Victor Hugo Quotes

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Victor Hugo
Peer of France

Woodburytype of Hugo by Étienne Carjat, 1876
Member of the Senate
for Seine
In office
30 January 1876 â€“ 22 May 1885
Succeeded by Jacques Songeon
Constituency Paris
Member of the National Assembly
for Gironde
In office
9 February 1871 â€“ 1 March 1871
Succeeded by Unknown
Constituency Bordeaux
Member of the National Assembly
for Seine
In office
24 April 1848 â€“ 3 December 1851
Constituency Paris
Member of the Chamber of Peer
In office
13 April 1845 â€“ 23 February 1848
Monarch Louis Philippe I
Member of the Académie française
In office
7 January 1841 â€“ 22 May 1885
Preceded by Népomucène Lemercier
Succeeded by Leconte de Lisle
Personal details
Born Victor Marie Hugo
(1802-02-26)26 February 1802
Besançon, Doubs, France
Died 22 May 1885(1885-05-22) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Resting place Panthéon, Paris
Nationality French
Political party Party of Order (1848–51)
Independent liberal (1871)
Republican Union (1876–85)
Spouse(s) Adèle Foucher (m. 1822; her d. 1868)
Children

Léopold Victor Hugo
Léopoldine Hugo
Charles Hugo
François-Victor Hugo
Adèle Hugo

Education Lycée Louis-le-Grand
Occupation Writer, poet, journalist, drawer
Religion Deism (baptized Catholic)
Writing career
Period 19th century
Genre Novel, dramaturgy, theatre, poetry
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable works

Hernani
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Ruy Blas
Les Châtiments
Les Contemplations
La Légende des siècles
Les Misérables
Toilers of the Sea

Years active 1829–1883

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.
Victor Hugo
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo
What Shakespeare was able to do in English he would certainly not have done in French.
Victor Hugo
Reaction – a boat which is going against the current but which does not prevent the river from flowing on.
Victor Hugo
Stupidity talks, vanity acts.
It is the end. But of what? The end of France? No. The end of kings? Yes.
To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.
Victor Hugo
The ideal and the beautiful are identical; the ideal corresponds to the idea, and beauty to form; hence idea and substance are cognate.
Victor Hugo
To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.
Victor Hugo
To rise from error to truth is rare and beautiful.
Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only night.
Victor Hugo
To love is to act.
The omnipotence of evil has never resulted in anything but fruitless efforts. Our thoughts always escape from whoever tries to smother them.
Victor Hugo
A great artist is a great man in a great child.
The soul has illusions as the bird has wings: it is supported by them.
When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door.
Victor Hugo
The learned man knows that he is ignorant.
A society that admits misery, a humanity that admits war, seem to me an inferior society and a debased humanity; it is a higher society and a more elevated humanity at which I am aiming – a society without kings, a humanity without barriers.
Victor Hugo
The little people must be sacred to the big ones, and it is from the rights of the weak that the duty of the strong is comprised.
Victor Hugo
Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.
The man who does not know other languages, unless he is a man of genius, necessarily has deficiencies in his ideas.
Victor Hugo
Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.
Never laugh at those who suffer; suffer sometimes those who laugh.
Jesus wept; Voltaire smiled. From that divine tear and from that human smile is derived the grace of present civilization.
Victor Hugo
An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.
Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo
Evil. Mistrust those who rejoice at it even more than those who do it.
One of the hardest tasks is to extract continually from one's soul an almost inexhaustible ill will.
Victor Hugo
Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars.
Victor Hugo
Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds.
The wicked envy and hate; it is their way of admiring.
People do not lack strength; they lack will.
When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.
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
It is often necessary to know how to obey a woman in order sometimes to have the right to command her.
Victor Hugo
I am a soul. I know well that what I shall render up to the grave is not myself. That which is myself will go elsewhere. Earth, thou art not my abyss!
Victor Hugo
Nature has made a pebble and a female. The lapidary makes the diamond, and the lover makes the woman.
Victor Hugo
A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.
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.
Victor Hugo
No one can keep a secret better than a child.
Joy's smile is much closer to tears than laughter.
My tastes are aristocratic, my actions democratic.
Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman. Much of her grace is in her frailty.
Victor Hugo
There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time as come.
Victor Hugo
It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.
The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human.
Victor Hugo
Blessed be Providence which has given to each his toy: the doll to the child, the child to the woman, the woman to the man, the man to the devil!
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.
All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo
Style is the substance of the subject called unceasingly to the surface.
Puns are the droppings of soaring wits.
When a woman is talking to you, listen to what she says with her eyes.
Almost all our desires, when examined, contain something too shameful to reveal.
Victor Hugo
Peace is the virtue of civilization. War is its crime.
Amnesty is as good for those who give it as for those who receive it. It has the admirable quality of bestowing mercy on both sides.
Victor Hugo
Virtue has a veil, vice a mask.
There have been in this century only one great man and one great thing: Napoleon and liberty. For want of the great man, let us have the great thing.
Victor Hugo
Fashions have done more harm than revolutions.
Pain is as diverse as man. One suffers as one can.
By putting forward the hands of the clock you shall not advance the hour.
It is by suffering that human beings become angels.
Genius is a promontory jutting out into the infinite.
When a man is out of sight, it is not too long before he is out of mind.
Smallness in a great man seems smaller by its disproportion with all the rest.
Victor Hugo
As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.
Victor Hugo
Dear God! how beauty varies in nature and art. In a woman the flesh must be like marble; in a statue the marble must be like flesh.
Victor Hugo
Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.
Victor Hugo
The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo
Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
Men like me are impossible until the day when they become necessary.
It is most pleasant to commit a just action which is disagreeable to someone whom one does not like.
Victor Hugo
I don't mind what Congress does, as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses.
Victor Hugo
In the French language, there is a great gulf between prose and poetry; in English, there is hardly any difference. It is a splendid privilege of the great literary languages Greek, Latin, and French that they possess a prose. English has not this privilege. There is no prose in English.
Victor Hugo
Verse in itself does not constitute poetry. Verse is only an elegant vestment for a beautiful form. Poetry can express itself in prose, but it does so more perfectly under the grace and majesty of verse. It is poetry of soul that inspires noble sentiments and noble actions as well as noble writings.
Victor Hugo
Love is jealous, and ingenious in self-torture in proportion as it is pure and intense.
Victor Hugo
What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love!
Toleration is the best religion.
Close by the Rights of Man, at the least set beside them, are the Rights of the Spirit.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
Thought is more than a right – it is the very breath of man. Whoever fetters thought attacks man himself. To speak, to write, to publish, are things, so far as the right is concerned, absolutely identical. They are the ever-enlarging circles of intelligence in action; they are the sonorous waves of thought.
Victor Hugo
To love another person is to see the face of God.
Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing morality on the stomach.
Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.
Victor Hugo
The flesh is the surface of the unknown.
Do not let it be your aim to be something, but to be someone.
I love all men who think, even those who think otherwise than myself.
Habit is the nursery of errors.
Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.
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.
Victor Hugo
Religions do a useful thing: they narrow God to the limits of man. Philosophy replies by doing a necessary thing: it elevates man to the plane of God.
Victor Hugo
Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?
Victor Hugo
He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.
Victor Hugo
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
Victor Hugo
Life is the flower for which love is the honey.
The drama is complete poetry. The ode and the epic contain it only in germ; it contains both of them in a state of high development, and epitomizes both.
Victor Hugo
What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.
Victor Hugo
A library implies an act of faith.
Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education.
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.
Victor Hugo
When God desires to destroy a thing, he entrusts its destruction to the thing itself. Every bad institution of this world ends by suicide.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
To love beauty is to see light.
Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.
The most powerful symptom of love is a tenderness which becomes at times almost insupportable.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.
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
One sometimes says: 'He killed himself because he was bored with life.' One ought rather to say: 'He killed himself because he was bored by lack of life.'
Victor Hugo
Genius: the superhuman in man.
Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.
Taste is the common sense of genius.
Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.
Victor Hugo
Sublime upon sublime scarcely presents a contrast, and we need a little rest from everything, even the beautiful.
Victor Hugo
Love that is not jealous is neither true nor pure.
Death has its revelations: the great sorrows which open the heart open the mind as well; light comes to us with our grief. As for me, I have faith; I believe in a future life. How could I do otherwise? My daughter was a soul; I saw this soul. I touched it, so to speak.
Victor Hugo
There is nothing like a dream to create the future.
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.
Victor Hugo
My childhood began, as everybody's childhood begins, with prejudices. Man finds prejudices beside his cradle, puts them from him a little in the course of his career, and often, alas! takes to them again in his old age.
Victor Hugo
Many great actions are committed in small struggles.
Love, in the eyes of the world, is either a carnal appetite or a vague fancy, which possession extinguishes or absence destroys. That is why it is commonly said, with a strange abuse of words, that passion does not endure.
Victor Hugo
Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.
An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo
Men become accustomed to poison by degrees.
The ode lives upon the ideal, the epic upon the grandiose, the drama upon the real.
Victor Hugo
The ox suffers, the cart complains.
Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.
Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.
Victor Hugo
Freedom in art, freedom in society, this is the double goal towards which all consistent and logical minds must strive.
Victor Hugo
I put a Phrygian cap on the old dictionary.
No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child.
A noble soul and real poetic talent are almost always inseparable.
To be perfectly happy it does not suffice to possess happiness, it is necessary to have deserved it.
Victor Hugo
A poet who is a bad man is a degraded being, baser and more culpable than a bad man who is not a poet.
Victor Hugo
Wisdom is a sacred communion.
Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.
There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their numbers than the greatness of a man is by his height.
Victor Hugo
The animal is ignorant of the fact that he knows. The man is aware of the fact that he is ignorant.
Victor Hugo
No one knows like a woman how to say things which are at once gentle and deep.
Victor Hugo
A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.
Every diminution of the liberty of the press is followed by a diminution of civilization. Wherever we see the freedom of the press interfered with, there we see the nutrition of the human family interrupted.
Victor Hugo
Those who live are those who fight.
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.
Victor Hugo
One believes others will do what he will do to himself.
When liberty returns, I will return.
To think of shadows is a serious thing.
What would be ugly in a garden constitutes beauty in a mountain.
Idleness is the heaviest of all oppressions.
I'm religiously opposed to religion.
The wise man does not grow old, but ripens.
Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.
Conscience is God present in man.
Because one doesn't like the way things are is no reason to be unjust towards God.
Victor Hugo
It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.
Victor Hugo
Despotism is a long crime.
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
Sorrow is a fruit. God does not make it grow on limbs too weak to bear it.
Intelligence is the wife, imagination is the mistress, memory is the servant.
Victor Hugo
Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.
There are no rules, no models; rather, there are no rules other than the general laws of Nature.
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
The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.
Victor Hugo
Our life dreams the Utopia. Our death achieves the Ideal.
A war between Europeans is a civil war.
There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.
Victor Hugo
I am an intelligent river which has reflected successively all the banks before which it has flowed by meditating only on the images offered by those changing shores.
Victor Hugo
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.
Victor Hugo
To contemplate is to look at shadows.
We see past time in a telescope and present time in a microscope. Hence the apparent enormities of the present.
Victor Hugo
Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.
When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.
Rhyme, that enslaved queen, that supreme charm of our poetry, that creator of our meter.
Victor Hugo
Scepticism, that dry caries of the intelligence.
Doing nothing is happiness for children and misery for old men.
Well, for us, in history where goodness is a rare pearl, he who was good almost takes precedence over he who was great.
Victor Hugo
There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.
Victor Hugo
But when ill indeed, Even dismissing the doctor don't always succeed.
The beautiful has but one type, the ugly has a thousand.
Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.
The three great problems of this century; the degradation of man in the proletariat, the subjection of women through hunger, the atrophy of the child by darkness.
Victor Hugo
Prayer is an august avowal of ignorance.
To think is of itself to be useful; it is always and in all cases a striving toward God.
Victor Hugo
The first symptom of love in a young man is timidity; in a girl boldness.
The word is the Verb, and the Verb is God.
The last resort of kings, the cannonball. The last resort of the people, the paving stone.
Victor Hugo
Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise.
Victor Hugo
I would have liked to be – indeed, I should have been – a second Rembrandt.
Victor Hugo
A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.
Victor Hugo
Liberation is not deliverance.
As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.
He who is not capable of enduring poverty is not capable of being free.
One sees qualities at a distance and defects at close range.
Try as you will, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic of the human heart, love.
Victor Hugo