Faubourg Saint-Marcel

It is by its faubourgs that the Left Bank as it is today differs most from the Right Bank. Between Rue du Cherche-Midi, the Daguerre market, the Observatoire and the Salpêtrière, apartment prices are sky-high, private educational establishments are most expensive as well as mainly secular, the grocers are Arab and the street sweepers Black. Everything has the good order of a prosperous provincial town, and a certain attention is needed – to texts, to certain streets, to a few high walls – to perceive that these were once the most wretched and dangerous faubourgs, haunted by the sinister couples of crime and punishment, suffering and imprisonment, sickness and death.

This can be shown by citing three texts. The first is from the end of the ancien régime, and depicts the Faubourg Saint-Marceau (also known as Saint-Marcel at this time) as seen by Sébastien Mercier:

This is the quarter where the poorest part of the Paris population live, the most shifty and most refractory to discipline. There is more money in a single house in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré than in the entire Faubourg Saint-Marcel taken together. It is in these dwellings, far from the motion of the centre, that ruined men, misanthropists, alchemists, maniacs and pensioners of limited means hide away, as well as a few studious sages who genuinely do seek solitude, and wish to live completely ignored and cut off from the spectacles of the noisy quarters. No one will ever come to seek them out in this extremity of the city . . . this is a people who lack any relationship with Parisians, the polite dwellers on the banks of the Seine . . . There is in this faubourg more mischief, more inflammable and quarrelsome material, more readiness for mutiny, than in the other quarters. The police fear to press them too hard; they are handled with kid gloves, as they are capable of breaking out in the greatest excesses.

The second text is from Balzac, familiar with this area as in 1829 he lived at 1 Rue Cassini, i.e., at the corner of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Jacques, which he evoked as follows in Ferragus:

Around this spot without a name stand the Foundling hospital, the Bourbe, the Cochin hospital, the Capucines, the La Rochefoucauld hospital, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, the hospital of the Val-de-Grâce; in short, all the vices and all the misfortunes of Paris find their asylum there. And (that nothing may lack in this philanthropic centre) Science there studies the tides and longitudes, Monsieur de Chateaubriand has erected the Marie-Therese infirmary, and the Carmelites have founded a convent. The great events of life are represented by bells which ring incessantly through this desert – for the mother giving birth, for the babe that is born, for the vice that succumbs, for the toiler who dies, for the virgin who prays, for the old man shaking with cold, for genius self-deluded. And a few steps off is the cemetery of Mont-Parnasse, where, hour after hour, the sorry funerals of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau wend their way.81

The third quotation is from Maxime Du Camp’s great work on Paris, written just after the demolition of the octroi wall:

The world of thieves . . . has shifted en masse towards the former barrières, in these quarters that have been newly annexed to the city, and whose attachment to Old Paris still seems to be no more than purely administrative. Here they get together in taverns where they are certain of not being arrested, but are able to meet up and make arrangements for the dirty tricks they have in mind. It is around the Barrières d’Italie, des Deux-Moulins, de Fontainebleau, du Mont-Parnasse, du Maine, and de l’École-Militaire that these dives open their hospitable doors to all bandits.82

The common stigmata of the three southern faubourgs did not prevent there from being major differences between them – between Saint-Marceau with its ragpickers, Saint-Jacques with its sisters of mercy, and Montparnasse with its ruffians. (In Les Misérables, you may recall, one of the members of the terrible quartet who ‘governed the lowest depths of Paris between 1830 and 1835’ is called Montparnasse: ‘They generally met at nightfall, the hour when they awoke, on the plains that border the Salpêtrière. There they conferred, and, as they had the twelve dark hours before them, they settled their employment accordingly.’)

The Faubourg Saint-Marceau has at least one point in common with the Faubourg Saint-Germain: it is a faubourg without a central street. If there is no longer a Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Marceau, any more than there is a Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Germain, it is for precisely the same reason: neither of the two was formed by a radial and centrifugal expansion of Old Paris. These were both very old towns on the periphery, with an independent life outside the city. The Faubourg Saint-Marceau, to be sure, was crossed through its entire length by Rue Mouffetard, which extended to the Barrière (now Place) d’Italie. But it was not this that gave birth to it, or around which it was structured. In Une vie de cité, Marcel Poëte explains that the traveller arriving from Lyon or Italy via Villejuif found himself faced with a choice, just outside the Barrière d’Italie. The main branch led towards Place Maubert, through Rue Mouffetard, Rue Bordelle (now Descartes) and Rue de la Montagne-Saint-Geneviève. The other had the same final destination, but by way of Rue du Marché-aux-Chevaux (now Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire), Rue du Jardin-du-Roi (now Linné) and Rue Saint-Victor. At the point where the two branches forked, the traveller coming into Paris crossed what was known as the town of Saint-Marcel, which in 1612 Du Breuil could still describe as enclosed ‘by high walls that distinguish and divide it from the faubourg of Paris that is also named after the same Saint Marcel’.

From Louis XIV to Louis-Philippe, or more accurately perhaps from La Reynie to Vidocq, the boundaries and topography of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau scarcely changed. It formed the south of what was then the 12th and last arrondissement of Paris, described by Balzac as the poorest quarter of Paris, ‘that in which two-thirds of the population lack firing in winter, which leaves most brats at the gate of the Foundling hospital, which sends most beggars to the poorhouse, most ragpickers to the street corners, most decrepit old folks to bask against the walls on which the sun shines, most delinquents to the police courts’.83 (This passage, like a number of others, shows the degree to which Balzac, despite his defence of throne and altar, differed from Tocqueville, Du Camp or Flaubert: you never find in him the least expression of contempt for ordinary people.) Starting from the Barrière de la Gare on the Quai d’Austerlitz (this gare being for river traffic), the boundary of the faubourg followed the wall of the Farmers-General (now Boulevards Vincent-Auriol, Blanqui, Saint-Jacques) as far as the Barrière de la Santé (now the corner of Rue de la Santé and Boulevard Saint-Jacques). It then turned towards the city centre, up to what is now the Gobelins intersection, included Sainte-Pélagie and the La Pitié hospital, and came down alongside the Jardin des Plantes to reach the Seine again by Rue Buffon. The Faubourg Saint-Marceau was thus located on the southern slope of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, on either side of Louis XIV’s wall, represented here by Boulevard de l’Hôpital.

It was in these unwelcoming parts that the royal power decided to construct the Salpêtrière, on the site of a former arsenal. Entrusted to Le Vau, with Libéral Bruant responsible for the chapel, this was the central element in an ensemble known as the Hôpital Général. Hurtaut and Magny list the buildings involved in this: ‘Saint-Jean de Bicêtre, Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière, Notre-Dame de la Pitié, Sainte-Pélagie, Sainte-Marthe de Scipion, the Enfants-Trouvés and Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Savonnerie’.84 Contrary to what the name may suggest, this Hôpital Général, entirely located in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau apart from the Savonnerie and Bicêtre,85 had nothing to do with medicine. It was rather an instrument for achieving the dream of all who have governed Paris, past and present, to rid the city of scum: ‘The large number of poor and beggars that flood Paris and inconvenience its inhabitants suggested the project of this hospital, for which the king offered the Château de Bicêtre, several other plots of land, and the building of La Pitié.’86

The ‘great confinement’ took place in the year of Pascal’s Provincial Letters and Poussin’s Blind Orion:

It was then announced in sermons and in all the Parishes of Paris that the Hôpital Général would open on 7 May 1657 for all the poor who wished to enter of their own accord, and the magistrates ordered the town criers to announce that it was henceforth illegal to beg for alms in Paris; and rarely was an order so well executed. On the 13th, the high mass of the Holy Spirit was sung in the church of the Pitié, and on the 14th the Confinement of the Poor was carried out without any emotion. On that day, Paris underwent a change of face; the vast majority of beggars returned to the Provinces, and the wisest of them thought of leaving of their own accord. Doubtless the protection of God smiled on these great works, for few would have believed that the operation would be executed with such ease, and that success would be so complete.87

Michel Foucault has described at length the population imprisoned in this ‘homeland and place of redemption for both sins against the flesh and offences to reason’. It mingled together ‘venereals’, ‘sodomites’, prostitutes, blasphemers and attempted suicides, as well as the actually mad, who were never more than a tenth of the total number: ‘It was between the walls of internment that Pinel and nineteenth-century psychiatry discovered the mad; it is here, we should not forget, that they left them, not without having claimed the glory of redeeming them.’

In 1818, the wall of the Farmers-General, which had until then passed in front of the Salpêtrière, was pushed back to its periphery on Boulevard de la Gare (now Vincent-Auriol). The buildings of the Salpêtrière were far less extensive than they are today, and the new course of the wall enclosed a large tract of open land that was for a long time the most obscure and sinister region of Paris. It was ‘in the deserted places beyond the Salpêtrière’ that Montparnasse tried to rob Jean Valjean.88 ‘These few streets leading from Boulevard de l’Hôpital and ending at the Barrière des Deux-Moulins’, writes Delvau, ‘are bordered by squat houses built with a little plaster and much mud. They resemble rabbit holes or the huts of the Lapps more than the houses of civilized people.’89 Just opposite, on Boulevard de l’Hôpital, was where Hugo located the Gorbeau house in Les Misérables:

Facing no. 50–52 there stood amid the trees on the boulevard a large elm that was three parts dead; almost opposite began Rue de la Barrière des Gobelins, a street that was then without houses and unpaved, planted with unsuitable trees, green or muddy according to the season, which ended up right at the surrounding wall of Paris . . . This barrier itself cast evil shadows in the mind. It was the road to Bicêtre. This was the way that, under the Empire and the Restoration, men condemned to death would return to Paris on the day of their execution.

It is in this disturbing setting, now covered by the railway tracks from the Gare d’Austerlitz, that one could see in the 1850s ‘something unbelievable, incomparable, curious, frightful, charming, desolate and admirable’, a community of ragpickers known as the Cité Doré:

Not ironically [i.e., from doré meaning ‘golden’], but because M. Doré, a distinguished chemist, was the owner of this land . . . In 1848 he had the idea of dividing his property with the object of renting plots to the bourgeois of Paris, who, as is well known, have a particular passion for gardening. He expected to see at least some Némorin from Rue Saint-Denis or a Chloë from the Quartier du Temple, but who actually did appear was a ragpicker of the first water, a hood on his back and a hook in his hand . . . At dawn the next morning he was already at work, surrounded by a large family. They dug the foundations of their country villa, bought rubble from demolitions at 50 cents the barrow, and a few days later they bravely started to build . . . At the end of three months their house was finished, and its roof in place. They had made this roof out of old tarpaulin, with beaten earth placed on top . . . This wonder was visited by fellow ragpickers, who all envied the good fortune of the owners, and each wished to have their own place here. A new town came into being.

When winter came, however, the experiment with earth and tarpaulin proved unsuccessful. The water soaked the earth, and the ensuing weight burst the cloth:

At this point one of the ragpickers had a sublime idea! Everything in Paris is sold except old tin . . . They set out to collect what others disdained, so that today the greater part of houses in this colony are covered in tin . . . The inhabitants are better off, they get on much better together, and scenes of savagery are no longer to be seen in the area, nor drunks falling into the streams, as happens so often in other parts of this unfortunate 12th arrondissement.90

Opposite the gateway of the Salpêtrière, the horse market, another attraction of the faubourg, occupied a long rectangle between Boulevard de l’Hôpital and Rue du Marché-aux-Chevaux (there still exists, off Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, an Impasse du Marché-aux-Chevaux, almost on the corner with Boulevard Saint-Marcel). This was specially devoted to carthorses, and to former luxury horses reduced to lower tasks. A semicircle made up of two tracks elevated in the middle, forming a rise and fall, was used to try out the horses – hence the name of Rue de l’Essai between the market and Rue Poliveau.

On the other side of Rue du Marché-aux-Chevaux, Rue Poliveau continued – and still continues – through Rue du Fer-à-Moulin, which was long known as Rue aux Morts. This was the way to the Clamart cemetery, the last resting place of executed criminals and those who died in hospital:

Those bodies that the Hôtel-Dieu vomits out each day are brought to Clamart: this is a large cemetery, whose mouth is always open. The corpses are not on biers, but simply covered with a cloth. They are hastily taken from their bed, and more than one sick person, supposedly dead, wakes up in the very cart that is taking him to the grave. This cart is pulled by twelve men; a dirty and encrusted priest, a bell, a cross, that is all the equipment that the poor can expect . . . This lugubrious carriage leaves the Hôtel-Dieu every day at four in the morning; it rolls in the silence of the night . . . This soil, rich in burials, is the field where young surgeons come by night, climbing the wall, to take corpses to subject to their inexperienced scalpels: and so even after the poor person has passed away, his body can still be stolen.91

Surprising as it may seem, this illegal practice ended up by giving its popular name to the place that, after the cemetery was closed in the early nineteenth century, became the anatomy theatre for the hospitals. I myself worked in the library there for many years, in the low buildings that had seen the passage of Larrey, Broussais, and Dupuytren. You would say ‘I’m going to Clamart’, without anyone realizing where this strange expression came from. The entrance was under marvellous arbours of flowers, and in summer, with the windows open, a scent wafted into the lecture hall that I can still remember, the odour of roses mingling with that of formaldehyde.

The riotous tradition of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau goes back very far into the past. In the sixteenth century it was the main popular bastion of Protestantism in Paris, along with the Popincourt quarter on the Right Bank. On 27 December 1561, following an obscure business about bells spoiling a meeting held by the Calvinists on Rue Patriarche (now Rue Daubenton, opposite Saint-Médard), the latter sacked the Saint-Médard church. This affair, known as the ‘Saint-Médard disturbance’, led to a number of deaths, and is often seen as a prelude to the wars of religion. It was also at Saint-Médard, in the little cemetery alongside, today a square, that one of the most celebrated disorders in the history of the faubourg took place, that of the ‘convulsionaries’, in which ‘people danced on the grave of Deacon Pâris, and ate earth from his tomb, until the cemetery was closed: De par le roi, défense à Dieu/De faire miracle en ce lieu’.92

Later on, the Faubourg Saint-Marceau was involved in all the great Revolutionary journées. During the ‘subsistence troubles’ of 1792, the people of Faubourgs Saint-Marceau and Saint-Denis went en masse to the wholesalers, knocking down their doors and forcing them to sell their goods at their previous price. In 1793, the Faubourgs Saint-Marceau and Saint-Antoine delivered a joint address to the Commune:

Legislators, it is the brave sans-culottes of 14 July and 10 August, whose blood marked the fall of a despicable throne, whose faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau are proud to address you today. In their breast they have been nourished in a hatred of tyranny and in the republican spirit. They ask you to let them form up in their companies to fly to the defence of the Fatherland . . . The children of the faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau will carry these names to the banks of the Rhine. They will make Frédéric [Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia] and François [Franz II, the Holy Roman Emperor] see so closely the scars of 10 August that they tremble at being kings.93

Saint-Marceau had a far older industrial tradition than did Saint-Antoine. As far back as the 1440s, a Flemish manufacturer by the name of Gobelin established his business in a house on Rue Moffetard (now Avenue des Gobelins), backing onto the River Bièvre.

This became known as the River Gobelins after Jean Gobelin, an excellent dyer of wool and silk, in all kinds of colours, especially scarlet, came to live in a big house that he had built close to Saint-Hippolyte, the church of the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. This illustrious man did not just build up a great property there, but also . . . made such a name for himself in his art, that his house, his scarlet, his dye, and the river he used, were all given his name.94

The Gobelins thus started out as dyers, as Jean de Julienne, the friend of Watteau, still was in the eighteenth century, himself in the little Rue des Gobelins. Tapestry came long after carpets, when Colbert established the royal manufactory of furnishings and tapestries of the crown, its first director being Le Brun. Curriers and tanners could also be found on the Bièvre. An 1890 guide explains:

We are now in some quite outlying quarters; the penetrating smell of tannin rises to the nose; a fine red dust floats in the air, sometimes leaving a light deposit in which the feet of the rare passersby leave their traces . . . The tannery drying-rooms set up their great partitioned bays where the wind can blow through, and nearby are workshops making mats, their courtyards cluttered with immense heaps of screenings.95

A land of tumult and revolt, the Faubourg Saint-Marceau was destroyed like Carthage, except that its eradication took place in two stages. The cuttings of the nineteenth century did the bulk of it. The Boulevard de Port-Royal, which followed the route of the former Rue de la Bourbe and Rue des Bourguignons, absorbed the fields of the Capucins, destroyed the old Saint-Marcel theatre, and transformed Rue Broca and Rue Pascal into canyons. Boulevard Saint-Marcel swallowed up the Place de la Collégiate, the horse market, and the little streets of Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and Rue du Cendrier that led there. Boulevard Arago was built where the Saint-Hippolyte church and street had stood. The narrow Rue Mouffetard, well suited for barricades, was hemmed in between the new Gobelins intersection and the Place d’Italie, and replaced by Avenue des Gobelins, more than forty metres wide. Rue Monge with its barracks, and the artery of Rue Claude-Bernard and Rue Gay-Lussac, made it possible to attack the quarter from the rear.

Yet despite this network of trenches, some parts of the ancient fabric remained until the 1950s. I remember making ‘Les Misérables walks’ with my father, who led us on Sunday mornings to Rue du Banquier or Rue du Champ-de-l’Alouette, where Marius had gone to dream of Cosette. The destruction of the plebeian quarters after the war began here, in this Faubourg Saint-Marceau that never understood the new situation and continued to be red. In the 1950s and ’60s, the cul-de-sacs, alleys, courtyards and workshops of the old ‘faubourg of suffering’ were systematically destroyed, and no one today would conceive the idea of taking a walk through what has replaced them.

Faubourg Saint-Jacques

The Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Jacques, an extension of Rue Saint-Martin and Rue Saint-Jacques, formed for many years the southern segment of the ancient north-south route across Paris. But starting in the seventeenth century it was replaced in this role by Rue d’Enfer (now Boulevard Saint-Michel, Rue Henri-Barbusse, Avenue Denfert-Rochereau). ‘The Faubourg Saint-Jacques’, Dumas wrote in The Mohicans of Paris, ‘is one of the most primitive in Paris. What is the reason for this? Is it because, surrounded by four hospitals like a citadel is by four bastions, these hospitals warn the tourist away from the quarter? Is it because, not leading to any major road, not ending up in any centre, in complete contrast to the larger Paris faubourgs, the passage of carriages there is very rare?’96

Thanks to owners who could not be dislodged – hospitals, ecclesiastical communities, the Observatory, the Société des Gens de Lettres – this faubourg escaped serious destruction. From Rue du Val-de-Grâce to Boulevard Saint-Jacques, between Rue de la Santé and Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, is today a calm quarter, airy and much visited. And yet in the 1930s, when Walter Benjamin lived for years at the edge of it, on Place Denfert-Rochereau and Rue Boulard, he could still describe it in terms close to those of Balzac:

For in [the 14th arrondissment] are found, one after another, all the buildings of public misery, or proletarian indigence, in unbroken succession: the birthing clinic, the orphanage, the hospital (the famous Santé), and finally the great Paris jail with its scaffold. At night, one sees on the narrow unobtrusive benches – not, of course, the comfortable ones found in the squares – men stretched out asleep as if in the waiting room of a way station in the course of this terrible journey.97

The scaffold was the great spectre of the faubourg. Hugo wrote of the Place Saint-Jacques in Les Misérables that it was ‘almost predestined and has always been horrible’. Previously, apart from the Revolutionary years, executions had always been carried out on the Place de Grève, in full daylight. The windows of buildings on the route taken by condemned prisoners from the Conciergerie or Bicêtre were hired long in advance.98 But after the revolution of 1830 the Place de Grève was no longer appropriate. ‘The Place de Grève’, wrote the prefect of the Seine department on 16 November 1831, ‘can no longer serve as a site for executions, after generous citizens so gloriously spilled their blood there for the national cause. Besides, the difficulty of traffic circulation in the tightly packed quarter around the Place de Grève has for a long time imposed the need to find a different place for capital executions.’99 This ‘different place’ would now be the Place Saint-Jacques, at the corner of Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Jacques and Boulevard Saint-Jacques.

In 1832, in his preface to The Last Day of a Condemned, Victor Hugo wrote: At Paris, we have come back to the time of secret executions; since July they no longer dare to decapitate in the Grève; as they are afraid, as they are cowardly, here is what they do. They took lately from the Bicêtre prison a man, under sentence of death, named Désandrieux, I think; they put him in a sort of basket on two wheels, closed on each side, bolted and padlocked: then, with a gendarme in front, and another at the back, without noise or crowd, they proceeded to the deserted Barrière Saint-Jacques. It was eight in the morning when they arrived, with but little light. There was a newly erected guillotine, and, for spectators, some dozens of little boys, grouped on the heaps of stones around the unexpected machine. Quickly they withdrew the man from the basket; and, without giving him time to breathe, they furtively, secretly, shamefully, deprived him of life! And that is called a public and solemn act of high justice! Infamous derision!100

In 1851, the guillotine was removed for a while from the Faubourg Saint-Jacques. Executions were then performed in front of the La Roquette prison. The condemned man only had to walk from his cell to the scaffold. Maxime Du Camp asked:

What makes up this throng that Paris flings towards the Place de la Roquette during the night that precedes an execution? People of the quarter excited by the spectacle, and who are there, as they themselves put it, as neighbours, prowlers of all kinds, vagabonds, ruffians and beggars who, not knowing where to find shelter, come and spend there the hours of a night that they would otherwise no doubt have spent under a bridge or in the cage of a police station.101

In April 1870, when Paris was at boiling point after the murder of Victor Noir by Pierre Bonaparte, it was here that the execution of Troppmann was carried out, as described by Turgenev, ending in a manner that might be surprising for a man who was friendly with Du Camp, Flaubert, and the Goncourts: ‘I will be content and excuse my own misplaced curiosity if my story supplies a few arguments to those who are in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, or, at least, the abolition of public executions.’102

In April 1899, when the men’s prison of La Roquette was demolished, the guillotine returned to the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, on the corner of Boulevard Arago and Rue de la Santé. It remained there right to the end, even if after 1939 executions were no longer public but carried out within the prison. Under the Occupation, French hostages were shot in the courtyard, but during the Algerian war, the FLN militants condemned for murder were guillotined. On 28 November 1972 the series was closed with Claude Buffet and Roger Bontemps, whom Georges Pompidou refused a presidential pardon.


Montparnasse, the third of the southern faubourgs, is a case apart. On the one hand, it is a Parisian name famous across the world, matched only by Montmartre and Saint-Germain-des-Près. On the other, it is a quarter with a weak identity, whether in terms of geographical limits, history – aside from the ‘crazy years’ that have so often been recounted – architecture or population. Montparnasse is proof a contrario of the importance of walls in the definition of Paris quarters: it was built so late in the nineteenth century that Louis XIV’s boulevard, today represented by Boulevard Montparnasse, was never its actual border. As for the wall of the Farmers-General (now the route of Boulevards Raspail and Edgar-Quinet), it had already been demolished. Thus the borders of Montparnasse were always vague. If they may be fixed on one side by Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Jacques, and on another by Avenue Denfert-Rochereau and the Observatoire intersection, and if, in the direction of Faubourg Saint-Germain, Montparnasse scarcely goes beyond Rue du Cherche-Midi, on the outer side no one knows where it comes to an end, so that estate agents do not flinch at extending its glorious name as far as the Porte de Vanves, or even the Porte d’Orléans.

It is not entirely correct to deny Boulevard Montparnasse any border role, as in its route across the quarter it divides two arrondissements between which there is a certain difference, Montparnasse being rather more bourgeois in the 6th arrondissement, and rather more plebeian in the 14th. This uneven development between the two sides of the boulevard goes back to the origins of the quarter. In the 1830s, urbanization began on the side of Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs and Rue du Montparnasse – of which Hurtaut and Magny had already written, fifty years earlier, that ‘newly opened, it is beginning to be equipped with some very fine houses’. But these roads were still semirural in character. Balzac’s Godefroid, for example, in ‘The Initiate’, was ‘surprised to find such puddles of mud in so magnificent a district’,103 at the end of Rue Notre-Dame-du-Champs on the Observatory side. At the same time – that of his Cromwell and Hernani – Victor Hugo lived with Adèle in a small house at the other end of the road. He was only a few steps away from Boulevard Montparnasse, and among the many promenaders attracted by the taverns of the barrières, the open-air shops, the sideshows and the cemetery. Facing the cemetery was an acrobats’ booth. This opposition of parade and burial confirmed him, Hugo said, in his idea of a theatre in which extremes met, and it was this that gave him the idea for the third act of Marion Delorme, in which the Marquis de Nangis’s mourning is contrasted with the grimaces of Le Gracieux. Sainte-Beuve was a neighbour of the Hugos, which led to complications that are well known. Later on, established artists, those exhibited at the Salon, came to live in the ‘6th arrondissement part’ of Montparnasse. Gérôme had his studio on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, known as the Tea Chest because its entrance was decorated with two Chinese figures. Opposite, at no. 70 bis, there was the house of Bouguereau, the idol of Douanier Rousseau.104 Henner, who had his museum close by on Rue Jean-Berrandi; Baudry, who decorated the foyer of the Garnier opera; Jules Thomas, sculptor of the gilded bust of Charles Garnier that can be seen on Rue Auber by the monument; Jean-Paul Laurens; Ramey; Moreau-Vauthier – all these famous artists lived on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. Carolus-Duran was on Rue Jules-Chaplain, Rochegrosse on Rue de l’Ouest (now d’Assas), and Falguière on Rue Vavin. Thus Montparnasse, famous for having been the cradle of modern art, was earlier on the favoured quarter of academic painters, along with Rue Monceau. How strange it is to think that, in these same years, Gauguin lived – between his voyages – with ‘Anna the Javanese’ on the other side of the boulevard, on Rue Doulart, Rue Delambre that was a haunt of ragpickers and prostitutes, and Rue Vercingétorix.

In the romantic period these streets did not yet exist. Beyond the cemetery was no longer Paris. There were fields and windmills, some of which have left their names to streets in this quarter, such as Rue du Moulin-de-la-Vierge and Rue du Moulin-du-Beurre (now du Texel), which housed one of the most famous guinguettes of the age, that of Mother Saguet. For twenty sous you got two boiled eggs, a sauté chicken, cheese, and as much white wine as you liked. Over the years there, you could have met Scribe, Béranger, Devéria, Dumas, Hugo, Baudelaire or Murger, who used the setting for one of his Scènes de la vie de bohème. After 1840, the countryside slowly began to retreat with the building of the railway, which you took from the Chartres station. But this did not prevent theguinguettes from spreading. Around the Barrière du Maine, you had the choice of the Californie, ‘the great popular eatery’ as Delvau describes it, or the restaurant of the Cuisiniers Associés, operated as a cooperative, and where the socialists held their banquets in 1848. Or you could opt for one of the tramps’ dens on the Impasse d’Odessa, which did not yet reach through to Boulevard Montparnasse. Rue Campagne-Première was the domain of the horse, around the stables of the Société Générale de Voitures à Paris. Farriers, carriage makers and saddlers frequented the coachmen’s restaurants, where ‘you ate large portions quite decently cooked, with a certain overdose of veal Marengo. Algerian wine jostled with that of Narbonne; the cheeses did not lack character’.105

But the main road of the guinguettes was Rue de la Gaîté. Wine cost less outside the octroi wall – the Barrière Montparnasse was on Boulevard Edgar-Quinet. This barrière played the same role for the south of Paris as Rue de Paris (now de Belleville) did for the east, or Rue de la Chapelle for the north. This was the site of the Îles-Marquises – which still exists – close to a police station run by the symbolist novelist Ernest Raynaud, a friend of Moréas; the Belle-Polonaise, where you could eat in the garden against the cemetery wall; the tavern of Les Vrais-Amis; the Mille-Colonnes, popular with the bohème of the Latin Quarter under the Second Empire, headed by Courbet and Vallès. It was a magnificent street. In Huysmans’s words:

I soon reached Rue de la Gaîté. The strains of quadrilles escaped from open windows; large posters, outside the doors of a café-concert, announced the opening of Mme Adèle, a popular singer, and the return of M. Adolphe, an eccentric comedian; further along, under the sign of a wine merchant, there were piles of snails, their blond flesh sprinkled with parsley; and here and there, pastry cooks displayed great quantities of cakes in their windows, some dome shaped, others flat and topped with a pink and trembling jelly, some with brown stripes, others hollowed out and showing succulent flesh of a sulphurous yellow. This street well justified its joyful name.106

But nighttime was not completely safe in this popular and joyous Montparnasse:

There was still waste ground, even right on the boulevard . . . badly enclosed by shaky fences which fell down under the weight of the posters stuck to their boards, from the contradictory announcements of the radical distiller Jacques and General Boulanger, to the first images devoted to the novel triumph of the bicycle. It was deplorable but a well-known fact that when night fell and children were in bed, this wasteland was a place for the plots of evil ruffians . . . Nighttime attacks were not a daily occurrence at the heart of Montparnasse, but they were common enough on its borders, in the outer reaches of the station and especially under the railway bridge. Murders conveniently took place along the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet, under the cemetery walls. Woe to those going out at night!107

As late as 1911, the second volume of J.-H. Rosny the elder’s trilogy Les Rafales, whose action takes place in Montparnasse, was titled Dans les rues, roman de moeurs apaches et bourgeoises. Maurice and Jacques, the two ‘apache’ brothers, are pursued by policemen on bicycles. They flee through Rue Gassendi and Passage Tenaille, and reach Avenue du Maine where they separate:

The cyclists sped like lightning towards the mairie: on the other side, the sergeants barred the road in the direction of the Gaîté . . . ‘I’m done for,’ the boy thought. His best chance of escape seemed to be through the Passage de la Tour-de-Vanves [now Rue Olivier-Noyer] . . . He reached Rue Didot and cut diagonally across into Rue de l’Eure . . . On Rue Maindron, the narrow Passage des Thermopyles was tempting, and he ran into it as fast as he could . . . His urgency prevented him from taking a decision: the little steel and rubber machines were on his heels at top speed, so that he found himself in Rue des Plantes without having made any firm decision.108

The Montparnasse balls in the nineteenth century also offered material for tales. The oldest and most famous was the Grande-Chaumière, founded in 1788 by one of those Englishmen who played such an important role in the spread of ‘country dancing’ in Paris, where it was naturalized asdanse champêtre. This was a very large garden on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Boulevard d’Enfer (now Boulevard Raspail), where the block of houses now stands that is isolated by the little Rue Léopold-Robert. It was immensely fashionable in the 1830s, and gave the whole life of this quarter its rhythm. When Godefroid asked whether the house on Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs was inhabited by quiet people, the porter ‘made a graceful gesture and said: “Monsieur has done well for himself in coming here; for except on the days of Chaumière, the boulevard is as deserted as the Pontine marshes.” ’

The majority of customers at the Grande-Chaumière were students from the Latin Quarter. ‘They heroically quaffed a horrible spirit disguised under the fallacious name of old cognac. This general system of refreshment beloved by the Chaumière led to a rowdiness, craziness, and disorder that it is hard indeed to imagine.’109 The quadrille was the popular dance, often degenerating into the forbidden dances of the chahut and the cancan, at which Lola Montès excelled. The 1831 edition of the Manuel des sergents de ville noted: ‘Police constables charged with supervision of dance halls must ensure that no indecent dance such as the chahut or cancan is performed.’110 The vigilance of the police was not limited to proper morals. They also had to keep their eye on a crowd of students who were always ready to shout seditious slogans – ‘Down with Louis-Philippe!’ or ‘Vive la République!’ Enjolras and his lieutenants would certainly have visited the Chaumière from time to time; it remained closed for a year after the insurrection of June 1831. There were rivals to the Chaumière quite close at hand: a few steps away was the Jardin des Montagnes Suisses; on the opposite corner of the same crossroads the Arc-en-Ciel dance hall, which specialized in waltzes; the Ermitage, favoured by legal clerks; and the Élysée-Montparnasse, frequented by barrière prowlers.

The preeminence of the Chaumière lasted until 1847, when a certain Bullier, the proprietor of the Prado – the only large dance hall on the Île de la Cité – bought an old garden on Avenue de l’Observatoire and established there a dance hall that he christened La Closerie des Lilas.111 With its brilliant gas lighting, this was admired for ‘an Oriental decoration, and gaudy murals that a joker called “Alhambra style”’.112 The success of the establishment that would become famous under the name of the Bal Bullier lasted until the outbreak of the First World War, on the eve of which Sonia Delaunay came to dance there in her robe simultanée, along with Mayakovsky in his famous cadmium-yellow shirt.

Who was responsible for transforming a Montparnasse of rustic dance halls into a place that would shake up the old world, between the years of symbolism and August 1914? For André Salmon:

Paul Fort, the master of the Closeries and sustainer of its memorable games . . . was the real creator of modern Montparnasse . . . He listed to me, in a rush of names I could hardly keep up with, all the poets whose work had held the stage at the Gaîté-Montparnasse, and those whose enthusiasm led to heated brawls: Henri de Régnier, Jean Moréas, Émile Verhaeren, Vielé-Griffin, Stuart Merrill, Paul Claudel, Maurice Barrès, Saint-Pol-Roux-le-Magnifique, André Gide, Pierre Louÿs, just to stick with those who became contributors to the literary review Vers et Prose, founded by Paul Fort in 1905 at the heart of Montparnasse: 18 Rue Boissonard.

This street was more recent than its parallel, Rue Campagne-Première. To quote Ramuz:

Rue Boissonnade, however, had a great intimacy. It was largely inhabited by painters, gentlemen and ladies who came from all parts of the world, but especially from Russia, and there is still a certain cosmopolitan Paris of which Montparnasse is one of the centres. This cul-de-sac also housed a working-class population employed in a large printing house, and a number of quiet households of retired people or pensioners.113

For Carco:

Apollinaire gave birth to Montparnasse; he was the first to take us to Baty’s and was fêted everywhere. As soon as he spoke, Guillaume gave a voice to the crowd of poets and painters who, when they listened to him, believed that they heard themselves, and read his words as addressed to them. Before you could notice, adjacent to his cousin Paul Fort whose domain included the long boul’ Mich’, Bullier, the Luxembourg and the Closerie des Lilas, he traced the boundaries of his own fiefdom, and, from the café of Les Deux-Magots where Jarry had once decorated him with the order of the Grande Gidouille, extended this via Rue de Rennes and Boulevard Raspail through to the point where this boulevard crosses with that of Montparnasse. Had he not already sent his scouts out towards Plaisance, where Douanier Rousseau lived, and made his headquarters for a while in the friendly Rue de la Gaîté?114

In 1913, Apollinaire described Montparnasse in the following prophetic fashion:

Montparnasse has replaced Montmartre, the Montmartre of another age, that of artists, singers, windmills and taverns . . . All those expelled for riotous living from the old Montmartre, destroyed by property owners and architects . . . have emigrated in the guise of Cubists, Peaux-Rouges, or Orphic poets. Their loud voices have disturbed the echoes of the crossroads of the Grande-Chaumière. Outside a café established in a house of licentious memory, they set up a redoubtable competitor, the Café de la Rotonde. The Germans were just opposite. The Slavs were keener to come in. The Jews went indifferently from one to the other . . . Let us start by sketching the physiognomy of the crossroads. It will in all likelihood change very soon. At one of the corners of Boulevard Montparnasse a large grocer displays to the eyes of a whole crowd of international artists his enigmatic name ‘Hazard’ . . . Here on the other corner is the Rotonde . . . André Salmon sometimes stops on this terrace, distant like a spectator at the back of a theatre box; Max Jacob is often there, selling his Côte and his drawings, sometimes even the long and serene figure of Charles Morice can be seen against the wall inside. At one corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Rue Delambre is the Dôme: a clientele of regulars, rich people, aesthetes from Massachussets or the banks of the Spree . . . On another corner is Baty or the last wineshop. When he retires, this profession will have all but disappeared in Paris . . . Soon, I would wager, without wishing it, Montparnasse will have its nightclubs and its songsters, as it has its painters and its poets. The day when the songs of someone like Bruant celebrate the different corners of this quarter full of imagination, its creameries, the workshop-barracks of Rue Campagne-Première, the extraordinary dairy-cum-grillroom on Boulevard du Montparnasse, the Chinese restaurant, Tuesdays at the Closerie des Lilas – that day Montparnasse will have given up the ghost.115

It is true that after 1914 Montparnasse never regained this grace and innocence, despite Modigliani, despite Pascin’s bowler hat, despite Kiki, Picasso and Joyce, Brassaï and Man Ray – everything has been said, after all, on the 1920s. But anyone who has experienced the destruction of a quarter as a result of its success can understand why, in 1924, Breton and Aragon, ‘out of hatred of Montparnasse and Montmartre’, decided, as we have seen, to establish their headquarters in a district long out of fashion, at the Café Certa in the Passage de l’Opéra.

Yet Montparnasse had its final moment in the 1950s, when it was no longer fashionable and not yet ravaged. The cafés there were quite gloomy, and their floors strewn with cigarette butts even in the mornings. The only two cinemas were the Studio Raspail in its magnificent modernistic building, and the Studio Parnasse on Rue Jules-Chaplain, where on Tuesday evenings after the last showing the owners asked impossible questions and cineastes could win free tickets. Writers and artists still lived in the quarter and quietly got on with their work. Once on the same morning I happened to pass Sartre in Rue d’Odessa and Giacometti who was coming out of the Raspail-Vert. Each of them was alone, small, badly dressed; they walked just like anyone else – or almost so, since Giacometti limped a bit, as is well-known.

Even today, if you avoid the Dôme, which should never have been allowed to call itself the café of Trotsky and Kertész, the Coupole that is now part of a chain of eateries, and the Closerie with its ex-Maoist balladuriens, Montparnasse has preserved its attractions (writing this word, I suddenly remember Andromaque: ‘. . . and the fate of Orestes/Is to never cease loving your attractions/And to always swear that this will never end’, a verse that matches very well my feeling for the quarter of my childhood). Everyone is free to trace their own itinerary there, in architecture, art, or love, as they pass the Art Déco buildings on Rue Campagne-Première; the little workshop-houses with pointed roofs on Rue Boissonnade; the Cartier foundation with its ‘Look at me!’ spirit that is not out of place in the quarter, and at least has the merit of having preserved Chateaubriand’s cedar tree; the pretty rationalist building of the École Spéciale d’Architecture on the opposite side; the little gardens and studios at the top of Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs; the shaded courtyard of Reid Hall with its library, on Rue de Chevreuse; and the Tschann bookshop, ending up on the little triangular place formed between Rues Vavin and Bréa, overlooked by the hanging garden that belonged to Matisse’s paint supplier, and by the white-and-blue-porcelain steps of the Sauvage building.

Among the countless anonymous triangles that are formed in this way by the convergence of two streets, this is one of my favourites, along with one at the other end of Paris, which the junction of Rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud and Rue des Trois-Couronnes makes with Rue Morand, the site of the Maison des Métallos and a mosque, where children play under the catalpa trees around a curious variant of Rodin’s Thinker. It is undoubtedly such places that Walter Benjamin had in mind in The Arcades Project when he evoked

the little timeless squares that suddenly are there, and to which no name attaches. They have not been the object of careful planning, like the Place Vendôme or the Place de Grève, and do not enjoy the patronage of world history, but owe their existence to houses that have slowly, sleepily, belatedly assembled in response to the summons of the century. In such squares, the trees hold sway; even the smallest afford thick shade. Later, however, in the gaslight, their leaves have the appearance of dark-green frosted glass near the street lamps, and their earliest green glow at dusk is the automatic signal for the start of spring in the big city.116

1 Mercier, Tableau de Paris.

2 ‘It is Lavoisier, of the Academy of Sciences, to whom we owe these heavy and useless barriers, a new oppression exercised by the contractors over their fellow citizens. But alas, this great physicist Lavoisier was a Farmer-General’ (Sébastien Mercier, Le Nouveau Paris, 10 Frimaire, year VII/1798). The Ferme-Générale was a private tax administration. Its offices were venal, and the receipts divided between the city of Paris, the royal Treasury, and the Farmers themselves. The Constituent Assembly suppressed the octroi in 1790, but it was re-established by the Directory.

3 On the other hand, those who lived inside the zone subject to octroi were exempt from one of the other major taxes of the ancien régime, the taille.

4 The diary of Hardy, Paris bookseller (BN, ms. Fr. 6685), Thursday, 21 October 1784. Cited by B. Rouleau, Villages et faubourgs de l’ancien Paris. Histoire d’un espace urbain (Paris: Le Seuil, 1985).

5 Victor Marouk, Juin 1848 (Paris, 1880; republished Paris: Spartacus, 1998).

6 Émile Zola, L’Assommoir. The Rochechouart slaughterhouse was situated where the Lycée Jacques-Decour and the Square d’Anvers now stand. It was one of a series of slaughterhouses built under the First Empire: those of Grenelle, between Avenues de Saxe and de Breteuil, Popincourt (Square Maurice-Gardette, on Avenue Parmentier), Roule, on Avenue de Messine, and l’Hôpital, between Boulevards de l’Hôpital and de la Gare (Pinon, Paris, biographie d’une capitale).

7 On the Left Bank it follows Boulevards Vincent-Auriol, Blanqui, Saint-Jacques, Raspail, Edgar-Quinet, Vaugirard, Pasteur, Garibaldi and Grenelle. On the Right Bank, from the Trocadéro it follows Avenue Kléber, Avenue de Wagram, and the Boulevards Courcelles, Batignolles, Clichy, Rochechouart, La Chapelle, La Villette, Belleville, Ménilmontant, Charonne, Picpus, Reuilly and Bercy.

8 Ledoux, L’Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art.

9 Béraud and Dufay, Dictionnaire historique de Paris (Paris, 1832). This reentrant angle is still very clear, at the end of Rue des Martyrs.

10 Pinon noted that ‘the moment of its completion corresponded with the sale of national properties [confiscated by the Revolution], which saturated the market for land and buildings within the city for many years, or even decades’ (Paris, biographie d’une capitale).

11 Mercier, Tableau de Paris; cf. also Honoré de Balzac, Cousine Bette (1846).

12 Balzac, Ferragus; Baudelaire, ‘Dawn’, Les Fleurs du mal. Baudelaire had an admiration for Balzac that he did not genuinely feel for any other contemporary French writer. ‘Balzac, the prodigious meteor that will cover our country with a cloud of glory, like a bizarre and exceptional sunrise, an aurora borealis flooding the icy desert with its fairy light’ (‘Madame Bovary par Gustave Flaubert’, published in L’Artiste, 18 October 1857). And again: ‘Honoré de Balzac, you the most heroic, the most extraordinary, the most romantic and the most poetic of all the characters that you have produced from your womb’ (‘The Salon of 1846. Heroism of Modern Life’, in Charles Baudelaire, The Mirror of Art [London: Phaidon, 1955], p. 130).

13 The 1st arrondissement corresponded to the Champs-Élysées and the Faubourg Saint-Honoré; the 2nd to the Palais-Royal and the Chaussée-d’Antin; the 3rd to the Faubourgs Poissonière and Montmartre; the 4th to the Louvre and Les Halles; the 5th to the Faubourg Saint-Denis and the Sentier; the 6th to the Arts et Métiers and the Temple; the 7thto the Marais; the 8th to the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the Quartier Popincourt; the 9th to the two Îles; the 10th to the Faubourg Saint-Germain; the 11th to the Latin Quarter; the 12th to the Faubourgs Saint-Jacques and Saint-Marceau. Out of these twelve arrondissements, only three were on the Left Bank.

14 Cited by Jeanne Pronteau, Les Numérotages des rues de Paris du XVe siècle à nos jours (Paris: Commission des travaux historiques, 1966), an impressive work which I have borrowed from in the following pages.

15 Only the part of the present faubourg between the Porte Saint-Honoré – at the level with Rue Royale – and the site of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule was actually known as the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Beyond this, and up to the Roule barrier – the site today of the Place des Ternes – was the Faubourg du Roule.

16 Sauval, Histoire et recherches.

17 Hurtaut and Magny, Dictionnaire historique. In texts of this time, the term ‘Étoile’ denoted either the present Étoile (as it was from the late eighteenth century), or else the Rond-Point des Champs-Élysées, sometimes called the ‘Étoile des Champs-Élysées’. In the present text, I believe it is the Rond-Point. In actual fact, the avenues of the Champs-Élysées gardens did not extend above the Allée des Veuves (now Avenue Montaigne), so that it was impossible that they ‘ended up in the form of a star’ at the present Place de l’Étoile. In the same way, the ‘height’ that was razed by the Marquis de Marigny was more likely a small hill on the side of the Rond-Point rather than the large prominence on which the Arc de Triomphe was later constructed.

18 Ibid.

19 The Allée des Veuves, perpendicular to the Champs-Élysées, is now on one side Avenue Matignon and on the other Avenue Montaigne.

20 This was demolished in 1935 and replaced by the US embassy, supposedly symmetrical to La Vrillière’s hôtel built by Chalgrin on the corner of Rue Saint-Florentin.

21 In the first few days of January 1870, ‘Blanqui conducted his review, without anyone suspecting the strange spectacle. Leaning against a tree, upright in the crowd among those who watched as he did, the attentive old man saw his friends arrive, soldiers among the throng of people, silent amid murmurs that from one moment to the next rose into shouts’ (Gustave Geffroy, L’Enfermé [Paris, 1926]).

22 Victor Fournel, Ce qu’ on voit dans les rues de Paris (Paris, 1858).

23 Joanne, Paris illustré en 1870. See also François Gasnault, Guinguettes et lorettes, bals public à Paris au XIXe siècle (Paris: Aubier, 1986).

24 D’Ariste and Arrivetz, Les Champs-Élysées (Paris, 1913).

25 The Convention turned this into a hospital, and in 1936 it was transferred to Clichy.

26 25 September 1846: ‘I have corrected the whole of Cousine Bette, and am working on the end of the manuscript; in six days from now, on 3rd October, it will be finished, and Cousin Pons will be finished on the 12th . . . Santi, the architect, is working like a slave, and on Sunday I shall know the sum of his quotation for the repairs and constructions, as the front wall has to be taken back, this being obligatory in the Beaujon quarter . . . I have reason to believe that the repairs will come to 15,000 francs. Thus the property would cost a total of 67,000 francs, made up of 50,000 the purchase price, 2,000 expenses, and 15,000 on repairs and embellishments. That is nothing in the present conditions of Paris, and we would not have had for 12,000 francs this home that I shall have the pleasure of presenting to you.’

27 A. Delvau, Histoire anecdotique des barrières de Paris (Paris: Dentu, 1865).

28 Ibid.

29 Under Henri II, the Porte Saint-Antoine was embellished with a triumphal arch designed by Jean Goujon. Located alongside the Bastille, this was demolished in 1777 to ease the flow of traffic. The Saint-Antoine-des-Champs abbey was situated where the Saint-Antoine hospital now stands.

30 Le Faubourg Saint-Antoine, architecture et métiers d’art (Paris: Action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 1998). Boulevard Richard-Lenoir is named after this factory.

31 Sigmund Engländer, Geschichte der französischer Arbeiterassociationen (Hamburg, 1864), vol. 3, p. 126; cited by Walter Benjamin in The Arcades Project, p. 521.

32 Daniel Halévy, Pays parisiens (Paris: Grasset, 1932; republished in Les Cahiers rouges, 2000).

33 The name of Baudin has been given to a graceless little street giving on to Rue Saint-Sébastien. There is also a Hôtel Baudin on Avenue Ledru-Rollin. This is not very much for a man to whom republicans wanted to erect a monument at the end of the Second Empire; the collection gave rise to incidents throughout the country and a trial with strong political echoes.

34 Fortunately there remains the magnificent Durand-Dessert gallery.

35 Named after a president of the Paris parlement under Charles VI, who had his country house there.

36 Delvau, Histoire anecdotique des barrières de Paris. On calicots, see above, p. 52, note 59.

37 Privat d’Anglemont, Paris anecdote. This arrangement was not invented here, there were pictures of it in the technical magazines of the time. Certain of these driving belts even cut through the ceilings to reach the upper floors.

38 Baudelaire, ‘Salon de 1846’. Macready was an English actor, contemporary with Lemaître, famous in particular for his interpretation of Richard III.

39 I.e., the procession down from the hillside taverns of what is now known as Belleville. [Tr.]

40 Privat d’Anglemont, Paris anecdote.

41 Benjamin Gastineau, Le Carnaval (Paris, 1854). Cited from Jacques Rancière, ‘Le bon temps ou la barrière des plaisirs’, in Les Révoltes Logiques, 7, spring-summer 1978.

42 Baudelaire wrote about Musset: ‘I’ve never been able to bear this master of foppery with his spoiled-child impudence, calling on heaven and hell for matters concerning his bed and board, his muddy torrent of grammatical and prosodic errors, finally his complete inability to understand the work that transforms reverie into art’ (letter to Armand Fraisse, 18 February 1860, Selected Letters of Charles Baudelaire [London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1986], p. 117; translation modified). Rimbaud wrote: ‘Musset is fourteen times loathsome to us, suffering generations obsessed by visions – insulted by his angelic sloth! . . . It is all French, namely detestable to the highest degree’ (letter to Paul Demeny, 15 May 1871, Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works and Selected Letters[Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005], p. 379).

43 The barrière at the end of Rue de l’Orillon was eventually known as the barrière Ramponeau. The present Rue Ramponeau continues Rue de l’Orillon on the other side of Boulevard de Belleville. The Tambour-Royal disappeared under the Consulate.

44 Legrand d’Aussy, Vie publique et privée des Français (Paris, 1826). Desnoyers was on the corner of Rue de Belleville and the street that today bears his modernized name, Desnoyez.

45 E. Vidocq, Mémoires (1828).

46 At the time of the 1851 coup d’état: ‘The corner where we were standing was lonely. On the left there was the Place de la Bastille, dark and gloomy; you could see nothing there, but you could sense a crowd; regiments were out in battle array; they were not bivouacking, they were ready to march; the muffled sound of breathing could be heard; the square was full of that glistening shower of pale sparks which bayonets give forth at night time. Above this abyss of shadows rose up black and stark the Column of July’ (Victor Hugo, History of a Crime [trans. Joyce and Locker], 1877).

47 Louis Veuillot, Odeurs de Paris (Paris, 1867).

48 Since 1945, the Place du Colonel-Fabien.

49 Delvau, Histoire anecdotique des barrières de Paris. The Combat was finally closed in 1833.

50 Léon-Paul Fargue, Le Piéton de Paris (Paris: Gallimard, 1932).

51 I long believed that the name of Samson here, often spelled as Sanson, was because the great public executioner of this name lived close by, in Rue des Marais-du-Temple, in a building ‘protected by an iron railing, which was entered through a small gate; in the middle was a metal slot like a letterbox, in which were posted the missives from the Procureur-Général to alert the executioner that his services would be required’ (Eusèbe Girault de Saint-Fargeau, Les 48 Quartiers de Paris [Paris: Blanchard, 1850]). Gavroche wrote to the two children he had taken under his protection: ‘And then we’ll go to see the guillotine work. I’ll show you the executioner. He lives in Rue des Marais. Monsieur Sanson. He has a letterbox at the gate’ (Les Misérables, Volume IV, book 6, chapter 2). But the etymology is wrong; this Samson was a local property owner.

52 Girault de Saint-Fargeau, Les 48 Quartiers de Paris.

53 In his Madness and Civilisation (London: Routledge, 2001), Michel Foucault shows the role of former leper colonies – become useless, like TB sanatoriums in the 1960s – in the organization of repression in the seventeenth century.

54 Alexis Martin, Promenades dans les vingt arrondissments de Paris (Paris: Hennuyer, 1890). The Maison Dubois, which bore the name of the surgeon who founded it, is today the Fernand-Widal hospital.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid.

57 Émile de La Bédollière, Le Nouveau Paris. Histoire de ses vingt arrondissements (Paris: Barba, 1860).

58 Pierre Seveste was the grandson of the gravedigger at the Madeleine cemetery, where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were buried along with many others. Louis XVIII had the Chapelle Expiatoire built on the site, designed by Percier and Fontaine.

59 ‘And no one would make you turn your eyes away from the diamantiferous mud of the Place de Clichy’ (André Breton, Ode to Charles Fourier [London: Cape Goliard, 1969]). The plinth of the statue of Fourier is still there, in the middle of the boulevard in front of the Lycée Jules-Ferry.

60 Hurteau and Magny, Dictionnaire historique de la ville de Paris. In 1760, Ramponeau left the Tambour-Royal on Rue du Faubourg du Temple to his son, and established himself at the Grande Pinte – the church of La Trinité would later be built on this site. The saloon there could accommodate six hundred people at table.

61 Mémoires of the Marquise de Créquy. Sébastien Mercier, unable to pardon Ledoux for the wall of the Farmers-General, notes that ‘Mme Thélusson’s house is a spiral shell; you need to be a snail to live there: circular lines predominate, to the point that the head turns . . . The most dangerous creature for the government is the architect, if he ever has a fit of delirium.’

62 On these divisions, and this quarter in particular, see Pinon, Paris, biographie d’une capital. This great sewer continued that of Rue de Turenne, passed beneath the theatres on the Boulevard du Temple and then followed the route of a number of present streets, some of which were built at the same time as it was covered, in the 1760s: Rue du Château-d’Eau, Rue des Petites-Écuries, Rue Richer, Rue de Provence, then Rue de la Pépinière, Rue La Boétie, Rue du Colisée and Rue Marbeuf. Its outlet to the Seine was near the present Place de l’Alma. This was the prehistoric course of the Seine.

63 Jacques-François Blondel, L’Homme du monde éclairé par les arts, vol. 2. Reproduced in J. Adamson, Correspondance secrète, vol. 8 (London, 1787).

64 Pascal Étienne, La Faubourg Poissonière, architecture, élégance et décor (Paris: Action artistique de la ville de Paris, 1986). The first two directors of the Menus were Michel-Ange Slodtz and Michel-Ange Challe, this succession marking the transition from rococo to neoclassical taste.

65 Paul Léautaud, Le Petit Ami (Paris: Mercure de France, 1903). Léautaud’s father was a prompter at the Comédie-Française.

66 J.-K. Huysmans, Parisian Sketches [1880] (Sawtry: Daedalus, 2004), p. 34.

67 The invasion of the Chaussée-d’Antin by noble hotels pushed the market gardeners and taverners to the north, and they now established themselves in a part of the domain of the abbey of Montmartre, bordered by Rues des Porcherons (now Saint-Lazare), Blanche, La Bruyère and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

68 Delvau, Histoire anecdotique des barrières de Paris. The Nouvelle-France barracks, opposite the ends of Rue de Montholon and Rue de Bellefond, had been built at the turn of the century by the Maréchal de Biron. Legend has it that Hoche and Bernadotte had been sergeants there. No. 82 on Rue du Faubourg-Poissonière is still occupied by a barracks of the garde républicaine, the present buildings dating from the 1930s.

69 Rue Breda is today divided between Rue Henri-Monnier and Rue Clauzel.

70 La Bédollière, Le Nouveau Paris. ‘Lorette,’ Balzac explains, ‘is a decent word to express the condition of a girl in a condition hard to name, and which, out of modesty, the Académie Française had neglected to define, given the age of its forty members’ (‘Histoire et physiologie des Boulevards de Paris’).

71 Balzac, The Lesser Bourgeoisie.

72 Miraculously intact, its entrance is at 80 Rue Taitbout.

73 Pauline Viardot lived on the Square d’Orléans, and la Malibran had her hôtel – still standing – not far away, on Rue de l’Élysée-des-Beaux-Arts (now André-Antoine).

74 Called after the shop sign ‘Au Roi de Pologne’, a reference to the Duc d’Anjou, king of Poland and the future Henri III, who had a country house where the Gare Saint-Lazare now stands.

75 This was the first Gare Saint-Lazare. The station was moved to its present site in 1860, and entirely rebuilt in the 1880s. The original tunnel should not be confused with the Batignolles tunnel, which was much further north. Other sites had been envisaged for the station: ‘When the question of its building arose, the site that had been intended for it, on the Place de l’Europe, turned out to be so far from the business centre, and built-up Paris, that the option was seriously considered of locating the station at the southeastern corner of the Place de la Madeleine and Rue Tronchet. The rails, supported on “elegant cast-iron arches raised twenty feet above the ground, with a length of 615 metres”, according to the report, would have crossed Rue Saint-Lazare, Rue Saint-Nicolas, Rue des Mathurins and Rue de Castellane, each one of which would have had its particular station’ (Maxime Du Camp, Paris, ses organes, ses fonctions et sa vie dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle [Paris: Hachette, 1869]).

76 Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 1, p. 694.

77 Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way, Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 2, p. 443.

78 Girault de Saint-Fargeau, Les 48 quartiers de Paris.

79 Ibid.

80 Pinon, Paris, biographie d’une capitale.

81 La Bourbe was the popular name for the maternity hospital of Port-Royal, which, before the opening of the boulevard of that name, opened onto the little Rue de la Bourbe. The Enfants-Trouvés (Foundlings) was on Rue d’Enfer (originally via infera, now Denfert-Rochereau, having added the name of the colonel in command of the Belfort garrison in 1870–1, through a kind of municipal pun), where the hospital of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul now stands. This was in fact one of three Enfants-Trouvés in Paris, along with that on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, now the site of Square Trousseau, and that on the Île de la Cité, opposite the Hôtel-Dieu. The Marie-Thérèse infirmary had been founded by Chateaubriand and his wife for aged and needy priests.

82 Du Camp, Paris, ses organs. The Barrière d’Italie (or de Fontainebleau, they were one and the same) was at what is now the Place d’Italie. The Barrière des Deux-Moulins was behind the Salpêtrière, on what is now Boulevard Vincent-Auriol (the octroi wall originally left the Salpêtrière outside of the city, but its course was altered later on to include it). The Barrière de Mont-Parnasse was at the end of Rue du Montparnasse, on what is now Boulevard Edgar-Quinet; and the Barrière du Maine was at the end of the Chausée de Maine, very close to where Avenue du Maine passes under the esplanade of the Gare Montparnasse.

83 Honoré de Balzac, The Commision in Lunacy (1836). The gate or ‘tower’ of the Enfants-Trouvés was a mechanism of the kind used to deposit parcels in post offices: it enabled a mother to abandon her baby without giving her name.

84 La Pitié was not as it is today an extension of the Salpêtrière, but more or less where the mosque now stands; Sainte-Pélagie was on Rue de la Clef; Sainte-Marthe-de-Scipion was the hôtel of Scipion Sardini, on Rue Scipion, which served as the hospitals’ central bakery right up to the 1980s; the Savonnerie was, according to Hurtaut and Magny, ‘a large old building constructed close to Chaillot, after the railings that enclose the Cours de la Reine’. It had previously been converted from a soap factory into the ‘Royal manufacture of works à la turque’, in other words carpets. Around the chapel, built by Marie de Médicis in 1615, there was a place of charity ‘for the reception, feeding, maintenance and instruction of children taken from the hospitals for the sick poor’.

85 ‘Bicêtre, a dreadful ulcer on the body politic, wide, deep, and pus-filled, which you can only imagine by turning your gaze away. Even the air of the place can be smelled four hundred yards off, everything about it says that you are approaching a place where force is exercised, an asylum of misery, degradation and misfortune’ (Mercier,Tableau de Paris).

86 Hurtaut and Magny, Dictionnaire historique de la ville de Paris.

87 ‘L’Hôpital général’, an anonymous pamphlet of 1676, published as Annex 1 to Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation. Almost a century later, ‘it is impossible to admire too highly the strict order that reigns in this establishment, and that keep in subordination several thousands of poor of both sexes and every age, the majority of whom are impossible to discipline, either because of the wantonness that led to their enclosure, or for lack of education’.

88 You may recall that the ‘old man’ got the better of the hoodlum, and gave him a long lecture, which concluded: ‘Now go, and think over what I have said to you. By the bye, what did you want of me? My purse? Here it is’ (Hugo, Les Misérables, Volume IV, book 4, chapter 2).

89 Delvau, Les Dessous de Paris. The streets referred to here are Rue des Deux-Moulins, the main Rue d’Austerlitz, and Rue de la Barrière-des-Gobelins, which were absorbed by the new hospital of La Pitié, adjacent to the Salpêtrière.

90 Privat d’Anglemont, Paris anecdote. This is rather like old Mabeuf in Les Misérables, growing indigo in the same part of the faubourg.

91 Mercier, Tableau de Paris. The cemetery was situated where the gardens of the former Hôtel de Clamart stood.

92 Ibid. [‘By order of the king, God is forbidden to perform miracles on this site’ – one of the most celebrated graffiti in history, which appeared on the wall of the cemetery soon after it was closed’ – Tr.]

93 Adresse des habitants des faubourgs Saint-Antoine et Saint-Marceau à la Convention nationale, printed by order of the National Convention.

94 Sauval, Histoire et recherches.

95 Martin, Promenades dans les vingt arrondissements de Paris.

96 These four hospitals would presumably have been the Val-de-Grâce, the Cochin hospital, the Port-Royal maternity hospital, and the hospital of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. But Broca, Tarnier, Sainte-Anne and others could also have been added.

97 Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p. 86.

98 Balzac noted in ‘Le Dictionnaire des enseignes’: ‘Aux bons enfants. Louvet, wine-merchant, no. 9, Place de Grève. Lovers of tragedy, hasten to M. Louvet’s, ask him for a litre and place yourself at one of the tables in his saloon; four o’clock strikes, the crowd gets agitated; the climax is approaching; you see the patient mount the fatal steps . . . There are so many sensitive people nowadays, that on days of executions on the Place de Grève, the rooms of wineshops, even if they were as big as the Louvre galleries, would be unable to contain them all.’

99 105 AN, BB18 1123. Cited by Louis Chevalier, Classes laborieuses et classes dangereuses à Paris pendant la première moitié du XIXe siècle (Paris: Plon, 1958).

100 Victor Hugo, The Last Day of a Condemned (trans. Eugenia de B.).

101 Maxime Du Camp, Les Convulsions de Paris (Paris, 1878–80). For Du Camp, who received the cross of the Légion d’Honneur for his role in the repression of the June days of 1848, this crowd was a prefiguration of the Commune.

102 Ivan Turgenev, ‘The Execution of Troppmann’.

103 Balzac, The Wrong Side of Paris.

104 The Douanier himself lived at various times on the Chaussée du Maine, Rue Vercingétorix, Rue Gassendi and Rue Daguerre, before settling at Plaisance on Rue Perrel.

105 André Salmon, Montparnasse (Paris: André Bonne, 1950).

106 J.-K. Huysmans, Le Drageoir aux épices (1874).

107 Salmon, Montparnasse.

108 In 1933 a film was made of this book, with Jean-Pierre Aumont and Madeleine Ozeray.

109 Edmond Texier, Tableau de Paris (Paris, 1850).

110 Cited in François Gasnault, Guinguettes et lorettes.

111 The name seems to have been taken from that of an inn on the Orléans road, where Chateaubriand sometimes stopped for refreshment. The Bullier dance hall was where the Centre des Oeuvres Universitaires now stands.

112 Alexandre Privat d’Anglemont, La Closerie des Lilas, quadrille en prose (Paris, 1848), cited in Gasnault, Guinguettes et lorettes. The name Closerie des Lilas later passed to the establishment on the other side of Avenue de l’Observatoire, which still remains. The statue of Marshal Ney, which was next to the Bullier dance hall, was moved to make way for the railway station of the RER line to Sceaux.

113 Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz, Notes d’un Vaudois (Paris: Gallimard, 1938). Ramuz lived in a passage between Rues Boissonnade and Campagne-Première.

114 Carco, De Montparnasse au Quartier Latin.

115 Cited by Salmon, Montparnasse.

116 Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p. 516.

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