Moncrieff: 43-72; Clark: 32-51
by Dennis Abrams
The Duc de Guermantes’s new use of “well and truly.” “Talking of the Dreyfus case…” Oriane responds to Cartier’s “wit.” Duc de Guermantes, Jews, and Dreyfus: “That shocking crime is not simply a Jewish cause, but well and truly an affair of vast national importance which may bring the most appalling consequences for France, which ought to have driven out all the Jews…” The Duchess’s clothing, what is and is not appropriate for Albertine, and how to get copies made: “I must warn you that if you have things made from Callot’s or Doucet’s or Paquin’s copied by some small dressmaker, the result is never the same.” On his way home from Mme de Guermantes, Marcel runs into Charlus and Morel on their way to their daily tea with Jupien: “It may, incidentally, be observed that the regularity of habit is usually in direct proportion to its absurdity.” Charlus’s rage at the use by Jupien’s niece of the phrase “I’ll stand you tea,” a phrase she undoubtedly learned from Morel. A note from the doorman at a gambling club, addressed to “My dear Palamede” delights Charlus. The unbearable affectations of M. de Vaugoubert, who “referred to everything male in the feminine, and, being intensely stupid, imagined this pleasantry to be extremely witty…” The author’s note to his readers regarding his use of “weird characters.” Charlus approves of Morel’s interest in Jupien’s niece, believing it will give him more control over Morel. Charlus knows about Jupien’s niece’s previous “experience,” Morel doesn’t. Jupien’s niece receives invitations to the houses of “highly reputable ladies;” Morel’s disapproval. “Among the reasons which made M. de Charlus look forward to the marriage of the young couple was this, that Jupien’s niece would then be in some sense an extension of Morel’s personality, and so of the Baron’s power over him and knowledge of him.” Charlus believes that once Morel is married, with a family to support, that he will depend on him even more: “His wife too will be mine just as much he is; they will always behave in such a say as not to annoy me, they will obey my every whim, and thus she will be a sign (hitherto unknown to me) of what I had almost forgotten, which is so very dear to my heart — that to all the world, to everyone who sees that I protect and house them, to myself, Morel is mine,” to which the Narrator remarks, “For the possession of what we love is an even greater joy than love itself.” Morel’s dream of seducing and abandoning a girl fades. Morel believes that marrying Jupien’s niece will give him “greater freedom and also a wide choice of different kinds of women…His violin would suffice, together with his allowance from M. de Charlus, whose demands upon him would certainly be reduced once he, Morel, was married to the girl.” Morel’s letters asking for a “business appointment.” Morel borrows money from Bloch. Charlus alarms Morel by informing him that once he and Jupien’s niece are married, “he would never see them again and would leave them to fend for themselves.” Marcel returns home, bearing branches of syringa, and runs into Andree “who seemed to be distressed by the powerful smell of the flowers that I was bringing home.” The locked door, the disordered bed, the unlit rooms, the unfinished letter. Marcel, on those occasions when he is home alone waiting for Albertine to return home, turns to the works of Elstir, Bergotte and Vinteuil to calm his impatience, and “would unconsciously summon up from within me the dreams that Albertine had inspired in me long ago before I knew her and that had been quenched by the routine of everyday life. I would cast them into the composer’s phrase or the painter’s image as into a crucible, or use them to enrich the book that I was reading.” Marcel keeps Albertine hidden from his guests “so afraid was I that one of my friends might become infatuated with her,” while Albertine “went out to great lengths to ensure that I should have no cause for jealousy…” Albertine had changed: “Everything that she would have admitted to me readily and willingly when we were simply good friends had ceased to flow from her as soon as she had suspected that I was in love with her…” Andree is now more unlikable, “she was no longer as pleasant a companion as when I first knew here…a sort of sour uneasiness…” Her lie about the golfer. Albertine’s purchase of wool, Marcel’s sudden jealousy, “Andree was perhaps in league with Albertine.”
A most interesting section…
1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the last time we saw the Duc de Guermantes, he was returning from the spa he had gone to to escape going to his cousin’s funeral, and he had become a Dreyfusard. And now he wants to drive all the Jews out of France. Is this just because he lost the presidency of the Jockey Club?
2. Do you have the feeling that the whole Charlus/Morel/Jupien’s niece relationship is going to come to a bad end? And…does Jupien’s niece have a name?
3. And again… Marcel and Albertine…and for all his watchfulness…why does he trust Andree after what he thinks he saw occurring between her and Albertine at the casino?
4. And, this sudden interjection by “the author” (is this the only time he refers to himself as such?) struck me as…odd.
“Before we get back to Jupien’s shop, the author would like to say how grieved he would be if the reader were to be offended by his portrayal of such weird characters. On the one hand (and this is the less important aspect of the matter), it may be felt that the aristocracy is, in these pages, disproportionately accused of degeneracy in comparison with the other classes of society. Were this true, it would be in no way surprising. The oldest families end by displaying, in a red and bulbous nose, or a mishapen chin, characteristic signs in which everyone recognises ‘blood.’ But among these persistent and increasingly pronounced features, there are others that arenot visible, to wit tendencies and tastes. It would be a more serious objection, were there any foundation for it, to say that all this is alien to us, and that we ought to extract poetry from the truth that is at hand. Art extracted from the most familiar reality does indeed exist and its domain is perhaps the largest of any. But it is none the less true that considerable interest, not to say beauty, maybe found in actions inspired by a cast of mind so remote from anything we feel, from anything we believe, that they remain incomprehensible to us, displaying themselves before our eyes like a spectacle without rhyme or reason. What could be more poetic than Xerxes, son of Darius, ordering the sea to be scourged with rods for having engulfed his fleet?”
4. And finally, in reference to today’s headline, Proust did travel for a time in the same social circles as Coco Chanel, probably the first “dressmaker” to move in society.
Moncrieff: Starting with “Love, I used to say to myself at Balbec…” through “…in the figure once simply outlined against the sea.” Pages 72-83, Kindle locations 967-74/1108-15
Clark: Starting with “The person we love, I used to say at myself at Balbec…” through “…in the two-dimensional figure once outlined against the sea.” Pages 51-59; Kindle locations 1310-17/1444-50