(12.) If biographically inclined critics are right to suggest that the sadistic murder of the Spanish lover in La Grande Breteche, and the jealous push that sends an adulterine brother to his death in La Femme de trente ans, are fantasmatic acts of revenge by Balzac against his adulterous mother, this Spanish episode with its grotesquely mutilated dead baby certainly deserves a prime place in the dossier.
(16.) A very interesting text for Bianchon's place in the dossier of doctors and adulterine babies is the story to which Roger Pierrot gives the title "L'Avortement." In Une conversation entre onze heures et minuit (which is Balzac's other contribution, along with Le Grand d'espagne, to Contes bruns), it is related by "un medecin." By the time of its 1844 republication in Echantillon de causerie francaise (deemed by Pierrot a "filler" text rather than part of La Comedie humaine), it is of course Bianchon who recounts an episode from the beginning of his career: his refusal to perform an abortion (a capital crime) on a desperate eighteen-year-old who has been married for just three months and is six months pregnant by her cousin (her jealous and violent husband is due back in three days).
Octave claims that the child Fernande is to bear with him will not only survive but prove vigorous and healthy, because it will be a child of love, though adulterine. This is an emphasis that directly challenges Balzac's in A Woman of Thirty, and, like much of Sand's fiction from the period, the novel caused a scandal.
Indeed, there is even a sense in which the converse is true for her husband: Karenin's relation to his son is cool and overbearing, though dutiful, whereas he feels for a while a deep emotional bond to his wife's adulterine daughter.
Clarin joins hands with Eca in using the novel of female adultery as a vehicle for social criticism, so in both Cousin Bazilio and La Regenta the heroine's lack of issue functions quite differently from her bearing of legitimate or adulterine children in other works from the tradition.
Despite the novel's various ironies, this is reflected in its focus on female adultery and, not least, in the death of the adulteress and the loss of her adulterine children, one to fatal illness, the other to affluent adoption.