L’Homme qui rit. Tome premier [- quatrième].

Brussels, A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Ce, 1869.

4 vols bound in two, 8vo; pp. 419; 334; 324; 420; a fine, large copy in an English contemporary binding of green half calf, spines richly decorated in gilt, raised bands, leather lettering-pieces, marbled edges, some light fading and wear.


US $333€278

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First edition of Hugo’s social novel set in late seventeenth-century England; the Brussels edition, which appeared simultaneously with the Paris printing.

‘Full of Hugolian archetypes, this grotesque romance seems to reflect the promise and the failure of revolutionary ideals that shaped nineteenth century French political history. The hero, Gwynplaine, mutilated by order of the king, has had a smile carved into his face so that he will not be recognized as the heir to a nobleman who refused to accept a Restoration monarchy after the fall of Cromwell’s republic. When he discovers his identity, Gwynplaine gives a moving speech to the House of Lords, pleading the cause of the people. The grimace causes the audience to dissolve into hilarity, and the novel ends with the suggestion of Gwynplaine’s suicide’ (New Oxford companion to literature in French).

Carteret I, 423.

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