Quotes by Honore de Balzac
What is Art‚ monsieur‚ but Nature concentrated?
A young bride is like a plucked flower; but a guilty wife is like a flower that had been walked over.
True love is eternal‚ infinite‚ always like unto itself; it is equable‚ pure‚ without violent demonstration; white hair often covers the head‚ but the heart that holds it is ever young.
Glory is the sun of the dead
I should like one of these days to be so well known‚ so popular‚ so celebrated‚ so famous‚ that it would permit me to break wind in society‚ and society would think it a most natural thing.
My further advice on your relations to women is based upon that other motto of chivalry‚ "Serve all‚ love one."
Equality may be a right‚ but no power on earth can convert it into fact.
I prefer thought to action‚ an idea to a transaction‚ contemplation to activity.
The winters are to fashionable women what a campaign once was to the soldiers of the Empire.
People exaggerate both happiness and unhappiness; we are never so fortunate nor so unfortunate as people say we are.
Discretion is the best form of calculation.
When women love‚ they forgive everything‚ even our crimes; when they do not love‚ they cannot forgive anything‚ not even our virtues.
All human power is a compound of time and patience.
I am a galley slave to pen and ink.
Music is of two kinds: one petty‚ poor‚ second-rate‚ never varying‚ its base the hundred or so phrasings which all musicians understand‚ a babbling which is more or less pleasant‚ the life that most composers live.
Unfortunately her portrait will cure no one of the addiction to loving sweetly smiling angels with dreamy looks‚ innocent faces‚ and a strong-box for a heart.
To kill a relative of whom you are tired‚ is something; but to inherit his property afterwards — that is a real pleasure!
"Thinking is seeing‚" said he one day‚ carried away by some objection raised as to the first principles of our organisation. "Every human science is based on deduction‚ which is a slow process of seeing by which we work up from the effect to the cause; or‚ in a wider sense‚ all poetry like every work of art proceeds from a swift vision of things."
Those who spend too fast never grow rich.
Honore de Balzac's Biography
French journalist and writer‚ one of the creators of realism in literature. Balzac's huge production of novels and short stories are collected under the name La Comédie humaine‚ which originated from Dante's The Divine Comedy. Before his breakthrough as an author‚ Balzac wrote without success several plays and novels under different pseudonyms. Despite prolific output‚ Balzac lived in debt.

Honoré de Balzac was born in Tours. His father‚ Bernard-François Balssa‚ named his son after St Honoré whose day had just been celebrated. He had risen to the middle class‚ and married in 1797 the daughter of his Parisian superior‚ Anne-Charlotte-Laure Sallambier; she was 31 years his junior. The marriage was arranged by her father. Bernard-François had worked as a state prosecutor and Secretary to the King's Council in Paris. During the French Revolution‚ he was a member of the Commune‚ but was transferred to Tours in 1795 because of helping his former royalistic protectors. Bernard-François felt at home in the land of Rabelais‚ and started energetically to run the local hospital. In 1814 the family moved back to Paris.

Balzac spent the first four years of life in foster care‚ not so uncommon a practice in France even in the 20th century. His first years he lived in the village of Saint-Cyr‚ and returned to his parents at the age of four. At school Balzac was an ordinary pupil. He studied at the Collège de Vendôme and the Sorbonne‚ and then worked in law offices. In 1819‚ when his family moved for financial reasons to the small town of Villeparisis‚ Balzac announced that he wanted to be a writer. He returned to Paris and was installed in a shabby room at 9 rue Lediguiéres‚ near the Bibliothéque de l'Arsenal. A few years later he described the place in LA PEAU DE CHARGIN (1831)‚ a fantastic tale owing much to E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822). Balzac's first work was CROMWELL. The tragedy in verse made the whole family dispirited. Towards the end of his career his attention turned to drama again‚ but this time his plays‚ such as VAUTRIN (1840) and LA MARÂTRE (1848)‚ were well received by the critics.

By 1822 Balzac had produced several novels under pseudonyms‚ but he was ignored as a writer. Against his family's hopes‚ Balzac continued his career in literature‚ believing that the simplest road to success was writing. Unfortunately‚ he also tried his skills in business. Balzac ran a publishing company and he bought a printing house‚ which did not have much to print. When these commercial activities failed‚ Balzac was left with a heavy burden of debt. It plagued him to the end of his career. "All happiness depends on courage and work‚" Balzac once said. "I have had many periods of wretchedness‚ but with energy and above all with illusions‚ I pulled through them all."

After the period of failures‚ Balzac was 29 years old‚ and his efforts had been fruitless. Accepting the hospitality of General de Pommereul‚ he spent a short time at their home in Fougères in Brittany in search of a local color for his new novel. In 1829 appeared LA DERNIER CHOUAN (later called LES CHOUANS)‚ a historical work in the manner of Sir Walter Scott‚ which he wrote under his own name. Gradually Balzac began to gain notice as an author. Between the years 1830 and 1832 he composed six novelettes titled SCÈNES DE LA VIE PRIVÉE. The work‚ addressed more or less to a female readership‚ was first published in La Presse.

Madame Balzac was interested in the writings of mystics. When she miraculously recovered from an illness‚ Balzac started to study the works of Jacob Boehme‚ Swedenborg‚ and followed Anton Mesmer's lectures about 'animal magnetism' at Sorbonne. These influences are seen in La peau de chargin‚ in which the hero character uses magical powers to gain success. The 'philosophical' novel brought Balzac about 5‚000 francs.

In 1833 Balzac conceived the idea of linking together his old novels so that they would comprehend the whole society in a series of books. This plan eventually led to 90 novels and novellas‚ which included more than 2‚000 characters. Balzac's huge and ambitious plan drew a picture of the customs‚ atmosphere‚ and habits of the bourgeois France. Balzac got down to the work with great energy‚ but also found time to pile up huge debts and fail in hopeless financial operations. "I am not deep‚" the author once said‚ "but very wide." Once he developed a plan to gain success in raising pineapples at his home at Ville d'Avray (Sevres). After two two years‚ he had to flee from his creditors and conceal his identity under the name of his housekeeper‚ Madame de Brugnolle.

In the 'Avant-propos' to The Human Comedy from 1842 Balzac compares under the influence of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire's theories of the animal kingdom and human society. "Does not Society make of man‚ according to the milieu in which his activity takes places‚ as many different men as there are varieties in zoology?" However‚ Balzac sees that human life and human customs are more multifarious and there are dramatic conflicts in love which seldom occur among animals.

Among the masterpieces of The Human Comedy are LE PÉRE GORIOT‚ LES ILLUSIONS PERDUES‚ LES PAYSANS‚ LA FEMME DE TRENTE ANS‚ and EUGÉNIE GRANDET. In these books Balzac covered a world from Paris to Provinces. The primary landscape is Paris‚ with its old aristocracy‚ new financial wealth‚ middle-class trade‚ demi-monde‚ professionals‚ servants‚ young intellectuals‚ clerks‚ criminals... In this social mosaic Balzac had recurrent characters‚ such as Eugène Rastignac‚ who comes from an impoverished provincial family to Paris‚ mixes with the nobility‚ pursues wealth‚ has many mistresses‚ gambles‚ and has a successful political career. Henry de Marsay appeared in twenty-five different novels. There are many anecdotes about Balzac's relationship to his characters‚ who also lived in the author's imagination outside the novels. Once Balzac interrupted one of his friends‚ who was telling about his sister's illness‚ by saying: "That's all very well‚ but let's get back to reality: to whom are we going to marry Eugénie Grandet?"

Le Père Goriot (1835)‚ originally published in the Revue de Paris in 1834‚ appeared in book form in 1835. The story is an adaptation of Shakespeare's play King Lear‚ a pessimistic study of bourgeois society's ills after the French Revolution. It tells the intertwined stories of Eugène de Rastignac‚ an ambitious but penniless young man‚ and old Goriot‚ a father who sacrifices everything for his children. His daughters Anastaria and Delphine are married into a rich family. They are ashamed of their father and visit him only to ask for money. Rastignac falls in love with Delphine. Goriot has gradually lost all his money‚ not having enough for even a proper burial. On his death bed Goriot learns about his daughters' egoism - they don't come to see him. Admitting his own guilt‚ Goriot forgives his daughters. Rastignac pays the expenses of the burial. Goriot's coffin is followed by the empty luxurious carriages of the daughters. Balzac describes lovingly the topography of Paris‚ his Muse. The city is one of the characters‚ and has a language and will of its own: "Left alone‚ Rastignac walked a few steps to the highest part of the cemetery‚ and saw Paris spread out below on both banks of the winding Seine. Lights were beginning to twinkle here and there. His gaze fixed almost avidly upon the space that lay between the column of the Place Vendôme and the dome of the Invalides; there lay the splendid world that he wished to conquer." (from Old Goriot‚ 1835)

Balzac worked often in Saché‚ near Tours‚ although a great part of his work was done in Paris. From 1828-36 he lived at 1 rue Cassini‚ near the Observatory‚ on the edge of the city. In 1847 he moved to the Rue Fortunée. Balzac used to energetically write 14 to 16 hours daily‚ drinking large amounts of specially blended Parisian coffee. After supper he slept some hours‚ woke up at midnight and wrote until morning. Despite his devotion to his art‚ Balzac had time for affairs and he enjoyed life. It is told that Balzac once devoured first 100 oysters‚ and then 12 lamb chops with vegetables and fruits.

LA COUSIN BETTE (1846) contained thinly veiled autobiographical elements of the author's love affairs. In the story a spinster‚ Cousin Bette‚ tries to gain revenge for all her disappointments against her family and the beautiful courtesan Valerie Marneffe. The aristocratic Baron Hulot d'Evry‚ whom Bette had wanted to marry‚ had married her cousin‚ Adeline. She also loses her new love‚ Count Wenceslas Steinbock‚ to Baron Hulot's daughter. Valerie seduces Hulot‚ who has several mistresses‚ and Steinbock. After some financial troubles Hulot escapes into the slums‚ where Adeline finds him. Bette falls ill with pneumonia and dies. Hulot continues his affairs with a cook‚ and finally marries the cook's apprentice.

Gervais Charpentier published the best novels of Balzac in a new format‚ the octodecimo "jésus" - it was much cheaper than the traditional octavo volume. Balzac lived mostly in his villa in Sèvres during his later years. Close to his heart was Madame de Berny‚ far his senior; her death came as a deep blow to the author. With Eveline Hanska‚ a rich Polish lady‚ Balzac corresponded for more than 15 years. The correspondence started in 1832. Eveline Hanska posed as a model for some of his feminine portraits (Madame Hulot in LA COUSINE BETTE‚ 1847). "I cannot put two ideas together that you don't come between them‚" Balzac wrote in a letter to her.

In the spring of 1837‚ Balzac went to Italy to recuperate‚ and to see the bust of Madame Hanska‚ made by Bartolini. He also asked her permission to have a copy of it‚ half size‚ made for himself. In October 1848 Balzac travelled to Ukraine. Madame Hanska's husband had died in 1841 and Balzac could now stay with her a longer time. His health had already broken down‚ but they were married in March 1850. "Three days ago I married the only woman I have ever loved‚" Balzac wrote in a letter to a friend‚ forgeting other women in his life. He returned with his newly wed wife to Paris‚ where he died on August 18‚ 1850. At his funeral Victor Hugo delivered an address‚ saying: "Today we see him at peace. He has escaped from controversies and enmities..... Henceforward he will shine far above all those clouds which float over our heads‚ among the brightest stars of his native land."
Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008

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