Image of French writer Honoré de Balzac with hand on chest.

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 great work The Human Comedy comprises some ninety interlocking novels and novellas and introduces an estimated 2,472 named and 566 unnamed characters.

All Writing

Nothing so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that he is superior to the other.

—Honoré de Balzac, 1847

Despotism achieves great things illegally; democracy doesn’t even take the trouble to achieve small things legally.

—Honoré de Balzac, 1831

Voices In Time

1818 | Paris

Biding Time

Balzac stages an intervention.More


According to a biographer, Honoré de Balzac called out on his deathbed for Dr. Horace Bianchon, a fictional creation that appeared in thirty-one of his stories. “Send for Bianchon,” the novelist said to his attending physician.

A person who sees only fashion in fashion is a fool.

—Honoré de Balzac, 1830

Voices In Time

c. 1821 | Paris

Assaying a Crowd

Balzac gives an introduction to the world of necessary superfluities.More

Issues Contributed