Hugo, Victor (1802-1885), a noted French novelist and poet. Victor Hugo was born at Besancon and was educated at Paris and later at Madrid, his father being a soldier in the service of Joseph Bonaparte. Hugo began writing at the age of twelve, and gave a novel to the press at the age of twenty-one. It was his ambition to write on modern themes in a French manner. He led a crusade against writers who followed ancient, especially Greek, models. He wrote several dramas. Hernani in 1830 made him at once famous. His popular fame rests on his novels. Notre Dame appeared in 1830; Les Miserables in 1862; L'Homme qui Rit, or The Man Who Laughs, in 1869; The History of a Crime, in 1877. These are his most celebrated productions. His complete works fill forty volumes. Les Miserables is one of the world's great novels. His poetry is of high rank.
Victor Hugo is one of the great teachers of democracy. He was a determined opponent of Napoleon III, and deemed it wise to go into exile. Much of his writing was done in a country home in the island of Guernsey. He took a deep interest in current events, and was much mortified by the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In 1876 he was made a senator.
It is only fair that an author should be allowed to speak for himself. The following passage is held to express Victor Hugo's philosophy of life:
"Since it is given to no one whatsoever to escape the dream, let us accept it. Only let us try to have the right one. Men hate, are brutes, fight, lie; leave their dream unto the shadows. But share you your bread with little children, see that no one goes about you with naked feet, look kindly upon mothers nursing their children on the doorsteps of humble cottages, walk through the world without malevolence, do not knowingly crush the humblest flower, respect the needs of birds, bow to the purple from afar and to the poor at close range. Rise to labor, go to rest with prayer, go to sleep in the unknown, having for your pillow the infinite; love, believe, hope, live; be like him who has a watering pot in his hand, only let your watering pot be filled with good deeds and good words; never be discouraged, be magi and be father, and if you have lands cultivate them, and if you have sons rear them, and if enemies bless them - and with that sweet and unobtrusive authority that comes to the soul in patient expectation of the eternal dawn."