Cousin Betty/Dedication

Cousin Betty by Honoré de Balzac, translated by James Waring
To Don Michele Angelo Cajetani, Prince of Teano.
It is neither to the Roman Prince, nor to the representative of the illustrious house of Cajetani, which has given more than one Pope to the Christian Church, that I dedicate this short portion of a long history; it is to the learned commentator of Dante.
It was you who led me to understand the marvelous framework of ideas on which the great Italian poet built his poem, the only work which the moderns can place by that of Homer. Till I heard you, the Divine Comedy was to me a vast enigma to which none had found the clue—the commentators least of all. Thus, to understand Dante is to be as great as he; but every form of greatness is familiar to you.
A French savant could make a reputation, earn a professor's chair, and a dozen decorations, by publishing in a dogmatic volume the improvised lecture by which you lent enchantment to one of those evenings which are rest after seeing Rome. You do not know, perhaps, that most of our professors live on Germany, on England, on the East, or on the North, as an insect lives on a tree; and, like the insect, become an integral part of it, borrowing their merit from that of what they feed on. Now, Italy hitherto has not yet been worked out in public lectures. No one will ever give me credit for my literary honesty. Merely by plundering you I might have been as learned as three Schlegels in one, whereas I mean to remain a humble Doctor of the Faculty of Social Medicine, a veterinary surgeon for incurable maladies. Were it only to lay a token of gratitude at the feet of my cicerone, I would fain add your illustrious name to those of Porcia, of San-Severino, of Pareto, of di Negro, and of Belgiojoso, who will represent in this "Human Comedy" the close and constant alliance between Italy and France, to which Bandello did honor in the same way in the sixteenth century—Bandello, the bishop and author of some strange tales indeed, who left us the splendid collection of romances whence Shakespeare derived many of his plots and even complete characters, word for word.
The two sketches I dedicate to you are the two eternal aspects of one and the same fact. Homo duplex, said the great Buffon: why not add Res duplex? Everything has two sides, even virtue. Hence Moliere always shows us both sides of every human problem; and Diderot, imitating him, once wrote, "This is not a mere tale"—in what is perhaps Diderot's masterpiece, where he shows us the beautiful picture of Mademoiselle de Lachaux sacrificed by Gardanne, side by side with that of a perfect lover dying for his mistress.
In the same way, these two romances form a pair, like twins of opposite sexes. This is a literary vagary to which a writer may for once give way, especially as part of a work in which I am endeavoring to depict every form that can serve as a garb to mind.
Most human quarrels arise from the fact that both wise men and dunces exist who are so constituted as to be incapable of seeing more than one side of any fact or idea, while each asserts that the side he sees is the only true and right one. Thus it is written in the Holy Book, "God will deliver the world over to divisions." I must confess that this passage of Scripture alone should persuade the Papal See to give you the control of the two Chambers to carry out the text which found its commentary in 1814, in the decree of Louis XVIII.
May your wit and the poetry that is in you extend a protecting hand over these two histories of "The Poor Relations"

Of your affectionate humble servant,


PARIS, August-September, 1846.