The Works of Honoré de Balzac A Woman of Thirty; Madame Firmiani; Gobseck; La Grande Bretecache; A Study of Woman; Another Study of Woman - Vol. 2

By Honoré de Balzac | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THERE are not a few volumes of Balzac of which it is possible to speak with more editorial enthusiasm, perhaps indeed there is hardly any of which it is possible to speak with less, than of the volume which opens with La Femme de Trente Ans. All its contents, or all with the exception of Gobseck, are tainted with a kind of sentimentalism which, in Balzac's hands and to English taste, very rarely escapes a smatch of the rancid; few of them exhibit him at his best as an artist, and one or two show him almost at his worst.

The least good of all -- though its title and a very small part of its contents have had the honor to meet with an approval from Sainte-Beuve, which that critic did not always bestow upon Balzac's work -- is the first or title-story. As M. de Lovenjoul's patient investigations have shown, and as the curiously wide date 1828-1844 would itself indicate to anyone who has carefully studied Balzac's ways of proceeding, it is not really a single story at all, but consists of half a dozen chapters or episodes originally published at different times and in different places, and stuck together with so much less than even the author's usual attention to strict construction, that the general title is totally inapplicable to the greater part of the book, and that the chronology of that part to which it does apply fits in very badly with the rest. This, however, is the least of the faults of the piece. It is more -- though still not most -- serious that Balzac never seems to have made up anything like a clear or consistent idea of Julie d'Aiglemont in his mind. First she is a selfish and thoughtless child; then an angelic and persecuted but faithful wife; then a somewhat facile victim to a very commonplace seducer, after resisting an exceptional one. So, again, she is first a devoted mother, then an almost unnatural parent, and then again devoted, being punished par où elle a pêché once more. Even

-iii-

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The Works of Honoré de Balzac A Woman of Thirty; Madame Firmiani; Gobseck; La Grande Bretecache; A Study of Woman; Another Study of Woman - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • A Woman of Thirty *
  • I - Early Mistakes 1
  • II - A Hidden Grief 69
  • III - At Thirty Years 89
  • IV - The Finger of God 112
  • V - Two Meetings 125
  • VI - The Old Age of A Guilty Mother 174
  • Madame Firmiani *
  • Gobseck *
  • La Grande Bretêche *
  • A Study of Woman *
  • Another Study of Woman *
  • Another Study of Woman 1
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