Famous Meetings in History Francois Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac Part 1

About the meeting of the famous detective Francois Vidocq and writer Honore de Balzac, history and account of the meeting.

Francois Eugene Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac

When: Early 1830s

Where: Paris

Who: Vidocq had been a scoundrel, a thief, and had spent a term in jail. Eventually, he became a prison spy, a detective for the Paris police, and finally the head of the famous French Surete. (See "Vidocq and the Fontaine Case," Chap. 9.) Balzac, short and fat and France's foremost novelist, had already launched a series of novels with the overall title La Comedie Humaine. In this period, Balzac had suffered bankruptcy in a partnership with a publisher and was having an affair with Madame de Berny, who was more than 20 years his senior and the mother of nine children.

What Led to the Meeting: Vidocq was in his late 50s, and Balzac in his 30s, when the detective and novelist first met. The circumstances that brought them together are not known. They became fast friends, and two of their subsequent meetings were recorded. Balzac considered Vidocq a person "of appalling greatness" and based his fictional detective, Vautrin, in Le Pere Goriot, on the real-life model.

What Happened: Their first recorded meeting took place at the villa of Benjamin Appert, a member of King Louis Philippe's court, in the suburb of Neuilly. Also present at the dinner was Samson, the public executioner, whose family had for seven generations been executioners. The conversation turned to the guillotine. Vidocq told Balzac that "all the criminals he had arrested suffered from dryness in the mouth for a period of between one and four weeks after capture." Samson confirmed this fact, adding that he had never seen a condemned criminal spit on his way to the guillotine.

The second recorded meeting took place one September evening in 1844, when Balzac's friend Leon Gozlan went to visit him at his house in Passy and found Vidocq among the other guests. Balzac was munching a Montreuil peach, when Vidocq said to him, "Monsieur de Balzac, you go to a lot of trouble to create stories of the other world, when reality is here under your eyes, near your ears, under your hand." Balzac laughed. "So you believe in reality! You delight me. I would not have believed you could be so naive. Reality! Talk to me about it. You have just come back from that beautiful country. We make reality." Vidocq protested: "No, Monsieur de Balzac." Balzac persisted: "Yes, Monsieur Vidocq." He held up his peach. "You see, the true reality is this beautiful peach from Montreuil. The one you would call real, you, that one grows naturally, in the forest, on the wild peach tree. Well! that one is nothing; it is small, bitter, sour, impossible to eat. But here is the real peach, the one I hold, which has been cultivated for a hundred years, which has been obtained through cuttings here and there, through transplantation in dry or light ground, some kind of grafting; the one one eats, which perfumes one's mouth and heart. That exquisite peach, we made it, it is the only real one. Same thing with me. I get reality in my novels, as Montreuil gets reality in peaches. I am a gardener of books."

You Are Here: Trivia-Library Home » Strange Meetings of Famous People in History » Famous Meetings in History Francois Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac Part 1
« Famous Meetings in History Stendhal Meets Lord Byron Part 2Famous Meetings in History Francois Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac Part 2 »
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ - By printing, downloading, or using you agree to our full terms. Review the full terms at the following URL: /disclaimer.htm