Moncrieff: 439-450; Sturrock: 316-323
by Dennis Abrams
Brichot expands on the forest of Chantepie and the wood Chantereine. M. de Cambremer, right on schedule, praises the fish being served, “I say, that looks a fine beast,” a complement “by means of which he considered that he paid his whack at a dinner-party, and gave an immediate return of hospitality. ‘There’s no need to invite them back,’ he would often say, speaking to his wife of one or other couple of their acquaintance: ‘They were delighted to have us. It was they who thanked me for coming.'” M. de Cambremer praises his cure’s book, to which Brichot gives a series of slightly back-handed complements. Cottard, faced with Charlus’ silent treatment, turns his attention to Marcel and asks him about his breathlessness, much to the delight of M. de Cambremer, “…for this worthy man could not bear any reference to another person’s sufferings without a feeling of well-being and a spasm of hilarity which speedily gave place to the instinctive pity of a kind heart.” Earlier that afternoon, Marcel’s mother informed him that Albertine’s aunt, Mme Bontemps, approved of a marriage between her niece and Marcel; Marcel’s mother says that she’s not “keen on it,” and he “could certainly do a great deal better in terms of marriage,” but that since his grandmother would not have wanted her to influence his decision, it would be up to him, “And I shall always think well of her [Albertine] if she can make you happy.” The burden of too much responsibility. Saint-Loup’s possible engagement to the niece of the Princesse de Guermantes, “a girl of sham originality, whose mind was as mediocre as her temper was violent.” Mme Verdurin warns Mme de Cambremer that “You needn’t expect any light music here. In matters of art, you know, the faithful who come to my Wednesdays, my children as I call them, are all frightfully advanced.” Mme de Cambremer’s interest in Charlus “He seems intelligent…he doesn’t seem at all old, look, the hair is still young.” Mme de Cambremer values originality over knowledge. Brichot and more etymologies. Saniette is relieved that while Brichot talks, the Verdurins do not have a chance to be cruel to him. The slow-speaking Norweigan philosopher. More vegetable etymologies from Brichot. Madame Putbus’s holiday plan to visit Balbec has been diverted by Mme Verdurin to Venice. Charlus announces he has taken a home between Saint-Martin-du-Chene and Saint-Pierre-des-Ifs, prompting an invitation from Mme Verdurin: “I hope you’ll come over often with Charlie Morel. You have only to come to an arrangement with our little group about the trains, you’re just a stone’s throw from Doncieres.” Mme Verdurin hates people not coming by the same train and at the same hours when she sent carriages to meet them.
1. I find something rather endearing about M. de Cambremer, with his certainty that by complimenting the fish his hosts are so happy that the need for a reciprocal invitation is canceled out, and that by making a simple joke, “he imagined himself to be making at one and the same time, with a mixture of humility and aptness, a profession of ignorance and a display of learning.”
2. Which leads me to his charming wife, Mme de Cambremer, and her beliefs regarding knowledge and originality.
“‘What interests me most about M. de Charlus,’ she went on, ‘is that one can feel that he is naturally gifted. I may tell you that I attach little importance to knowledge. I’m not interested in what’s learnt.’
These words were not incompatible with Mme de Cambremer’s own particular quality, which was precisely imitated and acquired. But it so happened that one of the things one was required to know at that moment was that knowledge is nothing, and is not worth a straw when compared with originality. Mme de Cambremer had learned, with everything else, that one ought not to learn anything. ‘That is why,’ she explained to me, ‘Brichot, who has an interesting side to him, for I’m not one to despise a certain lively erudition, intereste me far less.'”
I don’t want to make a political point, but…um…can’t one imagine the words “I may tell you that I attach little importance to knowledge.” coming out of the mouth of one former governor of Alaska?
Also…what can M. and Mme de Cambremer possibly ever have to talk about? Even the Duke and Duchess de Guermantes have their shared interests (at least regarding their place in society) and they have developed a highly honed comedy routine, but the Cambremers?
3. Would anyone be interested in being able to purchase official Cork Lined Room t-shirts and/or coffee mugs?
4. And a truly horrible confession. The other night I had a dream that mashed the world of Proust with the Jersey Shore. I have nothing else to say about that.
To finish off today’s post, a bit more from George Painter and one of the “real-life” inspirations for Charlus.
“The train was for Coeur-Volant, on which Doasan’s conversation was so embarassing for Proust and his fellow-guests, left Saint-Lazare at 5 p.m., stopped for several minutes at every local station, and took over an hour for the journey. At Louveciennes the guests disembarked, amid titters and elbow-nudging from bystanders convulsed by their incongruous appearance in full evening-dress, into three decrepit victorias sent by Mme Aubernon. As at La Raspeliere, there was a long pull to the crest of the hill, where their hostess awaited them on the terrace. In her park was a lake with ducks, whose keep in bread was said by her cheating servants to cost a fortune — ‘It couldn’t have been more expensive if I’d had illegitimate children,’ she declared — and a meadow with two pretty little cows. Just before dinner Doasan would say to the men: ‘Let’s go and take a look at the cows”; and on the way each would step discreetly behind a tree, for indoor sanitation at Coeur-Volant was limited, and reserved for the ladies.
Mme Aubernon owned a seaside villa at Troubille, the Manoir de la Cour Brulee, which helped to suggest Mme Verdurin’s La Raspeliere and to connect Mme Aubernon with the district of Balbec. It had a magnificent view of the Channel, but the ‘three views’ of La Raspliere belonged, as we shall see, to Les Fremonts near by. The Cour Brulee was rented from Mme Aubernon by Mme Straus in 1892, and Proust perhaps saw it only as Mme Straus’s guest. No doubt the week-ends at Coeur-Volant, preceded as they were by the journeys with Brochard and Doasan in the little train, contributed more to the summer parties at the Cour Brulee to La Raspliere. We shall meet later, in their place, three other prototypes of the ‘little train’ of Sodome et Gomorrhe. The name of the villa hired from the Cambremers came from La Rachepeliere, a hamlet a mile west of Illiers on the Merglise way.
To complete the foreshadowing of Mme Verdurin’s salon in Mme Auberon’s it only remains to discover representatives of Swann and Odette among her guests. Paul Hervieu, the dramatist, was a little like Haas and Swann in appearance, with his rather frigid elegance, his upturned moustache (‘Hervieu has tiny icicles in the corners of his moustache,’ said Fernand Gregh), his air of weary sadness and irony. The remark made by Swann to a girl in a brothel — ‘How sweet of you, you’re wearing blue eyes to go with your sash’ — is modelled on a compliment of Hervieu at Mme Aubernon’s to the Baronne de Jouvenel: ‘I see you’re wearing black velvet eyes this evening.’ The lady on this occasion was not flattered, and replied: ‘Thanks very much — do you mean that I don’t wear them every day?’ At Mme Aubernon’s Hervieu met and fell in love with the beautiful and talented Baronne Marguerite de Pierrebourg (‘Mme de Pierrebourg is so eloquent,’ Mme Aubernon would say appreciatively)…
Moncrieff: Page 450 “I bet he’s an awkward customer, he’s got a very starchy look…” through Page 462 “…that he could pay any attention to these trivialities…”
Sturrock: Page 323 “He can’t always be so accommodating, he looks so stiff…” through Page 331 “…to suppose that he paid any heed to such bagatelles…”