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Honore de Balzac

The Treatise on the Human Will
At Balzac's funeral, the glorious yet bitter seal upon his destiny, Victor Hugo delivered a
magnificent address, and in his capacity as poet and seer proclaimed with assurance the
judgment of posterity:
"His life has been brief yet full, and richer in works than in days.
"Alas! This powerful and indefatigable worker, this philosopher, this thinker, this poet,
this genius has lived amongst us that life of storms, of struggles, of quarrels, of combats,
which has always been the common lot of all great men. Today we see him at peace. He
has escaped from controversies and enmities. He has entered, on the selfsame day, into
glory and into the tomb. Henceforward he will shine far above all those clouds which
float over our heads, among the brightest stars of his native land."
This discourse was admirable for its truth, its justice and its far-sightedness, a golden
palm branch laid upon the author's tomb, around which there still arose clamours and
bitter arguments, denying the greatness of his works, and rumours which veiled the
features of the man behind a haze of absurd legends. A star of his country he certainly
was, as Victor Hugo proclaimed him, one of those enduring stars which time--so cruel to
others--fails to change, except to purify their light and augment their brilliance, to the
greater pride of the nation. His life was indeed short, but it was one which set a salutary
example, because, stripped of idle gossip, it teaches us the inner discipline, the
commanding will and the courage of this hero who, in the midst of joy and sorrow alike,
succeeded in creating an entire world.
Honore de Balzac was born at Tours on the 20th of March, 1799, on the ground floor of a
building belonging to a tailor named Damourette, in the Rue de l'Armee d'Italie, No. 25,--
now No. 35, Rue Nationale. The majority of his biographers have confused it with the
dwelling which his father bought later on, No. 29 in the same street according to the old
numbering, and the acacia which is there pointed out as having been planted at the date of
his birth really celebrated that of his brother Henri, who was several years the younger.
Although born in Touraine, Balzac was not of Tourainian stock, for his birthplace was
due merely to chance. His father, Bernard Francois Balssa or Balsa, came originally from
the little village of Nougaire, in the commune of Montirat and district of Albi. He
descended from a peasant family, small land-owners or often simple day labourers. It was
he who first added a "c" to his patronymic and who later prefixed the particle for which
the great novelist was afterwards so often reproached. Bernard Balssa, born July 22,
1746, left his native village at the age of fourteen years, never to return. What was his
career, and what functions did he fulfil? Honore de Balzac says that his father was
secretary to the Grand Council under Louis XV, and Laure Surville, his sister, wrote that
under Louis XVI he was attorney to the Council. He himself, in an invitation to the
marriage of his second daughter, Laurence, described himself as former secretary to the
 
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