The Scarrons’ House of Impoverishment

On February 27, 1654, the poet, novelist and playwright Paul Scarron signed a rental contract for this house at the corner of Rue des Douze-Portes (now Rue de Turenne) and Rue Neuve-Saint-Louis (now Rue Villehardouin). This is where he lived for the last six years of his life with his gorgeous young wife Françoise d’Aubigné, and this is where they held their literary salon that attracted the leading intellectuals, authors and aristocrats of the day.

Scarron at this time of his life was crippled and chronically ill, perhaps from polio (though there were other rumors), and was more or less bankrupt because of unwise investments in a colonial trading company. He called their new home L’hôtel de l’Impécuniosité (The House of Impoverishment). To keep the literary salon running, many of the regular guests brought food or drink with them. Nonetheless, the salon was one of the most popular in Paris, not only because of Scarron’s wit but also because of the exotic beauty of his young wife, who excited the imagination of the male guests due to the presumed impotence of her husband.

At the end of each meeting of the salon, after the guests had left, she typically found four or five passionate love letters. At first she simply crumpled them up and threw them in the bin, but later, when she felt more secure, she wrote charming and witty (but negative) answers. Some of the men pursued her for years, but her biographer Jean-Paul Desprat believes that she only ever yielded to one of them, the Marquis of Villarceaux, and then only after her husband had died.

She could easily have become a courtesan like her friend Ninon de Lenclos (who had a son by Villarceaux), but instead she started to cultivate an image of piety and virtue. For more on her amazing career, have a look at my introductory page Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon. On the house there is a small plaque which reads as follows: Here died / Paul Scarron, burlesque poet / and novelist, 1610-1660 / The Scarron Circle MCMLIX.

The Roman numeral MCMLIX means 1959, and the plaque was in fact mounted and inaugurated on February 15, 1959, in the presence of Miss Marguerite Scarron, presumably some sort of indirect descendent of the poet.

 This is their house as it looked in 2015, with bicycles in front. The shop on the ground floor was empty and being renovated at the time. Jean-Paul Desprat says this is the original 17th century house, which had just been built in 1654 when the Scarrons moved in.

Address: 56 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris. Location on the Vélib’ map. The nearest Vélib’ station is 3002 with twenty docking points.Rue de Turenne, with the Hôtel de Montrésor aka Hôtel de Gourgues on the right at number 52/54, the Scarrons’ house in the middle at number 56 and the Hôtel d’Ecquevilly in the next block at number 60.

The Hôtel de Montrésor is now used as an elementary school, as you can see from the fence along the curb, which is intended to keep children from running onto the street. Location, aerial view and photo of the Hôtel de Montrésor aka Hôtel de Gourgues on monumentum.fr.

Books about Françoise d’Aubigné, the widow of Paul Scarron and future Marquise of Maintenon:

• Jean-Paul Desprat, Madame de Maintenon (biography), Paris 2015
• Françoise Chandernagor, L’allée du Roi (novel with extensive notes), Paris 2006

Next post: Ninon de Lenclos and Françoise d’Aubigné

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