Moncrieff: 93-123; Sturrock: 72-93
by Dennis Abrams
Mme de Saint-Euverte attends the party “to ensure the success of her own,” the following day, and circulates among the guests at the Princesse de Guermantes’ reminding them of their promise to attend her garden party the next afternoon, which while “a gathering of great ladies,” is only a major event “for those whose social life consists exclusively in reading the accounts of afternoon and evening parties in the Gaulois or the Figaro, without ever having been present at any of them.” M. de Charlus has always refused to go to her house, “but he had quarreled with so many people that Mme de Saint-Euverte might put this down to his peculiar nature.” “And so she, a mere Saint-Euverte, set to work with her gimlet eyes to pick and choose among the Princess’s party. And she imagined herself, in so doing, to be every inch a Duchesse de Guermantes.” At the same time, the Duchess disparages the other attendees at the party “I cannot understand…how Marie-Gilbert can invite us with all these dregs. It looks as though there are people from every parish.” The Duchess’s timidity and fear of her husband, which goes so far as to make her afraid to shake hands with Swann while surrounded by anti-Semites. Oriane takes offense at Mme de Chausspiere. “What made her go and marry all these people I’ve never heard of?” Colonel de Froberville, the nephew of General de Froberville. An embassy “composed of widely different personalities, many of them extremely second-rate, so that, if one sought to discover what could have brought them together, the only one possible seemed to be inversion.” A discussion of what the Prince de Guermantes discussed in privatewith Swann: One theory, proposed by M. de Breaute, was “that it was about a little play which the writer Bergotte produced at their house,” in which “the actor made himself up to look like Gilbert.” (Mme de Guermantes enters the conversation to point out that everybody seems to be going to Swann’s, and since she will not, “I, who have deliberately remained aloof on principle, find myself left to mope alone in my corner.”) Colonel de Froberville proposes a second theory: The Prince has dressed Swann down and instructed him not to “show his face in the house again, in view of the opinions he flaunts.” M. de Vaugobert is ill received by the Duchesse de Guermantes, because “Oriane lived in the belief that all the diplomats –or politicians — of her world were nincompoops.” M. de Froberville’s favored place because of the increased prominence of military men in the social world, his invitation to Mme de Saint-Euverte’s garden party, which, although it is “a marvellous pleasure [he] would not have missed for all the gold in the world,” he also resents, and hopes for rain to spoil the party’s success. The Duke de Guermantes makes clear his feelings about Swann’s political views, and his resentment that the man he made his friend is now a traitor by being a Dreyfussard. Saint-Loup is forgiven for his views because he is seen as “young man gone astray, from whom nothing would be surprising until he began to mend his ways.” The Duchesse de Guermantes informs Marcel that Swann has told her that “he wants me to make the acquaintance of his wife and daughter before he dies.” The Duc de Guermantes insults a Bavarian musician of Oriane’s acquaintance. The Duchess announces she won’t be attending Mme de Saint-Euverte’s garden party because, as she is ashamed to admit, “I have lived all these years without seeing the stained-glass windows at Montfort-l’Amaury. It’s shocking, but there it is. And so, to make amends for my shameful ignorance, I decided that I would go and see them tomorrow,” an excuse that nobody believes because “if the Duchess had been able to live all these years without seeing the windows at Montfort-l’Amaury, this artistic excursion had not all of a sudden taken on the urgent character of an ’emergency’ operation and might without danger, having been put off for more than twenty-five years, be retarded for twenty-four hours.” Mme de Stugis, the Duc de Guermantes’ new mistress, and her two beautiful sons. The Marquise de Citri, whose “natural cantankerousness had given her a horror of high society which did not absolutely preclude social life,” which turned into an announced boredom with music, with beautiful things, and finally with life itself. Swann enters the room, “so whittled down, by illness, like a waning moon…Swann’s punchinello nose, absorbed for long years into an agreeable face, seemed now enormous, tumid, crimson, the nose of an old Hebrew…perhaps too, in these last days, the physical type that characterises his race was becoming more pronounced in him,” at the same time that his solidarity with the Jews, do to his support of Dreyfus, was also more pronounced. Marcel wonders, looking at Swann, how this could be the same man who he had so long invested with mystery, who he was ashamed to approach. Saint-Loup puts his hand on Marcel’s shoulder.
A long summation today, I realize, but honestly, even though not a lot actually happens in the section we read over the weekend, a lot did happen, as we dig further into the life of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.
I found myself torn between whose behavior was more horrendous: The Duc or the Duchesse de Guermantes.
The Duke in discussing Swann:
“It’s true that Swann is a Jew. But, until today…I have always been foolish enough to believe that a Jew can be a Frenchman, I mean an honourable Jew, a man of the world. Now, Swann was that in every sense of the world. Well, now he forces me to admit that I was mistaken, since he has taken the side of this Dreyfus (who, guilty of not, never moved in his world, whom he wouldn’t ever have met) against a society that has adopted him, had treated him as one of his own…And this is how he repays us!” (He goes on to recount how much Swann’s behavior and his marriage have hurt Oriane before continuing.) “Don’t you see, even from the point of view of his beloved Jews, since hs is absolutely determined to stand by them, Swann has made a bloomer of incalculable significance. He has proved that they’re all secretly united and are somehow forced to give their support to anyone of their own race, even if they don’t know him personally. It’s a public menace. We’ve obviously been too easy-going, and the mistake Swann is making will create all the more stir since he was respected, not to say received, and was almost the only Jew that anyone knew. People will say: Ab uno disce omnes.” (Translation: “From one learn to know all.”)
Breathtaking in its arrogance, it’s anti-semitism, and it’s complete lack of understanding of how anyone could betray the aristocrats who, to put it bluntly, took Swann “in” and befriended him even though he was Jewish, by supporting Dreyfus, the only possible reason for which could possibly be is Jewish solidarity.
Or…just as astonishing, this from the Duchesse de Guermantes when discussing that she has learned of Swann’s request that she finally agree to meet his wife and daughter before he dies.
“God knows I’m terribly distressed that he should be ill, but in the first place I hope it isn’t as serious as all that. And besides, it isn’t a valid reason, because otherwise it would be really too easy. A writer with no talent would only have to say: ‘Vote for me at the Academy because my wife is dying and I wish to give her this last happiness.’ There would be no more entertaining if one was obliged to make friends with all the dying. My coachman might come to me with ‘My daughter is seriously ill, get me an invitation to the Princesse de Parme’s.’ I adore Charles, and I should have having to refuse him, and so I prefer to avoid the risk of his asking me. I hope with all my heart that he isn’t dying, as he says, but really, if it has to happen, it wouldn’t be the moment for me to make the acquaintance of those two creatures who have deprived me of the most agreeable of my friends for the last fifteen years, and whom he would leave on my hands without my even being able to make use of their society to see him, since he would be dead!”
Astonishingly self-centered, astonishingly blind. Odette and Gilberte deprived her of Swann’s friendship? Really? In many ways, I think, her behavior is more unforgivable. What are your thoughts?
Moncrieff: Page 123 “Hallo, old boy, I’m in Paris for forty-eight hours,” through Page 133 “…by Mme de Marsantes, who was anxious for the marriage, the Ambresacs being extremely rich.”
Sturrock: Page 93 “Hello, mon petit, I’m in Paris for forty-eight hours,” through Page 100 “…by Mme de Marsantes, who wanted the marriage, the Ambresacs being very wealthy.”