Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Balzac and Oscar Wilde

I mentioned that I could imagine a reader who really loved A Harlot High and Low. Here’s one:

“One of the greatest tragedies of my life is the death of Lucien de Rubempré. It is a grief from which I have never been able completely to rid myself. It haunts me in my moments of pleasure. I remember it when I laugh.”

This is Oscar Wilde. Yes, the same person who said:

“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.''

These supposed cynics are often themselves the worst sentimentalists, aren’t they? Little Nell perishes in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), which I will read post-haste, in order to gauge the hardness of my heart. The death of Lucien in Harlot wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but it was still a pretty good joke.

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