Though a relatively short story, A Man of Business is an important component of Honore de Balzac's vast story cycle The Human Comedy, involving many of the recurring characters from the series and tying up a number of loose ends. As a fete thrown at the home of his mistress begins to wind down, Cardot invites the lingering merrymakers to settle around the table and begins telling a story about a clever debt-collection scheme. Honore de Balzac (20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. The novel sequence La Comedie Humaine, which presents a panorama of post-Napoleonic French life, is generally viewed as his magnum opus. Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multi-faceted characters; even his lesser characters are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. Inanimate objects are imbued with character as well; the city of Paris, a backdrop for much of his writing, takes on many human qualities. His writing influenced many famous writers, including the novelists Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Jack Kerouac, and Henry James, filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and Eric Rohmer as well as important philosophers such as Friedrich Engels. Many of Balzac's works have been made into films, and they continue to inspire other writers.
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HONORE DE BALZAC
Copyright © 2017 by Honore de Balzac.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Sheba Blake Publishing
Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing
First Edition: July 2017
A MAN OF BUSINESS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A MAN OF BUSINESS
The word lorette is a euphemism invented to describe the status of a personage, or a personage of a status, of which it is awkward to speak; the French Academie, in its modesty, having omitted to supply a definition out of regard for the age of its forty members. Whenever a new word comes to supply the place of an unwieldy circumlocution, its fortune is assured; the word lorette has passed into the language of every class of society, even where the lorette herself will never gain an entrance. It was only invented in 1840, and derived beyond a doubt from the agglomeration of such swallows' nests about the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. This information is for etymoligists only. Those gentlemen would not be so often in a quandary if mediaeval writers had only taken such pains with details of contemporary manners as we take in these days of analysis and description.
Mlle. Turquet, or Malaga, for she is better known by her pseudonym (See La fausse Maitresse.), was one of the earliest parishioners of that charming church. At the time to which this story belongs, that lighthearted and lively damsel gladdened the existence of a notary with a wife somewhat too bigoted, rigid, and frigid for domestic happiness.
Now, it so fell out that one Carnival evening Maitre Cardot was entertaining guests at Mlle. Turquet's house--Desroches the attorney, Bixiou of the caricatures, Lousteau the journalist, Nathan, and others; it is quite unnecessary to give any further description of these personages, all bearers of illustrious names in the Comedie Humaine. Young La Palferine, in spite of his title of Count and his great descent, which, alas! means a great descent in fortune likewise, had honored the notary's little establishment with his presence.
At dinner, in such a house, one does not expect to meet the patriarchal beef, the skinny fowl and salad of domestic and family life, nor is there any attempt at the hypocritical conversation of drawing-rooms furnished with highly respectable matrons. When, alas! will respectability be charming? When will the women in good society vouchsafe to show rather less of their shoulders and rather more wit or geniality? Marguerite Turquet, the Aspasia of the Cirque-Olympique, is one of those frank, very living personalities to whom all is forgiven, such unconscious sinners are they, such intelligent penitents; of such as Malaga one might ask, like Cardot--a witty man enough, albeit a notary--to be well "deceived." And yet you must not think that any enormities were committed. Desroches and Cardot were good fellows grown too gray in the profession not to feel at ease with Bixiou, Lousteau, Nathan, and young La Palferine. And they on their side had too often had recourse to their legal advisers, and knew them too well to try to "draw them out," in lorette language.
Conversation, perfumed with seven cigars, at first was as fantastic as a kid let loose, but finally it settled down upon the strategy of the constant war waged in Paris between creditors and debtors.
Now, if you will be so good as to recall the history and antecedents of the guests, you will know that in all Paris, you could scarcely find a group of men with more experience in this matter; the professional men on one hand, and the artists on the other, were something in the position of magistrates and criminals hobnobbing together. A set of Bixiou's drawings to illustrate life in the debtors' prison, led the conversation to take this particular turn; and from debtors' prisons they went to debts.
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