Marcel Proust, A Life, William C. Carter: "On May 21, two days before Louisa was to appear with la belle Otero in the sketch On na pas le temps! (We haven't the time!) at the Mathurins, Marcel had Antoine call the theatre critic Abel Hermant to see whether he would insert a few lines to menion that Mlle de Mornand was "charming". The next day he asked Antoine to make the same appeal to the playwright Edmond Sée for Gil Blas. Sée obliged and, while commenting ironically about Otero's performance, said that Mlle de Mornand had played with "intelligence and finesse". Marcel, who attended the première, dashed off a similar request to Francis de Criosset for Le Gaulois and even provided a short paragraph himself about the "gracious" newcomer appearing in On na pas le temps! and Le Coin du feau (The chimney corner) and predicted that one day this young actress would be "someone". These were the first of many efforts by Marcel to publicize the beginning actress's roles."

To Antoine Bibesco:

[Thursday 21 May 1903]

Dear Antoine,

   Would you do me the following service discreetly, that is to say without speaking about it to anybody else about it. Telephone Hermant on my behalf and ask him in his role as theatre critic at Gil Blas if he is going to the debut of Otero this evening at the Mathurins and is going to review of it. If so it would give me great pleasure if he mentioned that Mlle de Mornant [sic] who is performing in a piece at the same performance is charming or very pretty or whatever he thinks fit. If he likes he could say "One of my friends has asked me to say that Mlle de Mornant... and I do so very willingly." If however the Mathurins do not feature in the Theatre Review in Gil Blas, ask him if he could include a short mention in Theatre Notes about Mlle de Mornant, but not before I send him it.
   I don't think I'll be able to come to your dinner, even if (which seems very doubtful) Constantin invites me - Why half past seven? That makes it even more complicated.
   Goodbye dear Antoine

Marcel Proust.

   Thursday tomorrow (Thursday today) I think I will be getting up late. I beg you to do the Hermant thing in time. - Does Sée do a theatre review?

*

[Friday 22 May 1903]

Thank you my little Antoine,

   I haven't sent Sée the letter because I prefer to send it to you. Tell him that the person is called Mlle de Mornant on the theatre bills, but it would be better for him to call her Mlle Louisa de Mornant (ad libitum in any case) that she has already made herself noticed in Tarride's Coin du feu, that if he does not find her good and prefers not to make any claims for her he has only to say: I have been asked to say and do so very willingly. - You can easily say you are doing it for me, I don't mind. I beg you to put Sée's address quite clearly and Mlle de Mornant's too so that there is no mistake. If Sée sees another correspondent at the Mathurins he can recommend her to (except the Figaro) so much the better but as long as he tells us. Would you like me to tell Mlle de M. that you are troubling yourself to do it for her. If so she would be very grateful to you. Try to come and see me in the evening because I am definitely not going out. But I will no doubt be sleeping very late into the afternoon because I have had terrible attacks all the time. I'm going to bed now. Fortunately I was woken up by an attack and I could read your letter in time. Otherwise I would not have seen it until tonight.

*

[Friday 22 May 1903]

My dear Antoine,

   I forgot to tell you don't come at four o'clock on any account! - If you are passing after five o'clock ask the concierge and if I'm awake I'll tell him.
   In spite of your jokes you know that Sée won't mention my name for anything in the world! You can see from here the dangers there could be. The most he could say would be: "a friend whose intelligence I value" but nothing more specific than that. I tell you this again because the première not being till Saturday tomorrow his article will only appear on Sunday. Perhaps I'll go to the première in which case I will no doubt go and meet you at the Café Anglais. You are causing me a great deal of pain without meaning to but believing and saying a host of things which could have the direst consequences and which all (unknowingly) are leading to the definitive accomplishment of my quarrel with Bertrand. Besides since in a general way, experience of life, my uninteresting individuality apart, it would be useful to talk about, we can talk about him. Thank you again for your kindness with Sée. This evening you possessed a handsome beauty in your panama. But
   I know that it is the melancholic eyes etc.
   Your

M.P.

   For reasons too long to explain I won't mention the poor editing of the feature in the Renaissance to Constantin.

*

To Francis de Croisset:

[About 23 May 1903]

Dear friend,

   May I suggest to you that if it is not too much trouble you have a note inserted in Le Gaulois that you could word as you like but along these lines:
   "There has been much comment on the new show at the Mathurins about a gracious newcomer Mlle de Mornand who displays in On n'a pas le temps and in Le coin du feu all the promise of her talent and all the resources of her beauty. With a natural exquisiteness, with a diction that is at the same time both knowing and simple she is most delightful to look upon. And who one day will be someone."
   It would be most kind of you if you could let me know this evening if I can count on this insertion which would give me much pleasure.
   Your

Marcel Proust.

   If you simply wanted to pay a more brief compliment that would not be so good, but better than nothing of course.

    Correspondance de Marcel Proust III

*

   No such notice was printed in Le Gaulois at the time. Gil Blas 26 May 1903, under the heading A Paris Night at the Mathurins, one line only about Louisa de Mornand. "Mlle de Mornand played it with intelligence and finesse."

 


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