Literary Quotes about Paris

May 25, 2010 at 1:44 am 2 comments


Paris on a Summer Evening 2017 Photo by Janet Hulstrand

“Paris isn’t a city, it’s a world.” King Francois I

“Sunday 12 January.  Approached Paris, Invalides appeared as St. Paul’s does, coming to London. Was not affected much. Monday 13 January. Awaked tolerable; no change of ideas from being in Paris.”  from the Diaries of James Boswell (1766)

“I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the World!” Charles Dickens (1844)

“At last I have come into a dreamland…” Harriet Beecher Stowe

“But coming [to Paris] has been a wonderful experience, surprising in many respects, one of them being to find how much of an American I am.” Augustus Saint-Gaudens

“In Paris they simply stared at me when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.” Mark Twain

“…the great merit of the place is that one can arrange one’s life here exactly as one pleases…there are facilities for every kind of habit and taste, and everything is accepted and understood.”  Henry James, in a letter to a friend (1876)

“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” Henry James

“…the weather is icy, but Paris looks beautiful. Everything is white & every morning the sun disappears in a pink sky. The fountains are just a bubble in their basins of ice…I am going to enjoy life in Paris I know. It is so human and there is something noble in the city…It is a real city, old and fine and life plays in it for everybody to see.” Katherine Mansfield in a letter to a friend (1913)

“I like Paris because I find something here, something of integrity, which I seem to have strangely lost in my own country. It is simplest of all to say that I like to live among people and surroundings where I am not always conscious of ‘thou shalt not.’ I am colored, and wish to be known as colored, but sometimes I feel that my growth as a writer has been hampered in my own country. And so–but only temporarily–I have fled from it.” Jessie Fauset (1923)

“There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here. No other city is quite like it. It is a racecourse tension. I wake early, often at 5 o’clock, and start writing at once.” James Joyce, in a letter to a friend

“Paris, France is exciting and peaceful.” Gertrude Stein, in Paris France

“There is never any ending to Paris, and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. Paris was always worth it, and you received return for whatever you brought to it…” Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast

“Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America.”  Ernest Hemingway

“I do not know what I thought Paris would be like, but it was not that way. It rained nearly every day.” Hemingway, from private papers in the collection of the John F. Kennedy Library

“To have come on all this new world of writing, with time to read in a city like Paris where there was a way of living well and working, no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure given to you.” Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast

“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.” James Thurber, in a letter to a friend (1918)

“Frankly–I, though I may seem a rather solemn serious bespectacled person, though I am a registered and accepted candidate for a doctorat at the University of Paris, though I am head and shoulders deep in dusty tomes on dry dead dusty divinities, I am going crazy, spring-struck, moon-struck…I feel like an entire Pompeian frieze of little red naked people dancing, I feel like a room full of orgiastic and rather indecent Greek vases…I feel like standing on my head on top of a taxi-cab, like making a proposal of marriage to eighteen elderly spinsters, like jumping into the Seine…And all this caused by six fine days and the prospect of demobilization.” John Dos Passos, in a letter to a friend (1919)

“It is no accident that propels people like us to Paris. Paris simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it in the incubator.” Henry Miller in Tropic of Cancer

“One gets a good look at one’s country from this perspective, and one learns to see one’s nation with double eyes, to feel what we have got and what we have not got. I’ve learned more about America in one month in Paris than I could in one year in New York. Looking at this country makes all the unimportant phases of the AMERICAN problem fade somewhat and render the true problem more vivid.” Richard Wright

“The national characteristics…the restless metaphysical curiosity, the tenderness of good living and the passionate individualism. This is the invisible constant in a place with which the ordinary tourist can get in touch just by sitting quite quietly over a glass of wine in a Paris bistro.” Lawrence Durrell

“I am in Paris. Yes ma’am , I made it back. I came up from Berlin, stopped here ten days, fought a losing battle against my deepest inclinations, pulled myself out by the hair and went to Madrid…Madrid is a lovely enchanting city, and there was almost ready for me a kind of penthouse full of sunlight, a roof garden, and so on. I gave one look at it all, returned to the hotel and went to bed and wept bitterly for eleven hours…Why? Because I had seen Paris and could not endure the thought of being anywhere else…” Katherine Anne Porter, in a letter to friends (1932)

“It is perfectly possible to be enamoured of Paris while remaining totally indifferent or even hostile to the French.” James Baldwin

“…the bewildering beauty of Paris…” Allen Ginsberg

“There has been a marvelous joyous carnival of mourning for Edith Piaf and Jean Coctaeau, and it was real! They died as they had lived, with style and grace and their proper eccentricity; and Paris loves anybody who can live anarchically and be delightful entertainment at the same time. So do I.” Katherine Anne Porter, in a letter to Flannery O’Connor (1963)

“How many minds opened, how many hearts brought to maturity, how many powerful natures fulfilled!…No matter where we look, Paris turns out to have been the decisive element. Without Paris, Jefferson would not be Jefferson, Franklin would not be Franklin, Chopin would not be Chopin…Freud would not be Freud…Picasso would not be Picasso. That list could be remade a hundred times over, and in almost every domain of human activity. The role of Paris in all this is active, not passive. The people I have named did not ‘have a good time’ in Paris. Paris drove them to give of their best and defied them to fall short of it…” John Russell in Paris

“Paris…is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail…” Edmund White in The Flaneur

“A final reminder. Whenever you are in Paris at twilight in the early summer, return to the Seine and watch the evening sky close slowly on a last strand of daylight fading quietly, like a sigh.” Kate Simon

“It’s Paris. You don’t come here for the weather.” Adrian Leeds

“Ah! la charmante chose/Quitter un pays morose/Pour Paris…” Guillaume Apollinaire, in Voyage a Paris

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland.  She teaches literature courses in Paris and Hawaii for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and twice a year she offers Writing from the Heart workshops in a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.

Entry filed under: About Paris. Tags: , , , , .

My Favorite Quotes about Travel Some Quotes about Writing

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1.  |  June 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

    So how can you make your trip a success? If you do not speak French would definitely recommend learning a few French phrases that would make the French ready to help. Because let’s face it when foreigners come to your country, you expect to talk to you in your language. This means that the same applies to France!

    Here are some things you should know how to say:

    – Hello!
    – Thanks!

  • 2. David Roller Black  |  September 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Excellent site for interesting quotes that reveal impressions of Paris.


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