The chapter on Marcel Proust, "Perpetual Adoration": Proust and the Art Spirit is 31 pages long of small type in Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery,
The church of Balbec provides a turning point for Proust’s hero because he has the opportunity to reassess it. Later in the novel, he meets the impressionist painter Elstir, who helps him understand the importance of Balbec for art history and for the artist. The hero finally understands that to enjoy a work of art he must trust his own emotions. Proust, himself, made such a discovery. As he began annotating La Bible d’Amiens, Proust turned to other experts—Viollet-le-Duc and Emile Mâle—through whom he realized that he had adopted Ruskin’s vision of the cathedral instead of trusting his own impressions. Mâle served as an aesthetic guide for Proust, much as Elstir does for the hero of La Recherche: he suggested churches to visit in a new series of cathedral explorations that Proust began in 1907 and he answered his questions about the symbolism and history of medieval religious architecture. Proust devoured L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle (Mâle), which he called a “pure masterpiece and the last word in French iconography.” *
* Contre Saint-Beuve 726. He had borrowed his friend, Robert de Billy’s copy (L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle), and when he returned it, some four years later, Billy described its dilapidated condition: “il n’avait ni couverture ni page de garde et portait les marques de toutes les disgrâces qui peuvent assaillir un livre, lu au lit, dans le voisinage des remèdes” (Marcel Proust: Lettres et conversations. Paris: Editions des Portiques, 1930), 111. (p. 213)
He used the book to elucidate and correct Ruskin’s remarks when he annotated the translation he and Marie Nordlinger had made of Ruskin’s The Bible of Amiens. Bales and Autret have shown that many of Proust’s passages about medieval architecture and iconography in La Recherche—notably the descriptions of the Combray and Balbec churches above—are inspired directly from Mâle. The two remained in lifelong contact, and under Mâle’s tutelage Proust learned about Gothic cathedrals and their construction: the notes to his translations of Ruskin’s works, in which he corrects comments made by Ruskin, Viollet-le-Duc, and Huysmans, reveal his familiarity with medieval symbolism and the cathedrals of France. While Ruskin had whetted Proust’s appetite for Gothic churches, Mâle, France’s specialist of medieval architecture, explained their intricacies and led Proust to a more complex understanding of cathedrals’ form and function. (p. 146)
Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Two hundred pages after his visit to the Balbec church, the hero meets Elstir. Like Mâle, he is the perfect tutor because he conceives of art in both intellectual and instinctual terms. Accordingly, when the hero asks him questions about the statues of the apostles that had disappointed him on the Balbec porch, “those great statues of saints, who, perched on stilts, form a kind of avenue,” Elstir explains that this “avenue” represents history:
“It starts from the beginning of time to end with Jesus Christ,” he told me. “On one side you have his ancestors of the spirit, on the other, the Kings of Judea, his ancestors of the flesh. All of the ages are there. And if you had better examined what seemed stilts to you, you would have been able to name the figures perched up there. Under the feet of Moses you would have recognized the golden calf, under Abraham’s the ram, under Joseph’s, the demon advising Potiphar’s wife.” (ARTP II, p. 198)
In Balbec, the hero had been disappointed to find that the giant, immortal statues of the Apostles he expected to see were tarnished by the soot of the present. Elstir, however, teaches him that their procession does represent eternity; it symbolizes their continued march through time. The facade of the Balbec church, in which all of Christ’s ancestors are figured, returns, at the end of La Recherche, as an image of time. The hero sees himself staggering on his own pair of stilts, like the Apostles atop the Balbec cathedral, a figure perched precariously on the years separating him from Combray and his own ancestors: Swann, Bergotte, Elstir, and his family. (p. 148)
Romancing The Cathedral, Gothic Architecture in Fin-de-Siècle French Culture 2001, Elizabeth Emery.
And the last paragraph of La Recherche,
I understood now why it was that the Duc de Guermantes, who to my surprise, when I had seen him sitting on a chair, had seemed to me so little aged although he had so many more years beneath him than I had, had presently, when he rose to his feet and tried to stand firm upon them, swayed backwards and forwards upon legs as tottery as those of some old archbishop with nothing solid about his person but his metal crucifix, to whose support there rushes a mob of sturdy young seminarists, and had advanced with difficulty, trembling like a leaf, upon the almost unmanageable summit of his eighty-three years, as though men spend their lives perched upon living stilts which never cease to grow until sometimes they become taller than church steeples, making it in the end both difficult and perilous for them to walk and raising them to an eminence from which suddenly they fall. And I was terrified by the thought that the stilts beneath my own feet might already have reached that height; it seemed to me that quite soon now I might be too weak to maintain my hold upon a past which already went down so far. So, if I were given long enough to accomplish my work, I should not fail, even if the effect were to make them resemble monsters, to describe men as occupying so considerable a place, compared with the restricted place which is reserved for them in space, a place on the contrary prolonged past measure, for simultaneously, like giants plunged into the years, they touch the distant epochs through which they have lived, between which so many days have come to range themselves—in Time. (ARTP VI, p. 532)Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Man has taken a wild flower and over many centuries, at first by the selection of chance seedlings and later by design, moulded it to his wishes. The rose is a flower that belongs in the main to those parts of the garden that are close to the house, and those parts most closely controlled by the gardener. Here it is always with us as we pass; one of those small but not insignificant parts of our life that makes it worth the living.
The Heritage of the Rose 1988, David Austin, p. 17.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
In fact, all the wild species have a beauty that is never found in artificial hybrids. E. A. Bunyard, writing in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Journal in 1916, observed that “singles are God-made, doubles are man-made; a perfect flower should have anthers and pistils.”
The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book 1994, Graham Stuart Thomas, p. XXI.
A single wild rose bloom has from 4-9 petals; a double has many more petals in lieu of the anthers and pistils.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
The lover gathers his rose ... from the Romance of the Rose (1230...), woodcuts by Antoine Vérard (1494)
... the prickles of the rose have also been considered a symbol of sin. Saint Ambrose (340-397) held that in Paradise the roses would be smooth stemmed, an idea echoed by John Milton (1608—1674) who described Eden before Adam and Eve committed sin:
‘A happy rural seat of various view: Groves of rich trees... Betwixt them Lawns, or level Downs... Flowers of all hue, and without Thorn the Rose.’
This state of bliss was soon to end. The quotation comes near the beginning of Paradise Lost, but once Adam succumbs to temptation, the rose acquires its prickles.
The Rose, An Illustrated History 2003, Peter Harkness, p. 22-24.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
The majority of Moss Roses were bred over a short period of time, from approximately 1850 to 1870. Arriving, as they did, comparatively late on the rose scene, they show considerable signs of hybridity; in some varieties there are definite signs of China Rose ancestry. Here we have the first hint of the Modern Rose creeping in on the Old. The result is sometimes a loss of that charm which we so value in Old Roses, the first loss of innocence.
The Heritage of the Rose 1988, David Austin, p. 73.
ORIGIN Laffay, France, 1855
FLOWER SIZE 3.1 in (8cm)
SCENT Strong and sweet
HEIGHT/SPREAD 3.9ft (1.2m)/4.9ft (1.5m)
HARDINESS Zone 5
The synonym for Alfred de Dalmas is Mousseline, and the same rose is sold under both names. They were originally two different roses: only one has survived, but the experts cannot say which. Either way, this is one of the best repeat-flowering Moss roses. Its flowers are a beautiful flesh pink, fading to pale creamy pink, and distinctly cup-shaped, with a wisp of stamens at the center. They are sweetly scented, and the moss (brownish, and not too thick) has a resinous smell when touched. The flowers come in tight clusters (typically of 3—5) on short, leafy stems like a Portland rose. The plant is not very vigorous but, when well grown, it eventually makes a tall, upright plant and reaches 5.7ft (1.75m). Normally it is smaller — small enough for containers. The reflowering is stronger if the bush is lightly cut back after each flowering. The leaves are small, with rounded, gray green leaflets, and fairly healthy except for occasional blackspot.
American Rose Society Encyclopedia of Roses 2003, Charles and Brigid Quest-Ritson, p. 25.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
The Gallica, known to the ancient Greeks
Susan Cooper-Willis (a painter of roses) speaking in terms of fabrics has suggested that the colors of Old Roses are like vegetable dyes in comparison with the harsher ‘chemical’ colours of Modern Roses. I think this puts it rather well. … Pink is the true color of the rose … and in Old Roses it often has a clarity seldom found elsewhere.
The Heritage of the Rose 1988 by David Austin, p. 31.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Proust’s place in literature is analogous to Manet’s in painting: was he the last of the great classics or the first of the revolutionaries? Manet’s work is linked to the art of the past through its sources and often through the subjects it treats, but it looks ahead to the most radical innovations of Monet and the impressionists, although Manet still resisted having his works exhibited alongside theirs in the Salons des Refusés. In fact Manet maintained to the last an ambiguous attitude toward official art and “academicism,” even though he was rebuffed by the public and the press at the different salons that took place over the years. In Proust, as in Manet, continuity and discontinuity, tradition and revolution, make for a strange, unstable mixture in which meaningfulness and the purely “pictorial,” the novelistic and the impressionistic, realism and blurred vision coexist.
Proust entre deux siècles 1989 by Antoine Compagnon; translated as Proust Between Two Centuries 1991 by Richard E. Goodkin, p. 20.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Each reader has passages that he or she remembers in The Search and here is one of mine.
In Within a Budding Grove after the carriage ride with Mme de Villeparisis and after dinner at the hotel with her, the Narrator and his grandmother go upstairs (Volume II, p. 418-420 of the Modern Library Edition). There, the grandmother extolls the virtues of Mme de Villeparisis for her grandson's edification.
I interrupted her with a kiss and asked her if she had noticed such and such a remark Mme de Villeparisis had made which seemed to point to a woman who thought more of her noble birth than she was prepared to admit.
In this way I used to submit my impressions of life to my grandmother, for I was never certain what degree of respect was due to anyone until she had pointed it out to me.
Every evening I would come to her with the mental sketches that I had made during the day of all those non-existent people who were not her.
Once I said to her: “I couldn’t live without you.”
“But if I were to go away for months ...” (at the mere thought my heart turned over) “... for years ... for ...”
We both fell silent. We dared not look one another in the face. And yet I was suffering more keenly from her anguish than from my own. And so I walked across to the window and said to her distinctly, with averted eyes,
One thinks of the Narrator saying in Volume I, p. 14 MLE:
... in my cowardice I became at once a man, and did what all we grown men do when face to face with suffering and injustice: I preferred not to see them
Like an adult, he clumsily lies in an attempt to ameliorate her anguish and says,
“You know what a creature of habit I am."
Yes she knows, but the opposite of what he explains:
“... For the first few days after I’ve been separated from the people I love best, I’m miserable. But though I go on loving them just as much, I get used to their absence, my life becomes calm and smooth. I could stand being parted from them for months, for years ...”
and after listening to him,
(She) left the room for a moment.
I would think to sob.
The next day the Narrator tries to repair the situation with words...of course, they were talking about death and probably hers, but not speaking directly and he remarks,
... what a curious thing it was that, according to the latest scientific discoveries, the materialist position appeared to be crumbling, and what was again most likely was the immortality of souls and their future reunion.
But if you wish you can see a more intelligent, albeit mystical and lying but a good side of the Narrator when you read the "creature of habit" quote as also his advice to his grandmother on what to do with the situation they've created about "parting". Of course, grandmother accepts what he says...
Neither wants to face the death of a loved one. They are sweet liars and their love for one another is in the way of the truth. Yes, the child had become the parent. Years earlier, the Narrator had become a parent too—but with more difficulty—when in Combray, as he was scheming to get a proper goodnight kiss from Mamma, he got, with his father's unwitting assistance, the kiss along with a grown-up horror that he dreaded: Mamma spends the night with him.
Mamma and grandmother had transferred their power to him; he didn't want to become the powerful parent—but what could he do—they had become children.
... and what was again most likely was the immortality of souls and their future reunion.
It is very messy but sweet and tinged with the despair of hope.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
The Narrator says "So often, in the course of my life, reality had disappointed me..." and I think of him seeing Mme de Guermantes in the church and hearing Berma for the first time, etc.
So often, in the course of my life, reality had disappointed me because at the instant when my senses perceived it my imagination, which was the only organ that I possessed for the enjoyment of beauty, could not apply itself to it, in virtue of that ineluctable law which ordains that we can only imagine what is absent.
Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and Time Regained translated by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 263
Note: this is a posthumously published volume; (it) was written at the same time as Swann's Way, but was revised and expanded during the course of the novel's publication to account for, to a greater or lesser success, the then unforeseen material now contained in the middle volumes. Wikipedia.
In addition to Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin there are other translators of this same volume: Sidney Schiff (1931), Ian Patterson (2003) and Neville Jason (2011) who recorded his translation on Naxos.
That "we can only imagine what is absent," reminds me of the Mahayana philosopher, Nägärjuna (~250 BC) and the Tetralemma: "It cannot be said to exist. It cannot be said not to exist. It cannot be said to both exist and not exist. It cannot be said to neither exist or not exist." Wikipedia.
At the Guermante's library in Time Regained, once again we meet our mystical Proust (or his stand-in, the Narrator). The language they use is not as smooth and perfect as most people think. It's holely—and the homonym is intended. God lurks within it as Zen masters do not say.
What transpired in the immediate years before the Narrator happened upon the uneven paving stones in the courtyard at the Guermante's party intrigues me.
In The Varieties of Religious Experience 1902 by William James, the author states mystical states are always proceeded by a hopelessness and the surrender to this fact. This is much like the mental state of the Narrator coming from a sanatorium outside of Paris to a daytime party at the Princess de Guermantes.
... now that I possessed the proof that I was useless and that literature could no longer give me any joy whatever, whether this was my fault, through my not having enough talent, or the fault of literature itself ...
Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and Time Regained translated by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 254.
After many years of trying, now he had decided that he couldn't write and furthermore Art had absolutely nothing to offer him—he surrendered to this view.
Then, just before the Narrator entered the Guermantes' mansion, he stumbles on uneven paving stones in the courtyard and seeming by magic they fill him with an uncommon joy—eventually he becomes mystically aware of Venice and the uneven stones at Saint Mark's.
'Yes, reality can contain sensual beauty'. The Narrator can see beauty (it is there in the reality he perceives) but he cannot enjoy it or imagine it because the perception overpowers his imagination. Beauty is present and he perceives it, albeit unenthusiastically—he cannot imagine or enjoy beauty's unique attributes because "we can only imagine what is absent."
We must remember that this is a sentence fragment from a long novel which becomes more mystical as I read it; it is unlike a realist work.
Simon quotes Samuel Becket in Proust (1931), "The Proustian equation is never simple," and part of that equation is a possible ending:
And I understood that all these materials for a work of literature were simply my past life; I understood that they had come to me, in frivolous pleasures, in indolence, in tenderness, in unhappiness, and that I had stored them up without divining the purpose for which they were destined ...
Le temps retrouvé by Marcel Proust (1927) and translated as Time Regained by Andreas Mayor and Terrance Kilmartin (1981) and revised by D. J. Enright (1992) p. 304.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Though they were now separately identifiable, still the mutual response which they gave one another with eyes animated by self-sufficiency and the spirit of comradeship, in which were kindled at every moment now the interest now the insolent indifference with which each of them sparkled according as her glance fell on one of her friends or on passing strangers, that consciousness, moreover, of knowing one another intimately enough always to go about together, by making them a 'band apart' established between their independent and separate bodies, as slowly they advanced, a bond invisible but harmonious, like a single warm shadow, a single atmosphere making of them a whole as homogeneous in its parts as it was different from the crowd through which their procession gradually wound.
À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs by Marcel Proust 1919; translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1923, p. 509.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
The first was when a list member called my attention in private email to capitalization, "Was 'habit' capitalized in the English translation or in the original French?" I responded by showing two passages from Gutenberg; the first was Proust writing in French and the second was Moncrieff translating the same passage in English:
Mais cette souffrance et ce regain d'amour pour Gilberte ne furent pas plus longs que ceux qu'on a en rêve, et cette fois, au contraire, parce qu'à Balbec l'Habitude ancienne n'était plus là pour les faire durer. ...
But this suffering and this recrudescence of my love for Gilberte lasted no longer than such things last in a dream, and this time, on the contrary, because at Balbec the old Habit was no longer there to keep them alive. ...
As far as the question goes the answer is 'yes'. Even in the third sentence of the passage where Proust uses a lower case "h". Moncrieff follows him in his translation:
Le changement d'habitude, c'est-à-dire la cessation momentanée de l'Habitude paracheva l'oeuvre de l'Habitude quand je partis pour Balbec. ...
The change of habit, that is to say the temporary cessation of Habit, completed Habit's task when I started for Balbec. ...
However in the paragraph before that Proust uses the lower case 'h',
... les lois plus générales de l'habitude.
while Moncrieff capitalizes it,
... the still more general rules of Habit.
Later Kilmartin and Enright honor Moncrieff.
The second thing is in the carriage of Mme de Villeparisis, talking about Chateaubriand, beginning with page 410 of the Modern Library Edition. The Narrator is speaking:
Shyly I would quote to Mme de Villeparisis, pointing to the moon in the sky, some memorable expression of Chateaubriand ...
“And you think that good, do you?” she would ask, “inspired, as you call it. ...
... As for his fine phrases about the moon, they had quite simply become a family joke. Whenever the moon was shining, if there was anyone staying with us for the first time he would be told to take M. de Chateaubriand for a stroll after dinner. When they came in, my father would take his guest aside and say: ‘Well, and was M. de Chateaubriand very eloquent?’—‘Oh, yes.’ ‘He talked to you about the moonlight.’—‘Yes, how did you know?’—‘One moment, didn’t he say—’ and then my father would quote the phrase. ‘He did; but how in the world . . . ?’—‘And he spoke to you of the moonlight on the Roman Campagna?’—‘But, my dear sir, you’re a magician.’ My father was no magician, but M. de Chateaubriand had the same little speech about the moon which he served up every time.”
We have a real person, François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand being spoken of by a fictional person, Mme de Villeparisis, who is retelling the stories of her fictional father. Obviously the relations reported didn't happen between the parties stated.
During a Summer in Brittany I read Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe at Saint-Malo but I know little of Chateaubriand's biography. Did the moonlight walk sequence, as reported, happen to someone else? It seems Chateaubriand's words about the moonlight "had quite simply become a family joke" could be argued as defamation especially in a French court to be settled for a single Franc or an Euro as the case may be.
How far can one go making the real into fiction in a french novel?Posted by: Eugene Wyatt
For the first time in Marcel Proust's novel, Habit is mentioned in the second volume with a capital H.
Now the memories of love are no exception to the general laws of memory, which in turn are governed by the still more general laws of Habit. (1)
At Balbec on his first visit, and the journey there, the Narrator has relapses of l'amour fou for Gilberte—an intermittence of indifference—after two years. He finds himself loving her and suffering because he lacks her,
The self that had loved her, which another self had already almost entirely supplanted, would reappear, stimulated far more often by a trivial than by an important event (2)
On the sea-front at Balbec the Narrator was reminded that he'd overheard a conversation between Gilberte and her father in Paris mentioning the same trivial Ministry,
... I heard someone who passed me on the sea-front at Balbec refer to “the head of the Ministry of Posts and his family.” (3)
Hearing that, caused him to feel—once again—forlorn for Gilberte. What follows is much like the result of involuntary memory.
... but hidden from our eyes in an oblivion more or less prolonged.
It is thanks to this oblivion alone that we can from time to time recover the person that we were, place ourselves in relation to things as he was placed, suffer anew because we are no longer ourselves but he, and because he loved what now leaves us indifferent. (4)
Habit is neither good nor bad but "... is bound by a diversity of laws."
In Paris I had grown more and more indifferent to Gilberte, thanks to Habit. The change of habit, that is to say the temporary cessation of Habit, completed Habit’s work when I set out for Balbec. (5)
I love Proust's magical side when he equates faeries with women in houses, when he writes of metempsychosis and time gone-bye—and so much more—and this too:
... what best reminds us of a person is precisely what we had forgotten (because it was of no importance [it was trivial], and we therefore left it in full possession of its strength). (6)
(1) À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs by Marcel Proust 1919; translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1923 et al, p. 300.
(2) Ibid, p. 299.
(3) Ibid, p. 299.
(4) Ibid, p. 300.
(5) Ibid, p. 301.
(6) Ibid, p. 300.Posted by: Eugene Wyatt