Honore de Balzac was born at Tours on the 16th of May, , in the same year which saw the birth of Heine, and which therefore had the honor of producing perhaps the most characteristic writers of the nineteenth century in prose and verse respectively. And there appears to be no proof of their connection with Jean Guez de Balzac, the founder, as some will have him, of modern French prose, and the contemporary and fellow-reformer of Malherbe.
Indeed, as the novelist pointed out with sufficient pertinence, his earlier namesake had no hereditary right to the name at all, and merely took it from some property. Balzac the elder had been a barrister before the Revolution, but under it he obtained a post in the commissariat, and rose to be head of that department for a military division. His wife, who was much younger than himself and who survived her son, is said to have possessed both beauty and fortune, and was evidently endowed with the business faculties so common among Frenchwomen.
When Honore was born, the family had not long been established at Tours, where Balzac the elder besides his duties had a house and some land; and this town continued to be their headquarters till the novelist, who was the eldest of the family, was about sixteen. He had two sisters of whom the elder, Laure, afterwards Madame Surville, was his first confidante and his only authoritative biographer and a younger brother, who seems to have been, if not a scapegrace, rather a burden to his friends, and who later went abroad.
The eldest boy was, in spite of Rousseau, put out to nurse, and at seven years old was sent to the Oratorian grammar-school at Vendome, where he stayed another seven years, going through, according to his own account, the future experiences and performances of Louis Lambert, but making no reputation for himself in the ordinary school course. He must have had at all times eyes full of character, perhaps the only feature that never fails in men of intellectual eminence; but he certainly does not seem to have been in his manhood either exactly handsome or exactly "distinguished-looking. For a short time he was left pretty much to himself, and recovered rapidly.
Then he attended lectures at the Sorbonne where Villemain, Guizot, and Cousin were lecturing, and heard them, as his sister tells us, enthusiastically, though there are probably no three writers of any considerable repute in the history of French literature who stand further apart from Balzac. His father destined him for the law; and for three years more he dutifully attended the offices of an attorney and a notary, besides going through the necessary lectures and examinations.
All these trials he seems to have passed, if not brilliantly, yet sufficiently. And then came the inevitable crisis, which was of an unusually severe nature. Most fathers, and nearly all French fathers, would have jumped at this; and it so happened that about the same time M. It does not appear that Honore had revolted during his probation—indeed he is said, and we can easily believe it from his books, to have acquired a very solid knowledge of law, especially in bankruptcy matters, of which he was himself to have a very close shave in future.
Not unsuccessfully; but at the same time with distinctly qualified success. But his mother who seems to have been less placable than her husband thought that cutting them down to the lowest point might have some effect. So, as the family at this time April left Paris for a house some twenty miles out of it, she established her eldest son in a garret furnished in the most Spartan fashion, with a starvation allowance and an old woman to look after him.
He did not literally stay in this garret for the ten years of his astonishing and unparalleled probation; but without too much metaphor it may be said to have been his Wilderness, and his Wanderings in it to have lasted for that very considerable time. We know, in detail, very little of him during the period.
For the first years, between and , we have a good number of letters to Laure; between and , when he first made his mark, very few. He began, of course, with verse, for which he never had the slightest vocation, and, almost equally of course, with a tragedy. But by degrees and apparently pretty soon, he slipped into what was his vocation, and like some, though not very many, great writers, at first did little better in it than if it had not been his vocation at all.
They were very numerous, though the reprints spoken of above never extended to more than ten. Even these have never been widely read. The only person I ever knew till I began this present task who had read them through was the friend whom all his friends are now lamenting and are not likely soon to cease to lament, Mr. Louis Stevenson; and when I once asked him whether, on his honor and conscience, he could recommend me to brace myself to the same effort, he said that on his honor and conscience he must most earnestly dissuade me.
I gather, though I am not sure, that Mr. Wedmore, the latest writer in English on Balzac at any length, had not read them through when he wrote. Now I have, and a most curious study they are. Indeed I am not sorry, as Mr. Wedmore thinks one would be. They are curiously, interestingly, almost enthrallingly bad. Couched for the most part in a kind of Radcliffian or Monk-Lewisian vein—perhaps studied more directly from Maturin of whom Balzac was a great admirer than from either—they often begin with and sometimes contain at intervals passages not unlike the Balzac that we know.
It deals with a disguised duke, a villainous Italian, bigamy, a surprising offer of the angelic first wife to submit to a sort of double arrangement, the death of the second wife and first love, and a great many other things. This book begins so well that one expects it to go on better; but the inevitable defects in craftsmanship show themselves before long. It is one of the most extravagant and "Monk-Lewisy" of the whole.
These are both as nearly unreadable as anything can be. One interesting thing, however, should be noted in much of this early work: the affectionate clinging of the author to the scenery of Touraine, which sometimes inspires him with his least bad passages. They must have done a little, if not much, to lead him into and confirm him in those defects of style and form which distinguish him so remarkably from most writers of his rank.
It very seldom happens when a very young man writes very much, be it book-writing or journalism, without censure and without "editing," that he does not at the same time get into loose and slipshod habits. However, if these ten years of probation taught him his trade, they taught him also a most unfortunate avocation or by-trade, which he never ceased to practise, or to try to practise, which never did him the least good, and which not unfrequently lost him much of the not too abundant gains which he earned with such enormous labor. This was the "game of speculation.
He began by trying to publish—an attempt which has never yet succeeded with a single man of letters, so far as I can remember. His scheme was not a bad one, indeed it was one which has brought much money to other pockets since, being neither more nor less than the issuing of cheap one-volume editions of French classics.
But he had hardly any capital; he was naturally quite ignorant of his trade, and as naturally the established publishers and booksellers boycotted him as an intruder.
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Then, such capital as he had having been borrowed, the lender, either out of good nature or avarice, determined to throw the helve after the hatchet. The story was just the same: knowledge and capital were again wanting, and though actual bankruptcy was avoided, Balzac got out of the matter at the cost not merely of giving the two businesses to a friend in whose hands they proved profitable , but of a margin of debt from which he may be said never to have fully cleared himself. Sometimes it was ordinary stock-exchange gambling; but his special weakness was, to do him justice, for schemes that had something more grandiose in them.
Thus, to finish here with the subject, though the chapter of it never actually finished till his death, he made years afterwards, when he was a successful and a desperately busy author, a long, troublesome, and costly journey to Sardinia to carry out a plan of resmelting the slag from Roman and other mines there. And he was rather reluctantly convinced that by the time a single log reached its market the freight would have eaten up the value of the whole plantation.
It was perhaps not entirely chance that the collapse of the printing scheme, which took place in , the ninth year of the Wanderings in the Wilderness, coincided with or immediately preceded the conception of the book which was to give Balzac passage into the Promised Land. It was published in without any of the previous anagrammatic pseudonyms; and whatever were the reasons which had induced him to make his bow in person to the public, they were well justified, for the book was a distinct success, if not a great one.
It occupies a kind of middle position between the melodramatic romance of his nonage and the strictly analytic romance-novel of his later time; and, though dealing with war and love chiefly, inclines in conception distinctly to the latter. Wedmore, in his passage on the subject, distinctly undervalues both the character and the duration of this esteem.
And while Mr. Although we have a fair number of letters for the ensuing years, it is not very easy to make out the exact sequence of production of the marvelous harvest which his genius gave. It may perhaps be worth while to add here, that while the labors of M. Sometimes they are known, and they may often be suspected, to have been absorbed into or incorporated with others; the rest must have been lost or destroyed, or, which is not quite impossible, have existed chiefly in the form of project.
Nearly a hundred titles of such things are preserved. But without a careful examination of his miscellaneous work, which is very abundant and includes journalism as well as books, it is almost as impossible to come to a just appreciation of Balzac as it is without reading the early works and letters. This miscellaneous work is all the more important because a great deal of it represents the artist at quite advanced stages of his career, and because all its examples, the earlier as well as the later, give us abundant insight on him as he was "making himself.
Every now and then Balzac transferred bodily, or with slight alterations, passages from these experiments to his finished canvases. It appears that he had a scheme for codifying his "Physiologies" of which the notorious one above mentioned is only a catchpenny exemplar and very far from the best into a seriously organized work.
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Chance was kind or intention was wise in not allowing him to do so; but the value of the things for the critical reader is not less. Here are interesting evidences of striving to be cosmopolitan and polyglot—the most interesting of all of which, I think, is the mention of certain British products as "mufflings. The explanation may or may not be found in the fact that we have abundant critical work of his, and that it is nearly all bad.
Although the thing is not quite unexampled it is not easily to be surpassed in the blind fury of its abuse. Sainte-Beuve was by no means invulnerable, and an anti-critic who kept his head might have found, as M.
Honoré de Balzac
Balzac was a great politician also, and here, though he may not have been very much more successful, he talked with more knowledge and competence. He must have given himself immense trouble in reading the papers, foreign as well as French; he had really mastered a good deal of the political religion of a French publicist. As for the Anglophobia, the Englishman who thinks the less of him for that must have very poor and unhappy brains.
A Frenchman who does not more or less hate and fear England, an Englishman who does not regard France with a more or less good-humored impatience, is usually "either a god or a beast," as Aristotle saith. If no candidate receives an absolute majority, another election must be performed at a later date. The President's approbation, however, is only a formality.
There was a controversy about the candidacy of Paul Morand , whom Charles de Gaulle opposed in This is followed by a speech made by one of the members. Eight days thereafter, a public reception is held, during which the new member makes a speech thanking his or her colleagues for their election.
Once, a member Georges de Porto-Riche was not accorded a reception because the eulogy he made of his predecessor was not considered satisfactory, and he refused to rewrite it. However, the council may dismiss an academician for grave misconduct. There have been a total of immortels ,  of whom nine have been women the first woman, Marguerite Yourcenar , was elected in — besides the nine elected women, 25 women were candidates, the first one in Individuals who are not citizens of France may be, and have been, elected.
Moreover, although most academicians are writers, one need not be a member of the literary profession to become a member.
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The official uniform of a member is known as l'habit vert , or green clothing. It consists of a long black coat and black-feathered bicorne ,  both richly embroidered with green leafy motifs, together with black trousers or skirt. The members bear the cost of their uniform themselves. A recent controversy involved the officialization of feminine equivalents for the names of several professions. For instance, in , Lionel Jospin 's government began using the feminine noun " la ministre " to refer to a female minister, following the official practice of Canada, Belgium and Switzerland and a frequent, though until then unofficial, practice in France.
Use of either form remains highly controversial. Almost all of the prizes were created during the twentieth century, and only two prizes were awarded before The most important prize is the Grand prix de la francophonie , which was instituted in , and is funded by the governments of France, Canada, Monaco, and Morocco.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Pre-eminent council for the French language. For other uses, see French Academy disambiguation. France portal French language and French-speaking world portal. Retrieved Putnam's Sons, New York, , p. World Digital Library.
Retrieved 28 April It also hosts a few concerts. This Byzantine-style basilica dates from the 19th century and was completed in From there you have a fantastic panoramic view of the capital! Soon afterwards it was transformed into a luxurious small castle and became a location for festivities.
The Tuileries gardens occupies an area of 25 hectares in the heart of Paris, between the Carrousel du Louvre, the place de la Concorde and the banks of the Seine. Situated on one of the hills within the French capital, this park from Napoleon III, has been the scene of bloody fights. For example, in , at the end of the French campaign, the National Guard and the marine artillery fought a desperate battle against the Prussian assault before surrendering.