The Purse by Honoré de Balzac


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La Bourse (The Purse) is a short story by the French novelist Honoré de Balzac. It was published in 1832 by Mame-Delaunay as one of the Scènes de la vie privée (Scenes of Private Life) in La Comédie humaine. Later editions of the work were brought out by Béchet in 1835 and by Charpentier in 1839, in both of which La Bourse was placed among the Scènes de la vie parisienne (Scenes of Parisian Life). It was, however, restored to the Scènes de la vie privée when Furne brought out the fourth and final edition in 1842; this heavily revised version of the story appeared as the third work in Volume 1 of La Comédie humaine.

For souls to whom effusiveness is easy there is a delicious hour that falls when it is not yet night, but is no longer day; the twilight gleam throws softened lights or tricksy reflections on every object, and favors a dreamy mood which vaguely weds itself to the play of light and shade. The silence which generally prevails at that time makes it particularly dear to artists, who grow contemplative, stand a few paces back from the pictures on which they can no longer work, and pass judgement on them, rapt by the subject whose most recondite meaning then flashes on the inner eye of genius. He who has never stood pensive by a friend's side in such an hour of poetic dreaming can hardly understand its inexpressible soothingness. Favored by the clear-obscure, the material skill employed by art to produce illusion entirely disappears. If the work is a picture, the figures represented seem to speak and walk; the shade is shadow, the light is day; the flesh lives, eyes move, blood flows in their veins, and stuffs have a changing sheen. Imagination helps the realism of every detail, and only sees the beauties of the work. At that hour illusion reigns despotically; perhaps it wakes at nightfall! Is not illusion a sort of night to the mind, which we people with dreams? Illusion then unfolds its wings, it bears the soul aloft to the world of fancies, a world full of voluptuous imaginings, where the artist forgets the real world, yesterday and the morrow, the future-everything down to its miseries, the good and the evil alike.
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The Purse by Honoré de Balzac

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