Honore de Balzac

Ursule Mirouet
  • Ursule Mirouet

  • Honore de Balzac

    In 1842, eight years before his death, Balzac described Ursule Mirouet as the masterpiece of all the studies of human society that he had written; he regarded the book as 'a remarkable tour de force'.

    An essentially simple tale about the struggle and triumph of innocence reviled, Ursule Mirouet is characterized by that wealth of penetrating observation so readily associated with Balzac's work. The twin themes of redemption and rebirth are illuminated by a consistently passionate rejection of both philosophic and practical materialism in favour of love. In this case love is aided by supernatural intervention, which itself effectively illustrates Balzac's life-long fascination with the occult.

Honoré de Balzac was born 20 May 1799, the second son of a civil servant. He was brought up away from his family home, first in the care of a wet-nurse and then at a strict grammar school at Vendôme. Balzac then studied at the Sorbonne, before entering training to become a lawyer, like his father. At the age of twenty, to the consternation of his family, he announced his intention to abandon law and become a writer. His early literary works met with little success, and Balzac's various business ventures as a printer and publisher also foundered. In 1829, he began to conceive a grand design for a series of novels comprehensively portraying French society in the eighteenth century. Balzac's Comédie humaine became his life's work, comprising 91 separate works depicting private and public life in the town and country, in politics and the military. Masterpieces of the Comédie humaine include Eugénie Grandet, Père Goirot, The Wild Ass's Skin and The Black Sheep. Many of his novels were critically acclaimed on publication, and went on to profoundly influence authors from Marcel Proust and Gustave Flaubert to Charles Dickens and Henry James. At the age of fifty-one, Balzac was finally able to marry the recently widowed Evelina Hanska, whom he had loved for eighteen years. But by this time he was in very poor health and Balzac died only five months after his wedding, on 18 August 1850. Rose Tremain’s bestselling novels have won many awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music and Silence), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country). Restoration, the first of her novels to feature Robert Merivel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989 and made into a film in 1995. Her short story, ‘Moth’, was also filmed (as the award-winning Ricky) by François Ozon in 2009. Her novel, Trespass, was a Richard and Judy Bookclub Choice. Rose Tremain was made a CBE in 2007.She lives in Norfolk and London with the biographer, Richard Holmes.