Even with Balzac's extraordinary power of work, the number of his writings is remarkable, when we consider the labour their composition cost him. Sometimes, according to Theophile Gautier, he bestowed a whole night's labour on one phrase, and wrote it over and over again a hundred times, the exact words that he wanted only coming to him after he had exhausted all the possible approximate forms. When he intended to begin a novel, and had thought of and lived in a subject for some time, he wrote a plan of his proposed work in several pages, and dispatched this to the printer, who separated the different headings, and sent them back, each on a large sheet of blank paper. Balzac read these headings attentively, and applied to them his critical faculty. Some he rejected altogether, others he corrected, but everywhere he made additions. Lines were drawn from the beginning, the middle, and the end of each sentence towards the margin of the paper; each line leading to an interpolation, a development, an added epithet or an adverb. At the end of several hours the sheet of paper looked like a plan of fireworks, and later on the confusion was further complicated by signs of all sorts crossing the lines, while scraps of paper covered with amplifications were pinned or stuck with sealing-wax to the margin. This sheet of hieroglyphics was sent to the printing-office, and was the despair of the typographers; who, as Balzac overheard, stipulated for only an hour each in turn at the correction of his proofs. Next day the amplified placards came back, and Balzac added further details, and laboured to fit the expression exactly to the idea, and to attain perfection of outline and symmetry of proportion. Sometimes one episode dwarfed the rest, or a secondary figure usurped the central position on his canvas, and then he would heroically efface the results of four or five nights' labour. Six, seven, even ten times, were the proofs sent backwards and forwards, before the great writer was satisfied.
In the Figaro of December 15th, 1837, Edouard Ourliac gives a burlesque account of the confusion caused in the printing-offices by Balzac's peculiar methods of composition. This is an extract from the article:
"Let us sing, drink and embrace, like the chorus of an opera comique. Let us stretch our calves, and turn on our toes like ballet-dancers. Let us at last rejoice: the Figaro, without getting the credit of it, has overcome the elements and all sublunary cataclysms.
"Hercules is only a rascal, the apples of Hesperides only turnips, the siege of Troy but a revolt of the national guard. The Figaro has just conquered 'Cesar Birotteau'!
"Never have the angry gods, never have Juno, Neptune, M. de Rambuteau, or the Prefect of Police, opposed to Jason, Theseus, or walkers in Paris, more obstacles, monsters, ruins, dragons, demolitions, than these two unfortunate octavos have fought against.
"We have them at last, and we know what they have cost. The public will only have the trouble of reading them. That will be a pleasure. As to M. de Balzac—twenty days' work, two handfuls of paper, one more beautiful book: that counts for nothing.
"However it may be, it is a typographical exploit, a literary and industrial tour de force worthy to be remembered. Writer, editor, and printer have deserved more or less from their country. Posterity will talk of the compositors, and our descendants will regret that they do not know the names of the apprentices. I already, like them, regret it; otherwise I would mention them.
"The Figaro had promised the book on December 15th, and M. de Balzac began it on November 17th. M. de Balzac and the Figaro both have the strange habit of keeping their word. The printing-office was ready, and stamping its foot like a restive charger.
"M. de Balzac sends two hundred pages pencilled in five nights of fever. One knows his way. It was a sketch, a chaos, an apocalypse, a Hindoo poem.
"The printing-office paled. The delay is short, the writing unheard of. They transform the monster; they translate it as much as possible into known signs. The cleverest still understand nothing. They take it to the author.
"The author sends back the first proofs, glued on to enormous pages, posters, screens. It is now that you may shiver and feel pity. The appearance of these sheets is monstrous. From each sign, from each printed word, go pen lines, which radiate and meander like a Congreve rocket, and spread themselves out at the margin in a luminous rain of phrases, epithets, and substantives, underlined, crossed, mixed, erased, superposed: the effect is dazzling.
"Imagine four or five hundred arabesques of this sort, interlaced, knotted, climbing and sliding from one margin to another, and from the south to the north. Imagine twelve maps on the top of each other, entangling towns, rivers, and mountains—a skein tangled by a cat, all the hieroglyphics of the dynasty of Pharaoh, or the fireworks of twenty festivities.
"At this sight the printing-office does not rejoice. The compositors strike their breasts, the printing-presses groan, the foremen tear their hair, their apprentices lose their heads. The most intelligent attack the proofs, and recognise Persian, others Malagash, some the symbolic characters of Vishnu. They work by chance and by the grace of God.
"Next day M. de Balzac returns two pages of pure Chinese. The delay is only fifteen days. A generous foreman offers to blow out his brains.
"Two new sheets arrive, written very legibly in Siamese. Two workmen lose their sight and the small command of language they possessed.
"The proofs are thus sent backwards and forwards seven times.
"Several symptoms of excellent French begin to be recognised, even some connection between the phrases is observed."
So the article proceeds; always in a tone of comic good-temper, but pointing to a very real grievance and point of dispute; and helping the reader to realise the long friction which went on, and finally resulted in the unanimity with which publishers and editors turned against Balzac after his famous lawsuit, and showed a vindictive hate which at first sight is surprising. However, in this case the matter ends happily, as the article closes with:
"It ['Cesar Birotteau'] is now merely a work in two volumes, an immense picture, a whole poem, composed, written, and corrected fifteen times in the same number of days—composed in twenty days by M. de Balzac in spite of the printer's office, composed in twenty days by the printer's office in spite of M. de Balzac.
"It is true that at the same time M. de Balzac was employing forty printers at another printing-office. We do not examine here the value of the book. It was made marvellously and marvellously quickly. Whatever it is, it can only be a chef d'oeuvre!"
Crisis in Balzac's private life—"Contes Drolatiques"—Madame Hanska's life before she met Balzac—Description of her appearance —"Louis Lambert"—Disinterested conduct on the part of Madame de Berny—Relations between Balzac and his mother—Balzac and the Marquise de Castries—His despair.
The year 1832 was a crisis and a turning-point in the history of Balzac's private life.
Old relations changed their aspect; he received a terrible and mortifying wound to his heart and to his vanity; and while he staggered under this blow, a new interest, not in the beginning absorbing, but destined in time to engulf all others, crept at first almost unnoticed into his life.
He was now thirty-three years old; it was time that he should perform the duty of a French citizen and should settle down and marry; and as a preliminary, it seemed necessary that Madame de Berny should no longer continue to occupy her predominant place in his life. She was, as we know twenty-two years older than he, and was a woman capable not only of romantic attachment, but also of the most disinterested conduct where her affections were concerned. She saw clearly that, having formed Balzac, helped him practically, taught him, given him useful introductions—in short, made him—the time had now come when it would be for his good that she should retire partially into the background; and she had the courage to conceive, and the power to make, the sacrifice. He, on his side, felt the idea of the proposed separation keenly, and never forgot all his life what he owed to the "dilecta," or ceased to feel a deep and faithful affection for her. Still, for him there were compensations, which did not exist for the woman who was growing old. He was famous, on the way to attain his goal; and he was regarded as the champion of misunderstood and misused women. Therefore, as the species has always been a large one, letters poured in upon him from all parts of Europe—England being the exception—letters telling him how exactly he had gauged the circumstances, sentiments, and misfortunes of his unknown correspondents, asking his advice, expressing intense admiration for his writings, and pouring out the inmost feelings and experiences of the writers. The position was intoxicating for the man who, a few years before, had been unknown and disregarded; and the fact that Balzac never forgot his old friendships in the excitement of the adulation lavished upon him, is a proof that his own belief in the real steadfastness of his character was not mistaken.
Among these unknown correspondents, there were two who specially interested him. One of these was the Marquise de Castries, who, though rather under a cloud at this time, was one of the most aristocratic stars of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and sister-in-law to the Duc de Fitz-James, with whom Balzac was already connected in several literary undertakings.
As we have already seen, she wrote anonymously towards the end of September, 1831 to complain of the moral tone of the "Physiologie du Mariage" and of "La Peau de Chagrin." In Balzac's reply, which was despatched on February 28th, 1832, he thanked her for the proof of confidence she had shown in making herself known to him, and in wishing for his acquaintance; and said that he looked forward to many hours spent in her society, hours during which he would not need to pose as an artist or literary man, but could simply be himself.[*]
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i., p. 141.
Separated from her husband, and a most accomplished coquette, the Marquise was recovering from a serious love-affair, when she summoned Balzac to afford her amusement and distraction. Delicate and fragile, her face was rather too long for perfect beauty, but there was something spiritual and slender about it, which recalled the faces of the Middle Ages. Her health had been shattered by a hunting accident, and her expression was habitually one of smiling melancholy and of hidden suffering. Her beautiful Venetian red hair grew above a high white forehead; and in addition to the attractiveness of her elegant svelte figure, she possessed in the highest degree the all-powerful seductive influence which we call "charm."
Reclining gracefully in a long chair, she received her intimates in a small simple drawing-room furnished in old-fashioned style, with cushions of ancient velvet and eighteenth-century screens—a room instinct with the aristocratic aroma of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. There Balzac went eagerly during the spring of 1832, and imbibed the strange old-world atmosphere of the exclusive Faubourg, of which he has given a masterly picture in the "Duchesse de Langeais." In this he shows that by reason of its selfishness, its divisions, and want of patriotism and large-mindedness, the Faubourg Saint-Germain had abrogated the proud position it might have held, and was now an obsolete institution, aloof and cornered, wasting its powers on frivolity and the worship of etiquette. At first, gratified vanity at his selection as an intimate by so great a lady, and pleasure at the opportunity given him for the study of what was separated from the ordinary world by an impassable barrier, were Balzac's chief inducements for frequent visits to the Rue de Varenne. Gradually, however, the caressing tones of Madame de Castries' voice, the quiet grace of her language, and her infinite variety, found their way to his heart, and he fell madly in love.
Speaking of her afterwards in the "Duchesse de Langeais," which was written in the utmost bitterness, when he had been, according to his own view, led on, played with and deceived by the fascinating Marquise, Balzac describes her thus: She was "eminently a woman, and essentially a coquette, Parisian to the core, loving the brilliancy of the world and its amusements, reflecting not at all, or reflecting too late; of a natural imprudence which rose at times almost to poetic heights, deliciously insolent, yet humble in the depths of her heart, asserting strength like a reed erect, but, like the reed, ready to bend beneath a firm hand; talking much of religion, not loving it, and yet prepared to accept it as a possible finality."
In the same book are several interesting remarks about Armand de Montriveau, the lover of the Duchesse de Langeais, who is, in many points, Balzac under another name. On one page we read: "He seemed to have reached some crisis in his life, but all took place within his own breast, and he confided nothing to the world without." In another place is a description of Montriveau's appearance. "His head, which was large and square, had the characteristic trait of an abundant mass of black hair, which surrounded his face in a way that recalled General Kleber, whom indeed he also resembled in the vigour of his bearing, the shape of his face, the tranquil courage of his eye, and the expression of inward ardour which shone out through his strong features. He was of medium height, broad in the chest, and muscular as a lion. When he walked, his carriage, his step, his least gesture, bespoke a consciousness of power which was imposing; there was something even despotic about it. He seemed aware that nothing could oppose his will; possibly because he willed only that which was right. Nevertheless, he was, like all really strong men, gentle in speech, simple in manner, and naturally kind." Certainly Balzac, as usual, did not err on the side of modesty!
Curiously enough, the very day—February 28th, 1832—on which Balzac wrote to accept the offer of the Marquise de Castries' friendship, was the day that the first letter from L'Etrangere reached him. At first sight there was nothing to distinguish this most momentous letter from others which came to him by almost every post, or to indicate that it was destined to change the whole current of his life. It was sent by an unknown woman, and the object of the writer was, while expressing intense admiration for Balzac's work, to criticise the view of the feminine sex taken by him in "La Peau de Chagrin." His correspondent begged him to renounce ironical portrayals of woman, which denied the pure and noble role destined for her by Heaven, and to return to the lofty ideal of the sex depicted in "Scenes de la Vie Privee."
This letter, which was addressed to Balzac to the care of Gosselin, the publisher of "La Peau de Chagrin," has never been found. There must have been something remarkable about the wording and tone of it; as Balzac received many such effusions, but was so much impressed by this one, and by the communications which followed, that he decided to dedicate "L'Expiation" to his unknown correspondent. This story he was writing when he received her first letter, and it formed part of the enlarged edition of the "Scenes de la Vie Privee" which was published in May, 1832. On communicating this project, however, to Madame de Berny, she strongly objected to the offer of this extraordinary honour to "L'Etrangere"; and now doubly obedient to her wishes, and anxious not to hurt her feelings, he abandoned the idea after the book had been printed. In January, 1833, in his first letter to Madame Hanska, he explained the matter at length, and sent her a copy which had not been altered, and which had her seal on the title-page. The book sent her has disappeared; but examining some copies of the second edition of the "Scenes," the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul found that a page had been glued against the binding, and, detaching this carefully, discovered the design of the wax seal, and the dedication "Diis ignotis, 28th February, 1832,"[*] the date on which Balzac received the first letter from "L'Etrangere."
[*] I have seen this.
This letter gave Balzac many delightful hours, as, when he was able to write to her, he explained to Madame Hanska. In his pride and satisfaction, he showed it to many friends, Madame Carraud being among the number; but she, with her usual rather provoking common-sense, refused to share his enthusiasm, and suggested that it might have been written as a practical joke. To this insinuation Balzac gave no credence; he naturally found it easy to believe in one more enthusiastic foreign admirer, and he was seriously troubled by the fact that the first dizain of the "Contes Drolatiques," which certainly would not satisfy his correspondent's views on the lofty mission of womanhood, was likely to appear shortly. However, whether she did not read the first dizain of the "Contes," which appeared in April, 1832, or whether the perusal of them showed her more strongly than before that Balzac was really in need of good advice, Madame Hanska did not show her displeasure by breaking off her correspondence with him. Balzac had much to occupy his mind in 1832, as he was conscientiously, though not successfully, trying to make himself agreeable to the lady selected as his wife by his family. At the same time, while with regret and trouble in his heart he tried to relegate Madame de Berny to the position of an ordinary friend, and felt the delightful agitation, followed by bitter mortification, of his intercourse with Madame de Castries, we must remember that from time to time he received a flowery epistle from Russia, written in the turgid and rather bombastic style peculiar to Madame Hanska.
On the other hand, we can imagine the interest and excitement felt by the Chatelaine of Wierzchownia as she wrote, and secretly dispatched to the well-known author, the sentimental outpourings of her soul. The composition of these letters must certainly have supplied a savour to a rather flavourless life; for it was dull in that far-off chateau in Ukraine, which, as Balzac described it afterwards, was as large as the Louvre, and was surrounded by territories as extensive as a French Department. There were actually a carcel lamp and a hospital—which seem a curious conjunction—on the estate, and there were looking-glasses ten feet high in the rooms, but no hangings on the walls. Possibly Madame Hanska did not miss these, but what she did miss was society. She, M. de Hanski,[*] Anna's governess, Mlle. Henriette Borel, and last, but not least, the beloved Anna herself, the only child, on whom Madame Hanska lavished the most passionate love, were a small party in the chateau; and besides two Polish relations, Mlles Denise and Severine Wylezynska, who generally inhabited the summer-house, christened by Balzac "La Demoiselliere," they were the only civilised people in the midst of a huge waste populated by peasants. M. de Hanski often suffered from "blue devils," which did not make him a cheerful companion; and when Madame Hanska had performed a few graceful duties, as chatelaine to the poor of the neighbourhood, there was no occupation left except reading or writing letters. She was an intelligent and intellectual woman; and Balzac's novels, not at first fully appreciated in France because of their deficiencies in style, were eagerly seized on in Germany, Austria, and Russia. She read them with delight; and her natural desire for action, her longing also to pour out, herself unknown, the secret aspirations and yearnings of her heart to some one who would understand her, prompted the first letter; which, according to M. de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, was dictated by her to Anna's governess, Mlle. Henriette Borel. So she started lightly on the road which was to lead her, the leisured and elegant great lady suffering only from ennui, to the period of her life during which she would toil hour after hour at writing, would be overwhelmed by business, pestered by duns and creditors, overworked, overburdened, and over-worried. She was certainly not very fortunate, for she seems never to have experienced the passionate love which might have made up for everything.
[*] Balzac invariably talks of M. de Hanski and Madame Hanska, as do other contemporary writers.
Till the time when she first put herself into communication with Balzac, her life had not been cheerful. A member of a Polish great family, the Countess Eve Rzewuska was born at the Chateau of Pohrbyszcze on January 25, 1804 or 1806. She was one of a large family, having three brothers and three sisters, nearly all of whom played distinguished parts in France or Russia; and her eldest brother, Count Henry Rzewuski, was one of the most popular writers of Poland. In 1818 or 1822 she married the rich M. Vencelas de Hanski, who was twenty-five years her senior, an old gentleman of limited mind; pompous, unsociable, and often depressed; but apparently fond of his wife, and willing to allow her the travelling and society which he did not himself care for. Madame Hanska had many troubles in her married life, as she lost four out of her five children; and being an intensely maternal woman, the deepest feelings of her heart were henceforward devoted to Anna, her only surviving child, whom she never left for a day till the marriage of her darling in 1846, and of whom, after the separation, she could not think without tears.
She was a distinctly different type from the gentle, devoted Madame de Berny, whose French attributes were modified by the sentiment and romance she inherited from her Teutonic ancestors; or from Madame de Castries, the fragile and brilliant coquette. Mentally and physically there was a certain massiveness in Madame Hanska which was absent in her rivals. She was characterised by an egoism and self-assertiveness unknown to the "dilecta"; while, on the other hand, her principles were too strong to allow her to use a man as her plaything, as Madame de Castries had no scruple in doing. Side by side with her tendency to mysticism, she possessed much practical ability, a capacity for taking the initiative in the affairs of life, as well as considerable literary and critical power. Balzac had enormous respect for her intellect, and references to the splendid "analytical" forehead, which must have been a striking feature in her face, occur as often in his letters as admiring allusions to her pretty dimpled hands, or playful jokes about her droll French pronunciation. Her miniature by Daffinger,[*] taken in the prime of her beauty, gives an idea of great energy, strength of will, and intelligence. She is dark, with a decided mouth, and rather thick lips as red as a child's. Her hair is black, and is plainly braided at each side of her forehead; her eyes are dark and profound, though with the vague look of short sight; and her arms and shoulders are beautiful. Altogether she is a handsome woman, though there are indications of that tendency to embonpoint about which she was always troubled, and which Balzac, with his usual love of prescribing for his friends, advised her to combat by daily exercise.
[*] In the possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.
However, in the spring of 1832, the time which we are considering, Madame Hanska was not even a name to Balzac; she was merely "L'Etrangere," an unknown woman who might be pretty or ugly, young or old; but who at any rate possessed the knack—or perhaps the author of "Seraphita" or of "Louis Lambert" would have said the power by transmutation of thought and sympathy—of interesting him in the highest degree.
In June, with the hope that absence would loosen the bonds of affection which united him and Madame de Berny, and with an arriere pensee about another charming personality whom he might meet on his travels, Balzac left Paris for six months, and began his tour by paying a visit to M. de Margonne at Sache. There he wrote "Louis Lambert" as a last farewell to Madame de Berny; and in memory of his ten years' intimacy with her, on the title-page were the dates 1822 and 1832, and underneath the words "Et nunc et semper." The manuscript was sent to her for criticism, and she wrote a charming letter[*] on receipt of it to Angouleme, where Balzac was staying with Madame Carraud. In this she shows the utmost tenderness and gentle playfulness; but while modestly deprecating her power to perform the task he demands from her, which she says should be entrusted to Madame Carraud, she has the noble disinterestedness to point out to him where she considers he has erred. She tells him that, after reading the book through twice, and endeavouring to see it as a whole, she thinks he has undertaken an impossible task, and that, trying to represent absolute truth in its action, he has attempted what is the province of God alone. Then, with the utmost tact and delicacy, she touches on a difficult point, and says that when Goethe and Byron attempt to paint the aspirations of a superior being, we admire their breadth of view, and wish we could aid them with our minds to reach the unattainable; but that an author who announces that he has swept to the utmost range of thought shocks us by his vanity, and she begs Balzac to eliminate certain phrases in his book which sound as though he had this belief. She finished thus: "Manage, my dear one, that every one shall see you from everywhere by the height at which you have placed yourself, but do not claim their admiration, for from all parts strong magnifying-glasses will be turned on you; and what becomes of the most delightful object when seen through the microscope?" Loving Balzac so tenderly, growing old so quickly, with Madame de Castries and the unknown Russian ready to seize the empire which she had abdicated willingly, though at bitter cost, what a temptation it must have been to leave these words unsaid, and now that she was parting from Balzac to accord him the unstinted admiration for which he yearned! That Madame de Berny thought of him only, of herself not at all, speaks volumes for the nobility and purity of her love, and we again feel that the "predilecta" never rose to her heights, and that to his first love belongs the credit of "creating" Balzac.
[*] See "La Jeunesse de Balzac," by MM. Hanotaux and Vicaire, p. 74.
During Balzac's absence from Paris, Madame de Balzac, who was installed in his rooms in the Rue Cassini, appears in quite a new light, and one which leads to the suspicion that the much-abused lady was not quite as black as she had been painted. The hard and heartless mother is now transmogrified into the patient and indefatigable runner of errands; and we must admire the business capacity, as well as bodily strength, which Madame de Balzac showed in carrying out her son's various behests. In one letter alone she was enjoined to carry out the following directions[*]: (1) She was to copy out an article in the Silhouette, which she would find on the second shelf for quartos near the door in Balzac's room. (2) She was to send him her copy of "Contes Drolatiques," and also "Les Chouans," which she would receive corrected from Madame de Berny. Furthermore, she was told to dress in her best and go to the library, taking with her the third and fourth volumes of "Scenes de la Vie Privee," as a present to M. de Manne, the librarian. She was then to hunt in the "Biographie Universelle" under B or P for Bernard Palissy, read the article, make a note of all books mentioned in it as written by him or about him, and ask M. de Manne for them. Next, Laure was to be visited, as the "Biographie," which had formerly belonged to old M. de Balzac, was at her house; and the works on Palissy mentioned in that must be compared carefully with those already noted down; and if fresh names were found, another visit must be paid to the librarian. If he did not possess all the books and they were not very dear, they were to be bought. A visit to Gosselin was to be the next excursion for poor Madame de Balzac, who apparently walked everywhere to save hackney carriage fares; and as minor matters she must send a letter he enclosed to its destination, and see that the groom exercised the horses every day.
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 153.
Certainly, if Balzac worked like a galley slave himself, he also kept his relations well employed; but Madame de Balzac apparently did everything contentedly, in the hope, as a good business woman, that the debts would at last be paid off; and though there were occasional breezes, the relations between her and her son were cordial at this time. Possibly she was pleased at his removal from the influence of Madame de Berny, of whom she was always jealous; and certainly she was delighted at the idea of his marriage. The intended daughter-in-law, whose name is never mentioned, was evidently a widow with a fortune, so the affair was highly satisfactory. The lady was expected to pay a visit to Mere, near Sache; and Balzac felt obliged to go there three times a week to see whether she had arrived—a duty which interfered sadly with his work. If he seemed likely to prosper in his suit, she was to be impressed by the sight of his groom and horses. However, this matrimonial business transaction was not successful, as we hear nothing more of it, and the next direction his mother receives is to the effect that she had better sell all his stable equipage.
Whether Madame de Balzac resented these demands on her, or whether she was disgusted at Balzac's failure to secure a rich wife, and thus put an end to the family troubles, we do not know; but when he returned to Paris at the end of the year, to his great disappointment she refused to live with him, and left him alone when he sorely needed sympathy and consolation.
It is curiously characteristic of Balzac, that at this very time, when in secret he contemplates marriage, he writes to Madame Carraud that he is going to Aix to run after some one who will perhaps laugh at him —one of those aristocratic women she would no doubt hold in abhorrence: "An angel beauty in whom one imagines a beautiful soul, a true duchess, very disdainful, very loving, delicate, witty, a coquette, a novelty to me! One of those phenomena who efface themselves from time to time, and who says she loves me, who wishes to keep me with her in a palace at Venice (for I tell you everything) —who wishes that I shall in future write only for her, one of those women one must worship on one's knees if she desires it, and whom one has the utmost pleasure in conquering—a dream woman! Jealous of everything! Ah, it would be better to be at Angouleme at the Poudrerie, very sensible, very quiet, listening to the mills working, making oneself sticky with truffles, learning from you how to pocket a billiard-ball, laughing and talking, than to lose both time and life!"[*]
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 161.
After his stay at Sache, Balzac went on to the Poudrerie, where he became ill from overwork, and wrote to his sister that a journey was quite necessary for his health. On August 22nd he started from Angouleme, having borrowed 150 francs from M. Carraud to take him as far as Lyons. He had already spent the 100 francs sent him by his mother, and he expected to find 300 francs more awaiting him at Lyons. There he arrived on the 25th, having unfortunately fallen in mounting the imperial of the diligence, and grazed his shin against the footboard thus making a small hole in the bone. However, we can appreciate the excellent reasons which led him to the conclusion that, in spite of the inflammation in his leg, it would be wise to press on at once to Aix. When he arrived there, on August 26th, he was evidently rewarded by a very cordial greeting from the Marquise; as, the day after, he wrote a most affectionate and joyful letter to his mother, thanking her in the warmest terms for all she had done, and for the pleasure she had procured him by enabling him to take this journey.
He was now established in a simple little room, with a view over the lovely valley of the Lac du Bourget; he got up each morning at half-past five, and worked from then till half-past five in the evening, his dejeuner being sent in from the club, and Madame de Castries providing him with excellent coffee, that primary necessity of his existence. At six he dined with her, and they spent the evening till eleven o'clock together. It was an exciting drama that went on during those long tete-a-tetes. On one side was the accomplished coquette, possibly only determined to make a plaything of the man of genius, to charm him and keep him at her feet; or perhaps with a lurking hope that her skilful game would turn to earnestness, and that in the course of it she would manage to forget that charming young Metternich who died at Florence and left her inconsolable. On the other was Balzac, his senses bewildered by passionate love, but his acuteness and knowledge of human nature not allowing him to be altogether deceived; so that he writes to Madame Carraud: "She is the most delicate type of woman—Madame de Beauseant, only better; but are not all these pretty manners exercised at the expense of the heart?"[*] Nevertheless, these were only passing doubts: he could not really believe that she would behave as she was doing if there were no love for him in her heart, and he pursued his suit with the intense ardour natural to him. Occasionally she became alarmed, and tried to rebuff him by a cold, irritable manner; but he continued to treat her with the utmost gentleness. No doubt, she was not altogether without feeling: an absolutely cold woman could not have exercised dominion over a man of the stamp of Balzac; and though she is always represented as playing a game, probably there were agitations, doubts, questionings, and possibly real trouble, on her side, as well as on that of Balzac. At any rate, the admirer of his novels may give her the benefit of the doubt, and remember in gratitude that she undoubtedly added to the gamut of the great psychologist's emotions, and therefore increased his knowledge of the human heart, and the truth and vividness of his books. Balzac, who spoke of the "doleurs qui font trop vivre," plunged very deeply into the learning of the school of life at this time.
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 195.
At last came a final rupture, of which we can only conjecture the cause, as no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. The original "Confession" in the "Medecin de Campagne," which is the history of Balzac's relations and parting with Madame de Castries, is in the possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul. The present Confession was substituted in its place, because the first revealed too much of Balzac's private life. However, even in the original Confession, we learn no reason for Madame de Castries' sudden resolve to dismiss her adorer, as Balzac declares with indignant despair that he can give no explanation of it. Apparently she parted from him one evening with her usual warmth of affection, and next morning everything was changed, and she treated him with the utmost coldness.
Madame de Castries, with her brother-in-law, the Duc de Fitz-James and his family, had settled to leave Aix on October 10th, and to travel in Italy, visiting Rome and Naples; and they had been anxious that Balzac should be one of the party. At first Balzac only spoke of this vaguely, because of the question of money; but as pecuniary matters were never allowed to interfere with anything he really wanted to do, his mother cannot have been surprised to receive a letter written on September 23rd, telling her that the matter was settled, and that he was going to Italy.[*] As she would naturally ask how this was to be managed, he explains that he will put off paying a debt of 500 francs, and that, being only responsible for a fourth share in the hire of Madame de Castries' carriage, this money would suffice for his expenses as far as Rome. There he will require 500 francs, and the same amount again at Naples; but this money will be gained by the "Medecin de Campagne," and he will only ask Madame de Balzac for 500 francs—without which he will perhaps, after all, manage—to bring him back from Naples in March. On September 30th he writes to M. Mame, the publisher, to tell him about the nearly-finished "Medecin de Campagne," and still talks of his projected journey; but on October 9th, as a result of Madame de Castries' behaviour towards him, he has left her at Aix, and is himself at Annecy, and on October 16th he has travelled on to Geneva. His only explanation for his sudden change of plan is a vague remark to his mother about the 1,000 francs required for the journey,[+] and about the difficulty of publishing books while he is away from France; while on the real reason of his change of plan he is absolutely silent. Before the end of 1832 he is back in Paris, and in spite of his success and celebrity is probably passing through the bitterest months of his life.
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 202.
[+] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 220.
1832 - 1835
Advertisement in the Quotidienne—Letters between Balzac and Madame Hanska—His growing attachment to her—Meeting at Neufchatel—Return to Paris—Work—"Etudes de Moeurs au XIXieme Siecle"—"Le Medecin de Campagne"—"Eugenie Grandet"—Meets Madame Hanska at Vienna—"La Duchesse de Langeais"—Balzac's enormous power of work—"La Recherche de l'Absolu"—"Le Pere Goriot" —Vienna—Monetary difficulties—Republishes romantic novels —Continual debt—Amusements.
Meanwhile, during the tragic drama of the downfall of poor Balzac's high hopes, Madame Hanska continued to write steadily; but she was becoming tired of receiving no answer to her letters, and of not even knowing whether or no they had reached their destination. Therefore she wrote on November 7th, 1832, to ask Balzac for a little message in the Quotidienne, which she took in regularly, to say that he had received her letters; and Balzac, in reply, inserted the following notice in the Quotidienne of December 9th, 1832. "M. de B. has received the message sent him; he can only to-day give information of this through a newspaper, and regrets that he does not know where to address his answer. To. L'E.—H. de B."[*]
[*] A copy of the Quotidienne with this advertisement is in the possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, and I have seen it.
After this, it is amusing to see that Balzac was most particular in impressing on his publishers the necessity of advertising his forthcoming works in the Quotidienne, one of the few French papers allowed admission into Russia. On the other hand, the receipt of the Quotidienne with this announcement made Madame Hanska so bold, that in a letter dated January 9th, 1833, she gave Balzac the welcome information that she and M. de Hanski were leaving Ukraine for a time, and coming nearer France; and that she would indicate to him some way of corresponding with her secretly. As this is the last of her letters that can be found, we do not know what method she pointed out to Balzac; and his first letter to her is dated January, 1833, and after their meeting at Neufchatel in September, he wrote a short account of his day every evening to his beloved one, and once in eight days he despatched this journal to its destination. As he kept to this plan with only occasional interruptions whenever he was absent from her, till his marriage four months before his death, these letters, some of which are published in a volume called "Lettres a l'Etrangere," form a most valuable record of his life. In one of the first, it is interesting to see that he is obliged to soothe her uneasiness at the strange variety of his handwritings, as Madame Carraud had answered one of her letters in his name; and to allay her suspicions, he makes the rather unlikely explanation, that he has as many writings as there are days in the year. In the future, however, her letters are sacred, no eye but his own being permitted to gaze on them; and with his usual reticence where his feelings are seriously involved, he ceases to mention to his friends his correspondent in far Ukraine.
A little later he comments with joy on the fact that Madame Hanska has sent him a copy of the "Imitation of Christ,"[*] which represents our Lord on the cross, just as he is writing "Le Medecin de Campagne," which portrays the bearing of the cross by resignation, and love, faith in the future, and the spreading around of the perfume of good deeds. To Balzac, believer in the power of the transmission of thought, this coincidence was of good augury.
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
All this time he had not forgotten Madame de Berny, or the faithless Madame de Castries; and is profoundly miserable. On January 1st, 1833, he writes to his faithful friend, Madame Carraud, to pour out his troubles, and says: "In vain I try to transfer my life to my brain; nature has given me too much heart, and in spite of everything, more than enough for ten men is left. Therefore I suffer. All the more because chance made me know happiness in all its moral extent, while depriving me of sensual beauty. She" (Madame de Berny) "gave me a true love which must finish. This is horrible! I go through troubles and tempests which no one knows of. I have no distractions. Nothing refreshes this heat, which spreads and will perhaps devour me." He then passes on to Madame de Castries, and continues: "An unheard-of coldness has succeeded gradually to what I thought was passion, in a woman who came to me rather nobly."[*] In a letter to Madame Hanska, speaking of Madame de Castries, though he does not name her, he says: "She causes me suffering, but I do not judge her. Only I think that if you loved some one, if you had drawn him every day towards you into heaven, and you were free, you would not leave him alone in the depths of an abyss of cold, after having warmed him with the fire of your soul."[+]
[*] Letters sent by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul to the Revue Bleue of November 21st, 1903.
[+] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
Gradually, however, the new love gained ground; though at first Balzac showed that nervous dread of repetition of pain which was, in a man of his buoyancy and self-confidence, the last expression of depression and disillusionment. "I trembled in writing to you. I said to myself: 'Will this be only a new bitterness? Will the skies open to me again, for me only to be driven from them?'"[*] Nevertheless, passages such as the following, even taking into account the sentimental tone Balzac always adopted to his female correspondents, show that he was not destined to remain permanently inconsolable. "I love you, unknown, and this strange thing is the natural effect of an empty and unhappy life, only filled with ideas, and the misfortunes of which I have diminished by chimerical pleasures."[*]
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
In these words he gives himself the explanation of his overmastering love for Madame Hanska, a love which seems to have puzzled his contemporaries and some of his subsequent biographers. The man with the passionate nature, who cried in his youth for the satisfaction of his two immense desires—to be celebrated and to be loved—soon found the emptiness of the life of fame alone; and Madame Hanska, dowered with all that he longed for, came into his life at the psychological moment when he had broken with the old love, born into the world too soon, and had suffered bitterly at the cruel hands of the new. He turned to her with a rapture of new hope in the glories that might rise for him; and through trouble, disappointment and delay, he never once wavered in his allegiance.
In the early spring of 1833, the Hanski family, after no doubt many preparations, and surrounded by a great paraphernalia—for travelling in those days was a serious matter—started on the journey about which Madame Hanska had already told Balzac. Neufchatel was their destination; and through Mlle Henriette Borel, Anna's governess, who was a native of the place, and Madame Hanska's confidante, the Villa Andrie, in the Faubourg, just opposite the Hotel du Faubourg, was secured for them. Mlle Borel was a most useful person, as she always went to the post to claim Balzac's letters, and through Madame Hanska he sends her many directions, and specially enjoins great caution. We are told[*] that she was so much struck by the solemnities at M. de Hanski's funeral—the lights, the songs, and the national costumes —that she decided to abjure the Protestant faith, and that in 1843 she took the veil. We may wonder however, whether tardy remorse for her deceit towards the dead man, who had treated her with kindness, had not its influence in causing this sudden religious enthusiasm, and whether the Sister in the Convent of the Visitation in Paris gave herself extra penance for her sins of connivance.
[*] "Balzac a Neufchatel," by M. Bachelin.
From Neufchatel, Madame Hanska sent Balzac her exact address; and as he had really settled to go to Besancon in his search for inexpensive paper to enable him to carry out his grand scheme for an universal cheap library, it was settled that, travelling ostensibly for this purpose, he should go for a few days to Neufchatel, and meet Madame Hanska. He therefore wrote to Charles de Bernard, at Besancon, to ask him to take a place for him in the diligence to Neufchatel, on September 25th, 1833; and it is easy to imagine his qualms of anxiety, and yet joyful excitement, when he left Paris on the 22nd, and started on his fateful journey. At Neufchatel, he went to the Hotel du Faucon,[*] in the centre of the town, but found a note begging him to be on the Promenade du Faubourg next day from one to four; and he at once removed to the Hotel du Faubourg, so that he might be near the Villa Andrie. Madame Hanska no doubt shared to a certain extent his tremors of anticipation; but as a beauty and great lady she would naturally feel more confident than Balzac—especially when she had donned with care her most elegant and becoming toilette, and felt armed at every point for the encounter.
[*] "Un Roman d'Amour," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, p. 75.
The Promenade du Faubourg at Neufchatel overlooks the lake, and is terminated by a promontory known as the Cret, a splendid point of vantage, whence there is a view of the Villa Andrie and over the gardens of the Hotel du Faubourg. Here, on the afternoon of September 26th, 1833, among others strollers, were two who might have seemed to an observant eye to be waiting for somebody: one was a stout, inelegant little man, with something bizarre about his costume, and the other a dark, handsome lady, dressed in the height of fashion, and perhaps known to some of the loungers as the rich Russian Countess. The manner of their meeting is uncertain; but whether Madame Hanska, with one of Balzac's novels in her hand, recognised him at once and rushed towards him joyously, or whether, as another story goes, she was at first disenchanted by his unromantic appearance and drew back, matters little.[*] In either case, according to Balzac's letter to his sister written on his return to Paris, they exchanged their first kiss under the shade of a great oak in the Val de Travers, and swore to wait for each other; and he speaks rapturously of Madame Hanska's beautiful black hair, of her fine dark skin and her pretty little hands. He mentions, too, her colossal riches, though these do not of course count beside her personal charms; but the remark is characteristic, and Balzac's pride and exultation are very apparent.[+] At last he has found his "grande dame," endowed with youth, beauty and riches, one who would not be ashamed to live with him in a garret, and yet would, by her birth, be able to hold her own in the most exclusive society in the world.
[*] "Un Roman d'Amour," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, p. 75.
[+] I have seen in M. de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul's collection, the autograph of the whole of this letter as quoted in the "Roman d'Amour."
He is specially pleased, too, that he has succeeded in charming Madame Hanska's husband, to whom he was apparently introduced at once, though we do not know by what means. Certainly M. de Hanski appears to have felt a warm liking for the great writer, who charmed him and made him laugh by his amusing talk, kept his blue devils at bay, sent him first copies of his books, and sympathised with his views on political matters. M. de Hanski was also much flattered by Balzac's friendship for his wife, and would finish a polite and stilted epistle by saying that he need trouble Balzac no more, as he knows his wife is at the same time writing him one of her long chattering letters. Even when, by sad mischance, two of Balzac's love-letters fell into M. de Hanski's hands, and the great writer was forced to stoop to the pretence that they were written in jest, the husband seems to have accepted the explanation, and not to have troubled further about the matter. Later on, he sent Balzac a magnificent inkstand as a present, which the recipient rather ungratefully remarked required palatial surroundings, and was too grand for his use.
On October 1st, the happy time at Neufchatel came to an end, as the Hanskis were leaving that day, and Balzac's work awaited him in Paris. He got up at five o'clock on the morning of his departure, and went on to the promontory, whence he could gaze at the Villa Andrie, in the vain hope of a last meeting with Madame Hanska; but to his disappointment the Villa was absolutely quiet, no one was stirring. He had a most uncomfortable journey back, for everything was so crowded that fifteen or sixteen intending passengers were refused at each town; and as Charles de Bernard had not been able to secure a place for him in the mail coach, he was obliged to travel in the imperial of the diligence with five Swiss, who treated him as though he were an animal going to the market, and he arrived in Paris bruised all over.
In Balzac's letters after his return to Paris there is much mention of his enjoyment of the Swiss scenery, which is after all only Madame Hanska under another name; but he is absolutely discreet, and never speaks of the lady herself. He is redoubling his work, on the chance of managing to pay her another visit. "For a month longer, prodigies of work, to enable me to see you. You are in all my thoughts, in all the lines that I shall trace, in all the moments of my life, in all my being, in my hair which grows for you."[*]
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
Fortunately the long years of waiting, the anxieties, the hope constantly deferred, the pangs of unequally matched affection, and at last the short and imperfect fruition, were hidden from him. Henceforward everything in his life refers to Madame Hanska, and he waits patiently for his hoped-for union with her. His deference to his absent friend, his fear of her disapproval, his admiration for her perfections, are half pathetic and half comical.
Though she does not appear to have been strait-laced in her reading, he is terribly afraid of falling in her estimation by what he writes, and he explains anxiously that such books as "Le Medecin de Campagne" or "Seraphita" show him in his true light, and that the "Physiologie du Mariage" is really written in defence of women. The "Contes Drolatiques" he is also nervous about, and he is much agitated when he hears that she has read some of them without his permission.
He is not always quite candid, and the reader of "Lettres a l'Etrangere" may safely surmise that there is a little picturesque exaggeration in his account of the solitary life he leads; and that Madame Hanska had occasionally good reason for her reproaches at the reports she heard, though Balzac always replies to these complaints with a most touching display of injured innocence. Nevertheless, the "Lettres a l'Etrangere" are the record of a faithful and ever-growing love, and there is much in them which must increase the reader's admiration for Balzac.
The year 1833 was a prosperous one with him, as in October he sold to the publisher, Madame Charles Bechet, for 27,000 francs, an edition of "Etudes de Moeurs au XIXieme Siecle" in twelve octavo volumes, consisting of the third edition of "Scenes de la Vie Privee," the first of "Scenes de la Vie de Province," and the first part of the "Scenes de la Vie Parisienne." The last volume of this edition did not appear till 1837, and before that time Balzac had taken further strides towards his grand conception of the Comedie Humaine. In October, 1834,[*] he writes to Madame Hanska that the "Etudes de Moeurs," in which is traced thread by thread the history of the human heart, is only to be the base of the structure; and that next, in the "Etudes Philosophiques," he will go back from effect to cause, from the feelings, their life and way of working, to the conditions behind them on which life, society, and man have their being; and that having described society, he will in the "Etudes Philosophiques" judge it. In the "Etudes de Moeurs" types will be formed from individuals, in the "Etudes Philosophiques" individuals from types. Then, after effects and causes, will come principles, in the "Etudes Analytiques." "Les moeurs sont le spectacle, les causes son les coulisses et les machines, et les principes c'est l'auteur." When this great palace is at last completed, he will write the science of it in "L'Essai sur les Forces Humaines"; and on the base, he, a child and a laugher, will trace the immense arabesque of the "Contes Drolatiques," those Rabelaisian stories in old French tracing the progress of the language, which he often declared would be his principal claim to fame. In 1842 the name "La Comedie Humaine" was after much consideration given to the whole structure, and in the preface he explains this title by saying: "The vastness of a plan which includes Society's history and criticism, the analysis of its evils, the discussion of its principles, justifies me, I think, in giving to my work the name under which it is appearing to-day—'The Human Comedy.' Pretentious, is it? Is it not rather true? That is a question for the public to decide when the work is finished."
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that in twelve years, from 1830 to 1842, Balzac wrote seventy-nine novels—an enormous number, especially remembering the fact that during the same time he published tales and numberless articles—the great work was never finished; and the last philosophical study, which was entitled "The Marquis of Carabbas," and was to treat of the life of nations, was not even begun.
However, in 1833, when he really started the germ of his life-work, he, like his father, had the idea that he would live to an enormous age; and he was in high spirits about the pecuniary side of his transaction with Madame Bechet.
Except for what he owes his mother, in seven months he will be free of debt, he cries rapturously; but it is hardly necessary to mention that this happy time of deliverance never did arrive. Indeed, we are scarcely surprised, when he writes on November 20th, to say that his affairs are in the most deplorable condition; that he has just sent four thousand francs, his last resource, to Mame, the publisher, and is as poor as Job; with one lawsuit going on, and another beginning for which he requires twelve hundred francs. His chronic state of disagreement with Emile de Girardin, editor of La Presse, had at this time, in spite of Madame de Girardin's attempts at mediation, become acute; so that they nearly fought a duel. The year before, as we have already seen, he had quarrelled with his former friend, Amedee Pichot, and had deserted the Revue de Paris, so his business relations were, as usual, not very happy.
However, he was at first much pleased with Madame Bechet, who, with unexpected liberality, herself paid 4000 francs for corrections; and in July, 1834, he got rid of publisher Gosselin, whom he politely designates as a "nightmare of silliness," and a "rost-beaf ambulant," and started business with Werdet, not yet the "vulture who fed on Prometheus," but an excellent young man, somewhat resembling "l'illustre Gaudissart," full of devotion and energy.
The year 1833 was rich in masterpieces. In September appeared "Le Medecin de Campagne," with its motto, "For wounded souls, shade and silence"; and though, like "Louis Lambert," it was not at first a success, later on its true value was realised; and the hero, the good Dr. Benassis, is one of Balzac's purest and most noble creations. It was followed in December by "Eugenie Grandet," a masterpiece of Dutch genre, immortalised by the vivid vitality of old Grandet, that type of modern miser who, in contradistinction to Moliere's Harpagon, enjoyed universal respect and admiration, his fortune being to some people in his province "the object of patriotic pride." The book raised such a storm of enthusiasm, that Balzac became jealous for the fame of his other works, and would cry indignantly: "Those who call me the father of Eugenie Grandet wish to belittle me. It is a masterpiece, I know; but it is a little masterpiece; they are very careful not to mention the great ones."[*] This, which is the best known and most generally admired of Balzac's novels, is dedicated by a strange irony of fate to Maria, whose identity has never been discovered; the only fact really known about her being her pathetic request to Balzac, that he would love her just for a year, and she would love him for all eternity. She did not, however, have undisputed possession of even the short time she longed for, as Madame Hanska's all-conquering influence was in the ascendant; but, as Balzac was always discreet, perhaps poor Maria was not aware of this.
[*] "Balzac, sa Vie et ses Oeuvres d'apres sa Correspondance," by Madame L. Surville.
In the midst of the acclamations and congratulations on the appearance of "Eugenie Grandet," Balzac again left Paris, and went to Geneva, where he arrived on December 25th, 1833. He left for Paris on February 8th, having spent six weeks with the Hanski family. During this time a definite promise was made by Madame Hanska, that she would marry him if she became a widow. "Adoremus in aeternum" was their motto; he was her humble "moujik," and she was his "predilecta, his love, his life, his only thought."[*]
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
Curiously enough, his occupation in Geneva, in the rapture of his newly-found happiness, was to write the "Duchesse de Langeais," by which he intended to revenge himself on Madame de Castries, though he could not help, in his book, making her turn to him at last, when it was too late. The wound was still smarting. He detests and despises her, he says; and the only words of spitefulness recorded in his generous, large-minded life, are when he mentions, with pretended pity, that owing to ill-health she has completely lost her beauty. In spite of this outburst, however, we find that he came forward later on, and helped her with much energy when she was in difficulties. He never had the satisfaction of knowing whether she were punished or not; as when he showed her the book before it was published, with the ostensible reason of wishing her to disarm the Faubourg St. Germain, which is severely criticised in its pages, she professed much admiration for it.
Meanwhile, Madame de Berny was beginning the slow process of dying; and Balzac speaks constantly with trouble of her failing health, and of the heart disease from which she suffered, and which, with her usual unselfishness, she tried to conceal from him. She was too ill now to correct his proofs, and her family circumstances were, as we have already seen, very miserable; so that her life was closing sadly. In January, 1835, Balzac spent eight days with her at La Boulonniere, near Nemours, working hard all the time; and was horrified to find her so ill, that even the pleasure of reading his books brought on severe heart attacks.
His life at this time was enormously busy; the passion for work had him in its grip, and even his robust constitution suffered from the enormous strain to which he subjected it by his constant abuse of coffee, which caused intense nervous irritation; and by the short hours of sleep he allowed himself. He never rested for a moment, he was never indifferent for a moment, his faculties were constantly on the stretch, and Dr. Nacquart remonstrated in vain. In August, 1834, he was attacked by slight congestion of the brain, and imperatively ordered two months' rest; which, of course, he did not take; and now from time to time, in his letters, occur entries of sinister omen, about symptoms of illness, and doctor's neglected advice. In October "La Recherche de l'Absolu" appeared, and instead of greeting it with the enthusiasm he usually accorded to his books, he remarked to Madame Hanska that he hoped it was good, but that he was too tired to judge. However, by December of the same year, when "Le Pere Goriot" was published, he had to a certain extent recovered his elasticity, and said that it was a beautiful work, though terribly sad, and showed the moral corruption of Paris like a disgusting wound. A few days later he became more enthusiastic, and wrote: "You will be very proud of 'Le Pere Goriot.' My friends insist that nothing is comparable to it, and that it is above all my other compositions."[*] Certainly the vivid portrait of old Goriot, that ignoble King Lear, who in his extraordinary passion of paternal love rouses our sympathy, in spite of his many absurdities and shortcomings, is a striking instance of Balzac's power in the creation of type.
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
He was straining every nerve to be able to meet Madame Hanska in Vienna; but with all his efforts his journey was put off month after month, and it was not till May 9th, 1835, that he was at last able to start. He arrived at Vienna on the 16th; having hired a post carriage for the journey, a little extravagance which cost him 15,000 francs. His stay there was not a rest, as, to Madame Hanska's annoyance, he worked twelve hours a day at "Le Lys dans la Vallee," and explained to her that he was doing a good deal in thus sacrificing three hours a day for her sake—fifteen hours out of the twenty-four being his usual time for labour. He visited Munich on his way back, and arrived in Paris on June 11th, to find a crowd of creditors awaiting his arrival, and his pecuniary affairs in terrible confusion. Owing, he considered, to the machinations of his enemies, articles had appeared in different papers announcing that he had been imprisoned for debt—a report which naturally ruined his credit, and caused a general gathering of those to whom he owed money. It was not a pleasant home-coming; as Werdet and Madame Bechet were in utter despair, and reproached Balzac bitterly for his absence, while all his silver had been pawned by his sister to pay his most pressing liabilities.
It is curious about this time to notice the reappearance of the early romantic novels, "Jane la Pale," "La Derniere Fee," and their fellows.[*] Balzac, as we have seen was in terrible straits for money, and he knew that the Belgians, who at this time practised the most shameless piracy, would reprint the books for their own advantage, if he did not. Therefore, in self-defence, he determined to bring out an edition himself; though, as he consistently refused to acknowledge the authorship of these despised productions, the treaty was drawn up in the name of friends. Nevertheless, with his usual caution, he drew up a secret document which was signed by M. Regnault, one of those in whose name the sale to the publisher was arranged, to the effect that the works of the late Horace de Saint-Aubin were really the property of M. de Balzac. "L'Heritiere de Birague" and "Jean Louis" did not appear in this edition, probably owing to the intervention of M. Le Poitevin, who considered them partly his property; but they were published with the others in an edition printed in 1853, after a lawsuit between Balzac's widow and his early collaborator.
[*] "Une Page Perdue de Honore de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.
The condition of the whole Balzac family at the close of 1835 was tragic, M. Henri, back from abroad, and utterly incapable, as Balzac says, of doing anything, talked of blowing out his brains; Madame Surville was ill, Madame Balzac's reason or life was despaired of; and Balzac chose this time to consult a somnambulist about Madame Hanska, and was told the distressing news that she was in anxiety of some sort, and that her heart was enlarged! Fortunately, in October, 1835, the Hanski family returned to Wierzchownia, and the constant worry to Balzac of their proximity to France was removed for the time.
In December another misfortune befell Balzac. A fire broke out at the printing office in the Rue du Pot-de-Fer, and burnt the first hundred and sixty pages of the third dizain of the "Contes Drolatiques," as well as five hundred volumes of the first and second dizain, which had cost him four francs each. He thus lost 3,500 francs, and to add to the calamity, did not receive the sum of 6,000 francs which in the ordinary course of events would have been due to him at the end of the year, when but for this disaster he would have handed over the third dizain to Werdet and an associate.
Figures and sums of money occur constantly in Balzac's letters; but his accounts of his pecuniary affairs are so conflicting and so complicated that it is impossible to understand them; indeed it is doubtful whether he ever mastered them himself, as he continually expected to be out of debt in a few months. According to his own story to Madame Hanska, he left the printing office owing 100,000 francs, had to find 6,000 francs a year for interest on this debt, and required 3,000 francs to live on; while in 1828, 1829, and 1830, he only made 3,000 francs each year, so that in three years he had increased his debt by 24,000 francs. In 1830 the Revolution caused general disaster among the publishers, and "La Peau de Chagrin" only made 700 francs, so that in 1830 and 1831 Balzac had an income of only 10,000 francs a year, and had to pay out 18,000 francs. From 1833 to 1836 he received 10,000 francs a year by his treaty with Madame Bechet; 6,000 of this he paid in interest on his debt, while 4,000 apparently remained to live on. However, between the fire in the Rue du Pot-de-Fer, Werdet's delinquencies, the failure of the Chronique, and the sums paid back to publishers who had advanced money on arrangements Balzac cancelled to fulfil this new agreement, hardly anything was left; and in 1837 he owed 162,000 francs.
In August, 1835, he describes his life thus[*]: "Work, always work! Heated nights succeed heated nights, days of meditation days of meditation; from execution to conception, from conception to execution! Little money compared with what I want, much money compared with production. If each of my books were paid like those of Walter Scott, I should manage; but although well paid, I do not attain my goal. I received 8,000 francs for the 'Lys'; half of this came from the publisher, half from the Revue de Paris. The article in the Conservateur will pay me 3,000 francs. I shall have finished 'Seraphita,' begun 'Les Memoires de Deux Jeunes Mariees,' and finished Mme. Bechet's edition. I do not know whether a brain, pen, and hand will ever before have accomplished such a 'tour de force' with the help of a bottle of ink."
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
As it is impossible for even a Balzac to live without relaxation, even if he goes without rest, what, may we ask, were his recreations at this time? In the first place he often went to the theatre; and he was passionately fond of music, occupying a place in the box at the Italian Opera, which was reserved specially for dandies. One of his extravagances was a dinner at which he entertained the five other "tigres," as the occupants of this box were nicknamed, and Rossini, Olympe Pelissier, Nodier, Sandeau, and Bohain. At this banquet, the most sumptuous fare and the most exquisite wines were provided for the guests, and the table was decked with the rarest flowers. Balzac enjoyed the festivity immensely, as well as the eclat which followed it; and relates with delight that all Paris was talking of it, and that Rossini said he had not seen more magnificence when he dined at royal tables.
However busy he was, he never completely deprived himself of the pleasure of listening to music; though on one occasion he remarks regretfully, that he has been obliged to limit his attendance at the Opera to two visits each month; and on another, that he has been so overwhelmed with business that he has not been able even to have a bath, or go to the Italian Opera, two things that are more necessary to him than bread. His works abound in references to his beloved art, and when he was writing "Massimilla Doni" he employed a professional musician to instruct him about it. Beethoven, in particular, he speaks of with the utmost enthusiasm, and after hearing his "Symphony in Ut mineur," he says that the great musician is the only person who makes him feel jealous, and that he prefers him even to Rossini and Mozart. "The spirit of the writer," he says, "cannot give such enjoyment, because what we print is finished and determined, whereas Beethoven wafts his audience to the infinite."[*]
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
The other amusements of this great thinker and seer would strike the reader as strange, if he did not perhaps, by this time, realise that no anomaly need surprise him in Balzac's extraordinary personality.
He writes to Madame Hanska[*]: "As to my joys, they are innocent. They consist in new furniture for my room, a cane which makes all Paris chatter, a divine opera-glass, which my workers have had made by the optician at the Observatory; also the gold buttons on my new coat, buttons chiselled by the hand of a fairy, for the man who carries a cane worthy of Louis XIV. in the nineteenth century cannot wear ignoble pinchbeck buttons. These are little innocent toys, which make me considered a millionaire. I have created the sect of the 'Cannophiles' in the world of fashion, and every one thinks me utterly frivolous. This amuses me!" Certainly Balzac was not wrong when he told his correspondent that there was much of the child in him.
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
NO PARTICULAR DATE
Balzac's portrait as described by Gautier—His character—Belief in magnetism and somnambulism—His attempts to become deputy—His political and religious views.
In the Salon of 1837 appeared a portrait of Balzac by Boulanger,[*] of which Theophile Gautier gave the following description in La Presse: "M. de Balzac is not precisely beautiful. His features are irregular; he is fat and short. Here is a summary which does not seem to lend itself to a painting, but this is only the reverse of the medal. The life and ardour reflected in the whole face give it a special beauty.
[*] See the chapter entitled "Un Portrait" in "Autour de Honore de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.
"In this portrait, M. de Balzac, enveloped in the large folds of a monk's habit, sits with his arms crossed, in a calm and strong attitude; the neck is uncovered, the look firm and direct; the light, shining from above, illumines the satin-like smoothness of the upper parts of the forehead, and throws a bright light on the bumps of imagination and humour, which are strongly developed in M. de Balzac; the black hair, also lit up, shining and radiant, comes from the temples in bright waves, and gives singular light to the top of the head; the eyes steeped in a golden penumbra with tawny eyeballs, on a moist and blue crystalline lens like that of a child, send out a glance of astonishing acuteness; the nose, divided into abrupt polished flat places, breathes strongly and passionately, through large red nostrils; the mouth, large and voluptuous, particularly in the lower lip, smiles with a rabelaisian smile under the shade of a moustache much lighter in colour than the hair; and the chin, slightly raised, is attached to the throat by a fold of flesh, ample and strong, which resembles the dewlap of a young bull. The throat itself is of athletic and rare strength, the plump full cheeks are touched with the vermilion of nervous health, and all the flesh tints are resplendent with the most joyful and reassuring brilliancy.
"In this monk's and soldier's head there is a mixture of reflection and of good-humour, of resolution and of high spirits, which is infinitely rare; the thinker and good liver melt into each other with quaint harmony. Put a cuirass on this large breast, and you will have one of those fat German foot-soldiers so jovially painted by Terburg. With the monks' habit, it is Jean des Entommeurs[*]; nevertheless, do not forget that the eyes throw, through all this embonpoint and good-humour, the yellow look of a lion to counteract this Flemish familiarity. Such a man would be equal to excesses of the table, of pleasure, and of work. We are no longer astonished at the immense quantity of volumes published by him in so short a time. This prodigious labour has left no trace of fatigue on the strong cheeks dappled with red, and on the large white forehead. The enormous work which would have crushed six ordinary authors under its weight is hardly the third of the monument he wishes to raise."
[*] One of the characters in Rabelais.
The original of this portrait was sent to Madame Hanska at Wierzchownia; but a sketch of it belongs to M. Alexandre Dumas the younger, and has often been engraved. From this, it seems as though Theophile Gautier must have read his knowledge of Balzac's character as a whole into his interpretation of the picture. To the ordinary observer, Boulanger's portrait represents Balzac as the thinker, worker, and fighter, stern and strenuous; not the delightful comrade who inspired joy and merriment, and the recollection of whom made Heine smile on his death-bed. The wonderful eyes which had not their equal, and which asked questions like a doctor or a priest, are brilliantly portrayed. Balzac himself allows this, though he complains to Madame Hanska that they have more of the psychological expression of the worker than of the loving soul of the individual—a fact for which we may be grateful to Boulanger. Balzac is much delighted, however, with Boulanger's portrayal of the insistence and intrepid faith in the future, a la Coligny or a la Peter the Great, which are at the base of his character; and he goes on to give an attractive, though rather picturesque account of his career and past misfortunes, which is evidently intended to counteract any misgivings Madame Hanska may feel at his sternness as depicted in the portrait.
"Boulanger has seen the writer only,[*] not the tenderness of the idiot who will always be deceived, not the softness towards other people's troubles which cause all my misfortunes to come from my holding out my hand to weak people who are falling into disaster. In 1827 I help a working printer, and therefore in 1829 find myself crushed by fifty thousand francs of debt, and thrown without bread into a gutter. In 1833, when my pen appears to be likely to bring in enough to pay off my obligations, I attach myself to Werdet. I wish to make him my only publisher, and in my desire to bring him prosperity, I sign engagements, and in 1837 find myself owing a hundred and fifty thousand francs, and liable on this account to be put under arrest, so that I am obliged to hide. During this time I make myself the Don Quixote of the poor. I hope to give courage to Sandeau, and I lose through him four to five thousand francs, which would have saved other people." It would be interesting to hear what Barbier and Werdet would have said, if they had been allowed to read this letter; but on Browning's principle, that a man should show one side to the world, and the other to the woman he loves, no doubt Balzac's account of past events was quite justifiable.
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
Boulanger's picture gave Balzac a great deal of trouble, as well as delighted yet anxious speculation about Madame Hanska's opinion of it, when it arrived in Wierzchownia. This was naturally an important matter, his meetings with her being so rare that, except his letters, the picture would generally be her only reminder of him; and for this reason it was most necessary that it should show him at his best. It was therefore very trying that Boulanger should have exaggerated the character of his quiet strength, and made him look like a bully and a soldier; and we can enter thoroughly into his feelings, and sympathise heartily with his uneasiness, because Boulanger has not quite caught the fineness of contour under the fatness of the face. Undoubtedly, the picture does not give the idea of a person of extreme refinement, or distinction of appearance. Nevertheless, judging from stories told by his contemporaries, and also from some of the books written by the great novelist, it seems likely that Boulanger's powerful and strongly coloured portrait, though only redeemed from coarseness by the intense concentration of expression and the intellectual light in the wonderful eyes, was strikingly true to nature, and caught one very real aspect of the man. Perhaps, however, it was not the one calculated to work most strongly on the feelings of his absent lady-love; who, no doubt, poor Balzac hoped, would often make her way to the spot in the picture gallery where his picture hung in its quaint frame of black velvet, and would refresh herself with the sight of her absent friend. When her miniature by Daffinger was sent him, he was stupefied all day with joy; and he always carried it about with him, considering it an amulet which brought him good fortune.
He believed in talismans, and had pretty fanciful ideas about being present to his friends in the sudden flicker of the fire, or the brightening of a candle-flame. Balzac, the Seer, the believer in animal magnetism, in somnambulism, in telepathy, the weaver of strange fancies and impossible daydreams—Balzac with philosophical theories on the function of thought, and faith in the mystical creed of Swedenborg—in short, the Balzac of "Louis Lambert" and "Seraphita," is not, however, depicted by Boulanger: he can only be found in M. Rodin's wonderful statue. There the great voyant, who, in the beautiful vision entitled "L'Assomption," saw man and woman perfected and brought to their highest development, stands in rapt contemplation and concentration, his head slightly raised, as if listening for the voice of inspiration, or hearing murmurs of mysteries still unfathomed.
Somnambulism, in particular, occupied much of Balzac's attention. He wrote in 1832 to a doctor, M. Chapelain, who evidently shared his interest in the subject, to ask why medical men had not made use of it to discover the cause of cholera[*]; and on another occasion, after an accident to his leg, he sent M. Chapelain, from Aix, two pieces of flannel which he had worn, and wanted to know from them what caused the mischief, and why the doctors at their last consultation advised a blister. Unluckily, we hear no more of this matter, and never have the satisfaction of learning how much the learned doctor deduced from the fragments submitted to his inspection. Time after time Balzac mentions in his correspondence that he has consulted somnambulists when he has been anxious about the health of the Hanski family; and it is curious that a few months before he received the letter from Madame Hanska, telling of her husband's death, he had visited a sorcerer, who by means of cards, told him many extraordinary things about his past career, and said that in six weeks he would receive news which would change his whole life.
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 147.
The portrait was still destined to cause Balzac much anxiety. After the close of the Salon, the painter had promised to take a copy of it for Madame de Balzac, who, "between ourselves," Balzac remarked to Madame Hanska, would not care much about it, and certainly would not know the difference between the replica and the original, in which the soul of the model was searched for, examined and depicted,[*] and which was, of course, to belong to the beloved friend.
[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."
However, there were still many delays. Boulanger showed "horrible ingratitude," and did not appreciate sufficiently the honour done him by his illustrious sitter in allowing his portrait to be taken. He refused at first to begin the copy; but this difficulty was at last arranged, and the original was carefully packed in a wooden crate, instead of going in a roll as Balzac had at first intended. Still there were innumerable stoppages, and doubt where the precious canvas was located; till the impatient Balzac was only deterred from his intention of starting a lawsuit against the authorities, by a fear of bringing the noble name of Hanski into notoriety. It is sad that the last time we hear of this precious picture in Balzac's lifetime was when he went to Wierzchownia, in 1849; and then it had been relegated to a library which few people visited, and he describes it with his usual energy, as the most hideous daub it is possible to see—quite black, from the faulty mixing of the colours; a canvas of which, for the sake of France, he is thoroughly ashamed.
The sketch of the portrait is not disfigured; and the engravings of it give an interesting view of Balzac's personality. With due deference to the great psychologist, we cannot think the painter was wrong in imparting a slightly truculent expression to the face. Balzac was essentially a fighter: he started life with a struggle against his family, against the opinion of his friends, and, harder than all, against his own impotence to give expression to his genius; and, in the course of his career he made countless enemies, and finished by enrolling among their ranks most of the literary men of the day. This alienation was to a great extent caused by his inveterate habit of boasting, of applying the adjectives "sublime" and "magnificent" to his own works: an idiosyncracy which was naturally annoying to his brother authors. It was deprecated even by his devoted and admiring friends; though they knew that, as George Sand says, it was only caused by the naivete of an artist, to whom his work was all-important.
His personal charm was so great, that Werdet, his enemy, says that in his presence those who loved him, forgot any real or fancied complaint against him, and only remembered the affection they felt for him. Nevertheless, in the course of his life of fighting, his ever-pressing anxieties and the strain of his work, coupled with his belief in the importance and sacredness of his destiny, made him something of an egotist. Therefore, in spite of his real goodness of heart, he would sometimes shoulder his way through the world, oblivious of the unfortunate people who had come to grief owing to their connection with him, and careless of the lesser, though very real troubles of harassed and exasperated editors, when his promised copy was not forthcoming.
Like Napoleon, to whom, amidst the gibes of his contemporaries, he likened himself, he wanted everything; and those with this aspiration must necessarily be heedless of their neighbours' smaller ambitions. "Without genius, I am undone!" he cried in despair; but when it was proved beyond dispute that this gift of debatable beneficence was his, he was still unsatisfied.
What, after all, was the use of genius except as a stepping-stone to the solid good things of the earth? Where lay the advantage of superiority to ordinary men, if it could not be employed as a lever with which to raise oneself? Reasoning thus, his extraordinary versatility, his power of assimilation, and his varied interests, made his ambitions many and diverse. The man who could enter with the masterly familiarity of an expert into affairs of Church, State, Society, and Finance, who would talk of medicine like a doctor, or of science like a savant, naturally aspired to excellence in many directions.
At times, as we have already seen, strange fancies filled his brain: dreams, for instance, of occupying the highest posts in the land, or of gaining fabulous sums of money by some wildly impossible scheme, such as visiting the Great Mogul with a magical ring, or obtaining rubies and emeralds from a rich Dutchman. The two apparently incompatible sides to Balzac's character are difficult to reconcile. On some occasions he appears as the keen business man, who studies facts in their logical sequence, and has the power of drawing up legal documents with no necessary point omitted. The masterly Code which he composed for the use of the "Societe des Gens-de-Lettres" is an example of this faculty. At other times we are astonished to find that the great writer is a credulous believer in impossibilities, and a follower of strange superstitions. A similar paradox may be found in his books, where, side by side with a truth and occasional brutality which makes him in some respects the forerunner of the realists, we find a wealth of imagination and insistence on the power of the higher emotions, which are completely alien to the school of Flaubert and Zola.
Perhaps in his own dictum, that genius is never quite sane, gives a partial explanation of many of his fantastic schemes. The question of money was his great preoccupation and anxiety, and possibly his pecuniary difficulties, and the strain of the heavy chain of debt he dragged after him, constantly adding to its weight by some fresh extravagance, had affected his mind on this one point. Marriage with poverty he could not conceive; and, as he was intensely affectionate, he longed for a home and womanly companionship. "Is there no woman in the world for me?" he cried despairingly; but in this, as in everything else, he required so much, that it was difficult to find any one who would, in his eyes, be worthy to become Madame Honore de Balzac. His wife must be no ordinary woman; in addition to birth and wealth, she must possess youth, beauty, and high intellectual gifts; and one great difficulty was, that the lady endowed with this combination of excellencies would naturally require some winning, and Balzac had no time to woo. However, it was absolutely necessary that his married life should be one of luxury and magnificence, beautiful surroundings being indispensable to his scheme of existence, "Il faut," he said, "que l'artiste mene une vie splendide." Therefore, till the right lady was found, Balzac toiled unceasingly; and when in Madame Hanska the personification of his ideal at last appeared, he redoubled his efforts, till overwork, and his longing for her, caused the decay of his physical powers, and his strength for labour diminished.
Literature, a rich marriage, a successful play, or a political career, were all incidentally to make his fortune; though it must be said, in justice, that this motive, though it entwines itself with everything in Balzac's life, was not his only, or even his principal incentive to action.
In his desire to become a deputy, for instance, the longing to serve his country and to have a voice in her Councils, which he would use boldly, conscientiously, without fear or favour, to further her true interests, was ever present with him. As early as 1819, he had begun to take the keenest interest in the elections, telling M. Dablin, from whom he wanted a visit, that he dreamed of nothing but him and the deputies, and begging him for a complete list of those chosen in each department, with a short notice of his opinion on each.
By the law of election of 1830, any Frenchman who was thirty years of age, and contributed 500 francs a year directly, in taxes, was eligible as a deputy. When the law was made Balzac was thirty-one, and paid the requisite amount; he therefore determined, in spite of his enormous output of literary work at this time, to add the career of a deputy to his labours; and in April, 1831, he wrote to ask for the assistance of the General Baron de Pommereul, with whom he had been staying at Fougeres, collecting material for "Les Chouans," while at the same time he worked up the country politically. His manifesto, at this period, is found in the "Enquete sur la Politique des Deux Ministeres,"[*] in which he calls the Government a "monarchie tempere par les emeutes," objects to the "juste milieu" observed by the Ministers; and while bringing forward, with apparent impartiality, the advantages of the two courses of peace and war, very evidently longs for France to take the battlefield again, to obtain what he considers her natural frontier, that of the Rhine. He also enters con amore into the details of raising a Napoleonic army, and of establishing the system of the Landwehr in France. A very remarkable passage in this manifesto is that on the Press; by which, he says, the Government is terrorised. With extraordinary penetration, he advises that the strength of journalism shall be broken by the sacrifice of the three or four millions gained by the "timbre," and the liberation of the newspapers, which are stronger than the seven ministers—for they upset the Government, and cannot be themselves suppressed—there will be a hundred, and the number will neutralise their power, so that they will become of no account politically.
[*] Another political pamphlet, entitled "Du Gouvernement Moderne," written by Balzac at Aix in 1832, has lately been published in the North American Review. The original is in the collection of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.
Balzac had no chance at Fougeres, where a rich proprietor of the neighbourhood was chosen as deputy, and no doubt M. de Pommereul advised him not to proceed further in the matter. However, with his usual tenacity, he wrote in September to M. Henri Berthoud, manager of the Gazette de Cambrai, who wanted to collaborate with the Revue de Paris, promising to further his wishes by all the means in his power, if M. Berthoud would, on his part, support his candidature at Cambrai. At the same time, he determined to try Angouleme, where he sometimes went to stay with a relation, M. Grand-Besancon, and had met a M. Berges, chief of the Government preparatory school, who was much struck by his talent, and promised to help him. In June, 1831, he wrote to Madame Carraud,[*] who took much interest in his political aspirations, and sent her three copies of the Manifesto for distribution. He told her that he was working day and night to become deputy, was going out into society for this purpose; and was so overwhelmed with business, that he had not touched "La Peau de Chagrin" since he was last at Saint-Cyr.
[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 118.
He was evidently full of hope; but in spite of the powerful support of the Revue de Paris, the Temps, the Debats, and the Voleur, the steady-going electors had no mind to be represented by a penniless young author, who was chiefly known to the general public as the writer of the "Physiologie du Mariage," a book distinctly not adapted for family reading. Therefore, in this, as in many other hopes of his life, Balzac was doomed to disappointment; though the readers of novels may be grateful to the unkind fate which caused him to turn with renewed ardour to the neglected "Peau de Chagrin." He cherished a slight resentment against Angouleme, as he showed in "Illusions Perdues," where the aristocracy of that town are rather unkindly treated; but he was not discouraged in his political ambitions, and in 1832 he joined with M. Laurentie, the Duc de Noailles, the Duc de Fitz-James (nephew to the Princesse de Chimay, who acted as proxy for Marie Antoinette at Madame de Berny's christening) and others, to found a Legitimist journal, the Renovateur. In this appeared an article against the proposed destruction of the monument to the Duc de Berry, in which Balzac indignantly asks: "Why do you not finish the monument, and raise an altar where the priests may pray God to pardon the assassin?"
Having thus shown his principles clearly, he turned his attention in 1832 to Chinon, which was close to Tours, where he and his family had lived for so long, and to Sache, where he was a constant visitor. There, if anywhere, he seemed likely to succeed; and the Quotidienne, the paper which afterwards supported him during his lawsuit against the Revue de Paris, had promised its voice in his favour. Again cruel Fate dogged his footsteps, as in May he tumbled out of his tilbury, and his head came violently into contact with what he calls the "heroic pavements of July"; the accident being a sad result of his childish delight in driving at a tremendous pace in the Bois, which is rebuked by his sage adviser, Madame Carraud. Certainly carriages, horses, and a stable, seemed hardly prudent acquisitions for a man in debt; but Balzac always defended his pet extravagances with the specious reasoning that nothing succeeds like success; and that most of his literary friends did not become rich because they lived in garrets, and were on that account trampled on by haughty publishers and editors. He writes to Madame de Girardin on this occasion: "Only think, that I who am so handsome have been cruelly disfigured for several days, and it has seemed curious to be uglier than I really am."[*] As a further and more serious result, he was laid up in bed, and had to undergo a severe regimen of bleeding, during the time that he should have been at Sache, working hard about his election; and when he did arrive there, in June, he recognised that he was too late for success. However, another dissolution, which after all did not take place, was expected in September, and Balzac looked forward to making a determined attempt then. This hope being frustrated, it was not till 1834 that he again came forward as a candidate: this time for Villefranche, where, curiously enough, another M. de Balzac was nominated, and when M. de Hanski wrote to congratulate Balzac, the latter was obliged to explain the mistake. On this occasion he had purposed to present himself as champion of the Bourbon Royal Family, especially of the Duchesse de Berry, for whom he had an immense admiration, while she read his books with much delight during her captivity in the Castle of Blaye. He wrote to M. de Hanski that he considered the exile of Madame and the Comte de Chambord the great blot on France in the nineteenth century, as the French Revolution had been her shame in the eighteenth.