The Aristocratic Comeback
In the first place, as Bernard Guyon points out, in terms of Le Monde de Balzac Balzac’s ‘esthetisme social’, it was logical that the aristocratic instincts of the artist should have induced such a predilection on Balzac’s part. The ostentatious rallying of a Bonapartist ‘demi-solde’ might occasionally force open the aristocratic doors, but such ‘roturier’ recruitment as occurred was strictly controlled in the interest of a calculated social policy. A further tribute to the restored prestige of the Restoration nobility is provided by the interest shown by the bourgeoisie in acquiring aristocratic status. The experience of Charles Mignon is of a different kind in that it is marked by the voluntary relinquishing of an aristocratic identity prior to its reclamation under the Restoration. Balzac’s references to the ‘majorat’ under the Restoration are an excellent example of the value and limitations of his historical testimony.