A passage from The Guermantes Way, again in the Moncrieff translation, on the apprehension of beauty.
The impression given us by a person or a work (or an interpretation of a work) of marked individuality is peculiar to that person or work. We have brought with us the ideas of “beauty,” “breadth of style,” “pathos” and so forth which we might at a pinch have the illusion of recognising in the banality of a conventional face or talent, but our critical spirit has before it the insistent challenge of a form of which it possesses no intellectual equivalent, in which it must disengage the unknown element. It hears a sharp sound, an oddly interrogative inflexion. It asks itself: “Is that good? Is what I am feeling now admiration? Is that what is meant by richness of colouring, nobility, strength?” And what answers it again is a sharp voice, a curiously questioning tone, the despotic impression, wholly material, caused by a person whom one does not know, in which no scope is left for “breadth of interpretation.” And for this reason it is the really beautiful works that, if we listen to them with sincerity, must disappoint us most keenly, because in the storehouse of our ideas there is none that responds to an individual impression.