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ALZAC is a great subject, and this is a small book. But it is a book for a series in which compression is a necessity. And, moreover, my methods of work are. incompatible with the production of extensive volumes. A literary task, as I conceive it, is generally ill executed if, when it is done, the labour of omission, though chiefly concealed, is not found to have been its heaviest part.
Obligations to all sorts of books may, if one is working upon Balzac, be taken for granted. They are unmistakable and important—even if amidst the mass of miscellaneous material, and amidst Critical writings of high value, there is discovered no single Biography at once broad in conception and finished in treatment.
Let the less obvious debt to many friends-who, on one point or on another, are especially qualified to criticize or counsel-be gratefully acknowledged.
LONDON, December, 1889.
Balzac an immortal; birth and parentage; he is typically