BOOK BITES: The Count of Monte Cristo

“All human wisdom is contained in these two words:  Wait and Hope.”

– Edmund Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo

After our wonderful experience reading Les Miserables, my lovely book club decided to stick with the French and choose The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas as our bonus read for this last summer.  It had been recommended to me by a number of friends over the years, and this seemed like the right time to tackle its 1100+ pages.

For some reason, I never have the energy to write book reviews or summations (so you can read this summary/review here.)  But I love to underline phrases and passages that moved me and have included them below.  This beautiful story drew me in because of its complex characters, strong messages, and beautiful language.  But it has made my “favorites books of all times” list because of its realistic yet creative acknowledgement of God.

One of the downfalls of modern literature is dumbing God down to a clown, a tyrant, or as if he doesn’t exist at all.  What I love about the classics, is the fine line that they walk.  There was no cultural pressure to push God out, so he is acknowledged by a wide array of characters in a variety of ways.  And there was no religious cultural pressure to shove Him back in to contemporary culture’s view, so the interactions with and descriptions of Him are not saccharin or overthought.

I hope to write a unique story someday that walks this line.

Until then, read The Count of Monte Cristo! =)

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO QUOTES

 Dantes had exhausted all human resources; and he then turned to God.

 [Abbe’ Faria] was a man who could thus forget his own misfortunes while occupying himself with the destinies of others.”

 …There are two distinct sorts of ideas, those that proceed from the head and those that emanate from the heart.

“Come,” said the Abbe, “let me hear your story.”

…To learn is not to know; there are the learners and the learned.  Memory makes the one, philosophy the other.

“I tasted the [idea of vengeance] slowly in the night of my dungeon and the despair of my captivity.  But now I have forgiven the world for the love of you; now I see you young and full of hope and prospect.”  (Abbe Faria, on his deathbed, to Edmond Dantes)

“My real treasure is not, my dear friend, which awaits me beneath the somber rocks of Monte Cristo, but it is your presence, our living together five or six hours a day…it is those rays of intelligence you have elicited from my brain, the languages you have implanted in my memory…Those different sciences that you have made so easy to me by the depth of the knowledge you possess of them – this is my treasure, my beloved friend, and with this you have made me rich and happy.”  (Edmond Dantes to Abbe Faria on his deathbed)

Providence has done something for you, he restores more to you than he takes away… And now my dear friend, sole consolation of my wretched existence,  – you whom heaven gave me somewhat late, but still gave me, a priceless gift, and for which I am most grateful, at the moment of separating from you forever, I wish you all the happiness and all the prosperity you so well deserve.  My son, I bless thee!”  (Abbe Faria’s blessing to Edmond Dantes)

“Ah! Ah!”  [Edmond Dantes] muttered, “who inspires me with this thought?  Is that thou, gracious God?”

“Oh, my God!  I have suffered enough surely. Have pity on me, and do for me what I am unable to do for myself.”  (Edmond Dantes in his attempt to escape wrongful imprisonment.)

Providence, who, whilst limiting the power of man, has filled him with boundless desires.

M. Morrel (after losing his last ship and going bankrupt but learning the entire crew was safe) raised his two hands to heaven with an expression of resignation and sublime gratitude.  “Thanks, my God,” said he, “at least you strike but me alone.”

“And now,” said [Edmond Dantes/The Count of Monte Cristo after rewarding the one friend who tried to save him], “farewell kindness, humanity, and gratitude!  Farewell to all the feelings that expand the heart!  I have been Heaven’s substitute to recompense the good – now the God of Vengeance yields to me his power to punish the wicked!”

“I recommend you to treasure up [these words] for your consolation – that all earthly ills yield two all-potent remedies, time and silence.” (The Count to Bertuccio)

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish,” said Emmanuel, “know not what is the real happiness of life; just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone estimate the value of a clear and serene sky.”

“It is a fine thing to be rich.” Said M. Danglars.

“And to have ideas,” added Madame Danglars.

“Calm yourself, my dear child, and take courage in remembering that there is a God who will punish traitors.”  (The Count to Haydee)

“My God!” he exclaimed, “thy vengeance is sometimes delayed, but only that it may fall the more effectually.”

My favorite passage in the book:   [From the Chapter, The Hand of God]

“God’s justice!  Speak not of it, M. l’Abbe.  If God were just, you know many would be punished who now escape,”  said Caderousse.

“Listen,” said the Abbe, extending his hand over the wounded man, as if to command him to believe; “this is what the God whom, on your death-bed you refuse to believe, has done for you; he gave you health, strength, regular employment, even friends–a life, in fact, which a man might enjoy with a calm conscience.

Instead of improving these gifts, rarely granted so abundantly, this has been your course; you have given yourself up to sloth and drunkenness, and in a fit of intoxication have ruined your best friend…when you had betrayed him, God began not to strike, but to warn you;  poverty overtook you; you had already passed half of your life in coveting that which you might have honourably acquired, and…when God worked a miracle on your behalf by sending you a fortune, you wished to double it;  by murder!  You succeeded, and then God snatched it from you, and brought you to justice…but in his mercy, spared your life.

Then the way was opened for you unexpectedly; you were rescued and received a second fortune.  Wretched creature!  You tempted God a third time.  ‘I have not enough,’ you said and committed a third crime, without reason.  God is wearied; he has punished you.”

“Then you too will be punished, for you should have prevented Benedetto from killing me.”

“Perhaps if I had found you humble and penitent, I might have prevented Benedetto from killing you; but I found you proud and bloodthirsty, and I left you in the hands of God.”

I do not believe there is a God!” howled Caderousse.

“What!  You do not believe in God when he is striking you dead?  You will not believe in him, who requires but a prayer, a word, a tear, and he will forgive?  God, who might have directed the assassin’s dagger so as to end your career in a moment, has given you this quarter of an hour for repentance.”

No,” said Caderousse, “I will not repent.  There is no God, there is no Providence—all comes by chance.”

There is a Providence, there is a God, of which you are a striking proof, as you lie in utter despair denying him; while I stand before you, rich, happy, safe, and entreating that God in whom you endeavor not to believe, while in your heart you still believe in him.”

But who are you, then?” asked Caderousse, fixing his eyes on him.

“Look well at me,” he said putting the light near his face.

“Well!  The Abbe Busoni.”

Monte Cristo took off the wig which disfigured him, and let fall his black hair… “Think again, do you not recollect me?…You have seen me, you knew me once.

Supported by a supernatural power, and half raising himself to see more distinctly, Caderousse said, “who are you then?”

I am—I am–“ And his almost closed lips uttered a name so low that the count himself appeared afraid to hear it.

Oh, my God, my God!” said he, “pardon me for having denied thee; thou dost exist; thou art indeed man’s father in heaven, and his judge on earth.  My God, my Lord, I have long despised thee!  Pardon me, my God; receive me, O my Lord!”

Caderousse sighed deeply, and fell back with a groan.

One!” said the count mysteriously….

“…In my opinion, those who ask no questions are the best comforters.” (Beauchamp)

Men who are truly generous are always ready to be compassionate when the misfortune of their enemy surpasses the limits of their hatred.

(The Count of Monte Cristo as Christ figure)  “…I, betrayed, sacrifice, buried, have risen from my tomb, by the grace of God, to punish [Ferdinand, my traitor.]  He sends me for that purpose, and here I am.”

Joy to hearts which have suffered long is like the dew on the ground after a long drought; both the heart and the ground absorb that beneficent moisture falling on them, and nothing is outwardly apparent.

Unfortunately in this world of ours, each person views things through a certain medium, which prevents his seeing them in the same light as others…

“On your knees!  He is our benefactor!  The savior of our father!”

Julie threw herself into the arms of the count; Emmanuel embraced him as a guardian angel…Then the iron-hearted man felt his heart swell in his breast; a flame seemed to rush from his throat to his eyes, he bent his head and wept.  For a while, nothing was heard but a succession of sobs, while the incense from their grateful hearts mounted to heaven.

A sentence I wish I had written:  He opened the window; a bright streak crossed the sky, and seemed to divide in half the poplars, which stood out in black relief on the horizon.  In the clover fields beyond the chestnut trees, a lark was mounting up to heaven while pouring out her clear morning song.

“…I feel it impossible to struggle against this deadly weight which crushes me!  Gentlemen, I know I am in the hands of an avenging God!”  – Villaforte, after being rightly accused in his own court for crimes long ago committed.

“Maximilian,” said the count, “the friends that we have lost do not repose in the bosom of the earth, but are buried deep in our hearts; and it has been thus ordained, that we may always be accompanied by them.  I have two friends, who in this way never depart from me: the one who gave me being, and the other who conferred knowledge and intelligence on me.  Their spirits live in me…”

“I am, indeed, most wretched,” replied Mercedes.  “Alone in the world, I had but my son, and he has left me!”

“He possesses a noble heart, madame,” replied the count, “and he has acted rightly.  He feels that every man owes a tribute to his country.  Had he remained with you, his life must have become a hateful burden, nor would he have participated in your griefs.  He will increase in strength and honour by struggling with adversity, which he will convert into prosperity.  Leave him to build up the future for you, and I venture to say, you will confide it to safe hands.” (Reminiscent of Luke 2:52, Christ growing in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.)

 

Monte Cristo approached her, and silently took her hand.

“No,” said she, withdrawing it gently, “no, my friend, touch me not.  You have spared me, yet of all those who have fallen under your vengeance I was the most guilty.  They were influenced by hatred, by avarice and by self-love; but I was base, and, for want of courage acted against my judgment.  Nay, do not press my hand, Edmond!  You are thinking of some kind expression, I am sure, to console me, but do not bestow it on me, for I am no longer worthy of kindness.  See, misfortune has silvered my hair; my eyes have shed so many tears that they are encircled by a rim of purple; and my brow is wrinkled.  You , Edmond, on the contrary, – you are still young, handsome, dignified; it is because you have never doubted the mercy of God, and he has supported and strengthened you in all your trials.”  (Sadly, and much like many of us, Mercedes, is unable to receive the grace God has for her.)

“No, Mercedes,” said Monte Cristo, ‘no; you judge yourself with too much severity.  You are a noble-minded woman, and it was your grief that disarmed me.  Still I was but an agent, led on by an invisible and offended Deity…at whose feet I have prostrated myself daily for the last ten years…  The most dreadful misfortunes, sufferings, abandonments, and persecutions formed the trials of my youth; when suddenly, from captivity, solitude, misery, I was restored to light and liberty, and became the possessor of a fortune so brilliant, so unbounded, so unheard-of, that I must have been blind not to be conscious that God had endowed me with it to work out his own great designs.”  (Was this a generous view of his purpose…?)

“Let us talk like men,” he said, looking at the count.

“Proceed.”

“Count,” said Morrel, “you are the epitome of all human knowledge, and you seem to me a being descended from a wiser and a more advanced world than ours.”

“There is something true in what you say,” said the count, with that smile which made him so handsome, “I have descended from a planet, called grief.”

His final letter of confession and wisdom to his friend:

My Dear Maximilian,

Tell the angel who will watch over your future destiny to pray sometimes for a man who, like Satan, thought himself, for an instant, equal to God; but who now acknowledges, with Christian humility, that God alone possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom.  Perhaps those prayers may soften the remorse he feels in his heart.

As for you, this is the secret of my conduct towards you.  There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.  He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.  We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.

Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, “Wait and hope.”

Your friend,

Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo

Wait and hope, friends.  Wait and hope.

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3 thoughts on “BOOK BITES: The Count of Monte Cristo

  1. Loved reading your thoughts on this (and I checked out the basis for your blog, super interesting!). I just re-read the Count of Monte Cristo recently too, and I totally agree with you on how wonderful it was to read something which did not mock or try to “dumb” God down. I have not read the unabridged yet, but I noticed some of your awesome quotes seemed unfamiliar, and now I want to see what all I’ve missed out on. When I re-read it, I did feel like Dantes overstepped his boundaries in being an “instrument” to substituting himself for God. I’ve actually started to look into some of the historical context of this time, and have found that 19th Century French society was really struggling with figuring out where to draw the line of religion in the political and social sphere. So that’s interesting. My favorite part of this book is the ending line “wait and hope.”

  2. So glad you enjoyed the quotes! I always assume that only a precious few people will make it to the end (which IS the best part. =)) Interesting historical context too… Thanks for commenting!

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