Victor Hugo's Guernsey

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  • Victor Hugo and family
  • Interior at Hauteville House
  • Views from the Crystal Room at Hauteville House
  • Bedroom interior at Hauteville House
  • Hauteville House

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo in Guernsey

Author of many novels including Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo sought exile in Guernsey for 15 years from 1855 until 1870, writing ‘Toilers of the Sea,’ whilst resident on the island. Fleeing his native France, he moved to Brussels and then Jersey before being expelled and settling in Guernsey, buying and renovating an eclectic four storey house in St Peter Port. After his death the house was gifted to The City of Paris who conserve it exactly as the author left it and open it as a museum from April until September each year. Tours of the house can be booked (except Wednesdays) and the gardens are free to enter.

Victor Hugo and exile to Hauteville House

As a child Hugo travelled widely with his officer father and Catholic Royalist mother. Politics came naturally and the author soon found he had a reputation as a Romantic and Freethinker, arguing for universal suffrage, free schooling for all and an end to capital punishment. When Napoleon III seized power in 1851, Hugo fled in exile to Brussels, then Jersey and finally settled in Guernsey where he wrote from a room offering panoramic views of the Bailiwick Islands and France. Many novels were published or written whilst he was in Guernsey, including ‘Toilers of the Sea’ which reflects many aspects of the island and was dedicated to the island, his ‘rock of hospitality and liberty’.

Life and influences

Hugo undoubtedly aligned himself to the plight of those less fortunate than himself, themes explored in his work. His personal life showed a man of passion, secretly becoming engaged to his wife Adéle Foucher and only marrying on the death of his mother. Of their five children, the first died in infancy and the second at the age of 19 when, newly married, she took a boat trip and drowned taking her husband with her as he tried to rescue her. Hugo’s grief can be observed in his poetry.

On arriving in Guernsey he surrounded himself with his family and long term mistress and secretary, Juliette Drouet. The couple would meet secretly in Victoria Tower and inscribed their initials there.

Hauteville House

The only way to ensure his stay in Guernsey was to buy property as the law prevented property owners from being deported. Hauteville House had been built at the turn of the century but lay empty due to rumours that it was haunted! Hugo bought it and set about renovating it with second hand furniture and eclectic décor. Preserved today, the ambling house makes for a fascinating visit and insight into the author’s life.

Hugo’s Guernsey

Today a stature stands in Candie Gardens marking the authors life and presence on the island. Showing him mid-stride, he was often seen traversing the south coast cliffs and picturesque bays at Moulin Huet, Pleinmont and Port Soif. Hugo returned to France in the latter part of his life, making several visits back to Guernsey before his death in 1885.

 

Hauteville House
Statue of Victor Hugo
Views from Hauteville House