Project Gutenberg's Flowers from Mediæval History, by Minerva Delight Kellogg

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Title: Flowers from Mediæval History

Author: Minerva Delight Kellogg

Release Date: December 22, 2019 [EBook #61001]

Language: English

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Produced by Paul Marshall, Turgut Dincer and the Online
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Book Cover.


The friendly eyes that read these pages, knowing the pathetic fails relating to their publication, will not be content without a word to tell to other readers the story that will cause one and all to look on the little book in the same sympathetic mood.

The trips among the scenes of the storied past, here recorded, were taken not so much in search of health as in search of diversion from the sad employment of watching the inexorable approach of mortal disease. The writing was undertaken to occupy a vigorous mind, conscious that its tenement would not long endure.

Alas! the task was not done before its purpose had been fully completed, and to others was left the duty of reading the final proofs. Such imperfections as may be found should be charged to this account, and all the excellences are to be credited to the brave soul that fought her fight so silently that only a very few closest friends knew of the unequal battle.

C. S. G.

The Abbatical Church of Saint Ouen is Perhaps the Most
Perfect Example of the Gothic in its Full Maturity

[Pg i]




I never can feel
sure of any truth but from
a clear perception
of its beauty.



[Pg ii]

Copyright, 1910
by Paul Elder and Company

[Pg iii]


Advertisement vii
By Way of Introduction xi
Flowers of History from the Romantic Thirteenth Century    3
Mystics as Builders 15
The Golden Madonna of Rheims 26
The Little Old Abbé of Saint Denis and the Imagiers 38
The Mystic Cathedral of Chartres 50
Caen: An Eleventh Century Tableau 73
The Grandniece of the Grand Inquisitor 87
Stray Leaves from Old, Old Books 98
The Romantic Twentieth Century: A Deduction 118
A Word Regarding Bibliography 139
Index 143

[Pg iv]

[Pg v]


  Facing Page
The Abbatical Church of Saint Ouen Title
As Art, Early Painting is Often Taken too Seriously; but as Literature, it is Charming xiv
The Crucifix in the Town Hall of Rouen  4
The Virgin Greets the Angel of Death  8
Sainte Chapelle 10
Interior of Sainte Chapelle 12
Saint Martin Dividing His Coat, from an Old Antiphone 20
From the Certosa of Pavia 22
Tomb of Dante, Ravenna 24
A Recent Tribute to Clovis and Saint Remi, on the Interior Frieze of the Pantheon, Paris 26
The Flying Buttress 32
The Sculptured Saint Upon a Gothic Cathedral 34
In the Sixteenth Century the French Academy Changed the Name of the Imagiers’ Guild  
to the Sculptors’ 42
A Thirteenth Century Window 44
The Old-Time House of Prayer, which Still Dominates the City of Chartres 52
A Pillar at Chartres 54
A View Through the Portail of Chartres 56
A Detail of the Portail Septentrionale 60
South Portal of Chartres 64[Pg vi]
A Page from the Sculptured “Bible of the Laity,” Chartres 68
Altar-piece at Chartres 70
William the Conqueror’s Old Fortress 74
Dinan 84
Old Moats Do Make Such Charming Gardens 86
A Peep Into the Cranium of a Bible Reader in Lope de Vega’s Time 88
The Literal, Limited God of a Fanatic and Father Adam Stock-taking in Eden 92
A Tribute to the Scribes of the Dark Ages 100
The Baptistry Doors 102
A Page from the Bible of Jean Sans Peur 110
Head of Justice, from Fiore’s Group 130
An Ideal of the Gracious Republic of Venice, Paul Veronese 134
A Mediæval Expression of Justice Attended by Archangels, by Fiore 136

[Pg vii]



These accounts all relate to places and objects that the uncommercial traveler may casually run upon at some turn of his way. Subjects mentioned in Baedeker have been considered here reflectively rather than descriptively. Although I do not propose to analyze the soil in which these flowers of history have sprung up, nor to speak of the rank weeds growing by their sides, I have tried not to blight these blossoms with falsehood. Certainly one-half of the truth is as true as the other and it may be infinitely pleasanter. As far as they go, these little historiettes are based upon evidence and authority.

I want to teach you so much history that your sympathy may grow continually wider and you may be able to realize past generations of men just as you do the present, sorrowing for them when they failed, triumphing with them when they prevailed; for I find this one conviction never changing with me but always increasingy that one cannot live a life manfully without a wide world of sympathy and love to exercise it in.

Burne-Jones to His Son. 

[Pg viii] Suggested itineraries for cathedral trips in Normandy, giving monuments of the first order only, places readily reached by rail:

First. Land at Bologne sur Mer, Amiens, Laon, Rheims, Paris, Saint Denis, Chartres, Caen, Bayeux, Mt. San Michele, embark from Cherbourg.

Second. Land from England at Dieppe, or from America at Havre, proceed to Rouen, which possesses the most perfect example of later Gothic in the great abbatical Church of Saint Ouen; an excellent example of flamboyant Gothic in Saint Maclou; and a large, irregular but imposing Gothic cathedral on the order of Rheims; thence to Mt. San Michele, most unique of mediæval monuments; thence to Caen and Bayeux near by it, Chartres and Paris. Amiens and Rheims being very similar, and on the order of Chartres and Notre Dame of Paris, are not included in this itinerary. The traveler to whom time is money will be greatly tried by the connections made and lost by the trains in Normandy that stop at small places. Both these itineraries respect the idiosyncrasies of French railroads.

The motorist, rejoicing in the excellent Norman roads, can combine these itineraries very easily—taking in the cathedrals of Le Mans, [Pg ix] Bourg, Beauvais and Coutances. I would especially call his attention to the small but interesting Early Norman church at Dols, and to the walled town of San Malo on the sea, with picturesque little Dinan, fashionable Dinard, and a dirty little fishing village near by.

[Pg x]

[Pg xi]

By Way of Introduction


Modern invention has actually reflected upon ancient history: the railroad, the steam derrick and the photograph have changed our conceptions of the past. Written history is now accepted as its author’s opinion, while tangible records stand forth as facts.

This attitude brings the Middle Ages particularly near to us, for though its people wrote comparatively little, they were wonderful builders: their art was more literally expressive than the classic; then, too, of course, it is better preserved.

While the Greeks and Romans were our schoolmasters, the Europeans of the Middle Ages are our ancestors. Their experience foreshadows our own; for however far removed from us in thought and action they may have been, they were akin to us in feeling.

Though the rude pioneers of Christianity were often intensely cruel, as you follow their history, you may meet with some gentle deed springing from the good seed, even when sown in stony places, with some [Pg xii] action in its sweetness and humility entirely beyond the pagan world. In their childish story one may trace the early workings of the Christian ideal. It did not control behavior, nor did it always direct it wisely; morality, being judicial and scientific, implies a certain maturity of mind. Religion is simple; it is unlogical, sentimental and impulsive. Whatever this indefinable instinct may be, it has manifested itself as a spiritualizing force in morality and an initiative force in art.

Religion has in it a craving for a loveliness beyond all literal perception of the senses; a philosophic mind projects this ideal in contemplation; an artistic mind, in symbol; for, as Michael Angelo explains, “Rash is the thought and vain that maketh beauty from the senses grow.”

The Greeks did develop an art from the motif of physical beauty, however, but their statues, executed before art became mature enough to produce that beauty, have no message, while one often catches something high and holy from a very early Christian image. It may radiate from a pretty smile on the face of a crude Madonna, or a graceful upturned head, in a figure entirely destitute of anatomy, which looks as though the simple craftsman had called upon a higher power than knowledge. [Pg xiii]

Spiritual beauty being the ideal in Christian art, the image, however rude, which suggests it, makes its appeal in the charmed language of that loving religion.

Mediæval archives have been ransacked by Protestants for the errors of Catholicism; by political economists, who even penetrate to the Dark Ages in search of the chilly lessons of the dismal science, for wisdom; and between them what a conception we have! But it is not the whole story, for Chaucer assures us the Moyen Age was a fairly livable period, peopled by beings like ourselves; moreover, it was an artistic age which has left us not only a wonderful architecture but two supreme poets.

Perhaps the fairest chroniclers of such a period are its own artists, great and small, for history has grown too democratic to confine herself to kings, however worthy. She does not find the crude carver voiceless who, in default of skill, surrounds his Madonna with gold and loads her with rude jewels; indeed, she often finds her sweetest flowers growing between the lines of an unskilful brush or chisel.

Although as painting, mediæval efforts are often taken too seriously, as literature they are charming, for they speak of the good and the [Pg xiv] beautiful as their Age conceived it. While the written stories of the time were shallow and coarse beyond our endurance, its painters were giving us their accounts of this life and the next (particularly the next). First come bright, pretty colors prettily placed, pretty thoughts of happy angels. Then gold backgrounds give way to skies, and shadows creep onto the canvas. Then they begin to tell stories; so eager they are that they cram four or five pictures into one, dotting the little scenes, by way of parenthesis, into the backgrounds.

These pictures give the other half of the truth, the tenderer side of the old life and theology. What sympathetic Bible scholars some of the artists became! And, in general, the greatest were the tenderest. Albrecht Dürer’s Evangelists are interesting character studies for all time. He conceives of Saint Mark as a plain, simple enthusiast; of Saint Paul, as a broad-minded, thoughtful man whom he even imagines to be bald. He does not try to make either of them exactly handsome but the way Mark looks up to Paul is most winning. A little later Andrea del Sarto paints a splendid account of the warring doctors of the Church, which shows clearly he saw beyond them: but this takes us into the Renaissance which has been defined as a marriage of the Grecian and the Gothic.

As Art, Early Painting is
Often Taken too Seriously; but as Literature,
it is Charming.

[Pg xv] A strict analysis has come into art and it is creeping into life,—our race childhood is drawing to a close but not without leaving us many things that are sweet to remember.

We tell our children some of the very same stories that the wandering story-tellers used to relate to good knights and their fair ladies in the old baronial halls,—Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, or Puss in Boots,—only the knights and their ladies believed them. There is a pathos in mediæval story; it is a tragedy of misdirected effort (as perhaps all history is), only the mediæval tragedy strikes home. Its actors were people of our own blood and of our own Church—our own people only under delusions from which we have emancipated ourselves. To understand their story we must take them as children and listen with them for the imaginary voices that lead them on.

A veritable allegory of the Age of Faith was presented on the great stage of history in 1212, when two enormous armies of little boys and girls started from France and Germany singing, to march to the Holy Land; if any of these children turned back, none of them seem to have found their old homes. [Pg xvi]

As far as is known to history, one child alone returned as an aged pilgrim, to tell the tale,—how the bones of the children strewed the mountainside; how they had been embarked on unseaworthy vessels to be sold into slavery; how few, how very few, ever reached their goal; how few, how very few, ever remained pure and holy.

Connected with this tragedy was a horrible pope and a horrible doge, but now they seem but foils to the purity of the children, it was all so long ago. And that the mystic beauty of that little legion may live lyrically in our life, the Twentieth Century has set their pathetic march to music in stately oratorio; for pure aspiration is the melody of melodies, the veritable flower of history.

A certain childish disinterestedness was the tender grace of the Age of Faith,—“the tender grace of a day that is dead.” It must pass from a broader age; taking all factors duly into account even drives it from serious history its proportion is so inconsiderable.

The life of Saint Francis, who espoused My Lady Poverty, is one of the sweetest examples of mediæval disinterestedness. Viewed literally, the accounts picture a crazy man preaching to birds and fishes, making a bargain with a wolf and injudiciously mortifying his flesh till he [Pg xvii] became blind and useless. Viewed by the light of their influence his teachings were revolutionary,—they brought new-found energy and sympathy into the Church; yet, at best, they were only the teachings of Christ, without the Savior’s beautiful sanity. Viewed by the results he brought about, Saint Francis must have been one of the profoundest of men, and yet his wisdom, if he had any, was only that of the heart.

Sabatier has written a life of Francis, at once scholarly, judicious and vivid, but as the Franciscan Father remarked, he wrote the life of Mr. Francis. If you would learn of Saint Francis of blessed memory, you must study by yourself with loving diligence a childish old book which tells of the miracles wrought through the tail of Saint Francis—“The Little Flowers of Saint Francis.” The fruits of history others may put before us, but the passing fragrance of the flowers we must perceive for ourselves.

I here submit for your interpretation certain incidents that seem to me the outgrowth of the fine feeling of the impulsive Moyen Age. [Pg 1]


[Pg 2]

[Pg 3]

Flowers of History
From the Romantic Thirteenth


I  have borrowed my title from a Thirteenth Century chronicle, of disputed authorship, purporting to be a history of the world, but from 447 a. d. on it is engrossed with the story of England. From this insular partiality of its author I should be inclined to award the work to the English claimant, for what is a flower of history but a phase of the human story which especially charms the writer.

To me the Gothic cathedrals are the flowers of Thirteenth Century history, which era saw every one of the greatest of them building. Their cornerstones may have been laid earlier, and the finishing touches came much later, but they owe their character to that one wonderful century which stands apart through the ages, thus telling its beads.

The written history of the Thirteenth Century is cruel reading, but an [Pg 4] age, like a man, has two soul sides, and the better side is always the harder to fathom. The Thirteenth Century opened for France, the native land of the Gothic, with an abominable pope, a selfish king and, nearer at hand, the evil of various tyrannical seigneurs. The great social movement which endowed the French towns with their magnificent cathedrals was apart from those powers and hardly affected by their war or peace.

These great edifices were built by the secular clergy and the townspeople for municipal, as well as religious, purposes. Therein they held councils for deliverance from their feudal lords, lay and ecclesiastic, for in the Thirteenth Century the Third Estate became a political power.

The cathedrals express the patriotism, generosity and civic pride of the freemen of the old towns; they realize the dream of the socialist for the good and the beautiful held in common; the love of the poet for beauty for its own sweet self; and the inspiration of the artist, working at the white heat of a rising art, as surely as the reverence of the age of faith.

The Crucifix, the Eternal Warning,
Built into the Very Walls of the Old Courtroom
in the Town Hall of Rouen.

[Pg 5] In the Low Countries they built city halls at an early date, but the French towns did not need them, for there the cathedrals lent pomp and circumstance to all municipal assemblages. The first States General was held in Notre Dame of Paris.

The early Church had endeared itself to the people in many ways. It entertained the traveler, and it was well that it did, for the public houses were of a very low order; it instructed the children; it ministered to the sick, and, if it was a crazy physician, it was a gentle nurse. The modern hospital, the fairest monument of humanity, is directly descended from the old Hotels-Dieu, where monks and nuns tended the sick. In the cathedral sat the Bishops’ Courts which, the people felt, were more just than the seigneurs. From these old Bishops’ Courts the beautiful French custom has descended of hanging a crucifix back of the judge’s seat in the courts of common law where the symbol, recalling a politic judge washing his hands of the blood of a just man, seems more than a human warning.

Within the consecrated walls of the church was that ever-blessed privilege of the temple—Christian, Pagan, or Jewish—sanctuary, the right of the hunted. Of course it was abused, mercy expects to be; [Pg 6] therein it is more divine than human; but in a lawless day sanctuary was an unconscious protest against lynching. We do read of accidents arising from it; a Christian Church at Seez was burned down in an attempt to dislodge a band of thieves, but this embarrassing circumstance reflects on the management of those who burned it rather than upon the church.

A complaint comes down to us from the Thirteenth Century of the would-be popular clergy who allowed their parishioners to dance in their churches and even assisted at these dances and at shows peu convenable given by jugglers and clowns, they themselves playing at chess, all of which goes to show that we must regard these immense churches as meeting houses in the literal sense of the term and allow for the coarseness of the age in considering its amusements. Among other buffooneries, at Laon particularly, which seems to have been very “low church,” we read of the annual fête des innocents, in which the choir boys dressed up as priests and went through various antics in the church, which was given up to them for the night, the chapter giving them a supper after. At Laon again there is public complaint of a change [Pg 7] having been made in the hour of mass and vespers on account of a miracle play that was given in the church. Lovers of the drama may look leniently upon this arrangement, whereas I suppose the stricter churchmen, when the ecclesiastical supremacy came to be questioned, even in the bishop’s own church, both at Rheims and Laon, said, “I told you so.” By such concessions the clergy induced the citizens to go in with them in building[1] such churches that succeeding generations have called them mad.

Though the evolution of the Gothic is one of the most interesting chapters in the history of architecture, the history of the builders themselves, if we could only have it, might be still more fascinating. Indeed,

“Who builds a church to God and not to fame, Will never mark the marble with his name.”

Hence we do not know who designed some of the noblest monuments of Gothic architecture, but we do catch charming psychological glimpses as [Pg 8] we watch the mystical and the practical unconsciously working together for the beautiful in these old cathedrals, which make us wonder how such spiritual designs arose and how the artists who conceived them were able to carry them out. How could an age when kings could hardly read and write, when artists drew like children, evolve such works of art? How could an age so ignorant of physics and the abstract principles of mechanics erect such buildings?

Some hazy legends, fairy tales even, with their grain of truth (that truth which one troweth but cannot prove), and a few scant records, scattered among the archives of such old churches as have escaped the accidents of war and of peace, are really all that is left us with which to picture a beautiful phase of thought and feeling which lured a childish people onward toward art, organization and nationality.

From the old archives of Chartres, which was built so slowly, from the old records of Saint Denis, which was built so quickly, between the lines of the naïve old letters of tactful old bishops who coaxed nobles and workmen alike, as much as they coerced them, thereby raising fabulous sums paid in labor or in gold with which to build such temples that succeeding generations have thought them inspired, we may pick up a few fragments of the untold story of these exquisitely poetic Builders who taught architecture to speak a universal language.

The Middle Ages Dealt Much
in Allegory. The Virgin Greets the Angel
of Death.—A Sermon in Marble.

[Pg 9] Saint Denis, which immediately antedated the great Gothic churches of Northern France, is a stately mansion with a steeple at its side, but the Gothic cathedrals are Christian temples every inch; their design itself is consecrate. Their lines and harmonies however varied, however bizarre, always resolve at last into some ideal of reverence, while their solemn beauty speaks a various language. From crypt to steeple the Gothic church is a Christian metaphor. Its ground plan is the Cross, while the huge cathedral with all its worshipers is but a standard bearer for loftier crosses borne upon its towers and spires.

From the bulwarks of their massive foundations, laid in the Dark Ages, these old churches deliberately grew more ornate, carrying with them countless generations of architects growing steadily in pride and skill until it only required a burst of popular enthusiasm to bring forth the artistic revolution of the Thirteenth Century. Again (but not in wrath) [Pg 10] the old churches were demolished simply because they were no longer the noblest possible treasure houses for their precious relics. Then it was that the gentle, mystical, French monarch, who maintained his court so simply, purchased “The Crown of Thorns” from the mercenary Venetians, into whose hands it had fallen through a chattel mortgage given by those who had acquired it as a spoil of war.

Never were the rites of the church so descriptive, so picturesque, so splendid, as in the Thirteenth Century. Barefooted and in penitential garb, but followed by a band of light, a great procession of worshipers, each carrying a candle, the king and his brother met the supreme relic and bore it tenderly onward to the Royal Chapel in Paris and all the cities, towns and hamlets through which they passed were reverently illuminated.

Then Saint Louis entreated the great architects of his realm, whose genius was already proven, to strive to design a reliquary even worthy of the Crown of Thorns, and in five years the beautiful Sainte Chapelle arose: like other poetry this lovely chapel was born of a passionate yearning.

Sainte Chapelle,
which Sprang from the Crown of

[Pg 11] If the cathedrals are epics of architecture, the Sainte Chapelle is a sonnet, a masterpiece of single-minded expression, the purity of whose design established a standard. No cathedral could be finished on its original plan; it was necessarily too long in building; but the model which was to harmonize the labors of successive builders may be sought in the little Sainte Chapelle of Paris which sprang from the Crown of Thorns.

As every great work of art mirrors a human heart, reflecting that of which its author took no note as clearly as that which stirred his conscious being, so the Sainte Chapelle reflects Saint Louis and Saint Louis reflects the Age of Faith. He was its poet who wrote in deeds.

It is not strange that Louis IX was canonized for he was in perfect accord with the ideals of his age, asceticism, chivalry, humility and regality; and too, he was a great builder.

Saint Louis built the Sainte Chapelle to hold that which did not physically exist; but as with the pen of a recording angel, on this tablet of stone he wrote a message from the better self of his age to all humanity.

[Pg 12] Though history repeats, the history of the Gothic is as unique as that architecture itself; when otherwise men were trammeled body and soul its builders were free to create, to vary or to destroy.

In the nineteenth century, when travel became general (“he who runs may read”), certain gentle readers like Corroyer, Hugo, Rodin, Ruskin, and most accurate of all, Viollet-le-Duc, interpreted this marvelous architecture of the Moyen Age to the multitude.

“They builded better than they knew; they wrought in sad sincerity,” vaguely exclaimed the philosopher.

“They built as well as they knew; they built in glad sincerity,” observed the architect.

Rodin reminds us that it is a mistake to imagine that the religious conceptions of that day were able to bring forth architectural masterpieces any more than that the religious conceptions of today are responsible for the defects in modern structures.

The Gothic cathedrals are epics of labor. They grew up under the hands of many designers and builders, who were learning as they worked. Democracy echoes through these noble buildings into which were wrought the hope, the promise and the enthusiasm of a rising people.

Interior of Saint Chapelle.
“Much more than the ogive, the grotto, the cavern,
the window, is the essential of Gothic
architecture.”—August Rodin.

[Pg 13] To the inartistic eighteenth century, whose mission was to fight tyranny, political and religious, these ornate structures seemed the meaningless labor of a downtrodden people. I doubt if logicians like Voltaire and Gibbon realized the elevating joy of passionate giving that came to some of the poorest donors. Think of a guild of pastry cooks presenting a magnificent window to the Church, their Mother! No less a building than the Cathedral of Chartres!

Never were the lovely things of the Age of Faith more beloved than in the present Age of Doubt. We are trying to restore the noblest of the old cathedrals, stone for stone, and to lure back the sweetest prayers and truest penance confided to their walls to spiritualize their resurrection.

Never were the maiden efforts of Christian art more tenderly approached than in the technical twentieth century, when they are studied alike by Catholic, Protestant and Jew. The old theology has been very severely picked over, but underneath its mouldy leaves, like trailing arbutus in [Pg 14] the spring, the “Little Flowers of St. Francis” peep up. The nineteenth century concerned itself with the errors of the Mediæval Church, but the twentieth especially reads the gentler side related by the artists, and sometimes we catch hallowed messages from the pure in heart who have almost seen God.

[Pg 15]

Mystics as Builders


We order the temples still standing destroyed that in their exact place may be raised the sign of the Christian religion. Decree of Valentinian III.

In the tribunal of history the Christian iconoclasts have been dealt with somewhat in the manner of defendants in damage suits. If a cow is killed by a railroad, is it not naturally assumed to have been a Durham? If a statue was destroyed by a fanatic why not put in a claim for a Phidias? As a matter of fact, by the time the early Christians came into power the art of the day of Pericles had been copied for over seven hundred years. Of art, what worse could be said!

Grecian art neither rose nor fell in a generation nor was it childless; original, though minor schools, Hellenic to the core, sprang up in the Grecian colonies and to the end the art and artists of Rome were Greeks. But during the later Roman Empire the degenerate Grecian artist [Pg 16] commissioned by the degenerate Roman patron was simply cumbering the earth. Oh, yes, in those luxurious days they patronized art as rich men should, as rich men do. The houses of Herculaneum and Pompeii teemed with articles of virtu. It was not statues the world of art needed, it was ideals.

In art, it is the individual point of view that counts even if it be only that of the destroyer. Since art reflects life and life means change, the iconoclast has his place. A race, or more often the meeting of two races, may develop a school of art; it reaches its perfection in the work of a few genii of its golden age; to them it is given to embody the highest and best that was in the myriad of artists who have taught them and their teachers. Spellbound by its own perfection, this art can move no farther. The multitude seek to preserve it, for its value has been interpreted to them in quotations of the exchange. Artists are satisfied to copy it, and thereby artists they gradually cease to be. The destroyer comes,—fire, fanatic, whirlwind, victor or worm—the bulk and body of that art perishes, but the ideal, being a [Pg 17] fruit of the spirit, lives. The final ruling of Grecian architecture is still proclaimed from the Parthenon, while headless and armless the lone “Winged Victory” might immortalize the action of Grecian sculpture, the poetry of Grecian thought.

Since architecture is the most national of the arts, its movements are the easiest to trace. Sometimes we actually detect the designer following in the footsteps of the iconoclast. Indeed, the most successful patron architecture has known, the Catholic Church, commenced as a destroyer.

In the south of France ecclesiastical architecture remained essentially classic until the Renaissance. This was largely due to one great sixth century bishop, Patiens de Lyons, who repaired the old temples and rebuilt anew on their lines so successfully that the people proudly said they could not tell the new from the old; but in the north of Gaul, where Martin of Tours and his followers had made a clean sweep of the pagan temples and their old influence, architectural and spiritual, an absolutely new style of church building developed. It is there that to this day we turn for the purest Gothic.

Of this Martin we have some little history, hazy though it be. He was a [Pg 18] rude barbarian of the Roman legion, under the Emperor Julian, who embraced Christianity and brought the glad tidings to Tours. With a soldier’s idea of conquest he demolished the temples of false gods, like other superstitious converts; but he contended that to make the victory complete, at least an altar to the true God should mark the very spot; and he is credited with six religious foundations, one having been a church for the laity in the town of Tours. The present age might canonize Martin for a deed overlooked by his most ardent, early eulogists. He and Saint Ambrose protested against the “new heresy” of two Spanish bishops who put a gnostic to death for his heretical opinions.

Hagiology, however, abounds in records of Saint Martin, for he became the best beloved saint of old Gaul.

It is natural that those who read the Roman Catholic breviary literally should doubt it somewhat. They fail to realize that the history of a saint lies entirely between the lines of the account. The sacred lesson taught by this life reëchoes in his antiphones, responses, versicles and lessons, until he stands before his followers as a type of certain [Pg 19] virtues. Thus Saint Sebastian stands for Christian courage; though his body is pierced with arrows and his hands are tied, he is always represented looking bravely up to Heaven: torture is immaterial to him: he is sustained by faith. Saint Gregory, gentlest of pastors, greatest of popes, is represented with the emblem of the Holy Ghost, the dove, perched upon his shoulder; Saint Jerome, who translated the Scriptures, with the Book in his hand; he generally has an angel near-by him.

Two little pictures stand out in Saint Martin’s iconography. In one, Saint Martin cuts his cloak in half with his sword to divide it with a beggar and beholds the Savior abundantly clad in half of it; and in the other, Saint Martin evokes the spectre of a pretended martyr worshiped in Tours, who comes to life and admits that he was hanged for crime, wherefore Saint Martin demolishes his shrine.

To the early Church the relic was everything. Of course it should be pure and holy. In it there was inspiration. Above the grave of some dear saint or, perhaps, only to his memory, a shrine would arise, and from these shrines, like flowers from seed, churches grew. A crypt [Pg 20] might be made to hold some hallowed dust, where services might be held. This was reminiscent of the Roman catacombs where the first Christians, believing literally in the resurrection of the body, had laid their dead, and where, unseen by the unsympathetic world, they had met for holy communion. The crypts of the early Church were the mortal resting-places of friendly immortals at the great court above who, in their robes of light, might plead acceptably for those who would so reverently approach the heavenly throne through spirits purer than their own. Of course, these pleaders must be very pure to turn their shrines to altars. What spiritual value had a pretty, paltry tomb honoring an unholy spirit?

Roman civilization was materialistic, but not so this new religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, if things holy could pervade and hallow a building, why should not things unholy defile it?

We may trace this idea carried out so literally, so picturesquely, so almost logically in the legends of Martin of Tours, that we actually sympathize with the destructive old bishop. Blindly defending the dream that was in him, he actually stands first in that long line of ecclesiastical builders who, in the fulness of time, jointly brought forth Gothic architecture.

Saint Martin Dividing His Coat,
from an Old Antiphone.

[Pg 21] When Saint Martin put his rude followers to work building houses for their new faith he must have established a certain amount of unity and order among them. Could there have been a better way to attach his crude converts to their Church than to induce them to work upon it?

While Saint Martin was building at Tours, the Dark Ages were setting in, when men of action became marauders, preying upon others; men of thought became monks, praying for themselves; humanity went backwards, and history ceased from very shame. But through it all there were a few perplexed old bishops who, whatever their failings may have been, tried to do something for their fellows. However, in that lawless day, they had to defend rather than expand Christianity, and even protect its churches, for pagans, too, might be honest iconoclasts!

The best thing the Dark Ages did for civilization was to learn the builders’ trade and teach it to a great many people. It was a general service, for to make a people industrious is, sooner or later, to make them skilful and law-abiding.

[Pg 22] It is curious that Saint Martin who, even while he was a bishop, lodged in a hut covered with boughs, should head the great line of builders who jointly and severally developed French Gothic. In standing for the integrity of the relic, which was literally the seed of early Christian art, Saint Martin gave a new and a higher impetus to life, and with it, very indirectly, to art. Seventy years after Martin’s death, to his blessed memory Saint Perpetuas built “the most beautiful church in existence,” at least so Gregory of Tours affirms. We will not inquire on what lines, for this was at the beginning of the Dark Ages, when nothing beautiful was made.

A supreme recognition of the bold old iconoclast comes to us from devotees of the classic; from certain artists and connoisseurs of the Renaissance. This unexpected tribute to iconoclasm is published upon a monument far removed from old Gaul in time and place, in ideal and execution.

From the Certosa of Pavia.
One of the Most Elaborate Monuments
of Catholicism.

[Pg 23] In a monastery dowered with the gold of two reigning dynasties of tyrants, dowered by the genius of two reigning dynasties of painters and sculptors, amid surroundings perhaps the richest in the world, where fifty monks might dream away their lives in silence, in that lordly and exclusive playhouse for the soul of the Renaissance, wherein the exuberance of the Gothic takes on the maturity of the Renaissance in an elaboration which for once does not cloy,—in the Certosa di Pavia we find a tribute to crude, old Saint Martin, the iconoclast.

On a mural of one of the side chapels of this Certosa behold him represented in the garb of a fifteenth century monk, with his sanctity emphasized by a large, glittering nimbus, to which the aerial perspective of the otherwise maturely realistic painting is deliberately sacrificed, calmly superintending a gilded youth of the Renaissance while he smashes a fine Grecian statue! How did this rude act find endorsement in a temple of art? How did the coarsest of the saints win a place in the heart of the Renaissance? Was it because in him they saw a reflection of the subtlest honesty of Art, that god of the Renaissance? Was it because, above all else, Saint Martin especially stood for the integrity of the ideal?

Though this little scene on the chapel wall may have been simply [Pg 24] historic in its import, nothing is plainer than that the picture is intended to honor an uncompromising bishop of the early Church.

Through the confusion that disintegrated empire, Saint Martin was a rude standard-bearer of two ideals broad enough to rebuild nations—Sincerity and Brotherhood. “First he wrought and after that he taught”—and first the spirit of his teaching was put into rude pictures, because in Gaul so few people could read and still fewer could condense an idea into forceful words.

It was long, long after an angel had appeared and carried Saint Martin’s soul in the form of a child straight to God, as a gentle old writer attests, that a modern geologist voiced the fundamental idea of the best beloved saint of old Gaul, “An honest god is the noblest work of man.”

The Last Resting Place of
the Great Poet of Mediævalism—Tomb
of Dante, Ravenna.

[Pg 25] But the past, as well as the present, has its peculiar eloquence wherewith to honor the dead. Over one of the oldest Christian altars spared to us by time, in solemn, enduring mosaic, big and simple, stands Saint Martin leading a line of saints to Christ. And this great hieratic on the wall of an old church of old Ravenna describes, as no language of the present may, an early builder of the great mystic Church which “rests upon the brawny trunks of heroes ... whose spans and arches are the joined hands of comrades ... and whose heights and spaces are inscribed by the numberless musings of all the dreamers of the world.”

[Pg 26]

The Golden Madonna
of Rheims


Late in the fifth century, while the confusion of the Dark Ages reigned supreme, the Christian bishop of the Remi was at work on the discouraging task of rebuilding his church after pagan depredations at Rheims, when the great joy was vouchsafed to him of baptizing Clovis, the ruler of the largest Teutonic State of the age.

A Recent Tribute to Clovis and Saint Remi on the
Interior Frieze of the Pantheon, Paris.

[Pg 27] Saint Remi recommended Clovis to adore that which he had burned and to burn that which he had adored, that the work of judicious destruction might continue. Clovis sent offerings to all the sanctuaries, particularly to that of the old soldier Saint Martin. Three thousand Franks were baptized; Clovis exchanged the three toads on his shield for the fleur-de-lis, and France became Christian toute de suite. Then Saint Remi dreamt of great things yet to come: of a king and a people governed by the Church of Christ, temporally and spiritually. And he interpreted this dream to the people by a charming symbol: he explained how the Holy Ghost, the Heavenly Dove, had brought from above some spiritual oil with which to anoint Clovis at his baptism. But to make the idea clear to these many men of childish minds and many patois, he showed them a little ampulla filled with oil, which, he explained, “the Dove” had brought to him from Heaven to grace the baptism of their chief. And they decided to keep the oil that was left in the ampulla for great occasions, like coronations. This wonderful ointment united the Crown and the Church as long as it lasted. During the Revolution a sansculotte shattered the old vessel. Orthodoxy claimed to have caught one drop and encased it in a beautiful new vase; it was used again, but its efficacy was no more. And not long thereafter the French people decided to do without coronations, or monasteries, but they still love Clovis and Saint Remi.

Civilization is much indebted to the early bishops and a goodly number of them have been canonized. The monastic clergy were the snobs of the [Pg 28] Church, securely selfish in the magnificent fastnesses they erected for themselves in the skies; condescending comfortably to pray for those that fed them (though who knows but they even shirked that obligation), while the secular clergy were working out, amid inspiration and error, the foundations of a Christian civilization. The idea of the early bishops that the Church ought to rule the world was a natural and an honest mistake. The later bishops were quite a different class. The stout little church of Saint Remi near Rheims pleads still for its brave old bishop, though as a building it is eclipsed by the great cathedral of the city.

The dynasty of Clovis passed away and the next reigning house came in with Pepin. He had good reason to approve of the Church as an institution, for it had early played into his hand. Had not the Abbé of Saint Denis journeyed to Rome to secure the papal confirmation of his crown? And had not Pope Stephen, while enjoying the protection of that same abbey, anointed Charlemagne, his little son? On this was based the succession. With his own good sword Charlemagne defended it and brought [Pg 29] a semblance of order to the land of the Gaul and the Frank; and, genius that he was, he anticipated, in his interest in architecture, the genius of his great people. But it was rather Charlemagne’s attitude toward church building and letters that told, in the long run, than any literal achievement in them during this time. However, from the reign of his youngest son, Louis the Pious, we may trace the steady, consistent growth of an original order of building which culminated in the unparalleled Gothic of Northern France.

By that time the nobility had built so many sanctuaries in their domains that they had to be interdicted from establishing useless private foundations and, in a more democratic spirit, sixteen or seventeen churches, all edifices of dignity, were begun. Then Bishop Ebbon saw a golden opportunity to build a magnificent cathedral on the long-hallowed soil of Rheims. There the Druid had raised his altar, there the Roman his temple, which may have absorbed the old Druid’s stones into its walls as it had his old gods into its adaptive bosom, to fall, in its turn, a mightier pile, from which the Christian built again and again as he grew in skill. Indeed, beyond their generation [Pg 30] the people of Rheims were experienced builders. In addition to all the stone quarried by varied worshipers of the long past at Rheims, Louis the Pious put at Ebbon’s service the materials of the city wall and sent him his favorite architect—Rumald. And it was found that the new cathedral protected the city better than the old walls. La paix religieuse turned away many an invader. One golden cup from the altar bought off the Norsemen (not that it turned their hearts); they swooped down upon Chartres instead.

The old chroniclers assure us that this early Cathedral of Rheims was the finest in the realm. It must have beggared description, for what manner of building it was none of them seem to say. But they tell of its wonderful altar of Our Lady, covered with gold and studded with gems, upon which stood a glorious virgin made of solid gold. That impressed them. Was this altar built with the loot of war? Was it built in remorse, or, worse, in mercenary superstition? Or was it lavished like the woman’s precious ointment upon our Savior? This much it certainly was,—a united tribute of the material to the immaterial, coming from many men of many minds.

[Pg 31] It was about this time that the Virgin became so peculiarly near and dear to the Catholic world. They loaded her with jewels and appealed to her as one of themselves, human, though divinely so. They painted her on the inside of their jewel boxes that she might turn the heart of the thief; they appealed to her in embarrassing human situations and loved her as a helpful, pitying woman who brought religion home to them.

In due time this golden Virgin of Rheims, so imposing, so splendid to her rude worshipers, gently made way for a line of tenderer virgins who were gradually infusing sweetness and skill into those who sought to spiritualize wood and stone into a suggestion of the mother of Christ. When the old ninth century church at Rheims was burned it is supposed that the barbarians’ gold was minted to rebuild the cathedral. Or shall we say that, purified by fire, the golden Virgin arose again and again from her ashes to rebuild her shrine in maturer beauty?

After many fires, in 1212 the present Cathedral of Rheims was commenced upon the old, old crypt; before the middle of the century the main body [Pg 32] of the church was complete, and once again the Cathedral of Rheims was the finest in the realm! In 1903 a vote was taken for the noblest Gothic monument, and the returns, as always before, were, “the Cathedral of Rheims.”

Through the Dark Ages the people of Rheims had not built in vain. Effort after effort was destroyed, it is true, but like the golden virgin it was minted to rebuild anew.

Did the Idea of that Beautiful
Structural Device, the Flying Buttress, Come, Like an
Angel Vision, to Some Baffled Architect in
Answer to Work and Prayer?

[Pg 33] Lacking the mathematical knowledge, which is the mainstay of the modern architect, these early builders must have learned empirically, that is, in the school of defeat—but, too, there are triumphs there. Did the idea of the beautiful flying buttress (which is simply a constructive device to strengthen walls pierced by enormous windows) come suddenly to some baffled old architect, as from the lips of an angel, in answer to work and prayer? These old builders of Rheims leave us no written word, but there is a great Florentine architect who is a little more communicative; he leaves a discreet hint or two of his method of reasoning and also of securing contracts. Regarding the construction of the projected dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which the public regarded as impracticable, Brunelleschi writes: “Yet, remembering that this is a temple consecrated to God and the Virgin, I confidently trust that for a work executed in their honor, they will not fail to infuse knowledge where it is wanting and will bestow strength, wisdom and genius on him who shall be the author of such a project. But how can I help you, seeing that the work is not mine? I tell you plainly that, if it belonged to me, my courage and power would, beyond all doubt, suffice to discover means whereby the work might be effected without so many difficulties, but as yet I have not reflected on the matter to any extent.” And when he got the contract and reflected, he turned to the “parent past”—he went to Rome, where the vaulting of the Parthenon taught him to vault that lovelier Florentine dome which “clasps the ancient to the modern world.”

The builders of the Gothic were in some ways more original than the builders of the Renaissance; they evolved their own bracing; thus gradually at Rheims, the “Athens of the Middle Ages,” a great cathedral grew up that ranks with the Parthenon.

[Pg 34] The Greek had the subtlest of languages in which to speak of the good and the beautiful, while where the greatest Gothic churches were designed there was only a corrupt dead language and a partially developed living one; but the subtle poets of Chartres, Rheims, Amiens, Rouen, Bourges and Laon built strongly into their cathedrals the sweetest things they had to say. When the Parthenon was constructed Athens was so wealthy that it was one of the glories of Pericles that he was able to spend so much so well upon the greatest capital in the world. Rheims was simply, as the Middle Ages went, a rich see, and the Middle Ages were wretchedly poor, yet her cathedral is the more elaborate building of the two. To the end of time it is a monument of civic and religious enthusiasm; and, as we seek the human story, so elusively suggested through the marvelous pile, we realize at least how great a thing it is for each worker to give, in perfect self-effacement, of his best. The decorations of the mighty temple are so exquisitely subservient to the great whole that the handiwork of the gifted imagier, with that of his weaker brother, the one serving as a foil to the other, holds together like their prayers in the noble harmony of the great church. Gothic sculpture is for all sorts and conditions of men, but least of all for artists. It speaks its simple lesson distinctly. It is not sculpture for sculpture’s sake, but rather for decoration and lyric expression. Its emaciated saint betokens sacrifice; literally and figuratively he fills his place in the long, narrow niche, annihilating himself for the great church as a Catholic priest should.

The Sculptured Saint Upon a
Gothic Cathedral Fills His Place in the Long,
Narrow Niche, Annihilating Himself for the Great
Church, as a Devotee Should.

[Pg 35] Would you know how the Gothic affects a sculptor?

Says August Rodin: “Life is made up of strength and grace; the Gothic gives us this; its influence has entered into my blood and grown into my being.”

Nowadays, when all “the world travels,” schools of art do not grow up in little communities; intellectual boundaries are in no way geographic, and the moral effect of one man on another is hidden from view. But on the walls of the old mediæval churches a simpler people, as their work improved, show their direct obligations to one another.

The Gothic cathedrals which served as Bibles for the laity [Pg 36] (who, as a rule, could not read print) are now the most veracious chronicles of the period that we possess. Their statements cannot be gainsaid, however variously they may be understood. If some of the last judgments sculptured on their walls, with half of the figures marching toward heaven and the other half (very similar in appearance) moving serenely toward hell, are rather too didactic for this age of doubt, between the lines of these great stone volumes a gentle reader finds countless beautiful stories, much more convincingly told, of artists and artisans working away with smiles on their faces, carving Bible stories under the direction of the clergy; devising figures to personify the virtues and vices; inserting little angels here and there to fill out the design, while the best artist is rewarded with the sweet honor of carving the Madonna.

The barbarian’s gold pays interest yet; the spirit of the bequest is not changed;—a united tribute of the material to the spiritual coming from many men of many minds. The old golden Madonna is patroness still of the five thousand statues of the Cathedral of Rheims, whose mute lips speak so various a language. They tell of a day that is dead and [Pg 37] of a day that is eternal; they speak of substance and of spirit; of error and of intuition; of things human and of things divine. Indeed,

“Of every work of art the silent part is best, Of all expression, that which cannot be expressed.”

[Pg 38]

The Little Old
Abbé of Saint Denis and the


Early in the twelfth century, within the hospitable walls of the old Abbey of Saint Denis, a prince and a charity child grew up together; there a love, almost romantic, developed between them. When the prince became king and embarked upon a crusade he left the reins of government in the hands of his old comrade, who in the meantime had become the Abbé of Saint Denis and was, incidentally, one of the cleverest of politicians. Suger paid the royal debts (democratic good pay seems to have been an ideal with him), and called the realm to order so successfully that statesmen came from afar to study his very novel methods, for the crusades had set the people traveling. On his return the king graciously greeted his regent as “father of his country.” Suger, not to be outdone, instituted a somewhat legendary liturgy to be [Pg 39] celebrated annually at Saint Denis commemorating the merits of Louis the Lusty (or Louis the Fat, as we call him).

Was this liturgy so different from the campaign songs we sing now? It was really more called for, since enthusiasm over the royal person is one of the legitimate tools of monarchy, and Louis VI is an early monarch who deserves credit for abetting the gradual advance of France from a feudality to a veritable kingdom.

Suger, individually, did not stand too greatly in awe of royalty, for he peremptorily ordered Louis VII to come back from the “Holy Wars” to attend to his mundane duties, and be it credited to that monarch that he graciously obeyed the old friend of his father.

Suger is the most interesting personality that comes down to us from France of the twelfth century. Though a few characteristic anecdotes are told of him, we know him most intimately as the builder of Saint Denis and the far-seeing friend of the arts and crafts. It was said that he was a good goldsmith, and his sympathy with skilled labor lends color to the statement; but however hazy our other impressions of Suger [Pg 40] may be, we know how he loved the old Abbey of Saint Denis—“sa mère et sa nourrice.” As a churchman he loved the blessed spot to which the angels had escorted brave old Saint Denis, when, after his martyrdom, he picked up his head and walked along with them unto the place “where he now resteth by his election and the puveance of God. And there was heard so grete and swete a melody of angels that many that heard it byleuyd in oure lorde.” He loved the old building that Dagobert, the Robin Hood of French monarchs, had built so royally, almost five hundred years before his day, for the poor and lowly, and for which the pleasant Saint Eloi, patron of goldsmiths, singing as he worked, had made the wondrously beautiful old reliquary; and as a man of literary feeling, he loved the old Abbey as his Alma Mater. But the diocese had grown, and on festal days so pressing were the crowds who would touch the holy relics of Saint Denis that good people were continually being trodden underfoot by eager and other worldly worshipers. So Suger decided to enlarge the church. He did not touch the dear old choir of Saint Denis: that was consecrated to God and, too, it was tenderly hallowed to man by many human associations; but he decided to add to it a great nave.

[Pg 41] Of course at first the crowds vigorously abetted him, humbly harnessing themselves together like beasts of burden to draw the stone from the quarry. The trumpet sounded; banners were unfurled, and the procession marched; except for the murmur of those who confessed their sins to God, silence reigned. When the concourse arrived at the holy site, the multitude burst forth into a song of praise. Their sins once disposed of, the ardor of the multitude may have flagged, for we read of the busy little Abbé leaving the cares of state to go himself to the forests in search of the big timber others had not the enthusiasm to find.

That the very earth might pay its tribute to the blessed martyr, Suger studded the new golden screen in front of the tomb of Saint Denis with gems from “every land of the world,” and then the little old Abbé conceived of a still higher tribute: he gathered skill from “every country in the world” (his world was small, it is true); he gave to these skilled craftsmen the honor of working on “the Church, his [Pg 42] Mother”; besides, they taught in the layman’s school of architecture, which he established in the yard of the old abbey.

To the amazement of the world, in that day of serfdom, Suger voluntarily paid his workmen and paid them by the week; and with the force and intensity that was in him, he advanced architecture as much in the ten years he was rebuilding Saint Denis as others had done in a hundred. The influence of his school of architecture still lives. It was one of our earliest instances of systematic training for the laity, and those who would trace the Italian Renaissance to French and classic sources, attach especial importance to the imagiers of Saint Denis.

An immense number of statues, varying greatly in excellence, were made during the Middle Ages to decorate the churches. In our meagre records of the period, we even come across instances of peasants traveling far and spending their all to secure an especially beautiful Madonna, and we are assured of miraculous rewards, spiritual and temporal, coming to them from it. Actually, through the enthusiasm and liberality of these rude people, miracles of art have wrought their magical effect upon the imagination of generations and generations of men. These imagiers became so numerous that they formed a powerful guild in which a race of sculptors was born and bred. While Sculpture was merely the hand-maiden and scribe of Architecture, her craftsmen were called imagiers. But the imagiers became so expert that in the seventeenth century the French Academy changed the name of their order to the “Sculptor’s Guild.”

In the Sixteenth Century the
French Academy Changed the Name of the
Imagiers’ Guild to the Sculptors’.

[Pg 43] That the imagier loved the cathedral which he was dowering with what talent he possessed is most likely; for, added to the simple conscientiousness, alike in all ages, of the worker who loves his craft and respects himself, was the intensity of the Age of Faith.

Gothic art may have been lived more generally even than Grecian, for it was the only intellectual outlet of its age. Much of its symbolism is now a dead language. We guess at the meaning of the gargoyles and grotesques, and draw liberal interpretations from the lips of the smiling angels who spoke more familiarly to a childish people; but when we count the decorative kings and bishops ranged in rows upon the grand façades, their supremacy over the souls, bodies and estates of men, of [Pg 44] which we know so well, seems the myth of myths. However, we can read some of the old carvings, which had nothing in particular to say at the time they were made, like a book. Hybrid designs on pillars, capitals and cornices speak of the chivalrous meeting of the east and the west on the broad field of art. They bring up pictures of the rude crusaders overpowered by their first view of oriental elaboration, and we smile to see how it set them imitating, or, better still, adapting, and how the arts of war may bring about the arts of peace; for, in the fulness of time, those who strive, achieve, if not for themselves and their cause, for others and perhaps for a better cause.

Another art made great strides during the rebuilding of Saint Denis,—the glass-maker’s. We read about Vitrearii as far back as Charlemagne’s time. The windows they made were glass mosaics, held together with lead instead of stucco, forming little gem-like pictures above the holy altars, which told sacred stories beautifully, for in this way many scenes could be connected on one window; besides, color, like music, takes the emotions captive. One must examine a statue to realize it, but, in the phrase of the studio, color “sings.” A childish old chronicler relates that the retainers of Godfrey of Bouillon were obliged almost to tear him away from the churches, so absorbed was he in gazing on the windows. Was it through beautiful windows that the mystic aspiration of the mute minor poets of the cloister was finally reflected upon the man of action who took the first step, all unconsciously, toward the deliverance of his age from its dark, narrow bondage?

A Continuous Story, Related on a
Thirteenth Century Window.

[Pg 45] As a soldier, Godfrey de Bouillon had answered the call of the pilgrims who demanded protection; as a soldier, he had kept the peace (when there was any to keep). He was the one early crusader of whom we have record, who seems to have had the slightest idea of the fitness of things; indeed, in feeling, he was as truly a poet as a soldier. “So, day after day, in silence and in peace, with equal measure and just sale, did the Duke and the people pass through the realms of Hungary,” writes an astonished old chronicler, for Godfrey de Bouillon had paid the way of his army to the Holy City—an unheard of idea in warfare! How quixotic he must have seemed!

Language has changed since those windows spoke to Godfrey of Bouillon. [Pg 46] But when a general stops on his line of march for higher council and then steers so true through the darkest day toward a faint, far-distant light, must he not have seen through the glass darkly?

It was but a few years after this “parfit gentil” knight passed away before he was as dear a hero of romance as King Arthur had become after many centuries, so little was there in his life for men to forget, so much that was sweet to dream upon. I suppose his story must have been related many times in beautiful glass, though as the panes grew larger and finer they told their stories less personally; but gallant knights on windows far and near are still reflecting an ideal that came to the First Baron of Jerusalem through the old church’s windows. Might it not be said of these old church builders, who builds from the heart feeds three: himself, his hungry neighbor, and Me?

To make windows like those of Saint Denis, an orderly, organized factory was necessary, and organization was the crying need of that age. Another astonished old chronicler repeats, that in those days of serfdom Suger paid his glass-workers. But the men [Pg 47] learned their rights more readily than the chroniclers. Thereafter we constantly run upon the records of powerful workmen’s unions or guilds. In fact, we read of them later on the glass itself. These splendid church windows were, of course, very costly, and then, as now, they were usually presented to the churches. We find the guilds are the proud donors of many of them; two fine old church windows come down to us proudly representing some imagiers and glass-makers at their work, those guilds having thus elected to “with the angels stand.”

Complaints of the luxury of the church also come down. Saint Bernard declares “their stones were gilded with the money of the needy and wretched to charm the eyes of the rich” (but had the poor no eyes?). Being against the government by temperament, Saint Bernard especially abominated the royal Abbey of Saint Denis. He complained of the “unclean apes and befowled tigers” upon which Suger’s imagiers developed their skill, and it is written (how the writer arrived at the scene he does not explain) that as Suger’s confessor, Bernard commanded him to divest his mind of mundane cares and to dream only of the heavenly Jerusalem.

[Pg 48] But the world weighed on Suger as long as he remained in it: his dream was of two splendid powers, England and France, separated, but living in peace! Suger was not in favor of crusades. He was the one ecclesiastic who would subject the clergy as well as the laity to royal authority, rendering unto Cæsar that which was Cæsar’s. Though a priest, in his political methods Suger was a broad, true and practical patriot, and if, unlike Saint Bernard, he was not adapted for canonization, he was a hero to his private secretary and to his king; and he still is a hero to the modern student of architecture, or of economics.

Into the very walls of his big and simple old church the “little old Abbé” built his big and simple sermon. It read: “Let us have good, honest, beautiful work, doing honor alike to God and man. Let us train our craftsmen, pay them and respect them.”

Though Saint Denis may lack the mystical beauty of the best Gothic, so noble and satisfactory is its design that the nineteenth century could do no better than to restore it.

Though Suger’s economics were very simple, the twentieth century has [Pg 49] found no better platform: “Pay your workmen voluntarily, and summon all, from the king down, into their respective fields of labor; only when they all respond, we shall have a lovelier church than the old Abbey of Saint Denis.”

[Pg 50]

The Mystic Cathedral of


The Episcopal Church recognizes three distinct divisions: the High Church, or mystical element that, words failing, would speak by symbols; the Low Church, that would say what it means and mean what it says; and the Broad Church, that would set aside details and seek in religion a general harmony.

Though they are not so formally defined, these same divisions, being based on human temperaments, exist in other sects so literally that the same symbols have met with the identical adoption and objection. About 205, Tertullian ridiculed the use of candles on the altars of the early church, and Lactance took up the subject some hundred years later. Thereafter Saint Jerome laid these still troublesome candles at the door of the laity, especially of the women. However, the symbol and the women conquered.

[Pg 51] In this desultory search of ours for hints of the social history of the old French cathedral builders, we meet with the high and low church elements which seem, though this idea may be fanciful, to have influenced the appearance even of their respective churches. There is the grandly simple and direct architecture, the Cathedral of Laon, which inclined to Low Church, allowing its votaries considerable latitude, and the symbolically ornate cathedral at Chartres, which from remote ages has been a noted shrine of mysticism. Its site was holy ground to the early Christian and perhaps to the Druids before him. Tradition has it that even to them on this hallowed spot came a prophecy of the Messiah. (If it did, it probably came from some Jewish source in the days of the Romans.)

There is a charming story, more than legend, if less than history, of “Notre Dame Sous Terre” of Chartres. While most of the early Christians, in a spirit of hatred, were destroying false gods and their shrines, some pioneers of Christianity found in a grotto at Chartres a figure which had been worshiped by the Druids, resembling their own Madonna, whereby, to these gentle priests, she seemed doubly hallowed. [Pg 52] Accepting her grotto as already consecrate, they located their high altar there, upon it reinstated the old Madonna of the Druids, and in a humble spirit, along with their simple converts, they bowed down before her, for upon them had descended that sovereign reverence which appreciates another man’s god.

From the time this old druidic figure was raised upon a Christian altar to this day, first honors have been accorded to her shrine. Before her or her representative have bowed, weary and footsore, every one of the French kings, from Clovis to Louis XV, as well as innumerable other pilgrims, rich or poor, gathered from every land of Christendom by the democracy of the church.

Even the revolutionists recognized this “First Lady of Chartres,” for while they lumped other relics together in general destruction they paid Notre Dame Sous Terre the back-handed compliment of a special bonfire at the cathedral door.

The Old-Time House of Prayer, which Still
Dominates the City of Chartres.

[Pg 53] The sansculottes have passed away without individual record, but a charmingly carved representative of the old Notre Dame Sous Terre still occupies the most venerated shrine of Chartres; while its old-time spirit of church hospitality yet pervades the noble cathedral that has developed above her grotto, her clergy still smile kindly upon the pilgrim and the stranger, even though his interest in their church be solely artistic. They seem to say: “Take from our old cathedral what you may, surely her beauty is pure and holy.”

True religious art can but lead to some phase of piety, as August Rodin declares that all true art must. It may be but a chance title; however, the latest book on French Gothic speaks of “Chartres, the House of Prayer”; but certainly the feeling which has been lavished on this spot, the passionate generosity of devotees through long ages, has brought forth one of the most sacredly beautiful churches in the world.

Now let us investigate literally the claims of Notre Dame Sous Terre. Recent excavations prove that the present Cathedral of Chartres is built over a grotto, where the Druids probably held their services. In excavating under and around the choir of the cathedral, vestiges of ancient altars and idols were unearthed which prove conclusively that [Pg 54] the symbols of the heathen were not cleared away violently. The policy of Rome tended toward religious tolerance; the gods of the Romans often mixed peaceably in the temples with the gods of the people Rome conquered, hence the cult of the Virgin might have existed along with that of the pagan gods.

In the early days of Christianity the Virgin was not given the prominence she acquired after the eighth century; this figure known as the druidic Madonna may even have represented some sweet, motherly goddess of another name. Symbols are elastic, therein lies their supreme value; they may be all things to all men. Words always have brought division to the church; symbols, unity. The wisest and kindest of the early bishops had the most grace in translating the old symbols of their converts into the picturesque language of their new church. For instance, Gregory the Great changed the pagan memorial custom of putting food on graves on a certain fête-day to bringing flowers for the graves and praying for the dead on All Souls Day. The early Christian missionaries at Chartres may have believed this figure to be a Madonna or they may have translated it into one. Indeed, it is not the genuineness of the figure itself that is the point of this story; it is the attitude of the Chartrians toward it.

Saint Martin, Saint Jerome
and Saint Gregory, as They Stand Forth on
a Pillar at Chartres.

[Pg 55] From the character of the Gallo-Romaine substructure of the Chapel of Saint Lubin in the crypt of Chartres, the list of the early bishops of that diocese and the general history of the evangelization of Gaul, it is inferred that ever since the beginning of the fourth century a bishop’s church has stood on the site of the present cathedral. Mingled with all the superstition of its age there was a certain tolerant broad-church element maintained at Chartres from the first. Perhaps that made the church so peculiarly dear to the people of France, for though the French kings were crowned at Rheims and buried at Saint Denis, Chartres seems the most intimately associated with their lives. It is written that after his conversion Clovis stopped there for further instruction, and Gibbon observes his measures were sometimes moderated by the milder genius of Rome and Christianity. The Carlovingian kings were very partial to Chartres. Charles the Bald, who comes down to us familiarly as a church builder through an old picture [Pg 56] in which he holds a cast of a cathedral in his hand, conferred the most precious of relics upon Chartres—the Sancta Camisia of the Virgin! Robert the Pious contributed a sapphire. Within her mystic walls sensible Louis the Fat pardoned his enemies; there Philippe le Bel, Charles le Bel and Philippe de Valois gave thanks for their victories, childishly presenting their armor and their beloved war-horses to this Church, their Mother. Saint Louis marched barefooted about twenty-one miles to endow Chartres with her beautiful Portail Septentrionale. And when Henry IV changed his religion, let us believe with the really good intention of bringing about a little peace on earth to Frenchmen, he elected to be consecrated at Chartres, “by reason of the peculiar devotion of his ancestors, the Dukes of Vendome, to the old cathedral, the most ancient in Christendom.” There were reasons why he could not conveniently have been crowned at Rheims like other French kings, that city being hostile to him. But Henry IV always had a clever and sufficient answer.

To return to the material story of the old bishops’ church near the well of Saint Lubin, our first dated record takes us back into a feudal war. In 743, Hanald duc d’Aquitaine, fighting the Comte de Chartres, burned the town cathedral; but when he realized what he had done he retired to a monastery to do penance all the rest of his days. Was it in superstition? Was it in true repentance? Did he burn the church by accident? That might have been. The simple piety of the Dark Ages that would build “The House of God” for all time rendered the churches the strongest of buildings, and defensive armies often resorted to them; then, too, there were spiritual objections to attacking a church. This factor was sometimes over-estimated.

A View Through the Portail of
Chartres, which Louis IX Walked Barefooted
Twenty-one Miles to Present, in a Lowly
Spirit, to the Church.

[Pg 57] The Cathedral of Chartres was rebuilt, only to be burned down one hundred and fifteen years after by the Normans. During this siege the non-combatants of the town confidently took refuge in the cathedral with their bishop instead of buying off the pirates with gold from the Holy Altar as the people of Rheims had done (they are all gone now and God knows which did best). Unexpectedly, neither church nor bishop impressed the Normans, who overturned the city walls, burned the buildings, massacred the bishop, and every one else who came in their [Pg 58] way; but after the Normans left, the Chartrians had the cold comfort of gathering their dead and laying them away beside the Well of Saint Lubin and “through the merits of those there reposing a crowd of miracles were wrought.” About this period the disease we now know as erysipelas came to be highly respected. In France it was called le mal des ardents; in England, the “sacred fire”; for, one thousand years ago processions like those that now visit Lourdes were pressing on to Chartres to drink of the holy spring. The world moves, but somewhat in a groove. At this Lourdes of the Dark Ages the afflicted were tended by nuns, but we find a certain telltale regulation:—after nine days (ample time for blood poisoning to develop unmistakably) the sick must go home, “cured or not.”

Was medical practice then so much worse than ours during the Rebellion, when old rags of the nation were collected and all sorts and conditions of women scraped them into lint full of germs for the wounded soldiers? But if the church was a crazy physician, she was a gentle nurse. She established a chivalry toward the sick that no Cervantes would laugh [Pg 59] away. It lives in medical ethics, and the quixotic obligation of the doctor to leave no stone unturned for his patient has been the foundation of medical science. Some of the old Hotels-Dieu of blessed name and memory have developed into up-to-date hospitals and medical schools, like Charing Cross Hospital, London, which still enjoys its mediæval benefice, while modern hospitals, in general, are moral descendants of the old ideal.

Again the old Church of Chartres was rebuilt, again to stand for a little over a century. This building had the satisfaction (may we not use the figure, for the mediæval church was very human) of seeing the Normans, under Rollo, defeated by an army marching under its blessed standard, the Sancta Camisia of the Virgin borne aloft as a banner. But later, Rollo married the daughter of Charles the Simple, settled down in Normandy, presented his castle to the see of the Bishop of Chartres and adopted the Christian religion. A double victory for the church! Many of the first Norman converts were baptized a dozen times, for the sake of excitement or for the white garment given them at the ceremony. Thereafter the funeral of Rollo was rendered doubly memorable [Pg 60] by the slaughter of one hundred captives and rich gifts to the monasteries.

In spite of the Sancta Camisia, in spite of all the remains of all of the martyrs that had been aggregating in the martyrium under the church for seven hundred years, in 962 Richard of Normandy burned the cathedral with the town. But the relics had not been powerless, for this was the last pagan outbreak. The church had the holy triumph of Christianizing her adversaries, and the martyrium, between the excellence of its building material, the water of the spring of Saint Lubin near by, and “the merits of those there reposing,” remained intact and was found in the excavations of 1901; but the spring is gone; it was probably diverted by the foundations of the present cathedral.

Though a paralyzing conviction had come upon the people, Bishop Vulpard immediately started to rebuild. It had somehow been very generally decided that the world would come to an end in the year 1000, so near at hand.

How did this private information regarding the future affect the multitude? They probably took it riotously,—at least, such has been the experience in times of plague and horror, when it seemed that the race was about to be wiped out. Indeed, it is only for others that the saner, better life is led—best of all, unconsciously led.

A Detail of the Portail Septentrionale.

[Pg 61] We do know that at that time church building flagged. Ah, be it credited to these old builders, they worked for others rather than themselves! Nevertheless, the latter part of the tenth century is the day of vast and massive crypts of which Chartres is one of the noblest examples. Let us hope that brave old Vulpard lived to see it under way.

History has very little to say of the delusion regarding the year 1000, except that it shows that the church gained ground therefrom. Many persons thought it well to present their goods to the churches since they could not use them much longer themselves. Scarce as records are, we have one instance of the church helping the world out of one of the dilemmas arising from this misunderstanding. We do know positively that the valuables of the Church of Saint Benignus of Dijon were all sold to relieve the famine of the year 1001. Probably the ground had not been sown the previous autumn.

[Pg 62] However often it has fallen from grace, in the main the Christian Church has won its way by service. However often its services have been mistaken, it has maintained the ideal that the Christian should serve the world.

Instead of the world’s coming to an end according to their schedule, to the astonishment of the Chartrians, lightning singled out their holy church and burned it to the ground. Some of the more or less logically inclined suggested that some of the pilgrims might have been guilty of indiscretions within its consecrated walls and thus have brought down this celestial disaster.

The church had a particularly charming bishop at that time who arose to the astonishing occasion and called for help from the whole religious world regardless of nationality. He might be known as the successful correspondent of history. We still have some of his letters. The one to Cnut, King of England and Denmark, is certainly a flower of history, showing, as it does, the sympathy of a great king with a great scholar (as the times went) and a great movement. Fulbert writes, in acknowledgment of Cnut’s donation to his building fund: “When we saw [Pg 63] the offering which you deigned to send us, we admired at once your astonishing wisdom and religious spirit; your wisdom, in that you, a prince, divided from us by language and by sea, are zealously concerned not only with the things around you but also with things that touch us; in your religious spirit, in that you, of whom we have heard speak as a pagan king, show yourself a very Christian and generous benefactor of churches and servants of God. We render lively thanks to the King of kings through whose mercy your gifts have descended upon us, and we beseech Him to make your reign happy and prosperous, to deliver your soul from all sin.” The result of Fulbert’s appeals proves that Christianity had established a brotherhood on earth. Though much of Fulbert’s structure was burned within ten years the church inherits both spiritually and materially from him; his crypt is left and it gives lines to the splendid church we know. Saint Thierry rebuilt the upper church, and it grew in beauty under Saint Ivo, who succeeded in getting the ear of Mathilda of England. Not that Saint Ivo was a snob, for in his time we may see among the records timely rebukes to royalty [Pg 64] and dignified acknowledgment of the services of individual workmen upon the mighty edifice. After all, there is nothing sweeter than the “widow’s mite.” A great deal is said by social historians about the tax upon the communities for these splendid churches, but they overlook the joy of public giving, which also moulds and unites a people.

And now this wonderful old church, which echoes from tower to crypt with the human story, commences to speak picturesquely of the wild Holy Wars. The heavy Dark Ages developed its crypt. The body of the church passed through many metamorphoses in the time intervening until a period of the greatest religious enthusiasm crowned the cathedral with its marvelous towers.

A Thirteenth Century Statement
of the Liability of Pride to Have a Fall
Solemnly Proclaimed on the South
Portal of Chartres.

[Pg 65] In all history is there a movement more extraordinary, more far-reaching, more curious than the crusades? They are about as surprising to a reader today as they were to the Emperor of Constantinople when the first disorderly army appeared at his gates. The monk, Guibert, who, at least, seemed to have more grasp of the subject than any other contemporary writer, ingeniously suggested that “God invented the crusades as a new way for his laity to atone for their sins and merit salvation.” Certainly they thus atoned for the great sin of inertia. No army, I suppose, was ever more confident, more surprised or more disappointed than that of the crusaders. However, this much is to be said in favor of Guibert’s hypothesis. From that time forth the laity took their place in the march of civilization. They arose and left the Dark Ages behind. New views were forced upon them at the point of the sword,—most needed of all, new civic ideals.

Separation and longing and the sweet sorrow of parting awoke the spirit of poetry, the craving for beauty; and all this new thought and feeling was soon to blossom forth in the one art, whose metier the people had already learned,—architecture.

Through a long admixture of races, by the twelfth century (hardly before it) there had arisen in Gaul genuine Frenchmen, who from the beginning were most artistic artisans and most enthusiastic partisans. They spent more on their crusades and on their churches than their neighbors, and they were to reap the rewards of extravagance, always more imposing than those of economy. Money poured into the church alike [Pg 66] from those who went to the Holy Land, and from those who thus excused themselves from going. Incidentally the Holy Wars diverted a disorderly element of nobles and serfs from France to Palestine. During the period of the crusades the Cathedral of Chartres suffered from two fires just sixty years apart; thus in rebuilding, the overflowing religious excitement of the era came to be lavished upon the very stones of the cathedral.

In 1134 a great fire in the town of Chartres damaged the cathedral so far as to make it necessary to restore the façade. In spite of their own losses the Chartrians decided that their church should be finer than ever. She should have two connected towers, instead of one separated from the building as before. And the design they here evolved has become standard.

To effect these grand restorations the workmen formed themselves into permanent guilds. One especially which devoted itself to working on the cathedral was honorably known as the “Logeurs du Bon Dieu.” And the nobles who had watched the workmen growing in grace and in skill, raising themselves as they raised the temple, were finally seized with [Pg 67] a strange and humble enthusiasm which can only be convincingly described by eye-witnesses.

“In this same year” (1144), writes Robert Du Mont, “at Chartre men began to harness themselves to carts laden with stones, wood and other things, and drag them to the site of the church, the towers of which were then a-building.”

Says Abbé Haimon: “Who has ever seen or heard in all the ages of the past that kings, princes and lords, mighty in their generation, swollen with riches and honor, that men and women, I say, of noble birth, have bowed their haughty necks to the yoke and harnessed themselves to carts like beasts of burden, and drawn them laden with wine, corn, oil, stone or wood and other things needful for the maintenance of life or the construction of the church, even to the doors of the asylum of Christ.”

“Mighty are the works of the Lord,” exclaims Hugh of Rouen (ready to use the example). “At Chartres men have begun, in all humility, to drag carts and vehicles of all sorts to aid the building of the cathedral, and their humility has been rewarded by miracles. The fame of these events has been heard everywhere and at last roused this Normandy of [Pg 68] ours. Our countrymen, therefore, after receiving our blessing, have set out for that place and then fulfilled their vows. They return with the resolution to imitate these Chartrians, and a great number of the faithful of our diocese and the dioceses of our province have begun to work at the Cathedral, their Mother.”

But since it is the spirit that makes the action fine, the services of these builders were accepted only under the triple condition of confession, penitence and reconciliation with their enemies; they delivered their offerings in tears, while disciplining themselves with blows.

George Eliot speaks of a common feeling of good-will among a mass of men affecting her like music; to such music the incomparable tower of Chartres was built, and a later age sees tears transformed to pearls when another great fire destroyed the old part of the cathedral, and they had, in rebuilding, to live up to their splendid new façade.

A Page from the
Sculptured “Bible of the Laity,”

[Pg 69] The cardinal assembled the people of Chartres around the smoking ruins of their dear old church and persuaded them to forget their personal losses and to think only of rebuilding the House of God; and the people, united by the strongest of bonds, a common disaster, arose again to work for the common good, and again Christians from far and near sent in their donations. The old chroniclers say that the very Holy Virgin multiplied her miracles. One of them we still have before us. It was then and there that an architect, whose name is forgotten but whose genius is immortal, perfected the cathedral type of thirteenth century Gothic. All designers of Gothic churches still do him homage; all lovers of Gothic architecture still sing his praise.

And the old church at Chartres grew on, gently developing her people on many lines. She watched her imagiers grow into sculptors, her glass-workers into painters, the more or less serfs of the soil develop into workmen, then guildsmen and free burghers of the town; of this they themselves have written upon her very walls. About half of the windows of the cathedral we find were presented by the guilds; the other half by kings, princes and seigneurs, lay and ecclesiastic. The glass of Chartres, by the way, is considered the finest in the world.

The eighteenth century was a bad day for churches in France; the [Pg 70] general contempt in the air for the past led them to destroy the “barbarians’ art,” which was good, to make way for their own, which happened to be bad. The Cathedral of Chartres, as ever so truly in touch with the times, suffered from the artists in the early part of the century, while in 1793 the revolutionists invaded it. They buried the relics and appraised the barbarians’ statues at 100 francs. Then the next idea was to knock down the cathedral, which they found was not so easy; so they concluded to transform it into a Temple of Reason, wherein they behaved most unreasonably. Somebody started to destroy the immense group of the Assumption on the grand altar. It represents the Virgin on an embankment of clouds with her arms extended and her figure coming toward the congregation. Her “pied-à-terre” of clouds (excuse the hibernicism) is upheld by angels and every face and attitude in the group is full of aspiration and action. Although as sculpture, this group is not of the first order, as allegory, it is perfect. A bright idea occurred to an architect present; he put the Phrygian cap upon the head of the Virgin and a lance in her hand, and the old symbol became the new; with her arms open to the world and her eyes turned a little above it, the Virgin of Chartres became a beautiful emblem of liberty. I wonder if she impressed any of the wild congregation before her; not long thereafter Napoleon observed that “Chartres was no place for an atheist.”

Altar-piece at Chartres.
The Virgin who once Wore a Liberty Cap

[Pg 71] In about six months the church managed to reinstate itself in its old stronghold, though the Revolutionary Commission of public works (or rather the commission for the destruction of public works) had had the impertinence to strip the lead from the cathedral roof to make its ammunition.

But the old church was built to weather all storms, and so was the French nation. The revolutionists besieged the Louvre and turned it into a public art gallery. The republic has quietly advanced much farther in its right of eminent domain and taken under its enlightened protection all the great monuments of architecture in all fair France. Nothing is more charming than the enthusiasm throughout the land, extending even to the simplest people, over these “national monuments.” As the building of them long ago formed a bond of union with the communes, so the love of them now forms a bond of union with the nation. [Pg 72] Fostered in their shadows, French genius was able to bring forth at need architects capable of restoring them almost to their pristine beauty, a beauty which, growing out of mystic relics, seems fraught with a relic’s power through love and awe to lead men on. May its magic transform these Roman Catholic cathedrals of the Age of Faith into Holy Catholic churches of the Age of Doubt!

In the nineteenth century James Russell Lowell wrote a poem containing some lovely lines on the Cathedral of Chartres, but if a twentieth century poet approach the theme he will treat it in a more Catholic spirit, for the messages of these venerable fanes must grow broader and gentler as time goes on. A greater poet than Lowell said: “I never can feel sure of any truth but from a clear perception of its beauty.” From this idea he framed his invocation to beauty, which applies alike to a Grecian urn and to the Cathedral of Chartres:

“Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend[2] to man, to whom thou say’st, ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

[Pg 73]

An Eleventh Century


Two hours from Cherbourg, as the motor flies, lies the old town of Caen, founded by William the Conqueror.

A curious peace reigns in this old fortress, with the drawbridge down, and the moat a bower of trees and flowers: the peace of consummated action; the returns are all in, and you may receive them according to your humor, for the burning questions of other days have faded into dreamy generalities.

Were all those wild centuries of struggle and warfare vain? Or is the old Greek battle-cry, “Now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to other men, or other men to us,” the normal note of primitive manhood? Were Rollo the Norseman and William the Norman, following the war-gods fiercer than they, commissioned by fate to lead great armies [Pg 74] across the great waters, and, sailing under sealed orders, to found two great nations and one great language? Or are all things vanity?

Perhaps, after receiving the children’s children of his loyal subjects, who may have crossed a certain wide ocean unknown to him to attend the great Court of History that William the Norman holds at Caen, the Shades of the Conqueror growing more familiar might conduct the musing cortége into the beautiful abbey near-by, which he built in expiation of the love-match he made in defiance of the church.

I wonder here if the old king might not laughingly recall the story of his first meeting with Lanfranc.

William the Conqueror’s
Old Fortress; the Chains are said to be
the Originals.

[Pg 75] Like other forceful men, William married upon his own responsibility. Accordingly, the Pope not only excommunicated him, but laid various bans upon his realm. Such bans were once marvelously inconvenient, to say the least. William fought the church valiantly for six years. It may have been then that he got his measure of the uses and abuses of that institution, which, in the long run, proved most valuable to England. Among others, Lanfranc, Prior of Bec, became a target for William’s displeasure and was ordered to leave his monastery. Lanfranc started forth forlornly enough on a lame horse. Thus caparisoned, he met the furious Duke William. Lanfranc had but one weapon at his command—tact. He approached the great duke, saying, “I am obeying your command as quickly as I can. I will obey faster if you will give me a better horse.” William was blessed with humor. He impressed Lanfranc into his service then and there, and made him his friend forever: the Conqueror could make good friends. Then he sent Lanfranc to make his peace with the Holy See. Understanding William’s passion for building, Lanfranc, the peacemaker, arranged that William and Mathilda should each build an abbey in expiation of their marriage. And William and Mathilda performed their contract so royally that France has lately restored their abbeys, line for line, as national monuments.[3] Thus a tableau of Caen, as the Conqueror saw it, actually lies before twentieth century eyes.

Ah, put yourself in his place! I never knew a traveler to leave this [Pg 76] old town without becoming attached to its founder. The strong, orderly, noble and logical Norman buildings express the old Conqueror at his best; at Caen one prefers his older, gentler, more unique title of William, the builder, for, indeed, many have conquered in England, but William I built up his conquest.

In this interesting old Norman church, with its suspicion of the pointed arch (probably the earliest instance) pointing toward the unparalleled Gothic that developed in Normandy, one feels like congratulating the old Conqueror, both as lover and architect, and reinstating his old claim to romance, even though modern research has discovered that he was not a very gentle knight.

William I was no saint; but why should he have been one? Professional saints were only too common in his day: he was but a strong, direct man in a most superstitious, childish and indirect age. Is not the position of one who can stand alone through his age heroic enough?

What a curious world the old Conqueror lived in! A world of professional marauders and their soldiers, of professional saints and their serfs; with a confusion of fighting barons, lay and ecclesiastic, [Pg 77] some or the most interesting bishops being no mean warriors; and worst of all, a lot of begging friars producing little but corruption. To the day of his death, the Conqueror makes no apology for his wars in Normandy. There he was simply holding his own. The behavior of the wild and worldly barons was not all he had to contend with; there were also the visions and the notions of the unworldly clergy, who, with intent, more or less good, more or less self-seeking, interfered absolutely with good government, and William’s tact and breadth with them, considered at a time when it is easy to be wise, nearly one thousand years after the event, is astonishing. It fell to his lot to deal with that peculiarly well-intentioned pope, Gregory VII, who, by his ability to conceive and carry out his well-intentioned policy, worked such incalculable evil. Spain is struggling with his Shades today.

What a problem the mystics of the eleventh century, with their tremendous following and their curious allegorical interpretations of everything great or small in heaven or on earth, must have been to a statesman! Listen to this eleventh century letter of thanks from Saint [Pg 78] Ivo to Gerard of Ham, for “an instrument of the whiteness of snow for combing the hair.” This comb is agreeable to him in and of itself, like other objects of beauty; but above all, it pleases him because of the elevation of ideas, which it so beautifully symbolizes: he is quite sure that thy prudence (ta prudence) has wished hereby to give a suggestion to his vigilance to seek constantly by all sorts of exhortations to reform the disorderly manners of his people, whom he compares to a disarranged head of hair. And yet Saint Ivo was in his day a strictly practical person, not to be fooled as Savonarola was four hundred years later by the ordeal of fire. Saint Ivo forbids a husband to condemn his wife even when the man he has accused could be burned by hot irons; and when the martial old bishop of Le Mans, who is accused of having treacherously surrendered that town, offers to walk on hot irons to prove his innocence, Saint Ivo writes him that ordeals are uncanonical and that he must not submit to them. But then no reader of his correspondence can fail to see that Saint Ivo was very timid. How he did dread the Channel! He entreats the holiest men of his acquaintance to pray unceasingly for him while he is on the water. [Pg 79]

But let us turn to the Conqueror’s own review of his life, as he discussed it on his death-bed. Two of his clergy took it down. Thus, as he would speak to his sons, he speaks to history. Here we have his perplexities at first hand. That we may put ourselves in his place as literally as possible, let us repair with the document to the beautiful Abbey aux Dames, so tenderly connected with the Conqueror’s queen. There, it is said, she made her thank-offering for her lord’s safe deliverance, alike from the perils of war and the perils of the Channel. This abbey was consecrated the year of the Conquest, eleven years before the Abbey aux Hommes (ladies first). Many of the Conqueror’s followers supplied their own ships, but Mathilda herself fitted out the Conqueror’s,—the regal Mora—so splendidly stocked with wine. Her good ship bore him safely to England and victory, and brought him back, as ever, true to his queen. To this abbey they dedicated their daughter Cicely, when she was a child, and she became a great and powerful abbess. Here we may picture her praying, as a woman in the intense Age of Faith could pray, for the souls of her parents. [Pg 80]

Eight hundred and twenty-five years after its original construction we found another high-bred cloistered Lady of the Trinity in passionate prayer at the tomb of Mathilda. Was this pretty young nun a legitimate part of the restoration? Though the cloisters of France were supposed to have been abolished, this one had been passed by, for the Conqueror holds Caen, and some iron hand of the past seems to have retained this spiritual young girl in prayer at the tomb of his queen. A strange sight it was, one of the curious tragedies of conservatism; but like many every-day tragedies imperceptible to its actors.

To the eye all seemed beauty. From a fine old garden we stepped into a majestic aisle of a great abbey. As we walked down in its dim half-light, a curtain was drawn displaying a brass grill impassable in the eyes of the church. Impassable it had been, in fact, for nearly eight hundred and fifty years, but now to climb over it would be a minor athletic feat. It separated the chapel of the foundress and the nuns of the order of the Trinity from the whole outside world. The entire central space of this chapel was occupied by Queen Mathilda’s [Pg 81] enormous cream-colored sarcophagus (restored). One might read the inscription in eleventh-century characters, fresh from a modern chisel. The chapel walls were lined with dark, carved wooden stalls, freshly oiled, and new-born sunbeams peered decorously through rich-colored glass on two kneeling nuns clad in the old-time flowing ivory-colored robes of the Ladies of the Trinity.

One was a fleshy, middle-aged woman, mechanically counting her beads, the other was young and beautiful. She was looking up, and, though she was as motionless as the tomb beside her, her attitude expressed action as sculpture may. What was she thinking of? Is the life of today any less inscrutable than that of one thousand years ago? Here, in the charity of the church, let us consider the Conqueror’s apology (apologia); we are translating the word too literally, but the spirit of the document is humble and explanatory and, withal, very winning.

In this apologia William considers that he has done his duty to the church, and history endorses him; in general, when he was at variance with it he was in the right. But of his expedition to England—every [Pg 82] move of which is justified upon the Bayeux Tapistry—he repents, although, fortunately, not fanatically enough to try and undo the deed. He only makes what reparation he can to certain victims. Though on his death-bed he liberated Harold’s son and nephew, he seems to overlook a curious persecution, cruel in intent but easily repaired, that, in the confidence and fury of his power, he had directed against the soul of the defeated king. The Conqueror carried Harold’s body from the battlefield (he wrapt it in the purple, it is true), but he had insisted upon burying it in unhallowed ground, although for it Harold’s mother had offered the weight in gold,—both parties firmly believing that to lie in unconsecrated ground would militate against the repose of the spirit. Though he tried to undo many a deed, the Conqueror ignores entirely his arrogant revenge upon a soul. Facing death matures our sense of value.

Though but one century removed from a forebear whose God was Odin, whose Valhalla was a place where heroes cut each other to pieces daily in fair fight, but where the blest are perpetually restored to life at [Pg 83] meal-time that they may eat of the wild boar and fight again and forever,[4] at least the Conqueror came to shudder at his massacres at Hastings and York, to truly repent and to die humbly commending his soul to Mary.

The spirit of the nineteenth century was iconoclastic; it demolished alike old heroes, old superstitions and old faiths. But the twentieth century would call them back, not as realities, but as heroes, superstitions and faiths, treating them philosophically, as great moving forces, or poetically, as starting points for new ideals. The hard, rational doubt which emancipated thought in the nineteenth century develops into the sympathetic doubt of the twentieth. The nineteenth century laughed at barbaric old heroes, while the twentieth century smiles at them. Who wants to live in a world without heroes? All men are not equal; but by reverent appreciation the small man may become brother to the genius.

Every place, every document connected with the Conqueror bears his strong individuality. Read of him where you may, between the lines of [Pg 84] the Domesday Book (that conscientious effort to tax all that the traffic will bear), or in the broken lays of the troubadours, or by the light or the density of contemporary chroniclers, Norman or Saxon, you find before you a man great in himself and a forerunner of greater things: a great builder, building better than he knew; a great ruler, ruling farther than he knew—a true hero of the strenuous life.

Following the chance records from which the Conqueror’s biography is put together, one is amazed by the integrity of his political instinct. William the Norman is an instance for the poet who said, “The world is what a few great men have made it.” The Conqueror seems such a typical Englishman, alike in his love of the forests and the “high deer,” of which the old Saxon chronicler complains, and in his appreciation of justice and stability, for which the same chronicler gives thanks on the spot. The Conqueror’s appeal is a very wide one. Even the economists, who hold that the world is what demand and supply have made it, write with an enthusiasm peculiarly their own of the Domesday Book and its wisely self-seeking, avaricious author.

Dinan—the Fortifications have been Turned into Playgrounds.

[Pg 85] It cannot be argued that the Conqueror was a popular king, but sinners, like saints, may be proven by their influence after death—the Conqueror’s was strong and manly. His spirit entered widely into mediæval legend. He is the Arthur, the ideal ruler, whom Malory commends for manly purity, justice and probity; also for “open manslaughter.” We may take Malory’s word for it, it was better than the savage treachery known even four hundred years later, when that old raconteur was mixing probabilities, improbabilities and impossibilities so picturesquely, and we have our old hero back. Although we must alter Malory’s ideal, we can add to it as well as subtract from it. We have the splendid barbarian who brought order out of chaos both in England and Normandy, who loved and trusted his wife, who loved nature and had an instinct for art, whose intelligent attitude toward religion and learning left the Dark Ages behind, and whose loyal leadership opened the romantic days of chivalry.

Near Caen is a lovelier town, “Dinan, where the Conqueror slept.” Here history’s scroll seems to loosen, displaying an enchanting pastoral of the ages; there lies the simple, old hamlet by the river, just as it [Pg 86] might have looked when William the Norman and Harold, son of Goodwin, camped there together, a little less than one thousand years ago. Then, back of the river on the bluff, later a securely walled town appeared, but now the old fortifications have turned into charming parks and playgrounds, girding the loveliest of French villages; and on a summer day in fair France one can feel sure that though much of life is at cross-purposes, all is not vanity: old moats may make the loveliest of gardens; old warriors, the gentlest of heroes.

Old Moats do make such Charming Gardens.

[Pg 87]

Grandniece of the Grand

I have a fair daughter formed like a golden flower.—Sappho.

The Spanish Inquisitor is one character of the past who has been spared the mockish attentions of writers of historical romance. But he, too, has suffered from the on dit of history, history as she is taught. However, he had his day. Once as the impersonation of “correct sentiment,” he dealt his decrees from a palace and had the double honor of representing Church as well as State. As times grew gentler, the Inquisition was directed against books rather than men. Now, certainly, something may be accorded to those who dispose of polemic literature, even though they be as innocent as earthworms of their ultimate use to humanity; therefore, let us try to look upon the Grand Inquisitor, [Pg 88] Miguel de Carpio, as a Spanish gentleman of an exceedingly old school—as a man perhaps much less bloodthirsty than some of the good and perfect knights, though abominably technical regarding certain points. As theatre-goers we are in the gentleman’s debt, for it was he who educated his nephew, Lope de Vega de Carpio, who in his turn was a positive factor in the development of the modern drama.

Lope Felix de Vega de Carpio was of a mental mixture that has more than passed away; it has been relegated to the incomprehensible,—at once a graceful poet and a soldier, a past master of euphuism and a coarse dramatist; an officer of the Church; “a servant of the Inquisition” or a “familiar of the holy office,” as he fluently termed it (an honorary escort of the victim to the stake); finally, chaplain of the monastic order into which he retired; and, unquestionably, the most voluminous of writers.

A Peep Into the Cranium of a Bible Reader
in Lope de Vega’s Time.

[Pg 89] But his most poetic gift to the world was his love-child, Sister Marcela de Felix of the Convent of the Ladies of the Trinity at Alcala. Of all his children, legitimate or illegitimate, this daughter, by the lady who inspired the best of his sonnets, was to him dearest. He takes little Marcela to live with him as soon as ever his wife dies, and dedicates a drama to the little girl; so does another poet. She seems to be her father’s comrade, for when she is only eleven years old he uses her to get back some letters that he has written to one of his various mistresses; but when a relative of the husband of this mistress makes improper overtures to Little Marcela, Lope de Vega rises like a man “in spite of his age and holy orders,” and chastises the villain.

At sixteen, to the little maid comes a craving for an exalted purity, a reaction of her beautiful soul from its coarse, immoral surroundings. Being a woman, her ideal also calls for a lover, but he must be pure and more beautiful than any one she has ever known, and he must love her as she will him, “better than life.” It is the Age of Faith. Her bridegroom awaits; she leaves her father to join him.

Of course, there are braver, fuller, happier lives than a nun’s, and there always have been. But during the Age of Faith, in a religious house, there was always a haven of rest for the idealist, while now it sometimes seems he has not where to lay his head.

[Pg 90] It was not in the Middle Ages that the king said, “If poets will be poets, why, let them starve.” Then, on the contrary, the public fed a vagabond population of vagabond singers who sang a certain grace into the Romance languages; for the devotees of various abstractions there was the refuge of holy orders. After taking up the religious life, if they had force enough to arrange the conditions around them to fit their desires, they might safely follow their various bents, for good or ill, undisturbed by care for the future, their bodies being insured against want, their souls against punishment. In Spain, particularly, really great men and successful ones continued to take holy orders even up to the eighteenth century.

In his prime, Calderon exchanged the position of superintendent of the royal theatre for royal chaplain, but after a few qualms on the point he continued to write plays on much the same order as before, only they were performed by priests. Since Calderon was really orthodox the arrangement seems natural enough; as a playwright he had baffled with the public till he was fifty-one years old; in the church at least he [Pg 91] was relieved from the dictates of public tastes. There it was that he probably wrote his beautiful “Magic Magician.”

I am not a Ruskinite. I would not, if I conveniently could, domesticate the thirteenth century in the nineteenth; but I do believe in a sympathetic attitude toward history, as toward present life, and for the same reasons I would not turn the light of the twentieth century in upon the gloom of the sixteenth, with the idea of getting a clear picture. I for one do not feel that a convent was the saddest place for Sister Marcela. That power which decrees the fall of nations had its hand upon Spain. Wars, the Americas, the religious houses and the Inquisition, had fed on the flower of the nation too long. The times were out of joint. It seemed beautiful to little Marcela to lose such a world and gain a soul. Being a poet, the heroic side of the church appealed to her; in her intensity she joined the barefooted order of the Trinity. How did her father part from her? He was a poet, too—did he give her up with holy joy and homely sorrow?

In his way, Lope de Vega was a really religious man, for he lived in close touch with his God—the literal, limited, jealous god of a [Pg 92] fanatic, it is true. Would you see its exact image, as shown on the Market Place? Then read “The Marriage of the Soul to Divine Love,” a broadly realistic drama, in which Lope de Vega supposes the bridegroom to be the Savior. It was acted on the great Square of Valencia on the occasion of the marriage of Philip III, the dramatist himself being the clown in the cast.

But, too, this vulgar “familiar of the holy office” can be tender. Listen to these lines, dedicated to his little dead son:—

“Holy angels and blest, Through these palms as ye sweep, Hold their branches at rest, For my babe is asleep.
“And ye Bethlehem palm trees, As stormy winds rush In tempest and fury, Your angry noise hush;— Move gently, move gently, Restrain your wild sweep; Hold your branches at rest,— My babe is asleep.
“My babe all divine, With earth’s sorrows oppressed, Seeks in slumber an instant His grieving to rest; He slumbers,—he slumbers,— Oh hush, then, and keep Your branches all still,— My babe is asleep!
“Cold blasts wheel about him,— A rigorous storm,— And ye see how, in vain, I would shelter his form;— Holy angels and blest, As above me ye sweep, Hold these branches at rest,— My babe is asleep!”

The Literal, Limited God of a Fanatic and
Father Adam Stock-taking in Eden.

[Pg 93] What did he whisper to this living child as she parted from him? “Heard melodies are sweet; but those unheard are sweeter.”

When, in the confident phrase of her father, Marcela de Carpio “espoused the eldest son of God,” her mystic nuptials called forth the truest “song-feast” ever held. The herald of old might bid the poets appear and compete for a monarch’s pleasure. Order a tournament of song, indeed! Mahomet was profound enough to go to the mountain. When the beautiful love-child of Lope de Vega and Micaela de Luzan took the veil, the ceremony was graced by all the dignity and circumstance which the Church could lavish in outward expression of the passion and fervor of the forceful old days of her power.

[Pg 94] All the poets of the day, great and small, seemed to have been summoned to this marriage feast, and all the poets of the day, great and small, vainly tried to transcribe the living poem their eyes beheld when that fair bride of Christ passed before them in a transport of ecstasy.

At that time many great ladies were taking the veil with equal pomp and state, but no such tribute was paid them. What an absolutely inexplicable power is personality! Marcela de Carpio never published a line, and at this time had probably never written one. How did these minor poets recognize this fair daughter of Sappho? Was she “formed like a golden flower”? What a wonderful people are poets! But listen, for Sister Marcela’s bridal song is with us yet, she pipes so clear and sweet:

I. “Let them say to my lover That here I lie! The thing of his pleasure, His slave am I.
II. “Say that I seek him Only for love, And welcome are tortures My passion to prove. [Pg 95]
III. “Love giving gifts Is suspicious and cold; I have all, my Beloved, When Thee I hold.
IV. “Hope and devotion The good may gain, I am but worthy Of passion and pain.
V. “So noble a Lord None serves in vain— For the pay of my love Is my love’s sweet pain.
VI. “I love thee, to love thee, No more I desire; By faith is nourished My love’s strong fire.
VII. “I kiss Thy hands When I feel their blows; In place of caresses Thou givest me woes.
VIII. “But in Thy chastening Is joy and peace; O Master and Love, Let not Thy blows cease! [Pg 96]
IX. “Thy beauty, Beloved, With scorn is rife! But I know that Thou lovest me Better than life.
X. “And because Thou lovest me, Lover of mine, Death can but make me Utterly Thine.
XI. “I die with longing Thy face to see; Ah, sweet is the anguish Of Death to me!”

Marcela de Carpio retired from the world in 1621. It was not till 1870 that the ladies of the Convent of the Trinity at Alcala called the attention of the director of the Spanish Academy to a manuscript so dear to that sisterhood,—the love-songs of a nun, the poems of Sister Marcela de Felix. Such a delay in publication would be disastrous to a worldling of the pen, but oblivion cannot bury a soul. Besides, Sister Marcela was dreaming of heaven, not of print; her thought incidentally overflows and she inherited her father’s facility with the pen.

[Pg 97] Thus, from the depths of the old cloister swells a love-song so clear and sweet, so humanly divine that it almost reconciles the ages. The times were out of joint in Spain, but I am glad that this mystical daughter of Sappho was not ordained, like poor little Charlotte Corday, another idealist, with the blood of a great poet in her veins, to try to set them right. I am glad that the doors of the convent were open to this spiritual young dreamer of beautiful dreams, who sings the “Swan Song of the Age of Faith.” You say the convent doors are open yet; yes, but in another way—perhaps a better way. Women enter to dedicate a broken life to all that is good. The peace is there, but the rapture is no more. We “cannot sing the old songs now nor dream those dreams again.”

No woman is fairer to muse upon than Marcela de Carpio. We get out of life what we put into it. From the repose of the cloister Sister Marcela contributes a dream. She is the poetess of the passionate reverence of the Age of Faith. In her verse “the tender grace of a day that is dead” is immortal. We must never for a moment overlook a Spanish lady’s pedigree. Senorita Marcela de Carpio was the grandniece of a Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

[Pg 98]

Stray Leaves From Old,
Old Books


A  bibliophile is expected to enter with an apology,—he is generally called a bibliomaniac, but let your foreboded homage check your tongue; remember, if you prefer your mother’s Bible to the one left by the tract society, or the one left by the tract society to your mother’s (bibliophiles are liable to any preference), you are open to the infection and the mania is incurable.

But do not books become ours by what we, individually, get from them? What does it matter whether it lies in the cover or the text or between the lines? “Piece out our imperfection with your thought,” implores the greatest poet. Though it is dwelt upon with some truth that bibliophiles do not read their books (must we therefore infer that other people have the contents of their libraries at their tongue’s [Pg 99] ends), they have their own attitude toward them—an attitude which has proved of the profoundest service to letters.

The professional critic enters the library in state, receiving and dismissing new books with sovereign assurance: so uniformly has he erred that the dictum has gone forth that no age can pass on its writers.

The gentle reader enters the library modestly; although he may read the new books that perish, he does not neglect the new books that live, as any one who makes a study of editions will discover; he buys the good works of his own day. The publisher of the first edition of Shakespeare remarked that purchase “best commends a book,” on the strength of which idea he collected the stray plays of the Bard of the Avon. The preface which he wrote for his edition stands forth as the modest advertisement of history; but absurdly condescending as it is, it shows that he foresaw a good, immediate sale; also that he foresaw no farther.

The bibliophile enters the library abstractedly, there to muse upon volumes true and tried; and through the ages his reverent, disinterested spirit has builded better than it knew. Indeed, it alone [Pg 100] tided books across the Dark Ages; for even when they could not read, some there were who had wit enough to appreciate letters in the abstract. Contrast their attitude with that of the executive Caliph Omar, who burned a great library at Alexandria in 635, declaring that if the books were orthodox (Mohammedan orthodoxy, of course) they were unnecessary; if heterodox, pernicious. That is what it means to have mere practical people around among books.

I can conceive of no human relic more touching than a Bible copied with conscientious care during this unsympathetic era. Hence the Book of Kells,[5] which is destitute of one touch of the native artist, however immature, is often spoken of as the most beautiful book in the world. It is supposed to have been executed about the eighth century, since its illuminators had advanced from the mere red capitals adorned with twisted dragons to pictures relating to the text. The symbols of the apostles, especially the bird-like lion of Saint Mark, appear repeatedly on the margins; also, there is a representation of Saint Matthew with hands growing from his shoulders, holding up to the world two copies of “The Book.” Among its illustrations are the Arrest of Jesus, the Agony of the Garden, and, most interesting of all, four angels and a Virgin and Child appear on the old pages, for, crude as these figures are, they may be reckoned among the direct ancestors of those beautiful Holy Families born on Italian and Flemish canvases eight or nine hundred years later, whose sweet faces still sway the world.

A Tribute to the Scribes of the Dark Ages,
from One of Their Intellectual Descendants,
a Painter of the Moyen Age

[Pg 101] Christian art began as illustration on the pages of holy books, and as illustration it expanded onto wood and canvas, bronze and marble. The peculiar grace of pictorial art crept into it incidentally, by accident of genius. That famous Giotto of the Louvre showing “Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata” is simply a direct explanation of the subject, far more beautiful in idea than in execution. There are the figures of Jesus and of Saint Francis; Christ is flying toward “the most Christ-like of men,” and gilt lines from every wound in our Savior piercing Saint Francis in the same parts of the body bind that sympathetic saint to his Redeemer, while unknown to the holy brother a halo appears back of his head.

[Pg 102] This idea of illustration made beautiful that it might be worthy of the subject which it treated, that arose in the old scriptoriums, reached its perfection on Ghiberti’s doors to the Baptistry at Florence. Michael Angelo called them the Gates of Paradise. Illuminated books of a later date display equally noble, artistic connections. I have seen little Madonnas in Books of Hours in the British Museum that seem like imperfect copies of Raphael, whereas they precede him by nearly a century.

Mediæval story is full of the visits of angels to despairing illuminators and scribes who found themselves unable to execute books worthy in their material beauty to convey the word of God. Our Lady herself sometimes came down to console them. Did forecasts of the beautiful pictures yet to come sometimes appear to the humble dreamers of the cloister as they worked away on the margins of holy books? Not literally, of course, for taste was too crude to conceive of a developed art. But may not some old artist have conceived in his cell of a pictured Madonna, so beautiful that pilgrims came from afar to do her honor, so sweet that she could uplift them from sin? And perhaps the soul of that humble old scribe finds its paradise in the better part of some inscrutable genius whose Madonnas perpetually uplift the world, for the soul of a saint is active forever.

It is Said There is No Better Test of a Bible Student Than to
Ask Him to Read the Stories which Ghiberti Tells so
Distinctly on the Baptistry Doors.

[Pg 103] But from the vantage-ground of the Old Book of Kells it is as pretty to look backward as to look forward, so sweetly does it recall a certain monastery on the Island of Iona which casts its ray in history like a good deed in a naughty world. This old book speaks eloquently of the lonely Irish cloisters where, in perhaps the darkest hour of written history, the seeds of occidental civilization were laid away until a more favorable season dawned in which to sow them broadcast.

About a hundred years after the blessed Saint Patrick converted Ireland, in which time many had fallen from grace, Saint Columba appeared on the scene, made a second conversion of that region and founded the old Scotch Kirk (very indirectly). When Saint Columba appealed to the canny Scots and the thrifty northern Irishmen for a situation for his monastery, they hospitably turned over to his use the rocky Island of Iona. Though agriculturally it was not much, through long ages it had borne the fruits of the spirit until even its stones [Pg 104] did duty as amulets. In its bosom slept the Scottish kings, King Macbeth being the last of the royal line to lie there. Iona was hallowed ground to the Druid, and is, to this day, a haven of superstition. There Saint Columba, the scribe, located his lonely monastery wherein books were made, wondrous in their day and generation, and there or at some Columbian monastery in the neighborhood, perhaps at Kells, the Book of Kells was executed.

One of its big pages, which is covered by a great cross wherein eight circles are incorporated in a network of infinitely involved interlacements, especially illustrates one phase of early art—its reverent patience. Study that cross as you may you will find no false line, no irregular interlacement, for all this was done in the olden time when the ways of holy men were made so clear unto them. That none might disturb the holy calm of the silent scribes as they multiplied the precious “Word” Saint Jerome had taken down from the direct dictation of the angels, a code of signs was in use in the scriptoriums of the monasteries. The sign of the cross indicated a missal, the sign of the crown, King David’s psalms, while a contemptuous scratching of [Pg 105] the ear, in the manner of a dog, was an order for a mere pagan volume; for then “the world was very wicked,” as the good monks droned; or at least very rude, cruel, lazy and barbarous, as history affirms, and gentle spirits were only too prone to recoil from it.

The early Christians in general were filled with contempt for this life and proud certainty of reward in the next: those whose practice was no higher than their theory withdrew from the world to secure to themselves particularly high seats in heaven. The composite story of their lives emphasizes the barrenness of the scoffer, the futility of the contemptuous. But the story of the scribe, though he may have seen through the glass just as darkly as the anchorite did, is the living story of Christian brotherhood.

One of the first of these scribes, old Cassiodorus of Ravenna, writes: “All who sing form but a single voice, and we may mingle our notes with those of the angels, though we may not hear them.” I am sure that was the sentiment which finally turned this old statesman from the world, even though he did not retire till after the death of Theodoric, his patron. Perhaps the career of a statesman prepared him to be a statesman [Pg 106] of the world of letters; at any rate, when he repaired to the cloister he gathered together, according to his lights, the best books of his world, and especially enjoined upon the monks the noble duty of multiplying them.

All this was some hundred years before Saint Columba’s time, but angel voices carry, and I do believe in their highest moments the ignorant, undeveloped scribes of the old Irish monasteries vaguely echoed ideals like those of Cassiodorus.

These scribes came to feel a certain ownership in the great Bibles on which they worked. At the end of each section of the old Book of Durrow its scribe smuggled in his petition that all who take the book in hand might pray for him. I have known a merry old scribe to insert a jingle in very bad Latin at the end of a chapter, indicating that after so much good work he should be rewarded with a drink. The jolly old monk has always appealed to me most unreasonably.

Within the century of the making of the old Book of Kells in Ireland, stirring old Charlemagne brought a semblance of order to the land of the Gaul and the Frank and, “that requests should not be made to God in [Pg 107] bad language,” he regulated copists and reproductions by law; he ordered holy books elaborately adorned, and collected, to the best of his ability, artists for that purpose, thereby leaving his mark on the books of his time and of some generations following, which are technically known as Carlovingians. Indeed, as a bibliophile Charlemagne shows the most charming side of his character. In his enthusiasm he went to work and learned to read, but he never could succeed in learning to write.

As might be expected, Carlovingians are mechanically decorated. They show Byzantine importation rather than the loving development of an early and original art. We still have a couple of pages of the Amiens copy of a work written by the Abbot of Fulda during Charlemagne’s reign. One page is covered by a lone figure, without ground or background, of Louis the Pious with text printed all over it. (Not that in the Dark Ages anybody read between the lines; that they failed to do so was their greatest difficulty.) Then other Carlovingians are examples of the dyers’ art, being written in gold on purple vellum, like the “Golden Gospels” which one thousand one hundred years later [Pg 108] proved such an excellent speculation on Wall street. But that is unquestionably “another story.”

There is a certain book in the Bodleian not quite so old which I should value more highly. With considerably more evidence than usual in such cases, it is identified as the book of mass of Queen Margaret of Scotland. I wonder if the lovely Saxon princess had it with her when she fled to Scotland after the Norman Conquest to implore the protection of Malcomb Canmore who made her his Queen? But, better still, his people afterwards made her their patron saint, realizing that she had done more to refine them than any other early ruler. Tradition tells how the King, though he could not read, loved to handle the Queen’s precious books—perhaps he gave this little volume adorned with gold and jewels to the lady of his reverent love.

The thirteenth century has great attractions for a bibliophile. Never were the embellishments on books more liberal and amusing. Nowadays illuminators consider the fitness of things, but in the thirteenth century they just designed. I know of a most charming psalter of the [Pg 109] late thirteenth century with the capitals filled with the spirited knights and the margins with all-colored dragons whose attenuated tails form circles, sometimes not more than an eighth of an inch in diameter, that separate tiny butting goats or strutting cocks, or Darwinian monkeys or other irrelevant matter from the text.

Did these dragons creep in from the Norse mythologies, I wonder, or were they just creatures of adaptive anatomy for decorative purposes? The early illuminators did not turn to nature; simple people never do. This illustrator’s mind certainly wandered; whether it started with the psalms I cannot determine, but he displays two tiny gilded stops one-eighth of an inch by two inches that the seriously inclined might take as sermons. One represents a jester, with cap and bells and wand, and little other raiment, successfully charging a fully armed knight; and the other, Venus, attended by a blue dragon, pursuing a cross between a man and a devil.

The fourteenth and fifteenth century illuminators and illustrators begin to think; indeed, they are among the best historians we find of that period: modern illustration is fast returning to their methods. [Pg 110]

At the commencement of the fourteenth century, miniatures of the noble owners of elaborate volumes began to be inserted in their books. Thus a consecutive history of two hundred years of French portraiture is safely folded away in the Bibliotheque Nationale, where we may watch the stiff early miniatures gradually develop into charming little genre pictures. Though the consideration of atmosphere was passed over at that time, many of them are models of composition.

Some of these little illustrations show the conceptions as well as the manners of the age. In one of these old Bibles is a picture of six seigneurs (two famous bibliophiles among them), in full regalia (no grave clothes for them), cordially received by Saint Peter at the Gothic Gates of Paradise in the courteous days of the old regime. There is that magnificent jeweled Bible of Jean Sans Peur, Duc de Bourgoyne, decorated with his armorial bearings, which was given to him by some monks of his domain when he deigned to honor them with a visit; it contains a charming little picture of the presentation scene.

A Page from the Bible of Jean Sans Peur.

[Pg 111] Those were royal days for bibliophiles; but a change was to come over the spirit of their dreams. Printing was invented and the democracy of letters set in,—jeweled bindings made way for calf, and collectors are diverted from painting to presses. Bibliophiles develop individual tastes and such a plebeian variety of them; it is akin to free speech—one doting on prayer-books, another on cook-books; one on pamphlets, another on palimpsests; one on school-books, another on Virgils; one on curiosities of literature, execrably illustrated books of travel in impossible lands and comedies of error generally; another on distant glimpses of dawning light, until within the order arises the confusion of Babel, one no longer understanding the language of another.

But there is an early Episcopal prayer-book in the British Museum before which all the brotherhood right gallantly might bow. It was Lady Jane Grey’s companion in distress; she is said to have taken it with her to the scaffold, where she certainly carried its lessons. In it she wrote her last message to her father: “The Lord comfort Your Grace in this world wherein all creatures are only to be comforted.” Her story [Pg 112] is almost too harrowing to recall. This studious young girl, just seventeen, is offered the English crown. Her common sense tells her to decline it. “His Grace,” always harsh, even for his day and generation, forces her to accept. In consequence, after a ten days’ reign, she is imprisoned in the Tower. While she is held there “His Grace” makes another false move; as a result of his idiocy Lady Jane and her young husband are condemned to death.

Could we believe this gentle message on hearsay? We should probably argue, the age was so narrow, the girl was so young, the expression is too condensed, too mature. The rational doubt would blur one of the loveliest pictures in Time’s gallery of fair women. A martyr without the spur, or the blemish of fanaticism! A Queen of ten days but a Defender of the Faith forever. The crown jewels pale before this illuminated prayer-book of Her Most Christian Majesty. This dear little Protestant called forth the one tender letter extant from the highly practical Diana of Poitiers. “I have just been hearing the account of the poor young Queen Jane, and I could not keep myself from weeping at [Pg 113] the sweet, resigned words she spoke to them on the scaffold; surely never was such a sweet and accomplished princess.”

Indeed, the best thing in the world of books, as well as in the world of men, “is something out of it,” and it is the appreciation of this “something,” manifest to sympathetic souls, which makes us bibliophiles. If unknown to history a tender touch of hands long dead lurks in an old edition, is it not beyond price?

Although there are priceless books like this little prayer-book of Queen Jane, every good bibliophile is a bit of a speculator; to bet on an author is as loyal an excitement as to bet on a racer; and to feel a beloved volume appreciating upon one’s shelves is like watching the development of a promising child.

Robert Browning, who was brought up in the fold, his father being a collector, writes:

Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I’ the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man’s life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just.
Opening lines of
The Ring and the Book.”

[Pg 114] That eightpence has the regular bibliomaniacal ring. Next to giving fifty prices for a book, the genuine collector delights in paying an improperly low one—a tour de force either of wit or of purse.

Just think of getting material for the longest poem of the century for eightpence! and material so unique! with the inspiration of the old tome thrown in!

But now, when books are so cheap they are almost free, when exact reproductions of wonderful editions might flood the market at any day, when venders of old books have become too expert for book hunters, we are assured that bibliophiles, grasping the tangible in the hope of realizing the intangible, are the absurdities of a rational age.

Remember our record in the past and trust us a little in the present. In blind reverence we saved books and inaugurated Christian art. Historians suddenly began to demand documents and they grow more and more insistent on that point. Well, we can come to their aid and they can come to ours; many a pretty bargain has been struck in the exchange. Along with its old books and letters we have especially preserved the gentler, though none too gentle, side of the past. [Pg 115]

We can introduce you to men of other days in their libraries: a very good place to study them sympathetically.

Among other charming facts, we can assure you that even during the confusion of a period of infinite intrigue complicated by religious wars and the Fronde, Richelieu and Mazarin found time to play at bibliomania, and perhaps we can persuade you that of all their games it was the most profitable. The executive Mazarin got hold of an invaluable expert, Naudé, who brought him bargains by the yard. What fun they must have had out of it,—Naudé literally taking a measuring-stick with him when he went “book-hunting,” and “the stalls where he had passed were like the towns through which Attila or the Tartars had swept!” But the result was different. Deserving books were sumptuously decked out in red and olive morocco with gold-tooled cardinal hats thereon, and took their rightful place in Mazarin’s palace, that Earthly Paradise of the bibliophile graced by beautiful books and gentle readers, for Mazarin’s library was cordially free, the first really free library in France.

It is true that Saint Louis, always open to a beautiful idea, hearing [Pg 116] of a sultan who had had copies made of the manuscripts of his realm for the benefit of the savants, endeavored to follow the example of the Moslem. Accordingly he made a beautiful collection of copies which were kept in the royal chapel—hardly a convenient place for the reading public; but then there was no reading public.

However humble a Christian, however gentle a knight Saint Louis may have been, he was destitute of one instinct of the democrat. After his death his collection was broken up, but his idea descended to Charles the Wise, who practically started the Royal Library which, joined to the Mazarin, developed into the present Bibliotheque Nationale.

As the oldest branch of the Public Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale occupies the ancestral home, the Palais Mazarin at Paris, where Mazarin’s motto, “Time and I,” rings forth in the majesty of accomplishment.

As “Ever since the days of Captain Kidd, the Yankees think there’s money hid,” so ever since the disappearance of Molière’s library the bibliophiles think there’s treasure hid. Only one book which belonged [Pg 117] to that prince of bibliophiles has turned up so far, a little Elzevir of 1651, in which he obligingly wrote his name and the price, 1 livre, 10 sous. But think of his two hundred and forty odd comedies which he handled so deftly both in the letter and in the spirit, “taking his property wherever he found it!” What pearls of price if one could only trace them!

We know this collection was broken up; it cannot be that every single book has perished. One is almost justified in counting such chickens before they are hatched. Molière was not only one of the greatest but one of the most lovable of authors—that quality we collectors value so highly! Why a book of his would be like a relic of a saint (there is a bit of mediævalism in every good bibliophile); a saint, a bibliophile of other days, an actor, a gentle reader and a genius! What might not any one of them bring? Ah, there is still a golden fleece for the quest of the Romantic Modern.

Romance will always deal in talismans. We bibliophiles make ours a thing of the mind, which we lay away between the lines of some gentle old volume, hoping that some day, somewhere in the vague realm of Books, it may work its pleasant magic upon some unknown comrade.

[Pg 118]

Romantic Twentieth Century:
A Deduction


The simple story-tellers of old, singing away before History was born, long, long before she became contradictory and disrespectful, chose the past as a setting for certain beatitudes—love, beauty, valor, fidelity and justice. Theirs was not the harsh justice of the common law, for there was no common law, but true, or, as the world terms it, poetic justice. They strengthened the warp of their story with the noblest deeds done, or almost done, around them, for human beings so often fall just short of great things; this it is the gentle and honorable duty of story to remedy, for “What we would be, that we are for one transcendent moment.”

When they only recorded the prowess of the victor, History and Romance [Pg 119] were one and at peace, and the glorious days of which together they sung were known as the Golden Age.

Then History began to feel the heroism of the vanquished. To give them their meed she conceived the idea of recording impartially the good and evil around her, whereat childish Romance turned from her in disgust.

But each claimed the Golden Age: Romance declaring that golden tales that live and grow were hers for all time; History declaring that the fact that a great poet imagined an event to have happened counted for more in the human record than any other given occurrence. And History and Romance quarreled on until it seemed as though the Golden Age would be lost to both of them.

Then Romance, always enterprising to the point of flightiness, suggested that, as the Golden Age had no chronology, it might safely be recast in the future, in which period she, at least, was quite as much at home as in the past.

Politic Old Dame History smiled at the idea of her dealing in futures, but she did make herself responsible for the statement that the real [Pg 120] present is infinitely more romantic than the real past. Then waxing bold she declared that, with some trifling digression, she had all along been leading men toward a purer justice more mixed with love. Of this sweeping assertion she calmly cast the burden of proof upon “my most persuasive witness, my dear old friend, Romance.” And Romance, who always begs the question, replies with a smile, “Let me tell some stories. No, I will not commence with the Greeks, they are hardly my people. Great poets may find other themes, but as for me, my humble fancy must rest upon a woman and she should be pure, sweet and gentle and brave men should bow before her.

“The Grecian woman was in no way a free agent. To assert herself at all, she was obliged to be either deceitful or defiant; both attitudes are so unbeautiful! I commence with the days of chivalry, for though women were not free then, it was supposed that they ought to be, which is enough for me.”

“To me,” says History, “the love stories of the days of chivalry, told as fact or as old romance, are one of the saddest issues of its universal tyranny—a tyranny of parent over child, of man over woman, [Pg 121] of lord over serf, of king over lord, of emperor over king, of pope over emperor—a tyranny of crazy conventions and mistaken ideals over all, with mortifications of spirit a thousand times harsher than those of the flesh, which made life hideous even to its ideals.

“Analyze the great love story of that era and you find rather a tragedy of tyranny. It runs thus: About the close of the Dark Ages the parents of Pierre Abelard decided, for the future repose of their souls, to repress all their natural desires and shift all mundane duties. Accordingly they retired to separate convents, leaving their son free to follow his natural bent. Argument being his ruling passion, he wandered through France challenging the local theologians in debate, always drawing a following, always making powerful enemies, and, doubtless, very much enjoying the life. At Laon he tackled the great Anselm, and finding him a man ‘of mean genius and great fluency of words without sense,’ Abelard conceived the idea of reading the Bible for himself. Then he made his way to Paris to break a lance with the great Canon Fulbert, where he met the Canon’s niece, Heloise. A love [Pg 122] story ensued, like other love stories in many ways, except that Heloise, against all self-interest, physical, social, spiritual, refused to marry her lover, entreat as he might; she would do anything else for him, except state her true reason—but yet a woman. We have it finally in her correspondence, ‘What an injury shall I do the Church if I rob it of such a man!’

“Is it a sacrifice on the altar of the Church on her part, or is it a woman’s sacrifice for the interests of the man she loves better than herself? Had her mother made a like renunciation? No mother appears in the story of this adopted niece of an ecclesiastic. Here is Heloise’s position. In her time the only opening for a clever man was the Church with its conditions; a loving woman should not hamper an ambitious man; she should remember she cannot be to him what he is to her, which is a law of life known to woman, that we find holds true here. Having first given her all to the Church, she enters a convent at Abelard’s suggestion. But in the twelfth century, or any other, the hope of youth dies hard. Heloise does not take the black veil. She cannot burn her ships.

“Thereafter this truly fair woman of Romance figures as a stern [Pg 123] disciplinarian reporting the weaker sisters. But she is severe upon herself as well, and confesses having unlawfully opened a letter in which she was sure there was news of her Abelard; though, when in after years Abelard wished to correspond with her, she begged him not. This is the tragedy of Heloise.

“Abelard also entered a convent, but there, as elsewhere, he had a wonderful faculty for carrying his point, and probably led, on the whole, a very congenial life. However, he once overstepped himself, and was summoned to appear before the Council of Soissons and commanded to burn his own book with his own hands. He ungallantly admitted that this was the saddest moment of his life. Here is Abelard’s tragedy. He felt that all was lost. But it was Abelard that the world needed, not his book.

“Brave as Socrates, Abelard returned to the Abbey of Saint Denis, there to raise the first historic doubt. He did not think Saint Denis was the Areopagite of the Scriptures, nor did he believe the saint was ever in Paris. The horrified Abbot accordingly gave Abelard over to the civil authorities ‘for reflections upon the kingdom and the crown.’ [Pg 124]

“Driven from Paris, he retired to a cloistered order at Troyes, where he built a church and had the pleasure of dedicating it to the Holy Ghost (there being a law against dedicating a temple to the Paraclete). Arguing to the last, Abelard passed away, and while his body was mouldering in the ground, his soul went arguing on in his intellectual descendants, the mediæval schoolmen who, in their poor way, managed to awaken the mind of Europe, if only to lead it by labyrinths into a cul-de-sac.

“I wonder if Heloise was able to follow her true love’s valiant career without earthly pride? Or by some strange austere resolve did she deny herself that gentle pleasure? For Heloise belongs to the species, omnipotent woman, who carries out her decisions by hook or by crook for the benefit of self and others, never hampered by a doubt of the ultimate excellence of her arrangements.

“Did she do well not to rob the Church of Abelard? Perhaps she builded better than she knew, or she may have made a sad mistake, but God knows, she did her best. That was eight hundred years ago, but her story is tragic today. As to Abelard’s, it is really very interesting. [Pg 125]

“And,” continues History, “the favorite romance of this sadly submissive age was ‘The Patient Griselda.’ It was an old, old tale when Boccaccio told it, but, thank fortune, it is dead at last, for we cannot now conceive of the excellence of the heroine.

“A marquis, whose only love is the chase, is forced by his subjects to marry. He compromises on a little country girl, and requires her to promise ‘to study to please him and not to be uneasy at anything whatever he may do or say.’ (A man’s requirements, only this marquis wasn’t a gentleman.) To test her patience, he amuses himself by taking her children from her, one by one, and leading her to suppose that they have been killed, because his people objected to the descendants of a peasant. Griselda blesses her children as she delivers them to his servitor, saying:

“‘Take them; do what my lord and thine has commanded; but, prithee, leave them not to be devoured by fowls or wild beasts unless that be his will.’

“Then the marquis tells her he must annul their marriage.

“She replies, ‘For what I have been I hold myself indebted to [Pg 126] Providence and you. I consider it a favor lent me,’ and she acquiescingly returns to the house of her father, who has prudently saved her old garments, never supposing the marquis would ‘keep her long as wife.’ In good time the marquis summons her to prepare his home for a new wife. She affectionately complies. The new wife proves to be herself, the marquis being quite persuaded that her patience ‘proceeds from no want of understanding in her.’ Her children are restored. She weeps for joy, and they all live happily ever after.”

Romance replies, “The chivalry in your instances is confined to the women, which is always pathetic. As to the actual Griselda of Aquitaine, whose name and story grew into the heart of an age, she lived just before the days of chivalry. Indeed, Shades of women like Griselda and Heloise may have inspired the chivalrous attitude toward women.

“One should read Griselda’s story in Chaucer, not in shallow-hearted Boccaccio, even though it was the purest and most popular of his tales. Chaucer would make you feel her kinship with women now, who make sacrifices for love less open and rude but not so different from hers. [Pg 127]

“Listen, History,” continues Romance, “to Chaucer’s tale: You have commended bloodier deeds than Griselda’s. The marquis says to Griselda, when he demands the child, ‘In great lordship there is great servitude. I may not do as every ploughman may,’ and Griselda, like a mother, whose son is demanded as a sacrifice on the altar of her country, first consecrates him to God. She is as tender to her child as she is loyal to her husband, but I will say no more; no one but Chaucer should touch that scene.

“I have always suspected that the real marquis in question intended to kill the child for exactly the reasons he stated, and the gentleness of the mother, who could not possibly protect the child, saved it. Life was held very loosely then. You see, History, I tell more truth than I am supposed to and you tell less, my idea being to appear fanciful, yours, to appear truthful. We are all poor sinners. However,” continues Romance, “a sweeter day was dawning. Out of the effort of the soldier to protect the pilgrim grew the Holy Wars, wherein the ideal that the strong should serve the weak was born, and I nursed it into chivalry.” [Pg 128]

“And a hideous and lawless state of things you brought forth,” remarked History; for Romance and History, like other old friends that have separated and come together again, cannot collate long in accord.

“In some cases I taught men not to need the law’s control,” retorted Romance. “To make men gentle one must teach them gently, so I sent my troubadours through the land as trusty messengers of chivalry and bid them sing the new ideal into the very heart of the realm. And in song they contended as lustily for the point of honor as ever knight contended with his lance.

“To these simple troubadours that love which is not physical, which begs to serve, not to be served, and poetry, itself, were one, and known by one term alone,—Love. But disputes arose regarding this term for an ideal new under the sun,—disinterested love in its highest and its fullest. Therefore, where the shades of classic refinement lingered latest, in fair Provence, I instituted tribunals before which my troubadours might plead their subtle causes in song, and styled them Courts of Love. My judges were the gentlest of ladies and poets bowed before them, saying: [Pg 129]

‘For all my words here and every part I speak them all under correction Of you that feeling have in love’s art, And put it all in your discretion.’”

History interrupts: “Among my humoresques, I happen to have a literal account of one of those old Courts of Love. It was convened by the Countess of Champagne; she had fifteen more women on the bench with her, all decked out in green and gold. Monkey-fashion, those scented ladies (precieuses ridicules) of old had the proceedings of their toy court solemnly recorded. André, their scribe, adds that the perfumes on the fair judges kept him sneezing continually while he was taking testimony. At that time chivalry had most absurdly exalted ‘my ladye,’ also the ‘beautiful unseen,’ styled the ‘beautiful unknown,’ and see the things men were expected to do!”

“Yes, and what is more, they did them,” retorted Romance, “and at the bidding of woman without other coercion, and the spirit of her law still rules.”

“I am confining myself to documentary evidence,” says History tartly. “This Chief Justice of Love, Maria of Champagne, was the daughter of [Pg 130] that Queen Eleanor of France, who would go on the Second Crusade. Had she only behaved herself in the East, she might have figured as the first New Woman. However, that was not to be. Formal action was brought before the Court of the Chief Justice of Love in the Province of Beauty by plaintiff, a servitor of love, against defendant, a Fair Lady—likewise a married one. Plaintiff had agreed to walk twice a week past defendant’s door, for which service defendant agreed to throw him a bunch of violets. As the weather was cold and the road muddy, plaintiff tired of the job and claimed in legal phraseology, as he did not always get his violets, that breach of contract should release him from further obligation.

“Defendant pleads ecstasy of love and anguish of mind. She said that because of Danger (Court term for husband) she could not always perform her contract, since she frequently had to profess that she was asleep, although she was awake; that it was highly ungallant in defendant to complain of snow and mire. Love should render him invulnerable. She also added that the man had the best of it, for he might repeat his hours and orisons while he was walking up and down before her door; also, he had the privilege of kissing her latch as he passed, whereas (feminine economy) she was obliged to purchase thread to tie up his violets.

Head of Justice, from Fiore’s Group.
This Old Venetian Figure of Justice Still Presides
Over the Gallery of Early Painters at Venice.
Technically she is in advance
of the Madonnas of Her Period.

[Pg 131] “Judgment in favor of the lady.

“Among the celebrated cases recorded in this court are two every-day disagreements between man and woman. A gentleman complains of the refusal of a lady to dance with him, which rendered him ridiculous. The court commanded the lady to dance with him.

“Action was brought by a wife against her husband for restraining her from wearing a hat of the newest fashion.

“Judgment for the lady.

“I will close,” continues History, “by citing a few of the thirty-one rulings of this Court of Maria of Champagne:

[Pg 132] “Maria de Champagne was a profound jurist, but I doubt if she was a truly romantic woman,” replies Romance. “Were I not too chivalrous to expose to your commonplace laughter the gentlest yearning of a rude age, their uncertain groping for a vague ideal too noble for their actual conception, I could a sweeter tale unfold of Courts of Love of old.

“But if you will laugh at ideals of romantic love, laugh kindly with me over its merriest comedy, written by the saddest and most chivalrous lover of them all.

“Take down your files, Dame History, and find, if you can, another servitor of love as chivalrous to his lady as Molière was to his wife, a woman belonging to other men; Molière’s patience, like Griselda’s, ‘proceeded from no lack of understanding.’”

“You have wandered far from the romance of the days of chivalry for your chivalrous instance,” sneers History.

“I was following up the seed that chivalry sowed, the idea of the self-effacement of the strong in favor of the weak. But let us turn [Pg 133] from the dramatist to the comedy, and by a short consideration of ‘Les Precieuses Ridicules,’ I may be able to make your point for you, ‘that the actual present is as romantic as the romance of the past.’

“At the beginning of this play, Georgebus, a provincial gentleman, has made arrangements with two satisfactory persons to marry respectively his daughter and niece. The girls are brought to Paris, where the candidates for their hands and hearts appear and come to the point at once. It seems the girls have been reading the romances of Mlle. de Scudéry, who has given them the idea that a lover should fall in love at sight, seek out his lady, woo her, and after gallantly surmounting many obstacles, win her. Georgebus perceives that the men depart in displeasure and investigates. He has observed that the girls are aping the manners of the ladies of the Court, which in Molière’s time were very affected. Georgebus’ daughter states her platform. It is rather romantic, but there are lovers nowadays that might fill the bill. She closes by saying, ‘But to plunge headlong into a proposal of marriage, to make love and marriage settlements go hand in hand, is to begin the romance at the wrong end. Once more, father, there is nothing more [Pg 134] shopkeeper-like than such proceedings.’ Georgebus is unable ‘to make out the meaning of her jargon,’ while his niece adds that those gentlemen ‘have never seen the map of the Country of Tenderness.’ She is also dissatisfied with their dress.

“Certainly, Molière did know what young girls crave, which Georgebus was unable to understand.

“In the meantime the disconcerted lovers have dressed their valets up and bidden them address the ladies in the most exaggerated fashion. The young girls are completely taken in, as girls often are by pseudo noblemen. The comedy runs high. Finally the masters appear, strip their valets of their finery, whip them and send them home.

“The bottom falls out of everything. Georgebus cries, ‘Hide yourselves, you idiots, hide yourselves forever,’ and after the girls’ exit, adds, ‘The cause of all the trouble lies in romances, verses, songs, sonnets and lays.’

“But in the long run, romances, verses and songs have won. Twentieth century sentiment goes with the girls though they were fooled once in the days of their youth. Nowadays, my courts sit in secret session. The novel is their organ, but, History, your crude Courts of Love died out six hundred years ago.”

An Ideal of the Gracious
Republic of Venice, Attended by Justice and Peace,
Expressed by Paul Veronese,
Sixteenth Century.

[Pg 135] “Never have I called you into my councils that I have not been belittled,” observes History. “My romance is democracy not courtship and it commenced with the inspiration of the Greeks. My first votary taught that ‘it is clear not in one thing alone, but wherever you test it, what a good thing is equality among men.’ He adds, ‘A tyrant disturbs ancient laws, violates women, kills men without trial. But a people ruling: first, the very name of it is so beautiful—Isonomiê; and secondly, a people does none of these things.’

“And this beautiful ‘equality among men’ I have followed in its ideal, in its fruition and alas, sometimes, in its debasement throughout the ages. I watched its short and glorious days in Greece, its orderly development in Rome, its splendid resurrection in Venice, which led the line of free cities of the Middle Ages that handed it down. I watched the American and the French Republics rise in the eighteenth century, [Pg 136] the French to totter, but to rise again, the American to live to fight another chivalrous war for human rights; and, the justice of republics proven, the twentieth century built one in a day. Then the distant continent, that drained the bravest blood of Portugal in the sixteenth century, wiped out its debt with the ‘fruits of the spirit,’ the romantic spirit of the twentieth century.

“Herodotus placed his faith in the people long ago, probably on more evidence than he reported in support of what to him seemed self-evident. Were he to come back to his native town now he would find his beautiful city of Halicarnassus replaced by a mean Turkish village, but through it are ringing the words ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,’ and the Father of History might be less surprised than men of today by the revolution that has suddenly established a constitution in Turkey. Indeed, nowhere has the very name of equality proved more beautiful. Since July 25, 1908, the lion and the lamb have actually lain down together on the once bloody fields of the Turk. Over a little Turkish shop two inscriptions appeared, side by side, above the three beautiful words: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ and ‘The beginning is from God; so victory is sure.’

A Mediæval Expression of Justice, Attended by Archangels, by Fiore.
Michael, the Angel of Good Counsel and Patron of All Souls, in Her Honor,
has Added a Pair of Scales to His Usual Emblems. Gabriel,
With His Lily and Scroll, the Angel Who Announces Things
High and Holy, is Pointing Directly to Her.

[Pg 137] “And if the great traveler of old were to push on westward across Europe, westward across the Atlantic, he might bequeath his visions to earth, and bidding us hope on, go back well pleased to the Courts of the Dead, his simple thesis proved—‘A people does none of these things.’”

Romance aside, “In her self-satisfaction she has forgotten all about the Golden Age. It never was hers. It is mine, and I will recast it safely in the future. There will I hold Courts of Love to define all new ideals, my pleaders shall be poets and their words shall be spoken under correction of those that have feeling in the art of this broader love, and my good knights shall swear ‘To defy power that seems omnipotent, to love and bear, to hope till Hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates.’”

Thus does the romantic twentieth century realize the fruition of the ideals of democrats of the past.

[Pg 138]

[Pg 139]

A Word Regarding

The original documents[6] consulted for this book have been the works of art of which it treats. In the case of old books, I have also availed myself of facsimiles, which have this advantage over originals, they may be freely handled. Most interesting among them are The Book of Kells, notes from copy of plates, with remarks by Westwood and Digby Watts; and Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages, by Humphrey Jones. The authorities on Gothic architecture, which I have accepted as final, are Viollet-le-Duc and Corroyer. I have drawn much of my material from modern technical periodicals, most useful of which have been Les Arts, Revue Archeologique, Revue des Questions Historiques and the American Historical Review. Though I have had recourse to general historians who treat of the Middle Ages,—Duruy, Gibbon, Guizot, Kitchin, Saint Martin, etc.; to guide books of accepted accuracy,—Baedeker, Guerber, Guides Joanne, and Dent’s Mediæval Town Series; to encyclopedias, English and French,—to the appended list of authorities I acknowledge especial indebtedness. Even when I have not borrowed statements from them I have been influenced by them in my interpretations of the Middle Ages: [Pg 140]

[Pg 142]

[Pg 143]



[1] The Spaniards of Seville formally determined to build a cathedral upon so magnificent a scale that coming ages might proclaim them mad to have undertaken it.

[2] As our train passed Chartres an exceedingly coarse conversation between drummers broke into a pæan to the beauty of the cathedral.

[3] I do not make myself responsible for the statement that these restorations are photographically exact, but at least on the old lines it has been possible to erect perfect examples of Norman architecture.

[4] The gentler element in Norse mythology enters into it long after the eleventh century and is probably a reflection from Christianity.

[5] Property of Trinity College, Dublin.

[6] A ‘document’ is an instrument on which is recorded, by means of letters, figures, or marks, matter which may be evidentially used.—F. Wharton, Law of Evidence.

Transcriber’s Notes:

The cover image was created by the transcriber, and is in the public domain.

The illustrations and footnotes have been moved so that they do not break up paragraphs.

Errors in punctuation and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected unless otherwise noted.

Typographical errors have been silently corrected but other variations in spelling and punctuation remain unaltered.

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Minerva Delight Kellogg


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