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Women in the Life of Balzac by Juanita Helm Floyd

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four thousand five hundred francs and my discounts, diminish by
six thousand the thirty-three thousand. She could not lose a great
fortune more clumsily, for Werdet estimates at five hundred
thousand francs the profits to be made out of the next edition of
the /Etudes de Moeurs/. I find Werdet the active, intelligent, and
devoted publisher that I want. I have still six months before I
can be rid of Madame Bechet; for I have three volumes to do, and
it is impossible to count on less than two months to each volume."

She evidently relented, for he wrote later that Madame Bechet had paid
him the entire thirty-three thousand francs. This, however, did not
end their troubles, and he longed to be free from his obligations, and
to sever all connection with her.

In the spring of 1836, Madame Bechet became Madame Jacquillart.
Whether she was influenced by her husband or had become weary of
Balzac's delays, she became firmer. The novelist felt that she was too
exacting, for he was working sixteen hours a day to complete the last
two volumes for her, and he believed that the suit with which she
threatened him was prompted by his enemies, who seemed to have sworn
his ruin. Madame Bechet lost but little time in carrying out her
threat, for a few days after this he writes:

"Do you know by what I have been interrupted? By a legal notice
from Bechet, who summons me to furnish her within twenty-four
hours my two volumes in 8vo, with a penalty of fifty francs for
every day's delay! I must be a great criminal and God wills that I
shall expiate my crimes! Never was such torture! This woman has
had ten volumes 8vo out of me in two years, and yet she complains
at not getting twelve!"

There had been a question of a lawsuit as early as the autumn of 1835;
to avoid this he was then trying to finish the /Fleur-des-Pois/
(afterwards /Le Contrat de Mariage/). But their relations were more
cordial at that time, for a short time later, he writes: "My
publisher, the sublime Madame Bechet, has been foolish enough to send
the corrected proofs to St. Petersburg. I am told nothing is spoken of
there but of the /excellence of this new masterpiece/."

Both Madame Bechet and Werdet were in despair over Balzac's journey to
Vienna in 1835, but things grew even worse the next year. The novelist
gives this glimpse of his troubles:

"My mind itself was crushed; for the failure of the /Chronique/
came upon me at Sache, at M. de Margonne's, where, by a wise
impulse, I was plunged in work to rid myself of that odious
Bechet. I had undertaken to write in ten days (it was that which
kept me from going to Nemours!) the two volumes which had been
demanded of me, and in eight days I had invented and composed
/Les Illusions perdues/, and had written a third of it. Think what
such application meant! All my faculties were strained; I wrote
fifteen hours a day. . . ."

In explaining Balzac's association with Madame Bechet, M. Henri
d'Almeras states that Madame Bechet was interested, at first, in
attaching celebrated writers to her publishing house, or those who had
promise of fame. She organized weekly dinner parties, which took place
on Saturday, and here assembled Beranger, Henri de Latouche, Louis
Reybaud, Leon Gozlan, Brissot-Thivars, Balzac and Dr. Gentil. It was
with Madame Bechet as with Charles Gosselin. The publication, less
lucrative than she expected, of the first series of the /Scenes de la
Vie parisienne/ and the /Scenes de la Vie de Province/ made it
particularly disagreeable to her to receive the reproaches of a writer
who, with his admirable talent, could not become resigned to meet with
less success than other litterateurs not so good as he.

The termination of their business relations is recounted thus:
"/Illusions perdues/ appears this week. On the 17th I have a meeting
to close up all claims from Madame Bechet and Werdet. So there is one
cause of torment the less."

If M. Hughes Rebell is correct in his surmise, at least a part of
Werdet's admiration for the novelist was inspired by his wife, who had
become a great admirer of the works of the young writer, not well
known at that time. Madame Werdet persuaded her husband to speak to
Madame Bechet about Balzac, and to advise her to publish his works.
Her husband did so, but Madame Werdet did not stop at this. She
convinced him that he should leave Madame Bechet and become Balzac's
sole publisher; this he was for five years, and, moreover, served him
as his banker. M. Rebell thinks also that Madame Werdet is the
"delicious /bourgeoise/" referred to in Balzac's letter to Madame


"You wish to know if I have met Foedora, if she is true? A woman
from cold Russia, the Princess Bagration, is supposed in Paris to
be the model for her. I have reached the seventy-second woman who
has had the impertinence to recognize herself in that character.
They are all of ripe age. Even Madame Recamier is willing to
/foedorize herself/. Not a word of all that is true. I made
Foedora out of two women whom I have known without having been
intimate with them. Observation sufficed me, besides a few
confidences. There are also some kind souls who will have it that
I have courted the handsomest of Parisian courtesans and have
concealed myself behind her curtains. These are calumnies. I have
met a Foedora; but that one I shall not paint; besides, it has
been a long time since /La Peau de Chagrin/ was published."

Quoting Amedee Pichot and Dr. Meniere, S. de Lovenjoul states that
Mademoiselle Olympe Pelissier is the woman whom Balzac used as a model
for his Foedora, and that, like Raphael, he concealed himself in her
bedroom. She is indeed the woman without a heart; she kept in the rue
Neuve-du-Luxembourg a salon frequented by noted political people such
as the Duc de Fitz-James. Being rich as well as beautiful, and having
an exquisite voice, she was highly attractive to the novelist, who
aspired to her hand, and who regarded her refusal with bitterness all
his life. Several years later she was married to her former voice
teacher, M. Rossini.

Balzac met the famous Olympe early in his literary career; he says of

"Two years ago, Sue quarreled with a /mauvaise courtesone/
celebrated for her beauty (she is the original of Vernet's
/Judith/). I lowered myself to reconcile them, and they gave her
to me. M. de Fitz-James, the Duc de Duras, and the old count went
to her house to talk, as on neutral ground, much as people walk in
the alley of the Tuileries to meet one another; and one expects
better conduct of me than of those gentlemen! . . . As for
Rossini, I wish him to write me a nice letter, and he has just
invited me to dine with his mistress, who happens to be that
beautiful /Judith/, the former mistress of Horace Vernet and of
Sue you know. . . ."

Some months after this Balzac gave a dinner to his /Tigres/, as he
called the group occupying the same box with him at the opera.
Concerning this dinner, he writes:

"Next Saturday I give a dinner to the /Tigres/ of my opera-box, and
I am preparing sumptuosities out of all reason. I shall have
Rossini and Olympe, his /cara dona/, who will preside. . . . My
dinner? Why, it made a great excitement. Rossini declared he had
never seen eaten or drunk anything better among sovereigns. This
dinner was sparkling with wit. The beautiful Olympe was graceful,
sensible and perfect."[*]

[*] The present writer has not been able to find any date that would
prove positively that Balzac knew Madame Rossini before writing
/La Peau de Chagrin/ which appeared in 1830-1831.

Balzac was a great admirer of Rossini, wrote the words for one of his
compositions, and dedicated to him /Le Contrat de Mariage/.

Among the famous salons that Balzac frequented was that of Madame
Recamier, who was noted even more for her distinction and grace than
for her beauty. She appreciated the ability of the young writer, and
invited him to read in her salon long before the world recognized his
name. He admired her greatly; of one of his visits to her he writes:

"Yesterday I went to see Madame Recamier, whom I found ill but
wonderfully bright and kind. I have heard that she did much good,
and acted very nobly in being silent and making no complaint of
the ungrateful beings she has met. No doubt she saw upon my face a
reflection of what I thought of her, and without explaining to
herself this little sympathy, she was charming."

Although one would not suspect Madame Hanska of being jealous of
Madame Recamier, perhaps it is because she wished to /foedorize/
herself that Balzac writes:

"/Mon Dieu!/ do not be jealous of any one. I have not been to see
Madame Recamier or any one else. . . . As to my relations with the
person you speak of, I never had any that were tender; I have none
now. I answered a very unimportant letter, and apropos of a
sentence, I explained myself; that was all. There are relations of
politeness due to women of a certain rank whom one has known; but
a visit to Madame Recamier is not, I suppose, /relations/, when
one visits her once in three months."

One of the famous women whom Balzac met soon after he began to acquire
literary fame was the Duchesse de Dino, who was married to
Talleyrand's nephew in 1809.

"When her husband's uncle became French Ambassador at Vienna in
1814, she went with him as mistress of the embassy. When he was
sent to London in 1830, she accompanied him in the same capacity.
She lived with him till his death in 1838, entirely devoted to his
welfare, and she had given us in these pages a picture of the old
Talleyrand which is among the masterpieces of memoir-writing. From
this connection she was naturally for many years in the very heart
of political affairs, as no one was, save perhaps that other
Dorothea of the Baltic, the Princess de Lieven. To great beauty
and spirit she added unusual talents, and in the best sense was a
great lady of the /haute politique/."

Balzac had met her in the salon of Madame Appony, but had never
visited her in her home until 1836, when he went to Rochecotte to see
the famous Prince de Talleyrand, having a great desire to have a view
of the "witty turkeys who plucked the eagle and made it tumble into
the ditch of the house of Austria." Several years later, on his return
from St. Petersburg, he stopped in Berlin, where he was invited to a
grand dinner at the home of the Count and Countess Bresson. He gave
his arm to the Duchesse de Talleyrand (ex-Dino), whom he thought the
most beautiful lady present, although she was fifty-two years of age.

The Duchesse has left this appreciation of the novelist: ". . . his
face and bearing are vulgar, and I imagine his ideas are equally so.
Undoubtedly, he is a very clever man, but his conversation is neither
easy nor light, but on the contrary, very dull. He watched and
examined all of us most minutely."

Notwithstanding that the beautiful Dorothea did not admire Balzac, he
was sincere in his appreciation of her. A novel recently brought to
light, /L'Amour Masque/, or as the author first called it, /Imprudence
et Bonheur/, was written for her. Balzac had been her guest
repeatedly; he had recognized in her one of the rare women, who by
their intelligence and, as it were, instinctive appreciation of genius
can compensate to a great /incompris/ like Balzac for the lack of
recognition on the part of his contemporaries; one of those women near
whom, thanks to tactful treatment, a depressed man will regain
confidence in himself and courage to go on.

Of the distinguished houses which were open to Balzac, that of the
Comte Appony was one of the most beautiful. This protg of the Prince
of Metternich, having had the rare good fortune to please both
governments, was retained by Louis-Philippe, and was as well liked and
appreciated in the role of ambassador and diplomat as in that of man
of the world. The Countess Appony possessed a very peculiar charm, and
was a type of feminine distinction. Balls and receptions were given
frequently in her home, where all was of a supreme elegance.

Balzac visited the Count and Countess frequently, often having a
letter or a message to deliver for the Comtesse Marie Potocka. He
realized that it would be of advantage to be friendly toward the
Ambassador of Austria, and he doubtless enjoyed the society of his
charming wife. He writes of one of these visits:

"Alas! your /moujik/ also has been /un poco/ in that market of
false smiles and charming toilets; he has made his debut at Madame
Appony's,--for the house of Balzac must live on good terms with
the house of Austria,--and your /moujik/ had some success. He was
examined with the curiosity felt for animals from distant regions.
There were presentations on presentations, which bored him so that
he placed himself in a corner with some Russians and Poles. But
their names are so difficult to pronounce that he cannot tell you
anything about them, further than that one was a very ugly lady,
friend of Madame Hahn, and a Countess Schouwalof, sister of Madame
Jeroslas. . . . Is that right? The /moujik/ will go there every
two weeks, if his lady permits him."

The novelist met many prominent people at these receptions, among them
Prince Esterhazy; he went to the beautiful soirees of Madame Appony
while refusing to go elsewhere, even to the opera.

Several women Balzac probably met through his intimacy with their
husbands. Among these were Madame de Bernard, whose name was
Clementine, but whom he called "Mentine" and "La Fosseuse," this
character being the frail nervous young girl in /Le Medecin de
Campagne/. In August, 1831, M. Charles de Bernard wrote a very
favorable article about /La Peau de Chagrin/ in the /Gazette de
Franche-Comte/, which he was editing at that time. This naturally
pleased the novelist; their friendship continued through many years,
and in 1844, Balzac dedicated to him /Sarrazine/, written in 1830.

Early in his literary career Balzac knew Baron Gerard, and in writing
to the painter, sent greetings to Madame Gerard. Much later in life,
while posing for his bust, made by David d'Angers, he saw Madame David
frequently, and learned to like her. He felt flattered that she
thought he looked so much younger than he really was. On his return
from St. Petersburg, in 1843, he brought her a pound of Russian tea,
which, as he explained, had no other merit than the exceeding
difficulties it had encountered in passing through twenty custom-


"Madame de Visconti, of whom you speak to me, is one of the most
amiable of women, of an infinite, exquisite kindness; a delicate
and elegant beauty. She helps me much to bear my life. She is
gentle, and full of firmness, immovable and implacable in her
ideas and her repugnances. She is a person to be depended on. She
has not been fortunate, or rather, her fortune and that of the
Count are not in keeping with this splendid name. . . . It is a
friendship which consoles me under many griefs. But,
unfortunately, I see her very seldom."

Madame Emile Guidoboni-Visconti, nee (Frances Sarah) Lowell, was an
Englishwoman another /etrangere/. Balzac shared the same box with her
at the Italian opera, and in the summer of 1836, he went to Turin to
look after some legal business for the Viscontis. He had not known
them long before this, for he writes, in speaking of /Le Lys dans la
Vallee/: "Do they not say that I have painted Madame Visconti? Such
are the judgments to which we are exposed. You know that I had the
proofs in Vienna, and that portrait was written at Sache and corrected
at La Bouleauniere, before I had ever seen Madame Visconti."[*]

[*] La Bouleauniere was the home of Madame de Berny, at Nemours.
Balzac visited Madame Hanska at Vienna in the spring of 1835.

Either this new friendship became too ardent for the comfort of Madame
Hanska, or she heard false reports concerning it, for she made
objections to which Balzac responds:

"Must I renounce the Italian opera, the only pleasure I have in
Paris, because I have no other seat than in a box where there is
also a charming and gracious woman? If calumny, which respects
nothing, demands it, I shall give up music also. I was in a box
among people who were an injury to me, and brought me into
disrepute. I had to go elsewhere, and, in all conscience, I did
not wish Olympe's box. But let us drop the subject."

The friendship continued to grow, however, and in December, 1836, the
novelist offered her the manuscript of /La vieille Fille/. He visited
her frequently in her home, and on his return from an extended tour to
Corsica and Sardinia in 1838 he spent some time in Milan, looking
after some business interests for the Visconti family.

When Balzac was living secluded from his creditors, Madame Visconti
showed her friendship for him in a very material way. The bailiff had
been seeking him for three weeks, when a vindictive Ariadne, having a
strong interest in seeing Balzac conducted to prison, presented
herself at the home of the creditor and informed him that the novelist
was residing in the Champs-Elysees, at the home of Madame Visconti.
Nothing could have been more exact than this information. Two hours
later, the home was surrounded, and Balzac, interrupted in the midst
of a chapter of one of his novels, saw two bailiffs enter, armed with
the traditional club; they showed him a cab waiting at the door. A
woman had betrayed him--now a woman saved him. Madame Visconti flung
ten thousand francs in the faces of the bailiffs, and showed them the

[*] Eugene de Mirecourt, /Les Contemporains/, does not give the date
of this incident. Keim et Lumet, /H. de Balzac/, state that it
occurred in 1837, but E. E. Saltus, /Balzac/, states that it was
in connection with the indebtedness to William Duckett, editor of
the /Dictionnaire de la Conversation/, in 1846. F. Lawton,
/Balzac/, states that it was in connection with his indebtedness
to Duckett on account of the /Chronicle/, and that Balzac was sued
in 1837. If the letter to Mme. de V., /Memoir and Letters of
Balzac/, was addressed to Madame Visconti, he was owing her in
1840. M. F. Sandars, /Honore de Balzac/, states that about 1846-
1848, Balzac borrowed 10,000 or 15,000 francs from the Viscontis,
giving them as guarantee shares in the Chemin de Fer du Nord.

During Balzac's residence /aux Jardies/ he was quite near Madame
Visconti, as she was living in a rather insignificant house just
opposite the home Balzac had built. He enjoyed her companionship, and
when she moved to Versailles he regretted not being able to see her
more frequently than once a fortnight, for she was one of the few who
gave him their sympathy at that time.

Several months later Balzac was disappointed in her, and referred to
her bitterly as /L'Anglaise/, /L'Angleterre/, or "the lady who lived
at Versailles." He felt that she was ungrateful and inconsiderate, and
while he remained on speaking terms with her, he regarded this
friendship as one of the misfortunes of his life.

After the death of Madame Visconti (April 28, 1883), a picture of
Balzac which had been in her possession was placed in the museum at
Tours. This is supposed to be the portrait painted by Gerard-Seguin,
exhibited in the /Salon/ in 1842, and presented to her by Balzac at
that time.

In answering several of Madame Hanska's questions, Balzac writes: "No,
I was not happy in writing /Beatrix/; you ought to have known it. Yes,
Sarah is Madame de Visconti; yes, Mademoiselle des Touches is George
Sand; yes, Beatrix is even too much Madame d'Agoult." A few months
later he writes: "The friendship of which I spoke to you, and at which
you laughed, apropos of the dedication, is not all I thought it.
English prejudices are terrible, they take away what is an essential
to all artists, the /laisser-aller/, unconstraint. Never have I done
so well as when, in the /Lys/, I explained the women of that country
in a few words."[*]

[*] This is probably the basis for Mr. Monahan's statement that Balzac
pictured Madame Visconti as Lady Dudley in /Le Lys dans la

From the above, one would suppose that Madame Visconti is the "Sarah"
whom Balzac addresses in the dedication of /Beatrix/:

"To Sarah.

"In clear weather, on the Mediterranean shores, where formerly
extended the magnificent empire of your name, the sea sometimes
allows us to perceive beneath the mist of waters a sea-flower, one
of Nature's masterpieces; the lacework of its tissues, tinged with
purple, russet, rose, violet, or gold, the crispness of its living
filigrees, the velvet texture, all vanish as soon as curiosity
draws it forth and spreads it on the strand. Thus would the glare
of publicity offend your tender modesty; so, in dedicating this
work to you, I must reserve a name which would, indeed, be its
pride. But, under the shelter of its half-concealment, your superb
hands may bless it, your noble brow may bend and dream over it,
your eyes, full of motherly love, may smile upon it, since you are
here at once present and veiled. Like this pearl of the ocean-
garden, you will dwell on the fine, white, level sand where your
beautiful life expands, hidden by a wave that is transparent only
to certain friendly and reticent eyes. I would gladly have laid at
your feet a work in harmony with your perfections; but as that was
impossible, I knew, for my consolation, that I was gratifying one
of your instincts by offering you something to protect.


[*] S. de Lovenjoul, /Histoire des Oeuvres de Balzac/, states that the
"Sarah" to whom Balzac dedicated /Beatrix/ is no other than an
Englishwoman, Frances Sarah Lowell, who became the Comtesse Emile
Guidoboni-Visconti. She was born at Hilks, September 29, 1804, and
died at Versailles April 28, 1883.

In sending the corrected proofs of /Beatrix/ to "Madame de V----,"
Balzac writes:

"My dear friend,--Here are the proofs of /Beatrix/: a book for
which you have made me feel an affection, such as I have not felt
for any other book. It has been the ring which has united our
friendship. I never give these things except to those I love, for
they bear witness to my long labors, and to that patience of which
I spoke to you. My nights have been passed over these terrible
pages, and amongst all to whom I have presented them, I know no
heart more pure and noble than yours, in spite of those little
attacks of want of faith in me, which no doubt arises from your
great wish to find a poor author more perfect than he can
be. . . ."

In contradiction to the preceding, M. Leon Seche thinks that /Beatrix/
was dedicated to Madame Helene- Marie-Felicite Valette, and that she
is the "Madame de V-----" to whom the letter is addressed. Helene de
Valette (she probably had no right to the "nobiliary" /de/ although
she signed her name thus) was the daughter of Pierre Valette,
Lieutenant de Vaisseau, who after the death of Madame Valette, in
1818, became a priest at Vannes in order to be near their daughter
Helene, who was in the convent of the Ursulines. At the age of
eighteen he married her to a notary of Vannes, thirty years her
senior, a widower with a bad reputation, whose name was Jean-Marie-
Angele Gougeon. Scarcely had she married when she had an intrigue with
a physician; her husband died soon after this, and she resumed her
maiden name. She adopted the daughter of a /paludier/,[*] Le Gallo,
whose wife had saved her from drowning, and named her "Marie" in
memory of de Balzac's favorite name for herself.

[*] /Paludier/. One who works in the salt marshes.

In stating that the letter to "Madame de V-----" is addressed to
Madame Valette, M. Seche publishes a letter almost identical with the
one that is found in both the /Memoir and Letters of Balzac/ and the
/Correspondence, 1819-1850/, one of the chief differences being that
in this letter Balzac addresses her as "My dear Marie" instead of "My
dear friend." In telling "Madame de V-----" that he is sending her the
proofs of /Beatrix/, Balzac refers to the suppression of his play
/Vautrin/, and says that the director /des beaux-arts/ has come a
second time to offer him an indemnity which /ne faisait pas votre
somme/. This might lead one to think that he had had some financial
dealings with her.

In the dedication of /Beatrix/, dated /Aux Jardies/, December, 1838,
Balzac speaks of Sarah's being a pearl of the Mediterranean. In the
Island of Malta is a town called Cite-Vallette--suggestive of the name
Felicite Valette. Felicite is also the name of the heroine, Felicite
des Touches, although Marie is the name of Madame Valette that Balzac
liked best.

In 1836, after reading some of Balzac's novels, Madame de Valette
wrote to Balzac. Attracted by her, he went to Guerande where he took
his meals at a little hotel kept by the demoiselles Bouniol, mentioned
in /Beatrix/. Under her guidance he roamed over the country and then
wrote /Beatrix/. She pretended to him to have been born at Guerande
and to have been reared as a /paludiere/ by her godmother, Madame de
Lamoignon-Lavalette, whence the reference in the dedication to the
former "empire of your name." Her real godmother was Marie-Felicite
Burgaud. Balzac did not know that she had been married to the notary
Gougeon, and thought that her mother was still living.

When Madame de Valette went to Paris to reside, she was noted for her
beauty and eccentric manners; she rode horseback to visit Balzac /aux
Jardies/. She met a young writer, Edmond Cador, who revealed to Balzac
all that she had kept from him. This deception provoked Balzac and
gave rise to an exchange of rather sharp letters, and a long silence
followed. After Balzac's death she gave Madame Honore de Balzac
trouble concerning /Beatrix/ and her correspondence with Balzac, which
she claimed. She died January 14, 1873, at the home of the Baron
Larrey whom she had appointed as her residuary legatee. She is buried
in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, and on her tomb is written /Veuve

In her letters to Balzac, given by Spoelberch de Lovenjoul to the
French Academy, she addressed him as "My dear beloved treasure," and
signed her name /Babouino/. There exists a letter from her to him in
which she tells him that she is going to Vannes to visit for a
fortnight, after which she will go to Bearn to make the acquaintance
of her husband's people, and asks him to address her under the name of

[*] Leon Seche, /Les Inspiratrices de Balzac, Helene de Valette, Les
Annales Romantiques/, supposes that this is another falsehood,
since he could find no record of where any member of the Gougeon
family had ever lived in Bearn. Much of his information has been
secured from Dr. Closmadeuc, who lived at Vannes and who attended
Madame de Valette in her late years; also, from her adopted
daughter, Mlle. Le Gallo.

After the death of Madame de Valette, the Baron Larrey, in memory of
her relations with Balzac, presented to the city of Tours the
corrected proofs of /Beatrix/, and a portrait of Balzac which he had
received from her.

Among Balzac's numerous Russian friends was Mademoiselle Sophie
Kozlowska. "Sophie is the daughter of Prince Kozlowski, whose marriage
was not recognized; you must have heard of that very witty diplomat,
who is with Prince Paskevitch in Warsaw."[*]

[*] /Lettres a l'Etrangere/. By explaining to Madame Hanska who Sophie
is, one would not suppose that Balzac met her at Madame Hanska's
home, as M. E. Pilon states in his article.

This friendship seems to have been rather close for a while, Balzac
addressing her as /Sofka/, /Sof/, /Sophie/ and /carissima Sofi/. Just
before the presentation of his play /Quinola/ he wrote her, asking for
the names and addresses of her various Russian friends who wished
seats, as many enemies were giving false names. He wanted to place the
beautiful ladies in front, and wished to know in what party she would
be, and the definite number of tickets and location desired for each

In this same jovial vein he writes her: "Mina wrote me that you were
ill, and that dealt me a blow as if one had told Napoleon his aide-de-
camp was dead." His attitude towards her changed some months after
writing this; she became the means of alienating his friend Gavault
from him, or at least he so suspected, and thought that she was
influenced by Madame Visconti. This coldness soon turned to enmity,
and she completely won from him his former friend, Gavault, who had
become very much enamored with her. The novelist expressed the same
bitterness of feeling for her as he did for Madame Visconti, but as
the years went by, either his aversion to these two women softened, or
he thought it good policy to retain their good will, for he wished
their names placed on his invitation list.

Balzac's feeling of friendship for her must have been sincere at one
time, for he dedicated /La Bourse/:

"To Sofka.

"Have you not observed, mademoiselle, that the painters and
sculptors of the Middle Ages, when they placed two figures in
adoration, one on each side of a fair Saint, never fail to give
them a family likeness? On seeing your name among those who are
dear to me, and under whose auspices I place my works, remember
that touching harmony, and you will see in this not so much an act
of homage as an expression of the brotherly affection of your
devoted servant,


"I have found a letter from the kind Comtesse Loulou, who loves you
and whom you love, and in whose letter your name is mentioned in a
melancholy sentence which drew tears to my eyes; . . . I am going
to write to the good Loulou without telling her all she has done
by her letter, for such things are difficult to express, even to
that kind German woman. But she spoke of you with so much soul
that I can tell her that what in her is friendship, in me is
worship that can never end."

The Countess Louise Turheim called "Loulou" by her intimate friends
and her sister Princess Constantine Razumofsky, met Madame Hanska in
the course of her prolonged stay in Vienna in 1835, and the three
women remained friends throughout their lives. The Countess Loulou was
a canoness, and Balzac met her while visiting in Vienna; he admired
her for herself as well as for her friendship for his /Chatelaine/.
Her brother-in-law, Prince Razumofsky, wished Balzac to secure him a
reader at Paris, but since there was limitation as to the price, he
had some trouble in finding a suitable one. This made a correspondence
with the Countess necessary, as it was she who made the request; but
Madame Hanska was not only willing that Balzac should write to her but
sent him her address and they exchanged messages frequently about the

In 1842, /Une double Famille/, a story written in 1830, was dedicated:

"To Madame la Comtesse de Turheim

"As a token of remembrance and affectionate respect.


The Countess de Bocarme, nee du Chasteler, was an artist who helped
Balzac by painting in water-colors the portraits of her uncle, the
field-marshal, and Andreas Hofer; he wished these in order to be able
to depict the heroes of the Tyrol in the campaign of 1809. She painted
also the entire armorial for the /Etudes de Moeurs/; this consisted of
about one hundred armorial bearings, and was a masterpiece. She
promised to paint his study at Passy in water-colors, which was to be
a souvenir for Madame Hanska of the place where he was to finish
paying his debts. All this pleased the novelist greatly, but she
presented him with one gift which he considered as in bad taste. This
was a sort of monument with a muse crowning him, another writing on a
folio: /Comedie humaine/, with /Divo Balzac/ above.

Madame de Bocarme had been reared in a convent with a niece of Madame
Rosalie Rzewuska, had traveled much, and was rather brilliant in
describing what she had seen. She visited Balzac while he was living
/aux Jardies/. She was a great friend of the Countess Chlendowska,
whose husband was Balzac's bookseller, and the novelist counted on her
to lend the money for one of his business schemes. Being fond of
whist, she took Madame Chlendowska to Balzac's house during his
illness of a few weeks, and they entertained him by playing cards with

Balzac called her /Bettina/, and after she left Paris for the Chateau
de Bury in Belgium, he took his housekeeper, Madame de Brugnolle, to
visit her. Madame de Chlendowska was there also, but he did not care
for her especially, as she pretended to know too much about his
intimacy with his "polar star." Madame de Bocarme had one fault that
annoyed him very much; she, too, was inclined to gossip about his
association with Madame Hanska.

In 1843, Balzac erased from /Le Colonel Chabert/ the dedication to M.
de Custine, and replaced it by one to Madame la Comtesse Ida de
Bocarme, nee du Chasteler.

One of the most attractive salons in Paris at the beginning of the
Monarchy of July was that of Countess Merlin, where all the
celebrities met, especially the musicians. Born in Havana, the young,
beautiful, rich and talented Madame Merlin added to the poetic grace
of a Spaniard the wit and distinction of a French woman. General
Merlin married her in Madrid in 1811, and brought her to Paris, where
she created a sensation. Being an accomplished musician, she gave
delightful concerts, and though also gifted as a writer she was as
simple and unpretentious as if she had been created to remain obscure.
In addition, she was so truly good that she had almost no enemies; her
charity was inexhaustible, and she possessed one of those hearts which
live only to do good and to love.

It was Balzac's good fortune to be introduced into the salon. He
explained to Madame Hanska that he went there to play lansquenet in
order to escape becoming insane! He was anxious to have Madame Merlin
present at the first presentation of his /Quinola/, where she wished
to have Martinez de la Rosa with her, but the novelist dissuaded her
from this.

Madame Merlin was a friend of Madame de Girardin, and ridiculed the
Princesse Belgiojoso when these two were rival candidates for the
presidency of the new Academy that was being formed.

During Madame Hanska's secret visit to Paris in 1847, Balzac declined
an invitation to dinner with Madame Merlin, excusing himself on the
ground of lack of time, but promised to call upon her soon. A few
months before this (1846), he dedicated to her /Les Marana/, a short
story written in 1832. /Juana/ is inscribed to her also.

As has been seen, Balzac frequently depicted the features, lives, or
peculiarities of various friends under altered names, but toward the
close of /Beatrix/ he laid aside all disguise in comparing the
appearance of one of his famous women to the beauty of the Countess:
"Madame Schontz owed her fame as a beauty to the brilliancy and color
of a warm, creamy complexion like a creole's, a face full of original
details, with the clean-cut, firm features, of which the Countess de
Merlin was the most famous example and the most perennially
young . . ."

In 1846, Balzac dedicated /Un Drame au Bord de la Mer/, written
several years before, to Madame La Princesse Caroline Galitzin de
Genthod, nee Comtesse Walewska. Balzac doubtless met her while
visiting Madame Hanska in Geneva in 1834, as she was living at
Genthod. He met a Princesse Sophie Galitzin, whom he considered far
more attractive, and later met another Princesse Galitzin. One of
these ladies evidently aroused the suspicions of Madame Hanska, but
the novelist assured her that there was no cause for her anxiety.

Another woman whom Balzac honored with a dedication of one of his
books, but for whom he apparently cared little, was Madame la Baronne
de Rothschild, wife of the founder of the banking house in Paris.
Balzac had met Baron James de Rothschild and his wife at Aix, where
she coquetted with him. He had business dealings with this firm, and
planned, several years later, to present to Madame de Rothschild as a
New Year's greeting some of his works handsomely bound; the volumes
were delayed, and he accordingly made a change in some of his business
matters, for this was evidently a gift with a motive. The dedication
to her of /L'Enfant Maudit/ in 1846, as well as that of /Un Homme
d'Affaires/ to her husband in 1845, was perhaps for financial reasons
or favors, since he never seemed to care for the couple in society.

In the winter of 1837, Countess San-Severino Porcia wrote from Paris
to her friend in Milan, the Countess Clara Maffei, that Balzac was
coming to her city, and suggested that she receive him in her salon.
This distinguished and cultured woman had visited the novelist in
Paris, and had been much surprised at the kind of home in which he was
living, how like a hermit he was secluded from the world and the
persecutions of his creditors; she was amazed when he received her in
his celebrated monastic role.

The Countess Maffei retained her title after her marriage (in 1832)
with the poet, Andrea Maffei, who was many years older than she. She
was a great friend of the Princess Belgiojoso, and during the stirring
times of 1848 the Princess had been a frequent visitor in her salon.
Six years younger than the Princess, the Countess threw herself heart
and soul into the political and literary life of Milan.

"For fifty-two consecutive years (1834-1886) her salon was the
rendezvous not merely of her compatriots but of intellectual
Europe. The list of celebrities who thronged her modest drawing-
room rivals that of Belgiojoso's Parisian salon, and includes many
of the same immortal names. Daniel Stern, Balzac, Manzoni, Liszt,
Verdi, and a score of others, are of international fame; but the
annuals of Italian patriotism, belles-lettres and art teem with
the names of men and women who, during that half century of
uninterrupted hospitality, sought guidance, inspiration and
intellectual entertainment among the politicians, poets, musicians
and wits who congregated round the hostess."[*]

[*] W. R. Whitehouse, /A Revolutionary Princess/.

Balzac arrived in Milan in February, 1837, was well received, and was
invited to the famous salon of Countess Maffei. The novelist was at
once charmed with his hostess, whom he called /la petite Maffei/, and
for whom he soon began to show a tender friendship which later became
blended with affection.

Unfortunately Balzac did not like Milan; only the fascination of the
Countess Maffei pleased him. He quarreled with the Princess San-
Severino Porcia, who would not allow him to say anything unkind about
Italy, and was depressed when calling on the Princess Bolognini, who
laughed at him for it.

In the salon of the Countess Maffei the novelist preferred listening
to talking; occasionally he would break out into sonorous laughter,
and would then listen again, and--in spite of his excessive use of
coffee--would fall asleep. The Countess was often embarrassed by
Balzac's disdainful expressions about people he did not like but who
were her friends. She tried to please him, however and had many of her
French-speaking friends to meet him, but he seemed most to enjoy tea
with her alone. Referring to her age, he wrote in her album: "At
twenty-three years of age, all is in the future."

After Balzac's return to Paris he asked her, in response to one of her
letters, to please ascertain why the Princess San-Severino was angry
with him. Later he showed his appreciation of her kindness by sending
her the corrected proofs of /Martyres ignores/, and by dedicating to
her /La fausse Maitresse/, published in 1841. The dedication, however,
did not appear until several months later.

In a long and beautiful dedication, Balzac inscribed /Les Employes/ to
the Comtesse Serafina San-Severino, nee Porcia, and to her brother,
Prince Alfonso Serafino di Porcia, he dedicated /Splendeurs et Miseres
des Courtisanes/, concerning which he thought a great deal while
visiting in the latter's home in Milan. The hotel having become
intolerable to the novelist, he was invited by Prince Porcia to occupy
a little room in his home, overlooking the gardens, where he could
work at his ease. The Prince, a man of about Balzac's age, was very
much in love with the Countess Bolognini, and was unwilling to marry
at all unless he could marry her, but her husband was still living.
The Prince lived only ten doors from his Countess, and his happiness
in seeing her so frequently, together with his riches, provoked gloomy
meditations in the mind of the poor author, who was so far from his
/Predilecta/, so overcome with debts, and forced to work so hard.

To Madame la Comtesse Bolognini, nee Vimercati, who was afterwards
married to Prince Porcia, Balzac dedicated /Une Fille d'Eve/:

"If you remember, madame, the pleasure your conversation gave to a
certain traveler, making Paris live for him in Milan, you will not
be surprised that he should lay one of his works at your feet, as
a token of gratitude for so many delightful evenings spent in your
society, nor that he should seek for it in the shelter of your
name which, in old times, was given to not a few of the tales by
one of your early writers, dear to the Milanese. You have a
Eugenie, already beautiful, whose clever smile proclaims her to
have inherited from you the most precious gifts a woman can
possess, and whose childhood, it is certain, will be rich in all
those joys which a sad mother refused to the Eugenie of these
pages. If Frenchmen are accused of bring frivolous and inconstant,
I, you see, am Italian in my faithfulness and attachments. How
often, as I write the name of Eugenie, have my thoughts carried me
back to the cool stuccoed drawing-room and little garden of the
/Viccolo dei Capuccini/, which used to resound to the dear child's
merry laughter, to our quarrels, and our stories. You have left
the /Corso/ for the /Tre Monasteri/, where I know nothing of your
manner of life, and I am forced to picture you, no longer amongst
the pretty things, which doubtless still surround you, but like
one of the beautiful heads of Raffaelle, Titian, Correggio or
Allori which, in their remoteness, seem to us like abstractions.
If this book succeeds in making its way across the Alps, it will
prove to you the lively gratitude and respectful friendship of
your humble servant,



Several women whom Balzac knew, but who apparently had no special
influence over his life, are mentioned here; he evidently did not care
enough for them or did not know them well enough to include their
names in the dedicatory register of the /Comedie humaine/. This,
however, by no means exhausts the list of his acquaintances among
women. Many of them he had met through his intimacy with his "Polar
Star"; he was indeed so popular that he once exclaimed to her that he
was overwhelmed with Russian princesses and took to flight to avoid

The noted salon of the charming Princesse Bagration, wife of the
Russian field-marshal, was open to the novelist early in his career.
With her aristocratic ease and the distinction of her manners, she had
been one of the most brilliant stars at Vienna where her salon, as at
Paris, was one of the most popular. Among her intimate friends was
Madame Hamelin whom she had known during her stay in Vienna.
Notwithstanding Balzac's careless habits of dress, he was welcome in
this salon, where the ladies enjoyed the stories which he told with
such charm, and at which he was always the first to laugh, though told
against himself.

As has been mentioned the Princess Bagration passed at Paris for the
model of Foedora. If M. Gabriel Ferry is correct, Balzac met the
Duchesse de Castries in the salon of the Princess Bagration before
their correspondence began, but never talked to her and did not
suppose that he had attracted her attention.

One of Balzac's acquaintances whom he met during his visit to Madame
Hanska at Geneva was the Countess Bossi. He met her again at Milan in
1838, on his return from his journey to Corsica, but he was not
favorably impressed with her, although he once deemed it wise to
explain to his /Chatelaine/ his conduct relative to her.

Madame Kisseleff was one of Madame Hanska's friends whom he probably
met in Vienna; he dined at her home frequently and enjoyed her
company, for she could talk to him of his /Louloup/. She was a friend
of Madame Hamelin, and moved to Fontainebleu to be near her while the
latter was living at /La Madeleine/. While living in Paris, Madame
Kisseleff entertained Madame Hamelin and several other ladies together
with Balzac; these dinners and his /visites de digestion/ caused him
to see much of her for awhile, but as in many of his other
friendships, his ardor cooled later, and he went to her home only when
specially invited. In 1844, she left Paris to reside at Homburg where
she built a house. The novelist took advantage of her friendship to
send articles to Madame Hanska through the Russian ambassador.

Balzac made /visites de politesse/ to the Princesse de Schonburg, an
acquaintance of Madame Hanska's, but no more than were required by
courtesy. It would have been convenient for him to have seen much of
her, had he cared to, for she had placed her child in the same house
with him on account of its vicinity to the orthopaedic hospital.

One of Madame Hanska's friends whom Balzac liked was Madame Jaroslas
Potocka, sister of the Countess Schouwaloff. She wrote some very
pleasing letters to him, but he was too busy to answer them, so he
sent her messages, or enclosed notes to her in his letters to his

La Baronne de Pfaffins, nee Comtesse Mierzciewska, was a Polish lady
whom Balzac met rather late in life. He first thought she was Madame
Hanska's cousin, but later learned that it was to M. de Hanski that
she was related. Her Polish voice reminded him so much of his
/Louloup/ that he was moved to tears; this friendship, however, did
not continue long.

Another acquaintance from the land of Balzac's "Polar Star" was Madame
Delphine Potocka who was a great friend of Chopin, to whom he
dedicated some of his happiest inspirations, and whose voice he so
loved that he requested her to sing while he was dying. Her box at the
opera was near Balzac's so that he saw her frequently, and dined with
her, but did not admire her.


"To Maria:

"May your name, that of one whose portrait is the noblest ornament
of this work, lie on its opening page like a branch of sacred box,
taken from an unknown tree, but sanctified by religion, and kept
ever fresh and green by pious hand to protect the home.


Just who is the "Maria" to whom the dedication of /Eugenie Grandet/ is
addressed is a question that in the opinion of the present writer has
never been satisfactorily answered. The generally accepted answer is
that of Spoelberch de Lovenjoul, who thought that "Maria" was the girl
whom Balzac described as a "poor, simple and delightful /bourgeoise,
. . . the most nave creature that ever was, fallen like a flower from
heaven," and who said to Balzac: "Love me a year, and I will love you
all my life."

Even admitting that this much disputed letter of October 12, 1833, was
written by Balzac, though it does not bear his signature, the name
"Maria" does not appear in it, so it is no proof that she is the woman
to whom Balzac dedicated one of his greatest and probably the most
popular of his works, /Eugenie Grandet/, although the heroine has some
of the characteristics of the woman referred to in that letter in that
she is a "nave, simple, and delightful /bourgeoise/." But in
reviewing the women to whom Balzac dedicated his stories in the
/Comedie humaine/, one does not find any of this type. Either they are
members of his family, old family friends, literary friends, rich
people to whom he was indebted, women of the nobility, or women whom
he loved for a time at least, and all were women whom he could respect
and recognize in society, while the woman referred to in the letter of
October 12, 1833, does not seem to have had this last qualification.

In reply to his sister Laure's criticism that there were too many
millions in /Eugenie Grandet/, he insisted that the story was true,
and that he could create nothing better than the truth. In
investigating the truth of this story, it has been found that Jean
Niveleau, a very rich man having many of the traits of Grandet, lived
at Saumur, and that he had a beautiful daughter whom he is said to
have refused to give in marriage to Balzac. Whether this be true or
not, the novelist has screened some things of a personal nature in
this work.

Although the book is dated September, 1833, he did not finish it until
later. It was just at this time that he met Madame Hanska, and visited
her on two different occasions during the period that he was working
on /Eugenie Grandet/. As he was pressed for money, as usual, his
/Predilecta/ offered to help him financially; this he refused, but
immortalized the offer by having Eugenie give her gold to her lover.

In declining Madame Hanska's offer, he writes her:

"Beloved angel, be a thousand times blessed for your drop of water,
for your offer; it is everything to me and yet it is nothing. You
see what a thousand francs would be when ten thousand a month are
needed. If I could find nine, I could find twelve. But I should
have liked, in reading that delightful letter of yours, to have
plunged my hand into the sea and drawn out all its pearls to strew
them on your beautiful black hair. . . . There is a sublime scene
(to my mind, and I am rewarded for having it) in /Eugenie
Grandet/, who offers her fortune to her cousin. The cousin makes
an answer; what I said to you on that subject was more graceful.
But to mingle a single word that I have said to my Eve in what
others will read!--Ah! I would rather have flung /Eugenie Grandet/
into the fire! . . . Do not think there was the least pride, the
least false delicacy in my refusal of what you know of, the drop
of gold you have put angelically aside. . . ."

The novelist not only gave Madame Hanska the manuscript of /Eugenie
Grandet/, but had her in mind while writing it: "One must love, my
Eve, my dear one, to write the love of /Eugenie Grandet/, a pure,
immense, proud love!"

The dedication of /Eugenie Grandet/ to "Marie" did not appear until in
1839. Balzac knew several persons named "Marie." The present writer
was at one time inclined to think that this Marie might have been the
Countess Marie Potocka, whom he met while writing /Eugenie/, but her
cousin, the Princess Radziwill, says that she is sure she is not the
one he had in mind, and that she was not the type of woman to whom
Balzac would ever have dedicated a book. The novelist had dealings
with Madame Marie Dorval, and in 1839, at the time the dedication was
written, doubtless knew of her love for Jules Sandeau. Balzac knew
also the Countess Marie d'Agoult, but she never would have inspired
such a dedication.

Still another "Marie" with whom he was most intimate about 1839, is
Madame Helene-Marie-Felicite de Valette, and it will be remembered
that while she was usually called "Helene," "Marie" was Balzac's
favorite name for her. But it is doubtful that he knew her when he
wrote the book.

Yet Balzac's love was so fleeting that if he had had this "Maria" in
mind in 1833 when he wrote /Eugenie/, he probably would have long
since forgotten her by the time the dedication was made. It is a well
known fact that Balzac dedicated many of his earlier books to friends
that he did not meet until years later, and many dedications were not
added until 1842.

"To Helene:

"The tiniest boat is not launched upon the sea without the
protection of some living emblem or revered name, placed upon it
by the mariners. In accordance with this time-honored custom,
Madame, I pray you to be the protectress of this work now launched
upon our literary ocean; and may the imperial name which the
Church has canonized and your devotion has doubly sanctified for
me guard it from peril.

The identity of the enchantress who inspired this beautiful dedication
of /Le Cure de Village/ has been the subject of much speculation for
students of Balzac. The author of the /Comedie humaine/ knew the
beautiful Helene Zavadovsky as early as 1835, and, as has been seen,
knew Madame de Valette in 1836.

The Princess Radziwill states that this "Helene" was a sister of
Madame Hanska, and that she died unmarried in 1842. She was much loved
by all her family, and after the death of her mother in 1837 made her
home with her sister Eve in Wierzchownia. The present author has found
no mention of her in Balzac's letters in connection with /Le Cure de
Village/, of which novel he speaks frequently, nor of his having known
her personally, but since Balzac was continually twitting Madame
Hanska about her pronunciation of various words, he was doubtless
referring to her sister Helene's Russian pronunciation when he writes:
"From time to time, I recall to mind all the gowns I have seen you
wear from the white and yellow one that first day at Peterhof
(Petergoff, /idiome/ Helene), . . ."

While Balzac evidently knew personally the women whom he had in mind
in the dedications to "Maria" and to "Helene,"--problems which have
perplexed students of Balzac,--he found time for correspondence with a
lady whom he never saw, and about whom he knew nothing beyond the
Christian name "Louise." The twenty-three letters addressed to her
bear no precise dates, but were written in 1836-1837.

Her first letter was sent to Balzac through his bookseller, who saw
her seal; but Balzac allayed, without gratifying, his curiosity by
assuring him that such letters came to him frequently. The writer was
under the impression that Balzac's name was "Henry" and some of her
correspondence was in English.

That he should have taken the time to write to this unknown
correspondent shows that her letters must have possessed some
intrinsic value for him, yet he refused to learn her identity.

"Chance permitted me to know who you might be, and I refused to
learn. I never did anything so chivalrous in my life; no, never! I
consider it is grander than to risk one's life for an interview of
ten minutes. Perhaps I may astonish you still more, when I say
that I can learn all about you in any moment, any hour, and yet I
refuse to learn, because you wish I should not know!"

In reply to a letter from Louise in which she complained that her time
was monopolized by visits, he writes:

"Visits! Do they leave behind them any good for you? For the space
of twelve years, an angelic woman stole two hours each day from
the world, from the claims of family, from all the entanglements
and hindrances of Parisian life--two hours to spend them beside me
--without any one else's being aware of the fact; for twelve
years! Do you understand all that is contained in these words? I
can not wish that this sublime devotedness which has been my
salvation should be repeated. I desire that you should retain all
your illusions about me without coming one step further; and I do
not dare to wish that you should enter upon one of these glorious,
secret, and above all, rare and exceptional relationships.
Moreover, I have a few friends among women whom I trust--not more
than two or three--but they are of an insatiable exigence, and if
they were to discover that I corresponded with an /inconnue/, they
would feel hurt."[*]

[*] /Memoir and Letters of Balzac/. The woman Balzac refers to here is
Madame de Berny, but this is an exaggeration.

He revealed to her his ideas regarding women and friendship; how he
longed to possess a tender affection which would be a secret between
two alone. He complained of her want of confidence in him, and of his
work in his loneliness. She tried to comfort him, and being artistic,
sent him a sepia drawing. He sought a second one to hang on the other
side of his fireplace, and thus replaced two lithographs he did not
like. As a token of his friendship he sent her a manuscript of one of
his works, saying:

"All this is suggested while looking at your sepia drawing; and
while preparing a gift, precious in the sight of those who love
me, and of which I am chary, I refuse it to all who have not
deeply touched my heart, or who have not done me a service; it is
a thing of no value, except where there is heartfelt friendship."

During his imprisonment by order of the National Guard, she sent him
flowers, for which he was very profuse in expressing his thanks. He
appreciated especially the roses which came on his birthday, and
wished her as many tender things as there were scents in the blooming

She apparently had some misfortune, and their correspondence
terminated abruptly in this, his last letter to her:

"/Carina/, . . . On my return from a long and difficult journey,
undertaken for the refreshment of my over-tired brain, I find this
letter from you, very concise, and melancholy enough in its
solitude; it is, however, a token of your remembrance. That you
may be happy is the wish of my heart, a very pure and
disinterested wish, since you have decided that thus it is to be.
I once more take up my work, and in that, as in a battle, the
struggle occupies one entirely; one suffers, but the heart becomes

/Facino Cane/ was dedicated to Louise:

"As a mark of affectionate gratitude."




"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
protg 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

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

"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

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.

"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

"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

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

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

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

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

"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

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

"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

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