Balzac and The Pathology of Elegance

There may be those among you whose command of the French language has deteriorated, atrophied through lack of daily use. Mine certainly has, and it appears that my command of my native tongue may be in dire peril as well. I have taken toomany liberties and shortcuts.

Isn’t it a pleasure then to read one of the great authors? When I first met Mrs. E. she had read neither a living author nor a work in translation. She went right to the source. Following her example, I sought to bully my way through Honoré de Balzac’s “Traité de la Vie Élégante” only to find that my literary French had entered into its second childhood. Nineteenth century French was simply beyond me, even with my gorgeous “Nouveau Petit Larousse Illustré” (1951) by my side.

Imagine my delight and surprise when the publishers of Wakefield Press offered to send me a new translation by Napoleon Jeffries. In it I learned that Balzac would consider our enterprise to be a worthy, but ultimately doomed, undertaking. Still, it is a noble calling, in my opinion, to wish to lead a more elegant life. Therefore, I will soldier on.

And so should you.

So here is the grandfather of us all, the first self-proclaimed Elegantologist in the first translation of one of his Pathologies of Social Life.

As for me, I must brush up my French with the always fluent Mrs. E. . For as Balzac reminds us with is maxim XVII “Anyone who does not frequently visit Paris will never be completely elegant.”

I wonder if that makes a trip over a business expense for me? What an inelegant thought.

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