On 17th July 1791, following the Champs-de-Mars massacre, the Minister of Justice denounced Robespierre's discourse to the public accuser and threatens him with pursuit. According to Fréron, when the Jacobins broke up at 11pm, municipal troops had gathered and Robespierre had some difficulty in forcing his way through the assembled crowd. He was understandably reluctant to return to to his lodgings, a mile and a half away in the Marais and the deputy Lecointe, at his request, arranged for him to spend the night with the Jacobin and master-carpenter Maurice Duplay in the rue Saint-Honoré. In Charlotte Robespierre's account, Duplay rescued him from a crowd of well-wishers in the street. He was eventually induced to stay permanently. His new hosts send for his trunk, "la malle du départ d'Arras" and his books from his lodgings in the rue Saintonge. From this time on, apart from a short interlude when he set up house with Charlotte in the rue Florentin, he enjoyed the familial atmosphere and pious attentions of the Duplay family and "became more or less invisible".
The Maison Duplay, originally No.366 rue Saint-Honoré, was built before the Revolution by a community of nuns, the Dames de la Conception, on land adjoining their convent. Maurice Duplay leased the property for nine years in April 1779 and renewed the lease for a second term in 1788. As a master carpenter he was modestly well-to-do, employing as many as a dozen journeymen and apprentices, and also owned three rental properties (in the rue des Mathurins, rue de l'Arcade and rue du Luxembourg). Duplay was "not one of those whom the Revolution enriched"; although he managed to buy the premises, now a bien national, in 1796, he was eventually forced to sell all his properties to satisfy his creditors.
|"At home" with the Duplays - a 19th-century image|
|Plans from Lenotre (after Sardou)|
The main accommodation was arranged over two floors in the corps de logis at the back. On the ground floor were a dining room and salon facing onto the courtyard, and a study and kitchen looking out onto the convent garden. On the floor above were the bedrooms of the Duplay family. Robespierre occupied one of range of small rooms to the west above the workshop, looking out onto the courtyard. Adjoined his were the rooms carpenter's young son Jacques-Maurice and his nephew, Simon Duplay. The configuration of the second floor over street is uncertain, but it seems that Charlotte and/or Augustin Robespierre were accommodated here. At first Robespierre's chamber was entered by an external staircase which served the whole of the the south and west wings, but later Duplay built a more secure interior staircase, which could be accessed only through the outhouse to the west or via the dining room. There was a small dressing room or anteroom. Robespierre's room was modestly furnished with a small desk, a bed, some straw-seated chairs and a bookcase. It is sometimes said that Robespierre's rooms were adorned with engravings and images of himself, but a careful reading shows that the sources refer to the Duplay salon and the little cabinet off it that was made available for Robespierre to receive guests.
To what extent does the original property survive?
In the 1890s this was the subject of a notable controversy between the two doyens of Robespierre studies, Ernest Hamel and Victor Sardou. In Hamel's view the property had been completely destroyed by the 19th-century extension of the rue Duphot which cut across the grounds of the former convent. Sardou, however, convincingly identified it with No. 398, then the property of a baker named Vaury. In the early 19th century the house had been bought from Duplay's creditors by his neighbour, the jeweller Rouilly, elevated and extensively rebuilt, but the original floor plan was still discernable. Indeed, with the aid of the 1811 building plans, Sardou felt confident enough, to reconstruct the layout in some detail.
In Sardou's time it was still possible to identify the dining room and the salon (both relegated to bakery stores), to see where the glazed door between them had been walled up, and to distinguish the little cabinet which had once contained Robespierre's bust. The upstairs bedrooms of the main block were even better preserved with the boiseries still in place. M. Vaury had dismantled Duplay 's staircase and replaced it with a stove, but he had taken the stairs themselves - in reality no more than a simple ladder - to his country house in Lieusaint. At some point the ladder found its way to the Conciergerie, where it is now somewhat incongruously displayed. Sardou also noted the survival of the enfilade of rooms on the west side, although the partition walls which existed in Robespierre's time had since disappeared. A certain question mark remains over the exact disposition of Robespierre's chamber, since in 1899 an archivist named Coyecque unearthed a description of the property from 1789, which suggested a different layout from the one Sardou had reconstructed. In particular it showed two large windows where there was now only one (implying perhaps a wider space?) and possibly a balcony. John Haycraft in his book In Search of the French Revolution hypotheses a slightly more generous space (p.250):
In the course of the 20th-century there have been considerable further alterations. The carriage entrance has been replaced by a shop front, but the courtyard, though truncated, remains and the general disposition of the original corps de logis can still be seen. The building to the rear is now a restaurant with a plate-glass front, today run by the adjoining patisserie, though in the 1970s and '80s it was home to the appropriately themed "Le Robespierre" (It was the restaurant's proprietor who was responsible in 1975 for securing the commemorative plaque in the rue Saint-Honoré). The western part, where Robespierre once lodged, has had an assortment of tenants, including a travel agency and an up-market hairdresser. In 2014 the artist and Robespierre enthusiast Anthony Pascal managed to inveigle his way inside and was able to match what he saw in some detail with Sardou's plan of the enfilade (see below).
|At the turn of the century (from Sardou)|
|Maison Duplay in 1950 - photo for sale on ebay|
|The space today|
Victor Sardou, La Maison de Robespierre (Paris, 1895). The BN copy contains a press cutting detailing Coyecque's findings.
G. Lenotre, "The Duplay household" in Paris in the Revolution (original French ed., 1895)
Robespierre goes to stay with the Duplays:
On the day of the massacre on the Champs-de-Mars there was a meeting of the Jacobins. The friends of liberty were few in number and the courtyard was filled with National Guardsmen and chasseurs. Robespierre trembled with fear when he came to cross the yard to go homeand heard the threats of the soldiers; he asked to be supported on either side by his fellow Jacobins Lecointe and Lapoype. He did not dare to go back to the rue Saintonge in the Marais where he lodged, and so asked Lecointe if he knew a patriot near the Tuileries who could put him up for the night. Lecointe suggested Duplay's house and took him there. From that day to this, he has never left....
Fréron, "Notes sur Robespierre" Papiers inédits trouvés chez Robespierre.... vol. 1 (1828).
From Charlotte Robespierre's Memoirs: many thanks to Estelle La Chatte for the English translation!
The layout of the house
The layout of the house
A little detached building on the rue Saint-Honoré, with a carriage-entrance and a shop on the ground floor, four windows on the first floor, with a loft above, and a roof, with two eaves covered with tiles. Further, another detached building behind the first, on the west wing, also one storey in height and covered only by a sloping roof line with tiles. Further, behind the said building is another detached building, forming a gable on the courtyard, oone storey in height,and a loft above, with roof covered also with tiles. The said courtyard contained between these three buildings enclosing an outhouse on either side, of which the one on the west is large, with a sloping roof.
Lease document of 1779.Sardou, p.5-6. Translated in Lenotre.
Details on our residence and on our interior A large porte cochère. Two boutiques, one on each side, occupied the one by a jeweler and the other by a restaurateur. In front, only one floor, occupied by Robespierre’s sister and younger brother. The entrance to this apartment opened to the left, on a large staircase; in the courtyard, two hangars, one for the works, another for the wood; to the right of the courtyard, a little garden of twenty feet square; in the middle, something like a bed of lowers, where each of the children had his little corner.
Upon entering, a dining room, behind that a kitchen with a view of the garden of the nuns of the Conception, from whom my father rented. It was in that convent that my sisters and I had our first communion.
To the right of the dining room, a salon lit by a window giving onto the little garden; to the left of the salon, a little office, with a view of the cabin of the gardener of the convent of the Conception. In the dining room, a little wooden staircase leading to the apartments; to the right was my mother’s bedchamber, lit by two windows; to the right of that room, and attached to it, was a little powder room, which one crossed to enter Maximilien’s modest chamber.
It had only one window, a chimney; its furnishings were the world’s simplest: a walnut bed; bed curtains in blue damask with white flowers, which furnishing came from one of my mother’s dresses; a very modest desk; some straw-bottomed chairs; there was also a storage rack serving as a bookshelf. This room was lit by a window overlooking the hangars, so that Robespierre was constantly exposed to the sound of working, but without being troubled by it.
Past Robespierre’s chamber, but a degree lower, were two little rooms, lit from the same side as that room, occupied the one by Simon Duplay, my cousin, who lost a leg on the battlefield of Valmy, the other by my brother Maurice, a young schoolboy of fourteen years. The second little chamber gave onto Mlle Robespierre’s grand staircase, and thus rejoined the rest of the house.
Memoirs of Elisabeth Le Bas [translated by Estelle La Chatte on live.journal] http://revolution-fr.livejournal.com/29026.html
Memoirs of Elisabeth Le Bas [translated by Estelle La Chatte on live.journal] http://revolution-fr.livejournal.com/29026.html
I was invited the next day to a meeting at Robespierre's. I was struck by the decoration of his cabinet: it was a jolie boudoir where his image was repeated in all sorts of different forms and by all sorts of arts. He was painted on the wall on the right, engraved on the left, his bust was on one side and his bas-relief on the other; in addition on the tables were half a dozen small Robespierre prints.
Mémoires de Barbaroux, p.63
The Thermidorean Louis Marie de La Révellière-Lépeaux also visited the Duplays at about this time.
They welcomed me and took me into the salon, where the door to a little cabinet had been left open. What did I see when I went inside? Robespierre who had imposed himself on the household and now received the hommage due to a god. The little cabinet was consacrated to him. His bust was enshrined there among diverse ornaments, verses and decorations. The salon itself was adorned with little busts in terracotta and plaster, and papered with all sorts of portraits of the great man, both drawings, engravings and watercolours. He himself, combed and powdered and in an immaculate dressing gown, sat in an armchair before a table laden with fruits, fresh butter and milk, plus the heady perfume of freshly brewed coffee....The god deigned to smile at me and offered me his hand. Through the glass in the salon door could be seen a crowd of adoring fans extending back to the entrance of the courtyard waiting for a sign from the great man.....
Mémoires, vol.1, p.114-5
The house in the 19th and early 20th centuries
This house stood upon the site of the modern No. 398 of the Rue St. Honore. It is on the northern side of that street, about a hundred yards before you get to the Rue Royale, and just before the opening of the Rue St. Florentin. The house may be recognised, apart from the number, as that on either side of whose central doorway stand a jeweller's shop and a furniture shop. It is the property of M. Vaury, whose bakery is next door.
There has arisen upon the origin of the present building a discussion which once possessed a certain interest, but the solution of which is now so thoroughly arrived at that the quarrel may be almost neglected. It will suffice for this note if I say that without doubt not a particle of the original building remains, but, save that the front upon the street is a good deal deeper than it was originally, the plan of the house is much what it was in Robespierre's time.
This house was, during the Revolution, of comparatively slight construction; it was only two storeys high in front, and with a depth of one room. The back, at the end of a courtyard, was also only two storeys high; and the back and front were joined precisely as they are now by a wing on the western side — that is, on the left side of the courtyard as you come in under the gate; but there was no corresponding eastern wing opposite as there is now, there was only a blank wall. In the years 1811 and 1816 two successive reconstructions destroyed all the original walls, and there were even new foundations laid; it was determined to make the house much higher, and the walls of the original two storeys were, according to the architect's report, not nearly strong enough to bear the weight. They were pulled down, the present house was raised to its six storeys, and the eastern wing was added. The carpenter's shed that stood in the courtyard was at the same time taken away.
M. Sardou, who possesses a very valuable collection of revolutionary MSS. and documents, was under the impression that the house we now see is the original building. It is true that the actual space of Robespierre's room still exists surrounded by four walls, and that the place where the old window was is occupied by the present window overlooking the courtyard. It is the middle window on the left on the first floor; but the discussion as to whether the room is still in existence is a matter for metaphysicians rather than historians. When you have taken away the floor, the ceiling, and the four walls of a room, and in the new house you reproduce on much the same situation a new set of walls, floor, and ceiling, have you still got the original room? The discussion is a trifle scholastic.
Hilaire Belloc Robespierre, 1901, p.375-6.
Below the revolutionary's lodgings is today a jolly restaurant called, not surprisingly, Le Robespierre, where Monique Delcroix serves dishes with names like ''minced meat Charlotte Corday'' and ''salmon Robespierre'' - an allusion to his chilly nature. Mrs. Delcroix agitated to have a plaque put up on the Rue St.-Honore to mark Robespierre's sojourn - which was finally done in 1975 - but she thinks that bygones ought to be bygones. ''Among my customers I even have Philippe d'Orleans,'' she bantered, referring to a gourmand of royalist descent. ''The Lions Club meets here, too"
James M. Markham, "In the Revolution's footsteps" The New York Times 19th March 1989
There is now a little plaque at 400 Rue St.-Honoré, which -- after much grumbling by the authorities, who still shivered at things Jacobin -- was put up some 15 years ago to mark Robespierre's sojourn, according to Monique Delcroix, owner of Le Robespierre. This is a restaurant-bar at the foot of the tiny courtyard, in the space where Maximilien used to drink his morning milk with the Duplay girls. The low-ceilinged, darkish room is well stocked with portraits of revolutionary figures, and a large color photograph of wigged and costumed living members of the "Maximilien Robespierre Association for the Democratic Ideal," whose newsletter declares them to be dedicated to correcting "two centuries of obscurism, negations and lies about the French Revolution," and in particular to proving that "the Jacobin republic isn't dead, she is only sleeping." Oh, Lord. I walked into the adjoining house on the left, and up the narrow, steep staircase the Duplays had once mounted; the garden they looked out on, shown in engravings of the period, has since been covered by another building. In my era it's a crowded block; to Robespierre this must have seemed not only a refuge, but a reward.
Mark Hunter, "A Revolutionary approach to Paris", The Washington Post, 12 March 1989
Today, Robespierre's original lodgings are still recognisable, now set ironically in a Rue St Honoré which has become one of the most luxurious shopping centres in Paris...Before the Revolution, St Honoré was residential, with noble mansions opening onto it. The Duplay's house was surrounded by the gardens of the Convent of the Conception,where the anarchist Hébert's wife had been a nun, and where Duplay's daughters went to school.
|Entrance in the rue Saint-Honoré in the early '70s|
Originally, this room was divided into various small bedrooms of the Duplay children. Robespierre's was at the far end, tiny, looking onto the courtyard. It had the simplicity of the ascetic. A narrow, walnut bed was covered with a quilt of blue damask with white flowers. The shelves on which stood a few books, mainly Rousseau, were of pine. A small table was often covered with a speech in preparation on closely written sheets, scratched with erasures. Beyond was a small dressing room which led onto a special staircase, built by Duplay, to allow separate access and protection from intruders. This staircase has disappeared, and is now in a country house. The rest of the Duplay family lived in the part of the house beyond Robespierre's dressing room, in what are now further offices of the tourist agency.
The original dining room, kitchen and sitting room, at the end of the courtyard, have now become a restaurant, Le Robespierre, where I have often eaten. Their rabbit is excellent. The décor is all red: lamps, tablecloths, wall coverings. Blood or politics?, you ask yourself. As you sit, surrounded by portraits of Robespierre, the restaurant is shaken suddenly by the Métro, passing below. The rumbling is ominous, like the prelude to an earthquake. Perhaps it is a modern echo of Robespierre's feeling of being continually threatened, while France seemed about to crumble. You imagine him leaning on the mantlepiece, paring his nails, or eating his favourite oranges, when a sudden presentiment of destruction makes his fingers tremble, and brings pallor to his greenish cheeks.
A calm blonde lady, Monique Delcroix, has run the Robespierre for twenty-five years. Previously it was a café for Africans, called the Savernay. When she acquired it, Monique didn't know that it had once been Robespierre's home, she told me. This she discovered only two weeks before the opening. Immediately she sent two thousand telegrams all over France, inviting friends, officials and journalists. The party was a great success and went on till dawn.
'Do you feel Robespierre's presence here? I asked her.
She shrugged her shoulders. 'No.'
'Do you like him - as a character?'
'I prefer Danton. Robespierre was too cold, too detached. France needed someone strong, tough. The Germans do what they're told, but the French are all individualists - particularly at a time of Revolution.'
John Haycraft, In Search of the French Revolution, 1989, p.249-51
The commemorative plaque - smashed "once again" in 1999:
For a time, early last year, there was no trace of Robespierre to be found on the street where he lived in the days of his fame. The restaurant called Le Robespierre had closed its doors, and after a while its portrait sign was removed from above the entrance of the house on the rue Saint-Honoré. Once again, the plaque on the wall had been smashed. The marble was shattered, the letters gouged away by a vindictive chisel. Just before the Bastille celebration, on a day of misty heat, a new plaque appeared. In the interim, only the staff of the new patisserie were able to confirm that it was true: Robespierre lived here.
The house on the site has been rebuilt, and so the room he occupied is, as his biographer J.M. Thompson has said, a metaphysical space. You go down a passage between shops; it widens a little, into a high-walled enclosure. It doesn’t look like a place where a tragedy would occur, but if we had a diagnostic for such places we would always cross the road and stay away. In 1791 the gateway opened into a yard, with sheds where wood was stored; Maurice Duplay, who owned the house, was a master-carpenter. In this courtyard, Paul Barras saw two generals of the Republic picking over the salad herbs for dinner, under the eye of Madame Duplay. Robespierre lived on the first floor, in a low-ceilinged room with the plainest of furnishings.
Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books 30 March 2000
If you are lucky enough to get through the entrance door (difficult because there is an intercom) you can see some traces of the time when Robespierre lived in this house. After going through the passage you will find yourself in the courtyard, now a lot smaller than it was at the time of the Revolution. On the left, on the first floor, you can see the window of Robespierre's room. This still exists but is now part of a private apartment. At the back of the courtyard, still on the left, on the ground floor, you can see the dining room which belonged to Robespierre's hosts, the Duplay family. Today it is a tea shop, which is part of the pâtisserie next to the entrance. Twenty years ago it was a restaurant called "Le Robespierre" where you could have lunch or dinner in "Revolutionary" surroundings.
Information posted on Trip Adviser, 11 February 2017 [translated]
In 2014 Anthony Pascal managed to visit Robespierre's rooms in what was at that time the premises of the hairstylist Syvlie Coudray:
When I first became interested in Robespierre several years ago, I learned that the Maison Duplay was still there today. It was formerly No.366 rue Saint-Honoré, and today is No. 398.
When I visited the site for the first time I noticed that there was no longer a porte-cochère, but just the entrance to some flats on the left.... I was disappointed that the place seemed completely unrecognisable and left. A few months later I returned and this time tried to get in through door on the left to see if there was anything to be found inside. The intercom wasn't a problem; the button at the bottom made the door open. I was surprised to find that, beyond the opening passage, the famous little courtyard was still there!
In fact the dress shop in the middle of the block corresponds exactly to the site of the old porte-cochère. The interior courtyards still exists but it is now behind this boutique.....
Here is the interior court as it is today. (In the 18th century the house had only two storeys) At the back, what was once the Duplay's kitchen is now a restaurant....
On the left hand side was the building where Robespierre and two of the Duplay family had rooms on the first floor. Immediately to my left were some stairs which I climbed without really knowing where I was going. I found a little corridor and more stairs.... but I soon realised that I had gone too far up. To get to the place where Robespierre lived, I needed to go through a door on the first landing. It just had to be there! I noticed that it this was not a private apartment but some sort of business premises; written on the door was "Sylvie Coudray - Workshop"
When I got home I discovered from the internet that Sylvie Coudray was a freelance hairdresser, who catered for a high class clientele. I found an email address on her site, and contacted her to ask whether it was possible to visit.
This was last March. Sylvie replied very graciously, and suggested that I call her to arrange a meeting.This was arranged and on 9th April at midday, I found myself outside Robespierre's door! The thing which worried me most was whether the owner would let me take photos; after all she wasn't obliged to even let me in.
I rang the bell and Sylvie's assistant greeted me and invited me in. I remained standing in the waiting room while she went to find Sylvie. Sylvie came, invited me to sit down and wait while she finished with a client. Sylvie seemed a very pleasant woman; the first impression was a good one.
I sat down on the first chair to hand and started to scrutinise the room. I knew that the interior of the house had been modified in the last two centuries, partitions knocked down etc, but I also know that the original walls were still there. I should therefore be able to recreate the original floorplan.
I consulted my plans and suddenly realised that I needed to look no further: I was in the very place which used to be the row of rooms which included Robespierre's.
The opening at the back did not exist at the time of Robespierre. Instead there was the little wooden staircase, which gave access to the family bedrooms on one side, and to these rooms on the other. Effectively, there would have been a partition between each window.
Where was Robespierre's room? On the plan there was a narrow window next to the door to the Duplays' rooms; the next window was in the little antechamber, making the third window the one that belonged to Robespierre's room. Without doubt this was Robespierre's very window.....
There are several photos but I don't want to reproduce them as they are M.Pascal's work.
The thing which struck me most was how small the room must have been. The distance between the partition walls was no more than two metres! (I measured it) The width of the room couldn't have been more than four meters. There was just enough room for a bed in the alcove shown on the plan. I now realise that the various reconstructions of Robespierre's room that I have seen in the past, are not credible.
The little "cabinet d'aisance" near the front of the suite of rooms also still exists and still houses a toilet
I was able to stay only a quarter of an hour...before Syvie's assistant found me to take me on a tour of the apartment. Since I had already found what I was looking for I contented myself with a swift visit to the rest, including the former chambers of the Duplays and their daughters....
My exploration wasn't quite finished yet. There was still the ground floor and the kitchen to see. For this, all I had to do was have lunch in the little restraurant "Au delices de Manon". As I have said, this area contained the dining room, kitchen, and a little salon. These no longer exist, but the restaurant occupies the same space. I ate peacefully there where Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon and others, ate between 1791 and 1794. Tradition has it that here too Robespierre sometimes read to family and friends from Rousseau or Corneille.
Anthony Pascal, "J'ai visité la chambre de Robespierre". Les Dentus, blog. Post of 21st April 2014 [my translation]