Frederick Lawton

Part 4 out of 6

ghost appears in dreams and signs to confound the guilty man and his
guilty wife, who are at last induced to confess their ill deeds, the
repentance being hastened by the death of their son Desire; and, in
fine, how Ursule marries Monsieur de Portenduere and is happy.

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

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

Occupied with her own affairs, which were complicated by her husband's
illness, and perhaps also resenting the falling off in the number of
her distant worshipper's epistles, caused by an indisposition in the
spring and a visit to Brittany to recuperate, she wrote only once or
twice during 1841; and, as chance would have it, these letters were
lost, so that, for nearly twelve months, he had no news from her.
Pathetically he announced that his sister was planning to marry him to
a Mademoiselle Bonnard, god-daughter to King Louis-Philippe; but still
no answer came. On the 1st of November, as he related to his Eve
afterwards, he lost one of the two shirt-studs which Madame de Berny
had given him, and which he wore alternately with another pair
presented to him by Madame Hanska. Beginning on the morrow, he put on
thenceforth only the pair that Eve had given him; and this trifling
occurrence affected him so much that all his familiars noticed it. He
looked upon the loss as a sign from Heaven. Poor Madame de Berny! Now
that the stud from her had disappeared, he had no further tenderness
for her memory. Instead of recalling her kindness to him, he preferred
to speak, in connection with what he styled his horrible youth, of the
years which she--the /Dilecta/--had tarnished. Too opportune to be
sincere, this condemnation of his first liaison cannot but be regarded
as an incense of flattery offered to the coy goddess of his later

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

The novel in its earlier phases was being worked at together with the
/Sister Marie des Anges/, which was promised to Werdet but never
completed, and seems to have had some connection with it. Possibly, in
his primitive plan, the author intended to set in contrast the spouse
and the nun: and certainly, in the original draft, there was only one

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

The /School of Great Men/,[*] as he preferred to call his play at the
Odeon, carries the spectator back to the Spain of Philippe II.
Fontanares, a clever man of science but poor, and without influence,
has discovered the means of navigating by steam. His valet Quinola, a
genius in his way, resolves to aid his master, who, being in love, has
all the greater claim on his pity; and he contrives to present the
King with a petition in favour of Fontanares, and to obtain a ship for
an experiment to be made. But now professional jealousies combine with
love rivalries to thwart the inventor; and when, at last, the ship is
made to move by its own machinery, the honour of the success is
attributed to another. To avenge his wrongs, and the loss of his
betrothed, who is given to his rival and dies, he blows up the steamer
in presence of an assembled multitude, and quits his native land with
a courtezan who has conceived a liking for him and will provide him
with money to recommence his enterprise elsewhere.

[*] More usually called: /The Resources of Quinola/.

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

Instead of acknowledging the defects of his composition, the unlucky
dramatist was wroth with his public. For a while he caressed the
thought of going to St. Petersburg, taking out letters of
naturalization, and opening a theatre in the Russian capital with a
view to establishing the pre-eminence of French literature--embodied
in his own writings. It must be owned that he was beginning to imagine
himself persecuted. Victor Hugo, he said, had changed towards him and
was creating a conspiracy of silence round about him, so that no one
should speak any more of his works. And he liked better being attacked
than ignored. Later, he asserted that Hugo, after accepting the
dedication of the /Lost Illusions/ to himself, had induced Edouard
Thierry to write an abusive article against him. "He is a great
writer," said the novelist in telling this, "but he is a mean

By the death of Count Hanski, the one insuperable obstacle to his
union with Eve had been removed; and now, in his letters to her, there
was a sudden outburst of love protestations. He wanted the widow to
marry him at once, or, at the outside limit, as soon as propriety
would permit. Madame Hanska replied that there was her daughter Anna,
only just in hr teens, who would require her mother's entire attention
and care for some years to come; and there were, besides, matters
concerning the inheritance, which would hardly be settled within any
shorter period. Balzac was dismayed. He could not understand the
delay, the prudence, the hesitation. Not to speak of his affection,
his pride was offended. He overwhelmed his Eve with reproaches. Women,
he informed her, loved fools, as a rule, because fools were ever ready
to sit at their feet. Recurring in subsequent letters to a quieter
manner, he strove to shake her resolution by hints at his exhausted
strength, his difficulty of composition,--this was nothing new--his
lessened alertness of thought and his weaker invention. Cleverly he
juxtaposed with these a description of his study, in the little Passy
house, hung with red velvet, on which black silk cords stood out in
agreeable contrast; on one wall was Eve's portrait, and opposite it
was a painting of the Wierzchownia mansion. Here he toiled
unceasingly, creating, always creating. God only created during six
days, he added, while he--the inference was left to be drawn. Feeling
how requisite it was he should put himself right, in every respect,
with the lady of his choice, he made a fresh confession of his
religious faith. His Catholicism, he told her, was outwardly of the
Bossuet and Bonald type, but was esoterically mystical, Saint-Johnian,
which form alone preserved the real Christian tradition. Somewhat
encouraged by vague inquiries from Madame Hanska as to the income
required by a household for living in Paris, he entered into
particulars with gusto; and, stating that he had eighty thousand
francs worth of furniture, he discussed the best manner of arranging
an existence with eight hundred thousand francs capital. With three
hundred thousand francs, a country residence and small estate might be
bought and the means of inhabiting there provided. Another hundred
thousand would buy a house in Paris to spend each winter; and the
residue of four hundred thousand, if invested in French Rentes, would
purchase an additional income of fifteen thousand francs for town
expenses. These latter he subdivided into three thousand francs for
carriage hire; five thousand for cooking; two thousand five hundred
for dress and amusement; and two thousand five hundred for general
charges; the remaining two thousand would go in sundries. Madame de
Berny, he said, spent only eight hundred francs on her wardrobe, and
kept her household with nine hundred francs. Once launched into
detail, he went far. The Countess learnt that he had still the same
carpets, covering seven rooms, that he had bought for fifteen hundred
francs in the Rue Cassini. They had worn well and were economical. The
red velvet in his study had cost him two francs fifty a yard; but then
he would take it away to another house, instead of giving it to the
landlord. Living was slightly dearer in Passy, he concluded. A mutton
chop cost seven sous there, instead of the five charged in the city.
These last details were thrown in by a habit he had grown into of
defending himself against the strictures passed by Madame Hanska on
his expenditure.

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

It is curious to notice how his impecuniosity reduced him to regard
every goal of his ambition as having merely a cash value. Speaking of
his election to the Academie Francaise, which he reckoned to be near,
he explained to Eve that it would mean six thousand francs a year to
him, since he would be a member of the Dictionary committee; and then
there was the Perpetual Secretaryship, which, falling to him
naturally, would raise his emoluments to more than double that amount.
Emboldened by these calculations--a trifle previous--he confided to
Eve his desire to start on a trip to Naples, Rome, Constantinople, and
Alexandria, unless she should veto the proposal. In that case, his
desire would be hers. Four thousand francs was what the journey would
cost. Would she authorize him to spend so much? At present she was the
arbitress of his actions. As the trip was abandoned, we are obliged to
suppose that Eve was not favourable to it.

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

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

[*] See my /Life of Rodin/ (Fisher Unwin, 1906) or my later and
smaller edition of the same sculptor's life (Grant Richards,

Of the novels that appeared in 1842, /Albert Savarus/, the first
published, is worthy of attention chiefly as being a continuation of
its author's personal experiences. The hero is the same ideal
personification already seen in /Louis Lambert/ and /Z. Marcas/. A
barrister, he suddenly settles in a provincial town, bringing with him
a past history that no one can penetrate and every one would like to
know. When interviewed in his private consulting-room, he presents
himself in a black merino dressing-gown girt about with a red cord, in
red slippers, a red flannel waistcoat, a red skull-cap. The likeness
is once again Balzac's own--adorned by fancy: a superb head, black
hair sparsely sprinkled with white, hair like that of Saint Peter and
Saint Paul as shown in our pictures, with thick glossy curls, hair of
bristly stiffness; a white round neck, as that of a woman; a splendid
forehead with the puissant furrow in the middle that great plans and
thoughts and deep meditations engrave on the brow of genius; an olive
complexion streaked with red; a square nose; eyes of fire; gaunt
cheeks with two long wrinkles, full of suffering; a mouth with
sardonic smile, and a small, thin, abnormally short chin; crow's feet
at the temples; sunken eyes (he repeats himself a little) rolling
beneath their beetling arches and resembling two burning globes; but,
despite all these signs of violent passions, a calm, profoundly
resigned mien; a voice of thrilling softness, . . . the true voice of
the orator, now pure and cunning, now insinuating, but thunderous when
required, lending itself to sarcasm and then waxing incisive. Monsieur
Albert Savarus (/alias/ Balzac) is of medium height, neither fat nor
slim; to conclude, he has prelate's hands.

The mystery of Savarus' earlier life, revealed as the story goes on,
is his meeting in Switzerland with Francesca, the wife of a rich
Italian, whom he eventually wins to love him and to promise marriage
when she is free and he has acquired wealth and fame. All the details
of the prologue are those of Balzac's first relations with Madame
Hanska. The development of the novel, in which Philomene de Watteville
falls in love with Savarus, surprises his secret attachment to
Francesca, intercepts his letters to her, and ruins his hopes, is less
cleverly told. Savarus' retirement to a Carthusian monastery and
fate's punishment of Philomene, who is mutilated and disfigured in a
railway accident, form the denouement, which is strained to the
improbable. The background of the story, with its glimpses of the
manners and foibles of provincial society, is the most valuable
portion of the book.

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

Originally called the /Two Brothers/, and subsequently /A Bachelor's
Household/, this slice of intensely realistic fiction exhibits the art
of the author at its highest vigour. Philippe Bridau, the mother's
favourite of the two boys, enters the army, sees Waterloo, and, after,
leads the life of an adventurer, with its ups and downs of fortune.
His widowed mother's indulgence, his own innate selfishness, and the
hardening influence of war combine to render him a villain of the
Richard III type, absolutely heartless and conscienceless. He robs his
own family, fixes himself leech-like on that of an uncle, marries the
latter's widow for her money, when he has killed her lover in a duel,
drives his wife into vice, lets her die on a pallet, and refuses to
pay a visit to the deathbed of his mother, whose grey hairs he had
brought down with sorrow to the grave. Like Shakespeare's ideal
villain, he has the philosophy, the humour of his egotism. "I am an
old camel, familiar with genuflections," he exclaims. "What harm have
I done?" he asks, speaking of his robbery of his relative, the old
Madame Descoings. "I have merely cleaned the old lady's mattress." And
he is equally indifferent to what destiny reserves for him. "I am a
/parvenu/, my dear fellow; I don't intend to let my swaddling-clothes
be seen. My son will be luckier than I; he will be a /grand seigneur/.
The rascal will be glad to see me dead. I quite reckon on it;
otherwise he would not be my son."

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



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

In order that she might be the more anxious to see him, he talked
again of abandoning literature, and sailing for America. This time the
West Indies were his El Dorado. He did not say how the shy millions
were to be coaxed into his purse there, unless he wished her to
understand he intended to export spices, since he added: "If I had
been a grocer for the last ten years, I should have become a
millionaire." Forsooth, these details were mere bluff. His inmost
thought was that Eve would prevent his going across the Atlantic now,
as Madame de Berny had prevented him--so he said--in 1829. Moreover,
there was Balthazar's prediction that he was to be happy with her for
long years. The fortune-teller's sanctum he attended more frequently
than church. Going one day to the house of a magnetizer, a Monsieur
Dupotet, living in the Rue du Bac, he gave his hand to a hypnotized
woman, who placed it on her stomach and immediately loosed it again
with a scared look: "What is that head?" she cried. "It is a world; it
frightens me." "She had not looked at my heart," commented Balzac
proudly. "She has been dazzled by the head. Yet since I was born, my
life has been dominated by my heart--a secret which I conceal with
care." All this he related quite seriously to Eve. Probably, Madame de
Girardin, who accompanied him on this pilgrimage, could have told
Madame Hanska more.

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

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

Let us grant that the epistles at present contained more gossip than
ever, so that the recipient of them had her share of amusement. She
was wonderfully well kept up in Paris happenings in society, including
the stage and art galleries. She learnt that Madame d'Agoult--Daniel
Stern[*]--had become Emile de Girardin's mistress, on losing Liszt,
who had fallen into the toils of the Princess de Belgiojoso, the
latter lady achieving her conquest after luring in succession Lord
Normanby from his wife, Mignet from Madame Aubernon, and Alfred de
Musset from George Sand. Going to see Victor Hugo's /Burgraves/, he
reported that it was nothing to speak of as history, altogether poor
as invention, but nevertheless poetic, with a poetry that carried away
the spectator. It was Titian painting on a mud wall. He chiefly
remarked the absence of feeling, which, in Victor Hugo, was more and
more noticeable. The author of the /Burgraves/ lacked the true. As he
did not publish these opinions, he was able to go on dining with the
poet and to praise the beauty of his fourteen-year-old daughter. On
George Sand's /Consuelo/ he pronounced a severer judgment still,
calling it the emptiest, most improbable, most childish thing
conceivable--boredom in sixteen parts. And yet he had conceived
certain improbable plots himself.

[*] Her literary pseudonym

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

Horace Vernet, he asserted, would never be a great painter. He was a
colourist; he knew how to design and compose, had technical skill,
and, now and again, found sentiment, but did not understand how to
combine these talents in his pictures. He was clever, but had no
genius. His /alter ego/ was Delaroche, to whom he gave his daughter in
marriage. Of the other painters, Boulanger, Delacroix, Ingres,
Decamps, Jules Dupre were his favourites--true artists, he deemed
them. At the /Salon/ he saw hardly anything to please him besides a
canvas by Meissonier and Cogniet's /Tintoretto painting his Dead
Daughter/. He would have liked to see Boulanger's /Death of
Messalina/, but the /Salon/ Committee had refused it.

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

Originally intending to start for St. Petersburg early in June, Balzac
was not able to leave Paris until a month later. As usual, filthy
lucre had to do with his tarrying. In spite of a loan of 11,500 francs
from lawyer Gavault--his guardian, the novelist called him--who for
the privilege of the great man's friendship had been endeavouring
during the two years past to introduce a little order into his
affairs, he had not available cash enough for a trip so far, and
stayed on, hoping to finish his /David Sechard/,* which was running as
a serial in the /Etat/, and his /Esther/,[*] appearing similarly in
the /Parisien/. June he spent at Lagny, where his manuscripts were
being printed, in order to correct the proofs and get his money. But
the /Etat/ ceased issue while he was there; and the /Parisien/, being
in parlous condition, refused likewise to pay up, so that he had to go
off with a thinner-lined pocket than he had expected. Otherwise, he
was in a fitting state of grace to meet his fair tyrant, whose
envelope lectures had brought him into fear of her and at least
outward obedience.

[*] Part of the /Lost Illusions/.

The torrents of coffee by the aid of which he had forced his last pen-
work through, had been reduced to minimum doses; the occasional
mustard foot-baths that cured his cerebral inflammations were replaced
by entire ablutions every other day; he liked hot baths well enough;
but, in the spells of composition, they were often indefinitely
adjourned, so that this season of purification had its /raison
d'etre/. And now, with his gaze turned to the east, he wondered how
long he was going to remain there. His reply to a person who asked him
to pledge himself for some novels on his return reads much as though
he were counting on an offer to fix his residence in the empire of the
czars. "I don't know whether I shall come back," he said. "France
bores me. I am infatuated with Russia. I am in love with absolute
power. I am going to see if it is as fine as I believe it to be. De
Maistre stayed a long time at St. Petersburg. Perhaps I shall stay
also." This he naturally repeated to Madame Hanska. Not that it was
new to her. A similar hint had been given in January, when he capped
his declaration, "I abhor the English; I execrate the Austrians; the
Italians are nothing," with "I would sooner be a Russian than any
other subject." The comic side of this fury is that Madame Hanska was
a Pole, her late husband too; and neither she nor her family were
reconciled to the Russian yoke. To make his renunciation more
complete, he humbly spoke his dread she might turn from him with the
"get away" said to a dog. No! She had no intention of dismissing him.
His outpourings of devotion caressed her woman's pride, even if she
did not accept them as gospel truth. And however tedious she found his
vamping song of sixpence, his sittings in the parlour counting out his
mirage-money, she put up with them in consideration of her privilege.

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

It would seem as though there were an attack on her aloofness in the
long criticism he sent her from his lodgings on Madame d'Arnim's
/Bellina/, a French translation of which had been published not long
before he left Paris. After some general remarks on the circumstance
of a girl's fancying herself in love with a great man living at a
distance, he waxed wroth over what he styled Bellina's head-love, and
over head-love in general. To this monster, Merimee, in his /Double
Mistake/, had given a thrust but a thrust that made it bleed only. The
cleverer Madame d'Arnim had poisoned it with opium. "In order for the
literary expression of love to become a work of art and to be
sublime," he continued, "the love that depicts should itself be
complete; it should occur in its triple form, head, heart, and body;
should be a love at once sensual and divine, manifested with wit and
poetry. Who says love says suffering; suffering from separation;
suffering from disagreement. Love in itself is a sublime and pathetic
drama. When happy, it is silent. Now, the cause of the tedium of
Madame d'Arnim's book," he added, "is easily discoverable by a soul
that loves. Goethe did not love Bellina. Put a big stone in Goethe's
place--the Sphinx no power has ever been able to wrest from its desert
sand--and Bellina's letters are understandable. Unlike Pygmalion's
fable, the more Bellina writes, the more petrified Goethe becomes, the
more glacial his letters. True, if Bellina had perceived that her
sheets were falling upon granite, and if she had abandoned herself to
rage or despair, she would have composed a poem. But, as she did not
love Goethe, as Goethe was a pretext for her letters, she went on with
her girl's journal; and we have read some (not intended for print)
much more charming, not in units, but in tens."

In the rest of the criticism, Balzac swirls round his guns and directs
his fire on Goethe's replies to Bellina. The latter's epistles were
accompanied with presents of braces and slippers and flannel
waistcoats, which were much more appreciated by the poet than her
theories on music. Not so did he, Balzac, treat his Lina, his Louloup
--such was the inference suggested. Every one of her, i.e. Eve's
sayings was treasured up, after being duly pondered upon. Such
adulation must have been delicious to Madame Hanska; and yet she sent
her sighing swain back into his loneliness, with his bonds riveted
tighter, his promises to break with all rivals more solemn, and a
disappointment, over his deferred hopes, that brought on an illness
after his return.

The journey back was made by land through Riga, Taurogen, and Berlin.
In the Prussian capital, Von Humboldt came to see him with a message
from the King and Queen; and Shakespeare's /Midsummer Night's Dream/
was seen on the stage, without pleasure being derived from it. To its
poesy the novelist was little open. Instead of pushing on straight to
France, he bent his course southwards to Dresden, where he visited the
Pinakothek. The Saxon town pleased him more than Berlin, both by its
structural picturesqueness and surroundings. The palace, begun by
Augustus, he esteemed the most curious masterpiece of rococo
architecture. The Gallery he thought over-rated; but he none the less
admired Correggio's /Night/, his /Magdalene/ and two /Virgins/, as
also Raphael's /Virgins/, and the Dutch pictures. His highest
enthusiasm was aroused by the theatre, decorated by the three French
artists Desplechin, Sechan, and Dieterle. He reached Passy on the 3rd
of November, having crowded into the preceding week visits to Maintz,
Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, and several places in Belgium.

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

Balzac's three months' absence from Paris had caused profane tongues
to wag considerably. Notwithstanding his reticence concerning Countess
Hanska, a legend had gathered round about their relations to each
other. More than one paper reported that he had been off on an
expedition, wife, and fortune-hunting--which was true; and one daily,
at least, spoke of his having been engaged by the Czar as a kind of
court /litterateur/. The /Presse/ especially annoyed him by copying
from the /Independance Belge/ a story of his having been surprised by
the Belgian police dining in an hotel with an Italian forger, whose
grand behaviour and abundance of false bank-notes had completely
captivated him. The forger was certainly arrested in the hotel where
he had put up, but the dinner and the chumming were inventions; at any
rate, Balzac affirmed they were, uttering furious anathemas against
the scorpion Girardin, who had allowed so illustrious a name to be
taken in vain.

On the 26th of September, during the St. Petersburg visit, his third
finished theatrical piece, /Pamela Giraud/, was produced at the Gaite
Theatre. Differing essentially from his previous efforts, this play is
an ordinary melodramatic comedy. Pamela, like Richardson's heroine, is
an honest girl, who, occupied in the humble trade of flower-selling,
loves a young man, Jules Rousseau, that she believes to belong to her
own modest rank, whereas, in reality, he is the son of a big
financier. Involved in a Bonapartist conspiracy, which has just been
discovered, Jules comes one night to her room and tries to persuade
her to fly with him. She refuses; and, while he is with her, the
police enter and arrest him. To save him she consents, though opposed
by her parents, to say in Court that her lover had spent the night of
the conspiracy with her; and Jules is acquitted through this false
confession of her being his mistress. Once the happy result obtained,
Jules and his family forget her. The lawyer, however, smitten by her
beauty and virtue, proposes to marry her, and is about to carry his
intention into effect when, remarking that she is pining for the
ungrateful Jules, he contrives to bring him to Pamela's feet again,
and the marriage is celebrated.

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

Why did Balzac write his /Monography of the Parisian Press/? Not
altogether from a pure motive, one must own. There is too much gall in
his language, too much satire in the thought. He was sufficiently
acquainted with the inner ring of journalistic life to be able to say
truly what were its blemishes; and, without doubt, at the time when he
composed the chief of his novels, these had a prejudicial effect on
literature as on other phases of activity. But his pamphlet, besides
its indiscriminate condemnations, erred in adopting a style which
rendered the turning of the tables only too easy. And Jules Janin,
whom he had already indisposed by sketching a seeming portrait of him
in the /Provincial Great Man in Paris/, came down heavily on the
daring satirist in the /Debats/ of the 20th of February 1843. The
retort, so he informed Madame Hanska, made him laugh immoderately.
Perhaps; but the laugh must have been somewhat forced--what the French
call "yellow."

In the /Monography/, men of letters, baptized by the novelist
/gendelettres/--one of the few words coined by Balzac which have
become naturalized--may be divided into several categories. First,
there are the /publicistes/, occupied in scratching the pimples of the
body politic. From these pimples they extract a book which is a
mystification. Not far removed from the /publicistes/ are the chief
managing editors and proprietors general, big wigs who sometimes
become prefects, receivers general, or theatrical directors. The type
of this class is glory's porter, speculation's trumpeter, the
electorate's /Bonneau/. He is set in motion by a ballet-dancer, a
cantatrice, an actress; in short, he is a brigand-captain, with other
brigands under him. And of the latter:--There are the /Premiers
Paris/, alias, first tenors. In writing /Premiers Paris/, it is
impossible for a man to avoid mental warp and rapid deterioration. In
such writing, style would be a misfortune. One must know how to speak
jesuitically; and, in order to advance, one must be clever in getting
one's ideas to walk on crutches. Those who engage in the trade confess
themselves corrupt; like diplomatists, they have as a pension the
Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres, a few librarianships, even

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

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

Afterwards come the /gendelettre/ pamphleteers. According to the
author of the /Monography/, the pamphlet is the brochure masterpiece;
and he himself is its most illustrious exponent. The Abbe de Lamennais
does not know how to speak to the proletariat. He is not Spartacus
enough, not Marat enough, not Calvin enough; he does not understand
how to storm the positions of the ignoble bourgeoisie at present in

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

[*] In Balzac's use of the word: A man who has written only one book
and boasts of it always.

Replying to this diatribe, with its medley of shrewdness and
exaggeration, Janin pointed out that it insulted Quinet, professor at
the College de France; Sainte-Beuve, the poet, novelist, and critic,
the historian of Port-Royal; Philarete Chasles, professor of Foreign
Literature; Loeve Weimars, Consul at Bagdad; not to speak of Planche,
Berlioz, Michel and Chevalier; and that it came amiss from a man who
had lived and still lived on newspapers; who himself had been the
chief managing editor, tenor, Jack-of-all-trades, canard-seller,
camarillist, politician, premier-Paris, fait-Paris, /detache-attache/,
pamphleteer, translator, critic, euphuist, bravo, incense-bearer,
guerillero, angler, humbug, and even, what was more serious, the
banker of a paper of which he was the only, unique, and perpetual
/gendelettre/, and which, so admirably written, cleverly conducted,
and signed with so great a name, did not live six months.

Within a very few years, Janin was to bury the hatchet of polemics
beside Balzac's grave, and, forgetting the soreness generated in him
by the /Monography of the Press/ to constitute himself the dead
author's apologist.

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

The former of the two novels is mainly psychological. The wife of a
Count Octave, having quitted her husband for another, has repented of
her fault and separated from her lover, but, through shamefastness,
will not return to her husband. She seeks to gain a livelihood by
flower-making; and her husband, who still loves her and is full of
forgiveness, helps her secretly to obtain orders. At length, by the
good offices of a secretary and the latter's uncle, a priest, he
pleads with his wife more efficaciously, and induces her to return to
him, yet without her pardoning herself; and she dies in giving birth
to a child, dies because she wishes, rather from wounded pride, it
would appear, than on account of her husband, to whose affection she
is strangely insensible. The heroine is not particularly interesting
with her morbidness and hysterical posing; she probably stands for one
of Balzac's principles, and his principles are the most tedious thing
about him.

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

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

"In what?" asked Lousteau.

"In letting the woman live with a slender allowance. Every one turns
away from her. She has neither dress nor consideration, two things
which are everything to a woman."

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

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

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

When Alexandre Dumas, the younger, was received into the French
Academy in 1875, the Count d'Haussonville, who welcomed him, asserted
that the elder Dumas, like Balzac, Beranger, de Lamennais and others,
had preferred to remain an outsider. In the case of Balzac, the Count
was mistaken. The so-called preference was Hobson's choice. He stayed
outside only because he could not get in. Between 1839 and 1849, he
made several attempts to secure the promise of a number of votes
sufficient to elect him. Having stood aside at the earlier date in
favour of Victor Hugo, who was admitted in 1841, he thought he might
count on a reciprocal service from the poet. And, on Bonald's death in
the same year, he asked him, during the visit to Les Jardies, to use
his influence with his colleagues in the Academy. "Hugo promised but
little," says Gozlan; and Balzac had to wait for a better opportunity.
This happened at the end of 1843, when Campenon died, and a vacancy
occurred which he might reasonably claim to fill. Encouraged at
present by Hugo and Charles Nodier, he began the round of visits
required by Academy etiquette; but soon discovered that the members
whose votes he solicited did not consider him rich enough. He
therefore withdrew from the list of candidates, writing to Nodier
that, if he could not succeed in entering the Academy while in
honourable poverty, he would never present himself at the moment when
prosperity should have bestowed her favours on him.

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

"I was driving," he said, "down the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, when
in front of the Church I perceived Monsieur de Balzac, who beckoned to
me to stop. I was going to get out of the carriage, but he prevented
me, and said: 'I was just coming to see you. You know I am on the list
for the Academy.' 'Really!' 'Yes. What do you think of my chances?'
'You are too late, I fear. You will get only my vote.' 'It is your
vote especially I want.' 'Are you quite in earnest?' 'Quite.' Balzac
quitted me. The election was virtually decided. For political motives.
The candidature of Monsieur Vatout had a majority of supporters. I
tried to canvass for Balzac, but met with no success. It vexed me to
think that a man of Balzac's calibre should have only one vote, and I
reflected that if I could obtain a second one, I might create some
change of opinion. How was I to gain it? On the election day I was
sitting beside the excellent Pongerville, one of the best of men. I
asked him point blank, 'For whom are you voting?' 'For Vatout, as you
know.' 'I know it so little that I ask you to vote for Balzac.'
'Impossible!' 'Why?' 'Because my bulletin is ready. See.' 'Oh! that
makes no matter.' And on two bits of paper I wrote in my best hand:
'Balzac.' 'Well!' quoth Pongerville; 'well! you will see.' The
apparitor who was collecting the votes approached us. I handed him one
of the bulletins I had prepared. Pongerville, in his turn, stretched
out his hand to put Vatout's name in the urn; but, with a friendly tap
on his fingers, I caused his paper to flutter to the floor. He looked,
appeared irresolute for a moment; and, as I presented him with the
second bulletin, on which Balzac's name was inscribed, he smiled, took
it, and gave it with good grace. And that is how Honore de Balzac had
two votes in his favour at the Academy."

This story is inexact chronologically. Balzac was not a candidate in
1847-48, when Monsieur Vatout was chosen, but at two later elections,
those of the 11th and 18th of January 1849. In each of these he
obtained two votes; and since the second election was to fill the
chair of Monsieur Vatout, who died after occupying it during a
twelvemonth, it would seem that Victor Hugo, deceived by his memory,
confused the two events. As for the conversation with Balzac, it
probably refers to the candidature which the novelist did begin in
1844; and either Hugo's age in 1877, when he told the story, or his
capacity for embellishing was responsible for the interview being
tacked on to the election incident of 1849.

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

Although Balzac's monetary embarrassments were fated to persist as
long as he lived, the causes being so much in the man, their burden
was somewhat less felt in and from the year 1844. This better state of
things was proved by his looking round for a more commodious
residence. The Passy cottage, picturesque as it was, accorded but ill
with his designs of marrying so grand a dame; and even for his work
was not very suitable, being close to the flats of the Rue Basse,
where families lived with children that disturbed his meditations. He
would have liked to free Les Jardies from its mortgage and keep the
place as a summer resort, while renting a snug mansion in the city
during the winter; but the two abodes were hardly within his means,
unless Eve would loosen her purse-strings. "I will not sell it," he
informed her, referring to his "Folly"; "it was built with my blood
and brains. I will stick to it--if I cannot dispose of it
advantageously," he finished up with, inconsequently. And still she
made no sign; or, rather she proffered no cash. Business advice she
gave in plenty. About each of the Paris houses suggested she had some
objections to make, so that, after fixing successively on a residence
belonging to Madame Delannoy (one of his creditor friends) in the Rue
Neuve-des Mathurins, on the old mansion opposite his Passy abode once
possessed by the Princesse de Lamballe, on the property in the Rue
Ponthieu, and on a plot of land in the Allee des Veuves where he
thought they could build, the end of the year arrived without any
definite solution being reached. The two "louloups," as he called
himself and Eve, filled their correspondence with calculations and
figures, the Paris "louloup" expressing his conviction that figures
were the foundation of their happiness.

If he did not die too soon, she might consider she would marry a
million in giving him her hand, he said. Slily, he now and again
quoted his worth in the estimation of a rival feminine authority. For
example, Madame de Girardin was about to write an article on the great
conversationalists of the day, and had mentioned that she held him to
be one of the most charming. However, when he raised his rate of
exchange in this way, he was always prudent enough to follow up with
concessions. His intimacy with the Englishwoman, Madame Visconti, who
was Eve's bugbear, he broke off completely--at least he swore he had
done so and offered to send his beloved tyrant the cold letter in
which his whilom friend and benefactress bade him good-bye. To let Eve
see it would not be gallant on his part, he confessed; but what could
he deny her, if she persisted. He was her Paris agent, even her Paris
errand-boy, at one time negotiating the entrance of the governess,
Mademoiselle Borel, into the Saint-Thomas-de-Velleneuve nunnery; at
another, purchasing gloves, millinery, and other articles of dress.
Yet she never considered him submissive enough, notwithstanding his
pretty flattery.

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

The retrieval indeed was not easy, since his passion for collecting
curios led him far, and he generally succumbed to the temptation of
something ancient and rare. In the previous autumn he had bought, for
thirteen hundred and fifty francs, a /secretaire/ and /commode/ in
ebony, with inlaid pearl, that had apparently been manufactured at
Florence in the seventeenth century; these /objets d'art/ he estimated
at values ranging up to forty or fifty thousand francs. A description
of them appeared in the press, and rich amateurs inquired whether he
were willing to sell; but, either because he asked too much or really
did not want to part with them, they were kept, as also his /Christ/
by Bouchardon or Girardon, which he obtained for two hundred francs
and valued at several thousands. If he had no cash for his purchases--
and this frequently happened--he placed one of his already acquired
treasures (possibly unpaid for, too) in the establishment of his
"respectable relative," as he styled the pawnbroker, and thus secured
the coveted object.

In his intercourse with his own family, Madame Hanska was a
continuously troubling factor. The prospect of his alliance with this
foreign aristocrat had less charm for Madame Balzac and Laure than for
Honore. They probably perceived the chimera he was pursuing, and could
not be expected to show enthusiasm. This attitude on their side and a
certain hauteur on his, partly caused by offended dignity, widened the
breach between him and them. "I have now no family," he told "The
Stranger," "and am glad that the coldness should be established before
I am completely happy; for later the reason of it would have been
attributed to you, or to what would have been termed my uppishness.
The isolation, which you wish, will be likewise my dearest desire. My
sister," he proceeded, "has suppressed for ever the literary question
betwixt us, with her blue-stocking whims. I cannot talk to her of my
affairs, nor yet of my mother's. She asserts that her husband is a
greater man than I am." Madame de Berny, he added, had foreseen his
mother's and sister's transformation when she told him he was a flower
that had sprung up on a dunghill! If Madame de Berny told him this, it
was no doubt in a fit of anger against them for endeavouring to sever
the liaison, an endeavour they were perfectly justified in. These
portions of Balzac's confidences, which reflect upon his character
seriously, and besmirch him more than those against whom they were
spoken, cannot be overlooked in a biography. They have to be included
in our judgment of him, and, in a measure, concern the tragic close of
his love romance.

We are fonder of him in the expansive moods when his na´ve wonder at
his own performances carries him into self-panegyric, which, not
infrequently, we can endorse, though with some discount. Thus, for
instance, the /Bourgeois of Paris/ he declared to be one of those
masterpieces that leave everything else behind. "It is grand, it is
terrifying in verve, in philosophy, in novelty, in painting, in
style." And yet there was Eugene Sue selling the /Wandering Jew/ to a
newspaper for a hundred thousand francs, while the /Philosophy of
Conjugal Life/, a publication of his own in Hetzel's /Diable a Paris/,
fetched only eight hundred; and the /Peasants/ was paid for only at
the rate of sixty centimes a line. His /Modeste Mignon/ which appeared
in the /Debats/, sold rather dearer, six thousand francs being given,
and for the /Bourgeois/, nine thousand. The explanation of Sue's
getting more than he he imagined to be because Sue lived in grander
style than himself with flunkeys to open the door and overawe the
publishers who flocked to the successful writer, whereas he, living in
a cottage, had to cool his heels in an office ante-chamber, and was
exploited on account of his neediness. There was some truth in what he
said; but he did not sufficiently realize that Sue wrote, for the
market, exciting tales that everybody rushed to read. His own books
were, of course, most of them infinitely superior; but they appealed
to a much smaller public. All the same, he was loth to resign himself
to the depreciation Sue's bargains effected in his own. Feverishly he
strove to demonstrate by his painfully gained successes that they were
masterpieces, as he said, by the side of Sue's chimney-fronts, and as
far above them as Raphael was above Dubufe. Moliere, Lesage, Voltaire,
Walter Scott--these were the only names he acknowledged as rivals to
his own. Sue was nothing but a spangled and satined Paul de Kock.

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

"If you were to see the Czar," Balzac said to her, "you would fall in
love with him and jump from your /bousingotism/[*] to autocracy."

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

Madame Dudevant waxed angry. It was not kind in a man who had resisted
her blandishments to make merry over her foibles.

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

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

"Would you, in a great danger, wish your servants to deliberate about
what you had ordered them to do?"

The Sandist-Philosophico-Republico-Communico-Pierre-Lerouxico-
Geranico-Deisto train (the epithets are Balzac's) stopped dead at the
question. Then Marliani, one of the guests, remarked that argument was
impossible with poets. Balzac bowed, and added:

"You hear what he says?"

"You are a dreadful satirist," retorted George Sand. "Go on with your
/Comedie Humaine/."

It was not necessary to give the recommendation. He was for ever going
on; and the further he went, the further his horizons receded. The
embracing lines were rather indiscriminate. He came to think himself
capable of reducing every domain to his scale. Men's ambitions,
however, are part of their motive power; and, had his been less
sweeping, the qualities of his work might have diminished with the
defects. "Four men," he cried in one of his vauntings, "have had an
immense life, Napoleon, Cuvier, O'Connell, and--I mean to be the
fourth! The first lived with the life of Europe; he inoculated himself
with armies! The second espoused the globe! The third incarnated in
himself a people! As for me! I shall have borne a whole society in my
head! It is just as well to live thus as every evening to say,
'Spades, hearts, trumps;' or to wonder why Madame such a one has done
such and such a thing."

/Modeste Mignon/, which was published in 1844 with the extra
attraction of some of Auber's music in it is one of Balzac's brighter
and lighter books, and reproduces part of his own last love-story more
objectively treated than in /Albert Savarus/. Its plot was suggested
to him by a short tale which Madame Hanska composed, intending to
submit it for his approval, but which she threw in the fire,
afterwards sending him, in one of her epistles, an outline of what she
had done. Since he utilized her invention, he paid her back by
selecting as his point of departure the adventure of a well-educated
girl of literary tastes, who, through reading the verses of the
celebrated Canalis, at once a poet and a statesman, fell in love with
him and expressed her (literary) admiration in a letter, though she
had never seen him. There were other such cases in the first half of
the nineteenth century besides that of the Polish Countess and the
author of /Eugenie Grandet/. Disdaining to reply to a correspondent
who did not appear to be a person with whom he could take liberties,
Canalis delegated the task to his friend and secretary, La Briere, who
answered under cover of the great man's name and ultimately found out
and, incognito, beheld the lady. She was beautiful and he lost his
heart to her. When later the subterfuge was discovered, Canalis,
interested now, wanted to marry the lady, she being presumably rich.
Through pique, Modeste, for a while, listened to his suit and smiled
on him, albeit, in verity, she was touched by La Briere's sincere
affection. The circumstances leading to the unmasking of Canalis'
selfish character and to Modeste's marriage with La Briere are handled
in a less Balzacian way than the introductory chapters, which,
however, are more than usually tortuous. But the whole story is
pleasing; and, in the discursive paragraphs, there is less dogmatism
and a more delicate sense of contrasts than the novelist is wont to
exhibit when astride a hobby-horse. The following passage has an aroma
of Shelley's /Defence of Poetry/ in it, which merits our attention.
The divine in man says:

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Marseilles lived a poet-friend of his named Mery, whom he had
enlisted as a collaborator in his teeming dramatic schemes. Him he
commissioned to bargain for certain articles of vertu which Lazard,
the famous dealer in antiquities, quoted too dear--eight hundred
francs for a mirror, and five hundred for a statuette. "Let Lazard see
that you will give a thousand francs for the two things," he advised
Mery; "but don't offer more than nine. Glance stoically at the
articles when passing by, and joke the dealer. Then send acquaintances
to offer a little less than you. After a fortnight's haggling, Lazard
will let you have them one fine morning." For getting the better of
these sly shopkeepers, Balzac had a good many devices up his sleeve.

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

Perhaps it was less his ennui than the curiosity for new sensations
which caused him to accept Gautier's invitation to pass an evening
with Baudelaire and one or two others, at the Hotel Pimodan, for the
purpose of eating hashish. He experienced none of the extraordinary
phenomena usually attributed to the consumption of this drug, his
explanation being that the dose was too weak, or his brain too strong.
However, he owned to having heard celestial voices and to having seen
divine paintings while he descended Lauzun's staircase, in a promenade
that seemed to have lasted twenty years. He does not appear to have
repeated the intoxication. Yet, on receiving another unkind epistle
from Eve, shortly afterwards, he mentioned the possibility of arming
himself against his sea of troubles through the drug's lethal

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

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

The earlier chapters of this novel appeared in 1844; the last ones did
not come out until five years after the novelist's death. The plot of
the book turns on the struggle waged by the peasants and petty
bourgeois of Soulanges against a new but estimable landlord, General
Montcornet, whose estate they are determined to have by hook or by
crook in their own hands, not hesitating, at least some of them, to
assassinate the honest agent who strives to protect his employer's
property against their depredations. All these country folk Balzac has
portrayed with effects depending on the painter's and sculptor's art
as much nearly as on the writer's; and the inmates and visitors of the
village-inn and coffee-house are individualized with an anatomical
intensity fringing on the brutal. Like the /Village Cure/ and the
/Country Doctor/, the /Peasants/ is a novel with a purpose and a
warning. The author preaches against the dividing up of the land; and
advocates agriculture on a large scale by a reversion to the old
estates with their castles and forests. As adjuvants to these he
pleads for the development of Catholicism, a wider influence of the
clergy both in education and private life. His picture of peasant
avarice has been repeated by later writers, Guy de Maupassant and
Zola. True in many particulars, it is traced by a prejudiced mind, and
cannot be accepted as thoroughly representative.

At Rome he found Madame Hanska, and stayed with her there till May.
Instead of describing the Eternal City to his sister, he referred her
to de Lamennais' accounts, himself being fully occupied with his
companion and sight-seeing. He was duly received by the Pope, and
obtained a small crown chaplet for his mother, together with His
Holiness' blessing. Saint Peter's surpassed his expectations, and the
choir's /Miserere/ so delighted him that he went to hear it a second
time in lieu of that of the Sixtine Chapel. The journey back through
Genoa, the Grisons, and Bale was a pretext for continuing his bric-a-
brac purchases, Holbein's /Saint Peter/ being added to his treasures.

Reaching Paris at last, he now took up his pen with his old ardour.
Fresh pledges for the future had been given him by Eve. These served
to lure him onward; and behind him were the creditors who had lent him
money for his trip, and were wanting some of it restored. At this
period Madame Hanska's funds and his own were partly associated. Some
of her capital and some of his own, probably the sum accruing from the
sale of Les Jardies, at present definitive, had been invested in North
Railway Shares. Besides, not a few of his paintings and antique pieces
of furniture had been paid for with advances from her strong-box.

The two works that issued from his new effort of creation were /Cousin
Bette/ and /Cousin Pons/. These, with /Pierrette/, made up his series
of the /Poor Relations/.

The /Old Musician/, as he originally called /Pons/, was meant to give
us the case of a man overwhelmed with humiliations and insults, yet
preserving his generosity and pardoning everybody and everything,
avenging himself only through kindness. Composed, like /Cesar
Birotteau/, very rapidly, it bears evidence of the author's haste.
There is no proper love interest in the book, the lack being supplied
by the friendship between Pons and the old German musician, Schmucke.
A number of subordinate biographies are interwoven with the principal
story--those of the banker Brunner, the Auvergnat Remonencq, the
Cibots, who were Pons' porters and caterers, Doctor Poulain and Lawyer
Fraisier. We have plots within plots, wheels within wheels, in this
strange, pathetic life of the musician, whose collecting hobby and
expert's skill in finding out rarities Balzac dwells on with all the
greater detail as he was indulging at that time his own bent in this
direction with peculiar zest and success. But the complexity and
crowding are foils one is glad to have against the sordid treachery of
the Cibot household, as, too, against the woes of Pons and Schmucke.
Perhaps nowhere in his achievement has the novelist got deeper down to
the rockbed of genuine humanity than in this work. /Cousin Pons/ was
published in 1847. /Cousin Bette/ came a year earlier.

Besides the two novels just mentioned, Balzac finished, during this
same period, the long series in which /Vautrin/ is a chief, if not the
chief, character; and also a book variously named the /Brothers of
Consolation/ and the /Reverse Side of Contemporary History/. In the
/Vautrin/ sequels he took up again the fortunes of Lucien de Rubempre,
who, after returning in disgrace to his family, loses courage and is
on the point of drowning himself when he meets with an Abbe Carlos
Herrera; the latter changes the young man's suicidal intentions by
promising to procure him wealth, rank, and honours. Herrera is no
other than Vautrin, who, having escaped from prison, is at the head of
a formidable association of convicts. Carefully hiding his identity
from Lucien, he persuades him to accept monetary help; and gradually
Lucien contrives to enter aristocratic society, becomes the favourite
of the Duchess of Serizy, and will be received as the betrothed of the
nobly born Clotilde de Grandlieu, provided he can show that he
possesses sufficient landed property. It so happens that his mistress
Esther, a Jewess of great beauty, who is as fond of him as Coralie
was, kills herself on learning that she must give him up. And Esther
being in reality an heiress whose father, Gobseck, has just died,
Vautrin forges a will by which the fortune is bequeathed to Lucien.
Unluckily for the ex-convict's plans, some police spies have been on
the track of his proceedings, and an untimely arrest of him and his
protege casts them into prison. These adventures are told in /Whither
Bad Ways Lead/ and two other volumes. A concluding book, entitled
/Vautrin's Last Incarnation/, relates the outlaw's duel with justice
in his confinement, the suicide of his disciple, and his own pardon at
the price of entering into the Government's secret police. The later
portions of this drawn-out piece of fiction are written in the
melodramatic style, and the characterization is distinctly inferior.
The author loses himself in the various imbroglios, and the actors
degenerate into creatures of romance, lacking consistency.

The /Reverse Side of Contemporary History/ has similar defects. It was
commenced in the /Musee des Familles/ in 1842, was continued in 1844,
and was completed only in 1848 in the /Spectateur Republicain/. We
meet at first with a certain Godefroi who reaches middle age without
obtaining any permanent satisfaction out of his life, and who thinks
of burying himself in some quiet quarter of Paris where he can dwell
unknowing and unknown. An accident introduces him to a kind of lay
community whose presiding spirit is a Madame de la Chanterie, and
whose members are a priest and three old gentlemen. These people are
devoting what remains to them of their existence to alleviating pain
and distress. Godefroi is admitted into the association, and, during
his novice expedition, has a curious experience which leads to the
disclosure of Madame de la Chanterie's past. This is narrated in the
second half of the book. We get the whole of that lady's tragic
history, an unjust trial of which she was the victim, the Nemesis
which punished the bad judge in his daughter's frightful malady and
his poverty, and the heaping of coals of fire on his head by the woman
who had suffered so direly through him. On arriving at the end of the
story we cannot recognize it as the one we were made acquainted with
at the outset. The tangle of episode and explanation--the latter
confusing more than it explains--which intervenes in the middle,
issues in a coarser thread that persists till the close. And yet the
start was a fair one.

With /Cousin Bette/, we are back among the monstrosities. Bette is the
poor relation who, unlike Pons, revenges herself for her humiliations
and the insults bestowed on her. She aids in the pecuniary and moral
ruin of the Hulot family, acts in cold blood, and attains her object
before she dies. She is not the only perverted nature delineated.
There is the Baron Hulot, whose odious licentiousness brings him to a
veritable cretinism. There is Crevel, a grotesque, contemptible dupe;
there are the Marneffes, sinks of corruption; and, with these, other
minor characters--the vindictive Brazilian who wreaks his wrath on
Madame Marneffe and on Crevel by his mysterious death-causing gift.
The ideally virtuous Adeline Hulot also the novelist belittles, making
her offer herself to Crevel to save her husband from the consequences
of his degrading passions. Nearly all the book is harrowing, and even
the atmosphere of the bohemian circles, where conversation is one
sparkle of satire, is heavily tainted with vice.

George Sand protested against Madame Hulot's portrait as unnatural;
and, herself being the contrary of prudish in sexual relations, the
opinion cannot be called prejudiced. Balzac defended his treatment,
while admitting there was force in what she said. Arguing with her on
their respective methods, he replied: "You seek to paint man as he
ought to be. I take him as he is. Believe me, we are both right. Both
ways lead to the same goal. I am fond of exceptional beings. I am one
myself. Moreover, I need them to give relief to my common characters;
and I never sacrifice them without necessity. But these common
characters interest me more than they interest you. I aggrandize them;
I idealize them in an inverse direction, in their ugliness or their
stupidity. I give to their deformity terrifying or grotesque
proportions. You could not do this. You are wise not to look at people
and things that would cause you nightmare. Idealize in that which is
pretty and beautiful. This is woman's task."

In spite of sheriff's summonses and stormy discussions with those to
whom he still had indebtedness, and in spite, too, of a tropical
summer, the would-be bride-groom toiled cheerfully on through 1846.
His Passy cottage was becoming, with the continually augmented
collection, quite a museum, and Bertall, the artist-caricaturist, was
in ecstasies over a china service estimated by its owner at some
thousands of francs. His good humour rendered him his former
conversational brilliancy, which had been somewhat damped during the
past twelvemonth, and, at one of Delphine Gay's dinners, where he met
Hugo and Lamartine, he replied to Jove's heavy artillery with a raking
fire from his own quick-firing guns. Lamartine was enchanted. Balzac
must go to the Chamber was his verdict. But Balzac, at present, was
content to correspond with his Eve and to occupy himself with the
restoration of the pictures she was helping him to buy. One of these,
the /Chevalier of Malta/, he had acquired on Gringalet's
recommendation when in Rome. It had been bistered over by the dealer
with a view to hiding a scratch, and there was also the dirt of age
upon it. Requisitioning a clever craftsman in picture-restoring, he
submitted the treasure to him. "It's a masterpiece," pronounced the
expert: "but what will it be worth when the dirt is off?" Three days
later the restorer came back with his drugs and implements. And,
first, he rubbed a corner with some cotton dipped in one of his
mixtures, which frothed the painting white. Then for an hour he
scrubbed the surface progressively until he had a lot of little cotton
balls all black. Afterwards, he began again, for the dirt was in
layers, and, at the conclusion of the scrubbing and brushing, the
chevalier emerged as life-like and fresh as when painted by the pupil
of Raphael--Albert Durer or another--three hundred years before. The
scratch was easily repaired, and Balzac was beside himself with joy.
Relating to Georges Mniszech this happy result, which enriched his
gallery containing already more than half-a-dozen old masters of great
value, he said: "When connoisseurs and dilletanti come to visit my
collection I shall say to them, 'I owe this head to a young professor
of entomology; he is a charming young man, full of wit and feeling,
who, for the moment, is buried in bliss, science, and the steppes of
the Ukraine. He is so versed in paintings that he is a boon to his
friends. Oh! I assure you he out-experts all the experts of Paris put
together. What is his name?--Gringalet!--No, really!--As truly as I am
called Bilboquet.'"

The bliss referred to was Georges' approaching marriage with Eve's
daughter Anna, which was celebrated very unostentatiously at Wiesbaden
in October, owing to the recent death of the Count's father. Balzac
went to the wedding, and stayed with the family for four days. He had
already spent a short time with them in August, on the occasion of the
old Count Mniszech's death, and, on his return journey, had been
accompanied by Madame Hanska as far as Strasburg, where she made him
such a definite statement regarding their marriage as amounted to an
official engagement. It was between the two visits that he
commissioned Georges to buy Atala a Voltaire-armchair for her greater
ease and comfort.

While at the wedding, he was able to tell Eve that he had at last come
upon a house which was everything that could be desired for them two
selves. It was the smaller remaining portion of the splendid mansion
and grounds built for the famous financier, Beaujon, by the architect
Girardin in the eighteenth century. The original property, situated
near the Arc de Triomphe, was nicknamed by contemporaries Beaujon's
Folly. At the owner's death, the mansion and grounds were sold, and
subsequently the Rues Chateaubriand, Lord Byron, and Fortunee were cut
through the place. The abode chosen by the novelist bordered on the
Rue Fortunee. From its staircase there was an entrance into a private
chapel, which the financier had had constructed in his old age for his
soul's edification, and in which he was finally buried. The outside of
the house in Balzac's time was modest in appearance. Alone, a cupola,
seen above the containing walls, suggested memories of bygone glory.
Inside, there were still very substantial pieces of luxury and
artistic decoration that needed only touching up to be practically
what they had been of yore. Balzac detailed all this to his betrothed,
and his selection was approved. No sooner was he in Paris again than
the bargain was settled, and orders were given for the necessary
repairs and renovation to be executed.

The end of 1846 seemed to smile on these projects of a speedy
installation in conformity with his desires. Though the North Railway
Shares had declined considerably, he was earning a good deal of money.
/Cousin Bette/ yielded him thirteen thousand francs, and /Cousin Pons/
was sold for nine--modest prices indeed; but the total, with other
sources of revenue, gave him for the twelvemonth an income of about
fifty thousand francs. In the Beaujon mansion the workmen soon
accomplished prodigies, transforming its dilapidated rooms into ship-
shape and elegance. Bilboquet issued special instructions for
apartments to be fitted up for Gringalet and Zephirine--a bedchamber
and small /salon/, both circular and sculptured, with paintings on the
arches, worthy of the destined aristocratic occupants.

Urged on by the sight of these preparations, he threw himself with
almost frenzy into fresh literary labour. Dr. Nacquart warned him
against the consequences of such brain debauch, as he termed it,
prophesying that harm would ensue. And the doctor was right. Balzac
was soon to pay for his excesses. Just now there was much in the
political firmament that caused the novelist anxiously to wish that
his own fortunes and those of Eve were indissolubly united. "Make
haste!" was his constant cry to her.

"I see," he said, "Italy and Germany ready to move. Peace hangs only
by a thread--the life of Louis-Philippe, who is growing old; and, if
war comes, Heaven knows what would happen to us. . . . For a young and
ambitious sovereign who would not want, like Louis-Philippe, above all
to die quietly in his bed, how favourable the moment would be to
regain the left bank of the Rhine. The populations are harassed by
petty, imbecile royalties. England is at loggerheads with Ireland, who
seeks to ruin her or separate from her. All Italy is preparing to
shake off the yoke of Austria. Germany desires her unity, or perhaps
more liberty merely. Anyway, we are on the eve of great catastrophes.
In France, it is our interest to wait, our cavalry and navy not being
strong enough to enable us to triumph on land and sea; but, when these
two are improved and our defence-works completed, France will be
redoubtable. One must admit, that, by the manner Louis-Philippe is
administering and governing, he is making her the first Power in the
world. Just think! Nothing is factitious with us. Our army is a fine
one; we have money; everything is strong and real at present. When the
port of Algiers is terminated, we shall have a second Toulon in front
of Gibraltar; we are advancing in the domination of the Mediterranean.
Spain and Belgium are with us. This man has made progress. If he were
ambitious and wished to chant the Marseillaise, he would demolish
three empires to his advantage."

The foregoing outlook on the future neglected certain signs of the
times equally necessary to be taken into account with others that were
perceived. In politics especially, the humourist's detachment is
essential to correct perspective, and of humour Balzac had but small
share. As compensation, pleasantry was not wanting in this Duc de
Bilboquet, peer of France and other places--as he subscribed himself
to his dear Gringalet.

In February 1847, for the second time, Madame Hanska came to Paris
incognito. The Beaujon house was nearly ready, and as mistress of it
that was to be, her instructions were required for the garnishing. The
happy Bilboquet conducted her to the Opera, the Italiens, the
Conservatoire, and also to the Varietes where they saw Bouffe and
Hyacinthe play in the laughable /Filleul de tout le Monde/. It was
intended that she should stay till April, and that then he should take
her back to Germany, leaving her there to pursue her journey to
Wierzchownia, whither he was to proceed later. The novelist's so far
published correspondence has large gaps in the year 1847, with an
entire lack of letters to Eve--yet such exist--so that we do not learn
whether the intermediate programme was executed. Until the third
volume of the /Letters to the Stranger/ is published, it will be
impossible to fill in accurately the history of the months between
February and October, in which, however, events of importance
occurred. One of these was Balzac's burning all Madame Hanska's
epistles to him. Why? Apparently on account of a quarrel. And the
quarrel? Was it caused by her finding out that, in 1846, he had a
liaison with a lady resulting in the birth of a six months' child,
which did not survive? Monsieur de Lovenjoul, who is the authority for
this last information, mentions that the harassment Balzac suffered
from the affair was largely responsible for the rapid progress of the
heart-disease that finally killed him.

During the month of April[*] he was occupied in removing his furniture
from the Passy cottage to his new residence. Theophile Gautier, who
paid him a visit there not long after the installation, gave a sketch
of what he saw in an article that appeared in the /Artiste/. He says:

[*] On the house in Passy; the dates indicating the period of the
novelist's residence there are incorrect. It is to be hoped that
the error, which has been pointed out to the Curator, will be

"When one entered this dwelling, which, indeed, was not easy, since
the occupant kept himself close there, a thousand tokens of luxury and
comfort were noticeable which were but little in agreement with the
poverty that he pleaded. One day, however, he received us, and we saw
a dining-room wainscoted in old oak, with table, chimney-piece,
sideboards, dressers, and chairs, all in wood so carved as to have
caused envy to Cornejo Duque and Verbruggen, if they had been present;
a drawing-room upholstered in buttercup damask, and with doors,
cornices, skirting-board, and embrasures in ebony; a library arranged
in bookcases inlaid with tortoise-shell and brass in Boule style; a
bathroom in yellow and black marble, with stucco bass-reliefs; a dome
boudoir, whose ancient paintings had been restored by Edmond Hedouin;
a gallery lighted from above, which we recognized later in the
collection of /Cousin Pons/. There were what-nots laden with all sorts
of curiosities, Dresden and Sevres china, cornet-shaped vases of
frosted celadon, and, on the carpeted staircase, large porcelain
bowls, and a magnificent lantern suspended by a red silk cord. 'Why!
you have emptied one of Aboulcasem's siloes,' we laughingly remarked
to Balzac, as we gazed at all these splendours. 'We were quite right
in asserting that you were a millionaire.' 'I am poorer than ever I
was,' he replied, with a humble, sly air. 'Nothing of this is mine. I
have furnished the house for a friend that I am expecting. I am only
the keeper and porter.'"

Within three short years from this date, the charge fell on her--the
friend. She became the porteress of the abode which the other had
prepared with such lavish attention and expenditure, to serve him only
as a pall.

In 1875, the widow and her son-in-law, Count Mniszech, resolved to
modify the Hotel Beaujon and the adjoining buildings, with the
intention of perpetuating the novelist's memory. The rotunda of the
private chapel they planned to convert into a kind of circular atrium,
with a fountain in the middle and a trellised gallery running round
it, decorated with busts, statues, and other works of art. Changes
likewise were to be effected in the courtyard, to which the pillars of
the chapel nave had been removed; and a statue of the late owner was
to be erected there, close to a tree, the seed of which had been
planted on the occasion of his marriage. The facade of the house on
the Rue Fortunee, now the Rue Balzac, was also to be embellished, and
the central pavilion made to represent the novelist's apotheosis, with
a monumental bass-relief and a niche. Only a small portion of these
alterations was completed. On Madame de Balzac's death, in 1882, the
property was bought by the Baroness Salomon de Rothschild; and, before
the end of the century, it was demolished and the ground it covered
was incorporated into the Baroness's own gardens. All that now marks
the site is the small dome forming the corner of the Rue Balzac and
the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore.

Whatever menaces of rupture between the lovers may have darkened their
horizon in the spring and summer of 1847 had vanished before the
autumn. At the end of September, Balzac went by invitation to
Wierzchownia, and remained its guest for over four months. The sight
of Russia's huge oak forests, of which the Mniszech family possessed
some twenty thousand acres, suggested to him another of the grandiose
schemes for gaining a large fortune that he was for ever elaborating
in his brain. His project was to establish an exportation to France of
oak timber, either by sea or rail; which, with every expense figured
out, might yield, so he calculated, a profit of a million two hundred
thousand francs for a part area, and would still leave the estate well
wooded after thinning out the trees. The thing was a gold-mine for him
and his family if a banker could be induced to take it up. Alas! his
brother-in-law was obliged to pour cold water on the project, proving
to him that the expenses, contrary to what he had estimated, would far
exceed the receipts. The weak point in the affair, however, was one
that cheaper transport following on increased railway communication
could remedy. Balzac's only mistake was in imagining that this could
be provided immediately. The visitor to Wierzchownia was not wrong in
thinking that Russia's natural productions must sooner or later be one
of the chief supplies of the European market. A better knowledge of
the country, acquired during his stay, enabled him to perceive that
internal reorganization was needed before the country's immense wealth
could be exploited to the same degree as was possible in a country
like France. In the Forties, Russia presented curious contrasts--great
magnificence, and yet entire want of the commonest conveniences.
Madame Hanska's estate was the only one boasting of a Carcel lamp and
a hospital. There were ten-foot mirrors, and no paper on the walls.
Still, he had not to complain of his apartments in pink stucco, with
fine carpets on the floor, and furniture that was comfortable. It
astonished him to find that the whole of the Wierzchownia castle--as
big as the Louvre--was heated by means of straw, which was burnt in
stoves, the weekly consumption being as much as could be seen in the
Saint-Laurent market at Paris. But, then, everything was huge. One of
the Mniszech estates extended over a surface as large as the Seine and
Marne Department, and was watered by no fewer than three rivers, the
Dnieper being one of them. And the cholera was colossal also--a
conscientious cholera, carrying off its forty to fifty victims a day
in Kiew alone, and a total of nine thousand at Savataf. To reassure
his relatives, Balzac added that this plague paid most of its calls at
the houses of rich uncles, to which category he did not belong, and
passed by people who had debts. /Ergo/, he was inoculated against its



It is time something was said now about Balzac's last dramatic
compositions. Since the Gaite fiasco, in 1843, no other theatre had
been brought up to the point of producing a further piece from his
pen, although several negotiations were opened respecting plays
supposed to be well in hand. In 1844, there was his comedy /Prudhomme
en Bonne Fortune/, which the Gymnase had some thoughts of staging.
Poirson, the manager, whom the author met one day in an omnibus, was
enchanted with the idea, and proposed help even on most advantageous
terms. The rehearsals were fixed for March, and the first performance
for May; but, for some reason that we do not learn, the execution of
the project was abandoned. Probably it was the burden of unfinished
novels and a lurking desire to go on with /Mercadet/, which was lying
still in its unachieved state.

Twelve months later, /Mercadet/ appears to have received the last
touches, and to be awaiting only an opportunity for its
representation. But Frederick Lemaitre, who was to assume the chief
role, had previous engagements that monopolized him; so Balzac,
meanwhile, turned again to a subject he had often toyed with, /Richard
the Sponge-Heart/, the name recalling that of Richard the Lion-Heart,
without there being the least analogy between the Norman king and the
hero of the play. In each preceding attempt, the author had stopped
short at the end of the first act, and, on recommencing, had produced
a different version. The hero was a joiner, living in the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine, whose habitual drunkenness had procured him his
nickname. Had it been developed, the piece would no doubt have been a
popular drama, on the lines subsequently followed by Zola's
/Assommoir/. There was talk of performing it at the Varietes in 1845;
the year, however, slipped away, and it was not forthcoming. Dining
with Gautier in December, at the house of Madame de Girardin, Balzac
agreed with Theophile to go on with the drama in collaboration as soon
as the theatres should have worked off some of their stock. Evidently,
this was not done. However, Monsieur Henri Lecomte, in his /Life of
Frederick Lemaitre/, affirms that Balzac did terminate /Richard the
Sponge-Heart/, and that it was handed to Frederick to study. Then,
some months afterwards, being in want of money, he asked the actor to
take it to the publisher, Paulin, and obtain an advance of a thousand
francs on it. If Paulin had it, he must either have mislaid or
destroyed it, for, from this date, all traces of it were lost; and,
to-day, a few fragments alone remain in Monsieur de Lovenjoul's

In 1846, vague mention was made in the correspondence with Madame
Hanska of a military farce called the /Trainards/ or /Laggards/.
However, nothing came of it. But in August 1847, after the publication
of /Cousin Pons/, the novelist paid a visit to Monsieur Hostein,
manager of the Theatre Historique, which had been inaugurated in the
preceding February. On this stage, which was subsequently transformed
into the Theatre Lyrique, and later demolished to make room for the
Boulevard of the Prince Eugene, several pieces of Alexandre Dumas had
just been played in succession; and Balzac said to himself that he
would have a better chance of meeting with appreciative audiences in
these new premises. Monsieur Hostein relates in his /Reminiscences/
that the novelist, calling on him one day at his Bougival country-
residence, went out and sat with him by the river-side, and there
explained that he wished to write a great historic drama entitled
/Peter and Catherine (of Russia)/. Asked for an outline of it, Balzac
tapped his forehead and said: "It is all there. I have only to write.
The first tableau can be rehearsed the day after to-morrow."

"We are," he continued, "in a Russian inn, with many people running in
and out, since troops are passing through the place.

"One of the servants is a lively girl. Pay attention to her. She is
not beautiful, but attractive! And the visitors notice her, and joke
with her. She smiles at every one; but those who go too far in gesture
or language soon discover they have made a mistake.

"All at once, a soldier enters, bolder than the rest. He gets the girl
to sit down with him, and wants to clink glasses with her. On the
innkeeper's objecting, he rises in a rage, thumps the table with his
fist, and cries: 'Let no one oppose my will, or I will set fire to the

"The innkeeper orders the girl to obey, for the troops are everywhere,
and the peasant is alarmed. Sitting down again, the soldier drinks
with the girl, tells her she shall be happy with him, and promises her
a finer home than she has.

"But while they are talking, a door opens at the back, and an officer
appears. Those present rise with respect, except the girl and her
companion. Approaching them, the officer lays his hand heavily on the
soldier's arm, and says: 'Stand up, fellow. Go to the counter, and
write your name and that of your regiment, and hold yourself at my

"The soldier stands up automatically, obeys, and, having presented the
paper, retires.

"Then the officer sits down and flirts with the girl, who accepts his

"But now a stranger shows himself at the door. He is clad in a big
cloak. At the sight of him, men and women fall on their knees, except
the officer, who is too agreeably occupied to notice the new arrival.
In a moment of enthusiasm, he says to the girl: 'You are divine. I
will take you with me. You shall have a fine house, where it is warm.'

"Just then, the man in the cloak draws near. The officer recognizes
him, turns pale, and bows down, uttering: 'Oh, pardon, sire!'

"'Stand up,' orders the master, meantime examining the servant, who,
on her side, looks without trembling at the all-powerful Czar.

"'You may withdraw,' the latter tells the officer. 'I will keep this
woman, and give her a palace.'

"Thus met for the first time Peter I and she who became Catherine of

Having given this prologue, Balzac went on to speak of the staging of
his play, which he promised to arrange in accordance with what he knew
of the country's scenery and customs, Russia being, from an artistic
point of view, admirable to exhibit theatrically. Monsieur Hostein was
quite gained over by the prospect of something so novel; and Balzac,
paying him a second call, some few days later, pledged himself to
start for Kiew and Moscow very shortly, and, from there, to go to
Wierzchownia and finish his drama. The journey to Russia was made; and
Balzac, in due course, returned, but he did not bring with him the
denouement of /Peter and Catherine/.

Not that his mind was less preoccupied with the drama. On the
contrary, Champfleury, who went to see him in the Rue Fortunee, soon
after his arrival in Paris, found him more bent on writing for the
stage than ever. One idea of his now was to create a /feerie/, or sort
of pantomime, sparkling throughout with wit. Another was to form an
association for dramatic authors of standing (himself naturally
included), not to defend their interests, but to get them to work in
common, and to keep thus the various Paris theatres provided with
their work. It was a /trust/ scheme before the era of trusts. If the
thing were managed, they might renew the miracles of those
indefatigable and marvellous Spanish playwrights--Calderon, who
composed between twelve and fifteen hundred pieces, Lope de Vega, who
composed more than two thousand. However, he feared that many of his
colleagues might not care to fall in with his suggestions. "They are
idlers, donkeys," he added. "There is only one worker among them, and
that is Scribe. But what a piece of literature his /Memoirs of a
Hussar Colonel/ is!"

Another visitor to the Rue Fortunee in February 1848 was Monsieur
Hostein, to whom the novelist had offered for the spring a piece that
should replace /Peter and Catherine/. This time the manuscript was
ready. It lay on the table, bearing on its first page the title,
/Gertrude, a Bourgeois Tragedy/. The piece was a five-act one, in
prose. A couple of days later, actors and actresses were assembled in
Balzac's drawing-room. Madame Dorval pursed her lips at the words,
/Gertrude, tragedy/. "Don't interrupt," cried the author, laughing.
However, after the reading of the second act they had to interrupt.
The play was overloaded with detail. A good deal of pruning was
effected, together with a change in title, before the first
performance on the 25th of May; and more excisions might have been
made with advantage. Alterations less beneficial were those introduced
into the cast, Madame Dorval being eliminated in favour of Madame
Lacressonniere. This lady was a much poorer actress, but was a
/persona grata/ with Monsieur Hostein. Both public and critics
accorded Balzac's new effort a very fair reception, notwithstanding
the mediocrity of the acting and the peculiar circumstances under
which it was produced, just as the Revolution storm was breaking out.

The /Maratre/, or /Stepmother/, as the piece was called when staged,
presents the home of a Count de Grandchamp, who, after being a general
under the First Empire, has turned manufacturer under the restoration.
He has a grown-up daughter, Pauline, and a second wife named Gertrude,
the latter still a young, handsome woman, with a ten-year-old son, the
little Napoleon. Though they are outwardly on good terms, the
stepmother and stepdaughter nevertheless hate each other. They are in
love with the same man, Ferdinand, the manager of the general's works.
On this hatred the entire interest of the play turns. Ferdinand really
loves Pauline; but he has formerly been engaged to Gertrude, who
jilted him to marry the general, and this fact somewhat embarrasses
him in his wooing. Moreover, his father was an officer under the
Revolution Government, and, if the general should learn that, it would
ruin his chances of obtaining the old gentleman's consent. The plot
arising out of these relations is, at first, cleverly dealt with by
the author, who involves matters further by a second suitor for
Pauline, to whom Gertrude tries to marry her, in order that she
herself may regain Ferdinand's affection. In the second act, a word-
duel is fought between the two women, during a whist-party, each
seeking to surprise the opponent's true sentiments towards Ferdinand.
This scene is exceedingly original; and, subsequently, a bold
employment is made by the author of the /enfant terrible/--the young
Napoleon--for the purpose of helping on the unravelling of the plot.
The concluding portion of the piece and its sombre tragedy--the deaths
of Pauline and Ferdinand--is heavier in dialogue and cumbrous in
construction, with its officers of justice who supply a useless
episode. One might sum up the /Stepmother/ as a weak ending to a
strong beginning. None the less it shows progress on /Vautrin/ and
/Pamela Giraud/.

A few days after the Revolution, Theodore Cogniard, manager of the
Porte-Saint-Martin Theater, wrote to Balzac and proposed to reproduce
/Vautrin/. Balzac, in replying, referred to Lemaitre's /toupet/, and
explained that, when disguising Vautrin as a Mexican general, he had
in his mind General Murat. He told Cogniard he was willing to allow
the revival, if care were taken against there being any caricature of
the now disposed monarch. The manager agreed, but the performances did
not come off, apparently on account of the disturbed state of the
city. In 1850, an unauthorized revival was put on the stage of the
Gaite, while Balzac was at Dresden. Being informed of it, the novelist
protested in a letter to the /Journal des Debats/, and the piece was
at once withdrawn.

The /Stepmother/ was Balzac's last dramatic composition played during
his lifetime. This was partly his own fault. In the short epoch of the
Second Republic, when neither the Comedie Francaise nor the Odeon, the
two national homes of the drama, were thriving, it was to the
directors' interest to seek out men of talent; and he had overtures
from both theatres. Mauzin of the Odeon even promised him, as he had
promised Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, a premium of six thousand
francs and a percentage of receipts on any sum over a thousand francs.
Balzac consented to write a tragedy entitled /Richard Sauvage/, and
got as far as--a monologue. With Lockroy of the Theatre Francais also
he made an arrangement for a comedy. There had been talk at first,
both inside and outside the Francais, of a satirical piece called the
/Petty Bourgeois/, but having nothing except the name in common with
his unfinished novel similarly yclept. His motive for not proceeding
with it he set forth to the journalist Hippolyte Rolle, in a letter
published in his correspondence. "Is it on the morrow of a battle," he
wrote, "when the bourgeoisie have so generously shed their blood on
behalf of threatened civilization, and when they are in mourning, that


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