Balzac And The Human Comedy

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"The Human Comedy" was the title given by Balzac to his copious fictions, casting them as the secular reply to Dante's "Divine Comedy". While Balzac sought the comprehensive scope of the "Divine Comedy", his title indicates the secular, worldly concerns of the realist novelist. "The Human Comedy" was published in 16 volumes between 1842 and 1846 by Dubochet, Furne, Hetzel and Paulin. The supplementary 17th volume appeared in 1847 containing "Cousin Bette" and "Cousin Pons". Modern editions are based on the author's corrected copy of the Furne edition. In the Furne edition, "The Human Comedy" contains 89 separate titles, but considering Balzac's plans to include further "scenes", the number is somewhat arbitrary. This multi-volume collection of inter-linked novels and short stories depict French society during the Restoration and July Monarchy- a recent past because historically, the publication of "The Human Comedy" took place immediately before the establishment of the Second Republic, in which Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected the President of France. "The Human Comedy" was Balzac's attempt to extend the limits of fiction while writing relatively unitary novels and stories. The title, adopted in 1841, was the means to regroup work already written which were linked by re-appearing characters; while it also served to prompt further plans. "The Human Comedy" was the result of slow evolution. The first works of Balzac were unplanned; "The Chouans" was the historical novel, whlie "The Physiology of Marriage" was an analytical study of marriage. But by 1830, Balzac began to group his first novels; "Sarrasine", "Gobsek" into "Scenes from Private Life". In 1833, with the publication of "Eugenie Grandet" Balzac envisioned the second series "Scenes from Provincial
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