Moncrieff: 185-208; Treharne: 135-151
by Dennis Abrams
It does not appear that Mme de Guermantes is going to listen to her nephew’s request and invite Marcel to look at the Elstirs. Jupien’s perceived coldness. With the ending of winter and the beginning of spring, Marcel listens to the cooing of the pigeons, and finds himself “humming a music-hall tune which had never entered my head since the year when I had been due to go to Florence and Venice…” “I realised that it was not for any reason peculiar to Balbec that on my arrival there I had failed to find in its church the charm which it had had for me before I knew it, that in Florence or Parma or Venice my imagination could no more take the place of my eyes when I looked at the sights there.” With the coming of spring, Mme de Guermantes “was now wearing lighter, or at any rate brighter clothes…I told myself that the woman whom I could see in the distance, walking, opening her sunshade, crossing the street, was, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, the greatest living exponent of the art of performing those movements and of making them something exquisite.” Marcel’s afternoon naps, with his dreams of Venice, “a Gothic city rising from a sea whose waves were stilled as in a stained-glass window.” Saint-Loup visits Paris briefly, and downplays Marcel’s desire to meet Mme de Guermantes. “‘She’s not at all nice, Oriane,'” he told me with innocent self-betrayal. ‘She’s not my old Oriane any longer, they’ve gone and changed her, I assure you it’s not worth while bothering your head about her. You pay her far too great a compliment. You wouldn’t care to meet my cousin Poictiers?” Francoise’s pity for the Guermantes footmen “who could not go to see his girl.” Francoise’s family visits. M. de Norpois speaks well of M. de Guermantes, thereby completely changing Marcel’s father’s opinion of him. “Another thing that surprised me very much: he spoke to me of M. de Guermantes as a most distinguished man; I’d always taken him for a boor. It seems he knows an enormous amount, and has perfect taste, only he’s very proud of his name and connexions. But as a matter of fact, according to Norpois, he has a tremendous position, not only here but all over Europe. It appears the Austrian Emperor and the Tsar treat him just one of themselves.” Marcel’s father gives his reluctant approval to Marcel’s wish to be a writer, “For I can see you won’t do anything else. It might turn out quite a good career; it’s not what I should have chosen for you myself, but you’ll be a man in no time now, we shan’t always be here to look after you, and we mustn’t prevent you from following your vocation,” but Marcel still finds himself unable to write. Mme de Villeparisis’ “School of Wit.” M. de Norpois and Marcel’s father’s candidacy for the Institut. The Dreyfus case continues to have its effect: Mme Sazerat, a Dreyfussard, no longer acknowledges Marcel’s family, because Marcel’s father believes that Dreyfus is guilty. Saint-Loup comes to Paris and invites Marcel to have lunch with him and his mistress. On his way to Saint-Loup’s, Marcel runs into Legrandin, who mocks his style of dress, his admiration for the aristocracy, and his tastes in literature. The suburban village where Saint-Loup’s mistress lives. Saint-Loup’s feelings for his mistress. “Through her and for her he was capable of suffering, of being happy, perhaps of killing. There was nothing that interested him, that could excite him except what his mistress wanted, what she was going to do, what was going on, discernible at most in fleeting changes of expression, in the narrow expanse of her face and behind her privileged brow.” Saint-Loup admits the possibility that she does not love him, and vows to buy her a necklace “she saw at Boucheron’s. it’s rather too much for me just at present…She mentioned it to me and told me she knew somebody who would perhaps give it to her. I don’t believe it’s true, but just in case…” Marcel stops to look at “a row of little gardens…all dazzlingly aflower with pear and cherry blossom.” Saint-Loup goes ahead to fetch his mistress “I’ll tell you what — I can see you’d rather stop and look at all that and be poetical.” Saint-Loup’s mistress turns out to be none other than “Rachel when from the Lord.”
Small world, isn’t it? For those of you whose memory may need a bit of prodding, here’s the scene when we first saw Rachel. Bloch had introduced Marcel to the joys of brothels, and…
“The mistress of this knew none of the women with whom one asked her to negotiate, and was always suggesting others whom one did not want. She boasted to me of one in particular, of whom, with a smile full of promise (as though this was a great rarity and a special treat), she would say: ‘She’s Jewish. How about that!’ (It was doubtless for this reason that she called her Rachel.) And with an inane affectation of excitement which she hoped would prove contagious, and which ended in a hoarse gurgle, almost of sensual satisfaction: ‘Think of that, my boy, a Jewess! Wouldn’t that be thrilling? Rrrr!’ This Rachel, of whom I caught a glimpse without her seeing me, was dark, not pretty, but intelligent-looking, and would pass the tip of her tongue over her lips as she smiled with a boundless impertinence at the customers who were introduced to her and whom I could hear making conversation. Her thin and narrow face was framed with curly black hair, irregular as though outlined in pen-strokes upon a wash-drawing in Indian ink. Every evening I promised the madame, who offered her to me with a special insistence, boasting of her superior intelligence and her education, that I would not fail to come some day on purpose to make the acquaintance of Rachel, whom I had nicknamed ‘Rachel when from the Lord.'”
The phrase ‘Rachael when from the Lord,” is the name of an aria from Halevy’s opera La Juive.
And, I’m sure to Marcel’s relief upon his introduction to Rachel as Saint-Loup’s mistress, he had stopped going to that particular “house” before he had actually “enjoyed” Rachel.
And on an entirely different note, this line of Saint-Loup’s, trying to convince Marcel of the worthiness of his cousin, Mme de Poictiers, made me laugh out loud.
“And then she’s the sort of woman who does a tremendous lot for her old governesses; she’s given orders that they’re never to be made to use the servants’ staircase.”
Moncrieff: Page 208 “And when they had ‘come around’ for her…” through Page 218 “…to bring matters to a head there and then.”
Treharne: Page 151 “And when she had been ‘sent for,”…” through Page 159 “…to have her way with him on the spot.”