A Long Sentence by Marcel Proust

[In this excerpt from On Reading by Marcel Proust, Proust takes issue with the aesthetic theories of the Englishman, William Morris, who argued that beauty should also be useful. Proust points to the bedroom of his childhood, which he says was not only beautiful in spite of the many not only useless, but downright awkward things in it, but beautiful in their uselessness.

The sentence which finishes this sample runs to 600 words, a fairly typical Proustian sentence. Can you find the simple subject and the verb?]


After lunch, my reading resumed immediately; above all, if the day was rather warm, one went up "to retire to one's room," which permitted me, by the little staircase with steps close together, to reach mine immediately, on the only upper story, so low that from the windows with but one child's jump you would have found yourself in the street. I went and closed my window without being able to avoid the greeting of the gunsmith across the street, who, under pretext of lowering the awning, used to come every day after lunch to smoke his cigarette in front of his door and say good afternoon to passersby, who, sometimes, stopped to talk. William Morris's theories, which have been so constantly applied by Maple and the English decorators, decree that a room is beautiful only on condition that it contain but those things which may be useful to us, and that any useful thing, even a simple nail, be not hidden, but apparent. Above the bed with copper rods and entirely uncovered, on the naked walls of those hygienic rooms, [only] a few reproductions of masterpieces.To judge it by the principles of this aesthetics, my room was not beautiful at all, for it was full of things that could not be of any use and that modestly hid, to the point of making their use extremely difficult, those which might serve some use. But it was precisely through these things which were not there for my convenience, but that seemed to have come there for their own pleasure, that my room acquired for me its beauty. Those high white curtains which hid from the eyes the bed placed as if in the rear of a sanctuary; the scattering of light silk counterpanes, of quilts with flowers, of embroidered bedspreads, of linen pillowcases, this scattering under which it disappeared in the daytime, as an altar in the month of Mary under festoons and flowers, and which, in the evening, in order to go to bed, I would place cautiously on an armchair where they consented to spend the night; by the bed, the trinity of the glass with blue patterns, the matching sugar bowl, and the decanter (always empty, since the day after my arrival, by order of my aunt who was afraid to see it "spill"), these instruments, as it were, of the cult-almost as sacred as the precious orange blossom liqueur placed near them in a glass phial-,which I would no more have thought of profaning nor even of possibly using for myself than if they had been consecrated ciboria, but which I would examine a long time before undressing, for fear of upsetting them by a false motion; those little crocheted open-work stoles which threw on the backs of the armchair a mantel of white roses that must not have been without thorns since every time I was through reading and wanted to I noticed I remained caught in them; that glass bell on which, isolated from vulgar contacts, the clock was babbling privately for shells come from far away and for an old sentimental flower, but which was so heavy to lift that when the clock stopped, nobody but the clock-maker would have been foolhardy enough to undertake to wind it up; that very white guipure tablecloth which, thrown as an altar runner across the chest of drawers adorned with two vases, a picture of the Savior, and a twig of blessed boxwood made it resemble the Lord's Table (of which a priedieu, placed there every day, when the room war "done," finished evoking the idea), but whose frayings always catching in the chinks of the drawers stopped their movement so completely that I could never take out a handkerchief without at once knocking down the picture of the Savior, the sacred vases, the twig of blessed boxwood, and without stumbling and catching hold of the priedieu; finally, that triple layer of little bolting-cloth curtains, of large muslin curtains, and of larger dimity curtains always smiling in their often sunny hawthorn whiteness, but in reality very irritating in their awkwardness and stubbornness in playing around the parallel wooden bars and tangling in one another and getting all in the window as soon as I wanted to open or close it, -a second one being always ready if I succeeded in extricating the first to come to take its place immediately in the cracks as perfectly plugged by them as they would have been by a real hawthorn bush or by nests of swallows that might have had the fancy to settle there, so that this operation, in appearance so simple, of opening or closing my window, I never succeeded in doing without the help of someone in the house; all those things which not only could not answer any of my needs, but were even an impediment however slight, to their satisfaction, which evidently had never been placed there for someone's use, peopled my room with thoughts somehow personal, with that air of predilection, of having chosen to live there and delighting in it, which, often the trees in a clearing and the flowers on the road side or on old walls have.