I was trying to recreate Grantaire’s walk from the Musain to Richefeu’s, when I got thinking about the exact location of the Musain. Marianne has, I realise, already done quite a bit of research on this, and his pinpointed its location as being where the Quality Burger Restaurant now stands.

While I don’t want to argue (or to suggest I know Paris any better than she does – I certainly don’t!), I couldn’t quite get this to match up with Hugo’s descriptions. This leaves me with three options:

a) I’m being very stupid and missing something;

b) Hugo got muddled up over the layout of the area;

c) The Café Musain wasn’t in fact quite where the burger place is now.

So, if you don’t mind, I’d just like to go over what I’ve been thinking and see what other people think. Feel free to correct me if I make any mistakes or wrong assumptions throughout this.

Hugo tells us that:

1. The Café Musain was a small café on the Place Saint-Michel (III.IV.I);

2. The back room was quite far from the main café, and connected by a long passage (III.IV.I);

3. The room had an exit by a private stairway to the rue des Grés (III.IV.I);

4. To get from the rue des Grés to the rue Monsieur-le-Prince one must cross the Place Saint-Michel (IV.I.VI).

It is easy enough to find the rough location of the Musain in modern Paris. We know that the place Saint-Michel is now called the place Edmond Rostand. I also found an article called ‘Where Delacroix Painted the “Massacres de Scio”’ by Lee Johnson, which says that the rue des Grés is now the rue Cujas:

But where was the rue des Grés no 16? First of all, it has to be said that it was not very close to the present place St-Michel, where Riesener's note led Joubin to search in vain, but it was near the Sorbonne and a little closer at its western end to the original place St-Michel, which has since become the place Edmond-Rostand. The rue des Grés (rue Cujas since 1865) ran from the rue St-Jaques to the rue de la Harpe (now the boulevard St-Michel). It was formed around 1800 by widening the passage des Jacobins and cutting through some of the buildings of the famous Dominican monastery known as the Couvent des Jacobins, after St James of Compostella.

This agrees with various maps which show the street before and after 1865, when its name was changed. It is therefore clear that it must be in the block which, in modern Paris, is bounded by the boulevard Saint-Michel, rue Soufflot, rue Victor Cousin and rue Cujas:

There were two things that confused me about the area, which leads me to conclude that the original place Saint-Michel was larger than the current place Edmond Rostand:

1. Grantaire having to cross the square;

2. The size of the café.

In modern Paris, Grantaire would have to go out of his way in order to cross the square, as the rue Cujas leads onto the boulevard Saint-Michel, and walking down the boulevard, he would not reach the place Edmond Rostand before turning right into the rue Monsieur-le-Prince. Also, in modern Paris, the distance along the boulevard Saint-Michel between the place Edmond Rostand and the rue Cujas is a bit over 200m, which would make the long corridor between the main café and the back room very long indeed as it must extend from the square to the rue Cujas (it may be a little shorter if it doesn’t follow the line of the boulevard, but it would still be little less than 200m at its shortest), which seems both rather unlikely, and not to fit Hugo’s description of it as a small café.

I also compared modern Paris to maps from the period, which show the rue Monsieur-le-Prince leading directly into the place Saint-Michel next to the rue de la Harpe, which is now the boulevard Saint-Michel:

1831:

1839:

Therefore, the only conclusion I could come to was that the place Saint-Michel used to be much bigger and include some of the block which currently lies between the rue de Medicis and the boulevard Saint-Michel. Indeed, the 1839 map includes a bit at the bottom which seems to be the current place Edmond Rostand.

This suggests to me that the Musain was probably further along the boulevard Saint-Michel than the current burger restaurant, although I cannot be sure of an exact location, extending into that block, in which case it would be quite easy for the back room to have an exit leading onto the rue Cujas.

Of course, I may be completely wrong about this – feel free to point out any mistakes or to tell me if I'm being an idiot