Victor Marie Hugo (French pronunciation: [viktɔʁ maʁi yɡo]; was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist. He is considered one of the most well-known French Romantic writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry but also rests upon his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).
Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. He was buried in the Panthéon.
Hugo was the third son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo (1774–1828) and Sophie Trébuchet (1772–1821); his brothers were Abel Joseph Hugo (1798–1855) and Eugène Hugo (1800–1837). He was born in 1802 in Besançon (in the region of Franche-Comté). Hugo was a freethinking republican who considered Napoléon a hero; his mother was a Catholic Royalist who is believed to have taken as her lover General Victor Lahorie, who was executed in 1812 for plotting against Napoléon.
Hugo's childhood was a period of national political turmoil. Napoléon was proclaimed Emperor two years after Hugo's birth, and the Bourbon Monarchy was restored before his eighteenth birthday. The opposing political and religious views of Hugo's parents reflected the forces that would battle for supremacy in France throughout his life: Hugo's father was a high-ranked officer in Napoleon's army until he failed in Spain (one of the reasons why his name is not present on the Arc de Triomphe).
Since Hugo's father was an officer, the family moved frequently and Hugo learned much from these travels. On a childhood family trip to Naples, Hugo saw the vast Alpine passes and the snowy peaks, the magnificently blue Mediterranean, and Rome during its festivities. Though he was only five years old at the time, he remembered the six-month-long trip vividly. They stayed in Naples for a few months and then headed back to Paris.
At the beginning of her marriage, Hugo's mother Sophie followed her husband to posts in Italy (where Léopold served as a governor of a province near Naples) and Spain (where he took charge of three Spanish provinces). Weary of the constant moving required by military life, and at odds with her husband's lack of Catholic beliefs, Sophie separated temporarily from Léopold in 1803 and settled in Paris with her children. Thereafter she dominated Hugo's education and upbringing. As a result, Hugo's early work in poetry and fiction reflect her passionate devotion to both King and Faith. It was only later, during the events leading up to France's 1848 Revolution, that he would begin to rebel against his Catholic Royalist education and instead champion Republicanism and Freethought.
Young Victor fell in love and against his mother's wishes became secretly engaged to his childhood friend Adèle Foucher (1803–1868). Because of his close relationship to his mother, Hugo waited until after his mother's death (in 1821) to marry Adèle in 1822.
Adèle and Victor Hugo had their first child, Léopold, in 1823, but the boy died in infancy. The following year, on 28 August 1824, the couple's second child, Léopoldine was born, followed by Charles on 4 November 1826, François-Victor on 28 October 1828, and Adèle on 24 August 1830.
Hugo's oldest and favorite daughter, Léopoldine, died at age 19 in 1843, shortly after her marriage to Charles Vacquerie. She drowned in the Seine at Villequier, pulled down by her heavy skirts, when a boat overturned. Her young husband Charles Vacquerie also died trying to save her. The death left her father devastated; Hugo was traveling with his mistress at the time in the south of France, and first learned about Léopoldine's death from a newspaper he read at a cafe.
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