Balzac, Honoré de

WRITER (FRANCE)
BORN 20 May 1799, Tours - DIED 18 Aug 1850, Paris
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 48, 1ere ligne, Q, 9)

Honoré de Balzac is best known for his sequence of novels and plays that is known as "La Comédie humaine" and depicts French life after the fall of Napoleon in 1815.

His family moved to Paris in 1814, where he was educated for 2,5 years before he entered the Sorbonne in 1816. After he finished his studies he became apprentice to a legal clerk at the office of Victor Passez. In 1819 he received an offer to succeed Passez, but instead he left.

In 1820 he wrote a tragedy, "Cromwell". Subsequently he started several novels that he never finished. In 1821 Auguste Lepoitevin told him to write short stories. These were sold by Lepoitevin. During the late 1820s he tried his hand as a publisher and as a printer, but it failed and he was left with debts.

He went to Britanny where he wrote "Les Chouans" (1829). This was the first book published under his own name. In 1832 he decided to write a large series of books describing all aspects of society, thus conceiving "La Comédie humaine". During the same year he received a letter without a return address signed by 'L'Étrangère' that expressed sadness at several elements of his "La Peau de Chagrin". This was the start of a correspondence between him and Ewelina Hanská (1801-1882), a Polish woman who was married to a landowner who was twenty years older than herself.

After the revolution of 1830 he supported the old house of Bourbon. He wanted to become a politician, but after an accident he withdrew his candidature. His novel "Eugénie Grandet" (1833) sold well. "Le Père Goriot" (1835) was another succes. Possibly he had a natural child around this time by his married lover Maria Du Fresnay. He wrote many more books, but his financial position was still weak.

After Ewelina's husband died in 1841 Balzac visited her in St. Petersburg 1843. After some travelling around and problems with his health she finally accepted him and they were married on 14 Mar 1850.

His financial worries were over now, but his health had detoriated by the time they were back in Paris in May, 1850. On 18 Aug 1850 he died in the presence of his mother. His wife had gone to bed. On the day he died he had been visited by Victor Hugo. He was buried at Père Lachaise in Paris. After Ewelina died in 1882 she was buried beside him.

Related persons
• was a friend of Bagration, Catharina
• was a friend of Desbordes-Valmore, Marceline
• had work illustrated by Doré, Gustave
• was admired by Gautier, Théophile
• visited Gay, Delphine
• was the lover of Junot, Laure, Duchesse d'Abrantès
• was photographed by Nadar

Sources
• Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, Robson Books, London, 1991
Honoré de Balzac - Wikipedia

Images

The grave of Honoré de Balzac at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)

 


Bancroft, Anne

Published: 10 May 2009
Last update: 21 May 2010