I am five weeks behind one of my online book clubs reading of Proust. I am madly trying to catch up, and if Proust isn't enough of an epic reading experience...I am reading it online. I can not tell if it's the sensation of reading online or that he just in fact may have been the first blogger.
From the early pages of Swann In Love...
For many years, albeit--and especially before his marriage--M. Swann the
younger came often to see them at Combray, my great-aunt and grandparents
never suspected that he had entirely ceased to live in the kind of society
which his family had frequented, or that, under the sort of incognito which the name of Swann gave him among us, they were harbouring--with the complete innocence of a family of honest innkeepers who have in their
midst some distinguished highwayman and never know it--one of the smartest
members of the Jockey Club, a particular friend of the Comte de Paris and of the Prince of Wales, and one of the men most sought after in the aristocratic world of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.
Our utter ignorance of the brilliant part which Swann was playing in the world of fashion was, of course, due in part to his own reserve and discretion, but also to the fact that middle-class people in those days
took what was almost a Hindu view of society, which they held to consist of sharply defined castes, so that everyone at his birth found himself called to that station in life which his parents already occupied, and
nothing, except the chance of a brilliant career or of a 'good' marriage, could extract you from that station or admit you to a superior caste. M. Swann, the father, had been a stockbroker; and so 'young Swann' found
himself immured for life in a caste where one's fortune, as in a list of taxpayers, varied between such and such limits of income. We knew the people with whom his father had associated, and so we knew his own
associates, the people with whom he was 'in a position to mix.' If he knew other people besides, those were youthful acquaintances on whom the old friends of the family, like my relatives, shut their eyes all the more
good-naturedly that Swann himself, after he was left an orphan, still came most faithfully to see us; but we would have been ready to wager that the people outside our acquaintance whom Swann knew were of the sort to whom
he would not have dared to raise his hat, had he met them while he was walking with ourselves. Had there been such a thing as a determination to apply to Swann a social coefficient peculiar to himself, as distinct from
all the other sons of other stockbrokers in his father's position, his coefficient would have been rather lower than theirs, because, leading a very simple life, and having always had a craze for 'antiques' and pictures, he now lived and piled up his collections in an old house which my grandmother longed to visit, but which stood on the Quai d'Orleans, a
neighbourhood in which my great-aunt thought it most degrading to be quartered.