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The Vicar of Tours

Honoré de Balzac

Book Overview: 

Over twenty years before Anthony Trollope wrote The Warden, in which the gentle but unfortunate Rev. Septimus Harding becomes the prey of an investigative journalist, in 1831 Balzac published his Vicar of Tours. There too, a mild-mannered priest becomes the prey of powerful enemies, ecclesiastical, social and political. Abbé Birotteau is no intellectual giant, but he does try to get along with others honestly, and suffers when they take advantage of his shortcomings.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Mademoiselle Gamard very wisely. She was then about thirty-eight years old, and still retained a few pretensions, which, in well-behaved persons of her condition, change, rather later, into strong personal self-esteem. The canon saw plainly that to live comfortably with his landlady he must pay her invariably the same attentions and be more infallible than the pope himself. To compass this result, he allowed no points of contact between himself and her except those that politeness demanded, and those which necessarily exist between two persons living under the same roof. Thus, though he and the Abbe Troubert took their regular three meals a day, he avoided the family breakfast by inducing Mademoiselle Gamard to send his coffee to his own room. He also avoided the annoyance of supper by taking tea in the houses of friends with whom he spent his evenings. In this way he seldom saw his landlady except at dinner; but he always came down to that meal a few minutes in advance o. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The Vicar of Tours is one of Balzac's best short novels. (It appears under several different names, from the original Le Curé de Tours to the alternate English The Abbé Birotteau.) Like the authors Les Paysans (The Peasants) it tells of how the hapless aristos are wrapped around the fingers of the m

Il dramma della meschinità sociale durante la restaurazione

Dopo due puntate verso opere situate al di fuori del recinto della Comédie Humaine eccomi tornato, con questo quarto e per il momento ultimo capitolo di letture balzachiane, nell’ambito della titanica opera principale dello scrittore di Tour

Le curé de Tours c'est une histoire sur l'hypocrisie des gens. C'est ce que subit ici l'abbé François Birotteau. C'est la mesquinerie d'un groupe envers un personnage un peu bonasse. Ce n'est pas le meilleur Balzac que j'ai lu. Il est très long à démarrer et ennuyant par moment. Cependant, j'ai bien

Fully Absorbed Faith

The Vicar of Tours is a wonderfully farcical literary ballet in which a naively ambitious cleric, a scheming colleague, and an acutely resentful landlady play out the creation of a mutual hell. Balzac’s acute sensitivity to the psychological warfare that the three wage among each

Balzac skewers The Church - in his usual fine form!

Celibacy, however, presents the inherent vice of concentrating the faculties of man upon a single passion, egotism, which renders celibates either useless or mischievous.

Questo libro è un piccolo gioiello; Balzac riesce a fare di una storiella di intrighi ai danni di un parroco imbecille, un ritratto perfetto della meschinità umana, dei piccoli egoismi e delle cattiverie della vita di una piccola città. Ce n'è per tutti, dalle mire di potere degli ecclesiastici alle

Cautionary Tale

If you finally get the rental home/apartment of your dreams
1) Be very friendly but keep your distance from your landlord. If you break this rule kiss your place goodbye.

2) Read official documents carefully before you sign them.

3) Always compliment your host on the excellent coffee.


"Le Curé de Tours" is a novella that Balzac wrote in 1832. It was originally entitled Les Célibataires (The Celibates). The life of the celibates is only one of the many themes touched by this gem of a story.

Before 1830, I don't think anyone in France would have thought of writing a novel about a c

My goodness, how does Balzac do that? Tell a tale of such deep cynicism and despair with such inviting assurance and style? Astonishing piece of work! It may be short, but this is Balzac at his best, on song in no uncertain terms, in my view.

In some ways I’d have liked it if he had taken a little mo

Be careful what you wish for!, February 3, 2015

This review is from: The Vicar of Tours (Kindle Edition)
The wonderfully told story of chubby, innocent Abbe Birotteau, the eponymous vicar. He yearns for promotion to canon, but also to live in the luxurious boarding house, run for clergymen by embitt

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