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Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo Victor Hugo[1†]

Victor-Marie Hugo, sometimes nicknamed “The Supreme Poet,” was a French writer and politician who had a literary career spanning more than sixty years[1†]. He wrote in a variety of genres and forms and is considered one of the greatest writers of all time[1†]. He is renowned for his poetry collections, such as “Les Contemplations” and “La Légende des siècles,” and his novels, including “Notre-Dame de Paris” (1831) and “Les Misérables” (1862)[1†][2†].

Hugo was born on February 26, 1802, in Besançon, France[1†][2†]. He studied law from 1815 to 1818 and graduated from the law faculty in Paris[1†][3†]. During this time, he also began a career in literature, founding the journal “Conservateur Littéraire” in 1819[1†][3†]. He published his first book of poems, “Odes et poésies diverses,” in 1822[1†][3†].

Hugo was at the forefront of the Romantic literary movement with his play “Cromwell” and drama "Hernani"[1†]. Many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death, including the opera “Rigoletto” and the musicals “Les Misérables” and "Notre-Dame de Paris"[1†]. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime and campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment and slavery[1†].

Although he was a committed royalist when young, Hugo’s views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, serving in politics as both deputy and senator[1†]. His work touched upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time[1†]. His opposition to absolutism and his literary stature established him as a national hero[1†]. Hugo died on May 22, 1885, aged 83[1†]. He was given a state funeral in the Panthéon of Paris, which was attended by over 2 million people, the largest in French history[1†].

Early Years and Education

Victor-Marie Hugo was born on February 26, 1802, in Besançon, France[2†][4†]. He was the third son of Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo, a major and later a general in Napoleon’s army[2†][4†]. His mother, Sophie Trébuchet, was a royalist, and his father was loyal to successive governments[2†]. This political disagreement between his parents led to their separation in 1803[2†][5†], and Victor’s mother took charge of his education[2†][5†].

Hugo’s childhood was marked by his father’s constant traveling with the imperial army[2†]. This led to frequent relocations for young Victor, who lived in various cities like Elba, Naples, and Madrid[2†]. Despite these disruptions, Hugo showed an early interest in writing poetry[2†][4†].

From 1815 to 1818, Hugo had a period of uninterrupted study at the Pension Cordier and the Lycée Louis-le-Grand[2†]. During this time, he also began a career in literature, founding the journal “Conservateur Littéraire” in 1819[2†]. He graduated from the law faculty in Paris[2†], but his studies were said to be purposeless and irregular[2†]. His real passion lay in writing, as he filled notebooks with poems, plays, and translations[2†][6†].

At the age of fifteen, Hugo won a poetry contest held by the Académie Française[2†][4†]. The following year, he placed first in the Académie des Jeux Floraux’s contest[2†][4†]. These early successes helped establish his reputation as a poet[2†][4†].

Career Development and Achievements

Victor Hugo’s career as a writer spanned more than six decades, during which he wrote in a variety of genres and forms[1†]. He is considered one of the greatest writers of all time[1†].

Hugo’s literary career began with the publication of his first book of poems, “Odes et poésies diverses,” in 1822[1†][2†]. His early successes in poetry contests helped establish his reputation as a poet[1†].

In 1827, Hugo emerged as an important figure in Romanticism with his verse drama "Cromwell"[1†][7†]. The production of his poetic tragedy “Hernani” in 1830 was a victory for Romantics over traditional classicists in a well-known literary battle[1†][7†]. His later plays included “Le Roi s’amuse” in 1832 and “Ruy Blas” in 1838[1†][7†].

Hugo’s novels “Notre-Dame de Paris” (1831) and “Les Misérables” (1862) are among his most famous works[1†][2†]. In France, Hugo is renowned for his poetry collections, such as “Les Contemplations” and "La Légende des siècles"[1†].

Many of Hugo’s works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death, including the opera “Rigoletto” and the musicals “Les Misérables” and "Notre-Dame de Paris"[1†]. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime[1†].

Hugo campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment and slavery[1†]. Although he was a committed royalist when young, Hugo’s views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, serving in politics as both deputy and senator[1†]. His work touched upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time[1†].

His opposition to absolutism and his literary stature established him as a national hero[1†]. Hugo died on May 22, 1885, aged 83[1†]. He was given a state funeral in the Panthéon of Paris, which was attended by over 2 million people, the largest in French history[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Victor Hugo’s literary career was marked by a variety of works that spanned different genres. Here are some of his most notable works, along with some details about their first publication:

  1. Hans of Iceland (Paris, 1823): His first novel is also the first accolade he receives. He wrote it when he was just saying goodbye to his adolescence and already shows the sparks of that spirit of social denunciation that will accompany him for the rest of his life[8†].
  2. Cromwell (Paris, 1827): This work is significant because its preface is considered a manifesto in favor of artistic freedom[8†]. The plot takes place in 17th-century England, a time when Oliver Cromwell was an important political and military figure[8†].
  3. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Paris, 1831): This novel is one of Hugo’s most famous works. It tells the story of Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame, and his unrequited love for the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda[8†][2†][1†].
  4. Lucretia Borgia (Paris, 1833): Hugo takes a historical figure and turns her into a character in one of his dramas. Lucretia Borgia, in the role, ends up being a harpy capable of poisoning her own son[8†].
  5. Les Misérables (Paris, 1862): This is perhaps Hugo’s most renowned work. The novel presents a harsh criticism of society and its treatment of the poor and marginalized, embodied in the character of Jean Valjean, a former convict struggling to find redemption[8†][2†][1†].

These works not only highlight Hugo’s literary prowess but also his commitment to social issues, which is a recurring theme in his works[8†]. His writings have had a profound impact on French literature and continue to be celebrated worldwide[8†][2†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Victor Hugo’s works are a testament to his definitive Romanticism, religious sensibility, and constant regard for the oppressed[9†]. His literary artistry spans a variety of genres, from lyric poetry to novels, and his works rise like a Gothic cathedral above the less excessive and more orderly monuments of nineteenth-century French literature[9†].

Hugo’s works, particularly his novels, are known for their compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and powerful writing style[9†][10†]. His novels, such as ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, are celebrated for their vivid portrayal of life in France and their passionate defense of the oppressed[9†][10†]. Hugo paints a stark picture of the harshness and poverty of the time and the cruel way in which the poor were treated by the wealthy and powerful[9†][10†].

In his plays, Hugo is seen as the essential link between the classical theater of Jean Racine and the modern twentieth-century revival[9†][11†]. His preface to ‘Cromwell’ served as the manifesto of romantic liberation for French drama, calling for the Shakespearean tradition rather than the classical, the abolition of the unities of time and place, and the fusion of the sublime and the grotesque[9†][11†].

Hugo’s poetry took many forms, from the lyric to the epic to the elegiac[9†][12†]. From poems with political overtones, Hugo’s poetry grew to exhibit the tenets of Romanticism. He wrote of more personal and intimate subjects, such as family and love[9†][12†].

Overall, Victor Hugo’s works have had a profound impact on French literature and continue to be celebrated worldwide for their exploration of social issues, their rich character development, and their beautiful language[9†][11†][10†][9†][12†].

Personal Life

Victor Hugo was born in 1802 in Besançon, in the region of Franche-Comté, France[1†][5†]. He was the youngest son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo, a general in Napoleon’s army, and Sophie Trébuchet[1†][2†]. The Hugo family moved frequently due to his father’s military postings[1†][13†]. His father once told him that he was conceived in a mountain range at very high elevation[1†][14†].

Hugo’s parents had contrasting political views, with his father being a loyalist to successive governments and his mother being a royalist[1†][2†]. These disagreements deeply influenced Hugo’s early life and later political views[1†][2†]. At the age of eleven, Hugo returned to live with his mother in Paris, where he developed a deep love for books and literature[1†][13†].

During the reign of Napoleon III, Hugo was forced into exile[1†][5†]. He lived briefly in Brussels in 1851, then in Jersey from 1852 to 1855, and finally in Guernsey from 1855 until his return to France in 1870[1†][5†]. Despite these challenges, Hugo remained prolific in his writing throughout his life[1†].

Victor Hugo died on May 22, 1885, in Paris[1†][2†]. His state funeral in the Panthéon of Paris was attended by over 2 million people, the largest in French history[1†][2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Victor Hugo’s legacy is vast and enduring. His literary contributions spanned more than sixty years, during which he wrote in a variety of genres and forms[1†]. He is considered one of the greatest writers of all time[1†][2†]. His most famous works, including “Notre-Dame de Paris” (1831) and “Les Misérables” (1862), have been translated into multiple languages and adapted into numerous stage plays and films[1†][2†].

Hugo was at the forefront of the Romantic literary movement in France[1†]. His work touched upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time[1†]. His opposition to absolutism and his literary stature established him as a national hero[1†].

In addition to his literary contributions, Hugo was also a statesman and human rights activist[1†]. He campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment and slavery[1†]. Although he was a committed royalist when young, Hugo’s views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, serving in politics as both deputy and senator[1†].

Hugo’s influence extended beyond literature. He was on a mission to save the medieval architecture in Paris[1†][14†]. His plan worked, leading to a period of Gothic revival architecture across France and Europe[1†][14†]. It led to major renovations and restorations on the Notre-Dame Cathedral, which were led by the famous architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc[1†][14†].

Hugo died on May 22, 1885, in Paris[1†][2†]. His state funeral in the Panthéon of Paris was attended by over 2 million people, the largest in French history[1†][2†]. His work continues to be celebrated and studied, and his influence can be seen in various aspects of French culture and beyond[1†][2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Victor Hugo [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Victor Hugo: French writer [website] - link
  3. Academy of American Poets - About Victor Hugo [website] - link
  4. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Victor Hugo Biography [website] - link
  5. New World Encyclopedia - Victor Hugo [website] - link
  6. Theatre in Paris - Blog - A glimpse at the life of Victor Hugo [website] - link
  7. Britannica - Victor Hugo summary [website] - link
  8. 10famousworks.com - 10 Best Works of Victor Hugo [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Victor Hugo World Literature Analysis [website] - link
  10. Book Analysis - 8 of the Best Victor Hugo Books Ranked [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Victor Hugo Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Victor Hugo Poetry Analysis [website] - link
  13. SparkNotes - Victor Hugo Biography, Works, and Quotes [website] - link
  14. Discover Walks Blog - Top 15 interesting facts about Victor Hugo [website] - link
  15. Biography - Victor Hugo [website] - link
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