Stalking Victor Hugo: An American In Paris

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Victor Hugo is one of the greatest French authors of all time. Born in 1802, the poet and novelist is best known for having penned The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables. Fans of the legendary author will be excited to know that the home where he lived in Paris for 16 years is now a museum open to visitors.  It’s known simply as the Maison de Victor Hugo – “Home of Victor Hugo.”

Victor Hugo finished Les Misérables, which was his masterpiece, in 1862. Originally written in French, the novel broke records with its impressive length: about 1900 pages in French and 1500 in English.

Immediately popular, it was later adapted for Broadway and remains one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Hollywood released a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in 2012, and numerous abridged books are available. 

Where is the Maison de Victor Hugo?

The official address of the Maison de Victor Hugo is 6 Place des Vosges in Paris. 

The home is one of many apartments set in a quadrant of buildings surrounding the Place des Vosges, a park in an upscale area of Paris.

The park is popular with locals and tourists alike. On a sunny day, it’s a beautiful place to stop for a picnic lunch on a park bench or just soak up the history of the surroundings.

Hugo’s home and the Place des Vosges fall within the 4th arrondissement of Paris.

Inside Victor Hugo’s Home in Paris

Hugo moved into the building on 6 Place des Vosges, which had long been known as the Hôtel de Rohan-Guémén, in 1832. An interesting man with a tumultuous life, the author always considered France his home, even while he was later in exile. 

Accompanying him was his young bride, Adele Foucher. 

Painting of Victor Hugo's wife in their home in Paris
A painting of Adele Foucher, Victor Hugo’s wife, hangs in the antechamber of the home.

Before you exhale a romantic, “Ahhhhh” though, know that shortly thereafter, Hugo met Juliette Drouet. She was a French actress who would become his faithful mistress for decades. 

Over the years, she jealously watched while he had countless affairs; she even followed him faithfully into exile to the Channel Islands, where Hugo lived from 1852 to 1870. 

Drouet died in 1883, preceding Hugo in death by two years. His wife, Adele, died in 1868.

Painting from the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris
Hanging in the antechamber is a scene from “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” which was published the year before Hugo moved into the home. In it, Esmeralda gives water to the cathedral’s disfigured beast, Quasimodo.

Despite his infidelity, Hugo dedicated himself to the new home with his wife. He loved interior design, slowly creating a space of comfort and beauty for he and Adele.

A sprawling space with multiple rooms, the Maison de Victor Hugo was quickly filled with art: paintings done by friends and by Hugo himself, as well as furniture he found and redesigned in a style exactly to his liking. 

The "Chinese Lounge" in the Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris
One room in the house, the “Chinese Lounge,” is filled with decorative Asian plates displayed on colorful wall panels that were designed and hand-painted by Hugo himself.

Hugo had a knack for finding old furniture and creating new pieces with a distinctively Gothic style, as is the case with the pieces in the dining room.

Dining room of Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris
Gothic furniture in Victor Hugo's dining room
His affinity for the Gothic style is particularly evident in this piece in the dining room.
Victor Hugo's study in the Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris
The small study holds a writing desk where Hugo used to write standing up. Letters Hugo exchanged with loved ones are also on display.
Bust of Hugo at his home in Paris, France
A bust of Hugo by sculptor Auguste Rodin is displayed on a table in the study.

The smallest room in the sumptuous home is Hugo’s bedroom. 

In it, the same 4-poster bed where he succumbed to pneumonia in 1885 stands against the wall in a single beam of light. Though he’d been living at 130 Avenue d’Eylau in Paris for several years at the time of his death, Hugo’s entire bedroom, along with other memorabilia, was relocated to the Maison de Victor Hugo to create the museum.

Portrait of Victor Hugo on his deathbed in his home in Paris
Hanging on a wall in the bedroom is a portrait of Hugo on his deathbed – his final words, “I see black light.”

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I’ve admired Victor Hugo for so long that I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t conjure up the image of his distinguished, grey-bearded face. 

As a teenager, a poorly translated copy of Les Misérables was enough to make a permanent impression. In my twenties, my brother-in-law recorded a copy of his CD of the original Broadway musical onto several cassette tapes for me. For weeks as soon as I finished playing all three tapes, I’d start again at the beginning. 

Then a few years ago, my husband gave me a superb unabridged version of Les Mis as a gift, and I became completely and reverently smitten with Victor Hugo. Branching out to see if he was perhaps a one-hit wonder, I read Toilers of the Sea. Another masterpiece! 

As a teen, I never imagined I’d one day travel to Paris, visit his tomb beneath the Panthéon, or see the home where he lived and loved in Paris.

I would hardly profess to be Victor Hugo’s greatest fan. I can’t recite vociferous quotes from his novels, and I’ve never read a single poem of his. But wandering the same streets that he last walked 137 years ago, visiting places like the Bastille, seeing the intimate quarters – the very same desk! – where he wrote the novel to end all novels – well, that’s just not the kind of thing most folks have the opportunity to do every day. 

Now that my little tryst with all things Victor Hugo has ended in Paris, I suppose that seeing Les Misérables performed on Broadway would be the ultimate finale for my obsession. More likely it would further fuel the fires of fascination that burn ever so brightly for my literary idol.

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Know Before You Go
  • Ticket pricing can be a bit confusing. Normally entry to the museum is free for the “permanent collections.” According to their website, they charge admission to the temporary exhibitions, with amounts varying between €5 and €7. We happened to visit while the Maison de Victor Hugo was hosting a temporary exhibit. Since we just wanted to tour the home and not see the exhibit, I assumed we would be able to enter for free to merely view the permanent collections, but this wasn’t the case. We were required to buy tickets at the entrance. The price of a single adult ticket was €8, which included visiting all areas of the home.
  • Audio guides are available but cost an additional €5.
  • The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 1000 to 1800. It’s closed on Mondays and public holidays. We recommend checking their official site for updates before visiting.
  • If you haven’t read Les Misérables and are looking for a challenge, I’d recommend the unabridged translation by Charles E. Wilbour. It’s 1280 pages of literary genius, both by Victor Hugo and by the translator. My copy was a gift from my husband years ago, one of the few things we didn’t sell or give away when we moved to Europe.
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