Moncrieff: 378-389; Treharne: 273-281
by Dennis Abrams
Saint-Loup leaves, coolly telling his mother that “I’ve got to now. I don’t know when I shall get leave again. Probably not for a month. I shall write to you as soon as I know,” to which Marcel/Narrator remarks “Nothing is more prevalent than this odious form of vengeance on the part of those who appear to believe that rudeness to one’s family is the natural complement to ceremonial behavior.” Saint-Loup’s mother responds quietly, telling him “You know, it’s not at all nice of you,” and then is wracked with guilt at her response, telling Marcel “Poor boy. I’m sure I must have hurt him dreadfully. You see, Monsieur, mothers are such selfish creatures. After all, he hasn’t many pleasures, he comes so seldom to Paris. Oh dear, if he hadn’t gone already I should have liked to stop him, not to keep him of course, but just to tell him that I’m not vexed with him, that I think he was quite right.” Saint-Loup goes to Rachel, bearing the Boucheron necklace, but his gift is rejected by Rachel and “he could never persuade her to accept it.” Saint-Loup is ignorant of almost all of Rachel’s infidelities, and “one could have told him of them without shaking his confidence in Rachel.” Marcel tells Mme de Marsantes that he is leaving with M. de Charlus, and is overheard by Mme de Villeparisis, who tries to dissuade him from doing so. “‘Don’t wait for him, she said to me with a preoccupied air. ‘He is talking to M. de Faffenheim. He’s already forgotten what he said to you. You’d much better go now quickly while his back is turned.'” M. de Charlus catches up with Marcel on the stairs, and announces “We’ll walk until I find a cab that suits me.” M. de Charlus announces to Marcel that he could help him, but “I ask myself whether you are worth all the pains that I should have to take with you, and I have not the pleasure of knowing you well enough to be able to say.” M. de Charlus comments that “There is nothing so agreeable as to put oneself out for a person who is worth one’s while,” while Marcel protests that he doesn’t want to become a cause of anxiety for Charlus, “but so far as I am concerned you may be sure that everything that comes to me from you will give me very great pleasure. I am deeply touched that you should be so kind as to take an interest in me this way and try to help me.” Charlus is touched by Marcel’s words, and slipped his arms through his, “with that intermittent familiarity which had already struck me at Balbec…” The “intense fixity, that piercing hardness,” of Charlus’ gaze. Charlus turns down several cabs as unsuitable, describes Marcel as being of “the lower middle class (he accentuated the phrase in a tone of self-satisfaction)” while pointing out the illustriousness of own his family. “In the old days the King’s valets were recruited among the nobility; now the nobility are scarcely better than valets. But young bourgeois like you do read, and you must certainly know Michelet’s fine passage about my family: ‘I see them as being very great, these powerful Guermantes. And what is the poor little King of France beside them, shut up in his palace in Paris?'” Charlus tells Marcel that “I have often thought, Monsieur, that there was in me, thanks not to my own humble gifts but to circumstances which you may one day have occasion to learn, a wealth of experience, a sort of secret dossier of inestimable value, of which I have not felt myself at liberty to make use for my own personal ends, which would be a priceless acquisition to a young man to whom I would hand over in a few months what it has taken me more than thirty years to acquire, and which I am perhaps alone in possessing.”
This section is so good, so straightforward (except, perhaps, for the oddness of Charlus’ behavior), there’s not much to say. I would like to just give a quick description of Charlus himself:
Charlus, Palamded, Baron de:
Younger brother of the Duc de Guermantes, Prince des Laumes, Duke of Brabant, Squire of Montargis, Prince d’Oloron, of Carnecy, Viareggio and of the Dunes.
Really, it is no wonder that he is proud of his lineage.
And a reminder for those of you in Houston and the Houston area. Eric Karpeles, author of Paintings in Proust, will be speaking at the Museum of Fine Arts at 6:30 PM on Thursday, April 8. I hope to see you all there!
Moncrieff: Page 389 “M. de Charlus broke off to question me about Bloch…” through Page 402 “…and the cab set off at a brisk trot.”
Treharne: Page 281 “M. de Charlus broke off to question me about Bloch…” through Page 290 “…and off they set at a brisk trot.”
Enjoy. And seriously, you will.