Good Reading : April 2005
16 goodreading de balzac’s writer’s house Named after St Honoré (patron saint of bakers and confectioners), Honoré de Balzac was born in Tours, France, on 20 May, 1799. In 1819 Balzac announced that he wanted to be a writer and fever- ishly got to work producing several novels under different pseudonyms by 1822, but was ignored as a writer.Yet Balzac battled on, against his family’s wishes, believing that success would come through continued writing. During this time he ran a publish- ing company and bought a printing house. Unfortunately the business failed and Balzac was left with a heavy burden of debt, which would plague him to the end of his career. In 1825 Balzac joined the salon society where Gautier wrote of him, ‘everyone stopped talking in order to listen to him…’ He had his first successes with the publication of his works Physiology of Marriage and The Magic Skin and enjoyed his success by com- missioning extravagant outfits, frequenting elegant cafés and fashionable salons. In 1934 he ordered his famous turquoise-studded cane from a jeweller.The cane soon became the target of many a cartoonist and even inspired a book, Monsieur de Balzac’s Cane. Nevertheless he felt the effects of this socialising saying, ‘I was fast becoming an ordinary man by allow- ing society to take over.’ Balzac was an energetic worker, spend- ing 14 to 16 hours a day writing and sup- plementing this by drinking large amounts of specially blended Parisian coffee. After supper he slept some hours, woke up at midnight and wrote until morning. Despite cabin Rue Berton which Balzac’s house over- looked. Photograph by Eugène Atget. Potrait of Balzac by Bisson, 1842.