Field of the Lark question

Any research done in relation to the period of Les Misérables, whether for fanfiction or fanart purposes or otherwise.
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Field of the Lark question

Postby Marianne » Fri Dec 04, 2009 7:48 pm

This is going to sound absurdly nitpicky and anal, but I know that's what this board is for, and maybe one of you can help me.

I'm trying to figure out where exactly the Field of the Lark was, both in terms of the original landscape and in terms of modern streets. (Yep, it's for my web site.) I've found a few resources--Hugo's description, old maps, a fairly detailed history of the street names thanks to the Nomenclature des Voies database, a handful of webpages about the Bièvre river which passed through it, and a handful of pages about the 1826 scandal over a murder that took place there. And this page, about a famous (infamous?) tavern in the vicinity which Hugo apparently frequented. The page doesn't actually talk about the Champ de l'Alouette, but it does have a map--the map looks like it predates the 1830s by a few decades, but is close enough to be useful.

This is what Hugo has to say:

Quand on a monté la rue Saint-Jacques, laissé de côté la barrière et suivi quelque temps à gauche l’ancien boulevard intérieur, on atteint la rue de la Santé, puis la Glacière, et, un peu avant d’arriver à la petite rivière des Gobelins, on rencontre une espèce de champ, qui est, dans toute la longue et monotone ceinture des boulevards de Paris, le seul endroit où Ruisdael serait tenté de s’asseoir.

So basically, it's on the boulevard, between the Rue de la Glacière and the Bièvre river (which ran next to the still-existing Rue Croulebarbe). Approximately where Le Monde's headquarters are right now. All the other sources I've found back me up on this--the southern end of the Field of the Lark was delimited by the boulevard, the Rue de la Glacière, and the rue Croulebarbe. Fine and dandy, but how far did it extend northwards?

We have two streets whose names have or had something to do with the field--the modern day Rue du Champ de l'Alouette, formerly the Rue du Petit-Champ, and the Rue Corvisart, formerly the Rue du Champ de l'Alouette. Conceivably, their intersection could be the northern edge of the field.

However, in the map linked to above, the field-y looking space extends far north of that, along the Bièvre into the backyard of the Gobelins factory. That space is currently occupied by the Square René-le-Gall, which is not a square but a park, and I would love to imagine that there is still green space to wander around in where Marius brooded himself into a Romantic stupor over Cosette. But I have no idea whether that was actually the Champ de l'Alouette--the park doesn't extend to the space delimited by the streets mentioned above.

I suppose there is a possible compromise--at the very southern end of the park, there is a spot called the Place de la Bergère d'Ivry, named after aforementioned scandalous murder. It's fairly well established that the murder took place in the Champ de l'Alouette, both by the sources I've dug up and by Hugo (who has a passerby mention that "it was here that Ulbach killed the Ivry shepherdess"). So that one place, at least, is definitely both a park (playground actually) and the site of the Field of the Lark.

So, to cut short the tl;dr: could one get away with saying that the Square René-le-Gall stands on the site of the former Field of the Lark? Or was the field proper limited to the place where the Le Monde building is now?
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Re: Field of the Lark question

Postby Renato » Fri May 27, 2011 10:04 pm

Hey! I'm afraid this reply isn't to offer any insight into your investigation but rather to ask if you've managed to narrow down the site where the modern Field of the Lark would be located. I'm going to France this summer and to set some arbitrary travel goals for myself I've decided to check out as many significant landmarks from Les Misérables as possible! Thanks!

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Re: Field of the Lark question

Postby Ulkis » Fri May 27, 2011 10:35 pm

Marianne has made a whole awesome tour guide

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Re: Field of the Lark question

Postby swr2408018 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 9:21 pm

This is a very late reply to an old question, but I hope it helps someone.

The Champ de l'Alouette can be found on this 1823 Paris map:

It's almost dead center in the map square 6h, and the rue du Champ de l'Alouette runs along its southwest edge.

Hugo may have relied too much on old personal memories in writing about this place. Even in 1823 you can see the plan for a rue Pascal cutting across the field, and in the 1830 and 1834 maps at the same site, that street has been built, and the entire area has been completely altered, so the field was no longer there by the time Marius found it.

It is also not quite where Hugo describes it as lying; he writes (P4B2Ch1):

"When one has climbed the rue Saint-Jacques, left the barrière on one side and followed the former interior boulevard to the left for a while, one reaches the rue de la Santé, then la Glacière, and a little before reaching the little Gobelins river, one finds a kind of field, which, in the entire length and monotonous belt of the boulevards of Paris, is the only place where Ruisdael would be tempted to sit down."

This would suggest that the field adjoins the boulevard, and Hugo subsequently describes Marius hailing a" passerby on the boulevard, but the boulevard lies a good 100 meters away from the southern corner of the region on the map. Finally, there are a couple references to the rue de Croulebarbe, which lies on the eastern side of the Bièvre:

1) In P2B4Ch4 Hugo gives us this fanciful address: "His real address was: boulevard de la Santé, seventh tree after the rue Croulebarbe" (neither street quite makes sense.)

2) The passerby tells Marius that Ulbach murdered the shepherdess of Ivry in that field, but back in P2B4Ch1 he describes that murder as taking place on the rue Croulebarbe.

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