Marcel Proust in Paris !!!

I have dwell into many historical parts and anecdotes of my belle France. I have even told you about some known personalities which I think are great and merit a post. From a fellow blogger who mention this name, I need to thank Allison for mentioning Marcel Proust. One of my favorite and walked his beat a lot in Paris. Therefore, here is a bit of his story , that of Marcel Proust in Paris !!!

The great Marcel Proust was born in 1871 at 96, rue La Fontaine, in the village of Auteuil (current 16éme) and died in 1922 , Born and died in Paris; he is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery, 16 rue du Repos, 85th division, Av. Transversale n°2. While Combray the literary Christmas given by Proust to his childhood village, Illiers, renamed after his death Illiers-Combray. The life of the writer took place in the heart of a very restricted space, a quadrilateral going from the Parc Monceau to the place de la Concorde, from the Concorde to Auteuil, from Auteuil to the Bois de Boulogne and to the Etoile . Paris has a decisive dimension in the awakening of Marcel Proust’s literary vocation, from his first texts at the end of the 1890s with his classmates from the Lycée Condorcet, (my walks to work passed in front ! ) to his beginnings in Parisian high society and the meeting of decisive personalities.

We have excerpts from “La Recherche” and testimonies borrowed from certain actors of the time. Its ambition is to shed light on the capital of the late 19C and early 20C, from the defeat of Sedan in 1871 to the years following the victory of 1918, a period which corresponds to what will be called ” the good times “. Family traditions vary somewhat for each of these groups, but they share the same way of life and frequent the same places. In Paris, they lived in private mansions served by many servants and animated the “season”, that is to say the period of receptions and shows that shaped the myth of the Belle Époque. In summer, they settled in their castles in the countryside or in the villas of the Normandy coast. Marcel Proust will succeed in slipping with determination and delight into this environment of the aristocracy and the upper middle class. In the courtyard of the building on 9 Boulevard Malesherbe where Marcel Proust and his family lived, there is a tailor’s shop which inspired Proust to create the character of Jupien, a vest-maker who officiated in the courtyard of the private mansion of the Marquise de Villeparisis. draws the atmosphere, from a black decanted with ashes, which is none other than the Saint-Augustin Church dome and which gives a nice view of Paris.

At the age of nine, during a Sunday walk in the Bois de Boulogne, Marcel suddenly suffered an extremely violent asthma attack. His father watches helplessly as his son struggles to catch his breath and for a moment fears the worst. Fortunately, the crisis ended by calming down, but Marcel’s chronic asthma set in. Marcel is enrolled in the Pape-Carpentier course where he will stay for two years. He became friends with Jacques Bizet, the composer’s son, then in 1882 he entered the Lycée Fontanes, one of the most famous in Paris, which took the name of Condorcet the following year. After high school hours as well as on Thursday and Sunday afternoons, he goes to play on the Champs-Elysées where he holds court, finding friends whom he surprises with his liveliness. Endowed with a surprising memory, he declaims in front of his comrades, charmed but a little disconcerted, verses by his favorite poets, Musset, Hugo, Lamartine, Racine, Baudelaire. To games, he prefers conversation with his comrades to whom he entrusts the tumultuous ideas that fill his mind.

Marcel Proust decides to tackle the literary world and enter the Parisian salons very fashionable at that time, To Anatole France, one of the most prominent writers, he wrote a very skilful letter, an anonymous letter from a philosophy student who did not ask for an answer but which enabled him a few months later to meet the famous writer through circuitous routes. Thanks to his friends from Condorcet, including Jacques Baignères and Jacques Bizet, he greedily entered the salons of Mmes Baignères and Strauss. The latter will become one of his most faithful friends. It was at her home that he met Charles Haas. It was at this time that Marcel Proust’s reputation as a snob was born, which would pursue him throughout his life. During the summer of 1889, Proust was introduced into the salon of Madame Arman de Callavet, who introduced him to Anatole France, whose physique disappointed him, as Bergotte’s physical appearance disappointed the Narrator in La Recherche.(des temps perdu).

The Faubourg Saint-Germain is very often cited by Marcel Proust because it is where the many Parisian scenes take place. They are places of literary life where reputations are made and deteriorate. Each salonnière has its proteges, artists that it invites, carries, defends and brings to the front of the stage. These are places where many readings and performances are organised. Proust likes to go out and meet up with his friends to hang out at Maxim’s, 3, rue Royale (8éme), and give big dinners in the family apartment. Since 1900, the Prousts have moved into a very opulent building, located at 45, rue de Courcelles (8éme).

The Mme Straus’ Salon ; Mme Straus married composer Georges Bizet with whom she had a son, Jacques, who is a high school friend of Marcel’s. Widowed in 1875, she remarried the lawyer Emile Straus in 1886. Her salon is located at 134 Boulevard Haussmann, Although Jewish and commoner, she has many connections in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, as well as in the world of arts and letters. Among Edgar Degas, Forain, Paul Bourget, Jules Lemaître, Paul Hervieu, Robert de Montesquiou, but also politicians like Léon Blum, comedians like Lucien Guitry, Réjane or Emma Calvé. Marcel Proust, friend and classmate at Lycée Condorcet of Jacques Bizet, first husband of Geneviève Straus, and of Daniel Halévy, met Charles Haas, Swann’s future model there. Geneviève Straus is herself given as one of the models for Oriane de Guermantes.

The Madame Baignères’ salon, which she held in her hotel at 40 rue du Général-Foy, she received there every week the political, financial, military, artistic, literary and musical “all of Paris”. Her only son, Jacques Baignères befriended Marcel at Lycée Condorcet and introduced him to his mother’s salon in Paris as well as Trouville. There are many characters and places that will inspire Proust for his writings. The Léontine Aman de Cavaillet’s Salon: Born Lippmann to a banker father of German descent, Léontine has a comfortable fortune. Married, the spouses are hardly faithful but will not divorce. Léontine lives stormy love with Anatole France in full view of all, a passion that will last for years. She receives in her private mansion at 12 avenue Hoche writers, deputies, lawyers, comedians, painters but we do not meet a musician there because Léontine does not like music. Proust is one of the faithful. Wednesday dinners will strongly inspire Marcel Proust in the description of the receptions of Mme Verdurin and some of her guests (Dumas fils en Brochard, Doctor Pozzi en Brichot).

The Madame Lemaire’s salon: at n° 31 rue de Monceau is a small private mansion which is characterized by its modest size and its original architecture. This is where the studio of Madeleine Lemaire, a renowned painter and watercolourist, is located. She is described by Marcel Proust in an article entitled “La cour aux lilas et l’atelier aux roses” and published under a pseudonym in the figaro of May 11, 1903. Marcel Proust is a faithful and it is at Madame Lemaire’s that 1893, he will meet Montesquiou from whom he will draw inspiration to create the astonishing character of Charlus. The actresses Réjane and Sarah Bernhardt come to perform there, Camille Saint-Saëns, Reynaldo Hahn or Jules Massenet, to play the piano. There were also politicians such as Paul Deschanel or Léon Bourgeois, ambassadors, aristocrats, writers such as Alexandre Dumas fils, whose mistress she was. Madeleine Lemaire will illustrate Les Plaisirs et les jours published by Proust in 1896.

The Princess Mathilde’s salon: Princess Mathilde is the daughter of Jérôme Bonaparte, cousin of Napoleon III, (whose family now holds the line in Louis Ferdinand ast Napoléon V) who receives guests at 20 rue de Berri. Marcel was introduced to her at Mrs. Straus’s whose friend she is. The princess is then quite old since she was born in 1820, The Countess Potocka’s living room: She is married to Polish Count Nicolas Potocki, heir to a huge fortune. They built a palace at 27, avenue de Friedland (which today houses the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris Île-de-France). They receive all of Paris there. Marcel Proust would describe her as an “antique beauty” with “Florentine grace” and “Parisian elegance”. He would have found in her the features of the Duchesse de Guermantes. She organizes every Friday a scandalous meal, the “dinner of the Maccabees” during which the particular cult of Love is celebrated. Each guest must play the role of someone who died of love, that is to say, died of exhaustion from having indulged too much in lovemaking and it sometimes ended in a bacchanalia.

Several painters, including Jean Béraud, a friend of Marcel Proust, have illustrated scenes of Parisian life with talent: scenes on the grand boulevards, social gatherings, crowds in shops, grisettes, workers leaving work, soldiers on parade, bourgeois leaving the church…The Odette Swann likes to walk Avenue du Bois (now Avenue Foch, by car my entry point to Paris many glorious times!), The Café de la Paix,(under my management accounting wise for 2 years!) 5 place de l’Opéra, we find Robert de Saint-Loup having dinner with the Prince of Orléans. Saint-Loup, nephew of Baron de Charlus and marquis himself, displays republican, socialist and Dreyfusard ideas. Friend of the narrator, he married Gilberte Swann before dying in the war, The Lapérouse restaurant, located on the Left Bank, 51 Quai des Grands Augustins, Swann likes to go there for reasons other than gastronomy. La Brasserie Weber , located at 21 rue Royale, this brasserie was the meeting place for artists, writers, cartoonists and journalists. It no longer exists today. Le Café Anglais was located at the corner of Boulevard des Italiens and rue Marivaux, very close to the Opéra Comique. When it opened, it was a restaurant frequented mainly by coachmen and servants. At the end of the Second Empire, it became the most posh of all cafés and the most popular in all of Europe. The La Maison Dorée was located between the Café Riche at n°18, and the famous Tortoni ice cream parlor at n°22, La Maison Dorée, at 20 boulevard des Italiens, is one of the most expensive and sought after restaurants in Paris for over half a century. The restaurant was divided into 2 parts, one overlooks the boulevard, is reserved for “all comers”, the other, rue Laffitte, receives the regulars of mark, sheltered from the curious, in luxurious “Cabinets” . The restaurant La Rue was at 15 place de la Madeleine, Proust went there often in the early 1900s. It was there that Bertrand de Fénelon would have flitted between the tables to bring Proust his coat , as Saint-Loup in the novel brings it victoriously to the chilled narrator. The Ritz: it was a friend, Princess Soutzo, who stayed there, who would introduce Marcel Proust to the establishment. He immediately became a loyal regular since he used to dine there several times a week.
Since the death of his parents and his move to 102 boulevard Haussmann, and it is to the Ritz that he likes to invite his friends, and in particular his friends whom he dares not receive in his room impregnated with the smell of fumigation. The first dinner he organized there took place in July 1907, in honor of Gaston Calmette, the director of Le Figaro. The grand hotel becomes his second home. There he meets personalities from all over Paris. Proust would frequent it assiduously until his death. After the war (WWI), he often sent for raspberry or strawberry ice cream at the Ritz. The arrival of Céleste Albaret in 1914 prompted him to frequent the Ritz more because Céleste did not like to cook. On May 18, 1922, Proust attended a dinner in honor of Stravinsky at the Ritz, which Picasso, Joyce and Diaghilev also took part in. Proust’s passion for music will awaken during the piano and violin recital he offered to his friends on July 1, 1907 in a salon of the Ritz hotel. It will grow with the arrival of the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909. Gathered around Diaghilev, Proust did not hide his enthusiasm and frequently went to the Opera and the Châtelet to attend performances which met with immense success.

From 1911, Marcel Proust was passionate about Beethoven’s last quartets, which Paris was so fond of. Marcel Proust, secluded in his Parisian apartment on Boulevard Haussmann, called upon Lucien Capet, founder of the Quartet that bears his name, one night at three o’clock in the morning to ask him to come right away with his colleagues to play Debussy’s Quartet for him. And Capet complied… Proust himself went by taxi to the home of each of the four musicians to remind them of the promise and he succeeded, despite the vehement protests of some, in bringing them home. He stretched out on his bed, the musicians installed their scores on the furniture and at one o’clock in the morning in the silence of the night, they performed Franck’s quartet in D major. At the end, comforted by a champagne supper served by Celeste, as they were about to leave, Proust asked them to play the quartet again, which they did despite their fatigue. Enthusiastic, Proust thanked them warmly and gave them handfuls of 50-franc notes taken from a Chinese box. Four taxis were waiting for the musicians to take them home. Proust could sometimes be odious but he always remained a great lord.

The Théâtrophone, which made it possible to listen from home, by means of a telephone, to music concerts or plays. Often handicapped by his asthma attacks and confined to his room, Marcel Proust understood the interest of this new invention and took out a subscription, apparently following a promotional campaign published in Le Tout Paris in 1911. The quality of the Théâtrophone often leaves something to be desired and Proust is sometimes disillusioned, moreover this means of listening will only know a success of esteem, Marcel Proust has always shown an interest in the theatre. Throughout his life he had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the most prominent actresses and to establish lasting friendly relationships with some of them. In Swann’s side, the Narrator of Research cites the best actresses without hesitation to place Sarah Bernhardt at the top of his ranking, He ranked the most illustrious in order of talent: Sarah Bernhardt, Berma, Bartet, Madeleine Brohan, Jeanne Samary, but all of them interested me. As per Swann.

From a window in the apartment on Boulevard Malesherbes, Marcel as a child can see the Morris column where he runs to see the announced theater performances. This column still exists on the other side of the boulevard, at No. 9. Marcel will be one of his admirers and was strongly inspired by it to draw up the character of Berma. Marcel Proust saw Réjane on stage for the first time on the evening of the premiere of Germinie Lacerteux. Réjane was then competing with Sarah Bernhardt for the title of greatest actress of the Belle Époque. These two great actresses served as a model for the character of Berma dreamed of by the narrator of À la recherche du temps perdu or in search of lost time. Jacques Porel, son of Réjane, and Marcel Proust became good friends after the Great War.(WWI known in Europe).

Louisa de Mornand was a young actress who began her career with curtain raisers on the Grands Boulevards. Then later his relationship with the actress seems to take a new turn since he writes this couplet: To who cannot have Louisa de Mornand There can only remain the sin of Onan. The Third Republic is the golden age of brothels which are an integral part of social life. In Paris, there were about 200 official establishments, under the control of the police and doctors, in the middle of the century, but many clandestine brothels existed. Later on, Marcel Proust assiduously frequented this type of establishment. He will be a regular in these places, but surely he needed male brothels more to see and dream than to satisfy his inclinations. One of them had a special importance for him, the brothel for men le Marigny. Marcel Proust met Le Cuziat in 1911, at a social event where the latter was working as a valet. Enthused by his knowledge of the habits and customs of high society, both his customs and genealogy, he will get closer to him and extract from him, against payment, a quantity of information which he will use in his writings. Was he helped financially by Proust? There is nothing to confirm this but, surprisingly, he will participate in the furnishing of the hotel by donating to Le Cuziat some furniture inherited from his parents!

We are of course thinking of Charlus On December 11, 1918, Proust was arrested and then released during a police raid on the hotel. Jupien opens his Temple of Immodest. Marcel Proust passes for the prototype of the disengaged writer, exclusively attentive to his work. But the last volume of  »A la recherche du temps perdu, Le Temps retrouvé », o in search of lost time, the times regained, is also a very great book on the Great War (WWI) in which the writer paints the end of a world and reflects on the role that literature has to play in an age of propaganda, patriotism and mass slaughter. In Search of Lost Time was largely written and rewritten during and just after WWI. If the work took on the proportions that we know of, it was directly because of the Great War, which suspended the publication of the two volumes that were to follow Du Côté de chez Swann. Le Temps retrouvé or time regained chronicles a war that the author knows about only through indirect channels: the press, works by historians or military strategists, and finally the oral testimonies of his brother, friends or fighters he meets in Albert Le Cuziat’s meeting hotel. Proust took no part in the war and yet his attention to war is extreme, and military strategy plays an important role, on several levels, in his work. He did his military service in the 76th infantry regiment in Orléans, from November 1889 (year of obtaining his baccalaureate) to November 1890. His very poor state of health will lead to his reform, during the year 1915 but he lives in communion with the fighters.

To recap his whereabouts in Paris, and the many theaters, cafes, restaurants, operas, places of pleasure are often mentioned in La Recherche. People frequent good society there, like at the Café de la Paix, Place de l’Opéra. The Quai d’Orléans (4éme) this address is one of the most important components of Swann. It shows his freedom. At the time, Île Saint-Louis was not a bourgeois or aristocratic place. Once married to Odette, he will settle in the 16éme arrondissement. The Faubourg Saint-Germain (6éme), The places (living rooms, mansions, apartments) in which an event or an action takes place are linked to characters, and particularly the Faubourg Saint-Germain, The Champs-Élysées (8éme) ; this is one of the most cited toponymic places along with the Faubourg Saint-Germain. The most beautiful avenue in the world but also the surrounding streets (rue de Berri, rue de Washington…). An alley in the Jardin des Champs has even been named after the writer since 1969, The Gare Saint-Lazare (8éme), here the Narrator takes the “beautiful generous train of 1:22”. His unlikely journey leaves for Normandy and Balbec to arrive in Brittany. The Saint-Augustin (8éme) with the Madeleine and Saint-Augustin neighborhoods, a symbol of Haussmann’s work, is Aunt Léonie’s estate in Paris. The Plaine Monceau (8éme) immersed in topographical anonymity, the Faubourg Saint-Honoré is nevertheless home to the Hôtel de Guermantes, where Madame de Villeparisis’ salon is located. The Boulevard des Italiens (9éme) ; on the main boulevards, Proust transposes reality by changing the names of the restaurants: Lame becomes the Maison Dorée; Durand, Tortoni, and Weber, the English Cafe. But these places are no less important since it is at the exit of one of these establishments that Swann meets Odette. The Rue La Pérouse (16éme) 1860, this part of the 16éme arrondissement is booming. You may see his last home at 44 Rue de l’Amiral Hamelin. The Bois de Boulogne ,along with the surroundings of Saint-Augustin and the Champs-Élysées, the Bois de Boulogne constitutes Proust’s Paris, both personally and literary. It mainly concerns Mrs. Swann and the Narrator !

The Paris tourist office on the event Marcel Proust on mother’s side at the Museum of Jewish art and history until August 28 2022: https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-show-exhibition/264819/exposition-marcel-proust-du-cote-de-la-mere-musee-d-art-et-d-histoire-du-judaisme

A site in French on all about Marcel Proust: https://www.marcel-proust.fr/biographie-qui-est-marcel-proust/

The Société des amis de Marcel Proust et des Amis de Combray: https://www.amisdeproust.fr/en/presentation-en

And one more promise, the literary history of Marcel Proust and his work: https://actualitte.com/dossier/91/marcel-proust

To note you can see his street the Avenue Marcel-Proust is in the 16éme arrondissement. It begins at avenue René-Boylesve and ends at 18, rue Berton, at the intersection with rue d’Ankara .It is located below rue Raynouard to which it is connected by the stairs of avenue du Parc-de- Passy. It is served by the métro line 6 at Passy station. The Allée Marcel-Proust is located in the 8éme arrondissement . Purely pedestrian, it begins at Place de la Concorde at the beginning of Avenue Gabriel and ends at Avenue de Marigny, crossing the Champs-Élysées gardens parallel to Avenue des Champs-Élysées on its north side. The Best Western Premier Le Swann **** is the first literary hotel entirely dedicated to Marcel Proust, offering a lively and fun discovery of his universe through a collection of unique, original works, manuscripts, and a multilingual library of more than 500 books that are either written by or about the author. Located at 11-15 rue de Constantinople ,neighborhodd Saint-Lazare, 8éme Arrondissement. The Maison Tante Léonie in Illiers Combray: The Marcel Proust museum is located at 4 rue Dr Proust 28120 Illiers Combray.

There you go folks, a bit long but all worth text to have and remember, a great artist, writer and wonderful stories of my eternal Paris. Marcel Proust is another one for Paris is the most beautiful city in the world! Hope you enjoy the post as I. The above text taken from books in my library which is always a pleasure pain of work to have transcribe into the blog.

And remember,happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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2 Comments to “Marcel Proust in Paris !!!”

  1. Oh, thank you, thank you! I wish I was in Paris right now so I could dash around and see these very streets and places. I had no idea of your association with Café de la Paix. I go there many times each time I am in Paris. I have learned so much from you over the years and this post was no exception—wonderful. From the bottom of my heart, merci!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for our kind words appreciated. The cafe de la paix was under my management accounting wise for two years as it is attach to the Grand Intercontinental hotel which I was in charge in all France for these properties while working in Paris. Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

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