Place in the narrative
This is where Marius’ 84 year old grandfather, Monsieur Gillenormand, lives in the affluent Marais district of Paris. At the period when Hugo was writing, this location was where the wealthy older generation lived. In Les Miserables, it represents how the Royalist class have fixed views on how Paris should be, in comparison with the younger generation who want things to change. It is here that Marius is brought up by his grandfather, his father having been excluded from the family due to contradictory political views. His grandfather is a blatant supporter of the monarchy who says that 'The French Revolution is a heap of blackguards' and his father is a republican who fought at the battle of Waterloo under Napoleon. Marius grows up surrounded by his grandfather’s royalist views in salons around the city. When he is seventeen, he discovers his father’s hidden history of bravery at Waterloo when his father dies suddenly. He follows in his father’s political footsteps as a tribute to him and deeply upsets his grandfather, who tells him to leave the house.
Although Monsieur Gillenormand is at first angry with him, he pines the loss of his grandson more than he expected. His attitude towards him however is aggressive and makes Marius think he hates him. Marius puts this address in his pocket when he goes to fight at the barricade for people who may find him dead. Valjean sees him get injured and carries him though the sewers to the safety of his grandfather’s house. Monsieur Gillenormand nurses his grandson back to health and gives his blessing to his marriage with Cosette. Their wedding feast is held here and they all live here happily apart from Valjean who feels that he isn’t worthy to live under the same roof as the happy couple as he is an ex-convict.
‘Like master, like house - He lived in the Marais, Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, No. 6. He owned the house. This house has since been demolished and rebuilt, and the number has probably changed in those revolutions of numeration which the streets of Paris undergo. He occupied an ancient and vast apartment on the first floor, between street and gardens, furnished to the very ceilings with great Gobelins and Beauvais tapestries representing pastoral scenes.’
What I wrote in Paris
This was our first stop on day two of our journey to find Les Mis locations. It was in the heart of the Marais, the ‘posh’ not so much now, part of Paris when he wrote about it. This was where Marius’ grandfather lived and the houses scale, size and space suggest opulence. It is one of the locations which have a direct match to the present day road which was satisfactory so it was an old looking big building at No. 6. The boulevards here are wider as there is more space for cars and other detritus!
This was our first stop on day two of our journey to discover Les Miserables locations. It is one of the only locations that Hugo describes which still has a modern corresponding street and number, to what he describes. This doesn’t mean it is the same as when he lived here, but it does give you a satisfactory sense of what it may have been like – drawn from what I read in the book and the actual location. 6 Rue des Filles du Calvaire (not Calvarie as some sources call it) is in the heart of the Marias district of Paris, which at the time Hugo set the story was the most well to-do part of Paris where the richest lived. One of them being Monsieur Gillenormand, Marius’ royalist grandfather who Hugo wrote lived at no. 6.Today the street gives the impression of opulence as the street is wide and airy compared to the warren-like streets of St Denis. Although it was previously a place of the rich, it seems today that the residents who live here are less upper class than they were when Hugo wrote about this area. No. 6 itself is a large building with a wooden door. There are surrounding shops under other buildings in the street and several underneath no. 6 which shows history has moved on from the time that Hugo was writing. Also I think now the building or house at No. 6 are divided into flats which certainly been the case when Monsieur Gillenormand lived. It was interesting to discover having visited the area that all the streets that Hugo writes about are very near in proximity to each other. This makes complete sense but it was nice to discover for myself the geography of the Marais and imagine the events in Les Miserables happening here.