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Les Misérables (1862) is a novel by Victor Hugo which many consider to be one of the greatest works of world literature. It tells of the interwoven lives of its characters over several decades of the early 19th Century, focusing to a great extent on the conflicts between the hero Jean Valjean, a fugitive who spent nearly 20 years of his life as prisoner "24601" and police inspector Javert who hunts for him. Others who feature prominently are Cosette the orphaned girl who Valjean raises as a daughter, Marius the revolutionary who loves her, and the villain Thenardier who had horribly exploited Cosette until she was rescued by Valjean. It was originally published in five volumes, four named after some of the primary characters within it. The primary translation used in creating this collection of quotations was that of Charles E. Wilbour.

See also: Les Misérables (the theatrical musical by Boublil and Schonberg)


  • So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age — the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night — are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Volume One - FANTINEEdit

Book I - An Upright Man Edit

  • Be it true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence upon their lives, and especially upon their destinies, as what they do.
    • Chapter I: "M. Myriel"
  • Sire... you behold a good man, and I a great man. Each of us may profit by it.
    • Chapter I: "M. Myriel" : M. Myriel to Napoleon
  • There are many tongues to talk, and but few heads to think.
    • Chapter I: "M. Myriel"
  • See Monsieur Geborand, buying a pennyworth of paradise.
    • Chapter IV: "Works Answer Words"
  • How frightened hypocrisy hastens to defend itself...
    • Chapter IV: "Works Answer Words"
  • But who ever does attain to his ideal?
    • Chapter VI: "How He Protected His House"
  • I am not in the world to care for my life, but for souls.
    • Chapter VII: "Cravatte" M. Myriel in disregarding dangers to his life.
  • The general ... pursued the emperor as if he wished to let him escape.
    • Chapter XI: "A Qualification"

Book III - The Year 1817 Edit

  • Table talk and lovers' talk equally elude the grasp; lovers' talk is clouds, table talk is smoke.
    • Chapter VI: "A Chapter of Self-Admiration"
  • A discussion is good, ... a quarrel is better.
    • Chapter VII: "The Wisdom of Tholomyes"

Book IV - To Entrust is Sometimes to Abandon Edit

  • They belonged to that bastard class formed of low people who has risen, and intelligent people who have fallen, which lies between the classes called middle and lower, and which unites some of the faults of the latter with nearly all the vices of the former, without possessing the generous impulses of the workman, or the respectability of the bourgeois.
    • Said of the Thenardiers, Chapter II: "First Sketch of Two Equivocal Faces"
  • She drowned what little brain she had in them.
    • Said about Madame Thenardier and her reading of cheap novels. Book IV: "To Entrust is Sometimes to Abandon", Chapter II: "First Sketch of Two Equivocal Faces"
  • To be wicked does not insure prosperity — for the inn did not succeed well.
    • About the Thenardier's Inn Book IV: "To Entrust is Sometimes to Abandon", Chapter III: "The Lark"

Book V - The Descent Edit

  • A good mayor is a good thing. Are you afraid of the good you can do?
    • What people said to Jean Valjean, urging him to run for mayor. "Father Madeleine" Chapter II: "Madeleine"
  • The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.
    • Chapter IV: "M. Madeleine in Mourning"
  • For prying into any human affairs, none are equal to those whom it does not concern.
    • Chapter VII: "Madame Victurnien Spends Thirty Francs on Morality"
  • It is a mistake to imagine that man can exhaust his destiny, or can reach the bottom of anything whatever. Alas! what are all these destinies thus driven pell-mell? whither go they? why are they so? He who knows that, sees all the shadow. He is alone. His name is God.
    • Chapter XI: "Christus Nos Liberavit"
  • She would have softened a heart of granite; but you cannot soften a heart of wood.
    • Of Fantine, and Javert. Chapter XIII: "Solution of Some Questions of Municipal Police"
  • Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance which transfigures the wretched.
    • Chapter XIII: "The Solution of Some Questions connected with the Municipal Polic"

Book VII - The Champmathieu Affair Edit

  • To write the poem of the human conscience, were it only of a single man, were it only of the most infamous of men, would be to swallow up all epics in a superior and final epic.
    • Book VII: "The Champmathieu Affair", Chapter XIII: "A Tempest in a Brain"
  • One can no more prevent the mind from returning to an idea than the sea from returning to a shore. In the case of the sailor, this is called a tide; in the case of the guilty, it is called remorse.
    • Book VII: "The Champmathieu Affair", Chapter XIII: "A Tempest in a Brain"
  • When he was tried, God was not there.
    • Book VII: "The Champmathieu Affair", Chapter IX: "A Place for Arriving at Convictions"
  • You must be very sharp to tell me where I was born. I don't know myself. Everybody can't have houses to be born in; that would be too handy.
    • Book VII: "The Champmathieu Affair", Chapter X: "The System of Denegations"

Book VIII - The Counter-Stroke Edit

  • Happily, God knows where to find her soul.
    • Book VIII: "The Counter-Stroke", Chapter V: "A Fitting Tomb"

Volume Two: COSETTE Edit

  • A sign of assent being given, with one blow of a hammer he broke the chain riveted to the iron ring at his ankle, then took a rope in his hand, and flung himself into the shrouds. Nobody, at the moment, noticed with what ease the chain was broken. It was only some time afterwards that anybody remembered it.
    • Book II : The Ship Orion, Chapter III "The Chain Of The Iron Ring Must Needs Have Undergone A Certain Preparation To Be Thus Broken By One Blow Of The Hammer "
  • He caught glimpses of everything, but saw nothing.
    • Book III: "Fulfillment of the Promise to the Departed", Chapter IX: "Thenardier Maneuvering"

Book I - Waterloo Edit

  • Napoleon...mighty somnambulist of a vanished dream.
    • Chapter XIII: "The Catastrophe"
  • Waterloo is a battle of the first rank won by a captain of the second.
    • Chapter Chapter XVI: "Quot Libras in Duce?"
  • Would you realize what Revolution is, call it Progress; and would you realize what Progress is, call it Tomorrow.
    • Chapter XVII: "Is Waterloo to be considered Good?"
  • What is that to the Infinite?
    • Chapter XVIII: "A Recrudescence of Divine Right"

Book V - A Dark Chase Needs a Silent Hound Edit

  • Sought for, he might be, but followed he was not.
    • Chapter II: "It is Fortunate that Vehicles Can Cross the Bridge of Austerlitz"
  • Jean Valjean had this peculairiry, that he might be said to carry two knapsacks; in one he had the thoughts of a saint, in the other the formidable talents of a convict. He helped himself from one or the other as occasion required.
    • Chapter V: "Which would be Impossible were the Streets Lighted with Gas."
  • Truly at that instant, if Jean Valjean had had a kingdom, he would have given it for a rope.
    • Chapter V: "Which would be Impossible were the Streets Lighted with Gas."
  • Great blunders are often made, like large ropes, of a multitude of fibers.
    • Chapter X: "Which explains how Javert got on the Scent"

Book VI - Petite Picpus Edit

  • Upon the first goblet he read this inscription, monkey wine; upon the second, lion wine; upon the third, sheep wine; upon the fourth, swine wine. These four inscriptions expressed the four descending degrees of drunkenness: the first, that which enlivens; the second, that which irritates; the third, that which stupifies; finally the last, that which brutalizes.
    • Chapter IX: " A Century under a Guimpe"
  • We do not comprehend everything, but we insult nothing.
    • Motto of the Convent "Petit Picpus." Chapter XI: "End of the Petit Picpus"
  • It is necessary to understand them, were it only to avoid them.
    • On the study of "the things which are no more." Chapter XI: "End of the Petit Picpus"

Book VII - A Parenthesis Edit

Chapter VIII - Faith - Law Edit
  • We blame the Church when it is saturated with intrigues; we despise the spiritual when it is harshly austere to the temporal; but we honour everywhere, the thoughtful man.
  • We bow to the man who kneels.
  • A faith is a necessity to man. Woe to him who believes nothing.
  • A man is not idle, because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labour and there is an invisible labour.
  • To meditate is to labour; to think is to act.
  • No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child.
  • Folded arms work, closed hands perform, a gaze fixed on heaven is a toil.
  • Thales remained motionless for four years. He founded philosophy.
  • In our eyes, cenobites are not idlers, nor is the recluse a sluggard.
  • To think of the Gloom is a serious thing.
  • Without at all invalidating what we have just said, we believe that a perpetual remembrance of the tomb is proper for the living. On this point, the priest and the philosopher agree: We must die.
  • To mingle with one's life a certain presence of the sepulchre is the law of the wise man, and it is the law of the ascetic. In this relation, the ascetic and the sage tend towards a common centre.
  • There is a material advancement; we desire it. There is, also, a moral grandeur; we hold fast to it.
  • Unreflecting, headlong minds say: "Of what use are those motionless figures by the side of mystery? What purpose do they serve? What do they effect?"
    Alas! in the presence of that obscurity which surrounds us and awaits us, not knowing what the vast dispersion of all things will do with us, we answer: There is, perhaps, no work more sublime than that which is accomplished by these souls; and we add, There is no labour, perhaps, more useful.
  • Those who pray always are necessary to those who never pray. In our view, the whole question is in the amount of thought that is mingled with prayer. Leibnitz, praying, is something grand; Voltaire, worshipping, is something beautiful. Deo erexit Voltaire .
  • We are for religion against the religions.
  • We are of those who believe in the pitifulness of orisons, and in the sublimity of prayer.

Book VIII - Cemeteries Take What is Given Them Edit

  • Impossible. ... Father Fauchelevent, let it go that I fell from on high.
    • Chapter I: "Which Treat of the Manner of Entering the Convent"
  • Not being heard is no reason for silence.
    • Chapter I: "Which Treat of the Manner of Entering the Convent"
  • He who is escaping never coughs and never sneezes.
    • Chapter IV: "In Which Jean Valjean has Quite the Appearance of Having Read Ausin Castillejo"
  • That recruit was at home, hunting up his "card", and rather unlikely he was to find it, as it was in Fauchelevent's pocket.
    • Chapter VII: "In Which will be Found the Origin of the Saying: Don't Lose Your Card"
  • Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face.
    • Chapter IX: "The Close"

Volume Three - MARIUSEdit

Book I - Paris Atomised Edit

  • Give to a being the useless, and deprive him of the needful, and you have the gamin.
    • Chapter III: "He is Agreeable"
  • This lowly sand which you trample beneath your feet, if you cast it into the furnace, and let it melt and seethe, shall become resplendent crystal, and by means of such as it a Galileo and a Newton shall discover stars.
    • About the lower classes of France. Chapter XII: "The Future Latent In the People"

Book II: "The Grand Bourgeois Edit

  • This brother . . . felt obliged to give alms to the poor whom he met, but never gave them anything more than coppers or worn-out sous, finding thus the means of going to Hell by the road to Paradise.
    • Chapter VI: "In Which We See La Magnon and Her Two Little Ones"
  • Both had wings, one like angel, the other like a goose.
    • About two sisters. Book II: "The Grand Bourgeois", Chapter VIII: "Two Do Not Make a Pair"

Book III - The Grandfather and the Grandson Edit

  • He went nowhere save on condition of ruling there.
    • On M. Gillenormand, Grandfather of Marius. Chapter I: "An Old Salon"
  • A thief is admitted, provided he be a lord.
    • Chapter I: "An Old Salon"
  • Years place at last a venerable crown upon a head.
  • I do not know whether it is that I no longer understand French, or you no longer speak it; but the fact is I do not understand you.
    • George Pontmercy's response to his being told he could no longer wear a medal that he had earned fighting in Bonaparte's army .Chapter II: "One of the Red Spectres of that Time"
  • Monsieur procurer du roi, am I allowed to wear my scar?
    • Chapter II: "One of the Red Spectres of that Time"
  • In two days the colonel had been buried, and in three days forgotten.
    • Chapter IV: "The End of the Brigand"
  • He was full of regret and remorse, and he thought with despair that all he had in his soul he could say now only to a tomb.
    • Chapter VI: "What It Is to have Met a Churchwarden"
  • Marius saw in Bonaparte the flashing spectre which will always rise upon the frontier, and which will guard the future. Despot, but dictator; despot resulting from a republic and summing up a revolution. Napoleon became to him the people-man as Jesus is the God-man.
    We see, like all new converts to a religion, his conversion intoxicated him, he plunged headlong into adhesion, and he went too far. His nature was such; once upon a descent it was almost impossible for him to hold back. Fanaticism for the sword took possession of him, and became complicated in his mind with enthusiasm for the idea. He did not perceive that along with genius, and indiscriminately, he was admiring force, that is to say that he was installing in the two compartments of his idolatry, on one side what is divine, and on the other what is brutal. In several respects he began to deceive himself in other matters. He admitted everything. There is a way of meeting error while on the road of truth. He had a sort of wilful implicit faith which swallowed everything in mass. On the new path upon which he had entered, in judging the crimes of the ancient regime as well as in measuring the glory of Napoleon, he neglected the attenuating circumstances.
    • Chapter VI: "What It Is to have Met a Churchwarden"
  • Not seeing people permits us to imagine in them every perfection.
    • Chapter VII: "Some Petticoat"
  • My father was a humble and heroic man, who served the republic and France gloriously, who was great in the greatest history that men have made, who lived a quarter of a century in the camp, by day under grape and under balls, by night in the snow, in the mud, and in the rain, who captured colours, who received twenty wounds, who died forgotten and abandoned, and who had but one fault; that was in loving too dearly two ingrates, his country and me.
    • Chapter VIII: "Marble Against Granite"

Book IV - The Friends of the A B C Edit

  • He did not seem to know that there was on the earth a being called woman.
    • About Enjolras. Chapter I: "A Group Which Almost Became Historic"
  • A fire would cause a dawn, undoubtedly, but why not wait for the break of day?
    • Chapter I: "A Group Which Almost Became Historic"
  • His specialty was to succeed in nothing. . . . He was poor, but his fund of good humor was inexhaustible. He soon reached the last sou but never the last burst of laughter. When met by adversity, he saluted that acquaintance cordially, he patted catastrophes on the back; he was so familiar with fatality as to call it by its nick-name.
    • About L'Aigle [the eagle] aka Lesgueules, Lesgle, or Bossuet. Chapter I: "A Group Which Almost Became Historic"
  • It is a pity that I am ignorant, for I would quote you a crowd of things, but I don't know anything.
    • Grantaire speaking of himself. Chapter IV: "The Back Room of the Cafe Musain"
  • That will be swallowing a language very rapidly or a hundred-sous piece very slowly.
    • Marius must learn German and English to get a job: he only has a hundred sous left and states that this money will last until he learns the languages. His friend remarks that either he will learn fast, or spend slow. Chapter VI: "Res Angusta"

Book V - The Excellence of Misfortune Edit

  • Desiring always to be in mourning, he clothed himself with night.
    • Chapter I: "Marius Needy"
  • His creditors had sought for him, also, with less love than Marius but with as much zeal, and had not been able to put their hands on him.
    • Marius is looking for Thenardier because he believes his father's life had been saved by Thenardier. Chapter II: "Marius Poor"
  • He took good care not to be useless; having books did not prevent him from reading, being a botanist did not prevent him from being a gardener.
    • Chapter IV: "M. Mabeuf"
  • He went to mass rather from good-feeling than from devotion, and because he loved the faces of men, but hated their noise and he found them, at church only, gathered together and silent.
    • Chapter IV: "M. Mabeuf"
  • Finally, he had never succeeded in loving any woman as much as a tulip bulb, or any man as much as an Elzevir.
    • Chapter IV: "M. Mabeuf"
  • A clock does not stop at the very moment you lose the key.
    • Chapter IV: "M. Mabeuf"
  • He had finally come hardly to look at nothing but the sky, the only thing that truth can see from the bottom of her well.
    • Chapter V: "Poverty A Good Neighbor of Misery"
  • We should judge a man much more surely from what he dreams than from what he thinks.
    • Chapter V: "Poverty A Good Neighbor of Misery"

Book VI - The Conjunction of Two Stars Edit

  • I have just met Marius' new hat and coat, with Marius inside. Probably he was going to an examination. He looked stupid enough.
    • Courfeyrac about Marius. Chapter IV: "Commencement of a Great Distemper"

Book VII - Patron Minette Edit

  • Babet was thin and shrewd. He was transparent, but impenetrable. You could see the light through his bones, but nothing through his eye.
    • Babet is a bandit. Chapter III: "Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse"

Book VIII: "The Noxious Poor Edit

  • Poor mothers. There is one thing sadder than to see their children die — to see them lead evil lives.
    • Chapter II: "A Waif"
  • Those are rare who fall without becoming degraded; there is a point, moreover, at which the unfortunate and the infamous are associated and confounded in a single word, a fatal word, Les Misérables . . .
    • Chapter V: "The Judas of Providence"
  • You speak now like a brave man and an honest man. Courage does not fear crime, and honesty does not fear authority.
    • Javert speaking to Marius. Chapter XIV: "In Which a Police Officer Gives a Lawyer Two Fisticuffs"
  • Bossuet! Eagle of Meaux! you are a prodigious fool. Follow a man who is following a man!
    • Chapter XV: "Jondrette Makes his Purchase"
  • The room thus lighted up seemed rather a smithy than the mouth of hell; but Jondrette, in that glare, had rather the appearance of a demon than of a blacksmith.
    • "Jondrette" is Thenardier. Chapter XVII: "Use of Marius' Five-Franc Piece"
Chapter XX - The Ambuscade Edit
  • This old man, so firm and so brave before so great a peril, seemed to be one of those natures who are courageous as they are good, simply and naturally. The father of a woman that we love is never a stranger to us. Marius felt proud of this unknown man.
  • My name is not Fabantou, my name is not Jondrette, my name is Thenardier! I am the innkeeper of Montfermeil! do you understand me? Thenardier! now do you know me?
  • When Jondrette had said: My name is Thenardier , Marius had trembled in every limb, and supported himself against the wall as if he had felt the chill of a sword-blade through his heart.
  • "Pardon me, monsieur," answered M. Leblanc, with a tone of politeness which, at such a moment, had a peculiarly strange and powerful effect, "I see that you are a bandit."
    • "M. Leblanc" is Valjean
  • The prisoner was no longer fastened to the bed save by one leg.
    Before the seven men had had time to recover themselves and spring upon him, he had bent over to the fireplace, reached his hand towards the furnace, then rose up, and now Thenardier, the Thenardiess, and the bandits, thrown by the shock into the back part of the room, beheld him with stupefaction, holding above his head the glowing chisel, from which fell an ominous light, almost free and in a formidable attitude.
  • "You are pitiable, but my life is not worth the trouble of so long a defence. As to your imagining that you could make me speak, that you could make me write what I do not wish to write, that you could make me say what I do not wish to say—"
    He pulled up the sleeve of his left arm, and added:
    At the same time he extended his arm, and laid upon the naked flesh the glowing chisel, which he held in his right hand, by the, wooden handle.
    They heard the hissing of the burning flesh; the odour peculiar to chambers of torture spread through the den.
    Marius staggered, lost in horror; the brigands themselves felt a shudder; the face of the wonderful old man hardly contracted, and while the red iron was sinking into the smoking, impassable, and almost august wound, he turned upon Thenardier his fine face, in which there was no hatred, and in which suffering was swallowed up in a serene majesty.

Volume Four: ST. DENIS Edit

Full title: Saint Denis and Idyl of the Rue Plumet

Book I - A Few Pages of History Edit

  • Logic ignores the Almost, just as the sun ignores the candle.
    • Chapter II: "Badly Sewed"
  • Social prosperity means man happy, the citizen free, the nation great.
    • Chapter IV: "Cracks beneath the Foundation"

Book II - Eponine Edit

  • Happy, even in anguish, is he to whom God has given a soul worthy of love and of grief! He who has not seen the things of this world, and the hearts of men by this double light, has seen nothing, and know nothing of the truth.
    • Chapter I: "The Field of the Lark"
  • Nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is habit lost. A habit easy to abandon, difficult to resume.
    • Chapter I
  • Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.
    • Chapter I
  • No. I am the devil, but that is all the same to me.
    • Eponine responding tp F. Mabeuf who had just said to her "you are an angel, since you care for flowers". Chapter III: "An Apparition to Father Mabeuf"
    • Said by Eponine. ." Eponine replys with this quote.

Book III - The House in the Rue Plumet Edit

  • In '93, a coppersmith bought the house to pull it down, but not being able to pay the price for it, the nation sent him into bankruptcy. So that it was the house that pulled down the coppersmith.
    • Chapter I: "The Secret House"
  • Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?
    • Chapter III: "Requiescant"
  • He said to himself that he really had not suffered enough to deserve such radiant happiness, and he thanked God, in the depths of his soul, for having permitted that he, a miserable man, should be so loved by this innocent being.
    • Valjean about Cosette. Chapter IV: "Change of Grating"
  • Women play with their beauty as children do with their knives. They wound themselves with it.
    • Chapter VI: "The Battle Commences"
  • Dante would have thought he saw the seven circles of Hell on their passage.
    • Valjean and Cosette watch a procession of seven wagons of men who are condemned to the galleys pass by. Chapter VII: "The Chain"

Book IV - Aid from Below May be Aid from Above Edit

  • One evening little Gavroche had had no dinner; he remembered that he had had no dinner also the day before; this was becoming tiresome. He resolved that he would try for some supper.
    • Chapter II: "Mother Plutarch is not Embarrassed on the Explanation of a Phenomenon"

Book VI - Little Gavroche Edit

  • The most terrible of motives and the most unanswerable of responses: Because.
    • Chapter I: "A Malevolent Trick of the Wind."
  • The barber in his shop, warmed by a good stove, was shaving a customer and casting from time to time a look towards this enemy, this frozen and brazen gamin, who had both hands in his pockets, but his wits evidently out of their sheath.
    • Chapter I: "In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great."
  • The bureau is closed. I receive no more complaints.
    • Said by Gavroche to someone who complained when Gavroche splashed his polished boots with mud. Chapter I: "In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great."
  • At a certain depth of distress, the poor, in their stupor, groan no longer over evil, and are no longer thankful for good.
    • Chapter I: "In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great."
  • Ah, what does this mean? It rains again! . . . if this continues, I withdraw my subscription.
    • Gavroche has just given his coat to a girl when the storm starts to worsen. Chapter I: "In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great."

Book VII - Argot Edit

  • What can be done in a sepulcher, they agonised, and what can be done in a hell, they sang. For where there is no more hope, song remains.
    • Chapter II: "Boots"
  • The endeavor is vain, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic of the human heart, love.
    • Chapter II: "Boots"
  • Let us lament as over stomachs, over minds which do not eat. If there is anything more poignant than a body agonising for want of bread, it is a soul which is dying of hunger for light.
    • Chapter IV "The Two Duties: To Watch and to Hope"
  • There is but one way of refusing To-morrow, that is to die.
    • Chapter IV: "The Two Duties: To Watch and to Hope"

Book VIII - XI Edit

  • A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.
    • Book VIII: "Enchantments and Desolations", Chapter I: "Marius, while seeking a Girl in a Bonnet encounters a Man in a Cap"
  • When we are at the end of life, to die means to go away; when we are at the beginning, to go away means to die.
    • Book VIII: "Enchantments and Desolations", Chapter VI: "Marius Becomes so Real as to Give Cosette his Address"
  • There are moments when a man has a furnace in his brain. Marius was in one of those moments.
    • Book IX: "Where are They Going?", Chapter II: "Marius"
  • The wind of revolutions is not tractable.
    • Book X: "June 5rh, 1832", Chapter IV: "The Ebullitions of Former Times"
  • His brothers in the evening, his father in the morning; such had been his night.
    • Gavroche, in the evening, without knowing that they were his brothers, had found food and shelter for two boys. Early the next morning he helped in his father's escape from jail and was not even recognized by him. Book XI: "The Atom Fraternises with the Hurricane", Chapter I: "Some Insight into the Origin of Gavroche's Poetry — Influence of an Academician upon that Poetry."
  • The road is free; the streets belong to everybody.
    • Book XI: "The Atom Fraternises with the Hurricane", Chapter VI: "Recruits"

Book XII - Corinth Edit

  • What you fellows call progress moves by two springs, men and events. But sad to say, from time to time the exceptional is necessary. For events as well as for men, the stock company is not enough; geniuses are needed among men, and revolutions among events. Great accidents are the law; the order of things cannot get along without them; and, to see the apparitions of comets, one would be tempted to believe that Heaven itself is in need of star actors. At the moment you least expect it, God placards a meteor on the wall of the firmament. Some strange star comes along, underlined by an enormous tail. And that makes Caesar die. Brutus strikes him with a knife, and God with a comet.
    • Chapter II: "Preliminary Gaiety"
  • Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.
    • Chapter IV: "Attempt at Consolation upon the Widow Hucheloup"
  • The mouse has caught the cat.
    • Said by Gavroche to Javert after revealing him to be a police spy. Chapter VII: "The Man Recruited in the Rue Des Billettes"
  • His life had been darkness, his end was night.
    • Chapter VIII: "Several Interrogation Points Concerning One Le Cabuc, Who Perhaps was Not Le Cabuc"

Book XIII - Marius Enters the Shadow Edit

  • Civil war? What does this mean? Is there any foreign war? Is not every war between men, war between brothers? War is modified only by its aim. There is neither foreign war, nor civil war; there is only unjust war and just war.
  • Marius had lived too little as yet to know that nothing is more imminent than the impossible, and that what we must always forsee is the unforseen.
    • Chapter V: "End of Jean Prouvaire's Rhyme"
  • Your friends have just shot you.
    • Said by Enjolras to Javert after Prouvaire's execution. Chapter III: "The Extreme Limit"

Book XV - The Rue De L'Homme Armé Edit

  • At certain hours, everything seems impossible; at other hours, everything appears easy; Jean Valjean was in one of those happy hours.
    • Chapter I: "Blotter, Blabber"
  • The soul does not give itself up to despair until it has exhaused all illusions.
    • Chapter I: "Blotter, Blabber"
  • We take the cart for the republic and we leave the Auvergnat to the monarchy.
    • Gavroche, leaving a note about a cart he has stolen for the barricades. Chapter IV: "The Excess of Gavroche's Zeal"
  • You talk genteelly. Really, nobody would guess your age. You ought to sell all your hairs at a hundred francs apiese. That would make you five hundred francs.
    • Gavroche talking to the National Guard. Chapter IV: "The Excess of Gavroche's Zeal"
  • To save yourself by means of that which has ruined you is the masterpiece of great men;
    • Chapter IV: "The Excess of Gavroche's Zeal"

Volume Five: JEAN VALJEANEdit

Book I - The War Between Four Walls Edit

  • Never am I seen with coats bedizened with gold and gems; I leave this false splendour to badly organized minds.
    • Chapter XVI: "How Brother Becomes Father"
  • A people, like a star, has the right of eclipse. And all is well, provided the light return and the eclipse does not degenerate into night. Dawn and resurrection are synonyms. The reappearance of the light is identical with the persistence of the Me.
    • Chapter XX: "The Dead are Right and the Living are not Wrong" Charles E. Wilbour translation (1862)
    • Peoples, like planets, possess the right to an eclipse. And all is well, provided that the light returns and that the eclipse does not degenerate into night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is identical with the persistence of the I.
      • Isabel F. Hapgood translation (1887)
    • 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.
      • Norman Denny translation (1976)
    • A people, like a star, has the right of eclipse. And all is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not degenerate into night. Dawn and resurrection are synonyms. The reappearance of the light is identical with the persistence of the self.
      • Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee translation, based upon that of Wilbour. (1987)
  • Alas! to have risen does not prevent falling. We see this in history oftener than we would wish.
    • Chapter XX: "The Dead are Right and the Living are not Wrong"
  • There are people who observe the rules of honour as we observe the stars, from afar off.
    • Chapter XXI: "The Heroes"
  • The assailants had the numbers; the insurgents the position. They were on the top of a wall, and they shot down the soldiers at the muzzles of their muskets, as they stumbled over the dead and wounded and became entangled in the escarpment. This barricade, built as it was, and admirably supported, was really one of those positions in which a handful of men hold a legion in check.
    • Chapter XXI: "The Heroes"
  • There was assault after assault. The horror continued to increase.
  • To form an idea of this struggle, imagine fire applied to a mass of terrible valour, and that you are witnessing the conflagration. It was not a combat, it was the interior of a furnace; there mouths breathed flame; there faces were wonderful. There the human form seemed impossible, the combatants flashed flames, and it was terrible to see going and coming in that lurid smoke these salamanders of the fray. The successive and simultaneous scenes of this grand slaughter, we decline to paint.
    • Chapter XXI: "The Heroes"
  • Let the one fight for his flag, and the other for his ideal, and let them both imagine that they are fighting for the country; the strife will be colossal...
    • Chapter XXI: "The Heroes"
  • They are willing to die, provided they kill.
    • Chapter XXII: "Foot to Foot"

Book II - The Intestine of the Leviatha Edit

  • Philosophy is the microscope of thought.
    • Chapter II: "Ancient History of the Sewer"

Book III - Mire, But Soul Edit

  • Jean Valjean had fallen from one circle of Hell to another.
    • Chapter I: "The Cloaca and its Surprises"
  • The pupil dilates in the night, and at last finds day in it, even as the soul dilates in misfortune, and at last finds God in it.
    • Chapter I: "The Cloaca and its Surprises"
  • When a man clad by the state pursues a man in rags, it is in order to make of him also a man clad by the state. Only the colour is the whole question. To be clad in blue is glorious; to be clad in red is disagreeable.
    • Chapter III: "The Man Spun"

Book IX - Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn Edit

Ch. IV - A Bottle Of Ink Which Serves Only To Whiten Edit
  • You are a wretch! you are a liar, a slanderer, a scoundrel. You came to accuse this man, you have justified him; you wanted to destroy him, you have succeeded only in glorifying him. And it is you who are a robber! and it is you who are an assassin! I saw you Thenardier, Jondrette, in that den on the Boulevard de l'Hopital. I know enough about you to send you to the galleys, and further even, if I wished.
    • Marius to Thenardier.
Ch. V - Night Behind Which Is Dawn Edit
  • Cosette, do you hear? that is the way with him! he begs my pardon, and do you know what he has done for me, Cosette? he has saved my life. He has done more. He has given you to me. And, after having saved me, and after having given you to me, Cosette, what did he do with himself? he sacrificed himself. There is the man. And, to me the ungrateful, to me the forgetful, to me the pitiless, to me the guilty, he says: Thanks! Cosette, my whole life passed at the feet of this man would be too little. That barricade, that sewer, that furnace, that cloaca, he went through everything for me, for you, Cosette! He bore me through death in every form which he put aside from me, and which he accepted for himself. All courage, all virtue, all heroism, all sanctity, he has it all, Cosette, that man is an angel!
  • "Hush! hush!" said Jean Valjean in a whisper. "Why tell all that?"
    "Why have not you told it? It is your fault, too. You save people's lives, and you hide it from them! You do more, under pretence of unmasking yourself, you calumniate, yourself. It is frightful. . . . The truth is the whole truth; and you did not tell it. You were Monsieur Madeleine, why not have said so? You had saved Javert, why not have said so? I owe my life to you! why not have said so?"
  • Oh, yes, forbid me to die. Who knows? I shall obey perhaps. I was just dying when you came. That stopped me, it seemed to me that I was born again.
  • Death is a good arrangement. God knows better than we do what we need. That you are happy, that Monsieur Pontmercy has Cosette, that youth espouses morning, that there are about you, my children, lilacs and nightingales, that your life is a beautiful lawn in the sunshine, that all the enchantments of heaven fill your souls, and now, that I who am good for nothing, that I die; surely all this is well. Look you, be reasonable, there is nothing else possible now, I am sure that it is all over.
  • It is nothing to die; it is horrible not to live.
  • I was writing just now to Cosette. She will find my letter. To her I bequeath the two candlesticks which are on the mantel. They are silver; but to me they are gold, they are diamond; they change the candles which are put into them, into consecrated tapers. I do not know whether he who gave them to me is satisfied with me in heaven. I have done what I could.
  • The forests through which we have passed with our child, the trees under which we have walked, the convents in which we have hidden, the games, the free laughter of childhood, all is in shadow. I imagined that all that belonged to me. There was my folly. Those Thenardiers were wicked. We must forgive them. Cosette, the time has come to tell of your mother. Her name was Fantine. Remember that name: Fantine. Fall on your knees whenever you pronounce it. She suffered much. And loved you much. Her measure of unhappiness was as full as yours of happiness. Such are the distributions of God. He is on high, he sees us all, and he knows what he does in the midst of his great stars. So I am going away, my children. Love each other dearly always. There is scarcely anything else in the world but that: to love one another.
  • The night was starless and very dark. Without doubt, in the gloom some mighty angel was standing, with outstretched wings, awaiting the soul.
Chapter VI - Grass Hides And Rain Blots Out Edit
  • This stone is entirely blank. The only thought in cutting it was of the essentials of the grave, and there was no other care than to make this stone long enough and narrow enough to cover a man.
    No name can be read there.
Il dort. Quoique le sort fut pour lui bien etrange,
Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange.
La chose simplement d'elle-meme arriva,
Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.
He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange,
he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel.
The thing came to pass simply,
of itself, as the night comes when day is gone.
  • These final lines are a statement once pencilled on the stone of Valjean's grave.
    The Isabel F. Hapgood translation is here used; the Wilbour edition leaves it untranslated.

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