Houri in a seraglioDes Lupeaulx was coming to that age when men have excessive pretensions with regard to women. The first gray hairs usher in the last passions, the most violent because they are astride waning power and dawning weakness. Forty is the age of folly – an age when a man wants to be loved for himself; for now his love does not hold up all by itself, as in the early years, when one can love wastefully and with impunity, even as a cherubim. At forty, one wants it all, as one is so afraid of not getting anything; whereas at twenty-five, one has so much, one does not know how to want anything. At twenty-five, one walks with such strength that one gives out with impunity; but at forty, one mistakes abuse for virility.
(de Balzac, The Bureaucrats, Northwestern University Press 1993, pp. 60-1)
When a man is fifty, the Graces claim payment. At that age love becomes vice; insensate vanities come into play. Thus, at about that time, Adeline saw that her husband was incredibly particular about his dress; he dyed his hair and whiskers, and wore a belt and stays. He was determined to remain handsome at any cost. This care of his person, a weakness he had once mercilessly mocked at, was carried out in the minutest details.
(de Balzac, Cousin Bette, Everyman’s Library edition, pp. 31-2)