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Honore de Balzac, His Life and Writings
by Mary F. Sandars
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[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 147.

This was Balzac's last serious attempt to stand for Parliament during the Monarchy of July, though he often talked in his letters to Madame Hanska of his political aspirations, looked forward to becoming a deputy in 1839, and hoped till then to dominate European opinion —rather a large ambition—by a political publication. In his letters he is continually on the point of beginning his career as a statesman; and in 1835 his views are even more inflated than usual. He will absorb the Revue des Deux Mondes and the Revue de Paris, is in treaty to obtain one newspaper, and will start two others himself, so that his power will be irresistible. "Le temps presse, les evenements se compliquent,"[*] he cries impatiently. He is still strangled by want of money—a hundred thousand francs is the modest sum he requires; but he will write a play in the name of his secretary, and the spectre of debt will be laid for ever.

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

However, in the stress of work, which made his own life like the crowded canvas of one of his own novels, these brilliant schemes came to nothing, and Balzac was never in the proud position of a deputy. He gives his views clearly in a letter to Madame Carraud in 1830.[*] "France ought to be a constitutional monarchy, to have a hereditary royal family, a house of peers of extraordinary strength, which will represent property, etc., with all possible guarantees for heredity, and privileges of which the nature must be discussed; then a second assembly, elective, representing all the interests of the intermediary mass, which separates those of high social position from the classes who are generally termed the people."

[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 108.

"The purport of the laws, and their spirit, should be designed to enlighten the masses as much as possible—those who have nothing, the workmen, the common people, etc., in order that as many as possible should arrive at the intermediary state; but the people should, at the same time, be kept under a most powerful yoke, so that its individuals may find light, help, and protection, and that no idea, no statute, no transaction, may make them turbulent.

"The greatest possible liberty should be allowed to the leisured classes, for they possess something to keep, they have everything to lose, they can never be dissolute.

"As much power as possible should be granted to the Government. Thus the Government, the rich people, and the bourgeoisie have interest in keeping the lowest class happy, and in increasing the number of the middle class, which is the true strength of the state.

"If rich people, the hereditary possessors of fortune in the highest Chamber, are corrupt in their manners, and start abuses, these are inseparable from the existence of all society; they must be accepted, to balance the advantages given."

This extract is taken from a letter which is, Balzac tells his correspondent, strictly private; but, with his usual independence and fearlessness, he did not hesitate to enunciate his opinions in public, and invariably refused to stoop to compromise or to disguise. Consequently, we cannot wonder that he never attained his ambition; particularly as he lacked the aid of money, and had no support, except the politically doubtful one of a literary reputation. His penetration and power of prescience were remarkable, and it is startling to find that he foretells the fall of the Monarchy of July, and the Revolution of 1848.[*] "I do not think," he says, "that in ten years from now the actual form of government will subsist—August, 1830, has forgotten the part played by youth and intelligence. Youth compressed will burst like the boiler of a steam engine." In "Les Paysans," one of his most wonderful novels, he gives a vivid picture of the constant struggle going on under the surface between the peasants and the bourgeoisie, and shows that the triumph of the former class must be the inevitable result.

[*] "Revue Parisienne," p. 26

His was essentially a loyal, reverential nature, with the soldierly respect for constituted authority which is often the characteristic of strong natures; and he was absolutely unswerving in his principles —the courage and tenacity which distinguished him through life, never deserting him in political emergencies. He was patriotic and high-minded; absolutely immovable in all that concerned his duty. On one occasion, when it was proposed at a public meeting that the Legitimists should follow the example of their political opponents and should stoop to evil doings, he refused decidedly, saying: "The cause of the life of man is superhuman. It is God who judges; His judgment does not hinge on our passions."[*] In his eyes, Religion and the Monarchy were twin sisters, and he speaks sadly in "Le Medecin de Campagne" of the downfall of both these powers. "With the monarchy we have lost honour, with our unfruitful attempts at government, patriotism; and with our fathers' religion, Christian virtue. These principles now only exist partially, instead of inspiring the masses, for these ideas never perish altogether. At present, to support society we have nothing but selfishness."[+] Elsewhere, he laments the atheistic government, and the increase of incredulity; and longs for Christian institutions, and a strong hierarchy, united to a religious society.

[*] "Balzac et ses Oeuvres," by Lamartine de Prat.

[+] "Le Medecin de Campagne."

Balzac was not orthodox. There is no doubt, from a letter to Madame Hanska, that the Swedenborgian creed he enunciates in "Seraphita" is to a great extent his own; but he believed in God, in the immortality of the soul, and considered natural religion, of which, in his eyes, the Bourbons were the depositors, absolutely essential to the well-being of a State. He had a great respect for the priesthood, and has left many a charming and sympathetic picture of the parish cure, such as l'Abbe Janvier in "Le Medecin de Campagne," who acts hand in hand with the good doctor Benassis, as an enlightened benefactor to the poor; or l'Abbe Bonnet, the hero of "Le Cure du Village," whose face had "the impress of faith, an impress giving the stamp of the human greatness which approaches most nearly to divine greatness, and of which the undefinable expression beautifies the most ordinary features." In "Les Paysans" we have another fine portrait, L'Abbe Brossette, who is doing his work nobly among debased and cunning peasants. "To serve was his motto, to serve the Church and the Monarchy at the most menaced points; to serve in the last rank, like a soldier who feels destined sooner or later to rise to generalship, by his desire to do well, and by his courage."

There is a beautiful touch in that terrible book "La Cousine Bette," where the infamous Madame Marneffe is dying of a loathsome and infectious disease, so that even Bette, who feels for her the "strongest sentiment known, the affection of a woman for a woman, had not the heroic constancy of the Church," and could not enter the room. Religion alone, in the guise of a Sister of Mercy, watched over her.



CHAPTER X

1836

Balzac starts the Chronique de Paris—Balzac and Theophile Gautier—Lawsuit with the Revue de Paris—Failure of the Chronique—Strain and exhaustion—Balzac travels in Italy —Madame Marbouty—Return to Paris—Death of Madame de Berny —Balzac's grief and family anxieties—He is imprisoned for refusal to serve in Garde Nationale—Werdet's failure—Balzac's desperate pecuniary position and prodigies of work—Close of the disastrous year 1836.

Balzac opened the first day of the year 1836 by becoming proprietor of the Chronique de Paris, an obscure Legitimist publication, which had been founded in 1834 by M. William Duckett. It started under Balzac's management with a great flourish of trumpets, the Comte (afterwards Marquis) de Belloy and the Comte de Gramont taking posts as his sectaries; while Jules Sandeau, Emile Regnault, Gustave Planche, Theophile Gautier, Charles de Bernard, and others, became his collaborators. Balzac's special work was to provide a series of papers on political questions, entitled "La France et l'Etranger," papers which show his extraordinary versatility; and his helpers were to provide novels and poems, satire, drama, and social criticism; so that the scope of the periodical was a wide one.

At first, Balzac was most sanguine about the success of his new enterprise, and was very active and enthusiastic in working for it. On March 27th, he wrote to Madame Hanska about the embarrassment caused him by his plate having been pawned during his unfortunate absence in Vienna, nearly a year ago. It was worth five or six thousand francs, and he required three thousand to redeem it. This sum he had never been able to raise, while, to add to his difficulties, on the 31st of the month he would owe about eight thousand four hundred francs. Nevertheless, he must have the silver next day or perish, as he had asked some people to dine who would, he hoped, give sixteen thousand francs for sixteen shares in the Chronique. If borrowed plate were on his table he was terribly afraid that the whole transaction would fail; as one of the people invited was a painter, and painters are an "observant, malicious, profound race, who take in everything at a glance."[*] Everything else in his rooms would represent the opulence, ease, and wealth of the happy artist.

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

Poor Balzac! To add to his difficulties, it was impossible to borrow anywhere in Paris, as he had only purchased the Chronique through the exceptional credit he enjoyed, and this would be at once destroyed if he were known to be in difficulties. We do not hear any further particulars about this tragedy, and cannot tell how far the conjunction of the borrowed plate—if it were after all borrowed —and the astute painter, contributed to the downfall of the Chronique. Werdet, however, attributes the disaster to the laziness of the talented staff, who could not be induced to work together. However that may be, the result was a terrible blow to Balzac; who was now, in addition to all his other liabilities, in debt for forty thousand francs to the shareholders.

It is as a member of the staff of the Chronique, that the name of Theophile Gautier first appears in connection with Balzac; and the two men remained close friends till Balzac's death. In 1835 Theophile Gautier published "Mademoiselle de Maupin," in which his incomparable style excited Balzac's intense admiration, painfully conscious as he was of his own deficiencies in this direction. Therefore, in forming the staff of the Chronique, he at once thought of Gautier, and despatched Jules Sandeau to arrange matters with the young author, and to give him an invitation to breakfast. Theophile Gautier, much flattered, but at the same time rather alarmed at the idea of an interview with the celebrated Balzac, tells us that he thought over various brilliant discourses on his way to the Rue Cassini, but was so nervous when he arrived that all his preparations came to nothing, and he merely remarked on the fineness of the weather. However, Balzac soon put him at his ease, and evidently took a fancy to him at once, as during breakfast he let him into the secret that for this solemn occasion he had borrowed silver dishes from his publisher!

The friendship between Balzac and Gautier, though not as intimate and confidential as that between Balzac and Borget, was true and steadfast; and was never disturbed by literary jealousy. Gautier supported Balzac's plays in La Presse, and helped with many of his writings. Traces of his workmanship, M. de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul tells us, are specially noticeable in the descriptions of the art of painting and of the studio, in the edition of "Un Chef-d'Oeuvre Inconnu" which appeared in 1837.[*] These descriptions are in Gautier's manner, and do not appear in the edition of 1831; so that in all probability they were written, or at any rate inspired by him. Gautier also wrote for Balzac, who had absolutely no faculty for verse, the supposed translation of two Spanish sonnets in the "Memoires de Deux Jeunes Mariees," and the sonnet called "La Tulipe" in "Un Grand Homme de Province a Paris." On his side, Balzac defended Gautier on all occasions, and in 1839 dedicated "Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan," then called "Un Princesse Parisienne," "A Theophile Gautier, son ami, H. de Balzac."

[*] "H. de Balzac and Theophile Gautier" in "Autour de Honore de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.

Beyond this friendship, the affair of the Chronique brought Balzac nothing but worry and trouble. And it came at a time when misfortune assailed him on all sides. Madame de Berny was approaching her end, and he wrote to his mother on January 1st, 1836, the day he started the Chronique de Paris: "Ah! my poor mother, I am broken-hearted. Madame de Berny is dying! It is impossible to doubt it! Only God and I know what is my despair. And I must work! Work weeping."[*]

[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 323.

In the midst of his trouble, a most unfortunate occurrence took place, which besides embittering his life at the time had a decided effect on his subsequent career; and indirectly obscured his reputation even after his death.

In 1833, as we have already seen, Balzac, after long dissensions with Amedee Pichot, had definitely left the Revue de Paris. However, in 1834, when Pichot retired from the management, the new directors, MM. Anthoine de Saint-Joseph, Bonnaire, and Achille Brindeau, tried to satisfy their readers by recalling Balzac; and "Seraphita" began to appear in the pages of the Revue. Difficulties, as might be expected, soon arose between Balzac and the management; and the undercurrent of irritation which subsisted on both sides only required some slight extra cause of offence, to render an outbreak inevitable. In September, 1835, M. Buloz, already director of the Revue des Deux Mondes, an extremely able, but bad-mannered and dictatorial man, took possession also of the much-tossed-about Revue de Paris. Balzac had known Buloz since 1831, when the latter bought the Revue des Deux Mondes, which was then in very low water, and was working with tremendous energy to make it successful. At that time, Buloz and he often shared a modest dinner, and with the permission of M. Rabou, then manager of the Revue de Paris, Balzac contributed "L'Enfant Maudit," "Le Message," and "Le Rendez-Vous" to the Revue des Deux Mondes, and only charged a hundred francs for the same quantity of pages for which he was paid a hundred and sixty francs by Rabou. However, on April 15th, 1832, there appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes a scathing, anonymous criticism of the first dizain of the "Contes Drolatiques." This had apparently been written by Gustave Planche; but Balzac considered Buloz responsible for it, and therefore refused to write any longer for his review. In August, 1832, Buloz, who does not appear to have been particularly scrupulous in his business relations, wrote to apologise, saying that though it was not in his power to suppress the offending article, he had done his best to soften it; and that now he was sole master of the Revue, so that not a word or line could pass without his permission. He therefore begged Balzac to resume his old connection with him, and explained that if he had not been confined to his bed and unable to walk, or even to bear the shaking of a cab, he would have come to visit him, and matters would have been quickly arranged. Balzac's answer, which is written from Angouleme, is couched in the uncompromising terms of "no surrender," which he generally adopted when he considered himself aggrieved. He did not absolutely refuse to write for the Review, and referred Buloz to Madame de Balzac for terms; but, by the tone of his letter, he negatived decidedly the idea of resuming friendly relations with his correspondent, and while rather illogically professing a lofty indifference to criticism, remarked that he felt the utmost contempt for those who calumniated his books.[*]

[*] See "Correspondance Inedite—Honore de Balzac," Revue Bleue, March 14, 1903.

After this the Revue des Deux Mondes became hostile to Balzac; and when Buloz and Brindeau bought the Revue de Paris, a proceeding which must have been a shock to him, he believed that Brindeau would be sole director, and drew up his agreement with him alone; having already refused to have business dealings with the ever active Buloz. However, Buloz soon took the principal place, and was so apologetic for his past misdeeds, and so insistent in promising amendment for the future, that Balzac, evidently reflecting that it would be distinctly against his interests to exclude himself from two of the most important reviews in Paris, consented to reconsider his decision. Therefore the following agreement, which is interesting as an example of Balzac's usual conditions when issuing his novels in serial form, was drawn up between the two men.

The Review was only to use Balzac's articles for its subscribers. He was to regain absolute rights over his books three months after their first publication—this was an invariable stipulation in all Balzac's treaties—and was to give up fifty francs out of the two hundred and fifty considered due to him for each "feuille" of fifteen pages, to reimburse Buloz for the number of times the proofs had to be reprinted.[*] On these terms he agreed to finish "Le Pere Goriot," as well as "Seraphita," and to write the "Memoires d'une Jeune Mariee," with the understanding that a separate contract was to be made for each of his contributions, and that he was free to write for other periodicals.

[*] The account of the lawsuit between Balzac and the Revue de Paris is taken from his "Historique du Proces auquel a donne lieu 'Le Lys dans la Vallee,'" which formed the second preface of the first edition of "Le Lys dans la Vallee" and is contained in vol. xxii. of the Edition Definitive of Balzac's works; and from "H. de Balzac et 'La Revue de Paris,'" which is the Review's account of the case, and may be found in "Un dernier chapitre de l'Historie des Oeuvres de H. de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberche de Lovenjoul.

Almost at once difficulties began, difficulties which are inevitable when a genius of the stamp of Balzac is bound by an unfortunate agreement to provide a specified quantity of copy at stated intervals. Balzac could not write to order. "Seraphita," planned to please Madame Hanska, was intended to be a masterpiece such as the world had never seen. From Balzac's letters there is no doubt that he was conscientiously anxious to finish it, only, as he remarks, "I have perhaps presumed too much of my strength in thinking that I could do so many things in so short a time."[*] When he made the unfortunate journey to Vienna, "Seraphita" still required, at his own computation, eight days' and eight nights' work; but, settled there, he turned his attention at once to "Le Lys dans la Vallee," which he had substituted for the "Memoires d'une Jeune Mariee," and at which he laboured strenuously. The first number of this appeared in the Revue de Paris, on November 22, 1835; but in the meantime Balzac's uncorrected proofs had been sold by Buloz to MM. Bellizard and Dufour, proprietors of the Revue Etrangere de St. Petersbourg. Therefore, in October, before the authorised version was published in Paris, there appeared in Russia, under the title of "Le Lys dans la Vallee," what Balzac indignantly characterised as the "unformed thoughts which served me as sketch and plan."

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

This was double treachery on the part of Buloz, as, by the treaty already mentioned, he had bought the right to publish Balzac's novels in the Revue de Paris only; and even if this stipulation had not been made, he had no excuse for selling as Balzac's completed work, what he knew to be absolutely unfinished. Balzac, after this, refused to receive him on friendly terms; but a meeting was arranged at the house of Jules Sandeau, at which Balzac and the Comte de Belloy met Buloz and Bonnaire. Sandeau and Emile Regnault, who were friends of both the contending parties, were also present; and they, after this conference, became for a time exclusively Balzac's friends, as he remarks significantly. Balzac owed the Review 2,100 francs; but the remainder of the "Lys" was ready to appear, and he calculated that for this, the payment due to him would be about 2,400 francs. He therefore proposed that the account between him and the journal should be closed with the end of the "Lys"; and that as indemnity for the injury done him by the action of Buloz in publishing his unfinished work in the Revue Etrangere, he should be permitted to send the novel in book form to a publisher at once, instead of waiting the three months stipulated in the agreement. MM. Buloz and Bonnaire refused this arrangement, declaring that it would be extortion; and after giving them twenty-four hours for reflection, Balzac announced his intention of writing no longer for the Revue de Paris, and prepared to bring an action against the proprietors.

Buloz and Bonnaire, however, decided that it would be good policy for the first attack to be on their side, and as Balzac could not obtain his proofs from Russia for a month at least, they sued him for breach of contract in not writing "Les Memoires d'une Jeune Mariee," and claimed 10,000 francs damages for his refusal to finish the "Lys dans la Vallee"; as well as fifty francs for each day's delay in his doing this. Balzac brought forward his counter claim, and offered the Revue de Paris the 2,100 francs which had been advanced to him; but they refused to be satisfied with the payment of this debt; and in May, 1836, the case opened.

There was a side issue on the subject of "Seraphita," about which the Revue certainly had just cause for complaint. In May, 1834, Balzac had been paid 1,700 francs in advance for this, and the first number appeared on June 1st, the second not following till July 20th. Then Balzac disappeared altogether; and when he returned in November, he proposed to begin "Le Pere Goriot" in the Revue, and promised after this had come to an end to return to "Seraphita"; but it was not till the middle of August, 1835, that he at last produced another number. After this there were again delays, and, according to Buloz, the whole of "Seraphita" was never offered to the Revue de Paris. The truth, however, appears to have been that Buloz at last completely lost his temper at Balzac's continual failures to fulfil his engagements, and declared that "Seraphita" was unintelligible, and was losing subscribers to the Review. Balzac, furious at this insult, paid Buloz 300 francs, to defray the expenses already incurred for the printing of "Seraphita," and took back his work. Buloz's receipt for this money is dated November 21st, 1835, two days before the appearance of the first number of the "Lys dans la Vallee" in Paris, so storms were gathering on all sides. Ten days after this, on December 2nd, Werdet brought out "Seraphita" in book form in "Le Livre Mystique," which contained also "Louis Lambert" and "Les Proscrits," a fact which proved Balzac's contention that in November it was ready for publication in the Revue de Paris. The first edition of "Le Livre Mystique" was sold in ten days, and the second followed it a month after, which, as Balzac remarked sardonically, was "good fortune for an unintelligible work." This success on the part of his enemy no doubt did not help to soften the indignant Buloz; and he must have been further exasperated by an article in the Chronique de Paris, in which Balzac was styled the "Providence des Revues," and the injury the Revue de Paris sustained in the loss of his collaboration was insisted on with irritating emphasis.

The case was carried on with the utmost bitterness by the Revue de Paris; Balzac's morals, his honesty, even his prose, being attacked with the greatest violence. Editors and publishers on all sides gave their testimony against him. He must have been amazed and confounded by the deep hatred he had evoked by his want of consideration, which on several occasions certainly amounted to a breach of good faith. All his old sins found him out. Amedee Pichot, former manager of the Revue de Paris, Forfellier of the Echo de la Jeune France, and Capo de Feuillide of L'Europe Litteraire, raised their voices against the high-handed and rapacious author. The smothered enmity and irritation of years at last found vent; and it was in vain that Balzac demonstrated, in the masterly defence of his conduct written in one night, which formed the preface to the "Lys dans la Vallee," that he had always remained technically within his rights, and that as far as money was concerned he owed the publishers nothing. Unwritten conventions had been defied, because it was possible to defy them with impunity; and editors who had gone through many black hours because of the failure of the great man to keep his promises, and who smarted under the recollection of the discourteous refusal of advances it had been an effort to make, did not spare their arrogant enemy now that it was possible to band together against him.

Perhaps, however, the bitterest blow to poor Balzac, was the fact that his brother authors, of whose rights he had been consistently the champion, did not scruple to turn against him. Either terrorised by the all-powerful Buloz, or jealous of one who insisted on his own abilities and literary supremacy with loud-voiced reiteration, Alexandre Dumas, Roger de Beauvoir, Frederic Soulie, Eugene Sue, Mery, and Balzac's future acquaintance Leon Gozlan, signed a declaration at the instance of Buloz, to the effect that it was the general custom that articles written for the Revue de Paris should be published also in the Revue Etrangere, and should thus avoid Belgian piracy. Jules Janin, whose criticisms on Balzac are peculiarly venomous, and Loeve-Veimars, added riders to this statement, expressing the same views, only with greater insistence. To these assertions, Balzac replied that Buloz had specially paid George Sand 100 francs a sheet over the price arranged, to obtain the right of sending her corrected proofs to Russia; and that arrangements on a similar basis had been made with Gustave Planche and M. Fontaney. The fact that exceptional payments were made on these occasions was conclusive evidence against simultaneous publication in Paris and St. Petersburg being the received practice. Moreover, as Balzac observes with unanswerable justice, even if this custom did exist, it would count as nothing against the agreement between him and Buloz. "M. Janin can take a carriage and go himself to carry his manuscripts to Brussels; M. Sue can get into a boat and sell his books in Greece; M. Loeve-Veimars can oblige his editors if they consent, to make as many printed copies of his future works as there are languages in Europe: all that will be quite right, the Revue is to-day like a publisher. My treaties, however, are made and written; they are before the eyes of the judge, they are not denied, and state that I only gave my articles to the Revue de Paris, to be inserted solely in the Revue, and nowhere else."

Balzac won the case. It was decided by the Tribunal of Judges on Friday, June 3rd, 1836, that he was not bound to give the "Memoires d'une Jeune Mariee" to the Revue de Paris, as when promised, the story had not been yet written, and the "Lys dans la Vallee" had been substituted for it; also that the 2100 francs which he had already offered to Buloz was all that he owed the Review. The judges left unsettled the question as to whether the proprietors of the Revue de Paris were entitled to hand over their contributors' corrected proofs to the Revue Etrangere; but decreed that they were certainly in the wrong when they parted with unfinished proofs. They were therefore condemned to pay the costs of the action.

Balzac's was a costly victory. Except the Quotidienne, which stood by him consistently, not a paper was on his side. His clumsiness of style, his habit of occasionally coining words to express his meaning, and the coarseness of some of his writings, combined with the prejudice caused by his literary arrogance, had always, to a certain extent, blinded literary and critical France to his consummate merits as a writer. Now, however, want of appreciation had changed to bitter dislike; and in addition to abuse, indiscriminate and often absurd of his writings, his enemies assailed his morals, ridiculed his personal appearance, and made fun of his dress and surroundings. He was not conciliatory; he did not bow to the storm. In June, 1839, appeared the second part of "Illusions Perdues," which was entitled "Un Grand Homme de Province a Paris," and was a violent attack on French journalism; and in March, 1843, Balzac published the "Monographie de la Presse Parisienne," a brilliant piece of work, but certainly not calculated to repair the breach between him and the publishing world. Nevertheless, though his pride and independence prevented him from trying to temporise, there is no doubt that Balzac suffered keenly from the hostility he encountered on all sides. He writes to Madame Hanska directly after the lawsuit: "Ah! you cannot imagine how intense my life has been during this month! I was alone for everything; harassed by the journal people who demanded money of me, harassed by payments to make, without having any money because I was making none, harassed by the lawsuit, harassed by my book, the proofs of which I had to correct day and night. No, I am astonished at having survived this struggle. Life is too heavy; I do not live with pleasure."[*] To add to his difficulties, Madame Bechet had lately become Madame Jacquillard, and possibly urged to action by M. Jacquillard, and alarmed by tales of Balzac's misdemeanours, she became restive, and demanded the last two volumes of the "Etudes de Moeurs" in twenty-four hours, or fifty francs for each day's delay. The affairs of the Chronique were at this time causing Balzac much anxiety, and he fled to the Margonnes at Sache; not for rest, but to work fifteen hours a day for "cette odieuse Bechet"; and there, in eight days, he not only invented and composed the "Illusions Perdues," but also wrote a third of it.

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

However, the strain had been too great even for his extraordinary powers, and while walking in the park after dinner with M. and Mme. de Margonne, on the day that letters arrived from Paris with the news that liquidation of the Chronique was necessary, he fell down in a fit under one of the trees. Completely stunned for the time, he could write nothing; and thought, in despair, of giving up the hopeless struggle, and of hiding himself at Wierzchownia. Fortunately, his unconquerable courage soon returned; he travelled to Paris, wound up the affairs of the Chronique; and as Werdet had allowed him twenty days' liberty, and his tailor and a workman had lent him money to pay his most pressing debts, he obtained a letter of credit from Rothschild, and started for Italy.

His ostensible object was a visit to Turin, to defend the Comte Guidoboni-Visconti in a lawsuit, as the Count, whose acquaintance he had made at the Italian Opera, could not go himself to Italy. In reality, however, in his exhaustion, and the overstrained state of his nerves, he craved for the freedom and distraction which he could only find in travel. Madame Visconti was an Englishwoman—another Etrangere —her name before her marriage had been Frances Sarah Lowell. Later on, she became one of Balzac's closest friends, and Madame Hanska was extremely jealous of her influence.

It is amusing to discover that Balzac did not take this journey alone. He was accompanied by a lady whom he describes in a letter as "charming, spirituelle, and virtuous," and who, never having had the chance in her life of breathing the air of Italy, and being able to steal twenty days from the fatigues of housekeeping, had trusted in him for inviolable secrecy and "scipionesque" behaviour. "She knows whom I love, and finds there the strongest safeguard."[*] This lady was Madame Marbouty, known in literature as Claire Brunne, and during her stay in Italy as "Marcel"—a name taken from the devoted servant in Meyerbeer's opera "Les Huguenots," which had just appeared. A few weeks earlier, she had refused to travel in Touraine with Balzac, as she considered that a journey with him in France would compromise her; but, apparently, in Italy this objection did not apply. She travelled in man's clothes, as Balzac's page, and both he and she were childishly delighted by the mystification they caused. Comte Sclopis, the celebrated Piedmontese statesman, who acted as their cicerone in Turin society, was much fascinated by the charming page. The liking was evidently mutual, as, after the travellers had left Italy, Balzac records that at Vevey, Lausanne, and all the places they visited, Marcel cried: "And no Sclopis!" and it sounds as though the exclamation had been accompanied by a sigh. Several times during the journey the lively Amazon was mistaken for George Sand, whom she resembled in face, as well as in the fancy for donning masculine attire; and the mistake caused her intense satisfaction. At Geneva, haunted to Balzac by happy memories, the travellers stayed at the Hotel de l'Arc, and Balzac's mind was full of his lady-love, whose spirit seemed to him to hallow the place. He saw the house where she stayed, went along the road where they had walked together, and was refreshed in the midst of his troubles and anxieties by the thought of her.

[*] See "L'Ecole des Manages," in "Autour de Honore de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.

On August 22nd the travellers returned to Paris on excellent terms with each other, and for some years after this journey friendly relations continued. In 1842, in remembrance of their adventure, Balzac dedicated "La Grenadiere" to Madame Marbouty, under the name of Caroline, and added the words, "A la poesie du voyage, le voyageur reconnaissant." Later on, however, they quarrelled, and she wrote "Une Fausse Position," in which Balzac is represented in a decidedly unflattering light; and after this he naturally withdrew the dedication in "La Grenadiere."

On his return from this amusing trip a terrible trouble awaited Balzac. Among the letters heaped together upon his writing-table was one from Alexandre de Berny, announcing abruptly the death of Madame de Berny, which had taken place on July 27th. Balzac was utterly crushed by this blow. He had not seen Madame de Berny for some time, as since the death of her favourite son she had shut herself up completely, pretending to Balzac that she was not very ill, but saying laughingly that she only wanted to see him when she was beautiful and in good health. Now she was dead, and the news came without preparation in the midst of his other troubles. She was half his life, he cried in despair; and writing to Madame Hanska he said that his sorrow had almost killed him. In the midst of this overwhelming grief other worries added their quota to the weight oppressing Balzac. Henri de Balzac gave his family continual trouble, while Laurence's husband, M. de Montzaigle, refused to support his children; in fact, the only faint relief to the darkness surrounding the Balzac family at this time was M. Surville's hopefulness about the Loire Canal scheme.

In addition to all these misfortunes, Balzac had to submit to the annoyance of several days' imprisonment in the Hotel des Haricots, for his refusal to serve in the Garde Nationale, a duty which was, he said, the nightmare of his life. The place of detention was not luxurious. There was no fire, and he was in the same hall for a time with a number of workmen, who made a terrible noise. Fortunately, he was soon moved to a private room, where he was warm and could work in peace. After this, in terrible pecuniary difficulties, and feeling acutely the loss of the woman who had been an angel to him in his former troubles, he left the Rue Cassini and fled from Paris, to avoid further detention by the civic authorities. He took refuge at Chaillot, and under the name of Madame Veuve Durand hid at No. 13, Rue des Batailles. Here he lodged for a time in a garret formerly occupied by Jules Sandeau, from the window of which there was a magnificent view of Paris, from the Ecole Militaire to the barrier of the Trone, and from the Pantheon to L'Etoile. From time to time Balzac would pause in his work to gaze on the ocean of houses below; but he never went out, for he was pursued by his creditors.

It is curiously characteristic of his love of luxury that, destitute as he was, he had no intention of occupying this modest garret for long, but that a drawing-room on the second floor, which would cost 700 francs, was already in preparation for his use. It was to No. 13, Rue des Batailles, that Emile de Girardin, who had just started La Presse, wrote asking him to contribute to its pages; and, in consequence, Balzac produced "La Vieille Fille," which began to appear on October 23rd, and shocked the subscribers very much. Here, too, at a most inopportune moment, Madame Hanska addressed to him a depressed and mournful letter, of which he complains bitterly. She was at this time extremely jealous of Madame Visconti, from whom she suspected that Madame de Mortsauf, in the "Lys dans la Vallee," had been drawn; and Balzac says he supposes that he must give up the Italian opera, the only pleasure he has, because a charming and graceful woman occupies the same box with him. In October he paid a sad little visit to La Boulonniere, which must have brought before him keenly the loss he had sustained; and after he spent a few days at Sache, where he was ill for a day or two as a result of mental worry and overwork.

Another blow was to fall on Balzac before the disastrous year 1836 came to a close. The "Lys dans la Vallee," on which Werdet had pinned all his hopes, had sold very badly, possibly owing to the hostility of the newspapers. As a climax to all Balzac's miseries, in October Werdet failed. This was doubly serious, as Balzac had signed several bills of exchange for his publisher, and was therefore liable for a sum of 13,000 francs. Werdet wrote a book abusing Balzac as the cause of his failure; and Balzac, on his side, was certainly unsympathetic about the misfortunes of a man whose interests, after all, were bound up with his own, and whom he politely called "childish, bird-witted, and obstinate as an ass." The truth seems to have been that, as Werdet aspired to be Balzac's sole publisher, he was obliged to buy up all the copies of Balzac's books which were already in the hands of publishers, and not having capital for this, he obtained money by credit and settled to pay by bills at long date. He also brought before the public a certain number of books by writers sympathetic to his client, and as these books were usually by young and unknown authors, their printing did not cover expenses. As a consequence of these imprudent ventures he was unable to meet his bills on maturity; and Balzac, being liable for some of them, was naturally furious, as he had to be in hiding from the creditors, while Werdet, as he remarked bitterly, was walking comfortably about Paris. Werdet was young and enthusiastic, and no doubt his imagination was fired by Balzac's picture of the glorious time in the future, when the great writer and his publisher should have both made their fortunes, and their carriages should pass each other in the Bois de Boulogne. There is no reason, however, to think that Balzac wilfully misrepresented matters, as Werdet insinuates. He was essentially good-hearted, as every one who knew him testifies; but his extraordinary optimism and power of self-deception, combined with the charm of his personality and the overmastering influence he exercised, made him a most dangerous man to be connected with in business; and Werdet, like many another, suffered from his alliance with the improvident man of genius.

Balzac also at this times suffered severely; but he had now completely recovered his energy. In his efforts to clear himself he worked thirty nights without going to bed, sending contributions to the Chronique, the Presse, the Revue Musicale, and the Dictionnaire de la Conversation, composing the "Perle Brisee," "La Vieille Fille," and "Le Secret des Ruggieri," besides finishing the last volumes of the "Etudes de Moeurs" and bringing out new editions of several of his books. As the result of his labours, he calculated, with his usual cheerfulness, that if he worked day and night for six months, and after that ten hours a day for two years, he would have paid off his debts and would have a little money in hand. In the end, he bound himself for fifteen years to an association formed by a speculator named Bohain: 50,000 francs being given him at once to pay off his most pressing debts, while, by the terms of the agreement, he provided a stipulated number of volumes every year, and was given 1,500 francs a month for the first year, 3,000 francs a month for the second year, 4,000 francs for the third, and so on. Besides this, he was to receive half the profits of each book after the publisher's expenses had been defrayed. As he was extremely pleased with this arrangement, which at any rate freed him from his immediate embarrassments, a faint ray of sunlight shone for him on the close of the sad year of 1836.



CHAPTER XI

1836 - 1840

"Louise"—Drawing-room in Rue des Batailles—The "Cheval Rouge" —Balzac's second visit to Italy—Conversation with Genoese merchant—Buys Les Jardies at Sevres—Travels to Sardinia to obtain silver from worked-out mines—Disappointment—Balzac goes on to Italy—Takes up his abode in Les Jardies—Life there—He hopes to write a successful play—"L'Ecole des Menages"—Balzac's half-starved condition—He defends Peytel.

It is curious to find that during the events recorded in the last chapter, when, to put the matter mildly, Balzac's spare time was limited, he yet managed to conduct a sentimental correspondence with "Louise," a lady he never met and whose name he did not know. Apparently, in the midst of his troubles, he was seized by an overmastering desire to pour out his feelings in writing to some kindred soul. Madame Hanska was far away, and could not answer promptly; besides, though passionately loved, she was not always sympathetic, the solid quality of her mind not responding readily to the quickness and delicacy of Balzac's emotions. Louise, to whom in 1844 he dedicated "Facino Cane," was close at hand; she was evidently mournful, sentimental, and admiring; she sent him flowers when he was in prison, and at another time a sepia drawing. Besides, her shadowy figure was decked for him with the fascination of the unknown, and there was excitement in the wonder whether the veil enveloping her would ever be lifted, and, like Madame Hanska, she would emerge a divinity of flesh and blood. However, in spite of Balzac's entreaties she refused to reveal her identity; and after about a year's correspondence, during which time Louise suffered from a great misfortune, the nature of which she kept secret, the letters between them ceased altogether.

Balzac had now left his garret, and was established in the drawing-room on the second floor of 13, Rue des Batailles, which is exactly described in "La Fille aux Yeux d'Or." The room was very luxurious, and the details had been thought out with much care.[*] One end of it had square corners, the other end was rounded, and the corners cut off to form the semicircle were connected by a narrow dark passage, and contained—one a camp bedstead, and the other a writing-table. A secret door led to this hiding-place, and here Balzac took refuge when pursued by emissaries from the Garde Nationale, creditors, or enraged editors. The scheme of colour in the room was white and flame-colour shading to the deepest pink, relieved by arabesques of black. A huge divan, fifty feet long and as broad as a mattress, ran round the horseshoe. This, like the rest of the furniture, was covered in white cashmere decked with flame-coloured and black bows, and the back of it was higher than the numerous cushions by which it was adorned. Above it the walls were hung with pink Indian muslin over red material, the flame-colour and black arabesques being repeated. The curtains were pink, the mantelpiece clock and candlesticks white marble and gold, the carpet and portieres of rich Oriental design, and the chandelier and candelabra to light the divan of silver gilt. About the room were elegant baskets containing white and red flowers, and in the place of honour on the table in the middle was M. de Hanski's magnificent gold and malachite inkstand. Balzac showed the glories of this splendid apartment with infantile pride and delight to visitors; and here, reckless of his pecuniary embarrassments, he gave a grand dinner to Theophile Gautier, the Marquis de Belloy, and Boulanger, and entertained them in the evening with good stories "a la Rabelais."

[*] See "Honore de Balzac" in "Portraits Contemporains," by Theophile Gautier.

About this time Balzac started the association he called the "Cheval Rouge," which was intended to be a mutual help society among a number of friends, who were to push and praise each other's compositions, and to rise as one man against any one who dared to attack a member of the alliance. The idea was a good one; but there was a comic side to it as conducted by Balzac, and the "Cheval Rouge," after five or six meetings, ceased to exist without having seriously justified its existence. Theophile Gautier, Jules Sandeau, and Leon Gozlan were among the members; and so dazzling were the pictures drawn by Balzac of the powers and scope of the society, that each one saw himself in imagination with a seat in the French Academy, and in succession peer of France, minister, and millionaire. It was sad that with these lofty aims the association should have been dissolved because most of its members were not able to pay their fifteen francs subscription. The first meeting was held at the Cheval Rouge, a very modest restaurant on the "Quai de l'Entrepot," from which the society took its name. The members were summoned by a card with a little red horse on it, and under this the words "Stable such a day, such a place." Everything was carried on with the greatest secrecy and mystery, and the arrangements, which were conducted by Balzac with much seriousness, afforded him intense pleasure. The "Cheval Rouge" might have been a dangerous political society from the precautions he took. In order to avoid suspicion one member was always to greet another member coldly in society; and Balzac would pretend to meet Gautier with much ceremony for the first time in a drawing-room, and then by delighted winks and grimaces would point out to him how well he was acting.

In March, 1837, Balzac paid a second visit to Italy; travelling through a part of Switzerland, stopping at Milan, Venice, Genoa, and Florence, and returning to Paris on May 3rd. His health was, he said, detestable at this time, and he required rest and change. He went alone, as Gautier, who had intended to be his companion, was kept in Paris by the necessity of writing criticisms on the pictures in the Salon. One object of Balzac's journey was to visit Florence to see Bartolini's bust of Madame Hanska, of which he evidently approved, as he asked M. de Hanski's permission to have a small copy made of it which he could always keep on his writing-table; but this was never sent to him. He was delighted with Venice, which he now saw for the first time; and in Florence was specially charmed with the pictures at the Pitti, though he found travelling by himself rather dull, and decided that his next journey should be undertaken at a time when Gautier could accompany him. At Genoa he met a wily merchant, to whom he unfortunately confided the last brilliant scheme for making his fortune which was floating through his active brain.

He had read in Tacitus that the Romans found silver in Sardinia; and it occurred to him, that, as the ancients were not learned in extracting metals, silver might still be found among the lead which was turned out of the mines as refuse. The Genoese merchant appeared much interested in Balzac's conversation, and remarked that, owing to the carelessness of the Sardinians, whole mountains of dross, containing lead, and most probably silver, were left in the vicinity of the mines. He was most obliging: he promised to send Balzac a specimen of the dross that it might be submitted to Parisian experts, and if the result were satisfactory, Balzac and he were to ask for a permit from the Government at Turin, and would work the mines together. When this had been arranged Balzac departed in high spirits, determined to keep his secret carefully, and feeling that at last he was on the high road to fortune. On the way back he was detained in quarantine for some time, and partly from economy, partly because he wanted to see Neufchatel, where he had first met Madame Hanska, he travelled back by Milan and the Splugen, and reached Paris in perfect health.

Here fresh misfortunes awaited him, as Werdet was bankrupt, and, as a consequence, his creditors pursued Balzac. Never in future would he be answerable or sign his name for any one, he cried in despair. He had forestalled the money allowed him by his treaty with Bohain, was working day and night, and in a few days would retire into an unknown garret, and live as he had done in the Rue Lesdiguieres. Nevertheless, in his anxiety to see Madame Hanska, he had begun to think out economical ways of getting to Ukraine. He was not very well at this time, and in August he went to Sache, to see whether his native air would revive him.

His next action would be astonishing to any one unacquainted with his extraordinary recklessness. In October 1837 he gave up the rooms at the Rue Cassini, which he had kept during the time of his residence at Passy; and in order to escape what he termed "an atrocious law" on the subject of his abhorrence the Garde Nationale, he bought a piece of land in the Ville d'Avray, at Sevres, on which he began to build a house, planned by himself. This soon acquired celebrity as "Les Jardies," and gave much amusement to the Parisians, who were never tired of inventing stories about Balzac's villa. In March, 1838, before he settled in his new abode, he started on a journey to Sardinia to investigate matters himself about the mines. It was a year since the Genoese merchant had promised to send him a specimen of the dross, and as nothing had yet arrived, he was beginning to feel anxious.

The object of his journey was kept absolutely secret; owing to the dangers of the post even Madame Hanska being told only that "it is neither a marriage, nor anything adventurous, foolish, frivolous, or imprudent. It is a serious and scientific affair, about which it is impossible for me to tell you a word, because I am bound to the most absolute secrecy."[*] He had to borrow from his mother and from a cousin, and to pawn his jewellery to obtain money for his expedition. On the way he stayed with the Carrauds at Frapesle, where he was ill for a few days; and he went from there to pay his "comrade" George Sand a three days' visit at Nohant. He found her in man's attire, smoking a "houka," very sad, and working enormously; and he and she had long talks, lasting from five in the evening till five in the morning, and ranging over manners, morals, love affairs, and literature. She approved of "La Premiere Demoiselle," a play planned in February, 1837, which Madame Hanska had discouraged because she did not like the plot; and Balzac determined to work at it seriously now that "Cesar Birotteau" was finished. This brilliant picture of the Parisian bourgeoisie had been published in December, 1837, under the title of "Histoire de la Grandeur et de la decadence de Cesar Birotteau." Since then, Balzac had produced nothing new in book form, though he was writing "La Maison de Nucingen" for La Presse, and working at "Massimilla Doni," and at the second part of "Illusions Perdues." He was also preparing to bring out a "Balzac Illustre," which was to be a complete edition of his works with pictures; but of this only one volume, "La Peau de Chagrin," was ever published.

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

From Nohant he went to Marseilles, and from there he sent letters both to his mother and to Madame Carraud, written in a very different frame of mind from his usual one when he embarked on a scheme for making his fortune. "Now that I am almost at my destination, I begin to have a thousand doubts; anyhow, one cannot risk less to gain more. I do not fear the journey, but what a return if I fail!"[*]

[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 394.

He crossed from Marseilles to Ajaccio, and suffered much on the voyage, though he travelled on the mail steamer from Toulon, and spent a great deal of money by doing this. However, he was really trying to be economical, as on his way to Marseilles he had lived on ten sous' worth of milk a day, and when he reached there he put up at an hotel where his room cost fifteen sous and his dinner thirty.

The scenery of Corsica was, he said, magnificent; but he did not much appreciate Ajaccio, where he had to wait some time for a boat to take him to Sardinia, and said the civilisation was as primitive as that of Greenland. His only consolation about the delay was in the idea that he would have time to go on with "La Premiere Demoiselle," for which George Sand predicted a great success, while his sister told him it was superb. Therefore, as he had written the "Physiologie du Mariage" and "La Peau de Chagrin" against the advice of Madame de Berny, he determined to continue his play in spite of Madame Hanska's disapproval. His five days' journey to Sardinia was most uncomfortable, as he travelled in a rowing-boat belonging to French coral fishers. The food caught consisted of execrable soup, made from the fish caught by the fishermen during the voyage; and Balzac had to sleep on the bridge, where he was devoured by insects. To add to his misfortunes, the boat was kept for five days in quarantine in view of the port, and the inhabitants refused to give the occupants any food, or to allow them in a bad storm to attach their cables to the port-rings. This they managed at last to do, in spite of the objections of the governor, who, determined to assert his authority, decreed that the cable should be taken off as soon as the sea became calm: a regulation which, as Balzac said, was absurd, because either the people would by that time have caught the cholera, or they would not catch it at all.

When Balzac at last landed, he felt as though he were in Central Africa or Polynesia, as the inhabitants wore no clothes, and were bronzed like Ethiopians. He was much horrified at their misery and savage condition. Their dwellings he describes as dens without chimneys, and their food in many parts consisted of a horrible bread made of acorns ground, and mixed with clay.

No doubt he was not disposed to take a particularly favourable view of Sardinia, as it was to him the scene of a bitter disappointment. He had been right in his calculations about the value of the refuse from the mines: the dross contained 10 per cent of lead, and the lead 10 per cent of silver. But a Marseilles company as well as his Genoese friend had been beforehand with him, had obtained from the Government at Turin the right to work the mines, and were already in possession. Balzac's monetary sacrifices, and the hardships he had suffered on his journey, were in vain; he must return to sleepless nights of work, and must redouble his efforts in the endeavour to pay back the money he had borrowed for his expedition. He showed his usual pluck at this juncture; there were no complaints in his letters, and with singular forbearance he does not even abuse the faithless Genoese merchant. His expedition was useful to others, if not to himself; as he travelled on to Italy, and made a long stay at Milan in order to work for the interests of the Viscontis, whose property, without his efforts, would have been sequestrated owing to political complications. It is significant that Madame Hanska, who was always suspicious about Madame Visconti, was not informed of this reason for his long sojourn at Milan, which we hear of from a letter to his sister. Balzac was terribly low-spirited at this time; his whole life seemed to have been a failure, and he was approaching the age of forty, the date at which he had always determined to give up his aspirations, to fight no more, and to join the great company of the resigned. He was tired out, and very homesick. He admired the Cathedral, the churches, the pictures; but he was weary of Italy, and longed for France with its grey skies and cold winds. Behind this longing, and possibly the origin of it, was a passionate desire in his disappointment and disgust of life to be again near his "polar star."

It was a comfort when, the affairs of the Viscontis being at last satisfactorily arranged, he was able on June 6th to start on his journey back to France. He travelled by the Mont Cenis, and was nearly blinded by clouds of fine dust, so that he was unable to write for some days.

When he reached Paris he only remained for a short time in the Rue des Batailles, as in July, 1838, in defiance of his doctor's warnings about damp walls, he took up his residence at Les Jardies, having at the same time a pied-a-terre in Paris at the house of Buisson, his tailor, 108, Rue Richelieu. Les Jardies was a quaint abode. Built on a slippery hill, it overlooked the Ville d'Avray with smoky Paris below, and in the distance there was a view of the plain of Mont-rouge and the road to Orleans, which led also to Balzac's beloved Tours. The principal staircase was outside, because Balzac, in designing the house, found that a staircase seriously interfered with the symmetry of the rooms. Therefore he placed it in an inconspicuous position in a special construction at the back, and owing to the extremely steep slope the visitor entered by the top floor, and made his way down instead of up. There were three stories, the lowest containing the drawing-room and dining-room, the second a bedroom and dressing-room, and the third Balzac's study. All round the house, which was painted to represent bricks, was a verandah supported by black columns, and the cage in the rear which held the staircase was painted red. About sixty feet behind this curious habitation was the real living-place of Les Jardies, where Balzac kept his servants. Part of this he let at a later date to the Viscontis, and they had charge of his rich library, and of the beautiful furniture brought from the Rue des Batailles, which might, if kept by its owner, have been seized by his creditors.

The interior of this charming abode was intended to be adorned with the utmost magnificence, but it was never finished; there were no curtains, and no furniture to speak of. Years after, descriptions such as the following were still scrawled in charcoal on the bare stucco: "Here is a veneering of Parian marble"; "Here is a mantelpiece in cipolin marble"; "Here is a ceiling painted by Eugene Delacroix." Balzac laughed himself at these imaginary decorations, and was much delighted when Leon Gozlan wrote in large letters in his study, which was as bare as the other rooms, "Here is a priceless picture by Raphael." However, there was one thing at Les Jardies of which he was really proud; and that was his system of bell-ringing, which he considered a chef-d'oeuvre. Instead of having hanging wires with "big, stupid, indiscreet bells" at the end of them, his bells were hidden ingeniously in an angle of the wall; and his pride in this brilliant invention made him forget any possible deficiencies in the decorations and appointments of the mansion.

The great feature, however, at Les Jardies, and the torment, the delight, and the despair of Balzac's life, was the piece of land round the house where the garden ought to have been. He had beautiful plans about this when first he arrived at Les Jardies. The soil was then absolutely bare; but, as he remarked, it was possible to buy everything in Paris, and as money was, of course, no object with him, he intended in the autumn to have good-sized magnolias, limes, poplars, and willows transported there, and to make a little Eden of sweet scents, covered with plants and bushes. No doubt, in imagination he already saw his beautiful flowers, and wandered in this delightful and well-kept garden, which, as nothing with Balzac could possibly be ordinary, was to be "surprising." The reality, however, was sadly different from his expectations. In vain, by his orders asphalt paths were made in all directions, and landscape gardeners worked for months, trying with stones cunningly inserted to prop up the steep, slippery slope, and to form little terraces on which something might have a chance of growing. With the slightest shower, down tumbled these plateaus; and the work of building had to begin again. It was amusing, Leon Gozlan tells us, to see the amazement of the actor Frederick Lemaitre when he came to see Balzac; and found himself expected to walk up the side of a hill, with the ground at each step slipping under his feet. To support himself he stuck stones behind his heels, and Balzac meanwhile walked by his side with the calmness of a proprietor who is thoroughly used to the vagaries of his own territory, and scorns foreign assistance.

Occasionally, however, even Balzac came to the end of his equanimity. The wall, which separated his property from that of the neighbour below him, was a continual anxiety. In spite of all possible precautions it tumbled down constantly, and scattered stones and mortar over the ground on each side of it. After this had happened two or three times, and Balzac, while investigating the extent of the damage on one of these occasions, had fallen and injured his leg, so that he was in bed for forty days, a meeting of experts was held, and it was decided that the angle at which the wall had been built was not sufficiently acute. The error was rectified, and there were general rejoicings and congratulations; but the next day it rained, and in the evening news was brought to Balzac that the whole structure had toppled over, and was reposing in ruins in his neighbour's garden. This was serious, as the neighbour promptly sent in an enormous bill for damages done to his carrots and turnips; and it was probably on this occasion that Balzac wrote in March 1839 a despairing letter to Madame Carraud, containing the words: "To you, sister of my soul, I can confide my greatest secrets; I am now in the midst of terrible misery. All the walls of Les Jardies have fallen down through the fault of the builder, who did not make any foundations."[*] No builder, however, managed to effect the feat of making this unfortunate wall stand upright; and in the end, to allow it to come down in peace and comfort whenever it felt so disposed, Balzac bought the strip of his neighbour's land which bordered it, and after that, ceased to feel anguish at its vagaries.

[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 453.

The wall was decidedly important, as Balzac's fortune was to be made by the contents of the garden at Les Jardies, and it would not have been satisfactory for strangers to be able to wander there at will. Balzac's new plan for becoming rich was to cover most of his territory with glass houses, and to plant 100,000 feet with pineapples. Owing to the warmth of the soil, he considered that these pineapples would not need much heat, and could be sold at five francs apiece, instead of the louis charged for them in Paris. They would therefore be quickly disposed of, and 500,000 francs would be made, which, deducting 100,000 francs for expenses, would mean a clear profit of 400,000 francs a year. "And this money will be made without a page of copy," said poor Balzac. He was, of course, absolutely confident about the success of this new undertaking, and Theophile Gautier, who tells the story,[*] says that a search was made for a shop in which to sell these pineapples of the future. This shop was to be painted black with lines of gold, and was to have on it in huge letters the announcement, "Ananas des Jardies"; but Gautier managed to persuade Balzac in order to avoid useless expense, not to hire it till the next year, when the pineapples would have had time to grow. However, perhaps Balzac was discouraged by the sight of the snow falling silently on his slope, or possibly his desire to make a fabulous sum of money by a successful play had for a time blotted out all other ambitions; at any rate, we hear no more of the pineapples of Les Jardies.

[*] "Portraits Contemporains—Honore de Balzac," by Theophile Gautier.

Balzac's terribly embarrassed condition in 1837 caused him to return with new ardour to the idea which haunted him all his life, that of an immense theatrical success which should put an end for ever to his pecuniary embarrassments. References to projected plays, to the difficulty he found in writing them, and to his hope of finally freeing himself from debt by producing a masterpiece at the theatre, occur constantly in his letters. "Marie Touchet" and "Philippe le Reserve"—afterwards to become "Les Ressources de Quinola"—were the names of some of the plays he intended to write. In February, 1837, as we have already seen, he planned out "La Premiere Demoiselle," which he abandoned for the time, but which he worked at with much energy during his ill-fated expedition to Sardinia, and continued at Les Jardies during the summer and autumn of 1838. Before starting for Sardinia he wrote to Madame Carraud: "If I fail in what I undertake, I shall throw myself with all my might into writing for the theatre." He kept his word, and "La Premiere Demoiselle," a gloomy bourgeois tragedy, which soon received the name of "L'Ecole des Menages," was the result.

With the distrust in himself, which always in matters dramatic mingled with his optimistic self-confidence, Balzac determined to have a collaborator, and chose a young man named Lassailly, who was peculiarly unfitted for the difficult post. In doing this he only gave one instance out of many of the wide gulf which separated Balzac the writer, gifted with the psychological powers which almost amounted to second sight, and Balzac in ordinary life, many of whose misfortunes had their origin in an apparent want of knowledge of human nature, which caused him to make deplorable mistakes in choosing his associates.

The agreement between Balzac and his collaborator stipulated that the latter should be lodged and fed at the expense of Balzac, and should, on his side, be always at hand to help his partner with dramatic ideas. Balzac performed his part of the treaty nobly, and Lassailly remembered long afterwards the glories of the fare at Les Jardies; but his life became a burden to him from his incapacity to do what was expected of him, and he was nearly killed by Balzac's nocturnal habits. He was permitted to go to bed when he liked; but at two or three in the morning Balzac's peremptory bell would summon him to work, and he would rise, frightened and half stupefied with sleep, to find his employer waiting for him, stern and pale from his vigil. "For," Leon Gozlan says, "the Balzac fighting with the demon of his nightly work had nothing in common with the Balzac of the street and of the drawing-room."[*] He would be asked severely what help he could give, and, as a result of his terrified and drowsy stammerings would be sent to bed for another hour to see whether in that time inspiration would visit him. Six or eight times in the course of the night would this scene be repeated; and at last Lassailly, who was delicate, became seriously ill and had to leave Les Jardies, ever after looking back on the terrible Balzac and his appalling night-watches, as a nightmare to be recalled with a shudder.

[*] "Balzac en Pantoufles," by Leon Gozlan.

Balzac, deprived of Lassailly's valuable assistance, worked on alone; and at first everything seemed likely to go well with "L'Ecole des Menages."[*] The Renaissance, a new theatre which had opened on November 8th, 1838, with the first representation of Victor Hugo's "Ruy Blas," seemed willing to take Balzac's play to follow this; and M. Armand Pereme, a distinguished antiquary whom Balzac had met at Frapesle, was most active in conducting the negotiations. However, in the end the Renaissance refused the drama. Balzac was terribly dilatory, and irritated every one by not keeping his engagements, and he was also high-handed about the arrangements he considered necessary to the success of his tragedy. His unfortunate monetary embarrassments, too, made it necessary for him to ask for 16,000 francs before the play was written, a request which the Renaissance Theatre was rather slow in granting. However, the real reason for the rejection of the drama, which took place on February 26th, 1839—just at the time when Balzac was in despair because the wall at Les Jardies had fallen down—was want of money on the part of the managers of the theatre. The only thing that could save the Renaissance from ruin was a great success; and Alexandre Dumas, with whom the directors had formerly quarrelled, had now made peace with them, and had offered them "L'Alchimiste," which would be certain to attract large audiences. They accepted this in place of Balzac's play, and "L'Ecole des Menages," of which the only copy extant is in the possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, has never been acted.

[*] See "L'Ecole des Menages" in "Autour de Honore de Balzac," by the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul.

Balzac was in terrible trouble about the rejection of the drama from which he had hoped so much. He wrote to Madame Carraud[*] in March, 1839: "I have broken down like a foundered horse. I shall certainly require rest at Frapesle. The Renaissance had promised me 6,000 francs bounty to write a piece in five acts; Pereme was the agent, everything was arranged. As I wanted 6,000 francs at the end of February, I set to work. I spent sixteen nights and sixteen days at it, only sleeping three hours out of the twenty-four; I employed twenty workmen at the printer's office, and I managed to write, make and compose the five acts of 'L'Ecole des Menages' in time to read it on February 25th. The directors had no money, or perhaps Dumas, who had not acted fairly to them, and with whom they were angry, had returned to them; they would not hear my piece, and refused it. So here I am, worn out with work, sixteen days lost, 6,000 francs to pay, and nothing! This blow has crushed me, I have not yet recovered from it. My career at the theatre will have the same course as my literary career, my first work will be refused. A superhuman courage is necessary for these terrible hurricanes of misfortune."

[*] "Correspondance," vol. i. p. 454.

In the midst of his troubles, he thought with bitter regret of Madame de Berny, who would have understood everything, and have known how to help and console him. He was in a miserable state, was chased like a hare by creditors, and was on the point of lacking bread, candles, and paper. Then to add to his misery would come a sensible letter from the far-distant Madame Hanska, blaming his frivolity and levity; and, in his state of semi-starvation, poor Balzac would be almost driven frantic by words of reproach from his divinity.

A little earlier than this he had found time for an enormous amount of work which would seem completely out of his province, and had written letter after letter in the Siecle, and spent 10,000 francs, in defence of Peytel, a notary of Belley, who had been condemned to death on August 26th, 1839, for the murder of his wife and servant. Peytel appealed against his sentence, and Balzac, who had met him several times, espoused his cause with vehemence. There did not seem to be much satisfactory defence available for the prisoner, who admitted the fact that while driving in a carriage not far from Belley, he had shot both his wife and the coachman. Balzac, however, was urgent in upholding Peytel's contention that his crime had been homicide, not murder, and brought forward the plea of "no premeditation." His energetic efforts were of no avail: Peytel was executed at Bourg on November 28th, 1839, and Balzac, who had espoused his cause with quixotic enthusiasm, was genuinely sorry. He wrote to Madame Hanska in September: "I am extremely agitated by a horrible case, the case of Peytel. I have seen this poor fellow three times. He is condemned; I start in two hours for Bourg." On November 30th he continues: "You will perhaps have heard that after two months of unheard-of efforts to save him from his punishment Peytel went two days ago to the scaffold, like a Christian, said the priest; I say, like an innocent man."[*]

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

Another disappointment this year was the fact that Balzac considered it his duty, after presenting himself as candidate for the Academie and paying many of the prescribed visits, to retire in favour of Victor Hugo. As early as 1833 he had aspired to become some day "un des Quarante," and he then said half jokingly to his sister: "When I shall work at the dictionary of the Academy!"[*] He was never destined to receive the honour of admittance to this august body, though after his first attempt in 1839, when he himself withdrew, he again tried his fortune in 1843 and in 1849. His normal condition of monetary embarrassment was one reason for his failure, and no doubt some of the members of l'Academie Francaise disapproved of certain of his books, and perhaps did not admire his style. At any rate, as his enemy Saint-Beuve expressed it concisely: "M. de Balzac est trop gros pour nos fauteuils," and while men who are now absolutely unknown entered the sacred precincts without difficulty, the door remained permanently closed to the greatest novelist of the age.

[*] "Balzac, sa Vie et ses Oeuvres," par Mme. L. Surville (nee de Balzac).



CHAPTER XII

1840 - 1843

"Vautrin"—La Revue Parisienne—Societe des Gens-de-Lettres —Balzac leaves Les Jardies, and goes to the Rue Basse, Passy —Death of M. de Hanski—"Les Ressources de Quinola"—"La Comedie Humaine"—Balzac goes to St. Petersburg to meet Madame Hanska—Her reasons for deferring the marriage.

The sad fate of "L'Ecole des Menages" did not long discourage Balzac. At the beginning of 1840 he made an engagement to provide Harel, the speculative manager of the Theatre Porte-St-Martin, with a drama. The play was accepted before it was written; and in order to be near the theatre Balzac established himself in the fifth floor of the house of Buisson, his tailor, at the corner of the Rue Richelieu. His proceedings were, as usual, eccentric. One day Gautier, who tells the story, was summoned in a great hurry, and found his friend clad in his monk's habit, walking up and down his elegant attic, and shivering with impatience.

"'Here is Theo at last,' he cried, when he saw me. 'You idler! dawdle! sloth! gee up, do make haste! You ought to have been here an hour ago! To-morrow I am going to read to Harel a grand drama in five acts.'

"'And you want my advice,' I answered, settling myself comfortably in an armchair, ready to submit to a long reading.

"From my attitude Balzac guessed my thought, and said simply, 'The drama is not written.'

"'Good heavens!' said I: 'well, then you must put off the reading for six weeks.'

"'No, we must hurry on the drama to get the money. In a short time I have a large sum of money to pay.'

"'To-morrow is impossible; there is no time to copy it.'

"'This is the way I have arranged things. You will write one act, Ourliac another, Laurent-Jan the third, De Belloy the fourth, I the fifth, and I shall read it at twelve o'clock as arranged. One act of a drama is only four or five hundred lines; one can do five hundred lines of dialogue in a day and the night following.'

"'Relate the subject to me, explain the plot, sketch out the characters in a few words, and I will set to work,' I said, rather frightened.

"'Ah,' he cried, with superb impatience and magnificent disdain, 'if I have to relate the subject to you, we shall never have finished!'"[*]

[*] "Portraits Contemporains—Honore de Balzac," by Theophile Gautier.

After a great deal of trouble, Gautier managed to persuade Balzac to give him a slight idea of the plot, and began a scene, of which only a few words remain in the finished work. Of all Balzac's expected collaborators, Laurent-Jan, to whom "Vautrin" is dedicated, was the only person who worked seriously.

In two months and a half of rehearsals Balzac became almost unrecognisable from worry and overwork. His perplexities became public property, and people used to wait at the door of the theatre to see him rush out, dressed in a huge blue coat, a white waistcoat, brown trousers, and enormous shoes with the leather tongues outside, instead of inside, his trousers. Everything he wore was many sizes too big for him, and covered with mud from the Boulevards; and it was an amusement to the frivolous Parisians to see him stride along in these peculiar garments, his face bearing the impress of the trouble and overstrain he was enduring. He was at the mercy of every one. The manager hurried and harried him, because the only hope of saving the theatre from bankruptcy was the immediate production of a successful play. The actors, knowing the piece was not finished, each clamoured for a part to suit his or her peculiar idiosyncrasies, and Balzac was so overburdened, that occasionally in despair he was tempted to abandon his play altogether.

There was tremendous excitement in Paris about the approaching first representation of "Vautrin"; and foreign politics, banquets, and even the burning question of reform, paled in interest before the great event. All the seats were sold beforehand; and as there was a rush for the tickets, Balzac and Harel chose their audience, and thought that they had managed to secure one friendly to Balzac. Unfortunately, however, the seats were sold so early that many of them were parted with at a profit by the first buyers, and in the end a large proportion of the spectators were avowedly hostile to Balzac. March 14th, 1840, was the important date, and Balzac wrote to Madame Hanska: "I have gone through many miseries, and if I have a success they will be completely over. Imagine what my anxiety will be during the evening when 'Vautrin' is being acted. In five hours' time it will be decided whether I pay or do not pay my debts."[*]

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

He was very nervous beforehand, and told Leon Gozlan that he was afraid there would be a terrible disaster.

The plot of the play is extraordinary and impossible. Vautrin, the Napoleon among convicts, who appears in several of Balzac's novels, is the hero; he had declared war against society, and the scene of the drama, with Vautrin as the principal figure, passes in the aristocratic precincts of the Faubourg St. Germain. The theatre was crowded for the performance, and the first three acts, though received coldly, went off without interruption. At the fourth act, however, the storm burst, as Frederick Lemaitre, who evidently felt qualms about the success of his part, had determined to make it comic, and appeared in the strange costume of a Mexican general, with a hat trimmed with white feathers, surmounted by a bird of paradise. Worse still, when he took off this hat he showed a wig in the form of a pyramid, a coiffure which was the special prerogative of Louis Philippe! The play was doomed. The Duke of Orleans, who was in one of the boxes, left the theatre hurriedly; and it was difficult to finish the performance, so loud were the shouts, hisses, and even threats. The next day the following official announcement appeared in the Moniteur: "The Minister of the Interior has interdicted the appearance of the drama performed yesterday at the Theatre of the Porte St. Martin under the title of 'Vautrin.'" Balzac's hated foes, the journalists, of course rejoiced in his downfall, and accentuated the situation by declaring the piece to be not only disloyal, but revoltingly immoral. On the other hand, Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Mme. de Girardin, stood firmly by him, and Frederick Lemaitre, to whom Balzac evidently bore no malice for his large share in the disaster, was, he said, "sublime."

Leon Gozlan went to see Balzac the day after the performance, and found him outwardly calm, but his face was flushed, his hands burning, and his lips swollen, as though he had passed through a night of fever. He did not mention the scene of the night before, but talked eagerly of a plan to start a large dairy at Les Jardies, and to provide Paris and Versailles with rich milk. He had several other equally brilliant schemes on hand: he intended to grow vines, cultivate vegetables, sell manure; and by these varied means to assure himself of an income of eighteen thousand francs.

The Director of the Beaux-Arts was sent to offer Balzac money to make up for his loss; he says, however: "They came to offer me an indemnity, and began by proposing five thousand francs. I blushed to my hair, and answered that I did not accept charity, that I had put myself two hundred thousand francs in debt by writing twelve or fifteen masterpieces, which would count for something in the glory of France in the nineteenth century; that for three months I had done nothing but rehearse 'Vautrin,' and that during those three months I should otherwise have gained twenty-five thousand francs; that a pack of creditors were after me, but that from the moment that I could not satisfy all, it was quite indifferent to me whether I were tracked by fifty or by a hundred, as the amount of courage required for resistance was the same. The Director of the Beaux-Arts, Cave, went out, they tell me, full of esteem and admiration. 'This,' said he, 'is the first time that I have been refused.' 'So much the worse,' I answered."[*]

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

Balzac became very ill with fever and brain neuralgia the day after the performance of "Vautrin," and Madame Surville took him to her house and nursed him. When he left his bed it was, of course to find his affairs in a worse condition than ever, and he was, as he described himself, "a stag at bay." His friendship with Madame Visconti was a consolation to him in his troubles; he described her to Madame Hanska, who did not quite appreciate these raptures, as "one of the most amiable of women, of infinite and exquisite goodness. Of delicate, elegant beauty, she helps me to support life." Nevertheless, no friendships made up for the want of a wife, and home, the two things for which he yearned; and he writes sadly: "I have much need now of having my wounds tended and cured, and of being able to live without cares at Les Jardies, and to pass my days quietly between work and a wife. But it seems as if the story of every man will only be a novel to me."[*]

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

His despondency did not abate his powers of work, as from April to December he published "Z. Marcas," "Un Prince de la Boheme," and "Pierre Grassou"; while in 1841, among other masterpieces, appeared "La Fausse Maitresse," "Une Tenebreuse Affaire," "Un Menage de Garcon," "Ursule Mirouet," and "Les Memoires de deux Jeunes Mariees." He was almost at the end of his courage however, and talked seriously in the case of failure in his new enterprise—the Revue Parisienne —of going to Brazil on some mad errand which he would undertake because it was mad; and of either coming back rich or disappearing altogether.

A monthly magazine, of which one man was to be director, manager, editor, besides being sole contributor, was a heroic attempt at making a fortune; and this was what Balzac contemplated, and accomplished for a short time in the Revue Parisienne. His mode of working was not calculated to lessen the strain to which he subjected himself, as, never able to start anything till pressed for time, he left the work till near the end of the month, when the printers were clamouring for copy. Then there was no pause or slumber for him; his attention was concentrated on his varied and difficult subjects till the moment when he rushed with disordered garments to the printer's office. There, seated anywhere—on the corner of a table, at a compositor's frame, or before a foreman's bureau—he became completely absorbed in the colossal labour of reading and correcting his proofs. The first number of the Revue Parisienne appeared on July 25th, 1840; but it was only continued for three months, as Balzac decided that the task was too much for him. During its short life however, it furnished a magnificent and striking example of his extraordinary powers and mental attainments; as each of the numbers was the size of a small volume, and he provided novels, biography, philosophy, analysis, and criticism, and treated brilliantly each subject he attacked.

A question in which Balzac took the greatest interest was that of the rights of authors and publishers, under which Louis Philippe did not meet with much respect. Not only did the Belgians reproduce French works at a cheap rate by calmly dispensing with the duty of paying their authors; but publishers in the provinces often followed this pernicious practice, and it was difficult to prosecute them. A striking instance of this injustice was to be found in the case of "Paroles d'un Croyant," by M. de Lamennais, of which ten thousand pirated copies were sold in Toulouse, where only five hundred of the authorised edition had been sent by the publisher. No redress could be obtained because, though the fact was certain, legal proofs were apparently lacking; but in consequence of this glaring infraction of the rights of both author and publisher, on December 28th, 1838, Balzac became a member of the Societe des Gens-de-Lettres. This Society, which was insignificant when he first joined it, owed everything to his reputation, and to the energy with which he worked for its interests. On October 22, 1839, he spoke at Rouen in its behalf, in the first action brought by it against literacy piracy. Later in the same year he was elected President, and in May, 1840, he drew up the masterly "Code Litteraire de la Societe des Gens-de-Lettres"[*] to which reference has already been made. On September 5th, 1841, however, in consequence of a dispute concerning the drawing up by the Gens-de-Lettres of a manifesto to be presented to the deputies composing the Law Commission on Literary Property, Balzac withdrew from the Society. The ostensible reason for his resignation was, that at a committee meeting to discuss the Manifesto, doubts were thrown on his impartiality; but it seems probable from his letter[+] that some unwritten ground for complaint really caused his withdrawal. After Balzac's death, the Society des Gens-de-Lettres acknowledged with gratitude the debt owed him as one of the founders of the Society, and the help received from his intelligence and activity.

[*] This may be found in the Edition Definitive of Balzac's works, or in "Balzac Chez Lui," by Leon Gozlan.

[+] "Correspondance," vol. ii. p. 20.

In 1840, before he ceased to belong to the Societe des Gens-de-Lettres, he had left Les Jardies; and had hidden himself under the name of Madame de Brugnolle, his housekeeper, in a mysterious little house at No. 19, Rue Basse, Passy; to which no one was admitted without many precautions, even after he had given the password. Behind this was a tiny garden where Balzac would sit in fine weather, and talk over the fence to M. Grandmain, his landlord. In his new abode he established many of his treasures: his bust by David d'Angers, some of the beautiful furniture he was collecting in preparation for the home he longed for, and many of his pictures, those treasures by Giorgione, Greuze, and Palma, which were the delight of his heart. With great difficulty, by publishing books and articles in quick succession, he had prevented the sale of Les Jardies by his creditors. As he had no money to pay cab fares this entailed rushing from Passy to Paris on foot, often in pouring rain; with the result that he became seriously ill, and found it necessary to recruit in Touraine and Brittany.

On June 15th, 1841, a fictitious sale for 15,500 francs was made of Les Jardies, which had cost Balzac 100,000 francs; but he did not really part with the villa till later, when he had decided that it would not be suitable ultimately as a residence. To add to his troubles, he found it necessary to take his mother to live with him, an arrangement which gave rise to many little storms, and made writing a difficult matter. Madame Visconti's society gave him no consolation at this time,—he was disappointed in her; and decided that his abuse of Englishwomen in the "Lys dans la Vallee," was perfectly justified.

Fortunately, he was now feeling tolerably cheerful about money matters; as he had paid off the hundred thousand francs he owed from his treaty in 1836, and hoped in fifteen months to have made arrangements for discharging all his debts; while three publishers, Dubochet, Furme, and Hetzel & Paulin, had undertaken to publish a complete edition of his works with engravings. This was to be the first appearance of the long-dreamt-of "Comedie Humaine," the great work of Balzac's life.

However, for a time even this took secondary place, as on January 5th, 1842, a letter with a black seal arrived from Madame Hanska; and gave the important news of the death of M. de Hanski, which had taken place on November 10th, 1841. Balzac's letter in answer to this is pathetic to any one cognisant of his subsequent history. He begins with confidence:[*] "As to me, my dear adored one, although this event enables me to reach what I have desired so ardently for nearly ten years, I can, before you and God, say in justice, that I have never had anything in my heart but complete submission, and that in my most terrible moments I have not soiled my soul with evil wishes." Further on, he tells her that nothing in him is changed; and suddenly seized with a terrible doubt from the ambiguous tone of her letter, he cries, in allusion to a picture of Wierzchownia which always hung in his study: "Oh! I am perhaps very unjust, but this injustice comes from the passion of my heart. I should have liked two words for myself in your letter. I have hunted for them in vain—two words for the man who, since the landscape in which you live has been before his eyes, has never continued working for ten minutes without looking at it."

[*] "Lettres a l'Etrangere."

He longs to start at once to see her, but from the tone of her letter he gathers that he had better wait until she writes to him again, when he begs for the assurance that her existence will henceforward belong to him, and that no cloud will ever come between them. He is alarmed about her anxiety on the subject of her letters. They are quite safe, he says, kept in a box like the one in which she keeps his. "But why this uneasiness now? Why? This is what I ask myself in terrible anxiety!" He finishes with "Adieu, my dear and beautiful life whom I love so much, and to whom I can now say 'Sempre medesimo.'"

Madame Hanska, in reply to this letter, objected strongly to the breach of "les convenances" which would be committed if Balzac came to see her early in her widowhood; and it was not till July 17th, 1843, that he was at last permitted to meet her in St. Petersburg, and then he had not seen her since his visit to Vienna, eight years before.

However, he was now full of happy anticipations, and it was with the greatest enthusiasm that he looked forward to the appearance of "Les Ressources de Quinola," which had been accepted by the Odeon, and on which he founded the most extravagant hopes. The long night of trouble was nearly over, and a late happiness would dawn upon him, heralded by a brilliant success at the theatre, which would not only free him from debt, but would also enable him to offer riches to the woman he loved.

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