Places: The Chevalier de Maison-Rouge

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge, 1846 (English translation, 1846)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1793

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Paris

*Paris. Chevalier de Maison-Rouge, TheTypical of romans feuilletons–books published in installments–this novel is full of references to the streets of Paris, which is explicitly characterized here as the sensitive heart of the organism that is France. The story opens with the chiming of the bells of the Cathedral of Notre Dame as heard from the rue Saint-Honoré, and Maurice’s first crosstown journey is minutely detailed. The story strays no farther from the capital than the suburb of Auteuil. Apart from those detailed below, the most significant settings in the plot are 24, rue de Nonandières, where the pretended flower girl Héloïse Tison lives, and Noah’s Well Tavern at the corner of the rue de la Vieille Draperie, where one of Dixmer’s plots is carefully nurtured.


*Temple. Fortified dwelling established in Paris by the Knights Templar in 1128 and converted into a prison by the eighteenth century. (The prison was subsequently destroyed in 1810, after which its site was occupied by the Marché du Temple, one of the city’s major commercial centers.) In Dumas’s novel, the wall of the prison fringing the rue Portefoin supports a wooden construction that functions as an alehouse for its guardsmen. Dixmer purchases a house in the rue de la Corderie (on the site where number 20 now stands) in order that his accomplices might dig a tunnel under the gardens to reach the alehouse, through which Marie Antoinette and her family might escape; it is the discovery of this plot that causes her removal to the Conciergerie.


*Conciergerie (kon-see-ehrj-ur-ee). Prison of the Palais de Justice, a group of buildings on the Ile de la Cité in the heart of Paris. The Conciergerie itself had once been a royal palace, built on the site of a Roman prefectorium. At the time of the novel it was flanked by the quai des Lunettes and the quai aux Fleurs. Its gates opened on to the Pont-au-Change, across which those condemned by the Revolutionary Tribunal were transported to the guillotine in the place de la Révolution. At the height of the Terror, commitment to the Conciergerie was a virtual guarantee of a speedy execution, for which reason it was ironically characterized as the “Inn of Death.”

Although the rooms occupied by Marie Antoinette and her family were destroyed by the Commune, the rest of the prison is still standing. The large vaulted hall of the Palais de Justice, known as La Salle des Pas-Perdus, is a key setting in the later phases of the novel. The curious ancestry of Paris’s prisons, most of which were former palaces or religious houses, is further emphasized by the tour that Maurice makes while searching for Geneviève after her arrest, taking in the Carmelites, the Port Libre, the Madelonnettes, Saint Lazare, and the Luxembourg.

*Old rue Saint Jacques

*Old rue Saint Jacques. Street in Paris’s Fauborg Victor district, so described to distinguish it from another Parisian street of the same name. Here, not far from the jardin des Plantes, Dixmer’s house is located. Although Maurice does not realize its importance when he first offers the mysterious woman safe conduct, it becomes the setting for all the key scenes of his unfolding misfortune. He is imprisoned there, then becomes a frequent visitor as he is unwittingly drawn into Dixmer’s schemes. Having previously observed Geneviève secretly from the garden, it is from that vantage point that he finally learns the extent of her involvement with the queen’s allies.

*Rue de Roule

*Rue de Roule. Location of Maurice’s house, not far from the rue Sainte-Avoie; he is secretary of the rue Lepelletier section of the Civic Guard section, whose base is nearby.

BibliographyDumas, Alexandre. The Road to Monte Cristo: A Condensation from “The Memoirs of Alexandre Dumas.” Translated by Jules Eckert Goodman. New York: Scribner, 1956. Excellent, abridged translation of Dumas’ memoirs that relate to his source material for his novels, including The Chevalier de Maison-Rouge.Gorman, Herbert. The Incredible Marquis, Alexandre Dumas. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1929. Entertaining, popular biography of Dumas, père that chronicles the social circles in which he moved. Sheds light on biographical details of his life that enhance the readings of his novels.Maurois, André. The Titans, a Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas. Translated by Gerard Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1957. Considered the authoritative biography of Dumas père, his father, and his son. Excellent bibliography. Approaches The Chevalier de Maison Rouge in a cursory fashion.Schopp, Claude. Alexandre Dumas: Genius of Life. Translated by A. J. Koch. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988. A biographical and critical approach to the life and works of Dumas, père. Discusses Dumas’ adaptation of The Chevalier de Maison-Rouge into a drama called Les Girondins to pay his bills.Stowe, Richard S. Alexandre Dumas (père). Boston: Twayne, 1976. An excellent starting point for an analysis of the life and works of Dumas, père, probably the best source in English. The Chevalier de Maison Rouge is analyzed in the chapter entitled “The Marie-Antoinette Romances,” of which the novel is the fifth and final installment.
Categories: Places