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Honoré de Balzac.

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hand, which Lucien squeezed.

"Ah! my masters, so you have a mind to floor me, have you?" said Nathan,
looking from one to the other.

"Just you wait till to-morrow, my dear fellow, and you shall see how
Lucien has taken you in hand. Upon my word, you will be pleased. A piece
of serious criticism like that is sure to do a book good."

Lucien reddened with confusion.

"Is it severe?" inquired Nathan.

"It is serious," said Lousteau.

"Then there is no harm done," Nathan rejoined. "Hector Merlin in the
greenroom of the Vaudeville was saying that I had been cut up."

"Let him talk, and wait," cried Lucien, and took refuge in Coralie's
dressing-room. Coralie, in her alluring costume, had just come off the
stage.



Next morning, as Lucien and Coralie sat at breakfast, a carriage drove
along the Rue de Vendome. The street was quiet enough, so that they
could hear the light sound made by an elegant cabriolet; and there was
that in the pace of the horse, and the manner of pulling up at the door,
which tells unmistakably of a thoroughbred. Lucien went to the window,
and there, in fact, beheld a splendid English horse, and no less a
person than Dauriat flinging the reins to his man as he stepped down.

"'Tis the publisher, Coralie," said Lucien.

"Let him wait, Berenice," Coralie said at once.

Lucien smiled at her presence of mind, and kissed her with a great rush
of tenderness. This mere girl had made his interests hers in a wonderful
way; she was quick-witted where he was concerned. The apparition of the
insolent publisher, the sudden and complete collapse of that prince
of charlatans, was due to circumstances almost entirely forgotten, so
utterly has the book trade changed during the last fifteen years.

From 1816 to 1827, when newspaper reading-rooms were only just beginning
to lend new books, the fiscal law pressed more heavily than ever
upon periodical publications, and necessity created the invention of
advertisements. Paragraphs and articles in the newspapers were the only
means of advertisement known in those days; and French newspapers before
the year 1822 were so small, that the largest sheet of those times was
not so large as the smallest daily paper of ours. Dauriat and Ladvocat,
the first publishers to make a stand against the tyranny of journalists,
were also the first to use the placards which caught the attention of
Paris by strange type, striking colors, vignettes, and (at a later time)
by lithograph illustrations, till a placard became a fairy-tale for the
eyes, and not unfrequently a snare for the purse of the amateur. So much
originality indeed was expended on placards in Paris, that one of that
peculiar kind of maniacs, known as a collector, possesses a complete
series.

At first the placard was confined to the shop-windows and stalls upon
the Boulevards in Paris; afterwards it spread all over France, till
it was supplanted to some extent by a return to advertisements in the
newspapers. But the placard, nevertheless, which continues to strike the
eye, after the advertisement and the book which is advertised are both
forgotten, will always be among us; it took a new lease of life when
walls were plastered with posters.

Newspaper advertising, the offspring of heavy stamp duties, a high rate
of postage, and the heavy deposits of caution-money required by the
government as security for good behavior, is within the reach of all who
care to pay for it, and has turned the fourth page of every journal
into a harvest field alike for the speculator and the Inland Revenue
Department. The press restrictions were invented in the time of M. de
Villele, who had a chance, if he had but known it, of destroying the
power of journalism by allowing newspapers to multiply till no one
took any notice of them; but he missed his opportunity, and a sort
of privilege was created, as it were, by the almost insuperable
difficulties put in the way of starting a new venture. So, in 1821, the
periodical press might be said to have power of life and death over the
creations of the brain and the publishing trade. A few lines among
the items of news cost a fearful amount. Intrigues were multiplied in
newspaper offices; and of a night when the columns were divided up,
and this or that article was put in or left out to suit the space, the
printing-room became a sort of battlefield; so much so, that the largest
publishing firms had writers in their pay to insert short articles in
which many ideas are put in little space. Obscure journalists of
this stamp were only paid after the insertion of the items, and not
unfrequently spent the night in the printing-office to make sure that
their contributions were not omitted; sometimes putting in a long
article, obtained heaven knows how, sometimes a few lines of a puff.

The manners and customs of journalism and of the publishing houses have
since changed so much, that many people nowadays will not believe what
immense efforts were made by writers and publishers of books to secure a
newspaper puff; the martyrs of glory, and all those who are condemned to
the penal servitude of a life-long success, were reduced to such shifts,
and stooped to depths of bribery and corruption as seem fabulous to-day.
Every kind of persuasion was brought to bear on journalists - dinners,
flattery, and presents. The following story will throw more light on the
close connection between the critic and the publisher than any quantity
of flat assertions.

There was once upon a time an editor of an important paper, a clever
writer with a prospect of becoming a statesman; he was young in those
days, and fond of pleasure, and he became the favorite of a well-known
publishing house. One Sunday the wealthy head of the firm was
entertaining several of the foremost journalists of the time in the
country, and the mistress of the house, then a young and pretty woman,
went to walk in her park with the illustrious visitor. The head-clerk of
the firm, a cool, steady, methodical German with nothing but business in
his head, was discussing a project with one of the journalists, and as
they chatted they walked on into the woods beyond the park. In among the
thickets the German thought he caught a glimpse of his hostess, put
up his eyeglass, made a sign to his young companion to be silent,
and turned back, stepping softly. - "What did you see?" asked the
journalist. - "Nothing particular," said the clerk. "Our affair of the
long article is settled. To-morrow we shall have at least three columns
in the _Debats_."

Another anecdote will show the influence of a single article.

A book of M. de Chateaubriand's on the last of the Stuarts was for some
time a "nightingale" on the bookseller's shelves. A single article in
the _Journal des Debats_ sold the work in a week. In those days, when
there were no lending libraries, a publisher would sell an edition of
ten thousand copies of a book by a Liberal if it was well reviewed by
the Opposition papers; but then the Belgian pirated editions were not as
yet.

The preparatory attacks made by Lucien's friends, followed up by his
article on Nathan, proved efficacious; they stopped the sale of his
book. Nathan escaped with the mortification; he had been paid; he had
nothing to lose; but Dauriat was like to lose thirty thousand francs.
The trade in new books may, in fact, be summed up much on this wise.
A ream of blank paper costs fifteen francs, a ream of printed paper is
worth anything between a hundred sous and a hundred crowns, according to
its success; a favorable or unfavorable review at a critical time often
decides the question; and Dauriat having five hundred reams of printed
paper on hand, hurried to make terms with Lucien. The sultan was now the
slave.

After waiting for some time, fidgeting and making as much noise as
he could while parleying with Berenice, he at last obtained speech
of Lucien; and, arrogant publisher though he was, he came in with the
radiant air of a courtier in the royal presence, mingled, however, with
a certain self-sufficiency and easy good humor.

"Don't disturb yourselves, my little dears! How nice they look, just
like a pair of turtle-doves! Who would think now, mademoiselle, that
he, with that girl's face of his, could be a tiger with claws of steel,
ready to tear a reputation to rags, just as he tears your wrappers,
I'll be bound, when you are not quick enough to unfasten them," and he
laughed before he had finished his jest.

"My dear boy - - " he began, sitting down beside Lucien. - "Mademoiselle,
I am Dauriat," he said, interrupting himself. He judged it expedient to
fire his name at her like a pistol shot, for he considered that Coralie
was less cordial than she should have been.

"Have you breakfasted, monsieur; will you keep us company?" asked
Coralie.

"Why, yes; it is easier to talk at table," said Dauriat. "Besides, by
accepting your invitation I shall have a right to expect you to dine
with my friend Lucien here, for we must be close friends now, hand and
glove!"

"Berenice! Bring oysters, lemons, fresh butter, and champagne," said
Coralie.

"You are too clever not to know what has brought me here," said Dauriat,
fixing his eyes on Lucien.

"You have come to buy my sonnets."

"Precisely. First of all, let us lay down our arms on both sides." As
he spoke he took out a neat pocketbook, drew from it three bills for a
thousand francs each, and laid them before Lucien with a suppliant air.
"Is monsieur content?" asked he.

"Yes," said the poet. A sense of beatitude, for which no words exist,
flooded his soul at the sight of that unhoped wealth. He controlled
himself, but he longed to sing aloud, to jump for joy; he was ready to
believe in Aladdin's lamp and in enchantment; he believed in his own
genius, in short.

"Then the _Marguerites_ are mine," continued Dauriat; "but you will
undertake not to attack my publications, won't you?"

"The _Marguerites_ are yours, but I cannot pledge my pen; it is at the
service of my friends, as theirs are mine."

"But you are one of my authors now. All my authors are my friends. So
you won't spoil my business without warning me beforehand, so that I am
prepared, will you?"

"I agree to that."

"To your fame!" and Dauriat raised his glass.

"I see that you have read the _Marguerites_," said Lucien.

Dauriat was not disconcerted.

"My boy, a publisher cannot pay a greater compliment than by buying your
_Marguerites_ unread. In six months' time you will be a great poet. You
will be written up; people are afraid of you; I shall have no difficulty
in selling your book. I am the same man of business that I was four days
ago. It is not I who have changed; it is _you_. Last week your sonnets
were so many cabbage leaves for me; to-day your position has ranked them
beside Delavigne."

"Ah well," said Lucien, "if you have not read my sonnets, you have read
my article." With the sultan's pleasure of possessing a fair mistress,
and the certainty of success, he had grown satirical and adorably
impertinent of late.

"Yes, my friend; do you think I should have come here in such a hurry
but for that? That terrible article of yours is very well written, worse
luck. Oh! you have a very great gift, my boy. Take my advice and make
the most of your vogue," he added, with good humor, which masked the
extreme insolence of the speech. "But have you yourself a copy of the
paper? Have you seen your article in print?"

"Not yet," said Lucien, "though this is the first long piece of prose
which I have published; but Hector will have sent a copy to my address
in the Rue Charlot."

"Here - read!"... cried Dauriat, copying Talma's gesture in _Manlius_.

Lucien took the paper but Coralie snatched it from him.

"The first-fruits of your pen belong to me, as you well know," she
laughed.

Dauriat was unwontedly courtier-like and complimentary. He was afraid of
Lucien, and therefore he asked him to a great dinner which he was giving
to a party of journalists towards the end of the week, and Coralie was
included in the invitation. He took the _Marguerites_ away with him
when he went, asking _his_ poet to look in when he pleased in the Wooden
Galleries, and the agreement should be ready for his signature.
Dauriat never forgot the royal airs with which he endeavored to overawe
superficial observers, and to impress them with the notion that he was
a Maecenas rather than a publisher; at this moment he left the three
thousand francs, waving away in lordly fashion the receipt which Lucien
offered, kissed Coralie's hand, and took his departure.

"Well, dear love, would you have seen many of these bits of paper if you
had stopped in your hole in the Rue de Cluny, prowling about among the
musty old books in the Bibliotheque de Sainte-Genevieve?" asked Coralie,
for she knew the whole story of Lucien's life by this time. "Those
little friends of yours in the Rue des Quatre-Vents are great ninnies,
it seems to me."

His brothers of the _cenacle_! And Lucien could hear the verdict and
laugh.

He had seen himself in print; he had just experienced the ineffable joy
of the author, that first pleasurable thrill of gratified vanity which
comes but once. The full import and bearing of his article became
apparent to him as he read and re-read it. The garb of print is to
manuscript as the stage is to women; it brings beauties and defects to
light, killing and giving life; the fine thoughts and the faults alike
stare you in the face.

Lucien, in his excitement and rapture, gave not another thought to
Nathan. Nathan was a stepping-stone for him - that was all; and he
(Lucien) was happy exceedingly - he thought himself rich. The money
brought by Dauriat was a very Potosi for the lad who used to go about
unnoticed through the streets of Angouleme and down the steep path into
L'Houmeau to Postel's garret, where his whole family had lived upon an
income of twelve hundred francs. The pleasures of his life in Paris must
inevitably dim the memories of those days; but so keen were they, that,
as yet, he seemed to be back again in the Place du Murier. He thought of
Eve, his beautiful, noble sister, of David his friend, and of his poor
mother, and he sent Berenice out to change one of the notes. While she
went he wrote a few lines to his family, and on the maid's return
he sent her to the coach-office with a packet of five hundred francs
addressed to his mother. He could not trust himself; he wanted to sent
the money at once; later he might not be able to do it. Both Lucien and
Coralie looked upon this restitution as a meritorious action. Coralie
put her arms about her lover and kissed him, and thought him a model son
and brother; she could not make enough of him, for generosity is a trait
of character which delights these kindly creatures, who always carry
their hearts in their hands.

"We have a dinner now every day for a week," she said; "we will make a
little carnival; you have worked quite hard enough."



Coralie, fain to delight in the beauty of a man whom all other women
should envy her, took Lucien back to Staub. He was not dressed finely
enough for her. Thence the lovers went to drive in the Bois de Boulogne,
and came back to dine at Mme. du Val-Noble's. Rastignac, Bixiou, des
Lupeaulx, Finot, Blondet, Vignon, the Baron de Nucingen, Beaudenord,
Philippe Bridau, Conti, the great musician, all the artists and
speculators, all the men who seek for violent sensations as a relief
from immense labors, gave Lucien a welcome among them. And Lucien had
gained confidence; he gave himself out in talk as though he had not to
live by his wit, and was pronounced to be a "clever fellow" in the slang
of the coterie of semi-comrades.

"Oh! we must wait and see what he has in him," said Theodore Gaillard,
a poet patronized by the Court, who thought of starting a Royalist paper
to be entitled the _Reveil_ at a later day.

After dinner, Merlin and Lucien, Coralie and Mme. du Val-Noble, went to
the Opera, where Merlin had a box. The whole party adjourned thither,
and Lucien triumphant reappeared upon the scene of his first serious
check.

He walked in the lobby, arm in arm with Merlin and Blondet, looking
the dandies who had once made merry at his expense between the eyes.
Chatelet was under his feet. He clashed glances with de Marsay,
Vandenesse, and Manerville, the bucks of that day. And indeed Lucien,
beautiful and elegantly arrayed, had caused a discussion in the Marquise
d'Espard's box; Rastignac had paid a long visit, and the Marquise and
Mme. de Bargeton put up their opera-glasses at Coralie. Did the sight
of Lucien send a pang of regret through Mme. de Bargeton's heart?
This thought was uppermost in the poet's mind. The longing for revenge
aroused in him by the sight of the Corinne of Angouleme was as fierce
as on that day when the lady and her cousin had cut him in the
Champs-Elysees.

"Did you bring an amulet with you from the provinces?" - It was Blondet
who made this inquiry some few days later, when he called at eleven
o'clock in the morning and found that Lucien was not yet risen. - "His
good looks are making ravages from cellar to garret, high and low,"
continued Blondet, kissing Coralie on the forehead. "I have come to
enlist you, dear fellow," he continued, grasping Lucien by the hand.
"Yesterday, at the Italiens, the Comtesse de Montcornet asked me to
bring you to her house. You will not give a refusal to a charming woman?
You meet people of the first fashion there."

"If Lucien is nice, he will not go to see your Countess," put in
Coralie. "What call is there for him to show his face in fine society?
He would only be bored there."

"Have you a vested interest in him? Are you jealous of fine ladies?"

"Yes," cried Coralie. "They are worse than we are."

"How do you know that, my pet?" asked Blondet.

"From their husbands," retorted she. "You are forgetting that I once had
six months of de Marsay."

"Do you suppose, child, that _I_ am particularly anxious to take such
a handsome fellow as your poet to Mme. de Montcornet's house? If you
object, let us consider that nothing has been said. But I don't fancy
that the women are so much in question as a poor devil that Lucien
pilloried in his newspaper; he is begging for mercy and peace. The Baron
du Chatelet is imbecile enough to take the thing seriously. The Marquise
d'Espard, Mme. de Bargeton, and Mme. de Montcornet's set have taken up
the Heron's cause; and I have undertaken to reconcile Petrarch and his
Laura - Mme. de Bargeton and Lucien."

"Aha!" cried Lucien, the glow of the intoxication of revenge throbbing
full-pulsed through every vein. "Aha! so my foot is on their necks!
You make me adore my pen, worship my friends, bow down to the
fate-dispensing power of the press. I have not written a single sentence
as yet upon the Heron and the Cuttlefish-bone. - I will go with you,
my boy," he cried, catching Blondet by the waist; "yes, I will go; but
first, the couple shall feel the weight of _this_, for so light as it
is." He flourished the pen which had written the article upon Nathan.

"To-morrow," he cried, "I will hurl a couple of columns at their heads.
Then, we shall see. Don't be frightened, Coralie, it is not love but
revenge; revenge! And I will have it to the full!"

"What a man it is!" said Blondet. "If you but knew, Lucien, how rare
such explosions are in this jaded Paris, you might appreciate yourself.
You will be a precious scamp" (the actual expression was a trifle
stronger); "you are in a fair way to be a power in the land."

"He will get on," said Coralie.

"Well, he has come a good way already in six weeks."

"And if he should climb so high that he can reach a sceptre by treading
over a corpse, he shall have Coralie's body for a stepping-stone," said
the girl.

"You are a pair of lovers of the Golden Age," said Blondet. - "I
congratulate you on your big article," he added, turning to Lucien.
"There were a lot of new things in it. You are past master!"

Lousteau called with Hector Merlin and Vernou. Lucien was immensely
flattered by this attention. Felicien Vernou brought a hundred francs
for Lucien's article; it was felt that such a contributor must be well
paid to attach him to the paper.

Coralie, looking round at the chapter of journalists, ordered in a
breakfast from the _Cadran bleu_, the nearest restaurant, and asked
her visitors to adjourn to her handsomely furnished dining-room when
Berenice announced that the meal was ready. In the middle of the repast,
when the champagne had gone to all heads, the motive of the visit came
out.

"You do not mean to make an enemy of Nathan, do you?" asked Lousteau.
"Nathan is a journalist, and he has friends; he might play you an ugly
trick with your first book. You have your _Archer of Charles IX._ to
sell, have you not? We went round to Nathan this morning; he is in a
terrible way. But you will set about another article, and puff praise in
his face."

"What! After my article against his book, would you have me say - - "
began Lucien.

The whole party cut him short with a shout of laughter.

"Did you ask him to supper here the day after to-morrow?" asked Blondet.

"You article was not signed," added Lousteau. "Felicien, not being
quite such a new hand as you are, was careful to put an initial C at the
bottom. You can do that now with all your articles in his paper, which
is pure unadulterated Left. We are all of us in the Opposition. Felicien
was tactful enough not to compromise your future opinions. Hector's shop
is Right Centre; you might sign your work on it with an L. If you cut a
man up, you do it anonymously; if you praise him, it is just as well to
put your name to your article."

"It is not the signatures that trouble me," returned Lucien, "but I
cannot see anything to be said in favor of the book."

"Then did you really think as you wrote?" asked Hector.

"Yes."

"Oh! I thought you were cleverer than that, youngster," said Blondet.
"No. Upon my word, as I looked at that forehead of yours, I credited you
with the omnipotence of the great mind - the power of seeing both sides
of everything. In literature, my boy, every idea is reversible, and no
man can take upon himself to decide which is the right or wrong side.
Everything is bi-lateral in the domain of thought. Ideas are binary.
Janus is a fable signifying criticism and the symbol of Genius. The
Almighty alone is triform. What raises Moliere and Corneille above the
rest of us but the faculty of saying one thing with an Alceste or an
Octave, and another with a Philinte or a Cinna? Rousseau wrote a letter
against dueling in the _Nouvelle_ Heloise, and another in favor of it.
Which of the two represented his own opinion? will you venture to
take it upon yourself to decide? Which of us could give judgement for
Clarissa or Lovelace, Hector or Achilles? Who was Homer's hero? What did
Richardson himself think? It is the function of criticism to look at a
man's work in all its aspects. We draw up our case, in short."

"Do you really stick to your written opinions?" asked Vernou, with a
satirical expression. "Why, we are retailers of phrases; that is how we
make a livelihood. When you try to do a good piece of work - to write a
book, in short - you can put your thoughts, yourself into it, and cling
to it, and fight for it; but as for newspaper articles, read to-day and
forgotten to-morrow, they are worth nothing in my eyes but the money
that is paid for them. If you attach any importance to such drivel, you
might as well make the sign of the Cross and invoke heaven when you sit
down to write a tradesman's circular."

Every one apparently was astonished at Lucien's scruples. The last rags
of the boyish conscience were torn away, and he was invested with the
_toga virilis_ of journalism.

"Do you know what Nathan said by way of comforting himself after your
criticism?" asked Lousteau.

"How should I know?"

"Nathan exclaimed, 'Paragraphs pass away; but a great work lives!' He
will be here to supper in two days, and he will be sure to fall flat at
your feet, and kiss your claws, and swear that you are a great man."

"That would be a funny thing," was Lucien's comment.

"_Funny_" repeated Blondet. "He can't help himself."

"I am quite willing, my friends," said Lucien, on whom the wine had
begun to take effect. "But what am I to say?"

"Oh well, refute yourself in three good columns in Merlin's paper.
We have been enjoying the sight of Nathan's wrath; we have just been
telling him that he owes us no little gratitude for getting up a hot
controversy that will sell his second edition in a week. In his eyes at



Online LibraryHonoré de BalzacA Distinguished Provincial at Paris → online text (page 19 of 29)