2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

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2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Frédérique » Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:56 pm

Volume 2: Cosette, book 6: Le Petit-Picpus/The Petit-Picpus

Chapters:

1. Petite rue Picpus, numéro 62/Number 62 petite rue Picpus
2. L'obédience de Martin Verga/The obedience of Martin Verga
3. Sévérités/Severities
4. Gaîtés/Gaieties
5. Distractions/Distractions
6. Le petit couvent/The little convent
7. Quelques silhouettes de cette ombre/Some silhouettes of this shadow
8. Post corda lapides/Post corda lapides
9. Un siècle sous une guimpe/A century under a guimpe
10. Origine de l'Adoration Perpétuelle/Origin of the Perpetual Adoration
11. Fin du Petit-Picpus/End of the Petit-Picpus

You can find the French text of this book here and the Hapgood English translation here.


An introduction of the location, history, and customs of the convent at Petit-Picpus.

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:03 am

Book VI

Chapitre 1
1 (number 62): Pourquoi 62 ? Peut-être parce que 1862, date de l'achèvement et de la publication du livre, répond au 1851-1815 du numéro 50-52 de la masure Gorbeau. Dans une page du manuscrit Hugo écrit, par un lapsus significatif, << 52 de la petite rue Picpus >>.
Why 62? Perhaps because 1862, date of the completion and publication of the book, reflects the 1851-1815 of the number 50-52 of the Gorbeau pile. On one page of the manuscript Hugo writes, by a significant lapse, “52 petite rue Picpus”.

2 (Bernardines of the Perpetual Adoration): Une série de transformations succssive a abouti à ce couvent, irréel mais démonstratif. La dernière, contemporaine de l'ajout du livre 7, achève d'éloigner le Petit-Picpus de son modèle : le couvent des bénédictines de l'Adoration perpétuelle du 12, rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève, aujourd'hui installées à Rouen. A la source originelle, encore non identifiée, se sont ajoutées des informations venue de Léonie Biard – dont la tante était demeurée plusieurs années rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève – et de Juliette, prisonnière plus que pensionnaire, dans son enfance, du couvent des Dames Saint-Michel, ainsi que des sources documentaires ordinaire : Moréri, Sauval, etc.
Sur le manuscrit, Hugo note qu'il << dépayse >> le couvent – et modifie l'ordre dont il relève, mais non les rites – pour éviter les << criailleries >> des ordres existants et les << tracasseries >> possibles. Prétexte plus que vraie raison : en cela Hugo agit de la même manière que pour la barricade ou pour Mgr Myriel : la précision de l'information combinée au décalages permet aux << effets de réel >> de fonctionner sans cantonner le text dans l'exactitude ponctuelle : d'harmoniser dans une vérité nouvelle le sens voulu par le roman et le respect de la réalité. Ajoutons que Le Père Goriot avait rendu célèbre la rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève : adresse de la pension Vauquer – sorte de couvent, d'un autre style.

A series of successive transformations led to this convent, unreal but demonstrative. The last, contemporary to the addition of book 7, finishes the movement of the Petit-Picpus away from its model: the convent of the Benedictines of the Perpetual Adoration, 12 rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève, today established at Rouen. To the original source, still not identified, was added information from Léonie Biard – whose aunt lived for several years in the rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève – and from Juliette, prisoner more than pensioner, in her childhood, in the convent of Dames Saint-Michel, along with ordinary documentary sources: Moréri, Sauval, etc.
In the manuscript, Hugo notes that he “displaces” the convent – and modifies the order with which he is concerned, but not the rites – to avoid the “grumbling” of existing orders and the possible “hassles”. Pretext more than true reason: in this Hugo acts in the same way as for the barricade or for Mgr Myriel : the precision of the information combined with the gaps permits an “effect of reality” to function without confining the text to perfect accuracy: to harmonise in a new truth the sense wanted by the novel and the respect for reality. Let us add that Père Goriot had made famous the rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève: address of the Vauquer boarding house – sort of convent of another style.

Chapitre 2
3 (Bernardines of the Obedience of Martin Verga): Ordre inventé par Hugo qui utilise, en le déformant un peu, le nom d'un réformateur espagnol de l'ordre cistercien, Martin de Vargas, mort en 1446.
Order invented by Hugo that uses, deforming it a little, the name of a Spanish reformer of the Cistercian order, Martin de Vargas (wiki in Spanish only), who died in 1446.

4 (licentia): Textuellement : << Elle n'apprendra ni à lire ni à écrire sans l'autorisation expresse de la Supérieure. >>
Textually: “She learned neither to read nor to write without the express authorisation of the Mother Superior.”

5 (formerly belonging to the community): Cette précision, exacte pour les communautés de la rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève et de la rue Picpus, prépare aussi l'épisode du livre 8.
This precision, exact for the communities of the rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève and of the rue Picpus, also prepares the episode of book 8.

Chapitre 3
6 (The little girl cried): Souvenir de Léonie Biard, alors petite fille, à qui l'on interdit effectivement de passer sa main à travers les barreaux pour la donner à sa tante.
Memory of Léonie Biard, then a little girl, to whom it was effectively forbidden to pass her hand through the bars to give it to her aunt.

Chapitre 4
7 (watched the sunbeams): La même antithèse intitule Les Rayons et les Ombres.
The same antithesis titles The Sunbeams and the Shadows.

Chapitre 5
8 (guilty of babbling/chirping): Ce châtiment, comme la description du réfectoire, vient de Juliette dont le couvent, maison de redressement et prison pour << filles repenties >> est aussi contradictoire avec le pensionnat chic de Léonie que le sont les << sévérités >> des religieuses avec les << gaîtés >> des enfants.
This punishment, like the description of the refectory, comes from Juliette whose convent, house of redress and prison for “repentant girls” is as contradictory to Léonie's chic boarding school as are the “severities” of the nuns with the “gaieties” of the children.

9 (externis communicabit): << Personne ne communiquera nos règles ou nos institutions aux étrangers.>>
No one is permitted to communicate our rules or our institutions to strangers.

10 (a former schoolgirl/pensionnaire): Cette << duchesse >> n'est autre que Juliette. Hommage flatteur si, lors de son intervention précédente – pour la << petite patenôtre blanche >> - la même Juliette n'avait été désignée comme << vieille[s] femme[s] aujourd'hui >>. La contradiction qui caractérise tout le couvent, - et le fait de surcroît – s'étend ici à une seule des informatrices.
This “duchess” is none other than Juliette. Flattering hommage if, at the time of her preceding intervention – for the “little white paternoster” - the same Juliette hadn't been designated “old woman today”. The contradiction that characterises the whole convent – and the fact of surplus – extends here to only one of the informers.

11 (Madame Albertine): Cette grande dame, séquestrée et passant pour morte, est une sorte de double féminin de Jean Valjean.
This great woman, sequestered and taken for dead, is a sort of female double of Jean Valjean.

12 (serge curtain): Ce que cachait aux pensionnaires le rideau de serge, et qui donne sens – grotesque, galant et nostalgique – à l'anecdote, Hugo lui-même le savait, et beaucoup de ses contemporains. Chateaubriand, par exemple, qui fait ce portrait : << Le duc de Rohan était fort joli ; il roucoulait la romance, lavait de petites aquarelles et se distinguait par une étude coquette de toilette. Quand il fut abbé, sa pieuse chevelure éprouvée au fer avait une élégance de martyr. Il prêchait à la brune, dans des oratoires, devant des dévotes. […] Guérin, faisant le portrait de l'abbé-duc, lui adressait un jour des compliments sur sa figure ; l'humble confesseur lui répondit : << Si vous m'aviez vu priant. >> (Mémoires d'outre tombe, texte cité par G. Venzac, Les Premiers Maîtres de V. Hugo, Bloud et Gay, 1955, p. 259.)
What the serge curtain hides from the schoolgirls, and what gives meaning – grotesque, gallant, and nostalgic – to the anecdote, Hugo himself knew, and many of his contemporaries. Chateaubriand, for example, who made this portrait: “The duc de Rohan was very attractive; he cooed romances, daubed little watercolours and was distinguished by a stylish attention to his toilette. When he was abbé, his pious hair, well-tested with the iron, had the elegance of a martyr. He preached at dusk in oratories, before the devout women. . . . Guérin, painting the abbé-duke's portrait, one day made him some compliments on his figure; the humble confessor responded, “If only you'd seen me praying!” (Memories from Beyond the Grave, text cited by G. Venzac, Victor Hugo's First Masters, Bloud & Gay, 1955, p. 259.)

13 (to relieve his boredom): C'est Juliette qui montait << aux commodités >>, au second étage, pour voir le visage du joueur de flûte. Contrairement aux personnages du roman, elle ne put jamais en << distinguer l'âge ni la figure >>.
It was Juliette who climbed “to the conveniences”, to the second floor, in order to see the face of the flute player. Contrary to the characters in the novel, she never could “distinguish either the age or the face”.

Chapitre 6
14 (tua perdas): << De mérite inégal, trois corps pendent à des branches : Dismas et Gesmas, entre d'eux deux, la puissance divine. Dismas aspire au royaume d'en haut, Gesmas, le malheureux, au royaume d'en bas. Que sur nous et nos biens s'étende la protection de la puissance suprême. Récite ces vers et tes biens ne te seront pas volés. >>
Of unequal merit, three bodies hang from branches: / Dismas and Gesmas, between themselves, the divine power. / Dismas aspires to the kingdom above, Gesmas, the unfortunate, to the kingdom below. / May on us and our goods extend the protection of the supreme power. / Recite these verses and your goods will not be stolen.”

Chapitre 7
15 (Mlle Gauvain): Dans cette liste de noms se distinguent les noms d'origine materinelle : Auverné, où Sophie Hugo avait vécu, nom déjà donné au héros du Bug-Jargal ; les noms d'origine paternelle : Cogolludo, Cifuentès et Siguenza : lieux d'Espagne dont Joseph avait fait comte Léopold Hugo ; La Miltière et La Laudinière : propriétés achetées par le père du Hugo près de Blois ; les noms venus de l'enfance : Mlle Roze, dont l'homonyme, Mlle Rose fascinait l'enfant Hugo lorsqu'elle mettait ses bas (voir Victor Hugo raconté..., ouv. Cit., p. 102) ; les noms venus de l'amour, Juliette se trouvant ici sous son patronyme réel, Mlle Gauvain, et sous son nom de théâtre, Mlle Drouet.
In this list of names are distinguished names of maternal origin: Auverné (french only), where Sophie Hugo had lived, name already given to the hero of Bug-Jargal; names of paternal origin: Cogolludo, Cifuentes and Siguenza: places in Spain of which Joseph had made Leopold Hugo count; La Miltière and La Laudinière: properties purchased by Hugo's father near Blois; names from childhood: Mlle Roze, whose homonym, Mlle Rose, fascinated the boy Hugo when she put on her stockings (see Victor Hugo raconté . . ., op. Cit., p. 102); names from love, Juliette found here under her real surname, Mlle Gauvain, and under her stage name, Mlle Drouet.

16 (that the letter): Il s'agit de la << lettre écrite il y a vingt-cinq ans par une ancienne pensionnaire >> citée p. 391. En fait, le text reprend ici non le manuscrit de Juliette, mais celui de Léonie!
This refers to the “letter written twenty-five years ago by a former schoolgirl” cited on p. 391 [see note 10 to find the page in your edition]. In fact, the text taken up here is not Juliette's manuscript but Léonie's!

Chapitre 8
17 (Chapter title): <<Après les coeurs, les pierres.>>
After hearts, stones.

Chapitre 10
18 (chestnut trees of the kingdom): Un ouvrage consulté par Hugo plaçait cet arbre dans le jardin du couvent de la rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève. Il a été remplacé au Petit-Picpus par un << sapin aigu >>, mortifère à côté du << bouclier >>. Du coup ce fécond marronnier a été transféré dans cet autre couvent, plus souriant. Ici s'observe la soumission des sources – les textes y remontent plus qu'ils n'en découlent – au sens.
A work consulted by Hugo places this tree in the garden of the convent in the rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève. It had been replaced at Petit-Picpus by a “sharp pine”, deadly next to the “shield”. At a stroke this fecund chestnut tree had been transferred to another, more smiling, convent. Here observe the submission of sources – the texts return to it more than they follow from it – to sense.

Chapitre 11
19 (Volaverunt.): << Elle se sont envolées. >>
They were blown away.

20 (et tres): << Ici je repose ; j'ai vécu vingt-trois ans. >> Cette épitaphe, trouvée dans les décombres d'Aventicum (ancienne capitale de l'Helvétie) avait été notée par Hugo dans l'Histoire de la confédération suisse de Muller, avec ce commentaire : << Cette inscription qui faisait pleurer Byron et rêver Müller >>. (Le Tas de pierres, éd. J. Massin, t. VI, p. 1138.)
“Here I rest; I lived twenty-three years.” This epitaph, found in the rubble of Aventicum (ancient capital of Helvetia) had been noted by Hugo in Muller's History of the Swiss Confederation, with this comment: “This inscription that made Byron weep and Müller dream”. (The Pile of Stones, ed. J. Massin, vol. VI, p. 1138.)

21 (Hortus conclusus.): Ce << jardin fermé >> vient du Cantique des cantiques (IV, 12) où il a un tout autre sens : << C'est un jardin fermé que ma soeur, ma fiancée, une source close, une fontaine scellée. […] qu'il entre mon bien-aimé dans son jardin, qu'il en goûte les fruits exquis. >>
This “closed garden” comes from the Song of Songs (4:12) where it has a completely different meaning: “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. . . . Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” [4:12 and 4:16, which ought to be porny enough, Victor.]
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Ulkis » Fri Dec 31, 2010 6:41 pm

I am actually finding this section interesting so far; I guess I am more interested in convents than Waterloo. :) It amuses me now though how the narrative states, the author knows this from someone who attended one of these schools. Who was so not a mistress of the author's, la la la.

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby hazellwood » Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:49 pm

Oh maaaaan this is like my favourite part of the book besides barricades. I really need to get caught up.

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Ulkis » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:05 am

Feel free to skip over the stuff you haven't read yet and read/discuss this book with us if you want to. It's all about the fun of discussion. :)

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:55 am

Chapter 1:
Why is canary-yellow paint frightening? Or is it only frightening to a man who though ceiling carpet was a brilliant idea? Oh, and the wallpaper, if anyone is reading in translation, is actually 15 sous a roll (FMA have it as "fifteen cents" which to me implies 15 centimes since they share the meaning of 1/100, but it's actually 75 centimes a roll).

The double visor image brings in the idea of medieval warfare.

"something that storytellers have never seen and consequently never told" - even with the career and fame of George Sand, this is still saying that storytellers must be male. A female storyteller might have been one of the students and thus saw and later described what will follow, but since no storyteller could see it, all storytellers are male. I don't usually read nineteenth century anything from a feminist perspective but wow, Victor, that comment on your specialness (for being able to relate the things that follow) made you a particularly special dick.

Chapter 2
"Anyone at all familiar with old folios" - Hugo is again citing sources that don't exist but doing so in a covert way. If you think he's wrong, you may start doubting your own knowledge of the "old folios" if you hadn't considered yourself an expert in them to begin with. So when he gets bitched out for exposing a convent, he can go "Ha, you believed that line about Martin Verga!"

As someone who knows nothing about catholic orders except what she learned in art history class, I have no idea if he's making stuff up. I also don't get what's so horrid about the description of the habits, as it sounds like a nun's habit to me. The rest of the "harsh Spanish rule" I understand, but why does a seemingly ordinary habit come first under the "severe" rule of Martin Verga?

"To brush the teeth is the top rung of a ladder whose bottom rung is - to lose the soul." I suspect this is the most perfect statement of Hugo's opinion of convents. Stupid, petty, and harmful. Not always directly deadly, but the possibility is there, and all possible enjoyment is killed, anyway. (Yes, I am focusing on nineteenth century dental care. Though these nuns probably get no sugar so their teeth are less likely to rot out completely, in any case.)

Chapter 4
You know Hugo so loved being able to make that virgin joke at the end. I keep wondering if there's a porn reference in there. To a specific work, I mean - the whole thing is a reference to the copious porn about nuns. You can't talk about cloisters and virgins without it being a porn reference.

(Will continue in the next couple of days.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Jan 03, 2011 3:55 am

While reading that digression, I was reminded a bit of the memoirs/journals of convent schoolgirls from the Philippines in the 1930s-1950s, as well as stories from my mother and other women I've met who were raised in convent schools from the 1960s to the 1970s. There are some interesting resemblances there: the nuns' behavior towards the girls, the different classes, and how schoolgirls tend to act in general. And speaking as someone who grew up in a convent school for eleven years, there are still some holdovers from Hugo's day into the present, but in a much less severe form.

About the habits of nuns: well, it depends on which orders we're talking about. The more traditional and cloistered orders such as the Carmelites wear all kinds of thick clothing: heavy wimples, collars, etc. Hugo's descriptions of their habits are a little like how they are today. Note how difficult this is if one is living in the tropics, where I am. However there are some orders of nuns that wear less severe looking clothing that doesn't necessarily follow the "severe rule of Martin Verga".

Hugo's opinion on convents is quite interesting, considering that at around the time he was drafting Les Misérables, he was corresponding with Mme. Eugenie Milleret, the founder and abbess of the Religious of the Assumption. To describe Mme. Milleret in the words of the Bishop of Bordeaux at that time: "We would need three or four men to equal that woman!"The Assumption nuns were among the more progressive orders in Paris at the time of the 1848 revolution. At this point in time, the Religious of the Assumption were located at 6 rue de Chaillot, by the Seine. At present, they are located at Auteil.

Like the nuns at Picpus, the religious of the Assumption were dedicated to educating young girls. Life in the Assumption convent was also austere, but not to the point of wearing hair shirts and keeping perpetual silence. They ran a boarding school that was known for its simple lifestyle even in the students' quarters. Unlike the nuns that Hugo described at Picpus, the Assumption nuns were known for being a particularly missionary order that eventually spread out beyond Paris. This has interesting ramifications, considering that Hugo described convents as being comparatively backward institutions that would diminish as social progress continued. Ultimately, a number of orders of nuns would prove to be more instrumental in post-colonial times and decolonized countries than Hugo would realize. But that is another story which I think I should leave for another discussion.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:54 am

Some things I want to pull from Chapter XI.

This I just liked:

"Meditation is, as much as prayer, a necessity of humanity, but, like everything the Revolution has touched, it is undergoing transformation, and, from being hostile to social progress, will become favorable to it."

This I think is a summation of Hugo's thought in general (and something I'm very inclined to put into Combeferre's mouth):

"In the nineteenth century religion is undergoing a crisis. We are unlearning certain things, and that is good, provided that while unlearning one thing we are learning another. No vacuum in the human heart! Certain forms are torn down, and so they should be, but on condition that they are followed by reconstructions."

And this, I think, has two meanings - the obvious one about organized religion in the context of what Hugo is saying in this book and the next, but it also strikes me as being a constant political refrain:

"In the meantime let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them ,if only to avoid them. The counterfeits of the past take assumed names, and are fond of calling themselves the future. That eternally returning specter, the past, not infrequently falsifies its passport. Let us be ready for the snare. Let us beware. The past has a face, superstition, and a mask, hypocrisy. Let us denounce the face and tear off the mask."

This last screams Louis-Napoleon; it also puts me in mind of the current political situation in the US. It's John Boehner saying that this is not the America he grew up in (most of us are glad of it, though he's not), and it's Louis-Napoleon elected to multiple seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and to the presidency itself, on the strength of his name, that call to the past. Without the context. Which makes it the continued public worship of Reagan.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:56 pm

September 30, 2013

Number 62, Rue Petit-Picpus

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/119/


What is in an address?

Hold your breath, guys. This is another digression. But a rather amusing one in some way.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:56 pm

October 1, 2013

The Obedience of Martin Verga

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/120/

The rules a house must live by
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Tue Oct 01, 2013 2:00 pm

October 2, 2013

Austerities

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/121/

How it is to give up a world.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:59 pm

October 3, 2013

Gayeties

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/122/

How youth fills a grave house with joy.

On a personal note, this chapter made me smile.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:01 pm

October 4, 2013

Distractions

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/123/

Vignettes of youth and fascinations in a convent.

This chapter still rings true to some degree nowadays.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Oct 05, 2013 2:45 am

October 5, 2013

The Little Convent

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/124/

How this address is also a refuge of another sort.
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Re: 2.6 Le Petit-Picpus 29/12/2010-8/1/2011

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Oct 05, 2013 11:05 pm

October 6, 2013

Some Silhouettes of This Darkness

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/125/

Names within the convent.
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