The Toilers of the Sea

Victor Hugo

“No character was ever thrown into such strange relief as Gilliatt… here, indeed, the true position of man in the universe.” —Robert Louis Stevenson

The Toilers of the Sea tells the tale of Gilliatt, an outcast fisherman who must rescue one of the engines from a wrecked steamship. If successful, he will win the hand of the shipowner's beautiful daughter, Deruchette. He will brave the harsh rocks, the freezing waves, and even the grasp of a sea monster to prove his worth. 

Both a fairytale and richly detailed study of early nineteenth-century Guernsey, The Toilers of the Sea is the oft-forgotten novel that completes Hugo’s famed trilogy with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables. It is a tribute to the drama of nature and the insignificance of man against it, to solitude in exile, and the light we choose to carry in the darkness.

Smith & Taylor Classics is an imprint of Unnamed Press, combining Unnamed’s mission to uplift the unlikely and unexpected from around the world with editors Allison Miriam Smith and Brandon Taylor’s shared love of classic literature. S&T seeks to reintroduce titles that pushed the boundaries of their time, and whose themes continue to resonate today. Featuring both celebrated and lesser-known authors from the past, S&T’s list compliments the Unnamed list of bold contemporary voices. 

Rather than introductions, each edition will feature a conversation between two esteemed readers (established writers, critics, satirists, academics) debuting with imprint editors Allison and Brandon’s own discussion around the oft-overlooked classic by Edith Wharton, Twilight Sleep. In contrast to other classics lines, S&T’s approach will not be one of taste-making or “discovery”, but rather engagement— re-introducing books and their authors to the discourse at large and inviting contemporary voices active in the discourse to join us in the conversation. In recent years, readers have increasingly turned to classics and rediscovered titles both as an escape and as a means of making sense of a complex and fraught world. We believe classics are for everyone, and by revitalizing conver­sations around these novels we hope our readers find themselves in stories that might have otherwise been overlooked.