“She Has Kept None for Herself” “Because She Is Not Hungry” “Because She Is a Mother”

Victor Hugo? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The famous French novelist Victor Hugo penned a vignette about a mother who selflessly gave food to her hungry children even though she was emaciated. An observer asked why she did this, and another observer replied: “Because she is a mother”. Would you please help me to find this passage?

Quote Investigator: Victor Hugo’s 1874 novel “Quatrevingt-Treize” (“Ninety-Three”) explored the counter-revolutionary revolts which occurred during the period of the French Revolution. A scene near the beginning of the book depicted a group of military men who encountered a woman with her baby and her two young children who were all starving. The following passage is presented in the original French. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Le sergent tira de sa poche un morceau de pain de munition et le tendit à la mère. La mère rompit le pain en deux morceaux et les donna aux enfants. Les petits mordirent avidement.
— Elle n’en a pas gardé pour elle, grommela le sergent.
— C’est qu’elle n’a pas faim, dit un soldat.
— C’est qu’elle est la mère, dit le sergent.

Hugo’s work was translated into English and published in the same year of 1874. Here is the rendered passage: 2

The sergeant took a bit of regulation bread from his pocket, and handed it to the mother. She broke the bread into two fragments, and gave them to the children, who ate with avidity.
“She has kept none for herself,” grumbled the sergeant.
“Because she is not hungry,” said a soldier.
“Because she is a mother,” said the sergeant.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “She Has Kept None for Herself” “Because She Is Not Hungry” “Because She Is a Mother”


  1. 1874, Quatrevingt-Treize by Victor Hugo, Tome I, Le Bois de la Saudraie, Quote Page 22 and 23, Michel Lévy Frères Éditeurs, Paris, France. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1874, Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, Translation by Frank Lee Benedict and J. Hain Friswell, Part One, Book One, The Wood of La Saudraie, Quote Page 13, Dawson Brothers, Montreal, Canada. (HathiTrust Full View) link

You Have Enemies? Why, It Is the Story of Every Man Who Has Done a Great Deed or Created a New Idea

Creator: Victor Hugo, French poet and novelist; author of “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”

Context: Victor Hugo kept a diary for several decades during the 1800s. He published a volume titled “Choses Vues” (“Things Seen”) in 1887 based on portions of his diary. A section dated 1845 described Hugo’s meeting with educator and politician Abel François Villemain. Hugo discussed the harsh criticism that Villemain and others faced. Here is an English rendition. Emphasis added to excerpt: 1

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 which 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. Do not give your enemies the satisfaction of thinking that they cause you grief or pain. Be happy, be cheerful, be disdainful, be firm.”

He shook his head sadly. “That is easy for you to say, Victor Hugo. As for me, I am weak. Oh! I know myself. I know my limitations.

Below is the original French version of the passage above: 2

Vous avez des ennemis? Mais c’est l’histoire de tout homme qui a fait une action grande ou créé une idée neuve. C’est la nuée qui bruit autour de tout ce qui brille. Il faut que la renommée 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. Ne donnez pas à vos ennemis cette joie de penser qu’ils vous affligent et qu’ils vous troublent. Soyez content, soyez joyeux soyez dédaigneux soyez fort.

Il hocha la tête tristement:— Cela vous est facile à dire à vous, Victor Hugo! Moi je suis faible. Oh! je me connais bien. Je sais mes limites.

Related Article 01: That you have enemies, you must not doubt, when you reflect that you have made yourself eminent. Thomas Jefferson

Image Notes: Portrait of Victor Hugo painted by Leon Joseph Florentin Bonnat circa 1879. Image has been cropped.


  1. 1887, Things Seen (Choses Vues) by Victor Hugo, Volume 1, 1845 Villemain, Start Page 82, Quote Page 88 and 89,George Routledge and Sons, Glasgow and New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1887, Oeuvres Inédites de Victor Hugo: Choses Vues by Victor Hugo, Sixième Edition, Section: Villemain – 1845 Décembre 7, Start Page 87, Quote Page 94, J. Hetzel & Cie, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link

In a Woman the Flesh Must Be Like Marble; In a Statue the Marble Must Be Like Flesh

Victor Hugo? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I am authoring a book that discusses marble, and I’ve found an apposite quotation ascribed to the French literary titan Victor Hugo author of “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”. He employed antimetabole while comparing marble to human flesh. I have not been able to find solid citations in French or English. Would you be willing to help?

Quote Investigator: When Victor Hugo died in 1885 he left his heirs with a bulky copy-book entitled “Post-Scriptum de Ma Vie” (“A Postscript to My Life”). In 1901 a posthumous book emerged, and one section contained a collection of brief miscellaneous thoughts. Here were four in the original French. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Eh mon Dieu! la beauté est diverse. Selon la nature et selon l’art. Si c’est une femme, que la chair soit du marbre, si c’est une statue, que le marbre soit de la chair.

Les méchants envient et haïssent; c’est leur manière d’admirer.

Le savant sait qu’il ignore.

En poussant l’aiguille du cadran vous ne ferez pas avancer l’heure.

Publication of an English translation occurred in 1907 under the title “Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography: Being the Last of the Unpublished Works and Embodying the Author’s Ideas on Literature, Philosophy and Religion”. Here were the four thoughts above rendered in English: 2

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.

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

The learned man knows that he is ignorant.

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

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In a Woman the Flesh Must Be Like Marble; In a Statue the Marble Must Be Like Flesh


  1. 1901, Post-Scriptum de Ma Vie by Victor Hugo, Quote Page 30, Calmann Lévy, Paris. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  2. 1907, Victor Hugo’s Intellectual Autobiography (Postscriptum de Ma Vie): Being the Last of the Unpublished Works and Embodying the Author’s Ideas on Literature, Philosophy and Religion, Translated by Lorenzo O’Rourke, Chapter: Thoughts, Quote Page 359 and 360, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Melancholy Is the Pleasure of Being Sad

Victor Hugo? H. L. Mencken? Anonymous?

hugo11Dear Quote Investigator: Melancholy is a complex and sometimes puzzling emotion. The composite nature of the sensation is expressed by the following:

Melancholia is the joy of feeling sad.
Melancholy is the happiness of being sad.
Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad.

I believe that this statement was crafted by a prominent author, but I cannot remember his or her name. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1866 the major French literary figure Victor Hugo published “Les Travailleurs de la Mer” which was later released under the English title “The Toilers of the Sea”. This work included the saying under investigation. Here is an excerpt in French followed by a translation from 1888. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1 2

Le désespoir a des degrés remontants. De l’accablement on monte à l’abattement, de l’abattement à l’affliction, de l’affliction à la mélancolie. La mélancolie est un crépuscule. La souffrance s’y fond dans une sombre joie.
La mélancolie, c’est le bonheur d’être triste.

Despair has ascending degrees. From prostration one mounts to despondency, from despondency to affliction, from affliction to melancholy. Melancholy is a twilight. Suffering melts into it in sombre joy.
Melancholy is the happiness of being sad.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Melancholy Is the Pleasure of Being Sad


  1. 1866, Les Travailleurs de la Mer by Victor Hugo, (The Toilers of the Sea), Volume 2, Part 3, Section: La Cloche du Port, Quote Page 154, Librairie Internationale, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1888, The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo, Translator: Isabel F. Hapgood, Volume 1, Section: The Bell of the Port, Quote Page 196, Published by Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link