"Billets" from Marcel Proust to his servants


Notes in verse to Nicolas Cottin:

"These papers you keep for all time
So I'd better write to you in rhyme
And if your tiredness you resist
Nicholas the Nationalist
In twenty minutes please fetch me
A coffee that is piping hot.
"Puisque-vous conservez tous ces papiers divers
Je suis obligé de vous écrire en vers
Si vous ne vous sentez pas las
Nationaliste Nicholas
Dans vingt minutes donnez-moi
Un bon café au lait qui fume."
"In twenty minutes please fetch me
A coffee that is piping hot.
I will take it, as they say, for the cold that I have got."
"Dans vingt minutes donnez moi
Un bon café au lait qui fume.
J'en prendrai, dit-on, pour mon rhume."

Note to Odilon Albaret c.1922

"Odilon, I cannot speak yet, but as I fear that after the day I have spent I will not be able to see you this morning, I wanted to put your mind at rest with a quick word.
Marie having come in to me in a downright fury which up till now had been Céleste's prerogative (and which it useless to speak to her about because she has made her apologies to me - the treaty of guarantee is decidedly emboldened, excepting you and I) consequently Marie having told me that she would get you to bring up the firewood, and me having protested, don't alarm yourself. I will simply have it brought up by the wood merchant. Besides it's only a matter of 24 hours and it will be all calm again. But in spite of my tiredness I'm worried that you are troubling yourself. Everything will be as you wish. - On the other hand what time is it exactly? I wanted to see Bize or Wicart, is it too late?
Don't say anything - I don't want to look like I'm afraid of Marie. It's the first time since I've known her that she's dared "kick up" even more of a "fuss" than Céleste.
Where are the papers?"

"Dear Odilon, have you time to go to my brother's before the chemist closes? Would you take this note to my sister-in-law. [...] Perhaps my brother will come with you. Or later if he prefers. He could just as well not come."

Notes to Céleste Albaret c.1922

"I would like another cup of coffee. I will serve myself... "

"Where is Odilon? I would like a fire... "

"Pass me la Prisonnière. Odilon must leave the room."

"No misunderstandings. Do not come in if I don't ring."

"How many times must I say it, that I will get dressed alone and mustn't keep getting up too early or too late?"

"But the pillow isn't pressed even if I am upright; I need to warm up my bed with 2 bottles to start with then 2 or 3 jerseys."

"Peleus surely has a cracked window pane because I have just heard it thunder. You have no idea how much I suffer."

"Where is the good pipérazine? The compote in 20 minutes but without saying a word to me."

"You could always buy some asparagus and do them straight away. I might have them or I might not.." 27 May 1922.

"do you have to take aspirin on an empty stomach? the hot water bottles are not hot enough Quiet..." 12 Oct 1922.

"Excuse me but when I came back to bed I didn't think you were still in bed. In spite of my stomach ache I thought..." 16 Oct 1922.

"Why did I hear the bell ring in here?"

"I'm sure Odilon will be coming. They probably won't give him his orders to leave until this evening. If he comes this evening I'd better get up, so that he has a place tomorrow."

"Céleste, Odilon can leave in ten minutes at about 6:30 or 7 in the morning. Pull the chair closer to me." 18 Nov 1922.

"I heard iron instead of glass." [fer au lieu de verre] 18 Nov 1922.

"Don't stay I have such a fever that perhaps it will allow me to avoid further fits. What was that beer I had 2 hours ago. I need a jumper round a hot water bottle (I've already asked you for one). I've done some very pretty verses about you."

"Why isn't the bell here?"

"Céleste I would like an empty tea-cup and some sugar."

"I recoil all the time from ringing but I have neither kettle nor a light, no paper, one single hot-water bottle that I am moving around against the cold because of this damned chicken. And so much effort to write that straight away it all becomes useless because of the fatigue of asking. Because then I have to smoke again etc."

Note to his mother

"My dear little Mama, I am still suffocating with drinking and smoking, and I'm wondering what sort of a sleep I'm going to get! A thousand tender kisses. I was writing to you about something or other but I can no longer remember what it was."

 Note to unidentified recipient (his mother? Céleste?)

"Have someone buy the Figaro because it hasn't been brought up. (Not urgent. In the morning or afternoon. I am in  a terrible state because I haven't had my fumigations and I really don't know what the outcome will be because they say that trional starts to oppress[?] me etc. But I think all that will turn out for the best, in any case no choking so far.
As long as nobody opens any doors before eleven because I'm drenched in sweat."

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