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Signed book, First edition

Lettre autographe signée adressée à Mme Catusse

Marcel PROUST

Lettre autographe signée adressée à Mme Catusse

s.l. s.d. (ca 1907), 12,6x20,4cm, 3 pages sur un double feuillet.


Proust mourning his beloved mother: "New Year's Day is just an occasion for me -- as if occasions were needed! -- to reminisce and weep"


[ca 1907] | 12,6 x 20,4 cm | 3 pages on a double leaf
Autograph letter signed to Madame Catusse, 12,6x20,4cm, 3 pages on a double leaf edged in black. A fold inherent to the mailing.
Autograph letter signed by Marcel Proust, probably addressed to Madame Catusse. The recipient and date have been determined by Proust scholar Jean-Yves Tadié. 
A sombre and admirable letter steeped in Proustian melancholy. The future author of In Search of Lost Time feels more than ever the loss of his mother during the New Year period. The famously generous Proust also asks his faithful confidante Madame Catusse to buy a gift for the Straus couple, whose wife inspired the character of the Comtesse de Guermantes.
The end of 1907, apparent date of this letter alluding to the approaching New Year, marks the second holiday season spent without Madame Proust, who had died two years earlier: “New Year's Day is only an occasion for me – as if occasions were needed! -– to reminisce and weep”. Proust had also expressed this sentiment in a letter to Anna de Noailles the year before (“New Year's Day had a terrible evocative power over me. It suddenly gave me back the memories of Maman that I had lost, the memory of her voice”, February 1906). This fateful moment acted on Proust like a pernicious madeleine, at once a sensory reminiscence and an acute awareness of his loss. He would soon begin writing In Search of Lost Time to conjure up this mother figure whose absence would remain unbearable.
For the time being, Proust is busy writing a series of Pastiches for Le Figaro, “which were, in reality, only a penultimate detour before writing La Recherche” (George D. Painter). One of these Pastiches dealt with the swindle perpetrated on the president of De Beers in which Proust had invested. Imagining himself already ruined, he mentions these unfortunate circumstances in capital letters: “HAVE I REPORTED MY FINANCIAL DESASTERS TO YOU OVER THE TELEPHONE?” Overwhelmed by ailments, he is also plagued by one of his many asthma attacks “provoked or exasperated by these terrible fogs”, forcing him into reclusion and even silence: “telephoning is very dangerous for me. And I'm also very tired when it comes to writing”.
The recipient Mme Catusse was a friend of Proust's mother and became an invaluable support to the writer. Proust's prolific correspondence with the woman Ghislain de Diesbach had dubbed the writer's Notre-Dame-des-Corvées represents an inexhaustible resource of insights into his secret life and fears. Proust had called her in a panic during an aphasia attack suffered by his mother shortly before her death. As he became increasingly isolated after moving into 102 boulevard Haussmann the previous year, Proust sought her help in many matters, including the purchase of numerous gifts: “I would have liked to ask you if you had by any chance seen anything suitable for the Straus, although I always dislike coinciding with New Year's Day”.
This sentiment would inspire a passage in The Captive castigating those same “New Year's Day presents” given to Madame Verdurin: “those singular and superfluous objects which still appear to have been just taken from the box in which they were offered and remain for ever what they were at first” (The Captive, C. K. Scott Moncrieff's Translation Edited and Annotated by William C. Carter, Yale University Press, 2023, p. 308). Known for his frenzied displays of prodigality, Proust overcomes his aversion to these occasional gifts. The smallest favor to the writer gave rise to extravagant expenses. Lawyer Emile Straus had probably helped the writer sort out his inheritance affairs: “I FEEL THAT THE NUMEROUS SERVICES PROVIDED TO ME BY MR. STRAUS CANNOT REMAIN WITHOUT THANKS, since I believe he would not accept a fee. If you happened to have seen something very pretty, in any genre, or any period, between 100 and 300 fr. I would gladly take it.”
A precious demonstration of the “ever so strange and aggressive” Proustian generosity, making this letter a perfect demonstration of the link between friendship and money which would become a recurring theme throughout In Search of Lost Time.


8 500 €

Réf : 83638

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