Catherine De Medici

Author: Honore de Balzac


To Monsieur le Marquis de Pastoret, Member of the Academie des

When we think of the enormous number of volumes that have been
published on the question as to where Hannibal crossed the Alps,
without our being able to decide to-day whether it was (according
to Whittaker and Rivaz) by Lyon, Geneva, the Great Saint-Bernard,
and the valley of Aosta; or (according to Letronne, Follard,
Saint-Simon and Fortia d’Urbano) by the Isere, Grenoble, Saint-
Bonnet, Monte Genevra, Fenestrella, and the Susa passage; or
(according to Larauza) by the Mont Cenis and the Susa; or
(according to Strabo, Polybius and Lucanus) by the Rhone, Vienne,
Yenne, and the Dent du Chat; or (according to some intelligent
minds) by Genoa, La Bochetta, and La Scrivia,—an opinion which I
share and which Napoleon adopted,—not to speak of the verjuice
with which the Alpine rocks have been bespattered by other learned
men,—is it surprising, Monsieur le marquis, to see modern history
so bemuddled that many important points are still obscure, and the
most odious calumnies still rest on names that ought to be

And let me remark, in passing, that Hannibal’s crossing has been
made almost problematical by these very elucidations. For
instance, Pere Menestrier thinks that the Scoras mentioned by
Polybius is the Saona; Letronne, Larauza and Schweighauser think
it is the Isere; Cochard, a learned Lyonnais, calls it the Drome,
and for all who have eyes to see there are between Scoras and
Scrivia great geographical and linguistical resemblances,—to say
nothing of the probability, amounting almost to certainty, that
the Carthaginian fleet was moored in the Gulf of Spezzia or the
roadstead of Genoa. I could understand these patient researches if
there were any doubt as to the battle of Canna; but inasmuch as
the results of that great battle are known, why blacken paper with
all these suppositions (which are, as it were, the arabesques of
hypothesis) while the history most important to the present day,
that of the Reformation, is full of such obscurities that we are
ignorant of the real name of the man who navigated a vessel by
steam to Barcelona at the period when Luther and Calvin were
inaugurating the insurrection of thought.[*]

You and I hold, I think, the same opinion, after having made, each
in his own way, close researches as to the grand and splendid
figure of Catherine de’ Medici. Consequently, I have thought that
my historical studies upon that queen might properly be dedicated
to an author who has written so much on the history of the
Reformation; while at the same time I offer to the character and
fidelity of a monarchical writer a public homage which may,
perhaps, be valuable on account of its rarity.

[*] The name of the man who tried this experiment at Barcelona
should be given as Salomon de Caux, not Caus. That great man
has always been unfortunate; even after his death his name is
mangled. Salomon, whose portrait taken at the age of forty-six
was discovered by the author of the "Comedy of Human Life" at
Heidelberg, was born at Caux in Normandy. He was the author of
a book entitled "The Causes of Moving Forces," in which he
gave the theory of the expansion and condensation of steam.
He died in 1635.



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Chicago: Honore de Balzac, "Dedication," Catherine De Medici, trans. Marriage, Ellen, Bell, Clara in Catherine De Medici Original Sources, accessed June 18, 2024,

MLA: de Balzac, Honore. "Dedication." Catherine De Medici, translted by Marriage, Ellen, Bell, Clara, in Catherine De Medici, Original Sources. 18 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: de Balzac, H, 'Dedication' in Catherine De Medici, trans. . cited in , Catherine De Medici. Original Sources, retrieved 18 June 2024, from