Of the property where Gustave Flaubert lived and worked from 1843 until his death, all that remains is this garden pavilion facing a factory-littered Rouen landscape. In the last century, however, Flaubert's house was situated in a particularly agreeable location, on a hillside overlooking the Seine, and a watercolour by Rochegrosse (on show in the museum) gives a picture of a large 18th century house topped with a double-sloped slate roof surmounted by a pediment.
Dr Flaubert, father of the writer, acquired in 1843 this house which had belonged to the Benedictine monks of Saint-Ouen, after Flaubert senior's Deville-lès-Rouen home had been expropriated to make way for the Paris-Rouen railway line. Legend has it that Abbot Prévost wrote Manon Lescaut in Flaubert's future house. After the death of his father, Flaubert continued to spend the summer months in this house accompanied by his mother and his sister; he established himself here definitively in 1851. His study was on the first floor and overlooked the garden and the Seine. It was here that the novelist wrote most of his major works.
Alongside Baudelaire and the Goncourt brothers Flaubert is one of the most important writers of the Second Empire. His genius was recognized in his lifetime by the imperial regime, with the award of a Legion d'Honneur and invitations to Compiègne, the Tuileries and to Princess Mathilde's home. It was not however until the immense scandal surrounding the appearance of Madame Bovary in 1857 and the subsequent lawsuit accusing him of insulting "the moral standards of the public and religion", that Flaubert's career really took off. As a result of the scandal, the success of the novel (whose plot was centred in the main around the Normandy countryside, Rouen and its environs) was immediately assured. Other Rouen connections can be traced to the stained-glass window of Rouen cathedral which inspired Flaubert to write one of the short stories in the Trois Contes, 'La Légende de Saint-Julien l'Hospitalier', published in 1877. Also of note is the fact that the author planned to write a monumental novel describing Second Empire society. This work, entitled Under Napoleon IIIrd, unfortunately never saw the light of day.
Flaubert never worked in the Croisset pavilion, but he often went there in the company of his guests, and he would go there at night alone to contemplate the Seine by moonlight. A quotation reproduced on the façade of the pavilion recalls his nocturnal visits: "I have somewhere a white house; I left the walls covered in roses and there is a pavilion on the banks of the Seine; a stray honeysuckle grows on the iron balcony. At one o'clock in the morning in July, by the moonlight, it is a good place to come and watch the fishing". Many of the writer's personal possessions are on show in the pavilion today: notably, portraits, busts, photographs by Nadar, an armchair, the famous parrot of Un Coeur Simple (A Simple Heart), an inkwell and goose quills, a writing case, etc. It was on a path bordered with lime trees leading to the house that Flaubert went to declaim the texts which he found so painful to compose: he named this place his "gueuloir" (shouting ground).
A few kilometers from Croisset, Rouen also has memorabilia relating to the writer and is the ideal place to re-read Madame Bovary. Flaubert was born in this city in 1821, in the former Hospital of Saint-Louis and Saint-Roch where his father was a surgeon. Today transformed into a Flaubert Museum and Museum of the History of Medicine, the hospital has on show the room in which the writer was born and has an exhibition of items relating to Flaubert's childhood. Rouen was also Flaubert's final resting place, in that he was buried in the municipal cemetery there.