Moncrieff: 589-602; Sturrock: 421-431
by Dennis Abrams
Summer is coming to end, darkness is coming earlier, and painters are painting cows. Putting on his dinner-jacket, Marcel is reminded of the evenings when he went with Saint-Loup to dine at Rivebelle and the evening that he thought he would be taking Mlle de Stermaria to dine on the island in the Bois. Humming a tune. The judge comments to Marcel on the Verdurins’ “making you travel by an hour by train in the dark, simply to dine with her. And then having to set out again at ten o’clock at night with a wind blowing like the very devil. It’s easy to see that you have nothing better to do.” His annoyance at not being invited. Nighttime train ride to the Verdurins. Marcel gives Albertine a vanity from Cartier (after consultation with Charlus) so that she won’t have to go upstairs alone with Mme Verdurin to “tidy up before dinner.” Charlus is now a regular, and “reckoned the most faithful of them all.” Charlus boards the train by himself and sits alone in a different compartment, and the others are embarrassed to travel with him. Dr. Cottard tries to explain to Mme Cottard about Charlus, telling her that he’s ‘a member of the confraternity,’ and ‘tapette,’ which she interprets as meaning that Charlus, a religious Catholic, is a “garrulous Jew.” Mme Cottard insists that the group joins Charlus in his compartment. Charlus’ volume of Balzac, “not a paper-covered copy, picked up on a bookstall, like the volume of Bergotte which he had lent me at our first meeting. It was a book from his own library, and as such bore the device: ‘I belong to the Baron de Charlus,’ for which was substituted at times, to show the studious tastes of the Guermantes: ‘In proeliis non semper,’ or yet another motto: ‘Non sine labore.” Dr. Cottard, who “had never cultivated his mind,” felt sorry for Charlus “when he said he was honoured to travel with us. One feels, poor devil, that he knows nobody, that he has to humble himself.” The group, “overcoming the qualms which they had all more or less felt in the company of M. de Charlus…had been pleased to admit that he was intelligent…”and “[his] abnormality itself had a sort of attraction for them.” Ski notices “a young railway man with the sweeping eyelashes of a dancing girl at whom M. de Charlus could not help staring,”and comments ‘if the Baron begins making eyes at the conductor, we shall never get there, the train will start going backwards.'” Disappointment when Charlus does not appear. Charlus takes liberties in discussing “certain subjects” before Morel boards the train at Doncieres. Charlus’s conviction that few know about his homosexuality. Mme Verdurin, who has been heard to say “We’ve all here now except the young ladies!’ on evenings when Charlus and Morel don’t appear, would still on nights when Morel had 48 hours’ leave, give them adjoining rooms, and to put them at their ease say ‘If you want to have a little music, don’t worry about us. The walls are as thick as a fortress, you have nobody else on your floor, and my husband sleeps like a log.”
I was fascinated by the look at the relationship between Charlus and the little group, the things said and unsaid, and their fascination at the new object of interest in their midst.
“The simplest maxims to which, adroitly provoked by the sculptor or the scholar, M. de Charlus gave utterance concerning love, jealousy, beauty, because of the strange, secret, refined and monstrous experience on which they were based, assumed for the faithful that charm of unfamiliarity with which a psychology analogous to that which our own dramatic literature has offered us from time memorial is clothes in a Russian or Japanese play performed by native actors.
I am also constantly surprised (as was Marcel) at Charlus’ capability for self-deception “…convinced as he was that his own morals aroused no suspicion in the minds of the faithful. He was well aware that there did exist in the world several persons who were, to use an expression which became habitual with him later on, ‘in the know’ about himself. But he imagined that these persons were not more than three or four, and that none of them was at that moment on the Normandy coast.”
Especially after this description of him at the railway station:
“…the passengers…used to see ths stout gentleman go by, with his grey hair, his black moustaches, his lips reddened with a salve less noticeable at the end of the season than in summer when the daylight made it look more garish and the heat liquefied it. As he made his way towards the little train, he could not refrain (simply from force of habit, as a connoisseur, since he now had a sentiment which kept him chase or at least, for most of the time, faithful) from casting a furtive glance, at once inquisitorial and timorous, at the labourers, the soldiers, the young men in tennis clothes, after which he immediately let his eyelids droop over his half-shut eyes with the unctuousness of an ecclesiastic engaged in telling his beads, and with the modesty of a bride vowed to the one love of her life or of a well-brought-up young girl.”
And finally, on a theme we’ve discussed before, Marcel’s musings on the different people he had been, corresponding to each time he had hummed the same tune: beginning to fall in love with Albertine, after he had ceased to love her, and now when he loved her again:
“I was delighted by the multiplicity in which I saw my life thus spread over three planes; and besides, when one becomes for an instant one’s former self, that is to say different from what one has been for some time past, one’s sensibility, being no longer dulled by habit, received from the slightest stimulus vivid impressions which make everything that has preceded them fade into insignificance, impressions to which, because of their intensity, we attached ourselves with the momentary enthusiasm of a drunkard.”
Moncrieff: Page 602 “For M. de Charlus had for the moment become for Mme Verdurin the faithfullest of the faithful…” through Page 615 “…but I felt myself greatly honoured by being of the same opinion as he.”
Sturrock: Page 431 “For M. de Charlus had become, momentarily, for Mme Verdurin the faithful of faithfuls…”through Page 439 “…I took it as a great honor to be of the same opinion as him.”