It is by mistake that this edition was announced as augmented by many new chapters. The word should have been unpublished. In fact, if by new, newly made is to be understood, the chapters added to this edition are not new. They were written at the same time as the rest of the work; they date from the same epoch, and sprang from the same thought, they have always formed a part of the manuscript of “Notre–Dame-de-Paris.” Moreover, the author cannot comprehend how fresh developments could be added to a work of this character after its completion. This is not to be done at will. According to his idea, a romance is born in a manner that is, in some sort, necessary, with all its chapters; a drama is born with all its scenes. Think not that there is anything arbitrary in the numbers of parts of which that whole, that mysterious microcosm which you call a drama or a romance, is composed. Grafting and soldering take badly on works of this nature, which should gush forth in a single stream and so remain. The thing once done, do not change your mind, do not touch it up. The book once published, the sex of the work, whether virile or not, has been recognized and proclaimed; when the child has once uttered his first cry he is born, there he is, he is made so, neither father nor mother can do anything, he belongs to the air and to the sun, let him live or die, such as he is. Has your book been a failure? So much the worse. Add no chapters to an unsuccessful book. Is it incomplete? You should have completed it when you conceived it. Is your tree crooked? You cannot straighten it up. Is your romance consumptive? Is your romance not capable of living? You cannot supply it with the breath which it lacks. Has your drama been born lame? Take my advice, and do not provide it with a wooden leg.
Hence the author attaches particular importance to the public knowing for a certainty that the chapters here added have not been made expressly for this reprint. They were not published in the preceding editions of the book for a very simple reason. At the time when “Notre–Dame-de-Paris” was printed the first time, the manuscript of these three chapters had been mislaid. It was necessary to rewrite them or to dispense with them. The author considered that the only two of these chapters which were in the least important, owing to their extent, were chapters on art and history which in no way interfered with the groundwork of the drama and the romance, that the public would not notice their loss, and that he, the author, would alone be in possession of the secret. He decided to omit them, and then, if the whole truth must be confessed, his indolence shrunk from the task of rewriting the three lost chapters. He would have found it a shorter matter to make a new romance.
Now the chapters have been found, and he avails himself of the first opportunity to restore them to their place.
This now, is his entire work, such as he dreamed it, such as he made it, good or bad, durable or fragile, but such as he wishes it.
These recovered chapters will possess no doubt, but little value in the eyes of persons, otherwise very judicious, who have sought in “Notre–Dame-de-Paris” only the drama, the romance. But there are perchance, other readers, who have not found it useless to study the aesthetic and philosophic thought concealed in this book, and who have taken pleasure, while reading “Notre–Dame-de-Paris,” in unravelling beneath the romance something else than the romance, and in following (may we be pardoned these rather ambitious expressions), the system of the historian and the aim of the artist through the creation of the poet.
For such people especially, the chapters added to this edition will complete “Notre–Dame-de-Paris,” if we admit that “Notre–Dame-de-Paris” was worth the trouble of completing.
In one of these chapters on the present decadence of architecture, and on the death (in his mind almost inevitable) of that king of arts, the author expresses and develops an opinion unfortunately well rooted in him, and well thought out. But he feels it necessary to say here that he earnestly desires that the future may, some day, put him in the wrong. He knows that art in all its forms has everything to hope from the new generations whose genius, still in the germ, can be heard gushing forth in our studios. The grain is in the furrow, the harvest will certainly be fine. He merely fears, and the reason may be seen in the second volume of this edition, that the sap may have been withdrawn from that ancient soil of architecture which has been for so many centuries the best field for art.
Nevertheless, there are today in the artistic youth so much life, power, and, so to speak, predestination, that in our schools of architecture in particular, at the present time, the professors, who are detestable, produce, not only unconsciously but even in spite of themselves, excellent pupils; quite the reverse of that potter mentioned by Horace, who dreamed amphorae and produced pots. Currit rota, urcens exit.
But, in any case, whatever may be the future of architecture, in whatever manner our young architects may one day solve the question of their art, let us, while waiting for new monument, preserve the ancient monuments. Let us, if possible, inspire the nation with a love for national architecture. That, the author declares, is one of the principal aims of this book; it is one of the principal aims of his life.
“Notre–Dame-de-Paris” has, perhaps opened some true perspectives on the art of the Middle Ages, on that marvellous art which up to the present time has been unknown to some, and, what is worse, misknown by others. But the author is far from regarding as accomplished, the task which he has voluntarily imposed on himself. He has already pleaded on more than one occasion, the cause of our ancient architecture, he has already loudly denounced many profanations, many demolitions, many impieties. He will not grow weary. He has promised himself to recur frequently to this subject. He will return to it. He will be as indefatigable in defending our historical edifices as our iconoclasts of the schools and academies are eager in attacking them; for it is a grievous thing to see into what hands the architecture of the Middle Ages has fallen, and in what a manner the botchers of plaster of the present day treat the ruin of this grand art, it is even a shame for us intelligent men who see them at work and content ourselves with hooting them. And we are not speaking here merely of what goes on in the provinces, but of what is done in Paris at our very doors, beneath our windows, in the great city, in the lettered city, in the city of the press, of word, of thought. We cannot resist the impulse to point out, in concluding this note, some of the acts of vandalism which are every day planned, debated, begun, continued, and successfully completed under the eyes of the artistic public of Paris, face to face with criticism, which is disconcerted by so much audacity. An archbishop’s palace has just been demolished, an edifice in poor taste, no great harm is done; but in a block with the archiepiscopal palace a bishop’s palace has been demolished, a rare fragment of the fourteenth century, which the demolishing architect could not distinguish from the rest. He has torn up the wheat with the tares; ’tis all the same. They are talking of razing the admirable chapel of Vincennes, in order to make, with its stones, some fortification, which Daumesnil did not need, however. While the Palais Bourbon, that wretched edifice, is being repaired at great expense, gusts of wind and equinoctial storms are allowed to destroy the magnificent painted windows of the Sainte–Chapelle. For the last few days there has been a scaffolding on the tower of Saint Jacques de la Boucherie; and one of these mornings the pick will be laid to it. A mason has been found to build a little white house between the venerable towers of the Palais deJustice. Another has been found willing to prune away Saint–Germain-des-Pres, the feudal abbey with three bell towers. Another will be found, no doubt, capable of pulling down Saint–Germain l’Auxerrois. All these masons claim to be architects, are paid by the prefecture or from the petty budget, and wear green coats. All the harm which false taste can inflict on good taste, they accomplish. While we write, deplorable spectacle! one of them holds possession of the Tuileries, one of them is giving Philibert Delorme a scar across the middle of his face; and it is not, assuredly, one of the least of the scandals of our time to see with what effrontery the heavy architecture of this gentleman is being flattened over one of the most delicate façades of the Renaissance!
PARIS, October 20, 1832.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 13:26