A Proper Stoic

John Bayley

  • Duff Cooper: The Authorised Biography by John Charmley
    Weidenfeld, 265 pp, £12.95, April 1986, ISBN 0 297 78857 4

There is a moment in À La Recherche du Temps Perdu when Swann visits the Duchesse de Guermantes and finds her going to a party. He blurts out that he is mortally ill and may not be seeing her again. She ignores this news and gives him a smiling farewell as she gets into her carriage. E.M. Forster thought the scene one of the most odious in the novel, or rather in the Novel, and he seems to assume, rather naively, that Proust is as shocked by the incident as he is. Forster’s reaction suggests the existence of two categories, a Guermantes one and a Forster one, with absolutely no understanding of each other, or of each other’s values. Indeed the Forster class would deny that the Guermantes class had any values worth speaking of.

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