Correspondence with Madame Straus

I

[end of 1888 or early 1889]1

Madame,

   You would be doing me a great kindness if you could let me know whether Jacques has taken two seats (is that correct?) for Germinie. If he has taken them to send me them. I will change them for two seats in a box which Jacques Bainières and myself will fill. If they are not all taken we will take a box.

   I have found some things in Vigny which you must like however, because they seem to have been written for your glorification. He must have foreseen you. I have instructed M. Etienne to ask you about the Odéon, because I no longer dare approach you to speak. But he has given me no reply.

   Your respectful devotee,

Marcel Proust.

1. Date of the first performance of Germinie Lacerteux: 18 December 1888.

 


II

   I have no luck, Madame, for once I break my vow and I come. My excuse was that when leaving for work I saw some branches of lilac and I longed so much to bring them. That was my excuse and I couldn't tell you! Believe me that I am perfectly aware of my feebleness. I would very much like to know, Madame, if you are going to Impératrice Faustine on Friday. By chance I have a seat for this performance but as I have things which would amuse me more I shall only go if I can gaze upon you there. (And you can tell me truthfully, Madame, because I shall not go, I'm not saying I shall no longer kiss your hand, but won't greet you, etc., etc.). It would be very kind of you to write to me on this especially as it is approaching the first anniversary of the first letter I received from you (Good Friday) and your handwriting, while remaining so moving, reappears as strangely new and never seen before.

   I love you very respectfully,

Marcel Proust.

 


V

[13 November 91.]1

   I truly don't know, Madame, how to thank you for the ecstasy it gave me on hearing you tell me that you are still as much my friend as you were in the past. It is a happiness quite different from those I have felt, or that I can imagine, far superior, so that words which serve for other things are able to be used to say that. Contrary to the good wishes of Cachart, I thank you with all my heart well appreciating the great favour you have done me, I assure you. - Now to be truly sincere I believe all the same that I displease you much more than in the past. But I am too happy on account of those divine words of yesterday, where you demonstrated so well that you are unique, as in everything, in the art of stirring the heart fit to break it - by having the courage to think about sad things. One day, if you like, we will talk about it again. I am, Madame, truly pained and overjoyed, completely absorbed by You and I beg you, because of this to accept once again my respectful homage.

Marcel Proust.

1. date of postmark.

 


VIII

Wednesday

Madame,

   If, as I believe, in order to rehabilitate my dear poets to you, quotations are worth more than arguments, you will understand that I have thought of these verses which L. de La Salle1 will know to recite to you, and which I can transcribe in their entirety. You are so learned that even the things you don't like you know perhaps. If they are new to you, confess it, that even though they are by M. Mallarmé, they are clear and that this clarity doesn't remove their mystery?

My soul to your dreaming brow, oh calm Sister
An autumn strewn with freckles
And to the wandering sky of Your angelic eye
Lifts, as in the melancholy garden
Faithful, a white jet of water sighs into the azure,
To the compassionate azure of October pale and pure
Which aims its infinite languor to great ponds
And remains, on the dead water where the dying beast
Leaves wander in the wind and dig a cold furrow
The yellow sun trails a long ray.

   If you like that, that is to say if you like poetry (elsewhere you can believe - finding eloquence, passion, character - in Musset for example, that it is the poetry which you appreciate, when in actual fact it is the eloquence, the passion. - But here is pure poetry and nothing can subdue your boredom if it awakens your feelings) what do you say about the Fenêtres, Hérodiade and some parts of l'Après-midi d'un Faune. But even though I love these poems I know hardly any of them by heart. I wanted - not having done it before - to visit the Porto-Riches. But I was so tired. If you are going to say goodbye to them let me know, your tenderly respectful

Marcel Proust.

 

1. Louis de La Salle, father of Bertrand de La Salle, the young novelist of Pierre philosophale, himself came to publish his first poems in le Banquet; he was killed at the front in Champagne in 1915.

 


X

Madame,

   I do not know M. Reinach's address. As everybody says he is very fond of you, you must see him very often. Would you pass on to him the title of a work by Leroy-Beaulieu; he asked me the other evening at your house. It is Un Pape, Un Roi, Un Empereur, or rather Un Empereur, Un Roi, Un Pape. I don't come any more because Jacques is well now. I don't want to claim more than my fair share of the mother's company in coming for news of the son.

   But, do you think, I can come to see you sometimes if the good fellow "bears up" as they say.

   Your respectful

Marcel Proust.

 


XI

Wednesday [31 March 1897] 1

   My dear friend (you who I love in a different way to Mme H..., and infinitely more) would you like to talk to me for two hours on the telephone today? I really would like to see you before you leave and I offer you my loving thanks once again for coming yesterday evening.

   Your friendship is precious to me above all others, and you are well aware of it, I think. I'll see you later, your devoted

M.P.

1. date of postmark.

 


 

XII

My dear little Madame Straus

   Here is the guest list for the 18th which you asked for. Mme Aubernon, Dr Pozzi, M. Becque, M. Robin (Dr. Robin). Don't mention this, because I don't know if Mme Lemaire (she didn't say this) wants anybody to know. And I don't think that is everybody. How beautiful and kind you were recently. Thank you for that lovely day.

   Your respectful

Marcel Proust.

 


 

XIV

Madame,

   I am like the poet in Villiers de l'Isle Adam who, having to respond to things which he feels so deeply that he cannot express them, says:

   "If you tell me so, etc. ..."

I shall only bring
roses full of pink

   Here are the roses ... I have felt the same joy reading this telegram as that which Musset speaks of and which resembles

a broken plant
moistened after the rain and covered with flowers.

   Flowers and poetry, these are the only ways I am able to reply to you. - No, I will not invite M. Ganderax if I don't invite M. Straus.

Your

Marcel Proust.

 


 

XV

My dear little Madame Straus

   As ugly as they are, I wanted to send you flowers from my dinner party. I hope that on account of my intentions you will not receive them badly.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

 


 

XXIII

[after 15th June 1905]

Madame,

   It is a great excitement for me to know that you are here. And it is like the punishment of Tantalus for me these days to be unable to ever come to see you. I have been very ill and because of that I haven't written to you. If Reynaldo were in Paris I would have sent him to see you so that he could give me a full account of how you are. But I will manage all the same. I really wanted to be able to go to Mme Lemaire's tonight (I haven't been in a fit state to go there one single Tuesday since the 1st of May). I would be sure to see people there who could tell me about you. Ganderax or somebody else. But at the last minute I had an attack and I was forced to give up even crossing the road at midnight. I would have had plenty to tell you and even more to hear from you. I haven't sent you the small article that I did for the Renaissance latine. I inquired at your house if your postal address was still the same. They told me that you were coming back! So as you are a subscriber, the moment you are here you will have it. But anyway don't read it, it is a failure and horribly tiring to read, with sentences a page long which doctor Widmer would particularly forbid. Madame you are here! That means that if I get better I shall be able to see you, before my eyes, touch you, see your smile, hear your voice, the things which have so often been in my imagination, and always in my heart. You must read the book Domination by Mme de Noailles who is not only a person of genius but the best and most perfect creature one could imagine. In any case you know that as well as I do. But perhaps less, because being less undeserving of her kindnesses than I you find them less astonishing. Madame, return to us healed, as if on a gentle ascending slope, and now capable of doing pleasant things, without weariness. How I shall love to see your complexion, to know your weight, to hear how well you are sleeping, to see you in good health! But I don't think the amateur cure which you have taken could have produced a radical change, but I think it will have helped you show some improvement and that to be better, assuming that you are not too bad, is to be well already. But I would like to get together as many doctors and specialists as in l'Amour médecin to know all there is to know about your improvement, its stability and future diagnosis. And I would hesitate to ask just like in le Médecin malgré lui: "Is the subject commendable?" Goodbye, Madame, I don't want to tire you, I think about you constantly.    Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.


 

XXVIII

[June 1906]

Madame,

   Not having a single sheet of writing paper, excuse this dirty half sheet. Thank you with all my heart for your letter. On the off chance I sent M. Sollier 80 francs, not having anybody to consult about the price of a visit. (Robert1 is in Canada until the 20th of July.) And by the way I hope that Jacques won't forget that he wanted to go along with my plan. Because I would not want this constantly postponed reconciliation to end up not taking place. Moreover I am quite calm, and if I disappear I am quite sure that Robert's first priority will be to visit Jacques who I'm sure will be glad to see him. But preferring happier and more probable hypotheses I prefer to confirm it myself without delay. I wanted to take a few steps outside my door this evening. And straight away my asthma took hold again. It is truly disheartening. I have never had so much to say to you as now when I can't see you. And this isn't an illusion caused by regrets. It is because I have learned so much recently. And then there are things (not connected with this) which only you can explain to me: for example Gallifet's response to the shoulder-blade story. And what does "I am sound in mind, that is enough" mean? It is just that that doesn't give me the impression of a sound mind. I have a great liking for Gallifet's turn of mind (in writing, because I have never met him) which has given me pleasure in its most questionable and belated demonstrations. But honestly, this time I don't understand it at all. He still gives me the impression of being crazier than general André and that is saying something.

......... 2

   Although I think that Dreyfus is idiotic and indiscreet to persist in a rehabilitation that the whole world (the Dreyfusard world, the other will never be converted) has sanctioned, I, who had somewhat forgotten all this, find it rather moving to read about again and to think that this could have happened a few years ago in France and not among the Apaches. The contrast that exists on the one hand between the culture, the intellectual distinction, and even the glitter of the uniforms of these people and their moral infamy on the other, is frightening. But I think that only two or three of them were infamous and the rest were sincere.

   Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

1. Robert Proust.
2. The last part of this letter was translated by Mina Curtiss, Letters of Marcel Proust, Chatto & Windus 1950, letter no 88.

 


 

XXX

[29(?) July 1906]

Madame,

   The grave state of my uncle Weil and my own uncertainty have prevented me from making a decision. But as I may make a sudden decision from one day to the next, almost from one hour to the next, it would be very kind of you to ask Jacques if he knows of anywhere free at Trouville or nearby, for 1,000 to 1,500 or 1,800 to 2,000 at the most for the month of August, very dry, not among the trees, high but not in the valley where there is a mist (by high I mean not in the town, but by the beach would suit very well), electricity if possible, quite newly built neither dusty (the modern style is the best for my breathing - what a style! -) nor damp; I only need my master bedroom, two servants' bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen. A bathroom isn't essential but would be nice. A drawing room useless. As many WCs as possible. I don't mind if it is quite small, that would be perfectly adequate. The chalet d'Harcourt such as I remember it, if you don't run the risk of getting murdered or being swept away by the wind, or if the wind doesn't blow freely through the bedrooms, would suit my plan perfectly (if it doesn't cost more than 1,000 to 1,500 for the month of August) if there is no risk of landslides etc.. Unfortunately I am not my own master and it is possible that I won't go to Trouville, but it is also possible that I may leave for there from one moment to the next. And if Jacques has been able to find out for me, that will prevent me from arriving with no roof over my head. In principle, anything in a sunken wooded road would not suit my purposes well. Forgive me for boring you, and for asking you for the means to bore you. Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

   Do you know anything about the chateau (!) de Sarlabot or Tarlabot, 2 kilometres from Dives?

 


 

XXXI

[30(?) July 1906]

Madame,

   As a postscript to my letter I am adding that a large house (if there are any which are not already rented and are cheap enough) would suit me the best, would guarantee my silence and put my mind at rest. A certain "Tour Fréville", if I remember correctly, wasn't badly situated. But that must be very expensive. I seem to remember that my breathing was very bad in a row of houses on the second level which go back behind the Hotel des Roches Noires, but all this is a bit vague. If there was something above Villerville (but not in the trees) more accessible that would be fine for me. A lift would be invaluable to me but non-existent I suppose.

   Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

   If the trees are quite far away, quite large, not damp trees with insects or pollen, it is all the same to me. The old kind of elm trees on the Caen road don't inconvenience me at all. But that road must be in the valley and in the mists.

   But don't let Jacques reserve anything for me unless I send him a telegram. Especially as my doctor, who is absent, has still not been consulted about the choice of Trouville.

   - Even the beach would suit me very well.


 

XXXII

[End of July, beginning of August 1906]

Madame,

   Our letters crossed, mine, both of mine, had just been sent when yours arrived. Besides everything always gets crossed. I am not looking for "shelter". No doubt, as I haven't been without a fire day and night despite the heat, the sudden change would not be good, But after all as the countryside around Normandy is well known for being bad for asthmatics I would prefer something very exposed, being in a similar situation to the chalet d'Harcourt (not there, as you say it is dangerous), as la Chaumière, as la Tour Frêville, being on the beach and above all not a house breathing in the valley air and the evening fog. As I have said, asthma is so peculiar that you can't make any rules about it. But it would be so tiresome to rent a house and only stay there for forty eight hours that I try to foresee the positive and the negative, even though it so difficult. The annex to Roches Noires would only be any good if I could have three rooms, at least one of which would have to have a fireplace, the third being for my servant, and not more than 60 or 70 francs per day for me and my old servant inclusive (but wouldn't it be ridiculous to bring my old cook to the hotel?) (besides no doubt I would only take one meal a day as I do here). The apartment would have to be pleasant, comfortable, without being on the headland nor on the shore and all this seems unrealizeable to me, I think a house would be better unless the Roches Noires were not very good. And I would also like there to be something ... which I daren't say and which only exists by degree. Beaumont would not be very suitable, I think, because as motor cars are not good for me it would be very tiresome not to be able to see you without making a long journey, since for me Trouville is summed up in you. It is true that by being close to Dives I would also be too far away. But I would have the pleasure of being with very comforting friends, and it would give me pleasure to be able to thank them (as there are people who can take pleasure in my presence!) for their unbelievable loyalty to me while I was ill. In the end I would be further from Caen and Bayeaux which, after you, are the two attractions for me of Trouville. But my friends have recently been struck by a terrible bereavement which I assume has wrecked their plans and I hardly dare ask them even at the moment. Besides they would not be staying near Cabourg just so that I would have the pleasure of being near Trouville and Caen, in an elevated, prominent position, in the locality of sand-dunes rather than grassland, just because it is more convenient for me. What I find most favourable in my recollection of Chalet d'Harcourt, is that I saw it as being on bare, dry, not very Norman soil. As regards the beauty of Beaumont I am aware of it and I have never forgotten an outing I took there with you, one morning (!) by motor car and on foot. You told me some very harsh things about literature "which is nothing in itself, because more than anything it is the emanation of your sensibility, the fruit of your effort" which I remember just as much as the nature of the soil, its general aspect, the quality of the atmosphere. I seem to remember that one could rent the Tour Malakoff for nothing, but perhaps it is exactly behind Roches Noires, the area I don't like, and perhaps there is something unhealthy or dangerous about it which explains the very low cost. Had it not been for that I think it would have been suitable for me, being rather isolated and close to the sea. In general everything which I find attractive, Norman, buried in honeysuckle, is not good for me. The little chalet that Meilhac had seems to me to be a bit set down in a "sunken road", as well as being in the trees. Apart from that it would be very close to you. I would so much like to dine with you often, if that wouldn't bore you ...

   Jacques is completely mad to want to write to me, in any case I am worn out hearing about this wretched business. But on the other hand it would give me great pleasure if he could send me information about Trouville and its surroundings immediately (information which I am not even sure of being able to take advantage of, as I still haven't consulted my doctor, but which would allow me if I decide to leave from one hour to the next, which is the only way I can make a decision, to leave for Trouville rather than anywhere else). We are in total agreement over Mercier, but that sorrowful forelock is out of courage. I am upset over an article by Léon Daudet which I read this morning. I am upset about so many things and I am suffering so much that I view those nights in Trouville with no sense of dread. That's why I don't want to make too many aesthetic considerations over where I stay.

   Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

   The property close to Cabourg is called Sarlabot. Perhaps even on my own I could have it for very little. As there are twenty rooms, I'm sure I wouldn't be bothered by noise! And it has a bathroom, telephone etc. If there is something closer to Trouville and equally comfortable that would be perfectly acceptable. Something which worries me a little about Tour Malakoff is that the staircases are very high. I need to avoid climbing stairs as much as possible - as it is very unlikely that there is a lift - otherwise I would have to live on the ground floor the whole time. In some ways I would like gas not to be indispensable; because if it has gas I couldn't make use of it as it makes me ill.

 


 

XXXIII

[Beginning of August 1906]

Madame,

   It is I who have wearied you like this! Wearied you with my interminable letters and my indiscreet obstinacy. But you understand don't you that behind this relentless behaviour is the desire to finally overcome all the obstacles which keep us apart at Trouville as much as in Paris and which prevent me from being with you.

   Now I have given up. Perhaps I will take my project up again, but now I must rest from the strain of the journey, a journey which is just as exhausting to make in the mind, even though it is close to being materialized. I feel like I've been on the road for three days and everything around me already has the appearance of things left behind. I return home with great sadness. Jacques has been just as exquisite as you have and I am going to write to him at length, to tell him of my profound gratitude. And he wrote to me! Madame, I thank you with all my heart, and I don't despair of not seeing you.

   Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

   Actually my friends warned me yesterday that Sarlabot has just been rented. As regards the Cremieux chalet, even if I changed my mind about leaving for Trouville I think it would be essential not to mention my name. Because my cousin Mme Thomson has it and I would be too embarrassed to deal with her rather than an unknown proprietor. Anyway that is of no importance. Above all if the agent knows my name don't tell him not to mention it. That would be even worse.

 


XXXVI

[Versailles, end of 1906]

Madame,

   What must you think of me, of my vulgarity, of flowers with no letter! I didn't think they had been sent, I thought that they would keep them to be sent with my letter. I am too ill to write today, I will write to you tomorrow. I am sending this word from Paris with the concierge (who is going there) by pneumatique so that while waiting for word from me you won't think me completely cracked, which would pain me.

   Your respectful

Marcel Proust.

 


XXXVII

[Versailles, end of 1906]

Madame,

   I am completely exhausted, I will tell you why right now so that I won't need to write to you at length. But I want to make my excuses that you have received these flowers with no word from me and above all that you have received such dull flowers. Here is what happened. After my arrival at Versailles which is surrounded by florists, I told myself that I would search, for the rare horticulturists that you are, M. Straus and yourself, for an unusual plant, which you would find rather interesting, which lives for a long time, which gives out pretty and unusual flowers. I have been ill the whole time. And eventually, when I decided that I would not be able to go myself, and charged somebody else with the task, not a single florist had any plants which were actually flowering, apart from a florist from Viroflay, Moser, who only had chrysanthemums. Well it's not pretty at all, unless it can be made into a strip of autumn garden. Not being able to get up at the time, I said that I would not need to see them, that it would be best to have them boxed. But I only discovered that they had been sent a few moments after receiving your little note. And I was very unfortunate in my strange behaviour as it was totally unexplained. I cannot say, as in the poetry of Armand Silvestre where there is such a pretty error in his French:

It is at the time of the chrysanthemum1
which flowers on the threshold of winter
that the deep love with which I love you
2
opens up from the bottom of my heart.

   (If the error of "gender" in the first line is Armand Silvestre's, the error of prosody in the third is mine, because it is "t'" in the poem). But, during these days where the great shedding of one's own things is very much in accord with everything which is, internally, withered and dispersed, one appreciates more fully the things which remain precious and dear in you, being solely in the imagination and memory, and able to take pleasure from an affectionate and loyal presence. And truly how many things are as dear to me as your charm, as precious as your goodness towards me? And I cannot tell you how much M. Straus's exquisite kindness to me, recently, has moved and truly revived me. I told you that I am exhausted and that I would tell you why, it is true that I am always like this! But more than ever at the moment: the work on my flat was finished and I was finally going to move in, when my brother and my aunt had the strange idea that they wanted to lease out the floor above mine. I did not want to stand in the way of this letting because, as the tenant was going to carry out extensive long drawn out and noisy work (at our expense!) and as this will force me to stay indefinitely at Versailles freezing and spending money, where I have not seen a single autumn leaf or jet of water from my bed, if I had obstructed the letting it would have looked like I was doing it out of personal interest and would deprive my aunt and my brother of their income sooner than stay here. Had it not been for that I would have opposed this stupid letting to a doctor, which is surely going to drag us into legal proceedings, because we don't have the right to let the house other than in a "bourgeois manner", and one of our tenants who we have stupidly failed to inform is very difficult. Besides as I am connected with this tenant it makes me appear indelicate by not informing him. I struggled over it, nobody wanted it, I have sent more than thirty telegrams, I have had more than fifty telephone calls made. Now I think that the lease will be signed any day now, that the cataclysm will not be long in coming, and so I will be as worn out by agitation disturbing my sleep as by my asthma; it is a blessing to live in one's own house! Would you pass on my grateful affection to M. Straus? And also give my fond regards to Jacques when you next see him. Robert often asks me when I can arrange for them to meet again. I hope I don't fall out with Robert over the house before then. In any case I would prefer to never live at the house at all than to fall out with Robert. If you see Robert Dreyfus please give him my regards and tell him that the rumour that I saw Miss X... at Versailles is completely false. Miss X... was staying in the room above mine. And during the two months, or even three months, that she was living above me, I have never once been well enough to see her, neither in my room nor in hers. One single evening I went up but I could only see Mme B., because Miss X... had gone to bed. That is the only time in my life that I have seen Mme B... And I have never seen Miss X... From my bed I once saw her leaving by motor car under thick veils. - I am quite pleased with this ministry of which Briand is the Waldeck and Clemenceau the Gallifet. But I abhor the Vivani, Guyoy-Dessaigne and Barthou side. According to Picquart (and even Pichon to some extent) it should be perfect. But one is still rather astonished that he has still done nothing heroic, that he has still not been imprisoned for a new judicial error. The curtain has fallen and he has returned to his life. All the same it is rather sad.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

   I admired "Tool-bags at home", "Park in the 8th arrondissement", "Paradon in a salon!" enormously. But you know, if that embarrasses you, or gives you a headache, I won't be at all bothered if you discard them. All that I wish is that their sad and faithful colour clearly communicates to you some nuance of my feelings for you, and it is done.

 

1. La chrysanthème.

2. Vous.

 


XLII

[End of June 1907.]

Madame,

   I am so exhausted that I am dictating this note instead of writing to you. If this miracle takes place (I don't want to bore you and this is the last time I will mention it to you) I think it would be less tiring for you to come to dine rather than after. It will be at the Ritz but in a private dining-room and you understand that it is not like at my house, that it is larger and I can add extra places at the last minute. If you don't come until after the meal, try not to come too late because there will be some very nice serious music which will be starting soon after so as not to be too late and I would really like to speak to you a little afterwards.

.......... 1

   If you have a minute it would be so nice of you to tell me how I should seat respectively the non-nobles (the nobles I sacrifice), Fauré, Béraud, Calmette, and Duffeuille (the latter in a word is very unlikely at any event). And while I am about it, dare I ask you if you would make a menu a grand dîner, tell me what I ought to order (only things you like and which wouldn't harm you too much if you should come). Do you know about wines?

   Please accept, Madame, my respectful compliments.

Marcel Proust.

 

1. The last part of this letter was translated by Mina Curtiss, Letters of Marcel Proust, Chatto & Windus 1950, letter no 105.

 


XLIII

[July 1907.]

Madame,

   I am very pleased that you had not come to the Ritz.1 When I saw how cold it was and felt the terrible draughts, I, who three minutes earlier was hoping that the harsh negative reply from M. Straus was not conclusive, that when you saw M. Straus you told him: "Not at all, I am going out to dine at the Ritz" - as soon as I saw how cold it was, just as we always believe things to be something we want, I persuaded myself that, on the contrary, there was no hope, that you would not come, and my only fear was of seeing you arrive. In what sort of state would you have returned home! The party didn't tire me in the least. But the next day I came down with a cold in my bed! and I am not well. - Did you know that Alex, de Gabriac was very spiritual and very refined. I had a discussion about you with him and a lady who would really like to meet you, as you were very well appreciated. I prepare flattering memorials for you in every gathering! Except all the things I wanted to say escaped me. Naturally I quoted "I am going to speak to him" 2, "Cambron" "if we can't change the innocent"3 "I have heard much said about you" "you put me in the position of Chimène" "you have some then?"4 and many others. But you must remind me of the other ones, the best ones... Robert's address is 136, boulevard Saint-Germain. He is at Louveciennes and in any case he has to leave Saint-Germain. But I don't know when it will happen. I haven't seen him since the day I sent him to Jacques' house, you see how long ago it was. I invited him and his wife to come on Monday evening after dinner at the Ritz, but he preferred the Dieppe circuit to me and his wife did not want to come on her own. As I can only receive him late in the evening and as he stays to dine in the country I never get to see him anymore. But it is not through a cooling of affection, quite the opposite. But my hand aches too much for me to carry on, Madame, so I bid you farewell with my profound and respectful affection

Marcel Proust.

1. The dinner party at the Ritz took place on 1st July 1907.

2. cf Pastiches chap IX.

3. Du Côte de Guermantes I.

4. A guest, who was very spiteful, finding himself next to Mme Straus at a dinner party began to "slate" one of her close friends. Mme Straus interrupted him: "That is one of my friends" - "No matter, he replied you can revenge yourself on one of mine." To which Mme Straus replied sweetly: "You have some then?"

 


LV

[Letter addressed to Jacques Bizet]

Hôtel des Reservoirs, Versailles
[About October 1908.]

My dear Jacques,

   You have been good and charming over this affair of the motor car, I thank you with all my heart. I will speak to you about it however by word of mouth. While I was waiting I have asked for 600 francs to be sent to you. I think that that should be done straight away as it is. Also it would give me great pleasure to see you. But at the very least that would mean that I would have to be capable of getting up. Since I arrived in Versailles I have been brought down by my terrible attacks of asthma. I struggled, to begin with, getting up one day out of five, then seven, then not at all. That is why I didn't keep the motor car which I was not using by lending it to others without being able to make use of it myself. And since Agostinelli left I have not been able to get up once, neither being well enough to receive my brother nor Reynaldo who wanted to speak to me. You see then that if I do not come to see you that is not to say that I do not long to do so. Please give my respects to Mme Bizet and have faith, my dear Jacques, in my profound friendship

Marcel Proust.

   Your letter was delightful and you said it was badly written. What must you think of this! Give my regards to Jossien.

 


LVIII

[Cabourg, summer 1909.]

Madame,

   Your delightful little note, which was also a bouquet of pretty things, must have become crossed with my long dull letter. Allow me to send you some flowers. In my sad life here it is my sole happiness, when I think that something you receive will be from me, which you will keep for a few days, which will be in your home, which allows me to enter into your daily life for a moment. I still don't know when I shall be able to go to Trouville. I have had every possible tribulation of ill health and removals. On the days when I can get up I get up at 9 o'clock in the evening and go to the casino by the hotel, without going out into the fresh air. It is a few metres, which is almost beyond my strength. I think that by car I would not get as far as Houlgate. But I am going to get better and I will come. I have not been able to work one day, but still I would be so pleased if you were able to read something I have begun and which will strike a chord with you I think. I am wearying myself terribly over you, I will probably come to see you at Trouville (perhaps I shall ask your permission to bring a friend from here no matter what so that I won't be alone on the journey, I will choose somebody who is as insignificant and untroublesome to you as possible) and definitely and often and regularly in Paris. Goodbye for now, Madame, I hope that you are not so tired, I want so much for you to be well.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

   I have brought only a single book here, an indecent book which I wanted to lend to M. Straus. I hoped to bring him it the day after my arrival. I didn't know that I would be so tired. It can't be sent through the post.

 


LX

[Cabourg, summer 1909.]

Madame,

   You have written me a letter which is a work of art; and it is neither signed, nor in your handwriting, but couldn't be by anybody but you. You alone, in your pure, fair and delicate touch, have that mixture of poetry and gaiety ("send a telegram in the guise of olive branch or dove (poetry), that will be more certain") (wit). I wouldn't want to appear ungrateful or idiotic, in telling you that aside from its delightful literary merit, it was, where it concerned me personally, a tiny bit too cold, lowered a notch in tone ("dear Marcel" etc.). But adorable all the same. Calmette told me that he was waiting until Friday when Marcel Ballot returns and has given me the choice of day I want (and naturally if it is convenient to you) before Tuesday daytime when Calmette leaves again, which I didn't know. Besides I have discovered that the huge hotel motor car is very reliable. It isn't very elegant. But that would allow me perhaps to come alone, which naturally would be delightful for me, because I would see more of you. Nevertheless I am not going to continue this letter, I am going to take some Veronal and if that doesn't give me too strong an attack, I will manage to pay you a visit before this letter has even reached you. Thank you so much for the offer of your motor car or to come yourself. But I don't think you seriously believed I would accept that! I send you my respectful homage of a grateful affection and ask you to share it with M. Straus.

Marcel Proust.

 


LXII

Wednesday. [Cabourg, summer 1909.]

Madame,

   I am in despair that you are leaving. The impossibility of seeing you where I have been has also tormented me egotistically by making me aware of the decline of my strength in two years. But I am not thinking about that. And on the contrary I am happier to see that the liveliness of my sorrow proves the persistence of my respectful affection, which at least has not submitted to the same decline. If it is on a curve then at least it is in the ascendant.

   I will write to you soon, as I want to make you read a few pages (not by me!) which I think will amuse you. I will write them out for you as the books are embarrassing.

   Your respectful admirer and friend

Marcel Proust.

 


LXX

   I have had your charming telegram. Madame, you are too understanding to believe that it is because I asked you if you would be able to take on this commission, that I sent you those three flowers; because if you could think that, I would have chosen that day to not send them. No, you understand that I wanted to send you foliage which I would have liked to go and gather with you at Versailles. I got up to go and look for them, not at Versailles because it was too inclement, both in myself and outside. I was told that you are there so if you want me to come to say hello I can, but not if you are tired, and I myself am so tired that it seems to me that it must be contagious and would be bad for you.

Marcel Proust.

 


LXXII

[Autumn 1912.]

Madame,

   A loving but ruined "speculator", cannot compete with M. de Rothschild, even with cherries and strawberries. But this idea of banished rivalry, I wanted to show you that this is one of your kindnesses which I feel deeply - and I shall remember always.

   Your respectful friend who injures you too much

Marcel Proust.

 


LXXIV

[November (?) 1912.]

Madame,

   Do you not think it extremely comical that at the very moment I am making a grandiose speculation of several hundred thousand francs, Austria declares war on Montenegro1 and chooses to do so on the 30th of the month, the day of the liquidation when it must be sold! I received this letter from Corby2 (he asked me which Mme Straus! there are others then!). Have you any advice you can give me between all these furs. Is there a visible difference between mole, Hudson, smoky fox etc. For the white I think that it must be white fox, because "false ermine" seems deceitful to me. But for the dark I don't know if I am obliged to choose grey fox (one of the girls wants dark and the other white). If you don't have any opinion on this don't write to me. There was no need to write to thank me for the cherries, but your note gave me a great deal of pleasure.

   Your respectful friend,

Marcel Proust.

I would like to spend about 5 to 700 francs in total.

 

1. 30 October 1912.

2. Corby, Mme Straus's furrier from whom Proust bought fox-fur wraps for Colette and Hélène d'Alton.

 


LXXV

[16 December 1912.]

Madame,

   You understand what joy that would be, what "retrospection" equivalent in a different order to the one at Honfleur, because sentiment and memory poeticize even general repetitions. But through whatever strange reason this is why I cannot; when I was brought your note (which I didn't get until just now, I will explain why) I had just got up (feeling shattered) because something struck me which M. Straus said the other day which I suddenly thought applied to me. I wanted to come to speak to you about it and so as not to tire you later I had planned to come very early. At which point I was given your invitation for tomorrow, now to go out 2 days together even if I get up I am so tired that it is not possible. And so by getting up it deprived me of seeing you tomorrow without having the consolation of seeing you this evening, since you told me that you wanted to have a complete rest this evening. Now to the matter which had struck me: talking about I don't know whom, but it was an old person, M. Straus said: "He is very well brought up, he stands up every time I come in." And all at once I feared that this must have been a criticism of me, who perhaps, not because of tiredness, but by my confusion which makes me tired, coffee, the combination of exhaustion and drugs (exhaustion being the most powerful) didn't stand up as I should have done. I know that you do not like the way I take criticisms "upon myself". But I also know that I deserve them. And certainly if I had preserved any shadow of physical, intellectual and moral affectation I would not have visited you all those times. But the pleasure I experience is stronger than the fear of displeasing you, which has prevailed upon me for so long and which has never left me. - As for the reason why I didn't get your note until just now, it was because, when it was brought here there was nobody in the kitchen, my servants all being up ladders searching the cupboards for the little Henry Monnier which is destined for you! So you see that I was in the midst of thinking about you, by having got up, and by having a search carried out for the little drawing "so that your beautiful eyes may be calmed by this humble gift". It would have been better if I had not thought about this at all, since I would have been asleep and perhaps would have been able to come to see you tomorrow! I am quite worn out by this long letter (no doubt you are too!) and I will leave it until later to discuss Fasquelle with you who I telephoned the other day at 10 o'clock in the morning! and he didn't want to speak to me! But I am really too tired to write, not having had any sleep yet, nor my fumigations, nor anything to eat. And I am going out straight away, but I will not be able to go to the rue Miromesnil as you will be asleep. Nevertheless it makes me think of the piece from which I quoted you this line "And to your beautiful eyes" and somewhat less poetically but very affectionately all the same I would like to be able to apply the last line to myself "And I sleep a little as you are resting!" In any case had I been able to anticipate Kismet I would have preferred to "sleep" on the evening when you are "resting" and go to the theatre on the evening that you would be there; so I console myself with the thought that even if I had rested tonight, there would still have been the same chance that I wouldn't have been able to go tomorrow! In the way that it is still better to be less sure that it is impossible! Please accept my regards

Marcel Proust.

   If you ever write to me, give me the name of the chocolate seller who sent you those X-ray pictures of the insides of chocolates.

 


LXXVI

[16 or 17 December 1912.]

Madame,

   I am going to go to Kismet; I have taken enough to either kill me or to allow me go; and as I am not dead I am going to come. Unless you yourself are too tired and don't go. In that case I suggest that I come to your house to see you later. I don't want Kismet without you. But if you are going don't say anything to me and I will meet you there.

   Your grateful and respectful

Marcel Proust.

 


LXXIX

[December 1912.]

Madame,

   I am only writing you a few words because for four or five days I have something surprising which I thought at first was angina but which is only a bit of tiredness and cold. I never thought anything of it until the duel. But now I am doleful and grieving. Nevertheless I don't think it will last for long. Above all don't write to me or ask for my news, there is none at all. And it would make me uneasy to have disturbed you. I am only telling you this so that you can't accuse me of coldness or laconism.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

   I found your letter ravishing and irresistibly funny. But I thought you are unjust about the bride who had to be thrown over. - I told Reynaldo that you would be very pleased that he appreciates the things you say and that it would give you a great deal of pleasure to see him. He replied that he doesn't come because you never invite him and that he would never "invite himself". I am not telling you this very well, but this has nothing to do with Vanderém's letter. The delicacy of his heart is matched only by that of his soul.

 


LXXXI

[January 1913.]

Madame,

   I have a thousand things to write to you about, but I have had such a "bad start to the year" that I could neither come nor telephone. Don't imagine that I haven't been thinking about what you told me. I have recommended Corentin (the mechanic) to everybody (he came here). But he has the misfortune to have a car which is unsaleable and even more difficult to hire, because it is so expensive for him as it creates more expenditure than profit. I can hardly let Albaret go whose life is not very easy; and even less so as it is such a long time since I used him, through economy. But mainly because the last time I went out I came to your house, that is to say by being in so much of a hurry at the last minute I took the first motor car that came. And if instead of that I telephone in advance for a motor car, and if I use Corentin, Albaret would hear about it from my valet who is a friend of his. I have written a letter for the little Renault (automobiles) for Corentin, but it doesn't look like that will help him at all because this is the car that he has to use. I know him well, he is a wonderful driver and a very courageous fellow. I can't tell you anything about my book; I wanted to have it printed at my own expense; but Louis de Robert claims that that would be ridiculous, that it would ruin me in the eyes of the world (?), and that he is certain that he can easily find me a publisher. I will wait and see. As for Calmette, I didn't think the bridge sets and ashtrays were very nice. And I had a cigarette case made for him. I am telling you all of this as if it is of any interest to you! But I haven't the strength to continue. And I still want to chat with you about so many things, especially what Reynaldo told me about the new Vanderém piece.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

 


LXXXIII

[Beginning of 1913 (?).]

Madame,

   Thank you infinitely (and briefly because of a thousand improbable vexations which are swamping me). I hope I shall be well enough but I am not sure, in any case don't save a place for me. I will take a seat in the orchestra stalls. And if I am well enough to go out I will join you at the intervals (and even during the acts if you don't have too many people with you). I really want to be well rested, because not having got up since the other evening it would give me so much pleasure to see you on the only two occasions when I have gone out.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

 


LXXXIV

[January 1913.]

Madame,

   It was very kind of you to invite me to the centenary of "La Gifle" (I can't remember right now whether that should be double f). You wanted it to be "the same as at its creation". I did not come for a number of reasons, one being that if it gives me boundless pleasure to go to the theatre with you, it is because it is with you and not because it is the theatre. I mean that if I went to the theatre without you it would bore me; and I don't mean that being at the theatre with you is not a different pleasure from being with you at rue Miromesnil, and which has its great charm like all fashions and renewals of pleasure seeing you. But as it has been so long since I have been able to come, as I had had a telephone call made the day before about "Servir" (without being in any doubt that they must be performing "Servir" the next day, nor that you would have a box!) I would have been very distressed if you could have the slightest suspicion that it was perhaps because of that. But I think, I am sure, that you would not have had. You know that apart from going with you, and perhaps on one other occasion with somebody else who has a different charm, I never go to those things and always refuse them. I am sure that you were not in any doubt about this and I would make myself appear stupid by saying any more about it. In any case I am too drained tonight to write you a letter. I don't know if I ever spoke to you about the cigarette case for Calmette (sticking to the price set by you, 400 (or even a bit less)). He has never thanked me for it so that now I don't know if he ever saw it! The day before the Congress1 (the last day I went out) I brought it to him wrapped up, he made an evasive gesture and I put it on his desk. I told him that it was such a trifle that I hardly dared etc... I said that because as I thought that he would see that on the contrary it was something very valuable and that it would add to my munificence the gallantry of making light of it. He said to me: "I hope Poincaré will get in", I said: "It can't be helped" and looked at my parcel. His gaze followed mine, but when it met the parcel, moved by a sort of centrifugal force, turned away immediately and fixed itself on something else. There was a moment of silence. Then he said to me: "Then again perhaps it will be Deschanel". We then talked about Pams, and seeing that he mentioned neither Fasquelle or the cigarette case, I got up and left, convinced that the next day I was going to receive a note: "Dear Friend, but it is an expensive piece of jewellery." But I received no word, not the next day or ever! I am too tired to finish this letter so I respectfully kiss your hand

Marcel Proust.

   M. Straus was very friendly on the telephone.

 

1. Congress of Versailles, 16 January 1913.

 


LXXXV

[Spring 1913.]

Madame,

   As a post-script to my letter from yesterday (but above all don't write to me expressly) I am going to ask you, as I have been hindered until now by a veritable oppression of all kinds of difficulties in attending to Corby1, if these are things by which we take the measure of people; should I ask it of the recipients. Or would it be sufficient to give Corby the approximate age. In the end these are things which go out of fashion from year to year, and to give this in the spring is like a bag of candied chestnuts on the third of January, giving the appearance of using leftovers to save money. Because were it not for that I would prefer to give it now, even though it is out of season, so that I don't give the impression of not keeping my promise if I wait until next winter. Don't reply. But if you do ever write please tell me. It is three weeks, even a little more since I have got up. I hope to get up from one day to the next. But if it is before ten o'clock at night I will ask your permission to come.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

1. See letter LXXIV note (2).

 


LXXXVI

Madame,

   I think I forgot to tell you in the letter that I have just had sent to you that I am a bit closer to finding a publisher. Also I am adding this post-script because I know that you have the goodness to take an interest in all this and that you have taken such trouble and lavished so much kindness over it.

Your Marcel Proust.

 


LXXXIX

[June-July (?) 1914.]

Dear Madame Straus,

   This little note is to ask you if you wouldn't mind telling Jacques, as I don't know precisely where he lives, (and I say "telling" because I would prefer this letter not to be sent on and allowed to drag on, because it concerns individuals who could easily be troublesome): that it was not I who sent Agostinelli's wife to him. She was not acting in bad faith however by saying she had come through my behalf. She believed it was so, this is why. As I am opposed to her doing anything as harsh as working in a factory, for reasons too lengthy to explain here, I did not want to recommend her to Jacques. (That is not to say that I didn't wish to find a job for her, I had something better for her, but in actual fact she wanted factory work or nothing and that was a responsibility I did not feel I could take, even more so since I had not agreed with her poor husband allowing himself to fly over the sea without knowing. He did it anyway and he was killed1, and it doesn't make it any the less upsetting for me, but at least I can't blame myself and I did everything I could to stop him. For his wife the circumstances are entirely different, I am not even troubling myself with the question of factory work, I have contented myself with telling Agostinelli's wife: "I am not going to give her any references. Since she says that she knows M. Bizet she can go and find him if she wants." Albaret's wife understood (?) that to mean to go to find him through my behalf. So Mme Agostinelli was acting in good faith by saying so and it is better that Jacques doesn't go back on it because not having seen him since I have not spoken to him about it. Nevertheless if Jacques wants to take her on in the factory it will do no harm; I am convinced that after two days she will have to leave and I don't want to make myself ridiculous in Jacques' eyes by recommending her. (And she would not wish it any other way.) But as Jacques could not be expected to know about her state of health, it is quite natural that he could recommend her and I don't think that the harm which she will cause will be very great. I will explain all this much better to Jacques when I have the pleasure, always so great, of seeing him. I will also explain to him that when he thought I was talking about her I was actually talking about my bread delivery woman who has no connection with all this. I don't want to bore you any longer and being too tired to tell you all the other things which maybe wouldn't bore you to death, I leave you, Madame, and pray that you will accept for M. Straus and for yourself my respectful devotion.

   Your admirer of always and for always.

Marcel Proust.

   I didn't ask the other day

To the uncivil and snowy haired master
who makes speeches about Chenu

if the ravishing and strikingly accurate portrait of Hervieu had appeared, and had remained anonymous or rather was signed with a false name.

 

1. Agostinelli's death, 30 May 1914.

 


XC

Dear Madame Straus

   I am not writing to you, as I have had bronchitis and a very high fever for eight days and I can't even write two words. I have taken a few lines out of a letter from Maupeou1 which will show you, if you don't know already, how fond of you Bernstein is and how he speaks about you. I have crossed out the parts that I could not remove (because the passage about Bernstein goes over the page) not because of anything secret but because it is of no interest and so that you don't tire yourself needlessly by reading it. You are so well loved that this cannot tell you anything new, but it gives me pleasure to give you this little proof which is so evident and indirect.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

 

1. "Bernstein is staying there and every day he goes to visit your friend Mme Straus who I have never met. He adores her, calling her unique as a friend and as an intellect. He could not live without seeing her!"

 


XCI

[August 1914.]

Madame,

   Do not think that I am being disinterested in you all. Of course it was Jacques' departure which was preoccupying me the most, primarily because it must be preoccupying you the most. I asked Mme Pierrebourg what he was doing and by her reply (she wrote me that he is attached to the ambulance service) I hope that we can all be a little easier in our minds. Still I would really like to know where the ambulance service is and I daren't write back to Mme Pierrebourg and I am temporarily alone in the house, my valet having been called up and preventing me from sending you word. If the ambulance service is in Paris I think that we can be calm. My brother is a sub-lieutenant but in Verdun, which, alas, is not very reassuring. Mme Pierrebourg told me that you wish to return to Paris. For myself I would like to leave it. To begin with I stayed because of my sister-in-law and her daughter, believing that Paris would not be invaded. But since the arrival of England and Belgium on the scene it seems so unlikely that the Germans could get to Paris that I wouldn't feel any great scruples about leaving. In your case I don't know if it is very prudent for you to stay at Trouville. I think it is. The other day I read that General Vaissière had requested permission to occupy the Santos Dumont observatory at Bénerville. Perhaps that shows (but I know absolutely nothing about it) that German ships could venture around there. And then you would be very close to the coast, and highly visible. I think my fears are completely fantastical, but you ought to make enquiries... Pozzi has been absolutely charming to me. It seems to me that I am twice as far away from you than usual and in reality these are the same distances as at other times. But I am calmed, in my great anxiety over you, that none of the three of you is in any direct danger.

   Your respectful friend

Marcel Proust.

 


XCII

[September 1914.]

Madame,

   I have known for a week, through your concierge, that you were at Villa Tibur in Pau, but that you were going to return. I have had good news about you from Pozzi. I heard that Jacques' house that he has been everywhere and was devoting himself to Saint-Martin hospital. I went to Cabourg and have come back terribly ill, happy in this way that I am not alone in not suffering, when all are dying or seeing their people dying. I don't know anything about Bernstein and would really like to have some news about him. I am pleased to know that you are well (via Pozzi, who was kind and delightful to me). Nevertheless I hope to be in a fit state to visit you soon. Life has beauty by being short, we will have lived through so many things, the Dreyfus affair, the war, over the duration of what I cannot permit myself, for my part, to call our friendship but which happily you want to call such. I have learned afterwards that a gentleman, who came to see me with Mme Greffulhe at Cabourg but didn't leave his name, was Montesquiou. And I thought that perhaps he was with you at Trouville. But no, you must have already been at Pau. Mme Greffulhe has since returned, but I was in no more of a fit state to receive her than the first time when I knew nothing about it. To an evening very soon Madame, I hope, and until then please accept and share with M. Straus my very respectful homage of a deep affection.

Marcel Proust.

 


XCIII

[12 May 19151]

Madame,

   This is not a "letter of digestion" of cider, but of the memory of the photograph with the violet, so beautiful, so profound, so essential, so contemporary with your successive looks, in its "eternal moment". It is a snapshot of what is lasting in the person. I own others which I would love to look at with you, of other portraits (even with "bridles") of " your pure loving and suffering smile"2. There is something noticeable: that it is always in very old photographs that a woman looks least young, and with the prolonged Pygmalion-like look for whom at every moment you are the changeable and docile Galathea, and who holds under her enchantment your thoughtful, obedient, melancholic and charmed armies. - We spoke with too little goodwill yesterday evening about one of my friends. I entreat you to absolute discretion, with no exceptions, what you might think of pursuing could turn out to be the most dangerous. And make the same entreaty to M. Straus who was the only other person with you when I said all that.

   Very respectfully yours.

Marcel Proust.

1. Date of post mark.

2. cf Chroniques p215 quotation of these lines:

In the wavering of the inclined figure
and in your pure loving and suffering smile (La Maison du Berger
, Alfred de Vigny).

 


XCVI

[Sunday 16 December (?) 1917.]

Dear Madame Straus,

   I have been thinking about you all day, not because of the furniture but because of the snow. I am worried about it making you ill. Truly your letter has a prettiness and a delicious drollery. But I fully understand that that doesn't prove that you are well however. To give a rational sense to Mme d'Harcourt's idiotic phrase, "that simply proves that she is extremely witty". I don't know how to thank you. I found the part about the two English people (does the other one look like his mother too?) marvellous. So if they come back and pay, it is agreed that the sofa and the 4 armchairs go to them. I am leaving the price of the tapestries as far as I can hold it, at M. Sibilat's valuation (4 or 5 thousand), to whom you must tell me how I can show my gratitude. I am not inclined to let them go for less than 4,000; that makes 14,000 for the lot, when the English people offered 15,000. But in the end let's not complicate matters over a thousand francs. It is perfect like that. And finally if you really don't want the little green sofa for yourself, which would give me a kind of pleasure akin to "we still feel a thrill when we entwine our fingers", I think that M. Sibilat is including it with the tapestries, if he really wants it. But he mustn't let it go for less than 1,000 francs! - But how much I would prefer it if you accepted it! what rapture that would be, what gratitude I would feel towards you. I intend to go to see you say tomorrow, Monday (that is to say before the sale, but not to talk about it, my definitive reply is in this letter and there is no point in us going over it again), or maybe Wednesday (which is far more likely). But this evening for example I had absolutely decided to go and hear a marvellous sonata by Liszt by a no less marvellous pianist at the Gautier-Vignol's, and a very interesting organ recital at Mme de Polignac's. But even though this time would be very good for me and people would be coming to see me at one or other of those places, it is impossible for me to get up. So it is by no means certain that that I will come on Wednesday. But you only need to "hold on to the money" until my menacing and imminent visit, for you see that I am going out again a bit. Thank M. Straus from the bottom of my heart and please accept and share with him this testimony of my respectful gratitude.

Marcel Proust.


XCVII

[Tuesday 18 (?) December 1917.]

Dear Madame Straus

   You are marvellous. And this "epistolary relationship" about "business affairs" which you carry on with me with such stupendous correctness and so much feeling, is just as witty but gives me more pleasure than Voltaire's correspondence. With a style of equal charm, I prefer that which originates from a personality who has always agitated me. Not counting the extraordinary good news that your letters bring me, which Voltaire's do not provide me. I am not really sure about coming on Wednesday, because yesterday, Monday, I made the effort to go out very early and it has made me very ill. It is true that having gone out at an hour that would have been convenient to you I would have been able to make the most of it by coming yesterday to dine, or after dinner. But I was worried that you would just think that I wanted to talk about armchairs again, I was worried about tiring you out. I was in a terrible perplexity. I said to myself: I won't get the chance to see Mme Straus at such a normal time again. And the reason for my visit would not be because of the armchairs. But she was going to believe that it really was (and we should have no misunderstandings between us)! Mme Chevigné may have told you that she met me yesterday, Monday, at half past six at the Ritz. And I guarantee you that between 7 and 9 I was on the point of coming to rue Mirosmenil a hundred times. - I won't have this pneumatique sent until tomorrow morning because of the terrible attacks which I have had just now, nobody comes to my house until very late, so that I had not had your note describing those Hoffmanesque things so hilariously and so prettily until the evening. Also I am afraid of waking you up by sending a pneumatique, or even having this note brought to you this evening. If I am well enough tomorrow, which is possible, I shall come for a very short time in the evening (not to dine in any case). Even then if I see that it is too late by the time I get up, I will postpone my visit for a few days. But if I don't get up tomorrow, I will be able to come Thursday evening. But I imagine that I will be too worn out with this insomnia to stay in bed tomorrow (I am boring you to death by talking to you like this about my health. Never do I not do it, either in writing or in conversation, and I never "give you my news". But on this occasion it is because of the uncertainty of my visit). In any case whether or not I take the money on the day I come, as I will not be able to transport the little green sofa in my taxi, even if I gave the driver a 50 franc tip, you would give me enormous pleasure by keeping it for yourself. If you give it me back I will think that it is because you don't like it, and consequently that we do not like the same things, which is already very sad. What's more I don't think that it is "discretion" which is stopping you, since all the great experts have told you that it is worthless. So it combines being pretty to look at, not being worth any money, so that you can accept it without any scruples, and providing me with the great happiness of making myself felt in your home, whilst it gives me none at my home. - I regret not having other articles for sale and you a will of iron. Because it would be very amusing (for me at least) to continue with these enchanted sales with you. Thank M. Straus for me once again and share with him the testimony of my deep and very respectful gratitude.

Marcel Proust.

 


XCVIII

[End of 1917.]

Dear Madame Straus

   I told you that I had a sick friend; she has had an operation. That had the effect of concentrating the occasions on which I went out to those by her bedside, and also of multiplying them, to such an extent that now her condition has improved it is I who am very poorly. And also that I have not seen you nor M. Straus, and that we haven't spoken again about the green sofa etc. I am going to write to la Place Clichy after all to ask them to send you the carpet, and I will include with this letter (the one addressed to you) the receipt for the carpet, so that your valet or your concierge can deliver it to somebody employed at la Place Clichy, who would not hand over the carpet without it. As for Bon Marché, things are more complicated because I cannot find their receipt. I am going to ask them if they can provide me with a duplicate, which I will send to you. - Finally you told me that M. Straus's nephew will be good enough to have a stack of things taken to the auction house, which are mostly frightful, but which sell well, wardrobes (not silverware?), trunk, large chest of drawers, chairs, amongst which there will perhaps be some pretty things. I am going to have all that brought down when I have a remission, and if one day next week, or the week after, it is convenient to M. Sibilat, he can have them picked up, please advise me what I should do for transport etc. In any case when my sore throat has improved, I shall come and see you, and you can tell me if it is still possible. I am very afraid that these alternations between snow, rain and frost will not be good for your health. As I haven't seen anybody ( apart from people who wish to tell me that I should pay my respects to you! - because in order to see people it has to be that my illnesses are more punctual, more faddy, more precisely timed for the invalid) I have had no news of you since Céleste telephoned you. I forgot to thank you for the rash amount of money that you gave her. She was embarrassed by it, but not as much as I was. As I think about you all the time, I thought about you even more tonight while rereading La Bruyère (contemporary authors are insufferable to me). It occurred to me that there are lines in it which would appeal to you, and which you would know in any case. Do you not find that this portrait gives the appearance of having been written today (I think it was for the husband of Mme de Lafayette who was only called Princess de Clèves in his books): "There is a type of woman who so overshadows or buries her husband to such an extent that he is never mentioned in society. Is he still alive? Is he dead? He does not owe her a dowry, and but for the fact that he does not bear children he is the woman and she is the man etc"... and this: "Some women have in the course of their lives a double engagement to support, equally difficult to break and to conceal: one lacks only a contract and the other lacks only love." To read with the state my eyes are in is madness, to copy out is even worse! It is something that would be amusing to read together, and as we are separated by such distance... My printer has licensed out his workers and mislaid (then found) my manuscript, of which I don't have a duplicate, my publisher has left for America. I don't promise Swann until a long time from now. But we can reread La Bruyère's Charactères.

   Please accept, Madame, and have M. Straus accept my respectful and affectionate thanks.

Marcel Proust.

PS - The receipt to send is the one which is numbered 765, that is to say the one which was renewed in 1914. If I am including the one from 1906, which there is no need to send them (no 1723) it is to show the connoisseur who wanted to see them that between 1906 and 1914 they have been kept at a minimum price of 1,000 francs, which even if it wasn't the minimum price (it is just an example) would have undergone a huge increase in value since the war.


CI

[Beginning of 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   Why did you take the trouble to write to me. I expressly confined myself to sending one of Céleste's household every day, without a letter from me, to ensure that you didn't reply to me. The descriptions they bring back from your house make one think of the Seven Princesses. There is a servant (although in this case male) on every step, and in one bedroom there are four women who spin continuously like in the Odyssey. What can they be doing? Then in the courtyard the chauffeur, this being rather post-Homeric, is always busy cleaning his motorcar. Alas what they tell me about the state of your health is not as good as I would wish. Happily your letter has rectified that a little. Because a "M. Straus is far from better" had vexed me, even though I know how tenacious all cases of influenza are at the moment. Your "Mme Lafarge" really made me laugh. You are too good, as is M. Sibilat. But he would no longer be able to see anything in the coach-house (besides I would never want him to take any such trouble), everything has been brought back up to my house, because my aunt has rented out the coach-house to some Canadians who are hoarding sugar there etc. all the things which we are short of and they are overflowing with. I have dared to take the trouble to write to you, as all the letters that I have written recently have met with the same response: "Your letter is the greatest offence that anyone has ever paid me in my whole life." I hope that this one won't offend! It is an attempt to express to you my not quite daily, but often daily, anxiety over your precious health, and that of M. Straus, my affection and my very respectful and very deep gratitude.

Marcel Proust.

 


CII

[31 May 1918.1]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am so much more distressed to learn that M. Straus is ill and you are the sick-nurse, since the concierge always replies that you are both well when I have you telephoned for news. I almost believed that you had returned and that you had asked to be left in peace, which is something I understand only too well. The other day I made another supposition. Having had some advice to ask of Bernstein on the subject of literature I had him telephoned. They replied that he was at Deauville. I thought that his Deauville and your supplementary Saint-Germain were perhaps les Mûriers. Alas I see now that all my imaginings were groundless, that you were nurse and not play-acting as so many insufferable people do who only make sacrifices for strangers and who don't look after those near to them who are ill; unfortunately I know that the looking after, on your part, makes you ill. Also it is a noble thing for me to see the deep gratitude which M. Straus feels in also seeing in you an "Angel of the Hearth", and a little "sacred egoism" on your part does not offend me. I imagine that you do things which others would do less well but could still do all the same, and that in this very way you avoid the need to have a sick-nurse afterwards in your turn. Only I know very well that all of this forms an indivisible aspect of your eyes, your hands, your soul, and which nobody can take away from you, not the lack of your qualities but the virtues of your charms. One ought to separate you one from the other when one of you is ill.- ... 2

   I shan't talk to you about current events. Never before had I been conscious of the extent to which I love France. You, who love the roads near Trouville, will understand what the countryside of Amiens, of Rheims, of Laon where I went so often, mean to me. Laon was with Emmanuel Bibesco. He is dead now. And we must love men more than things, and I admire and weep more for the soldiers than for the churches which were only the recording of a heroic gesture which today is re-enacted at every moment. - ...

   I am going to write to M. Sibilat so that you won't need to and also to take the opportunity to thank him again. I haven't told you about my health. It has taken such a serious turn that I wonder how I could ever venture to see you again.
I hope with all my heart that you will soon be up and rested, and M. Straus cured. I kept your location secret. But not everybody else has done the same because the news came back to me from other distant quarters. Instead of the extracts from my book which I want to give to the Figaro, they could publish the details of your whereabouts in the bizarre manner of those "Commentaries from Polybe" which some days are signed: "Joseph Reinach". For a man who doesn't like to waste anything which falls from his pen, the story of your lease could first appear in a newspaper article, then in book form and finally be quoted copiously in his subsequent Commentaries.- ...
2

   I gave the History of the Dreyfus Affair to one of my friends who was leaving for Madrid as secretary of the Embassy there. He writes to me from time to time, 'the task you imposed on me for the holidays interests me deeply. I spend nights reading Reinach.' But because he is very young and because he made Polybe's [Reinach's] acquaintance at the houses of various duchesses, he is very much surprised to find the names of the same ladies at the foot of the list of subscriptions for the Widow Henry where they ask to have Reinach 'gutted'. Since my friend wants to like Swann, he sees in the change of the attitude of these ladies in regard to Polybe a significant form of the elapsing of time. As for me, I preferred the Reinach they wanted to eviscerate. But I must add that I am happier that he dines comfortably at the Lévys. I am speaking of the Mirepoix. Polybe must have forgotten that they are not the only ones whose name is Lévy.
Adieu, Madame, forgive my gossip. I hope that Jacques at least is well and I send you in deep communion with all the emotions of these days when we are living through the laceration of the land that is so dear to us, my most respectful and grateful regards.

Marcel Proust.

1. Date of postmark.

2. Parts of this letter were translated by Mina Curtiss, Letters of Marcel Proust, Chatto & Windus 1950, letter no 185.

 


CIII

[About spring 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   What is perhaps the prettiest thing in your letters (and God knows all the charm they have) is that one senses that the main reason for writing to me is to try to ensure that I don't come! And I am being totally sincere in telling you that it is pretty, because it is so you, and (si licet parva componere magnis1, as Polybe says) so me, that it appears most amicable to me that you put off my visit. When Céleste told me "Madame Straus said that Monsieur could call at the end of this week" I rested myself so as to be able to get up at the end of this week, but then I thought that you had written to me to tell me not to come before the end of the next. But I miscalculated. You said the middle. Alas I have accepted a dinner for Wednesday which there is only a very slim chance of me attending, but which will force me to rest a little afterwards. So don't imagine that I will be troubling you for some time. Every time I see M. Straus I promise myself that I will speak to him about the Warburg cheque which I haven't been able to touch since the outbreak of war, at the Comptoir d'Escomte, which he knows the whole story of. But what he doesn't know as I don't think I thought about it at the time, is that Raph. Georges Lévy having vainly tried to get the Comptoir d'Escomte to pay me for my cheque, advised me to refer the matter to a solicitor, from whom I have received nothing in any case. But as I quite naturally chose the solicitor at whose practice I spent 15 days when I was studying Law, it turns out that this solicitor, the possessor of my cheque which I have never reclaimed from him, thinking that he would deal with it after the Peace, is Me B..., that is to say the council for Lenoir, Dessouches, etc. As soon as I saw his name connected with this affair, some months ago, I wanted to tell M. Straus about the coincidence thinking that it would amuse him. But I always forgot. It is much less amusing for me because if Captain somebody or other finds the cheque at Brunet's, he will think that I may well be an accomplice of Bolo. But as I have kept all my Warburg statements he couldn't think that for five minutes. In any case it will be tiresome if he has me called. I beg you not to repeat this story as it will get twisted by repetition, and people will end up believing that I am involved in Bolo's affairs, because in about 1904 Neuberger advised me to purchase American shares through Warburg. I am embarrassed that you have shown my carpets to Jansen and I beg you not to show them to anybody from here for a very, very long time, until we are all recovered and can dine together: "On a Turkish carpet where the table is set. I leave off to think about life, which makes we three friends." Between now and then don't give it any thought. I have no need of money. I still have almost half of the money from the armchairs, and the Rothschild bank has sent me its creditors account. It is the only bank where that ever happens, because it is the only honest one. If my carpets could be of any use to you, I will give them to you quite gladly. The money from the armchairs is amply sufficient for me. I am tired on your behalf over what you have had to say and telephone to the "palais people". I am sure that you are a divine sick-nurse, but what misfortune - for both of you - that you have been obliged to become a sick-nurse. You suffer enough without that. And I am heartbroken to think that M. Straus is so ill. I never have them ask for you yourself on the telephone so as not to disturb you, but the first thing I ask when I get up is what news we have had of you; Céleste sent the chamber-maid from downstairs to telephone when she couldn't go herself. When we see each other you must tell me where this tracheitis came from and its history. I am convinced that if one purges oneself and if one takes it immediately after washing, one will have fewer sore throats. I shall try to come one evening when there are no Gothas, as you say, although I never seem to find myself outside other than on nights when there are Zeppelins, storms etc. The night of the Gothas I had gone to hear Borodin's 2nd quartet at Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld's house. As I was leaving just at the moment when the siren sounded I would have been able to get back very quickly and avoid (that would have been the first time) being out in the street at that moment. But the old chauffeur I had could not set off from the rue Murillo for half an hour, and then had a breakdown for half an hour in the rue Messine, so that not having the patience to wait in the car I waited by it and heard everything perfectly. But the old chauffeur must have been deaf because when we arrived home I told him that if he was frightened of going back I could let him sleep in my small drawing-room, he replied: "Oh no! I'm off to Grenelle. It was only a false alarm and nothing at all came over Paris." A bomb exploded in rue d'Athènes five minutes from my house while he was saying this. Goodbye Madame, whatever you do don't reply. Your respectful and grateful,

Marcel Proust.

 

1. If it is possible to compare the small with the great.


CIV

[Spring 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   My letter was "from the wings". From preference I have only what will be yours. If it tires you to sell the carpets now, keep them until a more suitable time, but if they are in your way sell them, but the time might not necessarily be more suitable by being later. I attach no importance to what is more expensive or less expensive, later or sooner. Besides less expensive and later is just the same as a little more expensive. The Romans said: "Qui cito dat, bis dat", those who pay quickly pay twice over. I shan't go so far as to explain this precept to M. Jansen; but by way of revenge I have no doubt that it was about him that C... was inspired to beseech you, in affectation of Marivaux governed by his outward appearance, to hire him in advance. Still in testing the water by paying extra he has broken the agreement after the event, like the Germans with the Russians. Many thanks for transferring the matter to Raphaël George-Lévy (transferred to him with a date of 27 October 1914, the thing itself being from 30 July, I found these details in the absurdly comminatory note sent by the Comptoir d'Escomte's solicitor on 13 November 1914, and which has come to nothing in any case). But I am distressed that you have been wearied by that chief advocate who is going to make me dislike him more. Let us wait and soon this will all be over. I have already waited four years without thinking about it, and right now is probably not the best time. If you still have a fire I think it would be best if you burned this letter which only has one advantage over the "Flute and Flower", that of having been "brought". I am, alas, a little more sure of not being able to come to Saint-Germain and I think that this assurance will give you a better night's sleep than a sachet of veronal. If you would like me to send Princesse Murat to see you I am sure she would be delighted. But I don't think you have any need of me for that! Please accept and pass on to M. Straus my very grateful respects.

Marcel Proust.

 


CV

[Spring 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am adding a post-script to my letter. Solicitors, the ones who are attending to matters like R.G. Lévy, are always thoughtless people, who use the telephone, typewriters in which they have an absolute but misplaced trust. Don't you think that to ask this of them would be to draw their attention which clearly cannot cause any serious inconvenience but could cause disruptions for me etc.? Clearly to "draw their attention" is not entirely accurate, because the Comptoir d'Escomte, I suppose, has had to take account of the proceedings, and the solicitor's books on the other hand must contain the details. But in the end isn't it simply renewing attention at a bad moment? If one only talks to R.G. Lévy and no-one else, he will want his name kept out of it, and could take steps without consulting me, which will make things more complicated. I am deferring all these objections to you by asking you above all not to tire yourself by replying to me. Decide yourself, as you did with the carpets! Alas when I tell you that "I don't want to tire you", I realize that I am tiring you and I am sad about that. The mistake has been in starting to talk to you about all this, and in your too great kindness. Take some rest, recover your health.

   Your respectful and grateful

Marcel Proust.

 


CVI

[Spring 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   You are leaving! That is "the greatest misfortune for the one who stays behind". Absence will not break "the mysterious threads which bind my heart". "Thread" leads me, little by little, to ask you what is to become of the carpets in all this? To take them back would be very inconvenient for me; where could I put them? You grieve me by leaving this burden behind. It doesn't enchant me to "let them go" for three thousand francs, as they are worth much more. But that seems to me to be the only practical solution, since you have a buyer, and once you have left you won't be able to look for another one, and I can hardly look for one myself from my bed, not even when I go out at midnight. So the best thing (even though it is against my Own Good) will be to let them go for four thousand francs, to your friend M. J. Donc if that is your opinion, do it, to spare me having to make a decision; it is not only going out (and more especially going out to visit) it is still being undecided, which is killing me little by little. I am concerned that M. Straus is still unwell. And even more so because as soon as he is unwell you get ill because you take on the role of nurse. Princesse Murat asked me whether you were going to be at home on Sunday. I told her that you were leaving; if you are still going to be here perhaps you could telephone her. I hope that the change of air helps M. Straus to recover, and he recovers quickly. I will also be able to bring you both what I hope you will accept, while looking forward to what I really hope for, my respectful and grateful thanks.

Marcel Proust.

 


CVII

[14 or 15 June 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   The day before yesterday I had sent for news of you and M. Straus from rue Miromesnil, and then last night I heard the terrible news.1 I hesitated to write to you, remembering the death of Hervieu and the precautions that had to be taken before giving you the news. In the end I sent somebody round to your house. Your concierge said that you knew the bad news and that it had not been possible to hide it from you. And my pain was so deep, I who had always known Pozzi, who saw him when he came to dine at the house when I was fifteen years old, who dined out in town for the first time at his house in the place Vendôme (besides you will remember that it was at the house that you met him, and it was I who he had charged with asking if he could come to visit you, at the same time you must have seen him at the duchesse de Richelieu's - or at the duchesse de Rivoli's -). Yes, I was saying, if my pain was so deep, it was surpassed by the worry of how much pain such an awful end for such a great friend could cause you. There is no chance of me coming to Saint-Germain; I have been refused all safe conduct, and in any case you would not receive me as my visit would be even more of a fatigue to you. And yet I suffer from being far away from you at such times. In the first moment, even before the sadness, the awful singularity of the event made me think of those ruined towns like Soissons which were the pillars between which the battles unfolded; and in much the same way as after the death of Calmette, an innocent victim and as though mysteriously sacrificed, one sensed the coming of war; it made one wonder whether after the death of Pozzi there wasn't going to be Peace; if they haven't been the twin bloody pillars which bound the start and finish of the war. Alas I am not thinking about these absurd conjectures now, but about his kindness, his intelligence, his talent, his beauty, of everything the veneration of which constantly sustained in me in the old days and of which I spoke with you about, then about my brother who adored and worshipped Pozzi, then above all about our meetings at your house. I am writing a long letter to his son. As for his wife I am hesitating, I don't know to what extent exactly they were separated, never having wanted to ask questions or to hear any gossip about such delicate questions. So that I don't know at all. Dear Madame Straus, I who am always in your heart in my imagination cannot tell you how much all these blows it suffers upset me. And allow me to say as well that if I find that you are too far away from me at Saint-Germain, at the same time I think that you are a little bit too close to the Germans; and as you have Trouville, Pau, Biarritz, Monte-Carlo to choose from why don't you go there? Is M. Straus not sufficiently recovered to make the journey? In that case would you like me to install myself at Saint-Germain with him so that you could go to the Midi or Trouville? But I know perfectly well that I could not replace you in any way. How happy I would be in my grief all the same to know that you were a little further away. Please accept my very great respects and very deep sympathy.

Marcel Proust.

 

1. Professor Pozzi was murdered late at night on 13 June 1918.


CVIII

[31 July 1918.1]

Dear Madame Straus

   I haven't written back to you since the death of poor Pozzi and yet one must talk about these losses because we think about them all the time. I was intending to go to Cabourg. Your concierge told me that you had left Saint-Germain for Trouville and that you were not considering coming back. So I thought that we would be able to talk face to face about everything which has happened so abruptly. The countryside around Trouville it seems to me has no need to forcibly express a grossly material happiness, a Maupassant-like gaiety. Nature is supple, it yields to sadness. I have seen your dwelling place's birth, growth and seen it become more and more lovely. I see you still in the former Manoir de la Cour brûlée (how I would love to know the meaning of that name) of poor Mme Aubernon for whom Pozzi was so good until the last. But that is why Céleste (Albaret's wife) has had to go to her house and won't be coming back for ten days; I am beginning to think that under the circumstances I will not leave Paris and at any event I am writing to you to tell you that I think of you and M. Straus constantly. I would like to be able to give you some snippets of news from Paris, other than what you read in the papers, things which you should be told about (such as the abandonment of the marital home by Mme A...). But I go out so rarely, and even then when I do go out it is usually to dine alone at the restaurant at the Ritz, so that I speak to nobody and have nothing to tell you about, other than endless observations such as we make between us and which would need a whole book. However I did dine in town three or four times and came across some of your friends from the past who have turned into different people, a Duc de Gramont, huge, venerable and white haired with a much younger woman (it is true that she is not the same one; and perhaps it is her extreme youth which has aged him so much), the Castellanes who I persist in thinking of as young people and yet they have sons in the war; Mme de F... devoted to disavowals since she must now renounce Austria, as in days gone by, during the Dreyfus affair she did with Judaism. M. de Gramont told me that he had lost three nephews in the war (one of whom was princesse Wagram's son who drowned and who discovered, which is a great mercy, a natural son who is going to inherit from him). But nothing is comparable to the sadness of the poor Reszke's. You who know how she raised and cared for her son, you can appreciate how much of a severance it is for her. I hope that the success of our counter-offensive brings you a little hope. But I really want to know about the state of both of your health, as I wait for the moment when I shall see you again which I have waited for so impatiently. Please accept Madame, and ask M. Straus to accept my deep affection and grateful respects.

Marcel Proust.

   If you ever write back to me you would be doing me a great kindness if you could tell me the name of the servant who looked after my carpets.- Reinach (being kinder in this than Bernstein and Hermant from whom I asked some insignificant favours and who have not even replied to me) wrote me a very affectionate letter. But as the heart has its reasons which one's reason doesn't understand I prefer Bernstein and Hermant all the same. I have been told that Reinach keeps the corrected proofs of all his articles and gives them away as New Year presents. Despite being a less fecund journalist I regret not having had as much foresight. Because I have been asked to produce a book of a collection of my articles. But I don't possess a single one of them, and I think that the Figaro hasn't kept them. That brings back thoughts of Calmette and through him we come back to Pozzi. Such unhappy chains of memory! The grief that my brother has felt over the death of Pozzi is of such violence that I was taken by surprise at his house. Because of this he writes to me from time to time and always to tell me of his desolation over the death of his unfortunate patron.

 

1. Date of postmark.

 


CX

[19 October 1918.1]

Dear Madame Straus

   There is no need for me to number the pages because I am so ill that I cannot write very much. I am extremely sad to hear that you have had to take to your bed again on your return to Saint-Germain. Doctor Williams had found you well at Deauville, but he probably only concerns himself with the teeth. And M. Straus still sick as well, it is mortifying! As for the Saint-Simon, remember, you could not be in it for the very reason you named. But I don't think that what I say could displease you. If I can get the proofs I will send them to you. Actually I talk about a lot of other people but don't say very nice things about them, apart from Montesquiou and Guiche. You bring up one of my scruples when you mentioned princesse Lucien Murat (who always talks to me about you when I see her). This scruple (which I particularly beg you not to mention to her) arises from this. I never write ill of people I know. And of course I haven't written a disobliging word about someone who has always been kind (and more) to me. But I don't feel any obligation towards the other Murats, whose house I have only visited for dinner-parties of 2,000 people, and who I don't know. Now their pretensions are such exact transpositions of the "foreign princes" of Saint-Simon, who want to "usurp" the dukes that my pastiche has turned out on account of these things and through pure literary necessity as a full-frontal attack against the Murats (only between ourselves I beg you). But I don't feel any remorse about it (apart from on princesse Joachim's account who has lost a son and a son-in-law in the war and who wrote me a very moving letter). But without whispering a word of my intentions (with regard to the Murats) to princesse Lucien (Marie) I have realized that she was not totally indifferent to the Murats' situation. So I told her without mentioning the theme (she knows about my intention to write a Saint-Simon pastiche but not that I mention the Murats in it) that I would soon need to have an interview with her. Here's why. You would ask me to suppress my pastiche on you in order that my pastiche would hold good. On the contrary the pretensions of the Murats recalled by ten reprises, make up the very plot of the pastiche, so that to suppress them would be to destroy it. An interview in which I could give her no satisfaction (satisfaction which I don't need to give her, because nothing is aimed at her) could only end in disaster. I shall probably do this: in venting Saint-Simon's rage against the Murats I shall add a few friendly words for princesse Marie (who I find charming anyway and it gives me no pleasure to speak ill of her). I think that when she reads them in the book (in any case it will be just a single sentence) she will be pleased. If she isn't and sides with the Murats I will tell her that she is making fun of it, and if that doesn't suffice I will make fun of the whole thing. But I beg you not a word about the Saint-Simon to anybody. - I am only telling what I think, but I think about you twenty times a day. And with such tenderness! Please share with M. Straus this token of my most respectful and grateful affection.

Marcel Proust.

1. Date of postmark.

 


CXI

[11 November 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   We have thought about the war together too much for us not to share a tender word with each other on the night of Victory, happy because of it, melancholy because of those we have loved and who will not see it. What a marvellous allegro presto in this finale after all the slowness at the start and everything which followed after. What dramaturge that Destiny or that man has been the instrument of! I would have written to you on the night of the Armistice even if I hadn't anything to ask you. But as it turns out I have a multitude of things to ask you. First of all I would like to disencumber you of my carpets, and also to sell them for diverse reasons of which this is one. Recently my barber told me that his brother needed some carpets, and so that he could have a look at mine, wanting to save you the trouble of writing to me, I had word sent to your concierge asking if it would be possible for them to be viewed. Well the brother of the barber (at least I think that he was the one who the barber sent a few days after Céleste went to see the concierge) said that the carpets did not fit his requirements (in any case he is an imbecile and doesn't even know the names of the different types of carpet) and that they were all moth-eaten. So now I am in even more of a hurry to sell them while they are still all in one piece. Plenty of people who I told that you were being kind enough to look after them wanted to go to see them. Princesse Soutzo would like to send the Minister for Greece, who it turns out is a great connoisseur; Lucien Daudet wants to send Flament. But as M. Sibilat specifically wants to have them sold to the Hôtel des Ventes and since on the other hand I have an overflowing dining-room which is a furniture store for mirrored wardrobes, nice leather chairs, chandeliers etc. buried under dust, which I never make use of, but which I could make very good use of right now if I can get a good price for them and which are entirely suitable for the Hôtel des Ventes, the best thing, if M. Sibilat agrees, would be that without delay on the one hand he makes a sale of the carpets, and on the other if he would like to send a lorry and some workmen (you can tell me how much I should give them) to remove them from my dining-room one afternoon which he should fix with me, and as late as possible in the afternoon. I am hoping that the quantity will compensate for the quality, which is mediocre, and the increase in price of certain articles such as leather and crystal would maybe help them to fetch a good price. I have absolutely no idea whether bronzes have any sale value whatsoever. If they do I will clear my room of the ones I don't like. Lastly I have a vast quantity of silverware which I never use since I either take my meals at the Ritz or else I just drink coffee in bed. You tell me whether I ought to include it with all the rest. I know that when I started I wanted to ask you still more things which, however purely material, bring us back through some connection to the sublime Peace. But I don't know what momentary blank has formed in my memory while I have been writing to you, but I have completely forgotten what it is. I think that you are no longer in Saint-Germain and I was going to visit you, if I had got over a sort of flu which I don't think is contagious, but because of my uncertainty I preferred not to pass on to you. In any case I don't think that there was the slightest risk there. It is scarcely more than a slight cough. Only I know how susceptible you are to throat infections and how M. Straus has been ill for such a long time that I would be mortified if I passed a cold on to either of you (even if I was positively suffering from cold and flu myself). I say that I think you are back from Saint-Germain, but I only half wish it. No doubt for you who are such a profound observer and portraitist of the Crowd, these days which evoke the Revolution which we did not know, and the 14th of July, must be fascinating. But however great our happiness over this immense and unexpected victory, we weep so much for the dead that some forms of gaiety are not the forms of celebration which we should prefer. In spite of ourselves we think of Hugo's verse:

Happiness, sweet friend, is a solemn thing.
And joy is closer to tears than laughter...

(I am not sure that it is "sweet friend", it is in the last scene of Hernani.) In any case you know very well that I would not permit myself to say such things to you yourself, I merely quote them to you. Being less timid Reinach would be able to address them to you. No doubt you recall Mounet-Sully saying them sweetly to Doña Sol. It is to another poet, Musset, that my haste to receive the money from my carpets, old furniture and silverware makes me turn and necessity which drives me:

My pocket is like a steep and borderless isle,
One would not be able to return to it when one is outside;
To the merest broken thread the skein unravels,
Deadly temptation and all the more treacherous,
As I had through all times the sacred horror of emptiness
And as after the battle I dream of all my deaths.
(Musset, Une Bonne Fortune.)

   To finish on the subject of great writers, you know that you figure in my Saint-Simon, I think that you will be pleased with that part, which I hope moreover to finalize in the proofs. Certain people will be less pleased such as the princesse Murat, the duchesse de Montmorency, M. de Flers, the Spanish Infanta etc. But you must keep all this secret. It will be enough to receive all the ill feeling afterwards. Beforehand, that will prevent it all.

   Please accept, Madame, for M. Straus and for yourself my highest respects of grateful and ardent affection.

Marcel Proust.

   If the carpets have to be sold separately and not with the dining-room contents (which is not so much a dining-room as a furniture store), the soonest opportunity will be best. Besides, as for the dining-room contents, if it is acceptable by M. Sibilat, he has only to name me the day and I will leave everything ready to be taken off. I have given what was in the bedrooms and the coach-house to the refugees.

 


CXII

[November 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   In your fairy palace of weariness and glory where you are like Sleeping Beauty, you are now, half opening your beautiful eyes and resting your beautiful hands on the writing paper which are so much a language in themselves that they affirm Mme de Thèbes - you are now troubling yourself again since I saw one of the people sent by M. Sibilat, M. Mortier about whose visit it will be easier for me to relate to you face to face. In practical terms the result of his visit, where he valued everything which I didn't want to sell rather highly, is that he advised me to have everything ugly taken off, as if he had discovered a few pretty things but which it is impossible to discern amid the confusion of my dining-room, to the Hôtel des Ventes and to direct them to M. Lair-Dubreuil. As I was speaking about the latter's fees he told me that that did not matter as he would get a percentage of the sale. As I am forced to get up on Saturday perhaps they could send me the men with transport on that day, enough men so that they won't have to come until half past 2 and tell me what I should give them so as they will agree to do everything in one visit should they have to stay until seven o'clock in the evening. And lastly should somebody accompany them who can account for all the things so that everything arrives safely at the Hôtel des Ventes and nothing gets lost on the way. If I sell the nice things next I shall do it without you, because the thought of your fatigue only adds to mine, which is just torture. Perhaps Saturday is too imminent, in which case we should look for a day the following week or even Monday when I will doubtlessly not be getting up, having got up on the Saturday, but which would be quite suitable. M. Mortier told me that according to M. Sibilat my Smyrna carpet would not be sold for less than a certain sum per metre (I forget the sum but M. Mortier said that it would make close to 4,000 francs for the one carpet). Not now but eighteen years ago la Place Clichy valued it at a minimum of 1,000 francs. In any case leave it to M. Lair-Dubreuil. That carpet (and also the Wiltons) is a nuisance to you, and because of that they have become an obsession with me as they are of no use to me if I take them back whereas the money they fetch would be extremely useful to me, and M. Mortier said that I should profit by what is selling well at the moment and not wait.
   You were talking to me about old Persian carpets. I have a very large one here, very beautiful, which my father brought back from Persia when he was there on a mission in 1859. But I will deal with that separately because it is still down and it would be better not to delay so I can get rid of the others.
I still don't have the proofs from the pastiche in which I mention you, and which I could only lend you for one day anyhow. In any case I scarcely mention you (relatively scarcely because I think it takes up one page) but in the appropriate manner I think and in the same manner I often use in society when I am talking about you. Less disabusing of the vanities where it concerns you than you are yourself, I rather like to dazzle those people of the Harcourt, Boisgelin, your Arenberg etc. circle who you have never had the occasion to see, by showing them the kings and queens laying siege to your door which you keep closed in order to try to sleep. And I have tried to show that in the Saint-Simon pastiche by saying that princesses of the blood go to your house without you disturbing yourself by returning their visits (as much as I can remember these lines which were already written quite a long time ago and I don't have a duplicate) that under the pretext of illness in a reversal of privilege you do not see the Dauphine to the door (the duchesse de Bourgogne) when she comes to see you. None of this is expanded upon of course, you appreciate how little space one has in a pastiche, so much the more as all the artistic reasons force one to give most of it (because of the space) to names from the seventeenth century. Without that it would not be a Saint-Simon pastiche. But as I intend to write some longer pieces about you (and which would be about the essence of your character) it hasn't amused me any the less, by waiting, to let you see yourself in this oblique way, amid this Louis XIV crowd. How I would like you and M. Straus to be finally completely recovered! But I feel as though I myself am on the point of falling ill this evening; and I am so sad, so disheartened that perhaps it is for the best; that doesn't prevent me looking for opportunities for sadness; and perhaps I shall resign myself to ignoring the things which cause me pain, by leading a more apparently unhealthy life, in reality more healthy, a life reproached by others, regretted by me, in former times. Please accept, Madame, and pass on to M. Straus my deep respects.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXIII

[November 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am in despair that you have been suffering, you have no idea how much I think about you. I assume that you have unhooked the telephone so as not to be disturbed, because Céleste has only had about one reply out of ten. And I don't come so as to leave you in peace. I don't want to bore you to death with the tale of my carpets, we will talk about the triple misunderstanding another time. But if you get in touch with M. Lair-Dubreuil tell him that he would be doing me a great kindness by selling the carpets and Wiltons at the "best price", as they say in the Stock Exchange, as soon as he can. I know that reading is just as tiring for you as writing. So it not through curtness, it is out of respect for your rest that I don't tell you of my thousand infinitely tender feelings and grateful respect.

Marcel Proust.

   I have just now received word from M. Sibilat who doesn't reply to my letter but asks me on which day he can come and see me at half past 2. I am going to reply that that is an hour when it is very difficult for me to accept even my own company. I would be able make the days when he certainly couldn't. But now I am going to rest for a few days. I'll write to him again afterwards. Perhaps also without offending him I could have it done by somebody else, if less well. - What I want is for you to be finally well again. What sadness it is to feel the whole time the suffering of one who one loves like oneself, but I must say more than that as I hardly love myself. I know that I don't console you in your woes in the slightest by telling you that I suffer on my side. My health is rather less bad, but I have embarked upon sentimental affairs without issue, without joy, and the perpetual authors of weariness, suffering and absurd expense. - I hope that M. Straus is better. Perhaps even you yourself are well at the time I am writing. But I end up asking myself whether "being well" is something that can never happen to those who deserve it.

 


CXIV

[13 November 1918.]

Dear Madame

   What a beautiful letter! But it makes me suffer when I think about the effort of writing the words and gathering your thoughts. Thank you a thousand times over for the evaluator. As regards M. Sibilat I am going to write him that they can come to see my shabby dusty mess of a dining-room on Saturday to leave at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I went out a little while ago and returned very ill, which makes me think that on Thursday or Friday it will be essential that I take my fumigations. I don't want to say that I shall be up on Saturday, but Céleste can easily show around whoever comes, and he will be doing me a great kindness if he doesn't tell her the valuations, especially if they are low. I will explain why. -

........1

   Your evocation of Shakespeare in relation to the present tragedy is so profound and is so imbued with a great literary tradition that it immediately brings to mind Sainte-Beuve's calling your father the greatest scholar of his time and this scholar's having been permanent secretary of the Institute. Only in plays of Shakespeare does one see all the events culminating in a single scene: Wilhelm II: 'I abdicate.' The King of Bavaria: 'I am the heir of the most ancient race in the world, I abdicate.' The Crown Prince cries out, signs his abdication, his soldiers assassinate him. One must not recriminate against Destiny, particularly when the delayed action of clockwork, which had seemed motionless for four years, gives us this final shower of triumphs. Still I, who am so much the friend of peace because I experience man's suffering too deeply, I believe, just the same, that since we wanted a total victory and a hard peace, it would have been better had it been a little harder.
   I prefer, among all the different kinds of peace, those which leave no bitterness in anyone's heart. But since we are not dealing with that kind of peace, since it will perpetuate the desire for revenge, it might then have been wise to make it impossible. Perhaps it is being done. However, I find President Wilson pretty gentle, and since there is no question of a conciliatory peace, and never could have been, through Germany's own fault, I should have liked more rigorous terms; I am a little afraid of German Austria's coming to fill out Germany as a compensation for the possible loss of Alsace-Lorraine. But these are only suppositions and perhaps I am mistaken, and we already have a lot to be thankful for as things stand. General Gallifet said of General Roget: 'He talks well, but he talks too much.' President Wilson doesn't talk very well, but he talks a great deal too much; there are times in the lives of nations, as in the lives of men (I have, alas, had occasion to apply this to myself), when the right motto is de Vigny's verse: 'Only silence is great, all else is weakness.' You know that is in 'The Death of the Wolf', and you remember all those bloody and stoical verses. But I myself have now been too long unfaithful to the law of silence, which must also be your doctor's prescription, and I must have tired you. So I bid you adieu, begging you to accept and to share with M. Straus my expressions of respectful, grateful, and ardent devotion.

Marcel Proust.

1. The last part of this letter was translated by Mina Curtiss, Letters of Marcel Proust, Chatto & Windus 1950, letter no 188.


CXV

[about November 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   How good and delightful you are to have arranged everything so well! The end of the nightmare of the carpets is a deliverance for me because I know it is just as much for you. And I might add that I am far from indifferent to the three thousand francs! The sale was carried out perfectly (like everything you do) and fills me with gratitude and satisfaction. I don't want to tire you by writing at length, and in any case I will be prevented from doing so, because Céleste really is a bit foolish (she had three thousand things to ask of you on my behalf the other day - not three thousand francs! - and forgot everything!) and has left me this evening with an almost dry ink-stand and I don't know where to find the ink. However I would like to say a few words about the Pastiches. I am going to soften, since you tell me that it would displease you to be portrayed as a haughty Vasthi. I am going to ask for the special proofs of my toned down version and I will submit them to you. Only then, because of the unheard of difficulties which I am having with the printers, I will not be able to do more than ask you one thing: accept the passage as it is or refuse the whole thing. I don't believe I will be able to redo the corrections. In any case you would have the proofs, if possible I will still change it, if that is impossible and you are not pleased with the toned down version, I can always cut out that passage. These are the difficulties because at the same time as they are working on the second volume of Swann I give them a volume of pastiches instead of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of Swann which are all ready. As nearly all their workers had been mobilized, the Nouvelle Revue Française (my publishers) has taken two printers for me, and at the same time has abandoned the Swann series. But all this is far too boring. Tell M. Straus that I have freed him from the drudgery of my cheque as the money from the carpets is enough! You may remember perhaps that he had agreed to take it back to the Palais again, from the hands of my solicitor. I had it taken back by Céleste quite simply, and it was done in the wink of an eye. I dined with eighteen people this evening which will explain to you my abruptness to some extent. As soon as I have the proofs I will send them to you and until then please share with M. Straus the acknowledgement of all my gratitude and my most lively and respectful affection.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXVI

[November - December 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am writing you a couple of lines in the middle of a terrible asthma attack to ask you if this toned down version, which I've had Céleste copy out, can go ahead. Unfortunately I am obliged to return the proofs immediately, the correction of which was delayed by a bad laryngitis which I have had, and I am distressed to ask you once again to go to the trouble of replying to me. But you have only to send me back the text with these words (which you could get your valet to write) "can go ahead" (at least I hope you will come to that judgement). I would prefer you not to tell Montesquiou beforehand that I mention him, because even though it is (in my intention) more than kindly he will come to Paris to enquire about it etc. and I am already so tired. Please accept and share with M. Straus my lively and affectionate respects and gratitude.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXVII

Saturday [November-December 1918.]

Dear Madame Straus

   Thank you with all my heart for your authorization. It gives me such great pleasure to put that passage in my pastiches, which from another point of view bore me so much because of the purely literary necessity which forces me to speak ill of the Murats, the Fels, the Cambacérès, the duchesse de Montmorency etc. At least about you I only say things... however inadequate (the exact passage which Céleste copied out word for word). The pleasure which your letter gave me was marred, a few hours later, by a vexation which you will appreciate. Without warning me my aunt has sold the house where I live; as I have no lease the new landlord might eject me, and in any case because of a verbal agreement with my aunt, which she has neglected to transfer to him, whereby I haven't had to pay my rent since 1916 until I can cash my 30,000 franc cheque, any day now I am going to have to pay my arrears to the new landlord, about twenty thousand francs in one go, which is not particularly easy to get hold of right now! I am immediately setting about proceeding with the sale of more furniture, but this time, don't worry, I won't trouble you, I have sent my tapestries, armchairs etc. to my friend's house, M. Walter Berry, who is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce, and who is going to take care of the sale as he takes care of all my troubles and everything which exhausts me and which multiply on every side, with his untiring goodness. What makes it even more kind of him is that I only got to know him through "Swann", that is to say not very long ago. The only thing which I might ask of M. Straus is this: I have had my infamous cheque recovered, so as not to trouble him, and I have had it re-endorsed in my name by M. Raphaël Georges Lévy. M. Straus told me that the simplest means of cashing it would probably be through the Rothschild bank. Perhaps, with his favour (or through Guiche if it is a nuisance for M. Straus, although I think that Guiche might have too little authority to do it) they would consent to discount it (I use the word even though I don't know exactly what it means, probably that they buy it at less than its value). Its value is 30,000 francs plus five year's interest (because the reason that the Comptoir d'Escompte haven't paid R. G. Lévy is that it doesn't have the stock). Consequently the delay is the fault of Warburg who sent the cheque without depositing the money (which I think makes it close to 40,000 francs). You would be doing me a great kindness if you don't speak ill of my aunt who has acted very badly, but initially towards whom I feel some remorse for having been impolite. Then as I learned that she had made reductions for the other tenants because of the war, which she had not done for me, there is still a chance (although very improbable) that she will ask the new landlord not to demand more from me than she did from the other tenants (apart from Williams who I don't think she had made any reductions for), this chance will evaporate if she discovers friends who I care for as much as you are speaking badly about her... I have just received from her in response to a letter in which I asked her if it was really true etc. a "masterpiece" of a reply in which she tells me that she prefers the "sweet name of aunt to that of landlady" and that if my health were improved and we could get to see each other again, her decision would be the better in that we would talk about nothing but literature and not mention the house! - This makes me think that I only ever talk to you about the most boring things! Whatever you do don't reply. I have only told you all this to give you some idea of my terrible worries, at a time when, delayed in my work by laryngitis, I receive entreaties from my editor to hurry. But none of this makes work easy! Please accept, Madame, and share with M. Straus my most affectionate, grateful and fervent respects.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXVIII

8 bis, rue Laurent-Pichat
[11 July 1919.
1]

Dear Madame Straus

   Your delightful letter distressed me at first sight and above all because you tell me about the state of your health. And then what do you mean to say by "toned down". I haven't changed a single comma in the portrait I did of you and had submitted to you. Perhaps in the page which follows it I might have brought it forward a little so that it is in the middle of yours, the part about Mme Standish, but that is to show the elegance of your circle to better advantage. One thing that you said makes me think that you are alluding to "at the end of the meal etc.2" So not only is that identical to what I sent you (or else in that case I copied the section that I had finished inexactly, but in that case it is the good version which was printed), but do you not know that "in the end" in Saint-Simon does not have the literal sense but means: "it soon happened that". Like in the portrait of the Infanta: "In the end he endured the disgust of it etc." Now I don't think that the Infanta was more than twenty nine or thirty years old at the time, and it was some years previously that he endured this "disgust". I took it upon myself to speak about your health in order to show that you make a pretext of it by letting the duchesse de Bourgogne come without showing her out etc. There is no toning down. It was you who initially wanted it toned down before I submitted the text to you. The text which I sent you a few months ago was therefore a toned down text, but it was identical (apart from any errors in the copying) to the text as it was printed. Please accept, Madame, and have M. Straus accept, my very grateful and very ardent respects and affection.

Marcel Proust.

1. Date of postmark.

2. Pastiches et mélanges
"Montesquiou... Having spent his youth among the highest society, his mature years amongst poets, was easily comfortable with both, he feared nobody and lived in a solitude which he made more and more strict by every old friend whom he banished. He was close to those such as Mme Straus, daughter and widow of the famous musicians Halévy and Bizet, wife of Emile Straus, barrister to the court of Aides, whose wonderful rejoinders were remembered by all. Her appearance had remained charming and would have been sufficient even without her wit to win over all those who flocked around her. Is was she who on one occasion in the chapel at Versailles, where she kept her hassock, when M. de Noyon whose language was always so exaggerated and so far removed from the everyday asked her if she did not think that the music which they could hear appeared octagonal, replied to him: "Oh Monsieur, that's just what I was going to say!" as if to somebody who had pronounced before everybody something naturally witty.
It would take a whole book if one were to put down everything said by her and which deserves not to be forgotten. Her health had always been delicate. She had profited by this well by excusing herself from the Marlys, the Meudons, not making her court with the king but very rarely, where she was always received alone and with great esteem. The fruits and waters which she took at all times to a surprising extent, with no liqueurs or chocolate, had flooded her stomach, which Fagon preferred not to notice since it was abating. He denounced all those who gave out remedies or who had not been received into the Faculty as charlatans and because of this he dismissed a Swiss who would have been able to cure her. In the end, as her stomach was unused to rich food, her body unused to sleep and long walks she turned this weariness into a distinction. Mme the duchess de Bourgogne was coming to visit her and did not want to be escorted any further than the first room. She received duchesses, sitting down, who visited her all the same as it was such a delight to listen to her. Montesquiou was not sparing."

 


CXIX

[25 December 1919.]
44, rue Hamelin

Madame,

   I haven't had the strength to write letters, I have been dictating; this has been much more agreeable for the recipients because since I have not been able to write they have been able to read me. But after dictating several letters I found yours and then another; I said to myself: it is too idiotic not to reply "by hand". So if I am illegible do not reproach me, it is through scruple and predilection. But I hope my scruples abate, Because I have eight hundred letters I haven't replied to; I certainly have no intention of writing myself. You say that your typewriter is out of order, but even that is so prettily expressed that it proves that it is not out of order at all. I would really like to see you, to see you, to find out how one can express oneself so well, what treatment you are undergoing, if you are able to sleep without Veronal when I take a gramme and a half every day and don't sleep. Sadly on the rare days when I am able to get up it is not until eleven o'clock at night, and no doubt your treatment forces you to go to bed before nine. This alternation in our lives, when mine extinguished any hope of a coincidence between us long ago, is frightful. I would very much like M. Straus to tell me when I should sell my Royal Dutch and Mexican Eagle. When I sold my seventy Royal Dutch in 1913 I kept about four of them, I don't know why. Now these four have become eleven due to successive sets of issues and each one is worth 33,000 francs. If they are going to fall it would be best to "take it for better or worse", but above all don't write to me about it. It seems to me that one can hold on to those which are going up so much without any risk. If you see Ganderax would you be good enough to tell him that his gift touched me deeply but as I have no idea of his address I can't write to thank him?

   I have given up every scrap of my strength to you since eight o'clock, and I am wondering if I will be able to hold out as far as the signature. Please accept my respects, share them with M. Straus and pass on to Jacques my good wishes.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXX

44, rue Hamelin
(address confidential) [1920.]

Dear Madame Straus

   Alas you have been so ill and I never suspected anything! Perhaps my body, so mysteriously connected with yours ("and we are once again bound together one with the other" even though we have never slept together, nor even at the same hours, and for my part I hardly ever sleep at all) knew, because a 40 degree fever which retrospectively I find quite insufficient followed without my knowing of your terrible 41. I only thought that you were going to be bled, and that afterwards you would want some peace, that my visits and my letters would deprive you of that, moreover I have had one hour of vitality in fifteen (now I understand what you mean when you say "living death"). During the recent awful months, as a consequence of the upheaval of moving house, only one single thing could add to the excessive horror and that would be to know that you are suffering. And through your letter I learn that you are suffering. What a blessing it would be if you were cured! What an equal blessing when you allow me to come and sing alleluia beside you. You have no idea how much you mean to me. My closest friends know. Pierre de Polignac, a charming fellow, said to me when he became engaged to the Prince of Monaco's daughter: "I may also know she who kept her hassock in Versailles and replied so prettily to M. de Noyon." At first I didn't understand that he was referring to you, having forgotten my pastiches which my friends know better than I do. They also discover words of yours in Le Côté de Guermantes which made them laugh so much when I recounted them to them and which I have the duchesse de Guermantes say (whose red shoes you will not see until the second volume), without mentioning your name since you asked me not to put your name into my novels and save it for pastiches and present and future articles. But everybody knows the sayings and will put a name to them. What is troubling me about Le Côté de Guermantes is that it has such an anti-Dreyfusard appearance, purely by chance, simply because of the characters who feature in it. It is true that the next volume is extremely Dreyfusard which will compensate for that, because the prince and princesse de Guermantes are Dreyfusards as is Swann, whereas the duke and duchesse are not. I am talking about myself so naïvely to you. But I am frightened of irritating you by talking to you about yourself. Tell M. Straus who has always been so good to me in my troubles that I am still no further on with my cheque, but that I have discovered twelve Royal Dutch which I didn't know about and which has allowed Céleste some very ugly feathers in her hat. More than anything tell me when I can come and please share with M. Straus my very grateful respects.

Your Marcel.

 


CXXII

[before 23 October 1920.1]

Dear Madame Straus

   A 40 degree fever (which is not contagious) doesn't make writing easy. But I wanted to send you my book before it appears and I didn't want to send it with no explanation (don't give it away because it is a very rare edition despite the arbitrary number of the copy). Everything in it that's witty comes from you. You didn't allow me to put your name to the "sayings" because it was a novel. I shall take my revenge in the second pastiche because you are more tolerant of that "genre". Please don't think that I have become anti-Dreyfusard. I write under the dictates of my characters and as it turns out in this volume many of them are (and were already in 1913, because some short extracts from the book were published then in La Nouvelle Revue Française). Since, to some extent in the following volume, and much more in the one that follows that, my anti-Dreyfusards have become Dreyfusards, and others who we think are anti-Dreyfusards are foolishly Dreyfusards the equilibrium will be re-established. All this is to show you that when I am finally re-established (?) you will find me unchanged. I recommend a delightful article by Léon Daudet which appeared about ten days ago in L'Action Française: A new novel by Marcel Proust. Apart from an unjust phrase relating to Hervieu, which upset me, it will amuse you very much. If you see Montesquiou, who I have also sent my book, please tell him that I have had a 40 degree fever for the past ten days like the King of Greece, and by it actually attacking somebody who lives like the mayor of Cork it could give the impression that I have abandoned him, even though it is the truth. Please, my dear Madame Straus, share with M. Straus my ardent affection and grateful thanks.

Marcel Proust.

1. Madame Straus's reply was dated 23 October 1920.

 


CXXIII

[1921.]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am positively incapable of writing. But have you read Léon Daudet's article (which is a masterpiece) about Carmen in L'Action Française? If you have don't reply. If not I will send you it. If you want to write a note to Léon Daudet he is staying at 31, rue Saint-Guillaume. Share all my respects and gratitude with M. Straus.

Your adoring admirer.

Marcel Proust.

 


CXXIV

[after 15 June 1921.1]

Dear Madame Straus

   I am very late sending you this little note from Léon Daudet to whom I passed on your letter. If you can read it, he writes wonderfully but totally illegibly. "Gracious" shows that I sought and succeeded in giving him pleasure by sending him your charming lines. The terrible state of my health has been the only thing which has prevented me from sending you my friend's respects sooner.

   Please share my grateful respects with M. Straus and accept my tender admiration.

Marcel Proust.

1. Léon Daudet's letter which was enclosed with Marcel Proust's is dated 15 June 1921.


 

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