Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 3

Part 9 out of 11

Many widows, with weepyng tears,
came to fetch ther makys[58] away.

58. Tivydale may carpe of care,
Northumberland may mayk great moan,
For two such captayns as slayne were there,
on the March-parti shall never be none.

59. Word ys commen to Eddenburrowe,
to Jamy the Scottische kynge,
That doughty Douglas, lyff-tenant of the Marches,
he lay slean Cheviot within.

60. His handdes dyd he weal and wryng,
he sayd, "Alas, and woe ys me!
Such an othar captayn Skotland within,"
he sayd, "i-faith should never be."

61. Worde ys commyn to lovely Londone,
till the fourth Harry our kynge.
That lord Percy, leyff-tenante of the Marchis
he lay slayne Cheviot within.

62. "God have merci on his soule," sayde Kyng Harry,
"good lord, yf thy will it be!
I have a hondred captayns in Ynglonde," he sayd,
"as good as ever was he:
But Percy, and I brook my lyfe,
thy deth well quyte shall be."

63. As our noble kynge mayd his avowe,
lyke a noble prince of renown,
For the deth of the lord Percy
he dyd the battle of Hombyll-down:

64. Where syx and thirty Skottishe knyghtes
on a day were beaten down:
Glendale glytteryde on their armor bryght,
over castille, towar, and town.

65. This was the hontynge of the Cheviot,
that tear[59] begane this spurn;
Old men that knowen the grownde well enoughe
call it the battell of Otterburn.

66. At Otterburn begane this spume
upon a Monnynday;
There was the doughty Douglas slean,
the Percy never went away.

67. There was never a tyme on the Marche-partes
sen the Douglas and the Percy met,
But yt ys mervele and the rede blude ronne not,
as the rain does in the stret.

68. Jesus Christ our bales[60] bete,
and to the bliss us bring!
Thus was the hunting of the Cheviot;
God send us alle good ending!

[Footnote 42: 'Maugre,' in spite of.]

[Footnote 43: Hinder.]

[Footnote 44: Company.]

[Footnote 45: Skirmished on the field.]

[Footnote 46: Ran through the groves.]

[Footnote 47: Blast blown when game is killed.]

[Footnote 48: Quartering, cutting.]

[Footnote 49: Flame.]

[Footnote 50: Perhaps "finish."]

[Footnote 51: "A gauntlet covering hand and forearm."]

[Footnote 52: Man.]

[Footnote 53: Promise.]

[Footnote 54: Meaning uncertain.]

[Footnote 55: Stopped.]

[Footnote 56: Pierced.]

[Footnote 57: Stress of battle.]

[Footnote 58: Mates.]

[Footnote 59: That there (?).]

[Footnote 60: Evils.]


1. Up Johnie raise[61] in a May morning,
Calld for water to wash his hands,
And he has called for his gude gray hounds
That lay bound in iron bands, bands,
That lay bound in iron bands.

2. "Ye'll busk[62], ye'll busk my noble dogs,
Ye'll busk and make them boun[63],
For I'm going to the Braidscaur hill
To ding the dun deer doun."

3. Johnie's mother has gotten word o' that,
And care-bed she has ta'en[64]:
"O Johnie, for my benison,
I beg you'l stay at hame;
For the wine so red, and the well-baken bread,
My Johnie shall want nane."

4. "There are seven forsters at Pickeram Side,
At Pickeram where they dwell,
And for a drop of thy heart's bluid
They wad ride the fords of hell."

5. But Johnie has cast off the black velvet,
And put on the Lincoln twine,
And he is on the goode greenwood
As fast as he could gang.

6. Johnie lookit east, and Johnie lookit west,
And he lookit aneath the sun,
And there he spied the dun deer sleeping
Aneath a buss o' whun[65].

7. Johnie shot, and the dun deer lap[66],
And she lap wondrous wide,
Until they came to the wan water,
And he stem'd her of her pride.

8. He has ta'en out the little pen-knife,
'Twas full three quarters[67] long,
And he has ta'en out of that dun deer
The liver but and[68] the tongue.

9. They eat of the flesh, and they drank of the blood,
And the blood it was so sweet,
Which caused Johnie and his bloody hounds
To fall in a deep sleep.

10. By then came an old palmer,
And an ill death may he die!
For he's away to Pickeram Side
As fast as he can drie[69].

11. "What news, what news?" says the Seven Forsters,
"What news have ye brought to me?"
"I have no news," the palmer said,
"But what I saw with my eye."

12. "As I came in by Braidisbanks,
And down among the whuns,
The bonniest youngster e'er I saw
Lay sleepin amang his hunds."

13. "The shirt that was upon his back
Was o' the holland fine;
The doublet which was over that
Was o' the Lincoln twine."

14. Up bespake the Seven Forsters,
Up bespake they ane and a':
"O that is Johnie o' Cockleys Well,
And near him we will draw."

15. O the first stroke that they gae him,
They struck him off by the knee,
Then up bespake his sister's son:
"O the next'll gar[70] him die!"

16. "O some they count ye well wight men,
But I do count ye nane;
For you might well ha' waken'd me,
And ask'd gin I wad be ta'en."

17. "The wildest wolf as in a' this wood
Wad not ha' done so by me;
She'd ha' wet her foot i' the wan water,
And sprinkled it o'er my brae,
And if that wad not ha' waken'd me,
She wad ha' gone and let me be."

18. "O bows of yew, if ye be true,
In London, where ye were bought,
Fingers five, get up belive[71],
Manhuid shall fail me nought."

19. He has kill'd the Seven Forsters,
He has kill'd them all but ane,
And that wan scarce to Pickeram Side,
To carry the bode-words hame.

20. "Is there never a [bird] in a' this wood
That will tell what I can say;
That will go to Cockleys Well,
Tell my mither to fetch me away?"

21. There was a [bird] into that wood,
That carried the tidings away,
And many ae[72] was the well-wight man
At the fetching o' Johnie away.

[Footnote 61: Rose.]

[Footnote 62: Prepare.]

[Footnote 63: Ready.]

[Footnote 64: Has fallen ill with anxiety.]

[Footnote 65: Bush of whin, furze.]

[Footnote 66: Leaped.]

[Footnote 67: Quarter--the fourth part of a yard.]

[Footnote 68: "But and"--as well as.]

[Footnote 69: Bear, endure.]

[Footnote 70: Make, cause.]

[Footnote 71: Quickly.]

[Footnote 72: One.]


1. The king sits in Dumferling toune,
Drinking the blude-reid wine:
"O whar will I get guid sailor,
To sail this ship of mine?"

2. Up and spak an eldern knight,
Sat at the kings right kne:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor,
That sails upon the sea."

3. The king has written a braid letter[73],
And sign'd it wi' his hand,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the sand.

4. The first line that Sir Patrick read,
A loud laugh laughed he;
The next line that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his ee.

5. "O wha is this has done this deed,
This ill deed done to me,
To send me out this time o' the year,
To sail upon the sea!"

6. "Make haste, make haste, my mirry men all,
Our guide ship sails the morne:"
"O say na sae, my master dear,
For I fear a deadlie storme."

7. "Late, late yestreen I saw the new moone[74],
Wi' the auld moone in hir arme,
And I fear, I fear, my dear master,
That we will come to harme"

8. O our Scots nobles were right laith
To weet their cork-heeled shoone;
But lang owre a' the play wer play'd,
Their hats they swam aboone.

9. O lang, lang may their ladies sit,
Wi' their fans into their hand,
Or e'er they see Sir Patrick Spens
Cum sailing to the land.

10. O lang, lang may the ladies stand,
Wi' their gold kerns[75] in their hair,
Waiting for their ain dear lords,
For they'll se thame na mair.

11. Half owre, half owre to Aberdour,
It's "fiftie fadom deep,
And their lies guid Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet."

[Footnote 73: "_A braid letter_, open or patent, in
opposition to close rolls."--Percy.]

[Footnote 74: Note that it is the sight of the new moon
_late_ in the evening which makes a bad omen.]

[Footnote 75: Combs.]


1. Ye highlands, and ye Lowlands,
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl of Murray,
And they layd him on the green.

2. "Now wae be to thee, Huntly!
And wherefore did you sae?
I bade you bring him wi' you,
But forbade you him to slay."

3. He was a braw gallant,
And he rid at the ring[77];
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh he might have been a king!

4. He was a braw gallant,
And he play'd at the ba';
And the bonny Earl of Murray
Was the flower amang them a'.

5. He was a braw gallant,
And he play'd at the glove[78];
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh he was the Queen's love!

6. Oh lang will his lady
Look o'er the Castle Down,
E'er she see the Earl of Murray
Come sounding thro the town!

[Footnote 76: James Stewart, Earl of Murray, was killed by
the Earl of Huntly's followers, February, 1592. The second
stanza is spoken, of course, by the King.]

[Footnote 77: Piercing with the lance a suspended ring, as
one rode at full speed, was a favorite sport of the day.]

[Footnote 78: Probably this reference is to the glove worn by
knights as a lady's favor.]


1. Word's gane to the kitchen,
And word's gane to the ha',
That Marie Hamilton has born a bairn
To the highest Stewart of a'.

2. She's tyed it in her apron
And she's thrown it in the sea;
Says, "Sink ye, swim ye, bonny wee babe,
You'll ne'er get mair o' me."

3. Down then cam the auld Queen,
Goud[79] tassels tying her hair:
"O Marie, where's the bonny wee babe
That I heard greet[80] sae sair?"

4. "There was never a babe intill my room,
As little designs to be;
It was but a touch o' my sair side,
Came o'er my fair bodie."

5. "O Marie, put on your robes o' black,
Or else your robes o' brown,
For ye maun gang wi' me the night,
To see fair Edinbro town."

6. "I winna put on my robes o' black,
Nor yet my robes o' brown;
But I'll put on my robes o' white,
To shine through Edinbro town."

7. When she gaed up the Cannogate,
She laugh'd loud laughters three;
But when she cam down the Cannogate
The tear blinded her ee.

8. When she gaed up the Parliament stair,
The heel cam aff her shee[81];
And lang or she cam down again
She was condemn'd to dee.

9. When she cam down the Cannogate,
The Cannogate sae free,
Many a ladie look'd o'er her window,
Weeping for this ladie.

10. "Make never meen[82] for me," she says,
"Make never meen for me;
Seek never grace frae a graceless face,
For that ye'll never see."

11. "Bring me a bottle of wine," she says,
"The best that e'er ye hae,
That I may drink to my weil-wishers,
And they may drink to me."

12. "And here's to the jolly sailor lad
That sails upon the faem;
But let not my father nor mother get wit
But that I shall come again."

13. "And here's to the jolly sailor lad
That sails upon the sea;
But let not my father nor mother get wit
O' the death that I maun dee."

14. "Oh little did my mother think,
The day she cradled me,
What lands I was to travel through,
What death I was to dee."

15. "Oh little did my father think,
The day he held up[83] me,
What lands I was to travel through,
What death I was to dee."

16. "Last night I wash'd the Queen's feet,
And gently laid her down;
And a' the thanks I've gotten the nicht
To be hangd in Edinbro town!"

17. "Last nicht there was four Maries,
The nicht there'll be but three;
There was Marie Seton, and Marie Beton,
And Marie Carmichael, and me."

[Footnote 79: Gold.]

[Footnote 80: Weep.]

[Footnote 81: Shoe.]

[Footnote 82: Moan.]

[Footnote 83: Held up, lifted up, recognized as his lawful
child,--a world-wide and ancient ceremony.]


1. High upon Highlands,
and low upon Tay,
Bonnie George Campbell
rade out on a day.

2. Saddled and bridled
and gallant rade he;
Hame cam his guid horse,
but never cam he.

3. Out cam his auld mither
greeting fu' sair,
And out cam his bonnie bride
riving her hair.

4. Saddled and bridled
and booted rade he;
Toom[84] hame cam the saddle,
but never came he.

5. "My meadow lies green,
and my corn is unshorn,
My barn is to build,
and my babe is unborn."

6. Saddled and bridled
and booted rade he;
Toom hame cam the saddle,
but never cam he.

[Footnote 84: Empty.]


1. O Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,
They war twa bonnie lasses!
They biggit[86] a bower on yon burn-brae[87],
And theekit[88] it oer wi rashes.

2. They theekit it oer wi' rashes green,
They theekit it oer wi' heather:
But the pest cam frae the burrows-town,
And slew them baith thegither.

3. They thought to lie in Methven kirk-yard
Amang their noble kin;
But they maun lye in Stronach haugh,
To biek forenent the sin[89].

4. And Bessie Bell and Mary Gray,
They war twa bonnie lasses;
They biggit a bower on yon burn-brae,
And theekit it oer wi' rashes.


1. There were three ravens sat on a tree,
Downe a downe, hay down, hay downe[91],
There were three ravens sat on a tree, With a downe.
There were three ravens sat on a tree,
They were as blacke as they might be.
With a downe derrie, derrie, derrie, downe, downe.

2. The one of them said to his mate,
"Where shall we our breakfast take?"

3. "Downe in yonder greene field
There lies a knight slain under his shield."

4. His hounds they lie down at his feete,
So well they can their master keepe[92].

5. His haukes they flie so eagerly,
There's no fowle dare him come nie.

6. Downe there comes a fallow doe,
As great with young as she might goe.

7. She lift up his bloudy head,
And kist his wounds that were so red.

8. She got him up upon her backe,
And carried him to earthen lake[93].

9. She buried him before the prime,
She was dead herselfe ere even-song time.

10. God send every gentleman
Such haukes, such hounds, and such a leman[94].

[Footnote 85: Founded on an actual event of the plague, near
Perth, in 1645. See the interesting account in Professor
Child's 'Ballads,' Part VII, p. 75f.]

[Footnote 86: Built.]

[Footnote 87: A hill sloping down to a brook.]

[Footnote 88: Thatched.]

[Footnote 89: To bake in the rays of the sun.]

[Footnote 90: The counterpart, or perhaps parody, of this
ballad, called 'The Twa Corbies,' is better known than the
exquisite original.]

[Footnote 91: The refrain, or burden, differs in another
version of the ballad.]

[Footnote 92: Guard.]

[Footnote 93: Shroud of earth, burial.]

[Footnote 94: Sweetheart, darling, literally 'dear-one'
(liefman). The word had originally no offensive meaning.]


1. Where hae ye been, Lord Randal, my son?
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?
"I hae been to the wild wood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

2. "Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?"
"I din'd wi' my true-love; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

3. "What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?"
"I gat eels boiled in broo[95]; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

4. "What became o' your bloodhounds, Lord Randal, my son?
What became' o' your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?"
"O they swell'd and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."

5. "O I fear you are poison'd, Lord Randal, my son!
O I fear you are poison'd, my handsome young man!"
"O yes! I'm poison'd; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down[96]."

[Footnote 95: Broth.]

[Footnote 96: Frogs, toads, snakes, and the like were often
served for fish, and of course were supposed to act as a
poison. One variant has a verse to elaborate this:--

"Where gat she those eels, Lord Randal, my son?
Where gat she those eels, my handsome young man?"
"'Neath the bush o' brown bracken; mother, make my bed soon,
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain wald lie down."


1. "Why dois your brand sae drap wi bluid,
Edward, Edward,
Why dois your brand sae drap wi bluid,
And why sae sad gang yee O?"
"O I hae killed my hauke sae guid,
Mither, mither,
O I hae killed my hauke sae guid,
And I had nae mair hot hee O."

2. "Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
Edward, Edward,
Your haukis bluid was nevir sae reid,
My deir son I tell thee O."
"O I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
Mither, mither,
O I hae killed my reid-roan steid,
That erst was sae fair and frie O."

3. "Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair,
Edward, Edward,
Your steid was auld, and ye hae gat mair,
Sum other dule ye drie O[98]."
"O I hae killed my fadir deir,
Mither, mither,
O I hae killed my fadir deir,
Alas, and wae is mee O!"

4. "And whatten penance wul ye drie, for that,
Edward, Edward,
And whatten penance wul ye drie, for that?
My deir son, now tell me O."
"I'll set my feit in yonder boat,
Mither, mither,
I'll set my feit in yonder boat,
And I'll fare over the sea O."

5. "And what wul ye doe wi' your towers and your ha',
Edward, Edward,
And what wul ye doe wi' your towers and your ha',
That were sae fair to see O?"
"I'll let them stand till they doun fa',
Mither, mither,
I'll let them stand till they doun fa',
For here nevir mair maun I bee O."

6. "And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
Edward, Edward,
And what wul ye leive to your bairns and your wife,
When ye gang over the sea O?"
"The warldis room; let them beg thrae life,
Mither, mither,
The warldis room; let them beg thrae life,
For them never mair wul I see O."

7. "And what wul ye leive to your ain mither dear,
Edward, Edward,
And what will ye leive to your ain mither dear?
My dear son, now tell me O."
"The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir,
Mither, mither,
The curse of hell frae me sall ye beir,
Sic counsels ye gave to me O."

[Footnote 97: One of the finest of our ballads. It was sent
from Scotland to Percy by David Dalrymple.]

[Footnote 98: You suffer some other sorrow.]


1. There were twa brethren in the north,
They went to the school thegither;
The one unto the other said,
"Will you try a warsle[99] afore?"

2. They warsled up, they warsled down,
Till Sir John fell to the ground,
And there was a knife in Sir Willie's pouch,
Gied him a deadlie wound.

3. "Oh brither dear, take me on your back,
Carry me to yon burn clear,
And wash the blood from off my wound,
And it will bleed nae mair."

4. He took him up upon his back,
Carried him to yon burn clear,
And washed the blood from off his wound,
But aye it bled the mair.

5. "Oh brither dear, take me on your back,
Carry me to yon kirk-yard,
And dig a grave baith wide and deep.
And lay my body there."

6. He's taen him up upon his back,
Carried him to yon kirk-yard,
And dug a grave baith deep and wide,
And laid his body there.

7. "But what will I say to my father dear,
Gin he chance to say, Willie, whar's John?"
"Oh say that he's to England gone,
To buy him a cask of wine."

8. "And what will I say to my mother dear,
Gin she chance to say, Willie, whar's John?"
"Oh say that he's to England gone,
To buy her a new silk gown."

9. "And what will I say to my sister dear,
Gin she chance to say, Willie, whar's John?"
"Oh say that he's to England gone,
To buy her a wedding ring."

10. "But what will I say to her you loe[100] dear,
Gin she cry, Why tarries my John?"
"Oh tell her I lie in Kirk-land fair,
And home again will never come."

[Footnote 99: Wrestle.]

[Footnote 100: Love.]


1. There were three ladies lived in a bower,
Eh vow bonnie,
And they went out to pull a flower
On the bonnie banks o' Fordie.

2. They hadna pu'ed a flower but ane,
When up started to them a banisht man.

3. He's ta'en the first sister by her hand,
And he's turned her round and made her stand.

4. "It's whether will ye be a rank robber's wife,
Or will ye die by my wee pen-knife?"

5. "It's I'll not be a rank robber's wife,
But I'll rather die by your wee pen-knife!"

6. He's killed this may, and he's laid her by,
For to bear the red rose company.

7. He's taken the second ane by the hand,
And he's turned her round and made her stand.

8. "It's whether will ye be a rank robber's wife,
Or will ye die by my wee pen-knife?"

9. "I'll not be a rank robber's wife,
But I'll rather die by your wee pen-knife."

10. He's killed this may, and he's laid her by,
For to bear the red rose company.

11. He's taken the youngest ane by the hand,
And he's turned her round and made her stand.

12. Says, "Will ye be a rank robber's wife,
Or will ye die by my wee pen-knife?"

13. "I'll not be a rank robber's wife,
Nor will I die by your wee pen-knife."

14. "For I hae a brother in this wood,
And gin ye kill me, it's he'll kill thee."

15. "What's thy brother's name? Come tell to me."
"My brother's name is Baby Lon."

16. "O sister, sister, what have I done!
O have I done this ill to thee!"

17. "O since I've done this evil deed,
Good sall never be seen o' me."

18. He's taken out his wee pen-knife,
And he's twyned[101] himsel o' his own sweet life.

[Footnote 101: Parted, deprived.]


1. Childe Maurice hunted i' the silver wood,
He hunted it round about,
And noebodye that he found therein,
Nor none there was without.

2. He says, "Come hither, thou little foot-page,
That runneth lowlye by my knee,
For thou shalt goe to John Steward's wife
And pray her speake with me."

3. "....
I, and greete thou doe that ladye well,
Ever soe well fro me."

4. "And, as it falls, as many times
As knots beene knit on a kell[103],
Or marchant men gone to leeve London
Either to buy ware or sell."

5. "And, as it falles, as many times
As any hart can thinke,
Or schoole-masters are in any schoole-house
Writing with pen and inke:
For if I might, as well as she may,
This night I would with her speake."

6. "And heere I send her a mantle of greene,
As greene as any grasse,
And bid her come to the silver wood,
To hunt with Child Maurice."

7. "And there I send her a ring of gold,
A ring of precious stone,
And bid her come to the silver wood,
Let[104] for no kind of man."

8. One while this little boy he yode[105],
Another while he ran,
Until he came to John Steward's hall,
I-wis[106] he never blan[107].

9. And of nurture the child had good,
He ran up hall and bower free,
And when he came to this ladye faire,
Sayes, "God you save and see[108]!"

10. "I am come from Child Maurice,
A message unto thee;
And Child Maurice, he greetes you well,
And ever soe well from me."

11. "And as it falls, as oftentimes
As knots beene knit on a kell,
Or marchant men gone to leeve London
Either for to buy ware or sell."

12. "And as oftentimes he greetes you well
As any hart can thinke,
Or schoolemasters are in any schoole,
Wryting with pen and inke."

13. "And heere he sends a mantle of greene[109],
As greene as any grasse,
And he bids you come to the silver wood,
To hunt with Child Maurice."

14. "And heere he sends you a ring of gold,
A ring of the precious stone;
He prayes you to come to the silver wood,
Let for no kind of man."

15. "Now peace, now peace, thou little foot-page,
For Christes sake, I pray thee!
For if my lord heare one of these words,
Thou must be hanged hye!"

16. John Steward stood under the castle wall,
And he wrote the words everye one,

17. And he called upon his hors-keeper,
"Make ready you my steede!"
I, and soe he did to his chamberlaine,
"Make ready thou my weede[110]!"

18. And he cast a lease[111] upon his backe,
And he rode to the silver wood,
And there he sought all about,
About the silver wood.

19. And there he found him Child Maurice
Sitting upon a blocke,
With a silver combe in his hand,
Kembing his yellow lockes.

20. But then stood up him Child Maurice,
And sayd these words trulye:
"I doe not know your ladye," he said,
"If that I doe her see."

21. He sayes, "How now, how now, Child Maurice?
Alacke, how may this be?
For thou hast sent her love-tokens,
More now then two or three;"

22. "For thou hast sent her a mantle of greene,
As greene as any grasse,
And bade her come to the silver woode
To hunt with Child Maurice."

23. "And thou hast sent her a ring of gold,
A ring of precyous stone,
And bade her come to the silver wood,
Let for no kind of man."

24. "And by my faith, now, Child Maurice,
The tone[112] of us shall dye!"
"Now be my troth," sayd Child Maurice,
"And that shall not be I."

25. But he pulled forth a bright browne[113] sword,
And dryed it on the grasse,
And soe fast he smote at John Steward,
I-wisse he never did rest.

26. Then he[114] pulled forth his bright browne sword,
And dryed it on his sleeve,
And the first good stroke John Stewart stroke,
Child Maurice head he did cleeve.

27. And he pricked it on his sword's poynt,
Went singing there beside,
And he rode till he came to that ladye faire,
Whereas this ladye lyed[115].

28. And sayes, "Dost thou know Child Maurice head,
If that thou dost it see?
And lap it soft, and kisse it oft,
For thou lovedst him better than me."

29. But when she looked on Child Maurice head,
She never spake words but three:--
"I never beare no childe but one,
And you have slaine him trulye."

30. Sayes[116], "Wicked be my merrymen all,
I gave meate, drinke, and clothe!
But could they not have holden me
When I was in all that wrath!"

31. "For I have slaine one of the curteousest knights
That ever bestrode a steed,
So[117] have I done one of the fairest ladyes
That ever ware woman's weede!"

[Footnote 102: It is worth while to quote Gray's praise of
this ballad:--"I have got the old Scotch ballad on which
'Douglas' [the well-known tragedy by Home] was founded. It is
divine.... Aristotle's best rules are observed in a manner
which shows the author never had heard of Aristotle."--Letter
to Mason, in 'Works,' ed. Gosse, ii. 316.]

[Footnote 103: That is, the page is to greet the lady as many
times as there are knots in nets for the hair (_kell_), or
merchants going to dear (_leeve_, lief) London, or thoughts
of the heart, or schoolmasters in all schoolhouses. These
multiplied and comparative greetings are common in folk-lore,
particularly in German popular lyric.]

[Footnote 104: _Let_ (desist) is an infinitive depending on

[Footnote 105: Went, walked.]

[Footnote 106: Certainly.]

[Footnote 107: Stopped.]

[Footnote 108: Protect.]

[Footnote 109: These, of course, are tokens of the Childe's

[Footnote 110: Clothes.]

[Footnote 111: Leash.]

[Footnote 112: That one = the one. _That_ is the old neuter
form of the definite article. Cf. _the tother_ for
_that other_.]

[Footnote 113: _Brown_, used in this way, seems to mean
burnished, or glistening, and is found in Anglo-Saxon.]

[Footnote 114: _He_, John Steward.]

[Footnote 115: Lived.]

[Footnote 116: John Steward.]

[Footnote 117: Compare the similar swiftness of tragic
development in 'Babylon.']


1. There lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And sent them o'er the sea.

2. They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely ane,
When word came to the carlin[118] wife
That her three sons were gane.

3. They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely three,
When word came to the carlin wife
That her sons she'd never see.

4. "I wish the wind may never cease,
Nor fashes[119] in the flood,
Till my three sons come hame to me,
In earthly flesh and blood."

5. It fell about the Martinmass[120],
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife's three sons came hame,
And their hats were o' the birk[121].

6. It neither grew in syke[122] nor ditch,
Nor yet in ony sheugh[123],
But at the gates o' Paradise,
That birk grew fair eneugh.

* * * * *

7. "Blow up the fire, my maidens!
Bring water from the well!
For a' my house shall feast this night,
Since my three sons are well."

8. And she has made to them a bed,
She's made it large and wide,
And she's ta'en her mantle her about,
Sat down at the bed-side.

* * * * *

9. Up then crew the red, red cock[124],
And up and crew the gray;
The eldest to the youngest said,
"'Tis time we were away."

10. The cock he hadna craw'd but once,
And clapp'd his wing at a',
When the youngest to the eldest said,
"Brother, we must awa'."

11. "The cock doth craw, the day doth daw.
The channerin[125] worm doth chide;
Gin we be mist out o' our place,
A sair pain we maun bide."

12. "Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
Fareweel to barn and byre!
And fare ye weel, the bonny lass
That kindles my mother's fire!"

[Footnote 118: Old woman.]

[Footnote 119: Lockhart's clever emendation for the _fishes_
of the Ms. _Fashes_ = disturbances, storms.]

[Footnote 120: November 11th. Another version gives the time
as "the hallow days of Yule."]

[Footnote 121: Birch.]

[Footnote 122: Marsh.]

[Footnote 123: Furrow, ditch.]

[Footnote 124: In folk-lore, the break of day is announced to
demons and ghosts by three cocks,--usually a white, a red,
and a black; but the colors, and even the numbers, vary. At
the third crow, the ghosts must vanish. This applies to
guilty and innocent alike; of course, the sons are "spirits
of health."]

[Footnote 125: Fretting.]


1. Whan bells war rung, an mass was sung,
A wat[126] a' man to bed were gone,
Clark Sanders came to Margret's window,
With mony a sad sigh and groan.

2. "Are ye sleeping, Margret," he says,
"Or are ye waking, presentlie?
Give me my faith and trouth again,
A wat, true-love, I gied to thee."

3. "Your faith and trouth ye's never get,
Nor our true love shall never twin[127],
Till ye come with me in my bower,
And kiss me both cheek and chin."

4. "My mouth it is full cold, Margret,
It has the smell now of the ground;
And if I kiss thy comely mouth,
Thy life-days will not be long."

5. "Cocks are crowing a merry mid-larf[128],
I wat the wild fule boded day;
Give me my faith and trouth again,
And let me fare me on my way."

6. "Thy faith and trouth thou shall na get,
Nor our true love shall never twin,
Till ye tell me what comes of women
A wat that dy's in strong traveling[129]."

7. "Their beds are made in the heavens high,
Down at the foot of our good Lord's knee,
Well set about wi' gilly-flowers,
A wat sweet company for to see."

8. "O cocks are crowing a merry mid-larf,
A wat the wild fule boded day;
The salms of Heaven will be sung,
And ere now I'll be missed away."

9. Up she has taen a bright long wand,
And she has straked her trouth thereon[130];
She has given it him out at the shot-window,
Wi mony a sad sigh and heavy groan.

10. "I thank you, Margret, I thank you, Margret,
And I thank you heartilie;
Gin ever the dead come for the quick,
Be sure, Margret, I'll come again for thee."

11. It's hose and shoon an gound[131] alane
She clame the wall and followed him,
Until she came to a green forest,
On this she lost the sight of him.

12. "Is there any room at your head, Sanders?
Is there any room at your feet?
Or any room at your twa sides?
Where fain, fain woud I sleep."

13. "There is nae room at my head, Margret,
There is nae room at my feet;
There is room at my twa sides,
For ladys for to sleep."

14. "Cold meal[132] is my covering owre,
But an[133] my winding sheet:
My bed it is full low, I say,
Among hungry worms I sleep."

15. "Cold meal is my covering owre,
But an my winding sheet:
The dew it falls nae sooner down
Than ay it is full weet."

[Footnote 126: "I wot," "I know," = truly, in sooth. The same
in 5-2, 6-4, 7-4, 8-2.]

[Footnote 127: Part, separate. She does not yet know he is

[Footnote 128: Probably the distorted name of a town; _a_ =
in. "Cocks are crowing in merry--, and the wild-fowl announce
the dawn."]

[Footnote 129: That die in childbirth.]

[Footnote 130: Margaret thus gives him back his troth-plight
by "stroking" it upon the wand, much as savages and peasants
believe they can rid themselves of a disease by rubbing the
affected part with a stick or pebble and flinging the latter
into the road.]

[Footnote 131: Gown.]

[Footnote 132: Mold, earth.]

[Footnote 133: But and==also.]




Honore de Balzac, by common consent the greatest of French novelists and
to many of his admirers the greatest of all writers of prose fiction,
was born at Tours, May 16th, 1799. Neither his family nor his place of
birth counts for much in his artistic development; but his sister Laure,
afterwards Madame Surville,--to whom we owe a charming sketch of her
brother and many of his most delightful letters,--made him her hero
through life, and gave him a sympathy that was better than any merely
literary environment. He was a sensitive child, little comprehended by
his parents or teachers, which probably accounts for the fact that few
writers have so well described the feelings of children so situated [See
'Le lys dans la vallee' (The Lily in the Valley) and 'Louis Lambert'].
He was not a good student, but undermined his health by desultory though
enormous reading and by writing a precocious Treatise on the Will, which
an irate master burned and the future novelist afterwards naively
deplored. When brought home to recuperate, he turned from books to
nature, and the effects of the beautiful landscape of Touraine upon his
imagination are to be found throughout his writings, in passages of
description worthy of a nature-worshiper like Senancour himself. About
this time a vague desire for fame seems to have seized him,--a desire
destined to grow into an almost morbid passion; and it was a kindly
Providence that soon after (1814) led his family to quit the stagnant
provinces for that nursery of ambition, Paris. Here he studied under new
masters, heard lectures at the Sorbonne, read in the libraries, and
finally, at the desire of his practical father, took a three years'
course in law.

[Illustration: HON. DE BALZAC.]

He was now at the parting of the ways, and he chose the one nearest his
heart. After much discussion, it was settled that he should not be
obliged to return to the provinces with his family, or to enter upon the
regular practice of law, but that he might try his luck as a writer on
an allowance purposely fixed low enough to test his constancy and
endurance. Two years was the period of probation allotted, during which
time Balzac read still more widely and walked the streets studying the
characters he met, all the while endeavoring to grind out verses for a
tragedy on Cromwell. This, when completed, was promptly and justly
damned by his family, and he was temporarily forced to retire from
Paris. He did not give up his aspirations, however, and before long he
was back in his attic, this time supporting himself by his pen. Novels,
not tragedies, were what the public most wanted, so he labored
indefatigably to supply their needs and his own necessities; not
relinquishing, however, the hope that he might some day watch the
performance of one of his own plays. His perseverance was destined to be
rewarded, for he lived to write five dramas which fill a volume of his
collected works; but only one, the posthumous comedy 'Mercadet', was
even fairly successful. Yet that Balzac had dramatic genius his matured
novels abundantly prove.

The ten romances, however, that he wrote for cheap booksellers between
1822 and 1829 displayed so little genius of any sort that he was
afterwards unwilling to cover their deficiencies with his great name.
They have been collected as youthful works ('Oeuvres de jeunesse'), and
are useful to a complete understanding of the evolution of their
author's genius; but they are rarely read even by his most devoted
admirers. They served, however, to enable him to get through his long
and heart-rending period of apprenticeship, and they taught him how to
express himself; for this born novelist was not a born writer and had to
labor painfully to acquire a style which only at rare moments quite
fitted itself to the subject he had in hand.

Much more interesting than these early sensational romances were the
letters he wrote to his sister Laure, in which he grew eloquent over his
ambition and gave himself needed practice in describing the characters
with whom he came in contact. But he had not the means to wait quietly
and ripen, so he embarked in a publishing business which brought him
into debt. Then, to make up his losses, he became partner in a printing
enterprise which failed in 1827, leaving him still more embarrassed
financially, but endowed with a fund of experience which he turned to
rich account as a novelist. Henceforth the sordid world of debt,
bankruptcy, usury, and speculation had no mystery for him, and he laid
it bare in novel after novel, utilizing also the knowledge he had gained
of the law, and even pressing into service the technicalities of the
printing office [See 'Illusions perdues' (Lost Illusions)]. But now at
the age of twenty-eight he had over 100,000 francs to pay, and had
written nothing better than some cheap stories; the task of wiping out
his debts by his writings seemed therefore a more hopeless one than
Scott's. Nothing daunted, however, he set to work, and the year that
followed his second failure in business saw the composition of the first
novel he was willing to acknowledge, 'Les Chouans.' This romance of
Brittany in 1799 deserved the praise it received from press and public,
in spite of its badly jointed plot and overdrawn characters. It still
appeals to many readers, and is important to the 'Comedie humaine' as
being the only novel of the "Military Scenes.". The 'Physiology of
Marriage' followed quickly (1829-30), and despite a certain pruriency of
imagination, displayed considerable powers of analysis, powers destined
shortly to distinguish a story which ranks high among its author's
works, 'La Maison du chat-qui-pelote' (1830). This delightful novelette,
the queer title of which is nearly equivalent to 'At the Sign of the Cat
and the Racket,' showed in its treatment of the heroine's unhappy
passion the intuition and penetration of the born psychologist, and in
its admirable description of bourgeois life the pictorial genius of the
genuine realist. In other words the youthful romancer was merged once
for all in the matured novelist. The years of waiting and observation
had done their work, and along the streets of Paris now walked the most
profound analyst of human character that had scrutinized society since
the days when William Shakespeare, fresh from Stratford, trod the
streets and lanes of Elizabethan London.

The year 1830 marks the beginning not merely of Balzac's success as the
greatest of modern realists, but also of his marvelous literary
activity. Novel after novel is begun before its predecessor is finished;
short stories of almost perfect workmanship are completed; sketches are
dashed off that will one day find their appropriate place in larger
compositions, as yet existing only in the brain of the master. Nor is it
merely a question of individual works: novels and stories are to form
different series,--'Scenes from Private Life,' 'Philosophical Novels and
Tales,'--which are themselves destined to merge into 'Studies of Manners
in the Nineteenth Century,' and finally into the 'Comedie humaine'
itself. Yet it was more than a swarm of stories that was buzzing in his
head; it was a swarm of individuals often more truly alive to him than
the friends with whom he loved to converse about them. And just because
he knew these people of his brain, just because he entered into the
least details of their daily lives, Balzac was destined to become much
more than a mere philosopher or student of society; to wit, a creator of
characters, endowed with that "absolute dramatic vision" which
distinguishes Homer and Shakespeare and Chaucer. But because he was also
something of a philosopher and student of sociology, he conceived the
stupendous idea of linking these characters with one another and with
their several environments, in order that he might make himself not
merely the historian but also the creator of an entire society. In other
words, conservative though he was, Balzac had the audacity to range
himself by the side of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, and to espouse the cause
of evolution even in its infancy. The great ideas of the mutability of
species and of the influence of environment and heredity were, he
thought, as applicable to sociology as to zooelogy, and as applicable to
fiction as to either. So he meditated the 'Comedie humaine' for several
years before he announced it in 1842, and from being almost the rival of
Saint-Hilaire he became almost the anticipator of Darwin.

But this idea of evolution was itself due to the evolution of his
genius, to which many various elements contributed: his friendships and
enmities with contemporary authors, his intimacies with women of
refinement and fashion, his business struggles with creditors and
publishers, his frequent journeys to the provinces and foreign
countries; and finally his grandiose schemes to surround himself with
luxury and the paraphernalia of power, not so much for his own sake as
for the sake of her whose least smile was a delight and an inspiration.
About each of these topics an interesting chapter might be written, but
here a few words must suffice.

After his position as an author was more or less assured, Balzac's
relations with the leaders of his craft--such as Victor Hugo, Theophile
Gautier, and George Sand--were on the whole cordial. He had trouble with
Sainte-Beuve, however, and often felt that his brother-writers begrudged
his success. His constant attacks on contemporary journalists, and his
egotistic and erratic manners naturally prejudiced the critics, so that
even the marvelous romance entitled 'La Peau de chagrin' (The Magic
Skin: 1831),--a work of superb genius,--speedily followed as it was by
'Eugenie Grandet' and 'Le Pere Goriot,' did not win him cordial
recognition. One or two of his friendships, however, gave him a
knowledge of higher social circles than he was by birth entitled to, a
fact which should be remembered in face of the charge that he did not
know high life, although it is of course true that a writer like Balzac,
possessing the intuition of genius, need not frequent salons or live in
hovels in order to describe them with absolute verisimilitude.

With regard to Balzac's debts, the fact should be noted that he might
have paid them off more easily and speedily had he been more prudent. He
cut into the profits of his books by the costly changes he was always
making in his proof-sheets,--changes which the artist felt to be
necessary, but against which the publishers naturally protested. In
reality he wrote his books on his proof-sheets, for he would cut and
hack the original version and make new insertions until he drove his
printers wild. Indeed, composition never became easy to him, although
under a sudden inspiration he could sometimes dash off page after page
while other men slept. He had, too, his affectations; he must even have
a special and peculiar garb in which to write. All these eccentricities
and his outside distractions and ambitions, as well as his noble and
pathetic love affair, entered into the warp and woof of his work with
effects that can easily be detected by the careful student, who should
remember, however, that the master's foibles and peculiarities never for
one moment set him outside the small circle of the men of supreme
genius. He belongs to them by virtue of his tremendous grasp of life in
its totality, his superhuman force of execution and the inevitableness
of his art at its best.

The decade from 1830 to 1840 is the most prolific period of Balzac's
genius in the creation of individual works; that from 1840 to 1850 is
his great period of philosophical co-ordination and arrangement. In the
first he hewed out materials for his house; in the second he put them
together. This statement is of course relatively true only, for we owe
to the second decade three of his greatest masterpieces: 'Splendeurs et
miseres des courtisanes,' and 'La Cousine Bette' and 'Le Cousin Pons,'
collectively known as 'Les Parents pauvres' (Poor Relations). And what a
period of masterful literary activity the first decade presents! For the
year 1830 alone the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul gives seventy-one
entries, many of slight importance, but some familiar to every student
of modern literature, such as 'El Verdugo,' 'La Maison du
chat-qui-pelote,' 'Gobseck,' 'Adieu,' 'Une Passion dans le desert' (A
Passion in the Desert), 'Un Episode sous la Terreur' (An Episode of the
Terror). For 1831 there are seventy-six entries, among them such
masterpieces as 'Le Reequisitionnaire' (The Conscript), 'Les Proscrits'
(The Outlaws), 'La Peau de chagrin,' and 'Jesus-Christ en Flandre.' In
1832 the number of entries falls to thirty-six, but among them are 'Le
Colonel Chabert,' 'Le Cure de Tours' (The Priest of Tours), 'La Grande
Breteche,' 'Louis Lambert,' and 'Les Marana.' After this year there are
fewer short stories. In 1833 we have 'Le Medecin de campagne' (The
Country Doctor), and 'Eugenie Grandet,' with parts of the 'Histoire des
treize' (Story of the Thirteen), and of the 'Contes drolatiques' (Droll
Tales). The next year gives us 'La Recherche de l'absolu' (Search for
the Absolute) and 'Le Pere Goriot' (Old Goriot) and during the next six
there were no less than a dozen masterpieces. Such a decade of
accomplishment is little short of miraculous, and the work was done
under stress of anxieties that would have crushed any normal man.

But anxieties and labors were lightened by a friendship which was an
inspiration long before it ripened into love, and were rendered bearable
both by Balzac's confidence in himself and by his ever nearer view of
the goal he had set himself. The task before him was as stupendous as
that which Comte had undertaken, and required not merely the planning
and writing of new works but the utilization of all that he had
previously written. Untiring labor had to be devoted to this
manipulation of old material, for practically the great output of the
five years 1829-1834 was to be co-ordinated internally, story being
brought into relation with story and character with character. This
meant the creation and management of an immense number of personages,
the careful investigation of the various localities which served for
environments, and the profound study of complicated social and political
problems. No wonder, then, that the second decade of his maturity shows
a falling off in abundance, though not in intensity of creative power;
and that the gradual breaking down of his health, under the strain of
his ceaseless efforts and of his abnormal habits of life, made itself
more and more felt in the years that followed the great preface which in
1842 set forth the splendid design of the 'Comedie humaine.'

This preface, one of the most important documents in literary history,
must be carefully studied by all who would comprehend Balzac in his
entirety. It cannot be too often repeated that Balzac's scientific and
historical aspirations are important only in so far as they caused him
to take a great step forward in the development of his art. The nearer
the artist comes to reproducing for us life in its totality, the higher
the rank we assign him among his fellows. Tried by this canon, Balzac is
supreme. His interweaving of characters and events through a series of
volumes gives a verisimilitude to his work unrivaled in prose fiction,
and paralleled only in the work of the world-poets. In other words, his
use of co-ordination upon a vast scale makes up for his lack of delicacy
and sureness of touch, as compared with what Shakespeare and Homer and
Chaucer have taught us to look for. Hence he is with them even if not
of them.

This great claim can be made for the Balzac of the 'Comedie humaine'
only; it could not be made for the Balzac of any one masterpiece like
'Le Pere Goriot,' or even for the Balzac of all the masterpieces taken
in lump and without co-ordination. Balzac by co-ordination has in spite
of his limitations given us a world, just as Shakespeare and Homer have
done; and so Taine was profoundly right when he put him in the same
category with the greatest of all writers. When, however, he added St.
Simon to Shakespeare, and proclaimed that with them Balzac was the
greatest storehouse of documents that we have on human nature, he was
guilty not merely of confounding _genres_ of art, but also of laying
stress on the philosophic rather than on the artistic side of fiction.
Balzac does make himself a great storehouse of documents on human
nature, but he also does something far more important, he sets before us
a world of living men and women.

To have brought this world into existence, to have given it order in the
midst of complexity, and that in spite of the fact that death overtook
him before he could complete his work, would have been sufficient to
occupy a decade of any other man's life; but he, though harassed with
illness and with hopes of love and ambition deferred, was strong enough
to do more. The year 1840 saw the appearance of 'Pierrette,' and the
establishment of the ill-fated 'Revue parisienne.' The following year
saw 'Ursule Mirouet,' and until 1848 the stream of great works is
practically unbroken. The 'Splendeurs et miseres' and the 'Parents
pauvres' have been named already, but to these must be added 'Un Menage
de garcon' (A Bachelor's House-keeping), 'Modeste Mignon,' and 'Les
Paysans' (The Peasants). The three following years added nothing to his
work and closed his life, but they brought him his crowning happiness.
On March 14th, 1850, he was married to Mme. Hanska, at Berditchef; on
August 18th, 1850, he died at Paris.

Madame Evelina de Hanska came into Balzac's life about 1833, just after
he had shaken off the unfortunate influence of the Duchesse de Castries.
The young Polish countess was much impressed, we are told, by reading
the 'Scenes de la vie privee' (Scenes of Private Life), and was somewhat
perplexed and worried by Balzac's apparent change of method in 'La Peau
de chagrin.' She wrote to him over the signature "L'Etrangere" (A
Foreigner), and he answered in a series of letters recently published in
the Revue de Paris. Not long after the opening of this correspondence
the two met, and a firm friendship was cemented between them. The lady
was about thirty, and married to a Russian gentleman of large fortune,
to whom she had given an only daughter. She was in the habit of
traveling about Europe to carry on this daughter's education, and Balzac
made it his pleasure and duty to see her whenever he could, sometimes
journeying as far as Vienna. In the interim he would write her letters
which possess great charm and importance to the student of his life. The
husband made no objection to the intimacy, trusting both to his wife and
to Balzac; but for some time before the death of the aged nobleman,
Balzac seems to have distrusted himself and to have held slightly aloof
from the woman whom he was destined finally to love with all the fervor
of his nature. Madame Hanska became free in the winter of 1842-3, and
the next summer Balzac visited St. Petersburg to see her. His love soon
became an absorbing passion, but consideration for her daughter's future
withheld the lady's consent to a betrothal till 1846. It was a period of
weary waiting, in which our sympathies are all on one side; for if ever
a man deserved to be happy in a woman's love, it was Balzac. His
happiness came, but almost too late to be enjoyed. His last two years,
which he spent in Poland with Madame de Hanska, were oppressed by
illness, and he returned to his beloved Paris only to die. The struggle
of thirty years was over, and although his immense genius was not yet
fully recognized, his greatest contemporary, Victor Hugo, was
magnanimous enough to exclaim on hearing that he was dying, "Europe is
on the point of losing a great mind." Balzac's disciples feel that
Europe really lost its greatest writer since Shakespeare.

In the definitive edition of Balzac's writings in twenty-four volumes,
seventeen are occupied by the various divisions of the 'Comedie
humaine.' The plays take up one volume; and the correspondence, not
including of course the letters to "L'Etrangere," another; the 'Contes
drolatiques' make still another; and finally we have four volumes filled
with sketches, tales, reviews, and historical and political articles
left uncollected by their author.

The 'Contes' are thirty in number, divided into "dixains," each with its
appropriate prologue and epilogue. They purport to have been collected
in the abbeys of Touraine, and set forth by the Sieur de Balzac for the
delight of Pantagruelists and none others. Not merely the spirit but the
very language of Rabelais is caught with remarkable verve and fidelity,
so that from the point of view of style Balzac has never done better
work. A book which holds by Rabelais on the one hand and by the Queen of
Navarre on the other is not likely, however, to appeal to that part of
the English and American reading public that expurgates its Chaucer, and
blushes at the mention of Fielding and Smollett. Such readers will do
well to avoid the 'Contes drolatiques;' although, like 'Don Juan,' they
contain a great deal of what was best in their author, of his frank,
ebullient, sensuous nature, lighted up here at least by a genuine if
scarcely delicate humor. Of direct suggestion of vice Balzac was,
naturally, as incapable as he was of smug puritanism; but it must be
confessed that as a _raconteur_ his proper audience, now that the
monastic orders have passed away, would be a group of middle-aged

The 'Comedie humaine' is divided into three main sections: first and
most important, the 'Etudes de moeurs' (Studies of Manners), second the
'Etudes philosophiques' (Philosophic Studies), and finally the 'Etudes
analytiques' (Analytic Studies). These divisions, as M. Barriere points
out in his 'L'Oeuvre de H. de Balzac' (The Work of Balzac), were
intended to bear to one another the relations that moral science,
psychology, and metaphysics do to one another with regard to the life of
man, whether as an individual or as a member of society. No single
division was left complete at the author's death; but enough was
finished and put together to give us the sense of moving in a living,
breathing world, no matter where we make our entry. This, as we have
insisted, is the real secret of his greatness. To think, for example,
that the importance of 'Seraphita' lies in the fact that it gives
Balzac's view of Swedenborgianism, or that the importance of 'Louis
Lambert' lies in its author's queer theories about the human will, is
entirely to misapprehend his true position in the world of literature.
His mysticism, his psychology, his theories of economics, his
reactionary devotion to monarchy, and his idealization of the Church of
Rome, may or may not appeal to us, and have certainly nothing that is
eternal or inevitable about them; but in his knowledge of the human mind
and heart he is as inevitable and eternal as any writer has ever been,
save only Shakespeare and Homer.

The 'Etudes de moeurs' were systematically divided by their author into
'Scenes of Private Life,' 'Scenes of Provincial Life,' 'Scenes of
Country Life,' 'Scenes of Parisian Life,' 'Scenes of Political Life,'
and 'Scenes of Military Life,'--the last three divisions representing
more or less exceptional phases of existence. The group relating to
Paris is by far the most important and powerful, but the provincial
stories show almost as fine workmanship, and furnish not a few of the
well-known masterpieces. Less interesting, though still important, are
the 'Scenes of Private Life,' which consist of twenty-four novels,
novelettes, and tales, under the following titles: 'Beatrix,' 'Albert
Savarus,' 'La Fausse maitresse' (The False Mistress), 'Le Message' (The
Message), 'La Grande Breteche,' 'Etude de femme' (Study of Woman),
'Autre etude de femme' (Another Story of Woman), 'Madame Firmiani,'
'Modeste Mignon,' 'Un Debut dans la vie' (An Entrance upon Life),
'Pierre Grassou,' 'Memoires de deux jeunes mariees' (Recollections of a
Young Couple), 'La Maison du chat-qui-pelote,' 'Le Bal de Sceaux' (The
Ball of Sceaux), 'Le Contrat de mariage' (The Marriage Contract), 'La
Vendetta,' 'La Paix du menage' (Household Peace), 'Une Double famille'
(A Double Family), 'Une Fille d'Eve' (A Daughter of Eve), 'Honorine,'
'La Femme abandonnee' (The Abandoned Wife), 'La Grenadiere,' 'La Femme
de trente ans' (The Woman of Thirty).

Of all these stories, hardly one shows genuine greatness except the
powerful tragic tale 'La Grande Breteche,' which was subsequently
incorporated in 'Autre etude de femme,' This story of a jealous
husband's walling up his wife's lover in a closet of her chamber is as
dramatic a piece of writing as Balzac ever did, and is almost if not
quite as perfect a short story as any that has since been written in
France. 'La Maison du chat-qui-pelote' has been mentioned already on
account of its importance in the evolution of Balzac's realism, but
while a delightful novelette, it is hardly great, its charm coming
rather from its descriptions of bourgeois life than from the working out
of its central theme, the infelicity of a young wife married to an
unfaithful artist. 'Modeste Mignon' is interesting, and more romantic
than Balzac's later works were wont to be; but while it may be safely
recommended to the average novel-reader, few admirers of its author
would wish to have it taken as a sample of their master. 'Beatrix' is a
powerful story in its delineation of the weakness of the young Breton
nobleman, Calyste du Guenie. It derives a factitious interest from the
fact that George Sand is depicted in 'Camille Maupin,' the _nom de
plume_ of Mlle. des Touches, and perhaps Balzac himself in Claude
Vignon, the critic. Less factitious is the interest derived from
Balzac's admirable delineation of a doting mother and aunt, and from his
realistic handling of one of the cleverest of his ladies of light
reputation, Madame Schontz; his studies of such characters of the
_demi-monde_--especially of the wonderful Esther of the 'Splendeurs et
miseres'--serving plainly, by the way, as a point of departure for Dumas
_fils_. Yet 'Beatrix' is an able rather than a truly great book, for it
neither elevates nor delights us. In fact, all the stories in this
series are interesting rather than truly great; but all display Balzac's
remarkable analytic powers. Love, false or true, is of course their main
theme; wrought out to a happy issue in 'La Bourse,' a charming tale, or
to a death of despair in 'La Grenadiere' The childless young married
woman is contrasted with her more fortunate friend surrounded by little
ones ('Memoires de deux jeunes mariees'), the heartless coquette flirts
once too often ('Le Bal de Sceaux'), the eligible young man is taken in
by a scheming mother ('Le Contrat du mariage'), the deserted husband
labors to win back his wife ('Honorine'), the tempted wife learns at
last the real nature of her peril ('Une Fille d'Eve'); in short, lovers
and mistresses, husbands and wives, make us participants of all the joys
and sorrows that form a miniature world within the four walls of
every house.

The 'Scenes of Provincial Life' number only ten stories, but nearly all
of them are masterpieces. They are 'Eugenie Grandet,' 'Le Lys dans la
vallee,' 'Ursule Mirouet,' 'Pierrette,' 'Le Cure de Tours,' 'La
Rabouilleuse,' 'La Vielle fille' (The Old Maid), 'Le Cabinet des
antiques' (The Cabinet of Antiques), 'L'Illustre Gaudissart' (The
Illustrious Gaudissart), and 'La Muse du departement' (The Departmental
Muse). Of these 'Eugenie Grandet' is of course easily first in interest,
pathos, and power. The character of old Grandet, the miserly father, is
presented to us with Shakespearean vividness, although Eugenie herself
has, less than the Shakespearean charm. Any lesser artist would have
made the tyrant himself and his yielding wife and daughters seem
caricatures rather than living people. It is only the Shakespeares and
Balzacs who are able to make their Shylocks and lagos, their Grandets
and Philippe Brideaus, monsters and human beings at one and the same
time. It is only the greater artists, too, who can bring out all the
pathos inherent in the subjection of two gentle women to a tyrant in
their own household. But it is Balzac the inimitable alone who can
portray fully the life of the provinces, its banality, its meanness, its
watchful selfishness, and yet save us through the perfection of his art
from the degradation which results from contact with low and sordid
life. The reader who rises unaffected from a perusal of 'Eugenie
Grandet' would be unmoved by the grief of Priam in the tent of Achilles,
or of Othello in the death-chamber of Desdemona.

'Le Lys dans la vallee' has been pronounced by an able French critic to
be the worst novel he knows; but as a study of more or less ethereal and
slightly morbid love it is characterized by remarkable power. Its
heroine, Madame Mortsauf, tied to a nearly insane husband and pursued by
a sentimental lover, undergoes tortures of conscience through an
agonizing sense of half-failure in her duty. Balzac himself used to cite
her when he was charged with not being able to draw a pure woman; but he
has created nobler types. The other stories of the group are also
decidedly more interesting. The distress of the abbe Birotteau over his
landlady's treatment, and the intrigues of the abbe Troubert ('Le Cure
de Tours') absorb us as completely as the career of Caesar himself in
Mommsen's famous chapter. The woes of the little orphan subjected to the
tyranny of her selfish aunt and uncle ('Pierrette'), the struggles of
the rapacious heirs for the Mirouet fortune ('Ursule Mirouet,') a story
which gives us one of Balzac's purest women, treats interestingly of
mesmerism (and may be read without fear by the young), the siege of
Mlle. Cormon's mature affections by her two adroit suitors ('Une Vielle
fille'), the intrigues against the peace of the d'Esgrignons and the
sublime devotion to their interests of the notary Chesnel ('Le Cabinet
des antiques'), and finally the ignoble passions that fought themselves
out around the senile Jean Jacques Rouget, under the direction of the
diabolical ex-soldier Philippe Brideau ('La Rabouilleuse,' sometimes
entitled 'Un Menage de Garcon'), form the absorbing central themes of a
group of novels--or rather stories, for few of them attain considerable
length--unrivaled in the annals of realistic fiction.

The 'Scenes of Country Life,' comprising 'Les Paysans,' 'Le Medecin de
campagne,' and 'Le Cure de village' (The Village Priest), take high rank
among their author's works. Where Balzac might have been crudely
naturalistic, he has preferred to be either realistic as in the first
named admirable novel, or idealistic as in the two latter. Hence he has
created characters like the country physician, Doctor Benassis, almost
as great a boon to the world of readers as that philanthropist himself
was to the little village of his adoption. If Madame Graslin of 'Le
Cure de village' fails to reach the height of Benassis, her career has
at least a sensational interest which his lacked; and the country
curate, the good abbe Bonnet, surely makes up for her lack on the ideal
side. This story, by the way, is important for the light it throws on
the workings of the Roman Church among the common people; and the
description of Madame Graslin's death is one of Balzac's most effective
pieces of writing.

We are now brought to the 'Parisian Scenes,' and with the exception of
'Eugenie Grandet,' to the best-known masterpieces. There are twenty
titles; but as two of these are collective in character, the number of
novels and stories amounts to twenty-four, as follows:--'Le Pere
Goriot,' 'Illusions perdues,' 'Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes,'
'Les Secrets de la princesse de Cadignan' (The Secrets of the Princess
of Cadignan), 'Histoire des treize' [containing 'Ferragus,' 'La Duchesse
de Langeais,' and 'La Fille aux yeux d'or' (The Girl with the Golden
Eyes)], 'Sarrasine,' 'Le Colonel Chabert,' 'L'lnterdiction' (The
Interdiction), 'Les Parents pauvres' (Poor Relations, including 'La
Cousine Bette' and 'Le Cousin Pons'), 'La Messe de l'athee' (The
Atheist's Mass), 'Facino Cane,' 'Gobseck,' 'La Maison Nucingen,' 'Un
Prince de la Boheme' (A Prince of Bohemia), 'Esquisse d'homme
d'affaires' (Sketch of a Business man), 'Gaudissart II.' 'Les Comediens
sans le savoir' (The Unconscious Humorists), 'Les Employes' (The
Employees), 'Histoire de Cesar Birotteau,' and 'Les Petits bourgeois'
(Little Bourgeois). Of these twenty-four titles six belong to novels,
five of which are of great power, nine to novelettes and short stories
too admirable to be passed over without notice, eight to novelettes and
stories of interest and value which need not, however, detain us, and
one, 'Les Petits bourgeois', to a novel of much promise unfortunately
left incomplete. 'Les Secrets de la princesse de Cadignan' is remarkable
chiefly as a study of the blind passion that often overtakes a man of
letters. Daniel d'Arthez, the author, a fine character and a favorite
with Balzac, succumbs to the wiles of the Princess of Cadignan (formerly
the dashing and fascinating Duchesse de Maufrigneuse) and is happy in
his subjection. The 'Histoire des treize' contains three novelettes,
linked together through the fact that in each a band of thirteen young
men, sworn to assist one another in conquering society, play an
important part. This volume is the most frankly sensational of Balzac's
works. 'La Duchesse de Langeais' however, is more than sensational: it
gives perhaps Balzac's best description of the Faubourg St. Germain and
one of his ablest analyses of feminine character, while in the
description of General Montriveau's recognition of the Duchess in the
Spanish convent the novelist's dramatic power is seen at its highest.
'La Fille aux yeux d'or,' which concludes the volume devoted to the
mysterious brotherhood, may be considered, with 'Sarrasine,' one of the
dark closets of the great building known as the 'Comedie humaine.' Both
stories deal with unnatural passions, and the first is one of Balzac's
most effective compositions. For sheer voluptuousness of style there is
little in literature to parallel the description of the boudoir of the
uncanny heroine. Very different from these stories is 'Le Colonel
Chabert,' the record of the misfortunes of one of Napoleon's heroic
soldiers, who after untold hardships returns to France to find his wife
married a second time and determined to deny his existence. The law is
invoked, but the treachery of the wife induces the noble old man to put
an end to the proceedings, after which he sinks into an indigent and
pathetic senility. Balzac has never drawn a more heart-moving figure,
nor has he ever sounded more thoroughly the depths of human selfishness.
But the description of the battle of Eylau and of Chabert's sufferings
in retreat would alone suffice to make the story memorable.
'L'Interdiction' is the proper pendant to the history of this
unfortunate soldier. In it another husband, the Marquis d'Espard,
suffers from the selfishness of his wife, one of the worst characters in
the range of Balzac's fiction. That she may keep him from alienating his
property to discharge a moral obligation she endeavors to prove him
insane. The legal complications which ensue bring forward one of
Balzac's great figures, the judge of instruction, Popinot; but to
appreciate him the reader must go to the marvelous book itself.
'Gobseck' is a study of a Parisian usurer, almost worthy of a place
beside the description of old Grandet; while 'Les Employes' is a
realistic study of bureaucratic life, which, besides showing a wonderful
familiarity with the details of a world of which Balzac had little
personal experience, contains several admirably drawn characters and a
sufficient amount of incident. But it is time to leave these sketches
and novels in miniature, and to pass by the less important 'Scenes' of
this fascinating Parisian life, in order to consider in some detail the
five novels of consummate power.

First of these in date of composition, and in popular estimation at
least among English readers, comes, 'Le Pere Goriot.' It is certainly
trite to call the book a French "Lear," but the expression emphasizes
the supreme artistic power that could treat the _motif_ of one of
Shakespeare's plays in a manner that never forces a disadvantageous
comparison with the great tragedy. The retired vermicelli-maker is not
as grand a figure as the doting King of Britain, but he is as real. The
French daughters, Anastasie, Countess de Restaud, and Delphine, Baroness
de Nucingen, are not such types of savage wickedness as Regan and
Goneril, but they fit the nineteenth century as well as the British
princesses did their more barbarous day. Yet there is no Cordelia in
'Le Pere Goriot,' for the pale Victorine Taillefer cannot fill the place
of that noblest of daughters. This is but to say that Balzac's bourgeois
tragedy lacks that element of the noble that every great poetic tragedy
must have. The self-immolation of old Goriot to the cold-hearted
ambitions of his daughters is not noble, but his parental passion
touches the infinite, and so proves the essential kinship of his creator
with the creator of Lear. This touch of the infinite, as in 'Eugenie
Grandet,' lifts the book up from the level of a merely masterly study of
characters or a merely powerful novel to that of the supreme
masterpieces of human genius. The marvelously lifelike description of
the vulgar Parisian boarding-house, the fascinating delineation of the
character of that king of convicts, Vautrin, and the fine analysis of
the ambitions of Rastignac (who comes nearer perhaps to being _the_ hero
of the 'Comedie humaine' than any other of its characters, and is here
presented to us at the threshold of his successful career) remain in the
memory of every reader, but would never alone have sufficed to make
Balzac's name worthy of immortality. The infinite quality of Goriot's
passion would, however, have conferred this honor on his creator had he
never written another book.

'Illusions perdues' and 'Splendeurs et miseres des courtisanes' might
almost be regarded as one novel in seven parts. More than any other of
his works they show the sun of Balzac's genius at its meridian. Nowhere
else does he give us plots so absorbing, nowhere else does he bring us
so completely in contact with the world his imagination has peopled. The
first novel devotes two of its parts to the provinces and one to Paris.
The provincial stories centre around two brothers-in-law, David Sechard
and Lucien de Rubempre, types of the practical and the artistic
intellect respectively. David, after struggling for fame and fortune,
succumbs and finds his recompense in the love of his wife Eve, Lucien's
sister, one of Balzac's noble women. Lucien, on the other hand, after
some provincial successes as a poet, tries the great world of Paris,
yields to its temptations, fails ignominiously, and attempts suicide,
but is rescued by the great Vautrin, who has escaped from prison and is
about to renew his war on society disguised as a Spanish priest. Vautrin
has conceived the idea that as he can take no part in society, he will
have a representative in it and taste its pleasures through him. Lucien
accepts this disgraceful position and plunges once more into the vortex,
supported by the strong arm of the king of the convicts. His career and
that of his patron form the subject of the four parts of the 'Splendeurs
et miseres' and are too complicated to be described here. Suffice it to
say that probably nowhere else in fiction are the novel of character and
the novel of incident so splendidly combined; and certainly nowhere
else in the range of his work does Balzac so fully display all his
master qualities. That the story is sensational cannot be denied, but it
is at least worthy of being called the Iliad of Crime. Nemesis waits
upon both Lucien and Vautrin, and upon the poor courtesan Esther whom
they entrap in their toils, and when the two former are at last in
custody, Lucien commits suicide. Vautrin baffles his acute judge in a
wonderful interview; but with his cherished hope cut short by Lucien's
death, finally gives up the struggle. Here the novel might have ended;
yet Balzac adds a fourth part, in order to complete the career of
Vautrin. The famous convict is transformed into a government spy, and
engages to use his immense power against his former comrades and in
defense of the society he has hitherto warred upon. The artistic
propriety of this transformation may be questioned, but not the power
and interest of the novel of which it is the finishing touch.

Many readers would put the companion novels 'La Cousine Bette' and 'Le
Cousin Pons' at the head of Balzac's works. They have not the infinite
pathos of 'Le Pere Goriot,' or the superb construction of the first
three parts of the 'Splendeurs et miseres,' but for sheer strength the
former at least is unsurpassed in fiction. Never before or since have
the effects of vice in dragging down a man below the level of the lowest
brute been so portrayed as in Baron Hulot; never before or since has
female depravity been so illustrated as in the diabolical career of
Valerie Marneffe, probably the worst woman in fiction. As for Cousine
Bette herself, and her power to breed mischief and crime, it suffices to
say that she is worthy of a place beside the two chief characters.

'Le Cousin Pons' is a very different book; one which, though pathetic in
the extreme, may be safely recommended to the youngest reader. The hero
who gives his name to the story is an old musician who has worn out his
welcome among his relations, but who becomes an object of interest to
them when they learn that his collection of bric-a-brac is valuable and
that he is about to die. The intrigues that circulate around this
collection and the childlike German, Schmucke, to whom Pons has
bequeathed it, are described as only the author of 'Le Cure de Tours'
could have succeeded in doing; but the book contains also an almost
perfect description of the ideal friendship existing between Pons and
Schmucke. One remembers them longer than one does Frazier, the
scoundrelly advocate who cheats poor Schmucke; a fact which should be
cited against those who urge that Balzac is at home with his vicious
characters only.

The last novel of this group, 'Cesar Birotteau,' is the least powerful,
though not perhaps the least popular. It is an excellent study of
bourgeois life, and therefore fills an important place in the scheme of
the 'Comedy,' describing as it does the spreading ambitions of a rich
but stupid perfumer, and containing an admirable study of bankruptcy. It
may be dismissed with the remark that around the innocent Caesar surge
most of the scoundrels that figure in the 'Comedie humaine,' and with
the regret that it should have been completed while the far more
powerful 'Les Petits bourgeois' was left unfinished.

We now come to the concluding parts of the 'Etudes de moeurs.' the
'Scenes' describing Political and Military Life. In the first group are
five novels and stories: 'L'Envers de l'histoire contemporaine' (The
Under Side of Contemporary History, a fine story, but rather social than
political), 'Une Tenebreuse affaire' (A Shady Affair), 'Un Episode sous
la Terreur,' 'Z. Marcas,' and 'Le Depute d'Arcis' (The Deputy of Arcis).
Of these the 'Episode' is probably the most admirable, although 'Z.
Marcas' has not a little strength. The 'Depute,' like 'Les Petits
bourgeois,' was continued by M. Charles Rabou and a considerable part of
it is not Balzac's; a fact which is to be regretted, since practically
it is the only one of these stories that touches actual politics as the
term is usually understood. The military scenes are only two in number,
'Les Chouans' and 'Une Passion dans le desert.' The former of these has
been sufficiently described already; the latter is one of the best known
of the short stories, but rather deserves a place beside 'La Fille aux
yeux d'or.' Indeed, for Balzac's best military scenes we must go to 'Le
Colonel Chabert' or to 'Adieu.'

We now pass to those subterranean chambers of the great structure we are
exploring, the 'Etudes philosophiques.' They are twenty in number, four
being novels, one a composite volume of tales, and the rest stories. The
titles run as follows:--'La Peau de chagrin,' 'L'Elixir de longue vie'
(The Elixir of Life), 'Melmoth reconcilie,' 'Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu'
(The Anonymous Masterpiece), 'Gambara,' 'Massimila Doni,' 'Le
Requisitionnaire,' 'Adieu,' 'El Verdugo,' 'Les Marana,' 'L'Auberge
rouge' (The Red Inn), 'Un Drame au bord de la mer' (A Seaside Drama),
'L'Enfant maudit' (A Child Accursed) 'Maitre Cornelius' (Master
Cornelius), 'Sur Catherine de Medicis,' 'La Recherche de l'absolu,'
'Louis Lambert,' 'Seraphita,' 'Les Proscrits,' and 'Jesus-Christ
en Flandre.'

Of the novels, 'La Peau de chagrin' is easily first. Its central theme
is the world-old conflict between the infinite desires and the finite
powers of man. The hero, Raphael, is hardly, as M. Barriere asserts, on
a level with Hamlet, Faust, and Manfred, but the struggle of his
infinite and his finite natures is almost as intensely interesting as
the similar struggles in them. The introduction of the talisman, the
wild ass's skin that accomplishes all the wishes of its owner, but on
condition that it is to shrink away in proportion to the intensity of
those wishes, and that when it disappears the owner's life is to end,
gave to the story a weird interest not altogether, perhaps, in keeping
with its realistic setting, and certainly forcing a disastrous
comparison with the three great poems named. But when all allowances are
made, one is forced to conclude that 'La Peau de chagrin' is a novel of
extraordinary power and absorbing interest; and that its description of
its hero's dissipations in the libertine circles of Paris, and its
portrayal of the sublime devotion of the heroine Pauline for her slowly
perishing lover, are scarcely to be paralleled in literature. Far less
powerful are the short stories on similar themes, entitled 'L'Elixir de
longue vie,' and 'Melmoth reconcilie' (Melmoth Reconciled), which give
us Balzac's rehandling of the Don Juan of Moliere and Byron, and the
Melmoth of Maturin.

Below the 'Peau de chagrin,' but still among its author's best novels,
should be placed 'La Recherche de l'absolu,' which, as its title
implies, describes the efforts of a chemist to "prove by chemical
analysis the unity of composition of matter." In the pursuit of his
philosophic will-o'-the-wisp, Balthazar Claes loses his fortune and
sacrifices his noble wife and children. His madness serves, however, to
bring into relief the splendid qualities of these latter; and it is just
here, in its human rather than in its philosophic bearings, that the
story rises to real greatness. Marguerite Claes, the daughter, is a
noble heroine; and if one wishes to see how Balzac's characters and
ideas suffer when treated by another though an able hand, one has but to
read in conjunction with this novel the 'Maitre Guerin' of the
distinguished dramatist Emile Augier. A proper pendant to this history
of a noble genius perverted is 'La Confidence des Ruggieri,' the second
part of that remarkable composite 'Sur Catherine de Medicis,' a book
which in spite of its mixture of history, fiction, and speculative
politics is one of the most suggestive of Balzac's minor productions.

Concerning 'Seraphita' and 'Louis Lambert,' the remaining novels of this
series, certain noted mystics assert that they contain the essence of
Balzac's genius, and at least suggest the secret of the universe.
Perhaps an ordinary critic may content himself with saying that both
books are remarkable proofs of their author's power, and that the former
is notable for its marvelous descriptions of Norwegian scenery.

Of the lesser members of the philosophic group, nearly all are admirable
in their kind and degree. 'Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu' and 'Gambara' treat
of the pains of the artistic life and temperament. 'Massimila Doni,'
like 'Gambara,' treats of music, but also gives a brilliant picture of
Venetian life. 'Le requisitionnaire,' perhaps the best of Balzac's
short stories, deals with the phenomenon of second sight, as 'Adieu'
does with that of mental alienation caused by a sudden shock. 'Les
Marana' is an absorbing study of the effects of heredity; 'L'Auberge
rouge' is an analysis of remorse, as is also 'Un Drame au bord de la
mer'; while 'L'Enfant maudit' is an analysis of the effects of extreme
sensibility, especially as manifested in the passion of poetic love.
Finally, 'Maitre Cornelius' is a study of avarice, in which is set a
remarkable portrait of Louis XI.; 'Les Proscrits' is a masterly sketch
of the exile of Dante at Paris; and 'Jesus-Christ en Flandre' is an
exquisite allegory, the most delicate flower, perhaps, of
Balzac's genius.

It remains only to say a few words about the third division of the
'Comedie humaine,' viz., the 'Etudes analytiques.' Only two members of
the series, the 'Physiologie du mariage' and the 'Petites miseres de la
vie conjugale,' were ever completed, and they are not great enough to
make us regret the loss of the 'Pathology of Social Life' and the other
unwritten volumes. For the two books we have are neither novels nor
profound studies, neither great fiction nor great psychology. That they
are worth reading for their suggestiveness with regard to such important
subjects as marriage and conjugal life goes without saying, since they
are Balzac's; but that they add greatly to his reputation, not even his
most ardent admirer would be hardy enough to affirm.

And now in conclusion, what can one say about this great writer that
will not fall far short of his deserts? Plainly, nothing, yet a few
points may be accentuated with profit. We should notice in the first
place that Balzac has consciously tried almost every form of prose
fiction, and has been nearly always splendidly successful. In analytic
studies of high, middle, and low life he has not his superior. In the
novel of intrigue and sensation he is easily a master, while he succeeds
at least fairly in a form of fiction at just the opposite pole from
this, to wit, the idyl ('Le Lys dans la vallee'). In character sketches
of extreme types, like 'Gobseck,' his supremacy has long been
recognized, and he is almost as powerful when he enters the world of
mysticism, whither so few of us can follow him. As a writer of
novelettes he is unrivaled and some of his short stories are worthy to
rank with the best that his followers have produced. In the extensive
use of dialect he was a pioneer; in romance he has 'La Peau de chagrin'
and 'La Recherche de l'absolu' to his credit; while some of the work in
the tales connected with the name of Catherine de Medici shows what he
could have done in historical fiction had he continued to follow Scott.
And what is true of the form of his fiction is true of its elements.
Tragedy, comedy, melodrama are all within his reach; he can call up
tears and shudders, laughter and smiles at will. He knows the whole
range of human emotions, and he dares to penetrate into the arcana of
passions almost too terrible or loathsome for literature to touch.

In style, in the larger sense of the word, he is almost equally supreme.
He is the father of modern realism and remains its greatest exponent. He
retains always some of the good elements of romance,--that is to say, he
sees the thing as it ought to be,--and he avoids the pitfalls of
naturalism, being a painter and not a photographer. In other words, like


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