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From now on Honore de Balzac thought of nothing but his work. He wrote his Biographical Notice of Louis Lambert in thirty days and fifteen nights; but this effort was so prodigious that an apoplectic stroke prostrated him and he came very near dying. He endured his financial anxieties and empty purse, upheld by the certainty of his own genius. He knew how much unfinished work there was in the first version of his books and he had spells of artistic despair, but they were brief, for he relied on his strength of will to bring his writings to the perfection of which he dreamed. "This Biographic Notice of Louis Lambert," he wrote to Laure, "is a work in which I have tried to rival Goethe and Byron, to out-do Faust and Manfred; and the tilt is not over yet, for the proof sheets are not yet corrected. I do not know whether I shall succeed, but this fourth volume of Philosophic Tales ought to be a final reply to my enemies, and ought to show my incontestable superiority." When his family became concerned over his precarious situation, and the complications in which he had entangled himself, Balzac answered their reproaches by prophesying the future: "Yes, you are right," he said to Laure, "I shall not stop, I shall go on and on until I attain my goal, and you will see the day when I shall be numbered among the great minds of my country." Then, in the same letter, he added, for his mother's benefit: "Yes, you are right, my progress is real and my infernal courage will be rewarded. Persuade my mother to think so too, dear sister; tell her to show me the charity of a little patience; her devotion will be rewarded! Some day, I hope, a little glory will pay her for everything! Poor mother! The imagination with which she endowed me is a perpetual bewilderment to her; she cannot tell north from south nor east from west; and that sort of journeying is fatiguing, as I know from experience!
"Tell my mother that I love her as I did when I was a child. Tears overcome me as I write these lines, tears of tenderness and despair, for I foresee the future, and I shall need that devoted mother on the day of my triumph! But when will that day come?"
Lastly, he explained the necessity of his isolation and excused himself for it: "Some day, when my works are developed, you will realise that it required many an hour to think out and write so many things; then you will absolve me for all that has displeased you, and you will pardon, not the egoism of the man (for he has none), but the egoism of the thinker and worker."
Towards the middle of July he left Sache in order to go to Angouleme, to visit Mme. Carraud, whose husband had been appointed Inspector of the Powder Works, just outside the town. He arrived there on the 17th, intending to stay five weeks and happy to have reached this friendly asylum. Mme. Carraud was one of the women who had the most faith in Balzac; she was the recipient of his confidences, even the most delicate ones; and when his conduct displeased her she did not hesitate to take him to task. In her home Honore was treated as a son of the family, and Commander Carraud also welcomed him with cordial affection. In their house, just as at Sache, he kept on with his work, for "I must work" was his life-long cry, which he sometimes uttered blithely, in the luminous joy of creation, and sometimes with a horrible breathlessness, as though he was gradually being crushed by the weight of his superhuman task. But he never succumbed. From the moment of his arrival at the Powder Works, notwithstanding the fatigue of the journey, he hardly gave himself time to clasp the hands of his friends before he plunged into the concluding chapters of Louis Lambert; and even when he was not writing he gave himself no rest, but set about the preparation of new works. He led an even more cloistered life here than at Sache, interrupting all correspondence excepting business letters to his mother. For he was bent upon gaining two things, money and fame. Besides, there were the corrections to be made in The Chouans, in the fourth volume of the Philosophic Tales, and he was writing The Battle (which never was published), the Contes Drolatiques, the Studies of Women, the Conversations between Eleven o'Clock and Midnight, La Grenadiere (written in one night), and The Accursed Child, and at the same time was planning The Country Doctor, one of his most important works.
Meanwhile, Mme. Carraud was proud of her guest. She entertained her friends at the Powder Works, the father and mother of Alberic Second, and M. Berges, principal of the high school, who was later to support Balzac's candidacy in Angouleme. The local paper, the Charentais, had announced the presence of the author of The Magic Skin, and when he went to have his hair cut by the barber, Fruchet, in the Place du Marche, he was the object of public attention. The young men of the democratic club called upon him and assured him that they would support his candidacy, in spite of his aristocratic opinions. Balzac awoke to a consciousness of the value of his name, and in the letters to his mother dealing with business relations with his publishers assumed a more commanding tone. She need not trouble herself further, he wrote, in calling on magazine editors; she was to send for M. Pichot, editor of the Revue de Paris, to come to her house, and she was to lay down certain conditions, which he could accept or refuse, according to whether he wanted more of Balzac's copy or not. Pichot must agree in writing to pay two hundred francs a page, with no reduction for blank spaces. Balzac was to be at liberty to reprint the published articles in book form, and no disagreeable paragraph in reference to himself or his works was to be published in the magazine. So much for M. Pichot! Next, she was to summon M. Buloz, of the Revue des Deux Mondes, to come in his turn to her house, and here are the detailed instructions which Mme. de Balzac was to follow in his case: "You will show him the manuscript, without letting him take it with him, because you are only an agent and do not know the usual customs. Be very polite.
"You will tell him that I wish him to write a letter promising not to print anything displeasing to me in his magazine, either directly or indirectly;
"That he shall give a receipt for all outstanding accounts, with settlement in full up to September 1, 1832, between me and the Revue;
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Honoré de Balzac -by- Albert Keim and Louis Lumet