I'm familiar with the tournure "n'avoir qu'à se louer", but I had never seen simply "avoir à se louer". From Claude Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques:

«Surtout», nous avait dit Dumas, «il faudra être bien habillé»; soucieux de nous rassurer, il ajoutait avec une candeur assez touchante que cela pouvait se faire fort économiquement, non loin des Halles, dans un établissement appelé A la Croix de Jeannette dont il avait toujours eu à se louer quant il était jeune étudiant en médecine à Paris.

Is the sense the same? It looks like the negated form is a bit more common.

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    I’m not familiar enough w/either version to answer, but some of the examples of the negative form could be seen as overstating things a bit (sometimes as an exaggerated contradictory response to a statement or set of facts)=(“Because/In spite of all that/On the contrary, he had [had] nothing but praise for …”), whereas some examples in the positive seem to be just expressing an unexaggerated state of satisfaction w/something (granted, the “toujours” in your example might qualify as exaggeration)=(“for which he had [always] had praise as a student/with which he had [always] been pleased…”). – Papa Poule May 25 '17 at 18:10

J'ai toujours eu à me louer de…

has the same meaning as:

Je n'ai [jamais] eu qu'à me louer de…

Here, the A la Croix de Jeannette clothing shop is simply recommended / praised by Dumas.


The context is about lodging, so I would be tempted to say that this is not the "praise" sense, but rather the "rent" sense. However, "se louer de" is simply not sensical in this sentence no matter which sense you're going for.

I can't find mentions of the construction for the sense "rent" (louer2 tab), and with the "praise" sense, it means "congratulate yourself for [something]", and it just doesn't seem to fit the syntax or the overall meaning here.

If we speculate that this is actually some sort of a slip of the pen, the dual senses of louer still make it impossible for us to tell whether he's always enthusiastically recommended this boarding house, or if he's merely saying Dumas never failed to find an available room there (e.g. if the pronoun is and not dont).

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    That's not a boarding house but a clothing shop! – jlliagre May 26 '17 at 13:51

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