An eccentricity of the Marquis de Rambouillet

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.


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