March 19

This Day in History

Literary

Mar 19, 1842:

Balzac botches a publicity stunt

French writer Honore de Balzac's play Les Ressources de Quinola opens to an empty house thanks to a failed publicity stunt on this day in 1842. Hoping to create a buzz for the play, the writer circulated a rumor that tickets were sold out. Unfortunately, most of his fans stayed home.

By this time, Balzac was already a well-known literary figure. Born in Tours, France, Balzac was educated in Paris, where he started writing plays at the age of 20 while working as a lawyer's apprentice. His plays bombed, and he took to writing thrillers under an assumed name. Needing money, he launched disastrous ventures in printing and silver mining and went bankrupt. While struggling under his debts, he resumed writing, and by 1929 he was publishing under his own name, convinced he was a genius. By 1830, he had become a celebrated writer who frequented literary salons. Balzac drove himself ruthlessly, working 14 to 16 hours at a stretch, aided by some 50 cups of coffee a day. He completed 90 novels, all part of a single series, "La Comedie Humaine," and died in Paris in 1850.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date

Shop HISTORY

  • Ben Franklin DVD

    Ben Franklin DVD

    The Ben Franklin DVD is a revealing yet informal History Channelâ„¢ presentation, the real man behind the myth is finally brought to light.

    $19.99

    Buy Now