Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XVII – Part II

Introduction [to Balzac’s Drama] by J. Walker McSpadden:
The Resources of Quinola (Les Ressources de Quinola)
Pamela Giraud
The Stepmother (La Marâtre)


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 effort so pronounced as to hide all side-excursions. For this reason his chief side-excursion – into the realms of 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 Works 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. Continue reading


Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XVII – Part I

Balzac as a Dramatist by Epiphanius Wilson:
The Resources of Quinola (Les Ressources de Quinola)
Pamela Giraud 
The Stepmother (La Marâtre)


Honoré 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 Comédie Humaine 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. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XVI – Part II

The Seamy Side of History (L’Envers de l’Histoire Contemporaine):
     Madame de la Chanterie (Madame de la Chanterie)
     The Initiate (L’Initié)
A Prince of Bohemia (Un Prince de la Bohème)
A Man of Business (Un Homme d’Affaires)
Gaudissart II
Sarrasine (Sarrasine)
Facino Cane (Facino Cane)
Z. Marcas (Z. Marcas)
An Episode Under the Terror (Un Episode sous la Terreur)


It would be difficult to find another book, composed of two parts by the same author, which offers more remarkable variations and contrasts than the volume which contains L’Envers de l’Histoire Contemporaine and Z Marcas. And in certain respects it must be said that the contrast of the longer and later story with the earlier and shorter one is not such as to inspire us with any great certainty that, had Balzac’s comparatively short life been prolonged, we should have had many more masterpieces. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XVI – Part I

The Member for Arcis (Le Député d’Arcis)


Le Député d’Arcis, like the still less generally known Les Petits Bourgeois, stands on a rather different footing from the rest of Balzac’s work. Both were posthumous, and both, having been left unfinished, were completed by the author’s friend, Charles Rabou. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XV – Part II

The Gondreville Mystery (Une Ténébreuse  Affaire)
Parisians in the Country: The Muse of the Department (Les Parisiens en province: La Muse du Département)


While I was engaged in preparing these Introductions, I saw in an English newspaper, of some literary as well as other repute, remarks on Balzac as compared with some writers of crime and detective stories in the present day. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XV – Part I

The Chouans (Les Chouans)
A Passion in the Desert (Une Passion dans le désert)


When, many years after its original publication, Balzac reprinted Les Chouans as a part of the Comédie Humaine, he spoke of it in the dedication to his old friend M. Théodore Dablin as “perhaps better than its reputation.” He probably referred to the long time which had passed without a fresh demand for it; for, as has been pointed out in the General Introduction to this Series of translations, it first made his fame, and with it he first emerged from the purgatory of anonymous hack-writing. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XIV – Part II

The Middle Classes (Les Petits Bourgeois)


A MAIN – I should myself be disposed to say the  main – interest of Les Petits Bourgeois arises from the fact that it was not only the last published, except scraps, of Balzac’s works, but was actually never included in the various editions of the Comédie Humaine till the appearance of the so-called édition définitive a few years ago. Continue reading

Saintsbury Introduction, Volume XIV – Part I

The Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau (Grandeur et Décadence de César Birotteau)
The Secrets of a Princess (Les Secrets de la princesse de Cadignan)


Few books of Balzac’s have been the subject of more diverse judgment than Cesar Birotteau. From the opinion of the unnamed solicitor, who told Madame Serville that it was an invaluable work to consult on bankruptcy, to that of M. Paul Lacroix (beloved of many as the Bibliophile Jacob), that it might be forgiven for the sake of Le Père Goriot and the Peau de Chagrin, there is not perhaps quite so great a distance as may appear; but other expressions, opposed not merely in form, but in fact, might probably be collected. Continue reading