Victor Hugo Quotes

Victor Marie Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables

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Victor Hugo Quotes

Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view? – Victor Hugo

To contemplate is to look at shadows. – Victor Hugo

To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. – Victor Hugo

To think is of itself to be useful; it is always and in all cases a striving toward God. – Victor Hugo

Virtue has a veil, vice a mask. – Victor Hugo

Well, for us, in history where goodness is a rare pearl, he who was good almost takes precedence over he who was great. – Victor Hugo

When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes. – Victor Hugo

When God desires to destroy a thing, he entrusts its destruction to the thing itself. Every bad institution of this world ends by suicide. – Victor Hugo

One sees qualities at a distance and defects at close range. – Victor Hugo

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul. – Victor Hug

Life is a voyage. – Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo Quotes

Let us have compassion for those under chastisement. Alas, who are we ourselves? Who am I and who are you? Whence do we come and is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born? This earth is not without some resemblance to a gaol. Who knows but that man is a victim of divine justice? Look closely at life. It is so constituted that one senses punishment everywhere. – Victor Hugo

Progress is the life-style of man. The general life of the human race is called Progress, and so is its collective march. Progress advances, it makes the great human and earthly journey towards what is heavenly and divine; it has its pauses, when it rallies the stragglers, its stopping places when it meditates, contemplating some new and splendid promised land that has suddenly appeared on its horizon. It has its nights of slumber; and it is one of the poignant anxieties of the thinker to see the human spirit lost in shadow, and to grope in the darkness without being able to awake sleeping progress. – Victor Hugo

Progress is the stride of God. – Victor Hugo

To rescue from oblivion even a fragment of a language which men have used and which is in danger of being lost –that is to say, one of the elements, whether good or bad, which have shaped and complicated civilization –is to extend the scope of social observation and to serve civilization. – Victor Hugo

When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right. – Victor Hugo

The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often compounded of a multitude of strands. Take the rope apart, separate it into the small threads that compose it, and you can break them one by one. You think, ”That is all there was!” But twist them all together and you have something tremendous. – Victor Hugo

Progress is the life-style of man. The general life of the human race is called Progress, and so is its collective march. Progress advances, it makes the great human and earthly journey towards what is heavenly and divine; it has its pauses, when it rallies the stragglers, its stopping places when it meditates, contemplating some new and splendid promised land that has suddenly appeared on its horizon. It has its nights of slumber; and it is one of the poignant anxieties of the thinker to see the human spirit lost in shadow, and to grope in the darkness without being able to awake sleeping progress. – Victor Hugo

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky… a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe. – Victor Hugo

Style is the substance of the subject called unceasingly to the surface. – Victor Hugo

Sublime upon sublime scarcely presents a contrast, and we need a little rest from everything, even the beautiful. – Victor Hugo

Taste is the common sense of genius. – Victor Hugo

The animal is ignorant of the fact that he knows. The man is aware of the fact that he is ignorant. – Victor Hugo

The beautiful has but one type, the ugly has a thousand. – Victor Hugo

The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced. – Victor Hugo

The first symptom of love in a young man is timidity; in a girl boldness. – Victor Hugo

The learned man knows that he is ignorant. – Victor Hugo

The little people must be sacred to the big ones, and it is from the rights of the weak that the duty of the strong is comprised. – Victor Hugo

The man who does not know other languages, unless he is a man of genius, necessarily has deficiencies in his ideas. – Victor Hugo

The omnipotence of evil has never resulted in anything but fruitless efforts. Our thoughts always escape from whoever tries to smother them. – Victor Hugo

The ox suffers, the cart complains. – Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo Quotes

The soul has illusions as the bird has wings: it is supported by them. – Victor Hugo

The three great problems of this century; the degradation of man in the proletariat, the subjection of women through hunger, the atrophy of the child by darkness. – Victor Hugo

The wise man does not grow old, but ripens. – Victor Hugo

The word is the Verb, and the Verb is God. – Victor Hugo

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. – Victor Hugo

There is a sacred horror about everything grand. It is easy to admire mediocrity and hills; but whatever is too lofty, a genius as well as a mountain, an assembly as well as a masterpiece, seen too near, is appalling. – Victor Hugo

There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul. – Victor Hugo

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time as come. – Victor Hugo

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told. – Victor Hugo

It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life. – Victor Hugo

It is often necessary to know how to obey a woman in order sometimes to have the right to command her. – Victor Hugo

It is the end. But of what? The end of France? No. The end of kings? Yes. – Victor Hugo

Men like me are impossible until the day when they become necessary. – Victor Hugo

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent. – Victor Hugo

No one can keep a secret better than a child. – Victor Hugo

No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child. – Victor Hugo

Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo

One believes others will do what he will do to himself. – Victor Hugo

One sometimes says: ‘He killed himself because he was bored with life.’ One ought rather to say: ‘He killed himself because he was bored by lack of life.’ – Victor Hugo

Pain is as diverse as man. One suffers as one can. – Victor Hugo

Prayer is an august avowal of ignorance. – Victor Hugo

Puns are the droppings of soaring wits. – Victor Hugo

Reaction – a boat which is going against the current but which does not prevent the river from flowing on. – Victor Hugo

Rhyme, that enslaved queen, that supreme charm of our poetry, that creator of our meter. – Victor Hugo

Scepticism, that dry caries of the intelligence. – Victor Hugo

Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time. – Victor Hugo

Society is a republic. When an individual tries to lift themselves above others, they are dragged down by the mass, either by ridicule or slander. – Victor Hugo

Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only night. – Victor Hugo

Almost all our desires, when examined, contain something too shameful to reveal. – Victor Hugo

Amnesty is as good for those who give it as for those who receive it. It has the admirable quality of bestowing mercy on both sides. – Victor Hugo

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not the invasion of ideas. – Victor Hugo

As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer. – Victor Hugo

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. – Victor Hugo

Because one doesn’t like the way things are is no reason to be unjust towards God. – Victor Hugo

Blessed be Providence which has given to each his toy: the doll to the child, the child to the woman, the woman to the man, the man to the devil! – Victor Hugo

By putting forward the hands of the clock you shall not advance the hour. – Victor Hugo

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. – Victor Hugo

Despotism is a long crime. – Victor Hugo

Do not let it be your aim to be something, but to be someone. – Victor Hugo

Doing nothing is happiness for children and misery for old men. – Victor Hugo

Evil. Mistrust those who rejoice at it even more than those who do it. – Victor Hugo

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers. – Victor Hugo

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. – Victor Hugo

I am a soul. I know well that what I shall render up to the grave is not myself. That which is myself will go elsewhere. Earth, thou art not my abyss! – Victor Hugo

I am an intelligent river which has reflected successively all the banks before which it has flowed by meditating only on the images offered by those changing shores. – Victor Hugo

I don’t mind what Congress does, as long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses. – Victor Hugo

I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes, – and the stars through his soul. – Victor Hugo

Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing morality on the stomach. – Victor Hugo

The drama is complete poetry. The ode and the epic contain it only in germ; it contains both of them in a state of high development, and epitomizes both. – Victor Hugo

No one knows like a woman how to say things which are at once gentle and deep. – Victor Hugo

The ideal and the beautiful are identical; the ideal corresponds to the idea, and beauty to form; hence idea and substance are cognate. – Victor Hugo

Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars. – Victor Hugo

To be perfectly happy it does not suffice to possess happiness, it is necessary to have deserved it. – Victor Hugo

Smallness in a great man seems smaller by its disproportion with all the rest. – Victor Hugo

Perseverance, secret of all triumphs. – Victor Hugo

What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past. – Victor Hugo

I love all men who think, even those who think otherwise than myself. – Victor Hugo

The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – Victor Hugo

The flesh is the surface of the unknown. – Victor Hugo

Idleness is the heaviest of all oppressions. – Victor Hugo

Freedom in art, freedom in society, this is the double goal towards which all consistent and logical minds must strive. – Victor Hugo

When liberty returns, I will return. – Victor Hugo

Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman. Much of her grace is in her frailty. – Victor Hugo

There have been in this century only one great man and one great thing: Napoleon and liberty. For want of the great man, let us have the great thing. – Victor Hugo

Conscience is God present in man. – Victor Hugo

He who is not capable of enduring poverty is not capable of being free. – Victor Hugo

To rise from error to truth is rare and beautiful. – Victor Hugo

A library implies an act of faith. – Victor Hugo

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots. – Victor Hugo

It is most pleasant to commit a just action which is disagreeable to someone whom one does not like. – Victor Hugo

To love another person is to see the face of God. – Victor Hugo

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life. – Victor Hugo

One of the hardest tasks is to extract continually from one’s soul an almost inexhaustible ill will. – Victor Hugo

A great artist is a great man in a great child. – Victor Hugo

Genius: the superhuman in man. – Victor Hugo

There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their numbers than the greatness of a man is by his height. – Victor Hugo

Many great actions are committed in small struggles. – Victor Hugo

Men become accustomed to poison by degrees. – Victor Hugo

Habit is the nursery of errors. – Victor Hugo

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. – Victor Hugo

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. – Victor Hugo

When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right. – Victor Hugo

I put a Phrygian cap on the old dictionary. – Victor Hugo

The ode lives upon the ideal, the epic upon the grandiose, the drama upon the real. – Victor Hugo

Nature has made a pebble and a female. The lapidary makes the diamond, and the lover makes the woman. – Victor Hugo

Never laugh at those who suffer; suffer sometimes those who laugh. – Victor Hugo

Close by the Rights of Man, at the least set beside them, are the Rights of the Spirit. – Victor Hugo

We see past time in a telescope and present time in a microscope. Hence the apparent enormities of the present. – Victor Hugo

Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left. – Victor Hugo

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said. – Victor Hugo

Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure. – Victor Hugo

The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live. – Victor Hugo

It is by suffering that human beings become angels. – Victor Hugo

Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it. – Victor Hugo

Mankind is not a circle with a single center but an ellipse with two focal points of which facts are one and ideas the other. – Victor Hugo

The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human. – Victor Hugo

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man. – Victor Hugo

Those who live are those who fight. – Victor Hugo

Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved. – Victor Hugo

Try as you will, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic of the human heart, love. – Victor Hugo

Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds. – Victor Hugo

Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise. – Victor Hugo

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause. – Victor Hugo

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings. – Victor Hugo

Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo

Genius is a promontory jutting out into the infinite. – Victor Hugo

Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old. – Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo Quotes

Stupidity talks, vanity acts. – Victor Hugo

There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars: from a distance

There is nothing as exciting as an idea whose time has come

For prying into any human affairs, non are equal to those whom it does not concern. – Victor Hugo

Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls. – Victor Hugo

A creditor is worse than a slave-owner; for the master owns only your person, but a creditor owns your dignity, and can command it. – Victor Hugo

A compliment is like a kiss through a veil. – Victor Hugo

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings. – Victor Hugo

To think of shadows is a serious thing. – Victor Hugo

It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live. – Victor Hugo

Joy’s smile is much closer to tears than laughter. – Victor Hugo

Liberation is not deliverance. – Victor Hugo

The last resort of kings, the cannonball. The last resort of the people, the paving stone. – Victor Hugo

He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life. – Victor Hugo

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo

One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas. – Victor Hugo

One is not idle because one is absorbed. There is both visible and invisible labor. To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do. The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act. The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation. – Victor Hugo

The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring. – Victor Hugo

There is nothing like a dream to create the future. – Victor Hugo

The most powerful symptom of love is a tenderness which becomes at times almost insupportable. – Victor Hugo

What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love! – Victor Hugo

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake. – Victor Hugo

There are obstinate and unknown braves who defend themselves inch by inch in the shadows against the fatal invasion of want and turpitude. There are noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees. No renown rewards, and no flourish of trumpets salutes. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, and poverty and battlefields which have their heroes. – Victor Hugo

I’d rather be hissed at for a good verse, than applauded for a bad one. – Victor Hugo

People do not lack strength; they lack will. – Victor Hugo

No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo

Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery. – Victor Hugo

Caution is the eldest child of wisdom – Victor Hugo

Loving is half of believing. – Victor Hugo

Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings. – Victor Hugo

Ask not the name of him who asks you for a bed. It is especially he whose name is a burden to him, who has need of an asylum (room). – Victor Hugo

There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees. – Victor Hugo

The first symptom of love in a young man is shyness; the first symptom in a woman, it’s boldness. – Victor Hugo

Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education. – Victor Hugo

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. – Victor Hugo

From the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at the time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought. – Victor Hugo

Anger may be foolish and obsurd, and one may be irritated when in the wrong; but a man never feels outraged unless in some respect he is at bottom right. – Victor Hugo

Do not ask the name of the person who seeks a bed for the night. He who is reluctant to give his name is the one who most needs shelter. – Victor Hugo

What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past. – Victor Hugo

At the shrine of friendship never say die, let the wine of friendship never run dry. – Victor Hugo – Les Miserables

One cannot be a good historian of the outward, visible world without giving some thought to the hidden, private life of ordinary people; and on the other hand one cannot be a good historian of this inner life without taking into account outward events where these are relevant. They are two orders of fact which reflect each other, which are always linked and which sometimes provoke each other. – Victor Hugo

In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere. – Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo Quotes

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters. – Victor Hugo

Separated lovers cheat absence by a thousand fancies which have their own reality. They are prevented from seeing one another and they cannot write; nevertheless they find countless mysterious ways of corresponding, by sending each other the song of birds, the scent of flowers, the laughter of children, the light of the sun, the sighing of the wind, and the gleam of the stars –all the beauties of creation. – Victor Hugo

Wisdom is a sacred communion. – Victor Hugo

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. – Victor Hugo

What would be ugly in a garden constitutes beauty in a mountain.

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

Fashions have done more harm than revolutions. – Victor Hugo

Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet. – Victor Hugo

Dear God! how beauty varies in nature and art. In a woman the flesh must be like marble; in a statue the marble must be like flesh. – Victor Hugo

To love beauty is to see light. – Victor Hugo

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age. – Victor Hugo

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age. – Victor Hugo

Intelligence is the wife, imagination is the mistress, memory is the servant. – Victor Hugo

Life is the flower for which love is the honey. – Victor Hugo

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. – Victor Hugo

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing. – Victor Hugo

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. – Victor Hugo

A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil. – Victor Hugo

To love another person is to see the face of God. – Victor Hugo ,Les Miserables

Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. – Victor HugoVillemain

There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door. – Victor HugoThe Hunchback of Notre Dame

An army is a strange composite masterpiece, which strength results from an enormous sum total of utter weaknesses. Thus only can we explain a war waged by humanity against humanity in spite of humanity. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

Nothing is so stifling as symmetry. Symmetry is boredom, the quintessence of mourning. Despair yawns. There is something more terrible than a hell of suffering — a hell of boredom. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

Les Misérables

Victor Hugo Quotes

We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come. – Victor Hugo, Histoire d’un crime

Our life dreams the Utopia. Our death achieves the Ideal. – Victor HugoIntellectual Autobiography

Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved. – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

The word which God has written on the brow of every man is Hope. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

In every cradle decked with rosy wreath
Lurk germs of death. – Victor Hugo, Hope

The greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius. – Victor HugoThe Hunchback of Notre Dame

God has set his intentions in the flowers, in the dawn, in the spring–it is his will that we should love. – Victor HugoToilers of the Sea

Like our dawn, merely a sob of light. – Victor Hugo, La Legende des Siécles

Sleep is in contact with the Possible, which we also call the improbable. The world of the night is a world. Night, as night, is a universe…. The dark things of the unknown world become neighbors of man, whether by true communication or by a visionary enlargement of the distances of the abyss … and the sleeper, not quite seeing, not quite unconscious, glimpses the strange anomalities, weird vegetation, terrible or radiant pallors, ghosts, masks, figures, hydras, confusions, moonless moonlights, obscure unmakings of miracle, growths and vanishings within a murky depth, shapes floating in shadow, the whole mystery which we call Dreaming, and which is nothing other than the approach of an invisible reality. The dream is the aquarium of Night. – Victor HugoTravailleurs de la Mer

Do not economize on the hymeneal rites; do not prune them of their splendor, nor split farthings on the day when you are radiant. A wedding is not house-keeping. – Victor HugoLes Miserables

You say society must exact vengeance, and society must punish. Wrong on both counts. Vengeance comes from the individual and punishment from God. – Victor HugoThe Last Day of a Condemned Man

Life is a theatre set in which there are but few practicable entrances. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

Men are still men. The despot’s wickedness
Comes of ill teaching, and of power’s excess–
Comes of the purple he from childhood wears,
Slaves would be tyrants if the chance were theirs. – Victor Hugo
The Vanished City

For sight is woman-like and shuns the old.
(Ah! he can see enough, when years are told,
Who backwards looks). – Victor Hugo

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

All the human and animal manure which the world wastes, if returned to the land, instead of being thrown into the sea, would suffice to nourish the world. – Victor HugoLes Misérables

You may doubt I found comfort in England
But, there, ’tis a refuge from dangers!
Where a Cromwell dictated to Milton,
Republicans ne’er can be strangers! – Victor Hugo
, The Refugee’s Haven, Poems

Much better an intelligent hell than a stupid paradise. – Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three

To study in Paris is to be born in Paris! – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Popularity? It’s glory’s small change. – Victor Hugo, attributed, The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip. – Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs

Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots. – Victor Hugo, Intellectual Autobiography: Ideas on Literature, Philosophy and Religion

Progress is the stride of God. – Victor Hugo, attributed, Day’s Collacon

The poet invites inspiration by meditation, as the prophets raised themselves to ecstasies by prayer. – Victor Hugo, Scraps of Philosophy and Criticism, The New-England Magazine, September 9, 1835

From a political point of view, there is but one principle, the sovereignty of man over himself. This sovereignty of myself over myself is called Liberty. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Victor Hugo Quotes

  • I will be Chateaubriand or nothing.
    • Written at the age of 15 in one of his notebooks (c. 1817), as quoted in The Literary Movement in France During the Nineteenth Century (1897) by Georges Pellissier
  • Behold, then, a new religion, a new society; upon this twofold foundation there must inevitably spring up a new poetry. Previously following therein the course pursued by the ancient polytheism and philosophy, the purely epic muse of the ancients had studied nature in only a single aspect, casting aside without pity almost everything in art which, in the world subjected to its imitation, had not relation to a certain type of beauty. A type which was magnificent at first, but, as always happens with everything systematic, became in later times false, trivial and conventional. Christianity leads poetry to the truth. Like it, the modern muse will see things in a higher and broader light. It will realize that everything in creation is not humanly beautiful, that the ugly exists beside the beautiful, the unshapely beside the graceful, the grotesque on the reverse of the sublime, evil with good, darkness with light. It will ask itself if the narrow and relative sense of the artist should prevail over the infinite, absolute sense of the Creator; if it is for man to correct God; if a mutilated nature will be the more beautiful for the mutilation; if art has the right to duplicate, so to speak, man, life, creation; if things will progress better when their muscles and their vigour have been taken from them; if, in short, to be incomplete is the best way to be harmonious. Then it is that, with its eyes fixed upon events that are both laughable and redoubtable, and under the influence of that spirit of Christian melancholy and philosophical criticism which we described a moment ago, poetry will take a great step, a decisive step, a step which, like the upheaval of an earthquake, will change the whole face of the intellectual world. It will set about doing as nature does, mingling in its creations — but without confounding them — darkness and light, the grotesque and the sublime; in other words, the body and the soul, the beast and the intellect; for the starting-point of religion is always the starting-point of poetry. All things are connected.
    Thus, then, we see a principle unknown to the ancients, a new type, introduced in poetry; and as an additional element in anything modifies the whole of the thing, a new form of the art is developed. This type is the grotesque; its new form is comedy.

    • Preface to Cromwell (1827)
  • These two halves of God, the Pope and the emperor.
    • Hernani (1830), Act IV, Scene II
  • God became a man, granted. The devil became a woman.
    • Ruy Blas (1838), Act II, Scene V
  • At what hour, please? retort to Victor Cousin, after he claimed he could pinpoint the start of the (perceived) decay of the French language: 1978.
    • Choses vues 1830-1846, Séance du 23 Novembre 1843
  • Reason is intelligence taking exercise; imagination is intelligence with an erection.
    • Unpublished notebook from 1845-50. Published in Seebacher (ed.), Oeuvres Complètes, vol. 10, p. 158 (Laffont, 1989). English translation from Robb, Victor Hugo p. 249 (Norton, 1997).
  • You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.
    • Villemain (1845)
  • Socialism, or the Red Republic, is all one; for it would tear down the tricolour and set up the red flag. It would make penny pieces out of the Column Vendome. It would knock down the statue of Napoleon and raise up that of Marat in its stead. It would suppress the Académie, the Ecole Polytechnique, and the Legion of Honour. To the grand device Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, it would add “Ou la mort. It would bring about a general bankruptcy. It would ruin the rich without enriching the poor. It would destroy labour, which gives to each one his bread. It would abolish property and family. It would march about with the heads of the proscribed on pikes, fill the prisons with the suspected, and empty them by massacres. It would convert France into the country of gloom. It would strangle liberty, stifle the arts, silence thought, and deny God. It would bring into action these two fatal machines, one of which never works without the other—the assignat press and the guillotine. In a word, it would do in cold blood what the men of 1793 did in fever, and after the grand horrors which our fathers saw, we should have the horrible in all that was low and small.
    • Statement of May 1848, as quoted in Paris Under the Commune : Or, Seventy-Three Days of the Second Siege (1871) by John Leighton
  • You insist on the example [of the death penalty]. Why? For what it teaches. What do you want to teach with your example? That thou shalt not kill. And how do you teach thou shalt not kill? By killing.
    • “Plaidoyer contre la peine de mort” [An argument against the death penalty], Assemblée Constituante, Paris (15 September 1848)
  • A day will come when there will be no battlefields, but markets opening to commerce and minds opening to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and bombs are replaced by votes, by universal suffrage, by the venerable arbitration of a great supreme senate which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England, the Diet to Germany, and the Legislative Assembly to France.
    A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!
    A day will come when we shall see those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe, facing one another, stretching out their hands across the sea, exchanging their products, their arts, their works of genius, clearing up the globe, making deserts fruitful, ameliorating creation under the eyes of the Creator, and joining together, to reap the well-being of all, these two infinite forces, the fraternity of men and the power of God.

    • Discours d’ouverture, congrès de la paix, [Opening address, Peace Congress], Paris (21 August 1849); published in Actes et paroles – Avant l’exil (1875)
  • There is now, in France, in each village, a lighted torch—the schoolmaster—and a mouth which blows upon it—the curé.
      • T. H. Joyce and Arthur Locker (tr.), The History of a Crime: The Testimony of an Eye-Witness (1877), The Second Day, Chapter III, p. 120
    • Translation: In every French village there is now a lighted torch, the schoolmaster; and a mouth trying to blow it out, the priest.
      • Huntington Smith (tr.), History of a Crime (1888), The Second Day, Chapter III, p. 187
    • Variants: There is in every village a torch: The schoolteacher/teacher. And an extinguisher: The priest/clergyman.
  • I only take a half share in the civil war; I am willing to die, I am not willing to kill.
    • Histoire d’un crime (The History of a Crime) [written 1852, published 1877], Quatrième journée. La victoire, ch. II: Les Faits de la nuit. Quartier des Halles. Trans. T.H. Joyce and Arthur Locker
  • One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.
    • One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas.
      • Histoire d’un Crime (The History of a Crime) [written 1852, published 1877], Conclusion, ch. X. Trans. T.H. Joyce and Arthur Locker
    • Alternative translations and paraphrased variants:
      • One cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
      • No one can resist an idea whose time has come.
      • Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.
      • Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come.
      • No army can stop an idea whose time has come.
      • Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.
      • There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.
      • Many of these paraphrases have a closer match in a passage from Gustave Aimard’s earlier-published novel Les Francs-Tireurs (1861):
        • there is something more powerful than the brute force of bayonets: it is the idea whose time has come and hour struck
  • Waterloo! Waterloo! Waterloo! Morne plaine!
    • Waterloo! Waterloo! Waterloo! Dismal plain!
      • L’Expiation, from Les Châtiments (1853), Book V
  • The eye was in the tomb and stared at Cain.
    • La Conscience, from La Légende des siècles (1859), First Series, Part I
  • You have created a new thrill.
    • Letter to Charles Baudelaire (6 October 1859)
  • Jesus wept; Voltaire smiled. Of that divine tear and that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.
    • Speech, “Le centenaire de Voltaire”, on the 100th anniversary of the death of Voltaire, Théâtre de la Gaîté, Paris (30 May 1878); published in Actes et paroles – Depuis l’exil (1878)
  • For four hundred years the human race has not made a step but what has left its plain vestige behind. We enter now upon great centuries. The sixteenth century will be known as the age of painters, the seventeenth will be termed the age of writers, the eighteenth the age of philosophers, the nineteenth the age of apostles and prophets. To satisfy the nineteenth century, it is necessary to be the painter of the sixteenth, the writer of the seventeenth, the philosopher of the eighteenth; and it is also necessary, like Louis Blane, to have the innate and holy love of humanity which constitutes an apostolate, and opens up a prophetic vista into the future. In the twentieth century war will be dead, the scaffold will be dead, animosity will be dead, royalty will be dead, and dogmas will be dead; but Man will live. For all there will be but one country—that country the whole earth; for all there will be but one hope—that hope the whole heaven.
    • Address to the Workman’s Congress at Marseille (1879)
  • Was it possible that Napoleon should win the battle of Waterloo? We answer, No! Why? Because of Wellington? Because of Blücher? No! Because of God! For Bonaparte to conquer at Waterloo was not the law of the nineteenth century. It was time that this vast man should fall. He had been impeached before the Infinite! He had vexed God! Waterloo was not a battle. It was the change of front of the Universe!
    • “The Battle of Waterloo”, reported in Oliver Ernesto Branch, ed., The Hamilton Speaker (1878), p. 53
  • Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
    • “Thoughts,” Postscriptum de ma vie, in Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography, Funk and Wagnalls (1907) as translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke
  • This is the battle between day and night… I see black light.
    • Last words (1885-05-22); quoted in Olympio, ou la vie de Victor Hugo by André Maurois (1954)
  • There shall be no slavery of the mind.
    • Quoted by Courtlandt Palmer, president of the Nineteenth Century Club of New York, while introducing Robert G. Ingersoll as a speaker in a debate, “The Limitations of Toleration,” at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City (1888-05-08); from The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll (Dresden Publishing Company, 1902), vol. VII, p. 217
  • To rise at six, to sleep at ten,
    To sup at ten, to dine at six,
    Make a man live for ten times ten.

    • Inscription in Hugo’s dining room, quoted in Gustave Larroumet, La maison de Victor Hugo: Impressions de Guernesey (1895), Chapter III
  • The need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal.
    • “Les fleurs,” (ca. 1860 – 1865), from Oeuvres complètes (1909); published in English as The Memoirs of Victor Hugo, trans. John W. Harding (1899), Chapter VI: Love in Prison, part II
  • I represent a party which does not yet exist: the party Revolution-Civilization. This party will make the twentieth century. There will issue from it first the United States of Europe, then the United States of the World.
    • Océan – Tas de pierres (1942)
  • To divinise is human, to humanise is divine.
    • Les feuilles d’automne (1831)
  • Philosophy is the microscope of thought. Everything desires to flee from it, but nothing escapes it.
  • Les Misérables
  • To love is to act
    • Last words of his diary, written two weeks before his death, published in Victor Hugo : Complete Writings (1970), edited by Jean-Jacques Pauvert
  • You are right, sir, 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 surpass 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.”
  • At the hour of civilization through which we are now passing, and which is still so sombre, the miserable’s name is Man; he is agonizing in all climes, and he is groaning in all languages.
  • From the depths of the gloom wherein you dwell, you do not see much more distinctly than we the radiant and distant portals of Eden. Only, the priests are mistaken. These holy portals are before and not behind us.
  • 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.
  • 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!”
  • Whether we be Italians or Frenchmen, misery concerns us all. Ever since history has been written, ever since philosophy has meditated, misery has been the garment of the human race; the moment has at length arrived for tearing off that rag, and for replacing, upon the naked limbs of the Man-People, the sinister fragment of the past with the grand purple robe of the dawn.
  • God manifests himself to us in the first degree through the life of the universe, and in the second degree through the thought of man. The second manifestation is not less holy than the first. The first is named Nature, the second is named Art.
    • Part I, Book II, Chapter I
  • Homer is one of the men of genius who solve that fine problem of art — the finest of all, perhaps — truly to depict humanity by the enlargement of man: that is, to generate the real in the ideal.
    • Part I, Book II, Chapter II, Section I
  • It is man’s consolation that the future is to be a sunrise instead of a sunset.
    • Part I, Book II, Chapter II, Section V
  • Music…is the vapour of art. It is to poetry what revery is to thought, what the fluid is to the liquid, what the ocean of clouds is to the ocean of waves.
    • Part I, Book II, Chapter IV
  • Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
    • Part I, Book II, Chapter IV
  • They had done him the honor to take him for a madman, but had set him free on discovering that he was only a poet.
  • It is very fortunate that kings cannot err. Hence their contradictions never perplex us.
  • To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.
    • Quatre-vingt-treize (Ninety-Three) (1874), Book VII, Chapter V
  • Cimourdain was a pure-minded but gloomy man. He had “the absolute” within him. He had been a priest, which is a solemn thing. Man may have, like the sky, a dark and impenetrable serenity; that something should have caused night to fall in his soul is all that is required. Priesthood had been the cause of night within Cimourdain. Once a priest, always a priest.
    Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars. Cimourdain was full of virtues and truth, but they shine out of a dark background.

    • Part 2, Book 1, Ch. 2
    • Variant translation: What makes night within us may leave stars.

Meaning:The absence of light does not extinguish the human spirit within, and even though their will be times that you will be tested of your ability you may come out even brighter than you were before. Even though you may have been left in the dark you willbe able to thrive through and become a shining star.

  • Cimourdain was one of those men who have a voice within them, and who listen to it. Such men seem absent-minded; they are not; they are all attention.
    Cimourdain knew everything and nothing. He knew everything about science, and nothing at all about life. Hence his inflexibility. His eyes were bandaged like Homer’s Themis. He had the blind certainty of the arrow, which sees only the mark and flies to it. In a revolution, nothing is more terrible than a straight line. Cimourdain went straight ahead, as sure as fate.
    Cimourdain believed that, in social geneses, the extreme point is the solid earth; an error peculiar to minds which replace reason with logic.

    • Part 2, Book 1, Ch. 2

Victor Marie Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages).

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