Women in the Life of Balzac
Juanita Helm Floyd

Part 2 out of 5

business letters under her name, and her fidelity and devotion are
seen in her denying herself clothes in order to buy household
necessities for him.

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

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

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

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

But if she remained one of his principal creditors, she received many
literary proofs of his appreciation. As early as 1831 he dedicated to
her a volume of his /Romans et Contes philosophiques/, but later
changed the title to /Etudes philosophiques/, and dedicated to her /La
Recherche de L'Absolu/:

"To Madame Josephine Delannoy, nee Doumerg.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His devotion is again seen in the beautiful words with which he
dedicates to her in 1838 /La Maison Nucingen/:

"To Madame Zulma Carraud.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




"O matre pulchra filia pulchrior!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balzac had a sincere affection for Delphine Gay and enjoyed her salon.
In his letters to her he often addressed her as /Cara/ and /Ma chere
ecoliere/. Her poetry having been converted into prose by her prosaic
husband, she submitted her writings to Balzac as to an enlightened
master. He asked /Delphine Divine/ to write a preface for his /Etudes
de Femmes/, but she declined, saying that an habitue of the opera who
could so transform himself so as to paint the admirable Abbe
Birotteau, could certainly surpass her in writing /une preface de
femme/. She did, however, write the sonnet on the /Marguerite/ which
Lucien de Rubempre displayed as one of the samples of his volume of
verses to the publisher Dauriat; also /Le Chardon/. Balzac made use of
this poem, however, only in the original edition of his work; it was
replaced in the /Comedie humaine/ by another sonnet, written probably
by Lassailly. Madame de Girardin brings her master before the public
by mentioning his name in her /Marguerite, ou deux Amours/, where a
personage in the book tells about Balzac's return from Austria and his
inability to speak German when paying the coachman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To Marceline Desbordes-Valmore,

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


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

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

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

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


"She has ended like the Empire."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] This house, /Les Jardies/, was at Ville-d'Avray and not at Meudon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your entirely devoted."

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

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

A few years before her death, /La Femme abandonnee/ was dedicated:

"To her Grace the Duchesse d'Abrantes,

"from her devoted servant,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In /La Femme abandonnee/, Madame de Beauseant resembles the Duchess as
portrayed in this description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madame la Princesse de Belgiojoso, nee Trivulce.

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

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

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

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

When the second volume of the /Comedie humaine/ was published (1842),
Balzac remembered this episode in his life and dedicated /La
Grenadiere/ to his traveling companion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balzac expresses his admiration for her in the dedication of the
/Memoires de deux jeunes mariees/:

"To George Sand.

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

"Your friend,




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

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

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

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

"Madame Bechet has become singularly ill-natured and will hurt my
interests very much. In paying me, she charges me with corrections
which amount on the twelve volumes to three thousand francs, and
also for my copies, which will cost me fifteen hundred more. Thus


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