Private Proust: Letters and Drawings to Reynaldo Hahn
Houghton Library (Lowell Room), February 4 – April 28, 2013
Guest Curator: François Proulx (Lecturer, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University)
Marcel Proust met Reynaldo Hahn in May 1894, when Proust was twenty-two. While Hahn, then nineteen, was already a celebrated musician who had just composed his first opera, Proust had only written a few short pieces for newspapers and literary magazines. The two were lovers until the summer of 1896, and they collaborated on poems set to music included in Proust’s first book, Pleasures and Days, published that same year.
Proust’s letters to Hahn in subsequent years are a testament to their enduringly close friendship. Written in “lansguage,” a sibilant private code of deformed spellings and terms of endearment, they were often accompanied by witty, irreverent drawings that Proust produced for no one else. In letters leading up to 1913, Proust described to Hahn his ambitions and difficulties in writing the novel that would become In Search of Lost Time.
Reynaldo Hahn by Nadar (1898). Special courtesy of Dr. William C. Carter, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Above: Marcel Proust, Letter to Reynaldo Hahn, c. October 1902 (detail). b 94M-48 (89), Houghton Library, Harvard University. Gift, Mrs. Bradley Martin, 1994. Full image.