The Masked Ball

[Cahier 57]

   I replaced the book1 because I had just heard the sound of murmuring which announced that the performance was over. As for myself, having just now been astonished at the dual characters who constituted the person of Bergotte, I interrupted my train of thoughts which at the moment I conceived them had seemed life changing, so as not to risk2 the Prince de Guermantes coming in and finding me still here in the library, the music having finished,  lost in my own reveries  rather than chatting to people in the drawing-room. And making my way through the gallery that led to the large drawing-room I recalled the day when, in this fairy tale palace, M. and Mme de Guermantes were entertaining their guests like a King and Queen of the fairies. I went in. Standing on their feet the Prince and Princesse de Guermantes still had the same appearance of a fairy King and Queen, the Prince still attempting with his voluble good nature to dispel the imagined timidity of their guests, and one might have imagined him dressed up as Prince Fridolin. But he was not in costume except that he had put on a powdered wig, as had the Princesse. How different it made them look! But was it on account of some sort of ceremonial or magic wand in fact, that if I recognized almost all of the guests, I only recognized them as if in a dream,3 or in a masked ball, inferring their identity from a slight resemblance. That is indeed the Comte de Froidevaux4 just by the door, the essentially black-haired gentleman whom I had met with M. de Guercy on the way to the Princesse's evening party. He has powdered half of his beard and all of his hair. He is almost unrecognizable.5 Why, there is M. de Raymond, the man who had the appearance of a suspected neophyte, and he has coated his long blond beard and his disordered hair with a sort of silvery grey powder, giving him the appearance of some prophet of old. But close beside me is clearly the young Chemisey. I do not know what he had put on his face but he had made himself up very cleverly, created lots of wrinkles, with such unattractive bristles around his eyes covering up his youthful moustache and his thin eyebrows, so that one would have almost said he was an old man. Why, here is Montargis; but what has he done to himself? He does not look at his best advantage, his face stiff, tired, swarthy, solemn, as if grown old, making him look ten6 years older. I must tell him he is not looking at his best.  "Why, it's you, well, well, this is a fine time to make your arrival,7 but that doesn't matter it is so good to see you. I thought," he added with the air of a man who is preoccupied with his health, "that I wouldn't be seeing you again," the Prince told me clasping both my hands in his. Sorry enchanter, between his completely white hair and moustache his face seemed all pink, his nose completely red, and his entire face had the meekness of an English portrait so that I hardly knew him. His eyes too had lost their keen fixity, they seemed hesitant, surreptitiously closing, tired as if from reading for too long. Perhaps it was due to the change in all the faces, but all of their eyes seemed8 less alive to me, and as if I really was seeing all these creatures in a dream that they were not conscious of, in a twilight into which their lives had been sunk.9
   But it was already with a contracting heart that I understood that it was another, more powerful enchanter who had contrived these disguises, the invisible and indefatigable labourer whose work I had seen in Combray church: Time.10 It was Time too that has threaded with silver, wrinkled with moonlight suffused in obscurity like figures on a tapestry, guests at a fairy tale palace, bathed in moonlight, and making them too just as fairy-like: it feels like the enchanter has drawn out of a magic casket his coloured powders and his threads, the paint sticks that he has used to darken11 the corners of young Chemisey's eyes, the metallic dust that he has used to add a bluish shade to M. de Grandcamp's beard, all taken from the enchanted casket; and to them they have added pastel shades of a hue so supernatural that they seem more like reflections that these living creatures, made so miraculously poetic, that they might have retained for themselves from a ride into the invisible.
   Every evening, putting aside the day that had just passed like an unsuccessful sketch, I said to myself: tomorrow I will work, I will still be alive and because I wasted today it will be as if it never was. My old willingness to live and to work, since I had never made it happen, was still with me as if it had just been born and that which lay between my willingness and its not yet realized achievement, was not. And in this daydream of activity no time had elapsed for me, and I came back into the world, hardly able to recognize the new faces of people I had lived among in the past.
   But this canvas of moonlight I was unable to contemplate with the same peacefulness as at St. Hilaire where Time had done its work before I was born. Here where I can remember a day when it had not yet begun, here where it had been performed during my lifetime, I existed at its expense as if it had been performed without my knowledge, with the dynamism of my stolen youth that I will never find again.
   In some the first wave of time had been premature and partial and in their still youthful beard a few skeins of white struck a discordant note equivalent to the oddness of brighter colours, like the still green leaves that a first touch of autumn, introducing into them a capricious streak, thin and distinct as lightning has streaked with a long exotic and almost floral tuft of pink leaves.12
   And in some others whose air of adolescence or of youthfulness had previously seemed to be aspiring to emancipation and maturity, old age had come while they were still waiting; still waiting for the fulfillment of their twentieth year, their adolescent face was beginning to shrivel like an apple that has not ripened; but in others whose young man's features had for so long stayed smooth beneath the mask of their flesh making them seem eternal their immutable physiognomy had been completely reabsorbed and time had introduced onto the stage radically different features in their place, usually those belonging to their family. And beneath the face of the brother whom they have never resembled, and for whom I mistook them, I recognized their voice as they told me: "No, Henri is over there look, by the buffet", and I caught sight of an old man.
   On the children of Doctor Cottard who was now doctor to the Princesse time had managed to solve in the requisite number of years the problem of making those who only resembled their mother also resemble their father, and they hurried around the buffet with the beaks, the hesitant eyes and the bewilderment of young geese. The one who had seemed recalcitrant and still childlike, with the serene majesty of a young god, had quickly made up for lost time, his nose had changed shape, his eyes had lost their serenity, he had become just as ugly as the others; an unruffled brow, unhurried limbs, were the sole vestiges, and barely recognizable as they were, of the fine antique marble statue he had been in days gone by. It had sufficed for Madame de Cannisy's brother who for so long had remained a fresh faced and frivolous young man, that his moustache had turned grey, his features burned by the sun and his look become grave for the dandyish dancer of yesteryear to be succeeded as though in a kaleidoscope, by the worthy and virile colonel who had been his father. "Hello there, what a surprise", he said proffering me the hand of a lady I did not recognize, who had something in her appearance of a Madame Swann13 who had gone grey and put on weight. "You didn't recognize me, you took me for Mamma!" added the lady with the frank simplicity that she had inherited from her father, and who was none other than Gilberte Montargis.14 Women of a greater age would admit less frankly to feeling some change in themselves though and acquiesce to their age in the manner of their dress, in their posture and in their diet so as far as the sacrifices that seem to them somewhat less onerous might preserve what is to them most essential and most precious to their individual charm, some in a choice between the filling out of their bodies and the fading of their looks15 go out walking in the country all morning, horse riding, hardly eating, preferring to carry all the weight of their old age on their features, to preserve, at the price of a drawn expression, dark circles around their eyes, the slimness of figure on which their glory had been built. But it is on the contrary in their faces that nearly all of them struggle to combat age, straining towards that beauty that has departed them just as a sunflower strains towards the sky to gather up the very last ray, and to hold onto it for as long as possible. Some renouncing the delicate sculpting of an imperilled nose, a threatened dimple, the stinging condemnation of a countenance obliged to appease, have taken refuge in face cream, brilliantine, the cool surface of their pale face, have smoothed it again, stretched it, evened it out and tended it as desperately as a monstrance, in the last farewell to their youth; while others had resigned themselves, having seen their bloom, their radiance wane, but had despairingly taken refuge in the "expression" that formed the essence of their youthfulness and charm, and desperately clung on to a profile, to a smile, to a distracted expression, to a pout, to a pretty crow's foot, that now had nothing more than an imaginary existence, with no material basis. But if they themselves were duped by the illusion that it seemed to them they were successful in producing, they forgot that there was nothing more in it of youth than the unbudging16 resemblance of an ancient portrait, they seemed to have the appearance of getting themselves worked up and if they tried to smile their uncoordinated muscles no longer obeyed them, they appeared to be grimacing and looked as if they were crying.
   Alas! just as my desires were rising up more and more towards my youth, all the persons in the midst of whom it had passed had travelled far away in the opposite direction so that, thinking back to the young milkmaid I had seen one morning at sunrise, seeing her before my eyes, feeling my lips irresistably drawn towards her, I wanted to go and see her again even if, still living, a morose matron had taken her place, as if she had gone away to find some far off place, and the face that my eyes looked upon and which drew my lips to it, was pure fiction which desire renders hallucinatory like a mirage, which is perhaps the most deceitful fiction of all, the only one that can never be realized and in which one feels hurled into nothingness, for I could scour the whole universe without finding in its most unknown recesses the same face that my eyes were seeing, to which my lips were drawn just as it had flourished so many years ago in the grace of her fifteen years. But my lips turn once more to her, that is to say to something that is nowhere to be found and never will be.
   Alas! similarly with the dead, even my grandmother when I pictured her, still living, just as I had always loved her, when I placed her image from days gone by in the here and now, as if that time and today were two simultaneous epochs and to go from one to the other she would not, had she been alive, have had to cross the open space of time that separated them. Alas! while I was searching for my aunt who looked so much like my grandmother, I was approached by the Princesse to whom I wanted to introduce her, and at the same time by a face, still charming for an old lady, as if it had been that of a portrait by Rembrandt or Hals, a peasant woman seen in a village that we have only passed through and which shows us the impenetrable outer surface of faces that one has never seen. When she said, calling me by my first name, that I had not recognized her, I was obliged to confess to her that I had no idea that she could have been my aunt and I still did not when she was called by name. Before that recognition could occur that protuberant red mask had first to be removed from her pale and beautiful face, and from the smile I remembered and which was that of my grandmother, this mouth screwed down like an orange in a crate that could be separated into two halves and which at rest created a convex hemisphere; then I saw once again the gentle eyes and that shy, sprightly and acute expression of an old shepherdess, and finally the face of my grandmother, my grandmother's face that had I wished to I would honestly have believed alive before me, was presented before me, alas! unquestionably identical to this one. I apologized, at the same time trying to penetrate through her eyes, through her new cheeks and unfamiliar lips to the old face. But under the mask I only recognized the voice. "I very much would like to introduce you," I told her.
   "Really there is no need, we've done all that ourselves, we already know each other well," the Princesse said seriously, "and I hope that's how it will stay," she added.17 And the Princesse de Guermantes repeated to me several times over that my aunt - the most mediocre and the most ridiculous person I knew - was delightful, that she was delighted to know her, that she definitely wanted to see her again, so that I was obliged to see in her words, after initially thinking that out of an excess of goodness towards me she would not shrink from any sacrifice to bring me pleasure, the sincere expression of the impression my aunt had made on her; which led me to think that it must be the case that people in society imagine a priori everybody else as monsters with no connection to humanity since the least spark of intelligence or kindness that she saw in my aunt astonished her as would a child's precociousness or an animal's memory. "What! you have only just arrived?" Mme Chemisey said to me, whose18 regular features I recognized, but which had now become bloodshot beneath her white hair; noble and severe it was of a cruel harshness. And the small mark that she had at the corner of her nose had taken on a vividness and a detestable prominence, like a malignant swelling. I confessed to her that I had only just come in. She clicked her tongue at me, saying "tut, tut, tut". But when I added that I might perhaps have been able to come in for a moment but I had enjoyed staying in the library alone with my thoughts just as much, she simply shrugged her shoulders. It was even worse when I told the Princesse de Guermantes, who had asked me if there was anything else that she could invite me to which would amuse me, that it would be to the party she was throwing for her niece because I liked to see young girls: "Well for heaven's sake don't say so, what do you want me to say, there are things one doesn't admit to, that one doesn't do. You give a louis to your coachman to get there quicker but you don't arrive till after Parsifal. Consequently this intelligent young man has ceased to be so," she told me. "You must at least try to keep up appearances and not say that you are enjoying the ball, or that you find it just as agreeable to be wandering about in a room on your own rather than listening to the work of a Titan. But you see, I don't want to tease you and make you unhappy the first time I see you. But you know how I am about Wagner! In the end it is the works themselves that choose their listeners. It is Parsifal who doesn't want you to die before you hear him. If he had wanted to secure your attention I have no doubt that the horse pulling your cab would have taken the bit between its teeth to get you here before the first note was played." It was by this imaginative line of thought that she brought Legrandin to mind. A lady passed by to whom the Princesse said: "Isn't it good to see him" and she gave my name.
   "Oh, h-hello," she replied. It was Mme de Montyon suffusing her gaze and her smile just as she had always done. But now that they were more feeble, almost extinguished,  she looked as though she was smiling with the vague and devout uncertainty of somebody who has just woken up and can hardly see you through the smoke screen that she has deliberately set up for a moment then, as it begins to clear, she acknowledged, without giving the appearance that she had noticed, the profound and at the same time deliberate greeting of Mme de Chemisey, who had fixed upon19 her for the last hour so that the other would not be able to pass her by without accepting her greeting, but who with her intelligence and her grace had found the means to give to this greeting that nobody had asked of her and that she had so much wanted to carry out, the appearance of some indispensable politeness that she was performing out of necessity or, as it seemed to me, with an offhand manner. But Mme de Montyon was saying: "I can't help but admire Princesse de Guermantes' kindness, or should I say absurdity, in entertaining that woman", not wishing, according to her and not being the Princesse de Guermantes and not being able to take such a liberty, to commit herself to being on good terms with a schemer come from who knows where who had been married to one of those Chemiseys who in any case had very little social standing in that part of Normandy where she herself knew only the very best people and who tried to ingratiate herself everywhere she went, but who had certainly not succeeded with her.20
   So, having told myself almost since the evening I came for the first time to the Princesse de Guermantes' - since the marriage of Montargis that took place the year after:21 I will start work tomorrow, tomorrow had become for me the day on which I would set to work, and every day that went by on which, ill or irresolute, I still had not begun, I counted as nothing, and like a clay pot that has not been fired and that is thrown away and replaced with a new one, I made ready for the next day, which no longer counted not having served any useful purpose; and as if the number of those I had thus taken up and rejected had changed nothing for me, had been as independent of me as bad pottery, living constantly in the desire bound up between yesterday when I had decided to write and tomorrow when I was going to write, those innumerable days, in many respects just the same as my habits of illness or idleness, maintained in a desire that had never varied, and which because of that seemed like only yesterday, my resolution to work, and its realization tomorrow, had seemed to me like a single day.22 My fulfillment would be tomorrow, but in reality it seemed to me that as much as I felt it to be the same, left intact by a constant desire (or a constant regret), that it was yesterday. The present moment23 was reckoned from yesterday, separated from tomorrow when I would realize it in a single lengthy memory, and because my future, which I put off every day as its commencement had not begun, it was as if no time had passed while I remained hesitating on the threshold and if that too were not to last, to grow old and survive had been preserved for me in the illusion, the sensation almost of adolescence, of extreme youth. And all of a sudden like a man who has been carried back by the current sees with dread that he has lost sight of the shore and that he has passed the reef from where he could be brought back, it was the change of aspect of what was around me that had just now abruptly warned me of the long irremediable journey that without knowing it I had travelled.
   And it was not only on the aspect of faces that time had exercised its chemistry. The society of the Guermantes, in the nature of which - very specifically confirmed by the marital connections that it enjoyed with all the great princely names of Europe, and the aversion that kept it aloof from any non-aristocratic element - I had found to be a sort of material refuge for the name of Guermantes of which it was the last reality - had sustained a profound alteration in its most intimate constitution.  Mme de Chemisey's presence would not perhaps have been enough to denounce her if on hearing Mme de Souvré24 say: "Hello, Henri", to the sister to whom the Princesse was in the middle of thanking effusively, I had not turned round and would not have seen Bloch. And speaking about Bloch: he too had begun to be fashionable, because (even though the accession of an obscure person might escape us, because once they have successfully arrived and become for us a part of the "fashionable world" we never think where they have come from) for most people it acts in a similar way to values on the stock market. There are very few of these people and of the poorest quality who, for a particular reason that prevents us from seeing the general law, do not have their hour and do not get carried along with the rise in the price of stock. Of the many men who I did not know by sight, the names that I was given jarred with me. But the names of certain women dumbfounded me even more. And to my astonishment it was said of more than one of them: "Oh, she isn't a great friend of the Princesse's but she was invited because she is the mistress of that sculptor, of that financier. They are usually invited together."
   Persons that neither the Chemiseys nor their relatives would ever have invited appeared to be on intimate terms with the Princesse, saying: "Until tomorrow then, and the day after!" The snobbishness that up until now had successively separated the world of the Guermantes from anybody that was not in harmony with them had ceased to operate. The jurisdiction of the name was broken. And a thousand foreign bodies penetrated it, depriving it of any homogeneity, any standing, any colour. It seemed that the Faubourg Saint-Germain had become like an old lady who has become senile, not responding other than with a feeble and timid smile to the audacity of insolent housemaids who had invaded her salon, drank her orangeade and introduced their lovers to her.
   But the destruction of this coherent group of elements in which a thousand nuances and motives explained the attendances and organization which was the Guermantes salon as I had known it, gave me perhaps less of the sensation of the passage of time and the destruction of a small part of my past as the very annihilation of the consciousness of the hundred and one reasons, the hundred and one nuances which ensured that some element or other was recommended, and that some other was a suspicious novelty etc. Most people who had only recently found themselves in society, not only those who were recent in their accession but others on account of their age, were not familiar with this past, committed countless blunders concerning it. I overheard a young duke explaining to somebody who had asked him if there was not "a thing or two that could be said" about Mme de Montargis' mother, that she had in fact made a bad marriage, marrying for love a gold digger who nobody knew called Swann, but that after that she had married one of the most prominent gentlemen in society, M. de Forcheville. No doubt the Princesse or the Duchesse de Guermantes would have smiled to hear this assertion; no doubt the ladies who could have been there but who seldom went out any more, the Duchesses de Mouchy, de Montmorency, de Talleyrand, who had been close friends with Swann, and who had never noticed de Forcheville, who was never received in society at the time they went out, were the ones who preserved the memory of a different society, in the eyes of which semitism and elegance were not contradictory terms and whose numbers diminished every day. An amateur artist25 whom a lady asked how it was that M. de Montargis addressed the Princesse de Guermantes as his aunt explained to her that it was because he had married a young de Forcheville girl, information that the lady hurried to go and communicate to a lady friend who proclaimed it with an air of authority to a third, as though the families of de Forcheville and de Guermantes had been known to her for all time. As for the young Baronne de Timoléon, née Carton, if in reply to someone who remarked to her that Montargis was on familiar terms with all the best people at the reception, she said: "Well you see it's only because his wife is a Forcheville", it was not that she did not know who Montargis was. But having married a gentleman of the lowest social rank, M. de Timoléon, who was to her the grandest nobleman in the world, the Timoléons being distant relations of the Forchevilles, to her nothing could equal the magnificence of that family.
   And no doubt these changes that have arisen in society have existed for all time. No doubt at the time when, still just making my way in the world, I entered the Guermantes circle, I had, like the new comers of today, to look upon as an integral part of society and without differentiating their totally different elements, those who had been given their price merely from the circle in which they had figured for a relatively short period of time, before my arrival, but who still appeared as new comers to the older members of society who saw in all this a change in its aspect.26 Even in the past when I shrank back before the grandeur of the name Guermantes27 and not through any illusions because at that time the Guermantes held a higher position than they do today, they would never have been seen to ally themselves to families like the Colberts who today appear to be just as noble as them, but at that time were thoroughly middle-class. A man like the Duc de XX would have been just as shocked at that time by the presence of such a new comer as by some remark I might have made that demonstrated on my part an ignorance of a whole collection of memories that for him constituted the past.28
   And without a doubt that most pure and unalloyed beauty that I had known in the society of the Guermantes was an illusion which stemmed from the fact that, hardly come out in the world then, I had not seen any more differences29 between the ancient elements of that society and those that were recent additions, that in seeing in it the current new arrivals, no doubt at that time as irritating to a man like the Duc de [...] as they are irritating to me today, by remarks which proved for me there were not a thousand circumstances that constituted his past; already under Louis XIV non-aristocratic elements that had become aristocratic since, like the Colberts, had allied themselves to the Guermantes who at that time however had a higher position in society than today, and who were related to several royal families; every moment of its duration this society of Guermantes was summed up for me by their name, Guermantes, which was resplendent as a crown, containing an identical proportion of invisible gemstones intermingled with the rare, and on the 30arms of whom they assumed their value and did not allow themselves to be distinguished other than through the eyes of those who preserved the memory of those that they replaced. Or rather like forests, like armies, like baskets of flowers that are replaced every few days, one day the new arrivals will be as attractive, as powerful, as well informed as the others. One day Bloch would have an image of the Guermantes salon that was as long standing, as altered, and already non-existent as the one I had today. The very qualities that seemed to disappear along with those that we might consider to be those of privilege, were reshaped in those that seemed most unlikely to have them.31 Had not Bloch represented to me the negation of those qualities of goodness, of discretion, of tact which my grandmother and M. de Norpois, it seemed to me, had taken to their graves in their rightful measure and degree. And just a short time ago by not divulging to me whose house he was going to,32 by not mentioning the name Guermantes, had he not shown that long after his education was completed  he was now turning into a well brought up man. But more than anything, by defending our unfortunate friend the way he had done, had he not demonstrated that we are wrong to put our trust exclusively in the good-natured people we have known, and to be apprehensive of ambitious33 people, hard hearted people, egoists, wrongdoers, ironical people, cheats. In the past I have been deceived when I thought that General de Trinvères was merely the young Trinvères grown older. But the young Trinvères who was present had become overlaid, just as an oak tree covers itself with moss after a certain time, with that tolerance, that politeness, that benevolent way of looking at life that comes with age. And in the same way kindness which, through some optical illusion we believe to belong inherently to those dispositions where we have already witnessed it, is a maturation of the human plant if it had a little intelligence and sensitivity, and which had created in Bloch, who to his grandchildren would doubtless appear to be the one and only model of a good man, who would take with him to the grave the kindness, the kindness which would come to sweeten34 the required seasoning of other dispositions as acid as his own, the universal principle of goodness such as justice, which ensures that if our cause is just, a prejudiced judge who was not of our opinion, who was hostile to us, gives us no more cause for concern than a friendly judge. Certainly this configuration of Time over which I now saw my life stretched out added something to what had been rendered to me through memory, and what in essence it lacked, an alteration that memory is not aware of, since it revives the past in the midst of the present as it was then and as if no time had passed. It gave me the notion during the duration of the revolution taking place in my mind, of different revolutions that reacted upon the first and which do not for example leave it in the exact same position respectively to other worlds which have also themselves evolved. And it [...] I imagined how many [...]36
   And like some bodies that measure the duration of time not only by the revolutions that they accomplish in themselves, but by the different positions that they successively occupy in relation to other bodies, more than one of the people that this matinée reunited or whose memory they evoked for me, gave me, on the successive aspects that they had presented to me, different, opposing circumstances out of which they had arisen, causing varied aspects to re-emerge, different perspectives on the path that is one's life; what had my life been, I asked myself, finding in the richness and diversity of my memories a stronger feeling of identity of my own self who had gathered them, which is the greatest pleasure for the traveller! Of my identity, of theirs too, how many times had the same persons not appeared in my life, sometimes seen by me from one point of view, sometimes from another. And just as once the period in which a person appears to us in a certain way has passed, "representing the same thing" for us, when after an interval of time we find them again in the midst of other circumstances, from a different point of view, we have a different image of them that we then make sole use of, as long as this new period lasts and which we feel so little need to modify, so that living on in the old images that I had preserved of this evening's guests, since to me they were some people or other from fashionable society, holding parties or attending them, I had initially imagined that they were wearing a disguise when I encountered them as if powdered with frost. If during a certain period of time in which our position relative to an individual remains unaltered we hold of that person a single image that we judge to change little, so I imagined them to be in disguise, not seeing the guests admit to it, seeing heads of hair that I had always seen the same now whitened, the variety of successive images of the same person made the lives of others more clear-cut, more independent, in the circumstances under which they had appeared to us, as though making them into a certain number of different people, or rather as if one and the same person had had entirely different significations for us. By looking back further and further I ended up finding the first views of the person separated from the subsequent ones by such an extended interval of time that they had completely ceased to be for me what they were then, so that thinking about that person, believing that I could embrace the entire course of my relations with them, I never remembered them, never made any allusion to them, and it was as if they were so separated from those that followed that it was no more for me than a dream, a tableau, a kind of frontispiece placed on the threshold of my relations, but so little enlivened by continuity of its visual existence that it appeared as a pure image to me, representing the person instead, an image that had been registered in me by the same person, like Mlle Swann37 staring at me so severely behind the barrier of the fence in the park at Combray, like M. de Guercy - who to me was Mme Swann's lover - on that particular day, or even my first day in Querqueville when I did not yet know him, like Mme de Guermantes taking the collection plate in Combray church, and so many others. Sometimes the very feebleness of the image imitated the dream (see what is written), I began to wonder if I was not bringing back a different memory of the person.38 The garden in which I had played, was it Swann's park before he was married (or even should I put) or on the contrary had I never been to his house and was it a memory of another garden or a dream in which I thought I had seen Swann. And proceeding from that first apparition how many successive people had they been seen to be. For me Mlle Swann had long been a young girl who knew Bergotte and because of that was invested with great prestige. Then one day I fell in love with her, and how inaccessible her house then appeared to me; how delightful it had become; was this the same person I had followed believing her to be Mlle de Forcheville, and now she was the dull wife of Montargis whose invitations I was at such pains to avoid.39 And her mother...
   And how many times had these persons returned into my life. As if the diverse circumstances of life were boxes containing all the same thing and to be made use of by us. Combray had offered me an agreeable Swann but a quite detestable friend of my parents who prevented Mama from coming to say goodnight to me. Paris had offered me a terrible and delightful Swann, father of the one whom I loved who at first prevented me from seeing her, then a Swann who was a friend of the Guermantes and quite the man of fashion; Mlle Swann had been for me at first the little friend who was invested with great prestige from the writer whom I most admired, then the one whom I loved, and from whom Bergotte received nothing more than her reflection before turning into the uninteresting woman in society whose invitations I was at pains to avoid. And Mme Swann seen in my uncle's apartment, a delicious courtesan, seen again in the garden at Combray as an unfortunate choice of wife, in the Bois a coveted beauty, at the Champs-Élysées a disconcerting mother and as such [...] And the diversity of the periods of my life through which had passed the thread of the life of each of these persons had finished by combining together those which were most distinct, as if life only possessed a limited number of threads with which to execute all its different designs. What could be more disconnected through my diverse pasts than my visits to my uncle, the nephew of Mme de Villeparisis, the daughter of a Maréchal, than Legrandin and his sister, than Françoise's florist friend in the courtyard. And today all those different threads have served to create the40 married couples of Montargis and Chemisey.
   And41 in many historical or contemporary literary episodes in the accounts I read and in which42 very different characters converged, I was often able to bring back, from entirely opposed and distinct regions of my memory, in that state of transparency that is possessed by people we have known, the recollection of their different component parts. The publisher, whom the great writer whose novel had soothed my childhood recounted imposing upon him the ending as I had read it and which was the exact opposite of the one that he had written, was the old gentleman with the white goatee who dined with my aunt every Sunday; the Princesse whose romantic novel had later been revealed to have had a significant influence on foreign politics in Europe, was the very same that I had seen at the Princesse de Guermantes', and it was she too whose portrait I had seen in Elstir's studio and was also the sister of the Duchesse de Montmorency who I had met in Querqueville; so I discovered in my memories that to each person encountered in life who formed half of a circumstance, the person whose adaptation of the former made the event complete, just as we cannot show a connoisseur who has seen so many fine things an altarpiece without him recalling which salerooms it has passed through, which church it came from, in which museums the predella (?) are dispersed or who ends up, by beating down the antique dealers, finding the precious object which makes a pair with the one he already owns. Paragraph.
   As if life had few individuals at its disposal, like a rope with little play in it that travels the length of a winch and happens to touch at certain points, there had been no characters in my life, almost no objects, that had not played successive and different roles. A friendship, or even a circumstance, if I drew it back out from my memory several years later, I saw that life had never ceased to weave around it the different threads which ended by felting it over with that beautiful and inimitable antique velvet and such as in old parks envelops a plain water pipe with a sheath of emerald. That43 page of Bergotte's about snow, was it not Mlle Swann who had copied it out for me at the time when I was in love with her, was it not the same one that I later gave to Maria, and was it not the same one again that I had just read in the Guermantes' library reverberating the whiteness of snows as I had seen them in days gone by? From a point of view that was different from all the others and which corresponded with my intellectual life, was it not Montargis who had introduced me to Elstir and his wife who had introduced me to Bergotte?  That little volume of François le Champi, from an historic point of view and no longer from its power to make an impression on me - was it not situated in the middle of the saddest and sweetest night that I could remember from Combray, at the period when I had no hope of ever knowing the mysterious Guermantes and symbolized in some way in my mother's reading it to me one evening when I needed to go to sleep, the first abdication of strictness by my parents from which I could mark the decline in my health, the downfall of my will-power, the emptiness of my life, and at a different moment was it not this same volume in the mysterious Guermantes' library that it was situated on the most beautiful day, the one that suddenly illuminated all the gropings of my thoughts and allowed me to begin to see the purpose of my life and of art?  So it is that these characters and these things possessed, in their diverse respects, a beauty that in works of art is added to their own beauty, that beauty to which Elstir was so sensitive. When he enriched the idea of a trinket with all the collections in which it had figured, all the perils of its existence, such as makes a painting by Rubens more precious to us by reminding us of a cherub [?] in Saint-Simon etc., beauty to which become more sensitive as compensation those in which are diminished the strength of sensibility for tasting the real beauty of things and which accord more of a place to the pleasures of the intelligence and contingency, the beauty of history.44 And for more than one of these persons I rediscovered a first image in my memory, the most ancient of all, such as Mlle Swann staring at us in a hostile way in front of the railings of La Raspelière at Combray, like M. de Guercy at La Raspelière again who at that time in my mind was simply Mme Swann's lover, like Mme de Chemisey, the brilliant sister of Legrandin who I imagined to be in Combray and to whom he did not wish to give us a recommendation, an image that separated as it was from other ones by a long interval, never came into my view when I thought about those persons because it did not correspond with the new notion that I had about them, to what they had become for me, it was no longer in communication with their current life, and it too had finally become quite unreal, like simple portrait that did not seem to have been lodged in my memory by that person, a gracious frontispiece that had been artistically placed onto all my relations with Mlle Swann or Mme de Forcheville which was quite distinct from the little girl in the pink bonnet who was with M. de Guercy to whom I had never spoken, and because of which I had never thought again about Mme Swann's gentleman friend, with the Mme Swann who I had not known until a long time afterwards, as one identifies the portrait of an unknown woman, that there had been no resultant continuity between her and the lady in pink who I had seen at my uncle's house.45 Today when I thought about Bergotte with rational admiration did I remember the time when Swann caused me so much emotion in Combray when he told me he could arrange for me to meet him, when I thought about the Duchesse de Germantes at the time when in the street or in a salon she still carried upon herself the mysterious lustre of the Faubourg Saint Germain from which she had just emerged like Venus or into which she was going to plunge back, almost miraculous first appearances; the gorgeous  mythology of relations which were to become so banal. Others had not been ushered in, at their origin, to that mystery in which I still found such charm when I thought again about those years (detestable), having been born later in a period when I no longer had faith in others. But those ones, drier today than one of those invitation cards, their beginnings not perhaps very different, were surrounded by nature, in some way given the appearance of velvet, or merely by the season of the year, the light from that time, placing around my first two encounters with Mme de Souvré for example the scent of chestnut trees in the Guermantes' garden, the chilly sea breeze making a slapping sound against the flagpole at Rivebelle, or the lively silver of an overcast day catching in its sparkling tracery the Princesse de Guermantes in the Duchesse de Guermantes' courtyard at the time when I did not yet pay her visits.46 Sometimes before the first image it seemed to me that there were perhaps still some of which I was not certain (see above)...
   Like the distant ships that I saw at Querqueville etherized as they were in a blue cloud, I was unable to be sure if they were ships or a simple pattern of clouds whose very remoteness gave it the appearance of reality.
   Sometimes it was not as one single image47 that this individual appeared and that was so different from the one I had known subsequently. It was during the years when Bergotte had seemed to me a divine creature that it would take some form of miracle for me to speak to, that the appearance against the grove of laurel and myrtle in the Champs-Élysées of Swann's grey hat or his wife's violet cloak transformed me into a white frozen marble statue inside of which my heart hammered like a sculptor's chisel, that the48 essence, the soul of the name of Guermantes, plunging the Duchesse whom it denoted into mysteriousness, forming in a drawing-room a supernatural enclave which had for its limits the silk foot-stool upon which she had placed the toe of her shoe, the surface of the carpet that touched the tip of her umbrella, the intersecting lines of her straying thoughts across her gaze and the object to which she was applying herself, in her words and the one whom she was addressing, exercising upon the refractory material in the midst of which she was plunged49 a very specific and excitable reaction50, to the extent where the ducal sensibility ended and entered into communication with vulgar reality, in the poise of her figure, in the youthfulness of her eyes, in her handshake, in the extreme threshold of the sonority of her voice, it seemed to me that it had in it a sort of twinkling, a sort of lustre, the moistness of a Venus just emerged from the billows of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and only directed itself across their imperceptible and isolating gloss towards mortals themselves modified in their essence and become delectable because she condescended to address them familiarly;  of almost fabulous origins, precious mythology of relationships so commonplace afterwards but which they prolonged out of an equally brilliant past like the tail of a comet in a clear sky. And even those that had not begun in mystery but like my relations with Mme de Souvré, with the Duc de X, so dry, so purely worldly today, maintaining at their first appearances their first smile, more calm, more gentle and so smoothly traced in the fullness of a summer's afternoon at the seaside, of the end of a day in springtime in Paris noisy with carriages and dust that the air splattered with its tepid and reflective tide that surrounded it so fully with such plenitude that my memory had probably lent it so as to fill up those particular moments and complete what was missing in them, so many available memories from similar moments that gave them more density and velvet. But for such relationships, the past had been swollen by so many vain desires, formed without hope, in the vast chimera, of which I had nevertheless held onto all my life, and which I saw today with a dull familiarity, in disdained intimacies, the granting of which being so indifferent to me now that I could hardly understand how it could have appeared to me at that time as the inaccessible and mysterious dream of good fortune. These51 great portraits by Rembrandt which were before me, this nobleman in shoes with bows on them, with a banded hat, with a cane that was almost Molièresque, so suave and so grand beneath his dark lacquer and his noble gloss, going with Maria to visit the little house on the banks of the Heerengracht full of works of art from which he52 had come, to be known by her parents as her friend, to go and find it again, looking for it with her, taking a meal with her and those inexpressible pleasures, not tasting them for one single day without anguish53 at the thought of it soon coming to an end, making it all so painful and almost unintelligible in the over strenuous tension of desire which wants to tell itself that this is really happening, to live like that, but that there might be innumerable landmarks, flowering shrubs all along the way, the perfume and perpetual sunlight of life, my whole life stretching out in the scarcely imaginable paradise of her life! And yet this was what she herself wished for, offered me, that all those who knew her proclaimed would give her the greatest pleasure now that her house had become in my mind a house like any other, inside of myself.
   That her country, that much dreaded Holland where she had to go back to, her parents, her house, her occupations, her meals, her walks, would no longer be an insurmountable unknown that kept her apart from me, but would allow me in and acknowledge me, as one of her friends, so that I would be able to visit her in her own home or go out with her, not one of those days with no tomorrow where happiness is mixed with the anguish of seeing them soon come to an end and rendered almost unreal by the desperate attention we bring to them, but that I would always see her without ever leaving her, these meetings forming my life's daily bread; it was one of those dreams that I took pleasure in supposing were realized only in imagination during my insomnia where we arrange life's circumstances like a novel that we are going to compose, and in which the slightest of its phrases that we pronounce lays enraptured lands at our feet. But never for a moment had I thought it possible. And all the world's foreignness54 was withdrawn for me into a little house that I would never be able to enter.
   Certainly55 in the way that life placed persons on my path several times over, through the natural whims of chance, it has presented them to me in particular circumstances which by surrounding them in every aspect had contracted the view that I had of them, and had hindered me from tasting the fullness of their essence. Those very Guermantes who for me had been the objects of such grand dreams, when I first came into contact with one of them, they had appeared to me, one in the guise of an old lady friend of my grandmother's who she had avoided in the hall of the hotel at Querqueville, the other as an up until that moment uncivil young man who was getting down from his carriage one rainy day, hat in hand, to urge us to get in, yet another as a gentleman who had stared at me with an expression of displeasure at midday in the gardens of the casino, and another a gentleman in a morning jacket who stopped my father in the courtyard. So it was never until after the event and connoting them with the name Guermantes, that their acquaintance had turned into an acquaintance with numerous Guermantes. But perhaps even that made life more poetic for me, to think about the mysterious race with piercing eyes, with a bird's beak, with a rosy complexion, with golden hair, the inapproachable and unknowable race, it turned out so often and so naturally by the effect of unseeing and different circumstances, that it offered itself to my contemplation and to my daily affairs, and later to my intimacy, to the extent that56 when I wanted to get to know Mme Putbus or have my aunt hear Wagner, it was to one or the other Guermantes, as to the most obliging of friends, that I appealed. Indeed it bored me as much to go and visit them as it did to visit all the other fashionable people that I got to know later. Even in the case of the Duchesse de Guermantes, her charm, just as we feel a certain nostalgia for certain parts of the country when we are far away from them, was visible only from a distance and evaporated when I was close up to her. But despite everything the Guermantes along with Madame de Montargis differed too from the other members of society in that they plunged their roots much deeper into me, in a past where I was more of a dreamer and where I had more belief in people, and sometimes at the very moment I had just refused an invitation from the Montargis or been bored at the Duchesse de Guermantes', a ray of my attention taking up, placing before the light,in the depths of my memory a slice of their past, the name Guermantes appeared to be accompanied - in the scent of a forest, or the glaze58 of porcelain - with a fragment of the leitmotiv that accompanied them at that time; I saw once more the pink tinge that Madame de Guermantes had59 when she passed in the street, it occurred to me that in the little mirrored dining-room where I would have been welcomed so warmly and where I had never gone, the king and queen of the banquet sitting face to face with each other, wished for nothing more than to pass the evening in the way I wanted, to travel wherever I wanted; there was the young girl with blonde tresses engarlanding her brow, and up until a few years ago more beautiful still since her marriage as everyone said, and the insolent young man from Querqueville, offspring of the divine race.60 And when I tired of being at their home as I was this evening, I consoled myself, mistaking, like a shopkeeper who gets muddled up in his books, the value of their possession with the price my desires had to pay for it, in thinking that what I now tasted with a feeling of boredom was however one of the dearest objects in the imagination of my younger self.
   But for other people, in my relations with them the past was inflated by more ardent61 dreams, formed without hope, in which my life at that time stretched before me so richly, dedicated entirely to those whom I could only comprehend with difficulty how the granting of them was this thin, narrow and drab ribbon of indifferent and disdained intimacy in which I was no longer able to discover what had been62 their mystery, their excitement and their sweetness. Those63 great paintings by Rembrandt that were before my eyes, that gentleman in a canonical felt hat, with a cane (check this book), almost Molièresque, and so noble beneath his smooth gloss; beneath his dark lacquer, to be able to go in autumn with Maria, walking with her on an autumn morning,64 the sunlight on the quay below that was strewn with dead leaves, to ring at the little house where to descend the stairs...65 and in the low-ceilinged room... to stand next to her, feeling her arm against mine, to look at the portrait cruelly separated from the one of his imposing wife dressed in black, erect, almond-shaped eyes fixed beyond the window onto the Heerengracht,66 which is enough to call to mind for us once more that exiled and captive painting in Paris in the Princesse de Guermantes' mansion house; that house of Maria's tutor which seemed to hide her true life from me, and for which her departure every autumn, even if I had just succeeded in becoming her friend in Querqueville, seemed to make me realize that I would not be able to accompany her there, one of the inherent misfortunes of destiny, as unavoidable as death, if she had asked me to go and live there with her, the friends...
   to go and see the portrait that hung in Maria's little house in Amsterdam, where I knew she was going to spend the autumn at the home of her tutor who did not know me,67 who would not have allowed me to see her, and that by some miracle I could accompany her, that her tutor would invite me there,68 and we would find ourselves together once more one October morning, my arm touching hers in front of the portrait of the imposing woman in black whose almond-shaped eyes looked out still onto the quay below scattered with sunlight that no longer impeded the thinly spaced trees and dead leaves,69 the Heerengracht, that once again sufficiently reminded us and brought back to our memory the cruelly separated spouse of the one here before me, exiled and captive in the Hotel de Guermantes.
   Since then there had been all these dreaded relations who had asked me, often without success, to be their guest, these friends in whose number they had vainly applied for me to be included, those houses to which I was often invited to spend the summer or to be installed permanently.
   That I had got to know these dwellings that my imagination had inhabited constantly but which I thought that I would never enter, whose address70 I had written on my books71, each one in turn just as longed for, just as much dreaded, when it was a fifth floor in the suburb or a farm in the provinces as much as when it was a 72chateau or a mansion in the Champs-Élysées, where to ever appear tolerable, to ever be presented to the parents and who, had they admitted me once would never let me come often, to be presented to friends, to all those who saw every day the one whom I loved, seemed to me as intoxicating, but also as impossible were the father a railway employee and the friends working girls, were he a prince of the blood, were their Parisian homes featured on the map of Paris, were they provincials or foreigners, on the maps of France and Europe, injecting around it, in a large radius, sensibility and life, they inserted a living network, and an aching heart. And in them all, in the small manor house, more farm than chateau, ramshackle on the mountain with a romantic plume of fir trees on both sides, in the white house73 hidden by vines, sloping down towards a lake, in the villa in Saint-Germain, in the Normandy house that looked out to sea through the elms - in the old house in Versailles, for a day at all of these places, I had a place reserved at table, a bedroom, a wing of the chateau. And then to turn out quite differently: it was the dreaded parents who had invited me, the peasant girl who had reserved her best vintage for me, it was for me that the most wealthy financier organized hunting trips, the lady of the manor who made it known to the nobility of the area that I was curious to see their drawing-rooms that had been closed up for so long. But it was in vain that I told myself that these people were the same ones I had dreamed of getting to know, to see up close, whose lives I had dreamed of living myself, that this fat, red-faced woman next to me (Gohry[?] it would be better to have under a different name already seen or elsewhere at Querqueville) was the same person I had followed one evening, seeing her in front of an illuminated shop window, who turned round once but had not been able to make me out on account of her myopia, and that life had seemed beautiful to me simply because it held the possibility - for me the impossibility - of knowing her, of our being acquainted, of knowing and possessing what was behind that face (this can make a counterpart to the two others, worldly and sentimental, being the third of the dreams in the street) perhaps Baronne de Villeparisis. This little woman that I had been in love with, passing before the lit up shops and walking quickly, stooping, had she made me cross the world, I could discover nothing in her, nothing of the spirit that I dreamed of in her, which is to say nothing of the desire that her face had inspired in me, in the woman who had spoken to me just now with irritated skin,74 educated, absurd and matter-of-fact.
   75But here again however, and more so since these individuals had not only charmed my imagination but troubled my heart, it was a pleasure to think that in the end life is familiarly inhabited by the individuals that we have most desired, that what is unknown and inaccessible to the heart, time concludes by changing it to the known and the familiar, and if it is the nature of something dreamed of to evaporate when it becomes realized, at least for those conversations, those voyages, those living arrangements that offer themselves to us and which life puts within our grasp, it is this that makes our dream of happiness sweeter and more painful; and that on any road whatsoever, any farm or house henceforth if I felt or [...]76 that I might have felt penetrate my desire, become different from the whole nature of the world, for all of it become as a dream, at the merciless door about which I would think it my good fortune seeing the golden door close on me and77 force me to follow my own path and never again see the blonde girl, to distance me for ever from the chateau of my dream, thinking more calmly that if I were to stay in the country, one day or other the unknown door having dispelled its mystery and its charm would become for me just like all the others, and before closing upon me would have been, without my deigning to enter, open wide before me.
   And no doubt all these different projects following which Time, since I had just experienced it during this party, was setting before my life, by making me imagine that in a book that attempted to relate it, it would be necessary, as opposed to the one-dimensional psychology that we make use of ordinarily, to make use of a kind of psychology in space, adding a fresh beauty to those resurrections that my memory had so much performed while I was musing to myself in the library, since memory, by introducing the past into the present without modifying it, was as it was at the moment when it was the present and suppresses completely the great dimension of time according to which life is realized. But alas more than one of those beauties was something painful, because up until now experiencing all those memories in different periods, I evoked them much more clearly but, without knowing it on the same plane, now like the children's game using a piece of elastic in which the head and the tail are compressed into rings so that it can be held from one end to the other between two fingers, but if we let it open out to its full length it can measure several metres, I experienced a memory with infinite anguish, memories positioned one below another and buried deep in a past the depth of which I dare not measure, ever since the day of Montargis' wedding.78 It was with a sharp pain that I felt once again all the time that had elapsed, not daring, now that I had observed its work, to calculate the length of time if not since the day of Montargis' wedding, when I had definitely resolved to write, and without daring to reflect on the magnitude of the words themselves, I supposed that it must have been ten or twelve years ago in my past down in the depth of which were to be found - along with Gilberte79 in the Champs-Élysées, those distant days in Combray when on my walks on the Guermantes way or the Méséglise way I brought back with me an impression that I would try and see clearly.
   Very important to put at one of the points about Time. As I haven't the space here to transcribe that passage I'm putting it in the shiny yellow exercise book where there are blank pages.80
   Time is a curious thing! In one way it was like a liquid atmosphere in which floated the events of our lives, it moulded faces, placed them in relief, it separated them completely, brought them into view, placed them opposite one another. This was the true light that added to the mystery of human features. And if at Mme de Chemisey's I had caressed Maria's face with such a feeling of emotion it was because the charm that gave to the most ancient things the beauty of annunciation, of prophesy of what was to come later, the most recent seemed to increase its value, make it felt, because the new aspect under which they showed themselves was like the visible sign of a different aspect, a shift in the illumination of time. But...
   Time is a curious thing. Interposing its fluid atmosphere between images of the same person, it separates them, exposes them, places them opposite one another and forces us to repeat (as I did so often when I was in front of Maria) "it really is her", before those people whom habit has made us forget all too quickly what they had first meant to us. Thus it circulates between the different apparitions of a person, making their different appearances more mysterious and helping us to find ourselves again, to taste in the caresses of the present moment the hope that excited us a few years previously. But its power is like that of certain poisons that in small doses produce in us an agreeable dreaminess and in a larger dose will kill us, and at a few years' distance it can create for us, out of the same person, another young girl and in recognizing...
   And all of a sudden hearing in my memory my parents who were accompanying M. Swann to the door, then the reverberating, rusty, sharp and clamorous sound81 of the little bell that informed me that he had just left, I was startled to perceive that the little bell I could still hear inside me was ringing at that period which was once again in the present and which merely fixed82 the date of events that I was obliged to place between it and the present moment, that it really was the little bell that was ringing, without my being able to change anything of its tinkling, because not recollecting very well how long its ring took to die away, I forced myself not to listen to the conversations going on around me any more and descended further inside myself to listen more closely to its tinkling so as to better observe it. This deep past I carried within me because when it had echoed in my ears at Combray83 in that deep past, I already existed, I was already there, and not for one second since had I ceased to exist, to think, to feel conscious of myself, because this past was interior to me, like a long gallery where I could return all the way back to the day when the little bell at Combray tinkled without being stopped by any barrier, any external path, without having to leave myself. A feeling of fatigue and dismay came over me to think that I was already there at that time, so distant from today and that nevertheless I had been obliged to continue to maintain, to assume possession of all that past time, to hold it in equilibrium behind me. And all of this past still adhered firmly to my consciousness all the way to its last convolutions like84 in the little game of mechanical snake in which from head to tail it is compressed into a number of rings so that it can be held between two gripped fingers but if we let it open out to its full length it measures several metres, that evening of [...] I felt that all this escaped time was so extensive, was spread out behind me from year upon year, and below me, that I was not part of it, that I had to hold onto it to protect it, that it had been lived, thought, secreted by me with no interruption, that it was my life, it was me. And just as if men were stilt-walkers, mounted on their passing years that were endlessly expanding, making their progress more and more difficult, vertiginous and perilous and then suddenly fell85, I was already alarmed to find such high stilts beneath my own feet, I felt that I would not have the strength to hold on for any longer to all of this past that was already so vast and which extended down from me. Alas it was at that moment that there trembled within me a deeper self and that I had only to take shelter in a book that would live on after me, that I felt that from one moment to the next could [...]


[Cahier 11]

   [...] and I felt too that the fear of not having the strength to continue to sustain that lengthy past which was dependent upon me; a reasonable fear at the enormity of the task which is to live and which even though we are not conscious of it day to day, is leading us nonetheless towards death; but a fear that justifies itself too late by that same consciousness in which, when it applies itself to a fundamental reality, the fact and the idea of the facts can come together, become one, as in certain persons with heart conditions where suddenly the distant perception of death is enough to kill them. And disabused of this false idea of ourselves which habit provides us for the convenience of living, of identifying ourselves with our bodies, so that we portray our consciousness as something that has volume, as if it were a banana86, so that we can hold it in our minds - and the habit too of not seeing ourselves as existing in time, which stops us prolonging our past self as it has been lived and carried with it, I imagined men as if mounted on stilts of greater or lesser heights, each of them on the towering summit of his past, above which toiled the prophet of Jerusalem, but ambulatory towers that walked alongside them, towers born out of themselves, making a single body with them in the interior of which, formed of a translucid and lived material, they saw down to the depths, and whose collapse they could not survive; and every year they are forced to set them higher even though they know that it makes them less secure, unlike those that are almost at ground level where the children are playing, but those of old men that almost touch the heavens, which totter unceasingly and threaten to collapse at any moment, and those of young people, sometimes more beautiful than others, a lyre in their hand and hair blowing free, still quite close to the ground, but not having the strength to hold themselves up and who will very quickly fall back down. But unaware of the height they have reached they had no perception of danger; and they continued to walk, to run, to carry on as if it were a matter of course. It was only because I had looked down that I felt a sense of vertigo seeing the height at which the superimposed and specific minutes were supporting me, because there is no other time than that which we have lived, it is our life and we perish along with it.
   Without a doubt, our wounded body can survive a moment on earth; but with the loss of the past the spirit founders. So, dead in spirit or dead completely, it was one and the same thing, because if, since an hour ago, I was holding on to life, it was because of the work that I had just felt quivering in my mind and needed to bring to the light of day. And it was at that moment that the notion of time made me aware of how far my life was advanced, and soon to be threatened perhaps; at the very moment that this life had become precious, where I was like a man who has been entrusted with a message and must seek to avoid all danger until he has handed it over safely, at which point his puny person once more loses its assumed importance. In the sadness and dismay at the treacherous summits of my age, I thought with a feeling of pleasure about the Princesse de Talamon and the Marquise de Gérenton, one of whom was a year older than me, the other a year younger. In the expanse of Time in which I saw myself, I felt them close to me, recollected with pleasure that one of them was still very agreeable and had had to find a new lover, that the other one was about to embark on a long voyage. Their example provided me with a little more assuring evidence about the maturity of life that I had just become aware of for the first time and which was perhaps not yet either old age or death. In the expanse of Time in which I caught sight of myself I felt them close to me on account of their age. And their image, unlike many others that increased it, even if it did not entirely reawaken my confidence in my powers, diminished at least the sadness of my solitude.
   Alas, it was not just the hope of ever bringing this work to light that Time had just undermined for me; on the truth, on the price of this work even, it had just instilled in me my first doubt. Such a display of sentiment, such an act that obliges us to recreate what we have felt, all the value that I attributed to it until it was beyond reason,87 did that not come precisely out of what was most difficult for me, because I was not so young and the clarity of ideas survives long after the obscure vitality of memory and the creative instinct? In the same way as when I was living the society life too much, I had been tempted to see in the worldliness of a young Violante, along with several others, the real sin against the intellect, and to attach to solitude, which I did not have, a value I that recognized subsequently it did not have, and so was this not the aging, a little prematurely perhaps, of my nervous strength that made me desperately seek in it the unique source of all truth? The effort that I was making, the need that I had to think deeply about the essence of the words, to recover fully in my mind the obscure idea and the sensation of the past, and which seemed to me the criterium of the value of such an operation, were these not the first spasms, precursors of the destruction of the memory and aphasia? Undoubtedly my friends had made fun of such a fear and as for myself, I had easily given them the illusion that there was no foundation to it, with that artful affectation of invalids who, at the very moment they want their illness to be recognized, do all they can to appear well. But the reality of our condition is within ourselves, separated from that which is encountered by others and is made worse by the efforts that they know nothing of.  So much so that it is the mysteries of the body and the mind that escape their accurate judgement almost as much as it is impossible for them to claim, upon the sight of our good works, whether we or our consciousness is wrong not to be at rest.
   Avoiding taking my leave of the Princesse,88 I made my way towards the staircase. On the top landing I met Mme de Montargis who, to conceal the fact that I wished to leave alone, I asked on the contrary where she was going. Her look of embarrassment made her appear to be searching for a pretext and she said evasively... "Well, I think that Charles... that we ought to meet up again, but he had some things to do..." It occurred to me that there was no doubt she was being unfaithful to Charles. At that moment everybody stood aside to let Mme de Forcheville pass, who, crippled, was coming down with the help of two men who, arm in arm, were carrying her in a folding chair. Mme de Montargis moved away quickly and talked to me animatedly turning to her side. I understood that the spectacle, necessary unfortunately due to the state her mother was in, seemed ridiculous to her and, seeing that everybody was looking at Mme de Foecheville, tried to give the appearance of not being with her. I left her, I went out...

1. [margin] Before I replace the book put in the piece about Ruskin that I wrote on the verso page.
I recognized the Ruskin that I had given the Princess...

2. [crossed out] that incongruous thing

3. [margin] I don't know for whom or if it will be in this chapter

4. [crossed out] Sainte Marie des L
[margin] In the changed faces, in the faded and darkly encircled eyes, one would have thought that life had diminished.

5. [margin] MOST CAPITAL works in which there are matters of the intellect are like objects on which the price ticket has been left. Yet does this not indicate its value while reasoning diminishes it. We reason, that is to say we wander off each time we do not have the strength to confine ourselves to convey, to make an impression pass through all the chemical states that would finally fix it in an expression.

6. [crossed out] fifteen

7. [crossed out] the Prince said to me

8. [crossed out] extinguished

9. [not crossed out in error] And I understood that it was another and more powerful enchanter who had painted on their wrinkles.

10. [crossed out] I understood that it was Time that had done its work too in the Fairy tale Palace combining [as in the stained-glass windows of Saint-Hilaire] threads of silk into the beards and hair of these men and women, that sparkled like the stained-glass windows of Saint-Hilaire with the lustre of their cascades** in a supernatural and poetic whiteness, and passing on its grey and black powders into the beard and over the eyebrows of M. de Bernot and young Chemisey so that it gave them the appearance of bringing back new colours from a horseback ride into the Invisible. But at Combray it had done its work before I was born. While all these characters had they been woven from metal and made vague like the figures on a tapestry, it had been done during the time I was alive and it was as though it had used my youth and my life in order to portray them, as if it was at my expense and through my authority that it had come to take its powders and its shuttle, its consciousness too because it had freed from the bodies of the children I had known the stature of their parents. A stout lady with grey hair came up to me. She looked like Mme de Forcheville.

11. [crossed out] The universe of living characters who also let their wear and tear and their blurred eyes appear like the figures on the tapestries at Saint-Hilaire. It was that which had filled out with silks enhanced with silver the hair of M. Froidevaux, opalized with its talcum powders (?) M. de ...'s beard, darkened with its paint sticks the corners of the eyes and mouth of the young Chemisey, made undulate across the face of M. de ... that blue of moonlight. I recognized the work of the enchanter. It was the work of magic and those colours that made them iridescent, even the young Chemisey, even M. de Froidevaux, seemed to bring them on a par with the sculpted figures on the porch of Saint-Hilaire, from a horse ride into the invisible.

12. [crossed out] On the other hand the full blond beard of the young, pink faced protestant neophyte, chaste and with dark, inspired and lively eyes had been replaced in one stroke by a great white beard. His face only appeared more pink, his eyes more lively, his eyes more inspired and darker than a branch in the snow; I remembered him as a young apostle and I saw him in front of me like a prophet among gentiles.

13. [crossed out] Forcheville

14. At this point Gilberte is no longer Mlle Swann or Mlle de Forcheville. She has married Montargis.

15. [crossed out] that had established their glory

16. [crossed out] immobile

17. [crossed out] Perhaps people in society imagine that everybody else is so outside of humanity that they are astonished to discover some glimmer of intelligence in them as they would in an animal.

18.[crossed out] proud and beautiful

19. [crossed out] laid in wait

20. [margin] When I am at Mme de Chemisey's she will tell me admiringly about Mme de Guermantes, she is a friend of Mme de Montyon isn't she? (Puysegur, Wagram etc., Clermont Tonnerre, Forceville.)

21. [crossed out] making me despair to see how much my grandmother had seen clearly
[margin] Put at that particular moment what sad triumph I had won on that (follows willpower

22. [not crossed out in error] by the same token it seemed to me

23. [margin] Combine that with what I say about the eddies in smart society different from that of the Guermantes.

24. [crossed out] Montyon
[margin crossed out] - she who I had seen in the past open wide her calyx to any seeds transported by a propitious breeze

25. [crossed out] painter minister society gentleman

26. [margin] and shock, by my ignorance of the differences that constituted part of his memories and his past, a man like the Duc de XX

27. [crossed out] How many of those relationships that today are so banal, or admirations become purely intellectual had not been born in the perfume of noble dreams which surrounded me still when I went back to their origin.

28. [crossed out] Doubtless at such a moment of its continuance the name Guermantes in its assembly of all the names that it admitted was like those baskets of flowers, or those armies[?] that are increased every five days and which present among their old specimens young shoots in all their beauty that only arrive at full maturity when the others that are too dried they replace in their turn, but which make themselves part of the group apart from those that have not yet seen them, and which retain the memory of the higher stems that they are replacing.

29. [crossed out] not knowing how to differentiate in the ancient elements of that society those that had been added only recently

30. [crossed out] proximity

31. [crossed out] My grandmother

32. [crossed out] just then by defending so warmly our unfortunate friend

33. [crossed out] malicious

34. [crossed out] late in life

35. [crossed out] advised me

36. [margin] or like an accident of the landscape, chateau or hill that appeared now on the left now on the right, now seen as though in a hollow, [illegible] to the traveller at different orientations and heights along the road he is following, then appeared above a forest, and a moment later emerging from the depth...

37. [margin] an artificial painting

38. [margin] The smile in the shadows of a man who frightened me in his garden, was it Swann's where I (in his garden) would have been in Combray a short time before he was married.

39. [margin] it is probably here that the continuation of the two pages on the verso page go at this sign, the earliest images only come afterwards.

40. [crossed out] young

41. [crossed out] conversely if I was reading

42. [crossed out] forged by the conjunction

43. [crossed out] beautiful

44. [margin] And when I went back into my memory, without even speaking about an image more ancient than all the others that I had of certain people but about whom I was no longer certain, Swann for example before his marriage etc.
[margin] - like streams - without going back as far as that night when I could no longer distinguish anything with certainty, I came upon a first image, the most ancient of those that I recalled clearly like Mlle

45. [crossed out] A happy past yet one that was a prelude to so many dreams about such banal relations for Mme de Guermantes. Almost fabulous debuts, dear mythology of relations become so banal. Had not Mme de Guermantes become for me a woman like all the others, formed, more graciously perhaps, from the same clay, her cheeks, her nose not belonging to any particular personality etc. Yet when I was far away from her, as had just taken place in my imagination, she resumed once more her ancient charm. That first image, was it really in fact the first one; for certain individuals it seemed to me that I knew one more ancient still (Swann before his ruinous marriage).

46. [margin] better to put all this after appearance in reality (or before). A happy past in which I took as my suffocated and sweet punishment fabulous beginnings, Mme de Souvré and the beginnings of love.
This needs to be rewritten and filled out and sustained.
This relates to a previous page.

47. [crossed out] apparition
it was for some time, it was over the whole length of all...

48. [crossed out] mysterious

49. [crossed out] ... the soul of a name seen through the eyes of the Duchesse de Guermantes fearing to be crushed in the folds of her dress, and rising up in her throat, giving to her look, to her demeanour, to her dress a singularity and a delightful haughtiness, and exercising over all the foreign places in which she was plunged...

50. [bottom of page] a reaction that changed the nature of the person whom she visited, and the effervescence of which created the boundaries of her aristocratic society, from the extreme fringe of her gaze, from the most exterior border of her intonations, from the line of her skirt, from a kind of lustre, a varnish at the same time insolent and brilliant like the moistness of a Venus just emerged from the billows of the Faubourg saint-Germain and which corresponded to ...

51. [crossed out] two

52. These two paintings portraying a man and wife were featured in an exhibition or a gallery in Holland where Proust could have seen them during his two trips. But he could have seen them again or seen one of them again in Paris at the home of the Rothschild's to whom they belonged.

53. [margin] to be able one sad day to get her to come

54. [insert] and value

55. [not crossed out in error?] Certainly the particular circumstances resulting from the natural whims of life's chances that had placed along my path those same persons

56. [crossed out] today

57. [not crossed out alternative] Mlle de Quimperlé

58. [crossed out] rosiness

59. [crossed out] the blonde hair of Madame de Guermantes

60. [alternative text] If at that time during my moments of insomnia, I composed out of those dreams in which all riches and powers come to you, they had for me but one value, which was to allow me to enter into an affinity with them by performing great services for them, or bringing before their eyes an extreme prestige, with the parents of Gilberte, of Maria, of so many others, to be able to penetrate into houses, towns whose exterior an apartment, into a town, into a chateau, whose exterior concealed for me all the unknown and the happiness in life, to see open up before me that impenetrable thing that separated me from the one I loved, her family life, her relations with friends, with her teachers, her deadly voyages. And that great portrait of a man by Rembrandt which was in front of me with his cane etc.
See opposite.

61. [crossed out] passionate

62. [crossed out] created

63. [crossed out] two

64. [crossed out] on the banks of the Heerengracht
[crossed out] in the house of her tutor

65. [margin] Had there not been a period where the [illegible] most beautiful dream of my life, for which I would have sacrificed all the rest of my life, not only in its mediocrity but had it been overflowing with singular events so as to go with Maria.
[margin, crossed out] where on one of those autumns when Maria left for her aunt's house...

66. [margin] remember it

67. [margin] Place in its time at one of the departures Françoise's departure for her brothers'.

68. [crossed out] that both of us  after having spent the night together on the train

69. [crossed out] whose dead leaves were decaying in the sunshine

70. [above] name

71. [crossed out] exercise books

72. [crossed out] princely

73. [crossed out] old farm [crossed out] villa

74. [crossed out] in my mind

75. [alternate text] but here again however, life seemed more beautiful to me, and little by little to have opened wide before me though I may enter it without pleasure or not enter at all through the doors of all the houses of my dreams.

76. [margin] Most most most most capital. To be added to the verso page below when I say external danger...
And also through lack of space I am adding something most capital to the back of this piece of paper.
P.S. It is essential that I go out exceptionally during the day to go to the matinee which will explain the vivacity of my feelings and the rediscovery of Time. I am thinking about The Ray of Sunshine on the Balcony.

77. [crossed out] towards that blonde girl who was coming in I could look at her and keep at a distance from her with greater calm by telling myself that one day or other the mysterious unknown door would have become for me the same as all the others, would have lost its mystery and its charm, and ceasing to be closed would be wide open before me.

78. [margin] at the marriage of Montargis I was twenty years old - the year of my childhood in Combray when on the bridge over the Vivette I became aware of the difference between words spoken and the impression I experienced or, when on my walks along the Guermantes or Méséglise ways, I brought back with me an image that I tried to examine closely and that evening party that came back to me just now where I was waiting

79. [crossed out] Maria

80. [margin] See in the shiny yellow exercise book.

81. [crossed out] clamorous, ferruginous and biting

82. [crossed out] rendered a very distant past

83. [margin] I could visit it at will

84. [margin] like in the little game of elastic snake in which from head to tail it is compressed into rings so that it can be held one against another between two fingers, but which if we let it open out to its full length, measures several metres, I felt that memory etc.

85. [crossed out] collapsed

86. [crossed out] orange

87. [crossed out] to the intelligence

88. [crossed out] To avoid having to speak to so many people I mved aside close by the window, making it appear that I was looking at something...


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Created 22.10.17