Proust and the Victorians: The Lamp of Memory by Robert Fraser

By Robert Fraser

In 1899 Marcel Proust learn a translation of Ruskin's The Lamp of reminiscence in a Belgian journal. Fourteen years later he back-projected the event onto the narrator of Du cote de chez Swann who describes himself as a boy analyzing the self-same piece within the backyard at Combray. In among lay a interval of intermittent enthusiasm for Victorian writing: a interval which observed the refurbishment of Proust's process and a basic rethinking of his perspectives. a lot of this reassessment used to be accomplished with regards to English writers whom Proust followed, absorbed after which as usually as now not discarded. the outcome was once to let him to move from one aesthetic to a different. it's the competition of this publication that the clue to this procedure are available not just in Proust's evolving perspectives on reminiscence and time but additionally in his development via a three-fold typology of shape: from 'mimetic shape' (art-imitating-the-real) via 'mnemonic shape' (art-imitating-memory) to 'abstract shape' (art-imitating-itself). The growth from one to a different is illustrated via Proust's reactions to Carlyle, Darwin, Emerson, Ruskin, George Eliot, Hardy, Stevenson, Wells and Wilde. there's additionally a bankruptcy at the connection in Proust's brain among literary and artwork feedback and his behind schedule reaction to the Ruskin-Whistler trial of 1878. a last bankruptcy relates those concerns to the present debate as to the parallel among the 19th century fin-de-siecle and our own.

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The enclosure consisted of two leaves tom from Carlyle Intime: Lettres de Thomas Carlyle a sa mere published by Mercure de France the previous year. And the letter quoted is the last that Thomas wrote to his mother, Margaret Aitken Carlyle, translated from Froude' s Life: Let it ever be a comfort to you, however weak you are, that you did your part honourably and well while in strength, and were a noble mother to me and to us all. I am now myself grown old, and have various things to do and suffer for so many years; but there is nothing I ever had so much to be thankful for as the mother I had.

A fifth concerns the tension between originality and reading. Originality implies the continuing struggle to achieve uniqueness and coherence of form, a struggle for which the sharpest evidence perhaps lies in Proust's letters. It also marks a point of departure from antecedent influences, never an unambiguous point in Proust, and never a final one. Reading, by contrast, includes all manner of miscellaneous influence and cultural conditioning, together with the unsought, or intrusively persuasive, conversation of others.

Among Proust's closest early The lAmp of Memory 27 literary affinities was the writer who, more than any other Victorian, had helped the French to interpret their own public past: Thomas Carlyle. 2 The Lamp of Heroism: Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau I We must return once more to the room: Proust's adult bedroom this time, at 45, Rue de Courcelles, from which on 10 February 1905 he wrote to his English friend and Ruskin co-translator Marie Nordlinger: 'Tell your friend that in my scrupulously bare bedroom there is but one artistic reproduction: an admirable photograph of Whistler's ncarlyle" with its overcoat of serpentine folds like the robe in "His Mother"' (Cor, v, 41).

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