Notes to Sesame and Lilies by John Ruskin, translated by Proust (1906); from Marcel Proust: On Reading Ruskin, trans. Jean Autret and William Burford
Contesto: A man is not more entitled to be "received in good society," or at least to wish to be, because he is more intelligent and cultivated. This is one of those sophisms that the vanity of intelligent people picks up in the arsenal of their intelligence to justify their basest inclinations. In other words, having become more intelligent creates some rights to be less. Very simply, diverse personalities are to be found in the breast of each of us, and often the life of more than one superior man is nothing but the coexistence of a philosopher and a snob. Actually, there are very few philosophers and artists who are absolutely detached from ambition and respect for power, from "people of position." And among those who are more delicate or more sated, snobism replaces ambition and respect for power in the same way superstition arises on the ruins of religious beliefs. Morality gains nothing there. Between a worldly philosopher and a philosopher intimidated by a minister of state, the second is still the more innocent.