Who was Balzac?

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was one of the greatest French writers.  His first efforts were a number of novels written under pen names, but he finally made a name for himself with La Comédie Humaine, a multi-volume compilation of overlapping novel-length tales, short stories, and non-fictional essays published between 1829 and 1850.  He was a prolific author, with over ninety published novels and short stories, as well as plays and art and literary criticism.  By the time he died, he was considered a national treasure; Victor Hugo gave the eulogy at his funeral, which described Balzac as “one of the first among the greatest, one of the highest among the best.”