Les Miserables HTML version
We should incur a great risk of deceiving ourselves, were we to conclude from this that
Monseigneur Welcome was "a philosophical bishop," or a "patriotic cure." His meeting,
which may almost be designated as his union, with conventionary G----, left behind it in
his mind a sort of astonishment, which rendered him still more gentle. That is all.
Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was far from being a politician, this is, perhaps, the
place to indicate very briefly what his attitude was in the events of that epoch,
supposing that Monseigneur Bienvenu ever dreamed of having an attitude.
Let us, then, go back a few years.
Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopate, the Emperor had made
him a baron of the Empire, in company with many other bishops. The arrest of the Pope
took place, as every one knows, on the night of the 5th to the 6th of July, 1809; on this
occasion, M. Myriel was summoned by Napoleon to the synod of the bishops of France
and Italy convened at Paris. This synod was held at Notre-Dame, and assembled for the
first time on the 15th of June, 1811, under the presidency of Cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel
was one of the ninety-five bishops who attended it. But he was present only at one
sitting and at three or four private conferences. Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so
very close to nature, in rusticity and deprivation, it appeared that he imported among
these eminent personages, ideas which altered the temperature of the assembly. He
very soon returned to D---- He was interrogated as to this speedy return, and he replied:
"I embarrassed them. The outside air penetrated to them through me. I produced on
them the effect of an open door."
On another occasion he said, "What would you have? Those gentlemen are princes. I
am only a poor peasant bishop."
The fact is that he displeased them. Among other strange things, it is said that he
chanced to remark one evening, when he found himself at the house of one of his most
notable colleagues: "What beautiful clocks! What beautiful carpets! What beautiful
liveries! They must be a great trouble. I would not have all those superfluities, crying
incessantly in my ears: `There are people who are hungry! There are people who are
cold! There are poor people! There are poor people!'"
Let us remark, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not an intelligent hatred. This
hatred would involve the hatred of the arts. Nevertheless, in churchmen, luxury is
wrong, except in connection with representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal
habits which have very little that is charitable about them. An opulent priest is a
contradiction. The priest must keep close to the poor. Now, can one come in contact