We may say, by the way, that success is a hideous thing. Its counterfeit of merit deceives men. To the mass, success has almost the same appearance as supremacy. Success, that pretender to talent, has a dupe - history. Juvenal and Tacitus only reject it. In our days, a philosophy which is almost an official has entered into its service, wears its livery, and waits in its antechamber. Success; that is the theory. Prosperity supposes capacity. Win in the lottery, and you are an able man. The victor is venerated. To be born with a caul is everything. Have but luck, and you will have the rest; be fortunate, and you will be thought great. Beyond the five or six great exceptions, which are the wonder of their age, contemporary admiration is nothing but shortsightedness. Gilt is gold. To be a chance comer is no drawback, provided you have improved your chances. The common herd is an old Narcissus, who adores himself, and who applauds the common. That mighty genius, by which one become a Moses, an Aeschylus, a Dante, a Michelangelo, or a Napoleon, the multitude assigns at once and by acclamation to whoever succeed in his object, whatever it maybe. Let a notary rise to be a deputy; let a sham Corneille write Tiridate; let a eunuch come into the possession of a harem; let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of an epoch; let an apothecary invent pasteboard soles for army shoes, and lay up, by selling this pasteboard itself of leather for the army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, four hundred thousand livres in the funds; let a pack-pedlar espouse usury and bring her to bed of seven or eight millions, of which he is the father and she the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by talking through his nose; let a steward of a good house become so rich on leaving service that he is made Minister of Finance; - men call that Genius, just as they call the face of Mousqueton, Beauty and the bearing of Claude, Majesty. They confound the radiance of the stars of heaven with the radiations which a duck’s foot leaves in the mud.
“Les Misérables” l Victor Hugo