Mme de Charlus


M. de Charlus, infatuated with Charlie Morel, accompanies him to the Verdurin’s summer place, La Raspelière, a place in which he would not otherwise think of entering. He instinctively knows that his high society hauteur will not serve him among people who are unaware of his place in society, which allows us to see yet another of his faces.

“Why, yes, here the are!” M. Verdurin exclaimed with relief on seeing the door open to admit Morel followed by M. de Charlus. The latter, to whom dining with the Verdurins meant not so much going into society as going into a place of ill repute, was as apprehensive as a schoolboy entering a brothel  for the first time and showing the utmost deference towards its mistress. Hence the Baron’s habitual desire to appear virile and cold was over-shadowed (when he appeared in the open doorway) by those traditional ideas of politeness which are awakened as soon as shyness destroys an artificial pose and falls back on the resources of the subconscious. (IV,414)

As for M. de Charlus, whom the society in which he had lived furnished at this critical moment with different examples, with other arabesques of amiability, and especially with the maxim that one must in certain cases, for the benefit of people of humble rank, bring into play and make use of one’s rarest graces, normally held in reserve, it was with a fluttering, mincing gait and the same sweep with which a skirt would have enlarged and impeded his waddling motion that he advanced upon Mme Verdurin with so flattered and honoured an air that one would have said that to be presented to her was for him a supreme favour. His face, bent slightly forward, on which satisfaction vied with decorum,was creased with tiny wrinkles of affability. One might have thought that is was Mme de Marsantes who was entering the room, so salient at that moment was the woman whom a mistake on the part of Nature had enshrined in the body of M. de Charlus. (IV,415-416)

By dent of thinking tenderly of men one becomes a woman, and an imaginary skirt hampers one’s movements. (IV,417)

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