Victor & Juliette

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” 
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Paris

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.”

Juliette

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….”

Victor

 

36 thoughts on “Victor & Juliette

    • Oh!! I do agree.🙂 First hand experiences add depth to writing. And from what little I’ve read, it seems that Victor Hugo wrote from personal experience and real life. For example, Valjean’s character is loosely based on the life of Eugène François Vidocq, an ex-convict turned businessman. I am so glad that you stopped by – I look forward to seeing you!!

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      • Yes I heard also about that link with real characters. We saw the musical many times in London, as have lots of people I know, and thought it was amazing. Have not yet read the book or seen the film – must do both! And am glad to be chatting again – always an uplifting experience for me🙂

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      • Thank you – and likewise! Yes, I have loads of free Kindle stuff – Moby Dick being my latest acquisition last night. And the sheer quantity – I love the idea of strolling around with the complete works of Shakespere, Austen, Dickens, Hardy etc etc in my handbag!!

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  1. Such devotion🙂 Victor Hugo, himself, is so much to the forefront of history, that I hadn’t really thought about his private life till now. My eyes have been opened.

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    • Me too! Letter writing is so personal – even penmanship reveals so much about an individual. This is been an interesting week. I have come across many letters, dating back to Queen Henrietta Maria, Consort of Charles I, collected and published in 1857. Then I came across Shakespeare’s letters by Alan Stewart, which was very interesting. Here is a quote from Alan Stewart:

      “Letters were vital to the early modern world. In any situation where face-to-face oral communication was impossible, letters became the conduit through which news was relayed, orders were conveyed, plans were laid, and trade was transacted. They were the social glue that held firm friendships, alliances and kinship ties between individual at a distance.”

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    • And thank YOU for joining the conversation. I have been having fun tracking the letters down. It has given me a new appreciation for the art of letter writing and for maintaining a friendship based on the exchange of ideas. 🙂

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  2. Oh well, I love Victor Hugo, and what he wrote and stood for. But in some issues I beg to differ. I happen to love another person and very much so, and even if I knew what his god looks like, the face I see remains the face of the the beautiful woman I love. So as that old cliche goes… Different strokes for different folks! JJ

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    • I remember reading your post. I have now ordered an “English” version via the Vancouver Public Library. And then I went onto Amazon – this is a very popular book!!! This is what I found – “currently unavailable” – even the French version. My hope is that one day, I’ll be able to read it in French!!! Thank you so much for your recommendation – truly appreciated.🙂

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