Balzac was born in 1799, the son of a civil servant. At the age of thirty - heavily in debt and with an unsucessful past behind him - he started work on the first of what were to become a total of ninety novels and short stories that make up The Human Comedy. He died in 1850. Herbert J. Hunt has been a Fellow at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, Professor of French Language and Literature at London University, and Senior Fellow at Warwick University. He published books on literature and thought in nineteenth-century France, and was the author of a biography of Balzac. he died in 1973.