Proust's Muse

The French Embassy live-streamed Anka Muhlstein and Dr. Valerie Steele Nov. 22, 7:00 pm . here is the recording.


The Captive V 169-210

p 176 | Gregory the Great . . . PalestrinaGregory the Great, Pope from 590 to 604, is supposed to have set the rules for Gregorian chant. A 16th-century Pope, Gregory XIII, had Palestrina adapt the old chants to the new liturgy of Pius V. (Clark)

p 180 | Charles de Sévigné, son of Madame de Sévigné.

p 185 | Les Fourberies de Nérine, a comedy in verse by by Théodore de Banville

p 195 | Danaides . . . Ixion:  From Greek legend, they were  condemned to never-ending tasks. The Danaides (the 50 daughters of Danaus) murdered their husbands and were condemned to spend eternity pouring water into a bottomless vessel.  Ixion was attached by Zeus to a burning wheel which turned eternally in the Underworld.

p 196 | Trois Quartiers shop in Paris.

p 203 | midinette : Parisian seamstress or salesgirl in a clothes shop (French, from midi [noon] + dinette [light meal], since the girls had time for no more than a snack at midday).  © Collins English Dictionary,, 12th ed, 2014  

p 205 | Lamoureux concert = an orchestral concert society which once gave weekly concerts by its own orchestra, founded in Paris by Charles Lamoureux in 1881.

p 205 | The Longjumeau Postilion:  An 1836 comic opera by Adolphe Adam. In 1915, the critic Frederic Masson wrote that this work to Wagner's Die Meistersinger.

p 207 | Human Comedy (title of Balzac's collected novels);  The Legend of the Centuries (a collection of narrative poems by Victor Hugo) The Bible of Humanity (imaginative attempt at a synthesis of human history by Jules  Michelet)

p 210 | 120 hp Mystère :  a make of aircraft.

p 210 | L 'Education sentimentale: in Flaubert's novel of that name, the woman the hero loves sees in his house a portrait of a former mistress of his, whom she had known. She says, "I've seen that woman somewhere," but he replies, "Impossible, it's an old Italian painting."

The Captive V pp 156-168

p 159 | Renaissance Pietà: There are others, but Michaelangelo's is the main one.

p 161 | Prunier Restaurant in Paris specialized in seafood.

p 161 | Here's mackerel! (Il arrive le maquereau) = a pun because maquereau is French slang for a pimp, hence his thought wanders to the chauffeur.

p 161 | Cos lettuce=Romaine

p 162 | Praeceptis salutaribus moniti et divina institutione formati audemus dicere : "Instructed by Thy saving precepts, and following Thy divine institution, we are bold to say..."  This is the opening to the Lord's Prayer in the Mass liturgy.

p 162 | Suave mari magno="How pleasant when on a great sea..." (Lucretius). These opening lines of Book II of Lucretius' poem De rerum naturae observe how pleasant it is, when we are on dry land, to watch another man battling to stay afloat in a stormy sea. Though the poet was commending not schadenfreude but philosophical detachment, the phrase is used proverbially to allude to someone who takes pleasure in the suffering of others. Proust, however, seems here to be using it literally and not figuratively. (Clark)

p 163 | Chasselas = White wine grape

p 163 | Rebattet, 12, rue du Faubourg- Saint-Honore. A very
fashionable pastricook's. 

p 164 | "... ices not hawked in the street..." small ices, to be eaten immediately, were certainly sold in the street before 1900: there is a 19th century photo of an ice-cream man with his cart by Eugene Atget. But what the characters are discussing here are sizeable, elaborate iced desserts sold in expensive shops. Scroll down on this page to see an example.
Eugene Atget

p 165 | Monte Rosa is a huge ice-covered mountain in the Alps.

p 167 | Scheherazade is the fictional narrator of the Arabian Nights, a book which Proust loved both as a child and as an adult. She made up a new tale for 1001 nights to avoid being killed by the king.

p 168 | "...consecration-cross of his wheel = the steering-wheel of some cars at this time was cruciform, with no outer ring. Others were stylized, with a circle enclosing a cross.

p 168 ff: The Palace at VersaillesGrand Trianon at Versailles;
Petit Trianon at Versailles
Hôtel des Réservoirs at Versailles


The Captive V pp 147-156

p 147-49 | "Boris Godunov . . . Pelléas":  Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov was first performed in Paris in 1908, Debussy's Pelléas et Melisande in 1902, but Proust first heard them in 1911-13, when he was first working on The Captive.  The novelty of these music-dramas was that they did not observe the old operatic distinction between recitative and aria, but were through-composed (songs composed without repetitions, i.e., using different music for each verse), their essential dialogue delivered with only small variations of pitch. (Clark)

In Pelléas et Mélisande, instead of a librettist adapting the original play for him, Debussy chose to set the text directly, since Maeterlinck's play was in prose rather than verse. This contributes to the most famous feature of the opera: the almost complete absence of arias or set pieces... Instead, Debussy set the text one note to a syllable in a "continuous, fluid 'cantilena', somewhere between chant and recitative". (Wikipedia)

p 148 | Jean-Phillipe Rameau: these words appear in Phillipe Quinault's libretto Armide, set to music first by Lully in 1686 and then by Gluck in 1777  (not in an opera by Rameau, as Proust seems to have thought).  (Clark)

p 149 | "...Arkel . . .  Golaud ...  the King of Allemande...":  characters in Pelléas et Melisande. (Clark)

p 149 | Per omnia saecula saeculorum = for ever and ever, through all ages of ages, world without end; Requiescat in pace = May he/she rest in peace. Both phrases conclude prayers for the dead, both usually intoned with the last syllable falling a minor third, and followed by "Amen." (Clark)

p 149 | Cerement= Usually plural: a waxy cloth used for wrapping the dead, or any burial garments (Hamlet, act 1, sc 4)

p 150 | Costermonger: a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a handcart in the street.

p 150 | Antiphonary=one of 3 liturgical books used for the Divine Office (the others being the breviary & the choir psalter). The antiphonary contains, among other elements, antiphons, which are short sentences sung or recited before or after a psalm or canticle. Antiphonaries are fairly large so they are easily read by all members of a choir.  Trivium= the lower division of the 7 liberal arts:  grammar, logic, and rhetoric (input, process, and output).  Subjects of the trivium are the foundation for the quadrivium, the upper division of the medieval education in the liberal arts, which comprised arithmetic (number), geometry (number in space), music (number in time), and astronomy (number in space and time). Educationally, the trivium and the quadrivium imparted to the student the 7 liberal arts of classical antiquity. 
Basque beret
  Tinker = (especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending metal utensils as a way of making a living.

 p 152 | "What insolent mortal comes to meet his doom?"
"Was it for you this stern decree was made?"
"In you alone, a certain grace I see/That always charms and never wearies  me." (Lines from Esther by Racine).  (Clark)

p 155 | Hippolyte Taine (1828–93): critic and historian, who had a profound effect on French literature.  George Eliot, pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans (1819-80): English Victorian novelist who developed the method of psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction.

 Mnemotechniaa goddess not only of memory (time past) but of method (technia): she offers a way of remembering and recording the passage of time. (Ellen Eve Frank, Literary Architecture)


The Captive V pp 133-147

The old Palais du Trocadéro
p 134 | The hill of Chaillot was first arranged for the 1867 World's Fair. For the 1878 World's Fair, the (old) Palais du Trocadéro was built here (where meetings of international organizations could be held during the fair). The palace's form was of a large concert hall with 2 wings and 2 towers; its style mixed exotic & historical aspects, generally called "Moorish" but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud.... The building proved unpopular, but the cost of its construction delayed its replacement for nearly fifty years. (Wikipedia)

 p 135 | Empfindung = sensation, feeling, emotion; empfindelei = sentimentality.

p 135 | "...plants which bifurcate..." :

Photo: Parisian Fields

p 146 | "... iron shutters.... lowered..."


p 147 | Booksellers' door of Rouen Cathedral... (Escalier de la Librairie)



The Captive V pp 109-132

p 124 | François Boucher, "The Letter";
Honoré Fragonard "The Harpsichord"

p 124 | History of the Telephone ; Telephone exchanges; Switchboard operators

p 127 | "... angel musicians mounting to the throne of God..." maybe something like....

St John Altarpiece by Memling

detail of Mary, Queen of Heaven
by Master of the Legend of Saint Lucy

p 127 | black satin dress

p 130 | Le Bon Marché (tr. "the good market" or "the good deal") is a department store in Paris. Founded in 1852 by Aristide Boucicaut, it was the first modern department store.
Le Bon Marché


p 131 |  rest cures for neurotics...

p 132 | aerodrome; early aviation


The Captive V pp 84-109

RADICA & DOODICA - The Indian Siamese Twinsp 88 | Rosita/Radica & Doodica: Siamese twins, young Indian girls, exhibited by Barnum's Circus in 1901-2 and at the World's Fair in 1900.

p 90 | 100 francs a day... 5.18 FF - $1 US in 1910, so about $19.30.

p 97 | hook-nosed as in one of Leonardo's caricatures...

p 109 | Vicomte Raymond de Borelli, French soldier & society poet, 1827-1906.


The Captive V pp 64-83

p 70 | Chinchilla toques with big grey veils are hard to find online. Here's a brief history of women's hats.

p 71 | "...young man so learned in matters of racing..."  This is OCTAVE, the young golfer at Balbec, nephew of M. Verdurin.

p 75 | Mme Swann's tea-gowns would look very much like this.

Click here to see a sampling of the Met's collection of clothes made by Callot Soeurs, which is what the Duchesse was wearing and the Narrator was learning about. 

p 78 | The terrifying jumping girl of Balbec was Andrée (seeWithin a Budding Grove, II p. 508).

p 82 | Tamarisk  The genus Tamarix (tamarisk, salt cedar) is composed of about 50–60 species of flowering plants in the family Tamaricaceae, native to drier areas of Eurasia and Africa.

p 83 | "...figures by Benozzo Gozzoli against a greenish background.."  possibly from the Medici family's Magi Chapel in Florence.

Robe du soir Doucet, Paris, 1900-1905
Dressing gown Robe du soir Doucet, Paris, 1900-1905