Patron-Minette

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Patron-Minette
Patron minette.jpg
The Patron-Minette gang in their hide-out in the Paris sewer system. Illustration by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot
Created by Victor Hugo
Information
NationalityFrench

Patron-Minette was the name given to a street gang in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables and the musical of the same name. The gang consisted of four criminals: Montparnasse, Claquesous, Babet, and Gueulemer. They were well acquainted with the Thénardiers, who recruited them to assist in robbing Jean Valjean.

Victor Hugo 19th-century French poet, novelist, and dramatist

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles.

<i>Les Misérables</i> 1862 Victor Hugo novel

Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.

<i>Les Misérables</i> (musical) musical, premiered in French in 1980, in English in 1985

Les Misérables, colloquially known in English-speaking countries as Les Mis, is a sung-through musical based on the 1862 novel of the same name by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. The musical premiered in Paris in 1980, and has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French-language lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. An English-language libretto was written by Herbert Kretzmer. The London production has run continuously since October 1985, making it the longest-running musical in the West End and the second longest-running musical in the world after the original Off-Broadway run of The Fantasticks.

Contents

Hugo explains that the name "Patron-Minette" is an old-fashioned slang expression for the early dawn, "the hour at which their work ended, the dawn being the vanishing moment for phantoms and for the separation of ruffians". [1]

Character descriptions

Three members of Patron-Minette in theatrical masks in the commedia dell'arte style Patron-Minette.JPG
Three members of Patron-Minette in theatrical masks in the commedia dell'arte style

Montparnasse was, in the words of Hugo, "scarcely more than a child, a youth of under twenty with a pretty face, cherry-lips, glossy dark hair and the brightness of Springtime in his eyes. ... The gamin turned vagabond and the vagabond become an assassin ... A fashion plate living in squalor and committing murder." He is referred to as Thénardier's "unofficial son-in-law" after having an intimate liaison with Éponine during the attempted robbery at Gorbeau house. In a later attempt to mug Valjean he is easily overpowered. After lecturing the thief, Valjean gives him a purse with a little over six napoléons inside, [lower-roman 1] but Gavroche steals it to give to M. Mabeuf, an old horticulturist that was falling into debt. Montparnasse later seeks out Gavroche to help Thénardier escape from prison.

Napoléon (coin) colloquial term for a former French gold coin

The Napoléon is the colloquial term for a former French gold coin. The coins were minted in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 40, 50, and 100 francs. This article focuses on the 20 franc coins issued during the reign of Napoléon Bonaparte, which are 21 mm in diameter, weigh 6.45 grams and, at 90% pure, contain 0.1867 troy ounces or 5.805 grams of pure gold. The coin was issued during the reign of Napoleon I and features his portrait on the obverse. The denomination continued in use through the 19th century and later French gold coins in the same denomination were generally referred to as "Napoléons". Earlier French gold coins are referred to as Louis or écu. Gold Napoléons have historically proven more resilient than other gold coins to economic forces, such as after the Suez crisis when unlike other coins Napoléons did not weaken.

Claquesous is described by Hugo as a creature of the night, and a vague underworld dweller at best, a ventriloquist, more often masked than not and shrouded in a thick cloud of mystery. He is possibly a police informer, given his almost miraculous talent for escaping police custody, most notably after Javert captures the gang at Gorbeau house. Javert ponders, "Had Claquesous melted into the shadows like a snow-flake in water? Had there been unavowed connivance of the police agents?" [2] Under the name of Le Cabuc he joins the revolutionaries at the barricade, where he is shot by Enjolras for murdering an innocent citizen. Hugo suggests that he may have been sent to discredit the revolutionaries.

Enjolras fictional character from Les Misérables

Enjolras is a fictional character who acts as the charismatic leader of the Friends of the ABC in the 1862 novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. In both the novel and the musical that it inspired, Enjolras is a revolutionary who fights for a France with more rights for the poor and oppressed masses, ultimately dying for his beliefs in the June 1832 rebellion.

Babet was a jack of all trades, a performer, a doctor, tall and thin with "daylight ... visible through his bones". He had a family (a wife and children) at one point, but lost them "as one loses a pocket handkerchief".

Gueulemer is described as the most physically imposing of the gang members, "a Hercules ... come down in the world". However, he was known to have very little brain.

In the novel

Eponine intervenes to stop the gang robbing Valjean's home Eponine and Patron-Minette.jpg
Éponine intervenes to stop the gang robbing Valjean's home

The gang are introduced with one of Hugo's long philosophical disquisitions on the relationship between different kinds of underground culture, set up as a contrast with the student revolutionaries of the Friends of the ABC. Their identities are constantly shifting, via a series of assumed names. [3]

Friends of the ABC fictional revolutionary group from Les Misérables

The Friends of the ABC is a fictional association of revolutionary French republican students featured in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. In French, the name of the society is a pun, in which abaissés, is pronounced [abese], very similar to A-B-C. Their members represent a wide variety of political viewpoints, ranging from communist agitation to advocacy for democracy to supporting the levellers and more, but on 5 June 1832 they all join the popular insurrection known as the June Rebellion and organize the construction of a massive barricade. Hugo brings them into the narrative when Marius Pontmercy, one of the novel's principal characters, attaches himself to the group without becoming one of them. With their fight led by Enjolras, all of the members of the group die during the rebellion.

Anne Ubersfeld notes that they are associated with theatre, all having worked in street theatre as bit-part actors or clowns, creating "a theatricality in the lower depths, a social theater of crime, a carnival of horror". [4] When they contacted by Thenadier to rob Valjean, they wear theatrical masks. Valjean frees Javert from the revolutionaries, just as Javert's intervention rescued Valjean from the gang's attempt to rob him. [3]

They are also linked to irrationality and superstition. When Éponine intervenes to disrupt their plan to invade Valjean's house, the gang withdraws after convincing themselves that they have witnessed a series of bad omens. [3]

In the musical

The character of Gueulemer is replaced by Brujon, a criminal who appears in the novel as an associate of the gang but not as one of the Patron-Minette quartet. The gang first appears in Look Down/The Robbery/Javert's Intervention at which point they are introduced to the audience by Thénardier ("Everyone here?/You know your place./ Brujon, Babet, Claquesous!/ You, Montparnasse/ Watch for the law with Éponine..."). Montparnasse also appears in a brief scene with Éponine at the beginning of "The Attack on Rue Plumet", in which she discovers the impending attack on Valjean's house. That scene is often cut from recordings. The gang attempts to rob Jean Valjean's house until Éponine, afraid that Marius will think her a criminal, screams to send them away.

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Jean Valjean fictional character from Les Misérables

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Cosette fictional character from Les Misérables

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Gavroche fictional street child from Les Misérables

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References

  1. The usual napoléon of this period was worth 20 francs, i.e. 120 francs in total
  1. Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables (English language), Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition, 481
  2. Les misérables, Volume IV, Saint Denis, Book Second - Eponine, Chapter 2.
  3. 1 2 3 Kathryn M. Grossman, Figuring Transcendence in Les Miserables: Hugo's Romantic Sublime, Southern Illinois University Press, 1994, p.24; 46; 133.
  4. Anne Ubersfeld, Lire Les Misérables, José Corti, 1985, p. 126.