From a biography on the original salonniere, Madame de Rambouillet (by Nicole Aronson) in the brief chapter on the character of her mostly forgotten husband:
He was secretive and so wary ‘that it was said of him that when someone asked what time it was he pulled out his watch and showed them the dial.’
Il etait secret et si mefiant, “qu’on disait de lui que quand, on lui demandait quelle heure il etait, il tirait sa montre et montrait le cadran.” (pg 65)
Aronson connects this anecdote – for which she provides no source or context, unfortunately – and other odd social habits with his role as a diplomat. Maybe – only my own perversity of humor prefers to imagine some of what was read as his prickliness as instead his way of amusing himself when, for instance, a guest of his wife’s, after hours of conversation never involving him, turns and acknowledges him only to ask the time. Not everyone can take being a non-entity in his own home with as much grace as Monsieur Verdurin.
From Williams’ Descent Into Hell (pg 106-107):
“If you want to disobey and refuse the laws that are common to us all, if you want to live in pride and division and anger, you can. But if you will be part of the best of us, and live and laugh and be ashamed with us, then you must be content to be helped. You must give your burden up to someone else, and you must carry someone else’s burden. I haven’t made the universe and it isn’t my fault. But I’m sure that this is a law of the universe, and not to give up your parcel is as much to rebel as not to carry another’s. You’ll find it quite easy if you let yourself do it.”
“And what about my self-respect,” she said.
He laughed at her with a tender mockery. “O, if we are of that kind!” he exclaimed. “If you want to respect yourself, if to respect yourself you must go clean against the nature of things, if you must refuse the Omnipotence in order to respect yourself, though why you should want so extremely to respect yourself is more than I can guess, go on and respect. Must I apologize for suggesting anything else?”