Driving up to the porch of a large house near the horse guards' barracks—[Pierre] went up the lighted porch, the stairs, and entered an open door. There was no one in the front hall; empty bottles, capes, galoshes were lying about; there was a smell of wine, the noise of distant talking and shouting.My Italics. That did it for me; we've been in two fashionable houses already before Kuragin's; we'll be in two more before this first part ends. But for all the gossip, the bravado, the intrigue, the pathos, the sly comedy, etc., etc.., Tolstoy saves time for the lackey nicking the dregs. For portraits of the high life (and its accompaniment), the only person who can match it would be Proust among the Guermantes. But Proust, for all his appeal, is more detached and austere, more ironic, often funnier but often less kind. It is Tolstoy who is open to anybody. It's right here that I knew I was in good hands and that I had never, ever, read any novel so good (I had not yet read Proust; I had read Shakespeare, but he's not a novelist).
Cards and supper were over, but the guests had not dispersed yet. Pierre threw off his cape and went into the first room, where the remains of supper lay and one lackey, thinking no one could see him, was finishing on the sly what was left of the wine glasses.
That was about 45 years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Buce have now embarked on their second readaloud of War and Peace. The first was about ten years ago; this, then, would be my third time through, and I must say it has lost none of its allure. Given our various distractions, planned and otherwise, we ar probably set for the winter. No matter; I'll say again as I said the first time: for my money, War and Peace is too short.
-- *Eh bien, mon prince, Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des помѣстья, de la famille Buonaparte.