Author: Jetta S. Wolff
Publisher: JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LIMITED
Category: Historic buildings
Historic Paris THIS book, begun many years ago, was laid aside under the stress of other work, which did not, however, hinder the sedulous amassing of notes during my long and continuous residence in Paris. The appearance of the Marquis de Rochegude’s exhaustive work, on somewhat the same lines in a more extensive compass, took me by surprise, and I thought for a moment that it would render my book superfluous. The vast concourse of English-speaking people brought hither by the great war, people keen to learn the history of the beautiful old buildings they find here on every side, made me understand that an English book of relatively small compass was needed, and I set to work to finish the volume planned and begun so long ago. I had made the personal acquaintance and consequent notes of most of the ancient “Stones of Paris” before looking up published notes concerning them. When such notes were looked up, I can only say their sources were far too numerous and too scattered to be recorded here. I must beg every one who may have published anything worth while on Old Paris to receive my thanks, for I have doubtless read their writings with interest and benefit. But I must offer special thanks to M. de Rochegude, for—writing under pressure to get the book ready for press—his work as a reference book, while pursuing my own investigations, has been invaluable. To my readers I would say peruse what I have written, but use your own eyes, your own keen observation for learning much more than could be noted here. Look into every courtyard in the ancient quarters, look attentively at every dwelling along the old winding streets, and fail not to look up to their roofs. The roofs are never alike. They are strikingly picturesque. Old world builders did not work mechanically, did not raise streets in machine-like style, each structure exactly like its neighbour, one street barely distinguishable from the street running parallel or crossing it, according to the habit of to-day. The builders of les jours d’antan loved their craft; every single house gave scope for some artistic trait. The roofs offered a fine field for architectural ingenuity: wonderfully planned windows, chimneys, balconies, gables are to be seen on the roofs often in most unexpected corners, in every part of the Vieux Paris. Look up!—I cannot urge this too strongly. And within every old hôtel—the French term for private house or mansion—examine each staircase. In the erection of a staircase the architect of past ages found grand scope for graceful lines, and exquisite workmanship. Thus walks even through the dimmest corners of la Ville Lumière will be for lovers of old-time vestiges a joy for ever. This was an iconoclastic age even before the destructiveness of the awful war just over. Precious architectural and historical relics were swept away to make room for brand-new buildings. As it has been impossible during the past months to verify in every instance the up-to-date accuracy of notes made previously, it is probable that some old structures referred to in these pages as still standing may no longer be found on the spot indicated. But whether in such cases their site be now an empty space, or occupied by newly built walls, it cannot fail to be interesting as the site where a vanished historic structure stood erewhile.