Victor Hugo

Hugo, Victor Marie, Vicomte

Victor Marie Hugo, Vicomte (hyōō´gō, Fr. vēktôr´ märē´ vēkôNt´ ügō´), 1802–85, French poet, dramatist, and novelist, b. Besançon. His father was a general under Napoleon. As a child he was taken to Italy and Spain and at a very early age had published his first book of poems, resolving "to be Chateaubriand or nothing." The preface to his drama Cromwell (1827) placed him at the head of the romanticists; he remained the greatest exponent of the school and was considered by many the greatest poet of his day. His principal poetic works are Les Orientales (1829), Les Feuilles d'automne (1831), Les Chants du crépuscule (1835), Les Voix intérieures (1837), Les Rayons et les ombres (1840), Les Châtiments (1853), Les Contemplations (1856), and La Légende des siècles (1859). The production of his poetic drama Hernani (tr. 1830), which broke with conventions of the French theater, caused a riot between the classicists and the romanticists. The drama was the basis of Verdi's opera Ernani; Verdi also made use of Hugo's play Le Roi s'amuse (1832) for Rigoletto. Other plays include Marion Delorme (1831, tr. 1872), Ruy Blas (1838, tr. 1850), and Les Burgraves (1843), the failure of which spelled the end of the romantic drama. The tragic deaths in that year of Hugo's daughter and her husband were reflected in a moving series of poems of childhood, including The Art of Being a Grandfather (1877). Hugo's two greatest novels are Notre Dame de Paris (1831, tr. 1833) and Les Misérables (1862, tr. 1862), which are epic in scope and portray the sufferings of humanity with great compassion and power. His other important novels include Les Travailleurs de la mer (1866, tr. Toilers of the Sea, 1866), and Quatre-vingt-treize (1874, tr. Ninety-three, 1874). He began his political career as a supporter of the duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon's son; later Hugo espoused the cause of Louis Philippe's son, and then for a short time of Louis Bonaparte. Because he afterward opposed Napoleon III, Hugo was banished and went first to Brussels, then to the isle of Jersey, and later (1855) to Guernsey, where he lived until 1870, refusing an amnesty. In 1870 he returned to Paris in triumph. He was elected to the national assembly and the senate. His last years were marked by public veneration and acclaim, and he was buried in the Panthéon. Critics are divided as to his relative greatness, but he was a towering figure in 19th-century French literature.

See biographies by A. Maurois (tr. 1956), H. Peyre (1980), and G. Robb (1997); studies by R. B. Grant (1968), E. M. Grant (1945, repr. 1966 and 1968), J. P. Houston (1974), W. M. Greenberg (1985), and V. Brombert (1986).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Notre-Dame de Paris
Victor Hugo; Alban Krailsheimer.
Oxford University Press, 1993
The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Miserables
Mario Vargas Llosa; John King.
Princeton University Press, 2007
The Simplest of Signs: Victor Hugo and the Language of Images in France, 1850-1950
Timothy Raser.
University of Delaware Press, 2004
Figuring Transcendence in Les Miserables: Hugo's Romantic Sublime
Kathryn M. Grossman.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1994
Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century: Lamartine, Hugo, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarme
E. H. Blackmore; A. M. Blackmore.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Victor Hugo's Poetics
Riffaterre, Michael.
The Romanic Review, Vol. 93, No. 1-2, January-March 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Victor Hugo on the Universe within the Poet
Riffaterre, Michael.
The Romanic Review, Vol. 93, No. 1-2, January-March 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Victor Hugo's European Utopia
Ousselin, Edward.
Nineteenth-Century French Studies, Vol. 34, No. 1-2, Fall-Winter 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Dream, Creativity, and Madness in Nineteenth-Century France
Tony James.
Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 17 "Victor Hugo and the 'Headland of Dream'"
Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature
Chris Bongie.
Stanford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "The Memory of Hayti: William Faulkner, Victor Hugo, and the Saint-Domingue Revolution"
Inscribing His Ideal Reader(ship): Victor Hugo and the Shaping of le Lecteur Pensif
Roche, Isabel K.
French Forum, Vol. 28, No. 2, Spring 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Literary Reviews and Essays: On American, English, and French Literature
Henry James; Albert Mordell.
Twayne Publishers, 1957
Librarian’s tip: "Hugo's Legende de Siecles" begins on p. 136
A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia
John Andrew Frey.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Victor Hugo's Drama: An Annotated Bibliography, 1900-1980
Ruth Lestha Doyle.
Greenwood Press, 1981
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