It’s not really a thing.
It’s just that I’ve been asked to write two short pieces for another website for World Book Night–one on Paris in the last decade of the 18th century and one on London at the same time as part of a feature on Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
I’ve done the one on London–that was easy.
But now, you see, I’m fossicking about gathering together my bits on Paris during the years of the Revolution. While the truth is, this is a subject I avoid at all costs–the savagery of the Parisians toward their neighbours and fellows makes Attila the Hun and his gang look like kitten-cuddlers and I just can’t comprehend that depth of depravity.
Nor do I wish to. So for the most part, I allow it to slip from my mind.
Still, as I’ve been wandering about through the pages of various histories, biographies and my own blogs and writings, I came upon this. About Paris in 1812. Which I wrote. It’s from Of Honest Fame. But I think it rather beautiful:
Winter in Paris. And walking, listening, he [Boy] moved through the chaotic shoving crowds of pedestrians, past the jostling, creaking carriages, upon streets coated with stinking mud–the tainting effluvium of uncollected stable sweepings and refuse, ground into a glaucous black mass that coated the boots and shoes of all who ventured forth. Past the tradesmen–the tinsmiths soldering the pots and pans and basins, working shoulder to shoulder with the caners reweaving the buckling chair seats–who set up shop in the midst of it all. Past the water-carriers with their wooden pails and their constant cries of ‘A l’eau!’ Past the wounded veterans, who having outlived their usefulness to the Emperor now stood daily, begging, impassive, under the fine arches in the Rue de Rivoli, silently saluting the officials who passed on their way to and from the Palais du Louvre. Down alleys barely wide enough for two to pass. Beneath the high brick and stone walls of the abandoned monasteries and convents and churches–the homes from which their inhabitants had been torn by the Revolution only to perish–that bordered the maze of narrow streets of the Latin Quarter and the Ile St. Louis. Along the cold banks of the Seine, where the slow barges drifted that carried the wood and wheat and wine that fuelled the city. All that while listening to the snatches of conversation which he could neither explain nor understand. Listening.
As I said, it’s not really a thing. I just thought it vivid and beautiful and I wanted to share it. That’s all.