636: Death of Balzac.

Balzac’s death was known in a moment, it would seem, to his creditors, and they came clamoring to the door, and invaded the house — a ravening horde, ransacking rooms and hunting for valuables. They drove the widow away, and she found a temporary home with Madame de Surville, at 47 rue des Martyrs. This house and number are yet unchanged. Cabinets and drawers were torn open, and about the grounds were scattered his letters and papers, sketches of new stories, drafts of contemplated work — all, that could be, collected by his friends, also hurrying to the spot. They found manuscripts in the shops around, ready to enwrap butter and groceries. One characteristic and most valuable letter was tracked to three places, in three pieces, by an enthusiast, who rescued the first piece just as it was twisted up and ready to light a cobbler’s pipe.

“He died in the night,” continues Hugo. “He was first taken to the Chapel Beaujon… The funeral service took place at Saint-Philippe-du-Roule. As I stood by the coffin I remembered that there my second daughter had been baptized. I had not been in the church since. The procession crossed Paris, and went by way of the boulevards to Père-Lachaise. Rain was falling as we left the church, and when we reached the cemetery. It was one of those days when the heavens seemed to weep. We walked the whole distance. I was at the head of the coffin on the right, holding one of the silver tassels of the pall. Alexandre Dumas was on the other side… When we reached the grave, which was on the brow of the hill, the crowd was immense… The coffin was lowered into the grave, which is near to those of Charles Nodier and Casimir Delavigne. The priest said a last prayer and I a few words. While I was speaking the sun went down. All Paris lay before me, afar off, in the splendid mists of the sinking orb, the glow of which seemed to fall into the grave at my feet, as the dull sounds of the sods dropping on the coffin broke in upon my last words.”

Yes, stretched before his grave, lies all Paris, as his Rastignac saw it, when he turned from the fossecommune, into which they had just thrown the body of Pére Goriot, and with his clenched fist, flung out his grand defiance toward the great, beautiful, cruel city: “À nous deux maintenant!

(Benjamin Ellis Martin & Charlotte M. Martin, “The Paris of Honoré de Balzac,” Scribner’s Magazine, Vol. XXVI, 1899, pp. 602–603).

636: Death of Balzac.