La Cousine Bette is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac.
Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of an unmarried
middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family.
Bette works with Valérie Marneffe, an unhappily married young lady, to
seduce and torment a series of men. One of these is Baron Hector Hulot,
husband to Bette's cousin Adeline. He sacrifices his family's fortune
and good name to please Valérie, who leaves him for a tradesman named
Crevel. The book is part of the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of
Balzac's novel sequence La Comédie humaine. In the 1840s, a serial
format known as the roman-feuilleton was highly popular in France, and
the most acclaimed expression of it was the socialist writing of Eugène
Sue. Balzac wanted to challenge Sue's supremacy, and prove himself the
most capable feuilleton author in France. Writing quickly and with
intense focus, Balzac produced La Cousine Bette, one of his longest
novels, in two months. It was published in Le Constitutionnel at the
end of 1846, then collected with a companion work, Le Cousin Pons, the
following year. The novel's characters represent polarities of
contrasting morality. The vengeful Bette and disingenuous Valérie stand
on one side, with the merciful Adeline and her patient daughter
Hortense on the other. La Cousine Bette is considered Balzac's last
great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a
panorama of characters returning from earlier novels. Several critics
have hailed it as a turning point in the author's career, and others
have called it a prototypical naturalist text.
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Today's selected anniversaries:
Byzantine–Arab Wars: The forces of the Abbasid Caliphate defeated
Byzantine Empire troops, led by Emperor Theophilos himself, at the
Battle of Anzen near present-day Dazman, Turkey.
First Crusade: Godfrey of Bouillon was elected the first Protector of
the Holy Sepulchre in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Two days after becoming the first recorded European to complete a
transcontinental crossing of North America north of Mexico,
Scottish-Canadian explorer Alexander Mackenzie reached the westernmost
point of his journey and inscribed his name on a rock.
Gia Long conquered Hanoi and unified modern-day Vietnam.
Bank robber John Dillinger, whose exploits were sensationalized across
the United States, was shot dead by police in an ambush outside the
Biograph Theater in Chicago.
A bomb destroyed the headquarters of the British Mandate of Palestine
at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing about 90 people and
injuring 45 others.
Wiktionary's word of the day:
1. Of or relating to a spasm; resembling a sudden contraction of the
2. Convulsive; consisting of spasms.
3. Intermittent or fitful;
occurring in abrupt bursts.
4. Erratic or unsustained
Wikiquote quote of the day:
There was sadness in being a man, but it was a proud thing too. And he
showed what the pride of it was till you couldn't help feeling it. Yes,
even in hell, if a man was a man, you'd know it. And he wasn't pleading
for any one person any more, though his voice rang like an organ. He
was telling the story and the failures and the endless journey of
mankind. They got tricked and trapped and bamboozled, but it was a
great journey. And no demon that was ever foaled could know the
inwardness of it — it took a man to do that. ... His voice could search
the heart, and that was his gift and his strength. And to one, his
voice was like the forest and its secrecy, and to another like the sea
and the storms of the sea; and one heard the cry of his lost nation in
it, and another saw a little harmless scene he hadn't remembered for
years. But each saw something. And when Dan'l Webster finished he
didn't know whether or not he'd saved Jabez Stone. But he knew he'd
done a miracle. For the glitter was gone from the eyes of the judge and
jury, and, for the moment, they were men again, and knew they were men.
--Stephen Vincent Benét
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