Victor Hugo

Birth name:
Victor Marie Hugo
Date of Birth:
22 May 1802 Besançon, France
Height:
5' 10" (1.78 m)
Victor-Marie Hugo was born on February 26, 1802, in Besançon, France. His father, named Joseph-Leopold Hugo, was a General in Napoleon's army, who served as Military Governor in Italy and in Spain. His mother, named Sophie Trebuchet, had an affair with his father's Commander, who was shot for plotting against Napoleon in 1812. At that time Young Victor Hugo studied at College Louis-le-Grand. In 1819 he founded a review, the 'Conservateur Litteraire'. In 1822 he published his first collection of poems, 'Odes et Poesies Diverses'. It gained Victor Hugo a royal pension from King Louis XVIII.Victor Hugo shot to international fame as a playwright with his play 'Hernani' (1830). It played to full houses in many countries and had a lasting impact on 19th century theatre. It also was made into an eponymous opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Hugo's play 'Le roi s'amuse' (1832) became another Verdi's opera, 'Rigoletto', which has been a staple of many theatre's repertoire ever since. Hugo's next big theatrical hit was 'Lucrezia Borgia' (1833), starring actress Juliette Drouet, who was a former mistress of Napoleon. In 1834 'Lucrezia Borga' was transformed into a libretto for the eponymous opera by Gaetano Donizetti.Actress Juliette Drouet became Hugo's life-long mistress and muse. She inspired Hugo on writing several volumes of lyrical poetry dedicated to her. Drouet was loyal to Hugo and their relationship lasted for fifty years, until her death in 1882. She was recognized even by Hugo's wife, and was accepted in the family. At the same time Hugo had another affair with Léonie d'Aunet, who was an inspiration for his collection of poetry of an intensely sexual content. It was published as 'Mme Biard poems' in 1848. Hugo remained being a ladie's man through his entire life. In 1878 he suffered from a mild stroke after having an exhaustive game with his maid. After recovery Hugo continued relationship with his mistress Juliett Drouet.Hugo was an important political figure of his time. His political career was based on his support of Republic as a democratic form of government. In 1841 he was appointed Pair de France. He entered the Higher Chamber, where he became a strong proponent of freedom of press. His position against the death penalty and social injustice gained him tremendous popularity in all layers of society. In 1851, when Napoleon III seized power, Hugo declared him a traitor of the Republic of France. After that Hugo's life was in grave danger. He managed to escape to Brussels, then to the island of Guernsey. There he would live with his family in exile for almost twenty years, until 1870. After the unpopular Napoleon III fell from power, Hugo returned to the Third Republic, and was elected to the Senate.Over fifty novels and plays were published during his lifetime, followed by twenty more posthumous publications. Hugo's literary works had a profound influence on such writers as Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Charles Dickens among many others. 'Les Misérables' (1862) became one of the most well known novels of the 19th century and remains influential in contemporary culture. It became a popular Broadway musical, and was also adapted for film and television more that 40 times in many countries, with the best known film version of 1998, starring Leam Neeson.The 1996 animated version of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' was nominated for Oscar.Victor Hugo was among the most important cultural figures of his time. He was also acknowledged for his political work in shaping democracy and the Third Republic. Victor Hugo died on May 22, 1885, in Paris. His burial ceremony was that of a statesman, and his funeral procession was attended by an estimated one million people. He was laid to rest in the Pantheon on Paris, France.
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