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The Duality of Daphne du Maurier Albert Camus and his Torrid Affairs
Women of Victor Hugo - Poets & Storytellers
2318    Dibyendu Banerjee    13/06/2020

It is said that most of the artists, which include the poets and the writers, are deeply fascinated by female beauty and are womanizers. Victor Hugo, the celebrated French Romantic author, was not an exception to it. He was one of the greatest sex players in the world of writers and led a loud, libidinous and tumultuous life. According to the BBC adaptation of Les Miserables, he once may have bedded 200 women in only two years.

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Considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers, Victor Marie Hugo was born on 26 February 1802, in the city of Besacon in Eastern France. During his literary career spanning over more than sixty years he wrote abundantly in an exceptional variety of genres. However, he is renowned for his poetry collections in France and outside his country, he is famous for the creation of his iconic novels, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and Les Miserables (1962). Apart from that, he also produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime.

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Adele Foucher, by Louis Boulanger

The romantic life of Victor Hugo began when as a teenager he fell in love with a neighbour's daughter, Adele Foucher. However, his mother opposed the relationship, as she wanted her son to be married to a girl of higher pedigree. Because of his close relationship with his mother, Victor waited patiently, but secretly became engaged to the girl and after the death of her mother, the couple married in a Catholic ceremony on 12 October 1822.

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Victor's brother, Eugène Hugo was also in love with Adèle and had a mental set back when she married Victor. According to Hugo’s biographer, Edward Behr, the wedding night was a trial for his bride, as Hugo made love nine times with his newly married wife on that night and the feelings Foucher had for Hugo were never the same after their brutal wedding night. Apparently, they were a happy couple and had five children. But shortly after her youngest child's birth, Adèle ceased to have sexual relations with her husband and around 1831, she began her affair with Hugo's friend Sainte-Beuve and her relationship with her husband became purely formal.

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Juliette Drouet

It was around this time that Victor became involved with the actress Juliette Drouet, whose name is mentioned in almost every biography of Hugo. She entered Hugo's life at a time when he was disillusioned to find that the love of his life, his childhood sweetheart, had betrayed him and the betrayal was too painful for him to bear. Juliette Drouet was among the cast in Lucrece Borgia, a prose drama written by him, to be staged at the Porte-Saint-Martin. She was given a minor part of the Princess Negroni. Juliette was amazingly beautiful. She had the air of a woman, while her smile and movements kept her still a girl. Her face presented a perfect image of calmness and purity, which attracted Victor Hugo. On the other hand, Juliette had a turbulent past. Before she met Victor Hugo, she had no less than four lovers. She modeled for James Pradier, who gave her a child, Claire, whom Victor later grew to love as his own. Her lovers also included a millionaire and a journalist, who borrowed all her money and never paid it back. She was a typical Parisian courtesan, a brilliant dresser, familiar with pawn shops and for maintenance she often made her lovers overlap. But, since she was sixteen, she only yearned to become the passionate companion of an honest man and that one desire had remained unmet. She still sought that perfect one whom she could love and be assured that that love would be returned.

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Portrait of Juliette Drouet

When the look of Victor met with her black, full of tenderness eyes, she fell in ruins. At that moment she knew that she needs him in her life and with desperate courage, tact and graceful coquetry she began to conquer the heart of one who has already been cracked. Unlike her earlier, bohemian suitors, Victor was shy and hesitant and finally, on 14 of February, they went together to the ball. Two days later, she heard from his lips the long coveted words, that he loves her.

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Hugo with Juliette

Since then, Juliette Drouet devoted her whole life to Victor Hugo, who never married her even after the death of his wife in 1868. She willingly gave up her early life of a glamorous courtesan, her theatrical career, her habit of having expensive jewelry and her free life with friends to become Hugo's secretary and travelling companion and wrote some 20,000 letters to Hugo, expressing her passion or vented her jealousy on her womanizing lover. Juliette, the greatest love of his life, patiently endured his sexual activity and their relationship lasted half a century, fifty years of devotion, selflessness, loyalty, which ended only with her death in 1883.

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Léonie d'Aunet

Hugo also had a seven year affair with the passionate Lenie d'Aunet, wife of painter Francois-Auguste Biard, while he was still married and having his famous sultry affair with Juliette Drouet. Hugo met Leoni, a beautiful, young mother in the glory of her adventure, in the fall of 1843, perhaps in the living room of Fortunee Hamelin, who gave him a taste for life and distracted him from the grief at the loss of his daughter Leopoldine. At the beginning her romance with Victor Hugo was tolerated by Biard, but everything changed when she demanded a separation. The enraged husband hired agent to prove her adultery and on 5 July 1845, they were caught red-handed by the police in a compromising situation in a hotel in the Passage Saint-Roch. Hugo escaped punishment, as he belonged to the peerage, but Leoni was put into prison for adultery.

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After two months, she was transferred to the Convent of the Ladies of Saint Michael and on 10 September 1845, entered the convent of the Augustines, where she remained for about six months. Once released, she started to visit Hugo at his house, where she was welcomed by Adele, who was glad to see a competitor to Juliette Drouet, an enemy to her enemy. Adele even helped her to launch her literary career. History is responsible for separating Léonie from Victor, as Juliette wanted. In 1852, Hugo was expelled from France to Brussels and Adele was responsible for dissuading Léonie, who wanted to follow him. However, they wrote to each other regularly and Hugo sent her money, out of his feeling of responsibility for her children, until his death.

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Victor Hugo in 1853

Victor Hugo had an extremely active sex life. He could have sex with a young prostitute in the early morning, with some actress before lunch and a famous courtesan in the evening. Juliette itself had estimated that from 1848 to 1850, Hugo had at least 200 sexual partners. He found his outlet for contemplation in his numerous affairs with actresses, wives and courtesans. He did not have contempt for prostitution and not only he patronized many courtesans and prostitutes, but he empathized with them and their plight. According to him fallen women and courtesans were a pleasant antidote to the hypocrisy of high society.

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Alice Ozy

Hugo even slept with his son’s girlfriend, Alice Ozy, a successful actress, but best known as a high society courtesan. In fact, she was handsomely paid by her lovers, mostly notables from French society. Enraged and disheartened by her unfaithfulness, Hugo's son Charles, complained the matter to his father and asked for his help in fixing the situation. He intervened by sending erotic odes to Alice, seduced her in a way to bring revenge to his son and she ultimately succumbed to his magnetic charm and landed in his bed, which was perhaps his most startling conquest.

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Portrait of Sarah Bernhard, by Georges Rochegrosse

Victor Hugo was one of the most intimate friends of Sarah Bernhardt, the greatest French actress of the late 19th century and probably impregnated her. He was also in close relationship with the French writer and Orientalist Judith Gautier. As he grew older, he hired prostitutes, groped the servants, fondled society grandes dames, even seduced and enjoyed casual sex with the young daughter of one of his old friends. Even at the age of 70, he had 40 partners in five months, averaging almost one sexual encounter a day.

Victor Hugo, one of the giants of French literature, suffered a mild cerebral stroke on 27 June 1878 and in 1885, two years after the death of his faithful companion Juliette, Hugo died from pneumonia. He was given a national funeral. His body lay in state under the Arch de Triomphe and was buried in the Pantheon.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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