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Women in the Life of Balzac by Juanita Helm Floyd

Part 5 out of 5

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de l'Absolu/. I am willing. I myself would like to place it beside
Anna."[*]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[*] The reason why Madame Rosalie had such a horror of Paris was that
her mother was guillotined there,--the same day as Madame
Elizabeth. Madame Rosalie was only a child at that time, and was
discovered in the home of a washerwoman.

It was Caliste Rzewuska, the daughter of this aunt, whom Balzac had in
mind when he sketched /Modeste Mignon/. She was married to M. Michele-
Angelo Cajetani, Prince de Teano and Duc de Sermoneta, to whom /Les
Parents pauvres/ is dedicated.

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

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

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

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

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

"Do not be jealous of Madame P-----'s letter; that woman must be
/for us/. I have flattered her, and I want her to think that you
are disdained. . . . My enemies are spreading a rumor of my
/liaison/ with a Russian princess; they name Madame P----- . . .
Oh! my love, I swear to you I wrote to Madame P----- only to
prevent the road to Russia being closed to me."

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

CONCLUSION

"I live by my friendships only."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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