Moncrieff: 396-407; Patterson: 269-276
by Dennis Abrams
Bloch’s friend and the American woman discuss Gilberte: “Well, isn’t she a Forcheville by birth? And what could be grander than that?” “For the American woman, dinner-parties and fashionable entertainments were a sort of Berlitz School. She heard the names and repeated them, without having first learnt their precise value and significance.” An old man declares that Marcel must have known Swann from the house of Mme de Guermantes, “not suspecting that what Swann represented for me was a country neighbor and a young friend of my grandfather.” The seriousness of such mistakes: Saint-Simon. Such forgetfulness creates a counter-agent, “a minor species of erudition, all the more precious for being rare…” Conversation with the friend of Bloch and the Duchesse de Guermantes is difficult because neither Marcel or the friend know the same names and histories. “So that though for ordinary speech she and I used the same language, whenit came to names our vocabularies had nothing in common.” Mme LeRoi, once a social force, “Today that name is utterly forgotten, nor is there any good reason why it should be remembered.” “For although we know that the years pass, that youth gives way to old age, that fortunes and thrones crumble (even the most solid among them) and that fame is transitory, the manner in which– by means of a snapshot — we take cognizance of this moving universe whirled along by Time, has the contrary effect of immobilising it.” The ignorance of people’s true social positions, “which every ten years causes the new fashionable elect to arise in all the glory of the moment as though the past never existed, which makes it impossible for an American woman just landed in Europe to see that in an age when Bloch was nobody M. de Charlus was socially supreme in Paris and that Swann…had been treated with every mark of friendship by the Prince of Wales, this ignorance…is itself also invariably an effect — but an effect operative not so much upon a whole social stratum as within individuals — of Time.” “…our memory, clinging still to the thread of our personal identity, will continue to attach to itself at successive epochs the recollection of the various societies in which, even if it be forty years earlier, we have lived.” Swann’s “role” in later life: “You mean the Swann who goes to Colombin’s?” “These errors, which split a life in two and, by isolating his present from his past, turn some man whom one is talking about into a different man, a creation of yesterday, a man who is no more than the condensation of his current habits (whereas the real man bears within himself an awareness, linking him to the past, of the continuity of his life), these errors, though they too, as I have said, are a result of the passage of Time, are not a social phenomenon but one of memory.” The Marquis de Villemandois. Bloch: a hyena, and, at close quarters, “an old Shylock.” Of what profit was his social climbing?
I really loved this:
“For although we know that the years pass, that youth gives way to old age, that fortunes and thrones crumble (even the most solid among them) and that fame is transitory, the manner in which– by means of a sort of snapshot — we take cognisance of this moving universe whirled along by Time, has the contrary effect of immobilising it. And the result is that we see as always young the men and women whom we have known young, that those whom we have known old we retrospectively endow in the past with the virtues of old age, that we trust unreservedly in the credit of a millionaire and the influence of a reigning monarch, knowing in our reason, though we do not actually believe, that tomorrow both the one and the other may be fugitives stripped of all power.”
“A name: that very often is all that remains of us a human being, not only when he is dead, but sometimes even in his lifetime. And our notions about him are so vague or so bizarre and correspond so little to those that he has of us that we have entirely forgotten that we once nearly fought a duel with him but remember that, when he was a child, he used to wear curious yellow gaiters in the Champs-Elysees, where he, on the contrary, in spite of our assurances, has no recollection of ever having played with us.”
Are we still reading a novel? In some ways, it seems to be transcending that, becoming…philosophical tract? Wisdom literature? As Marcel and the Narrator continue to slowly merge, the perspective gained makes this…a wonder to read.
With the mention of Mme Leroi disappearing from the pages of Time (so to speak) I had to go back to The Guermantes Way to get a glimpse of her…
“And between certain literary qualities and lack of social success the connexion is so inevitable that when we open Mme de Villeparisis’s Memoirs today, on any page an apt epithet, a sequence of metaphors will suffice to enable the reader to reconstruct the deep but icy bow bestowed on the old Marquise on the staircase of an embassy by a snob such as Mme Leroi, who may perhaps have left a card on her when she went to call on the Guermantes, but never set foot in her house for fear of losing caste among all the doctors’ or solicitors’ wives whom she would find there.”
“Remember as she might the words of the Queen, Mme de Villeparisis would have bartered them gladly for the permanent capacity of being everywhere which Mme Leroi possessed…”
“It must be remarked, however, that the absence of Mme Leroi from Mme de Villeparisis’s salon, if it distressed the lady of the house, passed unperceived by the majority of her guests. They were entirely ignorant of the peculiar position which Mme Leroi occupied, a position known only to the fashionable world, and never doubted that Mme de Villeparisis’s receptions were, as the readers of her Memoirs today are convinced that they must have been, the most brilliant in Paris.”
“Perhaps Mme Leroi also knew these European celebrities. But, as an agreeable woman who shunned anything that smacked of the bluestocking, she would as little have thought of mentioning the Eastern Question to a Prime Minster as of discussing the nature of love with a novelist or a philosopher: ‘Love?’ she had once replied to a pretentious lady who had asked for her views on love, ‘I make it often but I never talk about it.'”
Mme Leroi: Rescued from Time by Marcel.
Moncrieff: Pages 407-418 “From changes accomplished in society…” through “…how much of this value appertained to the lady herself.” Kindle locations: 5191-98/5337-45
Patterson: Pages 276-283 “From changes brought about in society…” through “…without asking myself how much of it the person of Mme de Souvre accounted for.” Kindle locations: 4972-79/5098-5105