Fear and Loathing in Paris


Charlus, confident of his superior position in society,  is immune to fear. He takes only minimal precautions to protect his secret life as a homosexual. Not so with those less endowed with wealth and position. The Duc de Châtellerault spends an agreeable afternoon, albeit with an assumed identity as an Englishman, with a man who it turns out is a butler for the Princesse de Guermantes.

But M. de Châtellearault was as cowardly as he was rash; he was all the more determined not to unveil his incognito since he did not know with whom he was dealing; his fear would have been far greater, although ill-founded, if had known. (IV,46)

…from the  first moment the usher had recognised him. In another instant he would know the identity of this stranger, which he had so ardently desired to learn. When he asked his “Englishman” of the other evening what name he was to announce, the usher was not merely stirred, he considered that he was being indiscreet, indelicate. He felt that he was about to reveal to the whole world (which would, however, suspect nothing) a secret which it was criminal of him to ferret out like this and to proclaim in public. Upon hearing the guest’s reply: “le Duc de Châtellerault,” he was overcome with such pride that he remained for a moment speechless. The Duke looked at him, recognised him, saw himself ruined, while the servant, who had recovered his composure and was sufficiently versed in heraldry to complete for himself an appellation that was too modest, roared with a professional vehemence softened with intimate tenderness: “Son Altesse Monseigneur le Duc de Châtellerault!” (IV, 49-50)

Then we have the Marquis de Vaugoubert, who as a youth was intimate with Charlus.

The proportions of this work do not permit me to explain here in consequence of what incidents in his youth M. de Vaugoubert was one of the few men (possibly the only man) in society who happened to be in what is called in Sodom the “confidence” of M. de Charlus. (IV, 57)

His response to my greeting had nothing in common with that which I should have received from M. de Charlus. He imparted to it, in addition to countless mannerisms which he supposed to be typical of the social and diplomatic worlds, a brisk, cavalier, smiling air calculated to make him seem on the one hand delighted with his existence–at a time when he was inwardly brooding over the mortifications of a career with no prospect of advancement and threatened with enforced retirement–and on the other hand young, virile and charming, when he could see and no longer dared to go and examine in the glass the wrinkles gathering on a face which he would have wished to remain infinitely seductive. Not that he hoped for real conquests, the mere thought of which filled him with terror on account of gossip, scandal, blackmail. Having gone from an almost infantile corruption to an absolute continence dating from the day on which his thoughts had turned to  the Quai d’Orsay and he had begun to plan a great career for himself, he had the air of caged animal, casting in every direction glances expressive of fear, craving and stupidity. This last was so dense that it did not occur to him that the street-arabs of his adolescence were boys no longer, and when a newsvendor bawled in his face: “La Presse!” he shuddered with terror even more than with longing, imagining himself recognised and denounced. (IV, 58-59)

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