The Bishop’s full name was Charles-Francois-Beinvenu Myriel. Hugo shares that in Myriel’s youth and early manhood, he had been a passionate and sometimes even violent man. “His universal tenderness was less an instinct of nature than the result of a strong conviction.” (52)
After the fighting in the Revolution and losing his wife to lung disease, Myriel becomes a priest. In 1804, Myriel was a cure in Brignolles. During this time, he had business that took him to Paris. While there he went to see the Cardinal. The Cardinal was Napoleon’s uncle.
When Napoleon saw the country priest staring at him he asked “Who is this good man looking at me?” Myriel replied “you are looking at a good man, and I at a great one. May we both be the better for it.” (2) Shortly after the incident, M. Myriel became the Bishop of Digne. It was in Digne that Valjean meets the saintly Bishop.
The Actions of the Bishop of Digne
When he moved to Digne, one of Myriel’s first actions revealed what kind of man he was. He discovered that the bishop’s palace was next door to a small hospital. He felt that it was wrong for the Bishop to live in a spacious palace when the patients were crammed closely together and immediately switched habitations with the hospital.
In addition to surrendering the Bishop’s palace, Myriel created a budget that lasted for his lifetime. Of the fifteen thousand livre budget, the Bishop reserved 1000 livre for personal and household expenses, the rest of the money was given to the poor and invalid.