There is nothing like those for whom it is none of their business, for spying on other people’s actions. Why is it that gentleman only ever comes at dusk? Why does Monsieur So-and-so never hang his key on the hook on Thursdays? Why does he always go down the back streets? Why does madame always get out of her cab before she reaches the house? Why does she send out for a pad of writing-paper when she has ‘a whole writing-case full of it’? et cetera, et cetera. There are some people who to find out the answer to these mysteries, which in any case are absolutely no concern of theirs, spend more money, waste more time, take more trouble than it would take to do ten good deeds. And all this for nothing, just for the pleasure of it, with no other reward for their curiousity except curiousity. They will follow this man or that woman for days on end, keeping watch for hours on street corners, in gateways, at night, in the cold and rain. They will bribe a chambermaid, offer inducements to a doorkeeper. Why? For no reason. Sheer desperation to see, to know, and to find out. Sheer compulsion to gossip. And often, to the great joy of those who have ‘uncovered all’, with nothing to be gained by it, out of sheer instinct, these secrets once found out and these mysteries made public, these enigmas exposed to the light of day lead to catastrophes, duels, bankruptices, ruined families, devastated lives. A sorry state of affairs. Certain individuals are malicious solely because of their need to talk. Their conversation, drawing-room chatter, boudouir gossip, is like those chimneys that burn wood fast. They need a great deal of fuel, and their fuel is their fellow human being.
– les miserables, victor hugo