16 Rue de la Verrerie
Volume IV Saint Denis and Volume IV/Book Second
Place in the narrative
This where Marius lives when he leaves the Gorbeau hovel after Patron Minette’s attempted imprisonment of Valjean. The whole affair leaves him heart-broken, having been parted from the love of his life, Cosette, by a wall and not being able to trace her when she left. He leaves his room at the hovel and goes to stay with Courfeyrac, one of his close friends. While he lives here, he pines the loss of Cosette, who is in another part of town where he doesn’t know where she is. Marius lives here till the start of the insurrection and decides to fight on the barricade as he can’t be with Cosette. Life isn’t worth living for him without her.
‘Marius betook himself to Courfeyrac. Courfeyrac was no longer the imperturbable inhabitant of the Latin Quarter, he had gone to live in the Rue de la Verrerie “for political reasons”; this quarter was one where, at that epoch, insurrection liked to install itself. Marius said to Courfeyrac: “I have come to sleep with you.” Courfeyrac dragged a mattress off his bed, which was furnished with two, spread it on the floor and said: “There.”’
‘Moreover, Marius was heartbroken. Everything had plunged through a trap-door once more. He no longer saw anything before him; his life was again buried in mystery where he wandered fumblingly. He had for a moment beheld very close at hand, in that obscurity, the young girl who he loved, the old man who deemed to be her father, those unknown beings who were his only hope in this world; and at the very moment when he thought himself on the point of grasping them, a gust had swept all these shadows away.’
'Marius had two reasons for this prompt change of residence. The first was, that he now had a horror of that house, where he had beheld, so close at hand, and in its most repulsive and most ferocious development, a social deformity which is, perhaps, even more terrible than the wicked rich man, the wicked poor man. The second was that he did not wish to figure in the lawsuit which would ensue in all probability, and be brought in to testify against Thenardier.’
What I wrote in Paris
Another location that survives today even if it isn’t in the same place! Down another beautiful narrow street with that still used with Courfeyrac welcomed Marius. Great feeling of the scale of the place in comparison to other bigger boulevards. This is only a few streets away from where the insurrection was so they were well placed to get in and pitch in. Below it has a hair dresser but a proper feeling of what Hugo might have wanted here!
This was another location which has a matching modern street and number which was satisfactory even if the streets have been changed since Hugo was here. Rue de la Verrerie is on the outer parts of the Marais and is another distinctive narrow street that screams old Paris to passers-by. The block which is number 16 does a very good job of looking like it was there when Hugo was even if it wasn’t. The building looks very old and I had no difficulty in imagining Courfeyrac living here. Hugo says that Courfeyrac came here from the Latin Quartier for ‘political reasons’ and certainly this street is very near to the area where the insurrection happened on the 5th of June 1832. There is an amazing feeling of scale of houses in Paris that I haven’t encountered anywhere as starkly as here. It is beautiful to see the old streets that look as if they’ve been here forever and Hugo must have envisaged Courfeyrac and Marius living a building very similar to this.