In Search of Lost Time Page 89

And if, where an inaccurate mode of expression inspired by the writer’s self-esteem is concerned, the straight-ening-out of the oblique inner utterance (which diverges more and more from the original mental impression) until it makes one with the straight line which should have issued from that impression, if that straightening-out is an uneasy process against which our idleness rebels, there are other cases, of love, for instance, where that same straightening-out becomes painful. All our feigned indifferences, all our natural indignation at its inevitable lies, so like our own, in a word, all that we constantly said when we were unhappy or deceived, not only to the being we loved but even to ourselves while awaiting her, sometimes aloud in the silence of our chamber, marked by: “No, really such behaviour is unbearable,” and “I’ve decided to see you for the last time. I can’t deny the pain it causes,” to bring back what was really and truly felt from where it had strayed, is to abolish everything we most clung to, the matter of our passionate self-communion during fevered moments when, face to face with ourselves, we asked what letter we could write, what should be our next step.

Even when we seek artistic delights for the sake of the impression they make on us, we manage quickly to dispense with the impression itself and to fix our attention on that element in it which enables us to experience pleasure without penetrating to its depth, and thinking we can communicate it to others in conversation because we shall be talking to them about something common to them and to us, the personal root impression is eliminated. In the very moments when we are the most disinterested spectators of nature, of society, of love, of art itself — as all impression is two-fold, half-sheathed in the object, prolonged in ourselves by another half which we alone can know — we hasten to neglect the latter, that is to say, the only one on which we should concentrate and fasten merely on the other half which, being unfathomable because it is exterior to ourselves, causes us no fatigue; we consider the effort to perceive the little groove which a musical phrase or the view of a church has hollowed in ourselves too arduous. But we play the symphony over and over again, we go back to look at the church until — in that flight far away from our own life which we have not the courage to face called erudition — we get to know them as well, and in the same way as the most accomplished musical or archaeological amateur. And how many stop at that point, get nothing from their impression, and ageing useless and unsatisfied, remain sterile celibates of art! To them come the same discontents as to virgins and idlers whom the fecundity of labour would cure. They are more exalted when they talk about works of art than real artists, for their enthusiasm, not being an incentive to the hard task of penetrating to the depths, expands outwards, heats their conversation and empurples their faces; they think they are doing something by shrieking at the tops of their voices: “Bravo! Bravo!” after the performance of a composition they like. But these manifestations do not force them to clarify the character of their admiration, so they learn nothing. Nevertheless, this futile admiration overflows in their most ordinary conversation and causes them to make gestures, grimaces and movements of the head when they talk of art: “I was at a concert where they were playing music which I can assure you did not thrill me. Then they began the quartette. Ah! My word! That changed it! (The face of the amateur at that moment expresses anxious apprehension as if he were thinking: ‘I see sparks flying, there’s a smell of burning, there’s a fire!’) Bless my soul! This is maddening! It’s badly composed but it’s flabbergasting! This is no ordinary work.” But laughable as those amateurs may be, they are not altogether to be despised. They are the first attempts of nature to create an artist, as formless and unviable as the antediluvian animals which preceded those of to-day and which were not created to endure. These whimsical and sterile amateurs affect us much as did those first mechanical contrivances which could not leave the earth, in which, though the secret means remained to be discovered, was contained the aspiration of flight. “And, old fellow,” adds the amateur, taking you by the arm, “it’s the eighth time I’ve heard it and I swear to you it won’t be the last.” And in truth since they do not assimilate from art what is really nourishing, they perpetually need artistic stimulus, because they are a prey to a craving which can never be assuaged. So they will go on applauding the same work for a long time to come, believing that their presence is a duty, such as others fulfil at a board-meeting or a funeral. Then come other works whether of literature, of painting or of music which create opposition. For the faculty of starting ideas or systems and above all of assimilating them has always been much more frequent even amongst those who create, than real taste, but has been extended since the reviews, the literary papers, have multiplied (and with them the artificial profession of writers and artists). Thus the best of the young, the most intelligent, the most intense, preferred works of an elevated moral, sociological or religious tendency. They imagined that such considerations constitute the value of a work, thus renewing the error of the Davids, the Chenavards, the Brunetières; they prefer to Bergotte whose lightest phrases really exacted a much deeper return to oneself, writers who seemed more profound only because they wrote less well. The complexity of Bergotte’s writing was only meant for society people, was the comment of these democrats, who thus did society people an honour they did not deserve. But from the moment that works of art are judged by reasoning, nothing is stable or certain, one can prove anything one likes. Whereas the reality of genius is a benefaction, an acquisition for the world at large, the presence of which must first be identified beneath the more obvious modes of thought and style, criticism stops at this point and assesses writers by the form instead of the matter. It consecrates as a prophet a writer who, while expressing in arrogant terms his contempt for the school which preceded him, brings no new message. This constant aberration of criticism has reached a point where a writer would almost prefer to be judged by the general public (were it not that it is incapable of understanding the researches an artist has been attempting in a sphere unknown to it). For there is more analogy between the instinctive life of the public and the genius of a great writer which is itself but instinct, realised and perfected, to be listened to in a religious silence imposed upon all others, than there is in the superficial verbiage and changing criteria of self-constituted judges. Their wrangling renews itself every ten years for the kaleidoscope is not composed only of groups in society but of social, political and religious ideas which obtain a momentary expansion, thanks to their refraction in the masses but survive only so long as their novelty influences minds which exact little in the way of proof. Again, parties and schools succeed each other, always catering to the same mentalities, men of relative intelligence prone to extravagances from which minds more scrupulous and more difficult to convince, abstain. Unhappily, just because the former are only half-minds they require action to complete themselves and as through this they exercise more influence than superior minds, they impose themselves on the mass and create a constituency not merely of unmerited reputations and unjustifiable rancours but also of civil and exterior warfare from which a little self-criticism might have saved them. Now the enjoyment a well-balanced mind, a heart which is really alive, gets from the beautiful thought of a master, is undoubtedly wholesome, but valuable as are those who properly appreciate that thought (how many are there in twenty years?) they are reduced by their very enjoyment to being no more than the enlarged consciousness of another. A man may have done everything in his power to be loved by a woman who would only make him unhappy but has not succeeded, in spite of all his attempts during years, in obtaining an assignation with her. Instead of seeking to express his sufferings and the danger from which he has escaped, he ceaselessly re-reads this thought of Labruyère making it represent a thousand implications and the most moving memories of his own life: “Men often want to love and I do not know how to, they seek defeat without being able to encounter it and, if I may say so, are forced to remain free.” Whether this thought had this meaning or not for him who wrote it (for it to have that meaning he ought to have said “to be loved” instead of “to love” and it would have been more beautiful), it is certain that this sensitive man of letters endows the thought with life, swells it with significance until it bursts within him and he cannot repeat it without a feeling of immense satisfaction, so completely true and beautiful does it seem to him, although, after all, he has added nothing to it and it remains simply a thought of Labruyère.

How can a literature of notations have any value since it is beneath the little things it notes that the reality exists (the grandeur in the distant sound of an aeroplane, in the outline of the belfry of Saint-Hilaire, the past in the savour of a madeleine) these being without significance in themselves if one does not disengage it from them. Accumulated little by little in the memory, the chain of all the obscure impressions where nothing! of what we actually experienced remains, constitutes our thought, our life, reality and it is that lie which a so-called “lived art” would only reproduce, an art as crude as life, without beauty, a reproduction so wearisome and futile of what our eyes have seen and our intelligence has observed, that one asks oneself how he who makes that his aim can find in it the exultant stimulus which gives zest to work. The grandeur of veritable art, to the contrary of what M. de Norpois called “a dilettante’s amusement”, is to recapture, to lay hold of, to make one with ourselves that reality far removed from the one we live in, from which we separate ourselves more and more as the knowledge which we substitute for it acquires a greater solidity and impermeability, a reality we run the risk of never knowing before we die but which is our real, our true life at last revealed and illumined, the only life which is really lived and which in one sense lives at every moment in all men as well as in the artist. But they do not see it because they do not seek to illuminate it. And thus their past is encumbered with innumerable “negatives” which remain useless because the intelligence has not “developed” them. To lay hold of our life; and also the life of others; for a writer’s style and also a painter’s are matters not of technique but of vision. It is the revelation, impossible by direct and conscious means, of the qualitative difference there is in the way in which we look at the world, a difference which, without art, would remain for ever each man’s personal secret. By art alone we are able to get outside ourselves, to know what another sees of this universe which for him is not ours, the landscapes of which would remain as unknown to us as those of the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied and as many original artists as there are, so many worlds are at our disposal, differing more widely from each other than those which roll round the infinite and which, whether their name be Rembrandt or Ver Meer, send us their unique rays many centuries after the hearth from which they emanate is extinguished. This labour of the artist to discover a means of apprehending beneath matter and experience, beneath words, something different from their appearance, is of an exactly contrary nature to the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit are constantly engaged within us when we spend our lives without self-communion, accumulating as though to hide our true impressions, the terminology for practical ends which we falsely call life. In short, this complex art is precisely the only living art. It alone expresses for others and makes us see, our own life, that life which cannot observe itself, the outer forms of which, when observed, need to be interpreted and often read upside down, in order to be laboriously deciphered. The work of our pride, our passion, our spirit of imitation, our abstract intelligence, our habits must be undone by art which takes the opposite course and returning to the depths where the real has its unknown being, makes us pursue it. It is, of course, a great temptation to recreate true life, to renew impressions. But courage of all kinds is required, even sentimental courage. For it means above all, abrogating our most cherished illusions, ceasing to believe in the objectivity of our own elaborations and, instead of soothing ourselves for the hundredth time with the words “she was very sweet”, reading into them “I liked kissing her”. Of course what I had experienced in hours of love every other man experiences. But what one has experienced is like certain negatives which show black until they are placed under a lamp and they too must be looked at from the back; we do not know what a thing is until we have approached it with our intelligence. Only when the intelligence illuminates it, when it has intellectualised it, we distinguish, and with how much difficulty, the shape of that which we have felt, and I realised also that the suffering I had formerly experienced with Gilberte in realising that our love has nothing to do with the being who inspires it, is salutary as a supplementary aid to knowledge. (For, however short a time our life may last it is only while we are suffering that our thoughts, in a constant state of agitation and change, cause the depths within us to surge as in a tempest to a height where we see that they are subject to laws which, until then, we could not observe, because the calm of happiness left those depths undisturbed. Perhaps only in the case of a few great geniuses is it possible for this movement to be constantly felt without their suffering turmoil and sadness; but again it is not certain, when we contemplate the spacious and uniform development of their serene achievements that we are not too much taking for granted that the buoyancy of the work implies that of its creator, who perhaps, on the contrary, was continuously unhappy.) But principally because if our love is not only for a Gilberte, what gives us so much pain is not that it is also the love of an Albertine but because it is a more durable part of our soul than the various selves which successively die in us, each of which would selfishly retain it, a part of our soul which must, whatever the pain, detach itself from those beings so that we should understand and constitute their generality and impart the meaning of that love to all men, to the universal consciousness and not to one woman, then to another with which first one, then another of our successive selves has desired to unite.

It was, therefore, necessary for me to discover the meaning of the slightest signs that surrounded me (Guermantes, Albertine, Gilberte, Saint-Loup, Balbec, et cetera) which I had lost sight of owing to habit. We have to learn that to preserve and express reality when we have attained it, we must isolate it from everything that our habit of haste accumulates in opposition to it. Above all, I had, therefore to exclude words spoken by the lips but not by the mind; those humorous colloquialisms which after much social intercourse, we get accustomed to using artificially, which fill the mind with lies, those purely physical words uttered with a knowing smile by the writer who lowers himself by transcribing them, that little grimace which, for instance, constantly deforms the spoken phrase of a Sainte-Beuve, whereas real books must be children not of broad daylight and small-talk but of darkness and silence. And since art minutely reconstructs life round the verities one has apprehended in oneself, an atmosphere of poetry will always float round them, the sweetness of a mystery which is only the remains of twilight through which we have had to pass, the indication, like that of a measuring rod, of the depth of a work. (For that depth is not inherent in certain subjects as is believed by materialist-spiritual novelists, since they cannot penetrate beneath the world of appearances and their lofty intentions, like those virtuous tirades habitual to people who are incapable of the smallest kindly effort, must not prevent our observing that they have not even the mental power to throw off the ordinary banalities acquired by imitation.)

As to the verities which the intellect — even of highly endowed minds — gathers in the open road, in full daylight their value can be very great; but those verities have rigid outlines and are flat, they have no depth because no depths have been sounded to reach them — they have not been recreated. It often happens that writers who no longer exhibit these verities, as they grow old, only use their intelligence which has acquired more and more power; and though for this reason, their mature works are more able they have not the velvety quality of their youthful ones.

Nevertheless, I felt that the truths the intellect extracts from immediate reality are not to be despised for they might enshrine, with matter less pure but, nevertheless, vitalised by the mind, intuitions the essence of which, being common to past and present, carries us beyond time, but which are too rare and precious to be the only elements in a work of art. I felt a mass of truths pressing on my notice, relative to passions, characters and habits which could be thus used. We can, perhaps, attach every creature who has caused us unhappiness to a divinity of which she is only the most fragmentary reflection, a divinity the contemplation of whom in the realm of idea will give us immediate happiness instead of our former pain. The whole art of living is to regard people who cause us suffering as, in a degree, enabling us to accept its divine form and thus to populate our daily life with divinities. The perception of these truths gave me joy albeit it reminded me that if I had discovered more than one of them through suffering, I had discovered as many in the course of the most commonplace indulgences. Then a new light arose in me, less brilliant indeed than the one that had made me perceive that a work of art is the only means of regaining lost time. And Ï understood that all the material of a literary work was in my past life, I understood that I had acquired it in the midst of frivolous amusements, in idleness, in tenderness and in pain, stored up by me without my divining its destination or even its survival, as the seed has in reserve all the ingredients which will nourish the plant. Like the seed I might die when the plant had developed and I might find I had lived for it without knowing it, without my life having ever seemed to require contact with the books I wanted to write and for which when I formerly sat down at my table, I could find no subject. Thus all my life up to that day might have been or might not have been summed up under the title: “A vocation?” In one sense, literature had played no active part in my life. But, in another, my life, the memories of its sorrows, of its joys, had been forming a reserve like albumen in the ovule of a plant. It is from this that the plant draws its nourishment in order to transform itself into seed at a time when one does not yet know that the embryo of the plant is developing though chemical phenomena and secret but very active respirations are taking place in it. Thus my life had been lived in constant contact with the elements which would bring about its ripening. And those who would later derive nourishment from it would be as ignorant of the process that supplied it as those who eat the products of grain are unaware of the rich aliments it contains though they have manured the soil in which it was grown and have enabled it to reach maturity. In this connection the comparisons which are false if one starts from them may be true if one ends by them. The writer envies the painter, he would like to make sketches and notes and, if he does so, he is lost. Yet, in writing, there is not a gesture of his characters, a mannerism, an accent, which has not impregnated his memory; there is not a single invented character to whom he could not give sixty names of people he has observed, of whom one poses for a grimace, another for an eyeglass, another for his temper, another for a particular movement of the arms. And the writer discovers that if his aspiration to be a painter could not be consciously realised, he has nevertheless filled his notebook with sketches without being aware of it. For, owing to his instinct, the writer long before he knew he was going to be one, habitually avoided looking at all sorts of things other people noticed, and was, in consequence, accused by others of absent-mindedness and by himself of being incapable of attention and observation, while all the time he was ordering his eyes and his ears to retain for ever what to others seemed puerile, the tone in which a phrase had been uttered, the facial expression and movement of the shoulders of a particular person at a particular moment perhaps years ago, who was otherwise unknown to him, and this because he had heard that tone before or felt he might hear it again, that it was a recurrent and permanent characteristic. It is the feeling for the general in the potential writer, which selects material suitable to a work of art because of its generality. He only pays attention to others, however dull and tiresome, because in repeating what their kind say like parrots, they are for that very reason prophetic birds, spokesmen of a psychological law. He recalls only what is general. Through certain ways of speaking, through a certain play of features and through certain movements of the shoulders even though they had been seen when he was a child, the life of others remains within himself and when later on he begins writing, that life will help to recreate reality, possibly by the use of that movement of the shoulders common to many people. This movement is as true to life as though it had been noted by an anatomist, but the writer expresses thereby a psychological verity by grafting on to the shoulders of one individual the neck of another, both of whom had only posed to him for a moment.

It is uncertain whether in the creation of a literary work the imagination and the sensibility are not interchangeable and whether the second, without disadvantage, cannot be substituted for the first just as people whose stomach is incapable of digesting entrust this function to their intestines. An innately sensitive man who has no imagination could, nevertheless write admirable novels. The suffering caused him by others and the conflict provoked by his efforts to protect himself against them, such experiences interpreted by the intelligence might provide material for a book as beautiful as if it were imagined and invented and as objective, as startling and unexpected as the author’s imaginative fancy would have been, had he been happy and free from persecution. The stupidest people unconsciously express their feelings by their gestures and their remarks and thus demonstrate laws they are unaware of which the artist brings to light. On account of this, the vulgar wrongly believe the writer to be mischievous for the artist sees an engaging generality in an absurd individual and no more imputes blame to him than a surgeon despises his patient for being affected with a chronic ailment of the circulation. Moreover, no one is less inclined to scoff at absurd people than the artist. Unfortunately he is more unhappy than mischievous where his own passions are concerned; though he recognises their generality just as much in his own case, he escapes personal suffering less easily. Obviously, we prefer to be praised rather than insulted and still more when a woman we love deceives us, what would we not give that it should be otherwise. But the resentment of the affront, the pain of the abandonment would in that event have been worlds we should never have known, the discovery of which, painful as it may be for the man, is precious for the artist. In spite of himself and of themselves, the mischievous and the ungrateful must figure in his work. The publicist involuntarily associates the rascals he has castigated with his own celebrity. In every work of art we can recognise the man the artist has most hated, and alas, even the women he has most loved. They were posing for the writer at the very moment when, against his will, they were making him suffer the most. When I was in love with Albertine I fully realised she did not love me and I had to resign myself to her only teaching me the pain of love even at its dawn. And when we try to extract generality from our sorrow so as to write about it we are a little consoled, perhaps for another reason than those I have hitherto given, which is, that thinking in a general way, writing is a sanitary and indispensable function for the writer and gives him satisfaction in the same way that exercise, sweating and baths do a physical man. To tell the truth I revolted somewhat against this. However much I might believe that the supreme truth of life is in art, however little I was capable of the effort of memory needed to feel love for Albertine again as to mourn my grandmother anew, I asked myself whether, nevertheless a work of art of which neither of them was conscious could be for those poor dead the fulfilment of their destiny. My grandmother whom I had watched with so much indifference while she lay near me in her last agony. Ah! could I, when my work is done, wounded beyond remedy, suffer, in expiation, long hours of abandonment by all as I lie dying! Moreover, I had an infinite pity for beings less dear, even indifferent to me and of how many destinies had my thought used the sufferings, even only the absurdities in my attempts to understand them. All those beings who revealed truths to me and who were no longer there, seemed to me to have lived a life from which I alone profited and as though they had died for me. It was sad for me to think that in my book, my love which was once everything to me, would be so detached from a being that various readers would apply it textually to the love they experienced for other women. But why should I be horrified by this posthumous infidelity, that this man or that should offer unknown women as the object of my sentiment, when that infidelity, that division of love between several beings began with my life and long before I began writing? I had indeed suffered successively through Gilberte, through Mme de Guermantes, through Albertine. Successively also I had forgotten them and only my love, dedicated at different times to different beings, had lasted. I had anticipated the profanation of my memories by unknown readers. I was not far from being horrified with myself as, perhaps, some nationalist party might be in whose name hostilities had been provoked and who alone had benefited from a war in which many noble victims had suffered and died without even knowing the issue of the struggle which, for my grandmother, would have been such a complete reward. And the single consolation she never knew, that at last I had set to work, was, such being the fate of the dead, that though she could not rejoice in my progress she had at least been spared consciousness of my long inactivity, of the frustrated life which had been such a pain to her. And certainly there were many others besides my grandmother and Albertine from whom I had assimilated a word, a glance, but of whom as individual beings I remembered nothing; a book is a great cemetery in which, for the most part, the names upon the tombs are effaced. Sometimes, on the other hand, one writes a well remembered name without knowing whether anything else survives of the being who bore it. That young girl with the deep sunken eyes, with the haunting voice, is she there? And if she is, in which part, where are we to look for her under the flowers? But since we live remote from individual lives, since we no longer retain our deepest feelings such as my love for my grandmother and for Albertine, since they are now no more than meaningless words, since we can talk about these dead with people in society to whose houses it still gives us pleasure to go after the death of all we loved, if there is yet a means of learning to understand those forgotten words, should we not use it even though we had first to find a universal language in which to express them so that, thus rendered permanent, they would form the ultimate essence of those who are gone and remain an acquisition in perpetuity of every soul? Indeed, if we could explain that law of change which has made those words of the dead unintelligible to us, might not our inferiority become a new force? Furthermore the work in which our sorrows have collaborated, may perhaps be interpreted as an indication both of atrocious suffering and of happy consolation in the future. Indeed, if we say that the loves, the sorrows of the poet have served him, that they have aided him to construct his work, that the unknown women who least suspected, one with her mischief-making, the other with her raillery, that they were each contributing their stone towards the building of the monument they would never see, one does not sufficiently reflect that the life of the writer is not finished with that work, that the same nature which caused him the sorrow that coloured his work, will remain his after the work is finished, will cause him to love other women in circumstances which would be similar if they were not slightly changed by time which modifies conditions in the subject himself, in his appetite for love and in his resistance to suffering. From this first point of view his work must be considered only as an unhappy love which inevitably presages others and which causes his life to resemble it, so that the poet hardly needs to continue writing, so completely will he discover the semblance of what will happen anticipated in what he has written. Thus my love for Albertine and the degree in which it differed was already engrossed in my love for Gilberte in the midst of those joyous days when for the first time I heard Albertine’s name mentioned by her aunt, without suspecting that that insignificant germ would one day develop and spread over my whole life. But from another point of view, work is an emblem of happiness because it teaches us that in all love the general has its being close beside the particular and passes from the second to the first by a gymnastic which strengthens the writer against sorrow through making him pass over its cause in order to probe to its essence. In fact, as I was to experience thereafter, when I had realised my vocation, even at a time of anguish caused by love, the object of one’s passion becomes so completely merged in the universal during one’s working hours, that for the time being, one forgets her existence and only feels one’s heartache as a physical pain. It is true that it is a question of moments and that the effect seems to be the contrary if work comes afterwards. For when beings, who by their badness, their insignificance, succeed, in spite of ourselves, in destroying our illusions, are themselves reduced to impotence by being separated from the amorous chimera we had forged for ourselves, if we then put ourselves to work, our spirit raises them anew, identifies them, for the needs of self-analysis, with beings we once loved and in this case, literature doing over again the work undone by disillusion bestows a sort of survival on sentiments which have ceased to exist. Certainly we are obliged to relive our particular suffering with the courage of a physician who tries over again upon himself an experiment with a dangerous serum. But we ought to think of it under a general form which enables us to some extent to escape from its control by making all men co-partners in our sorrow and this is not devoid of a certain gratification. Where life closes round us, intelligence pierces an egress, for if there is no remedy for unrequited love, one emerges from the verification of suffering if only by drawing its relevant conclusions. The intellect does not recognise situations in life which have no issue. And I had to resign myself, since nothing can last except by becoming general (unless the mind lies to itself) by accepting the idea that even those beings who were dearest to the writer have ultimately only posed to him as to painters. Sometimes when a painful section has remained at the stage of a sketch, a new tenderness, a new suffering comes which enables us to finish it and fill it out. One has no need to complain of the lack of new and helpful sorrows for plenty are forthcoming and one will not have to wait long for them. All the same, it is necessary to hasten to profit by them for they do not last very long; either we console ourselves or if they are too strong and the heart is not too sound, one dies. In love our successful rival, as well call him our enemy, is our benefactor. He immediately adds to a being who only excited in us an insignificant physical desire, an enormously enhanced value which we confuse with it. If we had no rivals, physical gratification would not be transformed into love, that is to say, if we had no rivals or believed we had none, for they need not actually exist. That illusory life which our suspicion and jealousy give to rivals who have no existence, is sufficient for our good. Happiness is salutary for the body but sorrow develops the powers of the spirit. Moreover, does it not on each occasion reveal to us a law which is no less indispensable for the purpose of bringing us back to truth, of forcing us to take things seriously by pulling up the weeds of habit, scepticism, frivolity and indifference. It is true that that truth which is incompatible with happiness, with health, is not always compatible with life itself. Sorrow ends by killing. At each fresh overmastering sorrow one more vein projects and develops its mortal sinuousness across our brows and under our eyes. Thus, little by little, those terribly ravaged faces of Rembrandt, of Beethoven, are made, at which people once mocked. And those pockets under the eyes and wrinkles in the forehead would not be there if there had not been such suffering in the heart. But since forces can change into other forces, since heat which has duration becomes light and the electricity in a lightning-flash can photograph, since our heavy heartache can with each recurrent sorrow raise above itself like a flag, a visible and permanent symbol, let us accept the physical hurt for the sake of the spiritual knowledge and let our bodies disintegrate, since each fresh fragment which detaches itself now becomes more luminously revealing so that we may complete our task at the cost of suffering not needed by others more gifted, building it up and adding to it in proportion to the emotions that destroy our life. Ideas are substitutes for sorrows; when the latter change into ideas they lose part of their noxious action on our hearts and even at the first instant their very transformation disengages a feeling of joy. Substitutes only in the order of time, however, for it would seem that the first element is idea and that sorrow is only the mode in which certain ideas first enter us. But there are many families in the group of ideas, some are immediately joys. These reflections made me discover |a stronger and more accurate sense of the truth of which I had often had a presentiment, notably when Mme de Cambremer was surprised that I could abandon a remarkable man like Elstir for the sake of Albertine. Even from the intellectual point of view I felt she was wrong but I did not know that what she was misunderstanding were the lessons through which one makes one’s apprenticeship as a man of letters. The objective value of the arts has little say in the matter; what it is necessary to extract and bring to light are our sentiments, our passions, which are the sentiments and passions of all men. A woman we need makes us suffer, forces from us a series of sentiments, deeper and more vital than a superior type of man who interests us. It remains to be seen, according to the plane on which we live, whether we shall discover that the pain the infidelity of a woman has caused us is a trifle when compared with the truths thereby revealed to us, truths that the woman delighted at having made us suffer would hardly have grasped. In any case, such infidelities are not rare. A writer need have no fear of undertaking a long labour. Let the intellect get to work; in the course of it there will be more than enough sorrows to enable him to finish it. Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible. When we are happy, we have to form very tender and strong links of confidence and attachment for their rupture to cause us the precious shattering called misery. Without happiness, if only that of hoping, there would be no cruelty and, therefore, no fruit of misfortune. And more than a painter who needs to see many churches in order to paint one church, a writer, to obtain volume, consistency, generality and literary reality, needs many beings in order to express one feeling, for if art is long and life is short one can say on the other hand, that if inspiration is short, the sentiments it has to express are not much longer. Our passions shape our books, repose writes them in the intervals. When inspiration is reborn, when we are able to take up our work again, the woman who posed to us for our sentimental reaction can no longer make us feel it. We must continue to paint her from another model and if that is a treachery to the first, in a literary sense, thanks to the similarity of our sentiments which make a work at one and the same time a memory of our past loves and the starting point of new ones, there is no great disadvantage in the exchange. That is one of the reasons why studies in which an attempt is made to guess whom an author has been writing about, are fatuous. For even a direct confession is at the very least intercalated between different episodes in the life of the author, the early ones which inspired it, the later ones which no less inspired the successive loves whose peculiarities were a tracing of the preceding ones. For we are not as faithful to the being we have most loved as we are to ourselves and sooner or later we forget her — since that is one of our characteristics — so as to start loving another. At the very most, she whom we have so much loved has given a particular form to that love which will make us faithful to her even in our infidelity. We should feel a need to take the same morning walks with her successor and to bring her home in the same fashion in the evening and we should give her also much too much money. (That circulation of money we give to women is curious; because of it, they make us miserable and so help us to write books — one might almost say that works of literature are like artesian wells, the deeper the suffering, the higher they rise.) These substitutions add something disinterested and more general to work, and are also a lesson in austerity; we ought not to attach ourselves to beings, it is not beings who exist in reality and are amenable to description, but ideas. And we must not lose time while we can still dispose of these models. For those who pose for happiness are not, as a rule, able to spare us many sittings. But those who pose to us for sorrow give us plenty of sittings in the studio we only use at those periods. That studio is within ourselves. Those periods are a picture of our life with its divers sufferings. For they contain others and just when we think we are calm, a new one is born, new in all senses of the word; perhaps because unforeseen situations force us to enter into deeper contact with ourselves, the painful dilemmas in which love places us at every instant, instruct us, disclose to us successively the matter of which we are made.

Moreover, even when suffering does not supply by its revelation the raw material of our work, it helps us by stimulating us to it. Imagination, thought, may be admirable mechanisms but they can also be inert. Suffering alone sets them going. Thus when Françoise, noticing that Albertine came in by any door of the house that happened to be open as a dog would, spreading disorder wherever she went, ruining me, causing me infinite unhappiness, she said (for at that time I had already done some articles and translations), “Ah, if only monsieur had engaged a well-educated little secretary who would have put all monsieur’s rolls of paper in order instead of that girl who only wastes his time,” perhaps I was wrong in thinking she was talking good sense. Perhaps Albertine had been more useful to me, even from the literary point of view, in making me lose my time and in causing me sorrow than a secretary who would have arranged my papers. But all the same, when a creature is so badly constituted (perhaps in nature that being is man) that he cannot love unless he suffers and that he must suffer to learn truth, the life of such a being becomes in the end very exhausting. The happy years are those that are wasted; we must wait for suffering to drive us to work. The idea of preliminary suffering is associated with that of work, we dread every fresh undertaking because we are thereby reminded of the pain in store for us before we can conceive it. And, realising that suffering is the best thing life has to offer, we think of death without horror and almost as a deliverance. And yet, if that thought was somewhat repellent to me, we have to be sure we have not played with life and profited by other people’s lives to write books but the exact opposite. The case of the noble Werther was, alas, not mine. Without believing an instant in Albertine’s love, twenty times I wanted to kill myself for her; I had ruined myself and destroyed my health for her. When it is a question of writing, we have to be scrupulous, look close and cast out what is not true. But when it is only a question of our own lives, we ruin ourselves, make ourselves ill, kill ourselves for the sake of lies. Of a truth, it is only out of the matrix of those lies (if one is too old to be a poet) that we can extract a little truth. Sorrows are obscure and hated servitors against whom we contend, under whose sway we fall more and more, sinister servitors whom we cannot replace but who by strange and devious ways lead us to truth and to death. Happy those who have encountered the former before the latter and for whom, closely as one may follow the other, the hour of truth sounds before the hour of death.

Furthermore, I realised that the most trivial episodes of my past life had combined to give me the lesson of idealism from which I was now going to profit. Had not my meetings with M. de Charlus, for instance, even before his Germanophilism had given me the same lesson, and better than my love for Mme de Guermantes or for Albertine, better than the love of Saint-Loup for Rachel, proved to me how little material matters, that everything can be made of it by thought, a verity that the phenomenon of sexual inversion, so little understood, so idly condemned, enhances even more than that of love of women, instructive as that is; the latter shows us beauty flying from the woman we no longer love and residing in a face which others consider extremely ugly, which indeed might have displeased us and probably will later on; but it is still more remarkable to observe such a face under the cap of an omnibus conductor, receiving all the homage of a grand seigneur, who has for that abandoned a beautiful princesse. Did not my astonishment each time that I again saw the face of Gilberte, of Mme de Guermantes, of Albertine in the Champs Elysées, in the street, on the shore, prove that a memory can only be prolonged in a direction which diverges from the impression with which it formerly coincided and from which it separates itself more and more. The writer must not mind if the invert gives his heroines a masculine visage. This peculiar aberration is the only means open to the invert of applying generality to what he reads. If M. de Charlus had not given Morel’s face to the unfaithful one over whom Musset sheds tears in the Nuit d’Octobre or in the Souvenir, he would neither have wept nor understood since it was by that road alone, narrow and tortuous though it might be, that he had access to the verities of love. It is only through a custom which owes its origin to the insincere language of prefaces and dedications that a writer says “my reader”. In reality, every reader, as he reads, is the reader of himself. The work of the writer is only a sort of optic instrument which he offers to the reader so that he may discern in the book what he would probably not have seen in himself. The recognition of himself in the book by the reader is the proof of its truth and vice-versa, at least in a certain measure, the difference between the two texts being often less attributable to the author than to the reader. Further, a book may be too learned, too obscure for the simple reader, and thus be only offering him a blurred glass with which he cannot read. But other peculiarities (like inversion) might make it necessary for the reader to read in a certain way in order to read well; the author must not take offence at that but must, on the contrary, leave the reader the greatest liberty and say to him: “Try whether you see better with this, with that, or with another glass.”

If I have always been so much interested in dreams, is it not because, compensating duration with intensity they help us to understand better what is subjective in love? And this by the simple fact that they render real with prodigious speed what is vulgarly called nous mettre une femme dans la peau to the point of falling passionately in love for a few minutes with an ugly one, which in real life would require years of habit, of union and — as though they had been invented by some miraculous doctor — intravenal injections of love as they can also be of suffering; with equal speed the amorous suggestion is dissipated and sometimes not only the nocturnal beloved has ceased to be such and has again become the familiar ugly one but something more precious is also dissipated, a whole picture of ravishing sentiments, of tenderness, of delight, of regrets, vaguely communicated to the mind, a whole shipload of passion for Cythera of which we should take note against the moment of waking up, shades of a beautiful truth which are effaced like a painting too dim to restore. Well, perhaps it was also because of the extraordinary tricks dreams play with time! that they fascinated me so much. Had I not in a single night, in one minute of a night, seen days of long ago which had been relegated to those great distances where we can distinguish hardly any of the sentiments we then felt, melt suddenly upon me, blinding me with their brightness as though they were giant aeroplanes instead of the pale stars we believed, making me see again all they had once held for me, giving me back the emotion, the shock, the vividness of their immediate nearness, then recede, when I woke, to the distance they had miraculously traversed, so that one believes, mistakenly however, that they are one of the means of recovering lost Time.

I had realised that only grossly erroneous observation places everything in the object while everything is in the mind; I had lost my grandmother in reality many months after I had lost her in fact, I had seen the aspect of people vary according to the idea that I or others formed of them, a single person become many according to the number of people who saw him (the various Swanns at the beginning of this work according to who met him; the Princesse de Luxembourg according to whether she was seen by the first President or by me) even according to a single person over many years (the variations of Guermantes and Swann in my own experience). I had seen love endow another with that which is only in the one who loves. And I had realised all this the more because I had stretched to its extreme limits the distance between objective reality and love; (Rachel from Saint-Loup’s point of view and from mine, Albertine from mine and from Saint-Loup’s, Morel or the omnibus conductor or other people from M. de Charlus’ point of view). Finally, in a certain measure the germanophilism of M. de Charlus, like the gaze of Saint-Loup at the photograph of Albertine, had helped me for a moment to detach myself, if not from my germanophobia at least from my belief in its pure objectivity and to make me think that perhaps it was with hate as with love and that in the terrible sentence which France is now pronouncing on Germany, whom she regards as outside the pale of humanity, there is an objectivity of feeling like that which made Rachel and Albertine seem so precious, the one to Saint-Loup, the other to me. What made it seem possible, in fact, that this wickedness was not entirely intrinsic to Germany was that I myself had experienced successive loves at the end of which the object of each one appeared to have no value and I had also seen my country experience successive hates which had caused to appear as traitors — a thousand times worse than the Germans to whom these traitors were supposed to be betraying France — Dreyfusards like Reinach with whom patriots were now collaborating against a country every member of which was necessarily a liar, a ferocious beast and an imbecile except, of course, those Germans who had espoused the French cause such as the King of Roumania and the Empress of Russia. It is true that the anti-Dreyfusard, would have replied: “It is not the same thing.” But, as a matter of fact, it never is the same thing, any more than it is the same person; were that not so, in the presence of an identical phenomenon he who is its dupe could not believe that qualities or defects are inherent in it and would only blame his own subjective condition.

The intellect has no difficulty, then, in basing a theory upon this difference (the teaching of the congregations according to Radicals, is against nature, it is impossible for the Jewish race to assimilate nationalism, the secular hatred of the Germans for the Latin race, the yellow races being momentarily rehabilitated). That subjective influence was equally marked among neutral Germanophiles who had lost the faculty of understanding or even of listening, the instant the German atrocities in Belgium were spoken of. (And, after all, there were real ones.) I remarked that the subjective nature of hatred as in vision itself, did not prevent the object possessing real qualities or defects and in no way caused reality to disappear in a pure “relativeness”. And if, after so many years and so much lost time, I felt the stirring of this vital pool within humanity even in international relationships, had I not apprehended it at the very beginning of my life when I read one of Bergotte’s novels in the Combray garden and even if to-day I turn those forgotten pages, and see the schemes of a wicked character, I cannot lay down the book until I assure myself, by skipping a hundred pages, that towards the end the villain is duly humiliated and lives long enough to know that his sinister purposes have been foiled. For I could no longer recall what happened to the characters, in that respect not unlike those who will be seen this afternoon at Mme de Guermantes’, the past life of whom, at all events of many of them, is as shadowy as though I had read of them in a half-forgotten novel.

Did the Prince of Agrigente end by marrying Mlle X? Or was it not the brother of Mlle X who was to marry the sister of the Prince of Agrigente, or was I confusing them with something I had once read or dreamed? The dream remained one of the facts of my life which had most impressed me, which had most served to convince me of the purely mental character of reality, a help I should not despise in the composition of my work. When I lived for love in a somewhat more disinterested fashion, a dream would bring my grandmother singularly close to me, making her cover great spaces of lost time, and so with Albertine whom I began to love again because, in my sleep, she had supplied me with an attenuated version of the story of the laundress. I believed that dreams might sometimes in this way be the carriers of truths and impressions that my unaided effort or encounters in the outside world could not bring me, that they would arouse in me that desire or yearning for certain non-existent things which is the condition for work, for abstraction from habit and for detaching oneself from the concrete. I should not disdain this second, this nocturnal muse, who might sometimes replace the other.

I had seen aristocrats become vulgar when their minds (like that of the Duc de Guermantes for instance) were vulgar. “You aren’t shy?” he asked, as Cottard might have done. In medicine, in the Dreyfus affair, during the war, I had seen people believe that truth is a thing owned and possessed by ministers and doctors, a yea or a nay which has no need of interpretation, which-enables a radiographie plate to indicate, without interpretation, what is the matter with an invalid, which enables those in power to know that Dreyfus was guilty, to know (without despatching Roques to investigate on the spot) whether Sarrail had the necessary resources to advance at the same time as the Russians. There had not been an hour of my life which might not have thus served to teach me, as I have said, that only crudely erroneous perception places everything in the object; while, to the contrary, everything is in the mind. In short, if I reflected, the matter of my experience came to me from Swann, not simply through what concerned himself and Gilberte. It was he who, ever since the Combray days, had given me the desire to go to Balbec, where, but for him, my parents would never have had the notion of sending me and but for which I should never have known Albertine. True, I associated certain things with her face as I saw her first, gazing towards the sea. In one sense I was right in associating them with her for if I had not walked by the sea that day, if I had not known her, all those ideas would not have developed (unless, at least, they had been developed by another). I was wrong again because that inspiring pleasure we like to identify retrospectively with the beautiful countenance of a woman, comes from our senses and, in any case, it was quite certain that Albertine, the then Albertine, would not have understood the pages I should write. But it was just on that account, (and that is a warning not to live in too intellectual an atmosphere) because she was so different from me that she had made me productive through suffering, and, at first, even through the simple effort required to imagine that which differs from oneself. Had she been able to understand these pages, she would have been unable to inspire them. But without Swann I should not even have known the Guermantes, since my grandmother would not have rediscovered Mme de Villeparisis, I should not have made the acquaintance of Saint-Loup and of M. de Charlus which in turn caused me to know the Duchesse de Guermantes and, through her, her cousin, so that my very presence at this moment at the Prince de Guermantes’ from which suddenly sprang the idea of my work (thus making me owe Swann not only the matter but the decision) also came to me from Swann, a rather flimsy pedestal to support the whole extension of my life. (In that sense, this Guermantes side derived from Swann’s side.) But very often the author of a determining course in our lives is a person much inferior to Swann, in fact, a completely indifferent individual. It would have sufficed for some schoolfellow or other to tell me about a girl it would be nice for me to meet at Balbec (where in all probability I should not have met her) to make me go there. So it often happens that later on one runs across a schoolfellow one does not like and shakes hands with him without realising that the whole subsequent course of one’s life and work has sprung from his chance remark: “You ought to come to Balbec.” We feel no gratitude toward him nor does that prove us ungrateful. For in uttering those words he in no wise foresaw the tremendous consequences they might entail for us. The first impulse having been given, one’s sensibility and intelligence exploited the circumstances which engendered each other without his any more foreseeing my union with Albertine than the masked ball at the Guermantes’. Doubtless, his agency was necessary and, through it, the exterior form of our life, even the raw material of our work sprang from him. Had it not been for Swann, my parents would never have had the idea of sending me to Balbec but that did not make him responsible for the sufferings which he indirectly caused me; these were due to my own weakness as his had been responsible for the pain Odette caused him. But in thus determining the life I was to lead, he had thereby excluded all the lives I might otherwise have lived. If Swann had not told me about Balbec I should never have known Albertine, the hotel dining-room, the Guermantes. I should have gone elsewhere; I should have known other people, my memory like my books would have been filled with quite different pictures, which I cannot even imagine but whose unknowable novelty allures me and makes me sorry I was not drawn that way and that Albertine, the Balbec shore, Rivebelle and the Guermantes did not remain unknown to me for ever.

Jealousy is a good recruiting sergeant who, when there is an empty space in our picture, goes and finds the girl we want in the street. She may not be pretty at first, but she soon fills the blank and becomes so when we get jealous of her.

Once we are dead we shall get no pleasure from our picture being so complete. But this thought is in no way discouraging for we feel that life is rather more complex than is generally supposed, likewise circumstances and and there is a pressing need of proving this complexity. Jealousy is not necessarily born from a look, from something we hear or as the result of reflection; we can find it ready for us between the leaves of a directory — what in Paris is called Tout-Paris and in the country The Annuaire des Châteaux. Absent-mindedly, we had heard that a certain pretty girl we no longer thought about, had gone to pay a visit of some days to her sister in the Pas-de-Calais. With equal indifference it had occurred to us previously that, possibly, this pretty girl had been made love to by M. E. whom she never saw now because she no longer frequented the bar where she used to meet him. Who and what might her sister be, a maid perhaps? From discretion, we had never asked her. And now, lo and behold! Opening by chance the Annuaire des Châteaux we discover that M. E. owns a country house in the Pas-de-Calais near Dunkerque. There is no further room for doubt; to please the pretty girl, he has taken her sister as a maid, and if the pretty girl does not see him any more in the bar it is because he has her come to his house and, though he lives in Paris nearly the whole year round, he cannot dispense with her even while he is in the Pas-de-Calais. The paint-brushes, drunk with rage and love, paint and paint. But supposing, after all, it is not that, supposing that really M. E. did not any longer see the pretty girl and had only recommended her sister to his brother who lives the whole year round in the Pas-de-Calais, so that, by chance, she has gone to see her sister at a time when M. E. is not there, seeing that they had ceased to care for each other. Unless indeed the sister is not a maid in the Château or anywhere else but that her family happens to live in the Pas-de-Calais. Our original distress surrenders to the latest supposition which soothes our jealousy. But what does that matter? Jealousy buried within the pages of the Annuaire des Châteaux has come just at the right moment, for now the empty space in the canvas has been filled and the whole picture has been capitally composed, thanks to jealousy having evoked the apparition of the pretty girl whom we neither care for nor are jealous of.

At that moment the butler came to tell me that the first piece was over and that I could leave the library and enter the drawing-rooms. That reminded me of where I was. But I was in no wise disturbed in my argument by the fact that a fashionable entertainment, a return into society, provided the point of departure towards a new life I had been unable to find the way to in solitude. There was nothing extraordinary about this, an influence which had roused the eternal man in me being no more necessarily linked to solitude than to society (as I had once believed, as perhaps was the case formerly, as perhaps it might still have been, if I had developed harmoniously instead of having suffered that long break which only now seemed to be reaching its end). For, as I only felt that impression of beauty when there was imposed upon the actual sensation however insignificant, another akin to it which, spontaneously reborn in me, expanded the first one simultaneously over several periods and filled my soul, in which my ordinary single sensations left a void, with a generalising essence, there was no reason why I should not just as well receive such sensations from society as from nature, since they occur haphazard, provoked doubtless by a peculiar excitement owing to which, on days when one happens to be outside the normal course of one’s life, even the most simple things begin to cause reactions which habit spares our nervous system. My purpose was to discover the objective reason of its being exactly and only that class of sensations which must lead to a work of art, by pursuing the reflections I had been bent on linking together in the library, for I felt that the emancipation of my spiritual life was now complete enough for me to be able to sustain my thought in the midst of guests in the drawing-room just as well as alone in the library; I should know how to preserve my solitude from that point of view even in the midst of that numerous company. Indeed, for the same reason that great events in the outer world have no influence upon our mental powers and that a mediocre writer living in an epic period will, nevertheless, remain a mediocre writer what was dangerous in society was the worldly disposition one brought to it. But, of itself, it will no more make us mediocre than a war of heroes can make a bad poet sublime. In any case, whether it was theoretically advantageous or not that a work of art should be thus constituted, and awaiting the further examination of that question, it was undeniable so far as I was concerned, that when any really aesthetic intuitions came to me it had always been as a result of sensations of that nature. True, they had been rare enough in my life but they dominated it, and I could recover from the past some of those heights I had mistakenly allowed myself to lose sight of (and I did not mean to do so again). This much I could now say, that if in my case this was an idiosyncrasy due to the exclusive significance it had for me, I was reassured by discovering that it was related to characteristics less marked yet discernible and fundamentally analogous in the case of certain writers. Is not the most beautiful part of the Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe assimilable with my sensations relative to the madeleine: “Yesterday evening I was walking alone…. I was drawn from my reflections by the warbling of a thrush perched upon the highest branch of a birch tree. At that instant the magical sound brought my paternal home before my eyes; I forgot the catastrophes of which I had been a witness and, transported suddenly into the past, I saw again that country where I had so often heard the thrush sing.” And is not this, one of the two or three most beautiful passages in the Mémoires: “A delicate and subtle odour of heliotrope was exhaled by a cluster of scarlet runners in flower; that odour was not brought us by a breeze from the homeland but by a wild Newfoundland wind, without relation to the exiled plant, without sympathy with memory and joy. In that perfume which beauty had not breathed nor purified in its breast nor spread abroad upon its path, in that perfume permeated by the light of dawn, of culture and of life, there was all the melancholy of regret, of exile and of youth.” One of the masterpieces of French literature Sylvie by Gérard de Nerval, contains, in regard to Combourg, just like the Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe, a sensation of the same order as the taste of the madeleine and the warbling of the thrush. Finally, in the case of Baudelaire, such reminiscences are still — more numerous, evidently less fortuitous and consequently, in my opinion, decisive. It is the poet himself who with greater variety and leisure seeks consciously in the odour of a woman, of her hair and of her breast, those inspiring analogies which evoke for him “l’azur du ciel immense et rond” and “un port rempli de flammes et de mâts”. I was seeking to recall those of Baudelaire’s verses which are based upon the transposition of such sensations, so that I might place myself in so noble a company and thus obtain confirmation that the work I no longer had any hesitation in undertaking, merited the effort I intended to consecrate to it, when, reaching the foot of the staircase leading from the library, I found myself all of a sudden in the great salon and in the midst of a fête which seemed to me entirely different from those I had formerly attended and which began to disclose a peculiar aspect and to assume a new significance. From the instant I entered the great salon, in spite of my firmly retaining within myself the point I had reached in the project I had been forming, a startlingly theatrical sensation burst upon my senses which was to raise the gravest obstacles to my enterprise. Obstacles I should, doubtless, surmount but which, while I continued to muse upon the conditions of a work of art, were about to interrupt my reasoning by the repetition a hundred times over of the consideration most calculated to make me hesitate. At the first moment I did not understand why I failed to recognise the master of the house and his guests, why they all appeared to have “made a head”, generally powdered, which completely changed them. The Prince, receiving his guests, still preserved that air of a jolly king of the fairies he suggested to my mind the first time I saw him, but now, having apparently submitted to the disguise he had imposed upon his guests, lie had tricked himself out in a white beard and dragged his feet heavily along as though they were soled with lead. He seemed to be representing one of the ages of man. His moustache was whitened as though the hoar-frost in Tom Thumb’s forest clung to it. It seemed to inconvenience his stiffened mouth and once he had produced his effect, he ought to have taken it off. To tell the truth, I only recognised him by reasoning out his identity with himself from certain familiar features. I could not imagine what that little Lezensac had put on his face, but while others had grown white, some as to half of their beard, some only as to their moustaches, he had found means, without the help of dyes, to cover his face with wrinkles and his eyebrows with bristling hairs; moreover, all this suited him ill, his countenance seemed to have hardened and bronzed and he wore an appearance of solemnity that aged him so much that he could no longer be taken for a young man. At the same moment I was astonished to hear addressed as Duc de Chatellerault a little old man with the silver moustache of an ambassador of whom only the slightest likeness reminded me of the young man whom I had once met calling on Mme de Villeparisis. In the case of the first person whom I succeeded in identifying by abstracting his natural features from his travesty by an effort of memory, my first thought ought to have been and perhaps was, for an instant, to congratulate him on being so marvellously made up that, at first, one had the same sort of hesitation in recognising him as is felt by an audience which, though informed by the programme, remains for a moment dumbfounded and then bursts into applause when some great actor, taking a part in which he looks completely different from himself, walks on to the stage. From that point of view the most extraordinary of all was my personal enemy M. d’Argencourt; he was, verily, the clou of the party. Not only had he replaced a barely silvered beard by one of incredible whiteness, he had so tricked himself out by those little material changes which reconstitute and exaggerate personality and, more than that, apparently modify character, that this man, whose pompous and starchy stiffness still lingered in my memory, had changed into an old beggar who inspired no respect, an aged valetudinarian so authentic that his limbs trembled and the swollen features, once so arrogant, kept on smiling with silly beatitude. Pushed to this degree, the art of disguise becomes something more, it becomes a transformation. Indeed, some trifles might certify that it was actually M. d’Argencourt who offered this indescribable and picturesque spectacle, but how many successive facial states should I not have had to trace if I wanted to reconstruct the physiognomy of M. d’Argencourt whom I had formerly known and who had now succeeded, although he only had the use of his own body, in producing something so entirely different. It was obviously the extreme limit that haughtiest of faces could reach without disintegration, while that stiffest of figures was no more than a boiled rag shaking about from one spot to another. It was only by the most fleeting memory of a particular smile which formerly sometimes tempered for an instant M. d’Argencourt’s arrogant demeanour, that one realised the possibility that this smile of an old, broken-down, second-hand clothes-dealer might represent the punctilious gentleman of former days. But even admitting it was M. d’Argencourt’s intention to use the old meaning smile, the prodigious transformation of his face, the very matter of the eye with which he expressed it had become so different that the expression was that of another. I almost burst into laughter as I looked at this egregious old guy, as emolliated in his comical caricature of himself as M. de Charlus, paralysed and polite, was tragical. M d’Argencourt, in his incarnation of a moribund buffoon by Regnard, exaggerated by Labiche, was as easy of access, as urbane as was the King Lear of M. de Charlus who uncovered himself with deference before the most commonplace acquaintance who saluted him. All the same, I refrained from expressing my admiration for the remarkable performance. It was less my former antipathy which prevented me than his having reached a condition so different from himself that I had the illusion of standing before another as amiable, disarming and inoffensive as the Argencourt of former days was supercilious, hostile and nefarious. So entirely a different personage that, watching this snow-man imitating General Dourakine falling into second childhood, grinning so ineffably comic and white, it seemed to me that a human being could undergo metamorphoses as complete as those of certain insects. I had the impression of observing through the glass of a showcase in a natural history museum what the sharpest and most stable features of an insect had turned into and I could no longer feel the sentiments which M. d’Argencourt had always inspired in me when I stood looking at this soft chrysalis which rather vibrated than moved. So I kept my silence, I did not congratulate M. d’Argencourt on offering a spectacle which seemed to assign the limits within which the transformation of the human body can operate. Certainly, in the wings of a theatre or during a costume ball, politeness inclines one to exaggerate the difficulty, even to go so far as to affirm the impossibility of recognising the person in travesty. Here, on the contrary an instinct warned me that dissimulation was demanded, that these compliments would have been the reverse of flattering because such a transformation was not intended and I realised what I had not dreamed of when I entered this drawing-room, that every entertainment, however simple, when it takes place long after one has ceased to go into society and however few of those one has formerly known it brings together, gives the effect of a costume ball and the most successful one of all, at which one is truly puzzled by others, for the heads have been in the making for a long time without their wishing it and cannot be got rid of by toilet operations when the party is over. Puzzled by others! Alas! We ourselves puzzle them. The difficulty I experienced in putting the required name to the faces around me seemed to be shared by all those who perceived mine, for they paid no more attention to me than if they had never seen me before or were trying to disentangle from my appearance the memory of someone else.

M. d’Argencourt’s success with this astonishing “turn”, certainly the most striking picture in his burlesque I could possibly have of him, was like an actor who makes a last appearance on the stage before the curtain falls amidst roars of laughter. If I no longer felt any antagonism to him, it was because he had returned to the innocence of babyhood and had no recollection of his contemptuous opinion of me, no recollection of having seen M. de Charlus suddenly leave go of my arm, whether because none of those sentiments survived in him or because in order to reach me they would have been so deformed by physical refractions that their meaning would have completely changed on the way, so that M. d’Argencourt appeared to have become amiable because he no longer had the power to express his malevolence and to curb his chronic and irritating hilarity. To compare him with an actor is an overstatement for, having no conscious mind at all, he was like a shaky doll with a woollen beard stuck on his face pottering about the room, like a scientific or philosophical marionette mimicking a part in a funeral ceremony or a lecture at the Sorbonne, simultaneously illustrating the vanity of all things and representing a natural history specimen. A Punch and Judy show of puppets, of which one could only identify those one had known by viewing them simultaneously at several levels graded in the background, which gave them depth and forced one to the mental effort of combining eye and memory as one gazed at these old phantoms. A Punch and Judy show of puppets bathed in the immaterial colours of years, of puppets which exteriorised Time, Time usually invisible, which to attain visibility seeks and fastens on bodies to exhibit wherever it can, with its magic lantern. Immaterial like Golo on the door-handle of my room at Combray, the new and unrecognisable M. d’Argencourt was a revelation of Time by rendering it partially visible. In the new elements composing M. d’Argencourt’s face and personality one could read a sum of years, one could recognise the symbolical figure of life, not permanent as it appears to us, but as it is, a constantly changing atmosphere in which the haughty nobleman caricatures himself in the evening as an old clothes-dealer.

In the case of others these changes, these positive transformations seemed to proceed from the sphere of natural history and it was surprising to hear a name applied to a person, not, as in the case of M. d’Argencourt, with the characteristics of a new and different species but with the exterior features of another person altogether. As in the case of M. d’Argencourt there were unsuspected potentialities which time had elicited from such and such a young girl, and though these potentialities were purely physiognomical or corporeal, they seemed to have moral implications. If the features of a face change, if they unite differently, if they contract slowly but continuously, they assume, with that changed aspect, another significance. Thus, a particular woman who had formerly given one an impression of aridity and shallowness and who had now acquired an enlargement of the cheeks and an unforeseeable bridge on her nose occasioned the same surprise, often an agreeable one, as a sensitive and thoughtful remark, a fine and highminded act which one would never have expected of her. Unhoped for horizons opened around that new nose. Kindness and tenderness, formerly undreamed of became possible with those cheeks. From that chin one might hope for things unimaginable from the preceding one. These new facial features implied altered traits of character; the hard, scraggy girl had become a buxom, generous dowager. It was not in the zoological sense like M. d’Argencourt, but in the social and moral sense that one could say she had become a different person. In all these ways an afternoon party such as this was something much more valuable than a vision of the past for it offered me something better than the successive pictures I had missed of the past separating itself from the present, namely, the relationship between the present and the past; it was like what used to be called a panopticon but a panopticon of years, a view not of a monument but of a person situated in the modifying perspective of Time.

The woman whose lover M. d’Argencourt had been, was not much changed, if one reckoned the time that had passed, that is, her face was not so completely demolished into that of a creature which has continuously disintegrated throughout his journey into the abyss, the direction of which we can only express by equally vain comparisons since we can only borrow them from the world of space and which, whether we estimate them in terms of height or length or depth have only the merit of conveying to us that this inconceivable yet perceptible dimension exists. The need, so as to give a name to a face, of what amounted to climbing up the years, compelled me later to reconstruct retrospectively the years about which I had never thought, so as to give them their proper order. From this point of view and so as not to allow myself to be deceived by the apparent identity of space, the perfectly new aspect of a being like M. d’Argencourt was a striking revelation of the reality of the era which generally seems an abstraction, in the same way as dwarf trees or giant baobabs illustrate a change of latitude. Then life appears to us like a fairyland where one can watch the baby becoming adolescent, man becoming mature and inclining to the grave. And, since it is through perpetual change that one grasps that these beings, observed at considerable intervals, are so different, one realises that one has been obeying the same law as these creatures which are so transformed that they no longer resemble, though they have never ceased to be — just because they have never ceased to be — what we thought them before,

A young woman I had formerly known, now snow-white and reduced to a little malevolent old woman, seemed to prove that, in the final act, it was necessary that characters should be made up to be unrecognisable. But her brother had remained so erect, so exactly as he was, that the whitening of his upturned moustache seemed surprising on so young a face. The snowy whiteness of beards which had been completely black made the human landscape of that afternoon party melancholy as do the first brown leaves of a summer one has hardly begun enjoying when autumn comes. Thus I who from infancy, had lived from day to day, with a sort of fixed idea of myself derived from others as well as myself, perceived for the first time, after witnessing the metamorphosis of all these people, that the time which had gone by for them, had gone by for me also and this revelation threw me into consternation. Indifferent as their ageing was to me, now that theirs heralded the approach of my own, I was disconsolate. This approach was indeed announced by one verbal blow after another at intervals, which sounded to my ears like blasts from the trumpets of Judgment Day. The first was uttered by the Duchesse de Guermantes; I had just seen her pass between a double row of gaping people who, without realising how the marvellous artifice of her dress and aesthetic worked on them, moved by the sight of her scarlet head, her salmon-like flesh strangled with jewels just emerging from its black lace fins, gazed at the hereditary sinuosity of her figure as they might have done at some ancient jewel-bedecked fish in which the protective genius of the Guermantes’ family was incarnated. “Ah!” she exclaimed on seeing me, “what a joy to see you, you my oldest friend!” In my youthful vanity of Combray days which never permitted me to count myself among her friends who actually shared that mysterious Guermantes’ life, one of her accredited friends like M. de Bréauté or M. de Forestille or Swann, like so many who were dead, I might have been flattered but, instead, I was extremely miserable. “Her oldest friend!” I thought, “She’s exaggerating, perhaps one of the oldest but am I really —” At that moment one of the Prince’s nephews came up to me and remarked: “You who are an old Parisian.” An instant later a note was brought me. I had, on my arrival, seen one of the young Létourvilles whose relationship to the Duchesse I could not remember but who knew me a little. He had just left Saint-Cyr and thinking to myself he would be a charming acquaintance like Saint-Loup, who could initiate me into military affairs and their incidental changes, I had told him I would find him later so that we could arrange to dîne together, for which he thanked me effusively. But I had remained dreaming in the library too long and the note he had left was to tell me that he was not able to wait and gave me his address. This coveted comrade ended his letter thus: “With respectful regard, your young friend, Létourville”. “Young friend!” Thus I used formerly to address people thirty years older than myself, Legrandin, for instance. That sub-lieutenant whom I was regarding as a comrade called himself my young friend. So it was not only military methods which had changed since then and from M. de Létourville’s standpoint I was not a comrade but an old gentleman and I was separated from M. de Létourville to whom I imagined that I appeared as I did to myself as though by the opening arms of an invisible compass which placed me at such a distance from that young sub-lieutenant that to him who called himself my young friend I was an elderly gentleman.

Almost immediately afterwards someone spoke of Bloch and I asked if they were talking of young Bloch or his father (of whose death during the war I was unaware). It was said he died of emotion when France was invaded. “I did not know that he had any children, not even that he was married,” said the Duchesse, “but evidently it is the father we’re talking about for there’s nothing young about him.” She added, laughing, “He might have grown-up sons.” Then I realised she was talking about my old friend. As it happened, he came in a few minutes later and I had difficulty in recognising him. He had now adopted the name of Jacques du Rozier, under which it would have needed the nose of my grandfather to scent the sweet valley of Hebron and the bond of Israel which my friend seemed to have finally broken. A modish Englishness had completely changed his appearance and every thing that could be effaced was moulded into the semblance of a plaster cast. His former curly hair was now smoothed out flat, was parted in the middle and shone with cosmetics. His nose was still red and prominent and appeared to be swollen by a sort of permanent catarrh which perhaps explained the nasal accent with which he lazily drawled his phrases, for, he had discovered, in addition to a way of doing his hair to suit his complexion, a voice to the former nasal tone of which he had added an air of peculiar disdain to suit the inflamed contours of his nose. And thanks to hairdressing, to the elimination of his moustache, to his smartness of style and to his will, that Jewish nose had disappeared as a hump can almost be made to look like a straight back by being carefully disguised. But the significance of Bloch’s physiognomy was changed above all by a redoubtable eyeglass. The mechanical effect produced in Bloch’s face by this monocle enabled him to dispense with all those difficult duties to which the human countenance must submit, that of looking amiable, of expressing humour, good nature and effort. Its mere presence in Bloch’s face made it unnecessary to consider whether it was good-looking or not, like when a shop-assistant shows you an English object and says it is “le grand chic”, and you don’t dare consider whether you like it or not. And then he installed himself behind his glass in a haughty, distant and comfortable attitude as though it were an eight-fold mirror, and by making his face suit his flat hair and his eyeglass his features no longer expressed anything whatever. On that face of Bloch’s were super-imposed that vapid and self-opinionated expression, those feeble movements of the head which soon find their point of stasis, and with which I should have identified the out-worn learning of a complacent old gentleman if I had not at last recognised that the man facing me was an old friend, whom my memories had endowed with the continuous vigour of youth which he seemed now completely to lack. I had known him on the threshold of life, he had been my school-fellow and unconsciously, I was regarding him, like myself, as though we were both living in the period of our youth. I heard it said that he looked quite his age and I was surprised to notice some familiar signs of it in his face. Then I realised that, in fact, he was old and that life makes its old men out of adolescents who last many years.

Someone hearing I was not well asked if I was not afraid to catch the “grippe” which was raging at that time while another benevolent individual reassured me by remarking: “Don’t be afraid, it only attacks the young, people of your age don’t run much risk of it.” I noticed that the servants had recognised me and whispered my name, and a lady said she had heard them remark in their vernacular: “There goes old —” (This was followed by my name.)

On hearing the Duchesse de Guermantes say, “Of course! I knew the Marshal? But I knew others who were much more representative, the Duchesse de Galliera, Pauline de Périgord, Mgr. Dupanloup,” I naively regretted not having known those she called relics of the ancien régime. I ought to have remembered that we call ancien regime what we have only known the end of; what is perceived thus on the horizon assumes a mysterious grandeur and seems the last chapter of a world we shall never see again; but as we go on it is soon we ourselves who are on the horizon for the generations behind us, the horizon continues to recede and the world which seemed finished begins again. “When I was a young girl,” added Mme de Guermantes, “I even saw the Duchesse de Dino. I’m no longer twenty-five, you know.” Her last words displeased me; she need not have said that, it would have been all right for an old woman. “As to yourself,” she continued, “you’re always the same, you haven’t, so to speak, changed at all,” and that gave me almost more pain than if she had said the contrary for it proved, by the mere fact of being remarkable, how much time had passed. “You’re astonishing, my dear friend. You’re always youn,” a melancholy remark since there is only sense in it when we have, in fact, if not in appearance, become old. And she gave me a final blow by adding: “I’ve always regretted you did not get married. But, who knows! After all, perhaps you’re happier as it is. You would have been old enough to have sons in the war and if they had been killed like poor Robert Saint-Loup (I often think of him) with your sensitiveness, you would not have survived them.” And I could see myself as in the first truth-telling mirror I might encounter in the eyes of old men who had in their own opinion remained young as I believed I had, and who when I offered myself as an example of old age, in order that they should deny it, would by the look they gave me, show not the slightest pretence that they saw me otherwise than they saw themselves. For we do not see ourselves as we are, our age as it is, but each of us sees it in the other as though in a mirror. And, no doubt, many would have been less unhappy than I to realise they were old. At first, some face age as they do death, with indifference, not because they have more courage than others but because they have less imagination. But a man who, since boyhood has had one single idea in his mind, whose idleness and delicate health, just because they cause the postponement of its realisation, annul each wasted day because the disease which hastens the ageing of his body retards that of his spirit, such a man is more overwhelmed when he realises that he has never ceased living in Time than another who, having no inner life, regulates himself by the calendar and does not suddenly discover the aggregate of years he has been daily though unconsciously adding up. But there .was a graver reason for my pain; I discovered that destructive action of Time at the very moment when I wanted to elucidate, to intellectualise extra-temporal realities in a work of art.

In the case of certain people present at this party, the successive substitution of cellules had brought about so complete a change during my absence from society, such an entire metamorphosis, that I could have dined opposite them in a restaurant a hundred times without any more imagining I had formerly known them than I could have guessed the royalty of an incognito sovereign or the vice of a stranger. The comparison is inadequate in the matter of names, for one can imagine an unknown seated in front of you being a criminal or a king whilst those I had known, or rather, the people I had known who bore their name, were so different that I could not believe them the same. Nevertheless, as I would have done in taking the idea of sovereignty or of vice as a starting-point which soon makes us discern in the stranger (whom one might so readily have treated with amiability or the reverse while one was blindfolded) a distinguished or suspicious appearance, I applied myself to introducing into the face of a woman entirely unknown to me the idea that she was Mme Sazerat. And I ended by establishing my former notion of this face which would have remained utterly unknown to me, entirely that of another woman, as it had lost as fully the human attributes I had known as though it were that of a man changed into a monkey, were it not that the name and the statement of her identity put me in the way of solving the problem in spite of its difficulty. Sometimes, however, the old picture came to life with sufficient precision for me to confront the two and like a witness in the presence of an accused person, I had to say: “No, I do not recognise her.”

A young woman asked me: “Shall we go and dine together at a restaurant?” and when I replied: “With pleasure, if you don’t mind dining alone with a young man,” I heard the people round me giggle and I added hastily, “or rather with an old one.” I realised that the words which caused the laughter were of the kind my mother might have used in speaking of me; for my mother I always remained a child and I perceived that I was looking at myself from her point of view. Had I registered, as she did, changes since my childhood, they would have been very old ones for I had stopped at the point where people once used to say, almost before it was true, “Now he really is almost a young man.” That was what I was now thinking but tremendously late. I had not perceived how much I had changed but how did the people who laughed at me know? I had not a grey hair, my moustache was black. I should have liked to ask them how this awful fact revealed itself. And now I understood what old age was — old age, which, of all realities, is perhaps the one of which we retain a purely abstract notion for the longest time, looking at calendars, dating our letters, seeing our friends get married, the children of our friends, without realising its significance, whether through dread or through idleness, until the day when an unknown effigy like M. d’Argencourt teaches us that we are living in a new world; until then when we, who seem to him like his grandfather, treat the grandson of one of our women friends as a comrade and he laughs as though at a joke. And then I understood what is meant by death, love, joys of the mind, usefulness of sorrow and vocation. For if names had lost their meaning for me, words had unfolded it. The beauty of images is lodged at the back of things, that of ideas in front, so that the first no longer cause us wonder when we reach them and we only understand the second when we have passed beyond them.

The cruel discovery I had now made regarding the lapse of Time could only enrich my ideas and add to the material of my book. Since I had decided that it could not consist only of pure intuitions, namely those beyond Time, amongst the verities with which I intended to frame them, those which are concerned with Time, Time, in which men, societies and nations bathe and change, would have an important place. I should not be mindful only of those alterations to which the aspect of human beings must submit, of which new examples presented themselves at every moment, for still considering my work now begun with decision strong enough to resist temporary distraction, I continued to say, “How do you do?” and talk to people I knew. Age, moreover, had not marked all of them in similar fashion. Someone asked my name and I was told it was M. de Cambremer. To show he had recognised me he inquired: “Do you still suffer from those feelings of suffocation?” On my replying in the affirmative, he went on: “You see that that does not prevent longevity,” as though I were a centenarian. I was speaking to him with my eyes fixed upon two or three features which my thought was reducing to a synthesis of my memories of his personality quite different from what he now represented. He half turned his head for a moment and I then perceived that he had become unrecognisable owing to the adjunction to his cheeks of enormous red pockets which prevented him from opening his mouth and his eyes properly, so much so that I stood stupefied not wanting to show that I noticed this sort of anthrax to which it was more becoming that he should allude first. But since, like a courageous invalid, he made no allusion to it and laughed, I feared to seem lacking in feeling if I did not inquire and in tact if I did. “But don’t they come more rarely as one grows old?” he asked, referring to the suffocated feeling. I told him not. “Well, my sister has them much less now than formerly,” he remarked with an air of contradiction, as though it must be the same in my case, as though age were a remedy which had been good for Mme de Gaucourt and therefore salutary for me. Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin now approached and I felt more and more afraid of seeming insensitive in not deploring what I remarked on her husband’s face and yet I did not dare speak first. “You must be pleased to see him again,” she said. “Is he well?” I answered hesitatingly. “As you see,” she replied. She had never even noticed the growth which offended my vision and which was only another of the masks which Time had attached to the Marquis’ face, but so gradually and progressively that the Marquise had noticed nothing. When M, de Cambremer had finished questioning me about my attacks of suffocation it was my turn to ask someone, in a whisper, if the Marquis’ mother was still alive. She was. In appreciating the passage of time, it is only the first step that counts. At first it is painful to realise that so much time has passed, afterwards one is surprised it is not more. One begins by being unable to realise that the thirteenth century is so far away and afterwards finds difficulty in believing that any churches of that period survive though they are innumerable in France. In a few instants that slower process had taken place in me which happens to those who can scarcely believe a person they know is sixty and fifteen years later are equally incredulous when they hear he is still alive and no more than seventy-five. I asked M. de Cambremer how his mother was. “Splendid as ever,” he answered, using an adjective which to the contrary of those tribes which treat aged parents without pity applies in certain families to old people whose use of the physical faculties, such as hearing, walking to church and bearing bereavement without feeling depressed, endows them with extreme moral beauty in the eyes of their children.

If certain women proclaimed their age by make-up, certain men on whose faces I had never noticed cosmetics accentuated their age by ceasing to use them, now that they were no longer concerned to charm. Amongst these was Legrandin. The disappearance of the pink in his lips and cheeks which I had never suspected of being an artifice, gave his skin a grey hue and his long-drawn and mournful features the sculptured and lapidary precision of an Egyptian God. A God! More like one who had come back from the dead. He had not only lost the courage to paint himself but to smile, to put life into his manner and to talk with animation. It was astonishing to see him so pale, so beaten, only emitting a word now and then which had the insignificance of those uttered by the dead when they are evoked. One wondered what prevented him from being lively, talkative and entertaining, as at a séance, one is struck by the insignificant replies of the spirit of a man who was brilliant when he was alive, to questions susceptible of interesting developments. And one realised that old age had substituted a pale and tenuous phantom for the highly-coloured and alert Legrandin. Certain people’s hair had not gone white. I noticed this when the Prince de Guermantes’ old footman went to speak to his master. The ample whiskers which stood out from his cheeks had like his neck retained that red-pink which he could not be suspected of obtaining by dye like the Duchesse de Guermantes. But he did not seem less old on that account. One only felt that there are species of man like mosses and lichens in the vegetable kingdom which do not change at the approach of winter.

In the case of guests whose faces had remained intact, age showed itself in other ways; they only seemed to be inconvenienced when they had to walk; at first, something seemed wrong with their legs, later only, one grasped that age had attached soles of lead to their feet. Some, like the Prince of Agrigente, had been embellished by age. This tall, thin, dispirited-looking man with hair which seemed to remain eternally red, had, by means of a metamorphosis analogous to that of insects, been succeeded by an old man whose red hair, like a worn-out table-cloth had been replaced by white. His chest had assumed an unheard of and almost warrior-like protuberance which must have necessitated a regular bursting of the frail chrysalis I had known; a self-conscious gravity tinged his eyes which beamed with a newly acquired benevolence towards all and sundry. And as, in spite of the change in him, there was still a certain resemblance between the vigorous prince of now and the portrait my memory preserved, I was filled with admiration of the recreative power of Time which, while respecting the unity of the being and the laws of life, finds means of thus altering appearance and of introducing bold contrasts in two successive aspects of the same individual. Many people could be immediately identified but like rather bad portraits of themselves in which an unconscientious and malevolent artist had hardened the features of one, taken away the freshness of complexion or slight-ness of figure of another and darkened the look of a third. Comparing these images with those retained by my memory, I liked less those displayed to me now, in the same way as we dislike and refuse the photograph of a friend because we don’t consider it a pleasant likeness. I should have liked to say to each one of them who showed me his portrait: “No, not that one, it doesn’t do you justice, it isn’t you.” I should not have ventured to add: “Instead of your beautiful straight nose you have now got the hooked nose of your father”; it was, in fact, a new familial nose. In short, the artist Time had produced all these models in such a way as to be recognisable without being likenesses, not because he had flattered but because he had aged them. That particular artist works very slowly. Thus the replica of the face of Odette, a barely outlined sketch of which I perceived in that of Gilberte on the day I first saw Bergotte, had been worked by time into the most perfect resemblance (as will be seen shortly) like painters who keep a work a long time and add to it year by year. In several cases I recognised not only the people themselves but themselves as they used to be, like Ski, for instance, who was no more changed than a dried flower or fruit, a type of those amateur “celibates of art” who remain ineffectual and unfulfilled in their old age. Ski had, in thus remaining an incomplete experiment, confirmed my theories about art. Others similarly affected were in no sense amateurs; they were society people interested in nothing, whom age had not ripened and if it had drawn a curve of wrinkles round their faces and given them an arch of white hair, they yet remained chubby and retained the sprightliness of eighteen. They were not old men but extremely faded young men of eighteen. Little would have been needed to efface the withering effects of years, and death would have had no more trouble in giving youth back to their faces than is needed to restore a slightly soiled portrait to its original brightness. I reflected also on the illusion which dupes us into crediting an aged celebrity with virtue, justice and loveliness of soul, my feeling being that such famous people, forty years earlier, had been terrible young men and that there was no reason to suppose that they were not just as vain, cunning, self-sufficient and tricky now.

Yet in complete contrast with these last I was surprised when I conversed with men and women who were formerly unbearable, to discover that they had almost entirely lost their defects, whether because life had disappointed or satisfied their ambitions and thus freed them from presumption or from bitterness. A rich marriage which makes both effort and ostentation unnecessary, perhaps too the influence of a wife, a slowly-acquired sense of values other than those in which light-headed youth exclusively believes had enlarged their characters and brought out their qualities. With age such individuals seemed to have acquired a different personality like trees which seem to assume a new character with their autumnal tints. In their case age manifested itself as a form of morality they used not to possess, in the case of others it was physical in character and so new to me that a particular person such as Mme de Souvré, for instance, seemed simultaneously familiar and a stranger. A stranger for I could not believe it was she and, in responding to her bow, I could not help letting her notice my mental effort to establish which of three or four people (of whom Mme de Souvré was not one) I was bowing to with a warmth which must have astonished her for, in fear of being too distant if she were an intimate friend, I had made up for the uncertainty of my recognition by the warmth of my smiling handshake. On the other hand, her new aspect was familiar to me. It was one I had, in the course of my life, often observed in stout, elderly women without then suspecting that, many years before, they might have resembled Mme de Souvré. So different was this aspect from the one I had known in the past that I might have thought her a character in a fairy story which first appears as a young girl, then as a stout matron and finally, no doubt, turns into a tottering, bowbacked old woman. She looked like an exhausted swimmer far from shore who painfully manages to keep her head above the waves of time which were submerging her. After looking long at her irresolute face, wavering like a treacherous memory which cannot retain former appearances, I succeeded somehow in recovering something by indulging in a little game of eliminating the squares and hexagons which age had affixed to those cheeks. But it was by no means always geometrical figures that it affixed to the faces of the women. In the Duchesse de Guermantes’ cheeks which had remained remarkably unchanged though they now seemed compounded of nougat, I distinguished a trace of verdigris, a tiny bit of crushed shell and a fleshiness difficult to define because it was slighter than a mistletoe-berry and less transparent than a glass bead.

Some men walked lame and one knew it was not on account of a carriage accident but of a stroke and that they had, as people say, one foot in the grave. This was gaping for half-paralysed women like Mme de Franquetot who seemed to be unable to pull away their raiment caught in the stones of the vault, as though they could not recover their footing, with their heads held low, their bodies bent into a curve like the one between life and death they were now descending to their final extinction. Nothing could resist the movement of the parabola which was carrying them off, trying tremblingly to rise, their quivering fingers failed them. Certain faces under the hood of their white hair wore the rigidity, the sealed eyelids of those about to die, their constantly moving lips seemed to be mumbling the prayer of the dying.

If a face retained its linear form, white hair replacing blond or black sufficed to make it look like that of another. Theatrical costumiers know that a powdered wig so dis-guises a person as to make him unrecognisable. The young Marquis de Beausergent whom I had met in Mme de Cambremer’s box when he was a sub-lieutenant on the day when Mme de Guermantes was in her sister’s box, still had perfectly regular features, even more so, because the physiological rigidity of arteriosclerosis exaggerated the impassive physiognomy of the dandy and gave his features the intense and almost grimacing immobility of a study by Mantegna or Michael Angelo. His formerly brick-red skin had become gravely pale; silver hair, slight stoutness, Doge-like dignity and a chronic fatigue which gave him a constant longing for sleep, combined to produce a new and impressive majesty. A rectangle of white beard had replaced a similar rectangle of blond so perfectly that, noticing that my former sub-lieutenant now had five stripes, my first thought was to congratulate him not on having been promoted Colonel but on being one so completely that he seemed to have borrowed not only the uniform but also the solemn and serious appearance of his father the Colonel. In the case of another man, a white beard had succeeded a blond one but as his face had remained gay, smiling and youthful, it made him appear redder and more active and by increasing the brightness of his eyes, gave this worldling who had remained young the inspired appearance of a prophet. The transformation which white hair and other elements had effected, particularly in women, would have claimed my attention less if it had involved a change of colour only, for that may charm the eyes whereas a change of personality troubles the mind. Actually to recognise someone, more still, to identify him you have been unable to recognise, is to think two contradictory things under a single denomination, it is the same as saying that he who was here, the being we recall, is here no longer and that he who is here is one we never knew, that means piercing a mystery almost as troubling as that of death of which it is indeed the preface and the herald. For I knew what these changes meant and what they preluded and so that whitening of the women’s hair in addition to so many other changes deeply moved me. Somebody mentioned a name and I was stupefied to know it applied at one and the same time to my former blonde dance-partner and to the stout elderly lady who moved ponderously past me. Except for a certain pinkness of complexion their name was perhaps the only thing in common between these two women who differed so much — the one in my memory and this one at the Guermantes’ reception — the young ingénue and the theatrical dowager. That my dancer had managed to annex that huge carcass, that she had succeeded in slowing down her cumbersome movements like a metronome, that all she should have preserved of her youth were her cheeks, fuller certainly but freckled as ever, that for the erstwhile dainty blonde there should have been substituted this old pot-bellied Marshal, life must have achieved more destruction and reconstruction than is needed to replace a spire by a dome and when one remembered that the operation had been carried out not upon inert matter but upon flesh which only changes insensibly, the overwhelming contrast between this apparition and the being I remembered removed her into a past which, rather than remote, was almost incredible. It was difficult to reunite the two aspects, to think of the two creatures under the same denomination; for in the same way that one has difficulty in realising that a dead body was alive or that he who was alive is dead to-day, it is almost as difficult, and the difficulty is the same (for the annihilation of youth, the destruction of a personality full of strength and vitality is the beginning of a void), to conceive that she who was young is old, when the aspect of this old woman juxtaposed on that of the young one seems so completely to exclude it that in turn it is the old woman, then the young one, then again the old one which appear to you as in a dream and one cannot believe that this was ever that, that the matter of that one is herself which had not escaped elsewhere, but thanks to the adroit manipulations of time, had become this one, that the same matter has never left the same body — if one did not have the name as an indication as well as the affirmative testimony of friends to which the copperas, erstwhile exiguous between the gold of the wheat ears to-day buried beneath the snow, alone gives an appearance of credibility. One was terrified on considering the periods which must have passed since such a revolution had been accomplished in the geology of the human countenance, to observe the erosions that had taken place beside the nose, the immense deposits on the cheeks which enveloped the face with their opaque and refractory mass. I had always thought of our own individuality at a given moment in time as a polypus whose eye, an independent organism, although associated with it, winks at a scatter of dust without orders from the mind, still more, whose intestines are infected by an obscure parasite without the intelligence being aware of it, and similarly of the soul as a series of selves juxtaposed in the course of life but distinct from each other which would die in turn or take turn about like those different selves which alternately took possession of me at Combray when evening came. But I had also observed that these moral cellules which constitute a being are more durable than itself. I had seen the vices and the bravery of the Guer-mantes return in Saint-Loup, as I had seen the strange and swift defects and then the loyal semitism of Swann. I could see it again in Bloch. After he had lost his father the idea, besides the strong familial sentiment which often exists in Jewish families, that his father was superior to everyone, had given the form of a cult to his love for him. He could not bear losing him and had shut himself up for nearly a year in a sanatorium. He had replied to my condolences in a deeply felt but almost haughty tone, so enviable did he consider me for having been acquainted with that distinguished man whose carriage and pair he would have gladly given to a historical museum. And at his family table (for contrary to what the Duchesse de Guermantes believed, he was married) the same anger which animated M. Bloch senior against M. Nissim Bernard animated Bloch against his father-in-law. He made the same attacks on him. In the same way when I listened to the, talk of Cottard, Brichot and so many others I had felt that by culture and fashion a single undulation propagates identical modes of speech and thought in the whole expanse of space, and in the same way, throughout the duration of time, great fundamental currents raise from the depths of the ages the same angers, the same sorrows, the same boasts, the same manias, throughout superimposed generations, each section accepting the criteria of various levels of the same series and reproducing, like shadows upon successive screens, pictures similar to though often less insignificant than that which brought Bloch and his father-in-law, M. Bloch senior and M. Nissim Bernard and others I never knew, to blows.

There were men I knew there with whose relations I was also acquainted without ever realising that they had a feature-in common; in admiring the white-haired old hermit into whom Legrandin had changed, I suddenly observed, I could say discovered with a zoologist’s satisfaction, in his ironed-out cheeks, the same construction as in those of his young nephew, Léonor de Cambremer, who-however, did not seem to bear any resemblance to him; to this preliminary common feature I added another I had not until now remarked, then others, none of which composed the synthesis his youthfulness ordinarily offered me, so that soon I had a sort of caricature of him, deeper and more lifelike than a literal resemblance would have been; his uncle now seemed to me young Cambremer who, for fun, had assumed the appearance of the old man he would eventually be, so completely indeed that it was not only what youth of the past had become but what youth of to-day would change into that had given me such an intensified sense of Time.

Women tried to keep touch with the particular charm which had most distinguished them but the fresh matter that time had added to their faces would not permit of it. The features moulded by beauty, having disappeared in roost cases, they tried to construct another one with the relics. By displacing the centre of perspective if not of gravity in the face and recomposing its features to accord with the new character, they began building up a new sort of beauty at fifty as a man takes up a new profession late in life or as soil no longer good for the vine is used to produce beetroot. This caused a new youth to flower round the new features. But those who had been too beautiful or too ugly could not accommodate themselves to these transformations. The former modelled like marble on definitive lines which cannot be changed, crumbled away like a statue, the latter who had some facial defect had even an advantage over them. To start with it was only they whom one immediately recognised. One knew there were not two mouths in Paris like theirs which enabled me to distinguish them in the course of a party at which I had recognised nobody. And they did not even appear to have aged. Age is human and being monsters they had no more changed than whales. There were other men and women who did not seem to have aged; their outlines were as slim, their faces as young as ever. But, if one approached them closely so as to talk to them, the face with its smooth skin and delicate contours appeared different and as happens when one examines a vegetable body under a microscope, watery or ensanguined spots exuded. I observed sundry greasy marks on skin I had believed to be smooth which gave me a feeling of disgust. The outline did not resist this enlargement; at a close view that of the nose had been deflected and rounded, had been invaded by the same oily patches as the rest of the face and when it met the eyes, the latter disappeared into pockets which destroyed the resemblance with the former face one thought one had rediscovered. Thus those guests who had an appearance of youth at a distance, became old as one got near to them and could observe the enlargement and distribution of the facial planes. In fact their age seemed to depend upon the spectator so placing himself as to envisage them as young by observing them only at a distance which, deprived of the glass supplied to a long-sighted person by an optician, diminishes the object; their age, like the presence of infusoria in a glass of water, was brought about less by the progress of years than by the scale of enlargement in the observer’s vision.

In general the amount of white hair was an index of depth in time like mountain summits which appear to be on the same level as others until the brilliance of their snowy whiteness reveals their height above them. And even that could not always be said, especially about women. Thus the Princesse de Guermantes’ locks, when they were grey, had the brilliance of silvery silk round her protuberant brow but now having determined to become white seemed to be made of wool and stuffing and resembled soiled snow. It also occurred that blonde dancing girls had not merely annexed, together with their white hair, the friendship of duchesses they had not previously known, but having formerly done nothing but dance, art had touched them with its grace. And, like those illustrious ladies in the eighteenth century who became religious, they lived in flats full of cubist paintings, with a cubist painter working only for them and they living only for him.

Old men whose features had changed attempted to fix on them permanently the fugitive expressions adopted for a pose, thinking they would secure a better appearance or palliate its defects; they seemed to have become unchangeable snapshots of themselves.

All these people had taken so much time to make up their disguises that, as a rule, they escaped the notice of those who lived with them, indeed often a reprieve was granted them and, during the interval, they had been able to remain themselves until quite late in life. But this deferred disguise was then accomplished more quickly and was, in any case, inevitable. Thus I had always known Mme X charming and erect and for long she remained so, too long indeed, for like a person who must not forget to put on her Turkish disguise before dark, she had waited till the last moment and precipitately transformed herself into the old Turkish lady her mother formerly resembled.

At the party I discovered one of my early friends whom I had formerly seen nearly every day during ten years. Someone reintroduced us to each other. As I went near to him, he said with a voice I well remembered: “What a joy for me after so many years!” but what a surprise for me! His voice seemed to be proceeding from a perfected phonograph for though it was that of my friend, it issued from a great greyish man whom I did not know and the voice of my old comrade seemed to have been housed in this fat old fellow by means of a mechanical trick. Yet I knew that it was he, the person who introduced us after all that time not being the kind to play pranks. He declared that I had not changed by which I grasped that he did not think he had. Then I looked at him again and except that he had got so fat, he had kept a good deal of his former personality. Nevertheless, I found it impossible to realise it and I tried to recall him. In his youth he had blue eyes that were always smiling and moving, apparently searching for something I was unaware of, which may have been disinterested truth, perhaps pursued in perpetual doubt with a boy’s fugitive respect for family friends. Having become an influential politician, capable and despotic, those blue eyes which had never succeeded in finding what they were after had become immobilised and this gave them a sharp expression like a frowning-eye-brow, while gaiety, unconsciousness and innocence had changed into design and disingenuousness. Emphatically he had changed into another person — then suddenly, in reply to a word of mine, he burst into laughter, the jolly familiar laugh of former days which suited the perpetual gay mobility of his glance. Musical fanatics hold that Z’s music orchestrated by X becomes something absolutely different. These are shades which ordinary people cannot grasp, but the wild stifled laugh of a child beneath an eye pointed like a well-sharpened blue pencil, though a little on one side, is something more than a difference in orchestration. When his laughter ceased I would have liked to reconstruct my friend, but like Ulysses in the Odyssey, throwing himself upon the body of his dead mother, like a medium vainly trying to obtain from an apparition a reply which shall identify it, like a visitor to an electrical exhibition who cannot accept the voice from a phonograph as the spontaneous utterance of a human being, I ceased to recognise my friend.

It is necessary, however, to make this reserve that the beat of time itself can in certain cases be accelerated or slowed down. Four or five years before, I had by chance, met in the street Vicomtesse de St. Fiacre (daughter-in-law of the Guermantes’ friend). Her sculptured features had seemed to assure her eternal youth and indeed she still was young. But now, in spite of her smiles and greetings, I failed to recognise her in a lady whose features had so gone to pieces that the outline of her face could not be restored. What had happened was that for three years she had been taking cocaine and other drugs. Her eyes deeply and darkly rimmed were haggard, her mouth had a strange twitch. She had, it seems, got up for this reception though she was in the habit of remaining in bed or on a sofa for months. Time has these express and special trains which bring about premature old age but on a parallel line return trains circulate which are almost as rapid. I took M. de Courgivaux for his son; he looked younger and though he must have been past fifty, appeared to be no more than thirty. He had found an intelligent doctor, had avoided alcohol and salt and so had become thirty again, hardly even that because he had had his hair cut that morning.

A curious thing is that the phenomenon of age seemed in its modalities to take note of certain social customs. Great gentlemen who had been in the habit of wearing the plainest alpaca and old straw hats which a bourgeois would not have put on his head, had aged in the same way as the gardeners and peasants in the midst of whom they had lived. Their cheeks were stained brown inl patches and their faces had grown yellow and had sunk flat like a book. And I thought, too, of those who were not there because they could not be, of how their secretary, in an attempt to give them the illusion of survival, would excuse them by one of those telegrams the Princess received on occasion from such as had been ill or dying for years, who can rise no more nor even move and, surrounded by frivolous or assiduous visitors, the former attracted like inquisitive tourists, the latter by the faith of pilgrims, lie, with closed eyes clasping their breviary, their bedclothes partly thrown back like a mortuary shroud, chiselled into a skeleton beneath the pale, distended skin like marble on a tomb.

Certainly, some women were recognisable because their faces had remained almost the same and they wore their grey hair to harmonise with the season like autumn leaves. But in others and in some men their identity was so impossible to establish — for instance between the dark voluptuary one remembered and the old monk of now — that their transformation made one think, rather than of the actor’s art, of that of the amazing mimic of whom Fregoli remains the prototype. That old woman yonder is about to weep because she knows that the indefinable and melancholy smile which was formerly her charm cannot even irradiate the surface of the mask old age has affixed to her. Now, discouraged from attempts to please she more adroitly resigns herself to using it as though it were a theatrical mask to make people laugh. But in the case of nearly all the women there was no limit to their efforts to fight against age; they held the mirror of their faces towards beauty, vanishing like a setting sun whose last rays they passionately long to retain. Some sought to smooth out, to extend the white surface, renouncing the piquancy of menaced dimples, quelling the resistance of a smile doomed and disarmed, while others, realising that their beauty had finally departed, took refuge in expression, as one compensates the loss of the voice by the art of diction, and hung on to a pout, to a smirk, to a pensive gaze, or to a smile to which muscular incoordination gave the appearance of weeping.

A stout lady bade me good afternoon during the moment that these varied thoughts were pressing upon my mind. For an instant I hesitated to reply to her, fearing she might be taking me for someone else, then her confidence making me think the contrary and fearing she was someone with whom I might at one time have been intimate, I exaggerated the affability of my smile while my gaze still sought in her features the name I could not find. Thus an uncertain candidate for matriculation searches the face of the examiner for the answer he would be wiser to seek in his own memory. So I smiled and stared at the features of the stout lady. They appeared to be those of Mme de Forcheville and my smile became tinged with respect and my indecision began to cease when a second later, the stout lady said: “You were taking me for mamma, I know I’m getting to look exactly like her,” and I recognised Gilberte.

Moreover, even among men who had been subjected to only a slight change, whose moustaches only had become white, one felt that the change was not purely material. One saw them as through a coloured mist or glass which affected their facial aspect with a sort of fogginess and revealed what they allowed one to observe as if it were life-size though in reality it was far away, not in the sense of space, but, fundamentally, like being on another shore whence they had as much trouble in recognising us as we them. Perhaps Mme de Forcheville who looked to me as though she had been injected with paraffin which swells the skin and prevents it from sagging, was unique in presenting the appearance of a courtesan of an earlier period who had been embalmed for eternity. “You took me for my mother,” Gilberte had said and it was true. For that matter it was a compliment to the daughter. Moreover, it was not only in the last-named that familiar features had reappeared, as invisible till then in her face as the inturned parts of a seed-pod, the eventual opening out of which would never be suspected. Thus the enormous maternal bridge in one as in the other transformed towards the fifties a nose till then inflexibly straight. In the case of another daughter of a banker, her complexion of flower-like freshness had become copper-coloured through the reflection of the gold which the father had so freely manipulated. Some even ended by resembling the quarter where they lived, bearing upon their countenances a sort of reflection of the rue de l’Arcade or the Avenue du Bois or the rue de l’Elysée. But they reproduced more than anything else the features of their parents.

One starts with the idea that people have remained the same and one discovers that they have got old. But if one starts by thinking them old, one does not find them so bad. In Odette’s case it was not merely that; her appearance, when one knew her age and expected her to be an old woman seemed a more miraculous challenge to the laws of chronology than the conservation of radium to those of nature. If I had not recognised her at first, it was not because she had changed but because she had not. Having realised in the course of the last hour what additions time made to people and the subtraction that was needed to rediscover their personalities, I rapidly added to the old Odette the number of years which had passed over her with the result that I found someone before my eyes who could not possibly be her precisely because this someone was the Odette of former days.

Which was the effect of paint and which of dye? With her flat golden hair arranged at the back like the ruffled chignon of a doll surmounting a face with a doll-like expression of surprise and superimposed upon that an equally flat sailor hat of straw of the period of the 1878 Exhibition (in which she certainly had figured and if she had then been as old as now, she would have been one of its choicest features) she looked as though she were a young woman playing a part in a Christmas revue featuring the Exhibition of 1878.

Close to us, a minister of the pre-Boulangist period who had again become a minister, passed by, bowing right and left to ladies with a tremulous and distant smile, as though imprisoned in the past like a little phantom figure manipulated by an unseen hand which had reduced his size and changed his substance so that he looked like a pumice-stone reproduction of himself. This former Prime Minister, now cultivated by the faubourg Saint-Germain, had once been the object of criminal proceedings and had been execrated by society and by the populace. But thanks to the renewal of the social elements in both groupings and the extinction of individual passions, memories disappear, no one remembered and he was honoured. There is no disgrace great enough to make a man lose heart if he bears in mind that at the end of a certain number of years our buried mistakes will be but invisible dust upon which nature’s flowers will smile peacefully. The individual momentarily under a cloud, through the equilibrium brought about by Time between the new and the old social strata, will easily assert his authority over them and be the object of their deference and admiration. Only, this is Time’s business; and at the moment of his troubles, he was inconsolable because the young milk-maid opposite had heard the crowd call him a swindler and shake their fists at him when he was in the soup. The young milk-maid does not see things on the plane of time and is unaware that men to whom the morning paper offers the incense of flattery were yesterday of bad repute and that the man who just now escaped prison, while perhaps, he was thinking of that young milk-maid, and who had not the humility to utter conciliatory words which might have secured him sympathy, will one day be glorified by the press and sought after by duchesses. Time also heals family quarrels. At the Princesse de Guermantes’ there was a couple, each of whom had had an uncle; these two uncles were not content merely to fight a duel but each had sent the other his concierge or his butler as his representative for the occasion, so as to humiliate him by showing he was not fit to be treated as a gentleman. Such tales were asleep in the papers of thirty years ago and nobody knew anything about them. Thus the Princesse de Guermantes’ salon illuminated and forgetful, flowered like a peaceful cemetery. There Time had not only disintegrated those of the past, it had made possible and created new associations.

To return to our politician. In spite of the change in his physical substance, a change as complete as the moral transformation he now roused in the public, in a word, in spite of the many years gone by since he was Prime Minister, he had become a Minister again. The present Prime Minister had given the one of forty years ago a post in the new Cabinet much as theatrical managers entrust a part to one of their earlier women associates who has been long in retirement but whom they consider more capable than younger ones of performing it with delicacy, of whose embarrassed situation they are, moreover, aware and who, at nearly eighty, still shows that age has scarcely impaired an artistic integrity which amazes the public within a few days of her death.

Mme de Forcheville presented an appearance so miraculous that one would have said not that she had grown young, but that, with all her carmine and rouge, she had reflowered. Even more than an incarnation of the Universal Exhibition of 1878, she could have been the chief attraction of a horticultural exhibition to-day. To me, at all events, she did not seem to be saying: “I am the Exhibition of 1878” but “I am the Allée des Acaciasof 1892.” To me it was as though she were still part of it. And, because she had not changed, she seemed hardly to be living, she was like a sterilised rose. When I wished her good afternoon, she tried for a moment vainly to put a name to my face. I gave it her and at once, thanks to its evocative magic, I ceased to wear the appearance of Arbousier or of Kangouroo apparently bestowed on me by age, and she began talking to me with that peculiar voice, applauded in the smaller theatres, which enchanted people so much when they were invited to meet her at lunch and discovered that they could have as much as they liked of it with every word she uttered. That voice had retained the same futile cordiality, the same slight English accent. And yet, just as her eyes seemed to be looking at me from a distant shore, her voice was sad, almost appealing like that of the dead in the Odyssey. Odette ought to have gone on acting. I paid her a compliment on her youth. She answered: “You are charming, my dear, thanks.” And as it was difficult for her to express any sentiment, however sincere, without revealing her anxiety to be fashionable, she repeated several times: “Thanks so much, thanks so much.” And I, who had formerly made long journeys only to catch a glimpse of her in the Bois, who, when first I went to her house, had listened to the words that fell from her lips as though they were pearls, found the moments now spent with her interminable; I knew not what to say and I left her. Alas, she was not always to remain thus. Less than three years afterwards, I was to see her at an evening party given by Gilberte, not fallen into second childhood but somewhat decayed, no longer able to hide under a mask-like face what she was thinking — thinking is saying too much — what she was feeling, moving her head about, pursing her lips, shaking her shoulders at everything she felt, like a drunken man or a child or like certain inspired poets who, unconscious of their surroundings, compose their poems when they are in company or at table, and, to the alarm of their astonished hostess, knit their brows and make grimaces. Mme de Forcheville’s feelings — except the one that brought her to Gilberte’s party, tenderness for her beloved child, her pride in so brilliant an entertainment, a pride which could not veil the mother’s melancholy that she no longer counted — these feelings were never happy and were inspired by her perpetual self-defence against rudeness meted out to her, the timid defence of a child. One constantly heard people say: “I don’t know if Mme de Forcheville recognises me, perhaps I ought to be introduced over again.” “You can dispense with that,” (someone replied at the top of his voice neither knowing nor caring that Gilberte’s mother could hear every word) “you won’t get any fun out of it. Leave her alone. She’s a bit daft.” Furtively, Mme de Forcheville cast a glance from her still beautiful eyes at the insulting speakers, then quickly looked away, for fear of seeming to have heard, while, bowing beneath the blow, she restrained her weak resentment with quivering head and heaving breast, and glanced towards another equally ruthless guest. Nor did she seem too greatly overwhelmed for she had been ailing several days and had hinted to her daughter to postpone the party which the latter had refused. Mme de Forcheville did not love her the less; the presence of the Duchesses, the admiration the company manifested for the new mansion, flooded her heart with joy, and when the Marquise de Sebran was announced, this lady representing, with much effort, the highest peak of fashion, Mme de Forcheville felt she had been a good and far-seeing mother and that her maternal task had been accomplished. A fresh lot of contemptuous guests brought on another solitary colloquy if a mute language only expressed by gesticulation can be called talking. Beautiful still, she had become as never previously, an object of infinite sympathy for now the whole world betrayed her who had once betrayed Swann and the rest; now that the rôles were reversed, she had become too weak to defend herself against men. And soon she would be unable to defend herself against death. After that anticipation, let us go back three years, to the reception at the Prince de Guermantes’.

Bloch, having asked me to introduce him to the master of the house I did not make a shadow of difficulty. The embarrassment I had felt the first time at the Prince de Guermantes’ evening party seemed natural enough then but now it seemed as simple a matter to introduce one of his guests to him as to bring someone to his house who had not been invited. Was this because, since those far distant days, I had become an intimate though a long-forgotten intimate, of a society in which I was once a stranger or was it because, not being a true man of the world, what causes that type embarrassment had no existence for me, now my shyness had passed? Or, again, was it because these people had little by little shed their first, their second and their third fictitious aspects in my presence and that I sensed, under the Prince’s disdainful manner, a human longing to know people, to make the acquaintance of those even whom he affected to despise? Finally, was it because the Prince had changed like those others, arrogant in their youth and in their maturity, whom old age had softened (the more so that they had for long known by sight men against whose antecedents they had reacted and whom they now knew to be on good terms with their own acquaintances) especially if old age is assisted by virtues or vices which broaden social relationships or by a social revolution which causes a political conversion such as the Prince’s to Dreyfusism?

Bloch interrogated me as I formerly did others when I first entered society, and as I still did, about people I formerly knew socially and who were now as far away, as isolated, as those Combray folk I had often wanted to place. But Combray was so distinct from and impossible to reconcile with the outer world that it was like a piece of a jig-saw puzzle that could not be fitted into the map of France. “Then I can’t have any idea of what the Prince de Guermantes used to be like from my knowledge of Swann or M. de Charlus?” Bloch asked. For some time I used to borrow his way of putting things and now he often imitated mine. “Not the least.” “But how did they actually differ?” “You would have had to hear them talk together to grasp it. Now Swann is dead and M. de Charlus is not far from it. But the difference was enormous.” And while Bloch’s eye gleamed as he thought of what the conversation of these marvellous people must have been, I was thinking that I had exaggerated my pleasure in their society, having never got any until I was alone and could differentiate them in my imagination. Did Bloch realise this? “Perhaps you’ve coloured it all a bit too much,” he remarked. “Look at our hostess, the Princesse de Guermantes, I know she’s no longer young but, after all, it isn’t so very long ago that you spoke of her incomparable charm and her marvellous beauty. Certainly I admit she has the grand manner and she also has the extraordinary eyes you described to me, but I don’t see that she’s so wonderful as all that. Obviously she’s high-bred but still…” I had to explain to Bloch that we weren’t alluding to the same person. The Princesse de Guermantes was dead and the Prince, ruined by the German defeat, had married ex-Mme Verdurin whom Bloch had not recognised. “You’re mistaken, I’ve looked up the Gotha of this year,” Bloch naively confessed, “and I found that the Prince de Guermantes was living in this very mansion and had married someone of great importance. Wait a minnte, now I’ve got it, Sidonie, Duchesse de Duras, née des Beaux.” This was a fact, for Mme Verdurin, shortly after her husband’s death married the old ruined Duc de Duras, who thus made her the Prince de Guermantes’ cousin and died after they had been married two years. He had supplied a very useful means of transition for Mme Verdurin who by a third marriage had become Princesse de Guermantes and now occupied a great position in the faubourg Saint-Germain which would have much astonished Combray where the ladies of the rue de l’Oiseau, Mme Goupil’s daughter and Mme Sazerat’s daughter-in-law had said with a laugh, years before Mme Verdurin became Princesse de Guermantes: “The Duchesse de Duras!” as though Mme Verdurin were playing a part at the theatre. The caste principle maintained that she should die Mme Verdurin and that the title which, in their eyes, could never confer any new social prestige, merely produced the bad effect of getting herself “talked about”; that expression which in all social categories is applied to a woman who has a lover, was also applied in the faubourg Saint-Germain to people who published books and in the Combray bourgeoisie to those who make marriages which for one reason or another are considered unsuitable. When Mme Verdurin married the Prince de Guermantes they must have said he was a sham Guermantes, a swindler. For myself, the realisation that a Princesse de Guermantes still existed, who had nothing to do with her who had so much charmed me and who was now no more, whom death had left defenceless, was intensely saddening as it was to witness the objects once owned by Princesse Hedwige such as her Château and everything else, pass to another. Succession to a name is sad like all successions and seems like an usurpation; and the uninterrupted stream of new Princesses de Guer-mantes would flow until the millennium, the name held from age to age by different women would always be that of one living Princesse de Guermantes, a name that ignored death, that was indifferent to change and heartaches and which would close over those who had worn it like the sea in its serene and immemorial placidity.