Where the Writers Slept in Paris: Literary Haunts in the City of Light

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Where the Writers Slept in Paris: Literary Haunts in the City of Light

Author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, once said: “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.” Having drifted to Paris myself – and continually drifting back for shorter stints – I wholly endorse this statement.

Paris is like a lighthouse for artistic souls who want to create, and fertilize their creativity with all the art, culture, life, food, and magic that the City of Light has to offer. Paris has attracted countless authors over the centuries, and here are some famous authors who once called Paris “home.”

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo, author of some of the greatest literary works of our time – Les Misérables, The Hunchback of Notre Dame – rented an apartment in the Marais from 1832 to 1848 at what was formerly 6 Place Royale (it’s now Place des Vosges). The Besançon native said of Paris, “To breathe Paris is to preserve one’s soul.” He moved into the apartment at age 30 with his wife, Adèle. At this museum, Maison de Victor Hugo, you can walk through its well-preserved rooms, soaking up the essence of the literary history there.

The museum, which is free to enter, describes the area thusly: “it is currently laid out in such a way as to take you through his life, evoking his writing through furniture, objects and works of art that belonged to him or that he created himself.”

Address: 6 Place Des Vosges, 4th

Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence author Edith Wharton came to Paris in winter 1907. While there, she stayed in a rented apartment on the Left Bank which was owned by George Vanderbilt. It sits at 58 Rue de Varenne. Wharton had expensive taste; she loved staying at Hôtel de Crillon at Place de la Concorde. In April 1909, she booked a room at the Crillon and wrote the draft of her novel Custom of the County.

Wharton described the Crillon as “a very nice apartment up in the sky, overlooking the whole of Paris.” The present-day hotel staff believes that Wharton likely rented what’s currently called the Bernstein Suite, reports The New York Times. The suite is named for composer Leonard Bernstein who lived in the suite on and off until 1990.

Address: 58 Rue de Varenne, 7th, and Hôtel de Crillon (10 Place De La Concorde, 8th)

Marcel Proust

Proust’s bedroom at 102 Boulevard Haussmann was his protection from the outside world. The acclaimed novelist and author of In Search of Lost Time famously suffered from asthma and severe allergies. So, to protect himself from the elements, his bedroom was lined with a layer of cork – yes, the same material used for wine bottles. At Musée Carnavalet you can find a replica of this bedroom lined with cork.

Although Proust passed away before completing the final volumes of In Search of Lost Time, he remains one of the most famous French writers of all time. Proust lived there from 1907 to 1919. He died in 1922 and is buried at Père-Lachaise Cemetery.

Address: 102 Boulevard Haussmann, 8th

 

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Scott Fitzgerald

At 14 Rue de Tilsitt in the 8th arrondissement, you’ll find F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first apartment, which he shared with his love and muse, wife Zelda Fitzgerald. The author of The Great Gatsby lived here around 1925, and it’s located near to the Arc de Triomphe. Reportedly, Fitzgerald’s friend and contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, didn’t enjoy visiting the Fitzgerald’s at this apartment, because he preferred the grittier scene on the Left Bank.

Later, the couple stayed at 58 Rue Vaugirard near Luxembourg Gardens. They lived there in the summer of 1928. Zelda wrote a letter to a friend, writing of their accommodations, “We are vaguely floating about on the surface of a fancy French apartment… It looks as if we’ll never stay anywhere long enough to see how we like it.”

Addresses: 14 Rue de Tilsitt, 8th, and 58 Rue Vaugirard, 6th

 

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Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast author Ernest Hemingway was as infatuated with Paris as any of its many admirers. He notably said of the city, “Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America.” The beauty of Paris pulled Hemingway to the city. It made him happy, he said. “There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.” Hemingway, happy in Paris, had many residences throughout the city; we’ll highlight two of the most notable ones here.

The first one we’ll review is 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the Latin Quarter, where he lived with his first wife, Hadley. They lived in the apartment from January 1922 to August 1923. At the time, there was a dance club below the apartment, which served as inspiration for the club featured in his novel The Sun Also Rises.

Their apartment was a two-room apartment on the third floor of the building, and it had no hot water. In his book The Snows of Kilimanjaro, he writes about this apartment: “From the apartment you could only see the wood and coal man’s place. He sold wine too, bad wine. The golden horse’s head outside the Boucherie Chevaline where the carcasses hung yellow gold and red in the open window, and the green painted co-operative where they bought their wine; good wine and cheap.”

When Hadley and Hemingway first came to Paris in 1921, they stayed for three weeks at what was then called Hotel Jacob and is now the Hotel d’Angleterre. The hotel came on recommendation from Hemingway’s American writer friend, Sherwood Anderson, who introduced to Hemingway to writers Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound.

Addresses: 74 Rue Du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th, and Hotel d’Angleterre (44 Rue Jacob, 6th)

James Joyce

Irishman and celebrated author, James Joyce, came to Paris when he was 38 years old, in June 1920, on the recommendation of Ezra Pound. He was looking for a place where he could finish his book, Ulysses.

Joyce ended up staying, loving Paris as much as other authors on this list and lived there for 20 years. Over the course of those two decades, Joyce lived in a whopping 18 different residences in five different arrondissements in Paris, including 71 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, where he lived in the courtyard apartment, apartment “E.” It’s here where he finished Ulysses.

Address: 71 Rue Du Cardinal Lemoine, 5th

 

James Baldwin

The If Beale Street Could Talk author once said, “It is perfectly possible to be enamored of Paris while remaining totally indifferent or even hostile to the French.” While he may not have been besotted with Parisians, Baldwin loved Paris. When he was 24 years old, Baldwin, a Harlem native from New York City, came to Paris. He had $40 in his pocket and nothing more. Baldwin primarily stayed in low-cost hotels in Paris, many of them in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, which was filled with artists and writers during the 1940s and 1950s.

An article in the The Seattle Times wisely notes how “Most of the articles about Baldwin in France are focused on his life in the South of France…and most of the articles about Paris are where he hung out. Perhaps it was because he arrived penniless and couch surfed?

Address: Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood, 6th arrondissement

 

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George Sand

Female French novelist George Sand – born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin de Francueil – was a Paris native and is considered one of the most successful women writers of the 19th century. She was born in Paris in 1804, and went on to become a novelist, memoirist, and journalist. Musée de la Vie Romantique (where George Sand lived) is a small house that has been called “cottage-like.” It has a beautiful garden and stained-glass windows. Sand had a love affair with the acclaimed Polish composer Frédéric Chopin for 10 years.

Address: Musée de la Vie Romantique (16 Rue Chaptal, 9th)


Lead photo credit : La Seine. Photo credit: Rinat Abdullin/ Flickr

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.

Comments

  • Joyce Adams
    2023-03-03 11:07:16
    Joyce Adams
    I enjoyed your article! I had forgotten that Edith Wharton had lived in Paris also!

    REPLY

  • Cynthia Kulikov
    2023-03-03 07:52:10
    Cynthia Kulikov
    Lovely article, thank you so much for providing all the addresses in one place!

    REPLY

  • Richard Figueroa
    2023-03-02 06:06:17
    Richard Figueroa
    I was disappointed in that Oscar Wilde was not listed , I have slept in his Suite, where he died, L’Hotel 13 Rue de Beau Arts , Paris 6 or 7

    REPLY