Moncrieff: 298-311; Clark: 206-215
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel, Charlus, and Brichot are joined at the Verdurin’s courtyard by Saniette. “Is it not curious.” Charlus asks Marcel if he’s working on anything; Marcel responds that he was “greatly interested at the moment in old dinner-services of silver and porcelain…” Charlus’s hair “had now turned silver in patches.” “And yet, even beneath the layers of different expressions, of paint and of hypocrisy which formed such a bad ‘make-up,’ his face continued to hide from almost everyone the secret that it seemed to me to be crying aloud….For we have so extravagant a notion of certain entities that we cannot identify it with the familiar features of a person of our acquaintance.” M. de Charlus’s familiarity with the new footman. “‘It’s just the way he has,’ said the butler…” Will Marcel be returning to Incarville? The death of Princess Sherbatoff is announced. M. Verdurin’s anger at Saniette for bringing it up, and for using the phrase “Charged with the cloakroom.” Morel has declined an invitation from Mme Verdurin to perform at the house of friends because Charlus will not be able to attend, which annoys her. M. and Mme Verdurin’s enjoyment at bringing guests together, and their equal enjoyment in setting “people at odds, to estrange them from one another.” Their use of grievances and ridicule. “If two of the faithful went for walks together without first obtaining permission from the Mistress, these walks were the subject of endless comment, however innocent they may be. Those of M. de Charlus with Morel were not innocent.” Mme Verdurin’s desire to “‘enlighten’ Morel as to the ridiculous and detestable role that M. de Charlus was making him play.” Mme Verdurin’s anger at M. de Charlus for vetoing guests that she had wanted to invite to the evening’s performance. Saintine, his wife, and Mme Verdurin’s misunderstanding of who was more important. M. de Charlus’s enjoyment of his performance as an ‘actor’ when explaining why certain guests should be excluded. The Baron’s temper. “Now these pariahs were often people who ruled the roost, as the saying is, but who in M. de Charlus’s eyes had ceased to rule it from the day on which he had quarreled with them. For his imagination, in addition to manufacturing faults in people in order to quarrel with them, was no less ingenious in stripping them of all importance as soon as they ceased to be friends.” Charlus’s rejection of Countess Mole.
Once again, a party scene, and as we’ve learned, it’s at the parties that the plot moves on, new aspects of characters are revealed, and relationships change.
1. This made me laugh out loud, regarding the Verdurin’s dinner-service:
“…he assured me that I could not see any finer than those that the Verdurins had; that indeed I might have seen them at La Raspeliere, since, on the pretext that one’s possessions are also one’s friends, they were foolish enough to take everything down there with them…”
2. And, as you may recall, I wondered in previous posts what exactly happened when M. and Mme Verdurin were forced to spend time together alone. Now we know they almost never were — so instead of going at each other, they went after others:
“This was the desire to set people at odds, to estrange them from one another. It had been strengthened, had almost been carried to a frenzy during the months spent at La Raspeliere, where they were all together morning, noon, and night. M. Verdurin would go out of his way to catch someone out, to spin webs in which he might hand over to his spider mate some innocent fly. Failing a grievance, he would try ridicule. As soon as one of the faithful had been out of the house for half an hour, the Verdurins would make fun of him in front of the others, would feign surprise that their guests had not noticed how his teeth were never clean, or how on the contrary he had a mania for brushing them twenty times a day.”
Loved the “might hand over to his spider mate some innocent fly.” And, when it comes down to it, is their game of ridicule those who displease them any different than Charlus’s “…in addition to manufacturing faults in people in order to quarrel with them, was no less ingenious in stripping them of all importance as soon as they ceased to be his friends.”
3. And speaking of Charlus, I have to include part of Charlus’s diatribe against the very notion of Mme Verdurin inviting Countess Mole:
“Goodness gracious me! I suppose it takes all sorts to make a world…and if you, Madame, feel a desire to converse with Mme Pipelet, Mme Gibout and Mme Joseph Prudhomme, I’m only too delighted, but let it be on an evening when I am not present. I could see as soon as you opened your mouth that we don’t speak the same language, since I was talking of aristocratic names and you come up with the most obscure names of lawyers, of crooked little commoners, evil-minded tittle-tattles, and of little ladies who imagine themselves patronesses of the arts because they echo an octave lower the manners of my Guermantes sister-in-law, like a jay trying to imitate a peacock. I must add that is would be positively indecent to admit to a celebration which I am pleased to give at Mme Verdurin’s a person whom I have with good reason excluded from my society, a goose of a woman devoid of birth, loyalty or wit who is foolish enough to suppose that she is capable of playing the Duchesse de Guermantes and the Princesse de Guermantes, a combination which is in itself idiotic, since the Duchesse de Guermantes and the Princesse de Guermantes are poles apart.”
One can only imagine the look on Mme Verdurin’s face, the set of her jaw, while she listened to Charlus.
4. And finally, this description of Mme Verdurin:
“…she would become restless and excited, assuming that the newcomer occupied a ‘position’ which would make him a brilliant recruit to the little clan, and while pretending not to have heard anything, and preserving in her fine eyes, ringed with dark shadows by addiction to Debussy more than they would have been by cocaine, the exhausted look induced by musical intoxication alone, would resolve nevertheless behind her splendid brow, bulging with all those quarters and the headaches, thoughts which were not exclusively polyphonic…”
Moncrieff: “In addition to this, certain persons whom M. de Charlus regarded as negligible…” through “to become a father.” Pages 311-323; 4051-58/4202-9
Clark: “However, certain persons judged insignificant by M. de Charlus…” through “to be a father.” Pages 215-222; Kindle locations 4151-58/4282-89