Les Miserables HTML version

Chapter 5
The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts as his public life. The
voluntary poverty in which the Bishop of D---- lived, would have been a solemn and
charming sight for any one who could have viewed it close at hand.
Like all old men, and like the majority of thinkers, he slept little. This brief slumber was
profound. In the morning he meditated for an hour, then he said his mass, either at the
cathedral or in his own house. His mass said, he broke his fast on rye bread dipped in
the milk of his own cows. Then he set to work.
A Bishop is a very busy man: he must every day receive the secretary of the bishopric,
who is generally a canon, and nearly every day his vicars-general. He has
congregations to reprove, privileges to grant, a whole ecclesiastical library to examine,--
prayer-books, diocesan catechisms, books of hours, etc.,--charges to write, sermons to
authorize, cures and mayors to reconcile, a clerical correspondence, an administrative
correspondence; on one side the State, on the other the Holy See; and a thousand
matters of business.
What time was left to him, after these thousand details of business, and his offices and
his breviary, he bestowed first on the necessitous, the sick, and the afflicted; the time
which was left to him from the afflicted, the sick, and the necessitous, he devoted to
work. Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had but one word
for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening. "The mind is a garden," said he.
Towards mid-day, when the weather was fine, he went forth and took a stroll in the
country or in town, often entering lowly dwellings. He was seen walking alone, buried in
his own thoughts, his eyes cast down, supporting himself on his long cane, clad in his
wadded purple garment of silk, which was very warm, wearing purple stockings inside
his coarse shoes, and surmounted by a flat hat which allowed three golden tassels of
large bullion to droop from its three points.
It was a perfect festival wherever he appeared. One would have said that his presence
had something warming and luminous about it. The children and the old people came
out to the doorsteps for the Bishop as for the sun. He bestowed his blessing, and they
blessed him. They pointed out his house to any one who was in need of anything.
Here and there he halted, accosted the little boys and girls, and smiled upon the
mothers. He visited the poor so long as he had any money; when he no longer had any,
he visited the rich.