The Luxembourg Gardens
Book Sixth/Volume III Marius
Place in the narrative
At this part of the narrative, Marius is rather depressed as he has been turned out of his grandfather’s house for having different political views. He has lodgings in the Gorbeau Hovel and makes ‘the mechanical habit of strolling’ a particular walk in Luxembourg Gardens. As he walks, he passes the figures of fourteen year old Cosette and Jean Valjean, who are also in the habit of walking in the same part of the gardens. At first he thinks that Cosette is ‘homely, awkward and insignificant.’ But after spending six months away from the gardens, he comes back to discover she has blossomed into a ‘tall and beautiful creature.’ From that moment, he gazes at her and the first stage of their romance begins in smiles and looks.
‘For more than a year, Marius had noticed in one of the walks of the Luxembourg, the one which skirts the parapet of the Pepiniere, a man and a very young girl, who were almost always seated side by side on the same bench, at the most solitary end of the alley, on the Rue de l’Ouest side.’
‘Marius liked to arrive by the end of the alley which was furthest from their bench; he walked the whole length of the alley, passed in front of them, then returned to the extremity whence he had come and began again…..Marius saw them nearly every day, at the same hour, during the first year. He found the man to his taste but the girl insipid’
‘ One day, the air was warm, the Luxembourg was inundated with light and shade, the sky was as pure as though the angels had washed it that morning, the sparrows were giving vent to little twitters in the depths of the chestnut-nut trees.’
‘ On arriving at the Luxembourg, Marius made a tour of the fountain basin and stared at the swans; then he remained for a long time in contemplation before a statue whose head was perfectly black with mould and one of whose hips was missing…then he made the circuit of the basin once more. At last he directed his course towards “his alley…”
‘Every day, Jean Valjean put his arm through Cosette’s and took her for a walk. He led her to the Luxembourg, to the least frequented walk, and every Sunday he took her to mass at Saint-Jaques-du-Haut-Pas, because that was a long way off.'
What I wrote in Paris
My first impression of the gardens was one of beauty. The sparrows singing, the shadows dancing in and out of the sunshine and the lovely layout. The day we went it was beautiful so you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. The Palace was just as it was in my image from google so it sent tingles down my spine to imagine that this is where Hugo had set all of the scene with Cosette and Marius. No wonder he said they fell in love here. There are lots of different pockets of garden as I think is almost one of the biggest I’ve ever e other seen. The main square hols the Palace and pond (lake) and after found the s….. Statues and orange trees which they were putting out of the orangery. Then a hedged area with benches and other areas of solitude in the bustle of the city. You can hardly believe you are in Paris apart from the fact that it is so chic! (I saw several ‘Javert’ look a likes patrolling the gardens and thought that if they had been there where Valjean was, he would have been in a spot of bother!) It was a lovely place to visit with lots of different bits to explore.
My first impression of the gardens was the beauty of it. Hugo describes the gardens saying ‘One day, the air was warm, the Luxembourg was inundated with light and shade, the sky was as pure as though the angels had washed it that morning, the sparrows were giving vent to little twitters in the depths of the chestnut-nut trees.’ This is exactly how I found it when we visited it. It was the first place I visited and I was blown away. We arrived at it from the Saint Sulpice through Porte Ferou and walked down the west side of the gardens where there were statues soaking up the sunlight and light dancing in and out of the leaves of trees creating dramatic shadows. Then we walked towards the Palace and the main square. I arrived out of the shelter of the trees into a dusty square inundated with light. The sky was pure azure, as we walked away from the Palace towards the pond. From the Palace, now an orangery, they were bringing out orange and palm trees for the summer. There was a sense of anticipation in the air as it looked forward to the coming months. The images I found of the Luxembourg and of the characters in the Luxembourg completely matched with what I found as the view of the Palace reflected in the pond was perfect as were the stone decorative goblets that I found a picture of Marius standing next to were there definitely. Up the stairs to the east of the gardens, the dusty ground continues but becomes shrouded in shadow again as there are quite thickly planted trees among which are statues, lines of benches and a café. A water monument depicting a Greek God reflects the deep green of the trees. From the promenade of the east side, where more ornamental goblet pots are, you can see the top of Eiffel Tower which is the only reminder that you are in the middle of Paris as the gardens are so peaceful you can hardly imagine the noise outside. The area which encompasses the Palace and pond is the most populated and I doubt that Valjean would have spent much time here as he kept himself in the less populated parts. However, if he had ventured there now, he might have had problems as around the Palace I saw several ‘Javert’ look-a-likes who might have arrested him. The gardens overall sent a tingle down my spine as I could imagine Cosette and Marius falling in love and all the events that happen here, happening where I stood. This may seem farfetched but it gave a real insight into how Hugo wanted his readers to see Paris and fall in love with it as he did. I can’t imagine a more idyllic place to fall in love and to fall in love with. Thank you Hugo for helping me discover a peaceful haven that I wouldn’t haven’t discovered you hadn’t have written about it!