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 210-33

p 217 | Gabriel DAVIOUD, (French architect, 1823–81), Trocadero.

p 218 | Charterhouse of Pavia = Carthusian monastery of Pavia (Italy)

p 218 | Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431 – 1506), Italian painter.

p 218 | Passy is an area of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement, on the Right Bank, traditionally home to many of the city's wealthiest residents.

p 219 | The Bois de Boulogne is a large public park on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, near the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt and Neuilly-sur-Seine. It was created between 1852 and 1858 during the reign of the Emperor Louis Napoleon.
  St. Sebastian

p 229-30 | BARBEDIENNE, Ferdinand (French artist, 1810-92). Bronze worker, reproduced ancient and modern sculptures in bronze.


The Captive V 169-210

p 176 | Gregory the Great . . . Palestrina: Gregory 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 compared 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 pastry shop.

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.

p 156 |  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


The Captive V pp 47-64

p 47 | "...yellow dress with big black flowers...":  Or maybe the black dress with the big yellow flowers...

p 47 | "... things from Callot's or Doucet's or Paquin's ...": This wonderful page from the Glamour Daze blog should make everything clear. 

p 48 | Lady Warwick was Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, lover of King Edward VII of England. Not sure which Duchess of Marlborough Oriane is referring to; I like this one, so French!

p 52 | The Galeries Lafayette is an upmarket French department store, founded in 1912. Its flagship store is on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

p 52 | This is a little later than the period the book is in... There is some gay French history on the left side of this page.

p 53 | "Xerxes, son of Darius, ordering..." :  After the battle of Salamis, the Persian fleet was destroyed by a storm in the Hellespont.  Xerxes, the King of Persia, is said to have vented his feelings by having his servants beat the sea with rods. 

p 54 | Social classes in 19th century Paris, with a chronology. A little earlier than the book's time setting. Nicely done.

p 54 | "... Jupien's niece had been, when scarcely more than a child, 'in trouble'..." : Consider these historical notes:  1832 - an age of consent is introduced on 28 April, fixed to 11 years for both sexes.
1863 - Age of consent is raised to 13 years.

p 57 | The House of Croy is an international family of European nobility which held a seat in the Imperial Diet from 1486, and was elevated to the rank of Princes of the Holy Roman Empire in 1594. In 1913 the family had branches in Belgium, France, Austria and Prussia.  And the Princes Murat also.

p 59 | hand cramps in violinists -- a real thing!

p 60 | According to this site, before World War I, when France was firmly on the gold standard, a franc was worth about 19 cents, or 5.18 to the dollar.  So, 5000 francs at that time would have been about $950. Earlier, it could have been more, so maybe about $1000.

p 63 | Violinist Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953) can be heard here

p 64 | Syringa is lilac, pronounced like this.  Well, seh-RING-gah.


The Captive V pp 27-46

p 30 | Elysium (or the Elysian Fields), in Greek mythology, the final resting places of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. It was ruled by Cronus.

p 30 | My landlady, Mme de Guermantes:  Having originally lived in a different part of Paris, at the beginning of The Guermantes Way, the narrator's family moves to a flat in the Hotel de Guermantes, in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. The side ranges of the front courtyard of the old aristocratic town house are now divided into flats and rented to middle-class families, while the ground floor supports small workshops of various kinds. The furthest range is occupied as a single house by the owners, the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes, whom by this point in the story the narrator has got to know. Many of the main characters in the story (the narrator, Albertine, the Guermantes, Jupien and his niece) are thus now living on the same site, and can plausibly watch and/or meet each other on the stairs & in the courtyard. Charlus, brother of the Duc de Guermantes, erstwhile sexual partner of Jupien & protector of his niece, visits them all at this address, which is very convenient for the novelist's purposes, and not implausible; such multiple uses of old aristocratic dwellings was common in Paris throughout the 19th century, and its traces can still be seen in the Marais district, until its recent renovation.

p 31 | Carrying an umbrella was, in the 19th & early 20th centuries, a symbol of bourgeois status. Aristocrats were supposed to ride in carriages, poor people to get wet. Louis-Philippe, the 'Citizen King', was often caricatured with an umbrella in his hand.

p 32 | See a selection of early 20th century women's dresses

p 34 | Fortuny's Delphos gown --> 

p 35 | Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian writer, 1862-1949;  Prosper Mérimée, French author, 1803-70.  Paul-Louis Courier, French scholar, 1772-1825)

p 38 | Pampile:  pen-name of Mme Leon Daudet, wife of Proust's friend and author of Les bons plats de France: cuisine régionale (1913).

p 41 | coup d'éclat=feat or great feat; coup de tête=whim; coup de force = a sudden, violent act; rapprochement=establishment or resumption of harmonious relations, reconciliation

p 42 } The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that from its beginning in 1894 divided France until it was finally resolved in 1906. [So, we think it's 1908-ish here in the text.]

p 44 | In the Aeneid, Achates ("good, faithful Achates", fidus Achates as he was called) was a close friend of Aeneas; his name became a byword for an intimate companion.

p 45 | Mayer Alphonse James Rothschild (1827-1905)

p 46 | Jupiter Tonans = Thundering Jove:  the aspect of Jupiter (Jove) who is the god of sky & thunder and king of the gods in ancient Roman religion & mythology. Here, it refers back to Basin knitting his Jupiterian brows on p 44.

p 46 | Édouard Adolphe Drumont (1844–1917) was a French journalist and writer. He founded the Antisemitic League of France in 1889, and was the founder & editor of the newspaper La Libre Parole.


The Captive V pp 1-27

p 3 | Russian ballet=Ballets Russes

p 3 | "Les douleur sont des folles/Et qui les écoute est encore plus fou."  Albertine hums this refrain from Biniou, by Hippolyte Guérin, music by Emile Durand (1830-1903). 

p 4 | "Une chanson d'adieu sort des sources troublées..."  From Pensée d'automne by Armand Silvestre, music by Jules Massenet, French opera composer, 1842-1912.

p 13 | Assuerus = Ahasuerus, King of Persia, in the play Esther, by Racine., here Act I, Scene 3

p 15 | Parc des Buttes Chaumont: 5th largest park in Paris, opened in 1867. The park took its name from the bleak hill on the site, which, because of the soil's chemical composition, was almost bare of vegetation; it was called Chauve-mont, or bare hill.

p 16 | coalheaver = one who feeds coal into a furnace

p 20 | Gomorrah: Sodom and Gomorrah were cities named in the Bible, the Torah and other religious texts, destroyed by God in fire and brimstone because of their lack of hospitality & wickedness. Proust here seems to be using it to refer to the  rampant lesbianism he imagined at Balbec.

 p 27 |  Arquebus : an early muzzle-loaded firearm, sensitive to humidity.


Sodom and Gomorrah IV pp 662-691

p 666 | Aldonce de Guermantes is an invention. Because Louis VI (known as le Gros, 1081-1137), had an illegitimate younger half-brother, called Philippe de Mantes, he had himself crowned quickly in 1108 to ensure his own succession.

p 666 | The La Trémoilles became heirs to the Kings of Naples in 1605; their descent from the Comtes de Poitiers is uncertain. Uzès did not become a duchy until 1572.

p 667 | The first Duc de Luynes was created in 1619. The Choiseuls, the Harcourts, the La Rochefoucaulds... are families who traced their origins back to the 10th century. ...the Noailles ... the Montesquious, the Castellanes can be traced back to the 11th century.

p 667 | Vatefairefiche = va-te-faire-fiche means "Scram!" (Gotoblazes). Turning Cambremer into Cambremerde is a vulgarization of the name.

p 668 | Scènes de la vie de province is one of the major sections of Balzac's Comédie Humaine. La Muse du département is part of the Scènes de la vie de province; its heroine, Mme de la Baudraye, writes literary essays and has an adulterous love affair. Mme de Bargeton is a character in Illusions perdues, a provincial wife who becomes the lover of the young hero, Lucien de Rubempré. Mme de Mortsauf was the heroine of Le Lys dans la vallée, who overcomes her passion for the young Félix de Vandenesse and dies a saintly death.

p 672 | Berthe de Clinchamp, companion of the Duchesse d'Aumale, came eventually to run the Duc's household, and in 1899 published a memoir of him: Le Duc d'Aumale, prince, soldat.p 673 | In media stat virtus = virtue lies in the middle.

p 674 | ... M. Moreau, Morille, Morue...: Moreau can mean a horse's nosebag; a morille is a morel (mushroom); morue is a codfish.

p 681 | Subaltern = an officer in the British army below the rank of captain, especially a second lieutenant. Saint-Cyr = military academy where French Army officers are trained.

p 688 | Pont-l'Éveque: Éveque is French for "bishop." Childhood of Christ is an oratorio written by Berlioz between 1850 and 1854; L'Enchantement du Vendredi Saint, or The Good Friday Music forms part of Act III of Wagner's opera Parsifal, but is sometimes performed separately, especially at Easter.

p 689 | Rue de Blancs-Manteaux: literally, White Mantles or White Friars, a Carmelite order.

p 690 | Saint Louis = Louis IX, King of France 1226-70, canonized in 1287.

p 690 | Felix de Rochegude's 20-volume work Promenades dans toutes les rues de Paris (1910). The street Charlus can't remember was the rue des Rosiers & "du Rozier'' later will become the name Bloch takes to hide his Jewishness. Though not a Jew, Rembrandt lived in the Amsterdam's Jewish quarter & painted Jewish subjects. Legend about a 13th century Jew convicted of burning a consecrated Host, which was itself miraculously preserved.

p 690 | According to Rochegude, this Louis I d'Orléans (1372-1407) was murdered by Jean sans Peur on coming out from supper with Isabeau de Bavière, his sister-in-law & mistress. The Duc de Chartres (1840-1910) was the grandson of Louis-Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (also known as Philippe-Égalité, 1747-1793), and not obviously related to Charlus.

N.B. All entries based primarily based on Sturrock's notes.


Sodom and Gomorrah IV pp 639-662

p 638 | Tantus ab uno splendor = Such brilliance coming from one person. 

p 639 | Mort m'est vie = Death, to me, is life.

p 639 | In 1900, Sarah Bernhardt created the title role in Edmond Rostand's successful L'Aiglon. Jean-Sully Mounet (1841-1916), called Mounet-Sully, played Oedipus in the Roman arena at Orange (not Nîmes).

p 640 | ...contre-de-quartes reminiscent of Molière: referring to the fencing lesson in Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, a contre-de-quarte is a circular parrying movement of the sword.
p 643 | Mazagran = coffee laced with rum; gloria = a mixture of sweet coffee & rum or eau-de-vie.  Eugène Marin Labiche, French dramatist, 1815-88.  Os homini sublime dedit coelumque tueri:  "He has given man a face turned toward the sky," a line from Ovid's Metamorphoses.

p 644-45 | ...Archangel Raphael ... Tobias: this story is in the book of Tobit, in the Apocrypha.

p 657 | Verjuice = the juice from unripe grapes.

p 659 | Constant Coquelin, known as Coquelin aîné, a well-known actor (1841-1909).

p 660 | The Société des Bibliophiles Français was founded in 1820 of mainly aristocrats; the Union Club was founded in 1828 and was the most exclusive Paris club during the Second Empire.

p 661 | The Montgomery & Pembroke families were associated, as were the Chandos family & the Buckinghams. A Capel became Count of Essex in 1661, and Proust knew Berthe Capel in Paris. The Duc de Berry (1844-1910) was a member of the Orléans family.   

p 661 | Émilienne d'Alençon (Émilienne Andrée) was a celebrated courtesan around 1900, who dabbled in music & poetry & appeared with performing rabbits at the Folies-Bergère.

>p 661 | Ne sçais l'heure = I don't know the hour (of my death). It's pronounced like the name Saylor.

p 662 | Jean-Alexis Périer (1869-1954) created the role of Pelléas in Debussy's opera in 1902.  The Théâtre du Gymnase specialized in comedy; La Châtelaine was a comedy by Alfred Capus (1858-1922), a dramatist & journalist who was elected to the Académie Française in 1914.  Simone Frévalles, actress in La Châtelaine , as well as the company at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin.  Marie Magnier (1848-1913) made her debut in 1867 and played in many Paris theaters; Louis Baron (1870-1939), known as Baron fils to distinguish him from his actor father, was a well-known comic actor at the turn of the century.

p 663 | Yvette Guilbert (1867-1944) began her celebrated career as a chanteuse around 1885. Ernest Cornaglia (1834-1912), an actor who joined the company at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in 1880; Émile Dehelly (1871-1969) debuted at the Comédie-Française in 1890.

N.B. All entries based primarily based on Sturrock's notes.


Sodom and Gomorrah IV pp 625-639

p 625 |  Conservatoire de Paris had been located at Rue Bergère (rue du Conservatoire)  since 1784.

In 1911 le Conservatoire moved to rue de Madrid. Some historic photos are here.

device of Charles V

p 629 |  Plus Ultra Car'lus: Earl Rosenthal, in The Palace of Charles V in Granada  (1985), says the motto is associated with the Pillars of Hercules, which, in Greek mythology, were built by Hercules near the Straits of Gibraltar to mark the edge of the then known world. According to mythology the pillars bore the warning Nec plus ultra (also Non plus ultra, meaning "nothing farther beyond"), to warn sailors & navigators to go no farther. It is believed that the young Charles V adopted Plus Oultre as his motto at his advisor's suggestion, as a way to encourage him to ignore the ancient warning & instead take risks, surpass himself and go "farther beyond."

p 631 | The Rules of Duels (Code Duello)

p 632 | "Some Sunday morning... "": opening words of a 1902 popular song "Viens, Poupoule" by Félix Mayol. Listen & read here.

p 634 | "Spes mea" ("My hope"); "Exspectata non eludet" ("He will not disappoint hopes"); "J'attendrai" ("I shall wait"); "Memes plaisirs du mestre" ("The same pleasures as the master");
"Sustentant lilia turns" ("The towers support the lilies"); "Manet ultima caelo" ("The end belongs to heaven"); "Non mortale quodopto" ("I have the ambition of an immortal"); "Atavis et armis" ("By ancestors and by arms")

p 638 | "C'est mon plaisir" ("It is my pleasure"); "Tantus ab uno splendor" ("So much brilliance coming from one person"); "Condescendre n'est pas descendre" ("To condescend is not to descend"); "Mart (mort) m'est vie" ("Death to me is life")


Sodom and Gomorrah IV pp 611-625

p 612 | "Esther heureuse...": the titles of three of the four sections of Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes.

p 612 | Rocambole was the hero of more than 30 adventure novels written by Alexis Ponson du Terrail (1829-71), as well as later writers. The adjective rocambolesque usually means a fantastic adventure.

p 612 | "...moult sorbonagre, sorbonicole et sorboniforme...": a scathing Rabelaisian way of referring to a pedantic doctor from the Sorbonne, perhaps translatable as "Sorbonnified, Sorbonniculous, and Sorbonniform."

p 612 | "The quart d'heure de Rabelais...": popular phrase meaning "the moment of reckoning." An explanatory  anecdote  from a comic incident from the writer’s life. "One day he was in Lyon and wanted to travel to Paris. He had no money and so he marked several sachets of sugar “Poison for the King” and left them lying prominently around. He was arrested and taken to Paris, thus getting a free ride. King Francis I laughed so hard when he heard about it that he happily paid for the trip." Literally, "the quarter-hour of Rabelais," which is amusingly echoed in Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame."

p 613 | "Chateaubriand aux pommes": Sturrock says this is "Chateaubriand steak served with apple," but I think the dish is really served with potatoes (pommes frites, pommes de terres...).

p 613 |  gnōthi seauton : Greek for "Know thyself."

p 613 | Jean-Martin Charcot, 19th century French neurologist.

p 614 | "...holy terror Ovid..." Ovid wrote "Materiam superabat opus" (Metamorphoses II, 5), or "The workmanship surpassed the material" (form over content).

Hanska by Delmont
p 614 | "Meudon... ": Meudon, now part of Paris, was the parish of which Rabelais was the curé; Ferney was the Genevan home of Voltaire; the Vallée-aux-Loups, near Sceaux, was where Chateaubriand lived for several years; Les Jardies was the name of Balzac's house in Villa d'Avray; the "Polish woman" was Mme Hanska, whom Balzac married in 1850, shortly before his death and the inspiration for many of his characters. (Sturrock)

p 614 | Hippolyte Taine complained in a well-known essay on Balzac, that the Comedie humaine contained too much that was morbid or unnatural, and did not meet his literary concepts of   "race, milieu, et moment." See his Wiki page for an interesting explanation.

p 617 | Zénaïde, French form of Zenaida, a feminine form of "Zeus."

p 618 | Diane de Maufrigneuse, main character in Balzac's novel Les Secrets de la Princesse de Cadignan, part of the Comedie humaine. 

p 620 | "cut a dash" = (Br.) Be stylish or impressive in one’s dress or behavior, e.g. "The Foreign Secretary wanted to cut a dash in Brussels."

p 620 | Paul Thureau-Dangin (1837-1913) was a Catholic historian, member of the Académie française. Gaston Boissier (1823-1908) was a French classical scholar, and secretary of the Académie française.

p 620 | Boissier is a chocolatier, founded in 1827.

p 621 | ...40bis Boulevard Malesherbes...: For most of his life (until 1900) Proust lived at 9 boulevard Malesherbes, near the Madeleine church, where the family moved in 1873 after his brother Robert was born. Proust himself had lived with his parents at 9 Boulevard Malesherbes.  His maternal grandparents lived at 40bis rue du Faubourg-Poissonniere.

p 621 | Marc-Joseph-Edgar Bourdon Vatry (baron de, 1828-1891)