Illustrate the Brick, from Tome 1: Fantine, Livre premier: Un juste, Chapitre 13: Ce qu’il croyait:
Un matin, il était dans son jardin; il se croyait seul, mais sa sœur marchait derrière lui sans qu’il la vît; tout à coup, il s’arrêta, et il regarda quelque chose à terre; c’était une grosse araignée, noire, velue, horrible. Sa sœur l’entendit qui disait:
—Pauvre bête! ce n’est pas sa faute.
One morning he was in his garden, and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind him, unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the ground; it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard him say:—
“Poor beast! It is not its fault!”
So, obviously the main reason I chose to illustrate this particular incident is that I already basically know how to draw adorable spiders. But I think it also actually says something pretty interesting about the Bishop and the way his character is shown to change over time in these chapters. (I would have said “over the course of these chapters” except it’s Hugo, so there’s nothing linear about the way time passes during them.) The bishop shows his compassion for all living things by saying “Poor thing! It’s not its fault,” but I can’t help being reminded of that other great work of Western literature, the most beautiful toad in the world. Wouldn’t we all much prefer to face the compassion of the speaker there to the compassion the Bishop is showing here? (Also, of course, spiders are beautiful. I have a long history of baby-talking them about how pretty they are. Especially the fuzzy ones. Because adorable.) We want to be admired for being beautiful, not pitied because it’s not our fault God made us ugly.
And this isn’t meant as a deep criticism of the Bishop, but in a way it sums up the journey Hugo shows him on - he starts out already showing kindness and pity to all creatures; but then he wakes up, step by step, to the equal (and beautiful) humanity of all people, even conventionaires, until he can greet Valjean not as a pitiful downtrodden wretch, but as a brother in truth.
Notes on the art: This was done entirely in GIMP on a Wacom tablet, mostly with the “pen generic” brush. The spider is based on a Google image search for “European wolf spider” because wolf spiders are the most adorable of all spiders, but taking a lesson from the Bishop who “il ne cherchait pas le moins du monde à décider entre Tournefort et la méthode naturelle”, I have made no effort to accurately depict any particular species. The decision to go for plain black penwork is probably the fault of the most beautiful toad in the world. The lettering is v. vaguely based on a mid-19th century script from Fairbanks’ Book of Scripts.
The quoted text comes from tenlittlebullets’ crowdsourced Les Mis annotation project. I really should go in and add my notes on Tournefort and the Natural Method - Tournefort was a French botanist who developed the most widely-used pre-Linnaeus system of plant taxonomy; the Natural Method refers to Linnaeus (somewhat amusingly, as Linnaeus always insisted on calling his system the “Sexual System” instead, which probably held back its general adoption for decades; “Natural Method” is the Victorians’ attempt to sanitize the sex out of it.)