Boulevard des Batignolles

Arrondissement 17

Louise Michel lived on the Boulevard just outside Paris proper for a few months in 1856 in a flat opposite the Farmers-General wall. It was then a low rent, strongly working-class district. It is now one of the circle of broad boulevards created when that wall was demolished. To the North-West of Batignolles lies Levallois-Perret where Michel is buried.

The word Batignolles comes either from ‘bastillole’ meaning little country house, or from ‘batagliona‘, the Latin for a battle. In medieval France the rural commune of Batignolles-Monceau belonged to the Benedictine nuns of Montmartre. It was used by the Bourbons for hunting.

The Farmers-General Wall of the Ancien Regime was built to tax Paris not to defend it as were the 13th and 14th century walls

Batignolles lay just to the North, outside the Farmers-General Wall around Paris built between 1784 and 1791 by the corporation of hugely wealthy tax farmers (paid by Louis XVI to collect taxes on goods entering Paris), 28 of whom were guillotined in 1793.

The 24km long wall with 64 toll barriers had boulevards on the outside. The Boulevard des Batignolles was one of these boulevards. Today the line of the wall is roughly followed by the Metro lines 2 and 6.

Anger at Paris being ‘put in jail’ by the wall was a big factor in making the Bourbon rule highly unpopular. The tolls were abolished on 1 May 1791, although restored by the Directorate in 1798.

In 1860 the Batignolles district was incorporated into Paris by the Paris Prefect, Baron Haussmann, and the remaining sections of the wall destroyed, leaving just a handful of the classical designed custom houses.

Boulevard des Batignolles photographed towards the end of the 19th century

A working-class area with low rents through the second half of the 19th century, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) lived here as a child. Édouard Manet lived at No. 34 from 1864 to 1866. Émile Zola (1840-1902) supported him when Manet’s paintings were rejected for the 1866 Salon.

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Rue de la Harpe

Arrondissement 5

Numbers 6, 11, (63, 85, 89)

During his final years Paul Verlaine lived in the Hotel de la Harpe at No 6, shown here as the mauve building on the right.

Before the construction of the boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel, the 13th century narrow road went all the way to the southern gates of Paris (today’s Place Edmond-Rostand). It was named after a café sign of a harp.

Towards the end of his life the poet elected ‘Prince of Poets’ by the French literary world, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), lived in poverty at the Hôtel de la Harpe at No. 6.

In the remaining old part of the street at No. 11, Philippe Buonarroti often visited his editor in 1830 as they prepared the publication of Babeuf’s political legacy.

No 11 was a very old bookshop and printworks, where Philippe Buonarroti printed his influential works on Babeuf in 1830. Blanqui lived at No. 85 rue de la Harpe while fighting in the 1830 Revolution. Much earlier, in 1746, another printworks, Le Breton, at No. 16, printed the first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopedia.

Gustave Courbet‘s first Paris studio was at No. 89 in 1842, and was where he became friendly with Proudhon.

The 1848 Jacobin club used to meet at 63 rue de la Harpe during the 1848 revolution.