CP 02913/en

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This page is a translated version of the page CP 02913 and the translation is 100% complete.
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Reynaldo Hahn to Marcel Proust [shortly before 5 March 1915?]

(Click on the link above to see this letter and its notes in the Corr-Proust digital edition, including all relevant hyperlinks.)


Nothing could be crappier than this portrait. I'm shending it for your amusement[2].

I know that the Widow has been to see you[3]: I am just picturing to myself everything that surrounded, preceded, marked and followed this visit. There is a cold here that makes everything more difficult, more slow – and more sad; I spent the last few days with Commandant Cuny five kilometers away from here (and at ease as well[4]) and have just come back. So many things I could tell you about! But it would take Mirbeau et Courteline both[5] to give you an exact idea. – It seems that Robert is no longer around here[6]. –



[7] [8]


  1. In a letter to Mme de Madrazo which appears to date from 5 March 1915 (CP 02914; Kolb, XIV, no. 25), Proust passes on to her, at Hahn's request, a photograph of his friend, which he finds "very nice". Philip Kolb presumes that this concerns another copy of this same photograph, because a portrait post card was usually printed in multiple copies. If this hypothesis is correct this current post card sent to Proust must have been written [shortly before 5 March 1915]. This date remains uncertain however, because it appears to contradict several things mentioned in the letter to Mme de Madrazo: see note 3 and note 6 below. In fact Madeleine Lemaire's visit to Proust which Hahn mentions could not have been before 6 April 1915, and in all probability took place in May (CP 02929; Kolb, XIV, no. 40). But to put the date of this post card forward to the end of April or the beginning of May hardly fits with the mention of the "cold which makes everything more difficult, more slow", which evokes the damp and icy weather of the winter months in the North East rather than the milder days of spring. A society notice appeared in the press on 22 February 1915: "M. Reynaldo Hahn is with the general staff of the 10th Infantry Division" (L'Intransigeant, 22 February 1915, under the heading "Letter Box") which leads one to think that perhaps he had not returned to the front until around February 1915. [PK, FL, NM, PW]
  2. Perhaps Hahn sent it in order to reassure Proust, who complained, in a letter of [14 January 1915] to Mme de Madrazo (CP 02895; Kolb, XIV, no. 6), about having received "no news” of him. [PK]
  3. "The Widow": nickname given to Madeleine Lemaire and to her daughter Suzette ("the young widow") by Proust and Hahn. See for example Kolb, VI, no. 38 (CP 01387); VIII, no. 7 (CP 01751); VIII, no. 78 (CP 01822); IX, no. 74, n. 13 (CP 01999). The visit in question by Madeleine Lemaire seems to be the one she was proposing in her letter to Proust of 6 April [1915]: "When can I see you again? I have to be back in May. I assure you it would be a great pleasure for me to see you again and have a chat." (CP 02929; Kolb, XIV, no. 40). According to the tone and the details given in this letter, it seems that their previous meeting had been at one of the conferences that Reynaldo Hahn had given at the Université des Annales, between 27 April and 18 May 1914 (CP 02929 and note 5). [PK, NM]
  4. A play on words: Hahn had just benefited from a few days' rest (as had Commandant Cuny it seems), and the photograph shows him in the military drill position "at ease". If Reynaldo Hahn's post card is before 5 March 1915 (see note 1 above), it could relate to a period of rest which Commandant Cuny would have benefitted from between 18 and 27 February 1915, at the time of the battle of Vauquois. After the vain assault that he commanded on 17 February, during which he was wounded, the 31e régiment d'infanterie were sent back to rest at Auzéville, a few kilometres away, before returning to the front line on 27 February and taking Vauquois on 1 March, a comfortable victory despite the German counter-attacks on 2 to 4 March. (See l'Historique succinct du 31e régiment d'infanterie. France. 1914-1918, Paris, Henri Charles-Lavauzelle, 1920, chapter "Vauquois", p. 10-12). The place where Hahn is stationed ("here") is not clear, and the fighting to take Vauquois having taken place from 17 February to 4 March, it could not, at this period, have been in that locality. On the other hand, if the post card dates from May 1915, "here" could mean Vauquois. [PK, FL]
  5. Mirbeau is chiefly known as the author of Vingt-et-un jours d'un neurasthénique (1901), a satirical novel whose main character is called le colonel baron de Présalé. As for Courteline, several of his numerous plays are send ups of military life: Les Gaîtés de l'escadron (1886), his first play, a military fantasy in nine scenes which portrays the soldiers as "shirkers" and their non-commissioned officers as "little chiefs"; written for the théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique in February 1895, it was reprised at the Théâtre Antoine in 1899 and banned by the board of censors during the Dreyfus affair. See also Le 51e Chasseurs (1887); La Vie de caserne (1895); Les tire-au-cul: les gaîtés de l'escadron (1904) ; as well as several of his short stories and novels, such as Le train de 8 h 47 (1888). [PK, FL]
  6. This information does not correspond with any of the details given in Proust's letters, according to which his brother Robert would have been in the same sector as Reynaldo Hahn throughout this period. Proust wrote to Robert de Billy [between 8 and 11 April 1915] (CP 02915; Kolb, XIV, no. 26): "Reynaldo is in the Argonne probably not far away from Robert". On the other hand, he wrote to vicomte d'Alton [shortly after 12 May 1915] that his brother was in Arras (CP 02050). If Robert was no longer in the Argonne at the time Hahn wrote the post card, it must date from about May 1915, which may corroborate Madeleine Lemaire's visit to Proust (see note 3 above) yet hardly seems compatible with the mention of an icy cold. However it might be that Hahn's information is incorrect, based on false rumours. In fact Robert Proust, having been removed from his post at Étain hospital in November 1914 to drive an ambulance, it is possible that upon learning that he was no longer at Étain, Hahn had thought that Robert Proust had changed sector. [FL]
  7. Translation notes: Proust and Hahn often wrote to each other in a curious, private kind of "baby talk" which is impossible to translate. For example "je vous l'hensvoie" I have translated as "I'm shending it". Hahn signs off with "Hasdouen" which I have not attempted to translate and left in the original. (Yorktaylors).
  8. Contributors: Yorktaylors