Moncrieff: 378-391; Clark: 261-271
by Dennis Abrams
Marcel’s lack of interest in Mme Verdurin’s tableware. Brichot, the Verdurin’s furnishings, and nostalgia for Rue Montalivet. Brichot’s appreciation for the beauty of the furnishings, which it could not have for newcomers, due to the memories it brought back, “all this sent echoing round him so many scattered chords, as it were, awakening in his heart cherished resemblances, confused reminiscences which…called to life, a form which as it were the idealisation, immanent in each of their successive homes, of the Verdurin drawing-room. Brichot suggests that he and Marcel “get the Baron on to his favourite topic. He’s prodigious.” Marcel’s desire not to leave Albertine alone for too long. Charlus looks back at the performance, praising Morel, wanting to congratulate him, “this is the moment made for tender words and embraces…” the moment the lock of Morel’s hair came loose.” The Baron offers to get Marcel his coat “Since you haven’t been well, you must take care of yourself. Let me go and fetch your coat. No, don’t go for it yourself, you’ll lose your way and catch cold,” but Brichot, anxious not to let “the prisoner,” interrupt the Mistress’s plan, goes instead. Ski at the piano, Bizet’s music. M. de Charlus announces his fondness for Marcel “everyone’s fond of you…” and his surprising fondness for Brichot, “He is a man of great merit, immensely learned, and his learning hasn’t shrivelled him up, hasn’t turned him into a pedantic bookworm like so many others who smell of ink.” Charlus at the Sorbonne attending Brichot’s lectures. Charlus is influenced by Brichot’s kindness to Morel, and because “he would cull from the Greek philosophers, the Latin poets, the oriental storytellers, appropriate texts which decorated the Baron’s propensity with a strange and charming florilegium.” Marcel’s pity for Charlus, now that he knows Mme Verdurin’s plan, “the sufferings that were in store for M. de Charlus was intolerable to me. I would have liked to warn him, but did not know how to do so.” Marcel’s lack of self-regard, “I derived from my grandmother such a want of self-importance as could easily make me seem lacking in dignity.” Pride and duels. Marcel asks Charlus if he will warn him if Mlle Vinteuil should return to Paris; Charlus, reminding Marcel of his former interest in him, agrees, “First of all because I owe you a great deal of gratitude. By not accepting what I proposed to you long ago, you rendered me, to your own loss, an immense service; you left me my liberty…For always man proposes and God disposes. If, that day when we came away together from Mme de Villeparisis’s, you had accepted, perhaps — who knows? — many things that have since happened would never have occured.” Mme de Villeparisis’s death, and her true place in society, as “the niece of the famous Duchesse de –, the most celebrated member of the higher aristocracy during the July Monarchy…” Brichot brings back the Baron’s coat instead of Marcel’s; Charlus, “arranging his overcoat round me, he smoothed it over my shoulders, fastened it round my throat, and brushed my chin with his hand apologetically.”
And all the while M. and Mme Verdurin are getting ready to make their revenge against M. de Charlus. Proust’s depiction of Charlus is among his finest, and the scene with Brichot and Marcel, I think, shows him from all sides — his arrogance, his pleasure in his own words, his potential for kindness, his love the arts and of Morel…
1. “This is the pleasant moment at a party, the moment when all the guests have gone, the hour of Dona Sol; let us hope that it will end less tragically. Unfortunately you’re in a hurry, in a hurry, no doubt, to go and do things which you would much better leave undone. People are always in a hurry, and leave at the moment when they ought to be arriving. We’re like Couture’s philosophers, this is time we go over the events of the evening, to carry out what is called in military parlance a review of operations. We might ask Mme Verdurin to send us in a little supper to which we should not care to invite her, and we might request Charlie — still Hernani — to play for us alone the sublime adagio. Isn’t it simply beautiful, that adagio? But where is the young violinist, I should like to congratulate him; this is the moment for tender words and embraces. Do admit, Brichot, that they played like gods, Morel especially. Did you notice the moment when that lock of hair came loose? Ah, my dear fellow, then you saw nothing at all. There was an F sharp which was enough to make Enseco, Capet and Thibaud die of jealousy. Calm though I am, I don’t mind telling you that at the sound of it I had such a lump in the throat I could scarcely control my tears…You know, that lock was a revelatory sign even for the most obtuse. The Princess of Taormina, deaf until then, for there are none so deaf as those that have ears and hear not, the Princess of Taormina, confronted by the message of the miraculous forelock, suddenly realised that it was music they were playing and not poker. Oh, that was indeed a solemn moment.”
Could a paragraph of his speech be confused with that of anybody else?
2. Mme de Villeparisis dead?
3. Charlus’s gratitude (if that’s the word) that Marcel did not accept his proposal, which left him at “liberty” as it were, to meet and fall for Morel.
4. And yet another prisoner in this book filled with prisoners — Charlus being held “prisoner” by Brichot and Marcel as his fate is being determined by the Verdurins.
Moncrieff: “I wanted to leave, but M. de Charlus…” through “M. de Charlus drew himself up with a haughty air.” Pages 393-404; Kindle locations 5110-18/5251-59
Clark: “I wanted to leave but, M. de Charlus…” through “M. de Charlus drew himself up haughtily.” Pages 271-278; Kindle locations 5140-46/5265-71