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Tuesday November 25, 2014

Proust was asked to write a piece for Le Figaro that appeared on Februray 1, 1907 as he knew the murder/suicide victims, the mother and the son.

Many friends wrote to express their admiration for "Sentiments filiaux" (d'un parricide). To close friends Marcel expressed serious doubts about his talent. He did not trust this new voice. He wrote to Lucien: "I really feel I have" no talent. Between his translation of Sesame and "Sentiments filiaux," he had not written a line...

P. 421.

Jacques-Emile Blanche (who painted a portrait of Proust as a young dandy in 'smoking' that is reproduced on Carter's biography) sent congratulations but expressed some doubts about Proust's new style. A sentence that ran for eighteen lines had caught Blanche's attention. Proust, perhaps relishing the opportunity to hint that Blanche had really not paid close attention, replied that the article contained sentences of approximately thirty lines. And that in "On Reading" some occupied eighty lines.

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 422.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/21/2014 8:35 pm
Labels: Carter, Proust

Proust's friends loved it and he hated it.

Her (Anna de Noailles) words of praise had moved him so that he was "in a state of shame and confusion beyond words, enhanced by the Beaunier piece which I strongly suspect you dictated." Beaunier had hailed "M. Marcel Proust the incomparable translator of Ruskin," whose preface the critic found "charming, moving and often marvelous." Beaunier had taken particular delight in the style: "These long sentences, encumbered with all the details and circumstances, have a strange and delicious charm," which came, Beaunier said, from their "meticulous truth."

Writing to Mme Straus, Proust worried that his "indigestible nougat" of an essay might be dangerous for his languid friend to read and urged her to avoid it: "Don't read it, it's a failed effort and horribly wearying to read, with sentences that take up an entire page"...

Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2002-2013, p. 392

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/21/2014 6:05 pm
Labels: Carter, Proust

We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, when all he can do is give us desires. And these desires he can arouse in us only by making us contemplate the supreme beauty which the last effort of his art has permitted him to reach. But by a singular and, moreover, providential law of mental optics (a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves), that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours, so that it is at the moment when they have told us all they could tell us that they create in us the feeling that they have told us nothing yet.

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 115. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/20/2014 5:26 pm
Labels: On Reading, Proust

Then the last page was read, the book was finished.

I had to stop the headlong rush of my eyes and of my voice which followed noiselessly, stopping only to regain my breath in a deep sigh. Then, in order to give the tumult, too long unleashed within me to be able to calm itself, other movements to govern, I would get up, I would start walking alongside my bed, my eyes still fixed on some point one would in vain have looked for in the room or outside, for it was situated at a soul's distance only, one of those distances which are not measured in meters and leagues like the others, and which, is, besides, impossible to confuse with them when one looks at the "distant" eyes of those who are thinking "about something else."

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 109. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/20/2014 2:04 pm
Labels: On Reading, Proust

This preface, like the later drafts of Contre Sainte-Beuve, his last sketchbook before the full-scale novel, contains a narrative followed by a critical essay. In the last section of the preface and its notes, Proust makes observations about structure in Ruskin's writings. These thoughts would be important to his own slow elaboration of a structure for the Search.

Marcel Proust, A Life; William C. Carter 2002-2013 p. 390.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/18/2014 7:15 am

A distinctive aspect of Proust's mature style is its richness in presenting multiple perspectives or a string of analogies that dazzle by their aptness and their brilliance. The following humorous sketch of family life, from the preface, is an early example of this technique. In the family, someone who took the time to write a letter "was the object of a particular deference" and was told: "You have attended to your 'little correspondence,' with a smile in which there was respect, mystery, prurience, and discretion, as if this 'little correspondence' had been at the same time a state secret, a prerogative, a piece of good fortune, and an ailment." Proust's presentation of multiple views of the same object or action was to be one of several narrative strategies used in the novel to render life in its full richness. 

Marcel Proust, A Life; William C. Carter 2002-2013 p. 390.

The sketch Carter refers to is in On Reading, the preface to Sésame et des Lys 1904, translation by Marcel Proust which was originally delivered as Sesame and Lilies in 1864 as two lectures in Manchester by John Ruskin.

The sketch of family life,

The hour went by; often, long before lunch, those who were tired and had shortened their walk, had "gone by Méseglise," or those who had not gone out that morning, "having to write," began to arrive in the dining room. They would all say: "I don't want to disturb you," but began at once to come near the fire, to look at the time, to declare that lunch would not be unwelcome. He or she who had "stayed to write" was the object of a particular deference and was told: "You have attended to your little correspondence," with a smile in which there was respect, mystery, prurience, and discretion, as if this "little correspondence" had been at the same time a state secret, a prerogative, a piece of good fortune, and an ailment.

Marcel Proust On Reading Ruskin 1987; the preface, On Reading by Marcel Proust translated by Autret, Burford and Wolfe, p. 101. 

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/17/2014 4:40 pm

The first one, focused-attention meditation, aims to tame and center the mind in the present moment while developing the capacity to remain vigilant to distractions. The second one, mindfulness, or open-monitoring meditation, tries to cultivate a less emotionally reactive awareness to emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment to prevent them from spiraling out of control and creating mental distress. In mindfulness, the meditator remains attentive, moment by moment, to any experience without focusing on anything specific. Finally, another type of practice is known in Buddhist tradition as compassion and loving kindness and fosters an altruistic perspective toward others.

Neuroscience Reveals the Secrets of Meditation’s Benefits, Matthieu Ricard, Antoine Lutz and Richard J. Davidson

Scientific American, Oct 14, 2014

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/7/2014 12:05 pm
Labels: Meditation

Lady Macbeth

How now, my Lord, why doe you keepe alone?
Of sorryest Fancies your Companions making,
Vsing those Thoughts, which should indeed haue dy'd
With them they thinke on: things without all remedie
Should be without regard: what's done, is done.


We haue scorch'd the Snake, not kill'd it:
Shee'le close, and be her selfe, whilest our poore Mallice
Remaines in danger of her former Tooth.
But let the frame of things dis-ioynt,
Both the Worlds suffer,
Ere we will eate our Meale in feare, and sleepe
In the affliction of these terrible Dreames,
That shake vs Nightly: Better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gayne our peace, haue sent to peace,
Then on the torture of the Minde to lye
In restlesse extasie.
Duncane is in his Graue:
After Lifes fitfull Feuer, he sleepes well,
Treason ha's done his worst: nor Steele, nor Poyson,
Mallice domestique, forraine Leuie, nothing,
Can touch him further

The Tragedie of Macbeth (First Folio), William Shakespeare  1606.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/5/2014 7:37 am

À Comte Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

Voici encore de la mort et de la tristesse, mon cher cousin. Mais le moyen de ne vous pas parler de la plus belle, de la plus magnifique et de la plus triomphante pompe funèbre qui ait jamais été faite depuis qu'il y a des mortels? c'est celle de feu M. le Prince, qu'on a faite aujourd'hui à Notre-Dame; tous les beaux esprits se sont épuisés à faire valoir tout ce qu'a fait ce grand prince, et tout ce qu'il a été. Ses pères sont représentés par des médailles jusqu'à saint Louis; toutes ses victoires, par des basses-tailles (ou bas-reliefs), couvertes comme sous des tentes dont les coins sont ouverts, et portés par des squelettes, dont les attitudes sont admirables. Le mausolée, jusque près de la voûte, est couvert d'un dais en manière de pavillon encore plus haut, dont les quatre coins retombent en guise de tentes. Toute la place du chœur est ornée de ces basses-tailles, et de devises au-dessous, qui parlent de tous les temps de sa vie. Celui de sa liaison avec les Espagnols est exprimé par une nuit obscure, où trois mots latins disent: Ce qui s'est fait loin du soleil doit être caché. 1 Tout est semé de fleurs de lis d'une couleur sombre, et au-dessous une petite lampe qui fait dix mille petites étoiles. J'en oublie la moitié: mais vous aurez le livre qui vous instruira de tout en détail. Si je n'avais point eu peur qu'on ne vous l'eût envoyé, je l'aurais joint à cette lettre: mais ce duplicata ne vous aurait pas fait plaisir.

Tout le monde a été voir cette pompeuse décoration. Elle coûte cent mille francs à M. le Prince d'aujourd'hui, mais cette dépense lui fait bien de l'honneur. C'est M. de Meaux qui a fait l'oraison funèbre: nous la verrons imprimée. Voilà, mon cher cousin, fort grossièrement le sujet de la pièce. Si j'avais osé hasarder de vous faire payer un double port, vous seriez plus content.

Je viens de voir un prélat qui était à l'oraison funèbre. Il nous a dit que M. de Meaux s'était surpassé lui-même, et que jamais on n'a fait valoir ni mis en œuvre si noblement une si belle matière. J'ai vu deux ou trois fois ici M. d'Autun (M. de Roquette). Il me paraît fort de vos amis: je le trouve très-agréable, et son esprit d'une douceur et d'une facilité qui me fait comprendre l'attachement qu'on a pour lui quand on est dans son commerce. Il a eu des amis d'une si grande conséquence, et qui l'ont si longtemps et si chèrement aimé, que c'est un titre pour l'estimer, quand on ne le connaîtrait pas par lui-même. La Provençale vous fait bien des amitiés. Elle est occupée d'un procès qui la rend assez semblable à la comtesse de Pimbêche. Je me réjouis avec vous que vous ayez à cultiver le corps et l'esprit du petit de Langheac. C'est un beau nom à médicamenter, comme dit Molière; et c'est un amusement que nous avons ici tous les jours avec le petit de Grignan. Adieu, mon cher cousin; adieu, ma chère nièce. Conservez-nous vos amitiés, et nous vous répondons des nôtres. Je ne sais si ce pluriel est bon: mais, quoi qu'il en soit, je ne le changerai pas.

Mme de Sévigné 1687


Once again here come death and sorrow, my dear cousin. But how can one avoid telling you about the finest, the most magnificent, most triumphal funeral pageantry ever known since mortals have existed? It is that of the late Monsieur le Prince, which took place today at Notre-Dame. All the great minds have worked themselves to exhaustion to celebrate all this great prince has done and all he has been. His forefathers, as far back as Saint Louis, are represented on medallions, all his victories on bas-reliefs, covered as if by tents with corners turned up and held by skeletons in admirable attitudes. The mausoleum, reaching almost to the vaulting, is covered by a canopy like a pavilion which reaches even higher, the four corners of which fall like tents. The whole choir area is adorned with these bas-reliefs, with devices beneath them telling of all the phases of his life. Then of his alliance with the Spaniards is represented by a dark night in which three Latin words say: What happens far from the sun must be hidden. 1 Everything is sown with fleurs-de-lys of a sombre hue, and beneath is a little lamp shining with ten thousand tiny stars. I forget the half of it, but you will have the book which will tell you all the details. If I hadn't been afraid it had been sent to you already I would have enclosed it in this letter, but you would not have liked this duplication. Everybody has been to see this grandiose decoration. It is costing the present Monsieur le Prince 100,000 francs, but this expense does him great honour. The funeral oration was pronounced by Monsieur de Meaux; it will appear in print. That, dear cousin, is very roughly the plot of the play. If I had dared to venture to make you pay double carriage you would be better pleased. So here we are back in sorrow. 

But to enliven you a little I am about to pass from one extreme to another, that is to say from death to a marriage, from excess of ceremony to excess of intimacy, with both as original as possible. I am referring to the son of the Due de Gramont, aged fifteen, and the daughter of M. de Noailles. They are to be married this evening at Versailles. This is how: nobody is invited, nobody is informed, everyone will have supper or a collation at home. At midnight the bridal pair will be brought together to be taken to the parish church, without the mothers and fathers being present unless they are already at Versailles. They will be married. There will be no great display of clothes, they will not be officially put to bed; the duty of putting them together in the same bed will be left to the governess and tutor. Next morning it will be assumed that everything has passed off properly. There will be no teasing, no witticisms, no nasty jokes. They will get up, the boy will go to Mass and the King's dinner, the young person will dress as usual and go off to pay visits with her grandmother. She will not be lying on her bed like a village bride, exposed to all the tiresome visitors, and all this wedding (an affair usually marked by a lot of fuss) will merge in the prettiest and most natural way into all the other actions of life and has been worked so imperceptibly into normal routine that nobody has noticed that some celebration has happened in these two families. This is what I mean to fill up this letter with, dear cousin, and I maintain that this picture, in its way, is as singular as the other. 

I have just seen a prelate who was at the funeral oration. He told us that Monsieur de Meaux had surpassed himself and that never has such a fine subject been so nobly brought out or expressed. I have seen Monsieur d'Autun here once or twice. He seems very friendlily disposed towards you; I find him very pleasant and from the gentleness and ease of his manner I can quite understand how attached one is to him when one gets to know him. He has had friends of such exalted position who have loved him so long and so dearly that that in itself is a reason for valuing him even if one did not know him personally. The Provencal lady sends you her best respects. She is involved in a lawsuit which makes her closely resemble the Countess of Pimbeche.

I rejoice with you that you have to cultivate the body and mind of the Coligny boy. 3 It is fine name to have to medicate, as Moliere says, and it is a pleasure we have here every day with young Grignan. Good-bye, dear cousin, good-bye, dear niece. Keep your loves for us and we guarantee you ours. I don't know whether that plural is right, but whether it is or not I shan't alter it.

1. Lateant quae sine sole.

2. Countess of Pimpeche, litigious old lady in Les Plaideurs of Racine.

3. Bussy-Rabutin's grandson. 

Mme de Sévigné 1687, quoted from Gutenberg and translated by Leonard Tancock 1982.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
11/2/2014 7:27 am
Labels: Mme de Sevigne

And when he was tempted to regret that, for months past, he had done nothing but visit Odette, he would assure himself that he was not unreasonable in giving up much of his time to the study of an inestimably precious work of art, cast for once in a new, a different, an especially charming metal, in an unmatched exemplar which he would contemplate at one moment with the humble, spiritual, disinterested mind of an artist, at another with the pride, the selfishness, the sensual thrill of a collector.

Swann in Love Marcel Proust, 1913; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, 1922.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
10/31/2014 7:17 am

In antiquity and now with natural colorants,

Dyeing (as opposed to painting) in black, on the other hand, long remained an extremely difficult exercise ...

... some dyers resorted to oak apple, a very expensive colorant material, extracted from a small spherical growth found on the leaves of certain oaks. Various insects lay their eggs on these leaves; after the eggs are laid, the sap of the tree exudes a material that gradually surrounds the larva and encloses it in a kind of shell; that is the oak gall, or oak apple. They had to be collected before summer, when the larva had not yet hatched, and then dried slowly. Thus they were rich in tannins and possessed remarkable colorant qualities in the black range. But their high price limited their use.

Black—The History Of A Color, Michel Pastoureau 2008.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
10/2/2014 8:47 pm

... we see colors not in their original state but as time has made them. This work of time—whether due to the chemical evolution of the colorant materials or to the actions of humans, who over the course of the centuries paint and repaint, modify, clean, varnish, or remove this or that layer of color set down by preceding generations—is in itself a historical document. That is why I am always suspicious of laboratories, now with very elaborate technical means and sometimes very flashy advertising, that offer to "restore" colors, or worse to return them to their original state. Inherent here is a scientific positivism that seems to me at once vain, dangerous, and at odds with the task of the historian. The work of time is an integral part of our research. Why renounce it, erase it, destroy it? The historical reality is not only what it was in its original state, but also what time has made of it. Let us not forget that and let us not restore rashly.

Black—The History Of A Color, Michel Pastoureau 2008, (my emphasis below).


The work of time is an integral part of our research. Why renounce it, erase it, destroy it? The historical reality is not only what it was in its original state, but also what time has made of it.

I think the 'restoration' of paintings is not that at all; it is simply the repainting, or more exactly, the over-painting by another person at a later date. I prefer seeing "the work of time" or the decrepitude of aging that adds a realness to the painting.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
10/1/2014 7:59 pm

Moreover, quantities and proportions are always quite inexact: "take a good portion of madder and put it in a certain amount of water; add a bit of vinegar and a lot of tartar." The same imprecision applies to the length of time one should boil, decoct, or soak the cloth, which is rarely indicated or else highly implausible. A text from the late thirteenth century, for example, explains that to produce green paint, copper shavings should be soaked in vinegar for either three days or nine months. As is often the case in the Middle Ages, the ritual is more important than the result, and numbers are more symbols than actual quantities. For medieval culture, three days or nine months represented more or less the same thing in that both expressed a period of waiting and (re)generation—Christ's resurrection occurred on the third day, a child arrives after nine months. It is typical of medieval thinking to superimpose such symbolically significant periods on other spheres of life and activity.

Blue—The History Of A Color, Michel Pastoureau 2000.

But I like the thirteenth century way of proportions and time; they're very similar to the directions for cooking in Larousse Gastronomique, 1938. One doesn't follow the recipe blindly, one creates as one goes—it doesn't always work—and that's what makes it so special when it does.

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
9/30/2014 4:38 pm

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.

Le Temps Retrouvé, Marcel Proust (posthumous); translated by Stephen Hudson  as Time Regained in 1931, (my emphasis).

I realized, as Proust does, that suffering has a much longer duration than love, but I wonder about "unhappiness", does suffering make love possible?

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
9/18/2014 7:57 pm

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 flavor.

Time Regained Marcel Proust 1927 (posthumous) translated by Stephen Hudson 1931 on Gutenberg, (my emphasis).

Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
9/10/2014 8:06 pm