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Modeste Mignon
BalzacModesteMignon.jpg
Author Honoré de Balzac
Original title Modeste Mignon
Translator Katharine Prescott Wormeley
Illustrator Pierre Vidal
Country France
Language French
Series La Comédie humaine
Genre Scènes de la vie privée
Publisher Chlenowski
Publication date
1844
Preceded by La Bourse
Followed by Un début dans la vie

Modeste Mignon is a novel by the French writer Honoré de Balzac. It is the fifth of the Scènes de la vie privées (Scenes of Private Life) in La Comédie humaine.

The first part of the novel was serialized in a bowdlerized edition in the Journal des debats in April, May and July 1844. A revised and expanded version of the work was later published by Chlenowski in two parts under the titles Modeste Mignon and Les Trois amoureux (The Three Suitors). The third and final edition of the novel appeared in 1846 as part of Furne's complete edition of La Comédie humaine. Modeste Mignon was the third work in Volume 4, or the twenty-third of the Scènes de la vie privée.[1]

Balzac wrote Modeste Mignon after returning to France from Saint Petersburg, where he spent the summer of 1843 with his future wife the countess Ewelina Hańska, to whom the work is dedicated:

Daughter of an enslaved land, angel through love, witch through fancy, child by faith, aged by experience, man in brain, woman in heart, giant by hope, mother through sorrows, poet in thy dreams – to thee belongs this book, in which thy love, thy fancy, thy experience, thy sorrow, thy hope, thy dreams, are the warp through which is shot a woof less brilliant than the poesy of thy soul, whose expression, when it shines upon thy countenance, is, to those who love thee, what the characters of a lost language are to scholars.[2]

In Saint Petersburg Balzac had read a French translation of the correspondence between the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the young German Romantic Bettina Brentano, who was thirty-seven years his junior.[3] This work, as well as Balzac's own correspondence with young admirers, clearly inspired Modeste Mignon, a novel whose plot hinges on the correspondence between a famous poet and a young female admirer of his work.

Plot[edit]

The first part of Modeste Mignon is based on a species of tale known as La fille mal gardée ("The Ill-Watched Girl"), in which a young woman takes a lover despite the close attentions of her guardians, who are determined to preserve her chastity.

The second part of the novel is also based on an ancient stereotype, The Rival suitors.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Furne (1842-48). In Balzac's final arrangement of La Comédie humaine, Modeste Mignon is the fifth of the Scènes da la vie privée.
  2. ^ Balzac, Modeste Mignon, Dedication "To a Polish Lady", translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
  3. ^ Bettina Brentano von Arnim, Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (1835).

External links[edit]