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He admired his father's impassiveness in the midst of all the confusion of the household, like an Egyptian pyramid, indifferent to the hurricane. The fine old man who expected to live upwards of a hundred years and share with the State, as last survivor, the profits of a Lafarge tontine policy in which he held a share, a sum amounting to millions, studied the writings of the Chinese because they were famous for their longevity. He had lost nothing of his serenity nor of his caustic wit, and Honore confessed that he himself had very nearly choked, laughing at some of his jests. Nevertheless he was not a father in whom one could confide, and the son, isolated and forced to conceal his feelings, found relief only in his brief periods of work in Paris, and in observing the habits and manners of the family circle. He witnessed the preparations for the marriage of his sister, Laurence, to M. de Montzaigle, visiting inspector of the city imposts of Paris, and he drew this picturesque portrait of his future brother-in-law: "He is somewhat taller than Surville; his features are quite ordinary, neither homely nor handsome; his mouth is widowed of the upper teeth, and there is no reason for assuming that it will contract a second marriage, since mother nature forbids it; this widowhood ages him considerably, but on the whole he is not so bad--as husbands go. He writes poetry, he is a marvellous shot; if he fires twenty times, he brings down not less than twenty-six victims! He has been in only two tournaments, and has taken the prize both times; he is equally strong in billiards; he rhymes, he hunts, he shoots, he drives, he . . . , he . . . , he . . . And you feel that all these accomplishments, carried to the highest degree in one and the same man, have given him great presumption; that is the trouble with him up to a certain point, and that certain point, I am very much afraid, is the highest degree in the thermometer of self-conceit."
Honore admitted, however, that his sister Laurence would be happy in her marriage and that M. de Montzaigle was a thorough gentleman; but it was not after this fashion that he himself understood marriage and love: "Presents, gifts, futile objects, and two, three or four months of courtship do not constitute happiness," he wrote; "that is a flower which grows apart and is very difficult to find."
Meanwhile Honore de Balzac, tired of the discomfort of trying to work at Villeparisis, between his ever-distrustful mother and his indulgent but sceptical father, hired a room in Paris, no one knows by what means. There he shut himself in, and there he composed the novels of his youthful period, having for the time being put aside his dreams of glory. To earn money and to be free, that was his immediate necessity. Later on, when he had an assured living, he would be able to undertake those great works, the vague germs of which he even then carried within him.
His repeated efforts at last bore fruit; he found collaborators, namely Poitevin de Saint-Alme, who signed himself "Villargle," Amedee de Bast, and Horace Raisson, and then a publisher, Hubert, who undertook to bring out his first novel. It was issued in 1822, in four volumes, under the somewhat cumbrous title of The Heiress of Birague, a Story based upon the Manuscripts of Don Rage, Ex-Prior of the Benedictines, and published by his two Nephews, A. de Villargle and Lord R'Hoone. This work brought him in eight hundred francs in the form of long-period promissory notes, which he was obliged to discount at a usurious rate, besides sharing the profits with his collaborator. Nevertheless the fact that he had earned money renewed his faith in his approaching deliverance, and he uttered a prolonged and joyous shout. He informed Laure of his success, and suggested that she should recommend his novel as a masterpiece to the ladies of Bayeux, promising that he would send her a sample copy on condition that she should not lend it to any one for fear that it might injure his publisher by decreasing the sales. Straightway he began to build an edifice of figures, calculating what his literary labours would bring him in year by year, and feeling that he already had a fortune in his grasp. This was the starting point of those fantastic computations which he successively drew up for every book he wrote, computations that always played him false, but that he continued to make unweariedly to the day of his death.
From this time on, Honore de Balzac devoted himself for a time, with a sort of feverish zeal, to the trade of novel-maker for the circulating libraries. He realised all the baseness of it, but, he argued, would he not be indebted to it for the preservation of his talent? The Heiress of Birague was followed by Jean-Louis, or the Foundling Girl, published by Hubert in four volumes, for which he received thirteen hundred francs. His price was going up, and his productive energy increased in proportion. Still working for Hubert, he followed Jean-Louis with Clotilde de Lusignan, or the Handsome Jew, "a manuscript found in the archives of Provence, and published by Lord R'Hoone," in four volumes. It brought him in two thousand, a princely sum!
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Honoré de Balzac -by- Albert Keim and Louis Lumet