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This is one of the many bridges over the river Seine, at the western end of the Île de la Cité. In the middle of the bridge, which is not very far from Boulevard Saint-Michel, stands a statue of Henry IV, one of the Ancien Régime kings. (In 1825-6 Berlioz was living at 27 rue de Harlay nearby; a passage in the Memoirs refers to this period, when relations with his family were strained and money was short (chapter 11; an earlier version of this chapter appeared in Le Monde Illustré in December 1858):
I had rented very cheap a tiny room on the fifth floor on the Île de la Cité, at the corner of rue de Harlay and the Quai des Orfèvres [no. 27, no longer extant], and instead of going for my meals to a restaurant I established an austere régime of meals which cost only seven or eight sous a time and generally consisted of bread with raisins, prunes or dates.
It was summer. I bought my delicacies at the nearby grocer’s and usually took them to the little terrace on the Pont Neuf, at the foot of Henry IV’s statue. There I sat and, trying not to think of the boiled chicken which the good king wished his peasants to have for their Sunday dinner, ate my frugal meal, watching the sun go down behind Mont Valérien, gazing entranced on the endless play of light and reflection on the waters of the shining Seine as it glided before me, my head full of splendid images from Thomas Moore’s poetry, which I had just discovered in a translation and was devouring for the first time.
The engraving of Pont Neuf is from our own collection; all the photographs reproduced on this page were taken by Michel Austin. © Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.
Pont Neuf in the 1830s
The statue of Henri IV
Gardens below the statue
The Pont des Arts, leading to the Institut de
France on the left, can be seen
in the distance.
Gardens below the statue from the Pont des Arts
The bridge is the Pont Neuf; the statue of Henri IV is concealed by the trees of the gardens.
© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin for all the pictures and information on this page.
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