Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mangers may have been alright for Jesus, but certainly not for Victor Hugo

Happy holidays to the Gentle Readers that celebrate them, and the very best of luck with travel plans. Even today travel is somewhat dicey and one may always find oneself stranded in such insalubrious places as the middle of the Chunnel.

However, one must give thanks that one will never be stranded in 19th century Brittany. Victor Hugo once was (he had gone there to make up with his mistress, Juliette Drouet, who had fled Paris after a very violent row). He was in no very good humor upon his arrival, as Juliette Drouet was more-or-less the love of his life and he was uncertain if even he, Victor Hugo, the French Shakespeare and pretty much The Author of the 19th century, could say anything to win her back. Add that to the fact that Brittany was extremely poor, very uncultured (and therefore did not recognize Victor Hugo Himself, even after he explained who he was, because they all spoke the local patois instead of Parisian French), extremely dirty and full of superstitious peasants that neither spoke French nor bathed regularly.

Hugo was appalled by the very low standard of living and later wrote, very vitriolically, that the peasants and the pigs slept together in the same one-room hovels which, "as you can imagine, makes the pigs very dirty."


  1. So what happened? Did she take him back? You made me laugh -- poor M. Hugo, travelling amongst the peasants! Katherine Louise

  2. She did, in the end, take him back. Hugo even actually outfitted a house for her in Guernesey, when Napoleon III exiled him, and she doesn't seem to have minded joining him (and his family, with his still-living wife) in exile.