French of the French: Victor Hugo and Politics

Though he exercised little political influence, Victor Hugo’s genius and his ardent championship of liberty had made him a legendary figure long before his death.

Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo, the son of a master-carpenter in Nancy, was an army officer who owed everything to the Revolution.

In 1793 he had been sent to help put down the revolt in the Vendee; while he was there he had called at a farm at Petit-Auverne to ask for an hour’s shelter for his men.

There he had met a kind and attractive Breton girl, Sophie Trébuchet; in 1797 he married her. On February 26th 1802, at Besangon, she gave birth to their third son. He was named Victor after his godfather, General Victor Lahorie, and Marie after his godmother, Marie Dessirier, the wife of the local brigade commander.

Six weeks after Victor’s birth, Major Hugo was ordered to Marseilles, to take command of a battalion bound for San Domingo. The major believed that he must be the victim of persecution, and he sent his wife to Paris to plead with Joseph Bonaparte and with General Lahorie to change his posting.

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