Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Author’s Preface to the Edition of 1831
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Author’s Preface to the Edition of 1831
SOME years ago, when visiting, or, more properly speaking, thoroughly exploring the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the writer came upon the word
[Greek] 1
graven on the wall in a dim corner of one of the towers.
  In the outline and slope of these Greek capitals, black with age and deeply scored into the stone, there were certain peculiarities characteristic of Gothic calligraphy which at once betrayed the hand of the mediæval scribe.   2
  But most of all, the writer was struck by the dark and fateful significance of the word; and he pondered long and deeply over the identity of that anguished soul that would not quit the world without imprinting this stigma of crime or misfortune on the brow of the ancient edifice.   3
  Since then the wall has been plastered over or scraped—I forget which—and the inscription has disappeared. For thus, during the past two hundred years, have the marvellous churches of the Middle Ages been treated. Defacement and mutilation have been their portion—both from within and from without. The priest plasters them over, the architect scrapes them; finally the people come and demolish them altogether.   4
  Hence, save only the perishable memento dedicated to it here by the author of this book, nothing remains of the mysterious word graven on the sombre tower of Notre Dame, nothing of the unknown destiny it so mournfully recorded. The man who inscribed that word passed centuries ago from among men; the word, in its turn, has been effaced from the wall of the Cathedral; soon, perhaps, the Cathedral itself will have vanished from the face of the earth.   5
  This word, then, the writer has taken for the text of his book.
  February, 1831.

Note 1.  >Fate, destiny. [back]



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