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      Author : Frederick Lawton

        The condition of French society in the early half of the nineteenth century — the period covered by Balzac’s novels — may be compared to that of a people endeavouring to recover themselves after an earthquake. Everything had been overthrown, or at least loosened from its base — religion, laws, customs, traditions, castes. Nothing had withstood the shock. When the upheaval finally ceased, there were timid attempts to find out what had been spared and was susceptible of being raised from the ruins. Gradually the process of selection went on, portions of the ancient system of things being joined to the larger modern creation. The two did not work in very well together, however, and the edifice was far from stable.

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