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When you first pass through the beautiful and imposing porte at Nº47 Rue Raynouard and enter the small garden in front of Honoré de Balzac’s former home, the first thing that strikes you is the incredible view of the Eiffel Tower looming over the cottage.
Until, that is, you remember that when the realist writer lived and worked here (1840–1847), the iconic tower had not yet been built.
At the time, the cottage was located outside of Paris in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle—and from Balzac’s creditors. He lived here secretly, making his housekeeper sign the lease, so that he could keep a low profile and work without interruptions.
And work he did. At one point, the author himself stated, “Yesterday, I worked 19 hours, and today I shall have to work 20 or 22.” At a tiny desk in the tiny office at the back of the house, of which he rented five rooms, he produced an incredible number of masterpieces. In the seven years he lived here, Balzac wrote Cousin Betty, Cousin Pons, Ursula Mirouet, La Rabouilleuse, The Splendors andMiseries of Courtesans, and others. As if that weren’t enough, he also edited and selected images for his 91-volume opus La Comédie Humaine.
Among the original pages of manuscripts, the writer’s home museum also displays an impressive collection of wood and copper print blocks, including one with a superb panther and an entire room filled with the depictions of les personnages from The Human Comedy, which has some 2,500 characters.
The museum is an incredible showcase of an artist at work, with some of his possessions, many examples of his work, and even a room dedicated to quotes about the author himself. For any reader or writer, lover of words, or even simply as someone who appreciates hard work, the Maison de Balzac is a must-see in Paris.
And, entry to the museum is free, except during temporary exhibitions.