Toilers Of The Sea

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The Toilers of the Sea tells of the reclusive Guernsey fisherman Gilliatt, who salvages the engines of a wrecked ship by performing great feats of engineering, matching wits with sea and storm, and doing battle with a great sea monster - all to win the hand of a shipowner's daughter.
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Toilers of the Sea

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The Toilers of the Sea tells of the reclusive Guernsey fisherman Gilliatt, who salvages the engines of a wrecked ship by performing great feats of engineering, matching wits with sea and storm, and doing battle with a great sea monster - all to win the hand of a shipowner's daughter.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Here to help celebrate the great Romantic writer’s bicentennial year is a lively new translation of the least known of his massive, unruly masterpieces. Though it lacks the concentrated melodramatic power of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this agreeably preposterous romance, originally published in 1866 in a carefully edited and partially censored text, displays most of Hugo’s enduring crowd-pleasing skills: a mastery of atmosphere (especially in the essay-like opening sequence, "The Channel Archipelago"), deep and credible empathy with working-class heroes and heroines, and a rare ability to create vivid and visceral action scenes (most notably evident in its hero’s climactic battle with the loathsome octopus known as the "pieuvre," or devilfish). The central story, in which its protagonist Gilliatt accepts the task of freeing a grounded ship (for which service he will be awarded the hand of a wealthy shipowner’s daughter), is energetically juxtaposed against richly detailed pictures of seamen’s occupations and marine life that recall (though in no way rival) Melville’s definitive mixture of narrative and fact in Moby-Dick. And, although Toilers is unmistakably more romance than realistic novel, the bracing bitterness of its ironic conclusion gives it a haunting staying power. Those of us who first "read" this novel in the Classic Comics version of half a century ago will be grateful to discover that Hugo’s impossibly grandiose and overblown yarn remains as perversely irresistible as ever.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781286052105
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/2012
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Hugo
James Hogarth was educated at Edinburgh University, and was later undersecretary in the Scottish Office.

Graham Robb’s many books include Victor Hugo: A Biography, which won the 1997 Whitbread Biography Award.


Novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist, politician, and leader of the French Romantic movement from 1830 on, Victor-Marie Hugo was born in Besançon, France, on February 26, 1802. Hugo's early childhood was turbulent: His father, Joseph-Léopold, traveled as a general in Napoléon Bonaparte's army, forcing the family to move frequently. Weary of this upheaval, Hugo's mother, Sophie, separated from her husband and settled in Paris. Victor's brilliance declared itself early in the form of illustrations, plays, and nationally recognized verse. Against his mother's wishes, the passionate young man fell in love and secretly became engaged to Adèle Foucher in 1819. Following the death of his mother, and self-supporting thanks to a royal pension granted for his first book of odes, Hugo wed Adèle in 1822.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo came into his own as a writer and figurehead of the new Romanticism, a movement that sought to liberate literature from its stultifying classical influences. His 1827 preface to the play Cromwell proclaimed a new aesthetic inspired by Shakespeare, based on the shock effects of juxtaposing the grotesque with the sublime. The great success of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) confirmed Hugo's primacy among the Romantics.

By 1830 the Hugos had four children. Exhausted from her pregnancies and her husband's insatiable sexual demands, Adèle began to sleep alone, and soon fell in love with Hugo's best friend, the critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. They began an affair. The Hugos stayed together as friends, and in 1833 Hugo met the actress Juliette Drouet, who would remain his primary mistress until her death 50 years later.

Personal tragedy pursued Hugo relentlessly. His jealous brother Eugène went permanently insane following Victor's wedding to Adèle. His daughter, Léopoldine, together with her unborn child and her devoted husband, died at 19 in a boating accident on the Seine. Hugo never fully recovered from this loss.

Political ups and downs ensued as well, following the shift of Hugo's early royalist sympathies toward liberalism during the late 1820s. He first held political office in 1843, and as he became more engaged in France's social troubles, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly following the February Revolution of 1848. After Napoléon III's coup d'état in 1851, Hugo's open opposition created hostilities that ended in his flight abroad from the new government.

Declining at least two offers of amnesty -- which would have meant curtailing his opposition to the Empire -- Hugo remained in exile in the Channel Islands for 19 years, until the fall of Napoléon III in 1870. Meanwhile, the seclusion of the islands enabled Hugo to write some of his most famous verse as well as Les Misérables (1862). When he returned to Paris, the country hailed him as a hero. Hugo then weathered, within a brief period, the siege of Paris, the institutionalization of his daughter Adèle for insanity, and the death of his two sons. Despite this personal anguish, the aging author remained committed to political change. He became an internationally revered figure who helped to preserve and shape the Third Republic and democracy in France. Hugo's death on May 22, 1885, generated intense national mourning; more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Good To Know

Hugo was seen by his fans as a grand, larger-than-life character -- and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox in one sitting, fast for three days, and then work without stopping for a week.

Hugo owned a pet cat named Gavroche -- the name of one of the primary characters in Les Misérables.

The longest sentence ever written in literature is in Les Misérables; depending on the translation, it consists of about 800 words.

When Hugo published Les Misérables, he was on holiday. After not hearing anything about its reception for a few days, Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher, reading, simply:


The complete reply from the publisher:


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    1. Also Known As:
      Victor-Marie Hugo
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 26, 1802
    2. Place of Birth:
      Besançon, France
    1. Date of Death:
      May 22, 1885
    2. Place of Death:
      Paris, France

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Ancient Cataclysms

The Atlantic wears away our coasts. The pressure of the current from the Pole deforms our western cliffs. This wall that shields us from the sea is being undermined from Saint-Valery-sur-Somme to Ingouville; huge blocks of rock tumble down, the sea churns clouds of boulders, our harbors are silted up with sand and shingle, the mouths of our rivers are barred. Every day a stretch of Norman soil is torn away and disappears under the waves.

This tremendous activity, which has now slowed down, has had terrible consequences. It has been contained only by that immense spur of land we know as Finistère. The power of the flow of water from the Pole and the violence of the erosion it causes can be judged from the hollow it has carved out between Cherbourg and Brest. The formation of this gulf in the Channel at the expense of French soil goes back before historical times; but the last decisive act of aggression by the ocean against our coasts can be exactly dated. In 709, sixty years before Charlemagne came to the throne, a storm detached Jersey from France. The highest points of other territories submerged in earlier times are still, like Jersey, visible. These points emerging from the water are islands. They form what is called the Norman archipelago. This is now occupied by a laborious human anthill. The industry of the sea, which created ruin, has been succeeded by the industry of man, which has made a people.


Granite to the south, sand to the north; here sheer rock faces, there dunes. An inclined plane of meadowland with rolling hills and ridges of rock; as a fringe to this green carpet,wrinkled into folds, the foam of the ocean; along the coast, low-built fortifications; at intervals, towers pierced by loopholes; lining the low beaches, a massive breastwork intersected by battlements and staircases, invaded by sand and attacked by the waves, the only besiegers to be feared; windmills dismasted by storms, some of them-at the Vale, Ville-au-Roi, St. Peter Port, Torteval-still turning; in the cliffs, anchorages; in the dunes, sheep and cattle; the shepherds' and cattle herds' dogs questing and working; the little carts of the tradesmen of the town galloping along the hollow ways; often black houses, tarred on the west side for protection from the rain; cocks and hens, dung heaps; everywhere cyclopean walls; the walls of the old harbor, now unfortunately destroyed, were a fine sight, with their shapeless blocks of stone, their massive posts, and their heavy chains; farmhouses set amid trees; fields enclosed by waist-high drystone walls, forming a bizarre checkerboard pattern on the low-lying land; here and there a rampart built around a thistle, granite

cottages, huts looking like casemates, little houses capable of withstanding a cannonball; occasionally, in the wildest parts of the country, a small new building topped by a bell-a school; two or three streams flowing through the meadows; elms and oaks; a lily found only here, the Guernsey lily; in the main plowing season, plows drawn by eight horses; in front of the houses, large haystacks on circular stone bases; expanses of prickly furze; here and there gardens in the old French style with clipped yew trees, carefully shaped box hedges and stone vases, mingled with orchards and kitchen gardens; carefully cultivated flowers in countryfolk's gardens; rhododendrons among potatoes; everywhere seaweed laid out on the grass, primrose-colored; in the church yards no crosses, but slabs of stone standing erect, seeming in the moonlight like white ladies; ten Gothic bell towers on the horizon; old churches, new dogmas; Protestant worship housed in Catholic architecture; scattered about in the sand and on the promontories, the somber Celtic enigma in its various forms-menhirs, peulvens, long stones, fairy stones, rocking stones, sounding stones, galleries, cromlechs, dolmens, fairies' houses; remains of the past of all kinds; after the druids the priests; after the priests the rectors; memories of falls from heaven; on one point Lucifer, at the castle of the Archangel Michael; on another, Icart Point, Icarus; almost as many flowers in winter as in summer. This is Guernsey.

Guernsey (continued)

Fertile land, rich, strong. No better pasturage. The wheat is celebrated; the cows are illustrious. The heifers grazing the pastures of St. Peter-in-the-Wood are the equals of the famed sheep of the Confolens plateau. The masterpieces produced by the plow and pastureland of Guernsey win medals at agricultural shows in France and England.

Agriculture benefits from well-organized public services, and an excellent network of communications gives life to the whole island. The roads are very good. Lying on the ground at the junction of two roads is a slab of stone bearing a cross. The earliest known bailiff of Guernsey, recorded in 1284, the first on the list, Gaultier de la Salle, was hanged for various acts of iniquity, and this cross, known as the Bailiff's Cross, marks the spot where he knelt and prayed for the last time. In the island's bays and creeks the sea is enlivened by the multicolored, sugarloaf-shaped mooring buoys, checked red and white, half black and half yellow, variegated in green, blue, and orange in lozenge, mottled and marble patterns, which float just under the water. Here and there can be heard the monotonous chant of a team hauling some vessel, heaving on the towrope. Like the fishermen, the farmworkers look content with their lot; so, too, do the gardeners. The soil, saturated with rock dust, is powerful; the fertilizer, which consists of sand and wrack, adds salt to the granite. Hence the extraordinary vitality and richness of the vegetation-magnolias, myrtles, daphnes, rose laurels, blue hydrangeas; the fuchsias are overabundant; there are arcades of three-leaved verbenas; there are walls of geraniums; oranges and lemons flourish in the open; there are no grapes, which ripen only under glass but when grown in greenhouses are excellent; camellias grow into trees; aloe flowers can be seen in gardens, growing taller than a house. Nothing can be more opulent and prodigal than this vegetation that masks and ornaments the trim fronts of villas and cottages.

Attractive on one side, Guernsey is terrible on the other. The west coast of the island, exposed to winds from the open sea, has been devastated. This is a region of coastal reefs, squalls, careening coves, patched-up boats, fallow land, heath, poor hovels, a few low, shivering hamlets, lean sheep and cattle, short salty grass, and a general air of harsh poverty. Lihou is a small barren island just off the coast that is accessible at low tide. It is covered with scrub and rabbit burrows. The rabbits of Lihou know the time of day, emerging from their holes only at high tide and setting man at defiance. Their friend the ocean isolates them. Fraternal relations of this kind are found throughout nature.

If you dig down into the alluvial soil of Vazon Bay you come upon trees. Here, under a mysterious layer of sand, there was once a forest.

The fishermen so harshly treated by this wind-beaten west coast make skillful pilots. The sea around the Channel Islands is peculiar. Cancale Bay, not far away, is the spot in the world where the tides rise highest.

The Grass

The grass of Guernsey is the same grass as anywhere else, though a little richer: a meadow on Guernsey is almost like a lawn in Cuges or Gémenos.2 You find fescues and tufted hair-grasses, as in any other grass, together with common star-grass and floating manna grass; mountain brome, with spindle-shaped spikelets; the phalaris of the Canaries; agrostis, which yields a green dye; rye grass; yellow lupin; Yorkshire fog, which has a woolly stem; fragrant vernal grass; quaking grass; the rain daisy; wild garlic, which has such a sweet flower but such an acrid smell; timothy grass; foxtail, with an ear in the shape of a club; needle grass, which is used for making baskets; and lyme grass, which is useful for stabilizing shifting sands. Is this all? By no means: there are also cocksfoot, whose flowers grow in clusters; panic millet; and even, according to local agricultural experts, bluestem grass. There are the bastard hawkweed, with leaves like the dandelion, which marks the time of day, and the sow thistle of Siberia, which foretells the weather. All these are grasses, but this mixture of grasses is not to be found everywhere: it is peculiar to the archipelago. It requires granite for its subsoil and the ocean to water it.

Now imagine a thousand insects crawling through the grass and flying above it, some hideous, others charming; under the grass longicorns, longinases, weevils, ants engaged in milking aphids, their milch cows, dribbling grasshoppers, ladybirds, click beetles; on the grass and in the air dragonflies, ichneumons, wasps, golden rose-beetles, bumblebees, lace-winged flies, red-bellied gold wasps, the noisy hoverflies-and you will have some idea of the reverie-inducing spectacle that the Jerbourg ridge or Fermain Bay, around midday in June, offers an entomologist who is something of a dreamer or a poet who is something of a naturalist.

Suddenly, under this sweet green grass, you will notice a small square slab of stone inscribed with the letters WD, which stand for War Department. This is fair and proper. It is right that civilization should show itself here: otherwise the place would be wild. Go to the banks of the Rhine and seek out the most isolated corners of the landscape. At some points it is so majestic that it seems pontifical: God, surely, must be more present here than elsewhere.

Penetrate into the remote fastnesses where the mountains offer the greatest solitude and the forests the greatest silence; choose, let us say, Andernach and its surroundings; visit the obscure and impassive Laacher See, so unknown that it is almost mysterious. No tranquillity can be found more august than this; universal life is here in all its religious serenity; no disturbances; everywhere the profound order of nature's great disorder; walk with a softened heart in this wilderness; it is as voluptuous as spring and as melancholy as autumn; wander about at random; leave behind you the ruined abbey, lose yourself in the moving peace of the ravines, amid the song of birds and the rustle of leaves; drink fresh spring water in your cupped hand; walk, meditate, forget. You come upon a cottage at the corner of a hamlet buried under the trees; it is green, fragrant, and charming, clad in ivy and flowers, full of children and laughter. You draw nearer, and on the corner of the cottage, which is bathed in a brilliant alternation of shadow and sunlight, on an old stone in the old wall, below the name of the hamlet, Niederbreisig, you read 22. landw. bataillon 2. comp.

You thought you were in a village: you find that you are in a regiment. Such is the nature of man.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Sieur Clubin
Book 1 What a Bad Reputation Is Composed Of
I A Word Written on a Blank Page 1
II The Bu de la Rue 3
III "For Your Wife, When You Marry" 6
IV Unpopularity 9
V Other Suspicious Things About Gilliatt 16
VI The Paunch 18
VII For a Haunted House, a Visionary Inhabitant 22
VIII The Chair Gild-Holm-'Ur 24
Book 2 Mess Lethierry
I A Restless Life and a Quiet Conscience 27
II A Taste Which He Had 29
III The Ancient Dialect of the Sea 30
IV One is Vulnerable Through What One Loves 32
Book 3 Durande and Deruchette
I Chatter and Smoke 35
II The Eternal Story of Utopia 37
III Rantaine 39
IV Continuation of the Story of Utopia 42
V The Devil Boat 43
VI Entrance of Lethierry into Glory 47
VII The Same Godfather and the Same Protectress 49
VIII "Bonny Dundee" 51
IX The Man Who Had Seen Through Rantaine 53
X Tales of Long Voyages 54
XI A Glance at Possible Husbands 57
XII An Exception in the Character of Lethierry 58
XIII Heedlessness Adds New Grace to Beauty 61
Book 4 The Bagpipe
I The First Red Gleams of Dawn, or a Conflagration 63
II An Entrance, Step by Step, Into the Unknown 65
III The Air "Bonny Dundee" Finds an Echo on the Hill 67
IV Pour l'oncle et le tuteur, bonshommes taciturnes, Les serenades sont des tapages nocturnes 68
V Well-Merited Success is Always Hated 70
VI The Luck of a Shipwrecked Crew in Meeting a Sloop 71
VII The Luck of an Idler in Being Seen by a Fisherman 73
Book 5 The Revolver
I The Conversations at the Jean Tavern 77
II Clubin Perceives Someone 82
III Clubin Carries Away and Does Not Bring Back 85
IV Plainmont 87
V The Bird-Nesters 92
VI La Jacressarde 101
VII Nocturnal Purchases and a Shady Vendor 106
VIII The Red Ball and the Black Ball Carom 109
IX Information Useful to Persons Who Await or Who Fear Letters from Across the Sea 117
Book 6 The Drunken Helmsman and the Sober Captain
I The Douvres Rocks 123
II Unexpected Brandy 125
III Interrupted Conversations 128
IV In Which Captain Clubin Displays All His Qualities 135
V Clubin Puts the Finishing Touch to Admiration 140
VI The Interior of an Abyss Illuminated 144
VII The Unexpected Intervenes 150
Book 7 The Imprudence of Asking Questions of a Book
I The Pearl at the Bottom of the Precipice 155
II Much Astonishment on the Western Coast 161
III Tempt Not the Bible 165
Part 2 Gilliatt the Crafty
Book 1 The Reef
I The Place Which Is Hard to Reach and Difficult to Leave 173
II The Thoroughness of the Disaster 177
III Sound, But Not Safe 180
IV A Preliminary Examination 181
V A Word as to the Secret Cooperations of the Elements 184
VI A Stable for the Horse 187
VII A Room for the Traveler 189
VIII Importunaeque Volucres 196
IX The Reef and How To Use It 198
X The Forge 201
XI A Discovery 204
XII The Interior of a Submarine Edifice 207
XIII What One Sees There, and What One Gets a Glimpse Of 209
Book 2 The Labor
I The Resources of One Who Lacks Everything 215
II How Shakespeare and Aeschylus Can Meet 217
III Gilliatt's Masterpiece Comes to the Aid of Lethierry's Masterpiece 219
IV Sub Re 222
V Sub Umbra 227
VI Gilliatt Brings the Paunch into Position 231
VII A Danger at Once 234
VIII Change Rather Than Conclusion 236
IX Success Snatched Away as Soon as Granted 239
X The Warnings of the Sea 241
XI A Word to the Wise is Sufficient 244
Book 3 The Battle
I Extremes Meet 247
II Sea Breezes 248
III Explanation of the Noise to Which Gilliatt Listened 251
IV Turba, Turma 254
V Gilliatt Has His Choice 256
VI The Combat 257
Book 4 The False Bottoms
I A Man Who is Hungry is Not the Only Hungry One 275
II The Monster 279
III Another Form of Combat in the Gulf 285
IV Nothing is Hidden and Nothing is Lost 288
V In the Interval That Separates Six Inches from Two Feet There is Room to Lodge Death 291
VI De Profundis ad Altum 294
VII There is an Ear in the Unknown 300
Part 3 Deruchette
Book 1 Night and Moon
I The Bell of the Port 303
II Again the Port Bell 315
Book 2 Gratitude in Full Despotism
I Joy Surrounded by Anguish 323
II The Leather Trunk 330
Book 3 Departure of the Cashmere
I The Havelet Quite Close to the Church 333
II Despairs in Presence of Each Other 335
III The Foresight of Abnegation 342
IV "For Your Wife, When You Marry" 346
V The Great Tomb 349
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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A very bad copy of a very good novel.

    My only complaint with this version of "Toilers of the Sea" is the print size - I've seen phone books that were easier to read. They need to fix this.

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    Posted December 9, 2009

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    Posted August 3, 2011

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