Moncrieff: 615-646; Sturrock: 439-461
by Dennis Abrams
M. de Charlus cannot help eying the young men who get onto the train at the station after Saint-Martin-du-Chene, but only briefly before attempting to conceal the attention he gave them. Albertine’s clothes, chosen by Marcel and inspired by Elstir, “who had a liking for the sort of sobriety that might have been called British had it not been tempered with a softness that was purely French.” Charlus comments “It’s only the women who don’t know how to dress that are afraid of colours.” Balzac, Charlus, and his connection with the story of the Princesse de Cadignan. Morel’s lack of respect for Marcel’s parents as compared with his great uncle Adolphe. Thureau-Dangin. Morel encourages Marcel and his family to move to a better address, that of his deceased uncle Adolphe. “Ah! What you want is something in the style of 40bis! That’s a place that would suit you down to the ground! Your uncle knew what he was about. I’m quite sure that in the whole of Paris there’s nothing to compare with 40bis.” Charlus identifies with the Princesse de Cadignan, “How profound, how heartrending the evil reputation of Diane, who is afraid that the man she loves may hear of it. What an eternall truth, and much more universal than it might appear!” Charlus’s fear that when he and Morel return to Paris, that Morel’s parents will put an end to their relationship. Charlus is flattered and proud that he is allowed to take Morel home with him. Morel, now friendly to Marcel, speaks to him in the same way that Rachel had long ago. Morel, when with his fellow soldiers, either ignores or is rude to Charlus. Morel refuses to change his name to Charmel or to allow himself to be adopted by Charlus. The baseness and ill-breeding of Morel, “which, spring up on every occasion when he was in the wrong or was becoming a nuisance, meant that at the very moment when he needed all his niceness, all his gentleness, all his gaiety to disarm the Baron, he became somber and aggressive, tried to provoke discussions on matters where the other did not agree with him, and maintained his own hostile attitude with a weakness of argument and a peremptory violence which enhanced the weakness.” The fictitious duel: Charlus hopes to spend the afternoon and evening with Morel at Doncieres, but Morel turns him down, causing “M. de Charlus so keen a disappointment that, although he tried to put a brave face on it, I saw the tears trickling down and melting the make-up on his eyelashes as he stood dazed beside the carriage door.” Marcel and Albertine agree to stay with Charlus, who urges Albertine to go back home by herself, so that “We proceeded, the Baron and I, he waddling obesely, his jesuitical eyes downcast, and I followed him, to a cafe where we ordered some beer.” Charlus writes an eight page letter to Morel, telling him that he is going to fight a duel to avenge Morel’s honor and asks Marcel to deliver it, hoping that he will bring Morel back with him. The beautiful books that Charlus had given Morel, who refused to accept any labelled “I belong to the Baron.” Charlus has asked two friends, including Cottard, to be his seconds, and it seems certain that if Morel did not come back, he would have gone ahead and challenged “some officer or other with whom it would have been a relief to him to fight.” Morel, worried about his reputation, returns to the cafe with Marcel, and says “..I come, in the name of our friendship, to implore you on my bended knees not to commit this rash act.” Charlus is wild with joy that Morel, who is certain that “his comrades have tried to out him from his position” has returned, butm anxious to relish his victory over Morel, does not allow him to see this, and plays with him, asking how else he could respond “when they dared to ask me how a man like myself could associate with a gigolo of your sort, sprung from the gutter…I hope at least that my two adversaries, notwithstanding their inferior rank, are of a blood that I can shed without reproach…I am sure it will be a splendid sight…To see Sarah Bernhardt in L’Aiglon, what is that but cack? Mounet-Sully in Oedipus, cack…But what is it compared to that unimaginable spectacle, the lineal descendant of the Constable engaged in battle…What a tempting spectacle it would be for a painter. You who know Monsieur Elstier,’ he said to me, ‘you ought to bring him.'” Morel begs Charlus to allow him to stay with him for the next two days to give him a chance to talk him out of it, Charlus “reluctantly” agrees to find a way out. Charlus sees himself as the Archangel Raphael and Morel as Tobias. Cottard is both relieved and disappointed that there will be no duel. Charlus’s rudeness to Mme Cottard. When away, Morel writes to Charlus begging for twenty-five thousand francs, which Charlus refuses to give. Charlus’s partial longing for “Morel to fall out with him forever.”
The things we do for love. And again, how is one supposed to read this? Tragi-comedy is, I think, the only way to view it — the tragedy of Charlus and Proust’s ironic comedy. Poor Charlus…from the Duchess de Guermantes to the Verdurins, imaginary duels, and pleadings for money “owing to a ghastly affair.”
And the pattern repeats itself as Charlus, like Swann, like Saint-Loup, like Marcel himself, although very different characters in very different relationships, are torn between their longing for the people they love and a desire for their relationships to end, knowing what the ultimate result is going to be.
I loved this last section:
“…he could not help dwelling upon all the drawbacks that would be revived with this inevitable liaison…he would think up every conceivable supposition as to the enormity which had put Morel in need of twenty-five thousand francs, would give it every possible form, attach to it, one after another, a variety of proper names. I believe that at such moments M. de Charlus (in spite of the fact that his snobbishness, which was no diminishing, had already been overtaken if not outstripped by his increasing curiosity as to the ways of the people) must have recalled with a certain nostalgia the graceful, many-coloured whirl of the fashionable gatherings at which the most charming men and women sought his company only for the disinterested pleasure that it afforded them, where nobody would have dreamed of ‘doing him down,’ of inventing a ‘ghastly affair’ because of which one is prepared to take one’s life if one does not at once received twenty-five thousand francs. I believe that then, and perhaps because he had after all remained more ‘Combray’ at heart than myself, and had grated a feudal dignity on to his Germanic arrogance, he must have felt that one cannot with impunity lose one’s heart to a servant, that the people are by no means the same thing as society: in short he did not ‘trust the people’ as I have always done.”
How, exactly, has Marcel always “trusted the people?”
And since the notes are far better for the Sturrock translation than for the Moncrieff, here are the translations for the inscriptions in the books that Charlus had given Morel:
“Spec Mea” — “My hope”
“Expectata non eludet” — “He will not disappoint hopes.”
“J’attendrai” — “I whall wait.”
“Mesmes plaisirs de mestre.’ — “The same pleasures as the master.”
“Sustentant lilia turres” — “The towers support the lilies.”
“Manet ultima caelo.” — “The end belongs to heaven.”
“Non mortale quod opto.” — “I have the ambition of an immortal.”
“Atavis et armis.” — “By ancestors and by arms.”
And, for those of you who might have been wondering, a little bit about the Archangel Raphael and Tobias:
The Book of Tobit (Book of Tobias in the Vulgate; from the Greek: τωβιθ, and Hebrew: טובי Tobih “my good”, also called the Book of Tobias from the Hebrew טוביה Tobiah “Yahweh is my good”) is a book of scripture that is part of the Catholic and Orthodox biblical canon, pronounced canonical by the Council of Carthage of 397 and confirmed for Roman Catholics by the Council of Trent (1546). It is listed as a book of the Apocrypha in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Tobit is regarded by Protestants as apocryphal. It has never been included within the Tanakh as canonical by ancient Judaism. However, it is found in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), and Aramaic and Hebrew fragments of the book were discovered in Cave IV at Qumran in 1952. These fragments are generally in agreement with the Greek text, which exists in three different recensions.
This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite of the Tribe of Naphtali named Tobit living in Nineveh after the deportation of the northern tribes of Israel to Assyria in 721 BC under Sargon II. (The first two and a half chapters are written in the first person.) He was particularly noted for his diligence in attempting to provide proper burials for fallen Israelites who had been slain by Sennacherib, for which the king seized all his property and exiled him. After Sennacherib’s death, he was allowed to return to Nineveh, but again buried a dead man who had been murdered on the street. That night, he slept in the open and was blinded by bird droppings that fell in his eyes. This put a strain on his marriage, and ultimately, he prayed for death.
Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah prays for death in despair. She has lost seven husbands to the demon of lust — Asmodeus who abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. God sends the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and to free Sarah from the demon.
The main narrative is dedicated to Tobit’s son, Tobiah or Tobiyah (Greek: Τωβίας/ Tobias), who is sent by his father to collect a sum of money that the latter had deposited some time previously in the far off land of Media. Raphael represents himself as Tobit’s kinsman Azariah, and offers to aid and protect Tobias on his journey. Under the guidance of Raphael, Tobias makes the journey to Media, accompanied by his dog.
Along the way, he is attacked by a giant (or little) fish, whose heart, liver and gall bladder are removed to make medicines.
Upon arriving in Media, Raphael tells Tobias of the beautiful Sarah, whom Tobias has the right to marry, because he is her cousin and closest relative. He instructs the young man to burn the fish’s liver and heart to drive away the demon when he attacks on the wedding night.
The two are married, and the fumes of the burning organs drive the demon away to Upper Egypt, while Raphael follows him and binds him. Meanwhile, Sarah’s father has been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias (who he assumes will be dead). Surprised to find his son-in-law alive and well, he orders a double-length wedding feast and has the grave secretly filled. Since he cannot leave because of the feast, Tobias sends Raphael to recover his father’s money.
After the feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael tells the youth to use the fish’s gall to cure his father’s blindness. Raphael then reveals his true identity and returns to heaven. Tobit sings a hymn of praise.
He tells his son to leave Nineveh before God destroys it according to prophecy. After the prayer, Tobit dies at an advanced age. After burying his father, Tobias returns to Media with his family.
The book of Tobit is placed in the Vulgate among the historical books of the Old Testament, but most scholars regard it more as a religious novel with certain historical elements. Many of the historical details in the book contradict what is known about the history of the period from extra-Biblical sources but Catholic Bible scholars have provided a variety of ways for explaining these apparent discrepancies.
The book is also closely related to Jewish wisdom literature; nowhere is this more clear than in Tobit’s instructions to Tobias before his departure for Media in chapter 4. The value of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is particularly praised in this instruction; the Catholic Church often uses readings from this section in its liturgy. Because of the book’s praise for the purity of marriage, it is often read during Catholic weddings.
Doctrinally, the book is cited for its teaching on the intercession of angels, filial piety, and reverence for the dead.
The Sadducees’ challenge to Jesus of the example of the woman that had seven husbands serially (e.g., Mark 12:20-22) may have been an allusion to this book’s story, with Tobit’s righteous son Tobias as Sarah’s ultimate husband. Note that Sarah’s childlessness is allusive to that of her namesake Sarah, the wife of Abraham.
Moncrieff: Page 647 “The next station on the little railway…” through Page 657 “…or take up passengers at the succeeding stations.”
Sturrock: Pag3 461 “The little train’s next stop…”through Page 468 “…and pick up passengers at the next stations.”