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Honoré de Balzac 1799- 1850

Balzac was born in 1799 at Tours and named after the saint's day of his birth. His father was named Balssa and was not entitled to the honorific 'de' which Balzac added to his name without authority in 1830.

After the revolution, the father rose from modest origins to become a member of the army commissariat and hospital departments. He intended his son for a legal career after early schooling at Tours and later at the Collège de Vendôme. At the age of approx. 18, Balzac accordingly commenced a career as a clerk to a notary and solicitor in the offices of M. Guillonnet-Merville upon completing legal tuition at the Sorbonne from 1816. He rebelled at the chosen profession, however, and removed to Paris on a meagre allowance being compelled to turn to literature for survival. He incurred debts in a publishing venture which he struggled for many years to repay.

His good nature throughout his life assisted his acquaintance with numerous literary figures, including Victor Hugo, as well as several influential ladies of whom Countess Evelina Hanska proved, from 1833, the most supportive. For over 20 years, he wrote incessantly and created an enormous output in a mainly nocturnal work schedule. He wrote numerous novels and plays but was always on the brink of survival incurring new debts in order to repay old debts.

He travelled within Europe not only in order to visit acquaintances but also in vain attempts to acquire income from new business ventures whilst still writing habitually mainly at his villa in Sèvres. He finally married the by then widowed Countess Hanska in 1850 but died only a few months later with his health weakened by strain of work and debt and by the Ukrainian winter when visiting the Countess.

Balzac is the most prolific of French authors of his epoch and proved greatly influential upon his contemporaries and successors. He wrote several plays to no great acclaim and is primarily celebrated as a novelist. His poetry is confined to works to be found within those novels.