The Romantic Life of Victor Hugo

Literary Representations
Lorettes and society

Lower Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers

The Privileged Class: Courtesans

Defining the courtesan
Visual representations
Courtesans in reality




Victor Marie Hugo (1802-1885), was a French poet, novelist, and playwright. One of his very famous works is the novel Les Miserables in which he portrays the life of the less fortunate. One of the characters in this book is Fantine, the mother of Cossette, who, in order to support herself and her daughter turns to the only mode of bringing in greater sums of money for women at the time, prostitution.( for more on Hugo's litererary depictions click here) As one reads Hugo's biography it is possible to see that perhaps such characters did not grow fully from his imagination. Victor Hugo had a large sexual appetite and he satiated it throughout his life with many different women.

Victor Hugo 1. for source click here


Adele Foucher (Bulloz; Maison de Victor Hugo) 2. for source click here


  • The Romantic life of Hugo began when as a teenager; he fell in love with a neighbor's daughter, Adele Foucher. His mother discouraged the romance, believing that her son should marry into a finer family but after his mother's death he did marry Adele. Together they had five children and it seemed as though the stage for their life was set. What more could a couple ask for, a happy marriage and many children? Apparently this couple wanted more because they were both guilty of infidelity.
  • A name that is mentioned in almost every biography of Hugo is Juliette Drouet. Around 1831 Hugo's wife, Adele Hugo became romantically involved with a well-known critic and good friend of Victor's named Sainte-Beuve. It was around this time that Victor became involved with the actress Juliette Drouet, who soon became his mistress. Supported by a small pension from Hugo, Drouet became his unpaid secretary and traveling companion for the next fifty years. She is mentioned often in the biography of Victor Hugo and their letters, which have been recorded, are graphic and passionate. Though Hugo would stray in the future he returned to Juliette many times. In every piece on Hugo's life Juliette is mentioned but she was certainly not the only lover that he had.

Juliette Drouet in 1832 (Bulloz; Musee Carnavalet) 3. for source click here


  • Leonie Biard is a woman who is not so often mentioned even though her exploits with the famous writer eventually landed her in prison for adultery. Although both Hugo and Briard were married they began to see eachother. Their encounters did not remain private for very long however because On July fourth Hugo and Biard were found "in criminal conversation and in uncrumpled attire meaning that they were comitting adultery and were wearing no clothes. While his lover went to jail Hugo left the station a free man because he was pair de France and was thus immune to prosecution" (4. for source click here). When she heard the news Mme Hugo was pleased that Juliette had a rival took up Leonie's case.


  • Alice Ozy was also linked to Victor Hugo through their sexual exploits. Strangely enough Hugo met this woman because his son was besotted with her and was angered by her unfaithfulness. He went to his father and asked for help in fixing the situation. Hugo fixed it by sending erotic odes to Alice who eventually succumbed to his charm and joined the list of Hugo's conquests much to the anger of his son.


  • Victor Hugo's biography contains much more along these lines with enough sexual exploits to rival any novel. Though some might frown upon his many lovers others, like Graham who wrote one biography, empathized with him and seemed to think that his lusty love life simply helped to fuel his art.


  • "Sex for him was a form of contemplation" he found his outlet for contemplation in the many affairs that he had with actresses, wives and courtesans. To him "fallen women and courtesans were a pleasant antidote to the hypocrisy of high society." He was quoted for saying "They have as much heart soul and spirit as society women but are frank where society women are prudish." (4. for source click here)


In the case of Victor Hugo I think it is safe to say that he did not have contempt for prostitution. In fact I would go so far as to say that not only did he patronize many courtesans and prostitutes but he empathized with them and their plight.

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