This is it, really.
There is a famous anecdote about a visitor who had been to the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES), (created for Grothendieck in the sixties) and had been struck by the poverty of the library at such a Mecca of mathematics. Grothendieck answered him, ‘We don’t read mathematics, here; we make mathematics.’
In February 1832 Balzac received a letter from Odessa—lacking a return address and signed only by “L’Étrangère” (“The Foreigner”)—expressing sadness at the cynicism and atheism in La Peau de Chagrin and its negative portrayal of women. He responded by purchasing a classified advertisement in the Gazette de France, hoping that his secret critic would find it. Thus began a fifteen-year correspondence between Balzac and “the object of [his] sweetest dreams”: Ewelina Hańska.
Hańska was married to a man twenty years her senior, Wacław Hański, a wealthy Polish landowner living near Kiev. It had been a marriage of convenience to preserve her family’s fortune. In Balzac Ewelina found a kindred spirit for her emotional and social desires, with the added benefit of feeling a connection to the glamorous capital of France. Their correspondence reveals an intriguing balance of passion, propriety and patience; Robb says it is “like an experimental novel in which the female protagonist is always trying to pull in extraneous realities but which the hero is determined to keep on course, whatever tricks he has to use.”
Wacław Hański died in 1841, and his widow and her admirer finally had the chance to pursue their affections. Competing with the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, Balzac visited her in St. Petersburg in 1843 and impressed himself on her heart. After a series of economic setbacks, health problems, and prohibitions from the Tsar, the couple were finally able to wed. On 14 March 1850, with Balzac’s health in serious decline, they drove from her estate in Wierzchownia (village of Verkhivnia) to a church in Berdyczów (city of Berdychiv, today in Ukraine) and were married. The ten-hour journey to and from the ceremony took a toll on both husband and wife: her feet were too swollen to walk, and he endured severe heart trouble…
Five months after his wedding, on 18 August, Balzac died.
(condensed by, and discovered via, Justin Shubow)