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Parisians in the Country by Honoré de Balzac
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I have sometimes wondered whether it was accident or intention which
made Balzac so frequently combine early and late work in the same
volume. The question is certainly insoluble, and perhaps not worth
solving, but it presents itself once more in the present instance.
_L'Illustre Gaudissart_ is a story of 1832, the very heyday of
Balzac's creative period, when even his pen could hardly keep up with
the abundance of his fancy and the gathered stores of his minute
observation. _La Muse du Departement_ dates ten years and more later,
when, though there was plenty of both left, both sacks had been deeply
dipped into.

_L'Illustre Gaudissart_ is, of course, slight, not merely in bulk, but
in conception. Balzac's Tourangeau patriotism may have amused itself
by the idea of the villagers "rolling" the great Gaudissart; but the
ending of the tale can hardly be thought to be quite so good as the
beginning. Still, that beginning is altogether excellent. The sketch
of the _commis-voyageur_ generally smacks of that _physiologie_ style
of which Balzac was so fond; but it is good, and Gaudissart himself,
as well as the whole scene with his _epouse libre_, is delightful. The
Illustrious One was evidently a favorite character with his creator.