It is somewhat remarkable that Balzac, dealing as he did with traits of character and the minute and daily circumstances of life, has never been accused of representing actual persons in the two or three thousand portraits which he painted of human nature.
In “The Great Man of the Provinces in Paris” some likenesses were imagined: Jules Janin in Etienne Lousteau, Armand Carrel in Michel Chrestien, and, possibly, Berryer in Daniel d’Arthez. But in the present volume, “Beatrix,” he used the characteristics of certain persons, which were recognized and admitted at the time of publication. Mademoiselle des Touches (Camille Maupin) is George Sand in character, and the personal description of her, though applied by some to the famous Mademoiselle Georges, is easily recognized from Couture’s drawing. Beatrix, Conti, and Claude Vignon are sketches of the Comtesse d’Agoult, Liszt, and the well-known critic Gustave Planche.
The opening scene of this volume, representing the manners and customs of the old Breton family, a social state existing no longer except in history, and the transition period of the vieille roche as it passed into the customs and ideas of the present century, is one of Balzac’s remarkable and most famous pictures in the “Comedy of Human Life.”
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