Victor Hugo

            One of my favorite movies growing up was The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. I’ve always thought that the story was another one of Walt Disney’s creations. Little did I know, the movie was based on Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris. Victor Hugo was a french playwright, novelist, and influence of the Romantic movement in France. Some of his most famous works include Les Contemplations, La Légende des siècles, Les Misérables, and as mentioned before Notre-Dame de Paris. Hugo is most known for his poetry because of his skill with lyrics and creative song.

On February 26, 1802, Victor Marie Hugo was born in Besançon, to Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo and Sophie Trébuchet. In 1803, Hugo’s parents split as a result of constant moving and his father’s unfaithfulness. His mother raised and taught him in Paris. Because Hugo’s mother was a Catholic Royalist, his first works revealed a devotion to both the king and faith. Hugo then attended Lycée Louis-le Grand in Paris from 1815-1818. This is the time when Hugo broke away from his mother’s teachings and focused on republicanism.  While he was young, Hugo wrote verse tragedies and poetry. He even translated Virgil! Hugo got his first major exposure with his first collection of poems entitled Odes Et Poésies. His work was so passionate and eloquent that he a royal pension from Louis XVII. The first novel Hugo wrote was Han D’Islande (1823).

Hugo was married to his childhood friend Adèle Foucher. Because he had already gone against his mother’s wishes by falling in love, Hugo waited until his mothe’s death in 1821 to marry Adèle. They had four children together.

Hugo produced the play Hernani in 1830. He also began producing poetry during this time. In 1831 he produced The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which is the story, set in 15th century Paris, of a deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo, who falls in love with a gypsy named Esmeralda.  

Later on in life, Hugo became  more involved with politics. In his youth, Hugo was very conservative.  However, he became a supporter of the republican form of government. It took him three attempts before he was elected to the Académie Francaise in 1841. Hugo was unable to fully enjoy this victory due to the death of his daughter Léopoldine who died in 1843. About a decade later, he began publishing books again. Political and social issues inspired a lot of Hugo’s works. Hugo was elected to the Constitutional Assembly and to the Legislative Assembly after the 1848 revolution.

Hugo fled to Brussels, Jersey, and Guernsey in fear of the coup d’état led by Napoleon III in 1851. It began with a general amnesty in 1859, but Hugo remained in exile by choice. He stayed in exile for about 20 years. During this time, he wrote Les Chatimets (1853) and Les Misérables (1862).

Hugo finally returned to France in 1870 with the proclamation of the Third Republic.  He was named a national Hero. He was elected senator on January 30, 1879 after returning to Paris. Hugo died in Paris on May 22, 1885. He was given a national funeral and buried in the Panthéon.

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About mlleminor

Instructor in MCL French Division at the University of Kentucky
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