Page 237. " an essay on Vermeer of Delft "

Vermeer's View of Delft
Public DomainVermeer's View of Delft
In 1902 Proust went to Belgium and Holland, seeing Vermeer's View of Delft, which had a profound impact on him. Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) was a Dutch Baroque painter, now particularly known for his painting Girl With a Pearl Earring. Proust writes about the View of Delft later in the Search, in volume V, The Captive.

Page 239. " among the riff-raff of Bohemia "

This is 'Bohemia' in the cultural sense, as in the movement towards a freer, glamorously impoverished life focused on the arts. Madame Verdurin is known as a supporter of young musicians and artists, and this lifestyle is at odds with the hierarchical, conservative atmosphere of the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Page 240. " to see and hear Sarah Bernhardt "

Sarah Bernhardt
Public DomainSarah Bernhardt - Credit: Napoleon Sarony
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) was a French stage (and early film) actress.

In the world of In Search of Lost Time she is the only actress better than Berma.

Page 250. " a piece of music played on the piano and violin "

The 'little phrase' from Vinteuil's sonata becomes the 'national anthem' of Swann and Odette's love. Vinteuil, another of Proust's four archetypal artistic characters, is based on a number of French Romantic composers with whom Proust was familiar, such as Debussy, Fauré, César Franck, and Saint-Saëns. Although attempts have been made to identify a particular sonata by one or other of these composers as the Vinteuil sonata, these are highly speculative exercises.

Read more about it here.