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قراءة كتاب Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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‏اللغة: English
Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

Sketches of Travel in Normandy and Maine

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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All rights reserved

Richard Clay and Sons, Limited,


The first eight and the last four of these sketches appeared in the Saturday Review, the others in the Guardian. They are here reprinted with a few omissions, but with no other alteration. The permission courteously given to reproduce them is gratefully acknowledged.



"Beyond doubt the finished historian must be a traveller: he must see with his own eyes the true look of a wide land; he must see, too, with his eyes the very spots where great events happened; he must mark the lie of a city, and take in, as far as a non-technical eye can, all that is special about a battle-field."

So wrote Mr. Freeman in his Methods of Historical Study,[1] and he possessed to the full the instincts of the traveller as well as of the historian. His studies and sketches of travels, already published, have shown him a wanderer in many lands and a keen observer of many peoples and their cities. He travelled always as a student of history and of architecture, and probably no man has ever so happily combined the knowledge of both. Though his thoughts were always set upon principles and upon the study of great subjects, he delighted in the details of local history and local building. "I cannot conceive," he wrote, "how either the study of the general sequence of architectural styles or the study of the history of particular buildings can be unworthy of the attention of any man. Besides their deep interest in themselves, such studies are really no small part of history. The way in which any people built, the form taken by their houses, their temples, their fortresses, their public buildings, is a part of their national life fully on a level with their language and their political institutions. And the buildings speak to us of the times to which they belong in a more living and, as it were, personal way than monuments or documents of almost any other kind."[2]

And no less clearly and decisively did he write of the value of local history: "There is no district, no town, no parish, whose history is not worth working out in detail, if only it be borne in mind that the local work is a contribution to a greater work."[3]

Thus the keenness of his interest in the architecture and the history that could be studied and learnt in every little town made him to the last the most untiring and enthusiastic of historical pilgrims. It is impossible to read his letters, so fresh and natural yet so full of a rare knowledge and insight, without seeing how thoroughly he had succeeded in achieving in himself that union of the traveller and the historian which adds so immeasurably to the powers of each. And that is what makes his letters from foreign lands so delightful to read, and his sketches (published and republished from time to time during the last thirty years) so illuminative. No one, I think, who has seen the places he writes of in his Historical and Architectural Sketches or in his Sketches from French Travel, with the books in his hand, will deny that they have added tenfold to his pleasure. Mr. Freeman tells you what to see and how to see it,—just what you want to know and what you ought to know. It would be an impertinence in me to point out the breadth or the accuracy of his knowledge as it appears in these sketches, which can be read again and again with new pleasure. But I think it may be said without exaggeration that in all the great work that Mr. Freeman did he did nothing better than this. He never "writes down" to his readers: he expects to find in them something of his own interest in the buildings and their makers; and he supplies the knowledge which only the traveller who is also a historian has at hand.

The volume that is now published contains sketches written at different times from 1861 to 1891. It will be seen that they all bear more or less directly on the great central work of the historian's life, the history of the Norman Conquest. In his travels he went always to learn, and when he had learned he could not help teaching. The course of each of these journeys can be traced in his own letters as published in the Life. In 1856 he made his first foreign excursion—to Aquitaine—and after 1860 a foreign tour was "almost an annual event."[4] In 1861 he paid his first visit to Normandy, with the best of all companions. In 1867 he went again, specially for the sake of the "Norman Conquest," with Mr. J.R. Green and Mr. Sidney Owen; and in the next year he was in Maine with Mr. Green. In 1875 he was again in Normandy, for a short time, on his way to Dalmatia. In 1876 he went to Maine also to "look up the places belonging to"[5] William Rufus, and again in 1879 with Mr. J.T. Fowler and Mr. James Parker. In 1891 he paid his last visit to the lands which he had come to know so well. He was then thinking of writing on Henry I., a work of which he lived to write but little. In this last Norman journey the articles, published in The Guardian after his death, were written. His method on each of these expeditions seems to have been the same. Before he started he read something of the special history of the places he was to visit. He always, if possible, procured a local historian's book. He wrote his articles while he was still away. "To many of these Norman places," says his daughter who has prepared this volume for the press, "he went several times, and he never wearied of seeing them again himself or of showing them to others.... In the last Norman journey of 1891 how one feels he was at home there, re-treading the ground so carefully worked out for the Norman Conquest and William Rufus—the same enthusiasm with which, often under difficulties of weather or of health, he 'stepped out' all he could of Sicily."

Not only did he walk, and read, and write, while he was abroad, he drew: and from the hundreds of characteristic sketches which he has left it had been easy to select many more than those which now illustrate this volume. Still, from those that have been reproduced, with the descriptive studies just as they were written, the reader is in a position to see the Norman and Cenomannian sites as they were seen by the great historian himself. More remains from his hand, sketches of Southern Gaul, of