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Women in the Life of Balzac By Juanita Helm Floyd Characters: 194257

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"I have to stand alone now amidst my troubles; formerly I had beside me in my struggles the most courageous and the sweetest person in the world, a woman whose memory is each day renewed in my heart, and whose divine qualities make all other friendships when compared with hers seem pale. I no longer have help in the difficulties of life; when I am in doubt about any matter, I have now no other guide than this final thought, 'If she were alive, what would she say?' Intellects of this order are rare."

Balzac loved to seek the sympathy and confidence of people whose minds were at leisure, and who could interest themselves in his affairs. With his artistic temperament, he longed for the refinement, society and delicate attentions which he found in the friendships of various women. "The feeling of abandonment and of solitude in which I am stings me. There is nothing selfish in me; but I need to tell my thoughts, my efforts, my feelings to a being who is not myself; otherwise I have no strength. I should wish for no crown if there were no feet at which to lay that which men may put upon my head."

One of the first of these friendships was that formed with Madame de Berny, nee (Laure-Louise-Antoinette) Hinner. She was the daughter of a German musician, a harpist at the court of Louis XVI, and of Louise- Marguerite-Emelie Quelpec de Laborde, a lady in waiting at the court of Marie Antoinette. M. Hinner died in 1784, after which Madame Hinner was married to Francois-Augustin Reinier de Jarjayes, adjutant-general of the army. M. Jarjayes was one of the best known persons belonging to the Royalist party during the Revolution, a champion of the Queen, whom he made many attempts to save. He was one of her most faithful friends, was intrusted with family keepsakes, and was made lieutenant- general under Louis XVIII. Madame Jarjayes was much loved by the Queen; she was also implicated in the plots. Before dying, Marie Antoinette sent her a lock of her hair and a pair of earrings. Laure Hinner was married April 8, 1793, to M. Gabriel de Berny, almost nine years her senior, who was of the oldest nobility. Madame de Berny, her husband, her mother and her stepfather were imprisoned for nine months, and were not released until after the fall of Robespierre.

The married life of Madame de Berny was unhappy; she was intelligent and sentimental; he, capricious and morose. She seems to have realized the type of the /femme incomprise/; she too was an /etrangere/, and bore some traits of her German origin. Coming into Balzac's life at about the age of forty, this /femme de quarante ans/ became for him the /amie/ and the companion who was to teach him life. Still beautiful, having been reared in intimate court circles, having been the confidante of plotters and the guardian of secrets, possessed of rare trinkets and souvenirs-what an open book was this /memoire vivante/, and with what passion did the young interrogator absorb the pages! Here he found unknown anecdotes, ignored designs, and here the sources of his great plots, /Les Chouans/, /Madame de la Chanterie/, and /Un Episode sous la Terreur/.

All this is what she could teach him, aided perhaps by his mother, who lived until 1837. Here is the secret of Balzac's royalism; here is where he first learned of the great ladies that appear in his work, largely portrayed to him by the /amie/ who watched over his youth and guided his maturity.

Having consulted the /Almanach des 25,000 adresses/, Madame Ruxton thinks that Balzac met Madame de Berny when the two families lived near each other in Paris; M. de Berny and family spent the summers in Villeparisis, and resided during the winters at 3, rue Portefoin, Paris. It is possible that he met her at the soirees, which he frequented with his sisters, and where his awkwardness provoked smiles from the ladies. While it is generally supposed that they met at Villeparisis, MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire also believed that they must have known each other before this, if Balzac is referring to his own life in /Oeuvres diverses: Une Passion au College/.

Madame de Berny is first mentioned in Balzac's correspondence in 1822 when, in writing his sister Laure the general news, he informs her that Madame de Berny has become a grandmother, and that after forty years of reflection, realizing that money is everything, she had invested in grain. But he must have met her some time before this, for his family was living in Villeparisis as early as 1819.

M. de Berny bought in 1815 the home of M. Michaud de Montzaigle in Villeparisis, and remained possessor of it until 1825. M. Parquin, the present owner of this home, is a Balzacien who has collected all the traditions remaining in Villeparisis concerning the two families. According to Villeparisis tradition, Madame de Berny was a woman of great intelligence who wrote much, and her notes and stories were not only utilized by Balzac, but she was his collaborator, especially in writing the /Physiologie du Mariage/ and the first part of the /Femme de trente Ans/.

When Balzac went to Villeparisis to reside, he became tutor to his brother Henri, and it was arranged that he should also give lessons to one of the sons of M. and Madame de Berny. Thus Balzac probably saw her daily and was struck by her patience and kindness toward her husband. She was apparently a gentle and sympathetic woman who understood Balzac as did no one else, and who ignored her own troubles and sufferings for fear of grieving him in the midst of his struggles.

It was owing to the strong recommendation of M. de Berny, councilor at the Court at Paris, that Balzac obtained in the spring of 1826 his royal authorization to establish himself as a printer. During the year 1825-1826, Madame de Berny loaned Balzac 9250 francs; after his failure, she entered in /name/ into the type-foundry association of Laurent et Balzac. She advanced to Balzac a total of 45,000 francs, and established her son, Alexandre de Berny, in the house where her protégé had been unsuccessful.

Though Balzac states that he paid her in full, he can not be relied upon when he is dealing with figures, and MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire question this statement in relating the incident told by M. Arthur Rhone, an old friend of the de Berny family. M. de Berny told M. Rhone that the famous bust of Flore cost him 1500 francs. One day while visiting Balzac, his host told him to take whatever he liked as a reimbursement, since he could not pay him. M. de Berny took some trifle, and after Balzac's death, M. Charles Tuleu, knowing his fondness for the bust of Flore, brought it to him as a souvenir of their common friend. This might explain also why M. de Berny possessed a superb clock and other things coming from Balzac's collection.

It was while Balzac was living in a little apartment in the rue des Marais that his /Dilecta/ began her daily visits, which continued so long, and which made such an impression on him.

Madame de Berny was of great help to Balzac in the social world and was perhaps instrumental in developing the friendship between him and the Duchesse de Castries. It was the Duc de Fitz-James who asked Balzac (1832) to write a sort of program for the Royalist party, and later (1834), wished him to become a candidate for deputy. This Duc de Fitz-James was the nephew of the godmother of Madame de Berny. It was to please him and the Duchesse de Castries that Balzac published a beautiful page about the Duchesse d'Angouleme.

Although Madame de Berny was of great help to Balzac in the financial and social worlds, of greater value was her literary influence over him. With good judgment and excellent taste she writes him: "Act, my dear, as though the whole multitude sees you from all sides at the height where you will be placed, but do not cry to it to admire you, for, on all sides, the strongest magnifying glasses will instantly be turned on you, and how does the most delightful object appear when seen through the microscope?"

She had had great experience in life, had suffered much and had seen many cruel things, but she brought Balzac consolation for all his pains and a confidence and serenity of which his appreciation is beautifully expressed:

"I should be most unjust if I did not say that from 1823 to 1833 an angel sustained me through that horrible struggle. Madame de Berny, though married, was like a God to me. She was a mother, friend, family, counselor; she made the writer, she consoled the young man, she created his taste, she wept like a sister, she laughed, she came daily, like a beneficent sleep, to still his sorrows. She did more; though under the control of a husband, she found means to lend me as much as forty-five thousand francs, of which I returned the last six thousand in 1836, with interest at five per cent., be it understood. But she never spoke to me of my debt, except now and then; without her, I should, assuredly, be dead. She often divined that I had eaten nothing for days; she provided for all with angelic goodness; she encouraged that pride which preserves a man from baseness,-for which to-day my enemies reproach me, calling it a silly satisfaction in myself-the pride that Boulanger has, perhaps, pushed to excess in my portrait."

Balzac's conception of women was formed largely from his association with Madame de Berny in his early manhood, and a reflection of these ideas is seen throughout his works. It was probably to give Madame de Berny pleasure that he painted the mature beauties which won for him so many feminine admirers.

It is doubtless Madame de Berny whom Balzac had in mind when in

/Madame Firmiani/ he describes the heroine:

"Have you ever met, for your happiness, some woman whose harmonious tones give to her speech the charm that is no less conspicuous in her manners, who knows how to talk and to be silent, who cares for you with delicate feeling, whose words are happily chosen and her language pure? Her banter caresses you, her criticism does not sting; she neither preaches or disputes, but is interested in leading a discussion, and stops at the right moment. Her manner is friendly and gay, her politeness is unforced, her earnestness is not servile; she reduces respect to a mere gentle shade; she never tires you, and leaves you satisfied with her and yourself. You will see her gracious presence stamped on the things she collects about her. In her home everything charms the eye, and you breathe, as it seems, your native air. This woman is quite natural. You never feel an effort, she flaunts nothing, her feelings are expressed with simplicity because they are genuine. Though candid, she never wounds the most sensitive pride; she accepts men as God made them, pitying the victims, forgiving defects and absurdities, sympathizing with every age, and vexed with nothing because she has the tact of foreseeing everything. At once tender and gay, she first constrains and then consoles you. You love her so truly that if this angel does wrong, you are ready to justify her. Such was Madame Firmiani."

It was to Madame de Berny's son, Alexandre, that Balzac dedicated

/Madame Firmiani/, and he no doubt recognized the portrait.

Balzac often portrayed his own life and his association with women in his works. In commenting on /La Peau de Chagrin/, he writes:

"Pauline is a real personage for me, only more lovely than I could describe her. If I have made her a dream it is because I did not wish my secret to be discovered."

And again, in writing of /Louis Lambert/:

"You know when you work in tapestry, each stitch is a thought.

Well, each line in this new work has been for me an abyss. It

contains things that are secrets between it and me."

In portraying the yearnings and sufferings of Louis Lambert (/Louis

Lambert/), of Felix de Vandenesse (/Le Lys dans la Vallee/) and of

Raphael (La Peau de Chagrin/), Balzac is picturing his own life.

Pauline de Villenoix (/Louis Lambert/) and Pauline Gaudin (/Le Peau de

Chagrin/) are possibly drawn from the same woman and have many

characteristics of Madame de Berny. Madame de Mortsauf (/Le Lys dans

la Vallee/) is Pauline, though not so outspoken. Then, is it not /La

Dilecta/ whom the novelist had in mind when Louis Lambert writes:

"When I lay my head on your knees, I could wish to attract to you the eyes of the whole world, just as I long to concentrate in my love every idea, every power within me";

and near the end of life, could not Madame de Berny say as did Pauline in the closing lines of /Louis Lambert/:

"His heart was mine; his genius is with God"?

The year 1832 was a critical one in the private life of Balzac. Madame de Berny, more than twenty years his senior, felt that they should sever their close connection and remain as friends only. Balzac's family had long been opposed to this intimate relationship and had repeatedly tried to find a rich wife for him. Madame de Castries, who had begun an anonymous correspondence with him, revealed her identity early in that year, and the first letter from l'Etrangere, who was soon to over-shadow all his other loves, arrived February 28, 1832. During the same period Mademoiselle de Trumilly rejected his hand. With so many distractions, Balzac probably did not suffer from this separation as did his /Dilecta/. But he never forgot her, and constantly compared other women with her, much to her detriment. He regarded her, indeed, as a woman of great superiority.

In June (1832), Balzac left Paris to spend several weeks with his friends, M. and Mme. de Margonne, and there at their chateau de Sache, he wrote /Louis Lambert/ as a sort of farewell of soul to soul to the woman he had so loved, and whose equal in devotion he never found. In memory of his ten years' intimacy with her, he dedicated this work to her: /Et nunc et semper dilectae dicatum 1822-1832/. It is to her also, that he gave the beautiful Deveria portrait, resplendent with youth and strength.[*]

[*] MM. Hanotaux et Vicaire think that it is Madame de Berny who was weighing on Balzac's soul when he relates, in /Le Cure de Village/, the tragic story of the young workman who dies from love without opening his lips.

M. Brunetiere has suggested that the woman whose traits best recall Madame de Berny is Marguerite Claes, the victim in /La Recherche de l'Absolu/, while the nature of Balzac's affection for this great friend of his youth has not been better expressed than in Balthasar Claes, she always ready to sacrifice all for him, and he, as Balthasar, always ready, in the interest of his "grand work," to rob her and make her desperate while loving her. However, Balzac states, in speaking of Madame de Berny:

"At any moment death may take from me an angel who has watched over me for fourteen years; she, too, a flower of solitude, whom the world had never touched, and who has been my star. My work is not done without tears! The attentions due to her cast uncertainty upon any time of which I could dispose, though she herself unites with the doctor in advising me some strong diversions. She pushes friendship so far as to hide her sufferings from me; she tries to seem well for me. You understand that I have not drawn Claes to do as he! Great God! what changes in her have been wrought in two months! I am overwhelmed."

M. le Breton has suggested that Madame de Berny is Catherine in /La

Derniere Fee/, Madame d'Aiglemont in /La Femme de trente Ans/, and

Madame de Beauseant in /La Femme abandonnee/, and has strengthened

this last statement by pointing out that Gaston de Nueil came to

Madame de Beauseant after she had been deserted by her lover, the

Marquis d'Ajuda-Pinto, just as the youthful Balzac came to Madame de

Berny after she had had a lover.

It is doubtless to this friendship that Balzac refers when he writes in the last lines of /La Duchesse de Langeais/: "It is only the last love of a woman that can satisfy the first love of a man." It is of interest to note that Antoinette is the Christian name of the heroine of this story. Throughout the /Comedie humaine/ are seen quite young men who fall in love with women well advanced in years, as Calyste de Guenic with Mademoiselle Felicite des Touches in /Beatrix/, and Lucien de Rubempre with Madame Bargeton in /Illusions perdues/.

In /Eugenie Grandet/ Balzac writes:

"Do you know what Madame Campan used to say to us? 'My children, so long as a man is a Minister, adore him; if he falls, help to drag him to the ditch. Powerful, he is a sort of deity; ruined, he is below Marat in his sewer, because he is alive, and Marat, dead. Life is a series of combinations, which must be studied and followed if a good position is to be successfully maintained.' "

Since Madame Campan was /femme de chambre/ of Marie Antoinette, Balzac probably heard this maxim through Madame de Berny.

Although some writers state that Madame de Berny was one of Balzac's collaborators in composing the /Physiologie du Mariage/, he says, regarding this work: "I undertook the /Physiologie du Mariage/ and the /Peau de Chagrin/ against the advice of that angel whom I have lost." She may have inspired him, however, in writing /Le Cure de Tours/, as it is dated at her home, Saint-Firmin, 1832.

In 1833, Balzac wrote Madame Hanska that he had dedicated the fourth volume of the /Scenes de la Vie privee/ to her, putting her seal at the head of /l'Expiation/, the last chapter of /La Femme de trente Ans/, which he was writing at the moment he received her first letter. But a person who was as a mother to him and whose caprices and even jealousy he was bound to respect, had exacted that this silent testimony should be repressed. He had the sincerity to avow to her both the dedication and its destruction, because he believed her to have a soul sufficiently lofty not to desire homage which would cause grief to one as noble and grand as she whose child he was, for she had rescued him when in youth he had nearly perished in the midst of griefs and shipwreck. He had saved the only copy of that dedication, for which he had been blamed as if it were a horrible coquetry, and wished her to keep it as a souvenir and as an expression of his thanks.

Balzac was ever loyal to Madame de Berny and refused to reveal her baptismal name to Madame Hanska; soon after their correspondence began he wrote her: "You have asked me the baptismal name of the /Dilecta/. In spite of my complete and blind faith, in spite of my sentiment for you, I cannot tell it to you; I have never told it. Would you have faith in me if I told it? No."

After 1834 Madame de Berny's health failed rapidly, and her last days were full of sorrow. Among her numerous family trials Balzac enumerates:

"One daughter become insane, another daughter dead, the third dying, what blows!-And a wound more violent still, of which nothing can be told. Finally, after thirty years of patience and devotion, forced to separate from her husband under pain of dying if she remained a few days longer. All this in a short space of time. This is what I suffer through the heart that created me. . . . Madame de Berny is much better; she has borne a last shock, the illness of a beloved son whose brother has gone to bring him home from Belgium. . . . Suddenly, the only son who resembles her, a young man handsome as the day, tender and spiritual like herself, like her full of noble sentiments, fell ill, and ill of a cold which amounts to an affection of the lungs. The only child out of /nine/ with whom she can sympathize! Of the nine, only four remain; and her youngest daughter has become hysterically insane, without any hope of cure. That blow nearly killed her. I was correcting the /Lys/ beside her; but my affection was powerless even to temper this last blow. Her son (twenty-three years old) was in Belgium where he was directing an establishment of great importance. His brother Alexandre went for him, and he arrived a month ago, in a deplorable condition. This mother, without strength, almost expiring, sits up at night to nurse Armand. She has nurses and doctors. She implores me not to come and not to write to her."[*]

[*] /Lettres a l'Etrangere. Various writers in speaking of Madame de Berny, state that she had eight children; others, nine. Balzac remarks frequently that she had nine. Among others, Madame Ruxton says that she had eight. She gives their names and dates of birth. The explanation of this difference is probably found in the following: "I am going to fulfil a rather sad duty this morning. The daughter of Madame de B . . . and of Campi . . . asks for me. In 1824, they wished me to marry her. She was bewitchingly beautiful, a flower of Bengal! After twenty years, I am going to see her again! At forty years of age! She asks a service of me; doubtless a literary ambition! . . . I am going there. . . . Three o'clock. I was sure of it! I have seen Julie, to whom and for whom I wrote the verses: 'From the midst of those torrents of glory and of light, etc.:' which are in /Illusions perdues/. . . ." Neither the name /Julie/ nor the date of her birth is given by Madame Ruxton.

Some secret pertaining to Madame de Berny remains untold. In 1834 Balzac writes Madame Hanska: "The greatest sorrows have overwhelmed Madame de Berny. She is far from me, at Nemours, where she is dying of her troubles. I cannot write you about them; they are things that can only be spoken of with the greatest secrecy." He might have revealed this secret to her in 1835 when he visited her in Vienna; the following secret, however, is not explained in subsequent letters, and Balzac did not see Madame Hanska again until seven years later in St. Petersburg:

"I have much distress, even enormous distress in the direction of Madame de Berny; not from her directly but from her family. It is not of a nature to be written. Some evening at Wierzchownia, when the heart wounds are scars, I will tell it to you in murmurs so that the spiders cannot hear, and so that my voice can go from my lips to your heart. They are dreadful things, which dig into life to the bone, deflowering all, and making one distrust all, except you for whom I reserve these sighs."

Though Madame de Berny may have been jealous of other women in her earlier association with Balzac, she evidently changed later, for he writes:

"Alas! Madame de Berny is no better. The malady makes frightful progress, and I cannot express to you how grand, noble and touching this soul of my life has been in these days measured by illness, and with what fervor she desires that another be to me what she has been. She knows the inward spring and nobility that the habit of carrying all things to an idol gives me. My God is on earth."

Contrary to his family, Madame Carraud sympathized with Balzac in his devotion to Madame de Berny, and invited them to be her guests. In accepting he writes:

"Her life is so much bound up in mine! Ah, no one can form any true idea of this deep attachment which sustains me in all my work, and consoles me every moment in all I suffer. You can understand something of this, you who know so well what friendship is, you who are so affectionate, so good. . . . I thank you beforehand for your offer of Frapesle to her. There, amid your flowers, and in your gentle companionship, and the country life, if convalescence is possible, and I venture to hope for it, she will regain life and health."

He apparently did not receive such sympathy from Madame Hanska in their early correspondence:

"Why be displeased about a woman fifty-eight years old, who is a mother to me, who folds me in her heart and protects me from stings? Do not be jealous of her; she would be so glad of our happiness. She is an angel, sublime. There are angels of earth and angels of heaven; she is of heaven."

Madame de Berny's illness continued to grow more and more serious. The reading of the second number of /Pere Goriot/ affected her so much that she had another heart attack. But as her illness and griefs changed and withered her, Balzac's affection for her redoubled. He did not realize how rapidly she was failing, for she did not wish him to see her unless she felt well and could appear attractive. On his return to France from a journey to Italy with Madame Marbouty, he was overcome with grief at the news of the death of Madame de Berny. He found on his table a letter from her son Alexandre briefly announcing his mother's death.

But the novelist did not cease to respect her criticism:

"I resumed my work this morning; I am obeying the last words that Madame de Berny wrote me; 'I can die; I am sure that you have upon your brow the crown I wished there. The /Lys/ is a sublime work, without spot or flaw. Only, the death of Madame de Mortsauf does not need those horrible regrets; they injure the beautiful letter she writes.' Therefore, to-day I have piously effaced a hundred lines, which, according to many persons, disfigure that creation. I have not regretted a single word, and each time that my pen was drawn through one of them, never was the heart of man more deeply stirred. I thought I saw that grand and sublime woman, that angel of friendship, before me, smiling as she smiled to me when I used a strength so rare,-the strength to cut off one's own limb and feel neither pain nor regret in correcting, in conquering one's self."

Balzac was sincere in his friendship with Madame de Berny, and never ceased to revere her memory. The following appreciations of her worth are a few of the numerous beautiful tributes he has paid her:

"I have lost the being whom I love most in the world. . . . She whom I have lost was more than a mother, more than a friend, more than any human creature can be to another; it can only be expressed by the word /divine/. She sustained me through storms of trouble by word and deed and entire devotedness. If I am alive this day, it is to her that it is due. She was everything to me; and although during the last two years, time and illness kept us apart, we saw each other through the distance. She inspired me; she was for me a spiritual sun. Madame de Mortsauf in /Le Lys dans la Vallee/, only faintly shadows forth some of the slighter qualities of this woman; there is but a very pale reflection of her, for I have a horror of unveiling my own private emotions to the public, and nothing personal to myself will ever be known."

"Madame de Berny is dead. I can say no more on that point. My sorrow is not of a day; it will react upon my whole life. For a year I had not seen her, nor did I see her in her last moments. . . . /She/, who was always so lovingly severe to me, acknowledged that the /Lys/ was one of the finest books in the French language; she decked herself at last with the crown which, fifteen years earlier, I had promised her, and, always coquettish, she imperiously forbade me to visit her, because she would not have me near her unless she were beautiful and well. The letter deceived me. . . . When I was wrecked the first time, in 1828, I was only twenty-nine years old and I had an angel at my side. . . . There is a blank which has saddened me. The adored is here no longer. Every day I have occasion to deplore the eternal absence. Would you believe that for six months I have not been able to go to Nemours to bring away the things that ought to be in my sole possession? Every week I say to myself, 'It shall be this week! . . .' I was very unhappy in my youth, but Madame de Berny balanced all by an absolute devotion, which was understood to its full extent only when the grave had seized its prey. Yes, I was spoiled by that angel."[*]

[*] Madame de Berny died July 27, 1836.

So faithful was Balzac to the memory of his /Dilecta/ that nine years after her death, he was deeply affected on seeing at the /Cour d'Assises/ a woman about forty-five years of age, who strongly resembled Madame de Berny, and who was being arraigned for deeds caused by her devotion to a reckless youth.


"He who has not seen, at some ball of Madame, Duchesse de Berry, glide airily, scarcely touching the floor, so moving that one perceived in her only grace before knowing whether she was a beauty, a young woman with blond, deep-golden hair; he who has not seen appear then the young Marquise de Castries in a fete, cannot, without doubt, form an idea of this new beauty, charming, aerial, praised and honored in the salons of the Restoration."

Balzac had a brief, yet ardent friendship with the Duchesse de Castries which ended so unhappily for him that one might say: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned." Madame de Castries was the daughter of the Duchesse (nee Fitz-James) and the Duc de Maille. She did not become a duchess until in 1842, and bore the title of marquise previous to that time. Separated from her husband as the result of a famous love affair, the Marquise gathered round her a group of intellectual people, among whom were the writers Balzac, Musset, Sainte-Beuve, etc., and continued active in literary and artistic circles until her death (1861).

On Balzac's return to Paris after a prolonged visit with his friends at Sache during the month of September, 1831, he received an anonymous letter, dated at Paris, a circumstance which was with him of rather frequent occurrence, as with many men of letters.

This lady criticized the /Physiologie du Mariage/, to which Balzac replies, defending his position:

"The /Physiologie du Mariage/, madame, was a work undertaken for the purpose of defending the cause of women. I knew that if, with the view of inculcating ideas favorable to their emancipation and to a broad and thorough system of education for them, I had gone to work in a blundering way, I should at best, have been regarded as nothing more than an author of a theory more or less plausible. I was therefore, obliged to clothe my ideas, to disguise them under a new shape, in biting, incisive words that should lay hold on the mind of my readers, awaken their attention and leave behind, reflections upon which they might meditate. Thus then any woman who has passed through the "storms of life" would see that I attribute the blame of all faults committed by the wives, entirely to their husbands. It is, in fact, a plenary absolution. Besides this, I plead for the natural and inalienable rights of woman. A happy marriage is impossible unless there be a perfect acquaintance between the two before marriage-a knowledge of each other's ways, habits and character. And I have not flinched from any of the consequences involved in this principle. Those who know me are aware that I have been faithful to this opinion ever since I reached the age of reason; and in my eyes a young girl who has committed a fault deserves more interest than she who, remaining ignorant, lies open to the misfortunes of the future. I am at this present time a bachelor, and if I should marry later in life, it will only be to a widow."

Thus was begun the correspondence, and the Duchess ended by lifting her mask and inviting the writer to visit her; he gladly accepted her gracious offer to come, not as a literary man nor as an artist, but as himself. It is a striking coincidence that Balzac accepted this invitation the very day, February 28, 1832, that he received the first letter from /l'Etrangere/.

What must have been Balzac's surprise, and how flattered he must have felt, on learning that his unknown correspondent belonged to the highest aristocracy of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and that her husband was a peer of France under Charles X!

"Madame de Castries was a coquettish, vain, delicate, clever woman, with a touch of sensibility, piety and /chaleur de salon/; a true Parisian with all her brilliant exterior accomplishments, qualities refined by education, luxury and aristocratic surroundings, but also with all her coldness and faults; in a word, one of those women of whom one must never ask friendship, love or devotion beyond a light veneer, because nature had created some women morally poor."

At first, Balzac was too enraptured to judge her accurately, but after frequenting her salon for several months, he says of her:

"It is necessary that I go and climb about at Aix, in Savoy, to run after some one who, perhaps, will laugh at me-one of those aristocratic women of whom you no doubt have a horror; one of those angelic beauties to whom one ascribes a soul; a true duchess, very disdainful, very loving, subtle, witty, a coquette, like nothing I have ever yet seen, and who says she loves me, who wants to keep me in a palace at Venice (for I tell you everything), and who desires I should write nothing, except for her; one of those women who must be worshiped on one's knees when they wish it, and whom one has such pleasure in conquering; a woman to be dreamt of, jealous of everything."

A few weeks later he writes from Aix:

"I have come here to seek at once both much and little. Much, because I see daily a person full of grace and amiability, little, because she is never likely to love me."

Under the influence of the Duchesse de Castries and the Duc de Fitz- James, Balzac gave more and more prominence to Catholic and Legitimist sentiments; and it was perhaps for her sake that the novelist offered himself as a candidate for deputy in several districts, but was defeated in all of them. He thought it quite probable that the Duc de Fitz-James would be elected in at least two districts, so if he were not elected at Angouleme, the Duke might use his interest to get him elected for the place he declined.

It was after Balzac met Madame de Castries that one notes his extravagant tastes and love of display as shown in his horses and carriage, his extra servant, his numerous waistcoats, his gold buttons, his appearance at the opera with his wonderful cane, and his indulgence in rare pictures, old furniture, and bric-a-brac in general.

Induced to follow her to Aix, he continued his work, rising at five in the morning and working until half past five in the afternoon. His lunch came from the circle, and at six o'clock, he dined with Madame de Castries, and spent the evening with her. His intimacy with this illustrious family increased, and he accepted an invitation to accompany them to Italy, giving several reasons for this journey:

"I am at the gates of Italy, and I fear to give way to the temptation of passing through them. The journey would not be costly; I could make it with the Fitz-James family, who would be exceedingly agreeable; they are all perfect to me. . . . I travel as fourth passenger in Mme. de Castries' /vetturino/ and the bargain-which includes everything, food, carriages, hotels-is a thousand francs for all of us to go from Geneva to Rome; making my share two hundred and fifty francs. . . . I shall make this splendid journey with the Duke, who will treat me as if I were his son. I also shall be in relation with the best society; I am not likely to meet with such an opportunity again. M. de Fitz-James has been in Italy before, he knows the country, and will spare me all loss of time. Besides this, his name will throw open many doors to me. The Duchess and he are both more than kind to me, in every way, and the advantages of their society are great."

From Aix they went to Geneva. Just what happened here, we shall probably never know. Suddenly abandoning the proposed trip, Balzac writes his mother:

"It is advisable I should return to France for three months. . . . Besides, my traveling companions will not be at Naples till February. I shall, therefore, come back, but not to Paris; my return will not be known to any one; and I shall start again for Naples in February, via Marseilles and the steamer. I shall be more at rest on the subjects of money and literary obligations."

Later he alludes thus to his sudden departure from Geneva:

"/Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu!/ God, in whom I believe, owed me some sweet emotions at the sight of Geneva, for I left it disconsolate, cursing everything, abhorring womankind! With what joy shall I return to it, my celestial love, my Eva!"

Thus was ended an ardent friendship of about eight months' duration, for instead of rejoining the Duchesse de Castries in Italy Balzac's first visit to that country was made many years later, and then in the delightful company of his "Polar Star."

In speaking of this sudden breach, Miss M. F. Sandars says:

"We can only conjecture the cause of the final rupture, as no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. The original 'Confession' in the /Medecin de Campagne/, which is the history of Balzac's relations and parting with Madame de Castries, is in the possession of the Vicomte de Spoelberch de Lovenjoul. The present 'Confession' was substituted for it, because the first revealed too much of Balzac's private life. However, even in the original 'Confession,' we learn no reason for Madame de Castries' sudden resolve to dismiss her adorer, as Balzac declares with indignant despair that he can give no explanation of it. Apparently she parted from him one evening with her usual warmth of affection, and next morning everything was changed, and she treated him with the utmost coldness."

Fully to appreciate what this friendship meant to both, one must consider the private life of each. As has been seen, it was in the summer of 1832 that Balzac and his /Dilecta/ decided to sever their intimate connection, and since his /Chatelaine/ of Wierzchownia had not yet become the dominating force in his life, his heart was doubtless yearning for some one to adore.

There was also an aching void in the heart of Madame de Castries. She, too, was recovering from an amorous attachment, more serious than was his, for death had recently claimed the young Count Metternich. Perhaps then, each was seeking consolation in the other's society.

There was nothing more astonishing or charming than to see in the evening, in one of the most simple little drawing-rooms, antiquely furnished with tables, cushions of old velvet and screens of the eighteenth century, this woman, her spine injured, reclining in her invalid's chair, languid, but without affectation. This woman-with her profile more Roman than Greek, her hair falling over her high, white brow-was the Duchesse de Castries, nee de Maille, related to the best families of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. Accompanying the young Comte de Metternich on the hunt, she was caught in the branch of a tree, and fell, injuring her spine. But a shadow of her former brilliant self-such had become this beauty, once so dazzling that the moment she entered the drawing-room, her gorgeous robe falling over shoulders worthy of a Titian, the brilliancy of the candles was literally effaced.[*]

[*] Philarete Chasles was a frequent visitor of her salon. When Balzac

visited Madame Hanska at Vienna in the summer of 1835, he did a

favor for the Duchesse de Castries while there. He wrote /La

Filandiere/, 1835, one of his /Contes drolatiques/, for Madame de

Castries' son, M. le baron d'Aldenburg.

Balzac refers frequently to Count Metternich in writing to Madame

Hanska of his association with Madame de Castries:

"There is still a Metternich in this adventure; but this time it is the son, who died in Florence. I have already told you of this cruel affair, and I had no right to tell you. though separated from that person out of delicacy, all is not over yet. I suffer through her; but I do not judge her. . . . Madame de C-- insists that she has never loved any one except M. de M-- and that she loves him still, that Artemisia of Ephesus. . . . You asked me, I believe, about Madame de C-- She has taken the thing, as I told you, tragically, and now distrusts the M-- family. Beneath all this, on both sides there is something inexplicable, and I have no desire to look for the key of mysteries which do not concern me. I am with Madame de C-- on the proper terms of politeness, and as you yourself would wish me to be."

After their abrupt separation at Geneva, their relations continued to be estranged:

"For the moment I will tell you that Madame de C-- has written me that we are not to see each other again; she has taken offense at a letter, and I at many other things. Be assured that there is no love in all this! . . . I meant to speak to you of Madame de C--, but I have not the time. Twenty-five days hence I will tell you by word of mouth. In two words, your Honore, my Eva, grew angry at the coldness which simulated friendship. I said what I thought; the reply was that I ought not to see again a woman to whom I could say such cruel things. I asked a thousand pardons for the 'great liberty,' and we continue on a very cold footing."

Balzac was deeply wounded through his passionate love for Madame de Castries, and resented her leaving him in the depths of an abyss of coldness after having inflamed him with the fire of her soul; he began to think of revenge:

"I abhor Madame de C--, for she blighted my life without giving me another,-I do not say a comparable one, but without giving me what she promised. There is not the shadow of wounded vanity, oh! but disgust and contempt . . . If Madame de C--'s letter displeases you, say so frankly, my love. I will write to her that my affections are placed in a heart too jealous for me to be permitted to correspond with a woman who has her reputation for beauty, for charm, and that I act frankly in telling her so. . . ."

Indeed, his experience with Madame de Castries at Geneva had made him so unhappy that on his return to that city to visit his /Predilecta/, he had moments of joy mingled with sorrow, as the scenery recalled how, on his previous visit, he had wept over his /illusions perdues/. While other writers suggest different causes, one might surmise that this serious disappointment was the beginning of Balzac's heart trouble, for in speaking of it, he says: "It is necessary for my life to be bright and pleasant. The cruelties of the woman whom you know have been the cause of the trouble; then the disasters of 1848. . . ."

He tried to overcome his dejection by intense work, but he could not forget the tragic suffering he had undergone. The experience he had recently passed through he disclosed in one of his most noted stories, /La Duchesse de Langeais/, which he wrote largely in 1834 at the same fatal city of Geneva, but this time, while enjoying the society of the beautiful Madame Hanska. In this story, under the name of the heroine, the Duchesse de Langeais, he describes the Duchesse de Castries:

"This was a woman artificially educated, but in reality ignorant; a woman whose instincts and feelings were lofty, while the thought which should have controlled them was wanting. She squandered the wealth of her nature in obedience to social conventions; she was ready to brave society, yet she hesitated till her scruples degenerated into artifice. With more wilfulness than force of character, impressionable rather than enthusiastic, gifted with more brain than heart; she was supremely a woman, supremely a coquette, and above all things a /Parisienne/, loving a brilliant life and gaiety, reflecting never, or too late; imprudent to the verge of poetry, and humble in the depths of her heart, in spite of her charming insolence. Like some straight-growing reed, she made a show of independence; yet, like the reed, she was ready to bend to a strong hand. She talked much of religion, and had it not at heart, though she was prepared to find in it a solution of her life."

In the same story under the name of the Marquis de Montriveau, Balzac is doubtless portraying himself. It was probably in the home of the Duchesse de Castries that Balzac conceived some of his ideas of the aristocracy of the exclusive Faubourg Saint-Germain, a picture of which he has drawn in this story of which she is the heroine. Her influence is seen also in the characters so minutely drawn of the heartless /Parisienne/, no longer young, but seductive, refined and aristocratic, though deceptive and perfidious.

Before publishing /La Duchesse de Langeais/, the novelist was either tactful or vindictive enough to call on Madame de Castries and read to her his new book. He says of this visit: "I have just returned from Madame de C--, whom I do not want for an enemy when my book comes out and the best means of obtaining a defender against the Faubourg Saint-Germain is to make her approve of the work in advance; and she greatly approved of it." But a few weeks later, he writes: "Here I am, on bad terms with Madame de C-- on account of the /Duchesse de Langeais/-so much the better." If Balzac refers to Madame de Castries in the following except, one may even say that he had her correct his work.

"Say whatever you like about /La Duchesse de Langeais/, your remarks do not affect me; but a lady whom you may perhaps know, illustrious and elegant, has approved everything, corrected everything like a royal censor, and her authority on ducal matters is incontestable; I am safe under the shadow of her shawl."

Balzac continued to call on her and to write to her occasionally, and was very sympathetic to her illness, especially as her Parisian friends seemed to have abandoned her. Though death did not come to her until more than twenty-five years later, he writes at this time:

"Madame de Castries is dying; the paralysis is attacking the other limb. Her beauty is no more; she is blighted. Oh! I pity her. She suffers horribly and inspires pity only. She is the only person I visit, and then, for one hour every week. It is more than I really can do, but the hour is compelled by the sight of that slow death."

In her despondency he tries to cheer her:

"I do not like your melancholy; I should scold you well if you were here. I would put you on a large divan, where you would be like a fairy in the midst of her palace, and I would tell you that in this life you must love in order to live. Now, you do not love. A lively affection is the bread of the soul, and when the soul is not fed it grows starved, like the body. The bonds of the soul and body are such that each suffers with the other. . . . A thousand kindly things in return for your flowers, which bring me much happiness, but I wish for something more. . . . You have mingled bitterness with the flatteries you have the goodness to bestow on my book, as if you knew all the weight of your words and how far they would reach. I would a thousand times rather you would consider the book and the pen as things of your own, than receive these praises."[*]

[*] It is interesting to note Balzac's fondness for flowers, as is seen in his association of them with various women, and the prominent place he has given them in some of his works.

Though his visits continued, their friendship gradually grew colder, and in 1836 he writes: "I have broken the last frail relations of politeness with Madame de C--. She enjoys the society of MM. Janni and Sainte-Beauve, who have so outrageously wounded me. It seemed to me bad taste, and now I am happily out of it."

/La Duchesse de Langeais/ appeared in 1834, but Madame de Castries had not fully wreaked her revenge on Balzac. For some time an Irish woman, a Miss Patrickson, had insisted on translating Balzac's works. Madame de Castries engaged her as teacher of English, and used her as a means of ensnaring Balzac by having her write him a love letter and sign it "Lady Nevil." Though suspicious about this letter, he answered it, and a rendezvous was arranged at the opera. That day he called on Madame de Castries, and she had him remain for dinner. When he excused himself to go to the opera, she insisted on accompanying him; he then realized that he was a victim of her strategy, which he thus describes:

"I go to the opera. No one there. Then I write a letter, which brings the miss, old, horrible, with hideous teeth, but full of remorse for the part she had played, full of affection for me and contempt and horror for the Marquise. Though my letters were extremely ironical and written for the purpose of making a woman masquerading as a false lady blush, she (Miss Patrickson) had recovered them. I had the upper hand of Madame de C-- She ended by divining that in this intrigue she was on the down side. From that time forth she vowed me a hatred which will end only with life. In fact, she may rise out of her grave to calumniate me. She never opened /Seraphita/ on account of its dedication, and her jealousy is such that if she could completely destroy the book she would weep for joy."[*]

[*] Seized with pity for this poor Irish woman, Balzac called later to see about some translations and found her overcome by drink in the midst of poverty and dirt. He learned afterwards that she was addicted to the habit of drinking gin.

Notwithstanding their enmity Balzac visited her occasionally. She had become so uncomely that he could not understand his infatuation at Aix, ten years before. He disliked her especially because she had for the moment, in posing as Madame de Balzac, made Madame Hanska believe he was married. He enjoyed telling her of Madame Hanska's admiration for and devotion to him, and sarcastically remarked to her that she was such a "true friend" she would be happy to learn of his financial success. Thus, during a period of several years, while speaking of her as his enemy, the novelist continued to dine with her, but was ever ready to overwhelm her with sarcasm, even while her guest. Yet, in 1843, he dedicated to her /L'Illustre Gaudissart/, a work written ten years before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"And they talk of the first love! I know nothing as terrible as the

last, it is strangling."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] One can see at once the injustice of the criticism of M. Henry

Bordeaux, /la Grande Revue/, November, 1899, in censuring Madame

Hanska for publishing her letters from Balzac.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To Madame Eveline de Hanska, nee Countess Rzewuska.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even her own family added to her suspicions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

that I have been so persistent in magnifying my name? Oh! I am perhaps very unjust, but this injustice comes from the violence of my heart! I would have liked two words for myself in your letter, but I sought them in vain; two words for him who, since the landscape in which you live has been before his eyes, has not passed, while working, ten minutes without looking at it; I have there sought all, ever since it came to me, that we have asked in the silence of our spirits."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To Constance-Victoire:[*]

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


"January 1, 1844."

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

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

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

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

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

"To a Polish Lady:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus was his time wasted; and when he dared express gently and

lovingly the feelings which were overpowering him, his beautiful

/Chatelaine/ was offended, and rebuked him for his impatience.

Desperate and almost frantic, he writes her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"To Mademoiselle Anna de Hanska:

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

"Your old friend,


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

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

[*] The dedication was placed at the end, /en envoi/.

After the death of Anna's father, Balzac advised her mother in many ways. His interest in Anna's musical ability, which was very rare, increased and he had Liszt call on Madame Hanska and play for them when he went to St. Petersburg. He expressed his gratitude to Liszt for this favor by dedicating to him /La Duchesse de Langeais/. He regretted this later, after the musician fell into such discredit.

Balzac was anxious that Madame Hanska should manage the estate wisely, and that she should be very careful in selecting a husband for Anna. The young girl had many suitors at St. Petersburg, and he expressed his opinion freely about them. He wanted her to be happily married, and wrote her mother regarding the essential qualities of a husband. He loved Anna for her mother's sake as well as for her own, and when the fond mother wrote him about certain traits of her daughter he encouraged her to be proud of Anna, for she was far superior to the best-bred young people of Paris.

He did not approve, at first, of the young Count de Mniszech and championed another suitor; later he and the Count became warm friends, and in 1846, he dedicated to him /Maitre Cornelius/, written in 1831. Besides having a very handsome cane made for him, he sent him many gifts.

Balzac expressed his admiration of Anna not only to her mother, but to others. He wrote the Count, who was soon to become her husband, that she was the most charming young girl he had ever seen in the most refined circles of society. He found her far more attractive than his niece, who had the bloom of a beautiful Norman, and he thought that possibly some of his admiration for her was due to his great affection for her mother.

One is surprised to see what foresight Balzac had-so many things he said proved to be true. He thought, for instance, that Anna had the physique to live a hundred years, that she had no sense of the practical, that her mother-as he took care to warn her-would do well to keep her estate separate from her daughter's, or otherwise she might some day have cause for regret. Whether Madame Honore de Balzac was too busy with literary and business duties after her husband's death, or whether her extreme affection prevented her from refusing her only child anything she wished, the results were disastrous. It was fortunate for Balzac that he did not live to see the fate of this paragon, for this would have grieved him deeply, while he probably would not have been able to remedy matters.

While a part of Balzac's affection for Anna was doubtless owing to his adoration for her mother, she must have had in her own person some very charming traits, for after he had lived in their home for more than a year, where he must have studied her most carefully, he says of her: "It is true that the Countess Anna and Count George are two ideal perfections; I did not believe two such beings could exist. There is a nobleness of life and sentiment, a gentleness of manners, an evenness of temper, which cannot be believed unless you have lived with them. With all this, there is a playfulness, a spontaneous gaiety, which dispels weariness or monotony. Never have I been so thoroughly in my right place as here."

Balzac certainly was not tactful in continually praising the young Countess to his sister and his nieces, but he was doubtless sincere, and no record has been found of his ever having changed his opinion of this young Russian whom he loved so tenderly.

A woman who played an important role in Balzac's association with Madame Hanska was Mademoiselle Henriette Borel, called Lirette. She had been governess in the home of Madame Hanska since 1824. Sympathetic and devoted to the children, she grieved when death took them. She helped save Anna's life, for which the entire family loved her. It was doubtless due to her influence that M. de Hanski and his family chose Neufchatel, her home city, as a place to sojourn. They arrived there in the summer of 1833, and left early in October of the same year. While at Neufchatel they were very gracious to Lirette's relatives and Madame Hanska invited them to visit her at Geneva.

Whether Lirette wrote with her own hand the first letter sent by Madame Hanska to Balzac-letters which de Lovenjoul says were not in the handwriting of the /Predilecta/-we shall probably never know, but that she knew of the secret correspondence and aided in it is seen from the following:

"My celestial love, find an impenetrable place for my letters. Oh! I entreat you, let no harm come to you. Let Henriette be their faithful guardian, and make her take all the precautions that the genius of woman dictates in such a case. . . . Do not deceive yourself, my dear Eve; one does not return to Mademoiselle Henriette Borel a letter so carefully folded and sealed without looking at it. There are clever dissimulations. Now I entreat you, take a carriage that you may never get wet in going to the post. . . . Go every Wednesday, because the letters posted here on Sunday arrive on Wednesday. I will never, whatever may be the urgency, post letters for you on any day except Sunday. Burn the envelopes. Let Henriette scold the man at the post-office for having delivered a letter which was marked /poste restante/, but scold him laughing, . . ."

Balzac courteously sent greetings to Lirette in his letters to Madame Hanska, and evidently liked her. Her religious tendencies probably impressed him many years before she took the veil, for he writes of her praying for him.

While Balzac naturally met Lirette in his visits to Madame Hanska, it was while he was at St. Petersburg in the summer of 1843 that he became more intimate with her, for she had decided to become a nun, and consulted him on many points. Since she was to enter a convent at Paris, he visited a priest there for her, secured the necessary documents, and advised her about many matters, especially her property and the convent she should enter. Though he aided her in every way he could, he did not approve of this step, but when she arrived in Paris, he entertained her in his home, giving up his room for her. At various times he went with her to the convent and his housekeeper, Madame de Brugnolle, also was very kind to her.

Lirette impressed the novelist as being very stupid, and he wondered how his "Polar Star" could have ever made a friend of her. She was as blind a Catholic as she had been a blind Protestant. She seemed willing now to have him marry Madame Hanska, after many years of aversion to him. He tried to impress upon her that a rich nun was much better treated than a poor one, but she would not listen to him, and insisted on making what he considered a premature donation of everything she possessed to her convent. She annoyed him very much while he was trying to save her property, yet he was pleased to do this for the sake of his /Predilecta/ and Anna. He looked after her with the same solicitude that a father would have for his child, and after doing everything possible for her, he conducted her to the /Convent de la Visitation/ without a word of thanks from her, though he had made sacrifices for her, and though his housekeeper had slept on a mattress on the floor, giving up her room in order that Lirette should have suitable quarters. But although hurt by her ingratitude he had enjoyed talking with her, for she brought him news from his friends in Russia.

Lirette evidently did not realize what she was doing in the matter of the convent, and was displeased with many things after entering it. Balzac was vexed at what she wrote to Madame Hanska, but felt that she was not altogether responsible for her actions, believing that it was a very personal sentiment which caused her to enter the convent.[*] He could not understand her indifference to her friends, she did penance by keeping a letter from Anna eighteen days before opening it. He found her stupidity unequaled, but he sent his housekeeper to see her, and visited her himself when he had time.

[*] It has been stated that Mademoiselle Borel was so impressed by the chants, lights and ceremony at the funeral of M. de Hanski in November 1841, that it caused her to give up her protestant faith and enter the convent. Miss Sandars (/Balzac/) has well remarked: "We may wonder, however, whether tardy remorse for her deceit towards the dead man, who had treated her with kindness, had not its influence in causing this sudden religious enthusiasm, and whether the Sister in the Convent of the Visitation in Paris gave herself extra penance for her sins of connivance." Mademoiselle died in this convent, rue d'Enfer, in 1857.

In addition to all this, the poor novelist had one more trial to undergo; this was to see her take the vows (December 2, 1845). He was misinformed as to the time of the ceremony, so went too soon and wasted much precious time, but he remained through the long service in order to see her afterwards. But in all this Lirette was to accomplish one thing for him. As she had helped in his correspondence, she was soon to be the means of bringing him and his /Chatelaine/ together again; the devotion of Madame Hanska and Anna to the former governess being such that they came to Paris to see her.

In the home of the de Hanskis in the Russian waste were two other women, Mesdemoiselles Severine and Denise Wylezynska, who were to play a small part in Balzac's life. Both of these relatives probably came with M. de Hanski and his family to Switzerland in 1833; their names are mentioned frequently in his letters to Madame Hanska, and soon after his visit at Neufchatel the novelist asks that Mademoiselle Severine preserve her gracious indifference. These ladies were cousins of M. de Hanski, and probably were sisters of M. Thaddee Wylezynski, mentioned in connection with Madame Hanska. After her husband's death, Madame Hanska must have invited these two ladies to live with her, for Balzac inquires about the two young people she had with her.

Mademoiselle Denise has been suspected of having written the first letter for Madame Hanska, and the dedication of /La Grenadiere/ has been replaced by the initials "A. D. W.," supposed to mean "a Denise Wylezynska"; the actual dedication is an unpublished correction of Balzac himself.

The relative that caused Balzac the most discomfort was the Countess Rosalie Rzewuska, nee Princess Lubomirska, wife of Count Wenceslas Rzewuski, Madame Hanska's uncle. She seems to have been continually hearing either that he was married, or something that was detrimental, and kept him busy denying these reports:

"I have here your last letter in which you speak to me of Madame Rosalie and of /Seraphita/. Relative to your aunt, I confess that I am ignorant by what law it is that persons so well bred can believe such calumnies. I, a gambler! Can your aunt neither reason, calculate nor combine anything except whist? I, who work, even here, sixteen hours a day, how should I go to a gambling- house that takes whole nights? It is as absurd as it is crazy. . . . Your letter was sad; I felt it was written under the influence of your aunt. . . . Let your aunt judge in her way of my works, of which she knows neither the whole design nor the bearing; it is her right. I submit to all judgements. . . . Your aunt makes me think of a poor Christian who, entering the Sistine chapel just as Michael-Angelo has drawn a nude figure, asks why the popes allow such horrors in Saint Peter's. She judges a work from at least the same range in literature without putting herself at a distance and awaiting its end. She judges the artist without knowing him, and by the sayings of ninnies. All that give me little pain for myself, but much for her, if you love her. But that you should let yourself be influenced by such errors, that does grieve me and makes me very uneasy, for I live by my friendships only."

In spite of this, Balzac wished to obtain the good will of "Madame Rosalie," and sympathized with her when she lost her son. But she had a great dislike for Paris, and after the death of M. de Hanski, she objected to her niece's going there. The novelist felt that she was his sworn enemy, and that she went too far in her hatred of everything implied in the word /Paris/[*]; yet he pardoned her for the sake of her niece.

[*] The reason why Madame Rosalie had such a horror of Paris was that

her mother was guillotined there,-the same day as Madame

Elizabeth. Madame Rosalie was only a child at that time, and was

discovered in the home of a washerwoman.

It was Caliste Rzewuska, the daughter of this aunt, whom Balzac had in

mind when he sketched /Modeste Mignon/. She was married to M. Michele-

Angelo Cajetani, Prince de Teano and Duc de Sermoneta, to whom /Les

Parents pauvres/ is dedicated.

Balzac seems to have had something of the same antipathy for Madame Hanska's sister Caroline that he had for her aunt Rosalie, but since he wrote to his /Predilecta/ many unfavorable things of a private nature about his family, she may have done the same concerning hers, so that he may not have had a fair opportunity of judging her. He was friendly towards her at times, and she is the Madame Cherkowitch of his letters.

It was probably Madame Hanska's sister Pauline, Madame Jean Riznitch, whose servants were to receive a reward from a rich /moujik/ in case they could arrange to have him see Balzac. This /moujik/ was a great admirer of the novelist, had read all his books, burnt a candle to Saint Nicholas for him every week, and was anxious to meet him. Since Madame Riznitch lived not far from Madame Hanska, he hoped to see Balzac when he visited Wierzschownia.

The relative whose association with Balzac seems to have caused Madame Hanska the most discomfort was her cousin, the Countess Marie Potocka. He met her when he visited his /Chatelaine/ in Geneva/, where the Countess Potocka entertained him, and after his return to Paris, he called on Madame Appony, wife of the Austrian ambassador, to deliver a letter for her. Before going to Geneva he had heard of her, and had confused her identity with that of the /belle Grecque/ who had died several years before.

During his visit to Geneva the novelist deemed it wise to explain his attentions to Madame P---: "It would have seemed ridiculous (to the others) for me to have occupied myself with you only. I was bound to respect you, and in order to talk to you so much, it was necessary for me to talk to Madame P---. What I wrote you this morning is of a nature to show you how false are your fears. I never ceased to look at you while talking to Madame P---."

After his return to Paris he wrote a letter to Madame P---, and was careful to explain this also:

"Do not be jealous of Madame P---'s letter; that woman must be

/for us/. I have flattered her, and I want her to think that you

are disdained. . . . My enemies are spreading a rumor of my

/liaison/ with a Russian princess; they name Madame P--- . . .

Oh! my love, I swear to you I wrote to Madame P--- only to

prevent the road to Russia being closed to me."

He received a letter from her which he did not answer, for he wished to end this correspondence. It is within the bounds of possibility that Balzac cared more for the Countess Potocka than he admitted to his "Polar Star," but several years later, when she had become avaricious, he formed an aversion to her and warned Madame Hanska to beware of her cousin.


"I live by my friendships only."

Many people write their romances, others live them; Honore de Balzac did both. This life so full of romantic fiction mingled with stern reality, where the burden of debt is counter-balanced by dramatic passion, where hallucination can scarcely be distinguished from fact, where the weary traveler is ever seeking gold, rest, or love, ever longing to be famous and to be loved, where the hero, secluded as in a monastery, suddenly emerges to attend an opera, dressed in the most gaudy attire, where he lacks many of the comforts of life, yet suddenly crosses half the continent, allured by the fascinations of a woman, this life is indeed a /roman balzacien par excellence/!

He tried to shroud his life, especially his association with women, in mystery. Now since the veil is partially lifted, one can see how great was the role they played. It has been said that twelve thousand letters were written to Balzac by women, some to express their admiration, some to recognize themselves in a delightful personage he had created, others to thank him or condemn him for certain attitudes he had sustained towards woman.

For him to have so thoroughly understood the feminine mind and temperament, to have given to this subtle chameleon its various hues, to have portrayed woman with her many charms and caprices, and to have described woman in her various classes and at all ages, he must have observed her, or rather, he must have known her. He very justly says in his /Avant-propos/:

"When Buffon described the lion, he dismissed the lioness with a few phrases; but in society the wife is not always the female of the male. There may be two perfectly dissimilar beings in one household. The wife of a shopkeeper is sometimes worthy of a prince and the wife of a prince is often worthless compared with the wife of an artisan. The social state has freaks which are not found in the natural world; it is nature /plus/ society. The description of the social species would thus be at least double that of the animal species, merely in view of the two sexes."

Thus, he made a special study of woman, penetrated, like a father confessor, into her innermost secrets, and if he has not painted the duchesses with the delicacy due them, it was not because he did not know or had not studied them, but probably because he was picturing them with his Rabelaisian pen.

He knew many women who were active during the reign of Louis XVI, women who were conspicuous under the Empire, and women who were prominent in society during the Restoration, hence, one would naturally expect to find traces of them in his works.

But it is not only this type of woman that Balzac has presented. He painted the /bourgeoise/ in society, as seen in the daughters of /Pere Goriot/, and many others, the various types of the /vieille fille/ such as Mademoiselle Zephirine Guenic (/Beatrix/) who never wished to marry, Cousine Bette who failed in her matrimonial attempts, and Madame Bousquier (/La vieille Fille) who finally succeeded in hers.

The working class is represented in such characters as Madame Remonencq (/Le Cousin Pons/) and Madame Cardinal (/Les petits Bourgeois/), while the servant class is well shown in the person of the /grand/ Nanon (/Eugenie Grandet/), the faithful Fanny (/La Grenadiere/), and many others. As has been seen, there is a trace of his old servant, Mere Comin, in the person of Madame Vaillant (/Facino Cane/), and Mere Cognette and La Rabouilleuse (/La Rabouilleuse/) are said to be people he met while visiting Madame Carraud. The novelist must have known many such women, for his mother and sisters had servants, and in the homes of Madame de Berny, Madame Carraud and Madame de Margonne, he certainly knew the servants, not to mention those he observed at the cafes and in his wanderings.

Balzac knew several young girls at different periods of his life. His sister Laure was his first and only companion in his earlier years, and he knew his sister Laurence especially well in the years immediately preceding her marriage. Madame Carraud was a schoolmate of Madame Surville and visited in his home as a young girl. He was not only acquainted with the various daughters of Madame de Berny, but at one time there was some prospect of his marrying Julie. Josephine and Constance, daughters of Madame d'Abrantes, were acquaintances of his during their early womanhood. He must have known Mademoiselle de Trumilly as he presented himself as her suitor, and being entertained in her home frequently, doubtless saw her sisters also. Since he accompanied his sister to balls in his youth, it is natural to suppose that he met young girls there, even if there is no record of it.

A few years later he became devoted to the two daughters of his sister Laure, and lived with her for a short time. He knew Madame Hanska's daughter Anna in her childhood, but was most intimate with her when she was about twenty. While Madame de Girardin was not so young, he met her several years before her marriage, called her Delphine, and regarded her somewhat as his pupil. He liked Marie de Montbeau and her mother, Camille Delannoy, who was a friend of his sister Laure and the daughter of the family friend, Madame Delannoy. Though not intimate with her, he met and observed Eugenie, the daughter of Madame de Bolognini at Milan, and probably was acquainted with Inez and Hyacinthe, the two daughters of Madame Desbordes-Valmore.

In his various works, he has portrayed quite a number of young girls varying greatly in rank and temperament, among the most prominent being Marguerite Claes (/La Recherche de l'Absolu/), noted for her ability and her strength of character, headstrong and much petted Emilie de Fontaine (/Le Bal de Sceaux/), Laurence de Cinq-Cygne, the very zealous Royalist (/Une tenebreuse Affaire/), romantic Modeste Mignon, pitiable Pierrette Lorrain, dutiful and devout Ursule Mirouet, unfortunate Fosseuse (/Le Medecin de Campagne/), bold and unhappy Rosalie de Watteville (/Albert Savarus/), and the well-known Eugenie Grandet.

The novelist has revealed to us that he modeled one of these heroines on a combination of the woman who later became his wife, and her cousin, a most charming woman. It is quite possible that some if not all of the other heroines would be found to have equally interesting sources, could they be discovered.

Concerning the much discussed question as to whether Balzac portrayed young girls well, M. Marcel Barriere remarks:

"There are critics stupid enough to say that Balzac knew nothing of the art of painting young girls; they make use of the inelegant, unpolished word /rate/ to qualify his portraits of this /genre/. To be sure, Balzac's triumph is, we admit, in his portraits of mothers or passionate women who know life. Certain authors, without counting George Sand, have given us sketches of young girls far superior to Balzac's, but that is no reason for scoffing in so impertinent a manner at the author of the /Comedie humaine/, when his unquestionable glory ought to silence similar pamphletistic criticisms. We advise those who reproach Balzac for not having understood the simplicity, modesty and graces so full of charm, or often the artifice of the young girl, to please reread in the /Scenes de la Vie privee/ the portraits of Louise de Chaulieu, Renee de Maucombe, Modeste Mignon, Julie de Chatillonest, Honorine de Beauvan, Mademoiselle Guillaume, Emilie de Fontaine, Mademoiselle Evangelista, Adelaide du Rouvre, Ginervra di Piombo, etc., without mentioning, in other /Scenes/, Eugenie Grandet, Eve Sechard, Pierrette Lorrain, Ursule Mirouet, Mesdemoiselles Birotteau, Hulot d'Ervy, de Cinq-Cygne, La Fosseuse, Marguerite Claes, Juana de Mancini, Pauline Gaudin, and I hope they will keep silence, otherwise they will cause us to question their good sense of criticism."

Balzac said it would require a Raphael to create so many virgins; accordingly, from time to time the type of woman of the other extreme is also seen. She is portrayed in the /grande dame/ and in the /courtisane/, that is, at the top and the bottom of the social ladder. On the one side are the Princesse de Cadignan, the Comtesse de Seriby, etc., while on the other are Esther Gobseck, Valerie Marneffe, and others. Some of the novelist's most striking antitheses were attained by placing these horrible creatures by the side of his noblest and purest creations.

In his /Avant-propos/, he criticized Walter Scott for having portrayed his women as Protestants, saying: "In Protestantism there is no possible future for the woman who has sinned; while, in the Catholic Church, the hope of forgiveness makes her sublime. Hence, for the Protestant writer there is but one woman, while the Catholic writer finds a new woman in each new situation." Naturally, most of the women of the /Comedie humaine/ are Catholic, but among the exceptions is Madame Jeanrenaud (/L'Interdiction/), who is a Protestant; Josepha Mirah and Esther Gobseck are of Jewish origin. In portraying various women as Catholics, convent life for the young girl is seen in /Memoires de deux jeunes mariees/, and for the woman weary of society, in /La Duchesse de Langeais/. Extreme piety is shown in Madame de Granville (/Une double Famille/), and Madame Graslin devoted herself to charity to atone for her crime.

Various pictures are given of woman in the home. Ideal happiness is portrayed in the life of Madame Cesar Birotteau. Madame Grandet, Madame Hulot (/La Cousine Bette/), and Madame Claes (/La Recherche de l'Absolu/) were martyrs to their husbands, while Madame Serizy made a martyr of hers. Beautiful motherhood is often seen, as in Madame Sauviat (/Le Cure de Village/), yet some of the mothers in Balzac are most heartless. A few professions among women are represented, actresses, artists, musicians and dancers being prominent in some of the stories.

It is quite possible and even probable that Balzac pictured many more women whom he knew in real life than have been mentioned here, and these may yet be traced. For obvious reasons, he avoided exact portraiture, yet in a few instances he indulged in it, notably in the sketch of George Sand as Mademoiselle des Touches. And lest one might not recognize the appearance of Madame Merlin as Madame Schontz (/Beatrix/), he boldly made her name public.

In presenting the women whom we know, the novelist was usually consistent. As has been seen, he regarded the home of Madame Carraud at Frapesle as a haven of rest, and went there like a wood-pigeon regaining its nest. The suffering Felix de Vandenesse (/Le Lys dans la Vallee/) could not, therefore, find calm until he went to the chateau de Frapesle to recuperate. The novelist could easily give this minute description of Frapesle with its towers, as well as the chateau de Sache, the home of M. de Margonne, having spent so much of his time at both of these places.

The reader, having seen in the early pages of this book, Balzac's relation to his mother,-in case Felix de Vandenesse represents Balzac himself-is not surprised to learn that the mother of Felix was cold and tyrannical, indifferent to his happiness, that he had but little or no money to spend, that his brother was the favorite, that he was sent away to school early in life and remained there eight years, that his mother often reproached him and repressed his tenderness, and that to escape all contact with her he buried himself in his reading.

Felix was in this unhappy state when he met Madame de Mortsauf, whose shoulders he kissed suddenly, and whose love for him later made him forget the miseries of childhood; in the same manner, Balzac made his first declaration to Madame de Berny. Madame de Mortsauf could easily be Madame de Berny with all her tenderness and sympathy, or she could be Madame Hanska. The intense maternal love of the heroine could represent either, but especially the latter. M. de Mortsauf could be either M. de Berny or M. de Hanski. Balzac left Madame de Berny and became enraptured with Madame de Castries, and had had a similar infatuation for Madame d'Abrantes, just as Felix made Madame de Mortsauf jealous by his devotion to Lady Arabelle Dudley. It will be remembered that Madame Hanska was suspicious of Balzac's relations with an English lady, Countess Visconti, although the novelist states that he had written this work before he knew Madame Visconti. The novelist has doubtless combined traits of various women in a single character, but the fact still remains that he was depicting life as he knew it, even if he did not attempt exact portraiture.

While the famous Vicomtesse de Beauseant (/La Femme abandonnee/) has many characteristics of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, and some of those of Madame de Berny, and /La Femme abandonnee/ was written the year Balzac severed his relations with his /Dilecta/. But it is especially in the gentleness and patience portrayed in Madame Firmiani, in the affection and self-sacrifice of Pauline de Villenoix for Louis Lambert, and the devotion of Pauline Gaudin to Raphael in /La Peau de Chagrin/ that Madame de Berny is most strikingly represented. She was all this and more to Balzac. Furthermore, he may have obtained from her his historical color for /Un Episode sous la Terreur/, just as he was influenced by Madame Junot in writing stories of the Empire and Corsican vengeance.

It was perhaps to avoid recognition of the heroine and to revenge himself on Madame de Castries that he made the Duchesse de Langeais enter a convent and die, after her failure to master the Marquis de Montriveau, while for his part the hero soon forgot her.

Soon after introducing Madame de Mortsauf (/Le Lys dans la Vallee/), Balzac compares her to the fragrant heather gathered on returning from the Villa Diodati. After studying carefully his long period of association with Madame Hanska, one can see the importance which the Villa Diodati had in his life. This is only another incident, small though it be, showing how this woman impressed herself so deeply on the novelist that almost unconsciously he brought memories of his /Predilecta/ into his work. It has been shown that she served as a model for some of his most attractive heroines; was honored, under different names, with the dedication of three works besides the one dedicated to her daughter; and was the originator of one of his most popular novels for young girls, while many traces of herself and her family connections are found throughout the whole /Comedie humaine/.

Though by far the most important of them all, she was only one of the many /etrangeres/ he knew. As has been observed, he knew women of Russia, Poland, Germany, Austria, England, Italy and Spain, and had traveled in most of these countries; hence one is not surprised at the large number of foreign women who have appeared in his work. Among the most noted of these are Lady Brandon (/La Grenadiere/); Lady Dudley (/Le Lys dans la Vallee/); Madame Varese (/Massimilla Doni/); la Duchesse de Rhetore (/Albert Savarus/), who was in reality Madame Hanska, although presented as being Italian; Madame Claes (/La Recherche de l'Absolu/), of Spanish origin though born in Brussels; Paquita Valdes (/La Fille aux Yeux d'Or/); and the Corsican Madame Luigi Porta (/La Vendetta/).

In regard to Balzac's various women friends, J. W. Sherer has very appropriately observed: "And the man was worthy of them: the student of his work knows what a head he had; the student of his life, what a heart."

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