Friday Fun: Homes of French Writers

Grandiloquent gestures and symbols do not sit well with me. I express my love of my current home, France, in simpler ways – not just today, but always.

Madame de Chatelet's chateau in Cirey-sur-Blaise, where she lived in domestic bliss with Voltaire. From chateaudecirey.com
Madame de Chatelet’s chateau in Cirey-sur-Blaise, where she lived in domestic bliss with Voltaire. From chateaudecirey.com

Madame de Chatelet was a respected author, mathematician and physicist, who translated Newton into French. Voltaire was her lover, friend and intellectual collaborator for 15 years, until her untimely death in childbirth at the age of 42. Voltaire wrote of her:

Seldom has so fine a mind and so much taste been united with so much ardour for learning; but she also loved the world and all the amusements of her age and sex. Nevertheless she left all this to go and bury herself in a dilapidated house on the frontiers of Champagne and Lorraine, where the land was very fertile and very ugly.

Madame de Stael's Swiss chateau at Coppet, from swisscastles.ch
Madame de Stael’s Swiss chateau at Coppet, from swisscastles.ch

 

Madame de Staël was one of the most vocal opponents of Napoleon and had to flee across the border to Switzerland to escape persecution. She felt restless and lonely in rural Coppet, missed the intellectual verve of Paris.

The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it. (Madame de Staël)

Francois Mauriac's home Malagar. From malagar.aquitaine.fr
Francois Mauriac’s home Malagar. From malagar.aquitaine.fr

Mauriac was one of the 3 Great ‘M’s to originate in Bordeaux (the others being Montaigne and Montesquieu) – a novelist, dramatist and journalist who won the Nobel Prize in 1952.

I believe that only poetry counts … A great novelist is first of all a great poet. (Mauriac)

Emile Zola's house in Medan, not far from Paris. From wikiwand.com
Emile Zola’s house in Medan, not far from Paris. From wikiwand.com

Thanks to the success of L’Assommoir, Zola bought a small house in Medan and extended it so that he could receive his friends, Guy de Maupassant, Cézanne, Manet, Alphonse Daudet and so on. How I’d have liked to be a fly on the wall there!

Victor Hugo's handsome pile at Villequier in Normandy, from patrimoine-normand.com
Victor Hugo’s handsome pile at Villequier in Normandy, from patrimoine-normand.com

Hugo and his family spent a lot of time in this house and village on the river Seine, but their time here was marked by tragedy too. His favourite daughter Leopoldine and her husband (they had just married, despite some family opposition) drowned in the river there.

By contrast, Flaubert's modest pavillion in Normandy, from maisons-ecrivains.fr
By contrast, Flaubert’s modest pavilion in Normandy, from maisons-ecrivains.fr

This is the only building left of a much larger manor house and property belonging to Flaubert’s father. The writer adored this house and wrote all of his work here.

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. (Flaubert)

Marguerite Duras' house at Neauphle-le-Chateau is clearly not a chateau either, from maisons-ecrivains.fr
Marguerite Duras’ house at Neauphle-le-Chateau is clearly not a chateau either, from maisons-ecrivains.fr

The solitude of writing is a solitude without which writing could not be produced, or would crumble, drained bloodless by the search for something else to write. (Duras)

However, Alexandre Dumas' Chateau de Monte-Cristo in Yvelines shows just how much of a bestseller he really was. From lesitedelhistoire.blogspot.com
However, Alexandre Dumas’ Chateau de Monte-Cristo in Yvelines shows just how much of a bestseller he really was. From lesitedelhistoire.blogspot.com

Cautionary note as to the last, however: Dumas designed and built the chateau from scratch and moved in the grandiose custom-built venue in 1847. By 1850 he was bankrupt and had to sell all the furniture, the house itself and find refuge from his creditors in Belgium.

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25 thoughts on “Friday Fun: Homes of French Writers”

    1. I think most of them are, in fact, museums: certainly Victor Hugo’s, Mauriac’s, the Chateau de Coppet and Chateau de Cirey are open to the public at least part of the time.

  1. Zola’s is very pretty, but if I had to choose it would be one not here – Colette’s apartment in the Palais Royal…

    1. Thank you for commenting and visiting. It’s a beautiful site, isn’t it (not mine, maisons-ecrivains.fr I mean) I will be spending many hours on it, I’ve no doubt…

    1. I’ll put in a good word for the local one, Coppet – set very near the lakeside outside Geneva, with a view of both the Alps and the Jura – and those lovely gardens. The pond becomes an outdoor skating rink in winter, too.

  2. Count me in on that literary tour Jacqui… yet despite such grand homes I think Marguerite Duras’ house at Neauphle-le-Chateau is my favourite – and the overgrown ivy will keep the OH busy while I read & write… especially if I forbid any electrical tools! 🙂

  3. What? No Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Charmettes? That’s near Chambéry.

    I highly recommend the visit of Balzac’s house in Paris. They have his desk and his coffee pot!

    1. I’d already posted a pitcure of Rousseau’s charming little place at Charmettes. And of course Voltaire’s chateau. I wanted to move beyond Rhone-Alpes this time.
      Ha, Balzac’s coffee pot must have been very well used! Next time I go to Paris, I will certainly try to visit.

  4. What a fascinating post – sort of 19th century Hello! magazine only much better. didn’t Zola and Hugo do well for themselves? Flaubert’s looks like a pretty fancy garage. You do find some brilliant photos for your Friday features, Marina! (Oh btw, I sent you an email a couple of weeks ago that maybe you didn’t see, or it didn’t arrive? I’ll send it again if it’s disappeared!)

    1. Ooh, I didn’t receive any email? I do try to check my spam folder as well, as in recent weeks I’ve had real emails going into spam and spammy ones turning up in my Inbox.

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