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Father Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
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time it is a sure sign that his allowance must be of the slenderest.
In 1819, however, the time when this drama opens, there was an almost
penniless young girl among Mme. Vauquer's boarders.

That word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been
overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous
literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story
is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some
tears may perhaps be shed _intra et extra muros_ before it is over.

Will any one without the walls of Paris understand it? It is open to
doubt. The only audience who could appreciate the results of close
observation, the careful reproduction of minute detail and local
color, are dwellers between the heights of Montrouge and Montmartre,
in a vale of crumbling stucco watered by streams of black mud, a vale
of sorrows which are real and joys too often hollow; but this audience
is so accustomed to terrible sensations, that only some unimaginable
and well-neigh impossible woe could produce any lasting impression
there. Now and again there are tragedies so awful and so grand by
reason of the complication of virtues and vices that bring them about,
that egotism and selfishness are forced to pause and are moved to
pity; but the impression that they receive is like a luscious fruit,
soon consumed. Civilization, like the car of Juggernaut, is scarcely
stayed perceptibly in its progress by a heart less easy to break than
the others that lie in its course; this also is broken, and
Civilization continues on her course triumphant. And you, too, will do
the like; you who with this book in your white hand will sink back
among the cushions of your armchair, and say to yourself, "Perhaps
this may amuse me." You will read the story of Father Goriot's secret
woes, and, dining thereafter with an unspoiled appetite, will lay the
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