Sentiments Abstractly Christian
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, and the Catholic Imagination
by Addison H. Hart
In 1985, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables opened to less than enthusiastic critical acclaim. The majority of critics were dismissive of the production. “There is a string of impressive sights over the three-and-a-quarter hours,” wrote John Hiley, “but little to grip the ear and still less to trouble the mind.”1 Susie Mackenzie chimed in: “[O]ur admiration is solicited not on the grounds of something truthful and profound, not on the grounds of something intelligent and stimulating, but on the grounds of melodrama, contrivance and artifice.”2 Lynn Gardner called the production a “load of sentimental old tosh,”3 and Christopher Edwards wrote it off as simply “sentimental and melodramatic.”4
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Addison H. Hart is retired from active ministry as parish priest and university chaplain. He is the author of Knowing Darkness: On Skepticism, Melancholy, Friendship, and God and The Yoke of Jesus: A School for the Soul in Solitude (both from Eerdmans). His forthcoming book is a study of the Sermon on the Mount. He lives and writes in Norheimsund, Norway.
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