Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection



The Characters of Balzac's 'La Comédie Humaine': Fact or Fiction?

“That fortune enabled my grandfather to marry a demoiselle de Navarreins-Lansac, heiress to the younger branch of that house, who were at that time much richer than the elder branch of the Navarreins. My father thus became one of the largest landowners in the kingdom. He was able to marry my mother, a Grandlieu of the younger branch. Though ill-gotten, this property has been singularly profitable.”

And from ‘The Two Poets’:

“The lands of Bargeton, in Angoumois in the barony of Rochefoucauld, being entailed, and the house in Angouleme, called the Hotel Bargeton, likewise, the grandson of M. de Bargeton the Waster came in for these hereditaments; though the year 1789 deprived him of all seigniorial rights save to the rents paid by his tenants, which amounted to some ten thousand francs per annum. If his grandsire had but walked in the ways of his illustrious progenitors, Bargeton I and Bargeton II, Bargeton V (who may be dubbed Bargeton the Mute by way of distinction) should by rights have been born to the title of Marquis of Bargeton; he would have been connected with some great family or other, and in due time he would have been a duke and a peer of France, like many another; whereas, in 1805, he thought himself uncommonly lucky when he married Mlle. Marie-Louise-Anais de Nègrepelisse, the daughter of a noble long relegated to the obscurity of his manor-house, scion though he was of the younger branch of one of the oldest families in the south of France. There had been a Nègrepelisse among the hostages of St. Louis. The head of the elder branch, however, had borne the illustrious name of d’Espard since the reign of Henri Quatre, when the Nègrepelisse of that day married an heiress of the d’Espard family. As for M. de Nègrepelisse, the younger son of a younger son, he lived upon his wife’s property, a small estate in the neighborhood of Barbezieux (between Angouleme and Bordeaux), farming the land to admiration, selling his corn in the market himself, and distilling his own brandy, laughing at those who ridiculed him, so long as he could pile up silver crowns, and now and again round out his estate with another bit of land.”

A summary of the d’Espard characters can be found in Appendix 1. So from the foregoing extracts and from the character summaries one might draw some preliminary conclusions:

 
 

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