Passionate and perceptive, the three short novels that make up Balzac’s History of the Thirteen are concerned in part with the activities of a rich, powerful, sinister and unscrupulous secret society in nineteenth-century France. While the deeds of ‘The Thirteen’ remain frequently in the background, however, the individual novels are concerned with exploring various forms of desire. A tragic love story, Ferragus depicts a marriage destroyed by suspicion, revelation and misunderstanding. The Duchess de Langeais explores the anguish that results when a society coquette tries to seduce a heroic ex-soldier, while The Girl with the Golden Eyes offers a frank consideration of desire and sexuality. Together, these works provide a firm and fascinating foundation for Balzac’s many later portrayals of Parisian life in his great novel-cycle The Human Comedy.