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Honore de Balzac   By: (1876-1947)

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Honore de Balzac


Albert Keim and Louis Lumet

Translated from the French by


with illustrations from photographs



Copyright, 1914 by Frederick A. Stokes Company


Of all the books perhaps the one best designed for training the mind and forming the character is "Plutarch." The lives of great men are object lessons. They teach effort, devotion, industry, heroism and sacrifice.

Even one who confines his reading solely to biographies of thinkers, writers, inventors, poets of the spirit or poets of science, will in a short time have acquired an understanding of the whole History of Humanity.

And what novel or what drama could be compared to such a history? Accurate biographies record narratives which no romancer's imagination could hope to rival. Researches, sufferings, labors, triumphs, agonies and disasters, the defeats of destiny, glory, which is the "sunlight of the dead," illuminating the past, whether fortunate or tragic, such is what the lives of Great Men reveal to us, or, if the phrase be allowed, paint for us in a series of fascinating and dramatic pictures.

This series of biographies is accordingly intended to form a sort of gallery, a museum of the great servants of Art, Science, Thought and Action.

It was Emerson who wrote a volume devoted to the Representatives of Humanity. Here we have still another collection of "Representative Men." This collection of profoundly interesting studies is entrusted to the care of two writers, Mr. Albert Keim and Mr. Louis Lumet, both of whom have already earned their laurels, the former as poet, novelist, playwright, historian and philosopher, and author of a definitive work upon Helvetius which deserves to become a classic, and the latter as publicist, art critic and scholar of rare and profound erudition. An acquaintance with the successive volumes in this series will give ample evidence of the value of such able collaborators.

On the mountain tops we breathe a purer and more vivifying air. And it is like ascending to a moral mountain top when we live, if only for a moment, with the dead who, in their lives did honour to mankind, and attain the level of those whose eyes now closed, once glowed like beacon lights, leading humanity on its eternal march through night time towards the light.


Chapter 1 :: The Treatise on the Human Will.

Chapter 2 :: The Garret.

Chapter 3 :: His Apprenticeship.

Chapter 4 :: In Business.

Chapter 5 :: The First Success.

Chapter 6 :: Dandyism.

Chapter 7 :: The "Foreign Lady."

Chapter 8 :: At Les Jardies.

Chapter 9 :: In Retirement.

Chapter 1.

The Treatise on the Human Will.

At Balzac's funeral, the glorious yet bitter seal upon his destiny, Victor Hugo delivered a magnificent address, and in his capacity as poet and seer proclaimed with assurance the judgment of posterity:

"His life has been brief yet full, and richer in works than in days.

"Alas! This powerful and indefatigable worker, this philosopher, this thinker, this poet, this genius has lived amongst us that life of storms, of struggles, of quarrels, of combats, which has always been the common lot of all great men. Today we see him at peace. He has escaped from controversies and enmities. He has entered, on the selfsame day, into glory and into the tomb. Henceforward he will shine far above all those clouds which float over our heads, among the brightest stars of his native land."

This discourse was admirable for its truth, its justice and its far sightedness, a golden palm branch laid upon the author's tomb, around which there still arose clamours and bitter arguments, denying the greatness of his works, and rumours which veiled the features of the man behind a haze of absurd legends. A star of his country he certainly was, as Victor Hugo proclaimed him, one of those enduring stars which time so cruel to others fails to change, except to purify their light and augment their brilliance, to the greater pride of the nation... Continue reading book >>

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