Saturday, March 27, 2010
Max Beerbohm, On Speaking French
To listen and from time to time murmur 'C'est vrai' may seem safe enough; yet there is danger even here. I wish I could forget a certain luncheon in the course of which Mme. Chose (that brilliant woman) leaned suddenly across the table to me, and, with great animation, amidst a general hush, launched at me a particularly swift flight of winged words. With pensively narrowed eyes, I uttered my formula when she ceased. This formula she repeated, in a tone even more pensive than mine. 'Mais je ne le connais pas,' she then loudly exclaimed. 'Je ne connais pas même le nom. Dites-moi de ce jeune homme.' She had, as it presently turned out, been asking me which of the younger French novelists was most highly thought of by English critics; so that her surprise at never having heard of the gifted young Sévré was natural enough.