The Lamp of Truth: Proust and George Eliot

  • Robert Fraser


On holiday with his grandmother in Balbec the adolescent boy of A l’ombre des jeunes files en fleurs is prey to sundry appearances. Balbec itself is an appearance, the successive projections of which disguise its reality: a rather ordinary upper-middle-class resort on the coast of Normandy. As these illusions or perceptions peel back, he creeps closer to the truth, or rather to a stable perception of that which confounds the successive masks which concealed it. One of more perplexing of these illusions concerns the ‘jeunes filles’ themselves, who at first sight, swanning along the promenade in happy abandon, appear to possess a certain uniformity of manner: a devil-may-care athleticism, an almost callous confidence, a careless and concerted cruelty. At one point one of the girls whose name, he later learns, is Andrée, skips on to the edge of the bandstand, and discovering in her path the head of an elderly man of the law settled in a deckchair beneath, executes a leap that carries her within a few inches of his ears, to the abject terror of the octogenarian judge but the explosive delight of her companions.


Exact Truth Callous Confidence Ethical Commentator Manuscript Note Successive Mask 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    André Maurois, A la recherche de Marcel Proust (Paris: Hachette, 1949) p. 16.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gordon S. Haight, George Eliot: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968) p. 332.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The George Eliot Letters, ed. Gordon S. Haight (Yale University Press and Oxford University Press, 1954–5) vol. I, pp. 316–17; quoted in Haight, George Eliot, pp. 75–6.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    J. W. Cross, Life of George Eliot (1885) vol. II, p. 7.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    George Eliot, Adam Rode (London: Blackwood, 1859) vol II, pp. 4–5Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Fraser 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Fraser
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity CollegeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations