Lost Illusions

Honoré de Balzac

The Ellen Marriage Translation


ISBN 978-1-952419-41-6         594 pages           $18.00


“Do not follow in the tracks of the big Constitutional papers; they have pigeon-holes full of ecclesiastical canards,” retorted Vernou.

   “Canards?” repeated Lucien.

   “That is our word for a scrap of fiction told for true, put in to enliven the column of morning news when it is flat. We owe the discovery to Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the lightning conductor and the republic. That journalist completely deceived the Encyclopaedists by his transatlantic canards. Raynal gives two of them for facts in his Histoire philosophique des Indes.”

   “I did not know that,” said Vernou. “What were the stories?”

   “One was a tale about an Englishman and a negress who helped him to escape; he sold the woman for a slave after getting her with child himself to enhance her value. The other was the eloquent defence of a young woman brought before the authorities for bearing a child out of wedlock. Franklin owned to the fraud in Necker’s house when he came to Paris, much to the confusion of French philosophism. Behold how the New World twice set a bad example to the Old!”

   “In journalism,” said Lousteau, “everything that is probable is true. That is an axiom.”

Honoré de Balzac (20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. The novel sequence La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of post-Napoleonic French life, is generally viewed as his magnum opus. Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature.