In October 1832, thirty years old and already the titan of French letters,Victor Hugo moved with his wife Adèle and their two sons and two daughters into the spacious second-floor apartment in the Hôtel Rohan-Guéménée at No. 6 Place des Vosges, looking over the park. Now the Musée Victor Hugo, it is a rich part of my “Great Days of the Marais” walking tour.
Riding high on the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, several lavishly praised books of lyrical poetry, and his riot-igniting play Hernani already behind him, Hugo was the Romantic Movement’s acknowledged leader. Here he wrote his most successful play Ruy Blas, three other dramas, poetry, and drafts of sections of Les Misérables. In 1841 he was elected to the Académie française and four years later elevated to peer of France as viscount by King Louis-Philippe. But during the Revolution of 1848, Hugo switched to the democratic side and was elected deputy to the Second Republic ‘s National Constituent Assembly.
Casting a pall over Hugo’s triumphs, however, was the calamitous state of his marriage. Adèle, his childhood sweetheart, came to see him as an egotist and a tyrant, and she entered upon an affair with Hugo’s close friend Sainte-Beuve. The double betrayal crushed him. But in January 1833 he met a lovely young actress engaged for a bit part in his play Lucrèce Borgia. From his first night with Juliette Drouet to her death half a century later, they spent hardly a day apart. “Jugu,” as he called her, unleashed in her “Toto” a passion for the erotic, and she thrilled to his poetry, as Adèle never had. Juliette became his copyist, putting his unruly scrawl into legible form until her eyes gave out in old age. Although they saw each other almost daily, they managed to exchange seventeen thousand notes and letters.
Toto set Jugu up in a modest apartment nearby on Rue Sainte-Anastasie. The back door of his house opened onto the Impasse Guéménée, providing convenient cover for his visits to her, and eventually, to many others. Juliette managed to live with his dalliances, but his serious affairs hurt.
Hugo loved being on the Place des Vosges, but on June 24, 1848, after street fighting broke out during a workers’ uprising, he wrote in his journal:
“Fourteen bullets hit my coach house door, eleven outside, three inside. A soldier of the line was mortally wounded in my courtyard. We still see the streak of blood on the paving stones.”
Hugo quickly moved his family to the then-countrified neighborhood of Saint-Georges, in today’s Ninth Arrondissement. Three years later, in 1851, his fiery denunciation of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s coup d’état forced him to flee from France, and he, his family, and Juliette went into exile, first in Brussels, then in the Channel Islands, remaining there until the fall of “Napoléon le Petit,” as Hugo dubbed him, in 1870.
The rooms in the Musée Victor Hugo are devoted to three periods of Hugo’s life:
ν his dwelling place on the Place des Vosges …
ν his exile in the island of Guernsey (we see a Medieval-themed room from his Hautville House and a Japanese-style room from Juliette Drouet’s house Hautville Fairy)…
ν and his last fifteen years in Paris.
The reconstituted bedroom from his final home on Avenue Victor-Hugo (named for him during his lifetime, a very rare honor) is dominated by the Louis XIII bed in which he died on May 22, 1885, at eighty-three. His last words were “Je vois la lumière noire”—“I see the black light.”
David Burke’s Writers in Paris Walking Tours 2015 series continues through November 29. 2015. Check it out on www.writersinpariswalkingtours.blogspot.fr
Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
Each 6” X 4.25” traditional size postcard is printed on thick matte coated card stock, similar to traditional vintage postcard stock that enhances the vibrancy of every image.
Only $60 for a 6 month subscription (plus shipping)or
$110 for a 12-month subscription (plus shipping)
My offer of a 12-month subscription with an extra month free is good until October 31, so remember to order now before the offer ends.
Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more. In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.
Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.