Moncrieff: 70-81; Sturrock: 56-63
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel goes back inside to ask Charlus to introduce him to the Prince de Guermantes, noting the “artful simplicity of his evening coat which, by the merest trifles which only a tailor’s eye could have picked out, had the air of a ‘Harmony in Black and White’ by Whistler; black, white and red, rather, for M. de Charlus was wearing, suspended from a broad ribbon over his shirt-front, the cross, in white, black and red enamel, of a Knight of the religious Order of Malta.” Mme de Gallardon introduces her nephew, “the Vicomte de Courvoisier, a young man with a pretty face and an impertinent air,” to Charlus. Charlus dismisses the Vicomte with a curt and rude “Good evening, sir,” whether to assuage Mme de Gallardon’s worries about his morals or “to give himself the advantage of a pre-emptive attack,” Marcel is not certain. Charlus, despite his unhappiness at Marcel’s being invited to the reception without his say-so agrees to introduce him to the Prince, at least until Marcel assures him that he knows them quite well, and that “the Princess was very nice to me,” which causes Charlus to dismiss him. M. de Breaute agrees to introduce Marcel to the Prince. He is finally introduced to the Prince, and despite his polite aloofness, Marcel “realised at once that the fundamentally disdainful man was the Duke, who spoke to you at your first meeting with him as ‘man to man,’ and that, of the two cousins, the one who was generally simple and natural was the Prince. ” Swann arrives and is immediately carried off by the Prince to the furthest end of the garden for the purpose, some said, of showing him the door. The fountain of Hubert Robert, which, because of the breeze, sprays Mme d’Arpajon, who is prowling the garden in search of the Duc de Guermantes and his new lover, Mme de Surgis, with a heavy soaking of water, much to the amusement of Grand Duke Vladimir. Marcel reenters the house where he is greeted kindly by Charlus “It’s nice to see you here…you know I’m fond of you…” before falling into conversation with the Princesse de Guermantes, who comments that “I gather you’ll be dining with us both to meet the Queen of Italy at the embassy on Thursday. There’ll be every imaginary royalty — it will be most alarming,” much to Marcel’s surprise, who comments “They could not in anyway alarm the Princesse de Guermantes, whose rooms swarmed with them and who would say ‘my little Coburgs’ as she might have said ‘my little dogs.’ And so she said: ‘It will be most alarming,’ out of sheer silliness, a characteristic which, in society people, overrides even their vanity.” Marcel/the Narrator remarks that “the defects of a mere acquaintance, and even of a friend, are to us real poisons, against which we are fortunately immunised,” and “by saying ‘Babal” and ‘Meme’ to indicate people with whom she was not acquainted, the Turkish Ambassadress suspended the effects of the immunisation which normally made me find her tolerable. She irritated me…”
A couple of reminders for characters who have reappeared after disappearing for a time:
M. de Breaute (who finally introduced Marcel to the Prince de Guermantes) we met back in Swann in Love, during the musical evening at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte’s, where we saw him speaking to General de Froberville wearing a monocle. Later, Swann received an anonymous letter stating that Breaute had been among Odette’s lovers. Then, during Mme de Villeparisis’ salon in The Guermantes Way, Odette indicates that he is wittier than Bergotte.
Mme de Gallardon: (Who we saw introducing her nephew to Charlus) who we also first met in Swann’s Way, at the musical evening at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte’s. She is a Courvoisier and has made snide remarks about Swann’s Jewishness. But she is best remembered for this.
“…absorbed in her favorite subject of meditation, namely her kinship with the Guermantes family, from which she derived both public and in private and in private a good deal of glory not unmingled with shame, the most brilliant ornaments of that house remaining somewhat aloof from her, perhaps because she was boring, or because she was disagreeable, or very possibly for no reason at all…At that moment she was pondering the fact that she had never received an invitation, or even a call from her young cousin the Princesse des Laumes during the six years that had elapsed since the latter’s marriage…” But the Princesse has nothing other than contempt for her, and brushes off Mme de Gallaradon’s sad attempt to invite her to a musical evening at her house, even after she pleads that her husband was sick and “would so much like to see you.”
And finally, another excerpt from Sean Wolitz’s The Proustian Community, and his look at the real world of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. (Previous excerpts can be read in my two previous posts.)
“This is the world Mme Verdurin calls ‘the bores’ but desires intensely. This is the dream world of Marcel; this is the ‘chic’ world of Odette, the world of ‘success’ for Morel and Rachel, and the land of ‘final acceptance’ for Bloch. The Faubourg remained closed to them during the seventies; but with the fall of aristocratic politlcal power, a slow thaw set in in the eighties and was hastened by the political events of the nineties. Intimate and isolated, the Faubourg needed new faces, something exotic like Jews and reformed demi-mondaines, artists for cultural inebriations, and selected rich bourgeois who could be watched burning in envy and who made rich marriages. But did those who were finally allowed to enter become part of the Faubourg, or were they simply in it? Let us turn to Marcel Proust and observe this society from a different perspective.
Proust came from the high bourgeoisie strata of society, which had a basic prerequisite for possible social advancement: money. His father, an Inspector-General of Public Health, had placed his wife’s money so well that Marcel never had to work for an income. His social group, therefore, was as leisured as the aristocrats were. Though the individual was generally directed toward the bourgeois disciplines of law or medicine, many preferred the slippery but colorful career of social climbing. The extremely wealthy bourgeois imitated the aristocratic life: he owned a chateau, he rode to hounds, he gave cotillions in Paris, he sailed a yacht at Deauville; he had, in short, every accoutrement but position.”
More tomorrow. And why am I drawn to thoughts of Truman Capote, his life with the aristocracy of New York City, and his rejection by them after publishing the first two stories of Answered Prayers?
Moncrieff: Page 81 “But on thinking it over, I found another reason…” through Page 93 “…she would have jumped on a delivery-van rather than not go to it.”
Sturrock: Page 63 “But, on reflection, I discovered another reason…” through Page 72 “…she’d have climbed into a delivery-van rather than not have gone to it.”