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In the morning he went to the Bois, where the other young men of fashion congregated; he sauntered up and down and later paid visits; in the evening, when he had no invitations to social functions, he dined at the Rocher de Cancale or at Bignon's, or showed himself at the Opera in the box occupied by an ultra-fashionable set known as the "Tigers." After the performance he hurried off to cut a brilliant figure at the salon of the beautiful Delphine Gay, the wife of Emile de Girardin, in company with Lautour-Mezeray, the "man with the camelia," Alphonse Karr, Eugene Sue, Dumas, and sometimes Victor Hugo and Lamartine. In that celebrated apartment, hung in sea-green damask, which formed such a perfect background for Delphine's blonde beauty, Balzac would arrive exuberant, resplendent with health and happiness, and there he would remain for hours, overflowing with wit and brilliance.
In the midst of this worldly life he by no means neglected Mme. de Castries, but, on the contrary, was assiduous in his attentions to the fair duchess. At her home he met the Duc de Fitz-James and the other leaders of militant legitimism, and little by little he gravitated towards their party. He wrote The Life of a Woman for Le Renovateur, and also an essay in two parts on The Situation of the Royalist Party; but it was not long before he quarrelled with Laurentie, the editor in chief who probably wounded his pride as a man of letters.
The society which he frequented must have reacted on Balzac, for it was at this time that he conceived the desire of proving himself a gentleman by descent, the issue of a time-honoured stock, the d'Antragues family. He adopted their coat-of-arms and had his monogram surmounted by a coronet. Later on he abandoned these pretensions, and his forceful and proud reply is well known when some one had proved to him that he had no connection with any branch of that house:
"Very well, so much the worse for them!"
But meanwhile, how about his work? It is not known by what prodigy Balzac kept at his task, in spite of this busy life of fashion and frivolity. He published The Purse, Mme. Firmiani, A Study of a Woman, The Message, La Grenadiere, The Forsaken Woman, Colonel Chabert (which appeared in L'Artiste under the title of Transaction), The Vicar of Tours, and he composed that mystical work which cost him so much pains that he almost succumbed to it, the Biographical Notice of Louis Lambert. At the same time he corrected, improved and partly rewrote The Chouans and the newly published Magic Skin, with a view to new editions, in accordance with the criticisms of his sister Laure and Mme. de Berny.
Nevertheless, money continued to evaporate under his prodigal fingers; he had counted upon revenues which failed to materialise, he could no longer borrow, for his credit was exhausted, and he found himself reduced to a keener poverty than that of his mansarde garret. After all this accumulation of work, all this expenditure of genius, to think that he did not yet have an assured living! He had frightful attacks of depression, but they had no sooner passed than his will power was as strong as ever, his fever for work redoubled, and his visionary gaze discerned the fair horizons of hope as vividly as though they were already within reach of his hand. Then he would shut himself into his room, breaking off all ties with the social world, or else would flee into the provinces, far from the dizzy whirl of Paris.
Thus it happened that he made several sojourns at Sache in 1831, and that he set out for it once again in 1832, determined upon a lengthy absence. Mme. de Castries had left Paris and had asked him to join her at the waters of Aix in September; but, before he could permit himself to take this trip, he must needs have the sort of asylum for work that awaited him in Touraine.
M. de Margonne, his host, welcomed him like a son each time that he arrived. He had entire liberty to live at the chateau precisely as he chose. He was not required to be present at meals, nor to conform to any of the social conventions which might have interfered with the most profitable employment of his time. If, in the absorption of working out the scheme of the task which he had in progress, he was sometimes irritable and sullen, no one took offence at his attitude. When he had not yet reached the stage of the actual writing, and was merely composing his drama within his powerful imagination, he arose early in the morning and set off upon long walks across country, sometimes solitary and silent, sometimes getting into conversation with the people he met and asking them all sorts of questions. He had no other source of amusement, for he did not care for hunting, and, as to fishing, he made no success of it, for he forgot to pull in the fish after they had taken the hook!
"The only games that interested him were those that demanded brain-work," writes a relative to M. de Margonne, M. Salmon de Maison-Rouge, in a vivid account of Balzac's visits to Sache. "My father, who prided himself upon playing a very good game of checkers, on one occasion tried a game with him. After several moves my father said, "Why, Monsieur de Balzac, we are not playing Give-away! You are letting me take all your men; you are not playing the game seriously." "Indeed, I am," rejoined Balzac, "as seriously as possible," and he continued to let his men be taken. At last he had only one man left, but he had so managed the moves that, without my father being aware of it, this last man was in a position to take all the men my father had left in one single swoop,--and there were a good many, for M. de Balzac had taken only six up to that move. From that time onward my father regarded him as one of the keenest minds that had ever lived." (Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Touraine, Volume XII.)
But Balzac was not staying at Sache for the purpose of playing checkers, and in the same notice M. Salmon tells of his habits of work, on the strength of an account given by M. de Margonne:
"He had a big alarm-clock," he writes, "for he slept very well and very soundly, and he set the alarm for two o'clock in the morning. Then he prepared himself some coffee over a spirit lamp, together with several slices of toasted bread; and then started in to write in bed, making use of a desk so constructed that he could freely draw up his knees beneath it. He continued to write in this manner until five o'clock in the evening, taking no other nourishment than his coffee and his slices of toasted bread.
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Honoré de Balzac -by- Albert Keim and Louis LumetBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.