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Within A Budding Grove In Search of Lost Time 2


MADAME SWANN AT HOME
My mother, when it was a question of our having M. de Norpois to
dinner for the first time, having expressed her regret that Professor Cot-
tard was away from home, and that she herself had quite ceased to see
anything of Swann, since either of these might have helped to entertain
the old Ambassador, my father replied that so eminent a guest, so distin-
guished a man of science as Cottard could never be out of place at a
dinner-table, but that Swann, with his ostentation, his habit of crying
aloud from the housetops the name of everyone that he knew, however
slightly, was an impossible vulgarian whom the Marquis de Norpois
would be sure to dismiss asÑto use his own epithetÑa 'pestilent' fellow.
Now, this attitude on my father's part may be felt to require a few words
of explanation, inasmuch as some of us, no doubt, remember a Cottard
of distinct mediocrity and a Swann by whom modesty and discretion, in
all his social relations, were carried to the utmost refinement of delicacy.
But in his case, what had happened was that, to the original 'young
Swann' and also to the Swann of the Jockey Club, our old friend had ad-
ded a fresh personality (which was not to be his last), that of Odette's
husband. Adapting to the humble ambitions of that lady the instinct, the
desire, the industry which he had always had, he had laboriously con-
structed for himself, a long way beneath the old, a new position more ap-
propriate to the companion who was to share it with him. In this he
shewed himself another man. Since (while he continued to go, by him-
self, to the houses of his own friends, on whom he did not care to inflict
Odette unless they had expressly asked that she should be introduced to
them) it was a new life that he had begun to lead, in common with his
wife, among a new set of people, it was quite intelligible that, in order to
estimate the importance of these new friends and thereby the pleasure,
the self-esteem that were to be derived from entertaining them, he
should have made use, as a standard of comparison, not of the brilliant
society in which he himself had moved before his marriage but of the
earlier environment of Odette. And yet, even when one knew that it was
with unfashionable officials and their faded wives, the wallflowers of
ministerial ball-rooms, that he was now anxious to associate, it was still
astonishing to hear him, who in the old days, and even still, would so
gracefully refrain from mentioning an invitation to Twickenham or to
Marlborough House, proclaim with quite unnecessary emphasis that the
wife of some Assistant Under-Secretary for Something had returned
Mme. Swann's call. It will perhaps be objected here that what this really
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