Inspirational Quotations by Victor Hugo (#673)

Inspirational Quotations by Victor Hugo

Today marks the birthday of Victor Hugo (1802–1885,) one of France’s greatest poets. Hugo also wrote such celebrated novels as Notre-Dame de Paris and Les Misarables.

In his twenties, Victor Hugo wrote the French Romantic novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831, Eng. trans. The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) Set in fifteenth century Paris, it tells a touching story of a gypsy girl named Esmeralda and a deformed and deaf bell-ringer named Quasimodo who loves her. The success of the book in France catapulted Hugo into great renown. He used his celebrity to criticize the autocratic regime of Napoleon III and encourage the French to revolt.

Napoleon III declared Hugo an enemy of the state. In 1851, just before soldiers arrived to arrest him at home, Hugo managed to flee the country in disguise. He lived in exile in Guernsey (an island in the English Channel) and wrote Les Chatiments (1853, Eng. trans. Castigations,) a volume of aggressive invectives against the emperor.

'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo (ISBN 045141943X) It was also during his exile that Hugo wrote most of his magnum opus Les Misarables (1865.) Considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, Les Misarables is a profound saga of the endless battle between good and evil. It focuses on Jean Valjean, a poor peasant sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and her kids. Hugo’s dominant themes of personal transformation, human rights, broken dreams, love, sacrifice, revolution, and redemption made Les Misarables instantly popular upon release. In the preface to the book, Hugo wrote,

So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century—the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light—are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;—in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Mis?rables cannot fail to be of use.

By the time Hugo died in Paris at age 83, he was a national hero. Two million mourners joined his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panth?on, where he is buried.

Inspirational Quotations by Victor Hugo

Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it.
Victor Hugo

One is not idle because one is absorbed. There is both visible and invisible labor. To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do. The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act. The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation.
Victor Hugo

Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.
Victor Hugo

Solitude either develops the mental powers, or renders men dull and vicious.
Victor Hugo

The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.
Victor Hugo

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.
Victor Hugo

If suffer we must, let’s suffer on the heights.
Victor Hugo

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.
Victor Hugo

Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?
Victor Hugo

There exists, at the bottom of all abasement and misfortune, a last extreme which rebels and joins battle with the forces of law and respectability in a desperate struggle, waged partly by cunning and partly by violence, at once sick and ferocious, in which it attacks the prevailing social order with the pin-pricks of vice and the hammer-blows of crime.
Victor Hugo

I’d rather be hissed at for a good verse, than applauded for a bad one.
Victor Hugo

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
Victor Hugo

He who every morning plans the transactions of the day and follows out that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time is a like a ray of life which darts itself through all his occupations. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incident, chaos will soon reign.
Victor Hugo

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.
Victor Hugo

Emergencies have always been necessary to progress. It was darkness which produced the lamp. It was fog that produced the compass. It was hunger that drove us to exploration. And it took a depression to teach us the real value of a job.
Victor Hugo

God created the flirt as soon as he made the fool.
Victor Hugo

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, 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.
Victor Hugo

Friend is sometimes a word devoid of meaning; enemy, never.
Victor Hugo

People do not lack strength; they lack will.
Victor Hugo

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.
Victor Hugo

Adversity makes men; good fortune makes monsters.
Victor Hugo

A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.
Victor Hugo

I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes—and the stars through his soul.
Victor Hugo

Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.
Victor Hugo

It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.
Victor Hugo

There is a sacred horror about everything grand. It is easy to admire mediocrity and hills; but whatever is too lofty, a genius as well as a mountain, an assembly as well as a masterpiece, seen too near, is appalling.
Victor Hugo

The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.
Victor Hugo

From the oyster to the eagle, from the swine to the tiger, all animals are to be found in men and each of them exists in some man, sometimes several at the time. Animals are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes, the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us to give us food for thought.
Victor Hugo

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved—loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo

Genius is a promontory jutting out into the infinite.
Victor Hugo

My tastes are aristocratic, my actions democratic.
Victor Hugo

Ideas can no more flow backward than can a river.
Victor Hugo

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.
Victor Hugo

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.
Victor Hugo

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 murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.
Victor Hugo