11 November 2011

Honoré de Balzac in Passy, 16th arrondissement, Paris, France: Literary Île-de-France #20


'"Histoire de Paris
La Maison de Balzac

Poursuivi par ses créanciers et menacé de saisie de sa propriéteé Jardies à Sèvres, Balzac loua dans cette maison, le 1er octobre 1840, un appartement à cinq pièces au rez-de-jardin. Caché sous le pseudonyme de "M. de Breugnol", il y séjourna 7 ans. Le musée occupe aujourd'hui les trois niveaux de la maison jusqu'à la rue Berton où une seconde entrée permettait au romancier de fuir les importins. C'est ici qu'il corrigea l'emsemble de "La Comédie Humaine" et écrivit "Une ténébreuse affaire", "La Rabouilleuse", "Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes", "La Cousine Bette", "Le Cousin Pons"... "Travailler, c'est me lever tous les soirs à minuit, écrire jusqu'á huit heures, déjeuner en un quart d'heure, travailler jusqu'à cinq heures, dîner, me coucher, et recommencer le lendemain" écrit-il le 15 Février 1845 à Madame Hanska.

'"History of Paris
Balzac's House

Pursued by creditors and threatened with the seizure of his Jardies property in Sèvres, Balzac rented a five-room flat in this house on 1 October 1840. Hiding under the pseudonym "M. de Breugnol", he stayed here seven years. Today the museum takes up the three levels of the house as far as rue Berton, where a second entrance allowed the novelist to escape from any nuisances. It's here that he corrected "The Human Comedy" series et wrote "Une ténébreuse affaire", "La Rabouilleuse", "Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes", "La Cousine Bette", "Le Cousin Pons"... "Work is getting up a midnight every evening, writing until eight, having lunch for quarter of an hour, working until five, dining, going to bed, and starting again the next day" he wrote Madame Hanska on 15 February 1845.

Éve de Balzac by Jean Gigoud, about 1850. Eveline Rzewuski was born in either 1805 or 1806 and came from an aristocratic Polish family. About 1825 she married Venceslas Hanska and discovered Balzac by chance. In 1832 she wrote him an anonymous letter simply signed 'L'Étrangère', which was the beginning of what became a long amorous correspondence that lasted sixteen more years. In between, there were many brief encounters in different countries — such as Geneva in 1833, Vienna in 1835 — until her husband's death in 1841. It was then that Balzac sought to marry her, and although she was his traveling companion in the years between, she didn't marry him until March 1850, which was just five months before Balzac's death. She then began a long relationship with the painter of this picture. She lived in rue Fortunée, and died in 1882.

Hôtel de Balzac, rue Fortunée, by Paul-Victor-Joseph Dargaud (1880). Wanting to buy a property worthy of Madame Hanska, Balzac bought this for her in 1846. It had been known as 'Folie Beaujon', and Balzac himself compared it to barracks. He began an expensive process of restoring the dilapidated building. Rue Fortunée is now called rue Balzac, near L'Étoile, although this house was demolished in 1890.

Balzac's work desk.

The first page of La Vieille fille (1836), with Balzac's emendations.

A display case with several interesting items.

But it is the (unfortunately not very photogenic in its present location)cane which is the most interesting exhibit. It is a wonderful example of Balzac's dandyism, and of his pretentions in general. In 1832 Balzac asked his jeweller Le Cointe to make this. The cord and the turquoises come from an item of neckware worn by Madame Hanska as a young girl, and the handle is engraved with the Balzac d'Entragues arms: Balzac liked to think himself of aristocratic origin. Unsurprisingly, he became a target for satirists, an excellent example of which is Delphine de Girardin's La Canne de Monsieur de Balzac (1832), which speaks of the cane's magical power: invisibility.


A little out of focus, but this is the coffeepot (and the Musée Balzac at Saché has one too) that sustained Balzac through many hours of writing. For him, coffee had magic powers, although he was concerned that he took an excessive amount of it.

There are a number of sculptures of Balzac in the house. This one is by Patinatti (1837).

By David d'Angers (1844).

By Alexandre Falguiére (1899).

By Auguste Rodin (c. 1897).

The Tour Eiffel is visible from the garden, although obviously this did not exist in Balzac's day.

And at lunchtime (which is not when this shot was taken), on a fine day, city workers come here to have their lunch, to read, or merely to enjoy the calm atmosphere.

There is yet another bust of Balzac in the garden, this time by Carvellani.

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