ABSTRACT

He is the wizard of the will, absorbing all foreign matter into himself, making it his own, transforming dreams into living reality. We are told that in youth, when all he had for dinner in his garret was a loaf of bread, he was wont to draw a circle in chalk on his table to represent a plate; within the circle he would write the name of some favourite dish, and then—so great was the power of his creative imagination—he could taste the succulent victuals and thus help down the insipid morsel. Just as, in this case, he fancied he could actually savour the dainty meats, so, in the course of writing his books he was able, in fancy, to relish all the delights of life; he could cheat himself into believing that he was rich instead of poor, and that he could be as extravagant as his puppets if such happened to be his pleasure. He who was always, crushed by debts and persecuted by creditors, must have experienced a genuinely sensuous delight when he wrote such words as, “an income of a hundred thousand francs a year.” It was he himself who spent glorious hours contemplating Elie Magus’s collection of pictures, he who in the person of Goriot loved the two graceless daughters, he who with Seraphitus explored the fjords of Norway, he who as Rubempré revelled in the admiring glance of ladies; it was for his own delectation that he lavished pleasure upon these people, that he brewed philtres of pleasure or of pain for them out of the bright herbs and the dark with which the earth abounds.