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Victor Hugo

(1802 - 1885)

Biography of Victor Hugo:

Victor Hugo is one of the greatest poets and writers in France. He was born in Besançon (his father was a count and a general of the Empire) and was educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, in Paris. Since 1816, he affirmed his literary vocation: "I want to be Chateaubriand or nothing!"

Victor Hugo was, at his début, a poet and a monarchist. But the events of 1830 and his love affair with Juliette Drouet caused him deep changes of ideas and did with him the leader of the Romantic Movement. His apartment became the headquarter of the "Cenacle", gathering young Romantic authors.

With Gerard de Nerval and Theophile Gauthier, Victor Hugo won the famous "battle of Hernani" against the supporters of the traditional theatre. Inspired writer, he saw his notoriety being quickly transformed into celebrity. Victor Hugo was elected to the French Academy (Académie Française) in 1841 and "Pair de France" in 1845. He lost his daughter Leopoldine in 1845 and seemed to search for an alleviation of his pain in policy.

Moved by the sufferings of the lower classes in 1848, Victor Hugo became a republican and exposed his hostility toward Napoleon III who condemned him into exile in Jersey and then in Guernsey. In 1859, Victor Hugo refused the Emperor's amnesty. During this exile that lasted nearly twenty years, he produced the most important part of his work.

Of his return in France, in 1870, Victor Hugo was welcomed as the symbol of the republican resistance to Napoleon III. He was elected a Member of Parliament, then senator. His literary production let the policy go first. He mainly published works he had started during his exile.


His national and civil funeral in Paris was imposing, because he was, during his lifetime, the most popular of the writers and a great defender of the Republic.


Victor Hugo and religion

Born into an atheistic family, Victor Hugo came close to Catholicism after his marriage with Adele Foucher, perhaps to be in conformity with the literary circle in which he lived. He was a deep believer, sometimes even a mystical one. After the events of 1848, he changed faced with the Catholics' indifference to the misery of mankind, and did not trust any more religions.

Like Voltaire, Victor Hugo was therefore a deist, i.e. a believer without religion. Sensitive to the mysteries of world, he tried to reconcile his spiritual vision of universe to a rationalist and optimistic idea of the history of humanity. With the passing years, Victor Hugo became fundamentally anticlerical and denounced obscurantism with strength. He was also a defender of freethinking, word he was one of the first to use.

Bibliography : Odes (poetry, 1822), Cromwell (historical drama, 1827), Les Orientales (drama, 1829), Marion de Lorme (drama, 1829), Hernani (poetic drama, 1830), Autumn Leaves (poetry, 1831), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (historical novel, 1831), The King Amuses Himself (drama, 1832), Marie Tudor (drama, 1833), Lucrece Borgia (drama, 1833), Songs of Twilight (lyric poetry, 1835), Inner Voices (lyric poetry, 1837), Ruy Blas (lyric poetry, 1838), Sunbeams and Shadows (Poetries, 1840), Punishments (1853), Contemplations (1856), The Legend of the Ages (Poetry, 1859), Les Misérables (novel, 1862), William Shakespeare (essay 1864), The Toilers of the Sea (novel, 1866), The Terrible Year (1872), Ninety-Three (1874), The Art of Being a Grandfather (1877), Religions and religion (1880), The Four Winds of the Spirit (1881), Things Seen (1887).

Quotes of Victor Hugo



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