It is a difficult thing for an author not to give in and write something smaller and safer, something certain.
On the eve of the Revolution, one police record notes that 40,000 people in the city of Paris were under surveillance for ‘immorality’. This is an extraordinary figure (the population of Paris was then roughly 400,000). It demonstrates, if nothing else, that the greatest concern of government was not how it fulfilled its functions of governance but who it actually governed. – Andrew Hussey
Note that at its most crammed, Salpêtrière could hold close to 40,000. Add to that the various prisons, plus all the people living less-than-willingly in hospitals, convalescent homes, and convents, and you have a very large number indeed. Conceivably you could have a city where more than 25% of its population was either locked up or being watched.
All of which I’m off to see, in a few hours. Quiet morning now; anticipating the inner silence of a solitary journey. The cats are on edge, the sun is not yet up. Gathering myself for a long flight and a taste of winter on the other side.
it’s like christmas for grown-ups. starting to get butterflies.
part of my mapping has been plowing through the excellent thirza vallois guides to paris. she can Write, and the anecdotes are marvellous:
“The Dames des Halles, as they were also called, felt personally involved in the goings-on in the Palace, which accounts for an astonishing letter, written by Femme Ladoucette to Marie de Medici, Henri IV’s second wife, on 30 August 1608. Having introduced herself as Dame des Halles ‘from mother to daughter since Saint Louis’, and a mother to four by her husband (a guarantee of moral integrity), she admits to a forthright tongue, but no lying tongue, she adds, before proceeding to complain to the Queen about her philandering husband, the King, a good fellow deep down but who fidgets at the sight of a coquette and scatters bastards around, although blessed with a most appetising Queen, so well conditioned to have little princes. If the King happened to wander through Les Halles, she continues, she would give him a sound thrashing for the love of her Queen. Rather than be scolded for her bold letter, Ladoucette was promoted ‘fournisseuse (purveyor) royale’!”
and in that same bit on les halles:
“Public executions were also held at the market place, amidst its ceaseless human tide. Decapitations were preceded by the customary methods of torture and followed by the unrelenting mutilation of the bodies. The more fortunate offenders were sentenced to the pillory alone. The King’s pillory, the largest of them all, was a sizeable octagonal structure, with a pointed roof and weathervane, somewhat resembling a chapel. The ground floor was often inhabited by the King’s Great Executioner, with the convicts exposed in the tower above. The excited mob relished the sight, taunting the exposed victims, pelting them with rubbish and litter. There was no gibbet at Les Halles, on the other hand, the King conceding that this was no place for bodies to be left rotting on a rope.”