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Biography of Victor Hugo


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VICTOR MARIE VICOMETE HUGO, one of the most distinguished French writers, was born February 26th, 1802, at Besancon, where his father was then commandant of the garrison. He early acquired distinction by his poetic effusions, and before he was thirty years of age, his published works were numerous, and his name famous. Odes and ballads, romances, dramas, etc., flowed from his prolific pen. Shortly before the revolution of 1830, a literary revolution took place, at the head of which was Hugo. A band of young men, imaginative, ardent, and confident, sought to renovate French literature by departing from classic rules and models, substituting a varied and very irregular verse for the monotonous Alexandrines of the old school. The new school, "la jeune France," as they called themselves, formed the Romanticists, and their opponents the Classicists. The literary war which arose lasted for several years.

Hugo's popularity continued to increase, and in 1837, Louis Philippe made him an officer of the Legion of Honor, and in 1845 a peer of France. After the revolution of 1848, he was elected to represent the city of Paris, both in the Constituent and in the Legislative Assembly, in which he manifested democratic principles, and was one of those members of the extreme left, who were banished from France for life by Louis Napoleon. He took up his residence in the island of Jersey. In 1852, he assailed the ruler of France in a remarkable political pamphlet, Napoleon le Petit, (Napoleon the Little), which produced a great sensation; but the effect of its severity was weakencd by its undignified virulence. In 1862, he published Les Miserables, in which, with great dramatic force, he handles some of the most important social questions. Hugo's writings have great faults. They are often extravagant both in form and substance, and sometimes marred by an affected triviality of images and harshness of versification. Yet they have also great excellencies; the command of language is wonderful, and as a lyric poet, Hugo has, perhaps, never been equalled in France.