a magnificent tour
de force to the very fall of the curtain.

Lireux was bewildered and entranced. “The rehearsals shall commence
to-morrow,” he said. “But to what address, M. de Balzac, shall I send
the announcements?”

“It is unnecessary to send any,” Balzac replied. “I can come without

“Ah, no, that is impossible. There will be a rehearsal one day, and
none the next; and I never know until the morning at what hour a
rehearsal is to take place. What is your address?”

But Balzac had not the least intention of telling where he lived, and
either because he was playing hide-and-go-seek with his creditors, or
else was at that time possessed of one of the inexplicable manias which
caused him at times to keep his habitat a secret even from his most
intimate friends, he refused flatly to impart the wished-for

“I do not see what we can do,” Lireux murmured helplessly, “unless we
use a carrier pigeon.”

“I do,” replied Balzac, ever fertile in expedients. “Listen to me. Send
a messenger up the Champs-Élysées with the notice every morning at nine
o’clock. When he reaches the Arc de l’Étoile, let him turn to the left,
and he will see a man beneath the twentieth tree, who will pretend to
be looking up in the branches for a sparrow.”

“A sparrow?”

“A sparrow or any other bird.”

“My pigeon, perhaps.”

“Let me continue. Your messenger will approach my sentinel, and will
say to him, ‘I have it.’ Thereupon my sentinel will reply, ‘Since you
have it, what are you waiting for?’ Then your messenger will hand the
notice to him, and immediately go away, without once looking behind
him. I will attend to the rest.”

Lireux saw no objection to this fantastic whim, and contented himself
by expressing the hope that if the twentieth tree should be destroyed
by lightning M. de Balzac would see no insuperable objection to posting
his sentinel at the twenty-first.

“No,” Balzac answered, “but I should prefer the nineteenth; the number
is more quaint.”

This plan amicably arranged, the actors agreed upon, and the date of
the first representation settled, Balzac proceeded to talk finance.

“Beside the customary royalty, I wish the entire house for the first
three nights.”

“But what shall I get?” Lireux timidly inquired.

“Half the profits, which will be incalculable.”

Lireux reflected for a moment. “Very good,” he said; “I accept.”

From the first rehearsal Balzac recommenced with “Quinola” the
treatment to which “Vautrin” had been subjected. Sometimes a phrase was
altered, sometimes a scene, while at others an entire act was
remodeled. That which pleased him one day displeased him the next, and
each rehearsal brought fresh corrections and alterations, until the
original manuscript was entirely obliterated with erasures and new

Besides undergoing the mental and physical labor attendant on these
rehearsals, Balzac undertook the entire charge of the sale of the
seats, or rather the entire charge of refusing seats to all comers; for
the box office was opened merely for form’s sake, and tickets were to
be had only of Balzac in person. To obtain one was not so much a
question of money as of position and influence. The orchestra stalls he
reserved for the nobility, the avant-scènes for the court circle; the
boxes in the first gallery were for the ambassadors and
plenipotentiaries; the second gallery was for the statesmen, the third
for the moneyed aristocracy, the fourth for the select bourgeoisie. “As
for the critics,” he said, “they can buy their seats, if there are any
left, and there will be none.”

As a rule, therefore, when any one asked for a box, Balzac would reply,
“Too late: last one just sold to the Princesse de Machin and the Grande
Duchesse de Chose.” During the first few days of the sale, seats were
in consequence sold at extraordinary prices; but later on the anxiety
to obtain them decreased, and during the week preceding the first
performance Balzac was very glad to dispose of them to any one at the
regular rates.

On the 6th of March, 1842, thirteen days before the play was to be
performed, he wrote to a friend as follows:—

“DEAR SOFKA,—Send me the address of the Princess Constantine
Razumovska, that I may learn from her whether she wishes a box. Let me
know also whether the two Princesses Troubetskoï want boxes, whether
Kraïeska wishes one, whether the Malakoffs, and the Countess Léon, and
the Countess Nariskine,—seven boxes in all. I must know, too, whether
they want them in the upper or lower tier of the first gallery. I wish
the handsome women in front.... It is a favor to be admitted to this
solemnity. There are at the theatre a hundred and fifty applications
for boxes from people whom I do not know and who will get nothing.”

On the 12th he wrote to the same person: “The avant-scènes are for the
king and the cabinet; they take them by the year. I can only give,
therefore, to the Princess Troubetskoï a box in the first gallery, but
it is one of the best in the house.... The costumes have cost 20,000
francs; the scenery is entirely new. Every one insists that the play is
a masterpiece, and that makes me shudder. In any event, it will be a
terrible solemnity. Lamartine has asked for a box; I will place him
among the Russians. Every morning I receive thirty or forty
applications, but I will have no one whom I do not know about.... Tell
your Russian friends that I must have the names and addresses, _each
accompanied by a written and personal recommendation_ of those of their
friends (men) who wish stalls. There are over fifty people a day who
come under assumed names and refuse to give their address; _they are
enemies, who wish to ruin the piece_. In a week I shall not know what I
am about. We are obliged to observe the most severe precautions. I am
intoxicated with the play.”

The severe precautions resulted on the night of the first
representation in a half-empty house.

Few imagined that seats could really be had, and it was even reported
that Balzac had been obliged to refuse a seat to the Duc de Nemours.
The amateurs resigned themselves, therefore, almost without a struggle,
and determined that as they could not obtain seats for the first
performance they would find solace in the second or third; but on
reading the articles which appeared the next day they felt little need
of consolation, for the fate of “Vautrin” had been repeated, and
“Quinola” had fallen flat. The most sympathetic of all the criticisms
which then appeared was one contained in Le National for the 16th of
March, 1842. It runs as follows:—

“The subject of M. de Balzac’s drama was excellent, but unfortunately,
through eccentricity or negligence, he passed but to one side of the
idea, without resolutely entering it and extracting all its wealth.

“The Odéon is the theatre of tumultuous representations, but never has
this terrible battle-field offered such a conglomeration of
exclamations and confusing cries. The pit, like a sharp-shooter, took
up an ambush behind the substantives and verbs, and slaughtered the
play while it maimed the actors, who, brave though wounded, struggled
on to the end with a praiseworthy and melancholy courage. At times the
comedy, through its sudden flashes of originality and abrupt cannonades
of wit, seemed about to rout the enemy and wave aloft a tattered but
victorious flag. The faults, however, were too numerous and the errors
too grave, and in spite of many advantages the battle, in the end, was
fairly lost.”

But in spite of the derision, insults, and abuse with which the first
representation was received, in spite of the financial and dramatic
shipwreck, after the commotion had subsided and the audience had
dispersed, Balzac, superior to destiny and indifferent to fate, was
found fast asleep and snoring in his box.[18]

In addition to “Vautrin” and “Quinola,” three other plays of Balzac’s
have been produced, namely, “Paméla Giraud,” “La Marâtre,” and “Le
Faiseur” (“Mercadet”), of which the first was performed at the Gaieté
in September, 1843, and enjoyed a moderate success. Concerning the
second, M. Hostein, formerly director of the Théatre-Historique, has
offered some curious information.[19] Balzac, it appears, called upon
him one day, and explained that for some time past he had been thinking
over an historical drama for the Théatre-Historique.

“I shall call it,” he said, “‘Pierre et Catharine,’ Peter the Great and
Catharine of Russia. That, I think, would be an excellent subject.”

“Treated by you, it could not be otherwise. But are you far advanced,
M. de Balzac?”

“It is all here,” Balzac answered, tapping his forehead. “I have but to
write it out, and, if you care to, the first tableau can be rehearsed
the day after to-morrow.”

“Can you give me an idea of this first tableau?” I asked.

“Certainly. We are in a Russian inn. You can see it from here. In this
inn plenty of action: the troops are passing by; soldiers come in,
drink, chat for a moment, and then off again, but everything is done
rapidly. Among the people of the inn is a servant-girl, young, active,
and alert,—pay attention to her: her figure is good; she is not
handsome, but she is peculiarly attractive. The soldiers jest with her;
she smiles at every one, but her admirers are obliged to be careful,
for any familiarity is answered with a slap, which is as good as a blow.

“A soldier enters who is more daring than the others. He is charged
with a particular mission; his time, therefore, is his own. He can
drink at his ease and chat with the servant, if she pleases him; for
that matter, she pleases him at first sight, and she likes the soldier,
too. ‘Here,’ he says, catching hold of her arm, ‘sit down at this table
and drink with me.’

“The soldier takes a seat, and the girl does the same. Noticing,
however, some objection on the part of the innkeeper, he rises angrily,
and strikes the table with his fist. ‘If any one interferes with what I
do, I will burn the whole shanty down.’

“And he would have done it, too. He is a good soldier, but terrible
with his inferiors. The old innkeeper motions to the girl to obey. The
soldier sits down again. He places one arm tenderly about the girl’s
neck, and then, having drunk deeply, he whispers, ‘I will give you a
better home than this.’ While they are talking together, inattentive to
the others, the door at the back opens. An officer enters, and every
one rises, with respect. The soldiers make the regulation salute, and
stand motionless. The soldier and the servant alone remain seated. The
officer notices this, and grows angry. He looks at the girl and
advances toward the table; having reached the soldier, he raises his
arm, and lets it fall with a terrible force on the shoulder of the poor
devil, who bends beneath the shock.

“‘Up, rascal!’ the officer cries. ‘Go write your name and regiment, and
bring the paper to me.’

“At the first moment, that is to say on receiving the blow, without
knowing by whom it had been directed, the soldier turns to avenge
himself; but on recognizing his superior he rises automatically,
salutes the officer, and goes to another table to obey the command. The
officer, on his part, examines the servant with renewed attention. Her
appearance pleases and calms him. The soldier returns, and respectfully
presents his paper.

“‘Very good,’ the officer says, as he returns it to him. ‘Off with you.’

“The soldier salutes him again, turns right about face, and marches
off, without even looking at the girl. The officer, however, smiles at
her, and she smiles at him.

“‘A good-looking man,’ she thinks.

“The good-looking man takes the seat previously occupied by the
soldier, orders the best that the inn affords, and invites the servant
to keep him company. She accepts without hesitation. The conversation
begins, and they are soon quite friendly. A stranger appears at the
doorway. He is enveloped in a long cloak. At his entrance, men and
women fall on their knees; some of them even bend their foreheads to
the ground. As was the case with the soldier, the officer does not
notice what is going on behind him. His seductive companion has
captivated him completely. In a moment of enthusiasm, the officer
exclaims, ‘You are divine! I will take you with me. You shall have a
beautiful apartment, where it will be always warm.’

“From afar the stranger scrutinizes the couple, and, in spite of
himself, the girl’s sympathetic appearance attracts his attention. He
approaches the table, and, throwing open his cloak, stands with his
arms crossed on his breast.

“The officer looks around, and, immediately rising, bends on one knee,
and stammers these words:—

“‘Your pardon, sire!’


“Like the soldier, the officer then stands erect, awaiting the good
pleasure of his master. The master, meanwhile, is engaged in looking at
the servant, and she, in turn, is fearlessly admiring the all-powerful

“‘You may go,’ he says to the officer. ‘I will keep this woman. She
shall have a palace.’

“It was in this way that Peter the Great met for the first time the
woman who afterwards became Catharine of Russia....

“And now tell me, what do you think of my prologue?”

“Very curious, very original; but the rest of it?”

“That you shall have in a little while; in the mean time, I am planning
an entirely novel mise-en-scène. Russia is for our theatres, and
especially for yours, an unexplored and fecund mine. We will be the
first to introduce it.”

Balzac left me in a state of great enthusiasm, and I built mountains of
hopes on the inevitable success of “Pierre et Catharine.”

When I saw him again, however, everything had changed. He had given up
the Russian drama for the moment, but promised to complete it later on.
He had, he said, thought it over. It was a colossal undertaking, in
which nothing should be neglected; and as the details concerning
certain ceremonies were wanting, he proposed to take a trip to Moscow
during the winter, and study the subject on the ground itself. He
begged me, therefore, not to insist upon its immediate production, and
offered another play in the place of the one thus postponed.

In spite of my disappointment, I could, of course, do nothing but
submit, and in sheer despair I asked him to tell me something of his
new piece.

“It will be horrible,” Balzac contentedly replied.

“How, horrible?”

“Understand me: it is not a question of a heavy melodrama, in which the
villain burns the house down, and runs the inmates through and
through,—not at all. My play is to be a simple comedy, in which
everything is calm, tranquil, and pleasing. The men play placidly at
whist, the women laugh and chat over their worsted work, everything
announces harmony and order; but beneath this calm surface passions are
at work, and the drama ferments, till at last it bursts forth like the
flame of a conflagration.”

“You are in your element, sir. Then your plot is found?”

“Completely. It was chance, our habitual collaborateur, that furnished
me with it. I know a family,—whom I will not name,—composed of a
husband, a daughter by a first marriage, and a stepmother, still young
and childless. The two women adore each other. The little attentions of
the one and the caressing tenderness of the other are admired by all
who know them. I, too, thought it charming, at first; then I became
surprised, not that a stepdaughter and stepmother should love each
other,—for there is nothing unnatural in such an affection,—but that
they should love each other so dearly. Excess spoils all things. I
began, therefore, to observe them more closely, and a few trivial
incidents served to confirm my impression that all was not as it
appeared. Finally, a few evenings ago, all doubt on the subject was
removed. When I entered the drawing-room, it was almost deserted, and I
saw the daughter leaving the room without having seen me; in so doing,
she glanced at her stepmother, and what a look she gave her! It was
like the thrust of a dagger. The stepmother was engaged in putting out
the candles on the whist-table. She turned to the girl; their eyes met,
and the most gracious of smiles played on their lips. The door closed
on the girl, and the expression on the stepmother’s face changed
suddenly to one of bitter contraction. All this, you will readily
understand, passed like a flash of lightning; but I had seen quite
enough, and I said to myself, Here are two creatures who loathe each
other. What had happened? I do not know, and I never want to; but from
that moment the entire drama unrolled before me.”

“And for the first representation, you will, of course, offer a box to
these ladies, that they may profit by the moral which your play will
necessarily point?”

“Assuredly I shall do so; and since you mention it, I will be obliged
if you will reserve an extra box for me. I have not, however, the
slightest intention of teaching them a lesson, and I consider that a
novelist or dramatist would be highly presumptuous did he write with
such an object. An author should influence only through instinct or
chance. To return, however, to these ladies: that they play a comedy of
tenderness is to me beyond a doubt, but as between ourselves matters
will, in all probability, rest where they are. My ferocious deductions
are but the fruit of my imagination, and will never, I trust, have
anything in common with the realities of their existence; but in the
event of their disunion containing the germs of a violent climax, it is
very possible that my play will pull them up with a round turn.”

The months rolled on. Balzac went to Russia, and as soon as I heard of
his return I called upon him at his residence in the Rue Fortunée. A
servant in a red vest took my card, and a few moments later I was
ushered into a low-ceilinged room. Balzac was at the other end of it,
and cried out from afar, “Here is your manuscript!” Then I saw my
author standing by his work-table, clothed in a long, monkish robe of
white linen, with one hand resting on a mass of paper. I ran to him.

On the first page Balzac had written in large characters, “Gertrude,
tragédie bourgeoise en cinq actes, en prose.” On the back was the
proposed distribution of the play. Melingue was designated for the rôle
of Ferdinand, the lover of the stepmother and daughter; Madame Dorval
was to play Gertrude; and the other parts were to be filled by Mathis,
Barré, etc.

Beneath these names the author had minutely indicated everything which
concerned the play,—the action, the furniture, and the decorations; he
had even given the measure for the double carpet which he judged
indispensable to the mise-en-scène.

It was then agreed that the play should be read the next day in the
presence of Madame Dorval and Melingue. When, therefore, we had all
assembled at the appointed time, he read it through from beginning to
end, without stopping, and then quietly remarked, “It is much too long;
it must be cut down a quarter.” Not only did he cut it down, but he
changed the title to that of “La Marâtre,” which it has since so
gloriously borne.

It was first represented in June, 1848, in the midst of the most
disastrous political circumstances.... The theatres were necessarily
abandoned, but such is the power of genius that all the bold and brave
in literature who remained in Paris gathered that night, and received
Balzac’s work with the sympathy and applause which it so richly merited.

The next morning I paid him a visit. “We had quite a victory last
night!” I joyously exclaimed.

“Yes,” he answered; “a victory like that of Charles XII.”

On taking leave of him, I asked where he had been during the
representation. “Why,” he answered, with a smile, “I was in a box with
those ladies. They were greatly interested in the play. At the moment
when Pauline poisons herself, that her stepmother may be accused of
assassinating her, the young girl screamed with terror; the tears were
in her eyes, and she looked reproachfully at me. Then she grasped her
stepmother’s hand, and raised it to her lips with a movement”—

“Of sincerity?”

“Ah, yes, indeed.”

“You see, then, that your play may serve as a lesson.”

Balzac’s last play, “Le Faiseur,” was produced for the first time at
the Gymnase, a year after his death, under the title of “Mercadet.” Its
success was immediate, and its hundredth performance was the occasion
of an article by Albéric Second in “Le Constitutionnel,” 18 June, 1852,
which is at once so graceful and fantastic that its reproduction here
cannot fail to afford some pleasure to the readers of the “Comédie

The hundredth performance of “Mercadet” was given the other evening at
the Gymnase-Dramatique. “Mercadet” is, it will be remembered, the
posthumous piece of M. de Balzac, which at the time of its production
excited such great curiosity. Without any previous agreement, but none
the less certain of meeting, a dozen of us, all passionate admirers of
the illustrious deceased, found ourselves, that evening, intermingled
with the line which from six o’clock in the evening had been undulating
from the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle to the door of the theatre. We had
all assisted ten months before at the first representation of the play,
and we piously reassembled at this jubilee of glory and genius in the
same manner as we had gone the year before, and in the same manner that
each year we shall go, on the 18th of August, to wreathe with
immortelles the tomb of the great writer.

M. de Balzac was not one of those who inspire lukewarm affection, and
they who have had the honor of knowing him preserve his memory
religiously in their hearts. That life of his, full of struggles
incessantly renewed, the hourly and truceless combat which he waged,
sum up so completely the existence of the literary men of the
nineteenth century that it is impossible for us to consider his grand
and mournful figure otherwise than as the personification of an entire
class. It is for this reason that God, who is sovereignly just, will
accord to him hereafter a glory as great and incontestable as his life
was tormented and sad. It is for this reason that it behooves us, who
are the humble sacristans of the temple in which he was the radiant
high priest, to see that his altars are ever adorned with fresh flowers
and that the incense ceaselessly burns in the censers.

When we entered the theatre, it was, with the exception of a few boxes
and a number of orchestra stalls which had been sold in advance,
entirely filled. My seat was next to that of a gentleman apparently
about forty-five years old. His bearing was exceedingly aristocratic;
he was dressed with the most exquisite elegance, and his buttonhole
bloomed with a rosette in which were intermingled in harmonious
confusion all the orders of Europe and every shade of the rainbow. My
neighbor was carelessly turning the pages of the “Entr’acte,” and I
took great pleasure in studying his well-poised head; wondering the
while whether I had not met him somewhere before, and what his name
might be. When he had finished reading he rose, turned his back to the
stage, drew an opera-glass from his pocket, and began to examine the
house; an E and an R, surmounted by a count’s coronet, were engraved in
letters of gold on the case which he placed on his seat. From time to
time he bowed and waved his hand. My eyes mechanically followed the
direction of his own, and I was not a little surprised at noticing that
his smiles and salutations were addressed exclusively to the unoccupied
boxes. When he passed all the boxes in review he turned his attention
to the orchestra stalls, and the strange phenomenon was repeated. His
opera-glass, flitting from stall to stall, stopped only at the empty
ones; he would then bow, or make an almost imperceptible sign with the
ends of his delicately gloved fingers. Dominated by that detestable
pride which causes us to consider as insane all those whose actions or
remarks are unintelligible to us, I murmured to myself, He is crazy.
Then, as though he wished to remove the slightest doubt which I might
have retained on this point, my neighbor bent over toward the seat at
his left, and appeared to exchange a few words with an imaginary
spectator. This seat was one of those which had been let in advance,
and it was probable that its tenant, who was still absent, was
interested only in the great play. I have omitted to state that the
performance began with a little vaudeville.

At this moment one of my friends entered the orchestra, passed before
me, shook my hand, and called me by name. My neighbor immediately
turned around, gazed attentively at me for a moment or two, and then

“Why, my dear fellow countryman,—for you are from La Charente, I
believe,—I am delighted to see you.”

“To whom have I the honor of speaking?” I asked, in great surprise.

My neighbor drew from his pocket a card, which he gallantly presented
to me. My astonishment was so great that I almost screamed aloud;
fortunately, however, I preserved my presence of mind. On the card, I
read these words:—

“Le Comte Eugène de Rastignac.”

“M. de Rastignac?” I repeated, incredulously.

“In person.”

“The one who was born at Ruffec?”


“The cousin of Madame de Beauséant?”


“Is it you who lived at the boarding-house kept by Madame Vauquer, née
De Conflans?”


“And who knew the Père Goriot and Vautrin?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“You exist, then?” I stupidly inquired.

M. de Rastignac began to smile.

“Do you think that I present the appearance of a phantom?” he asked, as
he gracefully twirled his moustache.

“Sir,” I said, “I can readily understand that M. de Balzac should have
borrowed your personality and extracted a great deal therefrom for the
edification of his readers; but that he should have taken your
name!—that, indeed, is something that I cannot believe.”

“I had authorized him so to do.”


“Not only I did so, but all my friends did the same.”

“All, you say?”


“Of whom do you speak?”

“Of those who are in the theatre and to whom I have just bowed.”

“But where are they?”

“Ah, yes; I forgot you cannot see them.”

M. de Rastignac lightly touched my forehead with the forefinger of his
right hand, and, light as was his touch, I immediately felt a violent
electric shock, and it seemed as though I had undergone an operation
similar to that of removing a cataract.

“Now look about you,” said M. de Rastignac, and he pointed to the boxes
and stalls which I had thought were empty. They were occupied by ladies
and gentlemen, laughing and talking together in a most unghostlike

“They are almost all there,” said Madame Vauquer’s former lodger. “The
principal personages of the ‘Comédie Humaine’ have, like you, come to
salute the hundredth representation of ‘Mercadet,’ and their applause
is so loud, _so loud_, that the echo of their bravos will rejoice
Balzac in his tomb.”

“Am I losing my reason?” I asked myself.

“I see that you are skeptical, my dear fellow,” M. de Rastignac
continued, “but let me give you a few proofs. Here is one which will
satisfy you, I imagine;” and, turning about, he called to one of the


“Well, my dear count?”

“Where and when is your next drama?”

“It will be given at the opening of the Ambigu-Comique.”

“Will you send me a box?”

“Your name is already on the list.”

“Du Bruel!”

“What is it?”

“You are becoming lazy, now that you are a member of the Académie.”

“I? I have five acts in rehearsal at the Vaudeville and two at the

“That is not so bad, then. But where is your wife?”

“Tullia? She is in the third box to the left.”


“With La Palférine.”

“Bixion, your last caricatures were infamous.”

“Bah! I would like to see you try your hand at them, with the censure
at your heels.”

“How are you, Lou de Lora? How are you, Stedman? Your exposition is
superb. Ah, my friends, you are the princes of the Musée. But I say,
Stedman, Pradier has just died: there is a fine place open.”

“Yes; but then, alas, there are men who can never be replaced.”

All these questions and answers bounded like the balls which two clever
players serve and receive in a well-played game of tennis.

M. de Rastignac turned to me. “Are you as incredulous as before?” he
smilingly inquired.

“I? God forbid, sir, that I should doubt your word.”

In reality, however, I knew neither what to think nor what to believe,
for I had curiously examined all these people whom my celebrated
compatriot had addressed, and who, through M. de Balzac, as well as
through their own achievements, were known and liked throughout
civilized Europe. With the exception of Bixion, who was thin, poorly
dressed, and not decorated, all the others appeared to be in the most
flourishing state of health and fortune. Madame Tullia du Bruel was as
appetizing as ever, and La Palférine, familiarly leaning on the back of
her chair, exposed an ideal shirt and an impossible vest.

“Does M. de la Palférine no longer visit Madame de Rochegude?” I

“He is now entirely devoted to Tullia, and asserts that, after all, Du
Bruel’s cook is the finest artist in Paris.”

“Is Madame de Rochegude still living?”

“She sits in that second box to the right.”

“Who is with her?”


“The celebrated musician?”

“Yes, indeed. You remember the song,—

                       ‘Et l’on revient toujours,
                        A ses premiers amours.’”

It was with the greatest eagerness that I had turned to look at this
artificial blonde, who had been so greatly beloved by the young Baron
Calyste du Guénic. (Vide Béatrix.) A lace scarf was twisted about her
neck in such a way as to diminish its length. She appeared worn and
fatigued; but her figure was a masterpiece of composition, and she
offered that compound of light and brilliant drapery, of gauze and
crimped hair, of vivacity and calm, which is termed the je ne sais quoi.

Conti was also an object of great interest to me. He looked vexed, out
of sorts, and bored, and seemed to be meditating on the eternal truth
of that aphorism, profound and sombre as an abyss, which teaches that a
cigar once out should never be relighted, and an affection once buried
should never be exhumed.

“Is the Baron de Nucingen here?” I asked.

“Nucingen is confined to his bed with the gout; he has not two good
months out of the twelve.”

“And his wife?”

“The baroness no longer goes to the theatre. Religion, charity, and
sermons occupy every instant of her time. Her father, Père Goriot, has
now a white marble tomb and a perpetual resting-place in the cemetery
of Père La Chaise.”

“Where is her sister, Madame de Restaud?”

“She died a few years ago, legally separated from her husband.”

“Pardon my insatiable curiosity,” I said, “but ever since I was old
enough to read and think I have not ceased to live with the personages
of the ‘Comédie Humaine.’”

“I am glad indeed,” he courteously replied, “to be able to answer your
questions. Is there anything that you still care to know?”

“What has become of the ex-minister of agriculture and commerce, the
Comte Popinot, whom we called the little Anselme Popinot, in the days
of the greatness and decadence of César Birotteau?”

“He followed the exiled princes to England.”

“And Du Tillet?”

“Du Tillet is no longer in France.”

“Did he leave for political reasons?”

“Is it possible that you did not hear of his failure! He absconded one
day, with the till, ruined by Jenny Cadine and Suzanne du Val-Noble.”

“Where are the children of Madame de Montsauf, that celestial creature,
so justly called le Lys dans la Vallée?”

“Jacques died of consumption, leaving Madeleine sole mistress of an
enormous fortune. In spite of what M. de Balzac said, I always supposed
that she was secretly in love with Félix de Vandernesse. She is in that
first avant-scène. She is an old maid now, but is none the less an
adorable woman, and the true daughter of her mother.”

“Do you know the name of that individual who has just entered her box?”

“That is Canalis.”

“Canalis, the great poet, who played such an important part in the life
of Modeste Mignon?”


“I had thought that he was younger.”

“He has grown quite old during these last few years. He has turned his
attention to politics, and you may notice how politics hollows the
cheeks and silvers the hair of poetry. He would bankrupt Golconda,
however, and he is now attempting to win Mlle. de Montsauf and her
millions. But look to the left, in that first box from the door of the
gallery, and see whether you do not recognize one of the most curious
physiognomies of the ‘Comédie Humaine.’”

“Do you mean that stout woman?”

“Yes; it is Madame Nourrisau.”

“Vautrin’s aunt?”

“In flesh and blood, especially in flesh. There is the formidable hag
who went one day to the son of the Baron Hulot and proposed, for fifty
thousand francs, to rid him of Madame Marneffe. You must have read
about it in ‘La Cousine Bette.’”

“She is not alone, I see.”

“She is with her husband.”

“Her husband? Is it possible that she found one?”

“You forget that she is five or six times millionaire, and also the
general rule that where it rains millions husbands sprout. Her name is
now Madame Gaudessart, née Vautrin.”

“Is it the illustrious Gaudessart who is the husband of that horrible

“Legally so, I beg you to believe.”

“Speaking of the ‘Cousine Bette,’ can you tell me anything of Wencelas
Steinbock and his wife?”

“They are perfectly happy. It is young Hulot who misbehaves; his wife
is in that box over there, with the Steinbocks. Hulot has told them
that he will join them later, and has probably stated that he had some
urgent law business to attend to; but the truth is that he is behind
the scenes at the opera. Hulot is not his father’s son for nothing.”

At this point M. de Rastignac smiled affectionately at a white-haired
musician, who was tuning his violin.

“Is that the Cousin Pons?” I asked.

“You forget two things: first, that the Cousin Pons is dead; and
secondly, that in his lifetime he always wore a green velvet coat. But
though Orestes is no more, Pylades still lives. Damon has survived
Pythias. It is Schmucke who sits before you. He is very poor; he has
nothing but the fifty francs a month which he earns here, and the
payment of a few piano lessons at seventy-five centimes each; but he
will not accept any assistance, and, for my part, I have never seen
tatters more proudly worn.”

“Can you not,” I asked, “show me M. Maxime de Trailles?”

“De Trailles no longer lives in Paris. When the devil grows stout he
turns hermit. This retired condottiere is now a married man, the father
of a family, and resides in the country. He makes speeches at the
agricultural fairs, takes great interest in cattle, and represents his
county at the general assembly of his department,—_the late_ Maxime de
Trailles, as he is now pleased to call himself.”

“And Des Lupeaulx?”

“Des Lupeaulx is a prefect of the first class. But in place of these
gentlemen, you have before you, in that box, the Count Félix de
Vandernesse and the Countess Nathalie de Manerville; a little beyond,
the Grandvilles and the Grandlieux; then, the Duke de Rhétoré,
Laginski, D’Esgrignon Montreveau, Rochefide, and D’Ajuda-Ponto.
Moreover, there are the Cheffrevilles; but then what a pity it is that
our poor Camille Maupin is not present at this solemnity!”

“Is it of Mlle. des Touches that you speak?”


“Is she still religiously inclined?”

“She died like a saint, two years ago, in a convent near Nantes. She
retired from the world, you remember, after accomplishing the marriage
of Calyste du Guénic and Sabine de Grandlieu. What a woman she was!
There are none like her now.”

These last words of M. de Rastignac were covered by the three
traditional knocks which precede the rise of the curtain.

“‘Mercadet’ is about to commence,” he said.

“After the first act I will continue my gossip; provided, of course,
that I do not weary you with it.”

“Oh, my dear sir!” I cried. “My”—

I had not time to complete my phrase; a friendly but vigorous hand
grasped my arm.

“So you come to ‘Mercadet’ to sleep, do you?” said a well-known voice.

“I? Am I asleep?”

“You are not asleep now, but you were.”

I turned quickly around.

My neighbor was a fat-faced gentleman, with blue spectacles, who was
peeling an orange with the most ridiculous gravity.

In the boxes and orchestra stalls, wherever I had thought to see the
personages of the “Comédie Humaine,” I found only insignificant faces,
of the ordinary and graceless type,—a collection of obliterated medals.

At this moment the curtain rose, the actors appeared, and the great
comedy of “Mercadet” was revealed, amid the applause and delight of the

I had been dreaming, therefore, and if I had been dreaming I must have
been asleep. But what had provoked my somnolence? Was it the approach
of a storm, the heat of the theatre, or the vaudeville with which the
performance commenced?

Perhaps all three.


Footnote 18:

  _Balzac Chez Lui._ Léon Gozlan.

Footnote 19:

  _Le Figaro_, 20 October, 1876.

                              CHAPTER IV.

                          THE CHASE FOR GOLD.

“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ est.”—SENECA, _De
Tranquillitate Animi_, c. 15.

From Balzac’s early manhood his entire existence was consumed in a
feverish pursuit of wealth; and had the mines of California been
discovered at an earlier date, there is little doubt that he would have
exchanged his pen for a pick, and sought, in a red shirt, to realize
the millions with which he dowered his characters.

At the outset of his career, he was, as has been seen, unsuccessful in
a business enterprise, and became, in consequence, heavily involved in
debt. This spectre of the past haunted him so continually that it not
only found frequent expression in his writings, in which money became a
hymn, but it brought to him illusions and projects of fortune which
were at once curious and fantastic.

At one time, shortly after the publication of “Facino Cane,”—who, it
will be remembered, was imprisoned in the dungeons of Venice, and, in
making his escape, discovered the hidden treasures of the Doges, which
he proposed to seek and share with his biographer,—Balzac became
fairly intoxicated with the delusions of his hero, and his dreams of
secreted wealth assumed such a semblance of reality that he at last
imagined, or pretended that he had learned, the exact spot where
Toussaint Louverture had buried his famous booty.

“‘The Gold Bug’ of Edgar Poe,” Gautier writes, “did not equal in
delicacy of induction and clearness of detail his feverish recital of
the proposed expedition by which we were to become masters of a
treasure far richer than Kidd’s.”

“Sandeau was as easily seduced as myself. It was necessary that Balzac
should have two robust and devoted accomplices, and, in exchange for
our assistance, he was good enough to offer to each of us a quarter of
the prodigious fortune. Half was to be his, by right of conquest. It
was arranged that we were to purchase spades and picks, place them
secretly in a ship, and, to avoid suspicion, reach the designated spot
by different roads, and then, after having disinterred the treasure, we
were to embark with it on a brig freighted in advance. In short, it was
a real romance, which would have been admirable had it been written
instead of recited. It is of course unnecessary to add that the booty
was not unearthed. We discovered that we had no money to pay our
traveling expenses, and our united capital was insufficient to purchase
even the spades.”

At another time Balzac conceived the project of manufacturing paper
from a substance which was at once cheap and plentiful. Experiments,
however, proved that his plan was impracticable, and a friend who
called to console him found that, instead of being dejected, he was
even more jovial than ever.

“Never mind about the paper,” he said. “I have a better scheme yet.”

It was this: While reading Tacitus, he had stumbled upon a reference to
the mines of Sardinia; his imagination, aided by his scientific
knowledge, carried him back to the imperfect mechanical processes of
old Rome, and he saw at once a vision of wealth, awaiting only modern
appliances to be his own. With the greatest difficulty he
collected—partly from his mother, partly from his cousin, and partly
from that aunt whom the Anglo-Saxon Bohemian has converted into an
uncle—the sum of five hundred francs; and then, having reached Genoa,
he embarked for Alghiero, explaining his project to the captain of the
vessel with the candor of an infant.

Once in Sardinia, dressed like a beggar,—a terror to brigands and
monks,—he sought the mines on foot. They were easily found. With a few
specimens of the ore, he returned immediately to Paris, where an
analysis showed them to contain a large proportion of silver. Jubilant
with success, he would then have applied to the Italian government for
a concession of the mines, but unfortunately he was, for the moment,
detained by lawsuits and other business, and when he at last set out
for Milan it was too late. The perfidious captain had thought the idea
so good that, without preliminary examinations, he had lost no time in
securing an authorization in due form, and was then quietly proceeding
to make a fortune.

“There is a million in the mines,” Balzac wrote to his sister. “A
Marseilles firm has assayed the scoriæ, but the delay has been fatal.
The Genoese captain has already obtained a contract from the
government. However, I have another idea, which is even better; this
time there will be no Genoese. I am already consoled.”

After having read “Venice Preserved” and admired the union of Pierre
and Jaffier, Balzac says that he began to consider the peculiar virtues
of those who are thrown outside of the social order,—the honesty of
the galleys, the fidelity of robbers, and the privileges of that
enormous power which these men obtain in fusing all ideas into one
supreme will,—and concluded that, man being greater than men, society
should belong entirely to those whose brilliancy, intelligence, and
wealth could be joined in a fanaticism warm enough to melt their
different forces into a single jet. An occult power of this
description, he argued, would be the master of society; it would
reverse obstacles, enchain desires, and give to one the superhuman
power of all; it would be a world within a world, admitting none of its
ideas, recognizing none of its laws; it would be a league of
filibusters in yellow gloves and dogcarts, who could at all times be
ready to devote themselves in their entirety to any one among them who
should require their united aid.

This novel conception was not only the motif of the “Histoire des
Treize,” but no sooner was the book completed than Balzac, in
accordance with his mania for living his characters, attempted to
reproduce it in real life,—or rather, in the other life, for his true
world was the one which he carried in his brain,—and without
difficulty recruited for this purpose Jules Sandeau, Léon Gozlan,
Laurent Jan, Gérard de Nerval, Merle, Alphonse Karr, and Granier de

The aim of the association, which he explained with that tumultuous
eloquence for which he was famous and which silenced every objection,
was simply to grasp the leading-strings of the principal newspapers,
invade the theatres, take seats in the Académie, and become
millionaires and peers of France. When any one of them produced a book
or a play, the others were to write about it, talk about it, and
advertise it generally, until its success was assured; and as nothing
succeeds like success, a good commencement was all that was needed to
insure an easy and glorious ascent.

The project was enthusiastically received and unanimously approved. The
society was entitled the “Cheval Rouge,” and Balzac was elected chief.

In order to avoid suspicion, it was agreed that in public the members
should not appear to know each other, and Karr relates that for a long
time Balzac would pretend, whenever he saw him, that they met for the
first time, and would communicate with him only in an actor’s aside.
The meetings of the society were pre-arranged by the chief. The notices
consisted of a card, on which was painted a red horse, and the words,
stable, such a day, such a place; in order to make it still more
fantastic, the place was changed each time.

This project, which of course resulted in nothing, and which was soon
abandoned, was none the less practicable, and minus the mysterious
farce with which it was surrounded has since, in many instances, been
put into successful operation.

Through one of those psychical phenomena which generate within us a
diversity of sentiment while uniting their contradictory elements,
Balzac was tortured by a combined distaste and affection for
journalism. It possessed a morbid attraction for him; and while he
execrated the entire profession, he longed none the less for an
editor’s chair, from which he could bombard his enemies at his ease,
and glean at the same time the rich harvest which a successful review
invariably produces.

The foundation of a journal, however, is money, more money, always
money; and Balzac, who was rich only in unrecognized audacity and
unquoted talent, after having tried in every way to acquire the
necessary capital, was about to abandon his scheme as hopeless, when
Providence in the form of a young man passed the sentries and entered
his room.

“M. de Balzac?”

And Balzac, to whom every stranger was a dun, replied, “It is, sir, and
it is not; it depends.”

“I am looking for the author of ‘La Peau de Chagrin.’”

“Ah! then, I am he.”

“Sir,” said the youth, “I understand that you are about to edit a
journal, and I have come to ask for the position of theatrical critic.
I would also like to write the fashion article.”

Balzac, furious at the intrusion and indignant at the youth’s
proposition to collaborate in a journal whose appearance was prevented
by lack of funds, was about to order the young man out, when he
suddenly noticed that he was clothed in the most expensive manner.

“May I ask whom I have the honor of addressing?” inquired the ogre,
with his most seductive smile.

“I am the son of M. Chose, the banker.”

Balzac became very fascinating. “I thought so,—I thought so from the
first; you look like him. Will you not sit down? As we were saying, I
am about to edit the ‘Chronique de Paris,’ whose appearance, so
impatiently awaited, I have delayed only that its success might be the
better assured. And did I understand you to say that you would like to
take charge of the theatrical criticisms?”

“Yes, indeed, sir, if you think me capable.”

“Capable? Do I think you capable? Why, all the more capable, as it is
unusual for a banker’s son to wish to enter a purely literary
association. The blood of a financier is seldom inclined to”...

“I do not care for letters of credit, M. de Balzac. I care for
_letters_, simply.”

“Adorable witticism!” cried Balzac, illuminated with hope. “And you
care, then, for literature, in spite of the immense fortune which you

“I expect ten millions more,” interrupted the youth.

“Ten millions!”

“Rather more than less, M. de Balzac.”

“Nothing could be better or more opportune,” smiled this courtesan of
wealth, reduced to adulating an idiot. “I was just wondering whom I
should select. The position is yours. No, no; it is for me to thank
you. My best regards to your dear father.”

The youth had barely turned the corner when Balzac hastily summoned the
members of the “Cheval Rouge.”

“At last I have a capitalist!” he cried. “He has promised nothing, it
is true, but I have reason to believe that, properly managed, he will
invest anywhere from a hundred thousand up. He is an idiot, the son of
Chose the banker. He wants to be dramatic critic, and that means money,
simply money, and lots of it. But,” he continued, “the affair cannot be
arranged without a subtle preparation and solemn initiation, and
preparation and initiation mean _dinner_. It is at a dinner, not frugal
but sumptuous, adorned with a garland of editors and critics, each more
seductive than the other, that the alliance of your intelligence and
the money of my imbecile will be consummated; and then, with the
champagne in his throat, he will tell us how much he proposes to pour
into the till of the ‘Chronique de Paris.’ It has not got one yet, to
be sure, but we will buy one as soon as he furnishes the money.”

“But there will be about twenty of us,” objected de Nerval, “and the
dinner will cost at least four hundred francs. Where are they? Have you
got them?”

“No, but I will find them,” Balzac answered, with a magnificent
gesture. “It is not a question of a dinner in a restaurant, for that
would smack of the adventurer a mile away; and besides, there of course
you pay cash. The banquet shall be served here, and on credit. We have
only to inspire some caterer with sufficient confidence.”

“Charming,” said Merle, as he looked about the poorly furnished
apartment; “but how is that sufficiency of confidence to be inspired?”

After innumerable propositions had been discussed and rejected, Balzac
discovered that Granier de Cassagnac had a service of silver in pawn
for eight hundred francs, and prevailed on Gautier to borrow a like
amount, disengage the silver, which, negligently exposed on Balzac’s
table, would inspire confidence in any caterer; promising that after
the dinner the silver should be immediately repawned and the loan

“My plan is triumphant!” he exclaimed; “the money is ours. To-morrow we
will liberate the silver. Tuesday, conference with the caterer.
Wednesday, invitation on vellum launched at our young capitalist; the
same evening, solemn engagement on his part to invest, accompanied on
ours by the most hilarious toasts. Thursday, contract drawn by a notary
and signed by the delicate hand of our millionaire. Friday, reunion and
tea, to read over the prospectus, which I will compose. Saturday,
colossal advertisement on every wall, monument, and column; and the
week after, brilliant apparition on the Parisian horizon of the first
number. Soldiers! to arms!”

This programme, joyously arranged, was fearlessly carried out. The
silver was liberated, the caterer inspired with confidence, the
invitation accepted, and after a sumptuous repast Balzac, glass in
hand, arose and addressed the company as follows:—

“Gentlemen, you are all aware of the object for which we have assembled
this evening about the liberal and gracious guest here seated at my
right. It is the creation of a publication destined to assume, thanks
to him and to his munificent intelligence, an unexceptionable position
among the reviews of the century. Although I have not, to my great
regret, been possessed of sufficient leisure to cultivate as I should
have desired this rare intelligence, which has been called not only to
fecundate our own, but also to assist us in spreading the fruits of our
genius over a world which awaits them, and which, I may confidently
state, would never know them save for the generous and effective
assistance of our guest, I may nevertheless be permitted to say to what
extent he has, in momentary confidences, permitted me to foresee
treasuries of encouragement and rich rewards. I do not fear, therefore,
to say that the ‘Chronique de Paris’ will owe to him its existence, its
splendor, and its popularity. Were my emotion not so great and so real,
I would speak at greater length of the future of our cherished and
illustrious publication; but I prefer, in begging you, in honor of our
guest, to join your toasts to mine, to leave the floor to him, that he
may explain what in his generosity he proposes to do for the ‘Chronique
de Paris,’ at once happy and proud to possess him as protector and

Then, lowering his voice to one of simple politeness, Balzac turned to
his guest, and said, “Be good enough, my dear young friend, to explain
what your liberal intentions are.”

“Gentlemen,” the banker’s son replied, “I will talk it over with papa.”

Balzac grew white as the table-cloth, but, magnificent in his defeat,
hardly had the pseudo-capitalist disappeared than he exclaimed, with an
accent which might have unsettled destiny itself, “It is daylight; let
us repawn the silver!”[20]

Partly for the sake of solitude, and partly to affect, for business
purposes, an appearance of luxury, Balzac, in 1837, built a villa at
Ville d’Avray, which he named Les Jardies, as a reminiscence of the
days when Louis XIV. lounged at Versailles.

It consisted of but three rooms, or rather three stories. The ground
floor, the _rez-de-chaussée_, was the reception-room, the second the
study, and the third the bedroom.

When the architect’s plan was first submitted, the staircase greatly
interfered with the dimensions of the rooms, and Balzac, exasperated at
this impertinence, ordered it out of the house, and caused it, by way
of punishment, to climb in spiral solitude about the outer wall.

This little eccentricity gave to his parrot’s cage the appearance of
having been transplanted from some old Hanseatic or Flemish town, and
satisfied at the same time his proprietary pride.

At a little distance was another habitation, in which the kitchen and
servants’ rooms were situated; and the whole establishment was
surrounded by a high wall, which, being built on the incline of a
hillock, was devastated by every storm, and fell five times into his
neighbor’s grounds; until Balzac, wearied by constant summons and
complaints, bought the surrounding property, that his cherished wall
might lie at ease where it chose.

The interior of Les Jardies was fully in keeping with the character of
its owner. The reception-room was but scantily furnished, and the bare
walls were ornamented with a promise of Gobelin tapestry traced in

On the ceiling was written, “Fresco by Delacroix.” On the wall of his
study he wrote, “Here is a regal Venetian mirror,” while a corner of
his bedroom assured the visitor that he was looking at one of Raphael’s
priceless Madonnas.

In this way Balzac furnished his home with magnificent dreams, while he
dined, perhaps, as did that creation of Dickens, who cut his bread into
imaginary omelets, and sliced it into tenderloins.

Before Balzac’s advent, the plot of ground on which Les Jardies was
built had been a vineyard, on which the warm sun had lain all day, and
ripened the clustering grapes. The knowledge of this fact preoccupied
him greatly. If grapes had grown there, he argued, why should not
anything else? Why should not pine-apples?

Now pine-apples were dear in Paris, costing from ten to fifteen francs
apiece; and no sooner did this idea present itself than it was
grappled, seized, and caressed by Balzac, who immediately saw an annual
harvest of an hundred thousand pine-apples, which had bloomed in
hot-houses as yet unbuilt.

These pine-apples would, he thought, sell at least for five francs
apiece; the attendant expenses could not be over a hundred thousand
francs; and by a simple mathematical process, with which no one was
more familiar, he foresaw a princely revenue of four hundred thousand
francs more.

These four hundred thousand francs danced with such charm and grace
before him that he lost no time in looking for a shop in which to sell
his unplanted fruit. He soon found a suitable one on the Boulevard
Montmartre, which he would have immediately hired, painted in black and
yellow, and decorated with an enormous sign, bearing for epigraph
Pine-apples from Les Jardies, had he not been forcibly dissuaded by
friends less enthusiastic than he.

In this way scheme succeeded scheme, and one project was abandoned only
for another. His latest idea he always considered his best, unless he
was agreed with, when he would reverse all his arguments to prove that
a precedent one was better still. At one time he thought that through a
mathematical combination he had discovered a system which would enable
him to break the bank at Baden; at another he proposed to cut down a
forest in Poland, and supply Paris with timber, and would have done so
had not his brother-in-law proved to him that the expenses for
transportation would far exceed any possible profit.

To make money, to become a millionaire, and to lead the life of a
prince was his constant aim and ambition.

“The life of an artist,” he said, “should be a succession of
splendors;” and while he detested Dumas, he secretly admired his
Oriental magnificence and envied his prodigal luxury. But while the
firm of Dumas and Company was manufacturing novels by the dozen, Balzac
was engaged in weighing a phrase and occupied with its corrections;
while Dumas never so much as glanced at the proof-sheets of his
feuilletons, Balzac’s were not only carefully corrected, but the
attendant expenses were, by agreement, charged to him; and where, as in
the case of “Pierrette,” he was obliged to pay for the corrections
three hundred francs more than he received for the story itself, it
will be readily understood that the amounts which he earned by his pen
were not always as satisfactory as could have been desired.

In this respect, however, it should be stated that while the money
which he earned in his later years was out of all proportion to that
which he at first received, yet, in the mean time, some few debts had
necessarily accumulated, and his income, consequently reduced, averaged
at best not more than ten or twelve thousand francs.

The history of his financial troubles, and of that which he laughingly
termed his floating debt, can best be found in his correspondence,
which, ranging from his twentieth year to but a few days prior to his
death, contains many details of the thirty years’ war which he waged
with poverty; and his letters, while interesting in their account of
his transient successes, attendant struggles, defeats, and final
victory, will convince even the prejudiced reader, that the writer was,
in the first place, a man of the strictest integrity; for it may be
said, without exaggeration, that the better part of his life was passed
in attempting to satisfy that necessity whose earthly representatives
are creditors; secondly, that his morals were perfectly pure, for he
loved and reverenced women with that _amor intellectualis_ which made
chastity to him one of those graces which are superfluities to the
vulgar and necessities to the re-fined; and thirdly, that his heart,
which was as great as his brain, was yet too full of affection, for
those whom he loved to harbor malice against his detractors and

The earliest of these letters, the majority of which are addressed to
his sister, or to Madame Zulma Carraud, one of her intimate friends,
are mere descriptions of his life and poverty, and are expressed with
the smiling indifference of youth, to whom the shadows of the future
are yet vague and distant.

“Since you are so much interested in all that I do,” he wrote from
Paris to his sister, in 1819, “you must know that last night I slept
magnificently; and how could I do otherwise? I dreamed of you, of
mother, of my loves, of my hopes, and now, on awakening, I give you my
earliest thoughts. I must tell you, in the first place, that that
wretch, Myself, becomes more and more negligent. He goes but twice a
week for provisions, and then, being economical even of his steps,
always to the nearest, and consequently to the worst, shops in the
neighborhood; hence, your brother, destined to such celebrity, is
already nourished like any other great man, which means that he is
dying of hunger.”

To his sister, in the following year, he wrote,—

“I feel to-day that wealth does not constitute happiness, and that my
life here will be to me always a source of the sweetest remembrances.
To live as I choose; to work when I will, and after my own manner; to
do nothing, even, if I so desire; to fall asleep in a beautiful future;
to think of you, and to know that you are happy; to possess the Julie
of Rousseau for mistress, La Fontaine and Molière for friends, Racine
for master, and Père-Lachaise for promenade!... Oh, could it but last

And a little later,—

“I have just returned from Père-Lachaise, where I have been inhaling
magnificent inspirations. Decidedly, the only beautiful epitaphs are
such as these, _La Fontaine_, _Molière_, _Masséna_,—a single name
which tells all, and makes the passer dream!”...

The next year he wrote,—

“DEAR SISTER,—I am going to work like the horse of Henri IV. before it
was cast in bronze; and this year I hope to make the twenty thousand
francs which are to commence my fortune. I have a quantity of novels
and dramas to prepare.... In a little while there will be, between the
me of to-day and the me of to-morrow, the difference that exists
between the boy of twenty and the man of thirty. I reflect; my ideas
ripen; and I see that in giving to me the heart and head which I
possess Nature has treated me with favor. Believe in me, dear sister;
for while I do not despair of being something, some day, I yet have
need of a believer. I see now that ‘Cromwell’ had not even the merit of
an embryo. As to my novels, they are as poor as the devil, though not
half so seductive.”

But when, later on, at the age of twenty-seven, Balzac found himself
without position, without a profession, entirely unknown, without
resources, and burdened, moreover, with a debt of 120,000 francs,—the
result of his disastrous experience as printer and publisher,—he had
but his pen with which to conquer poverty and combat the world. His
family had no faith in him; they had sunk a large sum in his
enterprise; he was friendless, and his genius was entirely
unrecognized; and it is at once curious and pathetic to note through
the rest of his correspondence the continued recurrence and repetition
of his dream of prospective fortune and freedom from debt.

His first letters after his disaster are profoundly sad: in one he
wrote to his sister,—

“I must live without asking aid of any one. I must live to work, that I
may repay you all; but shall I be able to live long enough to pay my
debts of love and gratitude as well?”

To the Duchesse d’Abrantès, in the same year, he wrote,—

“I wonder if you have ever experienced the extent to which misfortunes
develop within us the terrible faculty of breasting a tempest, and of
opposing to adversity an immobile calm.

“As for myself, I have acquired the habit of smiling at the torments of
fate,—torments that still continue.

“I am old in suffering, but my light-hearted appearance offers no
criterion of my age. I have never been otherwise; I have been always
bent beneath a terrible weight. Nothing can give you an idea of the
life which I have led, nor of my astonishment at having nothing but
fortune to combat.

“Were you to inquire about me, you would be unable to obtain any
insight to the nature of my misfortunes; but then you know there are
those who die without any apparent disease....

“I have undertaken two books at a time, to say nothing of a number of
articles. The days evaporate in my hands like ice in the sunlight. I do
not live; I waste away; but death from work or from any other cause
amounts to the same thing in the end.... I sleep from six in the
evening until midnight, and then I work for sixteen hours. I have but
one hour of liberty, and that during dinner. I have sworn to owe
nothing, and though I die like a dog my courage will support me to the

In 1831, he wrote to the same lady,—

“You do not know that in 1828 I had but my pen with which to live and
pay off 120,000 francs. In a few months I shall be free from debt, and
be able to arrange a comfortable home. During the next six months,
therefore, I shall enjoy my last miseries. I have asked aid from no
one. I have never stretched my hand, either for a page or a sou. I have
hidden my griefs and my wounds, and you who know how difficult it is to
make money with the pen will, with your feminine glance, be able to
sound the depths of the abyss which I disclose to you, and by the side
of which I have marched without falling.”

In the following year, he wrote to his mother,—

“Sooner or later, literature, politics, journalism, marriage, or some
good speculation will make my fortune.”

And later on,—

“Thank you, my sister; you have restored to me that energy which has
been my sole support. Yes, you are right. I will not stop; I will
continue to advance, and some day you will see mine counted among the
great names of our country.... My books are the only replies which I
shall make to those who commence to attack me. Do not let their
criticisms annoy you: they are the best of auguries; mediocrity is
never discussed. Tell my mother that I love her as I did when a child.
The tears fall from my eyes as I write these lines,—tears of
tenderness and of despair, for I feel my future near at hand, and in my
days of triumph my mother will be a necessity. When will they come? As
to you and to your husband, I can only hope that you will never doubt
my heart, and if I do not write to you let your tenderness be
indulgent. Do not misjudge my silence, but say, rather, ‘He thinks of
us, he is speaking to us;’ for, after my long meditations and
overwhelming duties, I rest in your hearts as in some delicious spot
where there is no pain.”

In the same year, from Aix, he wrote to his mother,—

“I shall not return to Paris until all my engagements are fulfilled;
when I do so everything will have been paid off.”

In 1833, to Madame Carraud,—

“My life is mechanically changed. I go to sleep with the chickens and
am called at one in the morning. I then work until eight o’clock, sleep
for an hour, and at nine I take a cup of pure coffee, and remain in
harness until four. I then take a bath, and go out, and after dinner
return to bed. Profit is slow, and debts are inexorable, but I am
certain now of immense wealth. I have but to wait and work for three

In the following year, he wrote,—

“The fiascos of the ‘Médecin de Campagne’ and ‘Louis Lambert’ have
affected me deeply, but I am resolved that nothing shall discourage me.
After the 1st of August I think that I shall be free.”

And later on, in the same year,—

“If I but live, I shall have a beautiful position, and we will all be
happy. Let us laugh then still, my sweet sister; the house of Balzac
will triumph yet.”

To his mother he wrote,—

“The day when we shall all be happy rapidly approaches. I begin to
gather the fruit of the sacrifices which I made for the sake of future
prosperity. In a few months I will bring to you the ease and comfort
which you need.... Oh, my dear mother, you will yet live to see my
beautiful future; for, in the end, everything must bend beneath the
work of him who loves you, and is your devoted son.”

In 1835 he wrote to Werdet, his publisher,—

“Some day,—and that day rapidly advances,—we shall both have made our
fortune; and the sight of our carriages meeting in the Bois will make
our enemies swoon with envy.”

To his mother, in the same year, he wrote,—

“Do not be vexed at my silence. I not only have a great deal to do, but
I work twenty-one hours and a half daily. A letter is not only a loss
of money, but an hour’s sleep and a drop of blood.”

To Madame Hanska he wrote,—

“That you may know the extent of my courage, I must tell you that the
‘Secret des Ruggieri’ was written in one night, ‘La Vieille Fille’ in
three, and ‘La Perle Brisée,’ which terminates ‘L’Enfant Maudit,’ was
composed in a few hours of mental and physical agony. It is my Brienne,
my Champaubert, my Montmirail. It is my campaign in France.”

And to Madame Carraud,—

“I sleep but five hours, and work eighteen. I shall purchase the
Grenadière,[21] and pay my debts. I need at least a year to be
completely free from debt, but the happiness of owing nothing, which I
thought impossible, is no longer a chimera.”

In October, 1836, he wrote to Madame Hanska,—

“You do not know the depths of my grief, nor the sombre courage which
accompanies the second great defeat which I have experienced.[22] The
first occurred when I was barely twenty-nine; and then I had an angel
at my side.[23] To-day I am too old to inspire a sentiment of
inoffensive protection.... I am overcome, but not conquered. My courage
yet remains.... During the past month, I have worked from midnight
until six in the evening; and while I have observed the strictest diet,
that my brain might not be troubled by the fatigue of digestion,
nevertheless, I not only suffer from indescribable weaknesses, but I
also experience nervous attacks of the most singular character. I
sometimes lose the sense of verticality, and even in bed it seems as
though my head fell to the right or to the left; and when I attempt to
get up I am as though weighed down by an enormous burden, which seems
to be in my brain. I understand now how Pascal’s absolute continence
and excessive brain work caused him continually to see an abyss about
him, and obliged him to sit between two chairs.... But if I do not
succumb in the mean time, two years of work will suffice for the
payment of everything.”

To the same lady, two years later, he wrote,—

“I am thirty-nine years old, and I owe two hundred thousand francs.
Belgium has stolen a million from me.”[24]

In 1838 he wrote to Madame Carraud,—

“I have greater faith than ever in my work. I have been offered twenty
thousand francs for a play. Hereafter, I shall devote my time to the
theatre; books no longer pay.... You have no idea how happy I shall be
in a few years. My gains will be enormous.”

A few months later he wrote,—

“My debts and money troubles are the same as ever, but my courage has
redoubled with the decrease of my desires.... I hope to remain here[25]
for three or four months, and then, if my plays succeed, it may be that
over and above my debts I shall have gained sufficient capital to
supply my daily bread, my flowers, and my fruits. The rest, perhaps,
will come with time.”

Continually overthrown, but never conquered, in his letters during the
next eight years he seems to breathe the delicious idea of De Custine,
that hope is the imagination of those who are unhappy. In May, 1846,
however, he wrote to his sister,—

“A series of terrible and unbelievable disasters have happened to me. I
am entirely without money, and am being sued by those who were friendly
to me.... I shall have to work eighteen hours a day.”

These terrible and unbelievable disasters were the result of a debt of
ten thousand francs, which he owed to William Duckett, the editor of
the “Dictionnaire de la Conversation,” who, being in difficulties
himself, was obliged not only to sue Balzac, but to obtain an order for
his arrest. Balzac, however, was not to be found. No trace of him was
to be had at Passy, nor at any of his several habitations, which,
though secret to the world at large, were necessarily known to the
police. One day, however, a woman, whose advances to Balzac had not
been met with that degree of cordiality which she had doubtless
expected, called upon Duckett, and told him that Balzac was to be found
at the residence of Madame Visconti, on the Champs-Élysées.

In an hour the house was surrounded, and Balzac, interrupted in the
middle of a chapter, was informed that a cab awaited him at the door.
Madame Visconti, with a hospitality which was simply royal, asked the
amount of the debt, and paid the ten thousand francs on the spot. A few
days later Balzac wrote to Madame Hanska,—

“You can form no idea of the life of a hunted hare which I have led.
Two years of calm and tranquillity are absolutely necessary to soothe
my spirit, worn by sixteen years of successive catastrophes. I am
tired, very tired, of this incessant struggle. My last debts are more
irksome than all the others which I have paid.”

But now in regard to these debts, to the payment of which he seems to
have devoted his life, it is only natural to ask in what they consisted
and whence they came: for they became as famous as Balzac himself; they
followed him about like a glittering retinue, and found their way not
only into his correspondence, but into his romances, and supplied him
with a subject of conversation of which he never tired.

Balzac, as has been seen, wished to be considered as much of a Monte
Cristo as Dumas himself, and could not, without causing his pen to
blush, permit it to be believed that he did not extract from his books
the same magnificent harvest which was annually reaped by his rival.
The debt of 120,000 francs which had crippled his early manhood was,
with his habitual probity, soon wiped out; but the remembrance of it
remained, and this remembrance, joined to the annoyance caused by a few
creditors, suggested an innocent deceit which would explain why he did
not live in a palace and enjoy the splendors of a literary monarch. He
imagined, therefore, and caused it to be understood that he was not
only immensely in debt, but that the sums which he owed were fabulous;
and he talked of them, wrote of them, and increased them to such an
extent that it was not long before they became even more celebrated
than the prodigalities of his confrère.

His debts, however, both real and imaginary, were finally paid, and
their liquidation was the climax of the solitary romance of his life.

About the year 1835, he became acquainted with the Countess Hanska, a
Polish lady, of great beauty and immense wealth, whose husband was an
invalid. It has been stated—on what authority it has been difficult to
discover—that when she accidentally met the author of the “Comédie
Humaine” her emotion was so great that she lost consciousness. The
better opinion, however, would be that a correspondence, begun on her
side after the publication of the “Médecin de Campagne,” a work which
she greatly admired, was continued for a number of years before they
finally met. Balzac paid several visits to her Polish estates, and it
is probable that she frequently came to Paris. After her husband’s
death marriage was naturally thought of, but for the time being there
were many obstacles: Balzac’s pecuniary position was most unfortunate,
while she, as a Russian subject, was not in a position to marry

The winter of 1848, as well as the spring of the following year, Balzac
passed at Vierzschovnia, with Madame Hanska and her children. He was
wretchedly ill, and the physicians had forbidden any kind of mental
labor. Incessant work and the abuse of coffee had seriously undermined
his constitution and shattered his nerves of steel, but the day to
which he had looked with such constant expectation had at last arrived:
his debts were not only paid, but the revenues from the sale of his
books were magnificent.

For some little time he had been preparing in the Rue Fortunée—now Rue
Balzac—a superb residence. His taste in furniture and works of art
found ample expression there. For one set of Florentine workmanship the
king of Holland himself was in treaty, while his art gallery was the
same as is described in “Le Cousin Pons.”

While he was in Poland his mother was his general agent, and he wrote
to her the most minute directions of everything appertaining to the
house, its fixtures and decorations; and finally, on the 17th March,
1850, he wrote from Vierzschovnia as follows:—

“Three days ago I married the only woman whom I have loved, whom I love
more than ever, and whom I shall love until death. I believe that this
union is the recompense that God has held in reserve for me through so
many adversities, years of work, and difficulties suffered and
overcome. My youth was unhappy and my spring was flowerless, but I
shall have the most brilliant summer and the sweetest of autumns.”

Balzac had now fulfilled his two immense desires: he was celebrated, he
was beloved. His own income combined with that which remained to his
wife—she had, at his instance, made over the greater portion of her
fortune to her children—sufficed for the realization of his most
extravagant dreams. “I shall live to be eighty,” he said. “I will
terminate the ‘Comédie Humaine’ and write dozens of dramas. I will have
two children,—not more; two look well on the front seat of a landau.”
It was all too beautiful; nothing remained but death, and five months
after his marriage, on the 20th of August, 1850, after thirty years of
ceaseless toil, at the very moment when the world was his, Balzac, as a
finishing touch to his own “Études Philosophiques,” died suddenly of
disease of the heart.

At his grave in Père-Lachaise is a simple monument, bearing for epitaph
that “single name which tells all and makes the passer dream;” and
here, at the very spot where Rastignac, after the burial of Père
Goriot, hurled his supreme defiance at Paris, Victor Hugo delivered the
funeral oration.

“Alas!” he said, “this powerful and tireless worker, this philosopher,
this thinker and poet, whose existence was filled with more labors than
days, passed among us that life of struggles and combats common in all
time to all great men. To-day, at last, he is at peace: he has taken
leave of contests and hatreds, and enters now both glory and the tomb.
Hereafter he will shine above all the clouds about us, high among the
stars of our country.”


Footnote 20:

  _H. de Balzac_, by Eugène de Mirecourt. _H. de Balzac_, by Armand
  Bashet. _Balzac en Pantoufles_, by Léon Gozlan.

Footnote 21:

  A villa on the Loire.

Footnote 22:

  The disastrous result of his lawsuit with the _Revue des Deux Mondes_.

Footnote 23:

  Madame de Berny, a devoted friend.

Footnote 24:

  An allusion to the pirated editions of his works.

Footnote 25:

  At Les Jardies.

                              CHAPTER V.

                              THE THINKER.

“Un écrivain doit se regarder comme un instituteur des hommes.”—BONALD.

Balzac, to borrow a Hindu expression, was “an artificer who built like
a giant and finished like a jeweler.” The groundwork of the “Comédie
Humaine” was grandly conceived and admirably executed; and though a few
of the balconies of its superb superstructure are incomplete, yet as,
happily, masterpieces are ever eternally young, it shows no signs of
decay, and there is little danger of its falling in ruins.

For the decoration of this work, Balzac brought a subtle analysis of
men, women, and things, and adorned it all with brilliant ideas and
profound reflections, of which the saddest were dug from his own
sufferings, and not, as a great writer has said, from the hearts of his

As everything that he wrote is more or less worthy of attention, a
complete collection of his theories and teachings would be as
impossible, as an arrangement of Emerson’s best thoughts, and in any
event would ill befit the unpretentious character of this treatise. For
his elaborate monographs on religion, morality, society, politics,
science, and art, the reader must turn to the complete edition of his
writings; for in these pages the attempt will be made to render only a
handful of unsorted aphorisms and reflections, taken at random, of
which the majority will be found to touch merely upon every-day topics,
and that in the lightest possible vein.

With this brief explanation, for which your indulgence is requested,
the crier gives way to the thinker.

A woman is to her husband that which her husband has made her.

It is still a question, both in politics and marriage, whether empires
are overthrown and happiness destroyed through over-confidence or
through too great severity.

A husband risks nothing in affecting to believe his wife, and in
patiently holding his tongue. Of all things, silence worries a woman

It is, perhaps, only those who believe in God who do good in secret.

Statesmen, thinkers, men who have commanded armies,—in a word, those
who are really great,—are natural and unaffected, and their simplicity
places one at once on an equality with them.

Comprehension is equality.

Discussion weakens all things.

Genius is intuition.

The most striking effects of art are but rough counterfeits of nature.

To the despair of man, he can do nothing, either for good or for evil,
but that which is imperfect. His every work, be it intellectual or
physical, is stamped with the mark of destruction.

Avarice begins where poverty ends.

Dignity is but the screen of pride; from behind it we rage at our ease.

There are certain rich organizations, on whom the extremes of happiness
and misery produce a soporific effect.

The most natural sentiments are those which are acknowledged with the
greatest repugnance.

The first requisite of revenge is dissimulation. An avowed hatred is

It is in the nature of women to prove the impossible by the possible,
and to destroy facts with presentiments.

Power does not consist in striking hard and often, but in striking with

To stroll about the streets is in itself a science; it is the
gastronomy of the eye.

Nowadays, to be hopelessly in love, or to be wearied of life,
constitutes social position.

Love is immense, but it is not infinite, while science has limitless

Prosperity brings with it an intoxication, which inferior natures never

It is but the heart that does not age.

The graces of manner and conversation are gifts of nature, or the fruit
of an education begun at the cradle.

As soon as a misfortune occurs, some friend or other is always ready to
tell us, and to run a dagger into our hearts, while expecting us to
admire the handle.

It is frequently at the very moment when men most despair of their
future that their fortune begins.

To talk of love is to make love.

A married woman is a slave who needs a throne.

The grandeur of desires is in proportion to the breadth of the

A husband who leaves nothing to be desired is lost.

There is no greater incentive to life than the conviction that our
death would bring happiness to others.

Where there is no self-respect solitude is hateful.

A lover has all the virtues and all the defects that a husband has not.

The more one judges the less one loves.

Chance is the great romancer; to be prolific one has but to study it.

Grief as well as pleasure has its initiation.

Apart from the comedian, the prince, and the cardinal, there is a man
at once prince and comedian,—a man robed in magnificent vestments. I
speak of the poet, who appears to do nothing, yet who reigns above
humanity when he has known how to depict it.

Woman’s virtue is perhaps a question of temperament.

To live by the pen is a labor which galley-slaves would refuse; they
would prefer death. To live by the pen consists in creating,—creating
to-day, to-morrow, forever, ... or to appear to, and the appearance
costs as much as the reality.

I have never seen a badly dressed woman who was agreeable and

A woman’s instinct is equivalent to the perspicacity of the wise.

In France, a witticism is to be heard on the scaffold as well as at the
barricades, and some Frenchman or other will, I am sure, joke at the
general sessions of the last judgment.

All soldiers look alike.

In love, chance is the providence of women.

Literature and politics are to women to-day that which religion was to
them formerly,—the last asylum of their pretensions.

True sentiments are magnetic.

Misfortune creates in certain natures a vast desert, which reëchoes
with the voice of God.

It is from the shock of characters, and not from conflict of ideas,
that antipathies are born.

When intelligent men begin to explain their dispositions or give the
key to their hearts they are most assuredly drunk.

There are but few moral wounds which solitude cannot cure.

When a woman is no longer jealous of her husband the end is come; she
no longer loves him. Conjugal affection expires in her last quarrel.

A woman who is guided by her head, and not by her heart, is a terrible
companion: she has all the defects of a passionate woman, with none of
her good qualities; she is without mercy, without love, without virtue,
without sex.

The revelation of chastity in man is inexpressibly radiant.

Misery is a tonic to some; to others it is a dissolvent.

A woman who has a lover becomes very indulgent.

Power is clement, it is open to conviction, it is just and undisturbed;
but the anger engendered by weakness is pitiless.

Monomanias are not contagious; but where the insanity lurks in constant
discussions and in the manner in which things in general are regarded,
then it may become so.

One of the misfortunes to which great minds are subjected is that they
are forced to understand all things,—vices as well as virtues.

Beauty is like nobility: it cannot be acquired.

Nothing good is to be expected of those who acknowledge their faults,
repent, and then sin again. The truly great acknowledge their faults to
no one, but they punish themselves accordingly.

Do not fear to make enemies,—unfortunate is he who has none; but try
to give no cause for ridicule, and avoid the appearance of evil.

There is as much mud in the upper ranks of society as in the lower, but
in the former it is gilded.

The most superb vengeance is the disdain of one at hand.

Laws are not always so cruel as are the usages of the world.

Historians are privileged liars, who lend their pen to popular beliefs
in the same manner that our newspapers express but the sentiments of
their readers.

A lover is a herald who proclaims a woman’s merit, beauty, or wit. What
does a husband proclaim?

A woman’s real physiognomy does not begin until she is thirty. Up to
that age, the painter finds in her face but pink and white, and a
repetition of the uniform and depthless smiles of love and youth.

Science consists in imitating nature.

Through a peculiar mental contraction, women see only the defects in a
man of talent, and in a fool but his good qualities.

Love may be heard in the voice before it is seen in the eyes.

The heart of a woman of twenty-five is as little like that of a girl of
eighteen as the heart of a woman of forty is like that of a woman of
thirty: each age creates a new woman.

Love has its escutcheon.

Man clings to life in proportion to its infamy: it is then a
protestation, a vengeance of every moment.

Glory is the deification of egotism.

He who foresees a bright future marches through the miseries of
existence like an innocent man led to the scaffold. He knows not shame.

The slow execution of works of genius demands either a ready fortune or
a cynical indifference to poverty.

No man can flatter himself that he knows a woman and makes her happy
until he sees her continually at his feet.

The Orientals sequestrate their women. A woman who loves should
sequestrate herself.

A cornice is the sweetest, the most submissive, the most indulgent
confidant that a woman can find when she does not dare to look her
interlocutor in the face. The cornice of a boudoir is an institution.
It is a confessional minus the priest.

True love appears in but one of two ways: either at first sight, which
is doubtless an effect of second sight; or else in the gradual fusion
of two natures, which is the realization of Plato’s androgyne.

A mother’s heart is an abyss in whose depths forgiveness is always to
be found.

The practice of religion sometimes causes a mental ophthalmia.

Life is made up of varied accidents, of alternating griefs and joys.
Dante’s Paradise, that changeless blue and sublime expression of the
ideal, is to be found but in the soul; and to demand it from the
actualities of existence is a luxury against which nature hourly

It is despair, not hope, which gives the real measure of our ambitions.
We give ourselves up in secret to the beautiful poems of hope, but
grief stands before us, unveiled.

The most ordinary and respectable of men will, when with others, try to
appear the rake.

Human justice is, I think, the development of the thought which floats
through space.

Through an inexplicable phenomenon, there are many who have hope, but
are lacking in faith. Hope is the flower of desire; faith is the fruit
of certainty.

A petty work engenders pride, while modesty is born of great

The problem of eternal beatitude is one whose solution is known but to
God. Here below, poets bore their readers to death with their pictures
of Paradise.

It costs more to satisfy a vice than to feed a family.

A husband should never permit himself to say anything against his wife
in the presence of a third person.

Love prefers contrasts to similitudes.

The sentiment of wrong doing is in proportion to the purity of the
conscience, and an act which to one is barely a fault will assume to
another the dimensions of a crime.

Woman lives by sentiment, where man lives by action.

Probity, like virtue, should be divided into two classes: to wit,
negative and positive. The former would refer to those who are honest
so long as no occasion to enrich themselves is offered; while the
latter would refer to those who face temptation and resist it.

Woman, as a rule, feels, enjoys, and judges successively; hence, three
distinct periods, of which the last coincides with the melancholy
approach of old age.

A lover is never in the wrong.

Distrust a woman who speaks of her virtue.

In love, there is nothing so persuasive as courageous stupidity.

Weak natures are reassured as easily as they are alarmed.

The most incurable wounds are those which are made by the tongue or the
eye, by mockery or by disdain.

To two lovers the rest of the world is but landscape.

Expiation is not obliteration.

A virtuous woman has a fibre more or a fibre less than other women. She
is stupid or sublime.

Language in the magnificence of its phases has nothing as varied and as
eloquent as the correspondence of the eyes and the harmony of smiles.

The slave has his vanities; he would prefer to obey only the greatest
of despots.

Customs are the hypocrisies of nations.

It is not enough for a man to be honest; he must appear so.

If a man is superstitious he is never thoroughly miserable. A
superstition is a hope.

Expressionless beauty is an imposture.

A lack of taste in dress is a defect inseparable from a false
conception of religion.

It is more difficult to explain the difference which exists between
those who are swell and those who are not than it is for those who are
not to efface the difference.

If a man is clever he will appear at once to yield to a woman’s whim,
and then, while suggesting a reason or two for its non-execution, he
will leave to her the right of changing her mind as often as she

A woman who is happy does not go into society.

Love is not simply a sentiment; it is an art.

Doubt has two faces, of which one turns to the light, and the other to

A husband should never fall asleep first nor wake up last.

That expression of peace and serenity, which sculptors give to the
faces which are intended to represent Justice and Innocence is a young
girl’s greatest charm; if it is assumed, girlhood is dead within her.

In the lower classes women are not only superior to men, but, as a
rule, govern them completely.

To forestall the desires of a lover is a fault in women which few men
forgive. The majority of them see but degradation in this celestial

When a love-letter is so well written that it would afford pleasure to
any third person who might read it, it emanates most assuredly from the
brain, and not from the heart.

It takes an old woman to read an old woman’s face.

It is easier to be a lover than a husband, for the same reason that it
is more difficult to be witty every day than now and then.

The woman who has laughed at her husband can love him no longer. A man
should be to the woman who loves him a being full of force and
greatness, and continually imposing. Households cannot last without
despotism. Nations, reflect upon it!

A man seldom passes without remorse from the position of confidant to
that of rival.

When two women could kill each other, and each sees a poisoned dagger
in the other’s hand, they present a picture of harmony which is
touching and untroubled until one of them accidentally drops her weapon.

Study is so motherly and good that it is almost a sin to ask of it
other rewards than the pure and sweet delights with which it nourishes
its children.

We must handle many lamps of Aladdin before we find that the real one
is chance, or labor, or genius.

In the life of every woman there is a moment when she understands her
destiny, and in which her organization, hitherto dumb, speaks
authoritatively. It is not always a man who wakes this sixth and
sleeping sense; it may be an unexpected spectacle, a landscape,
something she has just read, a religious ceremony, a concert of natural
flowers, the caressing notes of a strain of music; in a word, some
unexpected movement of the soul or body.

However malicious a man may be, he can never say anything worse of
women than they think of themselves.

One may be both a great man and a wicked one, as one may be a fool and
a perfect lover.

The ancients were right in their worship of beauty. Has not some
traveler or other told us that wild horses choose the most beautiful
among them for leader? Beauty is the spirit of all things. It is the
seal which Nature has placed on her most perfect creations. It is the
truest of symbols, and the one the most rarely encountered. Who has
ever thought of a deformed angel?

We allow others to elevate themselves above us, but we never forgive
those who refuse to descend to our level.

The customs of every class of society are more or less alike, and
differ only in degrees. High life has a slang of its own, but its slang
is termed “style.”

A fact worthy of notice is the extent to which we make engagements with
ourselves, and the manner in which we create our own lot in life.
Chance has assuredly not so much to do with it as we think.

The weakest of thinking creatures is wounded in that which is most dear
when performing, at the command of another, that which would have been
done unordered; and the most odious of all tyrannies is that which
continually divests of intention the merit of its actions and thoughts.
The word which is the easiest to pronounce and the sentiment which is
the sweetest to express dies within us when we feel that it is
commanded. We abdicate without having reigned.

The art of marriage, as of literature, consists solely in graceful

Events are never absolute. Their results depend entirely on the
individual. Misfortune is a stepping-stone to genius, a treasure to the
adroit, but to the weak an abyss.

To forget is the great secret of strong and creative lives,—to forget
utterly, after the manner of Nature, who knows no past, and who each
hour recommences the mysteries of her indefatigable parturitions. It is
the weak who live with grief, and who, instead of changing it into
apothegms of existence, toy and saturate themselves therewith, and
retrograde each day to consummated misfortunes.

There are incommensurable differences between the man who mingles with
others and him who dwells with nature. Once captured, Toussaint
Louverture died without uttering a word, while Napoleon, on his rock,
chattered like a magpie; he wished to explain himself.

Man has a horror of solitude, and of all solitudes the purely moral is
the most terrible. The early anchorites lived with God. They dwelt in
the spiritual world, which is the most populous of all. Misers inhabit
a world of fantasy and delight; for the miser has everything, even to
his sex, in his brain. Man’s first thought, then, be he leper or
galley-slave, is to find an accomplice to his destiny. To the
satisfaction of this aim, which is life itself, he employs all his
strength and all his power. Without this sovereign desire, could Satan
have found companions?

Solitude is inhabitable only by the man of genius, who peoples it with
ideas, or by the contemplator of the universe, who sees it illuminated
by the light of heaven and animated by the voice of God. To others
solitude is to torture as the mind is to the body. It is suffering
multiplied by the infinite.

The moral of all things has puddles, from which the world’s dishonored,
as they drown, throw mud on others.

The study of the mysteries of thought, the discovery of the organs of
the soul, the geometry of the forces, the phenomena of its power, the
appreciation of the faculty which we seem to possess of moving
independently of the body,—in a word, the laws of its dynamics, and
those of its physical influence will constitute the coming centuries’
glorious share in science.

We are obliged to accept the ideas of the poet, the picture of the
painter, the statue of the sculptor; but we all of us interpret music
according to our grief or our happiness, our hopes or our despair.
Where other arts circle our thoughts, and fix them on a determined
object, music sends them flitting over the expanses of nature which it
has the power to depict.

Thought is the key to every treasure. It brings to us a miser’s joy
without his cares.

There is not a forest without its significance, not a high-way nor a
by-way which does not present analogies with the labyrinth of human
thought. What man, whose mind is cultivated or whose heart has
suffered, ever walked in a forest that the forest did not speak to him?
Insensibly there arises a voice, either consoling or terrible, and
often consoling and terrible. If the cause of the grave and mysterious
sensation which then seizes him be sought, it will be found, I think,
in the sublime spectacle of creatures obeying the destinies to which
they are immutably subjected. Sooner or later an overwhelming sentiment
of the permanence of nature fills the heart, and the thought turns
irresistibly to God.

The more illegal the gain, the greater its attraction. Such is the
heart of man.

An out-and-out criminal rarely exists, for there are few among us who
do not permit themselves one or two good actions, at least. Be it from
curiosity, from pride, for the sake of contrast, or by accident, every
man has had his moment of kindliness and benevolence.

When we condemn a fellow creature in refusing to him forever our
esteem, we have but ourselves to rely on; and even so, have we the
right to make our hearts a tribunal, and summon our neighbor there?
Where would the law be, in what would the measure of judgment consist?
That which is our weakness is perhaps his strength. To so many
different beings so many different circumstances for each act, for no
two occurrences are ever the same. Society alone has the right to
repress its members. As to punishment, I contest it; the curb is
sufficient, and cruel enough at that.

The genius is he who perpetually impresses his deeds with his thought.

When a man feels that he is destined to great things, it is difficult
for him to conceal it. The bushel has always crevices through which the
light must pass.

Women of the world have a marvelous talent for diminishing their
faults. They can efface anything with a smile, a question, or a feigned
surprise. They remember nothing, and explain everything; they become
astonished, ask questions, criticise, amplify, quarrel, and wind up by
chasing their faults away, as easily as they would a spot with a bit of
soap. You know them to be black, and in a moment they have become white
and innocent. As for you, consider yourself lucky if, in the mean time,
they have not found you guilty of some unpardonable sin.

The fortune of a new word is made when it answers to a class of men or
things which otherwise could not be described without periphrasis.

One of the most important rules in the science of manners is that you
preserve an almost absolute silence concerning yourself. Play the
comedy, some day, of speaking of your own interests to ordinary
acquaintances, and you will see feigned attention swiftly followed by
indifference, and then by weariness, until every one has found a
pretext for leaving you. But if you wish to group about you the
sympathies of all, and to be considered a charming and agreeable
fellow, talk to them of themselves, seek some way of bringing each into
action in turn; then they will smile at you, think well of you, and
praise you when you are gone.

There is no ease in the gestures of a soulless woman.

Instincts are implacable. If we disobey them we are punished. There is
one in particular which the animal obeys unhesitatingly: it is the one
which commands us to avoid the person who has once injured us, whether
the injury was intentional or accidental. The creature that has harmed
us once will be always harmful: whatever his rank may be, however
nearly he may be related to us, break with him at once; he is an envoy
of our evil genius.

Prudence consists in never threatening; in facilitating an enemy’s
retreat; in not treading, as the proverb has it, on the serpent’s tail;
and in avoiding, as one would a murder, an injury to the self-esteem of
an inferior. However damaging to one’s interest an act may be, in the
long run it is overlooked and explained in a thousand different ways;
but wounded pride bleeds always, and never forgives.

When two people are constantly together, hatred and love grow apace;
every moment brings a new reason for stronger affection or increased

Love and hate are sentiments which feed on themselves, but of the two
hate is the stronger. Love is limited; its strength comes of life and
prodigality. But hate is like death; it is in one sense an active
abstraction; it subsists above men and things.

To invent is lingering death; to copy is to live.

If men were frank, they would acknowledge that misfortune has never
taken them entirely unawares, nor without first sending to them some
visible or occult warning. Many have not understood the meaning of
these mysterious monitions until after the shipwreck.

A singular fascination attaches to celebrity, however acquired, and it
would seem that with women, as formerly with families, the glory of a
crime effaced the shame. As certain families boast of decapitated
ancestors, so does a pretty woman become more attractive through the
renown of a terrible betrayal. We are pitiless only to vulgar
sentiments and commonplace adventures.

No moralist will deny that the well-bred, yet corrupt, are much more
agreeable than the strictly exemplary; for, having sins to ransom, they
are very indulgent to the defects of others. Virtue, on the contrary,
considers herself sufficiently beautiful to dispense with any effort at
being agreeable; and besides, those who are really virtuous have all a
few slight suspicions about their position, and, feeling that they have
been duped at the great bazaar of life, their speech has that bitter
savor which is peculiar to those who affect to be misunderstood.

The woman who is deformed, yet whose husband considers her figure
shapely; the woman who limps, yet whose husband would not have her
otherwise; the woman who is old, and yet seems young, are the happiest
creatures in the feminine world. The glory of a woman is in making her
defects beloved. To forget that a woman who limps does not walk as she
should is the effect of momentary fascination, but to love her because
she does so is the deification of her infirmity. In the gospel of
women, this sentence, I think, should be written: Blessed are the
imperfect, for theirs is the kingdom of love. Beauty certainly must be
a misfortune to a woman, for its transient charm is the mainspring of
the sentiment which it inspires, and the beautiful woman is loved on
the same principle that leads a man to marry an heiress. But the woman
who is not dowered with the fragile advantages which the children of
Adam seek is alone capable of inspiring that mysterious passion which
never wanes; to her true love is given, and with it the deathless
embrace of the soul. The most celebrated attachments in history were
almost all inspired by women in whom the vulgar would have found
defects,—Cleopatra, Jeanne de Naples, Diane de Poitiers, Mademoiselle
de la Vallière, Madame de Pompadour; in a word, the women whom love has
rendered most celebrated were wanting neither in imperfections nor in
infirmities, while the majority of women whose beauty has been cited as
perfect witnessed an unfortunate termination to their love affairs. The
cause of this apparent contradiction is to be found in the fact that
the charm of physical beauty is limited, while psychological
attractions possess an infinite power; and this, it may be noted, is
undoubtedly the moral of the fabulization of the “Thousand and One

Suicide appears to me to be the climax of a moral disorder, as natural
death is the climax of a physical one. Inasmuch, however, as the moral
faculties are subjected to the laws of volition, should not their
cessation coincide with the manifestations of the intelligence? It is
the thought, therefore, and not the pistol, that kills. Besides, the
fact that an accident may destroy us at the moment when life is most
enjoyable should absolve the voluntary termination of an unhappy
existence.... Suicide is the effect of a sentiment which may be termed
self-esteem, in contradistinction to that of honor. When a man no
longer respects himself and finds himself no longer respected, when the
actuality of existence is at variance with his hopes, he kills himself,
and thereby offers homage to the world in refusing to remain before it
divested of his virtues or of his splendors.... Suicide is of three
distinct classes: first, there is the suicide which is but the crisis
of a long illness, and undoubtedly belongs to pathology; then, there is
the suicide which is caused by despair; and lastly, the suicide from
ratiocination. Of these three, the first alone is irrevocable.
Sometimes the three classes unite, as in the case of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau.... Suicide was permitted by Epicurus. It was the finishing
touch to his philosophy. Where there was no enjoyment to the senses it
was right and proper for the animated being to seek repose in inanimate
nature. Man’s only aim consisting in happiness, or in the hope of
happiness, death became a benefit to him who suffered, and who suffered
hopelessly. He did not recommend suicide, nor did he blame it; he was
content to say, “Death is not a subject for laughter, nor is it a
subject for tears.” More moral and more imbued with the sentiment of
duty, Zeno in certain cases forbade suicide to the stoic. Man, he
taught, differs from the brute in that he disposes sovereignly of his
person; divested of the right of life and death over himself, he
becomes the slave of men and events. To man, therefore, freedom in all
things should belong: freedom from passions, which should be sacrificed
to duties; freedom from fellow creatures in exhibiting the steel or the
poison which disarms attack; freedom from destiny in setting a limit
beyond which it can have no effect.... Among the atheists of to-day,
the coward alone accepts a dishonored life.

                              CHAPTER VI.


                  “Habent sua fati libelli.”—MARTIAL.

The following catalogue is a list of the works which are contained in
the “Comédie Humaine,” together with those with which it was to have
been completed. The titles in italics are those of the latter class.

Thereto will be found appended a complete list, chronologically
arranged, of Balzac’s novels, as well as of all his treatises, essays,
articles, and plays, together with an account of the different
positions which they occupied. Some of these works were published
anonymously, several were written in collaboration with other writers,
many appeared under confusing pseudonyms, while reference to the
original editions prove that the majority of the works now comprised in
the Édition Définitive[26] bear dates singularly at variance with those
of their first publication. The preparation of this catalogue has not
been, therefore, an easy task; and while it still leaves much to be
desired, the compiler hopes that it may nevertheless be of some value
to the Balzac bibliophile.


Footnote 26:

  _Œuvres Complètes de H. de Balzac._ Calmann Lévy, Paris.

                          THE COMÉDIE HUMAINE.

_First part._—ÉTUDES DE MŒURS.



                      FIRST PART.—ÉTUDES DE MŒURS.

                            _Six divisions._

                     I. Scènes de la Vie Privée.
                    II. Scènes de la Vie de Province.
                   III. Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.
                    IV. Scènes de la Vie Politique.
                     V. Scènes de la Vie Militaire.
                    VI. Scènes de la Vie de Campagne.

I. SCÈNES DE LA VIE PRIVÉE.   Four volumes.

1. _Les Enfants._ 2. _Un Pensionnat de Demoiselles._ 3. _Intérieur de
Collége._ 4. La Maison du Chat qui Pelote. 5. e Bal de Sceaux. 6.
Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées. 7. La Bourse. 8. Modeste Mignon. 9. Un
Début dans la Vie. 10. Albert Savarus. 11. La Vendetta. 12. Une Double
Famille. 13. La Paix du Ménage. 14. Madame Firmiani. 15. Étude de
Femme. 16. La Fausse Maîtresse. 17. Une Fille d’Ève. 18. Le Colonel
Chabert. 19. Le Message. 20. La Grenadière. 21. La Femme Abandonnée.
22. Honorine. 23. Béatrix. 24. Gobseck. 25. La Femme de Trente Ans. 26.
Le Père Goriot. 27. Pierre Grassou. 28. La Messe de l’Athée. 29.
L’Interdiction. 30. Le Contrat de Mariage. 31. _Gendres et
Belles-Mères._ 32. Autre Étude de Femme.


33. Le Lys dans la Vallée. 34. Ursule Mirouët. 35. Eugénie Grandet. 36.
Les Célibataires: I. Pierrette. 37. Idem: II. Le Curé de Tours. 38.
Idem: III. Un Ménage de Garçon en Province. 39. Les Parisiens en
Province: I. L’Illustre Gaudissart. 40. Idem: II. _Les Gens Ridés._ 41.
Idem: III. La Muse du Département. 42. Idem: IV. _Une Actrice en
Voyage._ 43. La Femme Supérieure. 44. Les Rivalités: I. _L’Original._
45. Idem: II. _Les Héritiers de Boirouge._ 46. Idem: La Vieille Fille.
47. Les Provinciaux à Paris: I. Le Cabinet des Antiques. 48. Idem: II.
_Jacques de Metz._ 49. Illusions Perdues: I. Les Deux Poètes. 50. Idem:
II. Un Grand Homme de Province à Paris. 51. Idem: III. Ève et David.


52. Histoire des Treize: I. Ferragus. 53. Idem: II. La Duchesse de
Langeais. 54. Idem: III. La Fille aux Yeux d’Or. 55. Les Employés. 56.
Sarrasine. 57. Grandeur et Décadence de César Birotteau. 58. La Maison
Nucingen. 59. Facino Cane. 60. Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan.
61. Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes: I. Esther Heureuse. 62.
Idem: II. À combien l’Amour revient aux Vieillards. 63. Idem: III. Où
mènent les Mauvais Chemins. 64. Idem: IV. La Dernière Incarnation de
Vautrin. 65. _Les Grands, l’Hôpital, et le Peuple._ 66. Un Prince de la
Bohème. 67. Les Comédiens sans le Savoir. 68. Un Homme d’Affaires. 69.
Gaudessart. II. 70. Les Petits Bourgeois. 71. _Entre Savants._ 72. _Le
Théâtre comme il est._ 73. Les Frères de la Consolation (L’Envers de
l’Histoire Contemporaine). —— (unnumbered) Les Parents Pauvres: I. La
Cousine Bette. Idem: II. Le Cousin Pons.


74. Un Épisode sous la Terreur. 75. _L’Histoire et le Roman._ 76. _Une
Ténébreuse Affaire._ 77. _Les Deux Ambitieux._ 78. _L’Attaché de
l’Ambassade._ 79. _Comment on fait un Ministère._ 80. Le Député
d’Arcis. 81. Z. Marcas.


82. _Les Soldats de la République._ 83. _L’Entrée en Campagne._ 84.
_Les Vendéens._ 85. Les Chouans. 86. _Les Français en Égypte:_ I.
_Premier Épisode._ 87. Idem: II. _Le Prophète._ 88. _Idem:_ III. _La
Pacha._ 89. Une Passion dans le Désert. 90. _L’Armée Roulante._ 91. _La
Garde Consulaire._ 92. _Sous Vienne:_ I. _Un Combat._ 93. _Idem:_ II.
_L’Armée Assiégée._ 94. _Idem:_ III. _La Plaine de Wagram._ 95.
_L’Aubergiste._ 96. _Les Anglais en Espagne._ 97. _Moscou._ 98. _La
Bataille de Dresde._ 99. _Les Trainards._ 100. _Les Partisans._ 101.
_Une Croisière._ 102. _Les Pontons._ 103. _La Campagne de France._ 104.
_Le Dernier Champ de Bataille._ 105. _L’Émir._ 106. _La Pénissière._
107. _Le Corsaire Algérien._


108. Les Paysans. 109. Le Médecin de Campagne. 110. _Le Juge de Paix._
111. Le Curé de Village. 112. _Les Environs de Paris._


                            _Three volumes_.

113. _Le Phédon d’Aujourdhui._ 114. La Peau de Chagrin. 115.
Jésus-Christ en Flandre. 116. Melmoth Réconcilié. 117. Massimilla Doni.
118. Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu. 119. Gambara. 120. Balthazar Claës, ou la
Recherche de l’Absolu. 121. _Le Président Toutot._ 122. _Le
Philanthrope._ 123. L’Enfant Maudit. 124. Adieu. 125. Les Marana. 126.
Le Réquisitionnaire. 127. El Verdugo. 128. Un Drame au Bord de la Mer.
129. Maître Cornélius. 130. L’Auberge Rouge. 131. Sur Catherine de
Médicis: I. Le Martyr Calviniste. 132. Idem: II. La Confession de
Ruggieri. 133. Idem: III. Les Deux Rêves. 134. _Le Nouvel Abeilard._
135. L’Élixir de Longue Vie. 136. _La Vie et les Aventures d’une Idée._
137. Les Proscrits. 138. Louis Lambert. 139. Séraphita.


                             _Two volumes._

140. _Anatomie des Corps Enseignants._ 141. Physiologie du Mariage.
142. _Pathologie de la Vie Sociale._ 143. _Monographie de la Vertu._
144. _Dialogue Philosophique et Politique sur la Perfection du XIXe
Siècle._ 145. Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale.


L’Héritière de Birague, histoire tirée des manuscrits de dom Rago,
ex-prieur des Bénédictins, mise à jour par ses deux neveux, A. de
Viellerglé et Lord R’hoone. Four volumes in-12. Hubert. 1822.

Jean-Louis, ou la Fille Trouvée, par A. de Viellerglé et Lord R’hoone.
Four volumes in-12. Hubert 1822.

Clotilde de Lusignan, ou le Beau Juif: manuscrit trouvé dans les
archives de la Province et publié par Lord R’hoone. Four volumes in-12.
Hubert. 1822. This romance was republished in 1836 under the title of
L’Israélite, and signed Horace de Saint-Aubin.

Le Centenaire, ou les Deux Beringheld, by Horace de Saint-Aubin. Four
volumes. Pollet. 1822. This romance was republished in 1837 under the
title of Le Sorcier.

Le Vicaire des Ardennes, by Horace de Saint-Aubin. Four volumes.
Pollet. 1822.


La Dernière Fée, by Horace de Saint-Aubin. Two volumes. Barba. 1823.
Second edition, considerably enlarged. Delongchamps. 1824.


Du Droit d’Âinesse. Published in pamphlet form, and signed “par M.
D——.” Delongchamps, Dentu et Petit. 1824.

Histoire Impartiale des Jésuites. Anonymous. Delongchamps. April, 1824.

Annette et le Criminel, a continuation of Le Vicaire des Ardennes,
signed Horace de Saint-Aubin. Four volumes. Buissot. 1824. Republished
in 1836 under the title of Argore le Pirate.


Code des Gens Honnêtes, ou l’Art de ne pas être Dupe des Fripons.
Written in collaboration with Horace Raisson. Anonymous. Barba. 1825.

Wann-Chlore. Anonymous. Four volumes. Canel et Delongchamps. 1825. This
romance was republished in 1836 under the title of Jane la Pâle, signed
Horace de Saint-Aubin.

Molière. Introduction to Les œuvres Complètes de Molière. One volume.
Delongchamps. 1825.


La Fontaine. Introduction to Les œuvres Complètes de La Fontaine. One
volume. H. de Balzac and A. Sautelet. 1826.

Petit Dictionnaire des Enseignes de Paris. Published by Balzac in 1826,
and signed “Un Batteur de Pavé.”


Le Dernier Chouan. The first edition was published by Urbain Cabanel.
Four volumes in-12. The second edition, entitled Les Chouans, was
published by Vimont in 1834. In 1846 Les Chouans reappeared in the
first edition of the Scènes de la Vie Militaire.

Fragoletta. Criticism. Le Mercure du XIXe Siècle.

Physiologie du Mariage. The first edition was published anonymously.
Two volumes in-8. Urbain Cabanel. The second edition, signed, appeared
in 1834. Ollivier. In 1846 it entered the first edition of the Études


Étude de Mœurs par les Gants. La Silhouette, 9 January, 1830.

El Verdugo. Originally appeared in La Mode, 29 January, and entitled
Souvenirs Soldatesques. In 1835 it entered the fourth edition of the
Études Philosophiques.

Une Vue de Touraine. La Silhouette, 11 February.

Complaintes Satiriques. La Mode, 12 February.

Un Homme Malheureux. La Silhouette, 18 February.

L’Usurier. First chapter of Gobseck. La Mode, 26 February.

Étude de Femme. Originally appeared in La Mode, 12 March, 1830. It
reappeared in 1831 in the Romans et Contes Philosophiques, by H. de
Balzac. Three volumes. Gosselin. In 1842 it entered the first volume of
the fifth edition of the Scènes de la Vie Privée.

Visites. I. Un Pensionnat de Demoiselles. II. L’Atelier d’un Peintre.
La Mode, 2 and 6 April. Signed “Comte Alex. de ——.”

Voyage pour l’Éternité. La Silhouette, 15 April.

L’Épicier. La Silhouette, 25 April.

Des Artistes. Three articles. La Silhouette, 25 February, 11 March, 22

La Paix du Ménage. Originally published in the first edition of the
Scènes de la Vie Privée. Two volumes in-8. Maure et Delaunay-Vallée.

These volumes also contained:—

La Maison du Chat-qui-pelote, then entitled Gloire et Malheur; Le Bal
de Sceaux; La Vendetta, and La Femme Vertueuse (Une Double Famille).

Le Bibliophile Jacob. Le Voleur, 5 May.

Le Charlatan. La Silhouette, 6 May.

L’Oisif et le Travailleur. La Mode, 8 May.

Madame Tontendieu. La Silhouette, 8 May.

Mœurs Aquatiques. La Silhouette, 20 May.

Des Mots à la Mode. La Mode, 22 May.

De la Mode en Littérature. La Mode, 29 May.

Nouvelle Théorie du Déjeuner. La Mode, 29 May.

Adieu. Originally appeared in La Mode, 15 May. In 1832, under the title
of Le Devoir d’une Femme, it appeared in the first edition of the
Scènes de la Vie Privée, but in 1835 it became incorporated in the
Études Philosophiques.

Étude de Philosophie Morale. La Silhouette, 17 June.

De la Vie de Château. La Mode, 26 June.

Physiologie de Toilette. La Silhouette, 3 June.

Physiologie Gastronomique. La Silhouette, 15 August.

Gavarni. La Mode, 2 October.

L’Élixir de Longue Vie. Originally published in La Revue de Paris,
October, 1830. In 1835 it entered the Études Philosophiques.

Le Ministre. Prospectus of La Caricature.

Croquis. La Caricature, October.

Une Vue du Grand Monde. La Caricature, October.

Ressouvenirs. La Caricature, November.

Les Voisins. La Caricature, November.

Une Consultation. La Caricature, November.

L’Opium. La Caricature November.

La Reconnaissance du Gamin. La Caricature, November.

La Colique. La Caricature, November.

L’Archevêque. La Caricature, November.

This last fantasy contains the germ of La Belle Impéria. It may be
noted that none of Balzac’s contributions to La Caricature were signed
by his own name, his different pseudonyms being Alf. Condreux, Le C^{te}
Alex de B——, Henry de B——, and E. Morisseau.

Traité de la Vie Élégante. La Mode, 2, 9, 16, and 23 October. These
articles were republished in La Librarie Nouvelle in 1853.

La Comédie du Diable. La Mode, 13 November. In 1831 La Comédie du
Diable was republished in the first edition of the Romans et Contes
Philosophiques, but it has never formed part of the Comédie Humaine.

Des Salons Littéraires. La Mode, 20 November.

La Tour de la Birette. La Silhouette, 21 November.

Le Garçon de Bureau. La Caricature, 25 November.

Sarrasine. Originally published in La Revue de Paris, November, 1830.
In 1831 it formed part of the Romans et Contes Philosophiques, and
subsequently entered the Scènes de la Vie Privée.

Des Caricatures. La Caricature, 2 December.

Une Lutte. La Caricature, 9 December.

Les Litanies Romantiques. La Caricature, 9 December.

La Danse des Pierres. A fragment of the legend entitled Jésus-Christ en
Flandre. La Caricature, 9 December.

De ce qui n’est pas à la Mode. La Caricature, 10 December.

Le Petit Mercier. La Caricature, 16 December. Portions of this article
reappeared in La Fille aux Yeux d’Or.

La Mort de ma Tante. La Caricature, 16 December.

Le Dernier Napoléon. La Caricature, 16 December. This article,
rearranged, forms the commencement of La Peau de Chagrin.

Une Garde. La Caricature, 23 December.

Si j’étais Riche. La Caricature, 23 December.

Vengeance d’Artiste. La Caricature, 23 December.

Entre-Filet. La Caricature, 23 December.

Une Inconséquence. La Caricature, 30 December.

Les Horloges Vivantes. La Caricature, 30 December.

Les Étrennes. La Caricature, 30 December.

Une Passion dans le Désert. Originally appeared in the Revue de Paris,
24 December, 1830. In 1837 it was republished in the fourth edition of
the Études Philosophiques, but in 1846 it was changed to the Scènes de
la Vie Militaire.

Un Épisode sous la Terreur. Published as introduction to the Mémoires
de Samson. Two volumes. Maure et Delaunay. Reappeared in 1845 in Le
Royal Keepsake, and in 1846 entered the first edition of the Scènes de
la Vie Politique.

Souvenirs d’un Paria. Contained in the foregoing volume.

Lettres sur Paris. Nineteen contributions to Le Voleur, unsigned,
dating from 26 September, 1830, to 29 March, 1831.


Les Deux Dragons. La Silhouette, 2 January.

La Grisette. La Caricature, 6 January.

Paris en 1831. La Caricature, 24 March.

Un Importun. La Caricature, 24 March.

Un Député d’Alors. La Caricature, 24 March.

Le Cornac de Carlsruhe. La Caricature, 31 March.

Le Dimanche. La Caricature, 31 March.

Opinion de mon Épicier. La Caricature, 7 April.

Longchamps. La Caricature, 7 April.

L’Embuscade. La Caricature, 7 April.

Une Semaine. La Caricature, 14 April.

De l’Indifférence en Matière Politique. La Caricature, 14 April.

Le Réquisitionnaire. Originally appeared in the Revue de Paris, 23
February, 1831. It was republished, same year, in the Romans et Contes
Philosophiques, and in 1846 was collected in the Études Philosophiques.

L’Enfant Maudit. First part originally appeared in the Revue des Deux
Mondes, January, 1831. It was republished the same year in the Romans
et Contes, and was subsequently collected in the Études Philosophiques.

Des Signes Particuliers. La Caricature, 21 April.

Les Proscrits. Originally appeared in the Revue de Paris, May, 1831;
was republished in the Romans et Contes. In 1835 it formed, with Louis
Lambert and Séraphita, a volume entitled Le Livre Mystique. Werdet. In
1840 it entered the Études Philosophiques.

Enquête sur la Politique des Deux Ministères. Published in pamphlet
form, and signed M. de Balzac, électeur éligible. April, 1831. A.

Tableau d’un Intérieur de Famille. La Caricature, 12 May.

Le Provincial. La Caricature, 12 May.

Inconvénients de la Presse. La Caricature, 12 May.

Le Patriotisme de Clarice. La Caricature, 26 May.

Un Pantalon de Poil de Chèvre. La Caricature, 27 May.

Le Suicide d’un Poëte (a fragment of La Peau de Chagrin). Was published
originally in the Revue de Paris, May, 1831. The entire work appeared
in August of the same year in two volumes. Gosselin. It was
subsequently collected in the Études Philosophiques.

Un Déjeuner sous le Pont Royal. La Caricature, 2 June.

Ordre Public. La Caricature, 9 June.

Une Séance à l’Hôtel Bullion. La Caricature, 16 June.

Conseil des Ministres. La Caricature, 16 June.

Croquis. La Caricature, 16 June.

La Belle Impéria. Revue de Paris, 7 June.

Dom Pedro II. La Caricature, 23 June.

Manière de faire Émeute. La Caricature, 23 June.

Un Conspirateur Moderne. La Caricature, 21 July.

Physiologie des Positions. La Caricature, 21 July.

Rondo Brillant et Facile à l’Usage des Commençants en Politique. La
Caricature, 28 July.

Le Banquier. La Caricature, 4 August.

Le Chef d’Œuvre Inconnu. Published originally in L’Artiste, it was
subsequently inserted in the Études Philosophiques.

Physiologie de l’Adjoint. La Caricature, 11 August.

Deux Rencontres en un An. La Caricature, 11 August.

Les Grands Acrobates. La Caricature, 18 August.

Un Fait Personnel. La Caricature, 18 August.

L’Auberge Rouge. Appeared originally in the Revue de Paris, 10 and 27
August. It was subsequently inserted in the Études Philosophiques.

Le Claquer. La Caricature, 8 September.

Vingt et Un Septembre, 1822. La Caricature, 22 September.

Jésus-Christ en Flandre. First appeared in the Romans et Contes
Philosophiques. In 1845 it was inserted among the Études Philosophiques.

Le Sous-Préfet. La Caricature, 6 October.

Exaltation des Ministres. La Caricature, 6 October.

Moralité d’une Bouteille de Champagne. La Caricature, 20 October.

Études Critiques. La Caricature, 3 November.

Physiologie du Cigare. La Caricature, 10 November.

La Fortune en 1831. La Caricature, 17 November.

Grand Concert Vocal. La Caricature, 24 November.

L’Embarras du Choix. La Caricature, 1 December.

Les Six Degrés du Crime et de la Vertu. La Caricature, 15 December.

Détails Inédits. La Caricature, 29 December.

Maître Cornélius. Originally published in the Revue de Paris, was
afterwards inserted among the Études Philosophiques.


Une Journée du Nez de M. d’Argout. La Caricature, 12 January.

Deux Destinées d’Homme. La Caricature, 26 January.

Religion Saint-Simonienne. La Caricature, 26 January.

Le Départ. A sketch published in a book entitled L’Émeraude. Urbain

Histoire du Chevalier de Beauvoir, and Le Grand d’Espagne. Originally
appeared in an article entitled Conversation entre Onze Heures et
Minuit. These two stories were afterwards inserted in La Muse du
Département. Conversation entre Onze Heures et Minuit formed part of a
volume entitled Les Contes Bruns, which was published anonymously by
Balzac, Philarète Chasles, and Charles Rabou.

La Maîtresse de Notre Colonel. An extract from Conversation entre Onze
Heures et Minuit. It was afterwards inserted in Autre Étude de Femme.

Départ d’une Diligence. La Caricature, 9 February.

Voilà mon Homme. La Caricature, 23 February.

Madame Firmiani. Originally appeared in the Revue de Paris, February,
1832. In the same year it was published in the Nouveaux Contes
Philosophiques de Balzac, and entered in 1842 the fifth edition of the
Scènes de la Vie Privée.

Le Message. Originally appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, 15
February, 1832. In 1842 it entered the fifth edition of the Scènes de
la Vie Privée.

Le Colonel Chabert. Originally entitled La Comtesse à Deux Maris. This
story first appeared in L’Artiste, February and March, 1832. It
reappeared the same year in Salmigundis, a collection of nouvellesby
different authors, published by Fournier Jeune, in twelve volumes, and
in 1844 entered the third edition of the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Procès de la Caricature. La Caricature, 15 March.

Sur la Destruction Projetée du Monument du Duc de Berry. Le Rénovateur,
31 March.

Le Philipotin. La Caricature, 22, 29 March and 5 April.

Terme d’Avril. La Caricature, 19 April.

La Vie d’une Femme. Le Rénovateur, 19 May.

Facéties Cholériques. La Caricature, 26 April.

Contes Drolatiques, Premier Dizain. One volume in-8. Charles Gosselin,
April, 1832.

Le Refus. Published with other stories, by different authors, in a book
entitled Le Saphir. Urbain Canel, 1832.

Le Curé de Tours. First published in the second edition of the Scènes
de la Vie Privée. In 1843 it was changed to the Scènes de la Vie de
Province, third edition.

La Grande Bretèche. First published in the second edition of the Scènes
de la Vie Privée, and entitled Le Conseil. Under this heading was also
grouped Le Message.

La Bourse. First published in the second edition of the Scènes de la
Vie Privée; it was afterwards inserted in the Scènes de la Vie
Parisienne, but in 1845 it was replaced among the Scènes de la Vie
Privée, fifth edition.

Sur la Situation du Parti Royaliste. Le Rénovateur, 26 May.

La Femme Abandonnée. First published in the Revue de Paris, September,
1832. In 1833 it was republished among the Scènes de la Vie de
Province, first edition, and in 1842 was changed to the Scènes de la
Vie Privée.

Lettre à Charles Nodier. Revue de Paris, October.

Louis Lambert. Appeared originally among the Nouveaux Contes
Philosophiques. Greatly augmented, it reappeared in 1835 in Le Livre
Mystique. In 1846 it entered the fifth edition of the Études

Voyage à Java. Revue de Paris, November, 1832. Republished in 1855 in
the same volume as Les Paysans. It does not, however, form part of the
Comédie Humaine.

La Grenadière. Revue de Paris, October, 1832. Republished in the Scènes
de la Vie de Province, it was in 1842 collected among the Scènes de la
Vie Privée, fifth edition.

Les Marana. Under the title of Histoire de Madame Diard this story was
first published in the Revue de Paris, October, 1832. It reappeared
among the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne, first edition; but in 1846 it
was definitely inserted among the Études Philosophiques.


Histoire des Treize. Three divisions. The first, Ferragus, appeared
with preface in the Revue de Paris, March, 1833. The second, La
Duchesse de Langeais, was commenced, but not finished, in the Écho de
la France, under the title of Ne Touchez pas à la Hache, and published
in its entirety in the first edition of the Scènes de la Vie
Parisienne. The third, La Fille aux Yeux d’Or, first announced under
the title of La Fille aux Yeux Rouges, originally appeared in the first
edition of Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Le Prosne du Joyeulx Curé de Meudon. First appeared in La Bagatelle, 13
June. It subsequently reappeared among Les Contes Drolatiques, Deuxième
Dizain. One volume. Gosselin, July, 1833.

Théorie de la Démarche. Europe Littéraire, August and September, 1833.
In 1855 it was republished in one volume in-18. Eugène Didier.

Persévérance d’Amour. First appeared in Europe Littéraire, 8 September.
In 1837 it reappeared among the Contes Drolatiques, Troisième Dizain.
One volume in-8. Werdet.

Le Médecin de Campagne. Originally published by Maure et Delaunay. Two
volumes in-8 in September, 1833. In 1846 this work appeared in the
first edition of Scènes de la Vie de Campagne.

Eugénie Grandet. First published in the first edition of the Scènes de
la Vie de Province.

L’Illustre Gaudissart. First published in the first edition of the
Scènes de la Vie de Province.


Séraphita. The publication of this work was begun in the Revue de
Paris, but appeared for the first time complete in Le Livre Mystique.
Two volumes. Werdet. In 1846 it entered the fifth edition of the Études

La Recherche de l’Absolu. This work originally appeared among the
Scènes de la Vie Privée. It was reprinted by Charpentier under the
title of Balthazar Claës. In 1845 it was inserted among the Études

La Femme de Trente Ans. Six divisions. The first, Premières Fautes,
appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes in September, 1831, under the
title of Le Rendez-vous. The second, Souffrances Inconnues, appeared in
the fourth volume of the third edition of the Scènes de la Vie Privée,
1834, as did also the third, À Trente Ans. The fourth, Le Doigt de
Dieu, was published in two parts: the first, bearing the same title, in
the Revue de Paris, March, 1831; the second, entitled La Vallée du
Torrent, in the fourth volume of the third edition of the Scènes de la
Vie Privée, 1834. The fifth division, Les Deux Rencontres, appeared in
the Revue de Paris, January, 1831. The sixth and last division was
first published under the title of L’Expiation in the fourth volume of
the second edition of the Scènes de la Vie Privée, 1832. Reunited
finally under the title of La Femme de Trente Ans, these different
headings disappeared on their entrance into the fifth edition of the
Scènes de la Vie Privée, 1842.

Le Père Goriot. Originally appeared in the Revue de Paris, in December,
1834, and January, 1835. A second edition was published the same year
by Werdet and Spachmann. In 1843 it entered the third edition of the
Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Lettres aux Écrivains Français. Revue de Paris, November, 1834.

Aventures d’une Idée Heureuse. Of this work, which was to form part of
the Études Philosophiques, but a short fragment has appeared. This
fragment was published in the Causeries du Monde in 1834.


Un Drame au Bord de la Mer. First published in the fourth edition of
the Études Philosophiques.

Melmoth Réconcilié. First published in Le Livre des Conteurs. Lequin
Fils, 1835. In the same year it entered the fourth edition of the
Études Philosophiques.

Le Contrat de Mariage. This work, originally entitled La
Fleur-des-Pois, first appeared in the third edition of the Scènes de la
Vie Privée.

Le Lys dans la Vallée. The publication of this romance was begun in the
Revue de Paris, November, 1835, but was not continued. It was published
in its entirety the following year by Werdet, and in 1844 it entered
the third edition of the Scènes de la Vie de Province.


La Messe de l’Athée. First published in the Chronique de Paris, 3
January. In 1837 it was inserted among the Études Philosophiques, but
in 1844 it was changed to the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

L’Interdiction. First published in the Chronique de Paris, January and
February. It was changed from the Études Philosophiques to the Scènes
de la Vie Parisienne, and in 1844 was finally settled in the Scènes de
la Vie Privée.

Études Critiques. Five articles published in the Chronique de Paris at
different dates during the year 1836.

La France et l’Étranger. Forty-one articles published in the Chronique
de Paris during the year 1836.

Le Cabinet des Antiques. First appeared in the Chronique de Paris, 6
March, 1836. In 1844 it entered the third edition of the Scènes de la
Vie de Province.

Facino Cane. Under the title of Le Père Canet, this story originally
appeared in the Chronique de Paris, 17 March, 1836. In 1844 it was
changed from the Études Philosophiques, in which it had been previously
placed, and inserted among the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Ecce Homo. Chronique de Paris, 9 June. Subsequently placed among the
Études Philosophiques, under the title of Les Martyrs Ignorés, but
omitted in the Édition Définitive.

L’Enfant Maudit. Second part. Chronique de Paris, 9 October. In 1846
this work was published complete in the fifth edition of the Études

La Vieille Fille. La Presse, 23 October, 1836. Under the collective
title of Les Rivalités, this tale, together with Le Cabinet des
Antiques, reappeared in the third edition of the Scènes de la Vie de

Le Secret des Ruggieri. Chronique de Paris, December, 1836.
Subsequently entered the Études Philosophiques.


Illusions Perdues. Three divisions. The first, Les Deux Poëtes, was
originally published in the first edition of the Scènes de la Vie de
Province. The second, Un Grand Homme de Province à Paris, was published
two years later (1839) by Souverain, in two volumes. The third, Ève et
David, was commenced under the title of Les Souffrances d’un Inventeur,
in Le Parisien, July, 1843, and completed in L’État, August, same year.
United under their collective title, these three divisions were placed
among the Scènes de la Vie de Province.

Les Employés. Originally entitled La Femme Supérieure. La Presse, 1-14
July, 1837. Republished in the third edition of the Scènes de la Vie

Gambara. La Gazette Musicale, July, 1837. Subsequently entered the
Études Philosophiques.

César Birotteau. Offered by the Figaro, December 27, 1837, as premium
to their subscribers. Two volumes in-8. Originally intended for the
Études Philosophiques, this work was afterwards placed among the Scènes
de la Vie Parisienne.

Six Rois de France, Louis XIII. to Louis XVIII. Dictionnaire de la

L’Excommunié. Supposed to have been written by the Marquis de Belloy,
but signed Horace de Saint-Aubin. Two volumes in-8. Souverain, 1837.


Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes. Four divisions. The first,
Esther Heureuse, originally entitled La Torpille, and subsequently
Comment Aiment les Filles, was first published in book form together
with La Maison Nucingen. Two volumes in-8. Werdet, 1837. The second, À
Combien l’Amour Revient aux Vieillards, was first published in Le
Parisien, May, July, 1843. The third, Où Mènent les Mauvais Chemins,
appeared in L’Époque, July, 1846, and bore the title of Une Instruction
Criminelle. The fourth, La Dernière Incarnation de Vautrin, appeared in
La Presse, April, May, 1847. United under their collective title, these
four divisions were placed in the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne. The
entire work is a sequel to the Illusions Perdues, and a continuation of
Le Père Goriot.

La Maison Nucingen. Published together with La Torpille. Werdet, 1838.
In 1844 entered the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Traité des Excitants Modernes. Published in 1838 (Charpentier) together
with Brillat-Savarin’s Physiologie du Goût.

Une Fille d’Ève. Le Siècle, December, 1838, and January, 1839. In 1842
entered the Scènes de la Vie Privée.


Le Curé de Village. Published in La Presse at intervals from September,
1838, to August, 1839. A second edition was published by Souverain in
1841. Greatly altered, it entered in 1846 the first edition of the
Scènes de la Vie de Campagne.

Béatrix. The first two divisions of this work appeared in Le Siècle,
April, May, 1839, under the title of Béatrix, ou les Amours Forcés. The
third part, Un Adultère Rétrospectif, appeared in Le Messager,
December, 1844. This work now forms part of the Scènes de la Vie
Privée. Its principal personages, to wit, Camille Maupin, la Marquise
de Rochefide, Claude Vignon, and Conti, are generally understood to
represent George Sand, the Comtesse d’Agoult (mother of Wagner’s
Widow), Gustave Planché, and Liszt.

Massimilla Doni. La Gazette Musicale, August, 1839. In 1846 it entered
the fifth edition of the Études Philosophiques.

Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan, La Presse, August, 1839. It
now forms part of the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Mémoire sur le Procès Peytil. La Presse. September, 1839.

Le Notaire, Monographie du Rentier, and L’Épicier. Published together
with a series of sketches by different authors, under the collective
title Les Français Peints par Eux-Mêmes. Curiner.


Pierrette. Le Siècle, 14, 27 January. Subsequently placed among the
Scènes de la Vie de Province.

Z. Marcas. Revue Parisienne, first number. Republished in 1841 under
the title of La Mort d’un Ambitieux. Now contained in the Scènes de la
Vie Politique.

Revue Parisienne. Edited by Balzac. First number, 25 July.

Vautrin. Drama in five acts. Represented at the Porte-St.-Martin, 14

Un Prince de la Bohème. Originally entitled Les Fantaisies de Claudine,
it appeared in the second number of the Revue Parisienne. It now forms
part of the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Dom Gigadas. Supposed to have been written by the Comte Ferdinand de
Gramont, but signed Horace de Saint-Aubin. Two volumes in-8. Souverain.

Scènes de la Vie Privée et Publique des Animaux. Two volumes. Hetzel.

I. Peines de Cœur d’une Chatte Anglaise.

II. Voyage d’un Lion d’Afrique à Paris.

III. Guide-Ane à l’Usage des Animaux qui veulent parvenir aux Honneurs.

IV. Les Amours de Deux Bêtes.

Pierre Grasson. Originally appeared in a Babel of collection of
romances by different authors. Since published in the Scènes de la Vie

La Femme comme il Faut. Now entitled Autre Étude de Femme. First
appeared in the fifth edition of the Scènes de la Vie Privée. Portions
of this work are taken from other writings of Balzac not comprised in
the Comédie Humaine.


Une Ténébreuse Affaire. Le Commerce, 14 January, 20 February, 1841. Now
part of the Scènes Politiques.

Un Ménage de Garçon. Two divisions, of which the first, La Raboulleuse
appeared in La Presse, 24 February, 1841, entitled Les Deux Frères; the
second, Un Ménage de Garçon, also appeared in La Presse, October,
November, 1842. Both divisions were united under the latter title in
the Scènes de la Vie de Province.

Notes Remises à MM. les Députés. Pamphlet. Hetzel et Paulin.

Sur Catherine de Médicis. Three divisions:

I. Le Martyr Calviniste. Appeared in the Siècle, March, April, 1841,
entitled Les Lecamus.

II. La Confidence des Ruggieri. Chronique de Paris, December, 1836.

III. Les Deux Rêves. La Mode, 8 May, 1830.

United under their collective title, these divisions now form part of
the Études Philosophiques.

Ursule Mirouët. Le Messager, August, September, 1841. Now forms part of
the Scènes de la Vie de Province.

La Fausse Maîtresse. Le Siècle, December. Now forms part of the Scènes
de la Vie Privée.

Physiologie de l’Employé. One volume in-32. Aubert et Lavinge. Portions
of this work will be found in Les Employés.

Mémoires de Deux Jeunes Mariées. La Presse, November, 1841, January,
1842. Now part of the Scènes de la Vie Privée.


Les Ressources de Quinola. Comedy in five acts. Represented at the
Odéon, 19 March, 1842.

Albert Savarus. Le Siècle, May, June, 1842. Now part of the Scènes de
la Vie Privée.

L’Envers de l’Histoire Contemporaine. Two divisions, of which the
first, Madame de la Chanterie, originally entitled Les Méchancetés d’un
Saint, appeared in the Musée des Familles, September, 1842, September,
1843, and October, 1844; the second division, L’Initié, appeared in the
Spectateur Républicain, in August and September, 1848. United under
their collective heading, these divisions now form part of the Scènes
de la Vie Politique.

Un Début dans la Vie. La Législature, July, September, 1842. This work
was originally entitled Le Danger des Mystifications. It now forms part
of the Scènes de la Vie Privée.

La Chine et les Chinois. La Législature, October, 1842.

Avant-Propos de la Comédie Humaine. Dated July, 1842.


Tony Sans-Soin. Published in the Livre des Petits Enfants. One volume.

Honorine. La Presse, 17-27 March. Now contained in the Scènes de la Vie

Monographie de la Presse Parisienne. Two volumes in-8. Mareseg.

Paméla Giraud. Drama in five acts. Represented at the Gaité, 26
September, 1843.

La Muse du Département. Originally entitled Dinah Piedefer, this
romance first appeared in Le Messager, March, April, 1843. Several
portions of it are extracts from other works of Balzac not comprised in
the Comédie Humaine. It now forms part of the Scènes de la Vie de


Modeste Mignon. Journal des Débats, April, July, 1844. Now contained in
the Scènes de la Vie Privée.

Gaudissart II. La Presse, 12 October, 1844. Now contained in the Scènes
de la Vie Parisienne.

Les Paysans. The first part, Qui Terre a Guerre a, appeared in La
Presse, December, 1844. The second part, in which it is supposed Mme.
de Balzac collaborated, was published after Balzac’s death in the Revue
de Paris, June, 1855. Les Paysans is now contained in the Scènes de la
Vie de Campagne.

Les Comédiens sans le Savoir. Le Courrier Français, April, 1844. Now
contained in the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Histoire et Physiologie des Boulevards de Paris. Published in Le Diable
à Paris. Two volumes in-8. Hetzel.

Ce Qui Disparaît de Paris. Same publication.


Une Rue de Paris et son Habitant. Le Siècle, 28 July, 1845.

Un Homme d’Affaires. Le Siècle, 10 September. Now contained in the
Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.

Petites Misères de la Vie Conjugale. A collection of fragments
published at different times. Chlendowski, 1845. Now contained in the
Études Analytiques.

Une Prédiction. L’Almanach du Jour de l’An.


Les Parents Pauvres. Comprising La Cousine Bette and Le Cousin Pons.
Appeared in Le Constitutionnel, October, December, 1846, and March,
May, 1847. For these works Le Constitutionnel paid 22,074 francs, of
which 12,836 was paid for Cousine Bette, and 9,238 for Cousin Pons. Les
Parents Pauvres is now contained in the Scènes de la Vie Parisienne.


Le Député d’Arcis. The first division of this work, and the only one
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May, 1847. The other divisions are by Charles Rabou, and were published
in the Constitutionnel after Balzac’s death. The Député d’Arcis is now
contained in the Scènes de la Vie Politique.


Profession de Foi Politique. Le Constitutionnel, 19 April.

La Marâtre. Drama in five acts. Represented at the Théâtre Historique,
25 May, 1848.


La Filandière. Revue de Paris, October, 1851.

Le Faiseur (Mercadet). Comedy. Represented at the Gymnase, 24 August,

Les Petits Bourgeois. Le Pays, July, October, 1854. Supposed to have
been completed by Charles Rabou. Now contained in the Scènes de la Vie


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Transcriber's note:

    1. Silently corrected typographical errors and inconsistencies;
       retained non-standard spelling. Corrected the title of Balzac's
       books as needed.

    2. Page 40, added the line _Scènes de la Vie Militaire_

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