The Lily of the Valley with Balzac
Taking inspiration from his stays at the Château de Saché, Honoré de Balzac set his novel The Lily of the Valley in the neighbourhood of Azay-le-Rideau, between Saché and Pont-de-Ruan. You can explore the world of the great 19th century writer at the Balzac Museum and on the pathways in the Indre valley.
Visiting the Château de Saché
Jean Margonne regularly invited his great friend Honoré de Balzac to his vast manor house, which was originally built in the Renaissance. The writer from Touraine liked to recharge his batteries in the Indre valley, far from the hurly-burly of Paris. He found peace and tranquility in his small room at the Château de Saché.
Today, the building hosts a museum devoted to the author of the Human Comedy. It was founded by Paul Métadier in 1951. When you visit the room on the second floor, you can almost see the master sitting at his desk, where he would write tirelessly for hours on end.
The cabinet of manuscripts includes the originals that the literary genius would continually revise and correct. You can also see the portraits of Balzac’s parents and the women he loved. There is also the final study for the sculpture of Balzac commissioned from Rodin by the Société des Gens de Lettres in 1891.
In the country park surrounding the house, you can still see the sundial Balzac used to set his watch. The peaceful spot hardly seems to have changed since the novelist stayed here.
The Lily of the Valley Balzac route
Balzac’s The Lily of the Valley was published in 1836. The story recounts the intense and platonic love affair between Félix de Vandenesse and the countess Henriette de Mortsauf. The novel takes the form of a single letter written by Félix to his lover, as he declares his admiration for Madame de Mortsauf.
The action unfolds in the Indre valley, principally in the Château de Saché (under the name of Clochegourde) and nearby areas. Using quotations from the novel, a signposted trail between Saché and Pont-de-Ruan takes visitors on a 14 km walk through the landscapes and to the manor houses that inspired Balzac’s work.
A leaflet with the complete route can be downloaded here: Lily of the Valley hiking trail.