A Harlot High and Low is the story of Lucien de Rubempré --Handsome, budding poet Lucien Chardon-- and his love affair with the beautiful Esther van Gobseck. Lucien's Faust-like damnation is the consequence of a corrupt and decadent society which feeds on intrigue and loose morals.
The novel depicts a vast panorama of the different strata of the French society where unsavory characters populate the criminal underworld, as well as the middle and upper classes.
When Vautrin --the nefarious puppet master-- realizes that wealthy Baron de Nucingen is pitifully infatuated with Esther, he conspires to help Lucien to achieve success in the Parisian society at the expense of the old Baron. Instead, a series of tragic events trump Lucien's ambition.
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About the Author
Although he became a successful writer, his life was a continuous struggle to keep afloat financially. The love of his life was Madame Hanska, the wife of a Polish nobleman. When Madame Hanska’s husband died, Balzac repeatedly proposed, only to be rejected again and again. But when he fell gravely ill she agreed to marry him, the wedding taking place at her home, in Poland, in March 1850. The long journey back to France undermined his frail health, and he died on August 18, 1850.