_____The Dreyfus case dominates today's excerpt, pretty much establishing the date of the scene as 1898 with a reference to Bloch's attending the trial of Émile Zola. (This also provides a clue to the narrator's age: Proust was 26 when the trial took place.)
His conversation with de Norpois about the case has left Bloch none the wiser as to the ambassador's true opinions on the case. De Norpois gives an eyeroll when Mme. de Villeparisis asks him about their conversation, indicating to the narrator that de Norpois is "a convinced anti-Dreyfusard" whose diplomatic skills have "flattered Bloch's vanity" and left him unable "to disentangle M. de Norpois's real views."
But there's no doubt about the prevailing view of the people at Mme. de Villeparisis's salon. The Duc de Guermantes is fuming because Saint-Loup's election to the Jockey Club has been endangered by his Dreyfusard views: "[I]f one of our family were to be refused membership in the Jockey -- especially Robert, whose father was president for ten years -- it would be an outrage. ... With a name like 'the Marquis de Saint-Loup,' one isn't a Dreyfusard. And that's all there is to it." M. de Guermantes blames it on "that dreadful bed-hopping young miss of his. ... And she just happens to be a compatriot of our M. Dreyfus." And while the Duc proclaims his broadmindedness with a version of the "some of my best friends" argument -- "I'd be happy to be seen with a Negro if he was a friend of mine, and I wouldn't give two hoots what anyone thought" -- he also proclaims, "I am quite capable of proving that there's never been a drop of Jewish blood in our family."
The Duchesse reveals that her chief objection to Dreyfus is one of style: "Those idiotic, heavy-handed letters he writes from his island! I don't know whether M. Esterhazy is any better, but at least there is more style about the way he writes, more of a sense of tone. M. Dreyfus's supporters can't be very pleased about it. What a pity they can't just exchange their innocent victim for one with more style."
The scene leaves no doubt that the narrator (and Bloch and Saint-Loup) are out of the mainstream of high society's opinion on the case.