Swann's Way brought Proust some recognition among critics, but Within a Budding Grove was both a popular success and a literary triumph when it appeared. By this time Proust was too ill and too hard at work on the final volumes to do much more than refuse invitations from increasingly eminent admirers. Among these were English sportsmen like Charles Spencer-Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, who invited him to Blenheim Palace. Proust did attend a dinner for Lord Derby, but there was an air of unreality to such meetings; the real people were the characters in his novel. And by this time the labor of working on several volumes simultaneously had taxed his strength. The delay caused by the war required him to publish three books in a year. He was at once correcting the proofs of The Guermantes Way, making the final revisions of Cities of the Plain, and trying to write The Captive and The Sweet Cheat Gone. His English translator, Charles K. Scott-Moncrieff, inserted a fatuous verse at the beginning of the published volume of Swann's Way, complaining about the tedium of translating the book:
"Whose pages' dull, laborious woof
Covers a warp of working-times...."
Proust was understandably annoyed since woof and warp scarcely did justice to his labors and it seemed inappropriate for a translator to announce at the outset that he found the work dull. Proust was now so weak that he would fall if he were not careful just getting around his manuscript-littered room. He took Veronal so he could sleep and then Adrenalin to counteract the Veronal. In May 1922, when the first volume of Cities of the Plain was published, he accidentally took the Adrenalin undiluted, which wrecked what little of his health remained. He somehow continued to work for nearly six months and died on Nov. 18, 1922, his final volume, Time Regained, not quite finished.
Whatever motives inspired the amazing creative strength of his last years, the memory of a happier time among the little band of girls from the world of sport was surely one among them. Maybe someday researchers will turn up a Proust golf score, but for now it is enough that the little time he spent as a wistful outsider looking in at the sporting world meant more to him than anything except the pleasure of writing about it.