Paris, ah fifteenth century Paris

Cogitation 24/202 Saturday 15 June 2019 For the first time ever I’m reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Victor Hugo, writing in 1830, placed his story in Paris, 350 years earlier.

What a time travel. Slow, long, suspenseful, insightful, intimate, factual, frightening, engrossing, assertive, detailed, fanciful, spirited, funny. . . . Among other features of a fine novel, Hugo’s turn of phrase is incentive enough to read on.

Chapter one takes place before the Great Hall of the Palace of Justice. It’s January 6, 1482, a day for the city to celebrate the “double solemnity, united from time immemorial, of the Epiphany and the Festival of Fools. On that day there was to be an exhibition of fireworks . . . a may-tree planted . . . and a mystery performed.”

Further: “If it could be given to us mortals living in this year of grace to mingle in imagination with those Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to enter with them, shoved, elbowed, hustled, that immense hall of the palace so straightened for room on the 6th of January 1482, the sight would not be destitute either of interest or of charm ; and all that we should see round us would be so ancient as to appear absolutely new.”

I’m only a third of the way through the book. So, far from jumping to any conclusions, I’ll take the liberty to reproduce two more sentences, these from the chapter, “A Bird’s-eye View of Paris.” Hugo’s point of view is clear.

“Admirable, however, as the Paris of the present day appears to you [1830], build up and put together again in imagination the Paris of the fifteenth century ; look at the light through that surprising host of steeples, towers, and belfries ; pour forth amid the immense city, break against the points of its islands, compress within the arches the bridges, the current of the Seine, with its large patches of green and yellow, more changeable than a serpent’s skin ; define clearly the Gothic profile of this old Paris upon an horizon of azure, make its contour float in a wintry fog which clings to its innumerable chimneys ; drown it in deep night, and observe the extraordinary play of darkness and light in this sombre labyrinth of buildings ; throw into it a ray of moonlight, which shall show its faint outline and cause the huge heads of the towers to stand forth from amid the mist ; or revert to that dark picture, touch up with shade the thousand acute angles of the spires and gables, and make them stand out, more jagged than a shark’s jaw, upon the copper-coloured sky of evening. Now compare the two.”

Enough, for now, on what Hugo saw in the Gothic glory of the Middle Ages. To read further I’ll have to renew the library copy I’m wading through.

A few days with family

We spent a few days with Marty’s siblings in neighboring LaGrange County. One stop after breakfast was Lavender Lane, east of Rome City in Noble County. The small farm has a tiny shop, a walking area, a pony and a goat family.

A young deer, whose horns make it older than a fawn, ambled across the road on our way back from lunch at Beauty and the Bull to Mary and Gerald Miller’s cottage in LaGrange County.

Calm over Oliver Lake as the sun goes down.

A walk along the Elkhart River in Goshen

A stately sycamore tree leafs out later than its neighboring cousins.

A walk in our old town, Elkhart

Given that we had a late-morning appointment in Elkhart, we followed that up with a walk on the Riverwalk and lunch at Hydraulic Ale Works, formerly McCarthy’s Restaurant.

New Paris

There’s a village close by called New Paris, founded by settlers from Ohio in 1839. We’ll have to explore its streets and lore. I once read it was so named after a village, long gone, to the west, called Paris. New Paris, too, may have something “so ancient as to appear absolutely new,” sans cathedral and a burgeoning city’s hustle and bustle. Must check it out.


12 thoughts on “Paris, ah fifteenth century Paris

  1. When I retire I’ll have to get a copy as well of the hunchback and reread it. Presently I got out of the library “The Librarian of Auschwitz” and can hardly believe it’s based on fact. The resilience of people is astounding. Nice beautiful pictures of nature in your surroundings. It’s time I take a trip to Paris, Ontario. I recall only visiting there once. I look forward to hearing about New Paris, Indiana


  2. John, I always enjoy your musings and photos. I’ve been thinking about Notre Dame Cathedral since I read earlier today about the restoration that has begun.


    1. Good to hear fr om you, Steve. Notre Dame has survived centuries of care as well as plundering and misuse. On with restoration!


  3. Yes kaye we must go to Paris & maybe go check out New Paris in Indiana!!! Beautiful photos John.


    1. Beulah, Paris, Ontario is really worth a visit and then some. It’s famous in the past for plaster of Paris. It’s famous today for fine bistro, shops on main, and a walk/bike ride on an old railway from Cambridge.


  4. John,
    Thank you for your reviews on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I will have to reread it. Your wanderings and observations about town are always intriguing!
    Happy day to you both!


    1. Finished Humpback this week. Will take me a day or two to return to the 21st century. Looking forward to solving our century’s problems with you and Monty.


  5. Hello, John!

    We remember Island Park! Nice that you can revisit some of your favorite walks in Elkhart. Enjoy the Victor Hugo novel, a true classic.


    My iPad says that a smile always increases your Face Value!



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