The Message

THE HUMAN COMEDY – Honoré de Balzac Second volume of works of Honoré de Balzac edited by widow André Houssiaux, publisher, Hebert and Co, successors, 7 rue Perronet – Paris (1877) Scenes from private life Picture 1

THE MESSAGE Published in February 1832 in the Revue des deux mondes

Analysis of the work Le Message, published in February 1832 in the Revue des deux mondes, is a typical “woman’s study”. It’s just one scene: a young man, following a stagecoach accident, tells the mistress of one of his comrades, a woman of thirty-eight, of the death of her young lover. That’s all there is to it, and it’s a wonderful tale of freshness and melancholy. The timid, tender confidences of the two young people on the imperial stagecoach, the tragedy of this brutal end to their “last love”, so painfully, so physically felt, the beastly, savage pain of the mistress, sobbing and howling in the hay of the barn where she has hidden herself – all this is admirable, simple, moving. Naturally, it’s always Mme de Berny, obviously recognizable by her physical portrait. She already “knew” when she read The Message that she too was losing her last love. She wrote to him gently: “I’ve just cried again with your Juliet… I wondered which pain must be more keen, between that of losing one’s love dead or alive…” It was a beautiful writer’s farewell for the end of their love. Did Balzac ever realize that this observation was also a touching error of taste?

History It’s about an event in Honoré’s young adult life, namely the meeting and confidences exchanged between him and a traveler with whom he was sharing a public car ride. On the way to their destination, the two young people confided in each other about their mutual love affairs, namely a romance involving an older mistress whose life experience and youthful charms helped shape the sentimental education of the two one-day friends. An accident in which the stagecoach overturns, crushing Honoré’s traveling companion, who, before breathing his last, instructs him to go home and collect the love letters his mistress had written him, and to return them with the announcement of her death, so that she doesn’t die of grief when she hears the grim news in the newspapers. As the messenger of the most horrific dispatch ever, Honoré went to the Count and Countess de Montpersan. At the height of her despair, Juliette, broken and half-dead, saw her suffering compounded by the destruction of the letters written by her lover, all of which she had burned to keep her affair with the young man completely secret. So, apart from the happiness and joys preserved in his memory, he has no palpable recollection of his beloved departed. Honoré paid tribute by presenting him with a lock of the deceased’s hair. Having guessed her unfortunate messenger’s financial predicament, and with those delicacies of the soul that are only proper to women in love, Madame de Montpersan instructed Honoré to remit a sum to one of her acquaintances in Paris, thus enabling him to pay for his return journey. Paris, January 1832

Source analysis: Preface and story compiled from the complete works of the Comédie Humaine (tome III) published by France Loisirs 1985 under the auspices of the Société des Amis d’Honoré de Balzac.

The characters Comte de Montpersan, his wife Juliette, his daughter and his uncle the Abbé, a family from the Moulins area.

Source: Félicien Marceau “Balzac et son monde” Gallimard

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