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Old Goriot (Pere Goriot)

Old Goriot (Pere Goriot)

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Old Goriot (Pere Goriot)

357 pagine
4 ore
Jan 1, 2010


Considered to be one of Balzac’s most important works, "Old Goriot", or "Père Goriot", is the story of its title character Goriot; a mysterious criminal-in-hiding named Vautrin; and a naive law student named Eugène de Rastignac. We are introduced to the characters at Maison Vauquer, a boarding house owned by the widow Madame Vauquer. Central to the theme of the book is the struggle to achieve upper-class status in society. Rastignac is eager to achieve this upper-class standing but is unfamiliar to the ways of Parisian society. Vautrin tries to convince Rastignac to pursue an unmarried woman named Victorine, a dubious suggestion which involves the disposal of her brother who blocks the woman’s fortune. The failings to achieve this upper-class status are exemplified by Goriot who has bankrupted himself to support his two well-married daughters, yet they reject him. A classic and tragic story, "Old Goriot" is one of the most pivotal works in Balzac’s sweeping novel sequence "La Comédie Humaine", which endeavors to depict the effects of society on the entirety of the human condition.
Jan 1, 2010

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Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French novelist, short story writer, and playwright. Regarded as one of the key figures of French and European literature, Balzac’s realist approach to writing would influence Charles Dickens, Émile Zola, Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, and Karl Marx. With a precocious attitude and fierce intellect, Balzac struggled first in school and then in business before dedicating himself to the pursuit of writing as both an art and a profession. His distinctly industrious work routine—he spent hours each day writing furiously by hand and made extensive edits during the publication process—led to a prodigious output of dozens of novels, stories, plays, and novellas. La Comédie humaine, Balzac’s most famous work, is a sequence of 91 finished and 46 unfinished stories, novels, and essays with which he attempted to realistically and exhaustively portray every aspect of French society during the early-nineteenth century.

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Old Goriot (Pere Goriot) - Honoré de Balzac





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HONORÉ DE BALZAC (1799-1850)

French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac was born on May 20, 1799 in Tours, France. His father, born Bernard-François Balssa, left home at an early age in an attempt to overcome poverty and rise in social standing. He eventually became Secretary to the King's Council, at which time he changed his name to Balzac and added the particle de, both of which denoted nobility. Bernard-François's marriage to Balzac's mother, Anne Laure Sallambier, was a union made for purposes of convenience, rather than love. Although there was a thirty-two year age difference between the two, Balzac's mother came from a wealthy family of drapemakers and thus held great appeal. Her substantial dowry was another factor that distanced her husband from his impoverished childhood.

Honoré de Balzac—named after Saint Honoré of Amiens—was the second Balzac child, although his older brother died as an infant. Balzac's parents would go on to have three more children: two girls, Laure and Laurence (born 1800 and 1802), followed by Henry-François (born 1807). Immediately following his birth, Balzac was placed in the care of a wet nurse and spent the first four years of his life away from home. Even when Balzac returned to his parents' care as a young child, they opted to keep him at a distance. While this type of cold upbringing was considered common practice amongst the upper classes, Balzac's loveless childhood deeply impacted his emotional and psychological formation as a young man. Correspondingly, variations of his peculiar childhood feature prominently in several of his works.

When he was eight years old, Balzac was again sent away, this time to an Oratorian boarding school in Vendôme. His mother was pregnant with a child by her lover, Jean de Margonne, and seized the opportunity to rid herself of a perceived burden. Balzac remained at the school for seven years—a notably unhappy period in his life. Not only was his academic performance weak, he also endured regular punishment for his tendency to daydream. Further, Balzac was afforded little reprieve from his misery, as his mother refused to provide him with the standard pocket money expected of a young boy at boarding school. While his fellow students enjoyed the privileges with which their allowances afforded them, Balzac had little to occupy his free time. Searching for a distraction, Balzac turned to literature throughout his years as a schoolboy. This immediate passion for books of all varieties undoubtedly shaped his formation as an artist.

In his seventh year at school, Balzac became ill and was sent home. Upon his return to Tours, Balzac's father concluded that the outdoors would aid in his son's recovery, and sent him to live with Mme Balzac's lover, Jean de Margonne, at Saché. Balzac, accustomed to living without the care of his parents, enjoyed the time spent with Margonne as he regained his strength. He experienced a type of personal freedom that had been denied to him as a student. Additionally, Margonne treated him with love and respect, fulfilling Balzac's desire for a father-son relationship.

In 1814 the Balzac family fell victim to financial disaster when their investments failed. They were forced to sell their home in Tours and move to the Marais quarter in Paris. Here Balzac lived in a boardinghouse and began his studies at the Lycée Charlemagne. Once again his mother refused him an allowance. However, his maternal grandmother, Sophie Sallambier, provided him with a small income. Balzac's relative financial freedom caused him to overspend on his favorite luxuries, such as coffee and sugar, leaving him in debt with the porter at his boardinghouse. This debt would be the first of many that Balzac would acquire throughout the course of his life.

Despite his poor academic performance, Balzac finished his studies in 1816, at which point he entered law school at the Sorbonne. Balzac's law education was decidedly more successful than his past endeavors, as he easily passed his law baccalaureate in 1819. It was his parents' desire that he work at the law firm of a family friend, Victor Passez, until he could afford to purchase the practice for himself. At the last minute, however, Balzac announced his decision to forgo law in favor of a writing career.

Balzac's resolve to indulge in literary pursuits rather than embrace the guaranteed financial success of a law career created uproar in the Balzac household. When his family finally came to terms with his decision, they granted him two years of paid living expenses in a sparse garret in Paris. In spite of his sordid living conditions, Balzac was truly happy as a young writer. He took an active interest in his fellow Parisians, following them around the city as he imagined aspects of their lives. This focus on French life as it really was would become a central feature of his later writing. However, his first major project was a verse tragedy with Oliver Cromwell as its subject. Balzac performed the play in front of his neighbors and family, who unanimously declared the work an abomination. When Balzac selected an impartial audience in the form of playwright François-Guillaume Andrieux and actor Pierre Rapenouille, both men concluded, The author should do anything he wishes, except write (Pasco).

Balzac was not discouraged by the wholly negative reception of his debut work. He simply decided to turn his attention to prose works in lieu of verse projects. In 1824, a friend convinced Balzac that there was money to be had in potboiler fiction. Throughout his stint in the potboiler trade, Balzac produced several low-quality novels under various pseudonyms, including Lord R'Hoone and Horace de Saint-Aubin. These novels, such as L'Héritière de Birague (1822) and Annette et le criminel (1824), sought to satisfy the public's desire for codes, or law dramas. Thus, Balzac's first novels were far from the art he yearned to create, causing him to deem his works from this period veritable literary pig swill (Pasco). Although Balzac's first novelistic pursuits can hardly be considered his finest writing, the money he earned from his early publications satisfied his parents and allowed him to take on a writing career full-time.

During this early period, Balzac was forming a relationship with a married woman by the name of Mme Laure de Berny. Born in 1777, Mme de Berny was raised under the monarchy at Versailles, and her godparents were Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Both her rich upbringing and unwavering beauty attracted Balzac, who cared little about the eighteen-year age difference. The two began a tumultuous affair that lasted for years, and their relationship became a significant factor in Balzac's growth as an author. Mme de Berny provided Balzac with unadulterated insight into the female psyche, which he was able to use for his famously multi-faceted characters within his novels.

In 1824 Balzac received information that Urbain Canel set out to publish expensive editions of classical French works. Seeing the financial potential in such an investment, Balzac declared himself a businessman and borrowed 9000 francs from a friend and 9250 francs from his mistress. His first business venture was overwhelmingly unsuccessful. Sales of the printed books were slow, and Balzac lost the majority of his money from the investment. However, his family and friends encouraged him to take on a new project, this time involving a printing business for sale for 60,000 francs. With further financial assistance from a family friend and Mme de Berny, Balzac once again tried his hand at business. His evident inability to separate his personal and business expenses caused his printing press to fail, and, in turn, created business debts totaling over 45,000 francs.

Unfortunately, 45,000 francs were only the beginning of Balzac's financial worries. By 1828 he was in debt approximately 100,000 francs. He was forced to move to the outskirts of Paris, where he vowed to earn enough money as a writer to pay back all that he owed. Around this time, Balzac began to take an interest in a literary project that would involve a fictional history of France, and he wrote Le Dernier Chouan, ou la Bretagne en 1800 (The Chouans) in 1829. The novel, an historical fiction set in Brittany, features a love affair between a Chouan royalist and a revolutionary spy. It was Balzac's aim to highlight the excruciating pain and torment caused by civil war (Pasco) through a realistic portrayal of contemporary French life. The novel represented a distinct shift in Balzac's literary career, as he finally transitioned away from potboiler fiction toward a more artistic interpretation of society. As a result, reviewers of the novel began to recognize Balzac's worth as a writer of fiction.

Balzac's next published work was an essay entitled Physiologie du Mariage, which he had written earlier in his life but was not published until 1829. Within the work, Balzac portrays the female sex in a favorable light, and even goes so far as to side with wives in relation to various marital issues. Balzac's sympathy for the feminine cause earned him glimpses of respect in the literary world, particularly from his female followers.

Between 1829-1846, Balzac wrote at a rapid pace, publishing approximately five works per year. He wrote a particularly famous novel, La Peau de chagrin in 1831. The plot centers on protagonist Raphaël de Valentin, a poor man living in a garret. When Raphaël comes across a magical skin meant to bring him wealth and success, he uses it for purposes of debauchery rather than good. The novel was once again a success in terms of revealing realistic—albeit unfavorable—aspects of contemporary society.

Despite his criticisms of French life, Balzac himself was guilty of many social ills. He pursued countless women—many of them older than him by several years—all the while continuing his relationship with Mme de Berny, to whom he declared himself faithful. There is even speculation that he may have participated in sexual relationships with several of his female readers. Indeed, over the course of his career, Balzac received many letters from his female fans—although one letter is of particular importance. He received a note in 1832 signed L'Etrangère (the stranger), from a Russian countess by the name of Mme Evelina Hanska. When the two met in person in 1833, Balzac fell in love immediately, and the couple began an affair that would last until Balzac's death in 1850.

Balzac was also in ever-increasing debt throughout the course of his life. In order to impress his growing circle of aristocratic acquaintances, Balzac went to great lengths to dress above his personal social status. He hoped that his flashy clothing would hide his less than impressive physical features, as his short stature and missing teeth were constant sources of disappointment for him. However, as he squandered his money on expensive clothing and accessories in order pursue ineffective relationships, his debts continued to grow. By 1831 Balzac began to receive rather substantial sums of money for his novels, short stories, and newspaper publications. La Peau de chagrin, for example, earned him 1,125 francs, while Romans et contes philosophiques (Philosophic Novels and Stories) brought in over 5000 francs. Nonetheless, his debts once again far outweighed his earnings, and Balzac became a main target of creditors all over France.

In 1832 Balzac wrote a vaguely autobiographical novel entitled Louis Lambert. Set at a boarding school in Vendôme, the novel explores the strange workings of the young human mind, and reveals many of Balzac's personal theories and views on philosophy and religion. This project was then followed by Balzac's first best-selling novel, Eugénie Grandet (1834), which features a young woman who falls in love with her cousin. Through its focus on Eugénie's daughterly obedience even in the wake of her father's death, the novel suggests that children are unable to escape the lives set out for them by their parents.

Between 1837-1843, Balzac wrote the popular Illusions perdues, a story set in three parts (part I in the provinces, part II in Paris, and part III back in the provinces). The novel was written during a period of great financial strain, during which his publisher, Mme Charles Béchet, took him to court, demanding that he finish the piece and, in turn, satisfy his end of their contract. Béchet was not the only person after Balzac. Several French creditors demanded repayment of substantial sums of money, while publisher William Duckett sought to have Balzac put in jail. Balzac was forced to flee from Paris to Saché, where he intended to finish the second and third parts of Illusions perdues in twenty days. He wrote constantly, rarely taking breaks for food or sleep.

Although Balzac suffered from a minor stroke as a result of unending stress, he refused to slow down. He continued writing novels and short stories, all the while pursuing affairs with various women—including the Contessa Fanny Guidoboni-Visconti—and accruing more debts (at this time in his life Balzac owed approximately 162,000 francs). In 1837 Histoire de la grandeur et de la décadence de César Birotteau was published. The popular novel features César, a man who moves to Paris in search of fortune. While he is initially successful and adopts a life of luxury, various circumstances lead to his ultimate bankruptcy. It cannot be denied that there are glimpses of Balzac's personal and financial concerns in his writing from this period.

Balzac's Scènes de la vie parisienne (1834; Scenes of Parisian Life) was the precursor to his most well known work, La Comédie humaine. Le Père Goriot (1835), featured in Scènes de la vie parisienne, is Balzac's first novel to feature recurring characters. This was the first step toward the interconnection of a great many of Balzac's stories in La Comédie humaine, which featured 91 finished and 46 unfinished works. The volume was divided into three sections: Etudes de Moeurs au XIXe siècle (Studies of Manners in the 19th Century), Etudes philosophiques, and Etudes analytiques. Indeed, the Avant-propos to the 1842 edition of La Comédie humaine proclaims in no uncertain terms that Balzac's novels and short stories fit into a carefully constructed whole (Pasco). Further, in his introduction to the work, Balzac declared himself a naturalist, claiming that his stories provided a pseudo-scientific study of all types of human beings.

When Mme Hanska's husband died in 1842, Balzac was ecstatic and directed all of his energy toward wooing his mistress. However, his excitement proved to be extremely short-lived, as Mme Hanska rejected Balzac's marriage proposal in light of his precarious financial situation. It is hardly a coincidence that Balzac's 1842 novel, Albert Savarus, features a hero who loses his one true love. Similarly, Honorine (1844) features a female character who abandons her husband for a lowly man. Unable to concentrate on his writing, Balzac somehow managed to locate enough money to travel to Russia and reclaim his lover. Balzac and Hanska carried on a dramatic relationship for the next six years, and were finally married on March 14, 1850 in Berdichev, Ukraine.

Although his marriage to Mme Hanska brought him great joy, Balzac's health suffered. For the latter half of his life, Balzac indulged in coffee and rich food in order to stay alert and work through the night. He had two heart attacks in his last year, after which he was left almost blind and experienced constant chest pains. On August 18, 1850, Balzac died after just five months of marriage to his beloved.

Victor Hugo's declaration of Balzac as a genius (Pasco) is entirely accurate. Throughout his lifetime, Balzac remained dedicated to his writing career, even in the face of unrelenting creditors and poor health. He is considered a central figure in the formation of the modern novel, as well as one of the founders of literary realism on account of his unfiltered portrayal of French life. His works acted as inspiration for many world-renowned authors, including Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Gustave Flaubert, whose L'education sentimentale is often compared to Balzac's Illusions perdues. The international acclaim he received in his lifetime has only grown exponentially since his death, as La Comédie humaine remains a masterpiece within the literary world.

Erica Knapp, 2011


Balzac, de Honoré. Eugénie Grandet. Ed. Christopher Prendergast. Trans. by Sylvia Raphael. London: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Pasco, Allan H. Honoré de Balzac (20 May 1700-18 August 1850). Ed. Catharine Savage Brosman. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 119. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. 3-33.


To the great and illustrious Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a token of admiration for his works and genius.

De Balzac.

Mme. Vauquer (née de Conflans) is an elderly person, who for the past forty years has kept a lodging-house in the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Geneviève, in the district that lies between the Latin Quarter and the Faubourg Saint-Marcel. Her house (known in the neighborhood as the Maison Vauquer) receives men and women, old and young, and no word has ever been breathed against her respectable establishment; but, at the same time, it must be said that as a matter of fact no young woman has been under her roof for thirty years, and that if a young man stays there for any length of time it is a sure sign that his allowance must be of the slenderest. In 1819, however, the time when this drama opens, there was an almost penniless young girl among Mme. Vauquer's boarders.

That word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may perhaps be shed intra et extra muros before it is over.

Will anyone without the walls of Paris understand it? It is open to doubt. The only audience who could appreciate the results of close observation, the careful reproduction of minute detail and local color, are dwellers between the heights of Montrouge and Montmartre, in a vale of crumbling stucco watered by streams of black mud, a vale of sorrows which are real and joys too often hollow; but this audience is so accustomed to terrible sensations, that only some unimaginable and well-neigh impossible woe could produce any lasting impression there. Now and again there are tragedies so awful and so grand by reason of the complication of virtues and vices that bring them about, that egotism and selfishness are forced to pause and are moved to pity; but the impression that they receive is like a luscious fruit, soon consumed. Civilization, like the car of Juggernaut, is scarcely stayed perceptibly in its progress by a heart less easy to break than the others that lie in its course; this also is broken, and Civilization continues on her course triumphant. And you, too, will do the like; you who with this book in your white hand will sink back among the cushions of your armchair, and say to yourself, Perhaps this may amuse me. You will read the story of Father Goriot's secret woes, and, dining thereafter with an unspoiled appetite, will lay the blame of your insensibility upon the writer, and accuse him of exaggeration, of writing romances. Ah! once for all, this drama is neither a fiction nor a romance! All is true,—so true, that everyone can discern the elements of the tragedy in his own house, perhaps in his own heart.

The lodging-house is Mme. Vauquer's own property. It is still standing in the lower end of the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Geneviève, just where the road slopes so sharply down to the Rue de l'Arbalete, that wheeled traffic seldom passes that way, because it is so stony and steep. This position is sufficient to account for the silence prevalent in the streets shut in between the dome of the Pantheon and the dome of the Val-de-Grace, two conspicuous public buildings which give a yellowish tone to the landscape and darken the whole district that lies beneath the shadow of their leaden-hued cupolas.

In that district the pavements are clean and dry, there is neither mud nor water in the gutters, grass grows in the chinks of the walls. The most heedless passer-by feels the depressing influences of a place where the sound of wheels creates a sensation; there is a grim look about the houses, a suggestion of a jail about those high garden walls. A Parisian straying into a suburb apparently composed of lodging-houses and public institutions would see poverty and dullness, old age lying down to die, and joyous youth condemned to drudgery. It is the ugliest quarter of Paris, and, it may be added, the least known. But, before all things, the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Geneviève is like a bronze frame for a picture for which the mind cannot be too well prepared by the contemplation of sad hues and sober images. Even so, step by step the daylight decreases, and the cicerone's droning voice grows hollower as the traveler descends into the Catacombs. The comparison holds good! Who shall say which is more ghastly, the sight of the bleached skulls or of dried-up human hearts?

The front of the lodging-house is at right angles to the road, and looks out upon a little garden, so that you see the side of the house in section, as it were, from the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Geneviève. Beneath the wall of the house front there lies a channel, a fathom wide, paved with cobble-stones, and beside it runs a graveled walk bordered by geraniums and oleanders and pomegranates set in great blue and white glazed earthenware pots. Access into the graveled walk is afforded by a door, above which the words MAISON VAUQUER may be read, and beneath, in rather smaller letters, "Lodgings for both sexes, etc."

During the day a glimpse into the garden is easily obtained through a wicket to which a bell is attached. On the opposite wall, at the further end of the graveled walk, a green marble arch was painted once upon a time by a local artist, and in this semblance of a shrine a statue representing Cupid is installed; a Parisian Cupid, so blistered and disfigured that he looks like a candidate for one of the adjacent hospitals, and might suggest an allegory to lovers of symbolism. The half-obliterated inscription on the pedestal beneath determines the date of this work of art, for it bears witness to the widespread enthusiasm felt for Voltaire on his return to Paris in 1777:

"Whoe'er thou art, thy master see;

He is, or was, or ought to be."

At night the wicket gate is replaced by a solid door. The little garden is no wider than the front of the house; it is shut in between the wall of the street and the partition wall of the neighboring house. A mantle of ivy conceals the bricks and attracts the eyes of passers-by to an effect which is picturesque in Paris, for each of the walls is covered with trellised vines that yield a scanty dusty crop of fruit, and furnish besides a subject of conversation for Mme. Vauquer and her lodgers; every year the widow trembles for her vintage.

A straight path beneath the walls on either side of the garden leads to a clump of lime-trees at the further end of it; line-trees, as Mme. Vauquer persists in calling them, in spite of the fact that she was a de Conflans, and regardless of repeated corrections from her lodgers.

The central space between the walls is filled with artichokes and rows of pyramid fruit-trees, and surrounded by a border of lettuce, pot-herbs, and parsley. Under the lime-trees there are a few green-painted garden seats and a wooden table, and hither, during the dog-days, such of the lodgers as are rich enough to indulge in a cup of coffee come to take their pleasure, though it is hot enough to roast eggs even in the shade.

The house itself is three stories high, without counting the attics under the roof. It is built of rough stone, and covered with the yellowish stucco that gives a mean appearance to almost every house in Paris. There are five windows in each story in the front of the house; all the blinds visible through the small square panes are drawn up awry, so that the lines are all at cross purposes. At the side of the house there are but two windows on each floor, and the lowest of all are adorned with a heavy iron grating.

Behind the house a yard extends for some twenty feet, a space inhabited by a happy family of pigs, poultry, and rabbits; the wood-shed is situated on the further side, and on the wall between the wood-shed and the kitchen window hangs the meat-safe, just above the place where the sink discharges its greasy streams. The cook sweeps all the refuse out through a little door into the Rue Nueve-Sainte-Geneviève, and frequently cleanses the yard with copious supplies of water, under pain of pestilence.

The house might have been built on purpose for its present uses. Access is given by a French window to the first room on the ground floor, a sitting-room which looks out upon the street through the two barred windows already mentioned. Another door opens out of it into the dining-room, which is separated from the kitchen by the well of the staircase, the steps being constructed partly of wood, partly of tiles, which are colored and beeswaxed. Nothing can be more depressing than the sight of that sitting-room. The furniture is covered with horse hair woven in alternate dull and glossy stripes. There is a round table in the middle, with a purplish-red marble top, on which there stands, by way of ornament, the inevitable white china tea-service, covered with a half-effaced gilt network. The floor is sufficiently uneven, the wainscot rises to elbow height, and the rest of the wall space is decorated with a varnished paper, on which the principal scenes from Télémaque are depicted, the various classical personages being colored. The subject between the two windows is the banquet given by Calypso to the son of Ulysses, displayed thereon for the admiration of the boarders, and has furnished jokes these forty years to the young men who show themselves superior to their position by making fun of the dinners to which poverty condemns them. The hearth is always so clean and neat that it is evident that a fire is only kindled there on great occasions; the stone chimney-piece is adorned by a couple of vases filled with faded artificial flowers imprisoned under glass shades, on either side of a bluish marble clock in the very worst taste.

The first room exhales an odor for which there is no name in the language, and which should be called the odeur de pension. The damp atmosphere sends a chill through you as you breathe it; it has a stuffy, musty, and rancid quality; it permeates your clothing; after-dinner scents seem to be mingled in it with smells from the kitchen and scullery and the reek of a hospital. It might be possible to describe it if some one should discover a process by which to distil from the atmosphere all the nauseating elements with which it is charged by the catarrhal exhalations of every individual lodger, young or old. Yet, in spite of these stale horrors, the sitting-room is as charming and as delicately perfumed as a boudoir, when compared with the adjoining dining-room.

The paneled walls of that apartment were once painted some color, now a matter of conjecture, for the surface is incrusted with accumulated layers of grimy deposit, which cover it with fantastic outlines. A collection of dim-ribbed glass decanters, metal discs with a satin sheen on them, and piles of blue-edged earthenware plates of Touraine ware cover the sticky surfaces of the sideboards that line the room. In a corner stands a box containing a set of numbered pigeon-holes, in which the lodgers' table napkins, more or less soiled and stained with wine, are kept. Here you see that indestructible furniture never met with elsewhere, which finds its way into lodging-houses much as the wrecks of our civilization drift into hospitals for incurables. You expect in such places as these to find the weather-house whence a Capuchin issues on wet days; you look to find the execrable engravings which spoil your appetite, framed everyone in a black varnished frame, with a gilt beading round it; you know the sort of tortoise-shell clock-case, inlaid with brass; the green stove, the Argand lamps, covered with oil and dust, have met your eyes before. The oilcloth which covers the long table is so greasy that a waggish externe will write his name on the surface, using his thumb-nail as a style. The chairs are broken-down invalids; the wretched little hempen mats slip away from under your feet without slipping away for good; and finally, the foot-warmers are miserable wrecks, hingeless, charred, broken away about the holes. It would be impossible to give an idea of the old, rotten, shaky, cranky, worm-eaten, halt, maimed, one-eyed, rickety, and ramshackle condition of the furniture without an exhaustive description, which would delay the progress of the story to an extent that impatient people would not pardon. The red tiles of the floor are full of depressions brought about by scouring and periodical renewings of color. In short, there is no illusory grace left to the poverty that reigns here; it is dire, parsimonious, concentrated, threadbare poverty; as yet it has not sunk into the mire, it is only splashed by it, and though not in rags as yet, its clothing is ready to drop to pieces.

This apartment is in all its glory at seven o'clock in the morning, when Mme. Vauquer's cat appears, announcing the near approach of his mistress, and jumps upon the sideboards to sniff at the milk in the bowls, each protected by a plate, while he purrs his morning greeting to the world. A moment later the widow shows her face; she is tricked out in a net cap attached to a false front set on awry, and shuffles into the room in her slipshod fashion. She is an oldish woman, with a bloated countenance, and a nose like a parrot's beak set in the middle of it; her fat little hands (she is as sleek as a church rat) and her shapeless, slouching figure are in keeping with the room that reeks of misfortune, where hope is reduced to speculate for the meanest stakes. Mme. Vauquer alone can breathe that tainted air without being disheartened by it. Her face is as fresh as a frosty morning in autumn; there are wrinkles about the eyes that vary in their expression from the set smile of a ballet-dancer to the dark, suspicious scowl of a discounter of bills; in short, she is at once the embodiment and interpretation of her lodging-house, as surely as her lodging-house implies the existence of its mistress. You can no more imagine the one without the other, than you can think of a jail without a turnkey. The unwholesome corpulence of the little woman is produced by the life she leads, just as typhus fever is bred in the tainted air of a hospital. The very knitted woolen petticoat that she wears beneath a skirt made of an old gown, with the wadding protruding through the rents in the material, is a sort of epitome of the sitting-room, the dining-room, and the little garden;

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