home | authors | books | about

Home -> Victor Hugo -> Les MisÚrables -> On What Conditions One can respect the Past

Les MisÚrables - On What Conditions One can respect the Past

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



Monasticism, such as it existed in Spain, and such as it still
exists in Thibet, is a sort of phthisis for civilization. It stops
life short. It simply depopulates. Claustration, castration.
It has been the scourge of Europe. Add to this the violence so often
done to the conscience, the forced vocations, feudalism bolstered
up by the cloister, the right of the first-born pouring the excess
of the family into monasticism, the ferocities of which we have
just spoken, the in pace, the closed mouths, the walled-up brains,
so many unfortunate minds placed in the dungeon of eternal vows,
the taking of the habit, the interment of living souls.
Add individual tortures to national degradations, and, whoever you
may be, you will shudder before the frock and the veil,--those two
winding-sheets of human devising. Nevertheless, at certain points
and in certain places, in spite of philosophy, in spite of progress,
the spirit of the cloister persists in the midst of the nineteenth
century, and a singular ascetic recrudescence is, at this moment,
astonishing the civilized world. The obstinacy of antiquated
institutions in perpetuating themselves resembles the stubbornness
of the rancid perfume which should claim our hair, the pretensions
of the spoiled fish which should persist in being eaten, the persecution
of the child's garment which should insist on clothing the man,
the tenderness of corpses which should return to embrace the living.

"Ingrates!" says the garment, "I protected you in inclement weather.
Why will you have nothing to do with me?" "I have just come from the
deep sea," says the fish. "I have been a rose," says the perfume.
"I have loved you," says the corpse. "I have civilized you,"
says the convent.

To this there is but one reply: "In former days."

To dream of the indefinite prolongation of defunct things, and of the
government of men by embalming, to restore dogmas in a bad condition,
to regild shrines, to patch up cloisters, to rebless reliquaries,
to refurnish superstitions, to revictual fanaticisms, to put
new handles on holy water brushes and militarism, to reconstitute
monasticism and militarism, to believe in the salvation of society
by the multiplication of parasites, to force the past on the present,--
this seems strange. Still, there are theorists who hold such theories.
These theorists, who are in other respects people of intelligence,
have a very simple process; they apply to the past a glazing which
they call social order, divine right, morality, family, the respect
of elders, antique authority, sacred tradition, legitimacy, religion;
and they go about shouting, "Look! take this, honest people."
This logic was known to the ancients. The soothsayers practise it.
They rubbed a black heifer over with chalk, and said, "She is white,
Bos cretatus."

As for us, we respect the past here and there, and we spare it,
above all, provided that it consents to be dead. If it insists on
being alive, we attack it, and we try to kill it.

Superstitions, bigotries, affected devotion, prejudices, those forms
all forms as they are, are tenacious of life; they have teeth and
nails in their smoke, and they must be clasped close, body to body,
and war must be made on them, and that without truce; for it is one
of the fatalities of humanity to be condemned to eternal combat
with phantoms. It is difficult to seize darkness by the throat,
and to hurl it to the earth.

A convent in France, in the broad daylight of the nineteenth century,
is a college of owls facing the light. A cloister, caught in the
very act of asceticism, in the very heart of the city of '89 and of
1830 and of 1848, Rome blossoming out in Paris, is an anachronism.
In ordinary times, in order to dissolve an anachronism and to
cause it to vanish, one has only to make it spell out the date.
But we are not in ordinary times.

Let us fight.

Let us fight, but let us make a distinction. The peculiar
property of truth is never to commit excesses. What need has it
of exaggeration? There is that which it is necessary to destroy,
and there is that which it is simply necessary to elucidate
and examine. What a force is kindly and serious examination!
Let us not apply a flame where only a light is required.

So, given the nineteenth century, we are opposed, as a general
proposition, and among all peoples, in Asia as well as in Europe,
in India as well as in Turkey, to ascetic claustration.
Whoever says cloister, says marsh. Their putrescence is evident,
their stagnation is unhealthy, their fermentation infects people
with fever, and etiolates them; their multiplication becomes a
plague of Egypt. We cannot think without affright of those lands
where fakirs, bonzes, santons, Greek monks, marabouts, talapoins,
and dervishes multiply even like swarms of vermin.

This said, the religious question remains. This question has
certain mysterious, almost formidable sides; may we be permitted
to look at it fixedly.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary