Rumor has it that Honoré de Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee every day.
Only recently did I learn about this prodigious feat of metabolic activity. I had noted on an online dating profile that I was a writer of novels who was reading Balzac. A number of men contacted me with the inquiry as to whether my coffee habits were as epicurean as the famous nineteenth-century French novelist’s.
Replying that they were not (surely they could not be, since I prefer tea), I searched the Internet and found many websites that repeated the rumor. (I especially enjoyed this hilarious take!)
Oddly enough, though, the Balzac novel I was reading focused not on gross overindulgence, but the opposite—call it gross underindulgence.
Monsieur Grandet, one of the main characters of the novel Eugénie Grandet, is the richest person for miles around—a multimillionaire!—and yet he and his family live in near poverty. Their house is falling apart; they light fires only on the very coldest days; they use the fewest and most inexpensive candles to light a room; and they eat and drink only a scant daily allotment.
Monsieur Grandet is plainly a miser. Here’s a little view into his philosophy of life:
“‘You have no sooner put your lips to a glass than it is empty!’ he said. ‘Such is life. You cannot eat your cake and have it too. You can’t use your money and keep it in your purse. Life would be too good if you could.'”
So he chooses to keep his money in his purse. To be a multimillionaire who is depriving oneself and one’s family from all comfort seems like madness. It seems nearly as crazy as drinking 50 cups of coffee every day! But there’s a certain wisdom in Grandet’s philosophy.
The next time you see someone who owns a car like the one pictured above, keep in mind that that person is poor!—if not actually, then at least comparatively. And if that person lives in a mansion and has lots of servants and wears only custom-made clothing and drinks only the finest wine every evening? Poorer still.
Where do you put your money?