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Emile Littré: the man after whom the street is named.

  • 28/02/2024
  • About the hotel

Émile Littré was a man of many talents and commitments, whose influence has left a lasting mark in the fields of language, philosophy, and politics in France. Throughout this article, you will discover his life and his commitments to France.

A life rich in experiences and rewarding.

It all begins with the birth of this man, Émile Littré, born in 1801 in the 6th arrondissement. The first years of his life unfold around Cognac, but Émile Littré quickly returns to Paris by 1811. He begins his studies at the Louis Le Grand High School, located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, where he forms a friendship with a certain Louis Hachette, who will become his future publisher. Approaching the end of his high school years, Émile Littré hesitates about his vocation. Around 1822, he eventually starts studying medicine and becomes a hospital intern. At the same time, he takes the opportunity to improve his linguistic skills and manages to master reading and writing in four modern languages by the age of 25, thus becoming an excellent Hellenist and Latinist. On the verge of completing his medical thesis in 1830 to obtain recognition as a physician, Émile Littré decides that he does not wish to pursue this professional path, although he never severed his ties with this profession throughout his life.

Emile Littré was a man interested in everything… cites Jean Hamburger in his book “Monsieur Littré”. Eager for knowledge, Emile Littré agrees to translate the complete works of Hippocrates. Later, he also publishes texts on history and science, notably in numerous medical publications.

Around 1835, he marries Pauline Lacoste, with whom he will have a daughter and will live in a peaceful union until the end of his days. Thanks to his various writings, he can finally settle in a Parisian apartment located on Rue de l’Ouest in the 14th arrondissement. Just steps away from the Luxembourg Gardens, which he is familiar with, this apartment is larger and more comfortable to accommodate his family.

Émile Littré also had a notable political career. He was elected as a senator in 1871, representing moderate republicans. His political commitment was often in line with his philosophical convictions, notably his support for secularism and science as the foundation of society.

At the age of 38, Emile Littré became a member of an institution playing a role in promoting research through the awarding of numerous prizes: the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres. During this time, his attraction to the French language was stronger than ever. It was at this moment that he considered creating a dictionary entirely dedicated to etymological questions. In 1841, he submitted his idea to his friend Hachette, who ran a publishing house. This dictionary aimed to enrich words by analyzing them and providing relevant quotations. Much of his life would be devoted to the realization of this work.

A week after Émile Littré’s death, the great French journalist and writer Émile Zola went so far as to proclaim him “the man of the century”.

A touch of Emile Littré at the Hotel Le Littré.

Take a moment to stroll through the Verandabar. Despite the digital age, Hotel Le Littré provides its guests with several copies of the Littré dictionary. Take advantage of this opportunity to explore it and deepen your knowledge while enjoying a drink of your choice that our bartender will be delighted to serve you.