I’ve admired the French novelist, 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 in my mind. Even as a teenager, a poorly translated copy of Les Misérables was sufficient to convert me into an adoring fan. In my early 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 life-altering unabridged version of Les Mis as a gift, and I was completely and reverently smitten with Victor Hugo. Curious to see if he was perhaps a “one-hit wonder,” I read Toilers of the Sea. Another masterpiece. Little did I imagine as a teen that I’d one day see his tomb in the crypt beneath the Panthéon, or visit the house where he lived on 6 Place des Vosges in Paris. Yet here we were at the Maison de Victor Hugo, the house where he lived for the 16 years that political exile didn’t keep him from his beloved France.Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. Les Misérables, Victor HugoClick To Tweet
Hugo moved into this building, which had long been known as the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, in 1832 with his young bride, Adele Foucher. Before you exhale a romantic “ahhhhh,” though, know that shortly thereafter, Hugo met Juliette Drouet, a French actress who would become his faithful mistress for decades until she died in 1883, preceding Hugo in death by two years.
Despite his infidelity, Hugo dedicated himself to the new home with his wife. A sprawling space with multiple rooms, it 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. He loved interior design, slowly creating a space of comfort and beauty for his wife.
The last and smallest room we visited in the sumptuous apartment was Hugo’s bedroom.
In it, the same 4-poster bed where he succumbed to pneumonia in 1885 stood 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, his entire bedroom, along with other memorabilia, was relocated to the Maison de Victor Hugo to create the museum.
Multiple versions now exist of Les Misérables, but the 10th Anniversary performance has become my favorite, even over the original.
The soundtrack from the 2012 motion picture? Puh-leeze. Not even in the same ballpark.
- Ticket pricing is a bit confusing. Normally entry to the museum is said to be free for the “permanent collections.” According to their website, “There is an admission charge to the temporary exhibitions (varies between €5 and €7).” I assumed we would still 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, and the price of a single adult ticket was €8.
- 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.
- Official site for Maison de Victor Hugo
- 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.