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My French Life | Victor Hugo remembered

 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was born February 26 1802 in the town of Besancon in Franche-Comté. Hugo’s father was an officer of Napoleon’s republic army,  his mother was a staunch supporter of the monarchy. His parents never reconciled their differences and separated when he was a young boy.

Victor Hugo became a superstar in his life time thanks to huge success with his books The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables and he dominated the French literary scene for most of his adult life writing numerous plays, books and poems.

I thought I’d try and find out more about the real Victor Hugo, the interesting things that explain who he really was:

Victor Hugo Facts

“When he grew older Victor Hugo had a hobby of carving furniture with his teeth”

I’ve read this in several different places but not been able to substantiate it!  I wondered what this might tell us about the man – and left it at that.

Victor Hugo’s love life

“You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love, is to live by it.”  Victor Hugo

He married his childhood sweetheart Adele Foucher in 1822, she lived with her family next door to the Hugo family home in Paris. He only married Adele after his maman died as she did not at all approve of such a liaison. His brother was also in love with Adele and had a nervous breakdown when the pair married.

Hugo and Adele had five children together. Adele apparently strayed with a friend of Hugo’s and he took a mistress in the early 1830s called Juliette Drouet. A thoroughly modern marriage then.

Juliette Drouet was an actress in Paris but she gave up her career to be with Hugo, travelling everywhere with him. They were together for 50 years until she died in his arms in 1883. He seems not to have lavished money on her but was quite mean and selfish – she loved him anyway.

She was not his only mistress though – he had other amours, one of whom, a married woman named Leonie Biard, he was caught in a compromising position with – without clothes. This was taken as proof of adultery and the woman was sent to prison, Hugo escaped that indignity thanks to his position in politics.

He is said to have sent erotic tales to his son’s lover and visited prostitutes fairly regularly.

He and his wife remained married until her death in 1868.

Victor Hugo and Fame

He published Notre-Dame de Paris in 1831 (English: The Hunchback of Notre Dame), he was 29 years old and it made him the most famous writer in France.

When he celebrated his 80th birthday in France it was a time of national celebration.

When he died in 1885 it is said that up to 2 million people turned out on to the streets to mourn his passing.

Victor Hugo and animals

“Everybody has noticed the way cats stop and loiter in a half-open door. Hasn’t everyone said to a cat: For heaven’s sake why don’t you come in? With opportunity half-open in front of them, there are men who have a similar tendency to remain undecided between two solutions, at the risk of being crushed by fate abruptly closing the opportunity. The overprudent, cats as they are, and because they are cats, sometimes run more danger than the bold”

He loved cats. He had a cat called Gavroche whom he loved dearly.

What a man he must have been, complex, selfish, dark, mean and moody but passionate and charismatic with a brilliant mind.

A bientôt


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