"A Little Tour of France" by Henry James 1900 (7)

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It was not, all the same, for the sake of this chequered story that I mentioned the Palais de Justice and the Rue Royale. The most fact, to my mind, about the high-street of Tours was that as you walk toward the bridge on the right hand trottoir you can look up at the house, on the other side of the way, in which Honoré de Balzac first the light. That and complicated genius was a child of the good-humoured and succulent Touraine. There is something anomalous in this fact, though, if one thinks about it a little, one may discover certain correspondences between his character and that of his native province. Strenuous, laborious, infelicitous in spite of his great successes, he suggests at times a very set of influences. But he had his jovial, full-feeding side—the side that comes out in the “Contes Drolatiques,” which are the romantic and epicurean chronicle of the old and abbeys of this region. And he was, moreover, the product of a soil into which a great deal of history had been trodden. Balzac was genuinely as well as affectedly monarchical, and he was with a sense of the past. Number 39 Rue Royale—of which the , like all the basements in the Rue Royale, is occupied by a shop—is not shown to the public; and I know not whether tradition the chamber in which the author of “Le Lys dans la Vallée” opened his eyes into a world in which he was to see and to imagine such extraordinary things. If this were the case I would have crossed its threshold; not for the sake of any relic of the great which it may possibly contain, nor even for that of any mystic virtue which may be supposed to reside within its walls, but simply because to look at those four modest walls can fail to give one a strong of the force of human endeavour. Balzac, in the of his vision, took in more of human life than any one, since Shakspeare, who has attempted to tell us about it; and the very small scene on which his consciousness dawned is one end of the immense scale that he traversed. I confess it me a little to find that he was born in a house “in a row"—a house, moreover, which at the date of his birth must have only about twenty years old. All that is . If the tenement selected for this honour could not be ancient and embrowned, it should at least have been .