Honoré de Balzac quotes

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Honoré de Balzac

Birthdate: 20. May 1799
Date of death: 18. August 1850

Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. The novel sequence La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of post-Napoleonic French life, is generally viewed as his magnum opus.

Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, and Henry James, filmmaker François Truffaut as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was apprenticed in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie Humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal drama, and he lost more than one friend over critical reviews. In 1850, Balzac married Ewelina Hańska, a Polish aristocrat and his longtime love; he died in Paris five months later.

Works

Physiology of Marriage
Honoré de Balzac
Séraphîta
Honoré de Balzac
Une fille d'Ève
Honoré de Balzac
A Woman of Thirty
Honoré de Balzac
Pierrette
Honoré de Balzac
Le Pere Goriot
Le Pere Goriot
Honoré de Balzac
Gobseck
Gobseck
Honoré de Balzac
Le Contrat de mariage
Le Contrat de mariage
Honoré de Balzac
Louis Lambert
Louis Lambert
Honoré de Balzac
Gambara
Gambara
Honoré de Balzac

Quotes Honoré de Balzac

„Our heart is a treasury; if you pour out all its wealth at once, you are bankrupt.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Le Pere Goriot

Part I.
Le Père Goriot (1835)
Context: Our heart is a treasury; if you pour out all its wealth at once, you are bankrupt. We show no more mercy to the affection that reveals its utmost extent than we do to another kind of prodigal who has not a penny left.

„I think that if there is a scheme worthy of our kind it is that of human transformations causing the human being to advance toward unknown zones.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Letter to Evelina de Hanska (31 May 1837), translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
Context: You know what my religion is. I am not orthodox, and I do not believe in the Roman Church. I think that if there is a scheme worthy of our kind it is that of human transformations causing the human being to advance toward unknown zones. That is the law of creations inferior to ourselves; it ought to be the law of superior creations. Swedenborgianism, which is only a repetition in the Christian sense of ancient ideas, is my religion, with the addition which I wish to make to it of the incomprehensibility of God.

„A country is strong which consists of wealthy families, every member of whom is interested in defending a common treasure; it is weak when composed of scattered individuals, to whom it matters little whether they obey seven or one“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Part I, ch. XII.
Letters of Two Brides (1841-1842)
Context: A country is strong which consists of wealthy families, every member of whom is interested in defending a common treasure; it is weak when composed of scattered individuals, to whom it matters little whether they obey seven or one, a Russian or a Corsican, so long as each keeps his own plot of land, blind in their wretched egotism, to the fact that the day is coming when this too will be torn from them.

„Thought is a key to all treasures; the miser’s gains are ours without his cares.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

The Wild Ass’s Skin (1831), Part I: The Talisman
Context: Thought is a key to all treasures; the miser’s gains are ours without his cares. Thus I have soared above this world, where my enjoyments have been intellectual joys.

„This camaraderie (the word is a stroke of genius) corrodes the noblest minds; it eats into their pride like rust, kills the germ of great deeds, and lends a sanction to moral cowardice.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Une fille d'Ève

Source: A Daughter of Eve (1839), Ch. 4: A Man of Note.
Context: This surface good-nature which captivates a new acquaintance and is no bar to treachery, which knows no scruple and is never at fault for an excuse, which makes an outcry at the wound which it condones, is one of the most distinctive features of the journalist. This camaraderie (the word is a stroke of genius) corrodes the noblest minds; it eats into their pride like rust, kills the germ of great deeds, and lends a sanction to moral cowardice.

„Love is the most melodious of all harmonies and the sentiment of love is innate.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Physiology of Marriage

Part I, Meditation V: Of the Predestined http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Physiology_of_Marriage/Part_1/Med_5.
Physiology of Marriage (1829)
Context: Love is the most melodious of all harmonies and the sentiment of love is innate. Woman is a delightful instrument of pleasure, but it is necessary to know its trembling strings, to study the position of them, the timid keyboard, the fingering so changeful and capricious which befits it.

„To saunter is a science; it is the gastronomy of the eye. To take a walk is to vegetate; to saunter is to live…“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Physiology of Marriage

Part I, Meditation III: Of the Honest Woman http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Physiology_of_Marriage/Part_1/Med_3.
Physiology of Marriage (1829)
Context: To saunter is a science; it is the gastronomy of the eye. To take a walk is to vegetate; to saunter is to live… To saunter is to enjoy life; it is to indulge the flight of fancy; it is to enjoy the sublime pictures of misery, of love, of joy, of gracious or grotesque physiognomies; it is to pierce with a glance the abysses of a thousand existences; for the young it is to desire all, and to possess all; for the old it is to live the life of the youthful, and to share their passions.

„Kindness is not without its rocks ahead.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Une fille d'Ève

Source: A Daughter of Eve (1839), Ch. 3: The Story of a Happy Woman.
Context: Kindness is not without its rocks ahead. People are apt to put it down to an easy temper and seldom recognize it as the secret striving of a generous nature; whilst, on the other hand, the ill-natured get credit for all the evil they refrain from.

„Bureaucracy, the giant power wielded by pigmies, came into the world.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Les Employés http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Les_Employ%C3%A9s [The Government Clerks] (1838), translated by James Waring; also known as Bureaucracy, or, A Civil Service Reformer.
Context: As routine business must always be dispatched, there is always a fluctuating number of supernumeraries who cannot be dispensed with, and yet are liable to dismissal at a moment's notice. All of these naturally are anxious to be "established clerks." And thus Bureaucracy, the giant power wielded by pigmies, came into the world. Possibly Napoleon retarded its influence for a time, for all things and all men were forced to bend to his will; but none the less the heavy curtain of Bureaucracy was drawn between the right thing to be done and the right man to do it. Bureaucracy was definitely organized, however, under a constitutional government with a natural kindness for mediocrity, a predilection for categorical statements and reports, a government as fussy and meddlesome, in short, as a small shopkeeper's wife.

„Love makes us almost sacred in our own eyes; it is the life of another that we revere within us; then and so begins for us the cruelest trouble of all.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

The Wild Ass’s Skin (1831), Part II: A Woman Without a Heart
Context: A penniless man who has no ties to bind him is master of himself at any rate, but a luckless wretch who is in love no longer belongs to himself, and may not take his own life. Love makes us almost sacred in our own eyes; it is the life of another that we revere within us; then and so begins for us the cruelest trouble of all.

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„A child is tied to our heart-strings, as the spheres are linked to their creator; we cannot think of God except as a mother's heart writ large.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Part I, ch. XXXI.
Letters of Two Brides (1841-1842)
Context: A child is tied to our heart-strings, as the spheres are linked to their creator; we cannot think of God except as a mother's heart writ large. It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of every moment.

„Virtue, my pet, is an abstract idea, varying in its manifestations with the surroundings.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Part I, ch. XVIII.
Letters of Two Brides (1841-1842)
Context: Virtue, my pet, is an abstract idea, varying in its manifestations with the surroundings. Virtue in Provence, in Constantinople, in London, and in Paris bears very different fruit, but is none the less virtue.

„Science is the language of the Temporal world, Love is that of the Spiritual world.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Séraphîta

Source: Seraphita (1835), Ch. 3: Seraphita - Seraphitus.
Context: Science is the language of the Temporal world, Love is that of the Spiritual world. Thus man takes note of more than he is able to explain, while the Angelic Spirit sees and comprehends. Science depresses man; Love exalts the Angel. Science is still seeking, Love has found. Man judges Nature according to his own relations to her; the Angelic Spirit judges it in its relation to Heaven. In short, all things have a voice for the Spirit.

„If we study Nature attentively in its great evolutions as in its minutest works, we cannot fail to recognize the possibility of enchantment — giving to that word its exact significance.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Séraphîta

Source: Seraphita (1835), Ch. 2: Seraphita.
Context: If we study Nature attentively in its great evolutions as in its minutest works, we cannot fail to recognize the possibility of enchantment — giving to that word its exact significance. Man does not create forces; he employs the only force that exists and which includes all others, namely Motion, the breath incomprehensible of the sovereign Maker of the universe.

„The body may fear and tremble, while the mind is calm and courageous, or vice versa. This is the key to many moral eccentricities.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Source: A Bachelor's Establishment (1842), Ch. IX.
Context: There are two species of timidity, — the timidity of the mind, and the timidity of the nerves; a physical timidity, and a moral timidity. The one is independent of the other. The body may fear and tremble, while the mind is calm and courageous, or vice versa. This is the key to many moral eccentricities. When the two are united in one man, that man will be a cipher all his life.

„If youth were not ignorant and timid, civilization would be impossible.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Le Pere Goriot

Part I.
Le Père Goriot (1835)
Context: The next day Rastignac dressed himself very elegantly, and about three o'clock in the afternoon went to call on Mme. de Restaud. On the way thither he indulged in the wild intoxicating dreams which fill a young head so full of delicious excitement. Young men at his age take no account of obstacles nor of dangers; they see success in every direction; imagination has free play, and turns their lives into a romance; they are saddened or discouraged by the collapse of one of the visionary schemes that have no existence save in their heated fancy. If youth were not ignorant and timid, civilization would be impossible.

„Little minds need to practise despotism to relieve their nerves, just as great souls thirst for equality in friendship to exercise their hearts.“

—  Honoré de Balzac, book Pierrette

Source: Pierrette (1840), Ch. IV: Pierrette.
Context: Little minds need to practise despotism to relieve their nerves, just as great souls thirst for equality in friendship to exercise their hearts. Narrow natures expand by persecuting as much as others through beneficence; they prove their power over their fellows by cruel tyranny as others do by loving kindness; they simply go the way their temperaments drive them. Add to this the propulsion of self-interest and you may read the enigma of most social matters.

„Swedenborgianism, which is only a repetition in the Christian sense of ancient ideas, is my religion, with the addition which I wish to make to it of the incomprehensibility of God.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Letter to Evelina de Hanska (31 May 1837), translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
Context: You know what my religion is. I am not orthodox, and I do not believe in the Roman Church. I think that if there is a scheme worthy of our kind it is that of human transformations causing the human being to advance toward unknown zones. That is the law of creations inferior to ourselves; it ought to be the law of superior creations. Swedenborgianism, which is only a repetition in the Christian sense of ancient ideas, is my religion, with the addition which I wish to make to it of the incomprehensibility of God.

„True love is eternal, infinite, always like unto itself; it is equable, pure, without violent demonstration“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Le lys dans la vallée http://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Le_Lys_dans_la_vall%C3%A9e (1836), translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley, part II: First Love.
Context: True love is eternal, infinite, always like unto itself; it is equable, pure, without violent demonstration; white hair often covers the head, but the heart that holds it is ever young.

„A grocer is drawn to his business by an attracting force quite equal to the repelling force which drives artists away from it.“

—  Honoré de Balzac

Source: A Bachelor's Establishment (1842), Ch. I.
Context: A grocer is drawn to his business by an attracting force quite equal to the repelling force which drives artists away from it. We do not sufficiently study the social potentialities which make up the various vocations of life. It would be interesting to know what determines one man to be a stationer rather than a baker; since, in our day, sons are not compelled to follow the calling of their fathers, as they were among the Egyptians.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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