By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

11. Lost Illusions, by Honoré de Balzac, pp. 343-355

Part Two: A Great Man in Embryo, 23. The arcana of journalism; 24. Re-enter Dauriat
Lucien signs a contract with the newspaper that is drafted by Finot and back-dated so that when Lousteau takes over the newspaper he can't change or back out of it. Giroudeau, who had previously blocked Lucien's efforts to get beyond the front door, is astonished: "You've never made such terms with anyone else," he tells Finot. But when he learns Lucien's name and realizes that he is the author of the much talked-about review, he proclaims, "You've got a gold-mine there." Finot tells Lucien, "You owe your position to Blondet and Vignon who see a future before you. And so don't blot your copy-book. Above all, don't trust your friends."

And so Lucien is admitted to the back rooms on the fifth floor of the building, where he sees Lousteau, Vernou, Merlin, and two other contributors he doesn't know yet. Lousteau tells him that they're planning more attacks on Châtelet who, after the first one appeared, had arrived at the offices demanding "satisfaction." Giroudeau handled him by saying the article had been written by Philippe Bridau, who was prepared to duel with him. Châtelet backed down. Vernou says, "We are busy drawing up an apology to the baron for tomorrow's number: every sentence in it is a dagger-thrust."

They proceed to plan out the editorial direction of the paper under its new editor, Lousteau. Among other things, they decide that if Dauriat doesn't accept Lucien's sonnets for publication, they'll mount an attack on his best writer, Nathan:  "We all like Nathan, but we're going to attack him," says Lousteau. They divvy up the theaters among themselves, and then plan other attacks, including some invented stories known as "canards." When Lucien is puzzled by the term, Merlin explains that a canard "is a story which looks as if it were true but which is invented to ginger up 'News in Brief' when it's a bit colourless." He attributes the use of canards to Benjamin Franklin, who fooled the Encyclopaedists with some made-up stories.

Riding in the carriage later with Coralie, Lucien praises his fellow contributors as "very decent fellows" and bathes in visions of success: "Here I am, a journalist sure of being able to earn six hundred francs a month if I work like a Trojan; also I shall get my two books accepted and write others, for my friends are going to organize a success for me!" Coralie advises him not to be too nice: "Be hard on people -- that's the way to get on." And once again they meet Madame d'Espard and Madame de Bargeton, this time accompanied by Châtelet, in the Bois de Boulogne. "Madame de Bargeton gave Lucien a seductive glance which could well be taken for a salutation."

Camusot is still smitten with Coralie, and proposes to buy her six thousand francs in Government stock if she would continue to be his mistress, and assures her he would ignore her relationship with Lucien. She turns him down, so "Camusot decided to wait for indigence to give him back the woman whom indigence had delivered over to him once before."

Lucien and Lousteau go to see Dauriat about his book, which Dauriat praises, but declines to publish. Instead, he wants Lucien to write articles for him: "you'll get more money from me in the next six months for the articles I shall ask from you than you would for your unsaleable poetry."
"But what about my reputation as a writer?" cried Lucien.
Dauriat and Lousteau burst out laughing. 
"God save us!" said Lousteau. "The man still has his illusions." 
When Lucien takes the manuscript from Dauriat, he checks the pen-mark under the string and sees that it is still aligned: Dauriat hasn't read his manuscript. When he asks Dauriat which sonnet he particularly liked, Dauriat lies to him. "The poet made an abrupt exit into the Galleries in order not to explode: he was furious."

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