VICTOR HUGO was born in Besançon in 1802, the youngest of three sons of an officer (eventually a general), who took his family with him from posting to posting, as far as Italy and Spain. In 1812 his parents separated, and Madame Hugo settled in Paris with her sons. Victor's prolific literary career began with publication of poems ( 1822), a novel ( 1823), and a drama, Cromwell ( 1827), the preface of which remains a major manifesto of French Romanticism. The riot occasioned at the first performance of his drama Hernani ( 1830) established him as a leading figure among the Romantics, and Notre- Dame ( 1831) added to his prestige at home and abroad. Favoured by Louis-Philippe ( 1830-48), he chose exile rather than live under Napoleon III ( President 1848, Emperor 1851). In exile in Brussels ( 1851), Jersey ( 1853), and Guernsey ( 1855) he wrote some of his finest works, notably the satirical poems Les Châtiments ( 1853), the first of the series of epic poems, Légende des siècles ( 1859), and the lengthy novel Les Misérables ( 1862). Only with Napoloen III's defeat and replacement by the Third Republic did Hugo return, to be elected deputy, and later senator. His opposition to tyranny and continuing immense literary output established him as a national hero. When he died in 1885 he was honoured by interment in the Panthéon.
A. J. KRAILSHEIMER is Emeritus Student and was Tutor in French at Christ Church, Oxford from 1957 until his retirement in 1988. His published work is mostly on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but among his translations are Balzac Père Goriot, Flaubert's Three Tales (both also in Oxford World's Classics), Salammbô, and Bouvard et Pécuchet.