Poor Relations: Cousin Betty by Honoré de Balzac

Les Parents pauvres: La Cousine Bette
Poor Relations: Cousin Betty

As the story opens, in 1838, we see the very vain Celestin Crevel wearing a National Guard Uniform. He is going to the home of Baron Hulot d’Ervy, younger brother of General Hulot.

Crevel is dressed in a uniform, but is rather portly and the uniform hangs in a messy manner which he tries to adjust. Madame Hulot starts when Crevel is announced. She sends her daughter Hortense and her Cousin Bette from the room. Madame Hulot is described as tall, fair and very well-preserved.

Hortense is graceful but Bette is described as a “dried-up old maid” in one translation and a “withered-looking spinster” in another. She is wearing dowdy, old-fashioned clothing and doesn’t seem to mind being summarily dismissed. Continue reading