27 Rue St. Victor: Anne Lister’s Paris Apartment
Anne Lister visited Paris many times en route to other travel destinations, as well as to spend time in the celebrated city and further her studies. She rented a number of places as her needs evolved, starting with an apartment at 39 Rue Godot de Mauroy with her Aunt Anne, followed by no. 7 Rue St. Victor to study, and finally settling at no. 27 Rue St. Victor, which remained her official Paris address through the end of her life.
While much has been explored about Anne Lister’s ancestral home, Shibden Hall, little has been written about these places which play an important role in Anne’s life over the years. This article explores how Anne came to choose her apartments, how she used them over her different visits, and what we know today about their location.
A little pied-à-terre
In 1830 Anne Lister was in Paris, sharing an apartment with Aunt Anne at 39 Rue Godot de Mauroy, while pursuing some of her ambitions by taking instruction from respected French scientists and continuing to better herself. As her studies progressed, she realized she would require her own space to dissect specimens, study, and receive instruction from her tutors (in addition to attending lectures at Le Jardin des Plantes). On the 3rd of March 1830, Anne discusses this idea with the fellow student1 who was teaching her:
After visiting other apartments, Anne decides to settle for the first option and instructs Monsieur Audouin to secure it for her.
That evening, Anne once again discusses the apartment with her Aunt Anne:
This apartment is located on the 3rd floor of no. 7 Rue St. Victor, then mentioned to Anne as “no. 7 Rue du Jardin des Plantes”. Rue St. Victor was a continuation of the Rue du Jardin du Roi, which meant people called it “Rue du Jardin des Plantes” for some time given its proximity to the Jardin des Plantes (known as Jardin du Roi at the time).
Despite renting no. 7 Rue St. Victor, Anne didn’t quit the apartment she rented with her Aunt Anne. There, both of them enjoyed comforts and conveniences that would be missed at Rue St. Victor. Plus, the little apartment would afford Anne a quiet and private environment where she could study without interruptions and it was close to the Jardin du Roi, where she attended her lectures.
On the 19th of March, Anne muses about the satisfaction it would give her to put the apartment to good use:
2. Monsieur Jean Victor Audouin was a scientist and one of Anne’s professors. He was responsible for finding Monsieur Julliart to assist Anne in her studies and, in later years, would also keep an eye on Anne’s apartment.
A place for study
Anne rents the apartment at no. 7 Rue St. Victor for over 14 months. When she is getting ready to leave Paris in the spring of 1831, her landlady promises to keep her things safe while also meeting Anne’s skeleton:
Anne has the carpenter at no. 7 Rue St. Victor on the 9th of May to measure the apartment for bookshelves. Anne spends some time also measuring and planning. She calls on the landlady about a deterrent for the cats, which Anne is also determined to keep away from her apartment:
Anne also ends up visiting the building next door (which had always interested her). She tries to negotiate with the landlady, but is unsuccessful:
That day, Anne and her Aunt visited her apartment at no. 7 and inspect the other option next door. Despite liking the 4th floor apartment, the porter’s antics make Anne fall out of love with the place:
A place for life
Back at 7 Rue St. Victor, Anne informs her porter that she will give a final answer the following day, since she thinks she would need another room to be able to store all her things:
When the note is ready, Anne goes to no. 27 Rue St. Victor to close the deal with the proprietor (Monsieur Cusinberche). She manages to reach an agreement with the proprietor, but asks for some time before she can commit to a definitive answer:
After this, Anne delivers her note to Mademoiselle Sézerac at no. 7 Rue St. Victor and returns to no. 27 to finally close the deal:
Anne then returns to her home for breakfast and finds the card of her cousin, John Lister⁴ of Swansea, who called while she was out. After some food and a quick read of the newspaper, she is out again and en route to her new apartment at number 27:
Anne is now all set to start moving her belongings to the 3rd floor of no. 27 Rue St. Victor. This apartment in the 12th arrondissement would be her address in Paris until her death in 1840.
On the 19th of May, Anne is starting to get settled at her new place:
On the 22nd, Anne is getting ready to go to her apartment when she is delayed by callers. She receives them as civilly as possible, but grumbles in her journal about the inconvenience. After attending to these people, Anne takes George and Cameron, her servants, and they move more things to the apartment:
Later visits and apartment maintenance
Anne would leave Paris with her Aunt Anne on the following day, May 23, 1831. She would then visit several friends, return to Shibden Hall, travel with Mariana Lawton and Vere Hobart—get her heart broken by Vere Hobart—and later get involved with Ann Walker.
After Ann Walker went to Scotland to spend some time with her sister’s family and to get medical treatment, Anne would once again find herself in Paris. This time, she would be en route to Copenhagen. During this stay in Paris in 1833, Anne inevitably stopped at her apartment at no. 27 Rue St. Victor.
On the 25th of July, Anne finally returns to her pied-à-terre after 2 years, 2 months and 2 days. She finds her books dusty, but Eugénie, her lady’s maid, thinks the place would be good enough for them:
Anne writes to Aunt Anne and cryptically mentions her suspicion:
Anne also comments that she has considered sending her books home:
Then, in a letter to Mariana Lawton written on the same day, Anne adds:
Anne’s idea to give up the apartment was apparently motivated by the suspicion that a possible assassination attempt might be imminent. However, this did not come to pass. Only in 1835 would someone try to assassinate King Louis-Phillipe. That attempt would be unsuccessful.
The 2nd of August brings Anne reassuring news when a conversation with Madame Cuvier and Madame de Noé reveals that nothing happened to the King after all. Anne is now inclined to keep her apartment:
Monsieur Audouin would meet Anne again the next day. Anne gave him her addresses in Copenhagen and Shibden Hall, as she intended to connect him to some entomologists. Monsieur Brongniart (mineralogy lecturer at the Jardin des Plantes) also calls at Rue St. Victor and Anne spends some time talking to him. After he leaves, she tidies the place up a bit and looks at a bureau of drawers.
The following day, Anne once again stops at no. 27 Rue St. Victor. This time she’s there to collect some things she intends to pack for her upcoming trip to Copenhagen:
After getting her affairs in order, Anne left Paris for Copenhagen on the 18th of August 1833.
Unlike her apartment at no. 7 which was used as a place where Anne Lister could dissect specimens and study, 27 Rue St. Victor was a place where she could safely have her second library, store personal belongings, and sleep for a few days if needed. This dependable little apartment would be of use again, this time in June 1834, when Anne returned to Paris with Ann Walker on their honeymoon.
Anne Lister stops at 27 Rue St. Victor to pay her rent and the porter’s annual wages on 20th of June 1834:
Three days later, Anne returns to the apartment with Ann Walker to store things they won’t need during their travels in Switzerland. Anne also learns that some letters sent to her apartment were forwarded to Geneva.
This passage shows yet another use for the apartment at Rue St. Victor: to serve as Anne’s Paris address, to which letters could be addressed and then safely forwarded to whatever location Anne and Ann found themselves in. In a letter to Aunt Anne Lister from the 11th of June 1834, Anne had instructed her to address their letters to no. 27 Rue St. Victor.
On their return from Switzerland on the 21st of August 1834, Anne and Ann stopped at no. 27 Rue St. Victor again. There, Anne realizes some letters were accidentally forwarded to Geneva:
During the following years, Anne would not visit the apartment at no. 27 Rue St. Victor despite continuing to rent it. Her landlord, Monsieur Cusinberche, would write to her at Shibden in July 1837 about the rent Anne owed from 1836. Anne ended up paying this rent in August of 1837 and settled everything until May 1838. In June 1838, when Anne and Ann were on a tour of the continent, the apartment would be useful again.
After arriving in Paris with Ann Walker and a previous quick visit to Rue St. Victor to look for some of her journal books, Anne returns to her pied-à-terre on the 15th of June 1838:
On the 19th of June, as Anne and Ann are getting ready to leave Paris for the Pyrenees, they return to Rue St. Victor to store several items at the apartment, among which were a gold watch Anne’s mother gave her, plate, several clothing items, and books.
The landlady, Madame Cusinberche, offered accommodations for Anne, Ann and the servants on the 5th floor, so they could stay at no. 27 if they chose to do so on their return.
While they are in the Pyrenees, Anne continues to have her letters directed to her apartment in Paris. In October 1838, she mentioned this to Robert Parker (Solicitor, Halifax) and included the apartment's address “no. 27 Rue St. Victor, Quartier du Jardin des Plantes, à Paris”. Anne and Ann returned to Rue St. Victor on the 8th of November after their trip. There, they would find correspondence:
Anne and Ann would stop at Rue St. Victor one last time on the 14th of November 1838, to retrieve letters, and then would leave Paris for England on the 15th.
In 1839, Anne would once again pay her rent for no. 27 Rue St. Victor. However, when Anne and Ann departed Halifax for their final adventure together, they didn’t stop in Paris. Instead, they travelled north towards Hamburg and, from there, visited Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and finally reached Russia. Their tour of the Russian Empire would last months with long stops at Moscow and Tiflis. This adventure would be cut short by Anne Lister’s death in September 1840.
It is not known if Ann Walker stopped in Paris when she returned from Russia. However, the rent of no. 27 Rue St. Victor still had to be paid and Mr. Cusinberche got the value he was owed in 1841, when the contents of the apartment were inventoried and valued.
Curious artifacts at no. 27 Rue St. Victor
Anne’s belongings were many and served multiple purposes over the years. Her apartment at no. 27 Rue St. Victor housed a variety of items from practical household fixtures like furniture and plates, to various books, papers and knick knacks from her time as a student. Anne knew she could trust her landlord to keep her things safe and her parisian friends would keep an eye on the place if needed.
In 1838, when Ann Walker created the inventory of furniture and kitchen utensils, she noted several items that hint at the apartment’s use as storage and its versatility as a possible temporary accommodation. Ann’s inventory gives away information about the layout of the apartment, since she mentions a kitchen, a salon, and a study. Anne herself mentions a small room adjoining her study, but it is unclear if the contents of this room are included in Ann’s inventory or not.
In the kitchen, amidst the list of pots, pans, and teacups, Ann notes two sorts of China (with gold edge and plain white), there’s a charcoal stove, a dutch oven, a big and small stove, an assortment of trays, and several sorts of brushes, among other utensils.
The main room of the apartment housed a sofa, a bed, several sorts of tables, and chairs. Since Ann also wrote down the colours of some items, we know this room was decorated with furniture adorned with crimson cloth. The sofa and six chairs used this color palette.
Ann also inventoried the furniture in the study, which housed Anne’s books and other artifacts from Anne’s time as a student. Per Ann’s inventory, there was a writing table, a bookshelf, a chair with a black leather seat and two other chairs with more modest straw seats, and some boxes and trunks. She also counted two girandoles, which would likely be used to illuminate the room.
Ann’s inventory, though fairly complete, doesn’t include other interesting items Anne and Ann herself kept at no. 27 Rue St. Victor. From Anne’s journal of July 1838, we know some of Ann’s clothes and books were kept there during their trip to the Pyrenees.
Perhaps some of the most curious artifacts kept at this pied-à-terre were the ones from Anne’s time as a student in Paris. Among these interesting possessions was a human skeleton, which Anne bought on the 12th of January 1830, along with some skulls.
By the time an inventory of Anne’s belongings was created in June 1841, only the skeleton is mentioned. Per the valuation from that time, it was worth only 4 francs, a far cry from the 120 francs Anne paid when she acquired it. The same inventory also mentions a small surgical saw.
Anne’s minerals also devalued quite a lot over the years. In 1841, these were worth 50 francs, a considerable reduction from the 185 francs Anne paid originally.
Another curious item included in the 1841 inventory was a miniature portrait of a woman. The people evaluating Anne’s belongings assumed it was a family portrait and didn’t value it. The inventory doesn’t mention a possible identity for the woman depicted in the miniature. In Anne’s journals, there are several mentions of miniatures of Anne herself and of some of her lovers, but no proof has emerged so far to connect those to the miniature mentioned in this inventory.
Some volumes of Anne’s journals and some rough journal books (notebooks to write observations throughout the day and travel notes) also found themselves in Paris at some point. In January 1838, Anne is worried she might’ve lost her little rough books from her time travelling with Lady Stuart de Rothesay in 1830, but then realizes she probably left them in Paris:
Luckily, she would find her journal books the next day. Today, the West Yorkshire Archive Service holds five of Anne’s travel journals⁵ from this period. There’s a good chance these were the same journals Anne was looking for and eventually found bound in linen at her Paris pied-à-terre.
However, the little journal books weren’t the only part of Anne’s memoirs that were stored at Rue St. Victor. At some point, some of Anne’s journals were also kept there. In 1839, Anne herself gives an example of this when she tells William Gray (Solicitor, York) she brought from Paris a specific volume of her journal:
The inventory from 1841 doesn’t mention journals, but it does mention sixty four items that consisted in notes, invoices, and other memoranda. However, since the people working on this document were rushed to conclude the inventory, there’s no information as to what these papers pertained to.
One large section of the inventory from June 1841 is dedicated to Anne’s books. Anne’s library at Rue St. Victor ended up being the most valuable portion of her belongings and amounted to 933 francs. Similarly with what happened with other items, the people inventorying Anne’s belongings rushed through parts of this section of the inventory, which means that not every book was catalogued with information that helps identify it.
However, many books were inventoried with details that allow us to use tools like the Anne Lister Bookshelf to cross-reference the books Anne reads throughout her life and the volumes found at no. 27 Rue St. Victor after her death. The comparison below provides a list of books present at Anne’s apartment in 1841 cross-referenced with Anne Lister’s Bookshelf and another inventory of books written by Anne herself in 1831. Among the books already cross-referenced with the bookshelf are works by Cuvier, Lamarck, and Voltaire.
Is the apartment still there?
During Anne’s time, Rue St. Victor was an old street in the Quartier du Jardin du Roi. As was mentioned previously, she rented two apartments in this street.
The first apartment, no. 7 Rue St. Victor, was located near the southern end of the street and close to the Jardin des Plantes, then called the Jardin du Roi. When Anne walked there, she likely could see the corner of the Jardin. On a map of the street from 1836, we can see the buildings at this end and no. 7 is easily identifiable.
This section of Rue St. Victor didn’t change much over the course of almost 200 years. The buildings were renovated, businesses and residents came and went, but overall the layout of the streets stayed more or less the same. Curiously, some of the streets around this end acquired the names of people Anne knew and admired.
Rue St. Victor became Rue Linné after naturalist Carl von Linné (of taxonomy fame), Rue de Seine was renamed to Rue Cuvier after the naturalist Anne much admired and learned from. A fountain was added at the corner of Rue Linné and Rue Cuvier in 1841 in his honor. The Rue du Jardin du Roi is now Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, named after the scientist Anne knew well and admired, and whose lectures she attended. The Rue Copeau, near the location of Anne’s little apartment was also renamed and is today’s Rue Lacépède.
The southward end of Rue Linné in the 1900s. The corner of the Fountain Cuvier is visible on the left side of the image. The Jardin des plantes is also visible on the same side. In front we can see the Hôpital de la Pitié, where Anne's fellow Student Julliart acquired the specimens they ended up dissecting at no. 7 Rue St. Victor. This little apartment would be somewhere on the right side of the image, probably near or behind the photographer.
Image courtesy of Paris Rues
Many of these changes of names and reconfigurations of streets are likely connected to Haussman’s renovation of Paris, which took place from 1853 to 1870. This renovation ensured that Paris gained many new spaces but also lost medieval neighbourhoods and other sights that might’ve been familiar to Anne Lister.
Though the changes at the southernmost point of Rue Linné don’t look too drastic, the same cannot be said for the other end of the former Rue St. Victor. In Anne’s time, this street extended from the corner of the Jardin des Plantes to the Place Maubert. Today, Rue Linné starts at the northernmost end of Place Jussieu and extends to the corner of the Jardin des Plantes, where it joins Rue Cuvier and Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire.
According to this 1836 map that precedes the changes to the street, Anne’s apartment at no. 27 Rue St. Victor was located near the intersection of this street and Rue des Boulangers.
Map of the street in the 1850s, before changes to Rue St. Victor and Rue des Boulangers. No. 27 is the third unit from the top. Source: Archives de Paris - Cadastre de Paris par îlot (1810-1836), map F/31/95/10
Comparing this with today’s maps, it’s obvious that this part of former Rue St. Victor changed somewhat. The Rue des Boulangers seems to have been broadened, which likely led to the changes at the corner in which it meets today’s Rue Linné. Furthermore, we must also consider the change in the numbering system from the old Rue St. Victor to the new Rue Linné.
The current configuration of the buildings at the corner of Rue des Boulangers and Rue Linné (then Rue St. Victor) is different from the one we observe in the 1836 map. The space occupied by no. 31 Rue St. Victor in 1836 seems to now house no. 39 and no. 37 Rue Linné. The current no. 39 dates from 1900 and no. 37 dates from after 1800⁶, so there’s a good chance no. 31 was demolished or reconfigured at some point to lend its space to the new buildings. Furthermore, the building that is today’s no. 35 Rue Linné was also built in the 19th century.
The building at today’s no. 33 Rue Linné, also no. 33 Rue St. Victor at some point in the late 19th century, was built between 1801 and 1850 and was once the Hotel de Londres. This Hotel was property of a Monsieur Cusinberche, who had inherited it from another Cusinberche. The door to today’s no. 33 Rue Linné is still identical to what it looked like in the early 20th century.
There is still a no. 27 at Rue Linné, but this building was erected in 1850 and it’s located further down the street than no. 27 Rue St. Victor was in 1836. That said, this one is unlikely to be the building of Anne’s apartment. It’s unclear if the building formerly known as no. 27 Rue St. Victor is still standing but, given the configuration of the current and old buildings, there’s a likelihood that it stands and the building was simply renovated and changed numbers.
Additionally, there is still a portion of the original Rue St. Victor left about four blocks north of Anne’s last apartment. With the new numbering you can find a modern 27 Rue St Victor address but that does not correspond to Anne's address, rather it likely corresponds to the block that used to span numbers 125 through 133 of the old Rue St Victor (F/31/95/17).
We can’t say with certainty which modern building from Rue Linné corresponds to the no. 27 Rue St. Victor of Anne's time. However, anyone who walks down Rue Linné today towards the Jardin des Plantes is very likely walking the same stretch of street Anne Lister (and, in later years, also Ann Walker) once used to access the Jardin des Plantes.
Timeline of events
3 March 1830 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/13/0006 — transcription)
Anne Lister thinks about getting herself a room near the Jardin des Plantes. She intends to use this room as a place in which she can pursue her academic endeavours.
12 May 1831 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/14/0058 — transcription)
Anne writes a note to her landlady at n°7 rue Saint Victor to announce that she’s leaving the apartment. She starts renting the apartment at n°27 rue Saint Victor.
16 August 1833 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/16/0095 — transcription)
Before leaving Paris, Anne goes to the apartment to decide what she wants to take with her for her trip. Eugenie writes an inventory of kitchen tools and furniture.
15 August 1837 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/988 — transcription)
Anne writes a draft of a reply to Mr. Cusinberche pertaining mostly about her rent and how he can be paid. She adds: “J’aime beaucoup mon petit pied-à-terre”.
22 September 1840
Anne Lister dies at Kutaisi, Georgia.
14 June 1841 (MC/ET/LX/764 — transcription)
After Anne’s death, Ann Walker and William Gray (the executors of Anne’s will) request an inventory and valuation of the contents of the apartment at no. 27 Rue St. Victor.
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