A Guide to the Life, Times, and Works of Victor Hugo by David Falkayn Summary
Compiled from reports published in 1881 when France held special celebrations to honor Victor Hugo on his 80th birthday. The 27th of December, 1880, was a fête day at Besançon. The houses in the picturesque old town, which dates further back than the Roman conquest, were hung with flags, and the echoes of music came back from the surrounding hills. On the banks of the river, in the streets, and in the squares, a well-dressed crowd was awaiting a ceremonial of honor. One name was upon every lip -- that name was Victor Hugo. The object in the following pages, which are dedicated to Victor Hugo and his century (for the century must ever be associated with his name), to testify our admiration for a man whose every action commands our respect; for the writer who has infused new life into the antiquated diction of our language; for the poet whose verses purify while they fascinate the soul; for the dramatist whose plays exhibit his sympathy with the unrenowned classes; for the historian who has branded with ignominy the tyranny of oppressors; for the satirist who has avenged the outrages of conscience; for the orator who had defended every noble and righteous cause; for the exile who has stood up undaunted to vindicate justice; and finally for the master-mind whose genius has shed a halo of glory over France. Victor Hugo (1802-85) was a French poet, novelist, and playwright, whose voluminous works provided the single greatest impetus to the Romantic Movement. Hugo was France's favorite son, but more than that, for years he had been her champion, her conscience and her spirit. The most abiding picture of Hugo is that of the exile: the "Guernsey Tribunal" dispensing judgement and truth across Europe, his patriarchal image enhanced by the beard he grew to protect his weak throat. It is true that he had the vices of his virtues: he was proud, egocentric, sometimes mean, and often unfaithful. But he was a great man, recognized as such and loved as such by his countrymen.