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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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
Victor Hugo? H. L. Mencken? Anonymous?
Dear 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:
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