Women in the Life of Balzac
Juanita Helm Floyd

Part 4 out of 5

1843, he dedicated to her /L'Illustre Gaudissart/, a work written ten
years before.

Though he was fully recovered with time, this drama, played by a
coquette, was almost tragic for the author of the /Comedie humaine/.
No other woman left so deep a mark of passion or such rankling wounds
in his bleeding heart, as did she of whom he says:

"It has required five years of wounds for my tender nature to
detach itself from one of iron. A gracious woman, this Duchess of
whom I spoke to you, and one who had come to me under an
incognito, which, I render her this justice, she laid aside the
day I asked her to. . . . This /liaison/ which, whatever may be
said, be assured has remained by the will of the woman in the most
reproachable conditions, has been one of the great sorrows of my
life. The secret misfortunes of my situation actually come from
the fact that I sacrificed everything to her, for a single one of
her desires; she never divined anything. A wounded man must be
pardoned for fearing injuries. . . . I alone know what there is of
horror in the /Duchesse de Langeais/."

In 1831 Balzac asked for the hand of a young lady of the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, Mademoiselle Eleonore de Trumilly, second daughter of
his friend the Baron de Trumilly, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Artillery
of the Royal guard under the Restoration, a former /émigré/, and of
Madame Alexandra-Anna de Montiers. This request was received by her
father, who transmitted it to her, but she rejected the suitor and
married June 18, 1833, Francois-Felix-Claude-Marie-Marguerite Labroue,
Baron de Vareilles-Sommieres, of the diocese of Poitiers.

The Baron de Trumilly (died April 7, 1832) held high rank among the
officers of the artillery, and his cultured mind rendered him one of
the ornaments of society. He lived in friendly and intellectual
relations with Balzac while the future novelist was working on the
/Chouans/ and the /Physiologie du Mariage/, and at the time Balzac was
revising the latter for publication, he went to dine frequently at the
home of the Baron, who used to work with him until late in the
evening. In this work he introduces an old /émigré/ under the initials
of Marquis de T---- which are quite similar to those of the Baron de
Trumilly. This Marquis de T---- went to Germany about 1791, which
corresponds to the life of the Baron.

Baron de Trumilly welcomed Balzac into his home, took a great interest
in his work, and seemed willing to give him one of his three
daughters; but one can understand how the young novelist, who had not
yet attained great fame, might not favorably impress a young lady of
the social standing of Mademoiselle de Trumilly, and her father did
not urge her to accept him.

Although Balzac wrote Madame Hanska that when he called the girl loved
by Dr. Benassis in his "Confession" (Le Medecin de Campagne)
"Evelina," he said to himself, "She will quiver with joy in seeing
that her name has occupied me, that she was present to my memory, and
that what I deemed loveliest and noblest in the young girl, I have
named for her," some think that the lady he had in mind was not Mme.
Hanska, but Eleonore de Trumilly, who really was a young unmarried
girl, while Madame Hanska was not only married, but the mother of
several children. Again, letters written by the author to his family
show his condition to have been desperate at that time. Balzac asserts
that the story of /Louis Lambert/ is true to life; hence, despondent
over his own situation, he makes Louis Lambert become insane, and
causes Dr. Benassis to think of suicide when disappointed in love.

Thus was the novelist doomed, early in his literary career, to meet
with a disappointment which, as has been seen, was to be repeated some
months later with more serious results, when his adoration for the
Duchesse de Castries was suddenly turned into bitterness.


"And they talk of the first love! I know nothing as terrible as the
last, it is strangling."

The longest and by far the most important of Balzac's friendships
began by correspondence was the one with Madame Eveline Hanska, whose
first letter arrived February 28, 1832. The friendship soon developed
into a more sentimental relationship culminating March 14, 1850, when
Madame Hanska became Madame Honore de Balzac. This "grand and
beautiful soul-drama" is one of the noblest in the world, and in the
history of literature the longest.

So long was Balzac in pursuit of this apparent chimera, and so ardent
was his passion for his "polar star" that the above words of Quinola
may well be applied to his experience. So fervent was his adoration,
so pathetic his sufferings and so persistent his pursuit during the
seventeen long years of waiting that Miss Betham-Edwards has
appropriately said of his letters to Madame Hanska:

"Opening with a pianissimo, we soon reach /a con molto
expressione/, a /crescendo/, a /molto furore/ quickly following.
Every musical term, adjectival, substantival, occurs to us as we
read the thousand and odd pages of the two volumes. . . . Nothing
in his fiction or any other, records a love greatening as the
tedious years wore on, a love sovereignly overcoming doubt,
despair and disillusion, such a love as the great Balzac's for

Their relationship from the beginning of their correspondence to the
tragic end which came so soon after Balzac had arrived "at the summit
of happiness," has been shrouded in mystery. This mystery has been
heightened by the vivid imagination of some of Balzac's biographers,
where fancy replace facts.

Miss Katherine P. Wormeley denies the authenticity of some of the
letters published in the /Lettres a l'Etrangere/, saying:

"No explanation is given of how these letters were obtained, and no
proof or assurance is offered of their authenticity. A foot-note
appended to the first letter merely states as follows: 'M. le
vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, in whose hands are the
originals of these letters, has related the history of this
correspondence in detail, under the title of /Un Roman d'Amour/
(Calmann Levy, publisher). Madame Hanska, born Evelina (Eve)
Rzewuska, who was then twenty-six or twenty-eight years old,
resided at the chateau of Wierzchownia, in Volhynia. An
enthusiastic reader of the /Scenes de la Vie privee/, uneasy at
the different turns which the mind of the author was taking in
/La Peau de Chagrin/, she addressed to Balzac--then thirty-three
years old, in the care of the publisher Gosselin, a letter signed
/l'Etrangere/, which was delivered to him February 18, 1832. Other
letters followed; that of November 7 ended thus: 'A word from you
in the /Quotidienne/ will give me the assurance that you have
received my letter, and that I can write to you without fear. Sign
it; to /l'E---- H. de B/.' This acknowledgment of reception
appeared in the /Quotidienne/ of December 9. Thus was inaugurated
the system of /petite/ correspondence now practised in divers
newspapers, and at the same time, this correspondence with her who
was seventeen years later, in 1850, to become his wife."[*]

[*] Miss M. F. Sandars states that a copy of the /Quotidienne/
containing this acknowledgment was in the possession of the
Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, and that she saw it. At the
time of writing this preface, Miss Wormeley did not believe the
correspondence began until February, 1833. In undertaking to prove
this, she cited a letter from Balzac written to Madame Hanska,
dated January 4, 1846, in which he says that the thirteen years
will soon be completed since he received her first letter. She
corrects this statement, however, in writing her /Memoir of
Balzac/ three years later. The mistake in this letter here
mentioned is only an example of the inaccuracy of Balzac, found
not only in his letters, but throughout the /Comedie humaine/. But
Miss Wormeley's argument might have been refuted by quoting
another letter from Balzac to Madame Hanska dated February, 1840:
"After eight years you do not know me!"

Regarding the two letters published in /Un Roman d'Amour/, pp. 33-49,
dated November 7, 1832, and January 8, 1833, and signed /l'Etrangere/,
Miss Wormeley says it is not necessary to notice them, since the
author himself states that they are not in Madame Hanska's

She is quite correct in this, for Spoelberch de Lovenjoul writes: "How
many letters did Balzac receive thus? No one knows. But we possess
two, neither of which is in Madame Hanska's handwriting." In speaking
of the first letter that arrived, he says:

"This first record of interest which was soon to change its nature,
has unfortunately not been found yet. Perhaps this page perished
in the /autodafe/ which, as the result of a dramatic adventure,
Balzac made of all the letters he had received from Madame Hanska;
perhaps also, by dint of rereading it, he had worn it out and
involuntarily destroyed it himself. We do not know. In any case,
we have not found it in the part of his papers which have fallen
into our hands. We regret it very much, for this letter must be
remarkable to have produced so great an impression on the future
author of the /Comedie humaine/."

The question arises: If Balzac burned in 1847 "all the letters he had
received from Madame Hanska," how could de Lovenjoul publish in 1896
two letters that he alleged to be from her, dated in 1832 and 1833?

The Princess Radziwill who is the niece of Madame Honore de Balzac and
was reared by her in the house of Balzac in the rue Fortunee, has been
both gracious and generous to the present writer in giving her much
valuable information that could not have been obtained elsewhere. In
answer to the above question, she states:

"Balzac said that he burned my aunt's letters in order to reassure
her one day when she had reasons to fear they would fall into
other hands than those to whom they belonged. After his death, my
aunt found them all, and I am sorry to say that /it was she who
burned them/, and that I was present at this /autodafe/, and
remember to this day my horror and indignation. But my aunt as
well as my father had a horror of leaving letters after them, and
strange to say, they were right in fearing to leave them because
in both cases, papers had a fate they would not have liked them to

The sketch of the family of Madame Honore de Balzac as given in /Un
Roman d'Amour/, is so inaccurate that the Princess Radziwill has very
kindly made the following corrections of it for the present writer:

"(1) Madame Hanska was really born on December /24th, not 25th/,
1801. You will find the date on her grave which is under the same
monument as that of Balzac, in Pere Lachaise in Paris. I am
absolutely sure of the day, because my father was also born on
Christmas Eve, and there were always great family rejoicings on
that occasion. You know that the Roman Catholic church celebrates
on the 24th of December the fete of Adam and Eve, and it is
because they were born on that day that my father and his sister
were called Adam and Eve. I am also quite sure that the year of my
aunt's birth was 1801, and my father's 1803, and should be very
much surprised if my memory served me false in that respect. But I
repeat it, the exact dates are inscribed on my aunt's grave. . . .
I looked up since I saw you a prayer book which I possess in which
the dates of birth are consigned, and thus found 1801, and I think
it is the correct one, but at all events I repeat it once more,
the exact date is engraved on her monument.

"(2) Caroline Rzewuska, my aunt's eldest sister, and the eldest of
the whole family, is the Madame Cherkowitsch of Balzac's letters,
and not Shikoff, as the family sketch says. It is equally
ridiculous to say that some people aver she was married four
times, and had General Witte for a husband; but Witte was a great
admirer of hers at the time she was Mme. Sobanska. There is also a
detail connected with her which is very little known, and that is
that she nearly married Sainte-Beauve, and that the marriage was
broken off a few days before the one fixed for it to take place.
That was before she married Jules Lacroix, and wicked people say
that it was partly disappointment at having been unable to become
the wife of the great critic, which made her accept the former.

"(3) My aunt Pauline was married to a Serbian banker settled in
Odessa, a very rich man called Jean Riznitsch, but he was /neither
a General nor a Baron/. Her second daughter, Alexandrine, married
Mr. Ciechanowiecki who also never could boast of a title, and
whose father had never been /Minister de l'Interieur en Pologne/.

"(4) My aunt Eve was neither married in 1818 nor in 1822 to Mr.
Hanski, but in 1820. It was not because of /revers de fortune/
that she was married to him, but it was the custom in Polish noble
families to try to settle girls as richly as possible. Later on,
my grandfather lost a great deal of money, but this circumstance,
which occurred after my aunt's marriage, had nothing to do with
it. My grandfather,--this by the way,--was a very remarkable man,
a personal friend of Voltaire. You will find interesting details
about him in an amusing book published by Ernest Daudet, called
/La Correspondence du Comte Valentin Esterhazy/, in the first
volume, where among other things is described the birth of my aunt
Helene, whose personality interests you so much, a birth which
nearly killed her mother. Besides Helene, my grandparents had
still another daughter who also died unmarried, at seventeen years
of age, and who, judging by her picture, must have been a wonder
of beauty; also a son Stanislas, who was killed accidentally by a
fall from his horse in 1826.

"(5) My uncle Ernest was not the second son of his parents, but the
youngest in the whole family."

It is interesting to note that Balzac wished to have his works
advertised in newspapers circulating in foreign countries and wrote
his publisher to advertise in the /Gazette/ and the /Quotidienne/, as
they were the only papers admitted into Russia, Italy, etc. He
repeated this request some months later, by which time he not only
knew that /l'Etrangere/ read the /Quotidienne/, but he had become
interested in her.

As has been mentioned, it is a strange coincidence that this first
letter from /l'Etrangere/ arrived on the very day that the novelist
wrote accepting the invitation of the Duchesse de Castries. Balzac
doubtless little dreamed that this was the beginning of a
correspondence which was destined to change the whole current of his

Many versions have been given as to what this letter contained, some
saying that Madame Hanska had been reading the /Peau de Chagrin/,
others, the /Physiologie du Mariage/, and others, the /Maison du Chat-
qui-pelote/, but if the letter no longer exists how is one to prove
what it contained? Yet it must have impressed Balzac, for he wanted to
dedicate to her the fourth volume of the /Scenes de la Vie privee/ in
placing her seal and "Diis ignotis 28 fevrier 1832" at the head of
/l'Expiation/, the last chapter of /La Femme de trente Ans/, which he
was writing when her letter arrived, but Madame de Berny objected, so
he saved the only copy of that dedication and wished Madame Hanska to
keep it as a souvenir, and as an expression of his thanks.

According to Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, Balzac showed one of Madame
Hanska's letters to Madame Carraud, and she answered it for him; but
with his usual skill in answering severe cross-examinations, he

"You have asked me with distrust to give an explanation of my two
handwritings; but I have as many handwritings as there are days in
the year, without being on that account the least in the world
versatile. This mobility comes from an imagination which can
conceive all and remain vague, like glass which is soiled by none
of its reflections. The glass is in my brain."

In this same letter, which is the second given, Balzac writes: ". . .
I am galloping towards Poland, and rereading all your letters,--I have
but three of them, . . ." If this last statement be true, the answer
to Spoelberch de Lovenjoul's question, "How many letters did Balzac
receive thus?" is not difficult.

Miss Wormeley seems to be correct in saying that this second letter is
inconsistent with the preceding one dated also in January, 1833,
showing an arbitrary system of dating. There are others which are
inconsistent, if not impossible, but if Spoelberch de Lovenjoul after
the death of Madame Honore de Balzac found these letters scattered
about in various places, as he states, it is quite possible that
contents as well as dates are confused.[*]

[*] One can see at once the injustice of the criticism of M. Henry
Bordeaux, /la Grande Revue/, November, 1899, in censuring Madame
Hanska for publishing her letters from Balzac.

The husband of Madame Hanska, M. Wenceslas de Hanski, who was never a
count, but a very rich man, was many years her senior, and suffered
from "blue devils" and paresis a long time before his death. Though he
was very generous with his wife in allowing her to travel, she often
suffered from ennui in her beautifully furnished chateau of
Wierzchownia, which Balzac described as being "as large as the
Louvre." This was a great exaggeration, for it was comparatively
small, having only about thirty rooms. With her husband, her little
daughter Anna, her daughter's governess, Mademoiselle Henriette Borel,
and two Polish relatives, Mesdemoiselles Severine and Denise
Wylezynska, she led a lonely life and spent much of her time in
reading, or writing letters. The household comprised the only people
of education for miles around.

Having lost six of her seven children, and being an intensely maternal
woman, the deepest feelings of her heart were devoted to her daughter
Anna, who also was destined to occupy much of the time and thought of
the author of the /Comedie humaine/.

If the letters printed in /Un Roman d'Amour/ are genuine, in the one
dated January 8, 1833, she speaks of having received with delight the
copy of the /Quotidienne/ in which his notice is inserted. She tells
him that M. de Hanski with his family are coming nearer France, and
she wishes to arrange some way for him to answer her letters, but he
must never try to ascertain who the person is who will transmit his
letters to her, and the greatest secrecy must be preserved.

It is not known how she arranged to have him send his letters, but he
wrote her about once a month from January to September, and after that
more frequently, as he was arranging to visit her. M. de Hanski with
his numerous family had come to Neufchatel in July, having stopped in
Vienna on the way. Here Balzac was to meet l'Etrangere for the first
time. He left Paris September 22, stopping to make a business visit to
his friend, Charles Bernard, at Besancon, and arriving at Neufchatel
September 25. (Although this letter to M. Bernard is dated August,
1833, Balzac evidently meant September, for there is no Sunday, August
22, in 1833. He did not leave Paris until Sunday, September 22, 1833.)
On the morning after his arrival, he writes her:

"I shall go to the Promenade of the faubourg from one o'clock till
four. I shall remain during that time looking at the lake, which I
have never seen."

Just what happened when they met, no one knows. The Princess Radziwill
says that her aunt told her that Balzac called at her hotel to meet
her and that there was nothing romantic in their introduction.
Nevertheless, the most varied and amusing stories have been told of
their first meeting.

Balzac remained in Neufchatel until October 1, having made a visit of
five days. He took a secret box to Madame Hanska in which to keep his
letters, having provided himself with a similar one in which to keep
hers. If we are to credit the disputed letter of Saturday, October 12,
we may learn something of what took place. Even before meeting Madame
Hanska, he had inserted her name in one of his books, calling the
young girl loved by M. Benassis "Evelina" (Le Medecin de Campagne).

Early in October M. de Hanski took his family to Geneva to spend the
winter. After Balzac's departure from Neufchatel the tone of his
letters to Madame Hanska changed; he used the /tutoiement/, and his
adoration increased. For a while he wrote her a daily account of his
life and dispatched the journal to her weekly.

Madame Hanska came into Balzac's life at a psychological moment. From
his youth, his longing was "to be famous and to be loved." Having
found the emptiness of a life of fame alone, having apparently grown
weary of the poor Duchesse d'Abrantes, about to cease his intimacy
with Madame de Berny, having been rejected by Mademoiselle de
Trumilly, and having suffered bitterly at the hands of the Duchesse de
Castries, he embraced this friendship with a new hope, and became
Madame Hanska's slave.

If Balzac was charmed with the stories of the daughter of the /femme
de chambre/ of Marie Antoinette, was infatuated with a woman who had
known Napoleon, and flattered by being invited to the home of one of
the beautiful society ladies of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, what must
have been his joy in learning that his new /Chatelaine/ belonged to
one of the most aristocratic families of Poland, the grandniece of
Queen Marie Leczinska, the daughter of the wise Comte de Rzewuska, and
the wife of one of the richest men in Russia!

But Madame Hanska was a very different woman from the kind, self-
sacrificing, romantic Madame de Berny; the witty, splendor-loving,
indulgent, poverty-stricken Duchesse d'Abrantes; or the frail,
dazzling, blond coquette, the Duchesse de Castries. With more strength
physically and mentally than her rivals, she possessed a marked
authoritativeness that was not found in Madame de Berny, a breadth of
vision impossible to Madame Junot, and freedom from the frivolity and
coquetry of Madame de Castries.

The Princess Radziwill feels that the Polish woman who has come down
to posterity merely as the object of Balzac's adoration, should be
known as the being to whom he was indebted for the development of his
marvelous genius, and as his collaborator in many of his works.
According to the Princess, /Modeste Mignon/ is almost entirely the
work of Madame Hanska's pen. She gives this description of her aunt,
which corresponds to Balzac's continual reference to her "analytical

"Madame de Balzac was perhaps not so brilliant in conversation as
were her brothers and sisters. Her mind had something pedantic in
it, and she was rather a good listener than a good talker, but
whatever she said was to the point, and she was eloquent with her
pen. She had that large glance only given to superior minds which
allows them, according to the words of Catherine of Russia, 'to
read the future in the history of the past.' She observed
everything, was indulgent to every one. . . . Her family, who
stood in more or less awe of her, treated her with great respect
and consideration. . . . We all of us had a great opinion of the
soundness of her judgments, and liked to consult her in any
difficulty or embarrassment in our existence."

No sooner had Balzac returned from his visit to Neufchatel intoxicated
with joy, than he began to plan his visit to Geneva. He would work day
and night to be able to get away for a fortnight; he decided later to
spend a month there, but he did not arrive until Christmas day. In the
meantime, he referred to their promise (to marry) which was as holy
and sacred to him as their mutual life, and he truly described his
love as the most ardent, the most persistent of loves. /Adoremus in
aeternum/ had become their device, and Madame Hanska, not having as
yet become accustomed to his continual financial embarrassment, wished
to provide him with money, an offer which is reproduced in /Eugenie

Upon his arrival at Geneva the novelist found a ring awaiting him; he
considered it as a talisman, wore it working, and it inspired
/Seraphita/. He became her /moujik/ and signed his name /Honoreski/.
She became his "love," his "life," his "rose of the Occident," his
"star of the North," his "fairy of the /tiyeuilles/," his "only
thought," his "celestial angel," the end of all for him. "You shall be
the young /dilecta/,--already I name you the /predilecta/."[*]

[*] Balzac was imitating Madame Hanska's pronunciation of /tilleuls/
in having Madame Vauquer (/Pere Goriot/) pronounce it /tieuilles/.

His adoration became such that he writes her: "My loved angel, I am
almost mad for you . . . I cannot put two ideas together that you do
not come between them. I can think of nothing but you. In spite of
myself my imagination brings me back to you. . . ." It was during his
stay in Geneva that Madame Hanska presented her chain to him, which he
used later on his cane.

Balzac left Geneva February 8, 1834, having spent forty-four days with
his /Predilecta/, but his work was not entirely neglected. While
there, he wrote almost all of /La Duchesse de Langeais/, and a large
part of /Seraphita/. This work, which she inspired, was dedicated:

"To Madame Eveline de Hanska, nee Countess Rzewuska.

"Madame:--here is the work you desired of me; in dedicating it to
you I am happy to offer you some token of the respectful affection
you allow me to feel for you. If I should be accused of incapacity
after trying to extract from the depths of mysticism this book,
which demanded the glowing poetry of the East under the
transparency of our beautiful language, the blame be yours! Did
you not compel me to the effort--such an effort as Jacob's--by
telling me that even the most imperfect outline of the figure
dreamed of by you, as it has been by me from my infancy, would
still be something in your eyes? Here, then, is that something.
Why cannot this book be set apart exclusively for those lofty
spirits who, like you, are preserved from worldly pettiness by
solitude? They might impress on it the melodious rhythm which it
lacks, and which, in the hands of one of our poets, might have
made it the glorious epic for which France still waits. Still,
they will accept it from me as one of those balustrades, carved by
some artist full of faith, on which the pilgrims lean to moderate
on the end of man, while gazing at the choir of a beautiful
church. I remain, madame, with respect, your faithful servant,


In the spring of 1834, M. de Hanski and his family left Geneva for
Florence, traveled for a few months, and arrived in Vienna during the
summer, where they remained for about a year. But Balzac continued his
correspondence with Madame Hanska. She was interested in collecting
the autographs of famous people, and Balzac not only had an album made
for her, but helped her collect the signatures.

More infatuated, if possible, than ever with her, he wanted her to
secure her husband's consent for him to visit them at Rome. Then he
felt that he must go to Vienna, see the Danube, explore the
battlefields of Wagram and Essling, and have pictures made
representing the uniforms of the German army.

In /La Recherche de l'Absolu/, he gave the name of Adam de
Wierzchownia to a Polish gentleman, Wierzchownia being the name of
Madame Hanska's home in the Ukraine. "I have amused myself like a boy
in naming a Pole, M. de Wierzchownia, and bringing him on the scene in
/La Recherche de l'Absolu/. That was a longing I could not resist, and
I beg your pardon and that of M. de Hanski for the great liberty. You
could not believe how that printed page fascinates me!" He writes her
of another character, La Fosseuse, (Le Medecin de Campagne): "Ah! if I
had known your features, I would have pleased myself in having them
engraved as La Fosseuse. But though I have memory enough for myself, I
should not have enough for a painter."

Either Balzac's adoration became too ardent, or displeasure was caused
in some other way, for no letters to Madame Hanska appear from August
26 to October 9, 1834. In the meantime, a long letter was written to
M. de Hanski apologizing for two letters written to his wife. He
explained that one evening she jestingly remarked to him, beside the
lake of Geneva, that she would like to know what a love-letter was
like, so he promised to write her one. Being reminded of this promise,
he sent her one, and received a cold letter of reproof from her after
another letter was on the way to her. Receiving a second rebuke, he
was desperate over the pleasantry, and wished to atone for this by
presenting to her, with M. de Hanski's permission, some manuscripts
already sent. He wished to send her the manuscript of /Seraphita/
also, and to dedicate this book to her, if they could forgive him this
error, for which he alone was to be censured.

Balzac was evidently pardoned, for he not only dedicated /Seraphita/
to her, as has been shown, but arrived in Vienna on May 16, 1835, to
visit her, bringing with him this manuscript. His stay was rather
short, lasting only to June 4. While there, he was quite busy, working
on /Le Lys dans la Vallee/, and declined many invitations. To get his
twelve hours of work, he had to retire at nine o'clock in order to
rise at three; this monastic rule dominated everything. He yielded
something of his stern observance to Madame Hanska by giving himself
three hours more freedom than in Paris, where he retired at six.

Soon after his return from Vienna, the novelist was informed that a
package from Vienna was held for him with thirty-six francs due.
Having, of course, no money, he sent his servant in a cab for the
package, telling him where he could secure the money and, dead or
alive, to bring the package. After spending four hours in an agony of
anticipation, wondering what Madame Hanska could be sending him, his
messenger arrived with a copy of /Pere Goriot/ which he had given her
in Vienna with the request that she give it to some one to whom it
might afford pleasure.

It will be remembered that while in Vienna, Balzac's financial strain
became such that his sister Laure pawned his silver. He afterwards
admitted that the journey to Vienna was the greatest folly of his
life; it cost him five thousand francs and upset all his affairs. He
had other financial troubles also, but found time and means to consult
a somnambulist frequently as to his /Predilecta/, and regretted that
he did not have one or two soothsayers, so that he might know daily
about her. His superstition is seen early in their correspondence
where he considered it a good omen that Madame Hanska had sent him the
/Imitation de Jesus-Christ/ while he was working on /Le Medecin de
Campagne/. Again and again he insisted that she tell him when any of
her family were ill, feeling that he could cure at a distance those
whom he loved; or that she should send him a piece of cloth worn next
to her person, that he might present this to a clairvoyant.

After delving deeply into mysticism, and writing some books dealing
with it, the novelist writes his "Polar Star":

"I am sorry to see that you are reading the mystics: believe me,
this sort of reading is fatal to minds like yours; it is a poison;
it is an intoxicating narcotic. These books have a bad influence.
There are follies of virtue as there are follies of dissipation
and vice. If you were not a wife, a mother, a friend, a relation,
I would not seek to dissuade you, for then you might go and shut
yourself up in a convent at your pleasure without hurting anybody,
although you would soon die there. In your situation, and in your
isolation in the midst of those deserts, this kind of reading,
believe me, is pernicious. The rights of friendship are too feeble
to make my voice heard; but let me at least make an earnest and
humble request on this subject. Do not, I beg of you, ever read
anything more of this kind. I have myself gone through all this,
and I speak from experience."

As has been stated, Madame Hanska was of assistance to Balzac in his
literary work. He used her ideas frequently, and was gracious in
expressing his appreciation of them to her:

"I must tell you that yesterday . . . I copied out your portrait of
Mademoiselle Celeste, and I said to two uncompromising judges:
'Here is a sketch I have flung on paper. I wanted to paint a woman
under given circumstances, and launch her into life through such
and such an event.' What do you think they said?--'Read that
portrait again.' After which they said:--'That is your
masterpiece. You have never before had that /laisser-aller/ of a
writer which shows the hidden strength.' 'Ha, ha!' I answered,
striking my head; 'that comes from the forehead of /an analyst/.'
I kneel at your feet for this violation; but I left out all that
was personal. . . . I thank you for your glimpses of Viennese
society. What I have learned about Germans in their relations
elsewhere confirms what you say of them. Your story of General
H---- comes up periodically. There has been something like it in
all countries, but I thank you for having told it to me. The
circumstances give it novelty."[*]

[*] This is only one of the numerous allusions Balzac made to the
analytical forehead of Madame Hanska.

Though Balzac's letters to Madame Hanska became less effervescent as
time went on, each year seemed to add to his admiration and "dog-like
fidelity." She, on the other hand, complained of his dissipation, the
society he kept, and his short letters.

While Balzac was in Vienna, he was working on /Le Lys dans la Vallee/.
Although he said that Madame de Mortsauf was Madame de Berny, M. Adam
Rzewuski, a brother of Madame Hanska, always felt that this character
represented his sister, and called attention to the same intense
maternal feeling of the two women, and the same sickly, morose
husband. The Princess Radziwill also believes that this is a portrait
of her aunt, which hypothesis is further strengthened by comments of
Emile Faguet, who says that to one who has read Balzac's letters in
1834-1835 closely, it is clear that Madame de Mortsauf is Madame
Hanska, and that the marvelous M. de Mortsauf is M. de Hanski.

Mr. F. Lawton also thinks that Balzac has shown his relations to
Madame Hanska in making Felix de Vandenesse console himself with Lady
Dudley while swearing high allegiance to his Henriette, just as Balzac
was "inditing oaths of fidelity to his 'earth-angel' in far-away
Russia while worshipping at shrines more accessible. Lady Dudley may
well have been, for all his denial, the Countess Visconti, of whom
Madame Hanska was jealous and on good grounds, or else the Duchesse de
Castries, to whom he said that while writing the book he had caught
himself shedding tears." Balzac says of this book:

"I have received five /formal complaints/ from persons about me,
who say that I have unveiled their private lives. I have very
curious letters on this subject. It appears that there are as many
Messieurs de Mortsauf as there are angels at Clochegourde, and
angels rain down upon me, but /they are not white/."

In the early autumn of 1835, M. de Hanski and his family, having spent
several weeks at Ischl, returned to their home at Wierzchownia after
an absence of more than two years. It was during this long stay at
Vienna that Madame Hanska had Daffinger make the miniature which
occupies so much space in Balzac's letters in later years.

It must have been a relief to poor Balzac when his /Chatelaine/
returned to her home, for while traveling she was negligent about
giving him her address, so that he was never sure whether she received
all his letters, and she did not number hers, as he had asked her to
do, so that he was not certain that he received all that she wrote
him; neither would she--though leading a life of leisure--write as
often as he wished. But if he scolded her for this, she had other
matters to worry her. She was ever anxious about the safety of her
letters, asked for many explanations of his conduct, for
interpretations of various things in his works, and who certain
friends were, so much so that his letters are filled with vindications
of himself. Even before they had ever met, he wrote her that he could
not take a step that was not misinterpreted. She seemed continually to
be hearing of something derogatory to his character, and trying to
investigate his actions. The reader has had glimpses enough of
Balzac's life to understand what a task was hers. Yet she doubtless
sometimes accused him unnecessarily, and he in turn became impatient:

"This letter contains two reproaches which have keenly affected me;
and I think I have already told you that a few chance expressions
would suffice to make me go to Wierzchownia, which would be a
misfortune in my present perilous situation; but I would rather
lose everything than lose a true friendship. . . . In short, you
distrust me at a distance, just as you distrusted me near by,
without any reason. I read quite despairingly the paragraph of
your letter in which you do the honors of my heart to my mind, and
sacrifice my whole personality to my brain. . . . In your last
letters, you know, you have believed things that are
irreconcilable with what you know of me. I cannot explain to
myself your tendency to believe absurd calumnies. I still remember
your credulity in Geneva, when they said I was married."

Even her own family added to her suspicions:

". . . Your letter has crushed me more than all the heavy nonsense
that jealousy and calumny, lawsuit and money matters have cast
upon me. My sensibility is a proof of friendship; there are none
but those we love who can make us suffer. I am not angry with your
aunt, but I am angry that a person as distinguished as you say she
is should be accessible to such base and absurd calumny. But you
yourself, at Geneva, when I told you I was as free as air, you
believed me to be married, on the word of one of those fools whose
trade it is to sell money. I began to laugh. Here, I no longer
laugh, because I have the horrible privilege of being horribly
calumniated. A few more controversies like the last, and I shall
retire to the remotest part of Touraine, isolating myself from
everything, renouncing all, . . . Think always that what I do has
a reason and an object, that my actions are /necessary/. There is,
for two souls that are a little above others, something mortifying
in repeating to you for the tenth time not to believe in calumny.
When you said to me three letters ago, that I gambled, it was just
as true as my marriage at Geneva. . . . You attribute to me little
defects which I do not have to give yourself the pleasure of
scolding me. No one is less extravagant than I; no one is willing
to live with more economy. But reflect that I work too much to
busy myself with certain details, and, in short, that I had rather
spend five to six thousand francs a year than marry to have order
in my household; for a man who undertakes what I have undertaken
either marries to have a quiet existence, or accepts the
wretchedness of La Fontaine and Rousseau. For pity's sake, do not
talk to me of my want of order; it is the consequence of the
independence in which I live, and which I desire to keep."

In spite of these reproaches, Balzac's affection for her continued,
and he decided to have his portrait made for her. Boulanger was the
artist chosen, and since he wished payment at once, Madame Hanska sent
the novelist a sum for this purpose. For a Christmas greeting, 1836,
she sent him a copy of the Daffinger miniature made at Vienna the
preceding year. Again--this time in /Illusions perdues/--he gave her
name, Eve, to a young girl whom he regarded as the most charming
creature he had created (Eve Chardon, who became Madame David

In the spring of 1837 Balzac went to Italy to spend a few weeks.
Seeing at Florence a bust of his /Predilecta/, made by Bartolini, he
asked M. de Hanski's permission to have a copy of it, half size, made
for himself, to place on his writing desk. This journey aroused Madame
Hanska's suspicions again, but he assured her he was not dissipating,
but was traveling to rejuvenate his broken-down brain, since, working
night and day as he did, a man might easily die of overstrain.

He continued to save his manuscripts for her, awaiting an opportunity
to send or take them to her. Her letters became less frequent and full
of stings, but he begged her to disbelieve everything she heard of him
except from himself, as she had almost a complete journal of his life.
He explained that the tour he purposed making to the Mediterranean was
neither for marriage nor for anything adventurous or silly, but he was
pledged to secrecy, and, whether it turned out well or ill, he risked
nothing but a journey. As to her reproaches how he, knowing all,
penetrating and observing all, could be so duped and deceived, he
wondered if she could love him if he were always so prudent that no
misfortune ever happened to him.

In the spring of 1838 he took his Mediterranean trip, going to
Corsica, Sardinia, and Italy in quest of his Eldorado, but, as usual,
he was doomed to meet with disappointment. On his return he went to
/Les Jardies/ to reside, which was later to be the cause of another
financial disaster. Replying to her criticism of his journey to
Sardinia, he begged her never to censure those who feel themselves
sunk in deep waters and are struggling to the surface, for the rich
can never comprehend the trials of the unfortunate. One must be
without friends, without resources, without food, without money, to
know to its depths what misfortune is.

In spite of her reproaches he continued to protest his devotion to
her. Though her letters were cold, he begged her to gaze on the
portrait of her /moujik/ and feel that he was the most constant, least
volatile, most steadfast of men. He was willing to obey her in all
things except in his affections, and she was complete mistress of
those. Seized with a burning desire to see her, he planned a visit to
Wierzchownia as soon as his financial circumstances would permit.

During a period of three months, Balzac received no letter from his
"Polar Star," but he expressed his usual fidelity to her. Miserable or
fortunate, he was always the same to her; it was because of his
unchangeableness of heart that he was so painfully wounded by her
neglect. Carried away, as he often was, by his torrential existence,
he might miss writing to her, but he could not understand how she
could deprive him of the sacred bread which restored his courage and
gave him new life.

His long struggle with his debts and his various financial and
domestic troubles seemed at times to deprive him of his usual hope and
patience. In a depressed vein, he replies to one of her letters:

"Ah! I think you excessively small; and it shows me that you are of
this world! Ah! you write to me no longer because my letters are
rare! Well, they were rare because I did not have the money to
post them, but I would not tell you that. Yes, my distress had
reached that point and beyond it. It is horrible and sad, but it
is true, as true as the Ukraine where you are. Yes, there have
been days when I proudly ate a roll of bread on the boulevard. I
have had the greatest sufferings: self-love, pride, hope,
prospects, all have been attacked. But I shall, I hope, surmount
everything. I had not a penny, but I earned for those atrocious
Lecou and Delloye seventy thousand francs in a year. The Peytel
affair cost me ten thousand francs, and people said I was paid
fifty thousand! That affair and my fall, which kept me as you
know, forty days in bed, retarded my business by more than thirty
thousand francs. Oh! I do not like your want of confidence! You
think that I have a great mind, but you will not admit that I have
a great heart! After nearly eight years, you do not know me! My
God, forgive her, for she knows not what she does!"

The novelist wrote his /Predilecta/ of his ideas of marriage, and how
he longed to marry, but he became despondent about this as well as
about his debts; he felt that he was growing old, and would not live
long. His comfort while working was a picture of Wierzchownia which
she had sent him, but in addition to all of his other troubles he was
annoyed because some of her relatives who were in Paris carried false
information to her concerning him.

Not having heard from her for six months, he resorted to his frequent
method of allaying his anxiety by consulting a clairvoyant to learn if
she were ill. He was told that within six weeks he would receive a
letter that would change his entire life. Almost four more months
passed, however, without his hearing from her and he feared that she
was not receiving his letters, or that hers had gone astray, as he no
longer had a home.

For once, the sorcerer had predicted somewhat correctly! Not within
six weeks, to be sure, but within six months, the letter came that was
to change Balzac's entire life. On January 5, 1842, a letter arrived
from Madame Hanska, telling of the death of M. de Hanski which had
occurred on November 10, 1841.

His reply is one of the most beautiful of his letters to her:

"I have this instant received, dear angel, your letter sealed with
black, and, after having read it, I could not perhaps have wished
to receive any other from you, in spite of the sad things you tell
me about yourself and your health. As for me, dear, adored one,
although this event enables me to attain to that which I have
ardently desired for nearly ten years, I can, before you and God,
do myself this justice, that I have never had in my heart anything
but complete submission, and that I have not, in my most cruel
moments, stained my soul with evil wishes. No one can prevent
involuntary transports. Often I have said to myself, 'How light my
life would be with /her/!' No one can keep his faith, his heart,
his inner being without hope. . . . But I understand the regrets
which you express to me; they seem to me natural and true,
especially after the protection which has never failed you since
that letter at Vienna. I am, however, joyful to know that I can
write to you with open heart to tell you all those things on which
I have kept silence, and disperse the melancholy complaints you
have founded on misconceptions, so difficult to explain at a
distance. I know you too well, or I think I know you too well, to
doubt you for one moment; and I have often suffered, very cruelly
suffered, that you have doubted me, because, since Neufchatel, you
are my life. Let me say this to you plainly, after having so often
proved it to you. The miseries of my struggle and of my terrible
work would have tired out the greatest and strongest men; and
often my sister has desired to put an end to them, God knows how;
I always thought the remedy worse than the disease! It is you
alone who have supported me till now, . . . You said to me, 'Be
patient, you are loved as much as you love. Do not change, for
others change not.' We have both been courageous; why, therefore,
should you not be happy to-day? Do you think it was for myself
that I have been so persistent in magnifying my name? Oh! I am
perhaps very unjust, but this injustice comes from the violence of
my heart! I would have liked two words for myself in your letter,
but I sought them in vain; two words for him who, since the
landscape in which you live has been before his eyes, has not
passed, while working, ten minutes without looking at it; I have
there sought all, ever since it came to me, that we have asked in
the silence of our spirits."

He was concerned about her health and wished to depart at once, but
feared to go without her permission. She was anxious about her
letters, but he assured her that they were safe, and begged her to
inform him when he could visit her; for six years he had been longing
to see her. "Adieu, my dear and beautiful life that I love so well,
and to whom I can now say it. /Sempre medisimo/."

The role played by M. de Hanski[*] in this friendship was a peculiar
one. The correspondence, as has been seen, began in secrecy, but
Balzac met him when he went to Neufchatel to see Madame Hanska. Their
relations were apparently cordial, for on his return to Paris, the
novelist wrote him a friendly note, enclosing an autograph of Rossini
whom M. de Hanski admired. The Polish gentleman (he was never a count)
must have been willing to have Balzac visit his wife again, at Geneva,
when their friendship seemed to grow warmer. Balzac called him
/l'honorable Marechal de l'Ukraine/ or the /Grand Marechal/, and
extended to him his thanks or regards in sending little notes to
Madame Hanska, and thus he was early cognizant of their
correspondence. The future author of the /Comedie humaine/ seems to
have been taken into the family circle and to have become somewhat a
favorite of M. de Hanski, who was suffering with his "blue devils" at
that time.

[*] The present writer is following the predominant custom of using
the /de/ in connection with M. de Hanski's name, and omitting it
in speaking of his wife.

Since Balzac was not only an excellent story-teller but naturally very
jovial, and M. de Hanski suffered from ennui and wished to be amused,
they became friends. On his return to Paris, they exchanged a few
letters, and Balzac introduced stories to amuse him in his letters to
Madame Hanska. He wrote most graciously to the /Marechal/, apologizing
for the two love letters he had written his wife, and this letter was
answered. The novelist was invited by him to visit them in
Wierzchownia--an invitation he planned to accept, but did not.

In the spring of 1836, M. de Hanski sent Balzac a very handsome
malachite inkstand, also a cordial letter telling him the family news,
how much he enjoyed his works, and that he hoped with his family to
visit him in Paris within two years. He mentioned that his wife was
preparing for Balzac a long letter of several pages, and assured him
of his sincere friendship. Balzac was most appreciative of the gift of
the beautiful inkstand, but felt that it was too magnificent for a
poor man to use, so would place it in his collection and prize it as
one of his most precious souvenirs.

Besides discussing business with the Polish gentleman, Balzac
apologized often for not answering his letters, offering lack of time
as his excuse, but he planned to visit Wierzchownia, where he and M.
de Hanski would enjoy hearty laughs while Madame Hanska could work at
his comedies. In spite of this friendly correspondence, the /Marechal/
probably hinted to his wife that her admiration for the author was too
warm, for Balzac asked her to reassure her husband that he was not
only invulnerable, but immune from attack. Balzac spoke of dedicating
one of his books in the /Comedie humaine/ to M. de Hanski, but no
dedication to him is found in this work. His death, which occurred
some months after this suggestion, doubtless prevented the realization
of it.

Balzac evidently received a negative reply to his letter to Madame
Hanska asking to be permitted to visit her immediately after her
husband's death. It would have been a breach of the /convenances/ had
he gone to visit her so early in her widowhood. Soon after learning of
M. de Hanski's death, he saw an announcement of the death of a
Countess Kicka of Volhynia, and since his "Polar Star" had spoken of
being ill, he was seized with fear lest this be a misprint for Hanska,
and was confined to his bed for two days with a nervous fever.

What must have been Balzac's disappointment, when almost ready to
leave at any moment, to receive a letter which, as he expressed it,
killed the youth in him, and rent his heart! She felt that she owed
everything to her daughter, who had consoled her, and nothing to him;
yet she knew that she was everything to him.

He thought that she loved Anna too much, protested his fidelity to her
when she accused him, and reverted to his favorite theme of comparing
her to the devoted Madame de Berny. He complained of her coldness,
wanted to visit her in August at St. Petersburg, and desired her to
promise that they would be married within two years.

Princess Radziwill wrote: "When Madame Hanska's husband died, it was
supposed that her union with Balzac would occur at once, but obstacles
were interposed by others. Her own family looked down upon the great
French author as a mere story-teller; and by her late husband's people
sordid motives were imputed to him, to account for his devotion to the
heiress. The latter objection was removed, a few years later, by the
widow's giving up to her daughter the fortune left to her by Monsieur

It is at this period that Balzac furnishes us with the key to one of
his works, /Albert Savarus/, in writing to Madame Hanska:

"/Albert Savarus/ has had much success. You will read it in the
first volume of the /Comedie humaine/, almost after the /fausse
Maitresse/, where with childish joy I have made the name
/Rzewuski/ shine in the midst of those of the most illustrious
families of the North. Why have I not placed Francesca Colonna at
Diodati? Alas, I was afraid that it would be too transparent.
Diodati makes my heart beat! Those four syllables, it is the cry
of the /Montjoie Saint-Denis!/ of my heart."

Francesca Colonna, the Princess Gandolphini, is the heroine of
/l'Ambitieux par Amour/, a novel supposed to have been published by
Albert Savarus and described in the book which bears his name. Using
her name, the hero is represented as having written the story of the
Duchesse d'Argaiolo and himself, he taking the name of Rodolphe. Here
are given, in disguise again, the details of Balzac's early relations
to Madame Hanska. Albert Savarus, while traveling in Switzerland, sees
a lady's face at the window of an upper room, admires it and seeks the
lady's acquaintance. She proves to be the Duchesse d'Argaiolo, an
Italian in exile. She had been married very young to the Duke
d'Argaiolo, who was rich and much older than she. The young man falls
in love with this beautiful lady, and she promises to be his as soon
as she becomes free.

Gabriel Ferry states that Balzac first saw Madame Hanska's face at a
window, and the Princess Radziwill says that Balzac went to the hotel
to meet her aunt. It is to be noted that the year 1834 is that in
which Balzac and Madame Hanska were in Geneva together.

The Villa Diodati, noted for having been inhabited by Lord Byron, is
situated on Lake Geneva, at Cologny, not far from Pre Leveque,[*]
where M. de Hanski and his family resided in the /maison Mirabaud-

[*] Balzac preserved a remembrance of the happy days he had spent with
Madame Hanska at Pre-Leveque, Lake Geneva, by dating /La Duchesse
de Langeais/, January 26, 1834, Pre-Leveque.

There are numerous allusions to Diodati in Balzac's correspondence,
from which one would judge that he had some very unhappy associations
with Madame de Castries, and some very happy ones with Madame Hanska
in connection with Diodati:

"When I want to give myself a magnificent fete, I close my eyes,
lie down on one of my sofas, . . . and recall that good day at
Diodati which effaced a thousand pangs I had felt there a year
before. You have made me know the difference between a true
affection and a simulated one, and for a heart as childlike as
mine, there is cause there for an eternal gratitude. . . . When
some thought saddens me, then I have recourse to you; . . . I see
again Diodati, I stretch myself on the good sofa of the Maison
Mirabaud. . . . Diodati, that image of a happy life, reappears
like a star for a moment clouded, and I began to laugh, as you
know I can laugh. I say to myself that so much work will have its
recompense, and that I shall have, like Lord Byron, my Diodati. I
sing in my bad voice: 'Diodati, Diodati!' "

Another excerpt shows that Balzac had in mind his own life in
connection with Madame Hanska's in writing /Albert Savarus/:

". . . It is six o'clock in the morning, I have interrupted myself
to think of you, reminded of you by Switzerland where I have
placed the scene of /Albert Savarus/.--Lovers in Switzerland,--for
me, it is the image of happiness. I do not wish to place the
Princess Gandolphini in the /maison Mirabaud/, for there are
people in the world who would make a crime of it for us. This
Princess is a foreigner, an Italian, loved by Savarus."

Many of Balzac's traits are seen in Albert Savarus. Like Balzac,
Albert Savarus was defeated in politics, but hoped for election; was a
lawyer, expected to rise to fame, and was about three years older than
the woman he loved. Like Madame Hanska, the Duchesse d'Argaiolo, known
as the Princess Gandolphini, was beautiful, noble, a foreigner, and
married to a man very rich and much older than she, who was not
companionable. It was on December 26 that Albert Savarus arrived at
the Villa on Lake Geneva to visit his princes, while Balzac arrived
December 25 to visit Madame Hanska at her Villa there. The two lovers
spent the winter together, and in the spring, the Duc d'Argaiolo
(Prince Gandolphini) and his wife went to Naples, and Albert Savarus
(Rodolphe) returned to Paris, just as M. de Hanski took his family to
Italy in the spring, while Balzac returned to Paris.

Albert Savarus was falsely accused of being married, just as Madame
Hanska had accused Balzac. The letters to the Duchess from Savarus are
quite similar to some Balzac wrote to Madame Hanska. Like Balzac,
Savarus saw few people, worked at night, was poor, ever hopeful,
communed with the portrait of his adored one, had trouble in regard to
the delivery of her letters, and was worried when they did not come;
yet he was patient and willing to wait until the Duke should die. Like
Madame Hanska, the Duchess feared her lover was unfaithful to her, and
in both cases a woman sowed discord, though the results were

[*] Miss K. P. Wormeley does not think that /Albert Savarus/ was
inspired by Balzac's relations with Madame Hanska. For her
arguments, see /Memoir of Balzac/.

Madame Hanska did not care for this book, but Balzac told her she was
not familiar enough with French society to appreciate it.

Miss Mary Hanford Ford thinks that Madame Hanska inspired another of
Balzac's works: "It is probable that in Madame de la Chanterie we are
given Balzac's impassioned and vivid idealization of the woman who
became his wife at last. . . . Balzac's affection for Madame Hanska
was to a large degree tinged with the reverence which the Brotherhood
shared for Madame de la Chanterie. . . ." While the Freres de la
Consolation adored Madame de la Chanterie in a beautiful manner,
neither her life nor her character was at all like Madame Hanska's.
This work is dated December, 1847, Wierzchownia, and was doubtless
finished there, but he had been working on it for several years.

In the autumn of 1842,[*] Madame Hanska went to St. Petersburg. She
complained of a sadness and melancholy which Balzac's most ardent
devotion could not overcome. He became her /patito/, and she the queen
of his life, but he too suffered from depression, and even consented
to wait three years for her if she would only permit him to visit her.
He insisted that his affection was steadfast and eternal, but in
addition to showing him coldness, she unjustly rebuked him, having
heard that he was gambling. She had a prolonged lawsuit, and he wished
her to turn the matter over to him, feeling sure that he could win the
case for her.

[*] Emile Faguet, /Balzac/, says that it was in 1843 that Madame
Hanska went to St. Petersburg. He has made several such slight
mistakes throughout this work.

Thus passed the year 1842. She eventually consented to let him come in
May to celebrate his birthday. But alas! A great /remora/ stood in the
way. Poor Balzac did not have the money to make the trip. Then also he
had literary obligations to meet, but he felt very much fatigued from
excessive work and wanted to leave Paris for a rest. Her letters were
so unsatisfactory that he implored her to engrave in her dear mind, if
she would not write it in her heart, that he wished her to use some of
her leisure time in writing a few lines to him daily. As was his
custom when in distress, he sought a fortune-teller for comfort, and
as usual, was delighted with his prophecy. The notorious Balthazar
described to him perfectly the woman he loved, told him that his love
was returned, that there would never be a cloud in their sky, in spite
of the intensity of their characters, and that he would be going to
see her within six months. The soothsayer was correct in this last
statement, at least, for Balzac arrived at St. Petersburg soon after
this interview.

Madame Hanska felt that she was growing old, but Balzac assured her
that he should love her even were she ugly, and he relieved her mind
of this fear by writing in her /Journal intime/ that although he had
not seen her since they were in Vienna, he thought her as beautiful
and young as then--after an interval of seven years.[*]

[*] Balzac should have said an interval of /eight/ years instead of
/seven/, for he visited her in Vienna in May and June, 1835, and
he wrote this in September 1843. This is only one of the
novelist's numerous mistakes in figuring, seen throughout his
entire works.

Balzac arrived in St. Petersburg on July 17/29, and left there late in
September,[*] 1843, stopping to visit in Berlin and Dresden. Becoming
very ill, he cut short his visit to Mayence and Cologne and arrived in
Paris November 3, in order to consult his faithful Dr. Nacquart.
Excess of work, the sorrow of leaving Madame Hanska, disappointment,
and deferred hopes were too much for his nervous system. His letters
to Madame Hanska were, if possible, filled with greater detail than
ever concerning his debts, his household and family matters, his works
and society gossip. The /tu/ frequently replaces the /vous/, and
having apparently exhausted all the endearing names in the French
language, he resorted to the Hebrew, and finds that /Lididda/ means so
many beautiful things that he employs this word. He calls her /Liline/
or /Line/; she becomes his /Louloup/, his "lighthouse," his "happy
star," and the /sicura richezza, senza brama/.

[*] Unless the editor of /Lettres a l'Etrangere/ is confusing the
French and Russian dates, he has made a mistake in dating certain
of Balzac's letters from St. Petersburg. He had two dated October
1843, St. Petersburg, and on his way home from there Balzac writes
from Taurogen dating his letter September 27-October 10, 1843.
Hence the exact date of his departure from St. Petersburg is

Madame Hanska and Balzac seem to have had many idiosyncrasies in
common, among which was their /penchant/ for jewelry, as well as
perfumes. Since their meeting at Geneva, the two exchanged gifts of
jewelry frequently, and the discussion, engraving, measuring, and
exchanging of various rings occupied much of Balzac's precious time.

His fondness for antiques was another extravagance, and he invested
not a little in certain pieces of furniture which had belonged to
Marie de Medicis and Henri IV; this purchase he regretted later, and
talked of selling, but, instead, added continually to his collection.
He was constantly sending, or wanting to send some present to Madame
Hanska or to her daughter Anna, but nothing could be compared with the
priceless gift he received from her. The Daffinger miniature arrived
February 2, 1844.

As a New Year's greeting for 1844, Balzac dedicated to Madame Hanska
/Les Bourgeois de Paris/, later called /Les petits Bourgeois/, saying
that the first work written after his brief visit with her should be
inscribed to her. This dedication is somewhat different from the one
published in his OEuvres:

"To Constance-Victoire:[*]

"Here, madame and friend is one of those works which fall, we know
not whence, into an author's mind and afford him pleasure before
he can estimate how they will be received by the public, that
great judge of our time. But, almost sure of your good-will, I
dedicate it to you. It belongs to you, as formerly the tithe
belonged to the church, in memory of God from whom all things
come, who makes all ripen, all mature! Some lumps of clay left by
Moliere at the base of his statue of Tartufe have been molded by a
hand more audacious than skilful. But, at whatever distance I may
be below the greatest of humorists, I shall be satisfied to have
utilized these little pieces of the stage-box of his work to show
the modern hypocrite at work. That which most encouraged me in
this difficult undertaking is to see it separated from every
religious question, which was so injurious to the comedy of
/Tartufe/, and which ought to be removed to-day. May the double
significance of your name be a prophecy for the author, and may
you be pleased to find here the expression of his respectful

"January 1, 1844."

[*] /Constance/ was either one of Madame Hanska's real names, or one
given her by Balzac, for he writes to her, in speaking of
Mademoiselle Borel's entering the convent: "My most sincere
regards to /Soeur Constance/, for I imagine that Saint Borel will
take one of your names." Although Balzac hoped at one time to have
/Les petits Bourgeois/ completed by July 1844, it was left
unfinished at his death, and was completed and published in 1855.

During the winter of 1844, Madame Hanska wrote a story and then threw
it into the fire. In doing this she carried out a suggestion given her
by Balzac several years before, when he wrote her that he liked to
have a woman write and study, but she should have the courage to burn
her productions. She told the novelist what she had done, and he
requested her to rewrite her study and send it to him, and he would
correct it and publish it under his name. In this way she could enjoy
all the pleasure of authorship in reading what he would preserve of
her beautiful and charming prose. In the first place, she must paint a
provincial family, and place the romantic, enthusiastic young girl in
the midst of the vulgarities of such an existence; and then, by
correspondence, /make a transit/ to the description of a poet in
Paris. A friend of the poet, who is to continue the correspondence,
must be a man of decided talent, and the /denouement/ must be in his
favor against the great poet. Also the manias and the asperities of a
great soul which alarm and rebuff inferior souls should be shown; in
doing this she would aid him in earning a few thousand francs.

Her story, in the hands of this great wizard, grew like a mushroom,
without pain or effort, and soon developed into the romantic novel,
/Modeste Mignon/. She had thrown her story into the fire, but the fire
had returned it to him and given him power, as did the coal of fire on
the lips of the great prophet, and he wished to give all the glory to
his adored collaborator.

When reading this book, Madame Hanska objected to Balzac's having made
the father of the heroine scold her for beginning a secret
correspondence with an author, feeling that Balzac was disapproving of
her conduct in writing to him first, but Balzac assured her that such
was not his intention, and that he considered this /demarche/ of hers
as /royale and reginale/. Another trait, which she probably did not
recognize, was that just as the great poet Canalis was at first
indifferent to the letters of the heroine, and allowed Ernest de la
Briere to answer them, so was Balzac rather indifferent to hers, and
Madame Carraud--as already stated--is supposed to have replied to one
of them.

There is no doubt that Balzac had his /Louloup/ in mind while writing
this story, for in response to the criticism that Modest was too
clever, he wrote Madame Hanska that she and her cousin Caliste who had
served him as models for his heroine were superior to her. He first
dedicated this work to her under the name of /un Etrangere/, but
seeing the mistake the public made in ascribing this dedication to the
Princesse Belgiojoso, he at a later date specified the nationality,
and inscribed the book:

"To a Polish Lady:

"Daughter of an enslaved land, an angel in love, a demon in
imagination, a child in faith, an old man in experience, a man in
brain, a woman in heart, a giant in hope, a mother in suffering
and a poet in your dreams,--this work, in which your love and your
fancy, your faith, your experience, your suffering, your hopes and
your dreams are like chains by which hangs a web less lovely than
the poetry cherished in your soul--the poetry whose expression
when it lights up your countenance is, to those who admire you,
what the characters of a lost language are to the learned--this
work is yours.


In /La fausse Maitresse/, Balzac represented Madame Hanska in the role
of the Countess Clementine Laginska, who was silently loved by Thaddee
Paz, a Polish refugee. This Thaddee Paz was no other than Thaddee
Wylezynski, a cousin who adored her, and who died in 1844. Balzac
learned of the warm attachment existing between Madame Hanska and her
cousin soon after meeting her, and compared his faithful friend Borget
to her Thaddee. On hearing of the death of Thaddee, he writes her:
"The death of Thaddee, which you announce to me, grieves me. You have
told me so much of him, that I loved one who loved you so well,
/although/! You have doubtless guessed why I called Paz, Thaddee. Poor
dear one, I shall love you for all those whose love you lose!"

Balzac longed to be free from his debts, and have undisturbed
possession of /Les Jardies/, where they could live /en pigeons
heureux/. Ever inclined to give advice, he suggested to her that she
should have her interests entirely separate form Anna's, quoting the
axiom, /N'ayez aucune collision d'interet avec vos enfants/, and that
she was wrong in refusing a bequest from her deceased husband. She
should give up all luxuries, dismiss all necessary employees and not
spend so much of her income but invest it. He felt that she and her
daughter were lacking in business ability; this proved to be too true,
but Balzac was indeed a very poor person to advise her on this
subject; however, her lack of accuracy in failing to date her letters
was, to be sure, a great annoyance to him.

On the other hand, she suspected her /Nore/, had again heard that he
was married, and that he was given to indulging in intoxicating
liquors; she advised him not to associate so much with women.

Having eventually won her lawsuit, she returned to Wierzchownia in the
spring of 1844, after a residence of almost two years in St.
Petersburg. Her daughter Anna had made her debut in St. Petersburg
society, and had met the young Comte George de Mniszech, who was
destined to become her husband. Balzac was not pleased with this
choice, and felt that the /protégé/ of the aged Comte Potocki would
make a better husband, for moral qualities were to be considered
rather than fortune.

After spending the summer and autumn at her home, Madame Hanska went
to Dresden for the winter. As early as August, Balzac sought
permission to visit her there, making his request in time to arrange
his work in advance and secure the money for the journey, in case she
consented. While in St. Petersburg, she had given him money to buy
some gift for Anna, so he planned to take both of them many beautiful
things, and /une cave de parfums/ as a gift /de nez a nez/. If she
would not consent to his coming to Dresden, he would come to Berlin,
Leipsic, Frankfort, Aix-la-Chapelle, or anywhere else. He became
impatient to know his fate, and her letters were so irregular that he
exclaimed: "In heaven's name, write me regularly three times a month!"

Poor Balzac's dream was to be on the way to Dresden, but this was not
to be realized. It will be remembered, that Madame Hanska's family did
not approve of Balzac nor did they appreciate his literary worth, they
felt that the marriage would be a decided /mesalliance/, and exerted
their influence against him. Discouraged by them and her friends, she
forbade his coming. While her family called him a /scribe exotique/,
Balzac indirectly told her of the appreciation of other women, saying
that Madame de Girardin considered him to be one of the most charming
conversationalists of the day.

This uncertainty as to his going to visit his "Polar Star" affected
him to such a degree that he could not concentrate his mind on his
work, and he became impatient to the point of scolding her:

"But, dear Countess, you have made me lose all the month of January
and the first fifteen days of February by saying to me: 'I start--
to-morrow--next week,' and by making me wait for letters; in
short, by throwing me into rages which I alone know! This has
brought a frightful disorder into my affairs, for instead of
getting my liberty February 15, I have before me a month of
herculean labor, and on my brain I must inscribe this which will
be contradicted by my heart: 'Think no longer of your star, nor of
Dresden, nor of travel; stay at your chain and work miserably!
. . . Dear Countess, I decidedly advise you to leave Dresden at
once. There are princesses in that town who infect and poison your
heart, and were it not for /Les Paysans/, I should have started at
once to prove to that venerable invalid of Cythera how men of my
stamp love; men who have not received, like her prince, a Russian
pumpkin in place of a French heart from the hands of hyperborean
nature. . . . Tell your dear Princess that I have known you since
1833, and that in 1845 I am ready to go from Paris to Dresden to
see you for a day; and it is not impossible for me to make this
trip; . . ."

In the meantime she had not only forbidden his coming to visit her,
but had even asked him not to write to her again at Dresden, to which
he replies:

"May I write without imprudence, before receiving a counter-order?
Your last letter counseled me not to write again to Dresden.
However, I take up my pen on the invitation contained in your
letter of the 8th. Since you, as well as your child, are
absolutely determined to see your Lirette again, there is but one
way for it, viz., to come to Paris."

He planned how she could secure a passport for Frankfort and the Rhine
and meet him at Mayence, where he would have a passport for his sister
and his niece so that they could come to Paris to remain from March 15
until May 15. Once in Paris, in a small suite of rooms furnished by
him, they could visit Lirette at the convent, take drives, frequent
the theatres, shop at a great advantage, and keep everything in the
greatest secrecy. He continues:

"Dear Countess, the uncertainty of your arrival at Frankfort has
weighed heavily on me, for how can I begin to work, whilst
awaiting a letter, which may cause me to set out immediately? I
have not written a line of the /Paysans/. From a material point of
view, all this has been fatal to me. Not even your penetrating
intelligence can comprehend this, as you know nothing of Parisian
economy nor the difficulties in the life of a man who is trying to
live on six thousand francs a year."

Thus was his time wasted; and when he dared express gently and
lovingly the feelings which were overpowering him, his beautiful
/Chatelaine/ was offended, and rebuked him for his impatience.
Desperate and almost frantic, he writes her:

"Dresden and you dizzy me; I do not know what is to be done. There
is nothing more fatal than the indecision in which you have kept
me for three months. If I had departed the first of January to
return February 28, I should be more advanced (in work) and I
would have had two good months at St. Petersburg. Dear sovereign
star, how do you expect me to be able to conceive two ideas, to
write two sentences, with my heart and head agitated as they have
been since last November; it is enough to drive a man mad! I have
drenched myself with coffee to no avail, I have only increased the
nervous trouble of my eyes; . . . I am between two despairs, that
of not seeing you, of not having seen you, and the financial and
literary chagrin, the chagrin of self-respect. Oh! Charles II was
right in saying: 'But She? . . .' in all matters which his
ministers submitted to him."

On receipt of a letter from her April 18, 1845, saying, "I desire much
to see you," he rushed off at once to Dresden, forgetful of all else.
In July, Madame Hanska and her daughter accompanied him home,
traveling incognito as Balzac's sister and his niece, just as he had
planned. Anna is said to have taken the name of Eugenie, perhaps in
remembrance of Balzac's heroine, Eugenie Grandet. After stopping at
various places on the way, they spent a few weeks at Paris. Balzac had
prepared a little house in Passy near him for his friends, and he took
much pleasure in showing them his treasures and Paris. Their identity
was not discovered, and in August he accompanied them as far as
Brussels on their return to Dresden. There they met Count George
Mniszech, the fiance of Anna, who had been with them most of the time.

Balzac could scarcely control his grief at parting, but he was not
separated from his /Predilecta/ long. The following month he spent
several days with her at Baden-Baden, saying of his visit:

"Baden has been for me a bouquet of sweet flowers without a thorn.
We lived there so peacefully, so delightfully, and so completely
heart to heart. I have never been so happy before in my life. I
seemed to catch a glimpse of that future which I desire and dream
of in the midst of my overwhelming labors. . . ."

The happiness of Madame Hanska did not seem to be so great, for, ever
uncertain, she consulted a fortune-teller about him. To this he
replies: "Tell your fortune-teller that her cards have lied, and that
I am not preoccupied with any blonde, except Dame Fortune." As to
whether she was justified in being suspicious, one can judge from the
preceding pages. Balzac always denied or explained to her these
accusations; however true were some of his vindications of himself, he
certainly exaggerated in assuring her that he always told her the
exact truth and never hid from her the smallest trifle whether good or

In October, 1845, the novelist left Paris again, met his "Polar Star,"
her daughter and M. de Mniszech at Chalons, and accompanied them on
their Italian tour by way of Marseilles as far as Naples. On his
return to Marseilles on November 12, he invested in wonderful bargains
in bric-a-brac, a favorite pursuit which eventually cost him a great
deal in worry and time as well as much money. Madame Hanska had
supplied his purse from time to time.

Although he was being pressed by debts and for unfinished work, having
wasted almost the entire year and having had much extra expense in
traveling, Balzac could not rise to the situation, and implored his
/Chatelaine/ to resign herself to keeping him near her, for he had
done nothing since he left Dresden. In this frame of mind, he writes:

"Nothing amuses me, nothing distracts me, nothing enlivens me; it
is the death of the soul, the death of the will, the collapse of
the entire being; I feel that I cannot take up my work until I see
my life decided, fixed, settled. . . . I am quite exhausted; I
have waited too long, I have hoped too much, I have been too happy
this year; and I no longer wish anything else. After so many years
of toil and misfortune, to have been free as a bird of the air, a
thoughtless traveler, super-humanly happy, and then to come back
to a dungeon! . . . is that possible? . . . I dream, I dream by
day, by night; and my heart's thought, folding upon itself,
prevents all action of the thought of the brain--it is fearful!"

Balzac was ever seeing objects worthy to be placed in his art
collection, going quietly through Paris on foot, and having his friend
Mery continue to secure bargains at Marseilles. A most important event
at this period is the noticeable decline in the novelist's health.
Though these attacks of neuralgia and numerous colds were regarded as
rather casual, had he not been so imbued with optimism--an inheritance
from his father--he might have foreseen the days of terrible suffering
and disappointment that were to come to him in Russia. Nature was
beginning to revolt; the excessive use of coffee, the strain of long
hours of work with little sleep, the abnormal life in general which he
had led for so many years, and this suspense about the ultimate
decision of the woman he so adored, were weakening him physically.

In January, 1846, Madame Hanska was in Dresden again, and as was
always the case when in that city, she wrote accusing him. This time
the charge was that of indulging in ignoble gossip, and the reproach
was so unjust that, without finishing the reading of the letter, he
exposed himself for hours in the streets of Paris to snow, to cold and
to fatigue, utterly crushed by this accusation of which he was so
innocent. In his delicate physical condition, such shocks were
conducive to cardiac trouble, especially since his heart had long been
affected. After perusing the letter to the end, he reflected that
these grievous words came not from her, but from strangers, so he
poured forth his burning adoration, his longing for a /home/, where he
could drink long draughts of a life in common, the life of two.

In the following March the passionate lover was drawn by his
/Predilecta/ to the Eternal City, and a few months later they were in
Strasbourg, where a definite engagement took place. In October he
joined her again, this time at Wiesbaden, to attend the marriage of
Anna to the Comte George de Mniszech. This brief visit had a
delightful effect: "From Frankfort to Forbach, I existed only in
remembrance of you, going over my four days like a cat who has
finished her milk and then sits licking her lips."

Madame Hanska had constantly refused to be separated from her
daughter, but now Balzac hoped that he could hasten matters, so he
applied to his boyhood friend, M. Germeau, prefect of Metz, to see if
he, in his official capacity, could not waive the formality of the law
and accelerate his marriage; but since all Frenchmen are equal before
the /etat-civil/, this could not be accomplished.

It was during their extensive travels in 1846 that Balzac began
calling the party "Bilboquet's troup of mountebanks": Madame Hanska
became Atala; Anna, Zephirine; George, Gringalet; and Balzac,
Bilboquet. Although Madame Hanska cautioned him about his extravagance
in gathering works of art, he persisted in buying them while
traveling, so it became necessary to find a home in which to place his
collection. It is an interesting fact that while making this
collection, he was writing /Le Cousin Pons/, in which the hero has a
passion for accumulating rare paintings and curios with which he fills
his museum and impoverishes himself. Balzac had purposed calling this
book /Le Parasite/, but Madame Hanska objected to this name, which
smacked so strongly of the eighteenth century, and he changed it. As
he was also writing /La Cousine Bette/ at this time, we can see not
only that his power of application had returned to him, but that he
was producing some of his strongest work.

For some time Balzac had been looking for a home worthy of his
/fiancee/ and had finally decided on the Villa Beaujon, in the rue
Fortunee. Since this home was created "for her and by her," it was
necessary for her to be consulted in the reconstruction and decoration
of it, so he brought her secretly to Paris, and her daughter and son-
in-law returned to Wierzchownia. This was not only a long separation
for so devoted a mother and daughter, but there was some danger lest
her incognito be discovered; Balzac, accordingly, took every
precaution. It is easy to picture the extreme happiness of the
novelist in conducting his /Louloup/ over Paris, in having her near
him while he was writing some of his greatest masterpieces, and,
naturally, hoping that the everlasting debts would soon be defrayed
and the marriage ceremony performed, but fortunately, he was not
permitted to know beforehand of the long wait and the many obstacles
that stood in his way.

Just what happened during the spring and summer of 1847 is uncertain,
as few letters of this period exist in print. Miss Sandars (/Balzac/),
states that about the middle of April Balzac conducted Madame Hanska
to Forbach on her return to Wierzchownia, and when he returned to
Paris he found that some of her letters to him had been stolen, 30,000
francs being demanded for them at once, otherwise the letters to be
turned over to the Czar. Miss Sandars states also that this trouble
hastened the progress of his heart disease, and that when the letters
were eventually secured (without the payment) Balzac burned them, lest
such a catastrophe should occur again. The Princess Radziwill says
that the story of the letters was invented by Balzac and is
ridiculous; also, that it angered her aunt because Balzac revealed his
ignorance of Russian matters, by saying such things. Lawton (/Balzac/)
intimates that Balzac and Madame Hanska quarreled, she being jealous
and suspicious of his fidelity, and that he burned her letters. De
Lovenjoul (/Un Roman d'Amour/) makes the same statement and adds that
this trouble increased his heart disease. But he says also (/La Genese
d'un Roman de Balzac/) that Madame Hanska spent two months secretly in
Paris in April and May; yet, a letter written by Balzac, dated
February 27, 1847, shows that she was in Paris at that time.

Balzac went to Wierzchownia in September, 1847, and traveled so
expeditiously that he arrived there several days before his letter
which told of his departure. When one remembers how he had planned
with M. de Hanski more than ten years before to be his guest in this
chateau, one can imagine his great delight now in journeying thither
with the hope of accomplishing the great desire of his life. He was
royally entertained at the chateau and was given a beautiful little
suite of rooms composed of a salon, a sitting-room, and a bed-room.[*]

[*] This house, where all the mementos of Balzac, including his
portrait, were preserved intact by the family, has been utterly
destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

Regarding the vital question of his marriage, he writes his sister:

"My greatest wish and hope is still far from its accomplishment.
Madame Hanska is indispensable to her children; she is their
guide; she disentangles for them the intricacies of the vast and
difficult administration of this property. She has given up
everything to her daughter. I have known of her intentions ever
since I was at St. Petersburg. I am delighted, because the
happiness of my life will thus be freed from all self-interest. It
makes me all the more earnest to guard what is confided to me.
. . . It was necessary for me to come here to make me understand
the difficulties of all kinds which stand in the way of the
fulfilment of my desires."[*]

[*] The above shows that Balzac's ardent passion for his /Predilecta/
was for herself alone, and that he was not actuated by his greed
for gold, as has been stated by various writers.

During this visit, Balzac complained of the cold of Russia in January,
but his friends were careful to provide him with suitable wraps.
Business matters compelled him to return to Paris in February. In
leaving this happy home, he must have felt the contrast in arriving in
Paris during the Revolution, and having to be annoyed again with his
old debts. This time, he went to his new home in the rue Fortunee, the
home that had cost the couple so much money and was to cause him so
much worry if not regret.

About the last of September, 1848, Balzac left Paris again for Russia,
and his family did not hear from him for more than a month after his
arrival. His mother was left with two servants to care for his home in
the rue Fortunee, as he expected to return within a few months. It is
worthy of note that in this first letter to her, he spoke of being in
very good health, for immediately afterwards, he was seized with acute
bronchitis, and was ill much of the time during his prolonged stay of
eighteen months.

Madame Hanska planned to have him pay the debts on their future home
as soon as the harvest was gathered, but concerning the most important
question he writes:

"The Countess will make up her mind to nothing until her children
are entirely free from anxieties regarding their fortune.
Moreover, your brother's debts, whether his own, or those he has
in common with the family, trouble her enormously. Nevertheless, I
hope to return toward the end of August; but in no circumstance
will I ever again separate myself from the person I love. Like the
Spartan, I intend to return with my shield or upon it."

Things were very discouraging at Wierzchownia; Madame Hanska had
failed to receive much money which she was to inherit from an uncle,
and, in less than six weeks, four fires had consumed several farm
houses and a large quantity of grain on the estate. Although they both
were anxious to see the rue Fortunee, their departure was uncertain.

But the most distressing complication was the condition of Balzac's
health, which was growing worse. He complained of the frightful
Asiatic climate, with its excessive heat and cold; he had a perpetual
headache, and his heart trouble had increased until he could not mount
the stairs. But he had implicit faith in his physician, and with his
usual hopefulness felt that he would soon be cured, congratulating
himself on having two such excellent physicians as Dr. Knothe and his
son. His surroundings were ideal, and each of the household had for
him an attachment tender, filial and sincere. It was necessary to his
welfare that his life should be without vexation, and he asked his
sister to entreat their mother to avoid anything which might cause him

On his part, he tried to spare his mother also from unpleasant news,
and desired his sister to assist him in concealing from her the real
facts. He had had another terrible crisis in which he had been ill for
more than a month with cephalalgic fever, and he had grown very thin.

Though several of Balzac's biographers have criticized Madame Hanska
most bitterly for holding Balzac in Russia, and some have even gone so
far as to censure her for his early death, it will be remembered that
his health had long begun to fail, and that no constitution could long
endure the severe strain he had given his. No climate could help his
worn-out body to a sufficient degree. Balzac himself praised the
conduct of the entire Hanski family. The following is only one of his
numerous testimonies to their devotion.

"Alas! I have no good news to send. In all that regards the
affection, the tenderness of all, the desire to root out the evil
weeds which encumber the path of my life, mother and children are
sublime; but the chief thing of all is still subject to
entanglements and delays, which make me doubt whether it is God's
will that your brother should ever be happy, at least in that way;
but as regards sincere mutual love, delicacy and goodness, it
would be impossible to find another family like this. We live
together as if there were only one heart amongst the four; this is
repetition, but it cannot be helped, it is the only definition of
the life I lead here."

The situation of the author of the /Comedie humaine/ was at this time
most pitiable. Broken in health and living in a climate to which his
constitution refused to be acclimated,[*] weighed down by a load of
debt which he was unable to liquidate in his state of health (his work
having amounted to very little during his stay in Russia), consumed
with a burning passion for the woman who had become the overpowering
figure in the latter half of his literary career, possessing a pride
that was making him sacrifice his very life rather than give up his
long-sought treasure, the diamond of Poland, his very soul became so
imbued with this devouring passion that the pour /moujik/ was scarcely
master of himself.

[*] Concerning the climate of Kieff, the Princess Radziwill says: "The
story that the climate of Kieff was harmful to Balzac is also a
legend. In that part of Russia, the climate is almost as mild as
is the Isle of Wight, and Balzac, when he was staying with Madame
Hanska, was nursed as he would never have been anywhere else,
because not only did she love him with her whole heart, but her
daughter and the latter's husband were also devoted to him."

His family were suffering various misfortunes, and these, together
with his deplorable condition, caused Madame Hanska to contemplate
giving up an alliance with a man whose family was so unfortunate and
whose social standing was so far beneath hers. She preferred to remain
in Russia where she was rich, and moved in a high aristocratic circle,
rather than to give up her property and assume the life of anxiety and
trials which awaited her as Madame Honore de Balzac.

At times he became most despondent; the long waiting was affecting him
seriously, and he hesitated urging a life so shattered as was his upon
the friend who, like a benignant star, had shone upon his path during
the past sixteen years.

"If I lose all I have hoped to gain here, I should no longer live;
a garret in the rue Lesdiguieres and a hundred francs a month
would suffice for all I want. My heart, my soul, my ambition, all
that is within me, desires nothing, except the one object I have
had in view for sixteen years. If this immense happiness escapes
me, I shall need nothing. I will have nothing. I care nothing for
la rue Fortunee for its own sake; la rue Fortunee has only been
created /for her/ and /by her/."

The novelist was cautious in his letters lest there should be gossip
about his secret engagement, and his possible approaching marriage.
Apropos of his marriage, he would say that it was postponed for
reasons which he could not give his family; Madame Hanska had met with
financial losses again through fires and crop failures. With his
continued illness, he had many things to trouble him.

But with all his trials, Balzac remained in many ways a child. After
the terrible Moldavian fever which had endangered his life, in the
fall of 1849 he took great pleasure in a dressing-gown of /termolana/
cloth. He had wanted one of these gowns since he first saw this cloth
at Geneva in 1834. Again he was ill, for twenty days, and his only
amusement was in seeing Anna depart for dances in costumes of royal
magnificence. The Russian toilettes were wonderful, and while the
women ruined their husbands with their extravagance, the men ruined
the toilettes of the ladies by their roughness. In a mazurka where the
men contended for ladies' handkerchiefs, the young Countess had one
worth about five hundred francs torn in pieces, but her mother
repaired the loss by giving her another twice as costly.

The year 1850, which was to prove so fatal to Balzac, opened with a
bad omen, had he realized it. His health, which he had never
considered as he should have done, was seriously affected, and early
in January another illness followed which kept him in bed for several
days. He thought that he had finally become acclimated, but after
another attack a few weeks later he concluded that the climate was
impossible for nervous temperaments.

Such was, in brief, the story of his stay in Russia, but his optimism
and devotion continued, and he writes:

"It is sanguine to think I could set off on March 15, and in that
case I should arrive early in April. But if my long cherished
hopes are realized, there would be a delay of some days, as I
should have to go to Kieff, to have my passport regulated. These
hopes have become possibilities; these four or five successive
illnesses--the sufferings of a period of acclimatization--which my
affection has enabled me to take joyfully, have touched this sweet
soul more than the few little debts which remain unpaid have
frightened her as a prudent woman, and I foresee that all will go
well. In the face of this happy probability, the journey to Kieff
is not to be regretted, for the Countess has nursed me heroically
without once leaving the house, so you ought not to afflict
yourself for the little delay which will thus be caused. Even in
that case, my, or our, arrival would be in the first fortnight of

Until the very last, Balzac was very careful that his family should
not announce his expected wedding. Finally, all obstacles overcome,
the long desired marriage occurred March 14, 1850.[*]

[*] Though Balzac speaks of having to obtain the Czar's permission to
marry, the Princess Radziwill states that no permission was
required, asked or granted. Balzac always gave March 14, 1850, as
the date of his marriage while de Lovenjoul and M. Stanislas
Rzewuski give the date as April 15, 1850. The Princess Radziwill
writes: "Concerning the date of Balzac's marriage, it was
solemnized as he wrote it to his family on March 2/14/1850, at
Berditcheff in Poland. Balzac, however, was a French subject, and
as such had to be married according to the French civil law, by a
French consul. There did not exist one in Berditcheff, so they had
perforce to repair to Kieff for this ceremony. The latter took
place on April 3/15 of the same year, and this explains the
discrepancy of dates you mention which refer to two different

What must have been the novelist's feeling of triumph, after almost
seventeen years of waiting, suffering and struggle, to write:

"Thus, for the last twenty-four hours there has been a Madame Eve
de Balzac, nee Countess Rzewuska, or a Madame Honore de Balzac, or
a Madame de Balzac the elder. This is no longer a secret, as you
see I tell it to you without delay. The witnesses were the
Countess Mniszech, the son-in-law of my wife, the Count Gustave
Olizar, brother-in-law of the Abbe Czarouski, the envoy of the
Bishop; and the cure of the parish of Berditcheff. The Countess
Anna accompanied her mother, both exceedingly happy . . ."

With great joy and childish pride, Balzac informed his old friend and
physician, Dr. Nacquart, who knew so well of his adoration for his
"Polar Star" and his seventeen long years of untiring pursuit, that he
had become the husband of the grandniece of Marie Leczinska and the
brother-in-law of an aide-de-camp general of His Majesty the Emperor
of all the Russias, the Count Adam Rzewuski, step-father of Count
Orloff; the nephew of the Countess Rosalia Rzewuska, first lady of
honor to Her Majesty the Empress; the brother-in-law of Count Henri
Rzewuski, the Walter Scott of Poland as Mizkiewicz is the Polish Lord
Byron; the father-in-law of Count Mniszech, of one of the most
illustrious houses of the North, etc., etc.!

Though this was by far and away Balzac's greatest and most passionate
love, the present writer cannot agree with the late Professor Harry
Thurston Peck in the following dictum: "It was his first real love,
and it was her last; and, therefore, their association realized the
very characteristic aphorism which Balzac wrote in a letter to her
after he had known her but a few short weeks: 'It is only the last
love of a woman that can satisfy the first love of a man.' "

After their marriage, the homeward journey was delayed several weeks.
The baggage, which was to be conveyed by wagon, only left April 2, and
it required about two weeks for it to reach Radziwiloff, owing to the
general thaw just set in. Then Balzac had a severe relapse due to lung
trouble, and it was twelve days before he recovered sufficiently to
travel. He had an attack of ophthalmia at Kieff, and could scarcely
see; the Countess Anna fell ill with the measles, and her mother would
not leave until the Countess recovered. They started late in April for
what proved to be a terrible journey, he suffering from heart trouble,
and she from rheumatism. On the way they stopped for a few days at
Dresden, where Balzac became very ill again. His eyes were in such a
condition that he could no longer see the letters he wrote. The
following was written from Dresden, gives a glimpse of their troubles:

"We have taken a whole month to go a distance usually done in six
days. Not once, but a hundred times a day, our lives have been in
danger. We have often been obliged to have fifteen or sixteen men,
with levers, to get us out of the bottomless mudholes into which
we have sunk up to the carriage-doors. . . . At last, we are here,
alive, but ill and tired. Such a journey ages one ten years, for
you can imagine what it is to fear killing each other, or to be
killed the one by the other, loving each other as we do. My wife
feels grateful for all you say about her, but her hands do not
permit her to write. . . ."

Madame de Balzac has been most severely criticized for her lack of
affection for Balzac, and their married life has generally been
conceded to have been very unhappy. This supposition seems to have
been based largely on hearsay. Miss Sandars quotes from a letter
written to her daughter on May 16 from Frankfort, in which, speaking
of Balzac as "poor dear friend," she seems to be quite ignorant of his
condition, and to show more interest in her necklace than in her
husband. The present writer has not seen this /unpublished/ letter;
but a /published/ letter dated a few days before the other, in which
she not only refers to Balzac as her husband but shows both her
affection for him and her interest in his condition, runs as follows:

"Hotel de Russie (Dresden). My husband has just returned; he has
attended to all his affairs with a remarkable activity, and we are
leaving to-day. I did not realize what an adorable being he is; I
have known him for seventeen years, and every day, I perceive that
there is a new quality in him which I did not know. If he could
only enjoy health! Speak to M. Knothe about it, I beg you. You
have no idea how he suffered last night! I hope his natal air will
help him, but if this hope fails me, I shall be much to be pitied,
I assure you. It is such happiness to be loved and protected thus.
His eyes are also very bad; I do not know what all that means, and
at times, I am very sad. I hope to give you better news to-morrow,
when I shall write you."

Comments have been made on the fact that Balzac wrote his sister his
wife's hands were too badly swollen from rheumatism to write and yet
she wrote to her daughter, but there is a difference between a
mother's letter to her only child, and one to a mother-in-law as
hostile as she knew hers to be. She probably did not care to write,
and Balzac, to smooth matters for her, gave this excuse.

The long awaited but tragic arrival took place late in the night of
May 20, 1850. The home in the rue Fortunee was brilliantly lighted,
and through the windows could be seen the many beautiful flowers
arranged in accordance with his oft repeated request to his poor old
mother. But alas! to their numerous tugs at the door-bell no response
came, so a locksmith had to be sent for to open the doors. The
minutest details of Balzac's orders for their reception had been
obeyed, but the unfortunate, faithful Francois Munch, under the
excitement and strain of the preparations, had suddenly gone insane.

Was this a sinister omen, or was it an exemplification of the old
Turkish proverb, "The house completed, death enters"? Our hero's
marriage proved to be the last of his /illusions perdues/, for only
three months more were to be granted him. MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire have
pertinently remarked that five years before his death, Balzac closed
/Les petites Miseres de la Vie conjugal/ with these prophetic words:
"Who has not heard an Italian opera of some kind in his life? . . .
You must have noticed, then, the musical abuse of the word
/felichitta/ lavished by the librettist and the chorus at the time
every one is rushing from his box or leaving his stall. Ghastly image
of life. One leaves it the moment the /felichitta/ is heard." After so
many years of waiting and struggle, he attained the summit of
happiness, but was to obey the summons of death and leave this world
just as the chorus was singing "/Felichitta/."

Some of Balzac's biographers have criticized Madame Honore de Balzac
not only for having been heartless and indifferent towards him, but
for having neglected him in his last days on earth. Her nephew, M.
Stanislas Rzewuski, defended her, he said, not because she was his
aunt but because of the injustice done to the memory of this poor
/etrangere/, whose faithful tenderness, admiration and devotion had
comforted the earthly exile of a man of genius. Balzac, realizing his
hopeless condition, was despondent; his hopes were blighted, and his
physical sufferings doubtless made him irritable. On the other hand,
Madame de Balzac, however, seductive and charming, however worthy of
being adored and being his "star," had a high temper. This was the
natural temper of an aristocratic woman. It never passed the limits of
decorum, but it was violent and easily provoked.[*] Then too, she had
been accustomed to luxury and had never known poverty. She was ill
also and probably disappointed in life.

[*] The Princess Radziwill states that there are several inaccuracies
in this article by her half-brother. He was very young when their
aunt died, and he was influenced by his mother, who never liked
Madame de Balzac. She points out that her aunt's temper was most
even, that she never heard her raise her voice, and only once saw
her angry.

M. Rzewuski has resented, and doubtless justly so, the oft-quoted
death scene by Victor Hugo. He says that at such a time the great poet
was perhaps a most unwelcome guest and she had left the room to avoid
him; that she probably returned before Balzac's last moments came;
that Hugo was only there a short while; that if she did not return she
could not have known that this was to be Balzac's last night on earth,
and that, worn out with watching and waiting, she was justified in
retiring to seek a much needed rest.[*]

[*] As to Octave Mirbeau's calumnious story, denied by both the
Countess Mniszech and Gigoux's nephew and heir, the Princess
Radziwill states that when Balzac died, her aunt did not know
Gigoux and had never seen him. He was introduced to her only in
1860 by her daughter, who asked him to paint her mother's
portrait; and they became good friends.

The story is told that when Dr. Nacquart informed Balzac that he must
die, the novelist exclaimed: "Go call Bianchon! Bianchon will save me!
Bianchon!" The Princess Radziwill states, however, that she has heard
her aunt say often that this story is not true. But were it true,
Balzac's condition was such that no physician could have saved him,
even though possessing all the ability portrayed by the novelist in
the notable and omnipresent Dr. Horace Bianchon, who had saved so many
characters of the /Comedie humaine/, who had comforted in their dying
hours all ranks from the poverty-stricken Pere Goriot to the wealthy
Madame Graslin, from the corrupt Madame Marneffe to the angelic
Pierette Lorrain, whose incomparable fame had spread over a large part
of Europe.

Madame Hanska has been reproached also for the medical treatment given
Balzac in Russia. It is doubtless true that lemon juice is not
considered the proper treatment for heart disease in this enlightened
age, but seventy years ago, in the wilds of Russia, there was probably
no better medical aid to be secured; and even if Dr. Knothe and his
son were "charlatans," it will be remembered that Balzac not only had
a /penchant/ for such, but that he was very fond of these two
physicians and thought their treatment superior to that which was
given at Paris.

M. de Fiennes complained that grass was allowed to grow on Balzac's
grave. To this M. Eugene de Mirecourt replied that what M. de Fiennes
had taken for grass was laurel, thyme, buckthorn and white jasmine;
the grave of Balzac was constantly and religiously kept in good order
by his widow. One could ask any of the gardeners of Pere-Lachaise

Whatever the attitude of Balzac's wife towards him during his life,
she acted most nobly indeed in the matter of his debts. Instead of
accepting the inheritance left her in her husband's will and selling
her rights in all his works, the beautiful /etrangere/ accepted
courageously the terrible burden left to her, and paid the novelist's
mother an annuity of three thousand francs until her death, which
occurred March, 1854. She succeeded in accomplishing this liquidation,
which was of exceptional difficulty, and long before her death every
one of Balzac's creditors had been paid in full.

There seems to be no /authoritative/ proof that Balzac's married life
was either happy or unhappy. The Princess Radziwill always understood
from her aunt that they were as happy as one could expect, considering
that Balzac's days were numbered. The present writer is fain to say,
with Mr. Edward King: "He died happy, for he died in the full
realization of a pure love which had upheld him through some of the
bitterest trials that ever fall to the lot of man."

"Say to your dear child the most tenderly endearing things in the
name of one of the most sincere and faithful friends she will ever
have, not excepting her husband, for I love her as her father
loved her."[*]

[*] The Countess Mniszech died in September, 1914, at the age of
eighty-nine, so must have been born about 1825 or 1826. She spent
the twenty-five years preceding her demise in a convent in the rue
de Vaugirard in Paris and retained her right mind until the day of
her death. It will always be one of the greatest regrets of the
present writer that she did not know of this before the Countess's
death, for the Countess could doubtless have given her much
information not to be obtained elsewhere.

Balzac was probably never more sincere than when he wrote this
message, for perhaps no father ever loved his own child more devotedly
than he loved Anna, the only child living of M. and Mme. de Hanski.

Most of Balzac's biographers who state that he met Madame Hanska on
the promenade, say that her little daughter was with her. Wherever he
first met her, she won his heart completely. Some pebbles she gathered
during his first visit to her mother at Neufchatel, Balzac had made
into a little cross, on the back of which was engraved: /adoremus in
aeternum/. She was at this time about seven or eight years of age.
When he visited them again at Geneva, their friendship increased, and
in writing to her mother he sent the child kisses from /son pauvre
cheval/. He loved her little playthings, some of which he kept on his
desk; was always wanting to send her gifts, anxious for her health and
happiness, took great interest in her musical talent, and was ever
delighted to hear of her progress or pleasures. One of his rather
typical messages to her in her earlier years was: "Place a kiss on
Anna's brow from the most tranquil steed she will ever have in her

As she grew older, the novelist thought of dedicating one of his works
to her, and wrote to her mother that the first /young girl/ story he
should compose he would like to dedicate to Anna, if agreeable to both
of them. The mother's consent was granted, and he assured her that the
story Pierrette (written, by the way, in ten days) was suitable for
Anna to read. "/Pierrette/ is one of those tender flowers of
melancholy which in advance are certain of success. As the book is for
Anna, I do not wish to tell you anything about it, but leave you the
pleasure of surprise."

"To Mademoiselle Anna de Hanska:

"Dear Child, you, the joy of an entire home, you whose white or
rose-colored scarf flutters in the summer through the groves of
Wierzchownia, like a will-o'-the-wisp, followed by the tender eyes
of your father and mother--how can I dedicate to you a story full
of melancholy? But is it not well to tell you of sorrow such as a
young girl so fondly loved as you are will never know? For some
day your fair hands may comfort the unfortunate. It is so
difficult, Anna, to find in the history of our manners any
incident worthy of meeting your eye, that an author has no choice;
but perhaps you may discern how happy you are from reading this
story, sent by

"Your old friend,

Balzac was very proud of the success of /Pierrette/, and wished Madame
Hanska to have Anna read it, assuring her that there was nothing
"improper" in it.

"/Pierrette/ has appeared in the /Siecle/. The manuscript is bound
for Anna. /L'envoi/ has appeared; I enclose it to you. Friends and
enemies proclaim this little book a masterpiece; I shall be glad
if they are not mistaken. You will read it soon, as it is being
printed in book form. People have placed it beside the /Recherche


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