Victor Marie Hugo (; 26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry and then from his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He also produced more than 4,000 drawings, which have since been admired for their beauty, and earned widespread respect as a campaigner for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.
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Poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights campaigner
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• NOVELS: Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831; Les Misérables, 1862; Les Travailleurs de la mer, 1866 / - • POETRY : Les Châtiments, 1853; Les Contemplations, 1856; La Légende des siècles, 1859 / - • PLAYS (THEATRE): Hernani, 1830; Ruy Blas, 1838
Léopold Sigisbert Hugo
Abel Joseph Hugo, Eugène Hugo
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Novel, Dramaturgy, Theatre, Poetry, Essay, Drawing
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==Victor Marie Hugo== (/ˈhjuːɡoʊ/; French: [viktɔʁ maʁi yɡo] ( listen); 26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels [[Les Misérables]], 1862, and [[The Hunchback of Notre-Dame]] (French: [[Notre-Dame de Paris]]), 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as [[Les Contemplations]] (The Contemplations) and [[La Légende des siècles]] (The Legend of the Ages). He produced more than 4,000 drawings and also campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.
====Though a committed royalist==== when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French currency.
===Personal life=== Victor Hugo was the third son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo (1774–1828) and Sophie Trébuchet (1772–1821); his brothers were Abel Joseph Hugo (1798–1855) and Eugène Hugo (1800–1837). He was born in 1802 in Besançon in the eastern region of Franche-Comté. On 19 November 1821, Léopold Hugo wrote to his son that he had been conceived on one of the highest peaks in the Vosges Mountains, on a journey from Lunéville to Besançon. " This elevated origin, he went on, seems to have had effects on you so that your muse is now continually sublime." Léopold Hugo was a freethinking republican who considered Napoleon a hero; by contrast, Sophie Hugo was a Catholic Royalist who was intimately involved with her possible lover General Victor Lahorie, who was executed in 1812 for plotting against Napoleon.
====Hugo's childhood==== was a period of national political turmoil. Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of the French two years after Hugo's birth, and the Bourbon Monarchy was restored before his 13th birthday. The opposing political and religious views of Hugo's parents reflected the forces that would battle for supremacy in France throughout his life: Hugo's father was a high-ranking officer in Napoleon's army until he failed in Spain (one of the reasons why his name is not present on the Arc de Triomphe).
====Since Hugo's father==== was an officer, the family moved frequently and Hugo learned much from these travels. On a childhood family trip to Naples, Hugo saw the vast Alpine passes and the snowy peaks, the magnificently blue Mediterranean, and Rome during its festivities. Though he was only five years old at the time, he remembered the six-month-long trip vividly. They stayed in Naples for a few months and then headed back to Paris.
====At the beginning of her marriage,==== Hugo's mother Sophie followed her husband to posts in Italy (where Léopold served as a governor of a province near Naples) and Spain (where he took charge of three Spanish provinces). Weary of the constant moving required by military life, and at odds with her husband's lack of Catholic beliefs, Sophie separated temporarily from Léopold in 1803 and settled in Paris with her children. Thereafter she dominated Hugo's education and upbringing. As a result, Hugo's early work in poetry and fiction reflect her passionate devotion to both King and Faith. It was only later, during the events leading up to France's 1848 Revolution, that he would begin to rebel against his Catholic Royalist education and instead champion Republicanism and Freethought.
====Young Victor fell in love==== and, against his mother's wishes, became secretly engaged to his childhood friend Adèle Foucher (1803–1868). Because of his close relationship with his mother, Hugo waited until after her death (in 1821) to marry Adèle in 1822.
====Adèle and Victor Hugo==== had their first child, Léopold, in 1823, but the boy died in infancy. On 28 August 1824, the couple's second child, Léopoldine was born, followed by Charles on 4 November 1826, François-Victor on 28 October 1828, and Adèle on 24 August 1830.
====Hugo's eldest==== and favourite daughter, Léopoldine, died aged 19 in 1843, shortly after her marriage to Charles Vacquerie. On 4 September, she drowned in the Seine at Villequier, pulled down by her heavy skirts when a boat overturned. Her young husband also died trying to save her. The death left her father devastated; Hugo was travelling with his mistress at the time in the south of France, and first learned about Léopoldine's death from a newspaper he read in a café.
====He describes==== his shock and grief in his famous poem À Villequier:
[[Hélas ! vers le passé tournant un œil d'envie,
Sans que rien ici-bas puisse m'en consoler,
Je regarde toujours ce moment de ma vie
Où je l'ai vue ouvrir son aile et s'envoler!
Je verrai cet instant jusqu'à ce que je meure,
L'instant, pleurs superflus !
Où je criai : L'enfant que j'avais tout à l'heure,
Quoi donc ! je ne l'ai plus !
Alas! turning an envious eye towards the past,
inconsolable by anything on earth,
I keep looking at that moment of my life
when I saw her open her wings and fly away!
I will see that instant until I die,
that instant—too much for tears!
when I cried out: "The child that I had just now—
what! I don't have her any more!"]]
====He wrote many poems==== afterwards about his daughter's life and death, and at least one biographer claims he never completely recovered from it. His most famous poem is probably Demain, dès l'aube (Tomorrow, At Dawn), in which he describes visiting her grave.
====Hugo decided==== to live in exile after Napoleon III's coup d'état at the end of 1851. After leaving France, Hugo lived in Brussels briefly in 1851, before moving to the Channel Islands, first to Jersey (1852–1855) and then to the smaller island of Guernsey in 1855, where he stayed until Napoleon III's fall from power in 1870. Although Napoleon III proclaimed a general amnesty in 1859, under which Hugo could have safely returned to France, the author stayed in exile, only returning when Napoleon III was forced from power as a result of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. After the Siege of Paris from 1870 to 1871, Hugo lived again in Guernsey from 1872 to 1873, before finally returning to France for the remainder of his life.
===Writings=== Hugo published his first novel the year following his marriage (Han d'Islande, 1823), and his second three years later (Bug-Jargal, 1826). Between 1829 and 1840, he published five more volumes of poetry (Les Orientales, 1829; Les Feuilles d'automne, 1831; Les Chants du crépuscule, 1835; Les Voix intérieures, 1837; and Les Rayons et les Ombres, 1840), cementing his reputation as one of the greatest elegiac and lyric poets of his time.
Like many young writers of his generation, Hugo was profoundly influenced by François-René de Chateaubriand, the famous figure in the literary movement of Romanticism and France's pre-eminent literary figure during the early 19th century. In his youth, Hugo resolved to be "Chateaubriand or nothing", and his life would come to parallel that of his predecessor in many ways. Like Chateaubriand, Hugo furthered the cause of Romanticism, became involved in politics (though mostly as a champion of Republicanism), and was forced into exile due to his political stances.
The precocious passion and eloquence of Hugo's early work brought success and fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry (Odes et poésies diverses) was published in 1822 when he was only 20 years old and earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. Though the poems were admired for their spontaneous fervour and fluency, the collection that followed four years later in 1826 (Odes et Ballades) revealed Hugo to be a great poet, a natural master of lyric and creative song.
Victor Hugo's first mature work of fiction appeared in 1829 and reflected the acute social conscience that would infuse his later work. Le Dernier jour d'un condamné (The Last Day of a Condemned Man) would have a profound influence on later writers such as Albert Camus, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Claude Gueux, a documentary short story about a real-life murderer who had been executed in France, appeared in 1834 and was later considered by Hugo himself to be a precursor to his great work on social injustice, Les Misérables.
Hugo became the figurehead of the romantic literary movement with the plays Cromwell (1827) and Hernani (1830).
Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) was published in 1831 and quickly translated into other languages across Europe. One of the effects of the novel was to shame the City of Paris into restoring the much-neglected Cathedral of Notre Dame, which was attracting thousands of tourists who had read the popular novel. The book also inspired a renewed appreciation for pre-Renaissance buildings, which thereafter began to be actively preserved.
Hugo began planning a major novel about social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but a full 17 years were needed for Les Misérables to be realised and finally published in 1862. Hugo had used the departure of prisoners for the Bagne of Toulon in one of his early stories, "La Dernier Jour d'un condamné" He went to Toulon to visit the Bagne in 1839 and took extensive notes, though he did not start writing the book until 1845. On one of the pages of his notes about the prison, he wrote in large block letters a possible name for his hero: " JEAN TRÉJEAN". When the book was finally written, Tréjean became Jean Valjean.
Hugo was acutely aware of the quality of the novel, as evidenced in a letter he wrote to his publisher, Albert Lacroix, on 23 March 1862, "My conviction is that this book is going to be one of the peaks , if not the crowning point of my work." So publication of the Miserables went to the highest bidder. The Belgian publishing house Lacroix and Verboeckhoven undertook a marketing campaign unusual for the time, issuing press releases about the work a full six months before the launch. It also initially published only the first part of the novel ("Fantine"), which was launched simultaneously in major cities. Instalments of the book sold out within hours and had enormous impact on French society.
The critical establishment was generally hostile to the novel; Taine found it insincere, Barbey d'Aurevilly complained of its vulgarity, Gustave Flaubert found within it "neither truth nor greatness", the Goncourt brothers lambasted its artificiality, and Baudelaire – despite giving favourable reviews in newspapers – castigated it in private as "repulsive and inept". Les Misérables proved popular enough with the masses that the issues it highlighted were soon on the agenda of the National Assembly of France. Today, the novel remains his most enduringly popular work. It is popular worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, television, and stage shows.
An apocryphal tale about the shortest correspondence in history is said to have been between Hugo and his publisher Hurst and Blackett in 1862. Hugo was on vacation when Les Misérables was published. He queried the reaction to the work by sending a single-character telegram to his publisher, asking ?. The publisher replied with a single ! to indicate its success.
Hugo turned away from social/political issues in his next novel, Les Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea), published in 1866. The book was well received, perhaps due to the previous success of Les Misérables. Dedicated to the channel island of Guernsey, where he spent 15 years of exile, Hugo tells of a man who attempts to win the approval of his beloved's father by rescuing his ship, intentionally marooned by its captain who hopes to escape with a treasure of money it is transporting, through an exhausting battle of human engineering against the force of the sea and a battle against an almost mythical beast of the sea, a giant squid. Superficially an adventure, one of Hugo's biographers calls it a "metaphor for the 19th century–technical progress, creative genius and hard work overcoming the immanent evil of the material world."
The word used in Guernsey to refer to squid (pieuvre, also sometimes applied to octopus) was to enter the French language as a result of its use in the book. Hugo returned to political and social issues in his next novel, L'Homme Qui Rit (The Man Who Laughs), which was published in 1869 and painted a critical picture of the aristocracy. The novel was not as successful as his previous efforts, and Hugo himself began to comment on the growing distance between himself and literary contemporaries such as Flaubert and Émile Zola, whose realist and naturalist novels were now exceeding the popularity of his own work.
His last novel, Quatre-vingt-treize (Ninety-Three), published in 1874, dealt with a subject that Hugo had previously avoided: the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Though Hugo's popularity was on the decline at the time of its publication, many now consider Ninety-Three to be a work on par with Hugo's better-known novels.
===Political life and exile=== After three unsuccessful attempts, Hugo was finally elected to the Académie française in 1841, solidifying his position in the world of French arts and letters. A group of French academicians, particularly Étienne de Jouy, were fighting against the "romantic evolution" and had managed to delay Victor Hugo's election. Thereafter, he became increasingly involved in French politics.
He was elevated to the peerage by King Louis-Philippe in 1845 and entered the Higher Chamber as a pair de France, where he spoke against the death penalty and social injustice, and in favour of freedom of the press and self-government for Poland.
In 1848, Hugo was elected to the National Assembly of the Second Republic as a conservative. In 1849, he broke with the conservatives when he gave a noted speech calling for the end of misery and poverty. Other speeches called for universal suffrage and free education for all children. Hugo's advocacy to abolish the death penalty was renowned internationally.
These parliamentary speeches are published in Œuvres complètes: actes et paroles I : avant l'exil, 1841–1851. Scroll down to the Assemblée Constituante 1848 heading and subsequent pages.
When Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) seized complete power in 1851, establishing an anti-parliamentary constitution, Hugo openly declared him a traitor to France. He relocated to Brussels, then Jersey, from which he was expelled for supporting a Jersey newspaper that had criticised Queen Victoria and finally settled with his family at Hauteville House in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, where he would live in exile from October 1855 until 1870.
While in exile, Hugo published his famous political pamphlets against Napoleon III, Napoléon le Petit and Histoire d'un crime. The pamphlets were banned in France but nonetheless had a strong impact there. He also composed or published some of his best work during his period in Guernsey, including Les Misérables, and three widely praised collections of poetry (Les Châtiments, 1853; Les Contemplations, 1856; and La Légende des siècles, 1859).
Like most of his contemporaries, Victor Hugo held colonialist views towards Africans. In a speech delivered on 18 May 1879, he declared that the Mediterranean Sea formed a natural divide between " ultimate civilisation and [...] utter barbarism," adding "God offers Africa to Europe. Take it," in order to civilise its indigenous inhabitants. This might partly explain why in spite of his deep interest and involvement in political matters he remained strangely silent on the Algerian issue. He knew about the atrocities committed by the French army during the French conquest of Algeria as evidenced by his diary but he never denounced them publicly. A modern reader may also feel puzzled, to say the least, at the meaning of these lines from the conclusion to Le Rhin, chapter 17, published in 1842, twelve years after French troops landed near Algiers.
What France lacks in Algiers is a little barbarity. The Turks [...] knew how to cut heads better than we do. The first thing that strikes savages is not reason but strength. What France lacks, England has it; Russia too.
— Victor Hugo, Le Rhin
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