La Cousine Bette


La Cousine Bette

infobox Book |
name = Cousin Bette
title_orig = La Cousine Bette
translator =


image_caption = Cover of 1965 Penguin Classics edition of "La Cousine Bette" ("Cousin Bette")
author = Honoré de Balzac
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = France
language = French
series =
genre =
publisher =
release_date = 1846
english_release_date =
media_type =
pages =
isbn =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"La Cousine Bette" (English: "Cousin Bette") is an 1846 novel by Honoré de Balzac. It has been adapted for film or television at least four times, including a 1998 movie starring Jessica Lange.

Plot introduction

It is the story of a poor cousin who seeks, with the help of a prostitute, to ruin the lives of her wealthy relations.

List of Characters

Cousin Bette

Paris, July, 1838; Louis-Philippe is King of France as a result of the 1830 revolution.

Monsieur Celestin Crevel, a rich, retired merchant and perfumer, age 50, widowed for five years, is the father of Celestine Crevel. Crevel is bitter towards the Baron, because the Baron enticed Crevel's mistress, Josepha, away from Crevel, and Crevel is seeking revenge by trying to seduce Baroness Hulot.

Celestine Crevel, beloved only daughter of Monsieur Crevel, is married to Victorin, the son of Baron and Baroness Hulot, and has two children, who are the grandchildren of both Crevel and the Baron and Baroness.

Marshall Hulot is the elder brother of Baron Hector Hulot and is a hero of the Napoleonic wars. He's an honorable man and is disgusted by his younger brother's behavior. In the end, he sacrifices his fortune and his life to preserve his family's honor.

Baron Hector Hulot d'Evry, in his 60s, a likeable man of great name, reputation, position and good looks, but is without money and is a life-long philanderer and unprincipled libertine, and ultimately, a crook. He is currently a Director in the War Ministry, and is passionately in love with the 23-year old married Valerie Marneffe.

Baroness Adeline Hulot, nee Fischer, Baron Hector's wife of 32 years, is now age 48 and still a beauty. She's pious, virtuous and fanatically devoted to her unfaithful husband.

Victorin Hulot, a lawyer and member of the Chamber of Deputies, is the son of Baron and Baroness Hulot, and is married to Celestine Crevel.

Cousin Bette (Lisbeth), nicknamed Nanny-Goat, a/k/a Mademoiselle Fischer, age 43, a dried-up old maid, is Barnoness Hulot's first cousin. Jealousy is the fundamental feature of her character.

Hortense Hulot, age 21, is the beautiful daughter of Baron and Baroness Hulot, for whom her noble parents would like to make an aristocratic match, but are too impoverished to furnish an appropriate dowry. Hortense herself falls for, and eventually marries Wenceslas Steinbock, Cousin Bette's protégé and the object of Bette's secret love.

Josepha, age 24, originally the 15-year old mistress of Monsieur Crevel, has become a famous opera singer, and has already cast off Crevel to become first, the mistress of Baron Hulot, and then the mistress of the very rich Duc d'Herouville.

Jenny Cadine, an actress, originally the 13-year old mistress of Baron Hulot, has left the aging Baron for an artist, at which time, the jilted Baron enticed Josepha away from Crevel.

Madame Valerie Marneffe, nee Fortin, age 23, is the unacknowledged daughter of the Comte de Montcornet, who died without leaving his illegitimate daughter a penny. She married a minor government bureaucrat, quickly exhausted the ample dowry from her mother, and is living in near-poverty with her husband and young child, but is addicted to the pleasures of Paris. She has become a much sought after courtesan.

Master John-Paul-Stanislas Marneffe, is a petty official in Baron Hulot's ministry. He and his wife Valerie are tenants in the same building as Cousin Bette.

Madame Olivier, the porter in Marneffe's and Bette's building, who is supposedly loyal to Baron Hulot, but is available to the highest bidder.

Monsieur Count Wenceslas Steinbock, a 29 year-old penniless Polish exile, is a weak and lazy man, but a talented sculptor, who has a mother-son relationship with Cousin Bette, who dominates and secretly loves him. Bette has spent her entire savings supporting Wenceslas. Wenceslas marries Hortense Hulot.

Monsieur Achille Rivet, Cousin Bette's employer and financial adviser, and a judge at the Commercial Court.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

There have been at least 4 adaptations for film and television:

* 1927 French film (silent)
**imdb title|id=0270294

* 1964 French television production adapted by Jean-Louis Bory starring Alice Sapritch as Bette and Claudine Coster as Valerie
**imdb title|id=0313928|title=Cousine Bette

* 1971 BBC mini-series adapted by Ray Lawler starring Margaret Tyzack as Bette and Helen Mirren as Valerie; also broadcast on PBS television in 1972. An extremely faithful adaptation of the book.
**imdb title|id=0068062|title=Cousin Bette

* 1998 film adapted by Lynn Siefert starring Jessica Lange as Bette and Elisabeth Shue as Jenny Cadine. This film alters much of the plotline, even to the point of changing the ending. It expands Jenny's role and completely omits the character of Valerie.
**imdb title|id=0118894|title=Cousin Bette

DVD Releases

The 1971 version of "Cousin Bette" with Margaret Tyzack and Helen Mirren is available on DVD in the UK and the United States (in a two-disc set).

The 1998 film with Jessica Lange and Elisabeth Shue is also available on DVD.

Trivia

The American actress Bette Davis had adopted this spelling of her name, instead of her original "Betty", under the influence of Balzac's book.

External links

* [http://www.oldandsold.com/articles22/honore-de-balzac-19.shtml Plot Summary]
*gutenberg|no=1749|name=Cousin Betty (English)


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