For most things Balzac, please visit La Comédie Humaine Blog.
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Love in a Mask
The manuscript of Love in a Mask, a gift to Princess Dorothea of Courland (Duchess of Dino, Duchess of Talleyrand, Duchess of Sagan), was first published over sixty years after Balzac’s death.
(Portrait of Princess Dorothea of Courland by Joseph Chabord circa 1830.)
In her book Women in the Life of Balzac, Juanita Helm Floyd wrote:
Balzac had met her in the salon of Madame Appony, but had never visited her in her home until 1836, when he went to Rochecotte to see the famous Prince de Talleyrand, having a great desire to have a view of the “witty turkeys who plucked the eagle and made it tumble into the ditch of the house of Austria.” Several years later, on his return from St. Petersburg, he stopped in Berlin, where he was invited to a grand dinner at the home of the Count and Countess Bresson. He gave his arm to the Duchesse de Talleyrand (ex-Dino), whom he thought the most beautiful lady present, although she was fifty-two years of age.
The Duchesse has left this appreciation of the novelist:
. . . his face and bearing are vulgar, and I imagine his ideas are equally so. Undoubtedly, he is a very clever man, but his conversation is neither easy nor light, but on the contrary, very dull. He watched and examined all of us most minutely.
Notwithstanding that the beautiful Dorothea did not admire Balzac, he was sincere in his appreciation of her. A novel recently brought to light, L’Amour Masque, or as the author first called it, Imprudence et Bonheur, was written for her. Balzac had been her guest repeatedly; he had recognized in her one of the rare women, who by their intelligence and, as it were, instinctive appreciation of genius can compensate to a great incompris like Balzac for the lack of recognition on the part of his contemporaries; one of those women near whom, thanks to tactful treatment, a depressed man will regain confidence in himself and courage to go on.
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