Smith in the City: Hôtel du Parc Royal, Rue du Colombier

Among the best hotels or lodging houses in “Quartier S. Germain des Pres” listed in the 1770 edition of The Gentleman’s Guide in his Tour through France is the “Hotel du Parc Royal, from 24 to 450 livres per month.”[1] At the time, the best town houses in Paris had their own private water wells, and the best apartments in the city had their own bathtubs.[2] Alas, we don’t know much about Hôtel du Parc Royal,[3] Adam Smith’s lodgings during his nine-month residency in Paris (February to October 1766), but we do know the following:

First off, we know that both David Hume and Horace Walpole lodged there.[4] Hume relocated to the Parc Royal in November of 1765 and stayed there until his departure from Paris on January 4, 1766, while Walpole stayed at the Hôtel du Parc Royal from October 1765 until his departure from Paris in April 1766.[5] That such great men of letters as David Hume and Horace Walpole would stay at the Parc-Royal is some indication of this hotel’s quality.[6]

Secondly, we know that the Hôtel du Parc Royal was located on the Rue du Colombier, close to the original abbey complex of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Today, the Rue de Colombier is the Rue Jacob, a quiet street in the 6th arrondissement of modern-day Paris.[7] At the time of Smith’s stay, however, the Rue du Colombier and the Rue Jacob formed one long street. Writing in May of 1766, for example, the Reverend William Cole describes the Rue du Colombier thus: “This Rue du Colombier, & the Rue Jacob make one long Street from the Rue du Seine quite down to the River; & the Rue des Petits Augustins, where I lodged came into this long Street, near the Joining together of the Rue du Colombier & the Rue Jacob.”[8]

Third and most importantly, we know that the Hôtel du Parc Royal and Rue de Colombier were located in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, one of the most fashionable and aristocratic quarters of Paris at the time. I will say more about this beautiful neighborhood and how it must have appeared to Adam Smith in 1766 when I resume this series of blog posts on Monday, April 25. For now, however, below is a closeup of the Rue du Colombier from a 1739 map of Paris.

[1] Gentleman’s Guide 1770, p. 234.

[2] By contrast, ordinary Parisians obtained their water from city fountains and bathed in one of the city’s many public bath houses, which provided hot tubs of water for a fee. As an aside, it was not until ten years after Smith’s visit that the Pierre brothers started a private water business that supplied three million liters of water a day using steam-powered pumps. See Combeau 2013, pp. 47-48.

[3] According to one historical source (Lefeuve 1875, Vol. 3, p. 23), the Parc-Royal subsequently became the “hôtellerie du Roi-Georges,” but as of this writing (April of 2022) I have not been able to find any information about the hotel Roi-Georges. See, e.g., Aucourt 1890.

[4] See Mossner 1980, p. 504.

[5] As an additional aside, we also know that Horace Walpole returned to the Parc-Royal during each of his four subsequent visits to the City of Lights. W. S. Lewis, the editor of Walpole’s 1765/66 Paris journal, states that the the Hôtel du Parc Royal “remained [Horace Walpole’s] hotel during all his visits to Paris. Lewis 1939, p. 266 n.72.

[6] Cf. Lefeuve 1875, Vol. 3, p. 23: “N’est-ce pas à l’hôtellerie du Roi-Georges, dite alors du Parc-Royal, que ne craignit pas de descendre le protecteur des lettres Horace Walpole, qui devait être difficile sur le choix de son pied-à-terre? Il avait à Strawberry-Hill une résidence princière, dans laquelle s’imprimaient ses propres ouvrages.” (“Wasn’t it at the hôtellerie du Roi-Georges, then called the Parc-Royal, that Horace Walpole, protector of letters, was not afraid to stay, who must have been difficult about the choice of his pied-à-terre? He had a princely residence at Strawberry-Hill, in which his own works were printed.”

[7] Rue du Colombier was renamed “Rue Jacob” on July 14, 1836. See Hillairet 1963, p. 665. See also Lefeuve 1875, Vol. 5, p. 389: “Dès 1838 une rue du Colombier s’est engloutie dans la bouche de la rue Jacob ….” (“As early as 1838 a rue du Colombier was swallowed up in the mouth of rue Jacob ….”). See also ibid., p. 141. The original “Rue du Colombier” is thus not to be confused with the existing “Rue du Vieux Colombier.” (Julian Baggini makes this mistake in his intellectual biography of David Hume. See Baggini 2021, p. 192.)

[8] See Stokes 1931, pp. 52-53 (punctuation and spelling in the original).

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to Smith in the City: Hôtel du Parc Royal, Rue du Colombier

  1. Pingback: Smith’s Faubourg Saint-Germain (part 1 of 3) | prior probability

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