Years ago, I was browsing through the stacks of the Oak Park, Illinois, library, when I came across a book that transfixed me. It was called Homes of the Great by Claude Arthaud. Its pages showed the beautiful homes lived in by great writers, artists, and composers of the past, and for me, they were a revelation, a European vision of life that was news to someone born on the northwest side of Chicago. My favorite home of the book, with my favorite rooms of all, is Les Charmettes, where the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau lived as a young man. I would like to share some of these images with you, hoping you will enjoy them as much as I have.
Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland, but as a young man came to Les Charmettes, which is outside the town of Chambery, France. The owner of the home, Madame de Warens, became his patron, and later his mistress.
From the windows of Les Charmettes could be seen the surrounding woods and meadows, as well as an Alpine range and its foothills.
Of his time at Les Charmettes, Rousseau wrote: “Here began the short happiness of my life; here occurred the quiet but rapid moments which give me the right to say I have lived.”
His stay in this home was to form some of the basis for the novels he was to write later.
Rousseau was later to tell a friend: “Ever since I was thrown into the world against my will, I have never ceased to love Les Charmettes and the pleasant life I had there. It was impossible for me to live happily elsewhere.”
These rooms have hovered in the back of my mind for years, and I am not surprised when I look up to see the pale green walls and bare wooden floors of our living and dining room–even the asparagus fern hanging in a window–that are echoes of visions of Les Charmettes.
Hope you have enjoyed this little tour. Take care. Fran