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The Muse of the Department - de Balzac

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The Muse of the Department

by Honore de Balzac

Translated by James Waring


  To Monsieur le Comte Ferdinand de Gramont.

  MY DEAR FERDINAND,--If the chances of the world of literature--
  /habent sua fata libelli/--should allow these lines to be an
  enduring record, that will still be but a trifle in return for the
  trouble you have taken--you, the Hozier, the Cherin, the King-at-
  Arms of these Studies of Life; you, to whom the Navarreins,
  Cadignans, Langeais, Blamont-Chauvrys, Chaulieus, Arthez,
  Esgrignons, Mortsaufs, Valois--the hundred great names that form
  the Aristocracy of the "Human Comedy" owe their lordly mottoes and
  ingenious armorial bearings. Indeed, "the Armorial of the Etudes,
  devised by Ferdinand de Gramont, gentleman," is a complete manual
  of French Heraldry, in which nothing is forgotten, not even the
  arms of the Empire, and I shall preserve it as a monument of
  friendship and of Benedictine patience. What profound knowledge of
  the old feudal spirit is to be seen in the motto of the
  Beauseants, /Pulchre sedens, melius agens/; in that of the
  Espards, /Des partem leonis/; in that of the Vandenesses, /Ne se
  vend/. And what elegance in the thousand details of the learned
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