Moncrieff: 123-133; 93-100
by Dennis Abrams
Saint-Loup, who is only in town for forty-eight hours, wants to avoid seeing Charlus. Saint-Loup thinks it odd that he should be given lessons in “worldly wisdom” by “people who have played the fool or are still doing so.” Saint-Loup, unaware of his uncle’s tastes, approves of his large number of mistresses. Saint-Loup, no longer in love, now approves of houses of assignation, “They’re the only places where you can find a shoe to fit you, sheathe your weapon, as we say in the Army.” Marcel expresses a desire that Saint-Loup should take him to the one he knows, which, he believes, must be far superior to the one that Bloch took him to. Saint-Loup, who promises to take him the next time he’s back on leave, tells Marcel about a young girl there, “who is the daughter of quite tip-top people; her mother was by way of being a La Croix-l’Eveque…more or less related, if I’m not mistaken, to my aunt Oriane. Anyhow, you have only to see the child to realize that she must be somebody’s daughter.” Saint-Loup praises the charms of Mme Putbus’s chambermaid. Charlus, in his efforts to get closer to the beautiful young sons of Mme de Surgis, approaches her with friendliness, praising her portrait done by Jacquet years before. Saint-Loup misreads his intentions, and thinks he’s hitting on her despite that fact that she’s the Duc’s current mistress. Saint-Loup, no longer in love with Rachel, is no longer interested in literature. Charlus points out Mme de Surgis’ sons to her, “as though he were completely unaware of their identity. ‘They must be a pair of orientals, they have certain characteristic features, they’re perhaps Turks,” both mocking her and laying the groundwork for her to introduce her sons, Arnulphe and Victurnien, to him. The different in the look that Charlus gives a woman he is flirting with compared to the “look which, while talking to her, he shot at a man whom he could pretend afterwards not to have noticed.” Saint-Loup, again misreading his uncle’s intentions, says he is only being kind to Arnulphe and Victurnien in order to get close to their mother. Swann approaches Saint-Loup and Marcel. Saint-Loup, no longer in love with Rachel, regrets his pro-Dreyfus stand, stating that “I am a soldier, and my first loyalty is to the Army.”
A few things:
1. This strikes me as a crucial line: “Like everybody who is not in love, he imagined that one chooses the person one loves after endless deliberation and on the strength of diverse qualifications and advantages.” Although, I think it is fair to say, that many of the marriages in the book are made along just those lines.
2. And this strikes me as remarkably true: “Nor is the uncle in the least hypocritical in so doing, deluded as he is by the faculty people have of believing, in every new set of circumstances, that ‘this is quite different,’ a faculty which enables them to adopt artistic, political and other errors without perceiving that they are the same errors which they exposed, ten years ago, in another school of painting which they condemned, another political affair which they felt to deserve a loathing that they no longer feel, and espouse those errors without recognising them in a fresh disguise.”
3. I can’t remember who asked, several months ago, about the origins of Saint-Loup’s pro-Drefyus stance, but now we know. His support of Dreyfus, his love of literature, his belief in love and disgust with seduction and brothels, all arose from his love of Rachel. With that gone, another Saint-Loup is emerging.
And finally, a bit more from Sean Wolitz’s The Proustian Community, examining how Proust himself made his way into the world of the Faubourg Saint-Germain:
“Proust then began to frequent the salons of the Murat, Wagram, Polignac, and Gramont. It was in 1894 at the Princesse de Wagram’s that he saw the queen of the Faubourg, Comtesse Greffulhe nee Chimay. Excited, Proust wrote the following to Montesquiou: ‘But all the mystery of her beauty is in the radiance; in the enigma above all of her eyes. I have never seen so beautiful a woman. I don’t feel I can introduce myself to her and I will not ask even that of you because apart from the indiscretion which could result, it seems to me that I would suffer a rather painful anxiety to speak to her.’ (Another talent we see Proust exploited was flattery.) Shortly after, Proust was introduced to her, but he never really became a member of her set. On May 21, 1898, Proust was mentioned in Le Gaulois as being at a ‘very elegant dinner, Monday night at the home of the Marquise de Brou.’ Present were the Duchesse d’Uzes, dowager, Comte and Comtesse Laugier-villars, Marquise de St. Paul, M. M. Le Myre de Vilers, M. Dumber, M. E. Pailleron of the Academie Francaise, M. Grosclaude, Marcel Proust, Prince Aymon de Lucigne. It may appear that it was a select party, but in truth it was rather mixed: literary people and ‘intellectual’ nobles — the usual fare for Proust. By 1904 he seems to have become quite friendly with the Princesse Bibesco, a novelist, and Anna de Noailles, a poetess: ‘I dined last night at the Noailles, where I dine rather often.’ In the same year he thought of joining a club and approached Antoine Bibesco, but he quickly withdrew when Antoine did not display much concern. By 1904 Proust commanded enough respect to invite to his party Comte Aymery de la Rochefoucauld, les Guiches (son of the Duc de Gramont and his new wife Elaine Greffulhe), Comtesse d’Haussonville, Duchesse de Gramont, Princesse de Chimay, and Madeline Lemaire, who all came. Obviously, this is the same ‘gratin’ which attended the great receptions of 1903.
It is of interest to note that salons constitute the first part of Proust’s early literary effort, his Chroniques — articles originally published in Le Figaro — which were flowery evocations of the ‘elite’ salons which Proust attended in the last years of the century: the salon of Princesse E. de Polignac, Comtesse d’Haussonville, Comtesse de Guerne, and so on. Proust, therefore, was already at work taking notes for his masterpiece. His active social life continued until a little after 1900 when inspiration at least rescued him.”
Tomorrow, we’ll look at whether Proust was, in fact, a social success.
Moncrieff: Page 133 “‘At last,’ said M. de Charlus to Mme de Surgis,'” through Page 146 “‘And I should certainly enjoy talking about it more than Charlus,’ he added.”
Sturrock: Page 100 “‘At last,’ said M. de Charlus to Mme de Surgis,” through Page 109 “‘And it would surely give me more pleasure than Charlus,’ he added.”