Victor Hugo

Victor-Marie Hugo

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), novelist, poet, and dramatist, is one of the most important of French Romantic writers. Among his best-known works are The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1831) and Les Misérables(1862).

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Victor Hugo Quotes

A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.

A library implies an act of faith.

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.

A saint addicted to excessive self-abnegation is a dangerous associate; he may infect you with poverty, and a stiffening of those joints which are needed for advancement - in a word, with more renunciation than you care for - and so you flee the contagion.

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.

All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.

Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book.

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.

At the shrine of friendship never say die, let the wine of friendship never run dry.

Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

But when ill indeed, Even dismissing the doctor don't always succeed.

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?

Close by the Rights of Man, at the least set beside them, are the Rights of the Spirit.

Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education.

Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.

Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet.

Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.

Fashions have done more harm than revolutions.

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.

Genius is a promontory jutting out into the infinite.

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers.

Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.

Habit is the nursery of errors.

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.

Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murders. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.

He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.

Hell is an outrage on humanity. When you tell me that your deity made you in his image, I reply that he must have been very ugly.

Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.

How did it happen that their lips came together? How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill? A kiss, and all was said.

Human intelligence discovered a way of perpetuating itself, one not only more durable and more resistant than architecture, but also simpler and easier.

I don't mind what Congress does, as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses.

I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes, - and the stars through his soul.

Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing morality on the stomach.

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.

"Is there no hope?" the sick man said, The silent doctor shook his head, And took his leave with signs of sorrow, Despairing of his fee to-morrow.

It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky... a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.

Joy's smile is much closer to tears than laughter.

Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.

Liberation is not deliverance.

Life is the flower for which love is the honey.

Mankind is not a circle with a single center but an ellipse with two focal points of which facts are one and ideas the other.

Most commonly revolt is born of material circumstances; but insurrection is always a moral phenomenon. Revolt is Masaniello, who led the Neapolitan insurgents in 1647; but insurrection is Spartacus. Insurrection is a thing of the spirit, revolt is a thing of the stomach.

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

My tastes are aristocratic, my actions democratic.

Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.

No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child.

Nothing else in the world... not all the armies... is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.

One is not idle because one is absorbed. There is both visible and invisible labor. To contemplate is to toil, to think is to do. The crossed arms work, the clasped hands act. The eyes upturned to Heaven are an act of creation.

Our acts make or mar us, we are the children of our own deeds.

Peace is the virtue of civilization. War is its crime.

Society is a republic. When an individual tries to lift themselves above others, they are dragged down by the mass, either by ridicule or slander.

Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.

The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human race has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.

The convent, which belongs to the West as it does to the East, to antiquity as it does to the present time, to Buddhism and Muhammadanism as it does to Christianity, is one of the optical devices whereby man gains a glimpse of infinity.

The first symptom of love in a young man is timidity; in a girl boldness.

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human.

The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather in spite of ourselves.

There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.

There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.

There is a sacred horror about everything grand. It is easy to admire mediocrity and hills; but whatever is too lofty, a genius as well as a mountain, an assembly as well as a masterpiece, seen too near, is appalling.

There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their numbers than the greatness of a man is by his height.

There is nothing like a dream to create the future.

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time as come.

Thought is the labor of the intellect, reverie is its pleasure.

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.

To love another person is to see the face of God.

To love beauty is to see light.

To think of shadows is a serious thing.

Toleration is the best religion.

Try as you will, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic of the human heart, love.

We are on the side of religion as opposed to religions, and we are among those who believe in the wretched inadequacy of sermons and the sublimity of prayer.

When a man is out of sight, it is not too long before he is out of mind.

When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right.

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.

Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.

Wisdom is a sacred communion.

You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it's good for ones self-respect to be a punching bag.

Quotes originally compiled by

Victor Hugo Chronological Biography

February 26, 1802 Birth of Victor Hugo.

1814 Victor admitted to boarding.

1815 - 24 Reign of Louis XVIII

1817 Honored by Académie Française.

1820 Victor's ode won him 500 francs from Louis XVIII

1821 His mother's demise.

1822 Hugo's marriage to Adèle Foucher.

1823 Birth of Victor Hugo's first son.

1826 Birth of his second son, Charles - Victor.

1827 Birth of his third son.

1830 Birth of Leopoldine.

1831 Notre-Dame de Paris published.

1832 Hugo met Juliette.

1836 Hugo's first attempt for membership of Académie Française failed.

1841 Elected to the Académie Française.

1843 Leopoldine's death.

1845 Became a Peer of France.

1852 Hugo fled to Brussels.

1868 Death of Adèle Hugo.

1870 Battle of Sedan; Napoleon III fled to England.
Hugo's return to Paris.
Became a Member of Parliament.

1871 Resigned from Parliament; following the death of his son Charles.

1875 Became a Senator.

1882 Death of Juliette.
May 22, 1885 Death of Victor Hugo.
June 1, 1885 State funeral attended by more than two million people.

Original chronology compiled by World of Biography

Victor Hugo Biography

Victor-Marie Hugo was born in Besançon as the son of Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo and Sophie Trébuchet. Hugo's father was an officer in Napoleon's army, an enthusiastic republican and ruthless professional soldier, who loved dangers and adventures. After the marriage of his parents had collapsed, he was raised by his mother. In 1807 Sophie took her family for two years from Paris to Italy, where Léopold served as a governor of a province near Naples. When General Hugo took charge of three Spanish provinces, Sophie again joined her husband. Sophie's lover, General Victor Lahorie, her husband's former Commandin Officer, was shot in 1812 by a firing-squad for plotting against Napoleon.

From 1815 to 1818 Hugo spend in the Pension Cordier in Paris, but most of the classes of the school were held at the Collège Louis-le Grand. He began in early adolescence to write verse tragedies and poetry, and translated Virgil. At the age of sixteen he noted: "Many a great poet is often / Nothing but a literary giraffe: / How great he seems in front, / How small he is behind!" With his brothers he founded in 1819 a review, the Conservateur Littéraire. Inspired by the example of the statesman and author François René Chateaubriand, Hugo published his first collection of poems, ODES ET POÉSIES DIVERSES (1822). It gained him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. As a novelist Hugo made his debut with HAN D'ISLANDE (1823), which appeared first anonymously in four pocket-sized volumes. It was translated two years later in English and a Norwegian translation was published in 1831. The style of Sir Walter Scott labelled several of his works, among them BUG-JARGAL (1826).

In 1822 Hugo married Adèle Foucher (d. 1868), who was the daughter of an officer at the ministry of war. His brother Eugéne, who had mental problems, was secretly in love with her and lost his mind on Hugo's wedding day. Engéne spent the rest of his life in an institution. In the 1820s Hugo come in touch with liberal writers, but his political stand wavered from side to side. He wrote royalist odes, cursed the memory of Napoleon, but then started to defend his father's role in Napoleon's victories, and attack the injustices of the monarchist regime. General Hugo died in 1828; at that time Hugo started to call himself a baron.

Hugo's foreword for his play CROMWELL (1827), a manifesto for a new drama, started a debate between French Classicism and Romanticism. However, Hugo was not a rebel, and not directly involved in the campaign against the bourgeois, but he influenced deeply the Romantic movement and the formulation of its values in France. "The Victor I loved is no more," said Alfred de Vigny, "... now he likes to make saucy remarks and is turning into a liberal, which does not suit him..." Hugo gained a wider fame with his play HERNANI (1830), in which two lovers poison each other, and with his famous historical work NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS, which became an instant success. Since its appearance in 1831 the story has became part of the popular culture. The novel, set in 15th century Paris, tells a moving story of a gypsy girl Esmeralda and the deformed, deaf bell-ringer, Quasimodo, who loves her. Esmeralda aroses passion in Claude Frollo, an evil priest, who discovers that she favors Captain Phoebus. Frollo stabs the captain and Esmeralda is accused of the crime. Quasimodo attempts to shelter Esmeralda in the cathedral. Frollo finds her and when Frollo is rejected by Esmeralda, he leaves her to the executioners. In his despair Quasimodo catches the priest, throws him from the cathedral tower, and disappears. Later two skeletons are found in Esmeralda's tomb - that of a hunchback embracing that of a woman.

In the 1830s Hugo published several volumes of lyric poetry, which were inspired by Juliette Drouet (Julienne-Joséphine Gauvain), an actress with whom Hugo had a liaison until her death in 1882. Adéle had an affair with Hugo's friend Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. "Let us not bury our friendship," Hugo wrote to him, but later described him as a man, who 'lifts his loathsome skirt and says, "Admire me!"' Hugo himself was seen by his fans a Gargantuan, larger-than-life character, and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox at a single sitting, fast for three days, and work non-stop for a week.

Hugo's lyrical style was rich, intense and full of powerful sounds and rhythms, and although it followed the bourgeois popular taste of the period it also had bitter personal tones. Hugo's 'Mme Biard poems' - he had an affair with Léonie d'Aunet (Mme Biard's maiden name) in the 1840s - are intensely sexual. According to Verlaine a typical Hugo love poem was "I like you. You yield to me. I love you. - You resist me. Clear off..."

In his later life Hugo became involved in politics as a supporter of the republican form of government. After three unsuccessful attempts, Hugo was elected in 1841 to the Académie Francaise. This triumph was shadowed by the death of Hugo's daughter Léopoldine. She had married Charles Vacquerie in February 1843, and in September she drowned with her husband. In a poem, 'Tomorrow, At Daybreak', written on the fourth anniversary of her death, Hugo depicted his walk to the place where she was buried: "I shall not look on the gold of evening falling / Nor on the sails descending distant towards Harfleur, / And when I come, shall lay upon your grave / A bouquet of green holly and of flowering briar." It took a decade before Hugo published books again. After he was made a pair de France in 1845, he sat in the Upper Chamber among the lords. He also began to work with a new novel, first titled Jean Tréjean, then Les Misères. Following the 1848 revolution, with the formation of the Second Republic, Hugo was elected to the Constitutional Assembly and to the Legislative Assembly. When workers started to riot, he led soldiers who stormed barricades in brutal assaults.

When the coup d'état by Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) took place in 1851, Hugo believed his life to be in danger. "Louis-Napoléon is a traitor," he had declared. "He had violated the Constitution!" Hugo fled to Brussels and then to Jersey. When he was expelled from the island, he moved with his family to Guernsey in the English Channel. In a poem, 'Memory of the Night of the Fourth,' focusing on the overthrowing of the Second Republic and the death of a young child, killed by bullets, Hugo wrote about the new emperor: "Ah mother, you don't understand politics. / Monsieur Napoleon, that's his real name, / Is poor and a prince; loves palaces; / Likes to have horses, valets, money / For his gaming, his table, his bedroom, / His hunts, and he maintains / Family, church and society, / He wants Saint-Clod, rose-carpeted in summer, So prefects and mayors can respect him. That's why it has to be this way: old grandmothers / With their poor gray fingers shaking with age / Must sew in winding-sheets children of seven." Hugo's partly voluntary exile lasted 20 years. During this time he wrote at Hauteville House some his best works, including LES CHÂTIMENTS (1853) and Les Misérables (1862), an epic story about social injustice. Les Châtiments became one of the most popular forbidden poetry books.

Like other Romantic writers, Hugo was interested in Spiritism, and he experimented with table-tapping. After a number of fruitless efforts, his table gave him the final title of Les Misérables. Among Hugo's most ambitious works was an epic poem, La Fin de Satan, a study of Satan's fall and the history of the universe. Satan is presented more complex character than merely the embodiment of the Evil, but when Milton saw in Paradise Lost in Satan's revolt tragic, cosmic grandeur, Hugo brings forth the horror elements. The poem was never completed.

Although Napoleon III granted in 1859 an amnesty to all political exiles, Hugo did not take the bite. Les Misérables appeared with an international advertising campaign. The book divided critics but masses were enthusiastic. Pope Pius IX added it with Madame Bovary and all the novels of Stendhal and Balzac to the Index of Proscribed Books. Hugo's fleeting affairs with maids and country girls inspired his LES CHANSONS DES RUES ET DES BOIS (1865). "The creaking of a trestle bed / Is one of the sounds of paradise," he wrote. Hugo's daughter Adèle, whose apathy and unsociability caused him much worries, went after Lieutenant Albert Pinson to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where his regiment was stationed, and also followed him to Barbados. LES TRAVAILLEURS DE LA MER (1866), a story of hypocrisy, love, and suicide, became a bestseller and later two films were made of it.

Adèle Hugo's biography of her husband appeared in 1863; she died in 1868. Political upheavals in France and the proclamation of the Third Republic made Hugo return to France. The unpopular Napoleon III fell from power the Republic was proclaimed. In 1870 Hugo witnessed the siege of Paris. "There is only enough sugar in Paris for ten days," he wrote in his diary on 8 October. "Meat rationing began today." During the period of the Paris Commune of 1871, Hugo lived in Brussels, from where he was expelled for sheltering defeated revolutionaries. Hugo's attitude to the Commune was ambivalent: "An admirable thing, stupidly compromised by five or six deplorable ringleaders." After a short time refuge in Luxemburg, he returned to Paris and was elected as a senator of Paris in 1876. Sexually he was still active and his maid, Blanche Lavin, was the constant target of his passions, but not the only one. After an exhaustive period with her, Hugo suffered a mild stroke in June 1878. The infuriated Juliette Drouet, his faithful companion form the 1830s, wrote to her nephew: "You must try to track down the creature [Blanche] who has destroyed my happiness.." Hugo died in Paris on May 22, 1885. He was given a national funeral, attended by more than two million people, and buried in the Panthéon.

Original biography compiled by

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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