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Les MisÚrables - The Convent as an Historical Fact

1. M. Myriel

2. M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome

3. A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop

4. Works corresponding to Words

5. Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long

6. Who guarded his House for him

7. Cravatte

8. Philosophy after Drinking

9. The Brother as depicted by the Sister

10. The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light

11. A Restriction

12. The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome

13. What he believed

14. What he thought

15. The Evening of a Day of Walking

16. Prudence counselled to Wisdom

17. The Heroism of Passive Obedience

18. Details concerning the Cheese-Dairies of Pontarlier

19. Tranquillity

20. Jean Valjean

21. The Interior of Despair

22. Billows and Shadows

23. New Troubles

24. The Man aroused

25. What he does

26. The Bishop works

27. Little Gervais

28. The Year 1817

29. A Double Quartette

30. Four and Four

31. Tholomyes is so Merry that he sings a Spanish Ditty

32. At Bombardas

33. A Chapter in which they adore Each Other

34. The Wisdom of Tholomyes

35. The Death of a Horse

36. A Merry End to Mirth

37. One Mother meets Another Mother

38. First Sketch of Two Unprepossessing Figures

39. The Lark

40. The History of a Progress in Black Glass Trinkets

41. Madeleine

42. Sums deposited with Laffitte

43. M. Madeleine in Mourning

44. Vague Flashes on the Horizon

45. Father Fauchelevent

46. Fauchelevent becomes a Gardener in Paris

47. Madame Victurnien expends Thirty Francs on Morality

48. Madame Victurnien's Success

49. Result of the Success

50. Christus nos Liberavit

51. M. Bamatabois's Inactivity

52. The Solution of Some Questions connected with the Municipal Police

53. The Beginning of Repose

54. How Jean may become Champ

55. Sister Simplice

56. The Perspicacity of Master Scaufflaire

57. A Tempest in a Skull

58. Forms assumed by Suffering during Sleep

59. Hindrances

60. Sister Simplice put to the Proof

61. The Traveller on his Arrival takes Precautions for Departure

62. An Entrance by Favor

63. A Place where Convictions are in Process of Formation

64. The System of Denials

65. Champmathieu more and more Astonished

66. In what Mirror M. Madeleine contemplates his Hair

67. Fantine Happy

68. Javert Satisfied

69. Authority reasserts its Rights

70. A Suitable Tomb

71. What is met with on the Way from Nivelles

72. Hougomont

73. The Eighteenth of June, 1815

74. A

75. The Quid Obscurum of Battles

76. Four o'clock in the Afternoon

77. Napoleon in a Good Humor

78. The Emperor puts a Question to the Guide Lacoste

79. The Unexpected

80. The Plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean

81. A Bad Guide to Napoleon; a Good Guide to Bulow

82. The Guard

83. The Catastrophe

84. The Last Square

85. Cambronne

86. Quot Libras in Duce?

87. Is Waterloo to be considered Good?

88. A Recrudescence of Divine Right

89. The Battle-Field at Night

90. Number 24,601 becomes Number 9,430

91. In which the reader will peruse Two Verses which are of the Devil's Composition possibly

92. The Ankle-Chain must have undergone a Certain Preparatory Manipulation to be thus broken with a Blow from a Hammer

93. The Water Question at Montfermeil

94. Two Complete Portraits

95. Men must have Wine, and Horses must have Water

96. Entrance on the Scene of a Doll

97. The Little One All Alone

98. Which possibly proves Boulatruelle's Intelligence

99. Cosette Side by Side with the Stranger in the Dark

100. The Unpleasantness of receiving into One's House a Poor Man who may be a Rich Man

101. Thenardier at his Manoeuvres

102. He who seeks to better himself may render his Situation Worse

103. Number 9,430 reappears, and Cosette wins it in the Lottery

104. Master Gorbeau

105. A Nest for Owl and a Warbler

106. Two Misfortunes Make One Piece of Good Fortune

107. The Remarks of the Principal Tenant

108. A Five-Franc Piece Falls on the Ground and Produces a Tumult

109. The Zigzags of Strategy

110. It Is Lucky That the Pont D'Austerlitz Bears Carriages

111. To Wit, the Plan of Paris in 1727

112. The Gropings of Flight

113. Which Would be Impossible With Gas Lanterns

114. The Beginning of an Enigma

115. Continuation of the Enigma

116. The Enigma Becomes Doubly Mysterious

117. The Man with the Bell

118. Which Explains How Javert Got on the Scent

119. Number 62 Rue Petit-Picpus

120. The Obedience of Martin Verga

121. Austerities

122. Gayeties

123. Distractions

124. The Little Convent

125. Some Silhouettes of this Darkness

126. Post Corda Lapides

127. A Century under a Guimpe

128. Origin of the Perpetual Adoration

129. End of the Petit-Picpus

130. The Convent as an Abstract Idea

131. The Convent as an Historical Fact

132. On What Conditions One can respect the Past

133. The Convent from the Point of View of Principles

134. Prayer

135. The Absolute Goodness of Prayer

136. Precautions to be observed in Blame

137. Faith, Law

138. Which treats of the Manner of entering a Convent

139. Fauchelevent in the Presence of a Difficulty

140. Mother Innocente

141. In which Jean Valjean has quite the Air of having read Austin Castillejo

142. It is not Necessary to be Drunk in order to be Immortal

143. Between Four Planks

144. In which will be found the Origin of the Saying: Don't lose the Card

145. A Successful Interrogatory

146. Cloistered



From the point of view of history, of reason, and of truth,
monasticism is condemned. Monasteries, when they abound in a nation,
are clogs in its circulation, cumbrous establishments, centres of
idleness where centres of labor should exist. Monastic communities
are to the great social community what the mistletoe is to the oak,
what the wart is to the human body. Their prosperity and their
fatness mean the impoverishment of the country. The monastic regime,
good at the beginning of civilization, useful in the reduction
of the brutal by the spiritual, is bad when peoples have reached
their manhood. Moreover, when it becomes relaxed, and when it
enters into its period of disorder, it becomes bad for the very
reasons which rendered it salutary in its period of purity,
because it still continues to set the example.

Claustration has had its day. Cloisters, useful in the early education
of modern civilization, have embarrassed its growth, and are injurious
to its development. So far as institution and formation with relation
to man are concerned, monasteries, which were good in the tenth century,
questionable in the fifteenth, are detestable in the nineteenth.
The leprosy of monasticism has gnawed nearly to a skeleton two
wonderful nations, Italy and Spain; the one the light, the other
the splendor of Europe for centuries; and, at the present day,
these two illustrious peoples are but just beginning to convalesce,
thanks to the healthy and vigorous hygiene of 1789 alone.

The convent--the ancient female convent in particular, such as it still
presents itself on the threshold of this century, in Italy, in Austria,
in Spain--is one of the most sombre concretions of the Middle Ages.
The cloister, that cloister, is the point of intersection of horrors.
The Catholic cloister, properly speaking, is wholly filled with the
black radiance of death.

The Spanish convent is the most funereal of all. There rise,
in obscurity, beneath vaults filled with gloom, beneath domes
vague with shadow, massive altars of Babel, as high as cathedrals;
there immense white crucifixes hang from chains in the dark;
there are extended, all nude on the ebony, great Christs of ivory;
more than bleeding,--bloody; hideous and magnificent, with their elbows
displaying the bones, their knee-pans showing their integuments,
their wounds showing their flesh, crowned with silver thorns,
nailed with nails of gold, with blood drops of rubies on their brows,
and diamond tears in their eyes. The diamonds and rubies seem wet,
and make veiled beings in the shadow below weep, their sides bruised
with the hair shirt and their iron-tipped scourges, their breasts
crushed with wicker hurdles, their knees excoriated with prayer;
women who think themselves wives, spectres who think themselves seraphim.
Do these women think? No. Have they any will? No. Do they love?
No. Do they live? No. Their nerves have turned to bone; their bones
have turned to stone. Their veil is of woven night. Their breath
under their veil resembles the indescribably tragic respiration
of death. The abbess, a spectre, sanctifies them and terrifies them.
The immaculate one is there, and very fierce. Such are the ancient
monasteries of Spain. Liars of terrible devotion, caverns of virgins,
ferocious places.

Catholic Spain is more Roman than Rome herself. The Spanish convent was,
above all others, the Catholic convent. There was a flavor of
the Orient about it. The archbishop, the kislar-aga of heaven,
locked up and kept watch over this seraglio of souls reserved
for God. The nun was the odalisque, the priest was the eunuch.
The fervent were chosen in dreams and possessed Christ.
At night, the beautiful, nude young man descended from the cross
and became the ecstasy of the cloistered one. Lofty walls guarded
the mystic sultana, who had the crucified for her sultan, from all
living distraction. A glance on the outer world was infidelity.
The in pace replaced the leather sack. That which was cast into
the sea in the East was thrown into the ground in the West.
In both quarters, women wrung their hands; the waves for the first,
the grave for the last; here the drowned, there the buried.
Monstrous parallel.

To-day the upholders of the past, unable to deny these things,
have adopted the expedient of smiling at them. There has come into
fashion a strange and easy manner of suppressing the revelations
of history, of invalidating the commentaries of philosophy,
of eliding all embarrassing facts and all gloomy questions. A matter
for declamations, say the clever. Declamations, repeat the foolish.
Jean-Jacques a declaimer; Diderot a declaimer; Voltaire on Calas,
Labarre, and Sirven, declaimers. I know not who has recently
discovered that Tacitus was a declaimer, that Nero was a victim,
and that pity is decidedly due to "that poor Holofernes."

Facts, however, are awkward things to disconcert, and they are obstinate.
The author of this book has seen, with his own eyes, eight leagues
distant from Brussels,--there are relics of the Middle Ages there
which are attainable for everybody,--at the Abbey of Villers,
the hole of the oubliettes, in the middle of the field which was
formerly the courtyard of the cloister, and on the banks of the Thil,
four stone dungeons, half under ground, half under the water.
They were in pace. Each of these dungeons has the remains of an
iron door, a vault, and a grated opening which, on the outside,
is two feet above the level of the river, and on the inside,
six feet above the level of the ground. Four feet of river flow
past along the outside wall. The ground is always soaked.
The occupant of the in pace had this wet soil for his bed.
In one of these dungeons, there is a fragment of an iron necklet
riveted to the wall; in another, there can be seen a square box made
of four slabs of granite, too short for a person to lie down in,
too low for him to stand upright in. A human being was put inside,
with a coverlid of stone on top. This exists. It can be seen.
It can be touched. These in pace, these dungeons, these iron hinges,
these necklets, that lofty peep-hole on a level with the river's current,
that box of stone closed with a lid of granite like a tomb,
with this difference, that the dead man here was a living being,
that soil which is but mud, that vault hole, those oozing walls,--
what declaimers!

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