Victor Hugo.

The works of Victor Hugo.. (Volume 7) online

. (page 1 of 45)
Online LibraryVictor HugoThe works of Victor Hugo.. (Volume 7) → online text (page 1 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



The Works of

Victor Hugo

Copyrighted Translations by

Isabel F. Hapgood,

Huntington Smith

and Helen B. Dole

Notre-Dame de Paris










t ; ^



A FEW years ago, while visiting or, rather, rummaging about
Notre-Dame, the author of this book found, in an obscure
nook of one of the towers, the following word, engraved by
hand upon the wall :


These Greek capitals, black with age, and quite deeply
graven in the stone, with I know not what signs peculiar
to Gothic caligraphy imprinted upon their forms and upon
their attitudes, as though with the purpose of revealing that
it had been a hand of the Middle Ages which had inscribed
them there, and especially the fatal and melancholy meaning
contained in them, struck the author deeply.

He questioned himself ; he sought to divine who could have
been that soul in torment which had not been willing to quit
this world without leaving this stigma of crime or unhappi-
ness upon the brow of the ancient church.

Afterwards, the wall was whitewashed or scraped down, I
know not which, and the inscription disappeared. For it is



thus that people have been in the habit of proceeding with
the marvellous churches of the Middle Ages for the last two
hundred years. Mutilations come to them from every quar-
ter, from within as well as from without. The priest white-
washes them, the archdeacon scrapes them down; then the
populace arrives and demolishes them.

Thus, with the exception of the fragile memory which the
author of this book here consecrates to it, there remains
to-day nothing whatever of the mysterious word engraved
within the gloomy tower of Notre-Dame, nothing of the
destiny which it so sadly summed up. The man who wrote
that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the
generations of man many centuries ago ; the word, in its turn,
has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church
will, perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the

It is upon this word that this book is founded.

MARCH, 1831.




I. The Grand Hall 1

II. Pierre Gringoire 17

III. Monsieur the Cardinal 28

IV. Master Jacques Coppenole 86

V. Quasimodo 46

VI. Esmeralda 54


I. From Charybdis to Scylla 67

II. The Place de Greve 61

III. Kisses for Blows 64

IV. The Inconveniences of Following a Pretty Woman through

the Streets in the Evening 75

V. Result of the Dangers 80

VI. The Broken Jug 88

VII. A Bridal Night 103


I. Notre-Dame 114

II. A Bird's-eye View of Paris 124




I. Good Souls 150

IL Claude Frollo 155

III. Immanis Pecoris Custos, Immanior Ipse 161

IV. The Dog and his Master 169

V. More about Claude Frollo 171

VI. Unpopularity 178


L Abbas Beati Martini 180

.II. This will KU1 That 191


I. An Impartial Glance at the Ancient Magistracy 207

II. The Rat-hole 219

III. History of a Leavened Cake of Maize 224

IV. A Tear for a Drop of Water 246

V. End of the Story of the Cake 256




THREE hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nine-
teen days ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all
the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and
the town ringing a full peal.

The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of which
history has preserved the memory. There was nothing nota-
ble in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois
of Paris in a ferment from early morning. It was neither an
assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led
along in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of
Laas, nor an entry of "our much dread lord, monsieur the
king," nor even a pretty hanging of male and female thieves
by the courts of Paris. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent
in the fifteenth century, of some plumed and bedizened em-
bassy. It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of
that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with
concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite
of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoy-
ance of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleas-
ing the king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien
towards this whole rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and
to regale them at his Hotel de Bourbon, with a very " pretty



morality, allegorical satire, and farce," while a driving rain
drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.

What put the " whole population of Paris in commotion," as
Jehan de Troyes expresses it, on the sixth of January, was
the double solemnity, united from time immemorial, of the
Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.

On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place de
Greve, a maypole at the Chapelle de Braque, and a mystery at
the Palais de Justice. It had been cried, to the sound of the
trumpet, the preceding evening at all the cross roads, by the
provost's men, clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats of
violet camelot, with large white crosses upon their breasts.

So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed
their houses and shops, thronged from every direction, at
early morn, towards some one of the three spots designated.

Each had made his choice ; one, the bonfire ; another, the
maypole ; another, the mystery play. It must be stated, in
honor of the good sense of the loungers of Paris, that the
greater part of this crowd directed their steps towards the
bonfire, which was quite in season, or towards the mystery
play, which was to be presented in the grand hall of the
Palais de Justice (the courts of law), which was well roofed
and walled ; and that the curious left the poor, scantily flow-
ered maypole to shiver all alone beneath the sky of January,
in the cemetery of the Chapel of Braque.

The populace thronged the avenues of the law courts in
particular, because they knew that the Flemish ambassadors,
who had arrived two days previously, intended to be present
at the representation of the mystery, and at the election of
the Pope of the Fools, which was also to take place in the
grand hall.

It was no easy matter on that day, to force one's way into
that grand hall, although it was then reputed to be the largest
covered enclosure in the world (it is true that Sauval had not
yet measured the grand hall of the Chateau of Montargis).
The palace place, encumbered with people, offered to the
curious gazers at the windows the aspect of a sea ; into which
five or six streets, like so many mouths of rivers, discharged


every moment fresh floods of heads. The waves of this
crowd, augmented incessantly, dashed against the angles of
the houses which projected here and there, like so many
promontories, into the irregular basin of the place. In the
centre of the lofty Gothic * f a$ade of the palace, the grand
staircase, incessantly ascended and descended by a double cur-
rent, which, after parting on the intermediate landing-p^ace,
flowed in broad waves along its lateral slopes, the grand
staircase, I say, trickled incessantly into the place, like a
cascade into a lake. The cries, the laughter, the trampling
of those thousands of feet, produced a great noise and a great
clamor. From time to time, this noise and clamor redoubled ;
the current which drove the crowd towards the grand stair-
case flowed backwards, became troubled, formed whirlpools.
This was produced by the buffet of an archer, or the horse of
one of the provost's sergeants, which kicked to restore order ;
an admirable tradition which the provostship has bequeathed
to the constablery, the constablery to the marechatissee, the
marechaussee to our gendarmeri of Paris.

Thousands of good, calm, bourgeois faces thronged the win-
dows, the doors, the dormer windows, the roofs, gazing at the
palace, gazing at the populace, and asking nothing more ; for
many Parisians content themselves with the spectacle of the
spectators, and a wall behind which something is going on
becomes at once, for us, a very curious thing indeed.

If it could be granted to us, the men of 1830, to mingle in
thought with those Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to
enter with them, jostled, elbowed, pulled about, into that
immense hall of the palace, which was so cramped on that
sixth of January, 1482, the spectacle would not be devoid of
either interest or charm, and we should have about us only
things that were so old that they would seem new.

* The word Gothic, in the sense in which it is generally employed, is
wholly unsuitable, but wholly consecrated. Hence we accept it and
we adopt it, like all the rest of the world, to characterize the architecture
of the second half of the Middle Ages, where the ogive is the principle
which succeeds the architecture of the first period, of which the semi
circle is the father.


With the reader's consent, we will endeavor to retrace in
thought, the impression which he would have experienced in
company with us on crossing the threshold of that grand hall,
in the midst of that tumultuous crowd in surcoats, short,
sleeveless jackets, and doublets.

And, first of all, there is a buzzing in the ears, a dazzlement
in the eyes. Above our heads is a double ogive vault, pan-
elled with wood carving, painted azure, and sown with golden
fleurs-de-lis ; beneath our feet a pavement of black and white
marble, alternating. A few paces distant, an enormous pillar,
then another, then another; seven pillars in all, down the
length of the hall, sustaining the spring of the arches of the
double vault, in the centre of its width. Around four of
the pillars, stalls of merchants, all sparkling with glass and
tinsel ; around the last three, benches of oak, worn and pol-
ished by the trunk hose of the litigants, and the robes of the
attorneys. Around the hall, along the lofty wall, between the
doors, between the windows, between the pillars, the intermi-
nable row of all the kings of France, from Pharamond down :
the lazy kings, with pendent arms and downcast eyes; the
valiant and combative kings, with heads and arms raised
boldly heavenward. Then in the long, pointed windows,
glass of a thousand hues ; at the wide entrances to the hall,
rich doors, finely sculptured; and all, the vaults, pillars,
walls, jambs, panelling, doors, statues, covered from top to
bottom with a splendid blue and gold illumination, which, a
trifle tarnished at the epoch when we behold it, had almost
entirely disappeared beneath dust and spiders in the year of
grace, 1549, when du Breul still admired it from tradition.

Let the reader picture to himself now, this immense, oblong
hall, illuminated by the pallid light of a January day, invaded
by a motley and noisy throng which drifts along the walls,
and eddies round the seven pillars, and he will have a con-
fused idea of the whole effect of the picture, whose curious
details we shall make an effort to indicate with more pre-

It is certain, that if Ravaillac had not assassinated Henri
IV., there would have been no dociiments in the trial of


Kavaillac deposited in the clerk's office of the Palais de Jus-
tice, no accomplices interested in causing the said documents
to disappear ; hence, no incendiaries obliged, for lack of better
means, to burn the clerk's office in order to burn the docu-
ments, and to burn the Palais de Justice in order to burn the
clerk's office ; consequently, in short, no conflagration in 1618.
The old Palais would be standing still, with its ancient grand
hall ; I should be able to say to the reader, " Go and look at
it," and we should thus both escape the necessity, I of
making, and he of reading, a description of it, such as it is.
Which demonstrates a new truth: that great events have
incalculable results.

It is true that it may be quite possible, in the first place,
that Eavaillac had no accomplices ; and in the second, that if
he had any, they were in no way connected with the fire of
1618. Two other very plausible explanations exist : First,
the great flaming star, a foot broad, and a cubit high, which
fell from heaven, as every one knows, upon the law courts,
after midnight on the seventh of March ; second, Theophile's

"Sure, 'twas but a sorry game
When at Paris, Dame Justice,
Through having eaten too much spice,
Set the palace all aflame."

Whatever may be thought of this triple explanation, politi-
cal, physical, and poetical, of the burning of the law courts in
1618, the unfortunate fact of the fire is certain. Very little
to-day remains, thanks to this catastrophe, thanks, above
all, to the successive restorations which have completed what
it spared, very little remains of that first dwelling of the
kings of France, of that elder palace of the Louvre, already
so old in the time of Philip the Handsome, that they sought
there for the traces of the magnificent buildings erected by
King Robert and described by Helgaldus. Nearly everything
has disappeared. What has become of the chamber of the
chancellery, where Saint Louis consummated his marriage?
the garden where he administered justice, " clad in a coat of


eamelot, a surcoat of linsey-woolsey, without sleeves, and a
sur-mantle of black sandal, as he lay upon the carpet with
Joinville ? " Where is the chamber of the Emperor Sigis-
mond ? and that of Charles IV. ? that of Jean the Landless ?
Where is the staircase, from which Charles VI. promulgated
his edict of pardon ? the slab where Marcel cut the throats of
Robert de Clermont and the Marshal of Champagne, in the
presence of the dauphin ? the wicket where the bulls of
Pope Benedict were torn, and whence those who had brought
them departed decked out, in derision, in copes and mitres,
and making an apology through all Paris ? and the grand
hall, with its gilding, its azure, its statues, its pointed arches,
its pillars, its immense vault, all fretted with carvings ? and
the gilded chamber ? and the stone lion, which stood at the
door, with lowered head and tail between his legs, like the
lions on the throne of Solomon, in the humiliated attitude
which befits force in the presence of justice ? and the beauti-
ful doors ? and the stained glass ? and the chased ironwork,
which drove Biscornette to despair ? and the delicate wood-
work of Hancy ? What has time, what have men done with
these marvels ? What have they given us in return for all
this Gallic history, for all this Gothic art ? The heavy flat-
tened arches of M. de Brosse, that awkward architect of the
Saint-Gervais portal. So much for art; and, as for history,
we have the gossiping reminiscences of the great pillar, still
ringing with the tattle of the Patru.

It is not much. Let us return to the veritable grand hall
of the veritable old palace. The two extremities of this
gigantic parallelogram were occupied, the one by the famous
marble table, so long, so broad, and so thick that, as the
ancient land rolls in a style that would have given Gargan-
tua an appetite say, "such a slice of marble as was never
beheld in the world " ; the other by the chapel where Louis XL
had himself sculptured on his knees before the Virgin, and
whither he caused to be brought, without heeding the two
gaps thus made in the row of royal statues, the statues of
Charlemagne and of Saint Louis, two saints whom he sup
posed to be great in favor in heaven, as kings of France


This chapel, quite new, having been built only six years, was
entirely in that charming taste of delicate architecture, of
marvellous sculpture, of fine and deep chasing, which marks
with us the end of the Gothic era, and which is perpetuated
to about the middle of the sixteenth century in the fairylike
fancies of the Kenaissance. The little open-work rose win-
dow, pierced above the portal, was, in particular, a master-
piece of lightness and grace ; one would have pronounced it a
star of lace.

In the middle of the hall, opposite the great door, a plat-
form of gold brocade, placed against the wall, a special
entrance to which had been effected through a window in
the corridor of the gold chamber, had been erected for the
Flemish emissaries and the other great personages invited to
the presentation of the mystery play.

It was upon the marble table that the mystery was to be
enacted, as usual. It had been arranged for the purpose,
early in the morning ; its rich slabs of marble, all scratched
by the heels of law clerks, supported a cage of carpenter's
work of considerable height, the upper surface of which,
within view of the whole hall, was to serve as the theatre,
and whose interior, masked by tapestries, was to take the
place of dressing-rooms for the personages of the piece. A
ladder, naively placed on the outside, was to serve as means
of communication between the dressing-room and the stage,
and lend its rude rungs to entrances as well as to exits.
There was no personage, however unexpected, no sudden
change, no theatrical effect, which was not obliged to mount
that ladder. Innocent and venerable infancy of art and con-
trivances !

Four of the bailiff of the palace's sergeants, perfunctory
guardians of all the pleasures of the people, on days of fes-
tival as well as on days of execution, stood at the four corners
of the marble table.

The piece was only to begin with the twelfth stroke of the
great palace clock sounding midday. It was very late, no
doubt, for a theatrical representation, but they had been
obliged to fix the hour to suit the convenience of the ambas-


Now, this whole multitude had been waiting since morning.
A goodly number of curious, good people had been shivering
since daybreak before the grand staircase of the palace;
some even affirmed that they had passed the night across
the threshold of the great door, in order to make sure that
they should be the first to pass in. The crowd grew more
dense every moment, and, like water, which rises above its
normal level, began to mount along the walls, to swell around
the pillars, to spread out on the entablatures, on the cornices,
on the window-sills, on all the salient points of the architec-
ture, on all the reliefs of the sculpture. Hence, discomfort,
impatience, weariness, the liberty of a day of cynicism and
folly, the quarrels which break forth for all sorts of causes
a pointed elbow, an iron-shod shoe, the fatigue of long wait
ing had already, long before the hour appointed for the
arrival of the ambassadors, imparted a harsh and bitter
accent to the clamor of these people who were shut in, fitted
into each other, pressed, trampled upon, stifled. Nothing
was to be heard but imprecations on the Flemish, the provost
of the merchants, the Cardinal de Bourbon, the bailiff of the
courts, Madame Marguerite of Austria, the sergeants with
their rods, the cold, the heat, the bad weather, the Bishop
of Paris, the Pope of the Fools, the pillars, the statues, that
closed door, that open window ; all to the vast amusement of
a band of scholars and lackeys scattered through the mass,
who mingled with all this discontent their teasing remarks,
and their malicious suggestions, and pricked the general bad
temper with a pin, so to speak.

Among the rest there was a group of those merry imps,
who, after smashing the glass in a window, had seated them-
selves hardily on the entablature, and from that point de-
spatched their gaze and their railleries both within and
without, upon the throng in the hall, and the throng upon
the Place. It was easy to see, from their parodied gestures,
their ringing laughter, the bantering appeals which they
exchanged with their comrades, from one end of the hall to
the other, that these young clerks did not share the weariness
and fatigue of the rest of the spectators, and that they under-


stood very well the art of extracting, for their own private
diversion, from that which they had under their eyes, a spec-
tacle which made them await the other with patience.

"Upon my soul, so it's you, 'Joannes Frollo de Molen-
dino!'" cried one of them, to a sort of little, light-haired
imp, with a well-favored and malign countenance, clinging to
the acanthus leaves of a capital ; " you are well named John
of the Mill, for your two arms and your two legs have the air
of four wings fluttering on the breeze. How long have you
been here ? "

"By the mercy of the devil," retorted Joannes Frollo,
" these four hours and more ; and I hope that they will be
reckoned to my credit in purgatory. I heard the eight sing-
ers of the King of Sicily intone the first verse of seven o'clock
mass in the Sainte-Chapelle."

" Fine singers ! " replied the other, " with voices even more
pointed than their caps ! Before founding a mass for Mon-
sieur Saint John, the king should have inquired whethei
Monsieur Saint John likes Latin droned out in a Provencal

" He did it for the sake of employing those accursed sing-
ers of the King of Sicily ! " cried an old woman sharply from
among the crowd beneath the window. "I just put it to
you ! A thousand livres parisi for a mass ! and out of the tax
on sea fish in the markets of Paris, to boot ! "

"Peace, old crone," said a tall, grave person, stopping up
his nose on the side towards the fishwife ; " a mass had to be
founded. Would you wish the king to fall ill again ? "

"Bravely spoken, Sire Gilles Lecornu, master furrier oi
the king's robes ! " cried the little student, clinging to the

A shout of laughter from all the students greeted the
unlucky name of the poor furrier of the king's robes.

" Lecornu ! Gilles Lecornu ! " said some.

" Cornutus et hirsutus, horned and hairy," another went on.

"He ! of course," continued the small imp on the capital,
"What are they laughing at? An honorable man is Gilles
Lecornu, brother of Master Jehan Lecornu, provost of the


king's house, son of Master Mahiet Lecornu, first porter of
the Bois de Vincennes, all bourgeois of Paris, all married,
from father to son."

The gayety redoubled. The big furrier, without uttering a
word in reply, tried to escape all the eyes riveted upon him
from all sides ; but he perspired and panted in vain ; like a
wedge entering the wood, his efforts served only to bury still
more deeply in the shoulders of his neighbors, his large, apo-
plectic face, purple with spite and rage.

At length one of these, as fat, short, and venerable as him-
self, came to his rescue.

"Abomination! scholars addressing a bourgeois in that
fashion in my day would have been flogged with a fagot,
which would have afterwards been used to burn them."

The whole band burst into laughter.

" Hoik he ! who is scolding so ? Who is that screech owl of
evil fortune ? "

"Hold, I know him," said one of them; "'tis Master
Andry Musnier."

"Because he is one of the four sworn booksellers of the
university ! " said the other.

"Everything goes by fours in that shop," cried a third',
" the four nations, the four faculties, the four feasts, the four
procurators, the four electors, the four booksellers."

"Well," began Jean Frollo once more, "we must play the
devil with them." *

" Musnier, we'll burn your books."

" Musnier, we'll beat your lackeys."

" Musnier, we'll kiss your wife."

" That fine, big Mademoiselle Oudarde."

" Who is as fresh and as gay as though she were a widow."

" Devil take you ! " growled Master Andry Musnier.

"Master Andry," pursued Jean Jehan, still clinging to his
capital, " hold your tongue, or I'll drop on your head ! "

Master Andry raised his eyes, seemed to measure in an
instant the height of the pillar, the weight of the scamp

* Faire le diable it quatre.


mentally multiplied that weight by the square of the ve-
locity, and remained silent.

Jehan, master of the field of battle, pursued triumphantly :

" That's what I'll do, even if I am the brother of an arch-
deacon ! "

" Fine gentry are our people of the university, not to have
caused our privileges to be respected on such a day as this !
However, there is a maypole and a bonfire in the town ; a
mystery, Pope of the Fools, and Flemish ambassadors in the
city ; and, at the university, nothing ! "

Online LibraryVictor HugoThe works of Victor Hugo.. (Volume 7) → online text (page 1 of 45)