“The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas

As one’s brain on waking in the morning may hold a shadow of the dream that it experienced in sleep.


was rapidly informed of the full strength of this argument by the dictates of self-interest


He had neither the opportunity to resit nor any intention of doing so.


He soon felt that some light was once again penetrating his brain: all his vague and almost indefinable ideas resumed their place on that marvelous chessboard where perhaps a single extra square is enough to ensure the superiority of men over animals. He was able to think and to strengthen his thoughts by reasoning


Full of hope, he ate a few crumbs of the bread, swallowed some mouthfuls of water and, thanks to the powerful constitution with which nature had endowed him, was more or less restored to himself.


“Because you have an instinctive horror at the idea of such a crime, to the point where it has never even entered your head,” the old man continued. “For, in simple and permitted matters, our natural appetites warn us not to exceed the boundaries of what is permissible for us. The tiger, which spills blood in the natural course of things, because this is its state of being, its destiny, needs only for its sense of smell to inform it that a prey is within reach; immediately it leas towards this prey, falls on it and tears it apart. That is its instinct, which it obeys. But mankind, on the contrary, is repelled by blood. It is not the laws of society that condemn murder, but the laws of nature.”


“Perhaps nothing: the overflowing of my brain might have evaporated in mere futilities. Misfortune is needed to plumb certain mysterious depths in the understanding of men; pressure is needed to explode the charge. My captivity concentrated all my faculties on a single point. They had previously been dispersed, now they closed in a narrow space; and, as you know, the clash of clouds produces electricity, electricity produces lightning and lightning gives light.”

“No, I know nothing,” said Dantes, ashamed of his ignorance.


“There is a very profound axiom in law, which is consistent with what I told you a short time ago, and it is this: unless an evil thought is born in a twisted mind, human nature is repelled by crime. However, civilization has given us needes, vies and artificial appetites which sometimes cause us to repress our good instincts and lead us to wrongdoing. Hence the maxim: if you wish to find the guilty party, first discover whose interests the crime serves!”


“Learning does not make one learned: there are those who have knowledge and those who have understanding. The first requires memory, the second philosophy.”


“Do not be deceived: I am suffering less, because I have less strength in me to suffer. At your age, you have faith in life; it is a privilege of youth to believe and to hope. But old men see death more clearly. Here it is! IT is coming … it is the end … my life is going … my reason is clouded … Dantes, your hand … Adieu, adieu!”


But, as often happens, in great sorrow as in great storms, the abyss lies between the crests of two waves; Dantes shrank from the idea of so dishonorable a death and rapidly went from this feeling of despair to a burning thirst for life and freedom.


He was almost happy at this skirmish and his wound. These hard tutors had taught him how he viewed danger and bore suffering. He had laughed at danger and, as the shot pierced him, said like a Greek philosopher: “Pain, you are not an evil.”


At last, by one of those unexpected chances which sometimes happen to people on whom misfortune has exhausted its ingenuity


So Dantes, who three months earlier had wanted nothing except freedom, felt already not free enough, but wanted wealth. It was not the fault of Dantes, but of God who, while limiting the power of man, has created in him infinite desires!


The heart breaks when it has swelled too much in the warm breath of hope, then finds itself enclosed in cold reality … “Well, now that I am not counting on anything, now that I have decided it would be senseless to cling to any hope, what happens from now on will merely satisfy my curiosity, nothing more.” … Because of a mysterious property of the human organism, the more Dantes should have been reassured by this mounting proof that Faria had not been mistaken, the more his hearty gave way to doubt and even to discouragement … he put off certainty and clung to hope … that was all that remained to him between the summit of happiness and the depth of despair … Now there could be no further doubt. This was the treasure. No one would have taken such precautions to hide an empty box in this place.

…230 – 234

No one thought to mention the island of Monte Cristo.

Dantes was bound for Monte Cristo.


However good-hearted on is, you understand, one eventually stops seeing people who depress you.


“That, no one can tell. The secret of happiness and misery is between four walls; walls have ears, but not tongues. If you can be happy with a great fortune, then Danglars is happy.”


she put all those things into her head to crush what she had in her heart


he is a man who is honest to the point of inflexibility


but one does not need to identify a danger to fear it


“If I live, everything will change. Concern will change to doubt, pity to implacability. If I live, I shall be no more than a man who failed to keep his word, who could not live up to his promises – in short, a bankrupt. But think: if I die, Maximilien, my body will be that of an unfortunate but honest man … I am the son of a man who killed himself because, for the first time, he was obliged to break his word.”


He was one of those who do not court danger but who, if it presents itself, retain all their composure in confronting it.


So what the count said was true: there is no more interesting spectacle in life than the spectacle of death.


Do you what consoled him? Do you know what resigned him to his fate? It was the fact that another man would share his anguish, that another man was to die like him, that another man was to die before him! Put two sheep in the slaughter-house or two oxen in the abattoir and let one of them realize that his companion will not die, and the sheep will bleat with joy, the ox low with pleasure. But man, man whom God made in His image, man to whom God gave this first, this sole, this supreme law, that he should love his neighbor, man to whom God gave a voice to express his thoughts – what is man’s first cry when he learns that his neighbor is saved? A curse. All to honor to man, the masterpiece of nature, the lord of creation!


“No, I slept, as I am accustomed to do when I am bored but do not have the strength to amuse myself, or when I am hungry without having the desire to eat.”


“you clearly do not know the Count of Monte Cristo. He finds satisfaction elsewhere than in the things of this world and does not aspire to any honors, taking only those that can fit on his passport.”

“That is the most accurate description of myself that I have ever heard.”


“proved to me that our excessive concern with the welfare of our bodies is almost the only obstacle to the success of any of our plans … In reality, once you have made the sacrifice of your life, you are no longer the equal of other men; or, rather they are no longer your equal, because whoever has taken such a resolution instantly feels his strength increase ten times and his outlook vastly extended.”


“Good heavens, Monsieur! If all I wanted was a million, I should not have bothered to open a credit for such a paltry sum. A million? but I always carry a million in my portfolio or my wallet.”


“Mankind is an ugly worm when you look at it through a solar microscope. But I think you said I have nothing to do. Now, Monsieur, I ask you, do you imagine you have anything to do? Or, to put it more clearly, do you believe that what you do deserves to be called something?”


who married her with no other fortune except his unflinching honesty


No one likes a free box as much as a millionaire.


One must take the world as it is.


Between honest men no such precautions are unnecessary.


“Did you say nine hundred thousand francs? Even a philosopher might regret the loss of such a sum.”


“When one has reached a certain level of prosperity, only the superfluous becomes necessary, just as these ladies will admit that, beyond a certain degree of rapture, only the ideal is tangible. So, let us pursue the same line of argument: what is a marvel? Something that we do not understand. What is truly desirable? A possession that we cannot have. So, my life is devoted to seeing things that I cannot understand and obtaining things that are impossible to have. I succeed by two means: money and will … I am like Nero: cupitor impossibilium, and this is just what is entertaining you at the moment. That’s why this fish, which may not in reality be as good as perch or salmon, will seem delicious to you in a short while – because common sense tells you that it is impossible to obtain, and yet, here it is!”


“One can never be completely happy in this world.”


with the glibness of a charlatan whose profession is to extol his own credit.


“So, most ill deeds present themselves to their perpetrators in the specious guise of necessity; then, when the deed has been committed – in a moment of passion, fear or delirium – one realizes that it might have been avoided. Blind as you were, you did not see the correct course of action, which now appears plainly and simply before yo. You think: how can I have done that, instead of this? You ladies, on the other hand, are rarely tormented by remorse, because the decision rarely comes from you. Your misfortunes are almost always imposed on you and your errors almost always another’s crime.”


“Perhaps my heart was weaker than that of others and I suffered more than they would in my place, that’s all.”


“I am selfish and an egoist, as you say; and, as such, I do not think of what others would do in my position, only of what I intend to do. I think that I have known you for a year; that, on the day we met, I wagered all my chances of happiness on your love; that the day came when you told me that you loved me; and that from that day forward I have staked all my future on having you. That has been my life. Now, I no longer think anything. All I can tell myself is that fate has turned against me, that I expected to win heaven and I have lost it. It happens every day that a gambler loses not only what he has, but also what he does not have.”


with the joy of a drowning person whose hand has touched a rock.


In any case, even the most corrupt of us finds it hard to believe in evil unless it is based on some interest. We reject the idea of harm done for no cause and without gain as anomalous.


When they arrived, Morrel was not even out of breath – love gives wings – but Barrois, who had not been in love for a long time, was pouring with sweat.


Danglars felt that suffocating sense of joy that is experienced either by a miser unearthing a lost treasure or by a drowning man whose feet touch solid ground instead of the emptiness that was about to engulf him.


The reader knows the count, so there is no need to mention that he was athletic and daring, and that his mind rebelled against the impossible with that energy peculiar to superior beings. Because of the kind of life he had led, and because of the resolve he had made – and kept – not to shrink from anything, the count had managed to enjoy unknown pleasures in the struggle against nature, which is God, and against the world – which is, near enough, the Devil.


However much a man is inured to taking risks, however well prepared he is for danger, the fluttering of his heart and the prickling of his skin will always let him know the vast difference that lies between dream and reality, planning and execution.


“You wretch: you did at least consider it a pardon when it was given. Your cowardly heart, trembling at the prospect of death, leapt with joy at the announcement of your perpetual shame because, like all convicts, you said to yourself: prisons have doors, the tomb has none. You were right, because the door to your prison opened unexpectedly … And at this, you wretch, you begin to tempt god for a third time. ‘I haven’t got enough,’ you say, when you have more than you ever possessed, and you commit a third crime, motiveless, inexcusable. But God has grown tired; He has punished you.”


His diffidence, which could equally well indicate the astonishment of an innocent man as the shame of a guilty one, gained him some sympathy. Truly generous men are always ready to feel compassion when their enemy’s misfortune exceeds the bounds of their hatred.


“What would you say if you knew the extent of the sacrifice I am making for you? Suppose that the Lord God, after creating the world, after fertilizing the void, had stopped one-third of the way through His creation to spare an angel the tears that our crimes would one day bring to His immortal eyes. Suppose that, having prepared everything, kneaded everything, seeded everything, at the moment when He was about to admire his work. God had extinguished the sun and with His foot dashed the world into eternal night, then you will have some idea … Or, rather, no … No, even then you cannot have any idea of what I am losing by losing my life at this moment.”


“Senseless! The day when I resolved to take my revenge … senseless, not to have torn out my heart!”


“What, this ‘I’ that I thought was something; this ‘I’, of which I was so proud; this ‘I’ that I saw so small in the dungeons of the Chateau d’If and managed to make so great, will be, tomorrow, a speck of dust! Alas, it is not the death of the body that I mourn: is not that destruction of the vital spark the point of rest towards which everything tends, for which every unfortunate years, that material calm which I have so long sighed for and towards which I was proceeding by the painful road of hunger when Faria appeared in my cell? What is death? One step further into calm and two perhaps into silence. No, it is not life that I regret, but the ruin of my plans, which were so long in devising and so laborious to construct. Providence, which I thought favored them, was apparently against them. God did not want them to come to fruition! … And all this, good Lord, because my heart, which I thought was dead, was only numbed; because it awoke, it beat; because I gave way to the pain of that beating which had been aroused in my breast by the voice of a woman!”


Some virtues, when taken to the extreme, become crimes.


From her own point of view – and unfortunately in this world everyone has his or her own point of view which obscures that of others – from her point of view, then,


Whatever philosophers say, a practical man will always contradict them on this: money is a great consolation.


“If anyone had said to your father, at the moment when he was lifting the barrel of the pistol to his head, and if anyone had said to me, at the moment when I was thrusting away from my bed the prison bread that I had not touched for three days, I say, if anyone had said to us at that climactic moment: Live! Because the day will come when you will be happy and bless life; then, wherever that voice had come from, we would have answered it with a smile of scepticism or with pained incredulity; and yet, how many times, when he embraced you, has your father not blessed life and how many times have I … Look at me. I have no tears in my eyes, or fever in my veins, or dread beatings in my heart; yet I am watching you suffer, you, Maximilien, whom I love as I should my own son. Well, Maximilien, does that not tell you that grief is like life and that there is always something unknown beyond it? So, if I beg you, if I order you to live, Morrel, it is in the certainty that one day you will thank me for saving your life.”


“I reached the age of twenty-nine without ever being in love, because none of the feeling that I experienced up to then deserved the name of love. Then, at twenty-nine I saw Valentine. For almost two years I have loved her, for almost two years I have been able to read the virtues of womanhood, inscribed by the hand of the Lord on that heart which was as plain to me as a book.”


a favour she would purchase at the cost of her life


“Delays double the pain of parting.”


“Like a benefactor in a novel, I should have left without seeing you again; but such conduct was beyond my feeble powers, because I am a weak and vain man, and because a joyful and tender look from one of my fellow-creatures does me good. Now I am leaving, and I shall take selfishness to the point of saying to you: Don’t forget me, my friends, because you will probably never see me again.”


“Alas, our poor species can pride itself on the fact that every man thinks himself unhappier than another unfortunate, weeping and moaning beside him.”


“As for you, Morrel, this is the whole secret of my behaviour towards you: there is neither happiness nor misfortune in this world, there is merely the comparison between one state and another, nothing more. Only someone who has suffered the deepest misfortune is capable of experiencing the heights of felicity. Maximilien, you must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live. So, do live and be happy, children dear to my heart, and never forget that, until the day when God deigns to unveil the future to mankind, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: ‘wait’ and ‘hope’!


Penguin Classics // Robin Buss 1996, 2003 // ISBN-13: 978-0-14-044296-6