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Title:     Time Regained
            (Le Temps Retrouvé )
            [Vol. 7 of Remembrance of Things Past—
            (À la Recherche du temps perdu)]
Author:     Marcel Proust
  Translated from the French by Stephen Hudson [Sydney Schiff] (1868-1944)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300691.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          April 2003
Date most recently updated: March 2014

Production notes: Words in italics in the book
                  are enclosed by underscores (_) in this eBook

The Saint-Euvertes of earlier volumes are here rendered as Sainte-Euvertes.
The abbreviations Mlle; Mme; are here changed to Mlle.; Mme.; to conform to
usage in previous volumes.

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:     Time Regained
            (Le Temps retrouvé )
            [Vol. 7 of Remembrance of Things Past—
            (À la Recherche du temps perdu)]
Author:     Marcel Proust
  Translated from the French by Stephen Hudson [Sydney Schiff] (1868-1944)


[PUBLISHER'S NOTE]

Marcel Proust's continuous novel _À la Recherche du Temps
Perdu_ (REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST) was originally published
in eight parts, the titles and dates of which were: I. _Du Coté
de Chez Swann_ (1913); II. _À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en
Fleurs_ (1918), awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1919; III. _Le
Côté de Guermantes_ I (1920); IV. _Le Côté de Guermantes_
II, _Sodome et Gomorrhe_ I (1921); V. _Sodome et
Gomorrhe_ II (1922); VI. _La Prisonnière_ (1923); VII.
_Albertine Disparue_ (1925); VIII. _Le Temps Retrouvé_
(1927).

_Du Côté de Chez Swann_ has been published in English as
SWANN'S WAY; _À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs_ as
WITHIN A BUDDING GROVE; _Le Côté de Guermantes_ as THE
GUERMANTES WAY; _Sodome et Gomorrhe_ as CITIES OF THE PLAIN;
_La Prisonnière_ as THE CAPTIVE; _Albertine Disparue_
as THE SWEET CHEAT GONE; and _Le Temps Retrouvé_ as TIME
REGAINED. The first seven parts were translated by C. K. Scott
Moncrieff; the eighth was first translated for Chatto &
Windus by Stephen Hudson.





"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past...."



"Oui, si le souvenir grâce à l'oubli, n'a pu
contracter aucun lien, jeter aucun chaînon entre
lui et la minute présente, s'il est resté à sa
place, à sa date, s'il a gardé ses distances, son
isolement dans le creux d'une vallée, où à la
pointe d'un sommet, il nous fait tout à coup
respirer un air nouveau, précisément parce que
c'est un air qu'on a respiré autrefois, cet air
plus pur que les poètes ont vainement essayé de
faire régner dans le Paradis et qui ne pourrait
donner cette sensation profonde de renouvellement
que s'il avait été respiré déjà, car les vrais
paradis sont les paradis qu'on a perdus."





VOLUME VII

TIME REGAINED

[Le Temps Retrouvé]

[Vol. 7 of Remembrance of Things Past]
[Vol. 7 of À la Recherche du temps perdu]





MARCEL PROUST

TIME REGAINED


_Translated [from the French] by

Stephen Hudson_ [Sydney Schiff]





TRANSLATOR'S DEDICATION

To the memory of my friend

CHARLES SCOTT MONCRIEFF

Marcel Proust's incomparable translator





TRANSLATOR'S NOTE

Baffled by the phrases on page 244 of the volume
of the French edition: 'La vie humaine et
pensante... dans une forteresse,' an appeal to my
friend Aldous Huxley brought me the reading I have
almost integrally adopted. Both of us are
conscious that this rendering is only approximate,
the obscurity being only partly due to the
elliptical nature of the passage. My belief is
that there has either been an editorial misreading
of Proust's manuscript or a mistake on the part of
the printer, neither of which occurrences are
infrequent in the series.

I have also gratefully to acknowledge valuable
emendations of the text suggested by Mr. A. G.
Chater.

                              STEPHEN HUDSON





CONTENTS

Chapter I
_Tansonville_

Chapter II
_M. de Charlus during the war, his
opinions, his pleasures_

Chapter III
_An afternoon party at the house of the
Princesse de Guermantes_





CHAPTER I

TANSONVILLE


TANSONVILLE seemed little more than a place to rest in between two
walks or a refuge during a shower. Rather too countrified, it was one
of those rural dwellings where every sitting-room is a cabinet of
greenery, and where the roses and the birds out in the garden keep you
company in the curtains; for they were old and each rose stood out so
clearly that it might have been picked like a real one and each bird
put in a cage, unlike those pretentious modern decorations in which,
against a silver background, all the apple trees in Normandy are
outlined in the Japanese manner, to trick the hours you lie in bed. I
spent the whole day in my room, the windows of which opened upon the
beautiful verdure of the park, upon the lilacs of the entrance, upon
the green leaves of the great trees beside the water and in the forest
of Méséglise. It was a pleasure to contemplate all this, I was saying
to myself: "How charming to have all this greenery in my window" until
suddenly in the midst of the great green picture I recognised the
clock tower of the Church of Combray toned in contrast to a sombre
blue as though it were far distant, not a reproduction of the clock
tower but its very self which, defying time and space, thrust itself
into the midst of the luminous greenery as if it were engraved upon my
window-pane. And if I left my room, at the end of the passage, set
towards me like a band of scarlet, I perceived the hangings of a
little sitting-room which though only made of muslin, were of a
scarlet so vivid that they would catch fire if a single sun-ray
touched them.

During our walks Gilberte alluded to Robert as though he were turning
away from her but to other women. It was true that his life was
encumbered with women as masculine attachments encumber that of
women-loving men, both having that character of forbidden fruit, of a
place vainly usurped, which unwanted objects have in most houses.

Once I left Gilberte early and in the middle of the night, while still
half-asleep, I called Albertine. I had not been thinking or dreaming
of her, nor had I mistaken her for Gilberte. My memory had lost its
love for Albertine but it seems there must be an involuntary memory of
the limbs, pale and sterile imitation of the other, which lives longer
as certain mindless animals or plants live longer than man. The legs,
the arms are full of blunted memories; a reminiscence germinating in
my arm had made me seek the bell behind my back, as I used to in my
room in Paris and I had called Albertine, imagining my dead friend
lying beside me as she so often did at evening when we fell asleep
together, counting the time it would take Françoise to reach us, so
that Albertine might without imprudence pull the bell I could not
find.

Robert came to Tansonville several times while I was there. He was
very different from the man I had known before. His life had not
coarsened him as it had M. de Charlus, but, on the contrary, had given
him more than ever the easy carriage of a cavalry officer although at
his marriage he had resigned his commission. As gradually M. de
Charlus had got heavier, Robert (of course he was much younger, yet
one felt he was bound to approximate to that type with age like
certain women who resolutely sacrifice their faces to their figures
and never abandon Marienbad, believing, as they cannot hope to keep
all their youthful charms, that of the outline to represent best the
others) had become slimmer, swifter, the contrary effect of the same
vice. This velocity had other psychological causes; the fear of being
seen, the desire not to seem to have that fear, the feverishness born
of dissatisfaction with oneself and of boredom. He had the habit of
going into certain haunts of ill-fame, where as he did not wish to be
seen entering or coming out, he effaced himself so as to expose the
least possible surface to the malevolent gaze of hypothetical
passers-by, and that gust-like motion had remained and perhaps
signified the apparent intrepidity of one who wants to show he is
unafraid and does not take time to think.

To complete the picture one must reckon with the desire, the older he
got, to appear young, and also the impatience of those who are always
bored and _blasés_, yet being too intelligent for a relatively idle
life, do not sufficiently use their faculties. Doubtless the very
idleness of such people may display itself by indifference but
especially since idleness, owing to the favour now accorded to
physical exercise, has taken the form of sport, even when the latter
cannot be practised, feverish activity leaves boredom neither time nor
space to develop in.

He had become dried up and gave friends like myself no evidence of
sensibility. On the other hand, he affected with Gilberte an
unpleasant sensitiveness which he pushed to the point of comedy. It
was not that Robert was indifferent to Gilberte; no, he loved her. But
he always lied to her and this spirit of duplicity, if it was not the
actual source of his lies, was constantly emerging. At such times he
believed he could only extricate himself by exaggerating to a
ridiculous degree the real pain he felt in giving pain to her. When he
arrived at Tansonville he was obliged, he said, to leave the next
morning on business with a certain gentleman of those parts, who was
expecting him in Paris and who, encountered that very evening near
Combray, unhappily revealed the lie, Robert, having failed to warn
him, by the statement that he was back for a month's holiday and would
not be in Paris before. Robert blushed, saw Gilberte's faint
melancholy smile, and after revenging himself on the unfortunate
culprit by an insult, returned earlier than his wife and sent her a
desperate note telling her he had lied in order not to pain her, for
fear that when he left for a reason he could not tell her, she should
think that he had ceased to love her; and all this, written as though
it were a lie, was actually true. Then he sent to ask if he could come
to her room, and there, partly in real sorrow, partly in disgust with
the life he was living, partly through the increasing audacity of his
successive pretences, he sobbed and talked of his approaching death,
sometimes throwing himself on the floor as though he were ill.
Gilberte, not knowing to what extent to believe him, thought him a
liar on each occasion, but, disquieted by the presentiment of his
approaching death and believing in a general way that he loved her,
that perhaps he had some illness she knew nothing about, did not dare
to oppose him or ask him to relinquish his journeys. I was unable to
understand how he came to have Morel received as though he were a son
of the house wherever the Saint-Loups were, whether in Paris or at
Tansonville.

Françoise, knowing all that M. de Charlus had done for Jupien and
Robert Saint-Loup for Morel, did not conclude that this was a trait
which reappeared in certain generations of the Guermantes, but
rather—seeing that Legrandin much loved Théodore—came to believe,
prudish and narrow-minded as she was, that it was a custom which
universality made respectable. She would say of a young man, were it
Morel or Théodore: "He is fond of the gentleman who is interested in
him and who has so much helped him." And as in such cases it is the
protectors who love, who suffer, who forgive, Françoise did not
hesitate between them and the youths they debauched, to give the
former the _beau role_, to discover they had a "great deal of heart".
She did not hesitate to blame Théodore who had played a great many
tricks on Legrandin, yet seemed to have scarcely a doubt as to the
nature of their relationship, for she added, "The young man
understands he's got to do his share as he says: 'take me away with
you, I will be fond of you and pet you,' and, _ma foi_, the gentleman
has so much heart that Théodore is sure to find him kinder than he
deserves, for he's a hot head while the gentleman is so good that I
often say to Jeannette (Theodore's fiancée), 'My dear, if ever you're
in trouble go and see that gentleman, he would lie on the ground to
give you his bed, he is too fond of Théodore to throw him out and he
will never abandon him'." It was in the course of one of these
colloquies that, having inquired the name of the family with whom
Théodore was living in the south, I suddenly grasped that he was the
person unknown to me who had asked me to send him my article in the
_Figaro_ in a letter the calligraphy of which was of the people but
charmingly expressed.

In the same fashion Françoise esteemed Saint-Loup more than Morel and
expressed the opinion, in spite of the ignoble behaviour of the
latter, that the marquis had too good a heart ever to desert him
unless great reverses happened to himself.

Saint-Loup insisted I should remain at Tansonville and once let fall,
although plainly he was not seeking to please me, that my visit was so
great a happiness for his wife that she had assured him, though she
had been wretched the whole day, that she was transported with joy the
evening I unexpectedly arrived, that, in fact, I had miraculously
saved her from despair, "perhaps from something worse." He begged me
to try and persuade her that he loved her, assuring me that the other
woman he loved was less to him than Gilberte and that he intended to
break with her very soon. "And yet," he added, in such a feline way
and with so great a longing to confide that I expected the name of
Charlie to pop out at any moment, in spite of himself, like a lottery
number, "I had something to be proud of. This woman, who has proved
her devotion to me and whom I must sacrifice for Gilberte's sake,
never accepted attention from a man, she believed herself incapable of
love; I am the first. I knew she had refused herself to everyone, so
much so that when I received an adorable letter from her, telling me
there could be no happiness for her without me, I could not resist it.
Wouldn't it be natural for me to be infatuated with her, were it not
intolerable for me to see poor little Gilberte in tears? Don't you
think there is something of Rachel in her?" As a matter of fact, it
had struck me that there was a vague resemblance between them. This
may have been due to a certain similarity of feature, owing to their
common Jewish origin, which was little marked in Gilberte, and yet
when his family wanted him to marry, drew Robert towards her. The
likeness was perhaps due also to Gilberte coming across photographs of
Rachel and wanting to please Robert by imitating certain of the
actress's habits, such as always wearing red bows in her hair, a black
ribbon on her arm and dyeing her hair to appear dark. Then, fearing
her sorrows affected her appearance, she tried to remedy it by
occasionally exaggerating the artifice. One day, when Robert was to
come to Tansonville for twenty-four hours, I was amazed to see her
come to table looking so strangely different from her present as well
as from her former self, that I was as bewildered as if I were facing
an actress, a sort of Theodora. I felt that in my curiosity to know
what it was that was changed about her, I was looking at her too
fixedly. My curiosity was soon satisfied when she blew her nose, for
in spite of all her precautions, the assortment of colours upon the
handkerchief would have constituted a varied palette and I saw that
she was completely painted. To this was due the bleeding appearance of
her mouth which she forced into a smile, thinking it suited her, while
the knowledge that the hour was approaching when her husband ought to
arrive without knowing whether or not he would send one of those
telegrams of which the model had been wittily invented by M. de
Guermantes: "Impossible to come, lie follows," paled her cheeks and
ringed her eyes.

"Ah, you see," Robert said to me with a deliberately tender accent
which contrasted with his former spontaneous affection, with an
alcoholic voice and the inflection of an actor. "To make Gilberte
happy! What wouldn't I do to secure that? You can never know how much
she has done for me." The most unpleasant of all was his vanity, for
Saint-Loup, flattered that Gilberte loved him, without daring to say
that he loved Morel, gave her details about the devotion the violinist
pretended to have for him, which he well knew were exaggerated if not
altogether invented seeing that Morel demanded more money of him every
day. Then confiding Gilberte to my care, he left again for Paris. To
anticipate somewhat (for I am still at Tansonville), I had the
opportunity of seeing him once again in society, though at a distance,
when his words, in spite of all this, were so lively and charming that
they enabled me to recapture the past. I was struck to see how much he
was changing. He resembled his mother more and more, but the proud and
well-bred manner he inherited from her and which she possessed to
perfection, had become, owing to his highly accomplished education,
exaggerated and stilted; the penetrating look common to the
Guermantes, gave him, from a peculiar animal-like habit, a
half-unconscious air of inspecting every place he passed through. Even
when motionless, that colouring which was his even more than it was
the other Guermantes', a colouring which seemed to have a whole golden
day's sunshine in it, gave him so strange a plumage, made of him so
rare a creature, so unique, that one wanted to own him for an
ornithological collection; but when, besides, this bird of golden
sunlight put itself in motion, when, for instance, I saw Robert de
Saint-Loup at a party, he had a way of throwing back his head so
joyously and so proudly, under the golden plumage of his slightly
ruffled hair, the movement of his neck was so much more supple, proud
and charming than that of other men, that, between the curiosity and
the half-social, half-zoological admiration he inspired, one asked
oneself whether one had found him in the Faubourg Saint-Germain or in
the Jardin des Plantes and whether one was looking at a _grand
seigneur_ crossing a drawing-room or a marvellous bird walking about
in its cage. With a little imagination the warbling no less than the
plumage lent itself to that interpretation. He spoke in what he
believed the _grand-siècle_ style and thus imitated the manners of the
Guermantes, but an indefinable trifle caused them to become those of
M. de Charlus. "I must leave you an instant," he said during that
party, when M. de Marsantes was some distance away, "to pay court to
my niece a moment." As to that love of which he never ceased telling
me, there were others besides Charlie, although he was the only one
that mattered to him. Whatever kind of love a man may have, one is
always wrong about the number of his _liaisons_, because one
interprets friendships as _liaisons_, which is an error of addition,
and also because it is believed that one proved _liaison_ excludes
another, which is a different sort of mistake. Two people may say, "I
know X's mistress," and each be pronouncing a different name, yet
neither be wrong. A woman one loves rarely suffices for all our needs,
so we deceive her with another whom we do not love. As to the kind of
love which Saint-Loup had inherited from M. de Charlus, the husband
who is inclined that way generally makes his wife happy. This is a
general law, to which the Guermantes were exceptions, because those of
them who had that taste wanted people to believe they were
women-lovers and, advertising themselves with one or another, caused
the despair of their wives. The Courvoisiers acted more sensibly. The
young Vicomte de Courvoisier believed himself the only person on earth
and since the beginning of the world to be tempted by one of his own
sex. Imagining that the preference came to him from the devil, he
fought against it and married a charming woman by whom he had several
children. Then one of his cousins taught him that the practice was
fairly common, even went to the length of taking him to places where
he could satisfy it. M. de Courvoisier only loved his wife the more
for this and redoubled his uxorious zeal so that the couple were cited
as the best _ménage_ in Paris. As much could not be said for
Saint-Loup, because Robert, not content with invertion, caused his
wife endless jealousy by running after mistresses without getting any
pleasure from them.

It is possible that Morel, being exceedingly dark, was necessary to
Saint-Loup, as shadow is to sunlight. In this ancient family, one
could well imagine a _grand seigneur_, blonde, golden, intelligent,
dowered with every prestige, acquiring and retaining in the depths of
his being, a secret taste, unknown to everyone, for negroes. Robert,
moreover, never allowed conversation to touch his peculiar kind of
love affair. If I said a word he would answer, with a detachment that
caused his eye-glass to fall, "Oh! I don't know, I haven't an idea
about such things. If you want information about them, my dear fellow,
I advise you to go to someone else. I am a soldier, nothing more. I'm
as indifferent to matters of that kind as I am passionately interested
in the Balkan Wars. Formerly the history of battles interested you. In
those days I told you we should again witness typical battles, even
though the conditions were completely different, such, for instance,
as the great attempt of envelopment by the wing in the Battle of Ulm.
Well, special as those Balkan Wars may be, Lullé Burgas is again Ulm,
envelopment by the wing. Those are matters you can talk to me about.
But I know no more about the sort of thing you are alluding to than I
do about Sanscrit." On the other hand, when he had gone, Gilberte
referred voluntarily to the subjects Robert thus disdained when we
talked together. Certainly not in connection with her husband, for she
was unaware, or pretended to be unaware, of everything. But she
enlarged willingly upon them when they concerned other people, whether
because she saw in their case a sort of indirect excuse for Robert or
whether, divided like his uncle between a severe silence on these
subjects and an urge to pour himself out and to slander, he had been
able to instruct her very thoroughly about them. Amongst those alluded
to, no one was less spared than M. de Charlus; doubtless this was
because Robert, without talking to Gilberte about Morel, could not
help repeating to her in one form or another what had been told him by
the violinist who pursued his former benefactor with his hatred. These
conversations which Gilberte affected, permitted me to ask her if in
similar fashion Albertine, whose name I had for the first time heard
on her lips when the two were school friends, had the same tastes.
Gilberte refused to give me this information. For that matter, it had
for a long time ceased to afford me the slightest interest. Yet I
continued to concern myself mechanically about it, just like an old
man who has lost his memory now and then wants news of his dead son.

Another day I returned to the charge and asked Gilberte again if
Albertine loved women. "Oh, not at all," she answered. "But you
formerly said that she was very bad form." "I said that? You must be
mistaken. In any case, if I did say it—but you are mistaken—I was on
the contrary speaking of little love affairs with boys and, at that
age, those don't go very far."

Did Gilberte say this to hide that she herself, according to
Albertine, loved women and had made proposals to her, or (for others
are often better informed about our life than we think) did Gilberte
know that I had loved and been jealous of Albertine and (others being
apt to know more of the truth than we believe, exaggerating it and so
erring by excessive suppositions, while we were hoping they were
mistaken through lack of any supposition at all) did she imagine that
I was so still, and was she, out of kindness, blind-folding me which
one is always ready to do to jealous people? In any case, Gilberte's
words, since the "bad form" of former days leading to the certificate
of moral life and habits of to-day, followed an inverse course to the
affirmations of Albertine, who had almost come to avowing
half-relationship with Gilberte herself. Albertine had astonished me
in this, as had also what Andrée told me, for, respecting the whole of
that little band, I had at first, before knowing its perversity,
convinced myself that my suspicions were unjustified, as happens so
often when one discovers an innocent girl, almost ignorant of the
realities of life, in a milieu which one had wrongly supposed the most
depraved. Afterwards I retraced my steps in the contrary sense,
accepting my original suspicions as true. And perhaps Albertine told
me all this so as to appear more experienced than she was and to
astonish me with the prestige of her perversity in Paris, as at first
by the prestige of her virtue at Balbec. So, quite simply, when I
spoke to her about women who loved women, she answered as she did, in
order not to seem to be unaware of what I meant, as in a conversation
one assumes an understanding air when somebody talks of Fourier or of
Tobolsk without even knowing what these names mean. She had perhaps
associated with the friend of Mlle. Vinteuil and with Andrée, isolated
from them by an air-tight partition and, while they believed she was
not one of them, she only informed herself afterwards (as a woman who
marries a man of letters seeks to cultivate herself) in order to
please me, by enabling herself to answer my questions, until she
realised that the questions were inspired by jealousy when, unless
Gilberte was lying to me, she reversed the engine. The idea came to
me, that it was because Robert had learnt from her in the course of a
flirtation of the kind that interested him, that she, Gilberte, did
not dislike women, that he married her, hoping for pleasures which he
ought not to have looked for at home since he obtained them elsewhere.
None of these hypotheses were absurd, for in the case of women such as
Odette's daughter or of the girls of the little band there is such a
diversity, such an accumulation of alternating tastes, that if they
are not simultaneous, they pass easily from a _liaison_ with a woman
to a passion for a man, so much so that it becomes difficult to define
their real and dominant taste. Thus Albertine had sought to please me
in order to make me marry her but she had abandoned the project
herself because of my undecided and worrying disposition. It was in
this too simple form that I judged my affair with Albertine at a time
when I only saw it from the outside.

What is curious and what I am unable wholly to grasp, is that about
that period all those who had loved Albertine, all those who would
have been able to make her do what they wanted, asked, entreated, I
would even say, implored me, failing my friendship, at least, to have
some sort of relations with them. It would have been no longer
necessary to offer money to Mme. Bontemps to send me Albertine. This
return of life, coming when it was no longer any use, profoundly
saddened me, not on account of Albertine whom I would have received
without pleasure if she had been brought to me, not only from Touraine
but from the other world, but because of a young woman whom I loved
and whom I could not manage to see. I said to myself that if she died
or if I did not love her any more, all those who would have been able
to bring her to me would have fallen at my feet. Meanwhile, I
attempted in vain to work upon them, not being cured by experience
which ought to have taught me, if it ever taught anyone anything, that
to love is a bad fate like that in fairy stories, against which
nothing avails until the enchantment has ceased.

"I've just reached a point," Gilberte continued, "in the book which I
have here where it speaks of these things. It's an old Balzac I'm
raking over to be on equal terms with my uncles, _La Fille aux yeux
d'Or_, but it's incredible, a beautiful nightmare. Maybe a woman can
be controlled in that way by another woman, but never by a man." "You
are mistaken, I knew a woman who was loved by a man who veritably
succeeded in isolating her; she could never see anyone and only went
out with trusted servants." "Indeed! How that must have horrified you
who are so kind. Just recently Robert and I were saying you ought to
get married, your wife would cure you and make you happy." "No, I've
got too bad a disposition." "What nonsense." "I assure you I have. For
that matter I have been engaged, but I could not marry."

I did not want to borrow _La Fille aux yeux d'Or_ from Gilberte
because she was reading it, but on the last evening that I stayed with
her, she lent me a book which produced a lively and mingled impression
upon me. It was a volume of the unpublished diary of the Goncourts. I
was sad that last evening, in going up to my room, to think that I had
never gone back one single time to see the Church of Combray which
seemed to be awaiting me in the midst of greenery framed in the
violet-hued window. I said to myself, "Well, it must be another year,
if I do not die between this and then," seeing no other obstacle but
my death and not imagining that of the church, which, it seemed to me,
must last long after my death as it had lasted long before' my birth.
When, before blowing out my candle, I read the passage which I
transcribe further on, my lack of aptitude for writing—presaged
formerly during my walks on the Guermantes side, confirmed during the
visit of which this was the last evening, those eyes of departure,
when the routine of habits which are about to end is ceasing and
one begins to judge oneself—seemed to me less regrettable; it was as
though literature revealed no profound truth while at the same time it
seemed sad that it was not what I believed it. The infirm state which
was to confine me in a sanatorium seemed less regrettable to me if the
beautiful things of which books speak were no more beautiful than
those I had seen. But, by a strange contradiction, now that this book
spoke of them, I longed to see them. Here are the pages which I read
until fatigue closed my eyes.


"The day before yesterday, who should drop in here, to take me to
dinner with him but Verdurin, the former critic of the _Revue_, author
of that book on Whistler in which truly the doings, the artistic
atmosphere of that highly original American are often rendered with
great delicacy by that lover of all the refinements, of all the
prettinesses of the thing painted which Verdurin is. And while I dress
myself to follow him, every now and then, he gives vent to a regular
recitation, like the frightened spelling out of a confession by
Fromentin on his renunciation of writing immediately after his
marriage with 'Madeleine', a renunciation which was said to be due to
his habit of taking morphine, the result of which, according to
Verdurin, was that the majority of the habitués of his wife's salon,
not even knowing that her husband had ever written, spoke to him of
Charles Blanc, St. Victor, St. Beuve, and Burty, to whom they
believed him completely inferior. 'You Goncourt, you well know, and
Gautier knew also that my "Salons" was a very different thing from
those pitiable "Maîtres d'autrefois" believed to be masterpieces in my
wife's family.' Then, by twilight, while the towers of the Trocadéro
were lit up with the last gleams of the setting sun which made them
look just like those covered with currant jelly of the old-style
confectioners, the conversation continues in the carriage on our way
to the Quai Conti where their mansion is, which its owner claims to be
the ancient palace of the Ambassadors of Venice and where there is
said to be a smoking-room of which Verdurin talks as though it were
the drawing-room, transported just as it was in the fashion of the
_Thousand and One Nights_, of a celebrated Palazzo, of which I forget
the name, a Palazzo with a well-head representing the crowning of the
Virgin which Verdurin asserts to be absolutely the finest of
Sansovinos and which is used by their guests to throw their cigar
ashes into. And, _ma foi_, when we arrive, the dull green diffusion
of moonlight, verily like that under which classical painting shelters
Venice and under which the silhouetted cupola of the Institute makes
one think of the Salute in the pictures of Guardi, I have somewhat the
illusion of being beside the Grand Canal, the illusion reinforced by
the construction of the mansion, where from the first floor, one does
not see the quay, and by the effective remark of the master of the
house, who affirms that the name of the Rue du Bac—I am hanged if I
had ever thought of it—came from the ferry upon which the religious
of former days, the Miramiones, went to mass at Notre Dame. I took to
reloving the whole quarter where I wandered in my youth when my Aunt
de Courmont lived there on finding almost contiguous to the mansion of
Verdurin, the sign of 'Petit Dunkerque', one of those rare shops
surviving otherwise than vignetted in the chalks and rubbings of
Gabriel de St. Aubin in which that curious eighteenth century
individual came in and seated himself during his moments of idleness
to bargain about pretty little French and foreign 'trifles' and the
newest of everything produced by Art as a bill-head of the 'Petit
Dunkerque' has it, a bill-head of which I believe we alone, Verdurin
and I, possess an example and which is one of those shuttle-cock
masterpieces of ornamented paper upon which, in the reign of Louis XV
accounts were delivered, with its title-head representing a raging sea
swarming with ships, a sea with waves which had the appearance of an
illustration in the _Edition des Fermiers Généraux de l'Huître et des
Plaideurs_. The mistress of the house, who places me beside her, says
amiably that she has decorated her table with nothing but Japanese
chrysanthemums but these chrysanthemums are disposed in vases which
are the rarest works of art, one of them of bronze upon which petals
of red copper seemed to be the living efflorescence of the flower.
There is Cottard the doctor, and his wife, the Polish sculptor
Viradobetski, Swann the collector, a Russian _grande dame_, a Princess
with a golden name which escapes me, and Cottard whispers in my ear
that it is she who had shot point blank at the Archduke Rudolf.
According to her I have an absolutely exceptional literary position in
Galicia and in the whole north of Poland, a girl in those parts never
consenting to promise her hand without knowing if her betrothed is an
admirer of La Faustin.

"'You cannot understand, you western people,' exclaims by way of
conclusion the princess who gives me the impression, _ma foi_, of an
altogether superior intelligence, 'that penetration by a writer into
the intimate life of a woman.' A man with shaven chin and lips, with
whiskers like a butler, beginning with that tone of condescension of a
secondary professor preparing first form boys for the
Saint-Charlemagne, that is Brichot, the university don. When my name
was mentioned by Verdurin he did not say a word to show that he knew
our books, which means for me anger, discouragement aroused by this
conspiracy the Sorbonne organises against us, bringing contradiction
and hostile silence even into the charming house where I am being
entertained. We proceed to table and there is then an extraordinary
procession of plates which are simply masterpieces of the art of the
porcelain-maker. The connoisseur, whose attention is delicately
tickled during the dainty repast, listens all the more complacently to
the artistic chatter—while before him pass plates of Yung Tsching
with their nasturtium rims yielding to the bluish centre with its rich
flowering of the water-iris, a really decorative passage with its
dawn-flight of kingfishers and cranes, a dawn with just that matutinal
tone which I gaze at lazily when I awake daily at the Boulevard
Montmorency—Dresden plates more finical in the grace of their
fashioning, whether in the sleepy anemia of their roses turning to
violet in the crushed wine-lees of a tulip or with their rococo design
of carnation and myosotis. Plates of Sèvres trellissed by the delicate
vermiculation of their white fluting, verticillated in gold or bound
upon the creamy plane of their _pâte tendre_ by the gay relief of a
golden ribbon, finally a whole service of silver on which are
displayed those Lucinian myrtles which Dubarry would recognise. And
what is perhaps equally rare is the really altogether remarkable
quality of the things which are served in it, food delicately
manipulated, a stew such as the Parisians, one can shout that aloud,
never have at their grandest dinners and which reminds me of certain
_cordons bleus_ of Jean d'Heurs. Even the _foie gras_ has no relation
to the tasteless froth which is generally served under that name, and
I do not know many places where a simple potato salad is thus made
with potatoes having the firmness of a Japanese ivory button and the
patina of those little ivory spoons with which the Chinese pour water
on the fish that they have just caught. A rich red bejewelling is
given to the Venetian goblet which stands before me by an amazing
Léoville bought at the sale of M. Montalivet and it is a delight for
the imagination and for the eye, I do not fear to say it, for the
imagination of what one formerly called the jaw, to have served to one
a brill which has nothing in common with that kind of stale brill
served on the most luxurious tables which has received on its back the
imprint of its bones during the delay of the journey, a brill not
accompanied by that sticky glue generally called _sauce blanche_ by so
many of the chefs in great houses, but by a veritable _sauce blanche_
made out of butter at five francs the pound; to see this brill in a
wonderful Tching Hon dish graced by the purple rays of a setting sun
on a sea which an amusing band of lobsters is navigating, their rough
tentacles so realistically pictured that they seem to have been
modelled upon the living carapace, a dish of which the handle is a
little Chinaman catching with his line a fish which makes the silvery
azure of his stomach an enchantment of mother o' pearl. As I speak to
Verdurin of the delicate satisfaction it must be for him to have this
refined repast amidst a collection which no prince possesses at the
present time, the mistress of the house throws me the melancholy
remark: 'One sees how little you know him,' and she speaks of her
husband as a whimsical oddity, indifferent to all these beauties, 'an
oddity' she repeats, 'that's the word, who has more gusto for a bottle
of cider drunk in the rough coolness of a Norman farm.' And the
charming woman, in a tone which is really in love with the colours of
the country, speaks to us with overflowing enthusiasm of that Normandy
where they have lived, a Normandy which must be like an enormous
English park, with the fragrance of its high woodlands _à la_
Lawrence, with its velvet cryptomeria in their enamelled borders of
pink hortensia, with its natural lawns diversified by sulphur-coloured
roses falling over a rustic gateway flanked by two intertwined
pear-trees resembling with its free-falling and flowering branches the
highly ornamental insignia of a bronze applique by Gauthier, a
Normandy which must be absolutely unsuspected by Parisians on holiday,
protected as it is by the barrier of each of its enclosures, barriers
which the Verdurins confess to me they did not commit the crime of
removing. At the close of day, as the riot of colour was sleepily
extinguished and light only came from the sea curdled almost to a
skim-milk blue. 'Ah! Not the sea you know—' protests my hostess
energetically in answer to my remark that Flaubert had taken my
brother and me to Trouville, 'That is nothing, absolutely nothing. You
must come with me, without that you will never know'—they would go
back through real forests of pink-tulle flowers of the rhododendrons,
intoxicated with the scent of the gardens, which gave her husband
abominable attacks of asthma. 'Yes,' she insisted, 'it is true, real
crises of asthma.' Afterwards, the following summer, they returned,
housing a whole colony of artists in an admirable dwelling of the
Middle Ages, an ancient cloister leased by them for nothing, and _ma
foi_, listening to this woman who after moving in so many
distinguished circles, had yet kept some of that freedom of speech of
a woman of the people, a speech which shows you things with the colour
imagination gives to them, my mouth watered at the thought of the life
which she confessed to living down there, each one working in his cell
or in the salon which was so large that it had two fireplaces.
Everyone came in before luncheon for altogether superior conversation
interspersed with parlour games, reminding me of those evoked by that
masterpiece of Diderot, his letters to Mlle. Volland. Then after
luncheon everyone went out, even on days of sunny showers, when the
sparkling of the raindrops luminously filtering through the knots of a
magnificent avenue of centenarian beechtrees which offered in front of
the gates the vista of growth dear to the eighteenth century, and
shrubs bearing drops of rain on their flowering buds suspended on
their boughs, lingering to watch the delicate dabbling of a bullfinch
enamoured of coolness, bathing itself in the tiny nymphembourg basin
shaped like the corolla of a white rose. And as I talk to Mme. Verdurin
of the landscapes and of the flowers down there, so delicately
pastelled by Elstir: 'But it is I who made all that known to him,' she
exclaims with an indignant lifting of the head, 'everything, you
understand; wonder-provoking nooks, all his themes; I threw them in
his face when he left us, didn't I, Auguste? All those themes he has
painted. Objects he always knew, to be fair, one must admit that. But
flowers he had never seen; no, he did not know the difference between
a marsh-mallow and a hollyhock. It was I who taught him, you will
hardly believe me, to recognise the jasmine.' And it is, one must
admit, a strange reflection that the painter of flowers, whom the
connoisseurs of to-day cite to us as the greatest, superior even to
Fantin-Latour, would perhaps never have known how to paint jasmine
without the woman who was beside me. 'Yes, upon my word, the jasmine;
all the roses he produced were painted while he was staying with me,
if I did not bring them to him myself. At our house we just called him
"M. Tiche". Ask Cottard or Brichot or any of them if he was ever
treated here as a great man. He would have laughed at it himself. I
taught him how to arrange his flowers; at the beginning he had no idea
of it. He never knew how to make a bouquet. He had no natural taste
for selection. I had to say to him, "No, do not paint that; it is not
worth while, paint this." Oh! If he had listened to us for the
arrangement of his life as he did for the arrangement of his flowers,
and if he had not made that horrible marriage!' And abruptly, with
eyes fevered by their absorption in a reverie of the past, with a
nerve-racked gesture, she stretched forth her arms with a frenzied
cracking of the joints from the silk sleeves of her bodice, and
twisted her body into a suffering pose like some admirable picture
which I believe has never been painted, wherein all the pent-up
revolt, all the enraged susceptibilities of a friend outraged in her
delicacy and in her womanly modesty can be read. Upon that she talks
to us about the admirable portrait which Elstir made for her, a
portrait of the Collard family, a portrait given by her to the
Luxembourg when she quarrelled with the painter, confessing that it
was she who had given him the idea of painting the man in evening
dress in order to obtain that beautiful expanse of linen, and she who
chose the velvet dress of the woman, a dress offering support in the
midst of all the fluttering of the light shades of the curtains, of
the flowers, of the fruit, of the gauze dresses of the little girls
like ballet-dancers' skirts. It was she, too, who gave him the idea of
painting her in the act of arranging her hair, an idea for which the
artist was afterwards honoured, which consisted, in short, in painting
the woman, not as though on show, but surprised in the intimacy of her
everyday life. 'I said to him, "When a woman is doing her hair or
wiping her face, or warming her feet, she knows she is not being seen,
she executes a number of interesting movements, movements of an
altogether Leonardo-like grace."' But upon a sign from Verdurin,
indicating that the arousing of this state of indignation was
unhealthy for that highly-strung creature which his wife was, Swann
drew my admiring attention to the necklace of black pearls worn by the
mistress of the house and bought by her quite white at the sale of a
descendant of Mme. de La Fayette to whom they had been given by
Henrietta of England, pearls which had become black as the result of a
fire which destroyed part of the house in which the Verdurins were
living in a street the name of which I can no longer remember, a fire
after which the casket containing the pearls was found but they had
become entirely black. 'And I know the portrait of those pearls on
the very shoulders of Mme. de La Fayette, yes, exactly so, their
portrait,' insisted Swann in the face of the somewhat wonderstruck
exclamations of the guests. 'Their authentic portrait, in the
collection of the Duc de Guermantes. A collection which has not its
equal in the world,' he asserts and that I ought to go and see it, a
collection inherited by the celebrated Duc who was the favourite
nephew of Mme. de Beausergent his aunt, of that Mme. de Beausergent who
afterwards became Mme. d'Hayfeld, sister of the Marquise de
Villeparisis and of the Princess of Hanover. My brother and I used to
be so fond of him in old days when he was a charming boy called Basin,
which as a matter of fact, is the first name of the Duc. Upon that,
Doctor Cottard, with that delicacy which reveals the man of
distinction, returns to the history of the pearls and informs us that
catastrophes of that kind produce in the mind of people distortions
similar to those one remarks in organic matter and relates in really
more philosophical terms than most physicians can command, how the
footman of Mme. Verdurin herself, through the horror of this fire where
he nearly perished, had become a different man, his hand-writing
having so changed that on seeing the first letter which his masters,
then in Normandy, received from him, announcing the event, they
believed it was the invention of a practical joker. And not only was
his handwriting different, Cottard asserts that from having been a
completely sober man he had become an abominable drunkard whom Mme.
Verdurin had been obliged to discharge. This suggestive dissertation
continued, on a gracious sign from the mistress of the house, from the
dining-room into the Venetian smoking-room where Cottard told me he
had witnessed actual duplications of personality, giving as example
the case of one of his patients whom he amiably offers to bring to see
me, in whose case Cottard has merely to touch his temples to usher him
into a second life, a life in which he remembers nothing of the other,
so much so that, a very honest man in this one, he had actually been
arrested several times for thefts committed in the other during which
he had been nothing less than a disgraceful scamp. Upon which Mme.
Verdurin acutely remarks that medicine could furnish subjects truer
than a theatre where the humour of an imbroglio is founded upon
pathological mistakes, which from thread to needle brought Mme. Cottard
to relate that a similar notion had been made use of by an amateur who
is the prime favourite at her children's evening parties, the
Scotchman Stevenson, a name which forced from Swann the peremptory
affirmation: 'But Stevenson is a great writer, I can assure you, M. de
Goncourt, a very great one, equal to the greatest.' And upon my
marvelling at the escutcheoned panels of the ceiling in the room where
we are smoking, panels which came from the ancient Palazzo Barberini,
I express my regret at the progressive darkening of a certain vase
through the ashes of our _londrès_, Swann having recounted that
similar stains on the leaves of certain books attest their having
belonged to Napoleon I, books owned, despite his anti-Bonapartist
opinions by the Duc de Guermantes, owing to the fact that the Emperor
chewed tobacco, Cottard, who reveals himself as a man of penetrating
curiosity in all matters, declares that these stains do not come at
all from that: 'Believe me, not at all,' he insists with authority,
'but from his habit of having always near at hand, even on the field
of battle, some pastilles of Spanish liquorice to calm his liver
pains. For he had a disease of the liver and it is of that he died,'
concluded the doctor."


I stopped my reading there for I was leaving the following day,
moreover, it was an hour when the other master claimed me, he under
whose orders we are for half our time. We accomplish the task to which
he obliges us with our eyes closed. Every morning he surrenders us to
our other master knowing that otherwise we should be unable to yield
ourselves to his service. It would be curious, when our spirit has
reopened its eyes, to know what we could have been doing under that
master who clouds the minds of his slaves before putting them to his
immediate business. The most cunning, before their task is finished,
try to peep out surreptitiously. But slumber speedily struggles to
efface the traces of what they long to see. And, after all these
centuries we know little about it. So I closed the Goncourt journal.
Glamour of literature! I wanted to see the Cottards again, to ask them
so many details about Elstir, I wanted to go and see if the "Petit
Dunkerque" shop still existed, to ask permission to visit that mansion
of the Verdurins where I had dined. But I experienced a vague
apprehension. Certainly I did not disguise from myself that I had
never known how to listen nor, when I was with others, to observe; to
my eyes no old woman exhibited a pearl necklace and my ears heard
nothing that was said about it. Nevertheless, I had known these
people in my ordinary life, I had often dined with them; whether it
was the Verdurins, or the Guermantes, or the Cottards, each had seemed
to me as commonplace as did that Basin to my grandmother who little
supposed he was the beloved nephew, the charming young hero, of Mme. de
Beausergent. All had seemed to me insipid; I remembered the
numberless vulgarities of which each one was composed....

"_Et que tout cela fît un astre dans la nuit_!"


I resolved to put aside provisionally the objections against
literature which these pages of Goncourt had aroused in me. Apart from
the peculiarly striking naïvete of the memoir-writer, I was able to
reassure myself from different points of view. To begin with, in
regard to myself, the inability to observe and to listen of which the
journal I have quoted had so painfully reminded me was not complete.
There was in me a personage who more or less knew how to observe but
he was an intermittent personage who only came to life when some
general essence common to many things which are its nourishment and
its delight, manifested itself. Then the personage remarked and
listened, but only at a certain depth and in such a manner that
observation did not profit. Like a geometrician who in divesting
things of their material qualities, only sees their linear substratum,
what people said escaped me, for that which interested me was not what
they wanted to say but the manner in which they said it in so far as
it revealed their characters or their absurdities. Or rather that was
an object which had always been my particular aim because I derived
specific pleasure from identifying the denominator common to one
person and another. It was only when I perceived it that my
mind—until then dozing even behind the apparent activity of my
conversation the animation of which masked to the outside world a
complete mental torpor—started all at once joyously in chase, but
that which it then pursued—for example the identity of the Verdurin's
salon at diverse places and periods—was situated at half-depth,
beyond actual appearance, in a zone somewhat withdrawn. Also the
obvious transferable charm of people escaped me because I no longer
retained the faculty of confining myself to it, like the surgeon who,
beneath the lustre of a female abdomen, sees the internal disease
which is consuming it. It was all very well for me to go out to
dinner. I did not see the guests because when I thought I was
observing them I was radiographing them. From that it resulted that in
collating all the observations I had been able to make about the
guests in the course of a dinner, the design of the lines traced by me
would form a unity of psychological laws in which the interest
pertaining to the discourse of a particular guest occupied no place
whatever. But were my portraits denuded of all merit because I did
not compose them merely as portraits? If in the domain of painting one
portrait represents truths relative to volume, to light, to movement,
does that necessarily make it inferior to another quite dissimilar
portrait of the same person in which, a thousand details omitted in
the first will be minutely related to each other, a second portrait
from which it would be concluded that the model was beautiful while
that of the first would be considered ugly, which might have a
documentary and even historical importance but might not necessarily
be an artistic truth. Again my frivolity the moment when I was with
others, made me anxious to please and I desired more to amuse people
with my chatter than to learn from listening unless I went out to
interrogate someone upon a point of art or unless some jealous
suspicion preoccupied me. But I was incapable of seeing a thing unless
a desire to do so had been aroused in me by reading; unless it was a
thing of which I wanted a previous sketch to confront later with
reality. Even had that page of the Goncourts not enlightened me, I
knew how often I had been unable to give my attention to things or to
people, whom afterwards, once their image had been presented to me in
solitude by an artist, I would have gone leagues and risked death to
rediscover. Then my imagination started to work, had begun to paint.
And the very thing I had yawned at the year before I desired when I
again contemplated it and with anguish said to myself, "Can I never
see it again? What would I not give for it?" When one reads articles
about people, even about mere society people, qualifying them as "the
last representatives of a society of which there is no other living
witness", doubtless some may exclaim, "to think that he says so much
about so insignificant a person and praises him as he does", but it is
precisely such a man I should have deplored not having known if I had
only read papers and reviews and if I had never seen the man himself
and I was more inclined, in reading such passages in the papers, to
think, "What a pity! And all I cared about then was getting hold of
Gilberte and Albertine and I paid no attention to that gentleman whom
I simply took for a society bore, for a pure façade, a marionnette."
The pages of the Goncourt Journal that I had read made me regret that
attitude. For perhaps I might have concluded from them that life
teaches one to minimise the value of reading and shows us that what
the writer exalts for us is not worth much; but I could equally well
conclude the contrary, that reading enhances the value of life, a
value we have not realised until books make us aware of how great that
value is. Strictly, we can console ourselves for not having much
enjoyed the society of a Vinteuil or of a Bergotte, because the
awkward middleclassness of the one, the unbearable defects of the
other prove nothing against them, since their genius is manifested by
their works; and the same applies to the pretentious vulgarity of an
Elstir in early days. Thus the journal of the Goncourts made me
discover that Elstir was none other than the "M. Tiche" who had once
inflicted upon Swann such exasperating lectures at the Verdurins. But
what man of genius has not adopted the irritating conversational
manner of artists of his own circle before acquiring (as Elstir did,
though it happens rarely) superior taste. Are not the letters of
Balzac, for instance, smeared with vulgar terms which Swann would
rather have died than use? And yet, it is probable that Swann, so
sensitive, so completely exempt from every dislikeable idiosyncrasy,
would have been incapable of writing _Cousine Bette_ and _Le Curé de
Tours_. Therefore, whether or no memoirs are wrong to endow with charm
a society which has displeased us, is a problem of small importance,
since, even if the writer of these memoirs is mistaken, that proves
nothing against the value of a society which produces such genius and
which existed no less in the works of Vinteuil, of Elstir and of
Bergotte.

Quite at the other extremity of experience, when I remarked that the
very curious anecdotes which are the inexhaustible material of the
journal of the Goncourts and a diversion for solitary evenings, had
been related to him by those guests whom in reading his pages we
should have envied him knowing, it was not so very difficult to
explain why they had left no trace of interesting memory in my mind.
In spite of the ingenuousness of Goncourt, who supposed that the
interest of these anecdotes lay in the distinction of the man who told
them, it can very well be that mediocre people might have experienced
during their lives or heard tell of curious things which they related
in their turn. Goncourt knew how to listen as he knew how to observe,
and I do not. Moreover, it was necessary to judge all these happenings
one by one. M. de Guermantes certainly had not given me the
impression of that adorable model of juvenile grace whom my
grandmother so much wanted to know and set before my eyes as
inimitable according to the _Mémoires of Mme. de Beausergent_. One must
remember that Basin was at that time seven years old, that the writer
was his aunt and that even husbands who are going to divorce their
wives a few months later are loud in praise of them. One of the most
charming poems of Sainte-Beuve is consecrated to the apparition beside
a fountain of a young child crowned with gifts and graces, the
youthful Mlle. de Champlâtreux who was not more than ten years old. In
spite of all the tender veneration felt by that poet of genius, the
Comtesse de Noailles, for her mother-in-law the Duchesse de Noailles,
born Champlâtreux, it is possible, if she were to paint her portrait,
that it would contrast rather piquantly with the one Sainte-Beuve drew
fifty years earlier.

What may perhaps be regarded as more disturbing, is something in
between, personages in whose case what is said implies more than a
memory which is able to retain a curious anecdote yet without one's
having, as in the case of the Vinteuils, the Bergottes, the resource
of judging them by their work; they have not created, they have
only—to our great astonishment, for we found them so
mediocre—inspired. Again it happens that the salon which, in public
galleries, gives the greatest impression of elegance in great
paintings of the Renaissance and onwards, is that of a little
ridiculous bourgeoise whom after seeing the picture, I might, if I had
not known her, have yearned to approach in the flesh, hoping to learn
from her precious secrets that the painter's art did not reveal to me
in his canvas, though her majestic velvet train and laces formed a
passage of painting comparable to the most splendid of Titians. If
only in bygone days I had understood that it is not the wittiest man,
the best educated, the man with the best social relationships who
becomes a Bergotte but he who knows how to become a mirror and is
thereby enabled to reflect his own life, however commonplace, (though
his contemporaries might consider him less gifted than Swann and less
erudite than Bréauté) and one can say the same, with still more
reason, of an artist's models. The awakening of love of beauty in the
artist who can paint everything may be stimulated, the elegance in
which he could find such beautiful motifs may be supplied, by people
rather richer than himself—at whose houses he would find what he was
not accustomed to in his studio of an unknown genius selling his
canvases for fifty francs; for instance, a drawing-room upholstered in
old silk, many lamps, beautiful flowers and fruit, handsome
dresses—relatively modest folk, (or who would appear that to people
of fashion who are not even aware of the others' existence) who for
that very reason are more in a position to make the acquaintance of an
obscure artist, to appreciate him, to invite him and buy his pictures,
than aristocrats who get themselves painted like a Pope or a Prime
Minister by academic painters. Would not the poetry of an elegant
interior and of the beautiful dresses of our period be discovered by
posterity in the drawing-room of the publisher Charpentier by Renoir
rather than in the portrait of the Princesse de Sagan or of the
Comtesse de La Rochefoucauld by Cotte or Chaplin? The artists who have
given us the most resplendent visions of elegance have collected the
elements at the homes of people who were rarely the leaders of fashion
of their period; for the latter are seldom painted by the unknown
depositary of a beauty they are unable to distinguish on his canvases,
disguised as it is by the interposition of a vulgar burlesque of
superannuated grace which floats before the public eye in the same way
as the subjective visions which an invalid believes are actually
before him. But that these mediocre models whom I had known could have
inspired, advised certain arrangements which had enchanted me, that
the presence of such an one of them in the picture was less that of a
model, than of a friend whom a painter wishes to figure in his canvas,
was like asking oneself whether we regret not having known all these
personages because Balzac painted them in his books or dedicated his
books to them as the homage of his admiration, to whom Sainte-Beuve or
Baudelaire wrote their loveliest verses, still more if all the
Récamiers, all the Pompadours would not have seemed to me
insignificant people, whether owing to a temperamental defect which
made me resent being ill and unable to return and see the people I had
misjudged, or because they might only owe their prestige to the
illusory magic of literature which forced me to change my standard of
values and consoled me for being obliged from one day to the other, on
account of the progress which my illness was making, to break with
society, renounce travel and going to galleries and museums in order
that I could be nursed in a sanatorium. Perhaps, however, this
deceptive side, this artificial illumination, only exists in memoirs
when they are too recent, too close to reputations, whether
intellectual or fashionable, which will quickly vanish, (and if
erudition then tries to react against this burial, will it succeed in
dispelling one out of a thousand of these oblivions which keep on
accumulating?)

These ideas tending some to diminish, others to increase my regret
that I had no gift for literature, no longer occupied my mind during
the long years I spent as an invalid in a sanatorium far from Paris
and I had altogether renounced the project of writing until the
sanatorium was unable to find a medical staff at the beginning of
1916. I then returned, as will be seen, to a very different Paris from
the Paris where I returned in August, 1914, when I underwent medical
examination, after which I went back to the sanatorium.





CHAPTER II

M. DE CHARLUS DURING THE WAR, HIS OPINIONS, HIS PLEASURES


ON one of the first evenings after my return to Paris in 1916, wanting
to hear about the only thing that interested me, the war, I went out
after dinner to see Mme. Verdurin, for she was, together with Mme.
Bontemps, one of the queens of that Paris of the war which reminded
one of the Directory. As the leavening by a small quantity of yeast
appears to be a spontaneous germination, young women were running
about all day wearing cylindrical turbans on their heads as though
they were contemporaries of Mme. Tallien, As a proof of public spirit
they wore straight Egyptian tunics, dark and very "warlike" above
their short skirts, they were shod in sandals, recalling Talma's
buskin or high leggings like those of our beloved combatants. It was,
they said, because they did not forget it was their duty to rejoice
the eyes of those combatants that they still adorned themselves not
only with _flou_ dresses but also with jewels evoking the armies by
their decorative theme if indeed their material did not come from the
armies and had not been worked by them. Instead of Egyptian ornaments
recalling the campaign of Egypt, they wore rings or bracelets made out
of fragments of shell or beltings of the "seventy-fives",
cigarette-lighters consisting of two English half-pennies to which a
soldier in his dug-out had succeeded in giving a patina so beautiful
that the profile of Queen Victoria might have been traced on it by
Pisanello. It was again, they said, because they never ceased thinking
of their own people, that they hardly wore mourning when one of them
fell, the pretext being that he was proud to die, which enabled them
to wear a close bonnet of white English crêpe (graceful of effect and
encouraging to aspirants) while the invincible certainty of final
triumph enabled them to replace the earlier cashmire by satins and
silk muslins and even to wear their pearls "while observing that tact
and discretion of which it is unnecessary to remind French women."

The Louvre and all the museums were closed and when one read at the
head of an article "Sensational Exhibition" one might be certain it
was not an exhibition of pictures but of dresses destined to quicken
"those delicate artistic delights of which Parisian women have been
too long deprived." It was thus that elegance and pleasure had
regained their hold; fashion, in default of art, sought to excuse
itself, just as artists exhibiting at the revolutionary salon in 1793
proclaimed that it would be a mistake if it were regarded as
"inappropriate by austere Republicans that we should be engaged in art
when coalesced Europe is besieging the territory of liberty." The
dressmakers acted in the same spirit in 1916 and asserted with the
self-conscious conceit of the artist, that "to seek what was new, to
avoid banality, to prepare for victory, by disengaging a new formula
of beauty for the generations after the war, was their absorbing
ambition, the chimera they were pursuing as would be discovered by
those who came to visit their salons delightfully situated in such and
such a street, where the exclusion of the mournful preoccupations of
the moment with the restraint imposed by circumstances and the
substitution of cheerfulness and brightness was the order of the day.
The sorrows of the hour might, it is true, have got the better of
feminine» energy if we had not such lofty examples of courage and
endurance to meditate. So, thinking of our combatants in the trenches
who dream of more comfort and coquetry for the dear one at home, let
us unceasingly labour to introduce into the creation of dresses that
novelty which responds to the needs of the moment. Fashion, it must be
conceded, is especially associated with the English, consequently with
allied firms and this year the really smart thing is the
_robe-tonneau_ the charming freedom of which gives to all our young
women an amusing and distinguished _cachet_. 'It will indeed be one of
the happiest consequences of this sad war' the delightful chronicler
added (while awaiting the recapture of the lost provinces and the
rekindling of national sentiment)'to have secured such charming
results in the way of dress with so little material and to have
created coquetry out of nothing without ill-timed luxury and bad
style. At the present time dresses made at home are preferred to those
made in several series by great dress-makers, because each one is
evidence of the intelligence, taste and individuality of the maker.'"
As to charity, when we remember all the unhappiness born of the
invasion, of the many wounded and mutilated, obviously it should
become "ever more ingenious" and compel the ladies in the high turbans
to spend the afternoon taking tea at the bridge-table commenting on
the news from the front while their automobiles await them at the door
with a handsome soldier on the seat conversing with the _chasseur_.
For that matter it was not only the high cylindrical hats which were
new but also the faces they surmounted. The ladies in the new hats
were young women come one hardly knew whence, who had become the
flower of fashion, some during the last six months, others during the
last two years, others again during the last four. These differences
were as important for them as, when I made my first appearance in
society, were those between two families like the Guermantes and the
Rochefoucaulds with three or four centuries of ancient lineage. The
lady who had known the Guermantes since 1914 considered another who
had been introduced to them in 1916 a parvenue, gave her the nod of a
dowager duchess while inspecting her through her _lorgnon_, and avowed
with a significant gesture that no one in society knew whether the
lady was even married. "All this is rather sickening," concluded the
lady of 1914, who would have liked the cycle of the newly-admitted to
end with herself. These newcomers whom young men considered decidedly
elderly and whom certain old men who had not been exclusively in the
best society, seemed to recognise as not being so new as all that, did
something more than offer society the diversions of political
conversation and music in suitable intimacy; it had to be they who
supplied such diversions for, so that things should seem new, whether
they are so or not, in art or in medicine as in society, new names are
necessary (in certain respects they were very new indeed). Thus Mme.
Verdurin went to Venice during the war and like those who want at any
cost to avoid sorrow and sentiment, when she said it was "épatant",
what she admired was not Venice nor St. Mark's nor the palaces, all
that had given, me delight and which she cheapened, but the effect of
the search-lights in the sky, searchlights about which she gave
information supported by figures. (Thus from age to age a sort of
realism is reborn out of reaction against the art which has been
admired till then.)

The Sainte-Euverte salon was a back number and the presence there of
the greatest artists or the most influential ministers attracted no
one. On the other hand, people rushed to hear a word uttered by the
Secretary of one Government, by the Under-Secretary of another, at the
houses of the new ladies in turbans whose winged and chattering
invasions filled Paris. The ladies of the first Directory had a queen
who was young and beautiful called Mme. Tallien; those of the second
had two who were old and ugly and who were called Mme. Verdurin and Mme.
Bontemps. Who reproached Mme. Bontemps because her husband had been
bitterly criticised by the _Echo de Paris_ for the part he played in
the Dreyfus affair? As the whole Chamber had at an earlier period
become revisionist, it was necessarily among the old revisionists and
the former socialists that the party of social order, of religious
toleration and of military efficiency had to be recruited. M.
Bontemps would have been detested in former days because the
anti-patriots were then given the name of Dreyfusards, but that name
had soon been forgotten and had been replaced by that of the adversary
of the three-year law. M. Bontemps on the other hand, was one of the
authors of that law, therefore he was a patriot. In society (and this
social phenomenon is only the application of a much more general
psychological law) whether novelties are reprehensible or not, they
only excite consternation until they have been assimilated and
defended by reassuring elements. As it had been with Dreyfusism, so it
was with the marriage of Saint-Loup and Odette's daughter, a marriage
people protested against at first. Now that people met everyone they
knew at the Saint-Loups', Gilberte might have had the morals of Odette
herself, people would have gone there just the same and would have
agreed with Gilberte in condemning undigested moral novelties like a
dowager-duchess. Dreyfusism was now integrated in a series of highly
respectable and customary things. As to asking what it amounted to in
itself, people now thought as little about accepting as formerly about
condemning it. It no longer shocked anyone and that was all about it.
People remembered it as little as they do whether the father of a
young girl they know was once a thief or not. At most they might say:
"The man you're talking about is the brother-in-law or somebody of the
same name, there was never anything against this one." In the same way
there had been different kinds of Dreyfusism and the man who went to
the Duchesse de Montmorency's and got the Three-Year Law passed could
not be a bad sort of man. In any case, let us be merciful to sinners.
The oblivion allotted to Dreyfus was _a fortiori_ extended to
Dreyfusards. Besides, there was no one else in politics, since
everyone had to be Dreyfusards at one time or another if they wanted
to be in the Government, even those who represented the contrary of
what Dreyfusism had incarnated when it was new and dreadful (at the
time that Saint-Loup was considered to be going wrong) namely,
anti-patriotism, irreligion, anarchy, etc. Thus M. Bontemps'
Dreyfusism, invisible and contemplative like that of all politicians,
was as little observable as the bones under his skin. No one
remembered he had been Dreyfusard, for people of fashion are
absentminded and forgetful and also because time had passed which they
affected to believe longer than it was and it had become fashionable
to say that the pre-war period was separated from the war-period by a
gulf as deep, implying as much duration, as a geological period; and
even Brichot the nationalist in; alluding to the Dreyfus affair spoke
of "those pre-historic days". The truth is that the great change
brought about by the war was in inverse ratio to the value of the
minds it touched, at all events, up to a certain point; for, quite at
the bottom, the utter fools, the voluptuaries, did not bother about
whether there was a war or not; while quite at the top, those who
create their own world, their own interior life, are little concerned
with the importance of events. What profoundly modifies the course of
their thought is rather something of no apparent importance which
overthrows the order of time and makes them live in another period of
their lives. The song of a bird in the Park of Montboissier, or a
breeze laden with the scent of mignonette, are obviously matters of
less importance than the great events of the Revolution and of the
Empire; nevertheless they inspired in Chateaubriand's _Mémoires
d'outre tombe_ pages of infinitely greater value.

M. Bontemps did not want to hear peace spoken of until Germany had
been divided up as it was during the Middle Ages, the doom of the
house of Hohenzollern pronounced, and William II sentenced to be shot.
In a word, he was what Brichot called a Diehard; this was the finest
brevet of citizenship one could give him. Doubtless, for the three
first days Mme. Bontemps had been somewhat bewildered to find herself
among people who asked Mme. Verdurin to present her to them, and it was
in a slightly acid tone that Mme. Verdurin replied: "the Comte, my
dear," when Mme. Bontemps said to her, "Was that not the Duc
d'Haussonville you just introduced to me?" whether through entire
ignorance and failure to associate the name of Haussonville with any
sort of tide, or whether, on the contrary, by excess of knowledge and
the association of her ideas with the _Parti des Ducs_ of which she
had been told M. d'Haussonville was one of the Academic members.
After the fourth day she began to be firmly established in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain. Sometimes she could be observed among the
fragments of an obscure society which as little surprised those who
knew the egg from which Mme. Bontemps had been hatched as the debris of
a shell around a chick. But after a fortnight, she shook them off and
by the end of the first month, when she said, "I am going to the
Lévi's," everyone knew, without her being more precise, that she was
referring to the Lévis-Mirepoix and not a single duchesse who was
there would have gone to bed without having first asked her or Mme.
Verdurin, at least by telephone, what was in the evening's communiqué,
how things were going with Greece, what offensive was being prepared,
in a word, all that the public would only know the following day or
later and of which, in this way, they had a sort of dress rehearsal.
Mme. Verdurin, in conversation, when she communicated news, used "we"
in speaking of France: "Now, you see, we exact of the King of Greece
that he should retire from the Peloponnese, etc. We shall send him
etc." And in all her discourses G.H.Q. occurred constantly ("I have
telephoned to G.H.Q., etc.") an abbreviation in which she took as much
pleasure as women did formerly who, not knowing the Prince of
Agrigente, asked if it was "Gri-gri" people were speaking of, to show
they were _au courant_, a pleasure known only to society in less
troubled times but equally enjoyed by the masses at times of great
crisis. Our butler, for instance, when the King of Greece was
discussed, was able, thanks to the papers, to allude to him like
William II, as "Tino", while until now his familiarity with kings had
been more ordinary and invented by himself when he called the King of
Spain "Fonfonse". One may further observe that the number of people
Mme. Verdurin named "bores" diminished in direct ratio with the social
importance of those who made advances to her. By a sort of magical
transformation, every bore who came to pay her a visit and solicited
an invitation, suddenly became agreeable and intelligent. In brief, at
the end of a year the number of "bores" was reduced to such
proportions that "the dread and unendurableness of being bored" which
occurred so often in Mme. Verdurin's conversation and had played such
an important part in her life, almost entirely disappeared. Of late,
one would have said that this unendurableness of boredom (which she
had formerly assured me she never felt in her first youth) caused her
less pain, like headaches and nervous asthmas, which lose their
strength as one grows older; and the fear of being bored would
doubtless have entirely abandoned Mme. Verdurin owing to lack of bores,
if she had not in some measure replaced them by other recruits amongst
the old "faithfuls". Finally, to have done with the duchesses who now
frequented Mme. Verdurin, they came there, though they were unaware of
it, in search of exactly the same thing as during the Dreyfus period,
a fashionable amusement so constituted that its enjoyment satisfied
political curiosity and the need of commenting privately upon the
incidents read in the newspapers. Mme. Verdurin would say, "Come in at
five o'clock to talk about the war," as she would have formerly said
"to talk about _l'affaire_ and in the interval you shall hear Morel."
Now Morel had no business to be there for he had not been in any way
exempted. He had simply not joined up and was a deserter, but nobody
knew it. Another star of the Salon, "Dans-les-choux", had, in spite
of his sporting tastes, got himself exempted. He had become for me so
exclusively the author of an admirable work about which I was
constantly thinking, that it was only when, by chance, I established a
transversal current between two series of souvenirs, that I realised
it was he who had brought about Albertine's departure from my house.
And again this transversal current ended, so far as those reminiscent
relics of Albertine were concerned, in a channel which was dammed in
full flow several years back. For I never thought any more about her.
It was a channel unfrequented by memories, a line I no longer needed
to follow. On the other hand the works of "Dans-les-choux" were recent
and that line of souvenirs was constantly frequented and utilised by
my mind.

I must add that acquaintance with the husband of Andrée was neither
very easy nor very agreeable and that the friendship one offered him
was doomed to many disappointments. Indeed he was even then very ill
and spared himself fatigues other than those which seemed likely to
give him pleasure. He only thus classified meeting people as yet
unknown to him whom his vivid imagination represented as being
potentially different from the rest. He knew his old friends too well,
was aware of what could be expected of them and to him they were no
longer worth a dangerous and perhaps fatal fatigue. He was in short a
very bad friend. Perhaps, in his taste for new acquaintances, he
regained some of the mad daring which he used to display in sport,
gambling and the excesses of the table in the old days at Balbec. Each
time I saw Mme. Verdurin, she wanted to introduce me to Andrée,
apparently unable to admit that I had known her long before. As it
happened, Andrée rarely came with her husband but she remained my
excellent and sincere friend. Faithful to the aesthetic of her
husband, who reacted against Russian ballets, she remarked of the
Marquis de Polignac, "He has had his house decorated by Bakst. How can
one sleep in it? I should prefer Dubufe."

Moreover the Verdurins, through that inevitable progress of
aestheticism which ends in biting one's own tail, declared that they
could not stand the modern style (besides, it came from Munich) nor
white walls and they only liked old French furniture in a sombre
setting.

It was very surprising at this period when Mme. Verdurin could have
whom she pleased at her house, to see her making indirect advances to
a person she had completely lost sight of, Odette, One thought the
latter could add nothing to the brilliant circle which the little
group had become. But a prolonged separation, in soothing rancour,
sometimes revives friendship. And the phenomenon which makes the dying
utter only names formerly familiar to them and causes old people's
complaisance with childish memories, has its social equivalent. To
succeed in the enterprise of bringing Odette back to her, it must be
understood that Mme. Verdurin did not employ the "ultras" but the less
faithful _habitués_ who had kept a foot in each salon. To them she
said, "I don't know why she doesn't come here any more. Perhaps she
has quarrelled with me, I haven't quarrelled with her. What have I
ever done to her? It was at my house she met both her husbands. If she
wants to come back, let her know that my doors are open to her." These
words, which might have cost the pride of "_the patronne_" a good deal
if they had not been dictated by her imagination, were passed on but
without success. Mme. Verdurin awaited Odette but the latter did not
come until certain events which will be seen later brought her there
for quite other reasons than those which could have been put forward
by the embassy of the faithless, zealous as it was; few successes are
easy, many checks are decisive.

Things were so much the same, although apparently different, that one
came across the former expressions "right thinking" and "ill-thinking"
quite naturally. And just as the former communards had been
anti-revisionist, so the strongest Dreyfusards wanted everybody to be
shot with the full support of the generals just as at the time of the
Affaire they had been against Galliffet. Mme. Verdurin invited to such
parties some rather recent ladies, known for their charitable works,
who at first came strikingly dressed, with great pearl necklaces.
Odette possessed one as fine as any and formerly had rather overdone
exhibiting it but now she was in war dress, and imitating the ladies
of the faubourg, she eyed them severely. But women know how to adapt
themselves. After wearing them three or four times, these ladies
observed that the dresses they considered _chic_ were for that very
reason proscribed by the people who were _chic_ and they laid aside
their golden gowns and resigned themselves to simplicity.

Mme. Verdurin said, "It is deplorable, I shall telephone to Bontemps to
do what is necessary to-morrow. They have again 'censored' the whole
end of Norpois' article simply because he let it be understood that
they had '_limogé_' Percin." For all these women got glory out of
using the shibboleth current at the moment and believed they were in
the fashion, just as a middle-class woman, when M. de Bréauté or M. de
Charlus was mentioned, exclaimed: "Who's that you're talking about?
Babel de Bréauté, Mémé de Charlus?" For that matter, duchesses got the
same pleasure out of saying "_limogé_", for like _roturiers un peu
poètes_ in that respect, it is the name that matters but they express
themselves in accordance with their mental category in which there is
a great deal that is middle-class. Those who have minds have no regard
for birth.

All those telephonings of Mme. Verdurin were not without ill-effects.
We had forgotten to say that the Verdurin salon though continuing in
spirit, had been provisionally transferred to one of the largest
hotels in Paris, the lack of coal and light having rendered the
Verdurin receptions somewhat difficult in the former very damp abode
of the Venetian ambassadors. Nevertheless, the new salon was by no
means unpleasant. As in Venice the site selected for its water supply
dictates the form the palace shall take, as a bit of garden in Paris
delights one more than a park in the country, the narrow dining-room
which Mme. Verdurin had at the hotel was a sort of lozenge with the
radiant white of its screen-like walls against which every Wednesday,
and indeed every day, the most various and interesting people and the
smartest women in Paris stood out, happy to avail themselves of the
luxury of the Verdurins, thanks to their fortune increasing at a time
when the richest were restricting their expenditure owing to
difficulty in getting their incomes. This somewhat modified style of
reception enchanted Brichot who, as the social relations of the
Verdurins developed, obtained additional satisfaction from their
concentration in a small area, like surprises in a Christmas stocking.
On certain days guests were so numerous that the dining-room of the
private apartment was too small and dinner had to be served in the
enormous dining-room of the hotel below where the "faithful", while
hypocritically pretending to miss the intimacy of the upper floor,
were in reality delighted (constituting a select group as formerly in
the little railway) to be a spectacular object of envy to neighbouring
tables. In peace-time a society paragraph, surreptitiously sent to the
_Figaro_ or the _Gaulois_, would doubtless have announced to a larger
audience than the dining-room of the Majestic could hold that Brichot
had dined with the Duchesse de Duras, but since the war, society
reporters having discontinued that sort of news (they got home on
funerals, investitures and Franco-American banquets), the only
publicity attainable was that primitive and restricted one, worthy of
the dark ages prior to the discovery of Gutenberg, of being seen at
the table of Mme. Verdurin. After dinner, people went up to the
Pattonne's suite and the telephoning began again. Many of the large
hotels were at that time full of spies, who daily took note of the
news telephoned by M. Bontemps with an indiscretion fortunately
counterbalanced by the complete inaccuracy of his information which
was always contradicted by the event.

Before the hour when afternoon-teas had finished, at the decline of
day, one could see from afar in the still, clear sky, little brown
spots which, in the twilight, one might have taken for gnats or birds.
Just as, when we see a mountain far away which we might take for a
cloud, we are impressed because we know it really to be solid, immense
and resistant, so I was moved because the brown spots in the sky were
neither gnats nor birds but aeroplanes piloted by men who were keeping
watch over Paris. It was not the recollection of the aeroplanes I had
seen with Albertine in our last walk near Versailles that affected me
for the memory of that walk had become indifferent to me.

At dinner-time the restaurants were full and if, passing in the
street, I saw a poor fellow home on leave, freed for six days from the
constant risk of death, fix his eyes an instant upon the brilliantly
illuminated windows, I suffered as at the hotel at Balbec when the
fishermen looked at us while we dined. But I suffered more because I
knew that the misery of a soldier is greater than that of the poor for
it unites all the miseries and is still more moving because it is more
resigned, more noble, and it was with a philosophical nod of his head,
without resentment, that he who was ready to return to the trenches,
observing the _embusqués_ elbowing each other to reserve their tables,
remarked: "One would not say there was a war going on here."

At half-past nine, before people had time to finish their dinner, the
lights were suddenly put out on account—of police regulations and at
nine-thirty-five there was a renewed hustling of _embusqués_ seizing
their overcoats from the hands of the _chasseurs_ of the restaurant
where I had dined with Saint-Loup one evening of his leave, in a
mysterious interior twilight like that in which magic lantern slides
are shown or films at one of those cinemas towards which men and women
diners were now hurrying. But after that hour, for those who, like
myself, on the evening of which I am speaking, had remained at home
for dinner and went out later to see friends, certain quarters of
Paris were darker than the Combray of my youth; visits were like those
one made to neighbours in the country. Ah! if Albertine had lived, how
sweet it would have been, on the evenings when I dined out, to make an
appointment with her under the arcades. At first I should have seen
nobody, I should have had the emotion of believing she would not come,
when all at once I should have seen one of her dear grey dresses in
relief against the black wall, her smiling eyes would have perceived
me and we should have been able to walk arm-in-arm without anyone
recognising or interfering with us and to have gone home together.
Alas, I was alone and it was as though I were making a visit to a
neighbour in the country, one of those calls such as Swann used to pay
us after dinner, without meeting more passers-by in the obscurity of
Tansonville as he walked down that little twisting path to the street
of St. Esprit, than I encountered this evening in the alley between
the Rue Clothilde and the Rue Bonaparte, now a sinuous, rustic path.
And as sections of countryside played upon by rough weather are
unspoiled by a change in their setting, on evenings swept by icy
winds, I felt myself more vividly on the shore of an angry sea than
when I was at that Balbec of which I so often dreamed. And there were
other elements which had not before existed in Paris and made one feel
as though one had arrived from the train for a holiday in the open
country, such as the contrast of light and shade at one's feet on
moonlit evenings. Moonlight produces effects unknown to towns even in
full winter; its rays played on the snow of the Boulevard Haussman
unswept by workmen as on an Alpine glacier. The outlines of the trees
were sharply reflected against the golden-blue snow as delicately as
in certain Japanese pictures or in some backgrounds by Raphael. They
lengthened on the ground at the foot of the trees as in nature when
the setting sun reflects the trees which rise at regular intervals in
the fields. But by a refinement of exquisite delicacy, the meadow
upon which these shadows of ethereal trees were cast, was a field of
Paradise, not green but of a white so brilliant on account of the moon
shedding its rays on the jade-coloured snow, that one would have said
it was woven of petals from the blossoms of pear-trees. And in the
squares the divinities of the public fountains holding a jet of ice in
their hands seemed made of a two-fold substance and, as though the
artist had married bronze to crystal to produce it. On such rare days
all the houses were black; but in spring, braving the police
regulation once in a while, a particular house, perhaps only one floor
of a particular house, or even only one room on that floor, did not
close its shutters and seemed suspended by itself on impalpable
shadows like a luminous projection, like an apparition without
consistency. And the woman one's raised eyes perceived, isolated in
the golden penumbra of the night in which oneself seemed lost, in
which she too seemed abandoned, was endowed with the veiled,
mysterious charm of an Eastern vision. At length one passed on and no
living thing interrupted the rhythm of monotonous and hygienic
tramping in the darkness.

* * *

I was reflecting that it was a long time since I had seen any of the
personages with whom this work has been concerned. In 1914, during
the two months I passed in Paris, I had once perceived M. de Charlus
and had met Bloch and Saint-Loup, the latter only twice. It was
certainly on the second occasion that he seemed to be most himself,
and to have overcome that unpleasant lack of sincerity I had noticed
at Tansonville to which I referred earlier. On this occasion, I
recognised all his lovable qualities of former days. The first time I
had seen him was at the beginning of the week that followed the
declaration of war and while Bloch displayed extremely chauvinistic
sentiments, Saint-Loup alluded to his own failure to join up with an
irony that rather shocked me. Saint-Loup was just back from Balbec.
"All who don't go and fight," he exclaimed with forced gaiety,
"whatever reason they give, simply don't want to be killed, it's
nothing but funk." And with a more emphatic gesture than when he
alluded to others, "And if I don't rejoin my regiment, it's for the
same reason." Before that, I had noticed in different people that the
affectation of laudable sentiments is not the only disguise of
unworthy ones, that a more original way is to exhibit the latter so
that, at least, one does not seem to be disguising them. In Saint-Loup
this tendency was strengthened by his habit, when he had done
something for which he might have been censured, of proclaiming it as
though it had been done on purpose, a habit he must have acquired from
some professor at the War School with whom he had lived on terms of
intimacy and for whom he professed great admiration. So I interpreted
this outbreak as the affirmation of sentiments he wanted to exhibit as
having inspired his evasion of military service in the war now
beginning. "Have you heard," he asked as he left me, "that my Aunt
Oriane is about to sue for divorce? I know nothing about it myself.
People have often said it before and I've heard it announced so often
that I shall wait until the divorce is granted before I believe it. I
may add that it isn't surprising; my uncle is a charming man socially
and to his friends and relations and in one way he has more heart than
my aunt. She's a saint, but she takes good care to make him feel it.
But he's an awful husband; he has never ceased being unfaithful to his
wife, insulting her, ill-treating her and depriving her of money into
the bargain. It would be so natural if she left him that it's a
reason for its being true and also for its not being true just because
people keep on saying so. And after all, she has stood it for so
long.... Of course, I know there are ever so many false reports which
are denied and afterwards turn out to be true." That made me ask him
whether, before he married Gilberte, there had ever been any question
of his marrying Mlle. de Guermantes. He started at this and assured me
it was not so, that it was only one of those society rumours born, no
one knows how, which disappear as they come, the falsity of which does
not make those who believe them more cautious, for no sooner does
another rumour of an engagement, of a divorce or of a political nature
arise than they give it immediate credence and pass it on. Forty-eight
hours had not passed before certain facts proved that my
interpretation of Robert's words was completely wrong when he said,
"All those who are not at the front are in a funk." Saint-Loup had
only said this to show off and appear psychologically original while
he was uncertain whether his services would be accepted. But at that
very moment he was moving heaven and earth to be accepted, showing
less originality in the sense he had given to that word, but that he
was more profoundly French, more in conformity with all that was best
in the French of St. André-des-Champs, gentlemen, bourgeois,
respectable servants of gentlemen, or those in revolt against
gentlemen, two equally French divisions of the same family, a
Françoise offshoot and a Sauton offshoot, from which two arrows flew
once more to the same target which was the frontier. Bloch was
delighted to hear this avowal of cowardice by a Nationalist (who, in
truth, was not much of a Nationalist) and when Saint-Loup asked him if
he was going to join up, he made a grimace like a high-priest and
replied "shortsighted." But Bloch had completely changed his opinion
about the war when he came to see me in despair some days later for,
although he was shortsighted, he had been passed for service. I was
taking him back to his house when we met Saint-Loup. The latter had an
appointment with a former officer, M. de Cambremer, who was to present
him to a colonel at the Ministry of War, he told me. "Cambremer is an
old acquaintance of yours, you know Cancan as well as I do." I replied
that, as a fact, I did know him and his wife too, but that I did not
greatly appreciate them. Yet I was so accustomed, ever since I first
made their acquaintance, to consider his wife an unusual person with a
thorough knowledge of Schopenhauer who had access to an intellectual
_milieu_ closed to her vulgar husband, that I was at first surprised
when Saint-Loup remarked: "His wife is an idiot, you can have her; but
he's an excellent fellow, gifted and extremely agreeable," By the
idiocy of the wife, no doubt Saint-Loup meant her mad longing to get
into the best society which that society severely condemned and, by
the qualities of the husband, those his niece implied when she called
him the best of the family. Anyhow, he did not bother himself about
duchesses but that sort of intelligence is as far removed from the
kind that characterises thinkers as is the intelligence the public
respects because it has enabled a rich man "to make his pile." But the
words of Saint-Loup did not displease me since they recalled that
pretentiousness is closely allied to stupidity and that simplicity has
a subtle but agreeable flavour. It is true I had no occasion to savour
that of M. de Cambremer. But that is exactly why one being is so many
different beings apart from differences of opinion. I had only known
the shell of M. de Cambremer and his charm, attested by others, was
unknown to me. Bloch left us in front of his door, overflowing with
bitterness against Saint-Loup, telling him that those "beautiful red
tabs" parading about at Staff Headquarters run no risk and that he, an
ordinary second class private had no wish to "get a bullet through his
skin for the sake of William." "It seems that the Emperor William is
seriously ill," Saint-Loup answered. Bloch, like all those people who
have something to do with the Stock Exchange, received any sensational
news with peculiar credulity added, "it is said even that he is dead."
On the Stock Exchange every, sovereign who is ill, whether Edward VII
or William II, is dead; every city on the point of being besieged, is
taken. "It is only kept secret," Bloch went on, "so that German
public opinion should not be depressed. But he died last night. My
father has it from 'the best sources'." "The best sources" were the
only ones of which M. Bloch senior took notice, when, through the luck
of possessing certain "influential connections" he received the as yet
secret news that the Exterior Debt was going to rise or de Beers fall.
Moreover, if at that very moment there was a rise in de Beers or there
were offers of Exterior Debt, if the market of the first was "firm and
active" and that of the second "hesitating and weak", "the best
sources" remained nevertheless "the best sources." Bloch too announced
the death of the Kaiser with a mysteriously important air, but also
with rage. He was particularly exasperated to hear Robert say the
"Emperor William." I believe under the knife of the guillotine
Saint-Loup and M. de Guermantes would not have spoken of him
otherwise. Two men in society who were the only living souls on a
desert island where they would not have to give proof of good breeding
to anyone, would recognise each other by those marks of breeding just
as two Latinists would recognise each other's qualifications through
correct quotations from Virgil. Saint-Loup would never, even under
torture, have said other than "Emperor William"; yet the _savoir
vivre_ is all the same a bondage for the mind. He who cannot reject it
remains a mere man of society. Yet elegant mediocrity is
charming—especially for the generosity and unexpressed heroism that
go with it—in comparison with the vulgarity of Bloch, at once
braggart and mountebank, who shouted at Saint-Loup: "Can't you say
simply 'William'? That's it, you're in a funk, even here you're ready
to crawl on your stomach to him. Pshaw! they'll make nice soldiers at
the front, they'll lick the boots of the Boches. You red-tabs are fit
to parade in a circus, that's all."

"That poor Bloch will have it that I can do nothing but parade,"
Saint-Loup remarked with a smile when we left our friend. And I felt
that parading was not at all what Robert was after, though I did not
then realise his intention as I did later when the cavalry being out
of action, he applied to serve as an infantry officer, then as a
_Chasseur á pied_ and finally when the sequel came which will be read
later. But Bloch had no idea of Robert's patriotism simply because the
latter did not express it. Though Bloch made professions of nefarious
anti-militarism once he had been passed for service, he had declared
the most chauvinistic opinions when he believed he would be exempted
for shortsightedness. Saint-Loup would have been incapable of making
such declarations, because of a certain moral delicacy which prevents
one from expressing the depth of sentiments which are natural to us.
My mother would not have hesitated a second to sacrifice her life for
my grandmother's and would have suffered intensely from being unable
to do so. Nevertheless I cannot imagine retrospectively a phrase on
her lips such as "I would give my life for my mother." Robert was
equally silent about his love for France and in that he seemed to me
much more Saint-Loup (as I imagined his father to have been) than
Guermantes. He would also have been incapable of such expressions
owing to his mind having a certain moral bias. Men who do their work
intelligently and earnestly have an aversion to those who want to make
literature out of what they do, to make it important. Saint-Loup and
I had not been either at the Lycée or at the Sorbonne together, but
each of us had separately attended certain lectures by the same
masters and I remember his smile when he alluded to those who,
because, undeniably, their lectures were exceptional tried to make
themselves out men of genius by giving ambitious names to their
theories. Little as we spoke of it, Robert laughed heartily. Our
natural predilection was not for the Cottards or Brichots, though we
had a certain respect for those who had a thorough knowledge of Greek
or medicine and did not for that reason consider they need play the
charlatan. Just as all my mother's actions were based upon the feeling
that she would have given her life for her mother, as she had never
formulated this sentiment which in any case she would have considered
not only useless and ridiculous but indecent and shameful to express
to others, so it was impossible to imagine Saint-Loup (speaking to me
of his equipment, of the different things he had to attend to, of our
chances of victory, of the little value of the Russian army, of what
England would do) enunciating one of those eloquent periods to which
even the most sympathetic minister is inclined to give vent when he
addresses deputies and enthusiasts. I cannot, however, deny, on this
negative side which prevented his expressing the beautiful sentiments
he felt that there was a certain effect of the "Guermantes spirit" of
which so many examples were afforded by Swann. For if I found him a
Saint-Loup more than anything else, he remained a Guermantes as well
and owing to that, among the many motives which excited his courage
there were some dissimilar to those of his Doncières friends, those
young men with a passion for their profession with whom I had dined
every evening and of whom so many were killed leading their men at the
Battle of the Marne or elsewhere. Such young socialists as might have
been at Doncières when I was there, whom I did not know because they
were not in Saint-Loup's set, were able to satisfy themselves that the
officers in that set were in no way "aristos" in the arrogantly proud
and basely pleasure-loving sense which the "populo" officers from the
ranks, and the Freemasons, gave to the word. And equally, the
aristocratic officer discovered the same patriotism amongst those
Socialists whom when I was at Doncières in the midst of the Affair
Dreyfus, I heard them accuse of being anti-patriotic. The deep and
sincere patriotism of soldiers had taken a definite form which they
believed intangible and which it enraged them to see aspersed, whereas
the Radical-Socialists who were, in a sense, unconscious patriots,
independents, without a defined religion of patriotism, did not
realise what a profound reality underlay what they believed to be vain
and hateful formulas. Without doubt, Saint-Loup, like them, had grown
accustomed to developing as the truest part of himself, the
exploration and the conception of better schemes in view of greater
strategic and tactical success, so that for him as for them the life
of the body was of relatively small importance and could be lightly
sacrificed to that inner life, the vital kernel around which personal
existence had only the value of a protective epidermis. I told
Saint-Loup about his friend, the director of the Balbec Grand Hotel,
who, it appeared had, at the outbreak of war, alleged that there had
been disaffection in certain French regiments which he called
"defectuosity" and had accused what he termed "Prussian militarists"
of provoking it, remarking with a laugh, "My brother's in the
trenches. They're only thirty meters from the Boches" until it was
discovered that he was a Boche himself and they put him in a
concentration camp. "Apropos of Balbec, do you remember the former
lift-boy of the hotel?" Saint-Loup asked me in the tone of one who
seems not to know much about the person concerned and was counting
upon me for enlightenment. "He's joining up and wrote me to get him
entered in the aviation corps." Doubtless the lift-boy was tired of
going up and down in the closed cage of the lift and the heights of
the staircase of the Grand Hotel no longer sufficed for him. He was
going to "get his stripes" otherwise than as a concierge, for our
destiny is not always what we had believed. "I shall certainly support
his application," Saint-Loup said, "I told Gilberte again this
morning, we shall never have enough aeroplanes. It is through them we
shall observe what the enemy is up to; they will deprive him of the
chief advantage in an attack, surprise; the best army will perhaps be
the one that has the best eyes. Has poor Françoise succeeded in
getting her nephew exempted?" Françoise who had for a long while done
everything in her power to get her nephew exempted, on a
recommendation through the Guermantes to General de St. Joseph being
proposed to her, had replied despairingly: "Oh! That would be no use
there's nothing to be done with that old fellow, he's the worst sort
of all, he's patriotic!" From the beginning of the war, Françoise
whatever sorrow it had brought her, was of opinion that the "poor
Russians" must not be abandoned since we were "allianced". The butler,
persuaded that the war would not last more than ten days and would end
by the signal victory of France, would not have dared, for fear of
being contradicted by events, to predict a long and indecisive one,
nor would he have had enough imagination. But, out of this complete
and immediate victory he tried to extract beforehand whatever might
cause anxiety to Françoise. "It may turn out pretty rotten; it appears
there are many who don't want to go to the front, boys of sixteen are
crying about it." He also tried to provoke her by saying all sorts of
disagreeable things, what he called "pulling her leg" by "pitching an
apostrophe at her" or "flinging her a pun." "Sixteen years old!
Sainted Mary!" exclaimed Françoise, and then, with momentary
suspicion, "But they said they only took them after they were twenty,
they're only children at sixteen." "Naturally, the papers are ordered
to say that. For that matter, the whole youth of the country will be
at the front and not many will come back. In one way that will be a
good thing, a good bleeding is useful from time to time, it makes
business better. Yes, indeed, if some of these boys are a bit soft and
chicken-hearted and hesitate, they shoot them immediately, a dozen
bullets through the skin and that's that. In a way it's got to be done
and what does it matter to the officers? They get their _pesetas_ all
the same and that's all they care about." Françoise got so pale during
these conversations that one might well fear the butler would cause
her death from heart disease. But she did not on that account lose her
defects. When a girl came to see me, however much the old servant's
legs hurt her, if ever I went out of my room for a moment I saw her on
the top of the steps, in the hanging cupboard, in the act, she
pretended, of looking for one of my coats to see if the moths had got
into it, in reality to spy upon us. In spite of all my remonstrances,
she kept up her insidious manner of asking indirect questions and for
some time had been making use of the phrase "because doubtless." Not
daring to ask me, "Has that lady a house of her own?" she would say
with her eyes lifted timidly like those of a gentle dog, "Because
doubtless that lady has a house of her own," avoiding the flagrant
interrogation in order to be polite and not to seem inquisitive. And
further, since those servants we most care for—especially if they can
no longer render us much service or even do their work—remain, alas,
servants and mark more clearly the limits (which we should like to
efface) of their caste in proportion to the extent to which they
believe they are penetrating ours, Françoise often gave vent to
strange comments about my person (in order to tease me, the butler
would have said) which people in our own world would not make. For
instance, with a delight as dissimulated but also as deep as if it had
been a case of serious illness, if I happened to be hot and the
perspiration (to which I paid no attention) was trickling down my
forehead, she would say, "My word! You're drenched" as though she were
astonished by a strange phenomenon, smiling with that contempt for
something indecorous with which she might have remarked, "Why, you're
going out without your collar!" while adopting a concerned tone
intended to cause one discomfort. One would have thought I was the
only person in the universe who had ever been "drenched". For, in her
humility, in her tender admiration for beings infinitely inferior to
her, she adopted their ugly forms of expression. Her daughter
complained of her to me, "She's always got something to say, that I
don't close the doors properly and _patatipatali et patatapatala_."
Françoise doubtless thought it was only her insufficient education
that had deprived her until now of this beautiful expression. And on
her lips, on which formerly flowered the purest French, I heard
several times a day, "_Et patati patall patata patala_." As to that it
is curious how little variation there is not only in the expressions
but in the thoughts of the same individual. The butler, being
accustomed to declare that M. Poincaré had evil motives, not of a
venal kind but because he had absolutely willed the war, repeated this
seven or eight times a day before the same ever interested audience,
without modifying a single word or gesture or intonation. Although it
only lasted about two minutes, it was invariable like a performance.
His mistakes in French corrupted the language of Françoise quite as
much as the mistakes of her daughter.

She hardly slept, she hardly ate, she had the communiqués read to her,
though she did not understand them, by the butler who understood them
little better and in whom the desire to torment Françoise was often
dominated by a superficial sort of patriotism; he remarked with a
sympathetic chuckle when speaking of the Germans, "That will stir them
up a bit, our old Joffre is planning a comet to fall on them."
Françoise did not understand what comet he was talking about but felt
none the less that this phrase was one of those charming and original
extravagances to which a well-bred person must reply, so with good
humour and urbanity, shrugging her shoulders with the air of saying
"He's always the same," she tempered her tears with a smile. At all
events she was happy that her new butcher boy who in spite of his
calling was somewhat timorous, (although he had begun in the
slaughter-house) was too young to join up; otherwise, she would have
been capable of going to the Minister of War about him. The butler
could not believe the communiqués were other than excellent and that
the troops were not approaching Berlin, as he had read, "We have
repulsed the enemy with heavy losses on their side," actions that he
celebrated as though they were new victories. For my part, I was
horrified by the rapidity with which the theatre of these victories
approached Paris and I was astonished that even the butler, who had
seen in a communiqué that an action had taken place close to Lens, had
not been alarmed by reading in the next day's paper that the result of
this action had turned to our advantage at Jouy-le-Vicomte to which we
firmly held the approaches. The butler very well knew the name of
Jouy-le-Vicomte which was not far from Combray. But one reads the
papers as one wants to with a bandage over one's eyes without trying
to understand the facts, listening to the soothing words of the editor
as to the words of one's mistress. We are beaten and happy because we
believe ourselves unbeaten and victorious.

I did not stay long in Paris and returned fairly soon to my
sanatorium. Though in principle the doctor treated his patients by
isolation, I had received on two different occasions letters from
Gilberte and from Robert. Gilberte wrote me (about September, 1914)
that much as she would have liked to remain in Paris in order to get
news from Robert more easily, the perpetual "taube" raids over Paris
had given her such a fright, especially on her little girl's account,
that she had fled from Paris by the last train which left for Combray,
that the train did not even reach Combray and it was only thanks to a
peasant's cart upon which she had made a ten hours journey in
atrocious discomfort that she had at last been able to get to
Tansonville. "And what do you think awaited your old friend there?"
Gilberte closed her letter by saying. "I had left Paris to get away
from the German aeroplanes, imagining that at Tansonville I should be
sheltered from everything. I had not been there two days when what do
you think happened! The Germans were invading the region after
beating our troops near La Fere and a German staff, followed by a
regiment, presented themselves at the gate of Tansonville and I was
obliged to take them in without a chance of escaping, not a train,
nothing." Had the German staff behaved well or was one supposed to
read into the letter of Gilberte the contagious effect of the spirit
of the Guermantes who were of Bavarian stock and related to the
highest aristocracy in Germany, for Gilberte was inexhaustible about
the perfect behaviour of the staff and of the soldiers who had only
asked "permission to pick one of the forget-me-nots which grew at the
side of the lake," good behaviour she contrasted with the unbridled
violence of the French fugitives who had traversed the estate and
sacked everything before the arrival of the German generals. Anyhow,
if Gilberte's letter was, in certain respects, impregnated with the
"Guermantes spirit,"—others would say it was her Jewish
internationalism, which would probably not be true, as we shall
see—the letter I received some months later from Robert was much more
Saint-Loup than Guermantes for it reflected all the liberal culture he
had acquired and was altogether sympathetic. Unhappily he told me
nothing about the strategy as he used to in our conversations at
Doncières and did not mention to what extent he considered the war had
confirmed or disproved the principles which he then exposed to me. The
most he told me was that since 1914, several wars had succeeded each
other, the lessons of each influencing the conduct of the following
one. For instance, the theory of the "break through" had been
completed by the thesis that before the "break through" it was
necessary to overwhelm the ground occupied by the enemy with
artillery. Later it was discovered, on the contrary, that this
destruction made the advance of infantry and artillery impossible over
ground so pitted with thousands of shell-holes that they became so
many obstacles. "War," he said, "does not escape the laws of our old
Hegel. It is a state of perpetual becoming." This was little enough of
all I wanted to know. But what disappointed me more was that he had no
right to give me the names of the generals. And indeed, from what
little I could glean from the papers, it was not those of whom I was
so much concerned to know the value in war, who were conducting this
one. Geslin de Bourgogne, Galliffet, Négrier were dead, Pau had
retired from active service almost at the beginning of the war. We had
never talked about Joffre or Foch or Castlenau or Pétain. "My dear
boy," Robert wrote, "if you saw what these soldiers are like,
especially those of the people, the working class, small shopkeepers
who little knew the heroism of which they were capable and would have
died in their beds without ever being suspected of it, facing the
bullets to succour a comrade, to carry off a wounded officer and,
themselves struck, smile at the moment they are going to die because
the staff surgeon tells them that the trench had been re-captured from
the Germans; I can assure you, my dear boy, that it gives one a
wonderful idea of what a Frenchman is and makes us understand the
historic epochs which seemed rather extraordinary to us when we were
at school. The epic is so splendid that, like myself, you would find
words useless to describe it. In contact with such grandeur the word
"poilu" has become for me something which I can no more regard as
implying an allusion or a joke than when we read the word "chouans". I
feel that the word "poilu" is awaiting great poets like such words as
"Deluge" or "Christ" or "Barbarians" which were saturated with
grandeur before Hugo, Vigny and the rest used them. To my mind, the
sons of the people are the best of all but everyone is fine. Poor
Vaugoubert, the son of the Ambassador, was wounded seven times before
being killed and each time he came back from an expedition without
being "scooped," he seemed to be excusing himself and saying that it
was not his fault. He was a charming creature. We had seen a great
deal of each other and his poor parents obtained permission to come to
his funeral on condition that they didn't wear mourning nor stop more
than five minutes on account of the bombardment. The mother, a great
horse of a woman, whom you perhaps know, may have been very unhappy
but one would not have thought so. But the father was in such a state,
I assure you, that I, who have become almost insensible through
getting accustomed to seeing the head of a comrade I was talking to
shattered by a bomb or severed from his trunk, could hardly bear it
when I saw the collapse of poor Vaugoubert who was reduced to a rag.
It was all very well for the general to tell him it was for France
that his son died a hero's death, that only redoubled the sobs of the
poor man who could not tear himself away from his son's body. Well,
that is why we can say, 'they will not get through.' Such men as
these, my poor valet or Vaugoubert, have prevented the Germans from
getting through. Perhaps you have thought we do not advance much, but
that is not the way to reason; an army feels itself victorious by
intuition as a dying man knows he is done for. And we know that we are
going to be the victors and we will it so that we may dictate a just
peace, not only for ourselves, but a really just peace, just for the
French and just for the Germans". As heroes of mediocre and banal
mind, writing poems during their convalescence, placed themselves, in
order to describe the war, not on the level of the events which in
themselves are nothing, but on the level of the banal aesthetic of
which they had until then followed the rules, speaking as they might
have done ten years earlier of the "bloody dawn," of the "shuddering
flight of victory," Saint-Loup, himself much more intelligent and
artistic, remained intelligent and artistic and for my benefit noted
with taste the landscapes while he was immobilised at the edge of a
swampy forest, just as though he had been shooting duck. To make me
grasp contrasts of shade and light which had been "the enchantment of
the morning," he referred to certain pictures we both of us loved and
alluded to a page of Romain Rolland or of Nietzsche with the
independence of those at the front who unlike those at the rear, were
not afraid to utter a German name, and with much the same coquetry
that caused Colonel du Paty de Clam to declaim in the witnesses' room
during the Zola affair as he passed by Pierre Quillard, a Dreyfusard
poet of the extremest violence whom he did not know, verses from the
latter's symbolic drama "La Fille aux Mains coupées," Saint-Loup, when
he spoke to me of a melody of Schumann gave it its German title and
made no circumlocution to tell me, when he had heard the first warble
at the edge of a forest, that he had been intoxicated as though the
bird of that "sublime Siegfried" which he hoped to hear again after
the war, had sung to him. And now on my second return to Paris I had
received on the day following my arrival another letter from Gilberte
who without doubt had forgotten the one she had previously written me,
to which I have alluded above, for her departure from Paris at the end
of 1914 was represented retrospectively in quite different fashion.
"Perhaps you do not realise, my dear friend," she wrote me, "that I
have now been at Tansonville two years. I arrived there at the same
time as the Germans. Everybody wanted to prevent me going, I was
treated as though I were mad. 'What,' they said to me, 'you are safe
in Paris and you want to leave for those invaded regions just as
everybody else is trying to get away from them?' I recognised the
justice of this reasoning but what was to be done? I have only one
quality, I am not a coward or, if you prefer, I am faithful, and when
I knew that my dear Tansonville was menaced I did not want to leave
our old steward there to defend it alone; it seemed to me that my
place was by his side. And it is, in fact, thanks to that resolution
that I was able to save the Château almost completely—when all the
others in the neighbourhood, abandoned by their terrified proprietors,
were destroyed from roof to cellar—and not only was I able to save
the Château but also the precious collections which my dear father so
much loved." In a word, Gilberte was now persuaded that she had not
gone to Tansonville, as she wrote me in 1914, to fly from the Germans
and to be in safety, but, on the contrary, in order to meet them and
to defend her Château from them. As a matter of fact, they (the
Germans) had not remained at Tansonville, but she did not cease to
have at her house a constant coming and going of officers which much
exceeded that which reduced Françoise to tears in the streets of
Combray and to live, as she said this time with complete truth, the
life of the front. Also she was referred to eulogistically in the
papers because of her admirable conduct and there was a proposal to
give her a decoration. The end of her letter was perfectly accurate:
"You have no idea of what this war is, my dear friend, the importance
of a road, a bridge or a height. How many times, during these days in
this ravaged countryside, have I thought of you, of our walks you made
so delightful, while tremendous fights were going on for the capture
of a hillock you loved and where so often we had been together.
Probably you, like myself, are unable to imagine that obscure
Roussainville and tiresome Méséglise, whence our letters were brought
and where one went to fetch the doctor when you were ill, are now
celebrated places. Well, my dear friend, they have for ever entered
into glory in the same way as Austerlitz or Valmy. The Battle of
Méséglise lasted more than eight months, the Germans lost more than
one hundred thousand men there, they destroyed Méséglise but they have
not taken it. The little road you so loved, the one we called the
stiff hawthorn climb, where you professed to be in love with me when
you were a child, when all the time I was in love with you, I cannot
tell you how important that position is. The great wheatfield in which
it ended is the famous 'slope 307' the name you have so often seen
recorded in the communiqués. The French blew up the little bridge
over the Vivonne which, you remember, did not bring back your
childhood to you as much as you would have liked. The Germans threw
others across; during a year and a half, they held one half of Combray
and the French the other." The day following that on which I received
this letter, that is to say the evening before the one when, walking
in the darkness, I heard the sound of my foot-steps while reflecting
on all these memories, Saint-Loup, back from the front and on the
point of returning there, had paid me a visit of a few minutes only,
the mere announcement of which had greatly stirred me. Françoise at
first was going to throw herself upon him, hoping she would be able to
get the butcher boy exempted; his class was going to the front in a
year's time. But she restrained herself, realising the uselessness of
the effort, since, for some time the timid animal-killer had changed
his butcher-shop and, whether the owner of ours feared she would lose
our custom, or whether it was simply in good faith, she declared to
Françoise that she did not know where this boy "who for that matter
would never make a good butcher" was employed. Françoise had looked
everywhere for him, but Paris is big, there are a large number of
butchers' shops and however many she went into she never was able to
find the timid and blood-stained young man.

When Saint-Loup entered my room I had approached him with that
diffidence, with that sense of the supernatural one felt about those
on leave as we feel in approaching a person attacked by a mortal
disease, who nevertheless gets up, dresses himself and walks about. It
seemed that there was something almost cruel in these leaves granted
to combatants, at the beginning especially, for, those who had not
like myself lived far from Paris, had acquired the habit which removes
from things frequently experienced the root-deep impression which
gives them their real significance. The first time one said to
oneself, "They will never go back, they will desert"—and indeed they
did not come from places which seemed to us unreal merely because it
was only through the papers we had heard of them and where we could
not realise they had been taking part in Titanic combats and had come
back with only a bruise on the shoulder—they came back to us for a
moment from the shores of death itself and would return there,
incomprehensible to us, filling us with tenderness, horror and a
sentiment of mystery like the dead who appear to us for a second and
whom, if we dare to question them, at most reply, "You cannot
imagine." For it is extraordinary, in those who have been resurrected
from the front, for, among the living that is what men on leave are,
or in the case of the dead whom a hypnotised medium evokes, that the
only effect of this contact with the mystery is to increase, were that
possible, the insignificance of our intercourse with them. Thus,
approaching Robert who had a scar on his forehead more august and
mysterious to me than a footprint left upon the earth by a giant, I
did not dare ask him a question and he only said a few simple words.
And those words were little different from what they would have been
before the war, as though people, in spite of the war, continued to be
what they were; the tone of intercourse remains the same, the matter
differs and even then—? I gathered that Robert had found resources at
the front which had made him little by little forget that Morel had
behaved as badly to him as to his uncle. Nevertheless he had preserved
a great friendship for him and now and then had a sudden longing to
see him again which he kept on postponing. I thought it more
considerate towards Gilberte not to inform Robert, if he wanted to
find Morel, he had only to go to Mme. Verdurin's. On my remarking to
Robert with a sense of humility how little one felt the war in Paris,
he said that even there it was sometimes "rather extraordinary". He
was alluding to a raid of zeppelins there had been the evening before
and asked me if I had had a good view of it in the same way as he
would formerly have referred to a piece of great aesthetic beauty at
the theatre. One can imagine that at the front there is a sort of
coquetry in saying, "It's marvellous! What a pink—and that pale
green!" when at that instant one can be killed, but it was not that
which moved Saint-Loup about an insignificant raid on Paris. When I
spoke to him about the beauty of the aeroplanes rising in the night,
he replied, "And perhaps the descending ones are still more beautiful.
Of course they are marvellous when they soar upwards, when they're
about to form _constellation_ thus obeying laws as precise as those
which govern astral constellations, for what is a spectacle to you is
the assemblage of squadrons, orders being given to them, their
despatch on scout duty, etc. But don't you prefer the moment when,
mingling with the stars, they detach themselves from them to start on
a chase or to return after the maroon sounds, when they 'loop the
loop', even the stars seem to change their position. And aren't the
sirens rather Wagnerian, as they should be, to salute the arrival of
the Germans, very like the national hymn, very 'Wacht am Rhein' with
the Crown Prince and the Princesses in the Imperial box; one wonders
whether aviators or Walkyries are up there." He seemed to get pleasure
out of comparing aviators with Walkyries, and explained them on
entirely musical principles. "_Dame_! the music of sirens is like the
prancing of horses; we shall have to await the arrival of the Germans
to hear Wagner in Paris." From certain points of view the comparison
was not false. The city seemed a formless and black mass which all of
a sudden passed from the depth of night into a blaze of light, and in
the sky, where one after another, the aviators rose amidst the
shrieking wail of the sirens while, with a slower movement, more
insidious and therefore more alarming, for it made one think they were
seeking ah object still invisible but perhaps close to us, the
searchlights swept unceasingly, scenting the enemy, encircling him
with their beams until the instant when the pointed planes flashed
like arrows in his wake. And in squadron after squadron the aviators
darted from the city into the sky like Walkyries. Yet close to the
ground, at the base of the houses, some spots were in high light and I
told Saint-Loup, if he had been at home the evening before, he would
have been able, while he contemplated the apocalypse in the sky, to
see on the earth, as in the burial of the Comte d'Orgaz by Greco,
where those contrasting planes are parallel, a regular vaudeville
played by personages in night-gowns, whose Well-known names ought to
have been sent to some successor of that Ferrari whose fashionable
notes it had so often amused him and myself to parody. And we should
have done so again that day as though there had been no war, although
about a very "war-subject", the dread of zeppelins realised, the
Duchesse de Guermantes superb in her night-dress, the Duc de
Guermantes indescribable in his pink pyjamas and bath-gown, etc., etc.
"I am sure," he said, "that in all the large hotels one might have
seen American Jewesses in their chemises hugging to their bursting
breasts pearl necklaces which would buy them a 'busted' duke. On such
nights, the Hotel Ritz must resemble an exchange and mart emporium."

I asked Saint-Loup if this war had confirmed our conclusions at
Doncières about war in the past. I reminded him of the proposition
which he had forgotten, for instance about the parodies of former
battles by generals of the future. "The feint," I said to him, "is no
longer possible in these operations where the advance is prepared with
such accumulation of artillery and what you have since told me about
reconnaissance by aeroplane which obviously you could not have
foreseen, prevents the employment of Napoleonic ruses." "How mistaken
you are," he answered, "obviously this war is new in relation to
former wars for it is itself composed of successive wars of which the
last is an innovation on the preceding one. It is necessary to adapt
oneself to the enemy's latest formula so as to defend oneself against
him; then he starts a fresh innovation and yet, as in other human
things, the old tricks always come off. No later than yesterday
evening the most intelligent of our military critics wrote: 'When the
Germans wanted to deliver East Prussia they began the operation by a
powerful demonstration in the south against Warsaw, sacrificing ten
thousand men to deceive the enemy. When at the beginning of 1915 they
created the mass manœuvre of the Arch-Duke Eugène in order to
disengage threatened Hungary, they spread the report that this mass
was destined for an operation against Serbia. Thus, in 1800 the army
which was about to operate against Italy was definitely indicated as a
reserve army which was not to cross the Alps but to support the armies
engaged in the northern theatres of war. The ruse of Hindenburg
attacking Warsaw to mask the real attack on the Mazurian Lakes,
imitates the strategy of Napoleon in 1812.' You see that M. Bidou
repeats almost the exact words of which you remind me and which I had
forgotten. And as the war is not yet finished, these ruses will be
repeated again and again and will succeed because they are never
completely exposed and what has done the trick once will do it again
because it was a good trick." And in fact, for a long time after that
conversation with Saint-Loup, while the eyes of the Allies were fixed
upon Petrograd against which capital it was believed the Germans were
marching, they were preparing a most powerful offensive against Italy.
Saint-Loup gave me many other examples of military parodies or, if one
believes that there is not a military art but a military science, of
the application of permanent laws. "I will not say, there would be
contradiction in the words," added Saint-Loup, "that the art of war is
a science. And if there is a science of war there is diversity,
dispute and contradiction between its professors, diversity partly
projected into the category of Time. That is rather reassuring, for,
as far as it goes, it indicates that truth rather than error is
evolving." Later he said to me, "See in this war the ideas on the
possibility of the break-through, for instance. First it is believed
in, then we come back to the doctrine of invulnerability of the
fronts, then again to the possible but risky break-through, to the
necessity of not making a step forward until the objective has been
first destroyed (the dogmatic journalist will write that to assert the
contrary is the greatest foolishness), then, on the contrary, to that
of advancing with a very light preparation by artillery, then to the
invulnerability of the fronts as a principle in force since the war of
1870, from that the assertion that it is a false principle for this
war and therefore only a relative truth. False in this war because of
the accumulation of masses and of the perfecting of engines (see Bidou
of the 2nd July, 1918), an accumulation which at first made one
believe that the next war would be very short, then very long, and
finally made one again believe in the possibility of decisive
victories. Bidou cites the Allies on the Somme, the Germans marching
on Paris in 1918. In the same way, at each victory of the Germans, it
is said:'the ground gained is nothing, the towns are nothing, what is
necessary is to destroy the military force of the adversary.' Then the
Germans in their turn adopt this theory in 1918 and Bidou curiously
explains (and July, 1918) that the capture of certain vital points,
certain essential areas, decides the victory. It is moreover a
particular turn of his mind. He has shown how, if Russia were
blockaded at sea, she would be defeated and that an army enclosed in a
sort of vast prison camp is doomed to perish."

Nevertheless, if the war did not modify the character of Saint-Loup,
his intelligence, developed through an evolution in which heredity
played a great part, had reached a degree of brilliancy which I had
never seen in him before. How far away was the young golden-haired
man formerly courted or who aspired to be, by fashionable ladies and
the dialectician, the doctrinaire who was always playing with words.
To another generation of another branch of his family, much as an
actor taking a part formerly played by Bressant or Delaunay, he,
blonde, pink and golden was like a successor to M. de Charlus, once
dark, now completely white. However much he failed to agree with his
uncle about the war, identified as he was with that part of the
aristocracy which was for France first and foremost whereas M. de
Charlus was fundamentally a defeatist, to those who had not seen the
original "creator of the part" he displayed his powers as a
controversialist. "It seems that Hindenburg is a revelation," I said
to him. "An old revelation of tit-for-tat or a future one. They ought,
instead of playing with the enemy, to let Mangin have his way, beat
Austria and Germany to their knees and Europeanise Turkey instead of
Montenegrinising France." "But we shall have the help of the United
States," I suggested. "At present all I see is the spectacle of
Divided States. Why not make greater concessions to Italy and frighten
them with dechristianising France?" "If your Uncle Charlus could hear
you!" I said. "Really you would not be sorry to offend the Pope a bit
more and he must be in despair about what may happen to the throne of
Francis Joseph. For that matter he's in the tradition of Talleyrand
and the Congress of Vienna." "The era of the Congress of Vienna has
gone full circle;" he answered; "one must substitute concrete for
secret diplomacy. My uncle is at bottom an impenitent monarchist who
would swallow carps like Mme. Molé or scarps like Arthur Meyer as long
as his carps and scarps were cooked _à la Chambord_. Through hatred of
the tricolour flag I believe he would rather range himself under the
red rag, which he would accept in good faith instead of the white
standard." Of course, these were only words and Saint-Loup was far
from having the occasionally basic originality of his uncle. But his
disposition was as affable and delightful as the other's was
suspicious and jealous and he remained, as at Balbec, charming and
pink under his thick golden hair. The only thing in which his uncle
would not have surpassed him was in that mental attitude of the
faubourg Saint-Germain with which those who believe themselves the
most detached from it are saturated and which simultaneously gives
them respect for men of intelligence who are not of noble birth (which
only flourishes in the nobility and makes revolution so unjust) and
silly self-complacency. It was through this mixture of humility and
pride, of acquired curiosity of mind and inborn sense of authority,
that M. de Charlus and Saint-Loup by different roads and holding
contrary opinions had become to a generation of transition,
intellectuals interested in every new idea and talkers whom no
interrupter could silence. Thus a rather commonplace individual would,
according to his disposition, consider both of them either dazzling or
bores.

While recalling Saint-Loup's visit I had made a long-detour on my way
to Mme. Verdurin's and I had nearly reached the bridge of the
Invalides. The lamps (few and far between, on account of Gothas) were
lighted a little too early, for the change of hours had been
prematurely determined for the summer season (like the furnaces which
are lighted and extinguished at fixed dates) while night still came
quickly and above the partly-illumined city, in one whole part of the
sky—a sky which ignored summer and winter and did not deign to
observe that half-past eight had become half-past nine—it still
continued to be daylight. In all that part of the city, dominated by
the towers of the Trocadero, the sky had the appearance of an immense
turquoise-tinted sea, which, at low-tide, revealed a thin line of
black rocks or perhaps only fishermen's nets aligned next each other
and which were tiny clouds. A sea, now the colour of turquoise which
was bearing unknowing man with it in the immense revolution of an
earth upon which they are mad enough to continue their own
revolutions, their vain wars such as this one now drenching France in
blood. In fact one became giddy looking at the lazy, beautiful sky
which deigned not to change its time-table and prolonged in its blue
tones the lengthened day above the lighted city; it was no longer a
spreading sea, but a vertical gradation of blue glaciers. And the
towers of the Trocadéro seeming so close to those turquoise heights
were in reality as far away from them as those twin towers in a town
of Switzerland which, from far away, seem to neighbour the
mountain-slopes. I retraced my steps but as I left the Bridge of the
Invalides behind me there was no more day in the sky, nor scarcely a
light in all the city and stumbling here and there against the
dust-bins, mistaking my road, I found myself, unexpectedly and after
following a labyrinth of obscure streets, upon the Boulevards. There
the impression of the East renewed itself and to the evocation of the
Paris of the Directoire succeeded that of the Paris of 1815. As then,
the disparate procession of uniforms of Allied troops, Africans in
baggy red trousers, white-turbaned Hindus, created for me, out of that
Paris where I was walking, an exotic imaginary city in an East
minutely exact in costume and colour of the skins but arbitrarily
chimerical in scenery, just as Carpaccio made of his own city a
Jerusalem or a Constantinople by assembling therein a crowd whose
marvellous medley of colour was not more varied than this. Walking
behind two Zouaves who did not seem to notice him, I perceived a great
stout man in a soft, felt hat and a long cloak, to whose mauve
coloured face I hesitated to put the name of an actor or of a painter
equally well-known for innumerable sodomite scandals. In any case
feeling certain I did not know the promenader, I was greatly
surprised, when his glance met mine, to notice that he was embarrassed
and made as though to stop and speak to me, like one who wants to show
you that you are not surprising him in an occupation he would rather
have kept secret. For a second I asked myself who was saying
good-evening to me. It was M. de Charlus. One could say of him that
the evolution of his disease or the revolution of his vice had reached
that extreme point where the small primitive personality of the
individual, his ancestral qualities, were entirely obscured by the
interposition of the defect or generic evil which accompanied them. M.
de Charlus had gone as far as it was possible for him to go, or
rather, he was so completely marked by what he had become, by habits
that were not his alone but also those of many other inverts, that, at
first, I had taken him for one of these following the zouaves on the
open boulevard; in fact, for another of their kind who was not M. de
Charlus, not a _grand seigneur_, not a man of mind and imagination and
who only resembled the baron through that appearance common to them
all and to him as well which, until one looked closer, had covered
everything. It was thus that, having wanted to go to Mme. Verdurin's, I
met M. de Charlus. And certainly I should not have found him as I used
to at her house; their quarrel had only become accentuated and Mme.
Verdurin often made use of present conditions to discredit him
further. Having said for a long time that he was used up, finished,
more old-fashioned in his pretended audacities than the most pompous
nonentities, she now comprised that condemnation in a general
indictment by saying that he was "pre-war". According to the
little clan, the war had placed between him and the present, a gulf
which relegated him to a past that was completely dead. Moreover—and
that concerned rather the political world which was less
well-informed—Mme. Verdurin represented him as done for, as complete a
social as an intellectual outsider. "He sees no one, no one receives
him," she told M. Bontemps, whom she easily convinced. Moreover there
was some truth in what she said. The situation of M. de Charlus had
changed. Caring less and less about society, having quarrelled with
everybody owing to his petulant disposition and, having through
conviction of his own social importance, disdained to reconcile
himself with most of those who constituted the flower of society, he
lived in a relative isolation which, unlike that in which Mme. de
Villeparisis died, was not caused by the ostracism of the aristocracy
but by something which appeared to the eyes of the public worse, for
two reasons. M. de Charlus' bad reputation, now well-known, caused the
ill-informed to believe that that accounted for people not frequenting
his society, while actually it was he who, of his own accord, refused
to frequent them, so that the effect of his own atrabilious humour
appeared to be that of the hostility of those upon whom he exercised
it. Besides that, Mme. de Villeparisis had a great rampart; her family.
But M. de Charlus had multiplied the quarrels between himself and his
family, which, moreover appeared to him uninteresting, especially the
old faubourg side, the Courvoisier set. He who had made so many bold
sallies in the field of art, unlike the Courvoisiers, had no notion
that what would have most interested a Bergotte was his relationship
with that old faubourg, his having the means of describing the almost
provincial life lived by his cousins in the Rue de la Chaise or in the
Place du Palais Bourbon and the Rue Garancière. A point of view less
transcendent and more practical was represented by Mme. Verdurin who
affected to believe that he was not French. "What is his exact
nationality? Is he not an Austrian?" M. Verdurin innocently inquired.
"Oh, no, not at all," answered the Comtesse Molé, whose first gesture
rather obeyed her good sense than her rancour. "Nothing of the sort,
he's a Prussian," pronounced _la Patronne_: "I know, I tell you. He
told us often enough he was a hereditary peer of Prussia and a 'Serene
Highness'." "All the same, the Queen of Naples told me—" "As to her,
you know she's an awful spy," exclaimed Mme. Verdurin who had not
forgotten the attitude which the fallen sovereign had displayed at her
house one evening. "I know it most positively. She only lives by
spying. If we had a more energetic Government, all those people would
be in a concentration camp. And in any case you would do well not to
receive that charming kind of society, for I happen to know that the
Minister of the Interior has got his eye on them and your house will
be watched. Nothing will convince me that during two years Charlus was
not continually spying at my house." And thinking probably, that there
might be some doubt as to the interest the German Government might
take, even in the most circumstantial reports on the organisation of
the "little clan", Mme. Verdurin, with the soft, confidential manner of
a person who knows the value of what she is imparting and that it
seems more significant if she does not raise her voice, "I tell you,
from the first day I said to my husband,'the way in which this man has
inveigled himself into our house is not to my liking. There's
something suspicious about it.' Our estate was on a very high point at
the back of a bay. I am certain he was entrusted by the Germans to
prepare a base there for their submarines. Certain things surprised me
and now I understand them. For instance, at first he would not come by
train with the other guests. I had offered in the nicest way to give
him a room in the château. Well, not a bit of it, he preferred living
at Doncières where there were an enormous number of troops. All that
stank in one's nostrils of espionage." As to the first of these
accusations directed against the Baron de Charlus, that of being out
of fashion, society people were quite ready to accept Mme. Verdurin's
point of view. This was ungrateful of them for M. de Charlus who had
been, up to a point their poet, had the art of extracting from social
surroundings a sort of poetry into which he wove history, beauty, the
picturesque, comedy and frivolous elegance. But fashionable people,
incapable of understanding poetry, of which they saw none in their own
lives, sought it elsewhere and placed a thousand feet above M. de
Charlus men infinitely inferior to him, who affected to despise
society and, on the other hand, professed social and
political-economic theories. M. de Charlus delighted in an
unprofessedly lyrical form of wit with which he described the knowing
grace of the Duchesse of X—'s dresses and alluded to her as a sublime
creature. This caused him to be looked upon as an idiot by those women
in society who thought that the Duchesse of X— was an uninteresting
fool, that dresses are made to be worn without drawing attention to
them and who, thinking themselves more intelligent, rushed to the
Sorbonne or to the Chamber if Deschanel was going to speak. In short,
people in society were disillusioned with M. de Charlus, not because
they had got through him but because they had never grasped his rare
intellectual value. He was considered pre-war, old-fashioned, just
because those least capable of judging merit, most readily accept the
edicts of passing fashion; so far from exhausting, they have hardly
even skimmed the surface of men of quality in the preceding generation
whom they now condemn en bloc because they are offered the label of a
new generation they will understand just as little. As to the second
accusation against M. de Charlus, that of Germanism, the happy-medium
mentality of people in society made them reject it, but they
encountered an indefatigable and particularly cruel interpreter in
Morel, who, having managed to retain in the press and even in society
the position which M. de Charlus had succeeded in getting him by
expending twice as much trouble as he would have taken in depriving
him of it, pursued the Baron with implacable hatred; this was not only
cruel on the part of Morel, but doubly wrong, for whatever his
relations with the Baron might have been, Morel had experienced the
rare kindness his patron hid from so many people. M. de Charlus had
treated the violinist with such generosity, with such delicacy, had
shown such scruple about not breaking his word, that the idea of him
which Charlie had retained was not at all that of a vicious man (at
most he considered the Baron's vice a disease) but of one with the
noblest ideas and the most exquisite sensibility he had ever known, a
sort of saint. He denied it so little that though he had quarrelled
with him he said sincerely enough to his relations, "You can confide
your son to him, he would only have the best influence upon him."
Indeed when he tried to injure him by his articles, in his mind he
jeered, not at his vices but, at his virtues. Before the war, certain
little broad-sheets, transparent to what are called the "initiates",
had begun to do the greatest harm to M. de Charlus. Of one of these
entitled _The Misadventure of a pedantic Duchess, the Old Age of the
Baroness_ Mme. Verdurin had bought fifty copies, in order to lend them
to her acquaintances, and M. Verdurin, declaring that Voltaire
himself never wrote anything better, read them aloud to his friends.
Since the war it was not the invertion of the Baron alone that was
denounced, but also his alleged Germanic nationality. "Frau Bosch",
"Frau voh der Bosch" were the customary surnames of M. de Charlus. One
effusion of poetic character had borrowed from certain dance melodies
in Beethoven, the title "Une Allemande". Finally, two little novels,
_Oncle d'Amérique et Tante de Francfort_, and _Gaillard d'arrière_,
read in proof by the little clan, had given delight to Brichot himself
who remarked, "Take care the most noble and puissant Anastasia doesn't
do us in." The articles themselves were better done than their
ridiculous titles would have led one to suppose. Their style derived
from Bergotte but in a way which perhaps only I could recognise, for
this reason. The writings of Bergotte had had no influence upon Morel.
Fecundation had occurred in so peculiar and exceptional a fashion that
I must register it here. I have indicated in its place the special way
Bergotte had of selecting his words and pronouncing them when he
talked. Morel, who had met him in early days, gave imitations of him
at the time in which he mimicked his speech perfectly, using the same
words as Bergotte would have used. So now Morel transcribed
conversations _à la Bergotte_ but without transmuting them into what
would have represented Bergotte's style of writing. As few people had
talked with Bergotte, they did not recognise the tonality which was
quite different from his style. That oral fertilisation is so rare
that I wanted to mention it here; for that matter, it produces only
sterile flowers.

Morel, who was at the Press Bureau and whose irregular situation was
unknown, made the pretence, with his French blood boiling in his veins
like the juice of the grapes of Combray, that to work in an office
during the war was not good enough and that he wanted to join up
(which he could have done at any moment he pleased) while Mme. Verdurin
did everything in her power to persuade him to remain in Paris.
Certainly she was indignant that M. de Cambremer, in spite of his
age, had a staff job, and she remarked about every man who did not
come to her house, "Where has he found means of hiding?" And if anyone
affirmed that so and so had been in the front line from the first day
she answered, lying unscrupulously or from the mere habit of
falsehood, "Not a bit of it, he has never stirred from Paris, he is
doing something about as dangerous as promenading around the
Ministries. I tell you I know what I am talking about because I have
got it from someone who has seen him." But in the case of "the
faithful" it was different. She did not want them to go and alluded to
the war as a "boring business" that took them away from her; and she
took all possible steps to prevent them going which gave her the
double pleasure of having them at dinner and, when they did not come
or had gone, of abusing them behind their backs for their
pusillanimity. The "faithful" had to lend themselves to this
_embusquage_ and she was distressed when Morel pretended to be
recalcitrant and told him, "By serving in the Press Bureau you are
doing your bit, and more so than if you were at the front. What is
required is to be useful, really to take part in the war, to be of it.
There are those who are of it and _embusqués_; you are of it and don't
you bother, everyone knows you are and no one can have a word to say
against you." Under different circumstances, when men were not so few
and when she was not obliged as now to have chiefly women, if one of
them lost his mother she did not hesitate to persuade him that he
could unhesitatingly continue to go to her receptions. "Sorrow is felt
in the heart. If you were to go to a ball (she never gave any) I
should be the first to advise you not to, but here at my little
Wednesdays or in a box at the theatre, no one can be shocked.
Everybody knows how grieved you are." Now, however, men were fewer,
mourning more frequent, she did not have to prevent them from going
into society, the war saw to that. But she wanted to persuade them
that they were more useful to France by stopping in Paris, in the same
way as she would formerly have persuaded them that the defunct would
have been more happy to see them enjoying themselves. All the same
she got very few men, and sometimes, perhaps, she regretted having
brought about the rupture with M. de Charlus, which could never be
repaired.

But if M. de Charlus and Mme. Verdurin no longer saw each other, each
of them—with certain minor differences—continued as though nothing
had changed, Mme. Verdurin to receive and M. de Charlus to go about his
own pleasures. For example, at Mme. Verdurin's house, Cottard was
present at the receptions in the uniform of a Colonel of _l'Ile du
Rève_ rather similar to that of a Haitian Admiral, and upon the lapel
of which a broad sky-blue ribbon recalled that of the _Enfants de
Marie_; as to M. de Charlus, finding himself in a city where mature
men who had up to then been his taste had disappeared, he had, like
certain Frenchmen who run after women when they are in France but who
live in the Colonies, at first from necessity, then from habit,
acquired a taste for little boys.

Furthermore, one of the characteristic features of the Salon Verdurin
disappeared soon after, for Cottard died "with his face to the enemy"
the papers said, though he had never left Paris; the fact was he had
been overworked for his time of life and he was followed shortly
afterwards by M. Verdurin, whose death caused sorrow to one person
only—would one believe it?—Elstir. I had been able to study his work
from a point of view which was in a measure final. But, as he grew
older, he associated it superstitiously with the society which had
supplied his models and, after the alchemy of his intuitions had
transmuted them into works of art, gave him his public. More and more
inclined to the belief that a large part of beauty resides in objects
as, at first, he had adored in Mme. Elstir that rather heavy type of
beauty he had studied in tapestries and handled in his pictures, M.
Verdurin's death signified to him the disappearance of one of the last
traces of the perishable social framework, falling into limbo as
swiftly as the fashions in dress which form part of it—that framework
which supports an art and certifies its authenticity like the
revolution which, in destroying the elegancies of the eighteenth
century, would have distressed a painter of _fêtes galantes_ or
afflicted Renoir when Montmartre and the Moulin de la Galette
disappeared. But, above all, with M. Verdurin disappeared the eyes,
the brain, which had had the most authentic vision of his painting,
wherein that painting lived, as it were, in the form of a cherished
memory. Without doubt young men had emerged who also loved painting,
but another kind of painting, and they had not, like Swann, like M.
Verdurin, received lessons in taste from Whistler, lessons in truth
from Monet, which enabled them to judge Elstir with justice! Also he
felt himself more solitary when M. Verdurin, with whom he had,
nevertheless, quarrelled years ago, died and it was as though part of
the beauty of his work had disappeared with some of that consciousness
of beauty which had until then, existed in the world.

The change which had been effected in M. de Charlus' pleasures
remained intermittent. Keeping up a large correspondence with the
front, he did not lack mature men home on leave. Therefore, in a
general way, Mme. Verdurin continued to receive and M. de Charlus to go
about his pleasures as if nothing had happened. And still for two
years the immense human entity called France, of which even from a
purely material point of view one can only feel the tremendous beauty
if one perceives the cohesion of millions of individuals who, like
cellules of various forms fill it like so many little interior
polygons up to the extreme limit of its perimeter, and if one saw it
on the same scale as infusoria or cellules see a human body, that is
to say, as big as Mont Blanc, was facing a tremendous collective
battle with that other immense conglomerate of individuals which is
Germany. At a time when I believed what people told me, I should have
been tempted to believe Germany, then Bulgaria, then Greece when they
proclaimed their pacific intentions. But since my life with Albertine
and with Françoise had accustomed me to suspect those motives they did
not express, I did not allow any word, however right in appearance of
William II, Ferdinand of Bulgaria or Constantine of Greece to deceive
my instinct which divined what each one of them was plotting.
Doubtless my quarrels with Françoise and with Albertine had only been
little personal quarrels, mattering only to the life of that little
spiritual cellule which a human being is. But in the same way as there
are bodies of animals, human bodies, that is to say, assemblages of
cellules, which, in relation to one of them alone, are as great as a
mountain, so there exist enormous organised groupings of individuals
which we call nations; their life only repeats and amplifies the life
of the composing cellules and he who is not capable of understanding
the mystery, the reactions and the laws of those cellules, will only
utter empty words when he talks about struggles between nations. But
if he is master of the psychology of individuals, then these colossal
masses of conglomerate individuals facing one another will assume in
his eyes a more formidable beauty than a fight born only of a conflict
between two characters, and he will see them on the scale on which the
body of a tall man would be seen by infusoria of which it would
require more than ten thousand to fill one cubic millimeter. Thus for
some time past the great figure of France, filled to its perimeter
with millions of little polygons of various shapes and the other
figure of Germany filled with even more polygons were having one of
those quarrels which, in a smaller measure, individuals have.

But the blows that they were exchanging were regulated by those
numberless boxing-matches of which Saint-Loup had explained the
principles to me. And because, even in considering them from the point
of view of individuals they were gigantic assemblages, the quarrel
assumed enormous and magnificent forms like the uprising of an ocean
which with its millions of waves seeks to demolish a secular line of
cliffs or like giant glaciers which, with their slow and destructive
oscillation, attempt to disrupt the frame of the mountain by which
they are circumscribed. In spite of this, life continued almost the
same for many people who have figured in this narrative, notably for
M. de Charlus and for the Verdurins, as though the Germans had not
been so near to them; a permanent menace in spite of its being
concentrated in one immediate peril leaving us entirely unmoved if we
do not realise it. People pursue their pleasures from habit without
ever thinking, were etiolating and moderating influences to cease,
that the proliferation of the infusoria would attain its maximum, that
is to say, making a leap of many millions of leagues in a few days and
passing from a cubic millimeter to a mass a million times larger than
the sun, at the same time destroying all the oxygen of the substances
upon which we live, that there would no longer be any humanity or
animals or earth, and, without any notion that an irremediable and
quite possible catastrophe might be determined in the ether by the
incessant and frantic energy hidden behind the apparent immutability
of the sun, they go on with their business, without thinking of these
two worlds, one too small, the other too large for them to perceive
the cosmic menace which hovers around us. Thus the Verdurins gave
their dinners (soon, after the death of M. Verdurin, Mme. Verdurin
alone) and M. de Charlus went about his pleasures, without realising
that the Germans—immobilised, it is true, by a bleeding barrier which
was always being renewed—were at an hour's automobile drive from
Paris. One might say the Verdurins did, nevertheless, think about it,
since they had a political salon where the situation of the armies and
of the fleets was discussed every day. As a matter of fact, they
thought about those hecatombs of annihilated regiments, of engulfed
seafarers, but an inverse operation multiplies to such a degree what
concerns our welfare and divides by such a formidable figure what does
not concern it, that the death of millions of unknown people hardly
affects us more unpleasantly than a draught. Mme. Verdurin, who
suffered from headaches on account of being unable to get _croissants_
to dip into her coffee, had obtained an order from Cottard which
enabled her to have them made in the restaurant mentioned earlier. It
had been almost as difficult to procure this order from the
authorities as the nomination of a general. She started her first
_croissant_ again on the morning the papers an-announced the wreck of
the _Lusitania_. Dipping it into her coffee, she arranged her
newspaper so that it would stay open without her having to deprive her
other hand of its function of dipping, and exclaimed with horror, "How
awful! It's more frightful than the most terrible tragedies." But
those drowning people must have seemed to her reduced a thousand-fold,
for, while she indulged in these saddening reflections, she was
filling her mouth and the expression on her face, induced, one
supposes, by the savour of the _croissant_, precious remedy for her
headache, was rather that of placid satisfaction.


M. de Charlus went beyond not passionately desiring the victory of
France; without avowing it, he wanted, if not the triumph of Germany,
at least that she should not, as everybody desired, be destroyed. The
reason of this was that in quarrels the great assemblages of
individuals called nations behave, in a certain measure, like
individuals. The logic which governs them is within them and is
perpetually remoulded by passion like that of people engaged in a
love-quarrel or in some domestic dispute, such as that of a son with
his father, of a cook with her mistress, of a woman with her husband.
He who is in the wrong believes himself in the right, as was the case
with Germany, and he who is in the right supports it with arguments
which only appear irrefutable to him because they respond to his
anger. In these quarrels between individuals, in order to be convinced
that one of the parties is in the right—the surest plan is to be that
party; no onlooker will ever be so: completely convinced of it. And an
individual, if he be an integral part of a nation, is himself merely a
cellule of an individual which is the nation. Stuffing people's heads
full of words means nothing. If, at a critical period in the war, a
Frenchman had been told that his country was going to be beaten, he
would have been desperate as though he were himself about to be killed
by the "Berthas". Really, one fills one's own head with hope which is
a sort of instinct of self-preservation in a nation if one is really
an integral member of it. To remain blind to what is false in the
claims of the individual called Germany, to see justice in every claim
of the individual called France, the surest way was not for a German
to lack judgment and for a Frenchman to possess it but for both to be
patriotic. M. de Charlus, who had rare moral qualities, who was
accessible to pity, generous, capable of affection and of devotion,
was in contrast, for various reasons, amongst them that a Bavarian
duchess had been his mother, without patriotism. In consequence he
belonged as much to the body of Germany as to the body of France. If
I had been devoid of patriotism myself, instead of feeling myself one
of the cellules in the body of France, I think my way of judging the
quarrel would not have been the same as formerly. In my adolescence,
when I believed exactly what I was told, doubtless, on hearing the
German Government protest its good faith, I should have been inclined
to believe it, but now for a long time I had realised that our
thoughts do not always correspond with our words.

But actually I can only imagine what I should have done if I had not
been a member of the agent, France, as in my quarrels with Albertine,
when my sad appearance and my choking throat were, as parts of my
being, too passionately interested on my own behalf for me to reach
any sort of detachment. That of M. de Charlus was complete. Since he
was only a spectator, everything had the inevitable effect of making
him Germanophile because, though not really French, he lived in
France. He was very keen-witted and in all countries fools outnumber
the rest; no doubt, if he had lived in Germany the German fools
defending an unjust cause with passionate folly would—have equally
irritated him; but living in France, the French fools, defending a
just cause with passionate folly, irritated him no less. The logic of
passion, even in the service of justice, is never irrefutable by one
who remains dispassionate. M. de Charlus acutely noted each false
argument of the patriots. The satisfaction a brainless fool gets out
of being in the right and out of the certainty of success, is
particularly irritating. M. de Charlus was maddened by the triumphant
optimism of people who did not know Germany and its power as he did,
who every month were confident that she would be crushed the following
month, and when a year had passed were just as ready to believe in a
new prognostic as if they had not with equal confidence credited the
false one they had forgotten, or if they were reminded of it, replied
that, "it was not the same thing." M. de Charlus, whose mind contained
some depth, might perhaps not have understood in Art that the "it
isn't the same thing" offered as an argument by the detractors of
Monet in opposition to those who contended that "they said the same
thing about Delacroix", corresponded to the same mentality. And then
M. de Charlus was merciful, the idea of a vanquished man pained him,
he was always for the weak, and could not read the accounts of trials
in the papers without feeling in his own flesh the anguish of the
prisoner and a longing to assassinate the judge, the executioner and
the mob who delighted in "seeing justice done". In any case, it was
now certain that France could not be beaten and he knew that the
Germans were famine-stricken and would be obliged sooner or later to
surrender at discretion. This idea was also more unpleasant to him
owing to his living in France. His memories of Germany were, after
all, dimmed by time, whereas the French who unpleasantly gloated in
the prospect of crushing Germany, were people whose defects and
antipathetic countenances were familiar to him. In such a case we feel
more compassionate towards those unknown to us, whom we can only
imagine, than towards those whose vulgar daily life is lived close to
us, unless we feel completely one of them, one flesh with them;
patriotism works this miracle, we stand by our country as we do by
ourselves in a love quarrel. The war, too, acted on M. de Charlus as
an extraordinarily fruitful culture of those hatreds of his which were
born from one instant to another, lasted a very short time, but during
it were exceedingly violent. Reading the papers, the triumphant tone
of the articles daily representing Germany laid low, "the beast at
bay, reduced to impotence", at a time when the contrary was only too
true, drove him mad with rage by their irresponsible and ferocious
stupidity. The papers were in part edited at that time by well-known
people who thus found a way of "doing their bit"; by the Brichots, the
Norpois, by the Legrandins. M. de Charlus longed to meet and pulverise
them with his bitterest irony. Always particularly well informed about
sexual taints, he recognised them in others who, imagining themselves
unsuspected, delighted in denouncing the sovereigns of the "Empires of
prey", Wagner et cetera as culprits in this respect. He yearned to
encounter them face to face so that he could rub their noses in their
own vices before the world and leave these insulters of a fallen foe
demolished and dishonoured. Finally M. de Charlus had a still further
reason for being the Germanophile he was. One was that as a man of the
world he had lived much amongst people in society, amongst men of
honour who will not shake hands with a scamp; he knew their niceties
and also their hardness, he knew they were insensible to the tears of
a man they expel from a club, with whom they refuse to fight a duel,
even if their act of "moral purity" caused the death of the black
sheep's mother. Great as his admiration had been for England, that
impeccable England incapable of lies preventing corn and milk from
entering Germany was in a way a nation of chartered gentlemen, of
licensed witnesses and arbiters of honour, whilst to his mind some of
Dostoevski's disreputable rascals were better. But I never could
understand why he identified such characters with the Germans since
the latter do not appear to us to have displayed the goodness of heart
which, in the case of the former, lying and deceit failed to
prejudice. Finally, a last trait will complete the Germanophilism of
M. de Charlus, which he owed through a peculiar reaction to his
"Charlisme". He considered Germans very ugly, perhaps because they
were a little too close to his own blood, he was mad about Moroccans
but above all about Anglo-Saxons whom he saw as living statues of
Phidias. In him sexual gratification was inseparable from the idea of
cruelty and (how strong this was I did not then realise) the man who
attracted him seemed like a kind of delightful executioner. He would
have thought, if he had sided against the Germans, that he was acting
as he only did in his hours of self-indulgence, that is, in a sense
contrary to his naturally merciful nature, in other words,
impassioned; by seductive evil and desiring to crush virtuous
ugliness. He was like that at the time of the murder of Rasputine at
a supper party _a la_ Dostoevski, which impressed people by its strong
Russian flavour (an impression which would have been much stronger if
the public had been aware of all that M. de Charlus knew), because
life deceives us so much that we come to believing that literature has
no relation with it and we are astonished to observe that the
wonderful ideas books have presented to us are gratuitously exhibited
in everyday life, without risk of being spoilt by the writer, that for
instance, a murder at a supper-party, a Russian incident, should have
something Russian about it.

The war continued indefinitely and those who had announced years ago
from a reliable source that negotiations for peace had begun,
specifying even the clauses of the armistice, did not take the
trouble, when they talked with you, to excuse themselves for their
false information. They had forgotten it and were ready sincerely to
circulate other information which they would forget equally quickly.
It was the period when there were continuous raids of Gothas. The air
perpetually quivered with the vigilant and sonorous vibration of the
French aeroplanes. But sometimes the siren rang forth like a
harrowing appeal of the Walkyries, the only German music one had heard
since the war—until the hour when the firemen announced that the
alarm was finished, while the maroon, like an invisible newsboy,
communicated the good news at regular intervals and cast its joyous
clamour into the air.

M. de Charlus was astonished to discover that even men like Brichot
who, before the war, had been militarist and reproached France for not
being sufficiently so, were not satisfied with blaming Germany for the
excesses of her militarism, but even condemned her for admiring her
army. Doubtless, they changed their view when there was a question of
slowing down the war against Germany and rightly denounced the
pacifists. Yet Brichot, as an example of inconsistency, having agreed
in spite of his failing sight, to give lectures on certain books which
had appeared in neutral countries, exalted the novel of a Swiss in
which two children, who fell on their knees in admiration of the
symbolic vision of a dragoon, are denounced as the seed of militarism.
There were other reasons why this denunciation should displease M. de
Charlus, who considered that a dragoon can be exceedingly beautiful.
But still more he could not understand the admiration of Brichot, if
not for the book which the baron had not read, at all events for its
spirit which was so different from that which distinguished Brichot
before the war. Then everything that was soldierlike was good, whether
it was the irregularities of a General de Boisdeffre, the travesties
and machinations of a Colonel du Paty de Clam or the falsifications of
Colonel Henry. But by that extraordinary _volte-face_ (which was in
reality only another face of that most noble passion, patriotism,
necessarily militarised when it was fighting against Dreyfusism which
then had an anti-militarist tendency and now was almost
anti-militarist since it was fighting against Germany, the
super-militarist country), Brichot now cried: "Oh! What an admirable
exhibition, how seemly, to appeal to youth to continue brutality for a
century, to recognise no other culture than that of violence: a
dragoon! One can imagine the sort of vile soldiery we can expect of a
generation brought up to worship these manifestations of brute force."
"Now, look here," M. de Charlus said to me, "you know Brichot and
Cambremer. Every time I see them, they talk to me about the
extraordinary lack of psychology in Germany. Between ourselves, do you
believe that until now they have cared much about psychology or that
even now they are capable of proving they possess any? But, believe
me, I am not exaggerating. Even when the greatest Germans are in
question, Nietzsche or Goethe, you will hear Brichot say 'with that
habitual lack of psychology which characterises the Teutonic race'.
Obviously there are worse things than that to bear but you must admit
that it gets on one's nerves. Norpois is more intelligent, I admit,
though he has never been other than wrong from the beginning. But what
is one to say about those articles which excite universal enthusiasm?
My dear Sir, you know as well as I do what Brichot's value is, and I
have a liking for him even since the feud which has separated me from
his little tabernacle, on account of which I see him much less.
Still, I have a certain respect for this college dean, a fine speaker
and an erudite, and I avow that it is extremely touching, at his age
and in bad health as he is, for he has become sensibly so in these
last years, that he should have given himself up to what he calls
service. But whatever one may say, good intention is one thing, talent
another and Brichot never had talent. I admit that I share his
admiration for certain grandeurs of the war. At most, however, it is
extraordinary that a blind partisan of antiquity like Brichot, who
never could be ironical enough about Zola seeing more beauty in a
workman's home, in a mine than in historic palaces or about Goncourt
putting Diderot above Homer and Watteau above Raphael, should repeat
incessantly that Thermopylae or Austerlitz were nothing in comparison
with Vauquois. This time the public, which resisted the modernists of
Art and Literature, follows those of the war, because it's the fashion
to think like that and small minds are not overwhelmed by the beauty
but by the enormous scale of the war. They never write Kolossal
without a K but at bottom what they bow down to is indeed colossal."

"It is a curious thing," added M. de Charlus, with that little high
voice he adopted at times, "I hear people who look quite happy all day
long and drink plenty of excellent cocktails, say they will never be
able to see the war through, that their hearts aren't strong enough,
that they cannot think of anything else and that they will die
suddenly, and the extraordinary thing is that it actually happens; how
curious! Is it a matter of nourishment, because they only eat things
which are badly cooked or because, to prove their zeal, they harness
themselves to some futile task which interferes with the diet that
preserved them? Anyhow, I have registered a surprising number of these
strange premature deaths, premature at all events, so far as the
desire of the dead person was concerned. I do not remember exactly
what I was saying to you about Brichot and Norpois admiring this war
but what a singular way to talk about it. To begin with, have you
remarked that pullulation of new idioms used by Norpois which,
exhausted by daily use—for really he is indefatigable and I believe
the death of my Aunt Villeparisis gave him a second youth—are
immediately replaced by others that are in general use. Formerly, I
remember you used to be amused by noting these modes of language which
appear, are kept going for a time, and then disappear: 'He who sows
the wind shall reap the whirlwind', 'The dog barks, the caravan
passes', 'Find me a good politic and I shall produce good finance for
you, said Baron Louis'. These are symptoms which it would be
exaggerated to take too tragically but which must be taken seriously,
'To work for the King of Prussia', (for that matter this last has been
revived as was inevitable). Well, since, alas, I have seen so many of
them die we have had the 'Scrap of paper', 'the Robber Empires', 'the
famous Kultur which consists in assassinating defenceless women and
children', 'Victory, as the Japanese say, will be to him who can
endure a quarter of an hour longer than the other', 'The
Germano-Turanians', 'Scientific barbarity', 'if we want to win the war
in accordance with the strong expression of Mr. Lloyd George', in
fact, there are no end of them; the _mordant_ of the troops, and the
_cran_ of the troops. Even the sentiments of the excellent Norpois
undergo, owing to the war, as complete a modification as the
composition of bread or the rapidity of transport. Have you observed
that the excellent man, anxious to proclaim his desires as though they
were a truth on the point of being realised, does not, all the same,
dare to use the future tense which might be contradicted by events,
but has adopted instead the verb 'know'." I told M. de Charlus that I
did not understand what he meant. I must observe here that the Duc de
Guermantes did not in the least share the pessimism of his brother. He
was, moreover, as Anglophile as M. de Charlus was Anglophobe. For
instance, he considered M. Caillaux a traitor who deserved to be shot
a thousand times over. When his brother asked him for proofs of this
treason, M. de Guermantes answered that if one only condemned people
who signed a paper on which they declared "I have betrayed", one would
never punish the crime of treason. But in case I should not have
occasion to return to it, I will also remark that two years later the
Duc de Guermantes, animated by pure anti-Caillauxism, made the
acquaintance of an English military attaché and his wife, a remarkably
well-read couple, with whom he made friends as he did with the three
charming ladies at the time of the Dreyfus Affair and that from the
first day he was astounded, in talking of Caillaux, whose conviction
he held to be certain and his crime patent, to hear one of the
charming and well-read couple remark, "He will probably be acquitted,
there is absolutely nothing against him." M. de Guermantes tried to
allege that M. de Norpois, in his evidence had exclaimed, looking the
fallen Caillaux in the face, "You are the Giolitti of France, yes, M.
Caillaux, you are the Giolitti of France." But the charming couple
smiled and ridiculed M. de Norpois, giving examples of his senility
and concluded that he had thus addressed a M. Caillaux overthrown
according to the _Figaro_, but probably in reality a very sly M.
Caillaux. The opinions of the Duc de Guermantes soon changed. To
attribute this change to the influence of an English woman is not as
extreme as it might have seemed if one had prophesied even in 1919,
when the English called the Germans Huns and demanded a ferocious
sentence on the guilty, that their opinion was to change and that
every decision which could sadden France and help Germany would be
supported by them. To return to M. de Charlus. "Yes," he said, in
reply to my not understanding him, "'to know' in the articles of
Norpois takes the place of the future tense, that is, expresses the
wishes of Norpois, all our wishes, for that matter," he added, perhaps
not with complete sincerity. "You understand that if 'know' had not
replaced the simple future tense one might, if pressed, admit that the
subject of this verb could be a country. For instance, every time
Brichot said 'America "would not know" how to remain indifferent to
these repeated violations of right,' 'the two-headed Monarchy "would
not know" how to fail to mend its ways', it is clear that such phrases
express the wishes of Norpois (his and ours) but, anyhow, the word can
still keep its original sense in spite of its absurdity, because a
country can 'know', America can 'know', even the two-headed Monarchy
itself can 'know' (in spite of its eternal lack of psychology) but
that sense can no longer be admitted when Brichot writes 'the
systematic devastations "would not know" how to persuade the
neutrals', or 'the region of the Lakes "would not know" how to avoid
shortly falling into the hands of the Allies', or 'the results of the
elections in the neutral countries "would not know" how to reflect the
opinion of the great majority in those countries'. Now it is clear
that these devastations, these Lakes and these results of elections
are inanimate things which cannot 'know'. By that formula Norpois is
simply addressing his injunctions to the neutrals (who, I regret to
observe, do not seem to obey him) to emerge from their neutrality or
exhorts the Lakes no longer to belong to the 'Boches'." (M. de Charlus
put the same sort of arrogance into his tone in pronouncing the word
_boches_ as he did formerly in the train to Balbec when he alluded to
men whose taste is not for women,) "Moreover, did you observe the
tricks Norpois made use of in opening his articles on neutrals ever
since 1914? He begins by declaring emphatically that France has no
right to mix herself up in the politics of Italy, Roumania, Bulgaria,
et cetera. It is 'for those powers alone to decide with complete
independence, consulting only their national interests, whether or not
they are to abandon their neutrality.' But if the preliminary
declarations of the article (which would formerly have been called the
exordium) are so markedly disinterested, what follows is generally
much less so. Anyhow, as he goes on M. de Norpois says substantially,
'it follows that those powers only who have allied themselves with the
side of Right and Justice will secure material advantages from the
conflict. It cannot be expected that the Allies will compensate those
nations which, following the line of least resistance, have not placed
their sword at the service of the Allies, by granting them territories
from which, for centuries the cry of their oppressed brethren has been
raised in supplication'. Norpois, having taken this first step towards
advising intervention, nothing stops him and he now offers advice more
and more thinly disguised, not only as to the principle but also as to
the appropriate moment for intervention. 'Naturally,' he says, playing
as he would himself call it, the good apostle, 'it is for Italy, for
Roumania alone to decide the proper hour and the form under which it
will suit them to intervene. They cannot, however, be unaware that if
they delay too long, they run the risk of missing the crucial moment.
Even now Germany trembles at the thud of the Russian cavalry. It is
obvious that the nations which have only flown to help in the hour of
victory of which the resplendent dawn is already visible, can in no
wise have a claim to the rewards they can still secure by hastening,
et cetera, et cetera'. It is like at the theatre when they say,'the
last remaining seats will very soon be gone. This is a warning to the
dilatory', an argument which is the more stupid that Norpois serves it
up every six months and periodically admonishes Roumania: 'The Hour
has come for Roumania to make up her mind whether she desires or not
to realise her national aspirations. If she waits much longer, she
will risk being too late'. And though he has repeated the admonition
for two years, the 'too late' has not yet come to pass and they keep
on increasing their offers to Roumania. In the same way he invites
France et cetera to intervene in Greece as a protective power because
the treaty which bound Greece to Serbia has not been maintained. And,
really and truly, if France were not at war and did not desire the
assistance of the benevolent neutrality of Greece, would she think of
intervening as a protective power and would not the moral sentiment
which inspires her reprobation of Greece for not keeping her
engagements with Serbia, be silenced the moment the question arose of
an equally flagrant violation in the case of Roumania and Italy who,
like Greece, I believe with good reason, have not fulfilled their
obligations, which were less imperative and extensive than is
supposed, as Allies of Germany. The truth is that people see
everything through their newspaper and how can they do otherwise,
seeing that they themselves know nothing about the peoples or the
events in question. At the time of the 'Affaire' which stirred all
passions during that period from which it is now the right thing to
say we are separated by centuries, for the war-philosophers have
agreed that all links with the past are broken, I was shocked at
seeing members of my own family give their esteem to anti-clericals
and former Communists whom their paper represented as anti-Dreyfusards
and insult a general of high birth and a Catholic who was a
revisionist. I am no less shocked to see the whole French people
execrate the Emperor Francis Joseph, whom they used rightly to
venerate; I am able to assure you of this, for I used to know him well
and he honoured me by treating me as his cousin. Ah! I have not
written to him since the war," he added as though avowing a fault for
which he knew he could not be blamed. "Yes, let me see, I did write
once, only the first year. But it doesn't matter. It doesn't in the
least change my respect for him, but I have many young relatives
fighting in our lines and they would, I know, consider that I was
acting very badly if I kept up a correspondence with the head of a
nation at war with us. Let him who wishes criticise me," he added, as
if he were boldly exposing himself to my reproof; "I did not want a
letter signed Charlus to arrive at Vienna in such times as these. The
chief criticism that I should direct against the old sovereign is that
a _Seigneur_ of his rank, head of one of the most ancient and
illustrious houses in Europe, should have allowed himself to be led by
the nose by that little upstart of a country squire very intelligent
for that matter but a pure _parvenu_ like William of Hohenzollern.
That is not the least shocking of the anomalies of this war." And as,
once he adopted the nobiliary point of view which for him overshadowed
everything else, M. de Charlus was capable of the most childish
extravagances, he told me, in the same serious tone as if he were
speaking of the Marne or of Verdun, that there were most interesting
and curious things which should not be excluded by any historian of
this war. "For instance," he said, "people are so ignorant that no
one has observed this remarkable point: the Grand-Master of the Order
of Malta, who is a pure-bred Boche, does not on that account cease
living at Rome where, as Grand-Master of our Order he enjoys
exterritorial privileges. Isn't that interesting?" he added with the
air of saying, "You see you have not wasted your evening by meeting
me." I thanked him and he assumed the modest air of one who is not
asking for payment. "Ah! What was I telling you? Oh, yes, that people
now hated Francis Joseph according to their paper. In the cases of the
King Constantine of Greece and the Czar of Bulgaria the public has
wavered between aversion and sympathy according to reports that they
were going to join the Entente or what Norpois calls 'the Central
Empires'. It is like when he keeps on telling us every moment that the
hour of Venizelos is going to strike. I do not doubt that Venizelos is
a man of much capacity but how do we know that his country wants him
so much? He desired, we are informed, that Greece should keep her
engagements with Serbia. So we ought to know what those engagements
were and if they were more binding than those which Italy and Roumania
thought themselves justified in violating. We display an anxiety
about the way in which Greece executes her treaties and respects her
constitution that we certainly should not have were it not to our
interest. If there had been no war, do you believe that the
guaranteeing powers would even have paid the slightest attention to
the dissolution of the Chamber? I observe that one by one they are
withholding their support from the King of Greece so as to be able to
throw him out or imprison him the day that he has no army to defend
him. I was telling you that the public only judges the King of Greece
and the Czar of Bulgaria by the papers, and how could they do
otherwise since they do not know them? I used to see a great deal of
them and knew them well. When Constantine of Greece was Crown Prince
he was a marvel of beauty. I have always believed that the Emperor
Nicholas had a great deal of sentiment for him. _Honi soit qui mal y
pense_, of course. Princess Christian spoke of it openly, but she's a
fiend. As to the Czar of the Bulgarians, he's a sly hussy, a regular
show-figure, but very intelligent, a remarkable man. He's very fond of
me."

M. de Charlus, who could be so pleasant, became odious when he touched
on these subjects. His self-complacency irritated one like an invalid
who keeps on assuring you how well he is. I have often thought that
the "faithful" who so much wanted the avowals withheld by the tortuous
personage of Balbec, could not have put up with his ostentatious but
uneasy display of his mania and would have felt as uncomfortable as if
a morphinomaniac took out his syringe in front of them; probably they
would soon have had enough of the confidences they thought they would
relish. Besides, one got sick of hearing everybody relegated without
proof to a category to which he belonged himself though he denied it.
In spite of his intelligence, he had constructed for himself in that
connection a narrow little philosophy (at the base of which there was
perhaps a touch of that peculiar way of looking at life which
characterised Swann) which attributed everything to special causes
and, as always happens when a man is conscious of bordering on his own
particular defect, he was unworthy of himself and yet unusually
self-satisfied. So it came about that so earnest, so noble-minded a
man could wear that idiotic smile when he enunciated: "as there are
strong presumptions of the same character in regard to Ferdinand of
Coburg's relations with the Emperor William, that might be the reason
why Czar Ferdinand placed himself by the side of the Robber-Empires.
_Dame_, after all, that is quite comprehensible. One is generous to
one's sister, one doesn't refuse her anything. To my mind it would be
a very charming explanation of the alliance of Germany and Bulgaria."
And M. de Charlus laughed as long over this stupid explanation as
though it had been an ingenious one which, even if there had been any
justification for it, was as puerile as the observations he made about
the war when he judged it from the feudal point of view of from that
of a Knight of the Order of Jerusalem. He finished with a sensible
observation: "It is astonishing that the public, though it only judges
men and things in the war by the papers, is convinced that it is
exercising its own initiative." M. de Charlus was right about that. I
was told that Mme. de Forcheville's silences and hesitations were worth
witnessing for the sake of her facial expression when she announced
with deep personal conviction: "No, I do not believe that they will
take Warsaw", "I am under the impression that it will not last a
second winter." "What I do not want is a lame peace." "What alarms me,
if you care for my opinion, is the Chamber." "Yes, I believe, all the
same, they can break through." In enunciating these phrases, Odette's
features assumed a knowing look which was emphasised when she
remarked: "I don't say that the German armies don't fight well, but
they lack that _cran_ as we call it." In using that expression (or the
word _mordant_ in connection with the troops) she made a gesture of
kneading with her hand, putting her head on one side and half-closing
her eyes like an art-student. Her language bore more traces than ever
of her admiration for the English whom she was no longer content to
call as she used to "our neighbours across the Channel", or "our
friends the English", but nothing less than "our loyal allies".
Unnecessary to say that she never neglected to use in all contexts the
expression "fair play" in order to show that the English considered
the Germans unfair players. "Fair play is what is needed to win the
war, as our brave allies say." And she rather awkwardly associated the
name of her son-in-law with everything that concerned the English
soldiers and alluded to the pleasure he found in living on intimate
terms with the Australians, as also with the Scottish, the New
Zealanders and the Canadians. "My son-in-law, Saint-Loup, knows the
slang of all those brave 'tommies'. He knows how to make himself
understood by those who came from the far 'Dominions' and he would
just as soon fraternise with the most humble private as with the
general commanding the base."

Let this digression about Mme. de Forcheville, while I am walking along
the boulevard side by side with M. de Charlus, justify a longer one,
to elucidate the relations of Mme. Verdurin with Brichot at this
period. If poor Brichot, like Norpois, was judged with little
indulgence by M. de Charlus (because the latter was at once extremely
acute and, unconsciously, more or less Germanophile) he was actually
treated much worse by the Verdurins. The latter were, of course,
chauvinist, and they ought to have liked Brichot's articles which, for
that matter, were not inferior to many publications considered
delectable by Mme. Verdurin. The reader will, perhaps, recall that,
even in the days of La Raspelière, Brichot had become, instead of the
great man they used to think him, if not a Turk's head like Saniette,
at all events the object of their thinly disguised raillery.
Nevertheless, he was still one of the "faithfuls" which assured him
some of the advantages tacitly allotted by the statutes to all the
foundation and associated members of the little group. But as,
gradually, perhaps owing to the war or through the rapid
crystallisation of the long-delayed fashionableness with which all the
necessary but till then invisible elements had long since saturated
the Verdurin Salon, that salon had been opened to a new society and as
the "faithfuls", at first the bait for this new society, had ended by
being less and less frequently invited, so a parallel phenomenon was
taking place in Brichot's case. In spite of the Sorbonne, in spite of
the Institute, his fame had, until the war, not outgrown the limits of
the Verdurin salon. But when almost daily he began writing articles
embellished with that false brilliance we have so often seen him
lavishly dispensing for the benefit of the "faithful" and as he
possessed a real erudition which, as a true Sorbonian, he did not seek
to hide under some of the graces he gave to it, society was literally
dazzled. For once, moreover, it accorded its favour to a man who was
far from being a nonentity and who could claim attention owing to the
fertility of his intelligence and the resources of his memory. And
while three duchesses went to spend the evening at Mme. Verdurin's,
three others contested the honour of having the great man at their
table; and when the invitation of one of them was accepted, she felt
herself the freer because Mme. Verdurin, exasperated by the success of
his articles in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, had taken care not to have
him at her house when there was any likelihood of his encountering
there some brilliant personage whom he did not yet know and who would
hasten to capture him. Brichot in his old age was satisfied to bestow
on journalism in exchange for liberal emoluments, all the distinction
he had wasted gratis and unrecognised in the Verdurins' salon (for his
articles gave him no more trouble than his conversation, so good a
talker and so learned was he) and this might have brought him
unrivalled fame and at one moment seemed on the eve of doing so, had
it not been for Mme. Verdurin. Certainly Brichot's articles were far
from being as remarkable as society people believed them to be. The
vulgarity of the man was manifest at every instant under the pedantry
of the scholar. And over and above imagery which meant nothing at all
("the Germans can no longer look the statue of Beethoven in the face",
"Schiller must have turned in his grave", "the ink which initialled
the neutrality of Belgium was hardly dry", "Lenin's words mean no more
than the wind over the steppes") there were trivialities such as
"Twenty thousand prisoners, that's something like a figure". "Our
Command will know how to keep its eyes open once for all". "We mean to
win; one point, that's all". But mixed up with that nonsense, there
were so much knowledge, intelligence and good reasoning. Now Mme.
Verdurin never began one of Brichot's articles without the
anticipatory satisfaction of expecting to find absurdities in it and
read it with concentrated attention so as to be certain not to let any
of them escape her. Unfortunately there always were some, one hardly
had to wait. The most felicitous quotation from an almost unknown
author, unknown at all events, by the writer of the work Brichot
referred to, was made use of to prove his unjustifiable pedantry and
Mme. Verdurin awaited the dinner-hour with impatience so that she could
let loose her guests' shrieks of laughter, "Well! What about our
Brichot this evening? I thought of you when I was reading the
quotation from Cuvier. Upon my word, I believe he's going crazy." "I
haven't read it yet," said a "faithful". "What, you haven't read it
yet? You don't know the delights in store for you. It's so perfectly
idiotic that I nearly died of laughing." And delighted that someone or
other had not yet read the particular article so that she could expose
Brichot's absurdities herself, Mme. Verdurin told the butler to bring
the _Temps_ and began to read it aloud, emphasising the most simple
phrases. After dinner, throughout the evening, the anti-Brichot
campaign continued, but with a pretence of reserve. "I'm not reading
this too loud because I'm afraid that down there," she pointed at the
Comtesse Molé, "there's a lingering admiration for this rubbish.
Society people are simpler than one would think." While they wanted
Mme. Molé to hear what they were saying about her, they pretended the
contrary by lowering their voices, and she, in cowardly fashion,
disowned Brichot whom in reality she considered the equal of Michelet.
She agreed with Mme. Verdurin and yet, so as to end on a note which
seemed to her incontrovertible, added, "One cannot deny that it is
well written." "You call that well written," rejoined Mme. Verdurin, "I
consider that it's written like a pig," a sally which raised a society
laugh, chiefly because Mme. Verdurin, rather abashed by the word "pig",
had uttered it in a whisper, with her hand over her lips. Her
vindictiveness towards Brichot increased the more because he naïvely
displayed satisfaction at his success in spite of ill-humour provoked
by the censorship each time, as he said, with his habitual use of
slang to show he was not too don-like, it had _caviardé_ a part of his
article. To his face Mme. Verdurin did not let him perceive how poor an
opinion she had of his articles except by a sullen demeanour which
would have enlightened a more perceptive man. Once only she reproached
him with using "I" so often. As a matter of fact he did so, partly
from professional habit; expressions like: "I admit that", "I am aware
that the enormous development of the fronts necessitates", et cetera,
et cetera imposed themselves on him but still more because as a former
militant anti-Dreyfusard who had surmised the German preparations long
before the war, he had grown accustomed to continually writing: "I
have denounced them since 1897", "I pointed it out in 1901", "I.
warned them in my little brochure, very scarce to-day '_habent sua
fata libelli_'" and thus the habit had taken root. He blushed deeply
at Mme. Verdurin's bitter observation. "You are right, madame. One who
loved the Jesuits as little as M. Combes, before he had been
privileged with a preface by our charming master in delightful
scepticism, Anatole France, who, unless I err, was my
adversary—before the deluge, said that the 'I' was always
detestable." From that moment Brichot replaced "I" by "we", but "we"
did not prevent the reader from seeing that the writer was speaking
about himself, on the contrary it enabled him never to cease talking
about himself, making a running commentary out of his least
significant sentences and composing an article simply on a negation,
invariably protected by "we". For instance, Brichot had stated, maybe,
in another article that the German armies had lost some of their
value, he would then begin as follows: "'We' are not going to disguise
the truth. 'We' have said that these German armies had lost some of
their value. 'We' have not said that they were not still of great
value. Still less shall 'we' say that they have no value at all, any
more than 'we' should say that ground is gained which is not gained,
et cetera, et cetera." In short, Brichot would have been able, merely
by enunciating everything he would not say and by recalling everything
that he had been saying for years and what Clausewitz, Ovid,
Apollonius of Tyana had said so and so many centuries ago, easily to
constitute the material of a large volume. It is a pity he did not
publish it because those articles crammed with erudition are now
difficult to obtain. The Faubourg Saint-Germain, instructed by Mme.
Verdurin, began laughing at Brichot at her house, but, once they got
away from the little clan, they continued to admire him. Then laughing
at him became the fashion as it had been the fashion to admire him,
and even those ladies who continued to be secretly interested in him,
had no sooner read one of his articles, than they stopped and laughed
at them in company, so as not to appear less intelligent than others.
Brichot had never been so much talked about in the little clan as at
this period, but with derision. The criterion of the intelligence of
every newcomer was his opinion of Brichot's articles; if he responded
unsatisfactorily the first time, they soon taught him how to judge
people's intelligence. "Well, my dear friend," continued M. de
Charlus, "all this is appalling and there's a good deal more to
deplore than tiresome articles. They talk about vandalism, about the
destruction of statues, but is not the destruction of so many
wonderful young men who were polychrome statues of incomparable beauty
also vandalism? Is not a city in which there are no more beautiful men
like a city in which all the statuary has been destroyed? What
pleasure can I have in going to dinner at a restaurant where I am
served by old moss-grown pot-bellies who look like Père Didon, if not
by women in mob caps who make me think I am at a Bouillon Duval.
Exactly, my dear fellow, and I think I have the right to say so, for
the Beautiful is as much the Beautiful in living matter. A fine
pleasure to be served by rickety creatures with spectacles the reason
of whose exemption can be read in their faces. Nowadays, if one wants
to gratify one's eyes with the sight of a good-looking person in a
restaurant, one must no longer seek him among the waiters but among
the customers. And one may see a servant again, often as they are
changed, but what about that English lieutenant who has been to the
restaurant for the first time and will perhaps be killed to-morrow?
When Augustus of Poland, as Morand, the delightful author of
_Clarisse_ narrates, exchanged one of his regiments against a
collection of Chinese pots, in my opinion he did a bad business. To
think that all those splendid footmen six feet high, who adorned the
monumental staircases of our beautiful lady friends, have all been
killed, most of them having joined up because people kept on telling
them that the war would only last two months. Ah! little did they
know, as I did, the power of Germany, the valour of the Prussian
race," he added, forgetting himself. And then, noticing that he had
allowed his point of view to be too clearly seen, he continued: "It is
not so much Germany as the war itself that I fear for France. People
imagine that the war is only a gigantic boxing-match at which they are
gazing from afar, thanks to the papers. But that is completely untrue.
It is a disease which, when it seems cured at one spot crops up in
another. To-day, Noyon will be relieved, to-morrow we shall have
neither bread nor chocolate, the day after, he who believed himself
safe and would, if needs must, be ready to die an unimagined death,
will be horrified to read in the papers that his class has been called
up. As to monuments, the destruction of a unique masterpiece like
Rheims is not so terrible to me as to witness the destruction of such
numbers of _ensembles_ which made the smallest village of France
instructive and charming." Immediately I began thinking of Combray and
how in former days I had thought myself diminished in the eyes of Mme.
de Guermantes by avowing the modest situation which my family occupied
there. I wondered if it had not been revealed to the Guermantes and to
M. de Charlus whether by Legrandin or Swann or Saint-Loup or Morel.
But that this might have been divulged was less painful to me than
retrospective explanations. I only hoped that M. de Charlus would not
allude to Combray. "I do not want to speak ill of the Americans,
Monsieur," he continued, "it seems they are inexhaustibly generous
and, since there has been no orchestral conductor in this war and each
entered the dance considerably after the other and the Americans began
when we were almost finished, they may have an ardour which four years
of war has quenched among us. Even before the war they loved our
country and our art and paid high prices for our masterpieces of which
they have many now. But it is precisely this deracinated art, as M.
Barrés would say, which is the reverse of everything which made the
supreme charm of France. The Chateau explained the church which in its
turn, because it had been a place of pilgrimage, explained the
_chanson de geste_. As an illustration, I need not elaborate my own
origin and my alliances; for that matter we are not concerned with
that, but recently I had to settle some family interests and in spite
of a certain coolness which exists between myself and the Saint-Loup
family, I had to pay a visit to my niece who lives at Combray. Combray
was only a little town like so many others, but our ancestors were
represented as patrons in many of the painted windows of the church,
in others our arms were inscribed. We had our chapel there and our
tombs. This church was destroyed by the French and by the English
because it served as an observation post for the Germans. All that
medley of surviving history and of art which was France is being
destroyed and it is not over yet. Of course I am not so ridiculous as
to compare for family reasons the destruction of the Church of Combray
with that of the Cathedral of Rheims which was a miracle of a Gothic
cathedral in its spontaneous purity of unique statuary, or that of
Amiens. I do not know if the raised arm of St. Firmin is smashed to
atoms to-day. If it is, the the most noble affirmation of faith and of
energy has disappeared from this world." "The symbol of it, Monsieur,"
I answered, "I love symbols as you do, but it would be absurd to
sacrifice to the symbol the reality which it symbolises. The
cathedrals must be adored until the day when in order to preserve
them, it would be necessary to deny the truths which they teach. The
raised arm of St. Firmin, with an almost military gesture, said: 'Let
us be broken if honour demands it. Do not sacrifice men to stones
whose beauty arises from having for a moment established human
verities.'". "I understand what you mean," answered M. de Charlus,
"and M. Barrés who alas! has been the cause of our making too many
pilgrimages to the statue of Strasbourg and to the tomb of M.
Deroulède, was moving and graceful when he wrote that the Cathedral of
Rheims itself was less dear to us than the life of one of our
infantrymen. This assertion makes the rage of our newspapers against
the German general who said that the Cathedral of Rheims was less
precious to him than the life of a German soldier, rather ridiculous.
And what is so exasperating and harrowing is that every country says
the same thing. The reasons given by the industrialist associations of
Germany for retaining possession of Belfort as indispensable for the
preservation of their country against our ideas of revenge are the
same as those of Barrés exacting Mayence to protect us against the
velleities of invasion by the Boches. How is it that the restitution
of Alsace-Lorraine appeared to France an insufficient motive for a war
and yet a sufficient motive for continuing it and for declaring it
anew each year? You seem to believe the victory of France certain; I
hope so with all my heart, you don't doubt that, but ever since,
rightly or wrongly, the Allies believe that their own victory is
assured (for my own part, of course, I should be delighted with such a
solution, but I observe a great many paper victories, pyrrhic
victories at a cost not revealed to us) and that the Boches are no
longer confident of victory, we see Germany seeking peace and France
wanting to prolong the war; that just France rightly desiring to make
the voice of justice heard should be also France the compassionate,
and make words of pity heard, were it only for the sake of her
children, so that when spring-days come round and flowers bloom again,
they will brighten other things than tombs. Be frank, my dear friend,
you yourself exposed the theory to me that things only exist thanks to
a perpetually renewed creation. You used to say that the creation of
the world did not take place once and for all, but necessarily
continues day by day. Well, if you said that in good faith you cannot
except the war from that theory. It is all very well for our excellent
Norpois to write (trotting out one of those rhetorical accessories he
loves, like 'the dawn of victory' and 'General Winter') 'now that
Germany has wanted war, the die is cast' the truth is that every day
war is declared anew. Therefore he who wants to continue it is as
culpable as he who began it, perhaps more, for the latter could not
perhaps foresee all its horrors. And there is nothing to show that so
prolonged a war, even if it has a victorious issue, will not have
perils. It is difficult to talk about things which have no precedent
and of repercussions on the organism of an operation which is
attempted for the first time. Generally, it is true, we get over these
novelties we're alarmed about quite well. The shrewdest Republican
thought it mad to bring about the Disestablishment of the Church and
it passed like a letter through the post. Dreyfus was rehabilitated,
Picquart was made Minister of War without anybody saying a word.
Nevertheless, what may not happen after such an exhaustion as that
induced by an uninterrupted war lasting for several years? What will
the men do when they come back? Will they be tired out? Will fatigue
have broken them or driven them mad? All this may turn out badly, if
not for France, at least for the Government and perhaps for the form
of Government. Formerly you made me read the admirable Aimée de
Coigny by Maurras. I should be much surprised if some Aimée de Coigny
did not anticipate from the war which our Republic is making,
developments expected by Aimée de Coigny in 1812 from the war the
Empire was then making. If that Aimée de Coigny actually does exist,
will her hopes be realised? I hope not. To return to the war itself:
did the Emperor William begin it? I strongly doubt it and if so, what
act has he committed that Napoleon, for instance, did not commit? Acts
I, personally, consider abominable but I am astonished they should
inspire so much horror in the Napoleonic incense-burners, in those
who, on the day of the declaration of war, shrieked like General X—: 'I
have been awaiting this day for forty years. It is the greatest day of
my life;' Heaven knows if anyone protested more loudly than I when
society gave a disproportionate position to the Nationalists, to
soldiers, when every friend of the Arts was accused of doing things
which were injurious to the Fatherland, when every unwarlike
civilisation was considered deleterious. Hardly an authentic social
figure counted in comparison with a general, Some crazy woman or other
nearly introduced me to M. Syveton! You will tell me that all I was
concerned to uphold were laws of society; but, in spite of their
apparent frivolity, they might perhaps have prevented many excesses.
I have always honoured those who defend grammar and logic and it is
only realised fifty years later that they have averted great dangers.
And our Nationalists are the most Germanophobe, the most diehard of
men, but during the last fifteen years their philosophy has entirely
changed. As a fact, they are now urging the continuation of the war
but it is only to exterminate a belligerent race and from love of
peace. For the warlike civilisation they thought so beautiful fifteen
years ago now horrifies them; not only they reproach Prussia with
having allowed the military element in her country to predominate, but
they consider that at all periods military civilisations were
destructive of everything they have now discovered to be precious,
including in the Arts that of gallantry. It suffices for one of their
critics to be converted to nationalism for him to become at once a
friend of peace; he is persuaded that in all warlike civilisations
women play a humiliating and lowly part. One does not venture to reply
that the ladies of the Knights in the Middle Ages and Dante's Beatrice
were perhaps placed on a throne as elevated as M. Becque's heroines. I
am expecting one of these days to find myself placed at table below a
Russian revolutionary or perhaps only below one of our generals who
make war because of their horror of war and in order to punish a
people for cultivating an ideal which they themselves considered the
only invigorating one fifteen years ago. The unhappy Czar was still
honoured some months ago because he called the Conference of the
Hague, but now that we are saluting free Russia we forget her only
title to glory, thus the wheel of the world turns. And yet Germany
uses so many of the same expressions as France that one might think
that she's copying her. She never stops saying that she is fighting
for her existence. When I read: 'We are fighting against an implacable
and cruel enemy until we have obtained a peace which will guarantee
our future against all aggression and in order that the blood of our
brave soldiers should not have been shed in vain,' or 'who is not with
us is against us', I do not know if this phrase is Emperor William's
or M. Poincaré's, for each one has used the same words with variations
twenty times, though to tell you the truth I must confess that the
Emperor in this case was the imitator of the President of the
Republic. France would not perhaps have held to prolonging the war if
she had remained weak, but neither would Germany perhaps have been in
such a hurry to finish it if she had not ceased to be strong, I mean,
to be as strong as she was, for you will see she is still strong
enough." He had got into the habit of talking very loud from
nervousness, from seeking relief from impressions which, having never
cultivated any art, he felt impelled to cast forth, as an aviator his
bombs, into an open field where his words struck no one, and
especially in society where they fell haphazard and where he was
listened to with attention owing to snobbishness and where he so
tyrannised his audience that one could say it was intimidated. On the
boulevards this harangue was, moreover, a mark of his scorn for
passers-by on whose account he no more lowered his voice than he would
have moved aside for them. But there his voice exploded and astounded,
and, especially when his remarks were sufficiently intelligible for
passers-by to turn round, the latter might have had us arrested as
defeatists. I drew M. de Charlus' attention to this but succeeded only
in exciting his hilarity: "Admit that it really would be funny," he
said. "After all, one never knows, anyone of us risks every evening
being in the news-column the following day; and, if it comes to that,
why shouldn't I be shot in the ditch of Vincennes? The same thing
happened to my great-uncle the Duc d'Enghien, Thirst for noble blood
delights the populace which in this respect displays more refinement
than lions. As to those animals, you know, if Mme. Verdurin only had a
scratch on her nose, she'd say they had sprung upon, what in my youth
one would have called her _pif_." And he began to laugh with his mouth
wide open as though he had been alone in a room. At moments, seeing
certain rather suspicious individuals emerging from a gloomy passage
near where M. de Charlus was passing and congregating at some distance
from him, I wondered whether he would prefer me to leave him alone or
stay with him. Thus, one who met an old man subject to epileptic fits
whose incoherent behaviour foreshadowed the probable imminence of an
attack, would ask himself whether his company is desired as a support
or feared as that of a witness from whom he might wish to hide the
attack and whose mere presence perhaps might induce it whereas
complete quiet might prevent it, while the possible event from which
he cannot decide whether to fly or not, is revealed by the zigzag walk
of the patient, similar to that of a drunken man. In the present case
of M. de Charlus, the various divergent positions, signs of a possible
incident of which I was not sure whether he wished it to happen or
feared that my presence would prevent it, were, by an ingenious
setting, not assumed by the baron himself who was walking straight on,
but by a whole company of actors. All the same I think he preferred
avoiding the encounter for he drew me into a side street more obscure
than the boulevard and where there was a constant stream of soldiers
of every army and of every nation, a juvenile influx compensating and
consoling M. de Charlus for the reflux of all those men to the
frontier which had caused that frightful void in Paris in the first
days of the mobilisation. M. de Charlus unceasingly admired the
brilliant uniforms passing before us which made Paris as cosmopolitan
as a port, as unreal as a painted scene composed of architectural
forms making a background for the most varied and seductive costumes.
He retained all his respect and affection for certain _grandes dames_
who were accused of defeatism, just as he did for those who had
formerly been accused of Dreyfusism. He only regretted that in
condescending to be political, they should have given a hold to "the
polemics of journalists." His view was unchanged so far as they were
concerned. For his frivolity was so systematic that birth combined
with beauty and other glamours was the lasting thing, and the war,
like the Dreyfus Affair, a vulgar and fugitive fashion. Had the
Duchesse de Guermantes been shot as an overture to a separate peace
with Austria, he would have considered it heroic and no more degrading
than it seems to-day that Marie Antoinette was sentenced to
decapitation. At that moment, M. de Charlus, looking as noble as a St.
Vallier or a St. Mégrin, was erect, rigid, solemn, spoke gravely,
making none of those gestures and movements which reveal those of his
kind. Yet why is it there are none whose voice is just right? At the
very moment when he was talking of the most serious things, there was
still that false note which needed tuning. And M. de Charlus literally
did not know which way to look next, raising his head as though he
felt the need of an opera-glass, which, however, would not have been
much use to him, for, on account of the zeppelin raid of the previous
day having aroused the vigilance of the public authorities, there were
soldiers right up to the sky. The aeroplanes I had seen some hours
earlier, like insects or brown spots upon the evening blue, continued
to pass into the night deepened still more by the partial extinction
of the street lamps like luminous faggots. The greatest impression of
beauty given us by these flying human stars was perhaps that of making
us look at the sky whither one rarely turned one's eyes in that Paris
of which in 1914 I had seen the almost defenceless beauty awaiting the
menace of the approaching enemy. Certainly there was now, as then, the
ancient unchanged splendour of a moon cruelly, mysteriously serene,
which poured upon the still intact monuments the useless loveliness of
her light, but, as in 1914, and more than in 1914, there was something
else, other lights and intermittent beams which, one realised, whether
they came from aeroplanes or from the searchlights of the Eiffel
Tower, were directed by an intelligent will, by a protective vigilance
which caused that same emotion, inspired that same gratitude and calm
I had experienced in Saint-Loup's room, in the cell of that military
cloister where so many fervent and disciplined hearts were being
prepared for the day when without a single hesitation they were to
consummate their sacrifice in the fullness of youth.

During the raid of the evening before the sky was more agitated than
the earth, but when it was over, the sky became comparatively calm
but, like the sea after a tempest, not completely so. Aeroplanes rose
like rockets into the sky to rejoin the stars and searchlights moved
slowly across the sky divided into sections by their pale star dust
like wandering Milky Ways. The aeroplanes so mingled with the stars
that one could almost imagine oneself in another hemisphere looking at
new constellations. M. de Charlus expressed his admiration for these
aviators and, as he could no more help giving free play to his
Germanophilism than to his other inclinations, although he denied
both, said to me: "Moreover, I must add that I admire the Germans in
their Gothas just as much. And think of the courage that is needed to
go in those zeppelins. They are simply heroes. And if they do throw
their bombs upon civilians, don't our batteries fire upon theirs? Are
you afraid of Gothas and cannon?" I avowed that I was not, but perhaps
I was wrong. Having got into the habit, through idleness, of
postponing my work from day to day, I doubtless supposed death might
deal in the same way with me. How could one be afraid of a shell which
you are convinced will not strike you that day? Moreover, these
isolated ideas of bombs thrown, of possible death, added nothing
tragic to the image I had formed of the passing German airships,
until, one evening, I might see a bomb thrown towards us from one of
them as it was tossed and segmented in the storm-clouds or from an
aeroplane which, though I knew its murderous errand, I had till then
regarded as celestial. For the ultimate reality of danger is only
perceived through something new and irreducible to what one has
previously known which we call an impression and which is often, as
was the case now, summed up in a line, a line which would disclose a
purpose, a line in which there was a latent power of action which
modified it; thus upon the Pont de la Concorde around the menacing and
pursued aeroplane, as though the fountains of the Champs Elysées, of
the Place de la Concorde, of the Tuileries, were reflected in the
clouds, searchlights like jets of luminous water pierced the sky like
arrows, lines full of purpose, the foreseeing and protective purpose
of powerful and wise men towards whom I felt that same gratitude as on
the night in quarters at Doncières when their power deigned to watch
over us with such splendid precision.

The night was as beautiful as in 1914 when Paris was equally menaced.
The moonbeams seemed like soft, continuous magnesium-light offering
for the last time nocturnal visions of beautiful sites such as the
Place Vendôme and the Place de la Concorde, to which my fear of shells
which might destroy them lent a contrasting richness of as yet
untouched beauty as though they were offering up their defenceless
architecture to the coming blows. "You are not afraid?" repeated M. de
Charlus. "Parisians do not seem to realise their danger. I am told
that Mme. Verdurin gives parties every day. I only know it by hearsay
for I know absolutely nothing about them; I have entirely broken with
them," he added, lowering not only his eyes as if a telegraph boy had
passed by, but also his head and his shoulders and lifting his arms
with a gesture that signified: "I wash my hands of them!" "At least I
can tell you nothing about them," (although I had not asked him). "I
know that Morel goes there a great deal" (it was the first, time he
had spoken to me about him). "It is suggested that he much regrets the
past, that he wants to make it up with me again," he continued,
showing simultaneously the credulity of a suburban who remarks: "It is
commonly said that France is negotiating more than ever with Germany,
even that _pourparlers_ are taking place" and of the lover whom the
worst rebuffs cannot discourage. "In any case, if he wants to, he has
only to say so. I am older than he is and it is not for me to take the
first step." And indeed the uselessness of his saying so was
abundantly evident. But, besides, he was not even sincere and for that
reason one was embarrassed about M. de Charlus because, when he said
it was not for him to take the first step, he was, on the contrary,
making one and was hoping that I should offer to bring about a
reconciliation. Certainly I knew the naïve or assumed credulity of
those who care for someone or even who are simply not invited by him,
and impute to that person a wish he has never expressed in spite of
fulsome importunities.

It must here be noted, that, unhappily, the very next day, M. de
Charlus suddenly found himself face to face with Morel in the street.
The latter in order to excite his jealousy took him by the arm and
told him some tales that were more or less true and when M. de
Charlus, bewildered and urgently wanting Morel to stay with him that
evening, entreated him not to go away, the other, catching sight of a
friend, said good-bye. M. de Charlus, in a fury, hoping that the
threat which, as may be imagined, he was never likely to execute,
would make Morel remain with him, said to him: "Take care, I shall be
revenged," and Morel turned away with a laugh, smacking his astonished
friend on the back and putting his arm round him. From the sudden
tremulous intonation with which M. de Charlus, in talking of Morel,
had emphasised his words, from the pained expression in the depth of
his eyes, I had the impression that there was something more behind
his words than ordinary insistence. I was not mistaken and I will
relate at once the two incidents which later proved it. (I am
anticipating by many years in regard to the second of these incidents,
which was after the death of M. de Charlus and that only occurred at a
much later period. We shall have occasion to see him again several
times, very different from the man we have hitherto known and in
particular, when we see him the last time, it will be at a period when
he had completely forgotten Morel). The first of these events happened
only two years after the evening when I was walking down the
boulevards, as I say, with M. de Charlus. I met Morel. Immediately I
thought of M. de Charlus, of the pleasure it would give him to see the
violinist, and I begged the latter to go and see him, were it only
once. "He has been good to you," I told Morel. "He is now old, he
might die, one must liquidate old quarrels and efface their memory."
Morel appeared entirely to share my view as to the desirability of a
reconciliation. Nevertheless, he refused categorically to pay a single
visit to M. de Charlus. "You are wrong," I said to him. "Is it
obstinacy or indolence or perversity or ill-placed pride or virtue (be
sure that won't be attacked), or is it coquetry?" Then the violinist,
distorting his face into an avowal which no doubt cost him dear,
answered with a shiver: "No, it is none of those reasons. As to
virtue, I don't care a damn, as to perversity, on the contrary, I'm
beginning to pity him, nor is it from coquetry, that would be futile.
It is not from idleness, there are days together when I do nothing but
twiddle my thumbs. No, it has nothing to do with all that, it is—I
beg you tell no one, and it is folly for me to tell you—it's—it's
because I'm afraid." He began trembling in all his limbs. I told him I
did not understand what he meant. "Don't ask me; don't let us say any
more about it. You don't know him as I do. I could tell you things
you've no idea of." "But what harm could he do you? Less still if
there were no resentment between you. And, besides, you know at bottom
he is very kind." "Yes, indeed, I know it. I know that he is kind and
full of delicacy and right feeling. But leave me alone, don't talk
about it, I beg you, I'm ashamed that I'm afraid of him." The second
incident dates from after the death of M. de Charlus. There were
brought to me several _souvenirs_ which he had left me and a letter
enclosed in three envelopes written at least ten years before his
death. But he had at that time been so seriously ill that he had made
his will, then he had partially recovered before falling into the
condition in which we shall see him later on the day of an afternoon
party at the Princesse de Guermantes'. The letter had remained in a
casket with objects he had left to certain friends, for seven years;
seven years during which he had completely forgotten Morel. The letter
written in a very fine yet firm hand was as follows: "My dear friend,
the ways of Providence are sometimes inscrutable. It makes use of the
sin of an inferior individual to prevent a just man's fall from
virtue. You know Morel, you know where he came from, from what fate I
wanted to raise him, so to speak, to my own level. You know that he
preferred to return, not merely to the dust and ashes from which every
man, for man is veritably a phoenix, can be reborn, but into the slime
and mud where the viper has its being. He let himself sink and thus
preserved me from falling into the pit. You know that my arms contain
the device of Our Lord Himself: '_Inculcabis super leonem et
aspidem_', with a man represented with a lion and a serpent at his
feet as a heraldic support. Now if the lion in me has permitted itself
to be trampled on, it is because of the serpent and its prudence which
is sometimes too lightly called a defect, because the profound wisdom
of the Gospel has made of it a virtue, at least a virtue for others.
Our serpent whose hisses were formerly harmoniously modulated when he
had a charmer—himself greatly charmed for that matter—was not only a
musical reptile but possessed to the point of cowardice that virtue
which I now hold for divine, prudence.. It was this divine prudence
which made him resist the appeals which I sent him to come and see me.
And I shall have neither peace in this world nor hope of forgiveness
in the next if I do not make this avowal to you. It is he who in this
matter was the instrument of divine wisdom, for I had resolved that he
should not leave me alive. It was necessary that one or the other of
us should disappear. I had decided to kill him. God himself inspired
his prudence to preserve me from a crime. I do not doubt but that the
intercession of the Archangel Michael, my patron saint, played a great
part in this matter, and I implore him to forgive me for having so
much neglected him during many years and for having requited him so
ill for the innumerable bounties he has shown me, especially in my
fight against evil. I owe to his service, I say it from the fulness of
my faith and my intelligence, that the Celestial Father inspired Morel
not to come and see me. And now it is I who am dying. Your faithful
and devoted _Semper idem_, P. G. Charlus." Then I understood Morel's
fear. Certainly there were both pride and literature in that letter,
but the avowal was true. And Morel knew better than I did that "almost
mad side" which Mme. de Guermantes recognised in her brother-in-law
and which was not limited, as I had supposed until then, to momentary
outbursts of superficial and futile passion.

But we must retrace our steps. I am still walking down the boulevards
beside M. de Charlus, who is using me as a vague intermediary for
overtures of peace between him and Morel. Observing that I did not
reply, he thus continued: "As to that, I do not know why he doesn't
play any more. Apparently there is no more music, under the pretext
of the war, but they dance and dine out. These fêtes represent what
will be perhaps, if the Germans advance further, the last days of our
Pompeii. It only needs the lava of some German Vesuvius (their naval
guns are not less terrible than a volcano) to surprise them at their
toilet and eternalise their gesture by interrupting it; children will
later on be educated by illustrations of Mme. Molé about to put the
last layer of paint on her face before going to dine with her
sister-in-law, or Sosthène de Guermantes finishing painting her false
eyebrows. It will be lecturing material for the Brichots of the
future; the frivolity of a period after ten centuries is worthy of the
most serious erudition, especially if it has been preserved intact by
a volcanic irruption in which matter akin to lava was thrown by
bombardment. What documents for future history! When asphyxiating
gases analogous to those emitted by Vesuvius and earthquakes like
those which buried Pompeii will preserve intact all the remaining
imprudent women who have not fled to Bayonne with their pictures and
their statues. Moreover, has it not been Pompeii, a bit at a time
every evening, for more than a year? These people flying to their
cellars, not to bring out an old bottle of Mouton-Rothschild or of St.
Emilion, but to hide themselves and their most precious possessions
like the priests of Herculaneum surprised by death at the moment when
they were carrying off the sacred vessels. Attachment to an object
always brings death to the possessor. Paris was not, like Herculaneum,
founded by Hercules. But what similarities force themselves upon one
and that lucidity which has come to us is not only of our period,
every period possessed it. If we think that to-morrow we may share the
fate of the cities of Vesuvius, the women of those days believed they
were menaced with the fate of the Cities of the Plain. They have
discovered on the walls of one of the houses of Pompeii the
inscription: 'Sodom and Gomorra.'" I do not know if it was this name
of Sodom and the ideas which it aroused in him, or whether it was that
of the bombardment which made M. de Charlus lift for an instant his
eyes to Heaven, but he soon brought them down to earth again. "I
admire all the heroes of this war," he said. "My dear fellow, take all
those English soldiers whom I thought of somewhat lightly at the
beginning of the war as mere football-players presumptuous enough to
measure themselves against professionals—and what professionals!
Well, merely aesthetically they are athletes of Greece, yes, of
Greece, my dear fellow, these are the youths of Plato or rather of the
Spartans. A friend of mine went to their camp at Rouen and saw marvels
of which one has no idea. It is no longer Rouen, it is another town.
Of course there is still the old Rouen with the emaciated saints of
the Cathedral. That is beautiful also, but it is another thing. And
our _poilus_! I cannot tell you what a savour I find in our _poilus_,
in our little '_parigots_.' There, like that one who is passing so
free and easy in that droll, wide-awake manner. I often stop and have
a word with them. What quick intelligence, what good sense! And the
boys from the Provinces, how nice they are with their rolling 'r's and
their country jargon. I have always lived a great deal in the country,
I have slept in the farms, I know how to talk to these people. But our
admiration for the French must not allow us to underestimate our
enemies, that diminishes ourselves. And you don't know what a German
soldier is, you've never seen them as I have, on parade doing the
goose-step in 'Unter den Linden.'" In returning to the ideal of
virility he had touched on at Balbec which in the course of time had
taken a philosophic form, he made use of absurd arguments and at
moments, even when he showed superiority, these forced one to perceive
the limitations of a mere man of fashion, even though he was an
intelligent man of fashion; "You see," he said, "that superb
fellow, the German soldier, is a strong, healthy being, who only thinks
of the greatness of his country, 'Deutschland über Alles' which isn't
as stupid as it sounds, and while they prepare themselves in virile
fashion we are steeped in dilettantism." That word probably signified
to M. de Charlus something analogous to literature, for immediately,
recalling without doubt that I loved literature and, for a time, had
the intention of devoting myself to it, he tapped me on the shoulder
(taking the opportunity of leaning on it until I felt as bad as I used
to during my military service from the recoil of a "76") and remarked,
as though to soften the reproach: "Yes, we have ruined ourselves by
dilettantism, all of us, you too, remember, you can repeat your _mea
culpa_ like me. We have all been too dilettante." Through surprise at
the reproach, lack of the spirit of repartee, deference towards my
interlocutor and touched by his friendly kindness, I replied, as
though, at his invitation, I ought also to strike my breast. And this
was perfectly senseless, for I had not a shadow of dilettantism to
reproach myself with. "Well," he said, "I'll leave you," the knot of
men which had escorted us some distance having at last disappeared,
"I'm going home to bed like an old gentleman, the war seems to have
changed all our habits—one of Norpois' aphorisms." As to that, I knew
that M. de Charlus would not be less surrounded by soldiers because he
was at home for he had transformed his mansion into a military
hospital, yielding in that less to his obsession than to his good
heart.

It was a clear, still night and, in my imagination, the Seine, flowing
between its circular bridges, circular through a combination of
structure and reflection, resembled the Bosphorus, the moon
symbolising, may-be, that invasion which the defeatism of M. de
Charlus predicted or the cooperation of our Musulman brothers with
the armies of France, thin and curved like a sequin, seemed to be
placing the Parisian sky under the oriental sign of the crescent. For
an instant longer M. de Charlus stopped, facing a Senegalese and, in
farewell took my hand and crushed it, a German habit, peculiar to
people of the baron's sort, continuing for some minutes to knead it,
as Cottard would have said, as though the baron wanted to impart to my
joints a suppleness they had not lost. In the case of blind people
touch supplements the vision to a certain extent; I hardly know which
sense this kneading took the place of. Perhaps he believed he was only
pressing my hand, as, no doubt, he also believed he was only glancing
at the Senegalese who passed into the shadows and did not deign to
notice he was being admired. But in both cases M. de Charlus made a
mistake; there was an excess of contact and of staring. "Is not the
whole Orient of Decamps, of Fromentin, of Ingres, of Delacroix in all
this?" he remarked, still immobilised by the departure of the
Senegalese. "You know that I am never interested in things and people
except as a painter or as a philosopher. Besides, I'm too old. But
what a pity, to complete the picture, that one of us two is not an
odalisque."

It was not the Orient of Decamps or even of Delacroix which began
haunting my imagination when the baron left me, but the old Orient of
the _Thousand and One Nights_ which I had so much loved. Losing myself
more and more in the network of black streets, I was thinking of the
Caliph Haroun Al Raschid in quest of adventures in the lost quarters
of Bagdad. Moreover, heat, due to the weather and to my walking, had
made me thirsty, but all the bars had been closed long since and on
account of the shortage of petrol the few taxis I met, driven by
Levantines or negroes, did not even trouble to respond to my signs.
The only place where I could have obtained something to drink and have
regained the strength to return home, would have been a hotel. But in
the street, rather far from the centre, I had now reached, all the
hotels had been closed since the Gothas began hurling their bombs on
Paris. The same applied to nearly all the shops whose proprietors,
owing to the dearth of employees or because they themselves had taken
fright and had fled to the country, had left upon their doors the
usual notice, written by hand, announcing their reopening at a distant
and problematical date. Those establishments which survived, announced
in the same fashion they they would only open twice a week, and one
felt that misery, desolation and fear inhabited the whole quarter. I
was the more surprised to observe, amongst these abandoned houses, one
where, in contrast, life seemed to have conquered fear and failure and
which seemed to be full of activity and opulence. Behind the closed
shutters of every window, lights, shaded to conform to police
regulations, revealed complete indifference to economy and every few
moments the door opened to admit some new visitor. This hotel must
have excited the jealousy of the neighbouring shopkeepers (on account
of the money which its owners must be making) and my curiosity was
aroused on noticing an officer emerge from it at a distance of some
fifteen paces which was too far for me to be able to recognise him in
the darkness.

Yet something about him struck me. It was not his face for I could not
see it nor was it his uniform which was disguised in an ample cloak,
it was the extraordinary disproportion between the number of different
points past which his body flitted and the minute number of seconds
employed in an exit, which resembled an attempted sortie by someone
besieged. This made me believe, though I could not formally recognise
him—whether by his outline, his slimness or his gait, or—even by his
velocity but by a sort of ubiquity peculiar to him—that it was
Saint-Loup. Who-ever he was, the officer with this gift of occupying
so many different points in space in so short a time, had disappeared,
without noticing me, in a cross street, and I stood asking myself
whether or not I should enter this hotel the modest appearance of
which made me doubt if it was really Saint-Loup who had emerged from
it. I now remembered that Saint-Loup had got himself unhappily mixed
up in an espionage affair owing to the appearance of his name in some
letters seized upon a German officer. Full justice had been rendered
him by the military authority but in spite of myself I related that
fact to what I now saw. Was that hotel used as a meeting-place by
spies? The officer had been gone some moments when I saw several
privates of various arms enter and this added to my suspicions; and I
was extremely thirsty. "It is probable I can get something to drink
here," I said to myself and I took advantage of that to try and
satisfy my curiosity in spite of my apprehensions. I do not think,
however, that it was curiosity which decided me to climb up the
several steps of the little staircase at the end of which the door of
a sort of vestibule was open, no doubt on account of the heat. I
believed at first that I should not be able to satisfy it for I saw
several people come and ask for rooms, to whom the reply was given
that there was not a single one vacant. Soon I grasped that all the
people of the place had against them was that they did not belong to
that nest of spies, for an ordinary sailor presented himself and they
immediately gave him No. 28. I was able, thanks to the darkness,
without being seen myself, to observe several soldiers and two men of
the working class who were talking quietly in a small, stuffy room
showily decorated with coloured portraits of women out of magazines
and illustrated reviews. The men were expressing patriotic opinions:
"There's no help for it, one must do like the rest," said one.
"Certainly, I don't think I'm going to be killed," another said in
answer to a wish I had not heard, and who, I gathered, was leaving the
following day for a dangerous post. "Just think of it, at twenty-two!
It would be pretty stiff after only doing six months!" he cried in a
tone revealing, more even than a desire to live, the justice of his
reasoning as though being only twenty-two ought to give him a better
chance of not being killed, in fact, that it was impossible he should
be. "In Paris it's wonderful," said another, "one wouldn't think
there was a war on. Are you joining up, Julot?" "Of course I'm joining
up. I want to go and have a smack at those dirty Boches." "That
Joffre! He's a chap who slept with Minister's wives, he's not done
anything." "It's rotten to hear that sort of stuff," interrupted an
aviator who was somewhat older, turning towards the last speaker, a
workman. "I advise you not to talk like that when you get to the front
or the _poilus_ will very soon have you out of it." The banality of
this conversation gave me no great desire to hear more and I was about
to go up or down when my attention was roused by hearing the following
words which made me tremble. "It is extraordinary that the _patron_
has not come back yet, at this time of night. I don't know where he'll
find those chains." "But the other is already chained up." "Yes, of
course he's chained—in a way. If I were chained like that I'd pretty
soon free myself." "But the padlock is locked." "Oh! It's locked all
right but if one tried, one could force it open. The trouble is the
chains aren't long enough. You aren't going to explain that sort of
thing to me, considering I was beating him the whole night till my
hands bled." "Well, you'll have to take a turn at it to-night." "No,
it's not my turn, it's Maurice's. It will be my turn on Sunday. The
patron promised me." Now I knew why the sailor's strong arms were
needed. If peaceful citizens had been refused admittance, it was not
because the hotel was a nest of spies. An atrocious crime was going
to be consummated if someone did not arrive in time to discover it and
have the guilty arrested. On this threatened yet peaceful night all
this seemed like a dream story and I deliberately entered the hotel
with the determination of one who wants to see justice done with the
enthusiasm of a poet. I lightly touched my hat and those present,
without disturbing themselves, answered my salute more or less
politely. "Will you please tell me whom I can ask for a room and for
something to drink?" "Wait a minute, the _patron_ has gone out." "But
the chief is upstairs," suggested one of them. "You know perfectly
well you can't disturb him." "Do you think they'll give me a room?"
"Yes, I believe so, 43 must be free," said the young man who was sure
of not being killed because he was only twenty-two, making room for me
on the sofa beside him. "It would be a good thing to open the window,
there's an awful lot of smoke here," said the aviator, and indeed each
of them had a pipe or a cigarette. "Yes, that's all right, but shut
the shutters first; you know lights are forbidden on account of
zeppelins." "There won't be any more zeppelins, the papers said that
they'd all been shot down." "They won't come! They won't come! What
do you know about it? When you've been fifteen months at the front as
I have, when you've shot down your five German aeroplanes, then you'll
be able to talk. It's absurd to believe the papers. They were over
Compiègne yesterday and killed a mother with her two children." The
young man who hoped not to be killed and who had an energetic, open
and sympathetic face spoke with ardent eyes and with profound pity.
"There's no news of big Julot. His godmother hasn't had a letter from
him for eight days and it's the first time he has been so long without
giving her any news." "Who's his godmother?" "The lady who keeps the
place of convenience below Olympia." "Do they sleep together?" "What
are you talking about, she's a perfectly respectable married woman.
She sends him money every week because she's got a good heart. She's
a jolly good sort." "So you know big Julot?" "Do I know him?" The
young man of twenty-two answered hotly. "He's one of my most intimate
friends. There aren't many I think as much of as I do of him, he's a
good pal, always ready to do one a turn. It would be a bad look out if
anything happened to him." Someone proposed a game of dice and from
the fevered fashion in which the young man cast them and called out
the results with his eyes starting out of his head, it was easy to see
that he had the temperament of a gambler. I could not quite grasp what
someone else said to him just then but he suddenly cried in a tone of
deep resentment. "Julot a pimp! He may say he is but he bloody well
isn't. I've seen him pay his women. Yes I have. I don't say that
Algerian Jeanne hasn't ever given him a bit. But never more than five
francs, a woman in a house, earning more than fifty francs a day. To
think of a man letting a woman give him only five francs. And now
she's at the front, she's having a pretty hard life, I admit, but she
earns what she likes and she never sends him anything. Julot a pimp,
indeed there'd be plenty of pimps at that rate. Not only he isn't a
pimp, but I think he's a fool into the bargain." The oldest of the
party, whom no doubt the _patron_ had entrusted with keeping a certain
amount of order, having gone out for a moment, only heard the end of
the conversation but he stared at me and seemed visibly annoyed at the
effect which it might have produced upon me. Without specially
addressing the young man of twenty-two who had been exposing and
developing his theory of venal love, he remarked in a general way:
"You're talking too much and too loud The window is open. People are
asleep at this hour. You know, if the _patron_ heard you, there would
be trouble." Just at that moment there was a sound of a door, opening,
and everybody kept quiet, thinking it was the _patron_. But it was
only a foreign chauffeur, whom everybody welcomed. When the young man
of twenty-two, seeing the superb watch-chain extending across the
new-comer's waistcoat, bestowed on him a questioning and laughing
glance followed by a frown of his eyebrows at the same time giving me
a severe wink, I understood that the first glance meant "Hullo! Where
did you steal that? All my congratulations!" and the second "Don't say
anything. We don't know this chap, so look out." Suddenly the
_patron_ came in sweating, carrying several yards of heavy chains,
strong enough to chain up several prisoners and said: "I've got a nice
load here. If all of you were not so lazy, I shouldn't be obliged to
go myself." I told him I wanted a room for some hours only, "I could
not find a carriage and I am not very well, but I should like to have
something taken up to my room to drink." "Pierrot, go to the cellar
and fetch some cassis and tell them to prepare No. 43. There's No. 7
ringing. They say they're ill! Nice sort of illness! They're after
cocaine, they look half-doped. They ought to be chucked out. Have a
pair of sheets been put in No. 22? There you are, there's No. 7
ringing again. Run and see. What are you doing there, Maurice? You
know very well you're expected, go up to 14 his, and look sharp!"
Maurice went out rapidly, following the _patron_ who was evidently
annoyed that I had seen his chains. "How is it you're so late?"
inquired the young man of twenty-two of the chauffeur. "What do you
mean, so late, I'm an hour too early. But it's too hot to walk about,
my appointment's only at midnight." "But who are you here for?" "For
Pamela la Charmeuse," answered the oriental chauffeur, whose laugh
disclosed beautiful white teeth. "Ah!" exclaimed the young man of
twenty-two. Soon I was shown up to No. 43 but the atmosphere was so
unpleasant and my curiosity so great that, having drunk my cassis, I
descended the stairs, then, seized with another idea, I went up again
and, without stopping at the floor where my room was, I went right up
to the top. All of a sudden, from a room which was isolated at the end
of the corridor, I seemed to hear stifled groans. I went rapidly
towards them and applied my ear to the door. "I implore you, pity,
pity, unloose me, unchain me, do not strike me so hard," said a voice.
"I kiss your feet, I humiliate myself, I won't do it again, have
pity." "I won't, you blackguard," replied another voice, "and as
you're screaming and dragging yourself about on your knees like that,
I'll tie you to the bed. No mercy!" And I heard the crack of a
cat-o'nine-tails, probably loaded with nails for it was followed by
cries of pain. Then I perceived that there was a lateral peep-hole in
the room, the curtain of which they had forgotten to draw. Creeping
softly in that direction, I glided up to the peep-hole and there on
the bed, like Prometheus bound to his rock, squirming under the
strokes of a cat-o-nine-tails, which was, as a fact, loaded with
nails, wielded by Maurice, already bleeding and covered with bruises
which proved he was not submitting to the torture for the first time,
I saw before me M. de Charlus. All of a sudden the door opened and
someone entered who, happily, did not see me. It was Jupien. He
approached the Baron with an air of respect and an intelligent smile.
"Well! Do you need me?" The Baron requested Jupien to send Maurice
out for a moment. Jupien put him out with the greatest heartiness. "We
can't be heard, I suppose?" asked the Baron. Jupien assured him that
they could not. The Baron knew that Jupien, though he was as
intelligent as a man of letters, had no sort of practical sense, and
talked in front of designing people with hidden meanings that deceived
no one, mentioning surnames everyone knew. "One second," interrupted
Jupien who had heard a bell ring in room No. 3. It was a Liberal
Deputy who was going away. Jupien did not need to look at the number
of the bell, he knew the sound of it, as the deputy came after
luncheon every day. That particular day he had been obliged to change
his hour because he had to attend his daughter's marriage at mid-day
at St. Pierre de Chaillot So he had come in the evening, but wanted to
get away in good time because of his wife who got anxious if he came
home late, especially in these times of bombardment. Jupien made a
point of accompanying him to the door so as to show deference towards
the honourable gentleman without any eye to his own advantage. For
while the deputy repudiating the exaggerations of the Action Française
(he would for that matter have been incapable of understanding a line
of Charles Maurras or of Léon Daudet), was on good terms with
Ministers who were flattered at being invited to his shooting parties,
Jupien would never have dared to solicit the slightest help from him
in his occasional difficulties with the police. He fully understood,
if he had risked talking about such matters to the wealthy and timid
legislator, he would not have been spared the most harmless raid but
would instantly have lost the most generous of his customers. Having
accompanied the deputy to the door, the latter pulled his hat over his
eyes, raised his collar and gliding rapidly away as he did in his
electoral campaigns, believed he was hiding his face. Jupien—going up
again to M. de Charlus, said: "It was M. Eugène." At Jupien's, as in
lunatic asylums, people were only called by their first names, but, to
satisfy the curiosity of the habitués and increase the prestige of his
house, he took care to add the surnames in a whisper. Sometimes,
however, Jupien did not know the identity of his clients, so he
invented them and said that this one was a stockbroker, another a man
of title or an artist; trifling and amusing mistakes so far as those
whom he wrongly named were concerned. He finally quite resigned
himself to ignorance as to the identity of M. Victor. Jupien further
had the habit of pleasing the Baron by doing the contrary of what is
considered the right thing at certain parties: "I am going to
introduce M. Lebrun to you" (in his ear: "he calls himself M. Lebrun
but in reality he's a Russian Grand-Duke.)" In another sense, Jupien
did not think it interesting enough to introduce a milkman to M. de
Charlus, but, with a wink: "He's a sort of milkman, but over and above
that he's one of the most dangerous _apaches_ in Belleville." (The
rollicking way in which Jupien said "_apache_" was worth seeing). And
as though this observation were not enough, he added others such as:
"He has been sentenced several times for stealing and burgling houses.
He was sent to Fresnes for fighting (the same jolly air) with people
in the street whom he half crippled and he has been in an African
battalion where he killed his sergeant."

The Baron was slightly annoyed with Jupien because he knew that
everybody more or less in that house he had charged his factotum to
buy and have run by an underling, owing to the indiscretions of the
uncle of Mlle. d'Oloran late Mme. de Cambremer, was aware of his
personality and his name, (fortunately many believed it was a
pseudonym and so deformed it that the Baron was protected by their
stupidity, not by Jupien's discretion). Eased by the knowledge that
they could not be overheard, the Baron said to him: "I did not want to
speak before that little fellow. He's very nice and does his best but
he's not brutal enough. His face pleases me but he calls me a low
debauchee as though he had learnt it by heart." "Oh dear no! No one
has said a word to him," Jupien answered without realising the
unlikelihood of the assertion. "As a matter of fact he was mixed up in
the murder of a concierge in La Villette." "Indeed? That is rather
interesting," said the Baron with a smile. "But I've just secured a
butcher, a slaughterer, who looks rather like him; by a bit of luck he
happened to look in. Would you like to try him?" "Yes, with pleasure."
I watched the man of the slaughter-house enter. He did look a little
like "Maurice" but, what was more curious, both of them were of a type
that I had never been able to define but which I then realised was
also exemplified in Morel; if not in his face as I knew it, at least
in a cast of features that the eyes of love, seeing Morel differently
from me, might have fitted into his countenance. From the moment that
I had made within myself a model with features borrowed from my
recollections of what Morel might represent to someone else, I
realised that those two young men, of whom one was a jeweller's boy
and the other a hotel-employee, were vaguely his successors. Must one
conclude that M. de Charlus, at all events on one side of his
love-affairs, was always faithful to the same type and that the lust
which caused him to select these two young men was the same which had
caused him to stop Morel on the platform of the station of Doncières,
that all three resembled a little that youth whose form, engraved in
the sapphire eyes of M. de Charlus, gave to his gaze the peculiar
something which had frightened me on that first day at Balbec. Or, was
it that his love for Morel had modified the type he favoured and he
was now seeking men who resembled Morel to console himself for the
latter's desertion? Another supposition was that perhaps in spite of
appearances there had never been between Morel and himself any
relations but those of friendship and that M. de Charlus had made
Jupien procure these young men because they sufficiently resembled
Morel for him to have the illusion that Morel was taking pleasure with
him. It is true, bearing in mind all that M. de Charlus had done for
Morel, that this supposition seems improbable, if one did not know
that love forces great sacrifices from us for the being we love and
sometimes the sacrifice of our very desire which, moreover, is the
less easily exorcised because the being we love feels that we love him
the more. What takes away the likelihood of such a supposition was the
highly strung and profoundly passionate temperament of M. de Charlus,
similar in that respect to Saint-Loup, which might at first have
played the same part in his relations with Morel, though a more decent
and negative part, as his nephew's early relations with Rachel. The
relations one has with a woman one loves (and that can apply also to
love for a youth) can remain platonic for other reasons than the
chastity of the woman or the unsensual nature of the love she
inspires. The reason may be that the lover is too impatient and by the
very excess of his love is unable to await the moment when he will
obtain his desires by sufficient pretence of indifference.
Continually, he returns to the charge, he never ceases writing to her
whom he loves, he is always trying to see her, she refuses herself, he
becomes desperate. From that time she knows, if she grants him her
company, her friendship, that these benefits will seem so considerable
to one who believed he was going to be deprived of them, that she need
grant nothing more and that she can take advantage of the moment when
he can no longer bear being unable to see her and when, at all costs,
he must put an end to the struggle by accepting a truce which will
impose upon him a platonic relationship as its preliminary condition.
Moreover, during all the time that preceded this truce, the lover, in
a constant state of anxiety, ceaselessly hoping for a letter, a
glance, has long ceased thinking of the physical desire which at first
tormented him but which has been exhausted by waiting and has been
replaced by another order of longings more painful still if left
unsatisfied. The pleasure formerly anticipated from caresses will
later be accorded but transmuted into friendly words and promises of
intercourse which brings delicious moments after the strain of
uncertainty or after a look impregnated with such coldness that it
seemed to remove the loved one beyond hope of his ever seeing her
again. Women divine all this and know they can afford the luxury of
never yielding to those who, from the first, have betrayed their
inextinguishable desire. A woman is enchanted if, without giving
anything, she can receive more than she generally gets when she does
give herself. On that account highly-strung men believe in the
chastity of their idol. And the halo with which they surround her is
also a product, but, as we see, an indirect one, of their excessive
love. There is in woman something of the unconscious function of drugs
which are cunning without knowing it, like morphine. They are not
indispensable in the case of those to whom they give the blessings of
sleep and real well-being. By such they will not be bought at their
weight in gold, taken in exchange for everything the sick man
possesses, it is by those other unfortunates (they may, indeed, be the
same but altered in the course of years) to whom the drug brings no
sleep, gives them no pleasure but who, without it, are a prey to an
agitation to which they must at all costs put an end, even though to
do so means death. And M. de Charlus, whose case, with the slight
difference due to the similarity of sex, can be included in the
general laws of love, though he belonged to a family more ancient than
the Capets themselves, rich and sought after by the most exclusive
society, while Morel was nobody, might say to him as he had said to
me: "I am a prince and I desire your welfare," nevertheless Morel was
his master if he did not yield to him. And perhaps, to know he was
loved was sufficient to make him determine not to. The disgust of
distinguished people for snobs who want to force themselves upon them,
the virile man has for the invert, the woman for every man who is too
much in love with her. M. de Charlus not only had every advantage, he
might perhaps have offered immense bribes to Morel, yet it is likely
that they would have been unavailing in opposition to the latter's
will. M. de Charlus had something in common with the Germans to whom
he belonged by his origin and who, in the war now proceeding, were, as
the Baron too often repeated, conquerors on every front. But what use
were their victories since each one left the Allies more resolved than
ever to refuse them the peace and reconciliation they wanted. Thus
Napoleon invaded Russia and magnanimously invited the authorities to
present themselves to him. But no one came.

I went downstairs and entered the little ante-room where Maurice,
uncertain whether they would call him back or not and whom Jupien had
told to wait, was about to join in a game of cards with one of his
friends. They were much excited about a croix-de-guerre which had been
found on the floor and did not know who had lost it or to whom to send
it back so that the rightful owner should not be worried about it.
They then started talking about the bravery of an officer who had been
killed trying to save his orderly. "All the same there are good people
amongst the rich. I would have got killed with pleasure for such a man
as that!" exclaimed Maurice who evidently only managed to inflict his
ghastly flagellations on the Baron from mechanical habit, ignorance,
need of money and preference for making it without working although,
perhaps, it gave him more trouble. And as M. de Charlus had feared, he
was possibly a good-hearted fellow, and certainly he seemed plucky.
Tears almost came into his eyes when he spoke of the death of the
officer and the young man of twenty-two was equally moved. "Ah!
They're fine fellows! Poor devils like us have nothing to lose. But a
gentleman who's got lots of stuff, who can go and take his _aperitif_
every day at six o'clock, it's really a bit thick. One can jaw as much
as one likes, but when one sees chaps like that die, really it's
pretty stiff. God oughtn't to let rich people like that die, besides,
they're useful to working people. The damned Boches ought to be killed
to the last man of them for doing in a man like that. And look what
they've done at Louvain, cutting off the heads of little children! I
don't know, I am not any better than anyone else but I'd rather have
my throat cut than obey savages like that; they aren't men, they are
out and out savages, you can't deny it." In fact all these boys were
patriots. One, only slightly wounded in the arm, was not on such a
high level as the others as he said, having shortly to return to the
front: "Damn it, I wish it had been a proper wound" (one which
procures exemption) just as Mme. Swann formerly used to say, "I've
succeeded in catching a tiresome influenza." The door opened again for
the chauffeur who had gone to take the air for a moment. "Hullo!" he
said, "is it over already? It wasn't long!" noticing Maurice who, he
supposed, was engaged in whipping the man they nick-named after a
newspaper of that period, "The man in chains." "It may not seem long
to you who've been out for a walk," answered Maurice, annoyed for it
to be known that he had not pleased the customer upstairs, "but if
you'd been obliged to keep on whipping like me in this heat! If it
weren't for the fifty francs he gives—!" "Besides, he's a man who
talks well, one feels he's had an education. Did he say it would soon
be over?" "He said we shan't get them, that it will end without either
side winning." "_Bon sang de bon sang_! He must be a Boche." "I told
you you were talking too loud," said a man older than the others,
noticing me. "Have you done with your room?" "Shut up, you're not
master here." "Yes, I've finished and I've come to pay." "You'd better
pay the _patron_. Maurice, go and fetch him." "I don't want to disturb
you." "It doesn't disturb me." Maurice went upstairs and came back.
"The _patron_ is coming down," he said. I gave him two francs for his
trouble. He blushed with pleasure: "Thank you very much. I shall send
them to my brother who's a prisoner. No, he's all right, it depends
on the camp." Meanwhile, two extremely elegant customers in dress
coats and white ties under their overcoats, they seemed Russians from
their slight accent, were standing in the doorway deliberating if they
should enter. It was visibly the first time they had come there. They
must have been told where the place was and seemed divided between
desire, temptation and extreme fright. One of the two, a handsome
young man, kept repeating every minute to the other, with a
half-questioning, half-persuasive smile, "After all, we don't care a
damn." He might say he did not mind the consequences, but he was not
so indifferent as his words suggested for his remark did not result in
his entering but on the contrary, in another glance at his friend,
followed by the same smile and the same, "After all we don't care a
damn." It was this "we don't care a damn," an example among thousands
of that expressive language so different from what we generally speak,
in which emotion makes us vary what we meant to say and in its place
make use of phrases emerging from an unknown lake where live
expressions without relation to one's thought and for that very reason
reveal it. I remember that Albertine once, when Françoise noiselessly
entered the room just at the moment when my friend was lying beside me
nude, exclaimed in spite of herself, to warn me: "Ah! here's that
beauty Françoise." Françoise, whose sight was not good, and who was
crossing the room some distance from us, apparently saw nothing. But
the abnormal words "that beauty Françoise" which Albertine had never
used in her life, spontaneously revealed their origin; Françoise knew
they had escaped Albertine through emotion and understanding without
seeing, went off muttering in her patois, the word "_poutana_". Much
later on, when Bloch having become the father of a family, married one
of his daughters to a Catholic, an ill-bred person informed her that
he had heard she was the daughter of a Jew and asked her what her name
had been. The young woman who had been Miss Bloch since her birth,
answered, pronouncing Bloch in the German fashion as the Duc de
Guermantes might have done, that is, pronouncing the Ch not like "K"
but with the Germanic "ch".

To go back to the scene of the hotel, (into which the two Russians had
finally decided to penetrate—"after all we don't care a damn") the
_patron_ had not yet come back when Jupien entered and rated them for
talking too loud, saying that the neighbours would complain. But he
stood dumbfounded on seeing me. "Get out all of you this instant!" he
cried. Immediately all of them jumped up, whereupon I said: "It would
be better if these young men stayed here and I went outside with you a
moment." He followed me, much troubled, and I explained to him why I
had come. One could hear customers asking the _patron_ if he could not
introduce them to a footman, a choir boy, a negro chauffeur. All
professions interested these old madmen; soldiers of all arms and the
allies of all nations. Some especially favoured Canadians, feeling
the charm of their accent which was so slight that they did not know
whether it was of old France or of England. On account of their kilts
and because of the lacustrine dreams associated with such lusts,
Scotchmen were at a premium, and as every mania owes its peculiar
character, if not its aggravation, to circumstances, an old man, whose
prurient cravings had all been sated, demanded with insistence to be
made acquainted with a mutilated soldier. Steps were heard on the
stairs. With the indiscretion which was natural to him, Jupien could
not resist telling me it was the Baron who was coming down, that he
must not on any account see me but if I would enter the little room
contiguous to the passage where the young men were, he would open the
shutter, a trick he had invented for the Baron to see and hear without
being seen and which would now operate in my favour against him. "Only
don't make a noise," he said. And half pushing me into the darkness,
he left me. Moreover, he had no other room to offer me, his hotel, in
spite of the war, being full. The room I had just left had been taken
by the Vicomte de Courvoisier who, having been able to leave the Red
Cross at X—— for two days, had come to amuse himself for an hour in
Paris before returning to the Chateau de Courvoisier where he would
tell the Vicomtesse he had been unable to catch the last train. He
had no notion that M. de Charlus was only a few yards away from him
and the former had as little, never having encountered his cousin at
Jupien's house, the latter being ignorant of the carefully disguised
identity of the Vicomte. The Baron soon came in, walking with some
difficulty on account of his bruises which he must, nevertheless, have
got used to. Although his debauch was finished and he was only going
in to give Maurice the money he owed him, he directed a circular
glance upon the young men gathered there which was at once tender and
inquisitive and evidently expected to have the pleasure of a quite
platonic but amorously prolonged chat with each of them. I noticed in
all the lively frivolity he displayed towards the harem by which he
seemed almost intimidated, those twistings of the body and tossings of
the head, those sensitive glances I had noticed on the evening of his
first arrival at La Raspelière, graces inherited from one of his
grandmothers whom I had not known and which, masked in ordinary life
by more virile expressions, were coquettishly displayed when he wanted
to please an inferior audience by appearing a _grande dame_. Jupien
had recommended them to the goodwill of the Baron by telling him they
were hooligans of Belleville and that they would go to bed with their
own sisters for a louis. In actual fact, Jupien was both lying and
telling the truth. Better and more sensitive than he told the Baron
they were, they did not belong to a class of miscreants. But those
who believed them so talked to them with entire good faith as if these
terrible fellows were doing the same. However, much a sadist may
believe he is with an assassin, his own pure sadist soul is not on
that account changed and he is hypnotised by the lies of these fellows
who aren't in the least assassins but who, wanting to turn an easy
penny, wordily bring their father, their mother or their sister to
life and kill them again, turn and turn about, because they get
interrupted in their conversation with the customer they are trying to
please. The customer is bewildered in his simplicity and, in his
absurd conception of the guilty gigolo revelling in mass-murders, is
astounded at the culprit's lies and contradictions. All of them seemed
to know M. de Charlus who stayed some time talking to each of them in
what he thought was his vernacular, from pretentious affectation of
local colour and also from the sadistic pleasure of mixing himself up
in a crapulous life. "It's disgusting," he said, "I saw you in front
of Olympia with two street-women, just to get some coppers out of
them. That's a nice way of deceiving me." Happily for the young man
who was thus addressed, he had no time to declare that he had never
accepted coppers from a woman which would have diminished the
excitement of M. de Charlus and he reserved his protest for the end of
the latter's sentence, replying, "Oh, no! I do not deceive you." These
words caused M. de Charlus a lively pleasure and as, in his own
despite, his natural intelligence prevailed over his affectation, he
turned to Jupien: "It's nice of him to say that and he says it so
charmingly, one would think it was true. And, after all, what does it
matter whether it's true or not if he makes one believe it. What sweet
little eyes he's got. Come here, boy, I'm going to give you two big
kisses for your trouble. You'll think of me in the trenches, won't
you? Is it very hard?" "Oh, my God. There are days when a shell passes
close to you!" and the young man began imitating the noise of a shell,
of aeroplanes and so on. "But one must do like the rest and you can
be sure we shall go on to the end." "Till the end," replied the
pessimistic Baron in a melancholy tone. "Haven't you read in the
papers that Sarah Bernhardt said France would go on till the end. The
French will let themselves be killed to the last man." "I don't doubt
for a single instant that the French will bravely be killed to the
last man," M. de Charlus answered as though it were the most natural
thing in the world, in spite of his having no intention of doing
anything whatever, but with the intention of correcting any impression
of pacifism he might give in moments of forgetfulness, "I don't doubt
it, but I am asking myself to what extent Mme. Sarah Bernhardt is
qualified to speak in the name of France—Ah, I seem to know this
charming young man," pointing at another whom he had probably never
seen. He saluted him as he would have saluted a prince at Versailles
and, so as to profit by the opportunity and have a supplementary
pleasure gratis, like when I was small and went with my mother to give
an order to Boissier or Gouache and one of the ladies offered me a
bonbon from one of the glass vases in the midst of which she presided,
he took the hand of the charming young man and pressed it for a long
time in his Prussian fashion, fixing his eyes upon him and smiling for
the interminable time photographers used to take in posing us when the
light was bad. "Monsieur, I am charmed, I am enchanted to make your
acquaintance. He has such lovely hair," he said, turning to Jupien.
Then he moved over to Maurice to give him his fifty francs and put his
arm round his waist. "You never told me you had lined an old
Belleville bitch," M. de Charlus guffawed with ecstasy, sticking his
face close to that of Maurice. "Oh, Monsieur le Baron," protested the
gigolo whom they had forgotten to warn, "how can you believe such a
thing?" Whether it was false or whether the alleged culprit really
thought it was an abominable thing he had to deny, the boy went on:
"To touch my own kind, even a German as it is war is one thing, but a
woman and an old woman at that!" This declaration of virtuous
principles had the effect of a cold water douche upon the Baron, who
moved coldly away from Maurice, none the less giving him his money,
but with the air of one who is "put off", someone who has been "done"
but who doesn't want to make a fuss, one who pays but is dissatisfied.

The bad impression produced upon the Baron was, moreover, increased by
the way in which the beneficiary thanked him: "I am going to send this
to my old people and I shall keep a little for my pal at the front."
These touching sentiments disappointed M. de Charlus almost as much as
did his rather conventional peasant-like expression. Jupien sometimes
warned them that they had to be "more vicious". Then one of them with
the air of confessing something satanic would adventure: "I'll tell
you something, Baron, but you won't believe me. When I was a boy I
looked through the key-hole and saw my parents embracing each other.
Isn't that vicious? You seem to believe that I'm drawing the long bow
but I swear I'm not. It's the exact truth." This fictitious attempt at
perversity which only revealed stupidity and innocence, exasperated M.
de Charlus. The most determined burglar, robber or assassin would not
have satisfied him for they do not talk about their crimes, and,
moreover, there is in the sadist—good as he may be, indeed the
better he is—a thirst for evil that malefactors cannot satisfy. The
handsome young man, realising his mistake, might say, "he'd let him
have it hot and heavy," and push audacity to the point of telling the
Baron to "bloody well make a date" with him, the charm was dissipated.
The humbug was as transparent as in books whose authors insist on
writing slang. In vain the young man gave him details of all his
obscenities with his women, M. de Charlus was only struck by how
little they amounted to. For that matter that was not only the result
of insincerity, for nothing is more limited than vice. In that sense
one can really use a common expression and say that one is always
turning in the same vicious circle.

"How simple he is, one would never say he was a Prince," the habitués
commented when M. de Charlus had gone escorted downstairs by Jupien to
whom the Baron did not cease complaining about the decency of the
young man. From the dissatisfied manner of Jupien, he had been trying
to train the young man in advance and one felt that the false assassin
would presently get a good dressing down. "He's quite contrary to
what you told me," added the Baron so that Jupien should profit by the
lesson for another time. "He seems to have a nice nature, he expresses
sentiments of respect for his family." "All the same, he doesn't get
on with his father at all," objected Jupien, "they live together but
each goes to a different bar." Obviously that was rather a feeble
crime in comparison with assassination but Jupien found himself taken
aback. The Baron said nothing more because, though he wanted his
pleasures prepared for him, he also needed the illusion that they were
not prepared. "He's an out-and-out ruffian, he told you all that to
take you in, you're too simple," Jupien added, to exculpate himself
but in so doing only wounded the pride of M. de Charlus the more.
While talking of M. de Charlus being a prince the young men in the
establishment were deploring the death of someone about whom the
gigolos said, "I don't know his name but it appears he is a baron,"
and who was no other than the Prince de Foux (the father of
Saint-Loup's friend). While the Prince's wife believed he was spending
most of his time at the Club, in reality he was spending hours with
Jupien chattering and telling stories about society in the presence of
blackguards. He was a fine, handsome man like his son. It is
extraordinary that M. de Charlus did not know that he shared his
tastes; doubtless this was because the, Baron had only seen him in
society. People went so far as to say that he had actually gone to the
length of practising these tastes upon his son when he was still at
College, which was probably false. On the other hand, very
well-informed about habits many are ignorant of, he kept a careful
watch upon the people his son frequented. One day a man of low
extraction followed the young Prince de Foux as far as his father's
mansion and threw a missive through a window which the father had
picked up. But though this follower was not, aristocratically
speaking, of the same society as M. de Foux, he was from another point
of view, and he had no difficulty in finding among their common
associates an intermediary who made M. de Foux hold his tongue by
proving that it was the young man who had provoked the advance from a
man much older than himself. And that was quite credible, the Prince
de Foux having succeeded in protecting his son from bad company
outside, but not from his heredity. It may be added that young Prince
de Foux, like his father, unsuspected in this respect by people in
society, went to extreme lengths with another class.

"He's said to have a million a year to spend," said the young man of
twenty-two to whom this statement did not seem incredible. Soon the
sound of M. de Charlus' carriage was heard. At that moment I perceived
someone accompanied by a soldier leaving a neighbouring room with a
slow step, a person who looked to me like an old lady in a black
dress. I soon saw my mistake, it was a priest; that rare and in France
extremely exceptional thing, a bad priest. Apparently the soldier was
chaffing his companion about the incompatability of his conduct with
his cloth for the priest, holding his finger in front of his hideous
face with the grave gesture of a doctor of theology, answered
sententiously: "Well, what do you expect of me, I am not" (I was
expecting him to say a saint) "an angel." There was nothing for him to
do but go and he took leave of Jupien, who, having returned from
escorting the Baron, was going upstairs, but, owing to his
bewilderment, the bad priest had forgotten to pay for his room.
Jupien, whose presence of mind never abandoned him, rattling the box
in which the customers' contributions were put remarked: "For the
expenses of the service, Monsieur l'Abbé." The repulsive personage
apologised, handed over his money and departed. Jupien came and
fetched me from the obscure cavern whence I had not dared move. "Go
into the vestibule for a moment where the young men are sitting—it's
quite all right as you're a lodger—while I go and shut up your room."
The _patron_ was there and I paid him. At that moment, a young man in
a dinner-jacket entered and with an air of authority demanded of the
_patron_: "Can I have Léon to-morrow morning at a quarter to eleven
instead of eleven because I'm lunching out?" "That depends on how long
the Abbé keeps him," the _patron_ answered. This appeared to
dissatisfy the young man in the dinner-jacket who seemed about to
curse the Abbé but his anger took another form when he perceived me.
Going straight up to the _patron_, he asked in an angry voice: "Who's
that? What does this mean?" The _patron_, much embarrassed, explained
that my presence was of no importance, I was merely a lodger. The
young man in the dinner-jacket was by no means appeased by this
explanation and kept on repeating: "This is extremely unpleasant; it's
the sort of thing that ought not to happen. You know I hate it and I
shan't put my foot inside this place again." The execution of the
threat did not seem, however, to be imminent for though he went away
in a rage, he again expressed the wish that Léon should be free at a
quarter to eleven if not at half-past ten. Jupien returned and took me
downstairs. "I don't want you to have a bad opinion of me," he said,
"this house doesn't bring in as much money as you might think. I'm
obliged to have respectable lodgers, though, if I depended only on
them, I should lose money. Here to the contrary of the Mount Carmels,
it is thanks to vice that virtue can exist. If I've taken this house,
or rather, if I have had it taken by the _patron_ whom you've seen,
it's only to render service to the Baron and to distract his old age."
Jupien did not want to talk only about sadistic performances like
those I had seen or about the Baron's vices. The latter even for
conversation, for company or to play cards with, now only liked common
people who exploited him. Doubtless, snobbishness about low company is
just as comprehensible as the opposite. In the case of M. de Charlus,
the two kinds had long been interchangeable; no one in society was
smart enough to associate with and in the underworld, no one was base
enough. "I hate anything middling," he said, "the bourgeois comedy is
irksome. Give me either princesses of classical tragedy or broad
farce, no half-and-half, Phèdre or Les Saltimbanques. But, talk as he
might, the equilibrium between these two forms of snobbery had been
upset. Whether owing to an old man's fatigue or the extension of
sensuality to the most banal intercourse, the Baron only lived now
with inferiors. Thus unconsciously he was accepting succession from
such of his great ancestors as the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, the Prince
d'Harcourt, the Duc de Berry whom Saint-Simon exhibits as spending
their lives with their lackeys who got enormous sums out of them, to
such a point that when people went to see these great gentlemen they
were shocked to find them familiarly playing cards and drinking with
their servants. "It's chiefly," added Jupien, "to save him being
bored, because, you see, the Baron is a great baby. Even now, when he
has got everything here he wants, he must run after adventures and
play the villain. And, generous though he is, some time or other this
behaviour may lead to trouble. Only the other day the _chasseur_ of a
hotel nearly died of fright because of the money the Baron offered
him. Fancy! To come to his house, what imprudence! This lad, who only
liked women, was very relieved when he understood what the Baron
wanted. The Baron's promises of money made the lad believe he was a
spy and he was consoled when he knew that he was not being asked to
betray his country but only to surrender his body which is perhaps not
any more moral but less dangerous and certainly easier." Listening to
Jupien I said to myself: "What a pity M. de Charlus is not a novelist
or a poet, not in order to describe what he sees, but the stage
reached by M. de Charlus in relation to desire causes scandals to
arise round him, forces him to take life seriously, to emotionalise
pleasure, prevents him from becoming static through taking a purely
ironical and exterior view of things, reopens in him a constant source
of pain. Almost every time he makes overtures, he risks outrage if not
prison. Not the education of children but that of poets is
accomplished by blows. Had M. de Charlus been a novelist, the
protection the house controlled by Jupien afforded him (though a
police raid was always on the cards) by reducing the risks he ran from
casual street encounters, would have been a misfortune for him. But M.
de Charlus was only a dilettante in Art who did not dream of writing
and had no gift for it. "Moreover, I'll admit to you," continued
Jupien, "that I haven't much scruple about making money out of this
sort of job. I can't disguise from you that I like it, that it's to my
taste. And is it a crime to get a salary for things one doesn't
consider wrong? You are better educated than I am and doubtless you
will tell me that Socrates did not consider he was justified in
receiving money for his lessons. But in our day professors of
philosophy are not like that nor are doctors nor painters nor
playwrights nor theatrical managers. Don't imagine that this business
forces one to associate only with low people. It is true that the
manager of an establishment of this kind, like a great courtesan, only
receives men but he receives men who are important in all sorts of
ways and who are generally on equal terms with the most refined, the
most sensitive and the most amiable of their kind. This house might
easily be transformed, I assure you, into an intellectual bureau and a
news agency." But I was still occupied with thinking of the blows I
had seen M. de Charlus receive. And, to tell the truth when one knew
M. de Charlus, his pride, his satiation with social amusements, his
caprices which changed so readily into passion for men of the worst
class and of the lowest kind, one could easily understand that he was
glad to possess the large fortune which, when enjoyed by a parvenu,
enables him to marry his daughter to a duke and to invite Highnesses
to his shooting parties, and permitted him to exercise authority in
one, perhaps in several, establishments where there were permanently
young men with whom he took his pleasure. Perhaps, indeed, he did not
need to be vicious for that. He was the successor of so many great
gentlemen and princes of the blood or dukes who, Saint-Simon tells us,
never associated with anyone fit to speak to. "Meanwhile," I said to
Jupien: "this house is something very different, it is rather a
pandemonium than a mad house, since the madness of the lunatics who
are there is placed upon the stage and visually reconstituted. I
believed, like the Caliph in the _Thousand and One Nights_, that I
had, at the critical moment, come to the rescue of a man who was being
ill-treated and another story of the _Thousand and One Nights_ was
realised before my eyes, in which a woman is changed into a dog and
allows herself to be beaten in order to regain her former shape."
Jupien, realising that I had seen the Baron being whipped, was much
concerned. He remained silent a moment, then, suddenly, with that
pretty wit of his own that had so often struck me when he greeted
Françoise or myself in the court-yard of our house with such graceful
phrases: "You talk of stories in the _Thousand and One Nights_" he
said. "I know one which is not without relevance to the title of a
book which I caught sight of at the Baron's house" (he was alluding to
a translation of Ruskin's _Sesame and Lilies_ which I had sent to M.
de Charlus). "If you ever wanted one evening to see, I won't say
forty but ten thieves, you have only to come here; to be sure I'm
there, you have only to look up and if my little window is left open
and the light is on, it will mean that I am there and that you can
come in; that is my Sesame. I only refer to Sesame; as to the Lilies,
if you're seeking for them I advise you to look elsewhere," and
saluting me somewhat cavalierly, for an aristocratic connection and a
band of young men whom he controlled like a pirate-chief had given him
a certain familiarity, he took leave of me. He had hardly left me when
blasts of a siren were immediately followed by violent barrage firing.
It was evident that a German aviator was hovering close over our heads
and suddenly a violent explosion proved that he had hurled one of his
bombs.

Many who had not wanted to run away had collected in the same room at
Jupien's. Though they did not know each other they belonged more or
less to the same wealthy and aristocratic society. The aspect of each
inspired a repugnance due, doubtless, to their indulging in degrading
vices. The face of one of them, an enormous fellow, was covered with
red blotches like a drunkard's. I afterward learnt that, at first, he
was not one but enjoyed making youths drink and that, later on, in
fear of being mobilised, (though he seemed to be over fifty) as he was
very fat, he started to drink without stopping until he exceeded the
weight of a hundred kilos, beyond which men were exempted. And now the
trick had turned into a passion, and however much people tried to
prevent him, he always went back to the liquor-merchant. But the
moment he spoke one could see, in spite of his mediocre intelligence,
that he was a man of considerable education and culture. Another
young society man of remarkably distinguished appearance, came in. In
his case, there were as yet no exterior stigmata of vice but, what was
worse, there were internal ones. Tall, with an attractive face, his
manner of speech indicated a different order of intelligence to that
of his alcoholic neighbour, indeed, without exaggeration, a very
remarkable one. But whatever he said was accompanied by a facial
expression suited to a different remark. Though he owned a complete
storehouse of human expressions, he might have lived in another world,
for he used them in the wrong order and seemed to scatter smiles and
glances haphazard without relation to the remarks he was making or
hearing. I hope for his sake if, as seems likely, he is still alive,
that he was not the victim of an organic disease but of a passing
disorder. Probably, if those men had been ordered to produce their
visiting cards one would have been surprised to observe that they all
belonged to the upper class of society. But every sort of vice and the
greatest vice of all, lack of will which prevents a man from resisting
it, brought them together there, in separate rooms, it is true, but
every evening, I was told, so that if ladies in society still knew
their names, they were gradually forgetting their faces. They still
received invitations but habit always brought them back to that
composite resort of evil repute. They concealed it but little from
themselves, being in this respect different from the little chasseurs,
workmen, et cetera, who ministered to their pleasure. And besides many
obvious reasons this can be explained by the following one. For a
commercial employee or a servant to go there was like a respectable
woman going to a place of assignation. Some of them who had been there
refused ever again to do so and Jupien himself telling lies to save
their reputation or to prevent competition, declared: "Oh, no, he
doesn't come to my place and he wouldn't want to." For men in society
it is of less importance, in that other people in society do not go to
such places and neither know anything about them nor concern
themselves with other people's business.

At the beginning of the alarm I had left Jupien's house. The streets
had become entirely dark. Only now and then an enemy aeroplane which
was flying low enough cast a light on the spot where he was going to
throw a bomb. I could no longer find my way and thought of that day
when going to La Raspelière I had met an aviator like a god reining
back his horse. I was thinking that this time the encounter would have
a different end, that the God of Evil would kill me. I hurried my
steps to escape like a traveller pursued by a water-spout, yet I
turned in a circle round dark places from which I could not escape. At
last the flames of a fire lighted me and I was able to rediscover my
road whilst the cannon boomed unceasingly. But my thought turned
elsewhere. I thought of Jupien's house now reduced perhaps to cinders
for a bomb had fallen quite close to me just as I was coming out of
that house upon which M. de Charlus might prophetically have written
"Sodom" as an unknown inhabitant of Pompeii had done with no less
prescience when, possibly, as a prelude to the catastrophe, the
volcanic eruption began. But what did sirens or Gothas matter to
those who had come there bent on gratifying their lusts? We never
think of the framework of nature which surrounds our passion. The
tempest rages on the sea, the ship heaves and pitches on every side,
avalanches fall from the windswept sky and, at most, we allow
ourselves to pause a moment, to ward off an inconvenience caused us by
that immense scene, in which both we and the human body we desire, are
the tiniest atoms. The premonitory siren of the bombs troubled the
inhabitants of Jupien's house as little as would an iceberg. More than
that, the menace of a physical danger freed them from the fear by
which they had been so long unhealthily obsessed. It is false to
believe that the scale of fears corresponds to that of the dangers
which inspire them. One might be frightened of sleeplessness and yet
not of a duel, of a rat and not of a lion. For some hours the police
would be concerned only for the lives of the population, a matter of
small consequence, for it did not threaten to dishonour them.

Some of the habitués, recovering their moral liberty were the more
tempted by the sudden darkness in the streets. Some of these Pompeians
upon whom the fire of Heaven was already pouring, descended into the
Métro passages which were as dark as catacombs. They knew, of course,
that they would not be alone there. And the darkness which bathes
everything as in a new element had the effect, an irresistibly
tempting one for certain people, of eliminating the first phase of
lust and enabling them to enter, without further ado the domain of
caresses which as a rule, demands preliminaries. Whether the
libidinous aim is directed towards a woman or a man, assuming that
approach is easy and that the sentimentalities that go on eternally in
a drawing-room in the day time can be dispensed with, even in the
evening however ill-lit the street, there must, at least, be a
preamble when only the eyes can devour the corn within the ear, when
the fear of passers-by or even of the one pursued prevents the
follower getting further than vision and speech. But in darkness the
whole bag of tricks goes by the board, hands, lips, bodies, come into
immediate play. Then there is the excuse of the darkness itself and of
the mistakes it engenders if a bad reception is met with, but if on
the contrary, there is the immediate response of a body which, instead
of withdrawing, comes closer, the inference that the woman or the man
approached is equally licentious and vicious, adds the additional
thrill of being able to bite into the fruit without lusting after it
with the eyes and without asking permission. And still the darkness
continued. Plunged in this new element Jupien's habitués imagined
themselves travellers witnessing a phenomenon of nature such as a
tidal-wave or an eclipse and instead of indulgence in a pre-arranged
debauch, were seeking fortuitous adventures in the unknown, and
celebrating, to the accompaniment of the volcanic thunder of bombs—as
though in a Pompeian brothel—secret rites in the tenebrous shadows of
the catacombs. To such events the Pompeian paintings at Jupien's were
appropriate for they recalled the end of the French Revolution at the
somewhat similar period of the Directoire which was now beginning.
Already in the anticipation of peace, new dances organised in darkness
so as not too openly to infringe police regulations, were rioting in
the night. And as an accompaniment certain artistic opinions, less
anti-German than during the first years of the war, enabled stifled
minds to expand though a brevet of civic virtue was needed by him who
ventured to express them. A professor wrote a remarkable book on
Schiller of which the papers took notice. But before mentioning the
author, the publishers inscribed the volume with a statement like a
printing licence, to the effect that he had been at the Marne and at
Verdun, that he had had five mentions, and two sons killed. Upon that,
there was loud praise of the lucidity and depth of the author's work
upon Schiller, who could be qualified as great as long as he was
alluded to as a great Boche and not as a great German, and thus the
articles were passed by the Censor. As I approached my home I was
meditating on how quickly the consciousness ceases to collaborate with
our habits, leaving them to develop on their own account without
further concerning itself with them and how astonished we are, when we
base our judgment of an individual merely on externals as though they
comprehended the whole of him, at the actions of a man whose moral or
intellectual value may develop independently in a completely different
direction. Obviously it was a fault of upbringing or the entire lack
of upbringing combined with a preference for earning money in the
easiest way (many different kinds of work might be easier as it
happens, but does not a sick man fabricate a far more painful
existence out of manifold privations and remedies than the often
comparatively mild illness against which he thinks he is thus
defending himself?) or at all events, in the least laborious way,
which had caused these youths, so to speak, in complete innocence and
for small pay to do things which gave them no pleasure and must at
first have inspired them with the strongest repugnance. Accordingly
one might consider them fundamentally rotten but they were not only
wonderful soldiers in the war, brave to a degree, but often
good-hearted fellows if not decent people in civil life. They no
longer realised what was moral or immoral in the life they led because
it was that of their surroundings. Thus, in studying certain periods
of ancient history we are sometimes amazed to observe that people who
were individually good, participated without scruple in mass
assassinations and human sacrifices, which probably seemed to them
perfectly natural things. For him who reads the history of our period
two thousand years hence, it will in the same way seem to have allowed
gentle and pure consciences to be plunged in a vital environment to
which they adapted themselves though it will then appear just as
monstrously pernicious. And what is more, I knew no man more gifted
with intelligence and sensibility than Jupien for those charming
acquisitions which constituted the intellectual fabric of his
discourse, did not come to him from school instruction or from
university culture which might have made him remarkable, while so many
young men in society got no profit from them whatever. It was his
spontaneous, innate sense, his natural taste which enabled him from
occasional haphazard and unguided readings in his spare moments to
compose his way of speaking so rightly that all the symmetries of
language were set off and showed their beauty in it. Yet the business
in which he was engaged could with good reason be considered, if one
of the most lucrative, one of the lowest imaginable. As to M. de
Charlus, disdain as he might "what people say", how was it that a
feeling of personal dignity and self-respect had not forced him to
resist sensual indulgences for which the only excuse was complete
insanity? It could only be that in his case, as in that of Jupien, the
habit of isolating morality from a whole order of actions (which, for
that matter, must occur in a function such as that of a judge,
sometimes in that of a statesman and others) had been acquired so long
ago that, no longer demanding his judgment or moral sentiment, it had
become aggravated from day to day until it had reached a point where
this consenting Prometheus had allowed himself to be nailed by force
to the rock of pure matter. Certainly I realised that therein a new
phase declared itself in the disease of M. de Charlus which, ever
since I first perceived and judged it as stage by stage it revealed
itself to my eyes, had continued to evolve with ever-increasing speed.
The poor Baron could not now be far distant from the final term, from
death, if indeed that was not preceded, according to the predictions
and hopes of Mme. Verdurin, by a poisoning which at his age could only
hasten his death. Nevertheless, perhaps I used an inaccurate
expression in saying rock of pure matter. It is possible that a little
mind still survived in that pure matter. This madman knew, in spite
of everything, that he was mad, that he was the prey at such moments
of insanity, since he knew perfectly well that the man who was beating
him was no wickeder than the little boys in battle-games who draw lots
to decide which of them is to play the Prussian and upon whom all the
others fall in true patriotic ardour and pretended hatred. A prey to
insanity into which, nevertheless, some of M. de Charlus' personality
entered; for even in its aberrations, human nature (as in our loves
and in our journeys) still betrays the need of faith through the
exactions of truth. When I told Françoise about a church in Milan—a
city she would probably never see—or about the Cathedral of
Rheims—even about that of Arras!—which she would never be able to
see since they had been more or less destroyed, she envied the rich
people who were able to afford the sight of such treasures and cried
with nostalgic regret: "Ah, how wonderful it must be!" Yet she, who
had lived in Paris so many years, had never had the curiosity to go
and see Notre Dame! It was just because Notre Dame belonged to Paris,
to the city where her daily life was spent and where in consequence it
was difficult for our old servant (as it would have been for me if the
study of architecture had not modified in certain respects Combray
instincts) to situate the objects of her dreams. There is imminent in
those we love a certain dream which we cannot always discern but which
we pursue. It was my belief in Bergotte and in Swann which made me
love Gilberte, my belief in Gilbert the Bad which had made me fall in
love with Mme. de Guermantes. And what a great sweep of ocean had been
included in my love, the saddest, the most jealous the most personal
ever, for Albertine. In that love of one creature towards whom one's
whole being is urged, there is already something of aberration. Arid
are not the very diseases of the body, at least those closely
associated with the nervous system, in some measure peculiar tastes or
peculiar fears contracted by our organs, by our articulation, which
thus discover for themselves a horror of certain climates as
inexplicable and as obstinate as the fancy certain men display for a
woman who wears an eyeglass, or for circus-riders? Who shall ever say
with what lasting and curious dream that desire aroused time after
time at the sight of a circus rider, is associated; as unconscious and
as mysterious as is, for example, the influence of a certain town, in
appearance similar to others but in which a lifelong sufferer from
asthma is able, for the first time, to breathe freely.

Aberrations are like passions which a morbid strain has overlaid, yet,
in the craziest of them love can still be recognised. M. de Charlus'
insistence that the chains which bound his feet and hands should be of
attested strength, his demand to be tried at the bar of justice and,
from what Jupien told me, for ferocious accessories there was great
difficulty in obtaining even from sailors (the punishment they used to
inflict having been abolished even where the discipline is strictest,
on ship-board), at the base of all this there was M. de Charlus'
constant dream of virility proved, if need be, by brutal acts and all
the illumination the reflections of which within himself though to us
invisible, he projected on judicial and feudal tortures which
embellished an imagination coloured by the Middle Ages. This
sentiment was in his mind each time he said to Jupien: "There won't be
any alarm this evening anyhow, for I can already see myself reduced to
ashes by the fire of Heaven like an inhabitant of Sodom," and he
affected to be frightened of the Gothas not because he really had the
smallest fear of them but to have a pretext the moment the sirens
sounded of dashing into the shelter of the Métropolitain, where he
hoped to get a thrill from midnight frictions associated in his mind
with vague dreams of prostrations and subterranean dungeons in the
Middle Ages. Finally his desire to be chained and beaten revealed,
with all its ugliness, a dream as poetic as the desire of others to go
to Venice or to keep dancing girls. And M. de Charlus held so much to
the illusion of reality which this dream gave him that Jupien was
compelled to sell the wooden bed which was in room No. 43, and replace
it by one of iron which went better with the chains.

At last the maroon sounded as I arrived home. The noise of approaching
firemen was announced by a small boy and I met Françoise coming up
from the cellar with the butler. She had thought me dead. She told me
that Saint-Loup had excused himself for coming in to see if he had not
let his _croix de guerre_ fall when calling that morning. He had only
just noticed he had lost it and having to rejoin his regiment the next
day had wanted at all costs to see if it was not at my house. He and
Françoise had searched everywhere without success. Françoise believed
he must have lost it before coming to see me, for, she said, she could
almost have sworn he did not have it on when she saw him; in this she
was mistaken, which shows the value of witnesses and of recollections.
I felt immediately by the unenthusiastic way they spoke of him that
Saint-Loup had not produced a good impression on Françoise and the
butler. Saint-Loup's efforts to court danger were the exact opposite
of those made by the butler's son and Françoise's nephew to get
themselves exempted, but judging from their own standpoint, Françoise
and the butler could not believe that. They were convinced that rich
people are always protected. For that matter had they even known the
truth about Robert's heroic bravery, they would not have been moved by
it. He never talked of "Boches", he praised the bravery of the
Germans, he had not attributed our failure to secure victory from the
first day, to treason. That was what they wanted to hear and that was
what they would have considered a mark of courage. So, while they
continued searching for the _croix de guerre_, I, who had not much
doubt as to where that cross had been lost, found them cold on the
subject of Robert. Though Saint-Loup had been amusing himself in
equivocal fashion that evening, it was only while awaiting news of
Morel; he had been seized with longing to see him again, and had made
use of all his connections to discover the corps Morel was in,
supposing him to have joined up, but, so far, he had received only
contradictory answers. I advised Françoise and the butler to go to bed
but the latter was never in any hurry to leave Françoise since, thanks
to the war, he had found a still more efficacious way of tormenting
her than telling her about the expulsion of the nuns and the Dreyfus
affair. That evening and whenever I was near them during the time I
spent in Paris, I heard the butler say to poor, frightened Françoise:
"They're not in a hurry, of course; they're waiting for the ripe pear,
the day that they take Paris they'll have no mercy." "My God! Blessed
Virgin Mary!" cried Françoise, "isn't it enough for them to have
conquered poor Belgium. She suffered enough at the time of her
'invahition'." "Belgium, Françoise. Why! What they did to Belgium is
nothing to what they'll do here." The war having thrown upon the
people's conversation-market a number of new expressions which they
only knew visually through reading the papers without being able to
pronounce them, the butler added, "You'll see, Françoise they are
preparing a new attack of a greater _enverjure_ than ever before." In
protest, if not out of pity for Françoise or from strategic
common-sense, at least for grammar's sake, I told them that the right
way to pronounce the word was _envergure_, but I only succeeded in
making Françoise repeat the terrible word every time I entered the
kitchen. The butler, much as he enjoyed frightening his
fellow-servant, was equally pleased to show his master, though he was
only a former gardener of Combray and now a butler, that he was a good
Frenchman of the order of St. André-dès-Champs and possessed the
privilege, since the declaration of the rights of man, to pronounce
_enverjure_, with complete independence and not to accept orders on a
matter which had nothing to do with his service and, in regard to
which, in consequence of the Revolution, no one had any right to
correct him, since he was my equal. I had, therefore, the irritation
of hearing Françoise talk about an operation of great _enverjure_ with
an insistence which was intended to prove to me that that
pronunciation was, in fact, not that of ignorance but of
maturely-considered determination. The butler indiscriminately applied
a suspicious "they" to the Government and the papers: "They talk of
the losses of the Boches, they don't talk of ours which, it appears,
are ten times greater. They tell us that they're at the last gasp,
that they've got nothing to eat. I believe they've got a hundred times
more to eat than we have. It's all very well but they've no right to
humbug us like that. If they had nothing to eat they wouldn't be able
to fight like the other day when they killed a hundred thousand
youngsters less than twenty years old." He thus continually
exaggerated the triumphs of the Germans as he did formerly those of
the Radicals, and told tales of their atrocities so as to make the
victories of the enemy still more painful to Françoise who kept on
exclaiming: "Sainted Mother of Angels! Sainted Mother of God!"
Sometimes he tried being unpleasant to her in another way by saying:
"For that matter, we're no better than they are. What we're doing in
Greece is no nicer than what they did in Belgium. You'll see, we shall
have the whole world against us and we shall have to fight the lot,"
while, actually, the exact contrary was the truth. On days when news
was good he revenged himself on Françoise by assuring her the war
would last thirty-five years and that if, by chance, a possible peace
came, it would not last more than a few months and would be succeeded
by battles in comparison with which those of to-day were child's play
and that after them nothing would be left of France. The victory of
the Allies if not close at hand, seemed at any rate assured, and
unfortunately it must be admitted that this displeased the butler.
For, having identified the world-war and the rest of it with his
campaign against Françoise (whom he liked, all the same, just as one
likes a person whom one daily enrages by defeating him at dominoes)
victory was represented to him in terms of the first conversation he
would have with her thereafter when he would be irritated by hearing
her say: "Well, it's finished at last, and they'll have to give us a
great deal more than we gave them in '71." Really, he always believed
this must happen in the end for an unconscious patriotism made him
think, like all Frenchmen, who were victims of an illusion similar to
my own ever since I had been ill, that victory like my recovery was
coming to-morrow. He took the upper hand of Françoise by announcing
that though victory might come about, her heart would bleed from it,
because a revolution would swiftly follow and then invasion. "Ah! That
bloody old war, the Boches will be the ones to recover quick from it!
Why, Françoise! They've already made hundreds of millions out of it.
But don't you imagine they're going to give us a penny of it. They may
put that in the papers," he added for prudence sake and to be on the
safe side, "to keep people quiet just as they've been saying for three
years that the war would be finished the next day. I can't understand
how people can be such fools as to believe it." Françoise was the more
worried by his comments because, as a matter of fact, she had believed
the optimists in preference to the butler and had seen that the war,
which was to end in a fortnight in spite of the "invahition of poor
Belgium," lasted for ever, that there was no advance, a phenomenon of
fixation of the fronts the sense of which she could not understand,
and that one of her innumerable godsons to whom she gave everything
she received from us, had told her that this, that and the other
things were concealed from the public. "All that will fall upon the
working-class," the butler remarked in conclusion, "and they'll take
your field from you, Françoise." "Oh, my God!" But he preferred
miseries that were close at hand and devoured the papers, hoping to
announce a defeat to Françoise, and awaited news like Easter eggs,
which should be bad enough to terrify Françoise without his suffering
material disadvantages therefrom. Thus a Zeppelin-raid enchanted him
because he could watch Françoise hiding in the cellar while he felt
convinced that in so large a city as Paris, bombs would not just fall
upon our house. Then Françoise began to get back her Combray pacifism.
She even began doubting the "German atrocities". "At the beginning of
the war they told us the Germans were assassins, brigands, regular
bandits—_bbboches_." (If she put several 'b's to Boches it was because
it seemed plausible enough to accuse the Germans of being assassins
but to call them Boches seemed almost impossible in its enormity).
Still, it was rather difficult to grasp what mysteriously horrible
sense Françoise gave to the word Boche since she was talking about the
beginning of the war and uttered the word so doubtfully. For the doubt
that the Germans were criminals might be ill-founded in fact but did
not in itself contain a contradiction from a logical point of view but
how could anyone doubt that they were Boches since that word in the
popular tongue means German and nothing else. Perhaps she was merely
repeating violent comments she had heard at the time when a particular
emphasis was given to the word Boche. "I used to believe all that,"
she said, "but I'm now wondering if we aren't really just as big
rogues as they are." This blasphemous thought had been cunningly
fostered in Françoise by the butler who, observing that his
fellow-servant had a certain weakness for King Constantine of Greece,
continually represented that we did not allow him to have any food
until he surrendered. The abdication of the sovereign had further
moved Françoise to declare: "We're no better than they are. If we were
in Germany we should do the same." I did not see much of her at that
time as she often went to stay with cousins of hers about whom my
mother one day said to me: "You know, they're richer than you are." In
that connection a very beautiful thing happened, frequent enough at
that period throughout the country, which, had there been historians
to perpetuate its memory, would have borne witness to the grandeur of
France, to the grandeur of her soul, that grandeur of St.
André-des-Champs which was displayed no less by civilians at the rear
than by the soldiers who fell at the Marne. A nephew of Françoise had
been killed at Berry-au-Bac who was also a nephew of those millionaire
cousins of Françoise, former café proprietors long since retired with
a fortune. This young man of twenty-five, himself the proprietor of a
little café, without other means, was called up and left his young
wife to keep the little bar alone, hoping to return in a few months.
He was killed and the following happened. These millionaire cousins
of Françoise upon whom this young woman, widow of their nephew, had no
claim whatever, left their home in the country to which they had
retired ten years previously and again took over the café but without
taking a penny. Every morning at six o'clock the millionaire wife, a
true gentlewoman, dressed herself as did her young lady daughter to
assist their niece and cousin by marriage, and for three years they
washed glasses and served meals from early morning till half-past-nine
at night without a day of rest. In this book in which there is not a
single event which is not fictitious, in which there is not a single
personage "_a clef_", where I have invented everything to suit the
requirements of my presentation, I must, in homage to my country,
mention as personages who did exist in real life, these millionaire
relations of Françoise who left their retirement to help their
bereaved niece. And, persuaded that their modesty will not be offended
for the excellent reason that they will never read this book, it is
with childlike pleasure and deeply moved, that, unable to give the
names of so many others who acted similarly and, thanks to whom France
has survived, I here transcribe their name, a very French one,
Larivière. If there were certain contemptible _embusqués_ like the
imperious young man in the dinner-jacket whom I saw at Jupien's and
whose sole preoccupation was to know whether he could have Léon at
half-past-ten because he was lunching out, they are more than made up
for by the innumerable mass of Frenchmen of St. André-des-Champs, by
all those superb soldiers beside whom I place the Larivières. The
butler, to quicken the anxieties of Françoise showed her some old
_Readings for All_ he had discovered somewhere, on the cover of which
(the copies dated from before the war) figured "The Imperial Family of
Germany". "Here is our master of to-morrow," said the butler to
Françoise, showing her "Guillaume". She opened her eyes wide, then
pointing at the feminine personage beside him in the picture, she
added, "And there is the Guillaumesse."

My departure from Paris was retarded by news which, owing to the pain
it caused me, rendered me incapable of moving for some time. I had
learnt, in fact, of the death of Robert Saint-Loup, killed, protecting
the retreat of his men, on the day following his return to the front.
No man less than he, felt hatred towards a people (and as to the
Emperor, for special reasons which may have been mistaken, he believed
that William II had rather sought to prevent war than to unleash it).
Nor did he hate Germanism; the last words I heard him utter six days
before, were those at the beginning of a Schumann song which he hummed
to me in German on my staircase; indeed on account of neighbours I had
to ask him to keep quiet. Accustomed by supreme good breeding to
refrain from apologies, invective and phrase, in the face of the enemy
he had avoided, as he did at the moment of mobilisation, whatever
might have preserved his life by a self-effacement in action which his
manners symbolised, even to his way of closing my cab-door when he saw
me out, standing bare-headed every time I left his house. For several
days I remained shut up in my room thinking about him. I recalled his
arrival at Balbec that first time when in his white flannels and his
greenish eyes moving like water he strolled through the hall adjoining
the large dining-room with its windows open to the sea. I recalled the
uniqueness of a being whose friendship I had then so greatly desired.
That desire had been realised beyond my expectation, yet it had given
me hardly a moment's pleasure, and afterwards I had realised all the
qualities as well as other things which were hidden under that elegant
appearance. He had bestowed all, good and bad, without stint, day by
day, and on the last he stormed a trench with utter generosity,
putting all he possessed at the service of others, just as one evening
he had run along the sofas of the restaurant so as not to
inconvenience me. That I had, after all, seen him so little in so many
different places, under so many different circumstances separated by
such long intervals, in the hall of Balbec, at the café of Rivebelle,
in the Doncières Cavalry barracks and military dinners, at the theatre
where he had boxed a journalist's ears, at the Princesse de
Guermantes', resulted in my retaining more striking and sharper
pictures of his life, feeling a keener sorrow at his death than one
often does in the case of those one has loved more but of whom one has
seen so much that the image we retain of them is but a sort of vague
average of an infinite number of pictures hardly different from each
other and also that our sated affection has not preserved, as in the
case of those we have seen for limited moments in the course of
meetings unfulfilled in spite of them and of ourselves, the illusion
of greater potential affection of which circumstances alone had
deprived us. A few days after the one on which I had seen Saint-Loup
tripping along behind his eye-glass and had imagined him so haughty in
the hall of Balbec there was another figure I had seen for the first
time upon the Balbec beach and who now also existed only as a
memory—Albertine—walking along the sand that first evening
indifferent to everybody and as akin to the sea as a seagull. I had so
soon fallen in love with her that, not to miss being with her every
day I never left Balbec to go and see Saint-Loup. And yet the history
of my friendship with him bore witness also to my having ceased at one
time to love Albertine, since, if I had gone away to stay with Robert
at Doncières, it was out of grief that Mme. de Guermantes did not
return the sentiment I felt for her. His life and that of Albertine so
late known to me, both at Bal-bee and both so soon ended, had hardly
crossed each other; it was he, I repeated to myself, visualising that
the flying shuttle of the years weaves threads between memories which
seemed at first to be completely independent of each other, it was he
whom I sent to Mme. Bontemps when Albertine left me. And then it
happened that each of their two lives contained a parallel secret I
had not suspected. Saint-Loup's now caused me more sadness than
Albertine's for her life had become to me that of a stranger. But I
could not console myself that hers like that of Saint-Loup had been so
short. She and he both often said when they were seeing to my comfort:
"You are so ill," and yet it was they who were dead, they whose last
presentment I can visualise, the one facing the trench, the other
after her accident, separated by so short an interval from the first,
that even Albertine's was worth no more to me than its association
with a sunset on the sea. Françoise received the news of Saint-Loup's
death with more pity than Albertine's. She immediately adopted her
rôle of mourner and bewailed the memory of the dead with lamentations
and despairing comments. She manifested her sorrow and turned her face
away to dry her eyes only when I let her see my own tears which she
pretended not to notice. Like many highly-strung people the agitation
of others horrified her, doubtless because it was too like her own.
She wanted to draw attention to the slightest stiff-neck or giddiness
she had managed to get afflicted with. But if I spoke of one of my own
pains she became stoical and grave and made a pretence of not hearing
me. "Poor marquis!" she would say, although she could not help
thinking he had done everything in his power not to go to the front
and once there to escape danger. "Poor lady!" she would say, alluding
to Mme. de Marsantes, "how she must have wept when she heard of the
death of her son! If only she had been able to see him again! But
perhaps it was better she was not able to because his nose was cut in
two. He was completely disfigured." And the eyes of Françoise filled
with tears through which nevertheless the cruel curiosity of the
peasant peered. Without doubt Françoise condoled with Mme. de Marsantes
with all her heart but she was sorry not to witness the form her grief
had taken and that she could not luxuriate in the spectacle of her
affliction. And as she liked crying and liked me to see her cry, she
worked herself up by saying: "I feel it dreadfully." And she observed
the traces of sorrow in my face with an eagerness which made me
pretend to a kind of hardness when I spoke of Robert. In a spirit of
imitation and because she had heard others say so, for there are
_clichés_ in the servants' quarters just as in coteries, she repeated,
not without the complaisance of the poor: "All his wealth did not
prevent his dying like anyone else and it's no good to him now." The
butler profited by the opportunity to remark to Françoise that it was
certainly sad but that it scarcely counted compared with the millions
of men who fell every day in spite of all the efforts of the
Government to hide it. But this time the butler did not succeed in
causing Françoise more pain as he had hoped, for she answered: "It's
true they died for France too, but all of them are unknown and it's
always more interesting when one has known people." And Françoise who
revelled in her tears, added: "Be sure and let me know if the death of
the marquis is mentioned in the paper."

Robert had often said to me with sadness long before the war: "Oh,
don't let us talk about my life, I am doomed in advance." Was he then
alluding to the vice which he had until then succeeded in hiding from
the world, the gravity of which he perhaps exaggerated as young people
do who make love for the first time or who even earlier seek solitary
gratification and imagine themselves like plants which cannot
disseminate their pollen without dying? Perhaps in Saint-Loup's case
this exaggeration arose as in that of children from the idea of an
unfamiliar sin, a new sensation possessing an almost terrifying power
which later on is attenuated. Or had he, owing to his father's early
death, the presentiment of his premature end. Such a presentiment
seems irrational and yet death seems subject to certain laws. One
would think, for instance, that people born of parents who died very
old or very young are almost forced to die at the same age, the former
sustaining sorrows and incurable diseases till they are a hundred, the
latter carried off, in spite of a happy, healthy existence at the
inevitable and premature date by a disease so timely and accidental
(however deep its roots in the organism) that it seems to be a
formality necessary to the actuality of death. And is it not possible
that accidental death itself—like that of Saint-Loup, linked as it
was with his character in more ways than I have been able to say—is
also determined beforehand, known only to gods invisible to man, but
revealed by a special and semi-conscious sadness (and even expressed
to others as sincerely as we announce misfortunes which, in our inmost
hearts, we believe we shall escape and which nevertheless happen) in
him who bears the fatal date and perceives it continuously within
himself, like a device.

He must have been very beautiful in those last hours, he who in this
life had seemed always, even when he sat or walked about in a
drawing-room, to contain within himself the dash of a charge and to
disguise smilingly the indomitable will-power centred in his
triangle-shaped head when he charged for the last time. Disencumbered
of its books, the feudal turret had become warlike again and that
Guermantes was more himself in death—he was more of his breed, a
Guermantes and nothing more and this was symbolised at his funeral in
the church of Saint-Hilaire-de-Combray hung with black draperies where
the "G" under the closed coronet divested of initials and titles
betokened the race of Guermantes which he personified in death.
Before going to the funeral which did not take place at once I wrote
to Gilberte. Perhaps I ought to have written to the Duchesse de
Guermantes but I imagined that she would have accepted the death of
Robert with the indifference I had seen her display about so many
others who had seemed so closely associated with her life, and perhaps
even that, with her Guermantes spirit, she would want to show that
superstition about blood ties meant nothing to her. I was too ill to
write to everybody. I had formerly believed that she and Robert liked
each other in the society sense, which is the same as saying that they
exchanged affectionate expressions when they felt so disposed. But
when he was away from her, he did not hesitate to say that she was a
fool and if she sometimes found a selfish pleasure in his society, I
had noticed that she was incapable of giving herself the smallest
trouble, of using her power in the slightest degree to render him a
service or even to prevent some misfortune happening to him. The
spitefulness she had shown in refusing to recommend him to General
Saint-Joseph when Robert was going back to Morocco proved that her
goodwill towards him when he married was only a sort of compromise
that cost her nothing. So that I was much surprised when I heard that,
owing to her being ill when Robert was killed, her people considered
it necessary to hide the papers from her for several days (under
fallacious pretexts) for fear of the shock that would have been caused
her by their announcement of his death. But my surprise was greater
when I learnt that after she had been told the truth, the Duchesse de
Guermantes wept the whole day, fell ill and took a long time—more
than a week, which was long for her—to console herself. When I heard
about her grief, I was touched and it enabled everyone to say, as I
do, that there was a great friendship between them. But when I
remember how many petty slanders, how much ill-will entered into that
friendship, I realise how small a value society attaches to it.
Moreover somewhat later, under circumstances which were historically
more important though they touched my heart less, Mme. de Guermantes
appeared, in my opinion, in a still more favourable light. It will be
remembered that as a girl she had displayed audacious impertinence
towards the Imperial family of Russia and after her marriage, spoke
about them with a freedom amounting to social tactlessness, yet she
was perhaps the only person, after the Russian Revolution, who gave
proof of extreme devotion to the Grand-Dukes and Duchesses. The very
year which preceded the war she had annoyed the Grande-Duchesse
Vladimir by calling the Comtesse of Hohenfelsen, the morganatic wife
of the Grand-Duc Paul, the "Grande-Duchesse Paul". But, no sooner had
the Russian Revolution broken out, than our Ambassador at St.
Petersburg, M. Paléologue ("Paléo" for diplomatic society which, like
the other, has its pseudo-witty abbreviations), was harassed by
telegrams from the Duchesse de Guermantes who wanted news of the
Grande-Duchesse Maria Pavlovna and for a long time the only marks of
sympathy and respect which that Princess received came to her
exclusively from Mme. de Guermantes.

Saint-Loup caused, if not by his death, at least by what he had done
in the weeks that preceded it, troubles greater than those of the
Duchesse. What happened was that the day following the evening when I
had seen M. de Charlus, the day on which he had said to Morel: "I
shall be revenged," Saint-Loup's hunt for Morel had ended, by the
general, under whose orders Morel ought to have been, discovering that
he was a deserter and having him sought out and arrested. To excuse
himself to Saint-Loup for the punishment which was going to be
inflicted on a person he had been interested in, the general had
written to inform Saint-Loup of it. Morel was convinced that his
arrest was due to the rancour of M. de Charlus. He remembered the
words "I shall be revenged" and, thinking this was the revenge, he
demanded to be heard. "It is true," he declared, "that I deserted but,
if I have been influenced to evil courses, is it altogether my fault?"
Without compromising himself, he gave accounts of M. de Charlus and of
M. d'Argencourt with whom he had also quarrelled, concerning matters
which these two, with the twofold exuberance of lovers and of inverts,
had told him, which caused the simultaneous arrest of M. de Charlus
and M. d'Argencourt. This arrest caused, perhaps, less distress to
these two than the knowledge that each had been the unwilling rival of
the other and the proceedings disclosed an enormous number of other
and more obscure rivals picked up daily in the street. They were,
moreover, quickly released as was Morel because the letter written to
Saint-Loup by the general was returned to him with the mention: "Dead
on the field of honour." The general, in honour of the dead, decided
that Morel should simply be sent to the front; he there behaved
bravely, escaped all dangers and, when the war was over, returned with
the cross which, earlier, M. de Charlus had vainly solicited for him
and which he thus got indirectly through the death of Saint-Loup. I
have since often thought, when recalling the croix-de-guerre lost at
Jupien's, that if Saint-Loup had survived he would have been easily
able to get elected deputy in the election which followed the war,
thanks to the frothy idiocy and to the halo of glory which it left
behind it, thanks also to centuries of prejudice being, on that
account, abolished and if the loss of a finger procured a brilliant
marriage and entrance into an aristocratic family, the
croix-de-guerre, though it were won in an office, took the place of a
profession of faith and ensured a triumphant election to the Chamber
of Deputies, almost to the French Academy. The election of Saint-Loup
would, on account of his "sainted" family, have made M. Arthur Meyer
pour out floods of tears and ink. But perhaps Saint-Loup loved the
people too sincerely to gain their suffrages although they would,
doubtless, have forgiven him his democratic ideas for the sake of his
noble birth. Saint-Loup would perhaps have exposed the former with
success before a chamber composed of aviators and those heroes would
have understood him as would have done a few other elevated minds. But
owing to the pacifying effect of the _Bloc National_, a lot of old
political rascals had been fished up and were always elected. Those
who were unable to enter a Chamber of aviators went about soliciting
the votes of Marshals, of a President of the Republic, of a President
of the Chamber, etc. in the hope of at least becoming members of the
French Academy. They would not have favoured Saint-Loup but they did
another of Jupien's customers, that deputy of Liberal Action, and he
was re-elected unopposed. He did not stop wearing his territorial
officer's uniform although the war had been over a long time. His
election was joyfully welcomed by all the newspapers who had formed
the Coalition on the strength of his name, with the help of rich and
noble ladies who wore rags out of conventional sentimentality and fear
of taxes, while men on the Stock Exchange ceaselessly bought diamonds,
not for their wives but because, having no confidence in the credit of
any country, they sought safety in tangible wealth, and incidentally
made de Beers go up a thousand francs. Such imbecility was somewhat
irritating but one was less indignant with the _Bloc National_ when,
suddenly, the Victims of Bolshevism appeared on the scene;
Grand-Duchesses in tatters whose husbands and sons had been in turn
assassinated. Husbands in wheelbarrows, sons stoned and deprived of
food, forced to labour amidst jeers and finally thrown into pits and
buried alive because they were said to be sickening of the plague and
might infect the community. The few who succeeded in escaping suddenly
reappeared and added new and terrifying details to this picture of
horror.





CHAPTER III

AN AFTERNOON PARTY AT THE HOUSE OF THE PRINCESSE DE GUERMANTES


THE new sanatorium to which I then retired did not cure me any more
than the first one and a long time passed before I left it. During my
railway-journey back to Paris the conviction of my lack of literary
gifts again assailed me. This conviction which I believed I had
discovered formerly on the Guermantes side, that I had recognised
still more sorrowfully in my daily walks at Tansonville with Gilberte
before going back to dinner or far into the night, and which on the
eve of departure I had almost identified, after reading some pages of
the Mémoires of the Goncourts, as being synonymous with the vanity and
lie of literature, a thought less sad perhaps but still more dismal if
its reason was not my personal incompetence but the non-existence of
an ideal in which I had believed, that conviction which had not for
long re-entered my mind, struck me anew and with more lamentable force
than ever. It was, I remember, when the train stopped in open country
and the sun lit half-way down their stems the line of trees which ran
alongside the railway. "Trees," I thought, "you have nothing more to
tell me, my cold heart hears you no more. I am in the midst of Nature,
yet it is with boredom that my eyes observe the line which separates
your luminous countenance from your shaded trunks. If ever I believed
myself a poet I now know that I am not one. Perhaps in this new and
barren stage of my life, men may inspire me as Nature no longer can
and the years when I might perhaps have been able to sing her beauty
will never return." But in offering myself the consolation that
possible observation of humanity might take the place of impossible
inspiration, I was conscious that I was but seeking a consolation
which I knew was valueless. If really I had the soul of an artist,
what pleasure should I not be now experiencing at the sight of that
curtain of trees lighted by the setting sun, of those little
field-flowers lifting themselves almost to the foot-board of the
railway carriage, whose petals I could count and whose colours I
should not dare describe as do so many excellent writers, for can one
hope to communicate to the reader a pleasure one has not felt? A
little later I had observed with the same indifference, the lenses of
gold and of orange into which the setting sun had transformed the
windows of a house; and then, as the hour advanced, I had seen another
house which seemed made of a strange pink substance. But I had made
these various observations with the indifference I might have felt if,
when walking in a garden with a lady, I had remarked a leaf of glass
and further on an object like alabaster the unusual colour of which
would not have distracted me from agonising boredom but which I had
pointed at out of politeness to the lady and to show her that I had
noticed them though they were coloured glass and stucco. In the same
way as a matter of conscience I registered within myself as though to
a person who was accompanying me and who would have been capable of
getting more pleasure than I from them, the fiery reflections in the
window-panes and the pink transparence of the house. But that
companion whose notice I had drawn to these curious effects was
doubtless of a less enthusiastic nature than many well disposed people
whom such a sight would have delighted, for he had observed the
colours without any sort of joy.

Since my name was on their visiting-lists, my long absence from Paris
had not prevented old friends from sending me invitations and when, on
getting home, I found together with an invitation for the following
day to a supper given by La Berma in honour of her daughter and her
son-in-law, another for an afternoon reception at the Prince de
Guermantes', my sad reflections in the train were not the least of the
motives which counselled me to go there. I told myself it really was
not worth while to deprive myself of society since I was either not
equipped for or not up to the precious "work" to which I had for so
long been hoping to devote myself "to-morrow" and which, may be,
corresponded to no reality. In truth, this reasoning was negative and
merely eliminated the value of those which might have kept me away
from this society function. But what made me go was that name of
Guermantes which had so far gone out of my head that, when I saw it on
the invitation card, it awakened a beam of attention and laid hold of
a fraction of the past buried in the depths of my memory, a past
associated with visions of the forest domain, its rich luxuriance once
again assuming the charm and significance of the old Combray days
when, before going home, I passed into the Rue de l'Oiseau and saw
from outside, like dark lacquer, the painted window of Gilbert le
Mauvais, Sire of Guermantes. For a moment the Guermantes seemed once
more utterly different from society people, incomparable with them or
with any living beings, even with a king, beings issuing from
gestation in the austere and virtuous atmosphere of that sombre town
of Combray where my childhood was spent, and from the whole past
represented by the little street whence I gazed up at the painted
window. I longed to go to the Guermantes' as though it would bring me
back my childhood from the deeps of memory where I glimpsed it. And I
continued to re-read the invitation until the letters which composed
the name, familiar and mysterious as that of Combray itself,
rebelliously recaptured their independence and spelled to my tired
eyes a name I did not know.

My mother was going to a small tea-party with Mme. Sazerat so I had no
scruple about attending the Princesse de Guermantes' reception. I
ordered a carriage to take me there for the Prince de Guermantes no
longer lived in his former mansion but in a magnificent new one which
he had had built in the Avenue du Bois. One of the mistakes of people
in society is that they do not realise, if they want us to believe in
them, that they must first believe in themselves or at least that they
must have some respect for the elements essential to our belief. At a
time when I made myself believe even though I knew the contrary, that
the Guermantes lived in their palace by virtue of hereditary
privilege, to penetrate into the palace of a magician or a fairy, to
have those doors open before me which are closed until the magical
formula has been uttered seemed to me as difficult as to obtain an
interview with the sorcerer and the fairy themselves. Nothing was
easier than to convince myself that the old servant engaged the
previous day at Potel and Chabot's was the son or grandson or
descendant of those who served the family long before the revolution
and I had infinite good will in calling the picture which had been
bought the preceding month at Bernheim junior's the portrait of an
ancestor. But the charm must not be decanted, memories cannot be
isolated and now that the prince de Guermantes had himself destroyed
my illusion by going to live in the Avenue du Bois, there was little
of it left. Those ceilings which I had feared would fall at the sound
of my name and under which so much of my former awe and fantasy might
still have lingered, now sheltered the evening parties of an American
woman of no interest to me. Of course things have no power in
themselves and since it is we who impart it to them, some middle-class
school-boy might at this moment be standing in front of the mansion in
the Avenue du Bois and feeling as I did formerly about the earlier
one. And this because he would still be at the age of faith which I
had left far behind; I had lost that privilege as one loses the
child's power to digest milk which we can only consume in small
quantities whilst babies can suck it down indefinitely without taking
breath. At least the Guermantes' change of domicile had the advantage
for me that the carriage which had come to take me there and in which
I was making these reflections had to pass through the streets which
go towards the Champs Elysées. Those streets were at the time very
badly paved, yet the moment the carriage entered them I was detached
from my thoughts by a sensation of extreme sweetness; it was as
though, all at once, the carriage was rolling along easily and
noiselessly, like, when the gates of a park are opened, one seems to
glide along a drive covered with fine gravel or dead leaves. There
was nothing material about it but suddenly I felt emancipated from
exterior obstacles as though I need no longer make an effort to adapt
my attention as we do almost unconsciously when faced with something
new; the streets through which I was then passing were those long
forgotten ones which Françoise and I used to take when we were going
to the Champs Elysées. The road itself knew where it was going, its
resistance was overcome. And like an aviator who rolls painfully along
the ground until, abruptly, he breaks away from it, I felt myself
being slowly lifted towards the silent peaks of memory. Those
particular streets of Paris, will, for me, always be composed of a
different substance from others. When I reached the corner of the Rue
Royale where formerly an open-air street-seller used to display the
photographs beloved of Françoise, it seemed to me that the carriage
accustomed in the course of years to turning there hundreds of times
was compelled to turn of itself. I was not traversing the same streets
as those who were passing by, I was gliding through a sweet and
melancholy past composed of so many different pasts that it was
difficult for me to identify the cause of my melancholy. Was it due
to those pacings to and fro awaiting Gilberte and fearing she would
not come? Was it that I was close to a house where I had been told
that Albertine had gone with Andrée or was it the philosophic
significance a street seems to assume when one has used it a thousand
times while one was obsessed with a passion which has come to an end
and borne no fruit like when after luncheon I made fevered expeditions
to gaze at the play-bills of _Phèdre_ and of the _Black Domino_ while
they were still moist with the bill-sticker's paste? Reaching the
Champs Elysées and not much wanting to hear the whole of the concert
at the Guermantes', I stopped the carriage and was able to get out of
it to walk a few steps, when I noticed a carriage likewise about to
stop. A man with glazed eyes and bent body was deposited rather than
sitting in the back of it, and was making efforts to hold himself
straight such as a child makes when told to behave nicely. An
untouched forest of snow-white hair escaped from under his straw hat
while a white beard like those snow attaches to statues in public
gardens depended from his chin. It was M. de Charlus sitting beside
Jupien (prodigal of attentions), convalescing from an attack of
apoplexy (of which I was ignorant; all I had heard being that he had
lost his eyesight, a passing matter, for he now saw clearly). He
seemed, unless until then he had been in the habit of dyeing his hair
and that he had been forbidden to do so because of the fatigue it
involved, to have been subjected to some sort of chemical
precipitation which had the effect of making his hair shine with such
a brilliant and metallic lustre that the locks of his hair and beard
spouted like so many geysers of pure silver and clad the aged and
fallen prince with the Shakespearean majesty of a King Lear. The eyes
had not remained unaffected by this total convulsion, this
metallurgical alteration of the head; but by an inverse phenomenon
they had lost all their lustre. What was most moving was the feeling
that the lustre had been lent to them by moral pride and that owing to
this having been lost, the physical and even the intellectual life of
M. de Charlus survived his aristocratic hauteur which one had supposed
to be embodied in it. At that very moment there passed in a victoria,
doubtless also going to the Prince de Guermantes', Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte whom formerly the Baron did not consider smart enough
to be worth knowing. Jupien, who was taking care of him like a child,
whispered in his ear that it was a personage he knew, Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte. Immediately, with infinite trouble and with the
concentration of an invalid who wants to appear capable of movements
still painful to him, M. de Charlus uncovered, bowed and wished Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte good-day with the respect he might have shown if she
had been the Queen of France. The very difficulty of thus saluting her
may have been the reason of it, through realising the poignancy of
doing something painful and therefore doubly meritorious on the part
of an invalid and doubly flattering to the lady to whom it was
addressed. Like kings, invalids exaggerate politeness. Perhaps also
there was a lack of co-ordination in the Baron's movements caused by
disease of the marrow and brain and his gestures exceeded his
intention. For myself I rather perceived therein a sort of
quasi-physical gentleness, a detachment from the realities of life
which strikes one in those about to enter the shadows of death. The
profuse exposure of his silver-flaked head revealed a change less
profound than this unconscious worldly humility which, reversing all
social relationships, brought low in the presence of Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte, would have brought low—showing thereby its
debility—in the presence of the least important American woman (who
might at last have secured from the Baron a consideration until then
withheld) a snobbishness which had seemed the most arrogant. For the
Baron still lived, could still think; his intelligence survived. And,
more than a chorus of Sophocles on the humbled pride of Oedipus, more
even than death itself or any funeral speech, the Baron's humble and
obsequious greeting of Mme. de Sainte-Euverte proclaimed the perishable
nature of earthly grandeurs and of all human pride. M. de Charlus
who, till then, would not have consented to dine with Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte now bowed down to the ground before her. It may, of
course, be that he thus bowed to her through ignorance of her rank
(for the rules of the social code can be obliterated by a stroke like
any other part of the memory) perhaps by an inco-ordination which
transposed to the plane of apparent humility his uncertainty—which
might otherwise have been haughty—regarding the identity of the
passing lady. He saluted her, in fact, with the timid politeness of a
child told by its mother to say good-morning to grown-up people. And a
child he had become, without a child's pride. For Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte to receive the homage of M. de Çharlus was a world of
gratified snobbery as, formerly, it was a world of snobbery for the
Baron to refuse it her. And M. de Charlus had, at one blow, destroyed
that precious and inaccessible character which he had succeeded in
making Mme. de Sainte-Euverte believe was an essential part of himself
by the concentrated timidity, the frightened eagerness with which he
raised his hat and let loose the foaming torrents of his silver hair
as he stood uncovered before her with the eloquent deference of a
Bossuet. After Jupien had assisted the Baron to descend, I saluted him
and he began speaking to me very fast and so indistinctly that I could
not understand him and when, for the third time, I asked him to repeat
what he said, it provoked a gesture of impatience which surprised me
because of the previous impassiveness of his face which was doubtless
due to the effects of paralysis. But when I succeeded in grasping his
whispered words I realised that the invalid's intelligence was
completely intact. There were moreover two M. de Charluses without
counting others. Of the two the intellectual one spent the whole time
complaining that he was approaching amnesia, that he was constantly
pronouncing one word or one letter instead of another. But
coincidentally, the other M. de Charlus, the subconscious one which
wanted to be envied as much as the other to be pitied, stopped, like
the leader of an orchestra at the beginning of a passage in which his
musicians are floundering, and with infinite ingeniousness attached
what followed to the word he had wrongly used but which he wanted one
to believe he had deliberately chosen. Even his memory was uninjured;
indeed he indulged in the exceedingly fatiguing coquetry of
resuscitating some ancient and insignificant recollection in connexion
with myself to prove to me that he had preserved or recovered all his
mental acuteness. For instance, without moving his head or his eyes
and without varying his inflection, he said to me: "Look! There's a
post on which there's a notice exactly like the one where I was
standing the first time I saw you at Avranches—no at Balbec, I mean."
And it was actually an advertisement of the same product. At first I
had difficulty in understanding what he said, as at first, one is
unable to see in a darkened room, but like eyes which become
accustomed to the dusk, my ears soon became accustomed to his
pianissimo. I believe too that it got stronger as he went on speaking,
whether because the weakness came partly from nervous apprehension
which diminished while he was being distracted by someone or whether,
on the contrary, the weakness was real and the strength of his voice
was temporarily stimulated by excitement which was injurious to him
and made strangers say: "He's getting better, he mustn't think about
his illness," whereas, on the contrary, it made him worse. Be this as
it may, the Baron, at this particular moment, cast up his words with
greater vigour like the tide does its waves in bad weather. An effect
of his recent stroke was to make his voice sound like stones rolling
under his words. And as he went on talking to me of the past, no doubt
to show he had not lost his memory, he evoked it funereally, yet
without sadness. He kept on enumerating the various members of his
family or of his set who were dead, apparently less because he was
sorry they had departed than because of his satisfaction at having
survived them; in reminding himself of their death, he seemed to
become more conscious of his own recovery. He enumerated almost
triumphantly but in a monotonous tone accompanied by a slight stammer
and with a sort of sepulchral resonance: "Hannibal de Bréauté, dead!
Antoine de Mouchy, dead! Charles Swann, dead! Adalbert de
Montmorency, dead! Baron de Talleyrand, dead! Sosthène de
Doudeauville, dead!" And each time the word "dead" seemed to fall upon
the defunct like a shovelful of earth, the heavier for the gravedigger
wanting to press them ever deeper into the tomb.

The Duchesse de Létourville, who was not going to the reception of the
Princesse de Guermantes because she had been ill for a long time, at
that moment passed by us on foot and noticing the Baron whose attack
she had not heard about, stopped to say good-day to him. But the
illness from which she had been suffering did not make her better
understand the illness of others which she bore with an impatience and
nervous irritation in which there was perhaps a good deal of pity.
Hearing the Baron's defective pronunciation and the mistakes in some
of his words and observing the difficulty with which he moved his arm,
she glanced in turn at Jupien and at me as though she were asking the
explanation of such a shocking phenomenon. As we did not answer she
directed a long, sad, reproachful stare at M. de Charlus himself,
apparently vexed at his being seen out with her in a condition as
unusual as if he were wearing neither tie nor shoes. When the Baron
made another mistake in his pronunciation, the distress and
indignation of the Duchesse increased, and she cried at the Baron:
"Palamède?" in the interrogatory and exasperated tone of neurasthenic
people who cannot bear waiting a moment and who, if one asks them in
immediately and apologises for not being completely dressed, remark
bitterly, not to excuse themselves but to accuse you: "Oh, I see I'm
disturbing you!" as though the person they are disturbing had done
something wrong. Finally, she left us with a still more concerned air,
saying to the Baron: "You'd better go home."

M. de Charlus wanted to sit down and rest in a chair while Jupien and
I took a few steps together, and painfully extracted a book from his
pocket which seemed to me to be a prayer-book. I was not sorry to
learn some details about the Baron's health from Jupien. "I am glad to
talk to you, Monsieur," said Jupien, "but we won't go further than the
Rond-Point. Thank God, the Baron is better now, but I don't dare leave
him long alone. He's always the same, he's too good-hearted, he'd give
everything he has to others and that isn't all, he remains as much of
a _coureur_ as if he were a young man and I'm obliged to keep my eye
on him." "The more so," I replied, "as he has recovered his own. I was
greatly distressed when I was told that he had lost his eye-sight."
"His paralysis did, indeed, have that effect, at first he couldn't see
at all. Just think that during the cure which, as a matter of fact,
did him a lot of good, for several months he couldn't see any more
than if he'd been blind from birth." "At least, that must have made
part of your supervision unnecessary." "Not the least in the world! We
had hardly arrived at a hotel than he asked me what such and such a
person on the staff was like. I assured him they were all awful, but
he knew it couldn't be as universal as I said and that I must be lying
about some of them. There's that _petit polisson_ again! And then he
got a sort of intuition, perhaps from a voice, I don't know, and
managed to send me away on some urgent commission. One day—excuse me
for telling you all this, but as you once by chance entered the temple
of impurity, I have nothing to hide from you" (for that matter he
always got a rather unpleasant satisfaction out of revealing secrets)
"I came back from one of those pretended urgent commissions quickly
because I thought it had been arranged on purpose, when just as I
approached the Baron's room I heard a voice ask: 'What?' and the
Baron's answer: 'Do you mean to say it's the first time?' I entered
without knocking and what was my horror! The Baron, misled by the
voice which was indeed more mature than is habitual at that age (and
at that time he was completely blind) he, who formerly only liked
grown men, was with a child not ten years old."

I was told that at that period he was nearly every day a prey to
attacks of mental depression characterised not exactly by divagation
but by confessing at the top of his voice—in front of third parties
whose presence and censoriousness he had forgotten—opinions he
usually hid, such as his Germanophilism. So, long after the end of the
war he was bewailing the defeat of the Germans, amongst whom he
included himself and said bitterly: "We shall have to be revenged. We
have proved the power of our resistance and we were the best
organised," or else his confidences took another form and he exclaimed
in a rage: "Don't let Lord X— or the Prince of X—, come and tell me
again what they said the other day for it was all I could do to
prevent myself replying, 'You know, because you're one of them, at
least, as much as I am.'" Needless to add that when M. de Charlus thus
gave vent at times when he was, as they say, not all there, to these
Germanophile and other avowals, people in his company such as Jupien
or the Duchesse de Guermantes were in the habit of interrupting his
imprudent words and giving to the third party who was less intimate
and more indiscreet a forced but honourable interpretation of his
words. "Oh, my God," called Jupien, "I had good reason not to want to
go far away. There he is starting a conversation with a gardener boy.
Good-day, sir, it's better I should go, I can't leave my invalid alone
a moment; he's nothing but a great baby."


I got out of the carriage again a little before reaching the Princesse
de Guermantes' and began thinking again of that lassitude, that
weariness with which I had tried the evening before to note the
railway line which separated the shadow from the light upon the trees
in one of the most beautiful countrysides in France. Certainly such
intellectual conclusions as I had drawn from these thoughts did not
affect my sensibility so cruelly to-day, but they remained the same,
for, as always happened when I succeeded in breaking away from my
habits, going out at an unaccustomed hour to some new place, I derived
a lively pleasure from it.

To-day, the pleasure of going to a reception at Mme. de Guermantes',
seemed to me purely frivolous, but since I now knew that I could
expect to have no other than frivolous pleasures, what was the use of
my not accepting them? I repeated to myself that in attempting this
description I had experienced none of that enthusiasm which I is not
the only but the first criterion of talent. I began now to draw on my
memory for "snapshots", notably snapshots it had taken at Venice but
the mere mention of the word made Venice as boring to me as a
photographic exhibition and I was conscious of no more taste or talent
in visualising what I had formerly seen than yesterday in describing
what I had observed with a meticulous and mournful eye. In a few
minutes so many charming friends I had not seen for so long would
doubtless be asking me not to cut myself off and to spend some time
with them. I had no reason to refuse them since I now had the proof
that I was good for nothing, that literature could no longer give me
any joy whether because of my lack of talent or because it was a less
real thing than I had believed.

When I remembered what Bergotte had said to me: "You are ill but one
cannot be sorry for you because you possess the delights of the mind,"
I saw how much he had been mistaken. How little delight I got out of
this sterile lucidity. I might have added that if sometimes I had
tasted pleasures—not those of the mind—I had always exhausted them
with a different woman so that even if destiny were to grant me a
hundred years of healthy life it would only be adding successive
lengths to an existence already in a straight line which there was no
object in lengthening further. As to the "delights of the mind", could
I thus name those cold and sterile reflections which my clear-sighted
eye or my logical reasoning joylessly summarised? But sometimes
illumination comes to our rescue at the very moment when all seems
lost; we have knocked at every door and they open on nothing until, at
last, we stumble unconsciously against the only one through which we
can enter the kingdom we have sought in vain a hundred years—and it
opens.*


[* _In the French text of Le Temps Retrouvé, vol. I ends here_.]


Reviewing the painful reflections of which I have just been speaking,
I had entered the courtyard of the Guermantes' mansion and in my
distraction I had not noticed an approaching carriage; at the call of
the link-man I had barely time to draw quickly to one side, and in
stepping backwards I stumbled against some unevenly placed paving
stones behind which there was a coach-house. As I recovered myself,
one of my feet stepped on a flagstone lower than the one next it. In
that instant all my discouragement disappeared and I was possessed by
the same felicity which at different moments of my life had given me
the view of trees which seemed familiar to me during the drive round
Balbec, the view of the belfries of Martinville, the savour of the
madeleine dipped in my tea and so many other sensations of which I
have spoken and which Vinteuil's last works had seemed to synthesise.
As at the moment when I tasted the madeleine, all my apprehensions
about the future, all my intellectual doubts, were dissipated. Those
doubts which had assailed me just before, regarding the reality of my
literary gifts and even regarding the reality of literature itself
were dispersed as though by magic. This time I vowed that I should
not resign myself to ignoring why, without any fresh reasoning,
without any definite hypothesis, the insoluble difficulties of the
previous instant had lost all importance as was the case when I tasted
the madeleine. The felicity which I now experienced was undoubtedly
the same as that I felt when I ate the madeleine, the cause of which I
had then postponed seeking. There was a purely material difference in
the images evoked. A deep azure intoxicated my eyes, a feeling of
freshness, of dazzling light enveloped me and in my desire to capture
the sensation, just as I had not dared to move when I tasted the
madeleine because of trying to conjure back that of which it reminded
me, I stood, doubtless an object of ridicule to the link-men,
repeating the movement of a moment since, one foot upon the higher
flagstone, the other on the lower one. Merely repeating the movement
was useless; but if, oblivious of the Guermantes' reception, I
succeeded in recapturing the sensation which accompanied the movement,
again the intoxicating and elusive vision softly pervaded me as though
it said "Grasp me as I float by you, if you can, and try to solve the
enigma of happiness I offer you." And then, all at once, I recognised
that Venice which my descriptive efforts and pretended snapshots of
memory had failed to recall; the sensation I had once felt on two
uneven slabs in the Baptistry of St. Mark had been given back to me
and was linked with all the other sensations of that and other days
which had lingered expectant in their place among the series of
forgotten years from which a sudden chance had imperiously called them
forth. So too the taste of the little madeleine had recalled Combray.
But how was it that these visions of Combray and of Venice at one and
at another moment had caused me a joyous certainty sufficient without
other proofs to make death indifferent to me? Asking myself this and
resolved to find the answer this very day, I entered the Guermantes'
mansion, because we always allow our inner needs to give way to the
part we are apparently called upon to play and that day mine was to be
a guest. On reaching the first floor a footman requested me to enter a
small boudoir-library adjoining a buffet until the piece then being
played had come to an end, the Princesse having given orders that the
doors should not be opened during the performance. At that very
instant a second premonition occurred to reinforce the one which the
uneven paving-stones had given me and to exhort me to persevere in my
task. The servant in his ineffectual efforts not to make a noise had
knocked a spoon against a plate. The same sort of felicity which the
uneven paving-stones had given me invaded my being; this time my
sensation was quite different, being that of great heat accompanied by
the smell of smoke tempered by the fresh air of a surrounding forest
and I realised that what appeared so pleasant was the identical group
of trees I had found so tiresome to observe and describe when I was
uncorking a bottle of beer in the railway carriage and, in a sort of
bewilderment, I believed for the moment, until I had collected myself,
so similar was the sound of the spoon against the plate to that of the
hammer of a railway employee who was doing something to the wheel of
the carriage while the train was at a standstill facing the group of
trees, that I was now actually there. One might have said that the
portents which that day were to rescue me from my discouragement and
give me back faith in literature, were determined to multiply
themselves, for a servant, a long time in the service of the Prince de
Guermantes, recognised me and, to save me going to the buffet, brought
me some cakes and a glass of orangeade into the library. I wiped my
mouth with the napkin he had given me and immediately, like the
personage in the _Thousand and One Nights_ who unknowingly
accomplished the rite which caused the appearance before him of a
docile genius, invisible to others, ready to transport him far away, a
new azure vision passed before my eyes; but this time it was pure and
saline and swelled into shapes like bluish udders. The impression was
so strong that the moment I was living seemed to be one with the past
and (more bewildered still than I was on the day when I wondered
whether I was going to be welcomed by the Princesse de Guermantes or
whether everything was going to melt away), I believed that the
servant had just opened the window upon the shore and that everything
invited me to go downstairs and walk along the sea-wall at high tide;
the napkin upon which I was wiping my mouth had exactly the same kind
of starchiness as that with which I had attempted with so much
difficulty to dry myself before the window the first day of my arrival
at Balbec and within the folds of which, now, in that library of the
Guermantes mansion, a green-blue ocean spread its plumage like the
tail of a peacock. And I did not merely rejoice in those colours, but
in that whole instant which produced them, an instant towards which my
whole life had doubtless aspired, which a feeling of fatigue or
sadness had prevented my ever experiencing at Balbec but which now,
pure, disincarnated and freed from the imperfections of exterior
perceptions, filled me with joy. The piece they were playing might
finish at any moment, and I should be obliged to enter the drawing
room. So I forced myself to try to penetrate as quickly as possible
into the nature of those identical sensations I had felt three times
within a few minutes so as to extract the lesson I might learn from
them. I did not stop to consider the extreme difference which there is
between the true impression which we have had of a thing and the
artificial meaning we give to it when we employ our will to represent
it to ourselves, for I remembered with what relative indifference
Swann had been able to speak formerly of the days when he was loved,
because beneath the words, he felt something else than them, and the
immediate pain Vinteuil's little phrase had caused him by giving him
back those very days themselves as he had formerly felt them, and I
understood but too well that the sensation the uneven paving-stones,
the taste of the madeleine, had aroused in me, bore no relation to
that which I had so often attempted to reconstruct of Venice, of
Balbec and of Combray with the aid of a uniform memory. Moreover, I
realised that life can be considered commonplace in spite of its
appearing so beautiful at particular moments because in the former
case one judges and underrates it on quite other grounds than itself,
upon images which have no life in them. At most I noted additionally
that the difference there is between each real impression—differences
which explain why a uniform pattern of life cannot resemble it—can
probably be ascribed to this: that the slightest word we have spoken
at a particular period of our life, the most insignificant gesture to
which we have given vent, were surrounded, bore upon them the
reflection of things which logically were unconnected with them, were
indeed isolated from them by the intelligence which did not need them
for reasoning purposes but in the midst of which—here, the pink
evening-glow upon the floral wall-decoration of a rustic restaurant, a
feeling of hunger, sexual desire, enjoyment of luxury—there, curling
waves beneath the blue of a morning sky enveloping musical phrases
which partly emerge like mermaids' shoulders—the most simple act or
gesture remains enclosed as though in a thousand jars of which each
would be filled with things of different colours, odours and
temperature; not to mention that those vases placed at intervals
during the growing years throughout which we ceaselessly change, if
only in dream or in thought, are situated at completely different,
levels and produce the impression of strangely varying climates. It is
true that these changes have occurred to us without our being aware of
them; but the distance between the memory which suddenly returns and
our present personality as similarly between two memories of different
years and places, is so great that it would suffice, apart from their
specific uniqueness, to make comparison between; them impossible. Yes,
if a memory, thanks to forgetfulness, has been unable to contract any
tie, to forge any link between itself and the present, if it has
remained in its own place, of its own date, if it has kept its
distance, its isolation in the hollow of a valley or on the peak of a
mountain, it makes us suddenly breathe an air new to us just because
it is an air we have formerly breathed, an air purer than that the
poets have vainly called Paradisiacal, which offers that deep sense of
renewal only because it has been breathed before, inasmuch as the true
paradises are paradises we have lost. And on the way to it, I noted
that there would be great difficulties in creating the work of art I
now felt ready to undertake without its being consciously in my mind,
for I should have to construct each of its successive parts out of a
different sort of material. The material which would be suitable for
memories at the side of the sea would be quite different from those of
afternoons at Venice which would demand a material of its own, a new
one, of a special transparency and sonority, compact, fresh and pink,
different again if I wanted to describe evenings at Rivebelle where,
in the dining-room open upon the garden, the heat was beginning to
disintegrate, to descend and come to rest on the earth, while the
rose-covered walls of the restaurant were lighted up by the last ray
of the setting sun and the last water-colours of daylight lingered in
the sky. I passed rapidly over all these things, being summoned more
urgently to seek the cause of that happiness with its peculiar
character of insistent certainty, the search for which I had formerly
adjourned. And I began to discover the cause by comparing those
varying happy impressions which had the common quality of being felt
simultaneously at the actual moment and at a distance in time, because
of which common quality the noise of the spoon upon the plate, the
unevenness of the paving-stones, the taste of the madeleine, imposed
the past upon the present and made me hesitate as to which time I was
existing in. Of a truth, the being within me which sensed this
impression, sensed what it had in common in former days and now,
sensed its extra-temporal character, a being which only appeared when
through the medium of the identity of present and past, it found
itself in the only setting in which it could exist and enjoy the
essence of things, that is, outside Time. That explained why my
apprehensions on the subject of my death had ceased from the moment
when I had unconsciously recognised the taste of the little madeleine
because at that moment the being that I then had been was an
extra-temporal being and in consequence indifferent to the
vicissitudes of the future. That being had never come to me, had never
manifested itself except when I was inactive and in a sphere beyond
the enjoyment of the moment, that was my prevailing condition every
time that analogical miracle had enabled me to escape from the
present. Only that being had the power of enabling me to recapture
former days, Time Lost, in the face of which all the efforts of my
memory and of my intelligence came to nought.

And perhaps, if just now I thought that Bergotte had spoken falsely
when he referred to the joys of spiritual life it was because I then
gave the name of spiritual life to logical reasonings which had no
relation with it, which, had no relation with what now existed in
me—just as I found society and life wearisome because I was judging
them from memories without Truth while now that a veritable moment of
the past had been born again in me three separate times, I had such a
desire to live.

Nothing but a moment of the past? Much more perhaps; something which
being common to the past and the present, is more essential than both.

How many times in the course of my life reality had disappointed me
because at the moment when I perceived it, my imagination, which was
my only means of enjoying beauty, could not be applied to it by virtue
of the inevitable law which only allows us to imagine that which is
absent. And now suddenly the effect of this hard law had become
neutralised, held in suspense by a marvellous expedient of nature
which had caused a sensation to flash to me—sound of a spoon and of a
hammer, uneven paving-stones—simultaneously in the past which
permitted my imagination to grasp it and in the present in which the
shock to my senses caused by the noise had effected a contact between
the dreams of the imagination and that of which they are habitually
deprived, namely, the idea of existence—and thanks to that stratagem
had permitted that being within me to secure, to isolate and to render
static for the duration of a lightning flash that which it can never
wholly grasp, a fraction of Time in its pure essence. When, with such
a shudder of happiness, I heard the sound common, at once, to the
spoon touching the plate, to the hammer striking the wheel, to the
unevenness of the paving-stones in the courtyard of the Guermantes'
mansion and the Baptistry of St. Mark's, it was because that being
within me can only be nourished on the essence of things and finds in
them alone its subsistence and its delight. It languishes in the
observation by the senses of the present sterilised by the
intelligence awaiting a future constructed by the will out of
fragments of the past and the present from which it removes still more
reality, keeping that only which serves the narrow human aim of
utilitarian purposes. But let a sound, a scent already heard and
breathed in the past be heard and breathed anew, simultaneously in the
present and in the past, real without being actual, ideal without
being abstract, then instantly the permanent and characteristic
essence hidden in things is freed and our true being which has for
long seemed dead but was not so in other ways awakes and revives,
thanks to this celestial nourishment. An instant liberated from the
order of time has recreated in us man liberated from the same order,
so that he should be conscious of it. And indeed we understand his
faith in his happiness even if the mere taste of a madeleine does not
logically seem to justify it; we understand that the name of death is
meaningless to him for, placed beyond Time, how can he fear the
future? But that illusion which brought near me a moment of the past
incongruous to the present, would not last. Certainly we can prolong
the visions of memory by willing it which is no more than turning over
an illustrated book. Thus formerly, when I was going for the first
time to the Princesse de Guermantes' from the sun-lit court of our
house in Paris, I had lazily focused my mind at one moment on the
square where the church of Combray stood, at another on the sea shore
of Balbec, as I might have amused myself by turning over a folio of
water-colours of different places I had visited and cataloguing these
mnemonic illustrations with the egotistical pleasure of a collector, I
might have said: "After all, I have seen some beautiful things in my
life." Doubtless, in that event, my memory would have been asserting
different sensations but it would only have been combining their
homogeneous elements. That was a different thing from the three
memories I had just experienced which, so far from giving me a more
flattering notion of my personality, had, on the contrary, almost made
me doubt its very existence. Thus, on the day when I dipped the
madeleine in the hot infusion, in the heart of that place where I
happened to be (whether that place was, as then, my room in Paris or,
as to-day, the Prince de Guermantes' library) there had been the
irradiation of a small zone within and around myself, a sensation
(taste of the dipped madeleine, metallic sound, feeling of the uneven
steps) common to the place where I then was and also to the other
place (my Aunt Léonie's room, the railway carriage, the Baptistry of
St. Mark's). And, at the very moment when I was thus reasoning, the
strident sound of a water-pipe, exactly like those long screeches
which one heard on board excursion steamers at Balbec, made me
experience (as had happened to me once in a large restaurant in Paris
at the sight of a luxurious dining-room half empty, summerlike and
hot) something more than a mere sensation like one I had, one late
afternoon at Balbec, when, all the tables symmetrically laid with
linen and silver, the large bow-windows wide open to the sun slowly
setting on the sea with its wandering ships, I had only to step across
the window-frame hardly higher than my ankle, to be with Albertine and
her friends who were walking on the sea-wall. It was not only the
echo, the duplication of a past sensation that the water-conduit had
caused me to experience, it was the sensation itself. In that case as
in all the preceding ones, the common sensation had sought to recreate
the former place around itself whilst the material place in which the
sensation occurred, opposed all the resistance of its mass to this
immigration into a Paris mansion of a Norman seashore and a
railway-embankment. The marine dining-room of Balbec with its damask
linen prepared like altar cloths to receive the setting sun had sought
to disturb the solidity of the Guermantes' mansion, to force its
doors, and had made the sofas round me quiver an instant as on another
occasion the tables of the restaurant in Paris had done. In all those
resurrections, the distant place engendered by the sensation common to
them all, came to grips for a second with the material place, like a
wrestler. The material place was always the conqueror and always the
conquered seemed to me the more beautiful, so much so that I remained
in a state of ecstasy upon the uneven pavement as I did with my cup of
tea, trying to retain with the moment of their appearance, to make
reappear as they escaped, that Combray, that Venice, that Balbec,
invading, yet repelled, which came before my eyes only immediately to
abandon me in the midst of a newer scene which yet was penetrable by
the past. And if the material place had not been at once the conqueror
I think I should have lost consciousness; for these resurrections of
the past, for the second that they last, are so complete that they not
only force our eyes to cease seeing the room which is before them in
order to see the railway bordered by trees or the rising tide, they
force our nostrils to breathe the air of those places which are,
nevertheless, so far away, our will to choose between the diverse
alternatives it offers us, our whole personality to believe itself
surrounded by them, or at least to stumble between them and the
material world, in the bewildering uncertainty we experience from an
ineffable vision on the threshold of sleep.

So, that which the being within me, three or four times resurrected,
had experienced, were perhaps fragments of lives snatched from time
which, though viewed from eternity, were fugitive. And yet I felt that
the happiness given me at those rare intervals in my life was the only
fruitful and authentic one. Does not the sign of unreality in others
consist in their inability to satisfy us, as, for instance, in the
case of social pleasures which, at best, cause that discomfort which
is provoked by unwholesome food, when friendship is almost a pretence,
since, for whatever moral reasons he may seek it, the artist who gives
up an hour of work to converse for that time with a friend knows that
he is sacrificing a reality to an illusion (friends being friends only
in the sense of a sweet madness which overcomes us in life and to
which we yield, though at the back of our minds we know it to be the
error of a lunatic who imagines the furniture to be alive and talks to
it) owing to the sadness which follows its satisfaction—like that I
felt the day I was first introduced to Albertine when I gave myself
the trouble, after all not great, to obtain something—to make the
acquaintance of the girl—which only seemed to me unimportant because
I had obtained it. Even a deeper pleasure such as that which I might
have felt when I loved Albertine was in reality only perceived by
contrast with my anguish when she was no longer there, for when I was
sure she would return as on the day when she came back from the
Trocadéro, I only experienced a vague boredom whereas the deeper I
penetrated into the sound of the spoon on the plate or the taste of
tea, the more exalted became my delight that my Aunt Léonie's chamber
and later the whole of Combray and both its sides had entered my room.
And now I was determined to concentrate my mind on that contemplation
of the essence of things, to define it to myself, but how and by what
means? Doubtless at the moment when the stiffness of the table-napkin
had brought back Balbec to me and, for an instant, caressed my
imagination not only with a view of the sea as it was that morning but
with the scent of the room, with the swiftness of the wind, with an
appetite for breakfast, with wavering between various walks, all those
things attached to a sensation of space like winged wheels in their
delirious race, doubtless at the moment when the unevenness of the two
pavements had prolonged in all directions and dimensions my arid and
crude visions of Venice and St. Mark's, and all the emotions I had
then experienced, relating the square to the church, the landing-stage
to the square, the canal to the landing-stage, to everything the eye
saw, to that whole world of longings which is in reality only
perceived by the spirit, I had been tempted to set forth if not to
Venice because of the inclement season, at least, to Balbec. But I did
not stop an instant at that thought; not only did I realise that
countries were not that which their name pictured to me and my
imagination represented them but that it was only in my dreams, and
hardly then, that a place consisting of pure matter, was spread out
before me clear and distinct from those common things one can see and
touch. But even in regard to those images of another kind, of the
memory, I knew that I had not found any beauty in Balbec when I went
there and that the beauty memory had left in me was no longer the same
at my second visit. I had too clearly proved the impossibility of
expecting from reality that which was within myself. It was not in the
Square of St. Mark any more than during my second visit to Balbec or
on my return to Tansonville to see Gilberte that I should find Lost
Time and the journey which once more tempted me with the illusion that
these old impressions existed outside myself and were situated in a
certain spot could not be the means I was seeking. I would not allow
myself to be lured again; it was necessary for me to know at last, if
indeed it were possible to attain that which, disappointed as I had
always been by places and people, I had (in spite of a concert-piece
by Vinteuil which had seemed to say the contrary) believed
unrealisable. I was not, therefore, going to attempt another
experience on the road which I had long known to lead nowhere.
Impressions such as those which I was attempting to render permanent
could only vanish at the contact of a direct enjoyment which was
powerless to give birth to them. The only way was to attempt to know
them more completely where they existed, that is, within myself and by
so doing to illuminate them in their depths. I had never known any
pleasure at Balbec any more than I had in living with Albertine except
what was perceptible afterwards. And if in recapitulating the
disappointments of my life as I had so far lived it, they led me to
believe that its reality must reside elsewhere than in action and, if,
in following the vicissitudes of my life, I did not summarise them as
a matter of pure hazard, I well knew that the disappointment of a
journey and the disappointment of love were not different
disappointments but varying aspects which, according to the conditions
to which they apply, are inflicted upon us by the impotence, difficult
for us to realise, of material pleasure and effective action. Again
reflecting on that extra-temporal delight caused whether by the sound
of the spoon or by the taste of the madeleine, I said to myself: "Was
this the happiness suggested by the little phrase of the Sonata, which
Swann was deceived into identifying with the pleasure of love and was
not endowed to find in artistic creation; that happiness which had
made me respond as to a presentiment of something more
supraterrestrial still than the little phrase of the Sonata, to the
red and mysterious appeal of that septet which Swann did not know,
having died like so many others, before the truth, meant for them, had
been revealed?" Moreover, it would have done him no good, for that
phrase might symbolise an appeal but it could not create the force
which would have made of Swann the writer he was not. And yet I
reminded myself after a moment and after having thought over those
resurrections of memory, that in another way, obscure impressions had
sometimes, as far back as Combray and on the Guermantes' side,
demanded my thought, in the same way as those mnemonic resurrections,
yet they did not contain an earlier experience but a new truth, a
precious image which I was trying to discover by efforts of the kind
one makes to remember something as though our loveliest ideas were
like musical airs which might come to us without our having ever heard
them and which we force ourselves to listen to and write down. I
reminded myself with satisfaction, (because it proved that I was the
same then and that it represented a fundamental quality of my nature)
and also with sadness in the thought that since then I had made no
progress, that, as far back as at Combray, I was attempting to
concentrate my mind on a compelling image, a cloud, a triangle, a
belfry, a flower, a pebble, believing that there was perhaps something
else under those symbols I ought to try to discover, a thought which
these objects were expressing in the manner of hieroglyphic characters
which one might imagine only represented material objects. Doubtless
such deciphering was difficult, but it alone could yield some part of
the truth. For the truths which the intelligence apprehends through
direct and clear vision in the daylight world are less profound and
less necessary than those which life has communicated to us
unconsciously through an intuition which is material only in so far as
it reaches us through our senses and the spirit of which we can
elicit. In fact, in this case as in the other, whether it was a
question of impressions given me by a view of the Martinville belfry
or memories like those of the two uneven paving-stones or the taste of
the madeleine, it was necessary to attempt to interpret them as
symbols of so many laws and ideas, by trying to think, that is, by
trying to educe my sensation from its obscurity and con-vert it into
an intellectual equivalent. And what other means were open to me than
the creation of a work of art? Already the consequences pressed upon
my spirit; for whether it was a question of memories like the sound of
the spoon and the taste of the madeleine or of those verities
expressed in forms the meaning of which I sought in my brain, where,
belfries, wild herbs, what not, they composed a complex illuminated
scroll, their first characteristic was that I was not free to choose
them, that they had been given to me as they were. And I felt that
that must be the seal of their authenticity. I had not gone to seek
the two paving-stones in the courtyard against which I had struck.
But it was precisely the fortuitousness, the inevitability of the
sensation which safeguarded the truth of the past it revived, of the
images it set free, since we feel its effort to rise upwards to the
light and the joy of the real recaptured. That fortuitousness is the
guardian of the truth of the whole series of contemporary impressions
which it brings in its train, with that infallible proportion of light
and shade, of emphasis and omission, of memory and forgetfulness, of
which the conscious memory or observation are ignorant.

That book of unknown signs within me (signs in relief it seemed, for
my concentrated attention, as it explored my unconscious in its
search, struck against them, circled round them like a diver sounding)
no one could help me read by any rule, for its reading consists in an
act of creation in which no one can take our place and in which no one
can collaborate. And how many turn away from writing it, how many
tasks will one not assume to avoid that one! Every event, whether it
was the Dreyfus affair or the war, furnished excuses to writers for
not deciphering that book; they wanted to assert the triumph of
Justice, to recreate the moral unity of the nation and they had no
time to think of literature. But those were only excuses because
either they did not possess or had ceased to possess genius, that is,
instinct. For it is instinct which dictates duty and intelligence
which offers pretexts for avoiding it. But excuses do not exist in
art, intentions do not count there, the artist must at all times
follow his instinct, which makes art the most real thing, the most
austere school in life and the true last judgment. That book which is
the most arduous of all to decipher is the only one which reality has
dictated, the only one printed within us by reality itself. Whatever
idea life has left in us, its material shape, mark of the impression
it has made on us, is still the necessary pledge of its truth. The
ideas formulated by the intellect have only a logical truth, a
possible truth, their selection is arbitrary. Our only book is that
one not made by ourselves whose characters are already imaged. It is
not that the ideas we formulate may not be logically right but that we
do not know if they are true. Intuition alone, however tenuous its
consistency, however improbable its shape, is a criterion of truth
and, for that reason, deserves to be accepted by the mind because it
alone is capable, if the mind can extract that truth, of bringing it
to greater perfection and of giving it pleasure without alloy.
Intuition for the writer is what experiment is for the learned, with
the difference that in the case of the learned the work of the
intelligence precedes and in the case of the writer it follows. That
which we have not been forced to decipher, to clarify by our own
personal effort, that which was made clear before, is not ours. Only
that issues from ourselves which we ourselves extract from the
darkness within ourselves and which is unknown to others. And as art
exactly recomposes life, an atmosphere of poetry surrounds those
truths within ourselves to which we attain, the sweetness of a mystery
which is but the twilight through which we have passed. An oblique ray
from the setting sun brings instantly back to me a time of which I had
never thought again, when, in my childhood, my Aunt Léonie had a fever
which Dr. Percepied had feared was typhoid and they had made me stop
for a week in the little room Eulalie had in the church square, where
there was only a matting on the floor and a dimity curtain at the
window humming in the sunlight to which I was unaccustomed. And when
I think how the memory of that little room of an old servant suddenly
added to my past life an extension so different from its other side
and so delightful, I remember, as a contrast, the nullity of
impressions left on my mind by the most sumptuous parties in the most
princely mansions. The only thing that was distressing in Eulalie's
room was that owing to the proximity of the viaduct, one heard the
noise of passing trains at night. But as I knew that this roaring
proceeded from regulated machines, it did not terrify me as much as
the roars of a mammoth, prowling near by in savage freedom, would have
done in prehistoric days.

Thus I had already reached the conclusion that we are in no wise free
in the presence of a work of art, that we do not create it as we
please but that it pre-exists in us and we are compelled as though it
were a law of nature to discover it because it is at once hidden from
us and necessary. But is not that discovery, which art may enable us
to make, most precious to us, a discovery of that which for most of us
remains for ever unknown, our true life, reality as we have ourselves
felt it and which differs so much from that which we had believed that
we are filled with delight when chance brings us an authentic
revelation of it? I was sure of this from the very falsity of
so-called realistic art which would not be so deceptive if we had not
in the course of life, contracted the habit of giving what we feel an
expression so different that, after a time, we believe it to be
reality itself. I felt that it was not necessary for me to incommode
myself with the diverse literary theories which had for a time
troubled me—notably those that criticism had developed at the time of
the Dreyfus affair and which had again resumed their sway during the
war, which tended to "make the artist come out of his ivory tower"
and, instead of using frivolous or sentimental subjects as his
material, to picture great working-class movements or if not the
crowd, at all events rather than insignificant idlers—("I avow," said
Bloch, "that the portraits of these futile people are indifferent to
me")—noble intellectuals or heroes. Before even considering their
logical content, these theories seemed to me to denote amongst those
who entertained them, a proof of inferiority like a well brought-up
child, who, being sent out to lunch at a friend's house, hearing
someone say: "We speak out, we are frank," realises that the words
signify a moral quality inferior to a pure and simple good act about
which nothing is said. Authentic art does not proclaim itself for it
is achieved in silence. Moreover, those who thus theorise, use
ready-made expressions which singularly resemble those of the
imbeciles they castigate. And perhaps it is rather by the quality of
the language than by the particular aesthetic that we can judge the
level which intellectual and moral work has reached. But inversely
this quality of language (and we can study the laws of character
equally well in a serious as in a frivolous subject as an anatomist
can study the laws of anatomy on the body of an imbecile just as well
as on that of a man of talent; the great moral laws as well as those
which govern the circulation of the blood or renal elimination making
small difference between the intellectual value of individuals) with
which theorists think they can dispense, those who admire theorists
believe to be of no great intellectual value and in order to discern
it, require it to be expressed in direct terms because they are unable
to infer it from the beauty of imagery. Hence that vulgar temptation
of an author to write intellectual works. A great indelicacy. A work
in which there are theories is like an object upon which the price is
marked. Further, this last only expresses a value which, in
literature, is diminished by logical reasoning. We reason, that is,
our mind wanders, each time our courage fails to force us to pursue an
intuition through all the successive stages which end in its fixation,
in the expression of its own reality. The reality that must be
expressed resides, I now realised, not in the appearance of the
subject but in the degree of penetration of that intuition to a depth
where that appearance matters little, as symbolised by the sound of
the spoon upon the plate, the stiffness of the table-napkin, which
were more precious for my spiritual renewal than many humanitarian,
patriotic, international conversations. More style, I had heard said
in those days, more literature of life. One can imagine how many of
M. de Norpois' simple theories "against flute-players" had flowered
again since the war. For all those who, lacking artistic sensibility,
that is, submission to the reality within, may be equipped with the
faculty of reasoning for ever about art, and even were they
diplomatists or financiers associated with the "realities" of the
present into the bargain, they will readily believe that literature is
a sort of intellectual game which is destined to be eliminated more
and more in the future. Some of them wanted the novel to be a sort of
cinematographic procession. This conception was absurd. Nothing
removes us further from the reality we perceive within ourselves than
such a cinematographic vision. Just now as I entered this library, I
remembered what the Goncourts say about the beautiful original
editions it contains and I promised myself to have a look at them
whilst I was shut in here. And still following my argument, I took up
one after another of the precious volumes without paying much
attention to them when, inattentively opening one of them, _François
le Champi_, by George Sand, I felt myself disagreeably affected as by
some impression out of harmony with my thoughts, until I suddenly
realised with an emotion which nearly brought tears to my eyes how
much that impression was in harmony with them. It was as at the moment
when in the mortuary vault the undertakers' men are lowering the
coffin of a man who has rendered services to his country and his son
pressing the hands of the last friends who file past the tomb,
suddenly hearing a flourish of trumpets under the windows, would be
horrified by what he supposed a mockery designed to insult his sorrow,
while another who had controlled himself until then, would be unable
to restrain his tears because he realised that what he heard was the
music of a regiment which was sharing his mourning and wanting to
render homage to the remains of his father. Such was the painful
impression I had experienced in reading the title of a book in the
Prince de Guermantes' library, a title which communicated the idea to
me that literature really does offer us that world of mystery I had no
longer found in it. And yet, _François le Champi_ was not a very
remarkable book but the name, like the name of Guermantes, was unlike
those I had known later. The memory of what had seemed
incomprehensible when my mother read it to me, was aroused by its
title and in the same way that the name of Guermantes (when I had not
seen the Guermantes' for a long time) contained for me the whole of
feudalism,—so _François le Champi_ contained the whole essence of the
novel—dispossessing for an instant the commonplace ideas of which the
stuffy novels of George Sand are composed. At a dinner party where
thought is always superficial I might no doubt have spoken of
_François le Champi_ and the Guermantes' as though neither were
associated with Combray. But when, as at this moment, I was alone, I
plunged to a greater depth. At that time the idea that a particular
individual whose acquaintance I had made in society was the cousin of
Mme. de Guermantes, that is to say, the cousin of a personage on a
magic lantern slide, seemed to me incomprehensible and just as much,
that the finest books I had read should be, I do not even say superior
which they nevertheless were but equal to this extraordinary _François
le Champi_. This was an old childish impression with which my memories
of childhood and of my family were tenderly associated and which at
first I had not recognised. At the first instant I had angrily asked
myself who this stranger was who had done me a violence and the
stranger was myself, the child I once was whom the book had revived in
me, for recognising only the child in me, the book had at once
summoned him, wanting only to be seen with his eyes, only to be loved
with his heart and only to talk to him. And that book my mother had
read aloud to me almost until morning at Combray, retained for me all
the charm of that night. Certainly "the pen" of George Sand, to use
one of Brichot's expressions, (he loved to say that a book was written
by "a lively pen") did not appear to me a magical pen as it so long
did to my mother before she modelled her literary tastes on mine. But
it was a pen I had unconsciously electrified, as schoolboys sometimes
amuse themselves by doing, and now a thousand trifles of Combray which
I had not for so long seen, leaped lightly and spontaneously forth and
came and hung on head over heels to the magnet in an endless chain
vibrating with memories. Certain minds which love mystery like to
believe that objects preserve something of the eyes which have looked
at them, that monuments and pictures are seen by us under an
impalpable veil which the contemplative love of so many worshippers
has woven about them through the centuries. That chimera would become
true if they transposed it into the domain of the only reality there
is for us all, into the domain of their own sensibility.

Yes, in that sense and only in that sense; but much more so, for if we
see again a thing which we looked at formerly it brings back to us,
together with our past vision, all the imagery with which it was
instinct. This is because objects—a book bound like others in its red
cover—as soon as they have been perceived by us become something
immaterial within us, partake of the same nature as our preoccupations
or our feelings at that time and combine, indissolubly with them. A
name read in a book of former; days contains within its syllables the
swift wind and the brilliant sun of the moment when we read it. In the
slightest sensation conveyed by the humblest aliment, the smell of
coffee and milk, we recover that vague hope of fine weather which
enticed us when the day was dawning and the morning sky uncertain; a
sun-ray is a vase filled with perfumes, with sounds, with moments,
with various humours, with climates. It is that essence which art
worthy of the name must express and if it fails, one can yet derive a
lesson from its failure (while one can never derive anything from the
successes of realism) namely that that essence is in a measure
subjective and incommunicable.

More than this, a thing we saw at a certain period, a book we read,
does not remain for ever united only with what was then around us; it
remains just as faithfully one with us as we then were and can only be
recovered by the sensibility restoring the individual as he then was.
If, ever in thought, I take up _François le Champi_ in the library,
immediately a child rises within me and replaces me, who alone has the
right to read that title _François le Champi_ and who reads it as he
read it then with the same impression of the weather out in the
garden, with the same old dreams about countries and life, the same
anguish of the morrow. If I see a thing of another period, another
young man will emerge. And my personality of to-day is only an
abandoned quarry which believes that all it contains is uniform and
monotonous, but from which memory, like a sculptor of ancient Greece,
produces innumerable statues. I say, everything we see again, for
books, behaving in that respect like things, through the way their
cover opens, through the quality of the paper, can preserve within
themselves as vivid a memory of how I then imagined Venice or of the
wish I had to go there, as the sentences themselves. More vivid even,
for the latter are sometimes an impediment like the photograph of a
friend whom one recalls less after looking at it than when one
contents oneself with thinking of him. Certainly in the case of many
books of my youth, even, alas, those by Bergotte himself, when I
happened to take them up on an evening I was tired, it was as though I
had taken a train in the hope of obtaining repose by seeing different
scenes and by breathing the atmosphere of former days. It often
happens that the desired evocation is hindered by prolonged reading.
There is one of Bergotte's books (the copy in this library contained a
toadying and most platitudinous dedication to the Prince) which I read
through one winter day some time ago when I could not see Gilberte,
and I failed to discover those pages I formerly so much loved. Certain
words made me think they were those pages but they were not. Where
was the beauty I then found in them? Yet the snow which covered the
Champs Èlysées on the day I read it still covers the volume. I see it
still. And for that reason, had I been tempted to become a bibliophile
like the Prince de Guermantes, I should only have been one in a way of
my own, one who seeks a beauty independent of the value proper to the
book and which consists for collectors in knowing the libraries
through which it has passed, that it was given when such and such an
event occurred to such and such a sovereign, to such and such a
celebrity, in following its life from sale to sale; that beauty of a
book which is in a sense historical, would not have been lost upon me.
But I should extract that beauty with better will from the history of
my own life, that is to say, not as a book-fancier; and it would often
happen that I attached that beauty, not to the material volume itself
but to a work such as this _François le Champi_ contemplated for the
first time in my little room at Combray during that night, perhaps the
sweetest and the saddest of my life, when, alas, (at a time when the
mysterious Guermantes seemed very inaccessible to me) I had wrung from
my parents that first abdication from which I was able to date the
decline of my health and of my will, my renunciation of a difficult
task which every ensuing day made more painful—a task reassumed
to-day in the library of those very Guermantes, on the most wonderful
day when not only the former gropings of my thought but even the aim
of my life and perhaps that of art were illuminated. Moreover, I
should have been capable of interesting myself in the copies of books
themselves in a living sense. The first edition of a work would have
been more precious to me than the others but I should have understood
by the first edition the one I read for the first time. I should seek
original editions but by that I should mean books from which I got an
original impression. For the impressions that follow are no longer
original. I should collect the bindings of novels of former days, but
they would be the days when I read my first novels, the days when my
father repeated so often "Sit up straight". Like the dress in which we
have seen a woman for the first time, they could help me to recover my
love of then, the beauty which I had supplanted by so many images,
ever less loved; in order to find it again, I who am no longer the
self who felt it, must give place to the self I then was in order that
he shall recall what he alone knew, what the self of to-day does not
know. The library which I should thus collect would have a greater
value still, for the books I read formerly at Combray, at Venice,
enriched now by memory with spacious illuminations representing the
church of Saint-Hilaire, the gondola moored at the foot of San Giorgio
Maggiore on the Grand Canal incrusted with flashing sapphires, would
have become worthy of those medallioned scrolls and historic bibles
which the collector never opens in order to read the text but only to
be again enchanted by the colours with which some competitor of
Fouquet has embellished them and which constitute all the value of the
work. And yet to open those books read formerly only to look at the
images which did not then adorn them would seem to me so dangerous
that even in that sense, the only one I understand, I should not be
tempted to become a bibliophile. I know too well how easily the images
left by the mind are effaced by the mind. It replaces the old ones by
new which have not the same power of resurrection. And if I still had
the _François le Champi_ which my mother selected one day from the
parcel of books my grandmother was to give me for my birthday, I would
never look at it; I should be too much afraid that, little by little,
my impressions of to-day would insert themselves in it and blot out
the earlier ones, I should be too fearful of its becoming so much a
thing of the present that when I asked it to evoke again the child who
spelt out its title in the little room at Combray, that child, unable
to recognise its speech, would no longer respond to my appeal and
would be for ever buried in oblivion.


The idea of a popular art like that of a patriotic art, even if it
were not dangerous, seems to me absurd. If it were a matter of making
it accessible to the masses one would have to sacrifice the delicacies
of form "suitable for idle people"; and I had frequented people in
society enough to know that it is they who are the veritable
unlettered not the working electricians. In that respect a popular
art-form should rather be intended for members of the Jockey Club than
for those of the General Confederation of Labour; as to subjects,
popular novels intoxicate the people like books written for children.
They seek distraction through reading, and workmen are as inquisitive
about princes as princes are about workmen. From the beginning of the
war M. Barrés said that the artist (such as Titian) must above all
work for the glory of his country. But he could only serve it as an
artist, that is to say, on the condition, when he studies the laws of
art, serves his apprenticeship and makes discoveries as intricate as
those of science, that he must think of nothing—were it even his
fatherland—except the truth he has to face. Do not let us imitate the
revolutionaries who on account of their civic spirit despised when
they did not destroy the works of Watteau and La Tour, painters who
did more for the honour of France than all who took part in the
Revolution. A soft-hearted person would not, perhaps, of his own
accord choose anatomy as a subject of study. It was not the goodness
of his virtuous heart, great though that was, which made Choderlos de
Laclos write _Liaisons dangereuses_ nor was it Flaubert's preference
for the small or great _bourgeoisie_ which made him select "Madame
Bovary" and "_L'Education sentimentale_" as subjects. Some people say
that the art of a period of speed must be brief like those who said
the war would be short before it had taken place. By the same
reasoning, the railway should have killed contemplation. Yet it was
vain to regret the period of stage-coaches for the automobile, in
taking their place, still stops for tourists in front of abandoned
churches.

A picture of life brings with it multiple and varied sensations. The
sight, for instance, of the cover of a book which has been read spins
from the character of its title the moonbeams of a distant
summer-night. The taste of our morning coffee brings us that vague
hope of a fine day which formerly so often smiled at us in the
unsettled dawn from a fluted bowl of porcelain which seemed like
hardened milk. An hour is not merely an hour, it is a vase filled with
perfumes, with sounds, with projects, with climates. What we call
reality is a relation between those sensations and those memories
which simultaneously encircle us—a relation which a cinematographic
vision destroys because its form separates it from the truth to which
it pretends to limit itself—that unique relation which the writer
must discover in order that he may link two different states of being
together for ever in a phrase. In describing objects one can make
those which figure in a particular place succeed each other
indefinitely; the truth will only begin to emerge from the moment that
the writer takes two different objects, posits their relationship, the
analogue in the world of art to the only relationship of causal law in
the world of science, and encloses it within the circle of fine style.
In this, as in life, he fuses a quality common to two sensations,
extracts their essence and in order to withdraw them from the
contingencies of time, unites them in a metaphor, thus chaining them
together with the indefinable bond of a verbal alliance. Was not
nature herself from this point of view, on the track of art, was she
not the beginning of art, she who often only permitted me to realise
the beauty of an object long afterwards in another, mid-day at Combray
only through the sound of its bells, mornings at Doncières only
through the groans of our heating apparatus. The relationship may be
of little interest, the objects commonplace, the style bad, but unless
there is that relationship, there is nothing. A literature which is
content with "describing things", with offering a wretched summary of
their lines and surfaces, is, in spite of its prétention to realism,
the furthest from reality, the one which impoverishes us and saddens
us the most, however much it may talk of glory and grandeur, for it
abruptly severs communication between our present self, the past of
which objects retain the essence and the future in which they
encourage us to search for it again. But there is more. If reality
were that sort of waste experience approximately identical in everyone
because when we say: "bad weather", "war", "cab-stand", "lighted
restaurant", "flower garden", everybody knows what we mean—if reality
were that, no doubt a sort of cinematographic film of these things
would suffice and "style", "literature" isolating itself from that
simple datum would be an artificial _hors d'œuvre_. But is it so in
reality? If I tried to render conscious to myself what takes place in
us at the moment a circumstance or an event makes a certain
impression, if, on the day I crossed the Vivonne bridge, the shadow of
a cloud on the water made me jump for joy and ejaculate "hullo!" if,
listening to a phrase of Bergotte, all I could make of my impression
were an expression such as "Admirable!" which did not specially apply
to it, if, annoyed by somebody's bad behaviour, Bloch uttered words
with no particular relevance to so sordid an adventure: such as "I
consider it fantastic for a man to behave like that", or if flattered
at being well received by the Guermantes and perhaps a little drunk on
their wine, I could not help saying to myself in an undertone as I
left them: "After all, they're charming people whom it would be
delightful to spend one's life with," I perceived that to express
those impressions, to write that essential book, which is the only true
one, a great writer does not, in the current meaning of the word,
invent it, but, since it exists already in each one of us, interprets
it. The duty and the task of a writer are those of an interpreter.

And if, where an inaccurate mode of expression inspired by the
writer's self-esteem is concerned, the straightening-out of the
oblique inner utterance (which diverges more and more from the
original mental impression) until it makes one with the straight line
which should have issued from that impression, if that
straightening-out is an uneasy process against which our idleness
rebels, there are other cases, of love, for instance, where that same
straightening-out becomes painful. All our feigned indifferences, all
our natural indignation at its inevitable lies, so like our own, in a
word, all that we constantly said when we were unhappy or deceived,
not only to the being we loved but even to ourselves while awaiting
her, sometimes aloud in the silence of our chamber, marked by: "No,
really such behaviour is unbearable," and "I've decided to see you for
the last time. I can't deny the pain it causes," to bring back what
was really and truly felt from where it had strayed, is to abolish
everything we most clung to, the matter of our passionate
self-communion during fevered moments when, face to face with
ourselves, we asked what letter we could write, what should be our
next step.


Even when we seek artistic delights for the sake of the impression
they make on us, we manage quickly to dispense with the impression
itself and to fix our attention on that element in it which enables us
to experience pleasure without penetrating to its depth, and thinking
we can communicate it to others in conversation because we shall be
talking to them about something common to them and to us, the personal
root impression is eliminated. In the very moments when we are the
most disinterested spectators of nature, of society, of love, of art
itself—as all impression is two-fold, half-sheathed in the object,
prolonged in ourselves by another half which we alone can know—we
hasten to neglect the latter, that is to say, the only one on which we
should concentrate and fasten merely on the other half which, being
unfathomable because it is exterior to ourselves, causes us no
fatigue; we consider the effort to perceive the little groove which a
musical phrase or the view of a church has hollowed in ourselves too
arduous. But we play the symphony over and over again, we go back to
look at the church until—in that flight far away from our own life
which we have not the courage to face called erudition—we get to know
them as well, and in the same way as the most accomplished musical or
archaeological amateur. And how many stop at that point, get nothing
from their impression, and ageing useless and unsatisfied, remain
sterile celibates of art! To them come the same discontents as to
virgins and idlers whom the fecundity of labour would cure. They are
more exalted when they talk about works of art than real artists, for
their enthusiasm, not being an incentive to the hard task of
penetrating to the depths, expands outwards, heats their conversation
and empurples their faces; they think they are doing something by
shrieking at the tops of their voices: "Bravo! Bravo!" after the
performance of a composition they like. But these manifestations do
not force them to clarify the character of their admiration, so they
learn nothing. Nevertheless, this futile admiration overflows in their
most ordinary conversation and causes them to make gestures, grimaces
and movements of the head when they talk of art: "I was at a concert
where they were playing music which I can assure you did not thrill
me. Then they began the quartette. Ah! My word! That changed it! (The
face of the amateur at that moment expresses anxious apprehension as
if he were thinking: 'I see sparks flying, there's a smell of burning,
there's a fire!') Bless my soul! This is maddening! It's badly
composed but it's flabbergasting! This is no ordinary work." But
laughable as those amateurs may be, they are not altogether to be
despised. They are the first attempts of nature to create an artist,
as formless and unviable as the antediluvian animals which preceded
those of to-day and which were not created to endure. These whimsical
and sterile amateurs affect us much as did those first mechanical
contrivances which could not leave the earth, in which, though the
secret means remained to be discovered, was contained the aspiration
of flight. "And, old fellow," adds the amateur, taking you by the arm,
"it's the eighth time I've heard it and I swear to you it won't be the
last." And in truth since they do not assimilate from art what is
really nourishing, they perpetually need artistic stimulus, because
they are a prey to a craving which can never be assuaged. So they
will go on applauding the same work for a long time to come, believing
that their presence is a duty, such as others fulfil at a
board-meeting or a funeral. Then come other works whether of
literature, of painting or of music which create opposition. For the
faculty of starting ideas or systems and above all of assimilating
them has always been much more frequent even amongst those who create,
than real taste, but has been extended since the reviews, the literary
papers, have multiplied (and with them the artificial profession of
writers and artists). Thus the best of the young, the most
intelligent, the most intense, preferred works of an elevated moral,
sociological or religious tendency. They imagined that such
considerations constitute the value of a work, thus renewing the error
of the Davids, the Chenavards, the Brunetières; they prefer to
Bergotte whose lightest phrases really exacted a much deeper return to
oneself, writers who seemed more profound only because they wrote less
well. The complexity of Bergotte's writing was only meant for society
people, was the comment of these democrats, who thus did society
people an honour they did not deserve. But from the moment that works
of art are judged by reasoning, nothing is stable or certain, one can
prove anything one likes. Whereas the reality of genius is a
benefaction, an acquisition for the world at large, the presence of
which must first be identified beneath the more obvious modes of
thought and style, criticism stops at this point and assesses writers
by the form instead of the matter. It consecrates as a prophet a
writer who, while expressing in arrogant terms his contempt for the
school which preceded him, brings no new message. This constant
aberration of criticism has reached a point where a writer would
almost prefer to be judged by the general public (were it not that it
is incapable of understanding the researches an artist has been
attempting in a sphere unknown to it). For there is more analogy
between the instinctive life of the public and the genius of a great
writer which is itself but instinct, realised and perfected, to be
listened to in a religious silence imposed upon all others, than there
is in the superficial verbiage and changing criteria of
self-constituted judges. Their wrangling renews itself every ten years
for the kaleidoscope is not composed only of groups in society but of
social, political and religious ideas which obtain a momentary
expansion, thanks to their refraction in the masses but survive only
so long as their novelty influences minds which exact little in the
way of proof. Again, parties and schools succeed each other, always
catering to the same mentalities, men of relative intelligence prone
to extravagances from which minds more scrupulous and more difficult
to convince, abstain. Unhappily, just because the former are only
half-minds they require action to complete themselves and as through
this they exercise more influence than superior minds, they impose
themselves on the mass and create a constituency not merely of
unmerited reputations and unjustifiable rancours but also of civil and
exterior warfare from which a little self-criticism might have saved
them. Now the enjoyment a well-balanced mind, a heart which is really
alive, gets from the beautiful thought of a master, is undoubtedly
wholesome, but valuable as are those who properly appreciate that
thought (how many are there in twenty years?) they are reduced by
their very enjoyment to being no more than the enlarged consciousness
of another. A man may have done everything in his power to be loved by
a woman who would only make him unhappy but has not succeeded, in
spite of all his attempts during years, in obtaining an assignation
with her. Instead of seeking to express his sufferings and the danger
from which he has escaped, he ceaselessly re-reads this thought of
Labruyère making it represent a thousand implications and the most
moving memories of his own life: "Men often want to love and I do not
know how to, they seek defeat without being able to encounter it and,
if I may say so, are forced to remain free." Whether this thought had
this meaning or not for him who wrote it (for it to have that meaning
he ought to have said "to be loved" instead of "to love" and it would
have been more beautiful), it is certain that this sensitive man of
letters endows the thought with life, swells it with significance
until it bursts within him and he cannot repeat it without a feeling
of immense satisfaction, so completely true and beautiful does it seem
to him, although, after all, he has added nothing to it and it remains
simply a thought of Labruyère.

How can a literature of notations have any value since it is beneath
the little things it notes that the reality exists (the grandeur in
the distant sound of an aeroplane, in the outline of the belfry of
Saint-Hilaire, the past in the savour of a madeleine) these being
without significance in themselves if one does not disengage it from
them. Accumulated little by little in the memory, the chain of all
the obscure impressions where nothing! of what we actually experienced
remains, constitutes our thought, our life, reality and it is that lie
which a so-called "lived art" would only reproduce, an art as crude as
life, without beauty, a reproduction so wearisome and futile of what
our eyes have seen and our intelligence has observed, that one asks
oneself how he who makes that his aim can find in it the exultant
stimulus which gives zest to work. The grandeur of veritable art, to
the contrary of what M. de Norpois called "a dilettante's amusement",
is to recapture, to lay hold of, to make one with ourselves that
reality far removed from the one we live in, from which we separate
ourselves more and more as the knowledge which we substitute for it
acquires a greater solidity and impermeability, a reality we run the
risk of never knowing before we die but which is our real, our true
life at last revealed and illumined, the only life which is really
lived and which in one sense lives at every moment in all men as well
as in the artist. But they do not see it because they do not seek to
illuminate it. And thus their past is encumbered with innumerable
"negatives" which remain useless because the intelligence has not
"developed" them. To lay hold of our life; and also the life of
others; for a writer's style and also a painter's are matters not of
technique but of vision. It is the revelation, impossible by direct
and conscious means, of the qualitative difference there is in the way
in which we look at the world, a difference which, without art, would
remain for ever each man's personal secret. By art alone we are able
to get outside ourselves, to know what another sees of this universe
which for him is not ours, the landscapes of which would remain as
unknown to us as those of the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing
one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists
as there are, so many worlds are at our disposal, differing more
widely from each other than those which roll round the infinite and
which, whether their name be Rembrandt or Ver Meer, send us their
unique rays many centuries after the hearth from which they emanate is
extinguished. This labour of the artist to discover a means of
apprehending beneath matter and experience, beneath words, something
different from their appearance, is of an exactly contrary nature to
the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit are
constantly engaged within us when we spend our lives without
self-communion, accumulating as though to hide our true impressions,
the terminology for practical ends which we falsely call life. In
short, this complex art is precisely the only living art. It alone
expresses for others and makes us see, our own life, that life which
cannot observe itself, the outer forms of which, when observed, need
to be interpreted and often read upside down, in order to be
laboriously deciphered. The work of our pride, our passion, our
spirit of imitation, our abstract intelligence, our habits must be
undone by art which takes the opposite course and returning to the
depths where the real has its unknown being, makes us pursue it. It
is, of course, a great temptation to recreate true life, to renew
impressions. But courage of all kinds is required, even sentimental
courage. For it means above all, abrogating our most cherished
illusions, ceasing to believe in the objectivity of our own
elaborations and, instead of soothing ourselves for the hundredth time
with the words "she was very sweet", reading into them "I liked
kissing her". Of course what I had experienced in hours of love every
other man experiences. But what one has experienced is like certain
negatives which show black until they are placed under a lamp and they
too must be looked at from the back; we do not know what a thing is
until we have approached it with our intelligence. Only when the
intelligence illuminates it, when it has intellectualised it, we
distinguish, and with how much difficulty, the shape of that which we
have felt, and I realised also that the suffering I had formerly
experienced with Gilberte in realising that our love has nothing to do
with the being who inspires it, is salutary as a supplementary aid to
knowledge. (For, however short a time our life may last it is only
while we are suffering that our thoughts, in a constant state of
agitation and change, cause the depths within us to surge as in a
tempest to a height where we see that they are subject to laws which,
until then, we could not observe, because the calm of happiness left
those depths undisturbed. Perhaps only in the case of a few great
geniuses is it possible for this movement to be constantly felt
without their suffering turmoil and sadness; but again it is not
certain, when we contemplate the spacious and uniform development of
their serene achievements that we are not too much taking for granted
that the buoyancy of the work implies that of its creator, who
perhaps, on the contrary, was continuously unhappy.) But principally
because if our love is not only for a Gilberte, what gives us so much
pain is not that it is also the love of an Albertine but because it is
a more durable part of our soul than the various selves which
successively die in us, each of which would selfishly retain it, a
part of our soul which must, whatever the pain, detach itself from
those beings so that we should understand and constitute their
generality and impart the meaning of that love to all men, to the
universal consciousness and not to one woman, then to another with
which first one, then another of our successive selves has desired to
unite.

It was, therefore, necessary for me to discover the meaning of the
slightest signs that surrounded me (Guermantes, Albertine, Gilberte,
Saint-Loup, Balbec, et cetera) which I had lost sight of owing to
habit. We have to learn that to preserve and express reality when we
have attained it, we must isolate it from everything that our habit of
haste accumulates in opposition to it. Above all, I had, therefore to
exclude words spoken by the lips but not by the mind; those humorous
colloquialisms which after much social intercourse, we get accustomed
to using artificially, which fill the mind with lies, those purely
physical words uttered with a knowing smile by the writer who lowers
himself by transcribing them, that little grimace which, for instance,
constantly deforms the spoken phrase of a Sainte-Beuve, whereas real
books must be children not of broad daylight and small-talk but of
darkness and silence. And since art minutely reconstructs life round
the verities one has apprehended in oneself, an atmosphere of poetry
will always float round them, the sweetness of a mystery which is only
the remains of twilight through which we have had to pass, the
indication, like that of a measuring rod, of the depth of a work. (For
that depth is not inherent in certain subjects as is believed by
materialist-spiritual novelists, since they cannot penetrate beneath
the world of appearances and their lofty intentions, like those
virtuous tirades habitual to people who are incapable of the smallest
kindly effort, must not prevent our observing that they have not even
the mental power to throw off the ordinary banalities acquired by
imitation.)

As to the verities which the intellect—even of highly endowed
minds—gathers in the open road, in full daylight their value can be
very great; but those verities have rigid outlines and are flat, they
have no depth because no depths have been sounded to reach them—they
have not been recreated. It often happens that writers who no longer
exhibit these verities, as they grow old, only use their intelligence
which has acquired more and more power; and though for this reason,
their mature works are more able they have not the velvety quality of
their youthful ones.

Nevertheless, I felt that the truths the intellect extracts from
immediate reality are not to be despised for they might enshrine, with
matter less pure but, nevertheless, vitalised by the mind, intuitions
the essence of which, being common to past and present, carries us
beyond time, but which are too rare and precious to be the only
elements in a work of art. I felt a mass of truths pressing on my
notice, relative to passions, characters and habits which could be
thus used. We can, perhaps, attach every creature who has caused us
unhappiness to a divinity of which she is only the most fragmentary
reflection, a divinity the contemplation of whom in the realm of idea
will give us immediate happiness instead of our former pain. The whole
art of living is to regard people who cause us suffering as, in a
degree, enabling us to accept its divine form and thus to populate our
daily life with divinities. The perception of these truths gave me joy
albeit it reminded me that if I had discovered more than one of them
through suffering, I had discovered as many in the course of the most
commonplace indulgences. Then a new light arose in me, less brilliant
indeed than the one that had made me perceive that a work of art is
the only means of regaining lost time. And I understood that all the
material of a literary work was in my past life, I understood that I
had acquired it in the midst of frivolous amusements, in idleness, in
tenderness and in pain, stored up by me without my divining its
destination or even its survival, as the seed has in reserve all the
ingredients which will nourish the plant. Like the seed I might die
when the plant had developed and I might find I had lived for it
without knowing it, without my life having ever seemed to require
contact with the books I wanted to write and for which when I formerly
sat down at my table, I could find no subject. Thus all my life up to
that day might have been or might not have been summed up under the
title: "A vocation?" In one sense, literature had played no active
part in my life. But, in another, my life, the memories of its
sorrows, of its joys, had been forming a reserve like albumen in the
ovule of a plant. It is from this that the plant draws its nourishment
in order to transform itself into seed at a time when one does not yet
know that the embryo of the plant is developing though chemical
phenomena and secret but very active respirations are taking place in
it. Thus my life had been lived in constant contact with the elements
which would bring about its ripening. And those who would later derive
nourishment from it would be as ignorant of the process that supplied
it as those who eat the products of grain are unaware of the rich
aliments it contains though they have manured the soil in which it was
grown and have enabled it to reach maturity. In this connection the
comparisons which are false if one starts from them may be true if one
ends by them. The writer envies the painter, he would like to make
sketches and notes and, if he does so, he is lost. Yet, in writing,
there is not a gesture of his characters, a mannerism, an accent,
which has not impregnated his memory; there is not a single invented
character to whom he could not give sixty names of people he has
observed, of whom one poses for a grimace, another for an eyeglass,
another for his temper, another for a particular movement of the arms.
And the writer discovers that if his aspiration to be a painter could
not be consciously realised, he has nevertheless filled his notebook
with sketches without being aware of it. For, owing to his instinct,
the writer long before he knew he was going to be one, habitually
avoided looking at all sorts of things other people noticed, and was,
in consequence, accused by others of absent-mindedness and by himself
of being incapable of attention and observation, while all the time he
was ordering his eyes and his ears to retain for ever what to others
seemed puerile, the tone in which a phrase had been uttered, the
facial expression and movement of the shoulders of a particular person
at a particular moment perhaps years ago, who was otherwise unknown to
him, and this because he had heard that tone before or felt he might
hear it again, that it was a recurrent and permanent characteristic.
It is the feeling for the general in the potential writer, which
selects material suitable to a work of art because of its generality.
He only pays attention to others, however dull and tiresome, because
in repeating what their kind say like parrots, they are for that very
reason prophetic birds, spokesmen of a psychological law. He recalls
only what is general. Through certain ways of speaking, through a
certain play of features and through certain movements of the
shoulders even though they had been seen when he was a child, the life
of others remains within himself and when later on he begins writing,
that life will help to recreate reality, possibly by the use of that
movement of the shoulders common to many people. This movement is as
true to life as though it had been noted by an anatomist, but the
writer expresses thereby a psychological verity by grafting on to the
shoulders of one individual the neck of another, both of whom had only
posed to him for a moment.

It is uncertain whether in the creation of a literary work the
imagination and the sensibility are not interchangeable and whether
the second, without disadvantage, cannot be substituted for the first
just as people whose stomach is incapable of digesting entrust this
function to their intestines. An innately sensitive man who has no
imagination could, nevertheless write admirable novels. The suffering
caused him by others and the conflict provoked by his efforts to
protect himself against them, such experiences interpreted by the
intelligence might provide material for a book as beautiful as if it
were imagined and invented and as objective, as startling and
unexpected as the author's imaginative fancy would have been, had he
been happy and free from persecution. The stupidest people
unconsciously express their feelings by their gestures and their
remarks and thus demonstrate laws they are unaware of which the artist
brings to light. On account of this, the vulgar wrongly believe the
writer to be mischievous for the artist sees an engaging generality in
an absurd individual and no more imputes blame to him than a surgeon
despises his patient for being affected with a chronic ailment of the
circulation. Moreover, no one is less inclined to scoff at absurd
people than the artist. Unfortunately he is more unhappy than
mischievous where his own passions are concerned; though he recognises
their generality just as much in his own case, he escapes personal
suffering less easily. Obviously, we prefer to be praised rather than
insulted and still more when a woman we love deceives us, what would
we not give that it should be otherwise. But the resentment of the
affront, the pain of the abandonment would in that event have been
worlds we should never have known, the discovery of which, painful as
it may be for the man, is precious for the artist. In spite of himself
and of themselves, the mischievous and the ungrateful must figure in
his work. The publicist involuntarily associates the rascals he has
castigated with his own celebrity. In every work of art we can
recognise the man the artist has most hated, and alas, even the women
he has most loved. They were posing for the writer at the very moment
when, against his will, they were making him suffer the most. When I
was in love with Albertine I fully realised she did not love me and I
had to resign myself to her only teaching me the pain of love even at
its dawn. And when we try to extract generality from our sorrow so as
to write about it we are a little consoled, perhaps for another reason
than those I have hitherto given, which is, that thinking in a general
way, writing is a sanitary and indispensable function for the writer
and gives him satisfaction in the same way that exercise, sweating and
baths do a physical man. To tell the truth I revolted somewhat against
this. However much I might believe that the supreme truth of life is
in art, however little I was capable of the effort of memory needed to
feel love for Albertine again as to mourn my grandmother anew, I asked
myself whether, nevertheless a work of art of which neither of them
was conscious could be for those poor dead the fulfilment of their
destiny. My grandmother whom I had watched with so much indifference
while she lay near me in her last agony. Ah!  could I, when my work is
done, wounded beyond remedy, suffer, in expiation, long hours of
abandonment by all as I lie dying! Moreover, I had an infinite pity
for beings less dear, even indifferent to me and of how many destinies
had my thought used the sufferings, even only the absurdities in my
attempts to understand them. All those beings who revealed truths to
me and who were no longer there, seemed to me to have lived a life
from which I alone profited and as though they had died for me. It was
sad for me to think that in my book, my love which was once everything
to me, would be so detached from a being that various readers would
apply it textually to the love they experienced for other women. But
why should I be horrified by this posthumous infidelity, that this man
or that should offer unknown women as the object of my sentiment, when
that infidelity, that division of love between several beings began
with my life and long before I began writing? I had indeed suffered
successively through Gilberte, through Mme. de Guermantes, through
Albertine. Successively also I had forgotten them and only my love,
dedicated at different times to different beings, had lasted. I had
anticipated the profanation of my memories by unknown readers. I was
not far from being horrified with myself as, perhaps, some nationalist
party might be in whose name hostilities had been provoked and who
alone had benefited from a war in which many noble victims had
suffered and died without even knowing the issue of the struggle
which, for my grandmother, would have been such a complete reward. And
the single consolation she never knew, that at last I had set to work,
was, such being the fate of the dead, that though she could not
rejoice in my progress she had at least been spared consciousness of
my long inactivity, of the frustrated life which had been such a pain
to her. And certainly there were many others besides my grandmother
and Albertine from whom I had assimilated a word, a glance, but of
whom as individual beings I remembered nothing; a book is a great
cemetery in which, for the most part, the names upon the tombs are
effaced. Sometimes, on the other hand, one writes a well remembered
name without knowing whether anything else survives of the being who
bore it. That young girl with the deep sunken eyes, with the haunting
voice, is she there? And if she is, in which part, where are we to
look for her under the flowers? But since we live remote from
individual lives, since we no longer retain our deepest feelings such
as my love for my grandmother and for Albertine, since they are now no
more than meaningless words, since we can talk about these dead with
people in society to whose houses it still gives us pleasure to go
after the death of all we loved, if there is yet a means of learning
to understand those forgotten words, should we not use it even though
we had first to find a universal language in which to express them so
that, thus rendered permanent, they would form the ultimate essence of
those who are gone and remain an acquisition in perpetuity of every
soul? Indeed, if we could explain that law of change which has made
those words of the dead unintelligible to us, might not our
inferiority become a new force? Furthermore the work in which our
sorrows have collaborated, may perhaps be interpreted as an indication
both of atrocious suffering and of happy consolation in the future.
Indeed, if we say that the loves, the sorrows of the poet have served
him, that they have aided him to construct his work, that the unknown
women who least suspected, one with her mischief-making, the other
with her raillery, that they were each contributing their stone
towards the building of the monument they would never see, one does
not sufficiently reflect that the life of the writer is not finished
with that work, that the same nature which caused him the sorrow that
coloured his work, will remain his after the work is finished, will
cause him to love other women in circumstances which would be similar
if they were not slightly changed by time which modifies conditions in
the subject himself, in his appetite for love and in his resistance to
suffering. From this first point of view his work must be considered
only as an unhappy love which inevitably presages others and which
causes his life to resemble it, so that the poet hardly needs to
continue writing, so completely will he discover the semblance of what
will happen anticipated in what he has written. Thus my love for
Albertine and the degree in which it differed was already engrossed in
my love for Gilberte in the midst of those joyous days when for the
first time I heard Albertine's name mentioned by her aunt, without
suspecting that that insignificant germ would one day develop and
spread over my whole life. But from another point of view, work is an
emblem of happiness because it teaches us that in all love the general
has its being close beside the particular and passes from the second
to the first by a gymnastic which strengthens the writer against
sorrow through making him pass over its cause in order to probe to its
essence. In fact, as I was to experience thereafter, when I had
realised my vocation, even at a time of anguish caused by love, the
object of one's passion becomes so completely merged in the universal
during one's working hours, that for the time being, one forgets her
existence and only feels one's heartache as a physical pain. It is
true that it is a question of moments and that the effect seems to be
the contrary if work comes afterwards. For when beings, who by their
badness, their insignificance, succeed, in spite of ourselves, in
destroying our illusions, are themselves reduced to impotence by being
separated from the amorous chimera we had forged for ourselves, if we
then put ourselves to work, our spirit raises them anew, identifies
them, for the needs of self-analysis, with beings we once loved and in
this case, literature doing over again the work undone by disillusion
bestows a sort of survival on sentiments which have ceased to exist.
Certainly we are obliged to relive our particular suffering with the
courage of a physician who tries over again upon himself an experiment
with a dangerous serum. But we ought to think of it under a general
form which enables us to some extent to escape from its control by
making all men co-partners in our sorrow and this is not devoid of a
certain gratification. Where life closes round us, intelligence
pierces an egress, for if there is no remedy for unrequited love, one
emerges from the verification of suffering if only by drawing its
relevant conclusions. The intellect does not recognise situations in
life which have no issue. And I had to resign myself, since nothing
can last except by becoming general (unless the mind lies to itself)
by accepting the idea that even those beings who were dearest to the
writer have ultimately only posed to him as to painters. Sometimes
when a painful section has remained at the stage of a sketch, a new
tenderness, a new suffering comes which enables us to finish it and
fill it out. One has no need to complain of the lack of new and
helpful sorrows for plenty are forthcoming and one will not have to
wait long for them. All the same, it is necessary to hasten to profit
by them for they do not last very long; either we console ourselves or
if they are too strong and the heart is not too sound, one dies. In
love our successful rival, as well call him our enemy, is our
benefactor. He immediately adds to a being who only excited in us an
insignificant physical desire, an enormously enhanced value which we
confuse with it. If we had no rivals, physical gratification would not
be transformed into love, that is to say, if we had no rivals or
believed we had none, for they need not actually exist. That illusory
life which our suspicion and jealousy give to rivals who have no
existence, is sufficient for our good. Happiness is salutary for the
body but sorrow develops the powers of the spirit. Moreover, does it
not on each occasion reveal to us a law which is no less indispensable
for the purpose of bringing us back to truth, of forcing us to take
things seriously by pulling up the weeds of habit, scepticism,
frivolity and indifference. It is true that that truth which is
incompatible with happiness, with health, is not always compatible
with life itself. Sorrow ends by killing. At each fresh overmastering
sorrow one more vein projects and develops its mortal sinuousness
across our brows and under our eyes. Thus, little by little, those
terribly ravaged faces of Rembrandt, of Beethoven, are made, at which
people once mocked. And those pockets under the eyes and wrinkles in
the forehead would not be there if there had not been such suffering
in the heart. But since forces can change into other forces, since
heat which has duration becomes light and the electricity in a
lightning-flash can photograph, since our heavy heartache can with
each recurrent sorrow raise above itself like a flag, a visible and
permanent symbol, let us accept the physical hurt for the sake of the
spiritual knowledge and let our bodies disintegrate, since each fresh
fragment which detaches itself now becomes more luminously revealing
so that we may complete our task at the cost of suffering not needed
by others more gifted, building it up and adding to it in proportion
to the emotions that destroy our life. Ideas are substitutes for
sorrows; when the latter change into ideas they lose part of their
noxious action on our hearts and even at the first instant their very
transformation disengages a feeling of joy. Substitutes only in the
order of time, however, for it would seem that the first element is
idea and that sorrow is only the mode in which certain ideas first
enter us. But there are many families in the group of ideas, some are
immediately joys. These reflections made me discover a stronger and
more accurate sense of the truth of which I had often had a
presentiment, notably when Mme. de Cambremer was surprised that I could
abandon a remarkable man like Elstir for the sake of Albertine. Even
from the intellectual point of view I felt she was wrong but I did not
know that what she was misunderstanding were the lessons through which
one makes one's apprenticeship as a man of letters. The objective
value of the arts has little say in the matter; what it is necessary
to extract and bring to light are our sentiments, our passions, which
are the sentiments and passions of all men. A woman we need makes us
suffer, forces from us a series of sentiments, deeper and more vital
than a superior type of man who interests us. It remains to be seen,
according to the plane on which we live, whether we shall discover
that the pain the infidelity of a woman has caused us is a trifle when
compared with the truths thereby revealed to us, truths that the woman
delighted at having made us suffer would hardly have grasped. In any
case, such infidelities are not rare. A writer need have no fear of
undertaking a long labour. Let the intellect get to work; in the
course of it there will be more than enough sorrows to enable him to
finish it. Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make
unhappiness possible. When we are happy, we have to form very tender
and strong links of confidence and attachment for their rupture to
cause us the precious shattering called misery. Without happiness, if
only that of hoping, there would be no cruelty and, therefore, no
fruit of misfortune. And more than a painter who needs to see many
churches in order to paint one church, a writer, to obtain volume,
consistency, generality and literary reality, needs many beings in
order to express one feeling, for if art is long and life is short one
can say on the other hand, that if inspiration is short, the
sentiments it has to express are not much longer. Our passions shape
our books, repose writes them in the intervals. When inspiration is
reborn, when we are able to take up our work again, the woman who
posed to us for our sentimental reaction can no longer make us feel
it. We must continue to paint her from another model and if that is a
treachery to the first, in a literary sense, thanks to the similarity
of our sentiments which make a work at one and the same time a memory
of our past loves and the starting point of new ones, there is no
great disadvantage in the exchange. That is one of the reasons why
studies in which an attempt is made to guess whom an author has been
writing about, are fatuous. For even a direct confession is at the
very least intercalated between different episodes in the life of the
author, the early ones which inspired it, the later ones which no less
inspired the successive loves whose peculiarities were a tracing of
the preceding ones. For we are not as faithful to the being we have
most loved as we are to ourselves and sooner or later we forget
her—since that is one of our characteristics—so as to start loving
another. At the very most, she whom we have so much loved has given a
particular form to that love which will make us faithful to her even
in our infidelity. We should feel a need to take the same morning
walks with her successor and to bring her home in the same fashion in
the evening and we should give her also much too much money. (That
circulation of money we give to women is curious; because of it, they
make us miserable and so help us to write books—one might almost say
that works of literature are like artesian wells, the deeper the
suffering, the higher they rise.) These substitutions add something
disinterested and more general to work, and are also a lesson in
austerity; we ought not to attach ourselves to beings, it is not
beings who exist in reality and are amenable to description, but
ideas. And we must not lose time while we can still dispose of these
models. For those who pose for happiness are not, as a rule, able to
spare us many sittings. But those who pose to us for sorrow give us
plenty of sittings in the studio we only use at those periods. That
studio is within ourselves. Those periods are a picture of our life
with its divers sufferings. For they contain others and just when we
think we are calm, a new one is born, new in all senses of the word;
perhaps because unforeseen situations force us to enter into deeper
contact with ourselves, the painful dilemmas in which love places us
at every instant, instruct us, disclose to us successively the matter
of which we are made.

Moreover, even when suffering does not supply by its revelation the
raw material of our work, it helps us by stimulating us to it.
Imagination, thought, may be admirable mechanisms but they can also be
inert. Suffering alone sets them going. Thus when Françoise, noticing
that Albertine came in by any door of the house that happened to be
open as a dog would, spreading disorder wherever she went, ruining me,
causing me infinite unhappiness, she said (for at that time I had
already done some articles and translations), "Ah, if only Monsieur
had engaged a well-educated little secretary who would have put all
Monsieur's rolls of paper in order instead of that girl who only
wastes his time," perhaps I was wrong in thinking she was talking good
sense. Perhaps Albertine had been more useful to me, even from the
literary point of view, in making me lose my time and in causing me
sorrow than a secretary who would have arranged my papers. But all the
same, when a creature is so badly constituted (perhaps in nature that
being is man) that he cannot love unless he suffers and that he must
suffer to learn truth, the life of such a being becomes in the end
very exhausting. The happy years are those that are wasted; we must
wait for suffering to drive us to work. The idea of preliminary
suffering is associated with that of work, we dread every fresh
undertaking because we are thereby reminded of the pain in store for
us before we can conceive it. And, realising that suffering is the
best thing life has to offer, we think of death without horror and
almost as a deliverance. And yet, if that thought was somewhat
repellent to me, we have to be sure we have not played with life and
profited by other people's lives to write books but the exact
opposite. The case of the noble Werther was, alas, not mine. Without
believing an instant in Albertine's love, twenty times I wanted to
kill myself for her; I had ruined myself and destroyed my health for
her. When it is a question of writing, we have to be scrupulous, look
close and cast out what is not true. But when it is only a question of
our own lives, we ruin ourselves, make ourselves ill, kill ourselves
for the sake of lies. Of a truth, it is only out of the matrix of
those lies (if one is too old to be a poet) that we can extract a
little truth. Sorrows are obscure and hated servitors against whom we
contend, under whose sway we fall more and more, sinister servitors
whom we cannot replace but who by strange and devious ways lead us to
truth and to death. Happy those who have encountered the former
before the latter and for whom, closely as one may follow the other,
the hour of truth sounds before the hour of death.

Furthermore, I realised that the most trivial episodes of my past life
had combined to give me the lesson of idealism from which I was now
going to profit. Had not my meetings with M. de Charlus, for instance,
even before his Germanophilism had given me the same lesson, and
better than my love for Mme. de Guermantes or for Albertine, better
than the love of Saint-Loup for Rachel, proved to me how little
material matters, that everything can be made of it by thought, a
verity that the phenomenon of sexual inversion, so little understood,
so idly condemned, enhances even more than that of love of women,
instructive as that is; the latter shows us beauty flying from the
woman we no longer love and residing in a face which others consider
extremely ugly, which indeed might have displeased us and probably
will later on; but it is still more remarkable to observe such a face
under the cap of an omnibus conductor, receiving all the homage of a
_grand seigneur_, who has for that abandoned a beautiful princesse.
Did not my astonishment each time that I again saw the face of
Gilberte, of Mme. de Guermantes, of Albertine in the Champs Elysées, in
the street, on the shore, prove that a memory can only be prolonged in
a direction which diverges from the impression with which it formerly
coincided and from which it separates itself more and more. The writer
must not mind if the invert gives his heroines a masculine visage.
This peculiar aberration is the only means open to the invert of
applying generality to what he reads. If M. de Charlus had not given
Morel's face to the unfaithful one over whom Musset sheds tears in the
_Nuit d'Octobre_ or in the _Souvenir_, he would neither have wept nor
understood since it was by that road alone, narrow and tortuous though
it might be, that he had access to the verities of love. It is only
through a custom which owes its origin to the insincere language of
prefaces and dedications that a writer says "my reader". In reality,
every reader, as he reads, is the reader of himself. The work of the
writer is only a sort of optic instrument which he offers to the
reader so that he may discern in the book what he would probably not
have seen in himself. The recognition of himself in the book by the
reader is the proof of its truth and _vice-versa_, at least in a
certain measure, the difference between the two texts being often less
attributable to the author than to the reader. Further, a book may be
too learned, too obscure for the simple reader, and thus be only
offering him a blurred glass with which he cannot read. But other
peculiarities (like inversion) might make it necessary for the reader
to read in a certain way in order to read well; the author must not
take offence at that but must, on the contrary, leave the reader the
greatest liberty and say to him: "Try whether you see better with
this, with that, or with another glass."

If I have always been so much interested in dreams, is it not because,
compensating duration with intensity they help us to understand better
what is subjective in love? And this by the simple fact that they
render real with prodigious speed what is vulgarly called _nous mettre
une femme dans la peau_ to the point of falling passionately in love
for a few minutes with an ugly one, which in real life would require
years of habit, of union and—as though they had been invented by some
miraculous doctor—intravenal injections of love as they can also be
of suffering; with equal speed the amorous suggestion is dissipated
and sometimes not only the nocturnal beloved has ceased to be such and
has again become the familiar ugly one but something more precious is
also dissipated, a whole picture of ravishing sentiments, of
tenderness, of delight, of regrets, vaguely communicated to the mind,
a whole shipload of passion for Cythera of which we should take note
against the moment of waking up, shades of a beautiful truth which are
effaced like a painting too dim to restore. Well, perhaps it was also
because of the extraordinary tricks dreams play with time!  that they
fascinated me so much. Had I not in a single night, in one minute of a
night, seen days of long ago which had been relegated to those great
distances where we can distinguish hardly any of the sentiments we
then felt, melt suddenly upon me, blinding me with their brightness as
though they were giant aeroplanes instead of the pale stars we
believed, making me see again all they had once held for me, giving me
back the emotion, the shock, the vividness of their immediate
nearness, then recede, when I woke, to the distance they had
miraculously traversed, so that one believes, mistakenly however, that
they are one of the means of recovering lost Time.

I had realised that only grossly erroneous observation places
everything in the object while everything is in the mind; I had lost
my grandmother in reality many months after I had lost her in fact, I
had seen the aspect of people vary according to the idea that I or
others formed of them, a single person become many according to the
number of people who saw him (the various Swanns at the beginning of
this work according to who met him; the Princesse de Luxembourg
according to whether she was seen by the first President or by me)
even according to a single person over many years (the variations of
Guermantes and Swann in my own experience). I had seen love endow
another with that which is only in the one who loves. And I had
realised all this the more because I had stretched to its extreme
limits the distance between objective reality and love; (Rachel from
Saint-Loup's point of view and from mine, Albertine from mine and from
Saint-Loup's, Morel or the omnibus conductor or other people from M.
de Charlus' point of view). Finally, in a certain measure the
Germanophilism of M. de Charlus, like the gaze of Saint-Loup at the
photograph of Albertine, had helped me for a moment to detach myself,
if not from my Germanophobia at least from my belief in its pure
objectivity and to make me think that perhaps it was with hate as with
love and that in the terrible sentence which France is now pronouncing
on Germany, whom she regards as outside the pale of humanity, there is
an objectivity of feeling like that which made Rachel and Albertine
seem so precious, the one to Saint-Loup, the other to me. What made it
seem possible, in fact, that this wickedness was not entirely
intrinsic to Germany was that I myself had experienced successive
loves at the end of which the object of each one appeared to have no
value and I had also seen my country experience successive hates which
had caused to appear as traitors—a thousand times worse than the
Germans to whom these traitors were supposed to be betraying
France—Dreyfusards like Reinach with whom patriots were now
collaborating against a country every member of which was necessarily
a liar, a ferocious beast and an imbecile except, of course, those
Germans who had espoused the French cause such as the King of Roumania
and the Empress of Russia. It is true that the anti-Dreyfusard, would
have replied: "It is not the same thing." But, as a matter of fact, it
never is the same thing, any more than it is the same person; were
that not so, in the presence of an identical phenomenon he who is its
dupe could not believe that qualities or defects are inherent in it
and would only blame his own subjective condition.

The intellect has no difficulty, then, in basing a theory upon this
difference (the teaching of the congregations according to Radicals,
is against nature, it is impossible for the Jewish race to assimilate
nationalism, the secular hatred of the Germans for the Latin race, the
yellow races being momentarily rehabilitated). That subjective
influence was equally marked among neutral Germanophiles who had lost
the faculty of understanding or even of listening, the instant the
German atrocities in Belgium were spoken of. (And, after all, there
were real ones.) I remarked that the subjective nature of hatred as in
vision itself, did not prevent the object possessing real qualities or
defects and in no way caused reality to disappear in a pure
"relativeness". And if, after so many years and so much lost time, I
felt the stirring of this vital pool within humanity even in
international relationships, had I not apprehended it at the very
beginning of my life when I read one of Bergotte's novels in the
Combray garden and even if to-day I turn those forgotten pages, and
see the schemes of a wicked character, I cannot lay down the book
until I assure myself, by skipping a hundred pages, that towards the
end the villain is duly humiliated and lives long enough to know that
his sinister purposes have been foiled. For I could no longer recall
what happened to the characters, in that respect not unlike those who
will be seen this afternoon at Mme. de Guermantes', the past life of
whom, at all events of many of them, is as shadowy as though I had
read of them in a half-forgotten novel.

Did the Prince of Agrigente end by marrying Mlle. X—? Or was it not the
brother of Mlle. X— who was to marry the sister of the Prince of
Agrigente, or was I confusing them with something I had once read or
dreamed? The dream remained one of the facts of my life which had
most impressed me, which had most served to convince me of the purely
mental character of reality, a help I should not despise in the
composition of my work. When I lived for love in a somewhat more
disinterested fashion, a dream would bring my grandmother singularly
close to me, making her cover great spaces of lost time, and so with
Albertine whom I began to love again because, in my sleep, she had
supplied me with an attenuated version of the story of the laundress.
I believed that dreams might sometimes in this way be the carriers of
truths and impressions that my unaided effort or encounters in the
outside world could not bring me, that they would arouse in me that
desire or yearning for certain non-existent things which is the
condition for work, for abstraction from habit and for detaching
oneself from the concrete. I should not disdain this second, this
nocturnal muse, who might sometimes replace the other.

I had seen aristocrats become vulgar when their minds (like that of
the Duc de Guermantes for instance) were vulgar. "You aren't shy?" he
asked, as Cottard might have done. In medicine, in the Dreyfus affair,
during the war, I had seen people believe that truth is a thing owned
and possessed by ministers and doctors, a yea or a nay which has no
need of interpretation, which-enables a radiographic plate to
indicate, without interpretation, what is the matter with an invalid,
which enables those in power to know that Dreyfus was guilty, to know
(without despatching Roques to investigate on the spot) whether
Sarrail had the necessary resources to advance at the same time as the
Russians. There had not been an hour of my life which might not have
thus served to teach me, as I have said, that only crudely erroneous
perception places everything in the object; while, to the contrary,
everything is in the mind. In short, if I reflected, the matter of my
experience came to me from Swann, not simply through what concerned
himself and Gilberte. It was he who, ever since the Combray days, had
given me the desire to go to Balbec, where, but for him, my parents
would never have had the notion of sending me and but for which I
should never have known Albertine. True, I associated certain things
with her face as I saw her first, gazing towards the sea. In one sense
I was right in associating them with her for if I had not walked by
the sea that day, if I had not known her, all those ideas would not
have developed (unless, at least, they had been developed by another).
I was wrong again because that inspiring pleasure we like to identify
retrospectively with the beautiful countenance of a woman, comes from
our senses and, in any case, it was quite certain that Albertine, the
then Albertine, would not have understood the pages I should write.
But it was just on that account, (and that is a warning not to live in
too intellectual an atmosphere) because she was so different from me
that she had made me productive through suffering, and, at first, even
through the simple effort required to imagine that which differs from
oneself. Had she been able to understand these pages, she would have
been unable to inspire them. But without Swann I should not even have
known the Guermantes, since my grandmother would not have rediscovered
Mme. de Villeparisis, I should not have made the acquaintance of
Saint-Loup and of M. de Charlus which in turn caused me to know the
Duchesse de Guermantes and, through her, her cousin, so that my very
presence at this moment at the Prince de Guermantes' from which
suddenly sprang the idea of my work (thus making me owe Swann not only
the matter but the decision) also came to me from Swann, a rather
flimsy pedestal to support the whole extension of my life. (In that
sense, this Guermantes side derived from Swann's side.) But very often
the author of a determining course in our lives is a person much
inferior to Swann, in fact, a completely indifferent individual. It
would have sufficed for some schoolfellow or other to tell me about a
girl it would be nice for me to meet at Balbec (where in all
probability I should not have met her) to make me go there. So it
often happens that later on one runs across a schoolfellow one does
not like and shakes hands with him without realising that the whole
subsequent course of one's life and work has sprung from his chance
remark: "You ought to come to Balbec." We feel no gratitude toward him
nor does that prove us ungrateful. For in uttering those words he in
no wise foresaw the tremendous consequences they might entail for us.
The first impulse having been given, one's sensibility and
intelligence exploited the circumstances which engendered each other
without his any more foreseeing my union with Albertine than the
masked ball at the Guermantes'. Doubtless, his agency was necessary
and, through it, the exterior form of our life, even the raw material
of our work sprang from him. Had it not been for Swann, my parents
would never have had the idea of sending me to Balbec but that did not
make him responsible for the sufferings which he indirectly caused me;
these were due to my own weakness as his had been responsible for the
pain Odette caused him. But in thus determining the life I was to
lead, he had thereby excluded all the lives I might otherwise have
lived. If Swann had not told me about Balbec I should never have known
Albertine, the hotel dining-room, the Guermantes. I should have gone
elsewhere; I should have known other people, my memory like my books
would have been filled with quite different pictures, which I cannot
even imagine but whose unknowable novelty allures me and makes me
sorry I was not drawn that way and that Albertine, the Balbec shore,
Rivebelle and the Guermantes did not remain unknown to me for ever.

Jealousy is a good recruiting sergeant who, when there is an empty
space in our picture, goes and finds the girl we want in the street.
She may not be pretty at first, but she soon fills the blank and
becomes so when we get jealous of her.

Once we are dead we shall get no pleasure from our picture being so
complete. But this thought is in no way discouraging for we feel that
life is rather more complex than is generally supposed, likewise
circumstances and and there is a pressing need of proving this
complexity. Jealousy is not necessarily born from a look, from
something we hear or as the result of reflection; we can find it ready
for us between the leaves of a directory—what in Paris is called
_Tout-Paris_ and in the country _The Annuaire des Châteaux_.
Absent-mindedly, we had heard that a certain pretty girl we no longer
thought about, had gone to pay a visit of some days to her sister in
the Pas-de-Calais. With equal indifference it had occurred to us
previously that, possibly, this pretty girl had been made love to by
M. E. whom she never saw now because she no longer frequented the bar
where she used to meet him. Who and what might her sister be, a maid
perhaps? From discretion, we had never asked her. And now, lo and
behold! Opening by chance the _Annuaire des Châteaux_ we discover that
M. E. owns a country house in the Pas-de-Calais near Dunkerque. There
is no further room for doubt; to please the pretty girl, he has taken
her sister as a maid, and if the pretty girl does not see him any more
in the bar it is because he has her come to his house and, though he
lives in Paris nearly the whole year round, he cannot dispense with
her even while he is in the Pas-de-Calais. The paint-brushes, drunk
with rage and love, paint and paint. But supposing, after all, it is
not that, supposing that really M. E. did not any longer see the
pretty girl and had only recommended her sister to his brother who
lives the whole year round in the Pas-de-Calais, so that, by chance,
she has gone to see her sister at a time when M. E. is not there,
seeing that they had ceased to care for each other. Unless indeed the
sister is nota maid in the Château or anywhere else but that her
family happens to live in the Pas-de-Calais. Our original distress
surrenders to the latest supposition which soothes our jealousy. But
what does that matter? Jealousy buried within the pages of the
_Annuaire des Châteaux_ has come just at the right moment, for now the
empty space in the canvas has been filled and the whole picture has
been capitally composed, thanks to jealousy having evoked the
apparition of the pretty girl whom we neither care for nor are jealous
of.

At that moment the butler came to tell me that the first piece was
over and that I could leave the library and enter the drawing-rooms.
That reminded me of where I was. But I was in no wise disturbed in my
argument by the fact that a fashionable entertainment, a return into
society, provided the point of departure towards a new life I had been
unable to find the way to in solitude. There was nothing extraordinary
about this, an influence which had roused the eternal man in me being
no more necessarily linked to solitude than to society (as I had once
believed, as perhaps was the case formerly, as perhaps it might still
have been, if I had developed harmoniously instead of having suffered
that long break which only now seemed to be reaching its end). For, as
I only felt that impression of beauty when there was imposed upon the
actual sensation however insignificant, another akin to it which,
spontaneously reborn in me, expanded the first one simultaneously over
several periods and filled my soul, in which my ordinary single
sensations left a void, with a generalising essence, there was no
reason why I should not just as well receive such sensations from
society as from nature, since they occur haphazard, provoked doubtless
by a peculiar excitement owing to which, on days when one happens to
be outside the normal course of one's life, even the most simple
things begin to cause reactions which habit spares our nervous system.
My purpose was to discover the objective reason of its being exactly
and only that class of sensations which must lead to a work of art, by
pursuing the reflections I had been bent on linking together in the
library, for I felt that the emancipation of my spiritual life was now
complete enough for me to be able to sustain my thought in the midst
of guests in the drawing-room just as well as alone in the library; I
should know how to preserve my solitude from that point of view even
in the midst of that numerous company. Indeed, for the same reason
that great events in the outer world have no influence upon our mental
powers and that a mediocre writer living in an epic period will,
nevertheless, remain a mediocre writer what was dangerous in society
was the worldly disposition one brought to it. But, of itself, it will
no more make us mediocre than a war of heroes can make a bad poet
sublime. In any case, whether it was theoretically advantageous or
not that a work of art should be thus constituted, and awaiting the
further examination of that question, it was undeniable so far as I
was concerned, that when any really aesthetic intuitions came to me it
had always been as a result of sensations of that nature. True, they
had been rare enough in my life but they dominated it, and I could
recover from the past some of those heights I had mistakenly allowed
myself to lose sight of (and I did not mean to do so again). This much
I could now say, that if in my case this was an idiosyncrasy due to
the exclusive significance it had for me, I was reassured by
discovering that it was related to characteristics less marked yet
discernible and fundamentally analogous in the case of certain
writers. Is not the most beautiful part of the _Mémoires
d'Outre-Tombe_ assimilable with my sensations relative to the
madeleine: "Yesterday evening I was walking alone.... I was drawn
from my reflections by the warbling of a thrush perched upon the
highest branch of a birch tree. At that instant the magical sound
brought my paternal home before my eyes; I forgot the catastrophes of
which I had been a witness and, transported suddenly into the past, I
saw again that country where I had so often heard the thrush sing."
And is not this, one of the two or three most beautiful passages in
the _Mémoires_: "A delicate and subtle odour of heliotrope was exhaled
by a cluster of scarlet runners in flower; that odour was not brought
us by a breeze from the homeland but by a wild Newfoundland wind,
without relation to the exiled plant, without sympathy with memory and
joy. In that perfume which beauty had not breathed nor purified in its
breast nor spread abroad upon its path, in that perfume permeated by
the light of dawn, of culture and of life, there was all the
melancholy of regret, of exile and of youth." One of the masterpieces
of French literature _Sylvie_ by Gérard de Nerval, contains, in regard
to Combourg, just like the _Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe_, a sensation of
the same order as the taste of the madeleine and the warbling of the
thrush. Finally, in the case of Baudelaire, such reminiscences are
still—more numerous, evidently less fortuitous and consequently, in
my opinion, decisive. It is the poet himself who with greater variety
and leisure seeks consciously in the odour of a woman, of her hair and
of her breast, those inspiring analogies which evoke for him "_l'azur
du ciel immense et rond_" and "_un port rempli de flammes et de
mâts_". I was seeking to recall those of Baudelaire's verses which are
based upon the transposition of such sensations, so that I might place
myself in so noble a company and thus obtain confirmation that the
work I no longer had any hesitation in undertaking, merited the effort
I intended to consecrate to it, when, reaching the foot of the
staircase leading from the library, I found myself all of a sudden in
the great salon and in the midst of a fête which seemed to me entirely
different from those I had formerly attended and which began to
disclose a peculiar aspect and to assume a new significance. From the
instant I entered the great salon, in spite of my firmly retaining
within myself the point I had reached in the project I had been
forming, a startlingly theatrical sensation burst upon my senses which
was to raise the gravest obstacles to my enterprise. Obstacles I
should, doubtless, surmount but which, while I continued to muse upon
the conditions of a work of art, were about to interrupt my reasoning
by the repetition a hundred times over of the consideration most
calculated to make me hesitate. At the first moment I did not
understand why I failed to recognise the master of the house and his
guests, why they all appeared to have "made a head", generally
powdered, which completely changed them. The Prince, receiving his
guests, still preserved that air of a jolly king of the fairies he
suggested to my mind the first time I saw him, but now, having
apparently submitted to the disguise he had imposed upon his guests,
he had tricked himself out in a white beard and dragged his feet
heavily along as though they were soled with lead. He seemed to be
representing one of the ages of man. His moustache was whitened as
though the hoar-frost in Tom Thumb's forest clung to it. It seemed to
inconvenience his stiffened mouth and once he had produced his effect,
he ought to have taken it off. To tell the truth, I only recognised
him by reasoning out his identity with himself from certain familiar
features. I could not imagine what that little Lezensac had put on his
face, but while others had grown white, some as to half of their
beard, some only as to their moustaches, he had found means, without
the help of dyes, to cover his face with wrinkles and his eyebrows
with bristling hairs; moreover, all this suited him ill, his
countenance seemed to have hardened and bronzed and he wore an
appearance of solemnity that aged him so much that he could no longer
be taken for a young man. At the same moment I was astonished to hear
addressed as Duc de Châtellerault a little old man with the silver
moustache of an ambassador of whom only the slightest likeness
reminded me of the young man whom I had once met calling on Mme. de
Villeparisis. In the case of the first person whom I succeeded in
identifying by abstracting his natural features from his travesty by
an effort of memory, my first thought ought to have been and perhaps
was, for an instant, to congratulate him on being so marvellously made
up that, at first, one had the same sort of hesitation in recognising
him as is felt by an audience which, though informed by the programme,
remains for a moment dumbfounded and then bursts into applause when
some great actor, taking a part in which he looks completely different
from himself, walks on to the stage. From that point of view the most
extraordinary of all was my personal enemy M. d'Argencourt; he was,
verily, the _clou_ of the party. Not only had he replaced a barely
silvered beard by one of incredible whiteness, he had so tricked
himself out by those little material changes which reconstitute and
exaggerate personality and, more than that, apparently modify
character, that this man, whose pompous and starchy stiffness still
lingered in my memory, had changed into an old beggar who inspired no
respect, an aged valetudinarian so authentic that his limbs trembled
and the swollen features, once so arrogant, kept on smiling with silly
beatitude. Pushed to this degree, the art of disguise becomes
something more, it becomes a transformation. Indeed, some trifles
might certify that it was actually M. d'Argencourt who offered this
indescribable and picturesque spectacle, but how many successive
facial states should I not have had to trace if I wanted to
reconstruct the physiognomy of M. d'Argencourt whom I had formerly
known and who had now succeeded, although he only had the use of his
own body, in producing something so entirely different. It was
obviously the extreme limit that haughtiest of faces could reach
without disintegration, while that stiffest of figures was no more
than a boiled rag shaking about from one spot to another. It was only
by the most fleeting memory of a particular smile which formerly
sometimes tempered for an instant M. d'Argencourt's arrogant
demeanour, that one realised the possibility that this smile of an
old, broken-down, second-hand clothes-dealer might represent the
punctilious gentleman of former days. But even admitting it was M.
d'Argencourt's intention to use the old meaning smile, the prodigious
transformation of his face, the very matter of the eye with which he
expressed it had become so different that the expression was that of
another. I almost burst into laughter as I looked at this egregious
old guy, as emolliated in his comical caricature of himself as M. de
Charlus, paralysed and polite, was tragical. M. d'Argencourt, in his
incarnation of a moribund buffoon by Regnard, exaggerated by Labiche,
was as easy of access, as urbane as was the King Lear of M. de Charlus
who uncovered himself with deference before the most commonplace
acquaintance who saluted him. All the same, I refrained from
expressing my admiration for the remarkable performance. It was less
my former antipathy which prevented me than his having reached a
condition so different from himself that I had the illusion of
standing before another as amiable, disarming and inoffensive as the
Argencourt of former days was supercilious, hostile and nefarious. So
entirely a different personage that, watching this snow-man imitating
General Dourakine falling into second childhood, grinning so ineffably
comic and white, it seemed to me that a human being could undergo
metamorphoses as complete as those of certain insects. I had the
impression of observing through the glass of a showcase in a natural
history museum what the sharpest and most stable features of an insect
had turned into and I could no longer feel the sentiments which M.
d'Argencourt had always inspired in me when I stood looking at this
soft chrysalis which rather vibrated than moved. So I kept my silence,
I did not congratulate M. d'Argencourt on offering a spectacle which
seemed to assign the limits within which the transformation of the
human body can operate. Certainly, in the wings of a theatre or during
a costume ball, politeness inclines one to exaggerate the difficulty,
even to go so far as to affirm the impossibility of recognising the
person in travesty. Here, on the contrary an instinct warned me that
dissimulation was demanded, that these compliments would have been the
reverse of flattering because such a transformation was not intended
and I realised what I had not dreamed of when I entered this
drawing-room, that every entertainment, however simple, when it takes
place long after one has ceased to go into society and however few of
those one has formerly known it brings together, gives the effect of a
costume ball and the most successful one of all, at which one is truly
puzzled by others, for the heads have been in the making for a long
time without their wishing it and cannot be got rid of by toilet
operations when the party is over. Puzzled by others! Alas! We
ourselves puzzle them. The difficulty I experienced in putting the
required name to the faces around me seemed to be shared by all those
who perceived mine, for they paid no more attention to me than if they
had never seen me before or were trying to disentangle from my
appearance the memory of someone else.

M. d'Argencourt's success with this astonishing "turn", certainly the
most striking picture in his burlesque I could possibly have of him,
was like an actor who makes a last appearance on the stage before the
curtain falls amidst roars of laughter. If I no longer felt any
antagonism to him, it was because he had returned to the innocence of
babyhood and had no recollection of his contemptuous opinion of me, no
recollection of having seen M. de Charlus suddenly leave go of my arm,
whether because none of those sentiments survived in him or because in
order to reach me they would have been so deformed by physical
refractions that their meaning would have completely changed on the
way, so that M. d'Argencourt appeared to have become amiable because
he no longer had the power to express his malevolence and to curb his
chronic and irritating hilarity. To compare him with an actor is an
overstatement for, having no conscious mind at all, he was like a
shaky doll with a woollen beard stuck on his face pottering about the
room, like a scientific or philosophical marionette mimicking a part
in a funeral ceremony or a lecture at the Sorbonne, simultaneously
illustrating the vanity of all things and representing a natural
history specimen. A Punch and Judy show of puppets, of which one could
only identify those one had known by viewing them simultaneously at
several levels graded in the background, which gave them depth and
forced one to the mental effort of combining eye and memory as one
gazed at these old phantoms. A Punch and Judy show of puppets bathed
in the immaterial colours of years, of puppets which exteriorised
Time, Time usually invisible, which to attain visibility seeks and
fastens on bodies to exhibit wherever it can, with its magic lantern.
Immaterial like Golo on the door-handle of my room at Combray, the new
and unrecognisable M. d'Argencourt was a revelation of Time by
rendering it partially visible. In the new elements composing M.
d'Argencourt's face and personality one could read a sum of years, one
could recognise the symbolical figure of life, not permanent as it
appears to us, but as it is, a constantly changing atmosphere in which
the haughty nobleman caricatures himself in the evening as an old
clothes-dealer.

In the case of others these changes, these positive transformations
seemed to proceed from the sphere of natural history and it was
surprising to hear a name applied to a person, not, as in the case of
M. d'Argencourt, with the characteristics of a new and different
species but with the exterior features of another person altogether.
As in the case of M. d'Argencourt there were unsuspected
potentialities which time had elicited from such and such a young
girl, and though these potentialities were purely physiognomical or
corporeal, they seemed to have moral implications. If the features of
a face change, if they unite differently, if they contract slowly but
continuously, they assume, with that changed aspect, another
significance. Thus, a particular woman who had formerly given one an
impression of aridity and shallowness and who had now acquired an
enlargement of the cheeks and an unforeseeable bridge on her nose
occasioned the same surprise, often an agreeable one, as a sensitive
and thoughtful remark, a fine and highminded act which one would never
have expected of her. Unhoped for horizons opened around that new
nose. Kindness and tenderness, formerly undreamed of became possible
with those cheeks. From that chin one might hope for things
unimaginable from the preceding one. These new facial features implied
altered traits of character; the hard, scraggy girl had become a
buxom, generous dowager. It was not in the zoological sense like M.
d'Argencourt, but in the social and moral sense that one could say she
had become a different person. In all these ways an afternoon party
such as this was something much more valuable than a vision of the
past for it offered me something better than the successive pictures I
had missed of the past separating itself from the present, namely, the
relationship between the present and the past; it was like what used
to be called a panopticon but a panopticon of years, a view not of a
monument but of a person situated in the modifying perspective of
Time.

The woman whose lover M. d'Argencourt had been, was not much changed,
if one reckoned the time that had passed, that is, her face was not so
completely demolished into that of a creature which has continuously
disintegrated throughout his journey into the abyss, the direction of
which we can only express by equally vain comparisons since we can
only borrow them from the world of space and which, whether we
estimate them in terms of height or length or depth have only the
merit of conveying to us that this inconceivable yet perceptible
dimension exists. The need, so as to give a name to a face, of what
amounted to climbing up the years, compelled me later to reconstruct
retrospectively the years about which I had never thought, so as to
give them their proper order. From this point of view and so as not to
allow myself to be deceived by the apparent identity of space, the
perfectly new aspect of a being like M. d'Argencourt was a striking
revelation of the reality of the era which generally seems an
abstraction, in the same way as dwarf trees or giant baobabs
illustrate a change of latitude. Then life appears to us like a
fairyland where one can watch the baby becoming adolescent, man
becoming mature and inclining to the grave. And, since it is through
perpetual change that one grasps that these beings, observed at
considerable intervals, are so different, one realises that one has
been obeying the same law as these creatures which are so transformed
that they no longer resemble, though they have never ceased to
be—just because they have never ceased to be—what we thought them
before,

A young woman I had formerly known, now snow-white and reduced to a
little malevolent old woman, seemed to prove that, in the final act,
it was necessary that characters should be made up to be
unrecognisable. But her brother had remained so erect, so exactly as
he was, that the whitening of his upturned moustache seemed surprising
on so young a face. The snowy whiteness of beards which had been
completely black made the human landscape of that afternoon party
melancholy as do the first brown leaves of a summer one has hardly
begun enjoying when autumn comes. Thus I who from infancy, had lived
from day to day, with a sort of fixed idea of myself derived from
others as well as myself, perceived for the first time, after
witnessing the metamorphosis of all these people, that the time which
had gone by for them, had gone by for me also and this revelation
threw me into consternation. Indifferent as their ageing was to me,
now that theirs heralded the approach of my own, I was disconsolate.
This approach was indeed announced by one verbal blow after another at
intervals, which sounded to my ears like blasts from the trumpets of
Judgment Day. The first was uttered by the Duchesse de Guermantes; I
had just seen her pass between a double row of gaping people who,
without realising how the marvellous artifice of her dress and
aesthetic worked on them, moved by the sight of her scarlet head, her
salmon-like flesh strangled with jewels just emerging from its black
lace fins, gazed at the hereditary sinuosity of her figure as they
might have done at some ancient jewel-bedecked fish in which the
protective genius of the Guermantes' family was incarnated. "Ah!" she
exclaimed on seeing me, "what a joy to see you, you my oldest friend!"
In my youthful vanity of Combray days which never permitted me to
count myself among her friends who actually shared that mysterious
Guermantes' life, one of her accredited friends like M. de Bréauté or
M. de Forestille or Swann, like so many who were dead, I might have
been flattered but, instead, I was extremely miserable. "Her oldest
friend!" I thought, "She's exaggerating, perhaps one of the oldest but
am I really—" At that moment one of the Prince's nephews came up to
me and remarked: "You who are an old Parisian." An instant later a
note was brought me. I had, on my arrival, seen one of the young
Létourvilles whose relationship to the Duchesse I could not remember
but who knew me a little. He had just left Saint-Cyr and thinking to
myself he would be a charming acquaintance like Saint-Loup, who could
initiate me into military affairs and their incidental changes, I had
told him I would find him later so that we could arrange to dine
together, for which he thanked me effusively. But I had remained
dreaming in the library too long and the note he had left was to tell
me that he was not able to wait and gave me his address. This coveted
comrade ended his letter thus: "With respectful regard, your young
friend, Létourville". "Young friend!" Thus I used formerly to address
people thirty years older than myself, Legrandin, for instance. That
sub-lieutenant whom I was regarding as a comrade called himself my
young friend. So it was not only military methods which had changed
since then and from M. de Létourville's standpoint I was not a comrade
but an old gentleman and I was separated from M. de Létourville to
whom I imagined that I appeared as I did to myself as though by the
opening arms of an invisible compass which placed me at such a
distance from that young sub-lieutenant that to him who called himself
my young friend I was an elderly gentleman.

Almost immediately afterwards someone spoke of Bloch and I asked if
they were talking of young Bloch or his father (of whose death during
the war I was unaware). It was said he died of emotion when France
was invaded. "I did not know that he had any children, not even that
he was married," said the Duchesse, "but evidently it is the father
we're talking about for there's nothing young about him." She added,
laughing, "He might have grown-up sons." Then I realised she was
talking about my old friend. As it happened, he came in a few minutes
later and I had difficulty in recognising him. He had now adopted the
name of Jacques du Rozier, under which it would have needed the nose
of my grandfather to scent the sweet valley of Hebron and the bond of
Israel which my friend seemed to have finally broken. A modish
Englishness had completely changed his appearance and every thing that
could be effaced was moulded into the semblance of a plaster cast.
His former curly hair was now smoothed out flat, was parted in the
middle and shone with cosmetics. His nose was still red and prominent
and appeared to be swollen by a sort of permanent catarrh which
perhaps explained the nasal accent with which he lazily drawled his
phrases, for, he had discovered, in addition to a way of doing his
hair to suit his complexion, a voice to the former nasal tone of which
he had added an air of peculiar disdain to suit the inflamed contours
of his nose. And thanks to hairdressing, to the elimination of his
moustache, to his smartness of style and to his will, that Jewish nose
had disappeared as a hump can almost be made to look like a straight
back by being carefully disguised. But the significance of Bloch's
physiognomy was changed above all by a redoubtable eyeglass. The
mechanical effect produced in Bloch's face by this monocle enabled him
to dispense with all those difficult duties to which the human
countenance must submit, that of looking amiable, of expressing
humour, good nature and effort. Its mere presence in Bloch's face made
it unnecessary to consider whether it was good-looking or not, like
when a shop-assistant shows you an English object and says it is "le
grand chic", and you don't dare consider whether you like it or not.
And then he installed himself behind his glass in a haughty, distant
and comfortable attitude as though it were an eight-fold mirror, and
by making his face suit his flat hair and his eyeglass his features no
longer expressed anything whatever. On that face of Bloch's were
super-imposed that vapid and self-opinionated expression, those feeble
movements of the head which soon find their point of stasis, and with
which I should have identified the out-worn learning of a complacent
old gentleman if I had not at last recognised that the man facing me
was an old friend, whom my memories had endowed with the continuous
vigour of youth which he seemed now completely to lack. I had known
him on the threshold of life, he had been my school-fellow and
unconsciously, I was regarding him, like myself, as though we were
both living in the period of our youth. I heard it said that he looked
quite his age and I was surprised to notice some familiar signs of it
in his face. Then I realised that, in fact, he was old and that life
makes its old men out of adolescents who last many years.

Someone hearing I was not well asked if I was not afraid to catch the
"grippe" which was raging at that time while another benevolent
individual reassured me by remarking: "Don't be afraid, it only
attacks the young, people of your age don't run much risk of it." I
noticed that the servants had recognised me and whispered my name, and
a lady said she had heard them remark in their vernacular: "There goes
old—" (This was followed by my name.)

On hearing the Duchesse de Guermantes say, "Of course! I knew the
Marshal? But I knew others who were much more representative, the
Duchesse de Galliera, Pauline de Périgord, Mgr. Dupanloup," I naïvely
regretted not having known those she called relics of the _ancien
régime_. I ought to have remembered that we call _ancien regime_ what
we have only known the end of; what is perceived thus on the horizon
assumes a mysterious grandeur and seems the last chapter of a world we
shall never see again; but as we go on it is soon we ourselves who are
on the horizon for the generations behind us, the horizon continues to
recede and the world which seemed finished begins again. "When I was a
young girl," added Mme. de Guermantes, "I even saw the Duchesse de
Dino. I'm no longer twenty-five, you know." Her last words displeased
me; she need not have said that, it would have been all right for an
old woman. "As to yourself," she continued, "you're always the same,
you haven't, so to speak, changed at all," and that gave me almost
more pain than if she had said the contrary for it proved, by the mere
fact of being remarkable, how much time had passed. "You're
astonishing, my dear friend. You're always young," a melancholy remark
since there is only sense in it when we have, in fact, if not in
appearance, become old. And she gave me a final blow by adding: "I've
always regretted you did not get married. But, who knows! After all,
perhaps you're happier as it is. You would have been old enough to
have sons in the war and if they had been killed like poor Robert
Saint-Loup (I often think of him) with your sensitiveness, you would
not have survived them." And I could see myself as in the first
truth-telling mirror I might encounter in the eyes of old men who had
in their own opinion remained young as I believed I had, and who when
I offered myself as an example of old age, in order that they should
deny it, would by the look they gave me, show not the slightest
pretence that they saw me otherwise than they saw themselves. For we
do not see ourselves as we are, our age as it is, but each of us sees
it in the other as though in a mirror. And, no doubt, many would have
been less unhappy than I to realise they were old. At first, some face
age as they do death, with indifference, not because they have more
courage than others but because they have less imagination. But a man
who, since boyhood has had one single idea in his mind, whose idleness
and delicate health, just because they cause the postponement of its
realisation, annul each wasted day because the disease which hastens
the ageing of his body retards that of his spirit, such a man is more
overwhelmed when he realises that he has never ceased living in Time
than another who, having no inner life, regulates himself by the
calendar and does not suddenly discover the aggregate of years he has
been daily though unconsciously adding up. But there was a graver
reason for my pain; I discovered that destructive action of Time at
the very moment when I wanted to elucidate, to intellectualise
extra-temporal realities in a work of art.

In the case of certain people present at this party, the successive
substitution of cellules had brought about so complete a change during
my absence from society, such an entire metamorphosis, that I could
have dined opposite them in a restaurant a hundred times without any
more imagining I had formerly known them than I could have guessed the
royalty of an incognito sovereign or the vice of a stranger. The
comparison is inadequate in the matter of names, for one can imagine
an unknown seated in front of you being a criminal or a king whilst
those I had known, or rather, the people I had known who bore their
name, were so different that I could not believe them the same.
Nevertheless, as I would have done in taking the idea of sovereignty
or of vice as a starting-point which soon makes us discern in the
stranger (whom one might so readily have treated with amiability or
the reverse while one was blindfolded) a distinguished or suspicious
appearance, I applied myself to introducing into the face of a woman
entirely unknown to me the idea that she was Mme. Sazerat. And I ended
by establishing my former notion of this face which would have
remained utterly unknown to me, entirely that of another woman, as it
had lost as fully the human attributes I had known as though it were
that of a man changed into a monkey, were it not that the name and the
statement of her identity put me in the way of solving the problem in
spite of its difficulty. Sometimes, however, the old picture came to
life with sufficient precision for me to confront the two and like a
witness in the presence of an accused person, I had to say: "No, I do
not recognise her."

A young woman asked me: "Shall we go and dine together at a
restaurant?" and when I replied: "With pleasure, if you don't mind
dining alone with a young man," I heard the people round me giggle and
I added hastily, "or rather with an old one." I realised that the
words which caused the laughter were of the kind my mother might have
used in speaking of me; for my mother I always remained a child and I
perceived that I was looking at myself from her point of view. Had I
registered, as she did, changes since my childhood, they would have
been very old ones for I had stopped at the point where people once
used to say, almost before it was true, "Now he really is almost a
young man." That was what I was now thinking but tremendously late. I
had not perceived how much I had changed but how did the people who
laughed at me know? I had not a grey hair, my moustache was black. I
should have liked to ask them how this awful fact revealed itself. And
now I understood what old age was—old age, which, of all realities,
is perhaps the one of which we retain a purely abstract notion for the
longest time, looking at calendars, dating our letters, seeing our
friends get married, the children of our friends, without realising
its significance, whether through dread or through idleness, until the
day when an unknown effigy like M. d'Argencourt teaches us that we are
living in a new world; until the when we, who seem to him like his
grandfather, treat the grandson of one of our women friends as a
comrade and he laughs as though at a joke. And then I understood what
is meant by death, love, joys of the mind, usefulness of sorrow and
vocation. For if names had lost their meaning for me, words had
unfolded it. The beauty of images is lodged at the back of things,
that of ideas in front, so that the first no longer cause us wonder
when we reach them and we only understand the second when we have
passed beyond them.

The cruel discovery I had now made regarding the lapse of Time could
only enrich my ideas and add to the material of my book. Since I had
decided that it could not consist only of pure intuitions, namely
those beyond Time, amongst the verities with which I intended to frame
them, those which are concerned with Time, Time, in which men,
societies and nations bathe and change, would have an important place.
I should not be mindful only of those alterations to which the aspect
of human beings must submit, of which new examples presented
themselves at every moment, for still considering my work now begun
with decision strong enough to resist temporary distraction, I
continued to say, "How do you do?" and talk to people I knew. Age,
moreover, had not marked all of them in similar fashion. Someone asked
my name and I was told it was M. de Cambremer. To show he had
recognised me he inquired: "Do you still suffer from those feelings of
suffocation?" On my replying in the affirmative, he went on: "You see
that that does not prevent longevity," as though I were a centenarian.
I was speaking to him with my eyes fixed upon two or three features
which my thought was reducing to a synthesis of my memories of his
personality quite different from what he now represented. He half
turned his head for a moment and I then perceived that he had become
unrecognisable owing to the adjunction to his cheeks of enormous red
pockets which prevented him from opening his mouth and his eyes
properly, so much so that I stood stupefied not wanting to show that I
noticed this sort of anthrax to which it was more becoming that he
should allude first. But since, like a courageous invalid, he made no
allusion to it and laughed, I feared to seem lacking in feeling if I
did not inquire and in tact if I did. "But don't they come more rarely
as one grows old?" he asked, referring to the suffocated feeling. I
told him not. "Well, my sister has them much less now than formerly,"
he remarked with an air of contradiction, as though it must be the
same in my case, as though age were a remedy which had been good for
Mme. de Gaucourt and therefore salutary for me. Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin now approached and I felt more and more afraid of
seeming insensitive in not deploring what I remarked on her husband's
face and yet I did not dare speak first. "You must be pleased to see
him again," she said. "Is he well?" I answered hesitatingly. "As you
see," she replied. She had never even noticed the growth which
offended my vision and which was only another of the masks which Time
had attached to the Marquis' face, but so gradually and progressively
that the Marquise had noticed nothing. When M. de Cambremer had
finished questioning me about my attacks of suffocation it was my turn
to ask someone, in a whisper, if the Marquis' mother was still alive.
She was. In appreciating the passage of time, it is only the first
step that counts. At first it is painful to realise that so much time
has passed, afterwards one is surprised it is not more. One begins by
being unable to realise that the thirteenth century is so far away and
afterwards finds difficulty in believing that any churches of that
period survive though they are innumerable in France. In a few
instants that slower process had taken place in me which happens to
those who can scarcely believe a person they know is sixty and fifteen
years later are equally incredulous when they hear he is still alive
and no more than seventy-five. I asked M. de Cambremer how his mother
was. "Splendid as ever," he answered, using an adjective which to the
contrary of those tribes which treat aged parents without pity applies
in certain families to old people whose use of the physical faculties,
such as hearing, walking to church and bearing bereavement without
feeling depressed, endows them with extreme moral beauty in the eyes
of their children.

If certain women proclaimed their age by make-up, certain men on whose
faces I had never noticed cosmetics accentuated their age by ceasing
to use them, now that they were no longer concerned to charm. Amongst
these was Legrandin. The disappearance of the pink in his lips and
cheeks which I had never suspected of being an artifice, gave his skin
a grey hue and his long-drawn and mournful features the sculptured and
lapidary precision of an Egyptian God. A God! More like one who had
come back from the dead. He had not only lost the courage to paint
himself but to smile, to put life into his manner and to talk with
animation. It was astonishing to see him so pale, so beaten, only
emitting a word now and then which had the insignificance of those
uttered by the dead when they are evoked. One wondered what prevented
him from being lively, talkative and entertaining, as at a séance, one
is struck by the insignificant replies of the spirit of a man who was
brilliant when he was alive, to questions susceptible of interesting
developments. And one realised that old age had substituted a pale and
tenuous phantom for the highly-coloured and alert Legrandin. Certain
people's hair had not gone white. I noticed this when the Prince de
Guermantes' old footman went to speak to his master. The ample
whiskers which stood out from his cheeks had like his neck retained
that red-pink which he could not be suspected of obtaining by dye like
the Duchesse de Guermantes. But he did not seem less old on that
account. One only felt that there are species of man like mosses and
lichens in the vegetable kingdom which do not change at the approach
of winter.

In the case of guests whose faces had remained intact, age showed
itself in other ways; they only seemed to be inconvenienced when they
had to walk; at first, something seemed wrong with their legs, later
only, one grasped that age had attached soles of lead to their feet.
Some, like the Prince of Agrigente, had been embellished by age. This
tall, thin, dispirited-looking man with hair which seemed to remain
eternally red, had, by means of a metamorphosis analogous to that of
insects, been succeeded by an old man whose red hair, like a worn-out
table-cloth had been replaced by white. His chest had assumed an
unheard of and almost warrior-like protuberance which must have
necessitated a regular bursting of the frail chrysalis I had known; a
self-conscious gravity tinged his eyes which beamed with a newly
acquired benevolence towards all and sundry. And as, in spite of the
change in him, there was still a certain resemblance between the
vigorous prince of now and the portrait my memory preserved, I was
filled with admiration of the recreative power of Time which, while
respecting the unity of the being and the laws of life, finds means of
thus altering appearance and of introducing bold contrasts in two
successive aspects of the same individual. Many people could be
immediately identified but like rather bad portraits of themselves in
which an unconscientious and malevolent artist had hardened the
features of one, taken away the freshness of complexion or slight-ness
of figure of another and darkened the look of a third. Comparing
these images with those retained by my memory, I liked less those
displayed to me now, in the same way as we dislike and refuse the
photograph of a friend because we don't consider it a pleasant
likeness. I should have liked to say to each one of them who showed me
his portrait: "No, not that one, it doesn't do you justice, it isn't
you." I should not have ventured to add: "Instead of your beautiful
straight nose you have now got the hooked nose of your father"; it
was, in fact, a new familial nose. In short, the artist Time had
produced all these models in such a way as to be recognisable without
being likenesses, not because he had flattered but because he had aged
them. That particular artist works very slowly. Thus the replica of
the face of Odette, a barely outlined sketch of which I perceived in
that of Gilberte on the day I first saw Bergotte, had been worked by
time into the most perfect resemblance (as will be seen shortly) like
painters who keep a work a long time and add to it year by year. In
several cases I recognised not only the people themselves but
themselves as they used to be, like Ski, for instance, who was no more
changed than a dried flower or fruit, a type of those amateur
"celibates of art" who remain ineffectual and unfulfilled in their old
age. Ski had, in thus remaining an incomplete experiment, confirmed my
theories about art. Others similarly affected were in no sense
amateurs; they were society people interested in nothing, whom age had
not ripened and if it had drawn a curve of wrinkles round their faces
and given them an arch of white hair, they yet remained chubby and
retained the sprightliness of eighteen. They were not old men but
extremely faded young men of eighteen. Little would have been needed
to efface the withering effects of years, and death would have had no
more trouble in giving youth back to their faces than is needed to
restore a slightly soiled portrait to its original brightness. I
reflected also on the illusion which dupes us into crediting an aged
celebrity with virtue, justice and loveliness of soul, my feeling
being that such famous people, forty years earlier, had been terrible
young men and that there was no reason to suppose that they were not
just as vain, cunning, self-sufficient and tricky now.

Yet in complete contrast with these last I was surprised when I
conversed with men and women who were formerly unbearable, to discover
that they had almost entirely lost their defects, whether because life
had disappointed or satisfied their ambitions and thus freed them from
presumption or from bitterness. A rich marriage which makes both
effort and ostentation unnecessary, perhaps too the influence of a
wife, a slowly-acquired sense of values other than those in which
light-headed youth exclusively believes had enlarged their characters
and brought out their qualities. With age such individuals seemed to
have acquired a different personality like trees which seem to assume
a new character with their autumnal tints. In their case age
manifested itself as a form of morality they used not to possess, in
the case of others it was physical in character and so new to me that
a particular person such as Mme. de Souvré, for instance, seemed
simultaneously familiar and a stranger. A stranger for I could not
believe it was she and, in responding to her bow, I could not help
letting her notice my mental effort to establish which of three or
four people (of whom Mme. de Souvré was not one) I was bowing to with a
warmth which must have astonished her for, in fear of being too
distant if she were an intimate friend, I had made up for the
uncertainty of my recognition by the warmth of my smiling handshake.
On the other hand, her new aspect was familiar to me. It was one I
had, in the course of my life, often observed in stout, elderly women
without then suspecting that, many years before, they might have
resembled Mme. de Souvré. So different was this aspect from the one I
had known in the past that I might have thought her a character in a
fairy story which first appears as a young girl, then as a stout
matron and finally, no doubt, turns into a tottering, bowbacked old
woman. She looked like an exhausted swimmer far from shore who
painfully manages to keep her head above the waves of time which were
submerging her. After looking long at her irresolute face, wavering
like a treacherous memory which cannot retain former appearances, I
succeeded somehow in recovering something by indulging in a little
game of eliminating the squares and hexagons which age had affixed to
those cheeks. But it was by no means always geometrical figures that
it affixed to the faces of the women. In the Duchesse de Guermantes'
cheeks which had remained remarkably unchanged though they now seemed
compounded of nougat, I distinguished a trace of verdigris, a tiny bit
of crushed shell and a fleshiness difficult to define because it was
slighter than a mistletoe-berry and less transparent than a glass
bead.

Some men walked lame and one knew it was not on account of a carriage
accident but of a stroke and that they had, as people say, one foot in
the grave. This was gaping for half-paralysed women like Mme. de
Franquetot who seemed to be unable to pull away their raiment caught
in the stones of the vault, as though they could not recover their
footing, with their heads held low, their bodies bent into a curve
like the one between life and death they were now descending to their
final extinction. Nothing could resist the movement of the parabola
which was carrying them off, trying tremblingly to rise, their
quivering fingers failed them. Certain faces under the hood of their
white hair wore the rigidity, the sealed eyelids of those about to
die, their constantly moving lips seemed to be mumbling the prayer of
the dying.

If a face retained its linear form, white hair replacing blond or
black sufficed to make it look like that of another. Theatrical
costumiers know that a powdered wig so dis-guises a person as to make
him unrecognisable. The young Marquis de Beausergent whom I had met in
Mme. de Cambremer's box when he was a sub-lieutenant on the day when
Mme. de Guermantes was in her sister's box, still had perfectly
regular features, even more so, because the physiological rigidity of
arteriosclerosis exaggerated the impassive physiognomy of the dandy
and gave his features the intense and almost grimacing immobility of a
study by Mantegna or Michael Angelo. His formerly brick-red skin had
become gravely pale; silver hair, slight stoutness, Doge-like dignity
and a chronic fatigue which gave him a constant longing for sleep,
combined to produce a new and impressive majesty. A rectangle of white
beard had replaced a similar rectangle of blond so perfectly that,
noticing that my former sub-lieutenant now had five stripes, my first
thought was to congratulate him not on having been promoted Colonel
but on being one so completely that he seemed to have borrowed not
only the uniform but also the solemn and serious appearance of his
father the Colonel. In the case of another man, a white beard had
succeeded a blond one but as his face had remained gay, smiling and
youthful, it made him appear redder and more active and by increasing
the brightness of his eyes, gave this worldling who had remained young
the inspired appearance of a prophet. The transformation which white
hair and other elements had effected, particularly in women, would
have claimed my attention less if it had involved a change of colour
only, for that may charm the eyes whereas a change of personality
troubles the mind. Actually to recognise someone, more still, to
identify him you have been unable to recognise, is to think two
contradictory things under a single denomination, it is the same as
saying that he who was here, the being we recall, is here no longer
and that he who is here is one we never knew, that means piercing a
mystery almost as troubling as that of death of which it is indeed
the preface and the herald. For I knew what these changes meant and
what they preluded and so that whitening of the women's hair in
addition to so many other changes deeply moved me. Somebody mentioned
a name and I was stupefied to know it applied at one and the same time
to my former blonde dance-partner and to the stout elderly lady who
moved ponderously past me. Except for a certain pinkness of complexion
their name was perhaps the only thing in common between these two
women who differed so much—the one in my memory and this one at the
Guermantes' reception—the young _ingénue_ and the theatrical dowager.
That my dancer had managed to annex that huge carcass, that she had
succeeded in slowing down her cumbersome movements like a metronome,
that all she should have preserved of her youth were her cheeks,
fuller certainly but freckled as ever, that for the erstwhile dainty
blonde there should have been substituted this old pot-bellied
Marshal, life must have achieved more destruction and reconstruction
than is needed to replace a spire by a dome and when one remembered
that the operation had been carried out not upon inert matter but upon
flesh which only changes insensibly, the overwhelming contrast between
this apparition and the being I remembered removed her into a past
which, rather than remote, was almost incredible. It was difficult to
reunite the two aspects, to think of the two creatures under the same
denomination; for in the same way that one has difficulty in realising
that a dead body was alive or that he who was alive is dead to-day, it
is almost as difficult, and the difficulty is the same (for the
annihilation of youth, the destruction of a personality full of
strength and vitality is the beginning of a void), to conceive that
she who was young is old, when the aspect of this old woman juxtaposed
on that of the young one seems so completely to exclude it that in
turn it is the old woman, then the young one, then again the old one
which appear to you as in a dream and one cannot believe that this was
ever that, that the matter of that one is herself which had not
escaped elsewhere, but thanks to the adroit manipulations of time, had
become this one, that the same matter has never left the same body—if
one did not have the name as an indication as well as the affirmative
testimony of friends to which the copperas, erstwhile exiguous between
the gold of the wheat ears to-day buried beneath the snow, alone gives
an appearance of credibility. One was terrified on considering the
periods which must have passed since such a revolution had been
accomplished in the geology of the human countenance, to observe the
erosions that had taken place beside the nose, the immense deposits on
the cheeks which enveloped the face with their opaque and refractory
mass. I had always thought of our own individuality at a given moment
in time as a polypus whose eye, an independent organism, although
associated with it, winks at a scatter of dust without orders from the
mind, still more, whose intestines are infected by an obscure parasite
without the intelligence being aware of it, and similarly of the soul
as a series of selves juxtaposed in the course of life but distinct
from each other which would die in turn or take turn about like those
different selves which alternately took possession of me at Combray
when evening came. But I had also observed that these moral cellules
which constitute a being are more durable than itself. I had seen the
vices and the bravery of the Guermantes return in Saint-Loup, as I
had seen the strange and swift defects and then the loyal semitism of
Swann. I could see it again in Bloch. After he had lost his father the
idea, besides the strong familial sentiment which often exists in
Jewish families, that his father was superior to everyone, had given
the form of a cult to his love for him. He could not bear losing him
and had shut himself up for nearly a year in a sanatorium. He had
replied to my condolences in a deeply felt but almost haughty tone, so
enviable did he consider me for having been acquainted with that
distinguished man whose carriage and pair he would have gladly given
to a historical museum. And at his family table (for contrary to what
the Duchesse de Guermantes believed, he was married) the same anger
which animated M. Bloch senior against M. Nissim Bernard animated
Bloch against his father-in-law. He made the same attacks on him. In
the same way when I listened to the talk of Cottard, Brichot and so
many others I had felt that by culture and fashion a single undulation
propagates identical modes of speech and thought in the whole expanse
of space, and in the same way, throughout the duration of time, great
fundamental currents raise from the depths of the ages the same
angers, the same sorrows, the same boasts, the same manias, throughout
superimposed generations, each section accepting the criteria of
various levels of the same series and reproducing, like shadows upon
successive screens, pictures similar to though often less
insignificant than that which brought Bloch and his father-in-law, M.
Bloch senior and M. Nissim Bernard and others I never knew, to blows.

There were men I knew there with whose relations I was also acquainted
without ever realising that they had a feature-in common; in admiring
the white-haired old hermit into whom Legrandin had changed, I
suddenly observed, I could say discovered with a zoologist's
satisfaction, in his ironed-out cheeks, the same construction as in
those of his young nephew, Léonor de Cambremer, who-however, did not
seem to bear any resemblance to him; to this preliminary common
feature I added another I had not until now remarked, then others,
none of which composed the synthesis his youthfulness ordinarily
offered me, so that soon I had a sort of caricature of him, deeper and
more lifelike than a literal resemblance would have been; his uncle
now seemed to me young Cambremer who, for fun, had assumed the
appearance of the old man he would eventually be, so completely indeed
that it was not only what youth of the past had become but what youth
of to-day would change into that had given me such an intensified
sense of Time.

Women tried to keep touch with the particular charm which had most
distinguished them but the fresh matter that time had added to their
faces would not permit of it. The features moulded by beauty, having
disappeared in roost cases, they tried to construct another one with
the relics. By displacing the centre of perspective if not of gravity
in the face and recomposing its features to accord with the new
character, they began building up a new sort of beauty at fifty as a
man takes up a new profession late in life or as soil no longer good
for the vine is used to produce beetroot. This caused a new youth to
flower round the new features. But those who had been too beautiful or
too ugly could not accommodate themselves to these transformations.
The former modelled like marble on definitive lines which cannot be
changed, crumbled away like a statue, the latter who had some facial
defect had even an advantage over them. To start with it was only they
whom one immediately recognised. One knew there were not two mouths in
Paris like theirs which enabled me to distinguish them in the course
of a party at which I had recognised nobody. And they did not even
appear to have aged. Age is human and being monsters they had no more
changed than whales. There were other men and women who did not seem
to have aged; their outlines were as slim, their faces as young as
ever. But, if one approached them closely so as to talk to them, the
face with its smooth skin and delicate contours appeared different and
as happens when one examines a vegetable body under a microscope,
watery or ensanguined spots exuded. I observed sundry greasy marks on
skin I had believed to be smooth which gave me a feeling of disgust.
The outline did not resist this enlargement; at a close view that of
the nose had been deflected and rounded, had been invaded by the same
oily patches as the rest of the face and when it met the eyes, the
latter disappeared into pockets which destroyed the resemblance with
the former face one thought one had rediscovered. Thus those guests
who had an appearance of youth at a distance, became old as one got
near to them and could observe the enlargement and distribution of the
facial planes. In fact their age seemed to depend upon the spectator
so placing himself as to envisage them as young by observing them only
at a distance which, deprived of the glass supplied to a long-sighted
person by an optician, diminishes the object; their age, like the
presence of infusoria in a glass of water, was brought about less by
the progress of years than by the scale of enlargement in the
observer's vision.

In general the amount of white hair was an index of depth in time like
mountain summits which appear to be on the same level as others until
the brilliance of their snowy whiteness reveals their height above
them. And even that could not always be said, especially about women.
Thus the Princesse de Guermantes' locks, when they were grey, had the
brilliance of silvery silk round her protuberant brow but now having
determined to become white seemed to be made of wool and stuffing and
resembled soiled snow. It also occurred that blonde dancing girls had
not merely annexed, together with their white hair, the friendship of
duchesses they had not previously known, but having formerly done
nothing but dance, art had touched them with its grace. And, like
those illustrious ladies in the eighteenth century who became
religious, they lived in flats full of cubist paintings, with a cubist
painter working only for them and they living only for him.

Old men whose features had changed attempted to fix on them
permanently the fugitive expressions adopted for a pose, thinking they
would secure a better appearance or palliate its defects; they seemed
to have become unchangeable snapshots of themselves.

All these people had taken so much time to make up their disguises
that, as a rule, they escaped the notice of those who lived with them,
indeed often a reprieve was granted them and, during the interval,
they had been able to remain themselves until quite late in life. But
this deferred disguise was then accomplished more quickly and was, in
any case, inevitable. Thus I had always known Mme. X— charming and erect
and for long she remained so, too long indeed, for like a person who
must not forget to put on her Turkish disguise before dark, she had
waited till the last moment and precipitately transformed herself into
the old Turkish lady her mother formerly resembled.


At the party I discovered one of my early friends whom I had formerly
seen nearly every day during ten years. Someone reintroduced us to
each other. As I went near to him, he said with a voice I well
remembered: "What a joy for me after so many years!" but what a
surprise for me! His voice seemed to be proceeding from a perfected
phonograph for though it was that of my friend, it issued from a great
greyish man whom I did not know and the voice of my old comrade seemed
to have been housed in this fat old fellow by means of a mechanical
trick. Yet I knew that it was he, the person who introduced us after
all that time not being the kind to play pranks. He declared that I
had not changed by which I grasped that he did not think he had. Then
I looked at him again and except that he had got so fat, he had kept a
good deal of his former personality. Nevertheless, I found it
impossible to realise it and I tried to recall him. In his youth he
had blue eyes that were always smiling and moving, apparently
searching for something I was unaware of, which may have been
disinterested truth, perhaps pursued in perpetual doubt with a boy's
fugitive respect for family friends. Having become an influential
politician, capable and despotic, those blue eyes which had never
succeeded in finding what they were after had become immobilised and
this gave them a sharp expression like a frowning-eye-brow, while
gaiety, unconsciousness and innocence had changed into design and
disingenuousness. Emphatically he had changed into another
person—then suddenly, in reply to a word of mine, he burst into
laughter, the jolly familiar laugh of former days which suited the
perpetual gay mobility of his glance. Musical fanatics hold that Z's
music orchestrated by X becomes something absolutely different. These
are shades which ordinary people cannot grasp, but the wild stifled
laugh of a child beneath an eye pointed like a well-sharpened blue
pencil, though a little on one side, is something more than a
difference in orchestration. When his laughter ceased I would have
liked to reconstruct my friend, but like Ulysses in the Odyssey,
throwing himself upon the body of his dead mother, like a medium
vainly trying to obtain from an apparition a reply which shall
identify it, like a visitor to an electrical exhibition who cannot
accept the voice from a phonograph as the spontaneous utterance of a
human being, I ceased to recognise my friend.

It is necessary, however, to make this reserve that the beat of time
itself can in certain cases be accelerated or slowed down. Four or
five years before, I had by chance, met in the street Vicomtesse de
St. Fiacre (daughter-in-law of the Guermantes' friend). Her sculptured
features had seemed to assure her eternal youth and indeed she still
was young. But now, in spite of her smiles and greetings, I failed to
recognise her in a lady whose features had so gone to pieces that the
outline of her face could not be restored. What had happened was that
for three years she had been taking cocaine and other drugs. Her eyes
deeply and darkly rimmed were haggard, her mouth had a strange twitch.
She had, it seems, got up for this reception though she was in the
habit of remaining in bed or on a sofa for months. Time has these
express and special trains which bring about premature old age but on
a parallel line return trains circulate which are almost as rapid. I
took M. de Courgivaux for his son; he looked younger and though he
must have been past fifty, appeared to be no more than thirty. He had
found an intelligent doctor, had avoided alcohol and salt and so had
become thirty again, hardly even that because he had had his hair cut
that morning.

A curious thing is that the phenomenon of age seemed in its modalities
to take note of certain social customs. Great gentlemen who had been
in the habit of wearing the plainest alpaca and old straw hats which a
bourgeois would not have put on his head, had aged in the same way as
the gardeners and peasants in the midst of whom they had lived. Their
cheeks were stained brown inl patches and their faces had grown yellow
and had sunk flat like a book. And I thought, too, of those who were
not there because they could not be, of how their secretary, in an
attempt to give them the illusion of survival, would excuse them by
one of those telegrams the Princess received on occasion from such as
had been ill or dying for years, who can rise no more nor even move
and, surrounded by frivolous or assiduous visitors, the former
attracted like inquisitive tourists, the latter by the faith of
pilgrims, lie, with closed eyes clasping their breviary, their
bedclothes partly thrown back like a mortuary shroud, chiselled into a
skeleton beneath the pale, distended skin like marble on a tomb.

Certainly, some women were recognisable because their faces had
remained almost the same and they wore their grey hair to harmonise
with the season like autumn leaves. But in others and in some men
their identity was so impossible to establish—for instance between
the dark voluptuary one remembered and the old monk of now—that their
transformation made one think, rather than of the actor's art, of that
of the amazing mimic of whom Fregoli remains the prototype. That old
woman yonder is about to weep because she knows that the indefinable
and melancholy smile which was formerly her charm cannot even
irradiate the surface of the mask old age has affixed to her. Now,
discouraged from attempts to please she more adroitly resigns herself
to using it as though it were a theatrical mask to make people laugh.
But in the case of nearly all the women there was no limit to their
efforts to fight against age; they held the mirror of their faces
towards beauty, vanishing like a setting sun whose last rays they
passionately long to retain. Some sought to smooth out, to extend the
white surface, renouncing the piquancy of menaced dimples, quelling
the resistance of a smile doomed and disarmed, while others, realising
that their beauty had finally departed, took refuge in expression, as
one compensates the loss of the voice by the art of diction, and hung
on to a pout, to a smirk, to a pensive gaze, or to a smile to which
muscular inco-ordination gave the appearance of weeping.

A stout lady bade me good afternoon during the moment that these
varied thoughts were pressing upon my mind. For an instant I
hesitated to reply to her, fearing she might be taking me for someone
else, then her confidence making me think the contrary and fearing she
was someone with whom I might at one time have been intimate, I
exaggerated the affability of my smile while my gaze still sought in
her features the name I could not find. Thus an uncertain candidate
for matriculation searches the face of the examiner for the answer he
would be wiser to seek in his own memory. So I smiled and stared at
the features of the stout lady. They appeared to be those of Mme. de
Forcheville and my smile became tinged with respect and my indecision
began to cease when a second later, the stout lady said: "You were
taking me for mamma, I know I'm getting to look exactly like her," and
I recognised Gilberte.

Moreover, even among men who had been subjected to only a slight
change, whose moustaches only had become white, one felt that the
change was not purely material. One saw them as through a coloured
mist or glass which affected their facial aspect with a sort of
fogginess and revealed what they allowed one to observe as if it were
life-size though in reality it was far away, not in the sense of
space, but, fundamentally, like being on another shore whence they had
as much trouble in recognising us as we them. Perhaps Mme. de
Forcheville who looked to me as though she had been injected with
paraffin which swells the skin and prevents it from sagging, was
unique in presenting the appearance of a courtesan of an earlier
period who had been embalmed for eternity. "You took me for my
mother," Gilberte had said and it was true. For that matter it was a
compliment to the daughter. Moreover, it was not only in the
last-named that familiar features had reappeared, as invisible till
then in her face as the inturned parts of a seed-pod, the eventual
opening out of which would never be suspected. Thus the enormous
maternal bridge in one as in the other transformed towards the fifties
a nose till then inflexibly straight. In the case of another daughter
of a banker, her complexion of flower-like freshness had become
copper-coloured through the reflection of the gold which the father
had so freely manipulated. Some even ended by resembling the quarter
where they lived, bearing upon their countenances a sort of reflection
of the Rue de l'Arcade or the Avenue du Bois or the Rue de l'Elysée.
But they reproduced more than anything else the features of their
parents.

One starts with the idea that people have remained the same and one
discovers that they have got old. But if one starts by thinking them
old, one does not find them so bad. In Odette's case it was not merely
that; her appearance, when one knew her age and expected her to be an
old woman seemed a more miraculous challenge to the laws of chronology
than the conservation of radium to those of nature. If I had not
recognised her at first, it was not because she had changed but
because she had not. Having realised in the course of the last hour
what additions time made to people and the subtraction that was needed
to rediscover their personalities, I rapidly added to the old Odette
the number of years which had passed over her with the result that I
found someone before my eyes who could not possibly be her precisely
because this someone was the Odette of former days.

Which was the effect of paint and which of dye? With her flat golden
hair arranged at the back like the ruffled chignon of a doll
surmounting a face with a doll-like expression of surprise and
superimposed upon that an equally flat sailor hat of straw of the
period of the 1878 Exhibition (in which she certainly had figured and
if she had then been as old as now, she would have been one of its
choicest features) she looked as though she were a young woman playing
a part in a Christmas revue featuring the Exhibition of 1878.

Close to us, a minister of the pre-Boulangist period who had again
become a minister, passed by, bowing right and left to ladies with a
tremulous and distant smile, as though imprisoned in the past like a
little phantom figure manipulated by an unseen hand which had reduced
his size and changed his substance so that he looked like a
pumice-stone reproduction of himself. This former Prime Minister, now
cultivated by the Faubourg Saint-Germain, had once been the object of
criminal proceedings and had been execrated by society and by the
populace. But thanks to the renewal of the social elements in both
groupings and the extinction of individual passions, memories
disappear, no one remembered and he was honoured. There is no disgrace
great enough to make a man lose heart if he bears in mind that at the
end of a certain number of years our buried mistakes will be but
invisible dust upon which nature's flowers will smile peacefully. The
individual momentarily under a cloud, through the equilibrium brought
about by Time between the new and the old social strata, will easily
assert his authority over them and be the object of their deference
and admiration. Only, this is Time's business; and at the moment of
his troubles, he was inconsolable because the young milk-maid opposite
had heard the crowd call him a swindler and shake their fists at him
when he was in the soup. The young milk-maid does not see things on
the plane of time and is unaware that men to whom the morning paper
offers the incense of flattery were yesterday of bad repute and that
the man who just now escaped prison, while perhaps, he was thinking of
that young milk-maid, and who had not the humility to utter
conciliatory words which might have secured him sympathy, will one day
be glorified by the press and sought after by duchesses. Time also
heals family quarrels. At the Princesse de Guermantes' there was a
couple, each of whom had had an uncle; these two uncles were not
content merely to fight a duel but each had sent the other his
concierge or his butler as his representative for the occasion, so as
to humiliate him by showing he was not fit to be treated as a
gentleman. Such tales were asleep in the papers of thirty years ago
and nobody knew anything about them. Thus the Princesse de Guermantes'
salon illuminated and forgetful, flowered like a peaceful cemetery.
There Time had not only disintegrated those of the past, it had made
possible and created new associations.

To return to our politician. In spite of the change in his physical
substance, a change as complete as the moral transformation he now
roused in the public, in a word, in spite of the many years gone by
since he was Prime Minister, he had become a Minister again. The
present Prime Minister had given the one of forty years ago a post in
the new Cabinet much as theatrical managers entrust a part to one of
their earlier women associates who has been long in retirement but
whom they consider more capable than younger ones of performing it
with delicacy, of whose embarrassed situation they are, moreover,
aware and who, at nearly eighty, still shows that age has scarcely
impaired an artistic integrity which amazes the public within a few
days of her death.

Mme. de Forcheville presented an appearance so miraculous that one
would have said not that she had grown young, but that, with all her
carmine and rouge, she had reflowered. Even more than an incarnation
of the Universal Exhibition of 1878, she could have been the chief
attraction of a horticultural exhibition to-day. To me, at all events,
she did not seem to be saying: "I am the Exhibition of 1878" but "I am
the _Allée des Acacias_ of 1892." To me it was as though she were
still part of it. And, because she had not changed, she seemed hardly
to be living, she was like a sterilised rose. When I wished her good
afternoon, she tried for a moment vainly to put a name to my face. I
gave it her and at once, thanks to its evocative magic, I ceased to
wear the appearance of Arbousier or of Kangouroo apparently bestowed
on me by age, and she began talking to me with that peculiar voice,
applauded in the smaller theatres, which enchanted people so much when
they were invited to meet her at lunch and discovered that they could
have as much as they liked of it with every word she uttered. That
voice had retained the same futile cordiality, the same slight English
accent. And yet, just as her eyes seemed to be looking at me from a
distant shore, her voice was sad, almost appealing like that of the
dead in the Odyssey. Odette ought to have gone on acting. I paid her a
compliment on her youth. She answered: "You are charming, my dear,
thanks." And as it was difficult for her to express any sentiment,
however sincere, without revealing her anxiety to be fashionable, she
repeated several times: "Thanks so much, thanks so much." And I, who
had formerly made long journeys only to catch a glimpse of her in the
Bois, who, when first I went to her house, had listened to the words
that fell from her lips as though they were pearls, found the moments
now spent with her interminable; I knew not what to say and I left
her. Alas, she was not always to remain thusy Less than three years
afterwards, I was to see her at an evening party given by Gilberte,
not fallen into second childhood but somewhat decayed, no longer able
to hide under a mask-like face what she was thinking—thinking is
saying too much—what she was feeling, moving her head about, pursing
her lips, shaking her shoulders at everything she felt, like a drunken
man or a child or like certain inspired poets who, unconscious of
their surroundings, compose their poems when they are in company or at
table, and, to the alarm of their astonished hostess, knit their brows
and make grimaces. Mme. de Forcheville's feelings—except the one that
brought her to Gilberte's party, tenderness for her beloved child, her
pride in so brilliant an entertainment, a pride which could not veil
the mother's melancholy that she no longer counted—these feelings
were never happy and were inspired by her perpetual self-defence
against rudeness meted out to her, the timid defence of a child. One
constantly heard people say: "I don't know if Mme. de Forcheville
recognises me, perhaps I ought to be introduced over again." "You can
dispense with that," (someone replied at the top of his voice neither
knowing nor caring that Gilberte's mother could hear every word) "you
won't get any fun out of it. Leave her alone. She's a bit daft."
Furtively, Mme. de Forcheville cast a glance from her still beautiful
eyes at the insulting speakers, then quickly looked away, for fear of
seeming to have heard, while, bowing beneath the blow, she restrained
her weak resentment with quivering head and heaving breast, and
glanced towards another equally ruthless guest. Nor did she seem too
greatly overwhelmed for she had been ailing several days and had
hinted to her daughter to postpone the party which the latter had
refused. Mme. de Forcheville did not love her the less; the presence
of the Duchesses, the admiration the company manifested for the new
mansion, flooded her heart with joy, and when the Marquise de Sebran
was announced, this lady representing, with much effort, the highest
peak of fashion, Mme. de Forcheville felt she had been a good and
far-seeing mother and that her maternal task had been accomplished. A
fresh lot of contemptuous guests brought on another solitary colloquy
if a mute language only expressed by gesticulation can be called
talking. Beautiful still, she had become as never previously, an
object of infinite sympathy for now the whole world betrayed her who
had once betrayed Swann and the rest; now that the rôles were
reversed, she had become too weak to defend herself against men. And
soon she would be unable to defend herself against death. After that
anticipation, let us go back three years, to the reception at the
Prince de Guermantes'.

Bloch, having asked me to introduce him to the master of the house I
did not make a shadow of difficulty. The embarrassment I had felt the
first time at the Prince de Guermantes' evening party seemed natural
enough then but now it seemed as simple a matter to introduce one of
his guests to him as to bring someone to his house who had not been
invited. Was this because, since those far distant days, I had become
an intimate though a long-forgotten intimate, of a society in which I
was once a stranger or was it because, not being a true man of the
world, what causes that type embarrassment had no existence for me,
now my shyness had passed? Or, again, was it because these people had
little by little shed their first, their second and their third
fictitious aspects in my presence and that I sensed, under the
Prince's disdainful manner, a human longing to know people, to make
the acquaintance of those even whom he affected to despise? Finally,
was it because the Prince had changed like those others, arrogant in
their youth and in their maturity, whom old age had softened (the more
so that they had for long known by sight men against whose antecedents
they had reacted and whom they now knew to be on good terms with their
own acquaintances) especially if old age is assisted by virtues or
vices which broaden social relationships or by a social revolution
which causes a political conversion such as the Prince's to
Dreyfusism?

Bloch interrogated me as I formerly did others when I first entered
society, and as I still did, about people I formerly knew socially and
who were now as far away, as isolated, as those Combray folk I had
often wanted to place. But Combray was so distinct from and impossible
to reconcile with the outer world that it was like a piece of a
jig-saw puzzle that could not be fitted into the map of France. "Then
I can't have any idea of what the Prince de Guermantes used to be like
from my knowledge of Swann or M. de Charlus?" Bloch asked. For some
time I used to borrow his way of putting things and now he often
imitated mine. "Not the least." "But how did they actually differ?"
"You would have had to hear them talk together to grasp it. Now Swann
is dead and M. de Charlus is not far from it. But the difference was
enormous." And while Bloch's eye gleamed as he thought of what the
conversation of these marvellous people must have been, I was thinking
that I had exaggerated my pleasure in their society, having never got
any until I was alone and could differentiate them in my imagination.
Did Bloch realise this? "Perhaps you've coloured it all a bit too
much," he remarked. "Look at our hostess, the Princesse de Guermantes,
I know she's no longer young but, after all, it isn't so very long ago
that you spoke of her incomparable charm and her marvellous beauty.
Certainly I admit she has the grand manner and she also has the
extraordinary eyes you described to me, but I don't see that she's so
wonderful as all that. Obviously she's high-bred but still...." I had
to explain to Bloch that we weren't alluding to the same person. The
Princesse de Guermantes was dead and the Prince, ruined by the German
defeat, had married ex-Mme. Verdurin whom Bloch had not recognised.
"You're mistaken, I've looked up the Gotha of this year," Bloch
naïvely confessed, "and I found that the Prince de Guermantes was
living in this very mansion and had married someone of great
importance. Wait a minute, now I've got it, Sidonie, Duchesse de
Duras, _née_ des Beaux." This was a fact, for Mme. Verdurin, shortly
after her husband's death married the old ruined Duc de Duras, who
thus made her the Prince de Guermantes' cousin and died after they had
been married two years. He had supplied a very useful means of
transition for Mme. Verdurin who by a third marriage had become
Princesse de Guermantes and now occupied a great position in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain which would have much astonished Combray where
the ladies of the Rue de l'Oiseau, Mme. Goupil's daughter and Mme.
Sazerat's daughter-in-law had said with a laugh, years before Mme.
Verdurin became Princesse de Guermantes: "The Duchesse de Duras!" as
though Mme. Verdurin were playing a part at the theatre. The caste
principle maintained that she should die Mme. Verdurin and that the
title which, in their eyes, could never confer any new social
prestige, merely produced the bad effect of getting herself "talked
about"; that expression which in all social categories is applied to a
woman who has a lover, was also applied in the Faubourg Saint-Germain
to people who published books and in the Combray bourgeoisie to those
who make marriages which for one reason or another are considered
unsuitable. When Mme. Verdurin married the Prince de Guermantes they
must have said he was a sham Guermantes, a swindler. For myself, the
realisation that a Princesse de Guermantes still existed, who had
nothing to do with her who had so much charmed me and who was now no
more, whom death had left defenceless, was intensely saddening as it
was to witness the objects once owned by Princesse Hedwige such as her
Château and everything else, pass to another. Succession to a name is
sad like all successions and seems like an usurpation; and the
uninterrupted stream of new Princesses de Guermantes would flow until
the millennium, the name held from age to age by different women would
always be that of one living Princesse de Guermantes, a name that
ignored death, that was indifferent to change and heartaches and which
would close over those who had worn it like the sea in its serene and
immemorial placidity.

But, in contradiction to that permanence, the former _habitués_
asserted that society had completely changed, that people were now
received who in their day would never have been and that, as one says,
was "true and not true". It was not true because they were not taking
the curve of time into consideration, the result of which is that the
present generation see the new people at their point of arrival
whereas those of the past saw them at their point of departure. And
when the latter entered society, there were new arrivals whose point
of departure was remembered by others. One generation brings about a
change while it took the bourgeois name of a Colbert centuries to
become noble. On the other hand, it was true, for if the social
position of people changes, the most ineradicable ideas and customs
(as also fortunes, marriages and national hatreds) change also,
amongst them even that of only associating with fashionable people.
Not only does snobbishness change its form but it might be forgotten
like the war and Radicals and Jews be admitted to the Jockey Club.

Certainly even the exterior change in faces I had known was only the
symbol of an internal change effected day by day. Perhaps these people
continued doing the same things every day but the idea they had about
these things and about the people they associated with having a little
life in it, resulted after some years, in those things and people
being different under the same names and it would have been strange if
the faces of the latter had not changed.

If in these periods of twenty years, the conglomerates of coteries had
been demolished and reconstructed to suit new stars, themselves
destined to disappear and to reappear, crystallisations and dispersals
followed by new crystallisations had taken place in people's souls. If
the Duchesse de Guermantes had been many people to me, such and such a
person had been a favourite of Mme. de Guermantes or of Mme. Swann at a
period preceding the Dreyfus Affair, and a fanatic or imbecile
afterwards because the Dreyfus Affair had changed their social
valuations and regrouped people round parties which had since been
unmade and remade. Time serves us powerfully by adding its influence
to purely intellectual affinities; it is the passage of time that
causes us to forget our antipathies, our contempts, and the very
causes which gave birth to them. If anyone had formerly analysed the
modish elegance of young Mme. Léonor de Cambremer, he would have
discovered that she was the niece of the shopkeeper in our courtyard,
to wit, Jupien, and that what had especially added to her prestige was
that her father procured men for M. de Charlus. Yet, in combination,
all this had produced an effect of brilliance, the now distant causes
being unknown to most of the newcomers in society and forgotten by
those who had been aware of them and valued to-day's effulgence more
highly than yesterday's disgrace, for we always take a name at its
present-day valuation. So the interest of these social transformations
was that they, too, were an effect of lost time and a phenomenon of
memory.

Amongst the present company, there was a man of considerable
importance who in a recent notorious trial, had given evidence
depending for its value on his high moral probity, in deference to
which Judge and Counsel had unanimously bowed and the conviction of
two people had been brought about. There was a general movement of
interest and respect when he entered. It was Morel. I was perhaps the
only one present who knew that he had first been kept by M. de
Charlus, then by Saint-Loup and simultaneously by a friend of
Saint-Loup. In spite of our common recollections, he wished me good
day with cordiality though with a certain reserve. He recalled the
time when we met at Balbec and those memories represented for him the
beauty and melancholy of youth.

But there were people whom I failed to recognise because I had not
known them, for time had exercised its chemistry on the composition of
society as it had upon people themselves. The milieu, the specific
nature of which was defined by affinities which attracted to it the
great princely names of Europe and by the repulsion which separated
from it any element which was not aristocratic, where I had found a
material refuge for that name of Guermantes to which it lent its
ultimate reality, had itself been subjected to a profound modification
in the essential constitution which I had believed stable. The
presence of people whom I had seen in quite other social groupings and
who, it had seemed to me, could never penetrate into this one,
astonished me less than the intimate familiarity with which they were
received and called by their first names; a certain _ensemble_ of
aristocratic prejudices, of snobbery which until recently
automatically protected the name of Guermantes from everything that
did not harmonise with it, had ceased to function.

Certain foreigners of distinction, who, when I made my _début_ in
society, gave grand dinner-parties to which they only invited the
Princesse de Guermantes, the Duchesse de Guermantes and the Princesse
de Parme, and when they went to those ladies' houses were accorded the
place of honour, passing for what was most illustrious in the society
of the time, which perhaps they were, had disappeared without leaving
a trace. Were they on a diplomatic mission or were they remaining at
home? Perhaps a scandal, a suicide, a revolution had prevented their
return to society or were they perhaps German? Anyhow, their name only
derived its lustre from their former position and was no longer borne
by anyone: people did not even know to whom I was alluding and if I
tried to spell out their names believed they were "rastaquouères".

The best friends of those who, according to the old social code, ought
not to have been there, were to my great astonishment, extremely
well-born people who only bothered to come to the Princesse de
Guermantes' for their new acquaintances' sake. What most characterised
this new society was its prodigious aptitude for breaking up class
distinctions.

The springs of a machine which had been strained were bent or broken
and no longer worked, a thousand strange bodies penetrated it,
deprived it of its homogeneity, its distinction, its colour. The
Faubourg Saint-Germain, like a senile duchesse, responded with timid
smiles to the insolent servants who invaded its drawing-rooms, drank
its orangeade and introduced their mistresses to it. Again I had that
sense of time having drained away, of the annihilation of part of my
vanished past presented to me less vitally by the destruction of this
coherent unity (which the Guermantes' salon had been) of elements
whose presence, recurrence and co-ordination were explained by a
thousand shades of meaning, by a thousand reasons, than by the fact
that the consciousness of those shades and meanings which caused one
who was present to be there because he belonged there, because he was
there by right while another who elbowed him was a suspicious
newcomer, had been itself destroyed. That ignorance was not '. only
social but political and of every kind. For the memory of individuals
is not coincident with their lives and the younger ones who had never
experienced what their elders remembered, now being members of
society, very legitimately in the nobiliary sense, the beginnings of
certain people being unknown or forgotten, took them where they found
them, at the point of their elevation or fall, believing it had always
been so, that the Princesse de Guermantes and Bloch had always
occupied the highest position and that Clemenceau and Viviani had
always been Conservatives. And, as certain facts have greater historic
duration than others, the execrated memory of the Dreyfus Affair
lingered vaguely in their minds owing to what their fathers had told
them and if they were informed that Clemenceau had been a Dreyfusard
they replied: "It's not possible; you're making a mistake, he was on
the other side." Ministers with a shady past and former prostitutes
were held to be paragons of virtue. Someone having asked a young man
of good family if there had not been something equivocal in the past
of Gilberte's mother, the young aristocrat answered that, as a matter
of fact, she had, early in life, married an adventurer called Swann,
but afterwards she had married one of the most prominent men in
society, the Comte de Forcheville. Doubtless some people in that
drawing-room, the Duchesse de Guermantes for instance, would have
smiled at this statement (the denial of social qualifications to Swann
seeming preposterous to me although formerly at Combray I had believed
in common with my great-aunt, that Swann could not possibly know
princesses) and so would other women who might have been there, but
who now hardly ever went into society, the Duchesses de Montmorency,
de Mouchy, de Sagan, who had been Swann's intimate friends, though
they had never caught sight of Forcheville who was unknown in society
when they frequented it. But society as it was only existed like faces
which have changed and blonde hair now white, in the memory of people
whose numbers diminished every day. During the war Bloch gave up going
about and frequenting his former haunts where he cut a poor figure. On
the other hand, he kept on publishing works, the sophistry of which I
made a point of repudiating, so as not to be beguiled by it, but
which, nevertheless, gave young men and ladies in society the
impression of uncommon intellectual depth, even of a sort of genius.
It was only after making a complete break between his earlier and his
present worldliness that he had entered on a new phase of his life and
presented the appearance of a famous and distinguished man in a
reconstructed society. Young men were, of course, unaware of his early
beginnings in society and the few names he recalled were those of
former friends of Saint-Loup which gave a sort of retrospective and
undefined elasticity to his present prestige. In any case, he seemed
to them one of those men of talent who at all periods have flourished
in good society and no one thought he had ever been otherwise.

After I had finished talking to the Prince de Guermantes, Bloch took
possession of me and introduced me to a young woman who had often
heard the Duchesse de Guermantes speak of me. If those of the new
generation considered the Duchesse de Guermantes nothing particular
because she knew actresses and others, the ladies of her family, now
old, always regarded her as exceptional, partly because they were
familiar with her high birth and heraldic distinction and her
intimacies with what Mme. de Forcheville would have called in her
pseudo-English, "royalties", but also because she disdained going to
family parties, was terribly bored by them and they knew they could
never count on her. Her theatrical and political associations, which
were completely misunderstood, only increased her preciousness in
their eyes and, therefore, her prestige. So that whereas in the
political and artistic spheres she was a somewhat indefinable being, a
sort of _défroquée_ of the Faubourg Saint-Germain who goes about with
under-secretaries of State and theatrical stars, if anyone in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain gave a grand party, they said: "Is it any use
inviting Marie Sosthènes? She won't come. Still, for the sake of
appearances—but she won't turn up." And if, late in the evening,
Marie Sosthènes appeared in a brilliant dress and stood in the doorway
with a look of hard contempt for all her relations, if, maybe, she
remained an hour, it was a most important party for the dowager who
was giving it, in the same way as in early days, when Sarah Bernhardt
promised a theatrical manager her assistance upon which he did not
count, and not only came but with infinite compliance and simplicity
recited twenty pieces instead of one. The presence of Marie Sosthènes,
to whom Ministers spoke condescendingly though she, nevertheless,
continued to cultivate more and more of them (that being the way of
the world) classified the dowager duchess's evening party attended by
only the most exclusive ladies above all the other parties given by
all the other dowager duchesses that "season" (as again Mme. de
Forcheville would have said) at which Marie Sosthènes, one of the most
fashionable women of the day, had not taken the trouble to put in an
appearance. The name of the young woman to whom Bloch had introduced
me was entirely unknown to me and those of the different Guermantes
could not be very familiar to her, for she asked an American woman how
Mme. de Saint-Loup came to be so intimate with the most distinguished
people at the reception. This American was married to the Comte de
Furcy, an obscure relative of the Forchevilles who to her represented
everything that was most brilliant in society. So she answered in a
matter-of-course way: "It's only because she was born a Forcheville,
nothing is better than that." Although Mme. de Furcy naïvely believed
the name of Forcheville to be superior to that of Saint-Loup, at least
she knew who the latter was. But of this, the charming friend of Bloch
and of the Duchesse de Guermantes was absolutely ignorant and being
somewhat bewildered, when a young girl presently asked her how Mme. de
Saint-Loup was related to their host, the Prince de Guermantes, she
replied in good faith: "Through the Forchevilles", a piece of
information which that young woman passed on, as though she knew all
about it, to one of her friends who, having a bad temper and an
excitable disposition, got as red as a turkey-cock when a gentleman
told her it was not through the Forchevilles that Gilberte belonged to
the Guermantes, while he, thinking he had made a mistake, adopted her
version and did not hesitate to propagate it. For this American woman,
dinner-parties and social functions were a sort of Berlitz school. She
repeated names she heard without any knowledge of their significance.
Someone was explaining to someone else that Gilberte had not inherited
Tansonville from her father, M. de Forcheville, that it was a family
property of her husband's, being close to the Guermantes' estate and
originally in the possession of Mme. de Marsantes, but owing to its
being heavily mortgaged, had been bought back by Gilberte as a
marriage dowry. Finally, a gentleman of the old school reminiscing
about Swann being a friend of the Sagans and the Mouchys and Bloch's
American friend asking him how I came to know Swann, Bloch informed
her that I had met him at Mme. de Guermantes', not being aware that I
had known him through his being our neighbour in the country and
through his being known to my grandfather as a boy. Such mistakes,
which are considered serious in all conservative societies, have been
made by the most famous men. St.-Simon, to prove that Louis XIV's
ignorance was so great that "it caused him sometimes to commit himself
in public to the grossest absurdities" only gives two examples of it;
the first was that the King being unaware that Rénel belonged to the
family of Clermont-Gallerande and that St.-Hérem belonged to that of
Montmorin, treated them as men of no standing. So far as St.-Hérem was
concerned we are consoled by knowing that the King did not die in
error, for he was put right "very late" by M. de la Rochefoucauld.
"Moreover," adds St.-Simon with some pity, "he had to explain (to the
King) what these families were whose name conveyed nothing to him."
The oblivion which so quickly buries the recent past combined with
general ignorance, result reactively in erudition being attributed to
some little knowledge, the more precious for its rarity, concerning
people's genealogies, their real social position, whether such and
such a marriage was for love, for money or otherwise; this knowledge
is much esteemed in societies where a conservative spirit prevails and
my grandfather possessed it to a high degree regarding the
bourgeoisdom of Combray and of Paris. St.-Simon esteemed this
knowledge so much that, in holding up the Prince de Conti's remarkable
intelligence to admiration, before even mentioning the sciences, or
rather as as though it were the most important one, he eulogised him
for possessing "a very beautiful mind, luminous, just, exact,
comprehensive, infinitely well-stored, which forgot nothing, which was
acquainted with genealogy, its chimeras and realities, of
distinguished politeness, respecting rank and merit, showing in every
way what princes of the blood ought to be and what they no longer are.
He even went into details regarding their usurpations and through
historical literature and conversations, derived the means of judging
what was commendable in their birth and occupation." In less brilliant
fashion but with equal accuracy, my grandfather was familiar with
everything concerning the _bourgeoisie_ of Combray and of Paris and
savoured it with no less appreciation. Epicures of that kind who knew
that Gilberte was not Forcheville nor Mme. de Cambremer Méséglise nor
the youngest a Valintonais were few in number. Few, and perhaps not
even recruited from the highest aristocracy (it is not necessarily the
devout or even Catholics who are most learned in the Golden Legend or
the stained windows of the thirteenth century) but often forming a
secondary aristocracy, keener about that with which it hardly has any
contact and which on that account it has the more leisure for
studying, its members meeting and making each other's acquaintance
with satisfaction, enjoying succulent repasts at which genealogies are
discussed like the Society of Bibliophiles or the Friends of Rheims.
Ladies are not asked to such gatherings, but when the husbands go
home, they say to their wives: "I have been to a most interesting
dinner; M. de la Raspelière was there and charmed us by explaining
that that Mme. de Saint-Loup with the pretty daughter was not born
Forcheville at all. It's a regular romance."

The young woman who was a friend of Bloch and of the Duchesse de
Guermantes was not only elegant and charming, she was also intelligent
and conversation with her was agreeable but was a matter of difficulty
to me because not only was the name of my questioner new to me but
also those of many to whom she referred and who now apparently formed
the basis of society. On the other hand, it was a fact that, in
compliance with her wish that I should tell her things, I referred to
many who meant nothing to her; they had fallen into oblivion, at all
events, those who had shone only with the lustre of their personality
and had not the generic permanence of some celebrated aristocratic
family the exact title of which the young woman rarely knew, making
inaccurate assumptions as to the birth of those whose names she had
heard the previous evening at a dinner-party and which, in most cases,
she had never heard before, as she only began to go into society some
years after I had left it, (partly because she was still young, but
also because she had only been living in France a short time and had
not got to know people immediately). So, if we had a vocabulary of
names in common, the individuals we fitted to them were different. I
do not know how the name of Mme. Leroi fell from my lips, but by
chance, my questioner had heard it mentioned by some old friend of Mme.
de Guermantes who was making up to her. Not as it should have been,
however, as was clear from the disdainful answer of the snobbish young
woman: "Oh! I know who Mme. Leroi is! She was an old friend of
Bergotte's," in a tone which implied "A person I should not want at my
house." I knew that Mme. de Guermantes' old friend, as a thorough
society man imbued with the Guermantes' spirit, of which one
characteristic was not to seem to attach importance to aristocratic
intercourse, had not been so ill-bred and anti-Guermantes as to say:
"Mme. Leroi who knew all the Highnesses and Duchesses" but had referred
to her as "rather an amusing woman. One day she said so and so to
Bergotte." But for people who know nothing about these matters, such
conversational information is equivalent to what the press gives to
the public which believes, according to its paper, alternatively that
M. Loubet or M. Reinach are robbers or honourable citizens. In the
eyes of my young questioner Mme. Leroi had been a sort of Mme. Verdurin
during her first period but with less prestige and the little _clan_
limited to Bergotte. By pure chance, this young woman happened to be
amongst the last who were likely to hear the name of Mme. Leroi. Today
nobody knows anything about her which actually is quite as it should
be. Her name does not even figure in the index of Mme. de Villeparisis'
posthumous memoirs although Mme. Leroi had been much in her mind. The
Marquise did not omit mentioning Mme. Leroi because the latter had not
been particularly amiable to her during her life-time but because
neither Mme. Leroi's life nor her death were of interest so that the
Marquise's silence was dictated less by social umbrage than by
literary tact. My conversation with Bloch's smart young friend was
agreeable but the difference between our two vocabularies made her
uneasy though it was instructive to me. In spite of our knowing that
the years go by, that old age gives place to youth, that the most
solid fortunes and thrones vanish, that celebrity is a passing thing,
our way of rendering this knowledge conscious to ourselves and, so to
speak, of accepting the impress of this universe whirled along by time
upon our mental retina, is static. So that we always see as young
those we knew young and those whom we knew as old people we embellish
retrospectively with the virtues of old age, so that we unreservedly
pin our faith to the credit of a millionaire and to the protection of
a king though our reason tells us that both may be powerless fugitives
tomorrow. In the more restricted field of society as in a simple
problem which leads up to a more complex one of the same order, the
unintelligibleness resulting from my conversation with this young
woman owing to our having lived in a particular society at an interval
of twenty-five years, impressed me with the importance of history and
may have strengthened my own sense of it. The truth is that this
ignorance of the real situation which every ten years causes the
newly-elected to rise and seem as though the past had never existed,
which prevents an American who has just landed knowing that M. de
Charlus occupied the highest social position in Paris at a period when
Bloch had none whatever, and that Swann who put himself about for M.
Bontemps had been the Prince of Wales's familiar friend, that
ignorance exists not only among new-comers but also amongst contiguous
societies, and, in the case of the last named as in the case of the
others is also an effect (now exercised upon the individual instead of
on the social curve) of Time. Doubtless we may change our milieu and
our manner of life, but our memory retaining the thread of our
identical personality attaches to itself, at successive periods, the
memory of societies in which we lived, were it forty years earlier.
Bloch at the Prince de Guermantes' perfectly remembered the humble
Jewish environment in which he had lived when he was eighteen, and
Swann, when he no longer loved Mme. Swann but a woman who served tea at
Colombin's which, for a time Mme. Swann considered fashionable as she
had the Thé de la Rue Royale, perfectly well knew his own social value
for he remembered Twickenham and knew why he preferred going to
Colombin's rather than to the Duchesse de Broglie's and knew equally
well, had he been a thousand times less "_chic_", that would not have
prevented him going to Colombin's or to the Hotel Ritz since anyone
can go there who pays. Doubtless too Bloch's or Swann's friends
remembered the obscure Jewish society and the invitations to
Twickenham and thus friends, like more shadowy selves, of Swann and
Bloch did not in their memory separate the elegant Bloch of to-day
from the sordid Bloch of formerly or the Swann who went to Colombin's
in his old age from the Swann of Buckingham Palace. But, in life,
those friends were, in some measure, Swann's neighbours, their lives
had developed sufficiently near his for their memory to contain him;
whereas in the case of others further away from Swann, not exactly
socially but in intimacy, who had known him more vaguely and whose
meetings with him had been rarer, memories as numerous had given rise
to more superficial views of his personality. And, such strangers,
after thirty years, remember nothing accurately enough about a
particular individual's past to modify what he represents to their
view in the present. I had heard people in society say of Swann in his
last years, as though it were his title to celebrity: "Are you talking
about the Swann who goes to Colombin's?" Now, I heard people who ought
to have known better, remark in alluding to Bloch, "Do you mean the
Guermantes Bloch, the intimate friend of the Guermantes?" These
mistakes, which cut a life in two and, isolating him in the present,
construct another man, a creation of yesterday, a man who is the mere
compendium of his present-day habits (whereas he bears within himself
the continuity which links him to his past) these mistakes are also
the effect of time, but they are not a social phenomenon, they are a
phenomenon of memory. At that instant an example presented itself of a
quite different kind, it is true, but on that account the more
striking, of those oblivions which modify our conception of people.
Mme. de Guermantes' young nephew, the Marquis de Villemandois, had
formerly displayed a persistent insolence towards me which had induced
me, in a spirit of reprisal, to adopt so offensive an attitude towards
him that we had tacitly become enemies. Whilst I was reflecting about
time at this afternoon party at the Princesse de Guermantes' he asked
to be introduced to me and then told me he was under the impression
that I had been acquainted with his parents, that he had read some of
my articles and wanted to make or remake my acquaintance. It is true
that with increasing age he, like many overbearing people of a
weightier sort, had become less supercilious and, moreover, I was
being talked about in his set because of articles (of small importance
for that matter) I had been writing. But these grounds for his
cordiality and advances were only accessory. The chief one, or at
least the one which brought others into play, was that, either because
he had a worse memory than I or attached less significance to my
reprisals than I to his attacks, owing to my being less important in
his eyes than he in mine, he had entirely forgotten our hostility. At
most, my name recalled to his mind that he had seen me or somebody
belonging to me at one of his aunt's houses and not being quite
certain whether he had met me before or not, he at once started
talking about his aunt at whose house he thought he might have met me,
remembering he had often heard me spoken of there but not remembering
our quarrel. Often a name is all that remains to us of a being, not
only when he is dead but even while he is alive. And our memories
about him are so vague and peculiar, correspond so little to the
reality of the past that though we entirely forget that we nearly
fought a duel with him, we remember that, when he was a child, he wore
odd-looking yellow gaiters in the Champs Elysées, of which, although
we remind him of them, he has no recollection. Bloch had come in,
leaping like a hyena. I thought, "He's coming into a drawing-room
which he could never have penetrated twenty years ago." But he was
also twenty years older and he was nearer death, what good will it do
him? Looking at him closely, I perceived in the face upon which the
light now played, which from further away and when less illumined
seemed to reflect youthful gaiety whether because it actually survived
there or I evoked it, the almost alarming visage of an old Shylock
anxiously awaiting in the wings the moment to appear upon the stage,
reciting his first lines under his breath. In ten years he would limp
into these drawing-rooms dragging his feet over their heavy piled
carpets, a master at last, and would be bored to death by having to go
to the La Trémouilles. How would that profit him?

I could the better elicit from these social changes truths
sufficiently important to serve as a unifying factor in a portion of
my work that they were not, as I might at first have been tempted to
believe, peculiar to our period. At the time when I had hardly reached
the point of entering the Guermantes' circle, I was more of a
new-comer than Bloch himself to-day and I must then have observed
human elements which, though integrated in it, were entirely foreign
to it, recently assembled elements which must have seemed strangely
new to the older set from whom I did not differentiate them and who,
believed by the dukes to have always been members of the faubourg, had
either themselves been _parvenus_ or if not they, their fathers or
grandfathers. So it was not the quality of its members which made that
society brilliant but its power to assimilate more or less completely
people who fifty years later would appear just as good as those who
now belonged to it. Even in the past with which I associated the name
of Guermantes in order to do it honour in the fullest measure, with
reason moreover, for under Louis XIV the semi-royal Guermantes were
more supreme than to-day, the phenomenon I had studied was equally
apparent. For instance, had they not then allied themselves by
marriage with the Colbert family, to-day Considered of high degree,
since a Rochefoucauld considers a Colbert a good match. But it was not
because the Col-berts, then plain bourgeois, were noble that the
Guermantes formed alliances with them, it was they who became noble by
marrying into the Guermantes family. If the name of Haussonville is
extinguished with the death of the present representative of that
family, he will perhaps derive his distinction from being descended
from Mme. de Staël, while, before the Revolution, M. d'Haussonville,
one of the first gentlemen in the kingdom, gratified his vanity as
towards M. de Broglie by not deigning to know M. de Staël's father and
by no more condescending to introduce him to M. de Broglie than the
latter would have done to M. d'Haussonville, never imagining that his
own son would marry the daughter, his friend's son the grand-daughter
of the authoress of _Corinne_. I realised from the way that the
Duchesse de Guermantes talked to me that I might have cut a figure in
society as an untitled man of fashion who is accepted as having always
belonged to the aristocracy like Swann in former days and after him M.
Lebrun and M. Ampère, all of them friends of the Duchesse de Broglie
who herself at the beginning was, so to speak, hardly in the best
society. The first times I had dined at Mme. de Guermantes' how often I
must have shocked men like M. de Beaucerfeuil, less by my presence
than by remarks showing that I was entirely ignorant of the
associations which constituted his past and gave form to his social
experience. Bloch would, when very old, preserve memories of the
Guermantes' salon as it appeared to him now ancient enough for him to
feel the same surprise and resentment as M. de Beaucerfeuil at certain
intrusions and ignorances. And besides, he would have acquired and
dispensed amongst those about him qualities of tact and discretion
which I had believed to be the particular gift of men like M. de
Norpois and which are incarnated in those who seem to us most likely
to be deficient in them. Moreover, I had supposed myself exceptional
in being admitted into the Guermantes set. But when I got away from
myself and my immediate ambient, I observed that this social
phenomenon was not as isolated as it first seemed and that from the
Combray basin where I was born many jets of water had risen, like
myself, above the liquid pool which was their source. Of course,
circumstances and individual character have always a share in the
matter and it was in quite different ways that Legrandin (by the
curious marriage of his nephew) had in his turn penetrated this
_milieu_, that Odette's daughter had become related to it, that Swann
and finally I myself, had entered it. To myself who had been enclosed
within my life, seeing it from within, Legrandin's way appeared to
have no relevance to mine and to have gone in another direction, in
the same way as one who follows the course of a river through a deep
valley does not see that, in spite of its windings, it is the same
stream. But, from the bird's eye view of a statistician who ignores
reasons of sentiment and the imprudences which lead to the death of an
individual and only counts the number of people who die in a year, one
could observe that many people starting from the same environment as
that with which the beginning of this narrative has been concerned
reach another quite different and it is likely that, just as in every
year there are an average number of marriages, any other well-to-do
and refined bourgeois _milieu_ would have furnished about the same
proportion of people like Swann, like Legrandin, like myself and like
Bloch, who would be rediscovered in the ocean of "Society". Moreover
they are recognisable, for if young Comte de Cambremer impressed
society with his grace, distinction and modishness, I recognised in
those qualities as in his good looks and ardent ambition, the
characteristics of his uncle Legrandin, that is to say, an old and
very bourgeois friend of my parents, though one who had an
aristocratic bearing.

Kindness, which is simply maturity, ends in sweetening natures
originally more acid than Bloch's, and is as prevalent as that sense
of justice which, if we are in the right, should make us fear a
prejudiced judge as little as one who is our friend. And Bloch's
grand-children would be well-mannered and discreet from birth. Bloch
had perhaps not reached that point yet. But I remarked that he who
formerly affected to be compelled to take a two hours' railway-journey
to see someone who hardly wanted to see him, now that he received many
invitations not only to luncheon and to dinner but to come and spend a
fortnight here and there, refused many of them without talking about
it or boasting he had received them. Discretion in action and in words
had come to him with age and social position, a sort of social
old-age, one might say. Undoubtedly Bloch was formerly as indiscreet
as he was incapable of kindness and friendly service. But certain
defects and certain qualities belong less to one or another individual
from the social point of view than to one or another period of his
life. They are almost exterior to individuals who pass through the
projection of their light as at varying solstices which are
pre-existent, universal and inevitable. Doctors who want to find out
whether a particular medicine has diminished or increased the acidity
of the stomach, whether it quickens or lessens its secretions, obtain
results which differ, not according to the stomach from the secretions
of which they have extracted a little gastric juice, but according to
the effects disclosed at an early or late stage through the action of
the medicine upon it.

* * *

Thus at each of the moments of its duration the name of Guermantes
considered as a unity of all the names admitted within and about
itself suffered some dispersals, recruited new elements like gardens
where flowers only just in bud yet about to replace others already
faded, are indistinguishable from the mass which seems the same save
to those who have not observed the new-comers and keep in their mind's
eye the exact picture of those that have disappeared.

More than one of the persons whom this afternoon party had collected
or whose memory it evoked, provided me with the successive appearances
he had presented under widely dissimilar circumstances. The individual
rose before me again as he had been and, in doing so, called forth the
various aspects of my own life, like different perspectives in a
countryside where a hill or a castle seems at one moment to be to the
right, at another to the left, to dominate a forest or emerge from a
valley, thus reminding the traveller of changes of direction and
altitude in the road he has been following. As I went further and
further back I finally discovered pictures of the same individual,
separated by such long intervals, represented by such distinct
personalities, with such different meanings that, as a rule, I
eliminated them from my field of recollection when I believed I had
made contact with them, and often ceased believing they were the same
people I had formerly known. Chance illumination was required for me
to be able to attach them, like in an etymology, to the original
significance they had for me. Mlle. Swann throwing some thorny roses to
me from the other side of the hedge, with a look I had retrospectively
attributed to desire; the lover, according to Combray gossip, of Mme.
Swann, staring at me from behind that same hedge with a hard look
which also did not warrant the interpretation I gave to it then and
who had changed so completely since I failed to recognise him at
Balbec as the gentleman looking at a notice near the casino, and whom
I happened to think of once every ten years, saying to myself: "That
was M. de Charlus, how curious!", Mme. de Guermantes at Dr. Percepied's
wedding, Mme. Swann in pink at my great-uncle's, Mme. de Cambremer,
Legrandin's sister, who was so smart that he was afraid we should want
him to introduce us to her, and so many more pictures of Swann,
Saint-Loup, etc. which, when I recalled them, I liked now and then to
use as a frontispiece on the threshold of my relations with these
different people but which actually seemed to me mere fancies rather
than impressions left upon my mind by the individual with whom there
was no longer any link. It is not only that certain people have the
power of remembering and others not (without living in a state of
permanent oblivion like Turkish ambassadors) which always enables the
latter to find room—the new precedent having vanished in a week or
the following one having exorcised it—for a fresh item of news
contradicting the last. Even if memories are equal, two persons do not
remember the same things. One would hardly notice an act which
another would feel intense remorse about while he will grasp at a word
almost unconsciously let fall by the other as though it were a
characteristic sign of good-will. Self-interest implicit in not being
wrong in our prejudgment limits the time we shall remember it and
encourages us to believe we never indulged in it. Finally, a deeper
and more unselfish interest diversifies memories so thoroughly that a
poet who has forgotten nearly all the facts of which one reminds him
retains a fugitive impression of them. As a result of all this, after
twenty years' absence one discovers involuntary and unconscious
forgiveness instead of anticipated resentments and on the other hand,
hatreds the cause of which one cannot explain (because one has
forgotten the bad impression one had made). One forgets dates as one
does the history of people one has known best. And because twenty
years had passed since Mme. de Guermantes had first seen Bloch, she
would have sworn that he was born in her set and had been nursed by
the Duchesse de Chartres when he was two years old.

How many times these people had returned to my vision in the course of
their lives, the differing circumstances of which seemed to offer
identical characteristics under diverse forms and for various ends;
and the diversity of my own life at its turning-points through which
the thread of each of these lives had passed was compounded of lives
seemingly the most distant from my own as if life itself only disposed
of a limited number of threads for the execution of the most varied
designs. What, for instance, were more separate in my various pasts
than my visits to my Uncle Adolphe, than the nephew of Mme. de
Villeparisis, herself cousin of the Marshal, than Legrandin and his
sister, than the former waistcoat maker, Françoise's friend in the
court-yard of our home. And now all these different threads had been
united to produce here, the woof of the Saint-Loup _ménage_, there,
that of the young Cambremers, not to mention Morel and so many others
the conjunction of which had combined to form circumstances so compact
that they seemed to make a unity of which the personages were mere
elements. And my life was already long enough for me to have found in
more than one case a being to complete another in the conflicting
spheres of my memory. To an Elstir whose fame was now assured I could
add my earliest memories of the Verdurins, of the Cottards, of
conversations in Rivebelle restaurant on the morning when I first met
Albertine and many others. In the same way, a collector who is shown
the wing of an altar screen, remembers the church or museum or private
collection in which the others are dispersed (as also, by following
sale-catalogues or searching among dealers in antiques, he finally
discovers the twin object to the one he possesses which makes them a
pair and thus can mentally reconstitute the predella and the entire
altar-piece). As a bucket let down or hauled up a well by a windlass
touches the rope or the sides every now and then, there was not a
personage, hardly even an event in my life, which had not at one time
or another played different parts. If, after years I rediscovered the
simplest social relationship or even a material object in my memory, I
perceived that life had been ceaselessly weaving threads about it
which in the end became a beautiful velvet covering like the emerald
sheath of a water-conduit in an ancient park.

It was not only in appearance that these people were like
dream-figures, their youth and love had become to themselves a dream.
They had forgotten their very resentments and hatreds and, to be sure
that this individual was the one they had not spoken to for ten years,
they would have needed a register which even then would have had the
vagueness of a dream in which an insult has been offered them by one
unknown. Such dreams account for those contrasts in political life
where people who once accused each other of murder and treason are
members of the same Government. And dreams become as opaque as death
in the case of old men on days following those of love-making. On
such days no one was allowed to ask the President of the Republic any
questions; he had forgotten everything. After he had been allowed to
rest for some days, the recollection of public affairs returned to him
fortuitously as in a dream. Sometimes it was not a single image only
that presented itself to my mind of one whom I had since known to be
so different. It was during the same years that Bergotte had seemed a
sweet, divine old man to me that I had been paralysed at the sight of
Swann's grey hat and his wife's violet cloak, by the glamour of race
which surrounded the Duchesse de Guermantes even in a drawing-room as
though I stood gazing at ghosts; almost fabulous origins of
relationships subsequently so banal which these charming myths
lengthened into the past with the brilliance projected into the
heavens by the sparkling tail of a comet. And even relations such as
mine with Mme. de Souvré, which had not begun in mystery, which were
to-day so hard and worldly, revealed themselves at their beginnings in
a smile, calm, soft and flatteringly expressed in the fulness of an
afternoon by the sea, on a spring evening in Paris in the midst of
smart equipages, of clouds of dust, of sunshine moving like water. And
perhaps Mme. de Souvré would not have been worth while if she had been
detached from her frame like those monuments—the Salute for
instance—which, without any great beauty of their own are so
perfectly adapted to their site, and she had her place in a collection
of memories which I estimated at a certain price, taking one with
another, without going too closely into the particular value of Mme. de
Souvré's personality.

A thing by which I was more impressed, in the case of people who had
undergone physical and social change was the different notion they had
of each other. In old days Legrandin despised Bloch and never spoke to
him; now he was most amiable to him. It was not in the least owing to
Bloch's more prominent position which in this case was negligible, for
social changes inevitably bring about respective changes in position
amongst those who have been subjected to them. No. It was that people,
that is, people as we see them, do not retain the uniformity of a
picture when we look back on them. They evolve in relation to our
forgetfulness. Sometimes we even go so far as to confuse them with
others. "Bloch, that's the man who came from Combray," and when he
said Bloch, the person meant me. Inversely Mme. Sazerat was convinced
that a historical thesis on Philippe II was by me whereas it was by
Bloch. Apart from these substitutions one forgets the bad turns
people have done us, their unpleasantness, one forgets that last time
we parted without shaking hands and, in contrast, we remember an
earlier period when we were on good terms. Legrandin's affability with
Bloch was referable to that earlier period, whether because he had
forgotten a phase of his past or that he judged it better to ignore
it, a mixture, in fact, of forgiveness, forgetfulness and indifference
which is also an effect of Time. Moreover, even in love, the memories
we have of each other are not the same. I had known Albertine to
remind me in the most remarkable way of something I had said to her
during the early days of our acquaintance which I had completely
forgotten while she had no recollection whatever of another fact
implanted in my head like a stone for ever. Our parallel lives
resemble paths bordered at intervals by flower-vases placed
symmetrically but not facing each other. It is still more
comprehensible that one hardly remembers who the people were one knew
slightly or one remembers something else about them further back,
something suggested by those amongst whom one meets them again who
have only just made their acquaintance and endow them with qualities
and a position they never had but which the forgetful person wholly
accepts.

Doubtless life, in casting these people upon my path on different
occasions, had presented them in surrounding circumstances which had
shrunk my view of them and prevented my knowing their essential
characters. Of those Guermantes even, who had been the subject of such
wonderful dreams, at my first approach to them, one had appeared in
the guise of an old friend of my grandmother's, another in that of a
gentleman who had stared at me so unpleasantly in the grounds of the
casino (for, between us and other beings there is a borderland of
contingencies, as, from my readings at Combray, I knew there was one
of perceptions which prevent reality and mind being placed in absolute
contact). So that it was only after the event, by relating them to a
name, that my acquaintance with them had become to me acquaintance
with the Guermantes. But perhaps it was that very thing which made
life seem more poetic to me when I thought about that mysterious race
with the piercing eyes and beaks of birds, that pink, golden,
unapproachable race which the force of blind and differing
circumstances had presented so naturally to my observation, to my
intercourse, even to my intimacy, that when I wanted to know Mlle. de
Stermaria or to have dresses made for Albertine, I applied to the
Guermantes, as to my most helpful friends. Certainly it bored me at
times to go and see them as to go and see others I knew in society.
The charm of the Duchesse de Guermantes, even, like that of certain of
Bergotte's pages, was only discernible to me at a distance and
disappeared when I was near her, for it lay in my memory and in my
imagination, and yet, the Guermantes, like Gilberte, were different
from other people in society in that their roots were plunged more
deeply in my past when I dreamed more and believed more in
individuals. That past filled me with weariness while talking to one
or the other of them, for it was associated with those imaginings of
my childhood which had once seemed the most beautiful and inaccessible
and I had to console myself by confusing the value of their possession
with the price at which my desire had appraised them like a merchant
whose books are in disorder. But my past relations with other beings
were magnified by dreams more ardent and hopeless with which my life
opened so richly, so entirely dedicated to them that I could hardly
understand how it was that what they yielded was this exiguous,
narrow, mournful ribbon of a despised and unloved intimacy in which I
could discover no trace of what had once been their mystery, their
fever and their loveliness.

* * *

"What has become of the Marquise d'Arpajon?" asked Mme. de Cambremer.
"She's dead," answered Bloch. "You're confusing her with the Comtesse
d'Arpajon who died last year," the Princesse de Malte joined the
discussion. The young widow of a very wealthy old husband, the bearer
of a great name, she had been much sought in marriage and from that
had derived a great deal of self-assurance. "The Marquise d'Arpajon
died too about a year ago." "I can assure you it isn't a year,"
answered Mme. de Cambremer. "I was at a musical party at her house less
than a year ago." Bloch could no more take part in the discussion than
a society gigolo for all these deaths of aged people were too far away
from him, whether owing to the great difference in age or to his
recent entry into a different society which he approached, as it were,
from the side, at a period of its decline into a twilight in which the
memory of an unfamiliar past could not illuminate it. And for those of
the same age and of the same society death had lost its strange
significance. Moreover every day people were at the point of death of
whom some recovered while others succumbed, so that one was not
certain whether a particular individual one rarely saw had recovered
from his cold on the chest or whether he had passed away. Deaths
multiplied and lives became increasingly uncertain in those aged
regions. At these crossroads of two generations and two societies
which for different reasons were ill-placed for identifying death, it
became confused with life, the former had been socialised and become
an incident, which qualified a person more or less without the tone in
which it was mentioned signifying that this incident ended everything
so far as that person was concerned. So people said: "You've
forgotten. So and so is dead," as they might have said: "He's
decorated, he's a member of the Academy," or—which came to the same
thing as it prevented his coming to parties—"he has gone to spend the
winter in the south," or "he's been ordered to the mountains." In the
case of well-known men, what they left helped people to remember they
were dead. But in the case of ordinary members of society, people got
muddled about whether they were dead or not, partly because they did
not know them well and had forgotten their past but more because they
bothered little about the future one way or the other. And the
difficulty people had in sorting out marriages, absences, retirements
to the country and deaths of old people in society equally illustrated
the insignificance of the dead and the indifference of the living.

"But if she's not dead how is it one doesn't see her any more nor her
husband either?" asked an old maid who liked to be thought witty. "I
tell you," answered her mother who, though fifty years old, never
missed a party, "it's because they're old and at that age people don't
go out." It was as though there lay in front of the cemetery a closed
city of the aged with lamps always alight in the fog. Mme. de
Sainte-Euverte closed the debate by saying that the Comtesse d'Arpajon
had died the year before after a long illness, but the Marquise
d'Arpajon had also died suddenly "from some quite trifling cause," a
death which thus resembled the lives of them all and, in the same
fashion, explained that she had passed away without anyone being aware
of it and excused those who had made a mistake. Hearing that Mme.
d'Arpajon was really dead, the old maid cast an alarmed glance at her
mother fearing that the news of the death of one of her contemporaries
might be a shock to her; she imagined in anticipation people alluding
to her own mother's death by explaining that "she died as the result
of a shock through the death of Mme. d'Arpajon." But on the contrary,
her mother's expression was that of having won a competition against
formidable rivals whenever anyone of her own age passed away. Their
death was her only means of being agreeably conscious of her own
existence. The old maid, aware that her mother had not seemed sorry to
say that Mme. d'Arpajon was a recluse in those dwellings from which the
aged and tired seldom emerge, noticed that she was still less upset to
hear that the Marquise had entered that ultimate abode from which no
one returns. This affirmation of her mother's indifference aroused the
caustic wit of the old maid. And, later on, to amuse her friends, she
gave a humorous imitation of the lively fashion with which her mother
rubbed her hands as she said: "Goodness me, so that poor Mme. d'Arpajon
is dead." She thus pleased even those who did not need death to make
them glad they were alive. For every death is a simplification of life
for the survivors; it relieves them of being grateful and of being
obliged to make visits. Nevertheless, as I have said, M. Verdurin's
death was not thus welcomed by Elstir.

* * *

A lady went out for she had other afternoon receptions to go to and
she was to take tea with two queens. She was the society courtesan I
formerly knew, the Princesse de Nissau. Apart from her figure having
shrunk—which gave her head the appearance of being lower than it was
formerly, of having what is called "one foot in the grave"—one would
have said that she had hardly aged. She remained, with her Austrian
nose and delightful mien a Marie-Antoinette preserved, embalmed,
thanks to a thousand cunningly combined cosmetics which gave her face
the hue of lilac. Her face wore that regretful soft expression of
being compelled to go with a sweet half-promise to return, of
inconspicuous withdrawal because of numerous exclusive invitations.
Born almost on the steps of a throne, married three times, protected
long and luxuriously by great bankers, the confused memories of her
innumerable pasts, not to speak of the caprices she had indulged,
weighed on her as lightly as her beautiful round eyes, her painted
face and her mauve dress. As, taking French leave, she passed me, I
bowed and she, taking my hand, fixed her round violet orbs upon me as
if to say: "How long since we met, do let us talk of it next time."
She pressed my hand, not quite sure whether there had or had not been
a passage between us that evening she drove me from the Duchesse de
Guermantes'. She merely took a chance by seeming to suggest something
that had never been, which was not difficult for she looked tender
over a strawberry-tart and assumed, about her compulsion to leave
before the music was over, an attitude of despairing yet reassuring
abandonment. Moreover, in her uncertainty about the incident with me,
her furtive pressure did not detain her long and she did not say a
word. She only looked at me in a way that said: "How long! How long!"
as there passed across her vision her husbands, the different men who
had kept her, two wars—and her star-like eyes, like astronomic dials
carved in opal, registered in quick succession all those solemn hours
of a far-away past she conjured back each time she uttered a greeting
which was always an excuse. She left me and floated to the door so as
not to disturb me, to show me that if she did not stop and talk to me
it was because she had to make up the time she had lost pressing my
hand so as not to keep the Queen of Spain waiting. She seemed to go
through the door at racing-pace. And she was, as a fact, racing to her
grave.

Meanwhile, the Princesse de Guermantes kept repeating in an excited
way in the metallic voice caused by her false teeth: "That's it, we'll
form a group. I love the intelligence of youth, it so co-operates! Ah,
what a 'mugician' you are." She was talking with her large eyeglass in
a round eye which was partly amused and partly excusing itself for not
being able to keep it up but till the end she decided to "co-operate"
and "form a group".

* * *

I sat down by the side of Gilberte de Saint-Loup. We talked a great
deal about Robert. Gilberte alluded to him deferentially as to a
superior being whom she wanted me to know she admired and understood.
We reminded each other that many of the ideas he had formerly
expressed about the art of war (for he had often exposed the same
theses at Tansonville as at Doncières and later) had been verified by
the recent one. "I can't tell you how much the slightest thing he told
me at Doncières strikes me now as it did during the war. The last
words I heard him say when we parted never to meet again were that he
was expecting of Hindenburg, a Napoleonic General, a type of
Napoleonic battle the object of which is to separate two adversaries,
perhaps, he said, the English and ourselves. Now scarcely a year after
Robert's death a critic whom he much admired and who obviously
exercised great influence on his military ideas, M. Henri Bidou, said
that Hindenburg's offensive in March, 1918 was 'a battle of separation
by one adversary massed against two in line, a manœuvre which the
Emperor successfully executed in 1796 on the Apennines and failed with
in 1815 in Belgium'. Some time before that Robert was comparing
battles with plays in which it is sometimes difficult to know what the
author means because he has changed his plot in the course of the
action. Now, as to this interpretation of the German offensive of
1918, Robert would certainly not be of M. Bidou's opinion. But other
critics think that Hindenburg's success in the direction of Amiens,
then his forced halt then his success in Flanders, then again the
halt, accidentally made Amiens and afterwards Boulogne objectives he
had not previously planned. And as everyone can reconstruct a play in
his own way, there are those who see in this offensive the threat of a
terrific march on Paris, others disordered hammer blows to annihilate
the English Army. And even if the General's orders are opposed to one
or the other conception, critics will always be able to say, as
Mounet-Sully did to Coquelin who affirmed that the 'Misanthrope' was
not the depressing drama he made it appear (for Molière's
contemporaries testify that his interpretation was comic and made
people laugh): 'Well, then, Molière made a mistake.'"

"And you remember," Gilberte replied, "what he said about aeroplanes,
he expressed himself so charmingly, every army must be an Argus with a
hundred eyes. Alas, he did not live to see the verification of his
predictions." "Oh, yes, he did," I answered, "he knew very well that,
at the battle of the Somme, they were beginning to blind the enemy by
piercing his eyes, destroying his aeroplanes and captive balloons."
"Oh yes! So they did." Since she had taken to living in her mind, she
had become somewhat pedantic. "And it was he who foretold a return to
the old methods. Do you know that the Mesopotamian expeditions in this
war" (she must have read this at the time in Brichot's articles) "keep
reminding one of the retreat of Xenophon; to get from the Tigris to
the Euphrates the English Commander made use of canoes, long narrow
boats, the gondolas of that country, which the ancient Chaldeans had
made use of." Her words gave me that feeling of stagnation in the past
which is immobilised in certain places by a sort of specific gravity
to such a degree that one finds it just as it was. I avow that,
thinking of my readings at Balbec, not far from Robert, I had been
much impressed—as I was when I discovered Mme. de Sévigné's
intrenchment in the French countryside—to observe, in connection with
the siege of Kut-el-Amara (Kut-the-Emir just as we say
Vaux-le-Vicomte, Boilleau-l'Evêque, as the curé of Combray would have
said if his thirst for etymology had extended to Oriental languages)
the recurrence, near Bagdad, of that name Bassorah about which we hear
so much in the _Thousand and One Nights_, whence, long before General
Townsend, Sinbad the Sailor, in the times of the Caliphs, embarked or
disembarked whenever he left or returned to Bagdad.

"There was a side of the war he was beginning to perceive," I said,
"which is that it is human, that it is lived like a love or a hatred,
can be recounted like a romance, and consequently if people keep on
repeating that strategy is a science, it does not help them to
understand it because it is not strategic. The enemy no more knows our
plans than we know the motive of a woman we love, and perhaps we do
not know ours either. In the offensive of March, 1918 was the object
of the Germans to take Amiens? We know nothing about it. Perhaps they
did not either and it was their advance westwards towards Amiens which
determined their plan. Even admitting that war is scientific it is
still necessary to paint it like Elstir painted the sea, by the use of
another sense and using imagination and beliefs as a starting-point,
to rectify them little by little as Dostoevski narrated a life.
Moreover, it is but too obvious that war is rather medical than
strategic since it brings in its train unforeseen accidents the
clinician hopes to avoid, such as the Russian Revolution."

Throughout this conversation, Gilberte had spoken of Robert with a
deference which seemed rather addressed to my former friend than to
her dead husband. She seemed to be saying: "I know how much you
admired him, believe me, I knew and understood what a superior
creature he was." And yet the love she certainly no longer felt for
his memory may perhaps have been the distant cause of the
peculiarities in her present life. For Andrée was now Gilberte's
inseparable friend. Although the former had for some time, chiefly
because of her husband's talent, begun to enter, not, of course, the
Guermantes set but an infinitely more fashionable society than that
which she formerly frequented, people were astonished that the
Marquise de Saint-Loup condescended to become her best friend. That
fact seemed to be a sign of Gilberte's preference for what she
believed to be an artistic life and for a positive social forfeiture.
That may be the true explanation. Another, however, came to my mind,
always convinced that images assembled somewhere are generally the
reflection or in some fashion the effect of a former grouping
different from though symmetrical with other images extremely distant
from the second group. I thought that if Andrée, her husband and
Gilberte were seen together every evening it was possibly because many
years earlier Andrée's future husband had lived with Rachel and then
left her for Andrée. It is probable that Gilberte lived in a society
too far removed from and above theirs to know anything about it. But
she must have learned of it later when Andrée went up and she came
down enough for them to meet. Then the woman for whom a man had
abandoned Rachel although she, Rachel, preferred him to Robert, must
have been dowered with much prestige in the eyes of Gilberte.

In the same way, perhaps, the sight of Andrée recalled to Gilberte the
youthful romance of her love for Robert and also inspired her respect
for Andrée who was still loved by the man so adored by Rachel whom
Gilberte knew Saint-Loup had preferred to herself. Perhaps, on the
other hand, these memories played no part in Gilberte's predilection
for this artistic couple and it was only the result, as in many other
cases, of the development of tastes common amongst society women for
acquiring new experience and simultaneously lowering themselves.
Perhaps Gilberte had forgotten Robert as completely as I had Albertine
and even if she knew it was Rachel whom the artist had left for Andrée
she never thought about it because it never played any part in her
liking for them. The only way of ascertaining whether my first
explanation was either possible or true would have been through the
evidence of the interested parties and then only if they proffered
their confidence with clarity and sincerity. And the first is rarely
met with, the second never.

"But how is it that you are here at this crowded reception?" asked
Gilberte. "It's not like you to come to a massacre like this. I might
have expected to meet you anywhere rather than in one of these
omnium-gatherums of my aunt; she is my aunt you know," she added
subtly; for having become Mme. de Saint-Loup considerably before Mme.
Verdurin entered the family, she considered herself a Guermantes from
the beginning of time and, in consequence, affected by the
_mésalliance_ of her uncle with Mme. Verdurin whom, it is true, she had
heard the family laugh at a thousand times whereas, of course, it was
only when she was not there that they alluded to the _mesalliance_ of
Saint-Loup and herself. She affected, moreover the greater disdain for
this undistinguished aunt because the Princesse de Guermantes, owing
to a sort of perversity which impels intelligent people to escape from
the bondage of fashion, also owing to the need displayed by ageing
people of memories that will form a background to their newly acquired
position, would say about Gilberte: "That's no new relationship for
me, I knew the young woman's mother very well; why, she was my cousin
Marsantes' great friend. It was at my house she met Gilberte's father.
As to poor Saint-Loup, I used to know all his family, his uncle was
once an intimate friend of mine at La Raspelière." "You see, the
Verdurins were not Bohemians at all," people said to me when they
heard the Princesse de Guermantes talk in that way, "they were old
friends of Mme. de Saint-Loup's family." I was, perhaps, the only one
who knew, through my grandfather, that indeed the Verdurins were not
Bohemians, but it was not exactly because they had known Odette. But
it is as easy to give accounts of the past which nobody knows anything
about as it is of travels in countries where no one has ever been.
"Well," concluded Gilberte, "as you do sometimes emerge from your
ivory tower, would not a little intimate party at my house amuse you?
I should invite sympathetic souls who would be more to your taste. A
big affair like this is not for you. I saw you talking to my Aunt
Oriane who may have the best qualities in the world but we shouldn't
be libelling her, should we, if we said she doesn't belong to the
_élite_ of the mind?" I could not impart to Gilberte the thoughts
which had occupied me during the last hour but I thought she might
provide me with distraction which, however, I should not get from
talking literature with the Duchesse de Guermantes nor with her
either. Certainly I intended to start afresh from the next day to live
in solitude but, this time, with a real object. Even at my own house I
should not let people come to see me during my working hours, for my
duty to my work was more important than that of being polite or even
kind. Doubtless, those who had not seen me for a long time would come,
and believing me restored to health, would be insistent. When their
day's work was finished or interrupted, they would insist on coming,
having need of me as I once had of Saint-Loup, because, as had
happened at Combray when my parents reproached me just when, unknown
to them, I was forming the most praiseworthy resolution, the internal
timepieces allotted to mankind are not all regulated to the same hour;
one strikes the hour of rest when another strikes that of work, one
that of a judge's sentence when the guilty has repented and that of
his inner perfectioning has struck long before. But to those who came
to see me or sent for me, I should have the courage to answer that I
had an urgent appointment about essential matters it was necessary for
me to regulate without further delay, an appointment of capital
importance with myself. And yet, though indeed there be little
relation between our real self and the other—because of their
homonymy and their common body, the abnegation which makes us
sacrifice easier duties, pleasures even, seems to others egoism.
Moreover, was it not to concern myself with them that I was going to
live far apart from those who would complain that they never saw me,
to concern myself with them more fundamentally than I could have done
in their presence, so that I might reveal them to themselves, make
them realise themselves. How would it have profited if, for years
longer, I had wasted my nights by letting the words they had just
uttered fade into an equally vain echo of my own, for the sake of the
sterile pleasure of a social contact which excludes all penetrating
thought? Would it not be better I should try to describe the curve, to
elicit the law that governed their gestures, their words, their lives,
their nature? Unhappily, I should be compelled to fight against that
habit of putting myself in another's place which, though it may favour
the conception of a work retards its execution. For, through an excess
of politeness it makes us sacrifice to others not merely our pleasure
but our duty even though putting oneself in the place of others, duty,
whatever form it may take, even, were it helpful, that of remaining at
the rear when one can render no service at the front, appears contrary
to the truth, to be our pleasure. And far from believing myself
unhappy because of a life without friends, without conversation, as
some of the greatest have believed, I realised that the force and
elation spent in friendship are a sort of false passport to an
individual intimacy that leads nowhere and turns us back from a truth
to which they might have conducted us. But anyhow, should intervals of
repose and social intercourse be necessary to me, I felt that instead
of the intellectual conversations which society people believe
interesting to writers, light loves with young flowering girls would
be the nourishment I might, at the most, allow my imagination, like
the famous horse which was fed on nothing but roses. All of a sudden I
longed again for what I had dreamed of at Balbec, when I saw Albertine
and Andrée disporting themselves with their friends on the sea-shore
before I knew them. But alas, those I now so much longed for, I could
find no more. The years which had transformed all those I had seen
to-day including Gilberte herself must, beyond question, have made of
the other survivors as, had she not perished, of Albertine, women very
different from the girls I remembered. I suffered at the thought of
their attaint for time's changes do not modify the images in our
memory. There is nothing more painful than the contrast between the
alteration in beings and the fixity of memory, than the realisation
that what our memory keeps green has decayed and that there can be no
exterior approach to the beauty within us which causes so great a
yearning to see it once more. The intense desire for those girls of
long ago which my memory excited, could never be quenched unless I
sought its satisfaction in another being as young. I had often
suspected that what seems unique in a creature we desire does not
belong to that individual. But the passage of time gave me completer
proof, since after twenty years I now wanted, instead of the girls I
had known, those possessing their youth. Moreover, it is not only the
awakening of physical desire that corresponds to no reality because it
ignores the passing of time. At times I prayed that, by a miracle, my
grandmother and Albertine had, in spite of my reason, survived and
would come to me. I believed I saw them, my heart leaped towards them.
But I forgot that, if they had been alive, Albertine would almost have
the appearance of Mme. Cottard at Balbec and that my grandmother at
ninety-five would not exhibit the beautiful, calm, smiling face I
still imagined hers as arbitrarily as we picture God the Father with a
beard or as, in the seventeenth century, the heroes of Homer were
represented in the company of noblemen with no regard to chronology. I
looked at Gilberte and I did not think, "I should like to see you
again." But I told her it would certainly give me pleasure if she
invited me to meet young girls, of whom I should ask no more than to
evoke reveries and sorrows of former days, perhaps, on some unlikely
day, to allow me the privilege of one chaste kiss. As Elstir loved to
see incarnated in his wife the Venetian beauty he so often painted in
his works, I excused myself for being attracted through a certain
aesthetic egoism towards beautiful women who might cause me suffering,
and I cultivated a sort of idolatry for future Gilbertes, future
Duchesses de Guermantes and Albertines who I thought might inspire me
like a sculptor in the midst of magnificent antique marbles. I ought,
nevertheless, to have remembered that each experience had been
preceded by my sense of the mystery which pervaded them and that,
instead of asking Gilberte to introduce me to young girls I should
have done better to journey to those shores where nothing binds them
to us, where an impassable gulf lies between them and us, where,
though they are about to bathe two paces away on the beach, they are
separated from us by the impossible. It was thus that my sentiment of
mystery had enshrined first Gilberte, then the Duchesse de Guermantes,
Albertine, so many others. True, the unknown and almost unknowable had
become the common, the familiar, the indifferent or the painful, yet
it retained something of its former charm. And, to tell the truth, (as
in those calendars the postman brings us when he wants his Christmas
box,) there was not one year of my life that did not have the picture
of a woman I then desired as its frontispiece or interleaved in its
days; a picture sometimes the more arbitrary that I had not even seen
her, as for instance, Mme. Putbus' maid, Mlle. d'Orgeville or some other
girl whose name I had noticed in a society column amongst those of
other charming dancers. I imagined her beautiful, I fell in love with
her, I created an ideal being, queen of the provincial country-side
where, I gleaned from the _Annuaire des Châteaux_, her family owned an
estate. In the case of women I had known, that countryside was at
least a double one. Each one of them emerged at a different point of
my life, standing like protective local divinities first in the midst
of the countryside of my dreams, a setting which patterned my life and
to which my imagination clung; then perceived by the memory in the
various places where I had known her, places she recalled because of
her association with them; for though our life wanders, our memory is
sedentary and, project ourselves as we may, our memories riveted to
places from which we are detached, remain at home like temporary
acquaintances made by a traveller in some city in which he leaves them
to live their lives and finish their days as though he were still
standing beside the church, in front of the door, beneath the trees in
the avenue. Thus the shadow of Gilberte lengthened from the front of a
church in l'Ile de France where I had imagined her to the drive of a
park on the Méséglise side, that of Mme. de Guermantes from the damp
path over which red and violet grapes hung in clusters to the
morning-gold of a Paris pavement. And this second personality, not
born of desire but of memory, was not in either case the only one. I
had known each in different circumstances and periods and in each she
was another for me or I was another, bathed in dreams of another
colour. And the law which had governed the dreams of each year now
gathered round them the memories of the woman I had each time known,
that which concerned the Duchesse de Guermantes of my childhood was
concentrated by magnetic energy round Combray and that which concerned
the Duchesse de Guermantes who invited me to luncheon about a
sensitive being of a different kind; there were several Duchesses de
Guermantes as there had been several Mme. Swanns since the lady in
pink, separated from each other by the colourless ether of years and I
could no more jump from one to the other than I could fly from here to
another planet. Not only separated but different, decked out with
dreams at different periods as with flora indiscoverable in another
planet. So true was this that, having decided not to go to luncheon
either with Mme. de Forcheville or with Mme. de Guermantes, so
completely would that have transported me into another world, I could
only tell myself that the one was the Duchesse de Guermantes,
descendant of Geneviève de Brabant and the other was the lady in pink,
because within me an educated man asserted the fact with the same
authority as a scientist who stated that a nebulous Milky Way was
composed of particles of a single star. In the same way Gilberte, whom
I nevertheless, asked absent-mindedly to introduce me to girls like
her former self, was now nothing more to me than Mme. de Saint-Loup. As
I looked at her, I did not start dreaming of the part my admiration of
Bergotte, whom she had also forgotten, had formerly played in my love
of her for I now only thought of Bergotte as the author of his books,
without remembering, except during rare and isolated flashes, my
emotion when I was introduced to him, my disappointment, my
astonishment at his conversation in the drawing-room with the white
rugs, full of violets, where such a number of lamps were brought so
early and placed upon so many different tables. All the memories which
composed the original Mlle. Swann were, in fact, foreshortened by the
Gilberte of now, held back by the magnetic attraction of another
universe, united to a sentence of Bergotte and bathed in the perfume
of hawthorn. The fragmentary Gilberte of to-day listened smilingly to
my request and setting herself to think, she became serious and
appeared to be searching for something in her head. Of this I was glad
as it prevented her from noticing a group seated not far from us, the
sight of which would not have been agreeable to her. The Duchesse de
Guermantes was engaged in an animated conversation with a horrible old
woman whom I stared at without having the slightest idea who she was.
"How extraordinary to see Rachel here," Bloch passing at that moment,
whispered in my ear. The magic name instantly broke the spell which
had laid the disguise of this unknown and foul old woman upon
Saint-Loup's mistress and I recognised her at once. In this case as in
others, as soon as names were supplied to faces I could not recognise,
the spell was broken and I knew them. All the same, there was a man
there I could not recognise even when I was supplied with his name and
I believed it must be a homonym for he bore no sort of likeness to the
one I had formerly known and come across afterwards. It was the same
man, after all, only greyer and fatter but he had removed his
moustache and with it, his personality. It was indeed Rachel, now a
celebrated actress, who was to recite verses of Musset and La Fontaine
during the reception, with whom Gilberte's aunt, the Duchesse de
Guermantes, was then talking. The sight of Rachel could in no case
have been agreeable to Gilberte and I was annoyed to hear she was
going to recite because it would demonstrate her intimacy with the
Duchesse. The latter, too long conscious of being the leader of
fashion, (not realising that a situation of that kind only exists in
the minds of those who believe in it and that many newcomers would not
believe she had any position at all unless they saw her name in the
fashion-columns and knew she went everywhere) nowadays only visited
the Faubourg Saint-Germain at rare intervals, saying that it bored her
to death and went to the other extreme by lunching with this or that
actress whose company pleased her.

The Duchesse still hesitated to invite Balthy and Mistinguette, whom
she thought adorable, for fear of a scene with M. de Guermantes, but
in any case Rachel was her friend. From this the new generation
concluded, notwithstanding her name, that the Duchesse de Guermantes
must be a _demi-castor_ who had never been the "real thing". It is
true that Mme. de Guermantes still took the trouble to ask certain
sovereigns for whose friendship two other great ladies were her
rivals, to luncheon. But they rarely came to Paris and knew people of
no particular position, and as the Duchesse, owing to the Guermantes
partiality for old forms (for though well-bred people bored her, she
liked good manners) announced, "Her Majesty has commanded the Duchesse
de Guermantes, has deigned, et cetera," the newcomers, ignorant of
these formulas, assumed that the Duchesse's position had diminished.
From Mme. de Guermantes' standpoint, her intimacy with Rachel might
indicate that we were mistaken in believing her condemnation of
fashion to be a hypocritical pose at a time when her refusal to go to
Mme. de Sainte-Euverte's seemed to be due to snobbishness rather than
to intelligence and her objection to the marquise on the ground of
stupidity to be attributable to the latter's failure to attain her
snobbish ambitions. But this intimacy with Rachel might equally
signify that the Duchesse's intelligence was meagre, unsatisfied and
desirous, very late, of expressing itself, combined with a total
ignorance of intellectual realities and a fanciful spirit which makes
ladies of position say, "What fun it will be" and finish their
evenings in what actually is the most excruciating boredom, forcing
themselves on someone to whom they have nothing to say so as to stand
a moment by his bedside in an evening cloak, after which, observing
that it is very late, they go off to bed.

It may be added that for some little time, the versatile Duchesse had
felt a strong antipathy towards Gilberte which might make her take
particular pleasure in receiving Rachel, which moreover enabled her to
proclaim one of the Guermantes' maxims, namely, that they were too
numerous to take up a quarrel or to go into mourning among themselves,
a sort of "it's not my business" independence which it had been
expedient to adopt in regard to M. de Charlus who, had they espoused
his cause, would have made them quarrel with everybody. As to Rachel,
if she had actually taken a good deal of trouble to make friends with
the Duchesse (trouble which the Duchesse had been unable to detect in
the affected disdain and pretentious rudeness which made her believe
the actress was not at all a snob) doubtless it came about from the
fascination exercised upon society people by hardened bohemians which
is parallel to that which bohemians feel about people in society, a
double reaction which corresponds, in the political order, to the
reciprocal curiosity and desire to be allies displayed by nations who
have fought against each other. But Rachel's wish to be friends with
the Duchesse might have a more peculiar reason. It was at the house of
Mme. de Guermantes and from Mme. de Guermantes herself that she once
suffered her greatest humiliation. Rachel had not forgotten though,
little by little, she had pardoned it but the singular prestige the
Duchesse had derived from it in her eyes, would never be effaced. The
colloquy from which I wanted to draw Gilberte's attention was
fortunately interrupted, for the mistress of the house came to fetch
Rachel, the moment having come for her recitation, so she left the
Duchesse and appeared upon the platform.


While these incidents were taking place a spectacle of a very
different kind was to be seen at the other end of Paris. La Berma had
asked some people to come to tea with her in honour of her daughter
and her son-in-law but the guests were apparently in no hurry to
arrive. Having learned that Rachel was to recite poems at the
Princesse de Guermantes' (which greatly shocked la Berma, a great
artist to whom Rachel was still a courtesan given minor parts, because
Saint-Loup paid for her stage-wardrobe, in plays in which la Berma
took the principal rôle, more shocked still by the report in town that
though the invitations were sent in the name of the Princesse de
Guermantes, it was Rachel who was receiving there) la Berma had
written insistently to some of her faithful friends not to fail to
come to her tea party, knowing they were also friends of the Princesse
de Guermantes when she was Mme. Verdurin. But the hours passed and no
one arrived. When Bloch was asked to go he replied naïvely: "No, I
prefer going to the Princesse de Guermantes'." And, alas, everyone
else had made up his mind to do likewise. La Berma, attacked by a
mortal disease which prevented her from going into society except on
rare occasions, had become worse, since, in order to satisfy her
daughter's demand for luxuries which her ailing and idle son-in-law
could not provide, she had again gone on the stage. She knew she was
shortening her life, but only cared to please her daughter to whom she
brought the great prestige of her fame as to her son-in-law whom she
detested but flattered because, as she knew her daughter adored him,
she feared, if she did not conciliate him, he would, out of spite,
keep them apart. La Berma's daughter, who was not entirely cruel and
was secretly loved by the doctor who was attending her mother, allowed
herself to be persuaded that these performances of Phèdre were not
very dangerous to the invalid. In a measure she had forced the doctor
to say so and had retained only that out of the many things he forbade
and which she ignored; in reality the doctor had said that there was
no harm in la Berma's performances, to please the young woman whom he
loved, and perhaps through ignorance as well, knowing that the disease
was incurable anyhow, on the principle that one readily accepts the
shortening of the sufferings of invalids when in doing so one is the
gainer, perhaps also through stupidly supposing it would please la
Berma herself and must, therefore, do her good, a foolish notion in
which he felt justified when, a box being sent him by la Berma's
children for which he left all his patients in the lurch, he had found
her as full of life on the stage as she had appeared moribund in her
own house. And our habits do, indeed, in large measure, enable even
our organisms to accommodate themselves to an existence which at first
seemed impossible. We have all seen an old circus performer with a
weak heart accomplish acrobatic tricks which no one would believe his
heart could stand. La Berma was in the same degree a stage veteran to
whose exactions her organs so much adapted themselves that forfeiting
prudence, she could, without the public discerning it, produce the
illusion of health only affected by an imaginary nervous ailment.
After the scene of Hippolyte's declaration, though la Berma well knew
the terrible night to which she was returning, her admirers applauded
her to the echo and declared her more beautiful than ever. She went
back in a state of horrible suffering but happy to bring her daughter
the bank-notes which, with the playfulness of a former child of the
streets, she was in the habit of tucking into her stocking whence she
proudly extracted them, hoping for a smile or a kiss. Unhappily, these
notes only enabled son-in-law and daughter to add new decorations to
their house adjoining that of their mother, in consequence of which,
incessant hammering interrupted the sleep which the great tragedian so
much needed. To conform to changes of fashion and to the taste of
Messrs, de X— or de Y—, whom they hoped to entertain, they redecorated
every room in the house. La Berma, realising that the sleep which
alone could have calmed her suffering, had fled, resigned herself to
not sleeping any more, not without a secret contempt for elegancies
which were hastening her death and making her last days a torture.
Doubtless she despised such decrees of fashion owing to a natural
resentment of things that injure us which we are powerless to avoid.
But it was also because, conscious of the genius within her, she had
acquired in her early youth the realisation of their futility and had
remained faithful to the tradition she had always reverenced and of
which she was the incarnation, which made her judge things and people
as she would have done thirty years earlier—Rachel, for instance, not
as the fashionable actress she had become but as the little prostitute
she had been. In truth, la Berma was no better than her daughter; it
was from her heredity and from the contagion of example which
admiration had rendered more, effective, that her daughter had derived
her egotism, her pitiless raillery, her unconscious cruelty. But, la
Berma, in thus saturating her daughter with her own defects, had
delivered herself. And even if la Berma's daughter had not had workmen
in her house she would have exhausted her mother through the ruthless
and irresponsible force of attraction of youth which infects old age
with the madness of trying to assimilate it. Every day there was a
luncheon party and they would have considered la Berma selfish to deny
them that pleasure, or even not to be there as they counted on the
magical presence of the illustrious mother to attract, not without
difficulty, new social relationships which had to be hauled in by the
ears. They "promised" her to these new acquaintances for some party
elsewhere so as to show them "civility". And the poor mother, engaged
in a grave colloquy with death who had taken up his abode in her, had
to get up and go out. The more so that, at this period, Réjane, in all
the lustre of her talent, was giving performances abroad with enormous
success and the son-in-law anxious that la Berma should not be
eclipsed, wanted as profuse an effulgence for the family and forced la
Berma to make tours during which she had to have injections of morphia
which might cause her death at any moment because of the state of her
kidneys. The same magnet of fashion and social prestige had on the day
of the Princesse de Guermantes' party, acted as an air-pump and had
drawn la Berma's most faithful habitués there with the power of
hydraulic suction, while at her own house there was absolute void and
death. One young man had come, being uncertain whether the party at
la Berma's would be equally brilliant or not. When she saw the time
pass and realised that everyone had thrown her over, she had tea
served and sat down to table as though to a funereal repast. There was
nothing left in la Berma's face to recall her whose photograph had so
deeply moved me one mid-Lenten evening long ago; death, as people say,
was written in it. At this moment she verily resembled a marble of
Erechtheum. Her hardened arteries were half petrified, long sculptural
ribbons were traced upon her cheeks with a mineral rigidity. The dying
eyes were relatively living in contrast with the terrible ossified
mask and shone feebly like a serpent asleep in the midst of stones.
Nevertheless, the young man who had sat down to the table out of
politeness was continually looking at the time, attracted as he was to
the brilliant party at the Guermantes'. La Berma had no word of
reproach for the friends who had abandoned her naïvely hoping she was
unaware they had gone to the Guermantes'. She only murmured: "Fancy a
Rachel giving a party at the Princesse de Guermantes'; one has to come
to Paris to see a thing like that!" and silently and with solemn
slowness ate forbidden cakes as though she were observing some funeral
rite. The tea-party was the more depressing that the son-in-law was
furious that Rachel, whom he and his wife knew well, had not invited
them. His despair was the greater that the young man who had been
invited, told him he knew Rachel well enough, if he went to the
Guermantes' at once, to ask her to invite the frivolous couple at the
last moment. But la Berma's daughter knew the low level to which her
mother relegated Rachel and that, to solicit an invitation from the
former prostitute, would have been tantamount to killing her, and she
told the young man and her husband that such-a thing was out of the
question. But she revenged herself during tea by adopting an air of
being deprived of amusement and bored by that tiresome mother of hers.
The latter pretended not to notice her daughter's sulkiness and every
now and then addressed an amiable word to the young man, their only
guest, in a dying voice. But soon the whirlwind which was blowing
everybody to the Guermantes' and had blown me there prevailed; he got
up and left, leaving Phèdre or death, one did not know which, to
finish eating the funereal cakes with her daughter and her son-in-law.


The conversation Gilberte and I were having was interrupted by the
voice of Rachel who had just stood up. Her performance was
intelligent, for it assumed the unity of the poem as pre-existent
apart from the recital and that we were only listening to a fragment
of it, as though we were for a moment within earshot of an artist
walking along a road. But the audience was bewildered at the sight of
the woman bending her knees and throwing out her arms as though she
were holding some invisible being in them, before she uttered a sound,
and then becoming suddenly bandy-legged and starting to recite very
familiar lines in a tone of supplication.

The announcement of a poem which nearly everybody knew had given
satisfaction. But when they saw Rachel before beginning, peering about
like one who is lost, lifting imploring hands and giving vent to sobs
with every word everyone felt embarrassed and shocked by the
exaggeration. No one had ever supposed that reciting verses was this
sort of thing. But, by degrees, one gets accustomed to it and one
forgets the first feeling of discomfort; one begins analysing the
performance and mentally comparing various forms of recitation so as
to say to oneself that one thing or the other is better or worse. It
is like when, on seeing a barrister the first time in an ordinary
lawsuit stand forward, lift his arm from the folds of his gown and
begin in a threatening tone, one does not dare look at one's
neighbours. One feels it is ridiculous, but perhaps, after all, it is
magnificent and one waits to see. Everybody looked at each other, not
knowing what sort of face to put on; some of the younger ones whose
manners were less restrained stifled bursts of laughter. Each person
cast a stealthy look at the one next to him, that furtive look one
bestows on a guest more knowing than oneself at a fashionable dinner
when at the side of one's plate one observes a strange instrument, a
lobster fork or a sugar-sifter one does not know how to wield, hoping
to watch him using it so that one can copy him. One behaves similarly
when someone quotes a verse one does not know but wants to appear to
know and which, like giving way to someone else at a door, one leaves
to a better-informed person the pleasure of identifying as though we
were doing him a favour. Thus those who were listening waited with
bent head and inquisitive eye for others to take the initiative in
laughter, criticism, tears or applause. Mme. de Forcheville, come
expressly from Guermantes whence the Duchesse, as we shall see later
on, had been virtually expelled, adopted an attentive and strained
appearance which was all but positively disagreeable, either to show
she knew all about it and was not present as a mere society woman, or
out of hostility to those less versed in literature who might talk to
her about something else or because she was trying by complete
concentration, to make up her mind whether she liked it or not because
though, perhaps, she thought it "interesting", she did not "approve"
the manner in which certain verses were delivered. This attitude might
more properly have been adopted one would have thought, by the
Princesse de Guermantes. But as it was her own house and she had
become as miserly as she had rich she made up her mind to give just
five roses to Rachel and see to the _claque_ for her. She excited
enthusiasm and created general approval by her loud exclamations of
delight. Only in that respect did she become a Verdurin again; she
conveyed the impression of listening to the verses for her own
pleasure, of really preferring them to be recited to her alone and of
its being a matter of chance that five hundred people had come by her
permission to share her pleasure in secrecy. I noticed, however,
without its affording my vanity any satisfaction since she had become
old and ugly, that Rachel gave me a surreptitious wink. Throughout the
recital she let me perceive by a subtly conveyed yet expressive smile
that she was soliciting my acquiescence in her advances. But certain
old ladies, unaccustomed to poetic recitations, remarked _sotto voce_
to their neighbours: "Did you see that?" alluding to the actress's
tragi-comic miming which was too much for them. The Duchesse de
Guermantes sensed the wavering of opinion and determining to assure
the performer's triumph, exclaimed "marvellous!" in the very middle of
a poem which she believed finished. Upon this several guests
emphasised the exclamation with a gesture of appreciation, less with
the object of displaying their approval of the recital than the terms
they were on with the Duchesse. When the poem was finished, we were
close to Rachel who thanked Mme. de Guermantes and as I was with the
latter, took advantage of the opportunity to address me graciously. I
then realised that, unlike the impassioned gaze of M. de Vaugoubert's
son which I had assumed to be a salutation intended for another,
Rachel's significant smile, instead of being meant as an invitation
was only intended to provoke my recognition and the bow I now made to
her. "I am sure he does not know me," the actress remarked to the
Duchesse in a mincing manner. "On the contrary," I asserted, "I
recognised you immediately."

If, while that woman was reciting some of La Fontaine's most beautiful
verses, she had only been thinking, whether out of goodwill, stupidity
or embarrassment, of the awkwardness of approaching me, during the
same time Bloch had only thought of how he could bound, like one who
is escaping from a beleaguered city, if not over the bodies at all
events on the feet of his neighbours, to congratulate the actress the
moment the recital was over, whether from a mistaken sense of
obligation or from a desire to show off. "It was beautiful," he said
to her and, having thus relieved himself, he turned his back on her
and made such a noise in resuming his seat that Rachel had to wait
several minutes before she could begin her second poem. It was the
_Deux pigeons_ and when it was over, Mme. de Monrieuval went up to Mme.
de Saint-Loup who, she knew, was well-read but did not remember that
she had her father's subtle and sarcastic wit, and asked her: "It's
one of La Fontaine's fables, isn't it?" thinking so but not being
sure, for she only knew the fables slightly and believed they were
children's tales unsuitable for recitation in society. Doubtless the
good woman supposed that, to have such a success, the artist must have
parodied them. Gilbert, till then impassive, confirmed the notion, for
as she disliked Rachel and wanted to convey that with such a diction
nothing of the fables remained, her answer was given with that tinge
of malice which left simple people uncertain what Swann really meant.
Though she was Swann's daughter, she was more modern than he—like a
duck hatched by a chicken—and being as a rule rather _lakist_, would
have contented herself with saying: "I thought it most moving, a
charming sensibility", but Gilberte answered Mme. de Monrieuval in
Swann's fanciful fashion which people often made the mistake of taking
literally: "A quarter is the interpreter's invention, a quarter crazy,
a quarter meaningless, the rest La Fontaine," which enabled Mme. de
Monrieuval to assert that what people had been listening to was not
the _Deux pigeons_ of La Fontaine, but a composition of which at the
most a quarter was La Fontaine, at which nobody was surprised owing to
their extraordinary ignorance.

But one of Bloch's friends having arrived late, the former painted a
wonderful picture of Rachel's performance, getting a peculiar pleasure
out of exaggerating its merits and holding forth to someone about
modernist diction though it had not given him the slightest
satisfaction. Then Bloch again congratulated Rachel with overdone
emotion in a squeaky voice, told her she was a genius and introduced
his friend who declared he had never admired anyone so much and
Rachel, who now knew ladies in the best society and unconsciously
copied them, answered: "I am flattered, honoured, by your
appreciation." Bloch's friend asked Rachel what she thought of la
Berma. "Poor woman! It appears she's in a state of poverty. I will not
say she had no talent, though it was not real talent for, at bottom,
she only liked horrors, but certainly she was useful, she played in a
lively fashion and she was a well-meaning, generous creature and has
ruined herself for others. She has made nothing for a long time
because the public no longer cares for the things she plays in. To
tell the truth," she added with a laugh, "I must tell you that my age
did not enable me to hear her till her last period when I was too
young to form an opinion." "Didn't she recite poetry well?" Bloch's
friend ventured the question to flatter her: "As to that," she
replied, "she never could recite a single line, it was prose, Chinese,
Volapuk, anything you like except verse. Moreover, as I tell you, I
hardly heard her and only quite at the last," to appear youthful, "but
I've been told she was no better formerly, rather the reverse."

I realised that the passing of time does not necessarily bring about
progress in the arts. And in the same way that a seventeenth century
writer who was without knowledge of the French Revolution, scientific
discoveries and the war, can be superior to another of this period and
that Fagon was, perhaps, as great a physician as du Boulbon (the
superiority of genius compensating in this case the inferiority of
knowledge) so la Berma was a hundred times greater than Rachel and
time, by placing her at the top of the tree together with Elstir, had
consecrated her genius.

One must not be surprised that Saint-Loup's former mistress sneered at
la Berma, she would have done so when she was young, so how would she
not do so now. Let a society woman of high intelligence and of amiable
disposition become an actress, displaying great talent in her new
profession and meeting with nothing but success, if one happened to be
in her company some time later, one would be surprised at hearing her
talk a language which was not hers but that of people of the theatre,
assume their peculiar kind of coarse familiarity towards their
colleagues and all the rest of the habits acquired by those who have
been on the stage for thirty years. Rachel behaved similarly without
having been in society.

Mme. de Guermantes, in her decline, had felt new curiosities rising
within her. Society had nothing more to give her. The fact that she
occupied the highest position in it was, as we have seen, as plain to
her as the height of the blue sky above the earth. She did not
consider that she had to assert a position she regarded as
unassailable. On the other hand, she wanted to extend her reading and
attend more performances. As in former days, all the choicest and most
exclusive spirits gathered familiarly in the little garden to drink
orangeade amidst the perfumed breezes and clouds of pollen, to be
entertained of an evening by her taste for and understanding of what
was best in society, now another sort of appetite made her want to
know the reasons of some literary controversy, to make the
acquaintance of its protagonists and of actresses. Her tired mind
demanded a new stimulant. To know such people, she now made advances
to women with whom formerly she would not have exchanged cards, and
who made much of their intimacy with the director of some review or
other in the hope of getting hold of the Duchesse. The first actress
she invited believed herself to be the only one admitted to a
wonderful social milieu which seemed less wonderful to the second when
the latter saw who had preceded her. The Duchesse believed her
position to be unchanged because she received royalties at some of her
evening parties. In reality she, the only representative of stainless
blood, herself a born Guermantes, who could sign "Guermantes" when she
did not sign "Duchesse de Guermantes", she who represented to her own
sisters-in-law something infinitely precious, like a Moses saved from
the waters, a Christ escaped into Egypt, a Louis XVII fled from the
Temple, purest of pure breeds, now sacrificed it all, doubtless, for
the sake of that congenital need of mental nourishment which caused
the social desuetude of Mme. de Villeparisis and had herself become a
sort of Mme. de Villeparisis at whose house snobbish women were afraid
of meeting this person or that and whom young men, observing the
accomplished fact without knowing what had preceded it, believed to be
a Guermantes of inferior vintage, of a poor year, a _déclassée_
Guermantes. In her new environment she remained what she had been more
than she supposed and went on believing that being bored implied
intellectual superiority and expressed this sentiment with a violence
that made her voice sound harsh. When I talked about Brichot to her
she said: "He bored me enough for twenty years," and when Mme. de
Cambremer suggested her re-reading "what Schopenhauer said about
music," she commented on the remark with asperity: "Re-read! That's a
gem! Please not that." Then old Albon smiled because he recognised one
of the forms of the Guermantes' spirit.

"People can say what they like, it's admirable, there's the right note
and character in it, it's an intelligent rendering, nobody ever
recited verses like it," the Duchesse said of Rachel, for fear
Gilberte would sneer at her. The latter moved away to another group to
avoid conflict with her aunt who, indeed, was extremely dull when she
talked about Rachel. But considering the best writers cease to display
any talent with increase of age or from excess of production, one can
excuse society women for having less sense of humour as they get old.
Swann missed the Princesse des Laumes' delicacy in the hard wit of the
Duchesse de Guermantes. Late in life, tired by the slightest effort,
Mme. de Guermantes gave vent to an immense number of stupid
observations. It is true that every now and then, even in the course
of this very afternoon, she was again the woman I once knew and talked
about society matters with her former verve. But in spite of the
sparkling words and the accompanying charm which for so many years had
held under their sway the most distinguished men in Paris, her wit
scintillated, so to speak, in a vacuum. When she was about to say
something funny, she paused the same number of seconds as she used to
but when the jest came, there was no point in it. However, few enough
people noticed it. The continuity of the proceeding made them think
the spirit survived like people who have a fancy for particular kinds
of cakes and go to the same shop for them without noticing that they
have deteriorated. Even during the war the Duchesse had shown signs of
this decay. If anyone used the word culture, she stopped, smiled, her
beautiful face lighted up and she ejaculated: "la K K K Kultur" and
made her friends, who were fervents of the Guermantes' spirit, roar
with laughter. It was, of course, the same mould, the same intonation,
the same smile that had formerly delighted Bergotte, who, for that
matter, had he lived, would have kept his pithy phrases, his
interjections, his periods of suspense, his epithets, to express
nothing. But newcomers were sometimes taken aback and if they happened
to turn up on a day when she was neither bright nor in full possession
of her faculties, they said, "What a fool she is." Moreover, the
Duchesse so timed her descent into a lower sphere as not to allow it
to affect those of her family from whom she drew aristocratic
prestige. If, to play her part as protectress of the arts, she invited
a minister or a painter to the theatre and he asked her naïvely
whether her sister-in-law or her husband were in the audience, the
Duchesse intimidated him by a show of audacity and answered
disdainfully: "I don't know. When I go out I don't bother about my
family. For politicians and artists I'm a widow." In this way she
prevented the too obtrusive parvenu from getting rebuffs—and herself
reprimands—from M. de Marsantes and Basin.

I told Mme. de Guermantes I had met M. de Charlus. She thought him
more deteriorated than he was, it being the habit of people in society
to see differences of intelligence in various people in their world
amongst whom it is about uniform and also in the same person at
different periods of his life. She added: "He was always the very
image of my mother-in-law and the likeness is more striking than
ever." There was nothing remarkable in that. We know, as a matter of
fact, that certain women are reproduced in certain men with complete
fidelity, the only mistake being the sex. We cannot qualify this as
_felix culpa_, for sex reacts upon personality and feminism becomes
effeminacy, reserve susceptibility and so on. This does not prevent a
man's face, even though bearded, from being modelled on lines
transferable to the portrait of his mother. There was nothing but a
ruin of the old M. de Charlus left but under all the layers of fat and
rice powder one could recognise the remnants of a beautiful woman in
her eternal youth.

"I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to see you," the
Duchesse continued, "goodness, when was it we last met?" "Calling upon
Mme. d'Agrigente where I often used to see you." "Ah, of course, I
often went there, my dear friend, as Basin was in love with her then.
I could always be found with his particular friend of the moment
because he used to say: 'Mind you go and see her.' I must confess that
sort of 'digestion-call' he made me pay when he had satisfied his
appetite was rather troublesome. I got accustomed to that, but the
tiresome part was being obliged to keep these relationships up after
he had done with them. That always made me think of Victor Hugo's
verse '_Emporte le bonheur et laisse-moi l'ennui_.' I accepted it
smilingly like poetry but it wasn't fair. At least he might have let
me be fickle about his mistresses; making-up his accounts with the
series he had enough of didn't leave me an afternoon to myself. Well,
those days seem sweet compared to the present. I can consider it
flattering that he has started being unfaithful to me again because it
makes me feel young. But I prefer his earlier manner. I suppose it was
so long since he had done that sort of thing that he didn't know how
to set about it. But all the same, we get on quite well together. We
talk together and rather like each other." The Duchesse said this for
fear I might think they had completely separated and, just as people
say when someone is very ill: "He still likes to talk, I was reading
to him for an hour this morning," she added: "I'll tell him you're
here, he'd like to see you," and went up to the Duc who was sitting on
a sofa talking to a lady. But when he saw his wife approaching him, he
looked so angry that she had no alternative but to retire. "He's
engaged; I don't know what he is up to, we shall see presently," Mme.
de Guermantes said, leaving me to make what I liked of the situation.
Bloch approached us and asked us in the name of his American friend
who the young Duchesse over there was. I told him she was the niece of
M. de Bréauté, about whom Bloch, who had never heard his name, wanted
particulars. "Ah, Bréauté!" exclaimed Mme. de Guermantes, addressing
me, "you remember! Goodness, how long ago it is!" Then turning to
Bloch, "He was a snob if you like; his people lived near my
mother-in-law. That won't interest you, it's amusing for my old
friend," she indicated me, "he used to know all about them in old days
as I did." These words and many things in Mme. de Guermantes' manner
showed the time that had passed since then. Her friendships and
opinions had so changed since the time she was referring to that she
had come to thinking her charming Babel a snob. He, on the other hand,
had not only receded in time, but, a thing I had not realised when I
entered society and believed him one of those notabilities of Paris
which would always be associated with his social history like with
that of Colbert in the reign of Louis XIV, he also had a provincial
label as a country neighbour of the old Duchesse and it was in that
capacity that the Princesse des Laumes had been associated with him.
Nevertheless, this Bréauté, barren of his one time wit, relegated to a
past which dated him and proved he had since been completely forgotten
by the Duchesse and her circle, formed a link between the Duchesse and
myself which I could never have believed that first evening at the
Opéra Comique when he had appeared to me like a nautical God in his
marine cave, because she recalled that I had known him, consequently
that I had been her friend, if not of the same social circle as
herself, that I had frequented that circle for a far longer time than
most of the people present; she recalled him and yet not clearly
enough to remember certain details which were then my vital concern,
that I was not invited to the Guermantes' place in the country and was
only a small bourgeois of Combray when she came to Mlle. Percepied's
marriage mass, that, in spite of all Saint-Loup's requests, she did
not invite me to her house during the year following Bréauté's
appearance with her at the Opéra Comique. To me that was of capital
importance for it was exactly then that the life of the Duchesse de
Guermantes seemed to me like a paradise I could not enter, but for her
it was the same indifferent existence she was accustomed to, and owing
to my having often dined at her house later on, and to my having, even
earlier, been her aunt's and her nephew's friend, she no longer
remembered at what period our intimacy had begun nor realised the
anachronism of making it start several years too early. For that made
it seem as though I had known the Mme. de Guermantes of that marvellous
Guermantes name, that I had been received by the name of golden
syllables in the Faubourg Saint-Germain when I had merely dined with a
lady who was even then nothing more to me than a lady like any other
and who had invited me not to descend into the submarine kingdom of
the Nereids but to spend the evening in her cousin's box. "If you want
to know all about Bréauté, who isn't worth it," she added to Bloch,
"ask my friend who is worth a hundred of him. He has dined fifty times
at my house with Bréauté. Wasn't it at my house that you met him?
Anyhow, you met Swann there." And I was as surprised that she imagined
I might have met M. de Bréauté elsewhere than at her house and
frequented that circle before I knew her as I was to observe that she
imagined I had first known Swann at her house. Less untruthfully than
Gilberte when she said that Bréauté was "one of my old neighbours in
the country; I like talking to him about Tansonville," whereas he did
not in those days go to the Swann's at Tansonville, I might have
remarked: "He was a country neighbour who often came to see us in the
evening," in reference to Swann, who in truth, recalled something very
different from the Guermantes, "It's rather difficult to explain," she
continued. "He was a man to whom Highnesses meant everything. He told
a lot of rather funny stories about Guermantes people and my
mother-in-law and Mme. de Varambon before she was in attendance on the
Princesse de Parme. But who cares about Mme. de Varambon now? My friend
here knew about all this, but it's done with now, they're people whose
names are forgotten and, for that matter, they didn't deserve to
survive." And I realised, in spite of that unified thing society seems
to be, where, in fact, social relationships reach their greatest
concentration, where everything gets known about everybody, that areas
of it remain in which time causes changes that cannot be grasped by
those who only enter it when its configuration has changed. "Mme. de
Varambon was an excellent creature who said unbelievably stupid
things," continued the Duchesse, insensitive to that poetry of the
incomprehensible which is an effect of time, and concerned only with
extracting human elements assimilable with literature of the Meilhac
kind and with the Guermantes spirit, "at one time she had a mania for
constantly chewing cough drops called"—she laughed to herself as she
recalled the name so familiar formerly, so unknown now to those she
was addressing—"Pastilles Géraudel. 'Mme. de Varambon,' my
mother-in-law said to her, "'if you go on swallowing those Géraudel
pastilles, you'll get a stomach-ache.' 'But, Mme. la Duchesse,'
answered Mme. de Varambon, 'how can I hurt my stomach since they go
into the bronchial tubes?' It was she who said, 'The Duchesse has got
such a beautiful cow that it looks like a stallion.'" Mme. de
Guermantes would have gladly gone on telling stories about Mme. de
Varambon of which we knew hundreds but the name did not evoke in
Bloch's memory any of those associations rekindled in us by the
mention of Mme. de Varambon, of M. de Bréauté, of the Prince
d'Agrigente, who perhaps, on that account, exercised a glamour in his
eyes I knew to be exaggerated but understood, though not because I had
felt it, since our own weaknesses and absurdities seldom make us more
indulgent to those of others even when we have thrust them into the
light.

The past had been so transformed in the mind of the Duchesse or the
demarcations which existed in my own had always been so absent from
hers, that what had been an important event for me had passed
unperceived by her and she endowed me with a social past which she
made recede too far. For the Duchesse shared that notion of time past
which I had just acquired, and contrary to my illusion which shortened
it, she lengthened it, notably in not reckoning with that undefined
line of demarcation between the period when she represented a name to
me, then the object of my love—and the period during which she had
become merely a woman in society like any other. Moreover, I only
went to her house during that second period when she had become
another to me. But these differences escaped her eyes and she would
not have thought it more singular that I should have been at her house
two years earlier because she did not know that she was then another
person to me, her personality not appearing to her, as to me,
discontinuous.

I told the Duchesse that Bloch believed it was the former Princesse de
Guermantes who was receiving to-day, "That reminds me of the first
evening when I went to the Princesse de Guermantes' and believed I was
not invited and that they were going to turn me out, when you wore a
red dress and red shoes." "Gracious, how long ago that is!" she
answered, thus emphasising the passage of time. She gazed sadly into
the distance but particularly insisted on the red dress. I asked her
to describe it to me, which she did with complaisance. "Those dresses
aren't worn nowadays. They were the fashion then." "But it was pretty,
wasn't it?" She was always afraid of saying anything that might not be
to her advantage. "Yes, I thought it very pretty. It isn't the fashion
now but it will be again. All fashions come back, in dress, in music,
in painting," she added with emphasis, imagining something original in
this philosophy. But the sadness of growing old gave her a lassitude
belied by her smile. "You're sure they were red shoes; I thought they
were gold ones?" I assured her that my memory was exact on the point
without detailing the circumstances which enabled me to be so certain.
"You're charming to remember," she said tenderly, for women call those
charming who remember their beauty as artists do those who remember
their works. Moreover, however distant the past, so determined a woman
as the Duchesse is unlikely to forget it. "Do you remember," she said,
as she thanked me for remembering her dress and her shoes, "Basin and
I brought you back that evening and there was a girl coming to see you
after midnight. Basin laughed heartily about your having visitors at
that time of night." I did, indeed, remember that Albertine came to
see me that night after the evening party at the Princesse de
Guermantes'. I remembered it quite as well as the Duchesse, I to whom
Albertine was now as indifferent as she would have been to Mme. de
Guermantes, had the latter known that the young girl on whose account
I had not gone to their house, was Albertine. Long after our hearts
have forsaken the poor dead, their indifferent dust remains, like an
alloy, mingled with events of the past and, though we love them no
more, when we evoke a room, a path, a road they lived in or traversed
with us, we are compelled, so that the place they occupied may not
remain untenanted, to think of them though we neither regret nor name
nor identify them. (Mme. de Guermantes did not identify the girl who
was to come that evening, had never known her name and only referred
to her because of the hour and the circumstances.) Those are the final
and least enviable forms of survival.

If the opinions the Duchesse subsequently expressed regarding Rachel
were indifferent in themselves, they interested me because they, too,
marked a new hour on the dial. For the Duchesse had no more forgotten
her evening party in which Rachel figured than had the latter and the
memory had not undergone the slightest transformation. "I must tell
you," she said, "that I am the more interested to hear her recite and
to witness her success that I discovered her, appreciated her,
treasured her, imposed her, at a time when she was ignored and laughed
at. You may be surprised, my dear friend, to know that the first time
she was heard in public was at my house. Yes, while all the would-be
advanced people like my new cousin"—she ironically indicated the
Princesse de Guermantes who to her was still Mme. Verdurin, "would have
let her starve without condescending to listen to her. I considered
her interesting and gave her the prestige of performing at my house
before the smartest audience we could get together. I can say, though
it sounds stupid and pretentious, for fundamentally talent doesn't
need protection, that I launched her. Of course she didn't need me." I
made a gesture of protest and observed that Mme. de Guermantes was
quite ready to welcome it. "You evidently think talent has need of
support? Perhaps, after all, you're right. You're repeating what
Dumas formerly told me. In this case, I am extremely flattered if I do
count for something, however little, not in the talent, of course, but
in the reputation of an artist like her." Mme. de Guermantes preferred
to abandon her idea that talent bursts like an abscess because it was
more flattering for herself, but also because for some time now, she
had been receiving new people and being rather worn out, she had
practised humility by seeking information and asking others their
opinion in order to form one. "It isn't necessary for me to tell you,"
she resumed, "that this intelligent public which is called society saw
nothing in it. They objected to her and scoffed at her. I might tell
them it was original and curious, something different from what-had
been done before, no one believed me, as they never did believe me in
anything. It was the same with the thing she recited, a piece by
Maeterlinck. Now it's well known, but then everyone laughed at it
though I considered it admirable. It surprises even myself
considering I was only a peasant with the education of a country-girl,
that I spontaneously admired things of that kind. I could not, of
course, have explained why, but it gave me pleasure, it moved me. Why,
Basin, who is anything but sensitive, was struck by its effect on me.
At that time, he said: 'I don't want you to listen to these
absurdities any more, they make you ill,' and it was true. They take
me for a hard woman and really I am a bundle of nerves."


At this moment an unexpected incident occurred. A footman came to tell
Rachel that la Berma's daughter and son-in-law wanted to speak to her.
We have seen that the daughter had opposed her husband when he wanted
to get an invitation from Rachel. But, after the departure of the
young man, the boredom of the young couple left alone with their
mother had grown, the thought that others were amusing themselves
tormented them; in brief, availing themselves of la Berma's retirement
to her bedroom to spit blood, they had quickly put on their smartest
clothes, called a carriage and had arrived at the Princesse de
Guermantes' without being invited. Rachel hardly grasped the
situation, but secretly flattered, adopted an arrogant tone and told
the footman she could not be disturbed, they must write and explain
the object of their unusual proceeding. The footman came back with a
card on which la Berma's daughter had scribbled that she and her
husband could not resist the pleasure of hearing Rachel recite and
asked her to let them come in. Rachel gloated over the pretext and her
own triumph and replied that she was very sorry but that the
recitation was over. In the anteroom, the footmen were winking at each
other while the couple in vain awaited admission. The shame of their
humiliation, the consciousness of the insignificance, the nullity of
Rachel in her mother's eyes, pushed la Berma's daughter into pursuing
to the end the step she had risked simply for amusement. She sent a
message to Rachel that she would take it as a favour, even if she
could not hear her recite, to be allowed to shake hands with her.
Rachel at the moment, was talking to an Italian Prince who was said to
be after her large fortune, the source of which her social
relationships somewhat concealed. She took stock of the reversal of
situations which now placed the children of the illustrious Berma at
her feet. After informing everyone about the incident in the most
charming fashion, she sent the young couple a message to come in,
which they did without being asked twice, ruining la Berma's social
prestige at one blow as they had previously destroyed her health.
Rachel had realised that her condescension would result in her being
considered kinder and the young couple baser than her refusal. So she
received them with open arms and with the affectation of a patroness
in the limelight who can put aside her magnificence, said: "But of
course, I'm delighted to see you, the Princesse will be charmed". As
she did not know that at the theatre she was supposed to have done the
inviting, she may have feared, if she refused entry to la Berma's
children, that they might have doubted not her goodwill for that would
have been indifferent to her—but her influence. The Duchesse de
Guermantes moved away instinctively, for in proportion to anyone's
appearing to court society, he diminished in her esteem. At the moment
she only felt it for Rachel's kindness and would have turned her back
on la Berma's children if they had been introduced to her. Meanwhile,
Rachel was composing the gracious phrases with which she, the
following day, would overwhelm la Berma in the wings: "I was harrowed,
distressed that your daughter should have been kept waiting in the
anteroom. If I had only known! She sent me card after card." She was
enchanted to offer this insult to la Berma. Perhaps, had she known it
would be a mortal blow, she might have hesitated. People like to
persecute others but without exactly putting themselves in the wrong
and without hounding them to death. Moreover, where was she wrong? She
might say laughingly a few days later: "That's pretty thick, I meant
to be far nicer to her children than she ever was to me, and now they
nearly accuse me of killing her. I take the Duchesse to witness." It
seems as though the children of great actors inherit all the evil and
pretence of stage-life without accomplishing the determined work that
springs from it as did this mother. Great actresses frequently die the
victims of domestic plots which are woven round them, as happens so
often at the close of dramas they play in.


Gilberte, as we have seen, wanted to avoid a conflict with her aunt on
the subject of Rachel. She did well; it was not an easy matter to
undertake the defence of Odette's daughter in opposition to Mme. de
Guermantes, so great was her animosity owing to what the Duchesse told
me about the new form the Duc's infidelity had taken, which,
extraordinary as it might appear to those who knew her age, was with
Mme. de Forcheville.

When one remembered Mme. de Forcheville's present age, it did, indeed,
seem extraordinary. But Odette had probably begun the life of a
courtesan very young. And we encounter women who reincarnate
themselves every ten years in new love affairs and sometimes drive
some young wife to despair because of her husband's deserting her for
them when one actually thought they were dead.

The life of the Duchesse was a very unhappy one, and one reason for it
simultaneously brought about the lowering of M. de Guermantes' social
standard. He, sobered by advancing age though still robust, had long
ceased being unfaithful to Mme. de Guermantes, but had suddenly become
infatuated with Mme. de Forcheville without knowing how he had got
involved in the liaison.

It had assumed such proportions that the old man, in this last love
affair, imitating his own earlier amative proceedings, so secluded his
mistress that, if my love for Albertine had been a multiple variation
of Swann's for Odette, M. de Guermantes' recalled mine for Albertine.
She had to take all her meals with him and he was always at her house.
She boasted of this to friends who, but for her, would never have
known the Duc and who came to her house to make his acquaintance, as
people visit a courtesan to get to know the king who is her lover. It
is true that Mme. de Forcheville had been in society for a long time.
But beginning over again, late in life, to be kept by such a haughty
old man who played the most important part in her life, she lowered
herself by ministering only to his pleasure, buying peignoirs and
ordering food he liked, flattering her friends by telling them that
she had spoken to him about them, as she told my great-uncle she had
spoken about him to the Grand-Duke who then sent him cigarettes, in a
word, she once more tended, in spite of the position she had secured
in society, to become, owing to force of circumstances, what she had
been to me when I was a child, the lady in pink. Of course, my Uncle
Adolphe had been dead many years. But does the substitution of new
people for old prevent us from beginning the same life over again?
Doubtless she adapted herself to the new conditions out of cupidity,
but also because, somewhat sought after socially when she had a
daughter to marry, she had been left in the background when Gilberte
married Saint-Loup. She knew that the Duc would do what she liked,
that he would bring her any number of duchesses who would not be
reluctant to score off their friend Oriane and, perhaps, was
stimulated into the bargain by the prospect of gratifying her feminine
sentiment of rivalry at the expense of the outraged Duchesse. The Duc
de Guermantes' exclusive Courvoisier nephews, Mme. de Marsantes, the
Princesse de Trania, went to Mme. de Forcheville's in the expectation
of legacies without troubling whether or no this caused pain to Mme. de
Guermantes, about whom Odette, stung by Mme. de Guermantes' disdain,
said the most evil things. This liaison with Mme. de Forcheville, which
was only an imitation of his early ones, caused the Duc de Guermantes
to miss for the second time being elected President of the Jockey Club
and honorary member of the Académie des Beaux Arts just as M. de
Charlus' public association with Jupien was the cause of his failure
to be elected President of the Union Club and of the Society of
Friends of Old Paris. Thus the two brothers, so different in their
tastes, had fallen into disrepute on account of the same indolence and
lack of will, more pleasantly observable in the case of their
grandfather, a member of the French Academy, which led to the normal
proclivities of one and the abnormal habits of the other degrading
both.

The old Duc did not go out any more, he spent his days and evenings at
Odette's. But to-day, as she herself had come to the Princesse de
Guermantes' party, he had dropped in to see her for a moment, in spite
of the annoyance of meeting his wife. I dare say I should not have
recognised him if the Duchesse had not drawn my attention to him. He
was now nothing but a ruin, but a splendid one; grander than a ruin,
he had the romantic beauty of a rock beaten by a tempest. Scourged
from every side by the waves of suffering, by rage at his suffering,
his face, slowly crumbling like a block of granite almost submerged by
the towering seas, retained the style, the suavity I had always
admired. It was defaced like a beautiful antique head we are glad to
possess as an ornament in a library. But it seemed to belong to an
earlier period than it did, not only because its matter had acquired a
rude brokenness in the place of its former grace but also because an
involuntary expression caused by failing health, resisting and
fighting death, by the arduousness of keeping alive, had replaced the
old delicacy of mien and exuberance. The arteries had lost all their
suppleness and had imprinted a sculptured hardness on the once
expressive features. And, unconsciously, the Duc revealed by the
contours of his neck, his cheeks, his brow, a being forced to hold on
grimly to every moment and as though tossed by a tragic storm, his
sparse white locks dashed their spray over the invaded promontory of
his visage. And like the weird and spectral reflection an approaching
storm sweeping everything before it, gives to rocks till then of
another colour, I knew that the leaden grey of his hard, worn cheeks,
the woolly whiteness of his unkempt hair, the wavering light which
lingered in his almost unseeing eyes, were the but too real pigment
borrowed from a fantastic palette with which was inimitably painted
the prophetic shadows of age and the terrifying proximity of death.
The Duc only stayed a few moments but long enough for me to see that
Odette made fun of him to her younger aspirants. But it was strange
that he who used to be almost ridiculous when he assumed the pose of a
stage-king, was now endowed with a noble mien, resembling in that his
brother whom also old age had relieved of accessories. And like his
brother, once so arrogant, though in a different way, he seemed almost
respectful. For he had not suffered the eclipse of M. de Charlus,
reduced to bowing with a forgetful invalid's politeness to those he
had formerly disdained, but he was very old and when he went through
the door and wanted to go down the stairs to go away, old age, that
most miserable condition which casts men from their high estate as it
did the Kings of Greek tragedy, old age gripped him, forced him to
halt on that road of the cross which is the life of an impotent
menaced by death, so that he might wipe his streaming brow and tap to
find the step which escaped his foothold because he needed help to
ensure it, help against his swimming eyes, help he was unknowingly
imploring ever so gently and timidly from others. Old age had made him
more than august, it had made him a suppliant.

Thus in the Faubourg Saint-Germain the apparently impregnable
positions of the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes and of the Baron de
Charlus had lost their inviolability as everything changes in this
world through the action of an interior principle which had never
occurred to them; in the case of M. de Charlus it was the love of
Charlie who had enslaved him to the Verdurins and then gradual decay,
in the case of Mme. de Guermantes a taste for novelty and for art, in
the case of M. de Guermantes an exclusive love, as he had had so many
in his life, rendered more tyrannical by the feebleness of old age to
which the austerity of the Duchesse's salon where the Duc no longer
put in an appearance and which, for that matter, had almost ceased
functioning, offered no resistance by its power of rehabilitation.
Thus the face of things in life changes, the centre of empires, the
register of fortunes, the chart of positions, all that seemed final,
are perpetually remoulded and during his life-time a man can witness
the completest changes just where those seemed to him least possible.

Unable to do without Odette, always at her house and in the same
armchair from which old age and gout made it difficult for him to
rise, M. de Guermantes let her receive her friends who were only too
pleased to be introduced to the Duc, to give him the lead in
conversation, and listen to his talk of former society, of the
Marquise de Villeparisis and of the Duc de Chartres.

At moments, beneath the old pictures collected by Swann which, with
this _Restauration_ Duc and his beloved courtesan, completed the
old-fashioned picture, the lady in pink interrupted him with her
chatter and he stopped short, and stared at her with a ferocious
glare. Possibly he had discovered that she, as well as the duchesse,
occasionally made stupid remarks, perhaps an old man's fancy made him
think that one of Mme. de Guermantes' intemperate passages of humour
had interrupted what he was saying and he thought himself back in the
Guermantes' mansion as caged beasts may imagine themselves free in
African wilds. Raising his head sharply, he fixed his little yellow
eyes, which once had the gleam of a wild animal's, on her in one of
those sustained scowls which made me shiver when Mme. de Guermantes
told me about them. Thus the Duc glared at the audacious lady in pink,
but she held her own, did not remove her eyes from him and at the end
of a moment which seemed long to the spectators, the old wild beast,
tamed, remembered he was no longer at large in the Sahara of his own
home, but in his cage in the Jardin des Plantes at Mme. de
Forcheville's and he withdrew his head, from which still depended a
thick fringe of blonde-white hair, into his shoulders and resumed his
discourse. Apparently he had not understood what Mme. de Forcheville
said, which as a rule, meant little. He permitted her to ask her
friends to dinner with him. A mania which was a relic of his former
love affairs and did not surprise Odette, accustomed as she was to the
same habit in Swann and which reminded me of my life with Albertine,
was to insist on people going early so that he could say good-night to
Odette last. It is unnecessary to add that the moment he had gone she
invited other people. But the Duc had no suspicion of that, or
preferred not to seem to suspect it; the vigilance of old men
diminishes with their sight and hearing. After a certain age Jupiter
inevitably changes into one of Molière's characters—into the absurd
Géronte—not into the Olympian lover of Alcmene. And Odette deceived
M. de Guermantes and took care of him with neither charm nor
generosity of spirit. She was commonplace in that as in everything
else. Life had given her good parts but she could not play them and,
meanwhile, she was playing at being a recluse. It was a fact that
whenever I wanted to see her, I could not, because M. de Guermantes,
desirous of reconciling the exactions of his hygiene with those of his
jealousy, only allowed her to have parties in the day time and on the
further condition that there was no dancing. She frankly avowed the
seclusion in which she lived and this for various reasons. The first
was that she imagined, although I had only published a few articles
and studies, that I was a well-known author which caused her to remark
naïvely, returning to the past when I went to see her in the Avenue
des Acacias and later at her house: "Ah, if I could have then foreseen
that that boy would one day be a great writer." And having heard that
writers are glad to be with women in order to document themselves and
hear love stories, she readopted her rôle of courtesan to entertain
me: "Fancy, once there was a man who was crazy about me and I adored
him. We were having a divine time together. He had to go to America
and I was to go with him. On the eve of his departure I thought it
would be more beautiful not to risk that such a wonderful love should
come to an end. We spent our last evening together. He believed I
should go with him. It was a delirious night of infinite
voluptuousness and despair, for I knew I should never see him again.
In the morning I gave my ticket to a traveller I did not know. He
wanted to buy it but I answered: 'No, you are rendering me such
service in accepting it that I do not want the money.'" There was
another story: "One day I was in the Champs Elysées. M. de Bréauté,
whom I had only seen once, looked at me so significantly that I
stopped and asked him how he dared look at me like that. He answered:
'I'm looking at you because you've got an absurd hat on.' It was true.
It was a little hat with pansies on it and the fashions of that period
were awful. But I was furious and I said to him: 'I don't permit you
to talk to me like that.' It began to rain and I said: 'I might
forgive you if you had a carriage.' 'Oh, well, that's all right, I've
got one and I'll accompany you home.' 'No, I shall be glad to accept
your carriage but not you.' I got into the carriage and he departed in
the rain. But that evening he came to my house. We had two years of
wild love together. Come and have tea with me," she went on "and I'll
tell you how I made M. de Forcheville's acquaintance. Really," with a
melancholy air, "my life has been a cloistered one, for I've only had
great loves for men who were terribly jealous of me. I don't speak of
M. de Forcheville; he was quite indifferent and I only cared for
intelligent men, but, you see, M. Swann was as jealous as this poor
Duc for whose sake I sacrifice my life because he is unhappy at home.
But it was M. Swann I loved madly, and one can sacrifice dancing and
society and everything to please a man one loves or even to spare him
anxiety. Poor Charles, he was so intelligent, so seductive, exactly
the kind of man I liked." Perhaps it was true. There was a time when
Swann pleased her and it was exactly when she was not "his kind". To
tell the truth, she never had been "his kind", then or later. And yet
he had loved her so long and so painfully. He was surprised afterwards
when he realised the contradiction of it. But there would be none if
we consider how great a proportion of suffering women who aren't
"their kind" inflict on men. That is probably due to several causes;
first because they are not our kind, we let ourselves be loved without
loving; through that we adopt a habit we should not acquire with a
woman who is our kind. The latter, knowing she was desired, would
resist and only accord occasional meetings and thus would not gain
such a foothold in our lives that if, later on, we came to love her
and then, owing to a quarrel or a journey, we found ourselves alone
and without news of her, she would deprive us not of one bond but a
thousand. Again this habit is sentimental because there is no great
physical desire at its base and if love is born, the brain works
better; romance takes the place of a physical urge. We do not suspect
women who are not our kind, we allow them to love us and if we
afterwards love them we love them a hundred times more than the
others, without getting from them the relief of satisfied desire. For
these reasons and many others, the fact that we experience our
greatest sorrows with women who are not our kind, is not only due to
that derisive illusion which permits the realisation of happiness only
under the form that pleases us least. A woman who is our kind is
rarely dangerous, for she does not care about us, satisfies us, soon
abandons us and does not install herself in our lives. What is
dangerous and produces suffering in love is not the woman herself, it
is her constant presence, the eagerness to know what she is doing
every moment; it is not the woman, it is habit. I was coward enough to
say that what she told me about Swann was kind, not to say noble on
her part, but I knew it was not true and that her frankness was mixed
up with lies. I reflected with horror, as little by little she told me
her adventures, on all that Swann had been ignorant of and of how much
he would have suffered, for he had associated his sensibility with
that creature and had guessed to the point of certainty, from nothing
but her glance at an unknown man or woman, that they attracted her.
Actually she told me all this only to supply what she believed was a
subject for novels. She was wrong, not because she could not at any
time have furnished my imagination with abundant material but it would
have had to be in less intentional fashion and by my agency
disengaging, unknown to her, the laws that governed her life.

M. de Guermantes kept his thunders for the Duchesse to whose mixed
gatherings Mme. de Forcheville did not hesitate to draw the irritated
attention of the Duc. Moreover, the Duchesse was very unhappy. It is
true that M. de Charlus to whom I had once spoken about it, suggested
that the first offence had not been on his brother's side, that the
legend of the Duchesse's purity was in reality composed of an
incalculable number of skilfully dissimulated adventures. I had never
heard of them. To nearly everyone Mme. de Guermantes was nothing of the
sort and the belief that she had always been irreproachable was
universal. I could not decide which of the two notions was true for
truth is nearly always unknown to three-quarters of the world. I
recalled certain azure and fugitive glances of the Duchesse de
Guermantes in the nave of the Combray church but, in truth, they
refuted neither of these opinions for each could give a different and
equally acceptable meaning to them. In the madness of boyhood I had
for a moment taken them as messages of love to myself. Later, I
realised that they were but the benevolent glances which a suzeraine
such as the one in the stained windows of the church bestowed on her
vassals. Was I now to believe that my first idea was the right one,
and that if the Duchesse never spoke to me of love, it was because she
feared to compromise herself with a friend of her aunt and of her
nephew rather than with an unknown boy she had met by chance in the
church of St. Hilaire de Combray?


The Duchesse might have been pleased for the moment that her past
seemed more consistent for my having shared it, but she resumed her
attitude of a society woman who despises society in replying to a
question I asked her about the provincialism of M. de Bréauté, whom at
the earlier period I had placed in the same category as M. de Sagan or
M. de Guermantes. As she spoke, the Duchesse took me round the house.
In the smaller rooms, the more intimate friends of the hosts were
sitting apart to enjoy the music. In one of them, a little Empire
salon where one or two frock-coated gentlemen sat upon a sofa
listening, there was a couch curved like a cradle placed alongside the
wall close to a Psyche leaning upon a Minerva, in the hollow of which
a young woman lay extended. Her relaxed and—languid attitude, which
the entrance of the Duchesse in no way disturbed, contrasted with the
brilliance of her Empire dress of a glittering silk beside which the
most scarlet of fuchsias would have paled, encrusted with a pearl
tissue in the folds of which the floral design appeared to be
embedded. She slightly bent her beautiful brown head to salute the
Duchesse. Although it was broad daylight, she had had the heavy
curtains drawn to give herself up to the music, and the servants had
lighted an urn on a tripod to prevent people stumbling. In answer to
my question the Duchesse told me she was Mme. de Sainte-Euverte and I
wanted to know what relation she was of the Mme. de Sainte-Euverte I
had known. She was the wife of one of her great-nephews and Mme. de
Guermantes appeared to suggest that she was born a La Rochefoucauld
but emphasised that she herself had never known the Sainte-Euvertes.
I recalled to her mind the evening party, of which, it is true, I was
only aware by hearsay, when, as Princesse des Laumes, she had renewed
her acquaintance with Swann. Mme. de Guermantes affirmed she had never
been to that party but she had always been rather a liar and had
become more so. Madame de Sainte-Euverte's salon—somewhat faded with
time—was one she preferred ignoring and I did not insist. "No," she
said, "the person you may have met at my house because he was amusing,
was the husband of the woman you refer to. I never had any social
relations with her." "But she was a widow?" "You thought so because
they were separated; he was much nicer than she." At last I realised
that a huge, extremely tall and strong man with snow-white hair, whom
I met everywhere but whose name I never knew, was the husband of Mme.
de Sainte-Euverte and had died the year before. As to the niece, I
never discovered whether she lay extended on the sofa listening to the
music without moving for anyone because of some stomach trouble or
because of her nerves or phlebitis or a coming accouchement or a
recent one which had gone wrong. The likely explanation was that she
thought she might as well play the part of a Récamier figure on her
couch in that shimmering red dress. She little knew that she had:
given birth to a new development of that name of Sainte-Euverte which,
at so many intervals, marked the distance and continuity of Time. It
was Time she was rocking in that cradle where the name of
Sainte-Euverte flowered in a fuchsia-red silk in the Empire style. Mme.
de Guermantes declared that she had always detested Empire style;
that meant, she detested it now, which was true, because she followed
the fashions though not closely. Without complicating the matter by
alluding to David of whose work she knew something, when she was a
girl she considered Ingres the most boring of draughtsmen, then
suddenly the most beguiling of new masters, so much so that she
detested Delacroix. By what process she had returned to this creed of
reprobation matters little, since such shades of taste are reflected
by art-critics ten years before these superior women talk about them.
After criticising the Empire style, she excused herself for talking
about such insignificant people as the Sainte-Euvertes and of rubbish
like Bréauté's provincialism for she was as far from realising the
interest they had for me as Mme. de Sainte-Euverte de la Rochefoucauld
looking after her stomach or her Ingres pose, was from suspecting that
her name was my joy, her husband's name, not the far more famous one
of her family, and that to me it represented the function of cradling
time in that room full of temporal associations. "How can all this
nonsense interest you?" the Duchesse remarked. She uttered these words
under her breath and nobody could have caught what she said. But a
young man (who was to be of interest to me later because of a name
much more familiar to me formerly than Sainte-Euverte) rose with an
exaggerated air of being disturbed and went further away to listen in
greater seclusion. They were playing the Kreutzer Sonata but he,
having read the programme wrong, believed it was a piece by Ravel
which he had been told was as beautiful as Palestrina but difficult to
understand. In his abrupt change of place, he knocked, owing to the
half darkness, against a tea-table which made a number of people turn
their heads and thus afforded them an agreeable diversion from the
suffering they were undergoing in listening religiously to the
Kreutzer Sonata. And Mme. de Guermantes and I who were the cause of
this little scene, hastened into another room. "Yes," she continued,
"how can such nonsense interest a man with your talent? Like just now
when I saw you talking to Gilberte de Saint-Loup, it isn't worthy of
you. For me that woman is just nothing, she isn't even a woman; she's
unimaginably pretentious and bourgeoise," for the Duchesse mixed up
her aristocratic prejudices with her championship of truth. "Indeed,
ought you to come to places like this? To-day, after all, it may be
worth while because of Rachel's recitation. But, well as she did it,
she doesn't extend herself before such an audience. You must come and
lunch alone with her and then you'll see what a wonderful creature she
is. She's a hundred times superior to everyone here. And after
luncheon she shall recite Verlaine to you and you'll tell me what you
think of it." She boasted to me specially about these luncheon parties
to which X and Y always came. For she had acquired the characteristic
that distinguishes the type of woman who has a "Salon" whom she
formerly despised (though she denied it to-day), the chief sign of
whose superior eclecticism is to have "all the men" at their houses.
If I told her that a certain great lady who went in for a "salon"
spoke ill of Mme. Rowland, the Duchesse burst out laughing at my
simplicity and said: "Of course, she had 'all _the_ men' at her house
and the other tried to take them away from her." Mme. de Guermantes
continued: "It passes my comprehension that you can come to this sort
of thing—unless it's for studying character," she added the last
words doubtfully and suspiciously, afraid to go too far because she
was not sure what that strange operation consisted of.

"Don't you think," I asked her, "it's painful for Mme. de Saint-Loup to
have to listen, as she did just now, to her husband's former
mistress?" I observed that oblique expression coming over Mme. de
Guermantes' face which connects what someone has said with unpleasant
factors. These may remain unspoken but words with serious
implications do not always receive verbal or written answers. Only
fools solicit twice an answer to a foolish letter which was a _gaffe_;
for such letters are only answered by acts and the correspondent whom
the fool thinks careless, will call him Monsieur the next time he
meets him instead of by his first name. My allusion to Saint-Loup's
liaison with Rachel was not so serious and could not have displeased
Mme. de Guermantes more than a second by reminding her that I had been
Robert's friend, perhaps his confidant about the mortification he had
been caused when he obtained the Duchesse's permission to let Rachel
appear at her evening party. Mme. de Guermantes' face did not remain
clouded and she answered my question about Mme. Saint-Loup: "I may tell
you that I believe it to be a matter of indifference to her, for
Gilberte never loved her husband. She is a horrible little creature.
All she wanted was the position, the name, to be my niece, to get out
of the slime to which her one idea now is to return. I can assure you
all that pained me deeply for poor Robert's sake because though he may
not have been an eagle, he saw it all and a good many things besides.
Perhaps I ought not to say so because, after all, she's my niece and
I've no proof that she was unfaithful to him, but there were all sorts
of stories about her. But supposing I tell you that I know Robert
wanted to fight a duel with an officer of Méséglise. And it was on
account of all that that Robert joined up. The war was a deliverance
from his family troubles and if you care for my opinion, he was not
killed, he took care to get himself killed. She feels no sort of
sorrow, she even astonishes me by the cynicism with which she displays
her indifference, and that greatly pains me because I was very fond of
Robert. It may perhaps surprise you because people don't know me, but
I still think of him. I forget no one. He told me nothing but he knew
I guessed it all. But, dear me, if she loved her husband ever so
little, could she bear with such complete indifference being in the
same drawing-room with a woman whose passionate lover he was for
years, indeed one might say always, for I know for certain it went on
even during the war. Why, she would spring at her throat," the
Duchesse cried, quite forgetting that she herself had acted cruelly by
inviting Rachel and staging the scene she regarded as inevitable if
Gilberte loved Robert. "No!" she concluded, "that woman is a pig."
Such an expression was possible in the mouth of Mme. de Guermantes
owing to her easy and gradual descent from the Guermantes environment
to the society of actresses and with this she affected an eighteenth
century manner she considered refreshing on the part of one who could
afford herself any liberty she chose. But the expression was also
inspired by her hatred of Gilberte, by the need of striking her in
effigy in default of physically. And she thought she was thereby
equally justifying her action towards Gilberte or rather against her,
in society, in the family, even in connection with her interest in
Robert's inheritance. But sometimes facts of which we are ignorant and
which we could not imagine supply an apparent justification of our
judgments. Gilberte, who doubtless inherited some of her mother's
traits (and I dare say I had unconsciously surmised this when I asked
her to introduce me to girls) after reflecting on my request and so
that any profits that might accrue should not go out of the family, a
conclusion the effrontery of which was greater than I could have
imagined, came up to me presently and said: "If you'll allow me, I'll
fetch my young daughter, she's over there with young Mortemart and
other youngsters of no importance. I'm sure she'll be a charming
little friend for you." I asked her if Robert had been pleased to have
a daughter. "Oh, he was very proud of her but, of course, it's my
belief, seeing what his tastes were," Gilberte naïvely added, "he
would have preferred a boy." This girl, whose name and fortune
doubtless led her mother to hope she would marry a prince of the blood
and thus crown the whole edifice of Swann and of his wife, later on
married an obscure man of letters, for she was quite unsnobbish, and
caused the family to fall lower in the social scale than the level
from which she originated. It was afterwards very difficult to
convince the younger generation that the parents of this obscure
household had occupied a great social position.

The surprise and pleasure caused me by Gilberte's words were quickly
replaced while Mme. de Saint-Loup disappeared into another room, by the
idea of past Time which Mlle. de Saint-Loup had brought back to me in
her particular way without my even having seen her. In common with
most human beings, was she not like the centre of cross-roads in a
forest, the point where roads converge from many directions? Those
which ended in Mlle. de Saint-Loup were many and branched out from
every side of her. First of all, the two great sides where I had
walked so often and dreamt so many dreams, came to an end in
her—through her father, Robert de Saint-Loup, the Guermantes side and
through Gilberte, her mother, the side of Méséglise which was Swann's
side. One, through the mother of the young girl and the Champs
Elysées, led me to Swann, to my evenings at Combray, to the side of
Méséglise, the other, through her father, to my afternoons at Balbec
where I saw him again near the glistening sea. Transversal roads
already linked those two main roads together. For through the real
Balbec where I had known Saint-Loup and wanted to go, chiefly because
of what Swann had told me about its churches, especially about the
Persian church and again through Robert de Saint-Loup, nephew of the
Duchesse de Guermantes I reunited Combray to the Guermantes' side. But
Mlle. de Saint-Loup led back to many other points of my life, to the
lady in pink who was her grandmother and whom I had seen at my
great-uncle's house. Here there was a new cross-road, for my
great-uncle's footman who had announced me that day and who, by the
gift of a photograph, had enabled me to identify the lady in pink, was
the uncle of the young man whom not only M. de Charlus but also Mlle.
de Saint-Loup's father had loved and on whose account her mother had
been made unhappy. And was it not the grandfather of Mlle. de
Saint-Loup, Swann, who first told me about Vinteuil's music as
Gilberte had first told me about Albertine? And it was through
speaking to Albertine about Vinteuil's music that I had discovered who
her intimate girl-friend was and had started that life with her which
had led to her death and to my bitter sorrows. And it was again Mlle.
de Saint-Loup's father who had tried to bring back Albertine to me.
And I saw again all my life in society, whether at Paris in the
drawing-rooms of the Swanns and the Guermantes', or in contrast, at
the Verdurins' at Balbec, uniting the two Combray sides with the
Champs Elysées and the beautiful terraces of the Raspelière. Moreover,
whom of those we have known are we not compelled inevitably to
associate with various parts of our lives if we relate our
acquaintance with them? The life of Saint-Loup described by myself
would be unfolded in every kind of scene and would affect the whole of
mine, even those parts of it to which he was a stranger, such as my
grandmother or Albertine. Moreover, contrast them as one might, the
Verdurins were linked to Odette through her past, with Robert de
Saint-Loup through Charlie and how great a part had Vinteuil's music
played in their home! Finally, Swann had loved the sister of Legrandin
and the latter had known M. de Charlus whose ward young Cambremer had
married. Certainly, if only our hearts were in question, the poet was
right when he spoke of the mysterious threads which life breaks. But
it is still truer that life is ceaselessly weaving them between
beings, between events, that it crosses those threads, that it doubles
them to thicken the woof with such industry that between the smallest
point in our past and all the rest, the store of memories is so rich
that only the choice of communications remains. It is possible to say,
if I tried to make conscious use of it and to recall it as it was,
that there was not a single thing that served me now which had not
been a living thing, living its own personal life in my service though
transformed by that use into ordinary industrial matter. And my
introduction to Mlle. de Saint-Loup was going to take place at Mme.
Verdurin's who had become Princesse de Guermantes! How I thought back
on the charm of those journeys with Albertine, whose successor I was
going to ask Mlle. de Saint-Loup to be—in the little tram going
towards Douville to call on Mme. Verdurin, that same Mme. Verdurin who
had cemented and broken the love of Mlle. de Saint-Loup's grandfather
and grandmother before I loved Albertine. And all round us were the
pictures of Elstir who introduced me to Albertine and as though to
melt all my pasts into one, Mme. Verdurin, like Gilberte, had married a
Guermantes.

We should not be able to tell the story of our relations with another,
however little we knew him without registering successive movements in
our own life. Thus every individual—and I myself am one of those
individuals—measured duration by the revolution he had accomplished
not only round himself but round others and notably by the positions
he had successively occupied with relation to myself.

And, without question, all those different planes, upon which Time,
since I had regained it at this reception, had exhibited my life, by
reminding me that in a book which gave the history of one, it would be
necessary to make use of a sort of spatial psychology as opposed to
the usual flat psychology, added a new beauty to the resurrections my
memory was operating during my solitary reflections in the library,
since memory, by introducing the past into the present without
modification, as though it were the present, eliminates precisely that
great Time-dimension in accordance with which life is realised.

I saw Gilberte coming towards me. I, to whom Saint-Loup's marriage and
all the concern it then gave me (as it still did) were of yesterday,
was astonished to see beside her a young girl whose tall, slight
figure marked the lapse of time to which I had, until now, been blind.

Colourless, incomprehensible time materialised itself in her, as it
were, so that I could see and touch it, had moulded her into a graven
masterpiece while upon me alas, it had but been doing its work.
However, Mlle. de Saint-Loup stood before me. She had deep
cleanly-shaped, prominent and penetrating eyes. I noticed that the
line of her nose was on the same pattern as her mother's and
grandmother's, the base being perfectly straight, and though adorable,
was a trifle too long. That peculiar feature would have enabled one to
recognise it amongst thousands and I admired Nature for having, like a
powerful and original sculptor, effected that decisive stroke of the
chisel at exactly the right point as it had in the mother and
grandmother. That charming nose, protruding rather like a beak had the
Saint-Loup not the Swann curve. The soul of the Guermantes' had
vanished but the charming head with the piercing eyes of a bird on the
wing was poised upon her shoulders and threw me, who had known her
father, into a dream. She was so beautiful, so promising. Gaily
smiling, she was made out of all the years I had lost; she symbolised
my youth.

Finally, this idea of Time had the ultimate value of the hand of a
clock. It told me it was time to begin if I meant to attain that which
I had felt in brief flashes on the Guermantes' side and during my
drives with Mme. de Villeparisis, that indefinable something which had
made me think life worth living. How much more so now that it seemed
possible to illuminate that life lived in darkness, at last to make
manifest in a book the truth one ceaselessly falsifies. Happy the man
who could write such a book. What labour awaited him. To convey its
scope would necessitate comparison with the noblest and most various
arts. For the writer, in creating each character, would have to
present it from conflicting standpoints so that his book should have
solidity, he would have to prepare it with meticulous care,
perpetually regrouping his forces as for an offensive, to bear it as a
load, to accept it as the object of his life, to build it like a
church, to follow it like a régime, to overcome it like an obstacle,
to win it like a friendship, to nourish it like a child, to create it
like a world, mindful of those mysteries which probably only have
their explanation in other worlds, the presentiment of which moves us
most in life and in art. Parts of such great books can be no more than
sketched for time presses and perhaps they can never be finished
because of the very magnitude of the architect's design. How many
great cathedrals remain unfinished? Such a book takes long to
germinate, its weaker parts must be strengthened, it has to be watched
over, but afterwards it grows of itself, it designates our tomb,
protects it from evil report and somewhat against oblivion. But to
return to myself. I was thinking more modestly about my book and it
would not even be true to say that I was thinking of those who would
read it as my readers. For, as I have already shown, they would not be
my readers, but the readers of themselves, my book being only a sort
of magnifying-glass like those offered by the optician of Combray to a
purchaser. So that I should ask neither their praise nor their blame
but only that they should tell me if it was right or not, whether the
words they were reading within themselves were those I wrote (possible
devergencies in this respect might not always arise from my mistake
but sometimes because the reader's eyes would not be those to whom my
book was suitable). And, constantly changing as I expressed myself
better and got on with the task I had undertaken, I thought of how I
should devote myself to it at that plain white table, watched over by
Françoise. As all those unpretentious creatures who live near us have
a certain intuition of what we are trying to do and as I had so far
forgotten Albertine that I forgave Françoise for her hostility to her,
I should work near her and almost like her (at least as she used to
formerly for now she was so old that she could hardly see), for it
would be by pinning supplementary leaves here and there that I should
build up my book, so to speak, like a dress rather than like a
cathedral. When I could not find all the sheets I wanted, all my
"_paperoles_" as Françoise called them, when just that one was missing
that I needed, Françoise would understand my apprehension, for she
always said she could not sew if she had not got the exact
thread-number and sort of button she wanted and because, from living
with me, she had acquired a sort of instinctive understanding of
literary work, more right than that of many intelligent people and
still more than that of stupid ones. Thus when I used to write my
articles for the _Figaro_, while the old butler with that exaggerated
compassion for the severity of toil which is unfamiliar, which cannot
be observed, even for a habit he had not got himself like people who
say to you, "How it must tire you to yawn like that," honestly pitied
writers and said: "What a head-breaking business it must be,"
Françoise, to the contrary, divined my satisfaction and respected my
work. Only she got angry when I told Bloch about my articles before
they appeared, fearing he would forestall me and said: "You aren't
suspicious enough of all these people, they're copyists." And Bloch,
in fact, did offer a prospective alibi by remarking each time that I
sketched something he liked: "Fancy! that's curious, I've written
something very much like that; I must read it to you." (He could not
then have read it to me because he was going to write it that
evening.)

In consequence of sticking one sheet on another, what Françoise called
my _paperoles_ got torn here and there. In case of need she would be
able to help me mend them in the same way as she patched worn parts of
her dresses, or awaiting the glazier as I did the printer, when she
stuck a bit of newspaper in a window instead of the glass pane.
Holding up my copy-books devoured like worm-eaten wood, she said:
"It's all moth-eaten, look, what a pity, here's the bottom of a page
which is nothing but a bit of lace," and, examining it like a tailor:
"I don't think I can mend it, it's done for, what a shame; perhaps
those were your most beautiful ideas. As they said at Combray, there
are no furriers who know their job as well as moths, they always go
for the best materials."

Moreover, since individualities (human or otherwise) would in this
book be constructed out of numerous impressions which, derived from
many girls, many churches, many sonatas, would serve to make a single
sonata, a single church and a single girl, should I not be making my
book as Françoise made that _bœuf à la mode_, so much savoured by M.
de Norpois of which the jelly was enriched by many additional
carefully selected bits of meat? And at last I should achieve that for
which I had so much longed and believed impossible during my walks on
the Guermantes' side as I had believed it was impossible, when I came
home, to go to bed without embracing my mother, or later, that
Albertine loved women, an idea I finally accepted unconsciously, for
our greatest fears like our greatest hopes are not beyond our capacity
and it is possible to end by dominating the first and realising the
second. Yes, this newly-formed idea of time warned me that the hour
had come to set myself to work. It was high time. The anxiety which
had taken possession of me when I entered the drawing-room and the
made-up faces gave me the notion of lost time, was justified. Was
there still time? The mind has landscapes at which it is only given us
to gaze for a time. I had lived like a painter climbing a road which
overlooks a lake hidden by a curtain of rocks and trees. Through a
breach he perceives it, it lies before him, he seizes his brushes, but
already darkness has come and he can paint no longer, night upon which
day will never dawn again.

A condition of my work as I had conceived it just now in the library
was that I must fathom to their depths impressions which had first to
be recreated through memory. And my memory was impaired. Therefore as
I had not yet begun, I had reason for apprehension, for even though I
thought, in view of my age, that I had some years before me, my hour
might strike at any moment. I had, in fact, to regard my body as the
point of departure, which meant that I was constantly under the menace
of a two-fold danger, without and within. And even when I say this it
is only for convenience of expression. For the internal danger as in
that of cerebral haemorrhage is also external, being of the body. And
the body is the great menace of the mind. We are less justified in
saying that the thinking life of humanity is a miraculous
perfectioning of animal and physical life than that it is an
imperfection in the organisation of spiritual life as rudimentary as
the communal existence of protozoa in colonies or the body of the
whale etc., so imperfect, indeed, that the body imprisons the spirit
in a fortress; soon the fortress is assailed at all points and in the
end the spirit has to surrender. But in order to satisfy myself by
distinguishing the two sorts of danger which threatened my spirit and
beginning by the external one, I remembered that it had often already
happened in the course of my life, at moments of intellectual
excitement when some circumstance had completely arrested my physical
activity, for instance when I was leaving the restaurant of Rivebelle
in a half-intoxicated condition in order to go to a neighbouring
casino, that I felt the immediate object of my thought with extreme
vividness and realised that it was a matter of chance not only that
the object had not yet entered my mind but that its survival depended
upon my physical existence. I cared little enough then. In my
light-hearted gaiety I was neither prudent nor apprehensive. It
mattered little to me that this happy thought flew away in a second
and disappeared in the void. But now it was no longer so because the
joy I experienced was not derived from a subjective nervous tension
which isolates us from the past, but, on the contrary, from an
extension of the consciousness in which the past, recreated and
actualised, gave me, alas but for a moment, a sense of eternity. I
wished that I could leave this behind me to enrich others with my
treasure. My experience in the library which I wanted to preserve was
that of pleasure but not an egoistical pleasure or at all events it
was a form of egoism which is useful to others (for all the fruitful
altruisms of Nature develop in an egoistical mode; human altruism
which is not egoism, is sterile, it is that of a writer who interrupts
his work to receive a friend who is unhappy, to accept some public
function or to write propaganda articles).

I was no longer indifferent as when I returned from Rivebelle; I felt
myself enlarged by this work I bore within me (like something precious
and fragile, not belonging to me, which had been confided to my care
and which I wanted to hand over intact to those for whom it was
destined). And to think that when, presently, I returned home, an
accident would suffice to destroy my body and that my lifeless mind
would have for ever lost the ideas it now contained and anxiously
preserved within its shaky frame before it had time to place them in
safety within the covers of a book. Now, knowing myself the bearer of
such a work, an accident which might cost my life was more to be
dreaded, was indeed (by the measure in which this work seemed to me
indispensable and permanent) absurd, when contrasted with my wish,
with my vital urge, but not less probable on that account since
accidents due to material causes can take place at the very moment
when an opposing will, which they unknowingly annihilate, renders them
monstrous, like the ordinary accident of knocking over a water-jug
placed too near the edge of a table and thus disturbing a sleeping
friend one acutely desires not to waken.

I knew very well that my brain was a rich mineral basin where there
was an enormous and most varied area of precious deposits. But should
I have the time to exploit them? I was the only person capable of
doing so, for two reasons. With my death not only would the one miner
capable of extracting the minerals disappear, but with him, the
mineral itself. And the mere collision of my automobile with another
on my way home would suffice to obliterate my body and my spirit would
have to abandon my new ideas for ever. And by a strange coincidence,
that reasoned fear of danger was born at the very moment when the idea
of death had become indifferent to me. The fear of no longer existing
had formerly horrified me at each new love I experienced,—for
Gilberte, for Albertine—because I could not bear the thought that one
day the being who loved them might not be there; it was a sort of
death. But the very recurrence of this fear led to its changing into
calm confidence.

If the idea of death had cast a shadow over love, the memory of love
had for long helped me not to fear death. I realised that death is
nothing new, ever since my childhood I had been dead numbers of times.
To take a recent period, had I not cared more for Albertine than for
my life? Could I then have conceived my existence without my love for
her? And yet I no longer loved her, I was no longer the being who
loved her but a different one who did not love her and I had ceased to
love her when I became that other being. And I did not suffer because
I had become that other, because I no longer loved Albertine; and
certainly it did not seem to me a sadder thing that one day I should
have no body than it had formerly seemed not to love Albertine. And
yet how indifferent it all was to me now. These successive deaths, so
feared by the self they were to destroy, so indifferent, so sweet,
were they, once they were accomplished, when he who feared them was no
longer there to feel them, had made me realise how foolish it would be
to fear death. And now that it had been for a while indifferent to me
I began fearing it anew, in another form, it is true, not for myself
but for my book for the achievement of which that life, menaced by so
many dangers, was, at least, for a period, indispensable. Victor Hugo
says: "The grass must grow and children die." I say that the cruel law
of art is that beings die and that we ourselves must die after we have
exhausted suffering so that the grass, not of oblivion but of eternal
life, should grow, fertilised by works upon which generations to come
will gaily picnic without care of those who sleep beneath it. I have
spoken of external dangers but there were internal ones also. If I
were preserved from an accident without, who knows whether I might not
be prevented from profiting from my immunity by an accident within, by
some internal disaster, some cerebral catastrophe, before the months
necessary for me to write that book, had passed. A cerebral accident
was not even necessary. I had already experienced certain symptoms, a
curious emptiness in the head and a forgetfulness of things I only
found by luck as one does on going through one's things and finding
something one had not been looking for; I was a treasurer from whose
broken coffer his riches were slipping away. When presently I went
back home by the Champs Elysées who could say that I should not be
struck down by the same evil as my grandmother when, one day she came
for a walk with me which was to be her last, without her ever dreaming
of such a thing, in that ignorance which is our lot when the hand of
the clock reaches the moment when the spring is released that strikes
the hour. Perhaps the fear of having already almost traversed the
minute that precedes the first stroke of the hour, when it is already
preparing to strike, perhaps the fear of that blow which was about to
crash through my brain was like an obscure foreknowledge of what was
coming to pass, a reflection in the consciousness of a precarious
state of the brain whose arteries are about to give way, which is no
less possible than the sudden acceptance of death by the wounded who,
if their lucidity remains and both doctor and will to live deceive
them, yet see what is coming and say: "I am going to die, I am ready,"
and write their last farewells to their wife.

That obscure premonition of what had to be came to me in a singular
form before I began my book. One evening I was at a party and people
said I was looking better than ever and were astonished that I showed
so little signs of age. But that evening I came near falling three
times going downstairs. I had only gone out for a couple of hours but
when I got home, my memory and power of thought had gone and I had
neither strength nor life in me. If they had come to proclaim me King
or arrest me, I should have allowed them to do what they liked with me
without saying a word, without even opening my eyes, like those who at
the extreme point of sea-sickness, crossing the Caspian Sea, would
offer no resistance if they were going to be thrown into the sea.
Properly speaking I was not ill but I was as incapable of taking care
of myself as old people active the evening before, who have fractured
their thigh and enter a phase of existence which is only a
preliminary, be it short or long, to inevitable death. One of my
selves the one that recently went to one of those barbaric feasts
which are called dinners in society attended by white cravated men and
plumed, half-nude women whose values are so topsy-turvy that a person
who does not go to a dinner to which he has accepted an invitation or
only puts in an appearance at the roast commits in their eyes a
greater crime than the most immoral acts as lightly discussed in the
course of it as illness and death which provide the only excuse for
not being there, as long as the hostess has been informed in time to
notify the fourteenth guest that someone has died,—that self had kept
its scruples and lost its memory. On the other hand, the other self,
the one who conceived this work, remembered I had received an
invitation from Mme. Molé and had heard that Mme. Sazerat's son was
dead. I had made up my mind to use an hour of respite after which I
should not be able to utter a word or swallow a drop of milk,
tongue-tied like my grandmother during her death agony, for the
purpose of excusing myself to Mme. Molé and expressing my condolences
to Mme. Sazerat. But shortly afterwards, I forgot I had to do it. Happy
oblivion! For the memory of my work was on guard and was going to use
that hour of survival to lay my first foundations. Unhappily, taking
up a copy-book, Mme. Molé's invitation card slipped out of it.
Instantly, the forgetful self which dominates the other in the case of
all those scrupulous savages who dine out, put away the copy-book and
began writing to Mme. Molé (who would doubtless have thought more of me
had she known that I had put my reply to her invitation before my
architectural work). Suddenly, as I was answering, I remembered that
Mme. Sazerat had lost her son, so I wrote her too and having thus
sacrificed the real duty to the fictitious obligation of proving my
politeness and reasonableness, I fell lifeless, closed my eyes and for
a whole week was only able to vegetate. Yet, if all my useless duties
to which I was prepared to sacrifice the real one, went out of my head
in a few minutes, the thought of my edifice never left me for an
instant. I did not know whether it would be a church where the
faithful would gradually learn truth and discover the harmony of a
great unified plan or whether it would remain, like a Druid monument
on the heights of a desert island, unknown for ever. But I had made up
my mind to consecrate to it the power that was ebbing away,
reluctantly almost, as though to leave me time to elaborate the
structure before the entrance to the tomb was sealed. I was soon able
to show an outline of my project. No one understood it. Even those who
sympathised with my perception of the truth I meant later to engrave
upon my temple, congratulated me on having discovered it with a
microscope when, to the contrary, I had used a telescope to perceive
things which were indeed very small because they were far away but
every one of them a world. Where I sought universal laws I was accused
of burrowing into the "infinitely insignificant". Moreover, what was
the use of it all, I had a good deal of facility when I was young and
Bergotte had highly praised my schoolboy efforts. But instead of
working I had spent my time in idleness and dissipation, in being laid
up and taken care of and in obsessions and I was starting my work on
the eve of death without even knowing my craft. I had no longer the
strength to face either my human obligations or my intellectual ones,
still less both. As to the first, forgetfulness of the letters I had
to write somewhat simplified my task. Loss of memory helped to delete
social obligations which were replaced by my work. But, at the end of
a month, association of ideas suddenly brought back remorseful
memories and I was overwhelmed by my feeling of impotence. I was
surprised at my own indifference to criticisms of my work but from the
time when my legs had given way when I went downstairs I had become
indifferent to everything; I only longed for rest until the end came.
It was not because I counted on posthumous fame that I was indifferent
to the judgments of the eminent to-day. Those who pronounced upon my
work after my death could think what they pleased of it. I was no more
concerned about the one than the other. Actually, if I thought about
my work and not about the letters which I ought to have answered, it
had ceased to be because I considered the former so much more
important as I did at the time when I was idle and afterwards when I
tried to work, up to the day when I had had to hold on to the
banisters of the stair-case. The organisation of my memory, of my
preoccupations, was linked to my work perhaps because, while the
letters I received were forgotten an instant later, the idea of my
work was continuously in my mind, in a state of perpetual becoming.
But it too had become importunate. My work was like a son whose dying
mother must still unceasingly labour in the intervals of inoculations
and cuppings. She may love him still but she only realises it through
the excess of her care of him. And my powers as a writer were no
longer equal to the egoistical exactions of the work. Since the day on
the staircase, nothing in the world, no happiness, whether it came
from friendships, from the progress of my work or from hope of fame,
reached me except as pale sunlight that had lost its power to warm me,
to give me life or any desire whatever and yet was too brilliant in
its paleness for my weary eyes which closed as I turned towards the
wall. As much as I could tell from the movement of my lips, I might
have had a very slight smile in the corner of my mouth when a lady
wrote me: "I was surprised not to get an answer to my letter,"
Nevertheless, that reminded me and I answered it. I wanted to try, so
as not to be thought ungrateful, to be as considerate to others as
they to me. And I was crushed by imposing these super-human fatigue's
on my dying body.

This idea of death installed itself in me definitively as love does.
Not that I loved death, I hated it. But I dare say I had thought of it
from time to time as one does of a woman one does not yet love and now
the thought of it adhered to the deepest layer of my brain so
thoroughly that I could not think of anything without its first
traversing the death zone and even if I thought of nothing and
remained quite still, the idea of death kept me company as incessantly
as the idea of myself. I do not think that the day when I became
moribund, it was the accompanying factors such as the impossibility of
going downstairs, of remembering a name, of getting up, which had by
unconscious reasoning given me the idea that I was already all but
dead, but rather that it had all come together, that the great mirror
of the spirit reflected a new reality. And yet I did not see how I
could pass straight from my present ills to death without some
warning. But then I thought of others and how people die every day
without it seeming strange to us that there should be no hiatus
between their illness and their death. I thought even that it was only
because I saw them from the inside (far more than through deceitful
hope) that certain ailments did not seem to me necessarily fatal,
taken one at a time, although I thought I was going to die, just like
those who certain that their time has come, are nevertheless easily
persuaded that their not being able to pronounce certain words has
nothing to do with apoplexy or heart failure but is due to the tongue
being tired, to a nerve condition akin to stammering, owing to the
exhaustion consequent on indigestion.

In my case it was not the farewell of a dying man to his wife that I
had to write, it was something longer and addressed to more than one
person. Long to write! At best I might attempt to sleep during the
day-time. If I worked it would only be at night but it would need many
nights perhaps a hundred, perhaps a thousand. And I should be harassed
by the anxiety of not knowing whether the Master of my destiny, less
indulgent than the Sultan Sheriar, would, some morning when I stopped
work, grant a reprieve until the next evening. Not that I had the
ambition to reproduce in any fashion the _Thousand and One Nights_,
anymore than the _Mémoires of Saint-Simon_, they too written by night,
nor any of the books I had so much loved and which superstitiously
attached to them in my childish simplicity as I was to my later loves,
I could not, without horror, imagine different from what they were.
As Elstir said of Chardin, one can only recreate what one loves by
repudiating it. Doubtless my books, like my fleshly being, would, some
day, die. But one must resign oneself to death. One accepts the
thought that one will die in ten years and one's books in a hundred.
Eternal duration is no more promised to works than to men. It might
perhaps be a book as long as the _Thousand and One Nights_ but very
different. It is true that when one loves a work one would like to do
something like it but one must sacrifice one's temporal love and not
think of one's taste but of a truth which does not ask what our
preferences are and forbids us to think of them. And it is only by
obeying truth that one may some day encounter what one has abandoned
and having forgotten the _Arabian Nights_ or the _Mémoires of
Saint-Simon_ have written their counterpart in another period. But had
I still time? Was it not too late?

In any case, if I had still the strength to accomplish my work, the
circumstances, which had to-day in the course of the Princesse de
Guermantes' reception simultaneously given me the idea of it and the
fear of not being able to carry it out, would specifically indicate
its form of which I had a presentiment formerly in Combray church
during a period which had so much influence upon me, a form which,
normally, is invisible, the form of Time. I should endeavour to render
that Time-dimension by transcribing life in a way very different from
that conveyed by our lying senses. Certainly, our senses lead us into
other errors, many episodes in this narrative had proved to me that
they falsify the real aspect of life. But I might, if it were needful,
to secure the more accurate interpretation I proposed, be able to
leave the locality of sounds unchanged, to refrain from detaching them
from the source the intelligence assigns to them, although making the
rain patter in one's room or fall in torrents into the cup from which
we are drinking is, in itself, no more disconcerting than when as they
often have, artists paint a sail or a peak near to or far away from
us, according as the laws of perspective, variation in colour and
ocular illusion make them appear, while our reason tells us that these
objects are situated at enormous distances from us.

I might, although the error would be more serious, continue the
fashion of putting features into the face of a passing woman, when
instead of nose and cheeks and chin there was nothing there but an
empty space in which our desire was reflected. And, a far more
important matter, if I had not the leisure to prepare the hundred
masks suitable to a single face, were it only as the eyes see it and
in the sense in which they read its features, according as those eyes
hope or fear or, on the other hand, as love and habit which conceal
changes of age for many years, see them, indeed, even if I did not
undertake, in spite of my liaison with Albertine proving that without
it everything is fictitious and false, to represent people not from
outside but from within ourselves where their smallest acts may entail
fatal consequences, and to vary the moral atmosphere according to the
different impressions on our sensibility or according to our serene
sureness that an object is insignificant whereas the mere shadow of
danger multiplies its size in a moment, if I could not introduce these
changes and many others (the need for which, if one means to portray
the truth has constantly been shown in the course of this narrative)
into the transcription of a universe which had to be completely
redesigned, at all events I should not fail to depict therein man, as
having the extension, not of his body but of his years, as being
forced to the cumulatively heavy task which finally crushes him, of
dragging them with him wherever he goes. Moreover, everybody feels
that we are occupying an unceasingly increasing place in Time, and
this universality could only rejoice me since it is the truth, a truth
suspected by each one of us which it was my business to try to
elucidate. Not only does everyone feel that we occupy a place in Time
but the most simple person measures that place approximately as he
might measure the place we occupy in space. Doubtless we often make
mistakes in this measurement but that one should believe it possible
to do it proves that one conceives of age as something measurable.

And often I asked myself not only whether there was still time but
whether I was in a condition to accomplish my work. Illness which had
rendered me a service by making me die to the world (for if the grain
does not die when it is sown, it remains barren but if it dies it will
bear much fruit), was now perhaps going to save me from idleness as
idleness had preserved me from facility. Illness had undermined my
strength and, as I had long noticed, had sapped the power of my memory
when I ceased to love Albertine. And was not the recreation of the
memory of impressions it was afterwards necessary to fathom, to
illuminate, to transform into intellectual equivalents, one of the
conditions, almost the essential condition, of a work of art such as I
had conceived just now in the library? Ah, if I only still had the
powers that were intact on the evening I had evoked when I happened to
notice François le Champi. My grandmother's lingering death and the
decline of my will and of my health dated from that evening of my
mother's abdication. It was all settled at the moment when, unable to
await the morning to press my lips upon my mother's face, I had taken
my resolution, I had jumped out of bed and had stood in my nightshirt
by the window through which the moonlight shone, until I heard M.
Swann go away. My parents had accompanied him, I had heard the door
open, the sound of bell and closing door. At that very moment, in the
Prince de Guermantes' mansion, I heard the sound of my parents'
footsteps and the metallic, shrill, fresh echo of the little bell
which announced M. Swann's departure and the coming of my mother up
the stairs; I heard it now, its very self, though its peal rang out in
the far distant past. 'Then thinking of all the events which
intervened between the instant when I had heard it and the Guermantes'
reception I was terrified to think that it was indeed that bell which
rang within me still, without my being able to abate its shrill sound,
since, no longer remembering how the clanging used to stop, in order
to learn, I had to listen to it and I was compelled to close my ears
to the conversations of the masks around me. To get to hear it close I
had again to plunge into myself. So that ringing must always be there
and with it, between it and the present, all that indefinable past
unrolled itself which I did not know I had within me. When it rang I
already existed and since, in order that I should hear it still, there
could be no discontinuity, I could have had no instant of repose or of
non-existence, of non-thinking, of non-consciousness, since that former
instant clung to me, for I could recover it, return to it, merely by
plunging more deeply into myself. It was that notion of the embodiment
of Time, the inseparableness from us of the past that I now had the
intention of bringing strongly into relief in my work. And it is
because they thus contain the past that human bodies can so much hurt
those who love them, because they contain so many memories, so many
joys and desires effaced within them but so cruel for him who
contemplates and prolongs in the order of time the beloved body of
which he is jealous, jealous to the point of wishing its destruction.
For after death Time leaves the body and memories—indifferent and
pale—are obliterated in her who exists no longer and soon will be in
him they still torture, memories which perish with the desire of the
living body.

I had a feeling of intense fatigue when I realised that all this span
of time had not only been lived, thought, secreted by me
uninterruptedly, that it was my life, that it was myself, but more
still because I had at every moment to keep it attached to myself,
that it bore me up, that I was poised on its dizzy summit, that I
could not move without taking it with me.

The day on which I heard the distant, far-away sound of the bell in
the Combray garden was a land-mark in that enormous dimension which I
did not know I possessed. I was giddy at seeing so many years below
and in me as though I were leagues high.

I now understood why the Duc de Guermantes, whom I admired when he was
seated because he had aged so little although he had so many more
years under him than I, had tottered when he got up and wanted to
stand erect—like those old Archbishops surrounded by acolytes, whose
only solid part is their metal cross—and had moved, trembling like a
leaf on the hardly approachable summit of his eighty-three years, as
though men were perched upon living stilts which keep on growing,
reaching the height of church-towers, until walking becomes difficult
and dangerous and, at last, they fall. I was terrified that my own
were already so high beneath me and I did not think I was strong
enough to retain for long a past that went back so far and that I bore
within me so painfully. If at least, time enough were allotted to me to
accomplish my work, I would not fail to mark it with the seal of Time,
the idea of which imposed itself upon me with so much force to-day,
and I would therein describe men, if need be, as monsters occupying a
place in Time infinitely more important than the restricted one
reserved for them in space, a place, on the contrary, prolonged
immeasurably since, simultaneously touching widely separated years and
the distant periods they have lived through—between which so many
days have ranged themselves—they stand like giants immersed in Time.


THE END


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