Victor Hugo the famous
French writer Victor Hugo arrived in Guernsey with his wife Adele on 31st October 1855 and lived
her in exile from 1855 to 1870 following his expulsion from France during the coup d'etat in
1852. At first he rented 20 Hauteville but later acquired it for his mistress of fifty years
Juliette Drouet. He then purchased 38 Hauteville to
give himself and family security of tenure and while in Guernsey wrote 'Les Miserables', the
inspiration for the west end musical. This fascinating property was given to the city of Paris by
Jeanne Hugo and the children of George Hugo in 1927.
On landing in Guernsey on a rough
rain-lashed day, it was love at first sight. St Peter Port enchanted him and wrote 'That corner of
the old Norman land where live the noble little people of the sea, the isle of Guernsey, stern and
gentle, my present refuge, my probable tomb.' He also described St Peter Port as 'A real old Norman
port, hardly anglicised at all.' Later he wrote ' A gothic church, streets ancient, narrow, uneven,
odd amusing, intersected by steps, clambering up and tumbling down, the houses piled on top of one
another so that they all have a view of the sea. And a little harbour where the vessels are stacked
together, where the yard-arms of the schooners ever risk smashing into the windows that overlook
Victor Hugo House 38, Hauteville
Another of Hugo's best known works, 'Toilers of the
Sea' was dedicated to the people of Guernsey. A map entitled the 'Victor Hugo trail' is available from the
Guernsey Information Centre and shows the many places in Guernsey that feature in this novel. This includes St
Sampsons, the home of several of his characters. He also describes the sea channel that separated the north of
island extending to Grande Havre, later filled in. The trail also includes Vale Castle, Houmet Paradis, L'Ancresse
and Cobo Bay. A second trail, the southern one, takes in Fermain Bay where Hugo often bathed and continues to the
Doyle Column at Jerbourg, Moulin Huet Bay, Le Gouffre, Pleinmont and back into the centre of the island to
His life was a mixture of literature and politics and used his writings to highlight the plight
of the poor of Paris. However how many people realise that he spent a fortune looking after the poor of Guernsey.
His immaculately kept diaries and accounts show every amount that he spent and from there we have learned that he
used to give away £20,000 per annum to charitable causes. In addition he ran a special dining club for the poor
children of St Peter Port. He referred to this as 'Le Diner des enfants pauvres'.
At first he started feeding eight children once a week on a Tuesday but as news of this spread,
the numbers increased to forty, with members of his own family serving. In fact he used to go out looking for poor
children and would bring them back to be clothed and fed. This led to him becoming known as Guernsey's own Father
Christmas. He would be seen walking the streets of St Peter Port and the cliff paths in all weathers. Whereas he
had been evicted from Jersey for his drinking and cannabis smoking, the Guernsey people loved him.
Hugo lived in Guernsey for just over 15 years until 9 November 1878. He died in Paris in 1885
and was given a state funeral. He is buried in the Pantheon.
Hauteville House is open 1st April to 30 September Monday to Saturday from 10.00am to 11.45am
and 2.00pm to 4.45pm (10.00am to 4.45 pm July & August). Closed on Sundays and bank holidays. Guided tours only
(max 15 persons).