Frederick Lawton

Part 6 out of 6

Victorine is, and, since she had given her affections to the young
Rastignac, he, like a good fellow, renounces his own matrimonial
project and assists the old father in marrying the lovers happily. The
part of Goriot was acted by Vernet, who did entire justice to Balzac's
great creation. Simultaneously at the Vaudeville, another and poorer
version of the novel was given; and, in 1891, at the Theatre Libre,
Tabarand experimented a third piece, this last being a faithful
reproduction of the novel. Antoine scored a big success in the part of
Goriot, rendering the death-bed scene with remarkable power and skill.

In 1836, /La Grande Breteche/, with its vengeful husband who walls up
his wife's lover alive, tempted Scribe and another playwright,
Melesville. In their arrangement, there is a virtuous wife whose
husband is a bigamist. On learning the truth, she consents to receive
the visit of Lara, an admirer of hers, whom she loves; and, when the
Bluebeard, Valdini, surprises his victim and proceeds to the
immurement, his first wife slips in most conveniently and whisks him
off, leaving Valentine free to marry Lara.

It is curious to notice how, in almost every instance, the first
adapting dramatists transformed Balzac's tragedies into comedies,
softening the stern facts of life and its injustices, and meting out
the juster rewards and punishments which the novelist's realism

In Antony Beraud's /Gars/, a play drawn from the /Chouans/ and
performed at the Ambigu-Comique in 1837, the hero and heroine, instead
of dying, are saved by a political amnesty decreed by Napoleon; and
the curtain falls to the cry of /Vive l'Empereur/. More than fifty
years later, in 1894, the same theatre gave a close rendering of the
dramatic portions of the /Chouans/, due to the collaboration of Berton
and Blavet, the tragic ending being preserved, with all the effects
properly belonging to it.

Commonplace, like the /Gars/, were the arrangements of the /Search for
the Absolute/, in 1837, and /Cesar Birotteau/ in 1838. The former was
staged under the bizarre title, /A+Mx=O+X, or the Dream of a Savant/.
The authors, Bayard and Bieville, concealed their identity under an
algebraic X as well; and their piece, which made Balthazar Claes a
Parisian chemist and a candidate to a vacant chair in the College de
France, failed to attract at the Gymnase, in spite of Bouffe's talent
and the redemption of Balthazar.

/Cesar Birotteau/ was performed at the Pantheon Theatre, which was
demolished in 1846. The love-story of Popinot and Cesarine, which is
so briefly sketched in the novel, assumed chief importance in Cormon's
adaptation, and, of course, Cesar does not die.

Scribe borrowed largely from the /Comedie Humaine/. His /Sheriff/
libretto for Halevy's music at the Opera Comique in 1839 was a
transmogrification of /Master Cornelius/. Balzac's Cornelius is Louis
XI's money-lender, who lives with his sister in an old mansion, next
to a house with the King's natural daughter, Marie de Sassenage,
occupies with her husband, the Comte de Sainte-Vallier. The old money-
lender, perceiving that his gold is disappearing, has had four of his
apprentices hanged on suspicion. The like fate now threatens Marie's
lover, Georges d'Estouteville, who in order to see her more safely,
has persuaded Cornelius to let him stay in his dwelling one night.
Marie appeals to the King to spare her lover's life, and Louis, on
investigating the matter, discovers that Cornelius is a somnambulist,
and has been robbing himself and burying his gold. On being told of
this, the old money-lender has no peace of mind, fearing the King will
take all his treasure, and ultimately cuts his own throat. In Scribe's
parody, for a parody the piece virtually is, the scene is laid in
England. John Turnel, the Sheriff of London, is the somnambulist, and
he suspects his own daughter and his cook of stealing his money. But,
differing from Cornelius, he accepts the situation when the truth is
revealed to him under circumstances that make him as ridiculous as the
spectre of Tappington in the /Ingoldsby Legends/; and, as a comic
opera generally ends happily, he consents to the marriage of his
daughter, Camilla, and of Keat, the cook, with their respective

An English setting was likewise given by Scribe to his play of
/Helene/, suggested by Balzac's /Honorine/, which was staged at the
Gymnase in 1846. Helene is a young orphan who draws and paints for her
living, and has the good fortune to have all her canvases bought at
advantageous prices by a rich dealer named Crosby. But suddenly she
learns that the dealer is acting in behalf of a certain Lord
Clavering, and, fearing some underhand designs, she refuses to keep
the money that has been paid her. Smitten by her disinterestedness as
well as by her beauty, Lord Clavering would gladly marry her, but is
bound by his word plighted to Lord Dunbar's daughter. However, the
latter elopes with another nobleman, and Clavering marries Helene.
This pretty theme, developed by the actress Rose Cheri, made a huge

Nearly as great was the actress's success at the same theatre in 1849,
when she played the principal role in Clairville's /Madame Marneffe/ a
version of /Cousin Bette/, but very much modified, since Bette is
eliminated altogether, and Valerie Marneffe, instead of being a
depraved creature, is merely a clever woman of the world, who avenges
her father's ruin on the Baron Hulot and Crevel, they being mainly
responsible for it. When Balzac was at Wierzchownia, on his last
visit, he wrote to his mother asking her to go to the theatrical
agent's in order to receive his third of the receipts produced by the
piece. These author's royalties must have helped his purse

In the year after the novelist's death, the applauded representation
of /Mercadet/, at the Gymnase, stimulated other managers of theatres
to go on exploiting his /Comedy/. In September, the /Shagreen Skin/,
arranged by Judicis, was played at the Ambigu-Comique, with /tableaux/
of almost literal imitation, yet bringing to life again, in the
denouement, the chief /dramatis personae/, and making the whole drama
a dream.

At the Comedie Francaise, in 1853, Barriere and de Beauplan produced a
five-act prose play drawn from the /Lily in the Valley/. The novel was
an awkward one to dramatize, there being very few elements in it
capable of yielding situations for the stage. So the result was poor.
A better thing was made in 1859 by de Keraniou out of the /Sceaux
Ball/. On it he based an agreeable piece entitled /Noblesse Oblige/,
with a delicately interpreted love scene in it which met with
appreciative audiences at the Odeon.

One more example, that of /Cousin Pons/, may be given to close the
list of these adaptation, which are fully treated in Edmond Bire's
interesting book dealing with certain aspects of Balzac's life and
work. /Cousin Pons/ was staged at the Cluny Theatre in 1873. Alphonse
de Launay, the author of the play, keeps to his text fairly well; but
he adds a love episode which thrusts the friendship of the two
musicians into the second place. Moreover, after the death of Pons,
Schmucke lives to inherit his fortune and the Camusots are checkmated.



It may be affirmed, without thereby disparaging the /Comedie Humaine/,
that Balzac's personality is even more interesting than his work; and
this is a sufficient excuse for returning to it in a last chapter and
trying, at the risk of repetition, to make its presentment completer
by way of supplement and summary.

The interest does not arise alone from the contrasts of his foibles,
which, forsooth, are nearly always comic--when they are not tragic. We
are just as much attracted by the contrasts of his qualities, and by
the interplay of the former with the latter--the victories and
defeats, the glimpses of immense possibility, the struggles between
temperament and environment, all these having a fullness of display
rarely found in human nature.

Besides the portraits in painting or sculpture executed of the
novelist by Deveria, Boulanger, David d'Angers, and others, some
mention of which has already been made, there was one begun by
Meissonier, who unfortunately did not finish it. Monsieur Jules
Claretie states that the canvas on which it was drawn was subsequently
covered by the artist's /Man choosing a Sword/, to-day in the Van
Prael collection at Brussels. About Boulanger's picture Theophile
Gautier has a good deal to tell us in his article of 1837, published
in the /Beaux Arts de la Presse/; and it scarcely agrees with Balzac's
condemnation of the portrait as a daub, when he saw the canvas some
years later in Russia. Remarking on the difficulty of rendering the
novelist's physiognomy, on account of its mobility and strange aspect,
Gautier gives it as his opinion that Boulanger succeeded perfectly in
seizing the complex expression which seemed to escape all efforts of
the brush. The description is a long one; and any one desirous of
comparing with each other the impressions received by Balzac's
contemporaries who came into close contact with him would do well to
read it after this description by Lamartine. In the tenth of his
lectures on Literature during the year 1856, the author of /Jocelyn/,
speaking of what he had observed, said:--

"His exterior was as uncultivated as his genius. It was the shape of
an element: big head, hair scattered over his collar and cheeks like a
mane that scissors never trimmed, lips thick, eyes soft but of flame;
costume clashing with every elegance; clothes too small for his
colossal body; waistcoat unbuttoned; linen coarse; blue stockings;
shoes that made holes in the carpet; an appearance as of a schoolboy
on holiday, who has grown during the year and whose stature has burst
his garments. Such was the man that by himself wrote a whole library
about his century, the Walter Scott of France, not the Walter Scott of
landscape and adventure, but what is much more prodigious, the Walter
Scott of characters, the Dante of the infinite circles of human life,
the Moliere of read comedy, less perfect but more fertile than the
Moliere of played comedy. Why does not his style equal his conception?
France would then have two Molieres, and the greater would not be he
who lived first."

Returning to the same subject in his hundred and sixth lecture, eight
years later, Lamartine continued:--

"He bore his genius so simply that he did not feel it. He was not
tall, and, however, the lighting up of his face and the mobility of
his body prevented his small stature from being noticed; but this
height swayed like his thought. Between the ground and him there
appeared to be a certain margin; now, he stooped down to pick up a
sheaf of ideas; now, he stood on tiptoe to follow the soaring of his
thought into the infinite. He was big, thick-set, square-shouldered-
and-hipped. His neck, chest, body, thighs, and limbs were mighty.
There was much of the ampleness of Mirabeau, but no heaviness; there
was so much soul that this carried that lightly. The weight seemed to
give him force and not to take it from him. His short arms
gesticulated with ease; he talked as an orator speaks. His voice
resounded with the somewhat savage energy of his lungs, but it had
neither roughness nor irony nor anger. His legs, on which he waddled a
little, carried his bust smartly; his hands, plump and broad,
expressed his whole thought by their waving movements. Such was the
man in his stalwart frame. But, in front of the face, one forgot the
framework. The speaking countenance, from which it was impossible to
detach one's gaze, both charmed and fascinated the beholder. His hair
floated over the forehead in large locks; his black eyes pierced like
arrows blunted by benevolence; they entered yours confidently as if
they were friends; his cheeks were full, rosy, and strongly coloured;
the nose was well modelled, yet a trifle long; his lips, gracefully
limned, ample and raised at the corners; his teeth, unequal, broken,
and blackened by cigar-smoke; his head often inclining towards the
neck, then proudly raised during speech. But the dominating trait of
his face, even more than intelligence, was communicative kindness. He
charmed your mind when he spoke, and, when not speaking, he charmed
your heart. No passion of hatred or envy could have been expressed by
this physiognomy; it would have been impossible for him not to be
kind. Yet it was not a kindness of indifference or nonchalance, as in
the epicurean face of a La Fontaine; it was a loving kindness,
intelligent with regard to itself and others, which inspired gratitude
and the outpouring of the heart, and defied a person not to love him.
A gay childishness was the characteristic of this figure, a soul on
holiday when he laid down his pen to forget himself with his friends.
. . . But, when I saw him some years later, what gravity did that
which was serious not inspire in him? what repulsion did his
conscience not evince towards evil? What difficult virtues did his
apparent joviality not conceal?"

This tribute of an intimate, as generous as that of Hugo and perhaps
more sincere, may pass without comment in so far as it concerns the
outer man. On the moral side its exactitude may be questioned, both
for what it omits and what it asserts. The omissions are considerable.
The assertions deal too exclusively with that conduct which people
generally exhibit in their most amicable relations with each other.
Balzac's kindness of heart came out in not a few experiences of his
life; but deeper than these ephemeral bursts of generosity were
selfishnesses that were enormous and persistent. The impulsive energy,
the huge boyishness, the appetites physical and mental that age never
trained nor chastened were phenomena that all his friends noted,
though the manifestations differed.

Some lines of Gozlan's in his /Balzac in Slippers/, form a good sequel
to Werdet's account of the Gargantuan dinner. "Balzac drank nothing
but water," says Gozlan, but this must have been on Fridays; "and ate
but little meat. On the other hand, he consumed great quantities of
fruit. . . . His lips palpitated, his eyes lit up with happiness, at
the sight of a pyramid of pears or fine peaches. Not one remained to
go and relate the rout of the others. He devoured them all. He was
superb in vegetable Pantagruelism, with his cravat taken off, his
shirt unbuttoned at the neck, his fruit-knife in hand, laughing,
drinking water, carving into the pulp of a doyenne pear. I should like
to add--and talking. But Balzac talked only little. He let others
talk, laughed at intervals, silently, in the savage manner of Leather-
stocking, or else, he burst out like a bomb, if the sentence pleased
him. It needed to be pretty broad, and was never too broad. He melted
with pleasure, especially at a silly pun inspired by his wines, which
were delicious."

Another portrait drawn of the novelist by a contemporary, interpreting
the inner man, but less flattering to the great delineator of
character, is not free from satire and narrowness; but some of the
traits it outlines are closely and accurately observed. In his
/Histoire du Quarante et Unieme (Academy) Fauteuil/, Arsene Houssaye
wrote: "Monsieur de Balzac--that haughty rebel who would fain have
been a founder, that refined Rabelais who discovered a woman where
Rabelais had discovered only a bottle--Monsieur de Balzac dreamed of
the gigantic, yet without being an architect of Cyclopean times.
Consequently, when he tried to build his temple of Solomon, he had
neither marble nor gold enough to his hand. For his /human comedy/ he
often lacked actors, and had to resign himself frequently to making
the understudies play. It is the fashion to-day to raise Balzac to the
level of the dominating geniuses of the world, such as Homer, Saint
Augustine, Shakespeare and Moliere; but for the mind that has accurate
vision, how many rocks are overturned on this Enceladus, what
staircases are forgotten in his Tower of Babel, as in his Jardies
house! Balzac was half a woman, as George Sand was half a man. He had
a woman's curiosities, he had also her contradictions. Balzac believed
himself religious; but his church was the witches' sabbath, and his
priest was not Saint Paul but Swedenborg, if not Mesmer; his Gospel
was the conjuror's book, perhaps that of Pope Honorius--Honorius de
Balzac. He believed himself a politician, and endeavoured to continue
de Maistre; he fancied he was glorifying authority, whereas he
realized the perpetual apotheosis of force; his heroes were named
indifferently Moses or Attila, Charlemagne or Tamerlane, Ricci, the
General of the Jesuits, or Robespierre, the profaner of the sanctuary,
Napoleon or Vautrin. The /History of the Thirteen/ will remain as the
grandiose and monstrous defence of personal force defying the social.
But will it not remain also, by the side of Hegel's philosophy, as an
eloquent codicil to those testaments of individual sovereignty signed
by Aristophanes, Montaigne, and Voltaire? He believed himself a
spiritualist, and, sublime sawbones, he studied only in the medical
amphitheatre. He entered a drawing-room only through the kitchen and
the dressing-room. He was always ignorant of that fine saying of
Hemsterhuys: 'This world is not a machine but a poem.' He believed
himself a painter of manners, and he invented the manners. His women
who are so vividly alive, Madame de Langeais or La Torpille, have
never been intimate with any other company than that of Monsieur de
Balzac. As other great artists, he created his world, a strange world
which has consoled and welcomed all the outcasts of the real world, an
impossible world which has more than once painted the actual one in
its likeness. What charming women of the provinces have since
developed into a Eugenie Grandet, a Madame de Mortsauf, a Madame
Claes! . . . What was wanting to Balzac in the hell of life, whose
every spiral he descended, was virginity in love and ingenuousness in
poetry. He always lost himself in the difficult places of style; and
himself wept over the lack. When he wrote the /Search for the
Absolute/, he was in quest of the ideal; but the ideal is that which
one had inside one's self, just as love is. The studies of the chemist
and alchemist, of the doctor and jurist, do not light the flame of

The quotations do not exhaust the list of portraits emanating from
Balzac's fellows, but they adequately illustrate the varying views,
which were many. Indeed, like the sculptor who produces several
studies of the same model and shows a different interpretation each
time, critics have presented us, in more than one instance, with
descriptions of the novelist, at an earlier and a later date, that
contain important discrepancies.

Balzac was an enigma because he was not always the same personality to
himself. Both his energies and his desires carried him outside the
limits in which a man's individuality is usually manifested. Despite
Monsieur Houssaye, one may even sympathize, though incredulous, with
admirers that would have him to be a universal genius, unfortunately
thwarted by fate--one who else might have opened up all the avenues of
knowledge that humanity can ever penetrate. This persuasion was
undoubtedly his own; and it partly explains his Faustus curiosities
leading him now and again into illegitimate and unwholesome
experiments, of which we get some glimpse in his books and

That he could have succeeded in other careers, the medical one, for
example, the painter's or sculptor's perhaps, or the mechanical
inventor's, seems likely; but his impulsiveness, his exuberance, and
his poor financial ability would have been hindrances in directions
where success depends largely on exact calculation, method, and
detail. In political life, his brilliance would assuredly have
sufficed to procure him prominence in opposition. As a minister he
would have inevitably fallen a victim to the inconsistencies of his
own attitude--inconsistencies due to the fact that his judgments were
intuitional and instinctive, with prejudices reacting on them, too
numerous and too strong to allow him to weigh things fairly and
deliberately. Moreover, his mind was too much engrossed by the sole
picturesqueness of phenomena to delve deep enough beneath them for
their essential relations. This is why it happens that his arguments
are often worse than his convictions, the latter being inherited, in
general, and at least having the residuary wisdom of tradition
together with the additional force of his common sense. Thus, on the
eve of giving the ignorant man a power equal to that of the
intelligent one, and of handing over the supreme decision in the vital
concerns of a country to unsafeguarded majorities less qualified for
the task than ancient oligarchy or autocracy. But he had nothing of
worth to suggest, no alternative save the return to abuses of the
grossest kind which experience had proved to lead to revolution.

His ponderous declaration: "I write by the light of two eternal
truths, religion and the monarchy," was a sort of cheap-jack
recommendation of the so-called philosophy in his /Comedie Humaine/.
His Catholic orthodoxy, if orthodoxy it were, savoured more of
politics than religion. He did not wish the old ecclesiastical
organization and faith of France to be changed, because he saw in it a
useful police agency for restraining the masses. As for his Royalism,
which had a smack of Frondism in it, he stuck to it because it
accorded with his conservative, eclectic tastes, and not because he
had worked it out as the best theory of government. Such dissertations
as appear in his writings, on either the one or the other subject,
have nothing more original about them than can be found in the most
ordinary election speech or pulpit discourse.

And in the realm of pure speculative thought he was not great. Beyond
the limits of the visible, his intuition failed him; so that he
floundered helplessly when not upheld by the doctrines of others,
which, since he did not understand them, he adapted to his purpose but
awkwardly. Whether there were latent faculties in him that might have
developed with training, it is impossible to affirm or deny; however,
we may be forgiven the doubt. From a mind so forceful, the native
perception, though uncultured, should have issued in something better
than /Lambert/ or /Seraphita/. Still, there is this to be said, that a
man whose eyes were so constantly bent on facts, whose gaze was always
spying out details which escaped the common observation, was embracing
a plane parallel, if inferior to that which was covered by a Plato.

The title of the author of the /Comedy/ to be called a philosopher can
be defended only on the ground of his adding a new domain to the rule
of science. He was not the discoverer of the law of cause and effect.
Nor was he the one in his own country who did the most towards
demonstrating the interdependence of the various branches of
knowledge, this honour being reserved to Comte. But the transference
of the minute causalities of life into fiction was systematized by
him. He made the thing an artistic method, using it with the same
power, though not the same chasteness, as George Eliot after him. His
employment was not very logical--how could it be when the guiding mind
was in chronic fermentation? He gives us this contradiction that human
thought is at once the grandeur and destruction of life--an opinion
imbued with ecclesiasticism, confusing thought with passion. It is
passion alone which disintegrates; and, in the /Comedie Humaine/, such
monomaniacs as Grandet, Claes, and Hulot are destroyed not by their
thought but their desire.

Balzac's pessimism is not philosophic. In him it was not the despair
of an intellect that had worn itself out in vainly seeking for the
solution of the riddle of the universe, vainly striving after a theory
that should reconcile nature's brute law with the human demand for
justice and immanent goodness. By original temperament an optimist, he
changed and grew pessimistic with the untoward happenings of his
agitated career, and under the fostering of his native self-esteem.
Possibly too, as Le Breton asserts, a secondary cause was his having
imbibed the pretentious doctrines of the Romantic school, the disdains
of the young artistic bloods of 1830, who held their clan composed the
loftier, super-human race, the only one that counted. Berlioz carried
this folly of pride to its highest pitch. In his /Memoirs/, he
declared that the public (of course excluding himself) were an
infamous tag-rag-and-bob-tail. The people of Paris, he protested, were
more stupid and a hundred times more ferocious, in their caperings and
revolutionary grimaces, than the baboons and orang-outangs of Borneo.
Balzac at times adopted and expressed similar opinions. Gozlan relates
that one day the owner of Les Jardies said to him in the attic of his
hermitage: "Come, let us spit upon Paris." The novelist imagined that
talents of the kind he possessed ought to be admitted to every honour;
and his hatred of the Revolution and Republicanism was more because he
believed they were inimical to art--and his art--than because they had
cast down a throne. His bitterness was to some extent excusable, for
he was exploited much during his lifetime, and had, even to the end,
to bend his neck to the yoke. But he also belonged to the class of
exploiters by his mental constitution. Could he have had his way, all
the men of letters around him would have been in his pay, writing for
their bare living and contributing to his fame. In this connection
there is an anecdote narrated by Baudelaire, in the /Echo des
Theatres/ of the 25th of August 1846, and referable to the year 1839.

The Jardies hermit had a bill of twelve hundred francs to meet; and
for this reason he was sad as he walked up and down the double passage
of the Opera--he, the hardest commercial and literary head of the
nineteenth century; he, the poetic brain upholstered with figures like
a financier's office; he, the man of mythologic failures, of
hyperbolic and phantasmagoric enterprises, the lanterns of which he
always forgot to light; he, the great pursuer of dreams for ever in
quest of the absolute; he, the funniest, most attractive as well as
the vainest character of the /Comedie Humaine/; he, the original, as
unbearable in private life as he was delightful in his writings; the
big baby swollen with genius and conceit, who had so many qualities
and so many failings that one feared to attack the latter for fear of
injuring the former, and thus spoiling this incorrigible and fatal

At length, however, his forehead grew serene and he went towards the
Rue de Richelieu with sublime and cadenced step. There he entered the
den of a rich man (Curmer), who received him with due honour.

"Would you like," quoth he, "the day after to-morrow to have in the
/Siecle/ and the /Debats/ two smart articles on the French depicted by
themselves, the articles to be signed by me? I must have fifteen
hundred francs. The affair is a grand one for you."

The editor, unlike his /confreres/, found the proposal reasonable, and
the bargain was concluded on the spot, with the stipulation that the
money should be paid on the delivery of the first article. Leaving the
office, the visitor returned to the passage of the Opera; and there he
met a diminutive young man of shrewish, witty countenance (Edouard
Ourliac), known among the journalists for his clownish verve.

"Edouard, will you earn a hundred and fifty francs to-morrow?"

"Won't I, if I get the chance!" answered the latter.

"Then come and drink a cup of coffee."

"To-morrow," explained his principal, "I must have three big columns
on the French depicted by themselves, and I must have them early, for
I have to copy and sign them."

Edouard hastened away to his task, while the novelist went and ordered
a second article in the rue de Navarin.

The first article appeared two days later in the /Siecle/, and was
signed, strangely enough, neither by the little man nor by the great
man, but by a third person known in Bohemia for his tom-cat and opera-
comique amours (Gerard de Nerval). The second friend was big, idle,
and lymphatic. Moreover, he had no ideas; he knew only how to thread
words together like pearls; and, as it takes longer to heap up three
long columns of words than to make a volume of ideas, his article
appeared only several days later in the /Presse/.

The twelve-hundred-francs debt was paid. Each one was perfectly
satisfied, except the editor, who was not quite. And this was how a
man of genius discharged his liabilities.

Balzac's individuality is one of those that inevitably raise the
question as to how far genius and creative imagination are made up of
will-power, how far what is produced by great talent is sub-conscious
inspiration virtually independent of effort. Although Shelley confines
his assertions on the subject to poetry, he nevertheless seems to
imply that creation of any kind has little to do with the will. "The
mind in creation," he says, "is as a fading coal, which some invisible
influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness;
this power arises from within, like the colour of a flower which fades
and changes as it is developed, and the ocnsciuso portions of our
natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure. Could
this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is
impossible to predict the greatness of the results; but, when
composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline." The case
of Balzac suggests that the sort of genius Shelley had in his thought
is the exception rather than the rule. The author of the /Comedy/
himself asserts that great talents do not exist without great will.
"You have ideas in your brain?" he says. "Just so. I also. . . . What
is the use of that which one has in one's soul if no use is made of
it?" . . . "To conceive is to enjoy; it is to smoke enchanted
cigarettes; but, without the execution, everything goes away in dream
and smoke." . . . "Constant work is the law of art as it is that of
life; for art is creation idealized. Consequently, great artists and
poets do not wait for orders or customers; they bring forth to-day,
to-morrow, continually."

It may be, after all, that the difference is one of those verbal ones
to which Locke draws attention in his /Essay on the Human
Understanding/. Will-power is partly an inheritance and partly an
acquisition. And acquired qualities are always less puissantly
exercised, less effective in the results obtained. Even in poetry it
would appear that, without will to unlock the door, fine faculties
that are dormant may never make their existence known. Balzac gives us
an example of a native will that was for ever rushing through his
being and arousing to activity first one and then another of his
native powers. And, if the total accomplishment was not conform to the
tremendous liberation of force, it was because there was circumstance
harder than will and the intershock of energies that ran counter to
each other.

In fine, alas! there is something absent from the man which would have
both beautified himself and added a saner beauty to his work--the
pursuit of those finer ideals which mean consistent devotion to duty
and broad sympathy with human nature, irrespective of nation, colour,
and position, in its yearnings and in its fate. Fascinated by material
aims, worshipping the Napoleonic epopee to the extent of framing his
conduct by it, measuring the happiness of existence rather by its
honours and furniture than by its moral attainments, he missed the
first poetry of love as he missed the last wisdom of age. This
limitation of the man makes itself sorely felt in his writings, where
we, more often than not, tread a Dane's /Inferno/, unrelieved by the
brighter glimpses and kindlier impulses that still are found in our
world of self-seeking and suffering.


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