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I believe that the infinite and mysterious charm
which lies in the contemplation of a ship, especially
of a ship in motion, depends firstly upon its order
and symmetry—primal needs of the human spirit as
great as those of intricacy and harmony—and,
secondly, upon the successive multiplication and
generation of all the curves and imaginary figures
described in space by the real elements of the object.

The poetic idea which emerges from this operation
of line in motion is an hypothesis of an immeasurably
vast, complex, yet perfectly harmonized entity, of an
animal being possessed of a spirit, suffering all
human ambition and sighing all the sighs of men.

You civilized peoples, who are for ever speaking
foolishly about Savages and Barbarians—soon, as
d'Aurevilly says, you will have become too worthless
even to be idolaters.

Stoicism, a religion which has but one sacrament:

To conceive a sketch for a lyrical or fairy extravagance
for a pantomime and to translate it into a
serious romance. To plunge the whole into a supernatural,
dreamlike atmosphere—the atmosphere of


Page [19]
the great days. That there should be something lulling,
even screne, in passion. Regions of pure poetry.

Moved by contact with those pleasures which were
themselves like memories, softened by the thought
of a past ill spent, of so many faults, so many quarrels,
of so many things which each must hide from
the other, he began to weep; and his tears fell warm,
in the darkness, upon the bare shoulder of his beloved
and still charming mistress. She trembled. She, also,
felt moved and softened. The darkness shielded her
vanity, her elegant affectation of coldness. These
two fallen creatures, who could still suffer, since a
vestige of nobility remained with them, embraced
impulsively, mingling, in the rain of their tears and
kisses, regrets for the past with hopes, all too uncertain,
for the future. Never, perhaps, for them, as
upon that night of melancholy and forgiveness, had
pleasure been so sweet—a pleasure steeped in sorrow
and remorse.

Through the night's blackness, he had looked
behind him into the depths of the years, then he had
thrown himself into the arms of his guilty lover, to
recover there the pardon he was granting her.

Hugo often thinks of Prometheus. He applies an
imaginary vulture to his breast, which is scared only
by the moxas of vanity. Then, as the hallucination
becomes more complex and varied, following always,
however, the progressive stages which medical men
describe, he believes that a fiat of Providence has
substituted Jersey for St. Helena.


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This man is so little of a poet, so little spiritual,
that he would disgust even a solicitor.

Hugo, like a priest, always has his head bowed—
bowed so low that he can see nothing except his own

What is not a priesthood nowadays? Youth itself
is a priesthood—according to the young.

And what is not a prayer? To sh—is a prayer—
according to the rabble, when they sh—

M. de Pontmartin—a man who has always the air
of having just arrived from the provinces.

Man—all mankind, that is to say—is so naturally
depraved that he suffers less from universal degradation
than from the establishment of a reasonable

The world is about to end. Its sole reason for continuance
is that it exists. And how feeble is this
reason, compared with those which announce the
contrary, particularly the following: What, under
Heaven, has this world henceforth to do? Even
supposing that it continued materially to exist,
would this existence be worthy of the name or the
Historical Dictionary? I do not say that the world
will be reduced to the clownish shifts and disorders
of a South American republic, or even that we shall
perhaps return to a state of nature and roam the
grassy ruins of our civilization, gun in hand, seeking
our food. No; for these adventures would require a
certain remnant of vital energy, echo of earlier ages.
As a new example, as fresh victims of the inexorable
moral laws, we shall perish by that which we have
believed to be our means of existence. So far will


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machinery have Americanized us, so far will Progress
have atrophied in us all that is spiritual, that no
dream of the Utopians, however bloody, sacrilegious
or unnatural, will be comparable to the result. I
appeal to every thinking man to show me what remains
of Life. As for religion, I believe it useless to
speak of it or to search for its relics, since to give
oneself the trouble of denying God is the sole disgrace
in these matters. Ownership virtually disappeared
with the suppression of the rights of the eldest son;
but the time will come when humanity, like an
avenging ogre, will tear their last morsel from those
who believe themselves to be the legitimate heirs of
revolution. And even that will not be the worst.

Human imagination can conceive, without undue
difficulty, of republics or other communal states
worthy of a certain glory, if they are directed by
holy men, by certain aristocrats. It is not, however,
specifically in political institutions that the universal
ruin, or the universal progress—for the name matters
little—will be manifested. That will appear in the
degradation of the human heart. Need I describe
how the last vestiges of statesmanship will struggle
painfully in the clutches of universal bestiality, how
the governors will be forced—in maintaining themselves
and erecting a phantom of order—to resort to
measures which would make our men of today shudder,
hardened as they are? Then the son will run
away from the family not at eighteen but at twelve,
emancipated by his gluttonous precocity; he will fly
not to seek heroic adventures, not to deliver a beautiful
prisoner from a tower, not to immortalize a


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garret with sublime thoughts, but to found a business,
to enrich himself and to compete with his
infamous papa, to be founder and shareholder of a
journal which will spread enlightenment and cause
Le Siècle of that time to be considered as an instrument
of superstition. Then the erring, the déclassées,
those women who have had several lovers and who
are sometimes called Angels, by virtue of and in gratitude
for the empty-headed frivolity which illumines,
with its fortuitous light, their existences logical as
evil—then these women, I say, will be nothing but
a pitiless wisdom, a wisdom which condemns everything
except money, everything, even the crimes of the
Then, any shadow of virtue, everything indeed
which is not worship of Plutus, will be brought into
utter ridicule. Justice, if, at that fortunate epoch,
Justice can still exist, will deprive of their civil rights
those citizens who are unable to make a fortune. Thy
spouse, O bourgeois! Thy chaste better half, whose
legitimacy seems to thee poetic—making legality to
be henceforth a baseness beneath reproach—vigilant
and loving guardian of thy strong-box, will be no
more than the absolute type of the kept woman. Thy
daughter, with an infantile wantonness, will dream
in her cradle that she sells herself for a million—and
thou, thyself, O bourgeois—less of a poet even than
thou art today—thou wilt find no fault in that, thou
wilt regret nothing. For there are some qualities in
a man which grow strong and prosper only as others
diminish and grow less; thanks to the progress of that
age, of thy bowels of compassion nothing will remain
but the guts!—That age is perhaps very near; who


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knows if it is not already come and if the coarseness
of our perceptions is not the sole obstacle which prevents
us from appreciating the nature of the atmosphere
in which we breathe?

For myself, who feel within me sometimes the
absurdity of a prophet, I know that I shall never
achieve the charity of a physician. Lost in this vile
world, elbowed by the crowd, I am like a worn-out
man, whose eyes see, in the depths of the years behind
him, only disillusionment and bitterness, ahead
only a tumult in which there is nothing new, whether
of enlightenment or of suffering. In the evening
when this man has filched from his destiny a few
hours of pleasure, when he is lulled by the process
of digestion, forgetful—as far as possible—of the past,
content with the present and resigned to the future,
exhilarated by his own nonchalance and dandyism,
proud that he is less base than the passers-by, he says
to himself, as he contemplates the smoke of his cigar:
What does it matter to me what becomes of these

I believe I have wandered into what those of the
trade call a hors-d'œuvre. Nevertheless, I will let
these pages stand—since I wish to record my days
of anger.