Les Misérables

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

Home page for the project about Les Misérables.

See below for information about the novel, the characters, the film and stage adaptations, as well as a discussion of the topics covered by Hugo.

Introduction

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

Full introduction to the project

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

Table of Contents 

Discussion

The content of this wiki article is originally based on augustin's blog Les Misérables, a new project. If you wish to discuss the content and the analysis of this chapter, feel free to either post a comment on augustin's blog entry, or create your own blog entry.

The commentary below may have since been edited, augmented and improved by members of this community.

Introduction

Les Misérables is a new project which will use the 19th century masterpiece by French humanist Victor Hugo as a magnifying glass to have a look at our 21st century society. I hereby invite you to join this journey of discovery; discovery of our modern world as well as self-discovery. I am here to share with you, but also to learn from you.

Any fan of Victor Hugo, or any fan of Les Misérables as well as any social activist should definitely join this group. I am going to invite you to read or re-read the original novel. We'll read it together, at a slow pace.

In a moment I will tell you what is the raison d'être of this new project and the format it will take. But first, I would like to give you an overview of the project members who have already shown an interest and have already joined as well as those who might join us soon. A few among us have already read the novel, probably more than once. One person confessed that the novel changed his/her life (indubitably for the better). A majority knows the story only through the musical or through one of the numerous film adaptations. Some have seen the musical several times and their heart have been so touched that they welcome this opportunity to discover the original masterpiece. Others are simply curious and hardy enough to give it a try.

I also hope that there will be those who do not know the story at all, those who have not even seen any of the movies nor the musical. If these people join us and follow us throughout this long journey, they are in for a very emotional and inspiring ride! (See note below about spoilers).

Why?

I cannot think of better preface for the project upon which we are embarking together, than the preface the author, Victor Hugo, provided for his own work:

[Fr.] [En.]
Tant qu’il existera, par le fait des lois et des mœurs, une damnation sociale créant artificiellement, en pleine civilisation, des enfers, et compliquant d’une fatalité humaine la destinée qui est divine ; tant que les trois problèmes du siècle, la dégradation de l’homme par le prolétariat, la déchéance de la femme par la faim, l’atrophie de l’enfant par la nuit, ne seront pas résolus ; tant que, dans de certaines régions, l’asphyxie sociale sera possible ; en d’autres termes, et à un point de vue plus étendu encore, tant qu’il y aura sur la terre ignorance et misère, des livres de la nature de celui-ci pourront ne pas être inutiles. So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.

So long as there shall exist unjust laws that allow the rich to become richer and bind ever more tightly the lower classes into permanent poverty; so long as our international trading systems allow northern nations to plunder the natural resources of the poorest nations of the world; so long as the plight of the people living in overcrowded cities, in war-torn zones, environmentally degraded and polluted zones remain forgotten; so long we maintain our comfortable living standards at the expense of the livelihood of future generations; so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, projects of the nature of this one cannot fail to be of use.

Les Misérables are not only the Jean Valjeans, the Fantines, the Cosettes or the Gavroches of the 19th century France.

Les Misérables are also the victims of an unfair banking system and who saw their homes foreclosed.

Les Misérables are young kids, victims of random gun violence.

Les Misérables are sick people who are ruined because of unaffordable health care.

Les Misérables are the autistic children arrested and handcuffed in some incomprehensible police action.

Les Misérables are the waitresses working long hours every day for wages that barely allow them to maintain a minimum standard of living.

Les Misérables are the kids in inner cities who have no hope beyond the illusory one offered by street gangs.

Les Misérables are the men and women in uniform sent across oceans to fight wars that should never have started in the first place.

Les Misérables inhabit every corner of our shrinking globe, but in the United States least of all places!

Les Misérables are the people of Greece whose entire economic wealth has been stolen twice within little more than half a century; the first time by the Nazi occupation forces, and the second time recently, because of crooked politicians and a corrupted European Union.

Les Misérables are Ukraine's Forgotten Children, kids abandoned by their parents to institutions where they are deprived of love and attention. This dramatically slows down their mental development which in turn causes well-meaning bureaucrats to label them as mentally handicapped, a sentence that deprives them of any right for the remainder of their lives. They end up working as bona-fide slaves in some labour camps run by crooked "entrepreneurs".

Les Misérables are the street urchins in the slums of Mumbai or Kolkata who literally dig up the sludge from sewers in search for gold power (it has to be seen to be believed!).

Les Misérables are the Adivasis, India's aboriginal people, who not only live in extreme conditions of poverty, but who are also caught in the cross-fire of a deadly war between the military forces of the Indian government and the Naxalites, a Maoist armed resistance group living in the Indian jungle. And if it were not enough, the Adivasis are also dislodged from their villages by western mining companies because the underground is as rich in mineral ore as the Adivasis lives are poor above ground.

Les Misérables are the refugees living in Ethiopia's Jijiga refugee camp. They've escaped the bloody civil war in their native Somalia. The camp has been operational for over 20 years. Over half of its population are children. Most were born there and have never known anything else than life in a refugee camp, surviving on the most basic necessities of life that the UNHCR can afford to provide them with.

~~

Victor Hugo is remembered as the most celebrated 19th century French author, probably the most celebrated French author of all times. However, he was also a social activist. He tried to promote his humanist agenda not only through his writing but also as an elected official. For example, he fought valiantly for the abolition of the death penalty, something which, unfortunately, he never saw (Hugo died in 1885 and the death penalty was finally abolished by socialist French president François Mitterrand in 1981). He also used his craft to denounce misery and the social ills of his century.

In october 1862, a few short month after the first French edition of his latest novel, Les Misérables, Hugo wrote to his Italian editor, which starts thus:

Vous avez raison, monsieur, quand vous me dîtes que le livre les Misérables est écrit pour tous les peuples. Je ne sais s’il sera lu par tous, mais je l’ai écrit pour tous. Il s’adresse à l’Angleterre autant qu’à l’Espagne, à l’Italie autant qu’à la France, à l’Allemagne autant qu’à l’Irlande, aux républiques qui ont des esclaves aussi bien qu’aux empires qui ont des serfs. Les problèmes sociaux dépassent les frontières. Les plaies du genre humain, ces larges plaies qui couvrent le globe, ne s’arrêtent point aux lignes bleues ou rouges tracées sur la mappemonde. Partout où l’homme ignore et désespère, partout où la femme se vend pour du pain, partout où l’enfant souffre faute d’un livre qui l’enseigne et d’un foyer qui le réchauffe, le livre les Misérables frappe à la porte et dit : Ouvrez-moi, je viens pour vous. You are right, monsieur, when you tell me that Les Misérables is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: "Open to me, I come for you."

The whole letter, first (?) published in the 1890 French edition, is worth reading. By changing only a few proper names (people, places), it would appear that Hugo was directly addressing his letter to the American of this 21st century!

Further down in the same letter, he writes:

Je me résume. Ce livre, les Misérables, n’est pas moins votre miroir que le nôtre. Certains hommes, certaines castes, se révoltent contre ce livre, je le comprends. Les miroirs, ces diseurs de vérités, sont haïs ; cela ne les empêche pas d’être utiles.

Quant à moi, j’ai écrit pour tous, avec un profond amour pour mon pays, mais sans me préoccuper de la France plus que d’un autre peuple. À mesure que j’avance dans la vie je me simplifie, et je deviens de plus en plus patriote de l’humanité.

Ceci est d’ailleurs la tendance de notre temps et la loi de rayonnement de la révolution française ; les livres, pour répondre à l’élargissement croissant de la civilisation, doivent cesser d’être exclusivement français, italiens, allemands, espagnols, anglais, et devenir européens ; je dis plus, humains.

De là une nouvelle logique de l’art, et de certaines nécessités de composition qui modifient tout, même les conditions, jadis étroites, de goût et de langue, lesquelles doivent s’élargir comme le reste.

En France, certains critiques m’ont reproché, à ma grande joie, d’être en dehors de ce qu’ils appellent le goût français ; je voudrais que cet éloge fût mérité.

En somme, je fais ce que je peux, je souffre de la souffrance universelle, et je tâche de la soulager, je n’ai que les chétives forces d’un homme, et je crie à tous : aidez-moi !

I resume. This book, Les Misérables, is no less your mirror than ours. Certain men, certain castes, rise in revolt against this book,—I understand that. Mirrors, those revealers of the truth, are hated; that does not prevent them from being of use.

As for myself, I have written for all, with a profound love for my own country, but without being engrossed by France more than by any other nation. In proportion as I advance in life, I grow more simple, and I become more and more patriotic for humanity.

This is, moreover, the tendency of our age, and the law of radiance of the French Revolution; books must cease to be exclusively French, Italian, German, Spanish, or English, and become European, I say more, human, if they are to correspond to the enlargement of civilization.

Hence a new logic of art, and of certain requirements of composition which modify everything, even the conditions, formerly narrow, of taste and language, which must grow broader like all the rest.

In France, certain critics have reproached me, to my great delight, with having transgressed the bounds of what they call "French taste"; I should be glad if this eulogium were merited.

In short, I am doing what I can, I suffer with the same universal suffering, and I try to assuage it, I possess only the puny forces of a man, and I cry to all: "Help me!"

Thus this blog and this new project is dedicated to propagating Hugo's vision of a society without suffering. He begs us to help him, and so we shall! Let this series of blog become the megaphone that Hugo needs to reach out to our 21st century civilisation.

Let's read the novel together. Let's share our respective, complementary perspectives. Let's realise together how much that 19th century novel is still relevant today. Let's draw parallels, some of which might be more apt than others, between the content of each chapter of the book and the news we might see on cable television or in today's newspapers. And, more importantly, let's continue to work together to promote peace and justice.

This new blog is dedicated to this masterpiece and to the author, Hugo. I want to to investigate with you and other interested parties, this masterpiece from the perspective of the author's humanity and our social activism, moving the context from 19th century France to 21st century USA.

How?

We now arrive at the practical details of this project.

Reading

I invite you to read or re-read the novel. To read it, you obviously need a copy of the book. A paperback copy would be best as it would allow you to read comfortably in bed, but you can also read it online (see online sources). If you purchase the book, make sure it is an unabridged version!

We are going to read it at a very slow pace.

One person claimed having read the whole novel in one sitting, at the age of 7, having started early in the morning and finished late at night. Given that the unabridged novel is about 2,000 pages long, many people were understandably dubious about the claim. It would have required reading at a constant pace of a few hundred words a minute, non-stop throughout the day. Even if that individual had achieved that feat, it would have been pointless: he would not have had time to savour the text, ponder on its meaning and significance.

In order to give ourselves the time, not only to read, but also to gain a deep understanding of what the novel refers to, we are going to read only one chapter a week. Each chapter in only a few pages long so even people with the most hectic schedules should be able to find sufficient time to rest, lie down, and pick up the book in order go alongside us in our little adventure.

I counted 366 chapters in the book (!). At the proposed pace, it would take us seven years and two weeks to complete the journey!! It remains to be seen whether we decide to lump some chapters together or not. But even if we don't it's ok because each chapter is so rich and offers its own rewards.

Obviously, nothing prevents anybody from reading ahead and finishing the whole book in a mere few weeks. It would not prevent them from going back to the chapter we would be presently discussing.

Discussion

Every Sunday morning, I'll publish a blog entry (diary) discussing the chapter we are currently reading, starting next week with chapter 1, of part 1, book 1. I'll provide some background information allowing people here who are not familiar with French culture and French history to easily follow the story. I'll provide some analysis of the story, the characters, their actions and the significance for the overall novel. I'll also offer my own perspective on the chapter at hand.

However, I do not consider myself to be the most knowledgeable person in the field, far from it! The whole discussion section is subjective at best. I will provide my perspective, but you will be encouraged to offer your own analysis and perspectives, either in reply to my blog, or in a whole new blog entry.
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Current events

As largely noted above, the critical part of this project is that we are going to use Hugo's novel as a prism to look at our own modern society. For each chapter, we'll try to draw parallels and similes to current events, current personalities as well as current social issues both in America and throughout the world.

Wiki

An important part of the project is that it will be backed up by a wiki. The wiki page for each chapter will initially be populated by the relevant sections of my weekly blogs, but then every member will be able to edit it, amend it, improve it, complete it so that we have a collective source of information for all the topics we've been discussing. Thus, people who'll join this project a few weeks, a few months or a few years from now, will benefit from being able to read a much improved series of articles. Most importantly, it will allow us to promote over the long term some important facts about current social issues.

The project wiki homepage is here: Les Misérables.

Spoilers

As noted at the very top, some people may not know the story at all, they may not have seen the movie nor the musical. The majority of the followers here wouldn't know much beyond the basic plot covered in the musical. For their sake, we'll try to cover each chapter in a way such as to avoid spoilers about actions and events that take place later in the novel.

It will be difficult to discuss some chapters without making references to character development later in the novel. When we'll have to discuss ahead of the story, we'll do our best to do so in general terms whilst keeping the details of the later parts of the story shrouded in mystery. We'll try to whet your appetite by hinting at future development but without spoiling it by revealing too much.

Joining

For those who have not joined, yet: in order to better follow this series of articles, you should consider joining this Daily Kos group: send me a private message and in return I will send you an invitation, which you'll then have to accept in order to official join the group.

Next...

Next week, we'll read the first chapter ("M. Myriel") of the first book ("A Just Man") of the first volume ("Fantine"). I'll post my blog entry discussing that chapter Sunday morning, the 17th February.

Translations and editions

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

We advise you to purchase a paperback edition of the novel. It is much more comfortable to read a novel in bed than sitting at a desk, reading from a computer monitor.

However, the integral text of Les Misérables is available online, both in the original French as well an an English translation.

Avoid printing the book at home from online sources. Not only you'd waste much more paper than by purchasing a paperback copy, but you'd also spend more money on paper and ink!

In English

Translations

Generally speaking, whatever the book being translated, there are two types of translations. The first type stays very close to the literal lexical and grammatical structure of the original. It can be said to be "faithful" to the letter of the original, but the translation might lack the poetic resonance that the original might have had. The second type takes more liberties towards the original text to be more in accordance with the intricacies of the target language. It is a less literal translation but one that attempts (even if not always succeeds) are being more faithful to the spirit of the original. Which is best? It depends on personal taste, although if your purpose is to learn the original language, a more literal translation might be more helpful.

We shall complete this wiki page as we learn of new translations. They are ordered by year of first publication (if known).

[1862] Charles Wilbour: He produced the first American translation of Les Misérables. Some like1. Some don't 2.
Wikipedia article: Charles Edwin Wilbour.

[1862] Lascelles Wraxall: He produced the first British translation of Les Misérables.
Wikipedia article: Frederic Charles Lascelles Wraxall.

[1887] Isabel F. Hapgood is the translator of the New York, 1887 edition. It appears to be the source of all free/cheap paperback and electronic editions.
Wikipedia article: Isabel Florence Hapgood.

[1976] Norman Denny: an abridged British translation, said to be about 100,000 words shorter than the Julie Rose translation 3.

[1987] Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee: a modern American update of the original Wilbour translation.

[2007] Julie Rose: her translation takes more liberties with the original text4.

See this nicely done Translation comparisons, which compare an short section of the original French to four translations.

Abridged edition

Many English paperback editions of the novel are abridged and excise the long Waterloo section of the novel. For the purpose of this project, it is best to make sure to get an unabridged edition.

Unabridged paperback editions

Please let us know which paperback editions exist. Are they illustrated? Annotated? Which translation? How many volumes (two or even three volumes may be more portable than a single one).

* Wordsworth Classics edition (2 vol): inexpensive (unabridged original translations, wilbour?) It has a good introduction, and helpful notes in each volume explaining obscure references, and a short bibliography. Intro & notes by Roger Clark, U of Kent at Canterbury.

* Signet Classic paperback edition: unabridged Fahnestock translation.

Electronic / book-reader editions

You can find free electronic unabridged editions for EPUB, Kindle, Plucker, QiOO at the Project Gutemberg (Hapgood, 1887).

Google books has the 1862 Wilbour translation.

Electronic editions are also available for around $3 at Amazon.

In order to quote some text in your comments and blogs, the text published at wikisource (Hapgood, 1887) is the most convenient because it is easily browsable.

In French

Learning French

If you wish to learn French and attempt to read the novel in the original language, this site will publish online the text with French and English facing each other. Chapters will be published progressively, together with the series of blog entries discussing the novel.

We don't know yet of any paperback edition with both English and French, although, obviously, you can purchase two different editions, one in French and one in English.

You can also freely download the French audiobook . This is a very nice reading and a recommended download if you want to improve your French!

Éditions françaises (livres de poche)

Évidemment, le nombre d'éditions française est très élevé. On ne saurait en faire une liste complète. Voici tout de même les éditions que nous connaissons:

* Éditions Le Livre de Poche, en deux volumes (9633 et 9634), avec en couverture des photos du film de 1998 avec Liam Neeson. L'édition, abondamment annotée, contient une préface et 40 pages de notes de Guy Rosa ((c) 1998) ainsi que 20 pages de commentaires de Nicole Savy ((c) 1985).

Éditions françaises (électroniques)

Le texte complet de l'édition originale est disponible pour EPUB, Kindle, Plucker, QiOO au Project Gutemberg.

Le texte publié à wikisource est plus pratique pour naviguer et citer quelques passages dans vos commentaires.

Other writings

Letter to M. Daelli

Hugo's letter to M. Daelli, his Italian publisher, can be found in English together with the text of the novel at the Project Gutember (link above) or here and at wikisource in French.

Action (TODO items)

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

There are several inter-connected layers to this project: understanding the novel, understanding Hugo's message, its relevance in the 21st century up to personal and collective actions. This wiki page is to collect a list of TODO items so that interested members can participate and take action by picking up any item according to the aspects of the project they are most interested in.

The novel and Hugo

The commentaries on each chapter can all be considered as work in progress. Obscure references can be better researched and explained; Hugo's intentions better documented; the 19th century context better presented; etc. We try to integrate into each chapter a list of research item related to that chapter. Take up any challenge that picks up your interest and feel free to edit any wiki page.

We also need you help to complete the comparative table of translations.

The 21st century issues

Each chapter is linked to specific progressive, humanist issues, the very same issues that Hugo expands upon throughout his novel and that are still relevant today. It is up to the whole community to pick up the challenge to documenting current issues so that we have a knowledge base that any one can use to educate other people.

Simply select an issue that is close to your heart and start adding relevant information into the wiki. If you do not know where to start, you can always contact augustin and coordinate efforts with him.

Activism

Properly documenting the issues (as described above) is the first step in activism. However, beyond that, we also would like to propose a list of actionable items so that interested people can take action, either individually or collectively.

If you know of good, actionable items on any issue close to your heart, simply add them in the appropriate place in the wiki. You can coordinate efforts with augustin, especially if you do not know where to add the information.

For example:

During the spring/summer 2013, we will start using the sincerity index to promote a better, more honest political debate.

Working together

By working together, we can build an important reference on the web regarding both Les Misérables and today's world. Hopefully, together, we can inspire a growing community to create the world of our dreams.

Translation comparison

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

As noted in the commentaries of the relevant chapters, there are some specific passages where we'd like to compare the translations. We do not have a copy of each available translation. So, please, check who is the translator of your copy of the novel and help us complete the following tables.

Chapter 1.1.IV:

[Fr. 1862] Hugo [En. 1862] Wilbour [En. 1862] Wraxall [En. 1887] Hapgood [En. 1976] Denny [En. 1987] Fahnestock [En. 2007] Rose
Madame Magloire l’appelait volontiers Votre Grandeur. Un jour il se leva de son fauteuil et alla à sa bibliothèque chercher un livre. Ce livre était sur un des rayons d’en haut. Comme l’évêque était d’assez petite taille, il ne put y atteindre. Madame Magloire, dit-il, apportez-moi une chaise. Ma Grandeur ne va pas jusqu’à cette planche. [Missing] [Missing] Madame Magloire liked to call him Your Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day he rose from his arm-chair, and went to his library in search of a book. This book was on one of the upper shelves. As the bishop was rather short of stature, he could not reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he, "fetch me a chair. My greatness [grandeur] does not reach as far as that shelf." [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]
Être un saint, c’est l’exception ; être un juste, c’est la règle. Errez, défaillez, péchez, mais soyez des justes. [Missing] [Missing] To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule. Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright. [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]
De sa vie M. Géborand n’avait fait l’aumône à un malheureux. À partir de ce sermon, on remarqua qu’il donnait tous les dimanches un sou aux vieilles mendiantes du portail de la cathédrale. Elles étaient six à se partager cela. Un jour, l’évêque le vit faisant sa charité et dit à sa sœur avec un sourire : — Voilà monsieur Géborand qui achète pour un sou de paradis. [Missing] [Missing] Never in his whole life had M. Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch. After the delivery of that sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou every Sunday to the poor old beggar-women at the door of the cathedral. There were six of them to share it. One day the Bishop caught sight of him in the act of bestowing this charity, and said to his sister, with a smile, "There is M. Geborand purchasing paradise for a sou." [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]

Chapter 1.1.V:

[Fr. 1862] Hugo [En. 1862] Wilbour [En. 1862] Wraxall [En. 1887] Hapgood [En. 1976] Denny [En. 1987] Fahnestock [En. 2007] Rose
La vie intérieure de M. Myriel était pleine des mêmes pensées que sa vie publique. Pour qui eût pu la voir de près, c’eût été un spectacle grave et charmant que cette pauvreté volontaire dans laquelle vivait M. l’évêque de Digne. [Missing] [Missing] The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts as his public life. The voluntary poverty in which the Bishop of D---- lived, would have been a solemn and charming sight for any one who could have viewed it close at hand. [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]
« L’Ecclésiaste vous nomme Toute-Puissance, les Machabées vous nomment Créateur, l’Épître aux Éphésiens vous nomme Liberté, Baruch vous nomme Immensité, les Psaumes vous nomment Sagesse et Vérité, Jean vous nomme Lumière, les Rois vous nomment Seigneur, l’Exode vous appelle Providence, le Lévitique Sainteté, Esdras Justice, la création vous nomme Dieu, l’homme vous nomme Père ; mais Salomon vous nomme Miséricorde, et c’est le plus beau de tous vos noms. » [Missing] [Missing] "Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty; Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names." [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]

Chapter 1.1.VI:

[Fr. 1862] Hugo [En. 1862] Wilbour [En. 1862] Wraxall [En. 1887] Hapgood [En. 1976] Denny [En. 1987] Fahnestock [En. 2007] Rose
« Voici la nuance: la porte du médecin ne doit jamais être fermée, la porte du prêtre doit toujours être ouverte. » [Missing] [Missing] "This is the shade of difference: the door of the physician should never be shut, the door of the priest should always be open." [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]
[Missing] [Missing] [Missing] [Missing] [Missing]

Daily Kos

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

Table of Contents 

Joining

If you wish, you can follow the weekly publication of commentaries on each chapter at the Daily Kos Les Misérables group. You can send augustin a private message in order to be invited to join the group.

Accepting an invitation to join does not obligate you to anything. It simply allows you to follow the group's activity more easily.

BlogEditor

The group is an open group. By default, everybody is a "BlogEditor". It doesn't mean you have anything to do. It simply means that should you ever want to, you can publish any diary to the group.

Publish your own diary: Once you have completed the draft of your new diary, go to the Publication Manager; select the option "Queue to a group blog"; Select "Les Miserables"; click "Publish". You will be redirected to the group blog diary queue. There, you can either click on "Publish now" or schedule the diary for a later time, at your convenience.

Publish another person's diary: if you stumble onto a nice diary that you feel would be appropriate for the group, click the button "Republish" below the diary, above the comments; select the group and add a small note about why you feel the diary is appropriate for the group in order to inform other group members. Then go to the group blog diary queue and schedule the diary for publication like explained above.

Making a difference

The stated ultimate goal is to make a difference in today's world. In order for this project to have the biggest impact, you might want to register at this web site and check the Action wiki page.

Les Misérables: the full novel (French & English) + a chapter by chapter commentary

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

Author's preface

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[Fr.] [En.]
Tant qu’il existera, par le fait des lois et des mœurs, une damnation sociale créant artificiellement, en pleine civilisation, des enfers, et compliquant d’une fatalité humaine la destinée qui est divine ; tant que les trois problèmes du siècle, la dégradation de l’homme par le prolétariat, la déchéance de la femme par la faim, l’atrophie de l’enfant par la nuit, ne seront pas résolus ; tant que, dans de certaines régions, l’asphyxie sociale sera possible ; en d’autres termes, et à un point de vue plus étendu encore, tant qu’il y aura sur la terre ignorance et misère, des livres de la nature de celui-ci pourront ne pas être inutiles. So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.
Hauteville-House, 1862. Hauteville-House, 1862.

Note: 1

Volume 1: Fantine

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Book 1: A Just Man

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[Fr.] Un juste [En.] A Just Man

Chapter I: M. Myriel

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[Fr.] M. Myriel [En.] M. Myriel
En 1815, M. Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel était évêque de Digne. C’était un vieillard d’environ soixante-quinze ans ; il occupait le siége de Digne depuis 1806. In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne. He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied the see of Digne since 1806.
Quoique ce détail ne touche en aucune manière au fond même de ce que nous avons à raconter, il n’est peut-être pas inutile, ne fût-ce que pour être exact en tout, d’indiquer ici les bruits et les propos qui avaient couru sur son compte au moment où il était arrivé dans le diocèse. Vrai ou faux, ce qu’on dit des hommes tient souvent autant de place dans leur vie et souvent dans leur destinée que ce qu’ils font. M. Myriel était fils d’un conseiller au parlement d’Aix ; noblesse de robe. On contait que son père, le réservant pour hériter de sa charge, l’avait marié de fort bonne heure, à dix-huit ou vingt ans, suivant un usage assez répandu dans les familles parlementaires. Charles Myriel, nonobstant ce mariage, avait, disait-on, beaucoup fait parler de lui. Il était bien fait de sa personne, quoique d’assez petite taille, élégant, gracieux, spirituel ; toute la première partie de sa vie avait été donnée au monde et aux galanteries. Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do. M. Myriel was the son of a councilor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families. In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.
La révolution survint, les événements se précipitèrent ; les familles parlementaires, décimées, chassées, traquées, se dispersèrent. M. Charles Myriel, dès les premiers jours de la révolution, émigra en Italie. Sa femme y mourut d’une maladie de poitrine dont elle était atteinte depuis longtemps. Ils n’avaient point d’enfants. Que se passa-t-il ensuite dans la destinée de M. Myriel ? L’écroulement de l’ancienne société française, la chute de sa propre famille, les tragiques spectacles de 93, plus effrayants encore peut-être pour les émigrés qui les voyaient de loin avec le grossissement de l’épouvante, firent-ils germer en lui des idées de renoncement et de solitude ? Fut-il, au milieu d’une de ces distractions et de ces affections qui occupaient sa vie, subitement atteint d’un de ces coups mystérieux et terribles qui viennent quelquefois renverser, en le frappant au cœur, l’homme que les catastrophes publiques n’ébranleraient pas en le frappant dans son existence et dans sa fortune ? Nul n’aurait pu le dire ; tout ce qu’on savait, c’est que, lorsqu’il revint d’Italie, il était prêtre. The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation; the parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down, were dispersed. M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very beginning of the Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of the chest, from which she had long suffered. He had no children. What took place next in the fate of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French society of the olden days, the fall of his own family, the tragic spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps, even more alarming to the emigrants who viewed them from a distance, with the magnifying powers of terror,--did these cause the ideas of renunciation and solitude to germinate in him? Was he, in the midst of these distractions, these affections which absorbed his life, suddenly smitten with one of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm, by striking to his heart, a man whom public catastrophes would not shake, by striking at his existence and his fortune? No one could have told: all that was known was, that when he returned from Italy he was a priest.
En 1804, M. Myriel était curé de B. (Brignolles). Il était déjà vieux, et vivait dans une retraite profonde. In 1804, M. Myriel was the Cure of Brignolles. He was already advanced in years, and lived in a very retired manner.
Vers l’époque du couronnement, une petite affaire de sa cure, on ne sait plus trop quoi, l’amena à Paris. Entre autres personnes puissantes, il allait solliciter pour ses paroissiens M. le cardinal Fesch. Un jour que l’empereur était venu faire sa visite à son oncle, le digne curé, qui attendait dans l’antichambre, se trouva sur le passage de sa majesté. Napoléon, se voyant regarder avec une certaine curiosité par ce vieillard, se retourna, et dit brusquement : About the epoch of the coronation, some petty affair connected with his curacy--just what, is not precisely known--took him to Paris. Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit aid for his parishioners was M. le Cardinal Fesch. One day, when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Cure, who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself present when His Majesty passed. Napoleon, on finding himself observed with a certain curiosity by this old man, turned round and said abruptly:--
— Quel est ce bonhomme qui me regarde ? "Who is this good man who is staring at me?"
— Sire, dit M. Myriel, vous regardez un bonhomme, et moi je regarde un grand homme. Chacun de nous peut profiter. "Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I at a great man. Each of us can profit by it."
L’empereur, le soir même, demanda au cardinal le nom de ce curé, et quelque temps après M. Myriel fut tout surpris d’apprendre qu’il était nommé évêque de Digne. That very evening, the Emperor asked the Cardinal the name of the Cure, and some time afterwards M. Myriel was utterly astonished to learn that he had been appointed Bishop of Digne.
Qu’y avait-il de vrai, du reste, dans les récits qu’on faisait sur la première partie de la vie de M. Myriel ? Personne ne le savait. Peu de familles avaient connu la famille Myriel avant la révolution. What truth was there, after all, in the stories which were invented as to the early portion of M. Myriel's life? No one knew. Very few families had been acquainted with the Myriel family before the Revolution.
M. Myriel devait subir le sort de tout nouveau venu dans une petite ville où il y a beaucoup de bouches qui parlent et fort peu de têtes qui pensent. Il devait le subir, quoiqu’il fût évêque et parce qu’il était évêque. Mais, après tout, les propos auxquels on mêlait son nom n’étaient peut-être que des propos ; du bruit, des mots, des paroles, moins que des paroles, des palabres, comme dit l’énergique langue du midi. M. Myriel had to undergo the fate of every newcomer in a little town, where there are many mouths which talk, and very few heads which think. He was obliged to undergo it although he was a bishop, and because he was a bishop. But after all, the rumors with which his name was connected were rumors only,--noise, sayings, words; less than words--palabres, as the energetic language of the South expresses it.
Quoi qu’il en fût, après neuf ans d’épiscopat et de résidence à Digne, tous ces racontages, sujets de conversation qui occupent dans le premier moment les petites villes et les petites gens, étaient tombés dans un oubli profond. Personne n’eût osé en parler, personne n’eût osé s’en souvenir. However that may be, after nine years of episcopal power and of residence in Digne, all the stories and subjects of conversation which engross petty towns and petty people at the outset had fallen into profound oblivion. No one would have dared to mention them; no one would have dared to recall them.
M. Myriel était arrivé à Digne accompagné d’une vieille fille, mademoiselle Baptistine, qui était sa sœur et qui avait dix ans de moins que lui. M. Myriel had arrived at Digne accompanied by an elderly spinster, Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, and ten years his junior.
Ils avaient pour tout domestique une servante du même âge que mademoiselle Baptistine, et appelée madame Magloire, laquelle, après avoir été la servante de M. le curé, prenait maintenant le double titre de femme de chambre de mademoiselle et femme de charge de monseigneur. Their only domestic was a female servant of the same age as Mademoiselle Baptistine, and named Madame Magloire, who, after having been the servant of M. le Cure, now assumed the double title of maid to Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.
Mademoiselle Baptistine était une personne longue, pâle, mince, douce ; elle réalisait l’idéal de ce qu’exprime le mot « respectable » ; car il semble qu’il soit nécessaire qu’une femme soit mère pour être vénérable. Elle n’avait jamais été jolie ; toute sa vie, qui n’avait été qu’une suite de saintes œuvres, avait fini par mettre sur elle une sorte de blancheur et de clarté, et, en vieillissant, elle avait gagné ce qu’on pourrait appeler la beauté de la bonté. Ce qui avait été de la maigreur dans sa jeunesse était devenu, dans sa maturité, de la transparence ; et cette diaphanéité laissait voir l’ange. C’était une âme plus encore que ce n’était une vierge. Sa personne semblait faite d’ombre ; à peine assez de corps pour qu’il y eût là un sexe ; un peu de matière contenant une lueur ; de grands yeux toujours baissés ; un prétexte pour qu’une âme reste sur la terre. Mademoiselle Baptistine was a long, pale, thin, gentle creature; she realized the ideal expressed by the word "respectable"; for it seems that a woman must needs be a mother in order to be venerable. She had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been nothing but a succession of holy deeds, had finally conferred upon her a sort of pallor and transparency; and as she advanced in years she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness. What had been leanness in her youth had become transparency in her maturity; and this diaphaneity allowed the angel to be seen. She was a soul rather than a virgin. Her person seemed made of a shadow; there was hardly sufficient body to provide for sex; a little matter enclosing a light; large eyes forever drooping;--a mere pretext for a soul's remaining on the earth.
Madame Magloire était une petite vieille, blanche, grasse, replète, affairée, toujours haletante, à cause de son activité d’abord, ensuite à cause d’un asthme. Madame Magloire was a little, fat, white old woman, corpulent and bustling; always out of breath,--in the first place, because of her activity, and in the next, because of her asthma.
À son arrivée, on installa M. Myriel en son palais épiscopal avec les honneurs voulus par les décrets impériaux qui classent l’évêque immédiatement après le maréchal de camp. Le maire et le président lui firent la première visite, et lui de son côté fit la première visite au général et au préfet. On his arrival, M. Myriel was installed in the episcopal palace with the honors required by the Imperial decrees, which class a bishop immediately after a major-general. The mayor and the president paid the first call on him, and he, in turn, paid the first call on the general and the prefect.
L’installation terminée, la ville attendit son évêque à l’œuvre. The installation over, the town waited to see its bishop at work.

Chapter I: M. Myriel [Commentary]

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Discussion

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Commentary

The first few blog entries will be a bit long first because we're just starting and there is so much to introduce, and secondly because the text of the first few chapters is so rich that there is a lot to say about it.

Today, we discuss the first chapter of the first book of volume 1 of Les Misérables.

[Fr.] En 1815, M. Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel était évêque de Digne.

[En.] In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne.

With this chapter dedicated to M. Myriel, Hugo introduces not one character, but two. The year 1815 is not chosen by chance. It has a very deep significance in 19th century France, and, indeed, in the novel as well... At the same time as the author introduces the bishop, he also squarely puts his story within a very specific historical context, incarnated in this chapter by the appearance of Napoleon, the French emperor.

If you missed the beginning...

M. Myriel

Instead of starting with the hero of the story, Jean Valjean, Victor Hugo devotes the whole first book of his expansive novel to whom some may imprudently consider only a secondary character. Indeed Myriel's character is almost completely occulted in the popular musical and reduced to the key scene with Valjean (Book 2). It would appear that Hugo committed a fault of style by starting his tale with a slow moving depiction of the background of a small character instead of trying to captivate the reader's attention with a seminal event in Valjean's life. In fact, in an earlier draft of the novel, Hugo had indeed placed what is now Book 2 ("The Fall") at the very front of the novel, and the whole story of Myriel was placed later, as a flashback in the main story. By starting with Myriel's story, Hugo makes a profound statement about the real importance of the character.

Myriel is the key to understanding the development of Valjean's character throughout the book. He is the incarnation of a very high moral standard against which all other characters will be measured.

The title of the chapter itself ("M. Myriel") already gives an indication of the moral standing of the personage, of his humility. It contradicts the information given in the very first sentence of the whole novel (quoted above). "M." is the French abbreviation of "Monsieur" ("Sir'). Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel is a bishop but he already appears to shun the title "Monseigneur" ("Your Excellency"). He is simply "Monsieur" Myriel. As we shall witness in subsequent chapters, he does not need a title to remind us of his moral standing: his very actions are amply sufficient for that purpose.

While the title Monsieur appears to belittle Bishop Myriel, it will be used by the small priest to elevate Jean Valjean at the time of their encounter, as we shall see in Book 2, Chapter III ("The Heroism of Passive Obedience").

In the first edition of the novel, published in 1862, Digne was not spelled out. Only the initial was given and Hugo had instructed his publishers to write out the full name only in posthumous editions. If the author had wanted to protect the anonymity of a real person upon whom his character is based, it didn't work because very soon people started to point out the obvious resemblances with the person and the life of Charles-François Bienvenu de Miollis (1753-1843), bishop of Digne from 1806 to 1838. In fact, throughout the novel Hugo maintains a certain level of ambiguity between what is fictional and what is factual. In several places, he goes as far as calling upon himself as a direct witness, putting his own person on stage. This is no fantasy novel. Hugo's intention are clear: the main characters and the main plot might very well be fictional, but he is using them to point out, denounce, very concrete realities of our society. He does not want to entertain the readers but to awaken them!

The social and political realities or his time (and ours) cannot be dissociated from the novel. To fully understand the novel, one must have at least a certainly degree of familiarity with the political context in which the novel is set. History can be a catalyst for personal change, as it appears to have been the case in M. Myriel's life.

At the beginning of the novel, Myriel's character is a fairly rounded one. The development of his character mostly took place before the the novel starts, during the historical events briefly mentioned in this chapter. However, as we shall see in Book 2, there is still some room for personal and spiritual growth for Myriel. His character is not quite yet fully completed. Jean Valjean will be the catalyst to events that will allow Myriel to grow a bit further, up to his own full potential...

Historical context

Brief overview

As noted above, in order to properly understand Les Misérables, it is necessary to have a minimum of understanding of the French historical context. Hopefully, having understood the role that the political struggle of that time play within the story, we shall be able to properly transpose the story into the political context of our own times. What makes French late 18th and 19th century history so interesting is that within a short century, France has known almost every type of regime, going from an absolute monarchy to a republic, passing through empires and constitutional monarchies.

To appreciate the beginning of our story, here are the important dates to keep in mind. Please, do write down this list somewhere, keep it handy and refer to it when necessary. We shall fill in some blanks at later stages.

  • 17~18th century: absolute monarchy up to the reign of Louis XVI.
  • 1789: the French Revolution. 14th July: Storming of the Bastille, which is the origin of today's Bastille Day, France's National Day.
  • 1791~1792: constitutional monarchy, still with Louis XVI on the throne.
  • 1792~1804: French First Republic . Louis XVI is guillotined in 1793.
  • 1804~1814/1815: Napoleon's First Empire.
  • 1814/1815~1830: the Bourbon Restoration, another constitutional monarchy, with Louis XVIII (and then Charles X) on the throne.

1793

[En.] The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation; the parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down, were dispersed. M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very beginning of the Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of the chest, from which she had long suffered. He had no children. What took place next in the fate of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French society of the olden days, the fall of his own family, the tragic spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps, even more alarming to the emigrants who viewed them from a distance, with the magnifying powers of terror,--did these cause the ideas of renunciation and solitude to germinate in him?

[Fr.] La révolution survint, les événements se précipitèrent ; les familles parlementaires, décimées, chassées, traquées, se dispersèrent. M. Charles Myriel, dès les premiers jours de la révolution, émigra en Italie. Sa femme y mourut d’une maladie de poitrine dont elle était atteinte depuis longtemps. Ils n’avaient point d’enfants. Que se passa-t-il ensuite dans la destinée de M. Myriel ? L’écroulement de l’ancienne société française, la chute de sa propre famille, les tragiques spectacles de 93, plus effrayants encore peut-être pour les émigrés qui les voyaient de loin avec le grossissement de l’épouvante, firent-ils germer en lui des idées de renoncement et de solitude ?

1793 represents the darkest, bloodiest hours of the French Revolution. No single person could control the chain of events that King Louis XVI himself started in spring 1789 by calling the Estates-General (a legislative assembly composed of the clergy, the nobles and the Third Estate, which comprised all of the common people) in order to discuss and find a solution to the ongoing economic crisis. By doing so, the king unleashed forces that would soon overpower his erstwhile absolute power. Soon a constitutional monarchy was imposed upon him. However, the new regime didn't solve any of the underlying problems. The treasury was empty; the economic crisis was ongoing; the ordinary people were still hungry. To top it all, France was now at war with the rest of Europe, including the mighty forces of the Austrian and Prussian and English monarchies.

Revolutionary forces within France took control of the situation, abolished the monarchy and, on the 21st September 1792, declared the (First) French Republic. Executive power was now in the hands of the National Convention (the constitutional and legislative assembly). The Convention wasted no time in raising armies in order to fight foreign enemies as well as, increasingly, domestic ones. In January 1793, Louis XVI was beheaded.

It must be said, it is important for our story, that the revolutionary forces not only toppled the monarchy and the nobility, but also the clergy. Throughout the revolutionary period, France went through a progressive de-Christrianization of the society. A new Civil Constitution of the Clergy was adopted. Church lands were confiscated. Parish priests were forcibly replaced by "juror priests" who had sworn an oath to the Civil Constitution.

In the French provinces, where the youths were forced to join the Republican armies in order to repel invading forces, the peasantry loyal to the monarchy and to the Church started to raise and coalesce into a civil army fighting the Revolution from within.

The reaction of the Revolutionary government was most forceful and brutal in fighting the dual threat, foreign and domestic. In 1793, the increasingly paranoid government imposed a Reign of Terror, with tens of thousands of people being more or less summarily executed. Today's historians all agree the counter-offensives in the French provinces against the monarchists was particularly bloody. They only disagree on how to call it. "Genocide" may not be too strong a word, but it somehow does not fit the definition of this word, coined in 1944 in very specific circumstances. Maybe the best word is one coined by a contemporary, in 1794: "populicide" (or, in English, "democide").

In our story, M. Myriel is issued from the small nobility and one can understand how the revolutionary events affected his whole family and what caused them to flee the country to take refuge in Italy.

Napoleon

[En.] About the epoch of the coronation, some petty affair connected with his curacy--just what, is not precisely known--took him to Paris. Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit aid for his parishioners was M. le Cardinal Fesch. One day, when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Cure, who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself present when His Majesty passed. Napoleon, on finding himself observed with a certain curiosity by this old man, turned round and said abruptly:--
"Who is this good man who is staring at me?"
"Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I at a great man. Each of us can profit by it."

[Fr.] Vers l’époque du couronnement, une petite affaire de sa cure, on ne sait plus trop quoi, l’amena à Paris. Entre autres personnes puissantes, il allait solliciter pour ses paroissiens M. le cardinal Fesch. Un jour que l’empereur était venu faire sa visite à son oncle, le digne curé, qui attendait dans l’antichambre, se trouva sur le passage de sa majesté. Napoléon, se voyant regarder avec une certaine curiosité par ce vieillard, se retourna, et dit brusquement :
— Quel est ce bonhomme qui me regarde ?
— Sire, dit M. Myriel, vous regardez un bonhomme, et moi je regarde un grand homme. Chacun de nous peut profiter.

In this wonderful little scene with M. Myriel, his story meets History (La petite histoire rencontre la grande Histoire!). The Good One meets the Great One. Hugo again plays on two different registers, that of the fictional accounts and that of factual history.

Napoleon is an ambivalent figure in French history. He is neither a villain nor a hero. Or rather, he is both, depending of which aspect of his legacy one considers. It is quite amazing to consider the amount of monuments, institutions, administrative divisions and laws existing today in France that date back to Napoleon Bonaparte's rule. Still revered by a small fraction of the population, especially in his native Corsica, the French government preferred to keep a very low-key profile in the very modest celebrations of the bicentenary of his rule. Napoleon is full of complexities. It is difficult to summarize his influence on the course of history with a one-sided simple statement.

Born in 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was a very young officer of artillery in the French army at the beginning of the French Revolution. He enthusiastically espoused the causes of the Revolution and progressively rose to fame and in stature thanks to his military genius and numerous victories on the battlefield. In many occasions, he was the Man of the Hour. Napoleon didn't seize power by force. People sought him out for help. In 1799, he was elected as one of the three consuls, the new executive power of the young republic. However, Napoleon Bonaparte manages to take hold of more and more executive powers. In May 1804, he finally overthrows the French Republic and declares himself to be Emperor of the French. In December 1804, he has himself crowned in a majestic ceremony. In the subsequent years, he will continue fighting the other European monarchies, very successfully at first, ostensibly in order to promote the values of the Revolution. Yet, at the same time, he is grooming his son to succeed him one day, in what would look more and more like another hereditary monarchy.

Joseph Fesch (1763 – 1839), as noted by Hugo in the current chapter, was Napoleon's maternal uncle. The young Fesch quits the priesthood at the start of the Reign of Terror, but comes back to the clergy in 1800. In 1802, Napoleon appoints him at the diocese of Lyon where he is soon named archbishop and then cardinal, thanks again to the intercession of his powerful nephew.

1815

[En.] In 1815, [...]

[Fr.] En 1815, [...]

The year 1815 is not only the start of our story. It will appear several times throughout the novel, often only hinted at, as we shall see in due time.

Most importantly, within the wider historical context, 1815 is the year of the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon's final defeat which changed the history of the whole of Europe. A French critic said that Waterloo is to Les Misérables what Genesis is to God's Chosen People. The Allied forces of all the European monarchies finally succeeded in defeating the French emperor. European crowned heads couldn't abide the bad example that first the French Revolution and then the French Empire was setting in Europe. Having forced Napoleon into exile, not once but twice (first in 1814 and then definitely in 1815), the European Allies promptly put Louis XVIII on the French throne. This was the (House of) Bourbon Restoration, a constitutional monarchy.

Church and State

The careful reader might have been surprised to notice that it was Napoleon, and not Rome, who appointed bishops in French dioceses:

[En.] That very evening, the Emperor asked the Cardinal the name of the Cure, and some time afterwards M. Myriel was utterly astonished to learn that he had been appointed Bishop of Digne.

[Fr.] L’empereur, le soir même, demanda au cardinal le nom de ce curé, et quelque temps après M. Myriel fut tout surpris d’apprendre qu’il était nommé évêque de Digne.

On the face of things, the separation of Church and State is firmly established in both modern France and USA both being secular republics. Before coming back to interesting modern examples of the sometimes fairly complex relationships between States and organized religions, let's have a quick overview of its historical evolution in France.

France

The French monarchy dates back to the 5th century. One of the early kings of the Franks, Clovis I, converted to Catholicism partly in order to consolidate his power against rival contenders to the throne. The kings derived their power from God. The anointment of the monarch by the Church legitimised their power. But as the centuries passed, the monarchy became more and more strongly anchored in tradition. There were sometimes complex power plays between the king and the Church (the Pope in Rome). So, the traditional arrangement with the Papacy became to be seen as increasingly cumbersome by the French monarch. It is no surprise that it was under the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, the absolute monarch par excellence, that the Declaration of the Clergy of France was unilaterally adopted (1682): many of the powers that Rome used to have over the clergy in France were revoked and transferred to the King. But still, the clergy remained powerful, the first of the three Estates that Louis XVI fatefully convoked in spring 1789.

At the start of the Revolution, the clergy was, by far, the largest land owner. This was very soon corrected! France was then going through the very thorough and methodical de-Christianization process mentioned above. A new Revolutionary calendar was even adopted, with 10 months a year and 10 days weeks, which conveniently eliminated the Sunday with its sabbatical significance. With the 1790 Civil Constitution of the Clergy, Catholic parish priests were replaced by clerical civil servants sworn to the Republic which set the scene for the civil insurrection and the bloody 1793-1794 Reign of Terror, as mentioned above.

In 1801, the Church regained most of its freedom, even if not all of its former might, thanks to the Concordat signed by the then consul Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. The people gained back their liberty of religious expression (for the Catholics as well as for the Protestant and Jewish minorities) but Rome's power to influence French political affairs was still severely curtailed. Bishops were to be appointed by the State and Rome was forced to definitely abandon any claims to its confiscated land.

It is thus that Napoleon, now Emperor, would be the one to decide to appoint M. Myriel as Bishop of Digne.

In France, the terms of the Concordat have been in effect for over a century. It is only in 1905, during the French Third Republic, that the Concordat was repealed and France declared a secular republic. The power to appoint Bishops was now back into Rome's hands.

Because of a strange twist of history, we are not quite yet at the end of or brief overview of the relationship between Church and State in France. At the time that the 1905 law took effect, three Départements (administrative divisions) in Eastern France were not then part of France. The two départements in Alsace and the Moselle département were conceded to Germany after France lost its short war against Prussia, in 1870. These three départements were re-integrated into the French territory after Germany's loss of the First Word War (1914-1918). For some strange reasons, the 1905 secular laws were not applied to them and the terms of the 1801 Concordat still apply, event today in the 21st century, in these eastern départements. The French State simply appoints Bishops according to Rome direct recommendations, and the clergy there are still civil servants paid by the Republic!

USA

I have nothing to say about the separation of Church and State in the USA that you wouldn't already know. Even though the US is a nominally secular republic, we all know to what extent religious issues play a part in American politics. Back during the 2008 presidential campaign, it was strange to witness that both McCain and Obama appeared at Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California, apparently as an unavoidable stage on the road to the White House. Religious symbols have progressively reappeared, e.g. within the Oath of Allegiance and printed on the Federal money. The US society has apparently not quite yet definitely decided the relationship between the Federal State and religions.

United Kingdom

I lack both the time and the knowledge to cover the equally interesting relationship between the British Crown (and by extension the British government) and, first, the Catholic Church and later the Anglican Church. It is well known that the British monarch is now the head of the Anglican Church. Yet, the country enjoys a very high degree of religious freedom, with many Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics and followers of other religions freely practising within its borders.

Iraq

Saddham Hussein's Iraq used to be a secular government, but, when threatened and attacked by the US ten years ago, Hussein changed the national flag to include a sutra from the Koran, in a vain attempt to rally religious zealots to his cause.

Afghanistan

Ostensibly looking for Osama Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, the US war in Afghanistan have had at least one beneficial result: that of chasing the most extreme Muslim fundamentalists, the Taliban regime, away from power. Yet, over ten years later, the Taliban are still around the corner...

Pakistan

Pakistan is a bit like the US: a country very ostensibly secular. Yet, see (at youtube) the recent two parts BBC documentary "Secret Pakistan", to understand the extent by which highly ranked religious zealots within the Pakistani secret services, the SSI, undermined from the very beginning the US war in Afghanistan, all in the name of the Shariah law as formerly enforced by the Talibans. Pakistan, whilst ostensibly very friendly to the US government, is engaged in a proxy religious war against the US, fought on Afghan soil.

Saudi-Arabia

When thinking about religious freedom, a name that does not come to mind is that of Saudi-Arabia, which is very openly a religious Muslim monarchy. Yet, things are (very) slowly moving to the right direction thanks to progressive reforms allowing women marginally more freedom. Again, see (at youtube) the recent BBC documentary "Inside the Saudi Kingdom".

Germany

Quick, tell me: what kind of regime is Germany? Secular or religious? Unlike in (most of) France where religion is not taught in schools and where there is a complete separation between the secular and the religious powers, there are religious classes in German schools. Religious ministers are paid by the German government which retains a neutral stance in the sense that all religions are treated equally, in proportion to to the self-declared religion of the population. (Do correct me if I am wrong).

Despite France's republican attachment to secularism, the German model is one that we sometimes look at because of the increasing Muslim population in France. There are regular social unrest because of the underprivileged status of the Muslim minorities. Combine this with not always very benevolent religious foreign influences (which are funding French Imams and French mosques), and one may understand why some would prefer Muslim Imams (and Catholic priests) to be paid by the government...

The Republic of China

I personally live in the Republic of China (some of you might be surprised to learn), and I must say that I don't know of any other country where there is such a high degree of religious tolerance. Indeed, religion is never an issue. It is not a social issue, nor a political issue. The religious affiliation of the political leaders and elected officials is almost never mentioned, and then only as a matter of passing curiosity. It is never an issue during electoral campaigns. Some former leaders of the Republic of China have been Christians, others not.

If the previous paragraphs surprises you, it's because you are confusing two Chinas: the People's Republic of China, the giant country lead by the Chinese Communist Party, and the small Republic of China, a vibrant democracy limited to the island of Taiwan.

Which model?

If it were up to you, which model would you adopt? The neutral German model, or the actively secular French model? What would you change in the US institutions with regard to the relationship between the Federal government and the religious leadership?

Gossips

In order to complete the loop and go back to the text of the current chapter, let's discuss a bit the following quotes:

[En.] Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.

[Fr.] Quoique ce détail ne touche en aucune manière au fond même de ce que nous avons à raconter, il n’est peut-être pas inutile, ne fût-ce que pour être exact en tout, d’indiquer ici les bruits et les propos qui avaient couru sur son compte au moment où il était arrivé dans le diocèse. Vrai ou faux, ce qu’on dit des hommes tient souvent autant de place dans leur vie et souvent dans leur destinée que ce qu’ils font.

And later in the chapter:

[En.] M. Myriel had to undergo the fate of every newcomer in a little town, where there are many mouths which talk, and very few heads which think. He was obliged to undergo it although he was a bishop, and because he was a bishop. But after all, the rumors with which his name was connected were rumors only,--noise, sayings, words; less than words--palabres, as the energetic language of the South expresses it.

[Fr.] M. Myriel devait subir le sort de tout nouveau venu dans une petite ville où il y a beaucoup de bouches qui parlent et fort peu de têtes qui pensent. Il devait le subir, quoiqu’il fût évêque et parce qu’il était évêque. Mais, après tout, les propos auxquels on mêlait son nom n’étaient peut-être que des propos ; du bruit, des mots, des paroles, moins que des paroles, des palabres, comme dit l’énergique langue du midi.

This is only the first of the very profound social statements that Hugo included in his novel. Here, there is no need to over-analyse the text: it speaks for itself. None of us would have to look very far in order to find examples of gossips shaping the lives both of ordinary people in our neighbourhoods and of public figures, candidates and elected officials. Justified or not, well-founded or not, think of the extent to which what was said about both successful and unsuccessful candidates (from the presidency and down to the lower echelons of government) shaped their campaign and sealed their fates, more than anything they actually did. What do you think would be the best of examples? Al Gore in 2000? John Kerry in 2004? Howard Dean (and his scream) in the 2004 primaries? Or the recent brouhaha over Marco Rubio's sip of water??

Can we take a moment to reflect on the fact that every single one of us, to larger or smaller degrees, have harmed other people with our careless gossips?

Another parting question: Which do you aspire the most to become: a good person or a great person?

Chapter II: M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome

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[Fr.] M. Myriel devient monseigneur Bienvenu [En.] M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome
Le palais épiscopal de Digne était attenant à l’hôpital. The episcopal palace of Digne adjoins the hospital.
Le palais épiscopal était un vaste et bel hôtel bâti en pierre au commencement du siècle dernier par monseigneur Henri Puget, docteur en théologie de la faculté de Paris, abbé de Simore, lequel était évêque de Digne en 1712. Ce palais était un vrai logis seigneurial. Tout y avait grand air, les appartements de l’évêque, les salons, les chambres, la cour d’honneur, fort large, avec promenoirs à arcades, selon l’ancienne mode florentine, les jardins plantés de magnifiques arbres. Dans la salle à manger, longue et superbe galerie qui était au rez-de-chaussée et s’ouvrait sur les jardins, monseigneur Henri Puget avait donné à manger en cérémonie, le 29 juillet 1714, à messeigneurs Charles Brûlart de Genlis, archevêque prince d’Embrun, Antoine de Mesgrigny, capucin, évêque de Grasse, Philippe de Vendôme, grand-prieur de France, abbé de Saint-Honoré de Lérins, François de Berton de Crillon, évêque baron de Vence, César de Sabran de Forcalquier, évêque seigneur de Glandève, et Jean Soanen, prêtre de l’Oratoire, prédicateur ordinaire du roi, évêque seigneur de Senez. Les portraits de ces sept révérends personnages décoraient cette salle, et cette date mémorable, 29 juillet 1714, y était gravée en lettres d’or sur une table de marbre blanc. The episcopal palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone at the beginning of the last century by M. Henri Puget, Doctor of Theology of the Faculty of Paris, Abbe of Simore, who had been Bishop of Digne in 1712. This palace was a genuine seignorial residence. Everything about it had a grand air,--the apartments of the Bishop, the drawing-rooms, the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was very large, with walks encircling it under arcades in the old Florentine fashion, and gardens planted with magnificent trees. In the dining-room, a long and superb gallery which was situated on the ground-floor and opened on the gardens, M. Henri Puget had entertained in state, on July 29, 1714, My Lords Charles Brulart de Genlis, archbishop; Prince d'Embrun; Antoine de Mesgrigny, the capuchin, Bishop of Grasse; Philippe de Vendome, Grand Prior of France, Abbe of Saint Honore de Lerins; Francois de Berton de Crillon, bishop, Baron de Vence; Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier, bishop, Seignor of Glandeve; and Jean Soanen, Priest of the Oratory, preacher in ordinary to the king, bishop, Seignor of Senez. The portraits of these seven reverend personages decorated this apartment; and this memorable date, the 29th of July, 1714, was there engraved in letters of gold on a table of white marble.
L’hôpital était une maison étroite et basse, à un seul étage, avec un petit jardin. The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story, with a small garden.
Trois jours après son arrivée, l’évêque visita l’hôpital. La visite terminée, il fit prier le directeur de vouloir bien venir jusque chez lui. Three days after his arrival, the Bishop visited the hospital. The visit ended, he had the director requested to be so good as to come to his house.
— Monsieur le directeur de l’hôpital, lui dit-il, combien en ce moment avez-vous de malades ? "Monsieur the director of the hospital," said he to him, "how many sick people have you at the present moment?"
— Vingt-six, monseigneur. "Twenty-six, Monseigneur."
— C’est ce que j’avais compté, dit l’évêque. "That was the number which I counted," said the Bishop.
— Les lits, reprit le directeur, sont bien serrés les uns contre les autres. "The beds," pursued the director, "are very much crowded against each other."
— C’est ce que j’avais remarqué. "That is what I observed.
— Les salles ne sont que des chambres, et l’air s’y renouvelle difficilement. "The halls are nothing but rooms, and it is with difficulty that the air can be changed in them."
— C’est ce qui me semble. "So it seems to me."
— Et puis, quand il y a un rayon de soleil, le jardin est bien petit pour les convalescents. "And then, when there is a ray of sun, the garden is very small for the convalescents."
— C’est ce que je me disais. "That was what I said to myself."
— Dans les épidémies, nous avons eu cette année le typhus, nous avons eu la suette miliaire il y a deux ans, cent malades quelquefois, nous ne savons que faire "In case of epidemics,--we have had the typhus fever this year; we had the sweating sickness two years ago, and a hundred patients at times,--we know not what to do."
— C’est la pensée qui m’était venue. "That is the thought which occurred to me."
— Que voulez-vous, monseigneur ? dit le directeur, il faut se résigner. "What would you have, Monseigneur?" said the director. "One must resign one's self."
Cette conversation avait lieu dans la salle à manger-galerie du rez-de-chaussée. This conversation took place in the gallery dining-room on the ground-floor.
L’évêque garda un moment le silence, puis il se tourna brusquement vers le directeur de l’hôpital. The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he turned abruptly to the director of the hospital.
— Monsieur, dit-il, combien pensez-vous qu’il tiendrait de lits rien que dans cette salle ? "Monsieur," said he, "how many beds do you think this hall alone would hold?"
— Dans la salle à manger de monseigneur ? s’écria le directeur stupéfait. "Monseigneur's dining-room?" exclaimed the stupefied director.
L’évêque parcourait la salle du regard et semblait y faire avec les yeux des mesures et des calculs. The Bishop cast a glance round the apartment, and seemed to be taking measures and calculations with his eyes.
— Il y tiendrait bien vingt lits ! dit-il, comme se parlant à lui-même ; puis élevant la voix : — Tenez, monsieur le directeur de l’hôpital, je vais vous dire. Il y a évidemment une erreur. Vous êtes vingt-six personnes dans cinq ou six petites chambres. Nous sommes trois ici, et nous avons place pour soixante. Il y a erreur, je vous dis. Vous avez mon logis, et j’ai le vôtre. Rendez-moi ma maison. C’est ici chez vous. "It would hold full twenty beds," said he, as though speaking to himself. Then, raising his voice:-- "Hold, Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you something. There is evidently a mistake here. There are thirty-six of you, in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here, and we have room for sixty. There is some mistake, I tell you; you have my house, and I have yours. Give me back my house; you are at home here."
Le lendemain, les vingt-six pauvres malades étaient installés dans le palais de l’évêque, et l’évêque était à l’hôpital. On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed in the Bishop's palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.
M. Myriel n’avait pas de bien, sa famille étant ruinée par la révolution. Sa sœur touchait une rente viagère de cinq cents francs qui, au presbytère, suffisait à sa dépense personnelle. M. Myriel recevait de l’état comme évêque un traitement de quinze mille francs. Le jour même où il vint se loger dans la maison de l’hôpital, M. Myriel détermina l’emploi de cette somme, une fois pour toutes, de la manière suivante. Nous transcrivons ici une note écrite de sa main. M. Myriel had no property, his family having been ruined by the Revolution. His sister was in receipt of a yearly income of five hundred francs, which sufficed for her personal wants at the vicarage. M. Myriel received from the State, in his quality of bishop, a salary of fifteen thousand francs. On the very day when he took up his abode in the hospital, M. Myriel settled on the disposition of this sum once for all, in the following manner. We transcribe here a note made by his own hand:--
NOTE POUR RÉGLER LES DÉPENSES DE MA MAISON.
Pour le petit séminaire : quinze cents livres.
Congrégation de la mission : cent livres.
Pour les lazaristes de Montdidier : cent livres.
Séminaire des missions étrangères à Paris : deux cents livres.
Congrégation du Saint-Esprit : cent cinquante livres.
Établissements religieux de la Terre-Sainte : cent livres.
Sociétés de charité maternelle : trois cents livres.
En sus, pour celle d’Arles : cinquante livres.
Œuvre pour l’amélioration des prisons : quatre cents livres.
Œuvre pour le soulagement et la délivrance des prisonniers : cinq cents livres.
Pour libérer des pères de famille prisonniers pour dettes : mille livres.
Supplément au traitement des pauvres maîtres d’école du diocèse : deux mille livres.
Grenier d’abondance des Hautes-Alpes : cent livres.
Congrégation des dames de Digne, de Manosque et de Sisteron, pour l’enseignement gratuit des filles indigentes : quinze cents livres.
Pour les pauvres : six mille livres.
Ma dépense personnelle : mille livres.
Total :       quinze mille livres.
NOTE ON THE REGULATION OF MY HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES.
For the little seminary : 1,500 livres.
Society of the mission : 100 livres.
For the Lazarists of Montdidier : 100 livres.
Seminary for foreign missions in Paris : 200 livres.
Congregation of the Holy Spirit : 150 livres.
Religious establishments of the Holy Land : 100 livres.
Charitable maternity societies : 300 livres.
Extra, for that of Arles : 50 livres.
Work for the amelioration of prisons : 400 livres.
Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners : 500 livres.
To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt : 1,000 livres.
Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the diocese : 2,000 livres.
Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes : 100 livres.
Congregation of the ladies of Digne, of Manosque, and of Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor girls  : 1,500 livres.
For the poor : 6,000 livres.
My personal expenses : 1,000 livres.
Total :       15,000 livres.
Pendant tout le temps qu’il occupa le siège de Digne, M. Myriel ne changea rien à cet arrangement. Il appelait cela, comme on voit, avoir réglé les dépenses de sa maison. M. Myriel made no change in this arrangement during the entire period that he occupied the see of Digne. As has been seen, he called it regulating his household expenses.
Cet arrangement fut accepté avec une soumission absolue par mademoiselle Baptistine. Pour cette sainte fille, M. de Digne était tout à la fois son frère et son évêque, son ami selon la nature et son supérieur selon l’église. Elle l’aimait et elle le vénérait tout simplement. Quand il parlait, elle s’inclinait ; quand il agissait, elle adhérait. La servante seule, madame Magloire, murmura un peu. M. l’évêque, on l’a pu remarquer, ne s’était réservé que mille livres, ce qui, joint à la pension de mademoiselle Baptistine, faisait quinze cents francs par an. Avec ces quinze cents francs, ces deux vieilles femmes et ce vieillard vivaient. This arrangement was accepted with absolute submission by Mademoiselle Baptistine. This holy woman regarded Monseigneur of Digne as at one and the same time her brother and her bishop, her friend according to the flesh and her superior according to the Church. She simply loved and venerated him. When he spoke, she bowed; when he acted, she yielded her adherence. Their only servant, Madame Magloire, grumbled a little. It will be observed that Monsieur the Bishop had reserved for himself only one thousand livres, which, added to the pension of Mademoiselle Baptistine, made fifteen hundred francs a year. On these fifteen hundred francs these two old women and the old man subsisted.
Et quand un curé de village venait à Digne, M. l’évêque trouvait encore moyen de le traiter, grâce à la sévère économie de madame Magloire et à l’intelligente administration de mademoiselle Baptistine. And when a village curate came to Digne, the Bishop still found means to entertain him, thanks to the severe economy of Madame Magloire, and to the intelligent administration of Mademoiselle Baptistine.
Un jour, il était à Digne depuis environ trois mois, l’évêque dit : One day, after he had been in Digne about three months, the Bishop said:--
— Avec tout cela je suis bien gêné ! "And still I am quite cramped with it all!"
— Je le crois bien ! s’écria madame Magloire, monseigneur n’a seulement pas réclamé la rente que le département lui doit pour ses frais de carrosse en ville et de tournées dans le diocèse. Pour les évêques d’autrefois c’était l’usage. "I should think so!" exclaimed Madame Magloire. "Monseigneur has not even claimed the allowance which the department owes him for the expense of his carriage in town, and for his journeys about the diocese. It was customary for bishops in former days."
— Tiens ! dit l’évêque, vous avez raison, madame Magloire. "Hold!" cried the Bishop, "you are quite right, Madame Magloire."
Il fit sa réclamation. And he made his demand.
Quelque temps après, le conseil général, prenant cette demande en considération, lui vota une somme annuelle de trois mille francs, sous cette rubrique : Allocation à M. l’évêque pour frais de carrosse, frais de poste, et frais de tournées pastorales. Some time afterwards the General Council took this demand under consideration, and voted him an annual sum of three thousand francs, under this heading: Allowance to M. the Bishop for expenses of carriage, expenses of posting, and expenses of pastoral visits.
Cela fit beaucoup crier la bourgeoisie locale, et, à cette occasion, un sénateur de l’empire, ancien membre du conseil des cinq-cents favorable au dix-huit brumaire et pourvu près de la ville de Digne d’une sénatorerie magnifique, écrivit au ministre des cultes, M. Bigot de Préameneu, un petit billet irrité et confidentiel dont nous extrayons ces lignes authentiques : This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses; and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity of the town of Digne, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu, the minister of public worship, a very angry and confidential note on the subject, from which we extract these authentic lines:--
« — Des frais de carrosse ! pourquoi faire dans une ville de moins de quatre mille habitants ? Des frais de tournées ? à quoi bon ces tournées d’abord ? ensuite comment courir la poste dans ces pays de montagnes ? Il n’y a pas de routes. On ne va qu’à cheval. Le pont même de la Durance à Château-Arnoux peut à peine porter des charrettes à bœufs. Ces prêtres sont tous ainsi. Avides et avares. Celui-ci a fait le bon apôtre en arrivant. Maintenant il fait comme les autres. Il lui faut carrosse et chaise de poste. Il lui faut du luxe comme aux anciens évêques. Oh ! toute cette prêtraille ! Monsieur le comte, les choses n’iront bien que lorsque l’empereur nous aura délivrés des calotins. À bas le pape ! (les affaires se brouillaient avec Rome). Quant à moi, je suis pour César tout seul. Etc., etc. » "Expenses of carriage? What can be done with it in a town of less than four thousand inhabitants? Expenses of journeys? What is the use of these trips, in the first place? Next, how can the posting be accomplished in these mountainous parts? There are no roads. No one travels otherwise than on horseback. Even the bridge between Durance and Chateau-Arnoux can barely support ox-teams. These priests are all thus, greedy and avaricious. This man played the good priest when he first came. Now he does like the rest; he must have a carriage and a posting-chaise, he must have luxuries, like the bishops of the olden days. Oh, all this priesthood! Things will not go well, M. le Comte, until the Emperor has freed us from these black-capped rascals. Down with the Pope! [Matters were getting embroiled with Rome.] For my part, I am for Caesar alone." Etc., etc.
La chose, en revanche, réjouit fort madame Magloire. — Bon, dit-elle à mademoiselle Baptistine, monseigneur a commencé par les autres, mais il a bien fallu qu’il finît par lui-même. Il a réglé toutes ses charités. Voilà trois mille livres pour nous. Enfin ! On the other hand, this affair afforded great delight to Madame Magloire. "Good," said she to Mademoiselle Baptistine; "Monseigneur began with other people, but he has had to wind up with himself, after all. He has regulated all his charities. Now here are three thousand francs for us! At last!"
Le soir même, l’évêque écrivit et remit à sa sœur une note ainsi conçue : That same evening the Bishop wrote out and handed to his sister a memorandum conceived in the following terms:--
FRAIS DE CARROSSE ET DE TOURNÉES.
Pour donner du bouillon de viande aux malades de l’hôpital : quinze cents livres.
Pour la société de charité maternelle d’Aix : deux cent cinquante livres.
Pour la société de charité maternelle de Draguignan : deux cent cinquante livres.
Pour les enfants trouvés : cinq cents livres.
Pour les orphelins : cinq cents livres.
Total :            trois mille livres.
EXPENSES OF CARRIAGE AND CIRCUIT.
For furnishing meat soup to the patients in the hospital. : 1,500 livres.
For the maternity charitable society of Aix : 250 livres.
For the maternity charitable society of Draguignan : 250 livres.
For foundlings : 500 livres.
For orphans : 500 livres.
Total :            3,000 livres.
Tel était le budget de M. Myriel. Such was M. Myriel's budget.
Quant au casuel épiscopal, rachats de bans, dispenses, ondoiements, prédications, bénédictions d’églises ou de chapelles, mariages, etc., l’évêque le percevait sur les riches avec d’autant plus d’âpreté qu’il le donnait aux pauvres. As for the chance episcopal perquisites, the fees for marriage bans, dispensations, private baptisms, sermons, benedictions, of churches or chapels, marriages, etc., the Bishop levied them on the wealthy with all the more asperity, since he bestowed them on the needy.
Au bout de peu de temps, les offrandes d’argent affluèrent. Ceux qui ont et ceux qui manquent frappaient à la porte de M. Myriel, les uns venant chercher l’aumône que les autres venaient y déposer. L’évêque, en moins d’un an, devint le trésorier de tous les bienfaits et le caissier de toutes les détresses. Des sommes considérables passaient par ses mains ; mais rien ne put faire qu’il changeât quelque chose à son genre de vie et qu’il ajoutât le moindre superflu à son nécessaire. After a time, offerings of money flowed in. Those who had and those who lacked knocked at M. Myriel's door,--the latter in search of the alms which the former came to deposit. In less than a year the Bishop had become the treasurer of all benevolence and the cashier of all those in distress. Considerable sums of money passed through his hands, but nothing could induce him to make any change whatever in his mode of life, or add anything superfluous to his bare necessities.
Loin de là. Comme il y a toujours encore plus de misère en bas que de fraternité en haut, tout était donné, pour ainsi dire, avant d’être reçu ; c’était comme de l’eau sur une terre sèche ; il avait beau recevoir de l’argent, il n’en avait jamais. Alors il se dépouillait Far from it. As there is always more wretchedness below than there is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it was received. It was like water on dry soil; no matter how much money he received, he never had any. Then he stripped himself
L’usage étant que les évêques énoncent leurs noms de baptême en tête de leurs mandements et de leurs lettres pastorales, les pauvres gens du pays avaient choisi, avec une sorte d’instinct affectueux, dans les noms et prénoms de l’évêque, celui qui leur présentait un sens, et ils ne l’appelaient que monseigneur Bienvenu. Nous ferons comme eux, et nous le nommerons ainsi dans l’occasion. Du reste, cette appellation lui plaisait. — J’aime ce nom-là, disait-il. Bienvenu corrige monseigneur. The usage being that bishops shall announce their baptismal names at the head of their charges and their pastoral letters, the poor people of the country-side had selected, with a sort of affectionate instinct, among the names and prenomens of their bishop, that which had a meaning for them; and they never called him anything except Monseigneur Bienvenu [Welcome]. We will follow their example, and will also call him thus when we have occasion to name him. Moreover, this appellation pleased him. "I like that name," said he. "Bienvenu makes up for the Monseigneur."
Nous ne prétendons pas que le portrait que nous faisons ici soit vraisemblable ; nous nous bornons à dire qu’il est ressemblant. We do not claim that the portrait herewith presented is probable; we confine ourselves to stating that it resembles the original.

Chapter II: M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome [Commentary]

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Table of Contents 

Discussion

The content of this wiki article is originally based on augustin's blog Les Misérables [1.1-II] M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome. If you wish to discuss the content and the analysis of this chapter, feel free to either post a comment on augustin's blog entry, or create your own blog entry.

The commentary below may have since been edited, augmented and improved by members of this community.

Commentary

In this chapter, the most powerful statement is, by far, the following:

[Fr.] [En.]
Comme il y a toujours encore plus de misère en bas que de fraternité en haut, tout était donné, pour ainsi dire, avant d’être reçu ; As there is always more wretchedness below than there is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it was received.

We shall see, for the first time, M. Myriel in action. We witness his no-nonsense approach to reality. As we peep into his accounting book, we shall be able to draw a comparison with some of the ways that our modern elected officials use tax payer's money. We will be able to make a direct comparison between Myriel's approach to economics and "Reaganomics" (or "Trickle-down Economics"). However, we'll also go to India and see that a progressive agenda is not necessarily enough to solve our current problems. It is as Hugo wrote: there is always more wretchedness below than there is brotherhood above. And because of that, we will have to put the recent Occupy Wall Street slogan "We are the 99%" upside down in order to give a brief, first glimpse at its underbelly.

And since this chapter invites us to speak about the economy, we'll use this opportunity to introduce another French writer, almost completely unknown this one: Jacques Lemaire [in French].

Talk is cheap...

... and sometimes deliberately misleading!

Someone said:

Judging politicians by their speeches is the equivalent of judging cars by their salesmen.

We could say:

Judging priests and pastors by their sermons is the equivalent of judging the quality of sub-prime derivatives by the ratings given by the major US credit rating agencies!

Action speak louder than words. Chapter one ends thus:

L’installation terminée, la ville attendit son évêque à l’œuvre. The installation over, the town waited to see its bishop at work.

Fortunately, we have a very early opportunity to see M. Myriel in action.

The palace and the hospital

It is very interesting to approach this chapter from a stylistic perspective.

See the relative amount of space devoted to describe the episcopal palace and the hospital:

[Fr.] Le palais épiscopal [Fr.] L’hôpital
Le palais épiscopal était un vaste et bel hôtel bâti en pierre au commencement du siècle dernier par monseigneur Henri Puget, docteur en théologie de la faculté de Paris, abbé de Simore, lequel était évêque de Digne en 1712. Ce palais était un vrai logis seigneurial. Tout y avait grand air, les appartements de l’évêque, les salons, les chambres, la cour d’honneur, fort large, avec promenoirs à arcades, selon l’ancienne mode florentine, les jardins plantés de magnifiques arbres. Dans la salle à manger, longue et superbe galerie qui était au rez-de-chaussée et s’ouvrait sur les jardins, monseigneur Henri Puget avait donné à manger en cérémonie, le 29 juillet 1714, à messeigneurs Charles Brûlart de Genlis, archevêque prince d’Embrun, Antoine de Mesgrigny, capucin, évêque de Grasse, Philippe de Vendôme, grand-prieur de France, abbé de Saint-Honoré de Lérins, François de Berton de Crillon, évêque baron de Vence, César de Sabran de Forcalquier, évêque seigneur de Glandève, et Jean Soanen, prêtre de l’Oratoire, prédicateur ordinaire du roi, évêque seigneur de Senez. Les portraits de ces sept révérends personnages décoraient cette salle, et cette date mémorable, 29 juillet 1714, y était gravée en lettres d’or sur une table de marbre blanc. L’hôpital était une maison étroite et basse, à un seul étage, avec un petit jardin.
[En.] The episcopal palace [En.] The hospital
The episcopal palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone at the beginning of the last century by M. Henri Puget, Doctor of Theology of the Faculty of Paris, Abbe of Simore, who had been Bishop of Digne in 1712. This palace was a genuine seignorial residence. Everything about it had a grand air,--the apartments of the Bishop, the drawing-rooms, the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was very large, with walks encircling it under arcades in the old Florentine fashion, and gardens planted with magnificent trees. In the dining-room, a long and superb gallery which was situated on the ground-floor and opened on the gardens, M. Henri Puget had entertained in state, on July 29, 1714, My Lords Charles Brulart de Genlis, archbishop; Prince d'Embrun; Antoine de Mesgrigny, the capuchin, Bishop of Grasse; Philippe de Vendome, Grand Prior of France, Abbe of Saint Honore de Lerins; Francois de Berton de Crillon, bishop, Baron de Vence; Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier, bishop, Seignor of Glandeve; and Jean Soanen, Priest of the Oratory, preacher in ordinary to the king, bishop, Seignor of Senez. The portraits of these seven reverend personages decorated this apartment; and this memorable date, the 29th of July, 1714, was there engraved in letters of gold on a table of white marble. The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story, with a small garden.

Hugo could have taken as much space to describe the hospital as he did the palace. In fact, the author will use the whole of chapter 6 ("Who guarded his House for him") to describe the hospital. However, with the different size of the above two paragraphs, Hugo wanted to emphasize the different size of the two buildings.

Note also the precise description of the 1714 ostentatious reception with the list of illustrious guests. We'll compare it with the way Myriel receives his guests (chapter 6).

The previous comparison represents the past situation, the one Myriel inherited from his predecessors.

Our bishop lives in a much more fact-based reality. He is able to make a truly fair and balanced assessment of the situation. During the entertaining conversation between Myriel and the hospital director, we almost have the impression to assist to a ping-pong match, with every statement by the doctor being squarely acknowledged by a very lucid priest in an almost comical back-and-forth. Only their conclusions differ. The dispirited director didn't know yet that he was dealing with an uncommon bishop!

In stark contrast with the above disproportionate description of the episcopal palace and the hospital, Myriel makes a very saintly even handed appraisal of the situation, with each one of his statements exactly mirroring each other, as if we were assisting to a one-player prolongation of the aforementioned ping-pong match:

[Fr.] Ping [Fr.] Pong!
Vous êtes vingt-six personnes Nous sommes trois ici
dans cinq ou six petites chambres. nous avons place pour soixante.
Vous avez mon logis, et j’ai le vôtre.
Il y a évidemment une erreur. Il y a erreur, je vous dis.
Rendez-moi ma maison. C’est ici chez vous.
[En.] Fair... [En.] and balanced!
There are thirty-six of you There are three of us here
in five or six small rooms. we have room for sixty.
you have my house, and I have yours.
There is evidently a mistake here. There is some mistake, I tell you;
Give me back my house; you are at home here.

What's truly beautiful is that Myriel does not state being willing to give up "his" palace for he sake of the poor sick people. He simply makes a claim for what he believes rightfully belongs to him, the old hospital house, as if it was the hospital director who had been the intruder all along!

The Bishop's Tithe

Nous transcrivons ici une note écrite de sa main. We transcribe here a note made by his own hand.

From a stylistic point of view, Hugo uses documents throughout the novel in order to enhance the realism of his fiction. In chapter 1, we already discussed the author's attempts at narrowing the gap between the impressions that his fiction affords and those of reality. Hugo gives here the impression to be a direct witness of Myriel's handwriting, as if the author actually held is his hands a copy of the (fictitious) document.

M. Myriel recevait de l’état comme évêque un traitement de quinze mille francs. M. Myriel received from the State, in his quality of bishop, a salary of fifteen thousand francs.

We already saw in chapter 1 that the Bishop is a civil servant, appointed by the Emperor and paid by the state; and not by Rome.

Note: 1 livre = 1 franc. Both units represent the same currency and have the same value, but "livre" (in English, "pound", as in the British currency) smacks of Old Regime (the monarchy) while "franc" has a more republican connotation. Maybe it's not a mistake that M. Myriel receives from the State (i.e. the Empire at the time when he was appointed) 15,000 francs but distributes 15,000 livres.

M. l’évêque, on l’a pu remarquer, ne s’était réservé que mille livres, ce qui, joint à la pension de mademoiselle Baptistine, faisait quinze cents francs par an. Avec ces quinze cents francs, ces deux vieilles femmes et ce vieillard vivaient. It will be observed that Monsieur the Bishop had reserved for himself only one thousand livres, which, added to the pension of Mademoiselle Baptistine, made fifteen hundred francs a year. On these fifteen hundred francs these two old women and the old man subsisted.

Hugo himself is pointing out that Myriel is giving his tithe, albeit an inverted one, living off 1,500 from his 15,000 income from the state. He donates 90% and keeps 10% for himself.

Cela fit beaucoup crier la bourgeoisie locale, et, à cette occasion, un sénateur de l’empire, ancien membre du conseil des cinq-cents favorable au dix-huit brumaire et pourvu près de la ville de Digne d’une sénatorerie magnifique, écrivit au ministre des cultes, M. Bigot de Préameneu, [...] This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses; and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity of the town of Digne, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu, the minister of public worship, [...]

The Council of the Five Hundred ("Conseil des Cinq-Cents"), was, during part of the French Revolutionary period, the legislative body. It was overthrown by a coup by Napoleon Bonaparte on the 9th of November 1799, also known as the 18 Brumaire of Year VII, according to the Revolutionary calendar.

It is not surprising to note that this member of the Council of Five Hundred, who was favourable of the 1799 coup staged by Bonaparte and his friends, was later rewarded by Napoleon with a luxurious senatorial appointment during the Empire (1804~1814/15).

This senator most obviously holds much of the anti-clerical sentiments prevalent during the Revolution. Note that the Councilman's slanderous letter (not reproduced here) is only an example of the gossips that were discussed in the previous chapter:

Vrai ou faux, ce qu’on dit des hommes tient souvent autant de place dans leur vie et souvent dans leur destinée que ce qu’ils font. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.

Naming the Misérables

It is interesting to have a close look at how Myriel apportions his income. The amounts are very deliberate and were subject to numerous revisions in Hugo's manuscript (Hugo started working on his masterpiece in 1839. It was finally completed and published in 1862). The amounts have an important significance.

NOTE POUR RÉGLER LES DÉPENSES DE MA MAISON.
Pour le petit séminaire : quinze cents livres.
Congrégation de la mission : cent livres.
Pour les lazaristes de Montdidier : cent livres.
Séminaire des missions étrangères à Paris : deux cents livres.
Congrégation du Saint-Esprit : cent cinquante livres.
Établissements religieux de la Terre-Sainte : cent livres.
Sociétés de charité maternelle : trois cents livres.
En sus, pour celle d’Arles : cinquante livres.
Œuvre pour l’amélioration des prisons : quatre cents livres.
Œuvre pour le soulagement et la délivrance des prisonniers : cinq cents livres.
Pour libérer des pères de famille prisonniers pour dettes : mille livres.
Supplément au traitement des pauvres maîtres d’école du diocèse : deux mille livres.
Grenier d’abondance des Hautes-Alpes : cent livres.
Congrégation des dames de Digne, de Manosque et de Sisteron, pour l’enseignement gratuit des filles indigentes : quinze cents livres.
Pour les pauvres : six mille livres.
Ma dépense personnelle : mille livres.
Total :       quinze mille livres.
NOTE ON THE REGULATION OF MY HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES.
For the little seminary : 1,500 livres.
Society of the mission : 100 livres.
For the Lazarists of Montdidier : 100 livres.
Seminary for foreign missions in Paris : 200 livres.
Congregation of the Holy Spirit : 150 livres.
Religious establishments of the Holy Land : 100 livres.
Charitable maternity societies : 300 livres.
Extra, for that of Arles : 50 livres.
Work for the amelioration of prisons : 400 livres.
Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners : 500 livres.
To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt : 1,000 livres.
Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the diocese : 2,000 livres.
Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes : 100 livres.
Congregation of the ladies of Digne, of Manosque, and of Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor girls  : 1,500 livres.
For the poor : 6,000 livres.
My personal expenses : 1,000 livres.
Total :       15,000 livres.

On one end, Myriel provides the seminary with 1,500 francs for the education of young men to become priests, as he probably was expected to; but on the other end he gives the same amount for the education of destitute young girls, which is quite a novel idea. He gives the same weight to the education of boys and girls. Although, as we shall see in more depth in chapter 10, Myriel is still attached to the Old Regime, his actions are often quite revolutionary. In fact, right around the time when Myriel writes his budget, Napoleon opened a school for girls, one that still exists today.

The budgeted amounts given to religious orders are the smallest of all. One might think that these were the amounts that Myriel's predecessors already gave them. Once the religious orders served, a large amount still remains on hand. Where Myriel breaks with the continuity is that where his predecessors most probably kept that amount for themselves, Myriel keeps distributing what he has, in larger and larger chunks, giving to the neediest.

And as the author's message given with the way those 15,000 francs are distributed, Hugo piles on with the extra 3,000 francs received from the Council for travelling expenses:

FRAIS DE CARROSSE ET DE TOURNÉES.
Pour donner du bouillon de viande aux malades de l’hôpital : quinze cents livres.
Pour la société de charité maternelle d’Aix : deux cent cinquante livres.
Pour la société de charité maternelle de Draguignan : deux cent cinquante livres.
Pour les enfants trouvés : cinq cents livres.
Pour les orphelins : cinq cents livres.
Total :            trois mille livres.
EXPENSES OF CARRIAGE AND CIRCUIT.
For furnishing meat soup to the patients in the hospital. : 1,500 livres.
For the maternity charitable society of Aix : 250 livres.
For the maternity charitable society of Draguignan : 250 livres.
For foundlings : 500 livres.
For orphans : 500 livres.
Total :            3,000 livres.

With this budget, the misérables are actually named. Those who have already read the novel and who know the characters and their stories, can pinpoint in the above budget which items correspond to each one of them, to Jean Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Gavroche and to all the others... The misérables are the orphans, the destitute and poor, the economic prisoners, the women, the mothers, the girls, the street urchins... They are all here in this budget and they will populate the whole novel.

It is also worth noting that Myriel seems to believe in a direct redistribution of wealth, without using intermediaries. He gives less to charitable organizations than he directly gives to those who need charity. The fewer intermediaries between his alms and the intended recipients, the better. He implicitly trusts the poor to make a good use of the alms given to them! This belief will also be exemplified in a most dramatic fashion in book 2, with Jean Valjean!

Despite Myriel's attachment to the clergy (as we shall see in chapter X), there is something very Revolutionary and very Republican in Myriel's distribution of wealth. In February 1790, during the de-Christianization period of the French Revolution, monastic orders were dissolved excepting those devoted to teaching children and nursing the sick, which are precisely the groups of people that Myriel looks after.

Put together, what we see is not so much Myriel's preoccupations but those of the author's. The budget fully echoes the author's priorities as stated in his preface:

Tant qu’il existera, par le fait des lois et des mœurs, une damnation sociale créant artificiellement, en pleine civilisation, des enfers, et compliquant d’une fatalité humaine la destinée qui est divine ; tant que les trois problèmes du siècle, la dégradation de l’homme par le prolétariat, la déchéance de la femme par la faim, l’atrophie de l’enfant par la nuit, ne seront pas résolus ; tant que, dans de certaines régions, l’asphyxie sociale sera possible ; en d’autres termes, et à un point de vue plus étendu encore, tant qu’il y aura sur la terre ignorance et misère, des livres de la nature de celui-ci pourront ne pas être inutiles. So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.

The interested reader may want to take some time to make a line by line comparison of Myriel's budget with Hugo's denunciation of social depravation, above.

L’usage étant que les évêques énoncent leurs noms de baptême en tête de leurs mandements et de leurs lettres pastorales, les pauvres gens du pays avaient choisi, avec une sorte d’instinct affectueux, dans les noms et prénoms de l’évêque, celui qui leur présentait un sens, et ils ne l’appelaient que monseigneur Bienvenu. Nous ferons comme eux, et nous le nommerons ainsi dans l’occasion. Du reste, cette appellation lui plaisait. — J’aime ce nom-là, disait-il. Bienvenu corrige monseigneur. The usage being that bishops shall announce their baptismal names at the head of their charges and their pastoral letters, the poor people of the country-side had selected, with a sort of affectionate instinct, among the names and prenomens of their bishop, that which had a meaning for them; and they never called him anything except Monseigneur Bienvenu [Welcome]. We will follow their example, and will also call him thus when we have occasion to name him. Moreover, this appellation pleased him. "I like that name," said he. "Bienvenu makes up for the Monseigneur."

At the end of the chapter, Myriel becomes bishop, not by Imperial appointment, but by public acclamation. The very title that he seemed to shun in chapter I, he accepts it when it comes from the people.

Official expenses, extravagant government buildings

As an administrative official, M. Myriel can claim an allowance for some expenses:

— Je le crois bien ! s’écria madame Magloire, monseigneur n’a seulement pas réclamé la rente que le département lui doit pour ses frais de carrosse en ville et de tournées dans le diocèse. Pour les évêques d’autrefois c’était l’usage. "I should think so!" exclaimed Madame Magloire. "Monseigneur has not even claimed the allowance which the department owes him for the expense of his carriage in town, and for his journeys about the diocese. It was customary for bishops in former days."

Myriel uses 100% of his allowance for the poor. He does not benefit directly not indirectly from the allowance he claims. After surrendering his palace, then 90% of his wages, he now re-distributes his travelling allowances.

It is useful to draw a direct comparison with today's governments, administrations and elected or appointed officials in our modern, wealthy democracies.

Today's elected officials not only have large salaries but they also have all kind of expenses paid. And they behave not like Myriel, but like Myriel's predecessors. It would be surprising to find anyone who doubts that politicians serve themselves first.

In the US Congress, the same elected officials who enjoy the coverage of first rate health insurance policies deny at the same time the right of the American lower classes to enjoy the same benefits. In France, where ordinary workers are forced to pay into their social security funds for an ever increasing number of years, members of the French parliament can enjoy the benefits of a full retirement fund after only five years in elected office. And as if it were not enough, they often hold multiple elected offices and benefit from very generous allowances to pay for underlings to do the jobs that they were elected to do but that they no longer have the time to do. (Duh!)

Myriel's swap of the old hospital against the palace is also indicative. In every modern democracies, government after government, we can notice that the elected administrations always vote for themselves large funds to build for themselves modern, spacious government buildings. How much did the US capitol cost to build? Could the US really afford it at that time? In France, the spacious Ministère de l'Économie et des Finances, a modern looking building that encroaches on the Seine river, was build and inaugurated in 1988 even though the State budget was not balanced (it hasn't been in a long time!). Also in France, when local governments were granted more powers in the 1980s, the first thing that each Région did was build large, costly seats for their new-found power.

Yes, there is an undeniable symbolic value to have beautiful, impressive buildings representing the seat of power within our democracies. These are buildings that ordinary citizens look up to. They attract tourists. They make the nation proud, just like French people are proud of the magnificent Palais de Versailles which attract millions of tourists every year... while conveniently forgetting that this was the seat of power of an absolute (and absolutely corrupted) monarchy!

Do consider this: what has the highest symbolic value: a bishop appointed by the French Emperor living in a luxurious palace, or a bishop living in the former hospital for the poor?

What would have the best symbolic value for our modern democracies and their supposed humanity?

Does the western world really need the Internation Space Station. Does the People's Republic of China really need a space program to go to the Moon? All of this while there is still so much misery within their respective borders?

A real life example of Myriel's sacrifice would be Mother Teresa, who also lived a life of poverty amongst the poor. There is a film depicting her life (maybe the 2003 one. I forgot. This is one of the many details to be verified.). In it, there is a scene where Mother Teresa has to apportion the many donations she received from abroad. She had a pet project (The City of Joy for lepers, I believe) and precisely needed funds to get started with it. But first, she had to take care of the needs of all the various missions of the Missionary of the Charity. So she goes about distributing the money she has received. At the end, none remain for her cherished project: she wouldn't have deprived others because of it. Mother Teresa trusts that funds will eventually appear when the time is right. And they do! It must also be remembered that like M. Myriel, Mother Teresa came from a very affluent family. She gave up her inherited wealth in order to serve the poor. There is a very strong parallel between her life, and that little scene in the movie, and Myriel's example as depicted in this chapter.

Yes but, some people may say, Mother Teresa was a very controversial figure. Certainly. So was Myriel!

~~~

Note: For lack of time, knowledge and resources, I cannot cover all the aspects I'd like to, nor can I provide detailed evidence of some of the claims being made.

As already stated, this project is fully supported by a wiki. I have spent much of the past week laying the groundwork for the wiki. Many of the articles are mere stubs, but I am confident that over the 7 year life span of the first phase of this project, a growing community will collaboratively edit and progressively improve every aspects of the wiki, in order to inspire new generations of readers... up until such a time when society as a whole finally awakens and projects of this nature lose their raison d'être.

I mention this here because one of the goals is to use the text to directly point at specific, detailed, researched, documented occurrences of what is being described in the book within today's society. In some places of my commentary, like here, I can only provide some hints, pointers, that can later be better researched, better documented and better explained.

How much is 1,500 Francs?

See this comment by Yamaneko2.

Back in the 1820s, two liters of red wine could be had for 0.25 to 0.50 francs. 1 kg of white bread cost 30-35 centimes, a kilogram of beef around 70 centimes. They also had and worked a garden for vegetables.

If that 2 liters of red wine of tolerable quality would go for $5.00 today, the 1500 francs would correspond to $15,000 to $30,000 (3000 to 6000 two-liter bottles of wine).

1 kg of bakery white bread goes for about $3.50. 1500 francs bought 4500 kg of bread, which these days would retail around $15,750

A kilogram of beef cost 70 centimes. This week in my town, decent but not extravagant cuts of beef (ground round, English roast) can be had for $9.00/kg. 1500 francs would buy 2100 kg of beef, which today would go for $18,900.

So by these standards, the Muriel household would be living near the poverty line, but not too far below it. They would pay no rent and probably no tax, the little house being a perquisite of the job.

-------------------------------

I meant to write this to illustrate that Bienvenu was actually prosperous. Instead it appears that the family was in a state of genteel poverty -- not enough to continually endanger health but enough to feel deprivations at every turn. An analogous experience, at least for a bishop from noble family, would be that of wearing a hair shirt.

It is a very good analysis and a good way to give an idea of the value of the currency at that time. Another thing that the Myriel household has over other people, who more or less live at the same level, is a secure, steady income which provides non-negligible peace of mind.

To complete the financial analysis, we must also take into considerations that Myriel had frequent guests who had to be entertained (fed) presumably out of his household budget. Also, subsequent chapters will reveal the household's diet which is not excessive my any means: fresh milk and hard bread for breakfast, and a vegetable soup for dinner, sometimes accompanied with some meat...

Levelling from the bottom

In this important chapter, we see a very specific type of economic policy: Myriel attempts at levelling economic and social inequalities from the bottom. As we shall see in a moment, this is extremely relevant to our modern economic policy discourse.

l’évêque percevait [l'argent] sur les riches avec d’autant plus d’âpreté qu’il le donnait aux pauvres. the Bishop levied [fees] on the wealthy with all the more asperity, since he bestowed them on the needy.
Au bout de peu de temps, les offrandes d’argent affluèrent. Ceux qui ont et ceux qui manquent frappaient à la porte de M. Myriel, les uns venant chercher l’aumône que les autres venaient y déposer. L’évêque, en moins d’un an, devint le trésorier de tous les bienfaits et le caissier de toutes les détresses. Des sommes considérables passaient par ses mains ; mais rien ne put faire qu’il changeât quelque chose à son genre de vie et qu’il ajoutât le moindre superflu à son nécessaire. After a time, offerings of money flowed in. Those who had and those who lacked knocked at M. Myriel's door,--the latter in search of the alms which the former came to deposit. In less than a year the Bishop had become the treasurer of all benevolence and the cashier of all those in distress. Considerable sums of money passed through his hands, but nothing could induce him to make any change whatever in his mode of life, or add anything superfluous to his bare necessities.

Myriel takes money from the rich and redistributes it to the poor. The difference between Myriel and Robin Hood is that Myriel does not steal the money! It is all freely and more or less willingly given to him.

Much more importantly, Myriel puts himself at the economic level of the people he gives charity to. He appears to lower his social status, and he definitely does his financial one, in order to better be able to elevate that of the misérables around him.

His approach is the very exact opposite of Reaganomics, the Trickle-down Economic policy that purports to level economic inequalities from the top. When we see very wealthy people giving charity, their net worth never seems to be affected. Wealthy people may well be donating large amounts of money, but obviously, there are other existing economic forces which more than compensate for their "generosity", bringing back the wealth, and some, from the lower classes back to the wealthy.

Bear all of this in mind. These are important economic and social concepts. Do we desire to level inequalities from the top or from the bottom? It is certain that the readers of this commentary already know all about the abject failures of trickle-down economics. We not only saw that in the 1980's but also much more recently, during the 2008 economic meltdown, where we saw the perpetrators of this economic crime become and remain wealthier than ever while the rest of the population got saddled with debts and greater than ever economic hardship.

However, it may be useful to linger a while longer on the alternative model, the one presented by Myriel. There are some historical figures whose real life work is at least as inspiring than that of our bishop. Their examples are actually probably more inspiring because they are not fictitious. In a moment, we shall go to India and briefly discuss the examples given by two great 20th century Indian social leaders. But before we do so, let's stay in the US for a while longer in order to remember a truly inspiring American figure.

Peace Pilgrim

I don't know how famous or well known Peace Pilgrim is in the United States. In 1953, when she was 45 years old, she started a cross-continental pilgrimage that would only end with her accidental death in 1981. She gave up every material possessions. She only owned what she was wearing and what she could carry in her pockets. She refused to ever carry money. She could easily be recognized by the tunic she wore, on which was written, in bold letters: "PEACE PILGRIM". She walked back and forth across the United States, eating only when a meal or some food was spontaneously offered to her. She slept outdoors in every seasons, unless someone offered a sheltered place to sleep for a night. She didn't belong to any organized religions and she was as comfortable giving inspiring talks in churches, temples, secular public places. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Jews were all comforted in their own respective religions as they listened to her.

She maintained a life style free of all the modern un-necessities, stripping everything down to the most basic needs for physical survival, depending on the good will of the people she came across, never staying in one place more than a couple of days before moving on. She had vowed to continue living this way until humanity had learned from its mistake, until there was no more misery, so that she could raise her physical standard of living at the same pace as that of the most wretched person on Earth. Needless to say, that day never occurred. So she kept on walking. She was about to embark to the next stage on her long, long journey when, aged 73, she was hit by a car.

Like Myriel, Peace Pilgrim levelled her standard of living down to that of the poorest. Both figures, the fictional character and the real life Pilgrim, attempted to level the field from the bottom. They are the Anti-Christs of the Church of Reaganomics. They were the most ardent proponents of Trickle-up Economics.

Global perspectives

And so here we are - we, who are neither arrogantly wealthy nor completely destitute - between Reagan and Myriel. We often look up and point our fingers at the top 1%. We are the 99%, we say. But how often do we look down, at the 90%? Do we even realise that we are the (top) 10%??

How often do we, North American and Western European, have a good, honest, hard, fair and balanced look à la Myriel at the world beyond our national borders? Do we even know - or care - how many refugees live in UNHCR-operated camps? How many children were born in those camps and are growing up there, going to school? We only seem to be able to see the top of the social ladder of each country. We notice in awe - and in fear - the economic wonders of communist China, but how often do we consider the hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers? Even the American people who are living under the poverty line have much more material possessions than them. What about the population of sub-Saharan Africa?

Do we claim that we the ability to raise every single human being's standard of living up to our own? We have known for at least 20 years that this would be an ecological impossibility. We have been overshooting our planet's carrying capacity for decades. For us (and in all these statements, I include myself!) to maintain our cosy lifestyles, it is known that hundreds of millions of people have to remain in absolute poverty. Not every body on earth can live at the standard of a North American on a West European. There are simply not enough resources for that! Our ecological footprint is simply unsustainable and unattainable by the majority of humanity.

So, since it is proven that levelling the human condition at the top is an impossibility, we must start considering levelling our own lifestyles down until humanity reaches a sustainable middle ground. And that "middle" is actually closer to the bottom than to the top! It has been calculated that an American consumes four times more than what the Earth can provide per human being.

Having a life style less attached to material possessions does not mean lowering our level of happiness. On the contrary. We may become much more contended with less wordly attachments. We may be able to live more humanely fulfilling lives.

Gandhi

Above, we briefly went to India with Mother Teresa. Let's return to India now and remember for a while the Mahatma Gandhi's vision for a just and peaceful society. If you have never watched the 1982 movie masterpiece "Gandhi", find a copy and watch it! If you already watched it (presumably a long time ago), watch it again.

What interests us now is not so much his leadership in the Indian nationalism movement, nor is non-violent civil disobedience movement. What makes him relevant in the current discussion is the similar approach that he took to tackle poverty. Like Myriel, like Mother Teresa, like Peace Pilgrim, he tried to level the playing field from the bottom. He, too, stripped his life from all material un-necessities. He was a modern ecologist in the sense that he advocated for people to live in small, autonomous, self-sustained communities living off the land, in conditions with a very low ecological footprint and yet with a lot of human dignity.

When we look at the state of today's India, we cannot help thinking that the great Gandhi has been right all along. He is much celebrated in India. Yet, Indians - and ourselves - ought to revisit his message and try to listen a bit more intently to what he was trying to tell us.

Like Myriel, Mother Teresa and Peace Pilgrim, Gandhi lived according to what he preached.

India

American liberals most rightly decry the very "conservative", very right wing nature of American politics. They look at Europe and notice that European right wing leaders run on the left of Obama! But the fact is that we, American and European, ought to have a good look at India in order to start to understand the scope of what is in store for us, for humanity.

The fact is, since independence, India's governments have traditionally been running on the left even of the European left wing. The left of the left of Obama, if you will. If you look on paper, India is, in some ways, an American liberal's dream come true. It is a vibrant democracy, the largest in the world. Despite all of its troubles during the India-Pakistan partition, India remains a society very tolerant of religious diversity, with all of the world's major religions peacefully co-existing there.

During the 65 years since its 1947 independence, the Prime Minister of India has been from the left wing party the Indian National Congress for 52 years. Since 2004, the Prime Minister is Dr. Manmohan Singh, also from the INC. Singh is often revered abroad. He is seen as a man of integrity, concerned with relieving the country's large scale poverty.

Yet at the same time, social issues are very grave. The government's economic policy do not fully deliver the promised relief. It seems the path to greater liberalization is failing there as it has failed in the West.

Do find some time to watch the 3-part BBC documentary "Welcome to India". It is very humbling. We are indeed the (top) 10%. Let's remember this fact the next time we denounce the 1%! Would we be willing to relinquish proportionally as much material possessions as we ask the 1% to do? We must learn to look down, way down (to the 90%), as much as we look up, way up (to the 1%).

The over-crowded and ecologically depraved conditions that Indians live it are only a taste of what may very well be coming to the West. When we look at the PRC, we might say: Yeah, but the Chinese people are not free. The society is tightly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. But with India, a democracy almost consistently governed from the left, we have no such excuse. It is not enough to be a liberal. We have to be as revolutionary as Myriel.

If there is ever any levelling of social and economic inequalities, it will necessarily be towards the bottom end. Myriel and Gandhi have known all along the solution that still evades us.

Jacques Lemaire: the missing piece of the solution?

Before we conclude this lengthy commentary, let's come back to France and discuss the revolutionary ideas of a virtually unknown French thinker, Jacques Lemaire. The link goes to another web site where a full copy of his second book is freely available for reading. It's in French. We bring it up here because it may very well hold part of the solution to the underlying problems that we have been discussing all along.

To the two or three French speakers who follow this project: I would love to discuss the content of his book with you, if you can find the time to read it. Chapter 2 is the key chapter, although there are other important insights in the rest of the book. J'espère vraiment que vous essayerez de lire le livre, au moins le chapitre 2. J'aimerais en parler avec vous et, si possible, faire connaître ce livre auprès du public américain. Excuse my French!

Earlier, we mentioned the fact that, unlike M. Myriel, the very wealthy never see their net worth being affected by their charitable contributions, even very generous ones. We noted that there must be processes by which the wealth they donate flows right back up to them. Some of these processes are already very well known and decried by the progressive society. However, there are some more pernicious processes that ensure that even if the most liberal agenda were put into place, the wealthy would still become - or remain - shockingly wealthier than they ought to be. In order to fully understand what is happening, we have to go back to the source of the problem. For as long as we do not fix the systemic causes of our current social problems, wealth will not be distributed in a fair manner, with meritorious, adequately educated, hard-working people not getting their fair share of a company's income.

We've been speaking of levelling the economic playing field. The greatest leveller of all is time. No matter how wealthy or famous, nobody on Earth has more than 24 hours a day. 24 hours that every single one of us has to work, rest, play, educate ourselves. Any sane economic, fiscal and fiducial policy must somehow be a function of time. This is only the starting point. Now, if workers, employees, use their time to do productive work, they must be adequately compensated, not only with fair wages, but also with a fair share of the benefits they have allowed their enterprise to make.

Ordinary workers are being defrauded by their corporate overlords. This is a well accepted fact by the progressive movement. Jacques Lemaire's genius is to have been able to mathematically quantify by how much workers are being defrauded.

Also, since we spoke of environmental degradation and ecological footprints, Jacques Lemaire, who published his first book in the 1950 and his second in 1976, proved to be much more in advance of his generation of thinkers. His proposed fiscal policy is the only one that makes sense. Fortunately, the fiscal policy of European have slowly been moving in the right direction, albeit too slowly. Much too slowly. What Lemaire proposes as a core policy, is currently being applied only as an after-thought; it is a side-dish, not a main course.

The wisdom imparted in Jacques Lemaire's book would be the perfect conclusion to this commentary, and the perfect solution to the social problems that Hugo denounces in the chapter being discussed. I'll have more opportunities to talk about this. Those who understand French can already check the book out.

Comme il y a toujours encore plus de misère en bas que de fraternité en haut, tout était donné, pour ainsi dire, avant d’être reçu ; c’était comme de l’eau sur une terre sèche ; il avait beau recevoir de l’argent, il n’en avait jamais. Alors il se dépouillait. As there is always more wretchedness below than there is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it was received. It was like water on dry soil; no matter how much money he received, he never had any. Then he stripped himself.

One of the stated goals of this project is to create a bit more knowledge, a bit more understanding and especially a bit more brotherhood above so that, hopefully, there'll be a bit less wretchedness below...

Chapter III: A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop

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[Fr.] À bon évêque dur évêché [En.] A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop
M. l’évêque, pour avoir converti son carrosse en aumônes, n’en faisait pas moins ses tournées. C’est un diocèse fatigant que celui de Digne. Il a fort peu de plaines et beaucoup de montagnes, presque pas de routes, on l’a vu tout à l’heure ; trente-deux cures, quarante et un vicariats et deux cent quatre-vingt-cinq succursales. Visiter tout cela, c’est une affaire. M. l’évêque en venait à bout. Il allait à pied quand c’était dans le voisinage, en carriole quand c’était dans la plaine, en cacolet dans la montagne. Les deux vieilles femmes l’accompagnaient. Quand le trajet était trop pénible pour elles, il allait seul. The Bishop did not omit his pastoral visits because he had converted his carriage into alms. The diocese of Digne is a fatiguing one. There are very few plains and a great many mountains; hardly any roads, as we have just seen; thirty-two curacies, forty-one vicarships, and two hundred and eighty-five auxiliary chapels. To visit all these is quite a task. The Bishop managed to do it. He went on foot when it was in the neighborhood, in a tilted spring-cart when it was on the plain, and on a donkey in the mountains. The two old women accompanied him. When the trip was too hard for them, he went alone.
Un jour, il arriva à Senez, qui est une ancienne ville épiscopale, monté sur un âne. Sa bourse, fort à sec dans ce moment, ne lui avait pas permis d’autre équipage. Le maire de la ville vint le recevoir à la porte de l’évêché et le regardait descendre de son âne avec des yeux scandalisés. Quelques bourgeois riaient autour de lui. — Monsieur le maire, dit l’évêque, et messieurs les bourgeois, je vois ce qui vous scandalise ; vous trouvez que c’est bien de l’orgueil à un pauvre prêtre de monter une monture qui était celle de Jésus-Christ. Je l’ai fait par nécessité, je vous assure, et non par vanité. One day he arrived at Senez, which is an ancient episcopal city. He was mounted on an ass. His purse, which was very dry at that moment, did not permit him any other equipage. The mayor of the town came to receive him at the gate of the town, and watched him dismount from his ass, with scandalized eyes. Some of the citizens were laughing around him. "Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop, "and Messieurs Citizens, I perceive that I shock you. You think it very arrogant in a poor priest to ride an animal which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done so from necessity, I assure you, and not from vanity."
Dans ces tournées, il était indulgent et doux, et prêchait moins qu’il ne causait. Il n’allait jamais chercher bien loin ses raisonnements et ses modèles. Aux habitants d’un pays il citait l’exemple du pays voisin. Dans les cantons où l’on était dur pour les nécessiteux, il disait : — Voyez les gens de Briançon. Ils ont donné aux indigents, aux veuves et aux orphelins le droit de faire faucher leurs prairies trois jours avant tous les autres. Ils leur rebâtissent gratuitement leurs maisons quand elles sont en ruine. Aussi est-ce un pays béni de Dieu. Durant tout un siècle de cent ans, il n’y a pas eu un meurtrier. In the course of these trips he was kind and indulgent, and talked rather than preached. He never went far in search of his arguments and his examples. He quoted to the inhabitants of one district the example of a neighboring district. In the cantons where they were harsh to the poor, he said: "Look at the people of Briancon! They have conferred on the poor, on widows and orphans, the right to have their meadows mown three days in advance of every one else. They rebuild their houses for them gratuitously when they are ruined. Therefore it is a country which is blessed by God. For a whole century, there has not been a single murderer among them."
Dans les villages âpres au gain et à la moisson, il disait : — Voyez ceux d’Embrun. Si un père de famille, au temps de la récolte, a ses fils à l’armée et ses filles en service à la ville, et qu’il soit malade et empêché, le curé le recommande au prône ; et le dimanche, après la messe, tous les gens du village, hommes, femmes, enfants, vont dans le champ du pauvre homme lui faire sa moisson, et lui rapportent paille et grain dans son grenier. — Aux familles divisées par des questions d’argent et d’héritage, il disait : — Voyez les montagnards de Devolny, pays si sauvage qu’on n’y entend pas le rossignol une fois en cinquante ans. Eh bien, quand le père meurt dans une famille, les garçons s’en vont chercher fortune, et laissent le bien aux filles, afin qu’elles puissent trouver des maris. — Aux cantons qui ont le goût des procès et où les fermiers se ruinent en papier timbré, il disait : — Voyez ces bons paysans de la vallée de Queyras. Ils sont là trois mille âmes. Mon Dieu ! c’est comme une petite république. On n’y connaît ni le juge, ni l’huissier. Le maire fait tout. Il répartit l’impôt, taxe chacun en conscience, juge les querelles gratis, partage les patrimoines sans honoraires, rend des sentences sans frais ; et on lui obéit, parce que c’est un homme juste parmi des hommes simples. — Aux villages où il ne trouvait pas de maître d’école, il citait encore ceux de Queyras : — Savez-vous comment ils font ? disait-il. Comme un petit pays de douze ou quinze feux ne peut pas toujours nourrir un magister, ils ont des maîtres d’école payés par toute la vallée, qui parcourent les villages, passant huit jours dans celui-ci, dix dans celui-là, et enseignent. Ces magisters vont aux foires, où je les ai vus. On les reconnaît à des plumes à écrire qu’ils portent dans la ganse de leur chapeau. Ceux qui n’enseignent qu’à lire ont une plume, ceux qui enseignent la lecture et le calcul ont deux plumes ; ceux qui enseignent la lecture, le calcul et le latin ont trois plumes. Ceux-là sont de grands savants. Mais quelle honte d’être ignorants ! Faites comme les gens de Queyras. In villages which were greedy for profit and harvest, he said: "Look at the people of Embrun! If, at the harvest season, the father of a family has his son away on service in the army, and his daughters at service in the town, and if he is ill and incapacitated, the cure recommends him to the prayers of the congregation; and on Sunday, after the mass, all the inhabitants of the village--men, women, and children--go to the poor man's field and do his harvesting for him, and carry his straw and his grain to his granary." To families divided by questions of money and inheritance he said: "Look at the mountaineers of Devoluy, a country so wild that the nightingale is not heard there once in fifty years. Well, when the father of a family dies, the boys go off to seek their fortunes, leaving the property to the girls, so that they may find husbands." To the cantons which had a taste for lawsuits, and where the farmers ruined themselves in stamped paper, he said: "Look at those good peasants in the valley of Queyras! There are three thousand souls of them. Mon Dieu! it is like a little republic. Neither judge nor bailiff is known there. The mayor does everything. He allots the imposts, taxes each person conscientiously, judges quarrels for nothing, divides inheritances without charge, pronounces sentences gratuitously; and he is obeyed, because he is a just man among simple men." To villages where he found no schoolmaster, he quoted once more the people of Queyras: "Do you know how they manage?" he said. "Since a little country of a dozen or fifteen hearths cannot always support a teacher, they have school-masters who are paid by the whole valley, who make the round of the villages, spending a week in this one, ten days in that, and instruct them. These teachers go to the fairs. I have seen them there. They are to be recognized by the quill pens which they wear in the cord of their hat. Those who teach reading only have one pen; those who teach reading and reckoning have two pens; those who teach reading, reckoning, and Latin have three pens. But what a disgrace to be ignorant! Do like the people of Queyras!"
Il parlait ainsi gravement et paternellement ; à défaut d’exemples inventant des paraboles, allant droit au but, avec peu de phrases et beaucoup d’images, ce qui était l’éloquence même de Jésus-Christ, convaincu et persuadant. Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

Chapter III: A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop [Commentary]

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Discussion

The content of this wiki article is originally based on augustin's blog Les Misérables [1.1-III] A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop. If you wish to discuss the content and the analysis of this chapter, feel free to either post a comment on augustin's blog entry, or create your own blog entry.

The commentary below may have since been edited, augmented and improved by members of this community.

Commentary

In this chapter, we see Myriel using parables to preach around his diocese. Starting from that, we shall investigate the true nature of the whole novel. We'll also witness its potency to enable spiritual growth.

Biblical comparisons

Making any kind of Biblical analogy with Les Misérables, wouldn't by any means be original. One way or another, comparisons between the novel and its teaching with that of the Gospels have often been made. So strong is Hugo's message that a Christian movie goer who saw the 2012 musical film Les Misérables (but presumably didn't read the novel), published on the web site "Think Christian" a review of the movie entitled: "The New Testament parable that is Les Miserables".

If there is a doubt in anyone's mind that the comparison between the novel and the Bible was intended by Victor Hugo, let that person consider the very explicit Bible references in the current chapter, as he describes Myriel:

[Fr.] [En.]
Il parlait ainsi gravement et paternellement ; à défaut d’exemples inventant des paraboles, allant droit au but, avec peu de phrases et beaucoup d’images, ce qui était l’éloquence même de Jésus-Christ, convaincu et persuadant. Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

The whole chapter is a direct analogy between M. Myriel and Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus uses parables while he preaches. The Bible records forty-six of them. And in this chapter, we witness Myriel using his own parables while talking ("He was kind and indulgent, and talked rather than preached. ") to his flocks throughout the diocese.

Jesus is, in the Bible, the Christ than any good Christian must follow. Victor Hugo constructed the character of Myriel in order to personify the author's vision of an ideal self which can serve as a shining example for us to emulate. Myriel is setting the standard, a very high one, for the whole novel. Now, we can start to appreciate why the author changed the order from his earlier drafts and placed first the book dedicated to Bienvenu Myriel. The humble priest is the standard by which the actions of all the other characters in the novel will be judged.

Monsieur le maire, dit l’évêque, et messieurs les bourgeois, je vois ce qui vous scandalise ; vous trouvez que c’est bien de l’orgueil à un pauvre prêtre de monter une monture qui était celle de Jésus-Christ. Je l’ai fait par nécessité, je vous assure, et non par vanité. "Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop, "and Messieurs Citizens, I perceive that I shock you. You think it very arrogant in a poor priest to ride an animal which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done so from necessity, I assure you, and not from vanity."

The reference in the above quote should be obvious to most people. However, we cannot assume that the (present and future) readers of these commentaries have a Christian background and know the New Testament stories. The Gospels of Matthrew, chapter 21 and Mark, chapter 10 describe Jesus's glorious, king-like entry into Jerusalem while he is mounted on an ass, as he is welcomed by people laying palm tree branches to pave His way, in what is now known as Palm Sunday.

Myriel being reduced to ride an ass in order to go about his rounds is a direct consequence of the events described in the previous chapter. His tithing, the fact that he distributed to the poor all the money given to him for travelling expenses, has rendered Myriel even more Christ-like: we see here a very literal illustration of this!

An important difference between Jesus and Myriel, though, is that, unlike the Christ, Myriel is not a God-like figure descended from Heaven. The little bishop is very human and is not completely flawless. He has a past somewhat shrouded in the mist of History. And even in 1815, at the time when the story starts, Myriel has not yet achieved his own highest human potential for perfection. The character has not yet finished evolving, as we shall see in chapter X of this book as well as in Book 2. The fact that Myriel is a mere human is even more inspiring. Indeed, how can any human be required to become as good as God himself? However, what a human being can do, any other human being can potentially also emulate.

A living example

We discussed the following in the previous chapter:

Judging politicians by their speeches is the equivalent of judging cars by their salesmen.

Judging priests and pastors by their sermons is the equivalent of judging the quality of sub-prime derivatives by the ratings given by the major US credit rating agencies!

And again in this chapter:

convaincu et persuadant And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.

Among preachers and orators of all kinds, we can differentiate four types:

Cunning: we are all too familiar with this type of politicians and sales people. They will try to promote and sell products, ideas or candidates using argumentations that they know not to be true or at least a sufficiently distorted version of reality in order to make it palatable to a gullible public. We live in a society where lying has been elevated to an art form. The lying is so constant that it has stopped being shocking and is now often being accepted, especially in commercial advertising.

Interested: those are the sales people and the motivational speakers who may very well believe in the vaunted qualities of their products and ideas but who also have to directly gain from their public also believing the same, in terms of product sales, book sales, or votes gained.

Hypocritical: also known as the people who say: "Don't do as I do but do as I say!". They are good-natured, well-intentioned people who are unable to live the message that they preach but who expect other people to ("for their own good" or "for the good of the society"). They have nothing to gain from you but they basically want you to change the world for them, by doing things that they themselves cannot do.

Inspiring: those are the people who intimately believe in what they say and actually live according to their beliefs. They are living examples, truly inspiring role models that we can look up to.

In life, it helps to remain aware of which category the people we meet and listen to belong to, whether we see them on our TV screens or at our kitchen tables.

There is no doubt as to which category Myriel belongs to.

[Edit: the Sincerity Index now includes 6 types. The four above ones with the addition of "mistaken" and "knowledgeable".

The hard part

The title of the chapter mentions a "hard bishopric", although by reading the chapter it may not be immediately clear what is hard about it. Travelling so much around the diocese after having surrendered the means to pay for a convenient mode of transportation certainly requires some efforts. Humbly facing the snickering from local bourgeois necessitates a lot of character as well.

But finding the right words, the right examples, the right parables must be the hardest. Facing stubbornly selfish people, it may require a lot of patience to deliver a message of brotherly love and mutual support. Where one would tend to feel frustrated, Myriel shows a lot of patience and understanding.

In order to understand the greatness of Myriel in the way he preaches to people, one has to transpose his situation into our modern world. Myriel knows the Good News of the Gospels and especially the practical applications into the society of his time. We, modern progressives, also "know" about our need to collaborate in order to create a more humane society, a sustainable economy, just taxes, affordable health care, etc. But how effective are we when we approach a Fox-News-fed Tea Party advocate? Are we, like Myriel, able to find the right words and remain calm and patient when facing aggressive comebacks?

How often do we get frustrated when dealing with people who still believe that Obama is a covert Muslim, that he was not born in the USA, that global warming is a man-made myth, that it makes sense for ordinary citizens to own semi-automatic assault weapons, that people in other countries are all against the US, etc....?

How can we emulate Myriel and find the right parables to gently, progressively bring such people into a more fact-based understanding of the situation our society is in?

That is the hard part!

If we can transpose our current struggle in the sphere of political and social discourse back into Myriel's times, who must have been facing similar difficulties, then we may understand both how great a soul Myriel's was, and how timeless the notions that Hugo writes about are.

Biblical terminology

So, what is the novel "Les Misérables"? Is it a Gospel? A Bible? A Testament?

One has to go back to the etymological meanings of these worlds.

A Gospel etymologically means the "Good News" that is present in each one of the four Gospels of the New Testament, which is the news of the redemption of our sins through the life and death of Jesus. What is the good news within Hugo's novel? It's a little early to discuss this: we will revisit this question when we get closer to the end of the novel.

A Testament can be understood as in New Testament, the collection of Gospels, which leads us back to the previous definition. A testament is a testimony, the author's testimony of the misery of his time. It can also be a Will, as if Hugo had left us written instruction in the form of a novel on how to create a less miserable society. It can more simply mean "a credo, an expression of conviction", that of the author, of course, although the readers where specifically invited by the author to make it theirs.

A Bible, a holy book serving as a reference for human behaviour, especially with regard to human spirituality.

It may turn out that, according to the reader's interpretation, it can be any and all of those things.

What these three terms have in common is that they represent written works that do not aim to entertain the readers but to educate and awaken them to a certain reality, may it be a personal and psychological reality, a human and social reality, or, ultimately, a divine and spiritual reality.

They are works to be studied and meditated upon in order to gain a deep understanding of their embedded messages. Having understood them, they help us to grow, humanely and spiritually.

Victor Hugo made in plain, both in his preface as well as in his letter to Daelli, his Italian publisher, that he wrote Les Misérables in that spirit. This series of commentaries aim to provide a 21st century echo to that very same spirit.

Layered parables

As we try to analyse the deeper meaning of Myriel's going about the diocese telling parables suitable for his time, we may notice at least four distinct levels of parables, embedded one within the other, just like Russian Dolls are.

At the lowest level, we have the Biblical parables of Jesus, the stories that Jesus told his followers in Galilee about 2,000 years ago.

Myriel is at the second level. He follows the example of Christ and tells his own parables, suitable for his early 19th century French flock of parishioners.

Then we have Victor Hugo who wrote his own 2,000 page long parable, the one presently being discussed, and offered it to France and to the world in late 19th century. It was Hugo's way to preach to the readers and to his contemporaries. His parable obviously includes the previous two levels, with Myriel's story and the Biblical references.

One step above, is the current attempt at transposing the story from 19th century France to our 21st century global society. We are still very early in the project (chapter 3 of 366!) and it remains to be seen how (un)successful and (un)inspiring this project will ultimately prove to be.

To the four preceding layers, we can add a fifth one: that of the readers of the present commentaries, who may have similar, different or complementary interpretations of the novel. They (i.e. you!) may make their own the most interesting and inspiring parts of the novel and of the commentary and apply what can be applied into their daily lives.

Obviously, these commentaries represent the understanding and the interpretation of the present writer (i.e. augustin, yours truly). But we must insist that it is perfectly acceptable to have complementary or differing interpretations. Make whatever inspires you your own and use your own words to tell that parable to the people around you.

Internalising the parable

It is easy to mistake the story for the Truth that it points to. The parable is only a story; it is something out there. We can simply allow ourselves to be entertained by the story, or we can become conscious of its manifestations in the world around us. Best of all, we can get into the innermost, most spiritual levels of the parable and uncover its inner manifestations, within our own hearts.

The 2004 US presidential campaign offered us a prime example of the fundamental difference it makes to properly internalise the deepest spiritual message of the Gospels.

McCain and Obama, the two main presidential candidates (third party candidates were not invited!) both appeared in front of pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church. Warren asked both candidates the same question:

[Rick Warren]: Does evil exist? And if it does, do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?

The two candidates, both self-proclaimed Christians, replied that they believed in evil.

However, their respecting depictions of evil and their proposed way to deal with it were in very stark contrast:

[McCain]: Defeat it! [applause].

A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get bin Laden and bring him to justice. I will do that. And I know how to do that. I will get that done. [applause]. No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course, evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcended challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism.

Not long ago in Baghdad, Al Qaida took two young women who were mentally disabled, and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden is the battle, is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq and we are winning and succeeding and our troops will come home with honor and with victory and not in defeat. And that's what's happening.

And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us Al Qaida continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America. My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge. And we must totally defeat it, and we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around, the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, I have no doubt, none.

McCain's message is clear. Evil is out there. Not only it's out there, but it's outside of the US borders, plotting in some foreign country against US interests. In his reply, McCain displays a "me-vs-them" mentality: "We are the Good Guys; they are the Bad ones".

Contrast this with Obama much more nuanced approach:

[Obama]: Evil does exist. I mean, I think we see evil all the time. We see evil in Darfur. We see evil, sadly, on the streets of our cities. We see evil in parents who viciously abuse their children. I think it has to be confronted. It has to be confronted squarely, and one of the things that I strongly believe is that, now, we are not going to, as individuals, be able to erase evil from the world. That is God's task, but we can be soldiers in that process, and we can confront it when we see it.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil's been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.

[Rick Warren]: In the name of good.

[Obama]: In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that's very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn't always mean that we're going to be doing good. `

While McCain clearly pointed out there - way out there -, Obama equally clearly has the humility to also look within, both within the US borders and within one's own heart. He points at the seed of evil that is within each and every single one of us. Instead of McCain's aggressive "me-vs-them" approach, Obama offered a more conciliatory perspective: "Nobody is perfect; We are all in this together."

What was deeply disturbing was the reaction of the Christian audience at Saddleback Church. They received Obama's answer with a polite silence but they cheered and enthusiastically applauded McCain's martial rhetoric!

Clearly, as we make progress in our study of Les Misérables, we need to remember this. Let's not go on a crusade and go about crucifying the Thénardiers and the Javerts out there. Let's look within and notice all the apparently insignificant occurrences when we are them!

In the novel, like in all parables, the different characters, the Good Ones and the Bad Ones, are all externalised. We can point at them and name them. It's done this way on purpose: it's easier for us to understand the message. However, the real message is to make us aware of both our tendencies for bad and our potential for good within us. If we understand the deepest meaning of the novel, then, together or individually, we shall be able to grow into better human beings.

The embedded parables in the novel, and the fact that it can help us grow into better men is what makes of Les Misérables a truly Gospel-like, Biblical work.

Myriel, the American Southern Baptist minister

To conclude the study of this chapter, we cannot think of anything better that the following comment by Laurel in CA:

My grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister, and Les Miserables was his favorite book, after the Bible. He said he reread it every year and never failed to learn something new. He gave me a copy when I was about 10 years old. I don't reread it every year, but about every 10 years, in his memory.

My grandfather defied every stereotype you might have of a Baptist minister, just as M. Myriel defied the stereotype of a bishop. He fed the hungry - at his back steps, during the Depression. He helped the poor and sick. And he visited prisoners. Until he died, at 93 years old, he took the bus every weekday to downtown Dallas, where he had a tiny office in the courthouse, and he visited people in jail and cared for them and their families.

My grandfather believed in integration, and in evolution. (Imagine him preaching on visiting ministries in Oklahoma and Arkansas in the 1920's - saved from tarring and feathering only by being a legally blind Baptist minister!) My mother always says he was the best-read man she ever knew. But his very favorite reading, for Hugo's wide and compassionate view of history and humanity, was this book.

This is very beautifully put, and truly inspiring. It is the perfect example to illustrate everything we have been discussing above, and the proof that Les Misérables deserves its Biblical epithets.

Here is a minister who elevated a mere novel to a rank just below that of the Bible. He approached Hugo's masterpiece with an apparent reverence, eager not to be entertained by it but to learn from it.

As we shall see in the study of the next chapter, Hugo was extremely concerned with the notion of Justice (both human justice and Divine Justice). Besides looking at Justice from Myriel's point of view, we also have an ex-convict playing the main role; a most dramatic court-room scene as well as an over-zealous police officer.

It is then not surprising to see this minister regularly visiting the courthouse and jail cells, among his other regular charitable activities. He used Hugo's novel the way it was intended: as a study book, to learn, to be inspired and to grow. Grow as a human, and grow spiritually.

Personal meditation

Les Misérables is not a book to read.

Les Misérables is a book to meditate.

I (augustin) am going to drop the Majestic plural (a.k.a. the editorial "we") for a while and share with you something about my work flow for this series of commentaries.

This whole project consumes a lot of my time, many, many hours every week. My commentary may be something you read more or less quickly, with a more or less undivided attention. (either way is fine by me! :)), but each chapter permeates my thoughts throughout the week. I carry Hugo's text in my heart while I ponder what the core, underlying message is, the message that the author had in mind.

There are some chapters, many of them in book 1, that have stuck in my mind ever since my very first reading and I have known all along what I want to say about them. For most chapters, though, I don't know yet what I can write, what there is to analyse. Two weeks ago, I didn't know yet what I would write about this chapter (1.1.III). The main ideas are obvious and emerged very quickly. Other tangential thoughts emerged progressively.

Throughout the process, I keep wondering: What is M. Myriel's point of view? What is it that Hugo truly wanted to say?, etc.

Besides the numerous hours spent composing and laying out these blog entries, I spend a lot of my time simply thinking about it all, as I walk from and to work, as I lay in bed at night and as I wake up in the morning. As I said, the novel pretty much stays with me the whole week.

If I can keep up with this ambitious project, it cannot fail to have a profound effect. I don't know about my readers, but at the very least, it cannot fail to have an effect on me. That, alone, make it worth all the time invested in it. However, I have the very bad habit of starting many things and not completing any, so it remains to be seen if I will be able to keep it up for the next weeks, months and years! I need your encouragements! :)

I must say, though, that I have had in the back of my mind something similar to this project for many, many years. For a long time I have been wanting to associate "Les Misérables" with "21st century". I don't fully recall but it is even possible that the first thoughts about it germinated before the Millennium. I was more thinking about it in terms of a novel of my own. But I knew it would be a very difficult task, one I felt I didn't have the talent for. Probably something I would attempt when I would retire. Later, as wikis became more and more popular, I did think of it as a collective wiki-based project. However, it is only very, very recently that the present format (a weekly chapter by chapter commentary) came to me. It started late January when a friend mentioned the 2012 musical movie. I went to see it; loved it; and it revived my earlier passion about the book. I retained the wiki aspect and added a personal weekly commentary. I was hoping that one chapter a week wouldn't take too much of my time. So far, I have been wrong about that!

Anyway, the point of all this is that, given the intimacy with which I approach the text, Hugo's vision will not fail to change me. Also, more importantly, and more difficultly for me, is that I do not want to be one of the hypocrites that I discussed above. I do my best to retain some humility in sharing some thoughts, letting you do what you want with them, if anything. Instead, I try to focus on all the tiny details that need to change in my life so that I can become the man that I, myself, would like to become.

Other novels

Les Misérables is truly a masterpiece of world literature but it's not the only one. Speaking of novels that are not only entertaining but that can also be studied like a Bible may be, what other similar novels are there out there?

This is a conversation that has already started in the background, in the comment section of this series. We already have a wiki page set up for this: If you liked "Les Misérables", you might also like... So far, two other novels have already emerged, proposed by other members of this project. One is Tol'stoi's "War and Peace", the other is Melville's "Moby Dick".

Feel free to discuss either as well as any similar book either in the comments section or in a blog entry of its own, posted in this group. You can share with us you thoughts about those other novels, possibly drawing comparisons with Les Misérables.

So, what other novels are there that offer similar opportunities for growth...?

External resources

Related wikipedia articles:

Other resources:

Chapter IV: Works corresponding to Words

This is a collectively editable wiki page. Be bold and improve it by adding any relevant information you may have.

[Fr.] Les œuvres semblables aux paroles [En.] Works corresponding to Words
Sa conversation était affable et gaie. Il se mettait à la portée des deux vieilles femmes qui passaient leur vie près de lui ; quand il riait, c’était le rire d’un écolier. His conversation was gay and affable. He put himself on a level with the two old women who had passed their lives beside him. When he laughed, it was the laugh of a schoolboy.
Madame Magloire l’appelait volontiers Votre Grandeur. Un jour il se leva de son fauteuil et alla à sa bibliothèque chercher un livre. Ce livre était sur un des rayons d’en haut. Comme l’évêque était d’assez petite taille, il ne put y atteindre. Madame Magloire, dit-il, apportez-moi une chaise. Ma Grandeur ne va pas jusqu’à cette planche. Madame Magloire liked to call him Your Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day he rose from his arm-chair, and went to his library in search of a book. This book was on one of the upper shelves. As the bishop was rather short of stature, he could not reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he, "fetch me a chair. My greatness [grandeur] does not reach as far as that shelf."
Une de ses parentes éloignées, madame la comtesse de Lô, laissait rarement échapper une occasion d’énumérer en sa présence ce qu’elle appelait « les espérances » de ses trois fils. Elle avait plusieurs ascendants fort vieux et proches de la mort dont ses fils étaient naturellement les héritiers. Le plus jeune des trois avait à recueillir d’une grand’tante cent bonnes mille livres de rentes ; le deuxième était substitué au titre de duc de son oncle ; l’aîné devait succéder à la pairie de son aïeul. L’évêque écoutait habituellement en silence ces innocents et pardonnables étalages maternels. Une fois pourtant, il paraissait plus rêveur que de coutume, tandis que madame de Lô renouvelait le détail de toutes ces successions et de toutes ces « espérances ». Elle s’interrompit avec quelque impatience : — Mon Dieu, mon cousin ! mais à quoi songez-vous donc ? — Je songe, dit l’évêque, à quelque chose de singulier qui est, je crois, dans saint Augustin : « Mettez votre espérance dans celui auquel on ne succède point. » One of his distant relatives, Madame la Comtesse de Lo, rarely allowed an opportunity to escape of enumerating, in his presence, what she designated as "the expectations" of her three sons. She had numerous relatives, who were very old and near to death, and of whom her sons were the natural heirs. The youngest of the three was to receive from a grand-aunt a good hundred thousand livres of income; the second was the heir by entail to the title of the Duke, his uncle; the eldest was to succeed to the peerage of his grandfather. The Bishop was accustomed to listen in silence to these innocent and pardonable maternal boasts. On one occasion, however, he appeared to be more thoughtful than usual, while Madame de Lo was relating once again the details of all these inheritances and all these "expectations." She interrupted herself impatiently: "Mon Dieu, cousin! What are you thinking about?" "I am thinking," replied the Bishop, "of a singular remark, which is to be found, I believe, in St. Augustine,--`Place your hopes in the man from whom you do not inherit.'"
Une autre fois, recevant une lettre de faire part du décès d’un gentilhomme du pays, où s’étalaient en une longue page, outre les dignités du défunt, toutes les qualifications féodales et nobiliaires de tous ses parents : — Quel bon dos a la mort ! s’écria-t-il. Quelle admirable charge de titres on lui fait allègrement porter, et comme il faut que les hommes aient de l’esprit pour employer ainsi la tombe à la vanité ! At another time, on receiving a notification of the decease of a gentleman of the country-side, wherein not only the dignities of the dead man, but also the feudal and noble qualifications of all his relatives, spread over an entire page: "What a stout back Death has!" he exclaimed. "What a strange burden of titles is cheerfully imposed on him, and how much wit must men have, in order thus to press the tomb into the service of vanity!"
Il avait dans l’occasion une raillerie douce qui contenait presque toujours un sens sérieux. Pendant un carême, un jeune vicaire vint à Digne et prêcha dans la cathédrale. Il fut assez éloquent. Le sujet de son sermon était la charité. Il invita les riches à donner aux indigents, afin d’éviter l’enfer, qu’il peignit le plus effroyable qu’il put, et de gagner le paradis, qu’il fit désirable et charmant. Il y avait dans l’auditoire un riche marchand retiré, un peu usurier, nommé M. Géborand, lequel avait gagné deux millions à fabriquer de gros draps, des serges, des cadis et des gasquets. De sa vie M. Géborand n’avait fait l’aumône à un malheureux. À partir de ce sermon, on remarqua qu’il donnait tous les dimanches un sou aux vieilles mendiantes du portail de la cathédrale. Elles étaient six à se partager cela. Un jour, l’évêque le vit faisant sa charité et dit à sa sœur avec un sourire : — Voilà monsieur Géborand qui achète pour un sou de paradis. He was gifted, on occasion, with a gentle raillery, which almost always concealed a serious meaning. In the course of one Lent, a youthful vicar came to Digne, and preached in the cathedral. He was tolerably eloquent. The subject of his sermon was charity. He urged the rich to give to the poor, in order to avoid hell, which he depicted in the most frightful manner of which he was capable, and to win paradise, which he represented as charming and desirable. Among the audience there was a wealthy retired merchant, who was somewhat of a usurer, named M. Geborand, who had amassed two millions in the manufacture of coarse cloth, serges, and woollen galloons. Never in his whole life had M. Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch. After the delivery of that sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou every Sunday to the poor old beggar-women at the door of the cathedral. There were six of them to share it. One day the Bishop caught sight of him in the act of bestowing this charity, and said to his sister, with a smile, "There is M. Geborand purchasing paradise for a sou."
Quand il s’agissait de charité, il ne se rebutait pas même devant un refus, et il trouvait alors des mots qui faisaient réfléchir. Une fois, il quêtait pour les pauvres dans un salon de la ville ; il y avait là le marquis de Champtercier, vieux, riche, avare, lequel trouvait moyen d’être tout ensemble ultra-royaliste et ultra-voltairien. Cette variété a existé. L’évêque, arrivé à lui, lui toucha le bras : — Monsieur le marquis, il faut que vous me donniez quelque chose. Le marquis se retourna, et répondit sèchement : — Monseigneur, j’ai mes pauvres.Donnez-les-moi, dit l’évêque. When it was a question of charity, he was not to be rebuffed even by a refusal, and on such occasions he gave utterance to remarks which induced reflection. Once he was begging for the poor in a drawing-room of the town; there was present the Marquis de Champtercier, a wealthy and avaricious old man, who contrived to be, at one and the same time, an ultra-royalist and an ultra-Voltairian. This variety of man has actually existed. When the Bishop came to him, he touched his arm, "You must give me something, M. le Marquis." The Marquis turned round and answered dryly, "I have poor people of my own, Monseigneur." "Give them to me," replied the Bishop.
Un jour, dans la cathédrale, il fit ce sermon : One day he preached the following sermon in the cathedral:--
« Mes très chers frères, mes bons amis, il y a en France treize cent vingt mille maisons de paysans qui n’ont que trois ouvertures, dix-huit cent dix-sept mille qui ont deux ouvertures, la porte et une fenêtre, et enfin trois cent quarante mille cabanes qui n’ont qu’une ouverture, la porte. Et cela, à cause d’une chose qu’on appelle l’impôt des portes et fenêtres. Mettez-moi de pauvres familles, des vieilles femmes, des petits enfants, dans ces logis-là, et voyez les fièvres et les maladies ! Hélas ! Dieu donne l’air aux hommes, la loi le leur vend. Je n’accuse pas la loi, mais je bénis Dieu. Dans l’Isère, dans le Var, dans les deux Alpes, les hautes et les basses, les paysans n’ont pas même de brouettes, ils transportent les engrais à dos d’hommes ; ils n’ont pas de chandelles, et ils brûlent des bâtons résineux et des bouts de corde trempés dans la poix résine. C’est comme cela dans tout le pays haut du Dauphiné. Ils font le pain pour six mois, ils le font cuire avec de la bouse de vache séchée. L’hiver, ils cassent ce pain à coups de hache et ils le font tremper dans l’eau vingt-quatre heures pour pouvoir le manger. — Mes frères, ayez pitié ! voyez comme on souffre autour de vous. » "My very dear brethren, my good friends, there are thirteen hundred and twenty thousand peasants' dwellings in France which have but three openings; eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand hovels which have but two openings, the door and one window; and three hundred and forty-six thousand cabins besides which have but one opening, the door. And this arises from a thing which is called the tax on doors and windows. Just put poor families, old women and little children, in those buildings, and behold the fevers and maladies which result! Alas! God gives air to men; the law sells it to them. I do not blame the law, but I bless God. In the department of the Isere, in the Var, in the two departments of the Alpes, the Hautes, and the Basses, the peasants have not even wheelbarrows; they transport their manure on the backs of men; they have no candles, and they burn resinous sticks, and bits of rope dipped in pitch. That is the state of affairs throughout the whole of the hilly country of Dauphine. They make bread for six months at one time; they bake it with dried cow-dung. In the winter they break this bread up with an axe, and they soak it for twenty-four hours, in order to render it eatable. My brethren, have pity! behold the suffering on all sides of you!"
Né provençal, il s’était facilement familiarisé avec tous les patois du midi. Il disait : — Eh bé ! moussu, sès sagé ? comme dans le bas Languedoc. — Onté anaras passa ? comme dans les basses Alpes. — Puerte un bouen moutou embe un bouen froumage grase, comme dans le haut Dauphiné. Ceci plaisait beaucoup au peuple et n’avait pas peu contribué à lui donner accès près de tous les esprits. Il était dans la chaumière et dans la montagne comme chez lui. Il savait dire les choses les plus grandes dans les idiomes les plus vulgaires. Parlant toutes les langues, il entrait dans toutes les âmes. Born a Provencal, he easily familiarized himself with the dialect of the south. He said, "En be! moussu, ses sage?" as in lower Languedoc; "Onte anaras passa?" as in the Basses-Alpes; "Puerte un bouen moutu embe un bouen fromage grase," as in upper Dauphine. This pleased the people extremely, and contributed not a little to win him access to all spirits. He was perfectly at home in the thatched cottage and in the mountains. He understood how to say the grandest things in the most vulgar of idioms. As he spoke all tongues, he entered into all hearts.
Du reste, il était le même pour les gens du monde et pour les gens du peuple. Moreover, he was the same towards people of the world and towards the lower classes.
Il ne condamnait rien hâtivement, et sans tenir compte des circonstances. Il disait : Voyons le chemin par où la faute a passé. He condemned nothing in haste and without taking circumstances into account. He said, "Examine the road over which the fault has passed."
Étant, comme il se qualifiait lui-même en souriant, un ex-pécheur, il n’avait aucun des escarpements du rigorisme, et il professait assez haut, et sans le froncement de sourcil des vertueux féroces, une doctrine qu’on pourrait résumer à peu près ainsi : Being, as he described himself with a smile, an ex-sinner, he had none of the asperities of austerity, and he professed, with a good deal of distinctness, and without the frown of the ferociously virtuous, a doctrine which may be summed up as follows:--
« L’homme a sur lui la chair, qui est tout à la fois son fardeau et sa tentation. Il la traîne et lui cède. "Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden and his temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it.
« Il doit la surveiller, la contenir, la réprimer, et ne lui obéir qu’à la dernière extrémité. Dans cette obéissance-là, il peut encore y avoir de la faute ; mais la faute, ainsi faite, est vénielle. C’est une chute, mais une chute sur les genoux, qui peut s’achever en prière. He must watch it, cheek it, repress it, and obey it only at the last extremity. There may be some fault even in this obedience; but the fault thus committed is venial; it is a fall, but a fall on the knees which may terminate in prayer.
« Être un saint, c’est l’exception ; être un juste, c’est la règle. Errez, défaillez, péchez, mais soyez des justes. "To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule. Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright.
« Le moins de péché possible, c’est la loi de l’homme. Pas de péché du tout est le rêve de l’ange. Tout ce qui est terrestre est soumis au péché. Le péché est une gravitation. » "The least possible sin is the law of man. No sin at all is the dream of the angel. All which is terrestrial is subject to sin. Sin is a gravitation."
Quand il voyait tout le monde crier bien fort et s’indigner bien vite : — « Oh ! oh ! disait-il en souriant, il y a apparence que ceci est un gros crime que tout le monde commet. Voilà les hypocrisies effarées qui se dépêchent de protester et de se mettre à couvert. » When he saw everyone exclaiming very loudly, and growing angry very quickly, "Oh! oh!" he said, with a smile; "to all appearance, this is a great crime which all the world commits. These are hypocrisies which have taken fright, and are in haste to make protest and to put themselves under shelter."
Il était indulgent pour les femmes et les pauvres sur qui pèse le poids de la société humaine. Il disait : — Les fautes des femmes, des enfants, des serviteurs, des faibles, des indigents et des ignorants sont la faute des maris, des pères, des maîtres, des forts, des riches et des savants. He was indulgent towards women and poor people, on whom the burden of human society rest. He said, "The faults of women, of children, of the feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault of the husbands, the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich, and the wise."
Il disait encore : — À ceux qui ignorent, enseignez-leur le plus de choses que vous pourrez ; la société est coupable de ne pas donner l’instruction gratis : elle répond de la nuit qu’elle produit. Cette âme est pleine d’ombre, le péché s’y commet. Le coupable n’est pas celui qui fait le péché, mais celui qui fait l’ombre. He said, moreover, "Teach those who are ignorant as many things as possible; society is culpable, in that it does not afford instruction gratis; it is responsible for the night which it produces. This soul is full of shadow; sin is therein committed. The guilty one is not the person who has committed the sin, but the person who has created the shadow."
Comme on voit, il avait une manière étrange et à lui de juger les choses. Je soupçonne qu’il avait pris cela dans l’évangile. It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel.
Il entendit un jour conter dans un salon un procès criminel qu’on instruisait et qu’on allait juger. Un misérable homme, par amour pour une femme et pour l’enfant qu’il avait d’elle, à bout de ressources, avait fait de la fausse monnaie. La fausse monnaie était encore punie de mort à cette époque. La femme avait été arrêtée émettant la première pièce fausse fabriquée par l’homme. On la tenait, mais on n’avait de preuves que contre elle. Elle seule pouvait charger son amant et le perdre en avouant. Elle nia. On insista. Elle s’obstina à nier. Sur ce, le procureur du roi avait eu une idée. Il avait supposé une infidélité de l’amant, et était parvenu, avec des fragments de lettres savamment présentés, à persuader à la malheureuse qu’elle avait une rivale et que cet homme la trompait. Alors, exaspérée de jalousie, elle avait dénoncé son amant, tout avoué, tout prouvé. L’homme était perdu. Il allait être prochainement jugé à Aix avec sa complice. On racontait le fait, et chacun s’extasiait sur l’habileté du magistrat. En mettant la jalousie en jeu, il avait fait jaillir la vérité par la colère, il avait fait sortir la justice de la vengeance. L’évêque écoutait tout cela en silence. Quand ce fut fini, il demanda : One day he heard a criminal case, which was in preparation and on the point of trial, discussed in a drawing-room. A wretched man, being at the end of his resources, had coined counterfeit money, out of love for a woman, and for the child which he had had by her. Counterfeiting was still punishable with death at that epoch. The woman had been arrested in the act of passing the first false piece made by the man. She was held, but there were no proofs except against her. She alone could accuse her lover, and destroy him by her confession. She denied; they insisted. She persisted in her denial. Thereupon an idea occurred to the attorney for the crown. He invented an infidelity on the part of the lover, and succeeded, by means of fragments of letters cunningly presented, in persuading the unfortunate woman that she had a rival, and that the man was deceiving her. Thereupon, exasperated by jealousy, she denounced her lover, confessed all, proved all. The man was ruined. He was shortly to be tried at Aix with his accomplice. They were relating the matter, and each one was expressing enthusiasm over the cleverness of the magistrate. By bringing jealousy into play, he had caused the truth to burst forth in wrath, he had educed the justice of revenge. The Bishop listened to all this in silence. When they had finished, he inquired,--
— Où jugera-t-on cet homme et cette femme ? "Where are this man and woman to be tried?"
— À la cour d’assises. "At the Court of Assizes."
Il reprit : — Et où jugera-t-on monsieur le procureur du roi ? He went on, "And where will the advocate of the crown be tried?"
Il arriva à Digne une aventure tragique. Un homme fut condamné à mort pour meurtre. C’était un malheureux pas tout à fait lettré, pas tout à fait ignorant, qui avait été bateleur dans les foires et écrivain public. Le procès occupa beaucoup la ville. La veille du jour fixé pour l’exécution du condamné, l’aumônier de la prison tomba malade. Il fallait un prêtre pour assister le patient à ses derniers moments. On alla chercher le curé. Il paraît qu’il refusa, en disant : Cela ne me regarde pas. Je n’ai que faire de cette corvée et de ce saltimbanque ; moi aussi je suis malade ; d’ailleurs ce n’est pas là ma place. On rapporta cette réponse à l’évêque qui dit : — Monsieur le curé a raison. Ce n’est pas sa place, c’est la mienne. A tragic event occurred at D---- A man was condemned to death for murder. He was a wretched fellow, not exactly educated, not exactly ignorant, who had been a mountebank at fairs, and a writer for the public. The town took a great interest in the trial. On the eve of the day fixed for the execution of the condemned man, the chaplain of the prison fell ill. A priest was needed to attend the criminal in his last moments. They sent for the cure. It seems that he refused to come, saying, "That is no affair of mine. I have nothing to do with that unpleasant task, and with that mountebank: I, too, am ill; and besides, it is not my place." This reply was reported to the Bishop, who said, "Monsieur le Cure is right: it is not his place; it is mine."
Il alla sur le champ à la prison, il descendit au cabanon du « saltimbanque » ; il l’appela par son nom, lui prit la main et lui parla. Il passa toute la journée auprès de lui, oubliant la nourriture et le sommeil, priant Dieu pour l’âme du condamné et priant le condamné pour la sienne propre. Il lui dit les meilleures vérités, qui sont les plus simples. Il fut père, frère, ami, évêque pour bénir seulement. Il lui enseigna tout, en le rassurant et en le consolant. Cet homme allait mourir désespéré. La mort était pour lui comme un abîme. Debout et frémissant sur ce seuil lugubre, il reculait avec horreur. Il n’était pas assez ignorant pour être absolument indifférent. Sa condamnation, secousse profonde, avait en quelque sorte rompu çà et là autour de lui cette cloison qui nous sépare du mystère des choses et que nous appelons la vie. Il regardait sans cesse au dehors de ce monde par ces brèches fatales, et ne voyait que des ténèbres. L’évêque lui fit voir une clarté. He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the "mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him. He passed the entire day with him, forgetful of food and sleep, praying to God for the soul of the condemned man, and praying the condemned man for his own. He told him the best truths, which are also the most simple. He was father, brother, friend; he was bishop only to bless. He taught him everything, encouraged and consoled him. The man was on the point of dying in despair. Death was an abyss to him. As he stood trembling on its mournful brink, he recoiled with horror. He was not sufficiently ignorant to be absolutely indifferent. His condemnation, which had been a profound shock, had, in a manner, broken through, here and there, that wall which separates us from the mystery of things, and which we call life. He gazed incessantly beyond this world through these fatal breaches, and beheld only darkness. The Bishop made him see light.
Le lendemain, quand on vint chercher le malheureux, l’évêque était là. Il le suivit et se montra aux yeux de la foule en camail violet et avec sa croix épiscopale au cou, côte à côte avec ce misérable lié de cordes. On the following day, when they came to fetch the unhappy wretch, the Bishop was still there. He followed him, and exhibited himself to the eyes of the crowd in his purple camail and with his episcopal cross upon his neck, side by side with the criminal bound with cords.
Il monta sur la charrette avec lui, il monta sur l’échafaud avec lui. Le patient, si morne et si accablé la veille, était rayonnant. Il sentait que son âme était réconciliée et il espérait Dieu. L’évêque l’embrassa, et, au moment où le couteau allait tomber, il lui dit : « — Celui que l’homme tue, Dieu le ressuscite ; celui que les frères chassent retrouve le Père. Priez, croyez, entrez dans la vie ! le Père est là. » Quand il redescendit de l’échafaud, il avait quelque chose dans son regard qui fit ranger le peuple. On ne savait ce qui était le plus admirable de sa pâleur ou de sa sérénité. En rentrant à cet humble logis, qu’il appelait en souriant son palais, il dit à sa sœur : Je viens d’officier pontificalement. He mounted the tumbril with him, he mounted the scaffold with him. The sufferer, who had been so gloomy and cast down on the preceding day, was radiant. He felt that his soul was reconciled, and he hoped in God. The Bishop embraced him, and at the moment when the knife was about to fall, he said to him: "God raises from the dead him whom man slays; he whom his brothers have rejected finds his Father once more. Pray, believe, enter into life: the Father is there." When he descended from the scaffold, there was something in his look which made the people draw aside to let him pass. They did not know which was most worthy of admiration, his pallor or his serenity. On his return to the humble dwelling, which he designated, with a smile, as his palace, he said to his sister, "I have just officiated pontifically."
Comme les choses les plus sublimes sont souvent aussi les moins comprises, il y eut dans la ville des gens qui dirent, en commentant cette conduite de l’évêque : C’est de l’affectation. Ceci ne fut du reste qu’un propos de salons. Le peuple, qui n’entend pas malice aux actions saintes, fut attendri et admira. Since the most sublime things are often those which are the least understood, there were people in the town who said, when commenting on this conduct of the Bishop, "It is affectation." This, however, was a remark which was confined to the drawing-rooms. The populace, which perceives no jest in holy deeds, was touched, and admired him.
Quant à l’évêque, avoir vu la guillotine fut pour lui un choc, et il fut longtemps à s’en remettre. As for the Bishop, it was a shock to him to have beheld the guillotine, and it was a long time before he recovered from it.
L’échafaud, en effet, quand il est là, dressé et debout, a quelque chose qui hallucine. On peut avoir une certaine indifférence sur la peine de mort, ne point se prononcer, dire oui et non, tant qu’on n’a pas vu de ses yeux une guillotine ; mais, si l’on en rencontre une, la secousse est violente, il faut se décider et prendre parti pour ou contre. Les uns admirent, comme de Maistre ; les autres exècrent, comme Beccaria. La guillotine est la concrétion de la loi ; elle se nomme vindicte ; elle n’est pas neutre, et ne vous permet pas de rester neutre. Qui l’aperçoit frissonne du plus mystérieux des frissons. Toutes les questions sociales dressent autour de ce couperet leur point d’interrogation. L’échafaud est vision. L’échafaud n’est pas une charpente, l’échafaud n’est pas une machine, l’échafaud n’est pas une mécanique inerte faite de bois, de fer et de cordes. Il semble que ce soit une sorte d’être qui a je ne sais quelle sombre initiative ; on dirait que cette charpente voit, que cette machine entend, que cette mécanique comprend, que ce bois, ce fer et ces cordes veulent. Dans la rêverie affreuse où sa présence jette l’âme, l’échafaud apparaît terrible et se mêlant de ce qu’il fait. L’échafaud est le complice du bourreau ; il dévore ; il mange de la chair, il boit du sang. L’échafaud est une sorte de monstre fabriqué par le juge et par le charpentier, un spectre qui semble vivre d’une espèce de vie épouvantable faite de toute la mort qu’il a donnée. In fact, when the scaffold is there, all erected and prepared, it has something about it which produces hallucination. One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty, one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no, so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes: but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent; one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against. Some admire it, like de Maistre; others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte; it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral. He who sees it shivers with the most mysterious of shivers. All social problems erect their interrogation point around this chopping-knife. The scaffold is a vision. The scaffold is not a piece of carpentry; the scaffold is not a machine; the scaffold is not an inert bit of mechanism constructed of wood, iron and cords. It seems as though it were a being, possessed of I know not what sombre initiative; one would say that this piece of carpenter's work saw, that this machine heard, that this mechanism understood, that this wood, this iron, and these cords were possessed of will. In the frightful meditation into which its presence casts the soul the scaffold appears in terrible guise, and as though taking part in what is going on. The scaffold is the accomplice of the executioner; it devours, it eats flesh, it drinks blood; the scaffold is a sort of monster fabricated by the judge and the carpenter, a spectre which seems to live with a horrible vitality composed of all the death which it has inflicted.
Aussi l’impression fut-elle horrible et profonde ; le lendemain de l’exécution et beaucoup de jours encore après, l’évêque parut accablé. La sérénité presque violente du moment funèbre avait disparu ; le fantôme de la justice sociale l’obsédait. Lui qui d’ordinaire revenait de toutes ses actions avec une satisfaction si rayonnante, il semblait qu’il se fît un reproche. Par moments, il se parlait à lui-même, et bégayait à demi-voix des monologues lugubres. En voici un que sa sœur entendit un soir et recueillit : — Je ne croyais pas que cela fût si monstrueux. C’est un tort de s’absorber dans la loi divine au point de ne plus s’apercevoir de la loi humaine. La mort n’appartient qu’à Dieu. De quel droit les hommes touchent-ils à cette chose inconnue ? Therefore, the impression was terrible and profound; on the day following the execution, and on many succeeding days, the Bishop appeared to be crushed. The almost violent serenity of the funereal moment had disappeared; the phantom of social justice tormented him. He, who generally returned from all his deeds with a radiant satisfaction, seemed to be reproaching himself. At times he talked to himself, and stammered lugubrious monologues in a low voice. This is one which his sister overheard one evening and preserved: "I did not think that it was so monstrous. It is wrong to become absorbed in the divine law to such a degree as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone. By what right do men touch that unknown thing?"
Avec le temps, ces impressions s’atténuèrent, et probablement s’effacèrent. Cependant on remarqua que l’évêque évitait désormais de passer sur la place des exécutions. In course of time these impressions weakened and probably vanished. Nevertheless, it was observed that the Bishop thenceforth avoided passing the place of execution.
On pouvait appeler M. Myriel à toute heure au chevet des malades et des mourants. Il n’ignorait pas que là était son plus grand devoir et son plus grand travail. Les familles veuves ou orphelines n’avaient pas besoin de le demander, il arrivait de lui-même. Il savait s’asseoir et se taire de longues heures auprès de l’homme qui avait perdu la femme qu’il aimait, de la mère qui avait perdu son enfant. Comme il savait le moment de se taire, il savait aussi le moment de parler. Ô admirable consolateur ! il ne cherchait pas à effacer la douleur par l’oubli, mais à l’agrandir et à la dignifier par l’espérance. Il disait : — « Prenez garde à la façon dont vous vous tournez vers les morts. Ne songez pas à ce qui pourrit. Regardez fixement. Vous apercevrez la lueur vivante de votre mort bien-aimé au fond du ciel. » Il savait que la croyance est saine. Il cherchait à conseiller et à calmer l’homme désespéré en lui indiquant du doigt l’homme résigné, et à transformer la douleur qui regarde une fosse en lui montrant la douleur qui regarde une étoile. M. Myriel could be summoned at any hour to the bedside of the sick and dying. He did not ignore the fact that therein lay his greatest duty and his greatest labor. Widowed and orphaned families had no need to summon him; he came of his own accord. He understood how to sit down and hold his peace for long hours beside the man who had lost the wife of his love, of the mother who had lost her child. As he knew the moment for silence he knew also the moment for speech. Oh, admirable consoler! He sought not to efface sorrow by forgetfulness, but to magnify and dignify it by hope. He said:-- "Have a care of the manner in which you turn towards the dead. Think not of that which perishes. Gaze steadily. You will perceive the living light of your well-beloved dead in the depths of heaven." He knew that faith is wholesome. He sought to counsel and calm the despairing man, by pointing out to him the resigned man, and to transform the grief which gazes upon a grave by showing him the grief which fixes its gaze upon a star.

Chapter IV: Works corresponding to Words [Commentary]

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Coming March 11th 2013.

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Chapter V: Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long

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[Fr.] Que monseigneur Bienvenu faisait durer trop longtemps ses soutanes [En.] Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long
La vie intérieure de M. Myriel était pleine des mêmes pensées que sa vie publique. Pour qui eût pu la voir de près, c’eût été un spectacle grave et charmant que cette pauvreté volontaire dans laquelle vivait M. l’évêque de Digne. The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts as his public life. The voluntary poverty in which the Bishop of D---- lived, would have been a solemn and charming sight for any one who could have viewed it close at hand.
Comme tous les vieillards et comme la plupart des penseurs, il dormait peu. Ce court sommeil était profond. Le matin, il se recueillait pendant une heure, puis il disait sa messe, soit à la cathédrale, soit dans sa maison. Sa messe dite, il déjeunait d’un pain de seigle trempé dans le lait de ses vaches. Puis il travaillait. Like all old men, and like the majority of thinkers, he slept little. This brief slumber was profound. In the morning he meditated for an hour, then he said his mass, either at the cathedral or in his own house. His mass said, he broke his fast on rye bread dipped in the milk of his own cows. Then he set to work.
Un évêque est un homme fort occupé ; il faut qu’il reçoive tous les jours le secrétaire de l’évêché, qui est d’ordinaire un chanoine, presque tous les jours ses grands-vicaires. Il a des congrégations à contrôler, des privilèges à donner, toute une librairie ecclésiastique à examiner, paroissiens, catéchismes diocésains, livres d’heures, etc., des mandements à écrire, des prédications à autoriser, des curés et des maires à mettre d’accord, une correspondance cléricale, une correspondance administrative, d’un côté l’état, de l’autre le saint-siège, mille affaires. A Bishop is a very busy man: he must every day receive the secretary of the bishopric, who is generally a canon, and nearly every day his vicars-general. He has congregations to reprove, privileges to grant, a whole ecclesiastical library to examine,-- prayer-books, diocesan catechisms, books of hours, etc.,--charges to write, sermons to authorize, cures and mayors to reconcile, a clerical correspondence, an administrative correspondence; on one side the State, on the other the Holy See; and a thousand matters of business.
Le temps que lui laissaient ces mille affaires, et ses offices, et son bréviaire, il le donnait d’abord aux nécessiteux, aux malades et aux affligés ; le temps que les affligés, les malades et les nécessiteux lui laissaient, il le donnait au travail. Tantôt il bêchait dans son jardin, tantôt il lisait et écrivait. Il n’avait qu’un mot pour ces deux sortes de travail : il appelait cela jardiner. « L’esprit est un jardin », disait-il. What time was left to him, after these thousand details of business, and his offices and his breviary, he bestowed first on the necessitous, the sick, and the afflicted; the time which was left to him from the afflicted, the sick, and the necessitous, he devoted to work. Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening. "The mind is a garden," said he.
Vers midi, quand le temps était beau, il sortait et se promenait à pied dans la campagne ou dans la ville, entrant souvent dans les masures. On le voyait cheminer seul, tout à ses pensées, l’œil baissé, appuyé sur sa longue canne, vêtu de sa douillette violette ouatée et bien chaude, chaussé de bas violets dans de gros souliers, et coiffé de son chapeau plat qui laissait passer par ses trois cornes trois glands d’or à graine d’épinards. Towards mid-day, when the weather was fine, he went forth and took a stroll in the country or in town, often entering lowly dwellings. He was seen walking alone, buried in his own thoughts, his eyes cast down, supporting himself on his long cane, clad in his wadded purple garment of silk, which was very warm, wearing purple stockings inside his coarse shoes, and surmounted by a flat hat which allowed three golden tassels of large bullion to droop from its three points.
C’était une fête partout où il paraissait. On eût dit que son passage avait quelque chose de réchauffant et de lumineux. Les enfants et les vieillards venaient sur le seuil des portes pour l’évêque comme pour le soleil. Il bénissait et on le bénissait. On montrait sa maison à quiconque avait besoin de quelque chose. It was a perfect festival wherever he appeared. One would have said that his presence had something warming and luminous about it. The children and the old people came out to the doorsteps for the Bishop as for the sun. He bestowed his blessing, and they blessed him. They pointed out his house to any one who was in need of anything.
Çà et là, il s’arrêtait, parlait aux petits garçons et aux petites filles et souriait aux mères. Il visitait les pauvres tant qu’il avait de l’argent ; quand il n’en avait plus, il visitait les riches. Here and there he halted, accosted the little boys and girls, and smiled upon the mothers. He visited the poor so long as he had any money; when he no longer had any, he visited the rich.
Comme il faisait durer ses soutanes beaucoup de temps, et qu’il ne voulait pas qu’on s’en aperçût, il ne sortait jamais dans la ville autrement qu’avec sa douillette violette. Cela le gênait un peu en été. As he made his cassocks last a long while, and did not wish to have it noticed, he never went out in the town without his wadded purple cloak. This inconvenienced him somewhat in summer.
En rentrant il dînait. Le dîner ressemblait au déjeuner. On his return, he dined. The dinner resembled his breakfast.
Le soir, à huit heures et demie, il soupait avec sa sœur, madame Magloire debout derrière eux et les servant à table. Rien de plus frugal que ce repas. Si pourtant l’évêque avait un de ses curés à souper, madame Magloire en profitait pour servir à monseigneur quelque poisson des lacs ou quelque fin gibier de la montagne. Tout curé était un prétexte à bon repas ; l’évêque se laissait faire. Hors de là, son ordinaire ne se composait guère que de légumes cuits dans l’eau et de soupe à l’huile. Aussi disait-on dans la ville : Quand l’évêque ne fait pas chère de curé, il fait chère de trappiste. At half-past eight in the evening he supped with his sister, Madame Magloire standing behind them and serving them at table. Nothing could be more frugal than this repast. If, however, the Bishop had one of his cures to supper, Madame Magloire took advantage of the opportunity to serve Monseigneur with some excellent fish from the lake, or with some fine game from the mountains. Every cure furnished the pretext for a good meal: the Bishop did not interfere. With that exception, his ordinary diet consisted only of vegetables boiled in water, and oil soup. Thus it was said in the town, when the Bishop does not indulge in the cheer of a cure, he indulges in the cheer of a trappist.
Après son souper, il causait pendant une demi-heure avec mademoiselle Baptistine et madame Magloire ; puis il rentrait dans sa chambre et se remettait à écrire, tantôt sur des feuilles volantes, tantôt sur la marge de quelque in-folio. Il était lettré et quelque peu savant. Il a laissé cinq ou six manuscrits assez curieux ; entre autres une dissertation sur le verset de la Genèse : Au commencement l’esprit de Dieu flottait sur les eaux. Il confronte avec ce verset trois textes ; le verset arabe qui dit : Les vents de Dieu soufflaient ; Flavius Josèphe qui dit : Un vent d’en haut se précipitait sur la terre ; et enfin la paraphrase chaldaïque d’Onkelos qui porte : Un vent venant de Dieu soufflait sur la face des eaux. Dans une autre dissertation, il examine les œuvres théologiques de Hugo, évêque de Ptolémaïs, arrière-grand-oncle de celui qui écrit ce livre, et il établit qu’il faut attribuer à cet évêque les divers opuscules publiés, au siècle dernier, sous le pseudonyme de Barleycourt. After supper he conversed for half an hour with Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire; then he retired to his own room and set to writing, sometimes on loose sheets, and again on the margin of some folio. He was a man of letters and rather learned. He left behind him five or six very curious manuscripts; among others, a dissertation on this verse in Genesis, In the beginning, the spirit of God floated upon the waters. With this verse he compares three texts: the Arabic verse which says, The winds of God blew; Flavius Josephus who says, A wind from above was precipitated upon the earth; and finally, the Chaldaic paraphrase of Onkelos, which renders it, A wind coming from God blew upon the face of the waters. In another dissertation, he examines the theological works of Hugo, Bishop of Ptolemais, great-grand-uncle to the writer of this book, and establishes the fact, that to this bishop must be attributed the divers little works published during the last century, under the pseudonym of Barleycourt.
Parfois, au milieu d’une lecture, quel que fût le livre qu’il eût entre les mains, il tombait tout à coup dans une méditation profonde, d’où il ne sortait que pour écrire quelques lignes sur les pages mêmes du volume. Ces lignes souvent n’ont aucun rapport avec le livre qui les contient. Nous avons sous les yeux une note écrite par lui sur une des marges d’un in-quarto intitulé : Correspondance du lord Germain avec les généraux Clinton, Cornwallis et les amiraux de la station de l’Amérique. À Versailles, chez Poinçot, libraire, et à Paris, chez Pissot, libraire, quai des Augustins. Sometimes, in the midst of his reading, no matter what the book might be which he had in his hand, he would suddenly fall into a profound meditation, whence he only emerged to write a few lines on the pages of the volume itself. These lines have often no connection whatever with the book which contains them. We now have under our eyes a note written by him on the margin of a quarto entitled Correspondence of Lord Germain with Generals Clinton, Cornwallis, and the Admirals on the American station. Versailles, Poincot, book-seller; and Paris, Pissot, bookseller, Quai des Augustins.
Voici cette note : Here is the note:--
« Ô vous qui êtes ! "Oh, you who are!
« L’Ecclésiaste vous nomme Toute-Puissance, les Machabées vous nomment Créateur, l’Épître aux Éphésiens vous nomme Liberté, Baruch vous nomme Immensité, les Psaumes vous nomment Sagesse et Vérité, Jean vous nomme Lumière, les Rois vous nomment Seigneur, l’Exode vous appelle Providence, le Lévitique Sainteté, Esdras Justice, la création vous nomme Dieu, l’homme vous nomme Père ; mais Salomon vous nomme Miséricorde, et c’est le plus beau de tous vos noms. » "Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty; Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names."
Vers neuf heures du soir, les deux femmes se retiraient et montaient à leurs chambres au premier, le laissant jusqu’au matin seul au rez-de-chaussée. Toward nine o'clock in the evening the two women retired and betook themselves to their chambers on the first floor, leaving him alone until morning on the ground floor.
Ici il est nécessaire que nous donnions une idée exacte du logis de M. l’évêque de Digne. It is necessary that we should, in this place, give an exact idea of the dwelling of the Bishop of D----

Chapter V: Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long [Commentary]

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Chapter VI: Who guarded his House for him

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[Fr.] Par qui il faisait garder sa maison [En.] Who guarded his House for him
La maison qu’il habitait se composait, nous l’avons dit d’un rez-de-chaussée et d’un seul étage ; trois pièces au rez-de-chaussée, trois chambres au premier, au-dessus un grenier. Derrière la maison, un jardin d’un quart d’arpent. Les deux femmes occupaient le premier. L’évêque logeait en bas. La première pièce, qui s’ouvrait sur la rue, lui servait de salle à manger, la deuxième de chambre à coucher, et la troisième d’oratoire. On ne pouvait sortir de cet oratoire sans passer par la chambre à coucher, et sortir de la chambre à coucher sans passer par la salle à manger. Dans l’oratoire, au fond, il y avait une alcôve fermée, avec un lit pour les cas d’hospitalité. M. l’évêque offrait ce lit aux curés de campagne que des affaires ou les besoins de leur paroisse amenaient à Digne. The house in which he lived consisted, as we have said, of a ground floor, and one story above; three rooms on the ground floor, three chambers on the first, and an attic above. Behind the house was a garden, a quarter of an acre in extent. The two women occupied the first floor; the Bishop was lodged below. The first room, opening on the street, served him as dining-room, the second was his bedroom, and the third his oratory. There was no exit possible from this oratory, except by passing through the bedroom, nor from the bedroom, without passing through the dining-room. At the end of the suite, in the oratory, there was a detached alcove with a bed, for use in cases of hospitality. The Bishop offered this bed to country curates whom business or the requirements of their parishes brought to D----
La pharmacie de l’hôpital, petit bâtiment ajouté à la maison et pris sur le jardin, avait été transformée en cuisine et en cellier. The pharmacy of the hospital, a small building which had been added to the house, and abutted on the garden, had been transformed into a kitchen and cellar.
Il y avait en outre dans le jardin une étable qui était l’ancienne cuisine de l’hospice et où l’évêque entretenait deux vaches. Quelle que fût la quantité de lait qu’elles lui donnassent, il en envoyait invariablement tous les matins la moitié aux malades de l’hôpital. Je paye ma dîme, disait-il. In addition to this, there was in the garden a stable, which had formerly been the kitchen of the hospital, and in which the Bishop kept two cows. No matter what the quantity of milk they gave, he invariably sent half of it every morning to the sick people in the hospital. "I am paying my tithes," he said.
Sa chambre était assez grande et assez difficile à chauffer dans la mauvaise saison. Comme le bois est très cher à Digne, il avait imaginé de faire faire dans l’étable à vaches un compartiment fermé d’une cloison en planches. C’était là qu’il passait ses soirées dans les grands froids. Il appelait cela son salon d’hiver. His bedroom was tolerably large, and rather difficult to warm in bad weather. As wood is extremely dear at D----, he hit upon the idea of having a compartment of boards constructed in the cow-shed. Here he passed his evenings during seasons of severe cold: he called it his winter salon.
Il n’y avait dans ce salon d’hiver, comme dans la salle à manger, d’autres meubles qu’une table de bois blanc, carrée, et quatre chaises de paille. La salle à manger était ornée en outre d’un vieux buffet peint en rose à la détrempe. Du buffet pareil, convenablement habillé de napperons blancs et de fausses dentelles, l’évêque avait fait l’autel qui décorait son oratoire. In this winter salon, as in the dining-room, there was no other furniture than a square table in white wood, and four straw-seated chairs. In addition to this the dining-room was ornamented with an antique sideboard, painted pink, in water colors. Out of a similar sideboard, properly draped with white napery and imitation lace, the Bishop had constructed the altar which decorated his oratory.
Ses pénitentes riches et les saintes femmes de Digne s’étaient souvent cotisées pour faire les frais d’un bel autel neuf à l’oratoire de monseigneur ; il avait chaque fois pris l’argent et l’avait donné aux pauvres. — Le plus beau des autels, disait-il, c’est l’âme d’un malheureux consolé qui remercie Dieu. His wealthy penitents and the sainted women of D---- had more than once assessed themselves to raise the money for a new altar for Monseigneur's oratory; on each occasion he had taken the money and had given it to the poor. "The most beautiful of altars," he said, "is the soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."
Il avait dans son oratoire deux chaises prie-Dieu en paille, et un fauteuil à bras également en paille dans sa chambre à coucher. Quand par hasard il recevait sept ou huit personnes à la fois, le préfet, ou le général, ou l’état-major du régiment en garnison, ou quelques élèves du petit séminaire, on était obligé d’aller chercher dans l’étable les chaises du salon d’hiver, dans l’oratoire les prie-Dieu, et le fauteuil dans la chambre à coucher ; de cette façon, on pouvait réunir jusqu’à onze sièges pour les visiteurs. À chaque nouvelle visite on démeublait une pièce In his oratory there were two straw prie-Dieu, and there was an arm-chair, also in straw, in his bedroom. When, by chance, he received seven or eight persons at one time, the prefect, or the general, or the staff of the regiment in garrison, or several pupils from the little seminary, the chairs had to be fetched from the winter salon in the stable, the prie-Dieu from the oratory, and the arm-chair from the bedroom: in this way as many as eleven chairs could be collected for the visitors. A room was dismantled for each new guest.
Il arrivait parfois qu’on était douze : alors l’évêque dissimulait l’embarras de la situation en se tenant debout devant la cheminée si c’était l’hiver, ou en se promenant dans le jardin si c’était l’été. It sometimes happened that there were twelve in the party; the Bishop then relieved the embarrassment of the situation by standing in front of the chimney if it was winter, or by strolling in the garden if it was summer.
Il y avait bien encore dans l’alcôve fermée une chaise, mais elle était à demi dépaillée et ne portait que sur trois pieds, ce qui faisait qu’elle ne pouvait servir qu’appuyée contre le mur. Mademoiselle Baptistine avait bien aussi dans sa chambre une très grande bergère en bois jadis doré et revêtue de pékin à fleurs, mais on avait été obligé de monter cette bergère au premier par la fenêtre, l’escalier étant trop étroit ; elle ne pouvait donc pas compter parmi les en-cas du mobilier. There was still another chair in the detached alcove, but the straw was half gone from it, and it had but three legs, so that it was of service only when propped against the wall. Mademoiselle Baptistine had also in her own room a very large easy-chair of wood, which had formerly been gilded, and which was covered with flowered pekin; but they had been obliged to hoist this bergere up to the first story through the window, as the staircase was too narrow; it could not, therefore, be reckoned among the possibilities in the way of furniture.
L’ambition de mademoiselle Baptistine eût été de pouvoir acheter un meuble de salon en velours d’Utrecht jaune à rosaces et en acajou à cou de cygne, avec canapé. Mais cela eût coûté au moins cinq cents francs, et, ayant vu qu’elle n’avait réussi à économiser pour cet objet que quarante-deux francs dix sous en cinq ans, elle avait fini par y renoncer. D’ailleurs qui est-ce qui atteint son idéal ? Mademoiselle Baptistine's ambition had been to be able to purchase a set of drawing-room furniture in yellow Utrecht velvet, stamped with a rose pattern, and with mahogany in swan's neck style, with a sofa. But this would have cost five hundred francs at least, and in view of the fact that she had only been able to lay by forty-two francs and ten sous for this purpose in the course of five years, she had ended by renouncing the idea. However, who is there who has attained his ideal?
Rien de plus simple à se figurer que la chambre à coucher de l’évêque. Une porte-fenêtre donnant sur le jardin ; vis-à-vis, le lit, un lit d’hôpital en fer avec baldaquin de serge verte ; dans l’ombre du lit, derrière un rideau, les ustensiles de toilette trahissant encore les anciennes habitudes élégantes de l’homme du monde ; deux portes, l’une près de la cheminée, donnant dans l’oratoire ; l’autre, près de la bibliothèque, donnant dans la salle à manger ; la bibliothèque, grande armoire vitrée pleine de livres ; la cheminée de bois peint en marbre, habituellement sans feu ; dans la cheminée, une paire de chenets en fer ornés de deux vases à guirlandes et cannelures jadis argentés à l’argent haché, ce qui était un genre de luxe épiscopal ; au-dessus de la cheminée, un crucifix de cuivre désargenté fixé sur un velours noir râpé dans un cadre de bois dédoré. Près de la porte-fenêtre, une grande table avec un encrier, chargée de papiers confus et de gros volumes. Devant la table, le fauteuil de paille. Devant le lit, un prie-Dieu, emprunté à l’oratoire. Nothing is more easy to present to the imagination than the Bishop's bedchamber. A glazed door opened on the garden; opposite this was the bed,--a hospital bed of iron, with a canopy of green serge; in the shadow of the bed, behind a curtain, were the utensils of the toilet, which still betrayed the elegant habits of the man of the world: there were two doors, one near the chimney, opening into the oratory; the other near the bookcase, opening into the dining-room. The bookcase was a large cupboard with glass doors filled with books; the chimney was of wood painted to represent marble, and habitually without fire. In the chimney stood a pair of firedogs of iron, ornamented above with two garlanded vases, and flutings which had formerly been silvered with silver leaf, which was a sort of episcopal luxury; above the chimney-piece hung a crucifix of copper, with the silver worn off, fixed on a background of threadbare velvet in a wooden frame from which the gilding had fallen; near the glass door a large table with an inkstand, loaded with a confusion of papers and with huge volumes; before the table an arm-chair of straw; in front of the bed a prie-Dieu, borrowed from the oratory.
Deux portraits dans des cadres ovales étaient accrochés au mur des deux côtés du lit. De petites inscriptions dorées sur le fond neutre de la toile à côté des figures indiquaient que les portraits représentaient, l’un, l’abbé de Chaliot, évêque de Saint-Claude, l’autre, l’abbé Tourteau, vicaire général d’Agde, abbé de Grand-Champ, ordre de Citeaux, diocèse de Chartres. L’évêque, en succédant dans cette chambre aux malades de l’hôpital, y avait trouvé ces portraits et les y avait laissés. C’étaient des prêtres, probablement des donateurs, deux motifs pour qu’il les respectât. Tout ce qu’il savait de ces deux personnages, c’est qu’ils avaient été nommés par le roi, l’un à son évêché, l’autre à son bénéfice, le même jour, le 27 avril 1785. Madame Magloire ayant décroché les tableaux pour en secouer la poussière, l’évêque avait trouvé cette particularité écrite d’une encre blanchâtre sur un petit carré de papier jauni par le temps, collé avec quatre pains à cacheter derrière le portrait de l’abbé de Grand-Champ. Two portraits in oval frames were fastened to the wall on each side of the bed. Small gilt inscriptions on the plain surface of the cloth at the side of these figures indicated that the portraits represented, one the Abbe of Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude; the other, the Abbe Tourteau, vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grand-Champ, order of Citeaux, diocese of Chartres. When the Bishop succeeded to this apartment, after the hospital patients, he had found these portraits there, and had left them. They were priests, and probably donors--two reasons for respecting them. All that he knew about these two persons was, that they had been appointed by the king, the one to his bishopric, the other to his benefice, on the same day, the 27th of April, 1785. Madame Magloire having taken the pictures down to dust, the Bishop had discovered these particulars written in whitish ink on a little square of paper, yellowed by time, and attached to the back of the portrait of the Abbe of Grand-Champ with four wafers.
Il avait à sa fenêtre un antique rideau de grosse étoffe de laine qui finit par devenir tellement vieux que, pour éviter la dépense d’un neuf, madame Magloire fut obligée de faire une grande couture au beau milieu. Cette couture dessinait une croix. L’évêque le faisait souvent remarquer. — Comme cela fait bien ! disait-il. At his window he had an antique curtain of a coarse woollen stuff, which finally became so old, that, in order to avoid the expense of a new one, Madame Magloire was forced to take a large seam in the very middle of it. This seam took the form of a cross. The Bishop often called attention to it: "How delightful that is!" he said.
Toutes les chambres de la maison, au rez-de-chaussée ainsi qu’au premier, sans exception, étaient blanchies au lait de chaux, ce qui est une mode de caserne et d’hôpital. All the rooms in the house, without exception, those on the ground floor as well as those on the first floor, were white-washed, which is a fashion in barracks and hospitals.
Cependant, dans les dernières années, madame Magloire retrouva, comme on le verra plus loin, sous le papier badigeonné, des peintures qui ornaient l’appartement de mademoiselle Baptistine. Avant d’être l’hôpital, cette maison avait été le parloir aux bourgeois. De là cette décoration. Les chambres étaient pavées de briques rouges qu’on lavait toutes les semaines, avec des nattes de paille devant tous les lits. Du reste, ce logis, tenu par deux femmes, était du haut en bas d’une propreté exquise. C’était le seul luxe que l’évêque permît. Il disait : — Cela ne prend rien aux pauvres. However, in their latter years, Madame Magloire discovered beneath the paper which had been washed over, paintings, ornamenting the apartment of Mademoiselle Baptistine, as we shall see further on. Before becoming a hospital, this house had been the ancient parliament house of the Bourgeois. Hence this decoration. The chambers were paved in red bricks, which were washed every week, with straw mats in front of all the beds. Altogether, this dwelling, which was attended to by the two women, was exquisitely clean from top to bottom. This was the sole luxury which the Bishop permitted. He said, "That takes nothing from the poor."
Il faut convenir cependant qu’il lui restait de ce qu’il avait possédé jadis six couverts d’argent et une cuiller à soupe que madame Magloire regardait tous les jours avec bonheur reluire splendidement sur la grosse nappe de toile blanche. Et, comme nous peignons ici l’évêque de Digne tel qu’il était, nous devons ajouter qu’il lui était arrivé plus d’une fois de dire : — Je renoncerais difficilement à manger dans de l’argenterie. It must be confessed, however, that he still retained from his former possessions six silver knives and forks and a soup-ladle, which Madame Magloire contemplated every day with delight, as they glistened splendidly upon the coarse linen cloth. And since we are now painting the Bishop of D---- as he was in reality, we must add that he had said more than once, "I find it difficult to renounce eating from silver dishes."
Il faut ajouter à cette argenterie deux gros flambeaux d’argent massif qui lui venaient de l’héritage d’une grand’tante. Ces flambeaux portaient deux bougies de cire et figuraient habituellement sur la cheminée de l’évêque. Quand il avait quelqu’un à dîner, madame Magloire allumait les deux bougies et mettait les deux flambeaux sur la table. To this silverware must be added two large candlesticks of massive silver, which he had inherited from a great-aunt. These candlesticks held two wax candles, and usually figured on the Bishop's chimney-piece. When he had any one to dinner, Madame Magloire lighted the two candles and set the candlesticks on the table.
Il y avait dans la chambre même de l’évêque, à la tête de son lit, un petit placard dans lequel madame Magloire serrait chaque soir les six couverts d’argent et la grande cuiller. Il faut dire qu’on n’en ôtait jamais la clef. In the Bishop's own chamber, at the head of his bed, there was a small cupboard, in which Madame Magloire locked up the six silver knives and forks and the big spoon every night. But it is necessary to add, that the key was never removed.
Le jardin, un peu gâté par les constructions assez laides dont nous avons parlé, se composait de quatre allées en croix rayonnant autour d’un puisard ; une autre allée faisait tout le tour du jardin et cheminait le long du mur blanc dont il était enclos. Ces allées laissaient entre elles quatre carrés bornés de buis. Dans trois, madame Magloire cultivait des légumes ; dans le quatrième, l’évêque avait mis des fleurs. Il y avait çà et là quelques arbres fruitiers. Une fois madame Magloire lui avait dit avec une sorte de malice douce : — Monseigneur, vous qui tirez parti de tout, voilà pourtant un carré inutile. Il vaudrait mieux avoir là des salades que des bouquets. — Madame Magloire, répondit l’évêque, vous vous trompez ; le beau est aussi utile que l’utile. — Il ajouta après un silence : Plus peut-être. The garden, which had been rather spoiled by the ugly buildings which we have mentioned, was composed of four alleys in cross-form, radiating from a tank. Another walk made the circuit of the garden, and skirted the white wall which enclosed it. These alleys left behind them four square plots rimmed with box. In three of these, Madame Magloire cultivated vegetables; in the fourth, the Bishop had planted some flowers; here and there stood a few fruit-trees. Madame Magloire had once remarked, with a sort of gentle malice: "Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have, nevertheless, one useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there than bouquets." "Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause, "More so, perhaps."
Ce carré, composé de trois ou quatre plates-bandes, occupait M. l’évêque presque autant que ses livres. Il y passait volontiers une heure ou deux, coupant, sarclant, et piquant çà et là des trous en terre où il mettait des graines. Il n’était pas aussi hostile aux insectes qu’un jardinier l’eût voulu. Du reste aucune prétention à la botanique ; il ignorait les groupes et le solidisme ; il ne cherchait pas le moins du monde à décider entre Tournefort et la méthode naturelle ; il ne prenait parti ni pour les utricules contre les cotylédons, ni pour Jussieu contre Linné. Il n’étudiait pas les plantes ; il aimait les fleurs. Il respectait beaucoup les savants, il respectait encore plus les ignorants, et, sans jamais manquer à ces deux respects, il arrosait ses plates-bandes chaque soir d’été avec un arrosoir de fer-blanc peint en vert. This plot, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the Bishop almost as much as did his books. He liked to pass an hour or two there, trimming, hoeing, and making holes here and there in the earth, into which he dropped seeds. He was not as hostile to insects as a gardener could have wished to see him. Moreover, he made no pretensions to botany; he ignored groups and consistency; he made not the slightest effort to decide between Tournefort and the natural method; he took part neither with the buds against the cotyledons, nor with Jussieu against Linnaeus. He did not study plants; he loved flowers. He respected learned men greatly; he respected the ignorant still more; and, without ever failing in these two respects, he watered his flower-beds every summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green.
La maison n’avait pas une porte qui fermât à clef. La porte de la salle à manger, qui, nous l’avons dit, donnait de plain-pied sur la place de la cathédrale, était jadis ornée de serrures et de verrous comme une porte de prison. L’évêque avait fait ôter toutes ces ferrures, et cette porte, la nuit comme le jour, n’était fermée qu’au loquet. Le premier passant venu, à quelque heure que ce fût, n’avait qu’à la pousser. Dans les commencements, les deux femmes avaient été fort tourmentées de cette porte jamais close ; mais M. de Digne leur avait dit : Faites mettre des verrous à vos chambres, si cela vous plaît. Elles avaient fini par partager sa confiance ou du moins par faire comme si elles la partageaient. Madame Magloire seule avait de temps en temps des frayeurs. Pour ce qui est de l’évêque, on peut trouver sa pensée expliquée ou du moins indiquée dans ces trois lignes écrites par lui sur la marge d’une Bible : « Voici la nuance : la porte du médecin ne doit jamais être fermée, la porte du prêtre doit toujours être ouverte. » The house had not a single door which could be locked. The door of the dining-room, which, as we have said, opened directly on the cathedral square, had formerly been ornamented with locks and bolts like the door of a prison. The Bishop had had all this ironwork removed, and this door was never fastened, either by night or by day, with anything except the latch. All that the first passerby had to do at any hour, was to give it a push. At first, the two women had been very much tried by this door, which was never fastened, but Monsieur de D---- had said to them, "Have bolts put on your rooms, if that will please you." They had ended by sharing his confidence, or by at least acting as though they shared it. Madame Magloire alone had frights from time to time. As for the Bishop, his thought can be found explained, or at least indicated, in the three lines which he wrote on the margin of a Bible, "This is the shade of difference: the door of the physician should never be shut, the door of the priest should always be open."
Sur un autre livre, intitulé Philosophie de la science médicale, il avait écrit cette autre note : « Est-ce que je ne suis pas médecin comme eux ? Moi aussi j’ai mes malades ; d’abord j’ai les leurs, qu’ils appellent les malades ; et puis j’ai les miens, que j’appelle les malheureux. » On another book, entitled Philosophy of the Medical Science, he had written this other note: "Am not I a physician like them? I also have my patients, and then, too, I have some whom I call my unfortunates."
Ailleurs encore il avait écrit : « Ne demandez pas son nom à qui vous demande un gîte. C’est surtout celui-là que son nom embarrasse qui a besoin d’asile. » Again he wrote: "Do not inquire the name of him who asks a shelter of you. The very man who is embarrassed by his name is the one who needs shelter."
Il advint qu’un digne curé, je ne sais plus si c’était le curé de Couloubroux ou le curé de Pompierry, s’avisa de lui demander un jour, probablement à l’instigation de madame Magloire, si monseigneur était bien sûr de ne pas commettre jusqu’à un certain point une imprudence en laissant jour et nuit sa porte ouverte à la disposition de qui voulait entrer, et s’il ne craignait pas enfin qu’il n’arrivât quelque malheur dans une maison si peu gardée. L’évêque lui toucha l’épaule avec une gravité douce, et lui dit : Nisi Dominus custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam.[1] Puis il parla d’autre chose. It chanced that a worthy cure, I know not whether it was the cure of Couloubroux or the cure of Pompierry, took it into his head to ask him one day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire, whether Monsieur was sure that he was not committing an indiscretion, to a certain extent, in leaving his door unfastened day and night, at the mercy of any one who should choose to enter, and whether, in short, he did not fear lest some misfortune might occur in a house so little guarded. The Bishop touched his shoulder, with gentle gravity, and said to him, "Nisi Dominus custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam," Unless the Lord guard the house, in vain do they watch who guard it. Then he spoke of something else.
Il disait assez volontiers : « Il y a la bravoure du prêtre comme il y a la bravoure du colonel de dragons. » — « Seulement, ajoutait-il, la nôtre doit être tranquille. » He was fond of saying, "There is a bravery of the priest as well as the bravery of a colonel of dragoons,--only," he added, "ours must be tranquil."
[1] Si le Seigneur ne protège pas la maison, c’est en vain que veillent ceux qui la protègent.

Chapter VI: Who guarded his House for him [Commentary]

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Coming March 25th 2013.

Chapter VII: Cravatte

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[Fr.] Cravatte [En.] Cravatte
Ici se place naturellement un fait que nous ne devons pas omettre, car il est de ceux qui font le mieux voir quel homme c’était que M. l’évêque de Digne. It is here that a fact falls naturally into place, which we must not omit, because it is one of the sort which show us best what sort of a man the Bishop of D---- was.
Après la destruction de la bande de Gaspard Bès, qui avait infesté les gorges d’Ollioules, un de ses lieutenants, Cravatte, se réfugia dans la montagne. Il se cacha quelque temps avec ses bandits, reste de la troupe de Gaspard Bès, dans le comté de Nice, puis gagna le Piémont, et tout à coup reparut en France, du côté de Barcelonnette. On le vit à Jauziers d’abord, puis aux Tuiles. Il se cacha dans les cavernes du Joug-de-l’Aigle, et de là il descendait vers les hameaux et les villages par les ravins de l’Ubaye et de l’Ubayette. Il poussa même jusqu’à Embrun, pénétra une nuit dans la cathédrale et dévalisa la sacristie. Ses brigandages désolaient le pays. On mit la gendarmerie à ses trousses, mais en vain. Il échappait toujours ; quelquefois il résistait de vive force. C’était un hardi misérable. Au milieu de toute cette terreur, l’évêque arriva. Il faisait sa tournée au Chastelar. Le maire vint le trouver et l’engagea à rebrousser chemin. Cravatte tenait la montagne jusqu’à l’Arche, et au-delà. Il y avait danger même avec une escorte. C’était exposer inutilement trois ou quatre malheureux gendarmes. After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, who had infested the gorges of Ollioules, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, took refuge in the mountains. He concealed himself for some time with his bandits, the remnant of Gaspard Bes's troop, in the county of Nice; then he made his way to Piedmont, and suddenly reappeared in France, in the vicinity of Barcelonette. He was first seen at Jauziers, then at Tuiles. He hid himself in the caverns of the Joug-de-l'Aigle, and thence he descended towards the hamlets and villages through the ravines of Ubaye and Ubayette.

He even pushed as far as Embrun, entered the cathedral one night, and despoiled the sacristy. His highway robberies laid waste the country-side. The gendarmes were set on his track, but in vain. He always escaped; sometimes he resisted by main force. He was a bold wretch. In the midst of all this terror the Bishop arrived. He was making his circuit to Chastelar. The mayor came to meet him, and urged him to retrace his steps. Cravatte was in possession of the mountains as far as Arche, and beyond; there was danger even with an escort; it merely exposed three or four unfortunate gendarmes to no purpose.

— Aussi, dit l’évêque, je compte aller sans escorte.
— Y pensez-vous, monseigneur ? s’écria le maire.
— J’y pense tellement, que je refuse absolument les gendarmes et que je vais partir dans une heure.
— Partir ?
— Partir.
— Seul ?
— Seul.
— Monseigneur ! vous ne ferez pas cela.
"Therefore," said the Bishop, "I intend to go without escort."
"You do not really mean that, Monseigneur!" exclaimed the mayor.
"I do mean it so thoroughly that I absolutely refuse any gendarmes, and shall set out in an hour."
"Set out?"
"Set out."
"Alone?"
"Alone."
"Monseigneur, you will not do that!"
— Il y a là, dans la montagne, reprit l’évêque, une humble petite commune grande comme ça, que je n’ai pas vue depuis trois ans. Ce sont mes bons amis. De doux et honnêtes bergers. Ils possèdent une chèvre sur trente qu’ils gardent. Ils font de fort jolis cordons de laines de diverses couleurs, et ils jouent des airs de montagne sur de petites flûtes à six trous. Ils ont besoin qu’on leur parle de temps en temps du bon Dieu. Que diraient-ils d’un évêque qui a peur ? Que diraient-ils si je n’y allais pas ? "There exists yonder in the mountains," said the Bishop, "a tiny community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years. They are my good friends, those gentle and honest shepherds. They own one goat out of every thirty that they tend. They make very pretty woollen cords of various colors, and they play the mountain airs on little flutes with six holes. They need to be told of the good God now and then. What would they say to a bishop who was afraid? What would they say if I did not go?"
— Mais, monseigneur, les brigands ?
— Tiens ! dit l’évêque, j’y songe. Vous avez raison. Je puis les rencontrer. Eux aussi doivent avoir besoin qu’on leur parle du bon Dieu.
— Monseigneur ! mais c’est une bande ! un troupeau de loups !
— Monsieur le maire, c’est peut-être précisément de ce troupeau que Jésus me fait le pasteur. Qui sait les voies de la providence ?
— Monseigneur, ils vous dévaliseront.
— Je n’ai rien.
— Ils vous tueront.
— Un vieux bonhomme de prêtre qui passe en marmottant ses momeries ? Bah ! à quoi bon ?
"But the brigands, Monseigneur?"
"Hold," said the Bishop, "I must think of that. You are right. I may meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God."
"But, Monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!"
"Monsieur le maire, it may be that it is of this very flock of wolves that Jesus has constituted me the shepherd. Who knows the ways of Providence?"
"They will rob you, Monseigneur."
"I have nothing."
"They will kill you."
"An old goodman of a priest, who passes along mumbling his prayers? Bah! To what purpose?"
— Oh ! mon Dieu ! si vous alliez les rencontrer !
— Je leur demanderai l’aumône pour mes pauvres.
— Monseigneur, n’y allez pas, au nom du ciel ! vous exposez votre vie.
— Monsieur le maire, dit l’évêque, n’est-ce décidément que cela ? Je ne suis pas au monde pour garder ma vie, mais pour garder les âmes.
"Oh, mon Dieu! what if you should meet them!"
"I should beg alms of them for my poor."
"Do not go, Monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! You are risking your life!"
"Monsieur le maire," said the Bishop, "is that really all? I am not in the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls."
Il fallut le laisser faire. Il partit, accompagné seulement d’un enfant qui s’offrit à lui servir de guide. Son obstination fit bruit dans le pays, et effraya fort. They had to allow him to do as he pleased. He set out, accompanied only by a child who offered to serve as a guide. His obstinacy was bruited about the country-side, and caused great consternation.
Il ne voulut emmener ni sa sœur ni madame Magloire. Il traversa la montagne à mulet, ne rencontra personne, et arriva sain et sauf chez ses « bons amis » les bergers. Il y resta quinze jours, prêchant, administrant, enseignant, moralisant. Lorsqu’il fut près de son départ, il résolut de chanter pontificalement un Te Deum. Il en parla au curé. Mais comment faire ? pas d’ornements épiscopaux. On ne pouvait mettre à sa disposition qu’une chétive sacristie de village avec quelques vieilles chasubles de damas usé ornées de galons faux. He would take neither his sister nor Madame Magloire. He traversed the mountain on mule-back, encountered no one, and arrived safe and sound at the residence of his "good friends," the shepherds. He remained there for a fortnight, preaching, administering the sacrament, teaching, exhorting. When the time of his departure approached, he resolved to chant a Te Deum pontifically. He mentioned it to the cure. But what was to be done? There were no episcopal ornaments. They could only place at his disposal a wretched village sacristy, with a few ancient chasubles of threadbare damask adorned with imitation lace.
Bah ! dit l’évêque. Monsieur le curé, annonçons toujours au prône notre Te Deum. Cela s’arrangera. "Bah!" said the Bishop. "Let us announce our Te Deum from the pulpit, nevertheless, Monsieur le Cure. Things will arrange themselves."
On chercha dans les églises d’alentour. Toutes les magnificences de ces humbles paroisses réunies n’auraient pas suffi à vêtir convenablement un chantre de cathédrale. They instituted a search in the churches of the neighborhood. All the magnificence of these humble parishes combined would not have sufficed to clothe the chorister of a cathedral properly.
Comme on était dans cet embarras, une grande caisse fut apportée et déposée au presbytère pour M. l’évêque par deux cavaliers inconnus qui repartirent sur-le-champ. On ouvrit la caisse ; elle contenait une chape de drap d’or, une mitre ornée de diamants, une croix archiépiscopale, une crosse magnifique, tous les vêtements pontificaux volés un mois auparavant au trésor de Notre-Dame d’Embrun. Dans la caisse, il y avait un papier sur lequel étaient écrits ces mots : Cravatte à monseigneur Bienvenu. While they were thus embarrassed, a large chest was brought and deposited in the presbytery for the Bishop, by two unknown horsemen, who departed on the instant. The chest was opened; it contained a cope of cloth of gold, a mitre ornamented with diamonds, an archbishop's cross, a magnificent crosier,--all the pontifical vestments which had been stolen a month previously from the treasury of Notre Dame d'Embrun. In the chest was a paper, on which these words were written, "From Cravatte to Monseigneur Bienvenu."
— Quand je disais que cela s’arrangerait ! dit l’évêque. Puis il ajouta en souriant : À qui se contente d’un surplis de curé, Dieu envoie une chape d’archevêque. "Did not I say that things would come right of themselves?" said the Bishop. Then he added, with a smile, "To him who contents himself with the surplice of a curate, God sends the cope of an archbishop."
— Monseigneur, murmura le curé en hochant la tête avec un sourire, Dieu — ou le diable "Monseigneur," murmured the cure, throwing back his head with a smile. "God--or the Devil."
L’évêque regarda fixement le curé et reprit avec autorité : — Dieu ! The Bishop looked steadily at the cure, and repeated with authority, "God!"
Quand il revint au Chastelar, et tout le long de la route, on venait le regarder par curiosité. Il retrouva au presbytère du Chastelar mademoiselle Baptistine et madame Magloire qui l’attendaient, et il dit à sa sœur : — Eh bien, avais-je raison ? Le pauvre prêtre est allé chez ces pauvres montagnards les mains vides, il en revient les mains pleines. J’étais parti n’emportant que ma confiance en Dieu, je rapporte le trésor d’une cathédrale. When he returned to Chastelar, the people came out to stare at him as at a curiosity, all along the road. At the priest's house in Chastelar he rejoined Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire, who were waiting for him, and he said to his sister: "Well! was I in the right? The poor priest went to his poor mountaineers with empty hands, and he returns from them with his hands full. I set out bearing only my faith in God; I have brought back the treasure of a cathedral."
Le soir, avant de se coucher, il dit encore : — Ne craignons jamais les voleurs ni les meurtriers. Ce sont là les dangers du dehors, les petits dangers. Craignons-nous nous-mêmes. Les préjugés, voilà les voleurs ; les vices, voilà les meurtriers. Les grands dangers sont au dedans de nous. Qu’importe ce qui menace notre tête ou notre bourse ! Ne songeons qu’à ce qui menace notre âme. That evening, before he went to bed, he said again: "Let us never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without, petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think only of that which threatens our soul."
Puis, se tournant vers sa sœur : — Ma sœur, de la part du prêtre jamais de précaution contre le prochain. Ce que le prochain fait, Dieu le permet. Bornons-nous à prier Dieu quand nous croyons qu’un danger arrive sur nous. Prions-le, non pour nous, mais pour que notre frère ne tombe pas en faute à notre occasion. Then, turning to his sister: "Sister, never a precaution on the part of the priest, against his fellow-man. That which his fellow does, God permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer, when we think that a danger is approaching us. Let us pray, not for ourselves, but that our brother may not fall into sin on our account."
Du reste, les événements étaient rares dans son existence. Nous racontons ceux que nous savons ; mais d’ordinaire il passait sa vie à faire toujours les mêmes choses aux mêmes moments. Un mois de son année ressemblait à une heure de sa journée. However, such incidents were rare in his life. We relate those of which we know; but generally he passed his life in doing the same things at the same moment. One month of his year resembled one hour of his day.
Quant à ce que devint « le trésor » de la cathédrale d’Embrun, on nous embarrasserait de nous interroger là-dessus. C’étaient là de bien belles choses, et bien tentantes, et bien bonnes à voler au profit des malheureux. Volées, elles l’étaient déjà d’ailleurs. La moitié de l’aventure était accomplie ; il ne restait plus qu’à changer la direction du vol, et qu’à lui faire faire un petit bout de chemin du côté des pauvres. Nous n’affirmons rien du reste à ce sujet. Seulement on a trouvé dans les papiers de l’évêque une note assez obscure qui se rapporte peut-être à cette affaire, et qui est ainsi conçue : La question est de savoir si cela doit faire retour à la cathédrale ou à l’hôpital. As to what became of "the treasure" of the cathedral of Embrun, we should be embarrassed by any inquiry in that direction. It consisted of very handsome things, very tempting things, and things which were very well adapted to be stolen for the benefit of the unfortunate. Stolen they had already been elsewhere. Half of the adventure was completed; it only remained to impart a new direction to the theft, and to cause it to take a short trip in the direction of the poor. However, we make no assertions on this point. Only, a rather obscure note was found among the Bishop's papers, which may bear some relation to this matter, and which is couched in these terms, "The question is, to decide whether this should be turned over to the cathedral or to the hospital."

Chapter VII: Cravatte [Commentary]

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Chapter VIII: Philosophy after Drinking

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[Fr.] Philosophie après boire [En.] Philosophy after Drinking
Le sénateur dont il a été parlé plus haut était un homme entendu qui avait fait son chemin avec une rectitude inattentive à toutes ces rencontres qui font obstacle et qu’on nomme conscience, foi jurée, justice, devoir ; il avait marché droit à son but et sans broncher une seule fois dans la ligne de son avancement et de son intérêt. C’était un ancien procureur, attendri par le succès, pas méchant homme du tout, rendant tous les petits services qu’il pouvait à ses fils, à ses gendres, à ses parents, même à des amis ; ayant sagement pris de la vie les bons côtés, les bonnes occasions, les bonnes aubaines. Le reste lui semblait assez bête. Il était spirituel, et juste assez lettré pour se croire un disciple d’Épicure en n’étant peut-être qu’un produit de Pigault-Lebrun. Il riait volontiers, et agréablement, des choses infinies et éternelles, et des « billevesées du bonhomme évêque ». Il en riait quelquefois, avec une aimable autorité, devant M. Myriel lui-même, qui écoutait. The senator above mentioned was a clever man, who had made his own way, heedless of those things which present obstacles, and which are called conscience, sworn faith, justice, duty: he had marched straight to his goal, without once flinching in the line of his advancement and his interest. He was an old attorney, softened by success; not a bad man by any means, who rendered all the small services in his power to his sons, his sons-in-law, his relations, and even to his friends, having wisely seized upon, in life, good sides, good opportunities, good windfalls. Everything else seemed to him very stupid. He was intelligent, and just sufficiently educated to think himself a disciple of Epicurus; while he was, in reality, only a product of Pigault-Lebrun. He laughed willingly and pleasantly over infinite and eternal things, and at the "Crotchets of that good old fellow the Bishop." He even sometimes laughed at him with an amiable authority in the presence of M. Myriel himself, who listened to him.
À je ne sais quelle cérémonie demi-officielle, le comte *** (ce sénateur) et M. Myriel durent dîner chez le préfet. Au dessert, le sénateur, un peu égayé, quoique toujours digne, s’écria : On some semi-official occasion or other, I do not recollect what, Count*** [this senator] and M. Myriel were to dine with the prefect. At dessert, the senator, who was slightly exhilarated, though still perfectly dignified, exclaimed:--
— Parbleu, monsieur l’évêque, causons. Un sénateur et un évêque se regardent difficilement sans cligner de l’œil. Nous sommes deux augures. Je vais vous faire un aveu : j’ai ma philosophie. "Egad, Bishop, let's have a discussion. It is hard for a senator and a bishop to look at each other without winking. We are two augurs. I am going to make a confession to you. I have a philosophy of my own."
— Et vous avez raison, répondit l’évêque. Comme on fait sa philosophie on se couche. Vous êtes sur le lit de pourpre, monsieur le sénateur. "And you are right," replied the Bishop. "As one makes one's philosophy, so one lies on it. You are on the bed of purple, senator."
Le sénateur, encouragé, reprit : The senator was encouraged, and went on:--
— Soyons bons enfants. "Let us be good fellows."
— Bons diables même, dit l’évêque. "Good devils even," said the Bishop.
— Je vous déclare, repartit le sénateur, que le marquis d’Argens, Pyrrhon, Hobbes et M. Naigeon ne sont pas des maroufles. J’ai dans ma bibliothèque tous mes philosophes dorés sur tranche. "I declare to you," continued the senator, "that the Marquis d'Argens, Pyrrhon, Hobbes, and M. Naigeon are no rascals. I have all the philosophers in my library gilded on the edges."
— Comme vous-même, monsieur le comte, interrompit l’évêque. "Like yourself, Count," interposed the Bishop.
Le sénateur poursuivit : The senator resumed:--
— Je hais Diderot ; c’est un idéologue, un déclamateur et un révolutionnaire, au fond croyant en Dieu et plus bigot que Voltaire. Voltaire s’est moqué de Needham, et il a eu tort ; car les anguilles de Needham prouvent que Dieu est inutile. Une goutte de vinaigre dans une cuillerée de pâte de farine supplée le fiat lux. Supposez la goutte plus grosse et la cuillerée plus grande, vous avez le monde. L’homme, c’est l’anguille. Alors à quoi bon le Père éternel ? Monsieur l’évêque, l’hypothèse Jéhovah me fatigue. Elle n’est bonne qu’à produire des gens maigres qui songent creux. À bas ce grand Tout qui me tracasse ! Vive Zéro qui me laisse tranquille ! De vous à moi, et pour vider mon sac, et pour me confesser à mon pasteur comme il convient, je vous avoue que j’ai du bon sens. Je ne suis pas fou de votre Jésus, qui prêche à tout bout de champ le renoncement et le sacrifice. Conseil d’avare à des gueux. Renoncement ! pourquoi ? Sacrifice ! à quoi ? Je ne vois pas qu’un loup s’immole au bonheur d’un autre loup. Restons donc dans la nature. Nous sommes au sommet ; ayons la philosophie supérieure. Que sert d’être en haut, si l’on ne voit pas plus loin que le bout du nez des autres ? Vivons gaîment. La vie, c’est tout. Que l’homme ait un autre avenir, ailleurs, là-haut, là-bas, quelque part, je n’en crois pas un traître mot. Ah ! l’on me recommande le sacrifice et le renoncement, je dois prendre garde à tout ce que je fais, il faut que je me casse la tête sur le bien et le mal, sur le juste et l’injuste, sur le fas et le nefas. Pourquoi ? parce que j’aurai à rendre compte de mes actions. Quand ? Après ma mort. Quel bon rêve ! Après ma mort, bien fin qui me pincera. Faites donc saisir une poignée de cendres par une main d’ombre. Disons le vrai, nous qui sommes des initiés et qui avons levé la jupe d’Isis : il n’y a ni bien, ni mal ; il y a de la végétation. Cherchons le réel. Creusons tout à fait. Allons au fond, que diable ! Il faut flairer la vérité, fouiller sous terre, et la saisir. Alors elle vous donne des joies exquises. Alors vous devenez fort, et vous riez. Je suis carré par la base, moi. Monsieur l’évêque, l’immortalité de l’homme est un écoute-s’il-pleut. Oh ! la charmante promesse ! Fiez-vous-y. Le bon billet qu’a Adam ! On est âme, on sera ange, on aura des ailes bleues aux omoplates. Aidez-moi donc, n’est-ce pas Tertulien qui dit que les bienheureux iront d’un astre à l’autre ? Soit. On sera les sauterelles des étoiles. Et puis, on verra Dieu. Ta ta ta. Fadaises que tous ces paradis. Dieu est une sornette monstre. Je ne dirais point cela dans le Moniteur, parbleu ! mais je le chuchote entre amis. Inter pocula. Sacrifier la terre au paradis, c’est lâcher la proie pour l’ombre. Être dupe de l’infini ! pas si bête. Je suis néant. Je m’appelle monsieur le comte Néant, sénateur. Étais-je avant ma naissance ? Non. Serai-je après ma mort ? Non. Que suis-je ? un peu de poussière agrégée par un organisme. Qu’ai-je à faire sur cette terre ? J’ai le choix : souffrir ou jouir. Où me mènera la souffrance ? Au néant. Mais j’aurai souffert. Où me mènera la jouissance ? Au néant. Mais j’aurai joui. Mon choix est fait. Il faut être mangeant ou mangé. Je mange. Mieux vaut être la dent que l’herbe. Telle est ma sagesse. Après quoi, va comme je te pousse, le fossoyeur est là, le Panthéon pour nous autres, tout tombe dans le grand trou. Fin. Finis. Liquidation totale. Ceci est l’endroit de l’évanouissement. La mort est morte, croyez-moi. Qu’il y ait là quelqu’un qui ait quelque chose à me dire, je ris d’y songer. Invention de nourrices. Croquemitaine pour les enfants, Jéhovah pour les hommes. Non ; notre lendemain est de la nuit. Derrière la tombe, il n’y a plus que des néants égaux. Vous avez été Sardanapale, vous avez été Vincent de Paul, cela fait le même rien. Voilà le vrai. Donc vivez, par-dessus tout. Usez de votre moi pendant que vous le tenez. En vérité, je vous le dis, monsieur l’évêque, j’ai ma philosophie, et j’ai mes philosophes. Je ne me laisse pas enguirlander par des balivernes. Après ça, il faut bien quelque chose à ceux qui sont en bas, aux va-nu-pieds, aux gagne-petit, aux misérables. On leur donne à gober les légendes, les chimères, l’âme, l’immortalité, le paradis, les étoiles. Ils mâchent cela. Ils le mettent sur leur pain sec. Qui n’a rien a le bon Dieu. C’est bien le moins. Je n’y fais point obstacle, mais je garde pour moi monsieur Naigeon. Le bon Dieu est bon pour le peuple. "I hate Diderot; he is an ideologist, a declaimer, and a revolutionist, a believer in God at bottom, and more bigoted than Voltaire. Voltaire made sport of Needham, and he was wrong, for Needham's eels prove that God is useless. A drop of vinegar in a spoonful of flour paste supplies the fiat lux. Suppose the drop to be larger and the spoonful bigger; you have the world. Man is the eel. Then what is the good of the Eternal Father? The Jehovah hypothesis tires me, Bishop. It is good for nothing but to produce shallow people, whose reasoning is hollow. Down with that great All, which torments me! Hurrah for Zero which leaves me in peace! Between you and me, and in order to empty my sack, and make confession to my pastor, as it behooves me to do, I will admit to you that I have good sense. I am not enthusiastic over your Jesus, who preaches renunciation and sacrifice to the last extremity. 'Tis the counsel of an avaricious man to beggars. Renunciation; why? Sacrifice; to what end? I do not see one wolf immolating himself for the happiness of another wolf. Let us stick to nature, then. We are at the top; let us have a superior philosophy. What is the advantage of being at the top, if one sees no further than the end of other people's noses? Let us live merrily. Life is all. That man has another future elsewhere, on high, below, anywhere, I don't believe; not one single word of it. Ah! sacrifice and renunciation are recommended to me; I must take heed to everything I do; I must cudgel my brains over good and evil, over the just and the unjust, over the fas and the nefas. Why? Because I shall have to render an account of my actions. When? After death. What a fine dream! After my death it will be a very clever person who can catch me. Have a handful of dust seized by a shadow-hand, if you can. Let us tell the truth, we who are initiated, and who have raised the veil of Isis: there is no such thing as either good or evil; there is vegetation. Let us seek the real. Let us get to the bottom of it. Let us go into it thoroughly. What the deuce! let us go to the bottom of it! We must scent out the truth; dig in the earth for it, and seize it. Then it gives you exquisite joys. Then you grow strong, and you laugh. I am square on the bottom, I am. Immortality, Bishop, is a chance, a waiting for dead men's shoes. Ah! what a charming promise! trust to it, if you like! What a fine lot Adam has! We are souls, and we shall be angels, with blue wings on our shoulder-blades. Do come to my assistance: is it not Tertullian who says that the blessed shall travel from star to star? Very well. We shall be the grasshoppers of the stars. And then, besides, we shall see God. Ta, ta, ta! What twaddle all these paradises are! God is a nonsensical monster. I would not say that in the Moniteur, egad! but I may whisper it among friends. Inter pocula. To sacrifice the world to paradise is to let slip the prey for the shadow. Be the dupe of the infinite! I'm not such a fool. I am a nought. I call myself Monsieur le Comte Nought, senator. Did I exist before my birth? No. Shall I exist after death? No. What am I? A little dust collected in an organism. What am I to do on this earth? The choice rests with me: suffer or enjoy. Whither will suffering lead me? To nothingness; but I shall have suffered. Whither will enjoyment lead me? To nothingness; but I shall have enjoyed myself. My choice is made. One must eat or be eaten. I shall eat. It is better to be the tooth than the grass. Such is my wisdom. After which, go whither I push thee, the grave-digger is there; the Pantheon for some of us: all falls into the great hole. End. Finis. Total liquidation. This is the vanishing-point. Death is death, believe me. I laugh at the idea of there being any one who has anything to tell me on that subject. Fables of nurses; bugaboo for children; Jehovah for men. No; our to-morrow is the night. Beyond the tomb there is nothing but equal nothingness. You have been Sardanapalus, you have been Vincent de Paul--it makes no difference. That is the truth. Then live your life, above all things. Make use of your _I_ while you have it. In truth, Bishop, I tell you that I have a philosophy of my own, and I have my philosophers. I don't let myself be taken in with that nonsense. Of course, there must be something for those who are down,--for the barefooted beggars, knife-grinders, and miserable wretches. Legends, chimeras, the soul, immortality, paradise, the stars, are provided for them to swallow. They gobble it down. They spread it on their dry bread. He who has nothing else has the good. God. That is the least he can have. I oppose no objection to that; but I reserve Monsieur Naigeon for myself. The good God is good for the populace."
L’évêque battit des mains. The Bishop clapped his hands.
— Voilà parler ! s’écria-t-il. L’excellente chose, et vraiment merveilleuse, que ce matérialisme-là ! Ne l’a pas qui veut. Ah ! quand on l’a, on n’est plus dupe ; on ne se laisse pas bêtement exiler comme Caton, ni lapider comme Étienne, ni brûler vif comme Jeanne d’Arc. Ceux qui ont réussi à se procurer ce matérialisme admirable ont la joie de se sentir irresponsables, et de penser qu’ils peuvent tout dévorer sans inquiétude, les places, les sinécures, les dignités, le pouvoir bien ou mal acquis, les palinodies lucratives, les trahisons utiles, les savoureuses capitulations de conscience, et qu’ils entreront dans la tombe, leur digestion faite. Comme c’est agréable ! Je ne dis pas cela pour vous, monsieur le sénateur. Cependant il m’est impossible de ne point vous féliciter. Vous autres grands seigneurs, vous avez, vous le dites, une philosophie à vous et pour vous, exquise, raffinée, accessible aux riches seuls, bonne à toutes les sauces, assaisonnant admirablement les voluptés de la vie. Cette philosophie est prise dans les profon deurs et déterrée par des chercheurs spéciaux. Mais vous êtes bons princes, et vous ne trouvez pas mauvais que la croyance au bon Dieu soit la philosophie du peuple, à peu près comme l’oie aux marrons est la dinde aux truffes du pauvre. "That's talking!" he exclaimed. "What an excellent and really marvellous thing is this materialism! Not every one who wants it can have it. Ah! when one does have it, one is no longer a dupe, one does not stupidly allow one's self to be exiled like Cato, nor stoned like Stephen, nor burned alive like Jeanne d'Arc. Those who have succeeded in procuring this admirable materialism have the joy of feeling themselves irresponsible, and of thinking that they can devour everything without uneasiness,--places, sinecures, dignities, power, whether well or ill acquired, lucrative recantations, useful treacheries, savory capitulations of conscience,--and that they shall enter the tomb with their digestion accomplished. How agreeable that is! I do not say that with reference to you, senator. Nevertheless, it is impossible for me to refrain from congratulating you. You great lords have, so you say, a philosophy of your own, and for yourselves, which is exquisite, refined, accessible to the rich alone, good for all sauces, and which seasons the voluptuousness of life admirably. This philosophy has been extracted from the depths, and unearthed by special seekers. But you are good-natured princes, and you do not think it a bad thing that belief in the good God should constitute the philosophy of the people, very much as the goose stuffed with chestnuts is the truffled turkey of the poor."

Chapter VIII: Philosophy after Drinking [Commentary]

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Coming April 8th 2013.

Chapter IX: The Brother as depicted by the Sister

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[Fr.] Le frère raconté par la sœur [En.] The Brother as depicted by the Sister
Pour donner une idée du ménage intérieur de M. l’évêque de Digne et de la façon dont ces deux saintes filles subordonnaient leurs actions, leurs pensées, même leurs instincts de femmes aisément effrayées, aux habitudes et aux intentions de l’évêque, sans qu’il eût même à prendre la peine de parler pour les exprimer, nous ne pouvons mieux faire que de transcrire ici une lettre de mademoiselle Baptistine à madame la vicomtesse de Boischevron, son amie d’enfance. Cette lettre est entre nos mains. In order to furnish an idea of the private establishment of the Bishop of D----, and of the manner in which those two sainted women subordinated their actions, their thoughts, their feminine instincts even, which are easily alarmed, to the habits and purposes of the Bishop, without his even taking the trouble of speaking in order to explain them, we cannot do better than transcribe in this place a letter from Mademoiselle Baptistine to Madame the Vicomtess de Boischevron, the friend of her childhood. This letter is in our possession.
Digne, 16 décembre 18… D----, Dec. 16, 18--.
« Ma bonne madame, pas un jour ne se passe où nous ne parlions de vous. C’est assez notre habitude, mais il y a une raison de plus. Figurez-vous qu’en lavant et époussetant les plafonds et les murs, madame Magloire a fait des découvertes ; maintenant nos deux chambres tapissées de vieux papier blanchi à la chaux ne dépareraient pas un château dans le genre du vôtre. Madame Magloire a déchiré tout le papier. Il y avait des choses dessous. Mon salon, où il n’y a pas de meubles, et dont nous nous servons pour étendre le linge après les lessives, a quinze pieds de haut, dix-huit de large carrés, un plafond peint anciennement avec dorure, des solives comme chez vous. C’était recouvert d’une toile, du temps que c’était l’hôpital. Enfin des boiseries du temps de nos grand’mères. Mais c’est ma chambre qu’il faut voir. Madame Magloire a découvert, sous au moins dix papiers collés dessus, des peintures, sans être bonnes, qui peuvent se supporter. C’est Télémaque reçu chevalier par Minerve ; c’est lui encore dans les jardins, le nom m’échappe ; enfin où les dames romaines se rendaient une seule nuit. Que vous dirai-je ? j’ai des romains, des romaines (ici un mot illisible), et toute la suite. Madame Magloire a débarbouillé tout cela ; cet été elle va réparer quelques petites avaries, revernir le tout, et ma chambre sera un vrai musée. Elle a aussi trouvé dans un coin du grenier deux consoles en bois genre ancien. On demandait deux écus de six livres pour les redorer, mais il vaut mieux donner cela aux pauvres ; d’ailleurs c’est fort laid, et j’aimerais mieux une table ronde en acajou. MY GOOD MADAM: Not a day passes without our speaking of you. It is our established custom; but there is another reason besides. Just imagine, while washing and dusting the ceilings and walls, Madam Magloire has made some discoveries; now our two chambers hung with antique paper whitewashed over, would not discredit a chateau in the style of yours. Madam Magloire has pulled off all the paper. There were things beneath. My drawing-room, which contains no furniture, and which we use for spreading out the linen after washing, is fifteen feet in height, eighteen square, with a ceiling which was formerly painted and gilded, and with beams, as in yours. This was covered with a cloth while this was the hospital. And the woodwork was of the era of our grandmothers. But my room is the one you ought to see. Madam Magloire has discovered, under at least ten thicknesses of paper pasted on top, some paintings, which without being good are very tolerable. The subject is Telemachus being knighted by Minerva in some gardens, the name of which escapes me. In short, where the Roman ladies repaired on one single night. What shall I say to you? I have Romans, and Roman ladies [here occurs an illegible word], and the whole train. Madam Magloire has cleaned it all off; this summer she is going to have some small injuries repaired, and the whole revarnished, and my chamber will be a regular museum. She has also found in a corner of the attic two wooden pier-tables of ancient fashion. They asked us two crowns of six francs each to regild them, but it is much better to give the money to the poor; and they are very ugly besides, and I should much prefer a round table of mahogany.
« Je suis toujours bien heureuse. Mon frère est si bon. Il donne tout ce qu’il a aux indigents et aux malades. Nous sommes très gênés. Le pays est dur l’hiver, et il faut bien faire quelque chose pour ceux qui manquent. Nous sommes à peu près chauffés et éclairés. Vous voyez que ce sont de grandes douceurs. I am always very happy. My brother is so good. He gives all he has to the poor and sick. We are very much cramped. The country is trying in the winter, and we really must do something for those who are in need. We are almost comfortably lighted and warmed. You see that these are great treats.
« Mon frère a ses habitudes à lui. Quand il cause, il dit qu’un évêque doit être ainsi. Figurez-vous que la porte de la maison n’est jamais fermée. Entre qui veut, et l’on est tout de suite chez mon frère. Il ne craint rien, même la nuit. C’est sa bravoure à lui, comme il dit. My brother has ways of his own. When he talks, he says that a bishop ought to be so. Just imagine! the door of our house is never fastened. Whoever chooses to enter finds himself at once in my brother's room. He fears nothing, even at night. That is his sort of bravery, he says.
« Il ne veut pas que je craigne pour lui, ni que madame Magloire craigne. Il s’expose à tous les dangers, et il ne veut même pas que nous ayons l’air de nous en apercevoir. Il faut savoir le comprendre. He does not wish me or Madame Magloire feel any fear for him. He exposes himself to all sorts of dangers, and he does not like to have us even seem to notice it. One must know how to understand him.
« Il sort par la pluie, il marche dans l’eau, il voyage en hiver. Il n’a pas peur de la nuit, des routes suspectes ni des rencontres. He goes out in the rain, he walks in the water, he travels in winter. He fears neither suspicious roads nor dangerous encounters, nor night.
« L’an dernier, il est allé tout seul dans un pays de voleurs. Il n’a pas voulu nous emmener. Il est resté quinze jours absent. À son retour, il n’avait rien eu ; on le croyait mort, et il se portait bien, et il a dit : Voilà comme on m’a volé ! Et il a ouvert une malle pleine de tous les bijoux de la cathédrale d’Embrun, que les voleurs lui avaient donnés. Last year he went quite alone into a country of robbers. He would not take us. He was absent for a fortnight. On his return nothing had happened to him; he was thought to be dead, but was perfectly well, and said, "This is the way I have been robbed!" And then he opened a trunk full of jewels, all the jewels of the cathedral of Embrun, which the thieves had given him.
« Cette fois-là, en revenant, je n’ai pu m’empêcher de le gronder un peu, en ayant soin de ne parler que pendant que la voiture faisait du bruit, afin que personne ne pût entendre. When he returned on that occasion, I could not refrain from scolding him a little, taking care, however, not to speak except when the carriage was making a noise, so that no one might hear me.
« Dans les premiers temps, je me disais : il n’y a pas de dangers qui l’arrêtent, il est terrible. À présent j’ai fini par m’y accoutumer. Je fais signe à madame Magloire pour qu’elle ne le contrarie pas. Il se risque comme il veut. Moi j’emmène madame Magloire, je rentre dans ma chambre, je prie pour lui, et je m’endors. Je suis tranquille, parce que je sais bien que s’il lui arrivait malheur, ce serait ma fin. Je m’en irais au bon Dieu avec mon frère et mon évêque. Madame Magloire a eu plus de peine que moi à s’habituer à ce qu’elle appelait ses imprudences. Mais à présent le pli est pris. Nous prions toutes les deux, nous avons peur ensemble, et nous nous endormons. Le diable entrerait dans la maison qu’on le laisserait faire. Après tout, que craignons-nous dans cette maison ? Il y a toujours quelqu’un avec nous qui est le plus fort. Le diable peut y passer, mais le bon Dieu l’habite. At first I used to say to myself, "There are no dangers which will stop him; he is terrible." Now I have ended by getting used to it. I make a sign to Madam Magloire that she is not to oppose him. He risks himself as he sees fit. I carry off Madam Magloire, I enter my chamber, I pray for him and fall asleep. I am at ease, because I know that if anything were to happen to him, it would be the end of me. I should go to the good God with my brother and my bishop. It has cost Madam Magloire more trouble than it did me to accustom herself to what she terms his imprudences. But now the habit has been acquired. We pray together, we tremble together, and we fall asleep. If the devil were to enter this house, he would be allowed to do so. After all, what is there for us to fear in this house? There is always some one with us who is stronger than we. The devil may pass through it, but the good God dwells here.
« Voilà qui me suffit. Mon frère n’a plus même besoin de me dire un mot maintenant. Je le comprends sans qu’il parle, et nous nous abandonnons à la Providence. This suffices me. My brother has no longer any need of saying a word to me. I understand him without his speaking, and we abandon ourselves to the care of Providence.
« Voilà comme il faut être avec un homme qui a du grand dans l’esprit. That is the way one has to do with a man who possesses grandeur of soul.
« J’ai questionné mon frère pour le renseignement que vous me demandez sur la famille de Faux. Vous savez comme il sait tout et comme il a des souvenirs, car il est toujours très bon royaliste. C’est de vrai une très ancienne famille normande de la généralité de Caen. Il y a cinq cents ans d’un Raoul de Faux et d’un Thomas de Faux, qui étaient des gentilshommes, dont un seigneur de Rochefort. Le dernier était Guy-Étienne-Alexandre et était mestre-de-camp, et quelque chose dans les chevaux-légers de Bretagne. Sa fille Marie-Louise a épousé Adrien-Charles de Gramont, fils du duc Louis de Gramont, pair de France, et colonel des gardes françaises et lieutenant général des armées. On écrit Faux, Fauq et Faoucq. I have interrogated my brother with regard to the information which you desire on the subject of the Faux family. You are aware that he knows everything, and that he has memories, because he is still a very good royalist. They really are a very ancient Norman family of the generalship of Caen. Five hundred years ago there was a Raoul de Faux, a Jean de Faux, and a Thomas de Faux, who were gentlemen, and one of whom was a seigneur de Rochefort. The last was Guy-Etienne-Alexandre, and was commander of a regiment, and something in the light horse of Bretagne. His daughter, Marie-Louise, married Adrien-Charles de Gramont, son of the Duke Louis de Gramont, peer of France, colonel of the French guards, and lieutenant-general of the army. It is written Faux, Fauq, and Faoucq.
« Bonne madame, recommandez-nous aux prières de votre saint parent, M. le cardinal. Quant à votre chère Sylvanie, elle a bien fait de ne pas prendre les courts instants qu’elle passe près de vous pour m’écrire. Elle se porte bien, travaille selon vos désirs, m’aime toujours. C’est ce que je veux. Son souvenir par vous m’est arrivé, je m’en trouve heureuse. Ma santé n’est pas trop mauvaise, et cependant je maigris tous les jours davantage. Adieu, le papier me manque et me force à vous quitter. Mille bonnes choses. Good Madame, recommend us to the prayers of your sainted relative, Monsieur the Cardinal. As for your dear Sylvanie, she has done well in not wasting the few moments which she passes with you in writing to me. She is well, works as you would wish, and loves me.

That is all that I desire. The souvenir which she sent through you reached me safely, and it makes me very happy. My health is not so very bad, and yet I grow thinner every day. Farewell; my paper is at an end, and this forces me to leave you. A thousand good wishes.

« Baptistine. BAPTISTINE.
« P. S. — Votre petit-neveu est charmant. Savez-vous qu’il a cinq ans bientôt ? Hier il a vu passer un cheval auquel on avait mis des genouillères, et il disait : Qu’est-ce qu’il a donc aux genoux ? — Il est si gentil, cet enfant ! Son petit frère traîne un vieux balai dans l’appartement comme une voiture, et dit : Hu ! » P.S. Your grand nephew is charming. Do you know that he will soon be five years old? Yesterday he saw some one riding by on horseback who had on knee-caps, and he said, "What has he got on his knees?" He is a charming child! His little brother is dragging an old broom about the room, like a carriage, and saying, "Hu!"
Comme on le voit par cette lettre, ces deux femmes savaient se plier aux façons d’être de l’évêque avec ce génie particulier de la femme qui comprend l’homme mieux que l’homme ne se comprend. L’évêque de Digne, sous cet air doux et candide qui ne se démentait jamais, faisait parfois des choses grandes, hardies et magnifiques, sans paraître même s’en douter. Elles tremblaient, mais elles le laissaient faire. Quelquefois madame Magloire essayait une remontrance avant ; jamais pendant ni après. Jamais on ne le troublait, ne fût-ce que par un signe, dans une action commencée. À de certains moments, sans qu’il eût besoin de le dire, lorsqu’il n’en avait peut-être pas lui-même conscience, tant sa simplicité était parfaite, elles sentaient vaguement qu’il agissait comme évêque ; alors elles n’étaient plus que deux ombres dans la maison. Elles le servaient passivement, et, si c’était obéir que de disparaître, elles disparaissaient. Elles savaient, avec une admirable délicatesse d’instinct, que de certaines sollicitudes peuvent gêner. Aussi, même le croyant en péril, elles comprenaient, je ne dis pas sa pensée, mais sa nature, jusqu’au point de ne plus veiller sur lui. Elles le confiaient à Dieu. As will be perceived from this letter, these two women understood how to mould themselves to the Bishop's ways with that special feminine genius which comprehends the man better than he comprehends himself. The Bishop of D----, in spite of the gentle and candid air which never deserted him, sometimes did things that were grand, bold, and magnificent, without seeming to have even a suspicion of the fact. They trembled, but they let him alone. Sometimes Madame Magloire essayed a remonstrance in advance, but never at the time, nor afterwards. They never interfered with him by so much as a word or sign, in any action once entered upon. At certain moments, without his having occasion to mention it, when he was not even conscious of it himself in all probability, so perfect was his simplicity, they vaguely felt that he was acting as a bishop; then they were nothing more than two shadows in the house. They served him passively; and if obedience consisted in disappearing, they disappeared. They understood, with an admirable delicacy of instinct, that certain cares may be put under constraint. Thus, even when believing him to be in peril, they understood, I will not say his thought, but his nature, to such a degree that they no longer watched over him. They confided him to God.
D’ailleurs Baptistine disait, comme on vient de le lire, que la fin de son frère serait la sienne. Madame Magloire ne le disait pas, mais elle le savait. Moreover, Baptistine said, as we have just read, that her brother's end would prove her own. Madame Magloire did not say this, but she knew it.

Chapter IX: The Brother as depicted by the Sister [Commentary]

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Coming April 15th 2013.

Chapter X: The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light

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[Fr.] L’évêque en présence d’une lumière inconnue [En.] The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light
À une époque un peu postérieure à la date de la lettre citée dans les pages précédentes, il fit une chose, à en croire toute la ville, plus risquée encore que sa promenade à travers les montagnes des bandits. At an epoch a little later than the date of the letter cited in the preceding pages, he did a thing which, if the whole town was to be believed, was even more hazardous than his trip across the mountains infested with bandits.
Il y avait près de Digne, dans la campagne, un homme qui vivait solitaire. Cet homme, disons tout de suite le gros mot, était un ancien conventionnel. Il se nommait G. In the country near D---- a man lived quite alone. This man, we will state at once, was a former member of the Convention. His name was G----
On parlait du conventionnel G. dans le petit monde de Digne avec une sorte d’horreur. Un conventionnel, vous figurez-vous cela ? Cela existait du temps qu’on se tutoyait et qu’on disait : Citoyen. Cet homme était à peu près un monstre. Il n’avait pas voté la mort du roi, mais presque. C’était un quasi-régicide. Il avait été terrible. Comment, au retour des princes légitimes, n’avait-on pas traduit cet homme-là devant une cour prévôtale ? On ne lui eût pas coupé la tête, si vous voulez, il faut de la clémence, soit ; mais un bon bannissement à vie. Un exemple enfin ! etc., etc. C’était un athée d’ailleurs, comme tous ces gens-là. — Commérages des oies sur le vautour. Member of the Convention, G---- was mentioned with a sort of horror in the little world of D---- A member of the Convention--can you imagine such a thing? That existed from the time when people called each other thou, and when they said "citizen." This man was almost a monster. He had not voted for the death of the king, but almost. He was a quasi-regicide. He had been a terrible man. How did it happen that such a man had not been brought before a provost's court, on the return of the legitimate princes? They need not have cut off his head, if you please; clemency must be exercised, agreed; but a good banishment for life. An example, in short, etc. Besides, he was an atheist, like all the rest of those people. Gossip of the geese about the vulture.
Était-ce du reste un vautour que G. ? Oui, si l’on en jugeait par ce qu’il y avait de farouche dans sa solitude. N’ayant pas voté la mort du roi, il n’avait pas été compris dans les décrets d’exil et avait pu rester en France. Was G---- a vulture after all? Yes; if he were to be judged by the element of ferocity in this solitude of his. As he had not voted for the death of the king, he had not been included in the decrees of exile, and had been able to remain in France.
Il habitait, à trois quarts d’heure de la ville, loin de tout hameau, loin de tout chemin, on ne sait quel repli perdu d’un vallon très sauvage. Il avait là, disait-on, une espèce de champ, un trou, un repaire. Pas de voisins ; pas même de passants. Depuis qu’il demeurait dans ce vallon, le sentier qui y conduisait avait disparu sous l’herbe. On parlait de cet endroit-là comme de la maison du bourreau. He dwelt at a distance of three-quarters of an hour from the city, far from any hamlet, far from any road, in some hidden turn of a very wild valley, no one knew exactly where. He had there, it was said, a sort of field, a hole, a lair. There were no neighbors, not even passers-by. Since he had dwelt in that valley, the path which led thither had disappeared under a growth of grass. The locality was spoken of as though it had been the dwelling of a hangman.
Pourtant l’évêque songeait, et de temps en temps regardait l’horizon à l’endroit où un bouquet d’arbres marquait le vallon du vieux conventionnel, et il disait : Il y a là une âme qui est seule. Nevertheless, the Bishop meditated on the subject, and from time to time he gazed at the horizon at a point where a clump of trees marked the valley of the former member of the Convention, and he said, "There is a soul yonder which is lonely."
Et au fond de sa pensée il ajoutait : Je lui dois ma visite. And he added, deep in his own mind, "I owe him a visit."
Mais, avouons-le, cette idée, au premier abord naturelle, lui apparaissait, après un moment de réflexion, comme étrange et impossible, et presque repoussante. Car au fond, il partageait l’impression générale, et le conventionnel lui inspirait, sans qu’il s’en rendît clairement compte, ce sentiment qui est comme la frontière de la haine et qu’exprime si bien le mot éloignement. But, let us avow it, this idea, which seemed natural at the first blush, appeared to him after a moment's reflection, as strange, impossible, and almost repulsive. For, at bottom, he shared the general impression, and the old member of the Convention inspired him, without his being clearly conscious of the fact himself, with that sentiment which borders on hate, and which is so well expressed by the word estrangement.
Toutefois, la gale de la brebis doit-elle faire reculer le pasteur ? Non. Mais quelle brebis ! Still, should the scab of the sheep cause the shepherd to recoil? No. But what a sheep!
Le bon évêque était perplexe. Quelquefois il allait de ce côté-là, puis il revenait. The good Bishop was perplexed. Sometimes he set out in that direction; then he returned.
Un jour enfin le bruit se répandit dans la ville qu’une façon de jeune pâtre qui servait le conventionnel G. dans sa bauge était venu chercher un médecin ; que le vieux scélérat se mourait, que la paralysie le gagnait, et qu’il ne passerait pas la nuit. — Dieu merci ! ajoutaient quelques-uns. Finally, the rumor one day spread through the town that a sort of young shepherd, who served the member of the Convention in his hovel, had come in quest of a doctor; that the old wretch was dying, that paralysis was gaining on him, and that he would not live over night.--"Thank God!" some added.
L’évêque prit son bâton, mit son pardessus, à cause de sa soutane un peu trop usée, comme nous l’avons dit, et aussi à cause du vent du soir qui ne devait pas tarder à souffler, et partit. The Bishop took his staff, put on his cloak, on account of his too threadbare cassock, as we have mentioned, and because of the evening breeze which was sure to rise soon, and set out.
Le soleil déclinait et touchait presque à l’horizon, quand l’évêque arriva à l’endroit excommunié. Il reconnut avec un certain battement de cœur qu’il était près de la tanière. Il enjamba un fossé, franchit une haie, leva un échalier, entra dans un courtil délabré, fit quelques pas assez hardiment, et tout à coup, au fond de la friche, derrière une haute broussaille, il aperçut la caverne. The sun was setting, and had almost touched the horizon when the Bishop arrived at the excommunicated spot. With a certain beating of the heart, he recognized the fact that he was near the lair. He strode over a ditch, leaped a hedge, made his way through a fence of dead boughs, entered a neglected paddock, took a few steps with a good deal of boldness, and suddenly, at the extremity of the waste land, and behind lofty brambles, he caught sight of the cavern.
C’était une cabane toute basse, indigente, petite et propre, avec une treille clouée à la façade. It was a very low hut, poor, small, and clean, with a vine nailed against the outside.
Devant la porte, dans une vieille chaise à roulettes, fauteuil du paysan, il y avait un homme en cheveux blancs qui souriait au soleil. Near the door, in an old wheel-chair, the arm-chair of the peasants, there was a white-haired man, smiling at the sun.
Près du vieillard assis se tenait debout un jeune garçon, le petit pâtre. Il tendait au vieillard une jatte de lait. Near the seated man stood a young boy, the shepherd lad. He was offering the old man a jar of milk.
Pendant que l’évêque regardait, le vieillard éleva la voix : — Merci, dit-il, je n’ai plus besoin de rien. Et son sourire quitta le soleil pour s’arrêter sur l’enfant. While the Bishop was watching him, the old man spoke: "Thank you," he said, "I need nothing." And his smile quitted the sun to rest upon the child.
L’évêque s’avança. Au bruit qu’il fit en marchant, le vieux homme assis tourna la tête, et son visage exprima toute la quantité de surprise qu’on peut avoir après une longue vie. The Bishop stepped forward. At the sound which he made in walking, the old man turned his head, and his face expressed the sum total of the surprise which a man can still feel after a long life.
— Depuis que je suis ici, dit-il, voilà la première fois qu’on entre chez moi. Qui êtes-vous, monsieur ? "This is the first time since I have been here," said he, "that any one has entered here. Who are you, sir?"
L’évêque répondit : The Bishop answered:--
— Je me nomme Bienvenu Myriel. "My name is Bienvenu Myriel."
— Bienvenu Myriel ! j’ai entendu prononcer ce nom. Est-ce que c’est vous que le peuple appelle monseigneur Bienvenu ? "Bienvenu Myriel? I have heard that name. Are you the man whom the people call Monseigneur Welcome?"
— C’est moi. "I am."
Le vieillard reprit avec un demi-sourire : The old man resumed with a half-smile
— En ce cas, vous êtes mon évêque ? "In that case, you are my bishop?"
— Un peu. "Something of that sort."
— Entrez, monsieur. "Enter, sir."
Le conventionnel tendit la main à l’évêque, mais l’évêque ne la prit pas. L’évêque se borna à dire : The member of the Convention extended his hand to the Bishop, but the Bishop did not take it. The Bishop confined himself to the remark:--
— Je suis satisfait de voir qu’on m’avait trompé. Vous ne me semblez, certes, pas malade. "I am pleased to see that I have been misinformed. You certainly do not seem to me to be ill."
— Monsieur, répondit le vieillard, je vais guérir. "Monsieur," replied the old man, "I am going to recover."
Il fit une pause, et dit : He paused, and then said:--
— Je mourrai dans trois heures. "I shall die three hours hence."
Puis il reprit : Then he continued:--
— Je suis un peu médecin ; je sais de quelle façon la dernière heure vient. Hier, je n’avais que les pieds froids ; aujourd’hui, le froid a gagné les genoux ; maintenant je le sens qui monte jusqu’à la ceinture ; quand il sera au cœur, je m’arrêterai. Le soleil est beau, n’est-ce pas ? je me suis fait rouler dehors pour jeter un dernier coup d’œil sur les choses. Vous pouvez me parler, cela ne me fatigue point. Vous faites bien de venir regarder un homme qui va mourir. Il est bon que ce moment-là ait des témoins. On a des manies ; j’aurais voulu aller jusqu’à l’aube. Mais je sais que j’en ai à peine pour trois heures. Il fera nuit. Au fait, qu’importe ! Finir est une affaire simple. On n’a pas besoin du matin pour cela. Soit. Je mourrai à la belle étoile. "I am something of a doctor; I know in what fashion the last hour draws on. Yesterday, only my feet were cold; to-day, the chill has ascended to my knees; now I feel it mounting to my waist; when it reaches the heart, I shall stop. The sun is beautiful, is it not? I had myself wheeled out here to take a last look at things. You can talk to me; it does not fatigue me. You have done well to come and look at a man who is on the point of death. It is well that there should be witnesses at that moment. One has one's caprices; I should have liked to last until the dawn, but I know that I shall hardly live three hours. It will be night then. What does it matter, after all? Dying is a simple affair. One has no need of the light for that. So be it. I shall die by starlight."
Le vieillard se tourna vers le pâtre. The old man turned to the shepherd lad:--
— Toi, va te coucher. Tu as veillé l’autre nuit, tu es fatigué. "Go to thy bed; thou wert awake all last night; thou art tired."
L’enfant rentra dans la cabane. The child entered the hut.
Le vieillard le suivit des yeux, et ajouta, comme se parlant à lui-même : The old man followed him with his eyes, and added, as though speaking to himself:--
— Pendant qu’il dormira, je mourrai. Les deux sommeils peuvent faire bon voisinage. "I shall die while he sleeps. The two slumbers may be good neighbors."
L’évêque n’était pas ému comme il semble qu’il aurait pu l’être. Il ne croyait pas sentir Dieu dans cette façon de mourir ; disons tout, car les petites contradictions des grands cœurs veulent être indiquées comme le reste, lui qui, dans l’occasion, riait si volontiers de Sa Grandeur, il était quelque peu choqué de ne pas être appelé monseigneur, et il était presque tenté de répliquer : citoyen. Il lui vint une velléité de familiarité bourrue, assez ordinaire aux médecins et aux prêtres, mais qui ne lui était pas habituelle, à lui. Cet homme, après tout, ce conventionnel, ce représentant du peuple, avait été un puissant de la terre ; pour la première fois de sa vie peut-être, l’évêque se sentit en humeur de sévérité. The Bishop was not touched as it seems that he should have been. He did not think he discerned God in this manner of dying; let us say the whole, for these petty contradictions of great hearts must be indicated like the rest: he, who on occasion, was so fond of laughing at "His Grace," was rather shocked at not being addressed as Monseigneur, and he was almost tempted to retort "citizen." He was assailed by a fancy for peevish familiarity, common enough to doctors and priests, but which was not habitual with him. This man, after all, this member of the Convention, this representative of the people, had been one of the powerful ones of the earth; for the first time in his life, probably, the Bishop felt in a mood to be severe.
Le conventionnel cependant le considérait avec une cordialité modeste, où l’on eût pu démêler l’humilité qui sied quand on est si près de sa mise en poussière. Meanwhile, the member of the Convention had been surveying him with a modest cordiality, in which one could have distinguished, possibly, that humility which is so fitting when one is on the verge of returning to dust.
L’évêque, de son côté, quoiqu’il se gardât ordinairement de la curiosité, laquelle, selon lui, était contiguë à l’offense, ne pouvait s’empêcher d’examiner le conventionnel avec une attention qui, n’ayant pas sa source dans la sympathie, lui eût été probablement reprochée par sa conscience vis-à-vis de tout autre homme. Un conventionnel lui faisait un peu l’effet d’être hors la loi, même hors la loi de charité. The Bishop, on his side, although he generally restrained his curiosity, which, in his opinion, bordered on a fault, could not refrain from examining the member of the Convention with an attention which, as it did not have its course in sympathy, would have served his conscience as a matter of reproach, in connection with any other man. A member of the Convention produced on him somewhat the effect of being outside the pale of the law, even of the law of charity.
G., calme, le buste presque droit, la voix vibrante, était un de ces grands octogénaires qui font l’étonnement du physiologiste. La révolution a eu beaucoup de ces hommes proportionnés à l’époque. On sentait dans ce vieillard l’homme à l’épreuve. Si près de sa fin il avait conservé tous les gestes de la santé. Il y avait dans son coup d’œil clair, dans son accent ferme, dans son robuste mouvement d’épaules, de quoi déconcerter la mort. Azraël, l’ange mahométan du sépulcre, eût rebroussé chemin et eût cru se tromper de porte. G. semblait mourir parce qu’il le voulait bien. Il y avait de la liberté dans son agonie. Les jambes seulement étaient immobiles. Les ténèbres le tenaient par là. Les pieds étaient morts et froids, et la tête vivait de toute la puissance de la vie et paraissait en pleine lumière. G., en ce grave moment, ressemblait à ce roi du conte oriental, chair par en haut, marbre par en bas. G----, calm, his body almost upright, his voice vibrating, was one of those octogenarians who form the subject of astonishment to the physiologist. The Revolution had many of these men, proportioned to the epoch. In this old man one was conscious of a man put to the proof. Though so near to his end, he preserved all the gestures of health. In his clear glance, in his firm tone, in the robust movement of his shoulders, there was something calculated to disconcert death. Azrael, the Mohammedan angel of the sepulchre, would have turned back, and thought that he had mistaken the door. G---- seemed to be dying because he willed it so. There was freedom in his agony. His legs alone were motionless. It was there that the shadows held him fast. His feet were cold and dead, but his head survived with all the power of life, and seemed full of light. G----, at this solemn moment, resembled the king in that tale of the Orient who was flesh above and marble below.
Une pierre était là. L’évêque s’y assit. L’exorde fut ex abrupto. There was a stone there. The Bishop sat down. The exordium was abrupt.
— Je vous félicite, dit-il du ton dont on réprimande. Vous n’avez toujours pas voté la mort du roi. "I congratulate you," said he, in the tone which one uses for a reprimand. "You did not vote for the death of the king, after all."
Le conventionnel ne parut pas remarquer le sous-entendu amer caché dans ce mot : toujours. Il répondit. Tout sourire avait disparu de sa face. The old member of the Convention did not appear to notice the bitter meaning underlying the words "after all." He replied. The smile had quite disappeared from his face.
— Ne me félicitez pas trop, monsieur ; j’ai voté la fin du tyran. "Do not congratulate me too much, sir. I did vote for the death of the tyrant."
C’est l’accent austère en présence de l’accent sévère. It was the tone of austerity answering the tone of severity.
— Que voulez-vous dire ? reprit l’évêque. "What do you mean to say?" resumed the Bishop.
— Je veux dire que l’homme a un tyran, l’ignorance. J’ai voté la fin de ce tyran-là. Ce tyran-là a engendré la royauté, qui est l’autorité prise dans le faux, tandis que la science est l’autorité prise dans le vrai. L’homme ne doit être gouverné que par la science. "I mean to say that man has a tyrant,--ignorance. I voted for the death of that tyrant. That tyrant engendered royalty, which is authority falsely understood, while science is authority rightly understood. Man should be governed only by science."
— Et la conscience, ajouta l’évêque. "And conscience," added the Bishop.
— C’est la même chose. La conscience, c’est la quantité de science innée que nous avons en nous. "It is the same thing. Conscience is the quantity of innate science which we have within us."
Monseigneur Bienvenu écoutait, un peu étonné, ce langage très nouveau pour lui. Monseigneur Bienvenu listened in some astonishment to this language, which was very new to him.
Le conventionnel poursuivit : The member of the Convention resumed:--
— Quant à Louis XVI, j’ai dit non. Je ne me crois pas le droit de tuer un homme ; mais je me sens le devoir d’exterminer le mal. J’ai voté la fin du tyran. C’est-à-dire la fin de la prostitution pour la femme, la fin de l’esclavage pour l’homme, la fin de la nuit pour l’enfant. En votant la république, j’ai voté cela. J’ai voté la fraternité, la concorde, l’aurore ! J’ai aidé à la chute des préjugés et des erreurs. Les écroulements des erreurs et des préjugés font de la lumière. Nous avons fait tomber le vieux monde, nous autres, et le vieux monde, vase des misères, en se renversant sur le genre humain est devenu une urne de joie. "So far as Louis XVI. was concerned, I said `no.' I did not think that I had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to exterminate evil. I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say, the end of prostitution for woman, the end of slavery for man, the end of night for the child. In voting for the Republic, I voted for that. I voted for fraternity, concord, the dawn. I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and errors. The crumbling away of prejudices and errors causes light. We have caused the fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of miseries, has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn of joy."
— Joie mêlée, dit l’évêque. "Mixed joy," said the Bishop.
— Vous pourriez dire joie troublée, et aujourd’hui, après ce fatal retour du passé qu’on nomme 1814, joie disparue. Hélas ! l’œuvre a été incomplète, j’en conviens ; nous avons démoli l’ancien régime dans les faits, nous n’avons pu entièrement le supprimer dans les idées. Détruire les abus, cela ne suffit pas ; il faut modifier les mœurs. Le moulin n’y est plus, le vent y est encore. "You may say troubled joy, and to-day, after that fatal return of the past, which is called 1814, joy which has disappeared! Alas! The work was incomplete, I admit: we demolished the ancient regime in deeds; we were not able to suppress it entirely in ideas. To destroy abuses is not sufficient; customs must be modified. The mill is there no longer; the wind is still there."
— Vous avez démoli. Démolir peut être utile ; mais je me défie d’une démolition compliquée de colère. "You have demolished. It may be of use to demolish, but I distrust a demolition complicated with wrath."
— Le droit a sa colère, monsieur l’évêque, et la colère du droit est un élément du progrès. N’importe, et, quoi qu’on en dise, la révolution française est le plus puissant pas du genre humain depuis l’avènement du Christ. Incomplète, soit, mais sublime. Elle a dégagé toutes les inconnues sociales ; elle a adouci les esprits ; elle a calmé, apaisé, éclairé ; elle a fait couler sur la terre des flots de civilisation. Elle a été bonne. La révolution française, c’est le sacre de l’humanité. "Right has its wrath, Bishop; and the wrath of right is an element of progress. In any case, and in spite of whatever may be said, the French Revolution is the most important step of the human race since the advent of Christ. Incomplete, it may be, but sublime. It set free all the unknown social quantities; it softened spirits, it calmed, appeased, enlightened; it caused the waves of civilization to flow over the earth. It was a good thing. The French Revolution is the consecration of humanity."
L’évêque ne put s’empêcher de murmurer : The Bishop could not refrain from murmuring:--
— Oui ? 93 ! "Yes? '93!"
Le conventionnel se dressa sur sa chaise avec une solennité presque lugubre, et, autant qu’un mourant peut s’écrier, il s’écria : The member of the Convention straightened himself up in his chair with an almost lugubrious solemnity, and exclaimed, so far as a dying man is capable of exclamation:--
— Ah ! vous y voilà ! 93 ! J’attendais ce mot-là. Un nuage s’est formé pendant quinze cents ans. Au bout de quinze siècles, il a crevé. Vous faites le procès au coup de tonnerre. "Ah, there you go; '93! I was expecting that word. A cloud had been forming for the space of fifteen hundred years; at the end of fifteen hundred years it burst. You are putting the thunderbolt on its trial."
L’évêque sentit, sans se l’avouer peut-être, que quelque chose en lui était atteint. Pourtant il fit bonne contenance. Il répondit : The Bishop felt, without, perhaps, confessing it, that something within him had suffered extinction. Nevertheless, he put a good face on the matter. He replied:--
— Le juge parle au nom de la justice ; le prêtre parle au nom de la pitié, qui n’est autre chose qu’une justice plus élevée. Un coup de tonnerre ne doit pas se tromper. "The judge speaks in the name of justice; the priest speaks in the name of pity, which is nothing but a more lofty justice. A thunderbolt should commit no error."
Et il ajouta en regardant fixement le conventionnel : And he added, regarding the member of the Convention steadily the while,
— Louis XVII ? "Louis XVII.?"
Le conventionnel étendit la main et saisit le bras de l’évêque : The conventionary stretched forth his hand and grasped the Bishop's arm.
— Louis XVII ! voyons. Sur qui pleurez-vous ? Est-ce sur l’enfant innocent ? alors soit. Je pleure avec vous. Est-ce sur l’enfant royal ? je demande à réfléchir. Pour moi, le frère de Cartouche, enfant innocent, pendu sous les aisselles en place de Grève jusqu’à ce que mort s’ensuive, pour le seul crime d’avoir été le frère de Cartouche, n’est pas moins douloureux que le petit-fils de Louis XV, enfant innocent, martyrisé dans la tour du Temple pour le seul crime d’avoir été le petit-fils de Louis XV. <"Louis XVII.! let us see. For whom do you mourn? is it for the innocent child? very good; in that case I mourn with you. Is it for the royal child? I demand time for reflection. To me, the brother of Cartouche, an innocent child who was hung up by the armpits in the Place de Greve, until death ensued, for the sole crime of having been the brother of Cartouche, is no less painful than the grandson of Louis XV., an innocent child, martyred in the tower of the Temple, for the sole crime of having been grandson of Louis XV."/td>
— Monsieur, dit l’évêque, je n’aime pas ces rapprochements de noms. "Monsieur," said the Bishop, "I like not this conjunction of names.
— Cartouche ? Louis XV ? pour lequel des deux réclamez-vous ? "Cartouche? Louis XV.? To which of the two do you object?"
Il y eut un moment de silence. L’évêque regrettait presque d’être venu, et pourtant il se sentait vaguement et étrangement ébranlé. A momentary silence ensued. The Bishop almost regretted having come, and yet he felt vaguely and strangely shaken.
Le conventionnel reprit : The conventionary resumed:--
— Ah ! monsieur le prêtre, vous n’aimez pas les crudités du vrai. Christ les aimait, lui. Il prenait une verge et il époussetait le temple. Son fouet plein d’éclairs était un rude diseur de vérités. Quand il s’écriait : Sinite parvulos… il ne distinguait pas entre les petits enfants. Il ne se fût pas gêné de rapprocher le dauphin de Barabbas du dauphin d’Hérode. Monsieur, l’innocence est sa couronne à elle-même. L’innocence n’a que faire d’être altesse. Elle est aussi auguste déguenillée que fleurdelysée. "Ah, Monsieur Priest, you love not the crudities of the true. Christ loved them. He seized a rod and cleared out the Temple. His scourge, full of lightnings, was a harsh speaker of truths. When he cried, `Sinite parvulos,' he made no distinction between the little children. It would not have embarrassed him to bring together the Dauphin of Barabbas and the Dauphin of Herod. Innocence, Monsieur, is its own crown. Innocence has no need to be a highness. It is as august in rags as in fleurs de lys."
— C’est vrai, dit l’évêque à voix basse. "That is true," said the Bishop in a low voice.
— J’insiste, continua le conventionnel G. Vous m’avez nommé Louis XVII. Entendons-nous. Pleurons-nous sur tous les innocents, sur tous les martyrs, sur tous les enfants, sur ceux d’en bas comme sur ceux d’en haut ? J’en suis. Mais alors, je vous l’ai dit, il faut remonter plus haut que 93, et c’est avant Louis XVII qu’il faut commencer nos larmes. Je pleurerai sur les enfants des rois avec vous, pourvu que vous pleuriez avec moi sur les petits du peuple. "I persist," continued the conventionary G---- "You have mentioned Louis XVII. to me. Let us come to an understanding. Shall we weep for all the innocent, all martyrs, all children, the lowly as well as the exalted? I agree to that. But in that case, as I have told you, we must go back further than '93, and our tears must begin before Louis XVII. I will weep with you over the children of kings, provided that you will weep with me over the children of the people."
— Je pleure sur tous, dit l’évêque. "I weep for all," said the Bishop.
— Également ! s’écria G., et, si la balance doit pencher, que ce soit du côté du peuple. Il y a plus longtemps qu’il souffre. "Equally!" exclaimed conventionary G----; "and if the balance must incline, let it be on the side of the people. They have been suffering longer."
Il y eut encore un silence. Ce fut le conventionnel qui le rompit. Il se souleva sur un coude, prit entre son pouce et son index replié un peu de sa joue, comme on fait machinalement lorsqu’on interroge et qu’on juge, et interpella l’évêque avec un regard plein de toutes les énergies de l’agonie. Ce fut presque une explosion. Another silence ensued. The conventionary was the first to break it. He raised himself on one elbow, took a bit of his cheek between his thumb and his forefinger, as one does mechanically when one interrogates and judges, and appealed to the Bishop with a gaze full of all the forces of the death agony. It was almost an explosion.
— Oui, monsieur, il y a longtemps que le peuple souffre. Et puis, tenez, ce n’est pas tout cela, que venez-vous me questionner et me parler de Louis XVII ? Je ne vous connais pas, moi. Depuis que je suis dans ce pays, j’ai vécu dans cet enclos, seul, ne mettant pas les pieds dehors, ne voyant personne que cet enfant qui m’aide. Votre nom est, il est vrai, arrivé confusément jusqu’à moi, et, je dois le dire, pas très mal prononcé ; mais cela ne signifie rien ; les gens habiles ont tant de manières d’en faire accroire à ce brave bonhomme de peuple. À propos, je n’ai pas entendu le bruit de votre voiture, vous l’avez sans doute laissée derrière le taillis, là-bas, à l’embranchement de la route. Je ne vous connais pas, vous dis-je. Vous m’avez dit que vous étiez l’évêque, mais cela ne me renseigne point sur votre personne morale. En somme, je vous répète ma question. Qui êtes-vous ? Vous êtes un évêque, c’est-à-dire un prince de l’église, un de ces hommes dorés, armoriés, rentés, qui ont de grosses prébendes, — l’évêché de Digne, quinze mille francs de fixe, dix mille francs de casuel, total, vingt-cinq mille francs, — qui ont des cuisines, qui ont des livrées, qui font bonne chère, qui mangent des poules d’eau le vendredi, qui se pavanent, laquais devant, laquais derrière, en berline de gala, et qui ont des palais, et qui roulent carrosse au nom de Jésus-Christ qui allait pieds nus ! Vous êtes un prélat ; rentes, palais, chevaux, valets, bonne table, toutes les sensualités de la vie, vous avez cela comme les autres, et comme les autres vous en jouissez, c’est bien, mais cela en dit trop ou pas assez ; cela ne m’éclaire pas sur votre valeur intrinsèque et essentielle, à vous qui venez avec la prétention probable de m’apporter de la sagesse. À qui est-ce que je parle ? Qui êtes-vous ? "Yes, sir, the people have been suffering a long while. And hold! that is not all, either; why have you just questioned me and talked to me about Louis XVII.? I know you not. Ever since I have been in these parts I have dwelt in this enclosure alone, never setting foot outside, and seeing no one but that child who helps me. Your name has reached me in a confused manner, it is true, and very badly pronounced, I must admit; but that signifies nothing: clever men have so many ways of imposing on that honest goodman, the people. By the way, I did not hear the sound of your carriage; you have left it yonder, behind the coppice at the fork of the roads, no doubt. I do not know you, I tell you. You have told me that you are the Bishop; but that affords me no information as to your moral personality. In short, I repeat my question. Who are you? You are a bishop; that is to say, a prince of the church, one of those gilded men with heraldic bearings and revenues, who have vast prebends,-- the bishopric of D---- fifteen thousand francs settled income, ten thousand in perquisites; total, twenty-five thousand francs,-- who have kitchens, who have liveries, who make good cheer, who eat moor-hens on Friday, who strut about, a lackey before, a lackey behind, in a gala coach, and who have palaces, and who roll in their carriages in the name of Jesus Christ who went barefoot! You are a prelate,--revenues, palace, horses, servants, good table, all the sensualities of life; you have this like the rest, and like the rest, you enjoy it; it is well; but this says either too much or too little; this does not enlighten me upon the intrinsic and essential value of the man who comes with the probable intention of bringing wisdom to me. To whom do I speak? Who are you?"
L’évêque baissa la tête et répondit : — Vermis sum. The Bishop hung his head and replied, "Vermis sum--I am a worm."
— Un ver de terre en carrosse ! grommela le conventionnel. "A worm of the earth in a carriage?" growled the conventionary.
C’était le tour du conventionnel d’être hautain, et de l’évêque d’être humble. It was the conventionary's turn to be arrogant, and the Bishop's to be humble.
L’évêque reprit avec douceur : The Bishop resumed mildly:--
— Monsieur, soit. Mais expliquez-moi en quoi mon carrosse, qui est là à deux pas derrière les arbres, en quoi ma bonne table et les poules d’eau que je mange le vendredi, en quoi mes vingt-cinq mille livres de rentes, en quoi mon palais et mes laquais prouvent que la pitié n’est pas une vertu, que la clémence n’est pas un devoir, et que 93 n’a pas été inexorable. "So be it, sir. But explain to me how my carriage, which is a few paces off behind the trees yonder, how my good table and the moor-hens which I eat on Friday, how my twenty-five thousand francs income, how my palace and my lackeys prove that clemency is not a duty, and that '93 was not inexorable."
Le conventionnel passa la main sur son front comme pour en écarter un nuage. The conventionary passed his hand across his brow, as though to sweep away a cloud.
— Avant de vous répondre, dit-il, je vous prie de me pardonner. Je viens d’avoir un tort, monsieur. Vous êtes chez moi, vous êtes mon hôte. Je vous dois courtoisie. Vous discutez mes idées, il sied que je me borne à combattre vos raisonnements. Vos richesses et vos jouissances sont des avantages que j’ai contre vous dans le débat, mais il est de bon goût de ne pas m’en servir. Je vous promets de ne plus en user. "Before replying to you," he said, "I beseech you to pardon me. I have just committed a wrong, sir. You are at my house, you are my guest, I owe you courtesy. You discuss my ideas, and it becomes me to confine myself to combating your arguments. Your riches and your pleasures are advantages which I hold over you in the debate; but good taste dictates that I shall not make use of them. I promise you to make no use of them in the future."
— Je vous remercie, dit l’évêque. "I thank you," said the Bishop.
G. reprit : G---- resumed.
— Revenons à l’explication que vous me demandiez. Où en étions-nous ? Que me disiez-vous ? que 93 a été inexorable ? "Let us return to the explanation which you have asked of me. Where were we? What were you saying to me? That '93 was inexorable?"
— Inexorable, oui, dit l’évêque. Que pensez-vous de Marat battant des mains à la guillotine ? "Inexorable; yes," said the Bishop. "What think you of Marat clapping his hands at the guillotine?"
— Que pensez-vous de Bossuet chantant le Te Deum sur les dragonnades ? "What think you of Bossuet chanting the Te Deum over the dragonnades?"
La réponse était dure, mais elle allait au but avec la rigidité d’une pointe d’acier. L’évêque en tressaillit, il ne lui vint aucune riposte ; mais il était froissé de cette façon de nommer Bossuet. Les meilleurs esprits ont leurs fétiches, et parfois se sentent vaguement meurtris des manques de respect de la logique. The retort was a harsh one, but it attained its mark with the directness of a point of steel. The Bishop quivered under it; no reply occurred to him; but he was offended by this mode of alluding to Bossuet. The best of minds will have their fetiches, and they sometimes feel vaguely wounded by the want of respect of logic.
Le conventionnel commençait à haleter ; l’asthme de l’agonie, qui se mêle aux derniers souffles, lui entrecoupait la voix ; cependant il avait encore une parfaite lucidité d’âme dans les yeux. Il continua : The conventionary began to pant; the asthma of the agony which is mingled with the last breaths interrupted his voice; still, there was a perfect lucidity of soul in his eyes. He went on:--
— Disons encore quelques mots çà et là, je veux bien. En dehors de la révolution, qui, prise dans son ensemble, est une immense affirmation humaine, 93, hélas ! est une réplique. Vous le trouvez inexorable, mais toute la monarchie, monsieur ? Carrier est un bandit ; mais quel nom donnez-vous à Montrevel ? Fouquier-Tinville est un gueux ; mais quel est votre avis sur Lamoignon-Bâville ? Maillard est affreux, mais Saulx-Tavannes, s’il vous plaît ? Le père Duchêne est féroce, mais quelle épithète m’accorderez-vous pour le père Letellier ? Jourdan-Coupe-Tête est un monstre, mais moindre que M. le marquis de Louvois. Monsieur, monsieur, je plains Marie-Antoinette archiduchesse et reine, mais je plains aussi cette pauvre femme huguenote qui, en 1685, sous Louis le Grand, monsieur, allaitant son enfant, fut liée, nue jusqu’à la ceinture, à un poteau, l’enfant tenu à distance ; le sein se gonflait de lait et le cœur d’angoisse ; le petit, affamé et pâle, voyait ce sein, agonisait et criait ; et le bourreau disait à la femme, mère et nourrice : Abjure ! lui donnant à choisir entre la mort de son enfant et la mort de sa conscience. Que dites-vous de ce supplice de Tantale accommodé à une mère ? Monsieur, retenez bien ceci, la révolution française a eu ses raisons. Sa colère sera absoute par l’avenir. Son résultat, c’est le monde meilleur. De ses coups les plus terribles il sort une caresse pour le genre humain. J’abrège. Je m’arrête, j’ai trop beau jeu. D’ailleurs je me meurs. "Let me say a few words more in this and that direction; I am willing. Apart from the Revolution, which, taken as a whole, is an immense human affirmation, '93 is, alas! a rejoinder. You think it inexorable, sir; but what of the whole monarchy, sir? Carrier is a bandit; but what name do you give to Montrevel? Fouquier-Tainville is a rascal; but what is your opinion as to Lamoignon-Baville? Maillard is terrible; but Saulx-Tavannes, if you please? Duchene senior is ferocious; but what epithet will you allow me for the elder Letellier? Jourdan-Coupe-Tete is a monster; but not so great a one as M. the Marquis de Louvois. Sir, sir, I am sorry for Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen; but I am also sorry for that poor Huguenot woman, who, in 1685, under Louis the Great, sir, while with a nursing infant, was bound, naked to the waist, to a stake, and the child kept at a distance; her breast swelled with milk and her heart with anguish; the little one, hungry and pale, beheld that breast and cried and agonized; the executioner said to the woman, a mother and a nurse, `Abjure!' giving her her choice between the death of her infant and the death of her conscience. What say you to that torture of Tantalus as applied to a mother? Bear this well in mind sir: the French Revolution had its reasons for existence; its wrath will be absolved by the future; its result is the world made better. From its most terrible blows there comes forth a caress for the human race. I abridge, I stop, I have too much the advantage; moreover, I am dying."
Et, cessant de regarder l’évêque, le conventionnel acheva sa pensée en ces quelques mots tranquilles : And ceasing to gaze at the Bishop, the conventionary concluded his thoughts in these tranquil words:--
— Oui, les brutalités du progrès s’appellent révolutions. Quand elles sont finies, on reconnaît ceci : que le genre humain a été rudoyé, mais qu’il a marché. "Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over, this fact is recognized,--that the human race has been treated harshly, but that it has progressed."
Le conventionnel ne se doutait pas qu’il venait d’emporter successivement l’un après l’autre tous les retranchements intérieurs de l’évêque. Il en restait un pourtant, et de ce retranchement, suprême ressource de la résistance de monseigneur Bienvenu, sortit cette parole où reparut presque toute la rudesse du commencement : The conventionary doubted not that he had successively conquered all the inmost intrenchments of the Bishop. One remained, however, and from this intrenchment, the last resource of Monseigneur Bienvenu's resistance, came forth this reply, wherein appeared nearly all the harshness of the beginning:--
— Le progrès doit croire en Dieu. Le bien ne peut pas avoir de serviteur impie. C’est un mauvais conducteur du genre humain que celui qui est athée. "Progress should believe in God. Good cannot have an impious servitor. He who is an atheist is but a bad leader for the human race."
Le vieux représentant du peuple ne répondit pas. Il eut un tremblement. Il regarda le ciel, et une larme germa lentement dans ce regard. Quand la paupière fut pleine, la larme coula le long de sa joue livide, et il dit presque en bégayant, bas en se parlant à lui-même, l’œil perdu dans les profondeurs : The former representative of the people made no reply. He was seized with a fit of trembling. He looked towards heaven, and in his glance a tear gathered slowly. When the eyelid was full, the tear trickled down his livid cheek, and he said, almost in a stammer, quite low, and to himself, while his eyes were plunged in the depths:--
— Ô toi ! ô idéal ! toi seul existes ! "O thou! O ideal! Thou alone existest!"
L’évêque eut une sorte d’inexprimable commotion. The Bishop experienced an indescribable shock.
Après un silence, le vieillard leva un doigt vers le ciel, et dit : After a pause, the old man raised a finger heavenward and said:--
— L’infini est. Il est là. Si l’infini n’avait pas de moi, le moi serait sa borne, il ne serait pas infini ; en d’autres termes, il ne serait pas. Or il est. Donc il a un moi. Ce moi de l’infini, c’est Dieu. "The infinite is. He is there. If the infinite had no person, person would be without limit; it would not be infinite; in other words, it would not exist. There is, then, an _I_. That _I_ of the infinite is God."
Le mourant avait prononcé ces dernières paroles d’une voix haute et avec le frémissement de l’extase, comme s’il voyait quelqu’un. Quand il eut parlé, ses yeux se fermèrent. L’effort l’avait épuisé. Il était évident qu’il venait de vivre en une minute les quelques heures qui lui restaient. Ce qu’il venait de dire l’avait approché de celui qui est dans la mort. L’instant suprême arrivait. The dying man had pronounced these last words in a loud voice, and with the shiver of ecstasy, as though he beheld some one. When he had spoken, his eyes closed. The effort had exhausted him. It was evident that he had just lived through in a moment the few hours which had been left to him. That which he had said brought him nearer to him who is in death. The supreme moment was approaching.
L’évêque le comprit, le moment pressait ; c’était comme prêtre qu’il était venu. De l’extrême froideur, il était passé par degrés à l’émotion extrême ; il regarda ces yeux fermés, il prit cette vieille main ridée et glacée, et se pencha vers le moribond : The Bishop understood this; time pressed; it was as a priest that he had come: from extreme coldness he had passed by degrees to extreme emotion; he gazed at those closed eyes, he took that wrinkled, aged and ice-cold hand in his, and bent over the dying man.
— Cette heure est celle de Dieu. Ne trouvez-vous pas qu’il serait regrettable que nous nous fussions rencontrés en vain ? "This hour is the hour of God. Do you not think that it would be regrettable if we had met in vain?"
Le conventionnel rouvrit les yeux. Une gravité où il y avait de l’ombre s’empreignit sur son visage. The conventionary opened his eyes again. A gravity mingled with gloom was imprinted on his countenance.
— Monsieur l’évêque, dit-il, avec une lenteur qui venait peut-être plus encore de la dignité de l’âme que de la défaillance des forces, j’ai passé ma vie dans la méditation, l’étude et la contemplation. J’avais soixante ans quand mon pays m’a appelé, et m’a ordonné de me mêler de ses affaires. J’ai obéi. Il y avait des abus, je les ai combattus ; il y avait des tyrannies, je les ai détruites ; il y avait des droits et des principes, je les ai proclamés et confessés. Le territoire était envahi, je l’ai défendu ; la France était menacée, j’ai offert ma poitrine. Je n’étais pas riche ; je suis pauvre. J’ai été l’un des maîtres de l’État, les caves du Trésor étaient encombrées d’espèces au point qu’on était forcé d’étançonner les murs, prêts à se fendre sous le poids de l’or et de l’argent ; je dînais rue de l’Arbre-Sec à vingt-deux sous par tête. J’ai secouru les opprimés, j’ai soulagé les souffrants. J’ai déchiré la nappe de l’autel, c’est vrai ; mais c’était pour panser les blessures de la patrie. J’ai toujours soutenu la marche en avant du genre humain vers la lumière, et j’ai résisté quelquefois au progrès sans pitié. J’ai, dans l’occasion, protégé mes propres adversaires, vous autres. Et il y a, à Peteghem en Flandre, à l’endroit même où les rois mérovingiens avaient leur palais d’été, un couvent d’urbanistes, l’abbaye de Sainte-Claire en Beaulieu, que j’ai sauvé en 1793. J’ai fait mon devoir selon mes forces et le bien que j’ai pu. Après quoi j’ai été chassé, traqué, poursuivi, persécuté, noirci, raillé, conspué, maudit, proscrit. Depuis bien des années déjà, avec mes cheveux blancs, je sens que beaucoup de gens se croient sur moi le droit de mépris, j’ai pour la pauvre foule ignorante visage de damné, et j’accepte, ne haïssant personne, l’isolement de la haine. Maintenant, j’ai quatre-vingt-six ans ; je vais mourir. Qu’est-ce que vous venez me demander ? "Bishop," said he, with a slowness which probably arose more from his dignity of soul than from the failing of his strength, "I have passed my life in meditation, study, and contemplation. I was sixty years of age when my country called me and commanded me to concern myself with its affairs. I obeyed. Abuses existed, I combated them; tyrannies existed, I destroyed them; rights and principles existed, I proclaimed and confessed them. Our territory was invaded, I defended it; France was menaced, I offered my breast. I was not rich; I am poor. I have been one of the masters of the state; the vaults of the treasury were encumbered with specie to such a degree that we were forced to shore up the walls, which were on the point of bursting beneath the weight of gold and silver; I dined in Dead Tree Street, at twenty-two sous. I have succored the oppressed, I have comforted the suffering. I tore the cloth from the altar, it is true; but it was to bind up the wounds of my country. I have always upheld the march forward of the human race, forward towards the light, and I have sometimes resisted progress without pity. I have, when the occasion offered, protected my own adversaries, men of your profession. And there is at Peteghem, in Flanders, at the very spot where the Merovingian kings had their summer palace, a convent of Urbanists, the Abbey of Sainte Claire en Beaulieu, which I saved in 1793. I have done my duty according to my powers, and all the good that I was able. After which, I was hunted down, pursued, persecuted, blackened, jeered at, scorned, cursed, proscribed. For many years past, I with my white hair have been conscious that many people think they have the right to despise me; to the poor ignorant masses I present the visage of one damned. And I accept this isolation of hatred, without hating any one myself. Now I am eighty-six years old; I am on the point of death. What is it that you have come to ask of me?"
— Votre bénédiction, dit l’évêque. "Your blessing," said the Bishop.
Et il s’agenouilla. And he knelt down.
Quand l’évêque releva la tête, la face du conventionnel était devenue auguste. Il venait d’expirer. When the Bishop raised his head again, the face of the conventionary had become august. He had just expired.
L’évêque rentra chez lui profondément absorbé dans on ne sait quelles pensées. Il passa toute la nuit en prière. Le lendemain, quelques braves curieux essayèrent de lui parler du conventionnel G. ; il se borna à montrer le ciel. À partir de ce moment, il redoubla de tendresse et de fraternité pour les petits et les souffrants. The Bishop returned home, deeply absorbed in thoughts which cannot be known to us. He passed the whole night in prayer. On the following morning some bold and curious persons attempted to speak to him about member of the Convention G----; he contented himself with pointing heavenward. From that moment he redoubled his tenderness and brotherly feeling towards all children and sufferers.
Toute allusion à ce « vieux scélérat de G. » le faisait tomber dans une préoccupation singulière. Personne ne pourrait dire que le passage de cet esprit devant le sien et le reflet de cette grande conscience sur la sienne ne fût pas pour quelque chose dans son approche de la perfection. Any allusion to "that old wretch of a G----" caused him to fall into a singular preoccupation. No one could say that the passage of that soul before his, and the reflection of that grand conscience upon his, did not count for something in his approach to perfection.
Cette « visite pastorale » fut naturellement une occasion de bourdonnement pour les petites coteries locales : This "pastoral visit" naturally furnished an occasion for a murmur of comment in all the little local coteries.
« — Était-ce la place d’un évêque que le chevet d’un tel mourant ? Il n’y avait évidemment pas de conversion à attendre. Tous ces révolutionnaires sont relaps. Alors pourquoi y aller ? Qu’a-t-il été regarder là ? Il fallait donc qu’il fût bien curieux d’un emportement d’âme par le diable. » "Was the bedside of such a dying man as that the proper place for a bishop? There was evidently no conversion to be expected. All those revolutionists are backsliders. Then why go there? What was there to be seen there? He must have been very curious indeed to see a soul carried off by the devil."
Un jour, une douairière, de la variété impertinente qui se croit spirituelle, lui adressa cette saillie : — Monseigneur, on demande quand Votre Grandeur aura le bonnet rouge. — Oh ! oh ! voilà une grosse couleur, répondit l’évêque. Heureusement que ceux qui la méprisent dans un bonnet la vénèrent dans un chapeau. One day a dowager of the impertinent variety who thinks herself spiritual, addressed this sally to him, "Monseigneur, people are inquiring when Your Greatness will receive the red cap!"--"Oh! oh! that's a coarse color," replied the Bishop. "It is lucky that those who despise it in a cap revere it in a hat."

Chapter X: The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light [Commentary]

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Coming April 22nd 2013.

Chapter XI: A Restriction

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[Fr.] Une restriction [En.] A Restriction
On risquerait fort de se tromper si l’on concluait de là que monseigneur Bienvenu fût « un évêque philosophe » ou « un curé patriote ». Sa rencontre, ce qu’on pourrait presque appeler sa conjonction avec le conventionnel G., lui laissa une sorte d’étonnement qui le rendit plus doux encore. Voilà tout. We should incur a great risk of deceiving ourselves, were we to conclude from this that Monseigneur Welcome was "a philosophical bishop," or a "patriotic cure." His meeting, which may almost be designated as his union, with conventionary G----, left behind it in his mind a sort of astonishment, which rendered him still more gentle. That is all.
Quoique monseigneur Bienvenu n’ait été rien moins qu’un homme politique, c’est peut-être ici le lieu d’indiquer, très brièvement, quelle fut son attitude dans les événements d’alors, en supposant que monseigneur Bienvenu ait jamais songé à avoir une attitude. Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was far from being a politician, this is, perhaps, the place to indicate very briefly what his attitude was in the events of that epoch, supposing that Monseigneur Bienvenu ever dreamed of having an attitude.
Remontons donc en arrière de quelques années. Let us, then, go back a few years.
Quelque temps après l’élévation de M. Myriel à l’épiscopat, l’empereur l’avait fait baron de l’empire, en même temps que plusieurs autres évêques. L’arrestation du pape eut lieu, comme on sait, dans la nuit du 5 au 6 juillet 1809 ; à cette occasion, M. Myriel fut appelé par Napoléon au synode des évêques de France et d’Italie convoqué à Paris. Ce synode se tint à Notre-Dame et s’assembla pour la première fois le 15 juin 1811 sous la présidence de M. le cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel fut du nombre des quatre-vingt-quinze évêques qui s’y rendirent. Mais il n’assista qu’à une séance et à trois ou quatre conférences particulières. Évêque d’un diocèse montagnard, vivant si près de la nature, dans la rusticité et le dénuement, il paraît qu’il apportait parmi ces personnages éminents des idées qui changeaient la température de l’assemblée. Il revint bien vite à Digne. On le questionna sur ce prompt retour, il répondit : — Je les gênais. L’air du dehors leur venait par moi. Je leur faisais l’effet d’une porte ouverte. Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopate, the Emperor had made him a baron of the Empire, in company with many other bishops. The arrest of the Pope took place, as every one knows, on the night of the 5th to the 6th of July, 1809; on this occasion, M. Myriel was summoned by Napoleon to the synod of the bishops of France and Italy convened at Paris. This synod was held at Notre-Dame, and assembled for the first time on the 15th of June, 1811, under the presidency of Cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel was one of the ninety-five bishops who attended it. But he was present only at one sitting and at three or four private conferences. Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so very close to nature, in rusticity and deprivation, it appeared that he imported among these eminent personages, ideas which altered the temperature of the assembly. He very soon returned to D---- He was interrogated as to this speedy return, and he replied: "I embarrassed them. The outside air penetrated to them through me. I produced on them the effect of an open door."
Une autre fois il dit : — Que voulez-vous ? ces messeigneurs-là sont des princes. Moi, je ne suis qu’un pauvre évêque paysan. On another occasion he said, "What would you have? Those gentlemen are princes. I am only a poor peasant bishop."
Le fait est qu’il avait déplu. Entre autres choses étranges, il lui serait échappé de dire, un soir qu’il se trouvait chez un de ses collègues les plus qualifiés : — Les belles pendules ! les beaux tapis ! les belles livrées ! Ce doit être bien importun ! Oh ! que je ne voudrais pas avoir tout ce superflu-là à me crier sans cesse aux oreilles : Il y a des gens qui ont faim ! il y a des gens qui ont froid ! il y a des pauvres ! il y a des pauvres ! The fact is that he displeased them. Among other strange things, it is said that he chanced to remark one evening, when he found himself at the house of one of his most notable colleagues: "What beautiful clocks! What beautiful carpets! What beautiful liveries! They must be a great trouble. I would not have all those superfluities, crying incessantly in my ears: `There are people who are hungry! There are people who are cold! There are poor people! There are poor people!'"
Disons-le en passant, ce ne serait pas une haine intelligente que la haine du luxe. Cette haine impliquerait la haine des arts. Cependant, chez les gens d’église, en dehors de la représentation et des cérémonies, le luxe est un tort. Il semble révéler des habitudes peu réellement charitables. Un prêtre opulent est un contre-sens. Le prêtre doit se tenir près des pauvres. Or peut-on toucher sans cesse, et nuit et jour, à toutes les détresses, à toutes les infortunes, à toutes les indigences, sans avoir soi-même sur soi un peu de cette misère, comme la poussière du travail ? Se figure-t-on un homme qui est près d’un brasier, et qui n’a pas chaud ? Se figure-t-on un ouvrier qui travaille sans cesse à une fournaise, et qui n’a ni un cheveu brûlé, ni un ongle noirci, ni une goutte de sueur, ni un grain de cendre au visage ? La première preuve de la charité chez le prêtre, chez l’évêque surtout, c’est la pauvreté. Let us remark, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not an intelligent hatred. This hatred would involve the hatred of the arts. Nevertheless, in churchmen, luxury is wrong, except in connection with representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal habits which have very little that is charitable about them. An opulent priest is a contradiction. The priest must keep close to the poor. Now, can one come in contact incessantly night and day with all this distress, all these misfortunes, and this poverty, without having about one's own person a little of that misery, like the dust of labor? Is it possible to imagine a man near a brazier who is not warm? Can one imagine a workman who is working near a furnace, and who has neither a singed hair, nor blackened nails, nor a drop of sweat, nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first proof of charity in the priest, in the bishop especially, is poverty.
C’était là sans doute ce que pensait M. l’évêque de Digne. This is, no doubt, what the Bishop of D---- thought.
Il ne faudrait pas croire d’ailleurs qu’il partageât sur certains points délicats ce que nous appellerions « les idées du siècle ». Il se mêlait peu aux querelles théologiques du moment et se taisait sur les questions où sont compromis l’église et l’état ; mais si on l’eût beaucoup pressé, il paraît qu’on l’eût trouvé plutôt ultramontain que gallican. Comme nous faisons un portrait et que nous ne voulons rien cacher, nous sommes forcé d’ajouter qu’il fut glacial pour Napoléon déclinant. À partir de 1813, il adhéra ou il applaudit à toutes les manifestations hostiles. Il refusa de le voir à son passage au retour de l’île d’Elbe, et s’abstint d’ordonner dans son diocèse les prières publiques pour l’empereur pendant les Cent-Jours. It must not be supposed, however, that he shared what we call the "ideas of the century" on certain delicate points. He took very little part in the theological quarrels of the moment, and maintained silence on questions in which Church and State were implicated; but if he had been strongly pressed, it seems that he would have been found to be an ultramontane rather than a gallican. Since we are making a portrait, and since we do not wish to conceal anything, we are forced to add that he was glacial towards Napoleon in his decline. Beginning with 1813, he gave in his adherence to or applauded all hostile manifestations. He refused to see him, as he passed through on his return from the island of Elba, and he abstained from ordering public prayers for the Emperor in his diocese during the Hundred Days.
Outre sa sœur, mademoiselle Baptistine, il avait deux frères ; l’un général, l’autre préfet. Il écrivait assez souvent à tous les deux. Il tint quelque temps rigueur au premier, parce qu’ayant un commandement en Provence, à l’époque du débarquement de Cannes, le général s’était mis à la tête de douze cents hommes et avait poursuivi l’empereur comme quelqu’un qu’on veut laisser échapper. Sa correspondance resta plus affectueuse pour l’autre frère, l’ancien préfet, brave et digne homme qui vivait retiré à Paris, rue Cassette. Besides his sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, he had two brothers, one a general, the other a prefect. He wrote to both with tolerable frequency. He was harsh for a time towards the former, because, holding a command in Provence at the epoch of the disembarkation at Cannes, the general had put himself at the head of twelve hundred men and had pursued the Emperor as though the latter had been a person whom one is desirous of allowing to escape. His correspondence with the other brother, the ex-prefect, a fine, worthy man who lived in retirement at Paris, Rue Cassette, remained more affectionate.
Monseigneur Bienvenu eut donc, aussi lui, son heure d’esprit de parti, son heure d’amertume, son nuage. L’ombre des passions du moment traversa ce doux et grand esprit occupé des choses éternelles. Certes, un pareil homme eût mérité de n’avoir pas d’opinions politiques. Qu’on ne se méprenne pas sur notre pensée, nous ne confondons point ce qu’on appelle « opinions politiques » avec la grande aspiration au progrès, avec la sublime foi patriotique, démocratique et humaine, qui, de nos jours, doit être le fond même de toute intelligence généreuse. Sans approfondir des questions qui ne touchent qu’indirectement au sujet de ce livre, nous disons simplement ceci : Il eût été beau que monseigneur Bienvenu n’eût pas été royaliste et que son regard ne se fût pas détourné un seul instant de cette contemplation sereine où l’on voit rayonner distinctement, au-dessus du va-et-vient orageux des choses humaines, ces trois pures lumières, la vérité, la justice et la charité. Thus Monseigneur Bienvenu also had his hour of party spirit, his hour of bitterness, his cloud. The shadow of the passions of the moment traversed this grand and gentle spirit occupied with eternal things. Certainly, such a man would have done well not to entertain any political opinions. Let there be no mistake as to our meaning: we are not confounding what is called "political opinions" with the grand aspiration for progress, with the sublime faith, patriotic, democratic, humane, which in our day should be the very foundation of every generous intellect. Without going deeply into questions which are only indirectly connected with the subject of this book, we will simply say this: It would have been well if Monseigneur Bienvenu had not been a Royalist, and if his glance had never been, for a single instant, turned away from that serene contemplation in which is distinctly discernible, above the fictions and the hatreds of this world, above the stormy vicissitudes of human things, the beaming of those three pure radiances, truth, justice, and charity.
Tout en convenant que ce n’était point pour une fonction politique que Dieu avait créé monseigneur Bienvenu, nous eussions compris et admiré la protestation au nom du droit et de la liberté, l’opposition fière, la résistance périlleuse et juste à Napoléon tout-puissant. Mais ce qui nous plaît vis-à-vis de ceux qui montent nous plaît moins vis-à-vis de ceux qui tombent. Nous n’aimons le combat que tant qu’il y a du danger ; et, dans tous les cas, les combattants de la première heure ont seuls le droit d’être les exterminateurs de la dernière. Qui n’a pas été accusateur opiniâtre pendant la prospérité doit se taire devant l’écroulement. Le dénonciateur du succès est le seul légitime justicier de la chute. Quant à nous, lorsque la providence s’en mêle et frappe, nous la laissons faire. 1812 commence à nous désarmer. En 1813, la lâche rupture de silence de ce corps législatif taciturne enhardi par les catastrophes n’avait que de quoi indigner, et c’était un tort d’applaudir, en 1814, devant ces maréchaux trahissant, devant ce sénat passant d’une fange à l’autre, insultant après avoir divinisé, devant cette idolâtrie lâchant pied et crachant sur l’idole, c’était un devoir de détourner la tête ; en 1815, comme les suprêmes désastres étaient dans l’air, comme la France avait le frisson de leur approche sinistre, comme on pouvait vaguement distinguer Waterloo ouvert devant Napoléon, la douloureuse acclamation de l’armée et du peuple au condamné du destin n’avait rien de risible, et, toute réserve faite sur le despote, un cœur comme l’évêque de Digne n’eût peut-être pas dû méconnaître ce qu’avait d’auguste et de touchant, au bord de l’abîme, l’étroit embrassement d’une grande nation et d’un grand homme. While admitting that it was not for a political office that God created Monseigneur Welcome, we should have understood and admired his protest in the name of right and liberty, his proud opposition, his just but perilous resistance to the all-powerful Napoleon. But that which pleases us in people who are rising pleases us less in the case of people who are falling. We only love the fray so long as there is danger, and in any case, the combatants of the first hour have alone the right to be the exterminators of the last. He who has not been a stubborn accuser in prosperity should hold his peace in the face of ruin. The denunciator of success is the only legitimate executioner of the fall. As for us, when Providence intervenes and strikes, we let it work. 1812 commenced to disarm us. In 1813 the cowardly breach of silence of that taciturn legislative body, emboldened by catastrophe, possessed only traits which aroused indignation. And it was a crime to applaud, in 1814, in the presence of those marshals who betrayed; in the presence of that senate which passed from one dunghill to another, insulting after having deified; in the presence of that idolatry which was loosing its footing and spitting on its idol,-- it was a duty to turn aside the head. In 1815, when the supreme disasters filled the air, when France was seized with a shiver at their sinister approach, when Waterloo could be dimly discerned opening before Napoleon, the mournful acclamation of the army and the people to the condemned of destiny had nothing laughable in it, and, after making all allowance for the despot, a heart like that of the Bishop of D----, ought not perhaps to have failed to recognize the august and touching features presented by the embrace of a great nation and a great man on the brink of the abyss.
À cela près, il était et il fut, en toute chose, juste, vrai, équitable, intelligent, humble et digne, bienfaisant, et bienveillant, ce qui est une autre bienfaisance. C’était un prêtre, un sage, et un homme. Même, il faut le dire, dans cette opinion politique que nous venons de lui reprocher et que nous sommes disposé à juger presque sévèrement, il était tolérant et facile, peut-être plus que nous qui parlons ici. — Le portier de la maison de ville avait été placé là par l’empereur. C’était un vieux sous-officier de la vieille garde, légionnaire d’Austerlitz, bonapartiste comme l’aigle. Il échappait dans l’occasion à ce pauvre diable des paroles peu réfléchies, que la loi d’alors qualifiait propos séditieux. Depuis que le profil impérial avait disparu de la Légion d’honneur, il ne s’habillait jamais dans l’ordonnance, comme il disait, afin de ne pas être forcé de porter sa croix. Il avait ôté lui-même dévotement l’effigie impériale de la croix que Napoléon lui avait donnée ; cela faisait un trou, et il n’avait rien voulu mettre à la place. Plutôt mourir, disait-il, que de porter sur mon cœur les trois crapauds ! Il raillait volontiers tout haut Louis XVIII. Vieux goutteux à guêtres d’anglais ! disait-il, qu’il s’en aille en Prusse avec son salsifis ! heureux de réunir dans la même imprécation les deux choses qu’il détestait le plus, la Prusse et l’Angleterre. Il en fit tant qu’il perdit sa place. Le voilà sans pain sur le pavé avec femme et enfants. L’évêque le fit venir, le gronda doucement, et le nomma suisse de la cathédrale. With this exception, he was in all things just, true, equitable, intelligent, humble and dignified, beneficent and kindly, which is only another sort of benevolence. He was a priest, a sage, and a man. It must be admitted, that even in the political views with which we have just reproached him, and which we are disposed to judge almost with severity, he was tolerant and easy, more so, perhaps, than we who are speaking here. The porter of the town-hall had been placed there by the Emperor. He was an old non-commissioned officer of the old guard, a member of the Legion of Honor at Austerlitz, as much of a Bonapartist as the eagle. This poor fellow occasionally let slip inconsiderate remarks, which the law then stigmatized as seditious speeches. After the imperial profile disappeared from the Legion of Honor, he never dressed himself in his regimentals, as he said, so that he should not be obliged to wear his cross. He had himself devoutly removed the imperial effigy from the cross which Napoleon had given him; this made a hole, and he would not put anything in its place. "I will die," he said, "rather than wear the three frogs upon my heart!" He liked to scoff aloud at Louis XVIII. "The gouty old creature in English gaiters!" he said; "let him take himself off to Prussia with that queue of his." He was happy to combine in the same imprecation the two things which he most detested, Prussia and England. He did it so often that he lost his place. There he was, turned out of the house, with his wife and children, and without bread. The Bishop sent for him, reproved him gently, and appointed him beadle in the cathedral.
En neuf ans, à force de saintes actions et de douces manières, monseigneur Bienvenu avait rempli la ville de Digne d’une sorte de vénération tendre et filiale. Sa conduite même envers Napoléon avait été acceptée et comme tacitement pardonnée par le peuple, bon troupeau faible, qui adorait son empereur, mais qui aimait son évêque. In the course of nine years Monseigneur Bienvenu had, by dint of holy deeds and gentle manners, filled the town of D---- with a sort of tender and filial reverence. Even his conduct towards Napoleon had been accepted and tacitly pardoned, as it were, by the people, the good and weakly flock who adored their emperor, but loved their bishop.

Chapter XI: A Restriction [Commentary]

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Coming April 29th 2013.

Chapter XII: The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome

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[Fr.] Solitude de monseigneur Bienvenu [En.] The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome
Il y a presque toujours autour d’un évêque une escouade de petits abbés comme autour d’un général une volée de jeunes officiers. C’est là ce que ce charmant saint François de Sales appelle quelque part « les prêtres blancs-becs ». Toute carrière a ses aspirants qui font cortège aux arrivés. Pas une puissance qui n’ait son entourage. Pas une fortune qui n’ait sa cour. Les chercheurs d’avenir tourbillonnent autour du présent splendide. Toute métropole a son état-major. Tout évêque un peu influent a près de lui sa patrouille de chérubins séminaristes, qui fait la ronde et maintient le bon ordre dans le palais épiscopal, et qui monte la garde autour du sourire de monseigneur. Agréer à un évêque, c’est le pied à l’étrier pour un sous-diacre. Il faut bien faire son chemin ; l’apostolat ne dédaigne pas le canonicat. A bishop is almost always surrounded by a full squadron of little abbes, just as a general is by a covey of young officers. This is what that charming Saint Francois de Sales calls somewhere "les pretres blancs-becs," callow priests. Every career has its aspirants, who form a train for those who have attained eminence in it. There is no power which has not its dependents. There is no fortune which has not its court. The seekers of the future eddy around the splendid present. Every metropolis has its staff of officials. Every bishop who possesses the least influence has about him his patrol of cherubim from the seminary, which goes the round, and maintains good order in the episcopal palace, and mounts guard over monseigneur's smile. To please a bishop is equivalent to getting one's foot in the stirrup for a sub-diaconate. It is necessary to walk one's path discreetly; the apostleship does not disdain the canonship.
De même qu’il y a ailleurs les gros bonnets, il y a dans l’église les grosses mitres. Ce sont les évêques bien en cour, riches, rentés, habiles, acceptés du monde, sachant prier sans doute, mais sachant aussi solliciter, peu scrupuleux de faire faire antichambre en personne à tout un diocèse, traits d’union entre la sacristie et la diplomatie, plutôt abbés que prêtres, plutôt prélats qu’évêques. Heureux qui les approche ! Gens en crédit qu’ils sont, ils font pleuvoir autour d’eux, sur les empressés et les favorisés, et sur toute cette jeunesse qui sait plaire, les grasses paroisses, les prébendes, les archidiaconats, les aumôneries et les fonctions cathédrales, en attendant les dignités épiscopales. En avançant eux-mêmes, ils font progresser leurs satellites ; c’est tout un système solaire en marche. Leur rayonnement empourpre leur suite. Leur prospérité s’émiette sur la cantonade en bonnes petites promotions. Plus grand diocèse au patron, plus grosse cure au favori. Et puis Rome est là. Un évêque qui sait devenir archevêque, un archevêque qui sait devenir cardinal, vous emmène comme conclaviste, vous entrez dans la rote, vous avez le pallium, vous voilà auditeur, vous voilà camérier, vous voilà monsignor, et de la Grandeur à l’Éminence il n’y a qu’un pas, et entre l’Éminence et la Sainteté il n’y a que la fumée d’un scrutin. Toute calotte peut rêver la tiare. Le prêtre est de nos jours le seul homme qui puisse régulièrement devenir roi ; et quel roi ! le roi suprême. Aussi quelle pépinière d’aspirations qu’un séminaire ! Que d’enfants de chœur rougissants, que de jeunes abbés ont sur la tête le pot au lait de Perrette ! Comme l’ambition s’intitule aisément vocation, qui sait ? de bonne foi peut-être et se trompant elle-même, béate qu’elle est. Just as there are bigwigs elsewhere, there are big mitres in the Church. These are the bishops who stand well at Court, who are rich, well endowed, skilful, accepted by the world, who know how to pray, no doubt, but who know also how to beg, who feel little scruple at making a whole diocese dance attendance in their person, who are connecting links between the sacristy and diplomacy, who are abbes rather than priests, prelates rather than bishops. Happy those who approach them! Being persons of influence, they create a shower about them, upon the assiduous and the favored, and upon all the young men who understand the art of pleasing, of large parishes, prebends, archidiaconates, chaplaincies, and cathedral posts, while awaiting episcopal honors. As they advance themselves, they cause their satellites to progress also; it is a whole solar system on the march. Their radiance casts a gleam of purple over their suite. Their prosperity is crumbled up behind the scenes, into nice little promotions. The larger the diocese of the patron, the fatter the curacy for the favorite. And then, there is Rome. A bishop who understands how to become an archbishop, an archbishop who knows how to become a cardinal, carries you with him as conclavist; you enter a court of papal jurisdiction, you receive the pallium, and behold! you are an auditor, then a papal chamberlain, then monsignor, and from a Grace to an Eminence is only a step, and between the Eminence and the Holiness there is but the smoke of a ballot. Every skull-cap may dream of the tiara. The priest is nowadays the only man who can become a king in a regular manner; and what a king! the supreme king. Then what a nursery of aspirations is a seminary! How many blushing choristers, how many youthful abbes bear on their heads Perrette's pot of milk! Who knows how easy it is for ambition to call itself vocation? in good faith, perchance, and deceiving itself, devotee that it is.
Monseigneur Bienvenu, humble, pauvre, particulier, n’était pas compté parmi les grosses mitres. Cela était visible à l’absence complète de jeunes prêtres autour de lui. On a vu qu’à Paris « il n’avait pas pris ». Pas un avenir ne songeait à se greffer sur ce vieillard solitaire. Pas une ambition en herbe ne faisait la folie de verdir à son ombre. Ses chanoines et ses grands vicaires étaient de bons vieux hommes, un peu peuple comme lui, murés comme lui dans ce diocèse sans issue sur le cardinalat et qui ressemblaient à leur évêque, avec cette différence qu’eux étaient finis, et que lui était achevé. On sentait si bien l’impossibilité de croître près de monseigneur Bienvenu qu’à peine sortis du séminaire, les jeunes gens ordonnés par lui se faisaient recommander aux archevêques d’Aix ou d’Auch, et s’en allaient bien vite. Car enfin, nous le répétons, on veut être poussé. Un saint qui vit dans un excès d’abnégation est un voisinage dangereux ; il pourrait bien vous communiquer par contagion une pauvreté incurable, l’ankylose des articulations utiles à l’avancement, et, en somme, plus de renoncement que vous n’en voulez ; et l’on fuit cette vertu galeuse. De là l’isolement de monseigneur Bienvenu. Nous vivons dans une société sombre. Réussir, voilà l’enseignement qui tombe goutte à goutte de la corruption en surplomb. Monseigneur Bienvenu, poor, humble, retiring, was not accounted among the big mitres. This was plain from the complete absence of young priests about him. We have seen that he "did not take" in Paris. Not a single future dreamed of engrafting itself on this solitary old man. Not a single sprouting ambition committed the folly of putting forth its foliage in his shadow. His canons and grand-vicars were good old men, rather vulgar like himself, walled up like him in this diocese, without exit to a cardinalship, and who resembled their bishop, with this difference, that they were finished and he was completed. The impossibility of growing great under Monseigneur Bienvenu was so well understood, that no sooner had the young men whom he ordained left the seminary than they got themselves recommended to the archbishops of Aix or of Auch, and went off in a great hurry. For, in short, we repeat it, men wish to be pushed. A saint who dwells in a paroxysm of abnegation is a dangerous neighbor; he might communicate to you, by contagion, an incurable poverty, an anchylosis of the joints, which are useful in advancement, and in short, more renunciation than you desire; and this infectious virtue is avoided. Hence the isolation of Monseigneur Bienvenu. We live in the midst of a gloomy society. Success; that is the lesson which falls drop by drop from the slope of corruption.
Soit dit en passant, c’est une chose assez hideuse que le succès. Sa fausse ressemblance avec le mérite trompe les hommes. Pour la foule, la réussite a presque le même profil que la suprématie. Le succès, ce ménechme du talent, a une dupe, l’histoire. Juvénal et Tacite seuls en bougonnent. De nos jours, une philosophie à peu près officielle est entrée en domesticité chez lui, porte la livrée du succès, et fait le service de son antichambre. Réussissez : théorie. Prospérité suppose capacité. Gagnez à la loterie, vous voilà un habile homme. Qui triomphe est vénéré. Naissez coiffé, tout est là. Ayez de la chance, vous aurez le reste ; soyez heureux, on vous croira grand. En dehors des cinq ou six exceptions immenses qui font l’éclat d’un siècle, l’admiration contemporaine n’est guère que myopie. Dorure est or. Être le premier venu, cela ne gâte rien, pourvu qu’on soit le parvenu. Le vulgaire est un vieux Narcisse qui s’adore lui-même et qui applaudit le vulgaire. Cette faculté énorme par laquelle on est Moïse, Eschyle, Dante, Michel-Ange ou Napoléon, la multitude la décerne d’emblée et par acclamation à quiconque atteint son but dans quoi que ce soit. Qu’un notaire se transfigure en député, qu’un faux Corneille fasse Tiridate, qu’un eunuque parvienne à posséder un harem, qu’un Prudhomme militaire gagne par accident la bataille décisive d’une époque, qu’un apothicaire invente les semelles de carton pour l’armée de Sambre-et-Meuse et se construise, avec ce carton vendu pour du cuir, quatre cent mille livres de rente, qu’un porte-balle épouse l’usure et la fasse accoucher de sept ou huit millions dont il est le père et dont elle est la mère, qu’un prédicateur devienne évêque par le nasillement, qu’un intendant de bonne maison soit si riche en sortant de service qu’on le fasse ministre des finances, les hommes appellent cela Génie, de même qu’ils appellent Beauté la figure de Mousqueton et Majesté l’encolure de Claude. Ils confondent avec les constellations de l’abîme les étoiles que font dans la vase molle du bourbier les pattes des canards. Be it said in passing, that success is a very hideous thing. Its false resemblance to merit deceives men. For the masses, success has almost the same profile as supremacy. Success, that Menaechmus of talent, has one dupe,--history. Juvenal and Tacitus alone grumble at it. In our day, a philosophy which is almost official has entered into its service, wears the livery of success, and performs the service of its antechamber. Succeed: theory. Prosperity argues capacity. Win in the lottery, and behold! you are a clever man. He who triumphs is venerated. Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth! everything lies in that. Be lucky, and you will have all the rest; be happy, and people will think you great. Outside of five or six immense exceptions, which compose the splendor of a century, contemporary admiration is nothing but short-sightedness. Gilding is gold. It does no harm to be the first arrival by pure chance, so long as you do arrive. The common herd is an old Narcissus who adores himself, and who applauds the vulgar herd. That enormous ability by virtue of which one is Moses, Aeschylus, Dante, Michael Angelo, or Napoleon, the multitude awards on the spot, and by acclamation, to whomsoever attains his object, in whatsoever it may consist. Let a notary transfigure himself into a deputy: let a false Corneille compose Tiridate; let a eunuch come to possess a harem; let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of an epoch; let an apothecary invent cardboard shoe-soles for the army of the Sambre-and-Meuse, and construct for himself, out of this cardboard, sold as leather, four hundred thousand francs of income; let a pork-packer espouse usury, and cause it to bring forth seven or eight millions, of which he is the father and of which it is the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by force of his nasal drawl; let the steward of a fine family be so rich on retiring from service that he is made minister of finances,--and men call that Genius, just as they call the face of Mousqueton Beauty, and the mien of Claude Majesty. With the constellations of space they confound the stars of the abyss which are made in the soft mire of the puddle by the feet of ducks.

Chapter XII: The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome [Commentary]

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Coming May 6th 2013.

Chapter XIII: What he believed

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[Fr.] Ce qu’il croyait [En.] What he believed
Au point de vue de l’orthodoxie, nous n’avons point à sonder M. l’évêque de Digne. Devant une telle âme, nous ne nous sentons en humeur que de respect. La conscience du juste doit être crue sur parole. D’ailleurs, de certaines natures étant données, nous admettons le développement possible de toutes les beautés de la nature humaine dans une croyance différente de la nôtre. We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of D---- on the score of orthodoxy. In the presence of such a soul we feel ourselves in no mood but respect. The conscience of the just man should be accepted on his word. Moreover, certain natures being given, we admit the possible development of all beauties of human virtue in a belief that differs from our own.
Que pensait-il de ce dogme-ci ou de ce mystère-là ? Ces secrets du for intérieur ne sont connus que de la tombe où les âmes entrent nues. Ce dont nous sommes certain, c’est que jamais les difficultés de foi ne se résolvaient pour lui en hypocrisie. Aucune pourriture n’est possible au diamant. Il croyait le plus qu’il pouvait. Credo in Patrem, s’écriait-il souvent. Puisant d’ailleurs dans les bonnes œuvres cette quantité de satisfaction qui suffit à la conscience, et qui vous dit tout bas : Tu es avec Dieu ! What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets of the inner tribunal of the conscience are known only to the tomb, where souls enter naked. The point on which we are certain is, that the difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into hypocrisy in his case. No decay is possible to the diamond. He believed to the extent of his powers. "Credo in Patrem," he often exclaimed. Moreover, he drew from good works that amount of satisfaction which suffices to the conscience, and which whispers to a man, "Thou art with God!"
Ce que nous croyons devoir noter, c’est que, en dehors, pour ainsi dire, et au-delà de sa foi, l’évêque avait un excès d’amour. C’est par là, quia multum amavit, qu’il était jugé vulnérable par les « hommes sérieux », les « personnes graves » et les « gens raisonnables » ; locutions favorites de notre triste monde où l’égoïsme reçoit le mot d’ordre du pédantisme. Qu’était-ce que cet excès d’amour ? C’était une bienveillance sereine, débordant les hommes, comme nous l’avons indiqué déjà, et, dans l’occasion, s’étendant jusqu’aux choses. Il vivait sans dédain. Il était indulgent pour la création de Dieu. Tout homme, même le meilleur, a en lui une dureté irréfléchie qu’il tient en réserve pour l’animal. L’évêque de Digne n’avait point cette dureté-là, particulière à beaucoup de prêtres pourtant. Il n’allait pas jusqu’au bramine, mais il semblait avoir médité cette parole de l’Ecclésiaste : « Sait-on où va l’âme des animaux ? » Les laideurs de l’aspect, les difformités de l’instinct ne le troublaient pas et ne l’indignaient pas. Il en était ému, presque attendri. Il semblait que, pensif, il en allât chercher, au delà de la vie apparente la cause, l’explication ou l’excuse. Il semblait par moments demander à Dieu des commutations. Il examinait sans colère, et avec l’œil du linguiste qui déchiffre un palimpseste, la quantité de chaos qui est encore dans la nature. Cette rêverie faisait parfois sortir de lui des mots étranges. Un matin, il était dans son jardin, il se croyait seul, mais sa sœur marchait derrière lui sans qu’il la vît ; tout à coup, il s’arrêta, et il regarda quelque chose à terre ; c’était une grosse araignée, noire, velue, horrible. Sa sœur l’entendit qui disait : — Pauvre bête ! ce n’est pas sa faute. The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside of and beyond his faith, as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess of love. In was in that quarter, quia multum amavit,--because he loved much--that he was regarded as vulnerable by "serious men," "grave persons" and "reasonable people"; favorite locutions of our sad world where egotism takes its word of command from pedantry. What was this excess of love? It was a serene benevolence which overflowed men, as we have already pointed out, and which, on occasion, extended even to things. He lived without disdain. He was indulgent towards God's creation. Every man, even the best, has within him a thoughtless harshness which he reserves for animals. The Bishop of D---- had none of that harshness, which is peculiar to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the Brahmin, but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: "Who knoweth whither the soul of the animal goeth?" Hideousness of aspect, deformity of instinct, troubled him not, and did not arouse his indignation. He was touched, almost softened by them. It seemed as though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond the bounds of life which is apparent, the cause, the explanation, or the excuse for them. He seemed at times to be asking God to commute these penalties. He examined without wrath, and with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest, that portion of chaos which still exists in nature. This revery sometimes caused him to utter odd sayings. One morning he was in his garden, and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind him, unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the ground; it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard him say:-- "Poor beast! It is not its fault!"
Pourquoi ne pas dire ces enfantillages presque divins de la bonté ? Puérilités, soit ; mais ces puérilités sublimes ont été celles de saint François d’Assise et de Marc-Aurèle. Un jour il se donna une entorse pour n’avoir pas voulu écraser une fourmi. Why not mention these almost divinely childish sayings of kindness? Puerile they may be; but these sublime puerilities were peculiar to Saint Francis d'Assisi and of Marcus Aurelius. One day he sprained his ankle in his effort to avoid stepping on an ant.
Ainsi vivait cet homme juste. Quelquefois il s’endormait dans son jardin, et alors il n’était rien de plus vénérable. Thus lived this just man. Sometimes he fell asleep in his garden, and then there was nothing more venerable possible.
Monseigneur Bienvenu avait été jadis, à en croire les récits sur sa jeunesse et même sur sa virilité, un homme passionné, peut-être violent. Sa mansuétude universelle était moins un instinct de nature que le résultat d’une grande conviction filtrée dans son cœur à travers la vie et lentement tombée en lui, pensée à pensée ; car, dans un caractère comme dans un rocher, il peut y avoir des trous de gouttes d’eau. Ces creusements-là sont ineffaçables ; ces formations-là sont indestructibles. Monseigneur Bienvenu had formerly been, if the stories anent his youth, and even in regard to his manhood, were to be believed, a passionate, and, possibly, a violent man. His universal suavity was less an instinct of nature than the result of a grand conviction which had filtered into his heart through the medium of life, and had trickled there slowly, thought by thought; for, in a character, as in a rock, there may exist apertures made by drops of water. These hollows are uneffaceable; these formations are indestructible.
En 1815, nous croyons l’avoir dit, il atteignit soixante-quinze ans, mais il n’en paraissait pas avoir plus de soixante. Il n’était pas grand ; il avait quelque embonpoint, et, pour le combattre, il faisait volontiers de longues marches à pied ; il avait le pas ferme et n’était que fort peu courbé, détail d’où nous ne prétendons rien conclure ; Grégoire XVI, à quatre-vingts ans, se tenait droit et souriant, ce qui ne l’empêchait pas d’être un mauvais évêque. Monseigneur Bienvenu avait ce que le peuple appelle « une belle tête », mais si aimable qu’on oubliait qu’elle était belle. In 1815, as we think we have already said, he reached his seventy-fifth birthday, but he did not appear to be more than sixty. He was not tall; he was rather plump; and, in order to combat this tendency, he was fond of taking long strolls on foot; his step was firm, and his form was but slightly bent, a detail from which we do not pretend to draw any conclusion. Gregory XVI., at the age of eighty, held himself erect and smiling, which did not prevent him from being a bad bishop. Monseigneur Welcome had what the people term a "fine head," but so amiable was he that they forgot that it was fine.
Quand il causait avec cette gaîté enfantine qui était une de ses grâces, et dont nous avons déjà parlé, on se sentait à l’aise près de lui ; il semblait que de toute sa personne il sortît de la joie. Son teint coloré et frais, toutes ses dents bien blanches qu’il avait conservées et que son rire faisait voir, lui donnaient cet air ouvert et facile qui fait dire d’un homme : C’est un bon enfant, et d’un vieillard : C’est un bonhomme. C’était, on s’en souvient, l’effet qu’il avait fait à Napoléon. Au premier abord et pour qui le voyait pour la première fois, ce n’était guère qu’un bonhomme en effet. Mais si l’on restait quelques heures près de lui, et pour peu qu’on le vît pensif, le bonhomme se transfigurait peu à peu et prenait je ne sais quoi d’imposant ; son front large et sérieux, auguste par les cheveux blancs, devenait auguste aussi par la méditation ; la majesté se dégageait de cette bonté, sans que la bonté cessât de rayonner ; on éprouvait quelque chose de l’émotion qu’on aurait si l’on voyait un ange souriant ouvrir lentement ses ailes sans cesser de sourire. Le respect, un respect inexprimable, vous pénétrait par degrés et vous montait au cœur, et l’on sentait qu’on avait devant soi une de ces âmes fortes, éprouvées et indulgentes, où la pensée est si grande qu’elle ne peut plus être que douce. When he conversed with that infantile gayety which was one of his charms, and of which we have already spoken, people felt at their ease with him, and joy seemed to radiate from his whole person. His fresh and ruddy complexion, his very white teeth, all of which he had preserved, and which were displayed by his smile, gave him that open and easy air which cause the remark to be made of a man, "He's a good fellow"; and of an old man, "He is a fine man." That, it will be recalled, was the effect which he produced upon Napoleon. On the first encounter, and to one who saw him for the first time, he was nothing, in fact, but a fine man. But if one remained near him for a few hours, and beheld him in the least degree pensive, the fine man became gradually transfigured, and took on some imposing quality, I know not what; his broad and serious brow, rendered august by his white locks, became august also by virtue of meditation; majesty radiated from his goodness, though his goodness ceased not to be radiant; one experienced something of the emotion which one would feel on beholding a smiling angel slowly unfold his wings, without ceasing to smile. Respect, an unutterable respect, penetrated you by degrees and mounted to your heart, and one felt that one had before him one of those strong, thoroughly tried, and indulgent souls where thought is so grand that it can no longer be anything but gentle.
Comme on l’a vu, la prière, la célébration des offices religieux, l’aumône, la consolation aux affligés, la culture d’un coin de terre, la fraternité, la frugalité, l’hospitalité, le renoncement, la confiance, l’étude, le travail, remplissaient chacune des journées de sa vie. Remplissaient est bien le mot, et certes cette journée de l’évêque était bien pleine jusqu’aux bords de bonnes pensées, de bonnes paroles et de bonnes actions. Cependant elle n’était pas complète si le temps froid ou pluvieux l’empêchait d’aller passer, le soir, quand les deux femmes s’étaient retirées, une heure ou deux dans son jardin avant de s’endormir. Il semblait que ce fût une sorte de rite pour lui de se préparer au sommeil par la méditation en présence des grands spectacles du ciel nocturne. Quelquefois, à une heure même assez avancée de la nuit, si les deux vieilles filles ne dormaient pas, elles l’entendaient marcher lentement dans les allées. Il était là seul avec lui-même, recueilli, paisible, adorant, comparant la sérénité de son cœur à la sérénité de l’éther, ému dans les ténèbres par les splendeurs visibles des constellations et les splendeurs invisibles de Dieu, ouvrant son âme aux pensées qui tombent de l’Inconnu. Dans ces moments-là, offrant son cœur à l’heure où les fleurs nocturnes offrent leur parfum, allumé comme une lampe au centre de la nuit étoilée, se répandant en extase au milieu du rayonnement universel de la création, il n’eût pu peut-être dire lui-même ce qui se passait dans son esprit ; il sentait quelque chose s’envoler hors de lui et quelque chose descendre en lui. Mystérieux échanges des gouffres de l’âme avec les gouffres de l’univers ! As we have seen, prayer, the celebration of the offices of religion, alms-giving, the consolation of the afflicted, the cultivation of a bit of land, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, renunciation, confidence, study, work, filled every day of his life. Filled is exactly the word; certainly the Bishop's day was quite full to the brim, of good words and good deeds. Nevertheless, it was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing an hour or two in his garden before going to bed, and after the two women had retired. It seemed to be a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for slumber by meditation in the presence of the grand spectacles of the nocturnal heavens. Sometimes, if the two old women were not asleep, they heard him pacing slowly along the walks at a very advanced hour of the night. He was there alone, communing with himself, peaceful, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the ether, moved amid the darkness by the visible splendor of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God, opening his heart to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown. At such moments, while he offered his heart at the hour when nocturnal flowers offer their perfume, illuminated like a lamp amid the starry night, as he poured himself out in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation, he could not have told himself, probably, what was passing in his spirit; he felt something take its flight from him, and something descend into him. Mysterious exchange of the abysses of the soul with the abysses of the universe!
Il songeait à la grandeur et à la présence de Dieu ; à l’éternité future, étrange mystère ; à l’éternité passée, mystère plus étrange encore ; à tous les infinis qui s’enfonçaient sous ses yeux dans tous les sens ; et, sans chercher à comprendre l’incompréhensible, il le regardait. Il n’étudiait pas Dieu ; il s’en éblouissait. Il considérait ces magnifiques rencontres des atomes qui donnent des aspects à la matière, révèlent les forces en les constatant, créent les individualités dans l’unité, les proportions dans l’étendue, l’innombrable dans l’infini, et par la lumière produisent la beauté. Ces rencontres se nouent et se dénouent sans cesse ; de là la vie et la mort. He thought of the grandeur and presence of God; of the future eternity, that strange mystery; of the eternity past, a mystery still more strange; of all the infinities, which pierced their way into all his senses, beneath his eyes; and, without seeking to comprehend the incomprehensible, he gazed upon it. He did not study God; he was dazzled by him. He considered those magnificent conjunctions of atoms, which communicate aspects to matter, reveal forces by verifying them, create individualities in unity, proportions in extent, the innumerable in the infinite, and, through light, produce beauty. These conjunctions are formed and dissolved incessantly; hence life and death.
Il s’asseyait sur un banc de bois adossé à une treille décrépite, et il regardait les astres à travers les silhouettes chétives et rachitiques de ses arbres fruitiers. Ce quart d’arpent, si pauvrement planté, si encombré de masures et de hangars, lui était cher et lui suffisait. He seated himself on a wooden bench, with his back against a decrepit vine; he gazed at the stars, past the puny and stunted silhouettes of his fruit-trees. This quarter of an acre, so poorly planted, so encumbered with mean buildings and sheds, was dear to him, and satisfied his wants.
Que fallait-il de plus à ce vieillard qui partageait le loisir de sa vie, où il y avait si peu de loisir, entre le jardinage le jour et la contemplation la nuit ? Cet étroit enclos, ayant les cieux pour plafond, n’était-ce pas assez pour pouvoir adorer Dieu tour à tour dans ses œuvres les plus sublimes ? N’est-ce pas là tout, en effet, et que désirer au delà ? Un petit jardin pour se promener, et l’immensité pour rêver. À ses pieds ce qu’on peut cultiver et cueillir ; sur sa tête ce qu’on peut étudier et méditer ; quelques fleurs sur la terre et toutes les étoiles dans le ciel. What more was needed by this old man, who divided the leisure of his life, where there was so little leisure, between gardening in the daytime and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow enclosure, with the heavens for a ceiling, sufficient to enable him to adore God in his most divine works, in turn? Does not this comprehend all, in fact? and what is there left to desire beyond it? A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream. At one's feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; over head that which one can study and meditate upon: some flowers on earth, and all the stars in the sky.

Chapter XIII: What he believed [Commentary]

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Chapter XIV: What he thought

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[Fr.] Ce qu’il pensait [En.] What he thought
Un dernier mot. One last word.
Comme cette nature de détails pourrait, particulièrement au moment où nous sommes, et pour nous servir d’une expression actuellement à la mode, donner à l’évêque de Digne une certaine physionomie « panthéiste », et faire croire, soit à son blâme, soit à sa louange, qu’il y avait en lui une de ces philosophies personnelles, propres à notre siècle, qui germent quelquefois dans les esprits solitaires et s’y construisent et y grandissent jusqu’à y remplacer les religions, nous insistons sur ceci que pas un de ceux qui ont connu monseigneur Bienvenu ne se fût cru autorisé à penser rien de pareil. Ce qui éclairait cet homme, c’était le cœur. Sa sagesse était faite de la lumière qui vient de là. Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment, and to use an expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D---- a certain "pantheistical" physiognomy, and induce the belief, either to his credit or discredit, that he entertained one of those personal philosophies which are peculiar to our century, which sometimes spring up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form and grow until they usurp the place of religion, we insist upon it, that not one of those persons who knew Monseigneur Welcome would have thought himself authorized to think anything of the sort. That which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made of the light which comes from there.
Point de systèmes, beaucoup d’œuvres. Les spéculations abstruses contiennent du vertige ; rien n’indique qu’il hasardât son esprit dans les apocalypses. L’apôtre peut être hardi, mais l’évêque doit être timide. Il se fût probablement fait scrupule de sonder trop avant de certains problèmes réservés en quelque sorte aux grands esprits terribles. Il y a de l’horreur sacrée sous les porches de l’énigme ; ces ouvertures sombres sont là béantes, mais quelque chose vous dit, à vous passant de la vie, qu’on n’entre pas. Malheur à qui y pénètre ! Les génies, dans les profondeurs inouïes de l’abstraction et de la spéculation pure, situés pour ainsi dire au-dessus des dogmes, proposent leurs idées à Dieu. Leur prière offre audacieusement la discussion. Leur adoration interroge. Ceci est la religion directe, pleine d’anxiété et de responsabilité pour qui en tente les escarpements. No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no, there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses. The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds. There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma; those gloomy openings stand yawning there, but something tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not enter. Woe to him who penetrates thither! Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure speculation, situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion. Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is full of anxiety and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.
La méditation humaine n’a point de limite. À ses risques et périls, elle analyse et creuse son propre éblouissement. On pourrait presque dire que, par une sorte de réaction splendide, elle en éblouit la nature ; le mystérieux monde qui nous entoure rend ce qu’il reçoit, il est probable que les contemplateurs sont contemplés. Quoi qu’il en soit, il y a sur la terre des hommes — sont-ce des hommes ? — qui aperçoivent distinctement au fond des horizons du rêve les hauteurs de l’absolu, et qui ont la vision terrible de la montagne infinie. Monseigneur Bienvenu n’était point de ces hommes-là, monseigneur Bienvenu n’était pas un génie. Il eût redouté ces sublimités d’où quelques-uns, très grands même, comme Swedenborg et Pascal, ont glissé dans la démence. Certes, ces puissantes rêveries ont leur utilité morale, et par ces routes ardues on s’approche de la perfection idéale. Lui, il prenait le sentier qui abrège, l’évangile. Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say, that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature; the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it has received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated. However that may be, there are on earth men who--are they men?-- perceive distinctly at the verge of the horizons of revery the heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men; Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would have feared those sublimities whence some very great men even, like Swedenborg and Pascal, have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful reveries have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,-- the Gospel's.
Il n’essayait point de faire faire à sa chasuble les plis du manteau d’Élie, il ne projetait aucun rayon d’avenir sur le roulis ténébreux des événements, il ne cherchait pas à condenser en flamme la lueur des choses, il n’avait rien du prophète et rien du mage. Cette âme humble aimait, voilà tout. He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's mantle; he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events; he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him. This humble soul loved, and that was all.
Qu’il dilatât la prière jusqu’à une aspiration surhumaine, cela est probable ; mais on ne peut pas plus prier trop qu’aimer trop ; et, si c’était une hérésie de prier au delà des textes, sainte Thérèse et saint Jérôme seraient des hérétiques. That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts, Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.
Il se penchait sur ce qui gémit et sur ce qui expie. L’univers lui apparaissait comme une immense maladie ; il sentait partout de la fièvre, il auscultait partout de la souffrance, et, sans chercher à deviner l’énigme, il tâchait de panser la plaie. Le redoutable spectacle des choses créées développait en lui l’attendrissement ; il n’était occupé qu’à trouver pour lui-même et à inspirer aux autres la meilleure manière de plaindre et de soulager. Ce qui existe était pour ce bon et rare prêtre un sujet permanent de tristesse cherchant à consoler. He inclined towards all that groans and all that expiates. The universe appeared to him like an immense malady; everywhere he felt fever, everywhere he heard the sound of suffering, and, without seeking to solve the enigma, he strove to dress the wound. The terrible spectacle of created things developed tenderness in him; he was occupied only in finding for himself, and in inspiring others with the best way to compassionate and relieve. That which exists was for this good and rare priest a permanent subject of sadness which sought consolation.
Il y a des hommes qui travaillent à l’extraction de l’or ; lui, il travaillait à l’extraction de la pitié. L’universelle misère était sa mine. La douleur partout n’était qu’une occasion de bonté toujours. Aimez-vous les uns les autres ; il déclarait cela complet, ne souhaitait rien de plus, et c’était là toute sa doctrine. Un jour, cet homme qui se croyait « philosophe », ce sénateur, déjà nommé, dit à l’évêque : — Mais voyez donc le spectacle du monde ; guerre de tous contre tous ; le plus fort a le plus d’esprit. Votre Aimez-vous les uns les autres est une bêtise. — Eh bien ! répondit monseigneur Bienvenu sans disputer, si c’est une bêtise, l’âme doit s’y enfermer comme la perle dans l’huître. Il s’y enfermait donc, il y vivait, il s’en satisfaisait absolument, laissant de côté les questions prodigieuses qui attirent et qui épouvantent, les perspectives insondables de l’abstraction, les précipices de la métaphysique, toutes ces profondeurs convergentes, pour l’apôtre à Dieu, pour l’athée au néant : la destinée, le bien et le mal, la guerre de l’être contre l’être, la conscience de l’homme, le somnambulisme pensif de l’animal, la transformation par la mort, la récapitulation d’existences que contient le tombeau, la greffe incompréhensible des amours successifs sur le moi persistant, l’essence, la substance, le Nil et l’Ens, l’âme, la nature, la liberté, la nécessité ; problèmes à pic, épaisseurs sinistres où se penchent les gigantesques archanges de l’esprit humain ; formidables abîmes que Lucrèce, Manou, saint Paul et Dante contemplent avec cet œil fulgurant qui semble, en regardant fixement l’infini, y faire éclore des étoiles. There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the whole of his doctrine. One day, that man who believed himself to be a "philosopher," the senator who has already been alluded to, said to the Bishop: "Just survey the spectacle of the world: all war against all; the strongest has the most wit. Your love each other is nonsense."--"Well," replied Monseigneur Welcome, without contesting the point, "if it is nonsense, the soul should shut itself up in it, as the pearl in the oyster." Thus he shut himself up, he lived there, he was absolutely satisfied with it, leaving on one side the prodigious questions which attract and terrify, the fathomless perspectives of abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics--all those profundities which converge, for the apostle in God, for the atheist in nothingness; destiny, good and evil, the way of being against being, the conscience of man, the thoughtful somnambulism of the animal, the transformation in death, the recapitulation of existences which the tomb contains, the incomprehensible grafting of successive loves on the persistent _I_, the essence, the substance, the Nile, and the Ens, the soul, nature, liberty, necessity; perpendicular problems, sinister obscurities, where lean the gigantic archangels of the human mind; formidable abysses, which Lucretius, Manou, Saint Paul, Dante, contemplate with eyes flashing lightning, which seems by its steady gaze on the infinite to cause stars to blaze forth there.
Monseigneur Bienvenu était simplement un homme qui constatait du dehors les questions mystérieuses sans les scruter, sans les agiter, et sans en troubler son propre esprit, et qui avait dans l’âme le grave respect de l’ombre. Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior of mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without troubling his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own soul a grave respect for darkness.

Chapter XIV: What he thought [Commentary]

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Coming May 20th 2013.

Book 2: The Fall

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Book 3: In the Year 1817

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Book 4: To Confide is Sometimes to Deliver into a Person's Power

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[Coming when the analysis of the previous book is completed.]

Book 5: The Descent

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Book 6: Javert

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Book 7: The Champmathieu Affair

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Book 8: A Counter-Blow

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Volume 2: Cosette

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Volume 3: Marius

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Volume 4: Saint Denis

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Volume 5: Jean Valjean

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Characters (fictional, historical and living figures)

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I accordance with Hugo's mixture of fictional and historical accounts, we list together here all fictional and historical characters.

Bienvenu de Miollis

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Bienvenu de Miollis is the historical Bishop of Digne upon which Hugo based his character M. Myriel.

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Cesare Beccaria

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From chapter 1.1.IV, Works corresponding to Words:

On peut avoir une certaine indifférence sur la peine de mort, ne point se prononcer, dire oui et non, tant qu’on n’a pas vu de ses yeux une guillotine ; mais, si l’on en rencontre une, la secousse est violente, il faut se décider et prendre parti pour ou contre.Les uns admirent, comme de Maistre ; les autres exècrent, comme Beccaria . La guillotine est la concrétion de la loi ; elle se nomme vindicte ; elle n’est pas neutre, et ne vous permet pas de rester neutre. One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty, one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no, so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes: but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent; one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against. Some admire it, like de Maistre ; others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte; it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral.

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Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel

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Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel is the bishop of Digne, a character introduced in the very first chapter of the novel. He is the subject of the whole first book.

The character is based on the historical figure of Bienvenu de Miollis.

Joseph Fesch

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Joseph Fesch (1763 – 1839), as noted by Hugo in the novel's very first chapter, was Napoleon's maternal uncle. The young Fesch quits the priesthood at the start of the Reign of Terror, but comes back to the clergy in 1800. In 1802, Napoleon appoints him at the diocese of Lyon where he is soon named archbishop and then cardinal, thanks again to the intercession of his powerful nephew.

See chapter 1.1.I and also commentary to chapter 1.1.VI.

See wikipedia article: Joseph Fesch.

Joseph de Maistre

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From chapter 1.1.IV, Works corresponding to Words:

On peut avoir une certaine indifférence sur la peine de mort, ne point se prononcer, dire oui et non, tant qu’on n’a pas vu de ses yeux une guillotine ; mais, si l’on en rencontre une, la secousse est violente, il faut se décider et prendre parti pour ou contre. Les uns admirent, comme de Maistre ; les autres exècrent, comme Beccaria. La guillotine est la concrétion de la loi ; elle se nomme vindicte ; elle n’est pas neutre, et ne vous permet pas de rester neutre. One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty, one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no, so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes: but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent; one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against. Some admire it, like de Maistre ; others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte; it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral.

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Mahatma Gandhi

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Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian nationalist, the leader of the non-violent civil disobedience movement.

TODO: include commentary from chapter 1.1.II.

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Mother Teresa

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Mother Teresa was an Indian Catholic nun working for the poorest people in India.

TODO: include commentary from chapter 1.1.II.

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Napoleon Bonaparte

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We first meet Napoleon in the very first chapter of the novel.

Napoleon is an ambivalent figure in French history. He is neither a villain nor a hero. Or rather, he is both, depending of which aspect of his legacy one considers. It is quite amazing to consider the amount of monuments, institutions, administrative divisions and laws existing today in France that date back to Napoleon Bonaparte's rule. Still revered by a small fraction of the population, especially in his native Corsica, the French government preferred to keep a very low-key profile in the very modest celebrations of the bicentenary of his rule. Napoleon is full of complexities. It is difficult to summarize his influence on the course of history with a one-sided simple statement.

Born in 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was a very young officer of artillery in the French army at the beginning of the French Revolution. He enthusiastically espoused the causes of the Revolution and progressively rose to fame and in stature thanks to his military genius and numerous victories on the battlefield. In many occasions, he was the Man of the Hour. Napoleon didn't seize power by force. People sought him out for help. In 1799, he was elected as one of the three consuls, the new executive power of the young republic. However, Napoleon Bonaparte manages to take hold of more and more executive powers. In May 1804, he finally overthrows the French Republic and declares himself to be Emperor of the French. In December 1804, he has himself crowned in a majestic ceremony. In the subsequent years, he will continue fighting the other European monarchies, very successfully at first, ostensibly in order to promote the values of the Revolution. Yet, at the same time, he is grooming his son to succeed him one day, in what would look more and more like another hereditary monarchy.

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Peace Pilgrim

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Peace Pilgrim (1908 – 1981) was an American pacifist, and peace activist.

TODO: include commentary from chapter 1.1.II.

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Historical context

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1793~1794 Reign of Terror

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1.1.I - M. Myriel 1.1.I - M. Myriel
La révolution survint, les événements se précipitèrent ; les familles parlementaires, décimées, chassées, traquées, se dispersèrent. M. Charles Myriel, dès les premiers jours de la révolution, émigra en Italie. Sa femme y mourut d’une maladie de poitrine dont elle était atteinte depuis longtemps. Ils n’avaient point d’enfants. Que se passa-t-il ensuite dans la destinée de M. Myriel ? L’écroulement de l’ancienne société française, la chute de sa propre famille, les tragiques spectacles de 93, plus effrayants encore peut-être pour les émigrés qui les voyaient de loin avec le grossissement de l’épouvante, firent-ils germer en lui des idées de renoncement et de solitude ? The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation; the parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down, were dispersed. M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very beginning of the Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of the chest, from which she had long suffered. He had no children. What took place next in the fate of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French society of the olden days, the fall of his own family, the tragic spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps, even more alarming to the emigrants who viewed them from a distance, with the magnifying powers of terror,--did these cause the ideas of renunciation and solitude to germinate in him?

1793 represents the darkest, bloodiest hours of the French Revolution. No single person could control the chain of events that King Louis XVI himself started in spring 1789 by calling the Estates-General (a legislative assembly composed of the clergy, the nobles and the Third Estate, which comprised all of the common people) in order to discuss and find a solution to the ongoing economic crisis. By doing so, the king unleashed forces that would soon overpower his erstwhile absolute power. Soon a constitutional monarchy was imposed upon him. However, the new regime didn't solve any of the underlying problems. The treasury was empty; the economic crisis was ongoing; the ordinary people were still hungry. To top it all, France was now at war with the rest of Europe, including the mighty forces of the Austrian and Prussian and English monarchies.

Revolutionary forces within France took control of the situation, abolished the monarchy and, on the 21st September 1792, declared the (First) French Republic. Executive power was now in the hands of the National Convention (the constitutional and legislative assembly). The Convention wasted no time in raising armies in order to fight foreign enemies as well as, increasingly, domestic ones. In January 1793, Louis XVI was beheaded.

The revolutionary forces not only toppled the monarchy and the nobility, but also the clergy. Throughout the revolutionary period, France went through a progressive de-Christrianization of the society. A new Civil Constitution of the Clergy was adopted. Church lands were confiscated. Parish priests were forcibly replaced by "juror priests" who had sworn an oath to the Civil Constitution.

In the French provinces, where the youths were forced to join the Republican armies in order to repel invading forces, the peasantry loyal to the monarchy and to the Church started to raise and coalesce into a civil army fighting the Revolution from within.

The reaction of the Revolutionary government was most forceful and brutal in fighting the dual threat, foreign and domestic. In 1793, the increasingly paranoid government imposed a Reign of Terror, with tens of thousands of people being more or less summarily executed. Today's historians all agree the counter-offensives in the French provinces against the monarchists was particularly bloody. They only disagree on how to call it. "Genocide" may not be too strong a word, but it somehow does not fit the definition of this word, coined in 1944 in very specific circumstances. Maybe the best word is one coined by a contemporary, in 1794: "populicide" (or, in English, "democide").

The Reign of Terror was ended by the 27 July 1794 Thermidorian Reaction which condemned its excesses.

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1815

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1815 has a significance both within the factual French (and even European) history, as well as for the fictional characters within the novel.

- 18th June 1815: Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon's final defeat.

- The novel starts in 1815.
- M. Myriel and Jean Valjean meet in that year.
- Thénardier's mythical past is anchored in events that took place at Waterloo.

Estates of the realm

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French Absolute Monarchy

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The Absolute Monarchy in France ended with Louis XVI and the start of the French Revolution. The absolute monarchy rule started in late 17th century with the rule of Louis XIV.

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French Republican Calendar

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The introduction of the Republican Calendar was an attempt at both introducing the decimal system in the calender and also de-Christrianizing it.

From chapter 1.1.II "Chapter II: M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome":

Cela fit beaucoup crier la bourgeoisie locale, et, à cette occasion, un sénateur de l’empire, ancien membre du conseil des cinq-cents favorable au dix-huit brumaire et pourvu près de la ville de Digne d’une sénatorerie magnifique, écrivit au ministre des cultes, M. Bigot de Préameneu, [...] This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses; and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity of the town of Digne, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu, the minister of public worship, [...]

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The Church during the French Revolution

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For a brief description of the whole French Revolution period, see the Commentary to chapter 1.1.I "M. Myriel"

The revolutionary forces during the French Revolution not only toppled the monarchy and the nobility, but also the clergy. Throughout the revolutionary period, France went through a progressive de-Christrianization of the society. A new Civil Constitution of the Clergy was adopted. Church lands were confiscated. Parish priests were forcibly replaced by "juror priests" who had sworn an oath to the Civil Constitution.

In the French provinces, where the youths were forced to join the Republican armies in order to repel invading forces, the peasantry loyal to the monarchy and to the Church started to raise and coalesce into a civil army fighting the Revolution from within.

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The Church during the Napoleonic era

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In 1801, the Church regained most of its freedom, even if not all of its former might, thanks to the Concordat signed by the then consul Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. The people gained back their liberty of religious expression (for the Catholics as well as for the Protestant and Jewish minorities) but Rome's power to influence French political affairs was still severely curtailed. Bishops were to be appointed by the State and Rome was forced to definitely abandon any claims to its confiscated land.

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[1789~1799] The French Revolution

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For a brief description of the whole French Revolution period, see the Commentary to chapter 1.1.I "M. Myriel"

The Directory

The Directory was the executive power during the period from November 1795 to November 1799.

The Directory period was ended by a coup by Napoleon Bonaparte on the 9th November 1799, or, as known under the Revolutionary Calendar, the 18 Brumaire.

From chapter 1.1.II "Chapter II: M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome":

Cela fit beaucoup crier la bourgeoisie locale, et, à cette occasion, un sénateur de l’empire, ancien membre du conseil des cinq-cents favorable au dix-huit brumaire et pourvu près de la ville de Digne d’une sénatorerie magnifique, écrivit au ministre des cultes, M. Bigot de Préameneu, [...] This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses; and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity of the town of Digne, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu, the minister of public worship, [...]

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[1804~1814/15] First French Empire

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[1814/15~1830] Bourbon Restoration

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The Bourbon Restoration is a conservative constitutional monarchy that followed the First French Empire and was followed by the July Monarchy.

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[1830~1848] July Monarchy

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The July Monarchy is the more liberal constitutional monarchy (1830~1848), the period during which much of the action in the novel Les Misérables takes place.

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[5~6 June 1832] June Rebellion

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Not to be confused with the 1830 July Revolution, the June 1832 June Rebellion forms the background of a major plot element of Les Misérables.

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Interpretation and thematic study

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Biblical references

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TODO: include analysis from chapter 1.1.III.

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Places

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Digne

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Map of the French dioceses in 1801 (Concordat).
The Diocese of Digne is in the South East.
Image credit: BrightRaven / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

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India

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TODO: include commentary from chapter 1.1.II.

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Documentaries

Documentaries available at youtube:

Topics

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Capital Punishment

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See chapter 1.1.IV.

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  • [Youtube] How to Kill a Human Being: Former Conservative MP, Michael Portillo pushes his body to the brink of death in an investigation into the science of execution.

Religion and State in France

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See the commentary on 1.1.I - M. Myriel.

In France, the terms of the Concordat have been in effect for over a century. It is only in 1905, during the French Third Republic, that the Concordat was repealed and France declared a secular republic. The power to appoint Bishops was now back into Rome's hands.

Because of a strange twist of history, we are not quite yet at the end of or brief overview of the relationship between Church and State in France. At the time that the 1905 law took effect, three Départements (administrative divisions) in Eastern France were not then part of France. The two départements in Alsace and the Moselle département were conceded to Germany after France lost its short war against Prussia, in 1870. These three départements were re-integrated into the French territory after Germany's loss of the First Word War (1914-1918). For some strange reasons, the 1905 secular laws were not applied to them and the terms of the 1801 Concordat still apply, event today in the 21st century, in these eastern départements. The French State simply appoints Bishops according to Rome direct recommendations, and the clergy there are still civil servants paid by the Republic!

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Church and State in France: the news catches up with "Les Misérables" project.

See also: quote in chapter 1.1.VI (priests named by the King).

History

For an historical context, see:

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Trickle-down Economics

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Todo: add commentary from 1.1.II.

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Victor Hugo

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Victor Hugo is the author of Les Misérables (But I'm sure you knew that! ;) )

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Adaptations of the novel

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Les Misérables (musical)

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Table of Contents 

Les Misérables (musical)

Act II

On My Own

Video: https://youtu.be/VjfmP7h3gBw
Description: Lea Salonga as Éponine performing "On My Own" for the Les Misérables 10th Anniversary Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, 8th October 1995.

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[1934 film] Les Misérables

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* Wikipedia article: Les Misérables (1934 film).
* IMDB entry: Les Misérables (1934), rated 7.8.

[1995 film] Les Misérables

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This French movie, staring Jean-Paul Belmondo, is not a straight adaptation of the novel but rather a clever transposition into the 20th century of the 19th century novel. The connections with Hugo's novel are obvious although the story is different but still respecting the spirit of the original novel.

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[2012 musical film] Les Misérables

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Reviews

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If you liked "Les Misérables", you might also like...

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There is an ongoing discussion about which books/novel a fan of "Les Misérables" might also like. Obviously, it all depends on personal taste and aspirations. However, here is a list of some important classics that have been mentioned so far.

War and Peace, Tolstoi

LanceBoyle writes:

Hugo describes Waterloo in such a way as to explain why the French were defeated despite Bonaparte's genius-- whereas Tol'stoi describes Borodino in such a way as show Napoleon was deluded about his genius and even about his own free will. It's a devastating attack on the myth that great men can "make" history.

There's a great deal to be said about the contrasts between War and Peace and Les Miserables, and I'll comment occasionally on them on this blog. I think it's wonderful that you're using DKOS to conduct a running forum examining Les Miserables in detail.

I love Les Miserables, but I also urge everyone to read War and Peace, which I think is the most profound and liberating work of fiction ever written.

Moby Dick, Melville

Foothills of Oblivion writes:

Actually, they [Les Misérables and War and Peace] are part of a trinity, the other of which is Moby-Dick.

Being way too far along to aspire to either greatness or goodness, I won't volunteer a Melville diary, but anyone interested in a side trip to North America might begin it here:
http://www.eclectica.org/v11n1/mackey.html (easy read)
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25091870?uid=3739832&uid=2&uid=4&u... (in depth and under-appreciated).

Hugo, Tolstoy and Melville -- seers whose writing gets better as time draws the blinds from their genius.