All those allusions

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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Marianne
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All those allusions

Postby Marianne » Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:46 pm

I thought it might be useful to have a reference thread for the allusions and references Hugo makes throughout the novel. It would take years of research on the 'current events' of the 19th century as well as classical literature to unearth them all, but if we all band together we can probably work through some of the peskier ones.

Here's a few I remember off the top of my head--

Pépin - While the barricade is being built, the insurgents get extra powder and bottles of sulfuric acid from "a grocer named Pépin." Later in the 1830s, a real grocer named Pépin masterminded Fieschi's plot to kill Louis-Philippe by means of a huge rack of guns made to fire simultaneously.

Lacenaire - Probably the model for Montparnasse. A murderer and dandy.

Nemorin - Archetype of a lover, from a romance entitled, I think, Estelle & Nemorin.

I could probably rattle off a few dozen more, but that will do to start, and those are a few that I know mystified either me or other people until I looked them up.

I'll let Jenn or Vana go into all the allusions used to describe Enjolras. :twisted:
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Postby MmeJavert » Sun Oct 22, 2006 5:30 am

Ahaha. Well. I'm going to start with the obvious one.

He was Antinous wild


I'm sure many of you have read the Odyssey. No, this is not that Antinous to which Hugo refers. Victor's referring to the lover of the Emperor Hadrian in this instance.

Take from that what you will. :twisted:
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

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Vana Tuivana
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Postby Vana Tuivana » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:54 am

Antinoüs wild! WOOOOOT. Thank you, MmeJavert, for bringing that one up.

Okay, the Enjolras-and-Grantaire allusions could fill a BOOK (and, in the case of Grantaire's speeches, practically do, ahaha). I'm going to start just with the ones contained in the introductions of these two, because I haven't had the time to go find the other passages which contain these sort of references.

First, Enjolras:

On Mount Aventine, he would have been Gracchus; in the Convention, he would have been Saint-Just. He hardly saw a rose, he ignored the spring, he did not hear the birds sing; Evadne's bare bosom would have moved him no more than Aristogeiton; to him, as to Harmodius, flowers were good only for hiding the sword. ... Had any grisette of the Place Cambrai or the Rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais, seeing this college boy's face, the body of a page, long fair lashes, blue eyes, that hair flying in the wind, rosy cheeks, pure lips, exquisite teeth, felt a desire to taste all this dawn, and tried her beauty on Enjolras, a surprising and terrible look would have suddenly shown her to great gulf, and taught her not to confuse Beaumarchais's dashing cherubino with this fearsome cherubim of Ezekiel.


Gracchus: Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, a tribune in 2nd century B.C. Rome who tried to institute land-use law reform to make the agrarian system more fair to the lower classes, who were being pushed off of their land by greedy aristocrats. His reforms failed, and he and his followers were killed by his opponents in the Senate. (And Aventine is one of the seven hills on which Rome was built, if you're wildly curious about that.)

Saint-Just: Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just, a leader of the French Revolution, who was a member of the Committee of Public Safety, was heavily involved in sending political opponents and counter-revolutionaries to their deaths during the Reign of Terror (1793-4), and was guillotined along with Robespierre during the Thermidorean Reaction.

Evadne: in Greek mythology, the wife of one of the Seven Against Thebes first made famous in the works of Virgil. After her husband Capaneus was killed by one of Zeus's lightning bolts for his arrogance, she went to his funeral and threw herself onto his burning pyre, thus killing herself. She is known for being both extraordinarily beautiful and recklessly romantic.

Harmodius and Aristogeiton: a pair of pederastic lovers called "the Tyrannicides" for their assassination of Hipparchus in 514 B.C. Harmodius was the most beautiful boy in Athens and the eromenos (younger lover) of Aristogeiton, a respected citizen. When Harmodius spurned the advances of the tyrant Hipparchus, he revenged himself by dishonoring Harmodius' sister. The two lovers plotted to kill Hipparchus and his brother Hippias, and succeeded in stabbing Hipparchus to death before they were both killed by the royal guards.

flowers hiding the sword: Harmodius and Aristogeiton hid the daggers they used to kill Hipparchus in their ceremonial myrtle wreaths they carried to the festival.

Beaumarchais's cherubino: Cherubino (originally Chérubin) is a character in Pierre Beaumarchais' play "The Marriage of Figaro". He is a beautiful young page in the house of Count Almaviva who falls in love with every woman he sees, particularly the Countess.

Ezekiel's cherubim: the Biblical book Ezekiel describes them as a class of angel with four faces -- that of a man, a lion, an eagle, and an ox -- and four wings, two of which stretched upward and supported the throne of God while the other two modestly covered the cherubim's bodies. Their eyes are depicted as covered with eyes like coals of burning flame, and they carry flaming swords.
Last edited by Vana Tuivana on Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:03 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:56 am

With a dreamy sigh about the description of Enjolras above (...taste the dawn indeed... *fangirls*), we turn to the legion of allusions in the passage describing Grantaire. This is my favorite part which seems to justify the E/R relationship on some level.

There are men who seem born to be the opposite, the reverse, the counterpart. They are Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus, Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechméja. They live only on condition of leaning on another; their names are sequels, only written preceded by the conjunction "and"; their existence is not their own; it is the other side of a destiny not their own. Grantaire was one of these men. He was the reverse of Enjolras.
We might almost say that affinities begin with the letters of the alphabet. In the series O and P are inseperable. You can, as you choose, pronounce O and P, or Orestes and Pylades. ... Grantaire was an unaccepted Pylades.


Pollux: in Roman mythology, a son of Jupiter (Zeus) and the twin brother of Castor; in the Greek version of the tale, their names are Polydeuces and Kastor. Castor is the more-venerated of the two; he was a great horseman, while Pollux, more often ignored, was a boxer. When Castor was killed by jealous rivals, Pollux was so grief-stricken that he went to Zeus and petitioned him to bring Castor back to life. Zeus was so moved by Pollux's grief that he granted both brothers immortality. They now hang in the sky as the constellation Gemini, or the Twins.

Patroclus: a famous Greek warrior who was a kinsman of Achilles, as well as his closest companion and lover (or so attributed by Plato and Aeschylus). Achilles and Patroclus went to Troy together, and Achilles, sulking over the loss of one of his lovers, refused to participate in the fighting. Patroclus dressed himself in Achilles' armor, led his men to battle, and was killed by Hector. It was his death that spurred Achilles to enter the fighting, though he was warned by a prophecy that he would die if he fought in the war.

Nisus: one half of a famous pederastic relationship from the Aeneid. He is the older lover, a famous warrior, and his eromenos Euryalus is described as the most beautiful boy in the Trojan army. They volunteered to go on a raid of an enemy camp, and were discovered. Nisus got away, but Euryalus was captured and killed while Nisus was rushing back to save him; Nisus threw himself on the body of his lover, just moments too late, and he was also killed.

Eudamidas: any one of three Kings of Sparta. The government of Sparta was unique in that there always had to be two kings: one from each of the lines of descent of Eurysthenes and Procles, the descendants of Heracles who first conquered the city. Sparta was also unique among the Greek city-states for its mandated pederastic relationships, which were thought to boost morale and provide role-models for boys and incentive to be virtuous for men, so it may be assumed that all of the Eudamidi played the role of erastes (older lover) in such relationships at least through parts of their lives.

Ephestion: known in the English-speaking world as Hephaistion; a Macedonian soldier, and more famously the companion and lover of Alexander the Great. Hephaistion is remembered as the most loyal of all Alexander's generals, and his best-beloved companion. One story goes that when Alexander's army passed through Troy, Alexander honored the grave of Achilles, while Hephaistion did the same at the grave of Patroclus. After Hephaistion's death from fever (or possibly poisoning), Alexander had his lover deified, held impressive funeral games, and even shaved his head as a sign of mourning. It might be worth noting that Alexander himself died just eight months after Hephaistion, ostensibly from malaria, but possibly also from poisoning. Their relationship is also notable because Alexander and Hephaistion appear to be of approximately the same age, making their relationship more egalitarian than the more-usual pederastic ideal.

Pechméja: Jean (de) Péchmeja, a French writer and author of the didactic novel Télèphe (1784); longtime companion and possibly lover of Jean Dubreuil, a respected doctor. The two spent their childhoods together, and separated but remained friends throughout adulthood. When Pechméja became sick, Dubreuil moved to Paris to care for him. According to contemporary reports, they were practically inseperable and shared everything, including a house and "good things, bad things, pleasure and pain", according to a friend. Dubreuil became sick with a pulmonary disease and Pechméja became his caretaker. When the doctor died in April 1785, he left his posessions to Pechméja, who died of the same illness less than a month later. The two were buried in the same grave and admired by their contemporaries for the example of a strong romantic friendship.

Orestes and Pylades: Orestes was the son of Agamemnon of Mycenae and his queen Clytemnestra, but he was raised by Strophius, king of Phocis, along with Strophius's son Pylades. The two were like brothers, and when they were grown they went to Mycenae and killed Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus, who had murdered Agamemnon when Orestes was young. For helping his friend with this crime, Pylades was exiled by his father and sailed on different adventures with Orestes, accepting the curse of being a matricide along with him. They went to Tauris together, where the custom was to sacrifice all foreigners to the goddess Artemis. The head priestess, (who happened to be Orestes' sister Iphigeneia, though they did not recognize each other), wanted to have Orestes set free on the pretext that he was to carry a letter to Greece, but he refused to go and asked her to send Pylades instead, proclaiming that if anyone was going to be saved from death, it ought to be his loyal friend. In the same way, Pylades insisted that Orestes ought to save himself and that he would die in his place. They both ended up escaping along with Iphigeneia, and Orestes returned to Mycenae and became the ruler, with Pylades at his side. Their relationship is viewed as the strongest example of lifelong same-sex love in all of Greek mythology.

So there you have it. E/R is TOTALLY canonical. :D

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Postby MmeJavert » Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:07 am

Vana Tuivana wrote:Nisus: one half of a famous pederastic relationship from the Aeneid.


Nisus/Euryalus is totally my classical epic poetry canon OTP. :D My Latin teacher didn't quite understand why I liked them so much. (Of course, I also shipped Aeneas/Achates. Heee.)

Sorry, that was a tangent. But ... yes. Gee, Hugo, aren't we being obvious. XD
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

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Postby brittlesmile » Tue Oct 24, 2006 8:02 pm

I'd just like to thank you for posting this on here. It is truly awsome.
"Détruire les abus, cela ne suffit pas; il faut modifier les moeurs. Le moulin n'y est plus, le vent y est encore."

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Thu Oct 26, 2006 2:36 am

This is interesting.

Bossuet takes his name (and even his nickname!) from a real person.

Jacques Benign Bossuet, called the Eagle of Meaux, was a bishop of Meaux from 1861 to 1704.
Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!

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

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Postby Frédéric Dumont » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:05 pm

Yes, that's a footnote in my edition. That historical Aigle de Meaux was a politician and philosopher too, apparently.
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THE BLOOD OF THE SPAMBOTS SHALL WATER THE MEADOWS OF FRANCE!!!

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:06 pm

I don't get footnotes except translations for the French poems.
Vive l'avenir! Vive la France!



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

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Postby Frédéric Dumont » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:10 pm

In my edition there's a handful of footnotes and the poems are all translated into German. :D
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I am the lawrr and the lawrr is not mocked! *growl*

THE BLOOD OF THE SPAMBOTS SHALL WATER THE MEADOWS OF FRANCE!!!

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Thu Oct 26, 2006 8:30 pm

And apparently in Middle French the word prouvaire means priest. Hmm... what would Hugo mean by that?
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"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." -Victor Hugo

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Fri Oct 27, 2006 1:04 am

Oh, very interesting, Jessica! So now you have another layer to your namesake, hmmm? :)

I imagining things, or is there also a nice pun with "Meaux"/"mots"? Can someone help me out here? My French is sehr schlecht. :roll:

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Postby MmeJavert » Fri Oct 27, 2006 2:40 am

Yeah, Meaux/Mots.

There was a Bossuet at the time, and he was a French poet. They called him 'L'aigle de Mots' -- the Eagle of Words. Pun. :D
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

~pearl jam, "dissident"

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Postby Vana Tuivana » Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:46 pm

Aha, thanks for clearing that up. 8)

Speaking of names, for obvious reasons I'm interested in the name Feuilly, which apparently comes from the word feuillé, meaning "leaf". There was also a group called the Feuillants in the early years of the Revolution, led by a fellow named Antoine Barnave. Barnave was initially a member of the Jacobin party and associate of people like Marat and Robespierre. His politics and sympathies diverged enough from the leftist Jacobins, however, that he left the group in 1791 and started his own party, the moderate Feuillants. This group called itself "les Amis de la Constitution" -- they supported a constitutional monarchy and opposed war with Austria, and were then kicked out of the Assembly by the Girondins. Because of his sympathies for the royal family, Barnave was tried for treason, found guilty, and guillotined in 1793.

I don't know if Hugo meant to make this connection, but it's interesting nonetheless. The things you do learn when you're randomly trawling the netz! :)

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Postby JeanneProuvaire » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:12 pm

But which is the Bossuet mentioned in the "surprise" letter?
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"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age." -Victor Hugo


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