Les Misérables, Quotes from Part Four, Rue Plumet

Politics, work, love, sexual appetites and revolt: these all have some great quotes in this lengthy section. My favorite involves collywobbles. Even though I steadfastly discarded some great quotes from this post, it is long. Which phrase jumps out at you?

Two questions arise.
In the first place, what is power?
And secondly, where does it come from?

Of King Louis-Phillipe
He was careful of his health, his fortune,
his person and his personal affairs,
conscious of the cost of a minute,
but not always of the price of a year.

Harmony enforced for the wrong reasons may be more burdensome than war.

Nothing is more dangerous that to stop working.
It is a habit that can soon be lost,
one that is easily neglected and hard to resume.

Every bird that flies carries a shred of the infinite in its claws.

In the forming of a young girl’s soul
not all the nuns in the world can take the place of a mother.

Work is the law of life, and to reject it as boredom
is to submit to it as torment.

Sloth is a bad counselor.
Crime is the hardest of all work.
Take my advice, don’t be led into the
drudgery of idleness.

I encountered in the street a penniless young man who was in love.
His hat was old and his jacket worn, with holes at the elbows;
water soaked through his shoes,
but starlight flooded through his soul.

It’s bad to go without sleep.
It gives you the collywobbles.

Among the most great-hearted qualities of women is that of yielding.
Love, when it holds absolute sway, afflicts modesty with a kind of blindness.
The risks they run, those generous spirits!
Often they give their hearts where we take only their bodies.

To Marius, the purity of Cosette was a barrier,
and to Cosette his steadfast self-restraint was a safeguard.

The happiness of quarreling simply for the fun of making up…

At the end of life death is a departure;
but at life’s beginning, a departure is death.

He remarked now and then, ‘After all, I’m eighty’ —
perhaps with a lingering thought that he would come to
the end of his days before he came to the end of his books.

[A waterfall of words describing the elements of revolt]
Outraged convictions,
embittered enthusiasms,
hot indignation,
suppressed instincts of aggression;
gallant exaltation,
blind warmth of heart,
a taste for change,
a hankering after the unexpected;
[snip] vague dislikes,
[snip] discomforts,
idle dreams,
ambition hedged with obstacles…

Quotes from Part 1, Fantine

Quotes from Part 2, Cosette

Quotes from Part 3, Marius

Les Misérables, Quotes from Part 3, Marius


There are some great quotes about child raising in this section, some heart-wrenching. We are introduced to Gavroche, one of the most winsome characters in literature. Also some great thoughts on work/contemplation/sloth. Any bibliophile will love the charming Monsieur Mabeuf, a man who describes himself not as a royalist, a Bonapartis, or an anarchist—simply as a book-ist.

Give a youngster what is superfluous,
deprive him of what is needful,
and you have an urchin.

All monarchy is in the stroller,
all anarchy in the urchin.

To wander in contemplation,
that is to say, loiter,
is for a philosopher an excellent way
of passing the time.

He was one of those children who are most to be pitied,
those who possess parents but are still orphans.

…hypochondriacs…who spend their life dying…

Nothing so resembles an awakening as a return.

He knew Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew,
but the four languages served him
for the reading of only four poets,
Dante, Juvenal, Aeschylus, and Isaiah.

To err is human,
to stroll is Parisian.

He was always down to his last penny,
but never to his last laugh.

‘Peace,’ said Joly, ‘is happiness in process of digestion.’

Old people need love as they need sunshine; it is warmth.

He never left home without a book under his arm,
and often came back with two.


Les Misérables, Quotes from Part Two: Cosette

May I say that I thoroughly enjoyed the wandering Waterloo section? I only knew the rudiments of this history and was happy to learn more details. The battle observations astonished me.

Ruins often acquire the dignity of monuments.

There is no logic in the flow of blood.

They rode steadily, menacingly, imperturbably,
the thunder of their horses resounding
in the intervals of musket and cannon-fire.
[The 3 syllable-4 syllable-5 syllable cadence of adverbs ignites me.]

A disintegrating army is like the thawing of a glacier,
a mindless, jostling commotion,
total disruption.

…to incarnate irony at the mouth of the grave,
staying erect when prostrate

War has tragic splendours which we have not sought to conceal,
but it also has its especial squalors,
among which is the prompt stripping of the bodies of the dead.
The day following a battle always dawns on naked corpses.

She did all the work of the house, beds, rooms, washing and cooking;
she was the climate of the place, its fine and foul weather…

Darkness afflicts the soul.
Mankind needs light.
To be cut off from the day is to know a shrinking of the heart.
Where the eye sees darkness the spirit sees dismay.

…the haggard gleam of terror…

A doll is among the most pressing needs
as well as the most charming instincts of feminine childhood.
To care for it, adorn it, dress and undress it, give it lessons,
scold it a little, put it to bed and sing it to sleep,
pretend that the object is a living person—all the future of women resides in this.
Dreaming and murmuring, tending, cossetting, sewing small garments,
the child grows into girlhood,
from girlhood into womanhood,
from womanhood into wifehood,
and the first baby is the successor of the last doll.
A little girl without a doll is nearly as deprived
and quite as unnatural as a woman without a child.
So Cosette made her sword into a doll.

Like all children,
like the tendrils of a vine reaching for something to cling to,
she had looked for love,
but she had not found it.

Paris is a whirlpool in which all things can be lost,
sucked into that navel of the earth
like flotsam into the navel of the sea.

…this hubbub of little girls, sweeter than the humming of bees…

To appear at once troubled and controlled in moments of crisis
is the especial quality of certain characters and certain callings,
notably priests and members of religious communities.

Laughter is a sun that drives out winter from the human face.



Quotes from Part One: Fantine