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ANSWERED on Sat 13 Oct 2007 - 1:32 am UTC by Oliver Scriptor

Question: Victor Hugo Note Translation

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 12 Oct 2007 18:02 UTCFri 12 Oct 2007 - 6:02 pm UTC 

This is a note that was found in a French edition of "Hunchback of Notre Dame". It is a note written by the author, but alas, his scrawl may be too much for translation.

Can you decipher the note?  (the note)  (the envelope)


Oliver Scriptor 


 13 Oct 2007 01:32 UTCSat 13 Oct 2007 - 1:32 am UTC 

Dear binder123,

I managed to decipher most of the text. It wasn't easy at all and took me several hours, but I was successful to a large extent. In this letter, Victor Hugo used some antiquated spellings (for example, he wrote "poète" not with an accent, but with a trema-e, as it was common in the 19th century), and he even made two or three spelling mistakes; this, in addition to a very bad handwriting, made it a rather arduous task to read and understand the letter. But with the exception of only a few words, I finally deciphered the text.

The envelope is addressed to one Monsieur Drulhon, 10 rue du Commerce, Geneva, Switzerland. And this is what Victor Hugo wrote him (English translation first, followed by the French original text):

Hauteville house. - 3 November

I read your poem, Monsieur, _____
_______________, I feel a
noble _________ in your ______ plea,
I strive to answer you.
No, do not sacrifice your profession,
do not hazard your peace; the
The priest lives on the altar, but the
poet does not live on poetry. That
literature requires the literate,
____________ without exception.
Success is capricious. I add
this: success sometimes avoids the
talent and goes to the mediocrity;
thus it is impossible to predict anything.
After having read a very beautiful poem,
one must neither encourage nor
discourage the poet.
That is my disposition,
Recieve my cordial sentiment
of __________.          Victor Hugo

Hauteville house. - 3 9bre

J'ai lu vos vers, Monsieur, ________
Me demandez  ____________ , je sens un
noble _______ dans votre ________ appel,
je m'empresse de vous répondre.
Non, ne sacrifiez pas votre métier,
ne risquez pas votre paix; le
prêtre vit de l'autel, mais le
poète ne vit pas de la poésie. Que
la littérature necessitte le lettré,
c'est là _______ aller sans exception.
Le succès est capricieux. J'ajoute
ceci: le succès quelquefois fuit le
talent et va à la médiocrité;
il est donc impossible de rien prédir.
Après avoir lu de très beau vers,
on ne peut ni encourager, ni
decourager le poète.
C'est là ma situation d'esprit,
Recevez mon cordial sentiment
de ____________.           Victor Hugo

So obviously Monsieur Drulhon had sent Victor Hugo a sample of his poetry and asked him whether he should give up his current profession to become a poet. And Victor Hugo gave him the good advice not to do so.

I hope that this is helpful!
Best regards,


Oliver Scriptor 


 13 Oct 2007 11:31 UTCSat 13 Oct 2007 - 11:31 am UTC 

Thanks to my colleague researcher, Leli, I can now provide you a more complete translation of the beginning of the letter:

J'ai lu vos vers, Monsieur, vous
me demandez conseil, je sens un
noble coeur dans votre ________ appel,
je m'empresse de vous répondre.

I read your poem, Monsieur, you
asked me for advice, I sense a
noble heart in your ________ plea,
I strive to answer you.

Best regards,




 13 Oct 2007 13:21 UTCSat 13 Oct 2007 - 1:21 pm UTC 

Perhaps "touchant appel"?

"allez sans exception" (instead of "aller").

Perhaps "Recevez mon cordial sentiment de main"?

The line following "C'est là ma situation d'esprit, Monsieur" (before "Recevez mon cordial sentiment") I would read as:
"Je veux ceci répondre".




 13 Oct 2007 17:34 UTCSat 13 Oct 2007 - 5:34 pm UTC 

Very quick and exhaustingly thorough.




 5 Nov 2007 08:20 UTCMon 5 Nov 2007 - 8:20 am UTC 

Okay...few suggestions:

I'm pretty positive that it is "touchant appel" (touching plea).

"ne risquez pas votre paix" most probaby is "ne risquez pas votre pain" (do not hazard your bread)
Also, it says "Que la littérature nourrisse le lettré, c'est là une assez rare exception" (That litterature feeds the literate is a rare exception)

As for "je veux ceci répondre"...wouldn't it rather be "je vous ai répondu" (I have answered your plea)? would be a reference to his opening lines as a gesture and not to a final statement.

Finally, "Recevez mon cordial serrement de main" (cordial handshake) is the most probable form.




 5 Nov 2007 09:46 UTCMon 5 Nov 2007 - 9:46 am UTC 

I trust that Scriptor will post a clarification so that Binder123 receives email notification of RRoussel's interesting comment.


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