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He will therefore likely enter as an auditor, taking any course or courses which appeal to him. If his purpose is sufficiently serious to warrant such a favor, he will also be permitted, by the courtesy of M. Paul Meyer, the director, the free use of the library, with its perfect equipment of sources, manuals, and facsimiles. This is a rare privilege, for no lordly appariteur stands between him and the books; and the little workroom is the place where he will become acquainted with the élètes, and enter in part at least into that remarkable confraternity, where it is the unwritten law for the students of the third year to help those of the second, and those of the second in turn to place their erudition at the service of those of the first. The solidarity of the élèves of the École des Chartes becomes a tradition from the first lecture of M. Élie Berger in the first year, and remains unbroken through life.
There are three courses in the first year: one in Romance languages by M. Paul Meyer, one in paleography by M. Élie Berger, and one in bibliography by M. Charles Mortet. While M. Meyer himself would advise the student of history not to take his course in philology, the élèves of the school all regard it as one of their rare privileges. It is of course philology at its best; and if one has never taken up Old French or has any need of Provençal or Gascon sources, it is well worth while to watch the care with which the phonetic laws are traced through multitudes of examples. The bibliographical indications and incidental references to other subjects give the course a special value and breadth. One would certainly take it if his work in history lay within the range of its results, not otherwise.
Although not recommending itself by such vast stores of erudition, the course in paleography by V. Élie Berger, the successor of M. Léon Gautier, will be much more useful, because it is the practical study of the essentials of text-reading. M. Berger enlivens the conférences with comments in which his keen sense of humor sometimes leads to short digressions. But he has ample ground for it in the diverting revelations of the students' ignorance of church history -as when for example one of them declared that Saint Peter and Saint Jerome were the two favorite apostles. Each recitation consists in the reading (by members of the class of a facsimile of some medieval manuscript from the collection in the library. This practical drill is accompanied by questions upon the subject treated in the text; but as these facsimiles are chosen for the handwriting only, the comments are of a most general nature. There are also frequent references to Latin grammar, sometimes to the discomfiture of members of the class. In addition to the recitations, part of the time is devoted to correlative subjects, especially to the history of ancient and medieval handwriting. The great value of the course is in the practice, the continual and unremitting study of the facsimiles which it involves. The student who wishes to benefit fully by it should by all means have free access to the library and the facsimiles for his regular preparation.
Historical bibliography, as taken up by M. Charles Mortet, is the indispensable introduction to all of the mechanism of research. After the preliminary practical survey, it develops the subject historically, and touches in places upon the same ground as the parallel subject-courses. In some ways it is perhaps too special for the foreign student; but he may be attracted by the interest of a subject which, when conceived historically, develops into hardly less than the explanation of how the written records of the past have been preserved to us. Yet absorbing as it is, one cannot but wonder if it would not have been possible for the École des Chartes to have developed more directly the practical duties of librarians to-day. The érudit, trained himself in the methods of research, is not sufficiently reminded of the duty of a librarian to perfect the instruments of work for those who are not specialists in his subject. In this respect the utility of the École des Chartes has fallen short of the ideal of Napoleon, as all workers in the Bibliothèque Nationale will confirm.
Of the courses in the second year, by all means the most important is that on diplomatics by M. Maurice Prou. Indeed this is, from the historian's point of view, the most important course of the school. M. Prou is a worthy successor of the lamented Arthur Giry, whose memory is still reverently cherished by his former pupils. It is in this course that one comes upon that minute and keen analysis which is the basis of the scientific method. The manner of conducting the work is approximately the same as in the course in paleography. The facsimiles are read this time, however, for their content, not for the handwriting ; and all the auxiliary sciences necessary to the interpretation of medieval documents receive sufficient treatment to put the student in a position to rely absolutely upon himself when he takes up independent research, special emphasis being laid upon chronology. The students hand in exercises at the recitations, and each receives a generous proportion of red-ink corrections and suggestions. M. Prou gives himself up to the work before him, drudgery as some of it is, with a zeal which is rewarded by the grateful tributes of every student of the École des Chartes. Giry's manual and Prou's portfolio of facsimiles should open the opportunity for some attempt in American universities to repeat the work which most of all lies at the basis of what is unique in the training of the École des Chartes.
The course in French institutions by M. Jules Roy is of a distinctly different character. It involves no research beyond the study of well-known manuals, and will disappoint any one who comes to the École des Chartes expecting to do research work in history proper. It is fortunate that there are other institutions at hand to supplement the instruction of the school in this respect. M. Roy's course covers the field in a painstaking way and it insures a knowledge of the elements of the institutions of the Middle Ages, but it involves no research among the original sources. M. Roy's research course is given at the Ecole des Hautes Études.
The “Service des Archives ”, to which M. Eugène Lelong devotes a weekly conférence, is intended for the practical training of archivists in French archives, yet the long historical introduction contains not a little valuable history. The actual description of present conditions of work in the archives does not begin until the close of January. The manual by Langlois and Stein, tested by actual investigations at the archives, will largely compensate for the loss of this course if for any reason it proves difficult to attend it; for, although of the greatest value to the French student, it is perhaps too special for the American, unless he intends to work extensively in France. The same remark is true of the course on the “ Sources of French History”, which cannot in the nature of things contain much of independent value since the publication of Molinier's Répertoire. M. H. F. Delaborde pursues this subject through both the second and the third year, with enlargements upon Molinier. But nowhere else does one obtain such a keen realization of the loss to historical research by the untimely death of Molinier as in the classroom where his work took shape. The course remains much what Molinier made it, a survey of the narrative sources of French history; and it gains still from a sense of his prodigious labor, for Molinier followed true French traditions and did the work himself instead of exploiting his students. It is interesting in this connection to refer to Molinier's own comment on the importance of this course. He tried in it to save the École des Chartes from neglecting the chronicler and annalist for the exclusive study of charters. The tendency of the student trained in diplomatics under such masters as Giry and Prou is instinctively away from the literary sources. Molinier's work was in a sense more difficult than that of Giry, for his materials were both vaster and of more uncertain value. His manual is a lasting witness to the way he faced his responsibilities at the Ecole des Chartes.
In the third year, besides the second course of M. Delaborde, there are two others: one on the history of civil and canon law in the Middle Ages, by M. Paul Viollet; and the other by V. Robert de Lasteyrie on the archaeology of the Middle Ages. M. Viollet evidently recognizes that the day of the canonist is doomed in France, for the history of the canon law itself is finished before Christmas, and then the course shifts into a history of French law through the Middle Ages. The historian of French law and institutions has fortunately already published much of what he gives in the classroom; but, in spite of a delivery difficult for a foreigner to follow, the students regard his course with the respect due to so distinguished a master, and speak with reverent affection of his genial personality.
In medieval archaeology one naturally places next to the name of Jules Quicherat that of Robert Comte de Lasteyrie-master and pupil. M. de Lasteyrie's task as the successor of Quicherat was naturally a heavy one, but he in turn has imparted to his pupils the inspiration which has produced a manual like that of Enlart, and an interest in medieval archaeology which has extended much beyond the classroom of the École des Chartes. The history of art has received from this course a legitimization which should find some echo in the serious programme of historical studies in America. One cannot there, it is true, take his class in the spring on excursions to Coucy and Blois; but a well-equipped history department can in other respects follow the method of instruction of the École des Chartes. M. Lasteyrie's health prevents him from conducting his conférences regularly, and they are often taken by his former pupils Enlart or Lefèvre-Pontalis.
Such are the courses at the École des Chartes. One must remember that their great value consists in the steady and close application which they demand of the student. Recitations which are real tests, and which are faced with the sense of their importance, develop a spirit of work which is the distinctive mark of the "Chartist".
After the examinations on the courses, a thesis has to be written. This must be ready for the formal defense in the January following the completion of the three years' work. The student therefore spends all the summer and fall of his third year upon the completion of a thesis which he has begun during the regular terms. It generally involves practical investigations in the national or provincial archives, and one can see the serious character of the work by a glance at the synopsis published yearly under the title “ Position des Thèses." In more than one case the thesis has been made the basis for a contribution of the first importance.
1 Cf. Moliner, Les Sources de l'Histoire de France, V. clxxvi: “ Toutefois, il faut reconnaitre que dans cette sévère école, trop fidèle à certaines traditions bénédictines, on a longtemps montré plus de prédilection pour l'étude des documents diplomatiques du moyen âge que pour celle des sources narratives ; beaucoup des excellents érudits qu'elle a formés ont donné de remarquables éditions de chroniques et autres textes historiques, mais aux temps déjà lointains où l'auteur du présent ouvrage en suivait les cours, on n'y parlait guère des historiens latins ou français du moyen âge; on s'occupait exclusivement de chartes et de diplomes."
The defense of the thesis is a public function; and the examiners consist of a “Conseil de perfectionnement", including besides the
a professors the administrators of the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Director of the Archives Nationales, the Director of the École des Chartes, and five members of the Académie des Inscriptions elected by its members. The president is the venerable Léopold Delisle. His rugged Carlylean features are lighted up by a genial sympathy as he comments upon the work of the young students who one after another are called to the table facing the jury. The presence of the aged and distinguished historian lends dignity to a scene marked by the utter absence of formality. The unsuccessful candidate is simply told by his professor that he must do his thesis over again ; the successful learn their order of merit in a list posted up after the tests are over. It is an anxious period of waiting, for the first on the list is sent by the government to the École Française de Rome.
One naturally asks what there is in this limited curriculum to yield such important results. The very limitation of the studies to a single field is no doubt an important factor ; but since the students generally take courses in the Sorbonne, the École des Hautes Études, or the École de Droit as well, this cannot be the main reason. It lies rather in the thorough practice which is exacted of every student in the subjects which are covered. There are no superficial courses along the gilded margin of attractive subjects. The work is intensive and severe. The discipline is as valuable as the knowledge acquired. This seems to be the secret of the power of the École des Chartes. “Not eager for quick returns of profit ”, it has reaped more largely of the years that followed.
J. T. SHOTWELL. 1 A distinguished alumnus thus sums up the reasons for the success of the École des Chartes: “ L'École doit sa valeur : (1°) au petit nombre d'élèves, (2°) à l'obligation stricte de suivre les cours, (3°) à l'entrainement auquel les examens de semestre et annuels soumettent les élèves, (4°) à l'obligation de toujours recourir aux originaux, d'apporter des documents inédits, bien lus, bien ponctués, bien compris, prêts pour l'impression, (5°) à la sévérité de l'examen des thèses, et à la terreur qu'inspirent certains professeurs ou membres du conseil ; et ces messieurs sont inaccessibles aux recommendations extra-scientifiques. L'iri boni, discendi periti."