“To-morrow your play will appear, and I will cause it to prove a failure.”
“Instead of that,” replied Hugo, “I will make your theater bankrupt.”
The representation came on, and it proved eminently successful. But Hugo would not forgive such deception and insolence. He wrote a new play—Angelo—for a rival theater. In vain the old manager offered a high price for it. In a few months he and his theater were bankrupt, and he found, too late, that it was unwise to attempt to deceive and insult a man like Victor Hugo.
It is said that M. Hugo has a talent of high order for music, and also for drawing. During the cholera of 1832, he filled an album with caricatures to amuse his wife and children, and draw their attention from the dreadful ravages of the epidemic.
In 1841 Victor Hugo was elected a member of the Academy. Two years later he was raised to the dignity of peer of the realm. The duke of Orleans congratulated him upon the event.
A short time previous to this, Barbes was condemned to death. An application for a reprieve had been made to the king without being granted. A sister of Barbes came to Hugo, and besought him to use his influence with the king. Marie Wirtemburg had just died and the count de Paris was but a few weeks old. Hugo addressed a few touching lines of poetry to the king, and with allusions to the dead and the newly born, besought a pardon. It was instantly granted.
The history of Hugo from this time forward the whole world knows. He was an honest and hearty reformer. He was not content with glory as a man of letters—he wished to be of service to his suffering fellow-men. He was to a certain extent a communist, and a thorough republican. He hated the man Louis Napoleon, and was exiled. Belgium would not hold him, nor London—the latter was too full of smoke and fog to be endured. He said, after trying London, “The good Lord will not take the sunshine, too, from us.”
He lives now in the island of Jersey, in a simple English mansion, but very comfortable. Behind it there is a beautiful garden terminated by a terrace, upon which the sea lashes its foam when the wind is high. From the window the sad exile beholds the distant shores of his native France.
In his retreat he has occupied himself with literary labors. He has been writing a volume of poetry to appear in the epic form. He has also been busy upon a volume of philosophy, a drama of five acts in which Mazarin is to figure as the principal character, two volumes of lyrical poetry, and a romance upon a modern subject, for which he has been offered one hundred and twenty thousand francs.
Madame Hugo and the children partake of exile with Victor Hugo, together with ten grandchildren. Charles Hugo, his son, who is with him, is distinguished as an author, but busies himself principally on the island in taking daguerreotype views. He has already made a hundred different pictures of his illustrious father, and sent them to his admirers in France.