Fabre, Jean-Henri (1823-1915)

French entomologist, who devoted himself to the direct observational study of insects, especially Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, and Orthoptera, and spiders. His work was cited by Charles Darwin. He wrote Souvenirs enthomologiques (1879-1907). He believed that the ability of the wasp to attack the nervous centers of various insects, paralyzing that insect to provide food for its young, casts doubt on the theory of fixed habits in insects. — A Proust Dictionary by Maxine Arnold Vogely.

Proust uses a discovery made by Fabre about the burrowing wasp as an analogy to explain the servant Françoise's behavior. She is protective of those she loves and her jealousy motivates her to prevent anyone else from coming between her and them:

Although, when her grandson had a slight cold in his head, she would set off at night, even if she were unwell, instead of going to bed, to see whether he had everything he needed, covering ten miles on foot before daybreak so as to be back in time for work, this same love for her own people, and her desire to establish the future greatness of her house on a solid foundation, found expression, in her policy with regard to the other servants, in one unvarying maxim, which was never to let any of them set foot in my aunt's room; indeed she showed a sort of pride in not allowing anyone else to come near my aunt, preferring, when she herself was ill, to get out of bed and to administer the Vichy water in person, rather than concede to the kitchen-maid the right of entry in her mistress's presence. There is a species of hymenoptera observed by Fabre, the burrowing wasp, which in order to provide a supply of fresh meat for her offspring after her own decease, calls in the science of anatomy to amplify the resources of her instinctive cruelty, and, having made a collection of weevils and spiders, proceeds with marvelous knowledge and skill to pierce the nerve-centre on which their power of locomotion (but none of their other vital functions) depends, so that the paralyzed insect, beside which she lays her eggs, will furnish the larvae, when hatched, with a docile, inoffensive quarry, incapable either of flight or of resistance, but perfectly fresh for the larder: in the same way Françoise had adopted, to minister to her unfaltering resolution to render the house uninhabitable to any other servant, a series of stratagems so cunning and so pitiless that, many years later, we discovered that if we had been fed on asparagus day after day throughout that summer, it was because their smell gave the poor kitchen-maid who had to prepare them such violent attacks of asthma that she was finally obliged to leave my aunt's service.
Swann's Way 1: 173
Si, quand son petit fils était un peu enrhumé du cerveau, elle partait la nuit, même malade, au lieu de se coucher, pour voir s'il n'avait besoin de rien, faisant quatre lieues à pied avant le jour afin d'être rentrée pour son travail, en revanche ce même amour des siens et son désir d'assurer la grandeur future de sa maison se traduisait dans sa politique à l'égard des autres domestiques par une maxime constante qui fut de n'en jamais laisser un seul s'implanter chez ma tante, qu'elle mettait d'ailleurs une sorte d'orgueil à ne laisser approcher par personne, préférant, quand elle-même était malade, se relever pour lui donner son eau de Vichy plutôt que de permettre l'accès de la chambre de sa maîtresse à la fille de cuisine. Et comme cet hyménoptère observé par Fabre, la guêpe fouisseuse, qui pour que ses petits après sa mort aient de la viande fraîche à manger, appelle l'anatomie au secours de sa cruauté et, ayant capturé des charançons et des araignées leur perce avec un savoir et une adresse merveilleux le centre nerveux d'où dépend le mouvement des pattes, mais non les autres fonctions de la vie, de façon que l'insecte paralysé près duquel elle dépose ses œufs, fournisse aux larves quand elles écloront un gibier docile, inoffensif, incapable de fuite ou de résistance, mais nullement faisandé, Françoise trouvait pour servir sa volonté permanente de rendre la maison intenable à tout domestique, des ruses si savantes et si impitoyables que, bien des années plus tard, nous apprîmes que si cet été-là nous avions mangé presque tous les jours des asperges, c'était parce que leur odeur donnait à la pauvre fille de cuisine chargée de les éplucher des crises d'asthme d'une telle violence qu'elle fut obligée de finir par s'en aller.
Du côté de chez Swann 1: 122

Proust alludes to Fabre's discoveries in a passage about the servant Françoise's "instinctive and almost divinatory knowledge" of the Narrator and his family:

Thus even in our own day it has been possible for the most important discoveries as to the habits of insects to be made by a scientist who had access to no laboratory and no apparatus of any sort.
The Guermantes Way 3: 490
C'est ainsi que de nos jours encore les plus grandes découvertes dans les mœurs des insectes ont pu être faites par un savant qui ne disposait d'aucun laboratoire, de nul appareil.
Le Côté de Guermantes 2: 654


See Quotable Proust: F.

Fénelon, Bertrand de (1878-1914)

See Yeux bleus, les.

La Fille aux yeux d'or

This novel by Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) anticipates a major Proustian preoccupation: same-sex love. The young Paquita Valdes is bought by the Marquise de San Réal to satisfy her sexual desires. In Time Regained, Gilberte, now married to Saint-Loup, who has succeeded in hiding his homosexuality by pretending to have liaisons with various women, discusses the Balzac's book with the Narrator, who does not want to admit to her that he himself once sequestered a beautiful young woman, Albertine.

Gilberte said to me. "It is an old Balzac which I am swotting up so as to be as well-informed as my uncles, La Fille aux Yeux d'Or. But it is absurd, improbable, nightmarish. For one thing, I suppose a woman might be kept under surveillance in that way by another woman, but surely not by a man."
"You are wrong, I once knew a woman who was loved by a man who in the end literally imprisoned her; she was never allowed to see anybody, she could only go out with trusted servants."
"Well, you who are so kind must be horrified at the idea. By the way, we were saying, Robert and I, that you ought to get married. Your wife would improve your health and you would make her happy."
"No, I have too bad a character."
"How absurd!"
"I mean it. Besides, I was engaged once. But I couldn't quite make up my mind to marry the girl—and anyhow she thought better of it herself, because of my undecided and cantankerous character." This was, in fact, the excessively simple light in which I regarded my adventure with Albertine, now that I saw it only from outside.
Time Regained 6: 23
«C'est un vieux Balzac que je pioche pour me mettre à la hauteur de mes oncles, La Fille aux yeux d'or. Mais c'est absurde, invraisemblable, un beau cauchemar. D'ailleurs, une femme peut peut-être être surveillée ainsi par une autre femme, jamais par un homme.
—Vous vous trompez, j'ai connu une femme qu'un homme qui l'aimait était arrivé véritablement à séquestrer; elle ne pouvait jamais voir personne, et sortir seulement avec des serviteurs dévoués.
—Eh bien, cela devrait vous faire horreur à vous qui êtes si bon. Justement nous disions avec Robert que vous devriez vous marier. Votre femme vous guérirait et vous feriez son bonheur.
—Non, parce que j'ai trop mauvais caractère.
—Quelle idée!
—Je vous assure! J'ai, du reste, été fiancé, mais je n'ai pas pu me décider à l'épouser (et elle y a renoncé elle-même, à cause de mon caractère indécis et tracassier).» C'était, en effet, sous cette forme trop simple que je jugeais mon aventure avec Albertine, maintenant que je ne voyais plus cette aventure que du dehors.
Le Temps retrouvé 4: 284-85

Not surprisingly, this particular novel is among the titles Charlus mentions in a conversation during which he argues that Balzac is "a great writer":

"...Balzac was acquainted even with those passions which the rest of the world ignores, or studies only to castigate them. Without referring again to the immortal Illusions perdues, stories like Sarrazine, La Fille aux yeux d'or, Une passion dans le désert, even the distinctly enigmatic Fausse Maîtresse, can be adduced in support of my argument."
Sodom and Gomorrah 4: 614
«...Balzac a connu jusqu'à ces passions que tout le monde ignore ou n'étudie que pour les flétrir. Sans reparler des immortelles Illusions Perdues, Sarrazine, la Fille aux yeux d'or, Une passion dans le désert, même l'assez énigmatique Fausse Maîtresse, viennent à l'appui de mon dire.»
Sodome et Gomorrhe 3: 439-40


Proust's fictional painter Elstir is speaking about the landscapes on the northern coast of France:

"The Pointe du Raz is magnificent, but after all it's simply another of those high cliffs of Normandy or Brittany which you know already. Carquethuit is quite different, with those rocks on a low shore, I know nothing in France like it, it reminds me rather of certain aspects of Florida."
Within a Budding Grove 2: 592
«La Pointe-du-Raz est admirable, mais enfin c'est toujours la grande falaise normande ou bretonne que vous connaissez. Carquethuit, c'est tout autre chose avec ces roches sur une plage basse. Je ne connais rien en France d'analogue, cela me rappelle plûtot certains aspects de la Floride.»
À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs 2: 210

One of the models for Elstir was the American expatriate painter Thomas Alexander Harrison (1853-1930), whom Proust and Reynaldo Hahn met at Beg-Meil in 1895. He was especially known for his seascapes. In Jean Santeuil, it is the writer C who is based on Harrison. Elstir's remarks about Florida no doubt come from Proust's conversations with Harrison.


The Roman name for the Greek Erinyes, merciless goddesses of vengeance. In Mythology, Edith Hamilton tells us that "They were called 'those who walk in darkness,' and they were terrible of aspect, with writhing snakes for hair and eyes that wept tears of blood." Proust's analogy is more humorous because he compares them to telephone operators and he alters their function, placing them in a surveillance role:

...the ironic Furies who, just as we were murmuring a confidence to a loved one, in the hope that no one could hear us, cry brutally: "I'm listening!"; the ever-irritable hand-maidens of the Mystery, the umbrageous priestesses of the Invisible, the Young Ladies of the Telephone.
The Guermantes Way 3: 174
...les ironiques Furies qui, au moment que nous murmurions une confidence à une amie, avec l'espoir que personne ne nous entendait, nous crient cruellement: «J'écoute.»; les servantes toujours irritées du Mystère, les ombrageuses prêtresses de l'Invisible, les Demoiselles du téléphone!
Le Côté de Guermantes 2: 432

French Language

See Quotable Proust: F.

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