Honoré de Balzac.

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3 1822 00809 6448


V.J 7

CiJbvttrjT |t*it»itton

Vautkin — Yes, I could acquire a fortune, but
who will give me the opportunity ? The King
could, at your grace's intercession, grant me a
pardoiL t>,ut ^vho then would take }T»y hand in his ?
liO^N '. > ^\\pauMfi\ikSJih0^l^)>hge 153)
■ With Introdu-t;.-.. '


THE TTlf)^^•Sfi^• -M^JU.TSi

'iJbrsarn Wi^itton






With Introductions by







VAUTRiN AND RAOUL {Frontispiece) - - - - i53





Vol. xvii


Honore de Balzac is known to the world in general as a
novel-writer, a producer of romances, in which begin the
reign of realism in French fiction. His Comedic Tlumaine
is a description of French society, as it existed from the
time of the Revolution to that of the Restoration. In this
series of stories we find the author engaged in analyzing the
manners, motives and external life of the French man and
woman in all grades of society. When we open these volumes,
we enter a gallery of striking and varied pictures, which glow
with all the color, chiaroscuro and life-like detail of a Dutch
panel. The power of Balzac is unique as a descriptive writer ;
his knowledge of the female heart is more profound, and
covers a far wider range than anything exhibited by a pro-
vincial author, such as Richardson. But he has also the mar-
velous faculty of suggesting spiritual facts in the life and
consciousness of his characters, by the picturesque touches
with which he brings before us their external surroundings — =
the towns, streets and houses in which they dwell ; the furni-
ture, ornaments and arrangement of their rooms, and the
clothes they wear. He depends upon these details for throw-
ing into relief such a portrait as that of Pons or Madame
Hulot. He himself was individualized by his knobbed cane
al)road, and his Benedictine habit and statuette of Kapoleon
at home; but every single one of his creations seems to have
in some shape or other a cane, a robe or a decorative attribute,
which distinguishes each individual, as if by a badge, from
every other member of the company in this Comedy of Life.



The art of characterization exhibited by the author fasci-
nates us; we gaze and examine as if we were face to face
with real personages, whose passions are laid bare, whose life
is traced, whose countenance is portrayed wdth miraculousness,
distinctness and verisimilitude. All the phenomena of life in
the camp, the court, the boudoir, the low faubourg, or the
country chateau are ranged in order, and catalogued. This is
done with relentless audacity, often with a touch of grotesque
exaggeration, but always with almost wearying minuteness.
Sometimes this great writer finds that a description of ac-
tuality fails to give the true spiritual key to a situation, and
he overflows into allegory, or Swedenborgian mysticism, just
as Bastien-Lepage resorts to a coating of actual gilt, in de-
picting that radiant light in his Jeanne d'Arc which flat pig-
ment could not adequately represent.

But this very effort of Balzac to attain realistic characteri-
zation has resulted in producing what the ordinary reader
will look upon as a defect in his stories. Wlien we compared
above the stories of this writer to a painting, we had been as
near the truth, if we had likened them to a reflection or photo-
graph of a scene. For in a painting, the artist at his own
will arranges the light and shade and groups, and combines
according to his own fancy the figures and objects which he
finds in nature. He represents not what is, but what might
be, an actual scene. He aims at a specific effect. To this
effect everything is sacrificed, for his work is a synthesis, not
a mere analysis. Balzac does not aim at an effect, above and
independent of his analysis. His sole effort is to emphasize
the facts which his analysis brings to light, and when he has
succeeded in this, the sole end he aims at is attained. Thus
action is less important in his estimation than impression.
His stories are therefore often quite unsymmetrical, even


anecdotic, in construction; some of them are mere episodes,
in wliich the action is irrelevant, and sometimes he boldly
ends an elaborate romance without any dramatic denouement
at all. We believe that Honore de Balzac was the first of
European Avriters to inaugurate the novel without denoue-
ment, and to give to the world examples of the literary torso
whose beauty and charm consist not in its completeness, but
in the vigor and life-like animation of the lines, featuresr,
and contours of a detached trunk.

It is not surprising, therefore, that when we come to study
the dramas of Balzac we find that the very qualities that give
effectiveness to a stage representation are wanting in theni.
For the qualities which make a realistic tale impressive render
a play intolerable. Thus Balzac's stage pieces are interesting,
exciting and vivid in many passages, but they cannot stand
the searching glare of the footlights. Balzac, in the first
place, looked upon the drama as a department of literature
inferior to that of romance, and somewhat cavalierly con-
descended to the stage without reckoning on either its pos-
sibilities or its limitations. He did not take to play-writing
because he had exhausted his vein of fiction, but because
he was in need of money. This was during the last years of
his life. In this period he wrote the five plays which are
included in the authorized edition of his works.

Balzac's first play was Vautri?!, and Vautrin appears as
the name of the most astonishing and most original char-
acter which Balzac has created and introduced in the five
or six greatest novels of the Comedy. So transcendent, super-
human and Satanic is Vautrin, Herrera, or Jacqiies Collin,
as he is indifferently called, that a French critic has inter-
preted this personage as a mere allegorical embodiment of
the seductions of Parisian life, as they exist side by side with


the potency and resourcefulness of crime jn the French me*

Vautrin is described in the Comedie Humaine as the
trmpter and benefactor of Lucien de Eubemprd, whom he
loves with an intense devotion, and would exploit as a power
and influence in the social, literary and political world. The
deep-dyed criminal seems to live a life of pleasure, fashion
and social rank in the person of this protege. The abnormal,
and in some degree quixotic, nature of this attachment is a
purely Balzacian conception, and the contradictions involved
in this character, with all the intellectual and physical en-
dowments which pertain to it, are sometimes such as to bring
the sublime in perilous proximity to the ridiculous. How
such a fantastic creation can be so treated as to do less violence
to the laws of artistic harmony and reserve may be seen in
Hugo's Valjean, which was imdoubtedly suggested by Balzac's
Vautrin. In the play of Vautrki, the main character, instead
of appearing sublime, becomes absurd, and the action is ut-
terly destitute of that plausibility and coherence which should
make the most improbable incidents of a play hang together
with logical sequence.

Balzac in the Resources of Quinola merely reproduces
David Sechard, though he places him in the reign of Philip
the Second of Spain. He went far out of his way to make
Fontanares the first inventor of the steamboat; the improb-
ability of such a supposition quite forfeits the interest of the
spectators and, in attempting to effect a love denouement, he
disgusts us by uniting the noble discoverer with the vile
Faustine. Even the element of humor is wanting in his por-
trayal of Quinola — who is a combination of the slave in a
Latin comedy and the fool, or Touchstone of Shakespeare.


The play is, however, ingenious, powerful and interesting in
many passages.

Pamela Giraud is fantastic and painful in its plot. Bal«
zac's ideal woman, the Pauline of the Peau de Chagrin, is
here placed in a situation revolting even to a Parisian audi-
ence; but the selfish worldliness of the rich and noble is con-
trasted with the pure disinterestedness of a poor working
girl in all of Balzac's strongest, most searching style. The
denouement is well brought about and satisfactory, but
scarcely atones for the outrageous nature of the principal

Balzac was especially a novelist of his own period, and the
life of his romances is the life he saw going on around him.
The principal character in The Stepmother is a Napoleonist
general typical of many who must have lived in the first half
of the nineteenth century. The ruling passion of General
de Grandcharap is hatred for those who deserted the cause
or forsook the standard of the First Consul. This antipathy
is exaggerated by Balzac into murderous hatred, and is the
indirect cause of death to the GeneraPs daughter, Pauline,
and her lover, the son of a soldier of the First Empire, who, by
deserting Napoleon, had fallen under the Comte de Grand-
champ's ban. The situation is, however, complicated by the
guilty passion which Gertrude, the stepmother of Pauline
and wife of the General's old age, feels for the lover of
Pauline. The main interest of the drama lies in the struggle
between these two women, every detail of which is elaborated
with true Balzacian gusto and insight. We expect to see
virtue triumphant, and Pauline united to the excellent Ferdi-
nand. When they both die of poison, and Gertrude becomes
repentant, we feel that the denouement is not satisfactory.


The jealousy of the woman and the hatred of the man have
not blended properly.

But there can be no doubt at all that if Balzac had lived,
he might have turned out a successful playwright. When he
began his career as a dramatic writer he was like a musician
taking up an unfamiliar instrument, an organist who was
trying the violin, or a painter working in an unknown me-
dium. His last written play was his best. Fortunately,
the plot did not deal with any of those desperate love passions
which Balzac in his novels has analyzed and described with
such relentless and even brutal frankness. It is filled through-
out with a genial humanity, as bright and as expressive as
that which fills the atmosphere of Site Stoops to Conquer or
A School for Scandal. The characters are neither demons,
like Cousin Betty, nor reckless debauchees, like Gertrude in
The Stepmother. The whole motif is comic. Moliere him-
self might have lent a touch of his refined and fragrant wit
to the composition ; and the situation is one which the author
could realize from experience, but had only learned to regard
from a humorous standpoint in the ripeness of his premature
old age. Balzac makes money rule in his stories, as the most
potent factor of social life. He describes poverty as the
supreme evil, and wealth as the object of universal aspiration.
In line with this attitude comes Mercadet with his trials and
schemes. Scenes of ridiculous surprises succeed each other
till by the return of the absconder with a large fortune, the
greedy, usurious creditors are at last paid in full, and poetic
justice is satisfied by the marriage of Julie to the poor man
of her choice.

Epiphanids Wilson.


The greatest fame of Balzac will rest in the future, as in
the past, upon his novels and short stories. These comprise
the bulk of his work and his most noteworthy effort — an effortj
so pronounced as to hide all side-excursions. For this reason
his chief side-excursion — into the realms of the drama — has
been almost entirely overlooked. Indeed, many of his readers
are unaware that he ever wrote plays, while others have
passed them by with the idea that they were slight, devoid
of interest, and to be classified with the Worlcs of Youth.
Complete editions — so-called — of Balzac's works have fostered
this belief by omitting the dramas; and it has remained for
the present edition to include, for the first time, this valuable
material, not alone for its own sake, but also in order to show
the many-sided author as he was, in all his efficiencies and
occasional deficiencies.

For those readers who now make the acquaintance of the
dramas, we would say briefly that the Balzac Theatre com-
prises five plays — Vautrin, Les Ressources de Quinola, Pamela
Giraud, La Maratre, and Mcrcadet. These plays are in prose.
They do not belong to the apprenticeship period of the Wor'ks
of Youth, but were produced in the heyday of his powers, re-
vealing the mature man and the subtle analyst of character,
not at his best, but at a point far above his worst. True,
their production aroused condemnation on the part of many
contemporary dramatic critics, and were the source of much
annoyance and little financial gain to their creator. But



this is certainly no criterion for their worlcmanship. Balzac
defied many tenets. He even had the hardihood to dispense
with the claqueurs at the first night of Les Ressources de
Quinola. Naturally the play proceeded coldly without the
presence of professional applauders. But Balzac declared
himself satisfied with the warm praise of such men as Hugo
and Lamartine, who recognized the strength of the lines.

The five plays were presented at various times, at the best
theatres of Paris, and by the most capable companies. One
of them, Mercadet, is still revived perennially; and we are
of opinion that this play would prove attractive to-day upon
an American stage. The action and plots of all these dramas
are quite apart from the structure of the Comedie Humaine.
Vautrin and his "pals" are the only characters borrowed
from that series, but his part in the titular play is new beyond
the initial situation.

The Premiere Ediiion of the Theatre Complet was pub-
lished in a single duodecimo volume from the press of Giraud
& Dagneau in 1853. It contained : Vautrin, Les Ressources de
Quinola, Pamela Giraud, and La Maratre. All prefaces were
omitted. Mercadet was not given with them in this printing,
but appeared in a separate duodecimo, under the title of Le
Faiseur, from the press of Cadot, in 1853. The next edition
of the Theatre Complet, in 1855, reinstated the prefaces. It
was not until 18G5 that Mercadet joined the other four in a
single volume published by Mme. Houssiaux.

Vautrin, a drama in five acts, was presented for the first
time in the Porte-Saint-Martin theatre, March 14, 1840. The
preface, dated May 1, 1840, was not ready in time for the
printing of the first edition, which was a small octavo volume
published by Delloye & Tresse. It appeared in the second


edition, two months later. The dedication was to Laurent-
Jan.^ The play was a distinct popular failure, but its con-
struction and temper combine to explain this. At the same
time it makes interesting reading; and it will prove especially
entertaining to readers of the Comedie Humaine who have
dreaded and half-admired the redoubtable law-breaker, who
makes his initial entrance in Le Pcre Goriot and plays so im-
portant a part in Illusions Perdues, and Splendeurs et Mis-
eres des Couriisanes. Here we find Yautrin in a favorite
situation. He becomes the powerful protector of an unknown
young man — much as he picked up Lucien de Rubempre
in Illusions Perdues, and attempted to aid Rastignac
in Le Pere Goriot — and devotes all his sinister craft to
his protege's material interests. The playwright is careful to
preserve some degree of the young man's self-respect. Chance
favors the two by providing the unknown hero with worthy
parents; and Vautrin's schemes unexpectedly work out for
good. As in the story of Pere Goriot again, Vautrin, after
furthering matrimonial deals and other quasi-benevolent proj-
ects, ends in the clutches of the law. Of Eaoul little need be
said. He is the foil for his dread protector and he is saved
from dishonor by a narrow margin. The scene is laid at
Paris, just after the second accession of the House of Bour-
bon, in 1816. Titles and families are in some confusion on
account of the change of dynasties. It is therefore an oppor-
tune time for Vautrin to manufacture scutcheons as occasion
may demand. Since this story of Vautrin is not included in
the Comedie^ it will not be found among the biographical
facts recorded in the Repertory.

Les Ressources de Quinola, a comedy in a prologue and

' See "Jan" in Repertory.


five acts, . was presented at the Theatre de I'Odeon, Paris,
March 19, 1842. Souverain published it in an octavo volume.
Balzac was disposed to complain bitterly of the treatment
this play received (note his preface), but of it may be said,
as in the case of its predecessor, that it makes better reading
than it must have made acting, for the scenes are loosely
constructed and often illogical. Our playwright yet betrays
the amateur touch. It is regrettable, too, for he chose an ex-
cellent theme and setting. The time is near the close of the
sixteenth century, under the rule of Philip II. of Spain and
the much-dreaded Inquisition. An inventor, a pupil of
Galileo, barely escapes the Holy Office because of having dis-
covered the secret of the steamboat. Referring to the preface
again, we find Balzac maintaining, in apparent candor, that
he had historic authority for the statement that a boat pro-
pelled by steam-machinery had been in existence for a short
time in those days. Be that as it may, out can accept the
statement for dramatic purposes; and the story of the early
inventor's struggles and his servant's "resources" is promising
enough to leave but one regret — that the master-romancer did
not make a novel instead of a play out of the material.
Though this is called a comedy, it contains more than one
element of tragedy in it, and the tone is moody and satirical.
The climax, with its abortive love episode, is anything but sat-

Pamela Girand, a drama in five acts, was first presented in
the Gaite Theatre, Paris, September 26, 1843. It was pub-
lished by Marchand in a single octavo volume, in the same
year. The action takes place at Paris in 1815-24, during the
N'apoleonic conspiracies, under Louis XVIII. The Restora-
tion has brought its strong undertow of subdued loyalty for


the Corsican — an undertow of plots, among the old soldiers
particularly, which for several years were of concern to more
than one throne outside of France, The hero of this play
becomes involved in one of the conspiracies, and it is only
by the public sacrifice of the young girl Pamela's honor, that
he is rescued. Then ensues a clash between policy and duty —
a theme so congenial to Balzac, and here handled with char-
acteristic deftness. We notice, also, a distinct improvement
in workmanship. Scenes move more easily; dramatic values
become coherent; characters stand out from the "chorus" on
the stage. Pamela is a fiesh-and-blood girl; Jules is real;
Joseph is comically individual; Dupre is almost a strong
creation, and nearly every one of the other principals is

The discussion of the other two plays is reserved for the
succeeding volume, in which they appear. We shall there
notice still greater evidences of the evolution of the play-

J. Walker McSpadden.



Presented for the First Time at the Porte-Saint-Martin Theatre,
Paris, March 14, 1840


It is difficult for the playwright to put himself, five days
after tlie first presentation of his piece, in the situation in
which he felt himself on the morning after the event ; but it is
still more difficult to write a preface to Vautrin, to which
every one has written his own. The single utterance of the
author will infallibly prove inferior to so vast a number of
divergent expressions. The report of a cannon is never so
effective as a display of fireworks.

Must the author explain his work ? Its only possible eom-
nientator is M. Frederick Lemaitre.

Must he complain of the injunction which delayed the pre-
sentation of his play ? That would be to betray ignorance of
his time and country. Petty tyranny is the besetting sin of
constitutional governments; it is thus they are disloyal to
themselves, and on the other hand, who are so cruel as the
weak? The present government is a spoilt child, and does
what it likes, excepting that it fails to secure the public weal
or the public vote.

Must he proceed to prove that Vautrin is as innocent a work
as a drama of Berquin's? To inquire into the morality or
immorality of the stage would imply servile submission to the
stupid Prudhommes who bring the matter in question.

Shall he attack the newspapers ? He could do no more than
declare that they have verified by their conduct all he ever
said about them.

Yet in the midst of the disaster which the energy of gov-



ernment has causecl, but which the slightest Sagacity in the
world might have prevented, the author has found some com-
pensation in the testimony of public sympathy which has been
given him. M. Victor Hugo, among others, has shown himself
as steadfast in friendship as he is pre-eminent in poetry ; and
the present writer has the greater happiness in publishing the
g-ood will of M. Hugo, inasmuch as the enemies of that dis-
tinguished man have no hesitation in blackening his character.
Let me coneludr by saying that Vautrin is two months old,
and in the rush of Parisian life a novelty of two months has
eurvived a couple of centuries. The real preface to Vautrin
will be found in the pla}^, Richard-Cceur-d'Eponge,^ which
the administration permits to be acted in order to save the
prolific stage of Porte-Saint-Martin from being overrun by

Paris, May 1, 1840.

1 A play never enacted or printed.


Jacques Collin, known as Vautrin.
The Due de Montsorel,

T?iE Marquis Albert de Montsorel, son to Montsorel.
Raoul de Frescas.

Charles Blondet, known as the Chevalier de Saint-
Franqois Cadet, known as the Philosopher.


Philippe Boulard, known as Lafouraille.
A Police Officer.

Joseph Bonnet, footman to the Duchess de Montsorel.
The Duchesse de Montsorel (Louise de Vaudrey).
Mademoiselle de Vaudrey, aunt to the Duchesse de Mont-
The Duchesse de Christoval.
Inez de Christoval, Princesse d'Arjos.
Felicite, maid to the Duchesse de Montsorel.
Servants, Gendarmes, Detectives, and Others.
Scene: Paris. Time: 1816, after the second return of
the Bourhons.






(A room in the house of ilie Due de Monisorel.)

i'lie duchesse de montsorel and mademoiselle db


The Duchess
Ah ! So you have been waiting for me ! How very good
of you !

Mlle. de Vaudrey
What is the matter, Louise? This is the first time in the
twelve years of our mutual mourning, that I have seen you
cheerful. Knowing you as I do, it makes me alarmed.

The Duchess
I cannot help showing my happiness, and you, who have
shared all my sorrows, alone can understand my rapture at
the faintest gleam of hope.

Mlle. de Vaudrey
Have you come upon any traces of your lost son ?

The Duchess
He is found I



Mlle. de Vaudrey
Impossible ! When 3'ou find out your error it will add to
your anguish.

The Duchess
A child who is dead has but a tomb in the heart of his
mother; but the child who has been stolen, is still living in
that heart, dear aunt.

Mlle. de Vaudrey
Suppose you were overheard !

The Duchess
I should not care. I am setting out on a new life, and I
feel strong enough to resist even the tyranny of De Montsorel.

Mlle, de Vaudrey
After twenty-two years of mourning, what possible occur-
rence can give you ground for hope ?

The Duchess
I have much more than hope ! After the king's reception I
went to the Spanish ambassador's, where I was introduced to
Madame de Christoval. There I saw a young man who resem-
bled me, and had my voice. Do you see what I mean ? If I
came home late it was because I remained spellbound in the

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