Saturday, June 26, 2010
Hauteville House: An Introduction
The Amateur Historian begs the pardon of her Gentle Readers, as she has been on vacation/various geeky trips, i.e. to see Hauteville House on Guernsey. Hauteville House is, as Hugo and his family describe it, a poem in several rooms.
Unfortunately, that poem is one of Hugo's, so the floor plan has been inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy and is full of somber slogans about the transience of mortal existence, punctuated by skulls, Flemish paintings of peasants beating up the aristocracy, the clergy and the army, Orientalist touches like walls lined with unused crockery and Hugo's favorite interior design choice, carpeted ceilings.
According to the Divine Comedy floorplan, the ground floor is hell, full of somber colors, dark wood paneling and very little light. The second floor is purgatory, which is sumptuously and rather ironically decorated in Napoleon III style, full of silk brocades and metallic tapestries (several of which are, in fact, on the ceiling). The third floor and attic are paradise, with enormous windows dominating each room.
It is unclear, at this time, if there is a link between where Hugo placed people's bedrooms and the floors of his house. For example, Hugo's room is up in the attic, where the light streams in, his sons have rooms on the second floor, his wife and daughter have rooms in Purgatory and his poor, belagured secretary's room was on the first. It is quite possible that Hugo was very gently suggesting to M. Vacquerie to find another job; after all, when one's employer kindly reserves one a room in hell, it is rather a lowering experience.