Honoré de Balzac
(1799 - 1850)
Honoré de Balzac was a lawyer’s clerk, an unsuccessful dramatist, a potboiler writer, and a failed printer before publishing his first successful novel, The Chouans, in 1829. To enhance his standing in Parisian society he appropriated a coat of arms from a family of ancient French nobles to which he did not belong. Known for his unusual work habits, Balzac liked to take an early supper, sleep until around midnight, wake, dress himself in a monk’s robe, and write for the rest of the day with the aid of caffeine: disclosing that he wrote one-third of Lost Illusions in eight days, he added, “I wrote fifteen hours a day…without taking anything but coffee.” Published between 1829 and 1847, Balzac’s greatest work, The Human Comedy, comprises some ninety interlocking novels and novellas and introduces an estimated 2,472 named and 566 unnamed characters.