Thursday, February 5, 2015

Proust on Taking Tea in the Winter

Edward George Handel Lucas (English artist, 1861-1936) Silent Advocates of Temperance 1891

From Remembrances of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu 1913-22), here is Proust's young memory of taking tea...

"When one day in winter, on my return home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell.

"And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.

"And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it-was-me.

"I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. When could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savors..."

Marcel Proust 1871-1922.

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