The Original Bad Boy of French Literature
One of my favorite characters on my literary walks is the medieval poet, thief, priest-killer, and M.A. in theology François Villon. We find this sensitive hell-raiser at the Place de la Contrescarpe, on the outer fringe of the Latin Quarter, where he used to carouse in the mid-1400s. The wine was cheap there, not being taxed outside the walls of the city.
Here’s what I say about him in my book Writers in Paris:
The original bad boy of French poetry was born François de Montcorbier (or François des
Losges) in Paris in 1431, the year Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. His father died when
he was a little boy, and Guillaume de Villon, the chaplain of the church of Saint Benoît-le-
Bétourné on Rue Saint-Jacques, adopted him, gave him his name, and eventually sent him
to study for the priesthood at the Collège de Navarre. Villon earned his Master of Arts in Theology degree in 1452. But carousing in taverns was more to his liking.
Three years later, for reasons unknown, a fight broke out between Villon and a priest named Philippe Chermoye by the tower of Saint-Benoît, which stood at the corner of Rue Saint-Jacques and today’s Rue des Écoles. The priest pulled a knife and slashed Villon’s face. Villon responded with a knife to the groin. Chermoye died in the Hôtel Dieu hospital a few days later. Villon got his first taste of prison—six months in the Grand-Châtelet. But after a long inquest he was pardoned by Charles VII.
In 1456 he published his first book of poetry, Lais, also known as Le Petit Testament. On Christmas night of the same year, he took part in a robbery at his old college for which he was banished from Paris. While living among brigands in the Touraine, he was arrested for theft and imprisoned in the castle of Meung-sur-Loire, where he wrote Le Grand Testament, a long poem in the form of a will with humorous bequests to family,friends, and enemies, interspersed with ballads. Thanks to a general amnesty declared for the coronation of Louis XI, he returned to Paris in 1461.
The following year, Villon was arrested for robbery but quickly cleared. Soon after, he was arrested again, this time for his involvement in a brawl in which a pontifical notary was stabbed to death. He was subjected to la question de l’eau (water torture), convicted of murder, and condemned to be hanged. While awaiting execution, he wrote perhaps his most famous poem, “La Ballade des pendus” (“The Ballad of the Hanged Men”). It starts:
« Frères humains, qui après nous vivez, N’ayez les cueurs contre nous endurcis … »
(Brothers among us who live on after us, Harden not your hearts against us … )
On appeal, his sentence was reduced to ten years of exile. He left Paris in January 1463 and was never heard from again. ”
David Burke is launching his spring and summer program of Writers in Paris Walking Tours in April. Take a look at his web site for them:
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
Tours cost 210 euros for up to 3 people, and 70 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am happy to announce the sale of a new set of prints of my Eye Prefer Paris Photos. I am offering 20 of my most popular and iconic images for sale including my doors, architectural details, statues, and monuments. They will make great gifts for all your Francophile friends, relatives, and colleagues but don't forget to buy some for yourself.
Click here to see photos and for full details including sizes, prices, and shipping. Here is a sample of some of the photos.