Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Eloquent, M. Hugo

Victor Hugo was never one for staying silent when he could make speeches, and the mini-rebellion against Napoleon III's coup d'etat in 1851 was no exception. Upon hearing that several representatives had been arrested, troops had invaded the National Assembly, posters had been put up declaring a state of siege against the machination of liberal deputies and socialists, the bell-towers had been guarded, and all municipal drums (used to call people to arms, like the bell towers) had been punctured, Victor Hugo knew what to do. He grabbed his representative's sash and started agitating for rebellion.

Sure enough, Victor Hugo's quartier erected barricades (and was one of the few quartiers to do so). Victor Hugo dashed off wordy counter proclaimations, printed on an early form of carbon paper by illegal printing presses and attempted to harangue other quartiers into open rebellion. He was not very successful, as he admits in his memoirs:

Hugo: Follow my sash to the barricades.
A Worker: That's not going to put another forty sous in my pocket, is it?
Hugo: You are a cur.

Sometimes, the Amateur Historian admits, one ought to let history speak for itself.


  1. Are you trying to turn us off the great Hugo? That wasn't a very nice statement! Did he really care about the workers - he could have given him forty sous! lol

  2. Ha, I admit that could have been the wisest thing to do! Hugo did genuinely care for the working class- a childhood full of financial instability made him extremely unwilling to spend money, but his largest expenses were his charitable contributions.

    Only thing is, Hugo got kind of disgruntled when he didn't get his own way. I happen to think it's really funny, i.e. "Exile me? Well, fine, have an ENORMOUS BOOK OF POETRY ON WHAT A CRAPPY HUMAN BEING YOU ARE NAPOLEON III".