Paris, L. de Potter, s. d. (1855). Fontainebleau. Imp. E. Jacquin.
5 volumes 8vo [222 x 142 mm]. Parts I to V, in addition to the half-titles and titles, and to a leaf of table, respectively: 305-306-309-319-287 pages, few foxing. Original yellow printed wrappers. Contemporary binding.
Rare first edition of one of the most important novels from « La Comédie humaine » in which it forms the main piece of « Scènes de la vie de campagne » which also comprises « Le Médecin de campagne » and « Le Curé de village ». It is one of the works on which Balzac worked the most. Actually he indicates, in the dedication of the book to P. S. B. Gavault, that « during eight years a hundred times I quitted, a hundred times I started again this book, the most considerable book I was determined to write… ». It is, indeed, by its social significance (we could almost say sociological), one of the fundamental works of « La Comédie humaine ». It is the novel of Balzac’s full maturity, undertaken while he got entirely the general scheme of his work.
« Les Paysans » are really despite the prejudice and the lack of absolute objectiveness of the author, a great contemporary historical epic. Here Balzac studies one of the most important social phenomena born of the Revolution: this formation, in the shadow of a new rural society that, silently and however brutally, appears publicly and stands out. In his novel, this phenomenon assumes, because of its own slow, blind but continuous violence, the aspect of an invincible force of nature. By the extent of its views, by the wonderful evocation of a world ignored by Balzac’s contemporaries, but especially by the pitiless precision of its words and the aptness of its composition, this work marks an essential date in the French novel; it already announces the impassive realism of Flaubert, and even the social naturalism of Zola. In Balzac’s work, there are probably more attractive and more achieved on the artistic level novels, but there is not any novel more powerful, vaster, despite its reduced dimensions.
A precious untrimmed copy, unwashed and preserved in the original yellow wrappers, coming from Docteur Lucien Graux’s interesting collection.