THE LEFT BANK QUARTERS

The Left Bank Boulevards

In general, towns built on a river grow on one of the two banks, and the other forms a surburb – often plebeian, often picturesque, but a suburb all the same: Trastevere, Oltranto, Lambeth, Brooklyn. The Danube does not run through Vienna, and in Budapest it divides two cities that back away from one another. In Paris, on the contrary, the Right and Left Banks have been in symbiosis since the dawn of time, and despite the spreading concrete, the river itself – its quays, bridges, islands, branches – is at once origin, frontier, tie, scenery and structure. But this ‘great mirror of Paris, always alive’, as Benjamin called it, is often veiled by a paraphernalia, a body of clichés that are among the most conventional of all that the city has given birth to. Songs, postcards, poems (even ‘Pont Mirabeau’), techni-color and fashion photos have ended up giving the Seine a washed-out and commercial image, when it has not been prettified in literature (a frequent case, which provoked a furious outburst from André Breton on the death of Anatole France: ‘To wrap up his corpse, we could empty out from the quays a box of those books that he loved so much, and throw the whole thing in the Seine. This man must not be allowed to go on making dust even when he’s dead’138). Sentimental drivel should not lead us to forget that the role of the Seine has not always been for the best; from the days when it was ‘covered with wounded and half-drowned people’, as d’Aubigné put it, those massacred on St Bartholemew’s Night, through to the Algerians murdered and thrown into the water in October 1961 by the police of Maurice Papon and Charles de Gaulle.

The asymmetry of the two banks – in both Old and New Paris – is not simply due to the shape of the meander that encircled the Left Bank and restricted its expansion. The difference today – six arrondissements on the Left Bank against fourteen on the Right – is essentially due to the differing pace of development, the delayed urbanization on the left side. In the heyday of the ancien régime, while the Right Bank broke its official bounds, all empty spaces were filled, houses rose in height, and construction spilled over its authorized limits, the Left Bank seemed asleep in its colleges, convents and gardens, and did not even manage to fill up the space that regulation attributed to it. This uneven development can be seen on the very banks of the Seine: ‘What an eloquent contrast’, wrote Sébastien Mercier, ‘between the magnificent Right Bank of the river, and the Left Bank which is not even paved, and still full of mud and filth! It is only covered by workshops and shacks inhabited by the dregs of the population.’ Delagrive’s map, dating from 1728, shows a zone of dense urbanization on the Left Bank in a semicircle centred on the Place Maubert. Its outer limits today would be the Pont-Neuf in one direction and the Jussieu University at the other, with its circumference passing through the Odéon intersection, the Luxembourg Métro station and the Place de l’Estrapade, or more or less the walls of Philippe Auguste. On this map, the Faubourg Saint-Germain appears as a quarter of gardens, which it indeed remained. Rue Saint-Jacques, the main route towards Orléans, very soon becomes a country road between the orchards and vegetable gardens of the Ursulines, the Feuillantines, the Carmelites, the Visitandines, the Chartreux, Port-Royal and the Capucines. The other arteries of the Left Bank – Rue de la Harpe, or the sequence of streets Rue Galande/Rue Saint-Geneviève/ Rue Mouffetard leading to the road to Italy – appear in Regency-era Paris as local paths, once the inner zone of greater density has been left behind.

The Left Bank did not really wake up until the late eighteenth century. On the site of the Hôtel de Condé, acquired by Louis XVI to house the Comédiens-Français, Peyre and Wailly designed the Théâtre de l’Odéon – inaugurated in 1782 with Racine’s Iphigénie – the semicircular space facing it, and the diverging streets Rue de l’Odéon, Rue Crébillon and Rue Voltaire (now Casimir-Delavigne). This was one of the first modern residential developments in Paris, with pavements like those in London.139 The two buildings that still frame the end of Rue de l’Odéon opposite the theatre, with a certain nobility, served as a shopwindow for this operation.

Around the same time, the Comte de Provence, the king’s brother and future Louis XVIII, sold off a section of the Luxembourg, where Chalgrin designed the development of Rue de Fleurus, Rue Jean-Bart, and Rue Duguay-Trouin, though these were not built until later, under the Restoration and the July monarchy. During the Revolution, one of the proposals of the Commission des Artistes was to open up the Chartreux enclosure.140 (‘The Charterhouse garden has a deserted character; the soil of the avenues is unturned; the trees do not bear signs of the sickle, they are puny and bent like the monks who greet you without looking at you’, wrote Sébastien Mercier.) This is the origin of the crow’s foot whose middle branch is Avenue de l’Observatoire, locating the Paris meridian between Rue de l’Est (now Boulevard Saint-Michel) and Rue de l’Ouest (now Rue d’Assas).

Despite these beginnings, the Left Bank was still very empty in the early nineteenth century. At the time in which Les Misérables was set, Montparnasse was counted as one ‘those singular places’ with which ‘almost no one is familiar’, in the company of La Glacière, Mont-Souris and La Tombe-Issoire. In The Mysteries of Paris, when the Chourineur follows the diabolical Tom and Sarah, their cab stops in a night so black that, in order to get his bearings, ‘he drew his knife, and made a gash in one of the trees near which the carriage had stopped’: this sinister place was Avenue de l’Observatoire. In 1836, at the corner of Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and Rue de l’Ouest, ‘neither of which was paved at this point in time . . . it was only possible to walk beside the wooden fences that enclosed the market gardens, or alongside the houses, on narrow paths that were soon flooded by stagnant water that converted them into streams’.141 At the beginning of The Mohicans of Paris, Alexandre Dumas remarks that ‘Paris’s Left Bank is naturally stationary, and tends rather to lose people than to gain them’, and, as the only new constructions on the Left Bank between 1827 and 1854, he cites ‘the Cuvier place and fountain, Rue Guy-Labrosse, Rue de Jussieu, Rue de l’École-Polytechnique, Rue de l’Ouest, Rue Bonaparte, the Orléans embankment [Gare d’Austerlitz] and the barrier of the Maine [Gare Montparnasse]’.

This gap of nearly a century is explained by the fact that there was nothing on the Left Bank that was in any way equivalent to the Grands Boulevards. Bullet and Blondel did indeed intend the new route to surround the whole city. But on the Right Bank it had the whole of the past to support it, the ancient course of the Seine, the stones of medieval walls, monuments as solid as the Bastille and the Temple, whereas the ‘boulevards du Midi’ were traced amid quarries, fields and windmills, leaving outside them the most important contemporary buildings such as the Invalides, the Observatoire, and the Hôpital Général or Salpêtrière. It was not until much later that the belt of the southern boulevards was completed, in the second half of the nineteenth century, with two consequences that are still evident today: on the one hand, they do not coincide with the actual limit of Old Paris, which did not extend this far, and remains separated from them by a strip of ‘modern’ building; on the other hand they were – and remain – above all a route for traffic. The only sector suited for promenading, Boulevard Montparnasse between Avenue de l’Observatoire and Boulevard d’Enfer (now Raspail), was a world away from Boulevard des Italiens: ‘This pavement is not asphalted, but planted with century-old lime trees, full of shade and joie de vivre in the spring . . . In the morning it is invaded by gardeners from the cemetery; in the evening, the silence is broken from time to time by the songs of drunkards coming back from the barrière or by the kisses of lovers returning from the radiant country of love.’142

Among those places that express in a clear and subtle fashion the swing of fashion from one bank to the other, there are the gardens that Paris owes to the two Florentine queens, Catherine and Marie de Médicis. During the greater part of the nineteenth century, the favoured shady haunt of dandies, lovers and writers was the Tuileries. In the flamboyant opening pages of Balzac’s The Girl With the Golden Eyes (dedicated, we recall, to ‘Eugène Delacroix, painter’), it is quite naturally on the Terrasse des Feuillants that Henri de Marsay meets Paquita Valdès. But starting with Verlaine and symbolism, and continuing right through the twentieth century (even if the Tuileries fountain still plays a role in Nadja), youth and poetry migrate towards the Luxembourg. The Journal of Paul Léautaud, 4 May 1901: ‘Dusk gave the whole garden an endless depth, and a light mist was floating. I was on the terrace not far from the door to the greenhouses. In the lower part of the garden, the fountain rose and fell almost noiselessly. Soon the drum began to beat. They were about to close. I dreamed that I was facing a beautiful landscape of Baudelaire’s . . .’ Whether Jules Vallès, Léon Daudet, André Gide, Jules Romain, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Leiris or Jacques Roubaud, there is scarcely a Parisian novel or diary that does not feature the Luxembourg, central and symbolic site of a Left Bank that is seen as maternally welcoming students, writers, publishers and book-shops, art and experimental cinemas, avant-garde galleries and artists, not to mention the foreigners who arrived in the wake of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Joseph Roth and Henry Miller. The fragility of this construction, in large part mythological, has been rather sadly demonstrated in recent years.

As a hall or a landing opens onto the successive rooms to which it gives access, so the Luxembourg opens onto all the central quarters of the Left Bank. Near the school of apiculture it touches Montparnasse; its main entrance is towards the Observatoire; on the side of the Orangerie and the monument to Delacroix it borders on Saint-Sulpice, and in this way communicates with Saint-Germain; only Rue de Vaugirard separates it from the Odéon. And it is above all else, as Léon Daudet says, ‘the respiratory centre, the vegetable lung, of the hard-working Latin Quarter’.

The Latin Quarter

Along with Les Halles, the Latin Quarter is the region of Old Paris that has been most transformed from the time of Baudelaire’s childhood and Rastignac’s youth. Perrot’s atlas, dating from 1834, shows the quarter as it was for Balzac, organized around the two main north-south arteries of Rue de la Harpe and Rue Saint-Jacques. The first of these starts – as it still does – from Rue Saint-Séverin, climbs alongside Cluny to reach the Place Saint-Michel (now Place Edmond-Rostand), then continues along Rue d’Enfer: this is almost the route of Boulevard Saint-Michel today. The parallels of Rue de la Harpe and Rue Saint-Jacques are linked by a number of transverse streets: Rue de la Parcheminerie, whose name comes from the illustrators and bookbinders who worked there since the twelfth century; Rue du Foin; Rue des Mathurins (now replaced by Rue du Sommerard); Rue des Grès, near the law faculty on the present course of Rue Cujas; Rue Saint-Hyacinth, which obliquely connects the Place Saint-Michel with Rue des Fossés-Saint-Jacques, crossing the route of the future Rue Soufflot. Between Rue de la Harpe and Rue Monsieur-le-Prince – another main artery of the quarter – the street layout on the 1834 map is not very different from today’s, except for Boulevard Saint-Germain. On the other side of the hill, however, east of the Place Maubert, no one could recognize where they were, at least without a few landmarks that remain: the École Polytechnique, the church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, Rue d’Arras, Rue de Pontoise and Rue de Poissy.

The Luxembourg opens onto the Latin Quarter through Rue Soufflot. This is a ‘recent’ street; when Père Goriot lived in Mme Vauquer’s pension, it had been built only between the Panthéon and Rue Saint-Jacques, which caused problems for the gunners trying to dislodge the insurgents who had barricaded themselves in the monument in June 1848 – I shall return to this later. On what for a long time was known as the Place Saint-Michel – changed to Place du Luxembourg when the present Place Saint-Michel was built by the bridge on the small arm of the Seine, then to Place Edmond-Rostand in the 1950s – the start of Rue Soufflot was formerly framed by two old cafés, the Capoulade on the left and the Mahieu on the right. Léautaud’s Journal, 19 January 1933:

There was a whole period in my youth, reading the poets, reading Verlaine and often encountering him on his evening wanderings on Boulevard Saint-Michel, once also on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince at the junction with the little Rue de Vaugirard, badly dressed, limping, an infernal noise as he struck the pavement with his cane, another evening at the cellar of Le Soleil d’Or where I ventured (the café at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Michel and the quay, was that the Soleil d’Or?), one afternoon I saw him sitting, accompanied by Eugénie Krantz, on the terrace of the café on the corner of Rue Soufflot and Boulevard Saint-Michel (Café Mayeux, I believe), the side facing the boulevard, very close to the building that separates the café from the tobacconist’s, and I got a child to take him a bunch of violets.

Rue Soufflot climbs towards Rue Saint-Jacques, which is the real highway of the Latin Quarter – more than Boulevard Saint-Michel, conceived in order to neutralize the old streets with their riots and barricades, and which I have always experienced as a corridor of noise and ugliness. Between the river and Rue des Écoles, a number of old bookshops-cum-publishers remain to remind you that until the end of the ancien régime, Rue Saint-Jacques had a virtual monopoly of printing – from the time that the three Gering brothers, who came from Konstanz, established their presses at the sign of the Soleil d’Or in 1473 – as well as of publishing and bookselling, activities that were then combined. The establishments listed in the Catalogue chronologique des librairies et librairies-imprimeurs de Paris depuis l’an 1470, époque de l’établissement de l’Imprimerie dans cette capitale jusqu’à présent (1789)143 are almost all grouped on Rue Saint-Jacques and its immediate neighbours – Rue des Poitevins, Rue des Anglais, Rue Galande, Rue Serpente and Place de la Sorbonne. The Estiennes, printers from father to son, starting with the great Robert Estienne whose workshop was visited by François I in person, were on Rue Saint-Jacques, and the Didots on Rue Saint-André-des-Arts. ‘There is nothing more comic than the timid and conceited beginnings of a poet who, burning with impatience to appear before the public, approaches for the first time a typographer in Rue Saint-Jacques, who in turn gives himself airs and comes to appreciate literary merit’, writes Sébastien Mercier. In the early nineteenth century, before the book world crossed the Seine to lay siege to the Palais-Royal, it spilled over onto the Quai des Grands-Augustins, where there was to be found, among others, ‘the firm of Fendant and Cavalier [which] had started in business without any capital whatsoever. A great many publishing houses were established at that time in the same way, and are likely to be established so long as papermakers and printers will give credit for the time required to play some seven or eight of the games of chance called “new publications”.’144 On such matters as games of chance, credit and bankruptcy, Balzac was of course in his element.

Between Rue des Écoles and Rue Soufflot, Rue Saint-Jacques was completely rebuilt in the 1860s, but it is still possible to admire the setting formed by the little sloping garden in front of the Collège de France, where chestnut and plane trees, limes and acacias (no doubt planted when Claude Bernard held the chair of medicine) have reached gigantic size, the Lycée Louis-le-Grand (my own lycée), and the Sorbonne crowned by its observatory tower with the silhouette of a minaret – and in the background, at the top of the hill, the Jansenist bell tower of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas.

To the left of Rue Saint-Jacques, or the east if you prefer, Rue des Écoles separates two different regions. The lower one, modern and active, stretches towards the Jussieu University and the Jardin des Plantes. Its centre is the Place Maubert. In 1862, Delvau could still write that this was

perhaps the only part of Paris that has kept its former physiognomy. Ten steps away, Paris has dressed itself from head to foot in fresh stone and plaster: only the Place Maubert cynically vaunts its old rags! It is not a square, but a vast puddle of mud . . . It is like a living tradition of medieval Paris. If you blink your eyes, you might believe you were still seeing and hearing its population from the time of Isabel of Bavaria and Louis XI! A prolific and tenacious breed, which resisted all efforts to destroy or even civilize it – as M. Joseph Prudhomme said. Nothing did the trick, not guns, or plague, or famine, or starvation, or debauchery – not even mutual education!145

The property speculation of the 1960s succeeded where guns and plague had failed.

The top of the Montagne, a very ancient region that stretches across the Place du Panthéon towards the Mouffetard quarter, has been partly disfigured by the proliferation of restaurants and crêperies. The Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard, ‘a localized swarm, a kind of Villonesque survival’ from the time of Léon Daudet, which the Situationists of the 1950s made into the ‘continent Contrescarpe’, are now no more than shadows of their former selves. And yet, on the irregular territory bordered by Rues Tournefort, Lhomond, de l’Arbalète, Claude-Bernard, d’Ulm and de l’Estrapade, in a modest and almost village-like architectural setting, memories of Diderot and the four sergeants of La Rochelle (in 1970 there was still a café bearing their names on the corner of Rue Descartes and Rue Clovis, and it is right, I believe, that the memory of their republican martyrdom should have been cherished so long on this counter146) merge with memories of Eugène Rastignac, still the naïve boarder at Mme Vauquer’s, as well as those of another student – young Vingtras, alias Vallès.

‘No one knows why certain quarters become degraded and vulgarized, morally as well as materially; why, for instance, the ancient residence of the court and the church, the Luxembourg and the Latin Quarter, have become what they are today . . . why the elegance of life has left that region . . . why such mud and dirty trades and poverty should have fastened on a hilly piece of ground, instead of spreading out upon the flat land beyond the confines of the ancient city.’ Such is Balzac’s musing in The Lesser Bourgeoisie. Twenty years later, Théodore de Banville asked in similar vein:

How could the student of today insist on being what the student of an earlier age was, when the inevitable Duval restaurants, with their mouldings, gilt decoration and exotic wooden ceilings, have established themselves in a palace, on the very spot where modest eateries were formerly sited, and when you can see, right on Rue des Grès, where the Middle Ages left such a strong imprint, an English tavern offering its roast beef, York ham, pickles and sauces of ground-up cockchafer (see Balzac), washed down with pale ale, as in Rue Royale?147

And in 1964, Yvan Christ would not have believed he had hit the nail on the head quite so accurately in predicting that ‘in twenty years, new and tender greybeards will shed melancholy tears over the old Latin Quarter of the 1960s, the best years there ever were’.148

Ever since the time of Villon, the Latin Quarter, as the quarter of youth, was prey more than any other to nostalgia for the good old days. But however much one might distrust such feelings, it is impossible not to regret the profusion, variety and liveliness of the cafés of the quarter between 1850 and 1914 – not their physical setting, which was in no way comparable with the fairyland establishments on the Boulevards, but their atmosphere. Some of them were political first and foremost. Vallès relates that in 1850, in the Café du Vote Universel, ‘there were people said to have been leaders on the barricades of Saint-Merri, prisoners at Dullens, insurgents of June 1848’. Close by, in the Café de la Renaissance, opposite the Saint-Michel fountain, the public ‘had a particular physiognomy at the absinthe hour and in the evenings. Untidy students with their hair in disorder,women students . . . The masters of Paris under the Commune held their sessions there, preparing their sinister plan of campaign that would end up in fire and murder.’149 In Rue Saint-Séverin, where François Maspero’s La Joie de Lire served as a political university for a whole generation, the Brasserie Saint-Séverin was one of the canteens for the leaders of the Commune. According to Lepage, who can hardly be suspected of objectivity, ‘Above them ruled Raoul Rigault . . . arriving on horseback, turning his mount on Boulevard Saint-Michel, and gazing arrogantly at the women from behind a double lorgnette.’

Other places were more prosaic. The immense d’Harcourt, on the corner of the Place de la Sorbonne and Boulevard Saint-Michel (the side opposite the present PUF bookstore150) was a café à femmes. For poor students, the most welcoming restaurants were Flicoteaux and Pension Laveur. ‘In exceptional cases, you have Flicoteaux’, Dumas explains in The Mohicans of Paris. You ate there on long tables, in two rooms at right angles, one of which overlooked the Place de la Sorbonne and the other Rue Neuve-de-Richelieu (now Champollion). When Lucien de Rubempré no longer had a sou, he dined at Flicoteaux, which is where he made the decisive acquaintance of Lousteau:

Few indeed were the students who lived in the Latin Quarter during the last twelve years of the Restoration and did not frequent that temple sacred to hunger and impecuniosity . . . Verily, the heart of more than one great man ought to wax warm with innumerable recollections of inexpressible enjoyment at the sight of the small, square window-panes that look upon the Place de la Sorbonne, and Rue Neuve-de-Richelieu. Flicoteaux II and Flicoteaux III respected the old exterior, maintaining the dingy hue and general air of a respectable, old-established house, showing thereby the depth of their contempt for the charlatanism of the shop-front, the kind of advertisement which feasts the eyes at the expense of the stomach, to which your modern restaurant almost always has recourse.151

As for Pension Laveur, this was, in Léon Daudet’s words, ‘a real historic institution which had seen three generations pass, situated on Rue des Poitevins opposite the École de Médecine, in a dilapidated old hôtel . . . You reached the dining rooms and tables by a stone stairway with worn and polished steps, like the border of a Breton well. Aunt Rose, affectionate and venerable, presided over the cash desk, assisted by the brunette Mathilde and Baptiste, who took orders with a smile and brought the dishes grumbling.’152And Francis Carco, around the same time: ‘I had credit at the Pension Laveur and ate twice a day. Ah, that pension! Despite the smell of cats in the stairway and its lack of pretensions, Baptiste did us well . . .’153 Thirty years earlier you could sometimes meet Courbet there – not yet the ‘famous demolisher’ as Lepage called him – but his usual establishment was rather Brasserie Andler on Rue Hautefeuille, where he had his studio. Courbet’s arrival at Andler’s did not pass unheeded: ‘He advanced, holding his head high – like Saint-Just – and was surrounded! He sat down – and people made a circle around him! He spoke – and people listened to him! When he left, they were still listening.’154 On the list of regular customers, mostly now forgotten (‘Simbermann, experimental chemist and member of the meteorological society, Dupré, professor of anatomy, Furne, publisher’), there appears, as if in an obscure corner, ‘Charles Baudelaire, author of Les Fleurs du mal, which was still unpublished, and who tried out his Edgar Allan Poe effects on the heads of his companions’.

The literary cafés included some very modest ones, such as Le Soleil d’Or, on the corner of the Place Saint-Michel and the quai, where the symbolists held their La Plume evenings, or the Paradox dairy on Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, where you could meet

Auguste Poulet-Malassis, student at the École de Chartes, today a bookseller; a tall chap, very pale, with a certain resemblance to Henri III . . . a charming conversationalist, very intelligent and learned, whom everyone would have loved had he not bent all his efforts to being hated . . . Nadar, a novelist who was not yet a photographer, Asselineau, a young bibliophile who was not yet a critic, Charles Baudelaire, a poet who was not yet a candidate for the Academy, Privat d’Anglemont, a young explorer of the underside of Paris who was not yet in the Montmartre cemetery.155

But the most famous of these cafés was the Vachette, on the corner of Rue des Écoles and Boulevard Saint-Michel, frequented by Maurras, Catulle Mendès, Heredia, Huysmans, sometimes Mallarmé, Barrès (‘It is here,’ he said, ‘that young people acquire the dyspepsia that gives them a distinguishable physiognomy around the age of forty’), and above all Moréas. ‘I arrived at the Vachette,’ Carco recalled, ‘just in time to know Moréas. To the young people who surrounded him, he declared: “Base yourselves firmly on principles.” Then stroking his moustache and adjusting his monocle with an air of authority, he added: “They will certainly end up giving way!”’

At the western edge of the quarter, the symbolists of Le Mercure de France and the theatre people had their haunts around the Odéon. In the Café Tabourey, at the corner of Rue Molière (now Rotrou) and Rue de Vaugirard, in the age of réalisme, you could often see ‘Champfleury, Pierre Dupont the rustic poet, Charles Baudelaire the materialist poet, Leconte de Lisle the pantheist poet, Hippolyte Babou, Auguste Préault the sculptor, Théodore de Banville . . . I had the honour of seeing there – my little one, my obscure adolescent! – the great and glorious M. de Balzac on the morning of the first performance of his Les Ressources de Quinola.’156 Much later, in the Café Voltaire on the Place de l’Odéon, where Pierre Louÿs and Henri de Régnier often came, Paul Fort celebrated the marriage of his daughter to Severini: ‘The Prince of Poets, standing on the piano, sang. Marinetti, whose proud white automobile stood on the grey paving of the Place de l’Odéon, abandoned himself to the joys of Futurism. He broke the glassware. It was splendid.’157

Odéon

As for the Odéon quarter – an isosceles triangle with its apex at the Odéon intersection, its sides formed by Rue Monsieur-le-Prince and Rue de Condé – is it part of the Latin Quarter? Léautaud was categorical, and he knew what he was talking about, as he lived at various times on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, Rue de l’Odéon and Rue de Condé, working at Le Mercure de France on the same street. In his Journal, on 6 October 1903, he wrote: ‘Move from Rue de Condé to Rue de l’Odéon, 6 October. Hatred of this whole Latin Quarter. When will I be able to live somewhere else?’ For him, it was crossing Rue Tournon that brought you into Saint-Germain-des-Près. In the early twentieth century, and in the years between the wars, this point of view was certainly justified. If the Odéon quarter was not really a student district, the booksellers under the theatre colonnade played a role in literary life. For the bachelier Vingtras-Vallès, ‘the Odéon is our club and our asylum. Rummaging on the bookstalls there gives you the air of a man of letters, and at the same time you’re sheltered from the rain. We come there when we get tired of the silence and smell of our hovels.’ Many years later, Léon Daudet – a student in medicine, which did not work out for him – was also attracted by ‘the famous galleries of the Flammarion bookshop around the Odéon, bristling with books. These are connected for me with meeting rather wild young people, and also with my first success, Les Morticoles. I did not dare inquire about it in the two weeks after the volume appeared. The booksellers, who knew me, signalled to me from a distance, and one of them cried out: “Great success!” ’158

And around the same time, Léon-Paul Fargue: ‘We read under the galleries of the Odéon, standing up, our noses as far forward as possible in pages that were not cut, seeking our food.’159 Behind the theatre, on the corner of Rue de Tournon and Rue de Vaugirard, Foyot’s restaurant was frequented by intellectuals – senators too – until an anarchist bomb blew them up.160 The Mercure, and the bookshops of Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach on Rue de l’Odéon, gave the triangle a literary coloration that succeeded in attaching it to the Latin Quarter, but has since almost entirely disappeared.

Saint-Sulpice

To pass from the Luxembourg to Saint-Germain-des-Près you have to cross the little quarter of Saint-Sulpice, and to reach its central square you must choose between three streets which, although all parallel, sloping, short and of the same era, have each to my eyes a different charm. Rue Férou has perhaps the most perfect architecture. Rue Servandoni is the setting for an important episode in The Three Musketeers, on which Umberto Eco writes: ‘Alas, our empirical reader will certainly be moved at the mention of the Rue Servandoni, because Roland Barthes lived there, but Aramis couldn’t have, because the action takes place in 1625 whereas the Florentine architect Giovanni Niccolo Servandoni was born in 1695, designed the façade of Saint-Sulpice church in 1733, and had the street dedicated to him only in 1806.’161 For my part, I always choose the third, Rue Garancière, not for the little fountain of the Princess Palatine, nor for the rams of the Hôtel de Sourdéac and the memory of the Plon-Nourrit publishing house, but to greet once again, at the foot of Saint-Sulpice, the lead pelican on top of the large bulbous roof of the chapel of the Assumption, and above all the pendentive supporting the overhang of the axial chapel above the street, a masterpiece of Paris stereotomy, perhaps even finer than the one on the Hôtel Portalis, at the corner of Rue Croix-des-Petits-Champs and Rue de La Vrillière.

There are many things on the Place Saint-Sulpice. For example: a mairie, a tax office, a police station, three cafés – one selling tobacco –, a cinema, a church on which Le Vau, Gittard, Oppenordt, Servandoni and Chalgrin worked, and which is dedicated to an almoner of Clotaire II who was bishop of Bourges from 624 to 644, with his feast day on 17 January, a publisher, an undertaker, a travel agent, a bus stop, a tailor’s, a hotel, a fountain decorated with the statues of four great Christian orators (Bossuet, Fénelon, Fléchier and Massillon), a newspaper kiosk, a shop selling pious objects, a car park, a beauty parlour and many more.162

By contamination from the style of plaster saints known as saint-sulpicien, this square and its church have often been badly thought of (‘Herrera lived on Rue Cassette, near Saint-Sulpice, the church to which he was attached. This building, hard and stern in style, suited this Spaniard, whose discipline was that of the Dominicans.’163). But there are now many who admire the double portico of Servandoni’s façade, and regret that his death prevented him from finishing the square and realizing the grand arch he had designed along the axis of the church, under which Rue Neuve-Saint-Sulpice would have opened.164

Saint-Germain-des-Près

Of the quarters defined by the ordonnance of 1702, Saint-Germain-des-Près was the twentieth and last, a sufficient sign that it was not similar in kind to the others. The old abbey, which had remained outside Charles V’s walls but was fortified at the same epoch, kept its defences until the 1670s and was never part of Paris. When all the fortifications were pulled down, the abbey also demolished its crenellated precinct and filled up the ditches over which the major streets of the present-day quarter were built.

Around the monastery – of which the bell tower of Saint-Germain-des-Près indicates the centre – a whole community of merchants and artisans developed, living peacefully there just as in other Parisian enclosures. It was known indifferently as the bourg orfaubourg Saint-Germain. In the eighteenth century it was a quadrilateral, with three of its sides corresponding to modern streets: Rue Saint-Benoît, Rue Jacob, Rue de l’Échaudé (the name does not refer to a ‘scalded’ person, but to a triangular cake – and by extension to a block of houses of this shape bounded by this street, along with Rue de la Seine and Rue Jacob). The fourth side was formed by a sequence of three streets, more or less along the line of Boulevard Saint-Germain: from west to east, these were Rue Taranne – where Diderot lived for a long time, commemorated by a statue there – Rue Sainte-Marguerite and Rue des Boucheries.165 Other streets were laid down within the abbey grounds, of which Rue Abbatiale (now Passage de la Petite-Boucherie), Rue Cardinale and Rue de Furstemberg remain (Place de Furstemberg was the stable yard of the abbey). Despite the cutting of Rue de l’Abbaye and Rue Bonaparte in the early nineteenth century, as proposed by the Commission des Artistes, and the incomparably more brutal cutting of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue de Rennes, the centre of Saint-Germain-des-Près is still today the Abbaye quarter.

Between the bourg of Saint-Germain and the city, the centre of activity was focused on two crossroads that have preserved despite everything their life and energy. The first was the confluence of Rue de Buci with Rue du Four and Rue des Boucheries – now the Mabillon intersection. From here, Rue de Montfaucon led to the Saint-Germain fairground, one of the great attractions of Paris since the twelfth century. This was held each year on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, on the site of the present market, surrounded by four streets with the names Clément, Mabillon, Lobineau and Félibien, all eminences of the Benedictine order.166 It was initially a luxury market selling rare objects, ‘sweet nothings’ from Flanders and Germany, Venetian mirrors, Indian cloth, and wonders from other far-off countries brought in by the Portuguese merchants that Scarron conjures up: ‘Take me to the Portuguese/We shall find at low price/Goods from China./We shall find ambergris/And varnished woods/From that divine country/Or rather from that paradise.’ But the fair was also a place of entertainment for a very mixed population, prefiguring the Wooden Galleries of the Palais-Royal or the slopes of La Courtille. The aristocracy visited there after supper. People played skittles, tourniquet (a kind of roulette), dice or cards. Women of the highest rank, with black velvet masks, watched the games or played themselves, their eyes reflecting the light of the torches. Mixed in with this elegant crowd were quarrelsome ‘schoolboys’, lackeys, bourgeois, and thieves who picked pockets and cut purses. ‘There, men six feet tall, with high boots and hair styled like sultans, passed for giants. A shaved and depilated female bear, clothed in jacket and trousers, was taken for a unique and extraordinary animal. A wooden colossus spoke, having hidden within it a four-year-old boy.’167

The other lively crossroads was at the Porte de Buci, where Rue Saint-André-des-Arts crossed the Paris fortifications (level with Rue Mazet). This gate controlled an old road which, until the building of the Pont-Neuf, was the obligatory itinerary for the inhabitants of Saint-Germain, if they wanted to cross to the Cité by the Petit-Pont: the artery of Rue du Four–Rue de Buci–Rue Saint-André-des-Arts. Rue Dauphine, a major route in the first operation of concerted town planning in Paris – along with the Place Dauphine and the Pont-Neuf – reached this crossroads obliquely. Nine metres across, this was the widest street in Paris. Henri IV wanted it to have a regular architecture. On 2 May 1607 he wrote to Sully: ‘My friend, following what I have told you that work is beginning on the buildings that are in the new road going from the end of the Pont-Neuf to the Porte de Bussy, I wanted to send you this word to tell you that I would be very happy if you would explain to those who start building in this road that they should make the front of their houses entirely in the same order, for it would be a fine ornament to see from the end of the bridge this road with one and the same façade.’168

When the fortifications were demolished, the Porte de Buci was taken down and the ditches filled in to make what are now Rue Mazarine and Rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie, adding to a liveliness that remains after three centuries. Thus, on the site of 4 Rue de Buci, opposite Rue Grégoire-de-Tours, gastronomic and literary events were held at a restaurant named Landelle, attended by Piron, Crébillon (father and son), Duclos and Helvétius. This is also where the first Masonic lodge in Paris met, founded by the English. During the Revolution, the building housed the printing press ofLe Courrier français, Brissot’s newspaper. In 1860, its tenants were the painter Giacomelli and the publisher Poulet-Malassis, who had just had serious problems with the law after publishing Les Fleurs du mal.169

The streets surrounding the École des Beaux-Arts, the Institut, and the Monnaie, are different from the rest of Saint-Germain. The shadows of these great buildings, a certain detachment, and the proximity of the river, lend them a silent dignity to which poets and visitors were always sensitive. Plaques that their habitués know by heart indicate that Saint-Amant, Racine, Balzac, Heine, Mickiewicz, Wagner and Oscar Wilde lived and worked here – as well as Picasso, if you press on to the hotel on Rue des Grands-Augustins where he painted Guernica, in the same building where Balzac wrote An Unknown Masterpiece.

Faubourg Saint-Germain

By an aberration of toponomy, the section of the 7th arrondissement between Rue des Saint-Pères and Boulevard des Invalides is known as the Faubourg Saint-Germain. A curious faubourg, given that it lies inside Old Paris, lacks a dominating thoroughfare – Boulevard Saint-Germain is of course much more recent – and is also quite different from the other great aristocratic faubourg of Saint-Honoré. This anomaly is explained by the delay in urbanization: the quarter was built in an empty space, inside the old city but at the same time as the ‘real’ faubourgs, which were already outside, and thereby acquired the same designation.

The Faubourg Saint-Germain, moreover, belongs to the realm of myth as well as that of geography, given how it recalls for many people the two great scenes for which it served as both backdrop and cast, La Comédie humaine and À la Recherche du temps perdu. Balzac:

The thing known in France as the Faubourg Saint-Germain is neither a quarter, nor a sect, nor an institution, nor anything else that admits of a precise definition. There are great houses on the Place Royale, the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and the Chaussée d’Antin, in any one of which you may breathe the same atmosphere of Faubourg Saint-Germain. So, to begin with, the whole faubourg is not within the faubourg. There are men and women born far enough away from its influences who respond to them and take their place in the circle; and again there are others, born within its limits, who may yet be driven forth forever.170

And Proust, apropos the Hôtel de Guermantes: ‘The presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the host seemed to me no more obscure a mystery than this leading house in the Faubourg being situated on the Right Bank of the river and so near that from my bedroom I could hear its carpets being beaten.’171

The construction of this faubourg proceeded in two stages, with an interval of close to a century. In the early 1600s, ‘la reine Margot’ – Marguerite de Valois, the first wife of Henri IV – bought an immense piece of land parallel to the river, opposite the Louvre. She had an hôtel built with gardens extending to Rue des Saints-Pères, and continuing from there, through a park that was not closed by walls, to occupy the entire space between Rue de l’Université and Rue de la Seine, with only countryside beyond.172

On Marguerite’s death, Louis XIII sold off this land in plots to pay his debts. The long parallels of Rue de Lille, Rue de Verneuil and Rue de l’Université have marked for close to four centuries now the course of the avenues in the park of la reine Margot.

Towards the end of Louis XIV’s reign, construction began on a new Faubourg Saint-Germain, beyond Rue des Saints-Pères, for the aristocracy who were leaving the Marais. Rue Saint-Dominique, Rue de Grenelle with Bouchardon’s splendid fountain of the Quatre-Saisons, and Rue de Varenne, were then drawn parallel to the streets of Margot’s domain. The grid was completed by streets perpendicular to the river: Rue de Bellechasse and Rue de Bourgogne, and above all the commercial Rue du Bac, a major route connecting the faubourg with the Right Bank following the construction of the Pont-Royal. This was the route that duchesses took to pay court at the Tuileries. This very loosely patterned urban grid still marks out today the large blocks; their hôtels placed between a front courtyard and a back garden have passed from the hands of the aristocracy to those of the ministerial technocracy, but this has not made them more accessible than they were before, when it was possible to enter many noble dwellings without a badge or identity papers.173

The ‘existentialist’ Saint-Germain-des-Près also has its legend, fuelled largely by hate-filled articles in the ‘right-wing’ press – the apostrophes are needed, as in the great years of the Tabou, the Rose-Rouge, the Bar-Vert and the Montana, between the Liberation and 1950, no one would say they were on the right, given that the term was at this time equivalent to ‘collaborator’, and right-wing figures were often in prison or prudently living abroad. But what is certain is that Saint-Germain-des-Près was until the late 1980s the centre of French publishing. This certainly had its extensions elsewhere, in the Latin Quarter (Maspero-La Découverte by the Sorbonne, Hachette in its historic building on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Boulevard Saint-Michel), in Montparnasse (Albin Michel, Larousse), and even on the Right Bank (Calmann-Lévy). But the bulk of publishers were grouped in the 6th arrondissement, until concentration, the search for economies of scale, and a contempt for history dispersed the large conglomerates and their controlling directors into air-conditioned towers, sheltered from any contagion with actual books, readers or bookshops.174

Haussmann’s cuttings

Within the limits of Old Paris, the cuttings of the nineteenth century were fairly reasonable, though less from any archaeological scruple than due to a lack of time. It was thanks to the disasters of Metz and Sedan, thanks to the military talent of Mac-Mahon and Bazaine, that the complete gutting of Saint-Germain-des-Près was avoided, Rue de Rennes not pushed through to the Pont des Arts and the Marais ravaged by the extension of Rue Étienne-Marcel to the Bastille. The routes that were completed had clear town-planning reasons. Two east-west carriageways were connected perpendicularly to the great north-south axis Sébastopol–Saint-Michel, one on each bank: the extension of Rue de Rivoli, and Boulevard Saint-Germain (with Rue des Écoles an aborted first attempt). This orthogonal system was completed by transversals such as Rue Réaumur, and obliques like Rue de Turbigo and the Avenue de l’Opéra.

These cuttings certainly left their scars on the old quarters. On either side of the Place Saint-Michel, that paradigm of Haussmannism, Place Saint-André-des-Arts and the Saint-Séverin quarter form an intact frame, architecturally at least.175 ‘Sue, Hugo, and of course Balzac, would recognize around them, unchanged, Paris of the Middle Ages, the same as we could find still alive, despite Haussmann, until not so long ago, in the bits of those streets that used to connect Rue Saint-Denis and Rue Saint-Martin, but which, pierced in the middle by Boulevard Sébastopol, had found a way to reconstitute at their two extremities their old and still unchanged glory.’176 What contributed to the peaceful character of this coexistence was the care taken by the nineteenth-century architects in connecting their cuttings with the old roads, as for example at the junction between Rue de Rennes and Rue du Vieux-Colombier, where Second Empire architecture repeats in a more modern vein the orders of the eighteenth century.177 The two buildings on the Place des Victoires that frame the beginning of Rue Étienne-Marcel are also extraordinary adaptations of rhythms and proportions from the age of Louis XIV. This concern for integration sometimes even led to the reuse of a whole side of a street in the new openings – Rue Taranne partly integrated, as we saw, into Boulevard Saint-Germain, or entire sections of the old Rue Pélipeaux and Rue Thévenot absorbed into Rue Réaumur, near the Temple.

The Île de la Cité was an exception, as here Haussmann caused complete disaster. For him it was ‘a place obstructed by a crowd of shacks, inhabited by bad characters, and crossed by damp, twisted and dirty streets’, a description that is repeated in a different form in certain of Meryon’s engravings, such as L’Hôtellerie de la Mort or La Rue des Chantres, in which ‘the depth of perspective is augmented by the thought of all the dramas they contain’.178 Undoubtedly it was necessary to clean up this ‘labyrinth of obscure, crooked, and narrow streets, which extend from the Palais de Justice to Notre-Dame’, as Sue describes it at the start of The Mysteries of Paris. But it was only a step from this to emptying out the quarter altogether, so that ‘the cradle of the capital, entirely demolished, now contains simply a barracks, a church, a hospital and a palace’.179 If this step was taken, it was for political and military reasons above all. During the June days of 1848, which so strongly marked the epoch, there was much fighting in the Cité and the adjacent part of the Latin Quarter (I shall return to this later), and this centre of insurrection had to be eradicated.

I am aware that this last sentence goes counter to contemporary historiography. By an amalgam that is characteristic of the spirit of our time, the (useful) reappreciation of nineteenth-century architecture has led to a positive revaluation of Haussmann, to the point of a ridiculous minimization of his anti-insurrectionary concerns, just as it is good form to present Napoleon III as a philanthropic Saint-Simonian.180 But Haussmann was explicit: at the time when the opening of Rue de Turbigo and the widening of Rue Beaubourg led to the disappearance of Rue Transnonain,

he exulted: ‘I read, in a book which enjoyed great success last year, that the streets of Paris had been enlarged to permit ideas to circulate, and, above all, regiments to pass. This malicious statement (which comes in the wake of others) is the equivalent of saying that Paris has been strategically embellished. Well, so be it . . . I do not hesitate to proclaim that strategic embellishments are the most admirable of embellishments.’181

Leaving the Cité by the Pont Saint-Michel, you find yourself face to face with a depiction of the strategic triumph of order:

For how many people crossing the Place Saint-Michel today do the figures on the fountain, surrounded by beer and Coca-Cola cans, still have something to say? Who is able to decipher historically this allegory for tourists, to recognize that the archangel with his spear stuck into the back of Satan was supposed at the time to represent the triumph of Good over the Evil people of June 1848? But in the era of insurrections, on the threshold of the rebel arrondissement, this statue had a meaning that was in no way ambiguous. Everyone knew that this Saint Michael symbolized the Second Empire crushing the demon of revolution, and that Rue Saint-Jacques and the Latin Quarter could recognize their own image in the infernal beast hurled to the ground.182

1 These two bridges were the Pont-Neuf and the Pont-Royal.

2 E. G. Haussmann, Mémoires (1890–3).

3 Chevalier, Montmartre du plaisir et du crime.

4 Alexandre Privat d’Anglemont, Paris anecdote (Paris, 1854; republished by Les Éditions de Paris, 1984).

5 Francis Carco, De Montmartre au Quartier Latin (Paris: Albin Michel, 1927).

6 Jean-Paul Clébert, Paris insolite (Paris: Denoël, 1952).

7 A decree of Louis XIV dated December 1702 defined twenty quarters, fifteen of these being on the Right Bank. These were the Cité, Louvre, Palais-Royal, Montmartre (around the Place des Victoires), Saint-Eustache, Halles, Sainte-Opportune (around Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois), Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (Châtelet), Saint-Denis, Saint-Martin, Saint-Avoye (Rue de la Verrerie, Rue Vieille-du-Temple, Rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie . . .), Marais, Grève (Hôtel de Ville, Saint-Gervais), Saint-Antoine and Saint-Paul. The five quarters on the Left Bank were Maubert, Saint-Benoît (the Écoles quarter – there is still an Impasse du Cimetière-Saint-Benoît behind the Collège de France), Saint-André-des-Arts, Luxembourg and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which had only recently become part of Paris.

8 Eugène Briffault, Paris à table (1846).

9 So that his new quarter would be within the Paris walls, Richelieu had the fortification slightly moved (as mentioned above, this ran in a straight line from the Porte Saint-Denis to the Place des Victoires and the Louvre), more or less along the line of the boulevards from the Porte Saint-Denis to the Madeleine. This was the precinct ‘des Fossés jaunes’, from the name of the colour of the shifted earth. Its existence was brief, as the contractor went bankrupt and the walls were soon knocked down.

10 Richelieu’s palace was then demolished. All that remained were the Galleries des Proues, between Rue de Valois and the Cour d’Honneur, with columns installed by Buren. The nautical trimmings recall that Richelieu was also superintendent-general of shipping. The buildings on the fourth side, towards Rue Saint-Honoré, were a later addition. Richelieu made a gift of the Palais-Cardinal to Louis XIII, and Louis XIV then gave it to his brother, Monsieur, the Duc d’Orléans. Renamed the Palais-Royal, it remained in the Orléans family until 1848, except for the interruption of 1789 to 1815.

11 Mercier, Tableau de Paris.

12 Cited from Victor Champier and G.-Roger Sandoz, Le Palais-Royal d’après des documents inédits (Paris: Société de propagation des livres d’art, 1900).

13 Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, La Société française pendant la Révolution (1880). Gattey was a royalist bookstore.

14 Champier and Sandoz, Le Palais-Royal.

15 The Galerie d’Orléans was constructed by Fontaine, official architect of the Palais-Royal under the Restoration, after the Galeries de Bois were demolished in 1828.

16 Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions (trans. Marriage). Jules Janin reviewed Balzac’s book in 1839, in the Revue de Paris: ‘We know how M. de Balzac excels in this kind of muddy description: the rotten wood, the stagnant water, the washed linen in basins hanging from ropes – a worthy treatment for vicious places. Nothing escapes him, not a wrinkle, not a sticky crust of this filthy plague. Despite the power that a writer must have to reach this point, we may wonder what pleasure the readers of M. de Balzac can derive from these horrific details.’

17 Honoré de Balzac, The Two Brothers (trans. Wormeley).

18 Gérard de Nerval, Les Nuits d’octobre (1852).

19 Honoré Blanc, Le Guide des dîneurs, ou statistique des principaux restaurants de Paris (1814).

20 Balzac, Lost Illusions.

21 Blanc, Le Guide des dîneurs. In Balzac’s Lily of the Valley, when Félix de Vandenesse as a boy dreams of Paris, he imagines that ‘the first day we were to dine in the Palais-Royal, so as to be near the Théâtre-Français’, but, after being forced to admit a debt, ‘I was sent back to school in charge of my brother. I lost the dinner at the Frères Provençaux, and was deprived of seeing Talma inBritannicus’ (trans. Wormeley).

22 Alfred Delvau, Les Dessous de Paris (Paris: Poulet-Malassis, 1862).

23 Jean-Marc Léri, for example, relates it in the following terms: ‘It seems that this sacrilege was committed on Easter Day, 2 April 1290, in the house of the Jew Jonathan, which was then given the name of the House of the Miracle’ (in Le Marais, mythe et réalité, exhibition catalogue [Paris 1987]). In this text, ‘it seems’ introduces doubt as to the date, but in no way as to the reality of the fact.

24 The marquise had the idea of placing the staircase on the side of the building, thus freeing the central space and permitting a continuous succession of rooms.

25 The familiars of the famous chambre bleu included Malherbe, La Rochefoucauld, Descartes, Saint-Amand, Mme de Lafayette, Mme de Sévigné, Scarron, Vaugelas, Corneille, Rotrou, Ménage, Racan, Voiture . . . For fifteen years, Catherine’s daughter, Julie d’Angennes, was courted by Montausier, supposedly Molière’s model for Alceste in The Misanthropist. Montausier had the idea of offering his beloved an album in which each page was devoted to a flower and each flower compared with Julie: sixty-one madrigals written by Montausier himself and seventeen other poets who were habitués of the hôtel, inscribed on vellum by Nicolas Jarry, the greatest calligrapher of his day, and illustrated by Nicolas Robert. This was the celebrated Guirlande de Julie, which she found one day deposited on her bed. It was still another four years before she agreed to marry Montausier.

26 Gérard de Nerval, Petits Châteaux de Bohême (1852).

27 It was between these barriers and Rue Saint-Nicaise that the little Place du Carrousel was located, ‘which still keeps this name’ – wrote Germain Brice in the 1720s – ‘because this is where the superb tournament was held in 1662, to mark the birth of Monseigneur le Dauphin’. Under the Empire, the destruction had advanced to the point that at the start of Balzac’s A Woman of Thirty, set just before the Russian campaign, ‘The magnificent review commanded for that day by the Emperor was to be the last of so many which had long drawn forth the admiration of Paris and of foreign visitors’.

28 Adolphe Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870. Guide de l’étranger et du Parisien. An anonymous daguerreotype from 1850 shows the Hôtel de Nantes, a building of six storeys in the middle of the empty esplanade, surrounded by cabs and carriages. The caption notes that it was demolished on 1 October 1850 ‘in order to clear the approaches to the Louvre and the Tuileries’. Reproduced in Paris et le daguerréotype, Musée Carnavelet exhibition catalogue (Paris-Musées, 1989).

29 Heinrich Heine, French Affairs: Letters from Paris (trans. Leland), 27 May 1832. And almost the same year, Victor Hugo wrote in Notre-Dame de Paris: ‘If it is according to rule that the architecture of a building should be adapted to its purpose in such a manner that this purpose shall be immediately apparent from the mere aspect of the building, one cannot be too much amazed at a structure which might be indifferently – the palace of a king, a house of commons, a town hall, a college, a riding school, an academy, a warehouse, a courthouse, a museum, a barracks, a sepulchre, a temple, or a theatre. However, it is an Exchange.’

30 After the Liberation, the name of a proletarian heroine, Danielle Casanova, was given to the section of Rue des Petits-Champs above Avenue de l’Opéra.

31 Germain Brice, Nouvelle Description de la ville de Paris et de tout ce qu’elle contient de plus remarquable (Paris, 1725).

32 Jean-Christophe Bailly, Panoramiques. La tâche du lecteur (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 2000).

33 The Imprimerie then left for an outbuilding of the Hôtel de Rohan, in Rue Vieille-du-Temple, where it remained until it was moved to Rue de la Convention in 1925.

34 Brice, Nouvelle Description de la ville de Paris.

35 Since the nineteenth century this building, redesigned in the wake of two fires, has been the venue of the Opéra-Comique.

36 This building is today occupied by the Banque de France’s welfare services, but here again the adjoining streets – Monsigny, Méhul – recall its musical past.

37 Its name derives from two rich sausage makers, Messrs Véro and Dodat, who undertook the work in 1823, giving rise to the adage that this arcade was ‘a fine piece of art between two quarters’.

38 Paul Léautaud, Journal, 23 January 1906.

39 Cited by Henry Bidou, Paris (Paris: Gallimard, 1937).

40 Edmond Beaurepaire, Paris d’hier et d’aujourd’hui (Paris: Sevin & Rey, 1900).

41 Jules Clarette, La Vie à Paris (Paris, 1895).

42 See Jean-Pierre Babelon, ‘Les revelés d’architecture du quartier des Halles avant les destructions de 1852–1854’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, July–August 1967. This article reproduces the drawings commissioned by Davioud, with the object of keeping a record of the buildings that would be destroyed.

43 Baltard had begun by constructing a heavy stone pavilion, which Parisians soon came to call the ‘fortress’ of the Halles, and which was rejected and demolished.

44 Jean-Aymar Piganiol de la Force, Description historique de la ville de Paris et de ses environs (Paris, 1765).

45 This section of Rue de la Ferronnerie is now known as Rue de La Reynie, after the first official to hold the post of lieutenant-general of police, in the latter years of the seventeenth century.

46 Cited in Jean-Pierre Babelon, ‘Le XVIe siècle’, Nouvelle Histoire de Paris (Paris: Association pour la publication d’une histoire de Paris, 1986).

47 Piganiol de La Force, Description historique de la ville de Paris.

48 ‘Rue aux Fers, running like a river that carries fruit, flowers and vegetables, between the hundred booths on its right and the thousand little shops on its left . . .’ Alexandre Dumas, The Mohicans of Paris (1854).

49 Brice, Nouvelle Description de la ville de Paris. One of the fountain’s great champions was Quatremère de Quincy.

50 Mercier, Tableau de Paris.

51 Louis Chevalier, L’Assassinat de Paris (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1977).

52 Ibid.

53 Balzac, Lost Illusions.

54 Léon Daudet, Paris vécu (Paris, 1929).

55 The very origin of the name is unclear: whether a sentier or path leading to the rampart, or a corruption of chantier (works), building here having started on the site of a large woodyard. Two books recently published are Werner Szambien and Simona Talenti (eds), Le-Sentier-Bonne-Nouvelle, de l’architecture à la mode (Paris: Action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1999), and Nancy Green, Du Sentier à la 7e avenue, la confection et les immigrés, Paris-New York 1880–1980 (Paris: Le Seuil, 1998). Nadine Vasseur, Il était une fois le Sentier (Paris: Liana Levi, 2000), has some interesting material on the economic activity of the quarter today.

56 Apart from the modest Palmier fountain on Rue de Sèvres, however, close to Métro Vaneau, I can see no other architectural evidence of the Egyptomania of that time.

57 There were a number of these, particularly on the Rue de la Truanderie, as already mentioned, Rue des Tournelles, Rue Saint-Denis, Rue de la Jussienne, and on the Butte Saint-Roche, which specialized in prostitution.

58 This is the wall ‘des Fossés jaunes’; see above, p 20, n.9.

59 By extension, the word came to denote shop workers: ‘I do not at all hesitate to write – monstrous as this may seem to serious writers on art – that it was the sales clerk [calicot] who launched lithography’, Henri Bouchot, La Lithographie (Paris, 1895), cited by Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p. 57.

60 There existed – and still do – several mounds of the same kind in Paris: the labyrinth in the Jardin des Plantes on which Verniquet constructed his belvedere, La Butte des Moulins whose terrible nighttime fauna has already been noted, and the promontory above Rue Meslay and the pavements of Boulevard Saint-Martin, close to the Place de la République.

61 Hillairet notes that ‘the excavations carried out in 1824 for the foundations of the new church showed successive stratifications over the original ground to a height of nearly 16 metres. The site had been a vineyard, and still intact stocks were recovered from it’ (Connaissance du Vieux Paris [Paris: Éditions Princesse, 1956]).

62 Piganiol de La Force, Description historique de la ville de Paris.

63 ‘In the evening, people carrying bags and demanding paper notes had to be driven away. There were those with millions in their pocket; some believed they had twelve, twenty, or thirty million. There was the hunchback who lent his hump to speculators as a kind of platform, making himself rich in a matter of days; the lackey who bought his master’s carriage. The demon of greed brought the philosopher out of his study, and you could see him mingle in the crowd of gamblers and purchase the paper he wanted’ (Mercier, Tableau de Paris).

64 Except to the north, near the Boulevards, where the triangle of Arts-et-Métiers and the magnificent parallels of Rues Meslay, Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth and du Vertbois intersect between Rue Saint-Martin and Rue de Turbigo, forming a transition between the Sentier and the Marais.

65 This marsh was the remains of the ancient course of the Seine, which then followed the line of Rues du Château-d’Eau, de Provence, Saint-Lazare and La Boétie, rejoining the present river at the Pont de l’Alma. It thus described a wide meander at the foot of the hills of Belleville, Montmartre and Chaillot.

66 Until the twentieth century, the present Rue du Temple, heading north, went successively under the names of Rue Barre-du-Bec and Rue Saint-Avoye, becoming Rue du Temple at the junction with Rue Michel-le-Comte.

67 On the present site of the Hôtel d’Almeyras, there was in the fifteenth century a ‘house of alms’. ‘It was this asylum that gave the street the name Francs-Bourgeois, since those who stayed in this hospital were “francs”, i.e., exempt from all taxes and charges’ (Jaillot, Recherches critiques, historiques et topographique sur la ville de Paris [Paris, 1782; reissued Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1977]).

68 Piganiol was writing after the destruction, but he had access to archives that have since disappeared. Bedford had acquired lands to the west, as far as what is now Rue de Turenne (at that time still an open sewer). Rue des Tournelles ran between Bedford’s lands and the wall.

69 Hurtaut and Magny, Dictionnaire historique de la ville de Paris et de ses environs (Paris: Moutard, 1779; reissued Geneva: Reprint Minkoff, 1973).

70 Many religious communities have left their names to Marais streets: the Blancs-Manteaux, the Guillemites, the Hospitalière de Saint-Gervais, the Minimes, the Haudriettes, the Célestins . . .

71 Cited in Jean-Pierre Babelon, ‘Henri IV urbaniste de Paris’, in Festival du Marais, exhibition catalogue (Paris, 1966).

72 ‘Lettres patentes pour la place Royale’ (1605), reproduced in Babelon, ‘Henri IV urbaniste’.

73 Sauval, Histoires et recherches des antiquités de la ville de Paris. The manufactory soon went into decline, and the fourth side of the square was then built up to match the other three.

74 As Babelon notes, the word tripot originally denoted a tennis court. But it soon came to have its later sense.

75 Somewhat later, in 1639, Richelieu had the equestrian statue of Louis XIII erected in the centre of the square, hoping that it would intimidate duellists. The railings were installed towards the end of that century.

76 The details of this project have been preserved thanks to an engraving after Claude Chastillon, the engineer in charge, already at work on the alignments of the Place Royale. In the foreground of this bird’s-eye view, on a wide canal parallel to the lower edge of the image (the ditch of the fortification), are barges carrying barrels. Right at the bottom, across the canal on the far side (this is the land of the convent of the Filles du Calvaire), are carriages, horsemen and walkers. There is a bridge over the canal, with a triumphal arch in the Italian style with embossments, niches and statues. On the bank facing the city, a long building parallel to the canal is breached at the centre by an imposing gate that gives access to the Place. Bordered by seven identical pavilions, this is a kind of archaic version of the Place Royale, with corner turrets and high pointed roofs with skylights. Between the pavilions, six diverging streets point towards the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Saint-Paul, and the distant hills, crowned with churches and windmills.

77 Les Enfants-Rouge was an orphanage founded by François I, whose young wards were dressed in red.

78 Marcel Poëte, Une vie de cité, Paris de sa naissance à nos jours, vol. 3 (Paris: Auguste Picard, 1931).

79 Alidor, the ‘extravagant lover’ of the play’s subtitle, when he meets his friend Cléandre, expresses his surprise: ‘To meet you in the Place Royale/Alone and so close to your sweet cell/Well shows that Philis is not at home.’

80 Now the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

81 These nuns, whose convent was situated between the Hôtel Carnavalet and the Hôtel Le Peletier on Rue Sainte-Catherine (now de Sévigné), where the Lycée Victor-Hugo now stands, ‘wear a blue habit, a blue cloak and scapular, which has led to their being known as Heavenly Annonciades or Blue Girls’ (Jaillot, Recherches critiques, historiques et topographiques).

82 Roland Fréart de Chambray, Idée de la perfection de la peinture démontrée par les principles de l’art (Le Mans, 1662).

83 At what is now no. 34 – and not in the splendid small hôtel that he built on the corner of Rue de la Perle and Rue des Trois-Pavillons (now Elzévir), where Peronnet would establish the École des Ponts et Chaussées in the 1770s.

84 The site of what is now no. 90. In the meantime, the troupe had occupied two other tennis courts, one of these also being on Rue Vieille-du-Temple, and the other on Rue Michel-le-Comte. For more on matters theatrical, see Babelon, ‘Henri IV urbaniste de Paris’.

85 Cited in Jacques Wilhelm, La Vie quotidienne au Marais au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1966).

86 Honoré de Balzac, The Duchesse de Langeais (1833–4), trans. Wormeley.

87 Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Pons (trans. Marriage).

88 ‘In this bazaar, any kind of new merchandise is generally forbidden; but the tiniest scrap of any kind of old material . . . finds a seller and a buyer. There are dealers in bits of cloth of all colours and patterns, all qualities and all ages, destined for the patches that are applied to torn or worn-out garments . . . Further along, at the sign of Le Goût du jour you can see hanging like ex-voto offerings myriads of clothes of all colours and shapes, in still more extravagant styles’ (Eugène Sue, The Mysteries of Paris, 1842–3).

89 Roland Gotlib, ‘Les Gravilliers, plate-forme des Enragés’, in Michel Vovelle (ed.), Paris et la Révolution (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1989).

90 There used to be the dome of the Petits-Augustins (now the École des Beaux-Arts), ‘the first church’, wrote Félibien, ‘that Paris had seen built in this form’, also that of Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes (now the Institut Catholique), but both of these were small and rudimentary.

91 Within a few dozen metres from each other are the Musées Carnavalet, de l’Histoire de France, Victor-Hugo, Picasso, de la Chasse et de la Nature, de la Serrurerie, Cognacq-Jay and du Judaïsme.

92 R. P. Jacques Du Breuil, Le Théâtre des Antiquités de Paris (1639).

93 The Bund was the revolutionary-syndicalist movement of Jewish workers in Yiddishland. See Henri Minczeles, Histoire générale du Bund (Paris: Austral, 1995), and visit the fine Medem library at 52 Rue René-Boulanger.

94 Balzac, Lost Illusions.

95 Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, L’Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art, des moeurs et de la legislation (Paris, 1804). The gardens of the Beaumarchais residence – which gave its name to the former Boulevard Saint-Antoine – stretched widely over the Saint-Antoine bastion, i.e., a triangle now bounded by Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, Boulevard Beaumarchais, and Rue du Pasteur-Wagner. The house was demolished to make way for the Saint-Martin canal. In the 1930s the Pavillon de Hanovre was removed to the Parc de Sceaux, and the Palais Berlitz was constructed in its place.

96Façadisation’ consists in preserving (more or less) the façade of a building whilst gutting it like a fowl to install office floors. A façadized building is to the original building what a stuffed animal is to its living form. See on this subject F. Laisney, ‘Crimes et façadisme’, in Les Grands Boulevards, un parcours d’innovation et de modernité, exhibition catalogue (Paris: Action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 2000).

97 Opposite, on the outer side, urbanization was later, as the line of the Boulevards was disrupted by the triangles of the old bastions – see the angular course of Rue de Bondy (now René-Boulanger). Besides, the Boulevard was often doubled at a lower level by outside streets along the former ditches. Rue Amelot – formerly Rue des Fossés-du-Temple – is one of these ‘low roads’, the most famous being Rue Basse-du-Rempart where, as we shall see, the decisive shot in the revolution of February 1848 was fired.

98 For the ancien régime, as well as the Hôtel Montholon, see also 41 Boulevard Saint-Martin; 39 Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle; and the Hôtel Cousin de Méricourt at 19 Boulevard Poissonière.

99 Charles Baudelaire, ‘Evening Twilight’ and ‘The Eyes of the Poor’, Les Fleurs du mal. [I have used throughout the translation of Les Fleurs du mal made by William Aggeler (published as The Flowers of Evil, Fresno, CA: Academic Literary Guild, 1954) – Tr.]

100 See the excellent book by Simone Delattre, Les Douze heures noires, la nuit à Paris au XIXe siècle (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000). Lemer was himself a publisher, of Baudelaire in particular. ‘You often pass along Boulevard des Italiens. If you meet Julien Lemer, let him know my state of mind; tell him that I have worked out: – that I will never again be able to have anything printed, – that I will never be able to earn a sou – that I will never again see my mother or my friends, – and that finally if he has disastrous news to tell me, he should let me know rather than leaving me in uncertainty’ (letter to Champfleury, Brussels, 13 November 1865).

101 Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Contes cruels, ‘Le désir d’être un homme’, published in L’Étoile de France (1882).

102 Lemer, Paris au gaz.

103 ‘Histoire et physiologie des Boulevards de Paris’, in Le Diable à Paris (1844); reissued in Honoré de Balzac, À Paris! (Brussels: Complexe, 1993).

104 Lemer, Paris au gaz.

105 La Bédollière, ‘Les Boulevards de la porte Saint-Martin à la Madeleine’, in Paris Guide.

106 Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870.

107 Balzac, ‘Histoire et physiologie des Boulevards de Paris’.

108 Honoré de Balzac, The Unconscious Comedians (trans. Wormeley).

109 É. de La Bédollière, ‘Les Boulevards’, in Paris Guide.

110 Balzac, ‘Histoire et physiologie des boulevards de Paris’, and Beatrix (trans. Wormeley).

111 His father, a stationer on Rue Saint-Jacques under the Empire, had the idea of supplementing his section of artists’ materials with a few paintings. He moved to Rue des Petits-Champs, where he showed paintings by Delacroix, Decamps and Diaz. Paul subsequently transferred the gallery to 1 Rue de la Paix, then to Rue Laffitte.

112 Louis Aragon, The Paris Peasant (London: J. Cape, 1971), p. 29.

113 Paul d’Ariste, La Vie et le monde du Boulevard (1830–1870) (Paris: Tallandier, 1930). Cited by Jean-Claude Yon, ‘Le théâtre aux boulevards’, in Laisney, Les Grands Boulevards.

114 Balzac, ‘Histoire et physiologie des boulevards de Paris’.

115 La Bédollière, ‘Les Boulevards de la porte Saint-Martin à la Madeleine’, in Paris Guide.

116 It was in this Bazar, normally occupied by the shops of La Ménagère, that an exhibition was held in 1846 which Baudelaire reported in a short masterpiece: ‘The Museum of Classics at Bazar Bonne-Nouvelle’, in which he particularly describes David’s Marat – ‘There is something at once both tender and poignant about this work; in the icy air of that room, on those chilly walls, about that cold and funereal bath, hovers a soul’ (Charles Baudelaire, Art in Paris, 1845–1862 [London: Phaidon 1965]), p. 35.

117 Balzac, ‘Histoire et Physiologie des Boulevards de Paris’.

118 La Bédollière, ‘Les Boulevards de la porte Saint-Martin à la Madeleine’.

119 Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870. Le Brébant still exists today, on the corner of Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre and Boulevard Poissonière.

120 Aragon, The Paris Peasant, p. 87, and André Breton, Nadja (New York: Grove, 1960), p. 38.

121 André Breton, Communicating Vessels (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), p. 98.

122 Breton, Nadja, p. 32; the question mark is Breton’s own. The building of Le Matin was on the corner of Boulevard Poissonière and Rue du Faubourg-Poissonière.

123 Lemer, Paris au gaz.

124 Paul de Kock, ‘Les Boulevards de la porte Saint-Martin à la Bastille’, in La Bédollière et al, Paris Guide. The Ambigu, at the acute angle formed by Rue de Bondy and the boulevard, was one of the finest halls in the city, built by Hittorff. It was destroyed in the 1960s by an insurance company, with the blessing of André Malraux, and replaced by a particularly frightful block of flats that breaks the alignment, the scale, and the harmony of tones of the boulevard.

125 Heine, French Affairs, letter 8, 1837.

126 The succession of waterworks on this site is quite complicated. In the early nineteenth century the original ‘Château d’Eau’ was located on the open space that still separates Rue de Bondy (now René-Boulanger) from Boulevard Saint-Martin. ‘Leaving the Ambigu,’ La Bédollière wrote in Le Nouveau Paris (1860), ‘we pass in front of the Château d’Eau, erected in 1811 after the design of M. Girard.’ This was ‘a superb fountain, whose waters came from the basin of La Villette, composed of three circular plinths in the middle of which is a double bowl in bronze, surrounded by four figures of lions that spout water from their jaws. It is distressing that such a fine monument is not surrounded by a square worthy of it.’ In the 1860s one could read in various texts that this fountain was out of proportion with the immense Place de la République. On many maps of the time it is shown in the square, in front of the Prince-Eugène barracks. It was then removed to La Villette, where it can still be seen in front of the Great Hall. In 1867, Davioud installed a more impressive fountain in the middle of the new square. In 1883, the République monument replaced this second fountain, which today stands, also decorated with lions, in the middle of Place Daumesnil. ‘The new Château d’Eau, which recalls the old one, had been placed right opposite the barracks and in the line of Boulevard du Prince-Eugène, at the point where one now sees this enormous statue of the République, a bit too massive. Leaving aside any political purpose, it produced there a happier effect, and a freshness that was much appreciated in summer’ (Haussmann, Mémoires).

127 Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870. These are the few metres referred to in the famous song by Désaugiers: ‘The only worthwhile promenade/The only one that holds me/The only one I take with a laugh/Is the Boulevard du Temple in Paris.’

128 Félix and Louis Lazare, Dictionnaire des rues et monuments de Paris (Paris, 1855).

129 Balzac, ‘Histoire et physiologie des Boulevards de Paris’.

130 Georges Cain, Promenades dans Paris (Paris: Flammarion, 1907).

131 Cited by Jacques Rancière, The Nights of Labor (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989).

132 On the site of a wretched café, L’Épi-Scié, Alexandre Dumas established the Théâtre-Historique to produce his own works, and legend has it that on the theatre’s opening the public queued for three days and nights at the box office for the premier of La Reine Margot. Haussmann, in his Mémoires, explains that ‘the city did not have to concern itself with the more or less desirable position of these latter establishments’ (the ‘dives’). The Théâtre-Lyrique and the Cirque-Olympique were reconstructed opposite one another on the Place du Châtelet. The Gaîté was moved to the Square des Arts-et-Métiers, until it was destroyed while Chirac was mayor to make way for a mechanical billiards hall. The Folies was situated on Rue de Bondy, and the Funambules on Boulevard de Strasbourg.

133 Lemer, Paris au gaz. These ‘pass-out tickets’ were pieces of card given to the audience when they went out at the interval.

134 Ibid.

135 De Kock, ‘Les Boulevards de la porte Saint-Martin à la Bastille’.

136 Ibid.

137 Lemer, Paris au gaz.

138 André Breton, ‘Refus d’inhumer’, October 1924.

139 ‘We are finally beginning to build one [a pavement] on both sides of the new road of the Théâtre-Français; but the fault committed is to have badly positioned posts that prevent coachmen from bringing the wheels of their carriages on to the sidewalk’ (Mercier, Tableau de Paris). For the residential developments, see Pierre Pinon, Paris, biographie d’une capitale (Paris: Hazan, 1988).

140 A report to the Convention on 14 Thermidor of year II declared that the sale of national goods was suspended because ‘a commission of artists is occupied at this time with a plan for the embellishment of Paris’ (Lavedan, Histoire de l’urbanisme à Paris). The Commission’s role tends to be underestimated, in the general movement of devaluing the Revolution, at least from 1793. Do people realize that such efforts were made to beautify Paris during the Terror?

141 Honoré de Balzac, The Wrong Side of Paris (1848).

142 Delvau, Les Dessous de Paris.

143 ‘Chez Jean-Roch Lottin de Saint-Germain, Imprimeur-libraire ordinaire de la ville, Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, no. 27, 1789.’

144 Balzac, Lost Illusions.

145 Delvau, Les Dessous de Paris.

146 Jean-François Bories and the three other sergeants, who were members of a republican secret society, were executed on the Place de Grève on 21 September 1822 (some say they were shot, which would have been ‘normal’ for soldiers, but the Place de Grève was the site of the guillotine . . .). ‘The quays were thick with people. Despite a formidable military and police presence, the condemned received the sympathy of an immense number.’ Those are the words of a seventeen-year-old witness, Auguste Blanqui, who was marked forever by this execution (Jeanne Gilmore, La République clandestine, 1818–1848 [Paris: Aubier, 1997]).

147 ‘Le quartier Latin’, in La Bédollière et al, Paris Guide.

148 Article ‘Quartier Latin’, in Dictionnaire de Paris (Paris: Hazan 1964).

149 A. Lepage, Cafés littéraires et politiques de Paris (Paris: Dentu, 1874).

150 [Editorial note: now replaced by a men’s casual clothing store.]

151 Balzac, Lost Illusions.

152 Daudet, Paris vécu.

153 Carco, De Montmartre au Quartier Latin.

154 Alfred Delvau, Histoire anecdotique des cafés et cabarets de Paris (Paris: Dentu, 1862).

155 Ibid. Poulet-Malassis, whom Baudelaire called Coco-Malperché, was the publisher of Les Fleurs du mal.

156 Ibid. Hippolyte Babou was the friend of Baudelaire who suggested to him the title for Les Fleurs du mal.

157 Carco, De Montparnasse au Quartier Latin.

158 Daudet, Paris vécu.

159 Paul Fargue, ‘La Classe de Mallarmé’, in Refuges (Paris: Émile-Paul Frères, 1942; republished Paris: Gallimard, 1998).

160 According to Joan Halperin, the impeccable biographer of Fénéon, it was he who placed the bomb, in a flower pot – Félix Fénéon, Aesthete and Anarchist in Fin-de-Siècle Paris (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988). Laurent Tailhade lost an eye in the explosion.

161 Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 104.

162 Georges Perec, Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1975).

163 Honoré de Balzac, Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life (1838), trans. Waring.

164 Only one building was finished after his plans, no. 6, on the northeast corner of the square close to Rue des Canettes. This was the office of the publisher to which Perec alludes: Robert Laffont, bought up long ago now by the Presses de la Cité group, alias CEP, alias Havas, alias Vivendi.

165 Remnants of this are the old houses on the odd-numbered side of Boulevard Saint-Germain, between Rue des Saints-Pères and Rue de Rennes. Rue Gozlin is a fragment of Rue des Boucheries.

166 The modern market is a reconstruction, supposedly identical, of the neoclassical market designed by Blondel. It is the work of Olivier Cacoub, the favourite architect of Jacques Chirac, responsible for many other Parisian disasters, including the ‘Le Ponant’ building overlooking the Parc André-Citroën.

167 Mercier, Tableau de Paris.

168 Lettres missives d’Henri IV, vol. 7 (Paris, 1858); cited by Pinon, Paris, biographie d’une capitale.

169 G. Lenôtre, Secrets du vieux Paris (Paris: Grasset, 1954).

170 Balzac, The Duchess of Langeais.

171 Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, Remembrance of Things Past (Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1983), vol. 2, p. 25.

172 The main entrance to this hôtel was close to 6 Rue de Seine.

173 ‘At that time’ (in the 1780s), ‘there was not a door that would not open at the slightest request of an unknown tourist; no reference was demanded, no recommendation . . . Anyone who possessed paintings, a collection of prints, a library, or simply fine furniture, freely offered their treasures to the admiration of all comers. It was in no way difficult to enter the home of the Duc d’Orléans at the Palais-Royal, the Prince de Condé, M. Beaujon whose apartments were famous, the Prince de Salm whose hôtel was scarcely finished, or the Duc de Praslin where one could inspect his sumptuous furniture . . . You could likewise go from door to door, visiting the picture galleries of the hôtels of Chabot, Luynes, Briassac and Vaudreuil, the natural-history collections of Chaulnes and La Rochefoucauld, or the gardens of M. de Biron or M. de Saint-James’ (Lenôtre, Secrets du vieux Paris.)

174 There are still some independent houses in the quarter – Gallimard, Le Seuil, Minuit and Christian Bourgois, among others.

175 Those who deplore the invasion of this quarter by doner kebab can at least refer to Mercier’s Tableau de Paris: ‘The Turks who arrived in the train of the last Ottoman ambassador found nothing more agreeable in the whole of Paris than Rue de la Huchette, on account of the rotisseries there and the succulent smoke they exhaled . . . Cooked fowl could be obtained there at any hour of the day; the spits were constantly on an ever-burning fire.’

176 Chevalier, Montmartre du plaisir et du crime.

177 François Loyer, Paris XIXe siècle, l’immeuble et la rue (Paris: Hazan, 1987).

178 Charles Baudelaire, ‘Salon de 1859’, on Meryon.

179 Victor Fournel, Paris nouveau et Paris future (Paris, 1868).

180 The two most recent books on Haussmann are quite instructive in this respect. Haussmann le Grand, by Georges Valance (Paris: Flammarion, 2000): ‘Why Haussmann? Because he has left us Paris, one of the finest, most liveable, most visited and most envied cities in the world.’ In some 350 pages, this book devotes just ten lines to the baron’s anti-revolutionary worries. And Michel Carmona, in his Haussmann (Paris: Fayard, 2000), describes the clearing of the Place de la République in these terms: ‘The little crooked square with its modest water tower (opposite the present Rue Léon-Jouhaux) was expanded into the fine quadrilateral that we know today.’

181 Paris nouveau jugé par un flâneur (Paris: Dentu, 1868), cited by Benjamin in The Arcades Project, pp. 129–30.

182 Dolf Oehler, 1848. Le Spleen contre l’oubli (Paris: Payot, 1996).

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