20 Facts About Victor Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo was one of France’s most famous poets in the 19th century. He was also a novelist, playwright, statesman and human rights activist. He is more famously known for his novels Les Misérables’, ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’ (‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’), and ‘Les Travailleurs de la Mer’, two of which have inspired a number of famous productions. Keep on reading to learn 20 juicy facts about Victor Hugo.

Fact 1: Victor Marie Hugo was born on February 26, 1802.

  • He was born in Besançon, France.

Fact 2: Hugo’s most famous works are the novels “Les Misérables” (1862), and “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” (1831).

  • There have been countless film adaptations based on “Les Misérables”. The most recent film adaptation of the novel was the 2012 musical drama-film directed by Tom Hooper. It was a major success and won a number of awards. 

Fact 3: He was also an artist who produced over 4,000 drawings during his lifetime.

  • He also campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Fact 4: He was the son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo and Sophie Trébuchet.

  • Victor was the youngest of 3 siblings. His brothers were Abel Joseph Hugo and Eugène Hugo. 

Fact 5: Victor Hugo’s parents had opposing political and religious views. 

  • His father, Leopold, was a freethinking republican who considered Napoleon a hero. His mother, on the other hand, was a devout Catholic royalist, who was said to be intimately involved with General Victor Lahorie, who was executed in 1812 for plotting against Napoleon.

Fact 6: Victor Hugo went against his mother’s wishes to marry the love of his life.

  • Young Victor fell in love with and secretly became engaged to his childhood friend Adèle Foucher, much to his mother’s dislike. The couple didn’t get married until Victor’s mother died in 1822. 

Fact 7: Adèle and Victor Hugo tragically lost their first child, Leopold, as an infant in 1823.

  • 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 28 July 1830.

Fact 8: After Napoleon III staged a coup d’état at the end of 1851, Victor Hugo decided to live in exile. 

  • Hugo lived briefly in Brussels in 1851 before moving to the Channel Islands. 

Fact 9: Hugo published his first novel, “Han d’Islande” in 1823, almost a year after he got married. 

  • Between 1829 and 1840, he published 5 volumes of poetry including, Les Orientales, Les Feuilles d’automne, Les Chants du crépuscule, Les Voix intérieures, and Les Rayons et les Ombres. 

Fact 10: Since his father was a French general, their family had to move frequently.

  • Travelling with his father to different countries made the young Hugo develop a liking for nature and beauty.  

Fact 11: Hugo published his first mature work, a fiction ‘Le Dernier jour d’un condamné’ (The Last Day of a Condemned Man) in 1829. 

  • The novel was inspired by the real-life story of a convicted murderer, and reflected the acute social conscience.

Fact 12: “Notre Dame de Paris” (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) was Victor Hugo’s first full-length book.

  • It was published in 1831 and went on to achieve immense literary success. The novel was translated into a number of foreign languages and brought the Cathedral of Notre Dame and other Renaissance buildings to the spotlight, encouraging their preservation. 

Fact 13: He started writing one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, “Les Misérables” in 1830.

  • Les Misérables was inspired in part by the true story of Eugène-François Vidocq, who turned a criminal career into an anti-crime industry. In Les Misérables, Hugo split him into two characters, Valjean and Javert, who were at odds with each other.

Fact 14: He also meddled with politics.

  • After the Revolution of 1848, and the establishment of the Second Republic, Victor Hugo was elected to Parliament as a conservative.  

Fact 15: Hugo’s residences have all been preserved, and have been turned into museums.

  • Among them are the Hauteville House, Guernsey, 6 Place des Vosges, as well as the house where he stayed in Vianden, Luxembourg, in 1871.

Fact 16: He openly called Napoleon III a traitor, leading to Hugo’s exile.

  • Napoleon III seized power in 1851 and established an anti-parliamentary constitution, much to Victor Hugo’s annoyance. After Hugo called out the French President, he was exiled from France, and he eventually settled in Guernsey, and lived there until 1870. 

Fact 17: He outlived two of his sons, as well as his wife, and his mistress.

  • Hugo lost his wife in 1868, and then his sons in the next decade between 1871 and 1873. His mistress, Juliet Drouet died in 1883.

Fact 18: Victor Hugo’s works have inspired over 100 operas. 

  • Among them are Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia (1833), Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851) and Ernani (1844), and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda (1876).

Fact 19: Hugo published his last novel “Ninety-Three” in 1874.

  • The book dabbled on the atrocities committed during the French Revolution. The book, however, failed to achieve any sort of major success. 

Fact 20: Hugo began suffering from cerebral congestion in 1878.

  • He died 7 years later in 1885 at the age of 83. His body was put to rest beneath the Arc de Triomphe before being buried in the Panthéon.


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