There's a passing observation Proust makes in "Madame Swann at Home" that keeps coming back to me since I first read it a few weeks ago. So I thought I would share it with our group...
The Narrator is remembering a letter he wrote (when he was a teenager) to M. Swann, a letter which, despite his best efforts, had failed to secure the affection of Gilberte's father as he had intended. Reflecting on this episode, he writes:
"I who knew the purity of my intentions, the goodness of my soul, was furious that my words should not even have impinged upon the surface of Swann’s ridiculous error. For it was an error; of that I had then no doubt. I felt that I had described with such accuracy certain irrefutable characteristics of my generous sentiments that, if Swann had not at once recognized their authenticity, had not come to ask my forgiveness and to admit that he had been mistaken, it must be because he himself had never experienced these noble sentiments, and this would make him incapable of understanding their existence in other people.
"But perhaps it was simply that Swann knew that nobility is often no more than the inner aspect which our egotistical feelings assume when we have not yet named and classified them" (WBG, 87).
That self-correction at the end made me laugh, and I keep thinking of it. What a useful reminder whenever we are feeling particularly noble and high-minded about something! I have a suspicion that our spouses might agree with this definition of nobility.