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French Honoré DE BALZAC

born Honoré BALZAC

French novelist and playwright

Source :  Francis CAYRE ,  Véronique GRESSIER ,  François-Laurent JACQUIER

Born: on May 20, 1799 in Tours, France
Died: on August 18, 1850 in Paris, France


Honoré Balzac was born into a family which had struggled to achieve respectability. His father, born Bernard-François Balssa, was one of eleven children from a poor family in Tarn, a region in the south of France. In 1760 the elder Balzac set off for Paris with only a Louis in his pocket, determined to improve his social standing; by 1776 he had become Secretary to the King's Council and a Freemason. (He had also changed his name to that of an ancient noble family, and added – without any official cause – the aristocratic-sounding de.) After the Reign of Terror (1793–94), he was sent to Tours to coordinate supplies for the Army.

Balzac's mother, born Anne-Charlotte-Laure Sallambier, came from a family of haberdashers in Paris. Her family's wealth was a considerable factor in the match: she was eighteen at the time of the wedding, and Bernard-François fifty. As British writer and critic V. S. Pritchett explained, "She was certainly drily aware that she had been given to an old husband as a reward for his professional services to a friend of her family and that the capital was on her side. She was not in love with her husband."

Honoré (so named after Saint Honoré of Amiens, who is commemorated on 16 May, four days before Balzac's birthday) was actually the second child born to the Balzacs; exactly one year previous, Louis-Daniel had been born, but he lived for only a month. Afterwards, a third child was born, named Simone deHudsone. Honoré's sisters Laure and Laurence were born in 1800 and 1802, and his brother Henry-François in 1807.

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