To Mrs. Ganskaya
Paris, September 9th 1833
It’s winter here, my dear, and I have moved over to my winter quarters, which we call the corner, a cool green salon, from which the Invalid dome across the ocean of green could be seen, had to be left. I received and read your first letters in the corner, so I like it more than before. When I got back here, I thought particularly about you, my dear, and couldn’t help wanting to talk to you, if only for one minute. How can you wish for me not to love you: you, my first love, who came from afar to warm the pining heart with love! I did everything to capture the attention of a heavenly angel. My fame was, at most, just a beacon, and then you saw into everything: my soul, my heart, the real me. Only yesterday evening when reading your letter again I assured myself that you were the only one who could fully understand my life, and yet you ask how I can find time to write you! Well, my dear Eve, (allow me to shorten your name as it will prove to you better, that you represent everything feminine for me – the only woman in the universe; you enlighten my world as Eve did for the first man) are you the only one to ask a poor artist, who is so short of time, whether he was sacrificing something great while thinking about and writing to his ladylove? Nobody around me has ever bothered about that; anyone else would impose upon my time without hesitation! So now I would like to dedicate to you all my love, to think only about you, to write only to you. Oh with what joy, if I were free from cares, would I throw away all my laurels, all my fame, all my best creations as though they were nothing but grains of incense on the Holy Altar of Love! To love, Eve, is my life! I’d like to ask you to give me your portrait. I’ve wanted this for a long time and hope you do not take offence at my request. I’ve wanted a picture of you ever since I first saw you. Today, my flower, I send you a strand of my hair; they are still black, but I hastened to outwit time… I let my hair grow and everyone is asking why. Why? I would like you to braid them into bracelets and chains.
Forgive me, dear, but I love you, just like a child, with all the joys, all the superstitions and all the illusions of a first love. Dear angel, I was saying over and over again ‘If only a woman twenty seven years old would fall in love with me I would be so happy. I would be able to love her without fear of separation because of the difference in years. And you, my Goddess, you could make this dream of love come true forever!
I need to bid you goodbye. Don’t be sorrowful again, my love, you are not allowed to because at any moment you may sense that you are in another dear heart and find there more thoughts about you than are in your own.
I have ordered a perfumed letter box. It took courage for me to order this for you. It is so pleasing that I can say to myself: She is touching and opening this box. In addition, I find it to be so elegant. It is made of an expensive wood and you can keep your Ch�nier in it; the poet of love, whose verses I wish I read you on my knees!
Adieu, my treasure of joy, adieu. Why are you leaving some pages in your letters blank? However, do this – I don’t want to hide anything. I will fill in those blanks. I tell myself that your hand has touched them and I kiss those white pages! Good-bye, my hope! Bientot
Every woman on this Earth without exception has dreamt of receiving such a letter. And the lucky one was Evelyn Ganskaya from the Verhovnya village, Zhitomir region. It was there that the famous writer Honore de Balzac lived happily and worked for several years. He had been working hard in Ukraine for 17 years…
The story of this vehement love was truly mystic. Thousands of women had written to Balzac, and among them were richer and nobler worshippers. And when the first letter arrived on February 28, 1832, he was hurrying to go out on a date with the Duchess de Castries. However, he did glance into the envelope wherein his fate was sealed and began to wait impatiently for the next letter from the Stranger. Her elegance and aristocracy of style made him forget all his pretentious moves towards duchesses and marquises.
Mrs. Ganskaya did not dare tell him her name and asked Balzac to confirm his desire to reply through the newspaper “Kotidyen”. And one day, on January 8, the latest issue of “Kotidyen” with Balzac’s response arrived at Golovnya. Evelyn realized that her letter, which she had only written so as not to be bored, was the beginning of a love affair. Honore, who had always dreamt of a passionate romance, made the declaration of his love in his third letter to Ukraine.
There seemed no mystery that Balzac, who was constantly thinking of getting married, had found himself a suitable match. But… Mrs. Ganskaya was already married. All correspondence passed through a governess, Ann Borel, and all rendezvous were held in the presence of her elderly husband, who was flattered by the attention of the famous writer. So Balzac, who “led a dull, miserable life and dreamt of marrying into money” waited for 17 years. Any fortune hunter would never commit such a sin! In the meantime, Balzac and Mrs. Ganskaya met abroad many times, She gave birth to a stillborn child after their rendezvous in Dresden, and they tried to break up several times. But love such as theirs cannot be defeated. Balzac was already wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of his left hand – they were already married in his heart of hearts.
When entering the covenant of marriage, Mr. Gansky granted his wife the life-long use of his enormous fortune but his relatives were against his wishes. Evelyn therefore knew that if she joined Balzac she would be left destitute. Though, after Gansky had passed away, Balzac, without wasting a moment set off for Ukraine to join his “Northern Star”. He traveled for 8 days to reach the estate, which he called “the Small Louvre” from the very moment he saw it; so majestic was the castle in the light of sunset. There - he now had his own room for the first time. There - he finished “The Human Comedy”. And from there - he sent enthusiastic letters to Paris. Those were the letters with the description of the “wonderful land”, which he had reached at the sunset of his life … and what was more … there lived his princess.
The idyll was disturbed only by the displeasure of the Evelyn’s nearest and dearest. They and her daughter, countess Anna, were anxious about the forthcoming wedlock with a spendthrift Frenchman, who was hopelessly in debt. Permission from the Emperor was eagerly awaited and the impatient groom also wrote to minister Uvarov.
Then nerves snapped – Honore got ill. The doctors diagnosed hypercardia. The lovesick writer didn’t leave his bedchamber for a month – he wasn’t even able to raise his hand because that caused him suffocation and a terrible cough. Evelyn became a nurse. She was kind-hearted, patient and delicate, but Balzac caught the expression of doubt on her face and understood that to agree to marry a severely ill man would be true self-sacrifice on her part. He would hardly be able to work the same again.
Finally, the Emperor’s permission arrived. Evelyn understood that if the wedding did not take place it would likely kill her sweetheart. The heart full of love could not tolerate this and so Evelyn said ‘yes’ to Honore.
The letter of triumph was sent from Golovnya to France just after the wedding ceremony in Berdichev in St. Barbara church. It said: ‘You should get to know only from me about the happy outcome of the great and lovely drama of the heart which has lasted for 16 years. So, three days ago I married the only woman I love, whom I love more than before, and whom I will love till my bitter end…’
So in the spring, when the snows were melting and the roads barely passable, the couple went to France. Balzac brought to Paris the wife of his life’s dream but he was ill. He climbed 12 steps with difficulty. He started to lose sight. He could not sleep at night because of choking spells. And during the day he told his Eve that he was happy and would get better soon. She believed him, not knowing that she would not have a marital bed, that on the first day Balzac’s doctor ordered to call board of doctors: the brilliant writer could not see anything, could not walk, often lost his consciousness – he was doomed.
For four painful months Evelyn Ganskaya was not a real ‘wife’ of Balzac. She was just a nurse, although very devoted and courageous. She even learned how to apply leeches. The doctors said that Mrs. Ganskaya had a ‘noble, generous and sublime heart’. Balzac’s sister wrote to her mother about her: ‘She behaves heroically’. It is to her that he dictated his last letters, and during those lucid moments she was even talking to him about his future novels. The death – was marked by neither sad sighs nor despair; just the words: ‘You will live’.
Balzac’s widow according to the will became the only heir. He confessed to her a debt of 130000 francs. Evelyn had lent him three times more than that. She was advised to abdicate the inheritance, burdened as it was with huge debts, but she declared that as Evelyn de Balzac she had to pay all debts of her husband. And besides this she took upon herself the support of Balzac’s mother, although she had other children who could look after her. Almost all the fortune of the countess Ganskaya passed into the hands of creditors.
Evelyn Ganskaya went down the aisle without any illusions for herself. She knew that as a result of the new wedlock she would lose the tremendous fortune of her first husband. But she didn’t dare to kill the dream of Honore de Balzac and his hopes for happiness. And it wasn’t her fault that happiness and death entered the doorstep of their house together. Honore de Balzac didn’t make a mistake when fell in love with his Eve once and for all.
Although a foreigner, Evelyn Ganskaya wanted to be buried not in Verhovnya, but in the cemetery P�re Lachaise beside her beloved. And during the thirty years following his death she took care to perpetuate the memory of the author. She didn’t escape the fate that often befalls the companions of the great masters. People tried to throw mud at her, especially after the death. But admirers of his talent rebelled because the grief of Evelyn de Balzac was sincere. What she regretted most was that they didn’t have time to enjoy life when the right for happiness had been conquered.
The French themselves were very nervous. They were offended by the ‘betrayer’ and invented all sorts of incredible stories to explain Balzac’s maniacal striving for Ukraine. According to one of them, the ‘golden pen of France’ was bought by the Tsar of Russia because couldn’t find a man worthy of letters in his own country. According to the opinion of Stefan Zweig, Balzac was attracted only by the fabulous fortune of Ganskay, with the help of which he dreamt to be through with creditors with the cry: ‘Like hell I will’. And the people of Golovnya have very simple explanation of this: the common Ukrainian word “амор” (amore) should mean that love between friends, but in the case of these two lovers the French word “amour” conveyed the better truth.
According to the law Evelyn Ganskaya lost her fortune after her wedding ceremony in Berdichev church of St. Barbara with non-Russian Honore. There is nothing written about the Russian Tsar in “The Human Comedy”, so love is the only thing left – ‘more beautiful, more perfect than anything which was done before’. And the French have no reason to be offended; just it is very hard to resist a Ukrainian woman…
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