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Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New Quote From Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac was considered the father of 19th Century French dandyism. He had the following to say about the bow tie (which he referred to as a “cravate” as the neck-tie had not been invented at that stage and so there was no need for the comparative term “noeud papillon” ):
Firstly:«Ce n'est ni par étude ni par travail qu'on arrive à bien ; c'est spontanément, c'est d'instinct, d'inspiration que l'on met sa cravate. Une cravate bien mise, c'est un de ces traits de génie qui se sentent, qui s'admirent, mais ne s'analysent ni ne s'enseignent. Aussi, j'ose le dire avec toute la force de la conviction, la cravate est romantique par essence ; du jour où elle subira des règles générales, des principes fixes, elle aura cessé d'exister.»
(Traité de la vie élégante: Physiologie de la toilette, 1830)
My own translation:“It is neither by study nor by effort that one is successful; it is spontaneously, by instinct and by inspiration that one ties his tie. A tie well tied is one of those traits of genius that is felt and admired but never analysed or taught. I would dare to say, with all strength of conviction, that the tie is romantic by nature: The day that it submits to static rules will be the day that it ceases to exist.”
Secondly:«En effet, de toutes les parties de la toilette, la cravate est la seule qui appartienne à l'homme, la seule où se trouve l'individualité. De votre chapeau, de votre habit, de vos bottes, tout le mérite revient au chapelier, au tailleur, au bottier, qui vous les ont livrés dans tout leur éclat ; vous n'y avez rien mis du vôtre. Mais, pour la cravate, vous n'avez ni aide ni appui ; vous êtes abandonné à vous-même ; c'est en vous qu'il faut trouver toutes vos ressources. La blanchisseuse vous livre un morceau de batiste empesé ; selon ce que vous savez faire, vous en tirerez parti : c'est le bloc de marbre entre les mains de Phidias ou d'un tailleur de pierres. Tant vaut l'homme, tant vaut la cravate. Et, à vrai dire, la cravate, c'est l'homme ; c'est par elle que l'homme se révèle et se manifeste.»
(De la cravate, considérée en elle-même et dans ses rapports avec la société et les individus, 1830)
My translation:“It is true that, of all the aspects of one’s dress, the tie is the only one to belong solely to men, the only one where a man can find his individuality. For your hat, your clothes and your shoes, all the credit is owed to the hatter, the tailor and the cobbler who have delivered these things to you in all their finery. There is nothing in them of yours. But, for the bow tie, you have neither help nor support. You are abandoned to your own devices. You must find whatever you need in yourself. The laundress leaves you with a heavy piece of fabric and you must use what knowledge you possess to make something of it. As though it were a block of marble between the hands of Phidias or those of a stonemason, a tie will only ever be as good as the man that wears it. In all truth, it is the tie that makes the man as it is through his tie that a man’s measure is revealed.”

1 comment:

  1. That is one of the best quotes by Honore de Balzac I've ever met. Thanks for such a nice analysis. He is one of my favorite novelists!