Famous Meetings in History Francois Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac Part 2

About the meeting of the famous detective Francois Vidocq and writer Honore de Balzac, history and account of the meeting.

Francois Eugene Vidocq Meets Honore de Balzac

Balzac went on to say that whenever people gave him real-life stories, they were incomplete. Only a novelist could create a complete story. To prove Balzac was wrong. Vidocq set out to tell him a complete real-life story that had occurred during his career at the Surete. One night the distraught Countess Helene de B. appeared at the police station begging for Vidocq's help. While her husband was in Bordeaux, she had had her lover, a Hungarian officer, to her home every night. This night, when they were in bed together, the officer had died of a stroke. Her husband was returning in a few hours. In desperation, the countess had carried the corpse to a carriage and brought it to the police station. She wanted to dispose of it but she did not know how. Vidocq helped her. He and an aide removed the body of the Hungarian officer to a cab and paid the coachman to drive to the man's home address and deliver his body to his servants, saying he had died of apoplexy. The countess died of a broken heart. Her husband, the count, later fought a duel in Zara with a man who claimed the count had poisoned his wife because of her unfaithfulness. The count allowed himself to be killed in the duel.

Balzac was dissatisfied with the story. He called it incomplete. After all, how did the count know that his wife had been unfaithful? "If I chose to tell this domestic drama in my manner, I would seek, I would invent, I would imagine a fuller and more logical end."

But Vidocq had the real-life ending. Outside was the very coachman who had driven the Hungarian's body home 10 years ago. The coachman supplied the missing ingredient. After delivering the corpse, he had found the dead man's wallet on the seat of the cab. In it was a letter to the countess. The coachman delivered the wallet and letter to the countess's address. But only the count was there. He took the wallet and letter.

Balzac admitted defeat. He said to Vidocq, "The story's complete. The letter told the husband that the young man was his wife's lover. Then the scene in Zara told him the affair was known and he decided to make an end of himself."

The real-life story Vidocq had told Balzac was reported by Leon Gozlan in his memoir Balzac in Slippers. Years later it was read by Guy de Maupassant, who based his short story "L'Artifice" on it.

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