HUGO, Victor (1802-1885)

Autograph letter signed “Victor H” à Joséphine Trébuchet
Brussels, 19th December [1851], 1 page in-8 on double sheet

“I fought for the right, for the truth, for the righteous, for the people, for France”

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HUGO, Victor (1802-1885)

Autograph letter signed “Victor H” à Joséphine Trébuchet
Brussels, 19th December [1851], 1 page in-8 on double sheet
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Vibrant and precious letter from Victor Hugo, written in the early hours of his exile from Brussels, just 17 days after Napoleon III’s coup d’état


“Brussels – 19 Xbre
My wife tells me all your lovely gratitude, dear cousin, how to thank you. Alas! I no longer have a long arm, otherwise I would kiss you from Brussels to Paris.
Tell my dear and good cousin that my heart is full of him. I have fought for the right, for the truth, for the righteous, for the people, for France, against crime in all its forms, from treason to atrocity. We have succumbed, but valiantly and proudly, and the future is ours. Praise God always!
I kiss your hands, my cousin.
Victor H.
Kiss my dear daughter for me.”


On December 2nd, 1851, the day of Napoleon III’s coup d’état, Victor Hugo was put a price on his own head for his opposition to the emperor and for trying, in vain, to organize the resistance by raising the Parisian masses. 25,000 francs reward are promised to whoever captures him. On 11 December, Hugo, with a false passport, leaves Paris for Brussels on the 8pm train under the name Jacques-Firmin Lanvin. He is alone.

On the same day as our letter, December 19, Hugo wrote to Paul Meurice: “If we could colonize a small corner of free earth! Exile would no longer be exile. I’m making this dream.”

This small corner of free land was first the Channel Island of Jersey, then the island of Guernsey, where it settled as early as 1855. His exile lasted for nearly 20 years.

At the capitulation of Napoleon III following the stinging failure of the French army in Sedan on September 1st, 1870, Victor Hugo returned to France on the 5th of the same month and uttered these unforgettable words that would forever last:
“Citizen, I said: The day the Republic returns, I will return. Here I am. […] Defend Paris, keep Paris. Saving Paris is more than saving France, saving the world. Paris is the very center of humanity. Paris is the sacred city. Whoever attacks Paris attacks the whole human race. […] Let us all gather around the Republic in the face of invasion and be brothers. We’ll win. It is through brotherhood that freedom is saved.”

See Jean-Marc Hovasse’s article about this letter