“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”

Notes:

  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

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

Notes:

  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

Notes:

  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

Briefest Correspondence: Question Mark? Exclamation Mark!

Victor Hugo? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a popular humorous anecdote about an exchange of letters between Victor Hugo and his publisher shortly after the publication of “Les Misérables”. Each message consisted of only a single character. Are you familiar with this story? Recently, I heard a version of the tale with Oscar Wilde replacing Victor Hugo. Would you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The novel “Les Misérables” was published in 1862, and the earliest instance of the Hugo anecdote known to QI appeared in 1892. Details for this citation are given further below. However, the thirty year delay casts doubt on the story. The connection to Oscar Wilde appeared much later.

A similar tale about the exchange of extraordinarily concise messages was printed four decades earlier in April 1850 in “The Nottinghamshire Guardian” paper in Nottinghamshire, England: 1

In the briefest correspondence known, only two figures were used, the first contained a note of interrogation (?), implying “Is there any news?” The answer was a cipher (0), “None.”

After presenting the item above, a different complementary story was told about a message painted on a chimney:

This was clever; but neighbour Shuttleworth, in Nottingham Market Place, beats it. He has on his chimney two large T’s, one painted black the other green, to intimate that he sells black and green tea.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Briefest Correspondence: Question Mark? Exclamation Mark!

Notes:

  1. 1850 April 25, The Nottinghamshire Guardian, VARIETIES, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Nottinghamshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain

Edmund Burke? Anselme Batbie? Victor Hugo? King Oscar II of Sweden? George Bernard Shaw? François Guizot? Jules Claretie? Georges Clemenceau? Benjamin Disraeli? Winston Churchill? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some individuals change their political orientation as they grow older. There is a family of sayings that present a mordant judgment on this ideological evolution. Here are three examples:

Not to be a républicain at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.

If you’re not a socialist before you’re twenty-five, you have no heart; if you are a socialist after twenty-five, you have no head.

If you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head.

Political terminology has changed over time, and it differs in distinct locales. Within the context of these sayings the terms “républicain”, “socialist”, and “liberal” were all on the left of the political spectrum. Would you please explore this complex topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a history book titled “Histoire de la Révolution de 1870-71” by French literary figure Jules Claretie. The book included a reprint of a public 1872 letter from academic and politician Anselme Polycarpe Batbie who employed the saying. Interestingly, Batbie, credited the remark to “Burke”. Below is an excerpt in French followed by an English translation. Boldface has been added: 1

Plusieurs de mes amis m’engageaient à répondre par le trait célèbre de Burke: « Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans fait douter de la générosité de son âme; mais celui qui, après trente ans, persévère, fait douter de la rectitude de son esprit. »

Several of my friends urged me to respond with Burke’s famous line: “Anyone who is not a republican at twenty casts doubt on the generosity of his soul; but he who, after thirty years, perseveres, casts doubt on the soundness of his mind.”

Batbie was probably referring to the statesman Edmund Burke who was noted for his support of the American Revolution and his later condemnation of the French Revolution. However, QI has not located the quotation under investigation in the writings of Burke. Anselme Batbie lived between 1828 and 1887.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain

Notes:

  1. 1874, Histoire de la Révolution de 1870-71 par Jules Claretie, Livre Second, Chapitre 2, Comment on letter: Le Conservateur du Gers publiait à ce propos la lettre de M. Batbie (On this subject, the Conservateur du Gers published Mr. Batbie’s letter), Letter location: Versailles, Letter date: 3 décembre 1872 (December 3, 1872), Quote Page 482, Column 1, Dépot Général de Vente a la Librairie Polo, Paris, France. (HathiTrust Full View) link