Droll Tales 15

“A Courtier’s False Wife” is The Folio Society’s title for the fifth tale of the second Decade of Balzac’s scurrilous series, illustrated by

Mervyn Peake.

Gustave Doré’s publishers prefer “The False Courtesan”,

whereas those of Jean de Bosschère opt for “The Sham Courtesan”.

Once again I think the later publishers have chosen the correct alternatives, because this is the story of the lengths to which the Duke of Orleans has gone in order trick a faithful couple into infidelity – with each other. The lady in question is false to a courtesan identity, not in reality as a wife.

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 good and it is covered by a cellophane wrapper. 


  1. It sounds like “The False Courtesan” is both clever and the most accurate.
    The different titles make me wonder how much the translations of the stories vary.

  2. Not to ask impertinent questions, but why would the Duke of Orleans go to great lengths to trick a faithful couple into infidelity with each other?

  3. All wonderful illustrations!
    Mr. Peake’s artwork has always captured me in!
    And Mr. Doré includes such detail that I find myself perusing his artwork…I don’t want to miss a line or a dot or a curlicue! 🙂
    It’s fun to read the text, too…like Lady d’Hocquetonville fading like “a flower deprived of air and eaten by a worm.” The engraving on her marble tomb is quite interesting, too! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂 ❤️

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