53297 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/03/2000 7:58:29 PM 10/27/2000 4:00:05 AM -1 112 0 "Shannon and Beej-

I'm only 60 pages or so into it, but am enjoying LM. I was surprised to find several instances of humor in the first few pages. One occurred when describing the bishop's policy of kindness and generosity to all people. ""Clearly, he had his own strange way of judging things. I suspect he acquired it from the Gospels.""

Another surprise is the social commentary on the death penalty. After the execution at the guillotine, his sister overhears him, ""I didn't believe it could be so monstrous. It's wrong to be so absorbed in divine law as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone. By what right to men touch that unknown thing?"" The argument is still being heard today.

I also liked his comment on human nature: ""Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or our purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.""

And continuing along that line, and applicable to current day mores in the US: ""...To destroy abuses is not enough; habits must also be changed. The windmill has gone, but the wind is still there."" And therein lies the problem with race relations, and ethnic cleansing.

Question: What is the purpose of M. Myriel's conversation with the revolutionist? Is it to set up acceptance for the story that follows? Or to expand the bishop's political philosophy?

Hugo paints the picture of a saint, who eventually must fall, I'd imagine. I'll get to that part tomorrow.

Who wrote the Bishop and the Candlesticks short story? I remember reading it in jr. high.



" 53329 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 3:16:50 AM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 95 0 "Kay -- I also noted the humor running through the writing here and the ties to political/moral issues which continue to haunt humanity and societies.

I am unclear what conversation with the revolutionist you are referring to in your question, however, so can't respond. I'm curious about it though so please help me locate the passage with this conversation.

As for that short piece -- I remember reading that also -- is it possible that it was attributed to someone as having been based upon Les Miserables? I certainly don't recall. And I had some vague idea that it was a play as opposed to a short story.

I am at Chapter VII of Book Two -- The Fall in Fantine. I am not moving very rapidly here it seems.

I had marked the passage beginning with ""To be a saint is the exception; to be upright is the rule. Err, falter, sin, but be upright. ... and ending with the delightful line you quoted ...Clearly he had his own strange way of judging things. I suspect he acquired it from the Gospels."" The whole section is slyly humorous prodding at the society of the times and yet timeless in that it addresses the balance of good/evil and approaches to the problems arising from the ongoing struggles of humanity.

I had also marked the passages you quote on the death penalty and the human nature and threats to the soul. Are you sure you aren't reading over my shoulder?

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53338 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 7:35:20 AM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 97 0 "Dottie-

Great minds think alike, that's all. :-)

The passage with the revolutionary comes when Bishop Bienvenu goes to visit the dying recluse at the end of Chapter X ""The Bishop in the Presence of an Unfamiliar Light.""

I was curious about the arrest of the pope mentioned in chapter 10, ""The Qualification."" From what I can gather, Napoleon had been feuding with the Holy See for many years, and when Pius VII refused to support Napoleon's campaigns or recognize the Emperor as supreme commander, Napoleon got fed up and had the pope arrested. For a more specific history, try : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10687a.htm

Then scroll to: The Great Victories; Occupation of Rome; Imprisonment of Pius VII (1805-09).

Off to my in person book group, followed by ""The Fall."" I'll catch up to you, Beej, and Shannon one of these days.



" 53353 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 9:03:18 AM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 106 0 "Kay -- Thanks! Found both of those and thanks for the website.

I AM reading today and getting into a better pace -- but doubt I'll catch up after such a slow start. I think we should compare notes on divisions within the three different versions we have in hand just to get our bearings a bit. Kay, refresh my memory on the edition/publisher of your copy? Mine is the Signet Classic and says on the cover 'The only complete and unabridged paperback edition.'

Beej and Shannon -- where are you by now? How many divisions or chapters appear in the abridged version Shannon has and what is the edition/publisher of it?

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53387 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 1:38:25 PM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 98 0 "Dottie-

I have the same edition as you.



" 53396 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 2:02:12 PM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 99 0 "Thanks for clarifying, Kay -- so Beej's is the 1100 plus pp. and we don't know -- or do we -- which edition is the abridged one Shannon is using. I am really getting into LM and don't want to put it down but DID cook and eat dinner to keep up my strength for reading {G}.

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53402 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/04/2000 2:17:58 PM 10/27/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 106 0 "Kay and Dottie, I am in ""Cossette"", Book Third, Chapter VIII.
I have a hard cover version, actually put out by Barnes and Nobles by arrangement with Random House, Inc., 1222 pages, but no intro.
Shannon has an abridged version, 400 pages, published by The Consumer Publishing Division of CBS Inc., with an intro by James K. Robinson from the University of Cincinnati.

Beej
" 53577 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 11:09:21 AM 10/28/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 103 0 "Just starting ""Cosette"" Book 1.

Victor Hugo's mother was a royalist and his father followed whomever was in power at the time. There was a lot of political dissension in the Hugo household, which is reflected in Les Misearables. That must have been difficult for a small child to deal with. Perhaps that's one reason why the sense of turmoil is so vivid in the story.

I think it's interesting that the author makes a point of speaking directly to the reader. He has a number of asides, as if sitting in a tavern, telling the tale. Then, I came upon the start of ""Cosette,"" - Waterloo, and he's telling the history of his family's home. Does anyone know how much of that reflects the actual Hugo family tree?

I thought Jean Valjean's wrestle with his fate and his conscience was realistic. Up to then, his and the bishop's goodness were becoming a tad trying. But then, that's part of the nature of Romantic writing.

I particularly liked the ""well, this must mean that God doesn't want me to declare myself as Jean Valjean"" discourse. Yet, all the while, he was moving toward doing the right thing, even while not being sure that's what he wanted to do. I've been in similar situations, and I think that method of dealing with a personal crisis is quite accurate. We move forward towards a goal, debating the pros and cons all the way.

Wasn't Tholomyes' ""surprise"" cruel and arrogant? Was Hugo being sarcastic in his chapter, ""The Wisdom of Tholomyes?"" I thought he was making fun of the wealthy do-nothings and their general mediocrity. He later says that they become the middlemen - ""...prefects, fathers of families, country policemen, and councilors of state. Venerate us. We are sacrificing ourselves. Mourn us quickly, replace us rapidly..."" (Fantine, Book Three, Chapter IX, ""Joyful End of Joy"")

I love the continual comments on the nature of politics and politicians. :-)

Hugo's take on the sanctimoniously good Javert is right on: ""...He raised his head with an expression of sovereign authority, an expression always that much more frightening when power is vested in lower beings - ferocious in the wild beast, vicious in the undeveloped man."" (Fantine, Book 5, Chapter XIII, ""Solution of Some Questions of the Municipal Police""

Javert's veneration of authority is beautifully portrayed by Hugo. ""Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the idea of duty, are things that, when in error, can turn hideous, but - even though hideous - remain great; their majesty, peculiar to the human conscience, persists in horror. They are virtues with a single vice - error. The pitiless, sincere joy of a fanatic in an act of atrocity preserves some mournful radiance that inspires veneration. Without suspecting it, Javert, in his dreadful happiness, was pitiful, like every ignorant man in triumph. Nothing could be more poignant and terrible than this face, which revealed what might be called all the evil of good."" Emphasis is mine. (Fantine, Book 8, Chapter III ""Javert Satisfied"")

Whew! I've known a lot of people like that.

And then his comments on nosy, self-appointed keepers of the town morality: ""For prying into other people's affairs, none are equal to those of whom it is no concern......There are those who, to solve one of these enigmas, which are completely irrelevant to them, spend more money, waste more time, and give themselves more trouble than ten good deeds would take - and they do it for the pleasure of it, without being paid for their curiosity in any other way than with more curiosity."" (Fantine, Book 5, Chapter 8 ""Madame Victurnien Spends Thirty-Five Francs on Morality""

Does that sound like any politicians you know that get in an uproar about purple Tele-Tubby babies? :-)

I especially liked the description of Mme. Thenardier: ""This Madame Thenardier was a red-headed, large but angular woman, the soldier's wife type in all its horror, with, strangely enough, a languid air gained from novel reading. She was unrefined but simpering. Old romances impressed on the imaginations of mistresses or restaurants have such effects."" :-) (Fantine, Book Four, Chapter II ""First Sketch of Two Equivocal Faces"") :-)

And her hubby - ""...a genuine villain, a ruffian, educated almost to the point of grammar, at once coarse and fine, but so far as sentimentality was concerned, reading Pigault Lebrun, and for ""all related to the weaker sex,' as he put it, a totally correct dolt."" Ha! (Fantine, Book Four, Chapter II ""First Sketch of Two Equivocal Faces"")


But oh, how Hugo can weave a sense of blackness when describing their souls: ""They were among those dwarfish natures, which, if they happen to be heated by some sullen fire, easily become monstrous. The woman was at heart a brute, the man a blackguard, both in the highest degree capable of that hideous sort of progression that can be made toward evil. There are souls that, crablike, crawl continually toward darkness, going backward in life rather than advancing, using their experience to increase their deformity, growing continually worse, and becoming steeped more and more thoroughly in an intensifying viciousness. That was the case with this man and this woman."" - Fantine, Book Four, Chapter II ""First Sketch of Two Equivocal Faces""





" 53582 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 11:25:50 AM 10/28/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 103 0 "Shannon-

Where are you in your reading? What are you enjoying the most so far? Are there any parts/characters that have struck you? Anything that has bothered you? I'm just throwing out some questions because I'm curious about your take on LM.

Great story, isn't it?



" 53583 11 65 53584 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 11:30:11 AM 10/28/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 105 0 "Kay -- Hugo certainly can wrap the reader right into the story with his detailed writing. Many of the passage you quote are perfect examples of the whole of this thus far. I am finding that I surprisingly recall the details of many of these incidents quite well and finding that those sections which I have NOT encountered previously are adding so much to my enjoyment of reacquaintance with the story. I am almost to the Cosette section and reading pell-mell! Particularly through that great internal debate and the mad journey to attend the trial of the counterfeit Jean ValJean. I left off, in fact, just as he had used his name as M. -- the Mayor to gain one of the seats behind the judge. This book gets one's adrenalin flowing -- suspense, compassion, fear.

Dottie -- thoroughly enjoying Les Mis in full
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53584 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 11:46:29 AM 10/28/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 105 0 "Here are some pics and information about the Battle of Hougomont during Waterloo:

http://members.home.net/empirebks/galhoug.html

http://www.expatriate-online.com/travel/cities/brussels/hougomont.html



" 53596 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 1:00:34 PM 10/28/2000 4:00:06 AM -1 102 0 "Kay -- will explore these websites more but want to say that when Jim returns from his business trip I'll see if I can import some scanned photos from our visit to Waterloo last Nov 12th -- It was BITTER windy cold that day but we climbed the rather unstable looking scaffolding stairway to the lion and took photos from the platform surrounding it. The most impressive thing to me there was the video shown in the museum and the panoramic painting housed in the round building which has a name that I have lost momentarily. We are going back to visit the farms and buildings associated with the battle before too long.

And I had already done a little mental skip in anticipation of reading that Waterloo section in Cosette.

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53605 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 2:58:03 PM 10/28/2000 4:00:07 AM -1 101 0 "Dottie-

I'm looking forward to those pics. The battle scene is so vividly described, isn't it? Though I have to confess, I skipped the parts of who was where, to get to the parts I cared about. Wasn't that chasm filled with soldiers and horses just awful?

What is this ""lion"" Hugo keeps referring to? The picture didn't clear it up, but then, I'm on my work computer, and it doesn't do colors very well.

Is the well where the bodies were thrown still there?



" 53606 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 3:01:23 PM 10/28/2000 4:00:07 AM -1 106 0 "Question: In Cosette, Book Three, Chapter XI, ""Number 9430 Comes Up Again, and Cosette Draws it"" Hugo says that at Cap Brun, Jean Valjean ""did not lack for money."" Did I miss something? I can't assume he had cash on him when he ""fell"" from the ship after rescuing the sailor. He couldn't have earned it without showing a passport, and I don't think he'd rob anyone at that point. At least, not that Hugo would let us know.
:-)


" 53607 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/06/2000 3:06:06 PM 10/28/2000 4:00:07 AM -1 101 0 "Oh, me too, Dottie. Wait til you get to the part where you meet Cosette at the Thenardiers' inn. I wanted to weep for this child. I think Hugo must have known something of that kind of fear and suppression. But maybe not, as he has so accurately portrayed so many others. He has one phenomenal ability of observation of human nature.

Part of my enjoyment is coming from having seen the stage performance of Les Mis. This fills in so many gaps. Next time I see it, I'll appreciate the doll being given to Cosette even more than I did the first two times. Wow!



" 53685 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/07/2000 3:16:36 PM 10/29/2000 4:00:02 AM -1 93 0 "Dottie and Kay, I'm in Marius, Book First, Chapter VI. Have either of you started to read of the convent and the cloistered nuns? Let me know when you get there. I really want to discuss this part with you!
Shannon has had tons of homework, and a school dance, and though she's plugging along and seems to enjoy it, she hasn't gotten deeply into LES MISERABLES yet. But she will.
(It sure is hard to put this book aside, isn't it!!)

Beej
" 53686 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/07/2000 3:24:43 PM 10/29/2000 4:00:02 AM -1 96 0 "Beej -- you are racing away from me -- I didn't read any of this today -- have been busy with -- yuck -- housework and have just jumped on and off the board and doodled around the internet and such sporadically to take breaks. I have been making the most progress reading at bedtime -- Jim isn't here to say -- ""are you going to turn out the light and go to bed soon?"" -- while the cat's away and all that. I'm just beginning Cosette. Will certainly notify you when I hit the convent stuff.

Dottie -- who agrees it isn't easy to leave this one lying waiting -- as I have had to do all day today!
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53689 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/07/2000 4:28:23 PM 10/29/2000 4:00:02 AM -1 91 0 "No, I haven't reached the nuns in their cloister yet, but you sure have me intrigued. I'm just at the point that Jean Valjean is walking away with Cosette.

I cannot imagine trying to read this with all of high school going on. Tell Shannon we'll wait on her. :-)



" 53691 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/07/2000 4:35:29 PM 10/29/2000 4:00:02 AM -1 96 0 "Kay, Actually Shannon is just in middle school, but she is anxious to get on here and tell her impressions of the book.
Doesn't the Thenardier's treatment of Cosette just break your heart? Sort of like Cinderella isn't it?
I loved this sentence in an earlier part of the book:

""There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.""

Beej
" 53705 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/07/2000 7:45:55 PM 10/29/2000 4:00:02 AM -1 87 0 "Yes, the Thenardiers are awful people. And I had to wonder at the townspeople that knew what was going on and did nothing. Of course, that was a different age.



" 53716 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/08/2000 4:56:17 AM 10/30/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 105 0 "Kay and Beej -- yes, the sea, sky and soul line touched a chord in me as well -- as for the Thenardiers and their greedy and treachery and mistreatment of Cosette (and though, supposedly they used her money for their own children -- I think they didn't do any better for their own) -- think the squalor of any society in any era where dire poverty and the upheaval of revolutions are in process.

This is how it plays out, this is how it played out in the past -- and IMO -- this is how it will continue to play out in the future. Though now we have aid in many forms and from many quarter I think there were also people who did offer aid and systems to do what they could for these situations -- it's just never enough or never the right approach to end the cycle or maybe it's that new cycles develop.

I am in the midst of Waterloo and thoroughly enjoying it because as I read, I am picturing these things but also getting tingles as I read Hugo's aside to the reader sections of his footsteps going where I went in November. Every now and then this treading on old ground does that to a person and reading and remembering together just gave me a shiver.

I mentioned I would scan and post pictures when Jim is back (he has everything hooked up to his computer at the moment and I am not going to try to switch things as I would like to continue having access to my e-mail and CR for the next few days -- he-he). I was speaking of Waterloo pictures earlier but also have lots and lots of photos of the Villiers Abby mentioned in the Waterloo section (it is now only a ruins but extensive and lovely and is on my personal list to go back for an entire day to explore it further).

Dottie -- who will be reading Les Mis and doing housework on my breaks today -- after all it is Sunday here now!

ID is an oxymoron!
" 53720 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/08/2000 7:08:19 AM 10/30/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 101 0 "Dottie-

You're so right about the cycle of poverty and the plight of its children. Thank goodness for writers like Hugo that force our consciences to question that cycle and to do what we can, where we can.

Your comment on viewing Waterloo and Villiers Abbey with Hugo was an intriguing one. When I travel, I like to stand quietly and let the history seep into my being. Hmmmm - you accepting visitors any time soon? :-)

I took yesterday off from Les Miserables, in order to get some house work done. But today, after working the Sunday NYT puzzle, I plan to resume my trek with Cosette and Jean. How I'll also get my reading done for my in person group is a mystery. It's all in the reading gods' hands.

Isn't there an axiom along the lines of, ""Time expands to encompass all necessary reading?""



" 53726 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/08/2000 9:03:59 AM 10/30/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 103 0 "Kay -- we have room for four people and are here indefinitely -- is your passport in order?

I have felt this haunting of history in more than one spot we have visited but perhaps the most personal one was in Mainz where I came to grips with the idea that my ancestor, born in Mainz and found living ca.1700's in New Jersey had likely stood before that cathedral in Mainz, had perhaps trod the very lanes of the old town that I was walking at some point before he set out for America in the early days of the Revolution which gave us The United States of America. I think but have no proof that he was among the hired German military which switched sides against the British and stayed to marry and enjoy his freedom and raising his family in a new land.

I have just finished Book One Waterloo, in Cosette and must say that the description was awesome and beautiful and dreadful. I will also add that it is PERFECT for bringing the panoramic painting before the mind's eye once again! I have gone to the tour book and it states the rotunda housing this was built in 1912 at the foot of the mound -- the panoramic painting is 110m/360ft in circumference and 12m/39ft high and was created by French painter Dumoulin and five other artists. It represents a few of the most striking episodes in the battle at the moment when Ney sent his cavalry along the ""sunken path"".

So the descriptions of that vortex of battle in Hugo's wonderfully flowing language is a description of exactly the scenes depicted here in this panorama -- which besides the huge painting includes tableaux with wax and cast figures and props and all arranged around the base of the painting. Upon entering the rotunda one goes up a flight of stairs and arrives in a loft which places one at the upper third of the painting and so as one walks around the circle the battle is viewed almost as though from the air or some lookout placed magically within the eye of the storm -- it is truly an amazing work.

Another aside -- the Duchess of Richmond's ball that Hugo mentions is also noted in the tour book. Wellington was in attendance and received the letter saying Napoleon was only 14 miles from Brussels -- supposedly within 20 minutes the ballroom had emptied.

This ball is also mentioned at a site in the center of Bastogne in reference to the fact that the evening before the arrival there and the demand to General McAuliffe from the German General von Manteuffel for surrender (to which McAuliffe sent his famous reply ""Nuts!"") the American troops at Bastogne had indeed been honored/entertained at a large ball! Bastogne is the deciding point of the famous Battle of the Bulge of course. Not only this connection to the ball on the eve of the battle but also other comparisons with Waterloo were made in the display there but the other details are lost in my head somewhere.

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53744 11 528 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/08/2000 11:32:01 AM 10/30/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 102 0 "Thanks, Dottie. Now I REALLY want to come.
:-)

I thought of the same parallel between the two ultimatums. ""Merdre!"" and ""Nuts!"" send much the same message. Interesting!



" 53838 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/09/2000 10:21:42 AM 10/31/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 87 0 "Have you noticed that throughout this book, Hugo is very critical of Voltaire? I wonder what that is all about...

The preface of this book made quite a social statement for its time:

"" So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation(sic), artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age- the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night- are not solved, so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.""
Hautville House,1862

Beej
" 53839 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/09/2000 10:42:47 AM 10/31/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 90 0 "I just finished doing some searches on Voltaire. Hugo obviously was quite influenced by this powerful giant, but outside of Voltaire's views on Deism, I cannot see the purpose of Hugo's rather consistent criticism of him. maybe it was ""only"" because Voltaire was such a catalyst in the French revolution.
Nonetheless, I am a bit confused.
Dottie, and Kay, can you clarify a bit for me?

Beej
" 53851 11 65 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/09/2000 11:51:23 AM 10/31/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 79 0 "Beej -- i will have to do some investigating before I can respond to the Voltaire question -- I had noted his mention of Voltaire and others and commentary on philosophies and so forth but hadn't picked up on any particular aversion -- just background and clarification I felt. Maybe I'm missing something.

Way back there Kay asked about he references to ""the lion"" that Hugo made in his Waterloo section -- at the battlefield when they built the memorial -- as indicated they leveled the area and used the earth to build a high mound (the mound at the base of which the rotunda housing the panoramic painting was built) and that mound is topped with a huge lion -- from the platform around the lion one can look out in all directions around the area and see the farmhouses and the roads and the memorials built by the English and Germans and so on. I tend to agree with his feeling that the battlefield would however have been better left in it's natural state so that the terrain relative to the battle would still be visible. As it is -- it's pretty much just flat around there. I am nearing the end of Cosette today.

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!
" 53853 11 555 0 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 10/09/2000 12:07:35 PM 10/31/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 83 0 "Dottie, you're sure moving along at a fair clip! Duties around the Connor household kept me away from reading much of the weekend, so I am only in Book Third, chapter I of Marius.
I could very well be wrong about Voltaire, bu