The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version

3. Monsieur The Cardinal
Poor Gringoire! the din of all the great double petards of the Saint-Jean, the
discharge of twenty arquebuses on supports, the detonation of that famous
serpentine of the Tower of Billy, which, during the siege of Paris, on Sunday, the
twenty-sixth of September, 1465, killed seven Burgundians at one blow, the
explosion of all the powder stored at the gate of the Temple, would have rent his
ears less rudely at that solemn and dramatic moment, than these few words,
which fell from the lips of the usher, "His eminence, Monseigneur the Cardinal de
It is not that Pierre Gringoire either feared or disdained monsieur the cardinal. He
had neither the weakness nor the audacity for that. A true eclectic, as it would be
expressed nowadays, Gringoire was one of those firm and lofty, moderate and
calm spirits, which always know how to bear themselves amid all circumstances
(stare in dimidio rerum), and who are full of reason and of liberal philosophy,
while still setting store by cardinals. A rare, precious, and never interrupted race
of philosophers to whom wisdom, like another Ariadne, seems to have given a
clew of thread which they have been walking along unwinding since the
beginning of the world, through the labyrinth of human affairs. One finds them in
all ages, ever the same; that is to say, always according to all times. And, without
reckoning our Pierre Gringoire, who may represent them in the fifteenth century if
we succeed in bestowing upon him the distinction which he deserves, it certainly
was their spirit which animated Father du Breul, when he wrote, in the sixteenth,
these naively sublime words, worthy of all centuries: "I am a Parisian by nation,
and a Parrhisian in language, for parrhisia in Greek signifies liberty of speech; of
which I have made use even towards messeigneurs the cardinals, uncle and
brother to Monsieur the Prince de Conty, always with respect to their greatness,
and without offending any one of their suite, which is much to say."
There was then neither hatred for the cardinal, nor disdain for his presence, in
the disagreeable impression produced upon Pierre Gringoire. Quite the contrary;
our poet had too much good sense and too threadbare a coat, not to attach
particular importance to having the numerous allusions in his prologue, and, in
particular, the glorification of the dauphin, son of the Lion of France, fall upon the
most eminent ear. But it is not interest which predominates in the noble nature of
poets. I suppose that the entity of the poet may be represented by the number
ten; it is certain that a chemist on analyzing and pharmacopolizing it, as Rabelais
says, would find it composed of one part interest to nine parts of self-esteem.
Now, at the moment when the door had opened to admit the cardinal, the nine
parts of self-esteem in Gringoire, swollen and expanded by the breath of popular
admiration, were in a state of prodigious augmentation, beneath which
disappeared, as though stifled, that imperceptible molecule of which we have just
remarked upon in the constitution of poets; a precious ingredient, by the way, a
ballast of reality and humanity, without which they would not touch the earth.
Gringoire enjoyed seeing, feeling, fingering, so to speak an entire assembly (of
knaves, it is true, but what matters that ?) stupefied, petrified, and as though