Christopher Lloyd (2 March 1921 – 27 January 2006) – The Adventurous Gardener (1983) – Another Look at Miss Jekyll

dixter1Christopher Lloyd in the peacock garden of his beloved estate at Great Dixter, surrounded by banks of aster lateriflorus horizontalis. Photograph: Jonathan Buckley

Photo (& caption) from Lloyd’s obituary at The Guardian.

The problem with taking a summer sabbatical from posting is that, when you finally return to your blog folder, all memory has faded – one cannot tell what has been done from what hasn’t – and restarting the engine is difficult. In it, I came across this excerpt from Christopher Lloyd’s book The Adventurous Gardener and it appears that I scanned it from my own copy and so I present it here. It deals with his personal recollections of Gertrude Jekyll which we can now add to past posts on her and her gardening history.

I have collected quite a few books written by Miss Jekyll and, although her prose doesn’t elevate one to moments of ecstasy, it is competent and clear (not always the case with garden writers) and her humility shines through which presents her authority in a kinder light. Lloyd is correct to state that “seventy or eighty years has not staled the lesson” which is to say that there is still much to be learned from her writings with regard to an art very much under the ultimate control of Mother Nature.

At the moment I can’t lay hands on my hard copy in order to check my transcription so we’ll leave it as is and hope that it is correct. As stated in previous posts, Lloyd’s curmudgeonly writing is as enjoyable as his gardening logic is sound and, being a near-contemporary of Miss Jekyll, his assessments of her art and craft are bound to be closer to the bone than those of others; his admiration for her is also readily apparent.

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Woolf on Proust (& Joyce) – The Letters of Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)

I’ve just finished the 2nd volume (of 6) of The Letters of Virginia Woolf 1912 – 1922 and, towards the end, in a letter written to Roger Fry, encountered this assessment of Marcel Proust’s writing (of In Search of Lost Time – see some industrious previous posts on that subject). High praise indeed.

She also boldly states her opinion, by way of comparison with Proust, of James Joyce’s Ulysses. A few months previously, after reading a half-dozen chapters, she had described it as “merely the scratching of pimples on the body of the bootboy at Claridges. Of course genius may blaze out on page 652 but I have my doubts” – language as clear as it might be.  Many years ago, during the era of my callow youth, I packed away a copy of Ulysses on a back-pack tour of Europe and tried, and tried, to read it but was always defeated –  never getting beyond a few dozen pages – finally giving it away to someone, uncharacteristic of my collector’s mentality. I now have it on my Kobo Mini ( and may yet tackle it again someday.

Here is the letter:

Letter 1295: To Roger Fry

Monk’s House, Rodmell, [Sussex]

Oct. 3rd 1922

My dear Roger,

Long ago a slab of nougat arrived without any expression of affection attending it. The label was addressed in a curious forcible crabbed unknown hand. Clive says it is you. But you might have written. It was delicious while it lasted, and now is a memory. I suppose you are at St Tropez – perfectly happy, quite forgetful, painting all day – the sun perhaps too hot.

I haven’t much news, except of the usual English kind – weekends; Clive, Mary; Eliot, Morgan; Lytton, the Sangers. We go back to Hogarth tomorrow, and have at once to beard a crisis with Ralph, which has been brewing some time. I expect he’ll stay on, however; but possibly we shall combine in some way with Mr Whitall, who is coming to see us. (1) Several books are emerging; and I may point out that we’ve sold several copies of Mallarmé by Roger Fry. (2)

Our Murry is back in London: and Sydney who has sloughed his skin for the 20th time and is now a simple, deep, suffering man of the style of Koteliansky, repudiates him, but wobbles. This is all horrid gossip to send out to your purer skies. I write in the horror of packing – I ought to be rolling stockings into balls. My great adventure is really Proust. Well – what remains to be written after that? I’m only in the first volume, and there are, I suppose, faults to be found, but I am in a state of amazement; as if a miracle were being done before my eyes. How, at last, has someone solidified what has always escaped – and made it too into this beautiful and perfectly enduring substance? One has to put the book down and gasp. The pleasure becomes physical – like sun and wine and grapes and perfect serenity and intense vitality combined. Far otherwise is it with Ulysses; to which I bind myself like a martyr to a stake, and have thank God, now finished – My martyrdom is over. I hope to sell it for £4.10. (I see my language is not as clear as it might be – )

But this is only a flourish to awaken your memory, which is I suppose, dissolved in sunshine. They are building up the churchyard wall here, and Mrs Dedman, has I regret to say, stolen 5 face towels.

Ever your


(1.) See p. 545, note 1.  [The Hogarth Press was expanding so rapidly that it was monopolizing too much of Leonard’s and Virginia’s time, and Ralph Partridge was proving unsatisfactory as an assistant. James Whitall, an American, offered to take over the whole business management of the Press, but Leonard turned him down.]

(2.) See p. 439, note 1. This was a bait to urge Roger Fry to complete the work. [The proposal to publish Roger Fry’s translations of Mallarmé was postponed from year to year, and they were not published until 1936, after Fry’s death.]

Alice Morse Earle 1851-1911 – Old-Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth – The Charm Of Color

Alice MorseThe American historian Alice Morse at 22, in 1873, a year before she married Henry Earle and settled in Brooklyn. (New York Times)

Jimmy R’s preceding guest post has made me feel guilty for not having made one myself for many months so I’ve polished up one, Old-Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth, on the American writer Alice Morse Earle that I had previously compiled and post it here. I came across it while plundering the web for out-of-copyright books to fill my Kobo Mini e-reader and was very impressed with the writing. Most of her writing is historical (such as Curious Punishments of Bygone Days) and, for gardeners, it’s a pity that this seems to be her only gardening book. There is some biographical information available on her at Wikipedia as well as an article at the above link to the photo at the New York Times.

The book (as well as others of a historical bent) can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg ( and this book is well formatted and edited and a joy to read. I highly recommend it to gardeners as further proof that some of the best garden writing was done hundreds of years in the past. Our excerpt is chapter 10, The Charm Of Color, to add to past posts on this, the most bewitching, of gardening qualities.

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Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past – Literary Criticism – A Note about Translations


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XKCD – Impostor (Randall Munroe –

Presented here is an excerpt from Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (Time Regained) related to literary criticism. I’ve posted it without much in the way of comment (or criticism); between Proust and XKCD both have been pretty much covered.

A note about translations: I read the first two volumes (Swann’s Way & Within a Budding Grove) of Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time) on my e-Reader in the form of the original, out of copyright, translations (freely available for download here) done by Proust’s contemporary C.K. Scott Moncrieff (the final volume by Stephen Hudson, a pseudonym of Sydney Schiff) while, for the subsequent five volumes I’ve been reading from later, copyrighted, paperback translations. These later translations benefit not only from being more accurate and fluid in their own right, as you might expect a later translation to be, but also from the inclusion of material, in both draught and manuscript form, discovered after Proust’s death and the publication of Moncrieff’s and Hudson’s translations. While in the process of reading these more recent translations and, in combing the original texts in search of Moncrieff’s corresponding passages to assemble excerpts, I’ve concluded that it is worthwhile purchasing the modern translations in order to enjoy Proust’s masterpiece to the fullest extent – due to its length it is not a novel that will be re-read often. That is as true for the excerpt presented here as it is for the others. If, however, your budget dictates otherwise then, by all means, download the University of Adelaide’s free version; it is still the second most fun you can have for nothing.

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Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past – Reflections on War (excerpt 2)


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War in the Air pa29

War in the Air

Painted by Christopher Nevinson in 1918

Nevinson became an official war artist in July 1917, working primarily for the British. The markings on the plane in this painting are characteristic of the Nieuport 17 flown by Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop. The painting reputedly depicts Bishop in action. Nevinson’s painting also shows three enemy aircraft above the clouds, through which you can see the Somme countryside.

Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-0517

As war is one of the more perpetual manifestations of the human condition, seemingly bred in the bone, and has been both celebrated and lamented as far back as records of human thought have been recorded I have given thought to it as well over time and, in puzzling over its persistent endurance over eons, have had to confront the possibility that it will be with us for as long as there is time to come and blood to shed. This is not a reassuring conclusion and, as optimism is another of those dogged manifestations of our humanity, have had to search for other possible insights into our propensity to turn to war in order to provide a solution to the difficulties encountered in our human interactions with our neighbours.

As a Canadian, I have often contemplated the difference between our own national character, as a collective character can sometimes be as markedly different from another as that between one individual and another, and that of our continental neighbours in the United States of America. We share many historical similarities, as well as cultural, yet the likenesses between our two countries have diverged, reading like two different books, from the very beginning and that divergence, like two different compass headings emanating from some common point on the map have, over time, brought us to two different destinations (forgetting, for the moment, our recent lurch to the political right under the stewardship of our current C/conservative government).

In an attempt to visualize this national difference in my own mind I had considered it in an evolutionary perspective as though our collective national mindsets were determined by a social or political DNA that, in expressing itself, perpetuates a mentality and extends it, under evolutionary social, economic and political pressures, such that it might become almost inevitable that a country would continue along a chosen path regardless of its wisdom or morality. Thus one population might think it perfectly natural that its government might invade another country, killing millions of its inhabitants in the process, may in fact not give it a second thought, in order to further its national interests as has done the United States repeatedly, while citizens of another might not be so easily convinced as to the wisdom of such an adventure.

In countries founded and fed by immigration, as in the case of our two, the original immigrant, imbued with the political DNA of a mother country, may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with a warring and predatory DNA such as seems to predominate in the USA but immigrants have traditionally been poor and have arrived in the hope of better opportunities – if not for themselves, then for their children. And indeed it is these children who will inherit this local political DNA (Sesame Street is a powerful educational device) and who will soon join their long-time fellow nationals in viewing the world, and their place in it, with native eyes, with accompanying native blindness, and will see no harm in waging war on poorer countries (such as those that their parents fled) in order to increase the wealth and glory of their now native land. Hindsight is generational and we can see only one generation, and that dimly, into the past.

There have been attempts recently to characterize our contemporary world (and America in particular) as being in a “New Gilded Age” with its attendant inequality of wealth, race and opportunity; such a reality should be frightening to us in the 21st century as it harkens back to the time of Marcel Proust and to the atrocities of class that he satirized at the time. Yet we would be foolish indeed, at least those of us who are capable of thought, to ignore the reality around us today, either in war or peace, and to fail to recognize that today’s robber barons have resurrected the past, much to their benefit, to enrich themselves at the expense of society at large. War has always provided a direct road to riches for the rich and powerful and will continue to do so. The national DNA is programmed to accept the propaganda relentlessly espoused by corporations and the super-rich to dazzle the mob and to entice them to offer up their blood as a sacrifice to their homeland. Such a prognosis is hardly reassuring and doesn’t go far in answering my original inquiry above – that will have to wait – but it seems to me that people that live in a society that has the temerity to call itself democratic should be reluctant to turn the clock back one hundred years and, this time, to enslave themselves.

Proust, in the final volume (Time Regained) of his novel Remembrance of Things Past, also drew a comparison between national character and that of individuals and dwelt upon the blindness and hypocrisy of people during time of war (declared or otherwise and, in his case, against the Germans) and I’ve excerpted here a passage where he attempts to reconcile the macro and micro perspectives, to bring them together where they belong.

Boilerplate Spoiler Alert: These excerpts, from near the end of Proust’s seven volume novel are bound to give away the plot and the fate of characters from the story; to avoid that you can download the (free) eBook for your eReader here or purchase the luddite format here. Better still, support your local book store, new or used, and set aside some time (Time?) to read Proust’s remarkable novel.

Excerpts come from source material available in HTML format here.

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Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past – Reflections on War (excerpt 1)


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Over the Top 1

Over the Top, Neuville-Vitasse Painted by Alfred Bastien in 1918

Neuville-Vitasse was a heavily-fortified German village that anchored the Drocourt-Quéant Line. The 22nd Battalion attacked east of here in late August 1918. Georges Vanier, later the Governor General of Canada, always maintained that he was the officer holding the pistol in the front of the painting.

Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-0056

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Time Regained – War – excerpt 1

We previously posted an excerpt of Fighting France by Edith Wharton to provide first-hand insight into the realities of war, specifically the First World War, and in a post on Joel Alan Rich, related to Marcel Proust, provided a link that would take you to one of Rich’s essays on Proust’s attitude towards war in which we suggested that the fictional musings of a novelist who was a contemporary might venture closer to the truth than would the matter-of-fact recollections to be found in a memoir or a history book in any search for understanding.

I am now reading the seventh, and final, volume of Proust’s novel Remembrance of Things Past and I will be excerpting certain passages, as I come across them, in which Proust writes about the “War To End All Wars”. I hope that they will provide a reflection of that elusive element in human nature that seems to embrace, and certainly perpetuates (wars did not end), man’s affinity for murdering, in the name of first this, then that, his fellow man, always towards some better and nobler thing.

We open these posts with two excerpts; in the first, he has returned to Paris in 1916 after having spent two years in a sanatorium while in the second he has shifted the time back to 1914 and the beginning of the war.

Boilerplate Spoiler Alert: These excerpts, from near the end of Proust’s seven volume novel are bound to give away the plot and the fate of characters from the story; to avoid that you can download the (free) eBook for your eReader here or purchase the luddite format here. Better still, support your local book store, new or used, and set aside some time (Time?) to read Proust’s remarkable novel.

Excerpts come from source material available in HTML format here.

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Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past – Sleep and Dreaming


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Sleep and dreaming are important themes in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past; indeed the novel opens with Marcel, in his youth, remembering his difficulties in getting to sleep and with insomnia in general and his great need to receive a nightly goodnight kiss from his mother before going to sleep. The subject arises often throughout the rest of the novel.

I’ve excerpted three passages from the novel dealing with the subject, one from Swann’s Way and one each from The Guermantes Way and Cities of the Plain (which opens with an odd scatological passage); aside from presenting Proust’s thoughts on the subject it will, hopefully, entice readers into tackling the admittedly time consuming (no pun intended) task of reading the entire novel. It has perennially turned up (near the top) on lists of  “great books of the 20th century” for well on the last one hundred years and is well worth the time and effort required to work your way through it; I’m just starting the final volume (of seven), Time Regained, and have enjoyed it immensely.

Page numbers, where indicated, refer to the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics edition (my reading copy for the third and fourth volumes and used to edit the 2nd and 3rd of our digital excerpts), based on the Pléiade text, 1954, translation copyright by Chatto & Windus and Random House, 1981, although our excerpts are taken from C.K. Scott Moncrieff’s original translation which is available for download (in seven volumes) from The University of Adelaide (e-Books@ Adelaide) in a mix of PDF and eBook formats (in French) and in eBook format, ePub & Kindle (in English).

The excerpt from Swann’s Way, which extends somewhat beyond Marcel’s reflections on sleep, opens the novel and is also from the C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation; it is available, all on one page, at This page, which contains all 1.35 million words that constitute the novel will take some time to load. I’ve copied it and separated it into separate MS Word documents corresponding to the seven volumes and it is these that I’ve used in assembling my excerpts of Proust on this blog; this source still needs editing for scanning errors but is (for the most part) properly formatted for italics.

Continue reading then for some of Marcel Proust’s reflections on sleep.

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Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past – The Guermantes Way – Reconsidering Berma


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I’ve posted, below the jump, an excerpt from Proust’s The Guermantes Way, the third book of the seven that constitute his novel Remembrance of Things Past. At the beginning of the second volume, Within a Budding Grove, the young teenage narrator describes how, after years of being denied due to his uncertain health to attend the theatre, he was allowed to go to a performance of Racine’s Phèdre by a renowned actress, Berma, of whom he had read so much. He had also read the play and longed to hear the lines spoken by Berma so as to bring them to life and raise the level of Racine’s art higher still. In the book he eagerly anticipates the afternoon:

My happiness in the prospect of not being separated from Gilberte made me desirous, but not capable, of writing something good which could be shewn to M. de Norpois. After a few laboured pages, weariness made the pen drop from my fingers; I cried with anger at the thought that I should never have any talent, that I was not ‘gifted,’ that I could not even take advantage of the chance that M. de Norpois’s coming visit was to offer me of spending the rest of my life in Paris. The recollection that I was to be taken to hear Berma alone distracted me from my grief. But just as I did not wish to see any storms except on those coasts where they raged with most violence, so I should not have cared to hear the great actress except in one of those classic parts in which Swann had told me that she touched the sublime. For when it is in the hope of making a priceless discovery that we desire to receive certain impressions from nature or from works of art, we have certain scruples about allowing our soul to gather, instead of these, other, inferior, impressions, which are liable to make us form a false estimate of the value of Beauty. Berma in Andromaque, in Les Caprices de Marianne, in Phèdre, was one of those famous spectacles which my imagination had so long desired. I should enjoy the same rapture as on the day when in a gondola I glided to the foot of the Titian of the Frari or the Carpaccios of San Giorgio dei Schiavoni, were I ever to hear Berma repeat the lines beginning,

“On dit qu’un prompt départ vous éloigne de nous, Seigneur,——”

I was familiar with them from the simple reproduction in black and white which was given of them upon the printed page; but my heart beat furiously at the thought — as of the realisation of a long-planned voyage — that I should at length behold them, bathed and brought to life in the atmosphere and sunshine of the voice of gold. A Carpaccio in Venice, Berma in Phèdre, masterpieces of pictorial or dramatic art which the glamour, the dignity attaching to them made so living to me, that is to say so indivisible, that if I had been taken to see Carpaccios in one of the galleries of the Louvre, or Berma in some piece of which I had never heard, I should not have experienced the same delicious amazement at finding myself at length, with wide-open eyes, before the unique and inconceivable object of so many thousand dreams. Then, while I waited, expecting to derive from Berma’s playing the revelation of certain aspects of nobility and tragic grief, it would seem to me that whatever greatness, whatever truth there might be in her playing must be enhanced if the actress imposed it upon a work of real value, instead of what would, after all, be but embroidering a pattern of truth and beauty upon a commonplace and vulgar web.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to his vague and over-amplified expectations, he is not swept away by the performance but feels a general disappointment with it without quite knowing why. A few years later he confides this to a famous painter, Elstir, who causes him to rethink his impressions but still, he remains unmoved.

Now, some years later he again attends a performance of Phèdre, again with Berma in the starring role, and re-evaluates Berma’s art; in so doing, Proust casts light on art in general in his insightful manner that bears scrutiny by us today.

Continue reading then for this excerpt on Berma from The Guermantes Way

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A Natural History of the Senses – Diane Ackerman – Synesthesia


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I picked up a copy of Diane Ackerman’s book, A Natural History of the Senses, the other day; I’m currently mired in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (just now nearing the end of volume 6, The Fugitive) so it will have to wait a bit but a short chapter at the back of the book, Synesthesia, caught my eye and as we have touched on the subject a few times (here & here) I’ve decided to scan the chapter and present it here.

The first section, Fantasia, deals with synesthesia as we have seen it in the above links while the second section, Courting the Muse, includes much interesting information on the habits of writers in rousing themselves to a writing state of mind – not always synesthetic but fascinating none-the-less. The other chapters are Smell, Touch, Taste, Hearing and Vision (another subject we’ve touched on here, and, from a design perspective, here) and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Continue reading for more insight into synesthesia.

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Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust, 1871-1922 – Two Excerpts (Swann’s Way) – Early Dreams of Travel – Bois de Boulogne


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Portrait of Marcel Proust by Jacques Emile Blanche

I have now finished reading the first two volumes of Marcel Proust’s epic novel Remembrance of Things Past (often titled In Search of Lost Time) comprising Swann’s Way and Within a Budding Grove. The version that I’ve been reading is a digital ePub rendition, downloaded from the University of Adelaide in Australia (see link below the fold), on my new eReader, a Kobo Mini – I had dropped my Hip Street eReader, rendering it useless, and replaced it with the Kobo as it was similarly cheap, $49.00, and now wish that I had bought the Kobo in the first place. I had thought that it would be too small to be effective but have found that its diminutive size is not a disadvantage at all and that it has the added attraction of being very portable, fitting nicely into a pants pocket; the smaller screen size has not diminished the reading experience as a simple tap on the screen is sufficient to advance to the next page and the page turning is quite rapid. The battery life is also much extended and I expect that I will get some weeks of life from a charge which is also a great advantage.

The Kobo Mini doesn’t have a backlight but I find that one is not necessary – how often does one read a book in a pitch-black room? – and the lack of a backlight will help to maintain a longer battery life. The e-ink screen also contributes to battery life and is easier on the eyes than are more advanced colour screens such as those found in today’s tablets and more expensive eReaders. I’ve disabled the Wi-Fi as I have no need to date, considering my taste for classic literature, to purchase eBooks and do not entirely trust eBook vendors sufficiently to grant them unlimited access to my library – I have read of Amazon unilaterally deleting books from their customer’s devices. All my eBooks have been downloaded from reputable out-of-copyright websites and have been side-loaded onto the device using Calibre (much recommended).

I’m now ready to move on to the next volume of the novel, The Guermantes Way, but this time I’ve located a paperback version, also incorporating the next volume, Cities of the Plain, published by Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics that has been retranslated by Terence Kilmartin, part of a three volume edition that builds upon C K Scott Moncrieff’s original translation and, per the introduction, incorporates new material. Additional attention to the translation cannot help but contribute to an enhanced reading experience.

Proust’s writing is wonderful and fluid with the ability to hold the reader spellbound throughout – much like listening to a symphony that one is not familiar with but which is beautiful regardless of one’s knowledge of the theory of music – as in my case – and which can be appreciated for its beauty alone. He has aroused my interest in his characters to the extent that I’m curious about what will come of them in passages – and volumes, in this case – to come, which is about the best that can be achieved by a novelist.

In a previous post we supplied a link to the first chapter of a biography of Proust by Edmond White in which he pointed out that the two contemporaries, Proust and Freud, had not read a word of the other’s writing – interesting in that, it seems to me, Proust’s writing, in relation to his characters, is very psychoanalytic, Freud’s bailiwick really, and I suspect that if they had read one another that Freud might have benefited more by it than would have Proust. But then, it is within a novelist’s domain to understand what it is that makes a person tick, not so much in theory as in practice. Virginia Woolf was, too, not anxious to read Freud’s writing, perhaps fearing an excess of insight into her own character and condition, apart from that insight that she herself possessed, that might break the spell that led her to write so insightfully – don’t mess with a formula that seems to work. Eventually, as her brother was involved in translating* Freud’s writing and the Woolfs’ own Hogarth Press proceeded to print his seminal writing, she did read him and presumably came to terms with his thinking (see a discussion of this at Virginia Woolf meets Sigmund Freud).

[ * correction – per the preceding link, it was James, the brother of Lytton Strachey, a long-time friend of Virginia, and his wife Alix, who were involved in translating Freud’s writing; Virginia’s brother Adrian and his wife Karen, both doctors, became interested in the work of Freud and subsequently studied it and became psychoanalysts.]

A few other biographical pieces on Proust have also dwelt upon his practice of continually revising his work after having written (and, even, having published) it and I suspect that he might have been in the habit, upon rereading, of sprinkling similes and metaphors throughout as they occurred to him – they are constantly employed and are, indeed, part of his charm.

I would heartily recommend that anyone undertake to read Remembrance of Things Past and, towards that end, have posted here two excerpts from Swann’s Way. I’ve adapted them from a website which has the text from the entire novel on one page – the advantage being that, unlike many of the plain texts available for download, this page has been properly formatted for italics, originally from a plain text scanned edition that has italics indicated by leading and trailing underscores, (see link below) – on my own computer I’ve separated the page into the proper volumes in MS Word docs and if I can someday find the time may proceed to produce a series of ePub volumes of the novel. The ebooks@Adelaide ePubs are perfectly adequate for reading on an eReader but contain artifacts and typographical errors (merely annoying) and would benefit from further editing (not a task, in such a lengthy novel to be undertaken lightly).

The first excerpt, which I’ve titled Early Dreams of Travel are the thoughts of the narrator, evidently in his teenage years, dreaming of the travels that he would like to undertake to warmer climes (always of interest to winter-bound Canadians). The second, which I’ve titled Bois de Boulogne, closes Swann’s Way and is a nineteenth century account of that famous Parisian park (infamous perhaps). I hope that they can tempt you to download the novel (or purchase the volumes in Luddite format) in order to expose yourself to one of the more remarkable literary achievements of all time.

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Links – Proustian – Joel Alan Rich – 1941-2011


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Having peppered the blog with excerpts from Marcel Proust’s novel, A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time / Remembrance of Things Past), I’ve posted, above, a link to the website of the recently deceased Joel Alan Rich which has a number of essays on Proust that appear to be well worth reading – I’ll be looking at them some time in the future as tackling Proust, in its own right, is something of a monumental task. A good link then for those who are further along in the novel than I am. A tribute to Joel Alan Rich can be found here.

Of particular interest, to me, would be an essay of his on Proust’s attitude towards war, specifically the First World War in which he served for a short while (and which delayed the publication of his writing), to compare his fictional accounts of it (which mostly appear in the final volume of the series) with those of an autobiographical nature written by Edith Wharton that we have already excerpted here and here. Fiction can sometimes be more revealing than fact, particularly when one considers the motivations of the powerful in launching wars, as was certainly the case in that one, and the similarities to the wars being hatched today. The human condition has not really changed in the past century and neither have its means or motivations.

I also came across a first chapter excerpt of a biography of Proust by Edmond White (at the New York Times books page) published by Viking that will provide further insight into the life and character of the renowned writer; it can be accessed here. I’ve already converted it to an ePub file (using Sigil) and will load it onto my e-reader for consumption when I can find the time.

I’m a little over half finished the first book (Swann’s Way) and have set myself the task of finishing the entire series in one run – that may see me through until spring. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye open for other sources of enlightenment on Proust and will post them here.

The Magic Lantern Of Marcel Proust, The Gardens – Howard Moss – 1922-1987


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Howard_MossPhoto: Wikipedia

In the preceding post we featured an excerpt from the first book (Swann’s Way) of Marcel Proust’s seven part novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu that touched upon gardening. Upon browsing the internet for comment on Proust’s work I came upon the book Magic lantern of Marcel Proust (1962) by Howard Moss that, in six chapters, discusses various aspects of the novel. They are: The Two Ways; The Gardens; The Windows; The Parties; The Steeples; The Way.

Naturally, we chose The Gardens in order to present an excerpt. The paperback edition of the book that I have seen at (linked above) is subtitled A Critical Study of Remembrance of Things Past and that about covers it. I’ve only read The Gardens chapter that we have excerpted here but it proved quite interesting (as I hope you will find it – the entire book can be downloaded, in a variety of formats, at, here). Howard Moss was the poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine from 1948 until his death in 1987 and published a dozen or so books of poetry, plays and prose in that time. Moss’s Wikipedia page is a bit scant but more information is available at the web-site of The Poetry Foundation.

Aside from the text file, downloaded for working purposes for our excerpt, I’ve also downloaded the ePub version and will be adding it to my reader – the text file has considerable scanning errors so you might consider downloading the PDF for mobile purposes if the ePub proves too messy.

Continue reading then, below the jump, for a “critical study” of Proust’s symbolism on gardens in his monumental novel.

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Marcel Proust, 1871-1922 – Remembrance of Things Past – Swann’s Way [1922] – Combray


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Marcel_Proust_1900-2Photo by Wikipedia

I purchased, finally, an e-reader at Best Buy on Black Friday, a Hip Street HS-M701-4GB – at $39.99 it was too great a temptation – and returning home I filled it with out-of-copyright classic ePub books that I had downloaded over a period of some time. I launched into a final frenzy of downloading and have, in total, about 300 books loaded onto the thing at present using only about 500MB of its 4GB capacity – it will also accept up to a 16GB Micro SD card for additional storage which should give as much capacity as the average municipal library. It’s a bare-bones e-reader but suits my needs admirably.

I then browsed through the content looking for somewhere to start reading amidst all this wealth and settled on Swann’s Way, the first (of seven) books comprising Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (translated either as In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past) which I had heard of over the years but was otherwise ignorant of (all seven books, in a variety of formats, can be downloaded here). I remembered Virginia Woolf rhapsodizing about his writing – “Oh if I could write like that!” – (she could) and he seemed a likely subject; if he impressed Virginia then I felt that he would likely do the same for me.

As is often the case with writers, I was no more than a few pages into Proust’s masterpiece before I was absorbed by it. I suspect that if you had the opportunity to ask of Marcel the time of day his answer would fill a few pages and beautiful pages at that. I’ve looked at a few sites with biographical information on Proust and he apparently had a strong attachment to his mother and, indeed, the book opens with him, as a child, describing his intense need for his mother to come up to his room every evening to deliver his good-night kiss – without which he would be miserable. He also describes the walks that his family would take in the afternoons from their country house in Combray, where they spent summers and holidays – either a shorter route, called by the family the ‘Méséglise way’ (also called the Swann’s way) for days with uncertain weather or the ‘Guermantes way’, a much longer route for those days when the weather was fine. This was in the late 19th century when a family’s activities were constructed with their own resources and often consisted of physical activities.

In order to give you a taste of Proust’s writing I’ve posted here, below, a lengthy excerpt from Swann’s Way where he, circuitously, as is his fashion, discusses gardens and the landscape along the family’s longer walking path, the Guermantes way. I think you will see that his writing, perhaps not unlike his cross-country path, winds this way and that before arriving at its destination but that like many such paths, particularly in the late and largely unspoiled 19th century, despite the effort of treading them, can be very beautiful.

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Links: Optical Illusions Show How We See


While we’re on a colour fixation (see the preceding post which also has links to previous colour posts), here’s a link to a Ted Talk presented by Beau Lotto that is hosted by Huffington Post and which illustrates how what our eyes see is not necessarily what our brain interprets. This phenomena is important to our survival in the world and involves patterns as well as colours. It might enable us to notice a predator hiding in the jungle; it could enable us to see disturbance in foliage that would indicate the passing of prey that we are hunting; it could allow a gardener, with a little practice, to notice a weed growing in a heavily planted environment, which may not be important to our survival but is, none the less, important to a gardener.

The presentation is a fascinating 16:31 minute video that, along with Beau Lotto’s presentation devices, helps to illustrate what would be difficult to explain with words alone. Highly recommended in order to better understand the phenomena of colour.

Huffington Post is a news aggregator for a variety of countries that produces a lot of its own material – sort of an online news-magazine. Top left of the screen to change countries.

TedTalks (Ideas Worth Spreading) is a site devoted to producing and distributing high quality lectures, presented by well qualified and/or famous academics and professionals on a wide variety of subjects; all presentations are free. Ted is in the process of translating their lectures to further their audience beyond the English speaking world. A list of Ted Talks by tags can be seen here.

Links – Rare but Real: People Who Feel, Taste and Hear Color


For a scientific explanation, or at least a review of theories relating to the phenomenon of synesthesia (see the preceding post), the above link leads to a discussion (at Live Science) of the brain and “how perception works” including conjecture that synesthesia may be something that we are all born with and which we lose as we become older. It was certainly real enough to Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsakov (and, apparently, Franz Liszt).

Wikipedia also has an extensive page on synesthesia here with an enlarged range of stimuli; they also have links to other resources related to the phenomenon on the web (including one to take a test to see if you are synesthetic).