Quotations by Hugo, Victor


One can dream of something more terrible than a hell where one suffers; it’s a hell where one would get bored.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Adversity makes men; prosperity makes monsters.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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The best religion is tolerance.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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In the relations of man with the animals, with the flowers, with the objects of creation, there is a great ethic, scarcely perceived as yet, which will at length break forth into light.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-10 | Last updated 1-Feb-10
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Caution is the eldest child of wisdom.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Jun-16 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
(Attributed)

Quoted in Henry Southgate, Things a Lady Would Like To Know, 2nd ed. (1875). But not confirmed or found in Hugo's writings.
Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 16-Oct-17
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When the limit of suffering is overpassed, the most imperturbable virtue is disconcerted.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, “Saint Denis” (15.1) [tr. Wilbour (1862)]
Added on 16-Dec-14 | Last updated 16-Dec-14
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It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eyes, we should be able to see distinctly that strange thing, that each one individual of the human race corresponds to some one of the species of the animal creation; and we could easily recognize this truth, hardly perceived by the thinker, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the tiger, all animals exist in man, and that in each one of them is in a man. Sometimes even several of them at a time.

Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices, straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. God shows them to us in order to induce us to reflect.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Part 1, “Fantine,” Book 5, ch. 5 (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
    (Source)

Introducing Javert.

Alt. trans. [Fahnestock/MacAfee]: "It is our belief that if the soul were visible to the eye, every member of the human species would be seen to correspond to some species of the animal world, and a truth scarcely perceived by thinkers would be readily confirmed, namely, that 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 a 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."
Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Part IV, ch. 5 “Of Which the End Does Not Resemble the Beginning” (1862) [tr. N. Denny (1980)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Aug-09
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So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, 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 children 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.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Preface (1862)
    (Source)
Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved

[Le suprême bonheur de la vie, c’est la conviction qu’on est aimé.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 1 “Fantine,” Book 5 “The Descent,” ch. 4 “M. Madeleine in Mourning” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt trans.: "The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 17-Aug-10
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Great blunders are often made, like large ropes, of a multitude of fibers.

[Les fortes sottises sont souvent faites, comme les grosses cordes, d’une multitude de brins.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 2 “Cosette,” Book 5 “A Dark Chase Requires a Silent Hound,” ch. 10 “In Which it is explained how Javert lost the Game” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt. trans. [N. Denny (1980)]: "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." Full text. Cited as Part 2, ch. 5 "Hunt in the Darkness."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-May-19
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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 stupefies; finally the last, that which brutalizes.

[Sur le premier gobelet on lisait cette inscription: vin de singe, sur le deuxième: vin de lion, sur le troisième: vin de mouton, sur le quatrième: vin de cochon. Ces quatre légendes exprimaient les quatre degrés que descend l’ivrogne; la première ivresse, celle qui égaye; la deuxième, celle qui irrite; la troisième, celle qui hébète; la dernière enfin, celle qui abrutit.]

 

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 2 “Cosette,” Book 6 “Petite Picpus,” ch. 9 “A Century under a Guimpe” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 17-Jan-11 | Last updated 17-Jan-11
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Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face.

[Le rire, c’est le soleil; il chasse l’hiver du visage humain.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 2 “Cosette,” Book 8 “Cemeteries Take What is Given Them,” ch. 9 “The Close” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt trans. [Denny (1980)]: "Laughter is a sun that drives out winter from the human face."  Full text. Cited as Part II, ch. 8 "Cemeteries Take What They Are Given."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jan-13
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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.

[Ce vil sable que vous foulez aux pieds, qu’on le jette dans la fournaise, qu’il y fonde et qu’il y bouillonne, il deviendra cristal splendide, et c’est grâce à lui que Galilée et Newton découvriront les astres.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 3 “Marius,” Book 1 “Paris Atomised,” ch. 12 “The Future Latent in the People” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 31-Dec-10 | Last updated 31-Dec-10
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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.

[Ce frère… se croyait obligé de faire l’aumône aux pauvres qu’il rencontrait, mais il ne leur donnait jamais que des monnerons ou des sous démonétisés, trouvant ainsi moyen d’aller en enfer par le chemin du paradis.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 3 “Marius,” Book 2 “The Grand Bourgeois,” ch. 6 “In Which We See La Magnon and Her Two Little Ones” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 24-Jan-11 | Last updated 24-Jan-11
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We should judge a man much more surely from what he dreams than from what he thinks.

[On jugerait bien plus sûrement un homme d’après ce qu’il rêve que d’après ce qu’il pense.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 3 “Marius,” Book 5 “The Excellence of Misfortune,” ch. 5 “Poverty A Good Neighbor of Misery” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 31-Jan-11 | Last updated 31-Jan-11
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Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.

[Les grands périls ont cela de beau qu’ils mettent en lumière la fraternité des inconnus.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 4 “St. Denis,” Book 12 “Corinth,” ch. 4 “Attempt at Consolation upon the Widow Hucheloup” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 14-Feb-11 | Last updated 14-Feb-11
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Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.

[La pensée est le labeur de l’intelligence, la rêverie en est la volupté.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 4 “St. Denis,” Book 2 “Eponine,” ch. 1 “The Field of the Lark” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt trans. [Denny (1980)]: "Thought is the work of the intellect, reveries its self-indulgence." Cited as Part IV, ch. 2 "Eponine."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is a habit lost. A habit easy to abandon, difficult to resume.

[Rien n’est plus dangereux que le travail discontinué; c’est une habitude qui s’en va. Habitude facile à quitter, difficile à reprendre.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 4 “St. Denis,” Book 2 “Eponine,” ch. 1 “The Field of the Lark” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 7-Feb-11 | Last updated 7-Feb-11
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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.

[Que l’un combatte pour son drapeau, et que l’autre combatte pour son idéal, et qu’ils s’imaginent tous les deux combattre pour la patrie; la lutte sera colossale.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 5 “Jean Valjean,” Book 1 “The War Between Four Walls,” ch. 21 “The Heroes” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]
Added on 21-Feb-11 | Last updated 21-Feb-11
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It is nothing to die; it is horrible not to live.

[Ce n’est rien de mourir; c’est affreux de ne pas vivre.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Vol. 5 “Jean Valjean,” Book 9 “Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn,” ch. 5 “Night Behind Which Is Dawn” (1862) [tr. Wilbour]

Alt trans.: "It is nothing to die; it is frightful not to live."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-May-19
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Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Postscriptum de Ma Vie [Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography] (1907) [tr. O’Rourke]
    (Source)
Added on 26-Nov-14 | Last updated 26-Nov-14
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To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.

[Mettre tout en équilibre, c’est bien; mettre tout en harmonie, c’est mieux.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Quatre-vingt-treize [Ninety-Three], Book 7, ch. 5 (1874)
Added on 13-Dec-10 | Last updated 13-Dec-10
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Popularity? It is glory’s small change.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Ruy Blas, 3.5 (1838)
Added on 24-Jul-12 | Last updated 24-Jul-12
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One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.

[On résiste à l’invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
The History of a Crime [Histoire d’un Crime], ch. 10, Conclusion [tr. Joyce & Locker]

Alternate translations/paraphrases:

  • One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas.
  • One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.
  • 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.
  • Nothing is so 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.
Added on 6-Dec-10 | Last updated 6-Dec-10
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It is just those books which a man possesses, but does not read, which constitute the most suspicious evidence against him.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Toilers of the Sea, Book 1, ch. 4 (1866)
Added on 5-Jan-17 | Last updated 5-Jan-17
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Change your opinions, keep to your principles;
change your leaves, keep intact your roots.

Hugo - keep intact your roots - wist_info quote

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography (1907) [tr. O’Rourke]
Added on 8-Sep-16 | Last updated 8-Sep-16
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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 no bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

[Vous avez des ennemis? Mais c’est l’histoire de tout homme qui a fait une action grande ou crée une idée neuve. C’est la nuée qui bruit autour de tout ce qui brille. Il faut que la renommé ait des ennemis comme il faut que la lumière ait des moucherons. Ne vous en inquiétez pas, dédaignez! Ayez la sérénité dans votre esprit comme vous avez la limpidité dans votre vie.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Villemain (1845)
Added on 29-Nov-10 | Last updated 29-Nov-10
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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.

[Dieu se manifeste à nous au premier degré à travers la vie de l’univers, et au deuxième degré à travers la pensée de l’homme. La deuxième manifestation n’est pas moins sacrée que la première. La première s’appelle la Nature, la deuxième s’appelle l’Art.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
William Shakespeare, Part 1, Book 2, ch. 1 (1864)
Added on 27-Dec-10 | Last updated 28-Dec-10
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Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

[Ce qu’on ne peut dire et ce qu’on ne peut taire, la musique l’exprime.]

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
William Shakespeare, Part 1, Book 2, ch. 4 (1864)
Added on 10-Jan-11 | Last updated 10-Jan-11
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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 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.”

[Vous avez raison, monsieur, quand vous me dites 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.]

 

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Letter To M. Daelli on Les Misérables (18 Oct 1862)
Added on 20-Dec-10 | Last updated 20-Dec-10
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