A small museum to visit if you are interested in French literature is where Honoré de Balzac (1790-1850) spent seven years (1840-47). Balzac was definitely one of France’s leading authors, one of the founders of “realism” and has influenced a number of other authors – Zola, Dickens, Poe, Dostoyevsky… "La Maison de Balzac" is the only remaining place among the many where Balzac lived. He was in constant fear of creditors and the house is also known for having different exits.
This leads us, two or three levels under the top floor where Balzac lived, to one of the most surprising streets in Paris, rue Berton. This is a street where you really can feel that hardly anything has changed since a few centuries. The street is partly so narrow that I doubt that it ever was possible to pass here with a horse carriage. This was of course outside Paris until 1860 and we can see a stone which marks the limit between the villages of Passy and Auteuil.
From Balzac’s garden we can see a Turkish flag… and the roof of a building which today is part of the Turkish Embassy. This building, “hôtel particulier”, private mansion, which today houses the reception and living quarters of the Turksih ambassador, is better known as “Hôtel de Lamballe”. The Princess de Lamballe (widow of one of Frances’ richest men) lived here during her last years, but being a very close friend to Marie-Antoinette, she probably spent most of her time following the court, including during the difficult last years. Her name is perhaps particularly associated with her death. Made prisoner during the Revolution, she was lynched, killed, in September 1792 by the crowd, just outside the prison “La Force” in the Marais area, after having refused to “swear hatred to the King and the Queen”. Her head was then put on a pike and was “paraded” in front of the Temple (see previous posts), where the royal family was imprisoned. “La Force” is not there anymore, but you can see the trace of a remaining wall on my photo.
Her mansion looked different those days, in red bricks. It has been remodeled since and served during a few decades as mental home – Guy de Maupassant was one of the clients. What remains “as it was”, is the house of the guards at the entrance gate and the double stairs in front of the mansion. There used to be a park all the way down to the Seine bank, but this has of course changed completely. But… there is still some well kept green space. (The place can only be visited after special agreement with the Embassy.)