Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Reading

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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YoungStudentMarius
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Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Reading

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:53 am

So, here's a thread for discussing the Brick as it was during the American Civil War and its involvement/role, or anything, really. Apparently it was suggested reading for the Confederate soldiers, and very, very popular, as they even called themselves "Lee's Misérables," after General Robert E. Lee. It cost the men two dollars per volume, which were published by West & Johnston in 1863 and made available one at a time, though it was planned for the last three to be combined into one physical book.

However, it appears that there were parts cut from the version given to the soldiers, specifically anything having to do with slavery, or that could be interpreted that way. It's said that that includes things such as parts of Mabeuf, Enjolras' speeches, etc, though I've not checked personally. The preface explains this roughly, saying:

It is proper to state here, that whilst every chapter and paragraph in
any way connected with the story has been scrupulously preserved,
several long, and it must be confessed, rather rambling disquisitions on
political and other matters of a purely local character, of no interest
whatever on this side of the Atlantic, and exclusively intended for the
French readers of the book, have not been included in this reprint. A
few scattered sentences reflecting on slavery — which the author, with
strange inconsistency, has thought fit to introduce into a work written
mainly to denounce the European systems of labor as gigantic instruments
of tyranny and oppression — it has also been deemed advisabIe to
strike out. With those exceptions — and they are after all but few and
unimportant — the original work is here given entire. The extraneous
matter emitted has not the remotest connection with the characters or
the incidents of the novel, and the absence of a few anti-slavery paragraphs
will hardly be complained of by Southern readers.


The entire book, scanned, can be found here:

Volume 1: Fantine
Volume Two: Cosette
Volume Three: Marius
Volume Four: Saint-Denis
Volume Five: Jean Valjean

Gervais and I were talking a bit about reading it, comparing passages, etc, and finding all the cuts. Anyone up for looking things through, a bit? :wink: Or has heard other things about "Lee's Misérables" that you want to share? This could be quite an interesting study, here.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Gervais » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:07 am

1 to 1. We're going to have to do another race to get rid of the tie. :wink:

Book 1 of Fantine looks intact, except for one thing. Well, four things. These chapters are in Book 1 of my regular eBook version:
-The Night of a day's Tramp/The Evening of a day of Walking
-Prudence commended to Wisdom
-The Heroism of Passive Obedience
-...Diaries of Pontarlier (the beginning of the title is pretty different between the two)


But here, they're in Book 2. Now, the e copy I usually use also says that Volume 5 is called Fantine, so it's probably an error there, but wanted to clear that up since my paperback's on loan.

And man, am I glad those cuts were temporary. :shock: A Les Miz without European history! *gasp* :wink:
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby freedomlover » Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:11 am

This looks really interesting :D

(I feel like I should be wearing my confederate hat before reading... yes I have one. But I left it back home :P Basically it is part of my historical costume collection, do not judge :P )
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:17 am

For anyone who doesn't read hernaniste on tumblr, she did a project on the Confederate version and posts about it here.

I can't forgive cutting "The Dead are Right and the Living are not Wrong." My favorite chapter! I guess they couldn't have kept it, as that's where it says John Brown was greater than Washington...
Last edited by between4walls on Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:19 am

The NYTimes also did a recent article on Les Misérables in the Civil War.
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:30 am

Hi! I just did a whole academic project on Lee's Misérables. I haven't been around this forum lately, but MmeB pointed me to this thread. (Thanks, by the way.)

I'm in the middle of something else for the next month so will have spotty internet usage (depending on how the productivity/procrastination pendulum's swinging) but am happy to answer questions on my work. A rough (read: slightly wooden) practice read of my talk is at https://soundcloud.com/hernaniste/a-richmond-practice-run. Other material can be found under my "Lee's Misérables" tag: http://hernaniste.tumblr.com/tagged/lee%27s-miserables

I classify the cuts/censorship into 5 different categories - the removal of:
1. criticisms of slavery
2. praise of France and the French Revolution (and associated statements of human equality)
3. instances of sexuality/sensuality
4. French puns/poetry/song/slang
5. other "irrelevant" bits of history/commentary/narration

I could give you a download link for my list of the edited chapters and notes of what's removed if you ask nicely, although you're welcome to go on the treasure hunt yourself. :)

Out of curiosity - where are you finding your info, YoungStudentMarius? Did you run into some website with all this? (Or is my research disseminating through the fandom? XD)

(And hey look, in the time I was typing this up, between4walls beat me to it. Hi!)

ETA: Note how the author of the NYT article was unaware of the censorship!

ETA2: Once upon a time, this all began as a fic: http://archiveofourown.org/works/626481
Last edited by sophiedegrouchy on Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Acaila » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:39 am

Sounds like an awesome project! Thanks for sharing, I'm definitely going to take a look at that! :)
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:52 am

Also - the linked Richmond edition looks really...weird to me. Like the colors are all off and strangely bright. If anyone wants a different link, it's also on Hathitrust: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/010944590.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Sat Mar 02, 2013 2:56 am

Thank you very much, Sophiedegrouchy and between4walls! I had not seen those before, much less known about all this amazing research you did! Thank you for that; I'm perusing it now, and it's fascinating, and very thorough.

I just mostly figured things from here, Sophiedegrouchy. The dates, and then reading the notes on the inside of the books. A bit about Lee's Misérables calling themselves that I'd randomly heard before; I don't remember where. And then random things that turned up while searching "West & Johnston Les Misérables," etc. I was just kind of curious when Acaila mentioned on another thread that they'd cut things for that version, and figured it was worth checking out. Didn't know that all this was right here! :D

And thank you very much for that new link; much easier to read!

And yes, Gervais, 1 to 1, but I'm sure we'll find another occasion shortly, knowing our attraction to shiny things. :wink:
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Gervais » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:03 am

:shock: That's great, between4walls and sophiedegrouchy. Thanks for sharing. :mrgreen: (And thanks MmeBahorel. :D ) Your tumblr is probably going to take up as much of my weekend as possible, now, which is a very, very good thing.


(And to answer my own question my eBook was wrong on the chapters. Of course. :roll: )
Last edited by Gervais on Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:14 am

Thanks, all! Enjoy!

One more resource, then. Go to http://www.mediafire.com/view/?d54lsrt5gqqqcbp for my full chapter notes. Red lettering is edited, red highlighting is gone entirely.
Note that the titles are from the Hapgood translation because they where what I could quickly copy-paste. The Richmond edition is Wilbour, minus the Bishop chapters which are a new translation.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:57 am

Thanks for sharing all this, sophiedegrouchy! (I didn't realize you were following the thread, just figured to introduce people to the best source on this that I knew of!)

What does "degeneracy" mean in your note on "The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light"?

Wow, the cuts are even worse than I thought. They took out the guy falling off the ship of society and drowning? :x And the bit on the 1823 invasion of Spain? (Okay, that bit I just like for personal reasons, but still). And the big title drop when Marius sees the Thenardiers? And Éponine watering Mabeuf's garden and defending Rue Plumet? This is the opposite of The Princess Bride's "the good parts version."

Admittedly, despite my icon, I wouldn't miss the 1848 Scylla and Charybdis chapter; it's too self-pitying/self-righteous. Though it has some striking imagery. Anyway, I guess the Confederacy wouldn't want the whole glorifying-the-bloody-suppression-of-rebellion aspect.

Switching over to 1832, it's interesting how they have to maintain the parts of the book that are sympathetic to rebellion while removing the ideals of the rebellion that make the narrator sympathetic to it in the first place.

Now off to listen to that lecture!
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

The real name of devotion is disinterestedness.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:02 am

The guy falling off the ship of society and drowning may be a little too close to middle passage horrors. (we treat our slaves nice! They're totally not the descendents of the survivors who weren't thrown overboard to the sharks! And they're totally not metaphorically swimming and drowning down there right now while I'm demanding my sandwich.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:10 am

@Mme B: ooooo that didn't even cross my mind. That's definitely possible! Or it could just be too much metaphorical commentary for our editor.

@between4walls: No worries, I was only "following" it because MmeB had just pointed me towards it. That "degeneracy" is one of the few examples of the editor directly censoring a mention of slavery. G- says he voted to end prostitution for woman, slavery for man, and darkness for the child, but in Lee's, that "slavery" becomes "degeneracy."

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Mar 02, 2013 4:27 am

*glomps Sophie*

This is so interesting---and thanks for this! Must study all of this after finals!
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