Victor Hugo Quotes

1802-1885

French Romantic Novelist, Poet, Dramatist, and Humanist

 

 

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labour and there is invisible labour.

 

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.

 

He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.

 

I don't mind what Congress does, as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses.

 

If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.

 

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

 

Popularity? It is glory's small change.

 

What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!

 

Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.

 

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.'Histoire d'un crime,' 1852

 

If suffer we must, let's suffer on the heights.'Les Malheureux'

 

To be a saint is the exception; to be upright is the rule. Err, falter, sin, but be upright. To commit the least possible sin is the law for man. Sin is a gravitation.'Les Miserables'

 

There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.'Les Miserables,' 1862

 

Nothing discernable to the eye of the spirit is more brilliant or obscure than man; nothing is more formidible, complex, mysterious, and infinite. There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul.Les Miserables

 

Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.Les Miserables, 1862

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There is nothing like dream to create the future. Utopia to-day, flesh and blood tomorrow.Les Miserables, 1862

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Do you know what friendship is... it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand.The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Chapter 13

 

A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.

A library implies an act of faith.

A saint addicted to excessive self-abnegation is a dangerous associate; he may infect you with poverty, and a stiffening of those joints which are needed for advancement - in a word, with more renunciation than you care for - and so you flee the contagion.

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.
Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book.

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.

But when ill indeed, Even dismissing the doctor don't always succeed.

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?

Close by the Rights of Man, at the least set beside them, are the Rights of the Spirit.

Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education.

Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.

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

Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.

Fashions have done more harm than revolutions.

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

Genius is a promontory jutting out into the infinite.

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.

Habit is the nursery of errors.

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.

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

Hell is an outrage on humanity. When you tell me that your deity made you in his image, I reply that he must have been very ugly.

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.

Human intelligence discovered a way of perpetuating itself, one not only more durable and more resistant than architecture, but also simpler and easier.

Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing morality on the stomach.

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.

"Is there no hope?" the sick man said, The silent doctor shook his head, And took his leave with signs of sorrow, Despairing of his fee to-morrow.

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

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky... a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.

Joy's smile is much closer to tears than laughter.

Liberation is not deliverance.

Mankind is not a circle with a single center but an ellipse with two focal points of which facts are one and ideas the other.

Most commonly revolt is born of material circumstances; but insurrection is always a moral phenomenon. Revolt is Masaniello, who led the Neapolitan insurgents in 1647; but insurrection is Spartacus. Insurrection is a thing of the spirit, revolt is a thing of the stomach.

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

My tastes are aristocratic, my actions democratic.


Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.

No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child.

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.

Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds.

Society is a republic. When an individual tries to lift themselves above others, they are dragged down by the mass, either by ridicule or slander.

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.

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.

The convent, which belongs to the West as it does to the East, to antiquity as it does to the present time, to Buddhism and Muhammadanism as it does to Christianity, is one of the optical devices whereby man gains a glimpse of infinity.

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

The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human.

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.

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.

Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

To love beauty is to see light.

To think of shadows is a serious thing.

Toleration is the best religion.

Try as you will, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic of the human heart, love.

We are on the side of religion as opposed to religions, and we are among those who believe in the wretched inadequacy of sermons and the sublimity of prayer.

When a man is out of sight, it is not too long before he is out of mind.

When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.

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

Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.

Wisdom is a sacred communion.

You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it's good for ones self-respect to be a punching bag.

 

There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their number than the greatness of a man is determined by his height.

 

And the dream that our mind had sketched in haste Shall others continue, but never complete. For none upon earth can achieve his scheme; The best as the worst are futile here: We wake at the self-same point of the dream,-- All is here begun, and finished elsewhere.

 

King of the peak and glacier, King of the cold, white scalps, He lifts his head at that close tread, The eagle of the Alps.

 

Dark Error's other hidden side is truth.

 

You'll see that, since our fate is ruled by chance, Each man, unknowing, great, Should frame life so that at some future hour Fact and his dreamings meet.

 

Then press my lips, where plays a flame of bliss,-- A pure and holy love-light,--and forsake The angel for the woman in a kiss, At once I wis, My soul will wake!

 

To reform a man, you must begin with his grandmother.

 

For, to make deserts, God, who rules mankind, Begins with kings, and ends the work by wind.

 

For sight is woman-like and shuns the old. (Ah! he can see enough, when years are told, Who backwards looks.)

 

Men are still men. The despot's wickedness Comes of ill teaching, and of power's excess,-- Comes of the purple he from childhood wears, Slaves would be tyrants if the chance were theirs.

 

Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.

 

People do not lack strength; they lack will.

 

Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind.

 

In this world, which is so plainly the antechamber of another, there are no happy men. The true division of humanity is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness. Our aim must be to diminish the number of the latter and increase the number of the former. That is why we demand education and knowledge.

 

Jesus wept; Voltaire smiled. From that divine tear and from that human smile is derived the grace of present civilization.

 

Those who live are those who fight.

 

The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often compounded of a multitude of strands. Take the rope apart, separate it into the small threads that compose it, and you can break them one by one. You think, "That is all there was!" But twist them all together and you have something tremendous.

 

Let us have compassion for those under chastisement. Alas, who are we ourselves? Who am I and who are you? Whence do we come and is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born? This earth is not without some resemblance to a gaol. Who knows but that man is a victim of divine justice? Look closely at life. It is so constituted that one senses punishment everywhere.

 

Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise.

 

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

 

When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes.

 

I had a dream my life would be different from this hell I am living, so different from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

 

The first symptom of love in a young man is shyness; the first symptom in a woman, it's boldness.

 

England has two books, one which she has made and one which has made her: Shakespeare and the Bible.

 

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.

 

What matters deafness of the ears when the mind hears? The one true deafness, the incurable deafness, is that of the mind.

 

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.

 

Caution is the eldest child of wisdom.

 

What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.

 

The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories that it has come to be disbelieved. Few people daresay nowadays that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet that is the way love begins, and only that way.

 

Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds.

 

The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often compounded of a multitude of strands. Take the rope apart, separate it into the small threads that compose it, and you can break them one by one. You think, "That is all there was!" But twist.

 

Life is a voyage.

 

Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad.

 

There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars: from a distance.

 

The reduction of the universe to a single being, the expansion of a single being even to God, this is love.

 

The most powerful symptom of love is a tenderness which becomes at times almost insupportable.

 

Superstition, bigotry and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life; they are shades armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed.

 

It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive. Why should it exaggerate? There is that which should be destroyed and that which should be simply illuminated and studied. How great is the force of benevolent and searching examination! We must not resort to the flame where only light is required.

 

There is in every village a torch - the teacher; and an extinguisher- the clergyman.

 

We are on the side of religion as opposed to religions, and we are among those who believe in the wretched inadequacy of sermons and the sublimity of prayer.

 

There is no more sovereign eloquence than the truth in indignation.

My coat and I live comfortably together. It has assumed all my wrinkles, does not hurt me anywhere, has molded itself on my deformaties, and is complacent to all my movements, and I only feel its presence because it keeps me warm.

 

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.

 

In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.

 

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

 

Society is a republic. When an individual tries to lift themselves above others, they are dragged down by the mass, either by ridicule or slander.

 

Be it true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence upon their lives, and especially upon their destinies, as what they do.

 

Separated lovers cheat absence by a thousand fancies which have their own reality. They are prevented from seeing one another and they cannot write; nevertheless they find countless mysterious ways of corresponding, by sending each other the song of love.

 

Nothing awakens a reminiscence like an odor.

 

 

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.

 

It is better to reenter hell and become an angel, than to remain in heaven and become a demon.

 

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

 

There are obstinate and unknown braves who defend themselves inch by inch in the shadows against the fatal invasion of want and turpitude. There are noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees. No renown rewards, and no flourish of trumpets salutes. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, and poverty and battlefields which have their heroes.

 

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.

 

Life is the flower for which love is the honey.

 

I'm religiously opposed to religion.

 

In this world, which is so plainly the antechamber of another, there are no happy men. The true division of humanity is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness. Our aim must be to diminish the number of the latter and increase former.

 

Before undergoing a serious surgical operation, put your affairs in order - you may survive.

 

It is not enough for us to prostrate ourselves under the tree which is Creation, and to contemplate its tremendous branches filled with stars. We have a duty to perform, to work upon the human soul, to defend the mystery against the miracle, to worship the incomprehensible while rejecting the absurd; to accept, in the inexplicable, only what is necessary; to dispel the superstitions that surround religion --to rid God of His Maggots.

 

Puns are the droppings of soaring wits.

 

We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.

 

He does not weep who does not see.

 

Progress is the stride of God.

 

Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.

 

Human intelligence discovered a way of perpetuating itself, one not only more durable and more resistant than architecture, but also simpler and easier.

 

Do not ask the name of the person who seeks a bed for the night. He who is reluctant to give his name is the one who most needs shelter.

 

A creditor is worse than a slave-owner; for the master owns only your person, but a creditor owns your dignity, and can command it.

 

Waterloo is a battle of the first rank won by a captain of the second.

 

To rove about, musing, that is to say loitering, is, for a philosopher, a good way of spending time.

 

Science says the first word on everything, and the last word on nothing.

 

The sublimest song to be heard on earth is the lisping of the human soul on the lips of children.

 

The peculiarity of prudery is to multiply sentinels, in proportion as the fortress is less threatened.

 

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.

 

For prying into any human affairs, non are equal to those whom it does not concern.

 

 

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

 

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.

 

Love, thine is the future. Death, I use thee, but I hate thee. Citizens, there shall be in the future neither darkness nor thunderbolts; neither ferocious ignorance nor blood for blood.

 

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.

 

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

 

Despots play their part in the works of thinkers. Fettered words are terrible words. The writer doubles and trebles the power of his writing when a ruler imposes silence on the people. Something emerges from that enforced silence, a mysterious fullness which filters through and becomes steely in the thought. Repression in history leads to conciseness in the historian, and the rocklike hardness of much celebrated prose is due to the tempering of the tyrant.

 

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.

 

Loving is half of believing.

 

One can dream of something more terrible than a hell where one suffers; it's a hell where one would get bored.

 

One cannot be a good historian of the outward, visible world without giving some thought to the hidden, private life of ordinary people; and on the other hand one cannot be a good historian of this inner life without taking into account outward events where these are relevant. They are two orders of fact which reflect each other, which are always linked and which sometimes provoke each other.

 

When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.

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