A Prince of Bohemia and Other Stories

A Prince of Bohemia and Other Stories

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A Prince of Bohemia and Other Stories

A Prince of Bohemia and Other Stories

Read FREE!

Excerpt

"A PRINCE, OF BOHEMIA," the first of the short stories which Balzac originally chose as make-weights to associate with the long drama of "Splendeurs et Misères des Courtisanes," is one of the few things that, both in whole and in part, one would very much rather he had not written. Its dedication to Heine only brings out its shortcomings. For Heine, though he could certainly be as spiteful and unjust as Balzac here shows himself, never failed to carry the laugh on his side. You may wish him, in his lampoons, better morals and better taste, but you can seldom wish him better literature. Had he made this attack on Sainte-Beuve, we should certainly not have yawned over it; and it is rather amusing to think of the sardonic smile with which the dedicatee must have read Balzac's comfortable assurance that he, Heinrich Heine, would understand the plaisanterie and the critique which "Un Prince de la Bohème" contains. Heine "understood" most things; but if understanding, as is probable, here includes sympathetic enjoyment, we may doubt.

It was written at the same time, or very nearly so, as the more serious attack on Sainte-Beuve in August 1840, and, like that, appeared in Balzac's own "Revue Parisienne," though it was somewhat later. The thread, such as there is, of interest is twofold--the description of the Bohemian grand seigneur Rusticoli or La Palférine, and the would-be satire on Sainte-Beuve. It is difficult to say which is least well done. Both required an exceedingly light hand, and Balzac's hand was at no time light. Moreover, in the sketch of La Palférine he commits the error--nearly as great in a book as on the stage, where I am told it is absolutely fatal--of delineating . . .

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