It is my hope that the few readers that my still happen my this defunct and lonely place might chance to see this truth bomb and spread it about. It is an exceptional statement of the nature of woman from Honore de Balzac’s Ferragus. Let me set the stage:
One Monsieur de Maulincour has happened to see Madame Desmarets, a woman he suffers unrequited oneitis for, entering a house of ill repute on a street of ill repute. After confronting her a fete he takes up spying on the woman to discover her secret. A series of assassination attempts leave Maulincour in a state of racked nerves–not unlike Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment–when after believing the police have disposed of the woman’s accomplice approaches the Madame at yet another Parisian ball.
“Madame, your bravi have missed me three times.”
“What can you mean monsieur?” she said flushing. “I know that you have had several unfortunate accidents lately, which I have greatly regretted; but how could I have had anything to do with them?”
“You knew that bravi were employed against me by that man of the rue Soly?”
“Madame, I now call you to account, not for my happiness only, but for my blood–:
At that instant Jules Desmarets approached them.
“What are you saying to my wife, monsieur?”
“Make that inquiry at my own house, monsieur, if you are curious,” said Maulincour, moving away, and leaving Madame [Desmarets] in an almost fainting condition.
There are few women who have not found themselves, once at least in their live, a propos of some undeniable fact, confronted with a direct, sharp, uncompromising question–one of those questions pitilessly asked by husbands, the mere apprehension of which gives a chill, while the actual words enter the heart like the blade of a dagger. It is from such cries that the maxim has come, “All women lie.: Falsehood, kindly falsehood, venial falsehood, sublime falsehood, horrible falsehood–but always the necessity to lie. This necessity admitted, ought they not to know how to lie well? French women do it admirably. Our manners and customs teach them deception! Besides, women are so naively saucy, so pretty, graceful, and withal so true in lying,–they recognize so fully the utility of doing so in order to avoid in social life the violent shocks which happiness might not resist,–that lying seem to be as necessary to their lives as the cottonwool in which they put away their jewels. Falsehood becomes to them the foundation of speech; truth is exceptional; they tell it, if they are virtuous, by caprice or calculation. According to individual character, some women laugh when they lie; others weep; others are grave; some grow angry. After beginning life by feigning indifference to the homage that deeply flatters them, they often end by lying to themselves. Who has not admired their apparent superiority to everything at the very moment when they are trembling for the secret treasures of their love? Who has never studied their ease, their readiness, their freedom of mind in the greatest embarrassments of life? In them, nothing is put on. Deception comes as the snow from heaven And then, with what art they discover the truth in others! With what shrewdness they employ a direct logic in answer to some passionate question which has revealed to them the secret of the heart of a man who was guileless enough to proceed by questioning! To question a woman! why, that is delivering one’s self up to her; does she not learn in that way all that we seek to hide from her? Does she not know also how to be dumb, though speaking? What men are daring enough to struggle with Parisian women?–a woman who knows how to hold herself above all dagger thrusts, saying: “You are very inquisitive; what is it to you? Why do you wish to know? Ah! you are jealous! And suppose I do not choose to answer you?”–in short, a woman who possesses the hundred and thirty-seven methods of saying No, and incommensurable variations of the word Yes. Is not a treatise on the words yes and no, a fine diplomatic, philosophic, logographic, and moral work, still waiting to be written? But to accomplish this work, which we may call diabolic, isn’t an androgynous genius necessary? For that reason, probably, it will never be attempted. And besides, of all unpublished works isn’t it the best known and the best practiced among women? Have you studied the behavior, the pose, the disinvoltura of a falsehood? Examine it.
–Ferragus, Honore de Balzac
Balzac is undoubtedly the greatest novelist to ever life. Not that has lived yet, but most probably the greatest that ever will. He astute, observant, and messy. I cannot comment on his style as I do not read French, but his translators convey something elegant and unstilted. Examine him.
Veritas numquam perit,
The Gentleman Poet