Unmasking the Bourgeoise


A Love Story




Real Life


She was a brunette, with abundant black hair and arched eyebrows, large, bright, soft eyes, a straight, delicate nose, and a beautifully formed mouth. As a young 16 year old lady, she was adorably sweet and handsome. She was Adele Foucher, the source of young Victor Hugo's idolatry, and his first love. He was a writer growing in talent and fame, and his budding genius bowed before her beauty humbly and timidly. (Meurice, xvii). Their courtship can be described as the ideal Romantic tragedy


Victor had known Adele when they were children. She was the little bourgeoisie back in Paris and the daughter of the pro-French Marques de Montehermosa. (Robb, 37). Their two families, the Hugos and the Fouchers, had been intimate friends before their birth. Their children grew up together and the young children called each other thee and thou.

Parental resistance created the ideal tragic situation for the two lovers. (Robb, 79) Adele's father, Pierre Foucher, was Mme. Hugo's friend. Although M. Foucher was secretly excited about Victor's rising literary success, he feared Mme. Hugo would disapprove of Adele. Therefore, Adele was warned that young Victor was vainglorious, volatile and lazy. Nonetheless, they slipped letters into each other's hands and began a long and perilous journey of emotional correspondence, which in Hugo's mind, undoubtedly would end in marriage. So sure was he, that he boldly signed his first letter to her, YOUR HUSBAND. After 2 years and 200 love letters exchanged between the lovers, Victor and Adele were married.

Hugo loved Adele truly and deeply, and perhaps for a time, she believed she loved him as much. In the early years of their courtship, when her mother was out, Adele would make her escape from the house, run swiftly downstairs, and glide along a shady path to meet Victor, who was expecting her, "under the chestnut trees". (similar to Cosette sneaking to meet Marius…similar in parental restriction resulting in tragic love). Then sometimes, in the morning, Adele would go to the market in her mother's stead, as was a common practice in those days, when the manners of the bourgeoisie were more simple than they are at present, and when charming young girls of that class wore caps like peasantry. The little housekeeper would make her purchase, and then, not without scruples of conscience, she would hasten to join Victor in some quiet street where he was waiting for her, a scene similar to Marius and Cosette's relationship in one of Hugo's later books.

The combination of delicious anguish and the powerful conviction of a forgone conclusion proved to be practically, if not emotionally irresistible.

But as it would turn out, they were too young to know the true meaning of love, they didn't understand its demands. Theirs was a childish love, without thought to its responsibilities or its sacrifice. Even when they made the supreme confession, they were mere children playing the game of love. On the day of April 26, 1819 that Victor, 19 and Adele, 16 years old declared their love for one another. (Meurice, 10). The bolder and more curious Adele wanted to find out what was the meaning of his silent admiration. She said: "I am sure you have secrets. Have you not one secret, greater than all?" When Victor admitted to possession of this secret, Adele gleefully cried out, "Just like me! Well, come now, tell me your greatest secret, and I will tell you mine." My greatest secret, Victor replied, "is that I love you." Adele echoed back, "And my great secret is that I love you" (Meurice, 10).

Adele believed herself to be nothing more than a poor little girl with Bourgeois ideas, and she was more or less accurate in believing this. Although fairly gifted in appearance, not much could be said for her character, she possessed neither tastes nor cleverness in the matter of dress; she had always shown herself to him in careless attire and unfashionable gowns. Absent-minded and limited in intelligence, she remained uncultured and oblivious of the genius of her husband and of achievements of which she appreciated only the financial value. She was not very fond of poetry, even though she was later to be loved by two of the greatest French poets. In addition, she had declined to share the noble ideal originally proposed to her by bridegroom Victor Hugo: love considered as "the ardent and pure union of two souls, a union begun on earth to end not even in Heaven" (Gimbaud, 23). She was young and naïve, and felt Victor had placed her too high on his pedestal. And perhaps she was right. He loved her with all the passion of two people have never fallen in love, and assured her that "It is our souls which love each other, not our bodies". She wondered whether girls were allowed to kiss boys before they were married, and never understood why Victor would stay up all night writing, and had heard that "passion" was the demon that destroyed domestic harmony. For ten years, that is, practically the whole of their marriage, Madame Adele Hugo had behaved in such a manner and it was no surprise when the day of betrayal finally came, when she cheat on Hugo with his friend.

M. Charles Saint-Beuve worked closely with Hugo and Hugo considered him a friend. Hugo helped the young Saint-Beuve explore the realms of poetry. Meanwhile, Saint Beuve wormed his way into Mme. Hugo's life, courted her and became her lover, and immediately increased the reservations he expressed about Victor and the barbs he directed against him in his many critics on Hugo's works. Saint-Beauve had been secretly meeting Adele in churches and rented room. Hugo's Aunt Martine, acted as a messenger and was paid by Adele. (Robb, 163). But the nature of their liasion was rather stale, of an almost passionless intensity. Deceiving Hugo seemed to be the most important part of the arrangement.

Hugo's moral distress over this betrayal was immense, his pain unfathomable. One is moved at his despair as he writes: "I have acquired the conviction that it is possible for the one who possesses all my love, to cease to care for me, I am no longer happy." It wounded him so terribly that after reading his anguish, one wonders if he was able to forget and is amazed that he was able to recover.

The life Hugo had built for himself with Adele slowly unraveled before his eyes and became dismantled piece by piece, and the poet was forced to seek happiness in Juliette Drouet's arms.