From "While my aunt was conferring ..." to "... the very nose of the composer."
_____Sundays in Combray, starting with the narrator and his parents going to Mass, and with Proust's rhapsodic description of Saint-Hilaire. The passages describing the church are not only a tour de force, but they also serve a thematic purpose. The church becomes "an edifice occupying a space with, so to speak, four dimensions -- the fourth being Time -- extending over the centuries its nave which, from bay to bay, from chapel to chapel, seemed to vanquish and penetrate not only a few yards but epoch after epoch from which it emerged victorious." Saint-Hilaire is time recaptured itself, so that later, glimpsing "some hospital belfry, some convent steeple" in Paris reminiscent of the church in Combray, the narrator will "remain there in front of the steeple for hours, motionless, trying to remember, feeling deep in myself lands recovered from oblivion draining and rebuilding themselves."
The narrator's grandmother, she who found the gardener's paths "too symmetrically aligned," has her own take on the church:
Without really knowing why, my grandmother found in the steeple of Saint-Hilaire that absence of vulgarity, of pretension, of meanness, which made her love and believe rich in beneficent influence not only nature, when the hand of man had not, as had my great-aunt's gardener, shrunk and reduced it, but also works of genius.... I believe above all that, confusedly, my grandmother found in the steeple of Combray what for her had the highest value in the world, an air of naturalness and an air of distinction.In these pages we also meet M. Legrandin, the engineer-poet who spends his weekend in Combray, and whom the narrator's family regards as "the epitome of the superior man, approaching life in the noblest and most delicate way." The grandmother has reservations, of course. She
reproached him only for speaking a little too well, a little too much like a book, for not having the same naturalness in his language as in his loosely knotted lavalier bow ties, in his short, straight, almost schoolboy coat. She was also surprised by the fiery tirades he often launched against the aristocracy, ... going so far as to reproach the Revolution for not having had them all guillotined.
And we learn a little more about Aunt Léonie, who has banished all visitors but Eulalie, a former servant to Mme. de la Bretonnerie. Eulalie has the tact to avoid falling into either of the categories of people Léonie detests.
One group, the worst, whom she had got rid of first, were the ones who advised her not to "coddle" herself.... The other category was made up of the people who seemed to believe she was more seriously ill than she thought, that she was as seriously ill as she said she was.... In short, my aunt required that her visitors at the same time commen her on her regimen, commiserate with her for her sufferings, and encourage her as to her future.