Philip Kolb’s chronology file is a collection of documents describing events in Proust’s life and in the lives of his family, friends and acquaintances. It also contains references to events of the period which can be precisely dated. Both kinds of documents allowed Kolb to deduce the chronological order of Proust’s letters.
The chronology consists of roughly 9500 cards covering the period from the mid-nineteenth century to 1922, the year Proust died. (More precisely, there are two cards from the seventeenth century concerning Proust’s ancestors, but no cards following these until 1844. There are also a few dating from after 1922 which give information on the publication of his works.) At present our site contains the documents from 1633-1915, about 7,350 entries, or over 75% of the total number.
The information on the cards comes from a variety of sources. Especially important are the newspapers and journals of the time, which date both major and minor events precisely. Other sources are those of Proust’s letters which can be dated with certainty, as well as biographies, memoirs, directories, almanacs, and occasionally literary works.
Each document of the chronology consists of:
- a heading containing the date (format year-month-day)
- one or more descriptive paragraphs
- one or more bibliographic citations giving the source(s) of the information, including author, title, date of publication, and page numbers
In cross-references, links to other documents of the chronology appear as [fiche]. After following the link you may return to the referencing document by using the “back” button of your browser. Alternatively, when following the link most browsers will allow you to open a second window to display the linked document.
Some bibliographical references contain the word “vu” (“checked”) followed by newspaper references. For example: Vu Figaro du 15 janvier au 22 février 1892.
This means that the newspaper was consulted for the dates indicated, but that the event mentioned in the document was not found.
There are more than 6470 distinct people, both real and fictional, mentioned in the cards currently available on our site. In order to improve search results for our users we have marked each one with a unique code. While the codes remain invisible, they allow the user to identify an individual and find all documents in which that person is mentioned, regardless of whether they are referred to in the text by first name, last name, pseudonym, nickname, maiden name, title of nobility, etc. (For help on using this feature, called a Person Search, consult our Search Guide.) In the biographical database accessed by the Person Search we have attempted to give birth and death dates for each person, and sometimes additional biographical information can be found there as well.
Unfortunately we have not been able to identify all individuals precisely. This may be because they are not listed in any of the biographical references that we use, or because the card containing the name does not provide enough context for an accurate identification. Some persons with common names, for example, are cited only by their family name. Sometimes we cannot go beyond the card itself, as in the case of a certain Mme Trousseau, who is described as being in Trouville in 1894. If the name Trousseau appears in another card without further information, we cannot be sure that it refers to the same person. In such cases we have been cautious, in some instances perhaps listing the same individual twice in the database used by the Person Search.
Members of large families pose a similar problem. Often newspaper articles do not clearly distinguish among them. Persons belonging to families such as the Rothschilds or the Montesquious are sometimes given general or indeterminate entries in our database used by the Person Search feature. The indeterminate “Rothschild, famille”, for example, appears in the database once but covers four separate instances in the cards. Similarly collective phrases such as “les Daudet” or “les Baignères” receive this indeterminate entry. Users should keep this in mind when searching for all occurrences of a specific person: in some documents the person may be referred to indeterminately or collectively.
It is quite possible that there are identification errors in the database, and we encourage users to report these. While the database has been constructed from the chronological cards, in a few instances we have added individuals to the database who are not mentioned in the selection of cards currently available to users. In most cases these entries contain information about spouses or family members of those already cited which we developed in the course of our research.
We have attempted to make the documents as legible as possible by expanding the abbreviations used by Kolb and by making other minor changes for the purposes of clarity. We have added explanatory notes where we have believed them to be useful. These notes are typographically distinguished from Kolb’s text and are signed with the initials of their authors:
CS Caroline Szylowicz
VG Virginie Greene
FL Françoise Leriche
PR Patrick Reidenbaugh
SP Stéphane Pillet
SPP Sean Patrick Palmer
JB Jacqueline Burns