4 'Yes, but Montes is a Brazilian; he will never make
his mark/' observed Valerie.
44 We live in the day of railways," said Lisbeth, "when
foreigners rise to high positions in France.
"We shall see." replied Valerie, "when Marneffe is
dead. He has not much longer to suffer."
44 These attacks that return so often are a sort of physical
remorse," said Lisbeth. "Well, I am off to see Hortense."
''Yes go, my angel!" replied Valerie. "And bring
me my artist. Three years, and I have not gained an inch
of ground! It is a disgrace to both of us! Wenceslas and
Henri those are my two passions one for love, the other
44 Yon. are lovely this morning," said Lisbeth, putting
her arm round Valerie's waist and kissing her forehead.
"I enjoy all your pleasures, your good fortune, your
dresses I never really lived till the day when we became
sisters. ' '
4 'Wait a moment, my tiger-cat!" cried Valerie, laugh-
ing; "your shawl is crooked. You cannot put a shawl on
yet in spite of my lessons for three years and you want
to be Madame la Mare'chale Hulot!"
Shod in prunella boots, over gray silk stockings, in a
gown of handsome corded silk, her hair in smooth bands
under a very pretty black velvet bonnet, lined with yellow
satin, Lisbeth made her way to the Hue Saint-Dominique
258 BALZAC'S WORKS
by the Boulevard des Invalides, wondering whether sheer
dejection would at last break down Hortense's brave spirit,
and whether Sarmatian instability, taken at a moment when,
with such a character, everything is possible, would be too
much for Steinbeck's constancy.
Hortense and Wenceslas had the ground floor of a house
situated at the corner of the Rue Saint-Dominique and the
Esplanade des Invalides. These rooms, once in harmony
with the honeymoon, now had that half-new, half-faded
look that may be called the autumnal aspect of furniture.
Newly married folk are as lavish and wasteful, without
knowing it or intending it, of everything about them as
they are of their affection. Thinking only of themselves,
they reck little of the future, which, at a later time, weighs
on the mother of a family.
Lisbeth found Hortense just as she had finished dress-
ing a baby Wenceslas, who had been carried into the
"Good-morning. Betty," said Hortense, opening the door
herself to her cousin. The cook was gone out, and the
house servant, who was also the nurse, was doing some
"Good-morning, dear child," replied Lisbeth, kissing
her. "Is Wenceslas in the studio?" she added in a
"No; he is in the drawing-room talking to Stidmann
and Chanor. "
"Can we be alone?" asked Lisbeth.
"Come into my room."
In this room, the hangings of pink-flowered chintz with
green leaves on a white ground, constantly exposed to the
COUSIN BETTY 259
sun, were much, faded, as was the carpet. The muslin
curtains had not been washed for many a day. The smell
of tobacco hung about the room; for Wenceslas, now an
artist of repute, and born a fine gentleman, left his cigar-
ash on the arms of the chairs and the prettiest pieces of
furniture, as a man does to whom love allows everything
a man rich enough to scorn vulgar carefulness.
"Now, then, let us talk over your affairs," said Lisbeth,
seeing her pretty cousin silent in the armchair into which
she had dropped. "But what ails you? You look rather
pale, my dear."
"Two articles have just come out in which my poor
Wenceslas is pulled to pieces; I have read them, but I
have hidden them from him, for they would completely
depress him. The marble statue of Marshal Montcornet is
pronounced utterly bad. The bass-reliefs are allowed to
pass muster, simply to allow of the most perfidious praise
of his talent as a decorative artist, and to give the greater
emphasis to the statement that serious art is quite out of
his reach ! Stidmann, whom I besought to tell me the truth,
broke my heart by confessing that his own opinion agreed
with that of every other artist, of the critics, and the public.
He said to me in the garden before breakfast, 'If W-enceslas
cannot exhibit a masterpiece next season, he must give up
heroic sculpture and be content to execute idyllic subjects,
small figures, pieces of jewelry, and high-das? goldsmiths'
work!' This verdict is dreadful to me, for Wenceslas, I
know, will never accept it; he feels he has so many fine
ideas. ' '
"Ideas will not pay the tradesman's bills," remarked
Lisbeth. "I was always telling him so nothing but money.
Money is only to be had for work done things that ordi-
2(50 BALZAC'S WORKS
nary folk like well enough to buy them. When an artist
has to live and keep a family, he had far better have a
design for a candlestick on his counter, or for a fender or
a table, than for groups or statues. Everybody must have
such things, while he may wait months for the admirer of
the group and for his money "
"You are right, my good Lisbeth. Tell him all that;
I have not the courage. Besides, as he was saying to Stid-
mann, if he goes back to ornamental work and small sculpt-
ure, he must give up all hope of the Institute and grand
works of art, and we should not get the three hundred
thousand francs' worth of work promised at Versailles and
by the City of Paris and the Ministers. That is what we
are robbed of by those dreadful articles, written by rivals
who want to step into our shoes."
"And that is not what you dreamed of, poor little puss!"
said Lisbeth, kissing Hortense on the brow. "You expected
to find a gentleman, a leader of Art, the chief of all living
sculptors. But that is poetry, you see, a dream requiring
iifty thousand fraacs a year, and you have only two thou-
sand four hundred so long as I live. After my death
A few tears rose to Hortense 's eyes, and Lisbeth drank
them with her eyes as a cat laps milk.
This is the history of their honeymoon the tale will
perhaps not be lost on some artists.
Intellectual work, labor in the upper regions of mental
effort, is one of the grandest achievements of man. That
which deserves real glory in Art for by Art we must un-
derstand every creation of the mind is courage above all
things a sort of courage of which the vulgar have no
COUSIN BETTY 261
conception, and which has never perhaps been desxjribed
Driven by the dreadful stress of poverty, goaded by
Lisbeth, and kept by her in blinkers, as a horse is, to
hinder it from seeing to the right and left of its road,
lashed on by that hard woman, the personification of
Necessity, a sort of deputy Fate, Wenceslas, a born poet,
and dreamer, had gone on from conception to execution,
and overleaped, without sounding it, the gulf that divides
these two hemispheres of Art. To nurse, to dream, to
conceive of fine works, is a delightful occupation. It is
like smoking a magic cigar or leading the life of a" courte-
san who follows her own fancy. The work then floats in
all the grace of infancy, in the mad joy of conception, with
the fragrant beauty of a flower, and the aromatic juices of
a fruit enjoyed in anticipation.
The man who can but sketch his purpose beforehand
in words is regarded as a wonder, and every artist and
writer possesses that faculty. But gestation, fruition, the
laborious rearing of the offspring, putting it to bed every
night full fed with milk, embracing it anew every morning
with the inexhaustible affection of a mother's heart, lick-
ing it clean, dressing it a hundred times in the richest garb
only to be instantly destroyed : then never to be cast down
at the convulsions of this headlong life till the living master-
piece is perfected which in sculpture speaks to every eye,
in literature to every intellect, in painting to every memory,
in music to every heart! This is the task of execution.
The hand must be ready at every instant to come forward
and obey the brain. But the brain has no more a creative
power at command than love has a perennial spring.
The habit of creativeness, the indefatigable love of
262 BALZAC'S WORKS
motherhood which makes a mother that miracle of nat-
ure which Eafael so perfectly understood the maternity
of the brain, in short, which is so difficult to develop, is
lost with prodigious ease. Inspiration is the opportunity
of genius. She does not indeed dance on the razor's edge,
she is in the air and flies away with the suspicious swift-
ness of a crow; she wears no scarf by which the poet can
clutch her; her hair is a flame; she vanishes like the lovely
rose -and- white flamingo, the sportsman's despair. And
work, again, is a weariful struggle, alike dreaded and de-
lighted in by these lofty and powerful natures who are
often broken by it. A great poet of our day has said in
speaking of this overwhelming labor, "I sit down to it in
despair, but I leave it with regret." Be it known to all
who are ignorant ! If the artist does not throw himself into
his work as Curtius sprang into the gulf, as a soldier leads
a forlorn hope without a moment's thought, and if when he
is in the crater he does not dig on as a miner does when
the earth has fallen in on him; if he contemplates the diffi-
culties before him instead of conquering them one by one,
like the lovers in fairy tales, who to win their princesses
overcome ever new enchantments, the work remains incom-
plete; it perishes in the studio where creativeness becomes
impossible, and the artist looks on at the suicide of his
Eossini, a brother genius to Rafael, is a striking in-
stance in his poverty-stricken youth, compared with his
later years of opulence. This is the reason why the same
prize, the same triumph, the same bays are awarded to great
poets and to great generals.
Wenceslas, by nature a dreamer, had expended so much
energy in production, in study, and in work under Lisbeth's
COUSIX BETTY 263
despotic rule, that love and happiness resulted in reaction.
His real character reappeared; the weakness, recklessness,
and indolence of the Sarmatian returned to nestle in the
comfortable corners of his soul, whence the schoolmaster's
rod had routed them.
For the first few months the artist adored his wife.
Hortense and Wenceslas abandoned themselves to the
happy childishness of a legitimate and unbounded passion.
Hortense was the first to release her husband from his
labors, proud to triumph over her rival, his Art. And,
indeed, a woman's caresses scare away the Muse, and break
down the sturdy, brutal resolution of the worker.
Six or seven months slipped by, and the artist's fingers
had forgotten the use of the modelling tool. When the
need for work began to be felt, when the Prince de Wis-
sembourg, president of the committee of subscribers, asked
to see the statue, Wenceslas spoke the inevitable byword
of the idler, "I am just going to work on it." and he lulled
his dear Hortense with fallacious promises and the magnifi-
cent schemes of the artist as he smokes. Hortense loved
her poet more than ever; she dreamed of a sublime statue
of Marshal Montcornet. Montcornet would be the embodied
ideal of bravery, the type of the cavalry officer, of courage
d la Murat. Yes, yes; at the mere sight of that statue all
the Emperor's victories were to seem a foregone conclusion.
And then, such workmanship! The pencil was accommo-
dating and answered to the word.
By way of a statue the result was a delightful little
When the progress of affairs required that he should
go to the studio at le Gros-Caillou to mold the clay and
set up the life-size model, Steinbock found one day that
264 BALZAC'S WORKS
the Prince's clock required his presence in the workshop
of Florent and Chanor, where the figures were being fin-
ished; or, again, the light was gray and dull; to-day he
had business to do, to-morrow they had a family dinner, to
say nothing of indispositions of mind and body, and the
days when he stayed at home to toy with his adored wife.
Marshal the Prince de Wissembourg was obliged to be
angry to get the clay model finished; he declared that he
must put the work into other hands. It was only by dint
of endless complaints and much strong language that the
committee of subscribers succeeded in seeing the plaster-
cast. Day after day Steinbock came home, evidently tired,
complaining of this "hodman's work" and his own physical
weakness. During that first year the household felt no
pinch; the Countess Steinbock, desperately in love with
her husband, cursed the War Minister. She went to see
him; she told him that great works of art were not to be
manufactured like cannon; and that the State like Louis
XIV., Francis I., and Leo X. ought to be at the beck
and call of genius. Poor Hortense, believing she held a
Phidias in her embrace, had the sort of motherly cowardice
for her Wenceslas that is in every wife who carries her
love to the pitch of idolatry.
"Do not be hurried," said she to her husband, "our
whole future life is bound up with that statue. Take your
time and produce a masterpiece."
She would go to the studio, and then the enraptured
Steinbock wasted five hours out of seven in describing the
statue instead of working at it. He thus spent eighteen
months in finishing the design, which to him was all-
When the plaster was cast and the model complete, poor
COUSIN BETTY 265
Hortense, who had looked on at her husband's toil, seeing
.his health really suffer from the exertions which exhaust a
sculptor's frame and arms and hands Hortense thought
the result admirable. Her father, who knew nothing of
sculpture, and her mother, no less ignorant, lauded it as
a triumph; the War Minister came with them to see it,
and, overruled by them, expressed approval of the figure,
standing as it did alone, in a favorable light, thrown up
against a green baize background.
Alas! at the exhibition of 1841, the disapprobation of
the public soon took the form of abuse and mockery in the
mouths of those who were indignant with the idol too has-
tily set up for worship. Stidmann tried to advise his friend,
but was accused of jealousy. Every article in a newspaper
was to Hortense an outcry of envy. Stidmann, the best of
good fellows, got articles written, in which adverse criticism
was contravened, and it was pointed out that sculptors al-
tered their works in translating the plaster into marble, and
that the marble would be the test.
"In reproducing the plaster sketch in marble," wrote
Claude Vignon, "a masterpiece may be ruined, or a bad
design made beautiful. The plaster is the manuscript, the
marble is the book."
So in two years and a half Wenceslas had produced a
statue and a son. The child was a picture of beauty ; the
statue was execrable.
The clock for the Prince and the price of the statue
paid off the young couple's debts. Steinbock had acquired
fashionable habits; he went to the play, to the opera; he
talked admirably about art; and in the eyes of the world
he maintained his reputation as a great artist by his powers
of conversation and criticism. There are many clever men
Vol. 10 (L)
in Paris who spend their lives in talking themselves out,
and are content with a sort of drawing-room celebrity.
Steinbock, emulating these emasculated but charming men,
grew every day more averse to hard work. As soon as he
began a thing, he was conscious of all its difficulties, and
the discouragement that came over him enervated his will.
Inspiration, the frenzy of intellectual procreation, flew swiftly
away at the sight of this effete lover.
Sculpture like dramatic art is at once the most diffi-
cult and the easiest of all arts. You have but to copy a
model, and the task is done; but to give it a soul, to make
it typical by creating a man or a woman this is the sin of
Prometheus. Such triumphs in the annals of sculpture may
be counted, as we may count the few poets among men.
Michelangelo, Michel Columb, Jean Goujon, Phidias, Prax-
iteles, Polycletes, Puget, Canova, Albert Diirer, are the broth-
ers of Milton, Yirgil, Dante, Shakespeare, Tasso, Homer, and
Moliere. And such an achievement is so stupendous that a
single statue is enough to make a man immortal, as Figaro,
Lovelace, and Manon Lescaut have immortalized Beaumar-
chais, Richardson, and the Abfce PreVost.
Superficial thinkers and there are many in the artist
world have asserted that sculpture lives only by the nude,
that it died with the Greeks, and that modern vesture makes
it impossible. But, in the first place, the Ancients have
left sublime statues entirely clothed the "Polyhymnia,"
the "Julia," and others, and we have not found one-tenth
of all their works; and then, let any lover of art go to
Florence and see Michelangelo's "Penseroso," or to the
Cathedral of Mainz, and behold the "Virgin" by Albert
Diirer, who has created a living woman out of ebony, un-
der her threefold drapery, with the most flowing, the soft-
COUSIN BETTY 267
est hair that ever a waiting-maid combed through; let all
the ignorant flock thither, and they will acknowledge that
genius can give mind to drapery, to armor, to a robe,
and fill it with a body, just as a man leaves the stamp of
his individuality and habits of life on the clothes he wears.
Sculpture is the perpetual realization of the fact which
once, and never again, was, in painting, called Rafael!
The solution of this hard problem is to be found only
in constant persevering toil; for, merely to overcome the
material difficulties to such an extent, the hand must be so
practiced, so dexterous and obedient, that the sculptor may
be free to struggle soul to soul with the elusive moral ele-
ment that he has to transfigure as he embodies it. If Paga-
nini, who uttered his soul through the strings of his violin,
spent three days without practicing, he lost what he called
the stops of his instrument, meaning the sympathy between
the wooden frame, the strings, the bow, and himself; if he
had lost this alliance, he would have been no more than an
Perpetual work is the law of art, as it is the law of life,
for art is idealized creation. Hence great artists and per-
fect poets wait neither for commissions nor for purchasers.
They are constantly creating to-day, to-morrow, always.
The result is the habit of work, the unfailing apprehension
of the difficulties which keep them in close intercourse with
the Muse and her productive forces. Canova lived in his
studio, as Voltaire lived in his study; and so must Homer
and Phidias have lived.
While Lisbeth kept Wenceslas Steinbock in thraldom
in his garret, he was on the thorny road trodden by all
these great men, which leads to the Alpine heights of
glory. Then happiness, in the person of Hortense, had
268 BALZAC'S WORKS
reduced the poet to idleness the normal condition of all
artists, since to them idleness is fully occupied. Their joy
is such as that of the pacha of a seraglio; they revel with
ideas, they get drunk at the founts of intellect. Great
artists, such as Steinbock, wrapped in revery, are rightly
spoken of as dreamers. They, like opium-eaters, all sink
into poverty, whereas, if they had been kept up to the
mark by the stern demands of life, they might have been
At the same time, these half -artists are delightful; men
like them and cram them with praise; they even seem
superior to the true artists, who are taxed with conceit,
unsociableness, contempt of the laws of society. This is
why: Great men are the slaves of their work. Their in-
difference to outer things, their devotion to their work,
make simpletons regard them" as egotists, and they are
expected to wear the same garb as the dandy who fulfils
the trivial evolutions called social duties. These men want
the lions of the Atlas to be combed and scented like a
These artists, who are too rarely matched to meet their
fellows, fall into habits of solitary exclusiveness; they are
inexplicable to the majority, which, as we know, consists
mostly of fools of the envious, the ignorant, and the
Now you may imagine what part a wife should play in
the life of these glorious and exceptional beings. She
ought to be what, for five years, Lisbeth had been, but
with the added offering of love, humble and patient love,
always ready and always smiling.
Hortense, enlightened by her anxieties as a mother, and
driven by dire necessity, had discovered too late the mis-
COUSIN BETTY 269
takes she had been involuntarily led into by her excessive
love. Still, the worthy daughter of her mother, her heart
ached at the thought of worrying Wenceslas; she loved her
dear poet too much to become his torturer; and she could
foresee the hour when beggary awaited her, her child, and
"Come, come, my child," said Lisbeth, seeing the tears
in her cousin's lovely eyes, "you must not despair. A
glassful of tears will not buy a plate of soup. How much
do you want?"
"Well, five or six thousand francs."
"I have but three thousand at most," said Lisbeth.
"And what is Wenceslas doing now? ? '
"He has had an offer to work in partnership with Stid-
mann at a table service for the Due d'Herouville for six
thousand francs. Then Monsieur Chanor will advance four
thousand to repay Monsieur de Lora and Bridau a debt of
"What, you have had the money for the statue and the
bass-reliefs for Marshal Montcornet's monument, and you
have not paid them yet?"
"For the last three years," said Hortense, "we have
spent twelve thousand francs a year, and I have but a
hundred louis a year of my own. The Marshal's mon-
ument, when all the expenses were paid, brought us no
more than sixteen thousand francs. Really and truly,
if Wenceslas gets no work, I do not know what is to be-
come of us. Oh, if only I could learn to make statues,
I would handle the clay!" she cried, holding up her fine
The woman, it was plain, fulfilled the promise of the
girl; there was a flash in her eye; impetuous blood, strong
270 BALZAC'S WORKS
with iron, flowed in her veins ; she felt that she was wasting
her energy in carrying her infant.
"Ah, my poor little thing! a sensible girl should not
marry an artist till his fortune is made not while it is still
At this moment they heard vo : ces; Stidmann and Wen-
ceslas were seeing Chanor to the door; then Wenceslas and
Stidmann carne in again.
Stidmann, an artist in vogue in the world of journalists,
famous actresses, and courtesans of the better class, was a
young man of fashion whom Valerie much wished to see
in her rooms; indeed, he had already been introduced to
her by Claude Vignon. Stidmann had lately broken off
an intimacy with Madame Scliontz, who had married some
months since and gone to live in the country. Valerie and
Lisbeth, hearing of this upheaval from Claude Vignon,
thought it well to get Steinbock's friend to visit in the
Stidmann, out of good feeling, went rarely to the Stein-
bocks; and as it happened that Lisbeth was not present
when he was introduced by Claude Vignon, she now saw
him for the first time. As she watched this noted artist,
she caught certain glances from his eyes at Hortense, which
suggested to her the possibility of offering him to the Coun-
tess Steinbock as a consolation if Wenceslas should be false
to her. In point of fact, Stidmann was reflecting that if
Steinbock were not his friend, Hortense, the young and
superbly beautiful countess, would be an adorable mistress;
it was this very notion, controlled by honor, that kept him
away from the house. Lisbeth was quick to mark the signif-
icant awkwardness that troubles a man in the presence of a
woman with whom he will not allow himself to flirt.
COUSIN BETTY 271
"Very good-looking that young man," said she in a
whisper to Hortense.
"Oh, do you think so?" she replied. * 'I never noticed
"Stidmann, my good fellow," said Wenceslas, in an
undertone to his friend, "we are on no ceremony, you
and I we hare some business to settle with this old girl. ' '
Stidmann bowed to the ladies and went away.
"It is settled," said Wenceslas, when he came in from
taking leave of Stidmann. "But there are six months'
work to be done, and we must live meanwhile."
"There are my diamonds," cried the young Countess,
with the impetuous heroism of a loving woman.
A tear rose in Wenceslas's eye.
"Oh! I am going to work," said he, sitting down by his
wife and drawing her on to his knee. "I will do odd jobs
a wedding chest, bronze groups "
"But, my children," said Lisbeth; "for, as you know,
you will be my heirs, and I shall leave you a very comfort-
able sum, believe me, especially if you help me to marry the