“To love another person is to see the face of God.”
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Victor Hugo is considered one of the greatest and most beloved of French writers. Les Misérables, and Notre-Dame de Paris, (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) set forth universal themes that continue to stimulate and challenge.
Victor Hugo had a great love – Juliette Drouet, a French actress who left her theatrical career to devote her life entirely to him. She was his secretary and travelling companion. Some would even say that she lived a secluded existence; she would only go into public in his company. Their letters spanned decades and demonstrated a profound and enduring love. Following are excerpts from their correspondence.
Love Letter to Victor Hugo, dated 1831
“I love you, I love you, my Victor; I cannot reiterate it too often; I can never express it as much as I feel it. I recognize you in all the beauty that surrounds me – in form, in colour, in perfume, in harmonious sound: all of these mean you to me. You are superior to all. I see and admire – you are all! You are not only the solar spectrum with the seven luminous colours, but the sun himself, that illumines, warms, and revivifies! This is what you are, and I am the lowly woman that adores you.”
Love Letter to Juliette Drouet, dated 1851
(Recall that in 1851, Victor Hugo was sentenced to a fine of 500 francs and six months imprisonment for his article condemning capital punishment. That same year, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte become Napoleon III of France, ending the Second Republic)
“You have been wonderful, my Juliette, all through these dark and violent days. If I needed love, you brought it to me, bless you! When, in my hiding places, always dangerous, after a night of waiting, I heard the key of my door trembling in your fingers, peril and darkness were no longer round me – what entered then was light! We must never forget those terrible, but so sweet, hours when you were close to me in the intervals of fighting. Let us remember all our lives that dark little room, the ancient hangings, the two armchairs, side by side, the meal we ate off the corner of the table….”