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  • Writer's pictureTer Hollmann

A Brief History of Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris

What is Maison de Victor Hugo?

Maison de Victor Hugo is a museum dedicated to the life of Victor Hugo, a French literary giant and statesman of the 19th century.

Maison de Victor Hugo, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Victor Hugo and Maison de Victor Hugo History

Victor Hugo was an immensely revered figure within French literature popular amongst all walks of French society. Over two million people joined his funeral procession in 1885 as it made its way from the Arc de Triomphe to his final resting place at the Panthéon. There he remains alongside other great French public figures such as Marie Curie, Émile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas.

Hugo is a giant of French arts and letters. His two masterpieces, Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, are still taught in schools and read around the world, and have been adapted into countless movies, plays and television shows. Hugo was also regarded as one of the greatest poets of his generation, and was also a passionate advocate of human rights and a skilled politician, campaigning against the death penalty and for the abolition of slavery. When Napoleon III seized power in 1851, Hugo declared him a traitor, an act which forced him into exile for nearly twenty years. When he finally returned, it was to a hero’s welcome.

While his professional life was a triumph, his personal life was filled with great sadness and tragedy. His eldest daughter, Leopoldine, died in a boating accident a few months after her wedding, whilst her younger sister, Adèle, developed schizophrenia as a young woman and was eventually admitted to a psychiatric hospital outside Paris. Despite this, he always fought for the wellbeing of others and of his beloved country, writing of himself in 1877, aged 75: ‘I am not one of these sweet-tempered old men. I am still exasperated and violent. I shout and I feel indignant and I cry. Woe to anyone who harms France! I do declare I will die a fanatic patriot’.

The Maison de Victor Hugo is a celebration of everything that made Hugo a national hero. The museum is housed in the apartments where Hugo lived with his wife Adèle from 1832 to 1848, though it’s really an amalgam of all the different places he lived over his lifetime. In fact, the bedroom is even a recreation of the room in which Hugo died in 1885, created with the help of his grandchildren, who donated the furniture.

The museum was founded by a good friend of Hugo’s, Paul Meurice, who was also the executor of his will. In 1902, Meurice lobbied the Paris council, suggesting that 6 Place des Vosges should be turned into a celebration of his friend’s life and work. His timing was perfect, as the city was already planning a tribute for the centenary of his birth. Meurice made a large donation to the city council, which helped them to purchase the apartment and open the museum.

At the Maison de Victor Hugo you can also see first edition prints of many of Hugo’s works, a permanent collection of his art and drawings, and a number of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

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