Droll Tales 11

This, the first story of the second Decade of Honoré de Balzac’s humorous collection of stories, entitled “The Three Students of St Nicholas’s” by The Folio Society, which has no illustration, seems a deviation in style and content by the author.

The three students are really foils to bring out the jolly, rumbustious, devious, scheming nature of Landlord of the Three Barbels described with rich imagery in the opening paragraphs.

The tale tells of their competition to outwit him and his ultimate response.

I spent some time trying to add Alun Armstrong’s superb performance of “Master of the House” from the 1985 stage musical of Les Misérables ( https://youtu.be/EDSDY9dMwxE ) This was unavailable for transfer, but I recommend it to you if you can view it.

Armstrong could well have modelled for Doré’s 1874 illustration from “The Three Clerks of St Nicholas” as his publisher entitled it.

Those of Jean de Bosschère appear in the similarly entitled publication of 1929 by New York’s Covici, Friede.

Further details of each of these publications is given in https://derrickjknight.com/2023/01/06/droll-tales-1/ except that the second Decade is published by New York’s Covici, Friede in 1929. It is America’s first edition thus and is a limited copy. The illustrations are not protected by tissue but the book’s condition is very good and covered by a cellophane wrapper.


  1. The landlord bears a resemblance to someone I know! ????
    emoji inserted from Windows and not from an Apple device

  2. I watched the Youtube clip by copying the link and pasting into my browser.
    I love Alun Armstrong, but didn’t realise he was also a musical actor.

    1. Well done for following the link. Me, too, but then so many of them 5turn out top be able to sing and dance. Thanks very much, Sue

  3. Great illustrations!
    And thanks for sharing the link! I enjoy Les Misérables…whether it be on stage or in movie form.
    “He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

    “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

  4. That is a funny resemblance between the actor and illustration.
    We have seen the musical Les Misérables several times live and on TV–including daughter’s high school performance. Her boyfriend at the time played Monsieur Thénardier.

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