The legendary French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885), known from his masterpiece Les Misérables, lived in exile for 19 years in Brussels, Jersey and Guernsey. It is no wonder that The Museum of Letters and Manuscripts of Brussels now dedicates a grand exposition to the most influential French Romantic writer of the 19th century, gifted thinker and statesman.
Victor Hugo lived in Brussels for 1000 days. During this period, he had no less than 14 different addresses! Mayor Louis de Brouckère of Brussels protected him, and a minister offered him his shirts because Hugo had literally left everything in Paris. The reason why he ran away wasn’t literary, as you would expect, but political. On 2 December 1851 Napoléon Bonaparte dismissed the Assemblée, of which Victor Hugo was a member. As a result, Hugo became one of the leaders of the left side and finally had to flee because of his fierce activism. His lover, Juliette Drouet, followed him, but to avoid any scandal they don’t live together. Drouet lived at the Galléries des Princes, where you can now find book store ‘Tropismes’. Victor Hugo himself stayed at the Grand Place, in house number 16. He had a magnificent view on the Brussels city hall and the cathedral, which he often wrote about with a lot of love and admiration.
But Victor Hugo was more than a passionate writer. He also appeared to be a spiritual person, talented illustrator and architectural enthusiast. From the Grand Place in Brussels to Hauteville House on the Channel Island of Guernsey, the exhibition ‘Victor Hugo In Exile’ shows the censored writer’s true colours. Drawings of maritime landscapes, poems, famous publications such as Les Misérables and his extensive correspondence testify how Hugo’s relationships, political ideas and loneliness influenced his work.
You can visit this expo until 29 March 2015 at The Museum of Letters and Manuscripts of Brussels, Galléries Royales 1, 1000 Brussels. Open from Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm. Entrance fee: 7 €, 5 € with reduction.