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"That my contributions are to be printed in the largest sized type;
"And paid at the rate of two hundred francs a page, without deduction for blank spaces.
"After he has agreed in writing to these terms, let him have The Orphans (the definitive title of which was La Grenadiere);
"Buloz must have a good article written on the Scenes and the fourth volume of the Philosophic Tales."
Having taken this masterful tone, Balzac gave his mother this final practical recommendation, never to give any credit to the periodical and to demand the money immediately after publication of the article!
Having made all his plans in detail, Balzac left Angouleme on August 22, 1832, in order to join Mme. de Castries at the waters of Aix. It was an amorous adventure, yet he did not enter into it without certain misgivings, for he did not know whether the Duchess was sincere or whether she was playing with his feelings. Nevertheless, he set out joyously, although lightly equipped in the way of money,--Commander Carraud was obliged to lend him a hundred and fifty francs,--but with several stories begun and plenty of work on hand, for nothing, not even the hope of being loved by a woman of high position, could make him forget his work. He arrived at Limoges, where he saw Mme. Nivet, Mme. Carraud's sister, who had bought him some enamels, and to whom he applied to superintend his orders of porcelain. Faithful to his method of documentation, he visited the sights of the city rapidly, within a few hours, and such was his keenness of vision and tenacity of memory that he was able afterwards to describe it all exactly, down to the slightest details. On the very evening after his arrival at Angouleme he set forth for Lyons, but the journey was fated not to be made without an accident, for in descending from an outside seat of the coach, at Thiers, Balzac struck his knee against one of the steps so violently that--in view of his heavy weight--he received a painful wound on his shin. He was tended at Lyons, the wound healed, and he profited by his enforced quiet to correct Louis Lambert and to add to it those "last thoughts" which form one of the highest monuments of human intelligence.
Honore de Balzac installed himself at Aix, near Mme. de Castries. He was happy, for she had received him with a thousand charming coquetries; and he had paid his court to her, yet he did not interrupt his work for a single day! "I have a simple little chamber," he wrote to Mme Carraud, "from which I can see the entire valley. I force myself pitilessly to rise at five o'clock in the morning, and I work beside my window until five-thirty in the afternoon. My breakfast, an egg, is sent in from the club. Mme. de Castries has some good coffee made for me. At six o'clock we dine together, and I pass the evening with her."
Balzac lived economically. His chamber cost him two francs a day and his breakfast fifteen sous. Yet, after having rendered an account of his expenses to his mother, he was obliged to ask her for money; and he played her another of his characteristic neat little tricks. At Aix he had happened to run across a certain Auguste Sannegou, to whom he owed eleven hundred francs. And, as the latter had just been losing rather heavily, he offered to reimburse him, an offer which Sannegou lost no time in accepting with pleasure. Consequently it became necessary for Mme. de Balzac to send her son the eleven hundred francs post-haste, plus two hundred francs which he needed for his personal expenses. His mother made the sacrifice,--for he sent her a beautiful account of perspective revenues: 3,000 francs from the Revue de Paris, 2,000 francs for La Bataille, 2,000 francs for a volume of Contes Drolatiques, 5,000 for four new volumes to be brought out by Mame, total 9,000 francs,--and after he received the money he acknowledged that he paid only half the sum due to Sannegou, and kept the rest for a trip to Italy.
The Fitz-James family came to rejoin the duchess; Balzac was exultant; he had been exceedingly well treated and had been promised a seat as deputy, if a general election took place; and he was to go to Rome in the same pleasant company. But he lacked money, and the sums which his mother was about to collect in Paris were destined to meet maturing notes. Besides, he was anxious to finish, without further delay, The Country Doctor, which he announced to his publisher, Mame, in triumphant terms:
"Be doubly attentive, Master Mame!" he wrote. "I have been for a long time imbued with a desire for that form of popular fame which consists in selling many thousands of copies of a little 18mo volume like Atala, Paul and Virginia, The Vicar of Wakefield, Manon Lescaut, Perrault, etc., etc. The multiplicity of editions offsets the lack of a number of volumes. But the book must be one which can pass into all hands, those of the young girl, the child, the old man, and even the nun. When the book once becomes known,--which will take a long or a short time, according to the talent of the author and the ability of the publisher,--it becomes a matter of importance. For example: the Meditations of Lamartine, of which sixty thousand copies were sold; the Ruins by Volny, etc.
"Accordingly, this is the spirit in which my book is conceived, a book which the janitor's wife and the fashionable lady can both read. I have taken the New Testament and the Catechism, two books of excellent quality, and have wrought my own from them. I have laid the scene in a village,--and, for the rest, you will read it in its entirety, a thing which rarely happens to a book of mine,"
for this work Balzac demanded a franc a volume, or seventy-five centimes at least, and an advance of a thousand francs. This sum was indispensable if he was to go to Italy. The trip began in October, under happy auspices, and on the 16th they stopped over at Geneva. From there Balzac sent his mother two samples of flannel which he had worn over his stomach. He wanted her to show them to M. Chapelain, a practitioner of medical magnetism, in order to consult him regarding a malady which he suspected that he had, and ask him where it was located and what treatment he should follow. Balzac was a believer in occult sciences, and once before, during the epidemic of cholera in 1832, he wrote to M. Chapelain, asking if he could not discover the origin of the scourge and find remedies capable of stopping it. It was not only magnetism that interested him, but clairvoyance as well, fortune tellers and readers of cards, to whom he attributed an acuteness of perception unknown to ordinary natures.
This enjoyable trip was destined to end at Geneva, so far as Balzac was concerned. Whether he realised that Mme. de Castries was merely playing with his affections, or whether his pride was hurt by some unlucky phrase, no one knows, but he suddenly deserted his companions and returned to France, offering as a pretext the urgency of his literary work. This adventure left an open wound, and it took more than five years to cure him. He suffered cruelly, and we get an echo of his pain in the line in the Country Doctor, "For wounded hearts, darkness and silence." He avenged himself on Mme. de Castries by writing the Duchess of Langeais, in which he showed how a society woman amused herself by torturing a sensitive and sincere gentleman.
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Honoré de Balzac -by- Albert Keim and Louis Lumet